10 Offseason Moves That May Have Backfired on NFL Teams

Teams like the Giants and Cowboys may be kicking themselves right now

Teams and players spent the last eight months making decisions and sticking by them, feeling good about their choices and insisting they’re convinced they made the right moves.
 
Then, on Opening Weekend, came the temptation to tear up the entire plan and start all over again.
 
That’s the way it is in the NFL, where the season is short (relatively), games are important, and the overreactions fly in the wind with the ever-changing mood. One game is enough to build regrets and to burst the bubbles of optimism. Sure it’s early, but it’s never too early to look at some of the offseason moves – or non-moves – that may have completely backfired on some players and some teams:
 
10. The Cowboys not drafting Johnny Manziel. Jerry Jones now says he wanted Johnny Football as a way to keep the Cowboys’ relevant, and it sure looks like they’re headed for irrelevancy quickly. Their Week 1 loss at home to the 49ers showed that Tony Romo, coming off back surgery, may not be quite ready. Either that or he’s just his usual, turnover-prone mess. Either way, you want relevant? Imagine the conversation in Dallas this week after Romo’s three-interception performance if Texas’ own Manziel was on the bench.
 
9. The Browns signing RB Ben Tate. The Browns only gave him a two-year, $6.2 million contract, but they entrusted him with their running game as they attempted to begin what seems like a yearly rebuilding project. That’s great, because he’s always been underrated. But it was risky because he’s also always been injury prone. So is anyone surprised that he sprained his knee in Week 1 and might be out a month?
 
8. The Panthers releasing WR Steve Smith. He’s 35 years old and small and expensive, so it wasn’t crazy that Carolina released the best receiver it ever had. But they had to have second thoughts after seeing his seven-catch, 118-yard, one-TD debut with the Baltimore Ravens. The Panthers had 230 yards passing and 20 points total. Sure it was Derek Anderson and QB and not the injured Cam Newton, but a receiver of Smith’s caliber sure would’ve helped.
 
7. The Giants not spending more on their offensive line. They spent $116 million in contracts on offseason improvements, but the only moves they made on the line – which was supposedly their “No. 1 priority” this offseason - was to sign G Geoff Schwartz (now on short-term IR) and C J.D. Walton who just played his first game in two years. The result was about what you’d expect. QB Eli Manning dropped back to pass 35 times and was hit nine times and new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s attack never really got off the ground.
 
6. Ditto for the Chiefs and their offensive line. They let Schwartz go, along with LT Branden Albert and RG Jon Asamoah and flipped 2013 first-rounder Eric Fisher over to LT as they tried to rebuild on the fly. Great move, making things less stable for a QB like Alex Smith. Not surprisingly, the Chiefs offense completely stalled and picked up just 67 yards on the ground. The leading rusher, by the way, was Smith with 36 yards. So at least, when there’s trouble – and there’ll be a lot of it this season – he can run away.
 
5. WR Eric Decker leaving the Broncos for the Jets. He got a five-year, $36 million contract from the Jets with $15 million guaranteed, so he can laugh on his way to the bank. But he traded QB Peyton Manning for QB Geno Smith and switched from an offense that gained 259 passing yards on a slow night on Week 1 to one that gained 190 on what might be a great night for the Jets. But hey, at least he’s got the cash.
 
4. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers not drafting a QB. How much does Lovie Smith and his staff hate second-year pro Mike Glennon that they’re willing to endure the 35-year-old Josh McCown, who threw two interceptions and passed for 183 yards in their opening day loss? If it really is as much as people believe, they should’ve drafted a QB at No. 7, when at that point only Blake Bortles was off the board. They may have found a keeper at that spot in WR Mike Evans, but who’s going to throw him the ball?
 
3. The St. Louis Rams not drafting a QB. It’s not their fault that Sam Bradford got hurt, but it wasn’t terribly surprising after he missed half of last season. Plus, he hadn’t exactly distinguished himself in the NFL yet. But instead of moving on, the Rams simply backed him up with 34-year-old veteran Shaun Hill, who is also now hurt. Now they may be in the hands of Austin Davis, a second-year pro who was undrafted and was once a walk-on at Southern Miss. … Well, Kurt Warner once came out of nowhere too, so anything is possible.
 
2. The Raiders trading for QB Matt Schaub. No, it didn’t cost much and neither did he, but the move in March seemed to signal that the Raiders were serious about competing. GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen are on hot seats and they knew they couldn’t trust Terrelle Pryor or Matt McGloin with their jobs. Well guess what? They couldn’t trust Schaub either. They drafted rookie Derek Carr, he won the job, and wasn’t awful in a tough debut against the Jets (20 of 32, 151 yards, two TDs, no INTs). He will likely experience plenty of rookie struggles. So the Raiders are back in rebuilding mode. And if they get a new coach/GM next season, they’ll be rebuilding again.
 
1. The Broncos letting RB Knowshon Moreno go. This won’t destroy a team that’s probably destined for the Super Bowl, but the Broncos nearly blew a big lead on Sunday night because they struggled to run the ball when they needed to protect the lead and move the clock. Montee Ball rushed 23 times for 67 yards – just 2.9 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Moreno, who had a breakout year last season, was supposed to be a product of a Denver offense that helps running backs thrive. He was supposed to come back to Earth in miserable Miami. Instead, on Opening Day, he rushed 24 times for 134 yards and a touchdown – a healthy 5.1 yards per rush.

 

—By Ralph Vacchiano
 

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