NFL Teams Enjoying the Best Offseasons so Far
The offseason is not over just yet, but several NFL teams have already made huge improvements.
Some made their roster upgrades through the draft, while others captured some of the top players in free agency. While many have made improvements, six teams stand out from the rest as this offseason's savviest.
Not every one of these teams signed three top free agents or put together a star-studded draft class. Each however, made a few (or, in some cases, more than a few) key additions that will have a direct and positive impact in 2014.
Here's a look at the six teams that have had the best offseason to date.
New England Patriots
The Patriots were pretty run-of-the-mill in passing defense last season, finishing at No. 18 in that category. New England made the best move it could to improve that aspect of the team next season, signing Darrelle Revis in free agency.
After missing most of the 2012 season, Revis stormed back last year in Tampa Bay. The veteran corner recorded two interceptions, 11 passes defended, 43 tackles and a sack last year.
The Patriots will be expecting similar, if not better, numbers from Revis this season. They have needed top-tier talent at cornerback for years and finally went out and got one of the very best players this offseason.
In addition to Revis, the Patriots made a savvy move in the draft when they took former Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady will be 37 by the time the 2014 season starts.
It was smart for New England to take a highly touted quarterback prospect in one of the league's deepest drafts in recent years.
With Revis helping the team win now and Garoppolo in the future, the Pats made smart short-term and long-term moves this offseason.
In terms of free agency, few teams scored as big as the Denver Broncos.
The defending AFC champions put together a haul, primarily upgrading the defensive side of the football. Denver brought in DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Emmanuel Sanders this free agency.
Talib and Ward should help fix a passing defense that ranked an abysmal 27th in the league last year.
Ware will help to not only create pressure on opposing quarterbacks but improve an already solid run defense. While he had a down year in 2013, the former Cowboy made seven straight Pro Bowls from 2006 to 2012.
As for Sanders, he will take the place of Eric Decker in this potent Denver passing attack. This offense will be in no short supply of explosiveness in 2014.
These new veterans make up for the fact that the Broncos drafted just six rookies in the 2014 NFL draft.
The Minnesota Vikings made this list for the exact opposite reason that the Broncos did.
The Vikes lost star Jared Allen to NFC North rival Chicago in free agency, which was a huge blow to the defense. They made up for his loss by having a masterful draft.
Minnesota took outside linebacker Anthony Barr with the No. 9 overall pick. The rookie helps ease the loss of Allen from a pass-rushing standpoint and adds a young building block to this unit.
The UCLA product should do well with 2013 first-rounder Sharrif Floyd helping lead the defensive line.
After securing Barr, the Vikings made a move to get back into the first round and got their franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32 overall.
Based on its first-round moves alone, Minnesota put together a solid draft. With both players in place, the Vikings might not be in a rebuilding period for too much longer.
St. Louis Rams
After selecting Pittsburgh product Aaron Donald in this year's draft, the St. Louis Rams have four former first-rounders manning their defensive line.
Before taking Donald, the team invested in some protection for quarterback Sam Bradford by taking offensive tackle Greg Robinson.
The Rams have former first-round picks all over their roster and have put together a fine offseason, thanks in large part to the draft.
Drafting cornerback Lamarcus Joyner in the second round should help ease the loss of veteran Cortland Finnegan in free agency.
Aside from Finnegan, the Rams lost very few notable names from last year's squad. They were able to re-sign guard Rodger Saffold and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, preventing two talented players from walking away.
Free agency was not a lively one from the Rams' perspective, but bringing in troubled yet talented Kenny Britt was a smart move. His one-year, $4.5 million contract is a low-risk, high-reward deal.
St. Louis plays in arguably the most difficult and talented division in the NFL in the NFC West. Making the playoffs will be a tall task for the Rams, but these new additions will keep them in the hunt throughout 2014.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The decision to change jersey styles was one of the Buccaneers' few faults this offseason.
They took a chance and brought in journeyman Josh McCown to be their new starting quarterback. This was definitely a risky move by the Bucs and one that could backfire, but it's easy to be impressed by McCown's 2013 season.
Last year he stepped in for an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago and threw for 13 touchdowns and almost 2,000 yards. He did all that in just eight game appearances and only five starts.
Some of the safer moves that Tampa Bay executed were bringing in defensive end Michael Johnson from Cincinnati and taking wide receiver Mike Evans in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Pairing Evans with Vincent Jackson gives McCown two dynamic receivers to utilize in the passing game. The team will also be expecting second-round pick, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to contribute a fair amount as well.
In one offseason, the Bucs made huge strides in creating a respectable offense and even added some upgrades to their talented defense.
After just falling short of qualifying for the postseason last year, the Bears have been determined to reach that goal in 2014.
Chicago was one of the most active teams during free agency, reeling in some top-tier talent to help this team win the NFC North.
One-time divisional foes Jared Allen, Willie Young and M.D. Jennings will now be suiting up for the home team at Soldier Field. The team also brought in the likes of ace special teamer Danny McCray, Israel Idonije and Lamarr Houston.
The Bears were not only some of the biggest winners of free agency, but they also made smart decisions on draft day.
Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton will work alongside veterans like Jennings and Allen. With the combination of rookies and veterans that Chicago has brought in, this team is ready to get back to its hard-nosed defensive roots.
All statistics were retrieved from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.
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