Ranking the 7 Worst Decisions Since the 2020 NFL Draft
After the NFL draft, franchises continued to tweak rosters for the 2020 season—and some moves made more sense than others.
Perhaps a team made the wrong decision on a fifth-year option, released a key contributor, spent money on a questionable signing or envisions a flawed development plan for a young player.
We'll highlight and rank seven of the worst decisions made following the April 23-25 draft, with an emphasis on immediate implications, the value of a player's position and salary-cap ramifications if applicable.
7. Arizona Cardinals Plan to Use Isaiah Simmons at Linebacker
With the eighth pick, the Arizona Cardinals selected Isaiah Simmons, one of the most versatile defensive prospects in recent memory. He logged at least 100 snaps at five positions for Clemson last season, per Pro Football Focus.
To unlock Simmons' potential, Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph must put him in a position to succeed. Equally important, the play-caller has to do what's best for a unit that ranked 28th in scoring and gave up the most yards in 2019.
According to ESPN's Josh Weinfuss, the Cardinals will use Simmons primarily at linebacker. He also reported it's "unlikely" the rookie will see much action at cornerback or safety.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury prefers Simmons learns one position, per Weinfuss.
"Our thought process, is if he is really able to focus on one position, having the flexibility to still move around, but really focus on one, and the sky can really be the limit," Kingsbury said.
That's a logical approach, but Joseph's decision to narrow the defender's focus to linebacker rather than safety needs a second thought.
Arizona's defense doesn't have a proven safety alongside Budda Baker. Deionte Thompson, a 2019 fifth-rounder, lined up for 252 defensive snaps in 2019.
As a collegian, Simmons started at safety for two seasons before he transitioned to linebacker. As Pro Football Focus noted, the 6'4", 238-pounder still played 232 combined snaps at free and strong safety last year.
The Cardinals signed linebackers Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell during free agency. Simmons and Baker could be a strong pair at safety, which makes more sense than limiting snaps for a top-10 pick or a proven veteran on the second level of the defense.
The coaching staff could change Simmons' role at any time, so this decision may be overturned at some point for the sake of need in the secondary.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars Sign QB Mike Glennon
The Jacksonville Jaguars seem prepared to go all-in with second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II. That's fine. However, the team doesn't have a solid backup signal-caller who can take over if Minshew underperforms or goes down with an injury.
The Jaguars made an uninspiring addition to the quarterback room, signing Mike Glennon, who's thrown 31 regular-season passes since 2018 and made his last start with the Chicago Bears in September 2017.
After Glennon flashed as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013, throwing 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, he suited up for just six or fewer games in each of the following years.
According to ESPN's Jeff Darlington, Jacksonville had interest in Andy Dalton, but he signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Instead of acquiring a veteran who's played more meaningful snaps in recent campaigns, like Joe Flacco before he signed with the New York Jets, the Jaguars settled for a low-tier backup.
Assuming Glennon, the most experienced among the reserves, claims the No. 2 spot over Joshua Dobbs and rookie sixth-rounder Jake Luton, the Jaguars need Minshew to play well and avoid injury—or else they'll see few wins.
The Cardinals' poor decision could affect their defense, while the Jaguars' underwhelming signing doesn't provide much to the most important position on the roster.
If Glennon plays, Jacksonville can close the book on its season.
5. Indianapolis Colts Decline S Malik Hooker's 5th-Year Option
The Indianapolis Colts declined Malik Hooker's fifth-year option on the May 4 deadline.
Even though Hooker has battled injuries through three seasons, he's tied for the most interceptions (seven) on the team since his 2017 rookie season. The Ohio State product has missed five games over the last two campaigns because of various ailments but suited up for every outing from Week 8 forward in 2019.
The Colts selected Julian Blackmon in the third round of April's draft. The former cornerback only played safety for one year at Utah. Furthermore, he tore his ACL in December. According to Andrew Walker of the team's website, general manager Chris Ballard projects the rookie could make a full recovery in October.
But addition to rehab and conditioning, Blackmon will need time to refine his technique as a safety. He may not be ready to handle a full-time starting position next season with a delayed beginning to his rookie campaign.
The Colts have $23.4 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, so the front office isn't in a financial bind. Hooker's fifth-year option would've cost $6.7 million in 2021, per Michael Ginnitti of Spotrac. Indianapolis could've absorbed that price tag for another year to keep a solid starter in place while Blackmon gets up to speed.
In 2019, Indianapolis ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed. The unit needs Hooker's ball skills to force turnovers on the back end. If he's yet to reach his ceiling, the talented coverage safety could see a spike in takeaways. Then other teams may drive up his price on the open market, making it difficult for the Colts to re-sign him.
The Colts edge the Jags here because Indy will lose an established starter if Hooker signs elsewhere next offseason, whereas Jacksonville made a poor decision on a backup quarterback.
