The major events of the 2021 NFL offseason, at least when it comes to player transactions, have largely passed now that most marquee free agents have found a home and the draft has happened.
That begs the question, as preparations get underway for workouts and eventual training camps: Which teams won the hardest this NFL offseason?
Let’s look at five franchises who should be extremely optimistic thanks to how proactive their front offices were in attacking needs on the roster and greatly improving their outlook for this coming season.
Drafting Trevor Lawrence first overall probably would’ve been enough to give Jacksonville’s offseason a winning grade, but the Jaguars didn’t let that landmark pick define them. They made a bold hire in head coach Urban Meyer, who’s built winning programs immediately at a multitude of prior NCAA stints.
Meyer and Lawrence alone aren’t enough for the Jaguars to ascend from the AFC South basement to the playoffs, but the team made plenty more savvy moves.
Veteran receiver Marvin Jones gives D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. a great mentor to learn from. The same goes for how Shaquil Griffin can help 2020 first-round cornerback C.J. Henderson and the draft’s first Day 2 pick, Tyson Campbell, realize their potential in the NFL in short order.
Don’t be shocked if Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little and Syracuse safety Andre Cisco are effective starters sooner rather than later, despite being second- and third-round picks respectively. Little opted out of 2020 but is a freakish athlete hailing from a pro-style system. Cisco is a playmaker who’ll be almost a full year removed from a torn ACL once Week 1 rolls around.
Finally, the Jags also drafted Lawrence’s Clemson teammate, tailback Travis Etienne, 25th overall. Etienne is an explosive runner with receiver-type pass-catching skills who adds a whole new dimension to the offense.
A nice mix of veterans and injection of young talent, combined with the paradigm-altering acquisitions of Lawrence and Meyer, make the Jaguars a huge NFL offseason winner.
Los Angeles Rams
Some put a premium on draft capital. The Rams laugh in the face of it. They’ve sacrificed multiple first-round picks for the likes of All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the past, and did so again to upgrade at quarterback from Jared Goff with Matthew Stafford in a splashy trade this offseason. They’re probably just fine with that.
Finally getting Stafford out of Detroit is something pretty much any non-Lions football purist wanted to see. He’s among the most talented passers ever, and hasn’t been in an NFL situation where he’s set up to thrive maybe ever.
Stafford alone makes the Rams’ offseason a raging success. GM Les Snead made good use of the draft picks Los Angeles did have. Snead acquired a super-fast playmaker in Tutu Atwell to join their receiving group, and a needed run-stopping linebacker in Round 3 in South Carolina tackling machine Ernest Jones.
Snead added two high-upside, excellent depth pieces to kick off Day 3 of the draft as well with defensive lineman Bobby Brown III and cornerback Robert Rochell. The Rams’ rookie class could definitely make an impact in 2021, and their incumbents who have to step up for departed starters seem more than capable of doing so.