1 Big Regret Every NFL Team Should Have from the 2021 Offseason
We're still more than two months away from the start of the 2021 NFL regular season. However, with the draft and the early waves of free agency done, most of the significant offseason moves have been made.
As is always the case, some offseason decisions will fail.
Not every situation is controllable, of course. The New England Patriots probably had no real shot at retaining Tom Brady last offseason, but they likely regret watching him win a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay nonetheless. However, some can be controlled. The Cincinnati Bengals largely ignored their offensive line in 2020 and then watched rookie quarterback Joe Burrow suffer a devastating knee injury 10 games into his career.
Overpaying a player, losing a key veteran or missing out on a prime draft target are less extreme examples but still represent regrettable occurrences.
Here's a look at every NFL team's biggest potential offseason regret.
Arizona Cardinals: Signing A.J. Green
With the 23-year-old Kyler Murray blossoming into a franchise quarterback, the Arizona Cardinals are poised to be relevant for years. However, the team's decision to sign wideout A.J. Green to a one-year, $6 million deal may not pay the desired dividends.
Green will turn 33 in July and is coming off a stretch of miserable seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. After making the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven campaigns, he has played just 25 games over the last three.
An ankle injury cost him the 2019 season, and he was incredibly underwhelming when he returned last year. Green had just 523 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 16 games while helping forge a passer rating of just 55.1 when targeted.
While a resurgence is always possible, Arizona is committing a roster spot and a fair bit of cap space to an aging wideout who simply hasn't been reliable for a few seasons. Even if Green does rebound, he'll be back on the open market a year from now. The Cardinals could have better used the money elsewhere—departed pass-rusher Haason Reddick signed his own one-year, $6 million deal with the Carolina Panthers in free agency.
Atlanta Falcons: Not Doing More to Improve the Backfield
The Atlanta Falcons may regret only getting second- and fourth-round picks for star wideout Julio Jones (and a sixth-rounder). However, the market for Jones didn't seem to be strong. While ESPN's Dianna Russini reported that Atlanta did have a first-round selection "on the table" for Jones, that may have required sending him somewhere the Falcons didn't want to.
For now, Atlanta should regret not doing more to help the post-Jones offense, specifically the ground game. The Falcons had an incredibly unbalanced offense in 2020, finishing fifth in passing yards and 27th in rushing.
Only the Pittsburgh Steelers averaged fewer yards per carry than the Falcons' 3.7.
Yet, Atlanta did little to improve its backfield. Its key free-agent move was bringing in 28-year-old journeyman Mike Davis. The Falcons did sign undrafted free agents Javian Hawkins and Caleb Huntley, so maybe they'll uncover a gem. However, if the ground game again falters in 2021, the Falcons will regret not putting a little more emphasis on the problem.
Baltimore Ravens: Letting Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue Get Away
The Baltimore Ravens did help reload their pass rush by drafting edge-defender Odafe Oweh in the first round. However, that move only came after Baltimore lost pass-rushers Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency.
Judon signed with the New England Patriots, while Ngakoue landed with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The issue isn't necessarily that Baltimore let either Judon or Ngakoue get away. It's that both left. The two were responsible for nine of the Ravens' 39 sacks in 2020. Losing Judon is particularly regrettable, though, as he was a defensive mainstay with 15.5 sacks and 63 quarterback pressures over the last two seasons.
Baltimore looks like a Super Bowl contender in 2021, but a title will prove difficult if the Ravens struggle to pressure opposing passers. While Oweh is a promising prospect—one who had 11.5 sacks over the past two seasons—he's unproven as a pro.
Buffalo Bills: Failing to Address Tight End
The Buffalo Bills are close to having a complete roster after they drafted pass-rushers Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr. There are still some questions at running back—Buffalo ranked just 20th in rushing yards last season—though the Bills did add Matt Breida in the offseason.
There's a bigger question at tight end, and Buffalo failed to address it with a proven veteran or a high draft pick. Dawson Knox has been a serviceable starter at times, but he isn't close to being elite.
