Reviewing Every NFL Team's Best Move from This Past Offseason

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2019

Reviewing Every NFL Team's Best Move from This Past Offseason

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    For NFL general managers, every transaction is analyzed and then praised or criticized. It requires unwavering commitment to short- and long-term plans to flesh out a roster vision.

    Oftentimes, the condemnation of a bad move makes bigger headlines than the recognition for a promising deal. Now that every team has played three-quarters of the 2019 season, we'll focus on the positives.

    Let's think back to the offseason, when draft picks, signings and trades were under serious scrutiny. Doubters had their questions, but many of the selections, free-agent additions, swaps and coaching changes have worked out in the club's favor.

    Based on production to date and projections going forward, we'll highlight every team's best move from the offseason.

         

Arizona Cardinals: Drafting QB Kyler Murray

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    In the 2019 draft, new lead skipper Kliff Kingsbury and the Arizona Cardinals selected Kyler Murray with the first overall pick for a franchise reset. The pick ended Josh Rosen's time with the club, as general manager Steve Keim traded him to the Miami Dolphins for a second-round pick and 2020 fifth-rounder.

    While we can acknowledge Rosen didn't have a fair chance to showcase himself thanks to an offensive line that ranked 26th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders, an inexperienced head coach in Steve Wilks and an offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, who was fired during the season, Arizona made the right move.

    Murray also plays with a shaky front line that ranks 26th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders, but he's shown a lot more promise alongside an offensive-minded head coach. The rookie signal-caller has thrown 14 touchdown passes with six interceptions while completing 63.9 percent of his attempts. He's also second among quarterbacks in rushing yards (446).

    Even if Rosen had time to develop, he doesn't offer much mobility in the pocket, which is a trait that allows Murray to buy time and connect with his pass-catchers downfield. The Cardinals have a dynamic passer who can turn a dead-end play into positive yards.

Atlanta Falcons: Extending DT Grady Jarrett

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    The Atlanta Falcons handed out several extensions to notable playmakers over the last two years. Quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, left tackle Jake Matthews, linebacker Deion Jones and safety Ricardo Allen all inked new deals.

    The front office franchise-tagged defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and signed him to a four-year, $68 million contract in July. He doesn't play the most important position, post eye-popping numbers or lead Pro Bowl voting among defensive tackles, but the 26-year-old has shown steady improvement as a building block in the trenches.

    Jarrett needs one more sack for a career high. He's been the Falcons' best pass-rusher in terms of taking down the quarterback. He isn't just a 305-pound run-stopper; the fifth-year veteran is arguably the most dynamic player on the defensive line and deserves his new deal.

    If the team has to dump or trade a few contracts for cap flexibility, don't expect to hear Jarrett's name.

Baltimore Ravens: Elevating Greg Roman to OC

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    Associated Press

    As an MVP candidate, quarterback Lamar Jackson is the star of the Baltimore Ravens, but he's operating in a system that allows him to flourish, showing off his dual-threat capability.

    Between the 2011 and 2104 terms, Greg Roman served as an offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, which coincided with their quarterback shift from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick. He was also the lead play-caller for the Buffalo Bills during two of Tyrod Taylor's best three seasons in 2015 and 2016.

    At every stop, Roman's ground attacks have ranked in the top 10. The Bills led the league in each season. He's leaving his mark in Baltimore with another dynamic signal-caller in Jackson.

    The Ravens field the NFL's No. 1 ground game, and Jackson has shown significant progress as a passer. He's second in touchdowns through the air (25).

    Last year, Roman was an assistant head coach and led the tight end group. During the offseason, the Ravens reconfigured the offensive coaching ranks, parting ways with former play-caller Marty Mornhinweg and promoting Roman to the position.

    With all the buzz surrounding Jackson, Roman should receive some head coaching offers in the offseason, especially from teams that start or plan to start athletically gifted quarterbacks.

Buffalo Bills: Drafting RB Devin Singletary

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The Bills had a logjam at running back after the front office signed Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon. LeSean McCoy was a holdover. Devin Singletary joined the group as a high-upside third-rounder out of Florida Atlantic.

    The Bills released McCoy, which opened the pathway for Singletary to handle more touches. Gore took on a majority of the workload through Week 8, but the rookie has emerged in the second half of the season. Since Week 9, he's seventh in carries (78) and rushing yards (381).

    In Week 12, Singletary logged his first 100-yard rushing performance. He surpassed Gore as the Bills' top ball-carrier in yards (553-552) during the last outing.

