The NFL Draft is less than a week away, and some teams have already had successful off-seasons, while others have disappointed their fan bases with big losses and few additions. So heading into the biggest weekend in the NFL offseason, which teams have done well and who has not? We here at GameDaySportsBlog.com are here to answer those questions.
So if you read any of my predictions last season about the NFL (which overall were outstanding), you would know that where GameDaySportsBlog.com totally missed was on the disappointment of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team had a massive influx in young talent on defense through the draft and in free agency they were able to haul in Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson and Chris Ivory, making them the big winners of the 2016 offseason.
Well despite trying to turn around the franchise, the front office is trying to recreate the magic of the last off-season in hopes it will lead to a better regular season. The Jaguars spent $172 million in total contract value during free agency. And that doesn’t include the addition of left tackle Branden Albert, whom the team acquired via trade from the Miami Dolphins.
A.J. Bouye, arguably the leagues’ top available free agent, headlined the additions and served as a double whammy of sorts, considering he was stolen away from the rival Texans. Of course the team didn’t stop there, and acquired a veteran anchor along the defensive line in former Calais Campbell. The two-time Pro Bowler was 2nd team All-Pro last season and will bring that same productivity and excellence with him which will pair greatly with Dante Fowler Jr.’s explosive edge rush ability.
And then there is the added fact that it wasn’t just on the field help that the Jaguars were able to pick up this winter. New executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone have excited the Jags’ fan base as they hope this year the good offseason actually pays off.
Los Angeles Rams
This biggest change for this franchise was made before the off-season when former head coach Jeff Fisher was let go. The hiring of 31 year-old Sean McVay from Washington signals a new era in Rams football and hopefully he can do with Jared Goff what he did with Kirk Cousins and turn him into a Pro Bowler (although this writer doubts that ever happens).
Outside of the optimism that McVay brings with him, the team’s free-agent acquisitions of Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods, Connor Barwin, and Nickell Robey-Coleman improved the Rams at left tackle, slot receiver, defensive end and nickel. All this means there will be a serious improvement in talent, and it’s up to McVay to turn that into a serious improvement of their record.
The Dolphins had a great off-season on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Miami ranked 29th in the league in yards allowed, but the re-signing of Andre Branch and the contract extension given to Reshad Jones means that at least the productive players for what was a terrible defense will stay put. And the additions of Lawrence Timmons, Nate Allen, and T.J. McDonald should push the Dolphins closer to the middle of the pack defensively, which is a huge improvement from where they were last season.
And if that defensive improvement isn’t enough to earn them a playoff spot for the 2nd straight year, an offense that improved at a key position should help.
The Dolphins finally made progress last season by figuring out their identity as a power running team behind the legs of Jay Ajayi. They added to that identity by signing one of the better blocking tight ends in the game, Anthony Fasano. Add on that their biggest signing of the off-season was former All-Pro tight end Julius Thomas, and it looks like the double-tight power offense is taking another step forward in 2017. That is especially true when you consider that Thomas is hooking back up with head coach Adam Gase, who was his offensive coordinator when Thomas was a two-time Pro Bowler in Denver.
So with an improved offense focused on getting better at what they do, and a defense that took much needed steps forward, the Dolphins are looking once again to make a splash in the NFL, and this time get past the 1st round of the playoffs.
New England Patriots
In case you missed the Super Bowl or all of the sad “Atlanta blew a 28-3 lead” jokes all over the internet, the Patriots were the NFL’s best team last season. And what is worse for the NFL is that New England is a better team now than they were when they took home the Lombardi Trophy in February.
New England retained three vital pieces of its defense by re-signing nose tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and safety Duron Harmon. But Bill Belichick and Co. weren’t content with just having the same defense they had last season. They went out and signed Stephon Gilmore away from Eastern Division foe Buffalo, giving them even more strength on the back end defensively. Add to that the acquisition of Kony Ealy from the Panthers in lieu of the departures of Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard, and the Pats’ defense just got even stronger.
And as if Tom Brady needed another weapon, New England was able to get a vertical threat in former Saints’ 1,000 yard receiver, Brandin Cooks. The loss of free-agent Martellus Bennett was evened out with the addition of Dwayne Allen from the Colts. The Patriots also added running back Rex Burkhead to their deep stable of backs.
All of this together with the team they already had means the Patriots are set up for another Super Bowl run.
The Steelers aren’t normally big palyers in free agency, which is maybe why their biggest move this off-season was the re-signing of one of their own players.
Of course the additions of defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, wide receiver Justin Hunter, defensive back Coty Sensabaugh, and running back Knile Davis help fortify a few position groups for the Steelers. But none of those players are marquee additions.
Instead the marquee player was one already on their roster. Antonio Brown, 3x first-team All-Pro and arguably the best wideout in the league, re-signed with Pittsburgh for 4-years and $68 million.
With these small-but-solid moves, and the ability to keep the best WR in football in Pittsburgh, the Steelers positioned themselves to contend with the AFC favorite New England Patriots.
The Redskins started the off-season by firing former general manager Scot McCloughan, and then bad-mouthing him in the press. That led to a bad environment in Washington, and a lot of players decided it was best for them to move on.
Chris Baker was by far the best DL on the team and he is now playing in Tampa, where he will be joined by another stud player leaving DC, DeSean Jackson. And fellow wideout Pierre Garcon, who was a good player for Washington, is now catching passes for the 49ers. Those are some big shoes to fill, especially considering the Redskins are still without a GM, making it nearly impossible for them to find and sign somebody to take their place.
Now sure, the organization managed a handful of quality free-agent signings in wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, linebacker Zach Brown, defensive tackle Terrell McClain, and safety D.J. Swearinger, but that doesn’t replace what they lost, and things are looking like a sh*t-show in the nation’s capital.
Maybe more so than the Redskins being the big loser of the off-season is Kirk Cousins boring the real brunt of the
The star quarterback lost his two best wide receivers in Jackson and Garcon, and is left with TE Jordan Reed, who when healthy is a top-3 tight end in the league, and also newly acquired Terrelle Pryor. But the addition of an average receiver like Pryor doesn’t make up for the departure of two wideouts who helped turn Cousins into a Pro Bowl quarterback the past two seasons.
Cousins better hope that the Redskins decide to spend this week drafting wide receivers or that his run game steps up in a big way this season, because things did not get better for Captain Kirk this off-season.
The City of San Diego
F*ck the Chargers…..that is all.