20 Worst Offseason Decisions in NFL History

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

20 Worst Offseason Decisions in NFL History

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    Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

    It is still relatively early in the 2014 NFL offseason, but we have already seen a number of important decisions around the league.

    Seven teams—the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers—have hired new head coaches. The Browns even took things a step further and fired the men that picked their newest head coach. 

    With free agency and the draft right around the corner, we are guaranteed to see a bevy of new and important decisions—some of which may significantly alter the future of a franchise or two.

    Will any of these important choices go down as truly bad ones? That's for history (and of course the disappointed football fan) to decide, but chances are good that at least a few of them will.

    This is because NFL history is full of offseason decisions that didn't exactly work out.

    With this in mind, now seems like an appropriate time to explore some of the worst offseason decisions in league history. 

    Our list may include draft selections, trades, roster moves or coaching choices, but they all have one thing in common: The decisions resulted in undesirable results for the groups who made them.

New Orleans Saints Trade to Draft Ricky Williams

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    New Orleans Saints head coach Mike Ditka sold the entire farm for the right to draft Texas running back Ricky Williams, sending eight draft picks to the Washington Redskins in order to select Williams fifth overall in the 1999 NFL draft.

    Williams lasted just three seasons in New Orleans, though he did manage to rush for more than 3,000 yards during his time there. Ditka didn't last that long. He was fired after the team went just 3-13 in Williams' rookie season.

    On the bright side, the Saints netted a pair of first-round picks in a trade that sent Williams to the Miami Dolphins in 2002. Williams went on to rush for more than 10,000 yards with 66 touchdowns with a steady 4.1 yards-per-carry average in his career. 

Miami Dolphins Trade for Daunte Culpepper Instead of Signing Drew Brees

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    J. Pat Carter/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins found themselves faced with a tough decision during the 2006 offseason.

    Looking to add a quarterback, Miami had to choose between former Minnesota Viking Daunte Culpepper and former San Diego Charger Drew Brees. Deciding that Brees' shoulder injury was too serious, the Dolphins opted not to add the free agent and instead traded a second-round pick to Minnesota for Culpepper.

    The Dolphins clearly made the wrong choice as Brees has already delivered a Super Bowl title to New Orleans and is still going strong. He has passed for more than 5,000 yards and at least 39 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.

    Culpepper has been out of the league since 2009. 

San Diego Chargers Trade Up to Draft Ryan Leaf

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    Heading into the 1998 draft, the San Diego Chargers found themselves in need of a quarterback. 

    Therefore, it made some sense when the team decided to trade the third overall pick, a future first-round pick, a second-rounder and Eric Metcalf to the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 2 overall pick and the chance to draft the second quarterback off the board.

    The Indianapolis Colts selected Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning first overall, which left the chargers with Washington State signal-caller Ryan Leaf.

    Leaf lasted just three seasons in San Diego and never passed for more than 1,900 yards or 11 touchdowns in a single year. 

Jacksonville Jaguars Fire Tom Coughlin

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars have been one of the league's more downtrodden franchises as of late, but this has certainly not always been the case.

    During Tom Coughlin's time as head coach of the franchise, the Jaguars made four playoff appearances with two trips to the AFC title game. However, a trio of losing seasons from 2000 to 2002 led the Jaguars to dump Coughlin, who went on to coach the New York Giants. 

    Since parting ways, the Jaguars have made just two trips to the postseason, while Coughlin has brought a pair of Super Bowl titles to the Giants. 

Cincinnati Bengals Draft Akili Smith 3rd Overall

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    The Cleveland Browns continue to receive criticism for selecting Tim Couch over Donovan McNabb with the first pick in the 1999 draft, but perhaps the most baffling decision that year was made by the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The Bengals selected Oregon quarterback Akili Smith third overall that year and passed on guys like Edgerrin James, Torry Holt, Daunte Culpepper and Champ Bailey. The team also bypassed a chance to grab a bevy of draft picks from the New Orleans Saints, who traded everything away to select Ricky Williams.