    Singletary is also more efficient than Gore, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt compared to the veteran's 3.8 rate.

    The Bills likely signed Gore, 36, to mentor Singletary until the youngster found his footing. Looking ahead, the first-year tailback should have a strong finish. He's registered at least 14 carries in four of the last five games as a key component to the rushing attack.

Carolina Panthers: Signing S Tre Boston

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    Last week, the Carolina Panthers waived 2018 third-rounder Rashaan Gaulden, who was expected to take over the slot cornerback or safety spot. The Tennessee product didn't see a promotion and had a forgettable final appearance with the team.

    "He collided with punt returner DJ Moore, and the ball bounced off Gaulden's leg, leading to a Saints fumble recovery," Max Henson of the team's official website wrote. "He later was at the center of offsetting unnecessary roughness penalties when pushing and shoving escalated things following a kick return."

    Gaulden logged one tackle and saw most of his action with the special teams unit. Fortunately for the Panthers, the front office signed sixth-year veteran Tre Boston to fill the spot next to safety Eric Reid.

    In 2014, Carolina selected Boston in the fourth round of the draft. It waived him in May 2017. He blossomed into a ball-hawking safety while spending a year apiece with the Los Angeles Chargers and Cardinals. His development set up a reunion with the Panthers.

    Carolina swung and missed on Gaulden but added a familiar face to bolster its secondary. The Panthers are tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns allowed. Boston has two interceptions and seven pass breakups playing in center field.

Chicago Bears: Signing S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had a decent four-plus-year stay with the Green Bay Packers and earned a Pro Bowl invite for his 2016 campaign. However, the team traded him to the Washington Redskins in the final year of his deal.

    During the offseason, Clinton-Dix was met with a cold market, so he signed a modest one-year, $3 million deal with the Chicago Bears.

    Perhaps the lack of physicality in Clinton-Dix's style suppressed the demand for his services. Nonetheless, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano thinks the sixth-year veteran has done a good job taking down opponents in the open field, per Collen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.

    "I just know he's doing a great job tackling for us," Pagano said last week. "He's getting guys on the ground. ... He did a great job last week. He made a couple critical stops, especially 4th-and-4 on a man coverage deal. Took a great angle, got the guy on the ground, got us off the field."

    The Bears didn't keep last year's standout safety duo together. Instead, general manager Ryan Pace allowed Adrian Amos to hit the open market and signed a less costly replacement in Clinton-Dix, who's tied with linebacker Danny Trevathan for third on the team in solo tackles (50).

    Clinton-Dix doesn't provide a strong physical presence, but he's an adequate playmaker alongside Eddie Jackson.

Cincinnati Bengals: Not Extending WR A.J. Green

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    Is wideout A.J. Green's body breaking down before our eyes?

    He's suited up for one game since October 2018. Last year, the seven-time Pro Bowler suffered a toe injury, and he underwent surgery during the offseason. He then sprained his ankle in July and had surgery. His recovery, which included a setback, has kept him on the sideline.

    The Cincinnati Bengals didn't rush to sign their decorated franchise wide receiver to a new deal in his contract year. Instead, they've decided to wait it out. We can call that a shrewd move or convenient procrastination, but Green's absence could cost him millions when he signs in the offseason.

    The Bengals may be able to retain him on a cost-effective contract because of his inability to stay healthy over the last two years. Green's resume worked in his favor at the negotiating table until the 2018 term, when he didn't earn a Pro Bowl invite for the first time in his career. Now, in a lost season, the 31-year-old looks like he's on the decline because of his durability or lack thereof.

    Cincinnati could re-sign Green on a manageable contract that doesn't tie up too much money at wide receiver with Tyler Boyd on a new four-year, $43 million deal.

Cleveland Browns: Signing RB Kareem Hunt

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    The Cleveland Browns made a huge offseason splash, acquiring wideout Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants, but he's not the same special player he was from 2014-16. He has a 55.3 percent catch rate. The three-time Pro Bowler has not jelled with quarterback Baker Mayfield.

    In just four games, running back Kareem Hunt lists fourth on the team in catches, converting 25 of his targets into 20 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. In a short span, he's become a significant part of the Browns offense, logging 13 first downs as a ball-carrier and pass-catcher. Beckham has 33 in 12 games.

    Earlier in the season, Mayfield struggled with accuracy and often left the pocket under duress because of pass-protection issues. He's been sacked 32 times.

