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Every NFL Team's Riskiest Move So Far This Offseason

Nick KostosContributor IJuly 9, 2014

Every NFL Team's Riskiest Move So Far This Offseason

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    The NFL offseason is a time for boundless optimism, as every club seemingly morphs into an amalgamation of the '85 Bears and '07 Patriots after free agency and the draft. But the truth of the matter is that each franchise has made at least one risky move that could jeopardize its standing in 2014.

    Risky moves come in all different shapes and sizes. Some teams neglected glaring areas of need, and instead fortified positions of strength. Others will go into the season with an injury risk at quarterback and a substandard backup. Franchises made questionable draft picks and took major gambles with hires at head coach.

    It's possible that all of the moves detailed here could work out, but that's extremely unlikely. The probability is that at least some of these moves will come back to bite teams in the derrière.

    Here is every NFL's teams riskiest move thus far in the offseason.

Arizona Cardinals: Letting LB Karlos Dansby Walk in Free Agency

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals lost linebacker Karlos Dansby to Cleveland in the free-agent period, as he inked a four-year, $24 million (including $14 million guaranteed) deal with the Browns.

    Yes, the Browns overpaid for Dansby, but the bottom line is that he was one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL last season, accumulating 114 tackles, 6.5 sacks and four interceptions. The player set to replace Dansby, Kevin Minter, is a highly-regarded prospect (and a 2013 second-round pick), but expecting him to just step in and replace someone of Dansby's caliber is a likely exercise in futility.

    Compounding the matter is the season-long suspension of linebacker Daryl Washington, which further weakened Arizona's linebacking corps. In a season where the Cardinals are built to challenge the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers for NFC West supremacy, linebacker now looks like their weakest position on defense.

    Perhaps the Cardinals should have made Dansby a better offer in an effort to keep him in the desert.

Atlanta Falcons: Not Acquiring a Top-Notch Pass-Rusher

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons finished the 2013 season with a bitterly disappointing 4-12 record, and while that can be traced to several different horrific factors, perhaps the largest was the lack of a sustained pass rush.

    The Falcons only managed 32 sacks on the campaign and were shredded by opposing quarterbacks. So it would stand to reason that the team would try to acquire a top-notch pass-rusher to fill that void in 2014.

    But that never happened, as general manager Thomas Dimitroff opted instead to add beef along both the offensive and defensive line. There's no question that those moves were needed, as the Falcons had to become more physical at the point of attack, but it was still surprising to see the team not sign or draft a potentially elite pass-rusher.

    Second-round defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman could potentially provide pass-rushing punch, but if the defense struggles again to get after the quarterback, the Falcons could be in line for another rough season. 

Baltimore Ravens: Not Acquiring a Viable RB to Push Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Last season, the Baltimore Ravens rushing attack was a complete and total debacle.

    The team averaged a paltry 3.1 yards per carry, and both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, who were excellent in the club's 2012 Super Bowl run, struggled mightily, averaging 3.1 and 2.9 yards per carry, respectively.

    It was a precipitous fall from grace for both players, particularly Pierce, who had been so effective in the prior postseason.

    The poor play of the Ravens offensive line should receive some of the blame, but the bottom line is that both Rice and Pierce looked poor last year. The Ravens needed to upgrade the position and add a legitimate threat for carries, and that didn't happen.

    Instead, the Ravens waited until the fourth round of May's draft to address the position, and they did so with Lorenzo Taliaferro, who projects as a power back.

    It's possible that Taliaferro could set the world on fire, but wouldn't it have been smarter to add a more reliable player in either the draft or free agency? Now the Ravens are stuck with two players who bombed last year and an unknown rookie.

    The team's passing attack looks to be improved, but the run game could once again be Baltimore's bugaboo.

Buffalo Bills: Trade Up for WR Sammy Watkins

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    Perhaps the riskiest move of the entire NFL offseason featured the Buffalo Bills making a seismic draft-day trade to acquire wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

    The Bills traded the ninth overall selection in May's draft, plus their first and fourth-round picks in 2015, for the right to move up to the fourth pick (Cleveland) and select Watkins.

