The NFL has put on it’s greatest NBA impersonation with an offseason full of blockbuster trades, drama with star players and a whole lot of money flying around.
Yet, alike the NBA, the smart teams either sat out the feeding frenzy or poached talent on the cheap from the league’s biggest sellers; while the league’s worst front offices drained their cap space, sacrificed their future flexibility or got fleeced in bad trades.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions: The Big Spenders
While the Raiders feasted on the Steelers impotence by landing arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, Antonio Brown, for only a 3rd and 5th rounder, Oakland dropped a boat load of cash on fringe players.
With $174 million spent on 21 incoming free agents, the Raiders sit just behind the Jets with the most spent this offseason. Yet, while the Jets overpaid perennial Pro Bowlers Le’Veon Bell and CJ Mosley, the Raiders overpaid Trent Brown and Tyrell Williams.
Oakland made Brown the highest paid lineman in NFL history, despite having only above average season, which didn’t come until last year in New England after washing out in San Francisco. Nothing in Brown’s career indicates he’d deserve anywhere close to his $66 million contract, not to mention former Patriots lineman have a track record of being horrifically overvalued after leaving Foxborough. Show me Nate Solder.
Williams was pegged as AB’s partner in crime, but was drastically overpaid with a $44 million contract. To put it in perspective, Williams will make in the range of Pro Bowlers Keenan Allen, Doug Baldwin and Larry Fitzgerald, with only two seasons finishing over 700 yards. Yikes.
Free agency doesn’t officially kick off until Washington drops a massive contract they live to regret.
In 2000, Washington signed the 32-year-old Deion Sanders — who had just been cut by Dallas — to a seven-year $55 million contract. He retired from football after just one season in the nation’s capital.
In 2006, Adam Archuleta was signed to a six-year $30 million contract, replacing incumbent safety Ryan Clark. Archuleta was out of the league by 2008, while Clark went on to add a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl title to his resume.
And of course, who could forget Albert Haynesworth’s $100 million deal, which only lasted 20 games.
This year, Washington made their familiar doozy splash with the six-year $84 million Landon Collins signing. It’s no secret that Collins is one of the best safeties in the NFL, and at only 25, Collins is positioned to be a long-term leader of the Washington D. The thing is, in a deep safety market for an undervalued position, they did absolutely not have to pay that high.
Paying that much for a safety with clear coverage limitations is just another example of Washington spending for the sake of spending.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Total Money Spent: $189 Million
Biggest Additions: Nick Foles, Chris Conley, Cedric Ogbeuhi
Biggest Departures: Blake Bortles, Malik Jackson, Carlos Hyde
Ring the bells, the Blake Bortles era in Jacksonville is finally over. Foles is in town and a clear upgrade over Bortles — to be fair, that’s not saying much. But with a Super Bowl MVP, one of the most efficient seasons in NFL history and a Pro Bowl to boot, dude has shown that he can play in the right situations.
However, he hasn’t shown the ability to carry a bad team on his back, look no further than his anemic 2015 season with the Rams. Foles is a system quarterback, he needs weapons surrounding him to succeed. As of yet, the Jags have none.
Jacksonville has no 1000-yard receivers on it’s roster, the closest being Marqise Lee who has a single season over 850 yards. The seldom-used, drop-heavy Chris Conley won’t add much to that core. Their best tight end is former Cowboy Geoff Swaim, who only has 35 career catches in four seasons. Leonard Fournette has shown he can’t stay healthy enough to be reliable.
Squint and you’ll an offense as anemic as the Jeff Fisher Rams, and at least they had Todd Gurley.
3. Denver Broncos
Total Spent: $139 Million
Biggest Additions: Joe Flacco, Kareem Jackson, Ja’Wuan James
Biggest Departures: Case Keenum, Bradley Roby, Shaquil Barrett
In an offseason that saw Antonio Brown shipped within the division and Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, the Broncos big trade landed … Joe Flacco. Not too inspirational for a team that’s been directionless in finding a quarterback since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset. The trade exposes John Elway’s major blind spot for the position he excelled at.
His delusional taste for large quarterbacks with huge arms has led him to believe that not only is Flacco the quarterback they’ve been waiting for, but that the 34-year-old quarterback is just now entering his prime. The past few years has shown us Flacco is no savior. In fact, for the majority of his career his numbers have been mediocre at best. The man’s never been to a single Pro Bowl, but is paid more than Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Tom Brady and Cam Newton.
