Power Ranking NFL General Managers by 2015 Offseason Performance
NFL general managers have a unique, challenging and thankless job.
This is especially true during the offseason, when these decision-makers face the task of filling key roster holes, minimizing losses, navigating the NFL draft and dealing with contract negotiations, doing all of it in a financially responsible manner.
Some NFL executives are better at meeting this challenge than others, of course. Otherwise, front-office turnover around the league would rarely occur.
With player movement and contract signings dwindling to a mere trickle, now is a good time to take a look at how the current crop of NFL general managers has performed this offseason.
Over the next 32 pages, we will rank every general manager from worst to first, based solely on their work during the 2015 offseason. Attention will be given to each individual's ability to set his team up for short-term and long-term success, both on the field and financially.
32. Jason Licht, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DT Henry Melton (free agent)
LB Bruce Carter (free agent)
QB Jameis Winston (first-round draft pick)
OT Donovan Smith (second-round draft pick)
DE Adrian Clayborn (Atlanta Falcons)
DE Michael Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' foray into free agency last season was an absolute disaster (Michael Johnson, Josh McCown and Anthony Collins are already off the team).
Therefore, it made sense when general manager Jason Licht took a conservative approach into this offseason.
Licht did bring in linebacker Bruce Carter and defensive tackle Henry Melton over from the Dallas Cowboys. However, Licht's offseason will be forever defined by his decision to select former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston first overall.
The Buccaneers needed a quarterback, of course, so the decision was likely only between Winston and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Winston appears to be the more pro-ready of the two, though he does come with off-field questions.
Winston has been drawing rave reviews in offseason workouts and currently looks like the right choice.
"He gets better every day,'' tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said, per Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com. "He's picking up the offense very fast.''
The problem here is that the Buccaneers still have more than $20 million in cap space. Licht should have been able to get his team a little more help than he did, which may hamper Winston's adjustment to the NFL.
31. Dave Gettleman, Carolina Panthers
OT Michael Oher (free agent)
WR Ted Ginn Jr. (free agent)
LB Shaq Thompson (first-round draft pick)
DE Greg Hardy (Dallas Cowboys)
RB DeAngelo Williams (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Carolina Panthers reached the playoffs last season, but they did so with an underwhelming 7-8-1 regular-season record.
This is why it was a bit surprising to see general manager Dave Gettleman take such a conservative approach to free agency. He did bring in offensive tackle Michael Oher and wide receiver and return specialist Ted Ginn, but he did little else of note concerning outside free agents.
Re-signing tight end Greg Olsen to a new three-year, $22.5 million extension was a smart decision. However, renegotiating the contract of defensive end Charles Johnson (cap hit of more than $20 million in 2015) would have freed up even more room to bring in new players. It hasn't happened.
Still, the Panthers have more than $10 million in cap space and could have made a push for one or two impact free agents.
Greg Hardy is facing a looming suspension and DeAngelo Williams is past his prime, so the Panthers didn't really lose much in free agency. However, the team doesn't exactly look like an improved unit either.
30. David Caldwell, Jacksonville Jaguars
TE Julius Thomas (free agent)
DE Jared Odrick (free agent)
LB Dante Fowler Jr. (first-round draft pick)
RB T.J. Yeldon (second-round draft pick)
WR Cecil Shorts (Houston Texans)
The Jacksonville Jaguars improved last season, even if the team's 3-13 record didn't reflect it. The problem is that there is still a long way to go, and general manager David Caldwell's approach didn't reflect a long-term plan.
A team like the Jaguars typically has to overpay to bring in premier free agents. However, Caldwell may have gone overboard by chasing down guys like tight end Julius Thomas (five years, $46 million), defensive tackle Jared Odrick (five years, $42.5 million) and tackle Jermey Parnell (five years, $32 million).
Ken Hornack of Fox Sports Florida recently wrote the following of the situation:
At first glance, that seems like a head-scratcher. Those developments become even more baffling to the casual observer upon seeing that the $9 million cap hit by Jared Odrick is almost 50 percent larger than that of Suh, the defensive tackle who will be replacing Odrick to a large extent.
The Jaguars still have more salary cap space than any other team, and Caldwell can force a significant improvement by throwing money at the roster. But if past draft picks like quarterback Blake Bortles don't work out, his efforts may not matter.
Caldwell cannot be faulted for the loss of rookie Dante Fowler with a torn ACL, but the injury places even more pressure on his expensive and underwhelming free-agent class to produce this season.
