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NFL off-season: How did your team do?

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Phil Barber /

Posted: 3 minutes ago

The Eagles hated to see Troy Vincent leave. He was a starter at cornerback in Philadelphia for eight years, but the Bills made the free agent an offer he couldn't refuse.

Of course, the Bills were in desperate need of a top-flight corner because Antoine Winfield signed with Minnesota. That was good news for the Vikings, who let Denard Walker go to Oakland, which saw Terrance Shaw flee to Carolina, which gave up Terry Cousin to the Giants, who let Ralph Brown escape to Washington, which traded Champ Bailey to the Broncos, who shipped Deltha O'Neal to Cincinnati, which lost Jeff Burris to New England.

The movement hasn't been limited to corners. Numerous superstars — including wide receiver Terrell Owens, defensive end Jevon Kearse, running back Clinton Portis and defensive tackle Warren Sapp — also will wear new uniforms this season. There's no doubt 2004 has been an incredibly active offseason, and June 1 cuts still are a week away.

Factor in seven head coaching changes, 15 new defensive coordinators and a few extreme makeovers in the draft — highlighted by the No. 1 pick ending up in the No. 1 market — and there's no denying the landscape has shifted considerably since the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Overall free-agent movement actually is down when compared with the past few years, but the rare big-name trades of Portis, Owens and Bailey have contributed to this offseason's frenetic feel.

After seven seasons in Cincinnati, Corey Dillon will try to earn his stripes with New England.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Even the Super Bowl champs said goodbye to four integral players, signed a pair of free agents and traded for running back Corey Dillon just before the draft. Scott Pioli, the Patriots' vice president of player personnel, says a team's philosophy isn't as important as its judgment.

"Initially, we all believed that when free agency comes around, you've got to sign other players," he says. "Lately that's changed to, 'the teams that are successful are the ones that sign their own players.' The reality is that the best way to succeed in free agency is to sign the right players."

Finding the right players — and coaches — is every team's offseason goal, but not every team makes all the right moves. The Bears have made the most changes this offseason — replacing 11 starters and the coaching staff — but not necessarily the best ones. The Ravens, one of the league's least active teams, having replaced only two starters, grade out quite well on our offseason report card for the few moves they did make.

How did your team do?


Chicago Bears. The changes include the entire offensive backfield and four of the five linemen, to say nothing of a rookie head coach, Lovie Smith, and new coordinators. Of the departing Bears, the ones most likely to be missed are underrated linebacker Warrick Holdman, defensive end Phillip Daniels and wide receiver Dez White, who is faster than his replacement, David Terrell. On the other hand, the right side of the offensive line looks better with John Tait at tackle and Ruben Brown at guard. Grade: C+


San Diego Chargers. Picking up Philip Rivers on draft day could pay dividends. Some day. For now, the Chargers are looking at a long season with a rookie quarterback. Less newsworthy, but nearly as worrisome, is the probability that another rookie, Igor Olshansky, will man the defensive end position formerly held by Marcellus Wiley. There are wholesale changes along the offensive line, but at this point, the new guys (tackle Courtney Van Buren, guard Toniu Fonoti, guard Mike Goff, tackle Shane Olivea) are indistinguishable from the old ones (tackle Damion McIntosh, guard Kelvin Garmon, guard Solomon Page, tackle Vaughn Parker). Grade: D+


With a stronger supporting cast, the Lions' Charles Rogers should have plenty to celebrate this season.

Danny Moloshok/Getty Images

Detroit Lions. The Lions took a step backward at weakside linebacker, asking rookie Teddy Lehman to stand in for free-agent escapee Barrett Green. But the team seems to have improved at right guard (Damien Woody for the aged Ray Brown), safety (Brock Marion instead of Corey Harris) and cornerback (Fernando Bryant for Otis Smith). Most important, a healthy Charles Rogers, combined with exciting rookie Roy Williams, gives Detroit coach Steve Mariucci a receiver combo that could terrorize the league for years. Grade: A

New York Giants. If the players are having a hard time adjusting to coach Tom Coughlin's minicamp schedule, just wait until training camp. This is a team undergoing massive upheaval, moving from a proven veteran quarterback (Kerry Collins) to a rookie (Eli Manning) and replacing six starters in the defensive front seven, all under a new coaching staff. New York hasn't found a suitable replacement for defensive end Kenny Holmes, and simple math says new linebackers Carlos Emmons and Barrett Green, while good players, can't compensate for the loss of an entire second-level trio — Dhani Jones, Mike Barrow and Brandon Short. Grade: D

San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers bear only a slight resemblance to the team that fell apart last year. The franchise seems to be forsaking 2004 for future stability. The bickering stars who left everyone with a sour taste in 2003 — wide receiver Terrell Owens and quarterback Jeff Garcia — are gone, as are two of the team's senior offensive linemen, tackle Derrick Deese and guard Ron Stone. Coach Dennis Erickson also lost both coordinators, Jim Mora and Greg Knapp, to the Falcons. Even before Tim Rattay suffered a severe groin injury earlier this month, the passing game looked pathetic, with Brandon Lloyd and either Cedrick Wilson or rookie Rashaun Woods replacing Tai Streets and the phenomenal Owens at wide receiver. Grade: F

