Each NFL Team's Most Boneheaded Decision This Year

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2018

Each NFL Team's Most Boneheaded Decision This Year

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    Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden
    Oakland Raiders head coach Jon GrudenGail Burton/Associated Press

    Hindsight always provides a better perch for criticism than foresight. Even so, we often ask, "What were they thinking?" before results have fully come in.

    Outside supporters and critics can only see parts of the big picture, but some decisions are poor from the start, specifically when a team releases a player or fires a coach. In other scenarios, it's fair to think a club should or could have done something more to improve their chances for success.

    We'll highlight each NFL franchise's worst decision of the year. The cases below focus on moves that should've been made during the offseason, draft or regular season.

         

Arizona Cardinals: Hiring Mike McCoy as Offensive Coordinator

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    Former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy
    Former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoyNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Quarterback Sam Bradford's signing is a candidate for the team's worst move, but the Arizona Cardinals wanted rookie signal-caller Josh Rosen to learn behind an experienced veteran before he took the field. The plan failed after three weeks, and Arizona released Bradford—not much harm done there.

    The decision to hire Mike McCoy seems like a bigger blunder. As an offensive coordinator and head coach over the last 10 years, he's led one top-10 scoring unit—with Peyton Manning as his starting quarterback in 2012. 

    And according to Scott Bordow of The Athletic, a recurring problem with the complexity of McCoy's playbook drew criticism from Rosen. "One criticism of McCoy in Denver was that his playbook was too big, with up to 300 plays. Rosen hinted that might be an issue again, saying: 'When you are not playing efficiently it has to be more simple for everyone involved so we can be on the same page.'" 

    Following a 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 7, Arizona fired McCoy and elevated Byron Leftwich to the position. There are clear signs of improvement after the switch.

    The Cardinals still have to develop an offensive identity, but they racked up 300-plus total yards for the first time in Week 8 and eclipsed 20 points in Week 11 for the second time this season.

Atlanta Falcons: Not Trading for a Linebacker Before Deadline

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    Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff
    Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas DimitroffKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    At 4-7, the Atlanta Falcons will likely miss the postseason.

    The front office could've done a little more to compensate for the rash of defensive injuries, though, specifically at linebacker, where Deion Jones has been sidelined since Week 1 with a foot injury. Furthermore, Duke Riley is still struggling. He's only logged two pass breakups and whiffed on a critical Week 11 tackle against the Dallas Cowboys.

    The Falcons have sorely missed Jones' tackling and his solid pass coverage in the middle. An aggressive trade during Atlanta's Week 8 bye may not have fixed all the problems for the 29th-ranked scoring defense, but the team could've pushed for a Band-Aid at the position to help a struggling group.

Baltimore Ravens: Selecting 2 Tight Ends Early in the Draft

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    Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst
    Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden HurstJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    The two-tight end draft strategy didn't work out with Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, who've shown little growth through four years. The Baltimore Ravens doubled-down on that process in April, though, selecting Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews.

    Hurst suffered an offseason stress fracture in his foot, which delayed his development.

    Head coach John Harbaugh mentioned the need to incorporate the South Carolina product in the game plan Oct. 25, per ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley: "He's a first-round pick, talented guy. He's practicing really well. He's a rookie—that's the other side of it—and he missed a significant portion. We just have to keep bringing him along. I expect him to play well. He's very determined. It's important for us to have him rolling in our offense."

    Since Harbaugh's comments, Hurst has converted nine targets into six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. He's not a major factor in the offense, and force-feeding him doesn't seem like a good idea, since fellow rookie tight end Mark Andrews is playing well. The Oklahoma product has 23 receptions for 337 yards and two scores.

    With Williams and Boyle already on the roster and in contract years, the Ravens didn't need to draft two tight ends. Baltimore could've picked up another running back to pair with Alex Collins to form a stronger backfield tandem.

Buffalo Bills: Not Trading Running Back LeSean McCoy

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    Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy
    Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoyMark Brown/Getty Images

    The Buffalo Bills didn't need to hold a full-scale fire sale at the Oct. 30 trade deadline, but the front office should've moved a disposable asset amid a rebuild.

    Running back LeSean McCoy will turn 31 years old in July, and he's owed $9 million next season in a contract year, per Spotrac.

