Grading Every NFL Team's Offseason Before the 2021 Draft
We're roughly two weeks away from one of the biggest dates on the NFL calendar. On April 29, the league will hold its 86th draft in Cleveland, beginning with the Jacksonville Jaguars and ending with the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But teams have already been harvesting talent of a different sort. We're about a month into free agency, and while there's still meat on the bone in that regard (most of which will be picked clean shortly after the festivities in Ohio), there have already been hundreds of millions in contracts handed out.
It's far too early to pass final judgment on how all 32 squads have fared in the offseason. But we're far enough in to have an idea of which clubs have knocked it out of the park (at least so far) and which franchises have struck out.
And since the only thing better than a baseball metaphor in a football article is grades that go with it, it's report-card time for each team before the draft.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: DE J.J. Watt, C Rodney Hudson, CB Malcolm Butler, WR A.J. Green, K Matt Prater, G Brian Winters
Biggest Departures: CB Patrick Peterson, RB Kenyan Drake, WR Larry Fitzgerald, Edge Haason Reddick, TE Dan Arnold
After his team narrowly missed the postseason in 2020, Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim pushed his chips into the middle of the table in free agency.
In three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, the Cardinals acquired an impressive complement to Chandler Jones in the front seven, and the move more than offsets the departure of edge-rusher Haason Reddick. The Redbirds added a replacement for cornerback Patrick Peterson in Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler, who signed a team-friendly contract that counts just $2.2 million against the salary cap in 2021.
On offense, the Cardinals swapped veteran wide receivers, replacing 37-year-old Larry Fitzgerald (who is expected to retire) with 32-year-old A.J Green. The team also added three-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson via a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders and signed guard Brian Winters, who started nine games for the Buffalo Bills last year.
Running back is about the only potential hole Arizona hasn't addressed. Kenyan Drake signed a two-year deal with the Raiders in free agency. But the Cardinals still have Chase Edmonds, and with players like James Conner still on the market and the NFL draft yet to come, that need isn't especially difficult to address.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: RB Mike Davis, TE Lee Smith, Edge Barkevious Mingo, Edge Brandon Copeland, CB Fabian Moreau, S Erik Harris
Biggest Departures: G Justin McCray, C Alex Mack, S Keanu Neal, DB Damontae Kazee, S Ricardo Allen
Sure enough, it was pretty quiet in Atlanta. Players like running back Mike Davis, edge-rusher Brandon Copeland and safety Erik Harris all offer upside at a relatively low cost, but none is a sure bet to make a substantial impact in 2021.
The Falcons did take a couple of sizable hits as well. Center Alex Mack isn't the player he once was, but he was still an important part of the offensive front. The departures of defensive backs Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee and Ricardo Allen ramp up the pressure on Harris to not only start but also play well.
The Falcons are set to potentially add an impact player (or heir to Ryan under center) with the fourth overall pick in this year's draft, but the best bet in the long-term may be a trade back that nets Atlanta additional draft capital.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: WR Sammy Watkins, G Kevin Zeitler, Edge Tyus Bowser, Edge Pernell McPhee
Biggest Departures: Edge Matt Judon, Edge Yannick Ngakoue, RB Mark Ingram, C Matt Skura, WR Willie Snead IV, G Marshal Yanda
The Baltimore Ravens finally won a playoff game last year with Lamar Jackson under center, but that momentum has been hard to maintain into the offseason.
The Ravens whiffed on the bigger names like Kenny Golladay and JuJu Smith-Schuster at wide receiver, instead settling on a one-term deal with veteran Sammy Watkins. Guard Kevin Zeitler was a welcome addition as a replacement for the retired Marshal Yanda, but the Ravens lost center Matt Skura, wideout Willie Snead IV and waived veteran running back Mark Ingram, costing Baltimore a 12-game starter up front last year and some depth at the skill positions.
Defensively, things went even worse. Baltimore was able to retain the services of edge-rushers Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee, but it lost its two best players at the position when Matt Judon (four years, $54.5 million) and Yannick Ngakoue (two years, $26 million) signed big contracts with the New England Patriots and Raiders, respectively.
The Ravens need an excellent 2021 draft to avoid falling off the pace in the AFC North.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: WR Emmanuel Sanders, QB Mitchell Trubisky, TE Jacob Hollister, OT Daryl Williams, G Jon Feliciano, LB Matt Milano, WR Isaiah McKenzie, LB Tyrell Adams, OT Bobby Hart, CB Levi Wallace
Biggest Departures: WR Andre Roberts, WR John Brown, OT Ty Nsekhe, DE Quinton Jefferson, G Brian Winters, LB Del'Shawn Phillips
The Buffalo Bills won 13 games and made it to the AFC Championship Game last year. As such, they don't have a lot of holes, so the priority in the offseason was ensuring that more didn't appear on the roster.
