Community Tailgate: Most Improved NFL Team

Even with the 2016 offseason largely in the rearview mirror, there are still plenty of topics and storylines to discuss, and PFR’s Community Tailgate is designed to address those stories. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. We’ll highlight one of the top talking points in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.

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NFL teams that “win the offseason” certainly aren’t guaranteed to have success once the regular season begins, especially since the most impactful players in the league are unlikely to even reach free agency — thus earning the right to change teams — in the first place. Additionally, any club that is a contender for the “most improved” moniker likely had a sub-par roster to begin with, meaning expectations should be low. Still, it’s helpful to look back at the past two months and see which teams put in the best efforts, both during the free agent period and through the draft, in order to turn their club into a contender.

The Raiders were very active in free agency, especially on the defensive side of the ball, adding Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith, and Reggie Nelson before drafting West Virginia safety Karl Joseph in the first round and defensive end Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun in rounds two and three. Oakland was arguably set at most positions on offense, but they landed former Ravens offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, paying him $3.7MM more annually than the next-highest paid guard. Veteran left tackle Donald Penn was brought back to anchor the blindside, while Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook was selected as a long-term backup to Derek Carr.

Only one team had more cap space entering the 2016 offseason than the Raiders, and that club — the Jaguars — made it count, landing both Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson in an attempt to fortify a defense that ranked 26th in DVOA. That side of the ball wasn’t done being remade, however, as Jacksonville arguably landed two top-10 talents, taking Jalen Ramsey fifth overall before picking up Myles Jack in the second round after injuries caused him to slip. Keep in mind that the Jags have another top defensive talent — edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. — returning in 2016 after a torn ACL caused him to miss his entire rookie season. Jacksonville didn’t leave the offense untouched, adding left tackle Kelvin Beachum on a very team-friendly deal and signing violent running back Chris Ivory.

The Giants‘ draft left something to be desired, as although Sterling Shepard was an inspired selection in the second round, drafting cornerback Eli Apple at No. 10 overall was thought to be a reach. But New York spent in free agency, signing Olivier Vernon after the Dolphins rescinded his transition tag and also bringing in Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. All three additions got at least $20MM in full guarantees, but Vernon took the cake, securing $40MM in fully guaranteed cash.

Defense was the clear area of need for the Bears over the offseason, and the club knew it, trading up to acquire pass rusher Leonard Floyd in the draft before plucking Jonathan Bullard in the third round. Free agency wasn’t ignored, either, as Chicago revamped its interior linebacking unit by signing both Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan before inking end Akiem Hicks. On offense, the Bears signed Bobby Massie, Ted Larsen, and Manny Ramirez (and drafted Cody Whitehair) to help up front, and added late-round sleepers in running back Jordan Howard and slot receiver Daniel Braverman.

There are certainly other contenders for the title of “most improved” — both the Rams and Eagles landed franchise quarterbacks, the Titans added pieces around Marcus Mariota, and the Buccaneers did the same around Jameis Winston. And depending on how one views the “most improved” label, the Browns had a solid offseason, acquiring assets through the draft in 2016 and amassing draft capital for years to come.

What do you think? Which of the clubs above improved the most over the 2016 offseason? Or did we forget someone? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

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23 comments on “Community Tailgate: Most Improved NFL Team

  1. Bodyshaman

    Gotta go with the Raiders. They invested a lot in both safety spots and added an elite talent in Irvin at OLB. Sean Smith isn’t very good in my opinion and they overpaid for him. Osemele is probably a top 5 guard and should instantly improve the offense.

    • Steve

      Sean Smith is a good player he is definitely an upgrade compared to what the Raiders had at corner. Smith and Amerson should be ok at both corner positions and with the front seven putting pressure on the QB’s they should both have a good year.

  2. Steve

    The Raiders have had an outstanding offseason and draft. They have improved the talent on the team and upgraded in some positions as well as adding depth across the board.

    • aarongill

      Can’t say anything of the draft or free agency. Teams can win free agency and draft all they want but on the field will show.

