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The Cincinnati Bengals proved in 2021 just how much difference one offseason can make.
A healthy Joe Burrow was a big reason for the team going from 4-11-1 to AFC champions. But the additions of Trey Hendrickson, Larry Ogunjobi, Ja’Marr Chase and Evan McPherson also played critical roles.
The 2022 offseason has been characterized by whirlwind movement throughout the league. We’ve seen star quarterbacks and wide receivers traded, major free-agent signings and an NFL draft full of surprises.
So, who came out on top?
Here, we’ll take a look at the most improved teams based on incoming talent as well as their 2022 outlook in comparison to their 2021 results. The difference between a team’s win-loss record in 2021 and its 2022 win total over/under from DraftKings Sportsbook was considered in the rankings.
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Notable Additions: WR Davante Adams, Edge Chandler Jones, DL Bilal Nichols, CB Anthony Averett, CB Rock Ya-Sin, WR Demarcus Robinson, IOL Dylan Parham, HC Josh McDaniels
The Raiders nearly missed this list, because it’s hard to believe they are going to reach their potential without major improvement from the offensive line. The unit finished 28th in PFF’s final rankings, and they didn’t really do much to bring in better talent outside of drafting Dylan Parham and signing Alex Bars.
However, there is a new coaching staff and enough young players to believe they will improve through development and coaching.
Everywhere else, though, the Raiders got better. They locked up Derek Carr to a new contract, ensuring they’ll have high-level quarterback play. Even if Carr isn’t a top-tier signal-caller, he’s still well above average and a better option than wading into the unknown with someone else.
Trading for Davante Adams gives Carr all the weapons he needs to succeed. It’s tough to top Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller as a big three.
The best work the Raiders did came on defense. They turned defensive end Yannick Ngakoue into Rock Ya-Sin via trade and signed Chandler Jones. The former Cardinals pass-rusher will be familiar with new head coach Josh McDaniels from their time together in New England.
McDaniels has all the tools he’ll need to find quick success. He’ll have every opportunity to demonstrate he’s improved since his ill-fated time as the head coach of the Denver Broncos during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
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Notable Additions: OG Brandon Scherff, CB Darious Williams, TE Evan Engram, WR Christian Kirk, LB Foyesade Oluokun, DL Foley Fatukasi, Edge Travon Walker, LB Devin Lloyd, HC Doug Pederson
You can argue that the Jaguars weren’t frugal or wise in the way they approached free agency. However, you can’t deny they got better.
The Jaguars have the biggest difference between their wins in 2021 (three) and their 2022 win total prop (six). Expecting a Bengals-like leap is out of the realm of possibility, but a jump from awful to average isn’t out of the question.
General manager Trent Baalke handed out $148 million in guarantees to Kirk, Scherff, Oluokun, Fatukasi and Cam Robinson.
That’s a high price for that collection of players, but each of the new acquisitions is an upgrade over what they fielded last season, and Robinson plays a pivotal position at left tackle.
It’s easiest to get excited about the defense. After finishing 31st in defensive efficiency, the Jaguars should be much improved. If first-round picks Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd are fast learners, they could be part of an immediate turnaround.
The biggest addition of the offseason might be Doug Pederson. After the dysfunction of Urban Meyer’s shot tenure, the Jags needed a leader with proven NFL success. Winning a Super Bowl with Nick Foles is about as good an indication as any that Pederson can help Trevor Lawrence get on the right track.
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Notable Additions: WR Tyreek Hill, OT Terron Armstead, OG Connor Williams, WR Cedrick Wilson Jr., QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Chase Edmonds, HC Mike McDaniel
The Dolphins are still going to be figuring out what they have in Tua Tagovailoa in 2022. The moves they made this offseason are going to go a long way in getting the best possible evaluation of his talent.
Rather than asking him to prove himself with so-so weapons and a bad offensive line, the Dolphins upgraded his options while working toward making sure he isn’t running for his life.
Last season, the Dolphins’ offensive line, which racked up a league-leading 235 pressure, ranked 32nd in PFF’s final rankings. With Terron Armstead taking over at left tackle and Connor Williams manning left guard, those numbers should drastically improve.
Tyreek Hill’s speed and big-play ability add a dynamic-shifting piece to the offensive toolbox. The additions of Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert give them depth in the backfield in what could be a run-heavy offense.
There weren’t a ton of changes on defense, but that unit’s continuity is important. The Dolphins were able to retain defensive coordinator Josh Boyer along with cornerback Xavien Howard and edge-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah.
After being on the precipice of the playoffs last year, Miami now boasts a completely remodeled offense as it pushes for its first postseason berth since 2016.
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Notable Additions: Edge Khalil Mack, CB J.C. Jackson, DL Sebastian Joseph-Day, DL Austin Johnson, TE Gerald Everett, OG Zion Johnson
Thanks to Justin Herbert’s rookie contract, the Chargers were in a great position to get better this offseason. They certainly capitalized on the opportunity.
Pass-rushers and cornerbacks are high-impact positions on defense, and the Chargers made moves to significantly upgrade both positions by acquiring All-Pro-caliber players in Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. For a defense that finished 26th in efficiency last season, those two are game-changers.
Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson are a pair of under-the-radar signings who will provide necessary upgrades on the interior after the Chargers gave up 4.6 yards per carry last season.
The offense didn’t need much to continue being one of the league’s best. Still, the Charges managed to retain Mike Williams, draft Zion Johnson and add a solid pass-catching tight end in Gerald Everett.
Herbert should be satisfied with the state of the franchise moving forward. Life is going to be tough in the AFC West, but the Chargers spent their resources wisely and have given him a better defense to work with.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Notable Additions: QB Russell Wilson, Edge Randy Gregory, T/G Billy Turner, CB K’Waun Williams, Edge Nik Bonitto, DL D.J. Jones, OT Tom Compton, HC Nathaniel Hackett
Going from the combination of Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater to Russell Wilson is like trading in a Ford Focus and Toyota Camry for a Rolls Royce.
The Broncos had to pay a premium to get Wilson to Denver. They not only gave up five draft picks (three in 2022 and two in 2023), but they also sent Noah Fant, Shelby Harris and Lock to Seattle in the trade.
Even so, the Broncos have a plan to replace each of those players. Obviously, Wilson erases the need for Lock. Albert Okwuegbunam is an ultra-athletic tight end with a high ceiling as a receiver, while free-agent acquisition D.J. Jones had a higher PFF grade (73.2) than his traded counterpart (Harris earned a 61.3).
The case for the Broncos being a Super Bowl contender revolves around the defense finally getting some support. The unit finished 12th in defensive efficiency last season despite trading away Von Miller.
Now, they add a proven pass-rusher in Gregory, an explosive rookie in Nik Bonitto and a solid slot cornerback in K’Waun Williams.
Throw in a promising offensive mind to pair with Wilson in new head coach Nathaniel Hackett, and you have one of the most improved teams in the league.
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