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They bumped us up from B- to B+.  Falcons section is highlighted.



Baltimore Ravens

Re-grade: A | Original grade: C-plus

Baltimore's offseason moves look better in hindsight. Eric Weddle provided the production and leadership the Ravens sought. Fellow free-agent addition Mike Wallace produced his first 1,000-yard season since 2011. Cornerback Jerraud Powers was another solid veteran signing.

The Ravens' 2016 draft class ranked sixth in total offensive or defensive snaps played, led by first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Fourth-rounders Tavon Young and Alex Lewis also played extensively, and fifth-rounder Matt Judon made positive contributions to the defensive line rotation. That production made it easier to overlook underwhelming first seasons from Kamalei Correa (second round) and Bronson Kaufusi (third round).

Dallas Cowboys

Re-grade: A | Offseason grade: C

The C grade was handed down when Tony Romo was healthy, Dak Prescott was seen as long-term depth and the Cowboys looked like a team that would struggle to rush the passer. No one could have known Prescott would flourish as a rookie fourth-round choice. That includes the Cowboys, who famously settled for Prescott after trying to trade up in the draft for two other quarterbacks, Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook.

Prescott, first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas offense have performed so well that the defense, though improved, has looked even better by playing with leads. That situational context explains how Dallas has improved from 16th to fifth in points allowed while remaining relatively flat in defensive EPA, which measures performance in a situational context, taking into account key variables such as field position created by turnovers. This Dallas defense played with a lead for 699 snaps, up from 397 snaps in 2015.

The bottom line is that Dallas hit grand slams with Prescott and Elliott, transforming its team into a championship contender. Lesser-known draft choices such as defensive tackle Maliek Collins (five sacks) and cornerback Anthony Brown (nine starts) also made meaningful contributions.

Kansas City Chiefs

Re-grade: A | Original grade: C

The Chiefs appeared to suffer through a nondescript offseason that included losing Justin Houston to injury, Sean Smith to Oakland in free agency and a third-round draft choice in the Jeremy Maclin tampering case. There wasn't much to get excited about, it seemed. But the moves the Chiefs did make helped them go 6-0 in the AFC West while winning the division.

Kansas City traded out of the first round to recoup part of what was lost in the Maclin punishment. The Chiefs then picked up defensive lineman Chris Jones in the second round and would not regret it. They found game-changing receiver and return specialist Tyreek Hill in the fifth round, a towering home run. They spent big for tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, which stabilized the line, and looked smart for letting Donald Stephenson and Jeff Allen depart. The Chiefs also kept lower-priced backs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West instead of chasing expensive veterans with bigger names.

New England Patriots

Re-grade: A-minus | Original grade: A-minus

The Patriots received high marks for bringing back offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, a home run, and signing receiver Chris Hogan away from Buffalo, a solid single. And those who thought the Chandler Jones trade would diminish New England's defense appear to have been incorrect. The Patriots led the NFL in fewest points allowed this season, even though Jones was gone and free-agent signing Terrance Knighton never panned out. The Martellus Bennett acquisition proved to be as smart as it appeared at the time, giving New England valuable insurance for Rob Gronkowski's season-ending injury. The pluses more than offset any struggles from second-round pick Cyrus Jones (the team had no first-round choice).

New York Giants

Re-grade: A-minus | Offseason grade: B-plus

Teams that spend huge, desperate money in free agency rarely feel great about it in the morning. The Giants became an exception. The big-money players they landed from outside the organization -- Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison were the big three -- helped defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo pull off an impressive defensive reversal. The Giants jumped from 29th to second in defensive EPA and from 31st to third in scoring defense.

The Giants re-signed defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for only one season (2016) instead of two, which could prove costly. But they couldn't be expected to win 'em all.

