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NFL Free Agency Grades: Analysts like the Buccaneers

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Free agency is more or less over right now, and most remaining moves will be minor. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t expected to make any more significant signings, which means they end the free agency period with three significant additions (in addition to a bunch of re-signings): wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive tackle Chris Baker and safety J.J. Wilcox.

That also means we can look at some grades! Free agency grades are fun if somewhat meaningless — they’re necessarily limited estimates based on overly optimistic views of how players will do and how many will live up to their contracts. But, hey, you need something to talk about at this point.

Sports Illustrated starts off the list with an A for the DeSean Jackson, and they even claim that the Bucs’ offense will be “almost unstoppable”. That’s a bit hyperbolic, but the Jackson signing got nearly universal acclaim.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell gave the DeSean Jackson signing a B- for fairly standard reasons, but his evaluation of Chris Baker’s deal is a lot more interesting.

The Bucs made a nice low-cost move by luring Baker away from Washington, where he had quietly become a disruptive defensive end in the team's base 3-4 alignment. Baker has racked up 9.5 sacks, 27 knockdowns and 11 tackles for loss against the run over the past two years. Washington has otherwise been weak along the line of scrimmage, so it was a surprise to see the team let its best defensive lineman leave for what amounted to a pittance: Baker's deal with Tampa is for three years and $15.8 million with $9 million guaranteed.

Baker’s signing has been pretty warmly received, especially by the more in-depth analysts — both on the stats and the film side. Even Pro Football Focus gave the signing an A. Baker has some pretty good film, his statistics are solid given the position he’s played, and the contract the Bucs gave him is pretty small. Win-win-win.

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco actually likes what the Bucs did, which has been different in the past.

Grade: B-. I love adding the speed of Jackson, if he doesn’t slow down at 30. Baker was an underrated signing.

I’d summarize more grades but, well, they’re all the same: everyone likes what the Bucs did, and they like both signings. They’re not in love with them, but Jackson gets Bs almost universally, while Baker lands between B and A. Impressive, huh?

Hopefully, this will actually carry in to the regular season. The Bucs have ‘won’ free agency before, and have often (though not always) gotten positive reviews — and it’s rarely led to actual wins. Last season was an exception. Let this year be another one.