Report Card Grades for Every NFL Team's Offseason at the Start of Training Camp
NFL training camps are so close that you can almost feel the excitement brewing.
Since the Seattle Seahawks hoisted the Lombardi Trophy back in February, we've seen a feverish offseason full of change and even a little controversy.
Ushering in a new group of head coaches, the delayed NFL draft and, of course, free agency gave NFL fans everywhere a chance to enjoy football year-round.
As we prep our minds, bodies and souls for the beginning of training camp, let's jump right in and give each NFL franchise a report card grade for its performance during the 2014 offseason.
New York Jets
Should we start with Michael Vick?
Every year, the New York Jets seem to create some sort of quarterback controversy for themselves, whether they mean to or not.
Bringing in talent to ensure competition at all positions is great and all, but Vick and incumbent starter Geno Smith's battle could turn New York City into a madhouse by early October. Vick is incredibly exciting and fun to watch on the field. That doesn't change the fact that Smith should be the guy the Jets start heading into their season opener against the Oakland Raiders.
Aside from the whole Vick situation, general manager John Idzik brought in ex-Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker and a former 2,000-yard rusher in Chris Johnson.
Anyone who watched the Jets play last season understood that fixing this offense was priority No. 1. With some solid moves via free agency and the draft—tight end Jace Amaro stands out most—the Jets are well on their way to scoring points once again.
First-year general manager Dennis Hickey didn't have a dazzling offseason to start out his career with the Miami Dolphins. Desperately needing help on the team's offensive line, Hickey was forced to shell out $47 million to left tackle Branden Albert.
Advanced metrics from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) show that while Albert was productive last season—he finished with a positive 5.9 grade for the year—he wound up grading out as the league's 28th-best offensive tackle.
You can't really knock draft picks too hard considering we don't know how they'll pan out. But the one comment you can make about Hickey's draft is that it wasn't full of star power.
The biggest name to come out of the draft was former LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry will try to develop a serious chemistry with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and give the Dolphins offense another dimension.
The AFC East has gotten better since 2013. The Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and New York Jets have all improved their rosters on paper. If the Dolphins want to keep up, the moves Hickey has made thus far will have to pay off in a big way.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick and his staff have made it abundantly clear that they are willing to do everything in their power to bring home another championship to the New England area.
The signing of cornerback Darrelle Revis was by far the biggest and boldest move this team has made since it traded a fourth-round pick for Randy Moss back in 2007. Revis is an elite talent who will change this defense for the better.
With the defensive mercenary by his side, Coach Belichick has become the early 1990s version of Paul Bearer. He can use Revis like The Undertaker to eviscerate some of the AFC's top teams.
As great and magical as the Revis addition was, the buck didn't stop there. Former Seahawks cornerback—and physical freak—Brandon Browner also joins the Patriots secondary, just for good measure.
The Patriots have made a lot of bold moves over the last four months, putting them smack-dab in the middle of an arm's race with the Broncos.
You can define the Buffalo Bills' offseason just by saying one name: Sammy Watkins.
Watkins is the man who has not only defined the Bills' offseason, but he's also the guy who may turn this team back into a contender.
On the flip side, what hurt more than anything else was the loss of superstar safety Jairus Byrd to the New Orleans Saints. Byrd's absence is a significant blow to a promising young secondary, but as they say, time heals all wounds.
Even without Byrd, cornerback Stephon Gilmore will finally get his chance to step into the spotlight and become one of the league's top defensive backs—if he can stay on the field.
What's weird about the 2014 season is that the Bills are in a brand new situation. The passing of longtime owner Ralph Wilson means that new ownership is on its way.
The Bills will also have to improve without the support of second-year linebacker sensation Kiko Alonso. After tearing his ACL earlier this month, per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, this defense will need to find a way to move on without him. Could Brandon Spikes, brought over in free agency, be the solution?
There's no getting around it: It's going to be tough for this team to find traction with so many question marks surrounding it.
San Francisco 49ers
Since Jim Harbaugh became head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, the progress this team has made has been astonishing. The NFL is a league that's always revolved around competition, and the fact that this team has been able to compete at a high level every season makes it the Patriots of the NFC.
But after all of the 49ers' success, is the window finally starting to close on a Super Bowl title?
General manager Trent Baalke isn't taking any chances. His offseason was beautifully constructed—like the cast of Clueless.