    Coming off an eight-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy after two separate physical altercations in 2018, Hunt has become a viable option for Mayfield when he's in a cluttered pocket. Instead of looking downfield for Beckham or Jarvis Landry, the second-year signal-caller can dump it off to an explosive running back capable of eluding defenders after the catch.

    On top of his presence in the short passing game, Hunt can spell Nick Chubb and keep defenses guessing before the snap.

    Strictly in terms of on-field production, Hunt is a quality addition to the backfield, which features one of the best running back tandems in the league.

Dallas Cowboys: Trading for DE Robert Quinn

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    The Dallas Cowboys signed defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million deal, but the team's three-time sack leader lists second in the category behind Robert Quinn, who lines up on the opposite side.

    The Cowboys traded a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for Quinn. He's in the final year of his deal. Dallas took advantage of Miami's willingness to sell its assets for draft capital and flipped a Day 3 selection into a playmaker for the defensive line.

    The Cowboys don't force many turnovers—only 12 this season—so the defense has to back its opponents into corners.

    As a premier pass-rusher, Lawrence will garner most of the attention on the edge. His presence alone can create one-on-one opportunities for teammates. Quinn has won battles at the point of attack. He recorded at least a half-sack in six consecutive games from Weeks 6-12 and has 9.5.

Denver Broncos: Drafting TE Noah Fant

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos may not see the full scope of Noah Fant's capabilities because of the revolving door at quarterback, moving from Joe Flacco to Brandon Allen and then turning the reins over to Drew Lock. Yet the Iowa product has shown flashes since the team traded wideout Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers.

    In Week 9, Fant recorded his first 100-yard game because of a 75-yard catch-and-run score in a win over the Browns. Including that contest, he has the second-most targets (22) on the team.

    Fant has experienced some rough patches. He isn't known for solid blocking and didn't come down with a potential game-winning touchdown grab in Week 11, but the big-bodied tight end (6'4", 249 lbs) has the tools to become the No. 2 option in the aerial attack.

    Once Denver is settled at the quarterback position, Fant could form a solid pass-catching tandem with wideout Courtland Sutton. Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello should use the rookie first-rounder as an oversized wide receiver to match against linebackers and safeties downfield.

Detroit Lions: Hiring OC Darrell Bevell

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    According to MMQB's Robert Klemko, Darrell Bevell had position coaching offers after his dismissal in Seattle following the 2017 campaign, but he wanted to be a play-caller again.

    "There were quarterback coaching jobs he turned down as he held out for another NFL coordinator role," Klemko wrote. 

    After a year away from the coaching ranks, Bevell has shown flashes of brilliance with the Detroit Lions.

    The Lions' 3-8-1 record has overshadowed his impact on the offense. He's brought a much-needed commitment to the ground attack. That approach will add balance to the offense once quarterback Matthew Stafford returns from a back injury.

    Since 2013, the Lions haven't fielded a ground attack that ranked higher than 23rd. Detroit ranks 12th in carries and 18th in yards this season, but we must consider running back Kerryon Johnson's absence (knee).

    Still, Bevell has been able to move the ball with Bo Scarbrough in recent weeks. The second-year ball-carrier has averaged 4.5 yards per tote and 78.7 yards per contest in the first three outings of his career. The Alabama product can carve out a permanent role if he finishes the season on a strong note.

    On Thanksgiving, undrafted rookie quarterback David Blough didn't just hand off to the running backs. In the first quarter, he connected with wideouts Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. for touchdowns, giving the Bears' fourth-ranked scoring defense a shock. Bevell deserves some credit for preparing the youngster, who replaced Jeff Driskel (hamstring), on short notice.

    Assuming Stafford and Johnson come back healthy next year, the Lions offense should take another step in the right direction under Bevell.

Green Bay Packers: Drafting OG Elgton Jenkins

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    After Week 2, the Packers placed Lane Taylor on injured reserve with a biceps injury. Elgton Jenkins has filled the void and sealed the interior in pass protection. According to ESPN, he ranked third in pass-block win rate at 97 percent through Week 12. That's higher than several established veterans and budding stars such as Ali Marpet, Quenton Nelson, Zack Martin and David DeCastro.

    If Jenkins continues to grow in a starting role, quarterback Aaron Rodgers shouldn't have to worry about 300-pound interior linemen flushing him out of the pocket toward edge-rushers.

    In mid-November, head coach Matt LaFleur acknowledged Jenkins' contributions in the ground attack as well (h/t Zach Kruse of Packers Wire).

