2017 NFL GM Offseason Report Cards
The NFL roster-building process is delicate and can lead to unemployment with the slightest misstep.
Oh sure, it's easy to select Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, as the Cleveland Browns did. But when was the right time to take a quarterback in the 2017 draft, one with little certainty at the position? And on the whole this offseason, how would teams in need find reliable offensive line help?
General managers wrestled with those questions and many more during free agency and the draft. They were trying to either get to the top of the league or stay there. Or in a moment of honesty, they were trying to save their jobs with desperate measures.
There will still be minor moves made, with some veteran free agents picked up throughout the spring and others released. But largely, the key parts of rosters now will be in place when teams report to training camp in late July.
With that in mind, it's report-card time for the league's GMs. The grades that follow were given based on how well each GM addressed the needs his team had heading into the offseason.
Quick note: The de facto general manger or lead decision-maker is listed for teams with no official GM.
Arizona Cardinals: Steve Keim
The Cardinals needed to reload, not rebuild. There will be a time when the latter has to happen, and it could be coming soon when wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Carson Palmer drift off into retirement.
But right now the Cardinals are still only one year removed from going 13-3 and winning the NFC West. Many of the core pieces on a second-ranked defense in 2016 are still in place. GM Steve Keim needed to get immediate contributors to bolster that unit after a few key losses, with defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Tony Jefferson chief among them.
Keim did just that by signing middle linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antoine Bethea in free agency. They're both aging but still reliable veterans and will provide leadership at their position groups for Haason Reddick and Budda Baker, the Cardinals' first two draft picks.
Reddick soared throughout the predraft evaluation process and recorded 22.5 tackles for a loss in 2016 for Temple as a quick-twitch middle linebacker. Baker was part of a swarming Washington Huskies defensive backfield. He snatched three interceptions throughout his college career while having the second-highest tackling efficiency against the run among Pac-12 safeties in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.
Baker is a movable piece who can excel as a slot corner as well. He's drawn comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu for that reason, and now the two will be on the same defense together.
Offseason Grade: A-
Atlanta Falcons: Thomas Dimitroff
The Falcons defense generated 34 sacks in 2016. It put them right in the middle of the pack (tied for 16th).
That would give them a serviceable pass rush if it weren't for one problem: Nearly half of those sacks came from one guy.
Defensive end Vic Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks. The next closest pass-rusher was fellow defensive end Adrian Clayborn with 4.5. Beasley needed support badly if the Falcons wanted to take the next step defensively, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff has given him plenty of it.
First Dontari Poe was added as an interior pass-rusher during free agency. Poe has struggled with injuries recently but is still young at the age of 26 and can return to his peak in 2014. That's when Poe had six sacks and was also an effective run-stuffer at defensive tackle, finishing with 31 defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus.
The pass-rush help didn't end there, as defensive end Takkarist McKinley was also added in the first round. McKinley finished his college career at UCLA with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 2016. He has great quickness for a 250-pound defensive lineman, running the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds during the scouting combine.
The Falcons defense was once a weakness that forced wins to come through offensive shootouts. But now the unit is overflowing with young talent accumulated over the past two drafts. Beyond McKinley, that includes middle linebacker Deion Jones, safety Keanu Neal, linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and nickelback Brian Poole.
Offseason Grade: A-
Baltimore Ravens: Ozzie Newsome
They need size to do that, and their offseason additions offer plenty of it.
That started in free agency with the signings of cornerback Brandon Carr (6'0", 210 lbs) and safety Tony Jefferson (5'11", 212 lbs). And most importantly, it kept going in the draft when the Ravens selected cornerback Marlon Humphrey (6'0", 197 lbs) with their 16th overall pick.
Humphrey wields a heavy hammer as a corner and can thump both hard and accurately. He missed just six tackles in 2016, per PFF, and the former Alabama standout also allowed only 50 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed.
There's reason to be confident about a ninth-ranked secondary in 2016 continuing to play at that level. And overall, the Ravens defense should still be imposing after it allowed just 20.1 points per game.
The problem might be the offense and scoring.
The Ravens lost wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Steve Smith Sr. The latter departure came through a retirement, and it really stings. Smith didn't act his age in 2016, finishing the year with 799 yards on 70 receptions. Normally, that would be adequate or fine production. But it's on a different level when coming from a 37-year-old.
Now the Ravens are moving forward and needing Breshad Perriman to come through. Yes, that's the Breshad Perriman who has started just one game over his two NFL seasons and is flirting with draft-bust status.
Offseason Grade: B-
Buffalo Bills: Sean McDermott
The Bills needed to find support for Sammy Watkins at wide receiver. They did it early by grabbing Zay Jones in the second round, one of the risers during the predraft buildup.
The Bills lost a lot at wide receiver, with Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Justin Hunter all leaving during free agency. Jones should be able to step into the void quickly after being a target magnet for East Carolina in 2016.
The 6'1", 197-pound wideout accelerates quickly to gain yards after the catch and can be used throughout the formation. His diverse skill set led to 1,746 yards on a ridiculous 158 catches during his final collegiate season.
The key defensive newcomers this offseason are cornerback Tre'Davious White and safety Micah Hyde. White was the Bills' first-round pick, and he allowed a completion on only 41.7 percent of the throws into his coverage while starring for LSU in 2016, per PFF. And Hyde is a multifaceted defender who reeled in six interceptions over the past two years for the Packers.
The Bills didn't adequately address their disastrous run defense that gave up 133.1 yards per game in 2016. They're hoping that having linebacker Reggie Ragland healthy will be the difference, a risky play at best, especially after Zach Brown departed in free agency.
Offseason Grade: B-
Carolina Panthers: Dave Gettleman
The Panthers had to add some flash and flare to their offense. They also needed to remove some of the burden from quarterback Cam Newton and make sure opposing defenses didn't tee off on him every snap.
Christian McCaffrey will take care of that. And so will Curtis Samuel. The two hybrid players were selected with top-40 picks in the draft, and they'll give the Panthers tremendous offensive flexibility.
McCaffrey is a running back who recorded 4,577 yards from scrimmage over his final two years at Stanford. He also scored 29 times over those seasons and did it while excelling both from the backfield and as a slippery slot receiver.
He'll give Newton an electrifying option in space, and so will Samuel. The former Buckeye will primarily be used from the slot, which is where he spent most of his time in 2016 when he finished with 865 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
There is some concern about the Panthers offensive line with Matt Kalil signed as a free agent to protect Newton's blind side. But McCaffrey and Samuel have the skill in space to have a neutralizing effect on the pressure Newton faces.
Offseason Grade: A
Chicago Bears: Ryan Pace
Mitchell Trubisky's job is to eventually make us forget about what the Bears gave up to get him on their roster as hopefully the long-term solution at quarterback.
That's a steep challenge, but it's not impossible. Do you remember, for example, what the Falcons sacrificed in their leap up to grab wide receiver Julio Jones years ago? And more importantly, do you care? Jones struggled through some injuries early in his career but has now recorded 7,610 receiving yards and 40 touchdowns in just his first 79 regular-season games.
Of course, that comparison only goes so far, and the flaw is obvious. Both physically and mentally, the jump to be successful in the NFL at quarterback is much greater. And now the Bears are asking an inexperienced passer who started 13 games at North Carolina to be their franchise savior and do it while justifying a massive trade.
For reasons that still aren't clear, Ryan Pace decided getting Trubisky was worth sacrificing significant draft capital. He swapped first-round picks with the San Francisco 49ers to move up to No. 2 overall, giving up third- and fourth-round selections in 2017 and a third-round pick in 2018.
Now a rebuilding team has stripped itself of the opportunity to do that reconstruction properly through the draft. The Bears did it to add a quarterback in a bland class at the position, and supporting him with other young talent will be difficult.
The Bears are handcuffed, and both Pace and his coaching staff likely won't be employed for much longer.
Offseason Grade: D
Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Brown
It is hard to ignore the off-field factors with running back Joe Mixon, the Bengals' second-round pick, but let's try to focus on football here.
The argument can be made that Mixon was the most complete running back in his draft class, and he only fell because of those off-field character questions. He's highly elusive and created a missed tackle once every 3.9 offensive touches in college, per PFF. That made him wildly productive as a runner while averaging 6.8 yards per carry in 2016, and he also added 538 yards as a receiver.
Mixon could easily rise fast to push Jeremy Hill aside, and in the process he'll give the Bengals a much more dynamic offense.
John Ross, the blazing-fast wide receiver drafted by Cincinnati in the first round, will do that too. He'll become the ideal complement across from fellow wideout A.J. Green, putting far too much speed on the field for opposing cornerbacks to deal with. Ross established a new 40-yard dash record at the combine with a time of 4.22 seconds, and he did that after scoring 17 times during his final season with the Washington Huskies.
The additions of Ross, Mixon and outside linebacker Carl Lawson highlighted a quality draft for the Bengals, and one that was sorely needed after some major blows in free agency. A salary-cap crunch led to the loss of offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked 41 times in 2016, and now his protection could be worse.
Offseason Grade: B
Cleveland Browns: Sashi Brown
For a brief, fleeting moment during the predraft buildup, it seemed like the Browns might do the unthinkable and pass on all-universe defensive end Myles Garrett with their first overall pick.
Sanity prevail, and Garrett is now bringing his 31 sacks over 34 college games to a defense that ranked 30th in 2016 with only 26 sacks. That was only the start of the Browns' draft mastery.
