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Offseason Grades for Every NFL Team, Pre-Training Camp Edition

Alessandro MiglioFeatured Columnist IVOctober 7, 2016

Offseason Grades for Every NFL Team, Pre-Training Camp Edition

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    Perhaps fueled by Twitter and the manic rush to report news first, this NFL offseason has been a frenetic, turbulent one.

    Some teams regularly made headlines for the wrong reasons, while others stayed off the radar. With training camp around the corner, let us take a look at how each team fared both in the front office and off the field.

Arizona Cardinals

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    The Cardinals did not do much in free agency, unless you count keeping oft-maligned quarterback Kevin Kolb.

    Their two biggest signings were guard Adam Snyder and cornerback William Gay, two players whose respective former fanbases would likely tell you are overrated.

    Indeed, Snyder was the third-worst-rated guard according to Pro Football Focus. Gay was a bit better than that, landing in the middle of the pack.

    Where the Cardinals made their mark was in the draft. They landed arguably the best receiver in the class in Michael Floyd, though he was recently called out by Larry Fitzgerald for a bit of laziness. They had no second-round pick by virtue of that accursed Kevin Kolb deal, but they recovered by drafting Jamell Fleming and Bobby Massie—two good values.

    All in all, the offseason was not a bad one for the Cardinals.

     

    Offseason Grade: B

Atlanta Falcons

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    Landing Asante Samuel for a bag of footballs and a ham sandwich was a nice move by the Falcons, who sought to bolster their secondary after two relatively disappointing seasons from Dunta Robinson.

    That was about it for the Falcons, who had few draft picks after the Julio Jones trade. Peter Konz was the only draft pick of note for Atlanta.

    The Falcons have been a one-and-done playoff team in recent years. Can Matty break the ice and get to the next level?

     

    Offseason Grade: C+

Baltimore Ravens

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    Ray Rice has been this team's best offensive weapon over the past four seasons, and he got his due as the Ravens made him one of the richest running backs in the league.

    Oh, wait, that is how things should have happened.

    Rice has languished alongside Matt Forte in spirit, watching while Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy signed rich extensions. The Ravens would do well by Rice to give him that extension already. 

    The contract dispute is not the only headache Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens have had this offseason. Future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed is also threatening to hold out for a better contract. Ben Grubbs left for greener money. Terrell Suggs was lost for the season with a torn Achilles (though the Ravens were lucky to mitigate that ahead of time by drafting Courtney Upshaw).

    Baltimore still has an opportunity to rectify much of the negativity surrounding the team, but the Ravens did not do much to improve their personnel outside of the drama.

     

    Offseason Grade: C-

Buffalo Bills

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    Win free agency? Check.

    The Bills landed Mario Williams—free agency's biggest defensive prize—and Mark Anderson, overhauling their defensive line to make it one of the league's most dangerous.

    Not only were they able to sign Williams, but they did so by keeping him from visiting any other cities. Whether they erected a force field around Buffalo, hypnotized him or showed him how much house he could buy with that $96 million salary, we will never know.

    They also re-signed Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson to keep their offense intact. 

    Have a good draft? Check.

    Stephon Gilmore will be a big asset to the Buffalo secondary. He will compete for a starting spot out of the gate, pushing incumbents Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Williams and Terrence McGee. Cordy Glenn and Zebrie Sanders were excellent value picks for the offensive line as well.

    Buffalo players also managed to stay out of trouble this offseason, which is not a given.

     

    Offseason Grade: A

Carolina Panthers

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    The Panthers have the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year in Cam Newton but just a 6-10 record to show for it. 

    Of course, Newton wasn't really the problem—their 27th-ranked defense was the major culprit. Injuries played a big part as Jon Beason and Thomas Davis were forced out for the season early, but the Panthers simply needed to improve their personnel if they were going to get better.

    Aside from returning some healthy players, the Panthers drafted tackling machine Luke Kuechly, who will make this linebacker corps a dangerous one. They also helped the other side of the ball by drafting Amini Silatolu, who Peter King labeled the best offensive pick of the entire draft.