In that respect, the Bills had a successful offseason.
They lost veteran receiver John Brown, but replacing him with Emmanuel Sanders was at least a lateral move. Linebacker Matt Milano, offensive tackle Daryl Williams and cornerback Levi Wallace were arguably Buffalo's biggest in-house free agents. All three will be back in 2021.
If the Bills can pull off a successful draft (as Brandon Beane has done in recent years), they will have to be viewed as the biggest threat to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: QB Sam Darnold, WR David Moore, TE Dan Arnold, OT Taylor Moton, G Pat Elflein, OT Cameron Erving, DL Morgan Fox, Edge Haason Reddick, LB Denzel Perryman, CB A.J. Bouye
Biggest Departures: RB Mike Davis, WR Curtis Samuel, Edge Stephen Weatherly
Well, you certainly can't say that the Carolina Panthers sat on their hands this offseason.
It was no secret that they were looking for an upgrade on Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. Just how big an upgrade Sam Darnold is over Bridgewater is a matter of debate, but the price Carolina paid for the third overall pick in 2018 (a 2021 sixth-rounder and 2022 second- and fourth-rounders) was reasonable.
Before Darnold even arrived, the Panthers took steps to improve an offensive line that Pro Football Focus ranked 18th in 2020. Bringing back right tackle Taylor Moton via the franchise tag was a wise move, but Pat Elflein and Cameron Erving will have to reverse their recent struggles to add a real boost up front.
Similarly, edge-rusher Haason Reddick could be a great complement to Brian Burns, and Denzel Perryman could offer a badly needed upgrade at linebacker. But Perryman has struggled to stay on the field in recent years, and Reddick needs to show that he can back up last year's breakout 12.5-sack season with the Cardinals.
And cornerback A.J. Bouye needs to rebound after a disappointing 2020 campaign in Denver that included a six-game suspension that has two contests remaining.
Still, the team deserves kudos for attacking the offseason after last year's 5-11 dud.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: WR Allen Robinson, QB Andy Dalton, RB Damien Williams, OT Germain Ifedi, DL Mario Edwards Jr., Edge Jeremiah Attaochu, CB Desmond Trufant
Biggest Departures: QB Mitchell Trubisky, DL Roy Robertson-Harris, CB Kyle Fuller
The 2021 offseason in Chicago has been a hot mess.
It's no secret that Mitchell Trubisky hasn't lived up to his status as the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. Or that the Bears were looking to upgrade at the game's most important position. But after the team's reported offer for Russell Wilson was rejected, Chicago settled on Andy Dalton, a signal-caller whose last winning season came in 2015.
It gets worse.
Chicago released its best cornerback (Kyle Fuller) to save cap space, replacing him with aging veteran Desmond Trufant, 30, whose lone season in Detroit was an injury-shortened fiasco. There wasn't a single position group the Bears improved after going 8-8 and barely making the playoffs in 2020.
Slapping the franchise tag on wide receiver Allen Robinson was the highlight of the offseason.
That tells you everything you need to know.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: Edge Trey Hendrickson, CB Mike Hilton, CB Chidobe Awuzie, OT Riley Reiff, DT Larry Ogunjobi, S Ricardo Allen
Biggest Departures: WR A.J. Green, DT Geno Atkins, Edge Carl Lawson, CB William Jackson III, WR John Ross, OT Bobby Hart, C BJ Finney, CB Mackensie Alexander
For many years, the Cincinnati Bengals weren't big players in free agency. That has changed over the past couple of seasons, and they were busy again in 2021.
The problem is that many of the signings were made to offset personnel losses.
Edge-rusher Trey Hendrickson inked a four-year, $60 million contract, but that came after Carl Lawson left for the New York Jets. Cornerback Mike Hilton is an upgrade over Mackensie Alexander in the slot, but the team backslid on the boundary by swapping William Jackson III for Chidobe Awuzie.
Cincinnati did get a bump at right tackle when it brought in Riley Reiff to replace Bobby Hart, but upgrading an offensive line that struggled mightily and allowed the fifth-most sacks in 2020 remains at the top of the to-do list in the draft.
The Bengals also lost a pair of veteran cornerstones. They released defensive tackle Geno Atkins in a cap-saving move, while the best wide receiver in franchise history (A.J. Green) signed with the Cardinals.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: CB Troy Hill, S John Johnson III, LB Anthony Walker Jr., WR Rashard Higgins, Edge Takkarist McKinley, DT Malik Jackson, LB Malcolm Smith
Biggest Departures: OT Kendall Lamm, CB Terrance Mitchell, DT Larry Ogunjobi, CB Kevin Johnson
After winning a playoff game for the first time since rejoining the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns entered free agency with a clear edict: upgrade the defense.
