Football

The Winners and Losers from the 2017 NFL Off-Season

Winners

#5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

The Bucs had a very productive offseason, and come in at #5 on my list. They were a good team last season finishing with a 9-7 record. They weren’t a team who needed to make major shake ups to their roster but needed to make improvements to take that next step, and they did just that this offseason. They signed the ultimate speedster in Desean Jackson to compliment the “Twin Towers” Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. They solidified their defense with Defensive Tackle Chris Baker and a pair of safeties in Chris Conte and J.J Wilcox. The Bucs quietly made big improvements here and there in order to continue to build their roster. They also drafted Tight End OJ Howard whom most considered to be the best outright athlete in the draft. The 6’6 Alabama product can not only stretch the field vertically for big plays and be a presence in the redzone, he can also block extremely well at the line of scrimmage which figures to help out Doug Martin tremendously once he returns from his 4-game suspension. All in all, the Bucs are banking on the growth of their young QB Jameis Winston, and have done a lot to help get playmakers around him. His play along with an upgraded defense will be the two deciding factors to see if the Bucs will be a playoff team in the upcoming season.

 

#4: Carolina Panthers

 

The Panthers are my 4th winners here; as they had an extremely solid offseason. Carolina, coming off a disappointing (to say the least) 2016 campaign where they went 6-10 after a Super Bowl appearance knew that they had to get back to their roots this offseason if they wanted to compete to win a Super Bowl. The trenches were the main strength of that 2015 team and was a weakness of the 2016 team, thus resulting in their 6-10 record. The Panthers inked two of their main-stays on the defensive line to long term deals in Charles Johnson and Kawaan Short. They also went out and got ex-panther Julius Peppers, who, even though is on the back end of his career, can still be an effective pass rusher for them in 2017. On the other side of the ball they inked a very steady tackle in Matt Kalil, who allows them to sure up their protection for QB Cam Newton, once he comes back from his offseason shoulder surgery. They also added depth to the skill positions, with the signings of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, and safety Mike Adams to give a veteran presence to their young secondary.  In terms of the draft, they used their first 2 picks very effectively, picking up the most versatile ball carrier in the draft in Christian Mccaffrey, and speedster Curtis Samuel to fill a whole in the slot where they lost Ted Ginn this offseason. Both should be starters this upcoming season and help out Cam Newton tremendously.

#3: Cleveland Browns

The Browns had a very strong offseason and have begun their rebuild for the future; they rank in at number 3. It is no secret to anyone that the Browns were a disaster last year, going 1-15 in 2016. This offseason GM Sashi Brown had one goal: to build from the ground up; and he did a great job working with what he had. The Browns had plenty of cap space this year, so it was easy for them to throw money around like it’s nobody’s business. And they did just that to the top 2 guards on the free-agent market, inking Kevin Zeitler from the rival Bengals and JC Tretter from the Packers. This was a smart move as they have now secured a stable pocket for whomever they decide to throw back there to play quarterback. The Browns did most of their work in the draft, and that’s why I love what they did this offseason. They made smart, quality signings in free agency, and really did work in the draft. With the first overall pick they drafted the best player available in Defensive End Myles Garrett. Seemed like an easy pick, but reaching for a quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky?) could’ve dug them a deeper whole… but I’ll talk about the Bears later. Through a multitude of trades, the Browns ended up with 3 (but basically 4) first round talents on their roster. They drafted Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, and David Njoku on day 1 of the draft. With their first pick on the second day of the draft they selected their quarterback on the future in Deshone Kizer, who was arguably the steal of the draft. Also with all that cap space they were able to trade for a nice bridge quarterback in Brock Osweiler, as his hefty contract doesn’t hurt them at all. Realistically, the Browns aren’t building to compete this season, however, in terms of building for the future they did a great job.

