Report-Card Grades for Every NFL Team's Offseason Before Training Camp Begins
Later this month, many NFL teams will begin training camp. All 32 clubs will soon learn if the work they did this offseason will pay off in the 2015 season and result in a chance of reaching Super Bowl 50.
So, after months of hiring new front-office executives, numerous coaching changes, free-agency signings, trades, salary-cap casualties, the addition of 256 prospects via the draft and many more undrafted rookie free agents, it's time to see how it all shakes out.
Factored into the grades for how each team fared this offseason is a combination of the key personnel comings and goings, ability to re-sign its own players, projected impact from draft picks and subjective evaluations of the new coaches and their assistants.
Agree or disagree? That's the fun of it. And no matter how high or low a team's grade may be here, it means nothing until we get to September.
Arizona Cardinals: B+
Kudos to Bruce Arians, who earned NFL Coach of the Year honors in 2014 due to the fact that he got the Arizona Cardinals to the playoffs as they lost pieces of the team left and right.
The club heads into this season minus defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, now the head coach of the New York Jets. This unit has added defensive tackle Corey Peters, defensive end Cory Redding, linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. We're still waiting to see if suspended inside linebacker Daryl Washington will rejoin the team.
On offense, the club added three-time Pro Bowl left guard Mike Iupati and drafted tackle D.J. Humphries in the first round to aid a running game that finished next-to-last in the NFL this past season.
Perhaps more importantly, quarterback Carson Palmer appears to be ready after missing the second half of 2014 with a torn ACL.
The Cardinals are an interesting team in an NFC West in the midst of transition.
Atlanta Falcons: C+
Atlanta went from 13 wins and a berth in the NFC title game in 2012 to a combined 10 victories the past two seasons. Hence the dismissal of head coach Mike Smith and the hiring of Dan Quinn, the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator the past two seasons. Quinn inherits the league's 32nd-ranked defense from 2014, one that also allowed the most passing yards in the NFL.
Quinn also takes over a team that managed a mere 22 sacks this past season, and the club addressed that this offseason with the free-agent additions of outside linebacker Brooks Reed and defensive end Adrian Clayborn as well as by drafting pass-rusher Vic Beasley in the first round in April.
On offense, there's hope that rookie Tevin Coleman and second-year pro Devonta Freeman can improve a ground attack that finished 24th in the NFL in 2014.
We know that quarterback Matt Ryan and Co. will score points. But are we certain that the team has done enough in all aspects on defense to make a difference?
Baltimore Ravens: A-
There's a reason the Baltimore Ravens have not had a losing season in the last seven years, have been to the postseason in six of those instances and won at least one playoff game in each of those half-dozen occasions.
General manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh have made for a great combination. There have been some messy missteps the last year or so, but the organization has learned from its mistakes. See the offseason release of running back Bernard Pierce following the Ray Rice debacle.
The Ravens managed to re-sign Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett but did lose Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels in free agency.
No problem: Newsome used the first two rounds of the draft to add wide receiver Breshad Perriman (Central Florida) and tight end Maxx Williams (Minnesota), respectively. The team did deal five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions, but Timmy Jernigan proved last year he's ready to step in. The secondary has a few new faces in free safety Kendrick Lewis and cornerback Kyle Arrington.
The Ravens are one of the top organizations in the league. This offseason was a perfect example why.
Buffalo Bills: A
There must be a new season on the horizon, because once again, the Buffalo Bills have a new head coach.
But 2015 has had a different feel to it so far, despite Sunday's disturbing headlines regarding offensive line coach Aaron Kromer (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com).
Rex Ryan has spent the last six seasons in the AFC East with the New York Jets and now hopes to lead his new team to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
The Bills dealt away inside linebacker Kiko Alonso (who missed all of 2014) but picked up three-time Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy in the process. He should instantly improve the league's 25th-ranked ground game of a year ago.
It may be put-up or shut-up time for quarterback EJ Manuel, who's played in just 15 games in two seasons. The Bills have veteran Matt Cassel, obtained via trade from the Minnesota Vikings, as well as free-agent signee Tyrod Taylor. All will have newcomer Percy Harvin to throw to and will benefit from a new-look offense featuring guards John Miller, a third-round pick out of Louisville, and comeback story Richie Incognito.
