The 1 Move Each NFL Team Needs to Avoid This Offseason

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2019

The 1 Move Each NFL Team Needs to Avoid This Offseason

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    NFL fans see it every offseason: A team makes a major move, only to produce a wince from onlookers. 

    One offseason ago, many were right to cringe when the Denver Broncos opened the checkbook for Case Keenum. To a lesser extent, the same applied when the Minnesota Vikings backed up the Brinks truck for Kirk Cousins. 

    This offseason won't be any different. Massive names seem set for free agency, and the draft is seemingly deep in most areas except quarterback. Don't forget 10 teams have north of $50 million in available cap space—two of those checking in above $100 million. 

    In other words, mistakes are inbound. Some teams will absorb massive cash hits while taking ill-advised free-agent gambles when developing their own prospects or drafting one would have worked better. Others will spend too much retaining their guys when the free-agent pool or draft is deep in the area. As many fans know, franchises will also make the mistake of letting key contributors walk. 

    Blunders will vary on a team-to-team basis, but the biggest generally go against a franchise's status (rebuilding vs. playoff contention) and tend to harm the long-term outlook. These are the moves each team needs to avoid this offseason. 


Arizona Cardinals: Getting Cute at No. 1

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    It's easy for a team to make a mistake with the first overall pick. 

    But the Arizona Cardinals are in a particularly odd spot at No. 1 thanks to silly speculation that links them and head coach Kliff Kingsbury to Kyler Murray, even though the new head coach inherited a roster that boasts 2018 first-round quarterback Josh Rosen. 

    Kingsbury has publicly backed Rosen, as he should. And there is zero reason to throw in the towel on Rosen based on his upside. The rookie numbers were bad, but so was one of the NFL's worst teams—a Cardinals outfit that included an offensive line that allowed a rookie to get sacked 45 times. 

    Arizona needs to take the best player available at No. 1, which will accelerate the rebuild. Starting over again under center would be catastrophic, though since wilder things tend to happen in the NFL, it's possible.

Atlanta Falcons: Letting Grady Jarrett Walk

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Sometimes the biggest mistake an NFL team can make is sitting on its hands. 

    The Atlanta Falcons are in a position to do so as Grady Jarrett heads to the market. 

    Most franchises don't have the luxury of possibly retaining a 25-year-old who regularly performs rare feats other teams would pay a premium for. That's Jarrett, though, who's coming off a career-high six sacks thanks to his ability to pressure quarterbacks from the interior. 

    The Falcons have nearly $24 million in free cap space, and while they need to think about extensions for others soon, Jarrett is in danger of getting away. A team that allowed 26.4 points per game last year with Jarrett in tow can't afford to take the hit if he walks.

Baltimore Ravens: Ignoring Wideout

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens have a lot to focus on regarding Lamar Jackson. He has to limit his fumbles and prioritize his development as a passer because opponents have an entire offseason to learn from his 2018 film. 

    But Jackson won't get far without help. Wideout is especially a problem for the Ravens after last year's attempt at wholesale changes fell flat. No player at the position hit above the 715-yard mark or caught more than five scores. This led to Michael Crabtree's release. 

    Some of this fell on the quarterbacks, of course, but a receiving upgrade will be a big part of Jackson's development. And this could be the biggest misstep, because the free-agent class offers plenty of interesting, obtainable options, such as Golden Tate. 

    The right veteran to propel Jackson's development isn't just about winning now; it's also about assuring long-term success. 

Buffalo Bills: Ignoring Offensive Line

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills have a good thing going with quarterback Josh Allen. The rest...leaves an underwhelming feeling. 

    While it might be easy to focus on the Bills' need to surround Allen with better weapons (which is true), it won't matter much if he can't stay on the field. 

    Allen took 28 sacks over 12 games last year, somehow still flashing as a passer. As an extension of the problems up front, the Buffalo running game was a mess—to the point the rookie passer led the team in rushing (613 yards). 

    The Bills have three notable linemen heading to free agency, so they have an opportunity to get some new guys in there and improve. Ignoring the offensive line would do long-term harm—not just derail a rebuilding season. 

Carolina Panthers: Failing to Retain Daryl Williams

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers should know better than any other team how devastating a middling offensive line can be. 

    Not only did the Panthers fall flat last year, but Cam Newton also underwent January shoulder surgery and doesn't seem like a sure thing for this season. 