    "There's been so much good, both in the run and the pass," LaFleur said.

    With one year left on his deal, Taylor isn't likely to reclaim his starting job. The Packers may have one of the best young guards in the league. Last year, Nelson earned All-Pro honors at the position as a rookie. Jenkins, a Mississippi State product, may follow suit with a strong finish to the season.

Houston Texans: Trading for OT Laremy Tunsil

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    In September, the Houston Texans caused a stir, sending two first-round picks, a 2021 second-rounder, left tackle Julien Davenport and cornerback Johnson Bademosi to the Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-rounder.

    On one hand, the Texans needed an upgrade at left tackle to protect quarterback Deshaun Watson. On the other, they gave up premium draft capital for the next two years.

    Through 13 weeks, the Texans rank 25th in pass protection based on adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders, but Tunsil has been a solid addition on the edge. After a rough start, the fourth-year veteran settled in before missing a game with a shoulder injury.

    "How much will the Texans miss Laremy Tunsil today? From Weeks 5-8, he was PFF's top graded OT, having allowed just two pressures, no sacks," The Athletic's Aaron Reiss tweeted.

    According to the Washington Post, Tunsil has allowed three sacks. If Tunsil cuts down on committing penalties (12), the Texans shouldn't have any issues with making him the highest-paid offensive tackle in the league.

    The Houston offensive line needs to develop with rookies Max Scharping and Tytus Howard (who is on injured reserve with a knee injury) at left guard and right tackle, but Watson isn't likely to feel much pressure coming from his blind side.

Indianapolis Colts: Signing DE Justin Houston

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    In 2018, defensive lineman Denico Autry and linebacker Darius Leonard led the Indianapolis Colts' pass-rushing charge with 16 sacks. This season, the former hasn't matched last year's production, and the latter missed three games with a concussion.

    Through three-quarters of the season, Justin Houston leads the Colts with eight sacs in 12 games. He's not a playmaker in coverage, but it's clear the Colts acquired him with a specific role in mind: to bring down the quarterback. Head coach Frank Reich confirmed that notion to Fox 59's Mike Chappell.

    "Obviously, we were looking for an impact player as a defensive end," Reich said.

    Houston has satisfied that expectation, providing constant pressure off the edge. He's also made his presence felt away from the field, per Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star.

    "I think it is hard for a new guy [to come in and lead right away], but he came in and commanded that respect from the start," Reich said. "Just his presence, there is something. Some guys have that it factor. He's got that, but then he's earned it on the field as well."

    Apparently, the Colts have a leader for their pass-rush and someone younger players follow by example. The 2014 All-Pro adds production and intangibles to the fold.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting DE Josh Allen

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    Going into the 2019 draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars didn't have a big need at defensive end. Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue combined for 20 sacks last year.

    With the No. 7 overall pick in the draft, the Jaguars selected arguably the best player available.

    Allen leads all rookies with nine sacks. The Kentucky product also has a lead over 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa in quarterback pressures (38 to 32). They're probable front-runners for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    In addition to landing a top defender, the Jaguars can move on from Ngakoue, who's in a contract year, without crippling their pass rush.

    If the front office decides to do so, Jacksonville can start Allen opposite Campbell. Together, the pass-rushing duo would help the defense live up to the nickname "Sacksonville."

Kansas City Chiefs: Not Splurging on a Free-Agent CB

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    Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward
    Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius WardEd Zurga/Associated Press

    In 2018, the Kansas City Chiefs allowed the second-most passing yards per game. Steven Nelson, their top cornerback, signed a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yet general manager Brett Veach didn't make a panic purchase and overpay for a cover man on the open market.

    Instead, the Chiefs signed Bashaud Breeland to a one-year, $2 million deal and turned Charvarius Ward into a starter. Both have played well under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

    In addition to two interceptions, Ward leads the Chiefs in pass deflections (nine). With his experience as a starter in Washington and Green Bay, Breeland has been a solid acquisition, registering five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries—he returned one for a score—and a pick.

    Kansas City moderately improved its pass defense, which ranks 16th, without doling out big contracts to cornerbacks.

    The Chiefs also inked safety Tyrann Mathieu to a three-year, $42 million deal, so he deserves some credit for their revamped secondary. Nonetheless, the economical approach in addressing the cornerback position likely allowed Kansas City to spend $104 million on defensive end Frank Clark.

