For the non-playoff teams, these last slate of games, allows coaches and management one final chance to perform roster evaluations for the offseason. Despite having enough time to get acclimated, free agency, and the draft, are always tricky things, as stats, production, and even health, are almost never guaranteed. When an organization misses on a player in either format, it can set the team back in a huge way. Whether it be for salary cap reasons, team fit, or age, releasing players is also a tricky prospect as well, because sometimes a change of scenery and philosophy, is all a player needs. As the saying goes, one man's trash, is another man's treasure. With that said, we here at TheSportster, present to you Every NFL's Team Worst Roster Move Of The Last Year, dating back to moves made in mid-2016 that have had a negative impact on the team(s) today.
32 Arizona Cardinals – Not Re-Signing Calais Campbell
The biggest defensive name and player on the free-agent market last March, was defensive lineman Calais Campbell. In March, Campbell, signed a massive 4-year $60 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the richest deal handed out in team history.
The former Miami Hurricane has proven to be worth every penny, as he has become a leader on a Jags' team, that has the best defense in the NFL, while at the same time, racking up an impressive 12.5 sacks.
To put Campbell's impact on his new team into perspective, his former team the Cardinals, have a combined 31 sacks as a defense, and currently sit second to last in the NFC West.
31 Atlanta Falcons – Not Re-Signing Patrick DiMarco
This past offseason, the 6-year pro, signed a free-agent deal with the Buffalo Bills. Without DiMarco, in the line-up, the Falcons rushing average has dropped from 5th down to 10th in the league. Conversely, Bills starting running back LeSean McCoy, currently sits in the top six in yardage at the position.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Not Replacing Steve Smith Sr.
The Ravens top three wide receivers heading into this year were Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Breshad Perriman. While the latter looks like a bust, after scoring only three touchdowns since being taken in the first round of the 2015 draft, and having been a healthy scratch a few times this year, Maclin, and Wallace, are big play targets, and former Pro Bowlers, who have the speed to take the top off of a defense. The problem with the duo is Maclin, nor Wallace, is a true number one receiver, that is capable of taking over a game by themselves.
29 Buffalo Bills – Benching Tyrod Taylor
The Buffalo Bills, haven’t made the playoffs since Doug Flutie, was their starting quarterback. The Bills, entered Week 11, in sole possesion of the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. Naturally, it came as a surprise to many, when Bills coach Sean McDermott, announced in the middle of the week, that he was benching Tyrod Taylor, in favor of rookie fifth round pick Nathan Peterman, as the team prepared to take on the Los Angeles Chargers.
The benching, came on the heels of the team’s Week 10 (47-10) blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints. Taylor, struggled mightily in the game, completing 9 of 18 passes for a grand total of 56 yards and an interception. To say that Peterman struggled in his first start would be a huge understatement, as the former Pitt Panther, threw for five interceptions in the first half against the Chargers, before being replaced by Taylor. Not surprisingly, McDermott, went back to the veteran passer one week later. How ironic it would be, if Buffalo missed the playoffs by a single contest.
28 Carolina Panthers – Trading Kelvin Benjamin
This one was pretty easy.
The Carolina Panthers traded away their best receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, to the Buffalo Bills, for a third, and seventh round pick in the upcoming draft. At the time of the trade, Panthers’ GM Marty Hurney, said the team did the transaction, in an effort to get more explosive plays out of the offense, that centered around the 6'5 Benjamin, 6'4 Devin Funchess, and 6'5 tight end Greg Olsen. The deal also aimed to give 5'11 speedy rookie, and second-round draft pick, WR Curtis Samuel, more playing time as well.
Not only did the trade seem ridiculous at the time, given that Benjamin has been a far better, and more productive receiver than Funchess, so far in his career, the former, was also a favorite target of franchise quarterback Cam Newton.
27 Chicago Bears – Not Addressing The Wide Receiver Position
Yes, I realize most people will say that the 3-year $45 million dollar deal given to career backup Mike Glennon, in March to be their starter, would be their choice, especially after the team then went ahead and drafted QB Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft just a month later. Keep in mind however, that the Glennon contract, is essentially a 1-year deal, that pays the majority of the guaranteed $18 million this year.
