Each offseason, a litany of moves are made and even more are rumored. Often, teams that are close to reaching their potential gamble on adding one more player to put them over the top.
Other times, bad teams add veterans after a coaching change in an attempt to change the culture. Think of the Detroit Lions. Sometimes, adding veterans can change a team for the better.
But, at other times, adding veterans only makes things worse. Think of the Washington Redskins and specifically Albert Haynesworth.
In the offseason, and before the first week of games, all teams are in first place. Most teams have a decent chance of making the playoffs. Some, like the Raiders, have no shot no matter which month it is.
With that said, the difference between playing in January and sitting at home frequently comes down to one move. Further, the most impactful move is often a move that isn't made.
Let's get to the list. These moves are in no particular order. Also, this is a list of moves and non-moves up to date. Of course, if one of these happen or is corrected, we'll just pretend I never mentioned it.
That confused look on Big Albert's face is an emotion shared by Washington fans. Particularly, why is Haynesworth still in Washington?
It's clear he has no desire to play in Mike Shanahan's 3-4 defense. Whether he has any merit in his stance is not the issue. The issue is chemistry.
In football, more so than in other sports, chemistry is of paramount importance. Players must be able to trust their teammates.
Opponents are too big and too strong for players to be concerned with anyone other than the opposite side. If players are worried about what their teammates are going to do or not do, the team will suffer.
Haynesworth has maintained he has no desire to play for the Redskins. There have been rumors of Albert heading to Detroit to reunite with Jim Schwartz or returning to Tennessee.
In essence, the entire world knows Albert has no desire to suit up with his teammates. Washington has done a disservice to the players who do want to play under Shanahan by keeping Albert in town.
Sometimes, the best move is a move not made. Conversely, the worst move can also be a move not made. Consider this the latter. Not moving away from the selfish Haynesworth may prove to be costly for the Redskins.
I freely admit that Mike Holmgren has forgotten more about quarterbacks than any of us will ever know. Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Brett Favre are some of his pupils. His tree of coaching disciples extends throughout the league. I'm not arguing that.
But does he really think Jake Delhomme has something left in the tank? I sure don't. All I can think of is that meltdown in the 2008 playoffs.
Granted, Cleveland is unlikely to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February, but starting Delhomme is a virtual guarantee that the Browns will be home during the playoffs.
Delhomme could prove to be a strong mentor to rookie Colt McCoy, but I'd argue there is no better quarterback guru than Holmgren himself.
Delhomme is likely to only stand in the way of the former Longhorn star from getting on the field. I'm not advocating starting Colt right away, but there has to have been a better player to keep the seat warm for McCoy.
Look, I don't really care for the whole T.O. show. No, not his ill-fated reality show. I'm referring to his constant and never-ending antics.
But it's hard to argue T.O. isn't a good football player, even at age 36.
Sure, he only had 55 catches and five touchdowns in 2009. But I'd argue he managed to end up with those numbers with a string of corpses playing quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. (More on that later)
I don't see how, in the right situation, Terrell Owens can't help a team get over the hump. By right situation, I mean a team with veteran leadership in place and an established quarterback. And a team looking for one more piece to add in order to make the playoffs.
Teams have put up with head cases, or bad teammates, or jerks when they were still able to produce on the field. I'm surprised T.O. is still in street clothes and not helping a team like the Bengals.
Cincinnati has some veteran players and an established star signal caller in Carson Palmer. And they've put up with Chad Ochocinco's nonsense for years. T.O. could help the Bengals return to the playoffs.
But he can't help anyone from the stands or his living room.
Quick, what's the most important position in the NFL? If you didn't say quarterback, you're living in the past.
Gone are the days when a strong defense and a care-taking quarterback could lead a team to the playoffs. Gone are the days of the 2000 Ravens.
Look at the successful teams over the past decade. The Colts, the Patriots, the Steelers, and the Eagles. They all had upper-level quarterbacks. Where are the Saints without Drew Brees? Not winning the Super Bowl, that's for sure.
Now, the 49ers have a strong defense led by uber-star Patrick Willis. And they have remade the offensive line with the hopes of returning to smash-mouth football. This team is ready to live up to Mike Singletary's intensity.
But, in order to do anything in the playoffs, the 49ers must have above average play from the quarterback position. The NFC West is winnable with Kurt Warner retiring in Arizona, Seattle changing under the direction of Pete Carroll, and St. Louis being home to the Rams.
