Every year, we wait for someone other than a quarterback to dominate the NFL's offseason, and every year, we find ourselves waiting for every quarterbacking free agency decision/contract extension/trade to reshape the competitive landscape of the NFL.
So it went again this year, where some Jets fans are currently eschewing summer vacations to save their off days to follow their team to the Super Bowl. That's the power of just one quarterback move. But even the top quarterbacks need help, and the most successful teams do everything they can to surround the signal-caller with weapons and protection. We saw this when Tampa Bay signed Tom Brady in 2020, and then put pieces -- TE Rob Gronkowski, RT Tristan Wirfs and even WR Antonio Brown -- around him. Result: Lombardi Trophy.
We're not saying the teams lauded below for having done right by their respective quarterbacks are certain Super Bowl contenders. We are saying the teams criticized below are probably making the job harder for the signal-caller than it has to be.
The applause goes to ...
Ironically, the Jets were in this exact same spot in the rankings a year ago, because they got so many pieces (receiver Garrett Wilson, running back Breece Hall, guard Laken Tomlinson) to help support Zach Wilson. Alas, please see our disclaimer about this not assuring a Super Bowl run. The Jets pulled off the blockbuster move of this offseason, trading for Aaron Rodgers, and then did everything they could to speed his transition. They had already hired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, with whom Rodgers is close after they worked together in Green Bay, so the Jets are running a Rodgers-friendly attack, the most critical element of this plan. The Jets also signed former Packers receivers -- and Rodgers' favorites -- Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, plus offensive tackle Billy Turner to bolster a line that was beset by injuries last season. Furthermore, New York spent its second-round pick on a potential plug-and-play starter at center in Joe Tippmann. If this doesn't work -- if the Jets don't at least make a deep playoff push this season -- it won't be for lack of trying.
The Bengals were rampaging through the AFC late last season before a series of injuries to three starters on the offensive line, including both tackles. They managed this difficult situation until the AFC Championship Game, when the Chiefs sacked Joe Burrow five times. The Bengals, with the rest of their offensive firepower almost entirely intact, did the one thing they could do to give Burrow more support: signing the best available offensive tackle. Welcome, Orlando Brown Jr. The bonus is that Brown's presence at left tackle pushes Jonah Williams to the right side. Williams wasn't happy about that initially -- he asked for a trade -- but things seem to have settled down, and Williams, Cody Ford and La'el Collins, whose timetable for return from knee surgery is unclear, will compete for the right tackle spot. The line was improved but still not great last season. It should be better this year.
The Ravens' ultimate support for Lamar Jackson obviously came in making him, deservedly, the highest-paid player in the league. But beyond that, they also hired an offensive coordinator in Todd Monken who not only wants to throw the ball, but also knows how to use running quarterbacks (SEE: Georgia product Stetson Bennett -- nobody's going to confuse him for Lamar, but he can move). Then they overhauled the wide receiver room, giving Jackson the best cast of pass catchers -- including veteran additions Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor, as well as first-round pick Zay Flowers -- he has ever had in Baltimore. The Ravens fielded one of the worst passing offenses in the league last season, but the days of Jackson having to be a one-man band may finally be over.
Shipping out one of the greatest to ever play the position and handing the keys to the franchise to Jordan Love is about as great a show of support as there is from a team to a quarterback. Then Green Bay drafted three wide receivers and two tight ends to add to second-year wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. That's a nice young group that Love can grow with. If the Packers were to add a veteran to be the young quarterback's security blanket, they will have given themselves and Love the best possible chance to start this new era on a winning note.
Another irony is that the Patriots were also in this exact spot going into last season, when there were already serious questions about how Matt Patricia as offensive coordinator would play out. It played out poorly, and New England brought back Bill O'Brien as the offensive coordinator to get Mac Jones back on track. That's the good news. What keeps the Pats out of the applause category is that they haven't done much else to help Jones. They signed WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and TE Mike Gesicki, but there hasn't been a serious upgrade to the weaponry or to an offensive line that needed help at tackle. That suggests the Patriots believe O'Brien's presence is enough to right Jones. Just like last season: We'll see.
Adding Brandin Cooks injects some speed into the offense, but the biggest change to this offense is that Mike McCarthy is going to call the plays while Brian Schottenheimer acts as coordinator. As always, the Cowboys will be judged on how they do in the postseason, raising this question: Do they have enough weapons to keep up with, say, Philadelphia or San Francisco in a playoff game?
Is this it?
The Titans used all six draft picks this year on offense. But, in addition to selecting Ryan Tannehill's potential replacement in Will Levis in the second round, Tennessee didn't spruce up the wide receiver position to help whomever the starting quarterback turns out to be. The Titans have overhauled the offensive line (good), but after they used only a seventh-round pick on a wide receiver (Tennessee-Martin's Colton Dowell), it's hard to imagine how any Tennessee QB can keep up with the explosive offenses in the AFC.
Their Super Bowl window is wide open, but the offseason has come and gone so far without adding a top receiver to pair with Stefon Diggs. This isn't about the Bills winning the AFC East -- as long as Josh Allen is upright, Buffalo will contend for the division title. This is about keeping pace with the Chiefs and Bengals, and to do that, the Bills could use some additional firepower beyond rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid.