Power Ranking NFL Teams by Their Offseason Moves Thus Far
Which NFL teams have come away with the best offseason in 2012 thus far?
The following slideshow will be a power ranking of all 32 NFL teams, solely based on their offseason moves to date. If you are looking for a power ranking of overall talent or ability, you can get those type of lists elsewhere.
This is a power ranking of all 32 teams based on their moves post-Super Bowl to now. It will look at the factors from teams signing their own free agents (and franchise-tagged players), to bringing in talented free agents from other teams, to restructuring contracts to free up salary cap space, to the quality of their draft picks.
In conclusion, before you reach to type a comment and click submit, remember this is based solely on the success of every team's 2012 offseason, period.
On to the presentation.
32. Houston Texans
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The bottom spot goes to the Houston Texans, who experienced major losses on the free-agent front.
On Feb. 5, I was asked to conduct a power ranking for all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming 2012 NFL season. I really liked the Texans and ranked them No. 2 overall. Clearly the Texans have lost some very key players since then, so I would undoubtedly have to rank them lower now.
In free agency, the Texans lost defensive end Mario Williams (Buffalo), tackle Eric Winston (Kansas City), cornerback Jason Allen (Cincinnati), tight end Joel Dreessen (Denver), fullback Lawrence Vickers (Dallas) and guard Mike Brisiel (Oakland). Losing that many quality players that can't be replaced because of salary cap limitations is going to have consequences.
The Texans attempted to compensate for their losses with the 2012 NFL draft class, even trading DeMeco Ryans to Philadelphia for a mid-round pick. The draft picks included: first-round Illinois defensive end/outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (pictured); wide receiver DeVier Posey from Ohio State; guard Brandon Brooks from Miami of Ohio; center/guard Ben Jones from Georgia; wide receiver Keshawn Martin from Michigan State; defensive lineman Jared Crick from Nebraska; kicker Randy Bullock from Texas A&M; and tackle Nick Mondek from Purdue.
The Texans got reasonable value on their draft picks, with the possible exception of some questionable wide receiver draft picks. However, based on all of the talent they lost, they come in ranked at No. 32 for their offseason moves, or lack thereof.
31. Oakland Raiders
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Is there any general manager that was asked to come into a worse situation than the Oakland Raiders' Reggie McKenzie?
How bad is it exactly? Faced with serious salary cap issues, no real assets that they could afford to trade away and holding no draft picks until overall pick No. 95 at the end of the third round—a compensatory pick at that—McKenzie's hands were tied firmly behind his back. There was only so much he could do with the hand that he was dealt.
The Raiders have a surplus of wide receivers, but they prefer not to trade any of them away just yet, according to Bill Williamson of ESPN.
With the few draft picks the Raiders had to work with, they drafted offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom from Utah, outside linebacker Miles Burris from San Diego State, defensive end Jack Crawford from Penn State, wide receiver Juron Criner from Arizona, defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi from Georgia State and outside linebacker Nathan Stupar from Penn State.
McKenzie tried to address the positions that he could, but he didn't have much to work with in regards to picks, so this draft class will be hard-pressed to make a significant impact on the Raiders.
As for offseason additions, the Raiders signed QB Matt Leinart, G Ed Wang, DE Dave Tollefson, LB Philip Wheeler, CB Patrick Lee, CB Shawntae Spencer and traded Bruce Campbell to Carolina for RB Mike Goodson. The Raiders were also able to restructure the contracts for veterans Carson Palmer, Richard Seymour and Michael Huff.
A new coaching staff will be running the show now in Oakland, as Dennis Allen takes over as head coach, with new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
The Raiders have their work cut out for them in 2012. McKenzie needed to stabilize the franchise in 2012, and he can make more changes in 2013 when they have more salary cap space to work with.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Pittsburgh Steelers had reached a point in their franchise where the offensive line and defensive line were getting really old, really fast. The situation didn't call for drastic changes needed to happen, but some young blood needed to be brought in to replace the older veterans the Steelers couldn't count on any longer.
It can be a cruel sport sometimes.
The Steelers said goodbye to Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Arnaz Battle, Chris Kemoeatu and Bryant McFadden. William Gay and Jamon Meredith left in free agency and Chris Hoke retired. Casey Hampton is trying to come back from a torn ACL, as is running back Rashard Mendenhall.
Another major concern, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is the lack of progress in contract talks with franchise player Mike Wallace. Wallace still hasn't budged on signing his tender offer from Pittsburgh, and he will continue to hold out for a long-term deal. There are roughly three weeks left for Wallace to come to terms, or the Steelers can drop his salary from $2.742 million all the way down to $577,000.
It appears new offensive coordinator Todd Haley wants to focus on the passing game, but if the Steelers aren't able to sign Wallace, it would be fair to speculate they would then go to Plan B, whatever that may be.
The Steelers were able to re-work the deals for Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and Ike Taylor to save some salary cap space, or they might have been required to release even more players.
What did the Steelers do to replace the talent that they lost? They had a strong draft class, but outside of the draft, they haven't done much in the way of going out and signing veteran free agents that they could bring in to compete for a roster spot.
On offense, the Steelers drafted Stanford guard David DeCastro (pictured), Ohio State tackle Mike Adams, Florida running back Chris Rainey, Colorado wide receiver Toney Clemons, Oregon tight end David Paulson and SMU tackle Kelvin Beachum.
On the defensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh drafted Miami linebacker Sean Spence, Washington nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu and Texas A&M cornerback Terrence Frederick.
The Steelers draft helped to address some of the issues on the offensive and defensive lines, but the limited salary cap space really prevented them from making any kind of meaningful upgrades to the roster. The Steelers are ranked here because of that handicap.
29. Seattle Seahawks
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The Seattle Seahawks are led by Pete Carroll, who appears content in drafting players according to the beat of his own drum. Is Carroll a mad genius or is he badly missing the mark?
The past few drafts by Carroll have been head-scratchers, and for those of you who place any degree of stock in Mel Kiper's opinion, he gave the Seahawks his lowest value grade (D-). As we all know, however, it takes time to evaluate a draft class.
One topic that appears to be puzzling is the idea to let three quarterbacks compete for the starting job in camp. You have incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, former Packer Matt Flynn and 2012 draft pick Russell Wilson from Wisconsin.