Baalke's master plan started with making sure the 49ers offense is able to compete with the defensive juggernaut that is the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West—not to mention the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.
The decision to re-sign Anquan Boldin and trade for former Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson should improve a unit that threw for a meager 186.2 yards per game.
More offensive weapons will be necessary for quarterback Colin Kaepernick's improvement. Now that the team has pledged a $126 million contract for his services—although, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, the deal isn't as cut and dry as it seems—it's all about the offense.
The master plan finished when the team made a staggering 12 selections during the 2014 draft. Ensuring there's a level of depth on this roster, Baalke was able to look toward the future without risking the present.
What else can you say? It's been quite the year for the Seahawks. Fresh off of a Super Bowl title, this young team, led by head coach Pete Carroll, is in a fantastic position to repeat its success after putting together another outstanding offseason.
The biggest move the Seahawks made was making sure defensive end Michael Bennett didn't wind up elsewhere. After inking a four-year deal worth $28.5 million, Bennett returns to the Birds as one of the most complete edge-rushers in the game today.
It felt like the Seahawks' main goal after their Super Bowl win was to keep the core of their franchise intact. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman—the two best players on Seattle's superhuman defense—were both signed to long-term deals, proving that general manager John Schneider is a salary-cap guru. Credit Carroll and Schneider for building such a dynamic roster.
Although the team lost wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency, drafting a vertical threat like Paul Richardson out of Colorado to fill the void seems like the perfect remedy.
St. Louis Rams
Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have quietly managed to build a fantastic football team in St. Louis.
The Rams are in a tough position playing in the hyper-competitive NFC West. Finishing 7-9 last season—with Kellen Clemens starting at quarterback for nine of those games—this team has proved that it is good enough already to compete with its division rivals, despite being young.
Looking to continue their quest to make the playoffs amid a ton of competition, the Rams used the NFL draft to make sure there were no cracks in their foundation.
You really can't thank Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III enough. The trade that brought him to the nation's capital gave the Rams another opportunity to draft a cornerstone piece. This time around, it was offensive lineman Greg Robinson who was selected to be that piece.
Robinson's transition from Gus Malzahn's rapid Auburn attack to the NFL will definitely be a big storyline to watch this season.
Snead and Fisher's best pick, though, may have actually been defensive tackle Aaron Donald. A true disruptive force in the trenches, Donald joins edge-rushers Robert Quinn and Chris Long to form what could turn out to be one of the best defensive lines in all of football.
The blueprint for the Rams has been to go out and add the best pieces available. In that regard, they had another solid offseason.
Bruce Arians' first year as the head coach of the Cardinals was an outstanding success. Though the Cardinals missed the playoffs after posting a 10-6 record, the strides and improvements they made on both sides of the football were a credit to the job Arians and his staff have done.
Building on that success, the team signed two big names in free agency to keep the motor running.
Veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie will be plugged into an already fantastic secondary. Cromartie may be the piece that pushes this secondary over the top in 2014. In order for that to be possible, though, the 30-year-old will have to play much better than he did last season. By PFF's mark, he struggled all season long, grading out in the bottom half of the league.
The Cardinals also lured left tackle Jared Veldheer over from the Oakland Raiders to fill a position of need. Veldheer will step into the left tackle slot and try to help keep quarterback Carson Palmer upright as the team battles through the defensive-oriented NFC West.
Meanwhile, Patrick Peterson has already cemented himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the league, while rookie safety Deone Bucannon has all the tools needed to be the second coming of Adrian Wilson. And the team is hopeful that second-year hybrid defensive back Tyrann Mathieu can bounce back after a brutal knee injury.
Finally, a strong draft class—headlined by Bucannon and former Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas—has put Arians' club in a good position to contend once again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New uniforms, a new head coach and a new starting quarterback—change is here, and it has come at a time when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need it most.
Lovie Smith's return to coaching after being ousted from the Chicago Bears in 2012 is a good thing for a Buccaneers team that just endured two years with Greg Schiano at the helm.
The Bucs were ultra-aggressive during free agency, spending money to try and create a contender.
Michael Johnson, the ex-Cincinnati Bengals edge-rusher, was the biggest name to join this squad. One of PFF's top defensive players from 2013, Johnson will pair up with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, which should help this defense on all levels.
