Tuesday Toss: Five Teams That Won The Offseason

March 19, 2024
By Evan Lepler

The biggest news of the frisbee offseason was probably the frisbee itself. Notably, how we’re now aggressively calling the frisbee a frisbee because we can proudly, accurately, and legally use the word frisbee. Hooray for frisbee. 

But beyond the ‘bee, we’ve got plenty of significant player movement that will impact the 2024 UFA championship race. It’s always interesting to see noteworthy names change teams, and there are plenty of under-the-radar signings that will play a major role in determining playoff positions this summer. There have also been a number of cool homecomings, with a handful of players, including some former champions, returning to their old teams aiming to rekindle that past magic. 

After sifting through all the recent roster announcements, here’s my list of five teams that ‘won the offseason,’ whatever that means, thanks to their key additions that will impact winning.

Note: I have decided to list these five teams alphabetically, rather than prematurely declaring a hierarchy. It’s either a reasonable and responsible choice considering how role, availability, and other variables remain unknown, or an indecisive and cowardly cop-out that you can give me crap for on social media.

1. Carolina Flyers

Key Additions: Henry Fisher (Pictured), Allan Laviolette, Clint McSherry III, Drew Swanson

The 2021 UFA champs followed up their most glorious moment by going 11-1 in ’22, but the Flyers dipped to 7-5 in ’23, falling short of the league’s final eight for the first time since 2016. Head Coach Mike DeNardis, reflecting after Carolina’s most recent playoff loss at Austin, declared that maintaining success requires consistency, both in terms of roster construction and play on the field. These four additions, if healthy, can all be solid-to-spectacular cogs in the Flyers machine. 

Fisher and Laviolette both were huge contributors during the ’21 championship run. Thinking back to that thrilling title game against the Empire—which remains New York’s last loss entering the ’24 campaign—Fisher and Laviolette combined for 40 completions in 41 throws, with four goals, three assists, and over 700 total yards. Getting these two guys back gives Carolina a pair of experienced game-changing threats that can easily slot back in alongside Jacob Fairfax, Anders Juengst, and Trevor Lynch

McSherry’s return is interesting too. He played three games for the Flyers back in ’18, but over the past three seasons, he’s primarily been a traveling high-volume handler for the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds. Since ’22, he’s completed 650 passes at a 93 percent clip. He’s still just 30 years old and will likely be highly motivated to make a positive impact for his home state squad. 

Meanwhile, the 6’5” Swanson might be biggest addition of the bunch, considering that no individual Flyer produced more than 11 blocks in either of the past two seasons. The 28-year-old Swanson owns 54 blocks in 27 career games, playing for Chicago from 2019-21 and then for Seattle in 2022. Carolina’s defensive scheme has generally been more designed to create turnovers than accumulate blocks, but Swanson should give a substantial boost as the Flyers look to regain their clout in the South.

2. Chicago Union

Key Additions: John Lithio, Jake Rubin-MillerJeff Weis, Joe White (Pictured)

Just like Carolina, the Union’s win count dropped dramatically last year. Combined, Chicago went 21-3 in the regular seasons in ’21 and ’22, but the Union fell to a disappointing 6-6 in ’23. While they still made the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, Chicago lost by eight in the first round at Indy. Looking ahead, however, these four signings should propel the Union right back into contention for another Central Division crown and Championship Weekend appearance. 

Lithio joins the Union after three excellent seasons in New York, during which the team won 38 of the 41 games in which he saw the field. He scored 114 goals, tossed 42 assists, and produced 14 blocks for the Empire, winning two titles along the way. One of his best games actually came against the Union in the ’22 championship tilt, when he churned for five goals, one assist and two blocks on the biggest stage and at Chicago’s expense. Quite simply, the Union were missing a guy like Lithio last year, and his emergence in the Windy City is a huge domino in the next championship chase. 

It’s not hard to imagine Weis and White working alongside Lithio on the Chicago offense. Weis and White, two key cogs in the Union’s ’22 run to the title game, both return as versatile weapons who can each take over a game at any moment. Weis’s size and explosiveness make him a great pairing alongside Lithio downfield, while White, who’s just entering his prime turning 26 this April, is easily on the short list for most talented all-around players in the world.

3. Colorado Summit

Key Additions: Dennis BechisChance CochranCody Johnston, Jeremy Knopf (Pictured), Logan Pruess

The Colorado Summit certainly don’t need an overhaul; just bringing most of the band back together from a squad that’s gone 19-5 over the past two regular seasons makes them an immediate title threat. But I really like these three adds, all of whom can subtly fill holes in the Colorado system. 

Cochran will be making his UFA debut this season, but he’s not a newcomer to the world of elite ultimate. A product of Yorktown High School in Virginia—where he was teammates with Anders Juengst—and Tulane University, Cochran won a gold medal as a member of Team USA at the 2019 U-24 World Championships in Germany. The Summit introduced him as ‘your favorite player’s favorite player,’ and Cochran quickly joins the unique crew of paradoxically named ‘veteran rookies’ that can immediately help make a good team great. 

I love this fit for Knopf, who played in 26 games for the DC Breeze since 2019. Never a big stat-stuffer, he quietly completed over 400 passes with less than 10 throwaways since becoming a pro. Frankly, he’s exactly what Colorado needs, a possession-oriented disc distributor who can complement their returning O-line superstars. He’ll be 28 in June, and the Maryland alum has a chance to become an indispensable reset in the Summit system. 

