Biggest Winners and Losers of the NFL Offseason So Far
The NFL's offseason in 2022 has been almost as exciting as the action that took place on the field in 2021 — but who are the biggest winners and losers of the NFL offseason so far?
By James Pike.
Blockbuster trades, signal callers in new homes, stars requesting trades, shock signings and even an NFL Scouting Combine which feels like an eternity ago now after the craziness of free agency!
Things are starting to wind down now as the final dominoes are falling into place. With the recent trade of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to Indianapolis, we are now starting to get an idea of what each team's roster is going to look like next season.
Of course, it is way too early to tell which teams have made the biggest strides forward during the offseason, and which teams are lagging behind. With the 2022 NFL Draft just around the corner, teams could change the entire fortunes of their offseason with a couple of shrewd selections.
It is never too early, however, to ask questions about the strategies some teams have employed during the offseason so far. Some teams have spent big; splashing the cash around in an attempt to bring in as many stars as possible to improve their roster. Some have been more shrewd with their cap space, bringing in under the radar players on team friendly contracts. Others haven’t done much at all!
There is more than one way to build a team in the NFL, but some teams are simply better at it than others. Today I am going to look at three teams who have done an excellent job during the offseason, and a couple who haven’t. This list is all based on opinion of course, so let me know which teams you think have had the best offseason in 2022.
With that in mind please sit back, relax and enjoy my list of the teams who have had the best or worst offseason so far.
Los Angeles Chargers are winners of the NFL offseason
One team that has adopted the old mantra of “go big or go home” during the NFL offseason is the Los Angeles Chargers. They have made some of the biggest moves of any team during free agency, and they haven’t been afraid to use their draft capital in order to build their defense into one of the best in the league (on paper at least).
It all started for the Chargers when they re-signed veteran wide receiver Mike Williams to a 3-year, $60 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. This was a particularly good deal when you consider the current market for blue chip pass catches. Getting a deal done early, and not drastically over paying was a win right off the bat for Tom Telesco. Bringing back weapons on the offensive side of the ball is important, especially if the Chargers want to keep pace with the other high powered offenses in this division (more on that later!). However this team also needed to add help on the defensive side of the ball if they were to slow down their rivals next season. Luckily for Brandon Staley the front office had a plan in mind.
It started when the team added former New England Patriots star J.C Jackson to a 5 year, $82.5 million deal. The lockdown corner, who played like the best defensive back in all of football last season has earned every single cent of his new contract if the first four seasons of his career are anything to go by. He has gradually improved every season he has been in the league, and in 2021 he had his best season to date.
The Chargers need more playmakers in their secondary, and by adding Jackson, they are bringing in a player who has had 17 interceptions over the past two seasons in the league. Jackson just so happens to be one of the best press man corners in the NFL, which should help solidify the Chargers secondary as one of the best in the league. Especially when you consider they already had Derwin James and Asante Samuel Jr on the roster. The blockbuster moves didn’t stop there though.
A few days later it was announced that Los Angeles had finalised a trade with the Chicago Bears for three time All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack.
Many will feel that this is a risky move for the Bolts as Mack spent the majority of last season on the sideline coming off a major injury. However, if Mack can play at the level he was before his season ending foot surgery the Chargers have nothing to worry about. Khalil Mack is still playing at an elite level, and has plenty more years left in the tank. One only has to look at new Bills signing Von Miller as proof of how valuable an elite pass rusher has in this league.
The Chargers weren’t done there, as they spent the majority of their remaining cap space bringing in veteran depth or their own free agents. One more sneaky good signing was made, and I believe it is one which will go under the radar this off season.
The signing of Sebastian Joseph-Day from the current Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams was one of those moves that isn’t being talked about. However it is a move that I believe could pay massive dividends by the end of the season. Joseph-Day has always been overshadowed playing alongside perennial All-Pro Aaron Donald for the Rams, but now he will get the opportunity to shine on his own, and I believe that he will be very productive. Especially as teams try to figure out how they’re going to stop Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa from getting to their quarterback.
