Every NFL Team's Biggest Offseason Regret
In the NFL, no front office hits on every decision during the spring and summer. Each club has a specific roster move or coaching hire that won't pan out.
Did a team overpay for a free agent? Is it fair to question a certain early-round draft pick? Will an unsuitable coaching hire derail a roster loaded with potential?
Each of these mistakes will have short- and/or long-term repercussions for teams. Some may prove costly in the win-loss column this season. Others could create issues with regard to roster development down the line.
Based on the potential negative fallout, let's walk through every team's biggest offseason regret.
Arizona Cardinals: Signing Andre Smith to Start at Right Tackle
While center Justin Pugh seems like a good investment, the same can't be said about offensive tackle Andre Smith. His recent track record suggests Bradford may struggle with pressure coming off the right side.
Smith has struggled as a pass-blocker in recent years, and he committed eight penalties in 2017. He has also missed 17 games over the last three seasons because of a concussion and triceps and knee injuries.
The Cardinals only gave Smith a two-year, $8 million deal, so they aren't at huge risk financially. But a blown assignment could lead to a big hit on Bradford, which may thrust rookie quarterback Josh Rosen into action before he's ready to lead Arizona's offense.
Atlanta Falcons: Passing on Offensive Guards in the Draft
Wes Schweitzer struggled to transition from left tackle at San Jose State to right guard in his second season with the Atlanta Falcons. As a result, general manager Thomas Dimitroff signed eighth-year veteran Brandon Fusco to a three-year, $12.75 million deal.
However, Atlanta skipped on interior linemen in this year's draft class.
Adding a rookie would've given the Falcons a potential long-term succession plan at the position along with competition for Fusco. Though there weren't many standout guards in this year's draft, the Falcons could've done more than sign undrafted free agent Salesi Uhatafe to add quality depth.
It's too early to give up on Schweitzer, but Atlanta needs another pure interior guard who comes into the league with extensive experience playing inside. At 6'2" and 327 pounds, Will Hernandez may not have been the answer in a zone-blocking scheme, but a smaller, more agile interior lineman could've paid dividends in a year or two.
Baltimore Ravens: Using Two Quarterbacks on Offense
The Baltimore Ravens selected Lamar Jackson 32nd overall in April's draft. Thus far, the coaching staff seems committed to fielding two quarterbacks simultaneously.
That could adversely affect Joe Flacco's 2018 outlook, especially with several newcomers on offense.
As the rookie nips at his heels for the starting job, Flacco should strictly concern himself with establishing a rapport with new wideouts Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown along with rookie tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews. However, head coach John Harbaugh said Flacco would do "other things" while Jackson throws the ball.
NBC Sports' Peter King came away from Ravens training camp impressed with Flacco, but it's practice. The standards for a 10-year starter and Super Bowl champion go beyond a good summer scrimmage in August.
It's fair for Baltimore to add some creativity to its playbook, but it isn't ideal to put Flacco in unfamiliar situations with his job potentially on the line.
Buffalo Bills: Passing on Josh Rosen for Josh Allen
The Buffalo Bills moved up to No. 7 in the 2018 draft to select Josh Allen, but they chose the wrong Josh.
Let's take a look at collegiate production. When healthy as a freshman and junior, Josh Rosen logged 49 touchdowns and 21 interceptions total. Allen tossed 44 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions as a two-year starter. While those bottom-line numbers look similar in a small sample, there's a major difference in efficiency.
At Wyoming, Allen never completed more than 56 percent of his passes on the collegiate level in the Mountain West Conference. With UCLA, Rosen connected on at least 59 percent of pass attempts in all three years in the Pac-12, including his sophomore season, which ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury. In 2017, he also won the comparison in yards per pass attempt, 8.3 to 6.7.
Rosen doesn't have Allen's scrambling ability, but being a starting quarterback still centers on standing in the pocket and delivering accurate throws. Clearly, the former Bruin did a better job compared to the Wyoming product in that aspect.
Rosen has already impressed the Cardinals coaching staff. Unless Allen shows strong improvement in ball placement, he won't see the field until the Bills fall out of playoff contention. Buffalo should've drafted the more accurate signal-caller to lead its offense in the near future.