The league's fourth-ranked defense from a year ago, one that totaled a league-high 54 sacks, returns primarily intact and now will be under the guidance of Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman.
Keep an eye on second-round cornerback Ronald Darby, the team's top selection this year.
There's a lot to look forward to in Buffalo this year. And for a change, we are talking about more than just the wings.
Carolina Panthers: B-
Last season, the Carolina Panthers parlayed a four-game winning streak (which followed a six-game losing streak) into a 7-8-1 record and a second straight NFC South title.
This offseason, they have made a number of moves in hopes of a third straight first-place finish and a record closer to the 12-4 mark they managed in 2013.
The team had a definite need at left tackle and is hoping that Michael Oher, now on his third team in as many years, is the answer. Keeping quarterback Cam Newton in one piece is certainly a priority, and if Oher can't cut it, we could see Jonathan Martin and/or rookie Daryl Williams.
In 2014, Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen and rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin finished Nos. 1 and 2 on the team in catches, and both finished with 1,008 receiving yards. The pass-catching corps should benefit from the return of Ted Ginn (who played for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014) and rookie Devin Funchess, a second-round pick.
The defense took its lumps early last season but appears set, and the club added outside linebacker Shaq Thompson in the first round.
Look for a much more consistent effort from a Panthers team that has managed to avoid last year's offseason issues.
Chicago Bears: A-
It has been a good offseason for the Chicago Bears in any number of ways.
Of course, we have heard that all before.
But there's a different feel in the Windy City these days, due mainly to the arrival of new head coach John Fox and assistants such as offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
We'll focus on the defense first. Fangio brings the 3-4 to Chicago, which brought in newcomers in strong safety Antrel Rolle and linebackers Pernell McPhee, Mason Foster and Sam Acho. The team used a second-round pick on nose tackle Eddie Goldman. It will be interesting to see how veterans such as Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young transition from defensive end to outside linebacker.
New general manager Ryan Pace dealt wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets but signed Eddie Royal and drafted speedy Kevin White in the first round to team with Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett. They also still have nine-year quarterback Jay Cutler, who hopes to improve on 28 touchdown passes and cut back on a disappointing 24 turnovers with the help of Gase.
Chicago is coming off of its worst season since finishing 5-11 in 2004. The club needs to take advantage of its new talent both on the field and on the sideline.
Cincinnati Bengals: B+
We would love to give you a long list of veteran players obtained by the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason.
The only problem is that most of them are former members of the organization. The club welcomed back defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Brandon Ghee, defensive tackle Pat Sims and backup quarterback Josh Johnson to the Queen City following brief stints with other clubs.
As for newcomers, veteran A.J. Hawk hopes to add some depth to a linebacking corps that saw both former Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga miss time in 2014.
In the draft, the Bengals used their first two picks with an eye toward the future on the offensive line, grabbing tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first and second round, respectively.
What the Bengals couldn't sign was an insurance policy stating that their receiving corps would stay healthy, which was a big problem last season.
Cleveland Browns: C+
This year, no team added more players via the draft than the Cleveland Browns. General manager Ray Farmer made an NFL-high dozen selection, including first-round picks of nose tackle Danny Shelton (Washington) and guard Cameron Erving (Florida State).
But this was an offseason with more issues than answers. Wide receiver Josh Gordon will miss all of 2015 due to a league suspension, quarterback Johnny Manziel spent time in rehab in an attempt to get his life in order and Farmer learned back in March (as documented by Dan Hanzus of NFL.com) that he would be suspended for the first four games this season for violating the NFL's electronic device policy.
As for the positives, the team added quarterback Josh McCown, wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline and tight end Rob Housler. On the other side of the ball, Shelton and veteran Randy Starks hope to improve a unit that ranked dead last in the league in run defense. And veteran Tramon Williams gives second-year cornerback Justin Gilbert another old pro to learn from.
Dallas Cowboys: B
Yes, the Dallas Cowboys no longer have the services of 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray.
Yes, there's the ongoing contract situation between the team and Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant, which has now taken an interesting turn in regards to fellow franchised wideout Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos. According to the always-busy Adam Schefter of ESPN, the NFLPA is looking into possible collusion between the two organizations.