Knox had 14 drops over the past two seasons and helped produce a passer rating of just 88.1 when targeted last year. Buffalo doesn't have much else at the position, either, as Tommy Sweeney didn't play in 2020 (placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list), and Jacob Hollister had just 209 yards for the Seattle Seahawks.
Not having a top-tier safety limits the Bills, which could be a problem in the postseason. Yes, Buffalo had the league's second-ranked offense last year, but mismatches matter in the playoffs.
Carolina Panthers: Going All-in on Sam Darnold
There's nothing wrong with the Carolina Panthers' decision to take a flier on Sam Darnold. The former quarterback of the future for the New York Jets has loads of physical upside, which was why he was the No. 3 pick in 2018.
Carolina didn't give up a ton to get Darnold, either, surrendering a 2021 sixth-round pick and second- and fourth-round picks in 2022.
Still, Carolina may regret the decision to bet so heavily on a quarterback who has struggled as a pro.
The Panthers traded Teddy Bridgewater after making the Darnold deal. Carolina also passed on rookie quarterback prospects Justin Fields and Mac Jones, essentially going all-in on a player with a 45-to-39 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a career passer rating of just 78.6.
Though he was hampered by a poor supporting cast with New York, Darnold has posted a 13-25 record as a starter.
It was a big gamble, and it could be exacerbated by the fact that the 2022 draft is expected to be light on quarterback talent.
Chicago Bears: Releasing Kyle Fuller
It's been a mixed offseason for the Chicago Bears. On one hand, they added a serviceable veteran quarterback in Andy Dalton and drafted their signal-caller of the future, Justin Fields. On the other, Chicago couldn't secure a long-term deal with wideout Allen Robinson II and dumped starting corner Kyle Fuller as a cap casualty.
The latter two moves are related, as Robinson is set to carry a cap hit of $18 million while playing on the franchise tag.
While Chicago still has time to work out a long-term deal with Robinson—the deadline to do so is July 15—Fuller is already gone. Letting him go is a decision the Bears should already regret.
He is a reliable No. 1 cornerback and a two-time Pro Bowler who played at a high level again last season. While Fuller didn't make the annual all-star roster, he started all 16 games in 2020, finishing with 65 tackles, eight passes defended, an interception and an opposing quarterback rating of 89.8.
To help replace Fuller, the Bears brought in Desmond Trufant, a likely downgrade. Trufant has only played 15 games over the past two seasons and allowed an opposing quarterback rating above 100.0 in each.
Cincinnati Bengals: Passing on Penei Sewell
In a vacuum, there's nothing wrong with the Cincinnati Bengals' decision to draft wideout Ja'Marr Chase fifth overall. He is an elite receiver prospect—one who had 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019—and a former teammate of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
However, the team may soon regret passing on top tackle prospect Penei Sewell, who many viewed as a can't-miss prospect.
"If I could pick one player in this draft who's got the best chance to go to the Hall of Fame, it's Penei Sewell," one coach told Peter King of NBC Sports. "He's my left tackle from day one."
The Bengals have 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams at left tackle, but he has underwhelmed as a pro. He's only been healthy for 10 games in two seasons, and his play has been streaky at best. He was responsible for three sacks in just 634 offensive snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Having a star wide receiver is nice, but it won't matter much if Burrow can't stay healthy or find time in the pocket. Burrow was sacked 32 times in 10 games as a rookie and had his season cut short by multiple torn knee ligaments. Adding a plug-and-play offensive tackle with All-Pro potential would have been the better move as it relates to Burrow's long-term development and health.
Cleveland Browns: Letting Larry Ogunjobi Go to a Division Rival
The Cleveland Browns worked hard to improve their defense this offseason, adding Jadeveon Clowney, Troy Hill, John Johnson III and rookie Greg Newsome II. However, their interior defensive line remains a question mark following the departures of Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi.
Letting Ogunjobi get away may be particularly regrettable for several reasons. He's only 27 years old and has been incredibly productive in spurts—albeit not consistently. Two years ago, for example, he racked up 50 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 22 quarterback pressures.
The other part of the equation is that Ogunjobi landed with the rival Bengals on a modest one-year, $6.2 million deal. That's not a lot of money for a player who has started 46 games over the last three seasons.
