Most teams spend the entirety of the offseason trying to make upgrades so they are better the following year than they were the year before. Some of those moves work splendidly. But not all of them. Today, we’re here to examine some of the moves that might not be major successes.
Earlier this week, my colleague Jordan Dajani took a look at the most questionable move each NFC team made this offseason. In the space below, we’ll tackle the AFC. As Dajani noted, 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.
Bills: Von Miller’s long-term deal
It’s highly likely that this move will be a positive one for the Bills this season — and that might be all that matters to them. Adding Miller to a pass-rush group that already had good depth but did not have an A-list star was a nice upgrade. The issue is not even necessarily cost, but the structure of his contract. The Bills can’t cut ties without incurring significant dead money until after the 2024 season. Given that Miller has a $13.35 million roster bonus for 2023, he seems a likely candidate for a restructure next offseason, which would make it even more financially damaging to eventually let him go in the future. Plus, these next few years will be his ages 33, 34, and 35 seasons. We might see the beginning of the decline phase of his career.
Dolphins: Tyreek Hill’s monster contract
Hill got a four-year extension that is technically worth $30 million per year, though the likelihood of him ever seeing that $43.9 million base salary in 2026 seems vanishingly low. Still, it’s a risk to pay Hill as much as the Dolphins did as he heads into his 30s and embarks on a new phase of his career without Patrick Mahomes slinging him the rock. Miami is clearly building its offense around elite speed and Hill fits that ethos to a tee, but we don’t know how different a player he’ll be in his new digs.
Patriots: Trading Shaq Mason
New England traded a quality starting guard who has missed 10 games in seven seasons and got only a fifth-round pick in return. Sure, first-round pick Cole Strange will presumably step into Mason’s vacated lineup spot, but the Pats did not get nearly enough for dealing away a very valuable player.
Jets: Not drafting or signing a left tackle
Mekhi Becton had a solid rookie year. Just about everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong since then. He’s expected to return to practice when training camp opens in July … but questions remain regarding injuries and his ability to stay in playing shape. New York addressed a lot of roster holes this offseason in both free agency and the draft, but did not find an adequate contingency plan at left tackle in case Becton can’t get back to his 2020 self.
Texans: Handling of coaching situation
Houston fired David Culley after one year despite having a decent amount of success, considering the quality of the roster. The Texans openly flirted with hiring Josh McCown despite his current resume consisting only of an assistant coaching job at his sons’ high school and a volunteer QB coaching job at another high school. Seemingly one of the few reasons that did not happen was due to the optics of firing one of the league’s few Black coaches only to hire a white coach with no experience, in the same offseason as Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit. The Texans eventually settled on defensive coordinator Lovie Smith as their new head coach. Prior to last season, Smith was last seen going 17-39 in five seasons as the head coach of Illinois.
Colts: Hiring Gus Bradley
Matt Eberflus was one of the NFL‘s best defensive coordinators during his time in Indianapolis. He’s head coach of the Bears now, and the guy Indy hired to replace him leaves something to be desired. Not only will the Colts be going through a scheme change, they’ll also become one of the NFL’s most predictable defenses. Everybody knows what Bradley does. Just ask the Chiefs, who lit up his Raiders defense twice in a few-week span last year to get back on track after struggling midseason.
Jaguars: Christian Kirk’s contract
No, Kirk is not likely to actually get $72 million over four years. Yes, his deal is effectively a two-year, $37 million contract. But you know what? That’s a lot of money for a player who has never had a 1,000-yard season. And that two-year deal assumes he gets released after 2023, in which case he’d still count for $10 million in dead money on Jacksonville’s books in 2024. All of a sudden, that’s the end of Trevor Lawrence’s rookie contract. The value here is just not good at all.