29. Jerry Reese, New York Giants
RB Shane Vereen (free agent)
OL Ereck Flowers (1st-round draft pick)
S Landon Collins (2nd-round draft pick)
S Antrel Rolle (Chicago Bears)
New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese took a conservative approach to free agency, which is a bit surprising given the need for playmakers on defense, specifically the defensive line.
The addition of running back Shane Vereen and the use of the franchise tag on pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul were both sound moves. However, Reese may have overspent on receiver Dwayne Harris (five years, $17.5 million) and linebacker J.T. Thomas (three years, $10 million).
Taking guard/tackle prospect Ereck Flowers ninth overall looks smart in retrospect. Starting left tackle Will Beatty is out for an extended period with a pectoral injury.
Rookie safety Landon Collins will be an early contributor and help offset the loss of Antrel Rolle.
Overall, Reese seems to have managed to keep the players he needed to without totally overspending (the team still has nearly $7 million in cap space). However, he needed to bring in more outside help than he did, and it could be another middle-of-the-pack season for the Giants.
28. Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons
DE O'Brien Schofield (free agent)
LB Brooks Reed (free agent)
LB Vic Beasley (first-round raft pick)
CB Jalen Collins (second-round draft pick)
LB Sean Weatherspoon (Arizona Cardinals)
WR Harry Douglas (Tennessee Titans)
Thomas Dimitroff might have been a little too cautious while handling the Atlanta Falcons' foray into free agency. The Falcons had a defense that ranked just 26th overall last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and needed an aggressive upgrade.
Instead of going after a premier defensive free agent like cornerback Byron Maxwell, defensive tackle Nick Fairley or defensive end Derrick Morgan, Dimitroff settled for cheaper one-year deals with guys like O'Brien Schofield and Adrian Clayborn.
The Falcons still have more than $14 million in cap space, and it was curious to not see the team more aggressive in free agency. The loss of longtime receiver Harry Douglas will likely have some impact, but the Falcons did not really lose any free agents that they couldn't afford to lose.
Former Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley and former LSU cornerback Jalen Collins should both contribute to a defensive turnaround as rookies. If third-round running back Tevin Coleman can help bolster the running game, the Falcons may have more balance on offense.
However, this is still looking like a team that will rely on its passing game and will struggle to stop better offenses in 2015.
27. Mickey Loomis, New Orleans Saints
C Max Unger (trade)
CB Brandon Browner (free agent)
OT Andrus Peat (first-round draft pick)
LB Stephone Anthony (first-round pick)
TE Jimmy Graham (trade, Seattle Seahawks)
WR Kenny Stills (trade, Miami Dolphins)
G Ben Grubbs (trade, Kansas City Chiefs)
RB Pierre Thomas (free agent)
The New Orleans Saints and general manager Mickey Loomis have orchestrated a major overhaul this offseason, and this is a team that is going to look vastly different in 2015.
Gone are star tight end Jimmy Graham, young speedster Kenny Stills and standout guard Ben Grubbs. In are cornerback Brandon Browner, center Max Unger, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and running back C.J. Spiller.
All told, it appears that the Saints are going to focus more on defense and the running game than in years past. If the move works, then Loomis deserves a lot of credit for putting the bold moves together. He definitely deserves credit for getting a favorable haul for Graham (Unger and a first-round draft pick).
The Saints are still near the bottom of the league in terms of available cap space, so the moves aren't grounded in saving money. If the new strategy doesn't pay off, then this offseason will likely be seen as a disaster.
Because of the uncertainty involved in Loomis' moves, it is difficult to give him a high ranking this early in the rebuild.
26. Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers
WR Torrey Smith (free agent)
RB Reggie Bush (free agent)
DL Darnell Dockett (free agent)
DT Arik Armstead (first-round draft pick)
LB Patrick Willis (retirement)
RB Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts)
CB Chris Culliver (Washington Redskins)
CB Perrish Cox (Tennessee Titans)
The San Francisco 49ers have experienced a lot of turnover this offseason, though general manager Trent Baalke certainly isn't responsible for all of it.
Baalke may or may not have had a hand in running head coach Jim Harbaugh out of town, but he probably didn't prompt linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Justin Smith, linebacker Chris Borland and offensive lineman Anthony Davis to retire.
Replacing Frank Gore with Reggie Bush feels like a downgrade, though bringing in receiver Torrey Smith should help the passing game. Rookie first-round pick Arik Armstead should make a quick impression on the defensive front.
Still, Baalke hasn't done nearly enough to bolster a team that is reeling with surprise losses. Letting both cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox leave in free agency is a mistake at first blush.
Losing Gore and Willis is going to completely change the identity of both sides of the football. Baalke is having trouble chasing a new team identity.
