Offseason scorecard

Breaking down some the major free-agent signings and trades from this offseason.

Updated: March 9, 2005, 10:04 AM ET
By John Clayton |

John Clayton breaks down some of the major free-agent signings and trades from this offseason:

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Fred Smoot to Vikings
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Vikings sign CB Fred Smoot to a six-year deal.

The upside: His signing gives the Vikings a great trio of coverage players at cornerback: Smoot, Antoine Winfield and Brian Williams. No one has questioned Smoot's ability. He's got that classic man-to-man style that works well against quality receivers. His style and Williams' style are similar while Winfield, though shorter, adds feistiness and tackling ability.

The downside: Some teams shied away from him because there was a perception he could be a problem off the field and in the locker room. Hey, the Vikings are coming off a seven-year run with Randy Moss. This isn't going to be a major problem. Still, he does have to fit into the team concept.

Clayton's take: This is a great signing. The Vikings would have probably taken a cornerback with the first-round pick (seventh) acquired from Oakland. Now, they can look at a wide receiver or another defensive position. They are getting better on defense with the acquisitions of Smoot, Pat Williams and Napoleon Harris. Arguably, Smoot and Ken Lucas were the best cornerbacks available in the unrestricted free agent market.

• Complete story | Vikings clubhouse

Kendrell Bell to Chiefs
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Chiefs sign LB Kendrell Bell to a seven-year deal.

The upside: The Chiefs are gambling big dollars that Bell will be healthy and rekindle the excitement created from his rookie season. Bell is a mobile middle linebacker who has great pass-rushing ability. He's a playmaker with great closing speed. The Chiefs had a problem with missed tackles from the linebacker position last season. Bell will make plays when he's healthy.

The downside: Health. Last year, he had two procedures to correct a sports hernia problem and only participated in 43 defensive plays for the Steelers. In 2002, injuries limited him to 32.3 percent of the snaps. Bell can't help the defense if he's in the training room.

Clayton's take: Bell offers more big-play potential than Ravens middle linebacker Ed Hartwell, who would have given the Chiefs a nasty attitude from the middle linebacker position if they signed him. Now, with Bell secure at linebacker, the Chiefs can seek help at cornerback.

• Complete story | Chiefs clubhouse

Kurt Warner to Cardinals
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Cardinals sign QB Kurt Warner to a one-year deal.

The upside: Instead of six touchdown passes last season, Warner could have had 17 if his receivers could break a tackle or two. Warner brings experience and accomplishment to Dennis Green's offense. He completed 62.8 percent of his passes with the Giants and got the team off to a surprise 5-2 start. After back-to-back losses, he was benched, but he has better blocking and better receivers with the Cardinals.

The downside: He's not mobile. Giants coach Tom Coughlin tired of the increasing number of sacks. Warner had 39 sacks in nine games. He can't escape many rushes and is willing to stay in the pocket to complete a pass. Sometimes those negative plays can come back to haunt an offense.

Clayton's take: This was a great signing from the standpoint that Warner and Green each have a track record of winning. Warner now has a big, physical offensive line, particularly with the addition of right tackle Oliver Ross. If the Cardinals can get a few more players on defense, they might be a factor in the NFC West.

• Complete story | Cardinals clubhouse

Trent Dilfer from Seahawks to Browns
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Browns trade for QB Trent Dilfer.

The upside: The Browns preferred a veteran quarterback because it appears they are going to take a defensive player with their first-round pick. Dilfer is a smart quarterback. Though not mobile, he knows how to attack offenses and he is particularly effective in a run-oriented offense. Going to Seattle helped because it gave him experience in the West Coast Offense coached by Mike Holmgren. He's one of the headiest quarterbacks in the league.

The downside: Dilfer hasn't been the most durable player in the past few years. He's big and strong and tends to take hits, and sometimes those hits have led to injuries. It might be a lot to ask him to be a 16-game starter. Plus, the cost of a fourth-round choice was high considering the Browns could have saved the draft choice if they re-signed Kelly Holcomb.

Clayton's take: Dilfer does upgrade the quarterback position. No knock on Holcomb, but Dilfer is an ideal veteran quarterback. He supports and aides the development of younger quarterbacks, and he's a winner when given the talent and the chance.

• Complete story | Browns clubhouse

Laveranues Coles to Jets, Santana Moss to Redskins
John Clayton's analysis: for Jets; for Redskins.
The move: WR Laveranues Coles traded from the Washington Redskins to the New York Jets for WR Santana Moss.

