Offseason In Review

Offseason In Review: Seattle Seahawks

After finishing first in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA efficiency metric in each season from 2012-15, the Seahawks fell to ninth in 2016. The fact that that ranking was Seattle’s lowest since 2011 speaks to the consistency of the organization, especially at the top (John Schneider and Pete Carroll each finished among the NFL’s top three general managers and head coaches, respectively, in Patrick Daughtery of Rotoworld’s excellent leadership lists). The Seahawks have advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs in each of the past five campaigns, and have shown a remarkable ability to lock up core players in order to maintain their run of success.

That’s not to say Seattle didn’t have areas to address this offseason, however, so let’s take a look at how Seattle fared:

Notable signings:

As I noted when assessing the Seahawks’ most pressing needs heading into the offseason, Seattle’s offensive line could have been listed first, second, and third on a list of the club’s glaring weaknesses. After ranking 25th in adjusted sack rate and 26th in adjusted line yards in 2016, the Seahawks and general manager John Schneider addressed the problem in free agency — something they didn’t do a year ago — by adding former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel on a one-year pact.Luke Joeckel

Joeckel received $8MM from Seattle, with $7MM of that total coming as a full guarantee. It’s an astonishing figure for a player who’s been considered a complete bust, and it’s hard to believe Joeckel was drawing enough interest to force the Seahawks to land at that number. Other offensive linemen earning ~$8MM include Marshal Yanda, Mike Iupati, Morgan Moses, and Brandon Brooks, all of whom are in a different stratosphere from Joeckel in terms of production. Former first-round selection D.J. Fluker scored only $3MM from the Giants on a single-season deal this spring, and Joeckel should have come in around the same amount.

Even more surprising is that Joeckel may not even play left tackle! The Seahawks are reportedly considering placing George Fant, who graded as Pro Football Focus‘ single-worst tackle in the NFL last season, on the blindside, meaning Joeckel would likely stick at guard, or perhaps even be forced to act as a reserve. Either way, Seattle’s financial commitment to Joeckel makes no sense if he’s not at least starting at left tackle, as his $8MM salary would make him the 11th-highest-paid guard in the league.

After securing the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft in Joeckel, the Seahawks also brought in the third overall selection from that draft: defensive end Dion Jordan, who’s been an even larger disappointment during his NFL tenure than Joeckel. The 27-year-old Jordan hasn’t played in a game since December 2014, with PED-related suspensions and knee issues delaying his return to the field. Seattle’s gamble on Jordan is more palatable than its Joeckel bet, especially given that Jordan only inked a minimum salary deal with no guaranteed money. If Jordan does earn a roster spot and perform well, the Seahawks can control him through 2018 as a restricted free agent.

While the Joeckel and Jordan risks are based on performance concerns, the main uncertainly with cornerback DeShawn Shead is his health, as he’s coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 15. After being non-tendered and then re-signed, Shead is expected to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, as head coach Pete Carroll said in March he’d be “really surprised” if Shead was able to suit up for Week 1. A 15-game starter a season ago, Shead played more than 1,000 defensive snaps and graded as the league’s No. 37 corner, per PFF.

Joining Shead in the defensive backfield will be Bradley McDougald, an excellent value signing by the Seahawks at cost of only $1.8MM. McDougald, who started 31 games for the Buccaneers over the past two years, will serve as a third safety for Seattle, but could conceivably be forced into action based on injury questions with the Seahawks’ starts. Earl Thomas is expected to be ready for the season opener as he recovers from a broken leg, but complications could certainly arise. Kam Chancellor, meanwhile, is working his way back from multiple ankle surgeries and wasn’t yet at full speed as of March.

Seattle didn’t make many other notable additions on defense, although it did load up on linebackers/defensive backs with special teams experience. While the Seahawks graded among the top half of the league in special teams DVOA, their No. 13 ranking was a ten-spot drop from 2015. Perhaps with the intent of pushing that ranking back up, the Seahawks signed Terence Garvin, Michael Wilhoite, David Bass, Neiko Thorpe, and Arthur Brown, all of whom played on more than 45% of their respective team’s special teams snaps in 2016. Not every member of that cadre will end up making Seattle’s roster, but as a group, it’s a cheap investment with an eye towards special teams improvement.Eddie Lacy (Vertical)

The Seahawks’ most high-profile signing was former Packers running back Eddie Lacy, whom Seattle landed on a one-year contract worth $4.25MM. Lacy hasn’t posted a complete, healthy season since 2014, and given that his conditioning has been questioned, the Seahawks inserted weight clauses into Lacy’s deal. He passed his first weigh-in last month, earning $55K for tipping the scales below 250 pounds. Lacy, who is still only 26 years old, will join a Seattle backfield that also includes Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins, and Mike Davis. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times indicated last month that Lacy and Rawls will likely split basedown touches while Prosise handles passing game work.