25. Reggie McKenzie, Oakland Raiders
DT Dan Williams (free agent)
C Rodney Hudson (free agent)
RB Roy Helu (free agent)
WR Amari Cooper (first-round draft pick)
WR James Jones (free agent)
Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie made some moves to solidify the defense and the offensive line in free agency, grabbing standout center Rodney Hudson, defensive tackle Dan Williams and linebackers Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith.
Safety Nate Allen will help the back-end depth of the defense, and running back Roy Helu could be a third-down contributor.
The only real loss for Oakland is receiver James Jones (73 receptions for 666 yards and six touchdowns in 2014) who was released by the team and is currently unsigned. Oft-injured running back Darren McFadden was never a real candidate to return.
The selection of former Alabama wideout Amari Cooper in the first round gives second-year quarterback Derek Carr his true No. 1 target.
It is difficult to criticize any of McKenie's moves. However, the Raiders have a long way to go and still sit with more than $21 million in cap room. Spending sprees rarely pay off in the NFL, but grabbing one or two young impact players would have raised McKenzie's ranking considerably.
24. Ray Farmer, Cleveland Browns
QB Josh McCown (free agent)
WR Dwayne Bowe (free agent)
CB Tramon Williams (free agent)
DT Danny Shelton (first-round draft pick)
OL Cameron Erving (first-round draft pick)
TE Jordan Cameron (Miami Dolphins)
CB Buster Skrine (New York Jets)
Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer headed into the offseason with a lot of work to do on offense, and it will be interesting to see if his efforts were enough.
The team still has more than $22 million in cap space, so Farmer could have been more aggressive in free agency. Instead, he went after journeyman receivers like Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline while letting former Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron walk.
There weren't a lot of better options on the quarterback market than Josh McCown, but his three-year, $14 million contract seems a bit excessive.
The Browns will likely be forced to try relying on the running game and their defense again in 2015. The good news is that Cleveland had a potentially strong draft. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton, pass-rusher Nate Orchard, offensive lineman Cameron Erving, running back Duke Johnson and defensive lineman Xavier Cooper could all contribute as rookies.
On paper, Cleveland is a better team, but Farmer's insistence on not spending more at wide receiver could be a major problem.
23. John Elway, Denver Broncos
TE Owen Daniels (free agent)
DE Shane Ray (first-round draft pick)
OT Ty Sambrailo (second-round draft pick)
TE Julius Thomas (Jacksonville Jaguars
DT Terrance Knighton (Washington Redskins)
S Rahim Moore (Houston Texans)
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway again has his team poised to make one more run with quarterback Peyton Manning at the helm.
The team did lose a couple of key players in tight end Julius Thomas and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton via free agency, but Denver's salary-cap situation would have made keeping everyone difficult.
Elway did manage to re-sign cornerback Chris Harris, though that move came back in December.
Denver's draft was solid as the team landed three potential rookie contributors. Unfortunately, third-round tight end Jeff Heuerman suffered a torn ACL in minicamp. Starting left tackle Ryan Clady also suffered a torn ACL this offseason, which makes the selection of second-rounder Ty Sambrailo critical.
Drafting Missouri pass-rusher Shane Ray should immediately help Denver on the defensive side of the ball.
All-in-all, it should be another contending year for the Broncos.
22. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys
RB Darren McFadden (free agent)
CB Byron Jones (first-round draft pick)
LB Randy Gregory (second-round draft pick)
G La'el Collins (rookie free agent)
RB DeMarco Murray (Philadelphia Eagles)
DE Henry Melton (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and his son Stephen Jones seem to share decision-making duties these days. The lack of flashy moves this offseason help indicate that Jerry isn't solely in control.
Perhaps the best move Dallas made this offseason was landing rookie guard La'el Collins with an undrafted free-agent contract. The former LSU star had first-round talent but was untouched during the draft after he was sought for questioning concerning the death of a woman police believed to be a former girlfriend of Collins.
The biggest loss, of course, came when the team watched running back DeMarco Murray sign with the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Murray received a huge five-year, $40 million deal from Philadelphia after rushing for 1,845 yards last season. Dallas has over $12 million in cap room and could have made a deal work if it seriously valued Murray.
On paper, this was an average offseason effort for the Cowboys that looks better after landing Collins. If the team proves it can contend without Murray, then it looks like a very smart set of offseason moves.
21. Martin Mayhew, Detroit Lions
DT Haloti Ngata (trade)
G Laken Tomlinson (first-round draft pick)
RB Ameer Abdullah (second-round draft pick)
DT Ndamukong Suh (Miami Dolphins)
DT Nick Fairley (St. Louis Rams)
RB Reggie Bush (San Francisco 49ers)
Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew faced the unenviable task of trying to re-sign two highly coveted defensive tackles and do it with very little salary cap space.
