At the time, any move made by your favorite NFL team is met with one part skepticism and one part optimism. Whether it’s signing a big name free agent, extending one of your players, or using a high draft pick, they’re all boom or bust. Sometimes, the scouting departments hit the nail on the head and make an excellent choice by filling a need. It’s not uncommon for these good, or even great, signings to not gain much attention when looking back on the signings. If you make a bad decision in the draft or free agency, you’re sure to hear about it from the fans for many years to come. Those terrible draft picks or the overpays in free agency can haunt an NFL decision maker their entire career. In some cases, a really bad offseason can, eventually, cost someone their job.
The 2016 NFL offseason was full of surprising moves, galore. The draft alone had two trades in the first two picks with teams trading up to the top spots to snag potential long-term solutions at the most important position in football, quarterback. Free agency, just like the draft, is a spectacle full of surprises and head scratchers. Looking back, there were even more headscratchers than we originally thought. With that said, here are the top 15 moves made in 2016 that teams already regret.
15 Kansas City Chiefs - Re-signing Jaye Howard
Jaye Howard: Howard had a great 2015 campaign as a looming free agent. Howard helped anchor the defensive line for a Kansas City Chiefs team that won 10 straight games to close out the season and win their first playoff game in over 20 years. Following the season, the Chiefs rewarded Howard with a 2-year $12 million extension. At the time, it looked like a great move for both parties; Howard was coming off the best season of his career and the Chiefs were thin at defensive end despite just drafting one in the second round.
However, once the 2016 season was in full swing, Howard didn’t look like the same player he was the previous year. He struggled for the first eight games of the season before suffering a season ending hip flexor injury. Before the 2017 season could even start, the Chiefs waived the defensive end due to a failed physical.
14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Re-signing Doug Martin
In a time before Jameis Winston in Tampa, Buccaneers fans had little to be excited for on offense. Having to endure offenses led by the likes of Josh Freeman, Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, fans gravitated towards electric running back Doug Martin. When Winston came in and offered consistency at the quarterback position, Martin became more dangerous, and more loved, than ever. Playing in a contract year in 2015, the Muscle Hamster rushed for 1,400 yards and was one of the most exciting offensive players in the NFL. After the 2015 season, Martin was rewarded with a 5-year, $35.75 million extension.
There's no denying 2016 was not a good season for the back from Boise State; he only played in 8 games and rushed for 421 yards and a career low 2.9 yards per carry. Martin may bounce back in the coming years, but for now, it looks like the extension was a big mistake by Tampa Bay.
13 Oakland Raiders - Signing Sean Smith
On the surface, the Sean Smith signing seemed like a good one for the Raiders when he signed a 4-year $40 million deal to jump to a fellow AFC West team. Look at the facts: they stole a key defender from a division rival, they filled a need at corner, and they signed a hometown player. It was the perfect situation for both Smith, and the Oakland Raiders. Smith had his early struggles and was eventually benched because of his poor play. The benching must have lit a fire underneath Smith as he performed well to finish the 2016 season. Smith proved to be good enough to start for the Raiders, but a step below his 2015 form in Kansas City. The Raiders may not regret this move, at all, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they paid Smith money to be an above average starter in the secondary.
12 Denver Broncos - Drafting Paxton Lynch Over Dak Prescott
Going into the 2016 NFL Draft, there was absolutely no way anyone could have predicted Dak Prescott’s meteoric rise from 4th round pick to leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC. All teams that drafted QBs in the 2016 draft have to be looking back at their mistake and wishing they could do it over; none more so than the Denver Broncos. The Broncos, led by an elite defense, won nine games in spite of inconsistent quarterback play. If they would have drafted Prescott, the quarterback position would have been stable and there wouldn’t have been any controversy.
Instead, the 1st round rookie Paxton Lynch sat for the majority of the season after losing the QB battle to former 7th round pick Trevor Siemian. Lynch wasn’t deemed ready to be a starter on day 1 like Prescott was. He’s only one year into his career, so it’s entirely possible he ends up being a great player. The problem there is that they needed a starter right away. If they could do it over again, Prescott would be the pick in a heartbeat.
11 Green Bay Packers - Trading For Knile Davis
Some may chalk this up as an insignificant move, and it very well may be. But, the lack of research on the part of the Packers for a mid-season trade can’t go unnoticed. Prior to the trade deadline, the Packers were desperate for help at the running back position. After looking through all available options, they ultimately traded a 7th round draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for RB Knile Davis. In his time in Kansas City, Davis never proved to be more than an above average kick returner, but Green Bay seemed distressed by their backfield situation. It seemed like the best-case scenario for both teams. The Chiefs make some space in their crowded backfield and the Packers get another body to, potentially, add a spark to their offense.
