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!