If all three quarterbacks are splitting the reps, none of them is getting the preferred amount of reps you would want for your starter, further stunting the progress. It is a rather baffling situation. According to Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times, Carroll has no timeline for making a decision on whom the starter will be.
The Seahawks were obviously very high on the pass-rushing skills of first-round draft pick West Virginia linebacker Bruce Irvin (pictured), but if he does not have a good rookie season, there will be even more questions about the team's player evaluation skills.
Other key draft picks included a pair of players from Utah State, linebacker Bobby Wagner and running back Robert Turbin. The Seahawks also drafted Florida defensive tackle Jaye Howard and Idaho linebacker Korey Toomer. They added a couple corners in the sixth round, drafting Jeremy Lane from Northwestern State and Winston Guy from Kentucky. In the seventh round, Seattle closed out the draft with two defensive linemen, J.R. Sweezy from North Carolina State and Greg Scruggs from Louisville.
In free agency, the Seahawks signed quarterback Matt Flynn, defensive lineman Jason Jones, guard Deuce Lutui and linebacker Barrett Ruud. Just this week, the Seahawks traded away a conditional seventh-round draft pick to Tampa Bay for disgruntled tight end Kellen Winslow. Other important developments included the re-signing of defensive end Red Bryant, offensive lineman Paul McQuistan, fullback Michael Robinson, corner Marcus Trufant and linebacker Leroy Hill.
The Seahawks had a decent offseason with regards to signing free agents, but the draft class is cause for dropping them lower in this ranking. Maybe we will look back at this in a couple years and realize Carroll knew what he was doing after all.
28. New Orleans Saints
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The city of New Orleans has been through a lot over the years with its football team.
The years of failure where the fans called the team the 'Aints and wore paper bags over their heads. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the long recovery time needed to heal the city and the residents. And now, the unprecedented incident of the bounty-hunting program initiated by ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The Saints have paid fines, have lost head coach Sean Payton for the year and will have general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt suspended as well. They lost a second-round draft pick, defensive end Will Smith for four games and might lose linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, pending the results of Vilma's appeal, per this tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The situation has become personal, as Vilma sued Commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation of character, according to this tweet by Larry Holder.
On top of all that, the Saints still haven't been able to reach common ground in contract negotiations with team leader and the emotional glue for the organization, quarterback Drew Brees. The frustration expressed by Brees, per this ESPN story, over how slowly the talks are progressing has to be upsetting to the fans and to the team, particularly given that several other franchise players have been able to work out long-term deals in the past two months.
Can anything else go wrong for the Saints this offseason? One thing they already realized before they found out the results of which players would be suspended and for how long was they needed to be proactive in free agency. Because of the moves the Saints made in free agency, they earned this spot in the rankings. If they stayed quiet on that front, they would have been slotted at No. 32.
In free agency, the Saints were able to sign wide receiver Marques Colston, linebacker Chris Chamberlain, linebacker Curtis Lofton, quarterback Chase Daniel, linebacker David Hawthorne, guard Ben Grubbs, defensive lineman Remi Ayodele, kicker John Kasay, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and extended corner Jabari Greer.
Another positive note was that the Saints restructured contracts with defensive end Will Smith, guard Jahri Evans, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, wide receiver Lance Moore and corner Patrick Robinson. Those deals will help to free up the cash needed to ink Drew Brees to a new deal, hopefully sooner than later.
As for the Saints draft, there wasn't that much to get excited about. The Saints didn't own a pick until No. 90 overall, so the cream of the crop was already off the big board by then. The Saints drafted Canadian defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, Wisconsin wide receiver Nick Toon, Samford safety Corey White, Syracuse guard Andrew Tiller and Nebraska tackle Marcel Jones.
The free-agent class was of much greater importance than the draft class, but at least the draft gave the Saints some new talent to work with. The 2012 season will be very difficult on the franchise and the fans, so patience and understanding appear to be the keywords for this year.
27. Atlanta Falcons
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The Atlanta Falcons would certainly like to take advantage of the New Orleans Saints' issues and rise up to capture the NFC South division title in 2012.
The key offseason moves that the Falcons made to try to bridge the gap were signing free-agent linebacker Lofa Tatupu and guard Vince Manuwai. They also traded a seventh-round draft pick to Philadelphia for corner Asante Samuel, before inking Samuel to a three-year, $18.5 million contract, as per this tweet from Jeff McLane.
However, the biggest key to Atlanta's offseason was how many of its own free agents it was able to reach deals with. Atlanta re-signed safety Thomas DeCoud, defensive end Kroy Biermann, running back Jason Snelling, wide receiver Harry Douglas, quarterback Chris Redman, defensive end John Abraham, center Todd McClure and corner Brent Grimes. The Falcons also restructured the contract of corner Dunta Robinson.
As for the draft, the Falcons were spectators for quite awhile, as their first turn on the clock came at overall pick No. 55. The Falcons selected Wisconsin center Peter Konz (pictured), Southern Mississippi tackle Lamar Holmes, Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing, Troy defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi, Mississippi State safety Charles Mitchell and South Carolina nose tackle Travian Robertson.
While this draft class won't make a huge impact, the team's main offseason focus was to try to keep as many of their key free agents as they could. Overall, they succeeded in that strategy and now we will see if they can leapfrog the Saints in the NFC South this season.
26. New York Jets
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The New York Jets were on the verge of reaching their goal of the Super Bowl when they appeared in two straight AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010, only to see the wheels start to come off in 2011. From where things stand right now, they seem to be dropping even further from that memory.
Maybe the Jets will find success returning to the old ground-and-pound offense, which is probably what new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will want to be developing in 2012.
As for the Jets' 2012 offseason, the most interesting development is the publicity surrounding the Jets' acquisition of quarterback Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos. There will be no shortage of headlines surrounding Tebow in New York City, and the fans will no doubt be hollering for Tebow whenever starting quarterback Mark Sanchez goes into a funk.
Keeping the media hopping is one thing, but winning football games and going to the playoffs is the bottom line. Are the Jets that much closer to reaching the playoffs based on what they did in the 2012 offseason? I believe they didn't do enough, which is why they are ranked where they are.
Prior to free agency, the Jets made an inquiry about Peyton Manning, but when he turned them down, the Jets instead gave Sanchez a three-year contract extension. Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger tweets that the deal will mean Sanchez gets another $40 million on top of his old contract. In addition, the Jets re-signed nose tackle Sione Pouha, kicker Nick Folk and linebacker Aaron Maybin.
