NFL Analysis


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Grading NFL's Biggest Moves Of 2024 Offseason

Houston Texans wide receiver Stefon Diggs
The Houston Texans trading for wide receiver Stefon Diggs was perhaps the biggest offseason move.

The NFL offseason entered what seemed like a quiet stretch between free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft, but this league never fails to produce a surprise. Last week, the Houston Texans added star receiver Stefon Diggs from the Buffalo Bills. It was arguably the most shocking move since the season ended, and the fallout could lead to more deals.

Three players signed nine-figure deals in free agency, and another three stars have been dealt in April alone. We've shortlisted the offseason's biggest moves to the top eight most impactful and graded each. Grades consider the money and draft picks involved, the team stakes and the player's role.

If a team overpaid in a trade or contract or misidentified a player's fit, its grade will suffer. On the other hand, those who found value will rise to the top. And we're not just grading the team that got the star player but also the team that lost the talent.

Grading Offseason Moves

Houston Texans Acquire WR Stefon Diggs

Trade details: Texans receive Diggs, 2024 sixth- and 2025 fifth-round picks; Bills receive 2025 second

There's a lot that went into the Houston Texans' trade for Stefon Diggs. First, a team with Josh Allen in his prime was willing to eat $31 million in dead cap to deal the team's best playmaker. Then, there's a muddied second half of the 2023 season where Diggs all but disappeared for the Buffalo Bills.

Diggs' raw numbers were still impressive in 2023 — 107 receptions for 1,183 yards and eight scores. He's been an ironman throughout his career, playing more than 80 percent of snaps in six of nine seasons. But he failed to hit 100 yards in the final seven games, and his snap count dipped into the 60s after Joe Brady was promoted to offensive coordinator.

Was that a sign of decline as Diggs entered his 30s? Houston hopes not. Its offense needed one more explosive and reliable weapon to help Nico Collins and Tank Dell, but Diggs was a big swing who might not be worth the trouble. Houston already voided the remaining years of his deal beyond 2024 and gave him a raise for motivation.

It won't kill the franchise to lose out on a future 2025 second-round pick if Diggs can't stomach taking a bit of a backseat in the offense. At best, C.J. Stroud has the weapons to make a deep playoff run. It's equally as likely we see Diggs grow unhappy as Collins and Dell continue to develop, and he goes through the motions as he did throughout 2023.

Buffalo lost the trade simply because getting a 2025 pick and eating so much dead cap doesn't help their revamping efforts for 2024. This is a lost season in Buffalo, and it was probably worthwhile to bring Diggs back at least until the trade deadline in the fall to see how the team performed. 

Texans grade: B-
Bills grade: C-

New York Jets Land EDGE Haason Reddick

Trade details: Jets receive Reddick; Eagles receive conditional 2026 third-round pick

This was a win-win trade for the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets are all-in on the next two years, or however long they have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Whatever good comes from this stretch can hopefully be passed on to the team's next quarterback after Rodgers, but it's not near the forefront of Joe Douglas' mind.

Losing Bryce Huff to Philadelphia hurt, but the Jets added a better player in Haason Reddick. Reddick, who turns 30 in September, isn't an ascending talent like Huff is and will likely need a new contract. The price of a 2026 Day 2 pick and a couple of years of guaranteed money is considerable for someone his age.

That said, Reddick's production is fantastic and should continue in New York's loaded defense. With 60.5 sacks over the past four years, Reddick has become one of the game's most feared presences. Huff, who turns 26 in mid-April, has age on his side, but he may never become the finisher that Reddick is. 

Sometimes, it's worth spending more on the proven commodity in a win-now move. The biggest negative for the Jets is that 2023 first-round pick Will McDonald IV looks glued to the bench as the team's fourth option on the edge.

Philadelphia is also looking to win but didn't want to pay Reddick. It was known he was on the block, so netting a possible second-round pick in the future is huge. This team had to get younger and cheaper on defense this offseason, so swapping Reddick for Huff made sense.

