The NFL offseason is the most optimistic time of the year. Things move far quicker in football than in any other sport. Players enter the league in their early 20s, hit their prime in a year or two, and then begin to regress half a decade later. This allows for even the worst teams to have a chance to instantly turn everything around and be back on top.
It makes the offseason far more competitive. Owners aren't satisfied with a rebuild taking longer than a few years. General Managers and Head Coaches are under immense pressure to come out ahead each and every offseason. That means hitting on first round picks, finding stars late in the draft, winning in contract negotiations, and knowing when to spend money on free agents and when to hold back. It's a lot to ask, but that's what it takes to be the best.
With the offseason behind us, we can look back and see which General Managers made all the right moves and which ones will be praying for their players to bail them out.
32 Kansas City Chiefs
Best Move: Signing Mitchell Schwartz
Mitchell Schwartz has been a solid tackle for the Cleveland Browns since being drafted by the team in the second round of the 2012 draft. At just 27 years old, he's a player the Chiefs can build their offensive line around along with Eric Fisher.
Worst Move: Letting Sean Smith Leave
Kansas City had one of the NFL's better defensive backfields in 2015. Sean Smith, Eric Berry, and rookie Marcus Peters were all special players.
Failing to re-sign Sean Smith will leave a noticeable dent on the Chiefs' defense. To make matters worse, Smith stayed within the division and signed with the Raiders.
31 Denver Broncos
Best Move: Signing Russell Okung
Russell Okung's contract situation was one of the more interesting storylines of the offseason. Okung decided to negotiate the contract himself instead of working with an agent.
On the surface it seems fine. It's a 5 year deal worth $53 million - a fair price. However, the contract includes a team option after the first year. Essentially the Broncos have him on a 1 year deal worth just $5 million.
Worst Move: Matching C.J. Anderson's Offer Sheet
Denver faced a lot of rough choices this offseason. With the salary cap and all their free agents, they could only afford to keep a handful of them.
One of the most questionable moves they made was committing so much money to C.J. Anderson. They had little room to work with and they spent $18 million over four years on a player who has been highly erratic over his tenure with the team.
30 Seattle Seahawks
Best Move: Drafting Germain Ifedi
This is pretty simple: the Seahawks badly needed offensive line help and they got it. They brought in Germain Ifedi at the end of the first round; an athletic interior lineman who can be an impact player early on.
Worst Move: Losing Russell Okung
As talented as the Seahawks are, they have struggled to put together a solid offensive line. They've heavily relied upon Russell Wilson's playmaking ability to make things happen. That is far from a sound game plan. While they added key pieces in the draft, it only makes up for what they lost in free agency. They need to be building and improving their offensive line.
29 Cincinnati Bengals
Best Move: Re-signing George Iloka
George Iloka was the best safety available this offseason. Even still, the Bengals managed to lock him up for five years on a modest $30 million dollar deal. That is considerably less than what Tashaun Gipson and Rodney McLeod got.
Worst Move: Failing To Replace Lost Talent
It's hard to criticize Cincinnati for losing Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. Matching the offers they received in free agency would have been a terrible decision. However, they still need to take steps to replace them, as we don't believe Brandon LaFell is enough and we're not sure if rookie Tyler Boyd will be able to fill their shoes. After A.J.Green, their starting receivers are highly concerning and their depth is non-existent.
28 Pittsburgh Steelers
Best Move: Re-Signing Ramon Foster for Nothing
Ramon Foster has been a key piece of the Steelers offensive line since coming into the league in 2009. The guard re-signed with Pittsburgh early in March on a three year contract worth a total of $9.6 million. That is just about half of what he could have gotten on the open market.
Worst Move: Drafting Artie Burns
The Steelers will be a strong playoff contender in the AFC and they have a massive need in their defensive back field. Drafting a corner was a solid move, but Artie Burns is a huge project. The Steelers need immediate help and Burns does not fit the bill.
27 Carolina Panthers
Best Move: Bringing Back Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson has been a force off the edge ever since coming into the league in 2007 with the Panthers. Unfortunately, he had a down year in 2015 where he only recorded 5 tackles and a single sack. The Panthers elected to release him and save $11 million in cap space.
