NFL Teams That Are Failing Their Rebuild Plans

Alex BallentineJuly 9, 2022

NFL Teams That Are Failing Their Rebuild Plans

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks on during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on December 20, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Cincinnati Bengals provided a glimmer of hope for all NFL teams that are in rebuilding mode.

    Just one season after finishing 4-11-1, the Bengals found themselves in the Super Bowl thanks to an offseason in which they got Joe Burrow healthy, drafted wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and utilized free agency to upgrade their defense.

    In a league that strives for parity, they were an example of how a focused rebuilding plan can cause a team to make a huge leap.

    Some organizations have done a good job of showing a coherent plan to turn things around. The New York Giants, for instance, hired a coach in Brian Daboll who could get the most out of running back Saquon Barkley, wide receiver Kenny Golladay and quarterback Daniel Jones while bulking up in the trenches through the draft.

    Others have made moves that make you question where their rebuilds are headed. Things might get worse before they get better for these five teams.

Carolina Panthers

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    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 02: Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball in the first quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on January 02, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Carolina Panthers' spot on this list isn't exactly about the quarterback situation.

    In a vacuum, the deal the team made for Baker Mayfield is a good move. If Mayfield can return to his 2020 form, he's easily the best quarterback on the roster.

    The Panthers got him Wednesday for a conditional fifth-round pick and still got the Browns to pay $10.5 million of his salary, per Mike Garofolo of the NFL Network.

    The problems in the rebuild come from management and coaching.

    Matt Rhule should absolutely be on the hot seat. He is entering his third year as head coach with back-to-back five-win seasons on his resume. Joseph Person of The Athletic reported owner David Tepper is "unhappy and embarrassed" about the seven-year, $62 million contract he gave the former Baylor and Temple head coach.

    And this time, Rhule's staff is even less exciting.

    Ben McAdoo will replace the talented Joe Brady as offensive coordinator. McAdoo hasn't coordinated a top-10 offense since the 2014 and '15 campaigns with Eli Manning under center for the New York Giants.

    You can make the argument the offensive line will be improved. It was downright bad in 2021, but Ikem Ekwonu, Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett give the unit enough new blood to creep closer to average.

    But slightly better quarterback play and an improved offensive line might be negated by the defense.

    The Carolina D helped keep the team in some games last season. The unit tied for third in yards allowed per play (5.1). However, losing cornerback Stephon Gilmore, outside linebacker Haason Reddick and defense tackle DaQuan Jones leaves the Panthers with important roles to fill.

Chicago Bears

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    LAKE FOREST, IL - JUNE 15: Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) adjusts his helmet during the the Chicago Bears Minicamp on June 15, 2022 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears seem to be splitting their rebuilding efforts during the 2022 offseason.

    On one hand, they are clearly trying to tear down the roster. New general manager Ryan Poles and new head coach Matt Eberflus are trying to build the team in their image.

    They traded Khalil Mack, watched Akiem Hicks, James Daniels and Allen Robinson walk in free agency and could still wind up trading All-Pro pass-rusher Robert Quinn.

    On the other, the quarterback of the future might be on the roster, and they aren't maximizing that window.

    Justin Fields has to be considered one of the biggest losers of the offseason. He has a blossoming No. 1 receiver in Darnell Mooney, but there isn't much depth. The Bears are betting on Byron Pringle, who was a complementary piece for the Kansas City Chiefs, and third-round rookie Velus Jones Jr. to make a big impact in 2022.

    It's hard to say the Bears got better on the offensive line either. They could be starting 2022 fifth-round selection Braxton Jones at left tackle, per Larry Mayer of the team's website.

    There's bound to be growing pains for him there. Overall, the unit is ranked 31st in Pro Football Focus' preseason rankings.

    If the Bears didn't have Fields, essentially stripping down the roster and looking to 2023 would make sense. The problem is they do have Fields and aren't putting him in a position to see if he can be the guy in 2022.

Houston Texans

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    Houston Texans NFL football first-round draft picks offensive lineman Kenyon Green, left, and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. pose with their jerseys during a news conference Friday, April 29, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
    AP Photo/David J. Phillip

    There are certainly things to like about the Houston Texans rebuild. Namely, the haul they were able to get in return for Deshaun Watson.