    In 2013, the Bills couldn't protect quarterback EJ Manuel. They surrendered 48 sacks, tied for fourth-most in the NFL, and Manuel didn't exactly conjure up images of a young Brett Favre in missing six games due to various maladies.

    The Bills should have selected an offensive lineman with the ninth overall pick and kept their picks in 2015. Instead, general manager Doug Whaley broke the bank for a receiver when he had already spent his second (Robert Woods) and third (Marquise Goodwin) picks on the position in 2013.

    This isn't to say that Watkins won't or can't make an impact, because he will. He should instantly improve the team's passing attack—provided the offensive line can keep Manuel upright.

    Unfortunately for Bills fans, the most likely scenario to unfold out of this trade is yet another season without a playoff berth and the prospect of no first-round selection in next year's draft.

Carolina Panthers: Not Acquiring a Top-Notch Wide Receiver

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    In one of the oddest developments of the offseason, Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman watched nearly every receiver on his roster conduct a mass exodus out of town and seemingly refused to replace them until the very last minute.

    Gone are receivers Steve Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon. That quartet of pass-catchers combined for 156 receptions last season.

    It would have been smart for Gettleman to add multiple receivers in the draft in an effort to restock the cupboard for quarterback Cam Newton, but that didn't happen. Gettleman did draft receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the first round, but Benjamin was the only one.

    Gettleman also signed Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood, none of whom inspire much confidence.

    The Panthers receiving corps looks to be significantly worse, which isn't a good thing as the club tries to carry over the positive vibes from last year's 12-4 campaign. Unless Benjamin turns into an absolute beast as a rookie, we'll likely look back on Gettleman's refusal to add more weapons in the passing attack as the decision that sunk the Panthers in 2014.

Chicago Bears: Retaining Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker

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    Jim Prisching/Associated Press

    Once upon a time, the Chicago Bears were known for great defensive football, with the unit even coined the "Monsters of the Midway."

    Well, last year's iteration were monsters all right, but the kind that kept Bears fans up at night, cursing into their pillows. 

    Chicago's defense couldn't stop a nose bleed, as the unit surrendered a preposterous 5.3 yards per carry and was the albatross slung around the team's collective neck. And the man that presided over the mess was defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

    While the unit was besieged by injuries, there is no explaining the hideous level of play it often put forth. When coach Marc Trestman opted to stay the course and keep Tucker, he doubled down on his defensive capo, as the team's offense looks to once again be explosive and is of a playoff caliber.

    If the Bears don't make the playoffs in 2014, it won't be for lack of points scored. And Tucker will likely be out of a job.

Cincinnati Bengals: Not Acquiring Legitimate Competition for QB Andy Dalton

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Yes, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has led the team to the postseason in each of his three years as the starter. But he's also played his worst football when it has mattered most and is the main reason the Bengals have gone winless in those three playoff appearances.

    Dalton might have set franchise records last year for passing yards (4,293) and touchdowns (33), but he also tossed 20 interceptions and was once again atrocious in the postseason, turning the ball over three times in the Wild Card Game loss to San Diego.

    The Bengals once again possess a Super Bowl-quality roster, and should have acquired legitimate competition in the event that Dalton falters again. It's not fair to the rest of the team that the quarterback consistently fails in the big moment. 

    Instead, the Bengals waited until the fifth round of May's draft to select quarterback A.J. McCarron, who is not a viable threat to Dalton's job. 

    What happens if Dalton once again struggles and hurts the club in critical moments? Coach Marvin Lewis can't turn the keys of the franchise over to McCarron, and if backup Jason Campbell is starting must-win games, the Bengals won't return to the playoffs.

    Not adding legitimate competition for the inconsistent Dalton could come back to bite the Bengals in a major way.

Cleveland Browns: Failing to Draft a Wide Receiver

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Although it was a mostly positive offseason for the Cleveland Browns front office, they absolutely blew it by not drafting a single wide receiver for the duration of May's draft.

