Stock Up, Stock Down for Every NFL Team This Offseason
The NFL seems like it never slows; there is no one sport or event that pushes football to the back burner. It's not a stretch to say the NFL is king.
Training camps are just a little over a week away, and all sorts of questions are popping up. Can bottom-dwellers like the Rams and Colts rebound? Will Philadelphia overtake New York, or will the Giants show they can repeat?
Let's take a look at the stock situations of each NFL team thus far in the offseason.
After coming on strong at the end of last season, Arizona hoped to keep that momentum going into the offseason. They used the draft to upgrade positions of need, especially in the first round. Larry Fitzgerald hasn't had a suitable threat opposite of him since Anquan Boldin, so the selection of Michael Floyd was no surprise.
Outside of Adrian Wilson, the Cardinals struggled finding any kind of consistency in the secondary. Richard Marshall stepped up and played a lot of snaps at both cornerback and safety last year, so his departure to Miami will hurt the overall depth of the defense, but his sporadic play can be replaced.
In addition to Patrick Peterson's growth, the signing of William Gay and drafting of Jamell Fleming puts the defensive backfield in a good spot.
Re-signing Calais Campbell was a must considering he was easily their best player on defense. However, I wasn't too crazy about the signings of Levi Brown and Adam Snyder to five-year deals, as the offensive line will now be their biggest question mark going into camp.
Overall, the Cardinals' offseason stock is pointed up.
No team wants to end the season the way the Atlanta Falcons ended 2011, but luckily for them, their offseason has been more productive than their offense was against the Giants. The top three additions have been cornerback Asante Samuel, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
Samuel has always been a ball hawk, and he is coming off one of the best seasons of his career after having to pick up the slack for the underperforming Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Falcons stole him from the Eagles; sure his salary carries a high cap number, but his play speaks for itself.
Bringing back John Abraham and Brent Grimes were both no-brainers, as they are the respected leaders at their respective positions. Letting Curtis Lofton walk in favor of Lofa Tatupu is a bit risky; Lofton definitely provides more upside than an aging Tatupu.
The Falcons offense was pretty quiet during the offseason, but with a majority of their starters intact, there's not a whole lot to worry about. Peter Konz was the right pick at No. 55, as he provides depth at both guard and center.
Eric Weems will be missed in the return game, but for now, Atlanta's stock is up.
Losing Ben Grubbs, Cory Redding and Jarret Johnson would be enough for me to say their stock is falling. All three were impact players that had been mainstays at their respected positions. Johnson's presence will probably be missed the most, as his run defense was the gold standard.
Paul Kruger is an exciting player and does a fine job of rushing the passer. Courtney Upshaw will inject the Ravens defense with some youth, but those two alone can't replace Johnson and Suggs at linebacker.
No splash additions on offense will hurt Baltimore's chance of evolving offensively. Jacoby Jones isn't reliable or good enough to help them take that next step. Bobbie Williams is a good player despite getting a little long in the tooth, and the drafting of Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski all look like solid additions to the offensive line.
The Ravens' offseason stock is down, so don't expect them to go as deep in the playoffs as they did in 2011.
Talk about a team that truly disappointed last season. The Bills started hot at 5-2, but then injuries hit and the defense faltered. Buffalo is hoping the injuries don't hit quite as hard this year, as they have spent a lot of time and money upgrading their defense this offseason.
By snatching up Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency, the draft allowed them to focus on upgrading their secondary and offensive line. Cordy Glenn should have no problem pushing Chris Hairston for the starting left tackle spot, while Stephon Gilmore is set in stone at right cornerback.
Signing Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson to contract extensions was the right thing to do, even if Jackson is 31 years old. Before he got hurt, there wasn't a better running back in football, and I would be quick to argue that they would have made the playoffs if he had stayed healthy.
As a Bills fan, it would be hard to argue with the moves they made; it's pretty rare for them to be big spenders in free agency. Their bold moves have their stock at an all-time high.
Cam Newton is the absolute savior of the Carolina Panthers. No one expected him or that team to perform as well was they did. The sad thing is, he isn't Superman, and he can't do it all alone. Playing and winning in the NFC South is no easy task, as it's a division loaded with talent.
