Every NFL Team's Biggest Offseason Regret
In the NFL, the offseason is usually a time for renewed hope. However, not every decision made between the Super Bowl and the start of preseason proves to be a wise one.
In reality, the offseason is a time during which plenty of mistakes are made. Otherwise, every franchise would be a perennial contender. While most teams won't be quick to admit their mistakes, they most certainly regret them.
Over the next 32 pages we will examine the biggest offseason regret of each NFL team in 2014. Since no offseason move will really pay off until the regular season is actually underway, this is a list based on current general perception and on the choices that could have been made.
Please feel free to list your ideas of offseason regrets in the comments section.
Not re-signing Jairus Byrd
Letting go of a premier player in his prime rarely comes off looking like a wise decision.
While the Buffalo Bills likely felt that free safety Jairus Byrd was asking for too much money, allowing him to walk leaves a sizable hole in the back of the defense. Byrd was ranked eighth overall among all safeties by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) for the 2013 season.
Thanks to a six-year, $54 million deal, Byrd will be lending his talents to the New Orleans Saints for the foreseeable future.
Signing Knowshon Moreno
The Miami Dolphins signed running back Knowshon Moreno to a free-agent deal this offseason in order to help improve a rushing attack that ranked just 26th in the NFL last season.
However, Moreno has either been out of shape or injured for the vast majority of the offseason and has not been able to leap past third-year running back Lamar Miller on the depth chart.
According to ESPN's James Walker, Moreno is still not 100 percent but has been "making progress."
Progress is good, but it likely isn't what the Dolphins were hoping for when they added the former Denver Broncos rusher.
New England Patriots
Allowing LeGarrette Blount to walk in free agency
New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for 772 yards and a five yards-per-carry average in 2013. He also rushed for 166 yards in a playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts.
However, the Patriots must have decided that Blount was not valuable enough to re-sign and allowed the former Oregon standout to sign a two-year $3.85 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency.
For a team that isn't exactly loaded with superstar offensive talent, this may have been a major misstep, especially considering Blount's modest price tag.
New York Jets
Denying Michael Vick a legitimate starting opportunity
The New York Jets nearly found a way to make the postseason in 2013, and should realistically be functioning in win-now mode.
However, the team has decided not to turn to offseason addition Michael Vick at quarterback in order to set the stage for a playoff season this year. Instead, the team appears to fully support second-year signal-caller Geno Smith, who was ranked 40th overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus last season.
According to Dom Cosentino of NJ.com, Vick could see time as a change-of-pace quarterback this season. However, this role may not be enough to significantly improve the New York quarterback situation of a season ago.
Not drafting a cornerback
The Baltimore Ravens did rank 12th in pass defense (230.1 yards per game allowed) in 2013. However, the team also parted ways with cornerback Corey Graham (74 tackles, four interceptions) during the offseason.
However, the Ravens chose not to select a cornerback at any point in May's draft.
A defense-heavy draft could help Baltimore rebound from last year's 8-8 disappointment, but not strengthening the cornerback position could prove to be a big mistake.
Losing both offensive and defensive coordinators
The Cincinnati Bengals will have brand new offensive and defensive coordinators in 2014.
This is because Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer left in the offseason to take head coaching jobs with the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings, respectively.
It is difficult to say whether the Bengals could have done anything to convince at least one of their coordinators to stick around (not being embarrassed in a playoff game might have helped), but losing both has the potential to cause serious problems in the coming season.
Not selecting a receiver in May's draft
Even with the NFL's leading receiver, Josh Gordon, on the roster, the Cleveland Browns only ranked 11th in passing offense (252.9 yards per game) in 2013.
This is a pretty good ranking for the Browns, but Gordon is currently facing a one-year ban from the NFL for substance abuse violation. Therefore, it would have been smart for Cleveland to target a receiver early in this year's draft.
The Browns instead chose not to select a receiver at any point in the draft.
Tom Reed of Cleveland.com recently put things into perspective when he stated, "It's a precipitous drop from Josh Gordon to the remaining wideouts."
