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Ranking the best and worst NFL offseasons of 2021: How the Bucs and Patriots improved, and why the Raiders and Packers stumbled

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Let's finish up ranking the 32 NFL teams based on the work they did over the 2021 offseason. I did the bottom half of the league last week -- the teams that had the worst offseasons -- which means it's time for 1-16.

This encapsulates both free agency and the draft and measures what each team did versus our expectations heading into the offseason. As an example, we knew heading into the spring that the New Orleans Saints were going to need to create nearly $100 million in cap space. My thoughts here aren't about the circumstances that led the Saints to be in that situation, but how they did over the past few months given those conditions.

An impressive offseason might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but as a reminder, I did this exercise last year. The team that I thought had the best offseason a year ago did pretty well during the regular season and even better during the playoffs: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the offseason, then the Super Bowl and might have had the best summer in 2021, too.

Jump to a team:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What went right: The Super Bowl champions managed to bring back just about everybody from last season's team. Thirty-one Bucs players lined up for at least 200 snaps on offense or defense a year ago. Owing to some creative cap work and a Tom Brady extension, all 31 of those players are back. The most conspicuous departure from the 2020 team might realistically be swing tackle Joe Haeg. Tampa didn't add much outside of former Bengals third-down back Gio Bernard, but this is about as much continuity for an NFL team as you can imagine from year-to-year. The Bucs also managed to keep defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on staff after the former Jets coach flummoxed Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl.