New Falcons QB Kirk Cousins Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

10 Draft Picks, Trades, Signings from 2024 NFL Offseason That Teams Will Regret Most

Kristopher Knox

With the 2024 draft in the rear view, organized team activities (OTAs) underway and NFL training camps looming on the not-too-distant horizon, offseason optimism should be at an all-time high.

Teams and fans alike are excited about their new additions at this point in the NFL cycle, and selected quotes and practice highlights only add to the building buzz. Of course, history tells us that not every OTA standout is destined to be a star, some free-agent signings aren't bargains, and some draft picks will inevitably flop.

Last offseason, for example, the Carolina Panthers signed Pro Bowl running back Miles Sanders to a three-year, $25.4 million deal in free agency, only to pull him from the starting lineup after only five games.

Here, we'll examine 10 moves from the 2024 offseason that teams may come to similarly regret, based on factors like positional value, past production, roster makeup and franchise trajectory.

Cardinals Hope to Fix Their Offensive Line by Signing Jonah Williams

OT Jonah Williams Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals didn't do a ton to aid quarterback Kyler Murray before the draft, where they landed star Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. However, they did address the offensive line in free agency after parting with left tackle D.J. Humphries in a cap-saving move.

The problem is that Arizona isn't guaranteed to have a better offensive line in 2024. The news that 2023 first-round pick Paris Johnson Jr. will move from right to left tackle makes the signing of Jonah Williams a bit more palatable, but the Cardinals are still likely to regret it.

Williams never panned out as the Cincinnati Bengals left tackle, and while he was a bit more reliable on the right side in 2023, he still wasn't great. Williams' strength as a run blocker was better utilized last season. However, he was still responsible for five penalties and eight sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.

Williams allowed 12 sacks as Cincinnati's left tackle in 2022.

Expecting Williams to outright replace Humphries would be a massive mistake, one Arizona can avoid if Johnson makes a successful transition. Having Williams on the roster gives the Cardinals a Plan B, though it's not a very good one.

While Johnson may thrive in his new role, Williams may still be a liability on the other side. His level of play certainty doesn't mirror the two-year, $30 million deal that Arizona handed him.

Bears Overpay to Add Kevin Byard

S Kevin Byard Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears largely nailed the offseason by adding multiple pieces to set the stage for rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams. Adding D'Andre Swift, Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze to a skill group that already included D.J. Moore and Cole Kmet will give Williams the sort of high-caliber supporting cast that rookies rarely enjoy.

If Chicago's defense, which took massive strides down the stretch in 2023, can play at a high level, the Bears should be a very fun team to watch this season. They might even find themselves in the playoffs. However, Chicago is still probably a year or two away from legitimate title contention.

Therefore, signing safety Kevin Byard to a two-year, $15 million deal just didn't make a lot of sense. Byard, who will turn 31 in August, isn't the same player he once was and would be far better suited as a depth player on a roster ready to contend right away.

While playing for the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles last season, Byard allowed an opposing passer rating of 102.1 in coverage. He simply isn't an elite starter at this point in his career.

Targeting a younger safety like Xavier McKinney or Kamren Curl would have been logical for the rebuilding Bears. Instead, they released pricey veteran Eddie Jackson and replaced him with another aging safety on a deal that is far from a bargain. It's hard to see how that helps in the short- or long-term.

Broncos Get Proverbial Pennies in Return for Jerry Jeudy

WR Jerry Jeudy Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos made a series of tough decisions related to the salary cap this offseason, starting with the release of quarterback Russell Wilson. That move cost Denver a $53 million cap hit this season and left the Broncos scrambling to create space. They subsequently released safety Justin Simmons and traded receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Trading Jeudy is a move the Broncos may soon regret.

For one, Denver didn't get a whole lot in return for the 25-year-old. The Cleveland Browns acquired Jeudy for 2024 fifth- and sixth-round selections. Cleveland then lowered Jeudy's 2024 cap hit by signing him to a three-year, $52.5 million extension. While that's a hefty sum for a receiver who didn't develop into a true No. 1 target in Denver, it's a fair market price.

Jeudy is still set to earn less annually than receivers like Brandin Cooks, Christian Kirk and Diontae Johnson. Surely, the Broncos could have found a way to justify a similar deal.

If Jeudy proves to be a reliable No. 2 receiver in Cleveland, the Broncos are going to regret letting him go at such a paltry price. They don't have a lot of proven receiver depth on their roster—Courtland Sutton and Josh Reynolds headline the group—and they're now trying to develop first-round rookie quarterback Bo Nix.

It would have been far more sensible to keep Jeudy, who had 187 catches over the last two seasons, or at least get more than a pair of Day 3 selections in a shallow draft class.

Eagles Make a Splash Signing with Saquon Barkley

RB Saquon Barkley Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Eagles made one of the splashiest signings of early free agency when they added former rival running back Saquon Barkley. Philadelphia lured the 27-year-old away from the New York Giants on a three-year, $37.8 million contract.