    Smith spent just four seasons in Cincinnati and passed for a measly 2,212 yards and five touchdowns during his Bengals and NFL career.  

Washington Redskins Sign Dana Stubblefield to $36 Million Deal

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    Defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield had a spectacular 1997 season for the San Francisco 49ers that included 15 sacks (14 more than he produced the season before).

    Banking on the possibility that Stubblefield would continue to improve, new Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder decided to sign him to a mammoth six-year, $36 million deal the following offseason. 

    Unfortunately, Stubblefield lasted just three seasons in Washington and produced a mere seven sacks for the Redskins before returning to San Francisco to finish out his career. 

Washington Redskins Give Adam Archuleta $10 Million Guaranteed

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    Another Daniel Snyder move that didn't pan out was the signing of safety Adam Archuleta during the 2006 offseason.

    A solid five-year stint with the St. Louis Rams was good enough to earn Archuleta a hefty seven-year, $35 million free-agent deal with the Washington Redskins, which included $10 million guaranteed.

    Archuleta played just one year in Washington and amassed 60 tackles with a single sack and zero interceptions for his Redskins career.

    He was with the Chicago Bears the next season, his last in the NFL. 

Passing on Tom Brady

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    Every team has missed out on finding that surefire draft pick at one point or another, but everyone missed on Michigan quarterback Tom Brady in the 2000 draft.

    Brady lasted until the sixth round that year, and six teams—the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns—selected a quarterback ahead of him.

    Brady has gone on to make five Super Bowl appearances, win three Lombardi Trophies and produce a Hall of Fame-worthy career with the New England Patriots.

Oakland Raiders Sign Javon Walker

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    Denver Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker didn't exactly have a standout season in 2007. He appeared in just eight games and caught just 26 passes for 287 yards and zero touchdowns.

    So it seemed a bit odd when the Oakland Raiders decided to sign him to a six-year, $55 million free-agent contract the following offseason.

    Walker lasted only two seasons in Oakland, where he caught a total of 15 passes for 196 yards and a score. Walker earned $21 million from the Raiders for his efforts. 

Los Angeles Rams Draft Terry Baker 1st Overall

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    Associated Press

    There been have plenty of Heisman Trophy winners who haven't emerged as successful pros, but few have enjoyed as brief a career as Los Angeles Rams draft choice Terry Baker.

    The Rams selected the former Oregon star in the 1963 draft, and Baker rewarded the team with only one NFL start.

    Baker attempted a mere 21 NFL passes, completing 12 of them for 154 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions. 

Oakland Raiders Select JaMarcus Russell No. 1 Overall

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    The Oakland Raiders made the controversial decision to draft LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell first overall back in 2007 in a move that certainly hasn't panned out. 

    Though the Raiders inked Russell to a six-year deal that included $31.5 million guaranteed, the former collegiate standout lasted just three seasons with the team. His "best" season came in 2008, when Russell passed for 2,423 yards with 13 touchdowns and a passer rating of 77.1.

    Perhaps the worst part for Raiders fans is that Oakland passed on guys like Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson and Joe Thomas in order to select Russell in the draft. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Trade Steve Young to San Francisco 49ers

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    At the time, it probably seemed like a smart decision for the Tamp Bay Buccaneers to trade away quarterback Steve Young.

    Selected in the 1984 supplemental draft (out of the USFL), Young passed for just 3,217 yards and 11 touchdowns with 21 interceptions in his two seasons with Tampa. Then the San Francisco 49ers offered second- and fourth-round picks to take him off the Buccaneers' hands.

    Young went on to spend 13 seasons with the 49ers, helping to deliver a Super Bowl title following the 1994 season. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. 

Washington Redskins Sign a Past-His-Prime-Time Deion Sanders

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    Deion Sanders put together one of the most remarkable careers of any defensive back in league history, so it is understandable that a team would jump at the chance to sign him in free agency.