Jets grade: B+
Eagles grade: B+

Chicago Bears Nab WR Keenan Allen

Trade details: Bears receive Allen; Chargers receive 2024 fourth-round pick

The Los Angeles Chargers were under immense salary cap limitations this offseason, facing tough choices on Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Instead of hammering out a new deal with Allen to help ease Justin Herbert into the first year under coach Jim Harbaugh, the Chargers pulled a Madden-esque move by cutting Williams and trading Allen.

Losing Allen is a tough pill to swallow, even if he turns 32 this month and has missed at least four games in the past two years. He's as steady as they come, and his game will continue to age incredibly well. Now, the Chargers enter the draft with only Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnston as notable players at wide receiver and might be tempted to spend the fifth-overall pick on the position.

Even if Allen's health and unwillingness to take a pay cut swayed Los Angeles' decision, the team was well under the cap when the trade came. They accepted a mere fourth-round pick to get worse in 2024 and failed to find an adequate contributor in free agency.

Meanwhile, this is a great deal for the Chicago Bears if Allen stays relatively healthy. Allen is a West Coast guy, attending Cal in college, and will pair well with the more vertically-inclined DJ Moore. Allen and Caleb Williams will thrive together and should have good vibes, considering their California experiences.

There's some risk here for the Bears because Allen is only on a one-year deal, and the team now has only four picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. A small extension makes sense for Allen, or else we could see the team add a receiver in the first round. They'd still earn a high grade in that situation, but it's certainly riskier if the Bears only have him for this season. 

Bears grade: A
Chargers grade: D

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Calvin Ridley
Tennessee Titans newly signed free agent wide receiver Calvin Ridley fields questions during his introduction to the media at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park in Nashville, Tenn. (The Tennesseean, USA TODAY-Sports)

Tennessee Titans Sign WR Calvin Ridley from Jacksonville Jaguars

Contract: Four years, $92 million ($50 million guaranteed)

The Tennessee Titans stole a key cog from their AFC South rival, but the cost was truly jaw-dropping. Calvin Ridley was one of few speedsters available in free agency, and Tennessee also swapped Derrick Henry for Tony Pollard. Suddenly, the Titans have a fun and more explosive surrounding cast for Will Levis than most would've predicted at the end of the 2023 season.

Ridley's skill set fits within Tennessee's offense. Though he turns 30 this season, Ridley is equally capable of being a deep threat and a contributor on short to intermediate routes. He'll pair well with DeAndre Hopkins, who will also free Ridley to be moved around formations more than Jacksonville could.

But Ridley is undoubtedly coming off a disappointing and relatively poor season. He struggled badly against press and explosive plays are rarely there anymore. He ranked just 84th in separation, 53rd in yards after the catch and 52nd in win rate against man coverage. 

Ridley has to play better to justify this contract, which isn't how deals should be made. Either his efficiency needs to increase or more big plays can help offset his shortcomings. He's not a bad player, though, so at least Tennessee was able to add someone who brings value to an offense that needed balancing. 

Titans grade: C-

New York Giants linebacker Brian Burns
Then-Carolina Panthers linebacker Brian Burns (0) in the first quarter of a 2023 game at Bank of America Stadium. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

New York Giants Trade For Edge Brian Burns

Trade details: Giants receive Burns and 2024 fifth-round pick; Panthers receive 2024 second and fifth-round picks

Everyone kills the Carolina Panthers for not taking the Rams' offer of two first-round picks and a second-round pick for Brian Burns in 2022, and rightfully so. That offer shouldn't be held against Carolina when looking at the deal it took for Burns this offseason because the situations are wholly incomparable. But the decision to move Burns for this package was still terrible.

Burns quickly signed a five-year, $150 million deal with $76 fully guaranteed with the New York Giants. New York made the most of its newfound cap space, adding one of the better young pass rushers to a roster looking for a star partner across from Kayvon Thibodeaux. Almost 26, Burns has 46 sacks over five seasons. 