Los Angeles Chargers: Not Extending RB Melvin Gordon III

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    Melvin Gordon III made a push for a new deal and held out through late September. In his absence, Austin Ekeler handled the majority of the load and replicated much of the former's attributes, running and catching out of the backfield. He eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage in three of the first four games.

    Upon his return, Gordon didn't make a strong case for a new contract. He's averaging 3.9 yards per carry and lost a costly fumble at the goal line in the final seconds of the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans during Week 7. Los Angeles lost that game and dropped to 2-5. 

    Gordon will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, while the Chargers could match offers for Ekeler because of his restricted tag.

    Assuming Gordon still wants a lucrative deal, Ekeler will cost the Chargers a lot less. The latter has built a solid resume to garner the front office's trust as the lead ball-carrier, logging 2,595 yards from scrimmage in three seasons. Once again, Los Angeles won't be desperate for Gordon's services.

Los Angeles Rams: Drafting OT Bobby Evans

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    As a whole, the Los Angeles Rams offensive line has struggled in short-yardage situations, recording a 56 percent success rate on third- and fourth-down runs for first downs—that's below the league average (63 percent), per Football Outsiders.

    Rob Havenstein started the Rams' first nine games and struggled mightily. He's missed the last three games with a concussion. In the veteran's place, Bobby Evans has put together solid outings, especially his first start against the Bears.

    Looking at the game tape, Evans held up in protection in Week 12 against the Ravens as well. Quarterback Jared Goff didn't have much pressure bearing down on him from the right side of the pocket. He only took two sacks in that game.

    Evans' early signs of potential could provide the Rams with options for their offensive line, which is likely to undergo changes next season. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who's turning 38 years old in December, and Austin Blythe will become free agents in the offseason. Los Angeles is projected to have $25.4 million in cap space next year, per Spotrac.com; that's below the league average ($50.9 million).

    At Oklahoma, Evans excelled at left and right tackle. If the Rams don't feel the need to replace Havenstein, the rookie could take over Whitworth's spot on Goff's blind side. He's shown enough flashes to earn consideration for a starting job next season.

Miami Dolphins: Naming Ryan Fitzpatrick the Starting QB

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    Head coach Brian Flores could've kept Josh Rosen in the huddle and allowed him to sink or swim with a team that's probably not going to win many games.

    Although Rosen opened with the starters in Weeks 3, 4 and 6, Flores went back to Fitzpatrick, who's started nine out of the 12 contests. 

    Miami has arguably the worst offensive line, ranking last in run-blocking adjusted line yards and 29th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders, which isn't much different than what Rosen experienced in Arizona last year. 

    In 2018, Rosen took countless hits behind the Cardinals offensive line, and that could mess with a young quarterback's psyche to the point he starts to anticipate pressure that isn't present.

    Why would the Dolphins coaching staff put him through a similar situation for another season? In three starts, the second-year signal-caller was sacked 12 times.

    With 15 years of experience, Fitzpatrick is more equipped to read defenses under duress and utilize some of the developing pass-catching weapons around him like wideout Preston Williams, before he landed on injured reserve with a knee injury, and tight end Mike Gesicki.

    If the Dolphins select a quarterback in the upcoming draft, they can have a position battle between the rookie prospect and Rosen. If the latter loses the competition, he'd still have decent trade value after avoiding a potentially disastrous season with another rebuilding team.

Minnesota Vikings: Hiring Gary Kubiak as an Offensive Adviser

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Within a year, the Minnesota Vikings have transitioned from a pass-heavy club that ranked sixth in attempts in 2018 to a squad reliant on the ground attack with the third-most carries per game this season.

    Fortunately for the Vikings, the plan has worked out well.

    Running back Dalvin Cook is the league's fifth-leading rusher with 1,046 yards. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been impressive, throwing for 23 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 69.3 percent of his passes.

    The Vikings hired Gary Kubiak as an offensive adviser to play-caller Kevin Stefanski, who's in his first full-time role at the position. Thus far, they have coexisted to field the No. 7 scoring offense in the league.

    Stefanski shed light on the importance of having Kubiak in the building, per Eric Smith of team's official website.

    "I think it's been great having him around. It’s been invaluable to me, as this is my first year doing this," Stefanski said. "Having somebody that I can bounce ideas off of both during the week and during the game."

    As an offensive coordinator and head coach, Kubiak oversaw 14 top-10 rushing offenses. Clearly, he's helped Minnesota's offensive attack.

