Technically, the NFL offseason won’t be over until the end of the preseason in August.
But with the main wave of free agency and the draft behind us, 95 percent of the roster building for 2022 is complete. The rosters as currently constructed are essentially what the teams will go to battle with this fall.
Let’s take a look at which teams have had the best and worst offseasons, in no particular order. Note: Best offseason doesn’t mean these teams will make the playoffs, and worst doesn’t mean these teams will fail.
▪ Buccaneers: Getting Tom Brady back is enough to put the Buccaneers on this list. But they have done a great job of reloading. They re-signed Chris Godwin to an extension, added receiver Russell Gage, replaced retired guard Ali Marpet with the very capable Shaq Mason, fortified the secondary with safety Logan Ryan, and added pass rusher Logan Hall in the draft. The Buccaneers should be right back in contention for a Super Bowl berth.
▪ Jets: Their fortunes will be tied to the development of Zach Wilson, and he has a long way to go. But you have to respect the job general manager Joe Douglas has done in improving the team around Wilson. The Jets added two veteran tight ends (C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin) and one of the league’s best guards (Laken Tomlinson) in free agency. They re-signed slot receiver Braxton Berrios, and drafted receiver Garrett Wilson in the first round. They also added arguably the draft’s best cornerback in Sauce Gardner, and one of its best pass rushers in Jermaine Johnson.
▪ Chargers: After finishing 9-8 and an overtime field goal away from making the playoffs, the Chargers aggressively used the extra money created by Justin Herbert’s cheap rookie contract. They re-signed his big receiver, Mike Williams, and solidified his protection by drafting Boston College guard Zion Johnson. On defense, where the Chargers finished 29th in points allowed, they added J.C. Jackson to the secondary, and Khalil Mack and Kyle Van Noy to the front seven to improve not only the pass rush but the run defense. Herbert and the Chargers could be primed for a breakout season.
▪ Raiders: New GM Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels have done an impressive job of adding their spin to the Raiders’ playoff roster instead of blowing everything up. They re-signed pass rusher Maxx Crosby to a big extension, then gave him a running mate by signing Chandler Jones. They re-signed Derek Carr to a team-friendly, long-term extension, and got him an elite weapon in trading for Davante Adams. They made underrated additions in defensive end Vernon Butler, linebacker Jayon Brown, and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, and smartly signed players such as Brandon Bolden and Jakob Johnson to help instill the culture they are trying to create in Las Vegas.
▪ Broncos: If you’re noticing a theme, it’s that the AFC West loaded up this offseason. The Broncos didn’t make many big moves, but trading for Russell Wilson alone puts them on this list and makes them instant contenders. The Broncos also replaced Von Miller by signing Randy Gregory, who should form a nice 1-2 combo with Bradley Chubb.
▪ Dolphins: They got frighteningly fast on offense, adding receivers Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson and running backs Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds. They franchise tagged tight end Mike Gesicki, re-signed pass rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, strengthened the offensive line with guard Connor Williams, and maybe even got a terrific punter in 36-year-old Thomas Morstead. Imagine if they also got Brady and Sean Payton.
▪ Colts: GM Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich made chicken salad out of chicken scratch, turning Carson Wentz and his bloated contract into Matt Ryan for a couple of years. Ryan, 37 on May 17, is not the same QB as a few years ago, but the Colts have a roster ready to win and needed a steady leader such as Ryan. The Colts also added cornerback Stephon Gilmore, safety Rodney McLeod, and pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the defense.
▪ Browns: Keeping in mind the questionable judgment the Browns showed in trading for — and giving a $230 million extension to — a quarterback facing 22 lawsuits over sexual assault allegations, it’s tough to deny that, from a football perspective, the Browns improved dramatically by adding Deshaun Watson. Assuming he’s the same player he was when he last played in 2020, Watson is one of the top seven quarterbacks in the NFL and makes the Browns instant contenders. They also added Amari Cooper to replace Odell Beckham.
▪ Patriots: A team that got its doors blown off in the playoffs let its No. 1 cornerback leave (Jackson), and went bargain shopping to find his replacement (Malcolm Butler and two mid-round draft picks). They barely spent any money in free agency, and their only addition on offense was another bargain purchase in DeVante Parker, who had fallen out of favor in Miami. And pretty much everyone hated the Patriots’ draft, in which a team with myriad needs on defense took a guard with the 29th pick.
