The offseason is a unique time in the NFL calendar, full of blockbuster signings, shocking developments, and a ton of buzz surrounding the draft as teams endlessly scout and research the incoming crop of talent as they look to select their franchise's future stars. Across NFL fanbases, one feeling is fairly universal: optimism. Without actual games to discuss, even some of the most pessimistic teams can feel certain their team is pointed in the right direction, and that their under-the-radar backup offensive guard signing is just the thing their team needs to push them to the next level.
Of course, this is often not the case. Many big-name free agent signings go completely bust and many highly touted draft picks fail to make an impact at the next level. One needs to look no further than the 2011 Eagles "Dream Team" to see how fast offseason optimism can fall flat on it's face once the pads are on and the real season has started.
Of course, that doesn't stop anyone from speculating, discussing, and debating which teams had the best offseason and which big signings and draft picks will have the most impact in the coming season. This article will take a hard look at the teams that are out of that conversation, and may look even worse coming out of the offseason than they did going in. However, on a hopeful note, there are still many free agents out there, many moves still to come, and, of course, the NFL Draft looming at the end of the month for teams to turn their offseason around. Without further ado, let's jump in and look at 9 NFL Teams Who Are Losing In The Offseason: What Can They Do?
18 Losing: Pittsburgh Steelers
It's never been the Steelers' style to make big splashes in free agency, they prefer to build through the draft, and the development of players like Antonio Brown and Le'veon Bell into superstars is a testament to the effectiveness of the "Steeler Way." However, this offseason has been difficult for them on the defensive side of the ball. In an under-the-radar move, longtime stalwart middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons left to join the Miami Dolphins in free agency, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the defense.
While Ryan Shazier has the tools to be the best middle linebacker in the league, his injury history and the Steeler's 3-4 defensive scheme means depth at the position is a must. Vince Williams is currently slated to start alongside Shazier, but the former sixth-round pick might not be enough to hold down the center of the defense.
17 What Can They Do?
The Steelers pursued free agent ILB Dont'a Hightower hard, but lost him to the Patriots, meaning the team should turn their attention to the draft to bolster their defensive unit. With needs at outside linebacker and some holes in the secondary, it's not a lock they will go middle linebacker with the 30th pick in the first round of the draft.
If they do, though, Jarrad Davis of Florida makes for an attractive option. The Steelers love versatile linebackers, and Davis has flashed ability as a pass-rusher, run stopper, and is a true three-down player with the ability to drop and cover a tight end or running back on third down. With promising second year players in the secondary in Artie Burns and Sean Davis, hitting on a first round linebacker could help the Steelers return to form as one of the dominant defensive units in the NFL for years to come.
16 Losing: Chicago Bears
After a terrible 2016 season, the Bears needed to be aggressive in the offseason, and they were, with the team parting ways with disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler. His successor, Mike Glennon, does not exactly inspire a ton of confidence for Bears fan. To make matters worse, the Bears lost their top receiver, and one of the league's best in Alshon Jeffery, who left for the Eagles.
Signing disappointing former first-round pick Mark Sanchez as a backup and mentor was a move that showed the Bears are committed to Glennon as their quarterback of the future. Bringing in Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton at wide receiver is a good step, but neither can truly replace Alshon Jeffery. The Bears are still several moves away from being a serious contender.
15 What Can They Do?
Left tackle is a big need for the Bears, but there are no rookies with talent worthy of their third overall first round pick. With a breakout running back in Jordan Howard and a decent, if not spectacular wide receiver corps, the Bears need to use their first pick to address the defensive side of the ball.
LSU safety Jamal Adams is a name that has been mentioned for Chicago in draft rumors, and the move makes sense. Shoring up the back end of a very average defense will allow the Bears to focus on their run game in 2017 and will put Glennon in the best position possible to succeed. Ultimately, Glennon's performance will determine if the Bears offseason was successful or a mistake that sets the franchise back several more years.