    In addition, the Bills have a rookie quarterback in Josh Allen and limited weapons on the perimeter. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is on track for his worst campaign with 21 receptions for 334 yards and a touchdown on a 36.2 percent catch rate. Zay Jones, the team's top pass-catcher, averages just 35.6 yards per contest.

    McCoy isn't likely to factor into the team's future. In a season that started 2-6, the two-time All-Pro could've been dealt for draft capital that could've been used to revamp the offense.

Carolina Panthers: Signing Running Back C.J. Anderson

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    Running back C.J. Anderson
    Running back C.J. AndersonGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    The Carolina Panthers corrected this mistake and released running back C.J. Anderson after he suited up for nine games. It's not a huge blunder, since the team only signed him to a one-year deal, but the acquisition didn't make much sense when considering offensive coordinator Norv Turner's intention to increase Christian McCaffrey's workload to 25-30 touches per game.

    Clearly, the Panthers saw McCaffrey as a workhorse tailback, which would leave scraps for the backups. Cameron Artis-Payne could've seen spot-duty action rather than a running back accustomed to handling a bulk of the carries doing so.

    Also, considering quarterback Cam Newton's involvement in the rushing offense, Anderson didn't land in an ideal spot.

    He recorded 24 rush attempts for 104 yards and a touchdown in Carolina. The sixth-year back touched the ball no more than seven times in a single game. In terms of his role, it went downhill from his Week 1 performance: seven carries for 35 yards. He failed to top those numbers in any contest afterward.

Chicago Bears: Keeping Tight End Dion Sims Through the Year

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    Chicago Bears tight end Dion Sims
    Chicago Bears tight end Dion SimsLeon Halip/Getty Images

    Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace infused the roster with pass-catching talent during the offseason,  so incumbent players who held a minimal role last year are seeing fewer targets.

    In 2017, tight end Dion Sims caught 15 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. Before he sustained a Week 9 concussion, his role had evaporated. He played more than 50 percent of the team's offensive snaps in two of eight outings, hauling in two of his four targets for nine yards on the year.

    Before Sims' November injury, Chicago should've tried to trade him for draft capital. He fell out of the rotation and likely won't regain traction in the deep Bears offense, which features a high-end playmaker at tight end in Trey Burton.

    Sims is collecting $6.3 million in the second year of his deal and carries just about the same cap hit for 2019. Assuming Adam Shaheen starts the next year healthy behind Burton, the 27-year-old Sims could be on the way out. He's only owed $333,334 in dead money next season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Hiring Teryl Austin as Defensive Coordinator

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    Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin
    Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl AustinJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

    In January, former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin succeeded Paul Guenther, who accepted the same position with the Oakland Raiders under Jon Gruden.

    At his best, Guenther led a top-10 scoring defense in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The unit took a step back last year, ranking 16th in points surrendered. The group regressed even further under Austin.

    In an attempt to save a sinking defensive ship, head coach Marvin Lewis fired Austin after nine games. An embarrassing 51-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints sealed his fate. Still, the Bengals rank last in points and yards allowed and are on a three-game skid.

    The defense just allowed 258 yards and four touchdowns to rookie signal-caller Baker Mayfield, which points to another questionable decision to extend Lewis in the offseason. Nonetheless, the 5-6 Bengals started the year strongly—5-3 at the midpoint—but the defense had been the Achilles' heel all along. 

Cleveland Browns: Keeping Hue Jackson After 1-31 Record in 2 Years

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    Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach Hue Jackson
    Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach Hue JacksonDon Juan Moore/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns made a huge mistake in opening the season with head coach Hue Jackson after he won one game in two years. The organization hired general manager John Dorsey last December to wipe the slate clean but kept a failing skipper in position.

    Dorsey acquired and dealt several assets during the offseason, which signaled a new vision in Cleveland. He traded for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Damarious Randall as potential short- and long-term building blocks. In April, the front office selected Mayfield to become the future offensive centerpiece.

    The Browns executive had his fingerprints all over the rapid roster change, which makes the organizational decision to keep Jackson mind-blogging. Typically, when a new general manager takes the job, he hires his own head coach. 

    According to owner Jimmy Haslam "internal discord" between Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley led to their joint exit, which was likely to happen anyway.

