Avoiding desperation is essential to efficiently running an NFL team. Constructing a strategy and then operating within its boundaries is how you accomplish this.
It sounds too simplistic but each offseason we see a litany of teams that either deviate from their strategy or act independently of one altogether. It is front offices such as these that overspend in free agency and self-impose pressure to strike gold in the draft.
This isn’t to say that spending in free agency is an automatic qualifier for careless front office performance. Spending often can be the means to executing a team’s strategy.
For example, the Tennessee Titans' spending this offseason, albeit excessive, has immediately improved their on-the-field product. Conversely, there is the Dolphins, but I'll get into them later.
A successful NFL team will plot out the entire offseason before it begins.
Look at Seattle a season ago. They identified quarterback, rightfully so, as a significant problem area. To address this, they acquired Matt Flynn early in the offseason.
Signing Flynn alleviated their desperation at quarterback. They entered the draft with the freedom that they possessed confidence in Flynn as a starter. This opened their draft wide-open. It allowed them to take a risk, that is what at the time was deemed a risk, and draft Russell Wilson. If they hadn’t first signed Flynn, there was no chance they could have drafted Wilson.
What they would have done is operate similarly to how Cleveland did.
The Browns entered the draft desperate. They lacked confidence in Colt McCoy, which cornered them into drafting a quarterback early. They did so with the selection of Brandon Weeden late in the first round, and now, just one year later, enter the draft desperate once again.
With the current format of NFL calendar it is imperative for teams to address needs in free agency, as it comes before the draft.
Teams that do this are able to draft value rather than need, which elevates competition on a positional level. Relying heavily on a draft pick to pan out is a cautionary tale in the NFL. Prospects are simply too unpredictable. Teams spend hundreds of hours scouting players yet still miss all the time.
Teams don’t like to admit it, but luck plays a role in the draft.
If the Patriots knew who Tom Brady was, they wouldn’t have waited until the sixth round to select him. Nor would the Redskins with Alfred Morris or the Colts with T.Y. Hilton.
Yet, in all three situations, the team possessed options at the position prior to the draft. Washington had Roy Helu and Tim Hightower, the Patriots had Drew Bledsoe and the Colts had Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery. Like the Seahawks' quarterback situation, they weren’t desperate.
As I rank how each team’s front office has performed this offseason, keep in mind that what I’m really ranking is their commitment to their apparent strategy and how they are setting themselves up for April’s draft.
Simply ranking each team’s offseason activity would be too arbitrary at such an early junction of the NFL year.
So, let the ranking begin.