Carolina Panthers: Trading Cornerback Daryl Worley for Wideout Torrey Smith
General manager Marty Hurney addressed the appropriate position via trade, but he swapped a starting cover defender for a pass-catcher who doesn't have reliable hands to compensate for quarterback Cam Newton's periodic inaccuracies.
Newton has completed 60 percent or better of his passes in only two out of seven seasons. In the same time span, Torrey Smith's catch rate dipped below 50 percent in three out of seven terms. Expect to see a lot of passes hit the ground when the two attempt to connect downfield.
Of course, Smith brings Super Bowl experience to the locker room as a two-time champion, but the Panthers need production at the position more than a decorated resume.
Unless DJ Moore extends an impressive offseason into a spectacular regular-season showing, Carolina's wide receiver corps will rank near the bottom of the league in terms of production in 2018. Jarius Wright hasn't shown much through six seasons, and Curtis Samuel still needs to find his way in the pros.
Chicago Bears: Signing Tight End Trey Burton to a 4-Year, $32 Million Deal
After Matt Nagy's success with the Kansas City Chiefs as a play-caller, Chicago Bears fans should feel confident in their new head coach's ability to develop the offense. He's going to cook with quality groceries, but GM Ryan Pace paid a little too much for one ingredient.
Tight end Trey Burton played an integral role in the Philly Special that helped the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, but he finished the regular season with just 23 catches for 248 yards and five touchdowns.
Burton could serve as a viable red-zone threat in Chicago, but $8 million per year seems excessive. His annual salary lists eighth among players at his position, per Spotrac. He's slotted ahead of Charles Clay, who's 11th among tight ends in receptions with 318 from 2011 to 2017, and two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph.
Don't forget the Bears selected Adam Shaheen in the second round of the 2017 draft and signed Dion Sims, which dilutes the target volume for tight ends on the depth chart. Pace made a concerted effort to acquire receivers but overpaid for a pass-catcher with only 63 catches on his NFL resume. Burton's role won't measure up to his paycheck.
Cincinnati Bengals: Passing on an Offensive Tackle in the Draft
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted center Billy Price in the first round and right guard Rod Taylor, who's now on injured reserve with a torn ACL, in the seventh round. Team brass decided to leave Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher and Bobby Hart to battle for the right tackle spot.
The trio of potentials at right tackle doesn't bring optimism. Ogbuehi has struggled on both sides of the offensive line. Fisher suffered from an irregular heartbeat, which required surgery in November. He's yet to start more than seven games in a season. Hart couldn't hold a starting job on the New York Giants' shaky offensive line last year.
Ogbuehi and Fisher came into the league with high expectations placed on their shoulders as first- and second-round picks in the 2015 draft. Neither has been able to establish himself as a starter.
The Bengals should've considered adding another prospect in the second round instead of drafting safety Jessie Bates, who's slotted behind Shawn Williams and George Iloka on the depth chart. Both veterans have long-term deals that extend through the 2020 season.
It's never a bad idea to stock talent for the offensive line, and the Bengals have a weak link on the perimeter. Quarterback Andy Dalton will feel pressure on the right side.
Cleveland Browns: Passing on Bradley Chubb at No. 4 in the Draft
The Cleveland Browns could've fielded a promising young bookend duo for years to come in Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb. Instead, the front office addressed a need at cornerback and selected Denzel Ward at No. 4 overall in April's draft.
Ward possesses the physical tools to develop into a lead cornerback, but the Browns held two second-round picks. GM John Dorsey had the opportunity to address the position with a high-upside rookie on Day 2. Furthermore, a strong pass rush that relentlessly pressures the pocket can mask question marks in the secondary.
Chubb flashed his dominance on the collegiate level with consecutive 10-sack seasons at North Carolina State before entering the draft. Ward showed his best in just one campaign at Ohio State with two interceptions and 15 pass breakups as a junior.
The Browns will lament the decision to go with need over tangible collegiate production with the fourth pick. Garrett, Chubb and Emmanuel Ogbah would've wrecked offensive lines across the league.