#2: Jacksonville Jaguars

Is this the year the Jaguars finally win free agency? I’m not quite sure if they won and beat my #1 team… but boy did they have a good offseason. My one concern for them is: this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. The past couple years the Jaguars have spent huge money on big time free agents only for the team as a whole to under perform. They went a dismal 3-13 last season, but for some reason it still just feels like they’re a couple pieces and one “click” away from being a playoff team. During the offseason they signed arguably the 2 biggest names on the market in cornerback A.J Bouye, taking him away from the division rival Houston Texans, and Calais Campbell from the Cardinals. Those two players fill the biggest needs on that Jaguars team as they struggled to get to the quarterback last year, and defend the pass.. which is a recipe for disaster. They threw big time money at both of them with Bouye at 5 years $67M, and Campbell at 4 years $60M, but in my opinion these guys are worth the money and they fit the needs of the Jaguars perfectly. The Jags also signed veteran safety Barry Church, and traded for former Pro Bowl Left Tackle Brandon Albert, whom has suddenly decided that retirement is a viable option? That is yet to be determined, but if he does decide to play he’d be a huge addition to that offensive line. And after all that, the Jaguars were still sitting pretty with the 4th pick in the NFL draft. They decided to select the top ball carrier in the draft, in Leonard Fournette, which I thought was great insurance for their young QB Blake Bortles, and would really help take the spot light and pressure off of him as he is looking to take that next step in what will be his 4th season. They also selected Cam Robinson, and Offensive Tackle out of Alabama in the 2nd round, whom most analyst projected to be a top 20 pick. He would fill in nicely next to, or for Brandon Albert depending on what happens with his future.

#1: New England Patriots

Honestly, this is getting ridiculous. Somebody come stop these guys because they’re about to take over the league… somehow, even though they just won the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots come in at #1 on my list. The Patriots roster was already good enough to compete to win another Super Bowl, and somehow, they got even better. This offseason the Patriots made a few note-worthy additions in Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Wide-out Brandon Cooks and Tight End Dwayne Allen. They did have to give up their first-round pick for Cooks, but it was more than worth it as it was the 32nd overall pick anyways. These players fit perfectly into their scheme, as Cooks adds another dimension to their offseason (as if they weren’t good enough already) and Allen replaces Martellus Bennett who signed with the Packers. He is a more then capable Tight End 2 to Gronkowski, and could put up big numbers in their heavy 2 Tight End offence. On the other side of the ball, they signed the 2nd best cornerback available in Gilmore, whom can now team up with Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler and Safety Devin Mccourty to create a fearsome secondary for the Patriots this upcoming season. Those were all great signings, but the best job of the Pats front office this season might have been their ability to re-sign their current players. D’onta Hightower, Alan Branch, Duron Harmon all agreed to long term extensions with the team, after rumours all season that they were intending on leaving due to the mantra of “you can’t pay everybody”.

Losers

#5: Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals come in as my 5th ranked team in terms of losing the offseason this year. The Cardinals for the past few years have seemed to be a consistent playoff team, but just couldn’t quite get over the hump for whatever reason. This offseason I felt that with a now healthy Tyrann Mathieu coming back, Larry Fitzgerald extended his contract for one more year, they were poised to go for one last shot with this core. Seemed I was wrong. This offseason they weren’t able to retain any of their defensive core, losing star DT Calais Campbell, Safeties Tony Jefferson and DJ Swearinger, along with LB Kevin Minter and WR Michael Floyd. These losses will prove to be hard positions to fill as not only did they lose the physical play of these players, but also the leadership that players like Campbell and Jefferson brought to the bunch. On top of that the Cardinals did not do a great job of preparing for the future under center. Carson Palmer will turn 38 this year, and unless they are content with Blaine Gabbert or Trevor Knight as the future.. they still have a lot of work to do.

#4: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals had a disappointing offseason and come in ranked at #4 on my list. In my opinion the Bengals roster is much worse than it was to end off the 2016 campaign, and that team finished 6-9-1. The Bengals lost a lot of key pieces to their team, and didn’t add much back, nor add it in the right places. They lost their two best offensive linemen in LT and perennial pro bowler Andrew Whitworth, and young emerging guard Kevin Zeitler. Those two losses alone just put Andy Dalton’s blind side in huge question for this upcoming season. They also lost Domata Peko who was one of their defensive captains, and Karlos Dansby whom led the team in tackles in the 2016 season. They have yet to find players to replace that, and most people thought they would do so in the draft. In the first round at pick 9 they took speedster John Ross, which I really liked. However, a questionable pick to me was in round 2 selecting Joe Mixon out of Oklahoma. I’m not concerned about whatever off the field issues surrounding him, but in terms of their backfield it made no sense. They already have Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill in that rotation, and I believe they could’ve got a quality defender at that pick. However, the Bengals did manage to resign Brandon LaFell, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Andre Smith, so all hope is not lost in Cincinnati.

