1 Big Regret Every NFL Team Should Have from the 2020 Offseason
The start of the 2020 NFL season is still more than two months away, and the biggest moves of the offseason have been made. As is the case every year, however, not all of those decisions will be home runs.
Teams often look back with twinges of regret. Sometimes the regret level is high—like with the Cleveland Browns, who wasted the 2019 campaign with the inexperienced Freddie Kitchens as head coach—and sometimes it is more trivial. Losing a key veteran or missing out on a prime draft target can be regrettable as well.
Every team will have at least one regret from this offseason. Here, we'll examine every squad's biggest potential one.
Arizona Cardinals: Giving Kenyan Drake the Transition Tag
The new-look Arizona Cardinals offense has the potential to be tremendous.
Quarterback Kyler Murray will be in his second season, star wideout DeAndre Hopkins is in the fold, and running back Kenyan Drake is coming off an impressive eight-game stretch after being traded by the Miami Dolphins, rushing for 643 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 171 yards through the air for Arizona.
Those are strong numbers, but are they worth a guaranteed $8.5 million on the transition tag? Perhaps not.
While that isn't too much money for an elite running back, Drake has never been one outside of the aforementioned stretch. He has never reached the 1,000-yard mark on the ground and hasn't handled more than 170 carries in a season.
The Cardinals traded David Johnson in the Hopkins deal. If Drake doesn't perform like an every-down back, Arizona could regret giving him the transition tag, which set high expectations for him on the field and perhaps unrealistic long-term contract expectations.
Atlanta Falcons: Letting Austin Hooper Get Away
Let's get this out of the way. The Atlanta Falcons are likely to have a potent offense in 2020. They have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and now Todd Gurley. However, they did lose two-time Pro Bowler Austin Hooper in free agency.
Over the last two seasons, Hooper racked up 146 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. While Atlanta traded with the Baltimore Ravens for 2018 first-rounder Hayden Hurst, the 26-year-old South Carolina product has only caught 43 passes for 512 yards and three scores over his two pro seasons. It's worth noting, however, that he did end up stuck behind Pro Bowler Mark Andrews in Baltimore's offense.
If Hurst can use his new opportunity to prove that he is a high-level tight end, then the Falcons will be just fine. However, allowing one of Ryan's most reliable targets to leave is a gamble that the Falcons may end up wishing they hadn't made.
Baltimore Ravens: Not Doing a Long-Term Deal with Matthew Judon
Unlike some players who were given the franchise tag this offseason, Baltimore Ravens pass-rusher Matthew Judon isn't unhappy about the move.
"I'm pleased to be tagged," Judon said, via the team's official website. "I feel like only a few players get to go through this in their lifetime. As much as I want stability in the future, I'm proud of where I'm at and where I came from."
While Baltimore may not have to deal with an unhappy player and a potential holdout, it could regret the cap implications of not doing a long-term deal. As of now, it has just over $7 million in cap space, limiting its ability to make additional moves this offseason.
The Ravens also have until July 15 to get a long-term deal done with Judon, and if that doesn't happen, he may be gone in 2021. Quarterback Lamar Jackson will be eligible for an extension next offseason, and while the Ravens won't have to give him one right away, that payday will be looming. Tagging Judon for a second consecutive year will pretty much be out of the question.
Buffalo Bills: Losing Shaq Lawson to a Division Rival
The Buffalo Bills have had a fantastic offseason. They traded for a new No. 1 receiver in Stefon Diggs, added cornerback Josh Norman to the league's fourth-ranked pass defense and drafted a borderline first-round talent in A.J. Epenesa near the bottom of Round 2.
However, while Epenesa could replace defensive end Shaq Lawson effectively, letting the veteran depart to the rival Miami Dolphins could still be a mistake.
Lawson, a 2016 first-round pick for Buffalo, never managed to rack up eye-popping statistics, but he was coming off his best season as a pro—32 tackles, 6.5 sacks and two passes defended—and is just 26 years old.
While Lawson received a three-year, $30 million contract that Buffalo may have had no interest in matching, the Bills will likely regret letting him walk if he becomes a breakout star for a bitter division rival.
