By Evan Biancardi
It’s been a busy offseason so far, and with just a few weeks left before the NFL Draft, let’s recap what we’ve seen so far, determine which teams have improved their chances of making a run and determine which have diminished their odds of playing into January.
Over the past decade, it seems as though the clear favorite to win the Super Bowl is almost always the New England Patriots. Since the start of free agency, they’ve only helped their case. The reigning champs addressed their lack of issues by improving their roster on both sides of the ball. As if Tom Brady needed more weapons, the Pats signed Colts tight end Dwayne Allen and Bengals running back Rex Burkhead. These acquisitions don’t seem to be much, but we’ve all witnessed what Brady can do with his running backs and tight ends. Perhaps their biggest addition, though, was the trade to acquire Brandin Cooks. Cooks is a speedy receiver and a top deep threat that can give defenses nightmares. On the defensive end, New England signed Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy. I think it’s safe to say defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is going to have a lot of fun this year.
Okay, enough about the Patriots. The team that improved the most this offseason was the Jacksonville Jaguars. With already a top defense in the league a year ago, the Jaguars went out and signed three of the top defensive free agents – Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye, Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell and Cowboys safety Barry Church. All three players had great seasons in 2016, and all hope to add to a defense that already features cornerback Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Dante Fowler, defensive tackle Malik Jackson and linebacker Myles Jack, among others. Add the number four overall pick into the equation, and the Jaguars are probably the most improved team in the league.
It hasn’t been all winners this offseason, though. The Dallas Cowboys are likely the biggest loser heading into the new season. Dallas came into the offseason with just enough money to resign wide receiver Terrence Williams, but that’s just about all they were able to do. To make matters worse, the Cowboys lost safeties J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church and cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, all to free agency. In addition, with Randy Gregory suspended on top of all that, the Cowboys will be forced to rely on several of their younger players to recoup what they lost. On the offensive side, Dallas lost guard Ron Leary, which proves more significant now, due to the retirement of tackle Doug Free. Beloved quarterback Tony Romo also retired, so if Prescott were to go down or struggle in his sophomore season, the Cowboy’s only hope would be Kellen Moore. To say that the Cowboys reduced their championship hopes would be an understatement, and taking into account the improvements of their division rivals, the future of the Cowboys is up in the air.