The upside
Jets: Coles brings back a big degree of toughness to the Jets passing offense. Even with his bad toe, which didn't require surgery, Coles caught 90 passes. He's caught 89, 82 and 90 passes over the past three seasons. Plus, he was Chad Pennington's favorite target before Coles left for the Redskins.
Redskins: The Redskins didn't get a lot of big plays and touchdowns from their receiving corps last year so they are going a different direction with the passing offense. With Moss and David Patten, the Redskins have a little more speed and might be able to do better with yards after the catch. That was a big problem last year. Rod Gardner and Coles are bigger receivers but don't have as quick a feet as Moss and Patten. Plus, Moss offers a threat on punts.

The downside
Jets: The only downside is the yards after the catch. That shouldn't be a problem if Coles' toe is all right. Coles' yards per catch have dropped from 14.7 in 2003 to 10.6 last year. That's a number that needs to get back to 14.
Redskins: Moss has had a history of injuries, so going to a smaller, quicker receiving unit may test the unit's durability. Also, the Redskins run a very complicated offense under Joe Gibbs so it might take a while for Moss to catch on. He's only had one season in which he's caught more than 50 passes.

Clayton's take: This was a trade to fit the philosophies so both sides feel as though they won. The Jets get a warrior in Coles. The Redskins acquire excitement in Moss.

• Complete story | Jets clubhouse | Redskins clubhouse

Kareem McKenzie to Giants
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Giants sign RT Kareem McKenzie to a seven-year deal.

The upside: The Giants needed some help at the tackle position, so they needed to move quickly and pay a lot. McKenzie may not be the best right tackle in the NFL, but he should close off the right side of the line and let Luke Petitgout stay at left tackle.

The downside: Paying $5.4 million a year is a lot for McKenzie, and it may put an unfair expectation on his play. He's not a Pro Bowler, but he's being paid like one.

Clayton's take: The Giants were probably one of the most desperate teams in search of offensive line help, and they needed to be in the first wave of signings. Jonas Jennings would have helped at left, but he went to San Francisco. McKenzie was the next best option, which was why he was signed.

Mike Wahle to Panthers
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Panthers sign OL Mike Wahle to a five-year deal.

The upside: Giving a career guard such as Mike Wahle $5.4 million a year might seem like too much money, but Wahle gives them tremendous versatility. He can move to right or left tackle and solidify a line that had a big hole at right tackle last season. If Wahle plays left tackle, Jordan Gross can move back to his more natural position at right tackle. Regardless, the Panthers paid for a good player and they got one of the best offensive linemen on the market.

The downside: Wahle isn't that power-type blocker who can dominate from the line of scrimmage at guard or tackle. He's more of a technician. If the coaches use him at guard, they aren't getting the full value for the contract they gave him.

Clayton's take: The Panthers are smart. Last year, they made a mistake by thinking Adam Meadows could come over and fix the right tackle spot. They weren't going to get a better player in free agency or in the draft than Wahle. Good signing.

Marco Rivera to Cowboys
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Cowboys signed OG Marco Rivera to a five-year deal.

The upside: The Cowboys are looking for leadership and skills along their offensive line and they got it. Rivera embodies toughness. He'll bring a little bit of attitude to the offensive line, which is much needed.

The downside: He'll turn 33 in April, and that's getting a little old, so giving him a $9 million signing bonus is a little bit of a gamble. Will he be as effective at 34, 35 or 36? Even though he got a late start playing in the NFL, his body has taken a lot of hits.

Clayton's take: Bill Parcells couldn't care less about 2006 or 2007. He wants to win now. If Rivera can help improve the blocking along the offensive line, Drew Bledsoe can stand upright, make throws and not take sacks.

Antonio Pierce to Giants
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Giants sign LB Antonio Pierce to a six-year deal.

The upside: He's the sleeper of free agency. An undrafted player who showed promise for Marty Schottenheimer in 2001, Pierce rose from the ashes and established himself as a pretty good middle linebacker in his first year as a starter. Not only does he provide some play-making ability, he also offers leadership.

The downside: Pierce is only a one-year starter, so he doesn't have a long track record in this league. The Giants gave him a rich six-year, $26 million contract after signing two outside linebackers last season -- Carlos Emmons and Barrett Green. It could be hard getting three relatively knew linebackers to mesh.

