More or less, free agency and the NFL Draft are a crapshoot. When the New York Jets acquired Brandon Marshall after the 2014 season, I thought it was a trade that made no sense and that Gang Green would regret it without a quarterback…only to see Marshall post some of the best seasons in franchise history – and make Ryan Fitzptatrick look competent in 2015!
On the other hand, I thought Chad Ochocinco going to the New England Patriots in 2011 and the Cleveland Browns drafting Johnny Manziel were each brilliant moves… but in my defense, Bill Belichick had proven to be great with cast-offs. I can’t really defend being on the Manziel train as much as I was in 2014 at this point, though at least I didn’t have him going first overall!
In all seriousness, the transition period that is the new league year and players – and coaches – joining up with new teams is a crapshoot because we can only predict so much. How many people thought that the Oakland Raiders were taking a reach on Khalil Mack because he was coming out of a small school (SUNY Buffalo) in the 2014 NFL Draft?
However, predicting things based on fact and logic is much different than the hot takes delivered by pundits and bloggers who have done no research on the topic at hand. Today, using logic and facts and football (!!!), let’s try to look at some of the biggest moves – or non-moves – from this NFL offseason and determine which ones teams are bound to regret come the season’s start.
15. Tennessee Titans: Reaching on Corey Davis
On one hand, I think Corey Davis has the potential to be a dangerous threat in the Titans’ offense, especially if Marcus Mariota can return to full strength and doesn’t have the mental issues that bother some quarterbacks after such a serious leg injury. However, I do think that the Titans had more pressing needs than taking a project wide receiver in Corey Davis.
With two first-round picks as a result of the Jared Goff trade, the Titans could have used their first pick at linebacker (though I’ll give them a pass because I don’t think Haason Reddick should have been the pick here and Reuben Foster had injury concerns or defensive back (I’d really have liked to see Jamal Adams in this system) – or even take Clemson’s Mike Williams – but Davis was instead the pick. I get why the Titans pounced early on a wideout, but Davis is too much of a reach and a project or me to support it.
14. Cincinnati Bengals: Retaining Marvin Lewis
When it comes to Marvin Lewis as a person, I hold nothing against the guy; he’s a good person – I briefly met him a few years back and he really cares about both the Bengals and the game of football – but I do have to wonder if the Bengals are alright with repeating the same thing over and over again with the veteran head coach. We’ve all seen the numbers about how he has no playoff wins in seven tries, including five straight postseason appearances from 2011-15, and we all know that the Bengals are in more of a win-now state than they’ll ever admit.
In no manner am I rooting for Lewis to lose his job, but I do think that this Groundhog Day mentality of keeping him around year after year only to fail has to stop soon. Some will praise the Bengals for wanting to keep consistency in the organization – and I do think he’s the right man for all of those colorful personalities in the locker room – but this could be Lewis’s last year at the helm if things don’t change.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: Not adding a backup quarterback
When you know that you can’t do something or that you need medicine for something, it’s important that you do whatever it takes to avoid a bad situation. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, who routinely see quarterback Ben Roethlisberger banged up and miss time, they should have gone into this offseason with the clear goal of adding an established backup quarterback not named Landry Jones who could fill in for their future Hall of Fame quarterback if an injury does occur.
Instead, barring a signing over the next two months, the Steelers will enter training camp with Jones again serving as Big Ben’s backup while Tennessee product Joshua Dobbs develops. Why? Why would the Steelers think Jones is a suitable backup? Even it was adding someone like Matt Schaub or Kellen Clemens, anything has to be better than Jones in that spot, right?
12. Kansas City Chiefs: Trading up for Patrick Mahomes II
This is a tough one because really, even if you don’t believe in immediate draft grades (I personally do in terms of on-paper fits and if that pick fills a need), we’re not likely to see much of Mahomes II until 2018 at the earliest. However, while Kansas City did need a quarterback prospect for the future, was it really worth trading their first and third-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft and next year’s first-rounder to Buffalo for Mahomes II when they could have taken another signal-caller later (i.e. Dobbs)?
My issue isn’t so much adding Mahomes, who would have been a fine pick anyways and makes sense, but it’s trading up for him. If I’m the Chiefs and I can trade up, why not address a bigger position of need like linebacker (Hassan Reddick, maybe?) with that first pick? Like with Oakland, this is a nitpick and it’s far from the major errors that some of these other teams made, but it’s still good food for thought.
