No one wants to be offseason champions. The Washington Redskins have more imaginary free agency trophies than any team over the last decade, and it hasn't done them any good.
Offseason titles sell tickets, but they usually don't translate to wins. That won't stop us from asking our crew on this slow July day for their pick. We present our choices for the first annual ATL Offseason Championship. (We'll call the BCS to help break the tie.)
Eagles accomplished more by doing lessThe Philadelphia Eagles smartly re-signed their best core players: Trent Cole, Todd Herremans, DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis. They consolidated and clarified the front office by saying goodbye to team president Joe Banner while giving Andy Reid more power. The trade for DeMeco Ryans filled a big need at linebacker, and the draft should give the defense immediate contributors. I even like the continuity of keeping defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. The Eagles withstood public pressure to "blow things up" and should be rewarded. (Just a year later than everyone expected.)
The Bills have to be your winnerI don't see how this could be anyone other than the Buffalo Bills. No one else combined a legitimately strong stretch of talent acquisition (defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, cornerback Stephon Gilmore) with breathless hype from all corners. Ryan Fitzpatrick's mechanical renaissance! A defense that will make the 2000 Baltimore Ravens look like a JV squad! Still only one home game in another country! The Bills won the offseason. The next step will be harder.
Eagles show maturity with their patienceThe Eagles get my vote because they didn't panic after a down year. For all the abuse Philadelphia absorbed last season, this team finished fourth on offense and eighth on defense. Taking a page from the New York Giants, this team continues to add fire to the defensive line: Fletcher Cox won't disappoint inside. DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks should fix last year's mess at linebacker. To our delight, the DeSean Jackson drama -- at least from a contract angle -- is over. Finally, Juan Castillo is another year wiser at defensive coordinator. Aggressive moves minus desperation. I see a big year in Philly.
Bills won when they switched to 4-3 DEven before the Bills started acquiring players, they made the smart decision to blow up the move to a 3-4 defense. That alone makes defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, as well as inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, more effective. Then, the team re-signed No. 1 receiver Stevie Johnson without having to use the franchise tag, freeing up cap space to add defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, improving a pass rush that had the third-lowest sack total (29) in the NFL. To cap it off, they added a shutdown corner in Stephon Gilmore and much-needed offensive line help in Cordy Glenn before taking care of running back Fred Jackson's contract. It may not be enough to overtake the New England Patriots in the AFC East, but it's hard not to like the moves that Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey made this offseason.