Every NFL Team's Smartest Move of the 2021 Offseason
NFL front-office executives have to make a ton of decisions during the offseason. Some of the smartest acquisitions aren't the most obvious moves.
In all likelihood, the Jacksonville Jaguars didn't agonize over their decision to select Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick. He had garnered the national spotlight as a true freshman, led Clemson to the College Football Playoff three times and won a national title.
However, we should recognize blockbuster trades, free-agent signings and draft picks that may have inspired spirited discussions as shrewd acquisitions.
Let's take a look at every team's smartest offseason transaction thus far. Each selection is based on the potential short- or long-term impact of the player. Can he start right away or set the franchise up for future success? Of course, we rewarded the Jaguars for a decision that didn't seem like a foregone conclusion.
Arizona Cardinals: Signing CB Malcolm Butler
The Arizona Cardinals lost cornerback Patrick Peterson in free agency. While the 11th-year veteran had been a franchise stalwart, his coverage ability slipped a bit over the past two seasons. He allowed a 67.1 percent completion rate in 2020.
The Cardinals needed a battle-tested starter to replace Peterson and signed one in Malcolm Butler. Robert Alford, the other projected boundary defender, hasn't played a regular-season snap since the 2018 campaign with the Atlanta Falcons because of a fractured tibia and a torn pectoral.
With the No. 16 overall pick, Arizona missed out on the top two cornerback prospects, Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II. Butler provided some flexibility, so the front office wouldn't have to reach for a player at the position. He's coming off a solid campaign, logging 100 tackles, 14 pass breakups and four interceptions while allowing a 63 percent completion rate.
Butler also brings a wealth of playoff experience that could help this squad in January.
Atlanta Falcons: Drafting TE Kyle Pitts
Initially, the Atlanta Falcons didn't have a need for an offensive playmaker with a pass-catching group that featured Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst. So, when the club selected Kyle Pitts, it seemed as though quarterback Matt Ryan would have too many targets to feed for the upcoming campaign.
However, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Jones requested a trade "a few months ago." With that nugget of information, the Falcons' selection makes sense even though they could've moved back in a trade with the Detroit Lions and added a top cornerback prospect or linebacker Micah Parsons.
While on FS1's Undisputed, Shannon Sharpe called Jones and asked about his situation with the Falcons. The two-time All-Pro wideout said he's "out of there."
Atlanta cannot simply replace what a healthy Jones can provide its offense, but Pitts could become a matchup nightmare on the pro level. He's a smooth receiver who can line up out wide against cornerbacks and win one-on-one battles.
Ryan has a new dynamic playmaker who can lessen the blow of losing his best receiver.
Baltimore Ravens: Signing OG Kevin Zeitler
The Baltimore Ravens added three notable wide receivers to elevate the aerial attack. Quarterback Lamar Jackson could boost his passing numbers with the addition of Sammy Watkins, rookie first-rounder Rashod Bateman and rookie fourth-rounder Tylan Wallace.
However, don't expect Greg Roman to reinvent the offense with pass-heavy tendencies. As a play-caller, all eight of his units have ranked top-10 in rush attempts.
The New York Giants cut Kevin Zeitler to save $12 million, but he's still a durable starting-caliber player. Since 2015, the 31-year-old has missed just one game.
As Bradley Bozeman transitions to center, leaving the left guard spot up for grabs, the Ravens can count on Zeitler to stabilize the interior of the offensive line at right guard, which is a major plus for a run-heavy offense. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards can follow his lead between the tackles.
Buffalo Bills: Drafting DE Carlos Basham
Last year, the Buffalo Bills fielded a middling defense that struggled to consistently push the pocket. Their unit tied for 18th in quarterback pressures (143). Mario Addison and A.J. Klein led the club in sacks with five apiece.
The Bills doubled down on edge-rushers at the top of the draft, selecting Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham in the first and second rounds, respectively.
Rousseau opted out of the 2020 campaign and had a disappointing showing at his pro day. Conversely, Basham suited up and logged five sacks in six games last year. He may have raised his draft stock during Senior Bowl practices.
