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Friday, September 20, 2019

10 NFL teams that have improved the most this offseason

John Dorsey

The active part of the NFL offseason is now over. There will be some more cap casualties and other late moves, but the bulk of free agency is finished, and the draft is in the rearview mirror. That means the players that will be competing for jobs in minicamps and training camp are by and large in place.

Which teams have improved the most? Many have tried, but only a handful have done a really good job improving their rosters from where they were at the end of the 2018 season. Here are the ten teams that have done the best with it.

10. Arizona Cardinals

Toward the end of the 2018 season, Arizona’s offense, in particular, was borderline unwatchable, lacking much in the way of a passing or running game. Kliff Kingsbury’s arrival is expected to help the passing side of things, and while much can be said of the team’s handling of the Josh Rosen situation, Kyler Murray is more in line with what he wants to do. The likes of Jordan Hicks and Terrell Suggs should help the defense, while cornerback Byron Murphy could be a good value pick at the start of the second round. The Cardinals won’t be great, but they’ll be better.

9. Detroit Lions

The Lions made their biggest splash in free agency, adding the likes of Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman, and Danny Amendola early in the process. They rounded that off by making tight end T.J. Hockenson their first round pick in the hope that he immediately offers another option to quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions showed progress defensively late last year as their offense stagnated. If the latter trend reverses, they’ll be a team to watch.

8. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles needed to be smart this offseason after taking a step back in 2018, especially with the necessity of a new Carson Wentz big-money contract lurking just beyond the horizon. The offense should be significantly improved with DeSean Jackson and Jordan Howard joining the team, while Malik Jackson and Vinny Curry will be great for the defense. They spent the first pick of their draft on offensive line help in Andre Dillard, while adding offensive depth for Wentz with their next two picks, including wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside. They’ve had a fine offseason.

7. Green Bay Packers

The Packers needed help on all sides of the ball after a poor 2018, with Aaron Rodgers essentially the only reliable fixture on the roster. With that many spots to fill, the Packers would have been hard-pressed not to improve. Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage, their first two draft picks, are both going to have a chance to start, and they come on the heels of a free agency period that saw the likes of Za’Darius Smith and Adrian Amos join the defense. Rodgers will have to carry the offense, but this year’s defensive additions — long a problem for Green Bay — might just stick.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars

A great 2017 gave way to a collapse in 2018 for the Jaguars, and they’ve acted aggressively to try to return to the playoffs. Landing Josh Allen at No. 7 simply solidifies a front seven that could be the best in the league, and Nick Foles should be superior to Blake Bortles at the quarterback position. Foles is really the key here. If he performs like he did during his Philadelphia Eagles tenure, a return trip to the playoffs seems likely, at the very least.

5. Buffalo Bills

The Bills have aggressively addressed their offensive shortcomings this offeason, making them a huge priority in both free agency and the draft. Cole Beasley, John Brown, and Tyler Kroft joined as receiving options, while the offensive line has been addressed with Mitch Morse as the most notable move. Adding Ed Oliver with their top pick is an outstanding move for the defense, while depth picks like Devin Singletary will also help Josh Allen under center. Buffalo is building an offense, slowly but surely.

4. New York Jets

With one of the least talented rosters in the NFL last year, the Jets had nowhere to go but up. They finally completed the long-speculated signing of Le’Veon Bell as their offensive centerpiece, while working to give Sam Darnold weapons like Jamison Crowder. The defense was also addressed, both via free agency with C.J. Mosley and in the draft via Quinnen Williams, who may prove to be the best player selected by any team. The Jets may not be a winner yet, but it’s clear they have a plan now and are on the right track.

3. San Francisco 49ers

Last season was supposed to be the breakthrough for San Francisco, but Jimmy Garoppolo’s knee injury derailed a lot of their early hopes and ambitions. Garoppolo should be healthy for the season and even more ready to take on the expectations in San Francisco, and he’ll do so with a lot of new teammates. Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander are two huge additions defensively, and Nick Bosa, the second overall pick, is going to be an impact player quickly. Add in Tevin Coleman and Jordan Matthews on offense and you could have a playoff contender if everyone stays healthy.

2. Oakland Raiders

Mike Mayock, Jon Gruden, and the Raiders had draft picks and cap space to burn, and they used both. Antonio Brown is the headliner and will immediately change the face of the offense, while draft pick Josh Jacobs should slot immediately into the starting running back role. Lamarcus Joyner will help the defense, and Vontaze Burfict will, too, if he can stay on the field and play to his capabilities. Fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell felt like a reach, but the Raiders will get away with it if he can contribute quickly.

1. Cleveland Browns

Cleveland’s offseason has been so good that the words “Super Bowl” are being tossed around. That may be premature, the “playoffs” certainly wouldn’t be. Odell Beckham’s arrival gives Baker Mayfield a world-beating weapon, while Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon should give them a fearsome defensive line. They may not even be done improving their D-line yet. Kareem Hunt will likely be a factor late in the season after coming off his suspension after Week 8. Even without a first-round pick due to the Beckham trade, the Browns managed to add help in the draft, landing highly-rated cornerback Greedy Williams in the second round, a potential starter. They’re well-positioned for legitimate contention at this point.



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