Report Card Grades for Every NFL Team's Offseason Before Training Camp Begins
We're nearing the home stretch of the offseason. On August 7, the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts will play in the Hall of Fame Game, which kicks off the NFL's preseason.
In an attempt to give a league-wide crash course before mandatory camps begin, we'll go over all of the major transactions that each franchise made. Which free agents left? Who signed whom? What do each team's top-100 selections look like?
We'll answer all of those questions and provide a corresponding letter grade for each organization's offseason effort.
In free agency, the Arizona Cardinals were fairly quiet. While some teams across the league were dishing out record-breaking deals to foreign players, the Cardinals re-signed their own for the most part. Returning to the team are the likes of running back Chris Johnson, who had his second-highest yards-per-game total since 2010 in his first year in the desert, and backup quarterback Drew Stanton, who is one of the better reserve vertical passers in the league.
The team did get creative in its trade for Chandler Jones, the pass-rusher by way of the New England Patriots. Essentially, the Cardinals traded a second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper, the 2013 No. 7 overall pick who has 11 starts under his belt, for Jones' expiring deal.
With deals coming up for Jones and veterans such as Tyrann Mathieu and Carson Palmer, Arizona is in win-now mode, and the draft reflected that. The Cardinals selected Robert Nkemdiche with the No. 29 overall pick; the defensive lineman from Mississippi has all the talent in the world, but his off-field issues and effort questions led to his drop. If he and Jones can get hot for 16 games, they can turn around one of the least exciting pass rushes in the NFL.
After Nkemdiche, the next selection was the No. 92 overall pick, which the team used on Brandon Williams of Texas A&M, a cornerback who was ranked 27th at his position and 233rd overall in his class by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. He was a surprising pick to say the least, but general manager Steve Keim must have thought Williams was the best option on the board to replace Mathieu in a year or to start long term across from Patrick Peterson.
If you told Atlanta Falcons fans right after the season that the team would pick up an offensive lineman, a receiver and a pass-rusher in the offseason, they would have been ecstatic. The team checked all of those boxes, but not before dishing out big money.
Alex Mack, the former Cleveland Browns center, is in Atlanta on a deal worth $9 million per year, which is the highest salary at the position, according to Spotrac. Considering that Mack has been on only one All-Pro team, the 2013 second team, that's a bit concerning.
At receiver, the team signed Mohamed Sanu to a deal worth $6.5 million per season, good for 23rd among wideouts league-wide. Last year, he was the fifth pass-catching option in Cincinnati behind A.J. Green, fellow free agent Marvin Jones, tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Posting 33 receptions on the 15th-ranked passing offense in the league rarely nets the type of cash Sanu was able to bring in this winter.
Derrick Shelby, the pass-rusher the team brought in, is now seventh on the Falcons in average salary, as he's slated to earn $18 million over four years with the franchise. In four seasons, he has posted nine sacks in total, averaging roughly two sacks per season. If he continues that streak, he'll earn about $2 million per sack per year, which is a gross overpay in today's market.
The Falcons' best move in free agency might have been the quiet re-signing of Adrian Clayborn, a rotational edge-defender and 3-technique hybrid. If Clayborn outperforms Shelby, they might be able to salvage the money they're spending in the unit as a whole.
Keanu Neal, a 20-year-old safety from Florida, was the team's first-round pick. In head coach Dan Quinn's Cover 3-heavy defense, safety play is important, and plugging in a young, growing athlete like Neal could be the difference in making that scheme finally click in 2016. Quinn was also part of the recruiting cycle at Florida that brought Neal in, as he was the Gators' defensive coordinator in 2012.
The Falcons' next two top-100 picks went in different directions. In the second round, they brought in Deion Jones, a 222-pound linebacker from LSU who is best known for getting trucked by former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker in the open field. In the third round, they drafted Austin Hooper of Stanford, a tight end who might have the highest upside of his rookie class at his position in the pass-catching category.
Atlanta's draft was a wash, and considering how much it is paying its free agents, it's difficult to imagine the additions outperforming their current contracts. That in itself makes those signings a loss before they even see the field.
The Baltimore Ravens did a good job of retaining their own top talent this offseason. They franchise-tagged kicker Justin Tucker and signed their former undrafted receiver Kamar Aiken to a tender. After that point, though, there was some fluidity.
The team cut tackle Eugene Monroe after drafting Notre Dame bookend Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick and released safety Will Hill, who is now facing a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. In an attempt to replace Hill, the squad signed longtime San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle to a four-year, $26 million contract.
The other major signing was Mike Wallace, a former Pro Bowl speed demon who is with his fourth franchise in five seasons. So long as Stanley can step in for Monroe and Weddle can plug the vacancy that Hill left behind, Wallace's success will be considered icing on the cake for this team's offseason.
The biggest subtraction the team might face is replacing the impact that guard Kelechi Osemele had on the offensive line, though. He signed a deal worth $11.7 million per year with the Oakland Raiders in free agency, becoming the top guard in the league in average salary by $3.7 million, per Spotrac. It was within reason for the team to allow the 51-game starter to walk at that price, but it's a simple fact that the O-line will regress in his absence.
