Every offseason gives each NFL team a chance to get better. Or get worse. The difference is often decided by a small margin. One late round draft choice is a stud, the one picked next is just another player who isn't going to change a franchise. With all these decisions, hindsight is 20/20, and it's easy to sit here years later and say "oh, they shouldn't have done that". But that would be unfair. For this reason we've tried to keep the list limited to decisions that had plenty of naysayers from the start. Those who made the correct choice in spite of the pressure to not risk it get rewarded, those who made the incorrect choice get punished. I've also added a few decisions that are slightly out of the time frame of "10 years", as the decisions were good (or bad) enough that they deserve to be mentioned despite technically falling outside the boundary.
20 20. Best: Bears Trade For Jay Cutler
The Bears lucked out because of some bad choices by another team. In 2008 Jay Cutler had made a Pro Bowl appearance and led the Broncos to an 8-8 record, while throwing for 4,526 yards. The problem is that at one point the Broncos were 8-5 and had easy control over the AFC West. Denver ended up losing their next three games, and the Chargers (who were at one point 4-8) ended up winning the division at 8-8. The team was overhauled and Josh McDaniels was brought in to lead the Broncos. McDaniels and Cutler clashed immediately after it became known that McDaniels wanted to replace Cutler (likely with backup Pats QB Matt Cassel, the person that McDaniels had spent 2008 with as his starting QB). McDaniels tried to calm the situation but Cutler asked to be traded, and eventually he was; The Bears ended up trading two firsts and a third round pick for the Broncos QB. While Cutler's play was up and down, he is also likely the best QB in modern Bears history. He owns nearly every Bears passing record, and led the team to the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Cutler was a polarizing figure, but he was also a franchise guy by virtue of being a guy the franchise stuck with. A good move at the right time, as we know how rare trading for a franchise QB is.
19 19. Worst: Cowboys sign Greg Hardy
It's difficult to balance how much a player can do before you decide he isn't worth keeping around. While Greg Hardy is one of the cases where it's easier to decide he isn't, he was still signed by the Cowboys in an effort to go all in on a Romo Super Bowl win. Following the Cowboys heart-breaking loss to the Packers in the 2014 Divisional, the Cowboys signed Greg Hardy. Hardy had just been released by the Panthers for off-field issues and Jerry Jones wasted no time in signing him. The moved earned enmity from the league and fans alike. This was an OK move if you were willing to take that criticism, and if things played out well it could even be considered a great move. But things didn't turn out well. The Cowboys went 4-12 and Hardy struggled. Lot of risk, little reward for this move. The Cowboys chose not to re-sign Hardy after 2015. He is not currently on an NFL roster.
18 Best: Vikings Trade For Sam Bradford
This is probably a controversial choice. Plenty of Vikings fans aren't happy at giving up a First and 4th round pick for the seemingly "average" QB. They're incorrect however. After starting QB and presumed franchise guy Teddy Bridgewater suffered a gruesome knee injury that almost cost him his leg, the Vikings traded for Bradford from the Eagles. The move seemed great after five weeks. The Vikings were 5-0, and Bradford had beat the Packers in his first start. The Vikings fell apart after that, finishing 8-8. The blame can't be placed on Bradford, however. Bradford posted a 4-1 TD/INT ratio, along with the highest completion percentage in NFL history (71.6%). Doubters will say that's because he only completed short passes, but realistic people will say short passes are all he had time for with the Vikings struggling O-line. Regardless of what you think of how he played, you'd be lying if you didn't think Bradford was at least slightly above average as an NFL QB. The reason that is important is because with the 2017 NFL season about two months away, the Vikings still don't know if Teddy Bridgewater will be their guy. But luckily they don't have to worry about it, as they don't need to rush him back. This trade was a good trade, that could turn into a great one. If neither QB lights it up, then you keep the cheaper one until you can find a better one. If both light it up, you now have excellent trade bait and your choice of QB. If only one lights it up, you have your franchise guy. Not too bad.
