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The NFL offseason is a time for optimism. Every team is undefeated in July, and every team—at least theoretically—has a shot at reaching the Super Bowl this year.
Of course, the level of optimism surrounding each franchise does vary. The Cleveland Browns are offseason darlings after identifying Baker Mayfield as a franchise quarterback and landing star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. via trade. The Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, have their own young quarterback in Josh Rosen but far less certainty about the direction of the organization.
Even for teams like the Browns that “won” the offseason, there have been regrettable decisions (and non-decisions) over the past few months.
With training camps in full effect around the league, now is the perfect time to examine each team’s biggest regret of the offseason.
These are the moves and misses most likely to haunt NFL franchises in 2019 or beyond.
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As previously mentioned, the Dolphins now have a young, promising quarterback in Josh Rosen.
They got him by trading away a second-round pick during the 2019 draft. That’s good value for Miami, as Rosen was the 10th overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals a year ago. For the Cardinals, however, it’s low value.
Could Arizona have gotten more in return for Rosen? We’ll likely never know, but it certainly seems possible had it dealt him earlier in the offseason. Once the Cardinals pulled the trigger on Kyler Murray at No. 1, everyone knew they viewed Rosen as expendable. At that point, the Cardinals were lucky to get what they got from Miami in return.
Pretending they weren’t sold on Murray before the draft gave the Cardinals a little advantage, as it left the door open for a trade out of the No. 1 spot and a potential haul for the pick. It also created the impression that perhaps Arizona wanted to hang onto Rosen—theoretically upping his trade value.
The reality, however, is that dealing Rosen before the draft would have placed more teams in the potential trade pool. With the New York Giants drafting Daniel Jones and the Washington Redskins taking Dwayne Haskins in the first round, two teams were completely out before Arizona was able to swing a deal with the Dolphins.
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If they’re able to remain healthy, the Atlanta Falcons should be an improved football team in 2019. Devonta Freeman, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones should all be back and performing at a high level, and No. 2 receiver Calvin Ridley has a year of experience under his belt. The Falcons also addressed their offensive line by drafting the duo of Kaleb McGary and Chris Lindstrom.
Running back depth could be an issue, however, especially if Freeman suffers a setback or is injured again. This is because the Falcons allowed complementary back Tevin Coleman to leave in free agency.
Coleman started for most of the 2018 season after Freeman landed on IR with injury, but even when Freeman was healthy, Coleman was a notable part of the offense. He produced more than 900 combined rushing and receiving yards in both 2016 and 2017, when Freeman played 16 and 14 games, respectively.
With Coleman gone, Atlanta will lean on second-year back Ito Smith, who averaged just 3.5 yards per carry as a rookie. Seeing as how Coleman signed a modest two-year, $8.5 million deal in free agency, this seems like a sizeable misstep.
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The Baltimore Ravens intend to change how we view an NFL offense this season.
“The game was probably revolutionized with Bill Walsh and Joe Montana,” head coach John Harbaugh said on NFL Network (h/t Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “What’s the next era going to be? We’re about to find out.”
If the Ravens are hoping to get an offensive explosion out of second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, they’re also going to need consistency at wide receiver. So why didn’t they do more to strengthen the position?
The Ravens brought in Michael Floyd and drafted Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. That isn’t much in the way of proven talent, and while Brown has game-breaking potential, he’s still a rookie who has yet to be fully cleared from offseason Lisfranc surgery.
A receiving corps of Brown, Boykin, Floyd and Willie Snead might be good, but it’s also a huge unknown.
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The Buffalo Bills are hoping that LeSean McCoy can return to being a premier running back in the NFL. So far, the outlook as been positive, at least for the offseason.
“He’s motivated,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said, via the Buffalo News. “I think he’s eager to compete.”
The question is this: Why let McCoy compete at this point in his career? The 31-year-old was unreliable in 2018, averaging a mere 3.2 yards per carry. His longest run of the season was a career-low 28 yards.
