The best addition each NFC team made this offseason
Spoiler alert: a lot of wide receivers and offensive linemen are included.
Earlier this week, I looked at the best offseason addition for each AFC team. Like I promised, I’m delivering the NFC edition now.
As a reminder, I’m only considering players who were just acquired, via free agency, a trade, or the draft. Anyone who re-signed with their 2021 team is not eligible, per my own rules that I made up.
Now let’s get to Part 1: the NFC.
Best new addition: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR
The Cardinals used the start of the new league year to re-sign a few of their own free agents (such as Zach Ertz and James Conner) and to continue to not give Kyler Murray an extension. They tried to appease Murray — and account for DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension — with one move, though: trading for his former college teammate Hollywood Brown. The hope, for Brown in particular, is that he’ll be utilized better in a more pass-friendly offense. The Cardinals gave up their first-round pick on that chance.
Best new addition: Drake London, WR
Casey Hayward, despite turning 33 this September, should be a boost to the Falcons’ woeful (outside of A.J. Terrell) secondary. But Drake London, the No. 8 pick in the draft, could be more important to Atlanta, both this season and in the future. London can offset the losses of Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, as well as take some of the opposing defense’s attention off of Kyle Pitts each week with his big frame and playmaking ability:
Best new addition: Ikem Ekwonu, OT
In a dream scenario for Carolina, this would end up being Matt Corral, but I can’t put my faith in any of the quarterbacks in this draft until (unless?) I see their success with my own eyes. On that note, I went with one of Carolina’s much-needed offensive line additions: first-rounder Ikem Ekwonu, who can start at left tackle (or guard if need be) immediately.
Best new addition: Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE
Considering how little the Bears did to help out Justin Fields this offseason, I pretty much had to choose a defensive player here. Even though draft picks Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker will strengthen the secondary, I dig the potential Al-Quadin Muhammad brings to the pass rush, especially in the wake of Khalil Mack’s departure. Muhammad only became a full-time starter last year, which was also his most productive season to date. Because of his familiarity with new Bears coach Matt Eberflus, Muhammad can also help with Chicago’s transition to a 4-3 defense.
Best new addition: Jalen Tolbert, WR
The Cowboys didn’t bring in many new players during free agency, though James Washington and Dante Fowler Jr. could both be useful. I like the promise of third-round pick Jalen Tolbert, however. Dak Prescott will need another downfield threat after Amari Cooper’s trade, and Tolbert totaled 646 deep receiving yards at South Alabama in 2021.
Best new addition: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge
It was tough to pick between Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams, who should both be good pros and should make the Lions better this year and beyond. While I think Williams has the higher ceiling, he’s also coming off an ACL tear. I just don’t see much risk with Hutchinson. Even if he doesn’t wow anyone, he can be a consistent sack producer. The Lions, who finished No. 30 in sacks and No. 31 in pass rush win rate (not to mention dead last in missed tackles), need that steadiness on their defensive line.
Green Bay Packers
Best new addition: Christian Watson, WR
Although the Packers once again passed on drafting a receiver in the first round, they still managed to snag a first-round caliber WR early in the second round. Watson won’t be able to replace what Davante Adams did for Green Bay (and for Aaron Rodgers’ MVP campaign), but he can quickly become a big-time playmaker in Matt LaFleur’s offense.
And he has Adams’ seal of approval:
Los Angeles Rams
Best new addition: Allen Robinson, WR
The Rams didn’t make many major additions this offseason, but I guess you don’t really need to when you’re the reigning Super Bowl champs. Bobby Wagner should help stabilize the linebacking corps, though he’s starting to slow down ever so slightly. I’m more interested in what Allen Robinson will bring to the table. Robinson, usually the bright spot on a depressingly bad team (last season, when he phoned it in with the Bears, was the exception), finally gets to play for a good team with an exciting offense. He can bounce back from his subpar 2021 with an Odell Beckham Jr.-type role in LA.