14 Losing: Dallas Cowboys
After a strong 2016 season in which Dak Prescott took over the franchise and established himself as one of the brightest young stars in the league, the offseason buzz around the Cowboys focused on the drama surrounding former franchise quarterback Tony Romo. This overshadowed some of the Cowboys real difficulties, as poor cap management resulted in an alarming number of defensive starters leaving in free agency. Among those were cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Clairborne and safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. While they snagged CB Nolan Carrol from the rival Eagles, the Cowboy's secondary isn't scaring anyone, and in a division with star wide receivers such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Alshon Jeffery, the Cowboys urgently need a shutdown corner if they hope to repeat as NFC East champions in 2017.
13 What Can They Do?
The 2017 cornerback class is deep, but with the Cowboys picking at 28, they don't stand much chance at snagging a top guy like Marshon Lattimore or Marlon Humphrey without making an aggressive move to a higher pick in the first round. Snagging a good-looking prospect in the third or fourth round would be wise, but with Nolan Carroll and Orlando Scandrick on the roster the Cowboy's have two solid-but-not-spectacular options and desperately need a proven shut down guy.
This is why taking a look at former Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields makes sense. Shields is a veteran who would be a cheap option with proven experience as a number one cornerback. Signing him would be a low-risk move for the Cowboys that could pay off in a big way for their secondary.
12 Losing: Kansas City Chiefs
It's been a quiet offseason for the Chiefs, with the team doing little outside of locking up star safety Eric Berry. The Chiefs have been a solid team year after year, but have been unable to get over the hump in the AFC, leaving a lot of fans frustrated. Another early playoff exit following a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers has led to questions about Alex Smith's ability to get the team to a Super Bowl.
With no AFC Championship appearances since 1994 an playing in an increasingly competitive AFC West division, the Chiefs needed to make a splash this offseason and have not done so.
11 What Can They Do?
Draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The aging Alex Smith is not on the same level of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Derek Carr, and getting a jump start on the future will help them immensely, as both Brady and Roethlisberger are getting up there in age with only a few good seasons left. Alex Smith will be enough to keep the Chiefs squarely in the playoff picture, but if Mahomes is available when the Chiefs pick at 27th overall, the Chiefs need to take the Texas Tech QB.
Mahomes has athletic tools Smith never had and the potential to be a big time, game-breaking quarterback. Giving him a year or two to sit under Smith and sharpen his mechanics should put him in a good position to lead the Chiefs of the future.
10 Losing: Seattle Seahawks
The talented Seahawks need help on the offensive line to make a push back to the Super Bowl after a disappointing divisional round loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Signing Luke Joeckel a former second overall pick that has had a disappointing, injury-filled career with the Jacksonville Jaguars was not the splash they needed.
Signing Eddie Lacy to a one-year deal was a good idea with Marshawn Lynch moving on, but a running back is only as good as his offensive line, and the Seahawks have dropped the ball in that regard so far this offseason.
9 What Can They Do?
Trade Richard Sherman. The outspoken yet undeniably talented cornerback has been feuding with coach Pete Carroll, and there have been plenty of trade rumors floating around as the Seahawks have openly shopped the veteran corner.
The four-time Pro Bowler is a top player at his position, and could fetch as high as a first round draft choice from interested suitors, including the Oakland Raiders. Sherman wants to go to a good team, and the Seahawks will be choosy while shopping their star defender, but there are several good teams that could use an upgrade at cornerback. Trading Sherman for a proven star on the offensive line or for a haul of draft picks would eliminate a locker room distraction and put the Seahawks in a better position for the coming season.
8 Losing: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders were a serious contender 2016, before an unfortunate injury to quarterback Derek Carr ended their Super Bowl aspirations. The team is poised to compete again in 2017, and ready for their chance to challenge the Patriots and Steelers for the AFC crown. Unfortunately, a quiet offseason wasn't what this team needed, as they lost running back Latavius Murray to the Vikings.
The Raiders have no real alternative to Murray on their roster, and without a good running threat teams will be able to focus on shutting down their explosive passing attack in 2017. With a move to Las Vegas looming, Oakland fans are desperate for a big season from their legendary team.