Fortunately, they re-signed him about a week later at a reduced salary. He's only a single year removed from recording 8.5 sacks. If he can prove last year was just a fluke, he'll be an absolute steal with a cap hit of just over $2.5 million.
Worst Move: Rescinding the Franchise Tag on Josh Norman
Rescinding the franchise tag on Josh Norman was one of the strangest moves of the offseason. The Panthers are going into the season as a very strong Super Bowl contender and another All-Pro on defense can make all the difference in the playoffs.
They didn't reinvest the money either, as they will enter the season with nearly $25 million in cap space.
26 Detroit Lions
Best Move: Re-signing Darius Slay
Darius Slay has been a cornerstone of Detroit's defense ever since being drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft. The shutdown corner got rewarded with an impressive four year extension worth $48 million. Just under half of the total money is guaranteed. It's a great deal for both sides.
Worst Move: Overpaying for Marvin Jones
Marvin Jones has been a decent receiver over the past couple years with the Bengals. 2015 was the best year of his career in which he recorded 816 yards and 4 touchdowns. While solid, it isn't the type of production that warrants $8 million per year until 2020.
25 Green Bay Packers
Best Move: Drafting Kenny Clark
The sudden retirement of 29 year old defensive tackle BJ Raji left a hole in the front of Green Bay's defense. To fill it, they selected UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark.
Clark was one of the most talented runs stuffers in the class. He'll be immediately ready to step into the starting lineup.
Worst Move: Letting Casey Hayward Go
It's hard to find quality defensive backs in the NFL. Green Bay had one of them in Casey Hayward. However, for whatever reason, they allowed San Diego pry the 26 year old corner away with a modest offer of $15.3 million over three years.
24 Los Angeles Rams
Best Move: Trading up for Jared Goff
With a few exceptions, a franchise quarterback is required to become a Super Bowl contender. Sitting back and waiting for one to come wasn't an option for Los Angeles. They have a defense filled with stars as well as a feature running back. Failing to get a QB within the next few years means throwing away everything they've built.
There's a chance it doesn't work out and they waste everything they spent to move up. But that's far better than sitting back and doing nothing while the team fails to become a legitimate threat.
Worst Move: Losing Rodney McLeod
The Rams had a highly talented secondary in 2015. Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins, and Rodney McLeod were the core pieces. Losing Jenkins was almost a given, especially after the insane offer he got from the Giants.
However, McLeod was an important piece they should have fought harder to keep. In the end, the 26 year old safety signed a modest five year deal that pays out an average of $7 million per year with the Eagles.
This will have a very noticeable impact on the defense.
23 Baltimore Ravens
Best Move: Signing Eric Weddle
Eric Weddle has been one of the best safeties in the NFL since coming into the league in 2007 with the Chargers. The veteran has struggled recently which allowed the Ravens to sign him to a team-friendly contract. It's a four year deal worth $26 million, however the Ravens will be able to get out of the contract after the 2nd year if it isn't working out.
This is a very low risk/ high reward contract for Baltimore.
Worst Move: Letting Kelechi Osemele Walk
Osemele is one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the game. He had spent a lot of time playing guard for the Ravens, but his future with the team appeared to be at left tackle.
Baltimore was tight against the cap entering the offseason and wasn't comfortable committing so much money to Osemele. After all, the Raiders are paying him nearly $12 million a year. But Baltimore was certainly able to squeeze him in. In fact, they have $14.5 million in cap space right now. Left tackle is one of the most important positions in the NFL. The Ravens had theirs and they let him leave.
It's also worth noting that if Baltimore kept Osemele, it would have freed up the sixth overall pick. Instead of drafting Ronnie Stanley, they could have picked up Deforest Buckner. It would have filled their needs on both the offensive and defensive line.
22 Indianapolis Colts
Best Move: Targeting Offensive Line in the Draft
The Colts have struggled to protect Andrew Luck, last year especially. They made an excellent decision in revamping the offensive line in this draft.
Their first round pick was Center Ryan Kelly out of Alabama. They followed up on it in the third round with Tackle Le'Raven Clark. They also selected Joe Haeg in the fifth, a popular sleeper due to his freakish athleticism.