Dallas Cowboys: Not Drafting a Safety
The Seattle Seahawks and safety Earl Thomas remain at odds on a contract extension. There's still a possibility he's traded to the Dallas Cowboys. ESPN.com beat reporters for both teams predict the three-time All-Pro lands in Dallas to end his standoff with Seahawks GM John Schneider.
In the meantime, the Cowboys don't have a standout safety in the secondary. Byron Jones moved to cornerback during the offseason. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli needs an eraser on the back end to help provide more opportunities for the offense. Dallas finished with 10 interceptions, ranked 24th, last season.
The Cowboys left Texas A&M product Armani Watts, who snagged 10 interceptions through four collegiate seasons, on the board in the fourth round in favor of Dorance Armstrong, who provides depth across the defensive line.
If the Cowboys trade for Thomas, all is forgiven. Until then, it's inexplicable to ignore a need throughout the draft when a solid prospect falls to Day 3.
Denver Broncos: Releasing Running Back C.J. Anderson
The Denver Broncos decided to hit the reset button at running back during the offseason. Even though C.J. Anderson eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground, the front office released him and opened up an opportunity for Devontae Booker to take over the lead spot. Rookie Royce Freeman should also play a sizable role out of the backfield.
Anderson's departure doesn't come as a surprise considering the team attempted to trade him to the Miami Dolphins, per Denver 7's Troy Renck: "According to multiple NFL sources, the Broncos had a verbal agreement in place to send Anderson to Miami for right tackle Ja'Wuan James before Miami surprisingly nixed the deal."
Still, only nine tailbacks surpassed the 1,000-yard threshold in 2017. It's not common to see featured running backs handle heavy workloads of close to 250 carries in a season. Look for the Broncos' rushing offense to take a step back after releasing a ball-carrier in his prime coming off a single-season best.
Detroit Lions: Not Extending Wide Receiver Golden Tate Early in the Offseason
Golden Tate goes into a contract year following a lucrative offseason for wideouts on the free-agent market. The Lions should've rewarded their most consistent receiver, who's logged at least 90 receptions and a catch rate of 67 percent or better in all four seasons with the team. Clearly, the 30-year-old has built a solid rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford and serves as an integral component in the offense.
Even though Tate expressed interest in staying with the Lions in May, his agent can push for a more profitable deal following the market explosion for wideouts who've never cracked 1,000 yards in a single season, including Paul Richardson (five years, $40 million), Marqise Lee (four years, $34 million) and Albert Wilson (three years, $24 million), per Spotrac.
Drawn-out contract talks will likely cost the Lions more cash at the negotiating table. For GM Bob Quinn, it's a lesson that highlights the need to get in front of unexpected free-agent market booms. Now, Tate can easily demand a contract close to the three-year, $48 million deal Sammy Watkins inked with the Chiefs.
Green Bay Packers: Keeping Wide Receiver Randall Cobb, Cutting Jordy Nelson
Before GM Brian Gutekunst started his new role within the organization, Davante Adams signed a four-year, $58 million extension, which he deserved as the team leader in touchdowns over the last two seasons with 22.
In March, the Packers released Jordy Nelson and opted to hold on to Randall Cobb, whose contract carries a $12.7 million cap hit. The former served as a reliable scoring threat with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and led the league in touchdown receptions with 14 in 2016. The latter has produced one 1,000-yard season in seven years with the team. Nonetheless, the 27-year-old Cobb didn't even take a pay cut in the final year of his deal.
Green Bay decided to draft three wideouts, which signals imminent change at the position, but Cobb's big contract likely cost the offense a reliable red-zone threat, who now plays for the Silver and Black. Despite Adams' emergence and tight end Jimmy Graham's arrival, there's no substitute for nine years of chemistry.
If you focus on production as opposed to age, it's clear the Packers released the wrong wide receiver.
Houston Texans: Not Doubling Up at Offensive Tackle in the Draft
The Houston Texans arguably fielded the NFL's worst offensive line last season, allowing 54 sacks. The front office traded Duane Brown, the best player of last year's group, to the Seahawks midway through the season. With quarterback Deshaun Watson set to return from an ACL tear, team brass should've made a concerted effort to add a mix of developing and veteran talent on the perimeter.
