Thursday, August 11, 2011

NFL Offseason - Winners

With the preseason commencing tonight, football is officially back. The lockout was some degree of painful for all of us but the general consensus was that there was no way the United States of America was going a year without football and the players and owners eventually compromised. Then an epic free agent signing period happened with seemingly five different huge moves happening on a daily basis, one right after the other. So who came out of it the best and who significantly weakened? My team's in one of those columns and it's not the good one! Off we go.


1) Philadelphia Eagles. I mean, duh. Nnamdi Asomugha would be enough for this category but they also fleeced the Cardinals in to giving up a Pro Bowl cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as well as a second round pick for their long-awaited Kevin Kolb experiment. The great thing about having Nnamdi and DRC across from each other? They're like Revis and Cromartie in that they play off each other's strengths. Nnamdi takes away half the field, which benefits DRC since he gets far more ballhawking opportunities, which he's among the best in the league at and just entering his prime, unlike the singularly named Cromartie who's exiting it. Oh and the Eagles only added Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown and the Giants' Steve Smith. They even took chances that guys like Donald Lee and Johnnie Lee Higgins can be key contributors like they were at points in Green Bay and Oakland respectively. If Smith is anywhere near the receiver he was with the Giants and ditto Brown the RB he was with the Dolphins, this Eagles offense has "Greatest Show on Turf" potential. But apart from Nnamdi, the biggest addition might be Babin, a Pro Bowl pass rushing specialist who will combine with Trent Cole to form one of the nastiest pass rushes in the league. They didn't just shore up needs, they shored them up concretely with Pro Bowl caliber players and they're now a bona fida Super Bowl contender and arguably the favorite out of the NFC. This would be the best offseason by a country mile if not for...

2) New England Patriots. Another "duh." Now their acquisitions are obviously far riskier than Philly's but it's gotten to the point where the Pats can basically trust Bill Belichick and company to straighten out any potential clubhouse cancers. As a Ravens fan, I know something about that with Ray Lewis leading our clubhouse for over a decade but with Belichick and the whole system he's set up, it could be more pronounced. Plus, the Patriots are a proven dynasty - three titles in the last decade, a fourth conference championship and a playoff team every year, often with a first round bye. But they know things have fallen off a bit - Brady and Belichick haven't won a playoff game since the 2007 AFC Championship and they've developed a knack for either meltdowns (2009 Wild Card round), flat performance against a team they've previously dominated (2010 Divisional round) or both (2006 AFC Championship, second half.) But now they've become proactive by bringing in two potentially game-changing signings in Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. The optimist would argue the above Belichick point as well as the fact that both seemed to be unhappy in their old situations and now they're where they want to be. The pessimist would say that Haynesworth is more or less a fat shit who's lazy, immature and plays only for a fat contract, while Ochocinco's best years are well behind him. I think they'll get more production out of Ocho than Haynesworth but both were gambles the Pats could afford to take. But their best acquisition might be swiping Shaun Ellis from the Jets. Ellis is far more well known than Danny Woodhead was this time last year, but he could prove to be a similar swing in the rivalry. And then of course yesterday they locked up Logan Mankins for six years at a cost-controlled price - only among the best linemen in the league who revitalized their line last season after his holdout ended. They've sent a message to both their loud-mouthed rivals in New York as well as the rest of the league that they're not going anywhere.

3) Kansas City Chiefs. How do you respond to a team whipping you on your home field in the playoffs? You pillage them in the offseason. Kelly Gregg, Le'Ron McClain and today, Jared Gaither have all deported Baltimore for KC. Gregg will be 35 in November but for now, he's the 3-4 nose tackle the Chiefs have so desperately needed since Glenn Dorsey was a shocking bust at the position. McClain will be a terrific blocker for Jamaal Charles and can take some of the load off him if used properly (so differently than Cam Cameron), particularly in short yardage situations. And Gaither is a terrific left tackle who gives Todd Haley the option of moving Branden Albert to the right side, which he will likely exercise. But the biggest addition might be Steve Breaston. If first round pick Jonathan Baldwin pans out immediately, Breaston will make an absolutely deadly slot receiver. If he doesn't then Breaston gives the Chiefs a much-needed safety net and perhaps that would pave the way for Dexter McCluster to move in to the slot. A 3B unit of Bowe, Baldwin and Breaston could give KC one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the league. And Brandon Siler should push third-year-veteran Jovan Belcher at linebacker and provide more depth for what's slowly becoming one of the scarier linebacker corps in the league. This team's getting better and better and should be right there with the Chargers for the AFC West title, even if San Diego plays like it's capable of.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars. These guys perennially fly under the radar but they've had an fantastic offseason while you probably weren't looking. Paul Posluszny will be the anchor of that defense at middle linebacker and signing him was a terrific bit of business. Dawan Landry might not be the same player he was before his season-ending injury a couple years ago and the Ravens defense isn't what it used to be, but he was still second in tackles last year and will fill a gaping hole for the Jags at safety. Ditto Clint Session, who should start immediately although I'm always wary of a team letting a player go to its division rival (see McNabb trade last year.) And Drew Coleman adds depth to the secondary and he can do a little bit of everything with 41 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and a pick with the Jets last year. This was already an underrated team that many forget led the AFC South for a good chunk of last year before blowing the Indy game at home. Now they've only gotten better and with their franchise QB in place after this year's draft, they look like they're going all in for the division title.

No comments:

Post a Comment