    It only gets worse. Offensive tackle Daryl Williams heads to free agency at a time when the Panthers need an upgrade on the left side after Matt Kalil struggled there. Williams broke out in 2017. But hesitating to bring him back would make sense after he tore his ACL last September. 

    Still, Williams' return is an important first domino, especially if the front office can swing a prove-it deal with incentives. It would open up the draft and possibly help kick Kalil inside.

Chicago Bears: Letting Adrian Amos Test the Market

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears have it easy enough this offseason: retain core free agents, smartly add to the roster without taking risks and let the solid nucleus grow. 

    For this to work, though, the Bears have to open the checkbook for Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos. 

    Amos, in particular, is a key component of the Bears defense. He's only 25 years old and coming off a solid season in which he put up 73 total tackles and picked off two passes. While the free-agent market will boast names such as Earl Thomas, Amos was solid and has room to grow. 

    For the Bears, getting back a player who already knows the system and plays well next to Eddie Jackson is a good approach as opposed to spending similar money on a new face. They could then use other assets to address something such as a pass-rusher opposite Khalil Mack, which would help Amos, too. 

Cincinnati Bengals: Losing Darqueze Dennard

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    With a new head coach leading the charge, the Cincinnati Bengals have plenty to tackle. Zac Taylor has to decide on Marvin Lewis leftovers such as Vontaze Burfict and ponder bringing back free-agent Tyler Eifert. 

    But Darqueze Dennard's fate is a simple decision. 

    He's one of the league's better slot corners, and there isn't a reason for the Bengals to let him slip away. They don't have anyone prominent behind him, and with north of $50 million cap space, the Bengals can pay him. 

    For a franchise that's trying to contend while transitioning to a new head coach for the first time in 16 years, the Bengals would make a major misstep by letting a premium position atrophy. The team has enough problems at linebacker and on the right side of the offensive line without adding cornerback to the mix. 

    To their credit, the Bengals extended Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap last summer, so Dennard is the next item on the list. Price really shouldn't matter, either. 

Cleveland Browns: Making a Big Trade Splash

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    Based on the decision to add Kareem Hunt, it's clear the Cleveland Browns aren't afraid to take a major roll of the dice to continue their turnaround. 

    But they don't need to. 

    The Browns are in a great spot. They have a potential franchise passer in Baker Mayfield. Huge-upside weapons flank him, and the defense has superb building blocks. Cleveland has four picks inside the top 100 and ranks No. 3 in total cap space. 

    Yet, some have wondered if the team should make a move for an Odell Beckham Jr. or otherwise. But one of the worst things the Browns could do is overcompensate. A mix of proper big transactions (Kevin Zeitler, Jarvis Landry) and good drafting have the team on a massive upswing. 

    For the Browns, bringing back Briean Boddy-Calhoun and drafting smartly should be enough. Headlines don't equal wins; how they've acted lately does.

Dallas Cowboys: Paying Demarcus Lawrence

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys have one of the premier impending free-agent pass-rushers. Demarcus Lawrence is 26 years old and has had double-digit sacks in each of his past two seasons while playing a full 16 games in each. 

    Yet, now might be the time for the Cowboys to make a tough call and avoid getting caught up in a bidding war. The front office has almost $50 million in cap space, but Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott need extensions. 

    Granted, the Cowboys don't have a first-round pick thanks to the Amari Cooper trade. But free agency looks rich with pass-rushers—even after the top wave—ranging from Brandon Graham and beyond. Doling out one of the league's biggest defensive contracts doesn't make sense with big extensions coming up and draft assets and free agency offering ways to affordably bolster the edge rotation.

Denver Broncos: Thinking Matt Paradis Is Replaceable

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Is it too late to say trading for Joe Flacco? 

    Jokes aside, if the Denver Broncos are serious about getting the most out of Flacco or perhaps even a rookie, the offensive line can't fall apart. 

    Matt Paradis will head to the open market coming off a foot surgery late last year, sure, but it doesn't make sense to let one of the game's better centers take a walk. Yet according to KMGH-TV's Troy Renck, it "appears unlikely the Broncos would get into a bidding war" for him. 

    Denver seems to want to walk the tightrope between contending and building the roster as it goes, in light of the issue behind center. That center, then, can't be a problem—and it's worth paying up to make sure one of the league's best at the position stays. Paradis hadn't missed a game in three years before this past season, so the Broncos shouldn't hold it against him, as plenty of teams would love to shore up the position.