The Texans selected a versatile offensive lineman in Martinas Rankin in the third round but decided not to revisit the talent pool at the position during the draft. Instead, the front office took two tight ends: Jordan Akins in the third round and Jordan Thomas in the sixth round.
Rankin underwent offseason foot surgery, which brings uncertainty to the start of his professional career. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but the Texans knew the tackle position needed multiple assets to create a strong training camp competition.
Julie'n Davenport will likely man the blind side while Seantrel Henderson and Kendall Lamm compete for the starting spot on the right. It's not an intriguing battle with high-end options.
Henderson started one game over the last two seasons after struggling through his first two years with the Bills. Lamm logged 11 starts from 2015 to 2017. Keep an eye on Watson and his surgically repaired knee behind a shaky offensive line.
Indianapolis Colts: Not Re-Signing Cornerback Rashaan Melvin
The Indianapolis Colts will field a young group at cornerback in 2018. Pierre Desir provides the most experience in a lead role with 13 starts from 2014 through 2017. Still, he's bounced around the league, suiting up for three different teams.
Cornerback Rashaan Melvin emerged as a playmaker last season, recording three interceptions and 13 pass breakups with a lockdown performance against Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown in Week 10. Nonetheless, the Colts decided not to re-sign the 28-year-old, and he agreed to a one-year pact with the Oakland Raiders.
Expect opposing quarterbacks to target the Colts' young secondary. Without Melvin to match up against No. 1 wide receivers, 2017 second-rounder Quincy Wilson will go through growing pains in coverage on the boundary. He appeared in just seven games and started in five last year.
As a result, there's tremendous pressure on quarterback Andrew Luck, coming off a significant shoulder injury, to put up points in the passing game.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Overcompensating for Allen Robinson's Departure
The Jacksonville Jaguars allowed wideout Allen Robinson to hit the free-agent market, but that's not the biggest offseason regret. The front office overcompensated for his departure, which led to unnecessary investments at the position.
Donte Moncrief signed a one-year, $9.6 million deal and joined a crowded depth chart with the team's top two pass-catchers, Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole, from last season. Dede Westbrook, a 2017 fourth-rounder, should have a decent role after leading Jaguars pass-catchers in targets with 51 between Weeks 11 and 17. He missed the first nine games because of a core muscle injury that required surgery.
In addition to the free-agent signing and holdovers, the Jaguars selected D.J. Chark in the second round of April's draft. It's baffling the Jaguars would load up at wide receiver since quarterback Blake Bortles averaged a career-low 32.7 pass attempts per game for the 2017 campaign. Jacksonville's No. 1-ranked ground attack drove the offensive engine last year.
When the 2018 season ends, the Jaguars brain trust will come to terms with the fact they flushed away $9.6 million for a luxury asset at wideout and drafted too high at the position.
Kansas City Chiefs: Not Spending More on a Free-Agent Cornerback
The Chiefs went to the bargain bin to patch up the cornerback position, signing David Amerson to a one-year, $2.3 million deal following a down season with the Raiders. The 26-year-old couldn't stay healthy, suffering multiple concussions in a short time frame before a foot injury kept him on the sideline for a majority of the 2017 campaign.
Between Amerson's concussion history and on-field inconsistencies, the Chiefs should've kicked the tires on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who put together a productive 2016 season with six interceptions and 21 pass breakups. The 32-year-old can line up on the boundary and in the slot. At 6'2", 203 pounds, he's also rangy in coverage.
Bashaud Breeland would also fit as a boundary defender. He started 58 of 60 games with the Washington Redskins and held his own opposite Josh Norman.
The former Raider isn't an ideal fit. The Chiefs walk a fine line with Amerson, whose track record with head injuries poses an immediate threat to his availability. He also doesn't provide much in takeaways—half of his eight career picks came during the 2015 term.
Without cornerback Marcus Peters to hunt for interceptions on the boundary, Kansas City needs a playmaker to pair with Kendall Fuller at cornerback. In 36 games, Steven Nelson doesn't have an interception.