Adding talent on defense was a need, and Luke Kuechly was a home run, as he will start from Day 1 based on his track record. One can appreciate their effort in upgrading the overall depth on defense, but landing a couple more starters wouldn't have hurt, especially in the secondary.
Amini Silatolu is penciled in as the starting left guard and should be a good one, but where was the attempt to add talent at skill positions? Brandon LaFell and Kealoha Pilares are unproven commodities who need to step up. Steve Smith can't do it all, and we all know better than to rely on Greg Olsen.
Many questions still loom for the young Panthers, and a lack of offensive additions has their stock on a downward slippery slope.
2011 was a season that needs to be forgotten, so the outrage doesn't bleed through. Chicago was off to a great start, and then Jay Cutler got hurt. The Bears went down with him. They only won one game in the final six weeks of the season.
So, adding a quality backup was a top priority when free agency started. Jason Campbell received big money to serve as Cutler's backup, but based on his injury history, it's well worth it. Campbell has starting ability. He and the Raiders were off to a fast start last season before he went down with a season-ending injury.
Outside of Campbell, the Bears added playmakers for Jay Cutler, the biggest being Brandon Marshall. Trading two second-round picks proved to be no big deal, as Marshall and Cutler have a bond that carries over from their days in Denver.
Alshon Jeffrey is a big-bodied receiver who shares the Marshall's characteristics, and Eric Weems will improve the special teams unit in whatever capacity he is used.
The defensive side of the ball didn't see as many upgrades as the offense, but Shea McClellin will be leaned on to provide relief for Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. Both Peppers and Idonije logged over 900 snaps each last season.
Chicago needed a good offseason, and even though the offensive line went neglected, the arrow is still pointing up.
It's hard to argue with what the Cincinnati Bengals did this offseason. There isn't one move that I disliked; they had one of the best drafts on paper, and it seemed as if they were drafting the best player available in every round.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler, Devon Still, Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Thompson will all be in the mix for extensive playing time early on. Free-agent addition BenJarvus Green-Ellis should be the starting tailback when the season starts. Look for him and Bernard Scott to have a formidable one-two punch.
Bobbie Williams and Frostee Rucker will prove to be the biggest losses of the offseason. Rucker is a solid rotational player who was stout against the run. Williams didn't start every game, but he held his own when he did play, especially in the run game.
The Bengals' stock is up after a successful offseason. They will look to put together back-to-back playoff seasons for the first time in 30 years.
Cleveland came into the offseason knowing they needed to upgrade their offensive skill positions. Colt McCoy, Peyton Hillis and Mohamed Massaquoi haven't proved to scare many defenses. Hillis had a monster year in 2010, but injuries and his lack of motivation in 2011 rubbed the Browns the wrong way.
Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and supplemental superstar Josh Gordon will look to replace and bolster Cleveland's 29th-ranked offense. Weeden and Richardson were both first-round picks that will be expected to start immediately, while Josh Gordon is considered raw. It's no secret Cleveland wanted Kendall Wright, so seeing them take a risk on his college teammate was no surprise.
Adding veterans Frostee Rucker and Juqua Thomas-Parker were underrated moves that will strengthen a young defensive line.
Unfortunately, all the changes made will not be enough in the already tough AFC North. Their biggest problem last year was running the football. They only added one impact offensive lineman in the draft, Mitchell Schwartz. Picking Schwartz ahead of Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin was puzzling.
The Browns aren't quite done rebuilding yet. Their stock is still down until they find that long-term answer at quarterback.
After another disappointing year for the team that always has the best offseason on paper, the Cowboys will not allow this offseason to be any different.
The $50 million man Brandon Carr and first-round cornerback Morris Claiborne will help heal the Cowboys' biggest wound from a year ago. Dallas were cellar-dwellers in pass coverage—Pro Football Focus had them as the seventh-worst team at defending the pass.
The losses of Laurent Robinson and Martellus Bennett will prove to hurt the most. Before you all go on bashing Bennett, I will agree he never turned out to be the pass-catcher we expected, but man, he can throw a block. Outside of Tyron Smith, he was easily their best run-blocker.