After considering Colin Kaepernick, the Seahawks landed on Austin Davis as their free agent quarterback addition. Davis hasn’t played since 2015, and has only attempted only 378 career passes, but it’s not even clear that he’ll in fact be Russell Wilson‘s direct backup. Trevone Boykin, a 2016 undrafted free agent who served behind Wilson last year, has avoided jail time for at least one legal incident and isn’t expected to be suspended by the NFL. If he’s available, Boykin will likely relegate Davis to the No. 3 job (or off the roster).

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2017 NFL Offseason In Review Series

Over the last few weeks, Pro Football Rumors has been taking a closer look at the 2017 offseason on a team-by-team basis. Our Offseason In Review series focuses on free agent signings, trades, draft picks, and all the other moves made by clubs during the spring, breaking down what sort of impact those decisions will have going forward.

Just in case you missed our review for your favorite team, we’re rounding up all of our Offseason In Review pieces in this post. We have several more teams to examine before the regular season gets underway, so if your team isn’t linked below, be sure to keep a close eye on PFR — it’ll be coming soon.

Here are the links to our 2017 Offseason In Review pieces to date:

AFC East:

  • Buffalo Bills
  • Miami Dolphins
  • New England Patriots
  • New York Jets

AFC North:

AFC South:

AFC West:

NFC East:

NFC North:

NFC South:

NFC West:

Offseason In Review: Detroit Lions

Although the Lions finished 9-7 and claimed a NFC Wild Card slot, underlying metrics show Detroit wasn’t as good as its record. Pro Football Reference calculates expected wins and losses based on points scored and points allowed, and the Lions were closer to a seven- or eight-win club based on those numbers. Detroit finished 27th in the NFL in DVOA, worse than clubs such as the Jaguars, Bears, and Chargers, none of whom came close to a postseason appearance.

Still, the Lions presumably still believe they’ll contend with the Packers and Vikings for the NFC North in 2017, and had several obvious areas of focus to attend to this offseason. Let’s take a look at how they did:

Notable signings:

The Lions’ offensive line wasn’t a success in 2016, as the unit ranked 31st in adjusted line yards and 18th in adjusted sack rate, so general manager Bob Quinn made upgrades to Detroit’s front five the focal point of the 2017 offseason. The first step was swapping out right tackle Riley Reiff for free agent Ricky Wagner, whom the Lions made the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL (not counting Lane Johnson, who was paid like the Eagles’ left tackle of the future). With Reiff in tow, Detroit averaged only 2.93 yards on rushes to the right side, according to Football Outsiders. Baltimore, Wagner’s former employer, averaged 4.62 running to the right, meaning improvement should be on the way in the Motor City.T.J. Lang (Vertical)

Wagner wasn’t the only addition to the right side of the Lions’ offensive line, however, as the team also signed T.J. Lang to replace Larry Warford at right guard. Not only did Detroit land one of the league’s best guards in Lang, but it stole him from a division rival, weakening the Packers’ line in the process. In order to ink Lang, who reportedly narrowed his free agent choices to Detroit, Green Bay, and Seattle, the Lions guaranteed two-thirds of his $29MM contract, an unprecedented total. Lang, 29, missed three games with injury last season and is now recovering from January hip surgery, but he should be available for training camp.

Darren Fells will be lining up next to Wagner and Lang on the Lions’ front five, and the veteran tight end will essentially act as a sixth offensive lineman on many plays. Fells, whom Detroit signed after he was non-tendered by the Cardinals, managed only 14 receptions a season ago, but uses his 6’7″, 280-pound size as one of the league’s best blocking tight ends, both in the run and pass game. His presence should allow the Lions to split Eric Ebron out wide in more creative formations.

