The best-laid plans can go awry, which is a real possibility for one of the teams pulling an A grade on my annual report card grading all 32 NFL teams' work this offseason.
More than a dozen decision-makers around the league contributed their thoughts to this team-by-team review. We took into account coaching changes, free-agency moves, draft maneuvering and shocking revelations that rocked two franchises outside the realm of football operations.
In the end, we tried to reserve the best grades for the teams that had made themselves demonstrably better through well-founded strategic planning, knowing full well there can sometimes be zero correlation between offseason work and in-season results.
Please enjoy responsibly.
The Rams worked the system impressively. Acquiring Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib by trade and Ndamukong Suh off the discard pile shielded those acquisitions from the formula for compensatory draft choices. When Sammy Watkins and Trumaine Johnson left the team for massive paydays, the Rams moved into position to receive two 2019 third-round comp picks. Well done.
That work and the Rams' ability to maneuver their way into 11 selections in the 2018 draft produced high marks from executives, despite obvious risks.
"They asked Sean McVay about adding some risky players, and he said, 'My defensive coordinator [Wade Phillips] has more swag than all of them,'" an exec said. "That is very empowering."
Trading away credible veterans Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn while embracing players such as Peters, Talib and Suh did not go over well with everyone. It was notable, too, that other core players, notably Aaron Donald, had not yet received extensions.
"I think of [Eagles GM] Howie Roseman and the dream team and I think Howie learned from that," another exec said. "There is a difference between acquiring talent and building a team. I think they did more acquiring talent than anything else. But I could very well see all the pieces work and them having a lot of success. Suh is fine -- even people with the Dolphins will tell you he is just kind of his own guy, not a bad guy. I'm not sure I want Peters around Talib, however."
Another exec called Peters misunderstood -- good at heart, but emotional to a fault.
"They have Wade Phillips, so they should be able to rein that in the next two years and get the best from him," this exec said. "Now, it could blow up, but if the purpose of these grades is to look at who acquired talent, the Rams have to be up there."
One big question: Where will the outside pass-rush come from?