John Johnson III is one of the better young safeties in the league. Poaching the 25-year-old and cornerback Troy Hill from the Los Angeles Rams offers a sizable upgrade in the secondary. Linebacker B.J. Goodson remains unsigned, but Anthony Walker Jr. is also a substantial upgrade in the middle defense.
Veteran tackle Malik Jackson offers more pass-rushing punch than the departed Larry Ogunjobi, and the Browns took a flier on 2017 first-round pick Takkarist McKinley in an effort to improve the pass rush opposite Myles Garrett.
The Browns could still stand to add an off-ball linebacker or an edge-rusher in the first round this year. But it can be argued that they appear to have the best and most balanced roster in the AFC North.
That may be a harbinger of the end times. Just saying.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: QB Dak Prescott, S Keanu Neal, Edge Tarell Basham, DL Brent Urban, OT Ty Nsekhe, DB Damontae Kazee, CB Jourdan Lewis
Biggest Departures: QB Andy Dalton, S Xavier Woods, CB Chidobe Awuzie, OT Cameron Erving, LB Joe Thomas
The Dak Prescott drama is over, at least for the foreseeable future.
The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2021 offseason with one glaring to-do: Lock up the young franchise quarterback long-term. The team accomplished that mission, inking the 27-year-old to a four-year, $160 million megadeal.
That whopper of a pact meant that Dallas would have to be frugal with its other signings. But the Cowboys were still able to add a couple of pieces on defense. Keanu Neal is a Pro Bowl-caliber player who will reportedly line up at linebacker, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, while Damontae Kazee is a versatile defensive back who's capable of playing both safety and corner.
However, the back end of the Dallas defense has also become an area of concern. The team's top cornerback departed in free agency for the second season in a row, and while the Cowboys re-signed Jourdan Lewis, it's a safe bet that the position will be at the top of Dallas' wish list early in the 2021 draft.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: S Justin Simmons, OLB Von Miller, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Ronald Darby, DE Shelby Harris, S Kareem Jackson
Biggest Departures: RB Phillip Lindsay, OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, OL Elijah Wilkinson, CB A.J. Bouye
For the most part, the Denver Broncos had a decent free-agency period.
They retained both of their starting safeties, re-upping Kareem Jackson and franchise-tagging and then extending Justin Simmons. The loss of A.J. Bouye was more than offset by the additions of Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller at cornerback. And bringing back defensive end Shelby Harris and edge-rusher Von Miller prevented a hole from opening in the front seven.
However, the offseason had its blemishes.
The Broncos have yet to do anything to remedy their issues at quarterback, and with the way the top 10 of the 2021 draft could play out, the No. 9 pick may not be good enough to get any of the top five signal-callers in the class.
Also, the team's decision to not even tender running back Phillip Lindsay was a curious one. He wouldn't have been an expensive player to retain as depth in the backfield behind Melvin Gordon.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: QB Jared Goff, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Breshad Perriman, Edge Romeo Okwara, DT Michael Brockers, CB Quinton Dunbar
Biggest Departures: QB Matthew Stafford, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Marvin Jones Jr., WR Jamal Agnew, TE Jesse James, DT Danny Shelton, LB Jarrad Davis, CB Desmond Trufant, CB Justin Coleman
Given that Detroit landed a pair of first-round picks when it dealt Matthew Stafford to L.A. for Jared Goff, the trade may one day be viewed as a masterstroke. After all, Goff has done something that Stafford never did—lead his team to a Super Bowl.
But in the short term, this was a significant downgrade, and that's sadly a theme for Detroit's offseason.
With the exception of swapping Desmond Trufant for Quinton Dunbar at cornerback, the 2021 offseason was one step back after another. Goff isn't entering a situation where he's set up to succeed after the Lions top two wideouts (Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.) both departed and were replaced with middling options in Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman.
New Lions general manager Brad Holmes appears to be playing the long game. But that's little solace to a fanbase that hasn't seen a victory in the postseason in three decades.
Green Bay Packers
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: RB Aaron Jones, CB Kevin King, TE Robert Tonyan
Biggest Departures: RB Jamaal Williams, OT Rick Wagner, C Corey Linsley, LB Christian Kirksey, CB Tramon Williams
The good news for the Green Bay Packers is that they had arguably the best offseason of any team in the NFC North.
The bad news is that isn't necessarily saying a lot.
The Packers managed to avoid prominent losses, with one glaring exception: Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley signed a five-year, $62.5 million pact with the Los Angeles Chargers. Green Bay re-upped star running back Aaron Jones and retained restricted free-agent tight end Robert Tonyan.
But thanks to a fairly precarious position relative to the salary cap, the team wasn't able to do much. Green Bay will head into the 2021 draft in need of a dependable second wideout to pair with Davante Adams, a hole at inside linebacker and now a need in the middle of the offensive line.
Still, the status quo is a lot easier to swallow with a team that won 13 games in 2020 and made the NFC Championship Game in each of the past two years.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: OT Marcus Cannon, Edge Shaq Lawson, RB Mark Ingram, QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Phillip Lindsay, LB Christian Kirksey, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, Edge Jordan Jenkins, CB Desmond King, CB Terrance Mitchell, WR Andre Roberts
Biggest Departures: DE JJ Watt, WR Will Fuller V, DL Carlos Watkins, C Nick Martin, LB Benardrick McKinney, LB Tyrell Adams
The Houston Texans were active in free agency. The problem is that while the team added a bucket full of players, they didn't get better while doing it.
Houston added a pair of edge-rushers by trading for Shaq Lawson and acquiring Jordan Jenkins. But the two of them put together won't offset the loss of three-time Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt. For the second successive season, Houston watched arguably its best wide receiver leave town.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson has made it clear that he has no intention of playing for the Texans again, but as the accusations of sexual misconduct against him mount, he has effectively become untradeable.
This is a team with no quarterback. Too many running backs. A bad offensive line. And a defense that just lost the best player in franchise history.
It's going to take more than a flurry of mostly directionless signings to fix that.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: QB Carson Wentz, OT Sam Tevi, WR TY Hilton, CB Xavier Rhodes, RB Marlon Mack, OT Julie'n Davenport, S Sean Davis
Biggest Departures: LB Anthony Walker, DL Denico Autry, QB Jacoby Brissett, S Tavon Wilson, OT Anthony Castonzo
The Indianapolis Colts offseason will be judged by one thing and one thing only—whether or not quarterback Carson Wentz can turn his career around with a change of scenery. The Colts didn't have to surrender an outrageous amount of draft capital to obtain him (a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional second-rounder in 2022), but taking on Wentz's contract was a significant risk.
Outside that bold move, it was a typically reserved offseason from Colts GM Chris Ballard. The team tried to replace the retired Anthony Castonzo with a couple of fliers in Sam Tevi and Julie'n Davenport, but other than that, the focus was keeping players like wide receiver TY Hilton and cornerback Xavier Rhodes in town.
There were some potentially significant losses though—especially on the defensive side of the ball. Denico Autry is a quality starter capable of playing both end and tackle, and with linebacker Anthony Walker now in Cleveland, Bobby Okereke is going to have to step up opposite standout Darius Leonard.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: CB Shaquill Griffin, S Rayshawn Jenkins, DT Roy Robertson-Harris, DE Tyson Alualu, WR Marvin Jones, WR Jamal Agnew, RB Carlos Hyde, DT Malcom Brown, OT Cam Robinson
Biggest Departures: WR Keelan Cole, DT Al Woods
The Jacksonville Jaguars entered free agency with more cap space than any team in the NFL. The Jaguars weren’t afraid to throw some of that cash around, either.
The question is how well that money was spent.
The Jaguars more than offset the loss of wide receiver Keelan Cole with Marvin Jones, who should offer rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence a veteran safety net in the passing game. But handing cornerback Shaquill Griffin over $13 million a season and inking safety Rayshawn Jenkins to a four-year, $35 million pact both smack of overpays. So does franchise-tagging tackle Cam Robinson, but a one-year commitment is hard to find too much fault with.
With that said, it can be argued that after a one-win 2020 season, the Jaguars had to overpay to entice higher-end free agents to sign with the team, and if the new regime in Jacksonville can make good use of the franchise's high draft position at the end of April, this latest rebuild in Duval County will be off to a solid start.
Kansas City Chiefs
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: G Joe Thuney, G Kyle Long, Edge Taco Charlton, WR Demarcus Robinson, OT Mike Remmers, OL Andrew Wylie, DT Jarran Reed, S Daniel Sorensen
Biggest Departures: OT Eric Fisher, OT Mitchell Schwartz, RB Damien Williams, RB Anthony Sherman, WR Sammy Watkins, DL Tanoh Kpassagnon
Kansas City's offseason grade gets something of an asterisk.
The Chiefs sent more than a few eyebrows skyward when the team released starting tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher. But as of yet, neither player has found a new home, so a return to Kansas City can't be ruled out.
If that's the case, an already good-looking offseason will look that much better.
Despite limited salary cap resources, the Chiefs still managed to add one of this year's most coveted offensive linemen in guard Joe Thuney and a quality defensive lineman in tackle Jarran Reed. Outside the (possible) loss of those two veteran tackles, Kansas City's biggest departure was wide receiver Sammy Watkins, which is hardly a hammer blow for the two-time defending AFC champions.