When free agency rolled around, the Jets signed wide receiver Chaz Schilens, safety LaRon Landry, kicker Josh Brown and safety Yeremiah Bell.
The Jets still have disgruntled linebacker Bart Scott, as the team has not been able to find a trade partner for Scott's services. The team also restructured the contract for defensive end Mike DeVito to save some salary cap space.
In reviewing the Jets 2012 draft class, they took some calculated risks with their first two picks, which is why their draft was not very well received. North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples and Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill have talent and potential, but you would rather be drafting sure things in the first two rounds.
Coples dropped in the first round due to his questionable motor, and even though Hill excelled at the NFL Scouting Combine, he dropped on draft boards due to the triple-option offense that was run at Georgia Tech. Hill will need a lot of work to develop into a consistent NFL wide receiver.
The rest of the draft class consisted of Arkansas State linebacker Demario Davis, Wake Forest safety Josh Bush, Baylor running back Terrance Ganaway, Baylor guard Robert Griffin (not a typo, by the way), South Carolina safety Antonio Allen and Western Michigan wide receiver Jordan White.
In reviewing the Jets' 2012 offseason, they might finish 2012 with an even worse record than they had in 2011. If that happens, you can expect Tebow to finish the season at quarterback.
25. Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens didn't have the greatest 2012 offseason. Things didn't start out too well in free agency when the team lost veteran guard Ben Grubbs, defensive tackles Brandon McKinney and Cory Redding and safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura.
The hits kept coming. The Ravens also lost linebacker Jarret Johnson, and then right after the draft was concluded the Ravens learned they lost NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs to a torn Achilles tendon. There is no timetable for his return following surgery.
In addition, the Ravens still haven't been able to reach a contract agreement with star running back Ray Rice. Corners Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr were released and running back Ricky Williams retired from football. Veteran wide receiver Lee Evans was also released.
So, who did the Ravens bring in to offset all of these personnel losses? The Ravens signed defensive tackle Ryan McBean, quarterback Curtis Painter and wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones. The Ravens also re-signed cornerback Lardarius Webb, center Matt Birk, linebacker Jameel McClain and safety Bernard Pollard.
As for the draft, the Ravens had the good fortune to have Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw still on the big board when they were officially on the clock with the No. 35 overall pick. Baltimore drafted Upshaw, not knowing they would be losing Suggs a few days later. Some things are just meant to be.
The rest of the draft class included Iowa State tackle Kelechi Osemele, Temple running back Bernard Pierce, Delaware guard Gino Gradkowski, South Carolina State safety Christian Thompson, Cal Poly cornerback Asa Jackson, Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter and Georgia defensive end DeAngelo Tyson.
The Ravens' 2012 draft class was another solid job by general manager Ozzie Newsome. However, when you look at all of the talent lost, and how little came in, this offseason has to be considered a setback for the overall roster.
24. Tennessee Titans
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The Tennessee Titans took a sincere pass at trying to land free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning but came up empty.
One bit of good news for the Titans, according to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, is that running back Chris Johnson is going to be actively participating in the Titans' offseason conditioning program for the first time since he joined the team. Maybe Johnson has finally turned a corner in his approach to the game.
In free agency, the Titans signed linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, guard Steve Hutchinson, defensive tackle Leger Douzable and Army fullback Collin Mooney. The Titans also re-signed wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, safety Jordan Babineaux and defensive end Dave Ball.
The Titans were fortunate that Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright (pictured) fell down to them at No. 20 overall in the first round. The Titans gladly drafted him there, as other teams were also ready to pounce on him. He will give the team some insurance with Kenny Britt coming off multiple surgeries.
It is hard to say what the Titans have in North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown, as he has been reviewed as a player that likes to avoid contact in a contact sport. We will see soon enough how much he likes to hit.
The rest of Tennessee's draft class included Michigan nose tackle Mike Martin, Clemson cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, SMU tight end Taylor Thompson, Oklahoma State safety Markelle Martin and Rice defensive end Scott Solomon.
The Titans didn't make a huge splash in free agency, or in the draft, but the addition of Wright and Wimbley will likely prove to be their two biggest moves of their 2012 offseason.
23. Arizona Cardinals
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The Arizona Cardinals were another team that spent some time in the offseason courting quarterback Peyton Manning only to be left out in the cold. The Cardinals then decided to pay out the $7 million roster bonus to quarterback Kevin Kolb and hope he gives them a better return on their investment in 2012 than he did in 2011.
One of the other big developments for the Cardinals was that they signed franchise player Calais Campbell to a five-year deal for $55 million.
In free agency, Arizona signed cornerback William Gay, tackle Levi Brown, offensive lineman Adam Snyder and safety James Sanders. In addition, Arizona re-signed wide receiver Early Doucet, kicker Jay Feely and running back/kick returner LaRod Stephens-Howling.
The Cardinals gained some salary cap relief when guard Daryn Colledge restructured his contract, which was also the case with linebacker Stewart Bradley.
As for the Cardinals' 2012 draft class, they selected Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd (pictured) in the first round to give the offense another talented option opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona also drafted Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming, Mississippi tackle Bobby Massie, Washington tackle Senio Kelemete, Presbyterian cornerback Justin Bethel, San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley and Boise State tackle Nate Potter.
The Cardinals did enough to bring in competition for training camp, but it looks doubtful they did enough to close the gap on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.
22. Carolina Panthers
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The Carolina Panthers were in a difficult situation during the 2012 free agency period due to a salary cap scenario that jeopardized their ability to be an aggressive player in the market.
With the money the Panthers did have available, they brought in free-agent safety Reggie Smith, kicker Justin Medlock, running back Mike Tolbert, safety Haruki Nakamura and offensive lineman Mike Pollak.
Another interesting development in the offseason was that Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis waived an $8 million offseason roster bonus so that he could remain with the Panthers and avoid being released.
Carolina also re-signed offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner, quarterback Derek Anderson, defensive end/outside linebacker Antwan Applewhite and signed wide receiver Steve Smith to a three-year contract extension.
Carolina traded running back Mike Goodson to the Oakland Raiders for offensive lineman Bruce Campbell. The Panthers also claimed running back Armond Smith off waivers from the Browns.
