Community Tailgate: Least Improved NFL Team

Even with the 2016 offseason largely in the rearview mirror, there are still plenty of topics and storylines to discuss, and PFR’s Community Tailgate is designed to address those stories. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. We’ll highlight one of the top talking points in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.

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In yesterday’s Community Tailgate, we asked PFR readers which NFL team had improved the most during the 2016 offseason, tossing out the Jaguars, Bears, Giants, and Raiders as possible contenders for that title. Today, we’ll look at the other side of that coin, examining which NFL clubs did the least to reinforce their respective rosters over the past several months.

The Browns are clearly in full-on rebuilding mode, and I even included them as an off-the-wall option in my write-up of the most improved teams, as one could argue that GM Sashi Brown & Co. did a great job amassing future assets through trading down in the draft. However, despite a draft class that was largely applauded, the on-field product in Cleveland figures to be sub-par once again. During the free agent period, the Browns saw Alex Mack, Tashaun Gipson, Mitchell Schwartz, and Travis Benjamin walk out the door, while the club added low-cost options like Robert Griffin III and Demario Davis. Cleveland figures to come away with the maximum of four compensatory picks in 2017, but the 2016 season is likely to be rough.

While the Browns’ struggles have been well-documented, the Broncos were by definition the most successful team of 2015, winning the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning‘s final season at the helm. And while Denver traded up to acquire their quarterback of the future in Paxton Lynch, the club’s second-round pick, Georgia Tech defensive tackle Adam Gotsis was considered a reach. In free agency, the Broncos, hindered by salary cap issues, let a lot of talent leave, as Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, Evan Mathis, David Bruton, Ryan Harris, and others left the building. Denver did add a few offensive line reinforcements in Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson, but it’s hard to say that the team is as good as it was in 2015.

The 49ers didn’t lose a ton of talent during the offseason, as guard Alex Boone was the only major defection, but aside from the draft, Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly didn’t add many play-makers, either. It’s possible to argue that the Niners don’t plan on competing in 2016 and thus are amassing assets (like the Browns), but if that’s the case, this offseason can still be considered a failure. San Francisco didn’t trade down once during the draft, and in fact traded up, sacrificing 136 cents on the dollar to move up only nine spots to select a guard. The 49ers also failed to rid themselves of Colin Kaepernick‘s contract, and didn’t make any meaningful free agent signings (apologies to Zane Beadles).

Elsewhere in the NFC West, the Rams managed to find their quarterback of the future in Jared Goff, and it’s hard to blame them for giving up a king’s ransom to secure a long-term option at the most important position on the field. But Los Angeles, which had the fourth-most cap space entering the offseason, didn’t do much to add talent around Goff. The Rams did not make a single upgrade to their offensive line, either in free agency or through the draft, and only used mid-round picks to add offensive weapons. The club also let two high-profile secondary defenders, safety Rodney McLeod and cornerback Janoris Jenkins, walk in free agency.

The Bengals have made a habit of not entering the free agent market, and it’s a strategy that’s worked out, as they’ve made five consecutive postseason appearances. But with a boatload of key free agents leaving this offseason, one might have argued that Cincinnati should have made an effort to bring in a few outside additions. The Bengals did re-sign Adam Jones and George Iloka, but after seeing Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Reggie Nelson, Leon Hall, and others vanish, Cincinnati made only low-cost free agent signings, including linebacker Karlos Dansby and receiver Brandon LaFell. And instead of considering a trade up to acquire a top-notch receiver in Round 1, the Bengals waited until Day 2, drafting Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd, who is thought to be a slot receiver at best.

It’s hard to blame the Chiefs for not making a ton of moves this offseason, as they were strapped for salary cap space. But Kansas City did see quite a few free agent defections, as Sean Smith, Chase Daniel, Jeff Allen, and Donald Stephenson all left for new homes, while Mike DeVito and Husain Abdullah opted to retire. The Chiefs made only one major free agent signing — right tackle Mitchell Schwartz — and drafted only one player, defensive lineman Chris Jones, who can be counted on to contribute in 2016 (although some do think third-round corner KeiVarae Russell has a bright future).

What do you think? Did one of these teams do the least to upgrade its roster? Or did we forget someone? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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11 comments on “Community Tailgate: Least Improved NFL Team

  1. Errol W

    Not gonna get too deep here but looking at what all teams did during the off season i would have to say the most improved teams after the draft are the jaguars and Raiders of course this is just on paper

  2. aarongill

    Sadly it’s my niners.