Carolina Panthers: Trading Kyle Allen
The Carolina Panthers moved on from starting quarterback Cam Newton this offseason, signing veteran Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal in order to replace him. They also traded 2019 starter Kyle Allen to the Washington Redskins, and that's a move they may eventually regret.
While Bridgewater played well in his five starts with the New Orleans Saints last season—New Orleans went 5-0 during that stretch—he hasn't been a full-time starter since 2015 with the Minnesota Vikings. A knee injury nearly ended his career during the 2016 offseason, and he has only appeared in 15 games since.
If Bridgewater struggles to match his 2019 production on a full-time basis, the Panthers may regret giving him a hefty free-agent deal. And if he does struggle—or cannot stay healthy—Carolina may really regret parting with Allen.
The Panthers only have Will Grier and P.J. Walker as insurance behind Bridgewater. While Grier was a highly regarded third-round rookie last season, his limited audition in 2019—two starts, 228 passing yards, four interceptions—left plenty to be desired.
Chicago Bears: Paying Jimmy Graham $9M Guaranteed
Trading for quarterback Nick Foles may be the riskiest move the Chicago Bears made this offseason because of how it could affect the development—or lack thereof—of Mitchell Trubisky. However, Chicago is unlikely to regret giving itself a shot at upgrading the game's most important position.
Giving aging tight end Jimmy Graham a two-year, $16 million deal that includes $9 million guaranteed may already be regrettable.
Not long after handing Graham that sizeable free-agent deal, the Bears used a second-round draft pick on former Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet. Even before adding Kmet, however, Graham's deal did not look like a good one.
At 33 years old, Graham is no longer the dynamic touchdown machine he once was. In two seasons with the rival Green Bay Packers, he totaled just 1,083 yards and five scores.
While Chicago may not regret the Graham signing as much as it does the ill-fated Trey Burton deal, it may not be happy with how this one turns out.
Cincinnati Bengals: Franchise-Tagging A.J. Green
If A.J. Green is healthy and can return to Pro Bowl form, the Cincinnati Bengals may be glad that they gave him the franchise tag. At the very least, having him was a selling point for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, according to NBC Sports' Peter King.
If Green can't return to pre-injury form—or is supplanted by rookie second-round pick Tee Higgins as Burrow's favorite target—the Bengals could strongly regret giving him $17.9 million fully guaranteed for one season.
The issue is that he's struggled to stay healthy in recent years. He's appeared in only nine games over the past two seasons and has just one 1,000-yard campaign out of the last four. He's a seven-time Pro Bower, but at 31 and coming off a serious ankle injury, he may no longer be a premier wideout.
The selection of Higgins and the presence of 1,000-yard wideout Tyler Boyd could make the tagging of Green even more regrettable. Depending on his health, he could be Cincinnati's third—or even fourth—receiver in 2020. That role would not justify a salary of nearly $18 million.
Cleveland Browns: Letting Joe Schobert Walk in Free Agency
The Cleveland Browns had one of the league's top up-and-coming linebackers in Joe Schobert. A Pro Bowler in 2017, he was arguably even more impressive last season when he racked up 133 tackles to go with nine passes defended, four interceptions and two sacks.
Cleveland allowed Schobert to join the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, however, perhaps because it simply doesn't value linebackers as highly as some teams.
"The Browns value defensive linemen far above linebackers when it comes to spending," Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently wrote.
Allowing a versatile and productive linebacker in his prime to leave in free agency could prove to be a massive mistake for the Browns. Parting with proven linebacker talent is rarely the best idea for a team coming off a season in which it ranked 30th in run defense.
Dallas Cowboys: Not Doing a Long-Term Deal with Dak Prescott
Failing to get a long-term deal done with quarterback Dak Prescott could come back to bite the Dallas Cowboys on two fronts.
For one, giving him the franchise tag has set the stage for a potential holdout and the prospect of starting the season with Andy Dalton under center.
Secondly, waiting to give Prescott a long-term deal means that doing so may come after guys like Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes have signed theirs. That could set the bar higher than Dallas is willing to go.
That bar could top $40 million per year, according to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, who reported that Watson could be looking at a deal in the $40-42 million range annually.
