Every NFL Team's Biggest Disappointment This Offseason
The NFL offseason is full of highs and lows, although it's generally not quite as dramatic as the in-season roller coaster we enjoy come September.
Some are big, while others are minor. After all, some teams were able to steer clear of controversy and major losses.
Other teams weren't so lucky, running into scandal or facing difficult roster decisions. Many are disappointments of the off-field variety, with players running into trouble with the law. Those players' teams have had to do damage control to varying degrees.
It wasn't all player-related, either—some shakeups in the front office or fiascos in ownership were big disappointments over the past several months.
Let's take a look at each team's biggest disappointment of the offseason.
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Daryl Washington for the Season
It's always unfortunate when a player loses the battle with rules and regulations.
For linebacker Daryl Washington, the battle with those pesky rules led to a season-long suspension. His suspension came a year after he missed four games for breaching the substance abuse policy, per Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.
This was a huge blow to the Arizona Cardinals defense, which had already lost Pro Bowl linebacker Karlos Dansby to free agency. That is 197 total tackles from 2013 gone, not to mention the overall talent that both players brought to the table.
Losing Washington is a massive disappointment for a defense that was keeping pace with the rest of the NFC West. Without him and Dansby, the all-important middle has suddenly become suspect.
Biggest Disappointment: Not Addressing the Pass Rush
The Atlanta Falcons had needs on both sides of the trenches, along the offensive and defensive line.
They did a nice job of addressing the offensive line and the interior of the defensive line, but the pass rush still leaves something to be desired in Atlanta. The Falcons were tied for the third-fewest sacks and seventh-lowest sack percentage in the league last season, and they did little to improve that from a personnel standpoint.
Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai were nice additions in the middle along with Ra'Shede Hageman in the draft, but they aren't big pass-rushers. Can the same group of edge-rushers turn things around?
Biggest Disappointment: Ray Rice's Off-Field Problem
From a personnel standpoint, the Baltimore Ravens had a fine offseason. Off the field and out of the front office, however, has been another story.
Running back Ray Rice was involved in an altercation with his then-fiancee in which he allegedly knocked her unconscious. He followed the ugly incident with an ill-advised press conference featuring a ham-fisted apology.
Rice's actions will likely earn him a significant suspension. While the Ravens are backing their starting running back, he has clearly been a disappointment this offseason.
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Mike Pettine
The Buffalo Bills had a surprisingly good defense last season under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, particularly against the pass. They boasted the fourth-best pass defense and racked up the second-most sacks in the league.
They will have to make do with Jim Schwartz going forward, however.
Pettine took what seemed like a toxic head coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns despite appearing to be their fourth choice. He leaves behind an up-and-coming defense under the tutelage of Schwartz, the ousted former Detroit Lions head coach.
Biggest Disappointment: Cutting Steve Smith
The Carolina Panthers didn't have much cap space this offseason, but was cutting Steve Smith really necessary?
Carolina had issues at wide receiver before cutting Smith, a stalwart on the offense and a popular player among fans. He might be on the downswing of his career at age 35, but cutting him left the Panthers perilously thin at receiver.
Even after signing Jerricho Cotchery and drafting Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina could have used Smith's veteran presence and production, even if it was on the decline.
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Henry Melton
The Chicago Bears did well to recover from this loss in the draft, taking Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in the second and third rounds, respectively. But couldn't they have tried to retain Henry Melton?
Instead, the Dallas Cowboys signed him to what amounts to a one-year deal with a three-year option if he proves his worth.
Melton wasn't a hot commodity in free agency because he is still rehabbing from a torn ACL last year, but he was developing into a fantastic all-around defensive tackle.
Biggest Disappointment: Avoiding Free Agency
It was a rather quiet free-agent period in Cincinnati—despite the team having a ton of cap space—which should come as little surprise to anyone who knows owner Mike Brown's history.
Not only did the Bengals avoid serious spending on the open market, but they sat by and watched as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers snatched up key contributors Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins.
The Bengals didn't do much to get better this offseason, if anything at all, and a poor free-agent period is a big reason why.
Biggest Disappointment: The Front Office Debacle
The looming season-long suspension of star wide receiver Josh Gordon was certainly a candidate here, but the Cleveland Browns have bigger issues to overcome.
The offseason got off to a rocky start in Cleveland as the Browns fired head coach Rob Chudzinski after just one season on the job.
It takes guts to admit a mistake early instead of sticking with it out of some sense of obligation.
Nevertheless, the head coaching search was comical at best. Josh McDaniels was a front-runner for the job before pulling out, per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. The Browns then interviewed a mystery candidate which turned out to be Greg Schiano, who had been an abject disappointment with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cleveland eventually settled on Mike Pettine and then promptly fired Mike Lombardi and Joe Banner, whom the Browns had also hired just a year before.
