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That sound you heard this week was the opening of NFL training camps. We’re inside six weeks now until the start of the regular season, and the grunting and sweating that’s happening on all those far-flung practice fields will soon yield to real results.
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The play-by-play you get of camp practices can be fun, and it can soothe your football-starved soul. But it doesn’t ultimately make much of a difference as to what happens once the real games start. Far more likely to matter is what’s come before — the moves made this offseason long before camps opened.
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With that in mind, and with camps open across the league, here’s a look at the offseason moves likely to have a major impact on the 2017 NFL season, in no particular order:
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The Oakland Raiders jersey hit fast forwardThe biggest Raiders news of the offseason was the cheap jersey approval they got to move to Las Vegas after two or three more years in Oakland. But that news seems to only have intensified the team’s desire to win very, very soon — as in, before it leaves the Bay Area. Luring running back Marshawn Lynch jersey out of retirement, adding Jared Cook jersey jersey to an already potent pass-catching corps, signing quarterback Derek Carr jersey for the long term, extending coach Jack Del Rio … all of these moves signify a franchise flush with confidence and the highest of hopes for the very immediate future. Regardless of location.
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The New York Giants jersey sign Brandon Marshall jersey jerseyThe Giants got a major break here, getting the veteran wideout on the cheap in part because he didn’t want to leave the New York market after getting cut by the Jets. Marshall averages 104 catches for 1,341 yards and nine touchdowns in his first year after changing teams, and this is the fourth time he has changed teams. He’s 33, and at some point he and those trends will slow down. But in the meantime, Marshall should be a great help to superstar wideout Odell Beckham jersey Jr jersey. and to quarterback Eli Manning jersey jersey, who too often last season didn’t have enough reliable targets.
Brandin Cooks jersey jersey will give Tom Brady jersey jersey a crucial deep threat, and the Patriots’ offense could be special. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty ImagesBill Belichick gets trade-happyWe’ve long known the New England Patriots jersey’ coach loves to trade draft picks, but usually he’s dealing them for other draft picks. This offseason, the Patriots dealt for wide receiver Brandin Cooks jersey jersey, pass-rusher Kony Ealy jersey jersey jersey and tight end Dwayne Allen jersey jersey. They also gave up a pick to sign restricted free-agent running back Mike Gillislee jersey jersey away from Buffalo — the team from whom they signed top free-agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore jersey jersey jersey. It was a bold and creative offseason by a coach who has won five Super Bowls and seems determined to win as many as possible before his and Tom Brady jersey jersey’s window closes.
New friends for Jameis Winston jerseyEditor’s PicksBiggest questions for every NFL teamHow will playing on a one-year deal affect Redskins QB Kirk Cousins jersey? Will Andrew Luck jersey jersey be the Colts’ Week 1 starter? What’s Le’Veon Bell jersey’s plan for the preseason? NFL Nation assesses the biggest questions entering training camp.
Starting lineup, 53-man roster projections for every NFL teamWho’s on the bubble? Which rookie could surprise? NFL Nation reporters take a crack at a preliminary 53-man roster and starting lineup projection and preview what to expect in training camp for every team.
Barnwell: NFL’s best (and worst) arsenalsNo quarterbacks, offensive linemen or coordinators allowed — just pass-catchers and running backs. From 32-1, we’re ranking every team’s offensive weapons.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey added premier deep-threat wideout DeSean Jackson jersey in free agency, a move that should open up the field in unprecedented ways for quarterback Winston and star wideout Mike Evans jersey. They also drafted Alabama tight end O.J. Howard in the first round, a move that should open up things for Cameron Brate jersey as a pass-catcher and help the run game as Howard develops at the NFL level. The Bucs were one of 2016’s surprise stories, and they look to keep it going around their young quarterback.
Richard Sherman jersey stays putWhether he asked for a trade, whether the Seattle Seahawks jersey just got tired of the antics … none of that is really relevant, because coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider made it publicly clear they were listening to offers for their heart-and-soul cornerback. They ended up keeping him, which is the right move. Contract and cap issues will make it tough for Seattle to keep its secondary together after this season, but right now the NFC is still the Seahawks’ for the taking if the offense can hold up its end. Keeping the defense together for at least one more run was the way to go.
The Los Angeles Rams jersey hire young and oldThe new coach is energetic, talented offensive mind Sean McVay, age 31. The new defensive coordinator is the venerable Wade Phillips, age 70, last seen turning the Denver Broncos jersey’ defense into a championship-caliber monster. The combination should mean new energy and excitement for a Rams team that has hit some doldrums. Whether it means success depends on how much McVay has with young quarterback Jared Goff jersey.
Open season on general managersThe teams that changed GMs at odd times of the year included the Indianapolis Colts jersey, Buffalo Bills jersey, Kansas City Chiefs jersey and Carolina Panthers jersey. The latter two were stunning summer surprises. The changes in Buffalo and Kansas City signify increased power for the head coaches. The one in Carolina could signal a return to some bad, old-style spending habits. The one in Indy is, the Colts hope, the best chance to put a contender around Andrew Luck jersey jersey as he develops. Long term, though, the impact is this: If you’re an NFL GM, there’s no time of year when you can believe your job is safe.
First-round pick Jamal Adams jersey is an early front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsThe New York Jets jersey draft safety Jamal Adams jerseyLook, it feels as if everything we say and write about the Jets is doom and gloom, and for the most part there’s good reason for that. I don’t expect them to be a good team in 2017. But Adams, the No. 6 overall pick, could be the most NFL-ready player in this year’s rookie class, and the expectation is that he’ll emerge as a leader right away and solidify things on that defense as the team adds pieces in the years to come. A great long-view pick for a team that has to be thinking that way.