No matter what the defensive scheme may be, though, there's no doubt that the loss of Revis will be felt. Luckily, the team signed another talented cornerback to fill the void in Alterraun Verner. Verner isn't Revis by any means, but he's productive and has shown off good instincts on tape.
This year, the focus of the draft was on building up the team's offense. Adding big targets like Mike Evans from Texas A&M and Austin Seferian-Jenkins out of Washington State will give quarterback Josh McCown a ton of opportunities to put points on the board.
Heading into training camp, the Buccaneers look like a new team. Personnel decisions aside, if changing the culture was the main goal of this offseason, then it was achieved.
The Carolina Panthers emerged last season as one of the NFL's most surprising teams. Led by their stout defense and quarterback Cam Newton, the team went from seeing head coach Ron Rivera on the hot seat to creating "Riverboat Ron," the gambling, free-wheeling head coach of the future.
Kudos to management and the players for climbing out of the always-difficult NFC South division and getting into the playoffs. While they lost to the 49ers in the divisional round, the Panthers finally found a way to put everything together.
The biggest obstacles facing this team came when last year's wide receiving corps was decimated during the offseason. Brandon LaFell left for the Patriots, while Steve Smith wound up with the Baltimore Ravens.
Addressing those needs by selecting Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin during the draft was a good start. The 23-year-old is a physical freak of nature, and as NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock said, "He's 6-foot-5, 240 pounds with 35-inch arms, and you're talking about a catching radius."
In free agency, the Panthers came to terms with veteran pass-catchers Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery to help round out the core.
Was that enough for this offense to take the next step? The jury is still out on that question. But the decision not to pursue a marquee name in free agency will only pay off if Benjamin turns into an elite wide receiver over the next couple of seasons.
New Orleans Saints
There's far too much talent in the NFC South for this division not to be competitive in 2014. Looking at the Saints roster, they seem equipped to handle anything this division may throw their way.
Though they traded offensive weapon Darren Sproles to Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles, they drafted an explosive talent in wide receiver Brandin Cooks out of Oregon State to help ease that burden.
The biggest—and most surprising—move the Saints made was signing Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd. Maneuvering their way around the salary cap, putting Byrd in the same secondary with second-year safety Kenny Vaccaro was a power move.
You can be sure that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is looking forward to having both of these playmakers out on the field.
Being cap-strapped and still finding a way to sign Byrd and Graham puts the Saints on a shortlist for the best offseason, even if they lost veteran center Brian de la Puente.
Going from a 13-3 record in 2012 to a 4-12 record is not what the Atlanta Falcons were looking for last season. Normally, a collapse like that would result in the entire coaching staff being shown the door. But owner Arthur Blank decided to stay the course, allowing head coach Mike Smith to return for season No. 7.
As discussed in a previous slide, the NFC South is filled with talent. The Falcons roster is no exception. Led by Matt Ryan under center, this offense may have lost veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to retirement, but the combination of Julio Jones and Roddy White at wide receiver is still a ridiculously dangerous tandem.
The high point for the Falcons' offseason was adding former Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews in the draft.
Leading up to the big day, all of the talk was centered around the promise of Greg Robinson, but the work Matthews put in on tape was much better. The Falcons got themselves an elite football player who should be able to hold down the left tackle position for a very long time.
The decision not to add a true edge-rusher through the draft or in free agency was concerning, but with reports coming out that the team's base defense appears to be a 3-4 scheme, that decision makes more sense.
John Elway wants a championship. There's no question about that.
The man in charge of giving the Broncos the best roster possible used the 2014 offseason to improve an already lethal team. Offensively, he replaced wide receiver Eric Decker—who signed with the Jets—with former Pittsburgh Steelers pass-catcher Emmanuel Sanders, giving Peyton Manning another quality target to throw to.
It's scary when you consider that Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase has gone on record saying he believes the team's offense "can be better" this season, per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com.
As appealing as the Sanders acquisition was, though, Elway's best work came on the defensive side of the football. Blame the Chuck Norris Missing in Action-like beating his team took at the hands of the Seahawks in last season's Super Bowl for this defensive binge.
After dishing out contracts to safety T.J. Ward, edge-rusher DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib, the Broncos defense now has a physical edge over pretty much every other AFC foe.
The draft was like an extra slice of cheesecake for this team. Already loaded with talent, the Broncos added a potential game-breaker in Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer in the second round and took former Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby with the 31st overall pick.
