Every NFL Team's Biggest Offseason Surprise
We are now less than three months away from football. Thank goodness; the NFL offseason is drawing to a close, though we approach the slowest month of the year.
Plenty of action took place over the past several months, however. What is one surprise for each team during that time? Click through to find out.
Trading for Carson Palmer
Arizona had an atrocious quarterback situation over the past couple of years.
The Cardinals tried to rectify it by trading for Kevin Kolb and giving him a big contract, but that worked out about as well as PRISM.
Well, the team has addressed the position without drafting a quarterback. Arizona traded for Carson Palmer this offseason, which should at least be a stopgap measure for the Cardinals.
Letting Tyson Clabo Go
There haven't been many surprises in Atlanta this offseason. Letting Tyson Clabo go might qualify as the biggest.
Clabo was highly paid, to be sure, and the Falcons needed to shed some salary. But Clabo is still one of the better right tackles in the league. The position is a bit unsettled now.
Caving to Flacco
There is no doubt Joe Flacco had all the leverage in the world after his epic postseason run. But did that mean the Baltimore Ravens should capitulate to his contract demands without any meaningful negotiation?
Baltimore signed Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract, a massive deal for a guy who has been largely average outside a hot streak during the playoffs. Even his agent thinks that was dumb, though it has more to do with Baltimore's reticence to pay Flacco last year than anything else.
The Ravens could have used the franchise tag and dealt with Flacco's long-term deal when his leverage was diminished.
Bills Draft EJ Manuel in First Round
This year's quarterback class was a far cry from last year's amazing crop. But few saw this coming.
EJ Manuel wound up being the first quarterback off the board. He was a polarizing draft prospect, but did anyone expect the Buffalo Bills would take him with the 16th overall pick?
Geno Smith was the next quarterback taken all the way in the second round, and the rest of the class was scattered in the middle and late rounds. In hindsight, Manuel was a poor value.
Chris Gamble Retires
The Carolina Panthers were in a cap crunch this offseason, which meant some difficult decisions had to be made.
One of those decisions was cutting productive cornerback Chris Gamble. To our surprise, Gamble chose to retire rather than latch on with a new team. Perhaps, he wanted to quit while his body was ahead.
Bears Fire Lovie Smith, Hire Marc Trestman
The Chicago Bears have seen moderate success in recent years, despite playing in the tough NFC North, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Lovie Smith go.
Chicago missed the playoffs despite a good 10-6 record. Smith's inability to turn the offense around over the years seemed to be a big culprit.
What better way to address the offense than to hire an offensive-minded coach? Marc Trestman made his way back into the NFL after spending the past several years in the Canadian Football League, where he established a reputation for good offense.
Trestman was a bit of a surprise hire given he couldn't get a job in the NFL a few years ago. It will be interesting to see if he can get the team over the hump.
Andre Smith's Small Deal
Maybe this is a mini referendum on getting arrested for trying to bring a gun onto a plane, but Andre Smith got a shockingly small deal this past offseason.
The big offensive lineman has become one of the league's best right tackles, but he languished on the free-agent market for months before signing a modest three-year, $18 million deal to stay in Cincinnati.
The Pilot Flying J Scandal
There was optimism in Cleveland when Jimmy Haslam III bought the Cleveland Browns. The team already had plenty of young talent. Haslam breathed new life into a stagnant franchise.
Then, the Pilot Flying J scandal hit. Haslam's company is being investigated for fraud, a potential black eye for the NFL. Poor Cleveland cannot catch a break.
Cowboys Tag Anthony Spencer...Again
Anthony Spencer is a great football player. After all, he was rated Pro Football Focus' top 3-4 outside linebacker last season (h/t ESPN Dallas). He eclipsed double-digit sacks last season for the first time in his career.
But the Cowboys are switching to a 4-3, and they have to pay Spencer 120 percent of his salary from a year ago because it's the second time they have slapped him with the franchise tag.
The Broncos Still Use a Fax Machine
Alright, so the entire NFL still uses fax machines, but Elvis Dumervil probably curses the technology.
The veteran defensive end waited until the last minute to agree to a salary reduction. The agreement wasn't faxed in time to the Broncos, however.
Hold on, contract not filed in time. Elvis Dumervil has been officially released— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) March 15, 2013
That tweet sent shockwaves through the NFL Twittersphere, at least for one day. Dumervil would wind up signing for more money in Baltimore after firing his agent, but this was an avoidable debacle.
Mike Thomas Is Still on the Team
I was originally going to put "no offseason arrests" here for the Lions, but it turns out they have had two.
So what has been surprising about Detroit's offseason? How about the fact Mike Thomas still has a job?
Yes, Thomas was behind the eight ball having to learn the offense. But it doesn't change the fact Kris Durham hopped him on the depth chart last season. Yes, that really happened.
Green Bay Packers
What, Draft a Running Back? How About Two?
