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Five Best Nfl Offseasons


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Five best NFL Offseasons

A month ago, I was handing out my grades for the 2013 NFL draft. But NFL offseasons aren't just about the draft, because a number of teams already looked a lot different before the draft than they did in Week 17 of last season.

I saw a number of cases where I felt what teams did in free agency clearly shifted how they approached the draft. When I talk to teams, I know they try to approach the draft with talent in mind and try not to overvalue what's already on the roster, but in a league where patience doesn't really exist, immediate help -- in the form of free agency or the draft -- matters.

You can't tell me that the presence of Alex Smith in Kansas City doesn't at least marginally shift the way the Chiefs evaluated the 2013 draft class when it came to quarterbacks. Each process of evaluation affects the other.

I saw at least a dozen teams that I could have picked for this list. But I was asked for five. So here you go: These are teams I think -- through the combination of the draft and free agency -- have been the most successful in upgrading their talent this offseason.

Kansas City Chiefs

Draft pick I liked: The pick of Eric Fisher at No. 1 overall is the biggest story, and it made sense because John Dorsey and Andy Reid know the success of Smith is directly tied to how good that offensive line is, both in protection and the run game. But another pick I liked was Nico Johnson at No. 99 overall. I had inside linebacker as a big need for them, and I think Johnson can play right away next to Derrick Johnson.

Personnel move I liked: Smith has always drawn mixed reactions as a quarterback. But whether you love him or hate him, he's a bona fide starter in this league and was having a good 2012 season before a concussion sidelined him and ushered in the Colin Kaepernick era. When you consider the dearth of ready-to-start quarterbacks in the draft, that the Chiefs got Smith for a second-round pick doesn't look bad at all. If he's effective, the Chiefs aced that move.

Big question remaining: For me, it's whether Dontari Poe can establish himself as a nose tackle worthy of his 2012 draft spot. If he does, this defense could take a big step forward. Also, does Jonathan Baldwin break out in 2013?

Bottom line: I expect the Chiefs to be much, much better than their 2012 record, and a .500 finish isn't out of the question.

St. Louis Rams

Draft pick I liked: I love the combo St. Louis pulled off when it drafted college teammates Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. It was Bailey who actually caught more passes (113 to 111) and had more receiving yards (1,627 to 1,287) than Austin last year at West Virginia. That doesn't make him a better player, but between that and his workouts, he showed he's a weapon capable of creating space when eyes are on Austin. Sam Bradford could benefit. Alec Ogletree at No. 30 was also a borderline steal. He's an immediate starter.

Personnel move I liked: It took a while, but getting Jake Long out of Miami fills a big void at left tackle. You're betting on health, but the Rams could be better at both tackle spots this season -- and they need to be, because Bradford hasn't reacted well in the face of pressure.

Big question remaining: It's all on Bradford now. The Rams have weapons in place in the passing game, and the offensive line should be improved.

Bottom line: This is a team that could have an absolutely loaded roster in terms of its overall talent profile by this point next year. In fact, it's already among the NFL's most talented. If Bradford takes a step forward, the Rams can compete with Seattle and San Francisco (whom they went 2-1-1 against last season). If Bradford doesn't, his job should be in jeopardy heading into 2014.

Baltimore Ravens

Draft pick I liked: You can't do better than Baltimore did with its first two picks in terms of knocking out needs with players ready to help. Matt Elam (safety) and Arthur Brown (linebacker) step in immediately for roles vacated by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, and while you won't see it in the locker room, the defense should be better because of it.

Personnel move I liked: As messy as it was in Denver, Baltimore's move to swoop in and grab a proven pass-rusher like Elvis Dumervil was both masterful and seemingly par for the course for this front office. Remember that Baltimore can't grab Dumervil if it does things like break the bank to retain Paul Kruger (Cleveland) or Dannell Ellerbe (Miami). I felt like the market might have overvalued those two a little after the Super Bowl.

Big question remaining: Matt Williamson pointed to it in his offseason grades, but the Ravens are pretty light at wide receiver. Torrey Smith is really difficult to cover, but beyond that, they need to hope for consistency from Jacoby Jones or a potential breakthrough from a guy like Tandon Doss or perhaps rookie Aaron Mellette. Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson should see a lot of targets.

