The NFL's Super Bowl is held in February and nobody ever won a championship in March. But on paper, where the games are never played, a few teams did significantly upgrade their rosters, filled gaping holes, and manufactured enough euphoria for the coming season to grab their fans' attention with the force of a flagrant facemask.
With seven long months between this week's unprecedented free-agent feeding frenzy and whenever the new guys actually get to dress for their first real game when the season begins, here are the winners and losers of Week 1 of the NFL offseason:
Andrew Luck is so good he took a team with a no-name backfield and average receivers to the AFC Championship Game last season. Imagine what he and the Colts will do next season with the hard-charging Frank Gore blasting between the tackles and uber-wideout Andre Johnson going deep. Throw in the additions of defensive linemen Trent Cole and Kendall Langford and Indianapolis is looking like a (very) early Super Bowl contender.
The best team in the NFC may have stamped a third straight ticket to the Super Bowl this week when the Seahawks traded an offensive lineman — an offensive lineman! — for arguably the hardest player in the league to defend. Jimmy Graham, a lethal pass-catcher and the league's most un-tight-endy TE, instantly upgrades the Seattle aerial attack to scary new heights.
New York Jets
The Jets needed to do a whole lot during the offseason, not only to make their roster competitive but also to resuscitate a fanbase that's been dragged unconscious through a football junkyard the last few years. New GM Mike Maccagnan did just that when he lured free agent cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (from the rival Patriots, no less) and Buster Skrine, and traded for WR Brandon Marshall. Now if they only had a quarterback to get him the ball….
San Francisco 49ers
Free agency giveth, and free agency taketh away. Less than a year ago, the 49ers were among the NFL's elite teams, one of three sure-fire Super Bowl contenders alongside the likes of the Broncos and the division-rival Seahawks. Faster than the Internet connections offered at their snazzy new Levi's Stadium, the 49ers have been decimated to utter rubble. Blighted by harsh personnel defections, they're now amid a complete rebuild with former coach Jim Harbaugh exiled to the University of Michigan, Gore off to Indianapolis, gnarly linebacker Patrick Willis headed to retirement, and QB Colin Kaepernick reserving his spot on the trading block.
New England Patriots
The Patriots are coming off a Super Bowl win, but even the world title wasn't enough to keep some of their most important players in New England. Bill Belichick lost the bidding war over Revis to the Jets, allowed dominant DT Vince Wilfork to walk, and lost RB Shane Vereen and special teamer Jonathan Casillas to the Giants. Vereen called the move "a step up," which may sound insane, but New England's AFC East rivals in New York, Buffalo, and Miami all got significantly better this week.
Imagine Mary Lou Retton putting her little foot in one of Shaquille O'Neal's sneakers and you'll have a good idea of what the Lions did when they traded a pair of draft picks for over-the-hill DT Haloti Ngata to meekly fill the void left by the iconic Packer-stomping Ndamukong Suh, who got a ton of cash ($114 million) from the Dolphins this week. Making matters worse for the Lions, now one of the few teams that's less relevant than Miami (a remarkable feat), pass-catching RB Reggie Bush left this week, too. He's headed to another dumpster fire, albeit one with better weather, in San Francisco.