If Gordon can't play this season, the Browns could really struggle in the passing game.
Waiting until the fifth round to address the offensive line
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked an alarming 112 times over the past three seasons.
Pittsburgh ranked just 22nd in the league in pass blocking last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Steelers had an opportunity to place a difference-maker along the offensive line by selecting among the many elite prospects in this year's draft. Instead, the team chose to wait until the fifth round to grab a pass-blocker (Vanderbilt's Wesley Johnson).
Allowing Ben Tate to leave in free agency
The Houston Texans may eventually regret passing on a quarterback early in the draft, but it's difficult to argue with the selection of Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall selection.
The more immediate regret may be allowing running back Ben Tate to sign with the Browns in free agency.
Tate signed a modest two-year, $6.2 million deal with Cleveland. While he was likely drawn to a potential starting opportunity, the Texans may have been able to retain him with a slightly better offer.
The reason the Texans may regret not doing so is the fact that starter Arian Foster has missed 11 games over the past three seasons due to injury, even with Tate sharing the load in the backfield.
Not re-signing Donald Brown
Running back Donald Brown led the Indianapolis Colts in rushing a season ago, despite starting a mere five games on the year.
However, the former first-round pick was allowed to leave for the San Diego Chargers in free agency.
However, the Colts are trying for a third-consecutive playoff appearance and may wind up regretting the decision to let Brown go to an in-conference foe.
Failing to add a big name in free agency
Targeting high-priced free agents with the goal of generating excitement rarely proves to be the right long-term move in today's NFL.
However, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a team desperate for relevance, and adding a well-known player may have helped generate some attention (and revenue) for the team in 2014.
Jacksonville's most well-known additions this offseason were defensive end Chris Clemons and running back Toby Gerhart. This isn't to suggest that these were not smart pickups, but neither player really makes a person want to check out what's happening in Jacksonville.
Not re-signing Alterraun Verner
Cornerback Alterraun Verner might not have been a perfect fit for new Tennessee Titans coordinator Ray Horton's defense. However, he was still a good enough player to be ranked 13th overall at his position by Pro Football Focus last season.
Players of Verner's caliber are typically difficult to replace. Re-signing him would have helped the new regime build its foundation more easily.
The fact that Verner commanded only a moderate four-year, $25.75 million deal on the open market makes the Titans' decision not to retain him a little questionable.
Signing Aqib Talib to a six-year deal
The Denver Broncos made it a goal to stock up on the defensive side of the football this past offseason. However, the decision to throw a six-year, $57 million contract at cornerback Aqib Talib may prove to be a regrettable one.
While only $25.5 million of the contract is guaranteed, this is a ridiculous amount of money to pay a player whose reputation far outweighs his ability.
Talib gained a lot of attention by playing for the Patriots, but he was ranked just 57th overall among cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season. He ranked 91st overall while with New England in 2012.
Kansas City Chiefs
Allowing the offensive line to fall apart
The Kansas City Chiefs lost a number of free agents during this year's free-agency period. What is alarming, however, is that the Chiefs allowed three starters along the offensive line to seek employment elsewhere.
Tackle Branden Albert and guards Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz each started a minimum of seven games this past season. All three are now gone.
While the Chiefs did add a couple of offensive linemen late in the draft, this is a high amount of turnover in one area for a playoff-caliber team. A lack of continuity along the line could wind up hurting the Chiefs in 2014.
Trading for Matt Schaub
If veteran quarterback Matt Schaub finds a way to get the Oakland Raiders through the 2014 season with even moderate success, the team may not regret trading a sixth-round pick to acquire him.
However, Schaub was a disappointment in 2013, ranking 38th among quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. He went just 3-of-7 for 21 yards in the Raiders preseason opener.
Grabbing a veteran like Schaub as a stopgap option was a relatively sound move for Oakland. The issue is that Oakland probably could have found a quarterback that didn't cost a draft pick and a $13.5 million contract.