With the Cowboys recently giving lucrative extensions to Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, they could potentially end up in a position where they cannot meet Prescott's demands. That means Dallas' hesitancy could cost it Prescott—not only in 2020 but also entirely as the team moves forward.
Denver Broncos: Not Replacing Garett Bolles at LT
The Denver Broncos chose not to make a move for a new left tackle early in the 2020 draft, instead adding former Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy. While Jeudy should help bolster the receiving corps for quarterback Drew Lock, passing on a new franchise left tackle could be a decision the Broncos regret.
Denver didn't add a veteran like Jason Peters or Trent Williams, either, which means it will again have 2017 first-round pick Garett Bolles protecting Lock's blind side.
Bolles was responsible for 17 penalties and four sacks in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.
If he can prove to be a more consistent and reliable left tackle in 2020, the Broncos should be fine. However, they are banking on Lock as their new franchise signal-caller, and more poor play at left tackle could stunt the Missouri product's development.
Detroit Lions: Trading Darius Slay
The Detroit Lions made the curious decision to trade No. 1 cornerback Darius Slay this offseason, and it's a move they could quickly regret in 2020.
Slay is a three-time Pro Bowler who has missed just three starts in three seasons and is coming off another strong campaign. In 2019, he amassed 46 tackles, 13 passes defended and two interceptions.
In exchange for him, the Lions got just third- and fifth-round picks. Yes, they drafted former Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third overall selection in April. And yes, Okudah has the potential to replace Slay as Detroit's new No. 1 corner.
"He has a rigid adherence to technique, but squeezing coverage even tighter and trusting his traits, talent and recovery speed could make him one of the top shutdown corners in the game," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein wrote of the incoming rookie.
However, pairing Slay with Okudah instead of replacing him might have given Detroit one of the best cornerback duos in the NFC.
Green Bay Packers: Not Investing More in the Receiver Position
In the long run, the Green Bay Packers may be quite happy with their decision to select Jordan Love and A.J. Dillon in this year's draft. The former will ideally eventually replace Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, and the latter can be a dynamic new weapon for the Packers' rushing attack.
However, the Packers should regret not investing more offseason resources in their receiving corps.
They added a good-not-great possession receiver in Devin Funchess...and that's pretty much it. Tight end Jimmy Graham is out, and Green Bay is still left without a reliable deep threat who can make defenses pay for double-teaming Davante Adams.
As things currently stand, 36-year-old Marcedes Lewis is Green Bay's most proven tight end, while the offense's deep threats not named Adams still include Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard.
Lazard led the latter group with just 477 receiving yards in 2019.
The reality is that Green Bay's window with Rodgers at quarterback isn't over quite yet. While the talent level on this team may not be quite as high as last year's 13-3 record might suggest, failing to improve a lackluster receiving corps may legitimately cost the Packers a title shot in 2020.
Houston Texans: Trading DeAndre Hopkins
The Houston Texans traded away star receiver DeAndre Hopkins early in the offseason, and it's a decision they should immediately regret. While they did eventually add wideouts Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks to help replace him, neither is the sort of reliable go-to target that the outgoing All-Pro has been.
Hopkins has produced at least 1,100 receiving yards in five of the last six seasons and has not had fewer than 76 receptions during that span. More importantly, he has been Deshaun Watson's security blanket ever since the Clemson product secured the starting quarterback job.
Losing him could have a significant impact on Watson's development and production.
That's a particularly worrisome problem because even with a revamped offensive line in 2019, Watson was sacked 44 times. He's been sacked 125 times in 38 regular-season games throughout his career. Without Hopkins getting open on just about every pass play, his sack numbers may not decline in 2020.
Indianapolis Colts: Trading a 1st-Rounder for DeForest Buckner
New Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is a terrific player. He produced 19.5 sacks and 129 tackles over the past two seasons, which are ridiculous numbers for an interior defensive lineman.
However, it's worth noting that Buckner played in a tremendous San Francisco 49ers defensive front that also featured the likes of Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas over the last two seasons, as well as Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa in 2019.
