NFL

Progress Reports for All 32 Teams' NFL Offseason so Far

Russell S. BaxterContributor IApril 16, 2014

Progress Reports for All 32 Teams' NFL Offseason so Far

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    Peyton Manning will have plenty of new teammates with the Denver Broncos in 2014.
    Peyton Manning will have plenty of new teammates with the Denver Broncos in 2014.Paul Sancya

    How you doin’?

    We are less than four weeks away from the 2014 NFL draft. And with roughly three months of retooling following this past season, here’s a look at how each franchise is doing in its pursuit of Super Bowl XLIX, which is less than 10 months from now.

    For everyone’s convenience, we have included the significant comings and goings for all 32 clubs, as well as the number of draft choices a team has at its disposal next month.

    Please keep in mind that these grades reflect the work done by each club this offseason to date. These are neither power rankings nor forecasts in terms of gauging a team’s eventual success in September.

    We have considered numerous factors such as arrivals, departures, team strengths and areas that still need shoring up, as well as what clubs may be able to address with their draft picks. New coaching staffs, including coordinator changes, are accounted for as well.

    Remember, there’s still a draft to be had and many more moves for each team to make.

Arizona Cardinals: B

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    Rick Scuteri

    Key Arrivals: CB Antonio Cromartie, T Jared Veldheer, TE John Carlson, RB Jonathan Dwyer, C Ted Larsen, WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr.

    Key Departures: ILB Karlos Dansby, WR Andre Roberts, RB Rashard Mendenhall, ILB Jasper Brinkley, G Daryn Colledge, CB Antoine Cason

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 6

    The Arizona Cardinals surprised everyone (except maybe themselves) by going 10-6 this past season, doubling their win total from 2012.

    However, having 10 wins ensures nothing these days, especially in the formidable NFC West.

    So what has the team done to take that next step in an attempt to vault the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in the division? The free-agent additions of left tackle Jared Veldheer and cornerback Antonio Cromartie appear to be upgrades at their positions. The signings of wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and running back Jonathan Dwyer should add a little oomph to an offense that made strides in 2013 under new head coach Bruce Arians.

    But what to do regarding the loss of veteran defenders in the form of inside linebacker Karlos Dansby (Cleveland Browns) and strong safety Yeremiah Bell (unsigned), who finished No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the team in tackles in 2013?

    Kevin Minter, a second-round pick in 2013, is expected to take over for Dansby, while Tony Jefferson appears to be the front-runner for now to replace Bell. But Arizona could address the latter position early in the draft.

Atlanta Falcons: C+

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez

    Key Arrivals: KR Devin Hester, DE Tyson Jackson, DT Paul Soliai, G Jon Asamoah, CB Javier Arenas, CB Josh Wilson, SS Dwight Lowery

    Key Departures: TE Tony Gonzalez, FS Thomas DeCoud, OLB Stephen Nicholas, CB Asante Samuel, G Garrett Reynolds, RB Jason Snelling

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 10

    From flying high in 2012 to a broken wing in 2013, the Atlanta Falcons went from the NFC’s No. 1 seed to a four-win team in one year.

    The problems, besides some key injuries, were somewhat familiar. Despite the success of the previous season, Mike Smith’s team struggled to run the ball and wasn't very good at stopping it. This past year, things got even worse in both departments.

    In order to rectify those issues, general manager Thomas Dimitroff added veteran defensive linemen Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai in order to slow down the opposition’s ground attack. Guard Jon Asamoah, Jackson’s teammate with the Kansas City Chiefs, looks to help Atlanta improve the NFL’s worst ground attack in 2013.

    The releases of free safety Thomas DeCoud and cornerback Asante Samuel ensured that this would be a new-look secondary. Now let’s see if the Falcons will look more like their recent old selves this fall.

Baltimore Ravens: C

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    Wilfredo Lee

    Key Arrivals: WR Steve Smith, TE Owen Daniels, C Jeremy Zuttah, SS Darian Stewart, RB Justin Forsett

    Key Departures: T Michael Oher, CB Corey Graham, DT Arthur Jones, TE Ed Dickson, FB Vonta Leach, ILB Jameel McClain, WR Tandon Doss, SS James Ihedigbo

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 8

    For the first time in the John Harbaugh era, the Baltimore Ravens are not coming off a playoff campaign.

    The franchise doesn’t intend on making that a habit.

    Offensive balance proved to be one reason for the team’s 8-8 finish this past season. Only two teams in the league totaled fewer yards on the ground than the Ravens, while quarterback Joe Flacco, minus veteran wideout Anquan Boldin for good and tight end Dennis Pitta for the first 12 games of the season, proved to be a less-than-ordinary one-man show.

    That should change a bit with the addition of veteran pass-catchers such as wideout Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers) and tight end Owen Daniels (Houston Texans). Baltimore’s defense was respectable in 2013.

    Still, that lack of a running game a year ago proved to be somewhat disconcerting. Is Ray Rice primed for a bounce-back season? Will Bernard Pierce be more of a factor in 2014? Does general manager Ozzie Newsome have something up his sleeve come draft time?