Clayton's take: The Giants signed Pierce after having some questions about Kendrell Bell's medical health. Bell probably has more ability and if he ends up with Philadelphia or another team and has a Pro Bowl career, the Giants might be kicking themselves. Regardless, though, they got a good player in Pierce, and there is nothing wrong there.

Reggie Hayward to Jaguars
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Jaguars sign DE Reggie Hayward to a five-year deal.

The upside: This was a no-brainer. The Jaguars had no defensive ends. Hayward was the best defensive end on the market. He gives the defense a 10-sack presence along the outside. Plus, he's getting better. They made a mistake two years ago of putting big money into Hugh Douglas, who was a descending player at the time.

The downside: Hayward received the same money as his former Broncos teammate, Bertrand Berry, who made the Pro Bowl at Arizona last season. But Hayward may not a Pro Bowler in the mold of Berry, who appears to be more natural getting around the end.

Clayton's take: Hayward's addition is a plus because he was the best on the market. If the Jaguars can trade Donovin Darius to New Orleans for defensive end Darren Howard, they would have one of the best defensive lines in the AFC.

Duane Starks to Patriots
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Cardinals trade CB Duane Starks to the Patriots for a third-round pick.

The upside: When he signed with the Cardinals in 2002, he was one of the better shutdown cornerbacks in football. The Patriots hope they can bring back his supreme coverage skills as a replacement for the released Ty Law. He'll turn 30 this fall, but he still has speed.

The downside: Health. Starks has missed 30 starts over the past three seasons. He was healthier last year, but he still only participated in 62 percent of the snaps, which is the equivalent of a nickel back. The Patriots paid a high price if he's only going to play 62 percent of the snaps.

Clayton's take: The Patriots needed to do something to get a cornerback and they weren't going to pay the $6 million a year for the top free agents at the position. If Starks can revitalize his career and do well, the Patriots won't look back at the costs. After all, the Patriots have a pretty good track record in the secondary.

Randy Moss traded from Vikings to Raiders
John Clayton's analysis: for Raiders; for Vikings.
The move: The Vikings trade WR Randy Moss to the Raiders for LB Napoleon Harris, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2005 draft and another pick in the draft.

The upside
Raiders: The Raiders' three-receiver set with Moss, Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry should be one of the most explosive in the NFL. The Raiders will now be bombs away with Kerry Collins at quarterback. Moss' presence should add about a touchdown a game to the Raiders offense.
Vikings: They didn't get full value for Moss, one of the game's best players. Napoleon Harris will probably be used as a strong-side linebacker. That gives him a chance to blitz a little bit more, much like his days at Northwestern. The addition of Harris gives the Vikings an impressive core of young, mobile middle linebackers -- Harris, E.J. Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas. They have size and speed at that position.

The downside: Adding another big ego to the Raiders' locker room could be a problem if the team gets off to a bad start. Say what you want about Moss, he's used to winning. He's also used to having his own way. Only winning can keep this ship happy. The key to the trade for the Vikings was obviously the No. 7 overall pick in the draft. They could use it on a receiver such as Mike Williams, or they could trade up a spot or two and get Braylon Edwards. But the Vikings mission this offseason is to improve the defense and they did it here at the expense of the offense.

Clayton's take: The Raiders won this big time. They traded a decent strong-side linebacker for a difference-maker. If the Vikings get a receiver with the seventh pick, he won't have Randy Moss' game-breaking potential.

• Complete story | Raiders clubhouse | Vikings clubhouse

LaMont Jordan to Raiders
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Raiders sign RB LaMont Jordan to a five-year deal.

The upside: The Raiders wasted no time, signing the best running back available in free agency. That's no surprise. They tried to acquire him in a trade last season. Jordan is the big, physical 230-pound back who works so well in Norv Turner's offense. Turner usually gets 1,200-1,400 yards from his feature back. This is the chance Jordan has been waiting for since coming into the league.

The downside: Jordan hasn't played a full season as a starter, so no one knows how his health will hold up for 16 games. He also came at a cost of $5.5 million a year. That big salary creates pressure for him to perform at a Pro Bowl level.

Clayton's take: The Raiders struggled to run the ball last year. They could have drafted a back with the seventh choice in the first round, but they traded it away to get Randy Moss. The additions of Moss and Jordan complete the offense.

• Complete story | Raiders clubhouse

Jason Ferguson to Cowboys
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Cowboys sign DT Jason Ferguson to a five-year deal.