Even if the Browns didn't view him as a quality full-time starter, defensive depth will be important with a 17-game schedule looming. Keeping Ogunjobi, even as a rotational piece, would have been a solid move for a team that has taken a win-now approach to most of the offseason. Keeping Ogunjobi away from a cross-state rival would have been even better.
Dallas Cowboys: Not Giving Dak Prescott a Longer Deal
The Dallas Cowboys avoided letting Dak Prescott play on the franchise tag for a second consecutive season. That's a good thing. However, when Dallas locked up Prescott, it only did so with a four-year extension, which isn't as good.
Prescott will earn $40 million annually over the next four seasons—spread out over six years, with two that will automatically void—and then again hit the open market at age 31. This means Prescott will still be in his prime when it's again negotiation time, and quarterback salaries will only go up.
By 2024, Prescott could be seeking $50 million annually or more. Only doing a four-year deal might cost Dallas tens of millions down the road—which is precisely why the Kansas City Chiefs locked up Patrick Mahomes with a 10-year extension.
To be fair, Dallas may not have had much choice. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported last year that Prescott wanted a shorter deal, while the Cowboys did want something longer. Four years may have been the best Dallas was able to do while avoiding another contract stalemate. However, the Cowboys likely still regret its inability to get something longer done with the two-time Pro Bowler.
Denver Broncos: Passing on a Quarterback in Round 1
The Denver Broncos head toward training camp with a looming quarterback competition between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. It's likely to be one of the NFL's more underwhelming battles, as neither signal-caller was particularly good last year.
In 13 starts last season, Lock threw for 2,933 yards with 16 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passer rating of 75.4. Bridgewater was statistically better in Carolina but did not play winning football. He posted a passer rating of 92.1 but went just 4-11 as a starter.
Even with both Lock and Bridgewater, Denver may not have its future QB. That could have been avoided, as the Broncos held the ninth pick. Instead of taking a prospect like Justin Fields or Mac Jones, however, Denver opted for cornerback Patrick Surtain II.
Surtain is a quality defensive prospect, but passing on a quarterback could haunt Denver for years to come. If the Broncos cannot get a quality starter out of the Bridgewater-Lock competition, they're likely to struggle in 2021. Adding to the issue is that the 2022 quarterback class isn't perceived to be as deep as this year's. Only three signal-callers made ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s early top-25 list.
Detroit Lions: Passing on a Quarterback in the Draft
We've discussed why the Bengals whiffed by passing on Penei Sewell. The Detroit Lions landed the standout tackle two spots later, and they should feel good about getting one of the draft's few can't-miss prospects.
At the same time, however, Detroit may come to regret passing on a quarterback with the pick—or not drafting a signal-caller at all.
The Lions got Jared Goff as part of the Matthew Stafford trade, and the Cal product does have five years of starting experience. However, Goff hasn't been consistently great, or even consistently above average, despite having offensive wunderkind Sean McVay calling the shots. Goff has posted a passer rating of 90.0 or below in three of his five pro campaigns.
There's no guarantee he can be a successful starter away from McVay and a loaded Los Angeles Rams offense. Unfortunately, the Lions don't have a solid Plan B, and as we've also previously mentioned, the 2022 draft class isn't expected to offer a ton of top-tier quarterback talent.
The Lions could have taken a chance on a prospect like Kyle Trask or Kellen Mond in Round 2 to hedge their bet.
Green Bay Packers: Attacking Aaron Rodgers
The more the Green Bay Packers talk about Aaron Rodgers' situation, the further away they appear to be from resolving it. Rodgers is unhappy with the organization and reportedly wants out.
"Some close to him remain adamant that he is stuck in and won't play for the Packers ever again," CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote.
Green Bay seems to be playing the blame game with Rodgers, which isn't likely to sit well with the reigning MVP.
"The situation we face with Aaron Rodgers has divided our fanbase," Packers CEO Mark Murphy wrote on the team's official website. "The emails and letters that I've received reflect this fact. As I wrote here last month, we remain committed to resolving things with Aaron."
