Some teams really dropped the ball this offseason. In fact, just about every team in the NFL could have done something better. Whether it was a missed acquisition or trade, every team in the NFL dropped the ball to some extent. This list looks at the top 15 signings that NFL teams missed out on this offseason. Sure, some signings were overwhelmingly right and some decisions cannot be argued with … like Houston’s decision to rid itself of Brock Osweiler. Then again, some seemingly good decisions could have been more beneficial had they gone a different way … like DeSean Jackson signing with Tampa Bay (there’s just way too much talent at wide receiver there and Jackson is just going to get lost in the mix, but more on that later).
Of course, everything is a bit easier with hindsight. Then again, we haven’t seen the results from these offseason moves so we can’t guarantee that they would have been better decisions. But judging by the current outlook of the league, each one of the transactions that follows would have been a better fit for the team and the athlete. Not everyone is going to agree that Marshawn Lynch shouldn’t have signed with the Oakland Raiders, but here we’ll give you the reasons why the formerly retired running back would have been a better fit elsewhere. Each one of these 15 should-have-been signings correct the mistakes that have been made this offseason. Not only does this list resolve the errors made by the organizations in the league, it also fixes the missteps made by the players.
16 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: BRANDON MARSHALL
By signing with the Giants Brandon Marshall effectively gave up any chance at being a top-notch wide receiver again. Sure, he’s 33 and that’s pretty old for an NFL receiver. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that Marshall was a league-leading receiver just two seasons ago. There’s still a lot left in the tank for Marshall, but playing beside Odell Beckham Jr. will make it seem like he doesn’t have much left to give. As all of the offensive focus will be on OBJ, Marshall will be left with just the scraps.
Despite last year’s misery on the Jets, Marshall still has the ability to put up more than 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdown receptions. In 2015 he led the league with 14 touchdown catches while tallying 1,500 receiving yards. There might not be a lot of teams who would have liked shelling out the extra cash for a veteran like Marshall, but he would have been a potential No. 1 if he had signed with the Saints.
15 ATLANTA FALCONS: TERRELLE PRYOR
The Redskins have lost just too many offensive weapons to pose a threat offensively this year. Sure, the team still has Kirk Cousins, but how much faith can you put in a guy who only has two seasons of work under his belt in the NFL. The odd thing is that these factors actually seem to prove to be a better scenario than Terrelle Pryor had while playing with the Browns.
But … Pryor is suddenly a high-threat receiver to the opposition. Without much talent surrounding him, Pryor will be forced to play out of his comfort zone. A team like Washington is just too risky of a place for a guy still trying to learn the wide receiver game. Pryor may be a good No. 1 receiver some day, but for now he would have been better off playing beside someone like Julio Jones. If Atlanta had managed to get its hands on Pryor, we’d be seeing (potentially) another MVP year from Matt Ryan. Instead, both these teams are likely heading for failure this season.
14 NEW YORK GIANTS: PIERRE GARCON
Here we meet the first of two former Washington Redskins who went to the wrong team. This move, though, was an obvious disaster from the start. If only the Giants went after a true No. 2 receiver instead of placing two No. 1 guys across from each other. What was Pierre Garcon thinking when he decided to sign with the 49ers? There’s nothing worst for a wide receiver than playing for a team with quarterback issues. No matter who takes over at the most important position on the field by Week 1, Garcon should feel a bit queasy about his future … and it’s all because he decided to sign with San Francisco.
It’s tough to tell if Garcon knows this, but he’s not a No. 1 receiver. He’s not the guy that’s going to elevate quarterback play with his routes. Sure, he has the ability to put up a nice stat line, but he’s not scaring the opposition. Garcon would have been a nice complimentary receiver to someone like Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants.
13 GREEN BAY PACKERS: LATAVIUS MURRAY
The Packers really missed out on this one. Except for time missed because of injury, Latavius Murray has been pretty good. The thing is that Murray hasn’t been great, and it’s looking like he’s going to be expected to ease some of the pressure on a Minnesota offense that has seen its fair share of struggles in recent history. That’s not a great fit for a guy who has been in the league for just three years and has just one season with more than 1,000 rushing yards.
