It’s summer vacation in the NFL, with teams wrapping up their spring practices last week and not scheduled to reconvene until trailing camps open in late July, when the 2017 season truly begins.
As the dust on another offseason settles, what becomes apparent is the biggest winners were the two players who heard their names called first in the 2015 draft: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
The two young passers have enjoyed similar careers so far, with each building on the enormous potential they showed in college, but falling just shy of leading their teams to the postseason.
This should be the year that changes.
Just as their first two seasons were similar, so was the way Winston and Mariota’s respective teams attacked this offseason. For both, giving their young passer every weapon he could desire wasn’t just the top priority, it was essentially the only priority.
Almost no expense was spared in the interest of achieving that goal, with the following pass-catchers added to each team’s respective arsenal:
|WR DeSean Jackson (FA)||WR Eric Decker (FA)|
|TE O.J. Howard (Rd 1)||WR Corey Davis (Rd 1)|
|WR Chris Godwin (Rd 3)||WR Taywan Taylor (Rd 3)|
|TE Jonnu Smith (Rd 3)|
The Buccaneers and Titans had needs to fill on defense, and they each found a way to plug a few holes, but fortifying that side of the ball was a mere afterthought. The plan for now is clear: These teams will go as far as their offenses can take them.
And that should be pretty far. The talents listed above join offenses that feature young and ascending lines and a cast of playmakers that already included Mike Evans, Doug Martin, Delanie Walker, and DeMarco Murray.
More importantly, in making these moves, the Buccaneers and Titans haven’t just set the bar for Winston and Mariota at a playoff berth in 2017, they have opened a Super Bowl window.
As first-round picks with fifth-year options in their contracts, Winston and Mariota are under team control through 2019 – and they are cheap. Despite their bountiful offseasons, both the Buccaneers and Titans rank in the top eight teams in terms of salary cap space, much of which can be carried over to next season.
Expect to see both the Buccaneers and Titans playing this coming January. And expect to see them again deep into the following January, and perhaps by then they will be supported by defenses stocked with talent acquired next offseason.
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