They accumulated more picks by trading back in the first round and selected safety Jabrill Peppers at No. 25 overall. He's a multiskilled defender who leaps through ceilings with his athleticism, and he has experience as both a safety and linebacker. A defense that was torched for 142.7 rushing yards per game in 2016 needed a fast-moving sideline-to-sideline presence like Peppers.
The Browns needed offensive weapons, too, and general manager Sashi Brown used the many draft pieces he had collected to move up for tight end David Njoku. He's a former high school high-jump champion who had no business winning the event while weighing 220 pounds at the time. On the football field, his leaping ability and impressively fluid movement for his size (6'4", 245 lbs) translated into 698 yards and eight touchdowns for the Miami Hurricanes in 2016.
Brown also came away from the draft with DeShone Kizer, a second-round quarterback who needs some development but has lots of potential. All that promising youth now joins a free-agency haul that included wide receiver Kenny Britt and a reinforced offensive line after the signings of center J.C. Tretter and guard Kevin Zeitler.
There's still work to be done in Cleveland, and Brown has 12 more picks in 2018 to accelerate his rebuild. But finally Browns fans can invite a strange feeling into their lives: hope.
Offseason Grade: A
Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones
The cap-strapped Cowboys expected a defensive exodus once free agency started, and boy did it ever come. Much of their starting defensive backfield in 2016 is gone, including cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, along with safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox.
The Cowboys' draft focus was obvious: replenish their secondary depth while also finding something that resembles a semi-reliable pass rush.
The latter need was addressed in the first round when they selected defensive end Taco Charlton. The long and powerful pass-rusher out of Michigan can consistently disrupt plays, and he showed that with his 10 sacks in 2016. However, there is at least some hesitancy with Charlton, as 2016 was his one and only standout year.
From there, the Cowboys loaded up on defensive backs. Of their first three picks, two were cornerbacks: Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis.
Both care promising, especially Awuzie. He's versatile and played every position in Colorado's secondary at one point. Awuzie also set school records for sacks (nine) and tackles for loss by a defensive back (26).
Meanwhile, Lewis started 30 games for Michigan and left as the school's all-time leader in passes defensed (45).
Offseason Grade: B+
Denver Broncos: John Elway
The Broncos bolstered a weak offensive line by signing guard Ronald Leary during free agency and then using their first-round pick on tackle Garett Bolles.
Leary was a member of the Cowboys' juggernaut offensive line and allowed only 25 pressures in 2016 over 871 snaps, per PFF. He'll now team with Bolles, the top tackle in the draft, to provide better protection for whoever ends up taking snaps for the Broncos in 2017.
The team is coming off a season where its line play was a weak spot, allowing 40 sacks.
The Broncos didn't effectively address a run defense that regressed, going from allowing only 83.6 yards per game in 2015 to 130.3 yards in 2016. Signing an aging Domata Peko at defensive tackle won't fix much.
Offseason Grade: C+
Detroit Lions: Bob Quinn
The Lions defense spent much of 2016 getting trampled by opposing rushers. The front seven needed fresh, new bodies after allowing 106.3 rushing yards per game (18th).
Enter Jarrad Davis, the athletically gifted middle linebacker who missed most of his senior season for the Florida Gators due to a leg injury. But he's drawn comparisons to the Seahawks' Bobby Wagner and in 2015 recorded 94 tackles and 11 for a loss.
Davis alone could turn the Lions' run defense from a weakness to a strength, and newly signed guard T.J. Lang might do the same for Detroit's run blocking. The Lions had the 30th-ranked rushing offense in 2016, and averaged only 3.7 yards per carry.
Both Lang and Ricky Wagner, who was also signed as a free agent, should make the Lions offense as a whole more multidimensional.
Offseason Grade: A-
Green Bay Packers: Ted Thompson
The Packers entered the offseason wanting their defense to stop getting roasted by every throw. Or at least it felt like that anyway, and in fairness injuries played a role.
But the Packers still needed to fortify their defensive backfield, and they did it by drafting Kevin King with the first pick in the second round.
At 6'3" and 200 pounds, King is a scrappy, physical corner who's built for the modern NFL, a league filled with large receivers who bully their way to the ball. King recorded 13 passes defensed in 2016, and he gave up just one touchdown pass over his last 28 college games, per PFF.
On the other side of the ball, an underwhelming pass-catching corps outside of wide receiver Jordy Nelson was upgraded when the Packers won the Martellus Bennett sweepstakes. The veteran tight end showed he still has the speed to separate up the seam when he finished with 701 yards on 55 catches in a limited role for the Patriots in 2016.
Offseason Grade: A
Houston Texans: Rick Smith
Eventually you have to take a chance on a quarterback. The feeling of urgency is sped up when you're Rick Smith, the general manager of a team that has somehow won nine games each of the past two seasons and made the playoffs with the likes of Brian Hoyer, Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler under center.
