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NFL Free Agency More Important Than Draft

Mill Woods

Posted on March 31, 2021 15:28

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Pads and helmets are shelved right now, but the seeds are being planted for the teams that will take the field in the fall. While many fans get excited about the drafting of young stars from college, I find that the critical decisions happen in March and April — involving veteran players moving from team to team. So, in the middle of free agency, which teams are getting better, getting worse or staying the same?

Let me start my coverage of the 2021 NFL season with three ‘truths’, which you may not have heard — or may not agree with.
 
Truth #1.  Most of the 32 NFL teams do not need a ‘rebuilding’; they only need a tuneup.  If you didn't believe this before, then the rocket rise of the Bucs should have convinced you.  The Bucs were not rebuilt; they needed only a better quarterback and better coaching.  Most of their roster was acquired over the previous seven years.  As an example, wide receiver Mike Evans had seven 1,000-yard seasons in a row, and only the last one was with Tom Brady.  The Bucs, who had been cellar dwellers in the NFC South for years, only needed a tuneup.
 
Truth #2.  Offense still wins championships.  Every contender needs a stand-up defense, but if great defense were enough, the Bears would have played in three Super Bowls recently.  When a usually-potent offense seriously underperforms, the better defense will win the day.  The Chiefs seriously underperformed in February.  Yes, the Bucs have an excellent defense, and yes, the Bucs’ offense was potent, to boot.  
 
And don’t forget coaching.  The MVP of the Super bowl was Todd Bowles, who was a far craftier chessmaster than Eric Bieniemy.  But looking past this last Super Bowl — an anomaly — future championships will be won by teams with top-performing offenses and competent defenses.
 
Truth #3.  Free agency remains far more important than the draft.  Free agency for 2021 is not complete, but it is also not too early to assess which teams got a little better, which teams got worse, and which teams stayed about the same.  Here’s my list, in alphabetical order — because it’s pointless to rank them when they’re so close.

Nine Teams Got A Little Better: Bears, Bengals, Cardinals, Cowboys, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Titans.
 
Nine Teams Got A Little Worse: Chargers, Chiefs, 49ers, Raiders, Rams, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans.
 
Fourteen Stayed About The Same: Bills, Broncos, Bucs, Browns, Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Ravens, Vikings, Washington.
 
Neither Super Bowl team got much worse — or improved.  In fact, the entire 2020 playoff crop made little improvement.  But don't emphasize this too much — there’s still the not-so-little matter of coaching.

Highlights of Free Agency

Cardinals sign AJ Green and JJ Watt. 
 
Rams and Lions do a quarterback swap. Who won? Who knows?  
 
Cowboys grab safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee. 
 
Seahawks keep Chris Carson but lose Carlos Hyde and Shaquill Griffin. 
 
Ravens nab Sammy Watkins, lose Matt Judon. 
 
Patriots' defense better with Judon, but Pats need more offense, even after acquisition of Nelson Agholor.
 
Jets score big, making Robert Saleh (49ers) their new HC and Jeff Ulbrich (Falcons) their new DC — then, nab Sheldon Rankins and Tevin Coleman.

Because salary caps are smaller, free agent signings are coming slower.  More signings lie ahead.  But rosters are pretty much set for 2021, no matter what happens in the draft.

Mill Woods

Posted on March 31, 2021 15:28

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