The Biggest Mistakes of the 2014 NFL Offseason so Far
We all have our good days and bad days.
Do we all do things we may regret? Absolutely.
Of course, when you supposedly make a mistake when it comes to an NFL team, you not only have to do a little soul searching, but some feel that soul needs to be on full display on Twitter and other venues.
Still, we have our opinions. Hence, we are taking a crack at pointing out what may be the biggest mistakes made this offseason to date. Yes, we do understand that every general manager and organization must take a "My Way" approach.
Why these eight examples? The feeling here is that they will have the biggest impact on the teams' possible misfortunes. Every team has its good and bad moves. But in terms of the bad, these stood out more than the others and could have some season-long ramifications.
At least for now...
Buffalo Bills: Not Re-Signing FS Jairus Byrd
It’s been an offseason of unrest for a proud franchise with a terrific history.
The Buffalo Bills lost founding father and Pro Football Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson Jr. a few months ago. Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly continues his battle with cancer and was released from the hospital on Monday, as reported by Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News.
Far less importantly but nonetheless significant are the fortunes of Doug Marrone’s team on the field in 2014.
It’s a field that will not include three-time Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd. In five seasons in Orchard Park, the former second-round pick totaled 27 takeaways (22 interceptions and five fumble recoveries). He also forced 11 fumbles and added three sacks with the Bills.
He was also the team’s designated franchise player in 2013, which means slapping that tag on him this offseason would have cost the club a small fortune it didn’t really have. Still, it’s disappointing that the Bills somehow couldn’t find a way to retain one of their better players, something that has been a problem for them for a number of years.
Consider that this team finished second in the NFL with 57 sacks this past season, It also added some help for its always-struggling run defense in the form of middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, and the unit is now being run by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. With Byrd in hand, this could have been some group to watch.
It’s safe to say third-year pro Da’Norris Searcy has some tall cleats to fill.
Dallas Cowboys: Releasing DE DeMarcus Ware
There are some things that you can’t control.
Last month Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Sean Lee suffered a torn left ACL during last month’s OTAs, and his prospects for 2014 aren’t very promising. Lee will have surgery on Thursday, and head coach Jason Garrett and the club will take it from there.
“I just think we want to go in there and do the surgery, get it done right,” said Garrett to Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News. “Get him well, and then make those kinds of decisions. Typically, the doctors will give you a timetable, and you see what’s reasonable and you make your best roster move.”
Now, there are the decisions you can’t control. And while this may seem like a case of Monday morning quarterbacking, the fact is that the Cowboys no longer have seven-time Pro Bowl defender DeMarcus Ware chasing opposing quarterbacks on Monday, Sunday or any other day.
Yes, the nine-year pro was owed a healthy salary in 2014, and the failure to get a new deal done, along with some recent wear and tear, led to his release. Injuries in 2013 saw him miss three games, and he wound up with a career-low six sacks.
But it was also the first time in his career that he had missed any games. In nine seasons he totaled 117 sacks. With Lee shelved for now and 2013 Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher now a member of the Washington Redskins, the idea that the league’s 32nd-ranked defense this past season has gotten any better is...well...
Detroit Lions: Selecting TE Eric Ebron with 10th Overall Pick
You would think that the last thing that the Detroit Lions needed this offseason was another offensive option.
But this is another new start for a franchise that has reached the playoffs just once in the last 14 seasons.
There’s little denying the talents of North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, a surprising first-round selection by the Lions. He has the ability to make the team even more explosive in 2014.
But was this the move that general manager Martin Mayhew and new head coach Jim Caldwell needed to make, especially when the defense could use a little more help?
True, that may have come in second-round pick Kyle Van Noy, an outside linebacker who could wind up in the starting lineup sooner than later.
We also understand that Caldwell has seen his recent employers, the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, thrive when their quarterbacks had the downfield abilities of tight ends Dallas Clark and Dennis Pitta, respectively.
The Lions added wide receiver Golden Tate this offseason and re-signed former first-round tight end Brandon Pettigrew. They have explosive weapons in wideout Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush.
Now if they could only find a formula that could prevent those 21 turnovers in the final seven games of 2013.
Houston Texans: Releasing TE Owen Daniels
Coming off a 2-14 season, the Houston Texans aren’t starting from scratch in 2014, but they have jettisoned their share of players who have been big contributors in recent years.
Such is the case of eight-year veteran tight end Owen Daniels. The two-time Pro Bowler totaled 385 catches for 4,617 yards and 29 scores in his career with the franchise but missed 11 games this past season. That made him expendable in the team’s eyes, and with his release this offseason, the Texans’ loss could wind up being the Baltimore Ravens’ gain.
