Ranking the 4 NFL Teams That Blew the 2020 OffseasonMay 4, 2020
Ranking the 4 NFL Teams That Blew the 2020 Offseason
Typically, every fanbase is hyped about its team following the draft. Amid an offseason with free-agent signings, trades and rookie additions, most general managers have seemingly done a good job with roster upgrades. Underneath all the optimism, front-office executives had some missteps.
At the beginning of free agency, multiple clubs pulled off blockbuster deals. One team involved in the action took the short end of the stick in its transaction.
In other cases, general managers missed opportunities to fill voids, upgrade at key positions or acquire talent to help their respective squad's outlook for the 2020 season. Some of those blunders may carry lingering effects.
We'll highlight four teams that made glaringly poor offseason decisions. The selections are ranked based on neglect of roster needs, the number of questionable transactions made and how quickly these potential errors could adversely affect the club's future.
4. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears turned to the free-agent market for competition at quarterback and made a decision that may derail their season if Mitchell Trubisky doesn't play well in a contract year.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Bears declined Trubisky's fifth-year option. Clearly, he has a cloudy future with the team.
Chicago traded a fourth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for signal-caller Nick Foles, who's familiar with quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and head coach Matt Nagy from previous stints in Philadelphia and Kansas City.
Foles won a title and a Super Bowl (LII) MVP with the Eagles, but he's yet to play through a full NFL season. The 31-year-old has started fewer than six contests in each of the last four terms.
The Bears had better veteran quarterback options available on the trade market. On the day before the club acquired Foles, the Carolina Panthers granted Cam Newton permission to seek a trade. He's a former league MVP who has a strong arm that can handle the blustery late-season weather in Chicago.
If general manager Ryan Pace felt apprehension about Newton's Lisfranc injury, he should've gone with Andy Dalton, who was on the team's radar, per ESPN's Ed Werder. The former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback signed with the Dallas Cowboys Saturday.
Unlike Foles, Newton and Dalton have played through complete seasons and led their respective clubs to the playoffs as full-time starters. If healthy, the former Panthers quarterback may have beat Trubisky outright in an open competition.
In 2019, Foles recovered from a broken collarbone and lost his job to Gardner Minshew II while on a four-year, $88 million contract. That's a huge red flag despite his championship run, which seems more like lightning in a bottle.
Even with Foles' connection to the Bears' coaching staff, Newton and Dalton should've ranked higher on the Bears' quarterback target list. Neither have Super Bowl rings, but they're battle-tested through the length of the season with quality performances on solid rosters.
3. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans dealt wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals in a blockbuster trade, but that's not the major issue.
According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, Hopkins wouldn't have reported to the team without a new deal worth $18-20 million per year.
The Texans have Deshaun Watson under center—a two-time Pro Bowler who can elevate the talent around him. The three-year signal-caller has thrown 71 touchdown passes—25 to Hopkins.
Though it's not ideal, the Texans' aerial attack can thrive without Hopkins. However, Houston didn't receive enough compensation for a three-time All-Pro in the prime of his career.
In the trade, the Texans received David Johnson, a second-rounder (Ross Blacklock) and a 2021 fourth-rounder. The 28-year-old running back averaged 3.6 and 3.7 yards per carry during the 2018 and 2019 terms, respectively. He's also dealt with wrist, back and ankle injuries through two of the last three campaigns, costing him 18 games.
Furthermore, going into his age-29 term, Johnson has the second-highest cap hit among running backs, per Spotrac. His contract holds $12.3 million in dead cap. He logged just 715 yards (345 rushing and 370 receiving) and six touchdowns from scrimmage in 2019.
If Johnson had recently performed at the top of his game, this deal would seem more reasonable from Houston's perspective. On the other side, the Cardinals landed a star wideout and dumped an albatross contract in the process.
On top of all this, the Texans sent a second-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for wideout Brandin Cooks. He's suffered five known concussions in his career, which adds moderate risk to the deal.
Before the trade for Cooks, the Texans added Randall Cobb in free agency. They weren't in desperate need of help at wide receiver with Will Fuller V and Kenny Stills on the books despite the former's durability concerns.
Yet the front office added a player with an extensive history of head injuries coming off a down season, where he logged 42 catches for 583 yards and two touchdowns.
These two trade blunders top the Bears' one miscue at quarterback.
2. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers caused a media stir when they selected quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick in the draft. That's not where the team's brain trust went off the rails.
The Packers didn't hide their high interest in a quarterback. Aaron Rodgers spoke on the subject weeks before the possibility became a reality, per ESPN's Rob Demovsky:
"I know where we're at as an organization and where I'm at in my career. I still feel like I have a ton of years left playing at a high level. I'm confident enough. I've always felt like it doesn't matter who you bring in; they're not going be able to beat me out anytime soon. I feel really confident about my abilities and my plays."