Buffalo Bills: B-

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    Bill Wippert

    Key Arrivals: WR Mike Williams, MLB Brandon Spikes, OLB Keith Rivers, G Chris Williams, CB Corey Graham, RB Anthony Dixon, DE Jarius Wynn

    Key Departures: FS Jairus Byrd, QB Kevin Kolb, ILB Arthur Moats, DT Alex Carrington

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 6

    Fans of the Buffalo Bills have to be saying "enough already."

    No playoff appearance since 1999, the longest current drought in the league. Six straight finishes in the AFC East basement since 2008.

    Still, there were some promising signs this past season under first-time head coach Doug Marrone. The team’s top three picks in the 2013 draft—quarterback EJ Manuel, wide receiver Robert Woods and linebacker Kiko Alonsoall played significant roles. The Bills finished with 30 takeaways and ranked second in the NFL with 57 sacks.

    But no playoffs are indeed no playoffs. Earlier this month, Buffalo acquired wide receiver Mike Williams from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During free agency, the team added veterans Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers to the linebacking corps.

    In March, Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd signed with the New Orleans Saints. Once again, the team lost a quality player via free agency. We’ll see if Marrone’s team can adjust to his departure.

Carolina Panthers: C-

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: WR Jason Avant, WR Jerricho Cotchery, WR Tiquan Underwood, FS Thomas DeCoud, SS Roman Harper, TE Ed Dickson, CB Antoine Cason, QB/WR Joe Webb

    Key Departures: WR Steve Smith, WR/KR Ted Ginn, WR/KR Domenik Hixon, WR Brandon LaFell, T Jordan Gross, CB Captain Munnerlyn, G Geoff Hangartner, FS Mike Mitchell

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 7

    When Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told his pass-catchers to go out wide, they apparently didn’t know when to stop.

    Gone are veteran Steve Smith (released by the team after 13 seasons), Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon. That group combined for more than half (156) of Newton’s 292 completions and 15 of the signal-caller’s 24 touchdown passes this past season.

    In their place are Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood, so far. Could the team use the 28th overall selection on a wide receiver next month?

    Meanwhile, Carolina’s secondary will have a different yet not unfamiliar look to NFC South fans, as safeties Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud, who were released this offseason by the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, respectively, are now members of the defending division champs.

    And it’s a division that has never been won by the same team in consecutive seasons.

Chicago Bears: A

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: DE Jared Allen, DE Lamarr Houston, DE Willie Young, DE Israel Idonije, WR/KR Domenik Hixon, C Brian de la Puente, SS Ryan Mundy, SS M.D. Jennings, TE Matthew Mulligan

    Key Departures: KR Devin Hester, DE Julius Peppers, DT Henry Melton, QB Josh McCown, WR Earl Bennett, P Adam Podlesh, RB Michael Bush, DE/DT Corey Wootton, CB Zackary Bowman, SS Major Wright

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 7

    It proved to be quite a year in the Windy City.

    Only the Denver Broncos scored more points than the Chicago Bears in 2013.

    Only the Minnesota Vikings allowed more points than Marc Trestman’s team this past season.

    We will focus on the latter. The Bears were 30th in the league in total defense, dead last versus the run and managed only 31 sacks, tied for the fewest in the NFL.

    So what’s an organization to do? Add a pair of emerging defensive ends in Lamarr Houston and Willie Young and a savvy veteran in Jared Allen in free agency. Veteran cornerback Charles Tillman returns for his 12th season with the club.

    Meanwhile, a lot of recent familiar faces on defense are gone in the form of defensive end Julius Peppers, defensive tackle Henry Melton and strong safety Major Wright.

    Quarterback Jay Cutler (when healthy) proved last season that the Bears can put up points with the best of teams. Now Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker must prove they can stop the opposition from doing the same.

    So far, all signs point to the positives.

Cincinnati Bengals: C

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: FS Danieal Manning, QB Jason Campbell, T Marshall Newhouse

    Key Departures: DE Michael Johnson, T Anthony Collins, OLB James Harrison, CB Brandon Ghee, WR Andrew Hawkins

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 9

    The Cincinnati Bengals have reached the playoffs a team-record three consecutive years and four of the last five seasons.

    Over that span, they have won a pair of division titles (2009 and 2013), posted 10 or more wins three times and compiled a 44-36 regular-season record.

    And they still haven’t won a playoff game since 1990.

    Getting back to the playoffs in 2014 won’t be easy for Marvin Lewis’ talented team. The club has both a new offensive coordinator (Hue Jackson) and defensive coordinator (Paul Guenther) via the departures of Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, who are now the head coaches of the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings, respectively.

    In terms of talent, the Bengals saw a pair of talented and young performers leave via free agency in the form of defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins, who both signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Can Cincinnati overcome a pair of key losses, along with the departure of both of its highly regarded coordinators? It may not be a given considering the competitiveness of the always formidable AFC North.

