NFL Teams That Blew It This Offseason
The NFL doesn't just keep score on Sundays.
For some teams, it's been a successful offseason. The Cleveland Browns added veteran Pro Bowlers on both sides of the ball in edge-rusher Olivier Vernon and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. In what may be a sign of the apocalypse, the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins drew rave reviews for their draft classes. Some others didn't have that level of success, but the offseason wasn't awful, either.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, lost tailback Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown. But there are other players on the roster ready to step into the breach, and in moving up to draft Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, Pittsburgh addressed the team's biggest need on defense.
Other teams, however, weren't so fortunate. Some didn't do enough to reverse their fortunes. Others botched free agency. Others mishandled the draft.
And at least one somehow managed to do all those things. But don't worry—it has a plan.
In short, some teams just flat-out blew it this offseason. Each of the teams listed here made at least one of those missteps. Terrible trades. Bad draft picks. Horrible hirings.
And unfortunately, there are no do-overs in the pros.
New York Giants
There hasn't been a more pilloried general manager over the past couple of months than Dave Gettleman of the New York Giants.
But despite a series of questionable moves in free agency and a draft that left many shaking their heads, Gettleman insisted to Peter King of NBC Sports that he has a plan:
"The bottom line is, I have confidence in what I do and who I am. I've been a part of organizations that had pretty good quarterbacks—Jim Kelly, John Elway, Kerry Collins, Eli Manning, Cam Newton. I've led a charmed life with the quarterbacks on the teams I've worked for. I know what good ones look like. The other thing is, resumes matter. Every once in a while, I wish the people taking the shots would take a minute to look at my resume. I've been a part of teams that went to seven Super Bowls. I had a hand in some of them. But today, there's no patience. And there's no room for civil discourse in our society, which I find sad."
"In three years," he added, "we'll find out how crazy I am."
Of course Gettleman has a plan. Said plan is just a terrible one.
He traded New York's best edge-rusher (Olivier Vernon) to Cleveland for a guard. Dealt the team's best player (Odell Beckham Jr.) for a pair of picks and a 2017 first-round safety who hasn't come anywhere close to living up to his draft status (Jabrill Peppers). Used his first two picks in this year's draft to take what most believe was a massive reach on a quarterback (and Gettleman himself said may sit up to three years) and a nose tackle.
Oh, and Gettleman "replaced" Beckham with a slot receiver (Golden Tate) on the wrong side of 30 who's also coming off a down year—and he saw fit to give him a four-year $37.5 million contract.
The Houston Texans are the reigning AFC South champions. As such, it's hardly a stretch to say they're in "win now" mode.
The Texans, however, didn't make things one bit easier to repeat as division champions. Because Houston entered this offseason with one overriding problem.
Last year, no team surrendered more sacks than the Texans' 62. Letting Deshaun Watson continue to absorb that sort of punishment would be...unwise.
But that Houston line isn't considerably better now than it was during its playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans' biggest free-agent addition up front was Matt Kalil—the 2012 No. 4 pick who has been a major disappointment over his seven years and who missed last year with a right knee injury.
After the Philadelphia Eagles selected Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard at No. 22, the Texans settled on offensive tackle Tytus Howard with the 23rd pick. Houston circled back at No. 55 to take another offensive tackle in Max Scharping.
But Howard played at Alabama State, while Scharping starred at Northern Illinois. Neither is exactly a hotbed of NFL-ready talent—both youngsters are projects.
While speaking with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Watson did his best to put a positive spin on the changes along the offensive line.
"We drafted two young guys who can come in and compete and love football and want to come in and learn," Watson said. "They're going to have an opportunity to come in and learn from the veteran guys and continue to try to make us better."
Tell yourself whatever you need to, Deshaun.
And keep your head on a swivel.
Kansas City Chiefs
Just like the Texans, the Kansas City Chiefs won their division last year. In fact, the Chiefs were the AFC's No. 1 seed and made it all the way to the conference championship game.
Just like Houston, Kansas City entered the offseason with one prevailing problem—one massive hole on the roster.
And just like the Texans, the Chiefs did a lousy job filling said hole.
The Kansas City defense was atrocious in 2018—the Chiefs ranked 31st in total defense and 24th in scoring defense.
Per Aly Trost of Arrowhead Pride, new Chiefs edge-rusher Frank Clark expects that defense to be better this year:
"I feel like we're going to be better than 24th in the league on defense. I feel like last year, for a program that I wasn't a part of, but I had a chance to look at from the outside in, I'm seeing an explosive offense on that side where you've got a guy like Patrick Mahomes. He's doing everything he can to win games. You've got a whole group around him and he's leading this group and this team at a young age and that's just hats off to a young guy like him."
Clark, however, was brought in only after Dee Ford and Justin Houston (and the 22 sacks the pair tallied) left town via trade and release. Veteran cornerback Bashaud Breeland was signed to bolster the secondary—a secondary that lost its best cornerback in Steven Nelson in free agency.