Robinson was a bit of a one-hit wonder, and his injury history is a concern, so don't be too sad to see him go. Danny Coale was a nice pick, and he shouldn't have a problem manning the slot wideout position.
Things are looking up for the Cowboys in 2012.
Adding Peyton Manning would arguably make any offseason complete. He held the Colts together for years and made a lot of players look better than they really were. The Broncos were no dummies to this, so they made sure to bring in proven talent to match Manning.
Joel Dreessen is one of the most underrated tight ends in all of football, Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme are Manning's old pals, and Ronnie Hillman could push Knowshon Moreno out the door. Their list of offseason acquisitions on offense are endless, and Manning should push them toward success.
Denver needed to address a lack of talent in the secondary, and it's safe to say they added recognizable names, but not recognizable talent. Both Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence are known around league circles. Unfortunately, Florence hasn't ever had a good year, and Porter hasn't achieved much since he picked Manning off in the Super Bowl.
Even though Champ Bailey still needs help in the secondary, the Broncos' stock is still up.
What a whirlwind of an offseason for the Detroit Lions. No team has been able to match their arrest numbers. But I'm not here to beat a dead horse; I'm here to talk about Riley Reiff, who will make an immediate impact.
Reiff fell right into the Lions' lap, as the consensus was that he had too short of a wingspan to warrant a top-20 selection. It's no question Detroit needs offensive line help—a couple of starters are starting to really show their age. Jeff Backus will turn 35 here in a couple months. His drop-off in play and age will work against him; don't be surprised if Reiff is starting by opening day.
Wide receiver Ryan Broyles is another rookie to keep on your radar. Broyles put up some gaudy numbers at Oklahoma as a three-year starter. The only thing to be cautious about is a torn ACL late in the 2011 season, but even if he starts the year on the PUP list, he has the ability to make his presence felt sooner rather than later.
Dropping Eric Wright proved to be a smart move, as he wasn't worth the money. Hopefully, Jacob Lacey can continue to build on a few strong late-season performances.
It would have been nice to see them add at least one more offensive lineman and one more cornerback. Right now, the Lions' stock is idle.
Green Bay Packers
A 15-1 team that looked unbeatable last year has just gotten better. I would tell the NFL to take notice, but they have already.
The Packers offense experienced only a few changes. Jeff Saturday replaced Scott Wells, Matt Flynn and Ryan Grant were allowed to walk, and Donald Driver was brought back for his 14th season.
Green Bay put their main focus on upgrading a defense that regressed big time in 2011. Nick Perry will be looked at to be that dynamic pass-rusher opposite of Clay Matthews, while Jerel Worthy should steal some snaps from defensive end Ryan Pickett. Pickett has trouble rushing the passer, so it will be interesting to see if Worthy can outrush Wynn and Pickett.
Drafting a total of six defensive players proved there was a need at just about every defensive spot. It wouldn't be smart to expect a complete defensive turnaround, but even an improvement that puts them back at their 2010 level will make them that much better. Hard to believe a one-loss team needs to make big strides in any one certain area.
All of the new defensive help has the Packers stock climbing.
The Texans are a team that keeps me on the fence; they've seen plenty of studs depart this offseason, but they still have plenty of studs left.
Joel Dreessen, Eric Winston, Mike Brisiel, Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans were all sought-after players at one point. DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams fell out of favor when Houston switched to a 3-4 defense. Eric Winston was cut due to a failed physical, and Brisiel's play had fallen off from years past.
Replacing Mario Williams with Whitney Mercilus will never be an equal swap, but it doesn't have to be. The Texans have plenty of pass-rush help with Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin. Mercilus can be worked along slowly as a rotational rusher.
The addition of Bradie James at inside linebacker might prove to be underrated move. James fell off a bit in 2011, but in 2008, 2009 and 2010 under Phillips, he was at his peak. James isn't penciled in as the starter as of now, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he was by the end of camp.
The lack of a No. 2 wide receiver and change along the offensive line has the Texans' stock idling.
It's no secret that the Colts had to clean house. The mess of last year was too much to bare; no team should fall apart the way it did when they lost one player. I realize that it was Peyton Manning, but the lack of talent elsewhere just made the situation worse.