Sometimes staying on top can be harder than getting there. But Kansas City has done well to avoid springing leaks that could loosen its grip atop the AFC.
Las Vegas Raiders
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: WR John Brown, RB Kenyan Drake, Edge Yannick Ngakoue, DT Quinton Jefferson, G Richie Incognito, C Nick Martin, DL Solomon Thomas, DL Johnathan Hankins, WR Willie Snead IV
Biggest Departures: OT Trent Brown, C Rodney Hudson, OL Gabe Jackson, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Tyrell Williams, DB Lamarcus Joyner, Edge Takkarist McKinley, S Erik Harris
The Las Vegas Raiders have had a confusing offseason so far.
The Raiders badly needed to address one of the NFL's most anemic pass rushes, and bringing in edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue should help. Signing former third overall pick Solomon Thomas was a low-risk flier, and Quinton Jefferson and the return of Johnathan Hankins should bolster the interior.
But the Raiders offensive line was hammered by a series of ill-advised trades—three players who started up front for the Raiders in 2020 were shipped away, including two who have Pro Bowls on their NFL resume. The deal that sent guard Gabe Jackson to Seattle was especially befuddling, as Vegas got next to nothing in return for a quality starter in his prime.
That's not the only issue facing quarterback Derek Carr in 2021. The Raiders already had the weakest cadre of wideouts in the AFC West, and swapping out Nelson Agholor and Tyrell Williams for John Brown and Willie Snead IV was at best a lateral move.
Los Angeles Chargers
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: C Corey Linsley, TE Jared Cook, OT Matt Feiler, CB Michael Davis, TE Jared Cook, CB Ryan Smith
Biggest Departures: TE Hunter Henry, LB Denzel Perryman, LB Nick Vigil, S Rayshawn Jenkins, G Dan Feeney, G Sam Tevi, CB Casey Hayward
The Chargers had one need that towered above all others in 2021—improve the offensive line in front of 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. Los Angeles (per Pro Football Focus) ranked dead last in the NFL in that regard a year ago.
The tackle spots are still a question mark in Los Angeles (although Sam Tevi's departure was hardly a big loss), but the arrival of Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley is a big step in the right direction. Losing tight end Hunter Henry was a blow, but the Chargers softened the impact by inking veteran Jared Cook as his replacement.
The Chargers need to do more at tackle than the addition of Matt Feiler, who played guard in Pittsburgh last year. The secondary also needs work after the Chargers parted ways with veteran Casey Hayward.
But after a quietly solid free-agency period, there's room for optimism in La-La Land.
Los Angeles Rams
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: QB Matthew Stafford, Edge Leonard Floyd, WR DeSean Jackson
Biggest Departures: QB Jared Goff, S John Johnson III, CB Troy Hill, Edge Samson Ebukam, TE Gerald Everett, RB Malcolm Brown, DE Morgan Fox, WR Josh Reynolds, G/C Austin Blythe
The Los Angeles Rams entered free agency with very little cap space to work with—and it shows.
The departures of star safety John Johnson and cornerback Troy Hill to Cleveland created a sizable hole in the back end of the Rams defense. The losses of Morgan Fox and Samson Ebukam up front leaves the Rams precariously short on depth in the front seven. And the loss of slot receiver Josh Reynolds and tight end Gerald Everett puts significant pressure on Tyler Higbee and newcomer DeSean Jackson to step up in the passing game.
However, the Rams offseason was all about the trade that brought Matthew Stafford to the West Coast. No one is arguing against Stafford being an upgrade over Jared Goff and his abomination of a contract. But after shipping two first-rounders to Detroit, the Rams won't pick in Round 1 until 2024, at least.
The Rams are a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the NFC. But Los Angeles has very little depth. General manager Les Snead also overpaid to re-up Leonard Floyd, who got $16 million a season despite just one 10-sack season over his five-year career.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: WR Will Fuller, QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Justin Coleman, DT Adam Butler, LB Vince Biegel, K Jason Sanders, LB Elandon Roberts, LB Benardrick McKinney, RB Malcolm Brown
Biggest Departures: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, OL Ted Karras, DT Davon Godchaux, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Shaq Lawson, OT Julie'n Davenport
The Miami Dolphins have been one of the busiest teams in the league over the past couple of offseasons. And while there was no shortage of additions and subtractions this offseason, the biggest moves Miami made aren't listed here.
Thanks to the Laremy Tunsil trade, the Dolphins had the third overall pick in the 2021 draft—a pick the team flipped to San Francisco for a package that included three first-rounders. The team then used the 12th overall pick and another first-rounder to move back up to No. 6 overall in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The first trade was an outstanding collecting of draft capital. The second was a tad confusing given that the Dolphins won't be targeting a signal-caller in that spot.