With so much focus on defense, the Giants were especially weak at running back and tight end, giving them clear areas of focus for 2017 (there was only so much they could do in one offseason). First-round pick Eli Apple played extensively and was inconsistent, which is not unusual for a rookie corner. Receiver Sterling Shepard was a welcome addition to the offense in the second round and will provide insurance if the team decides Victor Cruz's contract no longer fits.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Re-grade: A-minus | Original grade: B-minus

The Steelers' first two choices in the 2016 draft -- cornerback Artie Burns and safety Sean Davis -- rank among the team's top five in defensive snaps during its current eight-game winning streak. Third-round defensive tackle Javon Hargrave ranks first among defensive linemen over that stretch. That's what the Steelers needed from the draft. It's less clear whether Pittsburgh will get the desired return on investment from tight end Ladarius Green, their biggest free-agent addition. Green missed the first 10 games of the season, then caught 18 passes for 304 yards over the final six before missing the Steelers' wild-card game against Miami. His 16.9-yard average per reception with the Steelers offers some hope for the future.

San Diego Chargers

Re-grade: A-minus | Original grade: B-minus

General manager Tom Telesco went into last offseason hoping to improve the run defense and the pass rush to create more turnovers. He succeeded on all fronts and fared well in other areas, which is reflected in the favorable re-grade. The 2016 season slipped away from the Chargers for other reasons, notably because Philip Rivers and the offense committed a league-high 35 turnovers.

Those turnovers helped explain how San Diego improved from 23rd to 11th in defensive EPA while falling off some in points allowed; opponents scored 105 points off turnovers, up from 73 in 2015.

The Chargers looked smart for drafting Joey Bosa third overall against outside expectations. They could have handled the Eric Weddle divorce better, but Dwight Lowery was not a bad replacement. Free-agent cornerback addition Casey Hayward earned Pro Bowl honors after intercepting a league-high seven passes. Another veteran signing, Brandon Mebane, fortified the run defense. And rookie tight end Hunter Henry finished with eight touchdown receptions, offsetting a so-so season from free-agent receiver Travis Benjamin.

Tennessee Titans

Re-grade: A-minus | Original grade: B-plus

The Titans named Jon Robinson their GM, retained Mike Mularkey as head coach, swapped in **** LeBeau for Ray Horton as defensive coordinator, committed heavily to DeMarco Murray and traded the No. 1 overall pick during a whirlwind offseason. Every one of those moves seemed to work out well, as did the selection of Jack Conklin in the first round.

Murray ranked third in rushing yards with 1,287 and scored nine touchdowns for an offense that made the NFL's fourth-biggest year-over-year jump in EPA. Marcus Mariota overcame a slow start to finish with 26 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, making him one of eight quarterbacks with a plus-17 differential. The Titans could have done more to help themselves at wide receiver, but with additional first- and third-round choices in 2017, they'll have opportunities to add low-cost young talent at the position.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-grade: B-plus | Offseason grade: A-minus

Chandler Jones' acquisition from New England helped the defense improve from 20th to first in sacks (48) and from fifth to third in EPA. Arizona brought back every player who made a pass, rushing attempt or reception in 2015, when the Cardinals led the NFL in offensive EPA and ranked second in offensive touchdowns. The Cardinals did not expect much immediate impact from their 2016 draft class, which delivered 568 snaps from scrimmage, the second-lowest total for any team.

Oddly, the Cardinals plummeted in the NFC West standings even though their 2016 offseason moves largely panned out as expected. They were horrendous on special teams, a big surprise. None of our analysts railed against the Cardinals last spring for failing to address the snapping, kicking, punting and special-teams coverage problems that would undermine their season. It's a stretch anyone could have seen so many things going wrong at once in that specific area.

The Cardinals could have done more to shore up the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson, but Pro Football Focus rated Arizona's secondary No. 2 in the league over the summer. Alarm bells were not sounding there or anywhere. The Cardinals could have gotten more from their draft class, but their 2016 offseason was still solid. Arizona, like Jacksonville and San Diego to some degree, failed more in spite of its moves than because of them.