With respect to the 2012 NFL draft, the Panthers are looking for big things from Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly (pictured), whom they took with the draft's No. 9 overall pick. The Panthers also drafted Midwestern State guard Amini Silatolu, Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander, Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams, Coastal Carolina cornerback Josh Norman, Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman and California safety D.J. Campbell.
The Panthers made whatever moves they could with their salary cap space, but they hope the talent they have added on defense will make a difference on their record. Still to be determined will be the health of linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beason, who have been hit hard with injuries. Even with another big year from Cam Newton, the defense will have to step up for the Panthers.
21. Miami Dolphins
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The Miami Dolphins have been attempting to land their franchise quarterback ever since Dan Marino retired. Have they found the answer in rookie Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M? New Dolphins head coach passed on former pupil Matt Flynn, so we will see how well Tannehill can perform for college coach Mike Sherman, who takes over as the offensive coordinator in Miami.
The Dolphins entered the 2012 offseason hoping to be a formidable player in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, but it turned out that Manning didn't really consider the Dolphins to be a viable option. Then Miami decided it had enough of troubled No. 1 wide receiver Brandon Marshall and decided to trade him away to the Chicago Bears for draft picks.
In free agency, the Dolphins signed veteran quarterback David Garrard, cornerback Richard Marshall, offensive lineman Artis Hicks, linebacker Jamaal Westerman, linebacker Gary Guyton, safety Tyrell Johnson and wide receiver Legedu Naanee.
Miami took care of some of their own free agents by re-signing nose tackle Paul Soliai, tackle Lydon Murtha, running back Steve Slaton and extending defensive end Cameron Wake.
In the draft, the Dolphins gave Tannehill some protection on the offensive line in Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin. Other key draft picks were Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon, Missouri tight end Michael Egnew and Miami running back Lamar Miller.
The Dolphins closed out the draft with Oregon linebacker Josh Kaddu, Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, Texas defensive tackle Kheeston Randall and Nevada wide receiver Rishard Matthews.
Miami invested in its future by drafting Tannehill in the first round, but it will be interesting to see who is the Dolphins' starting quarterback as the season progresses.
20. Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns drafted a blue-chip player in Alabama running back Trent Richardson (pictured) and followed that up by selecting their probable starting quarterback in Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden.
The Browns' offense was in need of a serious talent infusion, and this draft class should help them in that regard. However, as deep as the draft class was in wide receivers, it is curious that the Browns only drafted one wide receiver in Travis Benjamin from Miami when there was so much talent available at that position.
In free agency, the Browns signed free agent defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker. They also re-signed longtime kicker Phil Dawson and extended linebacker D'Qwell Jackson—the biggest splash they made in free agency.
As for the rest of the draft class, the Browns had a number of holes to fill, so we will see how well they plugged them as this class gets evaluated over the next few years.
Cleveland also drafted California tackle Mitchell Schwartz, Cincinnati defensive tackle John Hughes, Nevada linebacker James-Michael Johnson, Colorado guard Ryan Miller, Texas linebacker Emmanuel Acho, Boise State defensive tackle Billy Winn, Arizona cornerback Trevin Wade and Alabama tight end Brad Smelley.
The Browns seemed to be content to build through the draft and didn't create many waves in free agency. We will see how this plan works out for them.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
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The biggest pieces of news in the offseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars were the hiring of head coach Mike Mularkey and the lack of a new contract for star running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The latter could be headed for a hold-out scenario, as per this article from Florida Times-Union writer Vito Stellino.
The biggest free-agent splash the Jaguars made in the 2012 offseason was the signing of quarterback Chad Henne to come in and challenge Blaine Gabbert for the starting job. Other free agents that the team landed were cornerback Aaron Ross and wide receivers Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans.
Jacksonville also re-signed many of its own free agents in cornerback Rashean Mathis, defensive end Jeremy Mincey, safety Dwight Lowery and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley.
The Jaguars hope that the scouting reports that labeled Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon (pictured) as a blue-chip player will live up to that billing. They invested the draft's No. 5 pick overall in Blackmon to shore up their offense.
The rest of the Jaguars' draft class included Clemson defensive end Andre Branch, California punter Bryan Anger, Nevada linebacker Brandon Marshall, Florida State cornerback Mike Harris and Ashland defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton.
With the Colts rebuilding and the Texans losing a number of key players in free agency, this would have been a great time for the Jaguars to upgrade their roster, but they only had so much salary cap room to make moves. As a result, the AFC South could be a three-team race in 2012.
18. Green Bay Packers
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The Green Bay Packers didn't really have that much to do in the 2012 offseason. After losing center Scott Wells to the St. Louis Rams, they went out and signed free agent Jeff Saturday as his replacement.
The Packers also signed defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who was later suspended for eight games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in Bountygate, and defensive tackle Daniel Muir.
Green Bay didn't have many of its own free agents to worry about as it re-signed tight end Jermichael Finley, cornerback Jarrett Bush and linebacker Erik Walden.
Oh, and we can't forget to share with you that wide receiver Donald Driver became the champion of "Dancing With The Stars," courtesy of a tweet from the Packers. Now Driver just has to hope that the Packers will allow him to continue his NFL career.
As for the draft, the Packers selected USC defensive end Nick Perry (pictured) to address their pass rush. Following Perry, the Packers drafted Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward, Iowa defensive tackle Mike Daniels, Maine safety Jerron McMillian, North Carolina State linebacker Terrell Manning, Florida State tackle Andrew Datko and Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman.
Green Bay was clearly looking to address its defensive woes from 2011, as it used the first six draft picks on defense. With the new talent, the Packers are primed to repeat as the NFC North winners in 2012.
17. Kansas City Chiefs
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The Kansas City Chiefs will welcome back their injured stars from the 2011 season and hope better health awaits them in 2012.
One area of concern is that star wide receiver and franchise-tag player Dwayne Bowe has still not signed his tender offer, and nobody knows for sure if he will. If Bowe decides to hold out, that could be a big blow to the team's offense.
In regards to free agency, the Chiefs landed some talented players in tight end Kevin Boss, cornerback Stanford Routt, running back Peyton Hillis, tackle Eric Winston and quarterback Brady Quinn to back up Matt Cassel.
Kansas City signed defensive tackle Amon Gordon to a new deal and defensive end Tyson Jackson restructured his contract.
