The offseason can make and break your franchise. There are a lot of good moves that can happen, but there are also some of the biggest flops in sports. There are many poor decisions a team can make in the offseason. You can decide to cut a player who is going to make it into the Hall-of-Fame. You can draft a player who does not have what it takes to make it in the league. That can happen for a variety of reasons from lack of skills, to ego and attitude issues, or even off the field situations that can be anywhere from just normal issues to serious behavioural problems. Then a team can also sign a player who is way past his prime and should not have been given as big of a contract for the amount they are going to give to the team.
This article will go through the history of the NFL and show 25 of the biggest examples that really lead to a franchise stopping themselves from greatness. Some of these examples include future Hall-of-Famers but also some of the draft bust legends. This list is some of the league's biggest, "What were you thinking?" moves and leaves people wondering how that decision maker kept his job, although I am positive that some of the fallout from the biggest mistakes that were made, they didn't keep that position for long. From the cutting of Kurt Warner all the way to the drafting of Jamarcus Russell, here are the top head-scratching offseason moves in NFL history.
25 Cutting Kurt Warner: Green Bay Packers
Kurt Warner had quite the run to the NFL. He went undrafted in 1994. Warner was then signed as a free agent to the Green Bay Packers and was cut before the season started. He was then a stock-boy and returned to Northern Iowa to work as an assistant coach. Then he found his way to arena football.
He played there for 4 seasons before making his way back to the NFL.
Once he was there, he shined. Finishing his career as a 3-time MVP, and a Super Bowl champ. Not bad for an undrafted player in 1994, to the Hall-of-Fame in 2017.
24 Trading Jimmy Garoppolo: New England Patriots
It might be a bit premature but I think everyone saw a special talent that Garoppolo is and will be. He is undefeated as a starter right now but that will most likely end this season. The Patriots have an aging Brady who at one point said he wants to play until he is 45, but his lack of appearances at OTA's and the team's minicamp might mean he is not as invested. Jimmy could have been the player to keep the franchise train rolling. In his 6 games with San Francisco, he has 1,560 yards with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions and a 96.2 passer rating.
23 Losing Drew Brees: San Diego Chargers
Drew Brees could go down as one of the best to ever pass it. With multiple 5,000 yard seasons, he is a great quarterback. In his time in San Diego with the Chargers, he had 12,348 yards with 80 touchdowns and a passer rating of 84.9.
While in New Orleans with the Saints he had 58,097 yards with 408 touchdowns and a passer rating of 99.6.
It was obviously a big loss for the Charges who lost one of the best in the last 2 decades to throw the ball. They did get Philip Rivers but there is no debate that Brees is the much better option.
22 Drafting Tony Madarich: Green Bay Packers
The second overall pick in the 1989 draft, he was supposed to be the greatest offensive lineman in NFL History. He was given the nickname "Incredible Bulk" and it was well deserved as he was a 6'6", 330 pound prospect. He played 3 forgettable seasons due to his bad play, bad behaviour, and his ego. The biggest issue with this draft pick was players who were picked 1st and 3rd in this draft. Troy Aikman and Barry Sanders were taken on either side of him and were franchise players who both had Hall-of-Fame Careers.
21 Trading Brett Favre: Atlanta Falcons
Favre played one season in Atlanta before getting shipped out to Green Bay. He holds the NFL record for game starts, completions, attempts, interceptions, longest completion (tied), and times sacked. He is a 3x MVP and a Super Bowl champion. Favre is also an 11x Pro-Bowl, 4x passing touchdown leader, 2x passing yards leader and 6x All-Pro selection. He will go down as one of the best quarterbacks and the Falcons gave him away for Tony Smith who did not have even close to the same impact.
20 Drafting Charles Rogers: Detroit Lions
Charles Rogers was the second overall pick in the in the 2003 Draft. He had a great career at Michigan State, breaking multiple school records as well as NCAA records. Rogers is considered one of the worst picks of the modern era for a good reason.
He played for 3 seasons in the NFL.
In those three, he only played 15 games with 36 receptions for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns. Rogers was released prior to the 2006 season because the head coach, Rod Marinelli, did not think that his work ethic matched what the team needed or deserved.
