Every NFL Team's Best Move of the 2021 Offseason

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystAugust 26, 2021

Every NFL Team's Best Move of the 2021 Offseason

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    Change is a necessary component in the NFL, as it is in everyday life. 

    Most changes occur in the offseason when teams can dabble in free agency, the NFL draft and the trade market. Before those staples happen, coaching and front office turnover can be a major part of a new approach. Releases and departures are commonplace, too. 

    How much of a transformation occurs will differ from franchise to franchise. Some may attempt to overhaul aspects of the organizational setup while others simply tweak the lineup.

    This offseason, the Houston Texans underwent a sweeping change in an attempt to build a different identity under new general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley. On the other side of the spectrum, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers only lost a handful of players after their Super Bowl victory. 

    Whatever the case, nothing ever stays the same. With that in mind, every franchise made at least one move to significantly improve its corresponding squad. The following decisions should help in the short and/or long term. 

Arizona Cardinals: Signing DE J.J. Watt

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    Joining the Arizona Cardinals has reenergized J.J. Watt.

    The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year gave everything he had to the Houston Texans organization, only to see the team deteriorate under the direction of previous head coach Bill O'Brien. Watt asked for his release this offseason, and the Texans granted his wish. 

    Now, the Cardinals can benefit from Watt's relentless nature, disruptive skill set and overall leadership. 

    "He's played in this system before, so we know he knows it," head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters. "But just his intensity, his focus, his attention to detail on the practice field will be great for our defense and for our team."

    Watt provides Arizona with a secondary defensive option beyond Chandler Jones, who opponents must account for at all times. If both stay healthy, watch out. 

Atlanta Falcons: Hiring HC Arthur Smith

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    Most of the Atlanta Falcons' moves fall into the "two steps forward, one step back" approach. 

    The team invested in tight end Kyle Pitts with this year's fourth overall pick only to trade the franchise's all-time leading receiver, Julio Jones, to the Tennessee Titans. Furthermore, the organization's decision to rework Matt Ryan's contract and not invest in a quarterback with this year's top draft pick raises questions.

    Atlanta is stuck somewhere between trying to win now and a potential rebuild. 

    Arthur Smith's job is to make the best out of a potentially bad situation. The former offensive coordinator previously helped turn Ryan Tannehill's career around and made Derrick Henry a two-time rushing champ. 

    "They hired the wrong guys if they thought we were going to lower expectations, take our time, and rebuild," Smith said during an interview on Football Morning in America (h/t Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper). "That’s just not who we are. The expectation is to win now, build for the future, have plans."

Baltimore Ravens: Signing Edge Justin Houston

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    Two potential stumbling blocks sit in front of the Baltimore Ravens. Both involve the team's trench play. 

    Offensively, the Ravens' front five continues to struggle and coalesce. On the other side of the ball, the ability to generate consistent pressure remains in question. 

    Baltimore wisely signed veteran edge-defender Justin Houston less than a month ago to provide a little more pass-rush punch and help the team's young edge-rushers. The move should help based on the veteran's still capable skill set, as he has at least eight sacks in each of the last four seasons. His mentorship to Tyus Bowser, Jaylon Ferguson, rookie Daelin Hayes and this year's first-round pick, Odafe Oweh, will also have long-term ramifications.

    The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec reported, "Ravens players have spoken very highly about Houston's leadership since he signed in Baltimore." 

Buffalo Bills: Signing QB Josh Allen to Contract Extension

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    The Buffalo Bills have their franchise quarterback. Josh Allen's status as the face of the franchise became officially official when he signed a six-year, $258M contract extension. 

    Mega-deals can be restrictive as organizations build around their quarterback. Allen knew this and tried to make it as team-friendly as possible. 

    "I think the way that we structured the deal was obviously a chance for both sides to get a fair deal and feel like they won," Allen told reporters. "To be here for eight more years and allow us to kind of move some things around to keep some pieces hereI'm not egotistical in how the money is put out or where it needs to be or how much it is. I want to win. Whatever it takes for us to win is what I'm willing to do."

