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Each NFL Division's Most Improved Unit After Early Free Agency Period

Philadephia Eagles CB James Bradberry

The balance of power in each NFL division won't swing heavily after the first week of free agency. However, that doesn't mean particular teams didn't take significant steps in strengthening a specific unit. 

Here are the most improved units from each NFL division and what that improvement could mean for the 2023 season.

>> READ: Each Division's Most Damaged Unit

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles Secondary

As other teams were raiding the NFC champions' defense, general manager Howie Roseman made two key moves that should solidify the defensive backfield — the re-signing of James Bradberry and an extension to retain fellow cornerback Darius Slay.

Both are playmakers who can cover and defend the run. With several losses on the defensive side of the ball, these moves were essential to maintain the Philadelphia Eagles' elite roster.

NFC North

Detroit Lions Secondary

Like building the best fleet on the roads, possibly the most impressive overall free agency construction job for one unit occurred in the Motor City. The Detroit Lions, coming off a turnaround season and with a dangerous offense, also paid attention to their secondary.

The outcome: re-upping safety C.J. Moore, then bringing in safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who tied for the league interception lead, and cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley. They'll join a team that could be a division favorite next season.

>> READ: Free Agency Grades

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line

In what shapes up as a wide-open division, the Atlanta Falcons bolstered an offensive line by looking within. They re-signed their two stud blockers, guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary, and added tight end Jonnu Smith so that Kyle Pitts can remain more of a hybrid player and not be concerned much with blocking, hardly his strength.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers Defensive Line

OK, this is based almost entirely on one signing, but it was the single best free-agent signing in the NFC. An already dominant defense gets a player on the rise in defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who deserved some All-Pro consideration last season in Philadelphia.

The San Francisco 49ers front line, featuring Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, is downright scary. The 49ers ensured they remained deep on the trenches by bringing back Kevin Givens and Ty McGill.

>> READ: Original Top 150 Free Agents

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AFC East

Miami Dolphins Running Backs

While there are no star running backs on the Miami Dolphins roster, coach Mike McDaniel recognizes the need for a varied corps – particularly considering the fragility of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. So re-signing Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Myles Gaskin without any wild spending was wise. Of course, bringing in a player like Miles Sanders or David Montgomery would have worked, but the Dolphins didn't miss the boat.

AFC North

Cleveland Browns Pass Rush

This was almost a toss-up between the two Ohio franchises. The edge goes to the Cleveland Browns' sack patrol over Cincinnati's blockers, mainly because Cleveland's unit needed more attention. And it got that attention with DTs Dalvin Tomlinson, Trysten Hill, and edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Tomlinson will occupy opponents enough to help free up star DE Myles Garrett. Allowing the underachieving Jadeveon Clowney to leave was also wise.

>>READ: Signings by Team

AFC South

Houston Texans Defensive Line

In the league's ugliest division, only the Houston Texans made a big free-agency splash. But, of course, they probably needed it the most. Their defensive line has been bolstered with the likes of tackles Sheldon Rankins and Hassan Ridgeway, edge rusher Chase Winovich and the re-signing of edge Derek Rivers. But the critical move was hiring DeMeco Ryans as head coach to help overhaul a defense that was overburdened and overwhelmed too often.

AFC West

Denver Broncos Offensive Line

It was a no-brainer that the Denver Broncos would retool this unit, which plummeted off Pike's Peak in 2022. That led to an abysmal offense behind quarterback Russell Wilson, who had the worst season of his career. New coach Sean Payton recognized the dire needs on offense and got solid pickups with right tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Ben Powers.

Tight end Chris Manhertz was another crucial addition. He received a ton of money ($6 million over two seasons), considering his limited catching production. But his blocking prowess is unquestioned.

Barry Wilner was a sportswriter for the Associated Press for 46 years. He has covered virtually every major sporting event, including 14 Olympics, Nine World Cups, 34 Super Bowls, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup Final, and has written 75 books. Follow him on Twitter @Wilner88.