The Chiefs invested their No. 11 overall draft pick in Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe (pictured), followed by Illinois tackle Jeff Allen, Oklahoma tackle Donald Stephenson, Fresno State wide receiver/punt returner Devon Wylie, Alabama cornerback De'Quan Menzie, Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray, San Diego State defensive tackle Jerome Long and Michigan wide receiver Junior Hemingway.
Wylie could be a sleeper of this draft class, as he has speed to burn. The Chiefs made some progress with their 2012 offseason, but if they can't sign Bowe it would be akin to one step forward and one step backward.
16. San Francisco 49ers
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The San Francisco 49ers are still moving forward from all of the positive momentum that they created from the 2011 season. The only real blemish to speak of is the lack of a contract for franchise tender safety Dashon Goldson. According to this article by CSNBayArea.com writer Mindi Bach, Goldson has no intention of signing his tender any time soon.
Otherwise, the 2012 offseason for the 49ers has been largely positive. The 49ers were able to sign a pair of free-agent wide receivers in Randy Moss and Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, as well as cornerback Perrish Cox, running back Rock Cartwright, quarterback Josh Johnson and running back Brandon Jacobs.
In addition, the 49ers re-signed safety C.J. Spillman, cornerback Carlos Rogers, quarterback Alex Smith, wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. and extended linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
San Francisco's 2012 draft class netted some more talent in Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (pictured), Oregon running back LaMichael James, Wake Forest guard Joe Looney, Notre Dame linebacker Darius Fleming, Michigan State safety Trent Robinson, Western Oregon center Jason Slowey and Virginia linebacker Cam Johnson.
The 49ers addressed one of their glaring weaknesses that was exposed in the 2011 NFC Championship Game when they were only able to complete only one pass to a wide receiver. With the additions of Moss, Manningham and Jenkins, Alex Smith should have plenty of options to throw to now.
15. Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings got their new stadium deal done, so that alone is cause for major celebration. We bumped the Vikings up some slots because of that development alone, which is clearly meaningful to the franchise, from both a short-term and long-term perspective. ESPN's Kevin Seifert goes into more detail in this story about the impact of the stadium deal.
As for the Vikings in the 2012 offseason, they made a few moves in free agency, but nothing I would refer to as huge. They did sign tight end John Carlson to give Christian Ponder a new target to throw to. They also inked tackle Geoff Schwartz, running back Rex Hilliard, wide receiver Jerome Simpson and cornerback Chris Carr.
Minnesota also re-signed quarterback Sage Rosenfels, defensive tackle Letroy Guion, defensive tackle Fred Evans, wide receiver Devin Aromashodu and linebacker Erin Henderson.
With respect to the draft, the Vikings grabbed USC blue-chip tackle with the No. 4 overall pick, followed by Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, Central Florida corner Josh Robinson, Arkansas wide receiver Jarius Wright, USC fullback Rhett Ellison, Arkansas wide receiver Greg Childs, Notre Dame cornerback Robert Blanton, Georgia kicker Blair Walsh, North Carolina State linebacker Audie Cole and California defensive tackle Trevor Guyton.
The Vikings addressed a number of positions through the draft and clearly are fielding a stronger offense to help Christian Ponder move the chains in 2012. But are they ready to contend in 2012 in the NFC North? That might be overly optimistic considering the depth of their division.
14. Chicago Bears
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The Chicago Bears took a calculated risk when they traded for volatile wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The Bears clearly needed help at wide receiver, and they are gambling that placing Marshall with former quarterback Jay Cutler will serve to keep the wideout happy and under control.
In free agency, the Bears were busy, as they signed free-agent quarterback Jason Campbell, linebacker Blake Costanzo, wide receiver/kick returner Eric Weems, running back Michael Bush, wide receiver Devin Thomas, linebacker Geno Hayes, guard Chilo Rachal and defensive tackle John McCargo.
In addition, the Bears brought back quarterback Josh McCown, cornerback Tim Jennings, tight end Kellen Davis, defensive end Israel Idonije, safety Craig Steltz, and linebacker Lance Briggs.
In the draft, Chicago went with Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin, South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (pictured), Oregon State safety Brandon Hardin, Temple fullback Evan Rodriguez, Nevada cornerback Isaiah Frey and TCU cornerback Greg McCoy.
The offseason saw the Bears add some talent at wide receiver and a dependable backup quarterback in Campbell if Cutler gets injured again. The Bears were hoping to make a bigger splash in free agency, but players like Mario Williams never even made it to Chicago for a visit. The offseason could have been better, but the Bears are clearly improved from where they were in 2011.
13. New York Giants
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The New York Giants lost some key players in free agency but managed to bring back some important cogs that helped them win Super Bowl XLVI. The rest of the NFC East was very active, so it will be interesting to see if there is a shift in power in the division this year.
Some of the key free agents the Giants lost were Mario Manningham, Aaron Ross and Brandon Jacobs. In free agency, the Giants signed tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive lineman Shaun Rogers, safety Stevie Brown, cornerback Antwaun Molden and tackle Sean Locklear.
New York also re-signed wide receiver/kick returner Domenik Hixon, cornerback Terrell Thomas, quarterback David Carr, punter Steve Weatherford, linebacker Chase Blackburn, long snapper Zak DeOssie and also extended linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka.
The Giants traded a fifth-round draft pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for linebacker Keith Rivers. In other developments, New York restructured the contracts of quarterback Eli Manning and center David Baas to free up some salary cap space.
In the draft, the Giants were able to sit back and let some very good players fall down to them in the draft. The Giants invested their top two picks on the offensive side of the ball, selecting Virginia Tech running back David Wilson (pictured) and LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle.
New York then selected Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley, Cincinnati tight end Adrien Robinson, Auburn tackle Brandon Mosley, Alabama Birmingham tackle Matt McCants and North Carolina State defensive tackle Markus Kuhn.
All in all, the Giants added to the talent on their roster on both sides of the ball thanks to their draft class and free-agent signings. They will surely have a target on their backs in 2012, but the Giants promise to be competitive and confident as they attempt to defend their title.
12. Denver Broncos
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The Denver Broncos wound up as the big winner in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. I have them ranked as No. 12 for their offseason moves, but if you could guarantee me that Manning will survive the full season and emerge without any injuries, I would be willing to move Denver up higher in the rankings.