Detroit Lions: Paying Ezekiel Ansah

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Some of the same notes concerning the Cowboys and Lawrence apply here. 

    Except, for the Detroit Lions and Ezekiel Ansah, the situation is a bit worse in some areas. Given the league's emphasis on pressure as the necessary counter to its pass-happy ways, some team will give Ansah a contract that rivals the one Lawrence is about to get. 

    But it will come with major risk, as Ansah hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2015—only suiting up in a career-low seven last year. He's recorded 12 or more sacks in two of his last four seasons, yet the problem is the other two, where he only totaled six combined. 

    Not only is free agency deep for pass-rushers, but the Lions also hold the No. 8 pick, which the defensive-minded Matt Patricia could use on a premier prospect. Even if he doesn't, there are ways to save money here and still put key contributors on the field. 

Green Bay Packers: Replacing Jimmy Graham

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Jimmy Graham was a big disappointment for the Green Bay Packers a year ago. 

    But giving up on him won't work, even if the team has buyer's remorse on the three-year, $30 million deal, and even if it does pay out a $5 million roster bonus at the turn of the new league year this March. 

    While Graham only caught two scores last year, he's still a season removed from catching 10 in Seattle. For the Packers, the hope has to be new head coach Matt LaFleur can get him performing dangerously again. 

    After all, the Packers have plenty of other problems to worry about—such as addressing multiple issues on the defensive front—with the 12th pick or otherwise. The money saved by pulling the plug on the Graham experiment isn't worth missing out on his potential upside if a new set of eyes can unlock production. 

Houston Texans: Overkill at Running Back

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans have a few major problems to address this offseason. 

    Running back isn't one of them. 

    While some may think the Texans should sign a superstar like Le'Veon Bell, the reality is the top-five cap space needs to go toward slapping a franchise tag on Jadeveon Clowney and finding a way to nail down Tyrann Mathieu long term. 

    Yes, Alfred Blue averaged 3.3 yards per carry, third-round pick D'Onta Foreman could hardly get on the field and Lamar Miller missed a few games. But a draft pick or lesser free agent can fill the void well enough and fuel a committee approach. 

    More importantly, the bigger fix needs to come along the offensive line after Deshaun Watson took a league-high 62 sacks last year. If that happens, the current running backs might improve, too. 

Indianapolis Colts: Overpaying on a Risk

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    The Indianapolis Colts have the most cap space in the NFL. 

    That sounds fun, especially because it could mean reeling in some big-money free agents—but it's only fun if the Colts do it well. 

    Coughing up cash for a talent like Bell to take pressure off Andrew Luck—who finally has a good line in front of him—would make some sense. But the Darius Leonard-led defense will need help, too. 

    The aforementioned Ansah is a good example of where the Colts should shy from. He might fit well and prop up a defense that only had 38 sacks last year, but he's a medical red flag. Free agency is deep with pass-rushers, so paying lesser money to bring on say, a Preston Smith, could provide similar value while preserving some of the precious cap room. 

    Unless a Clowney or Lawrence slips to the market, the better move will be a conservative defensive approach. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Banking on Free Agency to Fix Quarterback

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars have to reset under center again. 

    A year ago, Blake Bortles threw 13 touchdowns and 11 picks while the team around him imploded, which eventually got him benched. It's clear the Jaguars can't rely on him or Cody Kessler. 

    Unfortunately for the team, its options are limited thanks to the poor state of the possible free-agent class. The highlights are Teddy Bridgewater and possibly Nick Foles, but the former hasn't had started regularly since 2015 thanks to a serious knee injury, and the latter is a postseason miracle worker with a career 61.6 completion percentage who hasn't attempted 200 passes in a season since 2015. 

    In other words, the quarterback problem looks like it needs to be solved at No. 7 overall. The Jaguars have the defense and offensive playmakers, such as Leonard Fournette, necessary to prop up a rookie while he develops. 

Kansas City Chiefs: Failing to Find Cap Savings

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs are lucky to have Patrick Mahomes on a rookie deal, which leaves some leeway with how they can spend money on a push for a title. 

    But the Chiefs are also 18th in free cap space entering an offseason in which a possible franchise player such as Dee Ford will hit the market, as will role players like Orlando Scandrick. 

    Something has to give, and that something might be the cap hit of $16.5 million for Eric Berry next season. Ditto for Justin Houston's $21.1 million.