The guy had one moment, his brief magic in the 2012 Super Bowl run. Of course, the Super Bowl charge ran through Denver with a moment of historical luck and stupidity that Elway won’t be sure to forget.
The offseason hasn’t been all bad. The signings of defensive backs Bryce Callahan and Kareem Jackson extend Elway’s track record of defensive finds. Signing arguably the best tackle available in Ja’Wuan James is huge for what’s been one of the worst offensive lines in the league the last few years. But sacrificing a fourth round pick for a guy who is more expensive and only marginally (if any) better than last year’s failed stop gap quarterback, Case Keenum, is unforgiveable.
Chris Harris Jr.’s holdout doesn’t help either.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Total Spent: $113 million
Biggest Additions: Mark Barron, Donte Moncrief, Steven Nelson
Biggest Departures: Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Morgan Burnett
Heading into last offseason, the Steelers were coming off a year where they were a few unlucky bounces away from being the top seed in the AFC. If the referees had counted Jesse James’ disallowed touchdown, which ended up costing the Steelers the game against the Patriots, the Steelers very well could have clinched the #1 seed in the AFC, who knows how that could change things.
This offseason, the Steelers are coming off a season where they missed the playoffs for the first time in six years. Le’Veon Bell, gone. Antonio Brown, gone. The last of the Three B’s — the greatest collection of Steelers offensive talent since the days of Terry Bradshaw, John Stallworth and Lynn Swann — is an aging quarterback a few years past his prime who may have a hand in the other’s departures.
The “Steeler way” cost the Rooney’s another decade of relevance.
Yes, Le’Veon Bell has been suspended or held out for four consecutive seasons. Yes, Antonio Brown is the prima donna of our times and looks more like an eccentric Bond villain than an NFL star these days.
How many other proud organizations have swallowed their pride in getting production from diva talent? Michael Irving, Terrell Owens, Deion Sanders, Beckham Jr. (until recently), Warren Sapp, Randy Moss, Chad Ocho Cinco and Dez Bryant were all allowed to operate without impunity as long as they were valuable. There’s not a lot of Jerry Rices and Larry Fitzgeralds out there.
But the Steelers put the brand above the production and sold short on two of the league’s biggest talents. It would be one thing if the Steelers grabbed significant assets from the duo, but after a publicized spat with Brown they gave up their leverage and only managed to land a 3rd and 5th round pick from Oakland, and after playing chicken with Bell for three seasons they lost him for nothing.
Now, after doubling down on a quarterback who’s arm is on the downturn and reputation in the shitter, the Steelers are at best a fringe playoff contender as now the 3rd best team in their division. As soon as Big Ben calls it a day, the Steelers will look closer to the Browns of yesteryear than the Three B’s.
1. New York Giants
Total Money Spent: $117 million
Biggest Additions: Golden Tate, Jabrill Peppers, Kevin Zeitler
Biggest Departures: Odell Beckham Jr., Landon Collins, Olivier Vernon
On its own, trading OBJ for assets isn’t the worst thing in the world. Neither is having to pay $16 million in dead cap to their departed receiver. Neither is signing a 30-year-old Golden Tate to a four-year $37 million contract. Not even bringing back the long-defunct 38-year-old Eli Manning.
Throw them altogether, however, and you have one of the most bizarre, potentially horrific offseasons, ever.
GM Dave Gettleman clearly isn’t interested in winning right now. You wouldn’t trade your best player, allow your talented young safety to walk without attempting to slap a franchise tag on him, deal your only plus edge rusher and retain one of the worst quarterbacks of the past few seasons if you interested in contending in the foreseeable future.
But they’re not playing for the future exactly either. They wouldn’t sign a 30-year-old receiver to a four-year-deal if they thought they were a few years away from being competitive.
The scary part is Gettleman may actually believe the Giants can compete. Sure, he may just be blowing smoke up our asses, but the simpler truth suggests he may not be lying and may actually just be that insane. With a team that is tanking one day and splurging the next, it’s impossible to tell if Gettleman’s just fucking with us or really has no earthly idea what he’s doing.
The draft is the last chance to reveal sort of semblance of a game-plan. With the 6th and 17th overall picks, New York could be in play for quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock at six (though the Giants don’t seem high on the former), Lock or Daniel Jones at 17 or compile their picks for a move up for Kyler Murray. If they decide to pass on a quarterback in the first round this draft is loaded with elite pass rushers, one should still be available at six.
But with Gettleman’s spotty draft track record, especially in the first round, don’t bet the farm on the Giants figuring it out.