4 NFL Teams That Blew the 2021 Offseason
The NFL offseason isn't a land of improvement for every team.
While free agency and the draft tend to create optimism for even the most embattled fanbases, reality quickly returns alongside the sweltering heat of summer and training camps.
Some teams saw their championship windows flirt with slamming shut, while others appeared to extend their rebuilding trajectories. Whether due to major losses, unexpected drama, poor trades, draft picks or a combination of all of the above, the following four teams blew it this offseason.
The Carolina Panthers appeared to have everything going for them this offseason: plenty of cap space, a stable stopgap veteran quarterback, a premium draft pick to use toward the long-term future under center and offensive coordinator Joe Brady, the architect of Joe Burrow's historic run at LSU.
Instead, Carolina said "no thanks" to a quarterback and the offensive line with the eighth overall selection, traded for a failed first-rounder (Sam Darnold) and dealt its veteran stopgap (Teddy Bridgewater).
The keys to the offense now belong to a career 59.8 percent passer with a 45-39 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Nobody would argue the New York Jets were a stable developmental environment for the 2018 third overall pick, so maybe the Panthers can help him turn his career around. But his completion rate is a major red flag.
Darnold secured, the Panthers passed on a quarterback in the first round, taking cornerback Jaycee Horn at No. 8. They then traded down twice in the second round and ultimately missed out on offensive line talent that could've helped fix a unit that allowed 36 sacks last year.
Sprinkle in the fact that Carolina also lost a weapon like Curtis Samuel, and the organization didn't exactly do enough to create an encouraging developmental situation for Darnold. It could hurt the Panthers immediately and far into the future.
Las Vegas Raiders
Jon Gruden's head-scratching tenure as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders continued this offseason.
In 2018, Gruden started by trading Khalil Mack, who had recorded at least 10 sacks in each of the previous three campaigns and was the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year. This year, the Raiders blew up a functioning offensive line.
Gruden and Co. traded center Rodney Hudson. Ditto for Trent Brown and Gabe Jackson. They then didn't make a notable addition to the offensive line in free agency, instead selecting Alabama's Alex Leatherwood at No. 17.
Taking Leatherwood so early was a major reach. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com listed him as a second-rounder, for example.
Free agency was odd, too. Las Vegas gave Yannick Ngakoue $26 million over two years after his stint with two teams last year. Also weird was giving Kenyan Drake $11 million over two seasons despite already rostering workhorse back Josh Jacobs.
Gambling on Ngakoue and a player at a devalued position that was already a strength—and trotting out three new starters along the offensive line after bad value in the draft—doesn't seem to offer much promise of an improvement from last year's 8-8 mark.
Green Bay Packers
It's not hard to figure out where to start with the Green Bay Packers.
In the wake of the end to the Mike McCarthy era and in the early goings of the Matt LaFleur era, one of the best quarterbacks of this generation reportedly wants off the Packers.
The reigning NFL MVP completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 4,299 yards with 48 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2020, leading the Packers to a 13-3 record and a postseason victory.
One can safely speculate it's possible Rodgers wouldn't want out if, in part, the Packers hadn't appeared on this type of list last year after surprisingly drafting quarterback Jordan Love in the first round. They also passed on getting help in the passing game in a historically great class at wide receiver.
The odd decisions continued this offseason. Green Bay let top-tier center Corey Linsley get away in free agency, but it gave running back Aaron Jones $48 million on a four-year deal after spending a second-round pick on AJ Dillon in 2020. The team then used a 2021 first-rounder on cornerback Eric Stokes, which was a reach.
Strange roster-building around Rodgers isn't necessarily new, but the decisions over the past two years are surely frustrating to a 37-year-old quarterback playing at his level. The team also doesn't appear to believe Love is ready to replace Rodgers right now. Essentially, this offseason has been a disaster for the Packers.
Like Green Bay, the Houston Texans are on this sort of list again for at least the second offseason in a row.
After that odd DeAndre Hopkins trade and an end to the Bill O'Brien era in 2020 following an 0-4 start, things have only deteriorated for the Texans.
They unwisely managed their relationship with franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, who requested a trade in January after being upset with the team's process of hiring new general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
It is unclear if Watson will play in 2021. There have been 22 civil lawsuits filed against him by women alleging sexual assault or misconduct.
Three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt requested a release from the organization and found his way to the Arizona Cardinals. Of the 30 players retained or newly added via free agency, few project to have a big impact, which might explain why only seven of them received longer than a one-year deal and none of them reached the $10 million total threshold.
Keep in mind the team didn't have a 2021 draft selection until the third round either.
To say the fans have turned on the organization's incompetence would be an understatement. The Texans are undergoing a dramatic roster turnover and appear to have no clear end in sight. Last year's four wins could be the high mark for the foreseeable future.