The Worst Decisions Since the End of the 2021 NFL Draft
The lull in the NFL calendar between the draft and training camps, which features only OTAs, isn't free of mistakes.
While the errors made by teams during this stretch can't match missteps such as draft hiccups or bloated free-agent contracts, they can have a compiling effect that hurts teams in the short and long term.
The worst mistakes in recent weeks featured ill-advised cuts, odd coaching decisions and even one massive public relations blunder (onlookers can probably guess this one, to say the least).
These are the worst decisions since the 2021 draft.
Buccaneers Bring Back Antonio Brown
A year ago, it was easy to forget Antonio Brown was even on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and bringing him back this offseason wasn't exactly the team's highest priority.
But the Buccaneers did just that in late May via a one-year deal with a $3.1 million salary-cap hit.
The move was unnecessary as the Buccaneers try to walk the tightrope of contending now and developing for the future. Brown is heading into his age-33 season after right knee surgery and played just eight games last year. He had only 483 yards and four scores, finishing fifth on the team in receiving yards.
Besides the above, Brown again has off-field issues, facing a civil lawsuit by a sports marketing company that alleged he refused to pay the agreed commission for its services. In 2019, Britney Taylor filed a civil lawsuit against Brown accusing him of sexually assaulting her on three occasions, including one instance of rape, in 2017 and 2018.
That case was settled in April, though an NFL spokesperson told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk that it "remains under review" by the league, which could punish Brown. He served an eight-game suspension last season after pleading no contest to battery of a moving-truck driver.
More than anything else, his presence on the depth chart will prevent high-upside players such as Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson from getting reps as the third option behind Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Miller has already averaged better than 15 yards per catch over his two pro seasons and appears to have upside, as does Johnson, a big-play weapon who has already scored twice on just 12 catches.
Washington Cuts Morgan Moses
The Washington Football Team hopes to remain in playoff contention by sticking veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick behind center and hoping he provides stability for a strong supporting cast.
But Fitzpatrick can't make that happen if he's always on the run—as he was with the Miami Dolphins.
That makes Washington's decision to cut offensive tackle Morgan Moses perplexing. The team saved $7.8 million in cap space with the move, per Spotrac, but losing a 30-year-old veteran who posted a strong 80.6 Pro Football Focus grade last year over 1,065 snaps, illustrating that he's a solid starter on the right side compared to the rest of the league, could backfire.
A year ago with Miami, Fitzpatrick played just nine games and was swapped out for a rookie, throwing for 13 scores with eight interceptions behind a line that allowed him to be sacked 14 times. That sort of output would push Washington backward, not into contention again.
Given the number of tricks teams have used to save cap space this offseason, there had to be a better way for Washington to free up some space.
Saints Don't Name Jameis Winston the Starter
If the New Orleans Saints want to keep contending after Drew Brees' retirement, they can't afford to mishandle the quarterback position.
But not naming a starter and letting the drama drag out could be quite the misstep.
According to NewOrleans.Football's Nick Underhill (h/t NBC Sports Edge), the Saints haven't said Winston is their starting quarterback. That leaves the door open for Taysom Hill, the 30-year-old career backup who has attempted 134 career passes with some sub-package usage sprinkled in for good measure.
When the Saints brought on Winston last year, it seemed fair to predict he was going to get the guaranteed starting gig. He is, after all, the No. 1 pick from 2015 who threw 33 touchdown passes for the Bucs in 2019 (with 30 picks, of course). His projection in an offense with Michael Thomas and a good line after he sat behind Brees for a year is superb, at least compared to Hill's.
There are facets to the problem, too. A quarterback controversy could be a distraction. More importantly, it could harm both if Hill takes first-team reps from Winston, never mind the offense as everyone tries to adjust to two different players. Splitting critical first-team reps over the summer could do more harm than good. If the Saints let this drag on, the transition from Brees could face-plant.
Bears Cut Charles Leno Jr.
The Chicago Bears will go into the season hoping to prop up veteran quarterback Andy Dalton or develop first-round pick Justin Fields on the fly, if not some combination of the two.
Either move will require a proven, stable offensive line.
But the Bears cut veteran Charles Leno Jr. in early May, ending the tenure of one of the league's most underrated tackles. Leno still had a solid 74.6 PFF grade (out of 100) last season over 1,066 snaps. He's also been reliable, appearing in 16 games in each campaign since the 2015 season, his second in the league.
Part of the issue too is the Bears will rely on rookie Teven Jenkins to play left tackle right away, which could backfire. This could prove problematic in the short term while they try to compete with Dalton behind center—never mind over the long term if it hurts Fields' ability to develop into the franchise passer the team thinks he can be.
Tim Tebow Resurfaces in Jacksonville
The words Tim Tebow are all that need to be written, right?
Tebow, who will turn 34 in August, hasn't played in the NFL in nine years and joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as a tight end who will apparently get some Taysom Hill-type looks, too, per Dianna Russini of ESPN (via Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports).
There are plenty of reasons to dislike the move for the Jaguars. It's not only likely the biggest distraction an NFL team could come up with, but it also happens to be with a franchise that is trying to pull off one of the biggest rebuilds in the league.
Even if Tebow doesn't make the final 53 and swipe a roster spot from an up-and-coming player, it sent a poor message, especially considering the well-known friendship between him and head coach Urban Meyer.
On the field, it's hard to imagine Tebow will be enough of a difference-maker to ascend the depth chart. So, he'll take reps from other players who could develop alongside No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence, who has been overshadowed by the circus as well.
With Meyer trying to avoid becoming another big-name former college coach who flopped in the NFL while also undertaking a massive rebuild, it would have been better to let Tebow remain afloat in retirement.