    Under Jackson, the Browns started the season 2-5-1; they're 2-1 since the team fired him. Mayfield threw for at least three touchdowns in each of the last two outings, which he hadn't done in his first seven appearances. 

Dallas Cowboys: Passing on Safety Justin Reid During the Draft

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    The Houston Texans' Justin Reid
    The Houston Texans' Justin ReidDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Instead of taking a ball hawk in safety Justin Reid, who logged five interceptions as a junior at Stanford, the Dallas Cowboys selected offensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round of the 2018 draft. He played left tackle at Texas but shifted inside to left guard as a starter this season.

    It's too early to assess Williams' long-term outlook, but the Cowboys pursued Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, offering a second-round pick for him, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    The Seahawks turned down the proposal, but the Cowboys could've acquired Reid to complete their strong defense. Instead, he went to the Texans as the No. 68 overall pick. In 11 appearances, which includes seven starts, he's picked off three passes and returned one 101 yards for a touchdown. The former Cardinal has more interceptions than anyone on the Cowboys.

    Now, still in need of a playmaking safety, Dallas could pay a premium for Thomas in free agency. 

Denver Broncos: Not Trading Shane Ray Immediately After the Draft

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    Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray
    Denver Broncos linebacker Shane RayDustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Once the Denver Broncos selected Bradley Chubb as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 draft, it appeared Shane Ray's time with the organization was short. Days later, the front office declined the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. 

    Considering that the team figured to have one of the league's top pass-rushing tandems in Chubb and Von Miller, general manager and vice president of football operations John Elway should've tirelessly worked the phones to trade Ray.

    Despite an injury-riddled 2017 that featured torn wrist ligaments and subsequent surgery, Ray has an eight-sack season on his resume. He can provide pocket pressure as an edge-rusher in a suitable system. Now, he's on the field sparingly, playing 26 percent of the team's defensive snaps as a non-factor with five solo tackles and a sack.

Detroit Lions: Limiting A'Shawn Robinson's Snap Count

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    Detroit Lions defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson
    Detroit Lions defensive tackle A'Shawn RobinsonJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson put together a solid 2017, logging 32 solo tackles, four tackles for a loss and six QB hits as a starter in every game. He lined up for 67.5 percent of the team's defensive snaps last year.

    Matt Patricia took over as head coach and implemented his defensive vision, which was previously successful with the New England Patriots. Robinson then saw a decline in playing time. Patricia has favored defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois as the starter over Robinson in most contests. The former has opened eight games in the middle compared to three for the latter.

    Despite a two-sack performance in Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins, Jean-Francois hasn't provided a consistent impact in the trenches with a comparable snap count to Robinson's. Jean-Francois has finished five contests without a solo tackle, recording 17 in total. Robinson has more solo tackles (23) and failed to log a single-man takedown in only one outing. 

    It's fair to wonder if the Lions stunted Robinson's development in favor of a 32-year-old journeyman.

    Robinson carried some momentum into the season after his sophomore leap, but the defensive tackle's ascension has hit a speed bump. Perhaps he's a poor fit in a new system, but the Alabama product isn't seeing many opportunities, playing just 39.4 percent of defensive snaps.

Green Bay Packers: Limiting Aaron Jones' Carries

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    Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones
    Green Bay Packers running back Aaron JonesDylan Buell/Getty Images

    We're past the days of watching quarterback Aaron Rodgers connect with wideouts Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as the key components in the Green Bay Packers offense.

    The team released Nelson, and Cobb's production has significantly dipped since his breakout 2014 in which he logged 1,287 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Now, Rodgers has to look elsewhere for support.

    Along with wide receiver Davante Adams, running back Aaron Jones is key to moving the chains. At six yards per carry, he leads the league, topping last year's 5.5 mark.

    Despite Jones' ability to move the ball in chunks on the ground, he shared the workload with Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery early in the season. Green Bay traded the latter to the Ravens at the deadline. The former averages a career 3.7 yards per carry.

    In eight games, Jones has recorded 15 rush attempts twice. After he rushed for 145 yards in Week 10 and racked up at least 93 yards from scrimmage in each of the last two outings, perhaps the Packers have realized they have a budding backfield talent.