19 Trading Steve Young: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Steve Young was a terrific quarterback in the league. The Buccaneers just did not believe in him. After 2 seasons in Tampa Bay, he was traded to San Francisco for a second and fourth round pick who did not have multiple MVP seasons or Super Bowl wins. In San Francisco, he came off the bench for Joe Montana but did not take long to come out of his shadow. Once he did, he showed the league that he was worth way more than a couple draft picks.
18 Signing Larry Brown: Oakland Raiders
Larry Brown was a 3x Super Bowl champion and was fresh off winning MVP when he hit free agency and signed with the Raiders. The year before he had 6 interceptions while playing in all 16 games. In the next 2 years for the Raiders he started in just one of the 12 games and only had one interception.
He was cut with 3 years left on his initial deal with them.
Such a big disappointment to go from MVP to only starting one game. His career strangely mirrors the Raider's fortunes, as they were once a great dynasty and have more recently struggled to be a winner.
17 Drafting Jamarcus Russell: Oakland Raiders
Jamarcus Russell is widely considered the greatest draft bust of all time. During his career, he had 25 starts, 53.1% of completed passes, 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 25 fumbles, and a 65.2 passer rating. He was never anything other than a player with potential, only that potential never really came to the surface in the NFL. He tried a few comebacks, most notably in 2013 when he wrote a letter to every NFL team saying he would play the first year for free. It goes without saying that no one signed him.
16 Signing Andre Rison: Cleveland Browns
Andre Rison was a phenom with the Atlanta Falcons. Having been a 4x Pro-bowler with them and also a 4x All-Pro selection. He was supposed to really help the Browns but he was not even close to the player he was a year before. In 1995 he had 400 fewer receiving yards and 5 less receiving touchdowns to go with it. He was just not the player that the Browns were hoping to get. This all ended with the Browns moving to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens. Thankfully the Ravens fortunes would turn out better down the line.
15 Signing Neil O'Donnell: New York Jets
After just coming off a Super Bowl appearance, this quarterback took advantage of his free agency. He cashed in with the biggest free-agent contract in Jets history at the time with a 5-year $25 million contract. O'Donnell started in 6 games and went 0-6 in those starts. He then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and the Jets went on to a 1-15 record that season. The QB was waived the following season. He was not the franchise quarterback that they needed. In fact, through poor play and badly timed injury, he ruined their chances to be competitors for years to come.
14 Trading Up To Draft Ryan Leaf: San Diego Chargers
His rookie season he threw 2 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The next season he went 1-8 as a starter. Not just the draft destroyed there future but the trade so they could move up one spot in the draft. The Cardinals received the first and second round pick for 1998 and the first round pick for 1999 as well as kick-returner Eric Metcalf and linebacker Patrick Sapp. Leaf was supposed to be on the same tier as Peyton Manning but that was not even close to the case. He lost his confidence and never bounced back.
13 Signing David Boston: San Diego Chargers
Just two season before he was selected to the Pro Bowl and had 1,598 receiving yards. He was signed to a 7-year $47.4 million dollar contract. Boston stayed for one season, and during that season won just 4 games while on the roster.
He got suspended for having an altercation with the strength coach during the year.
Boston was then traded for a 6th round pick in the NFL draft and was out of the league a year later. His once-promising career turned into nothing but dreams after being cut.
12 Signing Dale Carter: Denver Broncos
Dale Carter was once a shutdown cornerback in the league. A 4x Pro Bowler while with the Kanas City Chiefs. He got a 4-year, $22.8 million dollar deal from the Broncos. His main issues were off the field. He got multiple suspensions for substance use violations. Carter was suspended for the entire 2000 season and he was released during the 2001 season. He was definitely a disappointment to the Broncos and their fan base. He will always go down as one of their worst offseason moves.
11 Signing Jeff Garcia: Cleveland Browns
Jeff Garcia led the San Francisco to multiple post-season appearances. He was also selected to 3 consecutive Pro Bowls. Then the Browns happened. He was signed to a 4-year $25 million dollar contract. After one season, where he struggled with consistency and injuries, he was cut from the team. He went on to have a few more forgettable seasons before going on to be a Pro Bowler for the Bucs in 2007. For the Browns, he just did not help them at all.
10 Signing Dana Stubblefield: Washington Redskins
Stubblefield was such a crucial role in the 49ers defense that helped them get their 5th Super Bowl trophy. He had also just won Defensive Player of the Year in 1997. He very much deserved the 6-year $36 million dollar contract that the Redskins gave him. Unfortunately, he never lived up to that money. In 1997, he had 15 sacks. In the following 3 seasons, he had 7 total sacks. He did not play out his 6 years there and did not live up to the hype and DPOTY award.
