With the offseason behind us, the NFL power rankings going into training camp have the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles fighting for supremacy.
The month of April is winding down and the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books. So is it way too early to talk 2018 NFL Power Rankings?
Nope. So here is a brief peek at where all 32 clubs stand at the moment. Yes, the moment is fresh off 256 players being added over a three-day process at AT&T Stadium. But you will recall that this fiscal year began way back on March 14 and prior to that, clubs were extremely busy making sure their houses were in order.
Hence, here it starts for ’18. There’s a lot that will happen before now and when training camps open this summer. But there is no time like the present.
2018 Key Additions: Where to start? This is a team that has used 28 different starting quarterbacks since 1999 and that number will definitely go up as the Cleveland Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills), signed veteran Drew Stanton (Arizona Cardinals) and used the first pick in this year’s draft on Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. The former Oklahoma Sooner will have a receiving corps that now includes Jarvis Landry, obtained from the Miami Dolphins via trade. New general manager John Dorsey got Damarious Randall via a trade with the Green Bay Packers, signed E.J. Gaines (Buffalo Bills) and T.J. Carrie (Oakland Raiders) and used the fourth overall pick on Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.
Offseason Review: It’s a team that enters 2018 riding a 17-game losing streak and off the second 0-16 campaign in league history. But Dorsey showed he wasn’t afraid to be bold during free agency and the draft. The hiring of former Steelers’ offensive coordinator Todd Haley is a big plus for a club looking to end its losing ways in the AFC North. By all indications, it has been an extremely positive few months for an organization that has failed to maintain any kind of continuity when it comes to their front offices, head coaches or starting quarterbacks. Is all of that finally about to change?
2018 Key Additions: The Indianapolis Colts were fairly quiet during free agency this year. But that would that change in a big way when it came to the NFL draft. Yes, the club did add one-time Detroit Lions’ first-round tight end Eric Ebron and former Washington Redskins wide receiver Ryan Grant this offseason. But general manager Chris Ballard saved his best work for the NFL draft, adding players such as guards Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame) and Braden Smith (Auburn) in the first two rounds. There was also help when it came to the other side of the ball in second-round picks Darius Leonard, Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis – all who figure to boast a shaky front seven.
Offseason Review: Most of the angst surrounding the team at the moment is in regards to quarterback Andrew Luck. Is he truly ready to go and more importantly, will he be all set to kick off the season in September? That already puts a lot on the plate of new head coach Frank Reich, the former offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. But this was a club determined to restock its talent via the draft and Ballard came out with 11 players – with an emphasis on the offensive line and the defensive front-seven. If these past two draft classes produce sooner than later, look for a bounce back year from this club even if Luck isn’t ready to go right away.
2018 Key Additions: Team head honcho John Elway cleaned most of his house when it came to his quarterback situation. Trevor Siemian was dealt to the Minnesota Vikings and Brock Osweiler wound up signing with the Miami Dolphins. So now it’s up to 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch to learn what he can from free-agent addition Case Keenum, who helped guide the Purple Gang to the NFC title game a season ago. While the Denver Broncos used six of their 10 selections in the draft on offensive help, the fifth overall selection was pass-rushing standout Bradley Chubb. So imagine the possibilities when it comes to him teaming with Von Miller?
Offseason Review: Since winning Super Bowl 50 in 2015, the Broncos are a combined 14-18 and are coming off a 5-11 campaign. It was the team’s first losing season since 2010. Elway wanted to get a reliable quarterback and may have the answer in Keenum – that is, if 2017 was a sign of things to come and his showing with the Minnesota Vikings was the new rule and not the exception. But this is also a team in need of some new faces on defense. It’s a team that has fallen quickly after five straight AFC West titles. But it’s one capable of getting back in the playoff picture if Miller and company can dominate again.
2018 Key Additions: New general manager Dave Gettleman was active even before the new fiscal year opened on March 14. The former executive in Carolina brought in former Panthers’ running back Jonathan Stewart. And now the veteran will team with 2018 second overall pick Saquon Barkley as the New York Giants try and re-establish the ground game. The team also got more help for veteran quarterback Eli Manning in the form of veteran left tackle Nate Solder (Patriots) and rookie guard Will Hernandez, a second-round pick. And yes, the franchise did address the quarterback situation in the draft. But that move came in the fourth round in the form of Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta. He will duel with second-year pro Davis Webb for the backup job behind Manning.