7 What Can They Do?
Two words: Beast Mode. Former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch retired this year, but has made headlines with a rumored return to football with the Oakland Raiders. The bruising back would be a major upgrade for the Silver and Black, and his ties to the Oakland community make this move almost a no-brainer.
What's the hold up, then? The situation with Seattle appears to be messy and unresolved, with him still tied to the Seahawk's roster pending his release or trade. Lynch's unpredictable personality is also a factor, with recent rumors tying him to the Patriots. The Raiders need to do whatever possible to get Lynch on their roster for the 2017 season.
6 Losing: Cincinnati Bengals
A tough 2016 season that saw the Bengals finish 6-9-1 and squarely behind the Steelers and Ravens in the AFC North, they have not had the offseason needed to get back in contention. In fact, they've gotten worse. They lost two offensive lineman in Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, as well as their defensive captain, nose tackle Domata Peko.
Resigning cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was an important move to stop the bleeding, but otherwise the Bengals are a depleted team that might be resigned to a difficult few years if they are unable to turn themselves around. With talented offensive stars like Andy Dalton and AJ Green but not enough pieces around them, this draft will be an important one for Cincinnati.
5 What Can They Do?
Draft Christian McCaffrey with the ninth overall pick in the draft. The Stanford running back has been one of the most talked-about prospects in the build up to the draft. Giovanni Bernard has had trouble with injuries and Jeremy Hill just isn't the answer. Adding an offensive star like McCaffrey would be a splash move that could reinject life into the Cincinnati franchise.
The shifty running back would pair up with Bernard to give the Bengals two home-run hitters in the backfield, along with Hill for goal-line situations. With an offense like the Steelers at the top of the AFC North, making a big move for a skill position player with an eye to the future is necessary for the Bengals to keep up.
4 Losing: Houston Texans
The Texans offseason featured one of the most bizarre trades we've seen in a while, as they sent failed quarterback Brock Osweiler and a second round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns, basically in exchange for not having to pick up the tab on the rest of Osweiler's massive contract.
Then there was the Tony Romo situation: the Texans had interest in the Cowboys quarterback, but he ultimately retired to go into broadcasting, leaving Houston with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden on the roster at quarterback.
3 What Can They Do?
Sign Colin Kaepernick. The former 49ers quarterback has surprisingly seen little buzz as a free agent, but he can be effective with the Texans in 2017. A definite upgrade from Savage or Weeden, the athletic quarterback would pair well with DeAndre Hopkins to give the Texans an explosive air attack. With a good defense anchored by J.J. Watt and talented running back Lamar Miller in the backfield, Kaepernick could be exactly what the team needs to get back to the postseason. He's talented, experienced, and won't cost too much. This move makes too much sense for the Texans not to pull the trigger. If it fails, the Texans are no worse off than they are now. If it succeeds, the Texans could be a legit contender next year.
2 Losing: New York Jets
Is there a franchise in more disarray than the New York Jets? The organization is struggling, and did not start a total rebuild this offseason as many fans were hoping. Josh McCown currently sits on top of their quarterback depth chart, and with Brandon Marshall going to the Giants, the uninspiring McCown does not have much to work with at all.
The Jets did not go big in free agency, instead signing average players to fill holes such as solid offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum and cornerback Morris Claiborne. In an AFC East that is clearly the Patriot's division to lose until Brady eventually retires, the Jets have done nothing to get anywhere close to competing.
1 What Can They Do?
Go after Jay Cutler. The troubled quarterback still has the physical tools to be a top NFL quarterback, and at 33, could still have five solid seasons left in him. Cutler would be an immediate and noticeable upgrade over Josh McCown and be a piece for the Jets to build around. With Brady turning 40 this year, taking a chance on Cutler and building around him gives the Jets a chance to turn the ship around in the next few years and potentially return to competitiveness.
Cutler hasn't generated a lot of free agent buzz, meaning the asking price will be low. With the right deal, Cutler is a low-risk option that just makes sense for New York.