     

    Offseason Grade: B

Chicago Bears

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    Huzzah! The Bears have a bona fide No. 1 receiver!

    Granted, the Kardashian clan travels with less baggage than Marshall brought with him to Chicago, but the Bears have not seen a receiver of Marshall's caliber since...ever.

    That one move alone would have defined Chicago's offseason were it not for a lengthy and sometimes bitter contract dispute with their lead back, Matt Forte. The Bears signed Michael Bush as insurance, but they would be wise to get Forte back in the fold.

    Gone is Mike Martz, who did not suit Jay Cutler's skill set, while Jeremy Bates has been called Chicago's biggest free-agent acquisition at quarterback coach.

    A good draft that saw them add pass-rusher Shea McClellin and polarizing receiver Alshon Jeffery has the Bears on an upward trajectory heading into training camp, contract disputes notwithstanding.

     

    Offseason Grade: B

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The police blotter has been littered with names from the NFL, but the Bengals have mostly managed to steer clear of trouble this offseason—by some miracle.

    For once, they made headlines for the right reasons. A year removed from taking A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, the Bengals had an excellent draft. Every pick seemed to be out of a draftnik's dream.

    They lost Jerome Simpson to free agency, but they have set up a fierce competition to replace him with a nice mix of veterans and rookies. 

     

    Offseason Grade: B+

Cleveland Browns

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    The Dawg Pound is in for another tough season if experts are right on their predictions.

    Depending on who you talk to, the Browns either had a fine or terrible draft. The merits of taking a running back with the No. 3 overall pick are debatable—name the last great back to win a Super Bowl—as are the merits of taking a 28-year-old quarterback with a first-round pick.

    Brandon Weeden will be thrown into the fire right away. Hopefully his age and experience will keep him and the Browns from getting burned.

    Of course, Weeden's selection merely exacerbated the Colt McCoy saga. Will the third-year quarterback and his disgruntled father be traded sometime soon? It is difficult to find good, cheap backup quarterbacks nowadays, after all.

     

    Offseason Grade: C+

Dallas Cowboys

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    Rob Ryan needs help.

    His personnel were just not ideal on the defense in Dallas, which led to a subpar season from the unit. Enter Brandon Carr, a solid cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs.

    The Cowboys may have overpaid a bit for Carr, giving him a five-year, $50.1 million contract, but it was well worth it to a team in sore need of help in the secondary. Trading up to take the best cornerback in the draft class in Morris Claiborne was another one.

    Of course, Dallas must overcome its quarterback, who has faltered in big moments throughout his career. If Romo can get over big mishaps, the Cowboys may finally be a force.

    Easier said than done.

     

    Offseason Grade: B+

Denver Broncos

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    Peyton Manning.

    Offseason Grade: A

     

    There is more to it than that, of course, but John Elway was able to snatch the offseason's biggest free agent for the Broncos. The risks are there, but they do not outweigh the benefits for Denver, considering Manning is a future Hall of Famer who still has gas left in the tank. 

    They may have ponied up to get the former Colt, signing him to a five-year, $96 million contract, but he will be invaluable to the franchise if he can return to form or close to it.

    Not only was Elway able to win the Manning sweepstakes, it afforded him the opportunity to rid himself of a potential headache in Tim Tebow. The polarizing quarterback led them to a playoff berth and improbable victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round, but his viability as an NFL quarterback is highly questionable.

    Everything else fell into place for Denver after Manning signed. Its moves in free agency and the draft were designed to complement Manning and improve the defense, aside from perhaps giving kicker Matt Prater a huge extension.

Detroit Lions

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    Six.

    Unfortunately, we are not talking about the number of points a touchdown is worth here. Six is the number of arrests Lions players have had this offseason.

    The Lions have not had a problem with arrests until this offseason. There were just seven Detroit players arrested prior to 2012, a far cry from some of the other teams that have gotten in trouble over the past decade.