Simply put, if the Broncos are able to improve from last year's tremendous run, it will be a remarkable feat.
San Diego Chargers
One of the surprise playoff teams from a year ago was the San Diego Chargers.
After departing from his gig as the Broncos' offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy landed with the Chargers and helped revitalized this team—as well as quarterback Philip Rivers' career.
During the 2014 offseason, the Chargers didn't make many dazzling moves. Instead, they were strategic with their signings.
Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com wrote about one in particular that really impressed him:
Some NFL analysts panned San Diego's signing of running back Donald Brown to a three-year, $10.4 million deal in free agency. Critics surmised that San Diego had more pressing needs on defense and the Chargers could get a cheaper alternative through the draft. But by signing Brown, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco locked up a known entity that will lessen the load for workhorse Ryan Mathews, particularly if San Diego advances deep in the playoffs for a second straight season.
McCoy has built a sound program in San Diego. Looking at the roster from top to bottom, it's clear that the talent is there for the Bolts to make a dash back to the playoffs in 2014.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs were part of a trifecta of AFC West teams that reached the playoffs last season. In Andy Reid's first season as head coach, this team was able to parlay its talented roster into a contender.
Developing talent and building a layer of depth over time gave the Chiefs the luxury of not spending big money in free agency. The one move they could have made was landing a marquee wide receiver to help Dwayne Bowe out. However, when the whole Emmanuel Sanders situation fell apart, that plan came to a screeching halt.
By not drafting a proven wide receiver, the Chiefs have made it clear that they are comfortable with who they have on their roster.
Look for former Oregon burner De'Anthony Thomas to be a weapon that Reid and his West Coast scheme utilize lining up at wide receiver and coming out of the backfield.
Perhaps no team in the NFL underwent as much structural change as the Raiders did after the 2013 season. Spending money to contend in a division that produced three playoff teams last season, the Raiders went out and landed a ton of veteran players during free agency.
Matt Schaub, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith and Maurice Jones-Drew were just a few established players the Raiders brass successfully went after over the last couple of months.
It will be a big year for head coach Dennis Allen. In each of the two years that he's been calling the shots, the Raiders haven't won more than four games. There has to be a level of improvement in 2014, or odds are that he'll be looking for employment in 2015.
The surge for veteran players didn't end the Raiders' offseason journey. The 2014 draft has all the makings of being the best class the Silver and Black have produced in over five years.
Barring any unforeseen setbacks, linebacker Khalil Mack and quarterback Derek Carr should be linchpins for this organization moving forward.
You can't say the Raiders didn't try. They didn't sit on their mountain of offseason cash and wait. Whether or not that money was spent wisely remains to be seen.
The Cincinnati Bengals lost both of their coordinators during the offseason. Defensive guru Mike Zimmer finally got a head coaching job, taking over the Minnesota Vikings, while offensive coordinator Jay Gruden took a head coaching gig with the Washington Redskins.
The good news for the Bengals is that Marvin Lewis is still in charge, and that's important for the team's chemistry.
Management decided the best way to replace its former play-callers was to promote from within the organization. Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther have taken the reins on offense and defense, respectively. Jackson could be just the guy that quarterback Andy Dalton needs to cement himself as a franchise quarterback.
From a non-personnel angle, the Bengals didn't have a tremendously successful offseason. They lost talented wide receiver Andrew Hawkins to the Cleveland Browns and opted not to make any splash signings during free agency.
The most exciting move the team made was drafting Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard in the first round of the 2014 draft. A gritty cornerback who can press and play man coverage, Dennard should help this secondary out from the jump when the season starts.
Having a championship pedigree like that of the Pittsburgh Steelers means that fans expect greatness every season. Though they missed the playoffs last season, toward the end of the year they were slowly migrating back into a very good football team.
As Scott Brown of ESPN.com noted, "The Steelers averaged 26.6 points in winning six of their final eight games last season, and the foundation is in place for them to build on that."
Ben Roethlisberger remains in place at quarterback, with offensive coordinator Todd Haley returning for a third season calling plays.
What this organization does best is play physical and accrue talent across the board. Hiring former Titans head coach Mike Munchak to be the team's offensive line coach is just another testament to the Steeler way of doing business.
"He’s a great teacher. He’s great at what he does, the best in the league in my opinion. He seamlessly transitioned into our staff. He's a stud," Haley told Brown.