Houston Texans: Not Acquiring a Goal-Line Running Back

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    Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien
    Houston Texans head coach Bill O'BrienMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

    As shown with his 97-yard, Week 12 scoring scamper against the Tennessee Titans, Lamar Miller can rip off a long run, but he needs a finisher to split carries with. Since he headed to the Houston Texans from the Dolphins during the 2016 offseason, the seventh-year ball-carrier hasn't logged more than five rushing touchdowns in a season.

    The Texans don't have a definitive timetable for D'Onta Foreman's return from a torn Achilles. Regardless, the second-year ball-carrier has to play himself into football shape, because he hasn't taken a handoff since November 2017. 

    There's no certainty Foreman will continue where he left off as a rookie. The Texans have Alfred Blue to pick up the slack in the meantime, but the 27-year-old averages 3.4 yards per carry and doesn't have more than two rushing scores in a single year. 

    Without a healthy, reliable, physical goal-line option behind Miller, the Texans may have problems finishing drives in the red zone with their ground attack.

Indianapolis Colts: Starting Season with Ryan Grant as No. 2 Wide Receiver

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    Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Ryan Grant
    Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Ryan GrantWinslow Townson/Associated Press

    Indianapolis Colts receiver Ryan Grant has opened six games as the starter opposite T.Y. Hilton. Though he's serviceable in the passing attack, the 27-year-old doesn't stretch the field vertically, averaging 9.8 yards per reception. That's tied for sixth among pass-catchers on the roster with at least six receptions.

    Quarterback Andrew Luck looks phenomenal in the pocket, recording 32 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions while completing 68.4 percent of his attempts. He's relied heavily on tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle to compensate for the lack of a viable No. 2 wideout. The team placed the latter on injured reserve Monday with a kidney issue, though. 

    Luck's an above-average quarterback with the know-how to optimize the assets available, but the Colts could've done a lot better than Grant. In his best season (2017), he caught 45 passes for 573 yards and four touchdowns. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting Wide Receiver DJ Chark Jr.

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    Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark
    Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver DJ CharkScott Halleran/Getty Images

    In case there's confusion, let's clear it up: Even before his benching, quarterback Blake Bortles was never the engine that ran the Jacksonville Jaguars offense. Based on the team's formula of success last year, he needed a productive ground attack to open downfield passing lanes.

    The Jaguars selected rookie second-rounder DJ Chark Jr. in April, but he's yet to impact the game on a major scale. The LSU product has eclipsed 50 receiving yards in one outing. Furthermore, the 22-year-old sits behind Donte Moncrief, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole on the depth chart.

    In an offense that relies on the ground game with running back Leonard Fournette and recently acquired ball-carrier Carlos Hyde, it's hard to see how Chark will contribute consistently in the short term, assuming Marqise Lee fully recovers from torn ligaments in his knee. Westbrook and Cole will remain on the books beyond this season as well, per Spotrac

    Regardless of who starts under center next season, Chark will have to climb over multiple pass-catchers to secure a decent role.

Kansas City Chiefs: Passing on High-Profile Free-Agent Safeties

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    Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach
    Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett VeachCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs gave their first bit of good news about safety Eric Berry's recovery Nov. 20 through head coach Andy Reid (h/t BJ Kissel of the team's official website), who said, "He's feeling quite a little bit better...we'll see how this next week goes for him."

    Berry hasn't played this season while recovering from an Achilles injury. But they need him back.

    At safety, the front office selected fourth-rounder Armani Watts, who landed on injured reserve with a groin ailment, released Robert Golden in August and re-signed 31-year-old Ron Parker after he spent the offseason with the Falcons.

    Kansas City could've taken advantage of a down period for the safety market. Tre Boston, Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid signed their deals in July, August and September, which gave the front office more than enough time fill Berry's spot with a starting-caliber player in his prime. 

    Maybe the Chiefs stayed away from Reid because of his protests, but the team could have used Boston in coverage or Vaccaro as a defender closer to the line of scrimmage instead.

    Kansas City needs the help on defense. The group allows the most yards through the air and ranks 20th against ground attacks.

Los Angeles Chargers: Not Re-Signing Safety Tre Boston

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    Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco
    Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom TelescoPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers made the initial mistake of letting Tre Boston hit the open market after his best year in coverage when he had five interceptions and eight pass breakups. He's picked off three more passes with the Cardinals this season.