Cleveland Browns: B+

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: ILB Karlos Dansby, SS Donte Whitner, RB Ben Tate, WR Nate Burleson, WR Andrew Hawkins, CB Isaiah Trufant, TE Jim Dray, G/T Paul McQuistan

    Key Departures: SS T.J. Ward, G Shawn Lauvao, QB Brandon Weeden, QB Jason Campbell, ILB D’Qwell Jackson, WR Davone Bess, G/T Oniel Cousins

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 10

    Since 2011, the only team in the AFC North that has finished every season with a losing record would be the Cleveland Browns, who dropped their final seven games in 2013.

    Hence Mike Pettine is the team’s eighth head coach since Cleveland made its way back to the NFL in 1999. The defensive specialist is hoping inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and strong safety Donte Whitner bring a little moxie to a unit that always seems to have its issues stopping the run.

    Offensively, scoring points has usually been a chore for the Browns, who will go with Brian Hoyer at quarterback as long as he stays healthy, which was not the case a year ago. He will now have running back Ben Tate in the backfield, and wideouts Josh Gordon (the NFL leader in receiving yards in 2013) and Greg Little will be joined by Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins.

    Now let’s see if the Browns are ready to join the rest of their AFC North brethren in terms of being a consistent playoff factor.

Dallas Cowboys: D+

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: DT Henry Melton, QB Brandon Weeden, DT Terrell McClain, DE Jeremy Mincey

    Key Departures: DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware, DT Jason Hatcher, WR Miles Austin, C/G Phil Costa, DE Everette Brown, DE Jarius Wynn

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 11

    There was once a television series called Eight Is Enough.

    There is currently a sitcom of sorts in Dallas known as “8-8, Enough Already.”

    Dating back to 1997, the Dallas Cowboys have won one playoff game, own a very balanced 136-136 regular-season record and have just as many playoff losses as head coaches (six). They have also finished each of the last three seasons with an 8-8 record and haven’t been to the postseason since 2009.

    Now the Cowboys will be minus the services of two standouts in defensive end/outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and wide receiver Miles Austin, who were both released by the club. Add in the free-agent defection of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher to the Washington Redskins, and it will be interesting to see just how the league’s worst defense of a year ago figures to get better.

    Of course, will things ever get better for the Cowboys as currently constructed?

Denver Broncos: A-

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: DE DeMarcus Ware, CB Aqib Talib, SS T.J. Ward, WR Emmanuel Sanders, C Will Montgomery

    Key Departures: RB Knowshon Moreno, DE/OLB Shaun Phillips, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Champ Bailey, WR Eric Decker, ILB Wesley Woodyard, G Zane Beadles, DE Robert Ayers, WR/KR Trindon Holliday

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 7

    There’s no doubt that the Denver Broncos don’t want anything to with reminiscing about Super Bowl XLVIII.

    That obviously includes some of the players who were a part of that 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Gone are a slew of starters from last season, including wide receiver Eric Decker, running back Knowshon Moreno, defensive end Shaun Phillips and cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey, to name a few.

    As a result, the Broncos have added their own set of standout triplets to the club in the form of defensive end DeMarcus Ware and 2013 Pro Bowlers Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. Quarterback Peyton Manning will also have wideout Emmanuel Sanders to throw to instead of Decker.

    It's safe to say that there will be plenty of new faces in Denver—a pretty significant fact for a defending conference champion.

Detroit Lions: B

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    Rick Osentoski

    Key Arrivals: WR Golden Tate, DE/OLB Darryl Tapp, FB Jed Collins, SS James Ihedigbo, QB Dan Orlovsky, CB Cassius Vaughn

    Key Departures: WR Nate Burleson, S Louis Delmas, DE Willie Young, C/G Leroy Harris, DE Israel Idonije, QB Shaun Hill

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 8

    One playoff appearance in 14 seasons isn’t exactly the most ideal situation for any new head coach.

    Welcome to the Motor City, Jim Caldwell.

    Is he the man who can lead the Detroit Lions out of their latest doldrums?

    As we know, this is not a team that lacks talent. But it has certainly been missing something. Dating back to 2000, the Lions have made one playoff appearance in 14 seasons.

    The team is hoping wide receiver Golden Tate will make Calvin Johnson even more dangerous, if that is even possible. There is a new face in the secondary in safety James Ihedigbo, while cornerback Rashean Mathis is back for a second season with the Lions, according to Dave Dye of Fox Sports Detroit.

    Now let’s see if Caldwell can lead this club back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and win a postseason game for the first time since 1991.

Green Bay Packers: B

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Key Arrivals: DE/OLB Julius Peppers, DT Letroy Guion

    Key Departures: WR James Jones, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, SS M.D. Jennings, T Marshall Newhouse, DE/DT C.J. Wilson

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 9

    When it’s all said and done in regard to free agency, the Green Bay Packers continue to do what they do best.

    Re-sign their own players.

    Such was the case this offseason with cornerback Sam Shields, defensive lineman B.J. Raji, fullback John Kuhn and running back James Starks. Tuesday was more of the same, as backup quarterback Matt Flynn re-upped with the Packers, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com and via colleague Adam Schefter.

