Five things we’ve learned from the NFL off-season

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1. The Gap between the elite teams in the AFC is growing. Unlike the NFC (with 5 or 6 teams capable of representing it in next years Superbowl) the two dominant forces in the AFC, Denver and New England have further separated themselves from the rest. The acquisitions of Aqib Talib and Demarcus Ware by the Broncos, and former defensive player of the year Darelle Revis by the Patriots, means a repeat of last years AFC championship game seems increasingly likely. Both teams, with Manning and Brady at the helm, are more focused on improving their defensive sides, as these moves show. If Ware can consistently rush the quarterback, his stats will help give fellow pass rusher Von Miller greater freedom to create havoc. Furthermore, the signings of two of the games elite cornerbacks will give experience to the younger players on both sides’backfields. Were either of these teams able to boast top 10 defences, they’d be Superbowlfavourites.

2. The Jets off field issues continue. Was signing Eric Decker to a $36.25 million5 year salary a wise move from the Jets?Santonio Holmes’ move as a Superbowl MVP backfired and there is a significant chance Decker’s could too. Neither GenoSmoth nor Mark Sanchez are quarterbacks capable of getting the ball to Decker on a regular basis. With Peyton Manning, Decker’s numbers look impressive. Expect these to drop significantly, as has the room in the Jets salary cap.

3. The Packers have finally embraced Free Agency: For years general manager Ted Thompson has ignored Free Agency. The Draft has been Thompson’s main playing card and who can blame him? The Packers have been a regular playoff feature since 2009 winning it all in 2010. The decision to sign Julius Peppers is not only a welcome change but also a much needed one. The Packers defence is simply not good enough. Dom Capers the defensive coordinator has come under fire, though all is not his fault. Recent first round picksDatone Jones and Nate Perry have failed to materialize on the defensive front. Instead of potentially wasting another valuable pick, why not pick up someone tried and tested? The championship winning team of 2010 was captained by the free agent acquisition of Charles Woodson. Could Peppers be the spark required to make use of Aaron Rodgers and the Packs explosive offensive. This is a popular move from fans and pundits alike. The fact he has been taken from fierce divisional rivals the Chicago Bears only alleviates this ideal. Expect the Pack to make a serious challenge to the Seahawks, 49ers and Saints in the NFC next season.

4. Jarius Bird is a franchise changing signing. Highlighted as the No. 1 free agent by NFL.com, the Saints have picked up a dime at safety. From his 4 pick game against the Jets a few years ago, Byrd has been a superstar suffering on a below average team up in Buffalo. A move to the Saints, partnering sophomore Kenny Vaccaro makes the NFC South team a very dangerous prospect. Count in Drew Brees, and the NFC looks set to dominate proceedings once more in Arizona.

5. The Browns are cashing in their chips: So long the whipping boys of the AFC North, the Browns have made a couple of key moves in free agency in order to stop the rot. Though they may have overpaid for both DonteW(hitner) and KarlosDansby, both bring big game experience to a side absent from the playoffs longer than any other. With an extra first round pick from the Colts due to the Trent Richardson trade, the Browns are a mid level quarterback away from challenging in the AFC. Cornerback Joe Haden, wide receiver Josh Gordon and offensive linemen Joe Thomas and Alex Mack are ‘All pro’ calibre players. Should the browns find a good signal caller in their two shots at the first round, this team has an outside chance of challenging in 2015.

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