Was there not a better option than Alex Smith for the 49ers?
You'd be hard pressed to find somebody who would argue LT was not the best running back in the 2000s. Without a doubt, LT was the best back of the decade. It can be argued he's among the best of all time.
You'd also be hard pressed to find many people who think LT has much left in the tank.
Not that I think the New York Jets are counting on much on the field from LT. I think he's there to be a mentor to young offensive players such as Shonn Greene, Mark Sanchez, and Braylon Edwards.
Whatever the Jets get on the field from LT will be gravy.
LT's yards per carry numbers have plummeted as his explosiveness has faded over the years. He may be able to see the holes or sense the moves he needs to make, but his legs are no longer able to carry him like they once did.
For a team so close to going to the Super Bowl in 2009, the J-E-T-S are putting too many eggs in LT's basket.
This could easily go down as one of the biggest blunders of the 2010 offseason.
Thomas Jones ran for over 1400 yards and scored 14 rushing touchdowns in 2009. And, as a reward, the Jets released him in March. Does that add up?
Now, I'm all for playing young, promising players. Shonn Greene is undoubtedly one of those players. But, with so many teams employing running back by committee partnerships, why did the Jets release Jones?
He may be 31, but he's a young 31. What I mean is Jones has only gone over 300 carries in three seasons. (Note: He has gone over 290 in two other seasons) I don't feel like he's running on fumes.
I really don't see how removing Jones and adding LT make sense for a team that fancies itself a serious playoff contender. New York's loss in certainly Kansas City's gain.
Flozell Adams may have slipped a bit in the past few seasons. Speed rushers have been able to give Adams more trouble in recent years. And he was good for about one tripping or holding penalty every Sunday.
But Adams was still an above average left tackle. What's left in his place is anyone's guess.
One of the most important concepts in football is protecting the passer and keeping rushers away from the quarterback. Having a quick-footed behemoth to keep the QB's blindside safe is of vital importance.
Perhaps Flozell was no longer an elite tackle, but not adding a capable replacement could come back to haunt the Cowboys.
Maybe Doug Free will prove to be a great tackle. Maybe Alex Barron will bloom in Dallas. But Jamal Brown was available for a mid-round pick.
The draft also held countless promising tackles. Notre Dame's Sam Young does not count as one of them.
Dallas has a chance to make some noise in 2010. Keeping Tony Romo's back safe is of monumental importance. Rolling the dice with Barron or Free could end up with the Cowboys crapping out.
Peace, LenDale. As in, don't let the door hit you on the way out of Seattle.
The Seahawks added White in an exchange of fourth and sixth round picks with the Titans. And White, reunited with college coach Pete Carroll, lasted all of a few weeks before being canned.
Granted, the price wasn't exorbitant. Trading down a few spots in rounds four and six isn't exactly on the same level as the Vikings trade for Hershel Walker, but was it worth the price of renting LenDale for a few weeks?
If anyone knew how to get the most out of White, it would be his former USC coach. Carroll rode White and other NFL caliber players (both in talent and pay check) to the highest mountains of success in the NCAA.
If Carroll thinks White is done, he's done. Good move by the Titans in trading him, but a bad move by the 'Hawks in trading for him.
As if the Bengal's penchant for bringing in troubled players hadn't become a national punchline, Cincy added Pacman Jones in May 2010.
I realize that if a player has talent, the sports world is very likely to ignore off the field problems and headaches. Most teams can win with a few knuckleheads if the locker room also has some high character guys and leaders.
I also realize I argued earlier for the Bengals to add Terrell Owens, but T.O. never faced criminal charges. Nobody was shot moments after an altercation with T.O.
In short, T.O. might be an egomaniac, but he's not likely to face felony charges either.
Pacman, on the other hand, has been in plenty of trouble with the law. Is giving him a two year contract and guaranteed money a good idea?
I really can't see this one working out well at all. Do you?
Is Marcus McNeill an all-time great offensive tackle?
No, he's not quite on the level of recently retired Walter Jones, or Jonathan Ogden, or Orlando Pace. Then again, not being described as a player of that caliber is not exactly a slap in the face.
But McNeill is a championship quality player. He's been a big part of the Chargers emergence as one of the top passing teams in the AFC. He's helped Philip Rivers become one of the top passers in the NFL.