Back to the Cowboys, who have replaced Murray with free agent Darren McFadden but still have Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle in the backfield as well.
Most of the concern lies on defense, and the Cowboys used five of their first six picks in the draft on that side of the ball, tabbing cornerback Byron Jones and defensive end Randy Gregory with their first two selections.
The team also took a chance with the signing of troubled defensive end Greg Hardy, and we all just found out that his original 10-game suspension levied by the league has been knocked down to four games. As reported by the Dallas Morning News, it was a decision that drew enormous criticism.
The team will also be without linebacker Rolando McClain (as documented by Conor Orr of NFL.com), who will sit out the first four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
There have been a lot of headlines coming out of Dallas this year. And it's still July.
Denver Broncos: D
Winners of the last four AFC West titles, the Denver Broncos' drive for a fifth straight division crown may truly depend on the five guys blocking for quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of the offense.
First things first, and that's some key departures elsewhere, including tight end Julius Thomas, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and free safety Rahim Moore. The Broncos did add veteran tight end Owen Daniels but did not re-sign veteran wide receiver Wes Welker.
Now for the aforementioned offensive line, which from left to right reads rookie tackle Ty Sambrailo, guard Ben Garland, center Gino Gradkowski, guard Louis Vasquez and tackle Chris Clark. Gone are interior linemen Orlando Franklin, Will Montgomery and Manny Ramirez. The team did add free-agents tackle Ryan Harris and guard Shelley Smith, but the possible issues for this unit create too many low marks.
It will be interesting to see how the 39-year-old Manning fares this year, especially if it takes the offensive line a long time to develop.
Detroit Lions: C
We have harped on this point before, but it has been the one thing that has stood out the most when it comes to the Detroit Lions and the last few months.
Losing as many quality people along the defensive front as the team did this offseason can't be a good thing. The free-agent departures of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley and Andre Fluellen, as well as the trade of defensive end George Johnson to Tampa Bay, means a ton of upheaval at one area in one offseason. Keep in mind that this was a defensive unit that gave up the fewest rushing yards in the NFL in 2014, as well as the second-fewest total yards in the league.
The cupboard isn't bare, though, with the addition of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, obtained from the Baltimore Ravens via trade. There's also Tyrunn Walker and rookie Gabe Wright.
Offensively, this is a team looking for more consistency than a year ago. The Lions struggled to score points, but a healthier Calvin Johnson and rookie running back Ameer Abdullah could help.
Still, this was a team that made its mark on defense in 2014. Who knows what all of these changes will mean to Teryl Austin's unit?
Green Bay Packers: A
Looking for those key offseason free-agent additions by the Green Bay Packers?
You should know better by now.
This offseason, general manager Ted Thompson made sure wide receiver Randall Cobb, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, nose tackles B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion and fullback John Kuhn didn't get away.
That means that the league's highest-scoring team from a year ago, featuring NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, is intact. This year, Tom Clements inherits the play-calling duties from head coach Mike McCarthy so the latter can concentrate on other matters.
As for losses, the team released inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones in an attempt to improve a defense that once again struggled to stop the run. Thompson used his first two picks in the draft on cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins and is hoping Raji, who missed all of 2014, can help plug the middle.
There's a reason the Packers have reached the playoffs six straight years. This offseason proved to be another job well done by this club.
Houston Texans: A+
This past season, the Houston Texans fell short of the playoffs despite a 9-7 record. Of course, this was a team that opened the 2013 campaign with two wins and then dropped its final 14 games.
A seven-win improvement was certainly impressive, although head coach Bill O’Brien would have certainly been happier with a postseason appearance.
If this offseason is any indication, he may get his wish. Brian Hoyer hopes to look like the quarterback who began the 2014 season with the Cleveland Browns before he faded. Along with newcomers Cecil Shorts, Nate Washington and rookie Jaelen Strong, the wide receiving corps includes emerging DeAndre Hopkins and excludes longtime Texan Andre Johnson.
The addition of nose tackle Vince Wilfork could make defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus even more effective. Second-round pick Benardrick McKinney figures to pair inside with Brian Cushing, while we hope to see a lot more from 2014 first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.