The bar for acceptable quarterback play in Houston has never been lower because of those barely NFL-caliber passers and the dominant play by the Texans defense. But they still needed someone who could rise high above that low standard and provide stability at football's most important position.
Deshaun Watson has that ability, but he came at a high price.
The Texans had to give the Browns their first-round picks in 2017 and 2018 to jump up and secure Watson, who's fresh off a brilliant career at Clemson highlighted by two excellent performances during national championship games against Alabama. In those games, Watson threw for 825 yards against the rock-solid Crimson Tide defense, with seven touchdowns and only one interception.
He'll need some time to develop after being in a spread offense throughout his college career. But Watson is oozing with both athleticism and arm talent after finishing his time at Clemson with a passer rating of 151.1 in the tough SEC.
His addition alone makes the Texans offseason a success. Smith also added quality running back depth in the draft with D'Onta Foreman, who ran for 2,028 yards in 2016.
Offseason Grade: A-
Indianapolis Colts: Chris Ballard
The Colts did something this offseason they had either been avoiding in recent years or stumbling while trying to execute: They addressed their defense in a way that was both significant and economical.
That started during free agency with the additions of Jabaal Sheard and John Simon. They'll be paid a combined $4 million in 2017, according to Spotrac. Sheard fell out of favor with the Patriots in 2016, but he's only one season removed from recording eight sacks. And Simon totaled 8.5 sacks in a part-time rotational role for the Texans over the past two seasons.
They should boost a 19th-ranked pass rush, and safety Malik Hooker will then give the defense a kick in the rear. The Colts selected Hooker with their first-round pick after he intercepted eight passes during his final season with the Buckeyes.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts addressed another area of need by dipping into a strong running back class and calling Marlon Mack's name in the fourth round.
Mack can eventually take over for annual 1,000-plus-yard rusher Frank Gore and in the meantime provide a powerful burst the veteran lacks. He ran for 3,609 yards over three seasons at South Florida, scoring 32 times.
The Colts gave quarterback Andrew Luck another offensive weapon in wide receiver Kamar Aiken, too. Luck has plenty of support both offensively and defensively now, which means the Colts will quickly run out of excuses for not winning after two straight 8-8 seasons.
Offseason Grade: A
Jacksonville Jaguars: David Caldwell
On paper, the Jaguars had a franchise-changing offseason.
That's because on paper they can now field one of the league's most impenetrable defenses after signing cornerback A.J. Bouye, safety Barry Church and defensive end Calais Campbell. Bouye is a fast-rising young corner after his 16 passes defensed in 2016. And Campbell continues to be a dominant, towering pass-rusher and edge defender. He finished 2016 with eight sacks and 53 tackles at the age of 30.
On paper, the Jaguars should also have a re-energized offense after the addition of Leonard Fournette. At 6'0" and 240 pounds, Fournette ran the 40-yard dash in only 4.51 seconds. His blend of power and speed is what led to 1,953 rushing yards in 2015 with 22 touchdowns.
All of that should come together nicely. But the best-laid plans on paper could also quickly be derailed if quarterback Blake Bortles continues to struggle.
Offseason Grade: A
Kansas City Chiefs: John Dorsey
Leaping up to grab quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the draft is the highlight of the Chiefs' offseason after a zen-like free-agency period.
The move to get Mahomes was a little curious but in hindsight also inevitable.
Quarterbacks always fly off the board quickly because the position is in such high demand. It's fair to wonder if the Chiefs were wise to trade three premium picks (two first-round picks and a third-rounder) in a draft that didn't have one standout quarterback. That's the curious part, but the reality is if Mahomes was their guy, he likely wouldn't have been around at No. 27, the Chiefs' original first-round perch.
Mahomes lands in the ideal place for his development.
Alex Smith will turn 33 in May and is still under contract for two more seasons. He can keep being the caretaker for a run-oriented offense and a team that wins with defense first. As he does that, Mahomes will be waiting and learning.
Specifically, Mahomes will need to learn how to better go through his progressions and read the field. Arm strength isn't an issue, but that strength can also be a weakness, as he has never seen a throwing window he doesn't like.
That's where the Brett Favre comparisons come from, and they're meant both as a compliment and an insult. Mahomes threw for 4,600-plus yards in each of his final two seasons at Texas Tech, including 5,052 yards in 2016. But he also threw 25 interceptions over only two full seasons as the starter.
Over time, he'll learn to harness that arm strength. And his developmental journey will be guided by known quarterback whisperer Andy Reid.
Offseason Grade: B
Miami Dolphins: Chris Grier
The Dolphins had a quiet offseason, at least by their standards.
There was no headline-grabbing signing like when an entire bank was thrown at defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Instead, this new era of Dolphins football under general manager Chris Grier seems to be centered around retaining in-house talent and sprinkling in key free-agent pieces while focusing on the draft. So basically, the team is operating like a well-run organization.
