Each AFC Team's Best and Worst Offseason Decision
This year's offseason really put each team's management and coaching staff to the test.
Much quicker decisions needed to be made, since things like signing undrafted rookies, re-signing free agents and signing your draft picks all started on the same day, as opposed to being spread out over a period of months like they usually are.
The teams that were able to succeed this offseason and better their teams were able to do so by prioritizing their needs and properly planning their strategy for who they would go after and when.
Some teams were able to execute their plans, and some flopped. Here's my list of every AFC team's best and worst decision from this offseason so far.
Best: Drafting Jimmy Smith
I think the Ravens got the steal of the draft when they selected Jimmy Smith at No. 27. He is an extremely talented shutdown cornerback who many felt would have gone in the top 10—if he didn't have a bunch of off-the-field issues.
If he can keep himself out of trouble and stay focused on improving his skills, I think he can be a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback one day.
Worst: Losing Todd Heap
I know Heap has definitely lost a step, but Flacco is still going to miss having him around. Heap has been his tight end since he was a rookie and has been an important target for him in the red zone and on third-down conversions.
Losing Mason and Heap will definitely be a setback for the Ravens offense, especially since there was a shortened training camp. Flacco hasn’t had time to get comfortable with his new receivers.
Best: Signing Brad Smith
Having a player like Brad Smith, who can run the Wildcat and option plays, is always beneficial for a team, especially one with a weak quarterback.
I feel the Jets never took advantage of this throwing ability, but it is nice to have a player who’s that dangerous on his feet and is also a threat to throw an accurate deep ball.
The Bills don’t really need help in the return game since they have CJ Spiller and Roscoe Parrish, but if one of them isn’t productive, Smith can step into that role as well.
Worst: Trading Lee Evans
I don’t understand why the Bills would trade Lee Evans for only a fourth-round pick.
I don’t believe Steve Johnson and Evans are the perfect complementary wide receivers, but I do think they are both very talented and could have helped Ryan Fitzpatrick grow as a quarterback.
With Evans gone, the inexperienced Donald Jones, who only caught 18 passes last season, is going to need to step up and start for the Bills at wide receiver.
Best: Not Drafting a QB at No. 4
I loved the Bengals draft this year.
They knew with all the rumors of Palmer retiring that they needed to draft his potential replacement, but instead of choosing the wrong quarterback with the No. 4 pick, they were patient. They grabbed A.J. Green, potentially the best player in this draft, with their first pick and let Andy Dalton fall into their laps at pick No. 35.
We’ll see what he’s made of this season when he’s thrown into the starting role right away.
Worst: Not Trading Carson Palmer
This has to be THE dumbest decision by any team this entire offseason.
Usually I wouldn’t agree with giving the player what he wants when he demands a trade, but in this case trading Palmer was in the both of their best interests. Calling his bluff was not a smart decision by the Bengals, and they are going to suffer for it.
Best: Trading Down in the Draft
Going into the draft, the Browns knew they wanted to take defensive tackle Phil Taylor. But they also knew it was too far of a reach to take him at No. 6, so they needed to find a team looking to move up.
They pulled off a great trade with the Falcons and acquired five draft picks for that one, including two first-round picks. One of those first-round picks was used to select Taylor to beef up their defensive line.
The Browns are a team that really needs help in multiple areas, so being able to get their guy while picking up a couple high draft picks was a great move for the team’s future.
Worst: Not Going After a Star Free Agent
Going into this offseason, the Browns were further under the cap than any other team in the league.
They could have used their cap money to go after star players like Nnamdi Asomugha or Santonio Holmes and really change the culture of their franchise. They instead chose to sit back and save their cap space.
Getting a game-changer who fans would have been excited about would have changed everyone’s negative attitude towards the team.
Best: Signing Willis McGahee
Since Knowshon Moreno was a little banged up last season, the Broncos needed to find another back to pair with him who could get physical in short-yardage situations so Moreno doesn’t have to.
They found exactly what they are looking for in Willis McGahee. He isn’t as good as he once was in the open field, but McGahee can definitely still put his head down and run through people in goal-line situations.
Worst: Not Trading Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton
The Broncos definitely made a mistake keeping Tebow and Orton.
Orton’s contract is up after this season, so they should have gotten something for him if they don’t plan on re-signing him long term. If they do plan on re-signing him, they should have traded Tebow to give Orton another weapon he could work with on offense.