At 6'3", 274 pounds, Basham could make an early impact on the Bills pass rush. He can also shift inside in sub-packages and use his quick jump off the line of scrimmage to beat interior offensive linemen.
Carolina Panthers: Trading for QB Sam Darnold
The Carolina Panthers wanted to make a change at the quarterback position after Teddy Bridgewater had a mediocre 2020 campaign, throwing for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 69.1 percent completion rate.
The Panthers made a deal with the New York Jets to acquire Sam Darnold. They traded Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos, left Justin Fields on the board with the eighth overall pick and picked up their new signal-caller's fifth-year option.
Darnold has the mobility and arm talent to play the position at a high level. He showed flashes with Gang Green, making plays on the ground and through the air with limited weapons around him.
Now, Darnold joins a solid supporting cast that includes All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, who's eclipsed 1,100 receiving yards in back-to-back terms, and his former teammate, wideout Robby Anderson.
Chicago Bears: Moving Up to Select QB Justin Fields
The Chicago Bears moved up nine spots to select Justin Fields in the draft. Although it cost the team two first-round picks, a fifth-rounder this year and a 2022 fourth-rounder, the rookie signal-caller gives this franchise hope for the future.
At Ohio State, Fields threw with accuracy (68.4 percent completion rate), showed poise in the pocket, used his legs (867 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns) and only lost two games. He has the physical tools and the intangibles general managers look for in a starting quarterback.
If Chicago's passing attack struggles with Dalton under center, Fields could log some starts. In the event the rookie looks impressive, the current regime may stick around a little longer to further his growth.
Cincinnati Bengals: Signing DE Trey Hendrickson
Last year, the Cincinnati Bengals logged the fewest sacks (17) and the second-fewest quarterback pressures (111). This offseason, they lost one of their best defenders and 2020 lead pass-rusher in Carl Lawson via free agency.
Following Lawson's departure to the New York Jets, the Bengals agreed to terms with Trey Hendrickson, who's coming off a breakout year with the New Orleans Saints, logging 13.5 sacks.
The Bengals saw Sam Hubbard's pass-rushing production drop significantly in his third campaign. After he recorded 14.5 sacks in his first two seasons, the 25-year-old logged two last year. Cincinnati had to replace Lawson in some form or fashion.
Hendrickson only tallied 6.5 sacks through his first 30 games, but he's worth the gamble for a club that allowed quarterbacks to pick it apart from the pocket in 2020.
Cleveland Browns: Signing S John Johnson III
The Cleveland Browns had to overhaul their pass defense, particularly the secondary. The club gave up 31 touchdowns through the air last season and ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed.
The Browns added three potential starting defensive backs in safety John Johnson III, nickelback Troy Hill and rookie first-round cornerback Greg Newsome II.
Johnson could make the biggest impact among the new defensive backs because of his versatility. He can play both safety spots and move into the slot. On the back end of the Los Angeles Rams defense, the fifth-year veteran flashed his ball skills, recording 32 pass breakups and eight interceptions in four seasons. He led the club in tackles (105) last season.
The Browns don't have to press safety Grant Delpit into early action after he missed his entire rookie campaign with a torn Achilles. Alongside Ronnie Harrison Jr., Johnson fills a void in center field as a complementary playmaker to boundary cornerback Denzel Ward.
Dallas Cowboys: Drafting LB Micah Parsons
The top two cornerbacks, Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II, came off the board before the Dallas Cowboys were on the clock, but the club may have selected a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in Micah Parsons.
Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are starting-caliber players at the position, but the latter has missed 13 games over the past two seasons. Keanu Neal and rookie fourth-rounder Jabril Cox will round out the linebacker unit.
With his ability to rush the passer, Parsons brings something unique to the linebacker corps. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talked about the Penn State product as a defender who can generate pressure.
Now it's up to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to unlock Parsons' full skill set. In addition to the rookie's role at middle linebacker, the 6'3", 246-pounder could help defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence chase down quarterbacks on passing downs.
Last season, the Cowboys ranked 25th in quarterback pressures (132), so Parsons could make a significant impact off the edge.