Offseason Review: There was a lot of speculation regarding the futures of both Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during these last few months. And it is very safe to say that neither appears to be going anywhere anytime soon. Shurmur brings a workmanlike approach to a team that appeared to lose its way in a lot of regards a year ago. And it’s worth noting that bouncing back in this division has been inexplicably easier than imagined. Three straight and five of the last six NFC East champions finished dead last among the foursome the previous season.
2018 Key Additions: There are massive changes to the offense. It began with head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer opting for retirement after 2017. Meanwhile, the team had their other three quarterbacks available for free agency. But general manager Steve Keim and new head coach Steve Wilks added Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. And on Day One, the team also moved up in the draft to grab feisty UCLA signal-caller Josh Rosen with the 10th overall pick. The Arizona Cardinals also address their offensive line this offseason with the addition veteran Andre Smith and guard Justin Pugh. Meanwhile, speedy wide receiver Brice Butler hopes to offset the losses of Jaron Brown and John Brown. They signed with the Seahawks and Ravens, respectively.
Offseason Review: Since setting a franchise record with 13 regular-season victories in 2015, the Cardinals have combined for a 16-15-1 record the past two years. And when it comes to keeping pace in the always-nasty NFC West, this looks like a team in the midst of rebuilding and not contending. The quarterback situation appears to be fragile and Rosen could see the field sooner than later. Having a healthy David Johnson in the backfield would be a major plus for whoever is lining up behind center. All told, it looks like transition time in the desert and these Cardinals may have to scratch and claw to remain relevant in an improved division.
2018 Key Additions: Be it via free agency or trades, the Miami Dolphins have been one of the busier teams prior to the draft in recent offseason. This year was no exception as the club dealt for NFC West veterans such as defensive end Robert Quinn (Los Angeles Rams) and center Daniel Kilgore (San Francisco 49ers). They also welcomed the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history as Frank Gore returns to the Sunshine State – where he excelled with the Miami Hurricanes. And the wide-receiving corps will benefit by the additions of Albert Wilson (Kansas City Chiefs) and Danny Amendola (New England Patriots).
Offseason Review: It has been a somewhat tumultuous offseason for Adam Gase’s squad. Veterans like Ndamukong Suh, Mike Pouncey and Lawrence Timmons were cut loose and the NFL’s top pass-catcher in 2017 (Jarvis Landry) was traded to the Cleveland Browns. And there appears to be mixed opinions on whether quarterback Ryan Tannehill can return after missing 2017 and get the job done. This was a playoff team just two years ago but currently appears to have more questions than answers. It is safe to say that this is a very pivotal year for the head coach as the ‘Fins look to prove that 2016 was the rule and not the exception.
2018 Key Additions: For the first time since 2009, the Green and White used a first-round selection on an offensive player of any kind with the choice of Sam Darnold. General manager Mike Maccagan used free agency to bolster the rest of this unit. The club signed running backs Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls, as well as wide receivers Terrelle Pryor, Andre Roberts and Charles Johnson to team with incumbents Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. The New York Jets did a solid job bolstering their defense with additions such as inside linebackers Avery Williamson and Kevin Minter, as well as former Los Angeles Rams’ cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
Offseason Review: A year ago at this time, there was talk of a winless season. But the Jets surprised many by playing very-respectable football for the most part. Despite some house cleaning both during the 2017 season and since, this looks like a team headed in a positive direction. With Josh McCown and newcomer Teddy Bridgewater around, Darnold will be allowed to develop until the time is right. This is a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2010 but made a little noise this past year. Hence the decision to extend the contracts of Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles. But the time to produce must be sooner than later.
2018 Key Additions: We were still waiting for a Super Bowl champion to be crowned when the Washington Redskins opted to make a deal for veteran quarterback Alex Smith, who spent the past five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. The deal didn’t become official until March 14th, but it did signal the obvious end of Kirk Cousins’ tenure with the club. Team president Bruce Allen went out and got some help for the longtime signal-caller in deep-threat Paul Richardson, late of the Seattle Seahawks. The team has struggled to run the football in recent seasons, but used a late second-round pick this year on LSU’s Derrius Guice.