Although Detroit has improved its blocking, that doesn’t mean free agent addition Matt Asiata will suddenly become more effective. Over the past three years, Asiata has been among the league’s most inefficient backs. Of the 49 running backs who have managed at least 250 carries since 2014, Matt Asiata ranks next-to-last with a 3.45 yards per carry average. Last season, Asiata placed in the bottom-10 among backs in both DVOA and DYAR, Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics. Not guaranteed a roster spot, Asiata shouldn’t be part of Detroit’s Week 1 squad unless an injury strikes.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions surprisingly didn’t target any high-profile free agents after the team ranked dead last in defensive DVOA, instead opting to patch over the unit with low-cost additions. In that vein, Detroit signed defensive linemen Akeem Spence and Cornelius Washington, and it’s difficult to see either providing much of an impact next season. Spence, particularly, ranked 123rd of out of 125 qualified interior defenders, per Pro Football Focus, which gave Spence horrible marks against the run. Washington, on the other hand, earned good scores as a pass-rusher, meaning he’ll likely contribute in sub packages.Paul Worrilow

Both of Detroit’s linebacker signings — Paul Worrilow and Nick Bellore — have recent starting experience, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the duo spends more time on special teams than as regular players on the Lions’ defense. Worrilow and Bellore each played more than 40% of their previous club’s special teams snaps, and Quinn has shown a willingness to pay for special teams aptitude, as evidenced by the signing of Johnson Bademosi last offseason and the extension of Don Carey in December. Detroit’s special teams unit finished sixth in DVOA in 2016 after ranking 13th and 31st in the two years prior.

After fielding the league’s worst pass defense last year, the Lions’ only free agent signing in the secondary was former first-round bust D.J. Hayden. Taking a chance on a former 12th overall selection is never the worst idea, but given Detroit’s immediate needs in the defensive backfield, the club should have gone after more known commodities. Jason McCourty, Davon House, and Morris Claiborne all signed for similar money as Hayden, and I’d take them all over the former Raider.

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Offseason In Review: Kansas City Chiefs

Plenty changed in Kansas City since the Chiefs’ narrow divisional-round defeat. High-profile moves came after the Chiefs missed out on another opportunity to advance to an AFC championship game, a round the franchise hasn’t seen in 23 years.

The changes — severing ties with John Dorsey, cutting Jeremy Maclin, and drafting a first-round quarterback for the first time in 34 years — have the defending AFC West champions’ future in question. After being one of the top challengers for AFC supremacy this season, it’s tough to make a case the Chiefs are markedly improved for 2017.

Considering most of the moves the Chiefs made in previous offseasons were about immediate success, and they helped create a team on the rise over the past four years, the team took a bit of a different approach this offseason.

Notable signings:

During an offseason that became known more for the men the Chiefs parted with than those they acquired, Kansas City did sign Berry to an extension at long last. Berry was attached to an old-CBA rookie contract until 2016, and he played last season on the franchise tag. But the Chiefs’ indecision on Berry last summer ended up costing them financially. The sides reportedly never got close on a deal by July 2016, leading to the tag season, but said campaign ended up being Berry’s best.

He came up with game-saving turnovers in road wins in Atlanta and Charlotte and helped the Chiefs to their first division title in six years. And with the marketplace changing in between Berry negotiations, thanks to the Cardinals’ landmark deal for Tyrann Mathieu in August of last year, Berry’s camp — representing one of only two active three-time first-team All-Pro safeties — could talk from a greater position of strength. Berry is now the highest-paid safety at $13MM AAV, and his deal will take him well into his 30s. The Chiefs continued their Dorsey-era style of backloading contracts, with Berry’s 2017 cap number sitting at $5MM. That jumps to $13MM in 2018 and $16.5MM in ’19.

Kansas City’s only notable March outside acquisition came in Logan, who will be the rare Philadelphia-to-Kansas City transplant that did not have an Andy Reid connection. Logan joined the Eagles as a third-rounder in 2013, months after Reid headed for western Missouri. Logan will take over starting nose tackle duties from Dontari Poe and return to the 3-4 scheme he played in for three seasons in Philly. Kansas City has used a 3-4 scheme since 2009, but Philadelphia switched to a 4-3 look last season that had Logan slightly out of position.

The Chiefs were up against the cap entering free agency again, limiting their ability to spend on multiple players. But for a third straight year, the team did walk away with a proven starter acquired. They signed Maclin in 2015 and Mitchell Schwartz last year despite limited funds. But this offseason, not much else transpired for the team during free agency’s premier month.

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Offseason In Review: Buffalo Bills

The Bills have gone an NFL-worst 17 years since their most recent trip to the playoffs, and offseason upheaval has unsurprisingly been commonplace during their post-1990s fall from grace. Buffalo has shuffled through various coaching staffs and front office setups during its embarrassing postseason drought, and after a seven-win showing in 2016, the club once again turned its football department over to a new regime.

"NFL:

The changes began in earnest last December with the late-season firing of brash head coach Rex Ryan, who was more style than substance during his 15-win, 31-game stint in Western New York. While interim head coach/offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn looked like the favorite to succeed Ryan, the Bills ended up hiring Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, leaving Lynn to accept the Chargers’ head coaching job. The businesslike, process-driven McDermott comes off as the antithesis of Ryan, and the neophyte head coach so impressed Bills owner Terry Pegula that he quickly became the the team’s chief decision maker on football matters.

