1 Big Regret Every NFL Team Should Have from the 2022 Offseason
The NFL offseason is a time for hope. Teams spend months acquiring fresh talent through free agency, the trade market and the draft.
We'll soon learn which of those acquisitions wind up panning out.
Here, we'll examine one move or non-move that each NFL team should regret heading into training camp and the preseason. Some decisions will impact the on-field product, while others are purely financial, and many of them will be unique to the franchises involved.
Would teams openly admit their regret? Probably not. But every team likely would want at least one offseason do-over.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Arizona Cardinals: Trading Too Much for Marquise Brown
The Arizona Cardinals clearly didn't want to overpay wideout Christian Kirk, who landed a four-year, $72 million deal from the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. But his departure left a sizable void in their offense, which only got exacerbated by DeAndre Hopkins' looming six-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.
On Day 1 of the 2022 NFL draft, Arizona dealt the 23rd overall pick to the Baltimore Ravens for wideout Marquise Brown and a third-round pick. That's too much for a receiver who isn't a clear upgrade over Kirk.
Brown is lightning quick, but he's inconsistent and often unreliable. He had a passer rating of only 87.9 when targeted in 2021.
In Arizona, Brown will be reunited with his Oklahoma quarterback, Kyler Murray, which may help his production some. However, he is a nice complementary receiver, not a No. 1 wideout.
In the short term, Brown will be cheaper than Kirk, as he has two years left on his rookie contract. However, Arizona will eventually have to pay Brown, and he'll likely cost much more than Kirk given the rising cost of wide receivers.
The Cardinals gave up a lot for a receiver who has proven little. They should have kept Kirk instead.
Atlanta Falcons: Alienating Matt Ryan By pursuing Deshaun Watson
The Atlanta Falcons made a play for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson early in the offseason. Not only did they not land the three-time Pro Bowler, but they miffed longtime starter Matt Ryan in the process.
The veteran, whom the Falcons later traded to the Indianapolis Colts, recently said he'd probably still be in Atlanta if not for the Watson pursuit.
"Had none of this gone down? There's probably a chance—a pretty good chance," Ryan said on the Ryen Russillo Podcast (h/t Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk).
The Falcons got only a 2022 third-round pick from the Colts for Ryan. That's far below what an above-average starter should command on the trade market.
The Falcons are beginning a full-on rebuild, but they could have done that with Ryan under center instead of free-agent replacement Marcus Mariota. They still could have drafted Desmond Ridder on Day 2 and used 2022 as a transition year.
Instead, Atlanta got a paltry return for a quarterback with Hall of Fame-caliber numbers.
Baltimore Ravens: Not Extending Lamar Jackson Early
Quarterback Lamar Jackson did report to the Baltimore Ravens' mandatory minicamp, but he did so without a new contract. There's still a lot of uncertainty surrounding Jackson's future in Baltimore, as the Louisville product is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
It will likely cost far more to extend Jackson now than it would have been at the start of the offseason. Baltimore can thank the rival Cleveland Browns for that, as they acquired Deshaun Watson from Houston and immediately gave him an unprecedented contract.
Watson received a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal from Cleveland. Not only did that make Watson the league's second-highest-paid quarterback in terms of annual salary—trailing only Aaron Rodgers—but it also sets a new standard for long-term deals.
Kirk Cousins previously received fully guaranteed contracts from the Minnesota Vikings, but his have been shorter deals and not at top-of-the-market prices. Jackson, who was the league MVP in 2019, should now be looking for at least the amount of money and guarantees that Watson received.
Had Baltimore signed Jackson to an extension before the Watson deal, it might have been able to avoid a contract of this magnitude.
Buffalo Bills: Letting Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley Linger on the Open Market
Former Buffalo Bills receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley still remain unsigned. The Bills could still bring one or both of them back, although it would be difficult financially.
Buffalo currently has only $5 million in cap space. Given the going rate for receivers on the open market—Jarvis Landry got a one-year, $3 million deal coming off a career-worst season—Buffalo may have already missed out.
In all likelihood, Beasley and Sanders will not be returning to Buffalo, which presents a potential problem. Both were reliable targets for quarterback Josh Allen in 2021.
Sanders tallied 626 yards and four touchdowns last season, while Beasley had 693 yards and one score. Buffalo did bring in Jamison Crowder, who had 447 receiving yards with the New York Jets last season, but he isn't going to replace both Sanders and Beasley.
If Buffalo isn't able to bring back one of them, its ninth-ranked passing attack from 2021 may be poised for a slight step back in 2022.
This may feel like nitpicking, and it is to a degree. The Bills have otherwise had a tremendous offseason—they brought in Von Miller, signed Stefon Diggs to an extension and strengthened their cornerback and running back corps in the draft—but parting with proven pass-catching talent is always regrettable.