New England Patriots: Not Hiring a DC

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    New England Patriots secondary coach Steve Belichick
    New England Patriots secondary coach Steve BelichickElise Amendola/Associated Press

    Before he accepted the Dolphins' head-coaching position, Brian Flores called defensive plays for the Patriots last year. New England didn't hire a replacement for the 2019 campaign.

    According to the Boston Herald's Andrew Callahan, the Patriots have kept their defensive play-calling duties within the Belichick family, specifically father and son. 

    "Patriots secondary coach Steve Belichick has been calling defensive plays for weeks, multiple players confirmed to the Herald. Bill Belichick remains ever observant on the sideline, jotting notes and getting a feel for the game. Whenever he deems necessary, the headman will turn from the field and address his defense with an adjustment."

    The Patriots have surrendered the fewest points and rank No. 2 in yards allowed this season. Other than the Ravens and Texans, opponents have struggled to crack the Belichick defensive code, scoring 14 points or fewer.

    In a long-term view, Steve Belichick's involvement in play-calling could extend Bill's influence on the organization long after he retires from the coaching ranks. Based on this year's results, a baton pass from father to son bodes well for the Patriots.

New Orleans Saints: Re-Signing QB Teddy Bridgewater

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    It's impossible to predict injuries, but the New Orleans Saints were prepared to keep their offense in a groove without quarterback Drew Brees.

    In Week 2, Brees suffered a thumb injury, hitting his hand on Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald's helmet. He underwent thumb surgery and missed five contests.

    Typically, when starting quarterbacks go down with injuries, teams go into survival mode until the lead signal-caller returns to action. That didn't apply to the Saints.

    Teddy Bridgewater led New Orleans to five consecutive wins without Brees, keeping this team in position to win the division.

    We can only speculate how the Saints would fare with versatile playmaker Taysom Hill or another backup under center in a full-time role, but Bridgewater has proved himself as reliable plan B in case of emergency.

    Bridgewater is arguably the best backup signal-caller in the league. If he isn't the succession plan at quarterback for the Saints, the 27-year-old should be able to start elsewhere next season.

New York Giants: Drafting QB Daniel Jones

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Shortly after the draft, general manager Dave Gettleman took criticism for selecting Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick. ESPN's Todd McShay thought the New York Giants should've acquired a defensive player or Dwayne Haskins in that spot.

    Jones has yet to prove he's the new face of the franchise, but the Duke product may have turned some doubters into believers with impressive performances against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions and New York Jets. He threw for a combined 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions in those outings.

    Jones has certainly impressed one of his teammates, running back Saquon Barkley, per SNY's Garrett Stepien.

    "You can see the plays that he makes, he's a special player, a talented player," Barkley said. "[Wednesday] I got caught just watching, I should've finished the route, but just watching him throw a post ball. It was beautiful. He's a talented player. I know, like you said, beside the grit, he's got that." 

    Jones will need to do more than carve up mediocre pass defenses, but he's on the right track toward earning trust from the organization. The rookie signal-caller has thrown for 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His ability to pick up yards on the ground adds a new wrinkle to the offense following 16 years of Manning's stationary play style.

New York Jets: Signing CB Brian Poole

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The New York Jets have experienced lapses in the secondary, but slot cornerback Brian Poole may be a keeper for the long term.

    Poole has provided solid coverage in the slot and recorded his first pick-six in Week 12. He's worth more than a one-year, $3 million contract. The fourth-year veteran lists second on the team in tackles (53) with six pass breakups and an interception. 

    If Gang Green can find a way out of cornerback Trumaine Johnson's massive contract (via trade or release) after his disappointing year that's ended with ankle injuries, the front office can allocate more financial resources into the cornerback group.

    Years ago, slot cornerback wasn't considered a premium position. Now, as more teams operate out of three-wide-receiver sets, defenses must be equipped to counter with three solid cover men. Poole should be a candidate for an extension to lock down the nickel spot.

Oakland Raiders: Drafting RB Josh Jacobs

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    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    Among the Oakland Raiders' three rookie first-rounders, Josh Jacobs has provided the most impact. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell hasn't hit his stride as a pass-rusher, yet. He's recorded 3.5 sacks. Safety Johnathan Abram landed on injured reserve with a torn labrum after Week 1.

    Jacobs is fourth in the league in rushing yards with 1,061. As a downhill ball-carrier, he's set up to succeed behind the Raiders' stout offensive line that's third in run-blocking adjusted line yards, per Football Outsiders. 

    Jacobs has alleviated significant pressure off quarterback Derek Carr.

