THRIVING OAKLAND RAIDERS
Draft Highlights: R1 S Karl Joseph, WVU; R2 DE Jihad Ward, Illinois; R3 DE Shilique Calhoun, Mich St; R4 QB Connor Cook, Mich St. Veteran Gains: CB Sean Smith; S Reggie Nelson; LB Bruce Irvin, OL Kelechi Osemele. Losses: S Taylor Mays; OT Khalif Barnes; S Larry Asante. Retired: S Charles Woodson; DE Justin Tuck.
The Draft, free agency and more... Richard L Gale looks at who’s been winning the NFL offseason
he NFL offseason isn’t just about making moves, but making the right ones. Some teams glide across the terrain like Nureyev and Fonteyn; others flail and stagger like a drunk dad at a wedding disco. And a single offseason move can sometimes look like both at once.
PHOTO COURTESY OF FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
Case in point: Brock Osweiler. With QB Peyton Manning bowing out, his Broncos understudy instead signed with Houston (4 years, $72m... for a player with just 7 starts?) when cap-conscious Denver balked. The Broncos tried to broker a deal to tempt Colin Kaepernick from San Francisco, but with the latter ambivalently remaining a 49er, Denver’s succession plan was reduced to buying Philadelphia retread Mark Sanchez. On draft night, a number of could-be No.1 picks – Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil, Ohio State OLB Joey Bosa and FSU DB Jalen Ramsey among them – waited while quarterbacks went 1 and 2, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles trading up for Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota’s Carson Wentz respectively. While Tunsil’s slide was the jaw-dropping development (it coincided with bizarre internet footage of Tunsil seemingly enjoying a substance through a gasmask), Denver’s edge-of-seat predicament found round one resolution when they snagged Memphis’ rangey QB Paxton Lynch. Just the outcome they had planned all along... honest.
Charles Woodson called it quits, but Oakland is on the brink of a breakthrough. Free agency (Smith, Nelson) and the draft (Joseph) restocked the secondary. Irvin and R3 pass rusher Calhoun will contribute immediately. A deftly-delivered ‘pieces of the puzzle’ Spring. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS Draft Highlights: R1 DB Jalen Ramsey, FSU; R2 ILB Myles Jack, UCLA; R3 DE Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland; R4 DT Sheldon Day, Notre Dame. Veteran Gains: DL Malik Jackson; RB Chris Ivory; CB Prince Amukamara; OT Kelvin Beachum. Losses: C Stefen Wisniewski.
Ramsey was the plug’n’play best-in-draft. The rest of an ace rookie talent haul may have to work in, but in the meantime the Jags grabbed Jackson from the Broncos at his peak, Amukamara adds veteran savvy, Ivory is more than a utilitarian back, and Beachum will start. London will witness a team with serious growl this year. HOUSTON TEXANS Draft Highlights: R1 WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame; R2 C Nick Martin, Notre Dame; R3 WR Braxton Miller, Ohio St. Veteran Gains: QB Brock Osweiler; OG Jeff Allen; RB Lamar Miller; S Antonio Allen; C Tony Bergstrom. Losses: C Ben Jones; S Rahim Moore; WR Nate Washington; RB Arian Foster; QB T.J. Yates; QB Brian Hoyer; DE Jared Crick.
They overpaid for Osweiler, but the broken-in exBronco’s an upgrade on Hoyer, multi-threat RB Miller replaces oft-dinged Arian Foster, and the draft yielded two talented WRs and a starting center. Some offense at last... though it could still look awkward to begin. CHICAGO BEARS
Draft Highlights: R1 OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia; R2 OG Cody Whitehair, Kan.St; R3 DE Jonathan Bullard, Florida; R4 S Deon Bush, Miami. Veteran Gains: LBs Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman; S Omar Bolden; OLs Bobby Massie, Manuel Ramirez; DT Akiem Hicks; QB Brian Hoyer. Losses: RB Matt Forte; C Matt Slauson; S Antrel Rolle; OT Jermon Bushrod; TE Martellus Bennett; LB Shea McClellin.
Losing envigorating offensive coordinator Adam Gase and versatile Matt Forte, how did the Bears rank this high? By addressing their terrible LB situation threefold (R1 Floyd, Freeman, ex-Bronco Trevathan), resigning WR Alshon Jeffery, and averaging high at the draft. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS Draft Highlights: R1 DE Joey Bosa, Ohio St; R2 TE Hunter Henry, Ark.; R3 C Max Tuerk, USC; R4 ILB Joshua Perry, Ohio St; R5 ILB Jatavis Brown, Akron. Veteran Gains: WR Travis Benjamin; S Dwight Lowery; CB Casey Hayward; DT Brandon Mebane; C Matt Slauson. Losses: S Eric Weddle; TE Ladarius Green; WR Malcom Floyd; CB Patrick Robinson.
The draft goes deeper than we have space to show; Bosa could be an emotional key for the defense. Free agency was a mixed bag, but Ken Whisenhunt’s return as coordinator could recapture QB Philip Rivers’ best.