Los Angeles Chargers: Not Re-Signing Free Safety Tre Boston
Tre Boston put together his best year with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017, logging five interceptions and eight pass breakups. He signed with the Cardinals on a one-year, $1.5 million deal.
Why couldn't the Chargers pick up the phone and re-sign the veteran safety, who led the team in interceptions? It's premature to crown Derwin James a viable replacement before he's even played a preseason game. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will need to identify his new starting center fielder this summer, but don't expect the new starter to match Boston's production.
The 26-year-old blossomed in his fourth season in a contract year, but he remained unsigned five months into the new league year—an opportune time to sign an impact player on a modest short-term deal.
The Chargers have a deep secondary, but there's a premium on defensive backs who can kill drives with takeaways. General manager Tom Telesco missed out on a free-agent market bargain.
Los Angeles Rams: Extending Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks
The Los Angeles Rams picked up a quality asset in wide receiver Brandin Cooks. There's no doubt that he improves the No. 1 scoring offense in 2017. Nonetheless, head coach Sean McVay's system produced points in bunches without a speedy, top-flight pass-catcher.
Secondly, Cooper Kupp, who caught 62 passes for 869 yards and five touchdowns, looks like a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. Robert Woods put together his best season as a No. 2 option, securing 56 catches for 781 yards and five scores. Running back Todd Gurley led the team in receptions with 64 last season. What's the point in tying $20.4 million in cap space to another wideout for the 2019 campaign?
By the way, the Rams have looming contract decisions for multiple starters, including right tackle Rob Havenstein, safety LaMarcus Joyner and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who are all set to become free agents in 2019. Oh, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, wants a new contract as well.
GM Les Snead could've used the money more strategically with key players headed toward the negotiating table in the near future.
Miami Dolphins: Signing Wide Receiver Albert Wilson to 3-Year, $24 Million Deal
Albert Wilson signed one of the most surprising deals during free agency thanks to the Dolphins. The fifth-year wideout doesn't have a 50-catch season on his resume and listed as a tertiary option in the Chiefs passing attack last season. Yet his $8 million average salary tops Jordy Nelson ($7.1 million), Michael Crabtree ($7 million), and Allen Hurns ($6 million), per Spotrac.
The Dolphins have their top two wide receiver options in DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. Danny Amendola and Wilson will likely compete for targets as the third option among the wide receivers.
However, there's no justifiable reason to pay $8 million per year for a low-end wideout who could open the season at No. 4 on the depth chart. To say the Dolphins overspent on Wilson would go down as an understatement. It's good news for the player, but a terrible signing for the team.
Minnesota Vikings: Not Acquiring Competitive Backup for Left Tackle Riley Reiff
Quarterback Kirk Cousins left an offensive line that fielded two Pro Bowlers in Washington. Now, he'll take snaps behind a unit that doesn't have a single player who's earned an invite to the January exhibition game.
Cousins should keep his head on a swivel as pass-rushers attack from the blind side. Case Keenum faced constant pressure last season, partially due to left tackle Riley Reiff's lapses in pass protection as the year progressed.
Reiff signed a five-year, $58.8 million deal with the Vikings in 2017. He's going to start in the short term, but the front office didn't acquire quality depth behind him. Rookie Brian O'Neill has taken the majority of reps at right tackle. A solid addition would push the 29-year-old during practices and provide a backup plan if he's unable to suit up on game day.
Minnesota made an $84 million investment in Cousins over three years, but general manager Rick Spielman should put more effort into protecting the franchise centerpiece. Subpar-to-average protection on the left would put the 29-year-old signal-caller in survival mode for the most the season, which hurts his ability to deliver the ball to talented wideouts Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
New England Patriots: Not Acquiring a Veteran Left Tackle
The Patriots won't field a prototypical, experienced left tackle in the upcoming season. Instead, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia hopes to develop Trent Brown into a solid blindside protector despite his experience on the right side. Isaiah Wynn, who stands at a stout 6'2", 310 pounds, could also win the starting job.
Whether it's experience or measurements, the starter on quarterback Tom Brady's left side will need to overcome a potential shortcoming, which suggests growing pains for Nate Solder's replacement.