Either way, there is no real benefit to keeping both quarterbacks. They will just be in the same quarterback pickle next season unless one of them breaks out for a monster year.
Best: Signing Jonathan Joseph
If you want to win a division that has Peyton Manning in it, you’re going to need excellent play from your cornerbacks to stop him.
That’s what the Texans have lacked the past few seasons, and that's the reason they are the only franchise that’s never made the playoffs. Jonathan Joseph is going to be vital to the Texans success this season. If they finally make the playoffs, he will be the reason why.
Worst: Not Signing Nnamdi Asomugha
I know the Texans ended up signing Joseph, but they seemed to be the analysts' pick to land Asomugha the entire lockout. It has to be a disappointment to not get him.
Their biggest need this offseason was cornerback and adding the best available player at that position would have given this team a boost in confidence.
They are going to need Joseph to play as well as Asomugha does if they don’t want to hear fans and analysts criticize them for not landing the better corner.
Best: Re-Signing Peyton Manning
This was definitely the easiest decision to pick. Peyton Manning is arguably the best quarterback in the league and deserved to get the biggest contract in the NFL.
If the Colts didn’t re-sign him, for some bizarre reason, it would have went down as one of the worst decisions of all time. Manning is a legend in Indianapolis and will play out the rest of his career for the Colts.
The real question is: Will he win another ring with Indy?
Worst: Not Re-Signing Clint Session
Up until Session got hurt, he was playing excellent defense for the Colts.
He is still only 26 years old and could have racked up numerous 100-tackle seasons for the Colts defense had they re-signed him.
What’s even worse is he went to play the Colts' division rivals, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now he will get to hit Manning at least twice a season.
Best: Drafting Blaine Gabbert
It was time for the Jaguars to go out and find David Garrard’s replacement. He has had many chances to take this team on a Super Bowl run and hasn’t come close to doing so.
Blaine Gabbert has shown he has great accuracy, as well as an above-average ability to avoid sacks under pressure.
He will get one season to learn from Garrard, and then it will be his turn to start and show what he can do.
Worst: Not Re-Signing Mike Sims-Walker
After losing Sims-Walker, I think the Jaguars have the worst starting wide receiver duo in the NFL. Their starting No. 2 wide receiver, Jason Hill, only had 248 yards and one touchdown last season.
The Jags need Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Jones-Drew to be extremely productive in the passing game this season if they want to have any chance of winning games.
The Jaguars desperately need to add another threat at wide receiver before Gabbert takes over as starter if they want him to be successful.
Kansas City Chiefs
Best: Re-Signing Tamba Hali
Tamba Hali has been unstoppable rushing the passer the last two seasons. Over that time, he’s recorded 23 sacks and forced eight fumbles.
He deserved to get the huge $60 million contract extension the Chiefs gave him because he is really a game-changer on the defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs were smart to lock him up long term before another team did.
Worst: Not Re-Signing Ron Edwards
The loss of Ron Edwards really puts a big hole in the Chiefs front seven. They were already weak on the defensive line as it is, and now they will really struggle to stop teams with a decent running game.
They added Kelly Gregg to try and make up for the loss of Edwards, but he is way past his prime and will be a fraction of the player he once was.
Best: Not Re-Signing Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown
It was time for the Dolphins to move on from Ricky and Ronnie.
They were both great with the Dolphins at some point, but now they are past their primes.
Trading for Reggie Bush and drafting Daniel Thomas definitely give the Dolphins an upgrade at running back this season.
Worst: Not trading for Kyle Orton
The Dolphins gave Chad Henne the chance to show he was ready to be their starting quarterback last season. He didn’t impress. He threw four more picks than touchdowns, and the Dolphins only won seven games.
The Broncos seemed almost desperate at one point to trade Orton, and the Dolphins should have jumped all over that while the asking price was low.
New England Patriots
Best: Trading for Chad Ochocinco
This trade was a typical move for Bill Belichickand the Patriots.
They are the masters of getting productive players at a low cost.
Even though Ochocinco isn't as fast as he once was, you know he will play his heart out for the Pats and could help Brady be even better than last season—if that's even possible.
Worst: Not Signing a Running Back
There are not many negative things to say about the Patriots offseason, except they could have used another running back to compete with the mediocre ones they currently have.