    Of course, Green Bay did make some news with the signing of Julius Peppers, who was released after four seasons with the Chicago Bears. The former second overall pick (2002) will be an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid in Dom Capers’ defensive scheme.

    The Packers are looking for as much help as possible for a unit that finished in the bottom fourth of the NFL in both total yards and rushing yards allowed in 2013.

Houston Texans: C

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: RB Andre Brown, FS Chris Clemons, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, NT Jerrell Powe, FS Kendrick Lewis

    Key Departures: QB Matt Schaub, RB Ben Tate, TE Owen Daniels, DT Earl Mitchell, DT/DE Antonio Smith, SS Danieal Manning, CB Brice McCain, DT Terrell McClain, ILB Joe Mays, ILB Darryl Sharpton, T Andrew Gardner

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 11

    Congratulations are not in order for the AFC South as the group kept a dubious streak alive in 2013.

    This past season, the Houston Texans became the third consecutive club within this division to finish with a 2-14 record.

    Now they hope to become the third straight NFL team to rebound and make the playoffs following such a disastrous showing. Both the 2012 Indianapolis Colts and 2013 Kansas City Chiefs finished 11-5 and grabbed wild-card berths following two-win seasons.

    The Texans will attempt that with a new head coach in Bill O’Brien and a lot of new faces, considering some of the old faces are no longer around. Gone are quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Ben Tate, tight end Owen Daniels, defensive linemen Antonio Smith and Earl Mitchell, and safety Danieal Manning.

    The team did add veteran signal-caller Ryan Fitzpatrick. But we will all be watching what Houston does with the first overall pick on May 8.

    Or perhaps the 33rd overall selection on May 9?

Indianapolis Colts: C+

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: WR Hakeem Nicks, DT Arthur Jones, C/G Phil Costa, ILB D’Qwell Jackson

    Key Departures: SS Antoine Bethea, RB Donald Brown, ILB Kavell Conner, RB Tashard Choice, C Samson Satele, T Jeffrey Linkenbach, G/C Mike McGlynn, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 5

    For the second straight season, the Indianapolis Colts finished 11-5. In 2012, that was good enough for a wild-card berth. This past season, it added up to an AFC South title.

    But all is far from perfect for quarterback Andrew Luck and his club. Despite the presence of the league’s top sack artist in 2013 in outside linebacker Robert Mathis (19.5), the Colts still have many questions to answer on the defensive side of the football.

    General manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano are hoping defensive tackle Arthur Jones and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson can solve some of the team’s issues on that side of the ball. In the playoffs alone in January, the Colts gave up a combined 87 points and 384 yards rushing versus the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots.

    Now we will see what Grigson does with a league-low five draft choices in May, which includes zero picks in the first round.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B+

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: RB Toby Gerhart, G Zane Beadles, DE Chris Clemons, DE Ziggy Hood, DE Red Bryant, WR Tandon Doss

    Key Departures: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, QB Blaine Gabbert, C Brad Meester, WR Jordan Shipley, G Uche Nwaneri, RB Justin Forsett

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 11

    Over the past six seasons, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a combined 31-65. They are just 6-26 over the last two seasons. In 2013, first-time NFL head coach Gus Bradley’s club lost its first eight games and final three contests on the way to a 4-12 showing.

    But things appear to be looking up for a team in desperate need of help, especially when it comes to chasing down opposing quarterbacks. A year after finishing with a league-low 20 sacks in 2012, the Jaguars got to opposing quarterbacks just 31 times this past season, tied for last in the NFL.

    That’s 51 sacks in 32 games for the team, nine fewer sacks (60) than the Carolina Panthers managed in 2013.

    A new-look defensive front featuring the additions of Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Ziggy Hood should help. On offense, quarterback Chad Henne is back and figures to be handing off to new running back Toby Gerhart often.

    It’s been a promising offseason for this club, which has the third overall selection and a total of 11 picks in May’s draft.

Kansas City Chiefs: D+

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: ILB Joe Mays, T Jeffrey Linkenbach, DT Vance Walker, CB Chris Owens

    Key Departures: T Branden Albert, WR Dexter McCluster, DE Tyson Jackson, G Jon Asamoah, G/T Geoff Schwartz, SS Quintin Demps, CB Dunta Robinson, ILB Akeem Jordan, FS Kendrick Lewis

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 6

    Following a 9-0 start last season, the Kansas City Chiefs dropped five of their final seven games and then blew a 28-point third-quarter lead in a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

    Now, many of the team’s key components from a year ago are no longer with the club. On offense, gone are wide receiver Dexter McCluster and offensive linemen Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz. On the other side of the ball, defensive end Tyson Jackson and free safety Kendrick Lewis left the team via free agency.

    The Chiefs have been fairly quiet in terms of replacing these players. Andy Reid and his staff have just six selections in this year’s draft and also don’t have a second-round pick next month due to the trade that brought quarterback Alex Smith from San Francisco last March.

    Is Kansas City a playoff contender, or closer to the team that finished 2-14 in 2012? Somewhere in the middle won’t get it done in the AFC West.

