Monday, June 17, 2024
spot_img

Five NFL teams poised to make major leap in 2024 after free agency, draft: Jets, Packers set for playoff run

The NFL offseason has reached the point where minicamps are in full swing as teams begin to prepare for the grind of the 2024 season. Free agency and the NF Draft are in the rearview mirror as teams begin to incorporate new plays and perfect the playbook with the start of the regular season just over three months away. 

Teams are seeking to beat the Kansas City Chiefs as they vie for a three-peat. The defending Super Bowl champions are looking to become the first team to win three straight championships since the 1965-1967 Green Bay Packers

As for the teams on the rise? The Houston Texans went from winning 11 combined games between 2020 and 2022 to winning 11 games in 2023 (including playoffs). Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers ended up winning a playoff game without Aaron Rodgers.

Which teams are poised for a big season after free agency and the draft? These teams could be poised to win their respective division or make a Super Bowl run of their own in 2024?

The initial list, with a different group of teams (Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, Cincinnati Bengals), was made right after the Super Bowl, but underwent a few changes. Here’s a look at five teams poised to make a major leap as the NFL begins OTA workouts and, soon, mandatory minicamps.

Green Bay Packers

2023 regular season: 9-8 | Playoffs: Lost in divisional round

The emergence of Jordan Love certainly vaults the Packers as an NFC contender, even if they might be in one of the toughest divisions in football next season. Love threw for 23 touchdowns to just three interceptions in his final seven games (including playoffs) as the Packers were the first No. 7 seed to beat a No. 2 seed in the wild card round. Didn’t hurt Green Bay was the youngest team to win a playoff game (25 years, 214 days).

The Packers did retool their secondary in free agency, highlighted by the offseason signing of safety Xavier McKinney and selecting safety Javon Bullard in the second round. They also added linebacker Edgerrin Cooper to compete an adjustment of the back seven, a unit that still has Jaire Alexander at cornerback. 

Green Bay had 302 catches for 3,642 yards and 31 touchdowns from first- or second-year players, the most in a season in NFL history. Love has plenty of young pass catchers to grow with, starting with Jayden Reed. The Packers also have Christian WatsonDontayvion WicksRomeo DoubsLuke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft. This offense went from 15th in points per possession to ninth, thanks to Love and Co. — this was with a banged-up offensive line for the majority of the year. Green Bay added Jordan Morgan to that offensive line and moved on from David Bakhtiari. Jon Runyan also left in free agency.  

The NFC North will be tough, but the Packers’ ceiling is high. If Love takes another step forward, Green Bay is a Super Bowl contender. 

Atlanta Falcons 

2023 regular season: 7-10 | Playoffs: Missed

The Falcons were a quarterback away from becoming a significant player in the NFC South. They decided to add two quarterbacks to the fray, signing Kirk Cousins to a four-year contract and drafting Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8 in the draft. 

While the Cousins-Penix dynamic could be a problem, Falcons quarterbacks were just 28th in completion percentage, 28th in passing yards and 27th in passing touchdowns over the past two seasons. That will improve with Cousins, who was fifth in completion percentage (70%), second in pass yards (2,331) and tied for first in passing touchdowns (18) through the first eight weeks last season (Achilles injury in Week 9). 

The Falcons also added Darnell Mooney and Rondale Moore in free agency to pair with Drake London at wide receiver. The running backs are Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier, while the offensive line is one of the best in football. The offense should score points. 

The defense was 15th in points allowed per possession (1.86) and seventh in yards allowed per possession (28.0) last season, now tasked with a new system under head coach Raheem Morris and Jimmy Lake. Can Morris succeed as a head coach after a rough tenure in Tampa Bay over a decade ago? 

The Falcons are banking on the quarterback to win the NFC South. Can Cousins end the playoff drought? Keep in mind they held the lead in the final minute of four games last season — and lost all of them. This team is closer to the playoffs than many think. 