With Joe Cullen leading Baltimore's defensive line, you can assume the team will be one-gapping more up front, as it will appear to be closer to a 4-3 team than a true 3-4 team schematically. The Ravens' other top-100 draft choices, Boise State's Kamalei Correa and BYU's Bronson Kaufusi, should do well in hybrid defenses.
Correa, who is an athletic pass-rushing tweener, can play 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end, while Kaufusi, an athletic-to-scale end, should get looks at both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive end with his 6'6", 285-pound frame.
The Buffalo Bills haven't been big spenders in free agency historically, and 2016 was no exception. The two biggest moves the team might have made were re-signing two offensive linemen, tackle Cordy Glenn and guard Richie Incognito, which is about as stereotypical "Buffalo" as you can get.
Buffalo did have to release pass-rusher Mario Williams as a cap casualty, but it seems to have a long-term answer at the position with first-rounder Shaq Lawson. He was a one-year starter with the Clemson Tigers but was able to earn All-American honors in that lone season. As the 19th overall pick, the bar is going to be set high for the stout, 270-pound rusher, but his shoulder surgery will keep him off the field for at least the beginning of his rookie season, according to Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm.
The Bills didn't stop adding big names after Lawson, either. Their next three picks, Reggie Ragland, Adolphus Washington and Cardale Jones, were household names for Saturday couch dwellers.
Ragland, the second-round pick, was the linebacker for Nick Saban's national title squad. You can expect him and head coach Rex Ryan to mesh well early on, as it's not crazy to expect a 16-start season from the rookie.
The pair of Ohio State Buckeyes, Washington and Jones, provides upside. Washington played both defensive end, when Noah Spence was originally suspended from Ohio State, and defensive tackle in college. Athletically, he tested poorly at the combine, but prior to his runs in Indianapolis, some thought he could have been a dark-horse first-round pick.
Jones, on the other hand, embarked on one of the best three-game stretches during the Buckeyes' 2014 championship run, but he was eventually benched at quarterback for J.T. Barrett in 2015.
The Carolina Panthers do not want to overpay their own. That's what they stated with their actions this offseason. The evidence is in their movement at both the cornerback and defensive tackle positions.
One of the biggest risers in the NFL last season was Josh Norman, who had a Richard Sherman-like season of smack-talking and on-field performance during the Panthers' run to the Super Bowl. Luckily for Norman, he did it all during a contract season, which everyone assumed would lead to a big payday in Carolina. The team did originally give him a franchise-tag offer, but after months of contract negotiations and no long-term contract on hand, Carolina let him walk just before the draft.
Meanwhile, the Panthers signed Brandon Boykin, whom they have already cut, and later used their second through fourth selections in the draft on three cornerbacks: James Bradberry of Samford, Daryl Worley of West Virginia and Zack Sanchez of Oklahoma. It seems the team has a plan to replace Norman: a strong competition at the position.
The other big position the team addressed is defensive tackle. You can make the case the biggest free agent the team signed was Paul Soliai of the Atlanta Falcons, and the squad also spent its first-round pick on Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech, a 6'4", 323-pound behemoth.
Carolina already has two starting-caliber interior linemen in Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, but both of those players, who were drafted in 2013, are about to exit their rookie deals. The Panthers appear to be stocking up on defensive tackles because they want to treat their star front-seven players with the same mentality they treated their star cornerback. If they want to re-sign on team-friendly deals, Carolina is on the phone, but once that option is out the window, the team will tell them to hit the road.
The Chicago Bears, in the second year under John Fox, had one of the best offseasons in the NFL. They addressed their linebacker issues by signing former Denver Bronco Danny Trevathan and former Indianapolis Colt Jerrell Freeman. While they're now both paid like top-16 inside linebackers, per Spotrac, the team turned a clear negative into a positive before the draft even kicked off.
The other notable free-agent signings were defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who has played with the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots, and bookend Bobby Massie, who came to Chicago via the Arizona Cardinals. Hicks is a high-upside defensive end who has flashed at times but hasn't been able to post a consistent season. Massie is an average tackle at best, but his addition to the team means that Kyle Long can move back to guard, where he made the All-Pro second team in 2014.
The team's best move, though, might have been allowing running back Matt Forte to walk. Though Forte is a fan favorite in Chicago, giving a 30-year-old back a long-term deal, like the New York Jets did with their three-year agreement, doesn't make much sense on paper.
While the free-agency period involved a lot of solid, safe moves, the franchise took some gambles in the draft on players with low floors and high ceilings. Leonard Floyd, a 6'6", 244-pound edge-defender, is skinny and lanky, but if Vic Fangio can make him the Bears' version of Aldon Smith, they'll be more than happy with the ninth overall pick they spent.
Cody Whitehair, the team's second-round pick, was a stellar tackle for Kansas State, but he'll kick inside to guard at the next level. Don't count him out at tackle if Massie struggles, though. In college, he was similar to David Bakhtiari, another undersized tackle whom many considered an interior lineman in the draft process but is going into his fourth year as the Green Bay Packers' starting bookend.