    Derwin James fell to the Chargers at No. 17 overall in the 2018 draft; he's a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate as a versatile safety who contributes on each level of the defense. However, alongside Boston, he could have pushed play-caller Gus Bradley's unit even further.

    As an above-average cover man between the cornerbacks, Boston can flip the field with his ability to read the quarterback. Though the decision to let him walk doesn't significantly hurt the defense, the Chargers may have fielded one of the top safety tandems with him on the back end.

Los Angeles Rams: Franchise-Tagging Safety Lamarcus Joyner

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    Los Angeles Rams free safety Lamarcus Joyner
    Los Angeles Rams free safety Lamarcus JoynerJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    As mentioned, the safety market didn't yield much cash for players at the position, but Lamarcus Joyner signed a franchise tender worth $11.3 million. In 2017, he recorded career highs in interceptions (three) and pass breakups (nine). From a financial perspective, the Los Angeles Rams went above and beyond to keep him.

    The Rams selected Joyner as a second-rounder in the 2014 draft, but he didn't provide much impact as a slot cornerback. He recorded 13 pass breakups without a pick in his first three seasons. General manager Les Snead paid out a hefty one-year deal likely because of the defensive back's production in last year's contract season. 

    Through 11 outings, though, Joyner has been average, notching one interception, three passes defensed and 38 solo tackles. If one considers available safeties from this year's free-agent pool, which include Tyrann Mathieu, Morgan Burnett and Boston, the Rams overpaid for their homegrown talent.

Miami Dolphins: Moving Cornerback Bobby McCain to the Boundary

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    Miami Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain
    Miami Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCainJoel Auerbach/Getty Images

    The Dolphins pass defense has been inconsistent through 11 games, ranking 21st in yards and points allowed. When Minkah Fitzpatrick fell to Miami at No. 11 during April's draft, it was fair to expect improvements in the secondary because of his decorated resume at Alabama and ability to play safety and in the slot.

    In comparison to last year, though, the Dolphins aren't much different in pass coverage with the 2017 Chuck Bednarik Award winner in tow. Secondly, defensive play-caller Matt Burke has used him as a slot cornerback, prompting Bobby McCain's move to the boundary. 

    Miami signed McCain to a four-year, $27 million extension during the summer. Previously, he played a vital role in the slot, and the pass defense has seen mixed results with his shift.

    According to the Palm Beach Post's Joe Schad, the Dolphins moved McCain back to the slot against the Packers in Week 10. "Minkah Fitzpatrick is Miami Dolphins' outside corner right now. Bobby McCain just made a play from the slot, where he shines." He played snaps at the position in Week 12 as well, per Schad

    The Dolphins coaching staff should consider keeping McCain inside if he's most comfortable in that role.   

Minnesota Vikings: Permanently Moving Mike Remmers to Right Guard

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    Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Mike Remmers (No. 74)
    Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Mike Remmers (No. 74)Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Offensive lineman Mike Remmers' transition from the perimeter to the interior started in Week 17 last year. After starting 10 games at right tackle during the regular season, he opened the finale at right guard then shifted to left guard in two postseason outings.

    The Vikings kept Remmers inside during training camp, and he's been the starting right guard this year. Any time there's change, an adjustment period usually follows, but the Vikings' offensive line tweak could do more harm than good. 

    Star Tribune film analyst Andrew Krammer highlighted some of the reasons Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks wreaked havoc on the interior of the Vikings offensive line in Week 11, writing, "The Vikings' matchup losses continued with Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who had five (!) of Chicago's nine tackles for losses while beating the entire interior  offensive line including center Pat Elflein and right guard Mike Remmers." 

    With rookie second-rounder Brian O'Neill starting six games at right tackle, the Vikings will likely keep Remmers inside, but the lapses at this point in the season raise major concerns.

New England Patriots: Leaving a Question Mark at Cornerback

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    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
    New England Patriots head coach Bill BelichickJeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Typically, the Patriots would prefer to allow an impending free agent to hit the open market rather than sign him to a massive deal. After Malcolm Butler played one special teams snap in Super Bowl LII, it became a foregone conclusion New England would wave goodbye to the cornerback. He signed a five-year, $61.3 million deal with the Titans during the offseason.