Buffalo added T.J. Yeldon and Frank Gore in free agency. They also drafted Devin Singletary in Round 3. There is no need to let McCoy compete—and if he’s on the regular-season roster, he’s going to count more than $9 million against the cap. Buffalo would have saved more than $6 million by releasing McCoy earlier in the offseason, and they might have even found a trade market for him before the draft.
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The good news for the Carolina Panthers is that quarterback Cam Newton appears to be on the mend from offseason shoulder surgery and has looked “particularly sharp” in camp. The troubling news is that Newton may still lack reliable receiving targets in the regular season.
The Panthers’ receiving corps remains underwhelming. They have Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith and second-year man DJ Moore. They replaced Devin Funchess with Chris Hogan in free agency, but that’s the only notable move they made at receiver.
Carolina had opportunities to strengthen its receiving corps further in both free agency and the draft, but it didn’t. It passed on the likes of Marquise Brown and N’Keal Harry in Round 1 and passed on free agents like Golden Tate and Danny Amendola.
The Panthers didn’t trade for Antonio Brown, either. While that never felt like a wholly realistic move, pairing Brown with Newton and Christian McCaffrey would have made the Carolina offense one of the most explosive—and fun—in the league.
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Jordan Howard has been the starting running back for the Chicago Bears for the past three seasons. Though his production has dipped every year since he was drafted, the bruising runner was still a tremendous complement to pass-catching back Tarik Cohen.
Though he only averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 2018, Howard still racked up more than 1,000 combined rushing and receiving yards while splitting time with Cohen. Chicago responded by dealing him for a sixth-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason.
While the Bears may have felt that Howard was no longer a fit for their offense, trading him wasn’t necessary. A sixth-round pick has at least some value, but Howard is a proven 1,000-yard back who was set to earn just $2 million in 2019.
Chicago has a promising replacement in rookie third-round pick David Montgomery, but he is still unproven at the NFL level. There was room for Cohen, Montgomery and Howard in the backfield, and the Bears may soon regret parting with the latter.
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The Cincinnati Bengals parted with longtime defensive leader Vontaze Burfict in the offseason, which left little notable talent in the linebacker corps. Guys like Preston Brown and Jordan Evans are serviceable, but the Bengals don’t have a linebacker opposing offenses need to fear.
The Bengals could have remedied that situation by landing Devin Bush in the NFL draft. Instead, they watched as the Pittsburgh Steelers jumped one spot ahead of them to grab the former Michigan linebacker 10th overall.
Could Cincinnati have traded up for Bush or even fifth-overall-pick Devin White? It seems likely considering the Steelers did exactly that. Instead, the Bengals stood pat and watched a potential need remain empty—and they didn’t even draft a linebacker until grabbing Germaine Pratt in Round 3.
The Bengals did get a potential starting tackle at 11 by drafting Jonah Williams, but he’s already out with a torn labrum.
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The Browns should be one of the more exciting teams to watch in 2019. They have Mayfield, Beckham, Myles Garrett, Jarvis Landry, Denzel Ward and a host of other explosive young players to lean on this season and for the foreseeable future.
However, poor offensive-line play could derail Cleveland’s resurgence before it even gets rolling—and this is a real risk for the Browns.
Cleveland traded away starting guard Kevin Zeitler as part of the Beckham deal. In his place, they’ll try 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett. At left tackle, they’ll have Greg Robinson, who played well in 2018 but who was also considered a massive bust before he arrived in Cleveland. JC Tretter and Chris Hubbard were serviceable starters in 2018, though Tretter could be gone after this season.
Guard Joel Bitonio is the only Pro Bowler on Cleveland’s line. Yet, the Browns didn’t add notable insurance during free agency and didn’t draft a lineman before taking Drew Forbes in the sixth round.
Perhaps Freddie Kitchens’ open offense will help negate the need for a strong line, but that’s a risky proposition. Not shoring up the line more could be a huge regret in an otherwise stellar Browns offseason.
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The Dallas Cowboys could have several contractual regrets by this time next year.
They’ve already watched the price of quarterbacks jump while waiting to do a new deal with Dak Prescott. They could see the receiver market do the same while waiting to do a deal with Amari Cooper. They may also go into 2019 without star running back Ezekiel Elliott because of his contract situation.