Worst Move: Overpaying for Dwayne Allen
Dwayne Allen received a four year deal that pays out an average of $7.35 million per year. This is for a tight end who has recorded just over 500 years in the past two years combined.
Allen is a valuable member of the offense. Though it's hard to see how he is worth it at this price.
Indianapolis had a massively disappointing year in 2015. They were expected by many to make a deep playoff run but ended up failing to even make the playoffs. Overall, it appears they're banking on last season being a fluke.
21 San Francisco 49ers
Best Move: Drafting DeForest Buckner
At 6-7, 290 lbs DeForest Buckner is a massive and unstoppable athlete on the defensive line. He's going to be a 3-4 defensive end, but has the versatility and athleticism to play many different roles.
Buckner will be an impact player for a long time in San Francisco.
Worst Move: Drafting Joshua Garnett
San Francisco drafted Joshua Garnett with the 28th overall pick after trading back into the first round. If the 49ers stayed where they were at 37th overall, taking Garnett still would have been a reach. The value there was pitiful.
20 New York Jets
Best Move: Re-signing Ryan Fitzpatrick
Entering 2015, the Jets were coming off a four win season. They brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick in what was seemingly an insignificant trade. Instead, he ended up leading the team to a solid 10-win season with a top ten offense.
Retaining Fitzpatrick will put the team in contention for a playoff spot.
Worst Move: Drafting Christian Hackenberg
Christain Hackenberg is a massive project at quarterback. Drafting him in the second round offers the team no chance at an immediate starter and a relatively small shot as the long term answer. In other words, he offers New York exactly what they already had at quarterback.
Entering the offseason, the Jets were a borderline playoff team. Exiting the offseason, they're still a borderline playoff team. Over the past several years, it feels like it's been the same thing with the Jets. Their goal for the upcoming season is continuously just to make it into the playoffs and then build off of that next season.
19 Dallas Cowboys
Best Move: Signing Cedric Thornton
Last year, Dallas' run defense was among the league's worst. To remedy the situation, they made one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. They brought in defensive tackle Cedric Thornton. According to Pro Football Focus, Thornton was the third best 3-4 DE against the run, behind J.J. Watt and Calias Campbell.
The signing has the added bonus of taken a talented player away from a division rival. The Eagles relied upon Thornton heavily over the past few years.
Worst Move: Failing to Acquire a Proper #2 Quarterback
Last year, the Cowboys decided to roll with Brandon Weeden as their number 2. After Romo went down, he got a chance to prove himself. He failed badly. He ended up getting cut half way through the season after going 0-3.
Dallas appears to have learned nothing as they enter 2016 with Dak Prescott next in line behind Romo. The rookie has seen next to no action in his career and is not a good player to bank on at this point in his career.
18 Washington Redskins
Best Move: Drafting Josh Doctson
DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon make up one of the more average wide receiver duos in the NFL. However, both are somewhat past their prime and won't be reliable players for the team in the near future.
Addressing the issue in advance with the selection of Josh Doctson was an excellent move. They got a great value with the pick and can give him some time to easily transition into the NFL.
Worst Move: Signing Josh Norman
Washington made Josh Norman the highest paid corner this offseason after having only a single standout season on the most corner-friendly defense in the NFL. This isn't the best recipe for success. While we also put Carolina on blast for letting him leave, they likely could've got some kind of a hometown discount, which Norman clearly didn't give Washington.
17 Atlanta Falcons
Best Move: Signing Alex Mack
Entering the offseason, the Falcons desperately needed to get more talented in the trenches. Bringing in one of the NFL's best centers is a massive step in the right direction. With so much talent at the skill positions, it's critical that they be given time and space to work with.
Worst Move: Signing Mohamed Sanu to a Five Year, $32.5 Million Contract
The Falcons needed a talented wide receiver to play opposite of Julio Jones. Mohamed Sanu was a reasonable player to target, but they vastly overpaid. In four years, Sanu has recorded at least 500 yards just once. Yet, as it stands he'll be the Falcons fifth highest paid player in 2017.
16 Cleveland Browns
Best Move: Drafting Corey Coleman
What Cleveland did in the draft was highly impressive. They traded down several times and still got an impact player at a skill position. Everything we've seen from Corey Coleman suggests he is going to be a star at wide receiver.