While Murphy didn't flat-out say that the rift is Rodgers' fault, his insistence that the team is trying to resolve things could be read as insinuating it. More recently, Murphy directly spoke of Rodgers, citing former general manager Ted Thompson, who died in January.
"[Thompson] often talked about Aaron, that he's a...and it wasn't just Aaron, a lot of different players. He would say, 'He's a complicated fella,'" Murphy said, per NBC 26 Green Bay.
The more the Packers seemingly try to paint Rodgers as the bad guy, the less likely it is that they'll be able to get him under center in 2021. If it costs them a shot at the Super Bowl, they'll regret it.
Houston Texans: Not Moving Quickly on a Deshaun Watson Trade
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson requested a trade in January, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Rather than moving quickly to deal the three-time Pro Bowler, Houston waited.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans had planned to deal Watson closer to the NFL draft. This was a logical decision. The quarterback's trade value may have peaked in the weeks leading up to the late-April event as teams figured out who would have a crack at the top rookie prospects.
However, 22 women came forward with sexual assault allegations.
Per Will Hobson of the Washington Post: "The 22 women have accused Watson of committing a variety of lewd acts during massages, ranging from inappropriate remarks and exposing himself to, in two cases, forcing women to perform oral sex. Houston police and the NFL have both opened investigations into the allegations, which Watson has denied."
Watson is essentially untradeable. Until the criminal and league investigations and civil lawsuits are resolved, he is likely to remain so—though Houston insists that a decision is coming soon.
"As we get more information, as we get closer to training camp, we'll try to make the best decision for the Houston Texans, whatever that entails," general manager Nick Caserio told Sports Radio 610 (h/t Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk).
While waiting on a trade made sense at the time, Houston probably already regrets not pulling the trigger on a deal when it had the chance. Watson probably isn't suiting up for the Texans again, and if the allegations are true, he rightfully may never play in the NFL again.
Indianapolis Colts: Not Adding More at Wide Receiver
The Indianapolis Colts decided they would try to rehabilitate quarterback Carson Wentz. This was a logical move, as head coach Frank Reich previously worked with Wentz—and won a Super Bowl, though with Nick Foles at the helm—as the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator.
However, one of Wentz's issues during last year's disastrous campaign was a lack of reliable receivers. The Colts have an underwhelming group themselves, and they did little to upgrade it during the offseason.
Indianapolis re-signed longtime starter T.Y. Hilton, but he's 31 years old and coming off back-to-back seasons of 756 receiving yards or fewer. Michael Pittman Jr. showed promise as a rookie last year but barely topped the 500-yard mark—no Colts receiver topped 800 yards in 2020—while Parris Campbell has played just nine games in two seasons.
The Colts didn't sign a proven free-agent receiver, and they didn't draft a wideout until taking Mike Strachan in the seventh round.
Yes, Indianapolis utilizes a run-heavy offense, but not having the reliable receiver depth needed for Wentz to regain his confidence could still be a problem.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Tim Tebow Experiment
Ultimately, the Tim Tebow experiment may not matter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former quarterback—who last played in 2012—may not make the roster and may slide back into NFL obscurity. Still, they are using an offseason roster spot to give him a shot at tight end, and that hasn't sat well with everyone.
"Not everybody in the Jaguars building is thrilled," ESPN's Jeff Darlington said in May.
Clearly, giving Tebow a chance was Urban Meyer's decision. The new Jaguars head coach guided Tebow at Florida and has remained friendly with him. It's a risky decision, though, for a coach unaccustomed to running an NFL locker room.
"It's always been a tough transition for coaches. Mainly, coaches who are used to having a certain level of control in the collegiate level," New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said of coaches making the college-to-NFL leap on the Rich Eisen Show (at the 0:14 mark).
Again, Tebow may fall short and be forgotten. He may make the 53-man roster and actually contribute. However, if playing favorites with a guy roughly a decade removed from the NFL sits poorly with the Jaguars players, it could make it extremely difficult for them to buy into what Meyer is selling.
