Following the grading of the Rapid's off-season and in-season acquisitions in Part 1 and Part 2, here are the grades for Paul Bravo/Tim Hinchey/Oscar Pareja for the players they let go this past off-season.
The Rapids let three all-time greats go this off-season, signaling a possible rebuilding era that so far hasn't materialized. Two of those players, Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, will one day have their names and numbers up in the Rapids gallery of honor. The third, Jeff Larentowicz, was another fan favorite who led the team to its only MLS Cup. These were not easy personnel decisions for the Rapids front office to make.
Omar Cummings - Grade: B-
Much has been made of Omar Cummings currently being outscored this season by the player he was traded for (along with an unspecified amount of allocation money), Nathan Sturgis. Cummings has played all of 10 minutes for Houston Dynamo this season, which continues a concerning slide in appearances and form following his tremendous seasons in 2009 and 2010. The Rapids lost an icon when he was traded, but it hasn't hurt them on the field. At least a "B" grade is probably deserved, but it's dropped a notch for sentimental reasons--it still kills me to see him in an orange uniform.
Conor Casey - Grade: B-
Losing Casey through the Dispersal Draft was essentially a salary dump which enabled the team to trade for Edson Buddle. Casey is another Rapids icon who was let go because of a combination of high salary and dropping production due to injury and perhaps age. You could describe Buddle as aging and injury-prone as well, but perhaps it was time for the Rapids to make a change and try something new. As with Cummings, it's not fun to see Casey in the wrong colors.
Jeff Larentowicz - Grade: B
Had he played and played well for a few more seasons, Big Red was probably on his way to being enshrined in the Rapids Gallery of Honor as well. But there's a very real possibility that he would not have been playing enough. The decision to bring in Hendry Thomas at the end of last season meant that Larentowicz was expendable. The addition of Dillon Powers and surprising play of Nathan Sturgis has made the loss of Larentowicz much more tolerable that it might have been. Powers is the key, however, as he was the player selected with the draft pick Chicago Fire traded (along with allocation money and an international roster spot) for Larentowicz (and 2013 second round pick Yazid Atouba). The Rapids may have struck gold with Powers, and he's seven years younger than Larentowicz. On the other hand, Larentowicz is a known quantity who will likely stay in MLS for the rest of his career, while Powers is still largely unproven and could opt to try Europe in the next few years. Still, this has the look of another, good--if difficult--decision for the front office.
Luis Zapata - Grade: A
Zapata had a frustrating (for fans in particular) season last year. He showed flashes of being the long-sought answer at left back, but plenty of ineptitude as well. But if his inconsistent play wasn't reason enough for the team to release him and move on, his age (33) was. The Rapids got much younger and much better with Chris Klute (not to mention Kory Kindle and Anthony Wallace).
Andre Akpan - Grade: B+
Even with all of the injuries to the front line this season, Akpan would not have been playing much if at all for the Rapids. In his three years with Colorado he showed he had ability, but seemed to be plateauing as a reserve team player and occasional late substitute. He was traded for a conditional pick in 2015, which given his few appearances so far with New York is likely to be a low-round pick. So from a Rapids' perspective he may have mostly been a salary dump.
Joseph Nane - Grade: A-
Nane also showed ability during his time in Colorado, but never seemed to take that next step. At 26 years old, it's possible he also had plateaued. He was a useful backup last season with Mastroeni's injury issues, but this year he simply would not have played. So his release was a good decision for the team, and hopefully gives him a chance to improve with more playing time... with the New York Cosmos, where he will be playing with:
Hunter Freeman - Grade: B+
Freeman had two stints with Colorado, and both felt like examples of unfulfilled potential. He had the chance to win both outside back spots last season, but couldn't play with enough consistency. He might have been a useful bench player this season, but was likely making to much for that role. Maybe he'll find his niche with New York in the lower leagues.
Ian Joyce, Edu, Tyrone Marshall, Scott Palguta - Grade: A
These four rarely played, and rightly so. They all had their moments, but it was time for new blood.
Final thought: Losing Cummings, Casey and Larentowicz was a sad changing of the guard. But give the front office credit for both trying to make things work with them last season and for making the bold move to get rid of them all for younger blood. So far, the players they have brought in have made enough difference that this team is better than the team those three Rapids legends lead last year.