The offseason is a time when teams all around the NFL look to make their teams better through free agency and through the NFL draft. In free agency teams look to fill the needs that are present on their roster, and some teams spend big money in free agency in hopes of cashing in on better on the field performances. The New York Giants had this philosophy just last season spending big and it helped them reach the playoffs. Other teams have tried spending a lot in free agency such as the dream team Philadelphia Eagles in 2011, but fail to play up to what the roster looks like on paper.
The NFL Draft is seen as a better way to build a team, and the draft is a way for teams that are not appealing in free agency to better their team for the present and future. Drafting players is also a much cheaper way to acquire talent than free agency. Rookie contracts are scaled, but in free agency a player’s salary is based off of who is willing to give the free agent player the most money. Acquiring cheap talent for the long term is how teams improve their team well beyond the next season.
Here are 8 teams that got better and 7 teams that got worse during the 2017 NFL offseason:
15 Better: Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins were able to improve their team enough to possibly make it to the playoffs for a second year in a row. They re-signed the productive Kiko Alonso, and signed veteran Lawrence Timmons to bolster the linebacker core. The biggest acquisitions for the Dolphins was getting pass rusher William Hayes from the Los Angeles Rams and tight end Julius Thomas (pictured) from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hayes is capable of getting double digit sacks, and the Dolphins are hopeful Thomas can regain his form from when he was on the Denver Broncos when he was a lethal red zone target.
The Dolphins were able to improve the defensive line when Charles Harris fell to them in the first round. The Dolphins now have a solid defensive line rotation, and although they didn’t make any flashy offseason moves they should be a better team in 2017.
14 Worse: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions were able to improve their offensive line when they signed T.J Lang away from the division rival Green Bay Packers, but other than this move nothing else stood out. The draft was mediocre for the Lions in 2017. With their first selection the Lions picked Jared Davis, an inside linebacker from the University of Florida, which fills a position of need but may not have been the right pick at the moment. The best linebacker in the draft Reuben Foster slipped in the draft and was available for the Lions.
The Lions chose to pass on Foster which could haunt them if he becomes a great player, and they failed to address needs at the skill positions. Matthew Stafford was given help in the form of offensive linemen this offseason, but was given very little help at the running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions.
13 13. Better: Cleveland Browns
The Browns did not make a lot of inroads in free agency losing Terrelle Pryor and replacing him with Kenny Britt. They also made the unsexy signing by improving the guard position on the offensive line, signing Kevin Zeitler, but the draft assured the Browns they will win more than one game next season. They got the consensus number one prospect with the first pick in Myles Garrett. The team then got one of the best tight ends in David Njoku, a Heisman trophy finalist in Jabrill Peppers, and a quarterback with a ton of potential in DeShone Kizer.
The Browns improved their team at many positions, and the team might not be ready to compete in the tough AFC North in 2017, but this draft class could help them become competitive again in the future.
12 Worse: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears had an offseason that left many Chicagoans nervous about the future of their team. They started off free agency with a bang signing Mike Glennon to a huge contract despite his lack of success in the NFL, and then they lost their most dynamic wide receiver in Alshon Jeffrey. They tried to fill that void left at wide receiver with Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright. These two are not on the same level as Jeffrey, and the team lacks a number one receiver making them one of the weakest receiver corps in the league.
The Bears went on to shock everyone at the NFL Draft by trading up one spot and taking quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the second pick in the draft. The lack of commitment to Glennon who is slated to be the starting quarterback comes just a few months after signing him to a big deal.
11 Better: New England Patriots
It's scary when the defending Super Bowl champions get even better. The New England Patriots lacked a first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but that didn’t bother them to much because they traded their pick a way to the New Orleans Saints for 1,000 yard receiver Brandin Cooks. The defending Super Bowl champions already had a prolific offense with Tom Brady leading them to the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. With Cooks in the fold the Patriots should be rated as one of the best teams on the offensive side of the ball, and they also made sure they kept the defense in tact.
They held onto cornerback Malcolm Butler who was gaining interest from the New Orleans Saints. They also acquired Kony Ealy, and the draft gave the Patriots depth guys who have high potential for the future.
10 Worse: Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals had a decent draft, but they made two risky and controversial picks with their first couple of selections. They took wide receiver John Ross with the ninth pick and running back Joe Mixon with their second round pick. Selecting Ross as high as ninth was a bit of a reach, and Joe Mixon is a controversial pick due to his domestic violence history. The Bengals in free agency lost more than they gained. They lost two starting offensive linemen, and Andre Whitworth was one of the better left tackles in football along with being a great veteran presence in the Bengal locker room. The Bengals also lost a lot of veterans on defense and will have a bunch of new starters in 2017.