Unfortunately for them, Davis only appeared in a handful of games for Green Bay before they waived Davis with him landing right back in Kansas City. Green Bay may have only given up a late round pick, but it became more of a gift to the Chiefs, rather than a trade.
10 Philadelphia Eagles - Trading DeMarco Murray
When Murray signed a lucrative deal to come to Philadelphia, the expectations were monstrously high. Murray was coming off of one of the best running back seasons in NFL history with the Cowboys. It was an even better signing because the Eagles stole a key player away from their division rival. Murray’s 2015 campaign wasn’t what anyone expected from the Oklahoma product. He spent a good portion of the year on the bench and never made a significant impact.
After the season, the Eagles traded Murray to the Tennessee Titans in a package deal that allowed the Eagles to move up a few spots in the 4th round of the draft. Murray went on to have a tremendous season behind the Titans elite offensive line to the tune of over 1,200 rushing yards. The Eagles, however, didn’t have a running back rush for over 700 yards on their own and didn’t have an identity in the backfield, aside from Darren Sproles.
9 Pittsburgh Steelers - Signing Ladarius Green
After spending his entire career in the shadow of legendary TE Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green was ready to make a name of his own in Pittsburgh when he signed with the Steelers. To the untrained eye, the Green signing didn’t seem like a good one for a guy with the career stats Green had. Green spent his career as a backup to Gates getting limited meaningful snaps. When Green did get to start, he flashed immense potential to be an elite starting TE in the NFL. Green was tasked with stepping into big shoes left in Pittsburgh by longtime TE Heath Miller, but didn’t live up to expectations. Green only played in 6 games all season while battling injuries. During the 2017 offseason, the UL Lafayette product’s tenue with the Steelers came to an end when he was released.
Other tight ends on the market like Dwayne Allen, Zach Miller, or Coby Fleener would have been better options for the AFC North Champions.
8 Cleveland Browns - Signing Robert Griffin III
It seems like every offseason, the Cleveland Browns do something exciting to make their fans think they’re going to be out of the AFC North basement. Also, they do something that’s totally Cleveland Brown-esque and they put themselves in the same situation they were before. Which is why it was no surprise when Cleveland signed former #2 overall pick Robert Griffin III to a 2-year deal. Griffin III was signed with the full intent of being their starting quarterback going into the 2016 season.
The Baylor product didn’t last long as he was injured early in the season, leading to Cleveland starting a cavalcade of guys off the street; including 2016 3rd round pick Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan. Kessler showed potential to be the QB of the future when given the chance, but that didn’t translate to wins. The signing of Griffin and the drafting of Kessler didn’t turn out well as Cleveland had the worst record in the league at 1-15.
7 Atlanta Falcons - Signing Mohamed Sanu
When the Falcons signed Mohamed Sanu to a ridiculous 5-year $32 million deal, they had high hopes of Sanu becoming a legitimate complement across from star WR Julio Jones. The Rutgers receiver was drafted to Cincinnati to be a legitimate complement across from their star, A.J. Green. Sanu was never that guy for the Bengals, so it’s unclear why the Falcons thought Sanu would live up to the big contract. Sanu was serviceable for the NFC champion Falcons pulling in 59 catches as the number 2 receiver, but serviceable doesn’t entitle a $32 million contract.
If the Falcons had used Taylor Gabriel or Aldrick Robinson in a more prominent role and spent the money to improve their pass rush or offensive line, it’s likely that the Falcons would have made the Super Bowl anyway, and this time the extra money could have been used to help them not blow a 28-3 lead.
6 New York Jets - Re-signing Ryan Fitzpatrick
It can be argued that Ryan Fitzpatrick had the worst season of any quarterback in the NFL last year. After peaking early in a Week 2 match-up with the Bills, it was all downhill for the Harvard grad. A week after nearly throwing for 400 yards against Buffalo, Fitzpatrick threw a whopping 6 interceptions against Kansas City. Fitzpatrick saw action in all but two games for the floundering Jets as they amassed a 5-11 record and being one of the worst teams in the AFC. It didn’t seem like the Jets were too interested in signing Fitzpatrick since the two didn’t come to an agreement until late in the offseason.
New York was backed into a corner as the only quarterbacks on the roster at the time were an unproven Bryce Petty and a rookie in Christian Hackenberg. Without Fitzpatrick, it’s unlikely the Jets would have been much better, or much worse, so it seems like a waste of a season for them because they still don’t know if they have anything with Petty or Hackenberg.
