The NFL draft is over, and most of the top free agents have signed. Some NFL teams aced the offseason, doing an amazing job to improve their rosters. Other teams did not.
It’s the latter group that gets our attention here as we pinpoint eight NFL teams that failed in their quest to upgrade during the offseason.
New York Giants
New York’s two big free agency pickups were a couple of aging veterans — receiver Golden Tate and safety Antoine Bethea — who are on their way down. General manager Dave Gettleman then made the biggest reach of the entire draft selecting Daniel Jones out of Duke No. 6 overall.
Making matters worse, he failed to upgrade his offense in the draft, selecting seven defenders — including another reach for nose tackle Dexter Lawrence at No. 17 overall. Just an abysmal display of personnel management by the Giants, who will almost certainly be picking early again in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Houston’s offseason strategy was befuddling. The main objective should have been protecting quarterback Deshaun Watson. General manager Brian Gaine signed Matt Kalil in free agency, then took a huge gamble expending a first-round pick on Tytus Howard out of Alabama State. Both of those decisions could doom Watson to another season spent largely on his backside.
Additionally, Houston let two top defensive backs — Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson — leave in free agency. Drafting cornerback Lonnie Johnson was a savvy move, yet it doesn’t impact the team enough to mitigate the rest of the poor moves made by Gaine this offseason.
Head coach Matt Patricia is trying to turn Detroit into the New England Patriots. To that end, the Lions made Trey Flowers one of the richest defenders in NFL history. This, despite the fact that Flowers’ has never had more than 7.5 sacks in a season. Detroit also spent big money on former Patriots and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Justin Coleman, and on tight end Jesse James.
Doubling down on the tight end position (remind you of anyone?), Detroit then spent the No. 8 overall pick on T.J. Hockenson out of Iowa. On the surface, that’s not a bad pick. However, Matthew Stafford has never gotten much out of his tight ends — just look at how much better Eric Ebron was in Indianapolis last year than he was in Detroit. The rest of Detroit’s draft wasn’t great, either — highlighted by a massive reach for linebacker Jahlani Tavai out of Hawaii.
The Raiders spent record-breaking money bringing in offensive tackle Trent Brown. Then they turned him into a right tackle. They brought in Antonio Brown thanks to a trade, but he hasn’t stopped the activities on social media that caused so many problems in Pittsburgh. Oakland also paid big money to receiver Tyrell Williams, who was never more than a role player in Los Angeles, and safety Lamarcus Joyner, who will struggle to have a big impact outside of Wade Phillips’ scheme.
Oakland’s draft was highlighted by a massive reach for defensive end Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 overall. The Raiders seemingly did some solid work overall in the draft, but given the way Jon Gruden manages his roster we’re not sold any of it will pan out.
Cincinnati’s free-agency class was uninspiring — putting it mildly. The Bengals made the baffling move to give one of the NFL’s worst offensive tackles — Bobby Hart — a three-year deal worth more than $16 million. They also paid tight end C.J. Uzomah — a player who has five touchdowns in four seasons — $18.3 million over three years. Baffling moves, both.
The Bengals had Alabama product Jonah Williams fall into their lap at No. 11 overall. That’s the good news. With their second-round pick, however, they took tight end Drew Sample — a player who didn’t expect to be drafted until Day 3. The selection of Ryan Finley in Round 4 doesn’t do anything to really put pressure on Andy Dalton this year, either. It’s a bit like doubling down on lukewarm oatmeal. Overall, the Bengals look like the same team that won 19 games the past three seasons.
Sure, the Bears didn’t have a draft pick until the third round, and they didn’t have a ton of money to spend in free agency. So, it’s not surprising that they had a rather tepid offseason in terms of impact additions.
The team’s big free-agency acquisitions were an aging cornerback in Buster Skrine, and return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson. Neither player inspires much confidence. In the draft, general manager Ryan Pace moved up 14 spots in the third round for running back David Montgomery, who honestly might not provide much more than Jordan Howard in the long run. Taking receiver Riley Ridley in Round 4 was another move that we’re not exited about.
Jacksonville will live or die based on how Nick Foles performs in the next couple of seasons. That move alone makes the Jaguars big losers. Foles — a career backup who has enjoyed a few magical stretches — walks into a situation where he has far less talent in the receiving corps than he did in Philadelphia.
In the draft, the Jaguars failed to provide real weapons for Foles. The addition of offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor could pay off in the long run. But the raw prospect will struggle — if he even starts as a rookie. Edge rusher Josh Allen might be amazing, but he joins a seriously crowded defensive front and will have a limited role early in his career as well.
Obviously the big deal this offseason was getting star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence signed to one of the richest contracts for a defender in the league. A team with little cap space to work with, Dallas wasn’t able to do much else in free agency, unless you count bringing in Randall Cobb to replace Cole Beasley — a move we’re not high on.
Some people really liked the draft Dallas had. Obviously Amari Cooper represents the first-round pick Dallas traded to Oakland. In Round 2 the Cowboys took a huge risk selecting defensive tackle Trysten Hill out of UCF. He barely played last season as he was in Josh Heupel’s doghouse, and Dallas wouldn’t even take him until he agreed to a work-ethic contract. Will Jerry Jones never learn?