With NFL free agency done for all intents and purposes, it is a good time to take a look at who came away improved, and who is poised to take a step back. Here are three winners and a trio of losers from the free agency period, setting up a very interesting NFL Draft come April 30.
1. New York Jets
No team was more active than the Jets. General manager Mike Maccagnan put together a tremendous secondary with Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine. Maccagnan also retained David Harris, traded a fifth-round pick for Brandon Marshall along with signing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to compete with Geno Smith. New York might not be a playoff team yet, but it’s much closer.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have apparently decided to make a spirited run in the AFC West. Kansas City was aggressive in free agency, signing Jeremy Maclin along with trading for Ben Grubbs to fortify the line. The Chiefs were also able to retain Ron Parker, add Paul Fanaika and Tyvon Branch, and get Tamba Hali and Mike DeVito to stay on pay cuts. The loss of Rodney Hudson hurts, but that is the lone blemish on a terrific offseason.
3. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts made a surprising charge to the AFC Championship game last year, but fell hard to the New England Patriots. General manager Ryan Grigson has tried to upgrade the roster with Todd Herrmans, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, making the offense even more lethal. The only question with Indianapolis is whether the defense is upgraded enough with the signing of Trent Cole.
1. Denver Broncos
Denver entered free agency with many of its own players hitting the market. Despite having cap space, the Broncos allowed Orlando Franklin, Terrance Knighton, Nate Irving, Rahim Moore, Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme, Wes Welker and Mitch Unrein to walk. The only signings of note are Owen Daniels and Darian Stewart, both aging players with limited upside. If Peyton Manning is merely good, this might not be a playoff team anymore.
2. Detroit Lions
Detroit lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, absolutely destroying its defense. Everything the Lions do is built around those two players, and their departures are nothing short of crushing. While Haloti Ngata’s acquisition will help ease the pain, he is older and not the player either Suh or Fairley is at this juncture of their careers. General manager Martin Mayhew has work to do in the draft.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were cash-strapped coming into the offseason, and it has hurt them. While Pittsburgh was able to extend Ben Roethlisberger and retain James Harrison, it had to let Brett Keisel go while watching Brice McCain leave and Jason Worilds retire. The larger problem was the lack of incoming talent. Pittsburgh is an old team with cap problems both now and down the road.