There's no guarantee Buckner can be the same dominant defender for the Colts, which is why giving up the 13th overall pick in the draft to get him could be a regrettable move. The Colts are hoping to revitalize Philip Rivers' quarterbacking career and could have used that pick on targets like CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy.
Additionally, the Colts signed Buckner to a four-year, $84 million extension upon acquiring him. That could prove problematic down the line when players like All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson and Indianapolis' future franchise quarterback are due new deals of their own.
Trading for Buckner was the sort of win-now move that Indianapolis wasn't really in a position to make.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Not Bringing in a Vetaran QB
The trade of Nick Foles means that the Jacksonville Jaguars have handed their offense over to second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II. The 2019 sixth-round pick showed promise as a rookie, passing for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. However, with Foles out, the Jaguars only have Mike Glennon, Jake Luton and Joshua Dobbs as insurance behind him.
If Minshew's rookie season proves to be a fluke, the Jaguars could be in serious trouble—trouble they potentially could have avoided by adding a veteran like Cam Newton or Andy Dalton in free agency.
Now, there's a strong possibility that Jacksonville wants Minshew to fail in order to position itself for a quarterback prospect like Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. However, as the Miami Dolphins showed last season, organizational tanking doesn't always go as expected.
By not adding a seasoned veteran to the mix, the Jaguars run the risk of missing the playoffs, missing out on a top quarterback prospect next offseason and failing to mentor Minshew for the future.
Kansas City Chiefs: Using a 1st-Round Pick on a RB
Former LSU standout running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire could prove to be a tremendous addition to the Kansas City Chiefs. He is an explosive and versatile player and a potentially dangerous new weapon for Andy Reid's offense.
However, taking a running back in the first round could still be a regrettable decision, as Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner pointed out after the draft:
"Having a first-round running back on the roster can lead to sub-optimal decision making — whether consciously or subconsciously. For Andy Reid, that's calling more runs to justify taking a running back in the first round. For Patrick Mahomes, that's looking to check down a little sooner because he knows Edwards-Helaire could make something happen."
The Chiefs should not focus on taking the ball out of Mahomes' hands more, and they already had a Super Bowl-winning backfield with Damien Williams and Darrel Williams in the fold. Adding Edwards-Helaire was purely a luxury move and one that the Chiefs could eventually regret.
It would have made more sense for Kansas City to address, say, its 26th-ranked run defense in Round 1 while adding to its backfield later in the draft.
Las Vegas Raiders: Using a 1st-Round Pick on Damon Arnette
The Las Vegas Raiders have made no secret of the fact that they intend to draft the players they want regardless of perceived draft value. They did so by taking pass-rusher Clelin Ferrell fourth overall last year, and they did it again by taking Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette 19th overall this year.
As Renner pointed out, this was far too high for Arnette, as least according to conventional wisdom:
"Arnette does not in any way, shape or form fit the normal profile for a first-round cornerback. He's slow (4.56-second 40-yard time) and old (turns 24 in September) with below-average ball production (22 picks plus pass-breakups in three years as a starter) and poor length (30-inch arms). That would be a lot of strikes for a guy even if his play was elite, but Arnette earned only a 74.9 coverage grade for Ohio State last season."
Instead of taking a premier pass-rushing prospect like K'Lavon Chaisson or a playmaking linebacker like Kenneth Murray, the Raiders drafted a player who could be the next version of Gareon Conley.
Los Angeles Chargers: Not Adding a Veteran QB
The Los Angeles Chargers used the sixth overall pick in the draft on Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. While he's viewed as more of a project than a pro-ready prospect, fans are going to want to see what he can do, which is why relying on journeyman Tyrod Taylor to hold down the starting job could be a decision the Chargers ultimately regret.
Taylor has been a serviceable starter in the past, to be sure, but he didn't stop the Bills from moving on and drafting Josh Allen or keep Baker Mayfield on the sideline in Cleveland. He is a steady if unspectacular quarterback, and that isn't going to satisfy fans' desire to see Herbert on the field.
Adding a proven veteran starter like Cam Newton, Tom Brady or even Andy Dalton would probably have gotten more patience from the Los Angeles fanbase.
As things stand, Taylor is likely to be on a short leash—from the fans and local media, anyway—which could pressure head coach Anthony Lynn and his staff into putting Herbert onto the field prematurely.
