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3 ways to win the NFL offseason

Which teams used the right combination of free agency and the draft to get better on paper this spring?

NFL free agency and the draft are over with and for now, apart from a little movement among the last few players on each 90-man roster, teams are set until the preseason begins. Depth charts will start taking shape, and general managers and coaches finally know what they'll be working with for the 2015 campaign.

Until the games start in September, it's hard to know which teams got better and which clubs took a step back, but there were a handful of teams out there that had identifiable plans of action.

Winning in the trenches

It's cliche, but many teams still strongly adhere to that belief and went that direction during the offseason.

Cardinals add beef to their offensive and defensive lines

Gone: C Lyle Sendlein, G Paul Fanaika, T Bradley Sowell
Added: G Mike Iupati, T D.J. Humphries, C A.Q. Shipley

The Cardinals run game was atrocious last year. There's no doubt that Steve Keim and Bruce Arians set out this offseason to add some talent to their offensive line. After releasing Lyle Sendlein in a cost-savings move and allowing Paul Fanaika to sign in Kansas City, the Cardinals were down two 16-game starters. However, they had a plan in mind, and signed the top guard on the free agent market in Mike Iupati. Then, they used their first-round pick to select a highly regard talent in D.J. Humphries. Shipley adds depth in Sendlein's absence.

Arizona will be hoping that Bobbie Massie, Earl Watford and/or Jonathan Cooper make big jumps this year, but on paper they look like a vastly improved unit up front.

Gone: NT Dan Williams, DE Darnell Dockett, DE Tommy Kelly
Added: DT Cory Redding, DT Corey Peters, OLB Lamarr Woodley, OLB Markus Golden, OLB Shaq Riddick, DT Rodney Gunter, NT Alameda Ta'amu

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, despite losing starters in Dan Williams and Darnell Dockett, plus Tommy Kelly to free agency, the Cardinals added a litany of defensive line/outside linebacker talent. Redding, Peters and Woodley come to the desert via free agency, and Missouri's Markus Golden (second round) and West Virginia's Shaq Riddick (fifth round) add toughness and athleticism. Gunter (fourth round) is a developmental interior lineman who will back up Alameda Ta'amu, whom the team brought back in free agency.

Jaguars look to the trenches as well

Lost: OG Jaques McClendon
Added: RT Jermey Parnell, G/C Stefen Wisniewski, G A.J. Cann, T/G Brennan Williams

Jacksonville knows that to start getting closer to the .500 mark in 2015, they'll have to protect Blake Bortles more effectively and run the ball with more consistency. With that in mind, they added Jermey Parnell in free agency and will plug him in immediately at right tackle, then signed free agency center/guard Stefen Wisniewski, a proven and solid interior lineman. As the third round rolled around, South Carolina's A.J. Cann was still on the board, and Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley ran to the podium to hand in the draft card for him.

Additionally, they took a flier on former Houston third-round pick Brennan Williams, whose promising career was derailed after he had microfracture surgery on his knee. The odds are against him coming back fully healthy from that tough injury, but if he can, that could be a steal for the Jags.

Lost: DE Red Bryant
Added: DT/DE Jared Odrick, OLB Dan Skuta, DE Dante Fowler, DE/DT Mike Bennett, DE Tyson Alualu

Gus Bradley's a defensive-minded head coach and he did a lot to add depth and talent on that side of the ball this offseason. After releasing Red Bryant in a cap-savings move, he went out and signed a top defensive line free agent in Jared Odrick and grabbed a specialist for his OTTO position in Dan Skuta. He re-signed former first-round pick Tyson Alualu then went to work at the draft. Bradley and Caldwell grabbed their premier pass rusher, Florida's Dante Fowler, in the first round, then got what many believe will be a steal in the sixth round with Ohio State's Michael Bennett.

Naturally, this all comes with an asterisk, as Fowler tore his ACL in the team's first mini-camp practice, but Jacksonville still gets credit for adding talent to their roster. Fowler will be back next year.

It's a "big man's game" in Washington

Added: Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Tokoby Cofield, Austin Reiter

Scot McCloughan hasn't made it a secret throughout his career that he likes to build teams from the trenches, and he's continued that in Washington. With the fifth pick in the draft, he added perhaps the best lineman in the nation, Iowa's Brandon Scherff, then grabbed value in the fourth with Alabama's Arie Kouandjio. Tokoby Cofield and Austin Reiter are solid developmental pickups in undrafted free agency. Getting some beef up front to protect for Robert Griffin III in his contract year was important, and McCloughan's strategy was apparent.

Photo via Getty Images

Photo via Getty Images

Lost: Jarvis Jenkins, Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield, Brian Orakpo
Added: Stephen Paea, Terrance Knighton, Preston Smith, Ricky Jean-Francois

On the defensive side of the ball, McCloughan cleaned up as well. He dropped a few players at the jump to clear out some cap space, then signed two of the top free agents on the market in Stephen Paea and Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton while adding reliable veteran Ricky Jean-Francois as well. Finding versatile pass rusher Preston Smith in the second helps ease the loss of Brian Orakpo to free agency

Browns bolster their defensive line

Lost: NT Ahtyba Rubin, DT Sione Fua, OLB Jabaal Sheard
Added: DE/DT Randy Starks, NT Danny Shelton, DE Xavier Cooper, OLB Nate Orchard

After a successful offseason, on paper, the Browns could have one of the deepest and most talented front sevens in the league this year. To add to a group that already included Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, Barkevious Mingo, Billy Winn and a few others, Cleveland signed Randy Starks in free agency and then added Washington's Danny Shelton in the first, Utah's Nate Orchard in the second, then Washington State's Xavier Cooper in the third. That's a nice haul, and shows a strong focus on improving in that area.