Still, after making a five-game improvement (from 5-11 in 2019 to 10-6 last year) in 2020, the Dolphins appear to have inserted themselves into the thick of the Wild Card race in the AFC.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: G Mason Cole, Edge Stephen Weatherly, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, LB Nick Vigil, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Mackenzie Alexander, S Xavier Woods
Biggest Departures: LB Eric Wilson, TE Kyle Rudolph, OT Riley Reiff, Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo, S Anthony Harris
The Minnesota Vikings are stuck in the place no team wants to be. They aren't a bad team by any stretch of the imagination, but entering the offseason the Vikes didn't appear to be a serious threat to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
Not much has changed.
This isn't to say that the team didn't add any pieces in free agency. Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson is a lane-clogging run-stuffer who should thrive in Mike Zimmer's scheme. Patrick Peterson may not be the shutdown cornerback he once was, but he's still a capable veteran presence the shaky Minnesota secondary badly needed.
But the Vikings also suffered some significant losses. The departure of tackle Riley Reiff was a blow on the offensive front. While the team tried to offset the loss of Anthony Harris by adding Xavier Woods, the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith is a question mark.
The Packers could afford a status quo offseason. Minnesota couldn't.
New England Patriots
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: TE Jonnu Smith, Edge Matthew Judon, DT Davon Godchaux, DB Jalen Mills, TE Hunter Henry, WR Kendrick Bourne, WR Nelson Agholor, OL Ted Karras, LB Kyle Van Noy, QB Cam Newton, C David Andrews, RB James White, DL Lawrence Guy, DL Henry Anderson, OT Trent Brown
Biggest Departures: OL Joe Thuney, DT Adam Butler, S Patrick Chung, RT Marcus Cannon, WR Julian Edelman, Edge Brandon Copeland
There wasn't a team in the NFL that spent bigger on both sides of the ball in free agency than the New England Patriots.
Offensively, the Pats retained center David Andrews and quarterback Cam Newton and inked the top two tight ends on the open market in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. However, Newton struggled throwing the ball last year and the two-year, $22 million pact handed to Nelson Agholor appears to have been an overpay relative to the other free-agent wideouts in 2021.
Swapping out Marcus Cannon for Trent Brown at right tackle is a potential upgrade, but one with risk given Brown's durability issues in recent years. New England lost standout guard Joe Thuney and also bid goodbye to another player from the team's glory days, waiving veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman after he failed a physical.
Defensively, the Patriots added pop in the pass rush with the addition of edge-rusher Matthew Judon and versatility in the secondary with the signing of defensive back Jalen Mills. The Pats also brought back linebacker Kyle Van Noy after one disappointing season in Miami.
New England is a better team on paper than it was the first week of February.
The question is whether it's enough improvement to mount a real challenge against the Bills in the AFC East.
New Orleans Saints
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: QB Jameis Winston, OT James Hurst, S Marcus Williams, CB PJ Williams, DE Tanoh Kpassagnon
Biggest Departures: QB Drew Brees, WR Emmanuel Sanders, TE Jared Cook, TE Josh Hill, Trey Hendrickson, DT Malcolm Brown, DT Sheldon Rankins, CB Janoris Jenkins
There was really no way this wasn't going to be a rough offseason in New Orleans. Drew Brees' retirement meant the end of an era in the Big Easy. The team also had one of the worst salary-cap situations in the league.
In fact, general manager Mickey Loomis deserves at least some credit for getting the Saints into compliance with the 2021 cap without an absolute bloodbath of player cuts.
But there were significant losses that were unavoidable. After logging a career-high 13.5 sacks in 2020, Trey Hendrickson signed a big contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. WR Emmanuel Sanders and TE Jared Cook are both gone from the passing game, as is veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins. So are defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and Malcolm Brown.
The Saints' biggest signings involved keeping their own players in town. Jameis Winston is the favorite to start under center in his second year with the team, while safety Marcus Williams was retained via the franchise tag.
The reality is that this is a rebuilding year in New Orleans. And given the team's situation, the offseason could have gone worse.
But relative to last year's 12-win team, the Saints are looking at what could be a long season in 2021.
New York Giants
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: WR Kenny Golladay, DE Leonard Williams, CB Adoree' Jackson, TE Kyle Rudolph, RB Devontae Booker, Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo, WR John Ross, QB Mike Glennon, DT Danny Shelton, LB Reggie Ragland
Biggest Departures: G Kevin Zeitler, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, Edge Kyler Fackrell, LB David Mayo
Apparently, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman went into the 2021 offseason with the mantra that you can't take it with you.
Or the mantra that another losing season would probably get him fired. Whatever.
