NFL Primer: Offseason Winners
Training camps are opening up on a daily basis and as the offseason is rapidly disappearing in the rear view mirror, it's time to identify the winners of the 2010 offseason.
Seattle Seahawks The NFC West should be wide open and if the seas part for Seattle you can look to this past spring as the stepping stone. With the acquisition of running back Leon Washington and rookie wide receiver Golden Tate the Seahawks add a pair of speedsters that bring instant depth to both positions. Thanks to two first round draft picks Seattle was able to pick up tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas, two players who can start right away. Of course, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will need to stay healthy all year and the X factor will be the coaching of Pete Carroll who returns to the NFL after an 11 year absence. Nevertheless, the pieces are in place for the Seahawks to contend in the West.
Indianapolis Colts It's hard to imagine that a 14-2 team that made it to the Super Bowl can improve drastically in the offseason but the Colts did what they always do: maintained the core of their roster. Such stability has allowed the Colts to remain one of the NFL's best team and 2010 should be no different. Indianapolis re-signed a trio of defensive free agents in Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt and Daniel Muir. Those three were major contributors to a defense that ranked 8th in scoring and shut down the Ravens and Jets in the playoffs. The Colts went on the defensive in the draft, using their first three picks on defense. We know the Colts are deft at finding talent in the draft so look for Jerry Hughes to play a key role. By the way Peyton Manning returns so count on more fireworks this season for the Colts.
Chicago Bears Thanks to some wheeling and dealing the Bears entered this year's draft with only five picks, none of which were in the top 74. So naturally Chicago made a lot of noise in free agency and the Bears had arguably the best free agent pick ups of the offseason. You can start with defensive end Julius Peppers and his 25 sacks over the past two years. The Bears re-signed Adewale Ogunleye, giving Chicago the bookends necessary to put pressure on the high flying quarterbacks of the NFC North. On offense the Bears nabbed running back Chester Taylor, one of the better pass catching backs in the league. What remains to be seen is if Chicago's mediocre offensive line, which was not addressed in the offseason, can open up holes for Taylor and Matt Forte. If so, the Bears will be a tough team to beat on both sides of the ball.
Miami Dolphins The Dolphins made two key moves in the offseason that should be enough to help them compete in the rugged AFC East. First Miami landed one of the biggest free agent names in linebacker Karlos Dansby, a terror to both quarterbacks and ball carriers. Then the Dolphins grabbed a legit number one wide receiver in the volatile Brandon Marshall. If he stays healthy and happy Marshall will take a lot of pressure off the young core of wide receivers. Quarterback Chad Henne got better as the 2009 season rolled along and should continue to improve in 2010. Remember, the Dolphins won the division in 2008 and now have the horses to stay with New England and New York again.