And then there’s Pruess, another awesome role player who excelled as a break-making D-line handler on the Radicals during Madison’s 2018 championship run. Over six seasons as a Radical, Pruess produced 71 assists, 43 blocks, and 39 goals in 56 career games. He just turned 31 in February, and he should give Colorado another experienced playmaker to add to their young army of talented athletes.

4. Oakland Spiders

Key Additions: Jace Bruner (Pictured), Eli Kerns, Justin Lim, Sawyer Thompson, Jason Vallee

After heartbreakingly falling short of the playoffs out West last season, the Spiders are making a splash by bringing back a plethora of past Championship Weekend participants. Kerns, Lim, and Thompson were all members of the 2017 San Francisco FlameThrowers roster that won the title, while Bruner and Vallee were just a single victory away from hoisting the championship trophy as superb defenders for the Chicago Union two years ago. 

Even though Mac Hecht is not currently rostered—and that’s a big loss if he does not play—it’s impossible to not be super intrigued by this Oakland group, mixing these veteran and accomplished pieces into the fascinating array of young talent that the Spiders have cultivated over the past couple seasons. Last year, in particular, Oakland put three players—Walker Frankenberg, Raekwon Adkins, and Dexter Clyburn—on the league’s All-Rookie Teams. If the Spiders can match their potential with commitment while continuing to develop their depth, Oakland might actually be in position to challenge Salt Lake and Colorado for the top spot out West.

5. Seattle Cascades

Key Additions: Lukas Ambrose, Christian Foster, Steve Mogielski, Ian Sweeney, Shane Worthington (Pictured)

The headliner here is Ambrose, who earned the 2023 UFA Rookie of the Year honor as a member of the Los Angeles Aviators for his high-flying defensive wizardry. Coming off a 24-block campaign, he’ll turn 25 years old in April and should quickly slot into the Cascades’ defensive scheme. His block total might diminish following last year’s breakout performance, but that will probably be because of his opponent’s increased awareness of his awesome abilities. 

Staying on D, Worthington makes his way make back to Seattle after a one-year stop with the Austin Sol, where he played seven games before suffering a season-ending injury. Of course, he’s no stranger to the Cascades, having produced 65 blocks in 44 games over four seasons in Seattle from 2018 to 2022. When San Diego’s Travis Dunn was asked—prior to the 2023 season—to name some of the fiercest defenders that he had battled throughout his UFA career, Worthington was the first name Dunn mentioned. 

Foster and Mogielski are two more defensive-oriented players who should make a positive impact. Foster’s only UFA action consists of three forgettable games as a member of the Montreal Royal in 2017, but he’s long been regarded as one of the premier pullers in the sport. Considering the changes to the pull rule that were implemented last year, it’s easy to envision him assuming those responsibilities in Seattle and consistently pinning opposing offenses in the back corners of the end zone. Mogielski joins the ‘Scades following seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, in which he’s played 88 games. He’s also coming off arguably the best season of his career, as he registered 14 blocks and 11 scores in 12 games for the T-Birds in 2023. 

As for Sweeney, he turned in some crazy throwing performances for a bad Portland team last season, averaging nearly 400 passing yards per contest, among the top 10 league-wide. With more talent around him, can he maintain his production while also upping his completion rate, which sat under 89 percent in 2023? If the answer’s yes, Seattle might evolve from a sleeper playoff contender into another true West Division threat.

Honorable Mentions

While I’m here, I wanted to also mention these three international signings that I am super excited about. 

For anyone who watched the World Beach Ultimate Championships this past November, you know Elliot Bonnet. If you haven’t seen him yet, get pumped to see one of the top young European talents on the UFA field. The 20-year-old from France was absolutely unguardable on the California sand, as he anchored his French Mixed team’s upset of the USA in the semifinals and victory over Spain in the finals. Bonnet led the entire mixed division in goals with 22 and was third in the division in assists with 18, combining for 40 scores in nine games en route to the gold medal. His performance oozed superstardom, and I remember standing on the sidelines thinking that every North American team should be trying to sign this guy. The Breeze are the benefactors in 2024, and I can’t wait to see what Bonnet’s role will be on a DC squad that’s still determined to break through to Championship Weekend.

Elsewhere in the East, a familiar face returns to Montreal with Bonnaud’s comeback. Although he’s only played in five games since the pandemic, all in 2022, it’s impossible to forget his historic 2019 campaign, when he led the league with 83 goals. Over the past six seasons, no player has recorded more goals in a year than Bonnaud did for the Royal in ’19. He’s still just 28-years-old and should give the Royal a much-needed offensive weapon for the upcoming campaign. 

Similarly, Muraoka’s back in the pro ultimate realm for the first time since ’19, when the Japanese World Games star played 14 games for the Rush and represented well with 30 assists, 27 goals, and six blocks for a Toronto team that challenged New York in the East Division title game. The Rush have gone just 12-21 over the past three seasons and will need more than Muraoka to challenge Boston, DC, New York, and Philly in the East, but it’s encouraging to see Toronto dipping back into the international pool that’s traditionally been a great source of talent for the franchise.