At first blush, it seems like a logical move for the Eagles. Barkley is one of the league's top dual-threat backs when healthy and at his best, and Philadelphia needed to take some pressure off of quarterback Jalen Hurts. However, shelling out $26 million in guaranteed money could come back to haunt general manager Howie Roseman.

While Barkley is special when healthy, he has struggled to stay near 100 percent throughout his career. In six seasons with the Giants, he produced two Pro Bowl campaigns and three years with fewer than 1,000 rushing yards.

Last season, Barkley missed three games and averaged just 3.9 yards per carry.

The reality is that Philly probably could have gone with a much more budget-friendly running back and gotten good results. They went the bargain route with Miles Sanders and D'Andre Swift over the past two years and saw each make the Pro Bowl.

Barkley's history of injuries and inconsistent results makes him a significant risk, and he isn't an ideal long-term fit. He's struggled to stay on the field, he logged 640 touches over the past two seasons, and he'll be 30 years old if he makes it to the end of his new contract.

Packers Replace Aaron Jones With Josh Jacobs

RB Josh Jacobs Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Philadelphia wasn't the only team to pounce on a running back early in free agency. The Green Bay Packers signed former Las Vegas Raiders starter Josh Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million contract shortly after the market opened.

The good news for Green Bay is that only $12.5 million of Jacobs' contract is guaranteed, meaning it isn't a massive risk. The bad news is shortly after adding Jacobs, the Packers decided to part with running back and locker room leader Aaron Jones.

"Special guy in this locker room since I've been here," quarterback Jordan Love told reporters during OTAs (h/t Garrett Podell of CBS Sports). "Everyone loved Aaron, and it was very tough. It was one of those things that you can't control."

The Packers watched as Jones quickly signed with the rival Minnesota Vikings.

Yes, Jones is 29 and battled hamstring and knee injuries in 2023. However, he was at 100 percent in the postseason and showed that he's still a very capable dual threat. Jones racked up 247 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns in two playoff games.

Jacobs dealt with his own injuries last season, missing the final four games with a hamstring injury. The 26-year-old also struggled in 2023 after leading the league in rushing yards, scrimmage yards and touches the previous season.

Last year, Jacobs averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. He isn't a clear upgrade over a healthy Jones, and after being heavily overworked over the past two years (663 touches), there's no guarantee that Jacobs will regain the Pro Bowl form he showed in 2022.

If Jacobs stumbles at all this season, Green Bay will regret letting one of its top leaders leave for a division rival.

Cowboys Pin Backfield Hopes on an Aging Ezekiel Elliott

RB Ezekiel Elliott Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

There's risk involved with the Barkley and Jacobs signings. The Dallas Cowboys' decision to bring back Ezekiel Elliott wasn't risky, it was a flat-out head-scratching move.

Dallas lost 2023 starter Tony Pollard in free agency and did virtually nothing to replace him through the end of the draft. It re-signed Rico Dowdle in free agency, added Royce Freeman and then signed Elliott after the draft.

The Cowboys are not looking at a committee backfield that includes Dowdle, Freeman Elliott and 2023 sixth-round pick Deuce Vaughn. That's not an inspiring group, no matter how the Cowboys try to spin it.

"I think the running back position this day and age is not that old-school, one guy as the lead back and the others fill in," vice president of player personnel Will McClay said, per Joseph Hoyt of Lone Star Live. "It's a group by committee. What he'll add to that group, we're excited about it."

No one should be particularly excited about Elliott's return. The 28-year-old has lost most of the burst he showcased early in his career and has seen his efficiency dip dramatically over the last two years. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry with Dallas in 2022 and just 3.5 yards per carry last season with the New England Patriots.

The Cowboys simply aren't likely to field a quality rushing attack this season, which is a big problem. With Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb both slated to be 2025 free agents, this might be Dallas' last chance to make a serious postseason run. Carrying a one-dimensional offense into the season is something the Cowboys will regret.

Titans Spend Big to Snag Calvin Ridley

WR Calvin Ridley Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans are looking to build around second-year quarterback Will Levis. Therefore, it made sense for Tennessee to upgrade a receiving corps that lacked proven depth behind DeAndre Hopkins.

Still, shelling out $50 million guaranteed on a four-year, $92 million deal for Calvin Ridley is a decision the Titans may soon regret.

Ridley was mostly fine in his lone season with the rival Jacksonville Jaguars. After missing all of 2022 while suspended for violating the NFL's gambling policy, Ridley returned to catch 76 passes for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns. Those are decent numbers, but they don't exactly warrant the kind of money Tennessee spent to pull Ridley out of Jacksonville.

"There is a walk-away point on some of these deals, and paying high-dollar numbers to a 29-year-old receiver now on his third team in three years amounts to bad business," one unnamed NFL executive told The Athletic's Mike Sando.