Where the Bears should have been spending their money this offseason, was on wide receivers. Heading into the season, the Bears, had planned on using Cameron Meredith, and Kevin White, as their starters. The team brought in veteran free agents Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, and a washed-up Victor Cruz. None have panned out.
Needless to say, hopefully, the Chicago Bears, will get it right this offseason.
26 Cincinnati Bengals – Not Re-Signing Andrew Whitworth
Over-valuing your players, especially the young ones, is something that happens all the time in professional sports. Multiple teams in various fields do it, and it is something that will never go away. The Cincinnati Bengals, were just the latest team to do that, when they decided this past offseason, not to re-sign three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who had become an unrestricted free agent. Whitworth, signed a 3-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams. The Bengals replaced him with Cedric Ogbuehi, who the franchise had taken with the 21st pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.
So far this season, Whitworth, is thriving in Los Angeles, where he is part of the NFL's second highest scoring offense. Ogbuehi, on the other hand, is part of a Bengals offense that ranks near the bottom in almost every offensive category.
25 Cleveland Browns – The Kenny Britt Signing
One part of me wants to skip this one, because it's just too easy. The other part wants me to omit it because it's hard not to feel sorry for not only the Browns, but for the city of Cleveland as well. In fairness to the Browns, I am resisting the urge to go with them passing on quarterback Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft, and instead selecting QB DeShone Kizer, in round two, because 11 other teams passed on the Clemson product as well. I will take the high road, and go with another roster move and position. You’re welcome Cleveland.
After losing Terrelle Pryor, to the Washington Redskins in free agency last March, Cleveland signed unrestricted free agent WR Kenny Britt, to a four-year $32.5 million dollar deal, to be his replacement. In typical Browns fashion, the deal has turned out to be a complete disaster, and the team waived Britt recently, only for the Pats to sign him right after.
24 Dallas Cowboys – Not Upgrading On Terrance Williams
This is the only hole on the offensive side of the ball, and it has been made even bigger due to the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott. While the team can still rely on Dez Bryant, and solid slot receiver Cole Beasley to make plays, the Cowboys, have gotten virtually nothing from starter Terrance Williams. After registering a lackluster 44 catches for 594 yards, in 16 games last year, with the exception of a Week 9 meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs, that saw Williams record 9 receptions for 141 yards, it marked the only time the Baylor product, has gone over the century mark this season.
Dak Prescott, the offense, and the entire team as a whole, has struggled severely as of late. Giving the second-year passer, and the offensive side of the ball some help, would go a long way towards helping the reigning NFC East champs, make a push for a Wild Card spot.
23 Denver Broncos - Drafting Paxton Lynch
Fresh off of winning Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos were looking for a replacement for Peyton Manning. At the 2016 Draft, the franchise swung a trade with the Seattle Seahawks and used their newly-acquired selection to take Paxton Lynch, who threw 59 touchdowns passes, while playing three years in a spread offense at Memphis.
After failing to beat out former seventh round pick Trevor Siemian, for the starting job last season, Lynch, appeared in three games, two of them starts for an injured Siemian.
Publicly, the team chalked up his rookie season, as a transition period to the pro game. For the second straight season, Lynch, failed to unseat Siemian for the starting job in training camp. With the Broncos, having a miserable season, the team decided to give Lynch the start in Week 12 against the Oakland Raiders. In three quarters of action, the QB threw for 41 yards, and an interception that was returned for a touchdown, before leaving the game with an ankle injury.
22 Detroit Lions – Ignoring The Other Defensive End Position
With nearly 40 career sacks and counting, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, has been a monster since the Detroit Lions selected him with the fifth overall pick of the 2013 Draft. What makes his production even more impressive, is the fact that he has done it without almost next to no help across from him at the other DE position, as the Lions have paraded out the likes of Corey Wotton, Devin Taylor, Anthony Zettel, and Cornelius Washington at the other DE spot. Yes, not exactly house-hold names. While it's worth noting that the team recently added Dwight Freeney, off waivers, he is also 37 years old, and now on his third team in less then a calendar year.
