Published: March 20, 2017 at 11:59 a.m.
Updated: March 20, 2017 at 06:17 p.m.

Patriots, Jaguars among teams that improved most during free agency

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NFL teams are always trying to get better, and the free agency period saw many franchises scramble to upgrade their rosters via signings and trades. From perennial cellar dwellers (like the Jacksonville Jaguars, who inked three of the Around The NFL's Top 101 Free Agents) to Super Bowl contenders (like the New England Patriots, who signed and traded for marquee talent to bolster their title defense), squads across the league did what they could to improve.

That said, which team has improved the most during free agency?

You know how the saying goes: The rich get richer
Annoyingly enough, the most recent Super Bowl champion is winning free agency. Re-signing linebacker Dont'a Hightower was huge for New England, because he's been the front seven's coach on the field. Trade acquisition Brandin Cooks will add speed to the passing game, and most importantly, when he catches short or intermediate routes, he can take them to the house. The Patriots' system is set up for Tom Brady to play until he's 50 years old. These two additions were so big for them.
Jaguars load up for second straight year
For the second year in a row, I've got to go with the Jacksonville Jaguars. They signed one of the best -- if not the best -- defensive linemen in free agency (Calais Campbell) and the best cornerback (A.J. Bouye). They will be huge impact players, and bringing in this kind of talent is a good place to start this offseason.
Believe it or not, Pats are in better shape than when they won it all
The Patriots have improved the most, which is crazy, considering they're coming off a Super Bowl victory. They keep adding pieces to the puzzle, and bringing in Brandin Cooks via trade gives them another level of receiver play. Trade acquisition Kony Ealy is a pass rusher who has presence, and re-signed linebacker Dont'a Hightower gives them a rock in the middle of a good defense. When you look at what New England has been able to do with lesser players, adding better players will almost ensure that it will be one of the final two teams playing at the end of the season.
Giants made moves in all the right places
I think the Giants did a great job adding help where they needed it the most. They needed help in the passing game and offensive line and to fortify the pass rush, so they signed receiver Brandon Marshall and offensive lineman D.J. Fluker and retained pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. Fluker, a former first-round pick, is an interesting guy, a house who is tough to get around and can drive defenders off the ball. And while people might disagree with me, I think former Jets quarterback Geno Smith -- who joined the Giants on Monday -- can still come in and play.
AFC East arms race sees Pats and Dolphins both make big gains
So far, two teams in the AFC East have improved the most in free agency. The Patriots traded for Brandin Cooks and Dwayne Allen, who will be impact players for that offense. On defense, Kony Ealy (trade) and corner Stephon Gilmore (signing) are huge pickups.

And lying in the shadows are the Miami Dolphins. Julius Thomas (acquired from the Jaguars in a trade) will thrive in this offense, given what coach Adam Gase likes to do, with the tight end manned up on one side. Signee Lawrence Timmons is a linebacker who plays downhill and is very physical, and he'll be a great addition to that defense.
The Patriots win this one, without question
It's the Patriots. They brought in Stephon Gilmore, a top cornerback in free agency, and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks is an explosive player -- the Patriots will love him in the slot. But the biggest gain this offseason is getting linebacker Dont'a Hightower to re-sign after letting him test the market.
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