No team in the NFC East was more active in free agency than the Giants. The G-men handed Kenny Golladay a whopping $18 million a season to become the team's new No. 1 wide receiver, dished out $13 million a season for cornerback Adoree' Jackson and re-upped defensive end Leonard Williams at $21 million a year after his breakout 2020 campaign.
Given the offensive firepower at his disposal now, the pressure is sure to ratchet up on quarterback Daniel Jones to take a big step forward in his third season. However, the loss of veteran guard Kevin Zeitler was a blow to an already shaky offensive line. On the other side of the ball, the New York pass rush still needs work.
New York Jets
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: DE Carl Lawson, WR Corey Davis, LB Jarrad Davis, RB Tevin Coleman, DT Sheldon Rankins, WR Keelan Cole, DB Lamarcus Joyner, TE Tyler Kroft, S Marcus Maye
Biggest Departures: QB Sam Darnold, DL Henry Anderson, WR Breshad Perriman, Edge Tarell Basham
The Sam Darnold "era" is over in New York.
After three lackluster seasons in the Big Apple, Darnold was sent packing in the offseason, traded to Carolina for two picks in 2022 and a Day 3 pick this year. It's a modest return for the former first overall pick and a move that ensures the Jets will draft a quarterback second overall in 2021.
That move may have been the low point of the Jets offseason, but there were some highlights. Carl Lawson was one of the most coveted free-agent edge-rushers in 2021 after racking up 32 QB hits in 2020. Wide receiver Corey Davis is a former fifth overall pick coming off a career year. Safety Marcus Maye was one of New York's defensive MVPs in 2020.
The Jets are better in more than one area than last year's two-win catastrophe of a season.
But the quarterback question will loom large over the team right up until April 29.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: S Anthony Harris, QB Joe Flacco, LB Eric Wilson
Biggest Departures: QB Carson Wentz, DT Malik Jackson, CB Jalen Mills, WR DeSean Jackson, Edge Vinny Curry, LB Duke Riley, LB Nate Gerry
The Philadelphia Eagles are punting on the 2021 season. It's as simple as that.
The trade that sent quarterback Carson Wentz to Indianapolis caused the Eagles to eat an NFL record $33.8 million dead cap hit, which destroyed the team's ability to add pieces in free agency. Philly's trade with the Miami Dolphins earned the team an extra first-rounder in 2022, but it also dropped the team out of the top 10 this season.
They'll be back up there next year.
It wasn't all doom and gloom. Safety Anthony Harris has shown the ability to be an impact player on the back end and his one-year, $4 million contract was a steal. But the Eagles defense took a hit from front to back, and one of the league's shakiest pass-catching corps hasn't gotten one bit better.
The Harris signing and that extra first next year are the only things saving Howie Roseman from a big fat "F" here.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, OT Joe Haeg, C B.J. Finney, DL Tyson Alualu, CB Cameron Sutton
Biggest Departures: Edge Bud Dupree, CB Mike Hilton, OT Matt Feiler, CB Steven Nelson, LB Vince Williams
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason in quite the financial pickle. Restructuring the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger freed up some cap space, but the team's relative lack of activity and cap-crunch cuts such as the release of veteran cornerback Steven Nelson belie the difficult position the Steelers were in.
Frankly, that Pittsburgh didn't lose more than it did is something of an achievement for general manager Kevin Colbert. Getting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster back on what is essentially a one-year deal with a cap hit of $2.4 million was an excellent move, and it's possible the team could still bring back long-time left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
However, there were some significant losses. Edge-rusher Bud Dupree got $16.5 million per season to join the Tennessee Titans. The loss of Nelson and fellow cornerback Mike Hilton created a large hole. And with James Conner still unsigned, it appears the Steelers will look to the draft for some juice in the offensive backfield.
San Francisco 49ers
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: OT Trent Williams, FB Kyle Juszczyk, C Alex Mack, Edge Samson Ebukam, DT D.J. Jones, S Jaquiski Tartt, CB K'Waun Williams, CB Jason Verrett
Biggest Departures: Edge Kerry Hyder Jr., CB Ahkello Witherspoon, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Kendrick Bourne, DL Solomon Thomas
The trade that will define the 2021 offseason for the San Francisco 49ers (and then some) isn't even listed above.
Simply put, the Niners have to hit on the third pick in April's draft. San Francisco general manager John Lynch mortgaged the team's future to move up nine spots, giving up its first pick in each of the next three drafts.
San Francisco made an effort to put its quarterback in position to succeed, adding veteran center Alex Mack and re-upping star tackle Trent Williams. Outside that, its offseason additions were modest, though the team also managed to avoid losing any major free agents outside of cornerback Richard Sherman, who remains unsigned.