Biggest Disappointment: Cutting DeMarcus Ware
Cap issues plagued the Dallas Cowboys this offseason so much that they had to make some difficult roster decisions.
One of them was to cut defensive end DeMarcus Ware, a longtime Cowboy who was ranked eighth at his position at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) last season. He clearly has plenty left in his tank, but the Cowboys couldn't afford to keep him.
He will ply his trade in Denver this season while the Dallas pass rush suffers.
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Zane Beadles
The Denver Broncos made splash after splash in free agency this offseason, but they also lost some good players.
One of them was guard Zane Beadles, the starting left guard for most of the past four seasons. They are attempting to replace him with Orlando Franklin, who moves inside from the tackle position.
That may work, but it could just as easily backfire. Beadles may not have been an elite guard, but losing a starter on the offensive line typically hurts.
Biggest Disappointment: Hiring Jim Caldwell
The Detroit Lions had to move on from head coach Jim Schwartz after underachieving for the past couple of seasons. Lackluster results combined with off-field issues finally caught up to Schwartz, who landed with the Buffalo Bills as a defensive coordinator.
His replacement? Jim Caldwell, former Indianapolis Colts head coach.
He has many admirers, including Super Bowl-winning former coach Tony Dungy. But he hasn't exactly had success as a head coach at any level.
He took over for Dungy in Indianapolis, going from 14-2 and a Super Bowl appearance to 2-14 in the span of three seasons, though the final one was played without Peyton Manning.
Overall, Caldwell is 52-85 as a head coach in his career (including eight years at the helm of Wake Forest).
He is the antithesis to Schwartz, to the point where Caldwell is viewed as the most boring head coach in the league. His calm demeanor might be just what the doctor ordered in Detroit, but the Lions made a lackluster hire after they missed out on Ken Whisenhunt.
Green Bay Packers
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Evan Dietrich-Smith
Losing wide receiver James Jones was a blow to the Green Bay offense, but the Packers did a nice job of replacing him in the draft with Davante Adams.
One of the bigger disappointments this offseason was when Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He stabilized the center position for the Packers after a couple of seasons of poor play, and it was assumed Green Bay would make a big effort to re-sign him.
Biggest Disappointment: Not Addressing the Quarterback Position
Looking at it from a personnel standpoint, the Houston Texans did change things at quarterback. They shipped Matt Schaub off to Oakland, signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and drafted Tom Savage.
But did they really address the position sufficiently?
Fitzpatrick is a journeyman who parlayed one good half-season into a big contract, which he immediately squandered in Buffalo. He was unable to gain any traction in Tennessee after he was cut by the Bills. It's reasonable to believe he won't be much of an improvement over Schaub, if at all.
Savage, meanwhile, is a mid-round project many think was a product of hype more than talent in the draft.
Biggest Disappointment: Jim Irsay
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested this offseason for driving under the influence of prescription drugs, per Tim Evans of USA Today. He quickly checked himself into rehab, but the ugly incident was a big black eye for the Colts and the NFL.
He is due in court in August, so it remains to be seen what sort of penalty he will receive from the justice system. In the meantime, his license has been suspended for a year, per Mark Alesia and Evans of The Indianapolis Star.
The NFL has yet to punish the outspoken owner, however, which has led to some criticism about how the league deals with wealthy owners versus its players. Irsay is sure to receive some punishment in the end, but his saga has been a nasty one for the Colts.
Biggest Disappointment: The Center Position
The Jacksonville Jaguars lost Brad Meester to retirement this offseason, which left a hole at center in the process.
They attempted to patch that hole in a big way, signing Alex Mack to an offer sheet crafted in such a way that might make the Cleveland Browns decide against matching it. The deal included $18 million guaranteed over the first two seasons, per NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, which was quite the lofty number for a center.
Unfortunately for Jacksonville, the Browns matched the offer—a five-year, $42 million deal that makes Mack the highest-paid center in the league.
The Jaguars went from trying to sign one of the best centers in the league to doing nothing to address the position after that. They didn't sign another center or take one early in the draft. (They drafted Luke Bowanko of Virginia in the sixth round.)
Guards Mike Brewster and rookie Brandon Linder figure to vie for the starting spot, but it must have been rather disappointing to make a big splash only to have it taken away.
Kansas City Chiefs
Biggest Disappointment: Hemorrhaging Linemen
Many teams had at least some wiggle room under the salary cap this offseason. Kansas City, however, was not one of them.
The Chiefs needed to conserve cap space, and that meant letting some players go. Unfortunately, that meant losing three of their best offensive linemen—Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah.
Albert was as good as gone with Eric Fisher in town, but Asamoah and Schwartz will be missed in the middle.