Los Angeles Rams: Cutting Todd Gurley
Releasing running back Todd Gurley could end up hurting the Los Angeles Rams in two ways.
For one, it leaves L.A. without a running back who opposing defenses have to account for. Even in a down year in 2019, Gurley racked up 1,064 combined rushing and receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns.
While the Rams do have backs like Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson and rookie Cam Akers, they're not going to command defensive attention the way Gurley traditionally has.
That could lead to more mistakes from quarterback Jared Goff, who tossed 16 interceptions to go with just 22 touchdowns in 2019. Goff has never had to be the Rams' offensive centerpiece, but that is going to change moving forward. If he cannot handle the pressure, Los Angeles will probably regret letting Gurley go outright.
And yes, Gurley was in a contract that was the opposite of team-friendly. The Rams can also regret giving him that four-year, $60 million extension in the first place.
Miami Dolphins: Drafting Austin Jackson 18th Overall
Former USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson was a reach at 18th overall, and taking him that high could haunt the Dolphins. Miami is looking to surround rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with talent early in his career, and Jackson is not a pro-ready prospect.
"Inconsistent hand placement and footwork could be exploited early on if teams try and rush him into the starting lineup, but issues are correctable," Zierlein wrote of the incoming rookie.
The Dolphins may have been able to land Jackson—or another tackle prospect like Boise State's Ezra Cleveland—in the second round. They definitely could have added a player capable of making an instant impact in Jackson's slot.
Players Miami passed on at No. 18 include pass-rusher K'Lavon Chaisson, wideout Jalen Reagor, linebacker Kenneth Murray and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Minnesota Vikings: Revamping the Cornerback Room
The Minnesota Vikings had the league's 15th-ranked pass defense in terms of yardage last season and racked up 17 interceptions—third-most in the league. Then, in the offseason, they completely revamped the makeup of their cornerback depth chart.
Gone are Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes. In their places are rookie corner Jeff Gladney and third-year corner Mike Hughes, who has appeared in just 20 games because of injuries.
While they may prove to be capable starters in time, there's no guarantee that they replace quality contributors like Alexander and Rhodes, who has made three Pro Bowls and earned an All-Pro selection.
Complicating matters is the fact that starting safety Anthony Harris was given the franchise tag, which is worth $11.4 million. He could join the growing list of Vikings departures next offseason.
If the pass defense falls off drastically, the Vikings will regret it.
New England Patriots: Losing Tom Brady to Tampa Bay
The New England Patriots failed to retain six-time champion Tom Brady this offseason. They never appeared to make him a serious contract offer and lost him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
On one hand, the loss of Brady could galvanize the New England roster.
"It's motivating for people to say you can't win without Brady," former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said, per Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.
On the other hand, letting Brady walk leaves New England with the prospect of starting either journeyman Brian Hoyer or second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham in Week 1. While head coach Bill Belichick and his players may be eager to prove they can win without TB12, they may regret allowing him to go without a serious fight.
New England cannot possibly know whether Stidham is ready to take over as its new franchise signal-caller, and it should know that Hoyer is not a long-term answer. He's played well for stretches in the past but has struggled in pressure situations. In a 2015 playoff game with the Texans, he turned the ball over five times while passing for just 136 yards in a 30-0 loss to the Chiefs.
New England didn't draft a quarterback and didn't add a veteran aside from Hoyer in the offseason—unsurprising, seeing as how it has less than $2 million in cap space.
The reality is that the Patriots allowed Brady to walk during an offseason in which they were ill-prepared to replace him.
New Orleans Saints: Letting Teddy Bridgewater Leave in Free Agency
Seeing as how Teddy Bridgewater signed a three-year, $63 million deal in free agency, the Saints may have had a hard time retaining him and signing up Drew Brees for another run. However, they still may regret seeing their 5-0 starter from 2019 leave.
Bridgewater proved that he could carry the Saints offense in Brees' absence. If Brees misses extended time again this season, New Orleans will have to turn to the relatively unproven Taysom Hill or the mistake-prone Jameis Winston—who is on a one-year deal.
