NFL's Best Offseason Additions Through 1st Month of 2018 Season

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 5, 2018

NFL's Best Offseason Additions Through 1st Month of 2018 Season

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    The two most impactful offseason acquisitions in NFL history may be Green Bay Packers defensive end Reggie White and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

    White signed a deal with the Packers prior to the 1993 season, and he proceeded to amass 68.5 sacks in six seasons while helping his team to a Super Bowl title in 1996 and NFC championship in 1997. Brees signed with the Saints in 2006 and vaulted his new club to a 10-6 record and NFC Championship Game appearance one year after they finished 3-13. Three years later, the Saints won the Super Bowl.

    White is a Hall of Famer, while Brees will be one someday. Could edge-rusher Khalil Mack follow in their footsteps?

    This season, Mack has transformed the Chicago Bears into a playoff contender and perhaps a Super Bowl dark horse. Other offseason additions have also made notable impressions early on with their new teams.

    Below is a look at the 10 best offseason pickups (either via trade or free agency) through the first month of the 2018 season.

         

Baltimore Ravens WR John Brown

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    When taking into account his one-year, $5 million contract, Baltimore Ravens wide receiver John Brown is the biggest steal of the 2018 offseason. There is no close second.

    At his best, Brown was a dangerous deep threat, most notably when he caught 65 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015. However, various ailments slowed him down in 2016 and 2017, limiting him to only 25 games.

    Brown has rewarded Baltimore's faith by catching 15 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He has a ridiculous yards-per-reception rate of 22.5, which is second among qualified wide receivers. His 33-yard touchdown catch on the Ravens' opening drive set the tone in a big 26-14 road win over the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, helping launch his team into a first-place tie with the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.

    If he keeps this up, Brown will be the recipient of a hefty payday in the offseason. For now, he's providing tremendous value to Baltimore. 

Chicago Bears OLB Khalil Mack

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    Here's a fun game to play all season: compare Mack's season-long sack total (five through Week 4) with his former team's total sack total (also five).

    The Oakland Raiders traded Mack and two draft picks to the Bears for four picks, including first-rounders in 2019 and 2020. That move has backfired on Oakland.

    Not only is Mack the early leader for Defensive Player of the Year and MVP, but he's leading a 3-1 Bears team that looks like it will be picking toward the back of the first round for quite some time.

    Mack also has an interception return for a touchdown, two passes defended, four forced fumbles and 17 tackles. Chicago has allowed the third-fewest points allowed per game (16.3) and looks like a Super Bowl contender thanks in part to Mack's dominance.

Indianapolis Colts TE Eric Ebron

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    The Indianapolis Colts' decision to sign tight end Eric Ebron to a two-year, $13 million deal in March is paying dividends six months later.

    The ex-Detroit Lion is the Colts' team leader in touchdowns (three) through four weeks. He's also tied for first in the NFL in red-zone targets (eight) among tight ends, per Pro Football Reference.

    Ebron has developed into one of the team's most important pass-catchers as tight end Jack Doyle (80 receptions last season) works his way back from a hip injury that has sidelined him since Week 3. 

    The fifth-year pro has 17 catches for 150 yards thus far. He's on pace to break his career-high in catches (61 in 2016) and finish with his second-most receiving yards.

    Ebron and quarterback Andrew Luck already appear to have a connection even though they haven't played together for long. The ex-UNC star may have an even greater impact later in the season as Luck becomes grows even more comfortable with him.

Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins

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    The Kansas City Chiefs have the NFL's highest-scoring offense through four weeks. A key reason for that is wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who signed a three-year, $48 million contract with the Chiefs in March.

    Watkins finished with only three catches for 21 yards in Week 1, but he was fantastic in Weeks 2 and 3, tallying 11 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown in addition to 51 rushing yards. He had 98 yards from scrimmage during the first 12 minutes of play against the Steelers in Week 2, which helped the Chiefs storm out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead en route to a 42-37 victory.