Jonathan Bullard, the 72nd pick in the draft, is a hybrid defensive tackle and pass-rusher who is sort of positionless in the NFL. He's a clear interior player in passing situations, but is that his ceiling? If everything breaks right for him, he can have an impact like Allen Bailey, who is outplaying his four-year, $25 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a draft-and-develop franchise, as they've been able to ride with that organizational way of thinking for the vast majority of Mike Brown's tenure as the owner of the team. No one should have expected them to make many moves this past offseason, and they didn't.
The tale of their offseason is where their own players landed. At defensive back, they were able to retain stud safety George Iloka and cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones. At receiver, though, they weren't so lucky. Both Marvin Jones, their No. 2 receiver, and Mohamed Sanu, their No. 3, walked after hitting the open market.
In the second round, after adding yet another defensive back in Houston's William Jackson, the Bengals selected Tyler Boyd, a receiver from Pittsburgh. In many ways, Boyd was the entire Panthers offense last season, attacking short to mid-ranges like Keenan Allen, being forced the ball deep and even taking handoffs. If there's any breakout receiver candidate in Cincinnati, it's Boyd.
The team also added a trio of quality prospects in the mid-to-late rounds. Nick Vigil of Utah State should help out the linebacker unit, which you could argue was the biggest weakness of what looked to be the most talented team in the league at times last season. Cincinnati also added Andrew Billings of Baylor, an undersized 20-year-old defensive tackle whose drop was a draft-day shock. Lastly, Christian Westerman of Arizona State projects to be a long-term starter at guard, whenever one of those jobs opens up down the line.
The Cleveland Browns lost out on two key offensive linemen in free agency after center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz departed, though they both now rank among the highest-paid players at their positions. What was once considered one of the better offensive lines in football is now dismantled.
On the other hand, they added Demario Davis, a linebacker who previously played with the New York Jets, and Robert Griffin, a quarterback from Washington who was once thought of as a savior passer. With the addition of Griffin, the team at least has hope to address the quarterback position.
The draft is where the Browns made their biggest moves, outside of the Griffin signing. In the first round, they added Baylor speedster receiver Corey Coleman. They then followed up with back-to-back selections of Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah and Penn State's Carl Nassib, who were pass-rushers in college. After that, the biggest names they brought in with their remaining 11 selections were Cody Kessler, a 6'1" quarterback from USC, and Joe Schobert, a 6'1" pass-rusher from Wisconsin.
The biggest name missing from the Dallas Cowboys roster is pass-rusher Greg Hardy, who still hasn't signed on with an NFL team. The Cowboys may be lacking in the pass-rushing unit in 2016, but they have taken a social stand after giving Hardy a second chance in 2015.
The team did re-sign some former high draft selections in linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Morris Claiborne, though. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, McClain will miss the first 10 games of the 2016 season due to a suspension.
They also stole running back Alfred Morris from the division rival Washington Redskins. Still, Morris will likely be behind a rookie on the depth chart after Dallas used the fourth overall pick on Ezekiel Elliott this past draft.
Elliott might enter the league with the highest expectations ever for a rookie runner, as he'll come in behind the best offensive line in the league. With that being said, the Cowboys also brought in other high-upside draft picks, though they likely won't make much of an impact in 2016.
Jaylon Smith, the team's second-round selection, was considered to be a blue-chip prospect until his postseason knee injury forced volatile draft projections. A pair of athletic defensive linemen, Maliek Collins of Nebraska and Charles Tapper of Oklahoma, have Pro Bowl potential, and under the guidance of legendary defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, you'd be foolish to write off the mid-round picks.
When we look back at this Denver Broncos offseason, we'll determine success on whether Paxton Lynch, their first-round pick, is better than Brock Osweiler, their former No. 2 quarterback who signed with the Houston Texans this offseason. It's a hard transition to find a new starting quarterback in today's market for the position, but trying to tread water after your Hall of Fame passer's post-Super Bowl retirement represents a different level of difficulty.
Not only did they lose two quarterbacks, but the Broncos also had two key defenders hit the open market in Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. On the bright side, they did bring in offensive tackle Russell Okung from the Seattle Seahawks. He signed a five-year deal with a four-year team option, essentially freeing up Denver from investing big money in the bookend if he can't stay healthy in 2016.
Edge-defender Von Miller, who won Super Bowl MVP last season, had the franchise tag placed on him this offseason. Miller has stated he's not going to play on a one-year contract in 2016, and the largest ongoing story in the NFL is if he will sign a record-breaking deal before the season kicks off.
For the first time since 2006, the Detroit Lions will head into the regular season without wideout Calvin Johnson. After posting 11,619 career receiving yards, the 2007 second overall pick decided to hang up the cleats for good this offseason.
In response to that, the Lions signed Marvin Jones during free agency. He was the No. 2 wide receiver on the Cincinnati Bengals after A.J. Green, and, according to Spotrac, his $8 million-per-year average salary makes him the 20th-highest-paid wideout in the league. The Lions overspent on Jones, who is now paid more than their No. 1 receiver, Golden Tate, but they needed to address the position, and they succeeded.
Their other major free-agency splash was replacing offensive lineman Manny Ramirez with Geoff Schwartz of the New York Giants.
In the first round of the draft, they selected Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker. In the following two rounds, the Lions drafted college star A'Shawn Robinson and late riser Graham Glasgow. Robinson was a 3-4 defensive end with the Alabama Crimson Tide, doing enough in his career to warrant an invite to the draft.
With Robinson falling to the middle of the second round, the Lions got a perceived steal, but in their 4-3 defense, he's a bit of a square peg in a round hole. Glasgow played center for the in-state Michigan Wolverines but didn't rise until his pair of all-star practice weeks at the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers didn't make many moves this offseason. In free agency, the only projected starters to hit the open market were kicker Mason Crosby and nose tackle Letroy Guion, who both re-signed with the team. The San Diego Chargers did sign slotback Casey Hayward, but after drafting cornerbacks in the first and second round last season, the Packers seem more than healthy at the position long term.
The team did add a "name" free agent for the first time in seasons, though. From the now-Los Angeles Rams, the Packers brought in tight end Jared Cook, who has the highest upside of any tight end on the roster, but his ball skills stalled drives in St. Louis.
In the draft, general manager Ted Thompson went with young players with upside. The first-round pick, former UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark, is only 20 years old. In the second round, the team drafted Indiana bookend Jason Spriggs to sit and develop behind a line that returns all five of its starters from last season; however, three of those linemen are in contract years.
Despite losing a pair of offensive linemen in Ben Jones, who signed with division foe Tennessee, and Brandon Brooks, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Houston Texans still managed to give their offense a giant face-lift this offseason. The additions of Jeff Allen, Lamar Miller and Brock Osweiler will completely change how the one-and-done team moves the ball.
Allen was a top-tier guard with the Kansas City Chiefs, and one would assume he's a plug-and-play impact player on the Texans line. Miller, on the other hand, had always been a preseason breakout candidate with the Miami Dolphins, but the running back has never been given ample opportunities to grow.
Osweiler is the prize fish from the class. After spending the majority of his rookie contract in Denver as a backup to Peyton Manning, he signed a $72 million contract with the Texans this offseason, becoming their franchise quarterback, at least in terms of assets spent.
On top of those three free-agency additions, the franchise used its first four draft picks on offensive players. Houston took Notre Dame's Will Fuller in the first round as a speed receiver to spell DeAndre Hopkins. The team then brought in Nick Martin of Notre Dame to replace Jones as the team's starting center.
Braxton Miller, a converted Ohio State quarterback, looks to add depth to a once shallow Texans receiver unit. Lastly, Tyler Ervin, an undersized running back from San Jose State, was drafted in the fourth round and projects best as a backfield pass-catcher in the mold of Darren Sproles.
Since Andrew Luck was drafted in 2012, the Indianapolis Colts have been lucky enough to play in the weakest division in the NFL, the AFC South, while Luck's performance at quarterback masks the roster's flaws. With that in mind, it's insane that the Colts would allow any young talent to leave the relatively weak roster.
Two major players walked out of Indianapolis this winter in Coby Fleener and Jerrell Freeman. Fleener is a former Stanford tight end who played alongside Luck. After competing with Dwayne Allen for touches at the position, Fleener is now in New Orleans, where he should be the primary tight end option for Drew Brees' offense.
Freeman is a talented inside linebacker who became half of the duo to revamp the Chicago Bears' off-ball linebacker unit this offseason.
With no major addition in free agency, the best player by a mile who will be a first-year Colt is center Ryan Kelly of Alabama. The first-round pick may be the most talented center prospect we've seen in a decade, and with former Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin mentoring the line, you can expect big things from the snapper.
The Colts followed that selection with two major home run swings. T.J. Green of Clemson was the second-round selection; the hybrid safety-cornerback was likely the fourth-most talented player in that Tigers secondary, but after he ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, his stock rose. In the third round, Le'Raven Clark of Texas Tech, a 6'5", 316-pound bookend, came off the board. Clark never had to learn how to get into passing sets in Lubbock, which is why he's such an unrefined lineman.
The Jacksonville Jaguars might have made the biggest move of the offseason by giving Denver Broncos interior defensive lineman Malik Jackson an $85.5 million contract, despite the fact he hasn't ever been to a Pro Bowl. Jackson is a positive addition for the Jaguars, but we'll have to see if he steps his game up in his second deal to earn the money he signed up for.
The team also took a couple of big swings at regressed stars. Between former New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, former Pittsburgh Steelers bookend Kelvin Beachum and former New York Jets running back Chris Ivory, the Jaguars brought in manageable contracts for borderline multiyear starters.
Jacksonville's first two draft picks caused reason for excitement, too. Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, a cornerback with legit No. 1 potential, was the fifth overall selection. In the second round, the Jaguars made the call to draft UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, who missed the majority of his junior season with a knee injury but compares to Bobby Wagner on the field.