Atlanta Falcons

Re-grade: B-plus | Offseason grade: B-minus

Matt Ryan somehow finished the 2015 season with one touchdown and 10 interceptions when targeting players between the hashes. That flipped to six touchdowns with one pick on those throws this season. What changed in the middle? Veteran Alex Mack's addition in free agency could have had something to do with it. Mack stabilized the Falcons' line and helped Ryan put up career-best numbers in a balanced offense that limited the quarterback's exposure to risky throws.

The Falcons got high marks for the work they did to improve their offense, but the grade issued back in May suffered over concerns Atlanta did not do enough for its defense. Dominik was spot-on when he said the Falcons were banking on Vic Beasley Jr. taking a "massive step" toward becoming the top-notch speed-rusher the team has needed for years. Beasley had a league-leading 15.5 sacks, but the Falcons fell from 20th to 25th in defensive EPA and from 14th to 27th in scoring defense. With Atlanta averaging a league-high 3.6 offensive touchdowns per game, there was some margin for error.

The draft class logged 2,638 snaps from scrimmage this season, the NFL's ninth-highest total. Those snaps were spread across only four players, including defensive starters Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell. Neal has added a welcome physical presence at strong safety. Third-round pick Austin Hooper caught three touchdown passes, helping Ryan finish the season with 10 scoring passes against only one pick when targeting tight ends. That was much better than his five touchdowns with five picks on those passes last season.

Philadelphia Eagles

Re-grade: B-plus | Offseason grade: B

The Eagles methodically went about re-signing their core players while moving on from some who no longer fit following Chip Kelly's departure as head coach. They moved up aggressively in the draft to select Carson Wentz second overall. Then, well after our offseason grades posted, the Eagles unexpectedly found a suitor for Sam Bradford, allowing them to restock with draft choices beginning in 2017. It didn't always look pretty or even coherent while in process, but we can now see the franchise has a chance to proceed on a logical course.

Wentz's development will shape this offseason grade in the future. The Eagles did find a potential long-term starting cornerback in the seventh round, a rarity. Jalen Mills played more than twice as many snaps (635) as any seventh-round choice in his draft class, with Charone Peake of the Jets (311 snaps) and Vadal Alexander of the Raiders (285 snaps) next on the list.

With newcomer Jim Schwartz coordinating the defense, Philly improved from 28th to 12th in points allowed and from 18th to ninth in defensive EPA.

Detroit Lions

Re-grade: B | Offseason grade: B

The Lions' first offseason under GM Bob Quinn appeared solid before the season. It appears solid now. Re-signing Tahir Whitehead while signing veteran free agents Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush helped the defense. Adding free-agent receiver Marvin Jones from Cincinnati helped the offense even though Jones could not sustain a fast start.

ESPN Stats & Information had Jones with seven drops, one more than he had for his entire career previously. He also set career highs for yardage (930) and yards per reception (16.9) while filling at least some of the void created by Calvin Johnson's retirement. There were a couple of other misses in the veteran market, but nothing too glaring.

The Lions' rookie draft class combined to play 2,810 offensive and defensive snaps, second most in the NFC North (Chicago had 3,214) and seventh most in the league. The context would have felt different if the Lions had not improbably pulled out eight fourth-quarter comeback victories, but this draft class was marked by early contributors from top to bottom. First-round pick Taylor Decker was an immediate starter at left tackle, allowing Riley Reiff to switch sides. Second-rounder A'Shawn Robinson made a positive impact with his knack for batting down passes. Third-rounder Graham Glasgow started 11 games at guard while Miles Killebrew, Dwayne Washington and Anthony Zettel earned roles as the season progressed.