The major in-house extension was safety Reshad Jones, who was given a five-year extension worth $60 million. Grier also made sure to retain rising young wide receiver Kenny Stills. The 25-year-old caught nine touchdown passes in 2016 while also averaging 17.3 yards per reception.
Then Grier went about the business of trying to seal the holes on a gushing run defense that allowed an average of 140.4 yards on the ground per game in 2016. He did that first by signing veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who's past his prime but has still logged five straight seasons with 100-plus tackles.
And he did it by using his first two picks on linebackers Charles Harris and Raekwon McMillan. Harris terrorized backfields as an edge defender for Missouri, totaling 34.5 tackles for loss and 18 sacks over three seasons. And McMillan was among the draft's top inside linebackers after recording two seasons with 100-plus tackles at Ohio State.
Offseason Grade: A
Minnesota Vikings: Rick Spielman
The Vikings fielded an offensive line in 2016 that often couldn't even be a minor annoyance for opposing pass-rushers.
That resulted in quarterback Sam Bradford getting placed in front of a firing squad every week. Bradford was sacked 37 times, and worse, he ended up going down on 18.8 percent of his dropbacks, per PFF. Their only solutions during a free-agency period with few of them was to throw money at tackles Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff.
There will still be an improvement in front of Bradford, though it may be marginal. The real hope is that second-round pick Dalvin Cook can do his part to neutralize the pass rush with his power running.
The running back out of Florida State was selected with the Vikings' 41st overall pick. He's the true Adrian Peterson replacement for an offense rooted in brute-force running. He posted video game-like numbers over his final two years with the Seminoles while showing his skill as a multipurpose option. During that stretch, Cook recorded 4,188 yards from scrimmage with 40 touchdowns.
He has the potential to become a running back who can change an offense, just like Peterson did.
Offseason Grade: B-
Los Angeles Chargers: Tom Telesco
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers needed a receiver who can vacuum up poorly thrown balls, because he's been tossing up a lot of them.
Rivers threw a career-high 21 interceptions in 2016. But in fairness, Keenan Allen was out again with another ACL tear, and the Chargers didn't have much depth behind him.
That will change after general manager Tom Telesco made the easy decision to select Mike Williams in the first round. Williams is a large-bodied target at 6'4" and 218 pounds and often wins battles through body positioning and sheer physicality. He can be a trusted deep option too after catching 51.9 percent of the 20-plus-yard throws in his direction during the 2016 season, per PFF.
If Allen returns healthy, the Chargers will suddenly have a deep offense. Both Allen and Williams will be running deep, with tight end Hunter Henry stretching the seam and running back Melvin Gordon doing his familiar cutting and slashing.
However, the offensive line might leave Rivers exposed. Forrest Lamp, the Chargers' second-round pick, may develop into a solid interior lineman. But Russell Okung will likely open the season as the starting left tackle, and he declined drastically in 2016 while allowing a career-high 58 pressures, per PFF.
Offseason Grade: B
Los Angeles Rams: Les Snead
There was immediately good vibes around the Rams offseason the moment they signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
He has kept on trucking as one of the league's most dominant offensive tackles. He's 35 years old and allowed only 14 pressures in 2016, per PFF.
The wall Whitworth is expected to put up on the left side will be critical for the development of quarterback Jared Goff. He was regularly walloped during his rookie season and took 26 sacks over only seven starts.
But those warm feelings after the Whitworth signing have turned at little sour due to the weapons around Goff, specifically at wide receiver.
Goff is about to enter a season with Tavon Austin, Robert Woods and then likely Cooper Kupp as his top three targets. So basically he'll be throwing to three receivers who would be, at best, the No. 2 option on most teams.
Offseason Grade: B-
New England Patriots: Bill Belichick
The Patriots are always in "win now" mode.
That's mostly because, well, they just keep winning. They're fresh off another championship and have made it to the AFC Conference Championship game in six straight seasons.
But their approach to every offseason is also now shaped by the age of their quarterback. Tom Brady isn't playing like a man who will turn 40 years old just prior to the start of the 2017 season. He might keep redefining history while maintaining his high level of play.
But he's entering murky age territory at his position, and therefore the Patriots will always feel the need to capitalize on a window that could be closing.
They used their draft picks to bring in talent that can contribute right away. The Patriots made only four picks during the 2017 NFL draft, but through trades they essentially selected wide receiver Brandin Cooks by sending first- and third-round picks to the New Orleans Saints, tight end Dwayne Allen by shipping a fourth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts, and defensive end Kony Ealy with a second-round pick going to the Carolina Panthers.
The Patriots also made a rare free-agency splash by signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and they re-signed core middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Those two will ensure the Patriots' formidable defense that allowed only 15.6 points per game in 2016 doesn't take a step back.
