In the NFL, it’s survival of the fittest. Some GMs come into really tough situations. Some get unlucky because of injuries or draft busts. Not these guys. If these guys were lawyers or doctors, they’d be looking at malpractice suits. And if they were a species, they'd have effectively eliminated themselves from the gene pool. Through bad decisions, these 11 GMs have done the Chiefs (and the rest of the league) a favor by making decisions to eliminate their teams from Super Bowl contention in 2023.
3 guys who at least got a ring
1. Les Snead LAR: This year the Rams have more dead money ($52M) than money spent on their entire defense ($46M). That includes an aging Aaron Donald on the books for $26M. They’re paying Allen Robinson II $18M. They’ve also got over $20M on the books for a Matthew Stafford who’s contemplating retirement. The Rams are effectively eliminated from contending for a SB for the foreseeable future. At least Les got a ring.
2. Jason Licht TB: By taking on all the Brady money this year (over $35M), they’ve got over $75M in dead cap. That’s more than their spending on either offense OR defense in 2023. Barring a Baker miracle or a Trask turnaround, they’re in QB purgatory. They’ve also extended two older vets whose contracts are not going to age well:
· Mike Evans (30) will count over $23M against the cap this year PLUS $12M against the cap in dead money in the coming years (probably spread over 3 years).
· Shaq Barrett (31) will count over $20M against the cap each of the next 2 years plus almost $10M in 2025 in dead money…
At least Jason got a ring.
3. Mickey Loomis NO: New Orleans won a ring with Drew Brees and Sean Payton after Hurricane Katrina. That was the 2009 season. Mickey’s been going all-in ever since. It has not gone well. Now they’ve signed Derek Carr to a massive contract, and they just keep pushing money to future years. OTC has them $42M over the cap for 2024 with only 37 players under contract. Some of the biggest hits:
· Derek Carr $35M
· Ryan Ramczyk $27M
· Marshon Lattimore $25M
· Cam Jordan $23M
· Alvin Kamara $18M
· Demario Davis $18M
· Taysom Hill $15M
· Michael Thomas $14M (all dead)
· Andrus Peat $13M (all dead)
The Kamara and Hill deals look the worst because of positional value (unless Taysom goes back to QB – at which point, I’ll have to give a Darwin Award to HC Dennis Allen). They’ve had some bad injury luck with Thomas. There are definitely some good players here, guys who deserved to be paid for the way the play the game. And they do have a chance of taking the relatively weak NFC South, but come on. They will NOT be competing with SF and PHI this year, or I suspect even with DET. Trading away this year’s #1 (#10 overall) for Chris Olave (a very good player) is an all-in move by a team in need of a rebuild. At least Mickey got that ring.
3 QB Chasers
4. George Paton DEN: He sold the farm and locked his team into 3 or 4 more years of Russell Wilson. Then he got a 1st rounder for Bradley Chubb. Then he traded that for Sean Payton. Payton is a good/great coach. Before last year, Russell Wilson has been a HOF QB. Their defense last year was AMAZING. And they were a bottom 5 team. This year they’re going run-first. Welcome to old-school football. In 2024 the following players will be over 30 and making more than $10M/year (current age in parentheses):
· Russell Wilson (35) $35M
· Garrett Bolles (31) $20M
· Justin Simmons (30) $18M
· Randy Gregory (31) $16M
· Tim Patrick (30) $13M
Bolles should be fine as an OT, but that’s a lot of "old money." And not a lot of draft picks this year to bring in good new players on rookie contracts. Where does DEN go from here? Elimination.
5. Andrew Berry CLE: He made every front office and ownership group in the league mad with the Deshaun Watson contract. Then Deshaun got outplayed by Jacoby Brissett, and CLE missed the playoffs. In 2024, the big cap hits start with Watson counting $63M. Big contracts for their stars Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Amari Cooper, Joel Bitonio, David Njoku (ok, maybe not quite a star), and Nick Chubb puts the Browns at a projected $35M over the 2024 cap with only 37 players under contract. I know they can push money to future years, but that just kicks the can down the road. Maybe Watson can turn things around. Even if he does, are you betting on the Browns to win the Super Bowl this year? Their division? An AFC wild-card spot? What about 2024? 2025? Remember they’re going to keep pushing money. I’m out.