    The franchise dealt a quarterback who didn't want to be there and is awaiting the results of a disciplinary hearing by the NFL after 24 women filed lawsuits accusing Watson of sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions.

    Watson, who has denied the allegations against him, has settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits. The league is pushing for a suspension of at least one year, per Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press.

    The Texans got three first-round picks as well as a third-rounder and two fourth-rounders from the Cleveland Browns in the Watson deal.

    But those selections will not help turn the franchise around unless Houston drafts the right players.

    The 2022 class hasn't played a down yet, but there's reason to be skeptical. Derek Stingley Jr. has the potential to be a shutdown corner, but he only played in three games his final season at LSU because of a foot injury and gave up a passer rating of 128.1, per PFF.

    Then the Texans took Kenyon Green with their second first-round pick. The guard has some impressive tape, but he ranked No. 42 on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's final big board.

    The risk-taking continued in the second round when they took John Metchie III from Alabama. Metchie was 94th on the B/R board and is coming off a torn ACL suffered in the SEC Championship Game.

    The Texans clearly went with the high-risk, high-reward approach. They tried to hit multiple home runs for a franchise that desperately just needs some singles and doubles.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - MAY 23: Jacksonville Jaguars Quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) throws a pass during Jacksonville Jaguars OTA Offseason Workouts on May 23, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    To be fair to the Jacksonville Jaguars, they will almost certainly be better than last year.

    Replacing Urban Meyer with Doug Pederson returns them to some sense of normalcy. The Meyer era was marked by reports of constant friction between the former Ohio State coach and his coaches and players.

    Pederson brings a level of professionalism and credibility that should at least make the Jaguars feel like a professional football team again.

    That's where the good might end, though.

    The Jaguars were the biggest spenders in free agency. They handed out over $328 million this offseason, per Over the Cap.

    A lot of that money went to players who will be expected to take on larger roles than what they did with their former teams.

    Christian Kirk (four years, $72 million) will be expected to be the No. 1 receiver despite having just one season with more than 75 catches and not eclipsing 1,000 yards in any of his first four campaigns. Evan Engram has the sixth-highest cap hit at tight end in 2022. He hasn't topped 700 yards since his rookie campaign in 2017.

    Paying a premium to get talent when you are a rebuilding franchise is one thing. Overpaying mid-tier players hoping to get premium production is wishful thinking.

    Putting second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence behind an offensive line that ranks 26th in PFF's preseason rankings and hoping players like Kirk, Engram and Zay Jones can all have the best seasons of their careers isn't a sound plan.

New Orleans Saints

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    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - AUGUST 29:  Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen of the New Orleans Saints reacts before an NFL preseason game against the Miami Dolphins at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on August 29, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    The New Orleans Saints round out this list because they may be the only team that doesn't realize they should be/are rebuilding.

    In the last two years, the Saints have lost quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton, and star receiver Michael Thomas missed a season-and-a-half because of an ankle injury.

    The team won single-digit games for the first time in the last five seasons, going 9-8 in 2021.

    With Payton retiring, it was the perfect opportunity to bring in a coach from outside of the organization, start clearing the books to create future cap space and focusing on rebuilding for a time when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers no longer have Tom Brady and the NFC South is wide-open.

    Instead, the Saints kept their coaching hire in-house, kicked the financial can down the road once more and made a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to give themselves two 2022 first-round picks while surrendering future draft capital.

    Dennis Allen is an excellent defensive coordinator with a long history in New Orleans, but he went 8-28 as a head coach with the Raiders from 2012 through Week 4 of 2014. There's reason to wonder if he will be able to guide the Saints to the same successes Payton did.

    Brad Spielberger of PFF recently analyzed the cap health of all 32 teams. The Saints finished last as they've continued to start every offseason well over the cap and have to do some mathematical gymnastics just to stay in the black.

    The trade that sent the No. 18 overall pick, a 2022 third-round pick, a 2022 seventh-round selection, a 2023 first-rounder and a 2024 second-rounder to the Eagles for Nos. 16, 19 and a sixth-rounder would have made sense for a team that is truly a piece or two away from contending.

    The Saints aren't that kind of team with Jameis Winston at quarterback.