All in all it has been a fantastic offseason for the ‘other’ Los Angeles outfit. The AFC West is going to be a blood bath from the start to finish in 2022, so adding as much talent as possible to an already talented roster is crucial. The Chargers have done that, and can still add more using the 17th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Atlanta Falcons major losers of the NFL offseason so far
The Atlanta Falcons offseason got off to a tumultuous start before any ink dried on a piece of paper, as it was revealed that star wide receiver Calvin Ridley would face a one year suspension for illegally gambling on games last season.
This decision has been greeted with mixed reactions around the league, but one cannot argue that this was a lapse in judgement from a player who had already missed significant playing time due to off the field issues last season.
Then of course there was the Deshaun Watson saga that swept up one franchise after another during free agency. Unfortunately the Falcons were caught up in the crosshairs.
By all accounts it looks as though the Falcons did everything in their power to convince the former Pro Bowler to consider joining their organisation. In the end they couldn’t offer the former Texans quarterback what he was looking for, and it cost this team dearly.
Believe what you want about Matt Ryan’s unwavering loyalty to the Falcons organisation, but you cannot tell me that the team’s pursuit of Watson didn’t burn bridges with the former MVP. Ryan has given everything he possibly can to this organisation since the moment they drafted him back in 2008 with the third overall pick. He brought this team to a Super Bowl, he has brought them unprecedented levels of success last seen during the Michael Vick era for this franchise.
All that is gone now, as it was revealed on Monday that the Falcons had agreed a deal with the Indianapolis Colts to send the veteran quarterback to Indy in exchange for a third round pick. Atlanta were quick to respond by signing free agent Marcus Mariota shortly afterwards, but whichever way you look at it this is a downgrade at the league’s most important position.
Then take into consideration that before a deal for Watson was even discussed the Falcons had very little wiggle room when it came to cap space this off season. They lost their best pass rusher, which will be devastating to a team that only generated 18 total sacks last season. They failed to improve a below average offensive line and they didn’t add any weapons in the passing game to help their new quarterback for next season.
Falcons fans will be hoping their team has a plan going into the 2022 NFL Draft, as this team has a lot of holes to fill going into next season. Terry Fontenot has a lot to answer for already this offseason, but if the Falcons don’t get it right come April then he could be looking for new employment this time next season.
Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys quiet winners
Some may question why I have the Dallas Cowboys as one of the biggest winners of the NFL offseason so far. As many have Dallas pencilled in as one of the early losers so far after free agency, but in my opinion what Dallas has done will help this team achieve its long term ambitions.
Yes, letting Amari Cooper leave for what seems like peanuts might be a bit of a head scratcher. The release of La'el Collins was unusual and letting Randy Gregory walk will also raise a few eyebrows, but in the end there is an explanation for all of these unusual moves.
Cooper being allowed to seek a trade weakens Dallas receiving depth, however the focus of this team should be building around CeeDee Lamb on the offensive side of the ball. Lamb is younger, more versatile and considerably cheaper. So it makes sense for Dallas to move forward with Lamb as the top guy on the depth chart.
La'el Collins added depth to the Dallas offensive line and was a solid starter during the 2021 season. He was, however, always going to get a massive pay rise due to his play this past season. The Cowboys had cap space to play with, but had to be careful with how they used it. In the end Collins was a bit of a cap casualty, but a necessary one in the long run.
The same can also be said for Randy Gregory who now calls Denver his new home. Dallas did try to bring back the emerging edge rusher, but low balled him towards the beginning of free agency. This led to the disgruntled star deciding to move on, and left the Cowboys hanging despite them matching the offer he signed in Denver.
All this should point towards this off season being a step back right? Well; not quite.
Jerry Jones was able to bring back the players who he viewed as a priority, they now have a younger and more importantly a cheaper roster after next season. The signing of James Washington from Pittsburgh is an excellent one, as he should provide an excellent third option behind Lamb and Gallup.
The restructuring of Zack Martin's contract was a nice piece of business. As was bringing back Leighton Vander Esch on a team friendly one year deal. Malik Hooker returned on the cheap, and bringing in Dante Fowler on a one year deal is an excellent move for the Cowboys. He should provide solid depth to an already impressive pass rush.
Most importantly, and this is the thing that no one seems to be talking about with Dallas, is that they have a lot of cap flexibility in 2024. That is an important year for Dallas as that is when players such as CeeDee Lamb, Trevor Diggs and Micah Parsons are due a new contract. Keeping these guys in town is an absolute priority as they're the future of this franchise.