6. Scott Fitterer CAR: I understand that Mr. Fitterer has a very impatient owner as his boss. He’s still looking at over $50M in dead money this year mostly from CMC, DJ Moore, and Chosen (formerly Robbie/Robby) Anderson. He traded away a lot to get that #1 overall pick, then made it sound like they don’t even know who they want to take. Is that sound business practice in any industry? CJ Stroud and Bryce Young both have their strong points. Are either going to bring your team to the Super Bowl? Who is the rookie going to throw to? Old man Adam Thielen? Oft-injured DJ Chark? Laviska Shenault? Terrace Marshall? Ian Thomas? Tommy Tremble? That group of pass-catchers does not scare any NFL defense. I know it’s not all your fault, Scott, but a rookie QB alone – even paired with a great defense and coaching – is not going to get the job done. (PS. The last 3 Super Bowl-winning QBs have been on VETERAN contracts while the last 3 SB losers have had rookie-contract QBs. So maybe a QB on a rookie contract is a magic formula for losing the big game?)
3 QB disenfranchisers
7. Brian Gutekunst GB: I get it, Brian. Aaron Rodgers is not an easy person to work with. Still, he was considered the most talented QB of this era before the arrival of Patrick Mahomes AND you paid him $50M/year to stay last offseason. And GB could have done some things to keep the relationship from getting this bad: drafting WRs in the 1st round, keeping their own free agent WRs, signing Davante Adams long-term rather than trading him, not trading up to draft Jordan Love, using the AJ Dillon pick on a WR with Aaron Jones already on the team. Now they’ve painted themselves into a corner where they pretty much have to move him, and the Jets are being smart about not overpaying for a guy who’s not going to play in green and gold this year and who seems to have no other suitors.
8. Eric DeCosta BAL: Eric has been a great GM for years. I just don’t see what the plan is for Lamar. You SAY you want him there long-term to win championships, but then you don’t PAY him – or more accurately guarantee him – what he believes he’s worth. You had a plan. If the plan isn’t going to work, you’ve got to move on quickly. You have not. Now you’re stuck. And word came out today Lamar is requesting a trade. And no one seems interested in offering him a huge contract and coughing up 2 1st rounders. I don’t believe it’s collusion. I believe it’s a lot to give a dual-threat QB who’s been injured each of the last 2 seasons. (ok, maybe there’s some collusion, what do I know?) And most teams can’t retool their entire offense around Lamar in less than one offseason which is what they now have. What can Eric get for Lamar in a trade? A 1st plus anything seems like a win at this point. Can he get a 1st and a 2nd this year? That’s pretty great compensation for a guy who now seems emotionally conflicted about an organization he repeatedly gave his all for. Until then, here’s your GM Darwin Award. You’ve been eliminated.
9. Dave Ziegler LV: Ok, maybe this is more on HC Josh McDaniels than Dave. It doesn’t change the fact that Pro Bowl QB Derek Carr is gone for no compensation with $5M in dead money, and replaced with a slight downgrade in Jimmy G. I get that Josh sees Jimmy as a "team/system 1st" guy from their NE days together. Still, your team wasn’t very good last year, and now you’re going to be worse. In 2024, you’re slated to pay Davante $25M, Maxx $24M, Chandler $19M, and Jimmy $28M. Sing it with me, "One of these things is not like the others. One of these things is not quite the same." You’ve switched out Waller for OJ Howard at TE. Worse. I like Renfrow and Myers and Jacobs (if Renfrow isn’t also on the chopping block). I just don’t see where this is going. You were bad last year. The defense is a mess on all 3 levels. The o-line is a mess. The QB and TE are worse than before. You’re looking up at KC and LA in the AFC West. McDaniels’ system better be something special because he’s getting his guys and alienating others. Maybe they make the playoffs and get bounced in the WC round. Maybe they finish last in the division if Denver gets back on track. Either way, here’s to a glorious self-elimination from title contention.
2 guys who blew their "window"
10. Brandon Beane BUF: No, Brandon, it’s not all your fault. Who knew what KC would do in 13 seconds? Now, you’ve paid Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs and Von Miller, and you haven’t been to a Super Bowl. Last year you got blown out by the Bengals in the divisional round. This year you’re ceiling is the 3rd best team in the AFC. JAX probably passes you by. And Miami is going all in this year smelling blood in the water. And the Jets might pull off a trade for Aaron Rodgers. And Belichick is going to do Belichick things with lots of cap space and draft capital this year. A couple bad breaks, and you won’t win your division this year. First to worst? 0-6 in the division? It’s in the cards. You’ve peaked and you’re on the way down, and your peak was the aforementioned 13 seconds away from making a Super Bowl. Your window is not closing. It’s closed. You don’t have a path. How do you pivot when you’ve already got some huge contracts on the books for 2024:
· Josh Allen $47M
· Stefon Diggs $28M (does he really want a trade or does he just want more targets?)
· Von Miller $23M
· Tre’Davious White $17M
· Dion Dawkins $15M
· Dawson Knox $14M
They’ll most likely make the playoffs for the foreseeable future with Allen at QB, but then what? If it’s survival of the fittest, you’ve been eliminated.
