Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s easy to look back now and see exactly what your favorite NFL team could have done differently in the offseason. And that’s exactly what we’ve asked SB Nation’s NFL team sites to do this week.
For some teams, the answer was clear. The Cardinals let Calais Campbell walk in free agency, and he’s been a force for the Jaguars. Campbell has eight sacks on the season already. The Cardinals’ entire defense has just 12.
The answer for the Jaguars is also obvious. Blake Bortles is not going to be a viable franchise quarterback, and they should have gone after one in free agency or snagged someone in the draft. Bortles is averaging 178 passing yards per game and has eight touchdowns against five picks.
Jacksonville is ranked eighth in the league for scoring, but that’s not because of Bortles. The Jaguars have been helped along by six rushing touchdowns, which ties them for third in the NFL. A league-best four defensive touchdowns have also made a difference and don't have a thing to do with Bortles.
Our team sites weighed in and shared what they thought their favorite team would pick if they had do-over, whether it was a move the team made or one they didn’t. Here’s what they chose:
Arizona Cardinals: They never should have let Calais Campbell walk
While the signing of Chandler Jones was important, it seemed to be rather easy to get a contract sorted out. Instead of doing that first, then franchising Campbell to insure he was around for one more season, while also making sure that Robert Nkemdiche was ready for the spotlight.
Instead, the Cardinals gambled. They let Calais walk and he has been a part of the transformation of the Jacksonville Jaguars defense.
Campbell through six games has eight sacks (second most in the NFL), two more than Chandler Jones on the season, and is one away from tying his career high.
Atlanta Falcons: They should have drafted a defensive tackle
Had the Falcons known [stopping the run] would be an issue, they may have elected to pick up a defensive tackle in the draft, because this looks like a pretty solid class. That would have given them another young, fresh player on the interior this entire time, and I believe that could have made a legitimate different in the outcomes of the Buffalo and Miami games.
For more, check out the entire entry at the Falcoholic.
Baltimore Ravens: They shouldn’t have passed up JuJu Smith-Schuster
It was tough to narrow this one down. Kyle Barber, the managing editor of Baltimore Beatdown, writes:
It’s a really difficult thing to look back on and make a definitive response. I was confident in the offensive line, with Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda as the interior players. I believe right tackle was the biggest loss, followed by skipping over JuJu Smith-Schuster. Austin Howard has performed well, so I’m not taking Ricky Wagner back. My final answer, not drafting Juju. Baltimore misses out on yet another wideout.
Buffalo Bills: Not bringing in a better offensive coordinator
There were rumors Mike McCoy was on Sean McDermott’s short list of candidates. Instead, Buffalo ended up with Rick Dennison who has never called plays before and Buffalo’s run game has suffered immensely, the new blocking schemes aren’t working, and their passing game is worse, too.
Carolina Panthers: They should have fired Dave Gettleman sooner
The common theory for Gettleman’s exit — and all we have are theories because Richardson has been notoriously silent on his reasoning for the decision — is that folks inside the organization grew tired of Gettleman’s poor ‘bedside manner’ when dealing with pending free agents during contract negotiations. Panthers fans saw the departures of Jordan Gross, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith and Josh Norman under Gettleman’s watch, and were preparing for the potential exits of Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen in the near future. Apparently those last two players were the final straw for Richardson, and he decided to choose loyalty over winning by giving Gettleman the axe.
Chicago Bears: Mike Glennon should have never started
So, what is my issue with the Glennon signing? My issue is that once it became evident that Glennon was a net-negative on the field, he no longer should have been playing. To me, Glennon’s career combined with his preseason performance was enough to jeopardize his starting job heading into week 1.
Cincinnati Bengals: Letting Andrew Whitworth go to the Rams in free agency
It was a hot button issue when the team let Whitworth leave for the Los Angeles Rams on a three-year, $33,750,000 deal. Last season the offensive line didn’t play well, but it wasn’t Whitworth’s fault. He had one of his best season’s at the age of 34. He turned 35 last December, so the Bengals had an issue giving him a long-term deal. This reportedly rubbed Whitworth the wrong way, and when the Rams offered him a massive three-year contract he took it. Now, with that said, the Rams could opt out of the deal in 2018 or 2019 with relative ease. Though, it's pretty obvious that won't be happening in 2018 based on how well Whitworth is continuing to play this year.
