For 20 teams in the National Football League, the offseason is here. Some have major work to do while some can make some minor tweaks before the NFL Draft Combine in mid-February. While organizations like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets and Washington Redskins have ample moves to execute before they are even respectable, a handful of teams are in terrific spots to make vast improvements quickly.
Here are four teams who hit the offseason in excellent position:
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville was awful once again in 2014, notching a 3-13 record. However, the Jaguars allowed rookie quarterback Blake Bortles to earn a bevy of playing time, something that will serve him well going forward. The defense also improved toward the end of the season, ranking sixth in the NFL with 45 sacks.
Most importantly, Jacksonville has the third overall selection in the draft and a league-high $61.4 million of cap space, per Over The Cap. If the Jaguars can make some additions to the offensive line and defensive backfield, head coach Gus Bradley could be in for a nice turnaround in 2015.
3. New York Giants
New York missed the playoffs for a third straight season in 2014, finishing at 6-10. Still, the Giants are keeping the faith in head coach Tom Coughlin, who is coming back for a 12th year. Coughlin has a good quarterback in Eli Manning and a dynamic receiving duo in Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz. The main concern is the offensive line and linebackers, after finishing 30th against the run.
The Giants must re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul and then use some of its remaining cap space/draft picks to upgrade the aforementioned areas. New York has a solid quarterback/coach combination, the most important component of a winning team.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Under first-year head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings went 7-9 despite Adrian Peterson only suiting up for one game. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a true bright spot, throwing for 2,919 yards and 14 touchdowns. For the Vikings, surrounding Bridgewater with a better offensive line and quality receivers. When Greg Jennings leads the team with 742 receiving yards, you have an issue.
Minnesota is not far off from being a playoff team. Zimmer showed his defensive prowess, getting the Vikings to a respectable 14th in the league. Minnesota has an estimated $16.8 million in cap space, giving it the chance to bring in a couple of key contributors off the free-agent market.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City went 9-7 despite losing Derrick Johnson, Mike DeVito, Jeff Allen and Eric Berry for most or all of the season. The Chiefs beat the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, along with victories over the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills on the road and a season sweep of the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs have talent all over the field, but were held back by a horrific offensive line and a complete lack of receivers.
Kansas City has less than $1 million in cap space currently, but could easily get to $35-40 million with cuts and pay reductions. The Chiefs need to address right tackle and one of the guard positions while adding a top-tier receiver. If general manager John Dorsey can do that, Kansas City should be a Super Bowl contender in 2015.