4. Philadelphia Eagles Exercise DE Derek Barnett's 5th-Year Option
Derek Barnett entered the league with some buzz in 2017 after he topped the late Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee. Yet the former SEC standout was a backup as a rookie, only played six games in the following year because of a torn rotator cuff and produced numbers similar to his first season in his third year.
The Colts could've kept Hooker on the books for just $6.7 million. The Philadelphia Eagles exercised Barnett's fifth-year option, which carries a $10.1 million cost because of his position.
The Eagles also have depth behind Barnett at defensive end. They acquired Genard Avery before the 2019 trade deadline, who had 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and four pass breakups as a rookie in 2018. Fellow defensive end Josh Sweat recorded four sacks this past season in a rotational role, playing a little more than half of Barnett's defensive snaps (352 to 695).
According to Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice, the Eagles still see positives in Barnett.
"They praise Barnett any chance they get, often citing his toughness and work ethic," Kempski wrote.
Barnett's admirable approach hasn't led to high-level production, which makes this $10.1 million investment puzzling for the Eagles, especially considering their depth.
While we can somewhat rationalize the Colts' decision on Hooker's fifth-year option because of injury concerns, Barnett needs a breakout 2020 to justify that 2021 price tag.
3. Chicago Bears Haven't Signed a Proven Veteran Guard
The Chicago Bears are here for what they didn't do: address guard.
Although it isn't a premium position, the Bears may struggle to open lanes for running back David Montgomery and shield quarterback Mitchell Trubisky from inside pocket pressure.
Rashaad Coward made 10 starts last year in taking over for Kyle Long, who retired in January. Germain Ifedi will shift from tackle to guard but hasn't held a full-time role on the interior since his 2016 rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks. Rookie seventh-rounder Lachavious Simmons is versatile but probably needs an adjustment to pro competition after four years at Tennessee State—an FCS program.
If Coward's inexperience shows and Ifedi doesn't transition well, defenses can attack a weak spot on the Bears offensive line, leaving Montgomery and Trubisky susceptible to early contact.
Chicago didn't sign D.J. Fluker, who was available before the Baltimore Ravens signed the veteran right guard. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the team had an interest in Larry Warford, but Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported the Bears won't pursue the three-time Pro Bowl guard.
Barnett's fifth-year option could limit the Eagles' cap future cap flexibility, but the Bears' O-line situation might adversely affect the upcoming campaign, making Chicago's decision a little worse.
2. Houston Texans Release S Tashaun Gipson
Last offseason, the Houston Texans signed Tashaun Gipson to a three-year deal. They released him days after April's draft, which saved them $3.2 million but came with $4.3 million in dead money.
In Week 17 last year, Gipson aggravated a transverse process fracture in his lower back and played through the season with a broken wrist. Despite those injuries, he led the Texans in interceptions (three)—returning one for a touchdown—allowed a 54.1 percent completion rate and broke up eight passes.
Gipson had a significant impact on a pass defense that struggled throughout the season while giving up the fourth-most touchdowns (27) and ranking 29th in yards allowed.
The Texans probably had concerns about Gipson's injuries, but the Bears signed him three days after Houston released him.
If the 29-year-old's health outlook is positive, the Texans lost a playmaker—and they'll pay him almost four times more than Chicago ($1.1 million).
This transaction ranks over the Bears' potential issue at guard because of the leftover dead cap tied to Gipson's release. Secondly, Houston lost a top contributor from a weak position group.
1. New Orleans Saints Give QB Taysom Hill $16 Million Guaranteed
The New Orleans Saints know more about Taysom Hill than the outside world, but $16 million in guarantees, per Spotrac, doesn't match what the quarterback has produced through three seasons.
The Athletic's Jay Glazer explained the Saints' confidence in Hill to succeed quarterback Drew Brees: "No smokescreen, he's the guy. Sean Payton loves him, but it's not just him, the whole team loves him, not just Sean Payton. … I think Sean was always hoping to unleash him on the league without anyone seeing him. … He likes him that much, he'll be the guy."
Welcome to the Twilight Zone, where a quarterback who's completed six of 13 passes for 119 yards and an interception earns a good amount of guaranteed money and the trust of his head coach to take over an offense.
The Saints may be right about Hill, but they hedged on him by signing Jameis Winston to a one-year deal. The latter quarterback threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions for the league's No. 1 passing attack in 2019.
Oddly enough, Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported the Saints were on the verge of signing Winston before the team came to terms with Hill on an extension.
New Orleans can hold an open quarterback competition if Brees retires next offseason and the front office re-signs Winston, but if the former Buccaneer wins the battle, Hill's contract would make him an expensive two-year backup.
Hill can line up at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and play on special teams, though he hasn't shown much under center. The Saints' lucrative investment while limited in cap space ($9.2 million, per Over the Cap) seems like a huge mistake—and the biggest one since the draft.