Elliott is holding out of camp while seeking a new deal. While the Cowboys don’t owe him a new contract—he has two years remaining on his rookie agreement—it’s beginning to feel unlikely he will play without a new one.
Dallas has made Elliott a long-term offer, so this is more about their handling of the entire situation. The Cowboys may have made Elliott feel more wanted by immediately extending that offer after the 2018 season. They’re definitely not making him feel wanted now.
“That’s one of the dilemmas at running back is that the league knows that you can win Super Bowls and not have the Emmitt Smith back there or not have Zeke back there,” owner Jerry Jones told CBS 11 Dallas-Fort Worth.
The reality, however, is that the Cowboys do need Elliott in their backfield if they’re going to rely on the same offensive philosophies they’ve utilized over the past three seasons.
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We’re used to seeing NFL teams overpay for offensive linemen in free agency—so it wasn’t a shock to see the Denver Broncos give right tackle Ja’Wuan James a deal worth $51 million over four years, with $32 million of that guaranteed.
This doesn’t mean Denver’s decision was a smart move, however. This is a lot of money for a lineman who is merely above-average when he’s at his best.
James was serviceable for the Dolphins, but he has never been a Pro Bowler. He’s also struggled with injuries during his time in Miami, missing 18 games in five seasons. The Broncos overpaid to get him, and that could come back to haunt them in future offseasons.
While James is only due to carry a cap hit of roughly $8 million this year, he’ll count more than $13 million against the cap over the following three seasons.
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The tight end market was not full of options in this year’s edition of free agency. However, the Detroit Lions still overpaid to get former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James. They gave him a four-year, $22.6 million deal that includes $10.5 million guaranteed. That’s a lot of money for a guy who has never been an elite pass-catcher at the position.
James has never produced more than 423 yards receiving in a single season and has just nine career touchdowns in four years. Detroit is likely betting on James’ upside, of course, but they’re betting big here.
The other issue with James’ deal is that he’ll still have more than $8 million in dead money remaining on his contract after the 2019 season. The Lions can’t really afford to release James if he disappoints in his first season in Detroit.
That’s a real possibility, too, as he’ll likely be the No. 2 tight end behind eighth overall selection T.J. Hockenson, who amassed 760 yards and six touchdowns just last season.
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The Green Bay Packers are entering a new era of offense in 2019. Head coach Matt LaFleur is installing a new—and hopefully—innovative system that will help get the most out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Also new is the void left by eight-year Green Bay veteran Randall Cobb. While Cobb seemed to have lost a step over the past couple seasons—and he struggled to stay healthy in 2018—the Packers could still come to regret letting him simply walk away.
Cobb signed a modest one-year, $5 million deal with Dallas in free agency.
While Green Bay has a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Davante Adams and a promising No. 2 in Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the depth behind those two is questionable at best. The Packers are unsure of what exactly they have in guys like Equanimeous St. Brown, Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow. They were more sure of what they had in Cobb—at the very least, a player with proven chemistry with Rodgers.
If Cobb shines with the Cowboys and the Packers struggle to identify a consistent slot option, letting him go will look like a huge mistake.
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The Houston Texans took steps to address their secondary this offseason, adding both Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby. However, these moves could prove to be a wash, as the Texans also parted with safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Kareem Jackson.
Houston didn’t even try to retain Jackson.
“Obviously, they didn’t want me back,” Jackson said, per Mark Berman of Fox 26.
Parting with Jackson could prove to be an extremely regrettable decision. Even at 31 years old, he is a productive player and a starting-caliber pass-defender. He started all 16 games in 2018 and amassed 87 tackles with an impressive 17 passes defended.
Can Roby replace Jackson in the Texans lineup? It’s possible, but Jackson is a far more proven player and would have brought years of familiarity to the defense. Roby is largely starting over after being a bit of a bust with the Broncos.
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Wideout Dontrelle Inman came on strong late last season for the Indianapolis Colts. Despite not debuting until Week 7, he produced 304 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season and another 108 yards and a score in two postseason games.