Miami Dolphins: B

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: RB Knowshon Moreno, T Branden Albert, G Shelley Smith, DT Earl Mitchell, S Louis Delmas, CB Cortland Finnegan, WR Damian Williams

    Key Departures: FS Chris Clemons, T Jonathan Martin, G John Jerry, DT Paul Soliai, CB Dimitri Patterson, CB Nolan Carroll, CB Chris Owens

    ;Selections in 2014 Draft: 7

    For the second straight offseason, the Miami Dolphins have been a busy bunch of mammals during the free-agency period.

    However, the bottom line is that this franchise still hasn’t posted a winning season or playoff appearance since 2008.

    Still, there’s some reason for optimism. The new left-side tandem of tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith should improve the team’s ability to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked an NFL-high 58 times in 2013. Running back Knowshon Moreno adds another weapon to the Dolphins’ arsenal.

    The secondary will have a few new faces in cornerback Cortland Finnegan and free safety Louis Delmas, who were released by the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions, respectively, this offseason.

    However, the biggest departure is one that head coach Joe Philbin desired the most. That’s the memory of missing the playoffs via two straight losses after an 8-6 start, as well as the drama surrounding the team’s offensive line a year ago.

Minnesota Vikings: C+

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: DT Linval Joseph, DE/DT Corey Wootton, DE Tom Johnson, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Derek Cox, G Vladimir Ducasse

    Key Departures: DE Jared Allen, RB Toby Gerhart, MLB Erin Henderson, TE John Carlson, DT Letroy Guion, WR Greg Childs, CB Chris Cook, QB/WR Joe Webb

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 8

    This past season, no team in the league gave up more points and only the Dallas Cowboys surrendered more total yards than the Minnesota Vikings.

    Those were both major factors in the team’s 5-10-1 finish and decision to part ways with head coach Leslie Frazier.

    Enter Mike Zimmer, the former defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. Exit such veterans as defensive end Jared Allen, now with the Chicago Bears, and defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who is unsigned at the moment.

    Minnesota’s revamped front four now includes defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph, the latter via the New York Giants, and defensive ends Everson Griffen and incumbent Brian Robison. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn hopes to upgrade the secondary.

    At quarterback, three-year pro Christian Ponder will try and fend off Matt Cassel, but both should benefit from the arrival of offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Still, the Vikings need to hit a few home runs in May’s draft.

New England Patriots: A

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: CB Darrelle Revis, CB Brandon Browner, WR Brandon LaFell, SS Patrick Chung

    Key Departures: CB Aqib Talib, MLB Brandon Spikes, RB LeGarrette Blount, S Steve Gregory, NT Isaac Sopoaga, OLB Dane Fletcher, SS Adrian Wilson, TE Matthew Mulligan

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 8

    A lot of changes were one reason why New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a less-than-exceptional season last year. And it was injuries and not philosophy that proved to be the team’s defensive undoing in 2013.

    So how did Bill Belichick’s team finish 12-4, score the third-most points in the league and once again fall just one game short of the Super Bowl?

    This franchise knows how to get it done. It has added up to 13 straight winning seasons and 11 consecutive years of 10 or more wins for the Pats...and counting.

    Speaking of that defense, the team got a pair of shiny new toys in cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, although the latter is suspended for the first four games of 2014.

    Now let’s see when former Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, who went down back on Dec. 5 with a knee injury, will be ready to play.

    Looks like it could be good business as usual for the league’s current definition of consistency.

New Orleans Saints: A-

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: FS Jairus Byrd, CB Champ Bailey, FB Erik Lorig

    Key Departures: RB Darren Sproles, FS Malcolm Jenkins, S Roman Harper, C Brian de la Puente, DE/OLB Will Smith, CB Jabari Greer, DE Kenyon Coleman, WR Lance Moore, RB Jed Collins, T Charles Brown

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 7

    The New Orleans Saints are banking on the fact that less is more.

    Translation: The team has not been very busy during free agency but hopes that its additions pay off handsomely.

    The team added free safety Jairus Byrd from the Buffalo Bills and 15-year cornerback Champ Bailey, who was released by the Denver Broncos this offseason.

    Byrd, a three-time Pro Bowler, has totaled 27 takeaways in five NFL seasons. Bailey has racked up 52 career interceptions but a year ago was limited to only five games and failed to pick off a pass for the first time.

    Meanwhile, the Saints defense was much improved, allowing the fourth-fewest points in the league in 2013. But Sean Payton’s club managed only 19 takeaways in 18 total games (including the playoffs). Some improvement in this department could be the difference in the team’s attempt to dethrone the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South.

    That task would also be made somewhat easier once the Saints sign tight end Jimmy Graham, the designated franchise player, to a contract.