    Stability at the game's most important position is vital for long-term roster construction. The Bills know they have an MVP-caliber player behind center and made sure to get something done before negotiations became a distraction. 

Carolina Panthers: Signing RT Taylor Moton to Contract Extension

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    Taylor Moton could have been the top offensive tackle available in free agency this year. Instead, the Carolina Panthers placed the franchise tag on their right tackle before signing him to a four-year, $71.25 million contract extension. 

    "Any time you can get a guy like that done, it's great for the team," general manager Scott Fitterer said last month. "He does everything the right way. He's smart. He works hard. He's intelligent. He's tough.

    "Here he is, he's on the franchise tag, and he's out at (voluntary) OTAs every single day. So that's the type of guy you want to pay and get done. We felt really good about it."

    Moton is already one of the game's best right tackles. Considering the current state of Carolina's left side, he may bump over to protect Sam Darnold's blind side. In fact, the 27-year-old veteran received some reps at left tackle this summer. 

Chicago Bears: Drafting QB Justin Fields

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    Eventually, Justin Fields will be the starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears. 

    Granted, Matt Nagy is stubbornly holding onto the thought of veteran Andy Dalton as QB1, but the Bears didn't trade up to this year's 11th overall pick and select Fields so the rookie could sit the bench all season. 

    For a franchise struggling to find a franchise signal-caller for so long, the Bears' aggressive nature in acquiring Fields could easily turn out to be the best decision any team made during the 2021 NFL draft. 

    Everyone already saw flashes of Field's ability during the preseason. He is a more-than-capable pocket passer, coupled with an outstanding athlete to create both within and outside of designed plays. Keeping Fields on the bench for an extended period will be difficult. 

    "You can't say enough good things about him," safety Tashaun Gipson told reporters. "He a humble kid. He just goes about his day, and I can respect that. He don't do too much. He understands the assignment. He understands what he's here for. I don't think a moment is too big for him."

Cincinnati Bengals: Rehiring OL Coach Frank Pollack

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    The Cincinnati Bengals may or may not have done enough along their offensive line this offseason. The onus falls on offensive line coach Frank Pollack, who the organization rehired after two years away, to mold Joe Burrow's protection into a functional unit. 

    Pollack is a quality offensive line coach. The team has already seen some improvement under his supervision. 

    "The line was getting push, the tight ends were blocking, getting physical. Just finishing the play. A thousand percent," running back Joe Mixon told reporters. "With Frank, the mindset is you basically have to bully whoever is on the defense. I love everything about that. That mentality, our approach has changed and we as backs do whatever we can to match that intensity."

    Quality coaching can offset some deficiencies found among the available talent. The Bengals still don't have a top-notch front five but Pollack should make them much better than the unit that took the field last season. 

Cleveland Browns: Drafting LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

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    The Cleveland Browns spent the majority of their offseason overhauling the defense.

    General manager Andrew Berry signed defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., safety John Johnson III and cornerback Troy Hill. The team drafted Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II in this year's first-round, too. 

    The biggest potential difference-maker came with this year's second-round selection. Reigning Butkus Award winner Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah tumbled down the board with concerns regarding a potential heart issue that doctors eventually cleared. Nonetheless, the Browns still scrambled to trade up and select the versatile linebacker. 

    Last season, the Browns featured the league's least-talented linebacker corps. Owusu-Koramoah brings a completely different dynamic with his sideline-to-sideline speed, comfort in coverage and ability to play numerous positions. 

    "He's a stud," Newsome told reporters. "I'm glad he's on our team for sure. He's really not even close to where he's going to be. I've seen it from the first day of rookie minicamp, the way he moves. He's a beast."

Dallas Cowboys: Drafting LB Micah Parsons

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    With Kyle Pitts and the top two cornerbacks off the board, the Dallas Cowboys did the unthinkable during this year's NFL draft: They actually completed a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, so their rival could get its preferred wide receiver prospect. 

    In doing so, Dallas slid down a couple of picks and still landed a dynamic defender in Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. 

