Building a successful franchise could arguably be one of the toughest challenges in all of sports. Especially in the National Football League where there are so many variables that act as weights on a balance between having a winning and losing season. An injury here or there can cost a championship contender to falling so far as to win only a handful of games.
That’s why offseason moves, both big and small in scale of player popularity, are so vital to a team’s overall chances of success. Paying a star player too much can result in the team not having the funds to keep key players in other parts of the team. Team officials also have to keep an eye on prospective backups in the event of season-ending injuries.
In today’s plugged-in society, football fans and experts are often critiquing many of the moves being made by all 32 NFL teams. They’ll give offseason grades just before the start of training camp. They’ll use those moves to decide who has the best chance of winning the Super Bowl; even before the start of the first preseason game.
With the 2016 season currently underway, many of the moves some NFL teams made to prepare for this season have already come under some scrutiny. The following are the top 15 NFL offseason moves that teams have already started regretting.
15 Pittsburgh: Green replaces Miller at TE
Heath Miller’s retirement after last season placed a big hole for the Pittsburgh Steelers to fill within their offense. It’s certainly difficult to replace someone who played 11 seasons, missed only eight regular season games and had 45 career touchdown receptions. Pittsburgh certainly tried Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million contract. However, many had concerns with Green coming off of offseason ankle surgery.
He also had multiple concussions from the 2014 and 2015 seasons that led to him having headaches that kept him absent from some of the team’s training camp. Many local columnists were calling for him to be cut. He also didn’t have an impressive run with 1,087 yards and seven touchdowns through four seasons. Green spent the first six weeks of the season placed on the “Physically Unable to Perform” list.
14 Detroit Lions can’t replace Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson had earned the nickname Megatron when he was with the Detroit Lions. From 2007 to 2015, he finished with 11,619 receiving yards and 83 touchdowns. The news of his sudden retirement would certainly leave a gaping hole for the Lions to fill. It also didn’t help that the Lions were able to find someone within a very weak wide receiver market – although Marvin Jones should help a little bit.
Detroit decided to pass up the talented wide receiver Will Fuller out of Notre Dame for Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker at 16th overall. Fuller was picked up by Houston with the 21st selection, has already made some positive contributions for the Texans. The Lions could have looked for some wide receiver talent in the NFL Draft, but focused mostly on the offensive line and defense.
13 Lack of veteran backup QB for Seattle
There’s no denying the fact that the Seattle Seahawks have complete faith in Russell Wilson as their franchise quarterback. Through the first four seasons in his professional career, he has yet to miss a single practice, let alone a single game. But the NFL can be a cruel game where injuries can really ruin a season for a championship contender. Wilson’s ankle injury in the season opener against the Miami Dolphins has fans worried about how it will limit him for the rest of the season.
Now would be the time to wish Seattle would have a veteran backup quarterback. Instead, the Seahawks have a rookie quarterback serving as the primary backup in Trevone Boykin. Behind him is another rookie with Jake Heaps. Seattle’s faithful 12s are truly hoping Wilson can remain healthy to avoid a disastrous season.
12 Indianapolis playing too conservative
The AFC South was surprisingly competitive last season, mostly due to Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck dealing with injuries. But the defending AFC South champion Houston Texans made some big moves in an effort to keep their spot at the top of the division. Additionally, both the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be very difficult teams as they continue their progression.
So for the Indianapolis Colts to be a very quiet team in the offseason was a bit of a letdown. For a team that gave up more than 400 points and finished 8-8, there are some who don’t expect them to improve much from last season. They also let veterans in linebacker Jerrell Freeman and tight end Coby Fleener leave the team. The lack of moves actually hurts the Colts and has their Super Bowl aspirations in serious limbo.
11 Chicago cuts K Gould; signs Barth
Robbie Gould’s departure from the Chicago Bears was not very well liked among Chicago football fans. While he struggled last season with the Bears, he was still one of the more accurate kickers in NFL history. Gould had a career percentage of 85.4 percent through 11 seasons, including making 23 of 31 from 50 yards and farther. Considered a cost-cutting measure, the Bears decided to sign Connor Barth to a one-year contract.
Barth might have a career mark of 84.2 percent through seven seasons, he had a rough run with several teams in the NFL – jumping around between Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Denver. It also didn’t help that his first field goal attempt against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 – a very makeable 31-yard kick that Gould would have made with ease.
10 Green Bay waives “goodbye” to All-Pro Guard
Just before the start of the 2016 regular season, the Green Bay Packers made one of the more interesting roster moves. The Packers decided release offensive lineman Josh Sitton. While he is at the age of 30, he is considered by many in the league to be one of the offensive guards in the NFL. Green Bay is going to have to make some decisions with signing many of their stars on the offensive line next offseason.
But many Packers fans were not exactly happy to see the sudden departure of their All-Pro guard. It was especially tough for those fans to find a silver lining when Sitton was picked up by the Chicago Bears through the waiver wire. While the Bears haven’t become contenders since the move, the Packers offensive line has had some problems in protecting star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
9 Denver Broncos’ quarterback struggles
It’s hard to imagine a defending Super Bowl championship team would have so many problems with their offense one season later. After Peyton Manning was able to get his send off last season, the Denver Broncos had a lot of work to do to replace a sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback. The first move the Broncos made was trading with the Philadelphia Eagles for Mark “Mr. Butt Fumble” Sanchez. But he was quickly cut by the team before the start of the season.