The Green Bay Packers have been rather stubborn with their running backs in recent years. How else can you explain James Starks starting a playoff game?
Injuries have taken their toll, but the Packers also seemed reticent to spend any sort of money or high draft picks on the position. That is no longer the case.
Green Bay selected Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in this year's draft, effectively shoring up the position for years to come.
Texans Select a Receiver in the First Round
How many years has Andre Johnson been without a proper running mate at wide receiver?
The last time Houston took a receiver in the first round was when the team took...Johnson. Since then, it has been a parade of sadness on the other side for the Texans.
Not so anymore with the somewhat surprising selection of DeAndre Hopkins in the first round. The talented receiver finally gives Matt Schaub a viable second target.
Ryan Grigson's Spending Spree Falls Flat
The Colts entered this offseason with plenty of money to spend. Whom they spent it on has drawn some criticism.
The Colts used their space to sign the likes of LaRon Landry, Ricky Jean-Francois, Donald Thomas and Darrius Heyward-Bey. It's not the worst spending spree in the world, but it is a bit surprising, given Grigson's great rookie GM season.
Blaine Gabbert Is Still King...for Now
If you talk to some, their biggest surprise for the Jacksonville Jaguars might be that they haven't moved to London yet.
Since we are entrenched in reality, let's talk about quarterbacks not named Tim Tebow.
Blaine Gabbert has simply not been good in the NFL. He has had two seasons, and the regime that drafted him is gone. But Gus Bradley and David Caldwell are sticking with him for one more season, a bit of a head-scratcher.
Jacksonville could have drafted a quarterback or gone after one in a trade, because it is hard to believe Gabbert will prove viable at this level.
Kansas City Chiefs
Trading for Alex Smith
The former San Francisco 49er was finally coming into his own in San Francisco before Colin Kaepernick stole his starting job, but he is not exactly lights-out at quarterback. The deal was mutually beneficial, but it was an astonishing deal at the time.
Jeff Ireland Garners Praise
It is nigh a miracle that Jeff Ireland is still in power in South Florida.
The Miami Dolphins have been mediocre or worse for quite some time, and Ireland has not ingratiated himself with fans over the years. How else can you explain the "Fireland" movement?
He needed to have a good offseason to build momentum toward a good regular season—or so he hopes—and he actually pulled it off.
The Dolphins upgraded several key positions, including wide receiver and linebacker, through free agency and the draft. Granted, not everyone has lauded his moves—Ireland did shell out a ton of money to get there, and trading up to land Dion Jordan wasn't universally praised—but it could have been far worse for Miami's general manager.
Percy Harvin Out, Greg Jennings In
Rumors about a Percy Harvin trade persisted for some time in Minnesota, but why would the Minnesota Vikings trade away their most dynamic player?
Well, there was fire behind that smoke—the Vikings traded Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for a first-round pick. He wasn't happy in Minnesota, to be sure, and the Vikings got a pretty good return for the dynamic receiver.
Their free-agent attempt at replacing Harvin came in the form of Greg Jennings, who is not nearly as dynamic, but might be more reliable.
Jennings benefited from having Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers as his quarterbacks over the years in Green Bay; it will be interesting to see how he fares with Christian Ponder, who is decidedly not those two.
New England Patriots
Getting into the Tim Tebow Discussion
There weren't a lot of surprises in New England this offseason. Wes Welker is gone, but that wasn't terribly surprising, given contentious contract negotiations from a year ago.
Perhaps, the biggest surprise for the Patriots this offseason was hearing Tim Tebow's name uttered in the same sentence.
For some reason, speculation has popped up that the Patriots might be interested in Tebow. The Internet immediately imploded.
UPDATE: Monday, June 10, at 6:00 p.m. ET
The Patriots are signing Tim Tebow, according to ESPN's Ed Werder.
Tebow, who last started for the Denver Broncos in 2011, will be reunited with former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels, the Patriots current offensive coordinator.
---End of Update---
New Orleans Saints
Trading Chris Ivory
Make no mistake, the New Orleans Saints were overloaded in the backfield. But they tendered Chris Ivory with a second-round pick, and it seemed like he was destined to languish at the back of the depth chart for another year.
The New York Jets came calling, however, and Ivory found a new home as a result.
What is most surprising about this is the relatively low price the Saints took for Ivory, who averages 5.1 yards per carry on his career and has looked like Marshawn Lynch at times.
New York Giants
Drafting Justin Pugh
It's not that Justin Pugh was a terrible pick; it was simply unexpected in the middle of the first round.
By all accounts, Pugh was a solid second-rounder heading into the draft—at least in the draft community, anyway.
The New York Giants did not otherwise have a surprising offseason save, perhaps, cutting ties with a still-effective Ahmad Bradshaw.
New York Jets
Darrelle Revis Flies Out of Town
This was never going to end well.
