Each year at least one team that missed the postseason rises about the fray to become offseason darling. Pundit after pundit howls praise about the tinkering done by the front office.
The year's spring sweetheart appears to be the Denver Broncos.
After winning Super Bowl 50, John Elway's bunch has languished in four years of disappointments and frustrating stops and starts. The downturn caused some locals to begin questioning their Teflon leader.
Then Elway went out and produced an offseason few can slander. He buffered young QB Drew Lock with weapons on offense, adding rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler to the Courtland Sutton-led group. He signed Melvin Gordon to complement backfield mate Phillip Lindsay. He acquired guard Graham Glasgow and used a third-round pick on center Lloyd Cushenberry to help stabilize the interior O-line.
On defense, Elway stole underrated star defensive tackle Jurrell Casey from the cash-strapped Titans, got Shelby Harris back for much less than projected, kept stud safety Justin Simmons on the franchise tag and traded for veteran corner A.J. Bouye when it became clear Chris Harris was headed elsewhere.
The coaching staff also swapped out offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello in favor of Pat Shurmur, who the team believes will help play a scheme coach Vic Fangio favors.
Outside of questions at offensive tackle, Elway shored up seemingly every weak spot.
The offseason brought buzz back to Denver. Even the players are eating up excitement.
Shelby Harris told Troy Renck of Denver7 that the Broncos will surprise anyone still doubting.
"We have that veteran leadership, and we are gelling with the coaching staff. My saying is that we are going 16-0 until you prove me wrong. I think Broncos Country should be really excited because we added some pieces on offense that we really needed," Harris said. "I think on defense we have the addition of Jurrell Casey with a bunch of players we already had. I think we are going to shock the league."
In a division with Super Bowl champion Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes, the Broncos have a big hurdle to overcome. The pieces could be in place on both sides of the ball to threaten K.C. dominance and, at the very least, compete for a wild card spot.
The key on defense will be getting Bradley Chubb back fully healthy and in game-wrecking mode. A front of Chubb, Von Miller, Casey and Harris could cause a lot of trouble for quarterbacks.
"I think we can be a dominant force up front with everyone we have and the people we have in the back end. I definitely think it's going to be a special group," Harris said. "People are going to sleep on us, and not believe in what we can do. As long as we believe in each other, anything is possible."
The biggest question outside of the OT spot is whether Lock will make a Year 2 leap after flashing down the stretch. Will the rifle-armed signal-caller continue to improve, or was his 2019 simply a flash-in-the-pan against defenses with little to no game film on the QB?
Elway did the best thing he could do to answer that question: Give Lock as many weapons as he could obtain. Now it's on the quarterback to swim or sink.
The locker room already believes it will be the former.
"With Drew, I think it's his confidence in himself. He has that confidence that he knows he's going to go out there and ball. Honestly, when someone expects that out of themselves, you expect that out of him too," Harris said. "And one thing I feel like we lacked were the downfield shots and the speed plays. Everybody always copies the winner of the Super Bowl. Look at the Rams. Look at the Chiefs. Everybody wants to be like the winners. I feel like we are taking steps to upgrade our offense, putting speed out there for everyone to watch. It's going to be fun to see."
It's on Lock and the rest of the Broncos to turn a fun offseason into Ws when the calendar turns from the fluff stage to the field.