Carolina Panthers: Not Getting a Christian McCaffrey Trade Done
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is an elite dual threat when healthy. However, ankle, shoulder, quadricep and hamstring injuries limited him to only 10 games between the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
McCaffrey is now heading into the first season of the four-year, $64 million extension that he signed in April 2020. Carolina may be stuck with that contract for the foreseeable future, though it was reportedly listening to trade offers for McCaffrey early in the offseason.
"Although the Panthers aren't looking to unload McCaffrey, multiple league sources said they would consider a deal if offered a first-round pick and another player without a big salary-cap number," ESPN's David Newton wrote in early March.
No team was apparently willing to meet Carolina's asking price, and any chance of dealing McCaffrey this offseason likely vanished with the 2022 draft. Only six teams have more than $20 million in available cap space at the moment.
The Panthers still have plenty of uncertainty at quarterback, and they're now heading into the 2022 season with a 26-year-old injury-prone running back who has nearly $27 million in dead money remaining on the books.
Chicago Bears: Not Doing Enough to Support Justin Fields
The Chicago Bears hope they have their quarterback of the future in 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields. However, Fields struggled as a rookie, and it's fair to wonder what sort of leap he can make in Year 2.
Chicago did move on from head coach Matt Nagy, replacing him with Matt Eberflus and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. However, they did little to upgrade Fields' supporting cast.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson II and versatile lineman James Daniels both departed in free agency. Chicago's big additions include receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Byron Pringle, linemen Dakota Dozier and Lucas Patrick and rookie wideout Velus Jones Jr.
That isn't enough to support a quarterback who had only seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions as a rookie while frequently being under pressure. Fields got sacked 36 times in 12 games and was under pressure on 27.3 percent of his dropbacks.
Chicago's offensive line is unlikely to make a significant jump, and its receiving corps remains underwhelming, though Fields has expressed "plenty of confidence" in his pass-catchers.
The Bears showed that they were willing to wheel and deal this offseason when they sent Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers for a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick. Yet they did nothing to put top-tier, proven talent around their second-year quarterback.
If Fields flounders in 2022, the fault will fall firmly on Chicago's front office.
Cincinnati Bengals: Giving Jessie Bates III the Franchise Tag
The Cincinnati Bengals have had a strong offseason thus far. They addressed their biggest need—the offensive line—by bringing in Alex Cappa, Ted Karras and La'el Collins. They also replaced tight end C.J. Uzomah with Hayden Hurst and added some nice developmental pieces in the draft.
However, Cincinnati may now regret its decision to use the franchise tag on Jessie Bates III. The standout safety has no interest in playing under the franchise tag this season.
"The safety has 'no intentions' of playing the 2022 season under the franchise tag, a person close to the situation" told Tyler Dragon of USA TODAY Sports+.
If the Bengals somehow convince Bates to play under the tag, they'll likely lose him next offseason, according to Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Cincinnati did draft versatile Michigan defensive back Daxton Hill in the first round, but he isn't the proven safety that Bates is. If Bates is willing to continue his holdout, the Bengals will have to work out a long-term extension before the July 15 deadline or consider trading him.
The question is whether the Bengals can land an adequate return this late in the offseason.
This is not where Cincinnati hoped to be with one of its key defenders fresh off a Super Bowl appearance. The Bengals should regret not working out an early extension or letting Bates walk before the draft.
Cleveland Browns: Pursuing Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson is now facing 24 lawsuits from women alleging sexual assault or misconduct, and two more lawsuits are expected to be filed, according to Nakia Cooper of KPRC 2 Houston. But for now, the Cleveland Browns are still OK with their decision to acquire him from the Houston Texans in a blockbuster trade this offseason.
"So far, nothing has transpired since he signed the deal in March that has caused the Browns to change their view of Watson or contemplate trying to get out of the contract—not even the 24th suit." Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com wrote on June 10.
However, Cleveland should regret its decision. Even if facts come to light that exonerate Watson of any wrongdoing, the Browns still gave up far too much for a quarterback who faces potential league discipline under the personal conduct policy.
To land Watson, Cleveland dealt a huge package of picks—including three first-rounders—and then inked him to a new five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract. He hasn't played since the 2020 season, and it's unclear when he'll be allowed to play again.
The Browns' pursuit of Watson also decimated their relationship with 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. While Mayfield has been inconsistent as a pro, he's also dealt with multiple coaching changes, plus a torn labrum in 2021. There are reasons to believe that Mayfield, who helped deliver the Browns' first playoff win as an expansion team, has yet to reach his full potential.
Although Mayfield is still on the Cleveland roster for now, he's done as a Brown.
"Mayfield can't walk back into this locker room as the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. He can't be in that quarterback room," ESPN's Ryan Clark said on Get Up (h/t Troy L. Smith of Cleveland.com). "He can’t be around that building because it will be toxic. ... So, he has to go."
In one fell swoop, the Browns alienated the best quarterback they've had since returning to the league in 1999 and reignited the uncertainty under center that has hovered over the franchise for the past two decades.
Dallas Cowboys: Trading Amari Cooper for Pennies
The Dallas Cowboys' decision to trade receiver Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns made some sense at the time. They were tight on cap space, and they wanted out from under his five-year, $100 million deal, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
However, the Cowboys erred on two fronts.
Dallas let slip that it would release Cooper if it couldn't reach a trade, as Rapoport reported in early March. It also grossly underestimated the receiver trade market.
With little leverage and perhaps even less foresight, the Cowboys sent Cooper to the Cleveland Browns for only a fifth-round pick and a swap of sixth-rounders. Shortly thereafter, the receiver market exploded.
The Green Bay Packers netted first- and second-round picks for Davante Adams. The Kansas City Chiefs got first- and second-round picks, two fourth-round selections and a 2023 sixth-round pick for Tyreek Hill. The Tennessee Titans got a first-round pick for A.J. Brown, while the Ravens got a first-rounder for Marquise Brown and a third-round selection.
The Cowboys should have been able to pry at least a Day 2 pick out of a team for Cooper. They might not regret trading him, but they dealt him for prospects who might not even make the 53-man roster.
Denver Broncos: Not Locking Up Russell Wilson Immediately
The Denver Broncos paid a heavy price to pry quarterback Russell Wilson away from the Seattle Seahawks back in March. The move cost Denver two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive lineman Shelby Harris.
Denver shouldn't regret that move one bit. Wilson is a future Hall of Famer who has missed the playoffs only twice in his career. He instantly turned the Broncos into a legitimate title contender.
What the Broncos should regret is not giving Wilson a new contract upon his arrival.
Wilson will be a free agent following the 2023 season and will be due a new deal soon enough. Just days after the Broncos acquired Wilson, the Browns inked Deshaun Watson to his landscape-altering fully guaranteed contract.
Not only is Watson's deal worth $11 million more annually than Wilson's current contract, but it's 100 percent guaranteed. The Broncos could have anticipated Wilson getting a raise on his next deal, but no one foresaw the Browns giving Watson a fully guaranteed, top-of-the-market contract.
Hindsight is 20/20, and the Broncos likely believed they had time to work out an extension. However, that doesn't change the fact that they likely regret locking up Wilson before Cleveland changed the quarterback market forever.
Detroit Lions: Not Adding a Developmental Quarterback Behind Jared Goff
It's hard to criticize the Detroit Lions' offseason too much. Detroit improved its three-win roster by bringing in the likes of wideout D.J. Chark, linebacker Jarrad Davis (returning after a year with the New York Jets) and cornerback Mike Hughes while locking up standout safety Tracy Walker III on a three-year, $25 million extension.
In the draft, the Lions added a pair of potential instant-impact players in pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson and wideout Jameson Williams. The latter suffered a torn ACL in the national title game, but he should be a difference-maker once he's healthy enough to take the field.
Unlike the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Lions resisted the urge to reach for a quarterback early in the draft. That was the right call, as there was nothing resembling a sure thing in this year's class. However, they should regret not taking a developmental prospect like Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder at some point during the draft.
Jared Goff likely isn't the long-term answer in Detroit, and there's no guarantee that the Lions will get a crack at one of the top signal-callers in the 2023 draft. If they do improve substantially this season, prospects like C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young will be off the board by the time they're on the clock.
Adding a player like Willis, Ridder or Matt Corral would have given Detroit a solid Plan B under center. The Lions aren't in position to win a championship now, but the roster could be talented enough by the time Goff's contract expires after the 2024 season.
Between now and then, the Lions should be throwing every dart possible at the quarterback position in the hope of finding an answer. Not throwing any in the 2022 draft will wind up being a mistake if one of the Day 2 or Day 3 selections goes on to be a star.
Green Bay Packers: Not Giving Aaron Rodgers More Receiving Weapons
The Green Bay Packers took care of their most important piece of business this offseason when they signed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a three-year, $150.8 million extension. However, they didn't do Rodgers many favors when it comes to his supporting cast.
The offense was short on receiver depth even before Green Bay traded No. 1 wideout Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, which Rodgers wasn't expecting.
"It was a little surprising with Davante—obviously when I made my decision, I was still thinking he was going to come back," Rodgers said on The Pat McAfee Show in April, per ESPN's Marcel Louis-Jacques.