    At the time, Parsons' selection was questioned since Dallas already featured Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Each. But the speed, athleticism and versatility Parsons already showed in preseason makes him look like a potential NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite. 

    "I feel like I wasn't able to fully go-go yet. I feel like the leash is still on. But we're going to let it off soon," Parsons told reporters

    Smith and Vander Esch may yield playing time to allow for Parsons to become Dallas' defensive focal point.

Denver Broncos: Addressing the CB Position

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    One could argue each of the Denver Broncos' cornerback additions are deserving of recognition as top moves, which makes the entire approach to the position the team's key offseason adjustment. 

    Denver finished smack-dab in the middle of pass defenses last fall. The Broncos did so with Michael Ojemudia, Bryce Callahan and Essang Bassey taking the majority of snaps. Obviously, general manager George Paton identified the position as an area of concern. 

    Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby both signed as free agents, but Paton and Co. tripled down by selecting Patrick Surtain II with this year's ninth overall draft pick. 

    "We're delighted to have some veteran cornerbacks and then a Top 10 pick," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell told reporters last month. 

    In a division that features quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, the Broncos are prepared to handle high-flying offenses. 

Detroit Lions: Drafting OT Penei Sewell

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    Early returns are a little shaky with this year's fifth overall pick. Over time, Penei Sewell should prove why he was the right pick for the Detroit Lions and the best move of the 2021 offseason. 

    Currently, Sewell is making three transitions. First, he's getting back into the swing of things after opting out of the 2020 campaign. Secondly, he's making the same adjustment every rookie undertakes as they acclimate to the professional game. Finally, the organization moved him from his natural spot at left tackle to the right side. 

    So, the fact he doesn't look entirely comfortable during preseason shouldn't come as a surprise. However, the 20-year-old's potential is enormous.

    "Yeah, there were some things that came up but he'll only be better for those," head coach Dan Campbell said. "I know you guys probably get tired of me saying it, but it just is. For him to get different looks against different players, it's good for those guys.

    Once Sewell is up to speed, he can help provide the Lions with an identity as the tough-as-nails squad Campbell envisions.

Green Bay Packers: Mending Fences with QB Aaron Rodgers

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    The previous bad blood between quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers front office has apparently dissipated in recent weeks. 

    The two sides agreed on a reworked deal on July 29 after Rodgers chose not to show up for the team's mandatory minicamp. Basically, both parties know they're essentially working on a one-year basis with the potential to move on from one another next offseason. 

    "I don't want a farewell tour," Rodgers told reporters last week. "I don't know what's going to happen after the season, but I'm going to enjoy it with the right perspective, for sure, and not look at it as I'm getting through this. I'm going to enjoy the hell out of all of it."

    With Rodgers, the Packers are Super Bowl contenders. Without him, the team would have been in a holding pattern until it found out what it had in heir apparent Jordan Love. Making the reigning league MVP happy in the short term became the only course of action. 

Houston Texans: Hiring GM Nick Caserio

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    Houston Texans fans have very little to look forward to this season. Obviously, the team is undergoing a crucial transition under its new leadership, starting with general manager Nick Caserio. 

    The Texans were initially interested in Caserio as a candidate two years ago. Instead, the organization moved forward with head coach Bill O'Brien as de facto, then official general manager. The decision turned out to be a disaster. 

    With O'Brien's departure, CEO Cal McNair decided to build a more traditional front office structure with Caserio leading the way. The latter now serves as the architect. His initial plan involved significant turnover this offseason. 

    Essentially, the Texans are now in the first step of a major rebuild. To become competitive again, Caserio will continue overhauling the roster and establishing a new identity within the locker room. In the short term, the Texans will flounder. Ultimately, they could flourish under the new general manager's direction. 

Indianapolis Colts: Signing LT Eric Fisher

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    Eventually, Eric Fisher will take the field as the Indianapolis Colts' left tackle, and the team's fans will rejoice.

