Now that the NFL is on the cusp of beginning its offseason a few teams must decide what their direction is for the future. There are a couple of teams that are loaded with star players but don’t have enough talent on their roster to make it into Conference Championship or Super Bowl territory.
The unfortunate thing about these teams is that they do not have the salary-cap space to sign new players or resign their young players looking for second contracts. On top of that, most of these teams finished above .500 so they do not have fantastic draft picks to add an immediate impact player to fill a need on their roster.
When a team’s roster gets like this they have two options. They can either retool their roster so they can give themselves more flexibility to build their roster to become Super Bowl-caliber much like the Los Angeles Rams did after the 2018-19 season. Another option for these teams is to completely rebuild and give themselves enough assets to restock their roster with the young talent they need to win a championship. Here are the teams that would hit the reset button and tear down their rosters for the long-term futures.
New Orleans Saints
The most unfortunate team to make this list is the New Orleans Saints. That is because the Saints has had the NFL’s most complete roster and had been a Super Bowl for the past four seasons. It seems like every playoff loss the Saints have had since 2017 has been because of a flukey play at the end of the game.
Famously in the 2017-18 season, New Orleans lost to Minnesota in the divisional round after a poor tackle attempt by Marcus Williams on Stefon Diggs in a Hail Mary attempt by Case Keenum. This play is also known as the Minnesota Miricle.
The next season New Orleans lost in the Conference Championship against the Los Angeles Rams after Nickell Robey-Coleman wasn’t called for a pass interference call against Saints receiver TommyLee Lewis on third down with 1:47 remaining in the third quarter on a potential game-winning drive. This call lead to the NFL allowing head coaches to challenge pass interference calls the following season.
During the 2019-20 Wild Card Round the Saints lost to the Vikings again in the playoffs after Kirk Cousins threw a 44-yard bomb to Adam Theilen in overtime. This pass set up the game-winning touchdown to Kyle Rudolph on third down.
This past season the Saints were blown out at home by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round. Drew Brees had an uncharacteristic three-interception game which was a major reason why they lost.
Despite the team going 49-15 over the last four regular seasons, it appears that now is the perfect time for the Saints to rebuild their roster. The Saints are currently $65 Million over the salary cap despite Drew Brees basically eliminating his $25 million cap hit for this next season. So the team has very little wiggle room to adjust their roster or even resign their major free agents like Marcus Williams, Trey Hendrickson, or Jameis Winston.
On top of that, it appears that Tom Brady and the Buccaneers will be a major threat not only in the playoffs but to win the division for as long as Brady is playing at this level. Also, the Panthers appear to be a quarterback away from being a threat after losing eight games this season by only single digits. Now that Brees is likely to retire it is unlikely that the team can improve from what they did this past season. But now that Brees will likely no longer be with the team there should be less pressure to win this roster.
Both general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton have shown enough in the past for ownership to keep them throughout a multi-year rebuild. By tearing the team down and starting a rebuild the Saints can load themselves up with enough talent to take not only the NFC South but possibly the entire NFC by the time Tom Brady retires (in likely three seasons). New Orleans doesn’t have to be in win-now mode anymore and should take advantage of it.
The Philadelphia Eagles have more headlines than any other team in the last 24 weeks. The biggest reason for the Eagles making the headlines was just traded for a third-round pick this year and a second-round pick next season which could turn into a first. That trade also is the first sign that the Eagles may be looking to rebuild their franchise.
Despite Carson Wentz not playing in the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl win, he was a major part of that team and of their success that year. Even though it may not be to the same extent many of the players from that team that are still on the Eagles roster have regressed as Wentz has.
The team has already started cutting cords with a couple of veterans including DeSean Jackson, Malik Jackson, and Alshon Jeffery. Now that the Eagles have no clear direction at quarterback or with the team they might as well hit the reset button before it’s too late.
Before those moves, the Eagles were more than $37 million over the salary cap. The team also has the largest dead cap hit in NFL history after moving Wentz’s contract. Even though Wentz will be on the Colts roster next season he will account for $33.8 million against the cap. If the salary cap reaches $180 million this offseason as it is projected to, Wentz’s dead cap hit will take up almost 19% of the Eagles cap space.
