NFL Teams Enjoying the Best Offseasons so Far
Ah, the middle of July! It's a time on the NFL calendar when hope springs eternal for fans across the nation, as training camps get set to open over the next few weeks. With rosters nearly set and the regular season close at hand, it's a perfect time to assess which NFL teams have enjoyed the best offseasons.
Some teams on the list had fantastic drafts, some made trades, and some signed key players in free agency. But the common denominator is that all of these teams greatly improved their stock heading into the 2013 season.
Now, before we count down the NFL teams that have enjoyed the best offseasons, let's start with a few honorable mentions:
1. Chicago Bears
The Bears are on this list solely because of the hiring of head coach Marc Trestman. I used to work with former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio, and Gannon is a huge fan of Trestman, often waxing poetic on his coaching style. Trestman was the right hire and will help improve the fortunes of franchise quarterback Jay Cutler.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This offseason, Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano turned their biggest weakness, pass defense, into a strength with the trade for All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, the signing of safety Dashon Goldson and the drafting of cornerback Johnthan Banks.
As a result, Tampa Bay is poised to make a run at the playoffs this year. However, there are still questions about the Buccaneers' lack of a pass rush, and that's why they're off the main list.
3. St. Louis Rams
For the first time in his career, quarterback Sam Bradford will have legitimate weapons in the passing attack. The team signed tight end Jared Cook and drafted receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, all of whom will be terrors on the turf of the Edward Jones Dome.
Now, on to the main list:
Perhaps more than any other team this offseason, the Miami Dolphins added talent and playmakers on both sides of the ball. General manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin deserve kudos for their aggressive approach in upgrading the 53-man roster.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was solid as a rookie, and the team needed to surround him with more talent on offense. They accomplished that goal with the signing of former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, who will bring a dimension of speed to the offense that hasn't been present. In addition, the team poached tight end Dustin Keller away from the Jets, and he will prove to be a security blanket for Tannehill.
On defense, the Dolphins signed linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who will shore up the middle of the defense, and traded up to the third overall pick of the draft, where they selected Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan. If Jordan can fulfill his potential, he will team up with fellow end Cameron Wake to constitute a devastating one-two pass-rushing punch.
All of these moves make the Dolphins an easy inclusion on this list.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a team on the cusp of breaking through, and the team took the necessary steps this offseason to help ensure that possibility.
The team knocked the draft out of the park, as they selected Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round and North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard in the second round. Both players will bring pop and sizzle to an offense in desperate need of it.
Cincinnati has qualified for the postseason in each of the past two seasons but have lost to the Texans in Houston each time. The Bengals' success or failures this season are predicated on the right arm of quarterback Andy Dalton. Adding Eifert and Bernard will greatly help Dalton, so that makes the Bengals an offseason winner.
Yes, the Ravens lost legendary linebacker Ray Lewis to retirement. Yes, legendary safety Ed Reed signed with Houston. Yes, playoff hero and pass-rushing terror Paul Kruger signed with Cleveland. Yes, wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded to San Francisco.
It doesn't matter. It's the Baltimore Ravens' world, and we're just living in it.
General manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta form the best front office in all of sports, and head coach John Harbaugh is as savvy as they come. The Ravens aren't rebuilding; they already reloaded.
The team brought in defensive end Elvis Dumervil to replace Kruger, signed defensive tackle Chris Canty and safety Michael Huff and had an outstanding draft, netting safety Matt Elam (Round 1), linebacker Arthur Brown (Round 2) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (Round 3).
It's possible that the 2013 iteration of the Ravens could be better than 2012's Super Bowl-winning version. That makes them offseason winners.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs had a miserable 2012 season, bottoming out with the worst record in football at 2-14.
With that said, no team is poised to have a bigger turnaround in 2013 than the Chiefs, and they have an impressive offseason to thank for that.
First was the hiring of head coach Andy Reid, who brings a proven track record of success. He was the perfect hire. New general manager John Dorsey is fantastic at his job as well.
The team promptly traded for quarterback Alex Smith, and while Smith will never be confused with Joe Montana, he's certainly an upgrade over the Matt Cassel/Brady Quinn pu pu platter.
Then, the Chiefs selected Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick of the 2013 draft, and Fisher should be an impact starter from day one.
This offseason, the Chiefs improved their coaching staff, front office and roster. That's a winning combination.
Last season, the Atlanta Falcons finally got over the proverbial hump when they won their first playoff game in the coach Mike Smith/quarterback Matt Ryan era. However, the team lost the NFC championship game to San Francisco in heartbreaking fashion, leaving the team left to pick up the pieces and wonder what might have been.
In response, general manager Thomas Dimitroff has done his best to build his team into a squad capable of reaching the Super Bowl.
The signing of running back Steven Jackson was among the biggest moves of the offseason, as Jackson clearly has a lot left in the tank. Plus, the Falcons addressed their pass-rushing need with the signing of defensive end Osi Umenyiora, and Dimitroff moved up in the first round of the draft to select cornerback Desmond Trufant, adding to an already talented secondary.
The result of this wheeling-and-dealing? The Falcons are once again one of the primary favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and will be better in 2013 than in 2012.
The Seattle Seahawks' offseason has been a spectacular one, as general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have added talent to an already star-studded roster.
First, the team addressed their deficiencies in the pass rush with the signing of defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Seattle's biggest bugaboo last season was its inability to get at the opposing quarterback with consistency, so those signings filled a major need.
But the biggest move for Seattle? The trade for explosive (yet mercurial) wide receiver Percy Harvin.
Harvin brings an unbelievable playmaking addition to the Seahawks offense and special teams, as he's a player capable of taking over a game by himself. Injecting him into an already potent offense championed by ultra-talented quarterback Russell Wilson means Seattle will once again be playing deep into January.