Most questionable offseason move by each NFC team: 49ers’ handling of Jimmy Garoppolo, Saints’ draft trades
The 2022 NFL season is right around the corner, and all 32 teams have made moves that will directly affect how their respective campaigns go this year. If we are being honest, this was probably the most dramatic offseason in NFL history due to the quarterback movement, the resetting of the wide receivers market and then an entertaining draft to top it all off. In fact, we are still waiting for several high-profile free agents to decide on their new NFL homes.
As we continue to prepare for this upcoming season, let’s explore what we believe to be the most questionable move made this offseason by all 16 NFC teams. A “questionable” move should not be confused for “worst” move the franchise made. It can be a signing, release, trade or simply a decision that raised some questions. It could end up being beneficial for the team, or it could be a major mistake. With that being said, let’s jump in.
The Cardinals had two good running backs in 2021. Chase Edmonds recorded a career high 903 yards from scrimmage despite playing in just 12 games, and James Conner reestablished himself as a Pro Bowl running back with 1,127 yards from scrimmage and a career-high 18 touchdowns. Both were up for new deals this offseason, and the Cardinals opted to re-sign Conner to a three-year, $21 million deal that reportedly has a max of $25.5 million. Conner was the better running back last year, but he’s older and more expensive than Edmonds. Is he worth top-10 money? Is he going to be able to replicate the 2021 campaign? Only time will tell.
We could discuss the franchise chasing Deshaun Watson or trading Matt Ryan away here, but Matty Ice wasn’t going to play in Atlanta forever. Starting over at quarterback now is probably something many fans are OK with. The Falcons went out and signed Marcus Mariota in free agency, but also selected the second quarterback in the draft in Ridder. The Falcons had a chance to take either Ridder, Malik Willis, Matt Corral or Sam Howell. The Cincinnati product clearly topped the QB rankings in the front office, but was it the right decision? We’ll find out in a few years.
No one is rooting for a man to lose his job, but it feels as though Rhule could be a dead man walking. The former Baylor head coach is 10-23 in two seasons with Carolina, and it’s fair to wonder if anything will improve for the Panthers in 2022 considering their quarterback situation. Of course there’s an opportunity for Rhule to get off the hot seat in 2022, but The Athletic reported in December that team owner David Tepper is unhappy and embarrassed with the contract he gave Rhule.
Firing Rhule this offseason would have given the Panthers an opportunity to reset and check out the intriguing coaching carousel. Nathaniel Hackett, Doug Pederson, Josh McDaniels, Mike McDaniel, Kevin O’Connell, Brian Flores and Brian Daboll were all interesting prospects. If Carolina ends up firing Rhule in the middle of the season, maybe it will feel like the Panthers should have just done so earlier.
Chicago Bears: Passing on WRs in the draft
The Bears had plenty of holes to fill on their roster, but one that stood out and felt important was wide receiver. Not only did Chicago lose Allen Robinson in free agency, but it lost four of its top five wide receivers from the 2021 season. In the draft, general manager Ryan Poles elected to use his first two picks in the secondary with cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker. While these are two intriguing prospects that fill areas of need, the Bears made the decision to pass on wide receivers Wan’Dale Robinson, John Metchie III, Tyquan Thornton, George Pickens, Alec Pierce and Skyy Moore.
Darnell Mooney is a rising star and rookie Velus Jones Jr. could surprise some people, but the Bears could have added a starting wide receiver with one of those first two draft picks, and could have ultimately fast-tracked Justin Fields’ development if it worked out.
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The Cowboys didn’t have a great offseason, as they lost several starters on both sides of the ball. Two of the more curious situations had to do with wide receiver Amari Cooper and right tackle La’el Collins. It was known Dallas was trying to move on from Cooper, but would that split be via trade or release? It almost felt like the latter was coming, before the Cleveland Browns stepped in and gave up a fifth and sixth-round pick for the star wideout. Obviously Cooper is worth more, but Dallas was looking to save money. It’s tough trying to find a middle ground there, where you can get something in return for the player you know won’t be on your roster next season. What’s also interesting is that Cooper’s contract doesn’t even look the same now, because the wide receivers market exploded. Cooper went from a top-five wideout in terms of AAV to barely top 10.
Less than a week later, the Cowboys cut Collins — a post-June 1 cut that saved $10 million. As CBS Sports’ Patrik Walker wrote, it was a decision that caused a stir. It’s Terence Steele’s job now, and we’ll see if he can register an 82.0 PFF grade and an impressive 89.8 run blocking grade like Collins did last year.
The Lions were seen as a dark horse to select a quarterback in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. While they used the No. 32 overall pick to trade up for wide receiver Jameson Williams, it didn’t hurt Detroit’s chances of adding a quarterback. Surprisingly, there was just one signal-caller taken in the first 73 picks. The Lions absolutely had their chances to take Ridder, Corral or Willis. They even could have taken Howell or Bailey Zappe later on. Instead, they decided against it.
Jared Goff completed a career-high 67.2% of his passes and threw just eight interceptions last season, but the jury is still out when it comes to him being the quarterback of the future. Detroit should have added a rookie, or at least someone else. Maybe it is the team that ends up with either Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo.
This one was tough, because it seemed like Adams had a foot out the door as soon as the Packers were eliminated in the postseason. He even confirmed recently that the Packers were willing to offer him more money to stay, which obviously they should have. Adams also talked about wanting to be on the west coast and raise his family, which I get, but I feel like this is a situation the Packers would have addressed differently if they could do it again.
