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.
With the NFC side already covered, let’s take a look at the AFC teams.
NFC | AFC
Bills – Exercise Watkins’ 5th-year option
The Bills went all-in on Sammy Watkins when they gave up a king’s ransom to acquire him in the 2014 draft. Yes, his injury history is concerning, but the fifth-year option was a calculated risk they should’ve taken. Now, if Watkins rebounds in 2017, Buffalo will have to either use the franchise tag on him or watch him walk.
Dolphins – Switch to throwback uniforms full time
Miami will wear their throwback jerseys twice during the 2017 season, but why stop there? Hardly anyone likes their new look and the old jersey is a bona fide classic. This would help the Dolphins win more than any single roster move could.
Jets – Trade Sheldon Richardson
It’s clear the Jets don’t think they can win in 2017, so why is Richardson – who’s seemingly been on the trading block forever – still on the roster? New York should tank for the upcoming campaign and move the talented-but-unreliable defensive tackle for whatever they can get.
Patriots – Trade Jimmy Garoppolo
New England’s logic is clear: a backup quarterback who can win games and might be a future star is still worth more than a host of premium picks he’d fetch in a trade. But Garroppolo is a free agent after the 2017 season, and with Tom Brady looking as good as ever, what to do with Jimmy G is a puzzle even Bill Belichick might not be able to solve. The Patriots would’ve been even bigger Super Bowl favorites if they boosted their roster with the picks from trading the in-demand backup pivot.
Bengals – Cut Adam Jones
Jones is still the Bengals’ second-best cornerback, behind the emerging Dre Kirkpatrick, and the veteran’s deal is still affordable. So why release him? Simple. To finally send a message of accountability to a team that has the reputation of being the among the worst in the league for on- and off-field behavior. Jones’ misdemeanor obstruction charge from May is just the latest in a long line of incidents, and he should have worn out his welcome by now. Plus, Cincinnati has the depth to survive the loss.
Browns – Re-sign Terrelle Pryor
In an offseason stacked with impressive and calculated decisions, the Browns allowing Pryor to walk is one of the lone errors. The receiver didn’t exactly break the market in free agency, earning a one-year deal from the Redskins. Cleveland unearthed a gem in Pryor, and then they threw away all that hard work and time for unclear reasons.
Ravens – Hire QB guru to help fix Flacco’s mechanics
The Ravens got lucky this offseason, jumping on the surprising release of Jeremy Maclin and adding to a receiving corps that really needed another threat. So what else could they do differently in what was an impressive offseason? Flacco’s play has regressed severely of late, and some of that has been caused by his inconsistent mechanics, which have worsened thanks to an ACL year in 2015. A QB guru might seem dramatic, but Flacco needs the fundamentals hammered back into him if he’s to regain his early career form.
Steelers – Trade up for a tight end in draft
Pittsburgh’s offense would be the most loaded in the league if not for the gaping hole at tight end. Jesse James is a fine player, but the Steelers could have easily completed their All-Star lineup by trading up past the Cleveland Browns and snagging David Njoku in the first round. Even snagging Jake Butt in the fourth instead of Joshua Dobbs could have pushed Pittsburgh to a whole new level.
Colts – Fire Chuck Pagano
Indy was so close to ridding itself of the nightmare pairing of general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano completely. But owner Jim Irsay opted for a half-measure, replacing Grigson with Chris Ballard. Pagano is a poor coach who will be gone in 2018 anyway.
Jaguars – Bring in competition for Blake Bortles
Giving Blake Bortles a shot to reestablish himself as the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback is understandable. In all likelihood, though, he won’t be able to fix his crippling issues. Jacksonville has few other options and has invested a lot in the young pivot, but just handing him the job was inexcusable. The Jaguars needed to bring in someone capable of pushing Bortles.
Texans – Acquire Tony Romo
Deshaun Watson might be decent in his rookie season and has the potential to be an upper-tier starter three or four years down the line, but the Texans are built to win right now. Houston’s interest in Romo was real, and they shouldn’t have taken “no” for an answer and instead done whatever was necessary to have the veteran pivot under center for Week 1 instead of in the booth.
Titans – Sign Dont’a Hightower
No obvious move stands out for the Titans. General manager Jon Robinson’s rebuild of this team deserves heaps of credit, and Tennessee could surprise people in 2017. However, if the cap-flushed Titans managed to snatch Hightower away from the Patriots, giving themselves a much-needed playmaker in the middle of the defense, it would’ve been a near-flawless offseason.
Broncos – Hire Kyle Shanahan, retain Wade Phillips
Vance Joseph has yet to coach a single game for the Broncos, so this may seem harsh, but Denver would’ve been better off hiring Kyle Shanahan. The Broncos need someone capable of developing Paxton Lynch and building a solid offense to complement the dominant defense. Plus, picking Shanahan would’ve likely meant Wade Phillips, arguably the NFL’s top defensive coordinator, stayed in Denver.
Chargers – Draft Malik Hooker in 1st round
Mike Williams might be a stud, but the Chargers could’ve lived without another wideout in 2017 – Philip Rivers turned Tyrell Williams from a nobody into a 1,000-yard receiver in 2016, for example. And now Williams’ rookie season could be hampered by a herniated disc in his lower back. For much of the pre-draft process, safety Malik Hooker was slotted to go to the Chargers. L.A. should’ve taken the draftniks’ advice and shored up its secondary.
Chiefs – Hire a coach to oversee game-situation decisions
Andy Reid is one of the more underrated coaches in NFL history. He’s one of the main reasons the Chiefs have been so consistent over the past four seasons. But time and time again, the head coach has hurt his team with poor situational awareness during games. This was highlighted by his head-scratching use of timeouts in last year’s playoff loss to the Steelers. Reid has enough on his plate calling plays and fulfilling his other head coaching duties. Kansas City should’ve eased his burden and become somewhat of an innovator by assigning or hiring a coach to be in charge of making sure the Chiefs don’t fumble away games due to poor clock management.
Raiders – Fix the backup QB position
The Raiders were given a painful reminder of how important it is to have a capable backup on a team with Super Bowl aspirations when Derek Carr’s injury essentially ended their season. But Oakland didn’t seem to really learn its lesson. Can Connor Cook or EJ Manuel really win games, even with the talent all over the roster? Maybe, just maybe, the Raiders should’ve kicked the tires on that Colin Kaepernick guy.
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