The Most Boneheaded Moves of the NFL Offseason
The NFL is heading for a quiet period with the draft and free agency mostly over.
While the open market still boasts names such as Ndamukong Suh, the timing of any signing and the end of a deal's impact on the compensatory draft pick process mean it is hard for teams to make a mistake.
But front offices have had a whole offseason to commit boneheaded blunders.
These include terrible contracts, repeated mistakes by regular offenders, bad values and seemingly rudderless directions for franchises lost at sea.
Unfortunately for the following franchises, only a large stroke of luck will make the following moves or approaches look good in hindsight.
Redskins Fumble at Safety
The Washington Redskins can't help but spin their wheels in the dirt at safety.
Bruce Allen and the embattled front office cut ties with D.J. Swearinger late last season despite quality play because of comments he made about the coaching staff. NFL players have stuck with teams for much worse, but the Redskins had at least executed a midseason trade for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Clinton-Dix now plays for the Chicago Bears.
After losing a pair of starters to this seemingly backward strategy, the Redskins went out and grabbed Landon Collins, which sounds perfectly reasonable—except they did it on an $84 million contract.
Semantics about guarantees aside (they have an out after ponying up $45 million over three years), Earl Thomas only got $55 million. Tyrann Mathieu and the remaining free agents at the position cashed in at $42 million or lower.
This isn't saying Collins is a bad player; he's made the Pro Bowl in three out of four years. But doling out that much after some self-inflicted wounds will probably end up serving as another example of why the Redskins just can't seem to get over the proverbial hump.
Jets Throw Massive Money at C.J. Mosley
The New York Jets were another team to grossly overreact on the open market and open up the checkbooks with reckless abandon.
Those Jets threw $85 million at C.J. Mosley to sit in the middle of their defense and lead. He's a good player, too: The 17th pick in 2014 has missed three games since while putting up 100-plus tackles in four of five seasons, the exception being the year he missed a pair of games.
But that is this-completes-our-defense money. Or premier cornerback or pass-rusher money. Not Mosley money. The first warning sign for the Jets should have been that Mosley's former team, the Baltimore Ravens, were content to let him walk despite a gross talent exodus on the defensive side of the ball over the past few years.
Make no mistake, Mosley will keep doing what Mosley does in the middle of the Jets defense. But it won't shoot the unit into the realm of the elite, and his game isn't exactly the turning point in the battle against Tom Brady.
The Jets are giving Mosley more money annually than Luke Kuechly and J.J. Watt, to put the numbers into perspective. What he's shown so far isn't enough to convince he'll reach their level of impact.
Raiders Overpay, Move Trent Brown
The Oakland Raiders were prone to appearing on a few lists like this over the past year or so thanks to the 10-year contract thrown at Jon Gruden and the ensuing decisions to part with top-flight talent.
But talent acquisition lately hasn't been much better.
The Raiders made Trent Brown the highest-paid offensive lineman in football with a deal worth $66 million. If they want out, it will cost $36.75 million after two years.
This wouldn't be an issue if Brown were some surefire fix for the line. But all Brown has done to earn the deal so far is string together some strong performances in New England last year. The Patriots have Brady under center making a protector's life much easier and one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL.
The Raiders don't have either of those things and are paying up anyway in hopes Brown can keep it going. He's a 2015 seventh-round pick who got traded to Foxborough as an afterthought before last season. Even worse, the Raiders have confirmed he'll play right tackle—not even the blindside.
There is a conversation to be had about the right side being just as important as the left side these days. But Brown is still astronomically overpaid and will have to excel against names like Von Miller twice a year on that side, so it could end up being a costly mistake.
Bengals Inexplicably Reward Bobby Hart
The Cincinnati Bengals came under fire during the early portion of free agency for bringing back Bobby Hart.
Draft happenings and otherwise have somehow managed to make the move look even worse.
At the time, the Bengals took universal criticism for hitting Hart with a three-year extension worth $16 million. It was more a matter of principle, as Hart had arrived in Cincinnati after a miserable showing with the New York Giants out of the seventh round and struggled mightily on a one-year deal with the Bengals.
Hart was one of the worst linemen in football in 2018, with nonstop penalties and permitted pressure rates, yet the prove-it deal turned into a lucrative extension. According to Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson, he was one of four offensive tackles to allow more than 10 sacks last year, and he also had 11 penalties.
To make matters worse, the Bengals then turned around and added Jonah Williams at No. 11 overall and guard Michael Jordan in the fourth round. The former is probably going to start at right tackle, unless the Bengals really want to get weird and remove Cordy Glenn from left tackle and ask him to play the right side or guard, which he hasn't done in a long time. The latter could start at right guard.
In other words, the Bengals panicked before the draft, and Hart could end up being a hugely expensive backup. The money could have been more effectively used elsewhere, especially with the Bengals looking at possible extensions for guys like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Giovani Bernard, Darqueze Dennard, Clint Boling and Tyler Eifert, just to name a few.
John Elway Gambles Again
It seems like the Denver Broncos and John Elway just can't help themselves.