The flashiest pick the Steelers made during the draft was the addition of Dri Archer. The running back, who ran a blistering 4.26-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, will turn some heads once Haley begins to implement his talents.
Mike Tomlin is still running the show, which means continuity will remain the underlying theme this season. With a loaded draft class and some solid pickups in free agency, Pittsburgh looks like a team ready to make waves in 2014.
The Ravens have historically been a team that's centered around toughness. When they won the Super Bowl two seasons ago, the roster was loaded with players like Anquan Boldin, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.
Of those three, only Suggs remains on the roster.
Playing in the AFC North is no easy task. It's a grueling division filled with great defenses and hard-nosed football clubs.
You can question his strategy, but Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome used this year's draft to toughen up his defense. The first three picks were spent on defense. Starting with inside linebacker C.J. Mosley out of Alabama and ending with two Florida State products—defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and free safety Terrance Brooks—the Ravens shored up a few positions of need.
Free agency wasn't overly impressive, despite the Ravens landing veteran wide receiver Steve Smith. Though he's 35 years old, Smith is cut from the same cloth as Boldin, which should help the Ravens offense immensely.
"Interesting" is the best word for what Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh did to improve their roster.
The city of Cleveland has a lot to look forward to in the coming months. The combination of LeBron James' return to the Cavaliers and Johnny Manziel joining the Browns has given this city hope once again.
From the Browns' perspective, it's been another offseason full of change. Head coach Mike Pettine was put in charge after a long, bumpy coaching search, while breakout star Josh Gordon is potentially facing a lengthy suspension.
Still, the Browns have plenty to look forward to, and it's mainly because of their successful offseason.
First-year general manager Ray Farmer's decision to bring in proven veterans like Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby will help shore up a young defense.
The draft also played a major role in the growth of this team. Adding gamers like cornerback Justin Gilbert, offensive guard Joel Bitonio and running back Terrance West into the equation bodes well for the future of the Browns.
Concerns over drafting a wide receiver to replace Gordon are warranted. But bringing Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson and Miles Austin in through free agency appears to be good enough for the front office at the moment.
New York Giants
The New York Giants' 2014 season could be a historic one. It may very well be the last time we see Tom Coughlin as the team's head coach and, depending on how the season shakes out, the beginning of the end of the Eli Manning era in New York.
Manning's atrocious 2013 season was cause for concern. He tossed 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, and the Giants offense often looked stale. That's why one major offseason coaching change could prove to be the best move the team has made.
Replacing offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride with first-time coordinator Ben McAdoo was a move that trumped all of the team's other moves in free agency—even the signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. McAdoo comes over from the Green Bay Packers, with whom he'd worked as a tight ends coach and quarterbacks coach since 2006.
Whatever he's done so far, Manning seems to be enjoying it. Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News reported that the veteran QB loves the new scheme.
"It’s reenergized me," Manning said.
McAdoo is just as confident about the offense, telling Steve Serby of the New York Daily News, "And, yes, it can be fixed and, yes, it will be fixed."
In order for that fix to happen, first-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will have to do big things this season. Paired up with Victor Cruz, the talented pass-catcher will need to space the field and help the Giants move the chains.
Overall, it was a solid offseason for general manager Jerry Reese. It should be fun to watch this team compete in 2014.
Are there any more concerns over how Chip Kelly will do as a head coach in the NFL? The video game, mad scientist-like offense he put to work last season was not only compelling to watch, it was also incredibly effective for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Kelly's first season, the team made the playoffs, found its franchise quarterback and taught the league a thing or two about how to move the chains.
After giving the league a dose of concentrated vertigo, the Eagles' offseason took a wild turn. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson went from being an indispensable constituent of the high-flying attack to rocking a Redskins uniform in a matter of weeks. The Eagles will have to count on rookie wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to replace his production.
Is Kelly's offense just that perfect? Can one of the league's fastest and most effective wide receivers be replaced without skipping a beat?
We've all seen what the offense can do; now it's time to fix the defense.
Last season, the Eagles finished as the NFL's 29th-ranked defense. Digging through free agency and the draft for a remedy, Kelly's team brought in safety Malcolm Jenkins and spent a first-round pick on pass-rusher Marcus Smith to shore up areas of need.
As easy as it is to say that Jackson's departure will determine how this offseason is remembered, it's the defense that matters most.
Mike Shanahan is out, and Jay Gruden is now in.