    That decision looks even dumber with the impending suspension of star receiver Josh Gordon, who compounded his legal woes by getting arrested this past weekend for driving while intoxicated. The smart money is on Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving yards last year (1,646) despite playing in only 14 games, missing the entire 2014 campaign.

    Gordon's impending suspension was announced before Day 2 of the draft, and even if the Browns only found out about it then (highly unlikely), there was still time to regroup and add a pass-catcher or two to help aid the progress of rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel.

    Instead, general manager Ray Farmer let the rounds tick by without selecting even one receiver, which is absolutely incredible in retrospect.

    The team's depth chart at the position features Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, Nate Burleson and Charles Johnson. Wait. What?

    Gordon is a knucklehead and it's hard to blame the Browns for his personal woes, but they can be held accountable for the failure to properly replace him. It's hard to imagine the Browns passing attack being very effective this year with their current crop of receivers.

Dallas Cowboys: Not Having a Reliable Backup Option for QB Tony Romo

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is 34 years old and is coming off a second back surgery, so it should stand to reason that the team has a reliable backup option, right?

    Well, team owner and general manager Jerry Jones doesn't seem to agree with that logical train of thought, as it appears likely that former Browns draft bust Brandon Weeden will be the player a heartbeat away from being the starting passer of America's Team.

    Presumed backup Kyle Orton is reportedly considering retirement, and the Cowboys are trying to convince him to stay by withholding a $3 million roster bonus. But Orton could still choose to hang up the cleats, and if he does, Weeden becomes the primary backup.

    Yes, the same Weeden who owns a 5-15 career record as a starter and has tossed more career interceptions (26) than touchdowns (23).

    Yuck.

    If Orton does indeed retire and Romo gets hurt (which obviously is within the realm of possibility), Weeden will be the starter.

    And the Cowboys will be royally screwed.

Denver Broncos: Breaking the Bank for CB Aqib Talib

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    Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

    Denver Broncos general manager John Elway made a major splash in free agency in an effort to improve the club's defense, inking star players such as pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib.

    Of the three, Talib received the most eye-popping contract: six years, $57 million with $26 million guaranteed.

    Wow.

    Talib is a fine player, but he isn't a top-five cornerback in the NFL. In fact, he finished 2013 ranked as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) 57th-best cornerback.

    Elway needed to elevate the defense, and there's no doubt Talib can do that, but given his injury history (Talib has never played a full 16-game season) and off-field concerns, the money might have been a little bit much.

Detroit Lions: Hirimg Jim Caldwell as New Head Coach

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions were right to fire overmatched head coach Jim Schwartz after a soul-crushing 7-9 campaign.

    But they couldn't have made a less inspiring hire than former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell.

    Caldwell struggled mightily with in-game management in Indianapolis, and once quarterback Peyton Manning was sidelined with his neck injury, the bottom fell out on the team and Caldwell lost his job. Yes, he did lead the Colts to Super Bowl XLIV, but critics will say that was former coach Tony Dungy and Manning's team.

    There's no doubt that the Lions will be more disciplined under Caldwell than they were under Schwartz, although that isn't saying much; you or I could field a more disciplined unit than Schwartz did. And it's feasible that quarterback Matthew Stafford will improve under Caldwell's tutelage.

    But come game days this fall, when Caldwell makes asinine decision after asinine decision and looks like he's auditioning for the lead role in Weekend at Bernie's 3: Motown, Lions fans might rue the day he was hired.

Green Bay Packers: Signing Undrafted TE Colt Lyerla

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    It's hard to ever accuse Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson of making a "risky" move; he's one of the safest decision-makers in the league, preferring to draft and develop as opposed to making a big splash.

    But the signing of undrafted tight end Colt Lyerla raised some eyebrows around the league.

    Lyerla possesses massive physical talent, but couldn't stay out of trouble while at the University of Oregon. If he hadn't been such a knucklehead, Lyerla likely would have been a Day 2 selection in May's draft; instead, he wasn't picked at all.