Biggest Disappointment: The GM Search
The Miami Dolphins finally rid themselves of general manager Jeff Ireland after another mediocre season, though the Jonathan Martin bullying scandal was the real catalyst for his ouster. The problem then became hiring someone in his place.
Much like when the Dolphins were looking for a new head coach a couple of seasons ago, however—remember when Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher rejected overtures?—the search for Ireland's replacement was less than ideal.
Nick Caserio, Lake Dawson and Ray Farmer all spurned Miami before the Dolphins finally settled on former Buccaneers front-office man Dennis Hickey.
Biggest Disappointment: Letting Jared Allen Walk
Defensive end Jared Allen lived up to his end of the bargain in Minnesota after he signed a six-year, $72 million deal with the Vikings in 2008. He had 85.5 sacks in that span and was one of the best overall players at his position.
He might be on the verge of a decline at the age of 32, but he was still a productive player last season who could have been a big part of the defense for the rest of his career.
Instead, the Vikings let him walk, and he strolled right over to the Chicago Bears, a hated division rival.
New England Patriots
Biggest Disappointment: Drafting Jimmy Garoppolo
All in all, the New England Patriots had a pretty good offseason. They signed Darrelle Revis, who was the best player in free agency once Tampa Bay cut him. The Pats paired him with Brandon Browner, instantly creating one of the league's best tandems where they have had issues over the years.
One area where head coach Bill Belichick hasn't dominated, however, is the draft. Some head-scratching picks and others that haven't panned out have, perhaps, hampered New England's ability to get over the hump.
His latest questionable pick was quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois.
Belichick is certainly trying to plan for a future without quarterback Tom Brady—if Belichick doesn't retire at the same time—but doing it with a second-round developmental quarterback out of the FCS might have been too luxurious.
Perhaps Garoppolo will be the guy in a few years, but New England's championship window is still open. They could have landed an immediate contributor in Garoppolo's place and drafted Tom Savage or David Fales later on.
New Orleans Saints
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Brian De La Puente
Brian De La Puente had been a solid center for the New Orleans Saints, starting every game for the past two seasons and all but four since ascending to starter three years ago.
He wasn't just a starter but a quality one at that. He has ranked in the top 16 at center at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) during that span. That includes a 2012 season when he ranked second.
That wasn't enough for New Orleans, who now rely on unproven Tim Lelito and San Francisco 49ers castoff Jonathan Goodwin at the position.
New York Giants
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Linval Joseph
It was a nice offseason for the New York Giants, who spent freely on the free-agent market and improved several areas of the team.
One area where they got worse in free agency was the defensive line, where they lost Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph.
The latter was a particularly big blow to the defensive line. A 25-year-old just stepping into the beginning of his prime, Joseph was lured away by the tropical and cosmopolitan life in Minneapolis. The big defensive tackle has had exactly 59 tackles in each of the past two seasons, totaling seven sacks in that span as well.
New York Jets
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Austin Howard
It has been a relatively quiet offseason for the New York Jets.
Who am I kidding? You could hear a pin drop in New York relative to what the Jets have seen in recent years. The team retained head coach Rex Ryan after a strong close to 2013, criticized and ridiculed quarterback Mark Sanchez is gone and the last remnants of the Tim Tebow circus have been cleared out.
About the only noise to be made comes from Sanchez's replacement, Michael Vick, who is giving second-year quarterback Geno Smith a bit of a run for his starting job.
The Jets generally had a nice offseason, but they will miss Austin Howard.
After a rocky start at right tackle, he blossomed into a solid starter for the Jets. He signed a big deal with the Oakland Raiders to play guard.
The Jets did replace him with Breno Giacomini from Seattle, but they could have used Howard on that offensive line either way.
Biggest Disappointment: The Rodger Saffold Debacle
The Oakland Raiders opened up free agency with the most cap space in the league. They went to work immediately, signing offensive tackle Rodger Saffold to replace Jared Veldheer, who had signed with the Arizona Cardinals.
Why they didn't seem to make a significant effort to re-sign their young left tackle is another question entirely, but the Saffold signing proved to be a debacle for general manager Reggie McKenzie in the end.
Saffold failed his physical with the Raiders, who returned him to free agency just a couple of days after signing him. It turned out that owner Mark Davis overruled McKenzie, turning a big signing into an embarrassment for the Raiders.
Biggest Disappointment: Cutting DeSean Jackson
There were "football reasons" to cut receiver DeSean Jackson, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com, but was it truly a wise move for the Philadelphia Eagles to get rid of him?
He was, by far, Philadelphia's top receiver last season, hauling in 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He might not be a prototypical No. 1 receiver, but he had value to the Eagles offense.