▪ Chiefs: It might all work out since they have Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. And they didn’t intend to trade Hill until the receiver demanded a massive new contract following the Adams trade. But while the other three AFC teams made major moves, the Chiefs are counting on a lot of unproven pieces. JuJu Smith-Schuster has struggled with injuries in two of the past three years. Mecole Hardman hasn’t quite blossomed yet. Newcomers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore are projections. And the Chiefs released safety Tyrann Mathieu while only adding a couple of draft picks to fix their 21st-ranked run defense.
▪ Ravens: They traded Marquise Brown but didn’t draft a receiver to replace him. They used a first-round pick on a center, and a second-round pick on an edge rusher who tore his Achilles’ on March 19. And Lamar Jackson wasn’t happy about the Brown trade, which can’t help matters as he remains far apart with the team on a contract extension.
▪ Cardinals: The end of 2021 was a disaster, and it has continued into this offseason. They did trade for Brown at the draft, but they lost Jones, Christian Kirk, Jordan Hicks, and Chase Edmonds in free agency, and barely made any improvements. Kyler Murray also is unhappy with his contract situation, though the Cardinals will probably address it this summer. But the Cardinals look like a good bet to backslide.
▪ Falcons: They failed to land Watson, which led to having to trade Ryan, which led to a quarterback room of Marcus Mariota and third-round pick Desmond Ridder. Coach Arthur Smith had better hope owner Arthur Blank has a lot of patience, because this is going to be a long rebuild.
▪ Titans: They traded their productive 24-year-old star receiver (A.J. Brown) and replaced him with an unproven rookie (Treylon Burks) and a veteran coming off a torn ACL (Robert Woods). It might all work out, but the swaps carry plenty of risk.
▪ 49ers: They haven’t been able to trade Jimmy Garoppolo because of his shoulder surgery, and may have to end up releasing him in training camp if they can’t find a partner. They didn’t have a first-round pick to help out new quarterback Trey Lance. They lost Tomlinson in free agency. And now receiver Deebo Samuel is upset about his contract and maybe other issues.
Scouting staffs undergo changes
Another type of free agency has provided a flurry of movement over the past week. With the draft in the books, most front offices are retooling their scouting departments for the season.
New GMs such as the Giants’ Joe Schoen, the Bears’ Ryan Poles, and the Raiders’ Dave Ziegler are moving on from scouts that they inherited from a previous regime. It is common for teams to retain their scouting staffs through the draft to protect proprietary work that has been done. And, as explained by Neil Stratton of Inside the League, most scouting contracts are two years and expire on May 1.
Those dynamics also lead to plenty of scouting changes for teams that didn’t switch GMs. For example, the Patriots are expected to soon hire Buccaneers area scout Tony Kinkela for a more senior role, per Stratton. Kinkela had been with the Buccaneers for the last 13 years and helped find many of the players that contributed to the 2020 Super Bowl team.
In Cleveland, GM Andrew Berry is hiring Catherine Raiche for a senior personnel role. Raiche, the Eagles’ vice president of football operations, interviewed for the Vikings’ GM job this offseason and could be on track to be the NFL’s first woman GM. She previously was an assistant GM for the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL, and had been with the Eagles since 2019, where she worked with Berry.
And in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are continuing with perhaps the most thorough GM search in NFL history, to replace the recently retired Kevin Colbert. NFL Network reports the Steelers are about to conduct a second round of interviews with the Titans’ Ryan Cowden and Buccaneers’ John Spytek, and more interviews could be coming
The Steelers initially met with 16 candidates, with two coming internally, and the others coming from the Titans, Colts, Rams, Packers, Buccaneers, Panthers, 49ers, Ravens, Eagles, Giants, Vikings, the XFL, and ESPN (Louis Riddick). It’s an impressive display of thoroughness and open-mindedness as the Steelers search for the right prospect. Compare it to the Patriots, who pretty much only fill their vacancies with former Patriots or the kids of their friends.