Offseason Review: Since winning the NFC East in 2015, Jay Gruden’s club has slowly digressed when it comes to the win-loss record. And now the team welcomes a new starting quarterback in Smith, who hopefully gets plenty of support from a running game that hasn’t been a factor in recent seasons when it comes to this team. Meanwhile, Washington’s defensive unit has disappointed in recent years and that side of the football must step up in a big way. Despite some nice offseason additions both via free agency and the draft, it’s far too early to tell if the Redskins are a better football team than they were a year ago.
2018 Key Additions: As usual, the franchise was pretty quiet when it came to adding veterans. Of course, the Cincinnati Bengals are certainly hoping defensive tackle Chris Baker and middle linebacker Preston Brown can fix a defense that allowed the third-most rushing yards in the league this past season. And the trade that brought left tackle Cordy Glenn from Buffalo this offseason should help immeasurably. The team entered this year’s draft with 11 selections and came out with 11 prospects, well-balanced between offense (5) and defense (6). In fact, all of the club’s defensive picks came in their first eight choices. First-round center Billy Price (Ohio State) figures to be an immediate starter.
Offseason Review: In recent years, the Bengals have taken their share of hits when it came to free-agent departures. And when it comes to a franchise that relies on its draft choices and doesn’t spend a lot of money bringing in veteran Talent, not free not all setting those departures can lead to bigger issues. The club got back to what it does best and that’s utilizing the draft this offseason. But this is a team that has missed the playoffs the last two years after five straight postseason appearances. The club needs to build on last season’s 7-6 finish of a season ago.
2018 Key Additions: You featured the league’s worst defense this past season in terms of yards allowed and passing yards surrendered. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also came up with an NFL-low 22 sacks in ’17. So general manager Jason Licht traded for New York Giants’ defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, added former Philadelphia Eagles Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, signed sturdy tackle Mitch Unrein (Chicago Bears) and used the 12th overall pick on University of Washington mass of humanity Vita Vea. And could 2018 second-round pick Ronald Jones be Dirk Koetter’s answer in terms of reviving the running game?
Offseason Review: Off an 8-4 finish in 2016 (following a 1-3 start), this was a Buccaneers’ team that appeared to be on the rise. But it all came apart this past season and they were the only club in the division not to make the playoffs. It wasn’t a spectacular offseason for the franchise, but the club did enough to address the areas that needed the most attention, in particular the offensive line. The NFC South is pretty loaded from top to bottom so this could be a better football team and it may not reflect in the standings. All told, the Bucs did enough to keep this ship pointed in the right direction.
2018 Key Additions: General manager Ryan Pace knew he had to get quarterback Mitch Trubisky some help this offseason and he wasted little time getting the job done. A year ago, no wideout on the club caught more than one TD pass and the Chicago Bears were tied for last in the league with only 13 scores through the air. Hence, free agency brought wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Bernie Fowler, as well as versatile tight end Trey Burton. Defense was the priority in the draft as the club added three linebackers and an end. That includes eighth overall pick Roquan Smith (Georgia), who could be an immediate difference maker.
Offseason Review: This may be the most intriguing team in the NFC. Pace went out during free agency and addressed very specific needs for an offensive unit that gained the third-fewest yards in the league this past season. The Bears also fortified defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s unit with some additional pass-rushing threats both in free agency and especially in the draft. Of course, the team’s biggest hurdle in recent years is finding a way to compete within the division. Chicago has lost nine straight contests to their NFC North rivals and own a combined 4-20 record vs. the Vikings, Lions and Packers since 2014.
2018 Key Additions: Entering the offseason, Bill O’Brien’s club had some big defensive needs when it came to the secondary. The Houston Texans addressed those in a big way with free-agent signings such as cornerbacks Aaron Colvin (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Johnson Bademosi (New England Patriots), as well as the addition of former Arizona Cardinals’ standout Tyrann Mathieu. The team did not have a first- or second-round pick this year but still came away with eight players, including third-round safety Justin Reid (Stanford) and a pair of tight ends in Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas. And with Mike Vrabel off to Tennessee, Romeo Crennel is back as the team’s defensive coordinator.