Quinn builds out Atlanta's defensive line

Lost: DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Corey Peters, DE Jonathan Massaquoi
Added: DE Adrian Clayborn, OLB Brooks Reed, OLB/DE O'Brien Schofield, LEO Vic Beasley, DE/DT Grady Jarrett

Dan Quinn takes over as head coach in Atlanta and will undoubtedly look to emulate the Seahawks defense he coordinated the past two seasons. To get started, he signed a strongside end in Adrian Clayborn, a strongside linebacker/nickel pass rusher in Brooks Reed, then drafted his LEO weakside rusher in Clemson's Vic Beasley in the first round. The cherry on top was Clemson's Grady Jarrett all the way into the fifth round. Quinn's now got some pieces in place to run what he wants to run.

Dallas' offensive line is even better

Lost: T Jermey Parnell
Added: G/T La'el Collins, G/T Chaz Green, T Laurence Gibson,

Dallas already had the NFL's top offensive line, and then the Jones boys went out and drafted a couple of nice developmental types in Florida's Chaz Green and Virginia Tech's Laurence Gibson. That would have been a nice depth upgrade in itself, but after La'el Collins passed his polygraph and teams felt comfortable pursuing him, the Cowboys signed a first-round talent for peanuts.

Make life easier on our quarterback

Building from the trenches is all well and good and I can't fault a team for doing that, but some clubs take another tack at winning games: adding offensive weaponry to make their passing attacks unstoppable. Six teams seemed to clearly have this in mind for the future as the 2014 season ended.

Miami goes HAM for Ryan Tannehill

Lost: WR Mike Wallace, WR Brian Hartline, WR Brandon Gibson, TE Charles Clay
Added: WR Kenny Stills, WR Greg Jennings, WR Devante Parker, TE Jordan Cameron

Determined to provide their burgeoning quarterback with offensive talent, the Dolphins made some pretty big changes. They traded away Mike Wallace, allowed Brian Hartline to leave in free agency and ultimately let Buffalo outbid them for Charles Clay. However, they grabbed New Orleans' speedster Kenny Stills in a trade and signed Greg Jennings and Jordan Cameron in free agency. That's a good cluster of moves alone, but the kicker was drafting a potential No. 1 in DeVante Parker in the first round.

Let's not forget that Jarvis Landry's still sitting there in the wide receiver room as well.

Photo via Getty Images

Photo via Getty Images

Indianapolis gives Andrew Luck more of what he needs

Lost: WR Reggie Wayne, WR Hakeem Nicks
Added: WR Andre Johnson, WR Phillip Dorsett, WR Duron Carter

Well, you can't really say that Luck doesn't have any weapons at his disposal. After adding the inimitable Andre Johnson in free agency and signing CFL star Duron Carter as a high-upside prospect, the Colts spent their first-round pick on Miami's Phillip Dorsett, a speedster who many had already been comparing to T.Y. Hilton. These three additions will join Hilton and 2014 third-rounder Donte Moncreif to form a formidable receiver corps -- that's not even counting tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.

Seattle adds size and speed to Russell Wilson's armory

Lost: TE Zach Miller
Added: TE Jimmy Graham, WR Tyler Lockett

Seattle continued their long line of bold moves with the acquisition of Jimmy Graham, one of the game's top touchdown scorers over the past four years. This was a move designed by John Schneider and Pete Carroll to give their fourth-year quarterback an ever-important red zone threat. Adding to this, they went out and traded three picks to move up to get Tyler Lockett, a speedster who can get open underneath or take the top off a defense.

Tennessee surrounds Marcus Mariota

Lost: WR Nate Washington, WR Derek Hagan
Added: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, WR Harry Douglas, WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Tre McBride, WR Jacoby Ford,

The Titans turned down riches to select Marcus Mariota with the second-overall pick and apparently they are determined to give him some weapons. In the second round, they traded up for touchdown-maker Dorial Green-Beckham, who could be a dangerous threat for the former Oregon thrower if he can stay on the field. Of course, DGB will be sharing the field with a couple of players, Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, who could draw coverage away him.

Adding Harry Douglas, Hakeem Nicks and Jacoby Ford in free agency adds some experience and veteran savvy, and they'll all compete for a roster spot. Grabbing Tre McBride in the seventh seemed like a potential steal.

Make life harder on their quarterback

Conversely, in a quarterback's league, having a secondary stocked with talent just seems like a no-brainer. The Eagles and Jets went after it harder than anyone else in this category.

Eagles building a no fly zone

Lost: CB Cary Williams, CB Bradley Fletcher, S Nate Allen
Added: CB Byron Maxwell, CB Eric Rowe, CB Walter Thurmond, CB E.J. Biggers, CB Randall Evans, CB Jacorey Shepherd

Chip Kelly did his thing this offseason, that's for sure. He went out and signed the top remaining free agency cornerback on the market (after Darrelle Revis) in Byron Maxwell, took a flier on the talented-but-injury-prone Walter Thurmond and then grabbed the uber-athletic and versatile Eric Rowe in the second round of the draft. He added depth with the selections of Randall Evans and Jacorey Shepherd. Not a bad few months for Chip.

The Jets purchase a brand new, very familiar secondary

Lost: S Dawan Landry, CB Phillip Adams, CB Kyle Wilson
Added: CB Darrelle Revis, CB Antonio Cromartie, S Marcus Gilchrist, CB Buster Skrine

You could argue that no team in the NFL improved one unit more than the Jets did with their defensive secondary. Revis remains one of the best in the game, and he reunites with former secondary-mate Antonio Cromartie, who had an underrated year in 2014. Add in former Charger Marcus Gilchrist and former Brown Buster Skrine, and you've got yourself a shiny new group. You can't forget that this secondary already includes former first-rounders Calvin Pryor and Dee Milliner as well.