11. Arizona Cardinals: Not drafting a quarterback
All the talk we heard leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft was that the Arizona Cardinals, entering the twilight years of Carson Palmer’s career, were going to seek out a replacement in the form of a Deshaun Watson (no…), Patrick Mahomes II (yes!), or Davis Webb (yes!!). Instead, while the Cardinals still had a fantastic draft and really filled some key holes, they’re still without a long-term option at quarterback!
Well, that’s not entirely true, as they did land ex-Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight as a priority free agent, but this is a decision they may regret if Palmer struggles in the preseason and early on. Without a true heir to push Palmer, the lack of ambition and drive that seemed to plague the Cardinals at times last year could make a return, which Bruce Arians and company absolutely need to avoid if they’re to make the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Not addressing the offensive line enough
I’m aware that this is one of the weirder options on this list – especially because I’ve praised the Eagles acquiring Chance Warmack in the past – but hear me out. Carson Wentz is a young, mobile quarterback who can make plays with his arms and with his legs. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles, the Eagles’ main running backs, are getting up there in age (Mathews will turn 30 this October but was plagued by injuries earlier in his career, while Sproles is set to turn 34 next month). The Eagles added LeGarrette Blount, but Blount hasn’t had much success outside of New England.
With all of that factored in – and center Jason Kelce, who will be 30 in November, having much wear and tear underneath him – am I the only one who thinks the Eagles will regret not going after more offensive linemen? Between Pro Bowler Jason Peters entering his age 35 season and Lane Johnson missing a good chunk of last year following a suspension, I expected the Eagles to end up with someone like Dan Feeney through the draft…but they didn’t draft a single offensive lineman! Given, this was a weak class, but still!
9. Oakland Raiders: Not adding a backup quarterback
Like with the Steelers, the Oakland Raiders didn’t have an awful offseason and actually had some great picks on paper in the NFL Draft (whether or not you feel that Gareon Conley is a good pick is too early to be determined) but there’s one thing that Reggie McKenzie and crew did that bothers me: they didn’t add a veteran backup quarterback to serve behind Derek Carr.
By no means am I saying that the Raiders should have overpaid for a Mike Glennon or Brian Hoyer, nor am I saying that Connor Cook doesn’t have the potential to be a good backup in this league, but my concern is how Carr will perform mentally after such a devastating injury last year. Will he be skittish in the pocket? Will he try to run out of bounds or force quick passes? With a veteran quarterback on staff, they can talk Carr through everything and give Oakland a reliable backup if the former Fresno State star has any complications.
8. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson
Apparently, people are confused why I don’t like Watson’s pro prospects and I’m seemingly ‘rooting for him to fail’ with the Texans. Again, I’m not rooting against any of these guys, but Watson didn’t stand out to me as anything higher than a third-round pick because he’s a project; there are still too many mechanical issues that he needs to fix and I’m concerned about his advancement to a pro offense.
With that said, Houston is another team who needed to add a long-term quarterback, but Watson isn’t that guy right now and may not turn out to be. If this was someone coming from a pro-style offense that had the mechanics ready to start on day one, that’d be an entirely different conversation, but this? With quarterback options they could have considered later and all of the players still on the board who filled needs (Malik Hooker? Marlon Humphrey? I’ll even raise you Adoree’ Jackson!), the Texans took a project player who will likely be starting by midseason and getting destroyed by defenses. Yuck…
7. New York Jets: Not trading Sheldon Richardson (yet)
Now listen, I understand that Sheldon Richardson’s trade stock isn’t what it would have been a couple of years ago – and I also understand that a trade in the coming months is still possible – but it’s hard to defend the Jets sticking to their guns (no pun intended) with the former Defensive Rookie of the Year. In this league, anyone is tradeable and in this league, there are coaches and owners who think they can ‘cure’ players with character issues. Was no one really interested in trading for Richardson?
Is there a chance that Richardson can regain his 2013 form and become a solid pass rusher for the Jets this season? Sure. Would it maybe have made more sense for them to see if they could offload him for a fourth/fifth-rounder and a conditional pick? If that’s what it will take to get Richardson out of that locker room, then maybe.
6. Los Angeles Rams: Not finding a top receiving option for Jared Goff
Maybe the idea that a young, growing quarterback needs dangerous weapons around him in order to properly succeed is a myth – fine, I’ll acknowledge that it’s not always the case – but do the Rams really want Jared Goff to have a successful NFL career? Of all the offensive targets available in free agency and the NFL Draft (which the Rams get a slight pass on because they didn’t have a first-round pick), these are the new guys that Goff will be throwing to in 2017.