17 Worst: The Redskins trade for Robert Griffin III
No one really won this trade. The Rams misused the bundle of picks, and Robert Griffin III never panned out for the Redskins. In the weeks before the 2012 NFL Draft, the Redskins traded three first round picks and a second round pick to move up to the #2 pick, and grab whoever the Colts didn't select. The choices were between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. At the end of the 2012 season, it had seemed "RG3" had lived up to the hype, the young QB had won rookie of the year, been named to a Pro Bowl, and led the Redskins to the NFC East title. Unfortunately, in the 2012 NFC Wildcard against the Seahawks, Griffin tore his ACL during the sloppy conditions of the game. He was never quite the same. He threw 20 touchdowns his rookie year. He has thrown 22 in the four since it. Most of his problems seem to stem from not being able to be on the field, as he hasn't been terrible when he has seen it, but he has only played 14 games in the past three years. He got a shot to be the Browns starter in 2016, but injuries (along with playing for a team that was 0-11 without him and 1-4 with him) derailed him once again. Griffin is still only 27, so he has time to turn his career around. But it doesn't look like it's going to happen. From the Redskins perspective, the price was simply too high for RG3, especially seeing as he only ended up starting 35 games for them. That's an average of one First Round pick for every 12 starts.
16 16. Best: The Jaguars Sign Paul Posluszny
The Jaguars haven't been very good recently. They've been terrible, actually. But one player on the Jaguars has been consistently above average: MLB Paul Posluszny. Posluszny has become the face of the franchise for the Jaguars, being a consistent leader for them. Posluszny has started 84 games for the Jaguars since singing with them in 2011, along with grabbing 11 picks. The Jaguars appear to be turning their franchise around, and Posluszny will be (and has been) a big part of it. Posluszny made a Pro Bowl in 2013 and though he wasn't the flashiest signing of the 2011 offseason, you could argue he was the best. Can't ask for much more than what Posluszny has given the Jaguars.
15 Worst: Texans Sign Brock Osweiler
When you become what amounts to the first ever "Cap Trade" in NFL history after just one season with your new team, your stint probably didn't go too well. That is the situation Brock Osweiler finds himself in. Osweiler held all the leverage two years ago with the Denver Broncos. The Broncos were a championship caliber team that just needed to maintain a Quarterback. Instead of signing there, he went to the Texans who signed him to a ludicrous $72 million dollar contract, reportedly without meeting him, or telling head coach Bill O'Brien. This put the whole experiment off to a rough start, and Osweiler's struggles didn't help. Osweiler was benched just 15 games into his Texans career. Osweiler actually ended up winning a playoff game (where his Texans beat the Raiders 27-14) and Osweiler played pretty well in a divisional round loss against the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots. Despite the late season surge, Osweiler was traded in a rare style. The Texans traded Osweiler to the Browns, giving up a second round pick as well, all to just have the Browns take Osweiler's salary. The Browns are excited to have him (and the pick) and now we'll see how he does. But it was a bad move on the Texans part.
14 Best: Teams Passing On Brady Quinn In The 2007 Draft
Brady Quinn was an extremely hyped player coming out of Notre Dame. The 6'4" prospect had physical tools to spare and had won the Maxwell award, Sammy Baugh trophy, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. At the 2007 combine he did well on the Wonderlic (29), the 40 yard dash ( 4.73 seconds), and pretty much every other test, too. Many thought that Quinn could end up being picked at #1, but the general consensus was that the Browns would take him at #3 overall. That was half correct, the Browns did take him. At #22 overall. Quinn went through a huge slide on draft day, and when he was finally taken at 22, he failed to impress going on stage. Quinn looked disheveled and disinterested, though he attributes that to being focused on the moment. Some thought the Browns had landed a steal, but his play on the field didn't impress Cleveland, and even though Quinn performed admirably, he was traded to the Broncos for a 6th round pick and a fullback (Peyton Hillis, who appeared on the cover of Madden 12). Was Quinn busting due to outside circumstances? Or would he have struggled anywhere? We'll never know, but we do know that the teams that passed on him when he was sitting there made the right call.