With the additions of Jackson, Amukamara, Ramsey, Jack and 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr., who missed last season with a torn ACL, Gus Bradley's defense finally has the personnel to be effective.
Kansas City Chiefs
Surprisingly, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to retain the majority of their own players this offseason. Not only did they franchise-tag safety Eric Berry, but they also re-signed defensive lineman Jaye Howard, linebacker Derrick Johnson and pass-rusher Tamba Hali.
The loss of offensive lineman Jeff Allen and cornerback Sean Smith wasn't ideal, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a much better result than many projected their realistic goals to be heading into the offseason.
The team was able to sign a top-tier right tackle in Mitchell Schwartz to help solidify the slowly growing offensive line, which features semi-breakout tackle Eric Fisher. All in all, the Chiefs became more talented through free agency, which for an 11-5 franchise is difficult.
Despite only coming away with two top-100 picks, Kansas City made the most of its draft value. With their first pick, the Chiefs selected defensive lineman Chris Jones of Mississippi State. The second-rounder compares similarly to Muhammad Wilkerson, a top-five defensive lineman in the NFL who was up and down in college.
They used their third-round selection on KeiVarae Russell of Notre Dame, a cornerback who was held back later in his college career with a suspension and a tibia injury. When Russell was on the field, though, he was a factor for the Irish, and if he is half the rookie that Marcus Peters was last season, Kansas City fans will love its young duo at the position.
Los Angeles Rams
The one and only projection that matters for the Los Angeles Rams' first offseason after returning to Southern California is what Jared Goff looks like three years from now. The Rams selected the California Golden Bear first overall, but only after they traded six top-100 selections, including two first-round picks, to acquire the selection from the Tennessee Titans.
In free agency, they did manage to lose some talent, with cornerback Janoris Jenkins taking an offer with the New York Giants. Between Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, who was franchise-tagged by the team, the Rams must have felt they could only compete monetarily to keep one of their two top cornerbacks, and they had to make their decision early.
The Rams' next selection after Goff wasn't until the fourth round, when they drafted Tyler Higbee, a tight end from Western Kentucky, and Pharoh Cooper, a receiver from South Carolina. They used their fourth pick, the 177th overall selection, on Temarrick Hemingway, a tight end from South Carolina State. After taking Josh Forrest, a linebacker from Kentucky, they finished their draft by selecting Mike Thomas, a wideout from Southern Mississippi, solidifying their blueprint for the future: Build around Goff.
The Miami Dolphins lost two of their top pass-rushers in Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby this offseason, but they were both grossly overpaid for their services on the open market. Shelby will essentially be paid $2 million per sack in Atlanta based on his career averages, and Vernon received an $85 million contract from the New York Giants, despite never making a Pro Bowl to this point in his career.
To address the team's pass-rushing depth issue, the franchise signed Mario Williams, who was cut by fellow AFC East resident Buffalo, to a two-year, $17 million contract. With aging superstars in Williams and Cameron Wake on the edge, the team must hope that the impact Ndamukong Suh makes on the inside is enough for the pair to pick up some cleanup sacks.
The Dolphins also lost running back Lamar Miller to the Houston Texans, but they addressed the position by drafting Alabama's Kenyan Drake in the third round. Drake is best known as a backfield pass-catcher, and he even split out as a receiver at times for the Crimson Tide.
Still, the biggest name the team added during the offseason was Laremy Tunsil of Mississippi. The bookend was known as an impact blocker since his true freshman year with the Rebels, but when he was finally eligible on draft night, a hacked Twitter account episode led to his drop to the middle of the first round, where the Dolphins nabbed him. At this point, Tunsil's short-term projection is at guard, not tackle.
Rounding out the top-100 selections for the Dolphins were Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard and Rutgers receiver Leonte Carroo. Howard played in the quarters-heavy Big 12, and there's some uncertainty in terms of how he will transition to a more professional style defense.
Carroo was a top-50 talent on the field, but his assault charge, which was eventually dropped, led to his suspension with the Scarlet Knights. Between the selections of Tunsil and Carroo, you have to wonder if Miami is going to overlook off-field concerns moving forward in terms of the draft.
Outside of offensive line movement, there wasn't much to write home about during Minnesota's free-agency period. The Vikings did re-sign Mike Harris. Plus, their signing of Alex Boone from San Francisco should provide an instant impact for an offensive line unit that is in a make-or-break season. And Andre Smith, formerly a promising bookend with the Cincinnati Bengals, will offer depth.
In the draft, the team only had two top-100 selections, but it made the most of them. At receiver, the team needs a consistent contributor. Heading into draft weekend, the top target on the roster was Stefon Diggs, a sophomore Day 3 selection. In the first round, the Vikings addressed their personnel flaw by drafting Laquon Treadwell from Mississippi, an Anquan Boldin-type athlete.