Offseason Review: Yes, Houston plummeted to last place in their division this past season after winning back-to-back division titles. But a year ago, the team were beset by injuries. While promising rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson was lost in practice one November afternoon. But he impressed while he was on the field for 26 quarters during the regular season. The Texans also lost defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus in Week 5, which obviously proved to be extremely costly. All told, this club went out and added some depth to avoid another total collapse by a club that lost its last six games a year ago. Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to health in this league.
2018 Key Additions: Where to begin other than the fact that Jon Gruden is back with the Oakland Raiders? Via trades and free agency, wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant and running back Doug Martin are quarterback’s Derek Carr’s new toys to play with. But the real problem area for the Oakland Raiders in recent seasons has been the defense. The new coordinator on this side of the ball is Paul Guenther, late of the Cincinnati Bengals. And the new free-agent additions include outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead and cornerbacks Rashaan Melvin, Leon Hall and Daryl Worley. Meanwhile, general manager Reggie McKenzie used two of his first three draft choice this year on offensive line help.
Offseason Review: When it comes to arrivals and departures, no team was busier the last few months than the Silver and Black. Gruden and McKenzie appear to be leaving no stone unturned as the Raiders look for the right combinations in regards to getting this franchise back on track in terms of winning and consistency. This is a head coach that has taken two different franchises to the postseason and is still very much in tune with today’s game. By the time September rolls around, it will be interesting to see who remains on the roster from a year ago. For now, the Raiders are doing their due diligence.
2018 Key Additions: The times are changing in the Pacific Northwest and apparently the Seattle Seahawks did not take kindly to the fact that they missed the playoffs this past season for the first time since 2011. As for who joined the team this offseason, the club put an emphasis on the defensive line with addition such as Tom Johnson and Shemar Stevens, both via the Minnesota Vikings. Wide receiver Jaron Brown also joined the club after spending the last few seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. And Pete Carroll’s club has a new kicker in veteran Sebastian Janikowski. The former Oakland Raiders’ specialist missed all of this past season due to injury.
Offseason Review: A year ago, the then-defending NFC West champions never quite seemed like their old dominating selves. Yes, the Seahawks jumped out to a 5-2 start (before dropping 5 of their final 9 contests) but with very few exceptions were far from dominating. From afar, it looked like a distracted football team and now some of those issues have possibly been resolved over the past few months. Meanwhile, the division-rival Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers look like improved football teams. It will be interesting to see if Pete Carroll’s club can get its swagger back. And that may be easier said than done these days.
2018 Key Additions: Baltimore Ravens’ head honcho Ozzie Newsome was extremely active in the draft and wound up with 12 selections – eight on offense. Before that, he put an emphasis on the wide receiver position in free agency. The club signed John Brown (Arizona Cardinals), grabbed Michael Crabtree after he was discarded by the Oakland Raiders and signed Saints’ wideout Willie Snead to an offer sheet (which New Orleans did not match). Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if or how the club utilizes first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson in his debut season. And speaking of quarterbacks, let’s not forget that the club added 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin to the depth chart.
Offseason Review: A team that was accustomed to making the playoffs on a steady basis has now missed the postseason four of the last five years. While the Ravens remains more than respectable on defense, this unit was exposed a few too many times this past season. Meanwhile, quarterback Joe Flacco will be throwing to a slew of new wideouts while this year’s draft brings a pair of rookie tight ends – including first-round pick Hayden Hurst – and three new prospects up front. All told, this will be a different offense when the team opens the season against the Bills on September 9.
2018 Key Additions: The San Francisco 49ers enter 2018 as the league’s hottest team. Led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan’s club closed last year with five consecutive victories. Still, general manager John Lynch sought some offensive line help and added guard Jonathan Cooper and center Weston Richburg. Former Vikings’ running back Jerick McKinnon is an ideal fit for Shanahan’s attack. But having Richard Sherman in the San Francisco secondary can’t be underestimated. Cut loose by the rival Seattle Seahawks, he latched on with the Niners and has revenge on his mind.
Offseason Review: Thanks to their fast finish from a year ago, the 49ers have already been anointed as postseason contenders. That’s all well and good, but this is still a club that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2013. And despite the improvement shown late last year, there’s still substantial work to be done – particularly on the defensive side of the football. Still, the addition of Sherman gives Shanahan’s team a little moxie on that side of the ball –something the club has lacked in recent years. All told, the combination of some much-needed free agent help and another solid draft has this team headed upwards.
