A panel at ESPN graded all 32 teams' free agency on Wednesday (subscription required). The panel consisted of senior writer Mike Sando and analysts Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Field Yates and Mark Dominik. Sometimes, you will see the media have a "floor" when giving out grades -- i.e. even though they grade on an A to F scale, it's a shocker if a team receives a grade below a C-. 29 teams received a C- or better. The Browns were given the worst grade in the NFL: an F+. At least it wasn't a minus, eh?
When a team goes through a teardown like the Browns have done, such a negative grade isn't a surprise. If anything, it shows that the new regime has fully committed to this plan -- they aren't doing it halfheartedly. Polian attributed the teardown in part to Paul DePodesta:
"This looks to me like a baseball tear-down," Polian said. "I'm saying it because [Paul] DePodesta is there. That is the only thing that explains it. The problem is, in baseball, you own the player for six years. In the NFL, essentially you own the player for three years. The math doesn't work. They have lost eight starters who should be the core of their team to free agency in two years. What is that about? You are going to have to be almost 100 percent hit rate in the draft to get it back where it was, which wasn't good enough."
Riddick said that he might give a team like the Panthers the benefit of the doubt if they took this strategy, but not the Browns. He then questioned why the Browns would commit so much money to Robert Griffin III, which means he doesn't understand what other quarterbacks in the NFL are making. Yates was less critical of the Browns signing Griffin:
"The team is flush with cap space, so while this isn't entirely a low-risk maneuver from a financial standpoint, it's a calculated move to upgrade a position of need. It would be no surprise if Cleveland still used the second overall pick in the draft on a quarterback."
Once again, I don't take the grade as a slap in the face; like I said earlier, it's basically part of the process the franchise has committed to. Going through one free agency of an F+ might be necessary to set up future years of A-to-B grades in free agency, as this team grows *hopefully* the right way.