Giving up a second-round pick, swapping fifths, and handing out a huge contract is quite favorable for New York. The Giants acquired an extra second-round pick for dealing a much older Leonard Williams at the 2023 trade deadline and simply reallocated it to Carolina.  

The Panthers needed draft assets after moving so much to draft Bryce Young last year, but their offseason has been strange. They lost defensive stalwarts Burns and Frankie Luvu (free agency) but paid two guards a combined $153 million and spent mid-level money on a host of mediocre role players. This team is treading water as it desperately needs playmaking over depth. 

Giants grade: A
Panthers grade: D

Kirk Cousins Opts for Atlanta Falcons

Contract: Four years, $180 million ($100 million guaranteed)

The Atlanta Falcons seemingly had two options to address their woeful quarterback situation this offseason. Either they could swing big on a 36-year-old coming off a torn Achilles injury who also struggles to play well in the postseason or move a Day 3 pick on an unproven, young project quarterback. They opted for the slightly more sure thing in Kirk Cousins over Justin Fields. 

It cost them a pretty penny. In fact, $100 million guaranteed over the next two-plus seasons means that Cousins will have the chance to enjoy another fresh start with his third NFL franchise. Always at the top of the good/not-good-enough discussion, Cousins has a loaded offense cast to help him in Atlanta.

If Cousins proves healthy and returns to his previous level of play, Atlanta will make the playoffs in 2024. The same might not have been the case had it acquired Fields. The Falcons' ceiling might not be as high, though, because Cousins lacks mobility, is old in NFL terms and has a penchant for making backbreaking plays that hurt his team when it matters most.

Maybe the negatives don't matter as much because Fields wasn't a good option. Cousins can steady a unit and at least give the team a chance to make the postseason, which might be enough for the franchise to be happy. It's an acceptable contract, given his talent. 

Falcons grade: B

Green Bay Packers Splurge on Josh Jacobs

Contract: Four years $48 million ($12.5 million guaranteed)

The Green Bay Packers got younger at running back but not cheaper or more reliable. It's arguable whether they even improved or what that means at the league's most devalued position. Instead of paying Aaron Jones about $11 million to run it back, the Packers cut bait after he declined another pay cut and signed Josh Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million deal. 

Jacobs had a monstrous 2022 season but also led the league in touches. Only 26, Jacobs' raw and advanced numbers fell off a cliff in 2023. He also missed four games.

Sure, Green Bay is giving him a much better situation to play in, but the Packers had a more consistent performer in Jones already in town. Thankfully, Jacobs only has one year guaranteed, or he'll be back on the market next year. Jacobs has to be more than a high-volume back, which has been his calling card in three of his five seasons. 

Packers grade: C-

Saquon Barkley Spurns Giants for Eagles

Contract: Three years, $37.75 million ($26 million guaranteed)

Spending on a running back rarely looks good after the fact, but the Philadelphia Eagles might've timed their change in philosophy for the right player. Saquon Barkley is going from one of the league's worst situations to one of the best. There's no question that New York shouldn't have paid the 27-year-old based on its roster and his struggles getting back to his elite athleticism, but he can thrive in Philadelphia.

The Eagles will give Barkley everything he needs to be a high-end performer. He won't have to carry this team to wins consistently, instead giving the Eagles a better-receiving threat and a more consistent option than they've had in recent years. While Miles Sanders and D'Andre Swift are average-to-good backs, their talent was why they both finished third in rushing yards in their final year with the Eagles.

Now, imagining Barkley behind the Eagles' offensive line and Jalen Hurts is easy. He'll be given clearer rushing lanes and won't have to ward off contact near the line of scrimmage. He thrives when he has space, and the Eagles are amongst the best in the league at catering to backs.

Given the leaguewide interest in him, guaranteeing two years for Barkley seems fair. The NFL still loves Barkley despite multiple injuries and vision issues that have hampered his success to this point. He's still a better athlete than most, and that'll be enough for the Eagles to see a difference in his impact than his predecessors. 

Eagles grade: B