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5 NFL offseason moves that will work out, and 3 that won’t

Josh Norman and Brock Osweiler should make an instant impact, but what are the Eagles doing with their quarterbacks?

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NFL: Washington Redskins-Minicamp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The numbers show that spending big in free agency is often a futile endeavor. Out of the 531 free agents who were signed last year, only four of them were named to the Pro Bowl.

But that cautionary figure hasn’t stopped NFL teams from splurging on the open market. With a rising salary cap — a record $155.27 million this year — and exploding revenue, organizations have more money to spend than ever before, and seemingly all fans would rather see that money go toward players instead of sitting in owners’ pockets.

While the nucleus of championship teams aren’t usually formed through free agency, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for it. Sometimes, when the perfect fit is available, such as Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in 2012 or Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in 2006, the signing can alter the course of the franchise forever.

It’s unlikely that any of the players signed this offseason will live up to those standards, but a number of teams appeared to add that "missing piece" in free agency or the trade market. Here are five moves that stand above the rest — followed by three that seem destined to fail.

Washington signs Josh Norman

It didn’t appear as if Norman was going to be available this spring. The Carolina Panthers franchised the star cornerback at the start of free agency, but then rescinded the tag on April 20. When asked to explain the decision, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said it became clear the team wouldn't be able to reach a long-term deal with Norman.

Just two days after that decision was made, Washington swooped in and inked Norman to a five-year, $75 million deal. It was an exceptionally wise move.

Given today’s pass-happy era, almost all of the best defenses are centered around elite secondaries. During the last four Super Bowl matchups, only one team — the 2013 Denver Broncos — didn’t boast a top-11 ranking in opponent passing rating.

Heading into the offseason, Washington’s biggest weakness was its pass defense. The team allowed the eighth-most passing yards in the league last season and had the 11th-worst passer rating. That’s problematic in a division that features two of the league’s best wideouts, Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant.

Norman, 28, emerged as one of the best cornerbacks in football last season, consistently locking down No. 1 receivers across the league. DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones and Bryant hauled in just seven out of 18 passes for 63 yards and no touchdowns when Norman matched up with them.

In 2012, Norman was a little-known, fifth-round draft pick out of Coastal Carolina. Now, he may be the piece that propels Washington to repeat as NFC East champions.

Texans bring in Brock Osweiler

Sometimes, there are risks that teams have to take. The Texans signing Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract after just seven career starts fits that bill.

There’s no guarantee that Osweiler will succeed in Houston, but there was no doubt the Texans had to try to upgrade their quarterback position. They’ve trotted out seven different starting quarterbacks over the last three seasons, including the likes of Case Keenum, Matt Schaub and Ryan Mallett, players who have been passed around the league like a white elephant gift exchange.

Of those seven, five started six games or more. Their stats were ... less than inspiring.

Despite that lackluster QB play, the Texans have gone 9-7 in each of the last two seasons and won the division in 2015. If they even get average production from their quarterback, they could again be a force in the mediocre AFC South.

Osweiler, 25, showed a couple of flashes of brilliance for the Broncos in 2015. He posted a QB rating north of 100 against the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals, combining to throw for 549 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in those contests. Denver went 5-2 in games that Osweiler started.

Yet, the Broncos benched him for Peyton Manning right before the playoffs, which likely played a huge role in Osweiler deciding to sign with another team.

"We needed a change of something. So I was a little surprised just how he seemed to be a little bent out of shape about that," Broncos GM John Elway told the Denver Post.

Frankly though, it would’ve been alarming if he hadn’t been upset after getting benched for statistically one of the worst quarterbacks in football last season.

"The only thing I would say is what kind of competitor wouldn't want to play in that situation?" Osweiler responded.

With an elite defense, all Houston needs from Osweiler is competency. Plus, imagine how good Hopkins, who caught 111 passes last season, can be with a decent quarterback throwing his way. The price tag may be a bit steep, but few fans will likely be complaining if Osweiler’s steady hand allows the Texans to advance in the playoffs.

Cardinals acquire Chandler Jones

After finishing 20th in the league in sacks, it was apparent the Arizona Cardinals needed a game-changer on their defensive line this season. They got one when they made a trade with the New England Patriots for Chandler Jones.

The Patriots’ decision to discard Jones was a classic Bill Belichick move. Jones is owed $7.9 million this year and will be a free agent at the end of the season. With linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower also heading towards unrestricted free agency and cornerback Malcolm Butler set to become a restricted free agent, the Patriots decided Jones was an expendable piece. It’s better to get something for him now rather than lose him for nothing, the thinking goes.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, they didn’t give up much to bring Jones in. They shipped disappointing first-round guard Jonathan Cooper to the Patriots alongside their second-round pick. New England then dealt that pick for a fourth-round selection, taking wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

Jones led the Patriots with 30 sacks over the last three years and was their most impactful pass rusher. His synthetic marijuana scare last year is a bit of a red flag, but has mostly been forgotten. With the addition of Jones, who thanked Belichick for not trading him to a "crappy team," the Cardinals seem stronger than ever.

Raiders upgrade their defense — big time

It sounds bizarre to say, but the Oakland Raiders’ recent approach to team building is the blueprint that all NFL teams should follow: build your nucleus through the draft, and fill in the gaps on the free agency or trade market.

With the development of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, the Raiders could have a prolific passing offense this season. The free agent addition of Kelechi Osemele to the offensive should also improve a group that was already one of the league’s best.

Entering this offseason, perhaps the biggest hole on the Raiders was the secondary. But general manager Reggie McKenzie deftly addressed that with a couple of veteran signings and one potentially seismic draft pick. Sean Smith represents a massive upgrade at the No. 2 corner spot from D.J. Hayden, and Reggie Nelson should fill the void created by Charles Woodson’s retirement. Nelson intercepted eight passes for the Bengals in 2015.

But the real difference maker could be safety Karl Joseph, who was drafted No. 14 overall. He missed the Raiders’ entire offseason program rehabbing from a torn ACL, but was able to participate at the start of camp. He’s considered day-to-day headed into the preseason.

With Nelson under contract, the Raiders don’t need Joseph to be a big contributor right away. His production in college — averaging nearly 85 tackles during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons — show he could be an elite safety at the professional level when healthy.

Patriots trade for Martellus Bennett

A bromance has been developing between Rob Gronkowski and Bennett. That’s probably because they know they’re ready to take over the league.

Ebony and Ivory @martellusb

A photo posted by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

Bennett gives Gronkowski his most explosive partner at tight end since Aaron Hernandez. From 2010-2013, the two combined for 362 catches and 56 touchdown receptions. But ever since Hernandez was arrested for, and later convicted of, first-degree murder, the Patriots haven’t been able to find another suitable complement to Gronk.

That’s all about to change with Bennett. One of the most flamboyant characters in the NFL is just two seasons removed from a 90-catch campaign, and appears ready to explode in a contract year.

At 6’6, 275 pounds, Bennett is exceptionally difficult to contain. And with defenses probably dedicating their best cover linebackers to Gronkowski, he should be able to wreck havoc.

Bennett’s act grew stale in Chicago following a series of disputes with the organization and his teammates. He body slammed a rookie during practice, held out from his contract and complained about his role in the offense. In a recent interview with ESPN The Magazine, he ripped Jay Cutler to shreds, saying the QB would throw into double-coverage when he was open.

Cutler responded by saying he hopes Tom Brady can give Bennett everything he wants. Judging by how well the two-tight end system previously worked for the Patriots with Hernandez, it doesn’t seem like that will be a problem.

3 moves that will fail

Giants give big money to Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins

Vernon and Jenkins are good players. But the jury is still out as to whether they deserve to be two of the highest-paid players at their respective positions.

The New York Giants signed Vernon to a five-year, $85 million deal with a whopping $52.5 million guaranteed at the onset of free agency. A third-round pick in the 2012 draft, Vernon’s best statistical season in Miami came when he recorded 11.5 sacks. But many talent evaluators, including the folks at Pro Football Focus, believe his big jump came last season.

It’s important to mention, though, that Vernon did most of his damage in the second half of the schedule. He was credited with 41 of his 61 tackles and 5.5 of his 7.5 sacks from Week 9 onward.

Perhaps Vernon, 25, is on his way to becoming an elite pass rusher. But right now, it’s too early to say. He could’ve just had a good eight weeks at an opportune time.

There’s little doubt 2015 was the best season of Jenkins’ career, who’s been a boom-or-bust corner throughout his time in the NFL. But the Giants looked past his proclivity for giving up the big play, and inked him to a five-year deal worth $62.5 million. Jenkins is now the seventh-highest paid cornerback in the league on an annual average basis.

The Giants allowed the most passing yards in the NFL last season, so Jenkins is an obvious upgrade to their secondary. But considering he’s allowed more than 700 receiving yards every year of his career, how much of an improvement he represents is to be determined.

Eagles pay Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel only to draft Carson Wentz

It would’ve been acceptable for the Eagles to sign one of Bradford or Daniel to serve as a placeholder until Wentz is ready to start. But paying both of them starter money makes no sense whatsoever.

Just 10 days after outlaying $36 million to Bradford, the Eagles decided to give Daniel a three-year contract worth $21 million. Then they opted to trade up for the No. 2 pick in the draft to select Wentz out of North Dakota State. Huh?

Though Bradford’s holdout from voluntary workouts will go down as one of the most pointless ever, his annoyance is understandable. Now, new head coach Doug Pederson, who coached Daniel in Kansas City, said before the start of camp he’s leaning toward keeping Wentz inactive. But still, Daniel is getting paid more than some starters. The Eagles could’ve found a serviceable backup quarterback at a significantly cheaper rate.

The Bradford contract gives the Eagles a lot of leeway to cut him after this season, but unless they’re planning to buck recent history, Wentz will likely be ready to start — leaving Daniel on the bench once again. And if the Eagles don’t plan on making Wentz their starting quarterback anytime soon, why did they trade two first-round picks to draft him this year?

The drama surrounding the Eagles’ QB depth chart outweighs the production they’ll probably get from the position. That’s never a good thing.

Jaguars spend a bunch of money, but still don’t address their No. 1 need

The Jacksonville Jaguars were the story of free agency, spending $178.3 million to sign veterans Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Prince Amukamara and Chris Ivory. But as SB Nation’s Adam Stites points out, they failed to address their biggest need.

Only one player on the Jaguars’ roster last season, Jared Odrick, finished 2015 with more than four sacks. Jacksonville finished 20th in the league in sacks overall.

Though Jackson should help the interior pass rush, the Jaguars still need a playmaker on the outside. They selected Dante Fowler Jr. with the No. 3 pick in the draft last year, but he missed all of 2015 with a torn ACL.

The Jaguars made two splashes in the draft this spring, selecting defensive back Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack. They’ve improved in every area on the defensive side of the ball, except where they needed to most.