7 Moves We Wish Would Have Happened in 2022 NFL Offseason

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2022

7 Moves We Wish Would Have Happened in 2022 NFL Offseason

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    For NFL teams, it never does much good to dwell on what could have been. A lot of franchises probably wish they hadn't passed on Tom Brady back in the 2000 draft, but that hasn't made their respective paths to success any easier over the past couple of decades.

    Fans can't change history either, but mulling over missed opportunities can at least be fun. Today, we're going to examine seven moves we wish we would have seen this offseason because they'd have made sense, and, well, they'd have upped the entertainment value of the 2022 season, too.

    These hypothetical moves work from a logistical standpoint and are based on factors like team needs, team goals and any relevant buzz—though some are largely for our own amusement.

    Each of them could have happened, and each entry is based on a trade, hiring, signing or draft selection that did. Players who weren't traded or available won't be on the list.

    Let's get a little wild and look at how different the NFL landscape could be following the draft.

Jaguars Hire Byron Leftwich as Head Coach

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    Doug Pederson is a fine choice as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's a Super Bowl winner, and at one time, he coached Carson Wentz into being a Pro Bowl player. If the Jaguars' top goal is to develop quarterback Trevor Lawrence—and it should be—they could have done much worse.

    Yet, it would have been a lot more entertaining to see Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich land the gig. He was among the finalists but ultimately removed himself from consideration.

    "Obviously, that didn't work out," he told reporters. "I'm just happy to be here, happy to be here with the group, going into our fourth year together. Can't wait to get to work with these guys."

    Leftwich in Jacksonville would have been fun for a couple of reasons. For starters, he's a former Jaguar who started 44 games in four years for the franchise. Jacksonville has only made the postseason three times this century, and Leftwich (8-3 as a starter that season) helped deliver one of those berths in 2005.

    With a 24-20 starting record in Jacksonville, Leftwich was one of the franchise's best quarterbacks, and fans would have enjoyed seeing him back in the black and teal.

    Secondly, it would have been exciting to see Leftwich go from coaching the G.O.A.T. in Brady to coaching Lawrence, who is arguably the most heavily-hyped quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. We want to see Lawrence succeed, and Leftwich likely has several valuable lessons to share after overseeing Brady the past two seasons.

    At least we'll get to see Leftwich continue coaching Brady, which will be pretty fun, too.

Tom Brady Joins the Miami Dolphins

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    We'll see Leftwich and Brady together again because Brady's retirement lasted all of a few weeks. You can bet fans who are sick of Brady weren't thrilled about his unretirement either. They might have been even less happy had Brady unretired to emerge as a player/owner of the Miami Dolphins.

    According to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio, this is nearly what happened, along with a bid for former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton:

    "When Tom Brady retired on February 1, his next move already was coming into focus. Per multiple sources, Brady eventually would have been introduced as a minority owner of the Dolphins. The announcement would have been made as soon as the following week, which was the week that preceded the Super Bowl. ...After Brady became a minority owner, the Dolphins would have indeed acquired the contractual rights to employ Payton from the Saints. Then, the Dolphins would have at some point gotten the rights from the Buccaneers to bring Brady to the roster."

    There's one word to describe why this move would have been entertaining: Chaos. Football fans everywhere would have lost their minds over Brady coming back to both share a stake in the Dolphins and quarterback them on the field.

    Those of us who write about football for a living would have had a massive well of content all season long. Brady would be chasing a Super Bowl with a third team, he'd get to play the New England Patriots twice a year and we'd have all sorts of questions to tackle surrounding Miami.

    Would the Dolphins have acquired Payton? Would they still have traded for wideout Tyreek Hill? What would the future hold for 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa? It would have been wild.

    Oh, and fans hoping to finally see Brady step away from the game are out of luck. Fox recently announced that whenever Brady stops playing, he'll step right into the booth as the network's lead analyst. That probably wouldn't happen if Brady were in the owner's box post-retirement.

    Alas, we'll have to settle for Brady making another run with the Bucs and new coach Todd Bowles before moving on to a career in media.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Acquire Russell Wilson

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't experienced a losing season under head coach Mike Tomlin, and it will probably fare just fine with Mason Rudolph, Mitchell Trubisky and/or rookie Kenny Pickett under center this season.

    However, longtime starter Ben Roethlisberger has retired, and the Steelers aren't going to feel quite the same without him. The whole AFC North may sense a scent of opportunity in the post-Roethlisberger era, but how would those teams feel if Russell Wilson had joined Pittsburgh instead of the Denver Broncos?

    Pittsburgh may still win this season, but it would likely be a Super Bowl contender with Wilson.

    Was this one unlikely? Perhaps. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Denver was the only team for which Wilson was willing to waive his no-trade clause. Let's be honest, though, it wouldn't benefit Wilson, Denver or Seattle to let slip that other teams were under consideration, so we may never know if Wilson would have waived his no-trade clause for anyone else.

    What we do know is Wilson was traded, and the Steelers were searching for a new franchise signal-caller. It's not outlandish to think Pittsburgh could have gone from one future Hall of Famer to another this offseason had it beaten Denver to the punch.

    Denver, by the way, traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant to Seattle.

    We'll enjoy watching Wilson throw passes to Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton while battling in the loaded AFC West. We'd have enjoyed even more watching Wilson do his thing in a division that now features Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and Deshaun Watson.

    The Steelers are one of the league's marquee franchises, and Wilson would have kept them firmly in the spotlight and away from any potential rebuild.