New York Giants: B-

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Walter Thurmond, CB Zackary Bowman, WR Mario Manningham, G/T Geoff Schwartz, G John Jerry, T Charles Brown, RB Rashad Jennings, ILB Jameel McClain, SS Quintin Demps, WR/KR Trindon Holliday, DE Robert Ayers, TE Kellen Davis, QB Josh Freeman

    Key Departures: DE Justin Tuck, WR Hakeem Nicks, RB Andre Brown, C David Baas, DT Linval Joseph, TE Brandon Myers, SS Ryan Mundy, OLB Keith Rivers, G/T Kevin Boothe, WR Louis Murphy

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 7

    A year ago, the New York Giants won seven of their final 10 games following a 0-6 start.

    Despite that fact, it can’t be ignored that they has missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons, even with that Super Bowl XLVI win in 2011.

    For the second straight year, the franchise has been a heavy player during free agency. There was plenty of emphasis put on the secondary with the additions of cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond and Zackary Bowman as well as safety Quintin Demps.

    However, the Giants have also seen their share of departures this offseason, including defensive linemen Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph, wideout Hakeem Nicks and running back Andre Brown.

    What head coach Tom Coughlin would really like to see go away was the team’s inability to hang onto the football in 2013. New York committed a league-high 44 turnovers, which included 27 interceptions by quarterback Eli Manning. Last week, the 10-year pro had ankle surgery, as reported by Ken Belson of The New York Times.

    Likely as insurance and competition for second-year QB Ryan Nassib, the Giants made a recent move to sign strong-armed QB Josh Freeman, via Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, who remains talented despite coming off a disappointing 2013 campaign.

New York Jets: B+

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: RB Chris Johnson, QB Michael Vick, WR Eric Decker, WR/KR Jacoby Ford, T Breno Giacomini, CB Johnny Patrick, CB Dimitri Patterson

    Key Departures: QB Mark Sanchez, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Santonio Holmes, G/T Austin Howard, CB Isaiah Trufant, G Vladimir Ducasse

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 12

    The 2014 offseason for the New York Jets has been quite offensive, to say the least.

    That’s because for the most part this past season, that was the way to describe the team’s play on that side of the football.

    Then-rookie quarterback Geno Smith committed 25 of the team’s 29 turnovers. Rex Ryan’s club totaled 290 points, the fourth-fewest in the league in 2013, and the offensive unit had only 25 touchdowns.

    The 2014 offseason for the New York Jets has been quite offensive, to say the least.

    What to do? The addition of quarterback Michael Vick may or may not be a threat to Smith’s status as a starter. Meanwhile, the signings of wideouts Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford should help a passing attack that produced just 13 scores in 2013.

    And then there’s running back Chris Johnson, who inked a two-year deal with the team on Wednesday afternoon according to Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com. The former Pro Bowler looks to make an impact on a club that ranked sixth in the league in rushing in 2013 and could now be primed for bigger and better things very soon.

Oakland Raiders: A-

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    Tony Avelar

    Key Arrivals: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, QB Matt Schaub, WR James Jones, DE LaMarr Woodley, DE Justin Tuck, DT/DE Antonio Smith, CB Tarell Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, T Donald Penn, G/T Austin Howard, G/T Kevin Boothe

    Key Departures: T Jared Veldheer, DE Lamarr Houston, RB Rashad Jennings, CB Tracy Porter, CB Mike Jenkins, CB Phillip Adams, DT Vance Walker, G Mike Brisiel, WR/KR Jacoby Ford

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 6

    You sometimes feel like you’re rubbing salt in a wound. An 11-year wound.

    Since 2003, the Oakland Raiders own a 53-123 record, have zero winning seasons and have finished with 11 or more losses in nine of those campaigns.

    But there will be no lack of trying by general manager Reggie McKenzie, who looks to rebuild much of his defense for the second straight year. The additions include defensive linemen Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith as well as cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown.

    However, the offense will have plenty of new faces as well. The Raiders traded for quarterback Matt Schaub and gave him running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver James Jones, as well as a new-look offensive line.

    Now let’s see if all of these additions give the Raiders a fighting chance in the AFC West, which sent its other three teams to the playoffs this past season.

Philadelphia Eagles: C+

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: RB Darren Sproles, FS Malcolm Jenkins, CB Nolan Carroll, QB Mark Sanchez, OLB Bryan Braman, T Andrew Gardner

    Key Departures: WR DeSean Jackson, QB Michael Vick, WR Jason Avant, SS Patrick Chung

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 6

    As the defending NFC East champions, the Philadelphia Eagles have made their share of headlines this offseason.

    The release of talented wide receiver DeSean Jackson in late March and his decision to sign with the Washington Redskins remains a topical issue.

    "Not playing with him is definitely going to be different," said Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, per John Keim of ESPN.com. "Playing against him is really going to be different. DeSean’s by far one of the biggest playmakers in the game, and the biggest deep threat there is in the game. Some big shoes to fill, for sure..."

    Even minus Jackson, the Eagles are set at the skill positions with McCoy, the 2013 NFL rushing champion and league leader in total yards from scrimmage. There are also wideouts Jeremy Maclin (who missed all of last season) and Riley Cooper, tight end Brent Celek and, of course, Pro Bowl quarterback Nick Foles. The addition of speedy running back Darren Sproles via a trade with the New Orleans Saints makes this unit scary.

