1. Denver Broncos: The dual move of a playoff team gaining a future Hall of Fame quarterback (Peyton Manning) and ridding itself of a giant question mark (Tim Tebow) was brilliant on its own. However, getting cornerback Tracy Porter, tight end Jacob Tamme, defensive tackle Justin Bannan and wide receiver Andre Caldwell solidify an impressive offseason of work. There have been a couple of losses, such as Brodrick Bunkley and Andre' Goodman, but those are tolerable.
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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If you're going to spend in free agency, buy good players. The Bucs did that by getting guard Carl Nicks and wide receiver Vincent Jackson; they were the best offensive lineman and receiver, respectively, on the market. Cornerback Eric Wright isn't in their league, but was a nice pickup, particularly if the team also gets LSU's Morris Claiborne in the draft.
3. Buffalo Bills: They made the biggest non-Manning splash in free agency by securing defensive end Mario Williams with a deal worth $16 million per season. Williams is the best defensive end the Bills have had since Bruce Smith. As good as Williams is, he's not in Smith's class, so hopefully fans won't expect too much. The Bills also made a nice pickup with defensive Mark Anderson, although he's not a full-time player.
4. Chicago Bears: Whether this was indeed a good offseason depends largely on the Bears being able to manage the histrionics of wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has been a big enough jerk to get axed by two teams before he turned 28. Chicago acquired him for two third-round picks, which is a pittance. Maybe getting him back with quarterback Jay Cutler will help. The addition of Jason Campbell is nice insurance for the usual Cutler injury, and running back Michael Bush is a serious pounder to replace Marion Barber and give Forte a rest.
5. New England Patriots: They didn't grab a lot of headlines, but they made some nice pickups with defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene, safety Steve Gregory and tight end Daniel Fells. Yeah, most people spent a lot of time wondering what wide receivers Donte' Stallworth and Brandon Lloyd will mean for Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco, but that's just a lot of talk about the fourth receiving option.
New Orleans Saints: It's impossible to say this has been a good offseason for the Saints, but at least they signed a couple of solid linebackers in Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. They also made up for the loss of Nicks to Tampa Bay by getting Ben Grubbs and kept wide receiver Marques Colston. It's not going to make up for bounty scandal, and Brees still isn't signed. But at least the roster is OK.
San Francisco 49ers: They toyed with Manning before re-signing Alex Smith. However, the potential for gains by a 13-3 team is still there if wide receiver Randy Moss can display steady flashes of brilliance and if wide receiver Mario Manningham proves his worth. Running back Brandon Jacobs was a good, cheap addition and keeping Carlos Rogers was big.
Washington Redskins: Despite severe salary-cap penalties imposed by the NFL, the Redskins prepared to upgrade their offense with a huge trade up to the No. 2 spot and gave either Griffin or Luck help with wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Now, things could get really interesting if safeties Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson can escape their knucklehead tendencies.
1. Indianapolis Colts: When you lose a future Hall of Fame quarterback and other good players (Garcon, Tamme, tight end Dallas Clark and linebacker Gary Brackett), that's just plain brutal. Following a 2-14 season, the Colts have cleared the decks for a rebuilding project. Of course, getting Luck or Griffin in the draft will be a huge step in the right direction. But these are still trying times that should make Colts fans appreciate what they had for 13 years (excluding the '11 season) with Manning.
2. Miami Dolphins: When fans are protesting in front of the building and season ticket sales are bottoming out (supposedly), things are bad. The trade of Marshall and the failure to sign Manning (after owner Stephen Ross promised a hot pursuit) or Matt Flynn has put a lot of pressure on the organization. The Dolphins used to be the No. 1 team in South Florida. Right now, they're clearly No. 2 to the Heat and may work their way behind the Marlins and the University of Miami if they don't get things solved in a hurry.
3. New York Jets: If not for the Dolphins and the fact that the Jets still get some respect after back-to-back AFC championship game appearances during the '09 and '10 seasons, this team might be a complete laughingstock. After the addition of Tebow, the Jets were dubbed the "No Ring Circus" by one newspaper. The team hasn't done enough to help quarterback Mark Sanchez this offseason. Rather, it has created more distractions for a quarterback who needs to focus on his job. The only additions of note are two guys (wide receiver Chaz Schilens and safety LaRon Landry) who have struggled to stay healthy.
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4. Houston Texans: Yeah, yeah, the Texans made the playoffs last season largely without Mario Williams, who missed all of five games. That doesn't make losing a great player that much easier and the team is not better for it. Then there were the losses of solid right tackle Eric Winston and tight end Joel Dreessen. Aside from that, the trade of linebacker DeMeco Ryans to Philadelphia and acquisition of free agent Bradie James isn't a net gain.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: New owner Shahid Khan made a lot of promises about spending to the cap when he took over in November. All the Jaguars have to show for that promise are wide receivers Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, quarterback Chad Henne and cornerback Aaron Ross. And the team badly overpaid for Robinson. This is like being promised a spree at Nordstrom and ending up at the Goodwill store.
