Every team in the NFL enters the offseason with the same question: “How can we get better?” After that question is asked, each organization goes about improving their team in different ways. Some teams choose to re-sign their own free agents while building through the draft. Other teams break the bank during free agency and work the phone lines for trades, trying to transform overnight. But the organizations that consistently win are the ones that find a balance between all of it. A way to build from within, while supplementing the roster with free agents and trade acquisitions. The key is finding players whose skill sets can fit into the team’s scheme. Here are 5 guys who should have no problem fitting in and helping their new teams get to the next level.
DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Signed a 3 year/$33.5 million deal on 3/9/2017
Jameis Winston is one of the brightest young Quarterbacks in the game. With a cannon for an arm and Second Team All Pro wide out Mike Evans, Winston completed 61% of his passes for 4,090 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2016. Winston and Evans are ascending stars who will only get better with the addition of DeSean Jackson, one of the deadliest deep threats in the NFL since his arrival to the league in 2008. Although he is now 30, DJax showed he could still fly in 2016, recording 1,005 yards on 17.9 yards a catch(tied for first in the league). With that kind of speed taking the top off of defenses and allowing Evans more room to work his routes, along with the addition of 2017 first round draft pick OJ Howard, Jameis Winston and the Bucs will be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Tony Jefferson, Safety, Baltimore Ravens
Signed a 4 year/$34 million deal on 3/9/2017
Tony Jefferson spent the first 4 years of his career sharing a secondary in Arizona with Pro Bowlers/former All Pros, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson. He now brings his 277 career tackles (96 last year plus 2 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles) to Baltimore, where he will play alongside Eric Weddle, a Pro Bowler and former All Pro in his own right. Jefferson and Weddle will combine to form one of the best safety duos in the league and could be leaned on heavily on a defense that will have to carry the load for the Ravens if they hope to compete for a Wild Card spot in the AFC.
Kony Ealy, Defensive End, New England Patriots
Acquired from Carolina via trade (New England’s 64th overall pick for Ealy + Carolina’s 72nd overall pick) on 3/11/2017
Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history and has an argument for the GOAT General Manager as well. Fresh off a 5th Super Bowl victory as Head Coach of the New England Patriots, the Hoodie really flexed his muscles on the league during the offseason. Kony Ealy is just 25 years old and coming into his 4th year in the league. He might only have 14 career sacks but he dominated on the world’s biggest stage when he logged 3 sacks during Super Bowl 50 (not even two years ago!), albeit in a losing effort against the Denver Broncos. But Ealy is still young, coming into his athletic prime, and is now playing for the best mind in football. And all it cost was moving down 8 spots in the draft….
Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
Acquired from New Orleans via trade (New England’s 32nd overall pick + 103rd pick for Cooks + New Orleans’ 118th overall pick) on 3/11/2017
The Hoodie really doesn’t rest. After signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore and acquiring both Dwayne Allen and Kony Ealy through trades, the Patriots were able to acquire Brandin Cooks (without giving up Malcolm Butler…), former star receiver for the New Orleans Saints. Cooks, who will only be 23 when the season starts, is coming off back to back 1100 yard seasons with at least 8 touchdowns in each of those seasons. The former Oregon State speedster gives Tom Brady and the defending champs yet another weapon that will keep opposing defensive coordinators up all night. I hate to say it, but a 6th Super Bowl victory may be on the horizon for Belichick, Brady, and Co.
Marshawn Lynch, Running Back, Oakland Raiders
Acquired from Seattle via trade (Oakland’s 5th round pick for Lynch + Seattle’s 6th round pick); Signed a 2 year/$9 million deal
Come on, there is no way I was going to talk about offseason acquisitions and not mention Beast Mode. Fresh off a one year hiatus from the NFL, Marshawn Lynch now joins one of the best aerial assaults in the league and will be running behind a top 5 offensive line, a luxury he was not afforded at the end of his time in Seattle. Now I understand that you can’t put too much stock into anything before the pads come on, but Beast Mode has looked pretty good in offseason workouts. I mean the man was wearing boots while doing footwork drills at the beach! Regardless of how the carries will be divvied up in the Oakland backfield, Beast Mode will be ready and with his help, the Raiders will be in line for the AFC West crown and maybe even an appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
*All stats via NFL.com; all contract details via Spotrac*