13 Worst: Eagles sign Nnhamdi Asomugha
At the time, the Eagles seemed to have made the best play in Free Agency when they signed All-Pro corner Nnamdi Asomugha to a contract in the 2011 offseason. It seemed like a dream fit, a long time All-Pro who played for a perennial loser going onto a championship caliber team who just needed help at the position the All-Pro played. Instead, we got the opposite. Asomugha was truly terrible in his time with the Eagles, and indeed everywhere after the Eagles. It's one thing to have a player go from dominant to average, this happens more often than not. It's another to have a guy go from arguably the best at his position to costing his team games, all in one year. Yet, that's exactly what happened. Asomugha was incredibly frustrating, and while he never regained his legendary Raiders form, he did have a few performances that made you feel like he would eventually get his mojo back. But he never did. A perfect example of this is the 2013 Eagles-Lions game, in which Asomugha shut down Calvin Johnson for 3 quarters, before letting him go off in the 4th (including grabbing the winning TD). Asomugha was the face of the "Dreamteam" era Eagles, a team that is one of the best ever.... On Paper.
12 Best: Saints Sign Drew Brees
The New Orleans Saints hometown was destroyed. They had one playoff win in their near 40 year history. They didn't even manage to get the #1 overall pick in the 2006 draft. Then they signed Drew Brees. Since then they've won six playoff games, a Super Bowl, and set numerous offensive records. The Saints brought in head coach Sean Payton in 2006, to right the ship after the Saints had gone 3-13 in 2005. The 2005 season was awful for the Saints, not just because of the losing record but because of Hurricane Katrina. The Saints were forced to play "home" games in San Antonio, and the team regressed from 8-8 in 2004. When the Saints signed Brees after the Dolphins passed on him (which we'll also touch on), they started the most successful era of their franchise. Brees is the poster boy for a successful free agent signing, and many consider him to be the greatest free agent signing of all time.
11 Worst: Dolphins Pass On Brees For Culpepper
This entry is a bit of a continuation of the previous, and the other side of the coin. While the Saints signing of Brees is brought up constantly as how to do free agency the right way, the Dolphins signing of Culpepper is the opposite. In 2004 the Chargers drafted Phillip Rivers to be their franchise guy. The Chargers already had Drew Brees, but felt he wasn't the answer. In response to the Chargers drafting Rivers, Brees played lights out and led the Chargers to a 12-4 record while also making a Pro Bowl appearance. But Brees hurt his shoulder in the 2005 season, and the Chargers decided to move on. In the 2006 offseason, Brees was going to sign with a new team. Meanwhile in Minnesota, Daunte Culpepper was facing a similar situation. Culpepper was slightly older than Brees and had at that point been more successful. Where Brees was a one time Pro Bowl selection, Culpepper was a two time first team All-Pro who had come a game shy of the Super Bowl in 2000. Like Brees, he had ended 2005 with an injury, as he had severely hurt his knee. Like Brees, he was an under 30 QB with a ton of upside. Despite all this, the Dolphins wanted to sign Brees. Until a team doctor stepped in and said his shoulder damage was essentially irreversible and was going to leave him a fraction of the player he was. Instead, the Dolphins traded for Culpepper, a move that cost them their second round pick. Culpepper played just four games for the Dolphins in 2006, and was released after the season.
10 Best: Falcons Trade For John Abraham
The Falcons transition from perennial doormat to consistent contender began not in 2008 with the signing of Michael Turner and the drafting of Matt Ryan, but in 2006 when they traded for Defensive End John Abraham. Going back to 1966, the Falcons had won 11+ games just three times before signing Abraham. They did it three times in Abrahams seven years with the club, while also making the playoffs four times in that time span. Abraham was a sack master, finishing his career with 133.5 ( which puts him at #12 all time). His time in Atlanta was particularly productive, as he nabbed 68.5 sacks with the Falcons, an average of almost 10 per year. Though the Falcons traded a first round pick for him in 2006, it's a deal they would take every day of the week. Abraham became one of the greatest players in Falcons history.
