2020 NFL Free Agency: PFF Improvement Index for all 32 teams | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
Using the machine learning capabilities of AWS, the PFF Improvement Index quantifies how much value NFL teams are adding or losing during NFL free agency. This page will track the movement according to each day’s transactions, with notes on each team’s affected position groups.
Over the past several months, PFF has used the machine learning capabilities of AWS to develop a measure to quantify the value gained and lost by each team in the offseason — we’re calling it the Improvement Index. The index built on the rigorously researched PFF wins above replacement metric, which translates player values into intuitive, concrete and position-agnostic currency of wins. The index is roughly the percent gain (or loss) in WAR for each team during the offseason, beginning with the first player cuts in early February.
You can learn more about the specifics of PFF WAR in the link above, but it’s most important to know that it’s based on our player-level grades, as PFF grades every player on every play. This wealth of data allowed our research and development team to build a model to simulate the season with and without players based on their grade levels and projected usage in different facets of the game, e.g. passing, rushing, receiving, pass blocking, pass rush, coverage, etc.
The model behind the Improvement Index projects the numbers of snaps and grades per snap for each player in every facet. These models were trained on years of historical data, going back to 2006 for PFF grades and WAR. The model incorporates player- and team-level assumptions based on each player’s prior performance, team coaching tendencies, forecasted opponents, and championship odds. These features help the model estimate the likely allocation of snaps among each position group and the likely grades per snap for each player based on that usage and historical trends.
Each day, the Improvement Index plot below will be updated, along with short blurbs on the most recent transactions that give some color around their impact in terms of WAR for the teams involved and the changes in usage for the specific position groups players are leaving or joining.
Here is the movement in the index, generated by the confirmed transactions, through 3 p.m. Friday, March 20.
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The daily update to the index will also include a table with the specific team values.
|Team||WAR Change||Improvement (%)|
Broncos: Signed RB Melvin Gordon
Despite joining a somewhat crowded backfield, we see Gordon improving the Broncos’ backfield production by 0.03 WAR in 2020. A potential three-headed monster of Gordon, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman gives the Broncos one of the deepest backfields in the NFL.
Steelers: Signed TE Eric Ebron
After a couple of years of solid WAR production (11th and 13th among tight ends in 2017 and 2018), Ebron took a step back in 2019. The former No. 10 overall pick missed time and wasn’t nearly as efficient last season, but our projections see Ebron adding material value (0.06 WAR) to the Steelers' passing game in 2020.
Falcons: Signed RB Todd Gurley
Just a day after the Rams released Gurley, the Falcons scoop him up to solidify one of the least stable running back groups in the NFL. After receiving MVP buzz in 2018 and leading the NFL in running back WAR, Gurley’s production slipped to 16th among running backs in 2019. We forecast Gurley to be a more efficient WAR producer than Ito Smith or Brian Hill, and the shift in snap allocation leads to a 0.02 WAR gain for the Falcons.
Cowboys: Signed RB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The 2019 season was a bounceback season for Clinton-Dix, who registered the 15th most WAR among NFL safeties after ranking 46th, 49th and 64th the three prior years. We see the Cowboys’ safety group gaining 0.04 WAR with this transaction, with Clinton-Dix immediately filling a starter role.
Eagles: Acquired CB Darius Slay from Lions
The trade that Slay was wishing for was facilitated by the Lions signing Desmond Trufant to fill his cornerback snaps. Slay was consistently one of the top-15 corners in the NFL from 2014-2018 by PFF WAR, before having an “off” season last year (92nd). Our WAR projection for Slay is between his former self and last year’s version, which adds roughly 0.08 WAR to the Eagles’ secondary in 2020.
Lions: Signed CB Desmond Trufant
Trufant’s production fell last season in somewhat limited action. He generated 0.14 WAR, 65th at the position. Trufant provided more than double that WAR in each of 2018 and 2017, but we see his 2020 number closer to last season than those outstanding campaigns. That said, cornerbacks are some of the most valuable players outside of quarterback, and Trufant’s addition projects to add roughly 0.08 WAR to the Lions’ defensive backs.
Vikings: Signed DI Michael Pierce
The Vikings mitigated the loss of Linval Joseph and slightly improved their defensive interior’s WAR production with the signing of Pierce, who ranked 57th in WAR at his position, a fall from 18th and 21st the prior two years.