Free-agent addition Tyrann Mathieu and second-round pick Juan Thornhill should improve the safety group, but nothing was done about one of the league's weaker corps of off-ball linebackers.
The Chiefs essentially treaded water with their defense.
That's not good enough for a team with aspirations of a trip to Miami in February.
In fairness, the Detroit Lions didn't have a disastrous offseason. But Matt Patricia's second one as head coach wasn't an especially good one, either.
That's a significant issue for a six-win, last-place team.
The Lions made one of the bigger splash signings of the offseason with the addition of edge-rusher Trey Flowers on a five-year, $90 million contract that includes $56 million in guarantees, per Spotrac, and a $28.1 million signing bonus. Flowers is a good player, to be sure. But that's a lot of salary-cap resources to tie up in a player who has never recorded more than 7.5 sacks in a season and has just 21 over four years.
Similarly, while Detroit didn't have an abysmal 2019 draft, the team's first couple of picks raised some eyebrows. Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson was easily the most pro-ready of this year's prospects at the position and a player who will (in theory) contribute right away.
But there were players at bigger areas of need available to the Lions at No. 8 overall, and the team's recent history with Round 1 tight ends has been shaky.
Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai was an even bigger surprise at No. 43 overall. It's not that the Lions didn't need help at linebacker, and Tavai is a physical presence who was highly productive in college. But his range and athleticism were questioned entering the draft, and many draftniks (including Lance Zierlein of NFL.com) graded Tavai as a Day 3 prospect.
The Browns last year became the poster children for how quickly teams can reverse their fortunes—they went from 0-16 in 2017 to 7-8-1 and are perceived playoff contenders this year.
But the 2019 Lions don't look markedly better than the 2018 version.
Detroit looks like a fourth-place team again.
The Arizona Cardinals aren't listed here because they elected to spend the No. 1 overall pick on polarizing young quarterback Kyler Murray. Or because shortly after doing so they traded Josh Rosen (the No. 10 pick in 2018) to the Miami Dolphins for a bag of beef jerky and three cans of Red Bull.
(Those may not have been the actual parameters of the trade.)
No, the reason the Cardinals are included here is the decision that set the wheels in motion for Murray's arrival and Rosen's departure—the hiring of head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
After he was fired as head coach at Texas Tech and agreed to become the offensive coordinator at USC, the 39-year-old Kingsbury was hired by the Cardinals for his offensive innovation and acumen. As a Sean McVay of the desert.
The problem, as Domonique Foxworth of The Undefeated pointed out in January, is that Kingsbury isn't that guy:
"McVay's unit was sixth in expected points added (EPA) in the NFL when he was offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins in 2016. This past season, the offensive EPA for Kingsbury's Red Raiders was good for 34th in all of college football and fifth out of 10 teams in their own conference. So, contrary to what you may have heard, he is not an offensive guru. The pass-happy, air-raid offense he runs could certainly work in the NFL, but it is not new; many of the principles that once made it special when it was first innovated by Mike Leach in the early '90s at Iowa Wesleyan have long since been adopted by NFL teams. He brings nothing new to the NFL and hasn't had a track record of offensive innovation."
The Cardinals hitched their wagon to a coach who mustered two winning seasons in six years at Texas Tech and who never won even nine games in a season.
He ain't winning nine in Arizona any time soon, either. And given the temperature of the seat under GM Steve Keim and the impatience of the franchise with its last head coach (Steve Wilks), he probably never will.
This is another last-place team that didn't so much have a bad offseason as not have a good enough one.
There have been bright spots for the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason. After missing out on linebacker Devin Bush by a single pick (to the Pittsburgh Steelers, which just rubbed salt in the wound), they chose Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams at No. 11.
Williams is a talented player, a sound technician and a likely starter. Fourth-rounder Michael Jordan will provide depth at guard and center. Third-rounder Germaine Pratt was needed to add talent to one of the NFL's weakest linebacker groups.
All in all, it was a decent draft class. Prior to that, however, the Bengals...well, they didn't do much—at all.
Despite ranking inside the top half of the league in salary-cap space, per Over the Cap, the Bengals were non-factors in free agency. The biggest moves they made were to bring back their own players in tight end Tyler Eifert, offensive tackle Bobby Hart and linebacker Preston Brown.
The NFL's worst defense didn't add any outside help of note. And the league's 26th-ranked offense didn't add any additional firepower.
Some might call it a cautious, measured approach. But the division champion Baltimore Ravens got help in the receiving game. For all the Steelers lost, they filled their biggest defensive need by trading up for Bush. And the Browns added veteran impact players on both sides of the ball.
The AFC North has rapidly become an arms race of sorts. And just like last year, the Bengals are bringing up the rear.