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay will soon find out whether symbolic losses actually hurt. By cutting safety John Lynch and allowing defensive tackle Warren Sapp to leave as a free agent, the Bucs severed ties to two players who, along with linebacker Derrick Brooks, brought respectability to the franchise. But Tampa's offensive line got a massive infusion of talent, especially at tackle, where Todd Steussie and Derrick Deese offer experience and reliability. Joey Galloway gives the team speed at receiver, and linebacker Ian Gold seems perfect for Monte Kiffin's defense. Grade: A-

Washington Redskins. The Redskins are perennial powerhouses when it comes to offseason commotion. This year, the team laid a more solid foundation, hiring D.C. legend Joe Gibbs and strategically acquiring key pieces (including four skill-position guys) rather than indiscriminately buying free agents. An aging Mark Brunell might not be much improvement over Patrick Ramsey at quarterback, and oft-injured Shawn Springs isn't the sure thing that Champ Bailey was at cornerback. But running back Clinton Portis is a vast improvement over Trung Canidate. Grade: B+


Oakland Raiders. You can't accuse the Raiders of not trying. They might have overpaid for defensive tackles Ted Washington and Warren Sapp, but the big men were targeted as precise fits for the 3-4 defense that Rob Ryan, Norv Turner's quick-witted young defensive coordinator, is installing. Running back Charlie Garner and defensive tackle Rod Coleman, who left as free agents, and retiring offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy will be missed. But the offensive line got better in both the short term (with free-agent guard Ron Stone) and the long term (with rookie tackle Robert Gallery). Grade: B+

Philadelphia Eagles. Some teams change brick by brick. The Eagles rolled boulders in and out of Philadelphia, losing and gaining several marquee players. Replacing Brandon Whiting with Jevon Kearse and wide receiver James Thrash with Terrell Owens are the types of moves that win championships. But Philadelphia lost Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, who formed one of the NFL's best sets of cornerbacks. Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook should help the Eagles survive without running back Duce Staley. Grade: B


Carolina Panthers. The NFC champions did not sit still, making three switches on the offensive line and three more in the secondary. Most of the changes look pretty even, but two could hurt. Right guard Kevin Donnalley, who retired, will be missed. And new free safety Colin Branch could have a hard time filling the shoes of Deon Grant, who left for the Jaguars. Signing free agent Adam Meadows away from the Colts to replace Todd Steussie at right tackle was a good move. Grade: C

Cincinnati Bengals. Most of the headlines have focused on Carson Palmer taking over for Jon Kitna at quarterback, and who knows how that will turn out? Running back Corey Dillon had become a grumbler; Rudi Johnson will work harder but may not be as productive. On the other hand, middle linebacker Nate Webster (Buccaneers), cornerback Deltha O'Neal (Broncos) and free safety Kim Herring (Rams) sweeten coach Marvin Lewis' hand on defense. Grade: B+

Cleveland Browns. The Browns lost free-agent offensive linemen Barry Stokes and Shaun O'Hara. We're not talking about Art Shell and Jim Otto here. More significant are the arrivals of an established quarterback, Jeff Garcia; a physical linebacker, Warrick Holdman, and a rookie tight end, Kellen Winslow, who could contribute immediately. Grade: A-

Houston Texans. Sometimes a little good health can make you look like a genius. Just ask Texans general manager Charley Casserly, who has presided over a wildly successful offseason in Houston. Much of the optimism has to do with the comebacks of nose tackle Seth Payne (knee) and left defensive end Gary Walker (foot). A pair of able free agents, right offensive tackle Todd Wade (Dolphins) and right defensive end Robaire Smith (Titans), will further bolster the lines. Grade: A

New Orleans Saints. None of the new starters is intriguing to the average fan. Fullback Sam Gash is probably the biggest addition, cornerback Dale Carter the most recognizable loss. Grade: B-


New Cards coach Dennis Green has surrounded QB Josh McCown with talent.

Otto Greule, Jr./Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals. Most of the Cardinals' changes seem to be lateral moves — including the one in the coach's office, where one respected mind, Dennis Green, replaces another, Dave McGinnis. But a couple of maneuvers stand out. First, the preternatural Larry Fitzgerald moves into Green's three-receiver set as a rookie. Second, the unheralded Bertrand Berry, signed away from Denver, takes over one of the defensive end slots. Grade: A-

Denver Broncos. The Clinton Portis-for-Champ Bailey trade looks like a winner from the mile-high vantage point. Coach Mike Shanahan seems to keep 1,400-yard backs in his file cabinet, but a shutdown corner is a rarity. Still, that's where the good news ends for the Broncos. Promoting defensive end Reggie Hayward and starting rookie linebacker D.J. Williams won't make up for losing Bertrand Berry and Ian Gold, and safety John Lynch's legs aren't what they used to be. Grade: D