The Packers made a calculated choice not to overpay to keep Adams, but they also parted with receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown in free agency. They brought in Sammy Watkins and rookie second-round pick Christian Watson, but it's fair to wonder if that's enough in the wake of the Adams trade.
It's also worth noting that top tight end Robert Tonyan is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in October.
On paper, the Packers receiving corps is much worse than it was a year ago. If Green Bay doesn't already regret that, it likely will during the push to the playoffs.
Houston Texans: Not Adding a Proven Tight End to Aid Davis Mills
While some might have expected the Houston Texans to take a signal-caller in the 2022 draft after trading Deshaun Watson to Cleveland, they were content to give Davis Mills a second season to prove himself. That was the right call.
The 2021 third-round pick showed a lot of promise as a rookie, especially given his position on a talent-starved roster. Despite playing for a four-win team, Mills had arguably the second-most impressive season among rookie quarterbacks behind Mac Jones.
The 23-year-old completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also posted a respectable 88.8 quarterback rating, which was well ahead of No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence (71.9) and No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson (69.7).
Houston bolstered Mills' supporting cast for Year 2, bringing in the likes of running back Marlon Mack, rookie lineman Kenyon Green and rookie receiver John Metchie III. However, it didn't do enough at the tight end position this offseason.
Pharaoh Brown and 2021 fifth-round pick Brevin Jordan are back, but the Texans lost Jordan Akins in free agency. Houston used a fifth-round pick on Teagan Quitoriano but did not add a proven pass-catcher like C.J. Uzomah, Hayden Hurst or Gerald Everett.
That could prove to be a significant issue, as tight ends can serve as a valuable security blanket for a young quarterback. Davis isn't likely to have that in 2022, as Jordan and Brown combined for only 349 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Mills would benefit greatly from having a proven pass-catcher at the position, and the Texans should regret not providing him with one.
Indianapolis Colts: Not Adding Insurance for Matt Pryor at Left Tackle
The Indianapolis Colts got a new starting quarterback when they traded for Matt Ryan. According to general manager Chris Ballard, they got their new left tackle last offseason when they acquired Matt Pryor from the Philadelphia Eagles. (They re-signed Pryor to a one-year deal this offseason.)
"It's been fun to watch him work and kind of buy into what we're asking him to do. So, we'll give him a shot at it," Ballard said on The Pat McAfee Show (h/t Jake Arthur of Horseshoe Huddle).
While the Colts may be happy to give Pryor the first crack at the starting job, they should regret not having more insurance at the position. Indy didn't bring back Eric Fisher (he's still unsigned), sign star free agent Terron Armstead or draft a tackle before landing Bernhard Raimann in Round 3.
The Colts did recently add Jason Spriggs as a depth piece, but he's made only 10 career starts in five seasons. Pryor isn't much more experienced with 15 starts in three seasons.
The Colts do have options at left tackle, but they could have used a proven, high-level starter. Ryan is 37 years old and has never been among the league's most mobile pocket passers.
Indy has a lot riding on keeping Ryan upright and healthy in 2022. Heading into camp, there's still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the most critical spot on Indianapolis' line.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Taking Travon Walker No. 1 Overall
The Jacksonville Jaguars will never admit that they took a huge risk with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.
Former Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker has a ton of physical upside, but he logged only 9.5 sacks in three seasons with the Bulldogs and couldn't even secure a starting job until this past season. A Jaguars franchise with only one winning season in the past 14 years shouldn't have gambled on that upside.
As The Ringer's Ben Solak noted, Walker has an atypical resume for a No. 1 overall pick:
"At non-quarterback positions, there has never been a first pick with only one season as a starter since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970—that is, there hadn't been until the Jaguars selected Walker. It's not that first picks have to be experienced players—rather, it's that first picks are usually so dominant at the college level, there's no way they don't start for a couple of seasons. But that wasn't true for Walker."
Jacksonville has some promising young centerpieces in quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back James Robinson and pass-rusher Josh Allen. However, it's far from a complete team and needs to add pieces unlikely to miss.
Walker is a boom-or-bust prospect in every sense. The Jags should regret not supporting their young roster with a prospect—perhaps Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson or NC State's Ikem Ekwonu—who is virtually guaranteed to make an immediate impact.
Kansas City Chiefs: Letting Charvarius Ward Get Away
Kansas City Chiefs fans may not love the team's decision to trade star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. However, the Chiefs' front office likely has no regrets.
Hill is a game-breaking talent, but the Chiefs freed up a lot of financial flexibility by moving him. Hill signed a new four-year, $120 million deal upon joining the Dolphins.