    Green Bay is currently unsettled at the tight end position. The team's primary starter there for the past five seasons, Jermichael Finley, is currently a free agent and is coming off major neck surgery. The Packers drafted Richard Rodgers in the third round, and Andrew Quarless remains from last season.

    It's possible that the Packers will count on Lyerla to produce in the passing attack. And given his past transgressions, he could prove to be a very difficult player to trust.

Houston Texans: Drafting Tom Savage as QB of the Future

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans made a fantastic selection with the No. 1 overall pick in May's draft, nabbing South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. There wasn't a quarterback worth selecting in that spot, so taking a potentially transcendent pass-rusher was a sound strategy by general manager Rick Smith.

    But waiting until the fourth round to select a passer—and doing so with Tom Savage—was a very curious decision by Smith.

    Savage rocketed up draft boards because of his outstanding physical attributes, and his meteoric rise completed with the selection by Houston. But there's a reason why Savage wasn't a highly-regarded prospect to begin with: His college game tape was a red flag, and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked Savage as his 11th-best quarterback in the draft.

    The team could have traded back into the first round to select Teddy Bridgewater, but opted to stand pat and nab the inconsistent Savage in the fourth.

    While coach Bill O'Brien is a fantastic mentor of quarterbacks, it can't be easy for Texans fans to know that Savage will surely be "The Guy" at some point over the next few seasons. 

Indianapolis Colts: Not Improving the Offensive Line

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Indianapolis Colts employ perhaps the finest young quarterback in the NFL: Andrew Luck. The directive should be clear: Keep him upright as much as humanly possible.

    Well, Luck has been sacked 73 times over his first two seasons, and the Colts have major questions as it concerns the interior of their offensive line.

    The projected starter at right guard is second-round selection Jack Mewhort, who played tackle last season at Ohio State. Projected center Khaled Holmes barely saw the field last season, and incumbent left guard Hugh Thornton finished 2013 ranked by Pro Football Focus as 69th-best at the position.

    For those of you that can't tell, that's not good.

    Luck's brilliance can mask the shortcomings of an offensive line, but Colts general manager Ryan Grigson needed to do a better job of improving the unit. If Luck is seriously injured as a result of a blown protection, the season will be lost and pitchforks will be raised in Indianapolis.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting QB Blake Bortles with 3rd Overall Selection

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars' selection of quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in May's draft represented a major stunner.

    The third pick seemed way too early a spot for Bortles, who had one excellent season at the collegiate level. Plus, the Jaguars needed to fill other pressing needs throughout the roster, particularly the pass rush, which was nonexistent in 2013 (only 31 sacks).

    With Bortles expected to sit for the vast majority (if not all) of the 2014 season, his selection was clearly made with 2015 and beyond in mind.

    And if Bortles can't end up matching his lofty draft status, general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley will surely lose their jobs and the next decision-making duo will be looking to select another quarterback at the top of the draft.

Kansas City Chiefs: Not Acquiring a Reliable Second Wide Receiver

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    John Cordes/Associated Press

    Outside of Dwayne Bowe, the receiver position for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs resembled a sad, dark place where footballs went to die.

    Running back Jamaal Charles led the club with 70 receptions, and only Donnie Avery (40 receptions) even came close to matching Bowe's output (57 receptions). So, it would have been smart for coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey to add more firepower at the position, right?

    Right? Right? Anyone? Bueller?

    Well, Reid and Dorsey didn't add more weapons for quarterback Alex Smith, as Avery, Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins are behind Bowe on the depth chart.

    If the Chiefs passing attack struggles this year, critics will point back to the failure to sign or draft a viable second receiver as a major reason why.

Miami Dolphins: Drafting OT Ja'wuan James in 1st Round

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Last season, the Miami Dolphins couldn't protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill, allowing an outrageous 58 sacks.

    In an effort to keep Tannehill upright, new general manager Dennis Hickey improved the offensive line throughout the offseason. He signed free-agent left tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith, both of whom should start immediately and amplify the quality of the line.

