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Off-season Rankings: Part IV

It's time for guest writer Travis Wingfield to unveil the teams he feels had the best off-seasons.  He also gives us his early Super Bowl picks.  So here we go:

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs were already notorious for a stout defense and this off-season they've only become stronger. Kevin Carter is the new defensive end and he is joined by Gaines Adams on the opposite side to make for a strong pass rush. Cato June brings his Super Bowl bling down to Florida to man a linebacker position. Luke Pettigout is new on the line and the quarterback position has been a mess to say the least this off-season. The Bucs picked up Jake Plummer and Jeff Garcia only to see Plummer retire. Bruce Gradkowski and Chris Simms will be given a chance to win the job but it's all but Garcia's at this point. The Bucs failed to find another WR and I'm still not high on their offense.
Best add: Gaines Adams DE
Worst loss: Jake Plummer QB (I know he was never a Buccaneer, but would've been nice to have him.)
Outlook: 5-11. The defense is great but I don't like the offense, at all.

7. Detroit Lions- All of April, everyone was saying Gaines Adams at number 2 for the Lions. Detroit opted to go for their 3rd WR in 4 years, instead,  selecting Calvin Johnson and rightfully so. Johnson is a freak with his abilities and will absolutely be a star receiver in this league. Couple Johnson with Roy Williams and Jon Kitna can only smile thinking about his targets. Detroit was also aggressive in free agency, building that offense by gobbling up running backs Tatum Bell and TJ Duckett to make for a great thunder and lightning combo. Shaun McDonald is also a new addition at receiver as the Lions are running out of room for pass catchers. George Foster, Edwin Mulitalo and Zach Piller are all new on the offensive line. This offense is entirely new but what about the defense? The Lions continued their spree in the 2nd round drafting Drew Stanton to groom behind Kitna. On defense, Dre' Bly is gone and Travis Fisher is in at corner back. The Lions will score some points, but are they going to stop any one from doing the same to them?
Best add: Calvin Johnson WR
Worst loss: Dre' Bly CB
Outlook: 4-12. They're on their way; believe me, just a couple of years off.

6. Cleveland Browns- The Browns are building a solid core on the offensive line. Last year they signed LeCharles Bentley to play center, and this year they made Eric Steinbach the highest paid lineman in league history, and also drafted the best OT in the draft in Joe Thomas. Brady Quinn and Eric Wright were the succeeding picks in what was a very solid draft. Brady Quinn will probably be the starter this year and the Browns will go through some growing pains. They lost Rueben Droughns but added Jamal Lewis at running back. Perhaps the best moves the Browns made were getting Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards healthy. However, it will still be a tough year for the Browns.
Best add: Joe Thomas OT
Worst loss: Rueben Droughns RB
Outlook: 4-12. Similar to the Lions, they are on their way, just not yet.

5. Oakland Raiders- Calling the Raiders' offense average last year would be an insult to average. Randy Moss was complaining, Jerry Porter didn't even want to play, and Andrew Walter was on his backside most the time. Perhaps this is the reason the Raiders overhauled the offense. New quarterbacks are in with Jamarcus Russell and Josh McCown, new runners with Dominic Rhodes and Michael Bush, new receivers with Mike Williams and John Lee Higgins, a rookie tight end in Zach Miller, and finally a new line with Jeremy Newberry and Marion Henderson. Quentin Moses was their first defensive pick at DE but he was the only real addition on defense. This Raiders' team is entirely new which can't be a bad thing after finishing 2-14, but I don't see a lot of upside this year either.
Best add: Dominic Rhodes RB
Worst loss: Randy Moss WR
Outlook: 4-12. Still some instability and inexperience at QB and WR.

4. St. Louis Rams- This team is making all the right moves at this point. The offense is probably the best in the NFC after adding tight end Randy McMichael, WR Drew Bennett, and iron man fullback Brian Leonard. Defense was their weakness in 2006 however, and the Rams went out and got linebacker Chris Draft from Carolina, and Adam Carriker and James Hall in the draft. The greatest show on turf just might be back with Tory Holt (the best WR in the NFL in my opinion) Issac Bruce, Drew Bennett, Randy McMichael, Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger. The Rams are my sexy pick for this year.
Best add: Randy McMichael TE
Worst loss: Kevin Curtis WR
Outlook: 12-4 and my surprise team taking the NFC West by storm.

3. New England Patriots- The Patriots have done everything they never did before. They went out and signed a lot of big names in free agency rather than keeping the core guys in and believing in the system. To run through the list, Adalius Thomas, Donte Stallworth, Randy Moss, Kyle Brady, Wes Welker, and retained standout corner Asante Samuel. Moss and Stallworth have question marks but would be huge if they pan out, Wes Welker is a nice 3rd option and an average punt returner, and Adalius Thomas is one of the best linebackers in football. Brandon Meriweather (another troubled player) was their first selection in the draft. I see two possibilities with this team, either they sweep through the league and take the title, or all these question marks blow up in their face.
Best add: Adalius Thomas LB
Worst loss: Corey Dillon RB
Outlook: 11-5 and winning the AFC East again.

2. San Francisco 49ers- Who isn't picking the 49ers to do very well this year, especially after the off-season this front office has put together. Alex Smith is progressing and they surrounded him with loads of talents. Vernon Davis and Frank Gore are still there and in come Ashlie Lelie, Darrell Jackson, and drafted speedster Jason Hill. On defense, Nate Clements got a huge contract, Tully Banta-Cain and first round selection Patrick Willis are in at LB, and Michael Lewis is a new safety. This is a pretty balanced team and depending on Alex Smith, could be pretty darn good. Antonio Bryant is out but this team is on its way. Everyone is drinking the kool-aid but I'm not 100% sold just yet.
Best add: Nate Clements CB
Worst loss: Antonio Bryant WR
Outlook: 9-7 challenging for a playoff spot in the NFC

1. Denver Broncos- I'm beginning to think I could run for 1000 yards in the Denver running scheme. Bring in Travis Henry and you have a dangerous ground attack. Henry led the Titans to 6 straight wins and a near playoff birth last season, running for 1211 yards. Daniel Graham is the new tight end from New England and Patrick Ramsey will back up 2nd year man Jay Cutler. Dre Bly joins the Broncos, giving them the stingiest set of corners in all the NFL. The Broncos knocked out the draft as well, getting pass rushers in Tim Crowder and Jarvis Moss. Al Wilson is the only big loss this team took but I still love the Broncos to do very well this year and I've given them my early Super Bowl pick.
Best add: Travis Henry RB
Worst loss: Al Wilson LB
Outlook: 13-3 and Super Bowl champions.

Well there it is. It may be subjective in some ways but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. There are always winners and losers in the off-season but no matter how you slice it, it's always difficult to forecast. I really believe the Dolphins can sneak into the playoffs and be the surprise team this season. If the offense can get Chambers and Brown going and Green can stabilize the QB spot, I think that would be enough with the awesome defense. And my early picks for the Super Bowl are in; I've got Denver beating St. Louis at this point. Take it how you like, but it's still very early. Here's to looking forward to a great NFL season, it can't come soon enough.

So those are Travis's rankings and early predictions.  As for mine, I'll hold off for a little while.