Chargers: Signed CB Chris Harris
The Chargers cornerback group added 0.10 WAR with the signing of Harris, who we see maintaining a high level of play into his early thirties. Harris was a top-20 CB by WAR each of the last three seasons and was the top corner multiple seasons prior.
Rams: Signed ED Leonard Floyd
The addition of Floyd to the Rams mitigates their loss of Dante Fowler to the Atlanta Falcons. We project Floyd to lead the Rams edge defenders in snaps and WAR in 2020, after being 33rd and 24th at the position in WAR the last two seasons.
Falcons: Signed ED Dante Fowler
Fowler, the former No. 3 overall pick, finally lived up to the hype in the final year of his rookie contract for the Rams, ranking in the top-25 edge defenders according to WAR after not breaking the top-100 the three previous years. We project the Falcons to gain 0.10 WAR with the signing.
Chargers: Signed DI Linval Joseph
We project Joseph to play at a similar level to 2019, which was a step back from previous years. At 31 years old, Joseph is unlikely to rebound back to the level of play years ago that had him as a top-20 interior defender according to WAR.
Bears: Acquired QB Nick Foles from Jaguars
We see the Bears gaining a modest 0.06 WAR from the addition of Foles, who we estimate to take 60% of the available quarterback snaps. Mitchell Trubisky has never ranked higher than 23rd in quarterback WAR over his first three seasons, and we didn’t see things getting much better in 2020. We don’t forecast the transaction to have much of an effect on the Jaguars, where our initial projections already had Gardner Minshew with a dominant share of quarterback snaps.
Saints: Signed S Malcolm Jenkins
The Saints are projected to gain 0.05 WAR from the addition of Jenkins. Despite his advancing age, Jenkins ranked eighth and 17th, respectively, in WAR at the safety position in the last two seasons. He leaves a big hole in the Eagles' secondary that now projects to lose around 0.10 WAR.
Broncos: Acquired DI Jurrell Casey from Titans
The projections still see Casey as a productive player entering his age-30 season. Casey has been a top-20 WAR producer at the position for each of his nine years in the NFL, so even a slight drop-off shouldn’t derail his value. We see the Broncos gaining 0.06 WAR and the Titans losing 0.08 WAR from this transaction.
Cowboys: Signed DI Gerald McCoy
Adding McCoy to the Cowboys' defensive interior increases projected WAR by 0.08, lighter than you might expect for a premier player. McCoy was the seventh-ranked interior player by WAR in 2019, but we see his performance suffering some in his age-31 season.
Bills: Signed DI Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler
The Bills added Jefferson and Butler to the defensive interior, netting a gain of 0.04 WAR despite the loss of Jordan Phillips early in free agency.
Panthers: Signed QB Teddy Bridgewater
The Panthers gain 0.07 wins adding Brdigewater with the assumption that Cam Newton is not on the roster come September. The gain could have been slightly larger, but our projections still see significant quarterback snaps for Kyle Allen, based on skepticism that Bridgewater will be able to maintain the starting position after being a part-time player in recent seasons.
Buccaneers: Signed QB Tom Brady
The most anticipated potential signing of the offseason has happened: Tom Brady is joining the Bucs. Buccaneers gain 0.3 wins with the transaction, which is less than some would assume but fair considering Jameis Winston’s production and Brady’s advanced age. The Patriots will likely sign or draft more reasonable quarterback options in the offseason, and thereby raise their improvement index.
Bengals: Signed CB Trae Waynes
Waynes has been a good, not great, corner according to our WAR metric, ranking 44th, 45th and 62nd the last three seasons. At 26 years old, Waynes is entering his prime, but our projections only see a modest gain for the Bengals secondary (around 0.05 wins).
Bengals: Signed DI D.J. Reader
Adding Reader to the defensive interior with Geno Atkins will give the Bengals one of the best units in the NFL. We project the Bengals to gain 0.07 wins with this transaction, which isn’t huge but is significant for an interior player.
Chargers: Signed T Bryan Bulaga
Bulaga was a top-15 tackle by WAR last season, top-30 the previous year. The Chargers add around 0.1 wins with his addition, as the upgrade over Russell Okung is a significant amount for an offensive lineman. This transaction, with the addition of Trai Turner, should lead to an improvement in protection for whoever starts for the Chargers at quarterback in 2020.
Jaguars: Signed LB Joe Schobert
Schobert had his worst season by PFF WAR last season, ranking 68th among off-ball linebackers. We see a marginal gain to Jaguar wins with the signing (0.04), which could become more if Schobert returns to the form he showed the prior two years when he ranked 30th and 19th in WAR.
Colts: Signed QB Philip Rivers
In a much-anticipated move, the Colts signed Rivers to a one-year contract, boosting their win total for 2020 by roughly 0.30. For perspective, the upgrade of Rivers over Jacoby Brissett is about the same gain as DeAndre Hopkins being added to a depleted Cardinals’ receiver group.
Raiders: Signed LB Cory Littleton
Surprisingly, the addition of Littleton to the Raiders projects as one of the most impactful signings so far this offseason. Littleton produced among the top 10 at the position in 2019 according to PFF WAR, as his outstanding coverage skills (seventh-highest graded LB out of 58) are viewed as highly valuable in the WAR calculation. The Raiders are projected to gain 0.16 wins with this transaction.
Bears: Signed ED Robert Quinn
Entering his age-30 season, Quinn isn’t as prolific of a producer as years ago but did turn around his career in 2018. In the last two seasons, Quinn has ranked in the top 80 among edge defenders in WAR, playing in a limited capacity. We project Quinn will add around 0.05 WAR to the Bears’ edge unit.
Giants: Signed LB Blake Martinez
Martinez was twice a top-30 off-ball linebacker (2017 and 2018), but he took a step back in 2019. At only 25 years old, we see his 2020 numbers coming in the middle of previous results, and a strong upgrade (0.08 WAR) over released LB Alec Ogletree.
Texans: Signed WR Randall Cobb
Cobb fills some of the massive hole left by DeAndre Hopkins, but his role as primarily a slot receiver will have some duplication with other receivers on the roster. We project Cobb as an upgrade on Keke Coutee, who loses the most snaps to Cobb in the updated projections.
Redskins: Signed CB Kendall Fuller
Fuller projects as a substantial WAR gain for the Redskins over departed Josh Norman, though not a top-end option as someone who won’t really play the same role on the outside. The Redskins are hoping for Fuller to return to 2017 form when he was one of the top slot corners in the NFL.
Bills: Acquired WR Stefon Diggs from Vikings
The Bills added a consistent top-15 wide receiver in PFF WAR in Diggs, and the Vikings leave a big void at the position. Diggs isn’t the most valuable addition according to projections, with DeAndre Hopkins viewed as a better player (for 2020) and joining a worse receiver corps. But at only 25 years old, Diggs has his entire prime in the front window. The Bills gain roughly 0.2 WAR with this transaction.
Lions: Signed LB Jamie Collins
Our projections don’t believe that Collins’ bounceback 2019 season will continue in 2020, with his addition only leading to a 0.02 WAR gain for the Lions. Collins has four top-20 WAR seasons at off-ball linebacker in his career, so the ceiling is high for the 29-year-old.
Eagles: Signed DI Javon Hargrave
Putting Hargrave next to Fletcher Cox next season will give the Eagles one of the best defensive interiors in the NFL. Hargrave generated the ninth-most WAR at the position last season, and we project him to produce at a level between that and what he did in 2018 (30th) in 2020.
Dolphins: Signed ED Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy generated the 18th-highest WAR among edge defenders in 2019, though we see that production leveling out at a more similar number to previous years. Still, his presence adds around 0.10 WAR for the Dolphins.
Ravens: Signed DI Michael Brockers
We only see a modest benefit from adding Brockers to the Ravens’ defensive interior, though that will increase if Michael Pierce leaves, as expected, in free agency.
Dolphins: Signed CB Byron Jones
The consensus best cornerback available goes to the Dolphins, adding 0.16 WAR to their defense. Jones generated the 13th-most WAR of any corner in 2019.
Giants: Signed CB James Bradberry
The Giants gained 0.12 WAR with the addition of Bradberry, who had PFF’s 18th-highest (of 30) coverage grade among cornerbacks in 2019. The Giants had the third-lowest coverage grade as a team last season.
Broncos: Signed G Graham Glasgow
Glasgow was PFF’s ninth-highest graded guard in 2019 (of 63). Unfortunately, the positional value for guards is relatively low, adding only 0.03 WAR for the Broncos.
Lions: Signed T Halapoulivaati Vaitai
By our projections, Vaitai doesn’t move the needle much for the Lions (0.01 WAR gained). Vaitai was vastly improved in 2019 according to WAR (26th among tackles) but played at a below-replacement level the prior two seasons.