Yes, injuries have been a concern for Daniels. But a year ago, so was the play of the team’s quarterbacks. Matt Schaub (now with the Oakland Raiders), Case Keenum and T.J. Yates combined for 19 touchdown passes and 25 turnovers. With Schaub out, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and fourth-round pick Tom Savage enter the quarterback picture.
The well-traveled Fitzpatrick had his own turnover issues with the Tennessee Titans in 2013, and obviously Savage is a rookie. And that makes the loss of a potential short-range target like Owens a little more surprising.
New York Giants: Not Drafting a Tight End in 2014
This past season, one-time Oakland Raiders tight end Brandon Myers totaled 47 catches, four for touchdowns, in his lone season with the New York Giants. The unrestricted free agent opted to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March.
While that reception total pales in comparison to some of the other players at that position around the league, those numbers look all world compares to the five tight ends who are currently on Tom Coughlin’s roster.
The list includes 2012 fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson, who has yet to catch a pass in two seasons. There’s Larry Donnell and his three receptions in 2013, as well as free-agent addition Kellen Davis, who totaled three catches for the Seattle Seahawks this past season.
Add in veteran Daniel Fells, who did not play in 2013, and rookie undrafted free agent Xavier Grimble, and you have a total of six NFL catches by those five performers this past season.
Are the Giants making plans to sign a veteran tight end anytime soon? Their decision not to add one via the draft remains a bit perplexing.
Oakland Raiders: Not Re-Signing DE Lamarr Houston
When you haven’t enjoyed a winning campaign in 11 consecutive years and are a combined 70 games under .500 dating back to 2003, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few chances.
Since finishing 11-5 and reaching Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002, the Oakland Raiders are a mere 53-123 in their last 176 regular-season games.
Entering the free-agency period, no team had more money to spend than the Silver and Black. The club had a pair of up-and-coming performers in defensive end Lamarr Houston and tackle Jared Veldheer, two potential unrestricted free agents who appeared destined not to go anywhere. Instead, the former inked a deal with the Chicago Bears, and Veldheer wound up signing with the Arizona Cardinals.
The departure of Houston is the bigger problem.
Yes, the Raiders added veteran defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and hope to improve on a pass rush that managed a so-so 38 sacks in 2013.
Getting to the quarterback wasn’t necessarily Houston’s forte. But the four-year pro was coming off a career-high six sacks this past season, and teaming with him either Tuck or Woodley would have given the former second-round draft choice a bookend to learn from.
And considering Houston was one of the league’s top defensive ends via Pro Football Focus (subscription required) versus the run, he could have been quite the homegrown prospect for a Raiders team that has brought in a lot of veteran free agents on defense the last two offseasons.
Philadelphia Eagles: Releasing WR DeSean Jackson
When you decide to part ways with any player in the NFL, it is not an easy decision.
When you let go of a performer who has put together three Pro Bowl campaigns in six seasons, it is all the more difficult.
And when that player finds a home in your division with the opportunity, at least twice in a season, to remind you of what you're missing, well, we all know how revenge is properly served.
It’s a cold business, and new Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson will warm up to the fact that he gets to face the Philadelphia Eagles, his former employer, in Week 3 in the City of Brotherly Love and three months later (Week 16) at FedEx Field.
Meanwhile, head coach Chip Kelly and company have moved on and have appeared to have found a new toy in the form of rookie wideout Jordan Matthews, the 42nd overall pick in May who has impressed Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com.
As of Jackson, he will be wearing No. 11 once the season starts. Of course, No. 10 (Jackson’s number with the Eagles) belongs to teammate and quarterback Robert Griffin III. So do the math when it comes to the enclosed picture from OTAs. New head coach Jay Gruden and the Redskins are hoping this pair adds up to some big things in 2014.
For the Eagles, the DeParture of DeSean may be something they wind up regretting when it is all said and done.
Tennessee Titans: Releasing PK Rob Bironas
All good things certainly come to an end.
However, it appeared that Tennessee Titans placekicker Rob Bironas was still pretty good.
In nine seasons with the franchise, the talented specialist totaled 1,032 points and still owns the league mark for most field goals in a game, connecting on eight three-pointers against the Houston Texans in 2007. However, the one-time Pro Bowler was let go by the club in March in a salary-cap move.
For now, the placekicking job appears to be a battle between veteran punter Brett Kern, Maikon Bonani (a member of Tennessee’s training camp in 2013) and undrafted rookie free agent Travis Coons (University of Washington). Kern is a six-year veteran who has more career rushing yards (21) than field-goal attempts (zero), although he has a smidge of kickoff experience.
Meanwhile, Bironas had a .857 field-goal percentage (239-of-279) in nine seasons with the Titans, scored at least 100 points in each of his last seven campaigns with the club and connected on 287 consecutive PATs.
It’s a move that really didn’t make sense. However, perhaps some new figures could add up to a return by Bironas to Nashville down the road?
We’re just kicking the idea around.