Denver Broncos: Drafting RB Javonte Williams
The Denver Broncos passing attack may not post big numbers with Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater under center. Neither signal-calller has thrown for 3,800 yards or 17 touchdowns in a single term.
Unless the Broncos pull off a trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the ground attack could become the strength of the offense. Last year, Denver ranked 13th in rushing with Melvin Gordon III and Phillip Lindsay splitting the load. The latter signed with the Houston Texans in free agency.
Going forward, Gordon will share touches with rookie second-rounder Javonte Williams, who broke out for 1,140 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in his final season at North Carolina. Together, they'll run behind a stout offensive line that deserves credit for clearing running lanes last season. Gordon ranked eighth in rushing yards before contact (530) in 2020.
Although the Broncos have a solid wide receiver trio in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, this team can dominate opponents on the ground with its new backfield duo and a strong front line.
Detroit Lions: Drafting OT Penei Sewell
While the Detroit Lions' first-round pick looks like a no-brainer in hindsight, the club's new regime could've traded out of the seventh spot to acquire more draft capital in a rebuild.
Pro Football Focus' Michael Renner and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. predicted Detroit would move back. In a look inside the Atlanta Falcons' draft room, general manager Terry Fontenot answered a call from the Lions, who tried to move up.
Perhaps the Lions wanted to ensure they landed Penei Sewell with a leap over the Cincinnati Bengals, who may have considered a tackle to protect quarterback Joe Burrow. Nevertheless, Detroit selected him with the seventh overall pick.
The Lions will likely open the season with a front line that features three players they selected in the first round: Sewell, center Frank Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker.
Sewell isn't a seamless fit on the right side because he played left tackle at Oregon, though no one can blame the Lions for taking the 2019 Outland Trophy winner. Detroit may have its bookend tackles set for the foreseeable future, which bodes well for quarterback Jared Goff, who seldom makes plays on the run.
Green Bay Packers: Re-Signing RB Aaron Jones
The Green Bay Packers have to sort out their differences with Aaron Rodgers.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Rodgers has told some individuals within the Packers organization that he wants out of Green Bay. Last week, on SportsCenter with Kenny Mayne, the star quarterback gave some insight into the situation. He talked about culture, character and "doing things the right way."
Per The Athletic's Matt Schneidman, general manager Brian Gutekunst has no intention of trading Rodgers. However, the Packers may need to ponder a future without him if the 2020 league MVP chooses to stay away from the team. Rodgers has been a no-show at OTAs.
If Blake Bortles or Jordan Love starts for the Packers in the upcoming term, the offense could run through Aaron Jones, who signed a four-year extension this offseason. Head coach Matt LaFleur can use him as the featured back with AJ Dillon in a complementary role.
Over the last two seasons, Jones proved he could handle a heavy workload, logging 533 touches for 3,017 yards and 30 total touchdowns. As a reliable receiver with a 71.2 percent catch rate, he can help a veteran with accuracy issues who hasn't started a game since 2018 (Bortles) or an inexperienced quarterback (Love) move the ball in the short passing game.
Houston Texans: Drafting QB Davis Mills
The Houston Texans have more questions than answers at quarterback as Deshaun Watson goes through the legal process with 22 lawsuits filed against him by women alleging sexual assault and misconduct. At best, Tyrod Taylor is a stopgap signal-caller who will keep the seat warm for the future starter.
With that said, the Texans have an intriguing option for the upcoming campaign. Without a first- or second-round pick, the team selected Davis Mills in the third round to headline its 2021 class.
As a collegian, Mills played sparingly and became a full-time starter for a shortened 2020 season after K.J. Costello transferred to Mississippi State. In a small sample size, he showed pocket poise, made throws to all three levels of the field and completed 66.2 percent of his attempts.
Mills committed to Stanford as the top quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class, which included Tua Tagovailoa. If not for multiple injuries, he may have had a more decorated collegiate career. Davis needs playing experience but has the potential to become a starter.
Indianapolis Colts: Trading for QB Carson Wentz
Once Philip Rivers retired, the Indianapolis Colts didn't have a clear quarterback succession plan in place.