For more, check out the entire entry at Cincy Jungle.
Cleveland Browns: Not giving DeShone Kizer more receiving talent to work with
However, while the team repaired several spots on the team this offseason, most notable the offensive line, they failed when it came to the receiver position. They threw their money at Kenny Britt, and he’s had a Dwayne Bowe-like start to the season. With Corey Coleman sidelined, the team’s most intriguing receivers are Kasen Williams and Bryce Treggs, guys who would be practice squad players elsewhere. The free agent market wasn’t exactly oozing with talent, but still, there’s no arguing that something could have gone better at this position.
Dallas Cowboys: They should have looked for more help at linebacker
But as time went on and Sean Lee got hurt, Smith, and Durant to a lesser degree, were exposed by the Rams and the Packers. Not only in the running game but in pass coverage and containing the quarterback. Damien Wilson has also not taken the next step up. Without Lee, the linebackers have been a mess. If they could have found a player to help (yes, I know that’s not always easy to do, but they could have made a serious effort), then I believe they could be 3-2 or possibly 4-1 at this point.
Denver Broncos: They should have kept Russell Okung
They would be in pretty good shape, actually. Okung has graded out at a respectable 72.7 from Pro Football Focus at left tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers, which means he could have found success at right tackle in Denver. He certainly would be better than the putrid 38.7 PFF grade that Watson has put out so far this season.
Detroit Lions: The pass rush was neglected
So what should they have done? Free agency didn’t turn out to be as fruitful as the Lions had likely hoped. Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, Jason Pierre-Paul and Charles Johnson all ended up re-signing with their teams before free agency opened.
But this looked to be a pretty decent draft to add an edge rusher. If Detroit didn’t want to take a chance on one of the top-tier edge rushers like Charles Harris or Taco Charlton, there were plenty of options later in the draft. They could have taken Carl Lawson (3.5 sacks in 2017) late in the third round or Deatrich Wise (3.0 sacks) instead of Michael Roberts in the fourth.
Green Bay Packers: Their big mistake was letting Micah Hyde go
The former Packers slot corner-slash-safety would have provided a steadying presence for the young secondary. Hyde would have been the team’s starting slot corner from day one, and he would have provided some critical depth at safety as well. As for his 2017, he leads the league with a career-high four interceptions and his contract — which carries a $4 million salary cap hit this season — should not have put the Packers in jeopardy of exceeding the cap.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Hyde would also provide value by remaining the Packers’ punt returner, a job at which Trevor Davis has failed to impress as yet.
Houston Texans: Letting A.J. Bouye sign with the Jaguars is the easy answer
I reckon many of you immediately shouted “RE-SIGN A.J. BOUYE!” in response to that query. Valid. Bouye was a revelation last year, and the Texans chose to neither sign him to a long-term deal nor utilize the franchise tag to keep him in Houston for at least one more year. Bouye decamped to Jacksonville, where he has joined forces with Jalen Ramsey to form a rather potent duo at cornerback, thus strengthening a very solid Jaguars defense.
Indianapolis Colts: Not bringing in Chris Ballard’s choice at head coach
The only thing worse than having to watch Colts football without Andrew Luck on the sideline — due to an injury he suffered during his time playing with, for and under Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano — is to watch Pagano lead a new quarterback and new team to inconsistent performances, blowout losses and leave fans asking the same coaching questions they were making over the last five years.
For more, check out the entire entry at Stampede Blue.
Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s simple. Sign a quarterback
Blake Bortles ain’t it and yet we’ve seen free agents and backups provide sparks for their teams. And Old Man Tom Coughlin wouldn’t have even needed to compromise his principles of not signing players who know their Constitutional rights to upgrade the position.
