The fine folks at Pro Football Focus have appeared on BTB with increasing regularity, and this surely hasn't abated during the recent free agency frenzy. In large part this is because one of the Cowboys pick-ups, former Bengals guard Nate Livings, has been savaged by their grading system. Poor Nate received the worst grade given to the 2011 Bengals offense (-13.3) and, according to PFF's graders, was particularly poor at run blocking, with an unenviable mark of -9.1. Not surprisingly, this has either bred PFF naysayers or caused formerly silent critics to come out of the woodwork.
In either case, PFF and its grades, as they have become part of our statistical nomenclature, have become increasingly controversial. Thus their recently published Free Agent Deal Grader should stir up a heated debate.
The Deal Grader is a simple affair, and reflects their standard methodology. PFF has created nine categories, each designated by a simple numerical grade, in increments of .5, ranging from 2.0 to -2.0. As per their grading system, average receives a mark of 0.0. Each grading level is accompanied by a clever title; these span the gamut from "You just signed Peyton Manning!" (2.0) to "You're bringing Brett Favre back?" (-2.0) - incidentally, no deal has yet qualified for either of these extremes. As we are all eager to know what the rest of the NFL-lovin' world thinks of the Cowboys' recent free agent haul, these categories should be of interest. So, after the jump, we'll see where each of Dallas' acquisitions (and those involving former Cowboys) falls, according to PFF.
+1.5: That's just great value!
In a move sure to generate puzzlement and ire from the Dallas fanbase, none of the Cowboys' deals rate at this level--but the Giants acquisition of Martellus Bennett somehow does. PFF sees great value in 'Tellus' blocking, and says so: "Bennett has graded as a top five blocking tight end the past three years, while having opportunities limited as the number two TE in a Dallas offense with plenty of receiving options. This move comes with little risk and a lot of reward." I can't disagree, but still..
+1.0 That move could work out very nicely!
Curiously, Dallas' top-ranking deal is the one that netted safety Brodney Pool. This is largely due to his reunion with Rob Ryan; the PFFers note that "Pool has had his best seasons in a Rob Ryan defense, ranking 5th in our safety rankings in 2009 when the pair were both in Cleveland." How can I disagree with that; I'd love to see them rekindle the old mojo.
+0.5: Common sense shines through
The guys at PFF place a couple of pleasant surprises in this category. The first of these is Kyle Orton. I cannot disagree; the more I think it over, the more I'm pleasantly surprised by the Orton deal. In fact, before free agency, he was my prime QB target, but that faded as I heard he was going to sign for starter's money elsewhere. He is still in his quarterbacking prime; as such, he solves a recurring problem at backup QB. PFF agrees: "The Cowboys have been hurt in recent years by injuries to Romo affecting his performance and ability to stay on the field."
The other? Dan Connor. They report that "Connor is the perfect fit for a Dallas defense needing a 2-down thumper to slot next to Sean Lee. Gives the Cowboys a pair of Nittany Lions in the middle at linebacker." Like Orton, I would happily have considered Connor when speculating about Dallas' free agency plans, but thought they'd look at cheap backups because they couldn't afford an established starter, and didn't to impede Bruce Carter's development. Wrong again, Rabble! As a result, this was even more unexpected than the Orton deal. With a nice positive grade, the PFF dudes seem to agree.
This is the rating with which I take the greatest exception. PFF's analyst have the temerity to offer up a collective "Meh" in response to Brandon Carr, our shiny new $50 million toy. They admit that "Carr is a good cornerback," but qualify this with the fact that "the Cowboys have spent an awful lot of money on potential as opposed to production. He is an upgrade for their secondary, but one that may struggle to live up to the price tag." I'm not sure I agree with their potential versus production rubric; I think they've purchased good production with the potential for great production. If its any consolation, Tampa Bay's deal for Carl Nicks received the same grade.
-1.0: That's an awful lot of money you've just gambled away
No surprise here, as PFF whipping boy Livings makes an appearance. The PFF rationale? "Livings has the size that Dallas covets on the O-line, but little else positive to bring to the table" and remind us of his -24.0 grade since he took over as starter for the Bengals in 2009. I admit, that grade makes me shudder. But KD's superb evaluation of Livings has me thinking that that, perhaps, numbers can't always describe an athlete's entire performance. Who'da thunk?
Although the Deal Grader was updated as of Sunday night, neither Lawrence Vickers, Mackenzy Bernadeau or Kevin Ogletree signings appear on the list. I'm curious to see where they might rank, especially Vickers, who feels like he belongs in with Orton and Connor.
So, whaddya think, BTBers? Which if these do you agree with? Which do you take exception to? Go to the comments section and ler 'er rip!