With the second-round pick, Mike Zimmer's squad made a Zimmer-esque selection by drafting another defensive back early in Clemson's Mackensie Alexander. In Cincinnati, where Zimmer was previously a defensive coordinator, this was an offseason staple.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots didn't have a first-round pick due to the Deflategate scandal that has unfortunately been feeding the past two offseasons' cravings for 24/7 content. Because of that, it's hard to find an instant-impact player whom the New England Patriots brought on board.
The team lost Akiem Hicks, who was only in New England for 2015, to the Chicago Bears, which is a bit of a loss but nothing that should cost the Patriots wins down the road. They did add some upside front-seven players, though, with the additions of pass-rushers Chris Long and Shea McClellin and defensive lineman Terrance Knighton. With the loss of Chandler Jones to a trade with the Arizona Cardinals, the team must have thought a rotation, not an individual, was the best way to replace the edge-defender.
In the second round, with the team's first pick, Bill Belichick selected Cyrus Jones, a cornerback from Alabama. If Jones' career follows the trajectory of the rest of Nick Saban's defensive backs, he's a physically tapped-out player due to the coaching he received in Tuscaloosa, but he should be a decent player out of the gate. With the 60th overall pick, you can't ask for much more.
In the third round, the team made three selections, including swing offensive lineman Joe Thuney and quarterback Jacoby Brissett, both from North Carolina State. Depending on how the quarterback battle shakes out in the preseason, Brissett could start for the Patriots in Week 1, as Tom Brady is slated for a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints, who are in salary-cap purgatory due to the moves they have made in recent offseasons, were shackled in free agency. Their only move of note was signing Coby Fleener to a deal worth $7.2 million per year, which is good enough for him to rank as the 13th-highest-paid tight end in the league per Spotrac. He should help to replace Marques Colston, the longtime jumbo slot target for Drew Brees who was cut this past winter and has yet to make a roster.
The team spent its first-round pick correctly on an impact defensive player. Last season, the Saints might have fielded the worst defense in the league, as they allowed the most points per game in the NFL (29.8 average). Sheldon Rankins, a 3-technique prospect from Louisville, has the potential to be the next Kawann Short, and the Saints' first pick of the draft may be their second-most talented defender, after Cameron Jordan, on the team.
In the second round, the team took back-to-back Ohio State Buckeyes. Michael Thomas, a receiver, fell into the Saints' lap after some first-round projections. Along with Brandin Cooks and Fleener, Thomas could give Brees the young receiving corps he needs to make another title run.
The second Buckeye off the board was Von Bell, a safety who looks to be behind Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro on the depth chart, but their long-term standing with the team is in jeopardy based on on-field play relative to the franchise's investment in the pair.
New York Giants
Pass-rusher Robert Ayers left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cornerback Prince Amukamara left for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The New York Giants had to replace key contributors this offseason and found even better replacements.
At pass-rusher, they brought in Olivier Vernon from the Miami Dolphins. At only 25 years old, it's hard to pin down Vernon's peak, but with an $85 million contract, he better make his first Pro Bowl quickly. When the Rams franchise-tagged Trumaine Johnson, they allowed cornerback Janoris Jenkins to test the open market, where he found a $62.5 million offer from the Giants. The team also addressed cornerback with its first-round pick of Eli Apple, a 6'1" upside player from Ohio State.
The additions on the defensive side of the ball didn't stop there, though, as the Giants brought in Damon Harrison from the Jets. Harrison figures to be a space-eating nose tackle in New York's 4-3 scheme. The team also re-signed pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul to a one-year, $10 million contract.
In the draft, you can make the case that after Apple, who was a surprise top-10 pick, the Giants made four value selections. They drafted Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard 40th overall; although he has size issues, with head coach Ben McAdoo still running a timing offense, the combo of Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. is nearly unstoppable in condensed space.
In the third round, the team drafted safety Darian Thompson from Boise State. He was one of the better hybrid safeties from this past class. In the middle rounds, the Giants brought in linebacker B.J. Goodson from Clemson, who may start in one of the league's weakest units, and running back Paul Perkins from UCLA, who should compete with Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen for playing time.
New York Jets
Like the Denver Broncos and Von Miller, the New York Jets' biggest offseason storyline has been their franchise tag of Muhammad Wilkerson. He notched 12 sacks as a 300-plus-pound defensive lineman in 2015, which is nearly impossible if your name isn't Warren Sapp. With no long-term contract in hand, we'll enter Year 2 of the "will he stay or will he go?" conversation.
In Todd Bowles' second year as an NFL head coach, he'll need to replace two significant contributors on his defense. Demario Davis, an inside linebacker, signed with the Cleveland Browns, while Damon Harrison, a nose tackle, signed with the New York Giants. Darron Lee, who projects as an inside linebacker, was selected 20th overall this past draft and will likely start in Week 1.
Despite losing some talent, the Jets did manage to lure Matt Forte from the Chicago Bears. In what looks to be his last contract as a premier back, New York can use the backfield pass-catcher on all three downs. Who will throw him those balls is a question, though, as the team's starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is still sitting on the open market.
