NFL: Looking Back at the Best/Worst Moves of the Offseason at the Quarter Mark
I have watched, been a fan of, written about and commented on the NFL for quite some time now, and I cannot ever recall an offseason in which any team felt as though their roster got worse.
Every team, whether it's denial or ego, will tell the nation and their fanbase about how drastically they've improved and why the playoffs, and even the Super Bowl, are a real possibility.
I mean, they spent 90 percent of their cap space on new free agents. How could that not work out?
The point is, everyone thinks the next move they make will contribute to them standing under the confetti, holding up the fake newspaper headline and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. But since 31 of the 32 teams will, in fact, not win the Super Bowl, there had to have been some mistakes made somewhere.
On the other side of that coin, the NFL is also famous for teams climbing out of the cellar one year and finishing on top the next, so there are plenty of good moves made as well.
With a quarter of the season in the books, it might be time to take a look back and see how the most recent moves are panning out.
Good Move: Philadelphia Eagles Trade for DeMeco Ryans
When the Philadelphia Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans, the entire city rejoiced. Finally, the team would have the middle linebacker and defensive leader they've so desperately needed.
And unlike in 2011, this move hasn't turned to heartbreak and frustration.
Ryans has been everything the Eagles could have wanted. His play on the field has been Pro Bowl-quality and his leadership has been obvious. The Philadelphia defense has gone from a weakness to the strong point of the team and is a big reason why the team is currently 3-1.
They're playing faster, harder and smarter while getting a ton of production from three rookies—Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin—and making up for a ton of mistakes made by the offense.
Ryans has been integral in all of that.
Bad Move: Seattle Seahawks Spend Big Money on Matt Flynn
One of the big-name free agents this offseason was quarterback Matt Flynn, fresh off throwing six touchdowns in mop-up duty as the Green Bay Packers sat their starters in Week 17 last season.
The Seattle Seahawks fit that bill and gave Flynn a three-year, $26 million contract with $8 million guaranteed in the first year.
We all know how that worked out.
The Seahawks are currently starting rookie Russell Wilson, who was a third-round pick, and Flynn is getting paid starter money to hold the clipboard.
This move could be looked at differently, however, if Wilson's poor play continues and head coach Pete Carroll decides to see what this big-money free agent can really do.
Better Move: Denver Broncos Sign Peyton Manning
There have been some bumpy times, but I don't think there's any doubt Peyton Manning has made the Denver Broncos immensely better already.
The Broncos were able to make a push to the playoffs last season because of what Tim Tebow was able to do with the option game. He made that work extremely well for them, and finding something that worked effectively masked the limited talent the team actually had.
Now, in an obviously different way, Manning is doing the same thing.
Manning has always made wide receivers look better than they really are, and he's continuing to do that in Denver, even as that same unit makes Manning look like he's struggling more than he truly is.
I'm not sure if Manning can take this inferior talent all the way to a Super Bowl like he did in Indianapolis, but a playoff berth is likely hinging on his right arm.
Worse Move: New York Jets Don't Start Tim Tebow
Many will disagree with this.
I'm a big, big Tim Tebow fan and firmly believe he was the New York Jets' best chance of winning since the second he stepped foot in New York. The Jets should have made him the starter and catered an offense to his strengths immediately, because it would be paying dividends now.
But that's not what happened, and it's come back to bite them.
Not only does Tebow really do you no good as a backup, but his presence would create a media circus in the smallest of markets. The fact that it completely blew up in New York, the largest media market in the country, should have surprised no one.
That attention has obviously shaken Mark Sanchez, who is constantly playing with his head half-cocked over his shoulder just waiting for Tebow to take his job.
Best Move: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III Drafted No. 1 and No. 2 Overall
Recent history tells a cautionary tale when two quarterbacks are drafted with the first two slots.
There was Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer in 1993, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf in 1998, and Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb (and then Akili Smith at No. 3) in 1999. Those three classes show an obvious disparity in the success of one half of each pair, so history would tell us either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III will be a bust.
That, however, would not seem to be the case.
RGIII is the guy currently lighting up the highlight reel, but his style of play makes that more likely anyway. He's playing extremely well, but so is Andrew Luck, who just might have less to work with than even RGIII.
Both of these guys seem to have it together off the field as well as mentally and physically on the field, so both the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins deserve a pat on the back for drafting these guys.
Worst Move: Buffalo Bills Sign Mario Williams
In 2011, Nnamdi Asomugha was clearly the best available defensive free agent. In 2012, Mario Williams held that distinction and, like Asomugha, cashed in.
Williams signed a six-year, $96 million deal with the Buffalo Bills—though in more practical terms it's a two-year, $40 million contract—in the hopes that he'd provide the edge rush the Bills would need for their defense to take the next step.
But after four games, Williams has only nine total tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Any way you slice it, that's just not good enough for the type of money Buffalo paid him.
There's obviously still a lot of time to turn his season around, but the Bills would rather not wait until the middle of the year for their high-priced acquisition to start playing up to his contract.