New faces in the secondary include safeties Rahim Moore and Steve Brown and first-round cornerback Kevin Johnson as the team saw free safety Kendrick Lewis leave via free agency (Baltimore Ravens) and strong safety D.J. Swearinger cut loose.
It’s been an excellent offseason for this club and one that could propel this team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Indianapolis Colts: A-
Back in 2012, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson hit the jackpot in the draft with the selections of quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
Now the team is hoping that five of the eight players (including cornerback D’Joun Smith and defensive end Henry Anderson) Grigson selected in this year’s draft—all of the defensive variety—can make an immediate impact. That would help, as would the return of a healthy Robert Mathis, who suffered through a forgettable and lost 2014.
Still, head coach Chuck Pagano welcomes a pair of quality veterans in running back Frank Gore (the San Francisco 49ers' all-time leading rusher) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (the NFL’s ninth-leading receiver with 1,012 career catches). Speaking of former Miami Hurricanes, the Colts used this year’s first-round pick on wideout Phillip Dorsett.
The question here isn’t whether the Colts have done enough to win another AFC South title. Has Grigson and Co. made enough moves to unseat the New England Patriots in the conference?
Jacksonville Jaguars: B+
Although the Jacksonville Jaguars won just three games this past season and own a 14-50 record since 2011, you could see that this was a better football team in 2014.
This offseason, the team opened its wallet and added the likes of two-time Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, right tackle Jermey Parnell and center Stefen Wisniewski to an offense that gained the second-fewest yards in the league this past season.
On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars look to improve on the NFL’s 26th-ranked defense with the help of additions such as defensive tackle Jared Odrick, outside linebacker Dan Skuta, cornerback Davon House and free safety Sergio Brown. Unfortunately, the team won’t have rookie defensive end Dante Fowler, who tore his ACL in May.
Also keep an eye on rookie running back T.J. Yeldon, who could aid a so-so Jacksonville ground attack.
Kansas City Chiefs: B-
Last month, as documented by Hayes Rule of the Ledger-Enquirer, unsigned Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston let some people know he feels that he and Tamba Hali are the best pass-rushing tandem in the league.
“I’d say so. I think everybody should think the same way,” said the NFL sack leader of 2014 to Rule in June. “I think you should think that as an NFL player, think you’re the best and believe you’re the best. I really do think we are.”
Here’s another question for Houston: When do you plan on rejoining the team?
The Pro Bowl defender, he of a league-high 22 sacks this past season, was given the franchise tag by the club and has yet to sign his tender. The waiting game continues.
As for better news, the Kansas City offense cleaned house at wide receiver for the most part and added Jeremy Maclin, who played for head coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia. The Chiefs also traded for left guard Ben Grubbs, an upgrade to the offensive line.
On defense, the team has its share of rookies, including first-round corner Marcus Peters. But seeing former Pro Bowl strong safety Eric Berry back on the field one day would be the best news.
Miami Dolphins: A-
Once again, the Miami Dolphins were one of the busiest teams in the league during the offseason.
Maybe this is the year it finally pays off.
The team added big-ticket defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, as well as C.J. Mosley, signed tight end Jordan Cameron and wideout Greg Jennings and traded for wide receiver Kenny Stills, to name a few key additions.
Of course, the Dolphins also dealt wideout Mike Wallace to the Minnesota Vikings and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to the New Orleans Saints (part of the Stills deal) while releasing wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline and not matching an offer sheet for underrated tight end Charles Clay.
Now we wait and see if the Dolphins can get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The franchise has not even experienced a winning season since grabbing the AFC East top spot seven years ago.
Minnesota Vikings: B+
In recent seasons, the Minnesota Vikings have relied heavily on the NFL draft and less on free agency and trades. Dating back to 2012, the team has selected eight players in the first round alone.
Still, this offseason saw the club release wideout Greg Jennings and add Mike Wallace, obtained in a trade with the Miami Dolphins.
While the return of running back Adrian Peterson will be much anticipated, the team also added DuJuan Harris for the backfield and kickoff returns. Head coach Mike Zimmer also welcomes veteran cornerback Terence Newman, who played for Zimmer in both Dallas and Cincinnati.