For a Lions team, who has explosive offensive weapons in Matthew Stafford, and WRs Golden Tate, and Marvin Jones, to go along with some solid building blocks on defense in Ansah, Darius Slay, Jarrad Davis, and Glover Quinn Jr., neglecting to add what could be the missing piece, to take them to the NFC North crown, is a huge mistake.
21 Green Bay Packers – Not Re-Signing Julius Peppers
Julius Peppers, the future Hall-Of-Famer might be 37 years old, but he is proving that age is just a number in his second tour of duty with the Carolina Panthers. While a lot of attention (and rightfully so) has been given to the mid-season injury of Aaron Rodgers, the loss of Peppers in free agency has been a huge blow as well, as Green Bay hasn't been able to replace his production.
This is no more evident than the play of the Packers’ remaining OLBs, namely, Nick Perry, and Clay Matthews Jr. Over the previous 3 seasons when the trio were teammates, they recorded a combined 68 sacks. Since Peppers' departure, the duo has only taken down opposing QBs 13 times. The presence of Peppers, also allows the Pack to play Matthews Jr., at inside linebacker, which is a position that has seemingly been a whole for the team for several seasons.
20 Houston Texans – Trading Duane Brown
Arguably the biggest trade that occurred at the NFL trade deadline in October, was the deal that saw the Houston Texans deal OT Duane Brown, to the Seattle Seahawks for a second and third round draft pick. Brown, who had missed the first six games of the regular season due to a contract dispute with the Texans, is a 3-time Pro-Bowler, as well as a First-team and Second-team All-Pro. While trading away Brown, does alleviate another potential holdout situation with the 32-year-old this coming offseason, it also leaves the team extremely thin at the most important position on the offensive line.
Replacing Brown, has been 2018 fourth round pick Julie'n Davenport. The Bucknell product, has been over-matched to say the least, as he has gave up at least one sack in the four starts he has made in Brown's old spot, before missing the last 3 games with an injury. Hopefully, the organization will look to upgrade the position in the offseason, as they will need to protect Deshaun Watson, who will be returning from a torn ACL.
19 Indianapolis Colts – Not Signing Colin Kaepernick
With Andrew Luck, missing the entire 2017 season, due to problems with his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder, the Colts, turned to second-year quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who they acquired from the Patriots prior to the start of the season.
Colin Kaepernick, is the most polarizing, and talented passer on the open market. While his numbers did slip a bit during his last two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, it was more an indication of the lack of quality skill players around him, as a plethora of talent left the team, following the departure of Jim Harbaugh. Playing with a Colts team who has playmakers in T.Y Hilton, and Donte Moncrief, along with former Niners teammate Frank Gore, would give the QB some real weapons to play with. Kaepernick, would be a clear upgrade over Brissett not just as a passer, but his ability to make and extend plays with his legs as well, would be a huge plus, given the struggles of the Colts' o-line.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars – Picking Up Blake Bortles' Player Option
You know you have problems at the Quarterback position, when your team is first in their division, and has the best defense in the league, but the main topic of discussion when people talk about your franchise, is how much better the team would be if they had a different QB. This offseason, despite Bortles throwing 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2016, and never once leading the Jags' to the postseason, the team picked up his 2018 player-option for nearly $19 million. Despite being surrounded by a stud running back in rookie Leonard Fournette, and capable receivers Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, and Dede Westbrook, the Jaguars, are winning in spite of their quarterback.
With rumors circulating that current New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning, could leave the G-Men, to join his former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who is the Jaguars' Executive Vice President of Football Operations, in Jacksonville, Bortles’ days with the franchise could be numbered.
17 Kansas City Chiefs – Releasing Jeremy Maclin
The Kansas City Chiefs, surprised many around the league this past June, when they released speedy two-time Pro Bowler Jeremy Maclin. The transaction was looked at as a cost-cutting move, as it saved the Chiefs around $10 million in cap space. The franchise felt confident in making the move, after the emergence of rookie Tyreek Hill, who scored 11 touchdowns last season, and is consistently a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball.