Kansas City Chiefs: Letting Mitchell Schwartz Go
The Kansas City Chiefs revamped their offensive line this offseason, parting with tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz while adding Joe Thuney, Orlando Brown Jr., Kyle Long and Austin Blythe.
While these moves could make Kansas City a better team in 2021, letting Schwartz go may have been a mistake.
Presumably, Brown will take over for Fisher at left tackle. This leaves Mike Remmers as the projected starter on the right side. But he was one of the tackles who got dominated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
Schwartz, meanwhile, had been incredibly dependable before suffering a back injury in Week 6 last season. He never previously missed a start and had played at least 99 percent of the team's offensive snaps every year from 2012 to 2019. Even if Kansas City no longer views him as a high-end starter, he would provide valuable depth.
As the Chiefs found out last year, offensive line depth is important in the postseason. It'll be even more so in 2021 with a 17-game schedule looming. The good news is that Kansas City still has a chance to bring back Schwartz, who remains a free agent.
Las Vegas Raiders: Taking Alex Leatherwood in Round 1
We're not criticizing the Las Vegas Raiders' decision to draft Alex Leatherwood, and we're certainly not criticizing the player himself. Leatherwood was a proven starter at Alabama and a quality offensive line prospect.
However, Leatherwood at No. 17 was a reach by almost any account. Per Pro Football Focus:
"There won't be many who have Alex Leatherwood ranked ahead of Christian Darrisaw and a few others still on the board. Leatherwood comes from a blue-blood program, and that may be coveted more than usual in this unique draft, but he was the No. 9-ranked tackle on PFF's Big Board and had major issues in pass protection."
Clearly, the Raiders stuck to their own draft board with the selection. But since Mike Mayock arrived as general manager in 2019, the Raiders have stuck to their board and missed multiple times. Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram have underwhelmed as 2019 first-round picks. 2020 first-rounder Henry Ruggs III is off to a similar start.
The Las Vegas draft board does not get the benefit of the doubt, and Leatherwood will be under tremendous pressure to prove this reach right.
Los Angeles Chargers: Letting Hunter Henry Get Away
The Los Angeles Chargers appear to have found their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. However, they lost one of his biggest supporting pieces this offseason when tight end Hunter Henry left for the New England Patriots in free agency.
That might negatively impact Herbert's development in year two. A reliable tight end can be a young quarterback's best friend, and while Henry isn't quite elite, he's been a dynamic weapon when healthy.
Last season, for example, Henry racked up 613 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 14 games.
Still, health has been a concern for Henry, who has missed 25 games in five seasons. His price tag was also problematic, as New England overpaid with a three-year, $37.5 million deal.
Yet, cap space shouldn't have been a major issue—the Chargers still have $20.4 million in room—and Henry could have been a building block alongside Herbert. His replacement, the 34-year-old Jared Cook, is likely a short-term option only.
Los Angeles Rams: Extending Leonard Floyd
The Los Angeles Rams aren't likely to immediately regret locking up edge-defender Leonard Floyd. He is only scheduled to carry a cap hit of $5.5 million in 2021. However, his cap number is set to jump to $20 million next year, and that's a big potential problem.
The Rams are already projected to be over the cap next offseason.
The bigger issue is that Floyd probably isn't worth the four-year, $64 million extension. He had 10.5 sacks in 2020, but he's not the only defender who has benefited from playing alongside Aaron Donald. Dante Fowler Jr. was also a double-digit-sack producer in Los Angeles before he returned to obscurity with the Atlanta Falcons last season.
Before arriving in Los Angeles, Floyd averaged a modest 4.5 sacks per campaign from 2016 to 2019 with Chicago. His 10.5 sacks last year was a career-high.
The Rams probably could get similar production out of a less pricey pass-rusher. Even if they don't view it that way, $20 million is an excessive salary for a player who has only produced when playing next to the best defender in football.
Miami Dolphins: Not Adding a Starting-Caliber Running Back
The Miami Dolphins don't have a proven starting running back. This is a problem because a strong running game could help second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa tremendously. Miami is unlikely to have that type of ground attack this season, though.
