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5 Teams That Reignited Super Bowl Hopes After Entering 2024 NFL Draft, Free Agency

Winning the offseason means nothing if an NFL organization’s moves fail to create an impact on the playing field.

Famously dubbed “dream teams” fell apart during the season after making significant hot-stove noise.

Conversely, strong offseasons have changed the course of entire franchises, as a pair of recent Super Bowl winners in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams can attest.

While no Tom Brady- or Matthew Stafford-level moves were made in the last four months, multiple squads should be drastically better after standout acquisitions through free agency, trades and/or the draft. So much so, Super Bowl aspirations are legitimately on the table.

A group already exists at the level where a Super Bowl appearance is already in their sights. Everyone knows who they are.

However, five specific franchises thread the needle between disappointing campaigns last season ready to rebound or ascending squads prepared to take the next step. What they accomplished since the start of the new league year in March should propel them into championship contention this fall.

Houston Texans quarterback CJ Stroud Rob Carr/Getty Images

Quarterback CJ Stroud changed everything for the Houston Texans.

The Texans haven’t held lofty postseason aspirations since Bill O’Brien served as the head coach and the organization won four division titles in five seasons between the 2015 and ’19 campaigns. Even then, Houston never advanced beyond the conference’s divisional round.

O’Brien, who also served as the de facto general manager later in his tenure, left the organization in shambles, with a decaying roster, few assets and very little hope for the future.

The franchise was left spinning its wheels for three seasons. But it struck gold last year with draft selections of Stroud and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. The Texans are now ahead of schedule after claiming an AFC South crown last season.

The roster was far from complete despite the unexpected success.

General manager Nick Caserio provided his sophomore signal-caller with a true No. 1 target in Stefon Diggs for, essentially, a second-round draft pick. Running back Joe Mixon, who is coming off his fourth 1,000-yard rushing campaign, also joined the Texans via trade, though the veteran ball-carrier costs a measly seventh-round draft pick.

Furthermore, the Texans re-signed tight end Dalton Schultz and added offensive line depth through the draft selections of Blake Fisher and LaDarius Henderson.

Defensively, Houston splurged on the free-agent signing of defensive end Danielle Hunter, who inked a one-year, $17 million deal. Veterans Denico Autry, Foley Fatukasi, Derek Barnett and Tim Settle will help solidify the defensive front. Meanwhile, Azeez Al-Shaair, who played for Demeco Ryans when he was a defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, will take over the middle of the defense at Mike ‘backer.

The Texans now have star power at the skill positions and improved depth along the lines of scrimmage. With Stroud leading the way, Houston can place the AFC South on lockdown, with aspirations of reaching the same level of the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua Ryan Kang/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams went all-in to win Super LVI and did so.

Since then, the organization has dealt with injuries and significant roster turnover, while taking the time to properly rebuild on the fly, hence its 15-17 record over the last two seasons.

The Rams bounced back last season with a 10-7 record, but the Detroit Lions knocked Los Angeles out of the postseason in the first round. To compound matters, the greatest defensive player of his era, Aaron Donald, retired this offseason.

Even with that gargantuan loss, general manager Les Snead has quietly gone about his business and retooled the roster with significant talent.

A year ago, the Rams had one of the league’s best draft classes, with the additions of offensive lineman Steve Avila, edge-rusher Byron Young, defensive tackle Kobie Turner and, of course, wide receiver Puka Nacua, who emerged as an elite playmaker in Sean McVay’s offense.

Los Angeles supplemented last year’s class with another strong offering this year. The first- and second-round selections of Florida State’s Jared Verse and Braden Fiske will help offset Donald’s loss, while simultaneously strengthening the Rams’ defensive front. The later-round selections of Brennan Jackson and Tyler Davis should provide depth.

Interestingly, the Rams could be a more physical team this fall.

Avila moves from center to guard. The organization splurged on free-agent guards Jonah Jackson and Kevin Dotson. Snead also added running back Blake Corum in the third round to join Kyren Williams after the latter’s breakout season where he ran for 1,144 yards and 12 touchdowns.

A stronger offensive front and potent ground game will only make life easier on quarterback Matthew Stafford and the team’s incomparable talent at wide receiver.

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers Ryan Kang/Getty Images

The New York Jets believed themselves to be Super Bowl contenders last season for exactly four plays until quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Gang Green lost their Hall of Fame quarterback, with Zach Wilson left to lead the way, which turned into a disaster. Rodgers will be back from injury this fall, Wilson is no longer with the organization and the Jets brought in Tyrod Taylor to provide veteran backup insurance.

Rodgers’ return to the lineup is only part of the equation, though. Yes, the presence of the 40-year-old signal-caller gives New York a legitimate presence at the game’s most important position, even if some decline occurs. But the Jets needed reinforcements elsewhere, and general manager Joe Douglas obliged.

Aside from the quarterback position, the Jets’ offensive line has been the squad’s biggest sore spot. Injuries and poor investments have kept the position group from creating any type of stability.

