The Rams made a huge draft day trade with the Colts that helped them land Marshall Faulk. They also used the sixth pick in the 99' draft to select Torry Holt. Trent Green was signed to be the team's starting QB, but tore ligaments in his left knee during a preseason game. The injury to Green gave way to Kurt Warner becoming the starter, and the rest is history.
The Baltimore Ravens came into the off-season with the look of a playoff contender. They were able to solidify that tag with the signings of Shannon Sharpe, Trent Dilfer, Sam Gash, and Sam Adams. All four players made significant contributions to the team's SB run. Dilfer was signed to be the backup QB to Tony Banks, yet ended up starting the last 11 games of the year. Sharpe was the offense's MVP, making memorable catches throughout the postseason. Adams was a pro bowl DT and Gash helped energize a revitalized rushing attack.
Of the three teams, the Patriots were clearly the biggest surprise. There were some doubts about Bill Belicheck's coaching style, and the team was initially over the cap. The Patriots started out the off-season by releasing older stalwarts like Chris Slade, Bruce Armstrong, and Henry Thomas. They then went on to sign 20 players for a total of $2.7mil in signing bonuses. Of the 20 players, Antwain Smith, Mike Vrabel, David Patten, Mike Compton, and Marc Edwards all started in the SB.
As you can see, a little luck and smart maneuvering in the off-season helped all three teams improve themselves into SB champions. Using the same formula, which teams improved the most this off-season? Here are four teams to watch out for:
1.) San Diego Chargers: The Chargers looked like they were ready to make a significant jump to becoming contenders last year, but it didn't work out that way. The hiring of Mary Schottenheimer to become the team's head coach was a good start. He will play toward the team's strengths as a defensive team that will run the ball on offense. The Chargers then went on to add DT Jason Fisk, TE Stephan Alexander, C Cory Raymer, and OLB Donnie Edwards. All of these FA acquisitions should help. They also drafted a blue chip CB in Quentin Jammer, road grading OG Toniu Fonoti, and Reche Caldwell, a good possession WR.
2.) Tennessee Titans: The Titans were looked at as SB contenders last year, but injuries helped derail their expectations. They needed to improve both S positions, and they did that by adding Lance Schulters at FS. The Titans also drafted a very promising SS named Clevan "Tank" Willams with their second round pick. To add to those additions, the Titans drafted perhaps the most talented DT in the draft, Albert Haynesworth. You can also consider getting back a healthy Eddie George as a big addition to the team.
3.) Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have been the laughing stock of the league over the last two seasons. However, people may not be laughing at them anymore. To start out of the off-season, the Cowboys added QB Chad Hutchinson, DT La'Roi Glover, OLB Kevin Hardy, and CB Bryant Westbrook during the free agency period. The Cowboys also had the best draft of any team, snagging SS Roy Williams, G/C Andre Gurode, WR Antonio Bryant, and CB Derrick Ross.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs came into the off-season to improve the DT, RT, and WR spots, and they did just that. They made a very solid trade for all-pro LT Willie Roaf. The Chiefs also signed WR Johnnie Morton, who should assume the no.1 WR role. Using their first two draft picks, the Chiefs selected DT Ryan Simms and DT Eddie Freeman. Both players should start on day one.