Super Bowls aren’t won in March, but teams can absolutely better themselves in the early stages of the offseason – particularly in free agency. Although the biggest spenders don’t always see their investments result in an increase in wins (see: Jaguars), holes on the roster need to be filled, and there are only seven rounds in the draft.
As far as this offseason goes, a lot of money has been spent already. The Jaguars, for example, have dished out more money than any other team, spending $168 million on free agents thus far. The Steelers, on the other hand, haven’t improved much at all, having spent just $6.45 million.
Jacksonville is among the most improved teams of the offseason, as are these other six squads.
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New York Giants
The Giants revamped their defense last year, but this offseason was about addressing the declining offense. By signing Brandon Marshall, Eli Manning now has a big possession receiver opposite Odell Beckham Jr., and a much-needed red-zone threat. D.J. Fluker can compete at both guard and tackle, while Rhett Ellison is a versatile H-back and can ease the pain of New York not having a real weapon at tight end.
The Giants still need a starting running back – Shaun Draughn probably won’t beat out Paul Perkins – and the left tackle spot is still a concern, but the Giants took steps in the right direction this past month. They’ll once again be contenders in the NFC East.
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The Colts took guarded chances this offseason with their handful of signings. They’ve spent only $63 million, but the potential return on their investments is large. John Simon is an underrated linebacker with pass-rush ability, while Jabaal Sheard will step in right away at defensive end and put up about seven sacks, if not more. Margus Hunt, a massive defensive end, can also be a role player.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts added Kamar Aiken, a one-year wonder with the Ravens who has the potential to eclipse 1,000 yards in Indianapolis. All of these players will make the Colts better in one way or another as they look to bounce back from missing the playoffs in back-to-back years.
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Quality over quantity: motto of the Ravens’ offseason. It didn’t take much, but the Ravens got much better this offseason with the signing of four players. Tony Jefferson will step in right away and be a perfect complement to Eric Weddle, Brandon Williams will assume his role as a productive run-stopper, Danny Woodhead can be a dynamic third-down back and Brandon Carr will never miss a play.
That’s four productive players added to the roster in a matter of a week, which is a huge win for Baltimore. Replacing Ricky Wagner will be difficult, but the Ravens’ other additions will outweigh his departure. And they still have time to find his replacement in the draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston might be the biggest winner of the offseason thus far as Bucs GM Jason Licht finally gave him a deep threat in DeSean Jackson. The Buccaneers were one of the worst teams in the league last season when it came to big plays, but Jackson’s presence, despite being 30 years old.
Additionally, the Bucs added Chris Baker, a bully on the inside, as well as J.J. Wilcox, who will be an enforcer in the secondary. The Buccaneers could still use a few more playmakers on defense, but the offense is gearing up to be a dangerous unit, and it’s largely thanks to the addition of Jackson.
The Browns have been the laughing stock of the NFL for years, and it might not change any time soon. However, Sashi Brown and the front office are trying to do everything they can to alter that sad narrative. This offseason, their priority was fixing an offense that was anemic, namely the offensive line.
The Browns signed J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler to long-term deals, while also extending Joel Bitonio. Sure, the loss of Terrelle Pryor will hurt, but they did their best to ease the burden by signing Kenny Britt. The Browns still have a long way to go, but by adding starters on the offensive line, they already improved greatly.
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New England Patriots
The Patriots improved drastically this offseason, and not just with their outside signings. Yes, Stephon Gilmore, Lawrence Guy and Rex Burkhead will all have an impact this season, but the Patriots did most of their work on the trade market. By landing Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Kony Ealy, the Patriots improved at each of those three spots while also getting younger.
Not to mention, the Patriots were able to retain Dont'a Hightower after he visited the Jets and Steelers. Many would say New England “won the offseason,” which should come as no surprise with Bill Belichick orchestrating the roster.
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Say what you will about the Jaguars, but they’re certainly not afraid to spend in free agency. For the second year in a row, the Jaguars doled out big bucks, signing A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell and Barry Church. The Jags are going all in on defense, and it’s actually going to work.
With guys like Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Dante Fowler Jr., Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson already in place, the Jaguars are only getting better on that side of the ball. And with the addition of Branden Albert, they’ll also get help on the offensive line.
The Jaguars already had a top defense, so adding Bouye, Campbell and Church will make them scary good.