The initial expectation was that McDermott and general manager Doug Whaley would coexist, but the latter’s influence at One Bills Drive seemed to shrink by the day after the former’s introduction. At the end of April, right after the draft and nearly four months after McDermott’s January entrance, the Bills handed Whaley his walking papers. Thanks to the odd timing of that move, Pegula and McDermott had to operate an early May GM search – one that concluded with the hiring of a McDermott confidant, former Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane. Because the GM switch occurred well after the key stages of the offseason had come and gone, Beane hasn’t had an opportunity to make his mark on the franchise. As such, the roster the Bills put on the field this year will be a Whaley/McDermott product.

Notable signings:

Micah Hyde

In exchanging Ryan for McDermott, the Bills committed to a scheme overhaul on defense, the area they primarily focused on in free agency. The Bills didn’t dole out any exorbitant contracts, but they did sign former Packers defensive back Micah Hyde to a fairly sizable deal and award $5MM in guarantees to anonymous ex-Brown Jordan Poyer. Those two figure to form the top safety tandem in Buffalo, which axed its previous starting duo of Corey Graham and Aaron Williams over the winter.

Even though Graham and Williams fared well with the Bills, both players remain on the unemployment line, with age likely to blame in the soon-to-be 32-year-old Graham’s case and neck issues the obvious culprit for Williams. While Hyde, 26, should be a solid addition for the Bills, having been a quality contributor to Green Bay’s defense from 2013-16, it’s less clear what they’ll get from Poyer. Also 26, the unproven Poyer has just 10 starts in 48 appearances on his resume, and he’s coming off a six-game season in which his performance ranked a below-average 70th among Pro Football Focus’ 90 qualified safeties.

Judging solely on 2016 output, the Bills’ most noteworthy free agent transaction was the re-signing of linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who broke out under Ryan last season. A journeyman who tallied just 9.5 sacks over his first nine NFL campaigns, Alexander stunningly piled up 12.5 in 2016, his age-33 campaign, en route to second-team All-Pro honors. As great as Alexander was last season, he’ll have to prove himself all over again this year. Not only is he an aging player with a limited track record, but Alexander will no longer operate in the 3-4 scheme in which he was a force as an edge player. Rather, he’ll play strongside linebacker in the Bills’ 4-3, and if Alexander turns back into a pumpkin without Ryan, the Bills will be able to escape the second year of his contract next winter without much difficulty.

Gerald Hodges (vertical)

Among those joining Alexander in the Bills’ linebacker corps this year will be Gerald Hodges, whom the team plucked from the bargain bin in May. The signing of the talented Hodges is reminiscent of the Bills’ pickup of fellow linebacker Zach Brown last year. It was a head-scratcher that Brown had to settle for a minimal deal in the spring after he had three productive years in Tennessee. Sure enough, Brown went on to serve as a terrific buy-low acquisition for the Bills, with whom he starred in 2016 before heading to the Redskins in free agency.

The potential exists for Hodges to offer a similar return on investment, given that the 26-year-old registered 80 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions last season in San Francisco. Along the way, he ranked an outstanding 21st among PFF’s 88 linebackers (Brown was 18th). Now, it appears Hodges, Alexander, Preston Brown and Reggie Ragland, who missed his rookie year with a torn ACL, will function as the Bills’ top LBs.

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Offseason In Review: Houston Texans

The Texans finished 9-7 and won the AFC South for the second consecutive year, and they did so with quarterback play that was below average to say the least. It’s fair to wonder how far Houston may have advanced with competence under center, and the club went into the 2017 offseason with signal-caller as the No. 1 item on its to-do list.

Notable signings:

When two of your six offseason signings were the re-upping of your kicker/punter combo, you didn’t have very busy spring. The Texans were among the least active clubs during the free agent period, and that’s a result of both cap space constrictions and roster makeup. Houston ranked in the bottom-third of the league with roughly $25MM to work with, so it didn’t have an exorbitant amount of funds to spread around. But the Texans’ squad was also relatively stable outside of quarterback (a position they weren’t going to fill in free agency), so upgrades were difficult to find.Ryan Griffin (Vertical)

Aside from Nick Novak and Shane Lechler (obligatory Punters Are People Too link), the only player Houston decided to re-sign was tight end Ryan Griffin, whom it inked to a cheap three-year deal. Griffin played second fiddle to C.J. Fiedorowicz in 2016, but still raked in 50 receptions on 74 targets. He didn’t do much else well, however, as he earned poor blocking grades from Pro Football Focus and rarely played on special teams. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Griffin starts to lose playing time to second-year tight end Stephen Anderson next season.