There were many decent running backs available this offseason, like Reggie Bush or Willis McGahee, which would have been upgrades for the Patriots at that position.
I guess it doesn't really matter, though, since the Pats running backs seem to always be successful no matter who it is.
New York Jets
Best: Re-Signing Santonio Holmes
Like it should have been, the Jets No. 1 priority this offseason was locking up star wide receiver Santonio Holmes long term.
After serving a four-game suspension last season, Holmes quickly became Mark Sanchez's favorite target when he caught numerous game-winning touchdowns for the Jets.
Santonio is going to need to step his game up, since he is the only familiar wide receiver Sanchez has.
Worst: Not Re-Signing Brad Smith
It was very unfortunate the Jets couldn't bring Brad Smith back because he helped them out in so many areas. Losing his return game and Wildcat offense is really going to force other players to step up and fill his roles.
You hate when it happens, but sometimes you just can't afford to bring back everyone.
Best: Re-Signing Michael Huff
After losing Nnamdi Asomugha due to a unique clause in his contract that allowed him to void it if he didn't reach certain incentives, the Raiders desperately needed to bring back the other All-Pro member of their secondary.
Huff may have been a little sloppy with his tackling at times last season, but he ultimately had a really good year and finished the season with 84 tackles, three interceptions, four sacks and two forced fumbles.
As long as he keeps progressing, Huff will be a fixture in the Raiders' secondary for years to come.
Worst: Not Re-Signing Zach Miller
The Raiders had one of the best receiving tight ends in the league in Zach Miller.
He is also only 24 years old, so he still has plenty of time to grow as a player and enhance his blocking skills.
The Raiders had plenty of cap space to work with after losing Asomugha, so I think they should have made re-signing Miller a priority.
Best: Re-Signing Willie Colon
You know Big Ben wanted the Steelers to bring back both of his big linemen who were free agents, Starks and Colon, but they settled for just one.
Luckily for him, they chose the better lineman, Willie Colon, and gave him a five-year contract—even though he's coming off an injury to his Achilles. If he can heal up properly and stay healthy all season, Colon can be one of the best players at his position come playoff time.
Worst: Re-Signing Ike Taylor
I don't understand what the Steelers see in Ike Taylor.
He is the weak link in their great defense because of his inconsistency covering down field. Last season, Taylor gave up six touchdowns and an astounding 67.5 completion percentage.
I think Taylor is one of the most overrated players in the NFL, and I'm stumped why the Steelers would re-sign him for another four seasons.
San Diego Chargers
Best: Re-Signing Eric Weddle
If the Chargers wanted to have the No.1-ranked defense in the NFL again this season, they needed to bring back All-Pro safety Eric Weddle. Weddle had another great season, recording just under 100 tackles on the year.
He is still only 26 years old, so getting him under contract for the next five years was a very smart move by the Chargers.
Worst: Not Re-Signing Darren Sproles
Last year the Chargers drafted Ryan Mathews with the No. 12 overall pick to be their starting running back, but he was only able to start nine games because of a foot injury. That same foot injury is still bothering him and caused him to come to training camp out of shape.
Bringing back Sproles would have been very beneficial to Mathews' recovery because they wouldn't have needed him back as quickly. He could have taken as much time as he needed to fully recover.
Now, since they don't have a suitable replacement, Mathews' speedy recovery is imperative if the Chargers want to go deep into the playoffs this season.
Best: Signing Matt Hasselbeck
When the Titans drafted Jake Locker No. 8 overall, they knew he wasn’t the solution for them at quarterback right away.
He is going to take time to develop, and the Titans needed to get a veteran to show him the ropes.
Hasselbeck not only will be a great teacher for Locker and can groom him for the future, but will be a more than serviceable quarterback for the time being. He can win some games this season for the Titans.
Worst: Letting Chris Johnson Hold Out
It appears this Chris Johnson holdout is getting serious.
It was originally believed he would come back to practice quickly, but it now appears like he may actually miss some game time.
After seeing Larry Fitzgerald get that eight-year, $120 million contract, you know CJ has a nine-digit salary on his mind. I would be surprised to see him settle for anything less. I think the Titans should pay him now before they lose him for good.
That's my list of each AFC team's best and worst offseason decision. Hope you enjoyed it, and the NFC version will be out shortly.