We've spent a lot of time this offseason contemplating the unhappiness of quarterbacks. From Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz (traded and traded) to Deshaun Watson (trade demanded and subsequent serious legal issues) and Aaron Rodgers (discontent and subsequent stalemate), their dismay at the direction of their teams has shaped the NFL conversation for nearly six months. And, given the complicated situations in Houston and Green Bay, it's not even close to being over.
Except in this column.
It's time to applaud teams that have made it Christmas in June for the most important guys in the building, that made the talent investments that should enhance their signal-callers' chances of success in 2021. These teams followed through on the most important philosophy of roster construction: build around the quarterback. Even the Jaguars, in the throes of a down-to-the-studs rebuild with needs all over the roster, hinted at it when Urban Meyer drafted running back Travis Etienne, a Clemson teammate of Trevor Lawrence, late in the first round and then had him take a lot of practice reps at receiver. Nothing guarantees success, of course, but it's a lot better than the teams that allow quarterbacks to languish.
The angst-ridden quarterbacks may look on longingly, but life is good under center on these teams.
The entire world saw how poorly the Chiefs protected Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl, but it's hard to imagine another performance like that happening. They signed guard Joe Thuney to a massive contract, drew guard Kyle Long from retirement, made a blockbuster trade for Orlando Brown to protect Mahomes' blindside, and then drafted two linemen, including Creed Humphrey in the second round. All are projected to start, along with Mike Remmers, who returns to play right tackle. It's impossible to overstate Mahomes' brilliance. And also how well the Chiefs are run.
This was another offensive line in need of a makeover and Justin Herbert can now look forward to building off his record-setting rookie season. The biggest move was the first -- the signing of center Corey Linsley. He allowed just four total pressures last season. And the Chargers secured their left tackle when Northwestern's Rashawn Slater dropped into their laps in the draft's first round. In the third round, they added more weapons -- receiver Josh Palmer and tight end Tre' McKitty. The Chargers know they have to keep pace with Mahomes. Herbert gives them a chance. And now the Chargers are giving Herbert a chance.
In Daniel Jones' first two seasons, his weapons were, at best, mediocre and it showed -- the Giants were 31st in scoring last season, ahead of only the Jets. Giants receivers ranked in the bottom 10 in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2020. That should not happen again. The Giants dove into free agency by signing receiver Kenny Golladay and tight end Kyle Rudolph and used their first-round draft pick on receiver Kadarius Toney, giving Jones -- one of the most efficient deep ball passers in the game last season -- the explosive weapons he has craved. The Giants believe their offensive line -- a source of concern in recent years -- is settled. If that's true, we should see a much more productive offense.
Setting aside Tua Tagovailoa's admission that he didn't have the best grasp on the playbook last year, the Dolphins tried to make things a lot easier from him by vastly upgrading his weapons to address what had been a subpar wide receiver group. They signed Will Fuller and then used the sixth overall pick to select the electrifying Jaylen Waddle. They also drafted an NFL-ready lineman in Liam Eichenberg, and provided the young passer a mentor in Jacoby Brissett. And finally, the Dolphins passed on drafting another quarterback, indicating they are totally committed to Tagovailoa.
All the attention was understandably paid to the signing of J.J. Watt, but the Cardinals did real work on their offense, too. Receiver A.J. Green will be a good counterbalance to DeAndre Hopkins and the presence of center Rodney Hudson, one of the league's premier pass-blocking centers, should put Kyler Murray at ease.
Matt Ryan is one of the big winners of the offseason, which is a strange thing to say about a quarterback who just lost one of the greatest receivers in history. Why? The Falcons aren't rebuilding, they have a new offensive-minded head coach, they didn't trade Ryan against his will and they didn't draft another quarterback. Instead, they selected the best player in the draft this side of Trevor Lawrence in tight end Kyle Pitts, who projects to be a dependable target as soon as he steps on the field. Losing Julio Jones takes a little shine off this offseason, but on the whole, Ryan's life is much better than it looked like it would be early this offseason.
On a related note ...
A late add to this list but Ryan Tannehill was one of the league's most efficient downfield passers last year, and that was before the team finally completed a trade for Julio Jones on Sunday. It gives the Titans a staggeringly physical offensive look, with A.J Brown and Josh Reynolds joining Jones as receivers and Derrick Henry likely to benefit from a little more running room. The Titans should be in the AFC's upper echelon, and Tannehill could have the makings of a career season.
How do you make things even better for Tom Brady? You win a Super Bowl and then you bring back everybody -- EVERYBODY! -- in a quest to run it back, and you ask him to evaluate receivers in the draft. This is something of an unprecedented experiment, but quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen told reporters last week that Brady was talking the morning after the Super Bowl about how he would be better next season because he was going to get his knee fixed, which suggests that Brady expects the offense to continue the upward trend it started late last season. What could delight him more, especially with New England on the schedule this season?