Browns: Signed T Jack Conklin
We project that Conklin will add 0.10 WAR to a particularly weak Browns tackle group. Conklin had a bounce back year in 2019, finishing 10th (of 31) in PFF grade at the position. The 25-year-old has shown an elevated ceiling and was First-Team All-Pro as a rookie.
Colts: Acquired DI DeForest Buckner from 49ers
Buckner has been around top-10 in WAR at the defensive interior the last few seasons and will double the Colts’ WAR from that position group. The 49ers take a substantial hit in the interior, but maintain one of the best edge groups to power their defense.
Dolphins: Signed ED Shaq Lawson
Our projections don’t see Lawson moving the needle much for the Dolphins, adding around 0.03 WAR. As of now, the Dolphins have a long list of players at the position but lack star talent. Lawson will be the leader of the group.
Dolphins: Signed T Ereck Flowers
Flowers has had an up-and-down career, registering his second-best WAR season last year as a full-time player. We see the Dolphins gaining only 0.02 WAR with this signing.
Falcons: Acquired TE Hayden Hurst from Ravens
With the acquisition of Hurst, the Falcons add much-needed help at the position after losing Austin Hooper to the Browns. We project Hurst will add roughly 0.06 WAR for the Falcons and cause a loss of roughly the same amount for the Ravens. Hurst, a former first-round pick, isn’t commonly perceived as a top tight end, but he was in the top-10 for receiving grades at the position and will likely see more volume playing with Matt Ryan.
Cardinals: Acquired WR DeAndre Hopkins from Texans for David Johnson
The acquisition of Hopkins the Cardinals adds a cornerstone to their receiver unit just as Larry Fitzgerald nears the end of his reign. Hopkins was second to only Michael Thomas among non-quarterbacks in total PFF WAR the last three seasons. The Cardinals add roughly 0.28 WAR at the position, with the Texans losing -0.31 WAR. The index doesn’t project much effect for the Texans with the addition of Johnson, with skepticism he can return to a workhorse role after suffering multiple injuries in recent seasons.
Browns: Signed TE Austin Hooper
Hooper is mostly gaining snap share for the Browns from the released Demetrius Harris, adding 0.14 WAR at the tight end position. The Falcons cede 0.07 WAR at tight end, with veteran Luke Stocker taking most of Hooper’s share. The Falcons likely will address the position at a lower cost in free agency or the draft.
Falcons: Released RB Devonta Freeman
Freeman ranked dead last in PFF rushing grade in 2019 among 29 qualifiers, but he was 15th in receiving grade of 63 targets. We see the Falcons losing roughly 0.02 WAR in the running back group with Freeman’s release.
Packers: Signed LB Christian Kirksey
Kirksey is coming off of multiple shortened seasons, and our projections are more conservative with his snap allocation in 2020 to reflect injury concerns. We see the Packers improving at the off-ball linebacker position by roughly 0.03 WAR in 2020 with the addition of Kirksey.
Falcons: Released CB Desmond Trufant
The Falcons cornerback group loses roughly 0.08 WAR with the release of Trufant (PFF’s 32nd rated cornerback of 133). We see a fairly significant drop for the Falcons in coverage value from an uptick in snaps from a combination of Kendall Sheffield, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and others.
Ravens: Acquired ED Calais Campbell from Jaguars
Campbell was the third-highest rated edge defender last season (of 63) and his loss moves more snaps to emerging second-year stud Josh Allen. While we project Allen to take a step forward this year, he doesn’t match Campbell’s lost efficiency in our numbers. The Ravens gain WAR in this transaction, though that positive is mitigated by the loss of Marshal Yanda.
Titans: Released ED Cameron Wake
In what could have been an optimistic projection, we still saw Wake as an efficient, but limited, pass rush producer for the Titans if he remained on the roster in 2020. Wake’s release leads a loss of around 0.09 WAR for the Titans’ edge defender unit.
Bears: Released CB Prince Amukamara
The loss of Amukamara (PFF’s 33rd-highest graded CB of 83 in 2019) causes a 0.15 WAR drop to the Bears’ projection at the position, with some combination of Buster Skrine (56th), Kevin Toliver (51.4 PFF grade) and lightly used second-year corner Duke Shelley (only eight snaps in 2019) filling the snap void. The Bears may try to find some reliable cornerback help in free agency, partially mitigating the loss of Amukamara.