It's going to be difficult for any NFL team to strip the mantle of 2020 offseason losers from the Houston Texans. Rarely have I seen a trade as universally panned by the scouting community, the analytics community, the player community, and the coaching community the way the DeAndre Hopkins trade was.
That is a difficult task to pull off in and of itself, and when one considers it also include the Texans taking on one of the worst contracts in football in the process in David Johnson (don't get me wrong; it was a home run for the player and the agent, just not for the Cardinals front office that agreed to it), and it sets the bar pretty low. Throw in the Randall Cobb contract (just compare it to what Emmanuel Sanders got for instance, and the loss of DJ Reader, and the fact they still have to pay Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil and, probably, Will Fuller, and this is a recipe for disaster. But hey, at least they still have Barkevious Mingo leftover from when they paid half of Jadaveon Clowney's contract to trade him to the Seahawks last year … except, well, Mingo is a pure journeyman and on the market again.
Still, they have a full complement of draft picks to fill the gaps … except, well, they drastically overpaid for Tunsil in the trade last year, too, so they are in win-now-or-bust mode. Yikes. Coach/GM/football czar Bill O'Brien is becoming a figure of great derision in Houston these days it seems -- be careful what you wish for in those power grabs – and it just might be that, even less than a week into the official start of the League Year, the Texans are going to run away and hide with this crown.
But we'll at least keep the drama going, my friend. Let's not anoint them just yet. Still a little too early for that. And there is some competition. They are not alone in their series of head-scratching moves in the opening days of this 2020 transaction season. Perhaps someone will catch them. There are certainly a handful of other teams who give me great pause as to what exactly they are trying to accomplish. Here are some other franchises that would probably be getting even more flak if not for Houston's extreme exploits.
This was always going to be an ugly offseason for them. But just when you think they are going to just bite the bullet and tank and sell off what is left of their talent for whatever they can get, they turn around and give a linebacker a five-year, $55M deal. Huh? This is not a team that needs to spend money just to get to the mandatory 89-percent of the cap threshold, no, in fact, no team has spent -- or wasted -- more money on payroll the last five years than the Jaguars.
So if they wanted to cut back some and prepare for the future, so be it. So go ahead and trade Yannick Ngakoue last week, while the huge contracts were flying around for pass rushers, and take what you can get. Why drag this out when teams have less to spend for a player who did exactly what Jalen Ramsey did, if need be, to get out of there. Why not trade for an offensive lineman or do whatever you can and start playing youngsters? If Calais Campbell is gone and AJ Bouye is gone, why do this half-assed, again? What are you waiting for? Get in now before the free-agency wave crashes. This team has no chance to be competitive -- which has been the case pretty much every year the last 10 years save for one.
Nick Foles?!? Nick Foles?!? You managed to find the one veteran with a playoff pedigree who actually might not be able to push Mitchell Trubisky. You need a viable QB2 who should be able to play 12 games or more once your starter shows what he is again … and you sign a QB who has a good six weeks in him, at best, every year. And you take on a brutal contract in the process? Porque? Bears gonna Bear. Robert Quinn had a nice season, but GM Ryan Pace paid him like he was 27 years old not on the wrong side of 30. I have yet to talk to a personnel man who believes the Bears brass will have a chance of saving their jobs with this Frankenstein roster they have created. I mean, $9M a year for Jimmy Graham? He played against you twice a year in Green Bay. Was anyone in the Bears front office watching? Losing Kwiatkowski will hurt a defense that was already slipping from its 2019 form -- reminds me of losing Adrian Amos from a year before -- and the offensive line has to be addressed still. Good luck. The downward spiral in Chicago will continue and, much like in Houston, when the next regime takes over it will be saddled with problems that could take years to undo.
Los Angeles (Rams)
Like Jacksonville, you could see this one coming from months back. And that Jalen Ramsey trade was only going to exacerbate the problems. Even a great young coach like Sean McVay is going to have a hard time making this work. I'm not big on Clay Matthews or Dante Fowler -- but someone will have to replace them and the lack of edge rushers around Aaron Donald is a problem. Gone also are Cory Littleton, Nickell Bradley-Coleman and Michael Brockers. Gulp.
On offense, no one was ever gonna take Todd Gurley's contract off their hands, and dumping him was the only recourse, but still, that was the second-best player on that team as recently as two years ago and they got nothing for him. Andrew Whitworth is not what he once was, and making a $20M commitment to him may come back to bite them -- then again they lack the picks to needed to draft a left tackle early. Jared Goff's contract will be an albatross for years to come, they are saddled with a bad Brandin Cooks deal and lack maneuverability on the roster in a bad way. Call me crazy, but I don't see A'Shawn Robinson and Leonard Floyd being difference makers there. That division is getting better and deeper. I think the Rams are in deep trouble.
The Cowboys defense was awful before the offseason began, and they seem intent on making it even worse in 2020! How about that? Two of their biggest contributors from a year ago -- pass rusher Robert Quinn and corner Byron Jones -- are gone. Sean Lee is back, despite his age and years of injury woes. They'd better hope Gerald McCoy makes a far more significant impact than he did in Carolina last year, or this thing might really crumble. Keeping Amari Cooper is nice, but wait until Dak Prescott is making $38M a year. It's going to limit the ability to do a few other things, and Jerry Jones has been paltry spending on payroll the last four years, anyway. They'd better have one helluva of a draft, and it had better lean decidedly to the defensive side of the ball. Their ability to stop anyone remains very much in question, and even all of the yards they rolled up a year ago were not enough to make them anything close to a contending team.
Relying on former New England players -- by executives and coaches who used to work for the Patriots -- has not worked out that well, at all, over the years. And with Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia very much trying to keep their jobs in 2020, they went back to that well. The moves seem desperate to their peers. And I believe they face an uphill climb. Yes, they can draft a corner to replace Darius Slay -- but they need to make good with the third and fifth-round picks they got for that shutdown corner from Philly -- and that's not an easy task with a mid and late-round draft pick. They have reshuffled their offensive line yet again, and need it to really stick this time.