With Jacoby Brissett on an expiring contract, the Colts waited patiently and jumped at the opportunity to acquire Carson Wentz, who struggled through 12 games before the Philadelphia Eagles benched him for Jalen Hurts last season.
General manager Chris Ballard didn't have a shot at the top quarterback prospects unless he gave up draft capital to move up from the 21st spot into the top 15.
The Colts have a playoff-caliber roster that's coming off an 11-5 campaign. Although Wentz had his worst year in 2020, unlike Rivers, he's not a limited quarterback in terms of arm strength and mobility.
Wentz threw for 81 touchdowns and 21 interceptions between 2017 and 2019. Perhaps he just needs a change of scenery without the pressure of a second-round pick behind him on the depth chart. Lastly, he has two years of playing experience under head coach Frank Reich, who was his offensive coordinator in Philly, which eases his transition to Indianapolis.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting LT Walker Little
Most of us probably envisioned Trevor Lawrence as the first overall pick once he declared for the 2021 draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars made a no-brainer move when they selected him.
The Jaguars deserve more praise for their foresight at another premium position, which is critical for Lawrence's pass protection on the edge. The club franchise-tagged left tackle Cam Robinson, who allowed five sacks last year, per Pro Football Focus, and selected Walker Little in the second round of April's draft.
Through four seasons, Robinson has shown inconsistencies in his blocking performances. If he experiences more ups and downs or the Jaguars choose not to pay him next offseason, they have a high-upside left tackle in Little.
Little only started one full collegiate season, though he earned All-Pac-12 first-team recognition for that year as a sophomore. The Stanford product went down with a season-ending knee injury after one game in his junior term.
With time to knock off some rust, Little could take over the starting role in 2022. If that's the case, Jacksonville won't have to overpay for Robinson next offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs: Trading for OT Orlando Brown Jr.
This offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs acquired several notable offensive linemen, including Orlando Brown Jr., left guard Joe Thuney, center Austin Blythe, guard Kyle Long and rookie second-rounder Creed Humphrey.
Brown stands out because he's the most accomplished player among the acquisitions and plays a key position on the front line. Although the former Baltimore Raven logged most of his career snaps at right tackle, he wanted to play left tackle, which paved the way for a trade to Kansas City.
Brown played well on the left side in place of Ronnie Stanley for the majority of the 2020 season, and he earned his second Pro Bowl nod. The fourth-year veteran will fill a void on the Chiefs offensive line following Eric Fisher's departure to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Chiefs acquired an ascending 25-year-old bookend offensive lineman. That's a win for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was under constant duress against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
Las Vegas Raiders: Trading Up for S Tre'von Moehrig
After the Las Vegas Raiders addressed the right tackle spot, selecting Alex Leatherwood, general manager Mike Mayock had to fill a glaring hole at free safety.
Going into the draft, Jeff Heath had the inside track to start alongside strong safety Johnathan Abram. Although he picked off three passes last season, the 30-year-old only played 38 percent of the defensive snaps.
Mayock traded up for Tre'von Moehrig in the second round. Teams may have picked him on Day 1 if not for questions about his back injury, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Thus far, that issue hasn't raised any concerns. He's participated in OTAs over the past week.
Following the draft, the Raiders released Heath. Moehrig has the range to play in center field, and he'll likely line up in that spot for Week 1 of the upcoming season.
Mayock pounced on a playmaker who can change the complexion of a defense that gave up the third-most points and recorded the third-fewest turnovers in 2020. As a collegian, Moehrig logged 21 pass breakups and seven interceptions through three terms.
Los Angeles Chargers: Signing OL Matt Feiler
The Los Angeles Chargers selected Rashawn Slater with the 13th overall pick. He's a great value selection as arguably one of the top two tackles in this year's class. The club also signed All-Pro center Corey Linsley. Yet Matt Feiler is the smartest pickup among the team's acquisitions for the offensive line.
Feiler can fill three holes across the Chargers' five-man unit. He has experience at both guard positions and right tackle. The coaching staff could plug him in where it sees fit throughout the upcoming season.