Look at Josh McCown and his over 70 percent completion percentage. With an overachieving defense, he’s one bad call away from being 4-2 — and he was signed for only $6 million! Or Jacoby Brissett who has been inconsistent at times but has picked up the playbook quicker than most and has provided a spark where a lesser quarterback would be 0-6 with that offensive line.
Why didn’t we give up some Day 3 draft picks for Brett Hundley or Matt Moore? Oh, because we really, really needed Dawuane Smoot and Blair Brown.
Kansas City Chiefs: They made the right call not to push Alex Smith to the side
The best move for the Chiefs is the one they didn’t make. As Joel Thorman explains:
But think back to how different things were in the preseason with how we viewed the quarterback situation. It wasn’t that long ago. I joked before the season that it would be a very Kansas City thing for Alex to come out and play really well and make this a tough decision next year. Even the Chiefs can’t get drafting a franchise quarterback right! And here we are.
Los Angeles Chargers: It’s time to think about life after Philip Rivers
The Chargers should have taken a quarterback with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Philip Rivers is nearing the end of his career whether we are ready to say goodbye or not. Deshaun Watson already looks like a franchise-changing player for the Houston Texans and it’s hard to imagine a future as bright as the one the Chargers would have if he was backing up Rivers right now. It might not have helped this year, but maybe it would have.
Los Angeles Rams: The signing of RB Lance Dunbar
It’s not a huge criticism. Dunbar came over from the Dallas Cowboys on a pretty inexpensive one-year deal. But given that he hasn’t contributed, well, anything to this point, it’s the easy target here.
I considered perhaps the lack of an extension for DL Aaron Donald or the extension for ILB Alec Ogletree here, but there’s some argument to be had. I’m not sure there is an argument left in support of the Dunbar move.
Miami Dolphins: They let all-around tight end Dion Sims walk
Tight end Dion Sims left the Dolphins to sign with the Chicago Bears on a three-year, $18 million contract. Miami traded a seventh-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for tight end Julius Thomas, who signed a two-year, $12.2 million contract after the trade. Basically, for a $300,000 2017 cap hit increase, the Dolphins swapped Thomas as the starting tight end over Sims.
For more, check out the entire entry at the Phinsider.
Minnesota Vikings: Signing an injured Latavius Murray
Murray was signed in late March, and it was assumed that he was going to be the guy that the Vikings would use as their go-to back in the post-Adrian Peterson era. Of course, a couple of days after he signed, Murray had surgery on an ankle that he had injured the previous season, and the injury kept him out for most of Training Camp.
New England Patriots: They didn’t keep Martellus Bennett
The most immediate and obvious change would be to not let Martellus Bennett go. The Patriots let Bennett walk to the Green Bay Packers and acquired Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts and James O’Shaughnessy from the Kansas City Chiefs. O’Shaughnessy didn’t make the final roster and Allen hasn’t recorded a single catch, even with Rob Gronkowski not playing last week. Allen’s been an okay blocker, but he’s been a huge drop from Bennett on the offense.
For more, check out the entire entry at Pats Pulpit.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints don’t have any offseason regrets
Given how everything has played out for the Saints, it might be safe to say that nothing would be changed if a do-over was in play. The best moves the team made in the offseason might have been the ones they didn’t make.
New York Giants: Figure out a way to fix the offensive line
Here’s how Big Blue View’s Ed Valentine would have done that:
Forget about signing wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Anyone who reads this site regularly should know that is a move I would not have made — and I said so before the Giants even made it. I did my best to give Marshall the benefit of the doubt, but no one should be surprised that didn’t work. The two years and $11 million the Giants gave Marshall would not have been enough to sign a big-name free agent offensive lineman. Perhaps, though, Marshall’s money and what the Giants spent in smaller signings on John Jerry and D.J. Fluker, would have been enough to get them in the ballpark for a top-tier player.
For more, check out the entire entry at Big Blue View.
New York Jets: Center is still a liability
The move I really can’t wrap my head around is the Jets handing Wesley Johnson the starting center job. Johnson filled in a lot for Nick Mangold last year, and his play was spotty. I can understand giving him a chance to compete for the job, but the Jets handed him the starting role with little resistance. And they ended up paying him median starting center money. There isn’t even a discount.