Inman also wanted to return to Indianapolis in the offseason.
“I definitely want to stay in Indianapolis,” he told Taz and The Moose of CBS Sports radio (h/t Kevin Hickey of Colts Wire).
Regrettably, the Colts let Inman walk, choosing instead to give Devin Funchess a $10 million “prove it” deal.
While the Colts could regret replacing Inman with Funchess, they could regret it even more in the postseason. The five-year veteran signed with the New England Patriots after his Colts release, and he could prove to be one of those castoff gems the Patriots seem to have a knack for finding.
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Is it too early to call Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette a bust? Perhaps, but after two underwhelming seasons for the 2017 fourth-overall pick, Jacksonville could be ready to move on in the very near future.
In two seasons, he has appeared in just 21 regular-season games, amassed 1,479 yards rushing and has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. One could argue that the Jaguars should have already brought in competition for the starting job, and they may regret not trying to trade Fournette before April’s draft.
As a former first-round pick, Fournette is the kind of player who someone would have taken a chance on—perhaps the running-back-needy Oakland Raiders or the Los Angeles Rams, who acquired Blake Bortles and needed depth behind Todd Gurley.
While dealing Fournette wouldn’t have netted a lot given his struggles, the Jaguars would have gotten something back and cleared the way for another runner. Perhaps they would have ended up trading for Jordan Howard or taken Josh Jacobs in the draft. We’ll never know because Jacksonville is going to give Fournette one more chance to prove he’s an NFL starter.
If Fournette struggles again, the Jaguars could turn to the likes of Alfred Blue and Thomas Rawls.
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On one hand, the Kansas City Chiefs’ trade for pass-rusher Frank Clark makes perfect sense. Clark is only 26 years old and coming off a 13-sack campaign. He also has experience playing in a 4-3 defense, which new Chiefs coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is transitioning to.
However, the Chiefs also traded away their 2019 first-round pick to get Clark, and then inked him to a massive five-year, $104 million deal.
This is a whole lot to give up for a guy who has averaged fewer than nine sacks per season in the NFL. It looks like even more when you consider Kansas City also parted with pass-rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford in the offseason—Houston was released, Ford netted a 2020 second-round pick in trade.
So, the Chiefs had two quality pass-rushers on the roster who they didn’t want, but they gave up a first-round pick and a ton of cap space to add a different one? Again, the deal makes sense from certain angles, but it appears awfully regrettable from others.
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Like Elliott, Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is holding out for a new contract. Unlike Elliott, Gordon doesn’t have a ton of leverage. He is a great running back, to be sure, but the offense doesn’t revolve around him—and the Chargers know it.
“We love Melvin, but we’re going to go with what we’ve got. It’s a pretty dang good group,” quarterback Philip Rivers said, per Matt Szabo of the Daily Pilot.
The problem with Gordon holding out is the uncertainty. The Chargers can likely survive with Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler at running back, but they don’t know if they’ll have to. Had they gotten a deal done earlier in the offseason, they could have avoided the entire mess.
Alternatively, Los Angeles could have pursued a trade if they had any sense that a holdout was coming. The Chargers could have gotten something valuable in return and would have established a clear game plan at running back for the coming season.
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Pass-rushers are hard to find in the NFL, just ask Jon Gruden. This is why it wasn’t a shock to see the Los Angeles Rams re-sign Dante Fowler Jr. with a one-year, $12 million deal this offseason. However, it doesn’t mean the move was warranted.
Fowler was merely OK in his half-season with the Rams in 2018. He produced just 2.0 sacks during the regular season with another 1.5 in the postseason. If Fowler can build off what he accomplished last season, great. If not, the Rams will be overpaying for a lower-tier edge-rusher and veritable draft bust.
What could make the decision to re-sign Fowler look worse is that $10 million may have been enough to retain standout guard Rodger Saffold, who signed a four-year, $44 million deal in free agency.
This isn’t exactly a one-over-the-other decision, but the Rams are now left with a bit of a mostly unproven defensive end and the prospect of trying to replace Saffold with the likes of Joseph Noteboom and Aaron Neary.