While the move did lead to salary cap savings, it also left the Chiefs, who were already lacking depth at the WR position, that much thinner. The team's problem only worsened in Week 5 of this year, when Chris Conley, who replaced Maclin in the starting lineup, tore his Achilles, and was lost for the year.
For an offense that has to repeatedly rely on Hill, and Travis Kelce for big plays in the passing game, having the speedy, and sure-handed Maclin around, would help a lot.
16 Los Angeles Chargers – Not Re-Signing Eric Weddle
For the Chargers, I am going with the team's decision not re-sign free safety Eric Weddle, last offseason. The face of the franchise on the defensive side of the ball during his nine seasons with the Bolts, Weddle, became a fan-favorite, with his trademark beard, explosive hits, and his ability to create turnovers, as evidenced by the 19 interceptions he recorded with the Chargers. To the surprise of many, the team made no attempt to sign him.
To replace Weddle, the team signed veteran journeyman Dwight Lowery, who lasted one season with the team, before being released. Weddle, would end up signing a four-year $26 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens. In his first season in Charm City, he recorded 4 interceptions, and 89 tackles. This season, Weddle, has been even better, as he has already registered five interceptions, one of which he retuned for a touchdown.
15 Los Angeles Rams – Not Re-Signing Janoris Jenkins
Arguably, the most surprising team in the entire NFL, the Los Angeles Rams, have shocked many, by how dominant they have been this season. The only thing that may be more of a surprise than the team’s performance, has been the play of Jared Goff, who went from approaching colossal bust status to looking like a legitimate for MVP contender this season.
After drafting Goff, first overall in 2016, and then surrounding him with weapons like Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Sammy Watkins, and giving stud tailback Todd Gurley some help with the Andrew Whitworth signing, it was hard to find a bad roster move.
The only mis-step the franchise has made over the last year, was not re-signing Janoris Jenkins, who tallied 10 interceptions, with 5 returned for touchdowns, in 4 as Ram, during the 2016 offseason. Imagine how much better the Rams' defense would be with Jenkins now.
14 Miami Dolphins – Trading Jay Ajayi
The easy way out, would be to go with Jay Cutler, but in all honesty, while the Dolphins will most likely miss the playoffs, not all the blame can be placed at the feet of everybody’s favourite whipping boy. The main reason for the team’s struggles at least offensively, has been the lack of a running game. Heading into Week 14, Miami, ranked 29th in the league in rushing yards, with 1,016, and last in rushing touchdowns, with two. The struggle to run the ball, made the trade of Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles that much more surprising. The Boise State product, who made his first Pro Bowl last year, had run for 422 yards, in 6 games with the Dolphins this season.
Whether it is Jay Cutler, or the currently injured Ryan Tannenhill, under center for the Dolphins next year, the franchise will be going nowhere until they can get an upgrade at RB.
13 Minnesota Vikings – The Sam Bradford Trade
What makes the trade even worse, is the emergence of Case Keenum, who the Vikings signed for next to nothing (1-year for $2 million plus incentives), is having a career year.
12 New England Patriots – Not Re-Signing Chris Long
In Long's lone season with the Pats, the 10-year pro, recorded 35 tackles, and 4 sacks. While those are far from mind-blowing numbers, the former Virginia Cavalier, registered those numbers in a reserve role. After helping New England win the Super Bowl last year, Long, signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason.
So far in The City of Brotherly Love, while still coming off the bench, the 32-year-old has 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and has been a leader and mentor to a talented, but predominantly young, Eagles' D-Line. Besides Long’s stats in Philly, the move looks bad, because the Pats also lost top pass rushers in Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard, to retirement, and the Colts respectively this summer, so it should come as no surprise, that the Pats, have struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks this season.