Ultimately, Mayhew couldn't make the numbers work and this offseason was about minimizing the damage. The trade to acquire Haloti Ngata was one of the more underrated moves of the offseason, and replacing running back Reggie Bush with rookie second-round pick Ameer Abdullah may actually be an improvement.
Rookie guard Laken Tomlinson of Duke could also have an immediate impact in Detroit's ground game.
Losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley hurts, and Detroit's defensive front clearly won't be as dominant in 2015. However, Mayhew didn't have a good chance of retaining them, and Detroit shouldn't be substantially worse off this season overall.
20. John Schneider, Seattle Seahawks
TE Jimmy Graham (trade)
DE Frank Clark (second-round draft pick)
C Max Unger (trade, New Orleans Saints)
G James Carpenter (New York Jets)
CB Byron Maxwell (Philadelphia Eagles)
As is often the case with teams that appear in the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks lost more key pieces this offseason than it appears they gained.
However, general manager John Schneider deserves some credit for keeping star running back Marshawn Lynch on the team and happy with a new two-year, $24 million deal. He also traded to acquire tight end Jimmy Graham, which should help the offense tremendously.
The problem is that Schneider gave away a first-round draft pick and Pro Bowl center Max Unger to get Graham. The Seahawks also lost starting guard James Carpenter and took some serious criticism for drafting Michigan's Frank Clark despite a previous accusation of domestic violence.
Schneider pulled the trigger on several developmental offensive linemen in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, but expecting any of them to step in and replace Unger and Carpenter seems risky. His best move of the draft may have been snagging Kansas State's Tyler Lockett.
Overall, this looks like a major bet for Schneider and the Seahawks. If Graham doesn't put the offense enough over the top to deliver another Super Bowl appearance, the trade may not be worth the steep price of a Pro Bowl lineman and a potential impact rookie.
Of course, Schneider has earned some leeway. He helped build this championship-caliber team, after all.
19. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
DE Jabaal Sheard (free agent)
TE Scott Chandler (free agent)
DT Malcom Brown (first-round draft pick)
CB Darrelle Revis (New York Jets)
CB Brandon Browner (New Orleans Saints)
DT Vince Wilfork (Houston Texans)
It is difficult to question the offseason choices of head coach/general manager Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots because they so often seem to work out in the long run.
However, there's little doubt that the team is going to miss cornerback Darrelle Revis and, to a lesser extent, nose tackle Vince Wilfork. The Patriots traditionally don't stick by aging veterans, of course, and picking up Revis' $20 million option would have been ridiculous.
Bringing in reasonably priced veterans like tight end Scott Chandler and pass-rusher Jabaal Sheard is another typical Belichick move. Don't be surprised if both players have a big impact.
Rookie defensive tackle Malcom Brown should also do well, though if the past is any indication, the real value of this draft class may come from the late-round role players.
Overall, though, losing two starting corners is never a good thing. This is an average offseason performance by Belichick, even though the team is probably in a good place salary-cap wise.
18. Mike Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
DE Michael Johnson (free agent)
LB A.J. Hawk (free agent)
OT Cedric Ogbuehi (first-round draft pick)
OT Marshall Newhouse
Owner/team president Mike Brown still calls the shots for the Cincinnati Bengals, though his daughter, Katie Blackburn, and head coach Marvin Lewis have their share of input.
This year, the Bengals decision-makers followed a familiar formula of chasing in-house free agents and drafting for the future. The Bengals retained linebacker Rey Maualuga and guard Clint Boling while bringing back pass-rusher Michael Johnson after a one-year absence.
Interestingly, the loss of Johnson last offseason earned Cincinnati a compensatory third-round pick this year.
Rookie offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher probably won't start this season but may be needed when Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith see their contracts expire after this year.
Overall, the Bengals managed to keep their playoff-caliber roster intact while adding a couple of useful pieces. They also still have more than $18 million in salary-cap space. This was a very uninteresting but typical Cincinnati offseason.
17. Scot McCloughan, Washington Redskins
CB Chris Culliver (free agent)
DT Terrance Knighton (free agent)
DT Ricky Jean-Francois (free agent)
G Brandon Scherff (first-round draft pick)
LB Brian Orakpo (Tennessee Titans)
RB Roy Helu (Oakland Raiders)
The Washington Redskins ranked dead last in overall defense last season, according to Pro Football Focus. This made that side of the football a clear priority.
General manager Scot McCloughan went hard after defenders in free agency, adding defensive linemen Terrance Knighton, Ricky Jean-Francois and Stephen Paea. He also brought in former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver.
