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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
At this point in the offseason, positivity should reign supreme. Incoming rookies provide hope, while free-agent and trade acquisitions provide possibilities. Every team is undefeated and can dream of success in 2022.
However, not every offseason move was a home run. In fact, some were downright terrible.
Here, we’ll rank the seven worst moves of the 2022 offseason. The order is based on short- and long-term impact, roster-building implications, trade/draft capital and other situation-specific factors.
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Matt Durisko/Associated Press
We could bash the Seattle Seahawks for trading franchise quarterback Russell Wilson. However, Seattle got good compensation for the nine-time Pro Bowler and a fourth-round pick: two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant—which will significantly aid the rebuilding process.
Backup tight end Will Dissly will apparently be a significant piece of that process, as the Seahawks gave him a three-year, $24 million contract shortly after the Wilson trade.
This was a baffling move, as Fant—who has topped 600 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons—should step in as the primary receiving tight end. It’s also a bad value because Dissly hasn’t established himself as a notable piece of the offense.
He has never reached 30 receptions or 300 receiving yards in a season. He showed flashes in his first two years, but they ended in knee and Achilles injuries, respectively. Over the last two seasons, Dissly has been a minor role player.
This isn’t a knock on Dissly, who is solid. However, the Seahawks erred by overpaying a part-time player they likely could have replaced in the 2022 draft.
Still, it ranks at the bottom of our list because the implications are purely financial.
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Ron Jenkins/Associated Press
While the Seahawks are set to overpay Dissly, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t set to pay wideout Amari Cooper at there. They wanted out from under his five-year, $100 million deal and let it slip that Cooper would be traded or cut this offseason.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapport reported March 4 that the Cowboys would release Cooper if a trade wasn’t reached.
By letting the football world know Cooper wasn’t wanted, Dallas robbed itself of any trade leverage. It only got a fifth-round pick and a swap of sixth-rounders from the Cleveland Browns for the four-time Pro Bowler.
To say Dallas underestimated the receiver market would be an understatement. The Green Bay Packers netted first- and second-round picks for Davante Adams. The Kansas City Chiefs got a first- and second-round 2022 pick, two fourth-round selections and a 2023 sixth-round pick for Tyreek Hill.
On the draft’s opening night, the Tennessee Titans got the 18th pick and a third-rounder for AJ Brown, while the Baltimore Ravens got the 23rd pick for Marquise Brown and a third-rounder. Had Dallas waited to move Cooper—or at least not allowed teams to know he was unwanted—it should have at least gotten a Day 2 selection.
This was a horrible series of decisions by the Cowboys, who got nowhere near adequate value for the talent they lost.
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Zach Bolinger/Associated Press
Here, we have another bad trade, though this one doesn’t involve a player who was likely on the way out anyway. The New England Patriots dealt starting guard Shaq Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fifth-round pick. They didn’t even get a sixth-round swap as part of the deal.
Maybe New England really wanted to help out ol’ pal Tom Brady, but this was not fair compensation for a starting-caliber guard. Mason started 15 games in 2021 and was responsible for only four penalties and one sack allowed, according to ProFootballFocus.
The 28-year-old is also under contract through 2023 and will carry a reasonable cap hit of $7.4 million in 2022.
What makes the decision worse is the hole it created in New England’s line. The Patriots may have filled it by reaching for Chattanooga interior lineman Cole Strange (scouting report) with the 29th pick, but they got poor value in that deal too (which we’ll dive into shortly).
Strange may pan out for New England, but he’s unknown, and the switch from Mason to Strange won’t provide overwhelming cap savings. Based on the rookie chap hit of last year’s 29th pick, Eric Stokes, New England’s gamble will save roughly $5.2 million.
That’s not enough for a team with playoff aspirations to part with a proven starter—especially while also losing center Ted Karras in free agency—while getting little in return.
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Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
The Patriots did add a new interior lineman by grabbing Strange on the draft’s opening night. Before they did that, though, they traded down from the 21st pick, getting only the 29th, 94th and 121st selections in return.
Late third- and fourth-rounders were not fair compensation for moving down eight spots, especially considering New England was dealing with another AFC contender in the Chiefs. Making the decision worse is the fact that the Patriots passed on washington cornerback Trent McDuffie (scouting report), who was Kansas City’s pick, Florida State pass-rusher Jermaine Johnson II (scouting report) and Georgia linebacker Quay Walker (scouting report).
New England could have used an instant-impact defender to aid a unit that got lambasted by the Buffalo Bills (47 points surrendered) in the wild-card round.
Instead, the Patriots moved down and got a guard they likely could have landed on Day 2. Strange was the 98th-ranked prospect on the B/R Scouting Department’s big board and a player not one else saw going in the opening round.