Griffin could be lining up next to a new right tackle in 2017, as the Texans brought in former Jet/Seahawk Breno Giacomini to provide insurance given that Derek Newton won’t play until at least 2018. Now 31 years old, Giacomini has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness over the past two seasons, but he’d been roughly an average player prior to that. Chris Clark, who started 14 games in the absence of Newton a year ago, rated among the league’s worst tackles in 2016, so Giacomini shouldn’t have any trouble overtaking him for the starting job.

While Giacomini could end up providing surprising production at a cheap rate, it’s a tad odd that Houston didn’t go after a more high-profile addition at tackle. The Texans did add Bucknell product Julien Davenport in the fourth round, and while he could conceivably compete for snaps during his rookie campaign, Houston could have attempted to sign someone like Ricky Wagner (admittedly, an expensive undertaking) or Mike Remmers in free agency. Austin Pasztor, who played well for the Browns in 2016, is still available, and would still be a welcome supplement to the Texans’ front five.

As PFR’s Connor Byrne noted in his pre-free agency Texans analysis, Houston could have addressed the safety position this offseason, as well, but aside from selecting Treston Decoud in the fifth round, the club stood pat while losing 13-game starter Quintin Demps to the Bears. Andre Hal and Corey Moore project as Houston’s 2017’s starters, but both earned middling grades from PFF last year. The Texans could have targeted free agent options such as Tony Jefferson, Duron Harmon, or D.J. Swearinger earlier this year, but players such as Corey Graham and Jairus Byrd are still on the open market.

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Offseason In Review: Philadelphia Eagles

Led by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and first-year head coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles posted a respectable 7-9 mark, an even more encouraging plus-36 point differential and a stunning fourth-place DVOA ranking in 2016. It was apparent, though, that Wentz didn’t have a talented enough supporting cast, so executive vice president Howie Roseman went to work in the offseason to give the 24-year-old face of the franchise more weaponry.

Notable signings:

Alshon Jeffery

As PFR’s Dallas Robinson noted entering the offseason, Wentz played his initial NFL campaign with a lackluster group of wide receivers. Aside from Jordan Matthews, who registered his third straight prolific pass-catching year (73 receptions), Philadelphia had very little at the position. Nelson Agholor, the Eagles’ first-rounder in 2015, notched a second straight lackluster showing, while fellow sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham was also once again unable to put it together. The Eagles waived DGB last month, which they were able to do in part because of the upgrades Roseman made over the winter.

Although the Eagles were hardly flush with cap space entering free agency, they managed to reel in arguably the best receiver available, former Bear Alshon Jeffery, on a shockingly reasonable pact. While less established wideouts such as Kenny Britt and Robert Woods, among others, landed long-term deals, Jeffery settled for a one-year, $9.5MM contract. That came on the heels of a PED suspension-shortened season in which Jeffery recorded career lows in receptions (52) and touchdowns (two) over 12 games.

Jeffery’s suspension seems like more of a blip than a major character concern, if you’re to believe that he unknowingly took a banned substance. The question now is whether he’ll bounce back to resemble the player he was from 2013-15, when the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder combined for 228 catches, 3,361 yards and 21 scores over 41 games. That translates to 89-1,312-eight over a full season, which is the type of top-shelf production no Eagles receiver has offered since Jeremy Maclin in 2014. Much of Jeffery’s damage this year should come in the red zone, where the Eagles logged the league’s ninth-worst touchdown percentage last season.

Like Jeffery, the Eagles’ other significant signing at receiver, Torrey Smith, brings a quality resume to the table. However, Smith fell off over the previous two years after leaving Baltimore for San Francisco, which couldn’t find anything resembling a solution under center during his Bay Area tenure. Smith suffered for it, especially during a 20-catch 2016, but he’s still relatively young (28), capable of stretching the field (17.0 yards per catch over 92 games) and durable. Prior to last season, when he missed four contests, Smith racked up five straight 16-game slates.

Even if Smith’s unable to regain the form he showed as a Raven in Philadelphia, it’s fair to say the Eagles took a calculated risk here. Worst-case scenario: Smith is on a one-year, $5MM deal that the Eagles will be able to escape if things go poorly. But a renaissance from Smith could keep him in Philly at affordable prices for the foreseeable future, as his contract includes a $5MM club option for both 2018 and ’19.