Because of the premium on tackles, who go up against athletic edge-rushers, the Chargers may choose to slide Feiler outside if 32-year-old right tackle Bryan Bulaga battles injuries in consecutive campaigns. The latter missed six contests because of back and foot issues last season.
Rarely do teams find free agents who can play multiple positions across the offensive line at a high level. The Chargers found an underrated gem in Feiler.
Los Angeles Rams: Trading for QB Matthew Stafford
The Los Angeles Rams took a gamble in their decision to acquire 33-year-old Matthew Stafford and send a much younger Jared Goff, who led the club to a Super Bowl appearance just two years ago, to the Detroit Lions.
However, Goff's tenure in Los Angeles ran its course. According to ESPN's Lindsey Thiry, the quarterback had a rocky relationship with head coach Sean McVay after the 2019 season, and it "slowly decayed" through the 2020 term.
In Thiry's detailed report about the events that led to the trade, she highlighted McVay's frustration with Goff's turnovers. He's thrown 29 interceptions over the last two years.
In four of the last five seasons, Stafford has thrown 10 or fewer interceptions. He missed half the 2019 term because of hip and back injures and played through ailments last year, but the 13th-year veteran has cut down on his interception rate in recent seasons.
Typically a run-dominant team under McVay, the Rams can win time-of-possession battles and limit the opposition's scoring opportunities if they take care of the ball, which makes them a tougher team to beat in 2021.
Miami Dolphins: Drafting WR Jaylen Waddle
While some teams may have ranked 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith higher than Jaylen Waddle on the big board, the latter made sense for the Miami Dolphins at No. 6.
Clearly, the Dolphins wanted to surround quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with explosive playmakers. The club signed wideout William Fuller V in free agency. He's a big-play receiver but unreliable in terms of availability. The sixth-year veteran has missed 27 contests because of injuries and a performance-enhancing drug suspension, which will sideline him for Week 1 of the upcoming season.
The Dolphins decided it would be wise not to solely depend on Fuller for their chunk plays. Waddle can fill in the gaps if the veteran misses significant time. In the best-case scenario, the two wideouts can stretch the field together and open up the running lanes as safeties drop back in deep coverage.
Smith beats defenders with his route-running, but he's not an explosive athlete. Waddle has the twitch and foot speed to match or potentially replace Fuller if necessary.
Minnesota Vikings: Signing CB Mackensie Alexander
The Minnesota Vikings had to address their pass defense, which ranked 25th in yards and gave up 30 touchdowns in 2020. The club also has a cornerback with an uncertain future.
Mackensie Alexander played his first four seasons in Minnesota and then signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals last offseason. He's back with the Vikings, and they need him.
Second-year cornerback Jeff Gladney faces two-to-10 years in prison if convicted for third-degree felony family violence assault. Last season, he lined up as the primary slot defender in several contests. Even if the 24-year-old doesn't serve time in prison, the league could suspend him.
While no one knows how Patrick Peterson will transition from the Arizona Cardinals to Minnesota, the Vikings have a better projection of Alexander's fit in their secondary. Between the 2018 and 2019 terms in Minnesota, he allowed just two touchdowns with passer ratings below 85 when targeted.
New England Patriots: Signing TE Hunter Henry
Statistically, quarterback Cam Newton had an abysmal 2020 season, throwing for just eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The New England Patriots re-signed him and went shopping for offensive playmakers in free agency.
Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry will join the Patriots pass-catching group.
Among those additions, Henry could have his best season in 2021. Newton has played well with a big-bodied pass-catching tight end in the seams.
As one of Newton's top two targets with the Carolina Panthers, Greg Olsen had three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons between 2014 and 2016.
Henry eclipsed 50 receptions and 600 receiving yards in 2019 and 2020. Of course, he has to avoid injuries, which cost him 23 games throughout his career. Last season, the 26-year-old missed two contests while on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Nevertheless, Henry didn't have any knee issues, which plagued him in recent years. Assuming his body continues to hold up, he'll move the chains on crucial downs.
New Orleans Saints: Signing CB Paulson Adebo
The New Orleans Saints cut cornerback Janoris Jenkins to save some cap space. The team's top cover man, Marshon Lattimore, may face a suspension for his arrest on charges of receiving a stolen firearm.