Elway and the front office gambled a season ago on Case Keenum after his one-hit-wonder year in Minnesota. He predictably regressed, throwing for 3,890 yards and 18 touchdowns with 15 interceptions before getting shipped to Washington this season.
In a "here we go again" sort of move, Elway also moved some assets around to acquire Joe Flacco from Baltimore. Flacco, the 34-year-old passer past his prime who threw just 12 touchdowns and six picks last year over nine appearances while losing the starting gig to a rookie.
To top it all off, Elway made things even more complicated by grabbing Missouri quarterback Drew Lock out of his free fall at No. 42 in the second round after moving up via trade with Cincinnati. He's a gamble in his own right because though he had more starting experience than some of the other purported first-round passers, his yardage and touchdowns actually regressed last season while flags like performance under pressure continued to show up on tape.
Maybe it sounds like Elway is taking too much heat here. But his quarterback track record has earned it and casts a bit of a shadow on Lock, as these are the quarterbacks Elway has drafted since joining the team: Brock Osweiler, Zac Dysert, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly.
Add the Keenum and Flacco acquisitions, as well as the Lock pick. Lock is not only forever linked to Elway, but fans will probably be keeping a close eye on his performance relative to that of Dwayne Haskins, who went No. 15 after the Broncos decided to trade out of the No. 10 slot.
Raiders Turn a Lot into a Little on Draft Day
Thought the Raiders were only going to make one appearance with the way things have been going under Gruden?
On paper it looked great: Gruden shipped out Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack because the two would have bloated the cap numbers while he tried to rebuild the roster. He already negated some of this goodwill, though, by spending big on a risk like Trent Brown.
Then, the draft came.
Three first-round picks are an incredible haul to boast going into the event, yet the Raiders only came out of it with an edge-rusher, running back and safety. Clelin Ferrell was widely considered a reach at fourth overall, grabbing a first-round running back at No. 24 in Josh Jacobs is incredibly risky from a value standpoint, and safety Johnathan Abrams three picks later was as ho-hum as it gets.
In the Top Five, the Raiders surprised with someone who has to live up to Mack's absence, in the meantime passing on elite linebackers (Devin White), interior disruptors (Ed Oliver) and even offensive linemen (Jonah Williams), not to mention quarterbacks. Another running back didn't come off the board until the 53rd pick, and the Raiders missed on the first safety off the board and could have perhaps picked one with their 40th pick.
Arizona Botches the QB-QB Exchange
This is exactly how teams shouldn't handle a high-pressure situation.
The Arizona Cardinals traded up in the 2018 draft to select Josh Rosen at No. 10 overall, sacrificing No. 15 and two other mid-round selections in the process to jump five spots.
Fast-forward to the 2019 offseason when the Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray with the first overall pick and later only got this year's 62nd pick and a fifth-rounder in 2020 in exchange for shipping Rosen to the Miami Dolphins.
Somehow, it gets worse. According to a profile of events from Robert Klemko of SI.com, the Cardinals didn't start shopping Rosen to other teams until after they had selected Murray. It's an incredible development, considering the Cardinals could have used the weeks before the draft to iron out a better return for Rosen's departure.
Granted, such an agreement could have spoiled the mystique of the draft's top selection, hurting hype and potentially the league's viewership numbers. But so what? A Top 10 passer one year into his career is one of the most valuable commodities in sports.
The Cardinals ditched Rosen after surrounding him with a now-fired coaching staff and lackluster roster so they could go all-in on the college-minded coach and his preferred quarterback. That's all fine (at least for now), but how the front office botched moving on from the castaway—not to mention risking all this for a first-year head coach and a prospect with plenty of bust potential—was not.
The Giants' Whole Offseason
The New York Giants are the strangest team in football.
New York's front office decided to ship out Odell Beckham Jr., which seemed to indicate a massive rebuild. The return wasn't great, though, and left a feeling they could have gotten more. The first-round pick from Cleveland turned into defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (No. 17), and safety Jabrill Peppers came over in the move.
But it apparently isn't a rebuild, as the team then turned around and doled out $37.5 million for Golden Tate, a 30-year-old wideout who just had a hard time adapting to Philadelphia after a midseason trade.
But maybe it is a rebuild, as the Giants then turned around and got universally panned for taking Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at sixth overall.
Confusing, right? It gets worse. With Beckham gone, there's no longer a No. 1 receiver to prop up a fading Eli Manning or help develop Jones. Tate feels redundant with Sterling Shepard already on the roster given that his best work, just like Shepard's, comes from the slot. Tate, by the way, gifts a compensatory pick to an NFC East rival (Eagles). Lawrence at No. 17 got a neutral reaction and also feels redundant thanks to B.J. Hill. Even corner Deandre Baker at the end of the first round wasn't the consensus top player at his position.
Don't forget Jones was viewed as an iffy pick, and the front office has repeatedly tried to explain why it happened. Which, as a whole, is a bad sign and summarizes the offseason for the Giants quite well.