Offseason Grade: A
New Orleans Saints: Mickey Loomis
The secondary the Saints trotted out in 2016 often put up less resistance than a gentle breeze.
The Saints allowed a league-worst average of 273.8 passing yards per game. Quarterback Drew Brees doesn't have many more high-performance years left, and another one was wasted by that floundering pass defense. The Saints needed a quick course correction, and they should get it from cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
The Ohio State standout somehow fell outside of the top 10 in the draft. The Saints gladly scooped him up at No. 11, and he'll be instantly installed as a shutdown presence. Lattimore intercepted four passes in 2016 while posting a passer rating in coverage of only 30.2, per PFF.
In the draft, New Orleans also fortified its offensive line by grabbing tackle Ryan Ramczyk at No. 32. He could make 33-year-old right tackle Zach Strief a cap casualty.
In the third round, running back Alvin Kamara was the perfect fit for a Sean Payton offense. He can play the Reggie Bush role, as Kamara is a reliable receiver who creates yards after the catch. He finished with 683 receiving yards out of the backfield over two years at Tennessee.
The annually cap-poor Saints didn't have room for any major cannonballs in the free-agency pool. But they did bring aboard Ted Ginn Jr. at an affordable price. He may have drop issues, but Ginn can still get deep in a hurry.
As far as free-agency fliers go, taking on Adrian Peterson—one of the best running backs of all time—is a low-risk and high-reward play for a team that didn't have much money to work with.
Offseason Grade: B+
New York Giants: Jerry Reese
The Giants had two offseason priorities at the top of their list in 2017: re-sign defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and give their aging and declining quarterback more support.
They checked off both boxes. The first checkmark came when Pierre-Paul signed an extension with the only team he's ever known. He recorded seven sacks and 54 tackles in 2016.
Then the second oversized checkmark during the Giants offseason came when general manager Jerry Reese loaded up the offense around Eli Manning.
Manning can now throw to veteran red-zone tower Brandon Marshall, who's made a career out of catching poorly thrown balls and has six 100-plus reception seasons on his resume. Or he can target Evan Engram, the athletic tight end selected in the first round who's a constant mismatch creator and recorded 926 yards on 65 catches over only 11 games during his final season with Ole Miss.
Or Manning can hand off to running back Wayne Gallman, the power runner who was a quality Day 3 pick after scoring 31 times over his last two seasons with the Clemson Tigers. The Giants offense is as power-packed as the defense now, and Manning doesn't have any more excuses.
Offseason Grade: A
New York Jets: Mike Maccagnan
There's a difference between not throwing yourself at a mediocre quarterback class and not creating a realistic competition at the most important position. The Jets went with the latter this offseason, which means at some point we'll be treated to the Christian Hackenberg show in 2017.
General manager Mike Maccagnan passed on every quarterback available in the 2017 draft class and in free agency signed only veteran journeyman Josh McCown. That leaves the Jets with an aging and oft-injured soon-to-be 38-year-old as their likely Week 1 starter.
Hackenberg will surely start at some point too after inexplicably being selected with the 51st overall pick in 2016 and then completing just 36.2 percent of his passes in the preseason.
The Jets had an overall solid draft highlighted by Jamal Adams, the top safety, falling to them at No. 6. They also added quality depth at wide receiver, a position sorely in need of it, with mid-round selections of ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen. And Maccagnan landed a quality Day 3 small-school sleeper too in defensive end Dylan Donahue, who was the Gulf South Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 while finishing with 13 sacks.
Seeds were planted for the Jets' rebuild after nearly every veteran from the previous era was jettisoned. But the ongoing experiment at quarterback will make for some unbearable games.
Offseason Grade: C+
Oakland Raiders: Reggie McKenzie
The Raiders were bad for a long time. The reward for being bad is high draft picks, which means the team is already young and promising in many key areas.
This offseason, the Raiders found themselves in unfamiliar territory after a 12-win year. They needed to add veterans who could contribute immediately and push them over the next hump for a deep playoff run.
Jared Cook can help after being signed as a free agent. The tight end's career has been up and down, but he emerged for the Packers in the playoffs with 229 yards over three games.
Marshawn Lynch will certainly help, too. It's difficult to project exactly how the 31-year-old will perform after sitting out 2016. But his 2014 season when he finished with 1,306 rushing yards—his second-highest single-season total—isn't far in the rearview.
The Raiders continued to add youth in key areas as well. There are clear off-field concerns with cornerback Gareon Conley after he was accused of rape just prior to the draft. But on the field he had more than enough talent to be off the board long before the Raiders' 24th overall pick. In 26 starts for Ohio State, he recorded 19 pass breakups and six interceptions.