Paulson Adebo could start on the boundary to open the season, and he has the ball skills to make an immediate impact. The Stanford product recorded eight interceptions and 27 pass breakups in his first two collegiate seasons before opting out of the 2020 campaign.
In addition to his ball skills, Adebo has the size (6'1", 198 lbs) to match up against bigger receivers with the quickness to cover twitchy wideouts.
Adebo needs to exercise more discretion in his decision to jump routes, but the Saints coaching staff can emphasize discipline with him. Because of his nose for the ball and physical tools, he has great upside as a viable replacement for Jenkins.
New York Giants: Drafting Edge Azeez Ojulari
The New York Giants made splashy moves during free agency, signing wideout Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree' Jackson.
Yet Big Blue made their smartest move in the second round of the draft. The Giants took Azeez Ojulari with the 50th overall pick. According to Dan Duggan of The Athletic, teams might've had concerns about his knee, which may have caused him to fall into the second round.
The Giants will benefit from this gamble. If Ojulari goes through the 2021 campaign without any issues, he's a candidate to log double-digit sacks. The 6'2", 249-pounder can beat tackles with speed and great use of his hands on the edge. The rookie's short-area quickness, coupled with his balance, allows him to stay in position for a sack on stunts.
With Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence on the interior of the defensive line, they'll open lanes for Ojulari to squeeze through and collapse the pocket. He's a Day 2 pick who should make an immediate impact in Year 1.
New York Jets: Trading Up for OL Alijah Vera-Tucker
The New York Jets selected quarterback Zach Wilson with the No. 2 pick. He comes with some risks because of his sudden rise to prominence and injury history.
The Jets made a first-round move that should look brilliant right away. They traded up to the 14th spot for Alijah Vera-Tucker, a versatile offensive lineman who fits their system.
At USC, Vera-Tucker played right guard, left guard and left tackle, starting in the latter two positions. The Jets can experiment with his fit along the offensive line.
For now, Vera-Tucker projects as a left guard with Mekhi Becton at left tackle. Wilson will have solid pass protection on that side of the pocket.
Furthermore, Vera-Tucker is a good fit for an offense that could use some principles from Kyle Shanahan's outside zone run scheme. The 6'5", 308-pounder has the quickness to pull on the other side of the line and seal off second-level defenders when the ball-carrier turns upfield for big gains.
If the Jets need Vera-Tucker to shift outside at tackle, he's strong enough to handle bull-rushers with the athleticism to move with speedy edge-rushers as well.
Philadelphia Eagles: Trading Up for WR DeVonta Smith
In a move up two spots to No. 10 in the draft, the Philadelphia Eagles leaped over the New York Giants to select DeVonta Smith, which helps Jalen Hurts if he wins the quarterback battle with Joe Flacco. General manager Howie Roseman may have saved his defense a few headaches in division matchups as well.
"I knew if I was there at 11, I was for sure going to the Giants," Smith said.
Smith could provide an immediate impact for a passing attack that needs a go-to receiver. Jalen Reagor, a 2020 first-rounder, had an uninspiring rookie campaign, logging 31 receptions for 396 yards and a touchdown in 11 games.
Hurts or Flacco could rely on Smith for big plays. He averaged 16.9 yards per catch as a collegian.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Cutting, Re-Signing LB Vince Williams
The Pittsburgh Steelers maneuvered around their cap situation to retain Vince Williams. They released him to save $4 million and brought the 31-year-old back on a one-term, $1.1 million contract.
At a cheap price, the Steelers shored up the inside linebacker group. Devin Bush (torn ACL) and Robert Spillane (knee) are coming off injuries, but Williams makes this a solid unit. Since 2017, he's started 52 games.
Furthermore, the Steelers can use Williams to supplement the pass rush if Alex Highsmith cannot provide consistent pressure as Bud Dupree's replacement on the edge.
In 2017, Williams ranked second on the team in sacks (eight), and he's logged 18 over the last four years. His ability to penetrate the pocket allows the defense to stay aggressive on passing downs.