Bottom line: They lost a lot, but I don't think they're any worse. You don't have to love Joe Flacco, but he's proved he can help them win at the highest level and he's now locked in. No team assumes it can play for Super Bowls year in and year out. The best you can do is give yourself a chance to compete for them; the Ravens do that as well as any organization.

Atlanta Falcons

Draft pick I liked: Give Thomas Dimitroff credit for a classic draft double-down. The Falcons were desperate for cornerback help, and they traded up for one immediate starter in Desmond Trufant and picked another guy who can help early in Robert Alford. Big need, big fix.

Personnel move I liked: People are going to shrug at the additions of Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora, but when you're a veteran team that feels like you need just a piece or two to be playing in the Super Bowl, these are the little moves that can make a difference. They needed a running back with something left and a pass-rusher with the same. They're too good to draft high, not bad enough to tear it apart. I liked the moves and the constant push to get to a Super Bowl when it's not that easy to make any kind of huge improvement to the roster.

Big question remaining: Can the defense hold up at the point of attack? The Falcons could be run on last year, and they have a capable pass rush but not a scary one. This looks a like a team that will have to

outscore teams with good offenses.

Bottom line: They did what they could to tune up a strong but imperfect roster. But this is a team again capable of competing to play for and win a Super Bowl, and it's the third straight year we can say that. I don't know if people realize how tough it is to be in that position year after year.

Arizona Cardinals

Draft pick I liked: The Cardinals got the player I think has the best chance to go to a Pro Bowl as a rookie. Jonathan Cooper isn't going to maul defenders in the run game, but he's a complete guard who further strengthens an offensive line that quietly made huge strides down the stretch last season. Yes, we're all interested to see Tyrann Mathieu and how he might transition to safety, which is really just a form of slot corner depending on the package, but Cooper provides immediate dividends.

Personnel move I liked: Hey, you don't have to love Carson Palmer, but the Cardinals have been a disaster at quarterback for two years and are wasting the late peak of Larry Fitzgerald's career in the process. Palmer still makes decisions that don't live up to his talent profile, but if you protect him and give him any kind of running game, he's a big step forward from what the Cardinals had. It's not really a debate. And they basically paid nothing in terms of draft value and simply have to write Palmer his sizable checks.

Big question remaining: It's really about Palmer and how well he's protected. The growth of Bobby Massie wasn't a fluke because he was a talented but raw player.

Bottom line: The Cardinals could compete to win other divisions. Like the Rams, though, they could be cast as a noncompetitor in the NFC West. This defense has a chance to be really tough, and I don't think any team will come to Arizona this year and assume a road victory.

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Top 5 offseason, but everyone says we will take a step backwards. Interesting analysis. Just goes to show these people have no clue what theyre talking about.

Who's to say he's right though? Don't get me wrong, I tend to agree with him and I feel the Falcons are again going to compete for the Super Bowl, but this is just one guy's opinion.

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Who's to say he's right though? Don't get me wrong, I tend to agree with him and I feel the Falcons are again going to compete for the Super Bowl, but this is just one guy's opinion.

Completely valid point, but can one guy say Top 5, and the rest say bellow average(Which is what it would take for everyone to say were taking a step backwards)? Im pretty sure you would have to say the consensus would have to fall between average and above average. Anything less than that is just hating(Warren Sapp....).

All this to say, if our offseason was average or above average, the Falcons either stayed the course or got better. It is ridiculous to say they are going to take a "step backwards"

I will admit 10-11 wins is likely, but that isnt according to the offseason as some of the articles I have read say. If we move back it will be because of the schedule and luck. Not because of our offseason.

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More so than the additions for me I believe alot of improvement will come from within the roster with regards to two things.

1. I have belief in all of our coaches.

2. Another year in scheme on both sides of the ball I think everyone's comfort levels will be higher allowing everyone to play faster.

To me the off season additions are like a bonus we are lucky that we grabbed experienced vets like Umenyiora & Jackson this will accelerate there learning process which is a bonus.

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