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Acquiring Rosen was a smart decision for the Dolphins, as it at least gives them an option for the future at quarterback. Of course, if Rosen is going to ever become Miami’s franchise quarterback, he’s going to have to prove himself on the playing field.
This is going to be difficult if he can’t win the starting job—which is where things are trending in Dolphins camp. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick has been playing with the first-team offense ahead of Rosen in camp, and it’s beginning to look like it’s his job to lose.
This begs the question of why Miami opened up the quarterback competition in the first place. Sure, they’re looking for the best option for 2019, but what about the future at the position? It’s certainly not Fitzpatrick, and a couple of extra wins this season are not going to change the course of the franchise.
Miami should have handed the keys over to Rosen the moment they traded for him in order to have a full year of evaluation. The worst-case scenario would be that Rosen stinks, Fitzpatrick ends up playing a few games, and the Dolphins are in position to draft a quarterback high in 2020.
If Fitzpatrick starts early this season, the worst-case scenario could be that the Dolphins win seven or eight games, miss out on the chance to draft a quarterback high and still don’t completely know what they have in Rosen.
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When the Minnesota Vikings used a second-round pick on Dalvin Cook two offseasons ago, they were hoping to get a reliable and dominant every-down back in return. So far, they’ve mostly only gotten glimpses of promise—though Cook believes the best is yet to come.
“Everything I can do is still in front of me,” he said, per the Pioneer Press‘ Dane Mizutani. I’m capable of doing a lot of things. I still haven’t scratched the surface yet.”
The biggest reason Cook hasn’t scratched the surface? Injuries. He has missed 17 games in two seasons, which is why the Vikings still don’t know exactly what they have in Cook. It’s also why letting backup Latavius Murray go in free agency could come back to bite Minnesota.
Murray took over the starting job in 2017 and helped carry the load again last season, in which he produced 578 yards rushing, 141 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. With him gone, the Vikings will have to rely on unproven rookie Alexander Mattison if Cook again misses time.
Ideally, Cook will remain healthy and depth will be less of an issue. However, the Vikings could quickly regret having so little certainty in the insurance department.
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The New England Patriots lost future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement early in the offseason. While they may not have been able to convince him to keep playing—and they may still persuade him to come back—it doesn’t mean they won’t regret losing him.
As a premier mismatch, Gronkowski was one of the most important pieces of the Patriots offense, and now New England has to find other options.
“It’s always challenging when you have significant turnover,” quarterback Tom Brady told NFL Network’s Willie McGinest. “I always say it’s like climbing a mountain. Every time you climb the mountain, the next year you start right at the bottom with everyone else.”
Trying to get back to the Super Bowl without Gronkowski is certainly a huge obstacle, and one the Patriots may finally fail to overcome.
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New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is one of several players holding out for a new contract in training camp. According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, the two sides are “close” to reaching a new deal, at least.
If the Saints can get a deal done soon, that’s great. Thomas doesn’t necessarily need the physical reps in training camp to be effective early in the season. However, New Orleans can and should still regret not getting a deal done before things got to this point.
While Thomas may not need the reps, the Saints need him on the field to optimally install the offense for the coming season. There are new additions around him and quarterback Drew Brees, like Jared Cook and Latavius Murray. With the Saints’ first preseason game looming on August 9, Thomas’ absence could start to take a toll.
If the offense isn’t fully prepared for the regular season, it could spell real trouble. New Orleans opens with tough games against the Texans and the Rams, with Los Angeles expected to be one of the top competitors in the NFC this season.
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The New York Giants’ decision to draft former Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at No. 6 wasn’t universally loved by the fanbase. However, if longtime starter Eli Manning struggles early in 2019, you can bet those same fans will start clamoring for Jones to take the field.
This places Manning in a stressful situation heading into the regular season. Not only does he have to win games, but he also has to continue winning over fans from drive to drive.
The Giants could have made life easier on Manning by simply slamming the door shut on any possibility of a quarterback controversy, but they refuse to do so. While Manning has the starting job right now, New York keeps dropping hints that Jones could take over sooner rather than later.
“I think we’re going to play the very best player,” head coach Pat Shurmur said, per Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. “I know we are dancing around the words. Right now, Eli is getting ready to have a great year and Daniel is getting ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”
Manning will be under heavy pressure to win early, and if he doesn’t, the Giants could be looking at a second consecutive lost season.
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The New York Jets’ decision to give Le’Veon Bell a four-year, $52.5 million deal could come back to bite the franchise, even if it doesn’t happen this season. The reality is that the Jets always appeared to be bidding against themselves for Bell’s services, and therein lies the regret.
Bell is the kind of versatile back who will help the growth of quarterback Sam Darnold. Bell is a terrific runner and receiver, and despite missing a year of football, he appears to be well-conditioned for the coming season.
What about a year from now, though? By 2020, Bell will be 28 years old and likely over 1,800 career touches—he has more than 1,500 now. He’ll still have $17 million in dead money remaining on his contract after this season, and Pittsburgh will be on the hook for $25 million in total dead cash for the full deal.
Is Bell really worth that? It’s debatable. Fans who watched James Conner carry the Steelers’ run game in 2018 will probably argue no.
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It’s been noted time and time again, but it bears repeating here. The Oakland Raiders produced just 13 sacks as a team in 2018. That’s fewer sacks than second-year pass-rusher Myles Garret produced himself, and the same number as second-year man T.J. Watt.
That’s not good for today’s pass-driven NFL. Yet, despite having a ton of cap space and three first-round picks, the Raiders did very little to address the pass rush this offseason.
Oakland did grab Clemson product Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick and Eastern Michigan’s Maxx Crosby in Round 4, but that’s it. They didn’t sign Justin Houston, they didn’t trade for Frank Clark or Dee Ford, and they didn’t even pick up a second sack-artist high in the draft.
Even if Ferrell is able to tie the rookie sack record of 14.5 and Crosby adds another half-dozen, the Raiders would still be a bottom-five team in relation to 2018 sack production.
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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz does appear to be a legitimate franchise quarterback. He had a tremendous season in 2017 before tearing his ACL, and he was a quality starter in both 2016 and 2018.
This is why it’s hard to fault the Eagles for giving Wentz a contract extension two years before they had to. However, giving him a massive four-year, $128 million extension may come back to bite Philadelphia over the next few offseasons.
He will carry a cap hit of $18.6 million in 2020 and a cap hit of $34.6 million in 2021.
Has Wentz outplayed his rookie deal? Sure, but the Eagles were under no obligation to give him such a sizeable pay raise. We’ve recently seen teams—like the Seahawks, Rams and Chiefs—build title contenders around quarterbacks on rookie deals.
While Wentz’s raise may be fair, it doesn’t financially make a ton of sense. He has missed significant time in each of the last two seasons; it could prove to be a truly regrettable decision if his career continues to be hampered by injuries.
It would have been more prudent to let Wentz prove he can stay healthy for another season and then extend him before his fifth-year option took effect.
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Mike Tomlin hasn’t entered Marvin Lewis territory. He’s at least won playoff games and, you know, a Super Bowl for the Steelers. However, he also failed to capitalize on perhaps the greatest quarterback-receiver-running-back trio in recent history. Tomlin deserves blame for not winning more with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and he deserves some blame for allowing the locker-room turmoil that led to the departure of both Brown and Bell.
Under Tomlin, the Steelers have been on the decline. They got blown out by the Patriots in the AFC title game three years ago, got knocked around by the Jaguars in their 2017-18 playoff opener and failed to make the postseason last year.
Can the Steelers rebound in 2019? Absolutely, but Tomlin needs to prove that he’s the head coach who can make it happen. Instead of allowing him to coach in a “prove it” season, though, the Steelers gave Tomlin an extension through at least 2021.
According to Ed Bouchette of The Athletic, some Steelers minority owners were opposed to the move. With general manager Kevin Colbert now on a year-to-year deal, this could lead to some front-office turmoil as early as next offseason. The Steelers would have been better served letting the team play out the season before addressing Tomlin’s value.
