Biggest 2015 Offseason Arrivals, Departures for Every NFL Division
There are so many ways you can break down the offseason movement in the NFL. So we decided to put a different spin on what has been an interesting couple of months.
Here we will take a look at both the biggest arrival as well as most significant departure by each of the eight divisions. Now keep in mind that there is one very significant ground rule: When we say comings and goings within the division, we mean just that.
Here you won’t find Darrelle Revis, Rex Ryan, DeMarco Murray or Orlando Franklin. All four have moved on from their 2014 employers, but each has remained in their respective division. Hence, they don’t qualify for this piece (nothing personal).
We will not only take a look at what we feel is the key newcomer and most significant loss within the division but some of the arrivals and departures as well. As you will notice, we are not limited to player movement here because there are a few coaches mentioned as well.
It’s been a very busy 2015 for a number of divisions, some more than others. The best part is knowing in less than two weeks all 32 teams will be adding some young talent to their rosters as well.
Biggest Arrival: DT Ndamukong Suh
Current Team: Miami Dolphins
Former Team: Detroit Lions
We have not seen Miami make a playoff appearance since 2008, which also marks the last time the franchise posted a winning record. Suh should fortify the middle of a defensive unit that ranked 24th in the league this past season in rushing defense. His presence up front should also make defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon even more formidable in terms of rushing the passer.
With the exception of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the AFC East certainly has its share of impressive new faces, such as running back LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills) and wide receiver Brandon Marshall (New York Jets), who actually returns to the division after two seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Despite the big price tag, Suh’s presence not only make the Dolphins defensive front one of the best in the business, it gives the other three offensive lines in the division just one more thing to worry about.
Biggest Departure: RB Shane Vereen
Former Team: New England Patriots
Current Team: New York Giants
Bill Belichick’s team certainly took its share of hits this offseason, most notably on the defensive side of the football.
Gone are defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (Houston Texans) and cornerback Brandon Browner (New Orleans Saints). Yes, cornerback Darrelle Revis and running back Stevan Ridley also took the free-agent road out of Foxborough, but the Pats, as well as the Dolphins and Buffalo Bills will once again be seeing them perhaps twice this season as both signed with the New York Jets.
Like Revis and Ridley, Vereen will also be calling MetLife Stadium home having signed with the Giants. He gives quarterback Eli Manning an added dimension out of the backfield in terms of a pass-catcher.
In 2014, five Big Blue running backs combined for 62 catches, zero for scores, while Vereen totaled 52 grabs (three touchdowns) in the regular season. The four-year pro added 18 more receptions during the team’s three-game postseason run on the way to capturing Super Bowl XLIX.
Biggest Arrival: WR Dwayne Bowe
Current Team: Cleveland Browns
Former Team: Kansas City Chiefs
Keep in mind that the AFC North is a division where the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are among the least busiest teams in the league when it comes to adding other club’s free agents. Cincinnati was unusually active this offseason but spent most of it bringing back players with previous ties to the organization.
That exception is the Browns, who are also the only club in the division to post a losing record each of the past four seasons. Meanwhile, perhaps a change of scenery can revitalize Bowe's career, a former Pro Bowler who, despite 60 catches for 754 yards this past season, failed to reach the end zone.
Then again, we all know by now that no Chiefs wideout caught a touchdown pass in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Browns only managed a dozen scores through the air this past season so this could be a classic case of both parties helping each other.
Of course, there’s that matter of who exactly will be Cleveland’s quarterback this season as well.
Biggest Departure: SS Troy Polamalu
Former Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Current Team: Retired
One dozen seasons, 32 career interceptions, eight Pro Bowl invitations and many memorable plays.
Some would say strong safety Troy Polamalu is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Of course, somehow “locks” is more appropriate when it comes to Polamalu's flowing hair; he made his presence felt throughout the league and seemingly saved his best when facing his division brethren. Including the postseason, the 12-year defender returned a total of four interceptions for scores and three came against the Cincinnati Bengals (two) and Baltimore Ravens (one).
Unfortunately, injuries took their toll in recent years, especially in 2012 when he was available for only seven contests. This past season, he missed four games, and the usually tough Pittsburgh defense missed him as well. In 2013, he was back in the Pro Bowl for the eighth time and showed when healthy he could still have an impact.
Biggest Arrival: RB Frank Gore
Current Team: Indianapolis Colts
Former Team: San Francisco 49ers
For the most part, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has been a solo artist for Chuck Pagano’s team each of the last three years.
This upcoming season, general manager Ryan Grigson hopes he has done enough to turn Billy Joel into The Beatles.
