(Brock Oswelier and Malik Jackson photos courtesy of the Denver Broncos)
Talk of Fame Network
We know who won the 2015 season — the Denver Broncos, who used a smothering defense to capture the third Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
But who won the 2016 offseason? That’s the subject of our Talk of Fame Network poll this week. Was it the spenders in free agency? Or the drafters? Or a combination of both? Here are your six candidates:
Cleveland Browns. The Browns traded away the second overall pick of the draft, electing to sign Robert Griffin III in free agency rather than draft Carson Wentz. Cleveland then used that windfall of draft picks from the Eagles to fill an abundance of holes on the depth chart. The Browns drafted a league-high 13 players, and virtually all were big-time performers at big-time college programs. Cleveland drafted seven first-team all-conference selections and three first-team All-Americas. Both figures topped in the league. First-rounder Corey Coleman gives fellow Baylor Bear Griffin a deep threat and second- and third-rounders Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib should supply a pass rush.
(Robert Griffin III photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)
Houston Texans. The Texans were a major player in free agency, signing quarterback Brock Osweiler away from the Super Bowl champion Broncos, running back Lamar Miller away from the Dolphins and guard Jeff Allen away from the Chiefs. Those offensive upgrades cost the Texans $63 million in guaranteed money. Houston already has a Super Bowl-ready defense with J.J. Watt; the Texans finished third in the NFL on that side of the ball last season. So coach Bill O’Brien continued working on his offense in the draft, selecting wide receivers Will Fuller and Braxton Miller in the first three rounds, plus guard Nick Martin, the younger brother of Dallas Pro Bowl blocker Zach Martin.
Jacksonville Jaguars. Like the Texans, the Jaguars invested heavily in free agency. They gave defensive end Malik Jackson the largest contract in free agency — $85.5 million over five years, with $42 million of it guaranteed – to leave the Super Bowl-champion Broncos. The Jaguars also signed offensive tackle Kevin Beachum, safety Tashaun Gipson and running back Chris Ivory for another $23.5 million in guaranteed money. Jacksonville then landed arguably the best defensive player in the draft with the fifth overall pick in cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Jaguars used six of their seven draft picks on defense, including linebacker Myles Jack in the second round, in a bid to upgrade the NFL’s 24th-ranked unit.
New York Giants. Feeling the pressure to win the win-able NFC East, the Giants splurged in free agency, signing the best available pass rusher (Olivier Vernon from Miami) and the best defensive tackle (Damon Harrison from the Jets) plus cornerback Janoris Jackson from the Rams. The cost was steep — $105.3 million in guaranteed money – but drastic steps needed to be taken by GM Jerry Reese to fix the NFL’s worst defense. The Giants also used their first-round draft pick on Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple and may have stolen Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard with their second-rounder. He could be a nice speed complement to Odell Beckham Jr.
(Olivier Vernon photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)
Oakland Raiders. The Raiders spent in free agency on the impact positions, signing left tackle candidate Kelechi Osemele away from the Ravens, cornerback Sean Smith away from the Chiefs and pass rusher Bruce Irvin away from the Seahawks. The outlay for the three walk-in starters was $64.4 million in guaranteed money. Then Oakland coach Jack Del Rio used his first three picks on defensive players, snagging the best safety in the draft (Karl Joseph) plus two more pass rushers, Jihad Ward of Illinois and Shilique Calhoun of Michigan State. Finding quarterback Connor Cook in the fourth round was a value pick.
(Connor Cook photo courtesy of Michigan State University)
Washington Redskins. The Redskins were late spenders in free agency but were wise to sit on their money. That way they could afford Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman when he became free in April after the NFC champion Carolina Panthers lifted his franchise tag. Norman gives Washington someone who can line up against Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. one-on-one in division play. The Redskins used a premium draft pick on another cornerback, Kendall Fuller in the third round, and used a second-rounder on a deluxe defensive playmaker in linebacker Su’a Cravens. First-round draft pick Josh Doctson, an All-America wide receiver from TCU, makes Kirk Cousins a better quarterback walking in the door.