    Still, the decision by the Washington Redskins to ink a 33-year-old Sanders to a seven-year, $53 million deal in 2000 was highly questionable.

    Sanders played just one season in Washington before heading to retirement. He returned in 2004 for a two-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens.

Oakland Raiders Sign Larry Brown to 5-Year Deal

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    Veteran cornerback Larry Brown played well enough in Super Bowl XXX to earn MVP honors while delivering a Lombardi Trophy to the Dallas Cowboys.

    He also played well enough to earn a five-year free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders the ensuing offseason. According to Ira Miller of the San Francisco Chronicle, the deal Brown signed during the 1996 offseason was worth $12.5 million.

    The Raiders got just two years and one interception out of Brown, who returned to Dallas for the 1998 season. 

Baltimore Ravens Replace Trent Dilfer with Elvis Grbac

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    Though the team benefited greatly from its stellar defense, quarterback Trent Dilfer helped deliver a Lombardi Trophy to the Baltimore Ravens following the 2000 season.

    Yet, the Ravens decided to part ways with Dilfer, opting instead to ink veteran signal-caller Elvis Grbac to a five-year, $30 million deal instead.

    Grbac lasted just one season in Baltimore, passing for 3,033 yards with 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. It was his final season in the National Football League. 

Cleveland Browns Fire Head Coach Paul Brown

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    Associated Press

    Former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell made numerous questionable decisions during his time with the franchise, but few offseason choices have been more surprising than the firing of head coach Paul Brown in 1962.

    Brown had brought four AAFC championships and three NFL titles to Cleveland, but Modell decided that the rift between the two men was too large to ignore.

    Brown went on to serve as owner and head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, where he made three more playoff appearances.

    While the Browns did go on to win one more NFL title after Brown's departure, their championship team of 1964 was largely constructed by the former head coach. The '64 squad also brought home the last championship in team history. 

Jerry Gives Jimmy the Boot

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    Associated Press

    Like Art Modell, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has drawn plenty of attention for having a penchant for making questionable moves. 

    A classic example is Jones' decision to part ways with head coach Jimmy Johnson in 1994 shortly after the franchise's fourth Super Bowl win. 

    The Cowboys captured a fifth Super Bowl title two years later under the guidance of Barry Switzer, but Dallas has not made another appearance in the big game and has won just two playoff games since.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft Bo Jackson 1st Overall

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    While two-sport superstar Bo Jackson did not have a lengthy NFL career, a boneheaded decision by the Buccaneers ensured that it did not occur in Tampa Bay. 

    Despite being informed that Jackson would not sign with the team if drafted (a predraft visit to the team cost Jackson his collegiate baseball eligibility), the Buccaneers decided to select him first overall in the 1986 draft.

    Jackson did not sign and the Buccaneers released his rights prior to the 1987 draft. He eventually signed with the Los Angeles Raiders as a seventh-round pick and would play there for four seasons before a hip injury ended his football career. 

Washington Redskins Make Albert Haynesworth Highest-Paid Defender Ever

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    The Washington Redskins turned a lot of heads during the 2009 offseason, when the team decided to ink defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a seven-year, $100 million free-agent deal.

    At the time, it was the largest contract ever given to a defensive player.

    Unfortunately, Haynesworth didn't work out for the Redskins. He failed multiple conditioning tests and also failed to produce on the field. 

    Haynesworth played just two seasons in Washington, appearing in 20 games and amassing a mere 6.5 sacks. He appeared with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 and has not played since. 

Browns Make a Bad Move with "Bad Moon" Rison

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    Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell probably thought he was getting a fair bargain when his team inked wide receiver Andre Rison to a five-year, $17 million deal during the 1995 offseason—even though it made Rison the highest-paid receiver in history at the time. 

    What the Browns got was a mere 47 receptions, 701 yards and three scores out of Rison in his only season with the team.

    Cleveland stumbled to a 5-11 record that year, and Modell moved the team to Baltimore following the season.