LeGarrette Blount

Along with upgrading the Eagles’ passing attack, Roseman addressed the team’s ground game with the addition of ex-Patriots bruiser LeGarrette Blount, yet another one-year deal recipient. The 245-pounder might not meaningfully boost the Eagles’ 18th-ranked yards-per-carry average from last year (4.1), as he only put up 3.9 per rush himself, but the $1.25MM man should join Jeffery in bettering their subpar red zone attack. Blount led all backs last season with 18 rushing TDs, a league-high 15 of which came inside the opposing 10-yard line. The Eagles’ primary ball carrier from last year, Ryan Mathews, also did well in that category (his eight TDs ranked tied for seventh), but he still lagged well behind Blount.

With his health in question, Mathews’ time in Philly is on the verge of ending, which will leave the backfield to Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and rookie fourth-rounder Donnel Pumphrey. It’s not the most exciting group on paper, but it’s a low-cost quartet that should be reasonably effective. Further, those backs will run behind what might be the league’s premier offensive line, which will help cover up for their deficiencies.

Continuing the inexpensive veteran theme, the Eagles made a somewhat splashy move on defense when they added end Chris Long on a two-year, $4.5MM accord. There’s significant name value with Long, who was with Blount on last season’s Super Bowl-winning New England squad, but the 32-year-old isn’t the force he was earlier in his career with St. Louis. Still, it’s another sensible investment for the Eagles, who found a better fit for their defense than the released Connor Barwin when they reeled in Long. Barwin was great at times during his four years with the Eagles, but he clearly wasn’t an ideal match for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 scheme last season. Conversely, Long prefers a 4-3, where he can come off to the edge, to the 3-4 hybrid he worked in last season with the Pats, who often deployed him along the interior of their D-line. On paper, Long looks like a rather impressive No. 4 end for a Philadelphia team that will enter the season with Brandon Graham, first-rounder Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry ahead of him on its depth chart.

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Offseason In Review: New York Giants

Last offseason, the Giants made some serious noise by adding defensive tackle Damon Harrison, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and defensive end Olivier Vernon in free agency. Thanks in large part to those upgrades, the Giants reached the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season. Unfortunately, this postseason trip didn’t go quite the same way as they were blown out by the Packers in the opening round.

This year, as a result of last year’s expenditures, they had decidedly less cap room to work with. Will the Giants’ spring and summer moves allow them to get back into contention?

Notable signings:

It’s hard not to be happy for Jason Pierre-Paul. Two years ago, it seemed like Pierre-Paul had thrown his career away in an unfortunate fireworks accident. However, JPP has proved many NFL analysts and armchair doctors wrong by performing at a high level even with one-and-a-half digits missing on his right hand. Finally, Pierre-Paul got the fat multi-year deal he was seeking this offseason with a four-year, $62MM commitment from the G-men. The deal gave JPP solid cashflow through the first two seasons (roughly $35MM, according to reports) and allowed the Giants to avoid having to pay him an exorbitant 2017 salary under the one-year franchise tag. Jason Pierre-Paul

Rhett Ellison might not sell a ton of jerseys in the New York area, but the Giants are hoping he’ll provide quality blocking when needed. Ellison, 29 in October, certainly wasn’t signed for his offensive skills as he averaged just 10 receptions per season during his five-year run in Minnesota. The $4.5MM average annual value of his deal took many by surprise, but the Giants had to compete with the Jaguars for his services and they felt that he was the right fit for their system. Fortunately, they have Will Tye returning this year plus a promising first-round tight end (more on him later) to provide Eli Manning with large targets across the middle of the field.

Is Brandon Marshall in decline, or was he just bogged down with the rest of the Jets’ offensive quagmire in 2016? The Giants are about to find out. Last year, Marshall had just 59 grabs for 788 yards and three scores. Those aren’t awful numbers, per se, but they pale in comparison to his previous stat lines. In 2015, Marshall’s first year with Gang Green, he had 109 catches for 1,502 yards and a career-high 14 TDs. If all goes well, Marshall’s first year with the other tenant of the swamp should yield results somewhere in the middle. Marshall could do a lot of damage as defenses focus in on Odell Beckham Jr. and speedster Sterling Shepard, but he also won’t be getting as many looks as he has been accustomed to. The good news is that the veteran has probably prepared himself for that mentally. Marshall signed with the Giants in large part because of his desire to win a Super Bowl and he is effectively choosing to do his damage in ODB’s shadow rather than being the No. 1 receiver for a non-playoff team. In his eleven career NFL seasons with the Broncos, Dolphins, Bears, and Jets, Marshall has yet to see the postseason.