Houston Texans 

2023 regular season: 10-7 | Playoffs: Lost in divisional round

The Texans took the biggest leap in 2023, thanks to the emergence of C.J. Stroud and a remarkable turnaround spearheaded by first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans. Stroud had arguably the greatest rookie season for a quarterback in NFL history, transforming the Texans offense into a force to be reckoned with around the NFL (offense went from 31st in points per possession to 14th), accompanied with the emergence of Nico Collins and rookie Tank Dell.  

Stroud gets his top two pass catchers back next season, along with Dalton Schultz (who signed an extension). They were also aggressive improving the unit. Joe Mixon was added at running back via trade and signed an extension, pairing with Dameon Pierce at the position. The Texans also added Stefon Diggs in an offseason trade with the Buffalo Bills, and will have Diggs as the No. 1 wideout with Collins, Dell and Noah Brown as the other targeted wideouts. 

Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. now has a full year in the NFL under his belt and rising corner Derek Stingley Jr. will only get better on a defense that went from 25th in yards allowed per possession to 13th. 

Houston also got better this offseason on that side of the ball. The Texans signed Danielle Hunter to complement Anderson on the pass rush, but lost Jonathan Greenard in the process. They countered by adding Denico Autry as well, adding more depth to that unit. Azeez Al-Shaair was brought in at linebacker to stabilize that position. Kamari Lassiter was added in the second round and could compete for a starting role at cornerback. 

The Texans are on the verge of being a Super Bowl contender. They’ll have a tougher schedule, but Houston has proven it can compete with the best teams in the AFC. 

New York Jets 

2023 regular season: 7-10 | Playoffs: Missed

Of course the health of Aaron Rodgers is the key to the Jets’ season, but New York significantly invested in free agency on making this team better. Mike Williams was added at wide receiver to pair with Garrett Wilson, while they drafted Malachi Corley in the third round to give Rodgers a presence as a WR3. 

The Jets arguably have one of the best running back rooms in football with Breece Hall, Israel Abanikanda and rookie Braelon Allen. They also improved the offensive line by signing Tyron Smith and John Simpson in free agency and selecting Olu Fashanu in the first round. This unit also has Alijah Vera-Tucker holding down the fort at right guard. 

Haason Reddick was added to complement Jermaine Johnson on the edge, while the defensive interior now has Javon Kinlaw and Leki Fotu to help out Quinnen Williams.

The Jets appear loaded on paper, even more so than last year. If Rodgers is healthy, they are a threat in the AFC East (like it or not). 

Cincinnati Bengals 

2023 regular season: 9-8 | Playoffs: Missed

Sure the Bengals were a disappointment in 2023, but they also dealt with Joe Burrow injuries across the board, beginning with the star quarterback’s calf issue in training camp that affected his early-season performance to the wrist injury in November that ended his season. The Bengals finished last in the AFC North, yet finished over .500 with Jake Browning starting seven games. 

When Burrow plays more than 10 games, the Bengals have reached (at least) the AFC Championship. There’s a reason for the organization to be optimistic with Burrow healthy, even if the Bengals are dealing with paying Tee Higgins (they placed the franchise tag on him) and have let Tyler Boyd walk (for now). They still have to sign Ja’Marr Chase to an extension, but they can wait a bit if they so choose.

Cincinnati didn’t have any eye-popping moves, but some good signings in free agency. Geno Stone was signed away from Baltimore and Vonn Bell was brought back after one year in Carolina. Mike Gesicki was brought in at tight end to tandem with Drew Sample, significantly improving the pass catchers at the position. Chase Brown should man running back, but will split the carries with free agent signing Zack Moss

The Bengals are still trying to fix the offensive tackle position, adding Trent Brown in free agency and Amarius Mims in the first round of the draft. They also added Jermaine Burton in the third round as another outside wide receiver option. 

There are questions with Cincinnati, but this team will have a shot at a Super Bowl if Joe Burrow can stay healthy. Cincinnati needs to keep Burrow on the field at all costs. 

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.