At the quarter mark of the 2017 NFL season, Gregg Rosenthal identifies the best offseason additions.
Andrew Whitworth and friends, Los Angeles Rams
General manager Les Snead had an incredible offseason hand-picking the right pieces for coach Sean McVay's offense. It all starts with Whitworth. The 35-year-old left tackle has given up only one pass-rush pressure (a sack in Week 2) over four games, according to Pro Football Focus. The improved protection has anchored McVay's quick, timing-based offense, which has allowed quarterback Jared Goff to find open receivers. And he's had plenty to choose from.
Sammy Watkins arrived in a training camp trade, while fellow starting wideout Robert Woods signed in free agency. Only one of the Rams' five leading receivers, running back Todd Gurley, was on the team last year. The result: L.A. has transformed from the lowest-scoring offense of the last five years to the top-scoring offense in football. This is the type of turnaround that makes itchy owners elsewhere wonder, Why can't I get a new coach to do that?
Tim Jernigan, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia's acquisition of the former Ravens lineman for only a 25-spot move down in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft inspired near-uniform praise for Philadelphia from the football cognoscenti. For once, we were right.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Calais Campbell (DE) and A.J. Bouye (CB), Jacksonville Jaguars
It worked for the Giants a year ago. It's working for the Jaguars now. Spending money at the top of the market in free agency, especially on defense, suddenly looks like a sound strategy. Campbell has wrecked two games on his own from his defensive end position and given a young Jaguars locker room a leader. Bouye has come as advertised from Houston to form one of the better cornerback duos in football with second-year pro Jalen Ramsey.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Denver Broncos
Broncos general manager John Elway took zero risk by signing Charles to a deal with zero guaranteed money and is now reaping a huge reward. Charles coming off the bench adds serious pop to Denver's running game. This signing is proving to be a far better one than New Orleans' pickup of Adrian Peterson.
Julius Peppers, DE, Carolina Panthers
Like Charles and Campbell, Peppers makes this list in part because of the incalculable value he brings to a team just for being Julius Peppers, a walking legend. At 37 years old and nearly a decade removed from being the highest-paid defender in the league, Peppers has 4.5 sacks thus far, despite being a part-time player in Carolina. Teams are getting vintage performances out of great players like Charles and Peppers by using them more efficiently.
Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang, OL, Detroit Lions
I haven't noticed Wagner and Lang that much in Detroit, which is the point. The Lions' offensive line went from dreadful to respectable in a hurry after the March signings of the two above-average starters. Of all the teams to invest in an offensive line overhaul this offseason, the Lions are coming out ahead. (And they'll look even better when starting left tackle Taylor Decker returns.)
Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Very little is operating smoothly in Kyle Shanahan's first offense in San Francisco, with Garcon a shining exception. His toughness and ability to make contested catches should still be helpful when the rest of the team catches up.
Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts
For the price of a No. 4 receiver (Phillip Dorsett), Colts GM Chris Ballard found a backup quarterback in Brissett with the capability to steal a few games and grow into much more. That's great value.
Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde and E.J. Gaines, DB, Buffalo Bills
Poyer, a little-known safety with the Browns last season, has been all over the field with two sacks and five passes defensed. Hyde was another low-cost free agent pickup, while Gaines was an afterthought in the deal that sent Sammy Watkins to Los Angeles. Together, the trio has combined with rookie Tre'Davious White to form an overachieving secondary, just like the one coach Sean McDermott had in Carolina.