The upside: Ferguson gives Bill Parcells the ability to shift into the 3-4 defense. He's a big, physical nose tackle, and 3-4 defenses don't work if the nose tackle can't occupy two blockers. Ferguson started 14 games and played 73 percent of the defensive snaps last season for the Jets. When the Cowboys are in a 4-3, he'll team with DT Leonardo Carson, who re-signed for $1.1 million a season.

The downside: Nose tackle is a demanding position, and Ferguson turned 30 last season. It's easier playing in a 4-3, so it's a lot to ask of a 30-year-old to make the transition back to a 3-4. Of course, that's why he got a $9 million signing bonus.

Clayton's take: This was the most predictable signing of the offseason. Everyone had Ferguson penciled in with Dallas since the end of the regular season.

• Complete story | Cowboys clubhouse

Derrick Mason to Ravens
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Ravens sign WR Derrick Mason to a five-year deal.

The upside: Last year, the Ravens didn't have a No. 1 receiver. They didn't have a No. 2 receiver, either. Mason brings them dependability. He's averaged 86 catches a season and 1,153 yards over the past four years with the Titans. Last year, he caught 96 passes. Kyle Boller needs better targets, and Mason is the first acquisition in what should be a busy offseason for the Ravens on offense.

The downside: Mason is 31 and might be losing some speed. He's clearly a possession receiver at this point in his career, which obviously isn't a bad thing. Any time possession receivers get into their 30s, you worry how long they can go and be big-time players.

Clayton's take: Who cares about age? The NFL is about productivity and Mason has been productive. The mistake for the Ravens would be to stop here. Their first-round choice probably needs to be a wide receiver, too, as long as they don't reach.

• Complete story | Ravens clubhouse

Muhsin Muhammad to Bears
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Bears sign WR Muhsin Muhammad to a six-year deal.

The upside: Muhammad is coming off his best season. He went to the Pro Bowl after catching 93 passes for 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Bears need playmakers on offense. They also need a consistent player. Muhammad is the first part of a revamping of the Bears' skill positions on offense. The next phase comes in the draft with either a top running back or wide receiver. Muhammad is a great downfield blocker, which will help Thomas Jones or a rookie running back. Muhammad is sure-handed as a receiver. That's been missing in Chicago for years.

The downside: As an older receiver who doesn't have a lot of speed, you have to wonder how much is left. He's not going to offer much downfield receiving. That's not his game. If the Bears can't come up with speed on the other side, the offense will be very compressed for quarterback Rex Grossman. Muhammad has been big, strong and durable, but he's at that age where injuries could creep in.

Clayton's take: The Panthers and Bears offered Muhammad pretty similar deals. After sifting through the offers, Muhammad chose the Bears. Step one of Chicago's offseason plan was a success.

• Complete story | Bears clubhouse

Drew Bledsoe to Cowboys
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Cowboys sign QB Drew Bledsoe to a three-year deal.

The upside: The Cowboys get about eight years younger at quarterback with the signing of the 33-year-old Bledsoe instead of the 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde. But they don't get more mobile. Bledsoe still has a strong arm. He's a classic pocket passer, and he gets to re-unite with the head coach who brought him into the league, Bill Parcells. With Bledsoe at the helm, Parcells took the Patriots from one of the worst teams in the league to a Super Bowl.

The downside: Let's see. Bill Belichick traded him to the Bills because he thought Bledsoe could no longer take the Patriots to the next level. Tom Brady took over as the regular starter and the team won two more Super Bowls. The Bills let him go because they couldn't get out of that 8-8, 9-7 rut with Bledsoe. Either Parcells is right, or Bledsoe will prove the critics right that say he's just an average quarterback now.

Clayton's take: This was a deal that had to be done. Parcells has no interest developing a young quarterback such as Drew Henson. It's win now and worry about the future later.

• Complete story | Cowboys clubhouse

Gerrard Warren traded from Browns to Broncos
John Clayton's analysis: for Broncos; for Browns.
The move: DT Gerard Warren traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round pick.

The upside
Broncos: The Broncos acquired an aggressive, nasty defensive tackle who was the No. 3 overall pickin the 2001 draft. Warren has underachieved in the past couple of years, but he is a talent. At 325 pounds, he has the size to be a nose tackle. He has the athletic ability to dominate. Mike Shanahan is hoping to rekindle his career in the Mile High City as the Broncos shift to a 3-4.
Browns: They tired of Warren, who had more bark than bite. With Romeo Crennel now in charge, the Browns are looking for overachievers. This isn't to say Warren can't do well in Denver. He has the talent. To not get a pick in the first day of the draft for a player taken that high is an admission that Warren was a bust with the Browns. Phil Savage is trying to stock pile picks in the draft and that's a good thing.

