The perception exists that the National Football League is a competition based largely on parity and the idea that the best overall club in the league shouldn't be too far ahead of even the worst side. Sure, the New England Patriots have found ways to remain postseason mainstays so long as quarterback Tom Brady has avoided serious injuries, but even the Patriots have lost playoff games and Super Bowl contests over the past decade. Despite New England's dominance of the AFC throughout the Brady era, there are still plenty of teams that should be able to contend for a Super Bowl berth between September 2017 and February 2018. It's not a stretch to suggest any one of the 15 clubs mentioned below could hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl LII comes to an end.
With that said, every team, even the Patriots, has been guilty of multiple miscues during the current offseason that could prove costly seven months down the road. Teams win and lose Super Bowl titles during offseasons, so says the old football adage, and it's likely, if not guaranteed, at least some of the clubs mentioned in this piece will be left regretting huge mistakes they've made since the start of March. In some instances, the mistakes showcased here involve teams losing key players to free agency. Others, meanwhile, have to do with players teams didn't sign and/or didn't acquire during the NFL Draft. Only one team will be left standing when all is said and done, and it'll be interesting to see what mistakes that club overcomes during the 2017 campaign.
15 Tennessee Titans: Not Signing a Top WR
Don't laugh about the notion the Tennessee Titans could make a run to the Super Bowl this year. Marcus Mariota is one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL today when he is healthy and able to play, and Mariota is also fortunate to have a solid offensive line protecting him.
14 Green Bay Packers: Losing Micah Hyde
It's hard to argue with the Green Bay Packers over several of the noteworthy moves made by the club as it attempts to make a return to the Super Bowl. Allowing safety Micah Hyde to leave Green Bay via free agency and sign with the Buffalo Bills is a mistake and a miscue that could ultimately cost the Packers a Super Bowl if the team's defense struggles against a top offense during a playoff game.
13 Seattle Seahawks: Not Silencing Richard Sherman Trade Rumors
The Seattle Seahawks have plenty of reasons for wanting to trade defensive back Richard Sherman were the right offer to be made. Seattle didn't pull the trigger on such a deal before the draft, however, and the club allowing rumors regarding Sherman's status to swirl about through the end of May is not going to do anybody any favors so long as he remains a member of the roster.
12 Oakland Raiders: Remaining Weak at LB
The Oakland Raiders – yes, those Oakland Raiders – have become media darlings beloved by analysts and picked to win a Super Bowl sooner rather than later because of the team's depth and the young talent currently on the roster. One would have thought the Raiders would have liked to address the team's weakness at linebacker during the draft, but Oakland instead went a different direction and used a first-round pick on cornerback Gareon Conley.
11 Denver Broncos: Not Having a True Starting QB
The Denver Broncos are trusting, or maybe hoping, that either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch will silence any and all doubters en route to grabbing the keys to the team's offense during training camp. That is a massive risk to take for a club that, on paper, would be able to compete for more than a playoff spot if a proper QB were on the field in Week 1.
10 Cincinnati Bengals: Getting Worse on Offensive Line
One could politely say that the Cincinnati Bengals have had a curious offseason. A more critical person could, however, claim the Bengals had a downright disastrous few months following the Super Bowl, so much so that Cincinnati may be in the basement of the AFC North standings by the end of December.
9 Pittsburgh Steelers: Not Signing a Top TE
This past February, just about everybody who follows and analyzes the Pittsburgh Steelers believed the club was going to either sign a top-tier tight end in free agency or use a first-round pick on one of the top prospects at the position. The club did not go either route, however, and there are now questions hovering over the team's passing attack. Pittsburgh, admittedly, has plenty of weapons at wide receiver, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a history of enjoying targeting tight ends.
8 Washington Redskins: Exchanging DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon for Terrelle Pryor
The Washington Redskins have a franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins even if certain people running the organization continue to ignore that fact and refuse to pay the man for whatever reasons. However good Cousins may be, losing wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon isn't going to help his cause.
7 Atlanta Falcons: Not Re-Strengthening Offensive Line
The Atlanta Falcons were on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl title this past February before the team completely fell apart during the contest versus the New England Patriots. As with most teams that aren't the Patriots, the Falcons will struggle to get back to the big game this coming season.
6 Baltimore Ravens: Not Acquiring a Top WR
Take a spin around the Internet during the final month of spring, and you'll find articles about trade rumors linking the Baltimore Ravens with wide receivers around the NFL. The Ravens had plenty of opportunities to sign a top wide receiver or select a top-tier player at the position in the NFL Draft, but Baltimore failed to do so as of the final full week of May.
5 New Orleans Saints: Trading Brandin Cooks
At this point in Drew Brees' historic and iconic career, every year he's healthy is a “Super Bowl or bust” campaign for the New Orleans Saints. That is why we cannot understand why the Saints elected to trade wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots.
4 Arizona Cardinals: Losing Key Defensive Players
The window for the Arizona Cardinals to win a Super Bowl with quarterback Carson Palmer healthy and on the roster is closing, and losing a trio of players to free agency is not going to help the team's cause.
3 Dallas Cowboys: Not Replenishing the Secondary
The Dallas Cowboys had a very successful campaign in 2016 even if the team's playoff experience ended with a tough loss. Things may not go as well in 2017 for “America's Team,” though, in part because of the players the club lost in free agency. Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and J.J. Wilcox all moved on during the offseason, and the Cowboys failed to adequately fill the team's noticeable roster holes in the secondary.
2 New England Patriots: Exchanging Martellus Bennett for Dwayne Allen
The New England Patriots routinely get little wrong on a yearly basis, but plenty of individuals who break film down and analyze players would suggest that Dwayne Allen is a bit of a downgrade from Martellus Bennett, who signed with the Green Bay Packers in free agency this past March.
1 New York Giants: Keeping Ereck Flowers at LT
It's no secret to anybody who has watched the New York Giants over the past two seasons that left tackle Ereck Flowers has been a massive disappointment and a liability on the offensive line during his first two years in the NFL. For whatever reasons, though, the Giants failed to find a suitable replacement for Flowers in free agency or in the draft.
New York drafted Adam Bisnowaty in the sixth round, but it seems more likely he'll change positions than replace Flowers assuming Bisnowaty makes the final roster. Big Blue had multiple opportunities to acquire a top-rated offensive tackle in the draft, and failing to do so could be the huge mistake that prevents the Giants from winning a Super Bowl during the twilight of Eli Manning's tremendous and Hall-of-Fame career.
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