    This is a disturbing new trend.

    Naturally, the Lions rewarded head coach Jim Schwartz with a contract extension. Obviously this is a reflection of the on-field performance more than anything—can Schwartz be expected to babysit his players when they are given plenty of resources to stay out of trouble?

    They did sign Calvin Johnson to a mega extension, Madden Curse and all. Locking up the best receiver in the league as he enters his prime seems like a good idea.

    Aside from the drama, the Lions had a good draft. The second-best offensive tackle fell into their laps as they took Riley Reiff with the 23rd overall pick. They also added yet another weapon for Matthew Stafford in Ryan Broyles.

     

    Offseason Grade: D+

Green Bay Packers

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    Things are going well when your biggest offseason issue is whether or not to bring back an aging veteran receiver.

    The Packers fell short of Super Bowl expectations last year, largely due to a defense that took a surprising step back. They should be considered a favorite again this year, however, after an offseason that saw them bolster that defense through the draft.

    Green Bay rarely makes a free-agent splash, so another quiet offseason is simply the modus operandi in Wisconsin. It's hard to argue with the results.

     

    Offseason Grade: B

Houston Texans

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    Things are not going well when you lose your best pass-rusher in free agency without a real fight.

    The Houston Texans were not given a real opportunity to re-sign Mario Williams, though they would have been hard-pressed to keep him with the salary he was being offered elsewhere. They also traded away DeMeco Ryans because he did not fit the 3-4 defense well. Eric Winston and Joel Dreessen are also gone via free agency.

    It seems as though they are moving backwards in Houston.

    A decent draft saved their offseason from failure, though they are putting their faith in one-year wonder Whitney Mercilus to fill Mario Williams' giant shoes.

    We will find out if he is up to the task as training camps hit.

     

    Offseason Grade: C-

Indianapolis Colts

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    There was only one direction to go for the Colts, right? Parting ways with the Franchise was sweet sorrow for Indianapolis, but it had to be done after a 2-14 season.

    Andrew Luck is Franchise 2.0 in Indy—a great step forward for a team lucky enough to land two 15-year starters during the past two decades, assuming Luck lives up to his promise.

    The divorce was not smooth, however, though Manning ultimately left without acrimony. 

    Year one of the rebuilding process is complete, and the Colts have overhauled their offense admirably. It will be another relatively rough season before the team is back to its winning ways, but they took a good step forward this offseason.

     

    Offseason Grade: B

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Jacksonville’s offseason involved hiring a maligned offensive coordinator as head coach, overpaying a journeyman receiver, drafting a punter with a high third-round pick, getting into a contract dispute with their best offensive player and seeing their top draft pick get arrested for aggravated DUI.

    But, hey, the team doesn't seem to be in danger of moving to Los Angeles.

     

    Offseason Grade: D-

Kansas City Chiefs

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    They may still be without a franchise quarterback, but the Chiefs are headed in the right direction.

    Granted, some of that momentum is simply due to the imminent return from injury of key starters in Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel and Tony Moeaki, but the offseason was kind to the Chiefs all around.

    Kansas City landed Eric Winston, an immediate upgrade at right tackle with loads of experience in the zone-blocking scheme (ZBS) the Chiefs will be implementing this summer. They also adequately replaced departed Brandon Carr with Stanford Routt.

    Most importantly, they kept Romeo Crennel on as head coach after a strong finish to the 2011 season.

     

    Offseason Grade: A-

Miami Dolphins

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    The Dolphins have installed a water cooling system to keep Jeff Ireland from burning up in his office chair. The embattled general manager somehow survived another poor season despite his former Cowboys cohort Tony Sparano getting the ax. 

    The extent of Miami’s issues went well beyond a man nicknamed Jeff “Fireland,” however.  A perceived problem of perception has arisen in South Florida, fueled by free-agent spurnings from Jeff Fisher, Peyton Manning and even Matt Flynn. (Though, realistically, the Dolphins seem to have done the right thing by “low-balling” Flynn.) 