Color me skeptical on Manning's health front. It's not that I don't believe he is getting closer to 100 percent considering how hard he trains. My concern is that he is now 36 years old and hasn't really been hit by anybody to speak of since the Colts lost a playoff game to the New York Jets back in January 2011.
As for the rest of the team's offseason moves, the Broncos signed corner Tracy Porter, safety Mike Adams, tight end Joel Dreessen, tight end Jacob Tamme, wide receiver Brandon Stokley, quarterback Caleb Hanie, wide receiver Andre Caldwell, defensive tackle Justin Bannan and cornerback Drayon Florence.
Denver also re-signed linebacker Joe Mays, linebacker Wesley Woodyard and defensive tackle Marcus Thomas. In addtion, the Broncos were able to free up some salary cap space when defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson accepted a pay cut to stay in Denver.
As for the 2012 draft, the Broncos decided to trade down and out of the first round, acquiring more draft picks in the process. They wound up taking Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman, Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden, Baylor center Philip Blake, Tennessee defensive end Malik Jackson and Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan.
The Broncos have put all their eggs in the Manning basket. Hopefully he will remain healthy and deliver on his expected high level of past performance.
11. St. Louis Rams
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The St. Louis Rams were another 2011 team that needed a fairly major overhaul, beginning that process by hiring Jeff Fisher to come in to run the show. Fisher also brought in Les Snead to serve as the general manager, Brian Schottenheimer to serve as the offensive coordinator and Gregg Williams to serve as the defensive coordinator.
Obviously the Williams hire is on ice for who knows how long. According to a tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Rams will use their collective expertise to monitor the defense throughout the 2012 season, while Williams serves his suspension for his role in Bountygate.
The Rams took advantage of their No. 2 overall draft slot to execute a trade with the Washington Redskins that will provide them with multiple first-round draft picks to utilize as they see fit. Then the Rams traded down again with the Dallas Cowboys to secure additional picks.
When they finally got around to drafting, the Rams wound up with five draft picks out of the first 65 players taken. Those five picks need to make some degree of impact on the Rams 2012 roster, or some heads will roll in the scouting department.
The picks turned out to be LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers (pictured), Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick, North Alabama corner Janoris Jenkins, Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead and Montana corner Trumaine Johnson.
The Rams rounded out their draft with five other picks: Wake Forest wide receiver Chris Givens, South Carolina tackle Rokevious Watkins, Missouri Western kicker Greg Zuerlein, Hawaii linebacker Aaron Brown and Abilene Christian running back Daryl Richardson.
The draft was a good start to infusing some new talent for Jeff Fisher to work with. What about the players that the Rams netted in free agency? The biggest names are corner Cortland Finnegan, center Scott Wells, wide receiver Steve Smith, defensive lineman Kendall Langford, linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, defensive end William Hayes, linebacker Mario Haggan and tackle Barry Richardson.
The Rams also re-signed wide receiver Danny Amendola, so they should have ample receivers for Sam Bradford to throw the ball to. St. Louis got some salary cap relief from tackle Jason Smith, who agreed to restructure his contract.
In reviewing the team's offseason, the Rams had more holes to fill than almost every other NFL team, which explains their eagerness to trade down. It will still be a few more years before all of the talent Jeff Fisher is putting together will turn in to something truly competitive. For that reason, Rams fans will need to be patient.
10. Detroit Lions
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Next up we have the Detroit Lions, a team that was able to take the next step up to reach the playoffs in 2011 and has helped its chances to appear in the playoffs again with a solid 2012 offseason.
When the Lions entered free agency, they were hoping to reach a deal that would make sure their star wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, could be locked up for the long-term. The Lions were able to pull it off, as they Johnson to a seven-year, $132 million extension. This a big deal for Detroit.
Other developments in the offseason included signing free-agent cornerback Jacob Lacey and defensive end/outside linebacker Everette Brown. Detroit also retained free-agent linebacker Stephen Tulloch, quarterback Shaun Hill, tackle Jeff Backus, punter Ben Graham, defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, linebacker Ashlee Palmer, long snapper Don Muhlbach, tight end Will Heller, running back Kevin Smith, linebacker DeAndre Levy, tackle Corey Hilliard and defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill.
The Lions not only retained their key free agents, but came away with a solid 2012 draft. They were able to sit back and let Iowa tackle Riley Reiff fall to them at No. 23, and then landed talented Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles (pictured). Detriot also inked Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore as an undrafted free agent after the draft.
The rest of their draft consisted of purely cornerbacks and linebackers.The Lions drafted corners Dwight Bentley (Louisiana-Lafayette), Chris Greenwood (Albion) and Jonte Green (New Mexico State) and linebackers Ronnell Lewis (Oklahoma), Travis Lewis (Oklahoma) and Tahir Whitehead (Temple).
Detroit also gained some salary cap room when Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford agreed to restructure their contracts.
The Lions have kept their core together and locked up their star players for the long term. The draft class will provide them with some youth and depth at two positions that needed help. All things considered, Detroit should be well positioned to make another run at the playoffs in 2012.
9. Dallas Cowboys
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To succeed in the NFL, a team needs blue-chip players. The Cowboys may have found one in the draft to address their issues in the secondary in LSU corner Morris Claiborne.
With the addition of Claiborne and free-agent Brandon Carr, the Cowboys have clearly upgraded their defensive backfield, a unit that will be going up against the likes of Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III in the NFC East.
Besides the drafting of Claiborne, the Cowboys added more talent to their defense with the selection of Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford, Wake Forest linebacker Kyle Wilber, Eastern Washington safety Matt Johnson and Montana linebacker Caleb McSurdy. On offense, the Cowboys drafted Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale and Oklahoma tight end James Hanna.
One negative offseason development for Dallas, originally reported by Adam Schefter on Twitter, was that the NFL would be taking away millions in salary cap space from the Cowboys for illegal front-loading of deals during the 2010 uncapped year.
Outside of that gaffe, it has been business as usual for the Cowboys.
In free agency, besides signing Carr, the Cowboys added quarterback Kyle Orton, guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, fullback Lawrence Vickers, safety Brodney Pool, linebacker Dan Connor, and guard Nate Livings. Dallas also re-signed wide receiver Kevin Ogletree and tackle Jermey Parnell, and claimed quarterback Rudy Carpenter, safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and punter Jake Rogers off waivers.
In addition, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick and Doug Free all restructured their contracts to free up salary cap space.
