2012 NFL Free Agency: Which Teams Failed to Improve Their Rosters?
In arguably the most high-profile free agency season in NFL history, a handful of teams managed not to improve their rosters.
Whether they were strapped down by the salary cap, were losers of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, or just did not go shopping, some squads will enter the 2012 season no better—or even worse—than last season.
Was your squad one that let a golden opportunity slip away? Click along and find out.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers' offseason consisted of nothing but a roster purge. They would have entered the 2012 season $30 million over the cap and prized receiver Mike Wallace would have walked.
Instead, they said goodbye to Super Bowl starters James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Hines Ward and Bryant McFadden. They were difficult moves to make, but necessary ones as it looks they will keep Wallace in a Steelers uniform for at least one more season.
The Steelers certainly did not improve the team, as they did not bring in any young talent to replace the aging roster. If Pittsburgh is going to enter 2012 better than its 12-4 squad from last season, it will have to hit some home runs on draft weekend.
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For all the talent available, the perennially aggressive Dallas Cowboys were surprisingly quiet.
They signed one veteran linebacker (Dan Connor) to replace two: Bradie James and Keith Brooking. The team did little to address its most pressing need, which is help on the interior of the offensive line. The Cowboys also lost some receiver depth with the exodus of Laurent Robinson.
The Dallas Cowboys were expected to be big players for All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, but their efforts were curtailed by the penalty levied down from Commissioner Roger Goodell for infractions during the un-capped 2010 season.
Instead, they will enter the year with mostly the same corps of linemen as last season's inconsistent unit.
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The Indianapolis Colts are set to draft Andrew Luck No. 1 overall. They did not do their new franchise quarterback any favors this offseason.
In a mysterious move, they let Pierre Garcon walk but re-signed 33-year-old Reggie Wayne. Garcon is eight years younger and was making strides toward replacing Wayne as the team's go-to threat, much as Wayne replaced Marvin Harrison five years ago. Garcon had a career-highs in catches (70), yards (947) and tied his personal best with six touchdowns.
The team also said goodbye to starters Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark and Gary Brackett.
New York Jets
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The New York Jets brought in safety Laron Landry, a physical specimen who has never lived up to expectations.
In another move you may have heard of, they traded for Tim Tebow. Unless Tony Sparano is an offensive genius, the addition of Tebow will not help them win anything but headlines. Tebow comes in as Sanchez's backup and will have special plays designed for him. Again, unless Sparano surprises all of us, I doubt these plays will help the Jets win games.
There is a saying in the NFL that is proved true year after year: "If you have two quarterbacks, you really don't have one at all." Tebow is far from a conventional quarterback, and they are backing Sanchez as the starter now and in the future, but what happens when Sanchez struggles with inconsistency, something that has been a staple of his career thus far?
New York did not improve its greatest weaknesses. It still doesn't have a pass-rusher and did not find a ground-and-pound back. Shonn Greene has proved he is not that guy, and there were some big names the team passed on in free agency.
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For a team with glaring weaknesses all over the field, the Minnesota Vikings did not do a thing in free agency.
Their only move of any significance was the addition of tight end John Carlson. Carlson is a nice player, but he is far from a franchise changer. For a team that's success depends on the return of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings cut guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera and did not import any replacements.
Minnesota projects to draft potential franchise tackle Matt Kalil with the third overall pick. Like I said, the team needs O-line help, but one player does not make a cohesive unit.
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The Oakland Raiders were a team on the rise in 2011, but they took a serious step back in free agency.
Looking forward to 2012, they have lost their best cornerback for the second year in a row. The Raiders did not have the cap space to re-sign their excellent backup running back, and about the best Darren McFadden insurance you can find, as Michael Bush signed with the Chicago Bears. Oakland also lost John Henderson, Cooper Carlisle and Kamerion Wimbley.
To replace all that veteran talent? Tackle Khalif Barnes and cornerback Pat Lee. Neither should be considered starters to a team that wants to make the playoffs.
San Diego Chargers
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The San Diego Chargers lost two former Pro Bowlers this offseason. In a pair of expected moves, guard Kris Dielman retired and Vincent Jackson signed elsewhere (Tampa Bay). The team also has yet to re-sign Marcus McNeil, once considered a rising star at left tackle.
To sum it up, Philip Rivers has lost two of his most trusted lineman and his best offensive weapon from the days when they used to rule the AFC West. On the defensive side of the ball, the team lost former first-round defensive lineman Luis Castillo.
To replace what used to be their top-end talent, the Chargers signed a heap of veteran backups. Not exactly what fans had in mind to get the team back on top of the division.
New York Giants
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The New York Giants just won the Super Bowl, so you can excuse them if they were not the most aggressive participants in free agency.
The Giants lost veteran back Brandon Jacobs and Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham. New York still has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to contend, but losing two trusty vets like Jacobs and Manningham will hurt.
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I viewed Curtis Lofton as the most underrated player in free agency. Right on cue, his exodus from the Atlanta Falcons flew under the radar.
Lofton, who has recorded more than 100 sacks in three of his four seasons (and 94 as a rookie), signed a five-year deal with the division rival New Orleans Saints, so count that as a double whammy. Not only did the Falcons lose their leading tackler, he will spend the next five seasons tracking down Michael Turner twice a year.
To replace him, the Saints brought in Lofa Tatupu. Tatupu saw his production drop in four straight seasons before experiencing a bit of a renaissance last year with 88 tackles. Not exactly an even trade.
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The Houston Texans managed to re-sign stud running back Arian Foster, but the cost was steep. While focusing on Foster, they let arguably their two best defensive players walk.
The loss of Mario Williams did not come as a surprise; many expected it to be him or Foster, not both, to stay with the Texans. The loss of DeMeco Ryans, however, came as a shock. Ryans was a leader of the defense and very much a heart-and-soul guy in the clubhouse.
So whom did Houston bring in to replace the departed? No one. The Texans have not signed a single player this offseason.