Worst Move: Failing to Re-sign Tashaun Gipson
Cleveland lost a lot of talent in free agency. They signaled to the league that they were going to start from scratch and rebuild the team. Allowing many of those players to walk made sense, as there's no point in keeping veterans who can't help the team in a few years when they're just hitting their stride.
However, if any of their pending free agents were part of the solution, it was Tashaun Gipson. The free safety wasn't an elite defensive back, but he was solid. At just 26 years old, he still has a bright future in the NFL.
15 Philadelphia Eagles
Best Move: Trading Up for Carson Wentz
The Eagles are more talented than many give them credit for. The star power on defense has been masked over the past several years by the system employed by Chip Kelly.
Ultimately, it's unlikely that the Eagles would be in a good position to take a quarterback within the next several years. They saw their opportunity and they jumped on it. It was a risk, but it's impossible to say when they would have gotten another chance.
Worst Move: Chase Daniel Contract
The Eagles are committed to giving Wentz the time he needs to develop. In the event that Bradford plays terrible or gets injured, the Eagles wanted to have a capable backup to replace him, so there isn't additional pressure to play Wentz before he's ready. There is nothing wrong with that plan.
The thing is, they didn't need to spend $21 million for that. They could have just kept Mark Sanchez, who would have been fine in that role. Instead, they traded him away, saving $3.5 million, and then signed Chase Daniel to a three year deal worth $21 million, with over half of it guaranteed.
The Eagles have spent this offseason attempting to dismantle everything Chip Kelly built. They got rid of most of his mistakes, locked up core players, and brought in solid mid-tier free agents. If you limit it to those things, it looks like a fantastic offseason for Philadelphia.
14 New Orleans Saints
Best Move: Drafting Michael Thomas
The Saints needed another target for Drew Brees to alongside Brandon Cooks. At this stage, it looks like they got a steal with Michael Thomas in the second round. Brees has reportedly gotten very comfortable with the Ohio State wide out. He made nice plays in practice and followed it up with a solid first preseason game.
Worst Move: Overpaying for Coby Fleener
Coby Fleener has been a solid tight end for the Colts, averaging just over 500 yards a season since coming into the league in 2012. That isn't quite worth $7.2 million per year until 2020 though.
13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best Move: Drafting Noah Spence
The Buccaneers have core pieces on defense and now it's time to build around them. Noah Spence brings nearly unlimited potential at the most important position on defense. He had off-the-field issues in college, but he appears to be past it. He could easily go down as one of the biggest steals in the draft.
Worst Move: Overpaying for JR Sweezy
J.R. Sweezy is a frustrating player to watch. He excels at run blocking, but can be a massive liability in pass protection. More often than not, he'll be the lineman that Buccaneer fans are screaming at over the television.
Signing him was fine, as there are certainly worse options. But giving him a five year deal worth $32.5 million was a bit much.
Tampa Bay are in a fantastic spot in 2016. They have immense talent at many of the most important positions in football. It would not be surprising at all to see them in contention at the end of the season. At the same time, they're still in the process of rebuilding their roster. A poor record wouldn't go down as a terrible failure.
12 New England Patriots
Best Move: Trading For Martellus Bennett
Martellus Bennett has been a fantastic weapon on offense for the Bears and Jay Cutler over the past several years. The Patriots managed to acquire him for just a fourth round pick. They'll be able to combine him with Rob Gronkowski to form the threatening two tight end set Belichick loves so much.
Worst Move: Failing to Acquire a Solid #2 Wide Receiver
Julian Edelman is a great number 1 option for Tom Brady. However, there is almost no depth behind him. Danny Amendola hasn't been an overly reliable player his entire career. Chris Hogan has potential, but has yet to hit just 500 receiving yards in a season.
We all know Tom Brady can make do with anything he's given, but it would be nice to see him with proper targets at wide out.
11 Buffalo Bills
Best Move: Extending Tyrod Taylor
Quarterbacks today earn an absolute killing. The best can earn between $22 and $25 million a year - and that number is constantly going up.
The Bills took a risk in signing Taylor to a long term extension now. He only has one full season under his belt and it's uncertain if he'll be able to continue at that pace.