In the second round, the Jets drafted quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who at this point looks to compete with 2013 second-round pick Geno Smith for the starting job. In the third round, the team called Jordan Jenkins' name. He was an undersized pass-rusher (6'3", 259 lbs) at Georgia, but he should help New York, which may have the worst pairing of true edge-defenders in the league.
Heading into free agency, everyone knew Kelechi Osemele was going to get paid like a king. The Baltimore Ravens guard was one of the best in the NFL on a consistent basis. What we didn't know, though, was that he was going to receive record-breaking money, as his $58.5 million contract is worth more than any guard in the league by nearly $12 million.
The Oakland Raiders fronted the money for a final piece to make their young offensive line one of the best in the NFL.
The team also re-signed Donald Penn, a key contributor to the line. It also added Sean Smith, a lengthy cornerback, and Bruce Irvin, an undersized (6'3", 260 lbs) but explosive pass-rusher. Both long cornerbacks and edge-benders with burst are staples of the Ron Wolf tree, which general manager Reggie McKenzie branches off from.
In the draft, the Raiders added four interesting players to their growing roster. The first was Karl Joseph of West Virginia, an enforcer of a safety who some hope will look like Bob Sanders in an Oakland uniform.
The second was Jihad Ward, a Senior Bowl riser who is talented but lacks a true position in a 4-3 defense. The third was Shilique Calhoun, a 24-year-old pass-rusher from Michigan State who put together three great seasons in the Big Ten.
The last noteworthy addition was Connor Cook of Michigan State, a quarterback who has Day 2 talent but slipped to the beginning of Day 3, when the Raiders traded up to draft the presumed long-term backup to Derek Carr.
Quarterbacks. That's what happened this past offseason in Philadelphia.
Sam Bradford re-signed with the team to a two-year contract worth $35 million. The Eagles didn't stop there, though. Chase Daniel, who previously served as a backup under new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson in Kansas City, also signed a three-year, $21 million contract.
But the biggest move was yet to come, as the franchise mortgaged its future on Carson Wentz of North Dakota State, an FCS program. The Eagles had to give up two first-round picks, a second-round pick, a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick to get to the second overall slot, where they took Wentz. After him, the only top-100 selection they were able to use was on Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo.
The other major transactions in Philadelphia this offseason revolved around the defensive line. In coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 defense, the scheme will often ask for a 3-technique defensive tackle, and Fletcher Cox's $102.6 million extension answers the question of who that will be. The team also re-signed Vinny Curry to a $47 million deal but lost out on Cedric Thornton, who now suits up for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost left tackle Kelvin Beachum to a prove-it deal with a four-year option to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but with Alejandro Villanueva on hand, paying another tackle wasn't necessary. The squad also lost Brandon Boykin to the Carolina Panthers, but he has since been released and is sitting on the open market.
By far the biggest free-agent addition for the team was Ladarius Green, an athletic pass-catching tight end who was supposed to replace Antonio Gates in San Diego. However, with Gates aging like fine wine, Green never got a shot. In Pittsburgh's two-point-conversion-heavy offense, expect Green's 6'6" frame to come in handy in constricted space.
Early on in the draft, the Steelers added back-to-back players to help their weakest unit: defensive backs. Artie Burns of Miami and Sean Davis of Maryland may take some time to adjust to Pittsburgh's complicated scheme, but they'll improve the long-term outlook of a unit the Steelers rarely invest heavily in. Javon Hargrave of South Carolina State, an undersized (6'1", 309 lbs) pass-rushing defensive tackle, will also contribute on passing downs early in his career.
San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers shocked the world by drafting Joey Bosa of Ohio State with the third overall pick in the draft. Bosa, who doesn't truly fit in a 3-4 defense with his lack of bend on the edge and lack of weight for a down lineman, will play some sort of hybrid role. Pairing his power with Melvin Ingram's speed will torment offensive linemen on the edge and interior moving forward.
Longtime tight end Antonio Gates re-signed with the Chargers, while Ladarius Green walked to Pittsburgh. In the second round, San Diego found its tight end of the future in Hunter Henry of Arkansas. Whenever Gates truly does decline, the team will have an in-house answer to the problem.
As for the Chargers' lesser additions, they added slotback Casey Hayward from Green Bay, run-plugger Brandon Mebane from Seattle and receiver Travis Benjamin from Cleveland. In the middle rounds of the draft, they also added inside linebackers Joshua Perry from Ohio State and Jatavis Brown from Akron, who will add depth behind Manti Te'o and Denzel Perryman.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers didn't attack free agency with much force in their first offseason under new head coach Chip Kelly. In fact, their only move of significance was allowing their former guard, Alex Boone, to walk in free agency. The team did address that position, though, by trading up from the second round into the late first for Josh Garnett of Stanford.
For the most part, Kelly has run zone-heavy schemes in the NFL, which is confusing since Garnett played in a mostly gap scheme with the Cardinal. Still, a quality interior lineman is a quality interior lineman, and the 49ers landed one in the draft.