And when Brees finally decides to call it a career, the Saints could now be banking on Hill, who hasn't started a game at quarterback since 2016 with Brigham Young. Winston could also be an option, though he'll be a candidate to leave next offseason.
Compounding the issue is the fact that the Saints didn't take a chance on a quarterback early in the 2020 draft, choosing instead to take Michigan offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz in the first round. If Hill or Winston is asked to start in 2021 and flops, the Saints could regret letting Bridgewater get out of the building.
New York Giants: Franchise-Tagging Leonard Williams
Let's be honest. The New York Giants may regret trading for defensive lineman Leonard Williams more than they regret hanging onto him. They gave the crosstown Jets a third-round pick and a conditional fourth-rounder to land Williams and got little in return.
In eight games, Williams had just 13 solo tackles and half a sack. Yet general manager Dave Gettleman has defended the trade.
"The juice was worth the squeeze," Gettleman said, per SNY's Garrett Stepien.
Well, the Giants have squeezed twice now for Williams, giving him the franchise tag for another audition in 2020. That's going to cost New York a whopping $16.1 million for a player who had just 46 total tackles and half a sack in all of 2019.
New York Jets: Not Investing More in the Pass Rush
The New York Jets made some moves to support third-year quarterback Sam Darnold this offseason, most notably drafting Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton and Baylor wideout Denzel Mims. However, they did little to dramatically improve their defense—specifically the pass rush.
The Jets produced just 35 sacks in 2019—and many of the team's sacks were the result of a blitz-heavy Gregg Williams defense. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins led the team with a mere 8.0 sacks. Second on the list was safety Jamal Adams with 6.5.
Yet the Jets did virtually nothing to address their pass rush in the offseason. They haven't added a free agent like Markus Golden or Jadeveon Clowney, and they didn't draft a pass-rusher until taking Florida's Jabari Zuniga in the third round.
While the Jets no longer have to deal with Tom Brady in the AFC East, they're going to have to contend with Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa. Failing to improve their pass rush could keep them near the bottom of the division.
Philadelphia Eagles: Letting Malcolm Jenkins Leave in Free Agency
For the past six seasons, safety Malcolm Jenkins has been the heart of the Philadelphia Eagles secondary. Though he will turn 33 before the end of the 2020 season, the Eagles still could regret letting the three-time Pro Bowler go.
Jenkins' departure could hurt because he remains incredibly productive. In 2019, he racked up 81 tackles, eight passes defended and four forced fumbles while starting all 16 games.
Philadelphia's pass defense ranked just 19th in the NFL last season. The offseason trade for cornerback Darius Slay should help boost the secondary, but losing Jenkins could lead to worse safety play.
For now, Philadelphia will bank on converted cornerback Jalen Mills to replace Jenkins. If Mills struggles, the Eagles will regret not doing more to keep the two-time Super Bowl champ.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Not Adding a Veteran Backup QB
The Pittsburgh Steelers are betting big on the health of 38-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this season. While Roethlisberger is one of the best signal-callers in the game when healthy—he led the league with 5,129 passing yards two years ago—he's still an aging quarterback coming off a serious elbow injury that cost him nearly all of 2019.
This is why Pittsburgh's decision not to bring in a veteran like Cam Newton, Andy Dalton or even Jameis Winston could be a massive mistake.
Instead, the Steelers have Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, Paxton Lynch and practice squad QB J.T. Barrett. That group wasn't good enough last season, as the duo of Rudolph and Hodges replaced Big Ben and guided the Steelers to a disappointing 8-8 record.
If Roethlisberger suffers an injury or proves incapable of playing at a pre-injury level, Pittsburgh could have another lost season in 2020.
San Francisco 49ers: Letting Emmanuel Sanders Leave in Free Agency
Not long before last year's trade deadline, the 49ers sent third- and fourth-round picks to the Broncos for wideout Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-rounder. That move proved to be brilliant, as Sanders immediately became one of Jimmy Garoppolo's most reliable targets and one of San Francisco's biggest receiving weapons.
In 10 games with the 49ers, Sanders racked up 36 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns.
However, San Francisco allowed Sanders to leave for New Orleans in free agency. This means that the 49ers ultimately gave up a third-round pick for half a season's worth of receiver production—not an ideal value.