Based on Rodgers' comments, he shouldn't feel blindsided or threatened by the Packers' first-round pick. He's a two-time league MVP and put together a solid 2019 campaign, throwing for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Although talented, Love needs time to clean up his footwork in the pocket and build anticipation on tight-window throws.
On the flip side, Rodgers stated, he wanted players who can "come in and help us right away." That's where the Packers let him down—in a big way.
Green Bay's 2020 class won't have much impact on the offensive side of the ball in the upcoming campaign. This group seems geared toward the 2021 season and beyond.
Right now, Love is in position to become Rodgers' successor.
A.J. Dillon is a 6'0", 247-pound bruising back who can handle carries within a run-heavy offense, which is the new direction, per Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Yet he's unlikely to leapfrog Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who combined for 2,271 yards and 25 touchdowns from scrimmage last year. The Boston College product will probably take on a limited role in 2020.
Josiah Deguara caught 77 passes for 972 yards and 12 touchdowns over the last two terms at Cincinnati. The Packers will tap into his versatility, but the rookie third-rounder's role seems undetermined, per Wes Hodkiewicz of the team's official website.
"I think he'll be able to line up in-line with his hand down, I think he'll line up in the slot, back as a fullback, an H-back," Gutekunst said. "But I think he can be a matchup piece that can move into all those different spots."
Green Bay doesn't have much uncertainty across the offensive line with Rick Wagner slated to replace Bryan Bulaga at right tackle. The trio of rookie sixth-round offensive linemen—Jon Runyan, Jake Hanson and Simon Stepaniak—will likely serve in reserve roles.
Where's the immediate help for Rodgers?
Wideout Devin Funchess missed all but one game with a broken collarbone last season. With more than 44 receptions in one campaign (2017), he's a modest investment for an offense that needs a reliable pass-catcher on the perimeter other than Davante Adams.
The Texans' trades could work out for the better if Johnson and Cooks avoid injuries. In 2019, the Packers ranked 15th in scoring and did little to improve the core of their offense for the 2020 campaign. General manager Brian Gutekunst and Co. seem to have more focus on the distant future.
1. New England Patriots
Among the four teams listed, the New England Patriots could see the biggest drop in the standings from 2019 to 2020. They're also low on financial resources with major question marks at quarterback and wide receiver.
According to Over the Cap, the Patriots have $1.7 million in cap room, which restricts their ability to sign a quality veteran quarterback as a replacement for Tom Brady.
New England franchise-tagged Joe Thuney on a $14.8 million tender. He's a quality guard, but the position doesn't usually garner premium pay. The Patriots could trade him for cap relief. The club can also release wideout Mohamed Sanu and save $6.5 million, per Over the Cap.
If the Patriots made these moves early in the offseason, they could've signed Dalton or made a run at a veteran quarterback with a more accomplished resume than Brian Hoyer. According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, New England hasn't shown interest in Cam Newton.
The Patriots seem content with Jarrett Stidham and Hoyer in a battle for the starting spot under center, per Howe. That's a big mistake with their lackluster pass-catching group.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman dropped 13 passes last season. He's going into his age-34 term. Through eight outings with the Patriots, Sanu converted 47 targets into just 26 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown. The 30-year-old underwent offseason ankle surgery.
N'Keal Harry, a 2019 first-rounder, missed nine games because of a groin injury and remains an unknown. New England signed Marqise Lee, who's appeared in six games over the last two years because of knee injuries.
The Patriots didn't select from a talented pool of wide receivers during the draft. Instead, team brass took two tight ends, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. The former served as a starter for one full season at UCLA, racking up 44 receptions for 641 yards and four touchdowns. The latter didn't record more than 28 catches in a single term at Virginia Tech.
During the 2008 campaign, the Patriots fared well without Brady, who tore his ACL. Matt Cassel commanded the huddle and led the team to an 11-5 record. However, he had a better supporting cast that featured Randy Moss and Wes Welker in their prime years.
Whoever starts for the Patriots in the upcoming season won't have that level of talent at wide receiver. The Patriots didn't even take a quarterback early in the draft to push Stidham and Hoyer for the starting spot. Undrafted rookie signal-caller Brian Lewerke completed just 57.7 percent of his passes at Michigan State. He'll likely battle to make the 55-man roster.
Although it seems odd to think of the Patriots as a 4-12, 5-11 team, New England hasn't done much to spruce up the offense this offseason. The defense could struggle if this team constantly goes three-and-out. New England may be in position for a top-five draft pick at the end of the 2020 campaign.
Advanced statistics provided by Pro Football Reference.