    But his drafting of tackle Ja'Wuan James in the first round represented a major reach. James was considered by many to be a fringe Day 1 prospect, and while he should step in and start at right tackle, it's debatable if he merited selecting in that spot.

    If James struggles, Hickey will face major criticism for swinging and missing with his first-ever draft pick on South Beach.

Minnesota Vikings: Trading Back into 1st Round to Draft QB Teddy Bridgewater

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    By all accounts, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has dazzled throughout the offseason, impressing teammates and coaches alike with his preparation and level of skill.

    But lest we forget, Bridgewater plummeted down boards thanks to the worst pro day in the history of pro days, and throughout the predraft process, his play was scrutinized more than the Zapruder film.

    It's possible (and even likely) that Bridgewater will open the season as the Vikings starting quarterback, and with Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator and weapons that include running back Adrian Peterson and receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, he'll have an opportunity to succeed.

    But if Bridgewater falters and proves the critics right, the team's decision to trade back into the first round to select him (32nd overall) will surely set the franchise back and get general manager Rick Spielman fired.

New England Patriots: Drafting QB Jimmy Garoppolo in 2nd Round

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots were the second-best team in the AFC last year (behind the Broncos) and look to be the second-best team in the AFC this year (behind the Broncos).

    When considering that fact, it makes it all the more unbelievable that coach Bill Belichick spent a second-round pick on a quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, who is unlikely to see the field for at least a few seasons.

    Incumbent passer Tom Brady will soon turn 37, but he's stated that he wants to play into his 40s, and he is still operating at an elite level. Plus, the club has Ryan Mallett entrenched as the backup for this season (Mallett will be a free agent after this year).

    Essentially, if Garoppolo sees the field this season, it will mean disaster for the Patriots, as both Brady and Mallett will have gotten injured. 

    The Patriots needed to close the gap on Denver, and they didn't do so by selecting a guy who won't contribute this year. Garoppolo could very well turn out to be Brady's long-term backup and eventual replacement, but the selection was a major head-scratcher.

New Orleans Saints: Trading RB Darren Sproles

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Former New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles was a vital part of the club's offense over the past three years, catching 86, 75 and 71 passes and adding an electrifying element to the passing attack.

    That made it all the more surprising when Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton dealt Sproles to NFC rival Philadelphia for a fifth-round pick in this past May's draft.

    Yes, the Saints traded up to select speedy receiver Brandin Cooks in the first round, and the team is expected to deploy Cooks in a similar fashion to how Sproles was utilized. But Cooks is unproven, while Sproles has been successful at the NFL level for years.

    Plus, the Eagles are the favorite to win the NFC East, and could end up facing the Saints in the playoffs. Why in the world would New Orleans want to possibly face Sproles come next January?

    If Cooks ends up flashing as a neophyte, it won't matter. But if Sproles dominates in Philadelphia and Cooks stumbles, the critics will be out in full force on the bayou.

New York Giants: Drafting WR Odell Beckham Jr. in 1st Round

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The issue with the New York Giants' selection of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round of May's draft isn't with Beckham himself; he's a fantastic talent and could definitely contribute as a greenhorn.

    The risk came with the Giants not improving either the offensive line or the pass rush with that first-round selection.

    In the coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning era, the Giants have won games (and Super Bowls) when they have protected Manning, ran the football and rushed the hell out of the opposing passer. Big Blue did none of those three things last season, and in a related story, finished 7-9 and missed the postseason.

    The offensive line should be better than it was in 2013, but that's not saying much, and will the unit be good enough to keep Manning upright? And the Giants are counting heavily on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to revive both his career and their moribund pass rush, which might be asking too much.

    Adding another pass-catcher in the first round was a luxury the Giants couldn't afford. The worry for fans should be that the pass protection and pass rush won't be good enough to return the club to the postseason.

New York Jets: Not Acquiring a Big-Name Cornerback

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The New York Jets had a very positive offseason, with one glaring exception: They swung and miss at nearly every major cornerback option available to them.

