The Biggest Mistakes of the 2015 NFL Offseason so Far
Every NFL offseason is filled with pivotal decisions for teams around the league.
While coaching staffs are working on early preparation for the upcoming season, general managers and other executives are busy managing rosters, making decisions on incoming and outgoing free agents, negotiating contracts and navigating the NFL draft.
If they can make the right choices over the course of an offseason, these general managers will put their respective teams in position to succeed once meaningful games begin.
With an ever-expanding salary cap, a talent-laden free-agent pool and an impressive draft class, this offseason, like any other, has presented plenty of opportunities for squads to make improvements for the upcoming season.
It has also created opportunities for teams to make mistakes.
This offseason, we have seen some teams repeatedly ignore positions of need in both free agency and in the draft. Other teams have gone after pieces that just don't seem necessary for short- or long-term success.
In many cases, mistakes have come in the form of questionable contract decisions. Overpaying with either total or guaranteed money in order to land a player can be incredibly risky considering the unpredictable nature of the sport.
Only time will tell which teams got it right, but some moves definitely appear to be sizable mistakes at first glance.
Let's take a quick look at the biggest mistakes of the 2015 offseason.
Eagles Sign DeMarco Murray to a Five-Year Deal
If not for the wacky series of trades made by head coach Chip Kelly this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles' most noteworthy move likely would have been the addition of free-agent running back DeMarco Murray.
Murray led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards and could be the piece that puts Philadelphia over the top in 2015.
What's risky, however, is that Philly gave him a five-year, $40 million deal with $18 million in initial guaranteed money.
This is a huge contract—both in terms of length and value—for a 27-year-old back with a lot of tread on his tires and an injury history.
Murray's 2014 campaign was the only NFL season in which he has appeared in all 16 games. He also touched the ball a whopping 449 times in 890 snaps. Expecting him to remain healthy and productive for another 80 games might be a stretch.
Philadelphia already had a good running back on the roster in LeSean McCoy before trading him to the Buffalo Bills, and a number of talented backs were available in the draft.
Right now, signing Murray feels like a $40 million gamble.
Bills Sign McCoy to His Own Five-Year Deal
We mentioned that the Eagles had a good back in LeSean McCoy before trading him to the Buffalo Bills.
This is because McCoy's deal includes $26.5 million in guaranteed money.
That is a lot of money for a guy who may or may not be the perfect fit for Greg Roman's offense in Buffalo.
McCoy was productive last season, rushing for 1,319 yards and five scores. He wasn't as well-rounded as one might believe, however. According to Pro Football Focus, he was rated just 55th overall among running backs in 2014.
His yards-per-carry average of 4.2 was nearly a full yard lower than it was in 2013, which may be a sign that the 26-year-old back is beginning to wear down after six years in the league: Entering 2015, McCoy has carried the ball 626 times over the past two seasons.
If he does show signs of decline or doesn't quite fit in Buffalo, it is going to cost the Bills quite a bit of money.
Jaguars Give $24.5 Million to Davon House
The Jacksonville Jaguars have struggled for quite some time, which is why it is understandable for the franchise to overpay to bring in a free agent like tight end Julius Thomas (five years, $46 million).
But the four-year, $24.5 million deal given to former Green Bay Packers cornerback Davon House is overkill.
He is an ascending young player, for sure. He is just 25 years old and was rated a respectable 43rd overall among corners by Pro Football Focus last season.
House, however, is set to earn $10 million in guaranteed money. This is along the lines of what a team would typically give a defensive starter, and House has only 14 career starts in his four pro seasons.
If he can prove he is a top-level starter for the Jaguars, then this deal won't look so bad in hindsight. It would have made more sense, though, for Jacksonville to draft and develop a young corner and spend the extra money on more weapons for second-year quarterback Blake Bortles.
Browns Pass on Taking a Wide Receiver Early in the Draft...Again
Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer doesn't seem to value the wide receiver position.
He avoided taking a wide receiver at all in a 2014 draft that was loaded with them. This year, in a draft that may yield similar talent, he waited to pick one until Round 4 (Vince Mayle, Washington State).
Farmer did bring in veteran receivers Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline through free agency, but neither player is likely to emerge as a true No. 1 option at this point in his career. The Browns could have found that true No. 1 in the first or second round of the draft.
For the record, Cleveland owned two first-round selections this year.
Farmer recently said the following on 92.3 The Fan, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:
I would say, 'How important are those guys?' Name the last big-time receiver to win a Super Bowl. Name the last mega-guy. (Gordon) matters to me because I like the guy and I think he's a really good player. But at the end of the day, when you look at the teams that have these mega-receivers, name the last guy who won a Super Bowl...there are none. The last guy who really helped his team get there was T.O. (Terrell Owens).
Farmer may not believe that a big-time receiver is necessary for long-term success, but a productive pass-catcher could certainly help the Browns offense after Cleveland's passing attack ranked 17th in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Browns are also likely to enter the 2015 season with career backup Josh McCown or the unproven Johnny Manziel at quarterback.