The team ranked 22nd in rushing last year and only 29th in yards per attempt. While Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed are serviceable complementary backs, neither is an established starter. Miami added longtime Rams backup Malcolm Brown, but again, he is not a high-level starting back.
The Dolphins didn't draft a running back until taking Gerrid Doaks in the seventh round.
We recently identified Miami's backfield as the team's biggest red flag, and it could place a lot of unnecessary pressure on Tagovailoa's shoulders.
Minnesota Vikings: Missing Out on Justin Fields
The Minnesota Vikings have acted like they're close to moving on from quarterback Kirk Cousins. They used a third-round draft pick on Texas A&M signal-caller Kellen Mond and tried to make a play for Ohio State's Justin Fields.
"As disclosed in a video published by the Panthers, the Vikings called Carolina in an attempt to trade up from No. 14 to No. 8 in the first round of the 2021 draft," Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk wrote. "Per a league source, the Vikings were targeting quarterback Justin Fields."
Minnesota didn't land the No. 8 selection, and Fields fell to the NFC North rival Bears at No. 11—Chicago traded up to get that pick from the New York Giants. This makes failing to land Fields doubly painful for the Vikings.
Obviously, they tried to make a move for Fields, the Vikings' preferred quarterback prospect. However, they're still going to massively regret not making it happen if he develops into a franchise quarterback and leads a division foe for the next decade-plus.
New England Patriots: Not Trading Stephon Gilmore
From a schematic standpoint, keeping cornerback Stephon Gilmore makes sense for the New England Patriots. He is a top-tier cover man when healthy and was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year just two seasons ago.
However, the Patriots may still regret not trading Gilmore ahead of the draft when his value might have been at its highest. He is in the final year of his contract, wants a new deal and has avoided New England's offseason program.
"Gilmore won't attend this week's mandatory minicamp to express his displeasure with his contract, according to a source," Jeff Howe of The Athletic wrote.
While Gilmore may not hold out through training camp or the regular season, the situation still presents a problem for New England. Even if he plays this season, the Patriots run the risk of losing him next offseason with a compensatory pick as the only potential return.
Moving Gilmore before cornerback-needy teams filled holes in the draft may have been the smarter move.
New Orleans Saints: Not Naming a Starting QB Early
The New Orleans Saints are expected to hold a camp competition between quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to uncover a starter. If the competition plays out quickly, perhaps this won't be a major issue.
Still, the Saints could regret not making a decision early in the offseason, largely because head coach Sean Payton plans on tailoring his offense to his signal-caller.
"We'll build it a little bit around that player accordingly," Payton said, per ESPN's Mike Triplett.
This could leave New Orleans rushing to install advanced concepts late in camp—Winston and Hill have wildly different skill sets—which could hurt both preparation and talent evaluation.
Naming Winston the starter early would have made sense. He's a more traditional pocket passer who should operate well in the same system built around Drew Brees. Having Winston as the starter would also allow the Saints to continue to use Hill as a change-of-pace utility option. If Winston had fallen flat in camp or the preseason, the Saints could have reversed course without losing much progress in comparison to the current plan.
Waiting to establish a starter—both quarterbacks were on the roster last year, so the Saints should know what they have—could leave New Orleans at a disadvantage.
New York Giants: Using a 1st-Round Pick on Kadarius Toney
The Giants needed to upgrade the supporting cast of quarterback Daniel Jones this offseason. The sixth pick in the 2019 draft showed promise as a rookie but stumbled last season—he had an 11-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, a passer rating of 80.4 and 11 fumbles.
Taking a first-round flier on Florida wideout Kadarius Toney may have been a regrettable gamble, however. It's not that Toney cannot become a quality receiver; the problem is that he's unpolished and may not be a big contributor this season.
"His late-career production and role, lack of consistency throughout his game and overall rawness should cause some concerns for a team looking to select him and feed touches to right out of the gate," Nate Tice of the B/R NFL scouting department wrote.
With Jones needing to deliver now, a first-round project gadget player was risky. New York passed on a more archetypal receiver in Rashod Bateman to take Toney as well as potential early starters in cornerback Caleb Farley and offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw.