#3: Chicago Bears

The Bears find themselves at #3 on my list. As a few other teams did this offseason, the Bears really decided to hit the rebuild button. They figured their roster and most skilled veterans from last year weren’t fitting the culture they wanted to build, and their 3-13 record, well, I guess it showed them a change is needed. The Bears lost their starting QB in Jay Cutler and a Pro Bowl caliber WR in Alshon Jeffrey. Those two have been a mainstay in Chi-town for years, but clearly GM Ryan Pace didn’t think they were going to help the team in the long run. They also lost WR Eddie Royal and DB Tracy Porter, who actually played fairly well for them at times throughout the season. But the biggest and arguably most questionable move by Chicago this offseason was on Day 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft. They traded up 1 spot to draft QB Mitchell Trubisky out of UNC. To trade up that 1 spot they traded their 1st, 3rd, and 4th round picks in this draft, and a 3rd rounder in next year’s draft. That’s a king’s ransom to move up just 1 spot. Only time will tell if a QB out of UNC who has only started 13 games in college football is worth it, but for a team in such a rebuild phase as the Bears are, I would’ve liked their chances just sitting pretty and drafting with the picks that they had. However the Bears did sign QB Mike Glennon to a 3 year deal which could turn into a 1 year deal if they wish, so it seems that they do somewhat have an idea of what they’re doing over there in Chi-Town.

#2: Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs had a very interesting offseason making some moves that most people didn’t expect, and they ended up as the #2 team on my list. Their offseason was full of tough decisions; decisions on who to extend, who to let walk, and what to do with the future? The Chiefs have seemed to be a team that consistently ranges from 9-12 wins a season, but are never really a true Super Bowl contender. The Chiefs lost 3 of arguably their top 5 players from the past few seasons in RB Jamaal Charles, DT Dontari Poe, and WR Jeremy Maclin. Charles was a bit of a question mark for this upcoming season due to injuries, but when healthy he is probably the most dynamic back in the league. Poe on the other hand seemed to be a salary cap casualty. The Chiefs essentially had to decide between Poe or safety Eric Berry, and they chose to resign Berry at 6 yrs $78M. Poe ultimately signed with the Falcons on a 1 year deal, but that was a huge loss for the Chiefs as they really leaned on him to nullify the opposing offenses rushing attack almost single handily. Maclin on the other hand, seemed to be the most consistent receiving target for the Chiefs the past few years along with Travis Kelce. Maclin is looked at as a Top 15 WR in the NFL and the Chiefs simply decided to cut him. As if that wasn’t questionable enough, their draft day move had everyone scratching their heads. They moved all the way up from pick 27 to pick 10 to select Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes II. They gave up a first and third round pick in 2017, and a 2018 1st rounder. To me, that trade didn’t make much sense as there was a group of QBs who would’ve been available at 27 if they stayed put, but instead they sent a fairly hefty package to Buffalo in order to move up. Not only that, but it now puts a question of doubt in one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the game in Alex Smith. Only time will tell if that move was worth it on draft night, but in terms of the 2017 Chiefs, I would expect less than their 12 wins from a season ago.

#1: New York Jets

Oh boy, this one was rough. The Jets no question rank at #1 on my list. They have hit the full reset mode, and really wiped their entire roster clean. They lost any sort of veteran talent that they had with Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Ryan Clady, Eric Decker, and David Harris all leaving to new teams. To be honest the Jets have one of the most talented defensive line groups in the league, but outside of that their roster is in shambles. They signed a bridge QB in Josh Mccowan, but have not quite yet figured out who the ending of that bridge will be. They lack skill position players outside of Running Back Matt Forte, whom is pushing 31 in December, and their #1 receiver Quincy Enunwa is expected to miss the entire season with a neck injury. On the defensive side of the ball they signed Cornerback Morris Claiborne, and drafted safety Jamal Adams. The Jets are in a true position of rebuild, and decided none of their veteran players were worth the price tag that they were signed at. There isn’t much to say about them except for #TankFor_____? Well see you at the 2017 NFL Draft, New York.

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