Best new addition: Za'Darius Smith, Edge
Za'Darius Smith nearly returned to the Ravens after a few years away but then backed out of the deal to stay in the NFC North, albeit one state to the west of his former home in Wisconsin. Although Smith missed most of last season due to a back injury, he excelled in his first two years in Green Bay, reaching double-digit sacks each time. He’ll reunite with his former defensive coordinator from that time, Mike Pettine, who is now the assistant head coach for the Vikings. Smith and Danielle Hunter will make for a fearsome pass-rushing tag team, if they can both stay healthy.
New Orleans Saints
Best new addition: Trevor Penning, OT
After highlighting Garrett Wilson in the AFC version, I didn’t want to appear too biased and pick another Ohio State receiver, as much as I love Chris Olave. So I chose Trevor Penning, the Saints’ other first-round pick. The Saints had been lucky to count on Terron Armstead at left tackle for nearly a decade, but they were priced out of his market when he became a free agent. Replacing him will not be easy, and while Penning is a little raw and not quite as pro ready as Olave, he can still start at tackle from day one and develop into a mainstay along the line.
New York Giants
Best new addition: Evan Neal, OT
I debated long and hard between Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, the Giants’ two first-round picks. In different circumstances, both could’ve been the first overall pick this year. Even though I believe Thibodeaux can be an elite pass rusher in the NFL, I’m giving Neal the edge because of just how long the Giants have tried to fix their offensive line. Neal can automatically be slotted in at tackle opposite Andrew Thomas, who broke out in his second season. Daniel Jones might not be in New York after this season, but at least he’ll finally have some real protection.
Best new addition: A.J. Brown, WR
Nakobe Dean had no business falling all the way to pick No. 83, but injuries made him a potential steal. Haason Reddick, following back-to-back double-digit sack seasons, is another boon for the Philadelphia defense. But the Eagles’ draft-night trade for A.J. Brown has me the most excited. After spending 2020 with “a bunch of random dudes” at receiver and 2021 with “DeVonta Smith and a bunch of random dudes” at receiver, Jalen Hurts will have a more loaded roster to work with — and the Eagles will then have a better chance to evaluate Hurts and decide if he’s their future at quarterback or not.
San Francisco 49ers
Best new addition: Charvarius Ward, CB
The 49ers had a top-10 defense in terms of DVOA in every category except against the pass in 2021. The secondary had its share of ups (Jimmie Ward) and downs (Josh Norman), but clearly needed to improve, particularly at cornerback, this offseason. Charvarius Ward, who will soon turn just 26, gives them that upgrade:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheetThe #49ers agreed to terms with former #Chiefs CB Charvarius Ward on a 3-year, $40.5M deal, source said.
Best new addition: Boye Mafe, Edge
Some NFL analysts loved the Seahawks’ draft, and others hated it. I think it … has potential, especially as the team enters a rebuilding phase of sorts. I’m pretty high on Ken Walker III, but I’m also a little wary of hyping up a running back too much. I’m probably most intrigued by Boye Mafe, an athletic and versatile pass rusher who fits nicely into new Seattle DC Clint Hurtt’s scheme and who could put up better numbers in the NFL than he did in college.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best new addition: Shaq Mason, OG
In mid-March, the Bucs had, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, Tom Brady back. However, their two starting guards were gone: Ali Marpet retired and Alex Cappa signed with the Bengals. It didn’t take Tampa too long to do right by its 44-year-old quarterback hoping for another Super Bowl ring to add to his already-gaudy collection. The Bucs traded just a fifth-round pick for Brady’s former teammate, Shaq Mason, who is still playing lights out. In fact, Mason was PFF’s highest-rated Patriots player in 2021.
Best new addition: Jahan Dotson, WR
I might have blinders on with this choice, because I watched Jahan Dotson a lot in college and was, begrudgingly, consistently impressed by him. He’s on the smaller side at 5’11, but he has the speed, route running, and experience of catching balls from mediocre quarterbacks to become a major contributor in Washington. He’s also just so pure:
Speaking of Carson Wentz, I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost his job to Day 3 pick Sam Howell at some point. That doesn’t mean I’m entirely sold on Howell, though. But I do think Dotson is the complement that Washington has needed for Terry McLaurin and a hopefully healthy Curtis Samuel.