The Early Winners of NFL Free Agency 2014

Penny Watkins, Special to The Informer | 3/24/2014, 11:34 a.m.

Though the start to the NFL season is more than five months out, one of the most hectic periods of the year for teams is well underway: Free agency.

The free agency period started last week with a bang, as huge names changed franchises and teams doled out more than $1 billion in contracts.

A good free agency period can drastically increase a team's Super Bowl chances, so it's not surprising that the early title favorites at bettingsports.com are on the free agency "winners" list below, as well.

The Winners So Far:

Denver Broncos

After a record-setting regular season which ended with an extremely anticlimactic performance in the Super Bowl, losing 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks, Denver has apparently, and smartly, gone into "win now" mode with the championship window closing for quarterback Peyton Manning, one of the all-time greats.

Denver addressed several defensive needs with the signings of veteran pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward. They also added a weapon to Manning's arsenal in the form of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. If these new pieces click, Denver will be a formidable force once again.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs' moves were initially a bit befuddling. They immediately signed quarterback Josh McCown and named him the starter, though Mike Glennon enjoyed a promising rookie season. They also cut ties with perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis after trading for him just one year earlier.

However, they replaced Revis with Alterraun Verner, an extremely capable corner. They also bolstered both lines, most notably with center Evan Dietrich-Smith and defensive end Michael Johnson.

New Orleans Saints

Considering the tricky cap situation the Saints find themselves in, the signing of safety Jairus Byrd came as a shock. However, pairing Byrd with young safety Kenny Vaccaro could prove an inspired move. And after seeing Seattle’s success with two elite safeties, the Saints hope for similar results from their new duo.

New England Patriots

In a bid to to improve their secondary, the Pats pounced after the Buccaneers cut Revis, signing the All-Pro defensive back to a one-year, $12 million deal. New England also added former Seahawk cornerback Brandon Browner to the roster. These moves address a huge weakness for the Patriots, and could transform the perennial contender into a championship favorite.