When you’re the team with the most salary cap space and selections in the first two rounds of the draft, certain expectations are put in place. From top to bottom, it was evident that Miami desperately needed to upgrade their roster. The Dolphins were smart with their money. On the offensive side of the ball, they added a veteran ball carriers in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida and addressed protection on the interior with Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras. The majority of the Dolphins’ off-season spending came on the defensive side on the ball with Kyle Van Noy and Byron Jones in particular. Miami also had a fairly successful draft. Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt will start from day one at the bookends on offense. Noah Igbinoghene may begin as the primary slot corner back. Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins’ top pick, will go into an off-season battle with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting quarterback position. If not for a hip injury Tua suffered against Auburn, he would be locked in to start day one. Even if Miami proceeds with caution in regard to Tagovailoa, they will still be in a much stronger position to compete than last season.
Lamar Jackson had a breakout sophomore season, which ultimately led Baltimore to the number one seed in the AFC. Unfortunately for them, Tennessee pulled off a tremendous upset, knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs during the divisional round. Fast forward to the off-season. Marshal Yanda retired after thirteen seasons in the NFL and will likely be heading to Canton in a few years. Matthew Judon was hit with the franchise tag, as Baltimore feared losing him in free agency. The Ravens made one of the first major moves of the off-season by acquiring Calais Campbell from Jacksonville in exchange for draft pick compensation. Nonetheless, it was an interesting move by Dave Caldwell to simply dump an All-Pro defensive lineman in Campbell for a fifth round pick. Baltimore also added Derek Wolfe along the defensive front. Come draft time, Eric Decosta and company held the 28th pick in the first round. The Ravens needed a young linebacker with the recent departures of CJ Moseley and Terrell Suggs and the retirement of Ray Lewis. Luckily for them, Patrick Queen of LSU fell right into their lap. In addition to Queen, J.K. Dobbins, Justin Madubuike, and Devin Duvernay highlight one of the best (if not the best) draft classes league-wide.
Dallas had the most star-studded free agency class with Byron Jones, Amari Cooper, and Dak Prescott amongst others. It was a no brainer for Jerry Jones to use the franchise tag on Prescott because contract talks with him had stalled. Jerry ultimately chose to resign Cooper, allowing Byron Jones to bolt for Miami. However, losing Jones wasn’t the worst thing to happen to the team this off-season. Travis Frederick was forced to retire due to medical issues. Frederick and Jones left the Cowboys with holes to fill during the draft. Dallas held the 17th pick of the draft. Most experts thought they’d go secondary or front seven, but Ceedee Lamb remained on the board. Lamb simply had too much upside and talent for the Cowboys to pass up. After going best available in round one, Jerry Jones knew that he had to fill needs with their upcoming picks. Trevon Diggs and Tyler Biadasz were selected to replace Byron Jones and Travis Frederick respectively. Neville Gallimore was also chosen to bolster their defensive front. Further off-season additions in Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, along with what I believe to be the strongest draft class, has set up Dallas as the favorite to represent the NFC East.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At the start of the 2019-2020 season, all signs pointed to Tom Brady signing an extension. The Patriots were coming off another Super Bowl win. Tom Brady was adamant about not retiring and continuing his career. Nobody could’ve imagined at the start of 2019 that Brady would sign his next contract with another team. He agreed to a two year, fifty million dollar deal to become the Buccaneers new starting quarterback. Two days before the draft, Jason Licht swung a deal to acquire the rights of Rob Gronkowski and a seventh round pick in exchange for a fourth round pick. Gronkowski wanted to make his return to football, but only if he could play with Tom Brady. Lucky for him, he got his wish. It was important for Tampa Bay to acquire some more protection for Tom Brady with the 14th pick of the draft. Tristan Wirfs fell right into the team’s lap. In the second round, the Buccaneers selected Antoine Winfield Jr, who will likely start from day one at safety. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, running back out of Vanderbilt, also has the potential to start from the jump. All in all, Tampa Bay should not only be ready to compete for a playoff spot, but for the NFC South division crown as well.
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