New head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson cleaned house in a big way. Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Pierre Garçon, Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark were all sent packing. And that was just the offense. Defensive mainstays like Gary Brackett, Jacob Lacey and Melvin Bullitt were given their walking papers as well.
Selecting Andrew Luck first overall all but sealed the new direction of the team. To help out their new quarterback, the Colts came back and selected Coby Fleener in the second round. Fleener and Luck played together at Stanford.
Even though they still have a long ways to go on defense, Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney are good starts to a rebuilding process.
The playoffs may be out of reach, but quality draft selections and a few talented veteran additions has the Colts' stock soaring.
If the Jaguars are planning on improving and being competitive again, they needed to have a knockout offseason. Sadly enough, it didn't happen. Chad Henne, Laurent Robinson, Lee Evans, Justin Blackmon and Aaron Ross isn't enough. Not to mention the negative effect Blackmon's off-the-field shenanigans will have on his play.
It would have been smart of the Jags to either re-sign Matt Roth and Leger Douzable or to find replacements for them. They chose to do neither, which hurts the overall depth of the defensive line. Second-round pick Andre Branch is a welcomed addition to the starting rotation, as Jacksonville struggled rushing the passer last season.
Getting Maurice Jones-Drew a new contract is their biggest worry right now. Jones-Drew wants to be paid like a top running back; it will be interesting to see if and when a deal gets done. He is an absolute workhorse that deserves it, but Blaine Gabbert's play is the real key to the 2012 season.
The Jaguars stock is at an all-time low, and it's plummeting.
Kansas City Chiefs
Yes, the Broncos were lucky enough to win the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, but the Chiefs might have taken the cake for the best offseason in the AFC West.
Eric Winston is coming off of one of the better seasons of his career. Stanford Routt and Peyton Hillis both experienced down years in 2011, but that shouldn't stop them from rebounding, as they've been successful players in the past.
Hillis will be the perfect complement to Jamaal Charles, and Stanford Routt takes over the spot vacated by Brandon Carr.
Some feel that Dontari Poe was taken off the board too high, but he should be an ideal fit in the Chiefs' scheme. Poe will be worked along slowly, so it would be smart not too expect too much out of him right away. He's a very raw player who will need time to develop.
Not many key departures keeps the Chiefs' stock fairly high.
The biggest question facing the Miami Dolphins this offseason is, "Who will play quarterback?" Right now, your guess would be as good as mine. Even though the Dolphins drafted Ryan Tannehill, it would not be wise for him to start right off the bat.
Matt Moore and David Garrard both have more experience under their belts, and Moore actually proved to be somewhat successful considering the circumstances of last season. Losing Brandon Marshall put the number of Dolphins' playmakers on the outside at zero.
Chad Ochocinco may not be around on opening day; it's hard to believe he has anything left in the tank. I loved his game in Cincinnati, but it feels like his last productive season was a decade ago. Legedu Naanee won't prove to be any better. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the worst receiver in the NFL last season.
Drafting Jonathan Martin to start at right tackle and signing Richard Marshall to play left cornerback will go down as two of the most sure things in the Dolphins' offseason transactions.
Miami's stock is in a downward spiral.
Drafting Matt Kalil proved to be the best thing the Vikings could have done all offseason. They needed needed someone to protect their franchise quarterback.
Minnesota lacked playmakers at two major positions at the end of the 2011 season: defensive back and wide receiver. On draft day they selected Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton, three guys who will instantly beef up their secondary.
The wideout spot received just as much attention this offseason. Jerome Simpson was signed from the Cincinnati Bengals, while Jarius Wright and Greg Childs were drafted out of Arkansas. Both players will be counted on when the season starts, as Simpson will serve a suspension at the beginning of the season.
Losing Visanthe Shiancoe and Steve Hutchinson won't prove to be too detrimental, as they signed John Carlson and Geoff Schwartz as replacements. The Vikings' impressive moves this offseason have allowed their stock to rise.
New England Patriots
Everyone knows that the Patriots thrive off of the offense's firepower, but it seems as if this year might be different. I'm not saying their defense will leapfrog the offense; I'm saying the defense might carry its own weight for once.