Brandon Marshall (Vertical)In order for Marshall to thrive, the offensive line will have to do its part and protect Eli Manning in the pocket. To help accomplish that, the Giants added a bit of depth on the interior of the line. The Giants signed former Chargers first-round pick D.J. Fluker early on in free agency, a move that some thought would squeeze right guard John Jerry out of New York. Instead, the Giants moved to re-sign Jerry just two days later. The early word out of camp is that Jerry will start at right guard and the team may be too gung-ho about Bobby Hart at right tackle to give Fluker an opportunity there. Right now, it seems like Fluker actually projects as a swingman off of the bench. Alternatively, the Giants could drop Fluker before the start of the season and save $1.5MM against the cap.

Marshall isn’t the only player changing jerseys while staying in the same building. Geno Smith, who has spent his NFL career on the back page of the New York tabloids for all the wrong reasons, will attempt to reboot his career as Manning’s clipboard holder. Unfortunately for him, things are not going well so far in camp. Veteran Josh Johnson is currently the favorite to win the QB2 job while third-round pick Davis Webb pretty much has a guaranteed roster spot. That could leave Smith without a job this summer. The G-Men will only have to carry $325K in dead money if they part ways with the ex-Jet.

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Offseason In Review: Carolina Panthers

No NFL team experienced a more stark fall from grace last year than the Panthers, who went from a 15-1, NFC championship-winning juggernaut in 2015 to a bottom feeder in 2016. On the heels of a six-win, last-place season, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman handed contracts to several household names, mostly on defense, and used the early portion of the draft to give quarterback Cam Newton more help.

Notable signings:

Julius Peppers

Carolina’s defense finished anywhere from second to sixth in the league in scoring, yardage, sacks and DVOA two years ago, and while the unit’s dominance dropped off last season, it was still a formidable group. The Panthers ended up with the league’s second-most sacks (48) and a more-than-respectable DVOA ranking (10th), so Gettleman didn’t do anything extreme on that side of the ball. Three of his biggest moves included extending his premier defensive lineman, franchise-tagged tackle Kawann Short, on a whopper of a deal and re-upping dependable veteran ends Mario Addison and Charles Johnson for very reasonable money. Those three combined for 19.5 sacks last year, and they’ll have assistance from local favorite Julius Peppers in 2017.

Peppers, who attended North Carolina and starred with the Panthers from 2002-09, returned on a palatable contract. Age isn’t on the 37-year-old’s side, but the former Bear and Packer hasn’t recorded fewer than seven sacks in a season since 2007. Peppers logged 584 defensive snaps in Green Bay last season, his ninth straight 16-game campaign (11 starts), and Pro Football Focus ranked his performance a solid 35th among 109 edge defenders. Now, Peppers will replace the 25-year-old Kony Ealy, whom the Panthers sent with a third-round pick (No. 72) to the Patriots for a second-rounder (No. 64). Jettisoning a capable player in favor of one who’s 12 years his senior is clearly a risk, but it’s worth noting that Ealy’s running out of team control. Ealy will be a free agent next offseason, so if the Panthers weren’t expecting to re-sign the Super Bowl 50 standout, moving him for a slightly better draft selection and presumably upgrading for a year with Peppers isn’t unjustifiable.

Peppers wasn’t the only past Panthers defender whom they reunited with in free agency. Slot cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, a Panther from 2009-13, returned after a three-year stint in Minnesota. Like Peppers, Munnerlyn is back with gas remaining in the tank, with PFF’s Sam Monson noting that he yielded just one touchdown on 68 targets last season. At 29, Munnerlyn’s easily the elder statesman in a Panthers corner corps that lost Josh Norman a year ago and subsequently received encouraging performances from rookie starters James Bradberry and Daryl Worley. At the same time, the rest of Carolina’s CBs didn’t provide much, meaning Munnerlyn should be a welcome addition.

Another established newcomer, safety Mike Adams, will also have an important role in the Panthers’ secondary this year. Like Peppers, Addison, Johnson and Munnerlyn, the 36-year-old Adams is past a prime age, though he’s still an adept defender. Adams was PFF’s 19th-rated safety in 2016, when the then-Colt started in each of his appearances (15) for the third year in a row, intercepted two passes and forced a pair of fumbles. Playmaking has been the norm for Adams, who picked off 12 passes and forced seven fumbles during his three-year Indianapolis tenure. Barring an age-related decline, which certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility, he should be a better starting free safety option than predecessor Tre Boston, whom Carolina cut after it signed Adams.

