The NFL offseason is awesome. It's the most exciting time of year in terms of roster moves and is the premier opportunity for teams to improve.
Many NFL teams took an active approach in free agency and are greatly improved because of it.
The Oakland Raiders are a shining example of this largely because of their defensive signings, but they also made a splash when they signed Maurice Jones-Drew. They stand to be a much more improved team and will follow up a low 2013 season with a much better campaign in 2014.
They aren't the only team that will be exceeding expectations when next season comes around but will surely be one of the most impressive.
The Raiders had a ton of holes in their roster when free agency started but have since plugged most of them rather efficiently. They certainly made the most of the free-agency period, bringing in several quality players on both sides of the ball.
The Raiders got their starting quarterback and running back while also adding guys like Lamarr Woodley and Justin Tuck to their front seven. The signing of James Jones will also help boost their offense, giving Matt Schaub a reliable weapon in the passing game and Denarius Moore a legitimate threat across from himself.
Oakland is in quite a tough division with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs but certainly stands to be much more competitive once the 2014 season begins.
Overall, the Raiders have taken a big step forward over the past month and will surely be a much tougher team to beat next season.
It would be hard for the Washington Redskins to do any worse than they did in 2013, but it really doesn't look like the rain clouds will be hovering above the franchise's playoff hopes much longer. They've taken a very smart and conservative approach to free agency outside of the DeSean Jackson signing, which was reported by ESPN.com (h/t John Breech of CBSSports.com), and are setting themselves up for a big rebound in 2014.
Adding Andre Roberts will pay big dividends for Robert Griffin III given the respect he demands as a slot receiver, but having both Jackson and Pierre Garcon on the outside will open the Redskins' playbook wide open. In a short amount of time they've become a much more dangerous offense and have arguably the best receiver tandem in the league.
While their offense stands to be much improved with the signing of those two receivers, the defense also looks like it will be much better off next season. Adding Jason Hatcher to the defensive line will add some grit to the Redskins' rotation, and he will be valuable as a pass-rusher.
Washington desperately needed some help in its secondary and finally got that in Ryan Clark. The veteran safety and once-Redskin will prove to be more than a worthy starter—he will also act as a mentor to Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo.
The Redskins bolstered two of their three biggest positions of need and can now target a solid lineman with their first selection in the draft. If they can find someone who can start on the right side across from Trent Williams and do a competent job, then it will be hard to stop this offense.
New York Jets
The New York Jets have done a solid job in free agency, finding a quarterback who can start for them and a No. 1 receiver. The Michael Vick signing, as reported by Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com, is more about competition for Geno Smith, as he could very well win the job still, but at the very least Vick provides some nice leadership for the offense and someone Smith can learn from.
Vick would probably be the Jets' best bet to reach the playoffs, but it's a pretty unclear situation right now. One thing is for sure though: Adding Eric Decker was a smart idea no matter who is quarterbacking this team. He may not be the same player he was in Denver because he'll be without Peyton Manning, but there's no denying Decker's ability as a receiver.
The Jacoby Ford signing should also prove to be a fruitful one, as his explosion is well-documented during his years with the Raiders, and could be a nice option on the inside of Gang Green's offense.
They also have Chris Ivory, who ran extremely well for New York last year, not to mention Bilal Powell, who's played well for them over the past couple of seasons.
I have a strong feeling that Vick will win the starting job for this team, and I believe he'll perform very well. He's reunited with Marty Mornhinweg, who was his offensive coordinator during his days with Philadelphia, and those two created some magic back in the day.
Now that they're back together and Vick will have a solid stable of receivers, it's hard to see the Jets not becoming a better team offensively and competing in this division.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the more laughable teams in the NFL over the past few seasons, but they are finally starting to look like a winning team. Bringing in Lovie Smith was an extremely smart hire and will undoubtedly put this franchise on the clearest path to the top.
He orchestrated several signings such as Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins, as well as Mike Jenkins. They do have a question mark surrounding the quarterback position, but those questions will be answered if Josh McCown can perform in Tampa Bay like he did with the Bears in Chicago last season.
Even if he doesn't pan out, second-year passer Mike Glennon showed enough promise last year for the Bucs to know that he can be the quarterback of this team one day—the only question that remains is when. Whether it's Glennon or McCown, the Buccaneers will benefit from having a new tackle in Collins and should have a much smoother offense.
Expect Smith to beef up their defensive output as well, especially with all the talent they have on that side of the ball. The Bucs are an improving team that will once again be relevant in their division before long.
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