Biggest Disappointment: Losing 57 Percent of Ben Roethlisberger's Passing Touchdowns
The Pittsburgh Steelers bid farewell to several players this offseason, for a smattering of reasons like a relative lack of cap space or old age.
Two of those guys were receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, who combined to catch 16 touchdowns. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw 28 touchdowns overall, which means he lost over half his touchdown targets when those two signed elsewhere.
San Diego Chargers
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Ken Whisenhunt
One of the biggest surprises of the 2013 season was San Diego.
The Chargers came from nowhere to make the playoffs out of the AFC West. It was a remarkable turnaround for a team that had performed so poorly in 2012 with few significant roster changes a season later.
New head coach Mike McCoy was a big improvement over the departed Norv Turner, but an underrated reason for San Diego's success was offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
The Chargers masked an average defense with a great offense, sparked by a resurgent season from quarterback Philip Rivers. Whisenhunt was a big reason for that resurgence, and now he is coaching the Tennessee Titans.
San Francisco 49ers
Biggest Disappointment: Aldon Smith
Outside linebacker Aldon Smith has had a turbulent tenure in San Francisco. Off-field issues have plagued him for some time, and they persisted this offseason.
In the weeks leading up to his court appearance for weapons and DUI charges—he recently pled no contest to the charges, which could still lead to prison time—Smith was arrested yet again for allegedly reporting a false bomb threat at Los Angeles International Airport.
Thankfully for him, he was able to dodge felony charges for that incident, per USA Today's Tom Pelissero.
To their credit, the 49ers are standing behind the embattled defensive end, picking up the fifth year on his rookie deal. Whether they are backing someone who is turning his life around or on the path to self-destruction remains to be seen.
Hopefully, it's the former.
Biggest Disappointment: Losing Golden Tate
Seattle doesn't exactly have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver.
The Seahawks have Percy Harvin—a versatile player with potential who has had injury concerns for most of his career. Behind him, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Sidney Rice and rookie Paul Richardson vie for playing time. That's thanks to Golden Tate's flight to Detroit in free agency.
He was Seattle's leading receiver last season, although he had just 898 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He was also key on special teams as a punt returner, fielding all but one of Seattle's punt returns and averaging 11.5 yards per return in the process.
Seattle could be fine without him, but it might be more difficult to replace him than many think.
St. Louis Rams
Biggest Disappointment: Stedman Bailey's Suspension
The St. Louis Rams had a receiver suspended this offseason, and it wasn't Kenny Britt.
Stedman Bailey was suspended for the first four games of the year due to a violation of league policy on performance-enhancing drugs, per John Breech of CBS Sports. The Rams aren't exactly stacked at receiver, and Bailey had a real shot at starting on the outside this year.
He still has that shot, but it will have to come after his suspension.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Biggest Disappointment: Cutting Darrelle Revis
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had arguably the best cornerback in the league—a shutdown player who can be left on an island without worry—locked down for five more years. Sure, they still had $80 million to pay him too, but was that really too much for a player of Revis' caliber?
Keeping him wasn't in the cards, though, as the Buccaneers had other plans this offseason. They were able to jettison his $16 million cap number with zero dead money. It freed up the room for Tampa Bay to sign the most expensive free-agent haul.
All those free agents are nice, but the Buccaneers still gave away a transcendent player in his prime.
Biggest Disappointment: Cutting Rob Bironas
Sure, he's just a kicker, but Rob Bironas was one of the more reliable ones in the league for the Tennessee Titans over the years.
He may have been making a pretty penny to kick in Tennessee—he was in the second of a two-year, $6.675 million contract that he signed in 2013—but that wasn't too much for a little peace of mind at a position of growing importance in the league.
He had fallen off a bit after being fourth in the league in field-goal percentage in 2011, but would you rather have the career 85.7 percent kicker or one of Brett Kern, Travis Coons or Maikon Bonani, all of whom are competing for the job?
Biggest Disappointment: Daniel Snyder's Obstinance
The pressure is mounting for the Washington football team to change its nickname.
A recent poll suggests that a majority of Native Americans oppose the name, which was followed by a powerful ad put out by the Oneida Nation slamming the team. It culminated with the United States Patent Office canceling the trademark to the "Redskins" name for being disparaging, per ESPN.com's Darren Rovell.
Despite all of this, owner Daniel Snyder appears resolute as ever to keep the objectionable sobriquet. Almost a year after declaring Washington would never change the nickname, Snyder launched a charity for Native Americans in a transparent bid to buy complacency.
The bottom line is that the term "redskin" is a dictionary-defined racial slur that has no place as a team's moniker in today's society. It has been a big disappointment to see Snyder continue to dig in and fight positive change for the sake of pride and merchandising.
Change is coming, whether Snyder and Washington fight it until the bitter end or not.
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