9 Worst: The Raiders Drafting Jamarcus Russell
While this decision is certainly benefiting from hindsight, the Raiders had plenty of reasons to not draft Russell. For starters, there were plenty of work ethic concerns. Then there was the fact Russell wasn't in top shape despite attempting to be an NFL QB. Then there was the fact the other 2007 NFL Draft talent was incredible. Then there was the fact Russell had been the starter for just one year at LSU. Despite all that, Russell's huge upside was too much for the Raiders to ignore. Russell turned out to be one of the biggest draft busts of all time, and to make it worse the picks after Russell were incredible. The Raiders could have drafted Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Joe Thomas, or Darrelle Revis. Yes, it was that bad.
8 Best: Colts letting Peyton Manning go in 2012
The decision to get rid of arguably the greatest QB of all time isn't an easy one, but sometimes it's the correct one. From the Packers ditching Favre to the 49ers getting rid of Montana, there is a long history of "thanks for everything, now go somewhere else". The Colts found themselves in that position in 2012. The Colts went from Super Bowl contender with Manning at the helm in 2010 to having the first overall pick in the 2012 draft. The Colts then faced a tough decision about and had to decide where the team was really at. Were they a team that you should sink picks and money into with Manning to make it more "Win Now"? Or were they a team that was bad that had been carried by Manning and were now in desperate need of a rebuild? The Colts decided to go with the choice of getting rid of Manning and taking highly touted QB prospect Andrew Luck. In hindsight, this was an excellent decision because Luck turned into a Pro Bowl player in just his first year. However the Colts deserve credit because if Luck had bombed, they would be feeling a lot of heat for getting rid of a guy who would set the Passing TD record the next year.
7 Worst: Moving The San Diego Chargers
The fans in San Diego are long suffering. The team has only appeared in one Super Bowl (a 49-26 beat down by Steve Young and the 49ers in 1994), and the team has seemed to be cursed at times. From the fumbled game sealing interception in the 2006 divisional round against the Pats, to Phillip Rivers tearing his ACL before the 2007 AFC Championship game, to losing a home playoff game to a rookie QB and a 9-7 team after being considered possible Super Bowl favorites. Despite all that, the Chargers fans stuck with them. And how did the Chargers repay them? They moved him. The move doesn't make a whole lot of sense, as they'll likely be the third most popular team in their new home. The Raiders will always be LA's team, and the Rams just moved back last year. In addition to losing some of the already established fanbase, they're moving to an area that will likely be indifferent or hostile. Why again?
6 Best: Vikings Poison Pill Win Over The Seahawks
The Vikings pulled a kind of underhand tactic in 2006. At the end of the 2005 NFL season, the Seahawks had an amazing running game. They had a league MVP Running Back in Shaun Alexander, a future Hall Of Famer in Walter Jones at Left Tackle and the best Guard (and possibly best linemen) in football with Steve Hutchinson. At the start of the 2006 offseason, the Seahawks designated "Hutch" as a transition player, meaning that the Hawks could match any offer made to Hutchinson before he could sign with another team. At the time the Seahawks had already signed Jones to a huge, record breaking contract. Despite that, the Hawks intended to match whatever offer another team would make. So the when the Vikings offered a huge contract, the Seahawks weren't too worried. Until the Vikings put a clause in the contract offer to Hutchinson, stating that if Hutchinson wasn't the highest paid linemen on his team, then his contract becomes fully guaranteed. The contract was worth $49 million. The Seahawks couldn't match it (obviously) and Hutchinson signed with the Vikings, where he went on to four Pro Bowls and three All-Pros.
5 Worst: 49ers Let Jim Harbaugh Go
This move supposedly "mutual," but Harbaugh spilled the beans last year that he was indeed forced out. Harbaugh had gone 44-17 as the head coach of the 49ers, including three NFC Championship games and 1 Super Bowl (where he lost to his brothers Ravens). Yet the 49ers (and Jed York) forced Harbaugh out. Losing the coach is bad enough, but it had a large ripple effect. Harbaugh was apparently the glue holding the whole operation together as once he was gone the 49ers suffered an unreal amount of losses. Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, and Chris Borland all retired. They then lost Chris Culliver and Frank Gore in free agency. All in one offseason. The 49ers have won just seven games since Harbaugh's canning. The worst win total they ever had with Harbaugh was eight. Whether you like Harbaugh or don't, you can't deny firing a coach with his results was a terrible idea.
