The offseason in the National Football League is all about getting better. Improving skills, fixing holes, drafting young talent and adding key free agents.
Most teams improve during the offseason. Whether they improve enough is the big question, but it's rare for a team to enter the next season significantly worse than the previous season.
Unless you're the Carolina Panthers or the Kansas City Chiefs, you probably have at least modest expectations of improving your record in 2014.
But as far as individual success goes, expect very little of it from the following 10 players. Whether it's because they lost weapons in their supporting cast or switched teams, the players listed below are a virtual lock to play worse in 2014 than they did in 2013.
1. Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
More than any other player in the NFL, Josh McCown is destined for a worse year in 2014 than 2013. I find it ridiculous, almost laughable, that he was handed the starting job in Tampa Bay over last year's promising rookie, Mike Glennon. That's an insult to the success that Glennon achieved while quarterbacking one of the league's worst offenses for 13 starts.
Let's look at what McCown did. He threw 13 touchdowns and just one interception with the Bears. He posted the best single-season passer rating in league history (minimum 14 attempts per game) and the 15th-best passer rating. That's incredible, especially for a backup quarterback.
So what's the catch? Well, for starters, McCown made just five starts. His tremendous success can almost certainly be achieved to offensive genius Marc Trestman, plus the league's best wide receiver combination. And, like I said, it was five games. There's no way McCown was going to continue at a 13-touchdown, one-interception clip.
Now 35 years old, McCown is a career journeyman, a third-round pick in 2002 whose biggest claim to fame at this point in his career was a walkoff touchdown to beat the Minnesota Vikings in the final game of the 2003 season. That was 11 years ago. McCown's made 38 starts throughout his career, winning 16. His passer rating is a very mediocre 77.5, and he's barely thrown more touchdowns (50) than interceptions (45).
Sure, McCown will be helped in Tampa Bay by the receiving duo of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, two of the game's tallest starting wideouts. But he can't bring Trestman with him to Tampa Bay, and let's just say that new head coach Lovie Smith doesn't exactly have a track record of success with quarterbacks.
McCown will enter the season as the starter. I'll be surprised if he still has his job by midseason. I'll be absolutely stunned if he finishes the season as the starter. The Bucs' decision to hand McCown the starting job, without any competition, is just brutal. It's easily the single worst coaching decision made by any NFL team this offseason.
2. Michael Vick, QB, New York Jets
It seems like Michael Vick finds himself in the middle of a quarterback competition almost every season. This offseason is no different, as the former No. 1 overall draft pick is competing with last year's rookie, Geno Smith, for the starting job on the New York Jets.
Expect this year to be different, however. Smith may have struggled as a rookie but he played well down the stretch. Plus, he actually has a future in this league. Vick's career is all but washed up. He's proven year after year that he cannot stay healthy. He's still a threat as a runner, but his moderate success in 2013 was likely the result of a genius head coach and a slew of offensive weapons.
Vick won't have Chip Kelly or LeSean McCoy in New York, if he finds a way to win the quarterback competition. And I predict he won't, by the way.
3. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins
Knowshon Moreno accumulated 1,586 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 total touchdowns in 2013. That almost seems wrong to type.
Could it be that after four mediocre years the former first-round pick finally established himself as a legitimate NFL starter? Or was Moreno's success almost solely the result of an otherworldly campaign by five-time MVP winner Peyton Manning?
I'm going to go with the second option. Even the Denver Broncos seemed to know that Moreno's success was a fluke, as they allowed him to walk in free agency without a fight.
4. Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
Wes Welker's been one of the best slot receivers in the NFL for the last seven years. Now 33 years old, Welker's reign of success could be ending pretty quickly. He's dealt with his fair share of concussions, which caused him to miss three games last year.
He's also just an injury away from being passed, possibly permanently, on the depth chart by rookie Cody Latimer.
Peyton Manning doesn't need Wes Welker. He has Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas, and he could turn Latimer and Emmanuel Sanders into stars pretty quickly.
5. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
He's still one of the NFL's best running backs, but I think 2014 is the season it all ends for Marshawn Lynch.
It sure hasn't been a good offseason. Lynch held out in training camp for a new contract, but the Seahawks wisely stood their ground before he caved in.
They know what they're doing. Lynch carried the ball more than 700 times in the past two seasons, playoffs included. He's now 28 years old. And the Seahawks have a very talented young stud, Christine Michael, behind Lynch on the depth chart.
After the season, expect Michael to be the anointed the future starter, while Lynch is released. There's no way the Seahawks keep him around for an $8.5 million cap hit in 2015.
6. Kenny Britt, WR, St. Louis Rams
Don't ever expect a wide receiver to succeed on the St. Louis Rams as long as Sam Bradford is quarterback. Those are the cold, hard facts.
Since Bradford entered the league in 2010, no Rams receiver has collected more than 700 receiving yards in a season. That's 44 yards per game.
Britt is looking to revive his NFL career with his former head coach, Jeff Fisher. Yeah, that's not going to happen. I wouldn't be surprised if Britt is cut in training camp, but if he does make the team, he'll struggle to reach 500 yards.
7. Michael Oher, OT, Tennessee Titans
Michael Oher went from a relatively big free-agency signing for the Tennessee Titans to a mere afterthought the second the team selected offensive tackle Taylor Lewan with their first-round pick.
Although Oher is currently listed as a starter at right tackle, that won't last. He'll be the odd man out, as the Titans' offensive line will probably consist of Michael Roos, Andy Levitre, Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack and Lewan.
Look at the options. Schwenke has to play center. That means five guys are fighting for four spots. Roos is one of the best tackles in the game. He starts. Warmack and Lewan have their entire careers ahead of them. They play. And Levitre is miles ahead of Oher.
Easy call. Despite a $20 million deal in free agency, Oher will start the season on the bench. So much for the blind side.
8. Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets
How'd you like to go from catching passes from Peyton Manning to catching passes from Geno Smith? That's Eric Decker in 2013 versus Eric Decker in 2014.
Decker caught 87 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 scores last year before signing a massive deal in free agency with the Jets. He'll be lucky to reach 65 catches, 1,000 yards and eight scores this upcoming season.
9. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Oakland Raiders
It was painfully obvious to everybody watching football in 2013 that Maurice Jones-Drew's days as an effective starting running back are long finished. After injuries killed his 2012 season, Jones-Drew averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in 2013.
So of course the Oakland Raiders signed Jones-Drew in free agency, where he will likely split carries with Darren McFadden. At 29 years old, Jones-Drew is past his prime and has almost no chance of success, especially on the NFL's worst team.
10. Riley Cooper, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
An injury to Jeremy Maclin opened the door for wide receiver Riley Cooper to emerge as a legitimate playmaker for the first time in his NFL career. Cooper finished the season with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns, and he posted a 116.0 rating on balls thrown in his direction, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Don't expect anything close to similar success in 2014. Cooper is one of seven legitimate receiving weapons for the Eagles, a run-heavy team. I expect at least five of the other six (LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews, Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek) to all catch more passes than Cooper.
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