    Those are merely two examples. But with Berry an unknown and Houston overpaid relative to his production, the Chiefs have to do something. Ford is expensive, but it doesn't make sense to lose him. The Chiefs will also have to pay other free agents and another rookie class, and start thinking about big extensions for Tyreek Hill, Kendall Fuller and others. 

Los Angeles Chargers: Entering Bidding Wars for Top DTs

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers could be one or two moves away from serious contention, but that doesn't mean they should recklessly spend and cross their fingers. 

    This could be a trap they fall into at defensive tackle, in particular. They have impending free agents in Darius Philon, Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget heading into a market that will boast Jarrett and Ndamukong Suh, to name a few. 

    Yet, the Chargers have their own promising interior pass-rusher to take care of in the 25-year-old Philon, and the market has plenty of rotational run-stuffing players available. 

    These Chargers are only 17th in cap space—and by the way, Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry and others only have one season left on their deals. Plenty of housekeeping for the future should mean no massive free-agent expenditures. 

Los Angeles Rams: Overpaying to Keep a Recognizable Name

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams have a handful of major names heading to the free-agent market. 

    Chief among them are Suh, Lamarcus Joyner, Rodger Saffold and Dante Fowler Jr.

    None of them should have the Rams writing blank checks. 

    And avoiding doing so would be business as usual for the Rams, who have mastered the compensatory process. They have let other notable names such as Sammy Watkins and Janoris Jenkins walk, and the above guys shouldn't be any different. 

    This is especially the case this year, when Suh wasn't the factor he should have been while playing next to Aaron Donald, and Joyner struggled while moving around the backfield. 

    In other words, a contender shouldn't lose sight of a component that lifted it to that status in the first place. 

Miami Dolphins: Selling Out for a Rookie Passer

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    A new era is underway for the Miami Dolphins, which could mean the dismissal of Ryan Tannehill and the addition of a new face, possibly even a rookie. 

    But the Dolphins pick 13th in the draft, which is a precarious spot. A year ago, they would have missed out on the top four passers at that selection, and while not every draft will unfold with such a rush on the position at the top, Miami might be out of luck again. 

    This could mean the Dolphins would need a dramatic trade up to net them a Dwayne Haskins or Kyler Murray. But the cost of such a move is often too steep—they have too many holes to fill, only so many assets and somehow only rank 29th in free cap space

    Bloated contracts need be replaced with rookies, so coughing up draft capital for one asset doesn't make sense. Tannehill is still only 30, so riding out one more year with him isn't the worst scenario.

Minnesota Vikings: Underselling the Problem on Offense

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings invested way too much money in Cousins to ignore the problems on offense this offseason. 

    While most will point a finger at one of the NFL's worst offensive lines, don't forget about the weapons surrounding Cousins. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are excellent options, and Dalvin Cook is good when on the field, but it's hard to always be effective as a unit when those first two names are getting 149 or more targets apiece. 

    The Vikings have to add a solid third option at wideout or tight end to take the pressure off the other two. Maybe this is a star free agent such as Tate a lower-tier option like a Cole Beasley. 

    Either way, the Vikings can't afford to lose sight of a rather large problem, because the blockers up front are an issue, too. 

New England Patriots: Paying Trey Flowers

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Saying the New England Patriots shouldn't pay Trey Flowers isn't the same as saying he isn't worth the money. 

    Flowers certainly is—he's blossomed in Foxborough, Massachusetts, as he applies consistent pressure, holds up in coverage well and thumps against the run. He's a do-it-all sort who will make big money on the open market. 

    These Patriots just don't have the wiggle room. 

    Sitting 26th in free cap space, New England doesn't have a surefire way to pay Flowers premium dollar and take care of everything else. That's fine, because Bill Belichick is still at the controls. This isn't suggesting he'll shrug off the loss and replace Flowers perfectly, but if there is one man fans should trust to come close, it's Belichick. 

    Flowers himself is proof. Belichick knew the fit with the 2015 fourth-round pick was right, and away both parties went. There's value in keeping Flowers, but not at the inflated prices the market will drum up. 

New Orleans Saints: Gunning for the Win-Now Wideout

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints had some serious problems feeding Drew Brees viable weapons last season aside from Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara—to the point they dipped into the Dez Bryant well. 

