Which NFL teams had the worst offseasons? Barnwell ranks the bottom 16

    Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

Over the next week, I’m going to deliver my NFL offseason rankings here at ESPN+. These are designed to consider what a team did during the offseason to increase its chances of winning a Super Bowl, in the short and long term, given the roster and resources it had to work with at the end of the 2022 season.

That last bit is very important in considering these rankings, because there are major differences among what each team had to work with. The Bears added much more talent in free agency than the Vikings, but they also had far more cap space to use. In this case, we’re not judging whether the Bears added talent as much as we’re wondering whether they spent that money wisely.

Likewise, while the Texans came into April’s draft with two first-round picks, does history suggest they used those resources wisely? I’m not confident in our ability to evaluate players before they suit up in the NFL, so my thoughts about each team’s draft are more about team needs, historical positional value and how they handled trading up and down as opposed to my personal opinion on individual players.

I also need to acknowledge that these rankings aren’t perfect. In 2021, I ranked the Packers as having the second-worst offseason, only for free agent additions De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas to play at a Pro Bowl level. That one was wrong, although the 32nd-ranked Raiders won’t look back on what they did that season with much fondness.

Last year, I had the Seahawks pegged for the worst offseason of any team. A year later, that looks foolish for reasons that should seem obvious. Geno Smith emerged from Seattle’s quarterback battle and delivered a stunning Pro Bowl season, while a draft class with Charles Cross, Tariq Woolen and Abraham Lucas made an instant impact. The Broncos, who added a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson, ranked No. 1. If anything, it would have been more accurate to flip those rankings.

Mea culpa! Again, though, I’ll stand on what happened toward the top and bottom. I had the Eagles at No. 2 and the Chargers at No. 3, and they both took strides forward in 2022. Likewise, I had the Raiders, Cardinals and Saints in my bottom five, and they each took a step (or several steps) backward. I can’t win them all, but on the whole, I hope these are a useful evaluation of how teams in different situations handled the offseason.

Which team toward the bottom of these rankings will make my criticism look foolish in 2023? Let’s start with the bottom 16 teams — counting down, with the worst at the the top — before hitting the top 16 on Tuesday, May 30. It begins with an organization that fell out of the playoffs in 2022 but seems to be only halfheartedly committed to a rebuild:

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