They upgraded just about every area of the defense. On draft day, they had a total of seven picks, and out of those seven picks they took six defensive players. Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower are two players who will be relied upon heavily as pass-rushing threats.
The Patriots let their two best pass-rushers walk: Mark Anderson signed with the Bills, and Andre Carter is still a free agent. They are thinking about bringing Carter back once he heals from his late-season injury.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tom Brady gained a couple of familiar faces and one new face. Brandon Lloyd is the shiny new toy everyone is gawking at, while Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney are the familiar faces who are ready for their second go-around.
It's hard to predict if Stallworth and Gaffney will make the final roster, but one thing is certain: Lloyd and Brady will be enjoying each other's company.
An A+ offseason has the Patriots' stock escalating to new heights.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees and Bountygate have been topics of conversation around the NFL for months now. The Saints just can't elude bad press this offseason.
Luckily, on Friday, one of those troubles went away—and it wasn't Bountygate. Brees became $100 million richer over the next five years, and Chase Daniels went back to manning backup quarterback duties.
The Saints could have used some of that money to re-sign Carl Nicks and Robert Meachem. Both players were a part of the Saints' Super Bowl run from a few years back, and both performed at a high level consistently. Nicks ended up with division rival Tampa Bay; Meachem headed out west to San Diego.
Adding David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton will help offset the loss of Jonathan Vilma for the season. Hawthorne and Lofton are better all-around linebackers, so it shouldn't be a surprise if the Saints defense improves in Vilma's absence.
Losing Sean Payton for the season and having a subpar draft has the Saints' stock falling.
New York Giants
The Super Bowl champions managed to have one of the best drafts, even though they had the last pick in almost every round. The Giants found great value in every round and stacked positions of need along the way. David Wilson will be taking over for Brandon Jacobs, and Rueben Randle will look to separate himself from the pack as he looks to lock down the third wide receiver job.
Re-signing Terrell Thomas and drafting Jayron Hosley will upgrade their secondary even after they let Aaron Ross walk. Ross never lived up to his lofty draft status, and he got more money from Jacksonville than anyone else was willing to pay.
One of the least talked-about moves was the five-year extension Steve Weatherford signed. Weatherford was a top-five punter last year who dropped 27 punts inside the 20-yard line. Not to mention, he finished the season with a 39.4-yard net average.
It would have been good to see the Giants address the offensive line a little bit more in the offseason, but nevertheless, the champs' stock is up, and they are reloading for 2012.
New York Jets
The New York Jets—what an interesting team. Tim Tebow is the biggest offseason addition, and he isn't even a starter. It's hard to say how New York is going to use Tebow, but one thing is for sure—he will be starting before you know it. Sanchez struggling is just too easy of a storyline to predict.
Let's forget Tebow for a second and focus on the Jets' biggest problem: their pass rush, which ranked in the bottom five a year ago. They did little to improve it this offseason. Quinton Coples was a good pickup, as he can rush the passer off the edge, but they are more than one pass-rusher away.
Re-signing Aaron Maybin was a valuable move because there wasn't anyone on that team that pressured the quarterback more than him. LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell came over to play safety since Jim Leonhard and Brodney Pool were both allowed to walk at season's end.
Very few offseason moves and improvements have the Jets' stock going down.
Oakland didn't have a whole lot of flexibility coming into this year's offseason. They managed to do the best they could with extremely tight cap space and limited draft picks. Mike Brisiel came over from the Houston Texans and will help bolster the offensive line, while cornerback Ron Bartell will look to tighten up coverage in the secondary.
Losing Kamerion Wimbley and John Henderson, two of their top defensive linemen, will hurt, but there was nothing the Raiders could do. Financial implications played a big role in the overall direction of the offseason. Samson Satele and Michael Bush were two more players I'm sure the Raiders would have liked to have back.
It will take a while for the new regime to pull them out of this rut, but once they do, the Raiders look like they are in good hands with Reggie McKenzie. With limited draft selections this year, McKenzie made some nice selections. Tony Bergstrom and Miles Burris proved to be high-value selections for their respected rounds.