Miami Dolphins

Re-grade: B | Original grade: C-minus

The Dolphins were an easy target last offseason when they let some of their best homegrown talent -- Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller, specifically -- leave in free agency. They replaced Vernon with free-agent addition Mario Williams, who was benched during the season on his way to a career-low 1.5 sacks. Analysts like to say sacks are an overrated measure, but every great pass-rusher gets a lot of them (Williams has 21 individual games with as many sacks as he had this entire season). Miami eventually got great production from Miller's replacement, Jay Ajayi, but this re-grade is higher more because the decision to hire Adam Gase as head coach is looking like a good one after the Dolphins made the playoffs in his first season.

Oakland Raiders

Re-grade: B | Original grade: A

The Raiders kept left tackle Donald Penn and added left guard Kelechi Osemele to solidify their offensive line. They addressed their defense with free-agent additions Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson. Those were major moves that generally worked out well, but the defense did not improve as much as expected. The team got 2,201 snaps from its 2016 draft class, and three-fourths of those were on defense, which led to some growing pains. The Raiders' ranking in points allowed moved from 22nd to 20th, but they actually dropped from 15th to 23rd in defensive EPA.

There were some offseason concerns regarding whether Oakland had done enough at running back. Latavius Murray and rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard allayed those fears collectively. They rushed for 1,746 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Chicago Bears

Re-grade: B-minus | Offseason grade: B

First-round pick Leonard Floyd played well enough at times to get at least some mention in conversations centering around the best defensive rookies. Second-round pick Cody Whitehair projects as a likely starter at center for years to come. Fifth-rounder Jordan Howard ranked second in rushing yardage -- not second on the Bears or second among rookies, but second in the NFL, behind MVP candidate Ezekiel Elliott. That was all encouraging.

Unfortunately for the Bears, they trailed only the Vikings in how much injuries affected their season, according to one of weighted measures Nathan Currier uses at his Man-Games Lost website. They lost top free-agent addition Danny Trevathan to a torn patellar tendon. Jerrell Freeman, the other big signing at linebacker, served a four-game suspension for using performance enhancers.

In the bigger picture, this was a roster lacking speed heading into the season and lacking speed coming out of it. And, despite a few positive moments from Matt Barkley, the Bears could have done more to prepare for life after Jay Cutler.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Re-grade: C-plus | Original grade: A-minus

The Jaguars dedicated the 2016 offseason to upgrading their defense, receiving rave reviews for adding Jalen Ramsey, Malik Jackson, Myles Jack and Tashaun Gipson even though all agreed the price for Jackson was exorbitant. The Jaguars realized the NFL's sixth-biggest improvement from the previous season in points allowed and the seventh-biggest gain in defensive EPA. Those improvements seemed to justify the A-minus grade at the time.

After funneling so many resources toward the defense, which made sense, there wasn't a strong opinion the team should have done a great deal more to help an offense that seemed to be on an upward trajectory with several key components in place. However, the Jaguars' failure to anticipate the offensive shortcomings takes down the grade. Jacksonville stood on the sideline in free agency while Atlanta signed Alex Mack and Oakland signed Kelechi Osemele. The Jaguars instead added Mackenzy Bernadeau and Kelvin Beachum without getting the desired results.

Seattle Seahawks

Re-grade: C-plus | Offseason grade: B-minus

The Seahawks earned a so-so grade last offseason because there were justifiable fears the team was again overstating its capabilities on the offensive line.

"Will all the offensive line moving and shaking eventually catch up to this team?" Yates asked.

Yes, it would. The Seahawks became the only NFL team to use undrafted starters at both tackle spots. The results were worse than expected. Wilson finally broke down physically. The running game stalled. Seattle would again make progress late in the season, but not without ceding home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, a key variable in the team's championship equation.

To be fair, there are only so many salary-cap dollars to go around. The Seahawks paid the best players on their roster instead of overpaying to keep the Russell Okungs, J.R. Sweezys, James Carpenters and Breno Giacominis of offensive lines past. Seattle could come out OK in the end if George Fant develops into the left tackle the Seahawks think he can become, and if 2016 first-rounder Germain Ifedi becomes more consistent. A price has been exacted in the meantime.

