Former NFL scout Matt Williamson writes about the league from X's and O's and talent evaluation perspectives.
I recently examined 10 under-the-radar impact moves. Here are 10 moves that could be major mistakes.
Dolphins sign RB Jordan Howard to two-year, $10 million deal
Howard is a good runner (525 yards on 119 carries last season for Philly), and the money the Dolphins shelled out isn't terrible. Howard excels in a zone scheme and creates yardage on his own as a ball-carrier. But he isn’t dynamic with the ball in his hands. What's especially worrisome is he is liability as a receiver (only 10 catches for 69 yards in 2019). When he's in the game, the defense really only has to worry about four pass-catchers rather than five. If this were 1985, Howard would be a star. But did the Dolphins really need to act so soon in free agency to land him?
Texans trade WR DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona
The return on this deal for Houston -- running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-rounder and a 2021 fourth-rounder -- was ridiculous. (Houston also sent a 2020 fourth-rounder to the Cardinals.) So calling this trade questionable is being way too kind. The Texans, who don't have a first-round pick in 2020, need draft picks, and reportedly there was bad blood between Hopkins and Houston coach/de facto GM Bill O’Brien. But the Texans treated this like an Antonio Brown-like situation in which the player absolutely had to go. Why, oh, why? Johnson might bring great value, especially as a receiver, but he does not impact the game like Hopkins, who has five 1,000-yard-plus receiving seasons in seven years in the league. And Johnson is not the same back who rushed for 1,239 yards and scored 16 TDs in 2016. Houston added wideout Randall Cobb in free agency, but receiving options for Deshaun Watson surely won't great in 2020.
Bears sign TE Jimmy Graham to a two-year, $16 million
This might be the worst deal of all. Chicago got next to nothing from their tight ends in 2019. And with Mitch Trubisky as the presumptive starter, the Bears absolutely, postively need solid tight ends. But giving 33-year-old Graham, a declining player, big money was a big mistake. Graham, who had only 38 catches for 447 yards with the Packers in 2019, still uses his big body well, especially in the red zone. But he runs poorly and doesn't stretch the field. Plus, he's a terrible blocker.
Giants franchised DE Leonard Williams
Trading for Williams, whose Jets contract was expiring, was peculiar enough for a team that wasn’t going anywhere in 2019. Giants GM David Gettlemen loves investing in big men, but wouldn’t draft capital have more value than Williams? So that trade in itself was questionable, but then New York doubled down on this mistake by putting the tag on Williams, who's good but not special. The biggest issue here is that Williams just doesn’t influence the passing game enough to justify a massive investment (16 QB hits, .5 sacks in 2019). New York should have allowed him to test the market and then possibly still sign him to a multiyear contract.
Titans sign DE Vic Beasley to a one-year, $9.5 million deal
Beasley, who has had one year of top production in the NFL (15.5 sacks in 2016), is highly overrated. His game tape in 2016 certainly didn't match the numbers he put up. The former Falcon must get a great jump off the snap to win and doesn’t show much power or an array of pass-rush techniques. The Titans were right to try to upgrade their edge rush, a problem area in 2019. But Beasley? I would have passed on the five-year veteran.
Rams sign OLB Leonard Floyd to a one-year, $10 million deal
Floyd reminds me of Beasley. Both are former first-round picks with obvious athletic ability but little in the way of power. Even with All-Pro Khalil Mack on his opposite side, Floyd didn’t develop and produce close to his potential in four seasons in Chicago (18.5 sacks). He also can get pushed around in the run game. Los Angeles is hoping that it can rejuvenate Floyd’s career much as it did with Dante Fowler, but they would have just been better off hanging on to Fowler, who signed as a free agent with the Falcons.
Jaguars sign LB Joe Schobert to five-year, $53.75 million deal with $22.5 guaranteed
He's not a top coverage linebacker, but the former Brown clearly can be very good. The problem here is allocation of resources. The Jaguars were among the most cash-strapped teams in the league -- that's one of the reasons they jettisoned stud defensive end Calais Campbell to Baltimore. They have massive needs all over their roster. (The unexpected decision by LB Telvin Smith to quit football in 2019 did not help.) But this money would have been better spent elsewhere. Plenty of linebackers will be available in the draft.
Texans sign Eric Murray to a three-year, $20.5 million deal
Here is a good example of the player who's unlikely to get every dollar out of this deal, another highly questionable move by Houston. The Texans' secondary was poor last year, but Houston was overly aggressive in signing Murray, a depth player who does his best work on special teams. Oh, the former Brown is also coming off a knee injury as well.
Redskins trade CB Quinton Dunbar to Seattle for a 2020 fifth-round pick
Dunbar, who wanted out of Washington, was coming off a tremendous year, one that was far under the radar. He was a much better player last season than fellow CB Josh Norman, and at only 27, he is an ascending talent. Dunbar has slot capabilities but will likely man just one side of the field in Seattle, as he usually did for the Redskins. Much like it did during the regular season in a trade for Quandre Diggs, Seattle swindled a high-quality defensive back away for nominal cost. The Seahawks should look to extend Dunbar’s contract, as he is a free agent after this year. Meanwhile, the Redskins created another big hole in their starting lineup.
Cam Newton, Jameis Winston remain unsigned
What's the rest of the NFL thinking? Someone needs to sign these guys, who are easily among the best 32 QBs on the planet. Newton was released by the Panthers; Winston is a free agent. When they are at their best, they are capable of taking over a game. Yes, they have their warts. Health, turnovers (30 picks by Winston in 2019!), style of play and maybe even their personalities might not help their cause. The Chargers could use a shot in the arm at quarterback. (Tyrod Taylor, really?) The Steelers sorely need a backup. The reward outweighs the risk on these two.
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