  3. Niner Nikko

    I wasn’t so upset with the 49ers Draft, only because I think Balke is able to find talent that is underrated. That said the offseason was more of a failure due to our lack of spending that MASSIVE cap space we have. Sure, Kap is a liability but dealing him away isn’t too high of a priority with the room they have to maneuver. The O-line was horrible, probably still is but he might be a great fit for Kelly’s offense if his study habits pick it up a notch.
    SO yeah, not the best offseason. But certainly not the worst either.

    • qbwrecker

      I would agree…however, the lack of spending, while a little disheartening, was not going to be an overnight fix, plus the FA that were available made this class so/so. Not sure even Josh Norman would have helped a lot. Two things to consider….First, that the 49ers didn’t spend all the booty this year and will have even more next year, up to about an extra $10-$15 million more than what we currently have. Second, the FA next year at key positions for the 49ers are much better in 2017. The WR class includes Alshon Jefferey, Michael Floyd, Emmanuel Sanders. The CB class has Stephen Gilmore, Eric Berry, Trumaine Johnson, and Prince Amukamara. These are just to name a few.
      However, I am not counting out the fact that there will be cuts during pre-season, and maybe that is what the front office was waiting on. We will have to see who gets cut and where we can pick up quality for a good price.

    • Baalke has been one of the worst drafters in the NFL the last couple years. Wouldn’t count on him finding “underrated talent”. He’s destroyed that roster. Went from a top 5 talent roster to a bottom 2.

    • Wes Arnold

      While I agree they should have spent some of the cap space they had I think everyone is being a little too harsh on balkees decision to not make any splashed in free agency. None of the top free agents in this class have ever made a pro bowl.. Why would you spend 60+ million on that balkee made a smart decision to place a number on the free agents and not budge. They resigned Williams which was a very underrated signing and they saved cap space for future contracts i.e. Hyde, Reid, Lynch, Jimmie ward, and even bowman. They have a tendency to pay their own players before they break on the scene. Look at Quentin dials contract. Buy stock while its low, not 50+ million for someone like Malik Jackson. Just watch everyone is counting SF out and they forget that chip Kelly really knows how to get the most out of mediocre QBs. Keep hating and giving them more bulletin material. To

      • Wes Arnold

        Oh ya and the draft was solid, Buckner is a beast and could have a Justin Smith/JJ watt impact on the defense. Garnett is an upgrade over iupadi and Blair was a super underrated DE. Plus with the added CB depth and the strength of the D is the safety position I think the draft was very successful. Chips never had the luxury of good safeties or LBs.

        • aarongill

          Yeah there’s no reason to spend big money unless you’re a team on the rise like Jaguars or raiders. Most of the players didn’t even make the pro bowl. I liked the draft.

    • scardiesel

      Players don’t want to play for Chip…. Big free agents won’t sign in San Fran

  4. Big Lee

    Local commentators have noted that Chiefs are “sloppy.” Justin Houston’s late diagnosis/surgery of knee injury, and Hali’s contract being allowed to lapse (costing $3 million), than resigning him, are examples. Chiefs defense is predicated on pass rush, and they cannot figure out what they are doing with best pass rushers. And Dee Ford looks like a wasted #1 pick.

  5. Thronson5

    Id say as far as Free Agency my 9ers were the biggest bust but we did great in the draft in my opinion so that kind of makes up for free agency a little bit. They still should bring back Boldin. They are one of the biggest losers of he offseason but that goes to the Browns for sure. 9ers draft pulls them out of that spot. They might actually surprise some people this season and if they don’t they should have a decent draft again next season and I wouldn’t think they’d stink it up in free agency again so my prediction is playoffs in two seasons. Hate if you want on my predictions, could careless. Everyone thinks they know everything but the fact of the matter is this…sports aren’t as predictable as people think, anything can happen on any given Sunday. They have a better coaching staff this off season, their o line and d line are better this season. Who ever is at QB will have time to throw and Hyde will have a beast of a line to run behind. Our secondary is iffy but you never know. Maybe one those draft picks will pan out. I think that our secondary and receiving corps are the only true weakness. I think both Gabbert and Kaep can succeed in Kelleys offense

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