As previously mentioned, this is an organization that has relied on the draft as of late. That means performers such as left tackle Matt Kalil and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson must up their games from a year ago if this club is to challenge for its first playoff appearance since 2012.
New England Patriots: C
The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have proven for a decade-and-a-half that this is an organization that can never be counted out.
But out are cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard. Gone is veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and running backs Shane Vereen and Steven Ridley. Out for the first four games (and we’re still waiting on the appeal) is quarterback Tom Brady due to a league suspension.
So where does that leave Bill Belichick’s club these days? While Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler are familiar faces in the secondary, free agency brought cornerbacks Robert McClain, Bradley Fletcher and Derek Cox. Seventh-round pick Darryl Roberts hopes to make an impact as well.
The Pats also brought back recent free-agent departures such as linebackers Dane Fletcher and Brandon Spikes, although the latter’s second stint in Foxborough was extremely short-lived.
Looking to forecast some doom for the champs. This was a team that opened 2-2 one year ago and still walked away with a Lombardi Trophy.
New Orleans Saints: D+
Is there any reason to think that the New Orleans Saints are a better team than they were a year ago? This was a club that lost its final five home games and finished 7-9 for the second time in three seasons.
Earlier this year, the team dealt three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks (and got center Max Unger and a first-round pick in return). The Saints traded wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and sent two-time left guard Ben Grubbs to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The NFL’s 31st-ranked defense from a season ago added pieces such as safety Kenny Phillips, cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Kyle Wilson, outside linebacker Anthony Spencer and defensive tackle Kevin Williams. First-round pick/linebacker Stephone Anthony could be a factor as well.
The biggest new face on offense comes in the form of running back C.J. Spiller, who hopes to do his best Darren Sproles imitation in terms of a runner, receiver and special teams contributor. Quarterback Drew Brees also has a new wideout in veteran Josh Morgan, but he and the offense will miss unsung running back Pierre Thomas.
If this new-look club doesn’t all come together, that’s not all that Sean Payton and his team will miss in 2015.
New York Giants: C
This offseason, the New York Giants released the likes of defensive end/outside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, center J.D. Walton and running back Peyton Hillis.
But the most crucial cut came this past week when former Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has yet to sign his franchise tender, had to have his right index finger amputated due to a fireworks accident suffered last week. Jordan Raanan of NJ.com has the latest on the incident as Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott chimes in with some advice.
As for the rest of the offseason surrounding the team, the Giants added running back Shane Vereen on offense and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on the other side of scrimmage. New York allowed the fourth-most total yards and third-most rushing yards in the NFL in 2014. Rookie strong safety Landon Collins hopes to make an immediate impression as well.
This is a team not all that much different from the one that took the field this past season. We’ll see if this club can perform better than a year ago.
New York Jets: A
For the first time in a few years, the New York Jets appear to have a definitive plan that involves the entire organization.
Thanks to the addition of new head coach Todd Bowles and new general manager Mike Maccagnan, there’s an air of confidence surrounding the team this offseason.
A little of that bravado took a hit earlier this month (as reported by Darryl Slater of NJ.com) now that Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will miss the team’s first four games after being suspended for violating the league’s NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Thank goodness for the first-round selection of Leonard Williams in April.
Quarterback Geno Smith has new offensive weapons in veteran wideout Brandon Marshall, running backs Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy and rookie wide receiver Devin Smith. The defense will benefit immensely from the signings of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine.
The Jets last captured the AFC East back in 2002. They figure to make a very strong showing this season.
Oakland Raiders: A
There’s some hope in the Bay Area, and we are not just talking about the Golden State Warriors.
The Oakland Raiders are now under the command of head coach Jack Del Rio. Along with general manager Reggie McKenzie, the team appears bound and determined to wipe out 12 consecutive seasons of non-winning football.
Promising quarterback Derek Carr, off a strong rookie showing, has new receivers in rookie Amari Cooper and former San Francisco 49ers standout Michael Crabtree. Running back Darren McFadden has moved on after seven seasons, but the team hopes Latavius Murray picks up where he left off. The Raiders also added Roy Helu and Trent Richardson. With the free-agent addition of Rodney Hudson, Oakland appears to be the most secure team in the AFC West at center. All of these additions come in an effort to improve the NFL’s worst-ranked offense in 2014.