    Currently, the team doesn't have a viable alternative as the eight-year veteran recovers from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. Will Holden, Julie'n Davenport and Sam Tevi haven't showed the capabilities of being competent blindside protectors for an extended period of time. 

    According to The Athletic's Stephen Holder, Fisher started doing "very specific offensive line movements" last week. 

    Quarterback Carson Wentz may have been the biggest acquisition of the offseason, as his performance will help dictate whether the Colts are competitive this fall. But considering Wentz's injury history, including his recent foot surgery, he needs to avoid taking hits as much as possible. Fisher will eventually complete the Colts lineup and help them in their chances for a postseason return. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting QB Trevor Lawrence

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    The expectations heaped on new Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence are enormous. 

    Lawrence's status as a draft product fell somewhere between those who proclaimed him a "once-in-a-generation" prospect to the best quarterback coming into the NFL since Andrew Luck

    "There's definitely some agreement that he's on Luck's level," an AFC scout told NFL.com's Chase Goodbread before the 2021 NFL draft. "Luck wasn't as successful in college as this guy, but their skills are very comparable."

    ESPN's Todd McShay (h/t 247 Sports' Dean Straka) went as far as to say new Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer only took the job because the organization had the chance to select Lawrence. 

    Basically, the Jaguars have a special talent behind center. It falls on the team not to screw up. Being the No. 1 overall pick is always difficult because the incoming prospect enters the NFL's worst situation. Jacksonville isn't expected to make a huge leap after last year's 1-15 campaign. If the organization continues to surround Lawrence with talent, he should grow into one of the game's better signal-callers. 

Kansas City Chiefs: Rebuilding Offensive Line

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    As quarterback Patrick Mahomes crumpled to the ground again and again during Super Bowl LV, the germination of an idea must have formed in the mind of Kanas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach.

    The team's offensive line needed fixing. Veach did so this offseason with gusto.

    Kansas City released incumbent offensive tackles, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. The team chose not to re-sign center Austin Reiter, guard Kelechi Osemele or utility lineman Stefen Wisniewski.

    This offseason, Joe Thuney became the crown jewel of Kansas City's free-agent class when the guard signed a five-year, $80 million deal. Veach traded for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. as well. Lucas Niang returns to take over right tackle after opting out of the 2020 campaign. Plus, two of the team's draft picks—center Creed Humphrey and guard Trey Smith—appear well on their way to becoming Week 1 starters.

    The group may be largely unproven, but the entire unit should be more athletic and physical with an infusion of youth.

Las Vegas Raiders: Signing Edge Yannick Ngakoue

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    The Las Vegas Raiders pass rush has been so poor since the team traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears three years ago that John Gruden and Co. figured, "Would it hurt if we called Chicago and see if the Bears want to trade Mack back to us?"

    League sources told The Athletic's Vic Tafur the Raiders did inquire about Mack's availability this offseason only for the Bears to rebuff their advances.

    Las Vegas then signed free-agent edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue. 

    In Ngakoue's first four seasons, he accumulated 37.5 sacks. His effectiveness declined in 2020 while playing for the Minnesota Vikings then the Baltimore Ravens. Ngakoue could be much better this fall now that he's comfortable again. 

    "I feel like in Baltimore, I wasn't utilized the right way," the defensive lineman said, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "That rotation was kind of ugly for me. Pass rushers need rhythm. You have to have multiple plays to set up moves, and I felt like I didn't have that there."

Los Angeles Chargers: Investing in Offensive Line

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    No team had a worse offensive line last season than the Los Angeles Chargers, according to Pro Football Focus. General manager Tom Telesco took the team's biggest weakness and turned it into a potential strength. 

    Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is the lone holdover from last year's projected starters. From there, the organization invested heavily along the interior. First-team All-Pro Corey Linsley became the game's highest-paid center in total contractual value when he signed a five-year, $62.5 million free-agent contract. Veteran guards Matt Feiler and Oday Absoushi joined the team as well. 