Even more impressively, Conley also finished 2016 with a passer rating in coverage of only 14.0, per PFF, the best in the nation. If he's cleared of off-field misconduct, the Raiders will suddenly have an imposing cornerback depth chart led by Conley, David Amerson and Sean Smith, with impressive safety Karl Joseph manning the middle.
Offseason Grade: A-
Philadelphia Eagles: Howie Roseman
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz played like, well, a rookie during much of his first NFL season. He sizzled for a few games and then struggled for many more after defenses adjusted.
He had a season that was disappointing to some extent, but Wentz also flashed for long enough that there's plenty of hope going forward.
The Eagles are hoping Wentz can develop throughout this offseason and make the necessary adjustments to turn those flashes of brilliance into more consistent, sustained quality play. He's largely responsible for making that leap by improving his reads and decision-making after throwing 14 interceptions in 2016. But having receivers who aren't constantly juggling and dropping footballs would sure help.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was aware of the need to get Wentz more reliable deep targets after his top three wide receivers combined for 26 drops in 2016. So he brought in Alshon Jeffery, who's among the league's best at reeling in wayward throws with his wide catch radius. Jeffery has struggled with injuries and off-field issues recently, but in 2013 and 2014 he recorded back-to-back 1,100-plus-yard seasons.
And he brought in Torrey Smith, the 28-year-old who languished for a couple of seasons in the 49ers' lackluster offense but has a career per-catch average of 17 yards.
That allowed Roseman to put his draft focus where it was needed: defense. He did that by upgrading the pass rush with Derek Barnett, the Volunteers defensive end who finished his collegiate career with 32 sacks over 39 games.
He also caught a falling Sidney Jones, the cornerback who had a chance to be the top player selected at his position before tearing his Achilles during a pro-day workout.
Offseason Grade: A
Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin Colbert
The Steelers made several quality offseason additions. The best one was already on their roster, but just not the active roster.
Wide receiver Martavis Bryant was reinstated just prior to the draft after his 407-day ban. With him, Pittsburgh will have a downright petrifying offense. Remember, before his suspension, Bryant had scored 15 touchdowns over only 21 career regular-season games. And in those games, he also averaged 17.3 yards per reception.
His presence across from Antonio Brown was badly missed in 2016. The Steelers wisely looked for insurance in the draft in case Bryant decides to throw away his career again. That's why they selected JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round with the 62nd overall pick. Smith-Schuster is also a constant touchdown threat and scored 10 times in each of the past two seasons for USC.
Adding some youth to their pass rush was also a priority. Sure, outside linebacker James Harrison is a gym warrior and is working out in the late night hours when you're watching old Friends episodes on Netflix. But he's still 39, and time always wins.
The Steelers targeted outside linebacker T.J. Watt early in the first round. Watt is a versatile defender who has sideline-to-sideline speed and is solid against the run. But he really excels as a pass-rusher after exploding in 2016 with 11.5 sacks.
Offseason Grade: B+
San Francisco 49ers: John Lynch
The failure of Matt Millen in Detroit came to mind right away when the 49ers hired John Lynch as their new general manager.
The first strike against Lynch was his lack of experience, as Lynch had been in the broadcast booth since his playing career ended in 2008. No one doubted his football knowledge, but he still hadn't logged any time learning how to use that intelligence as a scout.
Suddenly, none of that seems to matter.
Lynch started his front-office career by being patient at quarterback. He realizes the 49ers need a long-term solution, but overpaying for a passer either in free agency or the draft is a good way to ensure your employment is short-lived.
So Lynch signed Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer in free agency as two bridge options and then went after C.J. Beathard in the third round. Beathard didn't latch on to a predraft hype train, but new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told MMQB's Peter King the Iowa signal-caller reminds him of Kirk Cousins.
Lynch will look for a franchise quarterback in 2018, which is expected to be a much better draft at the position. He'll have plenty of ammunition to work with after the first-round trade with the Bears. The 49ers will have five picks over the first three rounds in 2018.
Two solid building blocks are already in place after the 2017 draft. Lynch traded back and was still able to select defensive end Solomon Thomas and then get linebacker Reuben Foster later in the opening round.
The top two players on the new GM's draft board are on his roster now, and that came after a free-agency period highlighted by signing wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who should provide a much-needed reliable set of hands.
There's a reason to be excited in San Francisco, and that hasn't existed since Jim Harbaugh left.
Offseason Grade: A
Seattle Seahawks: John Schneider
The 2017 draft was the wrong time to have glaring, swirling and potentially season-crippling holes along the offensive line. But it's hard to feel much sympathy for the Seahawks because they've failed to address those holes for several years now.
They did plug one such hole by selecting center Ethan Pocic out of LSU in the second round. One of the best prospects at his position, Pocic was given the No. 3 grade among power-five centers in 2016 by PFF. The Seahawks have been searching for a steady center to anchor the offensive line since they traded away Max Unger. Pocic could develop into the answer.