On defense, the newcomers include defensive tackle Dan Williams, strong safety Nate Allen and rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. The Raiders managed only 22 sacks and 14 takeaways while allowing the most points in the league in 2014.
It could be a very intriguing season for the Silver and Black, a team that has been down far too long.
Philadelphia Eagles: C
Call it a C for Confusing.
It was an offseason of big-time goodbyes and numerous hellos for the Philadelphia Eagles.
But does Chip Kelly’s team really have all of its ducks in a row?
Star running back LeSean McCoy was traded to the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Nick Foles was dealt to the St. Louis Rams. Top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Veterans Trent Cole, Cary Williams, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans were all released and cornerback Bradley Fletcher was not re-signed.
The newcomers include quarterback Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow, neither of whom played in 2014. First-round wideout Nelson Agholor hopes to take the sting out of losing Maclin, but keep an eye on second-year receiver Jordan Matthews. The Birds also added veteran wide receiver Miles Austin.
The running game has been revamped with free-agent pickups DeMarco Murray (the 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year) and Ryan Mathews, a pair of talented performers who have had issues staying healthy.
Other offseason additions include inside linebacker Kiko Alonso, cornerback Byron Maxwell and second-round pick/cornerback Eric Rowe. They all look to help a defense that has been horrible in terms of stopping the pass each of the last two seasons.
Kelly has led this team to 10 wins in each of his first two seasons, so he has earned the benefit of the doubt. But it’s been an odd offseason for a club that faded down the stretch in 2014.
Pittsburgh Steelers: B-
Per usual, the Pittsburgh Steelers spent the offseason tweaking and re-signing players and doing their best not to lose any quality free agents. They also did their usual due diligence when it came to the draft.
But 2015 has proven to be the Year of Retirement in the Steel City.
Eight-time Pro Bowl strong safety Troy Polamalu, veteran cornerback Ike Taylor and still-young outside linebacker Jason Worilds all walked away from the game. Legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is now with the Tennessee Titans.
Still, the team did re-sign quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a sizable contract extension. They also added running back DeAngelo Williams as All-Pro Le’Veon Bell prepares to sit out the first three games of the season due to suspension.
For the third year in a row, the Steelers drafted a linebacker (Bud Dupree) in the first round. They also added a pair of cornerbacks in Senquez Golson and Doran Grant in hopes of fixing a rag-tag secondary.
If the team’s younger defensive players all gel this year, this could be an interesting team to watch on both sides of the ball. But the "ifs" outweigh the answers for now.
San Diego Chargers: A
It’s hard not to like what you see these days with the Los Ang…uh, San Diego Chargers.
That’s a topic for another time. In terms of this offseason, that’s arguably the team’s biggest issue.
Head coach Mike McCoy has new additions such as wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Stevie Johnson, with the former a big boost in terms of the special teams. The Bolts moved up two spots in the first round of the draft to grab running back Melvin Gordon. This past season, only two teams in the NFL gained fewer yards on the ground. Having running back Danny Woodhead back and healthy is great news.
The offensive line was bolstered with the addition of left guard Orlando Franklin. Defensively, John Pagano is hoping to get more production from a team that managed only 18 takeaways and totaled a mere 26 sacks.
Yes, the future of Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle with the organization is somewhat in doubt. But in terms of 2015, the Denver Broncos could truly have something to worry about when it comes to winning the AFC West for a fifth straight year.
San Francisco 49ers: D+
So the San Francisco 49ers really let a man who led their team to a 44-19-1 record and three appearances in the NFC title (including one Super Bowl berth) get away.
The franchise should get an F for that move alone. Regardless of why, Jim Harbaugh is now coaching the Michigan Wolverines.
But there’s also no more Frank Gore (the franchise’s all-time rushing leader), as well as three-time Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati and solid cornerbacks Chris Culliver or Perrish Cox.
The team does get back inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman and is hoping Aldon Smith can be on the field for 16 games. Free-agent pickup Torrey Smith could be an upgrade over wide receiver Michael Crabtree, now with the Oakland Raiders.
But in terms of this organization, this whole offseason has had an uneasy feel to it.
Seattle Seahawks: B+
With a major addition comes a big loss…sometimes.