– Robert Woods, a mediocre receiver who failed in Buffalo.
– Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, two interesting wide receiving prospects who will likely need a bit of development.
– Gerald Everett, a second-round tight end who many had going in the late third-round at the earliest. Everett was taken instead of East Carolina prospect Zay Jones.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Signing A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell
Back when free agency started, I examined players that would thrive with their new teams and players who would make Albert Haynesworth look like an icon with the Washington Redskins. My take on Bouye remains the same, as I argued, “Why would A.J. Bouye leave Houston, a team that is going to be in the hunt for the AFC South title every year with that killer defense, for a Jacksonville team that is a perennial loser?”
With Campbell, however, my newer issue is that the Jaguars only added one pass rusher in the 2017 NFL Draft: Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot, a defensive end that will help…but we don’t know how much. After some really productive years with the Arizona Cardinals, Campbell is entering his age 31 season and was given a four-year, $60 million deal with $30 million guaranteed – meaning that even if the Jaguars wanted to go out and get a pass rusher early, he’d likely to have sit behind Campbell because of the financial obligation.
4. Los Angeles Chargers: Russell Okung
Another signing I wasn’t a fan of in that article, some will suggest that the real mistake for the Chargers this offseason was not adding a quarterback in the NFL Draft. Given that Rivers is still playing at a capable level and doesn’t have the wear and tear that Roethlisberger does, I’m alright with the Chargers forgoing a quarterback now to select someone in next year’s draft – or, potentially, find someone on the waiver wire.
But signing Okung to a $53 million deal – with $25M guaranteed – over the next four years when he’s so injury prone? To the Chargers’ credit, they at least drafted arguably the top two offensive linemen in this draft class in Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp and Indiana’s Dan Feeney. Oh, and Los Angeles may have also found an early replacement for Okung in tackle Sam Tevi, a sixth-round pick from Utah.
3. Chicago Bears: The quarterback payday
When I say I wasn’t opposed to the Chicago Bears signing Mike Glennon to that huge contract in March, that’s not a hot take resulting from the Mitchell Trubisky trade – I was vocal about it in that free agency article! My issue with the Mike Glennon contract as it stands is pretty much the same one that everyone else has: if the Bears were going into the NFL Drat openly considering a quarterback so early, why overpay Glennon?
Now, in addition to Glennon’s $45 million contract, the Bears are going to have Mitchell Trubisky on a rookie contract which still pays pretty well when you go second overall in the draft. At this point, the Bears one realistic option which is attempt to work something out with Glennon where he’d be essentially guaranteed the season as a starter barring injury or awfulness. This, everyone, is why for as much ridicule as we give the Jets, we can laugh and say that they’re not the Bears!
2. Carolina Panthers: Matt Kalil
“Wanting to protect Cam Newton should have been a priority for the Panthers, but putting someone who can’t stay healthy and is a poor offensive lineman when he is healthy in charge of that seems like a mistake.” Pretty much my entire argument from that free agency article can be made again here with Kalil, who was given a five-year, $55 million contract with $25 million guaranteed. What?
But, to the Panthers’ credit, they attempted to improve their offensive line in the NFL Draft by taking Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton, who I viewed as a potential sleeper pick. This was a weak offensive line class which is why Kalil got paid the big bucks to do nothing but get hurt, yet the Panthers still made an attempt – and, thankfully, didn’t reach for a lineman with the eighth overall pick. Maybe there’s still some hope in Carolina!
1. Washington Redskins: Not finding a long-term solution for Kirk Cousins
At times, I’ve compared the relationship between Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins to the one that Brett Favre had with his various employers (mainly the Green Bay Packers) in the mid 2000s to early 2010s: will he or won’t he? Will Cousins stay long-term in Washington, or will he bolt when the front office decides they don’t want to give the former fourth-rounder the franchise tag yet again.
It’s moments like this that lead to drama and tension, two things that are most certainly not needed in the Redskins locker room right now. If the Redskins are serious about going all-in with Cousins, then they should have worked something out; and if they think they could have succeeded without him or didn’t see him staying long-term, they should have figured something out. Instead, Cousins is essentially going into 2017 as a lame duck quarterback and the Redskins are going into the season with no clear future at a position where they need one.
Which teams do you think made the biggest mistakes this offseason? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!
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