The downside
Broncos: They have been burned before by making bold moves on players who haven't worked out on other teams or have had some difficulties. Dale Carter and Daryl Gardener are just a couple of the examples. In some ways, you wonder what's going on along the Broncos' defensive line. The Broncos cry for pass-rushers, but they let ends Bertrand Berry and Reggie Hayward go. They are trying to trade their best defensive lineman, Trevor Pryce. Puzzling.
Browns: This isn't a great fourth-round selection, not being toward the top of the round. All the Browns can hope is to get a project for the offensive line or maybe a player who can help out on special teams.

Clayton's take: The Browns probably needed to move Warren because Courtney Brown is untradable because of his high cap number and history of injuries. Call this one a wash. The Broncos have the better chance of succeeding because they are getting a quality talent who is still young

• Complete story | Broncos clubhouse | Browns clubhouse

Dexter Coakley to Rams
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Rams sign LB Dexter Coakley to a five-year deal.

The upside: The Rams have had too many failures drafting linebackers. The Rams like smaller, quicker linebackers and Coakley comes to St. Louis with the productivity they haven't gotten from some of the other younger players. Coakley gives the Rams a proven winner and one of the better players at that position at a decent price.

The downside: The only downside will be how he fits in with the other linebackers. This isn't the Cover 2 scheme run by former defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. Larry Marmie asks for a little more blitzing and the defense relies a little more on size. Coakley could get banged up if he doesn't watch himself.

Clayton's take: Coakley was natural for the Rams if they weren't going to get the top player available, Ed Hartwell of the Ravens. The next step may be signing Chris Claiborne, formerly of the Vikings.

Jonas Jennings to 49ers
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The 49ers sign OT Jonas Jennings to a seven-year deal.

The upside: After two seasons, the 49ers didn't feel comfortable with former first-rounder Kwame Harris at left tackle. He was more of a right tackle. By getting Jennings, the 49ers can solidify their line, which has youth and talent. Harris moves back to right tackle. Even though Jennings is not the best left tackle in the conference, he's athletic enough to protect the blindside of a potential rookie quarterback, like Aaron Rodgers or Alex Smith.

The downside: The Bills didn't think Jennings was a $5.2 million-a-year tackle, and that's probably true. The Bills line struggled last season. If he doesn't live up to this investment, fans in San Francisco might be critical.

Clayton's take: You can't go wrong if you address needs along the offensive and defensive lines. Jennings might not be the best left tackle in football, but he was the best one available and the 49ers signed him.

Anthony Henry to Cowboys
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Cowboys sign CB Anthony Henry to a five-year deal.

The upside: Henry is one of the more complete corners in this free agent class. He's 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and he's had 17 interceptions in four years, so he can make plays. Bill Parcells liked his physical play. In Parcells scheme, you have to cover and tackle.

The downside: Fred Smoot, Ken Lucas, Gary Baxter and Andre Dyson were listed ahead of Henry on most free agent boards. But the Cowboys were looking for a cornerback in the five-year, $25 million range, and Henry was the most agreeable. But the Cowboys could sacrifice a little in coverage compared to the other corners.

Clayton's take: Las year, the Cowboys failed to address the right cornerback position and it turned into a disaster. Now, with Henry and Terence Newman, Parcells has proven starters. That's a big advancement from last season.

Pat Williams to Vikings
John Clayton's analysis:
The move: The Vikings sign DT Pat Williams to a three-year deal.

The upside: With the addition of Pat Williams, the Vikings are dominating at defensive tackle. Kevin Williams is as a star and provides the pass rush. Pat Williams will be the run-stopper. The Vikings thought they had a great tandem with Williams and Chris Hovan, but Hovan wore out and didn't make plays.

The downside: Pat Williams turned 33 this fall and more will be asked of him than in Buffalo. The Bills only had him on the field 58 percent of the time. At more than $4 million a year, the Vikings figure to keep him active a lot more than that on a tough indoor turf. That could be a pounding on his knees.

Clayton's take: This was a much better acquisition than the Napoleon Harris deal and it didn't cost the team Randy Moss or a draft choice. Williams could be such a factor along the line that he will make all the linebackers better because he will take away their blockers.

John Clayton is a senior writer for

John Clayton

NFL senior writer