2018 Key Additions: Even though there’s a new general manager (Brian Gutekunst) in “Titletown,” the Green Bay Packers’ philosophy of staying somewhat conservative when it comes to free agency hasn’t really changed. The club did grab defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (New York Jets) and also signed tight end Jimmy Graham away from the Seattle Seahawks. Mike McCarthy’s team changed coordinators this offseason as Joe Philbin returns to help the offense and defensive mind Mike Pettine takes over for Dom Capers. And for the second consecutive year, the Packers used their first two picks in the draft (Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson) on secondary help.
Offseason Review: Although there was a change when it came to the general manager for this franchise during the offseason, the Packers’ philosophy of relying more on draft choices and less on free agency continued. Yes, the club added Wilkerson and Graham and both will prove to be solid pickups. But this is still a franchise that relies on the development of its younger players. Bringing back Philbin and replacing Capers with Pettine could prove to be two very advantageous moves. And we know what this team is capable of offensively if Rodgers can stay upright in 2018. But the defense is still in need of some fine-tuning.
2018 Key Additions: Even before the 2017 postseason concluded, the Kansas City were preparing to move on from veteran Alex Smith and put the Patrick Mahomes plan into motion. This offseason, the club made sure he had another big-play weapon to compliment the likes of 2017 NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt, Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. So imagine the latter teamed with wide receiver Sammy Watkins and both taking advantage of Mahomes’ strong arm? Meanwhile, the Chiefs had six picks in the draft and used the first five on defensive help – including a pair of linebackers in Breeland Speaks (Mississippi) and Dorian O’Daniel (Clemson).
Offseason Review: It’s a team that has won consecutive AFC West titles. But a 5-0 start morphed into a disastrous 5-7 finish this past season. That includes Andy Reid’s club squandering an 18-point lead at home in the AFC Wild Card loss to the Titans. Now there’s a new quarterback at the helm while familiar defensive faces such as Tamba Hali (released) and Marcus Peters (traded to Rams) are no longer with the club. It seems like a start-over of sorts for the Chiefs, who have tremendous big-play potential on offense but still may have some lingering issues on the other side of the football.
2018 Key Additions: There’s a new head coach in the Motor City in the form of Matt Patricia, who comes over following his years as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator in New England. And like general manager Bob Quinn, he is not the current member of the team with Patriots’ ties. The Detroit Lions added running back LeGarrette Blount, Jonathan Freeny and veteran quarterback Matt Cassel in March. Quinn also revamped the team’s linebacking corps by signing Devon Kennard (New York Giants) and Christian Jones (Chicago Bears) to pair with 2017 first-rounder Jarrad Davis. And keep an eye on rookie running back runner Kerryon Johnson (Auburn), who looks to aid the NFL’s worst ground game this past season.
Offseason Review: There will be some pressure on Patricia to get this team headed in the right direction fairly quickly, even though it’s his first season as an NFL head coach. Coming over from the Patriots brings added expectations, fair or unfair. So far, the team has added some very necessary pieces to make a difference – especially when it comes to the offensive side of the football. And complimenting the team’s opportunistic defensive unit that may be enough to get this team back in the playoffs for the third time in five years.
2018 Key Additions: After getting off to a slow start this offseason, the Dallas Cowboys finally opened up their checkbook and brought in some talent to help make life easier for two-year quarterback Dak Prescott. The signings of wideouts Allen Hurns (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Deonte Thompson (Buffalo Bills) were recently complimented by the recent additions of former Rams’ speedster Tavon Austin and 2018 third-round wideout Michael Gallup. The offensive line was solid last year but did have some issues. Meanwhile, adding experienced tackle Cameron Fleming (New England Patriots) enables talented La’El Collins to move back to left guard.
Offseason Review: Garrett’s club has made more news these last few weeks in regards to who is no longer with the team opposed to who has joined it. The release of eight-year wide receiver Dez Bryant was quickly followed by the sudden retirement of veteran tight end Jason Witten. The Cowboys still have to get defensive end Demarcus Lawrence under contract, having slapped the franchise tag on the pass-rushing standout. This is a team that still has plenty of talent but comes off an uneven year due to injuries and one key suspension. We saw this club bounce back in 2016 after a rough season and it wouldn’t be a shock to see it happen again this fall.