Once again, there was a changing of the guard in Washington that has left this team searching for a way back to the playoffs. The good news is that quarterback Robert Griffin III is back and ready to compete.
Knock him all you want, but Griffin is still a riveting talent who makes this team a challenging matchup for any NFL foe.
Sean McVay—the Redskins' new offensive coordinator—is convinced that we'll see the third-year gunslinger return to his rookie form.
"He looks like he is exactly what he was in the 2012 season. I think people underestimate when you have a brace on your knee how much that truly restricts you. ... So I think being able to take that off, he looks extremely explosive," McVay said.
RG3 looking like his old self couldn't come at a better time. DeSean Jackson is now brandishing a Redskins uniform, and that means this offense could be one of the top units in the league.
Bringing in Jackson stole the offseason headlines, but even without a first-round pick, the Redskins had a pretty solid draft in May. Adding Trent Murphy as an extra edge-rusher and running back Lache Seastrunk in Round 6 will certainly help this team right off the bat.
Johnny Manziel is not a Dallas Cowboy. I repeat, Johnny Manziel is not a Dallas Cowboy.
The move that would have easily melted the Internet didn't take place, allowing Jerry Jones' detractors to collectively exhale in relief.
Thanks to the NFL's grumpy old salary cap, the Cowboys' offseason wasn't must-see TV.
Thanks, Roger Goodell.
However, they did manage to sign ex-Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton and bring back Anthony Spencer on a one-year deal to help their atrocious defense.
That said, cutting Ware is the move that fans will remember for a long time. Ware is one of the greats, and he put together a remarkable nine-year career with a star on the side of his helmet.
Meanwhile, Jones' draft was surprisingly balanced. He chose a five-tool offensive lineman, Zack Martin, out of Notre Dame in Round 1 and went after edge-rusher Demarcus Lawrence shortly after that.
It wasn't a spectacular offseason by any means, but the Cowboys didn't take Johnny Football, and that's still shocking.
If nothing else, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is never complacent. The guy constantly makes moves that excite the fanbase and give them something to look forward to.
His offseason soiree started with replacing ex-head coach Leslie Frazier with the brash Mike Zimmer. Zimmer's brand of football will be a real culture shock after the calm, lapping waters of the Frazier era. It was a vital move that will give the Vikings a plethora of ammunition to finally load up on toughness and take the NFC North by surprise in the coming years.
Free agency and the draft brought solutions to the Vikings' biggest problems. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater is set to be the quarterback of the future, while former UCLA edge-rusher Anthony Barr could wind up turning into the Purple and Gold version of Von Miller.
Spielman was just as effective in free agency. Big-time signings like defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn were important additions considering that the division this team plays in is full of offensive goodness.
Even with Jared Allen gone, the Vikings pulled it all together and once again will get to reap the rewards of another great offseason.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson managed to flip the script in 2014. A guy who historically doesn't spend loot on perennial free agents, Thompson signed former Bears defensive end Julius Peppers to a $30 million deal, with $7.5 million of that sum guaranteed in the first year.
Peppers may be 34 years old, but used in the right way, he's more than savvy enough to get after the quarterback and disrupt the flow of the game.
At least on paper, signing Peppers looks right as rain.
Meanwhile, Green Bay's defense badly needed a playmaker in the secondary. Taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the draft showed that the entire organization understood that point and jumped at the opportunity to take the former pupil of Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
With Aaron Rodgers dancing around and hurling the pigskin, the Packers will always be able to contend for a championship. The 2014 season shouldn't be any different.
Marc Trestman has to be some sort of evil football genius, right? After walking in the door last season, the Bears' passing attack went from being the 29th-ranked unit in 2012 to ranking fifth-best last season.
Finally, the Bears offense looks as complex as a deep-dish pizza.
Usually led by a stout defense, the team fell apart on that side of the ball last season. Surrendering a ridiculous 394.6 yards per game, it just could never do anything right. Looking to plug that leak, general manager Phil Emery took a handful of defensive players in the draft and signed legendary pass-rusher Jared Allen to a four-year contract.
There's a lot of moving pieces when it comes to the Bears defense, which means the team's 2014 campaign is once again going to revolve around Trestman's genius.
The coaching carousel featured the Motor City this past season, which allowed former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell to make his return to the sidelines.