    Now the Saints are desperately trying to shed salary, as they cut safety Kurt Coleman. With that, they'll still sit in the mid-20s in free cap space. 

    That isn't ideal, to say the least. On paper, it would be easy to pencil in a Tate or Crabtree as something of a big-money acquisition to pair with Thomas. But the reality is more of a mid-tier player such as a Tyrell Williams or Devin Funchess might be better options as guys with comparable attention-drawing skills but better long-term impacts on the franchise's cap. 

    Every fan wants their team to win free agency, but when the man under center is Brees, a mild-looking acquisition can turn into one of the market's best. 

New York Giants: Letting Landon Collins Slip Away

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    The New York Giants are in a position to let top talent slip away. 

    These Giants are questionably rallying around Eli Manning again despite his struggles a season ago within an offense that featured Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley. 

    If that's the approach, the Giants have to do whatever they can to retain top talent. They rank in the middle of the pack in terms of cap space but only have two picks in the top 100. Granted, one of those is No. 6 overall, but it needs to go toward a premium position other than safety. 

    That's because retaining Collins is an easy choice. He's only 25 years old and one of the better box safeties in the NFL. Whether it's a tag or an extension, the Giants have to retain one of their best players.

New York Jets: Splashing Just to Splash

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    "Winners" of free agency, which is often a title attributed to whichever team spends the most money, often don't come out looking good in the long term. 

    The New York Jets could be in danger of falling into this trap yet again. They inked Trumaine Johnson to a five-year, $72.5 million contract a season ago and already regret it, according to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta.

    Now the Jets sit second behind only the Colts in cap space, as both teams have more than $100 million to work with. Seeing as helping Sam Darnold develop is the biggest goal, signing a Bell or even flirting with the idea of broaching trade talks for a Beckham-caliber player might make sense.

    But other rebuilding teams that don't have a great chance of luring free agents unless they overpay have fallen into this sinkhole (think the Redskins in the past). The Jets have to take a more measured approach, securing guys who buy into the system and plan, not just the checks or locale. The money to spend is there, but the ideal approach is probably still building through the draft.  

Oakland Raiders: Saying Goodbye to Derek Carr

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Derek Carr was all over the place for the Oakland Raiders during Jon Gruden's first year back on the job. 

    He completed a career-high 68.9 percent of his passes and threw for 4,000-plus yards, but he also tossed just 19 touchdowns and inhaled 51 sacks. 

    One might think the Raiders would look to rid themselves of a $22.5 million cap hit in 2019 that won't fluctuate much through 2022. But the likely flurry of competition for Carr if he hits the open market suggests otherwise. 

    As odd as it sounds, the Raiders have bigger problems. The front office didn't want to pay Mack or Cooper, which is fine, but it speaks to the major overhaul necessary. Oakland sits sixth in free cap space and has a trio of first-round picks, so hitting the reset button under center with so many other roster holes isn't a good idea. 

    This isn't saying Carr is the long-term answer, but this isn't a one-year rebuild, anyway. 

Philadelphia Eagles: Spending Big at Running Back

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    Phelan M Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles need running back help—but they also can't afford to spend a ton of cash on the position. 

    Bell seems attractive, right? The free-agent back also seems to like the idea of playing in Philadelphia. Even a free agent like Mark Ingram would make some sense at a lower cost than Bell. 

    That is—until one remembers the Eagles sit 31st in available cap space. Philly has to figure out what to do with Foles, unearth a long-term plan at left tackle and consider bringing back free agents Brandon Graham and Tate—not to mention pay rookies. 

    A draft pick might be the way to go. The staff and Carson Wentz are potent enough to prop up a talented rookie, which would leave the limited assets available to the front office for premium spots like left tackle and cornerback. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Trading Antonio Brown

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers already got one item correct this offseason when general manager Kevin Colbert confirmed the team won't tag Bell. 

    Now it's decision time on Antonio Brown

    The receiver's been a point of drama for the Steelers since the letdown in Week 17 when the team benched him for missing practice amid a fight for the postseason. He also carries a $22.1 million cap hit for a team that ranks outside the top 20 in available space and has plenty of needs. 

    Yet, he's also smack in the middle of his prime at age 30 and has put up 1,200-plus yards every season since 2013—with double-digit touchdowns in all but two years over that span. And while JuJu Smith-Schuster looked good last year, one could argue he benefited from Brown's presence, and losing that would set the entire offense back. 