While the trade that brought three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks was pure genius, it did cost them former Pro Bowl center Max Unger.
The Seahawks also watched left guard James Carpenter take the free-agency train out of town, while highly regarded cornerback Byron Maxwell signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. The team added Cary Williams, who was actually cut loose by Chip Kelly’s club, but the offensive line could have some growing pains early in 2015.
Don’t cry for head coach Pete Carroll as the team looks for a third straight Super Bowl appearance. The “Legion of Boom” secondary is on the mend due to numerous injuries, but the team remains stacked in many areas.
Now if only the Seattle brain trust can get this contract situation figured out with two-time Pro Bowl and Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson.
St. Louis Rams: C+
No winning season since 2003 and no playoff appearance since 2004.
Those are pretty dreadful numbers, but those are the facts when it comes to the St. Louis Rams.
The team did trade for former Pro Bowl quarterback Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles). They also used the 10th overall pick in April to select running back Todd Gurley. The offensive line was a concern this past season, and general manager Les Snead addressed it often with four of this year’s draft picks (five if you include the selection of Isaiah Battle in last week’s supplemental draft). The club also signed guard Garrett Reynolds, late of the Detroit Lions.
Look out if the defense performs as it did the second half of 2014. That unit added defensive tackle Nick Fairley and linebacker Akeem Ayers to a unit that ranked 17th in the league in total yards allowed but gave up only 30 offensive touchdowns.
Despite the arrival of Foles, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding the offense, too many at this stage of the offseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C+
There’s a lot of hope and anticipation when it comes to Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, the first overall selection in this year’s NFL draft.
But when it comes to free agency, this was an organization that focused on the defensive side of the football. The team saw defensive end Adrian Clayborn and linebackers Mason Foster, Jonathan Casillas and Dane Fletcher leave for other teams. Defensive end Michael Johnson was cut loose after one disappointing year with the club, and the Bucs dealt free safety Dashon Goldson to the Washington Redskins.
Tampa Bay’s defense, ranked 25th in the NFL in the first year of the Lovie Smith era, added one-time Chicago Bears such as defensive tackle Henry Melton and free safety Chris Conte. Outside linebacker Bruce Carter and safety D.J. Swearinger hope to make their presence felt as well.
Along with Winston, this figures to be an offense with two other rookie starters in left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet. But has this team done enough to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007?
Tennessee Titans: C
So is there any hope for a team that lost its final 10 contests in 2014?
The Tennessee Titans haven’t been to the playoffs since 2008 and haven’t won a game since October 2014.
They hope to change that quickly this season with some help on offense in the form of quarterback Marcus Mariota, the second-overall pick in this year’s draft who has yet to sign with the team. Running back Bishop Sankey hopes to rebound from a disappointing rookie year, while veteran wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Harry Douglas look to make up for the free-agent loss of Nate Washington.
Dick LeBeau is now a member of the Tennessee coaching staff, and with the additions of three-time Pro Bowler outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins), cornerback Perrish Cox (San Francisco 49ers) and safety Da’Norris Searcy (Buffalo Bills) via free agency, this could be an interesting unit to watch considering the club features sturdy defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and outside linebacker Derrick Morgan.
Even six or seven wins would be a major step in the right direction for the Titans.
Washington Redskins: A
Dating back to 2008, the Washington Redskins have been your ultimate hot-or-miss franchise.
Unfortunately, there have been more whiffs than home runs over that span. The team has finished last in the NFC East six times while winning the division title in 2012.
While onetime NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin has taken his share of hits both on and off the field, he is far from the only reason this club has combined for a not-so-grand total of seven wins the last two seasons.
Gone is defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and enter former San Diego Chargers linebackers coach Joe Barry. New general manager Scot McCloughan gave the new coordinator some impressive toys in defensive linemen Terrance Knighton, Ricky Jean-Francois, Stephen Paea and Jerrell Powe. Improving cornerback Chris Culliver and former Pro Bowl free safety Dashon Goldson hope to help a defense that allowed an NFL-high 35 touchdown passes in 2014.
Can this team bounce back and stun the rest of the NFC East this upcoming season? It may be the defense that paves the way for a surprising resurgence.
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 and ESPN.com.