“At the very least, it feels like the Patriots misread the market and could have moved down again for additional picks while still drafting Strange on Day 2,” Sheil Kapadya of The Athletic wrote.
According to Khari Thompson of Boston.com, some teams—including the Los Angeles Rams—”did homework” on Strange as a possible third- or fourth-round pick.
Strange might become a perennial All-Pro, but this was simply bad value all around for the Patriots.
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Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Many have and will rightfully continue to criticize the Browns for acquiring Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson this offseason.
Though I have wasn’t indicated on criminal charges, he still faces 22 civil lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct and could face league discipline.
In the process of pursuing Watson, the Atlanta Falcons alienated longtime starting quarterback matt ryan. The veteran, who was traded to the Indianapolis Colts, recently said he’d probably still be a Falcon if not for the Watson pursuit.
“Had none of this gone down? There’s probably a chance—a pretty good chance,” Ryan said on the Ryen Russillo Podcast (h/t Myles Simmons of ProFootballTalk).
Atlanta got nothing more than a 2022 third-round pick for Ryan. That’s not nearly enough for a quarterback with Hall of Fame-caliber numbers and likely several good years ahead of him (Ryan will turn 37 later this month).
The Falcons insist that they took a low offer because they wanted “to do right“by Ryan and get him to a favorable situation. However, it feels more likely that he wanted out and Atlanta took what it could get to move him. When dealing with a high-end player at the game’s most important position, that’s a terrible outcome.
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Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
As is the case with Strange, we’re not here to attack former Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker (scouting report). He deserves a chance to prove himself, but he’s going to have to prove a lot after the Jacksonville Jaguars took him first overall.
Walker—the 22nd-ranked player on the B/R board—is a boom-or-bust prospect, and gambling on him with the first pick was not a wise move. There’s no such thing as a “sure thing” in the draft, of course, but Michigan pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson (scouting report) and NC State offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu (scouting report) were safer players with higher floors.
Walker has loads of athletic upside—her ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at 6’5″ and 272 pounds—but struggled to be an elite difference-maker in college. Recruited to play defensive tackle, Walker was forced into an edge role by teammates Jordan Davis (scouting report) and Devonte Wyatt (scouting report)—both first-rounders selected after Walker.
In Walker’s lone season as a starter on the edge, I have compiled a good-not-great six sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He has logged just 9.5 sacks in three seasons, and his inexperience of him is unprecedented for a first overall pick.
“At non-quarterback positions, there has never been a first pick with only one season as a starter since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970—that is, there hadn’t been until the Jaguars selected Walker,” The Ringer’s ben solak wrote. “It’s not that first picks have to be experienced players—rather, it’s that first picks are usually so dominant at the college level, there’s no way they don’t start for a couple of seasons. But that wasn’t true for Walker. “
Drafting a player primarily based on traits and combine testing is risky—it’s how draft mistakes such as Vernon Gholston and John Ross III were made.
Jacksonville has long had a talent-starved roster—which is why it earned the top pick in back-to-back drafts. It needed a prospect with low bust potential, and that definitely isn’t Walker.
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Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press
The Washington Commanders’ trade for quarterback Carson Wentz might not seem as risky as the Walker pick on the surface, but it could have even bigger long-term consequences.
Wentz isn’t a high-end quarterback like other signal-callers traded this offseason—Watson, Ryan and Russell Wilson. He’s been merely serviceable since his lone Pro Bowl campaign in 2017 and was a downright disaster in 2020 (72.8 passer rating).
This is why the Philadelphia Eagles dumped Wentz last offseason. He was better statistically with the Indianapolis Colts in 2021, having posted 27 touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a 94.6 rating—but he struggled down the stretch.
Wentz went 9-8 with a loaded Colts team, stumbled in late-season losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and Jaguars (333 combined passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 turnovers) and cost Indianapolis a shot at the postseason.
With the Commanders, who won seven games in 2021, Wentz is just good enough to keep the franchise in no man’s land. Washington won’t win a championship with him this season, and it will likely miss out on premier 2023 quarterback prospects Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young.
Running it back with Taylor Heinicke and/or leaning on rookie fifth-round pick Sam Howell (scouting report) would give Washington a better shot at landing a top quarterback in 2023. Wentz only makes sense if he can turn the Commanders into contenders and become their franchise quarterback.
And the Commanders overpaid to make it happen. To get a quarterback two franchises have given up on (and a 2022 seventh-rounder), Washington swapped second-round picks with Indy and dealt with 2022 and 2023 third-round picks (the latter of which could turn into a second-rounder).
*Contract information via Spotrac.