The Packers lost Eddie Lacey and their seemingly best bet at a top running back is Ty Montgomery, who had flashes of greatness when he was in that role last season (but he was nowhere consistent enough to take on that role full time). Murray would have been the perfect fit as he needed a place where the offense isn’t reliant on a crushing running game. The Packers passing game would have been elevated by this move, therefore, it would have elevated their running game.
12 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: JEREMY MACLIN
Jeremy Maclin could have been one of the most threatening wide receivers in the NFL. But not in Kansas City. At least not with the offense Kansas City is set to deploy this year. Maclin has been the type of receiver who has succeeded despite having mediocre quarterbacks tossing the ball his way. Although he seems content in continuing that trend, Maclin would have been better suited taking his talent to New England (yes, New England acquired Brandin Cooks, but that shouldn’t have happened. We’ll get to that a bit later, but the Patriots would have been better off holding onto their early draft pick).
In the past, New England has been able to toss in just about any receiver and Tom Brady would be the reason they succeeded. This move would have been a huge success for New England as Maclin would have been able to elevate Brady’s game. Brady will likely begin seeing a decline in his play as he’s 40 now, and Maclin would have been huge in countering that … plus the team wouldn’t have needed to forgo bringing in some youth talent.
11 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: MATT SCHAUB
This is the first of two quarterbacks to join this list. Matt Schaub seems content with remaining a backup on a winning team. Actually, the better way to word that is Matt Schaub seems to be content as a nonfactor in the NFL. But at 36 years old this season, who can blame him. Schaub is nearing retirement and probably is trying to sign as many contracts as he can before he’s forced to hang his jersey up.
Sitting on the bench behind one of the best quarterbacks in the league is a pretty good insurance policy for that. But looking at the layout of the NFL currently, Schaub could have easily slid back into a starting role. Better yet, after sitting behind Ryan last year, Schaub probably learned a few things about winning and could have easily took his talent to the 49ers, a team desperately in need of a seasoned quarterback. It would have been a perfect fit on both sides, and Schaub could have made an attempt at reaching his third Pro Bowl and resurrect a failing team.
10 PITTSBURGH STEELERS: DEANGELO WILLIAMS
This is the one guy on the list who is still on the free agent market, and it doesn’t seem like the Steelers have any interest in bringing him back on. But Pittsburgh should do everything to get DeAngelo Williams back on the bench. Of course, Williams is now in his mid-30s and he hasn’t been a consistent starter for a while. But that’s not why he’s needed and that isn’t why he has been successful over the past couple of seasons in Pittsburgh.
Williams has been an absolute stud any time that Le’Veon Bell has missed time, which always seems to be at least a few games a year. It was such a fluid transition, but now it seems that the Steelers are giving that role to a young rookie they drafted in the third round. They would have been much better suited leaving that role for a veteran for one more year.
9 NEW YORK JETS: KIRK COUSINS
Remember when Kirk Cousins requested for a trade earlier this year? Well, he made it clear to the Washington front office that he wanted out. Cousins wanted to go to another team, which would have been a great move for the young quarterback who lost most of his offensive weapons this offseason. Sure, the Redskins have signed Terrelle Pryor, but he’s a mostly unproven wide receiver with just one year of solid work experience in the NFL.
Given the lack of offensive help and the want to leave, Cousins would have been better moving on from Washington. And the New York Jets have the capabilities to foster an environment where this young quarterback would thrive. Sure, Cousins only has a couple years of consistent work as a starter, but he has been in the spotlight quite frequently. He’d have no problem dealing with the intense spotlight that comes from starting in New York.
8 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: EDDIE LACY
A lot of people tend to forget that Eddie Lacy is 26 years old. Lacy’s best years were his first two in Green Bay, and he’s struggled a bit these past couple years. But despite injuries, Lacy is still capable of posting 1,000-plus yard seasons like he did in those first two years with the Packers. But it’s not likely to happen in Seattle. It seems like a good move for longevity, but not for becoming a star.
Lacy has star potential, but he’s going to share the workload just way too much with the Seahawks. The Seahawks foster a great environment for running backs. But Thomas Rawls has a better shot at taking over this season. That’s why Lacy should have signed with a team where he would have slid in as the No. 1 back. Philadelphia is a good place for that. Sure, the Eagles already have a number of running backs they rotate through, but Lacy could have been the anchor in that rotation.