But they needed answers elsewhere along the offensive line, and there was none to be found either during the draft or free agency. The cap-crunched Seahawks didn't have the money to throw at the few top-end pass blockers in free agency. And the handful of immediate starters in the draft were also gobbled up fast.
Still, at some point the Seahawks needed to take chances and bring competition in. That is why it's surprising that of their 11 draft picks, only two were used on the offensive line.
Quarterback Russell Wilson is a whirling magician when on the run and is among the best at navigating pressure. But even he can only be expected to do so much, and eventually the hits on him will add up and lead to more injuries. Wilson has been sacked 40-plus times in four of his five NFL seasons.
Offseason Grade: C
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jason Licht
The Buccaneers were already a young and rising team that won nine games in 2016 under first-year head coach Dirk Koetter. That included vaulting themselves into the playoff conversation with five straight wins at midseason.
They were close to taking another massive stride forward and earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2007. The Bucs fell two games shy of the NFC South-leading Falcons and lost a tiebreaker for the final wild-card spot.
There were a few missing offensive ingredients for that final push. Those problems have been solved now, and the Bucs are even younger.
They're already led by rapidly maturing quarterback Jameis Winston, who's set to enter only his third NFL season. Now he'll be throwing to wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the Buccaneers' major free-agent splash who still has lots in the tank at the age of 30. Jackson has averaged 17-plus yards per reception over each of the past three seasons by using his game-breaking speed.
He'll offer support across from towering receiver Mike Evans, as will tight end O.J. Howard and third-round pick Chris Godwin. Howard was the top tight end in the 2017 draft class, and he somehow fell to the Bucs at No. 19 in the first round. He's a large-bodied weapon who moves like a wide receiver, which led to 500-plus receiving yards over each of Howard's final two seasons at Alabama.
As for Godwin, in the short term he'll provide quality depth and another young home run option for Winston to connect with. He average 16.6 yards per reception during his final year at Penn State while scoring 11 times.
Long term, Godwin has the potential to develop into a solid No. 2 receiver.
Offseason Grade: A
Tennessee Titans: Jon Robinson
The Titans needed to give Marcus Mariota, their quickly developing quarterback, some deep options to complement his equally deep arm.
They did that in the draft. Twice.
First, general manager Jon Robinson pounced on wide receiver Corey Davis with his fifth overall pick. Davis had offseason ankle surgery and wasn't able to work out either at the scouting combine or his pro day. However, he had produced three straight seasons at Western Michigan with 1,400-plus yards. He also scored 52 times over 50 games.
Davis is a great target in the red zone, and he also accelerates quickly after the catch. Both of those attributes fit well with Mariota's athleticism, as does the skill set third-round pick Taywan Taylor will bring.
Taylor is a shifty slot receiver who can stretch the field up the seam and also blast off after the catch on crossing routes. He used those wheels to pile up 1,730 receiving yards in 2016, which ranked third in the nation.
The Titans offense is about to get terrifying, especially with their running back tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry still behind one of the league's best offensive lines.
That offense likely won't need to win games in shootout fashion, either, after cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Logan Ryan were added, along with safety Johnathan Cyprien. They'll give much-needed life to a 30th-ranked secondary in 2016.
Offseason Grade: A
Washington Redskins: Bruce Allen
The Redskins started their offseason in predictable though still painful fashion.
They entered the new league year knowing wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon were likely to depart as free agents. Losing a combined 2,046 receiving yards and 135 receptions in 2016 stung.
But the Redskins quickly eased that pain by signing Terrelle Pryor to an affordable short-term deal. It's easy to forget Pryor is still learning and developing at the wide receiver position when you watch his tape from 2016. He has an instinctive sense for how to use his 6'4", 223-pound frame to win deep jump balls. That's how he finished with 1,007 yards on 77 receptions in just his first season as a full-time receiver.
Pryor will help to make Garcon and Jackson a memory in 2017, as will a healthy Josh Doctson.
The rest of the Redskins offseason was primarily focused on upgrading a woeful and 29th-ranked defense, though the addition of running back Samaje Perine is also a major upgrade in the backfield. Perine could challenge for early-down snaps fast after he finished his career at Oklahoma with 4,443 yards from scrimmage and 51 touchdowns.
Defensively, both the secondary and pass rush needed work. That's why the Redskins gladly halted defensive end Jonathan Allen's fall in the first round. The versatile pass-rusher with experience at defensive end and tackle left Alabama with 28.5 sacks, second in the school's history.
In the defensive backfield, a unit that allowed 258.1 passing yards per game shouldn't be nearly as leaky now after the Redskins added D.J. Swearinger, one of the best safeties available in free agency. Grabbing cornerback Fabian Moreau in the third round will help too.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock called Moreau a first-round talent who only fell because of a pec injury suffered during his pro-day workout.
Offseason Grade: A