The trade-off was allowing pass-rusher Brian Orakpo to walk in free agency. It isn't the biggest risk in the world, as Orakpo has an injury history and produced 0.5 sacks in 2014.
A bigger risk was exercising the fifth-year option of quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin still has yet to emerge as a consistent starter, and the option will pay him more than $16 million in 2016.
Taking Iowa guard Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick also felt like a reach. Still, Washington should be an improved team in 2015.
16. Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears
LB Pernell McPhee (free agent)
S Antrel Rolle (free agent)
C Will Montgomery (free agent)
WR Kevin White (first-round draft pick)
WR Brandon Marshall (trade, New York Jets)
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace was as aggressive as anyone in the NFL this offseason. He added a number of potential starters on offense and defense, and the Bears' only significant departure, receiver Brandon Marshall, left via trade.
Marshall will be replaced by the combination of free agent Eddie Royal and rookie first-round pick Kevin White of West Virginia. Overall, the receiving corps should be improved.
The defense should also perform better than it did a year ago (ranked 31st, allowing 27.6 points per game) thanks to free-agent additions and rookie second-round defensive tackle Eddie Goldman.
Pace's biggest blunder was his handling of former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald.
McDonald had a history of off-field issues, but Pace pulled the trigger on a one-year, $1.05 million deal.
McDonald was later arrested on domestic violence charges. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote the following on the situation:
It's one thing to swing and miss on a talent evaluation. It's an entirely different thing to bring in a player with a checkered past and see him get arrested 62 days later. In retrospect, Pace should realize it was a bad time for the Bears to gamble on McDonald.
Aside from the McDonald debacle, Pace put together a fairly strong offseason.
15. Rick Smith, Houston Texans
QB Brian Hoyer (free agent)
WR Cecil Shorts (free agent)
DT Vince Wilfork (free agent)
CB Kevin Johnson (first-round draft pick)
WR Andre Johnson (Indianapolis Colts)
Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith had an overall strong offseason, even if letting go of longtime wide receiver Andre Johnson brings a little emotional sting.
With a weak pool of free-agent quarterbacks, grabbing Brian Hoyer to compete with Ryan Mallett was probably the best decision Smith could have made. Bringing in veteran wideout Cecil Shorts should help mitigate the loss of Johnson, and adding Vince Wilfork and Rahim Moore to the defense should pay dividends.
Rookie first-round pick Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest should also be an immediate contributor.
The lack of a clear answer at quarterback hurts, but the Texans should be in a good position otherwise. The defense should be improved, and it was already ranked 10th overall by Pro Football Focus last year.
Houston went 9-7 a year ago and could be in line for a playoff spot if it can get consistency from either Hoyer or Mallett under center. Smith's strong efforts leave a little more than $8 million in cap space.
14. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
LB Kiko Alonso (trade)
RB DeMarco Murray (free agent)
CB Byron Maxwell (free agent)
QB Sam Bradford (trade)
WR Nelson Agholor (first-round draft pick)
WR Jeremy Maclin (Kansas City Chiefs)
QB Nick Foles (trade, St. Louis Rams)
RB LeSean McCoy (trade, Buffalo Bills)
Chip Kelly has used his personnel decision-making power to put his own stamp on the team.
Kelly traded away his starting quarterback and running back and let the team's top receiver walk in free agency. He then drafted a receiver in the first round and gave a big five-year, $40 million deal to former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
Kelly clearly isn't interested in overspending to keep veteran personnel. This may be why the Eagles still have nearly $10 million in cap space even after Murray's new deal.
Acquiring linebacker Kiko Alonso and signing cornerback Byron Maxwell should help boost the defense, which ranked 28th last season (375.6 yards per game). Are Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray really better than Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy? This is the big question heading into 2015 and the one whose answer will determine how successful the Eagles really were this offseason.
13. Les Snead, St. Louis Rams
QB Nick Foles (trade)
DT Nick Fairley (free agent)
LB Akeem Ayers (free agent)
RB Todd Gurley (first-round draft pick)
QB Sam Bradford (trade, Philadelphia Eagles)
QB Shaun Hill (free agent)
St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead made the intriguing decision to deal quarterback Sam Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles at the onset of the offseason.
If you look beyond the surface, however, the move makes a lot of sense. The Rams got a 2015 fourth-round pick and a 2016 second-rounder along with quarterback Nick Foles. They also rid themselves of the oft-injured Bradford and his nearly $13 million 2015 salary.