Seattle's draft class took a hit when injuries struck down third-round running back C.J. Prosise and interior pass-rusher Quinton Jefferson, a fifth-round pick.

Washington Redskins

Re-grade: C-plus | Offseason grade: B-plus

The Redskins' re-grade drops because they ultimately did not do enough to help their defense, which was a big problem all season and contributed to end-of-year staff changes. Failing to reach a long-term contract agreement with quarterback Kirk Cousins is another potential knock, although overextending to get a deal done would not have been smart either.

The draft class contributed little for a variety of reasons, including the Achilles' injury that limited first-round receiver Josh Doctson to 30 snaps. The Redskins were already sacrificing the short term when they took a best-player-available approach in nabbing Doctson. To make that sacrifice and then get nothing from Doctson gave the selection a worst-of-both-worlds feel for now.

The Redskins might look back in a couple of years and feel much better about how they drafted in 2016, especially if Doctson flourishes after DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garcon depart.

Free agency worked out more favorably. Adding Josh Norman was an opportunistic move at a position of need. His contract could complicate the Redskins' ability to re-sign homegrown players, but Norman certainly upgraded the talent. Vernon Davis and Ziggy Hood were solid under-the-radar additions, and the players Washington jettisoned last offseason did little to nothing elsewhere.

Buffalo Bills

Re-grade: C | Original grade: C-minus

The grade comes up slightly because the Bills did well in signing free agents Lorenzo Alexander (12.5 sacks) and Zach Brown (149 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception) at bargain rates. But many of the criticisms levied last offseason proved accurate.

We criticized the Bills for letting Chris Hogan get away to a division rival. They missed him while the Patriots got 17.9 yards per reception from the former restricted free agent. We criticized the Bills for using a first-round pick for Shaq Lawson because of the injury risks. Lawson underwent surgery and missed the first six games.

The Bills also had bad luck. The team gave up 2016 and 2017 fourth-round choices to move up in the second round for linebacker Reggie Ragland, only to have him suffer a torn ACL in camp. With Lawson limited and Ragland out, Buffalo's draft class combined for 908 offensive and defensive snaps, the fourth-lowest figure in the league.

Cincinnati Bengals

Re-grade: C | Original grade: B

The Bengals were one of the NFL's most disappointing teams in 2016. They arguably should have done more to add speed at wide receiver and teeth to their pass rush, but overall, the moves they made in the offseason do not deserve as much blame as offseason circumstances largely beyond their control. That is why the re-grade isn't especially harsh.

The ankle injury Tyler Eifert suffered at the 2016 Pro Bowl lingered longer than anticipated, hurting the offense. First-round choice William Jackson III should have provided needed youth on defense, but the cornerback never played after suffering a torn pectoral before the season. The week Jackson became eligible for activation from injured reserve coincided with Giovani Bernard's torn ACL, which led Cincy to activate running back Cedric Peerman over Jackson.

Finally, while the Bengals' decision to go with Cedric Ogbuehi at right tackle backfired, paying to keep 2015 starter Andre Smith would not have been a great move either.

Green Bay Packers

Re-grade: C | Offseason grade: B

There were concerns entering the season that Green Bay, despite adding tight end Jared Cook at a bargain rate, did not add enough speed during the offseason, and that betting on Eddie Lacy could be risky. As Yates put it then, "You have to be mindful about not bending your philosophy, but you cannot just assume that having No. 12 [Aaron Rodgers] is simply enough."

That criticism seemed on the mark for much of this season, but here the Packers are, back in the divisional playoffs round once again, having vanquished an upper-tier Giants defense despite losing Jordy Nelson to broken ribs early in the game. Rodgers has been sublime, even for him.