San Diego Chargers
Not landing a premier cornerback in free agency
The San Diego Chargers managed to slip into the postseason last year, despite fielding the league's 29th-ranked pass defense (258.7 yards per game allowed).
Adding cornerback Jason Verrett in the first round of May's draft should help improve the unit. However, the Chargers would have greatly benefited from adding a top-tier free agent like Darrelle Revis or Alterraun Verner to the mix.
San Diego's highest-rated cornerback last season was Johnny Patrick, who was ranked 95th at his position by Pro Football Focus.
Cutting ties with DeMarcus Ware
In yet another financially-motivated move, the Dallas Cowboys decided to part ways with one of the greatest defensive players in recent franchise history.
Defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who has racked up 117 career sacks, will be chasing quarterbacks with the Broncos this season because the Cowboys wanted to save a little cash.
The decision was made despite the fact that Dallas ranked dead last in the NFL in total defense (415.3 yards per game) a season ago.
New York Giants
Failing to add a playmaking tight end
With the tight end position gaining increasing importance in today's NFL, you would think the New York Giants would have found a way to add one during this past offseason.
However, New York failed to adequately replace departed veteran Brandon Myers in free agency and bypassed the position entirely in May's draft.
The end result is that the Giants are heading into the 2014 season with a mix of mostly unknowns that includes Larry Donnell, Adrian Robinson, Daniel Fells and Xavier Grimble.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Focus, there has been no obvious separation at the position for the Giants. A lack of talent separation most often means that there is a concerning lack of talent at a position.
Not trading DeSean Jackson
Parting ways with Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson wasn't entirely a mistake for the Philadelphia Eagles.
According to Joseph Santoliquito of CBS Philadelphia, Jackson was insubordinate and was not well-liked by his teammates last season.
Philadelphia's mistake was failing to find a way to move Jackson via trade. Releasing Jackson allowed the three-time Pro Bowler to sign with the rival Washington Redskins as a free agent.
This makes the Redskins a stronger team on paper and means the Eagles will have to face their former star twice per season.
Retaining Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator
Shortly after arriving with the team, new Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden made the decision to bring back defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
This seems like a curious move when you consider that the Washington defense surrendered an alarming 29.9 points per contest (tied for 30th in the league) under Haslett in 2013.
While continuity may help Washington in the short-term, Haslett is in the final year of his contract and may be gone following the 2014 season anyway.
Giving Jay Cutler $126 million
The Chicago Bears made a long-term commitment to quarterback Jay Cutler shortly after their season ended by giving him a seven-year, $126.7 million deal. If Cutler helps Chicago reach the promised land, then the team won't regret it.
However, the fact remains that Cutler is a guy who has never held a season-long passer rating above 90 and who has made the playoffs just once in his eight-year career.
Cutler was also rated one spot below backup Josh McCown by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season.
Committing to Cutler may prove to be the right long-term choice, but $126 million, with $54 million guaranteed, is a lot of money to hand a player who has proved nothing in the postseason.
Bypassing defense to grab a pass-catcher early in the draft
The Detroit Lions fielded the league's sixth-best offense (392.1 yards per game) in 2013. The team also added wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency.
Offense was definitely not a pressing need heading into the 2014 draft. Yet Detroit decided to use the 10th overall pick on former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.
While the defense wasn't exactly horrendous last season (ranked 16th, allowing 346.6 yards per game), grabbing a game-changing defender with this pick would've made a lot more sense.
Green Bay Packers
Not re-signing James Jones
Wide receiver James Jones didn't lead the Green Bay Packers in receiving last season, but he did produce an impressive 817 yards on 59 receptions.
While the Packers may have simply wanted to get younger at the position (Jones turned 30 earlier this year), it is interesting that the veteran receiver signed with the Raiders for just $10 million over three years.
Second-round draft pick Davante Adams may find a way to immediately contribute, but the Packers may also regret passing on an opportunity to sign a guy like Jones for such an agreeable price.
Retaining Christian Ponder
Quarterback Christian Ponder all but confirmed that he wasn't the answer for the Minnesota Viking with a lackluster 2013 performance. He was ranked 35th at his position by Pro Football Focus for the season.