    But make no mistake: Jackson’s departure will certainly be felt.

    Still, it’s the Eagles defense that still raises some concerns. Are the additions of cornerback Nolan Carroll and free safety Malcolm Jenkins enough to improve the secondary? We may not find out until May’s draft, when the Birds could opt for a defensive back on either a Thursday or Friday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B-

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Lance Moore, FS Mike Mitchell, DE/NT Cam Thomas, ILB Arthur Moats, CB Brice McCain, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, P Adam Podlesh

    Key Departures: OLB LaMarr Woodley, FS Ryan Clark, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Jerricho Cotchery, DE Ziggy Hood, ILB Larry Foote, T Levi Brown, TE David Johnson, DE Al Woods, RB Jonathan Dwyer

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 9

    The signings continue for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have shown signs of being a different franchise this offseason.

    Traditionally quiet during free agency, general manager Kevin Colbert has been unusually busy this year. The latest news comes via Steelers.com, which announced that the team inked veteran punter Adam Podlesh to a one-year contract on Tuesday. The specialist was released by the Chicago Bears in March.

    The addition of LeGarrette Blount gives the team a little proven insurance behind young running back Le’Veon Bell, while veteran Lance Moore will try and fill the cleats of third wideout Jerricho Cotchery, who is now with the Carolina Panthers. Safety Mike Mitchell figures to be a starter alongside Troy Polamalu in the secondary.

    Mike Tomlin’s team took its share of hits in free agency as well. However, combine this infusion of veterans with the possibility of nine additional players via the draft, and the Steelers appear determined to end their current streak of two straight 8-8 finishes.

St. Louis Rams: C

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: WR Kenny Britt, DT Alex Carrington, QB Shaun Hill

    Key Departures: CB Cortland Finnegan, SS Darian Stewart, QB Kellen Clemens, G Harvey Dahl, G Chris Williams, G Shelley Smith

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 12

    It’s safe to say that 7-9 doesn’t get you what it used to.

    In 2010, that was good enough to win an NFC West title. In 2013, it was only enough to finish three games out...of third place.

    The St. Louis Rams have not done much when it comes to free agency this offseason, but why should they? Along with the New York Jets, they have a league-high 12 picks at their disposal next month, including the second overall selection.

    As far as additions, wide receiver Kenny Britt hopes to resurrect a disappointing career in St. Louis for the man he played for in Tennessee. Jeff Fisher and the Titans made the former Rutgers University standout a first-round pick in 2009, but Britt has had his ups and downs as of late.

    The Rams are thinking up in 2014, in more ways than one.

San Diego Chargers: A-

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: RB Donald Brown, TE David Johnson, ILB Kavell Conner, QB Kellen Clemens, CB Brandon Ghee

    Key Departures: NT Cam Thomas, QB Charlie Whitehurst, FB LeRon McClain, CB Derek Cox, CB Johnny Patrick, G/T Steve Schilling, WR Lavelle Hawkins

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 7

    If less is more, then you may be seeing more of the San Diego Chargers this upcoming season.

    The team has used free agency well the last month or so. Running back Donald Brown and inside linebacker Kavell Conner are both former Indianapolis Colts, with Brown leading that team in rushing and total touchdowns this past season.

    When healthy, tight end David Johnson can add a little more power to San Diego’s running game. Cornerback Brandon Ghee hopes to contribute in the secondary, while the addition of proven veteran Kellen Clemens is a nice security blanket for quarterback Philip Rivers, who is entering his 11th season.

    All told, it was a nice job by a club that got things rolling just in time in 2013.

San Francisco 49ers: B+

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: SS Antoine Bethea, T Jonathan Martin, CB Chris Cook, QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Brandon Lloyd

    Key Departures: SS Donte Whitner, CB Carlos Rogers, CB Tarell Brown, RB Anthony Dixon, WR Mario Manningham

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 11

    Are the San Francisco 49ers equipped to reach at least the NFC title game for a fourth straight year?

    If you look at their current talent base, there’s little reason to think they won’t be back in the hunt for an NFL title in 2014. Still, in a game that isn’t played on paper, we have seen too many members of this club in the papers of late.

    When it comes to Jim Harbaugh’s club on the field, this team suffered minimal hits this offseason. Perhaps the biggest area of concern is at cornerback. Tarell Brown signed with the Raiders and is joined in Oakland by former teammate Carlos Rogers, who was released by San Francisco more than a month ago. In response, the 49ers added free-agent cornerback Chris Cook (Minnesota Vikings) via a one-year contract.

    With an effective offense and one of the best defensive units in the league, the Niners' needs are very few. And don’t be surprised if they parlay 11 picks in May into something fairly spectacular.

Seattle Seahawks: C+

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: TE Travis Beckum, G/T Stephen Schilling, CB Phillip Adams

    Key Departures: WR Golden Tate, CB Brandon Browner, DE Chris Clemons, DE Red Bryant, CB Walter Thurmond, DT Clinton McDonald, T Breno Giacomini, G/T Paul McQuistan

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 7

    They are the defending Super Bowl champions. And it is safe to say that the Seattle Seahawks have gotten used to this thing called winning as of late.