The Packers should have gotten that extension done — maybe even before the 2021 season — and then enjoyed watching the market absolutely explode this offseason. Obviously they couldn’t have predicted that, but everyone who watches football understands that Adams is one of the best players in the league. It will be fascinating to see how his absence affects the offense as a whole.
The Rams had a great offseason, so we have to nitpick here. Woods was a player expected to be on the move with his age, salary and recent ACL injury. But, the Rams reportedly picked up his 2022 roster bonus, which hurt their potential cap savings, and then shipped off one of the more underrated wide receivers in the league for a sixth-round pick! This is not a move that will haunt the Rams for years to come or anything, but they absolutely could have negotiated for a bit more compensation. I guess “Eff them picks” had a different meaning in this case.
The Vikings hired a new head coach that not only likes Cousins, but has experience with him as well. The quarterback had one year left on his deal entering this offseason, and there was even some speculation Cousins could be on the move. Instead, he was given a one-year, fully guaranteed $35 million extension. This wasn’t done to ensure Cousins would stay in the fold for the future, but more so to lower his cap number. Still, it’s guaranteeing another year and more money to a quarterback not everyone is sold on.
The Saints got pretty wild this year when it came to trading draft picks. In early April, the Philadelphia Eagles sent the No. 16 overall pick, No. 19 overall pick and a sixth-round pick to the Saints for the No. 18 overall pick, a third-round pick and a seventh-round pick; a first-round pick in 2023; and a second-round pick in 2024. Then on opening night, New Orleans sent that No. 16 overall pick plus a third-rounder and fourth-rounder to the Washington Commanders for the No. 11 overall pick.
The Saints selected Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave at No. 11 overall, and then took prospective left tackle Trevor Penning at No. 19, which sounds like a solid haul in the first round. But when you take a step back and see that New Orleans gave up the No. 18 overall pick, then the No. 16 overall pick in the second trade, plus two third-round picks, a fourth-round pick, a seventh-round pick and then a future first and second, that sounds like a lot to give up for what they got in return — an extra first-round pick, a move up in the first round and a sixth-round pick. You have to appreciate the Saints’ desire to be aggressive, but I wonder about two things: what the Saints’ front office was looking for in making that initial trade, and how they felt after the draft with what they got and what they gave away.
The Giants saved less than $1 million in cap space by cutting a team captain who brought versatility on defense. According to ESPN, the release of Ryan had to do with the Giants “being in the midst of a defensive reset” — whatever that means. Ryan was a leader on defense and the Giants’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, and he recorded a career-high 117 combined tackles to go along with eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles in 2021.
Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox contract
Franchise legend Fletcher Cox was cut by the Eagles ahead of the March 17 deadline, where he was set to earn $18 million guaranteed. Philly was able to bring him back into the fold on a one-year, $14 million deal, but is he worth that price? Is he worth top-10 defensive tackle money at this stage in his career? The 31-year-old didn’t appear to be as dominant in 2021 as he had been in years past. Maybe rolling with Javon Hargrave and Jordan Davis in the middle and using that money elsewhere would have been a better decision — or at least lowering the one-year figure on Cox’s new deal. Still, an incredible offseason for the Eagles.
We could discuss something related to Deebo Samuel here, but it seems like the two sides are headed in the right direction when it comes to a potential extension. A situation that came across as more questionable was the handling of Jimmy G. When Garoppolo went under the knife for his shoulder surgery, ESPN reported that it wasn’t an issue that was supposed to affect his trade market. Well, it actually dramatically affected his trade market, and that’s something we probably should have been able to predict. Where did that tidbit of information come from? The 49ers themselves?
Just weeks later, 49ers general manager John Lynch was reportedly telling potentially interested teams that they had an offer of two second-round picks for Garoppolo on the table, according to Pro Football Talk. Well if that was the case, then they should have immediately accepted! Maybe the 49ers overestimated what they could get in trade compensation, which is something the Browns did with Baker Mayfield as well. Either the 49ers passed on a great offer, or more likely, overshot in trade talks. Now, they’re in a weird spot.
It sounds like Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were both somewhat open to a parting of ways, so we can’t name the trade with the Denver Broncos as the most “questionable” move Seattle made this offseason. However, we can say how the Seahawks have moved forward at quarterback has been a bit questionable.
It’s always possible Seattle adds someone like Mayfield soon, but Pete Carroll seems confident marching forward with Geno Smith and Drew Lock. I don’t see either as a long-term answer.
When it comes to the roster itself, the Buccaneers had a nice offseason. However, head coach Bruce Arians stepped down from his position, gifting it to former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. There were reports of friction with quarterback Tom Brady, but both parties denied there were any problems internally.
“Tom was very in favor of what I’m doing,” Arians said, via NBC Sports. “I mean, I had conflicts with every player I coached because I cussed them all out, including him. Great relationship off the field.”
Brady is virtually a head coach on the offensive side of the ball, but I’m curious as to how Arians’ departure will affect the team as a whole moving forward. Maybe it’s something that doesn’t affect the team’s ceiling at all in 2022, but it was certainly an offseason surprise that led to some questions.
Washington Commanders: Trading for QB Carson Wentz
This one’s easy. The Commanders reportedly began their offseason franchise quarterback search with a list of 42 potential prospects. Somehow, they quickly landed on a quarterback his current team didn’t want. Making Wentz your starter moving forward is something probably everyone views as a “questionable move,” but what made this addition even more questionable is that Washington swapped second-round picks, gave up a third-round pick and a future conditional third-round pick in exchange for the quarterback and a seventh-round pick. We’ll see if it works out, but Troy Aikman has a point in saying this is probably Wentz’s last opportunity to be a franchise quarterback.