Aside from solid backup Shaun Hill, the Rams didn't really lose anyone the team didn't want to lose. The additions of defensive tackle Nick Fairley and linebacker Akeem Ayers should help improve a defense that was ranked just 16th overall in 2014 by Pro Football Focus.
The decision to grab former Georgia running back Todd Gurley 10th overall seems like a wise move, even if Gurley isn't completely recovered from ACL surgery at the start of the regular season.
For now it seems Snead's work has produced a strong offseason.
12. Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
RB DeAngelo Williams (free agent)
LB Bud Dupree (first-round draft pick)
LB Jason Worilds (retirement)
CB Brice McCain (Miami Dolphins)
As has often been the case under general manager Kevin Colbert, the Pittsburgh Steelers were relatively quiet in free agency.
Colbert did bring in running back DeAngelo Williams and former Steeler James Harrison for depth. However, the big additions are going to come from the draft class, if at all.
First-round pick Bud Dupree from Kentucky should provide an immediate impact as a pass-rusher. The key work here, though, is should. The Steelers selected a linebacker in the first round in both 2013 (Jarvis Jones) and 2014 (Ryan Shazier), but neither has emerged as a true force on the defense.
The Steelers have had a lot of luck with mid-round receivers in recent years, so keep an eye on third-round pick Sammie Coates of Auburn.
It has been a fairly underwhelming offseason for the Steelers, but this is still a playoff-caliber team with more than $8 million in cap space, so it is unfair to criticize Colbert too much.
11. Rick Spielman, Minnesota Vikings
WR Mike Wallace (trade)
CB Trae Waynes (first-round draft pick)
LB Eric Kendricks (second-round draft pick)
WR Greg Jennings (Miami Dolphins)
Outside of a trade to acquire speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace from the Miami Dolphins, Rick Spielman put together a pretty quiet offseason for the Minnesota Vikings.
Most of his efforts in free agency were spent re-signing the likes of guard Joe Berger, running back Matt Asiata and guard Mike Harris. In fact, Spielman's best move of the offseason may have been managing to smooth things over with star running back Adrian Peterson, which prompted him to return to the team after a complicated absence.
The Vikings are in a good position with nearly $10 million in cap space and with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater another year more experienced.
Minnesota earned seven wins last season with Peterson out of the lineup for 15 games. Keeping the core of this team together and getting Peterson back should be enough to push Minnesota toward NFC North contention.
10. Steve Keim, Arizona Cardinals
LB Sean Weatherspoon (free agent)
G Mike Iupati (free agent)
OT D.J. Humphries (first-round draft pick)
DE Markus Golden (second-round draft pick)
CB Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets)
C Lyle Sendlein (free agent)
DE Darnell Dockett (San Francisco 49ers)
Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim took a fairly conservative approach to free agency. He refused to chase cornerback Antionio Cromartie, who returned to the Jets after one year in Arizona.
The lone big-money addition of free agency was former 49ers guard Mike Iupati, who was granted a five-year, $40 million contract. This is a lot of money for an interior lineman, but Iupati was ranked second overall in run blocking by Pro Football Focus last season and should bolster Arizona's ground game.
The Cardinals went after positions of need in the draft, grabbing a potential starter in former Florida tackle D.J. Humphries, a pass-rusher in Missouri's Markus Golden and a change-of-pace running back in Northern Iowa's David Johnson.
There wasn't a lot of flash to Arizona's offseason, and Keim may take some criticism for not going after Cromartie's replacement. However, this is a playoff-caliber roster that didn't need a ton of tinkering. The Cardinals are a little more than $7 million under the salary cap and should be set up to navigate future contracts.
9. Ryan Grigson, Indianapolis Colts
RB Frank Gore (free agent)
WR Andre Johnson (free agent)
LB Trent Cole (free agent)
WR Phillip Dorsett (first-round draft pick)
WR Reggie Wayne (free agent)
DL Cory Redding (Arizona Cardinals)
Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson spent much of the offseason stockpiling talent to add to an offense that was already ranked third in the NFL a season ago (406.6 yards per game).
While some would argue that defense was a bigger need, Indianapolis' formula was good enough to get to the AFC Championship last year. With Andre Johnson, Frank Gore and Phillip Dorsett now in the fold, there is no reason this offense shouldn't be one of the best in all of football.
The Colts didn't really lose anyone it couldn't do without and the team never planned to re-sign longtime star Reggie Wayne. If the team can get a little defensive boost from free-agent linebacker Trent Cole and rookie third-round cornerback D'Joun Smith it will be a bonus.
Bringing back defensive backs Mike Adams and Darius Butler are underrated moves.
The Colts still have about $10 million in salary-cap space, so Grigson's plan of assembling the ultimate offense won't bankrupt the team.