    The Jets tried to bring back Darrelle Revis, but he signed with rival New England. They tried to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but he inked a deal with the crosstown Giants. They cut Antonio Cromartie, who signed with the Cardinals. They watched as Alterraun Verner (Tampa Bay) and Vontae Davis (Indianapolis) left the market.

    Instead, Gang Green ended up with Dimitri Patterson, who only played in six games last season for Miami. Good luck with that.

    The Jets will rely heavily on Dee Milliner to stabilize the pass coverage, and Milliner is coming off a rookie campaign in which he ranked as Pro Football Focus' 68th-best cornerback.

    Ultimately, general manager John Idzik's failure to land a big-name cornerback could end up costing the Jets a playoff appearance—and coach Rex Ryan his job.

Oakland Raiders: Trading for QB Matt Schaub

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    This offseason, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie did an admirable job of improving the talent level on the roster, making a series of signings and draft picks that have inched the team closer to respectability.

    Out of all the moves, the riskiest was trading for former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and lavishing him with a two-year, $13.5 million contract.

    Schaub seemed a broken man during a 2013 season in which he threw pick-six interceptions with the apparent determination of a puppy chasing its tail. And it should surprise no one that rookie passer Derek Carr, whom the club selected in the second round of May's draft, is gaining ground on Schaub.

    If Schaub can't hold it together and bombs in the Black Hole, Carr will be under center sooner rather than later. And the decision to part with a draft pick and sign Schaub to that kind of deal will look even worse in retrospect.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Not Drafting a Cornerback in the 1st Round

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    In the first round of May's draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a potential difference-maker at the linebacker position in Ryan Shazier.

    Shazier could shine in coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense and has the opportunity to bring speed and playmaking ability to a linebacking corps in desperate need of both.

    But with that said, it can easily be argued that the Steelers' top priority in the draft should have been at cornerback, not linebacker. 

    Right now, Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen top the depth chart at cornerback, and neither sparkled in 2013, especially the 34-year old Taylor. 

    The Steelers could have drafted corners such as Darqueze Dennard (Cincinnati), Bradley Roby (Denver) or Jason Verrett (San Diego). But they opted for Shazier.

    Shazier should help the defense, but if Taylor and Allen struggle, that pick will come under scrutiny.

Philadelphia Eagles: Drafting LB Marcus Smith in the 1st Round

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles only managed 37 sacks last season, so improving the pass rush was a top priority this offseason.

    And their major transaction in doing so was the selection of linebacker Marcus Smith in the first round of May's draft.

    While Smith could turn out to be an excellent player, he was a major reach in the first round. To provide context, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller tabbed Smith as a third-round pick (84th overall) in his final mock draft.

    If Smith doesn't provide pass-rushing oomph, the Eagles will likely struggle once more to get after the opposing quarterback—and will have whiffed on a first-round pick.

St. Louis Rams: Sticking with QB Sam Bradford

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    In his four seasons as the starter in St. Louis, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has failed to impress.

    He holds a career record of 18-30-1 and has missed 15 games due to injury, including nine last season after tearing his ACL.

    So it registered as at least a mild surprise that general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher not only brought Bradford back for a fifth season, but declined to bring in any legitimate competition for his job. 

    The Rams play in the rough-and-tumble NFC West, and if they are to ascend to the level of Seattle and San Francisco, Bradford must elevate his own level of play, and that appears to be a long shot given his past history.

    St. Louis could have hit the reset button in the draft and selected a quarterback (Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel?), but they opted to stick with Bradford. It's a decision that could end up biting them in both 2014 and beyond.

San Diego Chargers: Not Adding Another Wide Receiver

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen had a masterful rookie season, hauling in 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdown. He projects as an absolute beast in year two and is already a security blanket for quarterback Philip Rivers.

    But outside of Allen, the Chargers don't have much on the depth chart at receiver.

    Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal are uninspiring options, and Malcom Floyd is coming off injury. The Chargers do have two fantastic tight ends in Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, but the receiving corps leaves a lot to be desired. General manager Tom Telesco should have added another proven option.

    Coach Mike McCoy would like to once again employ a power-rushing offense and feature Allen and Gates in the passing attack, but if Allen is lost to injury, the unit will be in significant trouble.

San Francisco 49ers: Engaging in Trade Talks for Coach Jim Harbaugh

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    In his three years as San Francisco 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh has led the club to a Super Bowl appearance and three consecutive NFC Championship Games.

    But that apparently hasn't been enough to secure his long-term employment, as Harbaugh's contract will expire after the 2015 season. Plus, the 49ers reportedly engaged in trade talks with the Cleveland Browns for Harbaugh's services.

    Wait. What?

    This is as ridiculous a story as the NFL has seen in a long time. Harbaugh has proved to be one of the league's finest coaches and has helped return the 49ers to relevance. It can be easily argued that they could have won each of the last three Super Bowls and that plain luck turned them away in all three campaigns.

    If the 49ers do indeed lose Harbaugh, they will surely rue the day. 

Seattle Seahawks: Not Yet Addressing RB Marshawn Lynch's Unhappiness

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Although he ended up making an appearance at mandatory OTAs, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch wants a raise.

    And while it's probable that he'll get one before training camp, it deserves noting that the mercurial Lynch is one of the NFL's most unpredictable characters. Would it really surprise anyone if Lynch held out for more money?

    Lynch was the bell cow of last year's Super Bowl champions and still has a lot left in the tank. The Seahawks would be wise to resolve this situation as soon as possible and make sure Lynch is brought into the fold for training camp.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Signing QB Josh McCown and Naming Him the Starter

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon played splendidly as a rookie, tossing 19 touchdowns against nine interceptions and leading a suspect roster to a 4-9 record as the starter.

    But new Bucs coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht made it apparent that Glennon wasn't their choice for 2014, as they inked free-agent quarterback Josh McCown to a two-year, $10 million deal and quickly named him the starter.

    While McCown was terrific last year in Chicago, tossing 13 touchdown passes against only one interception, it's worth noting that he's still a 35-year-old journeyman quarterback who is now away from the Midas touch of Bears coach Marc Trestman. 

    Licht and Smith dramatically improved the roster over the offseason and could easily make the postseason if McCown matches his 2013 form. But the fact remains that McCown has rarely shown that kind of skill, and if he falters, the Bucs could end up walking the plank in the very tough NFC South.

Tennessee Titans: Drafting OT Taylor Lewan in the 1st Round

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Much like the New York Giants' selection of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round, this isn't an indictment of tackle Taylor Lewan, whom the Titans selected with the 11th overall selection in May's draft: It's that the Titans had more pressing needs to fill.

    The Titans lost Alterraun Verner in free agency and could have spent their first-round selection on a cornerback to replace him. They could have also tabbed a pass-rusher to fit in new coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 defense.

    But instead, general manager Ruston Webster and new coach Ken Whisenhunt opted to go with Lewan, improving a position of strength (the offensive line). 

    It's possible that Lewan will dazzle as a neophyte and the Titans could develop an identity as a hard-nosed, running team. But right now, the decision to take an offensive tackle so early looks a bit silly when considering other holes on the roster.

Washington Redskins: Hiring Jay Gruden as Head Coach

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    It must be said that I'm a fan of new Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden, and I have previously praised the hire in this space.

    But that doesn't mean that bringing on Gruden didn't represent a risk by general manager Bruce Allen.

    Gruden had only been an NFL offensive coordinator for three seasons, and it can be argued that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton regressed under his watch. Cincinnati's offense was particularly stagnant in its Wild Card loss to San Diego this past January, and Gruden came under fire for his play-calling and game plan in the aftermath of that contest.

    Critics will say that without the famous last name, Gruden wouldn't have received the opportunity. Until the games start, we won't know.

    But we do know that, despite feelings one way or the other concerning his potential success, Gruden was a risky hire.

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