AFC Offseason Grades: "A" for Patriots

CineSport—The NFL's New England Patriots had a productive offseason and the Broncos upgraded their offense with the addition of Peyton Manning. CineSport's Brian Clark & Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer discuss.

Offseason grades are in for the AFC, which had its share of high achievers as well as its share of failures. So who furthered their cause and who flunked?

Sporting News’ Iyer has the grades, and CineSport has the key personnel losses and gains that will both help and hurt the following selection of AFC squads in the 2012 season.

Bengals: For the Bengals, who snagged a B+ in the grade book, the success of this offseason may be more about what they rid themselves of than what they gained.

In Cincinnati, it was addition by subtraction when the team parted ways with problem children Cedric Benson and Jerome Simpson. While the Bengals made virtually no big, splashy offseason moves, they did a very solid job plugging holes and adding depth to an already competitive roster.

Broncos: As long as Peyton Manning: Neck #3 Edition turns out to be nearly as productive as the original version, the Broncos will have earned the A they received. For a team on the cusp of serious contention, Manning will be the make-or-break element of the equation.

Sure, they lost Tebow the Positionless Wonder, but winning the Manning Sweepstakes makes up for that in both performance and in ticket sales.

Browns: The Browns received a grade of a B, a surprisingly solid mark for a team that hasn’t been able to form an organized identity for itself since returning to the league in 1999 and that seems to be in perpetual rebuilding mode.

But they did draft well, solving two huge offensive problems with first-round picks by grabbing RB Trent Richardson and QB Brandon Weeden.

S Mike Adams isn’t a huge loss, but the team’s lack of depth at safety will mean they’ll still feel it. As for Peyton Hillis’ departure, his disastrous litany of injuries and offseason issues in 2011 indicate the Browns are probably better off without him.

Chiefs: Iyer was correct when he attributed much of the Chiefs’ C- grade to the illogical hodgepodge of players they brought in.

The acquisition of a motley crew that ranged from Abram Elam to Kevin Boss to Brady Quinn came off like a short-sighted “more is more” approach rather than an actual attempt to identify and remedy problem areas.

Colts: The Colts got the best grade in the AFC South, but it was a C…Effectively giving them a “best house on a bad block” designation.

The laundry list of losses for this team as it enters a rebuilding phase is comprised mostly of former offensive starters, including, of course, Indianapolis legend Peyton Manning.

#1 pick Andrew Luck saved them from a far worse grade, though that C could easily drop to a failing mark retroactively if he's a bust.

Dolphins: The fish netted a disappointing C-, and even that seems generous for a team that tried and failed to lure several top-tier free agents.

Not winning the Peyton Manning sweepstakes might make Manning himself their biggest loss even though he was never a Dolphin to begin with, thus also making the jettisoning of WR Brandon Marshall in an attempt to attract Manning a close second.

As for additions…Well, at least we know Ocho Cinco will keep “Hard Knocks” entertaining.

Jets: While the Jets’ problems are more about off-field issues, team chemistry and Revis threatening to retreat to his island on a holdout indefinitely, their offseason personnel moves still garnered an embarrassing grade of a D.

If jersey sales were the team’s only goal, QB Tim Tebow would be the best acquisition out there, but unfortunately for the Jets, these guys still have to know how to play football.

Patriots: The perennially-overachieving Pats grabbed one of just three As handed out to AFC teams under the direction of cerebral football mastermind Bill Belichick.

The team’s biggest offseason addition wasn’t even a player; it was ex-Pats’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, back for another tour of duty in Foxboro. Didn’t hurt that he brought favorite WRs Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd along for the ride.

Raiders: As if to say the Era of AL Davis’ Crazy Personnel Moves will continue from beyond the grave, Oakland received the AFC’s only failing grade.

As the team that infamously drafted a kicker in the first round, flunking the offseason is nothing new for the Raiders, but this team has to improve its personnel decisions if it ever wants to compete again.

Oakland released Wimbley without getting anything in return or seeking a replacement, and they let Michael Bush go despite Darren McFadden’s injury issues.

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