Ultimately though, if the Colts offense isn't good enough to offset an average defense, Grigson's efforts may appear misguided.
8. Dennis Hickey, Miami Dolphins
DT Ndamukong Suh (free agent)
TE Jordan Cameron (free agent)
WR Kenny Stills (trade)
WR DeVante Parker (first-round draft pick)
TE Charles Clay (Buffalo Bills)
WR Mike Wallace (Minnesota Vikings)
Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey was extremely active in free agency, though he did so with caution.
The big-money deal (six-years, $114 million) for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh gives the Dolphins a legitimate game-changer on the defensive side of the football. The signing of tight end Jordan Cameron and drafting of receiver DeVante Parker give quarterback Ryan Tannehill the type of receiving threats he has lacked in his career.
Tannehill, by the way, was signed to a four-year, $77 million extension.
The most brilliant moves by Hickey, however, might be the trades to dump the salaries of receiver Mike Wallace and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Not only did Hickey grab some cap space, but he also received a draft pick from the Minnesota Vikings and receiver Kenny Stills from the New Orleans Saints.
The Dolphins still have more than $10 million in cap space, so it isn't like Hickey risked the financial future of the team. With these new weapons on both side of the ball, however, the Dolphins should contend for an AFC East title this season.
7. Tom Telesco, San Diego Chargers
WR Jacoby Jones (free agent)
G Orlando Franklin (free agent)
S Jimmy Wilson (free agent)
RB Melvin Gordon (first-round draft pick)
CB Marcus Gilchrist (New York Jets)
WR Eddie Royal (Chicago Bears)
San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco did a good job making sure his team's best free agents remained with the team. Re-signing offensive lineman King Dunlap and cornerback Brandon Flowers were priorities, and Telesco got the job done.
He also managed to significantly upgrade a rushing offense that was ranked just 28th overall by Pro Football Focus last season.
Signing guard Orlando Franklin away from the rival Denver Broncos with a five-year, $35.5 million deal was the first step in improving the ground game. Using a first-round pick on former Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon was the second.
The Chargers ranked 10th with 256.1 passing yards per game last season. They should now have a much more balanced offense and one capable of competing in the AFC West.
If there's any serious criticism to hurl at Telesco this offseason, it is for not finding a way to extend quarterback Philip Rivers, who has just one year remaining on his current deal.
6. John Dorsey, Kansas City Chiefs
WR Jeremy Maclin (free agent)
G Ben Grubbs (trade)
CB Marcus Peters (first-round draft pick)
G Mitch Morse (second-round draft pick)
C Rodney Hudson (Oakland Raiders)
TE Anthony Fasano (Tennessee Titans)
Though the Kansas City Chiefs took a step back in 2014, the team still won nine games and didn't enter this offseason with many significant holes.
However, general manager John Dorsey still attacked those holes aggressively, making moves to acquire guys like receiver Jeremy Maclin, guard Ben Grubbs and guard Paul Fanaika. Rookie guard Mitch Morse and rookie receiver Chris Conley also help address the team's two biggest areas of need—receiver and offensive line.
It took some careful cap management for Dorsey to be as aggressive as he was. For example, linebacker Tamba Hali took a $3 million pay cut. Roster-wise, the Chiefs should be a much better team in 2015, even though the team has less cap space than any other team.
If Dorsey can find a way to reach a long-term agreement with star pass-rusher Justin Houston before the end of training camp, he may have put together a near-perfect offseason.
5. Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore Ravens
S Kendrick Lewis (free agent)
WR Breshad Perriman (first-round draft pick)
TE Maxx Williams (second-round draft pick)
WR Torrey Smith (San Francisco 49ers)
DE Pernell McPhee (Chicago Bears)
DT Haloti Ngata (Detroit Lions)
TE Owen Daniels (Denver Broncos)
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has traditionally built his team through the draft, while occasionally adding a value free agent like last year's standout Steve Smith. Rarely does Newsome look to make a splash.
This year's game plan was no different. The Ravens did add some secondary depth with the likes of safety Kendrick Lewis and cornerback Cassius Vaughn, but most of the impact should come from this year's draft class.
The team lost speedy wideout Torrey Smith in free agency but added Central Florida receiver Breshad Perriman and Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams in the first two rounds of the draft. Both rookies are downfield playmakers who should perfectly complement strong-armed quarterback Joe Flacco.
Newsome's best move may have been retaining running back Justin Forsett with a three-year, $9 million contract. Forsett rushed for 1,266 yards and 5.4 yards per carry last season. Replacing him would have been incredibly difficult.