    Watkins suffered a hamstring injury against the Denver Broncos in Week 4 that forced him out of the game, but he's a huge part of an offense that has crushed the NFL through four weeks. It helps that he and quarterback Patrick Mahomes have a connection, as the signal-caller's rocket arm is a perfect match with Watkins' ability to go deep (15.7 yards per reception for his career).

Los Angeles Rams DT Ndamukong Suh

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    Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh signed a one-year, $14 million contract with the Los Angeles Rams in March. The five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro has responded with 10 tackles, two sacks, two passes defended and two fumble recoveries through the first month of the season.

    He's a big reason why the Rams defense is fifth in points allowed and ninth in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders.

    Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire praised Suh's work this year following his Week 4 showing against the Minnesota Vikings: "Suh's versatility has been abundantly apparent this season, with many of his best plays not coming from that nose tackle position. He can line up anywhere on the defensive line and have success, and that's a huge plus for [defensive coordinator Wade] Phillips and the entire defense."

    Suh has seen time at both nose tackle and defensive end. His ability to move between those positions makes him one of the more unique players in the league.

Los Angeles Rams WR Brandin Cooks

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    Can you find a more consistent wide receiver than Brandin Cooks of the Los Angeles Rams?

    Week 1: Eight targets, five catches, 87 yards, no touchdowns

    Week 2: Nine targets, seven catches, 159 yards, no touchdowns

    Week 3: Eight targets, seven catches, 90 yards, no touchdowns

    Week 4: Eight targets, seven catches, 116 yards, one touchdown

    Cooks is on pace for 104 catches, 1,808 yards and four touchdowns. That pace looks unsustainable at first glance, but given how explosive the Rams offense has been, those figures could come to fruition.

    The Rams obtained Cooks and a fourth-round pick from the Patriots in exchange for first- and sixth-rounders in April and then signed him to a five-year, $80 million extension in July. He's been an instrumental part of a Rams offense that's averaging 35.0 points per game, the league's second-best mark.

    Opposing teams can't blanket Cooks with multiple defenders, as the Rams have three other strong weapons (running back Todd Gurley and wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods) to throw at opponents. Therefore, expect Cooks to continue getting looks and winning his matchups moving forward. 

Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry

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    Through four games, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry is on pace for 96 catches, 1,248 yards and four touchdowns. At that rate, he'll crush last year's team leader in receptions and yardsrunning back Duke Johnson Jr., with 74 and 693, respectively.

    No Browns wide receiver had more than 27 catches or 357 yards last season, so Cleveland needed more production from the position. Enter Landry, who the Browns acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins for a 2018 fourth-rounder and a 2019 seventh-rounder. Cleveland then signed him to a five-year, $75.5 million contract in April.

    Landry's impact on the team is undeniable. He amassed eight catches for 103 yards in the team's first win since December 24, 2016 (a 21-17 Week 3 victory over the New York Jets). Although the Browns are 1-2-1, their two losses have come by only three points each.

    As Landry and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield build upon their chemistry, expect the wideout's production to improve even more.

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

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    Although the Minnesota Vikings are 1-2-1 through four games after finishing 13-3 last year, free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins has surpassed expectations, completing 69.3 percent of his passes, tossing 10 touchdowns and averaging nearly 347 passing yards per game.

    He's established an excellent rapport with wideouts Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who have 67 catches for 784 yards and five touchdowns between them. Cousins' efforts are more impressive considering that the run game has struggled, amassing only 252 yards on 73 carries.

    Cousins signed a three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed deal with the Vikings after leaving the Washington Redskins, but he's been worth the fat contract thus far.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed the most points in the NFL through four weeks, but defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has done his part.

    The former New York Giant came to Tampa Bay for a third-round pick, and he has as many sacks (four) as the rest of his teammates combined through four games. He's also fifth on the team in tackles (17).

    Pierre-Paul is showcasing the form Giants fans saw in 2011, when he amassed 16.5 sacks in a Super Bowl-winning season. The nine-year pro hasn't achieved that level of success since thenhis only other season with double-digit sacks came in 2014but he's on pace for 16 sacks this year.

    If the rest of the Bucs defense doesn't improve, however, Pierre-Paul's efforts will be all for naught.