Darrelle Revis was disgruntled, his relationship with the team that drafted him had deteriorated to the point where he was contemplating another holdout. Just a year ago he said he wanted to be a New York Jet for life.
That is no longer the case.
New York had to jettison its star cornerback—one of the best players in the league, when healthy—because of the waning hope the team could keep him after next season. The salary cap situation in New York was also an issue.
It is surprising to see a team give away one of the best players in the league, injury notwithstanding. The Jets got a decent return for Revis, but they may have lost a lot more if those draft picks don't pan out.
Oakland's First Round
The Oakland Raiders finally had a first-round pick after making do without one for the past couple of years. They made some curious moves with it.
Reggie McKenzie was apparently high on D.J. Hayden, despite recent heart surgery, but he was alright with trading down in the first round and risking losing him.
It turns out nobody else was in on Hayden in the top 12 picks, so the Raiders were still able to land him after moving down. But they took a severe discount to make the move, nabbing just a second-round pick from Miami to move down nine spots in the first half of the first round.
To put it into perspective, Dan Snyder all but signed over his firstborn for Robert Griffin III last year, and that was just two spots.
Hiring Pat Shurmur
Philadelphia Eagles fans soared after Chip Kelly landed in Philadelphia. Then he hired Pat Shurmur.
The former Brown isn't a bad offensive coordinator, but the move is a curious one, given Kelly's own offensive prowess. Perhaps, Shurmur was hired to help Kelly tailor his offense to the NFL.
Keeping Emmanuel Sanders
The Pittsburgh Steelers balked at Mike Wallace's contract demands from a year ago, so they watched him ink a $60 million deal with Miami this offseason. That left them with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as their top two receivers.
Then the Patriots began their meddling.
New England signed Sanders to a one-year deal, despite the third-round tender Pittsburgh had placed on him. Considering the salary cap constrictions the Steelers were facing, it seemed like a done deal.
Not so, it would seem, as the Steelers matched the offer from the Patriots. It was a mild surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.
San Diego Chargers
Surprise! Dwight Freeney, Come On Down!
Injuries are always an unwelcome development, and the San Diego Chargers got one this offseason.
Melvin Ingram, whom San Diego hoped would develop into the pass-rusher they hoped they had drafted, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
To that point, Dwight Freeney had gotten mere nibbles on the open market. Suddenly, there was a market for him in southern California.
San Francisco 49ers
Michael Crabtree Blows his Achilles
Despite a Super Bowl loss, things were looking up in the San Francisco Bay Area. The team was largely kept intact, and Trent Baalke loaded up on draft picks.
Then Michael Crabtree felt his Achilles pop.
The talented receiver tore his Achilles tendon, knocking him out for at least six months. This was a nasty, though not necessarily fatal, surprise for the 49ers.
Trading for Percy Harvin
Seattle needed an upgrade at receiver, and Percy Harvin will provide precisely that. But the Seahawks paid a pretty penny to get him.
Instead of taking advantage of a deep wide receiver class, Seattle traded away a first-round pick. Player trades aren't commonplace in the NFL, hence the surprise.
St. Louis Rams
Trading Up for Tavon Austin
Don't get me wrong, Tavon Austin is a talented receiver. But taking a receiver his size in the top 10 of the NFL draft was simply unprecedented.
The St. Louis Rams had the ammunition to move up, especially since it was relatively cheap to make such a move in this year's draft. They needed help at wide receiver, too, and rumors had it the Jets were going to take Austin.
This wasn't a bad move, just a bit surprising given the history of the league.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Darrelle Revis Contract
Tampa Bay was hurting for help at cornerback this offseason. They got some in Darrelle Revis, among others.
Revis flies south from New Jersey on the wings of a trade, but the most interesting thing in his move is his new contract with the Buccaneers.
The talented cornerback agreed to a fully non-guaranteed contract. He is betting on himself, but that is one rather large risk to take coming off an ACL tear. Injuries are unpredictable enough, hopefully Revis' faith is not repaid in blood.
Titans Sign Shonn Greene
Tennessee had a busy offseason doling out over $100 million in contracts. But did they really need to spend on Shonn Greene, the ploddingest plodder that ever plodded in the NFL?
Well, maybe not in history, but he was still pretty bad last season.
Shonn Greene came in last in Pro Football Focus' "elusiveness" rating. Created an average of one missed tackle per game. Hello $10 million!
— Patrick Daugherty(@RotoPat) June 9, 2013
Why not just bring LenDale White out of retirement at that point?
Griffin's Speedy Recovery
Perhaps, it should come as no surprise that Robert Griffin III is ahead of schedule in his recovery from knee surgery. He is, after all, a hard worker.
But the fact Griffin has already been able to participate in OTAs is somewhat astonishing nonetheless, given he was injured just five months ago. This sort of thing is not commonplace.