    Luck played a small role, too. Northwestern's Rashawn Slater was still on the board with this year's 13th overall pick. Slater is an immediate starter at left tackle, though he's currently dealing with lower back discomfort

    The Chargers found a special talent in quarterback Justin Herbert. As long as the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year remains properly protected, Los Angeles could be one of the league's surprise teams this fall. 

Los Angeles Rams: Trading for QB Matthew Stafford

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    The Los Angeles Rams' Sean McVay is an offensive play-caller at heart, and the head coach can't hide his excitement to work with quarterback Matthew Stafford

    "Bro, this dude's a bad MF-er," he said, per Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. "Whatever people say about him, as good as it can be, he's even better than advertised. ... The guy's ability to see the game, his ability to draw on his experiences, the feel that he has, it's pretty special and unique. And man, his feel for people, his authentic way of connecting with his teammates, his coaches, this guy, it's great being around him."

    Los Angeles traded former starting quarterback Jared Goff, a 2021 third-round pick, and '22 and '23 first-round picks to the Detroit Lions for Stafford. The Rams now have a signal-caller who can expand McVay's playbook instead of limiting it. 

    At one point in time, Stafford did the things that so many quarterbacks now do on a regular basis, like different arm angles, working off-platform and distorting his mechanics. His rocket arm lets make the type of throws that aren't typical and allows a play to succeed even when it looks doomed.

    Goff couldn't do these things. He was a cog in the machine. Stafford can be the engine to get McVay's high-octane offense going again. 

Miami Dolphins: Renegotiating CB Xavien Howard's Deal

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    The Miami Dolphins and All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard appeared to paint themselves in the corner when Howard wanted a reworked deal with three years left on the contract he signed. 

    In Howard's estimation, his compensation wasn't commensurate with his performance.

    Howard requested a trade, then held out of mandatory minicamp and didn't practice during training camp. Eventually, the two sides reached a compromise. 

    Miami fully guaranteed his 2021 salary, added potential incentives and rescinded his fines, according to ESPN

    "Many times over the past 8 months we all did not expect anything to happen," agent David Canter tweeted. "The organization handled us with absolute class and professionalism."

    Howard led the NFL with 10 interceptions last season. The Dolphins could replace him in the lineup. Instead, the organization did the smart thing by appeasing one of its stars. 

Minnesota Vikings: Signing CB Patrick Peterson

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    Patrick Peterson fell out of the public eye over the last two seasons. Once considered the game's best cornerback, the now-31-year-old defensive back didn't make the Pro Bowl in 2019 or 2020 after doing so eight straight seasons to start his career. 

    Finally testing free agency this spring, Peterson signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings. He immediately takes over as the Vikings' top corner with the intent of showing he hasn't lost a step. 

    "I feel lighter, faster," Peterson told NBC Sports' Peter King. "You always hear that notion in this game that the older you get, the lighter you want to get. ... I wanted to make the body as light as possible so I can get a little more agile, and come a little bit faster out of my breaks."

    Peterson's experience also helps the entire secondary. 

    "Patrick's had a great veteran's impact on our guys," head coach Mike Zimmer said, "and he's got a little chip on his shoulder too."

New England Patriots: Drafting QB Mac Jones

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    The New England Patriots quite possibly achieved what they couldn't last season: find a legitimate long-term replacement for Tom Brady.  

    The organization chose Alabama's Mac Jones with this year's 15th overall pick. Even though Cam Newton could still open the season as New England's starter, early returns from Jones' first training camp/preseason are extremely promising. 

    An impromptu quarterback competition emerged with Newton missing time this week due to a "misunderstanding" regarding COVID-19 testing, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss

    In Newton's stead, Jones lit up the New York Giants defense during the two teams' first intrasquad practice. Whether Jones does enough in the short time frame to surpass Newton, the Patriots look to have their eventual solution at the game's most important position. 

    "He's a great guy off the field, so it makes it easy to play with him on the field," wide receiver Jakobi Meyers told reporters. "Guys who want to get better, it makes it really easy to play football with them."

New Orleans Saints: Re-Signing QB Jameis Winston

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    Sean Payton's inexplicable fascination with Taysom Hill seems to be coming to an end. Instead, the Jameis Winston era appears well on its way. 