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This offseason, the San Francisco 49ers gave linebacker Kwon Alexander a four-year, $54 million deal that includes $25.5 million in guarantees. Should Alexander prove to be healthy, that could be a fair investment for the 49ers.
Alexander is a former Pro Bowler who racked up 380 tackles, 22 passes defended and six interceptions in four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The problem is that Alexander is coming off a torn ACL and still isn’t ready to take the field. San Francisco will be forced to take its time with the defensive addition.
“We’ll definitely ease him in,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said, per Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee.
While an ACL tear is no longer the career-ending injury it once was, it still leads to a tricky and uncertain recovery period. The 49ers’ $54 million gamble on Alexander could backfire if he can’t return to pre-injury form.
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Injuries forced Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin to retire early this offseason, which leaves a massive void at the No. 1 receiver spot. Presumably, Tyler Lockett, who had 965 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, will take over that role.
However, the Seahawks are still left with little proven depth at wide receiver—and at tight end, for that matter. Behind Lockett, Seattle has the likes of David Moore, Jaron Brown and rookie DK Metcalf. At tight end, they have Nick Vannett and Will Dissly.
Baldwin and Lockett were the only players to top 450 yards receiving for the Seahawks last season. Moore ranked third with just 445 yards, while Vannett and Dissly combined for 425 yards.
There were options available in free agency, like Devin Funchess and former Seahawks receiver Golden Tate. Seattle may regret not adding at least one of them.
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To say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers struggled to run the ball in 2018 would be an understatement. They averaged a mere 95.2 yards per game on the ground, fourth-fewest in the entire NFL. So what did Tampa do to address its running game? Essentially, nothing.
Like the Seahawks and their depth at receiver, the Buccaneers appear content to lean on returning players like Peyton Barber and 2018 second-round pick Ronald Jones—and relying on Jones, who averaged just 1.9 yards per carry last season, is a dicey proposition.
While Tampa didn’t have the cap space to go after a guy like Le’Veon Bell in free agency, there were second-tier options like Carlos Hyde, C.J. Anderson and Frank Gore.
The tandem of Barber and Jones may prove to be serviceable, but it would have behooved the Buccaneers to bolster their backfield with at least one quality free agent this offseason.
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The Tennessee Titans pass rush was serviceable in 2018, but it was far from elite. As a team, the Titans produced just 39 sacks on the season. They also lost Brian Orakpo to retirement in the offseason.
In a division that features Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson and now Nick Foles, the pass rush Tennessee fielded last season may not be good enough. However, the Titans didn’t do much to address the need in the offseason either.
Instead of taking a chance on a pass-rusher like Montez Sweat or L.J. Collier in the first round of the draft, Tennessee instead took a flier on injured defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons. This could prove to be a fine move, of course, if Simmons can return to pre-injury form. He suffered a torn ACL while preparing for the combine, though, and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever be the same dominant defender again.
Whether or not Simmons returns to form, he isn’t likely to see the field in 2019. This means Tennessee’s pass rush will be no better than it was a year ago, and without Orakpo, it could be even worse.
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At first blush, the Redskins’ deal to acquire Case Keenum looked like a solid move. There was uncertainty at the quarterback position, and journeyman Keenum would at least provide a veteran presence.
In retrospect, though, the move makes nearly zero sense. While the Redskins couldn’t have known they’d land Dwayne Haskins in the draft, they had to have known that getting a rookie quarterback was a goal. They already had a veteran on the roster in Colt McCoy—one with tons of experience in Jay Gruden’s offense.
After recovering from a leg fracture, McCoy’s already throwing passes in training camp and should be ready to go in September. Allowing him to battle Haskins for the starting job would put Washington in a good position for 2019 and for the future. If Haskins is ready, start him. If he’s not, let him sit behind McCoy.
The addition of Keenum only clouds the picture at quarterback and takes reps away from Washington’s future franchise signal-caller—and there’s a chance he doesn’t start over McCoy or Haskins in Week 1.
*All contract information via Spotrac.