The 49ers could come to regret their inability to retain Sanders even more in the coming season. While they did draft Arizona State wideout Brandon Aiyuk in the first round, there's no guarantee that he'll replace Sanders as a reliable target.
Just as relevant is the fact that Sanders could come back to directly hurt the 49ers in the postseason as a member of the Saints.
Seattle Seahawks: Not Adding More to the Pass Rush
The Seattle Seahawks were nearly good enough to win the NFC West last season. However, they had one big weakness that prevented them from being a complete and elite playoff contender. Their pass rush simply wasn't very good.
Seattle produced just 28 sacks in 2019. Yet it has not taken steps to dramatically improve that area of its defense. The Seahawks have not re-signed pass-rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah, and they seemingly haven't heavily pursued Markus Golden and Everson Griffen on the open market.
Seattle did bring back one-time Seahawk Bruce Irvin and draft talented-but-raw defensive end Darrell Taylor in the second round. However, Seattle should have invested more in the pass rush, perhaps using a first-round pick on a more polished prospect or chasing down a free agent like Dante Fowler Jr.
Not significantly improving the pass rush could again keep the Seahawks from making a Super Bowl run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Not Locking Up Shaquil Barrett Long-Term
Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett is coming off one of the most surprising breakout seasons in recent memory. After being a good-not-great pass-rusher with the Denver Broncos, he exploded with the Bucs, racking up a league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2019. Tampa could have locked up the 27-year-old for the prime years of his career—and possibly at a discount.
"I'm not going to take drastically less but I am open to doing what I think is best for my career, and I think that would be staying in Tampa," Barrett told SiriusXM Radio (h/t JoeBucsFan.com).
Instead of getting a deal done early, the Buccaneers gave Barrett the franchise tag. This could prove to be a mistake on two fronts. For one, his $15.8 million salary heavily cuts into Tampa's cap space—the Bucs now have just over $5 million in room.
This is a problem because Tampa is looking at a limited window with Brady under center. They need as much cap space as they can get for in-season trades and next year's free agency. A back-loaded deal heavy on guarantees could have freed up some cap space.
The second reason is that it potentially sets the stage for an even more difficult situation in 2021. If Barrett has another strong season, the Buccaneers will have zero chance of signing him to a team friendly deal and could even lose him to free agency.
Tennessee Titans: Giving Ryan Tannehill $91M Guaranteed
Ryan Tannehill had a fantastic run as the Tennessee Titans' starting quarterback last year. The 2012 first-round pick made 10 starts and passed for 2,742 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. He finished with an impressive 117.5 quarterback rating.
Yet giving Tannehill $91 million guaranteed as part of a new four-year deal could be a regrettable decision—especially if Tannehill eventually proves incapable of leading the offense without Derrick Henry in the backfield.
Henry, who rushed for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2019, was Tennessee's offensive centerpiece. He was given the franchise tag, though, and could be gone after 2020. Should Tannehill struggle without him, his 2021 cap hit of $29.5 million is going to look like a very poor investment.
While giving Henry an Ezekiel Elliott-type deal might not have been the right way to go, perhaps extending him and giving Tannehill the tag and a full season to prove himself would have been.
Washington Redskins: Not Investing More into the Receiver Position
The Redskins have to determine whether Dwayne Haskins can be a legitimate franchise quarterback this year. If he cannot, they could turn the keys over to Kyle Allen or look to target Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance or Justin Fields in next year's draft.
The problem is that Washington has not surrounded Haskins with the talent he needs to succeed. This is particularly true at wide receiver, where the team has Terry McLaurin and very little else. Kelvin Harmon was the second-most-productive wideout with a mere 365 receiving yards last season. Yet the Redskins did virtually nothing to bolster their receiver corps during free agency or the draft.
The biggest moves Washington made were drafting former Liberty wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden in Round 4 and signing undrafted LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss.
It's going to be difficult for the Redskins to properly develop Haskins and/or Allen with arguably the most underwhelming receiver corps in the league. Washington's inability to improve it could haunt the team in the near future.
*All contract information via Spotrac.