In addition to saving some cap space, the Steelers maintained depth at inside linebacker and insurance for their pass rush.
San Francisco 49ers: Choosing Trey Lance over Mac Jones
The San Francisco 49ers garnered widespread buzz when they executed a trade with the Miami Dolphins to move into the No. 3 draft spot. From that point forward, analysts and reporters tied the club to different quarterback prospects.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the 49ers' decision came down to Trey Lance and Mac Jones.
In hindsight, the 49ers would've been able to select Jones in their original draft position at No. 12.
San Francisco chose Lance, which made sense in terms of value. The North Dakota State product has a higher ceiling than Jones because of his dual-threat capability. In 2019, he rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Though head coach Kyle Shanahan has worked with quarterbacks who compare closely to Jones in Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub and Kirk Cousins, the 49ers made the smart choice. They took the player with more potential to become a complete playmaker on the pro level. According to The Athletic's Matt Barrows, San Francisco could use Lance in a Taysom Hill-like role for the upcoming campaign.
Seattle Seahawks: Signing DE Kerry Hyder Jr.
With that said, can the Seahawks rely on Jamal Adams to lead the defense in sacks again? In 2020, he shattered the record for sacks by a defensive backs in a single term with 9.5. Also, Seattle parted ways with Jarran Reed, who ranked second on the team in sacks (6.5) last year.
The Seahawks signed Kerry Hyder Jr., who logged a career-high 8.5 sacks with 10 tackles for loss in 2020. For the first four years of his career, he had played a backup role, but the 30-year-old could provide quality depth along the line.
In 2020, defensive end L.J. Collier started all 16 games, though he played only 49 percent of the snaps, logging 22 tackles, four for loss and three sacks. Hyder could provide more impact as a pass-rusher on the interior or in sub-packages.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Signing RB Giovani Bernard
James White could've signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and took on a familiar role as Tom Brady's trustworthy pass-catching tailback.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Buccaneers had an interest in White before he re-signed with the Patriots. As Brady's teammate, he recorded at least 40 receptions in five consecutive seasons (2015-19).
The Buccaneers couldn't lure White to Florida, so they inked Giovani Bernard, who can play the same role on passing downs. The ninth-year running back has caught 342 passes for 2,867 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career.
For the upcoming campaign, Leonard Fournette can focus on splitting the rushing workload with Ronald Jones II while Bernard handles pass-catching responsibilities. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, a 2020 third-rounder, played only 99 offensive snaps last season.
Now, Brady has a reliable specialist who can extend plays in the short passing game.
Tennessee Titans: Signing DL Denico Autry
The Tennessee Titans attempted to improve their pass defense in two ways.
The Titans overhauled their secondary, adding cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins, rookie first-rounder Caleb Farley and rookie third-rounder Elijah Molden. They also signed Bud Dupree and Denico Autry, who combined for 15.5 sacks last season.
Dupree may become the Titans' best offseason acquisition, but he tore his right ACL in December and needs to show that serious injury won't slow him down. Autry came to Tennessee healthy after one of his most productive campaigns.
After Autry spent four seasons with the Oakland Raiders in a reserve role, his production spiked when he became a full-time starter with the Colts, recording 102 tackles, 26 for loss and 20 sacks.
Alongside Jeffery Simmons on the interior, Autry can occupy blocks to clear room for the edge-rushers and improve the run defense, which ranked 19th last season.
Washington Football Team: Signing WR Curtis Samuel
For now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the projected starting quarterback for the Washington Football Team. Though still mobile at 38 years old, he doesn't stretch the field with his arm and averaged fewer than 236 passing yards per game in each of the last two seasons.
Last season, Samuel eclipsed 1,000 scrimmage yards as the Panthers' third pass-catching option and an occasional ball-carrier. He's developed steadily, increasing his receiving numbers in every term. The 24-year-old could slide into the No. 2 spot at wide receiver behind Terry McLaurin and post career numbers.
Fitzpatrick has played more than nine games in a single term once over the past four seasons. If Washington turns the offense over to Kyle Allen, who started four games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury last year, Samuel may have a solid rapport with him. They played together as primary starters for Carolina in 2019.