The best general manager is one with a time machine to go back and correct past mistakes.
None of the current GMs in the NFL have access to such technology, so we took a crack at guessing which move they would have made if they could go back in time to earlier this offseason.
Let’s take a look at the NFC side first.
NFC | AFC (Friday)
Cowboys – Wait until after draft to sign a cornerback
The Cowboys were strapped for cash during free agency, which forced them to let several secondary members walk and limited their ability to replace them. They landed Nolan Carroll on a three-year, $10-million deal, but after he was arrested for a DWI in May and the team drafted three corners in the first five rounds, the signing may have been premature.
Giants – Sign Andrew Whitworth
The Giants badly need help on the offensive line to keep Eli Manning upright and give some life to the running game, but they didn’t really address the issue in free agency or the draft. Whitworth landed an affordable three-year, $33.75-million with the Rams. At 35, he would be a great fit for the win-now Giants who could lead the O-line and take the pressure off young Ereck Flowers.
Eagles – Trade Dorial Green-Beckham
Carson Wentz got a big upgrade to his weapons this offseason, which has pushed Green-Beckham down the depth chart. If he’s ever going to take advantage of his large, athletic frame, DGB needs more reps in the offense and likely won’t be getting those this season. Trade him before everyone realizes his value is limited.
Redskins – Re-sign at least 1 receiver
Letting all three of your top free agents walk is not a great move if you still plan on competing – especially when two of them are your top receivers. Letting both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon leave left room for Terrelle Pryor to sign, but with the need to acclimatize everyone to the system, progression will be lost from last season.
Bears – Stay put with 3rd overall pick
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but now that we know the 49ers didn’t want Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick, the Bears could have saved some draft capital by keeping their original selection.
Lions – Sign Torrey Smith
The Lions’ offense improved along the offensive line, but it is still missing a true deep threat in the receiving corps. Torrey Smith’s three-year, $15-million deal includes just $500,000 in guaranteed money. Detroit easily could have afforded the 28-year-old to round out Matt Stafford’s weapons.
Packers – Re-sign T.J. Lang
The Packers’ coaches were reportedly furious when the front office let Lang leave following his Pro Bowl season. The fact that they didn’t sign a replacement and Lang went to the rival Lions is just salt in the wound.
Vikings – Pick up Teddy Bridgewater’s 5th-year option
The beauty of selecting a player in the first round is the extra year of contract control a team gains. While Bridgewater’s status is unknown for 2017, his extra year of salary would be very affordable for a franchise quarterback, as he was the 32nd pick in 2014. With the potential he showed in 2014 and 2015, as well as the difficulty of finding good quarterbacks, the reward is worth the injury risk.
Falcons – Re-sign Dwight Freeney
The Falcons retained most of their key roster players and added Dontari Poe to their defense, but with the impact Freeney had on a player like Vic Beasley through one season in Atlanta is certainly worth another deal. It may still happen.
Panthers – Sign Rick Wagner instead of Matt Kalil
The Panthers bought into the NFL’s very questionable “football is family” slogan by signing center Ryan Kaili’s brother Matt Kalil on a five-year, $55-million deal. The issue is that Matt Kalil is not very good. Rick Wagner, on the other hand, got a five-year, $47-million deal from the Lions and is much better.
Saints – Trade for Malcolm Butler
Perhaps the Patriots’ asking price was much too high, but the Saints would be in a much better position if they could have added Butler to the roster. There’s a bit of championship buzz around the Saints this offseason, but their secondary remains suspect. Acquiring Butler to play with rookie Marshon Lattimore and Delvin Breaux would have fixed that.
Buccaneers – Strengthen O-line with Riley Reiff
In all honesty, the Buccaneers had a very good offseason in both free agency and the draft, but if there’s one chink in the armor, it’s along the offensive line. Left tackle Donovan Smith had a tough time in 2016. Reiff – who signed with Minnesota for five years and $58.75 million – is still young, but experienced enough to make an impact with the up-and-coming squad.
Cardinals – Draft Carson Palmer’s successor
This may be Palmer’s last season in the NFL, yet the Cardinals have no plan for what to do once he’s gone. They may have been too vocal about their want of a quarterback in the draft, as two teams traded up in front of them for pass-throwers. Still, drafting someone who they could begin to develop this year would have been worth a pick at some point.
Rams – Trade Trumaine Johnson
The Rams seem like they are caught in no man’s land with Johnson. On his second straight franchise tag, he is set to be the highest-paid corner in the league at over $16 million, but he’s not worth anywhere near that money. The Rams are afraid to lose Johnson without compensation, yet unable to sign him to a reasonable contract. Trading him for a draft pick and letting someone else spend their money on him would be the best way out.
49ers – Give Kyle Juszczyk less than $7 million guaranteed
Overall, John Lynch has fared very well in his first year as 49ers general manager, but one of his first moves gave the impression he was about to be pushed around in the negotiating room. The $7 million in guaranteed money Juszczyk received on his four-year, $21-million contract is the most a fullback has ever received in an era where fullbacks have become almost obsolete.
Seahawks – Sign Colin Kaepernick
For the sake of the team, the league, and Kaepernick, the Seahawks should have worked out a deal for the veteran quarterback. Seattle is one of the few locker rooms that would completely embrace his political stance and they need better quarterback depth. The longer Kaepernick stays unemployed, the hotter the takes will get.
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