But this offseason is all about that leap up the draft board. Hit on a signal-caller, and Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will look like geniuses. Miss, and the steep price will forever be a stain on the their resumes.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: Edge Carlos Dunlap II, RB Chris Carson, G Gabe Jackson, Edge Kerry Hyder Jr., TE Gerald Everett, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, C Ethan Pocic, OT Cedric Ogbuehi, G Jordan Simmons, Edge Benson Mayowa
Biggest Departures: CB Shaquill Griffin, TE Jacob Hollister, RB Carlos Hyde, WR David Moore, WR Phillip Dorsett II, DT Jarran Reed, CB Quinton Dunbar
The prevailing offseason storyline for the Seattle Seahawks has been the uncertain future of quarterback Russell Wilson. But despite all the talk that Wilson could be traded, Seattle's star is still in town.
The Seahawks took a big step toward making Wilson happy by improving the line in front of him with the acquisition of guard Gabe Jackson in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders. Seattle also bolstered the pass rush with the addition of veteran edge Kerry Hyder Jr. while retaining Carlos Dunlap II and Benson Mayowa.
The defense did take some hits in free agency, however. Seattle's top two cornerbacks (Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar) are gone, as is defensive tackle Jarran Reed. If K.J. Wright doesn't return, pressure will mount on young linebacker Jordyn Brooks to improve markedly in his second season.
The offensive line still needs work—especially on the outside. Given that need and the losses at cornerback, it's a safe bet that either an O-lineman or corner will be the team's first pick.
The problem is that pick won't be until Day 2—thanks to the Jamal Adams trade, Seattle's first-rounder belongs to the New York Jets.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: WR Chris Godwin, TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Ndamukong Suh, Edge Shaquil Barrett, LB Lavonte David, K Ryan Succop, RB Leonard Fournette
Biggest Departures: OT Joe Haeg, CB Ryan Smith
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the best season in the NFL in 2020—at least if you put a high priority on the whole Super Bowl thing.
Now the Buccaneers have had the best offseason of any team—and Tampa Bay did so by keeping the band together.
Whether it was inside linebacker Lavonte David, wide receiver Chris Godwin, running back Leonard Fournette, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh or tight end Rob Gronkowski, there wasn't a single prominent free agent who didn't re-sign. All 22 starters for the team that won Super Bowl LV are back.
As the Associated Press reported (via Spectrum News), Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht allowed that winning the Lombardi Trophy made his job quite a bit easier.
"I can't really point to a single factor ... but I think everybody wanted to be back," Licht said. "Everybody's getting paid fairly, but everybody's very excited to try to [win] it again."
Whatever the reason, Licht and the Buccaneers have had an outstanding offseason.
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: Edge Bud Dupree, DL Denico Autry, OT Kendall Lamm, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Kevin Johnson, WR Josh Reynolds, LB Jayon Brown
Biggest Departures: TE Jonnu Smith, WR Corey Davis, WR Adam Humphries, CB Malcolm Butler, CB Adoree' Jackson, Edge Jadeveon Clowney, S Kenny Vaccaro
The Tennessee Titans had a relatively eventful offseason—for better and for worse.
Adding an outside pass-rusher was easily Tennessee's biggest priority in free agency, and it accomplished that goal, handing Bud Dupree a five-year, $82.5 million deal. But that signing came with a caveat—Dupree tore his ACL in Week 12 last year.
The Titans brought in a talented and versatile defensive lineman in Denico Autry, added a pair of veteran cornerbacks in Janoris Jenkins and Kevin Johnson and signed a capable starter at wide receiver in Josh Reynolds. But those latter moves were necessary because the team lost its No. 2 and No. 3 wideouts and its top two corners.
That last part is the real sticking point with what Tennessee has done. After losing Logan Ryan in 2020, the Titans badly need Jenkins to be their top cornerback, and even then it's hard to imagine the secondary will not take a step backward.
Washington Football Team
Biggest Additions/Re-Signings: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Curtis Samuel, CB William Jackson III, CB Darryl Roberts, WR Adam Humphries, C Tyler Larsen
Biggest Departures: CB Ronald Darby, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, CB Fabian Moreau
The Washington Football Team entered the offseason in something of an odd spot—the team is the reigning NFC East champion but after a 7-9 season had more than one hole, including a massive one at quarterback.
That has ostensibly been filled, adding another stop for the most well-traveled signal-caller in NFL history. When Ryan Fitzpatrick takes the field in Week 1, it will mark the ninth team he has played for. But while "Fitzmagic" has been around the block a dizzying amount of times, he also marks a clear upgrade over the unproven Taylor Heinicke.
Washington gave Fitzpatrick an added weapon in the passing game with the signing of wideout Curtis Samuel, and the team addressed the loss of cornerback Ronald Darby by bringing in a better player in William Jackson III.
It's been a while since this was said about Washington, but it heads into the draft as the favorite in the NFC East and a playoff contender.