"We came in aggressive [with a contract offer], and after we got to a point, we just said, 'Listen, in this day and age you have issues you have to deal with with the cap,'" Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said, per ESPN's Adam Teicher. "So we felt like it was better to allow him to go ahead and be traded."
Getting 2022 first-, second- and fourth-round selections, and 2023 fourth- and sixth-round picks out of the deal definitely didn't hurt. What the Chiefs should regret more is losing starting cornerback Charvarius Ward for nothing in free agency.
Though Ward wasn't a Pro Bowler last season, he was a consistent and reliable starter when healthy. He finished last season with 67 tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of only 79.4 in coverage.
Ward left the Chiefs to sign a three-year, $40.5 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Kansas City used a first-round pick on cornerback Trent McDuffie to replace Ward, but he isn't the proven starter that Ward has become.
Las Vegas Raiders: Letting Casey Hayward Walk
The Las Vegas Raiders made a ton of big splashes this offseason. They hired an experienced coach in Josh McDaniels, added a premier pass-rusher in Chandler Jones and acquired arguably the league's top receiver in Davante Adams.
The one regret the Raiders should have is letting cornerback Casey Hayward get away in free agency.
While Hayward may not be among the league's biggest stars at the position, he's long been a dependable cornerback. The 32-year-old has missed only two games since the 2013 season and remains a versatile and effective defensive back.
Last season, Hayward logged 46 tackles, nine passes defended, a safety and an interception while starting all 17 games.
The Raiders added cornerbacks Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averett this offseason, but that doesn't change the fact that they let a seasoned and dependable starter walk when they didn't have to.
Los Angeles Chargers: Letting Uchenna Nwosu Sign Elsewhere
The Los Angeles Chargers shouldn't have many regrets this offseason. They locked up wideout Mike Williams, added pass-rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson and further bolstered their offense by drafting lineman Zion Johnson and running back Isaiah Spiller.
However, the Chargers shouldn't be too happy about letting pass-rusher Uchenna Nwosu get away in free agency. They 25-year-old was is an up-and-coming defender who had a tremendous 2021 campaign.
Nwosu logged five sacks, 40 tackles, two forced fumbles and 30 quarterback pressures last season. He joined the Seattle Seahawks on a two-year, $19.1 million deal—a contract L.A. easily could have matched.
Even after adding Mack and Jackson, the Chargers rank in the top half of the league in cap space. They still have $14 million available and could have paid Nwosu fair market value to keep him.
The pass-rushing tandem of Mack and Joey Bosa should be tremendous, assuming Mack can stay healthy. (He missed 10 games following foot surgery in 2021.) However, a trio of Mack, Bosa and Nwosu would have been even better.
Los Angeles Rams: Not Bringing Back Von Miller
It's hard to blame the Los Angeles Rams for not bringing back pass-rusher Von Miller. They've been living on the edge of salary-cap hell and never had any real hope of matching Buffalo's six-year, $120 million offer.
The Rams have invested heavily in veterans like Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald and most recently Cooper Kupp. They didn't have enough money to keep the entire band together after their win in Super Bowl LVI.
However, that doesn't mean the Rams shouldn't regret letting Miller slip away. They surrendered 2022 second- and third-round picks to get him last November, and they viewed him as more than a short-term rental.
"Rams will make a concerted effort in resigning Von Miller—knowing full well his market will be robust—source says," Jordan Schultz of Boardroom and The Game Day NFL tweeted in February. "I'm told the team is open to both a one-year and multi-year extension for the future Hall of Famer."
It wasn't to be, though, as Miller took a sizable offer and will go try to earn a ring with a third franchise. Meanwhile, the Rams will look for other ways to bolster a pass rush that got five regular-season and four postseason sacks out of Miller in 2021.
Miami Dolphins: Tagging Mike Gesicki
The Miami Dolphins were smart to retain up-and-coming tight end Mike Gesicki this offseason. They're still trying to find out if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is their long-term answer under center, and Gesicki has proven to be a reliable receiving option.
In 2021, Gesicki caught 73 passes for 780 yards and two touchdowns. That was his second consecutive season with at least 700 receiving yards.
However, the Dolphins should regret using the franchise tag on Gesicki instead of signing him to a long-term deal. The Browns have since reset the market middle-tier tight ends.
The Browns gave David Njoku a four-year, $54.75 million contract in late May. That's a ton of money for a tight end who has never been a Pro Bowler, and it changes the market in a way that Mark Andrews' four-year, $56 million deal from last September did not.
Andrews is among the league's top receiving tight ends. Njoku is firmly in a lower tier that includes players like Gesicki and Dalton Schultz of the Cowboys.
Waiting to extend Gesicki may cost the Dolphins millions and might ultimately lead to the two parting ways. If Gesicki doesn't land a long-term deal before July 15, he will be headed back to free agency in 2023, and the tight end market isn't going to suddenly shrink before then.