Then the Broncos selected Paxton Lynch in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but hasn’t earned the right to be a rookie starter. That led the Broncos to go with Trevor Siemian, who has shown some promising signs, but it's hard to see Siemian beating Tom Brady in playoff game, which is what the AFC will likely come down to. Denver fans are happy they have a dominant defense. Otherwise, this would be a long season for the Broncos.
8 Philadelphia gives QB Daniel $21 million
With Doug Pederson leaving the Kansas City Chiefs to become the next head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, veteran backup quarterback Chase Daniel also made the move to Pennsylvania. But the Eagles front office may have overpaid him with a three-year, $21 million deal. It would have made sense for a dependable backup option to play behind rookie Carson Wentz this season.
But in six seasons of NFL experience between the Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints, Daniel really hasn’t had a lot of playing experience. Overall, Daniel has only two career starts in 55 games. He has 50 completions out of 77 career pass attempts for 464 yards with one touchdown. While he only has one career interception, there isn’t really a lot to support him being paid $7 million per season. A good portion of that could be used to improve other parts of the roster.
7 Carolina lets CB Norman leave for D.C.
One of the main reasons why the Carolina Panthers found themselves in the Super Bowl last season was a strong defense. That defensive unit was led by cornerback Josh Norman, who had four touchdowns, three first downs and 48 tackles. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns to add to a powerful Carolina offense.
The Panthers initially attempted to place the franchise tag on Norman this season, but decided to take it back. This allowed Norman to sign a new contract with the Washington Redskins, who offered Norman a five-year contract worth $75 million. The loss of a cornerback like Panthers is a tough void for the team to fill. This key departure may prevent the Panthers from making a return to the Super Bowl.
6 Houston signs Osweiler for too much
While it was a shame for the Denver Broncos to allow quarterback Brock Osweiler to leave the team for the free agent market after last season, the Houston Texans may have paid a little too much for someone with limited experience as a starting quarterback in the NFL. In the first seven starts of his career, Osweiler had 1,967 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Truly, he should be a starter in the league.
But a four-year deal worth $72 million might be a little too much for someone who has only started seven games in four seasons. In his first big test as a full-time starter, Osweiler struggled against the New England Patriots on Sept. 22. Osweiler completed only 58.5 percent of his throws for 196 yards and one interception. That doesn’t sound like the type of performance you pay $72 million for.
5 Vikings give up a lot for QB Bradford
The Minnesota Vikings suffered a big blow to their season when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a freak knee injury. With losing their starter for the seasons, and possibly into next season, the Vikings had to find someone to help lead a talented offense and defense that was being considered a potential NFC Champion. While there are some veteran quarterbacks Minnesota targeted, they chose to trade with the Eagles for Sam Bradford.
Bradford has only played two full seasons in his career and has often been injured since 2013. Fans even pointed out that he hurt his non-throwing hand during his first start in purple and gold against the Packers, although he did get the win. Minnesota might have given up too much with a first round pick next year and a fourth-round pick in 2018, which can become a second or third round based on different conditions.
4 Green Bay signs TE Cook
Jared Cook has found some success as a tight end during his NFL career, but he’s never really been considered a top option that championship-caliber teams would put on their roster. The Green Bay Packers signed Cook over this past offseason, but many fans and experts were quick to point out that he dropped nearly 50 catchable passes last season.
That’s the sort of numbers that wouldn’t be tolerated in an offense led by Aaron Rodgers. Cook had a big drop in production during his last season with the Rams with only 481 yards and no touchdowns. This is coming off of two 600-yard seasons. He’s also shown some struggles being found by the Packers gunslinger early on in the 2016 season. Green Bay is a team that usually likes to spread the passing game around and a tight end who can’t catch can hurt the team.
3 Cleveland signs RGIII
The Cleveland Browns have never had a great history with quarterbacks, with an infamous storefront jersey that started with Tim Couch in 1999. The list of names since then had grown to 24. If it wasn’t for the store owner retiring the jersey, the 2016 season would have added a few more names. The Browns signed former Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to a two-year, $15 million contract.
While the team needed a starting quarterback, there were some concerns with the ability for Griffin to remain healthy. After an impressive rookie quarterback rating of 102.4 in 2012, he had several injuries including his right knee and a dislocated ankle. Griffin would suffer a fractured coracoid bone in his left shoulder during the first game of the season in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
2 Seahawks sign OT Webb
The majority of the Seattle Seahawks roster looks to be among the best in the league. They have one of the best quarterbacks, a very good wide receiving corps and the best scoring defense in the league. The biggest weakness that the Seahawks have is the offensive line. The departure of reliable veteran Russel Okung is just another example of the Seahawks losing talented tackles and guards.
But the Seahawks settled for J’Marcus Webb to be brought in for the left tackle competition to help protect star quarterback Russell Wilson. Webb is added into a mixture of inexperienced linemen who seem to be one of the worst in the NFL. The struggles providing protection for Wilson could be what fans have pointed to as a factor in Wilson getting hurt in the season opener. A team can’t score points to win games if they can’t get the proper protection.
1 Tampa Bay picks kicker in second round
Obviously, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weren’t happy with how Connor Barth was doing last season. There were a number of unrestricted free agent placekickers Tampa Bay could have looked at, which included Mason Crosby, Nick Novak and Josh Brown. But Tampa Bay decided to go to the NFL Draft. Tampa Bay decided to select former Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo – in the second round.
Because the Buccaneers felt they couldn’t wait to draft a kicker until later, they hoped it would have worked. But he struggled in the preseason with missed extra points. Those struggles seem to have followed him into the 2016 season. Again, the team decided to make him their second round choice over going after a proven veteran kicker already in the league.
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