The Eagles should take advantage of the fact that the odds are very much against them to be a playoff team or a contender next season and move some of the expensive veterans on their roster whether it be via trade or release to fix their terrible cap situation. It seems unlikely that the team will be much better than its 4-11-1 record from this past season unless the team remains healthy and Jalen Hurts takes a leap forward in his development. Both seem unlikely considering the Eagles have had some of the worst luck with injuries since 2017 and reports have already come out that the team is already questioning Hurts as the long-term starter. after trading Wentz The assets they acquire could be used to start building around young players like Hurts, Jalen Reagor, Miles Sanders, and Dallas Goedert.
It seems unlikely that new head coach Nick Sirianni would oppose a rebuild as long his job is secured during the process. While general manager Howie Roseman will need to be assured that his job will be safe for at least the next two to three seasons if they want him to start tearing this team apart. It seems unlikely that Roseman has great job security after all that has been coming out about him and the team in recent weeks.
Even when regarding everything that has gone on with the Philadelphia Eagles this past season many would consider the Houston Texans the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL. That being said the team has the opportunity to do some damage control and help their team get set in the right direction.
Within the past three seasons, the Texans have done a lot of unpopular actions. First, they mortgaged the team’s future for a franchise left tackle. Then undervalued two of the team’s best players Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins who traded away just to clear cap space. This past offseason they aggravated one of the league’s elite quarterback Deshaun Watson to the point that he has demanded a trade. Finally, most recently they released the best player in the history of the franchise despite the fact that they could have at least acquired a top-70 draft selection for him via trade.
New general manager Nick Caserio, head coach David Culley, and (for some reason) Jack Easterby must realize that it is better to begin your tenure with a rebuild rather than end it. It is uncertain how long ownership will give them to turn this ship around. But it appears there is too much work to be done to get the team in a position to contend for a Super Bowl within the next two to three seasons.
Defensively the Texans are a mess. There is not a single player outside of Justin Reid that the team could point at and say he is going to be a great contributor to the team’s long-term future. Offensively the Texans have some great pieces in Deshaun Watson, Brandin Cooks, and Laremy Tunsil. But the team needs to add to the offense if they want to take advantage of Watson’s talent and keep him happy.
Houston has only $10.9 million in salary cap space and doesn’t have a draft pick until the third round thanks to the Laremy Tunsil trade. This is not enough to get this team into a competitive position by next year and maybe the year after that. As painful and risky as it may be the team’s best option may be to trade Deshaun Watson to the highest bidder. All the assets they can get could be used on a young player to fill one of the many needs on this roster. On top of that, the team could boost their salary cap space to a little over $21 Million by getting rid of a few more veterans on offense. They can cut both David Johnson and Duke Johnson and trade Brandin Cooks for a Day 2 pick.
These transactions could very well land the Texans the first overall pick next year and land them a franchise-caliber player who they can build around. They could land that player and the many talented players they can acquire via the draft picks they got from the Watson deal. In the state of disarray the Texans franchise is in this may be the best way the team can rebuild toward the future under this regime.
The Pittsburgh Steelers season can be split into two parts. There were the team’s first 11 games and then the last 5 regular-season games and their wild-card game against the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers started the season 11-0 and were in the Super Bowl picture with the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. After their Week 12 win against the Baltimore Ravens the Steelers finished the regular season 1-4. Then in the playoffs, the Steelers were exposed for the team they really are when they got blown out by the Cleveland Browns 48-37.
It is apparent that the Steelers have reached their peak and could not win with some of the pieces in place on their roster. The Steelers will have a very different-looking roster next season because multiple starters are going to hit the market as free agents and Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey has already retired. Even with all of this roster turnover, the Steelers are just over $6 Million over the salary cap.
The biggest issue with the Steelers cap situation is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s cap hit. This season Roethlisberger is set to have a $41 million cap hit. The problem lies with the fact that 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is nowhere near worth that price tag at this he has next season. Even though Roethlisberger will go down as one of if not the greatest Steelers quarterback of all time is he worth losing Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyson Alualu, James Conner, and Mike Hilton. It is almost impossible for the team to retain all of them, but they at least need to keep a few if they want to be a contender in the near future.
The Steelers may have to cut their losses and part with some of the expensive veterans on their roster to create space for the vital young ones. They need to think about T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick who could both get the largest contracts at their positions when they get their next contract.
Head coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert should have enough job security for the team to go through a quick rebuild by flushing out the older veteran players. Pittsburgh could have a fast turnaround making their rebuild more like a retool. Most of the large contracts on their roster expire after the 2021-22 season anyways. So clearing cap space would just help the team retain some of the younger players they see as part of the team’s future.