In order to change this course, Douglas traded for right tackle Morgan Moses and signed left tackle Tyron Smith. As insurance since both veterans are 33 years old, the Jets also drafted Penn State’s Olu Fashanu with this year’s 11th overall pick. Fashanu is an elite talent, as the best pure pass-blocker among the incoming class. John Simpson also joined the roster to take over one of the guard spots.

With the foundation set, Rodgers should be free to find his weapons when he drops back to pass. Garrett Wilson is already a premier playmaker. New York also brought in Mike Williams on a one-year, $10 million free-agent deal. Douglas eventually traded up to the top of this year’s third round and claimed Malachi Corley.

On the other side of the ball, the Jets already featured a top-three defense. Haason Reddick’s addition will offset the free-agent loss of Bryce Huff. Otherwise, the group remains intact.

The previous expectations can now be placed upon the upcoming campaign.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles fell apart over the second half of the 2023 campaign and backed their way into the playoffs, only to be shellacked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round.

Those Eagles didn’t look anything like the ones who played in the previous Super Bowl. Previous losses at both coordinator spots certainly didn’t help matters. Head coach Nick Sirianni made significant changes to his staff this offseason by bringing in Kellen Moore and Vic Fangio as his offensive and defensive play-callers, respectively.

Beyond those hires, targeted roster measures were taken to improve upon last year’s disappointing finish.

In a surprise, the Eagles made a big play for running back Saquon Barkley and signed him to a three-year, $38 million contract. Barkley immediately provides Philadelphia with a dual-threat option and breakaway presence out of the backfield.

Aside from Barkley, the defense needed the most help, particularly an aging secondary.

General manager Howie Roseman brought CJ Gardner-Johnson back after one injury-plagued season with the Detroit Lions. Further secondary supplements came via the draft when the Eagles selected two excellent values ​​in the first and second rounds, with the additions of Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean. These additions will provide a pathway beyond the 33-year-old Darius Slay and soon-to-be 31-year-old James Bradberry.

Traditionally, Roseman hasn’t invested much at the linebacker position and it shows. But the general manager likes to take swings with lesser investments that could pay off big. Devin White joined the defense on a one-year deal during free agency. The Eagles also chose a legacy prospect, Jeremiah Trotter Jr., in this year’s fifth round. The additions should help solidify the connecting tissue between the defense’s front and back ends.

Up front, Bryce Huff joins Haason Reddick in the lineup. Huff is nearly four years younger and one of the league’s best pure pass-rushers, though his $51.1 million price tag over three years indicates he must become an every-down defender.

The Eagles aren’t far removed from being considered an elite squad. Even with Jason Kelce’s retirement, they’re closer to returning to that level than experiencing further decline.

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Broderick Jones Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers operate at a Super Bowl standard. Truth be told, the organization hasn’t actually been anywhere close to that level for several years.

The inevitable decline of expectations began by holding onto Ben Roethlisberger too long as he played out the final years of his last contract. Since that point, the Steelers have struggled to find a suitable successor behind center.

The Kenny Pickett first-round selection flopped. To Pittsburgh’s credit, the organization didn’t fall prey to the sunk-cost fallacy. Instead, general manager Omar Khan immediately followed Russell Wilson after the Denver Broncos released the veteran quarterback.

Khan doubled down at the game’s most important position by flipping a conditional 2025 sixth-round draft pick to the Chicago Bears for Justin Fields.

The Steelers may be buying low when it comes to both of these quarterbacks, yet each is an upgrade over what the team featured a year ago when it still found a way to win 10 games and snuck into the postseason.

During the draft, Pittsburgh knew exactly what it wanted to do by helping their quarterbacks with first- and second-round investments in the offensive line. Troy Fautanu and Zach Frazier should immediately enter the lineup as the squad’s starting left tackle and center, respectively.

“We just wanna roll people, man, to be honest with you guys,” head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters when asked about the team’s initial draft selections. “We have some backs that we like. We have a good offensive line. We took Broderick Jones a year ago. This draft pool or class we thought was really loaded with some top-end offensive line talent and we just wanted to draw from that well.”

The third-round selection of Roman Wilson is another perfect fit, who will help offset Diontae Johnson’s trade to the Carolina Panthers. As part of the agreement, Donte Jackson joined the Steelers secondary to bookend Joey Porter Jr. at cornerback.

As for the rest of the defense, the Steelers have stars in TJ Watt, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick. But the pieces around them have been suspicious.

Linebacker Patrick Queen finally gives the unit a legitimate three-down linebacker after signing a four-year, $12.2 million contract. The reigning Butkus Award winner, Payton Wilson, could easily find his way into the starting lineup as a rookie. Finally, veteran Deshon Elliott can provide a consistent presence alongside Fitzpatrick at safety.

The AFC North will be a dog fight this fall, especially with Joe Burrow and Deshaun Watson expected to be healthy. The Steelers have closed most of the ground throughout this offseason, though.