With all of the free agents coming to Dallas, it should be a very competitive year in the NFC East.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
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The Cincinnati Bengals have started to cash in on the bounty they received from the Oakland Raiders in the Carson Palmer trade, drafting Alabama corner Dre Kirkpatrick (pictured) and Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler. Ironically, Hue Jackson, who engineered that trade for Oakland, is now part of the Bengals coaching staff.
The Bengals continued to add quality players after the first round. On offense, they brought in Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, Georgia tight end Orson Charles, California wide receiver Marvin Jones and Ohio State running back Dan Herron.
On defense, the Bengals drafted Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, Iowa corner Shaun Prater and Boise State safety George Iloka to round out a very strong draft class.
The Bengals also took a chance on undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict out of Arizona State.
In regards to free agency, the Bengals signed running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Aaron Brown, corner Terence Newman, defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson, corner Jason Allen, offensive lineman Reggie Stephens, guard Travelle Wharton and defensive end Derrick Harvey. In addition, the Bengals claimed defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga and guards Matt Murphy and Chris Riley off waivers.
Cincinnati also re-signed a number of its own free agents, including safety Reggie Nelson, fullback Chris Pressley, corner Pacman Jones, tackle Anthony Collins, defensive tackle Pat Sims, linebacker Manny Lawson, tackle Dennis Roland, tight end Donald Lee and kicker Mike Nugent.
With all of the offseason moves they made in 2012, the Bengals look like a team that intends to remain in the postseason picture.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
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The way things were headed for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, it was all but a forgone conclusion that the Philadelphia Eagles were either going to let him walk away in free agency or involve him in a sign-and-trade. Fast-forward three months, and Jackson is the owner of a new five-year, $47 million contract that will keep him in Philadelphia for years to come.
This past week, the Eagles also announced that running back LeSean McCoy's signed a new five-year, $45 million extension.
The worst development of the offseason was All-Pro tackle Jason Peters tearing his Achilles tendon. Once was bad enough, but then Peters injured the same Achilles a second time, per this tweet from Derrick Gunn, meaning he will clearly be out for some time.
The Eagles didn't waste much time in finding a replacement, however, as they signed free-agent Demetress Bell to take his place.
Philadelphia did well in the draft, landing defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State), linebacker Mychal Kendricks (California), defensive end Vinny Curry (Marshall) and cornerback Brandon Boykin (Georgia). All of them have a chance to see snaps and make an impact on defense in 2012.
In addition, the Eagles traded away a draft pick to Houston for linebacker DeMeco Ryans, which is another very solid addition to addressing their woes at linebacker.
The Eagles also addressed their offense at the draft by selecting quarterback Nick Foles (Arizona), tackle Dennis Kelly (Purdue), wide receiver Marvin McNutt (Iowa), guard Brandon Washington (Miami) and running back Bryce Brown (Kansas State). They also signed running back Chris Polk (Washington), who somehow fell out of the draft and became an undrafted free agent.
In free agency, the Eagles signed quarterback Trent Edwards to come in and compete for the backup job to Michael Vick. They also signed guard Mike Gibson, offensive lineman Steve Vallos and claimed offensive tackle Thomas Welch off waivers. Philadelphia also re-signed defensive end Trent Cole, defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, tackle Todd Herremans, tackle King Dunlap and defensive tackle Derek Landri.
The Eagles addressed their salary cap by restructuring the contract of defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and by trading away corner Asante Samuel to the Falcons for a seventh-round draft pick.
The Eagles have taken a team that should have been in contention in 2011 and made it even stronger. They are definitely a threat to win the NFC East.
6. New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots didn't rest on their 2011 accomplishments, as head coach Bill Belichick brought back Josh McDaniels to run the offense and also named Matt Patricia as defensive coordinator. Make no mistake, though, this is still going to be Belichick's defense.
The Patriots also brought in a number of new players to upgrade their team defense (No. 31 overall in the NFL in 2011) and wide receivers corps, and succeeded on both fronts.
At the draft, the Patriots' first six draft picks were all on defense. They added defensive end Chandler Jones (pictured) from Syracuse, linebacker Dont'a Hightower from Alabama, safety Tavon Wilson from Illinois, defensive end Jake Bequette from Arkansas and cornerbacks Nate Ebner from Ohio State and Alfonzo Dennard from Nebraska.
The defensive makeover continued in free agency, when the Patriots signed defensive end Jonathan Fanene, defensive end/outside linebacker Trevor Scott, safety Steve Gregory, cornerback Will Allen, linebacker Bobby Carpenter and cornerback Marquice Cole.
As for the wide receivers, the Patriots managed to come to terms with Wes Welker on a one-year deal and added free agents Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney to the mix.
Other additions on offense included fullback Spencer Larsen, running back Joseph Addai, guard Robert Gallery, tight end Daniel Fells and fullback Tony Fiammetta.
As for their own free agents, the Pats re-signed wide receiver Matt Slater, linebacker Tracy White, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, defensive tackle Kyle Love, center Dan Connolly, defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, wide receiver Deion Branch, quarterback Brian Hoyer, center Dan Koppen and defensive tackle Gerard Warren.
We also should note that both Tom Brady and Chad Ochocinco restructured their contracts.
You can assume that Belichick wasn't satisfied with how the team's 2011 season ended, so he went out and did something about it. With the sheer volume of transactions, it is clear not all of the new additions will make the final roster cut, but quantity should ultimately be whittled down to quality.
5. San Diego Chargers
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The offseason for the San Diego Chargers can't be addressed without paying homage to Junior Seau. The tremendous outpouring by the San Diego community for its love of the great Chargers legendary linebacker was heartwarming.
Prior to the start of the draft, the Chargers were busy bringing in new weapons for Philip Rivers. The Chargers lost Vincent Jackson right off the bat when free agency started but compensated for that by signing Robert Meachem, Roscoe Parrish and Eddie Royal to new deals.
The Chargers addressed a number of other positions in the offseason as well, reaching deals with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, running back Le'Ron McClain and outside linebacker Jarret Johnson.
San Diego also brought back a number of players, like running back Jacob Hester, tackle Jared Gaither, nose tackle Antonio Garay, tight end Randy McMichael, center Nick Hardwick and defensive end Luis Castillo.
The Chargers also came up with a very good draft class. They snagged linebacker Melvin Ingram from South Carolina at No. 18 overall, and solidified their defense with lineman Kendall Reyes from UConn and LSU safety Brandon Taylor. San Diego used its final four picks on offense by drafting tight end Ladarius Green, guard Johnnie Troutman, center David Molk and running back Edwin Baker.
When you look at all of the additions the Chargers made on both sides of the ball, there is no reason they should not be back in contention for the AFC West title.
4. Indianapolis Colts
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With the Indianapolis Colts in full rebuilding mode, owner Jim Irsay said a tearful goodbye to Peyton Manning and gutted the Colts coaching staff and front office.
The new hires in Indianapolis included general manager Ryan Grigson, head coach Chuck Pagano, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
The Colts also seemed to be ready to let most of their high-priced veteran free agents walk away, but that all changed when they signed Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis to new deals.
The next order of business was for head coach Pagano to start signing ex-Baltimore Ravens to fit into his new defense. Pagano succeeded in bringing over defensive end Cory Redding, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney and safety Tom Zbikowski.
After those moves, the Colts turned their attention to the NFL draft and secured some weapons for Andrew Luck to throw the ball to in tight ends Coby Fleener (Stanford) and Dwayne Allen (Clemson). Those two targets will be staples of the Colts offense for years to come, particularly Fleener considering his chemistry with Luck at the collegiate level.
The Colts also drafted two wide receivers in T.Y. Hilton from Florida International and LaVon Brazil from Ohio, as well as a running back Vick Ballard from Mississippi State.
It will take some years for the Colts to build the team back up into contention, but the 2012 offseason was a good start towards that end.
3. Buffalo Bills
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The Buffalo Bills get the nod for the team that did the most in the offseason to improve their overall defense. When you consider that the Bills went 1-8 over their final nine games last year, some changes had to be made. These changes started when the Bills released defensive coordinator George Edwards and promoted assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt to defensive coordinator.
In an effort to improve the team's pass rush, Wannstedt switched the team's defensive scheme back to a 4-3. In accordance with this shift, the Bills flew in free-agent defensive end Mario Williams and managed to sign him to a six-year deal worth $96 million. Later that month, the Bills signed another strong pass-rusher in free-agent defensive end Mark Anderson.
The Bills addressed their linebacker corps by bringing back Kirk Morrison and drafting Nigel Bradham from Florida State and Tank Carder from TCU.
As for the secondary, the Bills released Drayton Florence, restructured Terrence McGee's deal and drafted two promising corners in first-round pick Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina and Ron Brooks from LSU.
But Buffalo did not focus solely on defense in the offseason, awarding new deals to wide receiver Stevie Johnson, running back Fred Jackson, tight end Scott Chandler and guards Kraig Urbik and Chad Rineharts. The Bills also signed free-agent quarterback Vince Young to serve as the backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In the draft, the Bills further improved their offense with wide receiver T.J. Graham, tackles Cordy Glenn and Zebrie Sanders and guard Mark Asper.
Buffalo finally has depth up and down its roster, which should bode well for its chances of challenging for the postseason in 2012.
2. Washington Redskins
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Is there any other NFL team that has done more to overhaul its offense in the offseason than the Washington Redskins?
After trading away multiple future first-round draft picks for the right to draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Redskins acted quickly to surround the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner with some weapons via free agency. As soon as players were allowed to negotiate, Washington pounced on wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan.
In addition to the wide receivers, the Redskins also signed free-agent safety Brandon Meriweather, cornerback Cedric Griffin, linebacker Jonathan Goff, safety Madieu Williams, tackle James Lee, cornerback Leigh Torrence, defensive back Tanard Jackson, linebacker Bryan Kehl, linebacker Chris Wilson and kicker Neil Rackers.
As far as the draft, the Redskins added some more pieces on offense in SMU guard Josh LeRibeus, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, Iowa guard Adam Gettis, Florida Atlantic running back Alfred Morris and South Dakota tackle Tom Compton.
On defense, the Redskins took Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson and a pair of cornerbacks in Richard Crawford from SMU and Jordan Bernstine from Iowa.
Washington was able to retain its own free agents like linebacker London Fletcher, defensive end Adam Carriker, tight end Fred Davis, center Will Montgomery, defensive end Darrion Scott, quarterback Rex Grossman, guard Kory Lichtensteiger, defensive end Kedric Golston and running back Tim Hightower.
The only negative from the Redskins' offseason was the ruling of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that the team would be stripped of millions of dollars in salary cap for due to the front-loading of player contracts in 2010, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter on Twitter.
Overall, Washington used its salary cap space wisely after forfeiting a chunk of its future to draft RG3. If their investment pays off, the Redskins will be a team on the rise in the years to come.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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After losing its final 10 games of the 2011 season, the Bucs were a team in need of a transfusion of new talent. It began with the hiring of ex-Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano and continued when the Bucs came away with the largest haul in free agency.
The Bucs got off to a very fast start by landing wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright. Other players added during free agency were wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, tight end Chase Coffman, quarterback Dan Orlovsky, tackle Jamon Meredith and defensive tackles Amobi Okoye and Gary Gibson.
Tampa Bay also retained running back LeGarrette Blount, guard Jeremy Zuttah, cornerback Ronde Barber, defensive end Michael Bennett, tackle Demar Dotson, wide receiver Preston Parker and kicker Connor Barth.
The Bucs' strong offseason continued at the NFL draft, when they initially traded down in the first round to draft highly coveted Alabama safety Mark Barron before trading back into the first round to select Boise State running back Doug Martin. Tampa Bay selected a third impact player when it traded up in the second round to draft Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David.
Other draft picks include West Virginia inside linebacker Najee Goode, West Virginia corner Keith Tandy, Utah State running back Michael Smith and Northwestern tight end Drake Dunsmore.
This week the Bucs traded away tight end Kellen Winslow to Seattle for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. According to this tweet from Stephen Holder, the Bucs were prepared to release Winslow, so at least they got something in return. In short order, the Bucs signed free-agent Dallas Clark to replace Winslow on the roster.
With regards to the coaching staff, Schiano hired ex-Giants QBs coach Mike Sullivan as offensive coordinator, ex-Dolphins LBs coach Bill Sheridan as defensive coordinator and added Butch Davis as an assistant coach.
When you examine the entire scope of moves that the Bucs made, they have done the most to improve their team during the 2012 offseason. Will that translate to a better product on the field? We will soon find out.