Minnesota Vikings: Trading with the Lions in Round 1
The Minnesota Vikings made one of the most surprising trades in the entire 2022 draft. Not only did they trade down 20 spots in the first round, but they did it to help out the division-rival Lions.
Detroit moved up to No. 12 and took former Alabama receiver Jamison Williams. To move up from No. 32 to No. 12, the Lions only surrendered the 34th and 65th picks and even got the 46th pick as part of the deal. That wasn't a tremendous return for Minnesota.
The Vikings could have taken top-ranked safety prospect Kyle Hamilton at No. 12, but they instead settled for Lewis Cine at No. 32. Cine was the 47th-ranked prospect on the B/R Scouting Department's final big board.
The Vikings also made a draft-day deal with the rival Packers, flipping the 34th pick for the 53rd and 59th selections. That was a far more favorable deal than the one Minnesota made with Detroit.
"At least they made Green Bay overpay. Think that was probably hard to turn down. I'm not sure why anyone in the building thought the deal with Detroit made sense," Bleacher Report associate NFL editor Ian Kenyon tweeted.
If Hamilton clearly outplays Cine, or if Williams becomes a star for the Lions, the Vikings may come to lament this trade for a decade-plus. As it stands, they should already regret doing a division rival such a big draft-day favor.
New England Patriots: Letting J.C. Jackson Get Away
Last offseason, the New England Patriots went on a free-agent spending spree that helped them get back into the postseason. Armed with far less cap space this offseason—they currently have less than $1 million in cap room available—they were forced to let one of their best defensive players get away.
They never gave cornerback J.C. Jackson the franchise tag. He ultimately signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Chargers in free agency.
In late February, Jackson told Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston that the Patriots had yet touched base with him regarding a new contract.
The Patriots seemingly never even engaged Jackson in meaningful contract talks.
"I guess I can't be that important to them," Jackson told Perry. "I know I am, but they're not showing me."
Jackson was one of the best defenders in the league at any position this past season. He finished with 58 tackles, a league-high 23 passes defended, eight interceptions and a Pro Bowl berth. In coverage, Jackson allowed an opposing quarterback rating of only 46.8.
Jackson was the glue on the back end that held New England's defense together. His departure creates a sizable hole that may prove impossible to replace.
New Orleans Saints: Letting Terron Armstead Walk
The New Orleans Saints came into the 2022 offseason with minimal cap space, so keeping starting left tackle Terron Armstead was always going to be a challenge. He ultimately inked a five-year, $75 million deal with the Dolphins.
Still, the Saints must regret not being able to retain Armstead. He was a dependable starter when healthy, and the Saints enter 2022 with plenty of questions.
For one, head coach Sean Payton stepped down, which led to the promotion of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. New Orleans is also banking on quarterback Jameis Winston, who is coming off of a torn ACL, with journeyman Andy Dalton as a safety valve.
Keeping Armstead, a three-time Pro Bowler, would have left New Orleans better poised for success as it transitions to the post-Payton era. Injuries were a bit of a concern for Armstead, who missed nine games in 2021 with knee and elbow injuries, but he was a wall on the quarterback's blind side.
Armstead allowed only four sacks over the last three seasons combined, according to Pro Football Focus.
New Orleans did use a first-round pick on offensive tackle Trevor Penning. However, he isn't nearly as proven as Armstead, which leaves a critical question mark hovering over the rebuilding Saints.
New York Giants: Not Trading James Bradberry
Like the rival Cowboys, the New York Giants were faced with the prospect of parting with a key contributor due to cap purposes. In New York's case, it was cornerback James Bradberry, who was set to carry a 2022 cap hit of $21.9 million.
Also like the Cowboys, the Giants made it known that they'd take a low offer for Bradberry if it meant not cutting him for nothing. ESPN's Jordan Raanan reported in March that a late-round pick could get a deal done.
Unlike Dallas, though, New York wasn't able to get even a low return. The Giants eventually released the 2020 Pro Bowler, who quickly signed with the rival Eagles.
Philadelphia was thrilled with New York's decision.
"A very versatile player. Smart, tough, physical. Can get the ball, can cover. Anytime you have that type of skill set with your outside corners, it's a good asset to have," Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said, per ESPN's Tim McManus.
Not only did the Giants lose Bradberry for nothing—though with a pre-June 1 release, he may net a compensatory draft pick—but they also allowed him to go to a bitter division rival instead of picking his destination in a trade.
New York Jets: Not Re-Signing Marcus Maye
The New York Jets have won only six games over the last two seasons combined. It stands to reason that they didn't have a ton of free agents that they considered priorities to re-sign.