Before the selection of Garnett, though, the team drafted DeForest Buckner out of Oregon. The pairing of Buckner and Arik Armstead, last year's first-round pick, with their college defensive line coach, Jerry Azzinaro, just makes too much sense for the true 3-4 defenders not to develop. The 49ers also added to their list of possible redshirt prospects by selecting Will Redmond of Mississippi State. He was a first-round talent who tore his ACL during the 2015 season.
When you win a lot of games, other franchises will start to poach your players. This is exactly what's happening to the Seattle Seahawks. They lost pass-rusher/linebacker hybrid Bruce Irvin to the Oakland Raiders, run-stopper Brandon Mebane to the San Diego Chargers, left tackle Russell Okung to the Denver Broncos and guard J.R. Sweezy to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the bright side, they re-signed defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin and cornerback Jeremy Lane.
In the first round, the Seahawks drafted Texas A&M bookend Germain Ifedi, who will hopefully develop under offensive line coach Tom Cable. As it stands today, Cable's offensive line unit may be the weakest in the league when the regular season kicks off. He has his work cut out for him.
Mebane's long-term contributions to the team should be replaced by second-round pick Jarran Reed, who at Alabama was one of the best pure run-stoppers in college football. The nose tackle was invited to the draft, presumably as a possible first-round pick, but the Seahawks were able to land him at the price of the 49th overall pick.
The Seahawks also had a trio of third-round selections in Notre Dame's C.J. Prosise, Ohio State's Nick Vannett and Boise State's Rees Odhiambo. Prosise may be the team's Week 1 starter at running back, with Marshawn Lynch now officially retired from the sport. Vannett could be the backup plan to Jimmy Graham, who wasn't close to who he was in New Orleans in his first year in Seattle. If Cable can get Odhiambo up to speed, he may be one of the team's top five offensive linemen to start the year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled to put together a pass rush in recent years, which, after passing up Michael Bennett, has to hurt. With the addition of Robert Ayers, who got hot with the New York Giants in the second half of the season, they hope to have corrected that issue.
The team added a cluster of free agents in Dirk Koetter's first season as head coach. On top of re-signing Doug Martin, the Bucs' bounce-back running back, they also brought in Daryl Smith, a linebacker from Baltimore, and J.R. Sweezy, a guard from Seattle.
The team's approach to defensive backs is much different than the consensus we see across the league. Between the signing of Brent Grimes, who is listed at 5'10", and the first-round selection of Vernon Hargreaves of Florida, who fell under 5'11" at the combine, Tampa Bay isn't valuing length at the position, while the rest of the NFL is chasing the ghosts of Richard Sherman.
The Buccaneers also made two second-round selections. The first was Noah Spence of Western Kentucky, who originally played for the Ohio State Buckeyes before a drug suspension barred him from Big Ten play. Spence, along with Ayers, hopes to shorten the time Grimes and Hargreaves have to cover wideouts one-on-one. The team's second choice in the round was kicker Roberto Aguayo of Florida State, a selection the Bucs traded up to acquire.
The Tennessee Titans' free-agency cycle generated little to no excitement. You can argue that their top signing was Ben Jones, a center whom the Texans are going to replace with a rookie.
What was interesting about the team's offseason was the draft. After sending the first overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams, the Titans were able to load up on draft picks. With their first-round choice, they drafted Jack Conklin of Michigan State, a bookend who should keep the fumble-prone Marcus Mariota upright, a problem the team had in his rookie season.
In the second round, the Titans added three more top talents in Kevin Dodd, Austin Johnson and Derrick Henry. Dodd was a late-blooming pass-rusher out of Clemson who should hopefully start opposite Brian Orakpo sooner than later. Johnson is a plugging nose tackle from Penn State who may free up Jurrell Casey in 2016. Henry, the most recent Heisman Trophy winner, will compete with DeMarco Murray, whom the team traded for this offseason, for the starting gig.
If you told Washington Redskins fans after the 2012 season that Robert Griffin would sign with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, they probably would have rioted. By tagging Kirk Cousins, though, Washington has extended hope for its new quarterback of the future by at least a season. That, by far, was the team's most important move this offseason.
In an un-Redskins-like offseason, the team didn't splurge in free agency. In fact, losing defensive lineman Terrance Knighton to the New England Patriots and running back Alfred Morris to the Dallas Cowboys can be seen as a net negative for Washington's free-agency period.
In the draft, the front office decided to give Cousins even more weapons to throw to by adding receiver Josh Doctson of TCU. With DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon, Doctson and Jamison Crowder, the Redskins now have an embarrassment of riches in their pass-catching unit.
The team also added a pair of defenders on Day 2 in Su'a Cravens and Kendall Fuller. Cravens is a hybrid linebacker and safety who looks to mimic the NFL success of "moneybacker" Deone Bucannon, who also came from the Pac-12.
Fuller missed the majority of his final season at Virginia Tech due to injury, but as a sophomore, there was first-round hype surrounding the bloodline prospect. At the cost of a third-round pick, it's hard to claim the Redskins didn't get a deal on the selection.