The Dallas Cowboys Sign Von Miller

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    Whether you love or hate the Dallas Cowboys, you probably feel one way or the other. The Cowboys are one of the NFL's most polarizing franchises and a favorite discussion point for many of sports media's talking heads.

    Had the Cowboys signed eight-time Pro Bowler and one-time Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, it would have been a huge story for Cowboys fans and haters alike. And Miller recently suggested on Instagram that the move "almost" happened.

    Miller ultimately chose the Buffalo Bills, and that's a fun story, too. Buffalo has a stacked roster, and Miller has a legitimate chance to become the first player to win a Super Bowl with three different teams. According to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports HQ, the unprecedented feat is a "huge goal" for Miller.

    In Dallas, though, we'd get to see the Texas A&M product back in his home state chasing tackles alongside 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons. Miller (9.5 sacks in 2021) and Parsons (13.0) would instantly become one of the league's best pass-rushing duos and would add some flair to a Cowboys defense that is sure to be in primetime frequently.

    Signing Miller would have made a ton of sense, too, as Dallas lost pass-rusher Randy Gregory to the Broncos in free agency. Instead, the Cowboys settled for pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr., which—with all due respect to Fowler—doesn't generate the type of buzz that Miller-to-Dallas would have created.

The Colts Sign Hayden Hurst, Russell Gage and Julio Jones

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    The Indianapolis Colts have their new quarterback in Matt Ryan. We'd have loved to see the Colts also bring in some of Ryan's former targets in Julio Jones, Russell Gage and tight end Hayden Hurst.

    Now, the timing is a bit off here, as Indy landed Ryan relatively late in free agency and only after the Atlanta Falcons whiffed on Watson.

    Ryan wasn't traded until March 21. By then, Hurst was already a member of the Bengals, and Gage had signed with the Buccaneers. Jones remains unsigned, so that one could still happen. Had the Colts been able to move on Ryan a few days earlier, though, perhaps we could see all four former Falcons in Indianapolis this season.

    This would have been fun from a fan perspective because these four worked well together in Atlanta only a couple of years ago. While Jones was limited to nine games by hamstring issues, he still finished the 2020 season with 771 yards and three touchdowns. Gage caught 72 passes for 786 yards and four touchdowns that year, while Hurst caught 56 for 571 and six.

    It would have made sense for Indy, too, as the Colts lack proven depth behind top receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who was the only Colt to top 400 receiving yards a season ago.

    We'll still enjoy watching Ryan in Indy, and perhaps he still reunites with Jones. However, it'd have been a blast to see the Dirty Birds Midwest take the spotlight in the AFC South this season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars Draft Ikem Ekwonu No. 1

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    There are a few reasons why we'd have loved to see Jacksonville take NC State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu first overall instead of Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker. For starters, Walker represents a huge gamble, and the last thing long-suffering Jaguars fans need is another early draft bust.

    We're not saying that Walker won't pan out, but the risk is real.

    "At non-quarterback positions, there has never been a first pick with only one season as a starter since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970—that is, there hadn't been until the Jaguars selected Walker," The Ringer's Ben Solak wrote. "It's not that first picks have to be experienced players—rather, it's that first picks are usually so dominant at the college level, there's no way they don't start for a couple of seasons. But that wasn't true for Walker."

    Walker was a one-year starter who had just 9.5 sacks in college. Ekwonu, the first lineman taken in the draft—by the Carolina Panthers at No. 6—is a versatile, seasoned starter with low bust potential.

    "He has the versatility to be a longtime impact starter at either tackle or guard in any scheme," Brandon Thorn of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    Plus, as previously mentioned, we want to see Lawrence live up to his potential in Jacksonville. The Jaguars could have found a spot for Ekwonu on their line and bolstered a unit that left Lawrence under pressure on 22.6 percent of his dropbacks last season.

    Even if Walker can be an early contributor, he does nothing to directly aid Lawrence's development. The Clemson product has the potential to be an elite signal-caller, and we'd love to have seen Jacksonville put more of an emphasis on building around him.

Cleveland Browns Trade Baker Mayfield to the Panthers

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    The Browns and 2018 No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield are done with one another.

    Cleveland burned the bridge when it traded for Watson. And while Watson still faces 22 civil lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual assault and misconduct and could face league discipline under the personal conduct policy, Mayfield isn't going to serve as an insurance policy.

    According to ESPN's Jake Trotter, those close to Mayfield believe the Browns might have intentionally sabotaged their quarterback in a Week 17 loss to the Steelers. Mayfield was sacked nine times and threw two interceptions in that game.

    If Trotter is correct, there's no chance Mayfield will ever trust Cleveland again, even for part of a season.

    Mayfield needs a fresh start, and he almost got one during the draft.

    The Browns were close to dealing Mayfield to the Panthers during the draft. However, talks were "halted" when the two sides couldn't agree on how to split Mayfield's guaranteed salary, according to Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson. Now, a Panthers-Browns trade could theoretically still happen. According to Anderson, the "door isn't 100% shut."

    However, it feels unlikely after Carolina snagged former Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral in the third round.

    While we're excited to see Corral compete with Sam Darnold in Carolina, we kind of wish Mayfield was there instead. The Oklahoma product has shown a lot of potential in the NFL and definitely deserves another shot. Plus, it would be entertaining to see two top-three picks from the 2018 class going head-to-head for the Panthers' starting job this summer.

    Who doesn't love a good offseason storyline? We do, and we'd love to see Mayfield and Darnold vie for a shot at redemption after both fizzled with the franchises that drafted them.


    *Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.