Nine receivers were selected in the first two rounds of this year's draft. None of them will be playing in Cleveland.
Browns Give Josh McCown $6.25 Million Guaranteed
Speaking of the Browns, it wouldn't be fair to let them off without mentioning the three-year, $14 million contract they handed journeyman Josh McCown.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, there were other teams also interested in McCown:
By offering the journeyman such a desirable contract, Cleveland was able to "win" the sweepstakes.
The fact that the Browns gave him $6.25 million in guaranteed money makes it feel like more of a loss, however.
McCown struggled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, completing just over 56 percent of his passes and tossing 14 interceptions and only 11 touchdowns. He was rated 34th overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus.
His career passer rating of 76.1 inspires about as much confidence as his performance last season.
If McCown keeps Manziel on the bench for the entire year, then the Browns may move on from the former Texas A&M star and look to draft another quarterback.
But whether or not he beats out Manziel, it is difficult to envision McCown as the starter in Cleveland for all three years of his deal.
Eagles Give Byron Maxwell a Ridiculous Contract
The Eagles surrendered an average of 264.9 passing yards per game (31st in the NFL) last season, which is why signing a guy like cornerback Byron Maxwell made a ton of sense.
Inking him to a six-year, $63 million deal with $25 million guaranteed is a bit much.
It's not that Maxwell isn't a good cornerback. He is, even if being surrounded by Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman made him look better than he was last year, when Pro Football Focus ranked him 45th overall among corners.
The risk here is that Maxwell has made only 17 career starts and has not yet shown enough to warrant elite cornerback money.
But elite cornerback money is exactly what Maxwell will be getting from the Eagles. The guaranteed portion of his contract is greater than the amount guaranteed to former teammate Richard Sherman and Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns.
Living up to this kind of deal will likely prove difficult for Maxwell, even if he performs well on the field.
Cowboys Fail to Draft a Running Back
Dallas Cowboys owner/president Jerry Jones clearly didn't want to overvalue running back DeMarco Murray the way the Eagles seemed to this offseason.
The Cowboys, however, didn't do much to address the vacancy in their backfield during free agency. The team signed oft-injured former Raider Darren McFadden and added former Redskins draft pick Lache Seastrunk, but that's about it.
Even more surprising is the fact that Dallas ignored the position in this year's draft.
Grabbing one of the draft's top two running backs, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, wasn't going to happen with the Cowboys sitting at pick No. 27 in the first round.
But the following rounds featured plenty of solid backs with NFL potential. Yet, the Cowboys weren't interested.
This leaves Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams to compete with McFadden and Seastrunk for playing time. Perhaps the combination will work out for Dallas.
But if the Cowboys struggle on the ground in 2015 and a guy like Ameer Abdullah (54th overall pick), Duke Johnson (77th overall pick) or David Johnson (86th overall pick) becomes a star, then Jones is going to look foolish.
Colts Spend First-Round Pick on a Wide Receiver
The Indianapolis Colts used the 29th overall pick in the 2015 draft on former Miami (Fla.) receiver Phillip Dorsett.
To call the selection a mistake is not meant as criticism of Dorsett. He is blazing fast (4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine) and talented (871 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014) and may well develop into a Colts cornerstone for years to come.
The problem is that after signing free agents Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, the last thing Indianapolis really needed was another offensive weapon.
In addition to Gore and Johnson, the Colts also have receivers T.Y. Hilton, Vincent Brown and Donte Moncrief and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
None of these players was responsible for surrendering 45 points to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game.
Pro Football Focus ranked Indianapolis just 26th in pass blocking and 19th overall in defense last season. Addressing either of these areas would have been more sensible than adding another pass-catcher so early in the draft.
32 Teams Pass on Drafting La'el Collins
Former LSU standout La'el Collins entered the draft process looking like one of the top offensive linemen and a surefire first- or second-round pick.
That was, however, before it came to light that Louisiana police were seeking Collins for questioning in connection with the murder of an ex-girlfriend.
Though police eventually made it known that he is not considered a suspect, teams were afraid to touch him in the first round. Collins wasn't selected on Day 2 of the draft either, and his representatives made it clear that he intended to sit out if drafted after the third round, per ESPN's Adam Schefter:
La'el Collins and his reps have decided if he's not selected tonight he will not sign a contract with a team and will renter draft next year— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 1, 2015
The problem with Collins' threat is that he wouldn't have been eligible to enter the 2016 draft under league rules, even if he did refuse to sign with a team that drafted him.
He eventually landed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. His contract is for three years and just under $1.6 million. By comparison, seventh-round tackle Denzell Goode signed a four-year, $2.3 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
Collins lost out on more money for now, but he will have a chance to land a big second deal a year earlier than if he had been a late pick.
If just some team had taken a flier on Collins, however, his choice would be to sit a year and make no money (and put that second contract off for an additional year) or play for the team that drafted him.
For teams with multiple late-round picks, Collins would have been a justifiable gamble. And for teams in the NFC East specifically, it might have been worth a seventh-round pick just to keep him away from the already talented Dallas offensive line.