Matt Kalil

While nearly all of the sizable contracts Gettleman doled out in free agency went to defenders, left tackle Matt Kalil received the largest deal of any new Panther. Matt Kalil is now teammates with his brother, starting center Ryan Kalil, but the former isn’t a lock to remain with the club beyond this year. If Carolina’s not impressed with Matt Kalil’s work, it’ll be able to void his contract – a scenario that doesn’t seem particularly far-fetched. After all, the 27-year-old was somewhat of a disappointment over the past few seasons in Minnesota, which selected him fourth overall in 2012. Kalil’s best trait during the first four seasons of his career may have been his durability, as he started in 64 straight games in that span. However, because of a hip injury, he didn’t play past Week 2 last year.

The good news for the Panthers is that Kalil’s health shouldn’t be an issue going forward. That isn’t necessarily the case with their previous No. 1 left tackle, Michael Oher, whom concussion issues have troubled since last September and who might not play again. Thanks in part to Oher’s 13-game absence in 2016, the Panthers’ protection of Newton took a step backward with Mike Remmers on the blindside (Remmers is now with Kalil’s old team, the Vikings). The Panthers obviously expect Kalil to outdo Remmers, though it’s far from a lock that he’ll warrant a large long-term investment.

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Offseason In Review: Cleveland Browns

Squarely in the middle of a rebuild, the Browns posted a one-win campaign under the first-year management team of general manager Sashi Brown and head coach Hue Jackson. 2016’s struggles were accepted (and expected), but Cleveland had work to do in both free agency and the draft as it took the next step in forging a path to contention in the AFC North.

Notable signings:

Armed with $110MM in cap space, the Browns decided to reinforce the interior of an offensive line that ranked dead last in adjusted sack rate and 28th in adjusted line yards a season ago. Cleveland first poached Kevin Zeitler from the division-rival Bengals, making the 27-year-old the highest-paid guard in the NFL. His $12MM annual salary is $300K per year more than the Raiders’ Kelechi Osemele, while Zeitler’s full guarantee of $23MM trails Osemele by $2.4MM. Zeitler graded as the league’s No. 7 guard in the league in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus, so he’ll be an improvement over the likes of John Greco and Spencer Drango (and will make Greco one of the NFL’s best reserve offensive linemen).Kevin Zeitler (Vertical)

The Browns didn’t stop after adding Zeitler, as they also brought in former Packers center J.C. Tretter. A former fourth-round pick, Tretter split time at Green Bay’s pivot with Corey Linsley over the past three years, and also showed the ability play guard and tackle. While he doesn’t offer much experience (only 10 career starts), Tretter should offer an upgrade for the Browns, who haven’t found an option at center since Alex Mack after the 2014 campaign. Former first-round selection Cameron Erving, a center by trade, will now become part of Cleveland’s competition at right tackle, the club’s one weak spot on a front five that PFF ranked as the second-best offensive line heading into the 2017 season.

Running behind the Browns’ revamped offensive line will be Isaiah Crowell, who’s back with the team after signing his second-round restricted free agent tender. Crowell, 24, reportedly drew interest as an RFA, but will instead return to Cleveland on a non-guaranteed $2.746MM. After posting the best season of his three-year career in 2016, Crowell could be in line for an extension, although talks had apparently stalled as of late May. He rushed for a career-high 4.8 yards per carry on 198 attempts last year.

Joining Crowell among Cleveland’s skill position players is wideout Kenny Britt, whom the Browns enticed with a four-year pact. Although Britt topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2016, he’s entering his age-29 campaign, so his fit with a young Browns roster is murky. The rest of Cleveland’s wide receiver corps is comprised of youthful, inexperienced players, so perhaps the Browns simply want some level of maturity at the position. The Britt signing wasn’t a personal favorite — the Browns could have spent a bit more and tried to lure Alshon Jeffery to Cleveland, or made a harder run at retaining Terrelle Pryor — but the club had to spend its cap space in some fashion, and Britt is a capable player.Jamie Collins (Vertical)

On defense, the Browns unsurprisingly re-signed linebacker Jamie Collins after shipping a third-round pick to New England in order to acquire him at midseason. Collins agreed to an extension in January instead of hitting the open market, but he still set a new high-water mark for off-ball linebackers, as his $12.5MM annual salary puts him just north of Luke Kuechly. Collins graded as just the 44th-best edge defender in the league last season (per PFF), a far lower rating that he’d attained in years past, but he’s a solid fit in new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams‘ attacking 4-3 scheme.

Cleveland also brought in veteran defensive back Jason McCourty, signing the longtime cornerback after he was released by the Titans. At age-29, McCourty isn’t the No. 1 corner he once was, but he’s still a viable starter, and will add an air of competence opposite Joe Haden. McCourty will likely begin the season in the starting lineup at corner, but if the Browns are impressed by one of their young defensive backs, McCourty could conceivably be shifted to safety.

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