    Dating back to Week 13 of 2012 and including two playoff runs, Pete Carroll’s team is 22-4 in its last 26 games. Over that span, the Seahawks have limited 20 of their opponents to fewer than 20 points.

    But have the reigning kings of the league lost a few too many subjects? Gone on defense alone are cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, as well as defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. On offense, Super Bowl starters such as wideout Golden Tate and right tackle Breno Giacomini left via free agency.

    We have not seen a team make consecutive Super Bowl appearances or successfully defend its title since the New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004. Despite their recent dominance, the Seahawks have taken their share of significant blows to date, making that repeat thing a little tougher.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Key Arrivals: CB Alterraun Verner, DE Michael Johnson, QB Josh McCown, T Anthony Collins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, CB Mike Jenkins, TE Brandon Myers, G/T Oniel Cousins, DT Clinton McDonald, SS Major Wright, WR Lavelle Hawkins

    Key Departures: CB Darrelle Revis, WR Mike Williams, T Donald Penn, G Davin Joseph, C Jeremy Zuttah, C Ted Larsen, FB Erik Lorig, WR Tiquan Underwood

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 6

    You have probably heard the statistic about no team ever winning the NFC South in back-to-back seasons.

    Are you aware that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the lone team to finish last in this division in consecutive years? The streak is three seasons in a row...and counting?

    New general manager Jason Licht and new head coach Lovie Smith, the former Chicago Bears sideline leader and one-time Bucs assistant, are determined to end that dubious statistic and quickly.

    The team has overhauled the offensive line, brought in veteran quarterback Josh McCown and added some much-needed playmakers on defense in the form of cornerback Alterraun Verner and defensive end Michael Johnson. The Buccaneers recently dealt wide receiver Mike Williams to the Buffalo Bills but have just six picks in the upcoming draft, hence the team’s busy approach to free agency.

    Combine the talent already on the squad, which would include the healthy return of running back Doug Martin, and Coach Smith and company have no intention of going down with the ship in 2014.

Tennessee Titans: B

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: DE/OLB Shaun Phillips, WR Dexter McCluster, ILB Wesley Woodyard, T Michael Oher, DE Al Woods

    Key Departures: RB Chris Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner, PK Rob Bironas, WR Kenny Britt, T David Stewart, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Damian Williams

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 6

    It’s almost hard to believe that the Tennessee Titans owned the best record in the NFL in 2008 with a 13-3 mark.

    And it is also tough to comprehend that the club hasn’t been to the playoffs since then.

    For the second straight offseason, the franchise has been a player in the free-agency market. Of course, this is also a club with a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt. The experienced teacher earned a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an offensive coordinator, took the Arizona Cardinals to the Big Game in 2008 and a year ago helped Mike McCoy get quarterback Philip Rivers’ career back on track with the San Diego Chargers.

    Another new face in Tennessee is defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who brings his 3-4 design to Nashville. The additions of linebackers Shaun Phillips and Wesley Woodyard and defensive end Al Woods will aid that transition.

    Still, it will be a bit of a different team minus running back Chris Johnson, who was released after six 1,000-yard rushing seasons with the club. The addition of versatile Dexter McCluster figures to take the sting out of that decision somewhat.

    Now let’s see how decisive the Titans are when it comes to knocking the Indianapolis Colts off their perch atop the AFC South.

Washington Redskins: B+

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Key Arrivals: WR DeSean Jackson, DT Jason Hatcher, FS Ryan Clark, G Shawn Lauvao, G/C Mike McGlynn, WR Andre Roberts, CB Tracy Porter, ILB Darryl Sharpton

    Key Departures: ILB London Fletcher, DE Adam Carriker, P Sav Rocca, DE/OLB Darryl Tapp, C Will Montgomery, CB Josh Wilson

    Selections in 2014 Draft: 6

    One season after opening 3-6 and winning their final seven games and the NFC East, the Washington Redskins enter 2014 with an eight-game losing streak...as well as a new head coach.

    The once-proud franchise has finished last in the division five of the past six seasons, the lone exception being that NFC East title in 2012.

    Still, there are plenty of smiles on the faces of Redskins fans these days, as the team picked up wide receiver DeSean Jackson from the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles this month. There are some other new faces on offense in the form of wideout Andre Roberts and linemen Shawn Lauvao and Mike McGlynn.

    Washington’s defensive unit, which allowed 52 offensive touchdowns in 2013, has added Jason Hatcher, Darryl Sharpton, Tracy Porter and Ryan Clark.

    While new head coach Jay Gruden still has a lot of work ahead of him, the major coup here is obviously Jackson. The three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and return specialist is not only a tremendous addition to the ‘Skins but also gives defensive coordinator Jim Haslett one less thing to worry about twice per year.

     

    All available free-agent information as well as contract terms are provided by Spotrac (subscription required). Additional information in terms of roster and depth charts is provided by Ourlads.

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