9 Signing Ahman Green: Houston Texans
Ahman had more rushing yards between 2000 and 2004. After leaving the Packers, he signed on to play for the Texans on a 4-year $23 million dollar deal. His last season in Green Bay he ran for 1,059 yards with 5 touchdowns and in his next two seasons while with Houston he ran for just 554 with 5 touchdowns. His productivity vastly fell off. Not to mention he only played in 14 games for both of those seasons combined. He got released at the end of the second year of his contract.
8 Drafting David Carr: Houston Texans
Carr came in as the first overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft. He was never a quality quarterback and did not deserve to go first overall.
During his first season, he was sacked an amazing 76 times.
During his entire career, he had 72 starts with a 59.7 completion rating while throwing for 14,433 yards. He had 65 touchdowns with 71 interceptions. He almost threw as many interceptions as he did career starts. Carr started almost all the games for the Texans from 2002-2006. In that time, he only had 2 seasons where he threw more touchdowns than interceptions.
7 Signing Chuck Smith: Carolina Panthers
During his time in Atlanta, Chuck Smith had the reputation of being one of the NFL's best defensive ends. He earned that reputation by helping lead them to a Super Bowl. When he left the Falcons, he was the all-time sacks leader for the franchise and still is with 58.5. He signed a 4-year, $21 million dollar contract. During the 2000 season, he played in 2 games and following the season, he retired. He was such a waste of money and time for the Panthers.
6 Signing Scott Mitchell: Detroit Lions
Scott Mitchell was the backup for Dan Marino for the Dolphins. He was signed to a very packed offensive with multiple weapons. At that time they had Barry Sander, Herman Moore, and Brett Perriman. After playing in Detroit for 5 seasons, he never had any playoff success. His best year came in 1995, but even that season came to a crashing halt when he threw 4 interceptions in a 58-37 loss. 2 years later he had another playoff embarrassment where he only completed 10 of 25 pass attempts.
5 Cutting Rod Smith: New England Patriots
Rod Smith was a stud in college and went undrafted in the 1994 draft. Originally he was signed by the New England Patriots before getting cut. Then the Broncos signed him and put him on the practice squad. The Patriots missed out on this 3x Pro Bowler and the NFL receptions leader in 2001. Having played from 1995-2007 he amassed 11,389 receiving yards and 68 touchdowns. He ranks in the top-30 for both of those categories.
4 Cutting Wes Welker: San Diego Chargers
Wes Welker went undrafted in the 2004 NFL Draft. He made the 53-man roster but was cut after week 1 to make room for a different player. Welker went to Miami for 3 seasons then went to New England where he became a phenomenal slot receiver. He had multiple 1,000-yard receiving yards while in New England and was the NFL receiving leading 2007, 2009, and 2011. He was crucial in the Patriots playoff success but never completed the Super Bowl run with them.
3 Cutting James Harrison: Baltimore Ravens
Harrison was undrafted in 2002. He was cut and signed by the Steelers. Then the Ravens picked him up in 2003 and he was cut. Then the Steelers picked him back up and the rest is history.
He is a 5x Pro Bowler, 2x Super Bowl winner, and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.
During his career, he got 793 tackles, 84.5 sacks, 34 forced fumbles, 8 recovered fumbles, 8 interceptions, and 1 defensive touchdown. The Ravens made a big mistake by Cutting him.
2 Trading Marshall Faulk: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts gave up Faulk for a second and 5th round pick from the Rams. He was a 3x Pro Bowler with the Colts but a 4x Pro Bowler as a member of the St. Louis Rams. He greatest accomplishment was as a key member of the "Greatest Show on Turf." That show won the Super Bowl in 2000, also the year he won his lone MVP. The Colts gave up some of the greatest years of Faulk's career where he won the most accolades in his career.
1 Drafting Andre Ware: Detroit Lions
Andre was the 7th overall pick in 1990. He had such high expectation coming into the league and never reached those lofty expectations. During his career, he had 6 starts, 5 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a 63.5 passer rating. He played in Detroit for 4 seasons with 14 played games and never a real shot at the starters position. He was one of the All-Time great college quarterbacks but is widely considered to be one of the NFL's All-Time busts.