Titans: Trading A.J. Brown
Unless there’s something the Titans know that we don’t about Brown’s health, I’m not sure how you can justify trading away a player of his caliber at just 24 years old, and receiving only a first- and third-round pick in return. The contract the Titans reportedly (according to Brown) offered him was not close to proper value, but even if there was a dispute on price, Tennessee could have kept him for at least three more years on the final year of his rookie deal and then two franchise tags. Treylon Burks could end up being good, but this was a mismanaged situation with a superstar at one of the league’s most valuable positions.
Ravens: No extension for Lamar Jackson (yet)
It’s tough to actually ding the Ravens here because Jackson does not seem to want to negotiate, but hey, their starting quarterback is still not locked in long-term. That’s an issue, no matter the reason. Unless and until a deal gets done, this will be hanging over the organization.
Bengals: No long-term Jessie Bates deal (yet)
Bates was not quite as good last season as he was the year before, but he’s a very good safety about to enter his prime, and one of the most important players on Cincinnati’s defense. Given the cost at which they have Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase for the next few years, the Bengals need to be all-in on keeping this very good core of players together, and that includes Bates. He’s not been at minicamp because he’s apparently not thrilled with being franchise-tagged. The Bengals now have less than a month to get a deal done.
Browns: Deshaun Watson trade and contract
The cynicism and moral vacuousness it takes to trade for a man who has been accused by (at least) 26 women of sexual misconduct is revolting. The Browns have said they are confident in their research, yet did not even attempt to talk to any of the women who have sued Watson, the lawyer representing them, or any other women he hired who did not sue him or pursue criminal charges against him. Cleveland not only dealt one of the largest hauls in league history for Watson, but proceeded to hand him a $230 million, fully-guaranteed contract, clearly betting that this would all go away in time. Now, more and more women keep suing Watson and more and more details regarding the allegations against him keep coming out. The Browns deserve all the criticism they get this year.
Steelers: Quarterback situation
The Steelers are trying to trade a middle path between rebuilding in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era and competing for … something with their high-level defense. T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick deserve for the Steelers to go for it while they’re in their primes. But Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett are not exactly an inspiring duo under center. Somehow, Trubisky became sought after while sitting behind Josh Allen in Buffalo last year. What he did to deserve being one of the league’s most coveted quarterbacks this offseason is beyond me. Perhaps Pickett will be the answer, but it’s likely to take some time. By the time he’s ready to quarterback a team for a playoff run, the defense might be out of its title-winning window.
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Broncos: Letting CB depth get depleted
The Broncos did the best thing a team can do this offseason when they dramatically upgraded at the quarterback position, but they quietly allowed a position of strength to turn into a question mark. Beyond Patrick Surtain II, Denver let Bryce Callahan and Kendall Fuller leave in free agency. Signing K’Waun Williams to play in the slot was a nice rebound, but the depth the Broncos had at this position last season is no longer there.
Raiders: Not enough to address OL
Derek Carr has been susceptible to pressure (especially up the middle) throughout his career. The Raiders have one, maybe two players along the offensive line who look like average or better players at their position. They have Davante Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow, but will they be able to protect Carr for long enough for him to get them the ball downfield, as opposed to only in the short and intermediate zones?
Chiefs: Trading Tyreek Hill
What does Patrick Mahomes look like without Tyreek Hill? We don’t really know, and neither do the Chiefs. Kansas City will evolve, and Mahomes and Andy Reid should be able to figure out a new way to succeed, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t risky to deal away a player with whom Mahomes has shown such great chemistry and who has been the team’s lone consistent source of explosive plays.
Chargers: Not upgrading at right tackle
The Chargers spent this offseason plugging a lot of holes. Cornerback (J.C. Jackson), edge rusher (Khalil Mack), interior defensive line (Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson), left guard (Zion Johnson). But it looks like they’ll still be starting Storm Norton at right tackle, and that might be a bit of an issue. Norton was highly flammable last season, and in a division stocked with pass rushers coming off the left side of the defensive line (Maxx Crosby and Bradley Chubb, for example), that’s a bit of an issue. Justin Herbert and company are good enough to succeed despite a weak spot on the line, but the Chargers could have found an upgrade given their significant resources.