Yet the Vikings apparently decided to give Ponder one more crack by keeping him around to compete with Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job.
The problem is that by keeping Ponder, the Vikings have turned their backs on the idea of adding a veteran like Michael Vick or Josh McCown who may have actually added something to the quarterback competition.
Not drafting a replacement for Tony Gonzalez
Tony Gonzalez was arguably the greatest tight end to ever grace an NFL field, and his retirement leaves the Atlanta Falcons with a large void on the offense.
The Falcons had an opportunity to draft a premier tight end prospect like Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Jace Amaro with their second-round draft selection (37th overall) but chose defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman instead.
Hageman helos to fill a need and may prove to be the right choice, but the Falcons may also strongly regret not grabbing Gonzalez's replacement with the pick. The Falcons currently have second-year tight end Levine Toilolo atop the depth chart, according to the team's official website.
Releasing Steve Smith
Last season, the Carolina Panthers fielded just one receiver who was rated among the top 48 by Pro Football Focus. His name was Steve Smith, and the Panthers decided to dump him during the offseason.
Smith is 35 years old and saw a dip in production this past season. However, he is arguably the greatest player in Panthers franchise history.
According to Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, Smith had initially planned to retire as a Panther following the 2014 season. Allowing him to do so would have been the respectful way for the Panthers to say goodbye to the longtime face of the franchise.
New Orleans Saints
Trading Darren Sproles
It is still unclear exactly why the New Orleans Saints decided to deal running back Darren Sproles to the Eagles for only a fifth-round pick.
What is clear is the fact that the move leaves New Orleans short another offensive playmaker. The Saints also parted ways with wide receiver Lance Moore during the offseason.
Sproles racked up 824 yards of total offense with four touchdowns last season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Releasing Darrelle Revis
It makes perfect sense why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to part ways with cornerback Darrelle Revis and his $16 million salary this offseason.
However, the fact still remains that Revis was the league's top cornerback in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus.
That the team couldn't find a way to retain Revis, or at least get something in return via trade, has to leave a sour taste in Tampa's proverbial mouth.
Letting Karlos Dansby leave in free agency
Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby played a vital role for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013.
Dansby racked up 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks and snagged four interceptions while scoring twice last season. Yet, the Cardinals allowed him to sign a four-year deal with Cleveland in free agency.
Arizona likely didn't want to commit $24 million to a linebacker who will turn 33 this season, but they may severely miss their defensive star in the coming season.
San Francisco 49ers
Not re-signing Tarell Brown
The decision by the San Francisco 49ers not to re-sign safety Donte Whitner grabbed a lot more media attention this offseason. However, not re-signing cornerback Tarell Brown may have actually been the bigger mistake.
Brown referred to the 49ers' offer as "a slap in the face" during an offseason interview with Erik Kuselias of Pro Football Talk.
San Francisco could have likely retained Brown for a manageable fee, but they chose to let him walk.
Not re-signing Golden Tate
When you're the defending Super Bowl champions, other teams are going to target your players.
The Seattle Seahawks found a way to retain star defender Michael Bennett in free agency, but couldn't prevent wide receiver Golden Tate from signing with the Lions.
Detroit may have overpaid a bit by inking Tate to a five-year, $31 million deal. However, the Seahawks are likely to regret not finding a way to bring back their leading receiver from a season ago.
Tate was ranked 18th overall among receivers for the 2013 season by Pro Football Focus.
St. Louis Rams
Parting Ways with Kellen Clemens
Few teams truly regret saying goodbye to a backup quarterback. Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, however, is a little different because he wound up starting nine games for the St. Louis Rams a season ago.
Clemens was ranked 25th overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus last season, just three spots below starter Sam Bradford. Considering that Bradford has missed 15 games over the past three seasons, keeping Clemens around would have made sense.
However, Clemens left in free agency for the San Diego Chargers and the Rams will rely on journeyman Shaun Hill in the backup role.