    The Patriots selected Duke Dawson in the second round of April's draft, and he's been activated after spending the first 10 weeks on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. It could take him some time before he regains his playing shape at a critical point in the season. 

    New England acquired cornerback Jason McCourty in a trade with the Browns, but he's performed at an average level, logging 33 solo tackles and eight pass breakups without an interception in 11 contests.

    The pass defense ranks 25th in yards allowed and has surrendered 22 scores (ninth-worst in the league). The Patriots don't necessarily miss Butler, but it was a mistake not to bring in another veteran asset to help a struggling secondary at the Oct. 30 trade deadline.

New Orleans Saints: Trading a 3rd-Round Pick for Teddy Bridgewater

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    New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
    New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy BridgewaterJonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Barring a handshake agreement between the Saints and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with an understanding that he'll re-sign in March, the front office made a potential miscue in surrendering a third-round pick for him in August.

    During the preseason, Bridgewater flashed glimpses of the player who started for the Vikings during the 2014-15 campaigns before suffering a torn ACL, a dislocated knee and structural damage. The Saints took a chance in acquiring a quarterback who'd thrown two regular-season passes since 2015, but what if the 26-year-old takes an opportunity elsewhere once he's eligible to hit the market? 

    If that scenario plays out, the Saints would have used a third-round pick for a one-term backup. Keep in mind that Drew Brees has another year left on his deal. Bridgewater would likely have to wait until 2020 to become the starter in New Orleans.

    A quarterback-needy team may offer him the opportunity to compete for a starting job next year. That proposal that could lure him to a new destination and essentially waste the Saints' top-100 draft pick.

New York Giants: Not Acquiring a Proven Right Tackle

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    Former New York Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers
    Former New York Giants offensive tackle Ereck FlowersDavid Richard/Associated Press

    Even though left tackle Nate Solder's career with the New York Giants isn't off to a great start, there's a good reason why general manager Dave Gettleman signed him to a four-year, $62 million deal: to solidify a position that Ereck Flowers couldn't over the last three seasons.

    The Giants tried to salvage Flowers' career by moving him to right tackle, but the experiment failed. The team released him in October, and he's resurfaced with the Jaguars.

    Knowing Flowers' struggles on the perimeter, it's surprising the Giants didn't sign a proven commodity at the position during the offseason. The University of Miami product was far from a sure fit on the right side, and Chad Wheeler had started just five games before the 2018 season—only three at right tackle. 

    Big Blue have widespread blocking issues, but Gettleman went into the season with an unproven asset and a backup as his Plan A and B at right tackle, which isn't a solid strategy for protecting the quarterback.

New York Jets: Neglecting Outside Linebacker Position

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    New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan
    New York Jets general manager Mike MaccagnanJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    In 2017, the New York Jets ranked 28th in sacks with 28, but general manager Mike Maccagnan did not add talent at outside linebacker during the draft. Undrafted rookie Frankie Luvu earned a roster spot at the position, but he's not moving the needle in terms of pocket pressure.

    During the spring, head coach Todd Bowles didn't seem concerned about sacks but focused on the big picture: winning.

    "I want to see an improvement in wins," Bowles said after a practice in Florham Park, per NJ.com's Matt Stypulkoski. "Sacks is not my concern if we're winning ballgames." 

    Well, the Jets aren't winning, are 26th in sacks (22) and Bowles should feel the heat from the hot seat as his team fell to 3-8 in Week 12. 

    One talented pass-rusher wouldn't have flipped the Jets' fortune, but he'd certainly help the organization see a brighter future for a subpar defense.

Oakland Raiders: Trading Khalil Mack

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    Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden
    Oakland Raiders head coach Jon GrudenNick Wass/Associated Press

    When general managers select prospects in the draft, they hope to pick a player of Khalil Mack's talent—and the Oakland Raiders traded him away at the first sign of a financial tug-of-war.

    The organization sent Mack, a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2020 fifth-rounder to Chicago for two first-round picks in the next two years, a 2019 sixth-rounder and a 2020 third-round selection.

    First off, the Raiders traded one of the top players in the league, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year and an All-Pro at two positions. It didn't make any sense to package him with a 2020 second-round pick. Mack alone should've brought in premium draft capital.