5 Carolina Panthers - Releasing Josh Norman From the Franchise Tag
After Josh Norman had a breakout 2015 season, the Panthers slapped the franchise tag on Josh Norman. Even with the franchising of Norman, the Panthers were still thin at the CB position. Not long after designating Norman as their franchise player, talks of a contract extension came to a halt and the Panthers decided it would be best to release Norman from his franchise tag and allow him to become a free agent. Norman would eventually sign with the Redskins and go on to have an excellent season leaving Panthers fans to think “what if.”
Without Norman in their secondary, the Panthers' struggles spread to both sides of the ball as the team finished with the worst record in the NFC South at 6-10. Their woeful offensive line couldn’t have been helped by retaining Norman, but their secondary would have been decisively better. Norman alone may not have returned them to their 2015 glory, but it’s safe to say they regret letting him walk, getting nothing in return.
4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Trading Up for Roberto Aguyao
A long standing unwritten rule in the NFL was that you never draft a kicker or punter before the late rounds in the NFL draft unless a once in a lifetime player at that position is available. Even then, you draft them in the 4th round at the earliest. Tampa Bay didn’t listen to conventional wisdom and, instead, traded up to draft Florida State kicker Roberto Aguyao in the 2nd round. Drafting him in the 2nd round alone was bad enough, but it’s even worse when you realize they gave the Kansas City Chiefs extra picks so they could move up and select a kicker.
If Aguyao had churned out an elite season in 2016, the Buccaneers would look a little better in the eyes of NFL fans. In his rookie season, Aguyao only connected on 71% of his field goals and missed 2 extra points en route to being one of the worst kickers in the NFL. The pick may be even worse as Aguyao has struggled in OTAs and may not even make the Buccaneers roster for the 2017 season.
3 L.A. Rams - Trading Up for Jared Goff
It seems like every year, a quarterback starving team does something crazy and reaches for one early or, like in the Rams case, sells the farm to move up and select their QB of the future. In the 2016 NFL draft, the Los Angeles Rams did both; they traded up to #1 and drafted a QB that some called a 3rd round prospect. The Rams personnel didn’t seem to care as they though Cal’s Jared Goff was going to be their guy. Training camp was tough for Goff as his transition out of a college spread offense was tougher than Rams coaches hoped it would be.
Coach Jeff Fisher decided it was best if the Rams started the season with journeyman Case Keenum as the starter with Goff sitting on the bench to learn. This didn’t last the whole season as Goff saw his first action in Week 10 and started seven games his rookie year leading the Rams to an 0-7 record as a starter. If they could re-do this pick, it’s almost a guarantee they would do it different this time.
2 Jacksonville Jaguars - Signing Chris Ivory
This was a signing that garnered a collective head scratch from NFL fans across the country. Not only did the Jacksonville Jaguars sign an aging Chris Ivory, they signed an aging, beat-up Chris Ivory to a 5-year $32.5 million deal. Signing Ivory to be their starter was strange because they had T.J. Yeldon on their roster and he seemed to be the favorite to be the starter in 2016. There was always a chance that Ivory could prove everyone wrong and have a great season; but that’s not at all how it happened. Ivory took the criticism from the NFL world and churned out a season that featured him running for 439 yards as the feature back for the Jaguars.
He deserves a little slack because Jacksonville was constantly behind in games and they were forced to throw early and often. The Jaguars obviously regret this signing as they just used a top 5 pick in the 2017 NFL draft on their running back of the future, Leonard Fournette.
1 Houston Texans - Signing Brock Osweiler
Oh boy, you had to know this one would top this list. After spending the first four seasons of his NFL career sitting behind Peyton Manning, the Arizona State product was chomping at the bit to be a starter in the NFL. It soon became clear to the Broncos that they would be in a bidding war to bring Osweiler back to be their starter in 2016. Ultimately, Osweiler picked the Houston Texans over Denver signing a lucrative 4-year $72 million deal. We didn’t know it then, but Denver losing the Brock Osweiler sweepstakes made them the clear winner over Houston.
From the start of his tenure in Houston, Osweiler struggled in every facet of the game. He was serviceable at the time, but Houston’s elite defense couldn’t hide his weaknesses forever. Eventually, Osweiler was benched in favor of Tom Savage but had to come back in after Savage suffered an injury late in the season. Houston ended up winning their division and a playoff game before being sent home for the season by the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. Osweiler’s tumultuous tenure in Houston came to an end this offseason when they traded Osweiler and a 2nd round pick to the Cleveland Browns in a deal that allowed Houston to dump their mistake so they can forget all about it.