    Carr doesn't have a No. 1-type wide receiver in the huddle. The Raiders released Antonio Brown at his request. Tyrell Williams scored in his first four games with the team, but he's battling plantar fasciitis. The fifth-year veteran has eclipsed 50 receiving yards three times in 10 outings. 

    Hunter Renfrow came on strong in recent weeks before he suffered a broken rib and punctured lung in Week 12. The rookie fifth-rounder is more of a clutch pass-catcher rather than a consistent playmaker on every down. 

    Tight end Darren Waller has cooled off after a hot start, logging fewer than 79 receiving yards in each November contest. He hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 8.

    Without a top-notch wide receiver unit, the Raiders will need to ride Jacobs until one of their pass-catchers emerges with some consistency. The rookie tailback has played with a fractured shoulder, which has limited him at practices. Still, he's averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 88.4 yards per contest as the Raiders' most reliable offensive asset.

Philadelphia Eagles: Drafting RB Miles Sanders

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    The Philadelphia Eagles made two notable moves at running back during the offseason, acquiring Jordan Howard via trade with the Bears and selecting Miles Sanders with the 53rd overall pick.

    Although linebacker may have been a more pressing need going into the 2019 draft, the decision to draft Sanders may help the Eagles finish strong down the stretch.

    Howard has missed the last three games with stinger, thrusting Sanders into a bigger role. For the season, the rookie is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. On top of that, head coach Doug Pederson thinks the first-year tailback can handle a load comparable to the ailing veteran, per Pennlive.com's Daniel Gallen:

    "I think he could, and I think, too, in the passing game, with some of the things we're trying to do and kind of get — we didn't do everything we worked on in practice with him last week in the game, but there are some things with emptying the backfield and route combinations that are also part of his plan that didn't manifest in the game. So, yeah, I think if you factor all that in, I think he would be right around that number.” 

    If the Eagles can implement Sanders in the passing game as Pederson suggests, the 22-year-old can compensate for an underperforming wide receiver corps that's battled drops and injuries. Alshon Jeffery (ankle) and Nelson Agholor (knee) have missed time, but both suited up last week. DeSean Jackson is on injured reserve with an abdominal ailment.

    Sanders could remain effective when or if Howard shakes off the stinger. Philadelphia will need the Penn State product's dual-threat capabilities.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Trading Up for LB Devin Bush

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Steelers moved up 10 spots to select Devin Bush with the No. 10 overall pick. For the most part, the gamble has paid off.

    When you watch a Steelers game, Bush usually pops off the screen immediately. He's a smaller but speedy linebacker who diagnoses plays with natural instincts—always around the ball. The Michigan product has a team-leading 86 tackles, six tackles for loss, four pass deflections and two interceptions. 

    Although Bush has flashed on impact plays, he's played fewer snaps in recent outings for the sake of schematic disguise. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler talked about mixing and matching his linebackers, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    "We wanted to try to get Mark Barron on the field a little bit in coverage," Butler said. "Mark has been healthy so we're using him a little bit more. We're trying to make sure they don't know who we have out there." 

    Talking to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters, head coach Mike Tomlin downplayed concerns about Bush's coverage ability. 

    "It's not any issues that any other linebacker in the National Football League doesn't have in 2019," Tomlin said. "In today's game, you get challenged, situationally you get challenged, against athletic people. People put wideouts inside. There's nothing unusual there."

    As a rookie, Bush isn't going to look polished in every aspect of the game. Secondly, his four pass breakups and two interceptions show he has the ability to find the football when it's in the air. He leads Steelers inside linebackers in both categories. There's no need to worry about him in open space.

San Francisco 49ers: Drafting DE Nick Bosa

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    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    This sounds like an easy decision, but the 49ers could've gone with Quinnen Williams or Josh Allen with the No. 2 overall pick. Remember, Nick Bosa only played three games during his last term at Ohio State because of a core muscle injury, which led to questions about durability after the draft.

    Nonetheless, the 49ers selected arguably the best non-quarterback prospect in the 2019 class. Nick may develop into a better player than his older brother, Joey, who plays for the Chargers.

    He should be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year with eight sacks, a team-leading 14 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and an interception. He's also ninth leaguewide in pressures (32). 

    Clearly, Bosa plays a major role in the 49ers' No. 2 scoring defense that allows the fewest yards per game.

    It's important to note the coaching staff has utilized defensive end Dee Ford as a rotational pass-rusher. He's played more than 46 percent of defensive snaps once in 10 contests while the rookie lines up against the run and pass, logging at least 55 percent of snaps on defense in all but one game.