4 Best: The Eagles Signing Michael Vick
It's pretty rare to sign a Pro Bowl QB who is under 30. Sure, it happens, but it's rare. The first one that comes to mind is the Saints signing Drew Brees at 27 in 2006. But it's near impossible to sign a 29 year old Pro Bowl QB for a $3.4Mil/year contract. But that's exactly what the Eagles did. Michael Vick was fresh out of jail and hadn't been on a football field in over 2 years. The Eagles took a big risk signing Vick. Vick's crimes were the focus of every conversation about him, and the Eagles already had two guys they deemed "Franchise Players" (Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb) at QB. They signed Vick anyway. A year later, Vick would have the greatest season of his career. He posted 30 TDs in just 12 games (21 passing, 9 rushing) and would have likely got MVP consideration in any other year (but Tom Brady stole his thunder after posting the highest TD-INT ratio ever recorded at the time). Vick had many memorable games that season, from leading a 21 point comeback with just under eigh minutes to play against the Giants, to his six touchdown performance in the "Monday Night Massacre" against the Redskins, Vick was dominant. Though the next contract Vick signed with the Eagles was arguably one of the worst moves the Eagles made, you can't deny that Vick was a steal for just under $7 million.
3 Worst: Vikings Trade For Randy Moss
The Vikings had a love hate relationship with Randy Moss. Or more specifically, coach Brad Childress did. In fact, it's tough to qualify this as an offseason move, but I'm going to because it involves making the team better via an outside source. The Vikings traded their 3rd round pick to the Patriots for Randy Moss, a guy who the Vikings had traded away just five seasons prior. Moss had bombed with his new team (the Raiders) and thrived with his second team (the Patriots). He had broken the receiving touchdown record in 2007 and the Vikings, who were in win now mode with Brett Favre at the helm, desperately needed an offensive boost. The Randy Moss trade is the result of that. Just four weeks into his second Vikings tenure, Moss was released. The Vikings had traded their third round pick for four games, 13 catches, and two touchdowns. This was not a good move, no matter how you look at it. Coach Brad Childress was fired at the end of 2010, just one year after his team came a Field Goal away from the Super Bowl.
2 Best: Seahawks Name Pete Carroll Their Head Coach
Pete Carroll was near 60 years old, he was embroiled in an NCAA controversy, and he hadn't coached in the NFL since 1999. Yet the Seahawks made him their coach, much to the chagrin of much of their fanbase. Carroll immediately made an impact, leading his Seahawks to one of the biggest upsets in sports his first year with the team after his 7-9 Seahawks beat the 11-5 and reigning Super Bowl champion Saints. In his fourth year he brought Seattle it's first Super Bowl win, and then came a yard away from a second. Pete Carroll has gone from a "what if?" coach to being considered one of the best in modern history, and has given the Seahawks unprecedented success. His unique new wave coaching approach has changed the NFL, as has his ideas for building a dominant defense. Carroll has built a secondary that is top-3 consistently, and he has done it with his own style. He won a Super Bowl with a 5'11" QB, and built a powerhouse with mostly late round picks. There is nothing ordinary about Carroll, and the huge gamble the Seahawks took by signing an older, scandalous at the time coach paid off big. The Seahawks have gone 70-41 in Carroll's seven seasons.
1 Worst: The Redskins Sign Albert Haynesworth
Another move by the Redskins that seemed to be a good one only to turn to ash. In the 2009 offseason the Redskins signed Albert Haynseworth to a ridiculous one hundred million dollar contract, and were happy to do it. And why not? Haynsesworth was only 28, and had been a first team All-Pro in the previous two seasons. However, things didn't pan out. Haynesworth underperformed, called out coaches, and flat out gave up on a few plays in a Prime Time divisional game against the Eagles. Haynesworth ended up playing just 20 games for the 'Skins, and posted just 6.5 sacks. It's unfair to chide the Redskins too hard for this decision because it seemed to be the right move, though the price tag was high. But who would have guessed signing a two time All-Pro to your team could make them worse?