  3. The Bears are most improved, a good draft, already a great defensive Corp. in place with free agents. John Fox, Fangio, have the defense headed for an explosive year! On the offense its improved too! Go! Bears

    • DVTrey Sanders

      Yeah but it’s still Jay Cutty running the offense, so perpetual mediocrity

      • Noname

        Dumbass he had over 90 passer rating he was not the reason for mediocre play last year and don’t plan on that to change

  4. jvjc1233

    Gotta go with the Raiders, they picked up some difference makers in FA and I loved their draft, I think Joseph will end up being a beast

  5. Brian

    As a bear fan I think we got good picks draft and freeagency we were much better on defense last year than we did when trestman was there two years.On top of that switched to a3-4 defense and still played desent but that changes this year BEAR DOWN….

  6. drum18

    Most improved? Ummm, maybe as it’s hard to argue with the other listed teams.
    But, I’m going with The NY Football Giants.

  7. mikey

    Raiders on defense. Texans on offense. Both are gonna be good this season

  8. Raiders Baby…….Better recognize

  9. The Raiders and Jags really helped themselves this offseason. I am not sure you could say one was better than the other because they both improved so much. I am not sure that it even matters. The reality is tgat both teams are going to be hard to handle this season Nd their fans are going to have a great ride.

  10. Fernando Rodriguez

    Gotta go with the Jaguars they’ve improved completelt on both sides of the ball. They now have a top five first round talent At each level of the defense While also adding veteran pro bowlers entering their prime. Tashaen Gibson is a 24 year old pro bowl ball hawking safety whose got his best years in front of him. Malik Jackson is also a perfect three technique for our system he’s gonna be able to do what he does best which is create disruption along the entire line. And was also being called the number one free agent of the year. How can u not love what the jags are doing. Franchise of the future. Still predict an 8-8 season thought.

  11. The Raiders will be most improved team this year. Their defense is going to be fierce. Last year, they had no one who could cover a TE or RB. Safety play opposite Woodson was bad. Pass rush pressure disappeared at times and Hayden was awful as starting CB. Now they have Irwin, Heeney (back from injury), Joseph and Nelson all able to cover/punish TE and RB sneaking out for dump off passes.However, on most passing downs those TE’s and RB’s will have their hands full trying to keep their QB alive. Because the Raiders are loaded with pass rushers now. Imagine 3rd and 10 and having Mack, Ward, Edwards Jr, Calhoun, and Irvin all rushing the QB. And then having a fresh Aldon Smith returning in November …. Yikes!! Also, with Hayden now on bench or cut, they have two big, capable, man to man CB”s in Amerson and Smith and a very underrated 3rd/slot corner in TJ Carrie, plus two hard hitting athletic safeties in Nelson and Joseph, this team has the makings of a top five defense. On offense, they’ve assembled a top 5 offense line, with two great complimentary TE’s, one an excellent run blocker and the other a major pass-catching threat that is only going to get better entering his second year. And with WR’s Cooper, and Seth Roberts looking to improve on excellent rookie years, and with budding star QB Carr and the offense as a whole having a whole year to develop together, I believe their offense is top five capable too. Oh and I forgot to mention their new RB they drafted in 5th round that looks like a cross between Ray Rice and Napoleon Kaufman. He’s a perfect compliment to Murray in backfield and I believe those two rbs behind that offensive line are capable of putting up 2500 yard from scrimmage. This team has NO weakness anywhere. Forget that 7-9 team from last year. Barring a plethora of injuries, this team is ready for a deep playoff run now and for the foreseeable future. The Raiders are back baby!!!!


    NY GIANTS the most improved team adding JPP, Vernon, Snacks and Jenkins FA drafting Apple, Shepard, Perkins and Allen offense was top 10 while the defense will move from 32nd to 16th this year record will be 12-4 and playoff run to the SB title

  13. Slick62

    I’m a Giant fan and I think being in nfc east they’ve done enough to actually win division, but I’d say overall I’d go with Jacksonville. You failed to mention they signed Amukamura away from Giants, which for makes Jenkins signing no big deal. He’s just replacing another CB just as good. Giants still didn’t address right side of OL and if they would’ve taken Tunsil instead of Apple I’d say they had best off season ever. Jacksonville easily most improved with FA signings plus getting Jack in 2nd rd

  14. Harold Gilliam

    Raiders and Jags, I’m a die hard Raider fan, and looking at what they did last year with the upgrades at key positions this year, they can add another 4 to the win column on top of last years. It’s not crazy to say they can go 11-5. The Jags, with all the off-season moves have definitely improved on paper. Now we can see what type of coaching staff they really have. Can all those top egos get along? If they play as a team, The Jags with Bortles and Oakland with Carr should turn into the new Brady vs Manning like battles. Both teams should have top ten offense n defenses for at least the next 4-5 years. I wouldn’t be shocked if both won a Super Bowl in that time frame.