Oakland Raiders: Predictability on offense is a problem
To sum it up, this offense is a far cry from the dynamic offense of a year ago. Despite new weapons like Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook, and Cordarrelle Patterson. The only change was the offensive coordinator.
That doesn’t mean it all falls on him. It may be that last season Musgrave wasn’t holding the offense back, but rather masking Carr’s deficiencies and maximizing his strengths. Or, if you’d like to remain optimistic, they could just be going through some growing pains. And at 2-4 with the Chiefs coming to town in two days, there’s sparse hope there’s time to recover.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles made the right choice to trade Jordan Matthews
Bleeding Green Nation took it in a different direction:
So in honor of staying positive, I’m going to flip today’s question around into: “Where would the Eagles be if they HADN'T made a certain move?”
The move that comes to mind is the Eagles’ decision to trade Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick for Ronald Darby. A number of people were NOT on board with trading JMatt at the time.
There was concern about removing Matthews’ production from the offense. There was concern about losing a valued member of the locker room. There was concern about how this trade would specifically impact Carson Wentz.
Pittsburgh Steelers: What if they hadn’t signed Joe Haden?
If Haden had never been acquired, the Steelers would likely be looking at a couple options at the starting outside cornerback position opposite Artie Burns. If you recall, the team was having a “two dogs, one bone” competition between Ross Cockrell and Coty Sensabaugh at the end of the preseason, and the Steelers would likely have had to go with one of those players had Haden not been picked up as a free agent.
Would Cockrell or Sensabaugh be able to do what Haden has done with his experience, leadership and communication in the back end? Some might argue yes, but I will certainly sway towards the other side of the fence.
San Francisco 49ers: They should have drafted Deshaun Watson
The 49ers spent their No. 3 overall pick on Solomon Thomas, and he is off to a solid start. He has had some inconsistency, but he’s emerging as a solid presence on the line. It’s looking like a fairly solid selection, but if the 49ers could have landed a franchise quarterback there, it makes all the sense in the world. It’s too early to say Watson is going to keep this up, but it’s hard not to be impressed.
For more, check out the entire entry at Niners Nation.
Seattle Seahawks: They didn’t match the 49ers’ offer to Garry Gilliam
Even if the team didn’t view Gilliam as an NFL starter, having quality depth at the tackle position is still valuable. Gilliam hasn’t taken snaps as an NFL left tackle, but the likelihood that he is a better left tackle than Rees Odhiambo is very high. After letting Russell Okung leave after the 2015 season with no plan to replace him (no, Bradley Sowell doesn’t count), this makes two straight offseasons of very questionable decisions at the tackle position.
For more, check out the entire entry at Field Gulls.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They needed to sign more defensive talent
Number one on that list has to be pass-rusher. Noah Spence is slowly turning into an impressive player and Robert Ayers has his moments, but the Bucs still lack an impactful edge presence. And there’s a few players who would have fit the bill—Julius Peppers was available, and he has 6.5 sacks now. Calais Campbell was available, and he has a whopping eight sacks.
For more, check out the entire entry at Bucs Nation.
Tennessee Titans: They should have brought in A.J. Bouye
Jon Robinson has made a lot of great moves as the general manager of the Titans. The one move that he should have made this offseason was signing A.J. Bouye. The biggest weakness the Titans still have is the secondary. Think about how good this secondary would be with Bouye and Logan Ryan on the outside and Adoree Jackson in the slot.
Signing Bouye also would have weakened that Jaguars secondary that is one of the best in the league. The combination of Bouye and Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville is going to cause headaches for the Titans for the next few years.
Washington: Do what it takes to lock up Kirk Cousins
To me, if I could go back in time to the offseason, the one change I would make is pretty simple: I would have stroked the check necessary to lock Kirk Cousins up for years to come. Let’s set aside—for a moment—what we know about how Kirk has played this season. (He hasn’t been Joe Montana, but he has produced, and quite frankly, he has proven he is a top-flight starter in this league.)
For more, check out the entire entry at Hogs Haven.