Ridley is now the league's 10th-highest-paid receiver in terms of annual value. Considering he'll turn 30 in December and has only two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume, It's very hard to envision a scenario in which Tennessee gets an adequate return on its investment.

Yes, Ridley was probably the top receiver to actually reach the open market, but Tennessee overpaid, plain and simple. The Titans are quite likely to regret making that move in a year that featured a talented and deep rookie receiver class.

Falcons Sign Kirk Cousins to Massive Deal, Then Draft Michael Penix Jr.

QB Michael Penix Jr. Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Kirk Cousins is set to turn 36 in August, is coming off a torn Achilles and has an underwhelming 1-3 postseason record. Signing him to a four-year, $180 million contract that includes $100 million guaranteed was a very risky move by the Atlanta Falcons.

However, Atlanta was one of the few teams that could justify doing it. The Falcons had a very talented roster and only needed solid quarterback play to contend in the NFC South. Cousins can provide that.

What the Falcons are likely to regret is giving Cousins $100 million guaranteed and then using the eighth overall pick on Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Atlanta reached for Penix, who was the 87th-ranked prospect on the B/R Scouting Department big board, and in doing so, passed on adding a player who could help win now.

Going all-in with Cousins would have been logical, but the Falcons aren't actually doing that. Instead, they've created an odd dynamic in which Cousins has become a bridge quarterback before he even takes a meaningful snap with his new team.

To make matters worse, Cousins wasn't privy to Atlanta's plan before draft night. According to ESPN's Pete Thamel, the Penix selection was met with "inherent frustration and confusion" from Cousins' camp.

Cousins will also face the pressure of having a highly-drafted rookie waiting in the wings. Should he struggle at all over the next couple of seasons, fans—and perhaps even some teammates—will be begging for Penix to see the field. If Cousins doesn't struggle, Penix could be nearing the end of his rookie contract before Atlanta even knows whether he can play.

There's nothing wrong with trying to win now and nothing wrong with planning for the future at the game's most important position. However, if the Falcons truly believe that Penix can be an elite quarterback, they'll very soon regret shelling out $100 million for a placeholder.

Cowboys Bank on Rookies to Reload Offensive Line

OT Tyler Guyton Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

As previously mentioned, the Cowboys could very well see their playoff window start to close after this season. Therefore, going all-in on 2024 would have made plenty of sense. However, Dallas was painfully inactive in free agency and lost several key contributors, including left tackle Tyron Smith and center Tyler Biadasz, without replacing them with veteran talent.

The Cowboys will now bank on rookie tackle Tyler Guyton and rookie interior lineman Cooper Beebe to reload their offensive line. It's a very dicey game plan because both players lack NFL experience and will need to switch positions.

Guyton was only a one-year starter at Oklahoma and will be forced to move from right to left tackle. That could take time, and the Cowboys aren't particularly well-equipped to provide that.

"He can eventually bloom into a high-end starter in the NFL, but he will need to be brought along slowly in a conservative scheme and veteran O-line room before bridging that gap," Brandon Thorn of the B/R Scouting Department wrote of Guyton.

Beebe was a four-year starter at Kansas State and played multiple positions along the offensive line. However, he never started a game at center.

The learning curve for these rookie linemen could be particularly problematic if Dallas is forced to lean heavily on the pass this season. Guyton and Beebe may both become great players in time, but this season, Dallas could come to rue its decision to not target veterans or, at least, more pro- and position-ready prospects.

Bills Trade to Give AFC Rival Chiefs Xavier Worthy

WR Xavier Worthy Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Here's a novel thought. If you're a viable AFC contender who has struggled to get past the Kansas City Chiefs in the postseason, maybe trading down in the draft so that your conference rival can land the fastest receiver in combine history isn't such a great idea.

The Bills thought otherwise and allowed the Chiefs to trade up four spots to secure Texas wideout Xavier Worthy.

Sure, Buffalo picked up a third-round selection in the deal—which it used on Duke defensive lineman DeWayne Carter—but it also equipped Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs with a receiver who ran a 4.21-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

"It's a speed game and the more speed you have on the field, the harder it is for defenses to take away different elements of the game," Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said, per ESPN's Adam Teicher.

Buffalo then traded out of the first round entirely and grabbed Florida State receiver Keon Coleman with the first selection in Round 2. While the Bills may not regret landing Coleman instead of taking Worthy for themselves, actively helping the defending champions improve could prove to be a massive mistake.

Kansas City must have sensed that it needed to trade up to get Worthy. If the team that has ended your postseason in three of the past four seasons comes calling for a specific player, maybe you shouldn't pick up the phone.

The Bills did, and they'll regret doing so if Worthy helps the Chiefs win a third straight Lombardi Trophy,

*Cap and contract information via Spotrac.

   

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