Oakland Raiders: This is not Reggie McKenzie's fault because there's still a lot of cleanup to be done after the death of owner Al Davis and his high-spending ways. Still, it hurt to lose Bush, Schilens, Kamerion Wimbley, Kevin Boss, Samson Satele, Trevor Scott and Rock Cartwright. The Raiders can survive it, but that's pretty good depth that's gone.
San Diego Chargers: Things could have been a lot worse for the Chargers, whose lack of foresight in contract negotiations cost them wide receiver Vincent Jackson at a time when losing a star isn't a good idea. However, the signing of wide receiver Robert Meachem, defensive end Jarrett Johnson and safety Atari Bigby may be a case where the team has managed to hold ground. Then again, that's why the Chargers remain status quo.
Top 20 remaining unrestricted free agents
1. RB Cedric Benson: Benson posted his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season last year, proving to be durable after injury problems and rumors about his toughness emerged early in his career. Although all running backs wear out, Benson's late emergence indicates he appears to have time on the clock.
2. DE Andre Carter: He had 10 sacks in 14 games before a quad injury knocked him out for the rest of the season. Carter's career has been up and down, but anybody who's capable of double-digit sacks will be working if he wants to.
3. OT Marcus McNeill: McNeill is only 28, so he still has plenty of time to resurrect his once-promising career. Injuries have cost him a lot of his range and he was never the toughest guy, but the potential is there.
4. WR Plaxico Burress: Forty-five receptions, 13.6 yards per catch and eight touchdowns were good numbers for a guy coming back after two years out of the game, particularly with Mark Sanchez as his quarterback. If Randy Moss produces those kinds of numbers this season, the 49ers will be happy. Burress can still play, he's just not going to make a lot.
5. WR Legedu Naanee: He has never really emerged as the possession receiver so many coaches believed he could become, but he had a respectable 44 catches last season with Carolina. He's tough and has solid hands.
6. WR Braylon Edwards: The decline of Edwards continued last season. He was in a one-year, make-good situation and couldn't get through the campaign because of injuries and a bad attitude. Still, somewhere underneath it all, the ability is there.
7. CB Andre' Goodman: Like many guys out there right now, Goodman is on the wrong side of 30 (he'll turn 34 in August). Still, he did a solid job last season. In a league in desperate need of corners, Goodman will have a job soon.
8. TE Dallas Clark: The word on the street is that Clark, who was such a dynamic force in his prime with Indianapolis, is done. Maybe a good offseason of rest will help. Getting a tight end who knows how to work the middle is a valuable commodity.
9. TE Jeremy Shockey: He seemed to be living by the Neil Young creed that it's better to burn out than fade away, but most guys like the money too much to simply walk into the sunset. Shockey can still play and there's always a need for receiving tight ends.
10. S Yeremiah Bell: His body can't take being on special teams and starting anymore, but that's what happens to everybody. If he's restricted to one or the other as a primary task, he still has some miles left in the tank.
11. DE Shaun Ellis: His production nosedived last season as he finished with only 14 tackles and a career-low one sack. Still, finding a 12-year veteran who can play end in a 3-4 or a 4-3 is not easy. Ellis is at the stage of his career when he will still be in demand come late August, after he’s had ample time to rest.
12. DE Matt Roth: Roth is your prototype journeyman, a guy with just enough ability to have a solid role on any team, but not a guy who will ever be a star. He has had at least 3½ sacks in each of the past six years, but never more than five.
13. DT Aubrayo Franklin: Run-stopping defensive tackles can last forever in the NFL. At 31, Franklin is going to get another chance to play for someone after a disappointing season in New Orleans. He was once considered a standout while in San Francisco. That's likely over, but his career shouldn't be.
14. OL Kareem McKenzie: He's big, smart and tough. He can play either right tackle or right guard. There's a shortage of good offensive linemen in the NFL. Enough said.
15. C Jason Brown: Once upon a time, Brown was the highest paid center in the league. Then St. Louis found out that he was a bit "high maintenance," and he got released after three years of the contract. He's still talented, but he better get his act together.
16. S O.J. Atogwe: He was once considered a franchise player when he was in St. Louis. After one season in Washington, he was fungible.
17. S Jim Leonhard: Each of his past two seasons have ended in injury and he's not exactly a physical specimen at 5-foot-8. However, if you ask Rex Ryan, he'll tell you that few players are as smart as Leonhard and that's valuable in the secondary.
18. P Mat McBriar: He ended last season on injured reserve and posted the third-worst career average of his career at 43.8 yards a punt last season. However, he's only one year removed from being a Pro Bowler and he's not even 33. In punting age, he's just reaching his prime.
19. G Chilo Rachal: A one-time starter for San Francisco who lost his job last season. He has the size and speed to be much better than he is and he's only 26.
20. TE Max Starks: Has the talent if he'll ever get back in shape.
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