7 CHICAGO BEARS: BRANDIN COOKS
Although this move wasn’t on Brandin Cooks and he probably couldn’t have avoided the trade to New England, there’s a better fit for him and there’s a good chunk of teams in the NFL that could use a wide receiver like him. In New England Cooks could further his star-status, but with an aging Tom Brady who likes to get every receiver involved, Cooks could get lost in the mix.
Instead, if a team like Chicago pushed to get a wide receiver like this the team would be much better suited to turn last season’s failure into success. Cooks is just 24 and has a lot of room to grow, and that should be happening with a young quarterback, like one of the two that Chicago will be using this season. Cooks shouldn’t be with a quarterback who only has a couple of years left in the league.
5 CLEVELAND BROWNS: ALSHON JEFFERY
Alshon Jeffery is a top-notch wide receiver who is hoping to continue that trend with a team that has seen nothing but struggles in recent years. Although he’s lining up across from Jordan Matthews, that isn’t enough to ensure success. But we saw Jeffery succeed without a solid quarterback in Chicago, but that’s quite a bit of risk … especially now that he’s going to be paired up with a quarterback that has proved nothing in the NFL.
So the perfect fit would have been the Cleveland Browns. Sure, Brock Osweiler has largely been labeled as a failure, but he has shown success in this league. Maybe, just maybe … all he needs is a star receiver to throw the ball too. This would have been huge for Osweiler and Cleveland, while also being a pretty good fit for Jeffery.
4 CLEVELAND BROWNS: DESEAN JACKSON
DeSean Jackson had a lot of places where he could have been a better fit. And there were a lot of teams that could actually use a wide receiver that has this deep-ball threat. But in Tampa Bay, Jackson will only be used for the deep ball and he’ll fade into obscurity behind Mike Evans and all of the other talent around in Tampa Bay. It’s just not going to be a good fit for Jackson.
On the other hand, teams like Cleveland need all the talent available. Sure, in this scenario you can say that Jackson would be lost playing with Alshon Jeffery, but they’d both be new to the system. Now, Jackson is going against someone who’s been part of the system for years. It would have been a better fit if he went somewhere where just about the entire offense is learning the new scheme.
3 NEW YORK GIANTS: ADRIAN PETERSON
Adrian Peterson just won’t be the addition that the Saints need to power through the playoffs. But with the New York Giants, Peterson would be the missing piece to an offense and defense that is ready to make another postseason run. In New Orleans, who knows if the defensive attack will finally be good enough to make the team successful.
And we’ve got to imagine that Peterson would love to be in the spotlight in New York. If you’re being honest with yourself, you know the Giants have been a pretty boring team with Eli Manning leading the way. They’ve always been secretly successful every year. Odell Beckham Jr. has infused some hype, but adding Peterson would be the final piece to the Super Bowl puzzle.
2 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: MARSHAWN LYNCH
Again, here we have a player that was technically traded. But Marshawn Lynch had all the bargaining power in this one. Lynch could have sat in retirement until he was given away to a team he wanted to play for, as he did with Oakland. But Lynch got this one wrong. Sure, Oakland seems poised to make a deep playoff run, but there’s still so many questions surrounding Derek Carr’s health. If he’s not 100 percent, Lynch will suffer through a rough season.
The Patriots were a team that needed a running back, and Lynch is the veteran presence that New England loves. It would have made New England the overwhelming favorite for the Super Bowl, and it would have been a place where Lynch would succeed no matter who’s starting at quarterback. That system can work with anyone in it.
1 OAKLAND RAIDERS: LE’VEON BELL
This would have taken a lot of pushback from Le’Veon Bell as the Steelers put the franchise tag on him, but he should have fought back. And when looking back, we’ve got a better fit for Bell. Although Bell signed with the Steelers without question, he should have tested the market because there were teams that would have been a better fit that could have made a deep postseason run with his talent.
After looking at last season, it seems that Pittsburgh is staged for another deep run. But that relies on Big Ben staying healthy and active throughout the entire season, which is doubtful. Bell should have fought to make his way out to Oakland before Marshawn Lynch staked his claim on the running back spot. And even with Lynch there, Bell would have eased his way in to the top running back spot and would have made the Raiders the most-watched team in the NFL.