Miami Dolphins. After losing offensive coordinator Norv Turner to the Raiders — and before losing his replacement, Joel Collier, to poor health — the Dolphins revamped their offensive line. It doesn't look like much of an improvement, especially at right tackle, where Vernon Carey or John St. Clair will replace Todd Wade (Texans). Wide receiver David Boston, on the other hand, is a worthy risk. Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings. Four of the Vikings' six new starters are on defense. Among them, cornerback Antoine Winfield is the most obvious upgrade, especially when you consider that Denard Walker struggled to hold his grip on the spot last year. The biggest void might be at outside linebacker, where Minnesota is struggling to find someone to replace Henri Crockett. If anyone can pull the troops together, it's new defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. Grade: B+

New York Jets. Sometimes you have to usher the old guys out the door to regain that bounce in your step. Still, unloading proven vets cornerback Aaron Beasley and linebackers Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis — and replacing them with cornerback David Barrett (Cardinals) and linebackers Eric Barton (Raiders) and Victor Hobson (promoted) — won't make it easier for new defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson. Then again, Justin McCareins, acquired via trade, quickens the receiving unit considerably. Grade: C


Dallas Cowboys. At first look, Tampa Bay got the better of the Joey Galloway-for-Keyshawn Johnson deal. Of course, Bill Parcells has some positive history with Johnson. The Cowboys should have a couple of changes on the offensive line, but of greater consequence is the gain of defensive end Marcellus Wiley and the loss of cornerback Mario Edwards. Grade: C+

Jacksonville Jaguars. Of the Jags' five new starters, free safety Deon Grant seems to be the plum. Cornerback Fernando Bryant (Lions) was the biggest loss. Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers. Bill Cowher has new offensive and defensive coordinators in Ken Whisenhunt and Dick LeBeau, who ran the Steelers' defense when they went to the Super Bowl after the 1995 season. He also has a workhorse back in Duce Staley, who should have no trouble outpacing the combined efforts of Jerome Bettis, who has been pushed to the bench, and Amos Zereoue, who signed with the Raiders. The big negative is the looming departure of Jason Gildon, one of the game's most consistent outside linebackers for much of the last decade. Grade: B

Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are standing pat on offense and turning over five positions on defense. Bringing in Grant Wistrom to play end gets high marks. On the negative side, it will be a middle-linebacker-by-committee approach in the absence of Randall Godfrey (Chargers). Also, a guy who played linebacker in college last year, Michael Boulware, might replace Reggie Tongue at strong safety. Grade: C


Buffalo Bills. Buffalo got younger at fullback (Daimon Shelton for Sam Gash) and left guard (one of three young linemen for Ruben Brown) and older at cornerback (Troy Vincent for Antoine Winfield). The team also likely will replace wideout Josh Reed with speedy rookie Lee Evans. New coach Mike Mularkey brought in offensive coordinator Tom Clement but retained defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. Grade: C+

Indianapolis Colts. The only household name at four changing positions is cornerback Walt Harris, who left for Washington. Grade: C

New England Patriots. Many have embarrassed themselves second-guessing coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots. But losing three key linemen — Damien Woody on offense and Ted Washington and Bobby Hamilton on defense — looks bad. Grade: D

Tennessee Titans. They knew this was coming. The Titans are in one of the inner circles of Cap Hell, and the results aren't pretty. Everyone talks about defensive end Jevon Kearse, who fled to Philadelphia. But defensive tackle Robaire Smith and wide receiver Justin McCareins will be remembered wistfully, too. Grade: D-


Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons hired a new coach, Jim Mora, and new coordinators, Greg Knapp on offense and Ed Donatell on defense. But the team was restrained in its personnel moves. The exception was cornerback, where Jason Webster and rookie DeAngelo Hall should replace Juran Bolden and Tod McBride. Grade: B+


Baltimore Ravens. Coach Brian Billick must be feeling good about his Ravens. Kevin Johnson has replaced Marcus Robinson at wide receiver, Terrell Suggs is stepping in at defensive end — and that's it. Grade: A-

St. Louis Rams. New defensive coordinator Larry Marmie lost two starters, end Grant Wistrom and tackle Brian Young. Both are being replaced internally. The Rams might be forced to go outside if they have to replace end Leonard Little. Grade: C-


Green Bay Packers. If cornerback Mike McKenzie gets his trade, the Pack will double its changeover. Green Bay also has a new defensive coordinator, Bob Slowik. Grade: C+

Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs' only change is at right tackle, where even the transition tag couldn't keep John Tait from the Bears. They're counting on the return of coordinator Gunther Cunningham to revive the defense. Grade: C+

Phil Barber covers the Raiders for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


As usual, some of these grades seem way off base. New England a D? Cleveland gets and A-? Oh well, it doesn't matter until they play the games anyway.

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