The Cleveland Browns jersey build the lineThis is another team that appears to be years away from contending. But adding Kevin Zeitler jersey jersey and JC Tretter jersey jersey in free agency and re-signing Joel Bitonio jersey jersey long term signifies a team that knows what a rebuild is all about. Getting better up front will only help whoever the quarterback turns out to be, and it will help the Browns be a better running team and a tougher team to play in 2017.
Sam Bradford jersey gets some help … maybeAre Riley Reiff jersey jersey jersey and Mike Remmers jersey jersey jersey the answers at tackle for a Minnesota Vikings jersey team whose 2016 season fell apart due to poor play at those positions? Their free-agent price tags say they are. Their histories say “maybe, maybe not.” Bradford is in the final year of his contract, and the health of former Minnesota first-rounder Teddy Bridgewater jersey jersey is keeping the organization from committing to Bradford just yet. Reiff and Remmers will have a lot to say about how successful Bradford will be in 2017 and how likely he is to stay beyond.
The Houston Texans jersey overhaul quarterback — againA year after dumping Brian Hoyer jersey jersey jersey and overpaying for Brock Osweiler jersey, Houston managed to offload Osweiler’s contract to cap-rich Cleveland and then moved up in the draft to take Clemson’s Deshaun Watson jersey. Whether Watson starts right away remains to be seen (the bet here is that he does). But where the Texans were once convinced Osweiler was the long-term answer, they’re now all-in on the electric youngster who took out Alabama in the national championship game.
The Green Bay Packers jersey sign a free-agent tight end — againLast year it was Jared Cook jersey jersey, who played well enough to get a new deal from the Raiders. This year it’s Martellus Bennett jersey jersey jersey, fresh off a Super Bowl title with the Patriots. A better all-around player than even the dynamic Cook, Bennett will be a fun middle-of-the-field weapon for Aaron Rodgers jersey jersey and an underrated helper to Ty Montgomery jersey jersey and the run game as a blocker.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan each got six-year contracts in San Francisco, and the 49ers are in for a rebuild. AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezThe San Francisco 49ers jersey change coaches — againKyle Shanahan will be the fourth different 49ers coach in four years, but he and new GM John Lynch got six-year deals, which means it’s very unlikely the Niners will change coaches again next year. Shanahan and Lynch are both first-timers in their jobs, so some growing pains should be expected. And they still have to figure out the long-term answer at quarterback. But the long-term commitment indicates a franchise that knows it needs some stability at the top, at long last.
The Carolina Panthers jersey add help for Cam Newton jersey jerseyBattered from the outset, the 2015 NFL MVP endured a nightmare of a 2016 season and is coming off offseason shoulder surgery. The Panthers signed former first-round pick Matt Kalil jersey jersey jersey to play left tackle (two spots over from his brother, Ryan Kalil jersey jersey) and drafted Christian McCaffrey jersey and Curtis Samuel jersey to give Newton some short-range, quick-pass targets. This is all designed to help protect Newton better and prolong his career. How he adjusts to the new style will be one of the big stories of 2017.
Martavis Bryant jersey is reinstatedThe Pittsburgh Steelers jersey’ wide receiver was suspended for four games in 2015 and every game in 2016 for violating the league’s drug policy, but assuming no slip-ups between now and September — he’s still not allowed to practice or play in games — he’ll be back on the field and should add a viable deep threat to Pittsburgh’s already-star-studded passing attack. If they can get running back Le’Veon Bell jersey in camp and keep him, Ben Roethlisberger jersey and Antonio Brown jersey all healthy at the same time, this could be the best offense in the league.
Kirk Cousins jersey tells Washington ‘No, thanks’Washington never came close to offering Cousins the kind of contract it would have taken to keep him from wanting to test next March’s free-agent market, so he’ll play out 2017 on a $24 million franchise tag and likely leave when it’s over. The impact on Washington’s 2017 season remains to be seen, and it’s possible Cousins’ performance suffers from the loss of Pierre Garcon jersey and DeSean Jackson jersey. But the major impact of this move could be a franchise quarterback on the open market in March — and those ripples would be felt league wide for years to come.
Dontari Poe jersey jersey signed a one-year deal in Atlanta, and the Falcons are hoping he helps improve their run defense and pass rush. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsThe Atlanta Falcons jersey beef up their defensive frontYes, of course the offensive playcalling in the Super Bowl deserves to be questioned. But another reason the Falcons blew a 25-point lead to the Patriots is that their defense had nothing left by the fourth quarter. Signing defensive tackle Dontari Poe jersey jersey and drafting Takkarist McKinley jersey in Round 1 deepens the D-line and should help the defense stay stronger later in games.
The Chargers say goodbye to San DiegoNow the Los Angeles Chargers jersey, Philip Rivers jersey’ team will play in a 30,000-seat soccer stadium while their joint venture with the Rams is built. The stadium situation in San Diego wasn’t a great one, but how bad could it really have been to chase them out of town before they had a representative, NFL-caliber place to play home games?
Andrew Luck jersey jersey has shoulder surgeryThe Indianapolis Colts jersey’ franchise quarterback enters camp a question mark following January surgery on his throwing shoulder. There’s optimism in Indy because of the moves new GM Chris Ballard has made to strengthen the team’s future, but none of that matters if Luck can’t get on the field — or if his health is in question once he does.
The Philadelphia Eagles jersey sign Alshon Jeffery jersey jersey jerseyOne thing missing from QB Carson Wentz jersey’s promising rookie year was a true No. 1 wide receiver. Jeffrey — when he’s been able to stay healthy — has shown the ability to be one of those. The Bears had enough, and he ended up in Philly on a one-year, prove-it deal. If he can stay on the field and produce the way he did in Chicago, Jeffery will help the Eagles evaluate Wentz and how much further he still needs to go.