Scarnecchia shot down the idea that arm length significantly helps or hinders a player's ability to man the position. Nevertheless, when compared to Solder's 35½-inch arms, Wynn's 33⅜-inch arm length raises concerns on whether he can physically handle bigger and stronger competition in the pros on a weekly basis.
Based on his average play on the right, Brown's transition to the opposite side probably comes with some hiccups along the way as well. He's committed 18 penalties over the last two terms in San Francisco.
With a 41-year-old quarterback under center, there's little margin for error. However, barring a trade, the Patriots will roll the dice on two potentially flawed candidates for the left tackle spot. It shouldn't surprise anyone if New England's offense jumps off to a slow start and Brady hits the ground more than usual.
New Orleans Saints: Giving Up a 2019 1st-Round Pick for a Defensive End
When looking at the draft evaluation process, it's all subjective, but it's fair to debate position worth. Clearly, the New Orleans Saints saw something special in defensive end Marcus Davenport. The front office dealt the Nos. 27 and 147 overall picks and a 2019 first-round selection to the Packers to acquire the University of Texas-San Antonio product.
Forget the fifth-round pick. The Saints gave up two first-rounders for a non-quarterback. Davenport plays a premium position, but the rookie would have to become a key component on the defensive line to justify parting ways with multiple Day 1 picks.
When it comes to finding a quarterback—who impacts the game more than any other player—it's a reasonable trade-off. On the other hand, teams can adjust the game plan to neutralize a pass-rusher's impact on the game. Offensive coordinators can use double-teams or run the ball in the opposite direction.
In certain games, Davenport may see direct action on only a handful of plays, which isn't ideal for an investment that cost two potential high-upside starters. The front office surrendered too much for Cameron Jordan's bookend complement on the defensive line.
New York Giants: Heavily Relying on Ereck Flowers at Right Tackle
Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers struggled through three seasons on the left side. The Giants attempted to deal the 2015 first-rounder during April's draft but came up empty on offers for a middle-round pick, per ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan.
The coaching staff opted to move Flowers to right tackle. As expected, he experienced some difficulties during practices. Raanan tweeted: "Another rocky outing for the O-line. Ereck Flowers had some rough moments at RT. Adding to Giants concerns, so did the reserve tackles. Their lack of depth there is something to keep an eye on as the summer progresses."
Former head coach Ben McAdoo also shared some discouraging words pertaining to Flowers' transition to right tackle, per New York Post reporter Paul Schwartz: "He can't bend, you got to be able to bend. You can run around him on that side just like you can on the other side."
It's still early, and the Giants haven't played a preseason game, which allows the coaches to evaluate the team in live action. However, Big Blue should have an experienced veteran ready to take over in case the 24-year-old falls flat at his new position. Chad Wheeler played 261 snaps at tackle during his rookie campaign last season. He'd likely fill in if head coach Pat Shurmur pulls his projected starter at right tackle.
At this stage, the tackle market has dried up, putting the Giants in wait mode for late offseason cuts to quell those concerns on the perimeter.
New York Jets: Not Adding Outside Linebacker Depth
Linebacker Demario Davis finished the 2017 season as the New York Jets' best pass-rusher with five sacks. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and backup linebacker David Bass logged 3.5 apiece. Only the latter returns in a contract year.
Nonetheless, when speaking to reporters in May, head coach Todd Bowles downplayed the need to increase the sack count and placed the focus on winning: "I want to see an improvement in wins. Sacks [are] not my concern if we're winning ballgames."
In a simplified perspective, Bowles has a point, but as they say, defense wins championships. Oftentimes, a top-10 unit features a strong pass rush. The Eagles strip-sacked Brady to secure victory in Super Bowl LII.
After sitting out the entire 2017 campaign, edge-rusher Lorenzo Mauldin returns to action from back surgery, but he's only logged 6.5 sacks in 26 games and sits on a roster bubble that may burst this summer. Jordan Jenkins sacked the quarterback just 5.5 times in his first two seasons.
Without pocket pressure, opposing quarterbacks will have ample time to scan the field and pick apart a talented secondary.