As for the draft, the Packers' second-round pick, tackle Jason Spriggs, proved valuable as an emergency replacement for the injured T.J. Lang. First-round nose tackle Kenny Clark factored about as much as a nose tackle drafted 27th overall might be expected to, with 311 under-the-radar snaps. Those who think Green Bay should have added to its offensive skill instead of taking a nose tackle have a case. Hunter Henry, Sterling Shepard, Derrick Henry and Michael Thomas were the next four offensive skill players drafted after Green Bay selected Clark. They combined to score 30 touchdowns as rookies.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Re-grade: C | Offseason grade: B

The Bucs made big changes and then gained ground in the standings. To what degree were the big changes responsible for those gains? Replacing Lovie Smith with Dirk Koetter as head coach enabled the hiring of Mike Smith as defensive coordinator, which seemed to be a big positive. First-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III and second-rounder Noah Spence played extensively, made positive impacts and improved as they gained experience.

But ...

Doug Martin's re-signing, though understandable at the time, seems regrettable after he missed at least five games to injury for the third time in the past four seasons and incurred a drug suspension that precipitated his enrollment in a rehab facility. The Bucs' biggest addition in free agency, guard J.R. Sweezy, did not play a snap for the team in 2016 because of injury.

The surprising decision to use a third-round pick for kicker Roberto Aguayo could have been dubious even if he had made every field goal try. It became troubling when Aguayo missed a league-high six times from 40-49 yards while ranking last among 35 qualifying kickers in overall percentage, just below Blair Walsh and Chandler Catanzaro.

The future could be bright in Tampa, but not necessarily because of the moves made last offseason.

Denver Broncos

Re-grade: C-minus | Original grade: C-plus

Upgrading the offensive line was the top priority for Denver last offseason, with free-agent additions Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson headlining those efforts. However, the line remained a huge liability, which was a leading reason Denver failed to keep pace in an improved AFC West. General manager John Elway looked smart in retrospect for refusing to go all-in on keeping quarterback Brock Osweiler. The Broncos also were fortunate Osweiler did not accept their three-year offer.

With Osweiler gone, the Broncos signed (and eventually released) veteran Mark Sanchez. They drafted Paxton Lynch, who didn't play much as a rookie, and they saw enough from Trevor Siemian to keep him in the starting conversation for 2017. But this was a stagnant offense. Denver went 1-5 in games when opponents exceeded 20 points. Kansas City (5-1), Oakland (7-4) and even San Diego (2-9) had higher winning percentages in those tougher-to-win games. That reflected poorly on the Broncos' efforts to upgrade their offense, explaining why the re-grade was a little harsher -- despite what looks like another solid draft class.

Indianapolis Colts

Re-grade: C-minus | Original grade: C

The Colts subtracted their best linebacker (Jerrell Freeman) from a defense that couldn't afford to lose talent. Free-agent addition Patrick Robinson, signed to bolster the cornerback position, battled injuries and played in only seven games without hitting stride. The team suffered the NFL's seventh-largest decline in year-over-year defensive EPA, while hovering in the bottom-third of the league for points allowed.

The decision to re-sign Dwayne Allen and let Coby Fleener depart worked out fine. Well-intentioned investments in the offensive line didn't produce the desired results as injuries and poor performance imperiled Andrew Luck once again. Luck made it through the season and produced at a high level overall, but it wasn't quite good enough to clear a low bar in the AFC South.

Los Angeles Rams

Re-grade: C-minus | Offseason grade: C-plus

The Rams went all-in for Jared Goff in a move that will define their 2016 offseaeson for better or worse. His rookie season was definitely one for the "worse" column. Los Angeles went 0-7 in the games Goff started. The Rams' offensive line struggled. Goff had questionable weapons, unproven offensive coaching and no running game to take pressure off him. He also did little to inspire confidence in the Rams' decision to go after him so aggressively.