Dallas have lost star names, but managed to remain super competitive and retained flexibility down the road. Restructuring Dak Prescott's deal too, solidified this fact. It might not have been flashy, but what the Cowboys have done this offseason is mightily impressive.
Another loser in the NFC: The New York Football Giants
Now, correct me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t the new general manager for the New York Giants state that one of the team’s priorities during the off season would be to help protect Daniel Jones next season? It’s a rhetorical question as we all know that the answer is yes, however what is odd is the organisation's complete lack of attention given to the offensive line during free agency.
Okay fine, they have brought in veterans Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski from the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts respectively, but those two names don’t exactly inspire confidence. A lot of offensive linemen found new homes in free agency, and it feels as though the Giants should have been targeting some of the bigger names who were available on the market.
Another peculiar move made by the Giants was the addition of Tyrod Taylor from the Houston Texans. I understand the team's need to have a solid backup quarterback, as Daniel Jones hasn't inspired confidence throughout his career so far, but Taylor is a solid starter and any stretch of poor play from Jones will bring calls for Taylor to start.
The Giants didn't need to target any weapons on the offensive side of the ball, however the addition of Ricky Seals Jones as a replacement for Evan Engram feels like a desperation move. Matt Brieda should provide solid depth behind Saquon Barkley, but I would have preferred a more durable backup as Barkley hasn't exactly been healthy the past two years.
On the subject of Barkley, I feel as though we should touch on the whole saga involving the former second overall pick. It's been a rough couple of years for the former Penn State superstar, and rumours have been circulating that he could soon be on the trade block. It is an unusual situation, especially when you consider that he is still only 25 years old and has just come off of a major knee injury.
It just feels as though the Giants front office doesn't know what to do with him. Trading him doesn't make sense as he doesn't hold much value right now, and signing him to a long term deal is also risky due to his injury history/performance from the past few seasons.
There are still a lot of question marks for this organisation going into the draft. They still need to strengthen their offensive line. Their defence could use some more playmakers, and the team still doesn't know if they have their franchise quarterback. You can only fill so many holes in the draft, and the New York Giants still have plenty!
A surprise winner of the NFL offseason: Seattle Seahawks
Whenever a team loses their franchise quarterback it is difficult to say that they have done well during an off season. However, since losing Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, John Schneider and the rest of Seattle's front office have done a commendable job at rebuilding this roster.
Let's take a look at the trade itself. My esteemed colleague Ben Matthews broke down the deal in great detail in the below article (a must read for all Seahawks fans!). Two first round picks including the ninth overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Two second round picks including the 40th overall selection this year and multiple other picks. As well as Shelby Harris, Noah Fant and of course Drew Lock.
In terms of hauls for a disgruntled quarterback it doesn't get much better than the one Seattle got for their former star. The draft capital was expected, but when you take into consideration the quality of players that the Seahawks were able to pry away from Mile High, it was impressive.
Shelby Harris gives Seattle an experienced defensive tackle who should fill a position of need. Harris had a career year last year in Denver, and is exactly the type of versatile player who will add depth to an underrated Seahawks defensive unit.
Noah Fant is an enticing young offensive weapon who has on many occasions been on the verge of a breakout. He hasn't been able to stay healthy during his three seasons in the NFL, therefore it is difficult to project whether or not he will be in Seattle's long term plans. If he can stay on the field he will provide Pete Carroll with another uber athlete to help build the offence around.
Then finally there is Drew Lock. The former second round selection hasn’t exactly had a great start to his career. There is still a lot of work to be done, but Lock has the traits to be a good quarterback in the NFL. He's a decent athlete, he has a good arm and there could be more potential to unlock going forward. Seattle has a history of developing young quarterbacks, so hopefully they can draw the best out of Lock going forward.
As well as the blockbuster trade, Seattle were able to bring back their most important free agent in Quandre Diggs, add talented linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and brought back other key free agents such as Rashaad Penny, Will Dissly and Al Woods. All of which were key contributors last season, who should be important to Seattle's success next season.
Seattle still has some holes to fill, but this is a franchise you can trust to make the right decisions after trading away their franchise quarterback. They have done it before, and if the foundations they have put in place after the Russell Wilson trade are any indication, they will rebuild again.