    Bosa is a complete playmaker on the defensive line, which makes him a more valuable asset than Ford for the long term.

Seattle Seahawks: Drafting WR DK Metcalf

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Do you remember when DK Metcalf's three-cone drill time (7.38 seconds) caused some concern?

    Despite a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, Metcalf was the ninth wide receiver selected in this year's draft. Through three-quarters of the season, he leads all rookie wideouts in receiving yards (705) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions (five). 

    Quarterback Russell Wilson certainly deserves credit for Metcalf's early flashes, but the Ole Miss product has put questions about his change of direction to rest with regular-season production.

    As he did at the collegiate level, Metcalf stretches the field in the aerial attack. He's averaging 16 yards per catch, which leads the team among players with at least 15 receptions.

    With the last pick in the second round, the Seahawks acquired a solid complement to lead wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Metcalf's size (6'4", 229 lbs) and speed will wreak havoc on pass defenses for years to come.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Signing OLB Shaquil Barrett

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    The Buccaneers couldn't have envisioned Shaquil Barrett's dominance through 13 weeks. After registering 14 sacks in five years with the Broncos, he leads the league with 14.5.

    Barrett has also proved the Buccaneers coaching staff wrong in other areas, per The Athletic's Dan Pompei.

    "We knew he could be a utility guy,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "What we didn't know was how well he could play the run and if he could be a full-time guy. He's proven us wrong in that aspect."

    Beyond Barrett's flashy sack count, he's played 82 percent of defensive snaps and leads the Buccaneers in tackles for loss (13). The sixth-year veteran is more of a complete player than a rotational pass-rusher, which wasn't the case in Denver.

    What aided Barrett's transition from a backup with the Broncos to a game-wrecking starter in Tampa Bay?

    According to Pompei's report, Barrett is down to 12 percent body fat. Fred Pagac, Denver's linebacker coach, commented on his former player's physical transition. 

    "He's stronger and quicker than he was," Pagac said. 

    Barrett will undoubtedly demand a lucrative deal in the offseason once his contract expires. The Buccaneers may want to consider the franchise tag to keep him on the roster. That option would allow them to see year-to-year consistency before locking the edge-rusher into a long-term deal.

Tennessee Titans: Trading for QB Ryan Tannehill

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    Quarterback Marcus Mariota went into the 2019 campaign in a contract year. The Tennessee Titans made a shrewd decision to acquire Ryan Tannehill and a sixth-round pick in exchange for a seventh-rounder and a 2020 fourth-round selection.

    Tannehill started six seasons in Miami before heading to Tennessee, which prepared him for an opportunity to take over the huddle if Mariota struggled or went down with an injury.

    Mariota faltered, and head coach Mike Vrabel benched him in Week 7. Since then, Tannehill has provided a spark for the offense and gives this club a legitimate shot at a playoff berth after a 2-4 start.

    As a starter in Tennessee, Tannehill is 5-1. He's thrown for 12 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 72.7 percent of his passes. The offense has accumulated 400-plus yards three times in that span, and that didn't happen once with Mariota under center this season. 

    Coming off a victory over the Colts, the Titans still have two games against the Texans left on the schedule. Tannehill is more than capable of carving up Houston's 28th-ranked pass defense. 

    If Tennessee stays hot down the stretch and Tannehill is productive in both those matchups, the Titans could claim their first division title since 2008.

Washington Redskins: Drafting WR Terry McLaurin

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    Last year, the Redskins signed wideout Paul Richardson to a five-year, $40 million contract. In his first season with the team, he suffered an AC joint injury that limited him to seven games. Now healthy, the sixth-year veteran has taken a backseat to rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin.

    Even with constant changes at quarterback, McLaurin has been productive in the passing attack. He scored in four of his first five contests, logged two 100-yard performances and leads the team in receptions (42), yards (646) and touchdowns (five). 

    We'll constantly hear about McLaurin's Ohio State connection with quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but the talented wide receiver had a promising outlook before the rookie signal-caller took over the starting job in Week 9. He stretches the field and makes difficult catches, which is what you'd like to see from a lead playmaker at the position. 

    In the offseason, the Redskins may consider parting ways with Richardson, who's averaging just 8.8 yards per catch, and saving $2.5 million, per Over the Cap. The rookie's emergence compensates for last year's underwhelming free-agent signing at a weak position. 

            

    Player contract details provided by Spotrac.com.

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