If Taylor works out, they'll have a massive bargain contract that will allow them to address many other areas of the team. If he doesn't work out, they wouldn't have been overly competitive anyway and they'll be able to get out of the contract.
Worst Move: Failing to Acquire a Proper #2 Quarterback
Tyrod Taylor has the potential miss a game or two due to his style of play. After everything we've seen over the past few years, it is safe to say that EJ Manuel is not the guy the Bills should count on to step up; even if it's just for a few games.
10 Houston Texans
Best Move: Signing Brock Osweiler
Houston has been getting heavily criticized for the decision to sign an unproven quarterback to a $72 million contract.
They had few options though. Despite having the NFL's third best defense, they went out quickly and easily in the playoffs due to poor quarterback play. They either had to make a bold move for a quarterback that can turn them into a legit contender, or do nothing and waste a highly talented defense.
Worst Move: Losing Ben Jones
The Texans suffered two big losses on the interior of their offensive line this offseason in Brandon Brooks and Ben Jones. It's hard to criticize the team for losing Brooks, as he got a massive contract offer from the Eagles that made him one of the highest paid interior linemen in the NFL.
However, the Ben Jones situation is not nearly as forgivable. Houston lost their starting center to a relatively modest offer from a division rival when the Titans inked him to a four year deal worth $17.5 million.
9 San Diego Chargers
Best Move: Signing Casey Hayward
Casey Hayward has been a standout defensive back for the Packers over the past several years. At just 26 years old, the corner will be an insanely valuable asset for San Diego. Signing him for just over $5 million per year was one of the biggest free agency steals of the offseason.
Worst Move: No plan for Rivers Going Down
San Diego currently has Kellen Clemens listed as their number two quarterback. Clemens has been in the league for a decade now and only has 21 starts in his career. He has never been an impressive quarterback in his limited action. If the Chargers are forced to give him any significant amount of time, it could derail their season very quickly.
San Diego replaced their aging veterans with younger alternatives in free agency. They had one of the NFL's best draft classes, with the selections of Joey Bosa (who still hasn't signed, however) and Hunter Henry.
8 Tennessee Titans
Best Move: Trading Down
The Titans got quite a deal from the Rams in exchange for Jared Goff. They ended up getting the 15th overall pick, two 2016 second round picks, a 2016 third round pick, a 2017 first round pick, and a 2017 third round pick. These are insanely valuable pieces for a rebuilding team.
Worst Move: Passing on Laremy Tunsil
Tennessee was expected to take Laremy Tunsil with the first overall pick if they elected to stay there. When they traded out, it was assumed that they were out of contention. However, the situation regarding the video that came up minutes before the draft caused one of the most surprising draft slides in NFL history.
The Titans almost got an insane steal when they traded up to the 8th overall pick. Instead, they went with Jack Conklin.
It's easy to see why they passed on Tunsil, but that doesn't change the fact that this might go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the team's history.
With their franchise quarterback in place, they've turned their attention towards building up the offense around him. They've also given themselves plenty of resources to work with next year.
7 Miami Dolphins
Best Move: Drafting Laremy Tunsil
The Dolphins traded back from 8 to 13 in the draft and still landed one of the most talented players in the class.
Everyone knows the story of Tunsil's draft slide. It's understandable why everyone passed on him. Despite that, Miami may have gotten the steal of the draft when looking back on this in a few years.
Worst Move: Failing to Find an Answer at Running back
The Dolphins currently have 2015 fifth round pick Jay Ajayi listed as their starting running back entering 2016. He finished his rookie season with just 49 carries for 187 yards and a single touchdown. Behind him is Arian Foster, an aging, injury prone running back. He isn't going to be a reliable asset. They let Lamar Miller walk to Houston, who they always underappreciated and who will likely have a huge year in Texas.
It's possible that Miami will have serious running back issues this season.
6 New York Giants
Best Move: Signing Olivier Vernon
The Giants made massive moves in free agency this year, with none bigger than inking Dolphins pass rusher Olivier Vernon to a five year deal worth $85 million. It's a risky contract, but it isn't every day that a 25 year old star defensive end hits the open market.