    Winston is a proven starter in the league, but he took the opportunity last offseason to sign with the New Orleans Saints and learn from both Payton and future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees

    The 2015 first overall pick played sparingly last season, though. Even when Brees sustained multiple injuries, Hill started four games. 

    Still, Winston re-signed with the Saints this offseason and should have taken control of the quarterback competition with his performance in Week 2 of the preseason. Winston completed 9-of-10 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    "I missed it," Winston told reporters. "I missed it, man. I missed going out there and leading the pack. That's fun. That's the fun stuff."

New York Giants: Signing WR Kenny Golladay

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    The New York Giants haven't seen much of Kenny Golladay throughout training camp because of a balky hamstring. The nagging injury shouldn't overshadow what the 6'4" target will eventually bring to the offense. 

    A season ago, the Giants lacked offensive playmakers, and Daniel Jones' development took a hit as a result. But the team concentrated on getting its quarterback weapons by signing Golladay to a four-year, $72 million free-agent contract and drafting Kadarius Toney in this year's first round. 

    Of the two, Golladay is the proven target and a true WR1. He's second among wide receivers in contested catch rate since the starter of the 2018 campaign, according to Pro Football Focus. The 27-year-old target serves as a consistent deep threat, too, finishing second with an average of 16.7 yards per reception since 2018.

    Eventually, Golladay will get on the field, and the Giants will have a true outside threat to help Jones and take pressure off of running back Saquon Barkley. 

New York Jets: Hiring HC Robert Saleh

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    New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh is the antithesis of the man he replaced, Adam Gase. 

    Gase brought haughtiness to the position. In the end, his stubbornness led to his departure since the Jets drastically declined in his second season. 

    Saleh creates a significantly different and memorable first impression.

    "It's in everything," first-round rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker told reporters. "I met him in person last week and he had a lot of energy. You see it on the field when he was back in San Francisco coaching up the defense always bringing that energy and in team meetings as well. He always has, I guess, a chip on his shoulder. He always wants us to work our butts off, which we will."

    A complete culture change was necessary after the team's finished 2-14 last season.

    Saleh's high-energy approach should help as the Jets attempt to build around a young core in Vera-Tucker, left tackle Mekhi Becton, defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, wide receivers Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, and this year's second overall draft pick, quarterback Zach Wilson. 


Philadelphia Eagles: Trading QB Carson Wentz

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    The Philadelphia Eagles renovated their team this offseason by firing head coach Doug Pederson and trading quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. 

    The latter move may end up making the team better in the long term. 

    As well as Wentz played in stretches, he couldn't stay healthy and crumbled when forced to shoulder more of the offensive responsibility. He certainly didn't fulfill his end of the bargain after signing a four-year, $128 million contract extension. 

    Jalen Hurts is now the Eagles' starting quarterback, and he's gained plenty of trust in the locker room. 

    "His work ethic, intangibles and overall skill level have captured the entire locker room," ESPN's Jordan Schultz reported. "Players I've spoken with are consistently blown away by Hurts, on and off the field." 

    At 23 years old and on the second year of his second-round rookie deal, Hurts is a far better option for the Eagles right now than Wentz would have been. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Drafting RB Najee Harris

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    What NFL owners want, they usually get. 

    "Mr. [Art] Rooney has sent out a very clear directive to Mr. [Kevin] Colbert to Coach [Mike] Tomlin and then to me," Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada told reporters in June. "We want to run the ball and we have to run it." 

    Thus, the organization's investment in first-round running back Najee Harris is of the utmost importance. 

    Last season, the Steelers finished dead last in rushing yardage. They lacked explosivity to create chunk plays via the ground game. Harris left Alabama as the program's all-time leading rusher. He can make defenders miss in the hole, run over would-be tacklers and add another dynamic as a natural pass-catcher out of the backfield. 

    Harris is now the focal point of the offense—which should help take pressure off of 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and an offensive line still trying to jell. 

