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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The NFL offseason awards

NFL teams acknowledged for their offseason efforts in free agency and the draft

 

By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org

 

The offseason marks the beginning of the 2023-2024 NFL season. The two most notable events during the offseason are the free agency period and the NFL Draft, both of which offer teams opportunities to add players to their rosters and improve from last season. Some teams in particular have taken advantage of the opportunity to improve their roster and future outlook.

 

Best free-agency signings 

With the desire to improve their secondary, the Detroit Lions signed versatile cornerback Cameron Sutton to a three-year deal worth $33 million. During his time as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sutton played as an outside cornerback and slot cornerback, accumulating eight interceptions and 38 passes defended. 

The 49ers, who already have a defensive line that includes a Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, edge rusher Nick Bosa, signed former Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84-million contract. In the past two seasons, Hargrave has 18.5 sacks and was a Pro Bowler. He will bolster the 49ers’ interior defensive line, which struggled at times last season.

 

Best draft classes

The Pittsburgh Steelers front office shined, drafting players that filled their roster’s biggest gaps. They drafted University of Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones, who possesses rare agility and movement skills at a monstrous size. They also got University of Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., whose father had 60 sacks as an edge rusher for the Steelers from 1999 to 2006. University of Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton, University of Georgia tight end Darnell Washington and linebacker Nick Herbig were other notable picks who will likely contribute to the team as well. 

The 2022-2023 NFC champs, the Eagles, continued to add to an already talented roster. They drafted two talented pass rushers from the University of Georgia in the first round, defensive tackle Jalen Carter and edge rusher Nolan Smith. They also added depth to their offensive line and secondary, drafting University of Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Steen and University of Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo. Continuing on the trend of drafting former bulldogs, the team also traded for a University of Georgia alum, Lions’ running back D’Andre Swift

 

Most improved offense

The Baltimore Ravens’ offense was in jeopardy when quarterback Lamar Jackson appeared to be discontent with contract negotiations. The Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson, granting him the ability to negotiate with other teams as a free agent. However, Jackson and the Ravens resolved their conflicts, and Jackson agreed to a five-year contract worth $260 million, allowing the Ravens to keep the 2019 Most Valuable Player Award winner and current top quarterback. 

The Ravens also added new players to bolster their offense. They hired the University of Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken as their new offensive coordinator. Monken and the Bulldogs won back-to-back National Championships in the previous two college football seasons and averaged over 500 yards per game in 2022. The team also signed free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and drafted Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers in the first round. 

 

Most improved defense 

The Seattle Seahawks’ defense ranked among the bottom of the league in total yards allowed during the 2022 season. While rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen emerged as a franchise cornerback, there were not many other players who stood out. With an opportunity to compete for a division title this upcoming season, the Seahawks decided to add some talent to their defense during the offseason. 

One of the Seahawks’ most notable defensive acquisitions was drafting physical cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick in the draft. They also signed stud defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones to a three-year, $51.5-million contract, reinforcing their defensive line. The Seahawks are also bringing back some previous players. They re-signed linebacker Bobby Wagner after releasing him in the previous offseason, and safety Jamal Adams will also return this year after suffering a season-ending injury in the first game of last season. 

 

Most underrated acquisitions

The Dallas Cowboys had two glaring weaknesses on their roster last season: an explosive second wide receiver to pair with receiver CeeDee Lamb and a second cornerback to pair with cornerback Trevon Diggs. They decided to address these areas of weakness through the veteran trade market.

First, they traded their 2023 fifth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the former Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Then, they traded their other 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans for six-time 1,000-yard wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Trading for reliable veteran players paid dividends for other teams in the past, and the Cowboys will hope for the same. 

The Arizona Cardinals are also amid a rebuild, hiring Eagles’ Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon as their new head coach and Titans’ Director of Player Personnel Monti Ossenfort as their general manager this offseason. With several holes on their roster, the Cardinals would make several trades in the draft to acquire more draft capital, including a trade with the Texans to acquire multiple first- and second-round picks. In the 2024 NFL Draft, they will have six picks in the first three rounds to replenish their roster.
The NFL offseason is nearly complete and all teams’ mandatory minicamps are slated to begin in June. Teams laid their foundations and fans got a glimpse of their expectations for the upcoming regular season during the draft and free agency period. Now, with summer quickly approaching, players will get back to work in preparation for another exciting NFL season. 

Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org