2018 Key Additions: Talk about plenty of change for a team that reached the playoffs this past season? There are a couple of new quarterbacks in town as general manager Brandon Beane added A.J. McCarron (Cincinnati Bengals) in free agency and former University of Wyoming prospect Josh Allen with the seventh overall selection in the draft. The offensive line will be reshaped as well thanks to additions such as center Russell Bodine and tackle Marshall Newhouse. Sean McDermott’s defense, which slumped down the stretch after an impressive start, can only get better with the additions of tackle Star Lotulelei, end Trent Murphy and veteran cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Phillip Gaines.
Offseason Review: It was a second consecutive offseason of massive change for this franchise. The biggest upheaval came on the offensive front with the trade of left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals and the retirements of center Eric Wood and left guard Richie Incognito. Of course, veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor was dealt in March as Beane and the team looks to develop a long-term solution behind center. Hence the moves before and during the draft to get the strong-armed Allen. McDermott now has one tumultuous year under his belt and it resulted in a postseason appearance. It all adds up to this being another intriguing summer in Orchard Park.
2018 Key Additions: It proved to be Patriots Day of sorts when it came to the Tennessee Titans this offseason. They have a new head coach in Mike Vrabel, the former outside linebacker/tight end who spent most of his playing career in Foxborough. The club also welcomed a few familiar faces from New England in running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler. Titans’ general manager John Robinson also addressed his defense in free agency in the form of inside linebacker Will Compton and nose tackle Bennie Logan. And the club moved up in the first round of the draft to grab University of Alabama inside linebacker Rashaan Evans.
Offseason Review: Despite a pair of 9-7 showings, Robinson and the franchise opted to part ways with head coach Mike Mularkey. It makes sense considering that despite reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the Titans faded down the stretch and were humbled badly in the AFC Divisional Playoffs at New England. There are a lot of very good pieces in place here and keep in mind that the team swept the AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. However, the club needs a far more consistent performance from quarterback Marcus Mariota – who took a small step backwards this past year. The arrival of defensive coordinator Dean Pees (replacing Dick LeBeau) could add up to some very big things.
2018 Key Additions: The Los Angeles Chargers won nine of their final 12 games following a 0-4 start this past year. And general manager Tom Telesco has been fairly quiet this offseason when it came to free agents. But the club grabbed veteran Center Mike Pouncey after he was released by the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, tight end Virgil Green, late of the Denver Broncos, gives the Bolts one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. And the team is certainly hoping that former Philadelphia Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis proves to be a solution for a big problem area in recent years. One key departure of note was the decision not to bring back legendary tight end Antonio Gates, who remains a free agent.
Offseason Review: The Chargers used their first four picks in the draft to bolster a defense that could get after the quarterback and harass teams into mistakes. But only the Washington Redskins allowed more yards per game on the ground this past year. The AFC West appears to be in transition this year, with both the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos making quarterback changes and the Oakland Raiders with a new head coach. All told, this club had a pretty drama-free offseason and went about its business. If Anthony Lynn’s squad can pick up where they left off a year ago, the team’s first division title since 2009 is a distinct possibility.
2018 Key Additions: Another offseason and the Carolina Panthers are still tweaking their wide receiving corps. They added wideout Jarius Wright, who was let go by the Minnesota Vikings this offseason. They also dealt for veteran speedster Torrey Smith – courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles. And speaking of former University of Maryland products, Ron Rivera’s squad used the 24th overall selection on D.J. Moore. On the other side of the ball, the secondary has a slew of newcomers in veterans Ross Cockrell (New York Giants) and Da’Norris Searcy (Tennessee Titans), as well as rookies in cornerback Donte Jackson (2-LSU) and safety Rashaan Gaulden (3-Tennessee).
Offseason Review: It’s been a year of massive change for a club that has reached the playoffs four of the past five seasons. Gone are veterans such as defensive end Charles Johnson, as well as running back Jonathan Stewart and safety Kurt Coleman. And the free-agent defections of guard Andrew Norwell (Jacksonville Jaguars) and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (Buffalo Bills) can’t be downplayed. But this is a franchise that has found a way to get the job done the last few years in terms of reaching the playoffs. This despite the fact that the Panthers have not posted back-to-back winning seasons in the team’s brief history which dates back to 1995.
