The NFL's Most & Least Improved Teams This Offseason
In one of the most entertaining and chaotic NFL offseasons in recent memory we have seen a lot of crazy trades and draft picks that have shifted the power in professional football. Many teams have gone from irrelevant to contender level and in this blog, we are going to talk about the teams that improved the most and some that fell off a cliff.
To me, the Bears are the perfect choice for the least improved category. Now they were not anything close to contenders or even the playoffs but after cleaning house on the sidelines and in the front office it felt like a new era had begun in the Windy City, especially with an exciting potential franchise quarterback in Justin Fields. The Bears hired Ryan Poles from the Chiefs to be their new GM and also hired former Colts DC Matt Eberflus to be the new head coach. Before the offseason began it felt like Bears fans were hoping for a "retooling" instead of a full rebuild but instead the rebuild button was hit. To start his new term as GM, Poles traded defensive centerpiece Khalil Mack in a salary dump to the Chargers for second and seventh-round picks and let Allen Robinson, Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Jakeem Grant, and Tarik Cohen walk in Free Agency. They also did not have a first-round pick in this year's draft because of the trade to move up and get Fields in last year's draft.
With that being said, it was not expected for the Bears to suddenly move into championship contention level but in a division that only got stronger, the Bears failed to make moves to make them competitive and to strengthen the future of the franchise. While Fields is something to feel good about, the rest of the team is not and they better hope Mr. Fields is everything they hoped for, or else this team might hover around mediocrity forever.
This one should be fairly obvious, losing Russell Wilson automatically puts the Seahawks in a tough spot but they did get a fairly good return on investment in the trade with Denver. The Seahawks could be in a much worse situation, but getting a very average quarterback like Drew Lock, an excellent young tight end in Noah Fant, and a veteran presence on the defensive line in Shelby Harris is a very good trade for the Seahawks. We haven't even mentioned all the picks the Broncos sent as well. One of which they finally used on the offensive line, drafting tackle Charles Cross with the ninth pick in this year's draft. But there are still several issues with this team, the most glaring one is what is Seattle going to do with DK Metcalf? Metcalf is entering the final year of his rookie contract and if you have been paying attention this offseason, Metcalf is going to get PAID. Whether it is Seattle paying him or someone else is the bigger question. DK's name has been the topic of trade rumors for quite a bit of time now and he has been adamant that he expects to get an extension done with the Seahawks. While this is possible now that Wilson is gone, the other thing to ponder is that Wilson is gone and if Metcalf isn't sure if he wants to stay and play for Drew Lock or Geno Smith he could lay down an ultimatum of give me an ultra super max extension like Tyreek Hill or Davante Adams or trade me. They also lost a Seahawk legend in Bobby Wagner, who signed with the division rival & defending Super Bowl Champion Rams, and their defense is still an issue. The identity of this team is a huge question mark but no doubt they have declined significantly.
The Falcons are in the same category as the Bears, they were not a playoff team but they sure did decline this offseason. The obvious losses are Matt Ryan (traded to Colts) and Calvin Ridley (season-long suspension). But they also lost a couple of key starters like Russell Gage, Foye Oluokun, Dante Fowler, and Hayden Hurst (not a starter but a key backup at TE). They completely hit the reset button and are trying to build a solid young team with guys like Kyle Pitts and AJ Terrell, Atlanta drafted WR Drake London from USC who will help an extremely weakened receiving core. Replacing Matt Ryan will be a tough task, they signed veteran QB Marcus Mariota and drafted Desmond Ridder from Cincinnati in the third round. Neither of those guys is franchise quarterbacks as of now but it will very interesting to see how the Falcons perform this season in a division that will most likely be the Buccaneers to lose.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are an interesting choice for the least improved. Unlike these other teams, they are very much still a playoff & Super Bowl-caliber team. With that being said the Chiefs declined a lot this offseason with the obvious loss of star WR Tyreek Hill, who they traded to the Dolphins due to disagreement over contract discussions. They also lost a couple of key defensive starters like Tyrann Mathieu (signed with New Orleans), Chardavious Ward (signed with 49ers), and Melvin Ingram (signed with Miami). Trying to replace Tyreek Hill is a tough task especially when you have a Mahomes who is a top 3 QB in this league. Kansas City tried to fill the holes at the receiver by signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They did a couple of good things in the draft by taking DB Trent McDuffie & EDGE George Karlaftis in the first round, and Kansas City also took WR Skyy Moore in the second round. The Chiefs will still be a contending team but in a division that got MUCH better, it will be much harder to grab another division title after the Broncos, Chargers, and Raiders all got significantly better.
The Titans are in such an interesting position. They traded AJ Brown to the Eagles and replaced him with WR Treylon Burks from Arkansas in the draft. They also lost a couple of starters in Pro Bowl guard Rodger Saffold, Anthony Firkser, and Rashaan Evans. Tennessee was the number one seed in last year's playoffs before they lost to the eventual AFC Champion Bengals and after all these moves getting back to the first seed in the playoffs is not likely. Derrick Henry will probably still be a beast but he did break his foot halfway through last season, Ryan Tannehill was never fantastic but expect his play to continue to regress. They also drafted QB Malik Willis in the third round, who was said to be the biggest boom or bust quarterback prospect in this year's draft. During a press conference after the draft, Tannehill said that it "was not his job" to mentor Willis, so don't be surprised if a potential QB controversy happens in Tennessee. The AFC South will be a weird division this season with the Colts and Jaguars getting better.