    Miami brought in its consolation prize, Joe Philbin, to try to turn the team around after flailing helplessly over the past three seasons. Perhaps Philbin has brought along some of the philosophy and magic from his days with the Packers.

    With ticket sales lagging, Stephen Ross could not resist the siren call of HBO’s Hard Knocks. The Dolphins must do much more than appear on a television show about training camp to regain relevancy in South Florida and the NFL, however. 

    An uncharacteristically strong draft saved Miami from a failing grade.

     

    Offseason Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings

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    In a heated battle over the right to claim the most arrests since 2000, the Vikings recently pulled ahead of Cincinnati with the arrests of Caleb King, Jerome Felton and Adrian Peterson. Naturally, that last name is a pretty big one, though circumstances surrounding his arrest are questionable.

    That gives them a tally of 39 arrests, now two ahead of Cincinnati’s 37, and precisely three per season.

    The Vikings may own this dubious distinction, but they are in danger of another one this coming season: worst record in the league. 

    While Rick Spielman did well to swindle Tom Heckert and the Browns during the draft, their best pick was an offensive lineman. They also managed to overpay their No. 2 tight end, John Carlson.

    A bizarre dispute from Percy Harvin has not helped things in Minnesota, though to his credit he plans on attending training camp.

     

    Offseason Grade: C-

New England Patriots

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    If there is a polar opposite to the black sheep in the league, it is the New England Patriots. They have had their share of off-the-field issues—no team has been without reproach—but Bill Belichick runs a tight ship in New England.

    The results on the field cannot be matched over the past 12 years, and the Patriots show no signs of slowing down. They may have been foiled by their Kryptonite, the New York Giants, in their past two Super Bowl appearances, but they have spent the offseason reloading.

    Brandon Lloyd will give this team a threat on the outside they have been missing since Randy Moss’   departure, and Belichick addressed defensive concerns via the draft.

    The only real mole hill in the offseason has the potential to grow into a mountain if not resolved soon. An impasse remains over a new contract for perennial Pro Bowler Wes Welker, and the sides are apparently $6 million apart. That is a lot of cheddar within which to find a compromise.

     

    Offseason Grade: B+

New Orleans Saints

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    Bounties.

    What more can we say about the Saints’ offseason? The scandal has ripped through New Orleans, sweeping away head coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma—who is embroiled in an ugly legal battle with the league and the commissioner—and threatening to wash away their season.

    To add insult to injury, the Saints cannot offer Drew Brees enough money—or perhaps simply a good enough contract—leading to a potential holdout for the reigning Offensive Player of the Year.

    About the only good thing for the Saints this offseason was anticipating Vilma’s suspension; they signed David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton to play linebacker in prescience. They were also able to re-sign Marques Colston and pry Ben Grubbs away from the Ravens to replace departed Carl Nicks.

    None of that can really wash away the stink of a terrible offseason for the organization, however.

     

    Offseason Grade: F

New York Giants

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    You might think losing a starting wide receiver and committee running back without replacing them in free agency would hurt a team, but the reigning champs know how to plug holes.

    Mario Manningham was an injury liability, and Brandon Jacobs was not exactly lighting the league up for the Giants, so it should come as no surprise when Rueben Randle and David Wilson perform admirably this coming season.

    Aside from a nasty DUI incident for starting offensive lineman David Diehl, this offseason has been a good one for the Giants—assuming you ignore the fact the rest of the NFC East got better.

     

    Offseason Grade: B

New York Jets

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    While one New York team simply retooled, another brought the circus to town. Tim Tebow has arrived, and so has the hoopla.

    It certainly seems like the Jets are looking to steal all the headlines from their New Jersey rivals after their second Super Bowl victory in five years. 

    The Jets also brought in Miami Dolphins castoff Tony Sparano—an inspirational speaker and leader of men—but “Dolphins castoff” is not exactly a ringing endorsement these days.

