Three teams with a good offseason
Tampa Bay Bucs
I'm not crazy about trading down in the draft and passing on a shutdown corner in the process. And I think taking a safety with the No. 7 overall pick is risky business. Still, the Bucs had a promising offseason. They could've kept Raheem Morris, not spent any money in free agency and settled for the status quo. Instead they hired a dynamic new coach in Greg Schiano (above) made a big splash in free agency by signing three impact players in WR Vincent Jackson, G Carl Nicks and CB Eric Wright. And the first two rounds of the draft did produce three players (S Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin, LB Lavonte David) who fill gaping holes and should start. All in all, better than the status quo.
You might have to go back to 1993 and Reggie White to find a bigger game-changer in free agency than Peyton Manning this offseason. If Manning (above) is healthy — and that's a big IF after sitting out a year with multiple neck surgeries — the Broncos are getting one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. If he has anything left in his tank, the Broncos suddenly become a Super Bowl contender. Think that's overstating it? Well, consider that the Broncos have a strong running game, a tremendous defense and not only made the playoffs but won a postseason game with Tim Tebow at the helm. With all due respect to Tebow, Manning is a better quarterback. Even without a first-round pick, the Broncos had a heck of an offseason.
If you're a Bears fan, you're cautiously optimistic about your offseason. Why the caution? Because you never know what you're going to get with Brandon Marshall, who was acquired for a couple of third-round picks. If it works out, the Bears get the playmaking wide receiver that QB Jay Cutler really hasn't had since going to the Windy City. Of course, the issue is whether Marshall (above) can stay out of trouble long enough to catch 90-odd passes. Based on his history, there's reason for concern. But that wasn't Chicago's only move. You have to especially like the Bears picking up a reliable veteran backup QB in Jason Campbell. If the Bears had a decent backup last season when Cutler was injured, they might have made the playoffs.
Three teams with a bad offseason
The Dolphins spent last season without a quarterback and go into next season with an unproven kid as their best hope. It's hard to imagine the Dolphins having a worse offseason. They were the heavy favorites to land Peyton Manning but lost out on that sweepstakes. Then they didn't get any of the consolation prizes: Matt Flynn, Alex Smith or even Tim Tebow. To fill the glaring hole at QB, they over-reached for Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill with the eighth pick in the draft. Meantime, the whole Brandon Marshall soap opera ended poorly. They once traded two second-round picks for the wide receiver and, last month, traded him away for two third-round picks. I'm not a math major, but that doesn't sound good.
New Orleans Saints
What a mess. Not too long ago, the Saints had become the new America's Team in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But these days, the Saints might be the most reviled team in sports, thanks to the disgusting Bounty-gate scandal and, now, rumors that GM Mickey Loomis might have listened in on opposing coaches early in the 2000s. Coach Sean Payton (above) has been suspended for a year. They hoped to replace him with Bill Parcells, but they had to settle for giving the job to assistant Joe Vitt, who is suspended for six games, meaning the team will have to have an interim coach for the interim coach. QB Drew Brees remains unsigned, and the team didn't even have a pick in the first two rounds of this year's draft, partly because of Bounty-gate. Yeesh.
New owner Shahid Khan was supposed to revitalize the organization by pumping a bunch of money into free agency, but it turns out, not many good free agents want to come to Jacksonville because the team is, well, not good. The Jaguars could've really jacked up the fan base by going out and getting Jacksonville's own Tim Tebow, but that didn't happen. The Jags then moved up in the draft to take WR Justin Blackmon (above). Nice player, but who's going to throw him the ball? Blaine Gabbert? Chad Henne? Please.
Team with the worst first-round performance
What the heck were the Seahawks thinking by taking West Virginia DE Bruce Irvin with the 15th overall pick? For starters, this former high school dropout has had major off-field problems, including jail time. Seattle loves that Irvin (left) is a pure pass-rusher, but Irvin wasn't even the best pass rusher available when Seattle picked. Quinton Coples and Chandler Jones probably would've been better selections. Plus, because of Irvin's character red flags, the Seahawks probably could've traded down, picked up extra picks and still landed Irvin. You get the feeling coach Pete Carroll sometimes tries too hard to think outside the box.
Team with the best first-round performance
The Vikings did what every team should strive to do in the draft: trade your first pick for extra picks and still end up with the player you wanted to draft in the first round. GM Rick Spielman somehow convinced the Browns to trade up one spot in the draft to No. 3 overall and give up a fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round pick to do so. Then the Vikings still drafted OT Matt Kalil (above), the guy they would've taken with the third pick. Then a deal with Baltimore gave the Vikings the 29th pick, which they used to fill another hole by taking S Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame.
Three things that popped into my head
1. True, there were a lot trades in the first round. In fact, half the first-round selections were traded, so it wasn't easy to pull off a successful mock draft. Still, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper (left) got only seven of the first-round picks correct. That includes the first two picks — Andrew Luck to the Colts and Robert Griffin III to the Redskins — that everybody knew was going to happen. If this is all you do for a living, pretty much, shouldn't you get more than seven right? No one else did much better, which really proves just how ridiculous mock drafts are.
2. It's way too early to say that QB Robert Griffin III (left) will have the same kind of impact as Cam Newton did last year with Carolina. But if RG3 is even close to Newton, watch out for the Redskins next season. This team is a lot closer to being a winning team than you might realize. Hey, they beat the Super Bowl champion Giants twice last season. Then again, they have a bear of a schedule in 2012.
3. Prediction: Morris Claiborne (left) will have far more of an impact in the NFL than Mark Barron.
tom jones' two cents
A Two Cents look at the NFL following the weekend's draft and a busy offseason.