2018 Key Additions: The organization known as the Atlanta Falcons have built a very solid roster over the years. And that is exemplified by the fact that the team was once again very quiet in free agency. This offseason, the club added guard Brandon Fusco and tight end Logan Paulsen as well as quarterback/special teams star Justin Bethel. And in the first round of the draft, the club added Calvin Ridley. They can only hope that this former University of Alabama wideout is just as effective as the one they moved up in the draft to grab seven years ago (2011) in superstar receiver Julio Jones.
Offseason Review: While some would prefer to focus on what this club hasn’t done, the Falcons are the only team in the NFC to reach the postseason each of these past two seasons. Head coach Dan Quinn took his lumps during his first year on the job in 2015 and the specter of the loss in Super Bowl LI is still somewhat in play. But this franchise appears to have a confidence about it these days that makes you feel that it’s still capable of some very big things – perhaps sooner than later. Kudos to an organization that seems to have learned from some of its mistakes.
2018 Key Additions: Once again, the New Orleans Saints grabbed a former member of the Carolina Panthers when made available. A year after signing wideout Ted Ginn and linebacker A.J. Klein, the club inked free safety Kurt Coleman. Sean Payton’s squad also welcomed back a trio of players who had previously played for the organization in offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod, cornerback Patrick Robinson and tight end Benjamin Watson. However, the biggest payoffs may come from newcomers such as inside linebacker Demario Davis and wide receiver Cameron Meredith. And on the first night of the draft, the organization moved up in the first round to grab pass-rushing threat Marcus Davenport (Texas-San Antonio).
Offseason Review: General manager Mickey Loomis and the club did a solid job filling any holes on this club. The Saints’ defense came a long way in a short time a year ago and the signings of Davis, Coleman and Robinson hope to add a little more play-making potential to this group. Payton’s change in offensive philosophy following some early problems a year ago could pave the way for this team to get back to the “Big Game” for only the second time in franchise history. All told, it has been a very-effective offseason for a club that entered 2017 in a continuous 7-9 rut.
2018 Key Additions: Where to begin? In separate trades, the defending NFC West champions added ball-hawking cornerbacks Marcus Peters (Kansas City Chiefs) and Aqib Talib (Denver Broncos). They also signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was cut loose by the Miami Dolphins this offseason. It adds up to an incredible amount of talent on this side of the ball when you consider the Los Angeles Rams already feature the likes of defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. It will be fascinating to see what defensive coordinator Wade Phillips does with this group. Meanwhile, quarterback Jared Goff will love deep threat Brandin Cooks, obtained from the New England Patriots.
Offseason Review: Thanks to all of the aforementioned moves, Sean McVay’s club appears loaded for Bear. Make that the Bears, as well as the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals. And when you combine the league’s highest-scoring team in 2017 with a bolstered defensive unit, big things will be expected from the Rams this fall. Of course, the team is coming off a season in which they made their first playoff appearance since 2004. That means experience is a concern when it comes to the overall roster, hence those veteran offseason additions will be counted on to compliment those youngsters. This team could still be a work in progress when the season kicks off in September.
2018 Key Additions: Doug Marrone’s talented squad scored one of the biggest coups of free agency with the addition of former Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell. He adds a little more muscle to an improved offensive line that helped the Jacksonville Jaguars lead the NFL in rushing this past season. The club also boosted its wide-receiving corps with the addition of receiver Donte Moncrief, late of the division-rival Indianapolis Colts. The signing of tight end Niles Paul probably went under the radar a bit but it is a solid addition and offsets the decision to part ways with veteran Marcedes Lewis.
Offseason Review: The clubs saw its share of familiar faces depart this offseason. But thanks to some good drafting in recent years and some shrewd moves the last few offseasons, this is a club that could stick around for a bit when it comes to playoff contention. Of course, the remainder of the AFC South didn’t stand pat the last few months and the Jaguars did lose a pair of games to the rival Tennessee Titans this past year. And while he played solid football for the most part in the 2017 postseason, quarterback Blake Bortles sputtered in the regular season down the stretch. There’s still plenty of work ahead.