Tannehill doesn’t owe helping hand
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill created a minor controversy when he said it wasn’t his job to mentor QB Malik Willis, taken in the third round.
“We’re competing against each other,” Tannehill said. “I don’t think it’s my job to mentor him. But if he learns from me along the way, then that’s a great thing.”
Count me among those who think Tannehill said nothing wrong. It’s one thing if Tannehill is intentionally freezing out Willis or being a bad teammate. But as long as it is a friendly relationship, Tannehill is under no obligation to help Willis try to take his job.
Joe Flacco gave a similar comment a few years ago when asked about mentoring Drew Lock in Denver. Brett Favre was icy toward Aaron Rodgers, and Joe Montana hated Steve Young. Tom Brady was a great friend for Jimmy Garoppolo, but he wasn’t teaching him all of his tricks, either.
Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith, Tannehill’s former teammate in Tennessee, also believes Tannehill said nothing wrong.
“It’s a highly competitive league folks,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “I’m sure lil homie [Willis] know that and if he didn’t then he doesn’t belong. Ryan one of the best teammates I’ve been around at any level and he didn’t ‘mentor’ me but I sure learned a lot from him.”
Good morning, football
The NFL has waded into morning football in recent years, holding one or two London games per year kicking at 9:30 on the East Coast. But now it is fully embracing the Sunday morning TV window, scheduling all three London games and the new Germany game this fall for 9:30 Eastern.
Unfortunately for Seahawks fans, it means waking up for a 6:30 kickoff for the game in Germany against the Buccaneers. The Broncos’ London game will begin at 7:30 in Denver.
But it’s a minor inconvenience for West Coast fans, and a terrific addition to the Sunday lineup for the rest of us football watchers.
Jaguars right choice for Perry
The case of Brown quarterback E.J. Perry highlights the fact that many players are better off going undrafted instead of taken in the seventh round. Perry, an Andover native, initially agreed to sign with the Eagles but changed course to the Jaguars after the Eagles also pursued undrafted QB Carson Strong.
If you’re drafted, you have to go to that team no matter what, even if the depth chart is stacked against you. But if you’re undrafted, you’re able to weigh multiple offers and choose the best one. Seventh-round picks make a little more guaranteed money than undrafted free agents, but the difference is often negligible, and it’s far more important to get with a team with good coaches and a viable path to making the roster.
Perry certainly hoped to be drafted last weekend, but he received multiple offers as a priority free agent, and after discovering that the Eagles wouldn’t be right for him, he landed in a good spot in Jacksonville, where he will get great coaching from Doug Pederson and a roster spot could be within reach.
Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, and Marquise Brown were traded this offseason, but it appears that the ice is thawing between Deebo Samuel, D.K. Metcalf, and their respective teams. Late this past week, Samuel re-followed all of the 49ers’ social media accounts, and he liked a post about GM John Lynch saying the situation can be resolved. And Metcalf and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have said they expect to get something done with Metcalf’s contract soon, with Metcalf saying recently, “It’s all smiles right now.” … Fourteen high schools had multiple players taken in the draft, per the NFL, led by three from Cedar Grove High in Ellenwood, Ga. Not included on the list was Everett High, but it should have been, with the Vikings taking safety Lewis Cine in the first round and the Ravens taking tight end Isaiah Likely in the fourth. Cine played three years at Everett and was the Massachusetts Defensive Player of the Year as a junior but spent his senior year of high school in Texas, so Everett High doesn’t get mentioned in his bio … Per the NFL Players Association, Mac Jones finished fifth among all players in officially licensed sales between March 2021 and February 2022. The only players above Jones were (in order) Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow. The only non-quarterback in the top 10 was, a bit curiously, 49ers tight end George Kittle … That’s now Brady and Josh McDaniels who have said this offseason that the infamous Tuck Rule call should have been a fumble. Brady basically acknowledged it in an amusing social media post this past week, while McDaniels said it to Raiders owner Mark Davis at his job interview … Is there any doubt Rob Gronkowski is coming back to the Buccaneers for another season? Though he remains unsigned, “I feel like I can get ready at any time for football — like it’ll take me two weeks only,” he said recently, via the New York Post. “So, I’m not really worried about it.”
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.