Oakland Raiders: Hiring Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable
When the Raiders hired offensive line coach Tom Cable, thoughts about his work in Seattle with running back Marshawn Lynch came to mind. They experienced some of their best years together, appearing in two Super Bowls and winning one.
Beast Mode still has juice left in the tank with the ability to run over defenders. However, it's not the ground attack Raiders fans should worry about with Cable. It's his track record in pass protection. Charting his offensive lines as a position coach and head coach dating back to the 2006 campaign with the Falcons, there's a troubling pattern of high sack rates.
According to Football Outsiders, Cable's offensive lines have never ranked higher than 20th based on adjusted sack rate. As an assistant and head coach through 12 seasons, his front five groups have allowed at least 41 sacks in 10 of those terms.
Russell Wilson, a nimble signal-caller, constantly faced pocket pressure in Seattle. Oftentimes, he scrambled to escape defenders for a throw downfield, but he still went down for a sack at least 42 times in five of the last six seasons.
The Raiders field a solid trio of interior offensive linemen in Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson, but it's on Cable to develop the next pair of offensive tackles. Donald Penn is going into his age-35 campaign, and the starter at right tackle remains undecided.
Considering Cable's inability to protect Wilson and Seattle's horrific offensive lines in recent years, it's unnerving to know he's tasked with shielding franchise quarterback Derek Carr.
Philadelphia Eagles: Releasing Linebacker Mychal Kendricks
Similar to cornerback Patrick Robinson, linebacker Mychal Kendricks put together one of his best years last season, notching 55 tackles, six pass breakups and two sacks. He also played an integral role against the run.
But the Eagles have a much deeper cornerback group than linebacker unit. Soon after they released Kendricks, who signed with the Browns, Paul Worrilow tore his ACL. In two out of three terms, Jordan Hicks has finished the season on injured reserve.
Kendricks, however, has provided versatility for the front seven. He's played at least 12 games in each of his six seasons, going inside in a 3-4 base scheme and outside in a 4-3. Despite perceived limitations in his coverage ability, the 27-year-old broke up 27 passes during his tenure with the team.
The back end of the front seven will need Nigel Bradham—who's going to serve a one-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy—and Hicks to stay on the field for a majority of snaps. The mostly inexperienced Corey Nelson, Nathan Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill will compete for the weak-side role in Philadelphia's base alignment.
This offseason, the Eagles linebacker corps went from solid to shaky—pending Hicks' ability to stay healthy.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Franchise-Tagging Running Back Le'Veon Bell
Despite head coach Mike Tomlin's optimism that the Steelers front office and running back Le'Veon Bell will come to a long-term agreement, the 26-year-old ball-carrier will play consecutive seasons with the franchise-tag designation.
According to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, the team expects Bell to skip training camp but suit up for the regular season in time to start Week 1, similar to last year.
Unlike 2017, the Steelers have a new offensive coordinator as Randy Fichtner takes over for Todd Haley. When installing or tweaking an offense, it's most important to have the quarterback present every step of the way. The running back's attendance isn't as significant, but Bell also plays a critical role in the passing game. He saw 100-plus targets in two of the last five seasons.
The two-time All-Pro won't have live practice reps, which would allow him time to adjust to Fichtner's system. It's fair to expect Bell to have a few hiccups early in the season. It's not going to derail his 2018 campaign, but it's likely going to take time to absorb all the intricacies of the offense.
In a 16-game season, every contest counts. A slow start for a key player on offense may cost the Steelers a few games in September and October.
San Francisco 49ers: Not Signing a High-End Free-Agent Wide Receiver
It's not about signing the most notable names at the position. The San Francisco 49ers don't need a Dez Bryant, but quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could use an established receiver who's still in his prime.
The team expects wideout Pierre Garcon to gain clearance for his return from a neck injury. He's experienced past success under head coach Kyle Shanahan in Washington in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. However, the 11th-year veteran goes into his age-32 campaign—slightly past prime years in the league.
Marquise Goodwin built a strong rapport with Garoppolo and signed a three-year, $20.3 million extension, but he's only put together one solid campaign from start to finish. Despite leading the 49ers in receiving yards with 962 in 2017, the speedy pass-catcher only reached pay dirt twice in 16 games.
