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.
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.
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.
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
Geno Smith -- who joined the
Giants on Monday -- can still come in and play.
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
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.
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.