Everything else the Rams did last offseason -- keeping Trumaine Johnson over Janoris Jenkins, cutting veteran defensive starters, extending contracts for William Hayes and Mark Barron -- will go down as inconsequential footnotes next to the Goff gambit. There's more evidence against Goff than for Goff at this early stage, which is why the offseason grade takes a hit here. The rookie averaged 5.3 yards per pass attempt and 3.8 yards per pass play, which counts sacks. Those figures were last in the league among the 33 quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts.

New Orleans Saints

Re-grade: C-minus | Offseason grade: C

The Saints, perpetually hamstrung by a tight salary-cap situation, spent big for tight end Coby Fleener in free agency last offseason despite having much bigger needs on defense. That contributed to the C grade handed out in May. Fleener caught three touchdown passes, the same as Michael Hoomanawanui had a year earlier. There also were 50 total receptions for 631 yards for Fleener -- not terrible production, but was this really money well spent?

New Orleans' biggest hit in the draft naturally plays offense as well. Second-rounder Michael Thomas quickly became a star in Drew Brees' shining statistical universe.

Yet, while the Saints emerged from 2016 feeling better about their defense, the numbers again told a grim story. New Orleans was 31st in scoring defense and 30th in defensive EPA, up from 32nd in both in 2015. Getting a full season from 2016 first-round pick Sheldon Rankins will help next season; he had four sacks and a forced fumble in nine games after returning from a broken fibula. Second-round safety Vonn Bell started 14 games and also could emerge.

But in 2017, the Saints still find themselves right where they were last offseason -- desperately needing defense. They won seven games last season and allowed an incredible 28.7 points per game in those contests, the highest average for any team in its victories going back as far as ESPN's data warehouse reaches (2001). That nugget should help get Brees into the Hall of Fame one day. It also should send the Saints scurrying to add defensive reinforcements before they no longer have a quarterback great enough to keep them competitive against the longest odds.

New York Jets

Re-grade: C-minus | Original grade: B-minus

There was some thought last offseason that the Jets' hard-line negotiating stance with Ryan Fitzpatrick could hurt his performance. It might have, but in the bigger picture, the Jets are surely happy they did not make a longer-term commitment. That does not necessarily mean they can win without him.

Second-round rookie Christian Hackenberg completed 17 of 47 passes with two picks during the preseason and understandably never saw the field again. First-rounder Darron Lee played and struggled in coverage, which did not make him unique among Jets linebackers.

Free-agent addition Jarvis Jenkins provided little and was released despite a $3 million guarantee. The $4 million in 2017 guaranteed money for Matt Forte appears burdensome now after he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in his age-31 season. Trade acquisition Ryan Clady provided eight starts before landing on injured reserve.

These did not seem like terrible moves at the time, but whatever could go wrong seemed to go wrong for the Jets, starting with Fitzpatrick's Week 17 implosion last season and the contract impasse that followed.

Carolina Panthers

Re-grade: D-plus | Offseason grade: C-plus

The Panthers' decision to withdraw the franchise tag from cornerback Josh Norman weakened a secondary that fell apart in 2016. There were other reasons Carolina regressed from sixth to 26th in scoring defense and from second to 12th in defensive EPA, but none was so conspicuous -- especially with Matt Ryan (503 yards) and Drew Brees (465) shredding the secondary early in the season.

The Norman decision will make it easier for the Panthers to fit other cornerstone players into their salary-cap puzzle, starting with defensive lineman Kawann Short. But cap room wasn't a problem in the short term. Subtracting Norman seemed to carry no upside. Second-round pick James Bradberry and third-rounder Daryl Worley did progress later in the season, giving Carolina some evidence the team could be much better in the secondary for 2017 and beyond.

There was no expectation first-round defensive tackle Vernon Butler would dominate from the start. A high ankle sprain hurt his performance and development. He played just 222 snaps.

Carolina might one day look back on its 2016 offseason as one step backward on the way to taking multiple steps forward. The question is whether the Panthers could have built for the future without compromising the present as much as Norman's departure might have.