11 New Orleans Saints – Signing Coby Fleener
With a winning record, and a defense that had been a perennial doormat, playing its best ball since the team won the Super Bowl in 2009, the only question left to ask, is can we put the Adrian Peterson signing on the list? Just kidding. Since the Saints, managed to trade the future Hall of Fame RB to the Arizona Cardinals for a draft choice earlier this season, the next logical candidate, would be the signing of Coby Fleener, last year, to a 5-year, $36 million contract.
The deal looked questionable before the ink dried, as the Stanford produced pedestrian numbers in four seasons with the Colts, despite the fact that he was playing with his college quarterback Andrew Luck. Despite getting the massive contract, and getting the chance to play with an even better quarterback in Drew Brees, Fleener, failed to impress, as he put up an unimpressive 50 catches, for 631 yards, and three touchdowns in his first season in New Orleans. This season, the 29-year old, had 22 receptions, for 295 yards, and 2 touchdowns, in 11 games before going on injured reserve with a concussion.
10 New York Giants - Benching Eli Manning
I was originally going to go with the team's decision to annually ignore the o-line, in both free agency and the NFL Draft, but the headline event that occurred in Week 13, with the benching of franchise quarterback, and two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning, knocked any other possibility out of the park.
For Eli Manning, the first over-all pick of 2004 NFL Draft, who hadn't missed a start since his rookie season, getting benched in favor of Geno Smith, must have felt like a slap in the face. While Manning, handled the situation with class, the team's fans, alumni, as well as other players throughout the league, had no problem voicing their anger over the move.
The silver lining out of the entire situation, has to be the fact that the team announced the firing of GM Jerry Reese, and head coach Ben McAdoo, the day after the Smith-led Giants, lost to the Oakland Raiders.
9 New York Jets – Drafting Christian Hackenberg
The Jets, chose the quarterback, with the 19th pick in the second round of 2016 NFL Draft, despite the fact that most draft experts felt that the Penn State product, was nowhere near ready to come out.
The pundits were right, as for the second year in a row, the 22-year-old, is buried on the depth chart behind Josh McCown (now out for the year), and Bryce Petty. Not exactly Joe Namath, and Ken O'Brien.
Just to give you an idea of how bad the Hackenberg selection was, in taking him so high in the draft when they did, the Jets, passed up on a number of much better and talented players, like Jordan Howard, Yannick Ngakowe, Kevin Byard, Tyreek Hill, and Dak Prescott.
8 Oakland Raiders – Signing Sean Smith
Going into the regular season labeled as Super Bowl contenders, the Oakland Raiders, have fallen way short of expectations. One of the main flaws on the Raiders this season, has been their defense. The team's ability to stop the pass in particular, has been a problem.
One of the main reasons for the struggles on defense, has been the play over the last two years of high-priced cornerback Sean Smith. The nine-year veteran who signed a 4-year $40 million deal with the Raiders, after coming over from the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency during the offseason 2016, has struggled pretty much since signing the deal. After getting benched in Week 1 of last year, the former Utah Utes re-gained his starting spot, but his play was up and down most of the season. This year, Smith, who has zero interceptions so far this season, is on pace to finish with a career-low 35 tackles.
7 Philadelphia Eagles – Not Upgrading At Left Tackle
Arguably the best team in the league, it's hard to find many faults with them. The only one that stands out, was the team's inability to acquire a starting left tackle, after the Eagles lost starter Jason Peters for the season, to a torn ACL and MCL suffered in Week 7.
For a team with Super Bowl aspirations like Eagles, the position could make or break their quest to host the city's first Lombardi Trophy.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers – The Ladarius Green Signing
With the Pittsburgh Steelers, looking to replace fan-favorite Heath Miller, who retired after the 2015 season, they signed former San Diego Charger TE Ladarius Green, to a 4-year deal, worth $20 million. Having run a 4.53 40-yard dash, and recording 43.5 meters in the vertical jump at the NFL combine, at 6 ft 6, and 240 pounds, Green, showed a lot of promise. The only obstacle in his way with Chargers, was the fact that he was playing behind future Hall-Of-Fame TE Antonio Gates.