The Raiders just didn't have enough at their disposal this offseason, which causes me to point their stock arrow down.
Philadelphia has had another Dream Team-type offseason without them declaring it that like they did last year. First-round rookie Fletcher Cox will be added to an already deep defensive line rotation. As the Giants and Jerry Reese have preached, it never hurts to have too many good defensive linemen at your disposal.
Trading Asante Samuel to Atlanta was a bit of a head-scratcher, but I understand it makes sense considering they want to free up some cap space. Brandon Boykin will look to take Samuel's spot in the defensive backfield. Boykin fell a bit to No. 123, as many felt that he should have gone much earlier.
Evan Mathis and Trent Cole were both re-signed to well-deserved long-term deals. Both guys are top players at their positions; I would be hard-pressed to name a better defensive end and offensive guard. After Jason Peters went down for the season, the Eagles brought Demetress Bell into the mix. He played well as a spot starter in Buffalo, so expect him to excel as a full-time starter.
This year may prove to be the year, just like last year was supposed to be. Vick's play needs to improve, and the defense needs to be more consistent, but the Eagles' stock is going up.
It seems like year after year, Big Ben is scrambling for his life in the offensive backfield, but this year may prove to be different as they put a major focus on the offensive line in the offseason. David DeCastro and Mike Adams were their top two draft choices, and both are projected to be first-year starters.
Losing Aaron Smith and James Farrior should be painless considering both are just recognizable names at this point in their careers. The drafting of Alameda Ta'amu and Sean Spence was the writing on the wall. Ta'amu could easily push Steve McLendon for the starting nose tackle position.
The offense didn't have many additions at the skill positions, but Todd Haley as offensive coordinator could prove to be lethal. Haley has deployed some pretty strong passing attacks in the past; Roethlisberger has the arm strength and mobility for Haley's vertical passing game.
Now that the Steelers actually have an offensive line, their stock is ascending.
San Diego Chargers
With the loss of Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson, the Chargers needed to find a couple of players who could replace his production. It took two guys—Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal—and they will be relied upon heavily for production.
Jarret Johnson and Melvin Ingram will both provide solid play to an already talented group of linebackers. Johnson was a top player when he was with the Ravens, and I doubt they would have let him go if they would have known Terrell Suggs was going to get hurt. Johnson doesn't offer much of a pass rush, but he sure can stop the run.
Losing Kris Dielman will hurt the Chargers offensive line, but Philip Rivers is used to poor offensive line play. He's used to playing with Brandyn Dombrowski and Jeromey Clary. Rex Hadnot is an average offensive lineman who comes over from Arizona and will be nothing more than a backup.
The Chargers are idling; they can't decide if their stock is headed up or down.
San Francisco 49ers
I'm sure I will make a few 49ers fans mad with my upcoming comments, but I will be sure to get to the good things first.
The 49ers defense was arguably the best unit in football last year, and it's amazing that they are returning all 11 of their starters. That's a pretty rare feat in the free-agency era. They also did a nice job of adding new weapons for quarterback Alex Smith.
Randy Moss and Mario Manningham coupled with Michael Crabtree should prove to be scary as long as Smith gets them the ball. It's hard to believe Smith will play as well as he did last year, because he's never been consistent at any point in his career.
Now for the bad news. The offensive line still has problems. Some credit Alex Smith with holding onto the ball for too long, but 51 sacks is 51 sacks. All of those aren't Smith's fault, but a lot of the problems come from the the right side.
Anthony Davis' play is awful, and Adam Snyder's play at right guard stunk. Alex Boone should be able to hold his own at right guard this year, but it may be time to start thinking about upgrading right guard and right tackle.
Even with a couple of offensive line problems, the 49ers' stock is on the rise.
Signing Matt Flynn and drafting Russell Wilson will bring plenty of competition to the quarterback position. Tarvaris Jackson played well at times last year but did a poor job of holding on to the ball too long and taking sacks.
Pete Carroll loves nothing more than competition at every position, so watching Jackson, Flynn and Wilson battle it out will be a treat.
