For this free agent signing, and all signings from this point forward, we will be breaking the move down into four categories. Each category is worth up to 25 points and a final grade will be handed out based on the total score. These are the definitions of each category:
Player- How has the player produced to this point in his career? Where does he rank among other players at his position?
Team Fit- How does he fit within the offensive or defensive scheme?
Team Need- Is this position a weak spot on the roster? Does this move strengthen the position?
Contract- Is this a reasonable contract based on production? Did the team over spend or did they get a steal?
Grade: 19 out of 25
Gino Gradkowski was drafted in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens and started 16 games at center in his second season in the league. However, he lost his starting job to Jeremy Zuttah and played in only eight games in 2014. He was then traded by the Ravens to the Denver Broncos after the 2014 season.
Gradkowski didn't play a single snap for the Broncos and was waived prior to the start of the 2015 season. He was picked up by the Falcons and played in three games, including a start in the final regular season game for the Atlanta Falcons.
While he has seen almost all his playing time at center in the NFL, Gradkowski did play guard in college for the University of Delaware.
Grade: 20 out of 25
Gradkowski will enter the season not only providing the team depth at center behind Ryan Kalil but can also step in at either guard position with his experience from college. He has been a starter in this league at center, and while Pro Football Focus gave him poor marks (-5.9 in run blocking, -14.2 in pass blocking), the hope would be that three years removed from that season would allow him to develop and improve.
Grade: 21 out of 25
Last year, the team had Fernando Velasco play this role as a player who could step in at center or guard. However, Velasco is a free agent and with the addition of Gradkowski, it appears the team won't bring him back.
Velasco did play a key role for this team, and filled in for Ryan Kalil when he missed the game against the Indianapolis Colts. The addition of Gradkowski, who does have that starting experience is a major boost for this team and this offensive line.
Grade: 21 out of 25
This is the first contract that general manager Dave Gettleman has handed out to a free agent that is longer than two years. This certainly speaks volume for how they view Gradkowski and he could potentially be the replacement for Kalil in the future.
Grade: 81 out of 100
The first free agent signing for the Panthers wasn't a big splash but then again this is par for the course under general manager Dave Gettleman. He is able to find bargains in free agency and certainly seems to have found one with Gradkowski.
He has started 17 games in his four-year career and could fill in for Kalil if the need arises. He also is young and there certainly appears to be a chance he could be the heir apparent to Kalil when his time with the Panthers is over.