    New York lost two veterans who may have been more important than their production would indicate in Plaxico Burress and LaDainian Tomlinson, leaving them with raw rookie Stephen Hill and 26-year-old lackluster Shonn Greene to take their place. They also have concerns at safety after Jim Leonhard’s retirement. (Note: Leonhard isn't retired, but he may as well be.)

    The Jets have gotten along pretty well in recent seasons thanks to their great defense, timely good play by the offense and some luck. It seemed as though that was no longer the case last season, as the Jets sank back to a .500 record and Mark Sanchez’s development seemed to stall.

    Has this offseason made any of that better?

     

    Offseason Grade: C

Oakland Raiders

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    This is a team that gutted its front office, coaching staff and team personnel.

    The Raiders imported Reggie McKenzie from the Green Bay Packers, who immediately began changing the culture in Oakland. He fired Hue Jackson, albeit acrimoniously, bringing in unheralded Dennis Allen to man the ship.

    This is a bit of a rebuilding process, though the offense still looks pretty good if Darren McFadden can stay healthy.

     

    Offseason Grade: C

Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Dream Team is dead. All that is left is a very good Philadelphia Eagles team.

    Vince Young doomed the Eagles last offseason after giving them that now-deceased moniker. The Eagles sputtered out of the gate, and injuries hampered their recovery. They managed to get to 8-8, however, just one game back of the eventual Super Bowl winners.

    That team is largely intact, led by quarterback Michael Vick, who has vowed to prepare himself better for this coming season. The defense was the biggest issue for the Eagles last season, particularly a soft middle that led to some big rushing totals by opposing offenses. They seem to have remedied that by trading for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and adding Fletcher Cox to the defensive line.

    Jason Peters’ injury was the only real bummer for Philadelphia during the offseason, but they were even able to mitigate that by signing Demetress Bell. They went on to nail the draft.

     

    Offseason Grade: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Free agency was a bloodbath for the Steelers. From James Farrior to Hines Ward, the team simply did not have the cap flexibility to keep some of their marquee players. Their best signing was offensive coordinator Todd Haley, even if Ben Roethlisberger took some time to warm to the new guy.

    They more than made up for it in the draft, however. They landed the second-best offensive lineman with the 24th overall pick in David DeCastro, then got excellent value with offensive tackle Mike Adams in the second round. 

    They replaced Farrior with Sean Spence and got Casey Hampton a capable backup in Alameda Ta'amu. Even Chris Rainey was a good pick for the Steelers, as he adds a speedy dimension they had been missing since Willie Parker had his one good season.

     

    Offseason Grade: B

San Diego Chargers

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    Norv Turner somehow survived the offseason after rampant speculation that he would be fired. Is that a good or bad thing for the Chargers?

    Considering Turner’s track record as a head coach—at least in the playoffs—it seems to lean to the negative side.

    The Chargers look to bounce back from a down year. Their offseason consisted of letting veterans Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert go and replacing them with inconsistent Robert Meachem and Le’Ron McClain.

    They did retain Jared Gaither’s services, however, which could prove to be the best move they made—Philip Rivers looked much better last season when his blind side was better protected.

    San Diego’s draft was nice as well. Now they get to compete in a division that has gotten much tougher since last season.

     

    Offseason Grade: C+

San Francisco 49ers

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    Jim Harbaugh came oh-so-close to leading the 49ers to an improbable Super Bowl berth. He took a team mired in mediocrity and made it formidable with much of the same personnel.

    This offseason afforded San Francisco an opportunity to improve upon that, and the 49ers had mixed results.

    Wide receiver was perhaps the weakest positional group on this team—that is, if you do not count Alex Smith, who had a fine season but is not considered a top-flight quarterback. San Francisco attempted to remedy the receiver position by adding Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, who by all accounts looks like he has something left to give. They also drafted A.J. Jenkins, who seems to have been a bit of a reach in the first round.

    Assuming they can resolve their contract dispute with safety Dashon Goldson, that 49ers defense should be back for more dominance this season.