11. Tom Telesco LAC: Before signing Justin Herbert to a well-deserved extension, the Chargers have 4 players set to count more than $30M against the cap in 2024: Khalil Mack ($38M), Joey Bosa ($36M), Keenan Allen ($35M), and Mike Williams ($32M). All of them will be over 30 by then except Bosa who’ll be 29. They’ve got too many guys on massive veteran contracts. They have maxed out their credit card. They went all in last year because they saw the Chiefs were rebuilding. HC Brandon Staley doesn’t know how to win big/close games. And now Ekeler wants out. I’m sorry Tom. This team did not break through in Justin’s rookie contract window. Some of these contracts are not going to age well. And while you can still make the playoffs because of how good Justin and some of the guys around him are, that’s kinda where it stops. You’re going to have to blow this up and get younger and cheaper before you can think about contending for a championship. That’s probably 3-5 years away at this point. Eliminated.
3 GMs on Darwin Watch: These guys have given their teams a chance at the SB in 2023, but in 2024, I expect them both to be full-blown Darwin Award winners.
1 guy who at least got a ring, almost 2!
12. Howie Roseman PHI: That Philly Special was special. The reigning PFWA Executive of the Year has $54M in dead money this year. Listen Howie & PFWA, you could pay for ALL the free agents Philly lost with that money and have some left over. Who did they lose? Javon Hargrave, Kyzir White, TJ Edwards, and CJGJ on defense plus Seumalo and Miles Sanders on offense. Howie did bring back some over-30 veterans on "team-friendly" deals. Think their injury luck will be worse this year? I do. Even with some solid early draft picks including the Saint’s #10 pick and Nakobe Dean waiting to take a LB spot and Cam Jurgens possibly switching to G, I don’t see them being better in 2024. Their SOS however will go up dramatically. Their ray of hope is Jalen Hurts’ heroic SB performance becoming the norm this season. If that happens, they will be very good although the supporting cast around him is worse. They could even get back to the Super Bowl depending on how things go with SF and perhaps DET. Still it seems to me Howie swung for the fences in 2022 and came up short, and now he’s going to be paying the piper for a couple years before trying again. On the verge of elimination.
1 guy who’s all in this year
13. Chris Grier MIA: Chris has gone all-in for 2023, the last cheap year on Tua’s contract. If it works, he’ll join the "guys who at least got a ring" tier next year. Otherwise he’ll join the "blew his window" tier because 2024 is going to be ugly. OTC puts the Dolphins at $5M over the cap with only 31 players signed. The big hits are:
· Tyreek Hill $31M
· Jalen Ramsey $28M
· Bradley Chubb $27M
· Xavien Howard $26M
· Tua Tagovailoa $23M (5th year option)
· Terron Armstead $20M
· Emmanuel Ogbah $18M
· Jerome Baker $15M (cut candidate)
Those are some great players. And those are some expensive contracts. Yes, yes, he can push money into future years. And the team will be worse during those years. He’s got one shot at this, maybe two. Then, whether he extends Tua or not, the team will be worse for several years before having any chance of a rebuild. I will be mildly surprised if the Dolphins get it done this year, but I will not be surprised if they flounder for years afterwards. Maybe they can coax TB out of retirement? (Did I forget to mention the 1st rounder they lost for tampering. Sheesh!)
1 GM who’s "running it back" to WC contention
14. Joe Schoen NYG: The Giants looked like they were in a great spot with tons of cap room coming into the offseason. They spent most of it on keeping Danny Dimes and Saquon. $40M/year for Daniel Jones? $20M/year I’d have felt great about. $30M, not great. $40M, yuck. $10M tag for Saquon? Not exactly team-friendly. DJ made strides this year with better o-line and coaching (shout out to Mike Kafka!) and a healthy Saquon. If their play-makers can stay off IR, maybe he takes another step, but this is paying for potential rather than performance. Throw in the Kadarius Toney trade, and things look even worse for Big Blue. Joe’s not entirely eliminated from SB contention yet in a relatively weak NFC, but it could be coming soon. And if they get there and face KC or CIN, then what? A blowout. No thanks.
Well Chiefs fans, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have Brett "the Dynasty-builder" Veach taking care of roster decisions. He may not be perfect, and the Chiefs’ roster may not be perfect, but he’s been better at his job than these guys, and the Chiefs roster is going to be better than any of these 14 teams’ in 2023 and beyond. (Ok, maybe MIA looks better on paper with a healthy Tua.)
Did I leave anybody out?
All contract and cap data was taken from the hard-working guys at OTC.
Inspired by the Darwin Awards... and some really bad GM moves!