Ideally, the quarterback should elevate the play of his teammates. We saw that effect as Garoppolo went 5-0 with the 49ers after their 1-10 start.
However, at some points, the 26-year-old signal-caller will need a dynamic wideout to bail him out with a spectacular catch or a clutch grab in the end zone. San Francisco's offense doesn't have that type of player at the moment, and it will cost the team in a couple of critical contests late in the season against formidable defenses.
Seattle Seahawks: Waiting Too Long to Trade Safety Earl Thomas
Back in April, safety Earl Thomas' camp told Schneider the 29-year-old wouldn't hold out, per Seattle Times reporter Bob Condotta. When the three-time All-Pro announced in June that he'd stay away from team activities until coming to terms on a new deal, the front office should've sent him out of town immediately.
As time progresses, Thomas loses value on the trade market with clubs in the know about the contract impasse between the Seahawks and the last recognizable name in their secondary.
To make matters worse for Seattle, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the six-time Pro Bowler would consider missing regular-season games. General managers would have to feel good about the possibility that Thomas would re-sign after a trade or simply wait for him to hit the free-agent market in 2019.
Initially, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported teams would have to "blow away" Seattle with an offer for Thomas. In a public dispute that's reached the Players' Tribune, the Seahawks will likely have to settle for a less appealing proposal.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Paying Ryan Jensen Highest Yearly Salary Among Centers
In 2017, center Ryan Jensen started a full season for the first time with the Ravens and parlayed that into a four-year, $42 million deal. On average, he tops the best centers in the league, such as Travis Frederick, Alex Mack and Rodney Hudson, in average salary per year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't owe dead money on the contract after the 2019 season, but Jensen's front-loaded salary makes little sense when looking at his NFL resume. He's logged 25 starts, equal to about a season and a half. Yet the 27-year-old is already among the top earners at the position.
Regardless of Jensen's performance in the upcoming season, the Buccaneers will remain on the hook for $10 million in dead money next year, which restricts spending.
Tampa Bay will have to make difficult financial choices on contracts for key players. Interior offensive lineman Ali Marpet, tackle Donovan Smith, wideout Adam Humphries, linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Chris Conte are all set to become free agents in 2019.
Tennessee Titans: Hiring Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur
Bright minds have to start somewhere, right? Well, the Tennessee Titans rolled the dice on Matt LaFleur, who spent the 2017 season with the Rams under Sean McVay in his first year as an offensive coordinator.
It's fair to question how much of LaFleur's influence fueled the league's No. 1 scoring offense last season. Even his two-year stint in 2015-16 as the Falcons quarterbacks coach comes with question marks since Kyle Shanahan ran the show as the offensive coordinator.
There's no doubt LaFleur spent time working with two innovative well-respected play-callers in Shanahan and McVay, but he's tasked with putting quarterback Marcus Mariota back on track and elevating the 19th-ranked scoring offense from last year.
With all the exposure but lacking extensive firsthand experience, LaFleur will struggle to spark the Titans offense and Mariota's growth. It shouldn't shock anyone if Tennessee's offense plateaus as a middle-of-the-pack unit.
Washington Redskins: Including Kendall Fuller in Trade for Alex Smith
In the NFL, front offices must do whatever it takes to land a capable signal-caller. Quarterback Alex Smith should keep the Redskins competitive in the NFC East, but that doesn't mean they won't regret sending cornerback Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs.
Fuller experienced a breakout 2017 season, recording four interceptions and 10 pass breakups in 16 games. He spent most of his time in the slot but possesses the ability to handle boundary duties as well. Nonetheless, a slot cornerback takes on a large workload for a team that frequently uses its nickel package. The 23-year-old logged 720 snaps last year.
The Redskins hope to see cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau develop into contributors. However, Fuller on the inside and Norman on the outside would've helped counter the Eagles passing offense, which ranked No. 1 in touchdowns last season, and the Giants' aerial attack featuring pass-catchers Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram.
In a division with two passing attacks that could easily rank within the top 10 in yards and scores, Washington comes into the upcoming season with question marks behind Norman.
Player contract details courtesy of Spotrac.