The best addition each AFC team made this offseason
Some teams went big to bring in a new face (like the Broncos), while others hope their draft picks pay off (like the Patriots).
The draft has come and gone. So have the first couple waves of free agency. Barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances, teams have already pulled off their biggest moves of the offseason. Even as a few notable free agents (and tradeable quarterbacks) linger, we have a decent idea of what all 32 NFL rosters will look like come fall.
As such, now is a good time to highlight what I think is the best addition each team has made so far, whether through a free agent signing, trade, or draft pick. I’m focusing on new faces only, though, so I will not include any players that re-upped with their 2021 team or quarterbacks who decided to unretire after a month.
And to avoid reaching the word-count limit on this newsletter, I will split this breakdown into two parts: the AFC, which you will find below, and the NFC, which will drop later this week. I won’t spoil which day, however, so I can keep the suspense alive (and tbh, because I don’t know yet myself).
Let’s start with Part 1: the AFC.
Best new addition: Marcus Williams, S
I’m not sure if the Ravens even made a mediocre addition this offseason, so this one was a bit difficult to narrow down. Ultimately, I sided with the young but experienced safety over the incoming rookie safety (Kyle Hamilton). Baltimore had one of the worst secondaries in the league last season, in large part due to injury, and Marcus Williams is not only an upgrade but should also thrive in the defense’s new scheme.
Best new addition: Von Miller, Edge
The Bills brought in several intriguing pieces to their ready-made roster, but what could be better for a team so close to the promised land than a two-time Super Bowl winner? Von Miller might be 33 now, but he’s just a couple of months removed from his second ring. Once Miller found his footing with the Rams after a midseason trade from Denver, he looked like his old pass-rushing menace self. He totaled five sacks over the last month of the regular season, then four more sacks (and six QB hits) in the playoffs. If he stays healthy, he could be Buffalo’s first defender in six years to reach double-digit sacks in a season.
Best new addition: La’el Collins, OT
Finally, the Bengals understood the assignment: Get Joe Burrow some real protection. Unfortunately, it took 70 sacks, including 19 in the postseason, for the front office to make real progress on the offensive line. I could’ve picked Alex Cappa or Ted Karras, but I went with RT La’el Collins given the Bengals’ noticeable struggles on the right side of the OL.
Best new addition: Amari Cooper, WR
From a football talent standpoint only, Deshaun Watson would be the choice, but the Browns didn’t trade for him in a vacuum. They still have to accept responsibility for going all-out to land a quarterback who faces 22 civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct allegations. Watson could also be suspended at some point this season, which would limit his impact on the field. So I opted for Amari Cooper, the WR1 the Browns have been missing for years.
Best new addition: Russell Wilson, QB
There’s no need to overthink this one. The Broncos, in the arms race that is the AFC West, desperately needed a top-tier quarterback (or even just a Pro Bowl-caliber one!), something they haven’t had since 2014 Peyton Manning. Enter Russell Wilson, a perennial Pro Bowler who finally gets the fresh start he’s been wanting.
Best new addition: Jalen Pitre, S
The Texans didn’t bring in many new faces during free agency, but their draft class has the chance to be a hit, if a few players live up to their potential. While Derek Stingley Jr. and Christian Harris could become key members of the defense, I’m feeling more bullish about Jalen Pitre. He’s a great fit, with his speed, versatility, and ability to make plays, for Lovie Smith’s defense.
Best new addition: Matt Ryan, QB
The Colts weren’t super active at the start of free agency, with two of their biggest moves coming via trade (Matt Ryan, Yannick Ngakoue). Ryan, even on the cusp of his 37th birthday, is a huge improvement over Carson Wentz and can lead the Colts back to the playoffs, rather than hinder their path.
Best new addition: Brandon Scherff, OG
Both of the Jaguars’ first-round picks, Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd, can be stars on the defense if they’re developed properly. As promising as they are, though, the front office might have been compelled to target an offensive lineman early in the draft if Jacksonville hadn’t shored up the position in free agency. That includes Brandon Scherff, PFF’s highest-rated free agent at guard, who will help protect Trevor Lawrence as the quarterback tries to make the second-year leap.
Kansas City Chiefs
Best new addition: Skyy Moore, WR
The Chiefs needed a new playmaking receiver after trading Tyreek Hill to Miami. Skyy Moore is not the downfield blazer that Hill is, but he doesn’t have to be, either. He just needs to get open for Patrick Mahomes, which he can do:
Las Vegas Raiders
Best new addition: Davante Adams, WR
The Raiders’ selection came down to Chandler Jones or Davante Adams. I settled on the latter, not because he was PFF’s top-rated free agent this offseason, but because Adams gives Derek Carr a true No. 1 receiver and will be a valuable offensive weapon in an increasingly loaded AFC West. It certainly doesn’t hurt, either, that Aaron Rodgers is still probably pissed about Adams going to Vegas.
Los Angeles Chargers
Best new addition: J.C. Jackson, CB
This pick could have easily been Khalil Mack, who will immediately provide relief for the Chargers’ beleaguered rush defense. But the secondary had its share of struggles in 2021 too, and especially in a high-flying division, teams need corners who can shut down opposing receivers. J.C. Jackson has been that, as he knows better than anyone else:
Best new addition: Terron Armstead, OT
Tyreek Hill might seem like the obvious choice, but it’s so rare for a quality left tackle to become available. Terron Armstead was the best offensive lineman on the free agent market, and his steady presence should make Tua Tagovailoa’s life easier. The Dolphins came in last in pass block win rate in 2021, and Armstead just so happens to be one of the top pass blockers in the league the past few years.
New England Patriots
Best new addition: Marcus Jones, CB
The Patriots mostly used their free agency to re-sign veteran favorites (Trent Brown, Devin McCourty, James White) … and to trade guard Shaq Mason, for some reason. Their draft class was widely regarded as this year’s worst, thanks in no small part due to their frequent reaching on picks. So yeah, it was slim pickings with this one. I think Cole Strange, even if he was drafted too early, can be a perfectly useful starter for New England’s offensive line, but third-rounder Marcus Jones’ upside and versatility gave him the leg up here.
New York Jets
Best new addition: Garrett Wilson, WR
Unlike the Patriots, the Jets had a few options that could be considered the “best” addition. Their free agent pickups included D.J. Reed, Laken Tomlinson, C.J. Uzomah, and Jordan Whitehead, while their draft class earned rave reviews across the board. Before the draft, one piece the team, Zach Wilson in particular, was missing was a WR1. Garrett Wilson fills that void — and phew, is he just fun to watch:
Best new addition: George Pickens, WR
I have my doubts that either Mitchell Trubisky or first-round pick Kenny Pickett is the long-term solution for the Steelers at quarterback. They had another offensive spot to bolster after losing receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency. Pittsburgh waited until the draft to really address the position, snagging George Pickens in the second round and Calvin Austin III on Day 3. Both could find a role with the team, though Pickens has the size, athleticism, and a bit of dog in him to make an immediate impact at WR:
Best new addition: Robert Woods, WR
Perhaps one day Malik Willis will be the right answer to this question, but I’m still not sure what he (or any of the incoming rookie QBs) will be in the NFL. Assuming that Robert Woods can bounce back from his torn ACL, he brings veteran experience to a remade receiving corps that is very young and no longer has A.J. Brown. Whether as a WR1 or WR2 alongside rookie Treylon Burks, Woods should be able to produce just as he did with the Rams.