     

    Offseason Grade: B

Seattle Seahawks

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    The Seahawks have been quietly lurking in the NFC West, improving each of the past two seasons. Though, missing the playoffs a year after being the first sub-.500 team to make the postseason may have been a bit of a disappointment.

    GM John Schneider and Pete Carroll have assembled a great defense over the past couple of seasons, and the offense has made strides despite inconsistent quarterback play.

    They hope signing Matt Flynn will help stabilize the position, but the position is a bit of a mess for the time being. 

    Seattle’s draft was not terribly good either, after they started things off with a reach in Bruce Irvin. Hopefully, for Seattle's sake, Irvin will prove his detractors wrong and thrive opposite Chris Clemons.

     

    Offseason Grade: C+

St. Louis Rams

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    St. Louis landed the big Fisher during the offseason, luring him away from time off and snatching him away from the Dolphins. He will be a breath of fresh air in that dome after Steve Spagnuolo’s tenure.

    The Rams made some other key free-agent signings in Cortland Finnegan and Kendall Langford, attempting to bolster a defense that was a sieve last season. 

    Relocation reared its ugly head for Rams fans this offseason, however, as they have been tabbed as a likely target to move to Los Angeles. The fate of the team in St. Louis now lies in the hands of an arbitrator, who must decide how much money the team must spend to renovate Edward Jones Dome. 

     

    Offseason Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Tampa Bay had quite a bit of cap space this offseason, and they capitalized in free agency.

    The Bucs were able to land a couple of free agency’s biggest names in Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks. Unfortunately, they may have been a bit drunk with cap space, as they also signed mediocre-at-best cornerback Eric Wright to a hefty deal. They also own the league’s most expensive kicking unit after signing Connor Barth to a four-year, $13.2 million to go with $19 million punter Michael Koenen.

    Meanwhile, Wright decided to emulate his former teammates and become part of the DUI epidemic that is currently sweeping the league.

    Tampa Bay also exiled Raheem Morris just a year after a surprising postseason near-miss. They brought in Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, who is the latest to attempt the college-to-pro transition that head coaches have largely failed to master.

    We will see if Schiano’s militaristic style will work in the NFL—Kellen Winslow Jr. seems to think otherwise.

     

    Offseason Grade: B-

Tennessee Titans

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    Bud Adams tried everything under the Tennessee sun to lure Peyton Manning back “home,” but he could not get the former Volunteer on board. Sadly, the pursuit of Manning may have cost the Titans elsewhere as they were forced to wait for the veteran quarterback to make a decision. The free-agent market dried up while they waited, leaving them few options to upgrade the roster.

    Their main signing was Kamerion Wimbley, who should bolster a woeful pass rush. He is no Mario Williams, but he will be an upgrade at the position for the Titans.

    The draft was a bit of a head-scratcher for the Titans as well—they took Kendall Wright with the 20th overall pick despite solid depth at wide receiver. Zach Brown, their second-round draft pick, has been viewed as "soft" at linebacker as well.

    Their best pick may wind up being fifth-round tight end Taylor Thompson. That is not exactly the mark of a good draft.

     

    Offseason Grade: C

Washington Redskins

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    Has the franchise savior arrived in Washington?

    Fans are in a frenzy over Robert Griffin III, who has looked the part thus far in shorts for the Redskins. The Baylor product looks to turn around a franchise that has been stuck in quarterback purgatory since Mark Rypien led them to a Super Bowl victory in the early ‘90s.

    After an uncharacteristically frugal offseason in 2011, the Redskins were primed to spend big money this offseason. Then, on the eve of free agency, Washington was slapped with a two-year, $36 million cap penalty for abusing the uncapped 2010 season.

    That may have been a contributing factor into why Washington wound up with Pierre Garcon at $42.5 million instead of Vincent Jackson at $55 million-plus.

    Even so, Washington seems to be moving up the ranks under Mike Shanahan. They have a good, young core of offensive players and a decent defense on the rise.

    Unfortunately, they are in a division with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. Better luck next year?


    Offseason Grade: B+

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