However, the Jets would have been wise to keep safety Marcus Maye this offseason, even though he was coming off a torn Achilles.
Over the last few seasons, Maye has proved to be one of New York's better homegrown talents. Taken in the second round of the 2017 draft, Maye played out his rookie contract and then played on the franchise tag last season.
When healthy in 2020, Maye was nothing short of special on the back end of the Jets defense. He logged 88 tackles, two interceptions, 11 passes defended and allowed an opposing passer rating of only 80.4 in coverage.
While Maye's injury might have been a concern for the Jets, they could have afforded him. He went on to sign a three-year, $22.5 million deal with the Saints that includes a 2022 cap hit of only $2.6 million.
Instead of keeping Maye, the Jets opted to bring back Lamarcus Joyner, who played only one game in 2021 before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. When Joyner last played meaningful snaps—in 2020 with the Raiders—he allowed an opposing passer rating of 91.6 in coverage.
Philadelphia Eagles: Not Landing a Premier Safety
The Eagles have had a successful offseason overall. They landed a top-tier receiver in A.J. Brown, landed a premier defensive line prospect in Jordan Davis, got a new pass-rusher in Haason Reddick and added cornerback James Bradberry after his release from the Giants.
What the Eagles didn't do was add a premier safety to improve last year's 18th-ranked scoring defense. Philadelphia had options—including Marcus Williams, Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu—but its safety spot is actually weaker than it was a year ago.
Philadelphia re-signed Anthony Harris but allowed Rodney McLeod to depart for the Indianapolis Colts. The Eagles also didn't draft a safety.
Following draft weekend, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said he would "continue to look at" the safety position, according to Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Mathieu was on the market when Roseman made the comment, but he has since signed with the Saints. Philadelphia is now set to head into training camp with a large question mark on the back end of its defense.
Trading for a safety like Jessie Bates III could be an option, but Philly should regret not making a strong move at the position earlier.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Not Doing More to Address the Offensive Line
The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a new starting quarterback in 2022. Ben Roethlisberger has retired, so Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph or rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett will be under center when the season opens.
While Pittsburgh's roster is strong enough for a playoff push this season, its offensive line isn't good enough to ensure success for whichever quarterback wins the starting job. The Steelers did little to upgrade a unit that was among the NFL's worst a year ago.
In 2021, the Steelers allowed 38 sacks while ranking only 29th in yards per carry despite having a Pro Bowler in rookie running back Najee Harris.
Guard James Daniels and center Mason Cole were Pittsburgh's only notable additions to the line this offseason. Daniels was a mostly reliable and versatile piece for the Bears, while Cole was in and out of the starting lineup with Arizona and Minnesota over the past few seasons.
Neither should be viewed as a quick fix for the Steelers' problematic line. Pittsburgh completely ignored its line during the draft, too.
Since the offensive line isn't likely to be significantly better than it was a year ago, the Steelers might opt against starting Pickett early in the season. If a quarterback is going to take lumps in September and October, it should be Rudolph or Trubisky.
Pittsburgh also might not be able to lean on the ground game as much as it would like. Harris is a great dual-threat back, but he struggled to consistently find holes behind subpar blocking as a rookie.
If the Steelers are hoping to compete for a playoff spot this offseason, they should regret not investing more in their offensive line this offseason.
San Francisco 49ers: Not Extending Deebo Samuel Early
San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel wasn't at OTAs, though he did attend mandatory minicamp. The Pro Bowler is angling for a new contract, but his minicamp return seems to indicate that he won't hold out into the regular season.
Still, San Francisco likely wishes it had inked Samuel to an extension at the start of the offseason, as new deals for Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown and Cooper Kupp have reset the receiver market.
Brown is the least expensive of the four, and he's set to earn $25 million annually on his new deal. That's likely now the floor for Samuel, though there's a bit of a caveat for the 49ers.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Samuel isn't happy with his frequent use as a running back.
"He's a top receiver," Rapoport said in April. "He also takes a lot of hits, used like a running back, put all over the field, and it just does not sound like he is comfortable as of right now with the way he's being used."
Much of Samuel's value in San Francisco has come from his dual-threat ability. The 49ers may not want to pay him top-of-the-market money to be a receiver only. If they're going to keep him, though, they may no longer have a choice.
Had the 49ers locked up Samuel before free agency, a deal in the $20-million-per-year range might have been feasible. Now that Hill is getting $30 million per year—and the far less proven Christian Kirk is getting $18 million annually—San Francisco likely has no chance of keeping Samuel on a team-friendly contract.