Getting a chance to be the man, and going from Phillip Rivers, to Ben Roethlisberger, seemed like the perfect fit for the former fourth round pick, as it would give him a chance to not only smash his career-best numbers, but also play to the measurables that his frame and test scores suggest. Unfortunately, his stay in Pittsburgh would only last six games, as an ankle injury and concussion, put an end to his season. The Steelers would release Green, after he failed a team physical last May, after paying him almost $5 million for 18 catches, 304 yards, and one touchdown.
5 San Francisco 49ers – Signing Kyle Juszczyk
After two years of staying relatively quiet in free agency, the 49ers' who had over $60 million in cap space, went on a shopping spree this past offseason. Despite needing a huge influx of talent, on the first day of free agency, the franchise surprised many in the football world, by signing fullback Kyle Juszczyk, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, to a 4-year $21 million deal, which is the richest ever given to someone at his position.
Perhaps, the 49ers had visions of former 49er great Tom Rathman, when they signed Juszczyk.
The problem with the Juszczyk singing, is that his production doesn't even come close to matching his contract, let alone the play of Rathman, who was a centerpiece of the 49ers Bill Walsh-led West Coast offenses in 80s.
4 Seattle Seahawks – Cutting Alex Collins
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bringing Back Doug Martin
Just about everything has gone wrong for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. Picked by many to at the very least, make the playoffs, the Bucs have fallen flat on their faces. One of the many reasons for the Bucs' poor season, has been their inability to run the ball. A big part of the team's struggle with the ground game, falls at the feet of veteran Doug Martin, who has missed multiple games throughout his career, due to suspension, and injury.
The Buccaneers’ decision not to release Doug Martin, after the veteran ball-carrier was suspended last December for four games, due to violating the NFL's substance abuse policy was bizarre to say the least.
Currently, the Bucs have the 26th best rushing attack in the NFL. Martin, is the team's leading rusher, with just over 400 yards, doesn't even place him among the top 35 RBs in the league.
If you thought it couldn't get any worse than that, his 3.1 yards per carry, ranks dead last in the NFL. Needless to say, hopefully the franchise upgrades the position this offseason.
2 Tennessee Titans – Drafting Kevin Dodd
Taken with the second pick of 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans, took Clemson Defensive End Kevin Dodd, with the hope that he would be able to bring the ability to get in opposing backfields, as he displayed in his final year in school, where he registered 12.5 sacks, and 24 tackles for a loss, to the professional game.
After having to make the switch from DE, to outside linebacker, in the Titans 3-4 base defense, while fighting through a foot injury, Dodd, had one sack, and 5 tackles in 9 games, during his rookie campaign. This year in his second season, Dodd, has only been active for 5 games. In those contests, the 25-year-old, has a grand total of 3 tackles. Unfortunately for the Titans, Dodd, appears to be a bust at this stage in his career. What makes his selection even worse, was that in taking him, the team passed up on impact defenders like Myles Jack, Deion Jones, Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon, and B.J Goodson.
1 Washington Redskins – Signing Terrelle Pryor Sr.
After making wise signings over the last few seasons, with the likes of Josh Norman, D.J Swearinger, DeSean Jackson, and Pierre Garçon, Washington, seemed to be headed in the right direction. After losing Garcon, and Jackson, the Redskins, needed to replace both starters, who combined for 135 catches, 2,046 yards, and 7 touchdowns. They did so, by signing Terrelle Pryor Sr., who recorded 77 receptions, 1,007 yards, and 4 TDs, last season with the Cleveland Browns, to a one-year deal worth $8 million.
Exactly like Washington’s signings of big names in their prime, like Albert Haynesworth, Brandon Lloyd, and Adam Archuleta, the addition of Pryor Sr., paid zero dividends, as the Ohio State product, not only failed to develop any chemistry with Kirk Cousins, but he lost his starting spot to undrafted free agent Maurice Harris, and finished with a disappointing 20 receptions, for 240 yards, and one touchdown, before being placed on injured reserve with a broken ankle.
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