Why, exactly is McNeill not locked up in a long term contract? Part of the reason is because of the uncertainty surrounding the labor situation and potential lockout looming on the horizon.
Part of the reason, further, is because of San Diego GM A. J. Smith. Smith is often referred to disparagingly as the Lord of No Rings. As in, the man who lords over his team and has won exactly nothing in his career.
Smith has added many talented players to the roster in San Diego. But he has also allowed Drew Brees to win a Super Bowl for the Saints. He may also force McNeill out of town even though the Chargers have the ability to pay McNeill commensurate with his talent level and importance to the team.
The mammoth tackle from Auburn is holding out because he isn't being paid what he deserves. In some situations, I feel a player has more leverage in a hold out. McNeill is in one of those situations. He has out-performed his contract. He's close to free agency and would be if it were not for the labor unrest.
Not signing McNeill is a mistake for the Chargers. Big mistake. Like, 6'7" and 336 pounds of a mistake.
Put Vincent Jackson in the same category as his Charger teammate Marcus McNeill. He'd be a free agent and able to determine his own fate had it not been for the labor uncertainty.
Jackson is rapidly becoming one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He has an ability to out leap defensive backs and the speed to run away from them as well. He is a big part of the Chargers' passing attack.
Not locking him up is a big time mistake for the Chargers. One of the biggest of the offseason.
No, I'm not talking about Steve Smith's flag football career. Although that is pretty dumb. Actually, it's incredibly dumb. And selfish. But I digress.
For years, Steve Smith has been one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. And for years, he's been all alone in Carolina.
Granted, Carolina is at its best when pounding the ball with talented running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. But, in order to win big in the NFL, a team must be multi-dimensional.
Can you imagine if Steve Smith had a playmaker on the other side of the formation? I'm not saying he needs a Randy Moss-caliber player out wide, but maybe somebody better than the corpse of Muhsin Muhammad or a rookie?
Of course, Brandon LaFell or Armanti Edwards could prove to be big-time players in the future. They could end up developing great chemistry with Jimmy Clausen (or Tony Pike) in the coming years.
But Smith does not have many big-time years left. Not adding somebody to make opposing defenses pay for doubling and tripling Steve Smith is a huge mistake.
Who played quarterback in Ochard Park the last time the Buffalo Bills won a playoff game? If you answered Jim Kelly, you'd be right.
So, since 1996, the Bills have rolled out players such as Rob Johnson, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, and the immortal Travis Brown to lead the team towards the playoffs.
In 2010, the Bills are on the verge of training camp with Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm, Levi Brown, and Ryan Fitzpatrick competing to earn the top spot.
In a draft where Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy went in the third round, the Bills chose a running back in the first round with recent first round pick Marshawn Lynch and emerging Fred Jackson already on the roster.
Is not trading out of number nine to add a potential franchise saver at quarterback a better move than adding a luxury like a third running back?
Going to battle without a big-time QB is a recipe for sitting at home in January. Look for the Bills to regret not bringing in some kind of improvement at quarterback.
Is Matt Leinart ready to do more than ride the pine? Can he do more than party in hot tubs with co-eds? Is he capable of replacing Kurt Warner?
Did the Cardinals make a mistake in not bringing in somebody to mentor and possibly spell Leinart in case he falters? Derek Anderson, Max Hall, and John Skelton are the other QB's in Arizona.
Not exactly a murderers' row. I can't stress this point enough. Teams in the NFL go as far as their quarterbacks take them. Leinart has yet to show he can lead a team to the NFL playoffs.
I'd be willing to bet the Cardinals would feel more comfortable with more depth atop the depth chart.
Sure, David Garrard made the Pro Bowl last season. But I think that speaks more to the joke the Pro Bowl has become than to Garrard's skills.
Would anyone argue Garrard is a top three QB in the AFC? At the end of 2010, Garrard may only be a top three quarterback in the state of Florida if Chad Henne and Josh Freeman develop as projected.
Garrard is not a franchise quarterback. He's a decent passer who benefits greatly from the monster that is Maurice Jones-Drew. Can he lead a team to consistent success? I contend he cannot.
When a QB is not franchise-level, it's painfully obvious. At the same time, when they are, it's crystal clear. It seems everyone but the Jags realize Garrard is only an average NFL signal caller.
Not bringing in competition or moving Garrard is a mistake that could haunt the Jags for years to come, not just in 2010.