Worst Move: Overpaying for Janoris Jenkins
Janoris Jenkins was an up-and-down corner for the Rams over his tenure in St. Louis. Ultimately, the team decided that Trumaine Johnson was more valuable and chose to tag him over Jenkins. That isn't exactly the best sign.
The Giants took a gamble and decided to pay Jenkins like an elite, shut down corner. This move could very easily come back to bite them.
New York has struggled to field a strong defense recently. They made waves in free agency as they've attempted to rebuild their defensive cornerstones.
5 Minnesota Vikings
Best Move: Drafting Laquon Treadwell
Treadwell could have gone far higher than 23rd. He's a large, powerful receiver who can do anything a coach could want. He appears to be the offensive piece the Vikings have been lacking. He'll offer the perfect complement to Stefon Diggs on the other side. If it all works out, Teddy Bridgewater will have every chance to take this team on a deep playoff run.
Worst Move: No Youth on the Offensive Line
The Vikings made several moves in free agency to solidify their offensive line. However, it has been several years since they've spent a high pick on a lineman and it shows. Having a starting line almost entirely made up of players past their prime is highly concerning.
4 Chicago Bears
Best Move: Signing Danny Trevathan
Danny Trevathan has been one of the best young inside linebackers in the NFL over the past few years. It was a great move by the Bears to not only sign him, but get him on a very affordable contract of just $24.5 million over four years.
Worst Move: Overpaying for Bobby Massie
Bobby Massie is a talented run blocker. Unfortunately, he greatly struggles in pass protection, especially against speed rushers. It doesn't make sense to pay a guy $6 million per year if he can't protect Jay Cutler. Bears fans' will certainly be screaming at their TVs a lot this season because of this guy.
3 Arizona Cardinals
Best Move: Trading for Chandler Jones
One of the Cardinals' biggest issues over the past few years has been a lackluster pass rush. They stuck gold early in the offseason when the Patriots made their star edge rusher available, Chandler Jones.
The cost wasn't cheap. Arizona had to give up Jonathan Cooper and their 2016 second round pick. Cooper was a highly promising athlete at guard. His loss will hurt the offense, but it was well worth it to acquire Jones.
Worst Move: Letting Dwight Freeney Walk
Dwight Freeney didn't join the Cardinals until several games into the 2015 season. That worked out just fine, as he posted his best season since 2011 with the Colts. Keeping the veteran and pairing him with Jones would have given the team one of the best pass rushing combos in the NFL.
2 Jacksonville Jaguars
Best Move: Drafting Jalen Ramsey
The Jaguars likely drafted the best player in the class with the fifth overall pick. Jalen Ramsay can play all over the defensive back field and will make life a lot easier for the team's pass rushers.
Worst Move: Overpaying for Chris Ivory
Chris Ivory has been a significant part of the Jets offense ever since joining the team in 2013. He had just over 2,700 yards in the past three years, including recording his first 1,000 yard season this past year.
Running backs in the NFL don't last long. They break down quickly and retire earlier than other positions. The Jaguars signed a 28 year old running back coming off a 248-carry season to a five year deal worth $32 million. Not a recipe for success.
1 Oakland Raiders
Best Move: Signing Kelechi Osemele
Oakland signed star offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele to a massive five year contract worth $58.5 million. He instantly gives the Raiders one of the league's most talented offensive lines in the league.
He will begin the season at guard, but can play anywhere on the offensive line. When injuries begin to pile up, that will be an important luxury for the Raiders.
Worst Move: Re-Signing Aldon Smith
In November of last year, Aldon Smith received a one year suspension for violating the league's policy on substance abuse. Even still, Oakland decided to ink him to a two year extension worth $11.5 million.
It's hard to see why. He's a talented athlete no doubt, but he hasn't been an effective player since 2013 with the 49ers. This seems like a move a team would make out of desperation. Though, with superstar edge rusher Khalil Mack and 2015 35th overall pick Mario Edwards Jr. as their starting defensive ends, Oakland isn't exactly in dire need of pass rushing talent.
Overall, Oakland added key players across their defense with Sean Smith, Karl Joseph, Reggie Nelson and Bruce Irvin. They made sure their offensive line will be a strength headed into 2016. This is a team that has put themselves in position to take the next step and become a serious playoff contender.
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