New York Jets: Not Signing a Veteran Mentor QB
The New York Jets landed their latest quarterback of the future when they drafted BYU's Zach Wilson second overall. Ideally, Wilson will pan out better than previous first-round picks Mark Sanchez and Sam Darnold did.
The problem is that the Jets haven't brought in a seasoned veteran to mentor Wilson. The three quarterbacks on the roster—Wilson, James Morgan and Mike White—have zero regular-season experience between them.
Now, the early signs are promising with Wilson, and his teammates have been encouraged by what they've seen.
"I like Zach Wilson," running back Tevin Coleman told reporters (2:29 mark). "He has a lot to learn, and there's going to be a lot of pressure, but he's good with it. And he's slinging that ball."
But if Wilson isn't prepared to start the season, the Jets have no experienced alternative. If Wilson struggles during the season, he won't have a veteran on whom to lean. It would have made sense to add a signal-caller as soon as Darnold was dealt.
There was a perfect veteran option waiting to be plucked after the draft—until Nick Mullens signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Mullens played under Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur with the San Francisco 49ers and has 16 starts on his NFL resume. The Jets blew an opportunity by passing on Mullens, and they are quickly running out of options.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Handling of the Pederson-Wentz Situation
There was a clear disconnect between Eagles coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz last season.
"We have Carson and Doug not talking for weeks on end during the season, where the head coach and quarterback are not talking for eight, nine, 10 weeks," ESPN's Adam Schefter told 97.5 The Fanatic (h/t Bleacher Report's Tim Daniels).
Philadelphia's handling of the situation in the offseason may be something it comes to regret.
First, the Eagles replaced Pederson with Nick Sirianni—who is well-versed in Frank Reich's offense, in which Wentz excelled. This seemed to be a move to help reestablish Wentz, but then Philadelphia traded the quarterback anyway.
Now, the Eagles are left with a Jalen Hurts-or-bust situation, at least as it relates to the long term. Philadelphia does have Joe Flacco on the roster and recently added Nick Mullens, but neither has the long-term upside of Wentz. Philly is also without the head coach who won its only Lombardi Trophy—one who made the playoffs in three of his five seasons.
Parting with Wentz or Pederson would have necessitated some change, but dumping both put the Eagles in full-rebuild mode.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Letting Alejandro Villanueva Go to a Division Rival
The Pittsburgh Steelers are prepared to make another run—perhaps a final one—with 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Keeping Big Ben healthy and on the field will be critical, as in-house alternatives Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph aren't particularly enticing.
But Roethlisberger will be protected by a new-look offensive line in 2021, and the reshuffling could lead to early struggles.
While Pittsburgh likely couldn't have avoided the offseason retirement of center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers may regret losing longtime left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
Villanueva, a two-time Pro Bowler, hadn't missed a start in the last five seasons. He played 100 percent of the offensive snaps in four of those five campaigns—including 2020—and has played at a consistently solid level. He was responsible for only three sacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
While the Steelers were in a tight cap situation entering the offseason—they have $7.9 million in space—Villanueva signed a team-friendly deal with the rival Ravens. He'll carry a cap hit of just $4.8 million.
Landing Villanueva was big for Baltimore, which traded starting tackle Orlando Brown to Kansas City. So, by letting him go, Pittsburgh lost a franchise centerpiece and a divisional foe strengthened itself. That's a lose-lose development just about any way you slice it.
San Francisco 49ers: Letting Nick Mullens Get Away
Not signing Nick Mullens was a mistake by the Jets. Failing to even tender Mullens as a restricted free agent was a decision the San Francisco 49ers may soon regret.
The 49ers may not miss Mullins immediately, as they have Jimmy Garoppolo, rookie Trey Lance, Josh Rosen and Nate Sudfeld. However, Garoppolo has a significant injury history—23 missed games in the last three seasons—and isn't likely to stick around beyond the 2021 season.
San Francisco can save $25.6 million next year by dumping Garoppolo.
Mullens has started 16 games for the 49ers and has performed better than Rosen as a pro. Mullen is just 5-11 as a starter but has posted a passer rating of 87.2. Rosen has gone 3-13 with a passer rating of 63.5.