    If the Steelers want to squeeze the most out of Ben Roethlisberger's remaining seasons, it is in their best interest to mend the problems, which would also free them up to address needs such as linebacker and cornerback. 

San Francisco 49ers: Making a Big Splash

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Sporting top-seven cap space, an attractive locale, a possible franchise quarterback and an aggressive general manager, the San Francisco 49ers look ready to make a headline-worthy move. 

    Except they shouldn't. 

    Brown inhaling everything Jimmy Garoppolo throws his way sounds good. Bell tearing it up and taking pressure off Garoppolo while the QB works his way back from a torn ACL does, too. 

    But the 49ers don't need to go overboard rehabbing a roster that is already trending in the right direction. The front office has the No. 2 pick to use on the best player available and the cap space to pinpoint needs. 

    If the 49ers can improve the pass rush with the second pick and smartly add value to the secondary, that would boost the unit in a meaningful manner and make life easier on the offense. It also might make sense for the 49ers to move down and acquire more than the seven picks they have in the upcoming draft, stockpiling talent for the long term.

Seattle Seahawks: Losing Frank Clark

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    With Richard Sherman and other notables gone, the Seattle Seahawks still surprised last year, allowing just 21.7 points per game and tallying 43 sacks. 

    Frank Clark was one of the bigger reasons for the team's success as the transition hit overdrive. He tallied 13 sacks, which means he's had nine or more in each of his last three seasons. Over that span, he's missed one game and developed into a superb all-around player. Keep in mind he's only 25 years old. 

    That is a rather long-winded way of saying there isn't much of an excuse for the Seahawks if Clark gets away. The front office has top-10 cap space and plenty of other needs, such as the interior of both lines. 

    The Seahawks have to pick their battles here. A seemingly spoiled relationship with free-agent safety Earl Thomas means a big need on the defense's back end. Adding another need up front by losing one of the game's best pass-rushers is a good way to take a massive step in the wrong direction. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tagging Donovan Smith as a Means to Keep Him

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Losing Donovan Smith would be a good way for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to stay in purgatory. 

    With Smith, the Buccaneers solved one of the NFL's biggest problems thanks to his production as a left tackle. The front office has to hope Bruce Arians can turn around the Jameis Winston experiment, but that endeavor would take a massive hit if Smith gets away. 

    Yet, the Buccaneers shouldn't force the issue with a costly tag that is projected to come in around the $15 million range, per Over the Cap. While the Buccaneers can free some room by cutting guys like Gerald McCoy, the fact is they rank 25th in cap space and can't afford to lose talent. 

    A long-term deal is the best option with Smith, who hasn't missed a game over four seasons since he entered the league via the second round. It would help the current cap outlook and assure a potential new quarterback down the road of a safe blindside, which is as important as it gets.

Tennessee Titans: Going After Antonio Brown

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Notice a theme? 

    Unless the franchise and players are already familiar with him, Brown is too much of a wild card to mix into a team's future.

    In theory, the Tennessee Titans seem like a candidate to trade for Brown. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is limping through his biggest chances to make an impression and isn't getting much help from his wideouts. 

    But Corey Davis is slowly blooming into a top-tier receiver, which means stability—not unpredictability—is a must. Maybe the Titans don't want to spend a top-20 pick on a rookie who will take time to develop, but they could use their top-12 cap space on a reliable veteran like Tate or even Adam Humphries to change the complexion in a hurry. 

    A consistent name to go with Davis and the return of tight end Delanie Walker from his leg injury would raise the offense's ceiling in a safe manner, shoving the Titans into the playoff picture. 

Washington Redskins: Signing a Free-Agent Quarterback

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    As hinted, free agency doesn't look like the best avenue for a quarterback-needy team this year. 

    The Washington Redskins especially don't look like a team that should explore that avenue, either. They are outside the top 20 in available cap space and in a rough way financially with Alex Smith's playing career an unknown and his 2019 cap hit checking in at $20.4 million

    Free agency figures to inflate the offers a guy like Bridgewater will get to the point a rookie is quite a bit more attractive. This doesn't necessarily have to happen in the first round, but the 15th pick could open some interesting doors. 

    As opposed to the free-agent class, a rookie would be under team control at an affordable price for four or five years and have long-term potential while playing behind a good line and backed by a strong defense. If the Redskins can accept this as a stopgap year, thinking about the long term with a rookie passer could speed up the process. 


    Salary cap and contract info via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.