The addition of Gore will hopefully do what the 2013 trade for Trent Richardson never did. In 2014, the Niners’ all-time leading rusher finished ninth in the league with 1,106 yards on the ground in his 10th NFL season. In 29 regular-season games with the Colts, Richardson amassed a mere 977 yards rushing.
With a reliable Gore in the backfield, complemented by Dan Herron and hopefully a healthy Vick Ballard, a little balance could help Luck cut down on those 22 turnovers of a year ago.
Biggest Departure: FS Kendrick Lewis
Former Team: Houston Texans
Current Team: Baltimore Ravens
While Lewis’ final season with the Kansas City Chiefs proved to be highly disappointing, he proved to be a terrific fit with the Texans and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel—the safety’s head coach with the Chiefs for a spell.
Regardless, Lewis led Houston with 84 tackles in 2014 and added two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and six passes defensed. However, he opted to sign with the Ravens this offseason and should help John Harbaugh’s club as well.
The Texans defense thrived on opponent’s mistakes—leading the NFL with 34 takeaways this past season. Can Rahim Moore have the same kind of impact in Crennel’s defense as did Lewis?
Biggest Arrival: WR Jeremy Maclin
Current Team: Kansas City Chiefs
Former Team: Philadelphia Eagles
It has been an interesting offseason in the AFC West. The Oakland Raiders have been busy in free agency, which has been the norm under general manager Reggie McKenzie. And we have to reserve judgment due to the fact that this approach hasn’t worked to date.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos have lost just as much as they have gained. We will get to them shortly.
You could make a strong case that the San Diego Chargers came away with the biggest free-agent prize within the division with the signing of guard Orlando Franklin. However, he’s just shifting AFC West addresses, coming over from the Broncos.
Maclin is reunited with head coach Andy Reid, who helped draft him in the first round of 2009 while both were still with the Philadelphia. He will give secondaries a lot more to think about when it comes to the Chiefs stretching the field in 2015.
Biggest Departure: TE Julius Thomas
Former Team: Denver Broncos
Current Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning won’t have one of his key weapons this season, although it is also worth noting that the two-time Pro Bowl tight end wasn’t around much during the second half of 2014.
Over the last two years, Thomas has totaled 108 receptions, 24 for scores, in 27 regular-season outings.
Now he takes his act to Jacksonville, a team that has scored the fewest points in the league each of the past two seasons.
Denver has added veteran tight end Owen Daniels, a favorite of new head coach Gary Kubiak who played for him with both the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens, and we will see if he can do what a healthy Thomas managed to do. And while the Broncos didn’t do a lot to retain the free-agent pass-catcher, it should be interesting to see what impact his departure will have.
Biggest Arrival: DE Greg Hardy
Current Team: Dallas Cowboys
Former Team: Carolina Panthers
This may wind up being a bit of a gamble for the defending NFC East champions. However, it may wind up being worth it for a Dallas defense that was desperate for pass-rushing help and for a young man in need of turning his life around.
We are not even sure how many games Hardy will be available for in 2015, this after spending the vast majority of this past season on the commissioner’s exempt list due to his off-the-field issues. In 2013, the former Carolina Panthers Pro Bowler totaled an imposing 15 sacks, and the team captured the NFC South.
Hardy will have to prove himself in more than one way for this signing to actually pay off. But he has a chance to fix a lot of very important things here. He may also be able to help the Cowboys defense as well.
Biggest Departure: RB LeSean McCoy
Former Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Current Team: Buffalo Bills
Free agency had not even officially begun yet, and we had already learned that the Eagles were intending to deal McCoy to the Bills. The shock wave of that move is still being felt in a few corners of the City of Brotherly Love, although the free-agent addition of 2014 NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray has softened the blow.
Still, the player who led the league in rushing in 2013 takes his act to the AFC East, and with just six seasons under his belt, McCoy still has plenty of good football left in him.
There’s little doubt that the rest of the NFC East isn’t exactly crying over the fact that they won’t have to deal with one of the most productive runners in the league dating back to his arrival in the NFL in 2009. Of course, Murray is still a member of the division and will now be a part of that Chip Kelly offense that has racked up its share of rushing yards the past two seasons.
Biggest Arrival: DT Haloti Ngata
Current Team: Detroit Lions
Former Team: Baltimore Ravens
When you lose a four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle to free agency, it is only logical to trade for a five-time Pro Bowler to fill the void.
The Green Bay Packers have been their usual quiet selves during free agency, while the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears made their share of moves. You could also make a case that the latter’s addition of outside linebacker Pernell McPhee belongs in this conversation here as well.