Picking Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner in the draft weren't popular decisions. Irvin is a bit of a one-trick pony, but he wasn't drafted to be a three-down defensive lineman, so don't expect that out of him. He was drafted to be a pass-rushing specialist opposite of Chris Clemons. Third down will be his money down early on in his career.
Wagner projects as the middle linebacker and will have to beat out Barrett Ruud, which shouldn't be too tough considering Ruud was one of the worst middle linebackers in all of football last year.
There wasn't a bigger surprise than the Seahawks cutting big Mike Williams this offseason. The moved saved over $3 million in cap room, but one has to think his rehab on his broken leg was behind schedule.
Matt Flynn under center is a stock jumper itself; there's no way Jackson even gets close to beating him out.
St. Louis Rams
Newly-appointed head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead should win some sort of award for the offseason they've had. St. Louis has managed to hoard picks for the next few years and even managed to draft a couple of instant starters for the 2011 season.
Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson were drafted to help tighten up a very weak secondary. Not to mention, Fisher lured Cortland Finnegan to St. Louis to the tune of $50 million. Michael Brockers, William Hayes and Kendall Langford were all brought in to fix one of the NFL's worst run defenses.
Quarterback Sam Bradford has needed some help at wide receiver for the past couple seasons, so the Rams spent a second-round selection on Brian Quick and a fourth-round pick on Chris Givens. With the current talent level at wideout, I'm sure neither of them will have a problem pushing for playing time early on in the season.
St. Louis may have a hard time topping San Francisco for the division, but their stock is warming and should be much improved.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are looking to turn things around after a free fall in 2011. Josh Freeman's rebound will be the key to their success, so expect Greg Schiano to do everything in his power to make sure Freeman has a campaign like 2010's.
Tampa Bay didn't hold anything back in free agency.
They threw a pile of money at Vincent Jackson, and they threw another at Carl Nicks—two very good investments. Their offense did a complete nosedive last season, and it was hard for them to do anything right at times. Running the football was one of the few things they did in 2011, and expect them to build upon last season with the addition of Doug Martin.
After spending a lot of resources on upgrading the offense, the Bucs made sure the defense got upgraded as well. Mark Barron and Eric Wright will be the two most notable upgrades in the secondary, while Amobi Okoye and Gary Gibson add another wrinkle to the defensive line.
To think Tampa Bay will climb to the top of the division might be a little far-fetched, but they are idling and waiting to take that next step.
After losing a couple of pass-rushers along the defensive line, Tennessee went out and signed one of the best on the market in Kamerion Wimbley. Additionally, Leger Douzable comes in from Jacksonville as an effective situational pass-rusher that excels when his snaps are monitored.
Steve Hutchinson will replace long-time starter Jake Scott on the offensive line. Hutchinson and Scott are seen as equal players, the only real difference being their ages. The biggest acquisition on offense was a wide receiver to put opposite of Kenny Britt. Kendall Wright should serve as a great downfield target for either Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck.
The re-signing of Michael Griffin took me by surprise—not the fact that they re-signed him but the fact they gave him so much money. Anyone who watches Griffin knows he plays all too average at times and is a bit of a gambler.
Houston should take the AFC South, but if any one team were to put up a good fight, it would be the Titans. Come training camp, if Jake Locker is starting, their stock is looking up. But if Hasselbeck is starting, things are headed down.
Outside of the Robert Griffin III move, the Redskins' offseason failed to pack a lasting punch. Pierre Garçon is a very fast and talented No. 2 receiver, but overspending for him to come to your team doesn't sound like a very sound strategy.
The same goes for wide receiver Joshua Morgan, who has proved he can play in the league, but injury questions loom.
The Redskins struggled severely against the pass last season, and it puzzles me that they did nothing to upgrade their secondary. Cedric Griffin was a decent attempt, but his play is all over the board, and it's hard to find consistency in his game.
Their draft also raised questions. I get that it is important that Griffin has a quality backup, but they took him off the board way too early. He may be trade bait down the road, but that early in the draft—no way. An impact player could've been had with the 102nd pick, maybe he would have helped upgrade the secondary.
Washington will be better because of Robert Griffin III, but outside of him, their stock is falling.