    Secondly, Oakland still had Mack on the books because of the fifth-year option clause on his rookie deal. If he sat out the entire campaign, a season of service wouldn't have tolled, meaning he'd have to report in order to become a free agent in 2019. The franchise tag would've also given the team an extra term of control if the front office struggled to come up with a long-term deal. 

    In September, Oakland chose to budge, relinquishing its contractual leverage, which sends a weak message to the locker room. If the Raiders aren't willing to pay their best asset, who's deserving of a new deal? Furthermore, players who seek new contracts may be able to force their way out of Oakland with just a little pressure.

    With the salary cap rising every year, the Raiders made a hasty move by sending the anchor of their defensive line elsewhere.

Philadelphia Eagles: Trading for a Wide Receiver Instead of a Running Back

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    Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman
    Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie RosemanMitchell Leff/Getty Images

    After Week 5, the Philadelphia Eagles lost running back Jay Ajayi for the season because a torn ACL, leaving a three-man platoon of Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement to carry the load.

    According to Josh Reed of WIVB, the Eagles inquired about LeSean McCoy but completed a deal for wide receiver Golden Tate before the Oct. 30 trade deadline. Philadelphia fields a middle-of-the-pack aerial attack, which ranks 13th, but the rushing offense is 24th without a dynamic ball-carrier.

    The coaching staff ramped up Adams' workload in the last outing against the Giants, but he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry on 22 rushing attempts for 84 yards and a touchdown. Head coach Doug Pederson said the team intends to further increase the rookie's touches, per Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com.

    Adams may indeed become a solid starter, but the offense needed an immediate complement to step in right away and take the pressure off Carson Wentz's arm.

    A move for an established tailback who can run, catch and provide a layer of pass protection would've been a more suitable target for an inconsistent ground attack and an offense that's allowed 34 sacks this season (tied for ninth-worst in the league).

Pittsburgh Steelers: Passing on Linebackers in the Draft

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    Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert
    Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin ColbertGeorge Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Because of the uncertainty surrounding linebacker Ryan Shazier's recovery and his ability to play football after he suffered a spinal injury, it's a surprise the Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to draft a player at the position.

    Despite safety Terrell Edmunds' versatility as a potential sub-package linebacker, general manager Kevin Colbert should've started the process of stockpiling young talent at inside linebacker, specifically a player who can cover the middle of the field. 

    Edmunds talked about refining his pass-rushing moves as a blitzer, via ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler. The Steelers need a second-level defender who possesses some short-area coverage range with the technique to shed blocks and take down ball-carriers in the box.

    Shazier performed at a high level, and it's unreasonable to expect a rookie to duplicate his production. Nevertheless, extended time for a developing talent may have given the Steelers a second-year player ready to man the position next season.

San Francisco 49ers: Not Trading Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon

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    San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garcon
    San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Pierre GarconThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    In a lost season, the San Francisco 49ers could've sold some assets for draft capital but decided to keep the status quo.

    According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, multiple teams inquired about wide receiver Pierre Garcon.

    "Teams call about a lot of people," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I think every team around the league is doing a ton, so I know there was a report on Pierre. That is true. He's one of the guys that people have asked about and we have talked about, but nothing is going down right now." 

    Shanahan worked with Garcon during the 2012-13 seasons in Washington. The wideout led the league in receptions (113) in the second of the two terms, but he's past his prime. Furthermore, the 32-year-old suffered a neck injury in 2017 that cut his season in half. This year, he's dealt with a knee issue that cost him two games.

    The 49ers have rookie second-round wideout Dante Pettis and signed Marquise Goodwin to a three-year, $20.3 million extension. The team had an ideal time to trade Garcon, go full throttle with the youth at the position and accumulate roster building blocks.

Seattle Seahawks: Not Trading Safety Earl Thomas

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    Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas
    Seattle Seahawks safety Earl ThomasElaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks took a hard stance with Earl Thomas' offseason holdout and did not offer him a new deal. In Week 4, the three-time All-Pro suffered a lower-leg fracture and landed on injured reserve.