Overall, it was a typically solid offseason for the Ravens. For a team that nearly made it to the AFC Championship last season, it didn't need to be anything different.
4. Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
LB Brian Orakpo (free agent)
S Da'Norris Searcy (free agent)
WR Harry Douglas (free agent)
QB Marcus Mariota (first-round draft pick)
Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster did an outstanding job in free agency this offseason. By grabbing guys like pass-rusher Brian Orakpo, safety Da'Norris Searcy and cornerback Perrish Cox, and by re-signing pass-rusher Derrick Morgan, Webster ensured that new defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has the pieces he needs.
Webster also made an effort to re-sign any in-house free agents the team needed to keep. This group includes punter Brett Kern, kicker Ryan Succop and defensive lineman Karl Klug.
Bringing in veteran receiver Harry Douglas and tight end Anthony Fasano should also help the offense, which was rated just 28th overall in 2014 by Pro Football Focus.
Webster's best choice may have been not overthinking the No. 2 pick and scooping up former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. He likely could have traded the pick away, but Mariota gives Tennessee the possibility of finally having a franchise-caliber quarterback.
We will obviously have to question the decision if Mariota proves to be a flop. Right now, however, it appears that Webster has put together one of the better, and most underrated offseasons of the year.
Webster did spend a fair amount to make these improvements, the the Titans still have the second-most cap room in the league and are set up to make more major moves next offseason.
3. Mike Maccagnan, New York Jets
CB Darrelle Revis (free agent)
CB Antonio Cromartie (free agent)
WR Brandon Marshall (trade)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (free agent)
DE Leonard Williams (first-round draft pick)
WR Percy Harvin (Buffalo Bills)
Thanks to general manager Mike Maccagnan, the New York Jets are going to look like a completely different football team in 2015.
The good news is that almost every single change is a positive one.
It took some aggressive maneuvering by Maccagnan to pull everything off. However, bringing back former Jets Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie completely changes the complexity of the defense. Wide receiver Percy Harvin had value, but replacing him with Brandon Marshall gives the Jets a bigger target and saves money.
Cornerback Buster Skrine is an underrated addition.
Grabbing Leonard Williams with the sixth overall pick gives the Jets more talent than they realistically need along the defensive line, but it gives them perhaps the most talented player in the entire draft.
Even the addition of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looks like a smart decision as it at least brings in competition for third-year passer Geno Smith.
The Jets are left at the bottom end of the salary-cap spectrum but should be an improved football team in 2015.
2. Doug Whaley, Buffalo Bills
QB Matt Cassel (free agent)
WR Percy Harvin (free agent)
RB LeSean McCoy (trade)
TE Charles Clay (restricted free agent)
G John Miller (third-round draft pick)
LB Kiko Alonso (trade, Philadelphia Eagles)
S Da'Norris Searcy (Tennessee Titans)
Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley entered this offseason needing to revamp the offense, and he did exactly that.
Trading for LeSean McCoy and adding Percy Harvin, Charles Clay and Matt Cassel gives the offense a new identity. This is good news for a unit that ranked just 26th overall (318.5 yards per game) a season ago. Sure, Cassel isn't a truly inspiring addition, but there weren't a lot of other veteran options available with which to replace the retired Kyle Orton.
Whaley also managed to find a potential starter in rookie John Miller, who has been running with the first-team offense in OTAs, according to Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com.
Losing guys like Kiko Alonso and Da'Norris Searcy may hurt the defense a little. However, this is a unit that was ranked eighth overall by Pro Football Focus in 2014 and is now under the leadership of Rex Ryan.
Buffalo is shaping up to be a legitimate contender in 2015, and Whaley didn't put the team in a dire cap situation in order to put everything together. He has easily had one of the best offseasons of the year.
1. Ted Thompson, Green Bay Packers
S Damarious Randall (first-round draft pick)
CB Quinten Rollins (second-round draft pick)
CB Davon House (Jacksonville Jaguars)
CB Tramon Williams (Cleveland Browns)
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has rarely gone after the splash signing in free agency, and this season was certainly no different.
Instead, Thompson focused on re-signing guys like defensive tackle B.J. Raji, right tackle Brian Bulaga and wide receiver Randall Cobb while building through the draft.
Losing cornerbacks Davon House and Tramon Williams in free agency could have an early impact in the regular season, but the Packers added two potential starters in Arizona State safety Damarious Randall and Miami (OH) cornerback Quinten Rollins.
The Packers are usually NFC contenders, which seems to prove that Thompson's strategy works. It certainly won't break the bank. The Packers still have nearly $17 million in cap space, despite the amount of top-tier talent residing on the roster.