NFL Handicapping: Best and Worst Offseasons
by Trevor Whenham - 4/9/2012
We are, with a few exceptions, at the end of NFL free agency in a meaningful sense. Now we’re just waiting for the draft to start. In this short lull in the NFL offseason it’s a good opportunity to look at what teams have improved themselves significantly so far, and which ones have had a regrettable offseason (all odds are from Bovada):
Denver Broncos (12/1 to win the Super Bowl)
When you win the most hotly-contested, closely-watched derby for a single player in memory you obviously have had a good offseason regardless of what else happens.
Getting Manning was the big move, but not the only noteworthy one. The marriage between John Elway and Tim Tebow was not going to work long-term, and Elway shrewdly managed to find the only possible way to end it without suffering any real negativity — and his team likely became more competitive as a result.
Outside of those two moves it hasn’t been a big offseason, but it has been solid — and the addition of Tracy Porter was potentially brilliant.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (75/1)
Sometimes too much cap space can be a bad thing because it causes teams to spend foolishly. The Bucs had only about half of their cap committed heading into free agency, but they have managed to spend the money pretty well.
Their biggest need was to get the offense back on track. They added a big-time receiver in Vincent Jackson, and a real-deal guard in Carl Nicks. That should boost both the passing and running games. They also brought in corner Eric Wright and re-signed Ronde Barber, so the uncertainty surrounding Aqib Talib isn’t a concern anymore — if he is able to contribute then it’s a bonus.
Buffalo Bills (60/1)
It has been a long, long time since the Bills have had any real swagger — probably since Drew Bledsoe arrived in town. The swagger is back now, though, after one surprising signing. New defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt (a great hire) wanted to switch to a 4-3 defense, so he needed pass rushers. Mario Williams was the biggest prize on the market outside of Peyton Manning, and the Bills stole him, and secured perhaps the best pass rusher in the league.
They also added Mark Anderson — a very underrated player from the Patriots. Now the pass rush that was such a liability last year is a real strength. The entire fabric of the team has been changed, and that will pay dividends all over the field.
Washington Redskins (50/1)
Washington always seems to make a big offseason splash. The difference this year, though was that their moves actually made sense.
They have given up a lot to draft Robert Griffin III, but at least they get him young and at a reasonable price. They have added a couple of nice young receivers in Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to welcome Griffin, and added a couple of nice cornerbacks to help reduce the number of points Griffin needs to score to win.
The team has a real chance to be much better than they have been in a long time.
New York Jets (25/1)
Mark Sanchez is an inconsistent quarterback who does not thrive in the spotlight. Rex Ryan is a coach who attracts all sorts of attention but doesn’t handle it gracefully. The last thing either of them needed was the addition of Tim Tebow.
The addition of Tebow instantly made this team the biggest media spectacle in the league, and the two-quarterback system will almost certainly blow up in ugly fashion at some point this year. For a team that has already proven to be mentally fragile this is a disaster. You just can’t convince me that there is any upside to this deal.
Miami Dolphins (50/1)
The offseason started when the team sent their best offensive player — receiver Brandon Marshall — to the Bears and received little in return. Incredibly, that may have been the highlight of the offseason.
After cutting Chad Henne loose they struck out in the pursuit of a replacement — Peyton Manning never seriously considered them, Matt Flynn wasn’t interested despite the offer of more money than he took from Seattle, and Alex Smith wisely stayed in San Francisco.
They settled for David Garrard — a guy who wasn’t even in the league last year. On top of that they lost impressive defensive end Kendall Langford in free agency.
It has been an absolutely awful offseason for a team that is going to be really lousy — again — this year.
New Orleans Saints (14/1)
Your star quarterback isn’t happy and doesn’t have a long-term deal. Your head coach is suspended for the year in the highest-profile scandal the league has seen in years, and several players, including the talented Jonathan Vilma, are likely to join him on the sidelines.
You’ve lost more than you have gained in free agency. Doesn’t exactly sound like a strong offseason, does it?
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