With Caldwell as the new head coach of the Detroit Lions, quarterback Matthew Stafford will be getting a mentor. Caldwell's extensive history working with guys like Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco bodes well for the Lions' talented quarterback.
It was crucial to surround Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson with more targets on offense. Drafting ex-North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron and signing wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency were two fantastic moves that will give the Lions all the tools needed to air the ball out.
If Lions fans could file a complaint regarding the offseason, it would either be for not picking up defensive tackle Nick Fairley's fifth-year option or the fact that the team chose not to go after a cornerback until Round 4 of the draft.
I guess the current administration is confident with the cast of characters it already has.
Why not give Andrew Luck more tools to work with?
The Colts reaching an agreement with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks in free agency was a huge win for this organization.
Coming off a down year, Nicks' market value wasn't nearly as high as it could have been. It's easy to forget amongst the turmoil that made up the Giants' 2013 season that this guy is still just 26 years old and has all the talent in the world.
Luck makes Nicks a huge rebound candidate, and the signing ensures that veteran Reggie Wayne can fully recover from his knee injury without having to be rushed back.
The biggest disappointment the Colts had to endure was the aftermath of the Trent Richardson trade. Giving up a first-round pick for a halfback who averaged 2.9 yards per carry is simply bad business.
Richardson will get one more shot to bounce back in 2014, but with Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw returning, you can bet the farm that his leash will be shorter than Spud Webb.
The best move this team made all season could turn out to be drafting wide receiver Donte Moncrief in the third round. Moncrief is a fantastic wide receiver who can attack the football in the air and create separation thanks to a lean combination of size and speed.
Having no first-round pick means that sometimes you just have to make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation.
This isn't the same Jacksonville Jaguars team that we saw last season. Head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell are fully entrenched in a rebuilding process that has captivated the fanbase.
Like Spielman in Minnesota, Caldwell used the draft to address positions of need and attacked without hesitation in free agency. Blake Bortles is now the team's answer at quarterback, while Blaine Gabbert was sent over to the 49ers.
No quarterback can survive without having quality targets to deliver the ball to. Knowing that, Caldwell brought in two rookie wide receivers in ex-Penn State big man Allen Robinson and former USC Trojan Marqise Lee.
One of the most overlooked decisions Jacksonville made in 2014 was making sure longtime quarterback Chad Henne stayed with the team. Henne isn't going to blow anyone's mind, but he's a stable option who has plenty of experience working with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.
Free agency was also big for the Jags. They let Maurice Jones-Drew walk, opting instead to replace him with Adrian Peterson's trusty backup, Toby Gerhart. On top of that, they scored Chris Clemons and Red Bryant to infuse a little bit of the Seahawks down south.
Whatever you do, don't expect this team to back down.
The moves the Jaguars made, combined with Bradley returning as head coach, are enough to make NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt think this team could slip into the playoffs in 2014.
A common theme throughout the NFL this past offseason was a wave of retread coaches coming back with new teams. The Tennessee Titans' choice to end their relationship with Mike Munchak led to former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt taking the job instead.
Whisenhunt is a proven offensive guru, but as long as Jake Locker is stationed at quarterback, his skills may be handcuffed.
If Locker falters once again, the plan could be to let sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger recover from his knee injury and then try his hand at some point during the season.
One bright spot for the Titans was that they finally parted ways with running back Chris Johnson.
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean wrote, "Sometimes, however, Johnson rubbed team officials wrong because of what they felt was a questionable work ethic and laid-back approach. Let's put it this way: he wasn't the first guy in the meeting room. The team is trying to create a different culture."
Second-round pick Bishop Sankey will work with veteran Shonn Greene to make up for CJ2K's absence.
The Titans had a lot of needs to fill heading into the draft, which made picking former Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan confusing.
Ten years from now, fans and pundits may look back and think to themselves, "Man, do you remember when the Houston Texans had Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt on the same field?"
It's hard to argue that first-year head coach Bill O'Brien hasn't walked into a good situation down in Houston. The Texans may not have a solution at quarterback just yet, but they do have a nucleus of quality football players who will help them be competitive.
One of those key players is veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson, who has been a stalwart for the Texans over the years, recording 12,661 yards receiving and 61 touchdowns. When reports surfaced that he was looking for a trade, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, it put a damper on the team's otherwise productive offseason.
No matter how that situation plays itself out, you can be sure that the new regime in Houston will be ready to go come September 7.
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