9 Better: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be a popular sleeper team coming into the 2017 NFL season, and it is because of all the improvements they have made on paper in free agency and in the draft. They were able to get another quality wide receiver in DeSean Jackson to pair up with All Pro Mike Evans. Jackson is one of the best deep threats in football, and the Bucs passing game could open up holes for the Tampa Bay running backs. When O.J Howard fell to the Bucs at no.19 it gave them yet another weapon on offense to pair with their other above average tight end Cameron Brate. With the progression of Jameis Winston on the rise, the Bucs could have one of the best offenses in football in 2017.
8 Worse: Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks' biggest weakness in 2016 was their atrocious offensive line. In free agency the Seahawks gave Luke Joeckl, who is coming off a season in which he only played in five games due to tearing his ACL, a one year, $8 million contract. That’s a lot of money to be giving someone who has underperformed and is coming off an injury. They also signed running back Eddie Lacy, who has underperformed since being a high draft pick of the Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks also did not have a great haul in the 2017 NFL draft. They did not do much to improve the offensive line, and selected a defensive tackle with their first selection in the draft. Defensive tackle Malik McDowell was a risky first pick who many feel could be a potential bust.
7 Better: Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles seem to always win in free agency, and the 2017 offseason has seen the team improve their weakest position on offense. Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith will improve a receiving core that ranked towards the bottom of the NFL last year. They improved the offense through free agency, and then they turned to the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia to better the defensive side of the ball. Their first selection Derek Barnett is a defensive end that has been compared to former All Pro Terrell Suggs.
The Eagles also took a risk by taking Sydney Jones in the second round who tore his Achilles at his pro day, and if not for the injury would have been one of the first one or two cornerbacks taken in the draft. The Eagles look like they could potentially win more in 2017 than the previous season.
6 Worse: New York Jets
The New York Jets made one significant signing in getting left tackle Kelvin Beachum, but there was much more news worthy releases by the team. Big names such as Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, and Nick Mangold were all cut from the team, and the goal was to have a successful draft and get younger. The Jets have a lot of deficiencies at lots of positions on the roster. This made it confusing as to why the Jets drafted safety, safety, wide receiver, and wide receiver in that order at the 2017 NFL Draft, and their lack of position diversity in early selections will make it difficult for this team to compete in the short term. Their first selection of safety Jamal Adams was one of the few bright spots of the Jets 2017 offseason.
5 Better: New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints had a quietly good 2017 offseason. The team didn’t make a huge splash in free agency, but they made headlines when they traded away 1,000 yard receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots for the 32nd pick in the NFL draft. Cooks is in the last year of his contract which made him expendable for the Saints. The Saints also have depth at the wide receiver position with Michael Thomas and Willie Snead in the fold, and they were able to draft one of the best offensive tackles in the draft in Ryan Ramcyzk with the pick they got from the Patriots.
The Saints' best move that will immediately improve their secondary was getting the best cornerback in the draft in Marshon Lattimore.
4 Worse: Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were able to get left tackle Andrew Whitworth to protect Jared Goff’s blindside, but there were not any other moves that greatly improved the team. The Rams traded away one of their best pass rushers in William Hayes who had accumulated over 30 sacks in the past five seasons. The Rams now are thin at defensive end, and the drafting of a developmental player such as outside linebacker Samson Ebukam will not help the Rams get pressure on the quarterback in 2017.
Arguably the best pick by the Rams was tight end Gerald Everett out of South Alabama. Everett is almost receiver like as a tight end, but it is unknown whether he will be able to be competitive at the NFL level after not playing college football at a big time program.
3 Better: Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst offensive lines in football last year because of the numerous injuries that their offensive linemen endured during 2016. They went out in free agency and addressed their biggest weakness by signing left tackle Riley Reiff, and they also improved the running game in free agency by signing Latavius Murray. The Vikings did not have a first round pick in 2017 because of the deal that got them Sam Bradford. This did not stop the Vikings from drafting a first round talent in Dalvin Cook early in the second round, and the Vikings drafted two offensive linemen in Pat Elflein and Danny Isidora that could start right away. The Vikings directly addressed their needs this offseason which should lead to improvement in 2017.
2 Worse: Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs lost Dontari Poe in free agency which is hard to replace, but former Philadelphia Eagle Bennie Logan can provide the Chiefs with stability at the nose tackle position. Logan isn’t an upgrade or much of a downgrade from what Poe was able to produce. The draft saw the Chiefs draft on potential, and most players that are drafted based on potential can be huge risks. It is amazing that a team that was one or two plays away from making it to the AFC Championship game last year chose to draft a quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, and although Mahomes could be a great signal caller in the future he will not help the team improve next season with Alex Smith still manning the starting role.
1 Better: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers lost Jared Cook who made a memorable catch for the Packers in the divisional round of the 2016 playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys, but they brought in Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks to fill the void left at the tight end position. They were also able to sign Davon House to help a secondary that struggled last year. The Packers lost more than they gained in free agency, but they brought in an impressive haul from the 2017 NFL Draft. They got a day one starter in Kevin King at the cornerback position early in the second round and doubled down on secondary help in the second round with the selection of safety Josh Jones.
It will be tough to improve on an appearance in the NFC championship game but if anyone can do it it’s Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
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