    Seattle made the right move not to budge on Thomas' demands for a new deal. The three-time All-Pro suffered two significant leg injuries in two of the last three seasons, and he's turning 30 years old in May. Nonetheless, general manager John Schneider should've taken an aggressive approach and traded him.

    According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Cowboys offered a second-round pick for Thomas. Clearly, the team didn't want to ink the ball-hawking safety to a new pact, so why not accept that selection for a player on an expiring contract? 

    Thomas had grown frustrated with his situation and skipped practices, which may have been a bit of a distraction. The team considered a significant fine for his absences, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Still, he remained productive with three interceptions in four contests, the Seahawks would've been able to recoup a premium draft pick for him.

    Now, with Thomas likely headed to the open market, the Seahawks missed out on a potential prospect in a draft loaded with high-end defensive talent.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Benching Jameis Winston Midseason

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Ryan FitzpatrickChris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick opened the season as a starter, while Jameis Winston served a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. But the switcheroo continued midway through the year. 

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers benched Fitzpatrick during a 48-10 blowout loss to the Bears; Winston started the following three games. The coaching staff pulled him out of the third contest for Fitzpatrick, who fell short of a comeback victory against the Bengals in Week 8. 

    Fitzpatrick opened the next three contests until the team pulled him during his third start for Winston, who started in Week 12.

    The decision to start a now 36-year-old backup who's set to become a free agent in March doesn't help provide answers at the most important position. To make matters worse, Tampa Bay lost all three games in Fitzpatrick's second string of starts.

    The Buccaneers (4-7) were better off sticking with Winston, who showed improvement at the end of 2017, in order to find out if he's the franchise quarterback of the future.

Tennessee Titans: Not Trading Brian Orakpo or Derrick Morgan

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    Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson
    Tennessee Titans general manager Jon RobinsonWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Linebackers Brian Orakpo (32 years old) and Derrick Morgan (29 years old) will become free agents in March. Neither player has provided much pocket-pressure impact. They have combined for just two sacks after leading the team as the top pass-rushers over the last couple of years. 

    The Titans prepared for the decline of their veteran outside linebackers, selecting Harold Landry in the second round of April's draft and acquiring Kamalei Correa in a trade with the Ravens.

    Before Morgan suffered a shoulder injury and it became clear Orakpo didn't have the same push toward the pocket, the Titans may have been able to pick up draft picks or a wide receiver in exchange for an experienced pass-rusher. The front office could've traded one of the two and kept the other as a leader in the locker room. 

    Based on production alone, the Titans will likely move on from Morgan and Orakpo in the offseason. It would've been best to sell early rather than hold on to players on the decline for too long.

Washington Redskins: Signing Paul Richardson to a 5-Year, $40 Million Deal

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    Washington Redskins wide receiver Paul Richardson
    Washington Redskins wide receiver Paul RichardsonNick Wass/Associated Press

    Of course, the Washington Redskins couldn't predict a season-ending injury for Paul Richardson Jr. (AC joint), but the front office paid more than enough for him to sign on the dotted line this offseason.

    A five-year, $40 million contract seems like a fair price for a proven No. 2 wideout with a convincing track record, but Richardson doesn't have a 1,000-yard or 50-catch season and only logged one receiving touchdown in two of his first four years in the league.

    In 2015, Richardson tore his ACL, which limited him to one appearance. After a nondescript 2016 campaign, he bounced back with 44 catches for 703 yards and six touchdowns last season.

    However, the 26-year-old hasn't flashed an indication that he can lead a wide receiver unit that needs a playmaker. The Seahawks extended wide receiver Tyler Lockett's contract and allowed Richardson to walk in free agency. Right now, it looks like a good move.

    Lockett is on pace to finish with career highs across major receiving categories, while Richardson won't play another snap this season. Quarterback Alex Smith suffered a gruesome, season-ending leg injury, and that potentially changes the offense's short-term outlook. But the Redskins paid too much for a wideout who produced one solid season. 

    With nearly 50 percent of the team's targets going to tight ends and running backs, it would've been more cost effective to draft a wideout in the middle rounds as opposed to paying Richardson an average of $8 million per year with $16.5 million guaranteed. Rookie seventh-rounder Trey Quinn has provided little impact, logging just nine catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, though a higher pick may have done the job.

                                    

    Player contracts courtesy of Spotrac.