Lance, the third pick in the draft, is clearly San Francisco's future at quarterback. However, Mullens could have been the perfect long-term backup for the North Dakota State product and the top backup and insurance option this season should Garoppolo suffer another injury.
If Garoppolo goes down and Lance isn't ready to take the reins, San Francisco's season will rest on Rosen's shoulders.
Seattle Seahawks: Waiting to Extend Jamal Adams
Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams is entering the final season of his rookie contract. With mere months to go before that season kicks off, Seattle doesn't appear close to reaching an agreement on an extension with its star defender.
This isn't an issue yet, as the Seahawks traditionally wait until after the draft to address extensions.
"Was it going to get done early on in the process? No," former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps said in April on 710 ESPN Seattle's Jake and Stacy.
Still, the longer Seattle waits, the closer to a contract dispute it comes. According to Geoffrey C. Arnold of the Oregonian, Adams could sit out OTAs and mandatory minicamp. While this doesn't necessarily mean that Adams will stay away from training camp, it could create a problem.
The closer Adams gets to the regular season without a contract, the more tempting 2022 free agency may become. By locking up Adams early, Seattle could have avoided this situation while also ensuring he was around for the entirety of the offseason program.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Re-Signing Antonio Brown
The Buccaneers have little to regret after bringing back all 22 starters from last year's Super Bowl championship squad. However, there are a couple of reasons why they may regret bringing back Antonio Brown.
Brown was a fine complementary receiver last season, finishing with 483 receiving yards and four touchdowns in eight games. However, he'll turn 33 in July and underwent knee surgery this offseason—though the Bucs weren't concerned about re-signing him.
A suspension could also be in play for Brown, who was suspended for eight games in 2020. Brown settled the civil sexual assault and rape lawsuit involving former trainer Britney Taylor, but he could still face league discipline.
"The matter remains under review," a league spokesperson said, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Bringing back Brown took up a valuable roster slot and could limit the development of younger receivers such as Scotty Miller and rookie fourth-round pick Jaelon Darden. Obviously, Tampa is in win-now mode, but if Brown can't perform, that limited depth development could become a serious issue.
Tennessee Titans: Overspending on Bud Dupree
After posting just 19 sacks in 2020, the Tennessee Titans needed to improve their pass rush. However, Tennessee may quickly come to regret turning to Bud Dupree to address the issue.
The problem with signing Dupree starts with his contract and his health. The Titans gave him a five-year, $82.5 million deal that includes $35 million in guarantees. That's a lot of money for a player who has averaged 6.6 sacks per season. It's excessive for a player who tore his right ACL in Week 12.
There's no guarantee Dupree will be 100 percent in 2021 or that he'll be the same player he was before the injury. Adding to the issue is the fact that Dupree has never been a top-tier pass-rusher. He has never been a Pro Bowler, has just one double-digit sack season in his career and benefited greatly from playing opposite T.J. Watt.
Dupree has never been a team's top pass-rushing option, though the Titans are paying him to be one now. We're never going to fault a player for cashing in, and Dupree is a fine complementary pass-rusher, but Tennessee isn't likely to get a return on its investment.
Washington Football Team: Releasing Morgan Moses
Last season, right tackle Morgan Moses started all 16 games for the Washington Football Team while playing 98 percent of offensive snaps. While he wasn't perfect—he was responsible for six penalties and five sacks, according to Pro Football Focus—he was as durable as always.
Moses hasn't missed a start over the last six seasons.
Yet Washington decided to release Moses late in the offseason to open opportunities for other players.
"Nothing other than we're just going in a different direction. We have an opportunity to get some young guys on the field," head coach Ron Rivera said, per Ryan Homler of NBC Sports Washington.
The Football Team also parted with left tackle Geron Christian after adding veteran Charles Leno Jr. and drafting Sam Cosmi out of Texas.
While Christian doesn't have a ton of starting experience, Moses was a steady presence for years. Letting him go without knowing how the new-look line will perform might have been a mistake. Washington will be relying on 38-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick this season, and if his pass protection struggles, so too could the Football Team.