But we’ll go with the more-proven Ngata, whom the Lions obtained for their fourth- and fifth-round draft choices in this year’s upcoming draft. He hopes to fill the void left by the loss of Ndamukong Suh, who helped Detroit finish with the league’s second-ranked defense in 2014.
By the way, the Ravens ranked eighth in the NFL in total yards allowed, despite the fact that Ngata was suspended for the final four games of the season.
Biggest Departure: WR Brandon Marshall
Former Team: Chicago Bears
Current Team: New York Jets
OK, where’s Ndamukong Suh?
Yes, he’s in Miami. So why isn’t the four-time Pro Bowler the biggest loss this offseason in the NFC North. We won’t argue the case but at least hear us out.
As we just mentioned, Haloti Ngata hopes to help Detroit’s defensive front in a big way. But exactly who is replacing Marshall in the Windy City? The prolific pass-catcher had problems staying healthy in 2014 but there’s no denying the impact he can have when healthy.
You can bet quarterback Jay Cutler will miss him. The much-criticized signal-caller has had Marshall at his disposal during his stints with the Denver Broncos and Bears, and the duo has excelled.
Yes, Chicago still has Alshon Jeffery, and the club added Eddie Royal via free agency. But this will be a bigger loss than some people anticipate.
Biggest Arrival: Head Coach Dan Quinn
Current Team: Atlanta Falcons
Former Team: Seattle Seahawks
Dating back to quarterback Matt Ryan’s arrival in Atlanta, the Falcons have not had many problems scoring points.
But over the course of recent seasons, the team’s defensive unit has deteriorated in a big way. A club that allowed the 12th-fewest total yards in the league back in 2011 has ranked 24th, tied for 27th and dead last, respectively, in the NFL in the same category each of the last three years.
Quinn comes over from the Seahawks, who have allowed the fewest points in the league each of the last three years and have given up the fewest total yards in the NFL two straight seasons. The Falcons focus on free agency has been on defense with the additions of outside linebackers Brooks Reed, Justin Durant and O’Brien Schofield, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and cornerback Phillip Adams.
While we are not sure how all of these free agents will work out, we are confident that the Falcons made an excellent move hiring the former defensive coordinator.
Biggest Departure: TE Jimmy Graham
Former Team: New Orleans Saints
Current Team: Seattle Seahawks
When the Seahawks pulled the trigger on the trade to obtain Graham, many lauded the team for the move and deservedly so. Adding the three-time Pro Bowler to an offense that is already one of the more efficient in the league is a huge plus for the defending NFC champions.
But what about the loss for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who has seen his very talented tight end roll up big numbers in five seasons. Graham has amassed 386 catches for 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns. He’s been remarkably consistent the past four years, totaling at least 85 receptions each of those seasons.
The New Orleans offense will certainly have a different feel to it this season. Along with Graham, the team released running back Pierre Thomas and dealt wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins. Those three players combined for 193 catches and 14 touchdowns in 2014, 10 of those scores by Graham.
While the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will no longer have to deal with Graham twice a season, it will be interesting to see how Brees adjusts without his rangy target.
Biggest Arrival: QB Nick Foles
Current Team: St. Louis Rams
Former Team: Philadelphia Eagles
For years we have heard that the Rams would be right in the thick of the NFC West title chase if they only had a quarterback.
Well, has the team found its man? The Sam Bradford era is now over in St. Louis, and it ended with the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft missing his final 25 games with the club.
Foles also missed time this past season, out for the Eagles’ final eight contests with a broken collarbone. Although he did throw 13 touchdown passes and committed just as many turnovers, he’s also not that far removed from his 2013 performance in which he threw for 27 scores and was picked off only twice.
While no one’s expecting that kind of play again, the Rams would settle for something close.
Biggest Departure: Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Former Team: San Francisco 49ers
Current Team: University of Michigan
While the emotional head coach may have worn out his welcome with the organization, there’s little doubt that the 49ers will wind up missing him and that the rest of the NFC West won’t.
Before Harbaugh’s arrival in 2011, San Francisco had suffered through eight consecutive non-winning seasons and amassed a 46-82 win-loss record over that span. Under Harbaugh, the team was a combined 44-19-1 and reached the NFC Championship Game three straight times (2011-2013) and fell just short in Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31, to the Baltimore Ravens and his older brother John.
Somehow you didn’t envision Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll sending Harbaugh a going-away gift card.
All free-agent information and player signings/transactions are courtesy of Spotrac. Depth chart information comes via Ourlads. Unless otherwise noted, all player and team statistics come from Pro-Football-Reference.com and ESPN.com.