San Francisco 49ers: Signing LB Fred Warner to Contract Extension

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    Fred Warner asserted himself as the game's best linebacker during the 2020 campaign. The third-year veteran captured first-team All-Pro status after posting a career-high 125 total tackles and earned the highest coverage grade among linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus

    Warner is a true three-down linebacker and the heartbeat of the San Francisco 49ers defense. The organization rewarded its defensive leader by making him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in NFL history (only to be surpassed by the Indianapolis Colts' Darius Leonard two weeks later). Warner signed a five-year, $95.2 million contract extension. 

    While linebacker isn't considered a premium position, Warner's importance to the 49ers is undeniable. 

    "He totally runs the show for that defense," an anonymous AFC executive told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "Everything they do goes through him."

    Nick Bosa is an exceptional talent and relentless pass-rusher when healthy, but Warner is the on-field play-caller with no deficiencies in his game. 

Seattle Seahawks: Hiring OC Shane Waldron

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    Three seasons of Brian Schottenheimer calling plays proved to be enough for the Seattle Seahawks. 

    The team cited "philosophical reasons" in a statement accounting for Schottenheimer's dismissal. But quarterback Russell Wilson clearly wasn't happy with his previous setup. New coordinator Shane Waldron should bring a new approach and breath of fresh air. 

    "It gets the ball out of Russell's hands faster to his playmakers, so we can break tackles and go score," wide receiver DK Metcalf said when asked about Waldron's scheme.

    "I think it's been a pretty big emphasis that we didn't have last year. So, adding that to our repertoire is going to be pretty big."

    The expanded quick game will only help keep Wilson upright after years of being chased and hit by opposing defenses. In the end, it's always about making the quarterback happy. Waldron should definitely help in that particular matter. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Re-Signing WR Antonio Brown

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did the best possible thing they could achieve this offseason simply by keeping their Super Bowl roster predominantly intact. They did so by re-signing linebacker Lavonte David, outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

    Among all of those re-signings, Brown brings the most potential to surpass last year's contributions. The 33-year-old receiver dealt with a lingering knee issue that required an offseason surgery. Now, he appears to be back to his old form. 

    "A.B. is in great shape, and obviously the knee is fine," head coach Bruce Arians told reporters two weeks ago. "Having heard it all again, having been out of the system for a while and getting back in, getting all the practice time and the meeting time—he's still a great, great football player.

    "He's playing at a speed I saw four or five years ago."

    Brown at full strength alongside Mike Evans and the franchise-tagged Chris Godwin should give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares. 

Tennessee Titans: Trading for WR Julio Jones

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Excitement over a new acquisition goes both ways. The Tennessee Titans should be elated to feature seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones in their lineup. At the same time, Jones couldn't be happier than he is at his new stop. 

    "The team camaraderie here, me being a veteran guy going to a new organization, you don't know what to expect, right? But when you get there, it is like, 'Wow.' So, I was blown away when I got here," Jones told reporters after the trade brought him from the Atlanta Falcons. 

    Jones and A.J. Browns form the league's most imposing wide receiver duo. They're both big, physical targets who can overwhelm defensive backs. But they also create after the catch.

    Also, Jones' acquisition should prevent defenses from loading the box, making life easier on two-time rushing leader Derrick Henry.

Washington Football Team: Signing TE Logan Thomas to Contract Extension

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team found something special in tight end convert Logan Thomas. The former collegiate quarterback bounced between five different teams, including two separate stops with the Detroit Lions, between 2014-19. He found a home in the nation's capital.

    Last season, Thomas led Washington with six touchdown receptions. His 72 catches ranked third among tight ends last season.

    The organization rewarded the 30-year-old veteran with a three-year, $24 million contract extension.

    In an offseason where Washington signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, placed Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff under another franchise tag and drafted linebacker Jamin Davis in the first round, Thomas' retention is perhaps the most vital. He can be the security blanket for the team's veteran signal-caller while potentially serving in the same capacity as a bridge to whoever takes over behind center in 2022.