2018 Key Additions: The reigning AFC North champions used free agency and their first-round pick in April to address that defense that just did not play up to standards down the stretch. Veteran safeties Morgan Burnett (Green Bay Packers) and Nat Berhe (New York Giants) join rookie Terrell Edmunds (Virginia Tech) to aid the secondary. General manager Kevin Colbert also added inside linebacker Jon Bostic, who can help this team be a lot more consistent against the run. The Steelers are hoping the second-round addition of wide receiver James Washington (Oklahoma State) offsets the departure of Martavis Bryant, who was dealt to the Oakland Raiders.
Offseason Review: The four-letter word for Mike Tomlin’s club is actually a three-word moniker known as the New England Patriots. And until the Steelers can find a way to get the job done against a team that had reached the Super Bowl three of the past four years, that seventh ring for the franchise will remain elusive. And now this club must deal with a Jacksonville Jaguars’ team that defeated twice in Pittsburgh this past season. It’s been pretty much business as usual when it comes to the offseason for this club. And the team is still waiting for workhorse running back Le’Veon Bell to get his contract situation resolved.
2018 Key Additions: For the second straight year, Bill Belichick’s club was very busy via the trade route. The club swung deals to acquire defensive tackle Danny Shelton and cornerback Jason McCourty – both from the Cleveland Browns – as well as tackle Trent Brown (San Francisco 49ers) and wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson (Oakland Raiders). Free agency also brought skill people such as running back Jeremy Hill and wide receiver Jordan Matthews for the Bengals and Bills, respectively. And Belichick used a pair of first-round selections on a pair of Georgia Bulldogs in guard Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel.
Offseason Review: It has been a somewhat unsettling offseason for the league’s reigning dynasty. The free-agent departures of cornerback Malcolm Butler, wide receiver Danny Amendola, running back Dion Lewis and tackles Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming via free agency certainly stung a bit. The decision to deal wide receiver Brandin Cooks was somewhat of a surprise after what the team did to get him a year ago. Of course, the team also saw defensive coordinator Matt Patricia join the Detroit Lions as their new head coach. On the plus side, tight end Rob Gronkowski is committed to playing this year after thinking about walking away from the game. All told, it’s been an odd few months since that Super Bowl LII loss.
2018 Key Additions: One of the big reasons the Philadelphia Eagles captured their first Super Bowl championship this past season was their depth on both the offensive and defensive lines. That latter unit came up big in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LII, harassing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady late in the contest. Jim Schwartz’s unit lost some valuable backups this offseason for various reasons, but the club traded for Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks) and signed veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (Detroit Lions). And veteran deep threat Mike Wallace comes over from the Baltimore Ravens, offsetting the trade that sent wide receiver Torrey Smith to the Carolina Panthers.
Offseason Review: They are the champions until dethroned. And keep in mind that while these Birds lost their share of players this offseason, this is a club that came away with a Super Bowl title despite the midseason losses of left tackle Jason Peters and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. Of course, the Eagles will also get starting quarterback Carson Wentz sometime this year after he went down in December – opening the door for Nick Foles’ postseason heroics. Still, there have been a few. Former offensive coordinator Frank Reich is now the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. And the release of newly-acquired cornerback Daryl Worley due to off-the-field issues certainly stung a bit.
2018 Key Additions: There’s no way to bury the lead here so let’s not try. The Minnesota Vikings gave former Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins a three-year, $84 million deal that was fully guaranteed this offseason. They also orchestrated a deal for quarterback Trevor Siemian (Denver Broncos), giving Mike Zimmer’s team a backup with starting experience. And the NFL’s top-ranked defense in terms of fewest yards allowed and points surrendered this past season got richer when it landed interior presence Sheldon Richardson, who spent 2017 with the Seattle Seahawks.
Offseason Review: There was going to be massive changes when it came to the quarterback position in the Twin Cities and the Vikings not only got their man in the productive Cousins but got a proven backup as well. But the defending NFC North champions did lose their share of experience in free agency and it will be interesting to see how that affects this club. Ditto the departure of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, now the head coach of the New York Giants. You could make a strong case for this now being the most complete team in the league thanks to the addition of Cousins combined with the league’s best defense. Of course, the Vikings are going to have to prove it on the field.