The Broncos will be a different team than last year. The trade for Russell Wilson is going to make the Broncos a million times better. They haven't had a QB close to Wilson's caliber since Peyton Manning and Wilson is younger and not as banged up as Manning was upon his arrival which should excite Bronco fans. Wilson immediately has a way better offensive line and an offense that is much more well-rounded than Seattle last year. They have a great backfield with Javonte Williams, who showed a ton of promise last year, and Melvin Gordon who resigned in free agency. The receiving core of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler, and Tim Patrick will do wonders for Russ this season and it will be a very fun team to watch in the strongest division in football. Adding Russell Wilson helps, but a young team that was solid last season will continue to develop and get better. Wilson was the biggest addition but the Broncos made another big splash by signing edge rusher Randy Gregory away from the Cowboys to make their defense even better. Watch out for the Broncos this season, if Wilson returns to his usual superstar level of play the Broncos very well could mess around and win the whole thing.
The Eagles are the biggest question mark of the bunch. As an Eagles fan, it is in my completely (un)biased opinion that the Eagles are the most intriguing team heading into the season. They added numerous playmakers on both sides of the ball in the draft and free agency, names like AJ Brown, Haason Reddick, Zach Pascal, Kyzir White, Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, and James Bradberry. Not to mention resigning Fletcher Cox, Anthony Harris, Jason Kelce, Boston Scott, and Derek Barnett (lol). The Eagles quickly went from pretenders to contenders this offseason and in a division that is young and only getting better, the Eagles made sure to keep up the pace and not only did they keep pace but they passed the Giants and Cowboys. Philly will be in contention for the division title yet again and for the first time since the Super Bowl win, the future of this team feels secure. They upgraded almost every position of need and they are giving Jalen Hurts one more year to prove it. If Hurts is the guy then great. If not, GM Howie Roseman punted one of the three first-round picks they had before this year's draft to next year which they can use to get a quarterback in next year's draft, which is expected to be way better than this year. Watch out for the Birds, it's hard not to be incredibly excited for this team who might be a sleeper contender.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are going to be so interesting this season, they made two big splashes when they signed edge rusher Chandler Jones and traded for WR Davante Adams which helped them stay in contention with all the other AFC West powerhouses. They gave Derek Carr and Maxx Crosby huge extensions, hired Josh McDaniels to be their head coach, and added a lot of great pieces on both sides of the ball like Demarcus Robinson, Rock Ya-Sin, Brandon Bolden, Johnathan Hankins, and Keelan Cole. Carr getting his college teammate, Adams, will help take the Raiders from being happy about just making the playoffs to hopefully next year taking this team to the next level.
I cannot wait to see the Dolphins play this season, it feels like they have the highest boom or bust possibility of any team this season. After firing Brian Flores, Miami hired former Kyle Shanahan disciple and 49ers OC Mike McDaniels who might bring extra gear to this offense that has the potential to light the NFL on fire. They added so many players this offseason including Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, Melvin Ingram, Chase Edmunds, Raheem Mostert, Cedrick Wilson Jr., and Teddy Bridgewater. Miami also made sure to resign key players like Xavien Howard, Mike Gesicki, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Byron Jones. The AFC East is likely the Bills' division to lose but Miami has certainly made sure to remind the Patriots and Bills to not forget about them. After a weird and disappointing season that made Dolphins fans question Tua and everything else, now it's put up or shut up time in Miami.
The Browns are so weird but all the Deshaun Watson stuff aside, this team improved this offseason. As I just mentioned, the Browns mortgaged their future in the trade for Watson, even with all the pending legal stuff, they also traded for WR Amari Cooper. The Browns were in desperation mode after seeing the success of the Bengals last season and the Steelers and Ravens continuing to get better. While Cleveland still has to figure out what to do with Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson, if the latter player does play most of the season these Browns could surprise some people. Their defense is still very good with Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward being the pillars, they also resigned Jadeveon Clowney. The Browns still have a lot to figure out before the season starts but the potential of this team is incredibly intriguing.
Los Angeles Chargers
So, the Chargers might be this year's Bengals. Hot take right out of the gate but they really could make a Super Bowl if things come together. They added Khalil Mack and JC Jackson to the defense as well as Kyle Van Noy and Sebastian Joseph-Day, Not to mention star safety Derwin James is finally healthy and can continue to be an All-Pro player. LA resigned Mike Williams as well and the Chargers could take a major leap with Justin Herbert potentially on the brink of a breakout season. In the middle of a division that got better with almost every team finally catching up to Kansas City, the Chargers feel like the team that improved the most and can seriously contend for a championship.
All of this is hypothetical and just the ramblings of an NFL fan, just like you reading this now, and I cannot wait to see how wrong or right I will be after this season ends. Let us know in the comments what you think of my lists.