Seattle Seahawks: Trading Russell Wilson
The Seattle Seahawks got a sizable return for quarterback Russell Wilson, and they might not have had much of a choice but to deal the future Hall of Famer. While Wilson has insisted that a trade wasn't his idea alone, he did admit it was mutual.
"I didn't initiate it," Wilson told reporters during his introductory press conference with the Broncos. "It was definitely mutual along the way. There has definitely been a lot of conversations. It hasn't been my initiating anything. But it is what it is."
That doesn't mean that Seattle shouldn't regret moving on from the future Hall of Famer, though.
Seattle has consistently remained a contender with Wilson under center. It missed the playoffs only twice since he was drafted in 2012.
Things are going to be much different moving forward, especially with a gaping hole at the game's most important position. Seattle will now turn to a quarterback competition featuring Drew Lock and Geno Smith, neither of whom will instill the same week-in-week-out confidence that Wilson did.
In time, the package that the Seahawks received for Wilson—which did include multiple players and two first-round and two second-round selections—might help them return to contention. For now, though, they should regret going into 2022 with their current quarterback situation.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Not Adding More Insurance While Waiting on Rob Gronkowski
Will tight end Rob Gronkowski play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022? That's perhaps the only real question hanging over the franchise right now.
Tom Brady unretired after only a few weeks, but his longtime favorite target has yet to join him. For now, Gronkowski seems to be enjoying his time off and putting in media appearances instead of time at offseason workouts.
The Buccaneers are "optimistic" that Gronkowski will be back, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, even though they have yet to re-sign him. The Bucs probably regret not adding more insurance at the position this offseason given that uncertainty.
Cameron Brate is still in the fold, and Tampa added Cade Otton and Ko Kleft on Day 3 of the draft. However, O.J. Howard departed for Buffalo in free agency, and the Buccaneers didn't reload with a pass-catching tight end. They also didn't use a high draft choice on a more proven prospect.
To say that Tampa has a lot riding on Gronkowski's decision would be an understatement. He's been a huge piece of the offense since arriving in 2020 and Brate—who hasn't topped 400 receiving yards since 2017—is the only established tight end on the roster.
Tennessee Titans: Trading A.J. Brown
The Tennessee Titans clearly believed that they could replace standout receiver A.J. Brown with a younger, cheaper option in the 2022 draft. They dealt their leading receiver to the Eagles for the 18th overall pick and used that selection on Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks.
While the decision will save Tennessee money—Brown signed a new four-year, $100 million extension with Philadelphia—it isn't guaranteed to work out on the field.
Brown was perfect for the Titans' run-first offense. He's a big-bodied deep threat who could take advantage of play action and provide quarterback Ryan Tannehill with a reliable downfield target.
In three seasons with Tennessee, Brown logged 185 receptions for 2,995 yards and 24 touchdowns. In each of those years, he had a passer rating no lower than 94.5 when targeted.
The 6'2", 225-pound Burks has the potential to fill the role vacated by Brown, but he's both unpolished and unproven.
"He will need to improve on some details to make the most of his ability, which makes his floor to be an every-down contributor a bit lower when he starts his professional career," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.
The Titans also traded for Robert Woods, who's recovering from a torn ACL. He's largely a replacement for 2021 No. 2 receiver Julio Jones, who remains unsigned.
Tennessee's championship window appears to be closer to closing than opening. The Titans survived a lengthy absence by star running back Derrick Henry and claimed the AFC's No. 1 seed last season. However, Henry is now another year older, while Tannehill continues to show regression after being a Pro Bowler in 2019.
This may be the Titans' last, best chance to make a run at the Super Bowl. They should regret giving up their best receiving weapon with a year remaining on his rookie contract.
Washington Commanders: Trading for Carson Wentz
The Washington Commanders joined the quarterback carousel when they acquired Carson Wentz from the Colts. The price wasn't exceedingly steep—Washington surrendered 2022 and 2023 third-round picks (the latter could turn into a second-rounder)—but Wentz isn't very good, either.
Toward the end of his time with the Eagles, Wentz was a borderline disaster. He threw a league-high 15 interceptions and had only a 72.8 passer rating in 2020.
Wentz was better statistically with Indianapolis, posting 27 touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a 94.6 rating last season, but he struggled down the stretch. He went 9-8 with a loaded Colts team, stumbled in late-season losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and Jaguars (333 combined passing yards, two touchdowns, two turnovers) and cost Indianapolis a shot at the playoffs.
Is Wentz better than incumbent Taylor Heinicke? Maybe, but he isn't likely to lift a squad that went 7-10 last season to title contention.
Wentz will probably play just well enough to keep Washington out of the mix for a top quarterback in the 2023 draft—a class headlined by C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young. The Commanders are likely to be a borderline playoff team that remains stuck in quarterback purgatory for another few seasons.