  15. Profootballfan

    I would have to say the JAGS. The way I see it, the Jags added Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, and Prince Amukamara. Plus they will have three top first round picks in Dante Fowler, Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack (top 1st round pick talent…taken in the 2nd) staring this year. Blake Bortles as QB with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas, Rashad Greene, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon. The only thing needed is bringing that enormous amount of talent together on the field. Now this will test the coaching staff. If they come together, OH BOY!!!! They will easily be the AFC champs.

  16. Here’s my take on the teams. I love what Fox and Pace done in adding young core players to the defense mix. I see my Bears making it to the post season along with the Bears beating Packers this year in the division. Now the team to me that have the scariest roster defensively would be the Jaguars. I look at what the Jaguars done and I must admit as a fan of football I’m impressed. The only why they can make noise if the coaching staff bring this boys in with the right scheme and the right attitude to win games. This roster what the Jaguars have kind of remind of what the Lions had when they drafted Suh, Fairley and etc. Lions team that year defense was scary as hell to watch because they were getting to the QB but they fell apart because of the coach couldn’t control the players. So if the Jags culture is right on and off the field watch out opposing offensive teams.
    Go Bears…

  17. DaChiefsTEXANS

    Good view & points of interest! Especially the JAGS!!! As a TEXANS fan, I’m really concerned playing them more so than ever, thrir Defense should rock offenses! Also believe we, TEXANS, dhuda been on list. Yes, on paper, we improved, however our offseadon acquisitions are already a giant improvement in what we had to work last season. Believe we should b on your list behind jags, giants.

  18. ericbleedspurple

    I believe all of the teams mentioned are improved. I especially like the Raiders.
    Having said that I believerestBaltimore Ravens are one of the most improved teams this off season too. Ozzie usually doesn’t make much noise in free agency because we usually draft well, resign our best draft picks and pick up solid veterans cut due to salary cap issues. We don’t usually get to pick this high in the draft and I believe we nailed it with Ronnie Stanley. We also grabbed Alex Lewis who’s also a mauler who can move over to left guard to replace Osmele who was a solid pickup by Oakland. Kenneth Dixon is rated as the second or third best running back in this draft and we got him as well as big play Chris Moore at wide receiver. We racked up at pass rusher and defensive end in the draft. In free agency we got Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson on offense and Eric Weddle at safety. We got all our IR casualties coming back healthy which includes five starters and our number 1 pick in the draft last year. So while I like Texas and Oakland’s chances this season, I believe Baltimore will be one of three teams repping the AFC North in the playoffs this season. The Steelers and Bengals will still make the playoffs as will the Patrols. I also like the Texans and Raiders. The rest of the AFC is up in the air

  19. I think everyone here has made excellent points about different teams. This years draft was fascinating in that two teams ‘went for it’ to pick up QB’s, and nearly every other team had a decent to ‘good’ draft. What I think is interesting here is two teams that aren’t mentioned at all. The Titans took a huge haul in draft day. No, they didn’t make a ‘splashy’ investment, or grab some sort of stud we’re all taking about. But they did trade to get a lot of picks, and used those picks to address some needs. The question here is ‘most improved’. So if the Titans go 9-7 – will they be ‘most improved’? (I don’t know, I’m not an expert, just bringing a different point of view)
    The other team I have to mention is Cleveland. For the first time in like 25 years, they didn’t shoot themselves in the foot on draft day by taking ANOTHER QUARTERBACK! To me, after so many years of having these horrible drafts.. Taking bad QB’s, making bad decisions.. It seems like they maybe improved quite a bit just by doing the opposite of what they’ve done for so many years. I know that seems a bit line a dig, and maybe it is. But if Cleveland does this for the next 3-5 years and is patient with their process – we may see a different team ahead.

    Btw – I don’t follow or care about either of these teams. I’m a ‘football fan’. My comments have nothing to do with the team I root for on Sunday’s. And my team isn’t, and shouldn’t be listed here.. They had a decent draft, addressed some needs.. But nothing special.

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