Minnesota Vikings

Re-grade: D-plus | Offseason grade: B

We described the Vikings as "an ascending team carrying out a fundamentally sound plan" when offseason grades were published back in May. Now? Franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may or may not ever play again. Sam Bradford is the favorite to start in 2017. Adrian Peterson has possibly played his final down as a Viking. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner quit. Head coach Mike Zimmer is coming off multiple eye surgeries for a condition that forced him to miss a game.

That is not all. The Vikings, despite being ravaged by injuries (see the Bears' section above for details), ranked dead last in offensive or defensive snaps logged by rookie draft choices. First-round receiver Laquon Treadwell played 76 snaps over nine games and caught one pass. Worse: Treadwell played more snaps from scrimmage than any of the eight players Minnesota drafted. Several of them could still enjoy productive careers, of course, but in a season when circumstances beyond the Vikings' control made them desperate for whatever contributions they could get, the lack of immediate production was disappointing.

At the risk of piling on, the Vikings also got little return on their investments along the offensive line. Andre Smith struggled at right tackle before landing on injured reserve. Fellow free-agent addition Alex Boone was better at guard.

Whether the Vikings remain an ascending team carrying out a fundamentally sound plan is in some question now. They appear more like a team that will need a much better offseason in 2017 to deal with a tough set of circumstances, many of them unforeseen.

Cleveland Browns

Re-grade: D | Original grade: D

The low offseason grade reflected the prevailing thought that the Browns subtracted more veterans from their roster than they could reasonably replace. Isn't the goal to win as many games as possible while rebuilding? Cleveland's leadership proceeded as though it didn't care whether the team finished 1-15 or 5-11 in this first rebuilding season.

Fourteen rookie draft choices combined to play a league-high 4,154 offensive or defensive snaps, nearly 25 percent more than the runner-up Colts. Second-rounder Emmanuel Ogbah was among those who showed promise. Cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun surprised as an undrafted free agent, and the Browns also did well in acquiring cornerback Jamar Taylor from the Dolphins. But it still looks like Cleveland took as many, if not more, steps backward as forward last offseason.

Houston Texans

Re-grade: D | Original grade: B-plus

None of our analysts loved the Brock Osweiler signing, which makes the B-plus grade seem too high in retrospect. It was the Texans' overall push to improve their offense that went over well. There were some successes on that front with Lamar Miller, and there is some hope for the future with Will Fuller, but the Osweiler decision takes the re-grade down significantly.

One of the questions Riddick raised back then seems prescient: "Can Bill O'Brien get Osweiler on the same page with the wide receivers in an offense that really relies on a lot of on-the-move communication? It is a lot to expect a group like this to get on the same page as quickly as they need to, but it is all there for them. They have given themselves a shot."

The Texans won the AFC South and have even won a playoff game, but they averaged 1.44 offensive touchdowns per game, tied with the Rams for worst in the NFL. It's tough to feel good about an offseason dedicated to offensive improvement when the results are so discouraging.

San Francisco 49ers

Re-grade: F | Offseason grade: C

Hiring Chip Kelly as head coach and drafting DeForest Buckner in the first round seemed sensible enough to earn a middling grade last offseason. But it was probably a bad sign when Bill Polian compared the 49ers to the Browns -- not as an insult, but rather to highlight another team still in the embryonic stages.

San Francisco drafted 11 players in 2016, giving the 49ers a league-high 33 selections over the past three drafts. No one was sure what those players would become. It's looking like too many of them will not become much, one reason San Francisco fares worse on the re-grade.

Kelly took over a young roster of unknowns in his first season. Did the 49ers really expect the team to far exceed its eventual 2-14 record? In retrospect, ownership would have been better off firing GM Trent Baalke one year ago instead of now. That would have given Kelly a chance to start fresh and in alignment with a new GM, improving his chances for success. Instead, the 49ers wasted another year, making their 2016 offseason look even worse in hindsight.


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