Ex-NFL exec Mike Tannenbaum breaks down busy offseason, predicts top draft pick, talks career journey

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The 2022 NFL offseason was one of the busiest in recent memory.

Several NFL stars were on the move — Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, Davante Adams to the Las Vegas RaidersKhalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers and Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphinsjust to name a few.

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Mike Tannenbaum, the former executive vice president of football operations with the Dolphins and former general manager of the New York Jetstold Fox News Digital in a recent interview the two teams that stuck out to him the most were the Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens.

J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots walks off the field after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 18, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots walks off the field after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 18, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

“A couple teams standout to me. One is the Baltimore Ravens because they didn’t do much. I think if they’re healthy, they’re going to be right back in the thick of things because they had a great foundation, and they were decimated by injuries,” Tannenbaum said. “The other team to me is the L.A. Chargers. I think they have a great young player in Justin Herbert. They went out to try to fortify the defense and add players like J.C. Jackson, Khalil Mack. Those are sort of like two teams that really stand out for me.”

The AFC West was one of the notable divisions that got stronger. Only three teams, in theory, could make the playoffs from a single division. A division winner and two wild card teams.

Tannenbaum suggested the Kansas City Chiefs are still the team to beat, despite the Hill trade.

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“I think the AFC West is historically great. I wouldn’t be surprised if they kind of beat each other up. Look, as long as Patrick Mahomes is alive, the Chiefs are going to be viable even without Tyrek Hill. I would expect that if we were having this conversation post-draft, they’ll add at least one or maybe two meaningful receivers,” he said. “I love the Chargers. Russell Wilson is now a Bronco with a great defense, and we can’t ignore what the Raiders have done adding a great coach in Josh McDaniels and bringing over a great receiver in Davante Adams. To me, they’re a fascinating team. So that division is absolutely loaded.”

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in action against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Jan. 2, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Buccaneers defeated the Jets 28-24.

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in action against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Jan. 2, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Buccaneers defeated the Jets 28-24.
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Two of the league’s top quarterbacks decided to stay with their teams after all: Tom Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers traded Adams even with Rodgers coming back. When asked whether Green Bay may have gone backward with their offseason moves, Tannenbaum said “possibly.”

“I think the most receptions rookie receivers ever had with Aaron Rodgers is 38,” he said. “Davante Adams was obviously someone that had great chemistry with Rodgers, and I think they’ll be able to add a good receiver. I don’t think there’s any question about that. I thought it was just kind of inconsistent. If Aaron Rodgers is coming back, clearly he’s close to the end, and not to keep Davante Adams was a little bit of a surprise to me.”

With Brady coming back to the Buccaneers, he said Tampa Bay will always have a chance at competing for a Super Bowl.

“He is ageless. As long as he’s out there, they have a chance,” he told Fox News Digital. “They have some really good players around him as well. I think they’re a team, as long as he’s playing, they’re going to have a good chance to. They’re not what they once were on paper. But I would never bet against Tom Brady.”

Tannenbaum on the NFL Draft

Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson #97 of the Michigan Wolverines looks over the line against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first half at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 9, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson #97 of the Michigan Wolverines looks over the line against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first half at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 9, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
(Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

The Jacksonville Jaguars will be on the clock when the NFL Draft begins in Las Vegas later this month.

The Jaguars addressed their quarterback situation last year by selecting Trevor Lawrence. And this year, Tannenbaum suggested the team could go defense.

“I really like Aidan Hutchinson. I think he’s not only a great pass-rusher, but I think he’s a great teammate. If I’m Jacksonville, I think he makes everybody around him better. He’s someone I like a lot,” Tannenbaum said.

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The Michigan standout had 14 sacks in 14 games for the Wolverines in 2021. He was the 2021 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for his performance.

Tannenbaum said David Ojabo is another name to watch out for even as he works his way back from a torn Achilles injury.

“I think his teammate just as a fascinating story, his teammate David Ojabo would’ve been a first-round pick. He tore his Achilles on a pro day. I think he’s still going to be a really good pro when it’s all said and done,” he said.

Tannenbaum on journey from NFL executive to TV to entrepreneur

Mike Tannenbaum talked to Fox News Digital about the last few weeks of the NFL offseason.

Mike Tannenbaum talked to Fox News Digital about the last few weeks of the NFL offseason.
(Provided)

Tannenbaum had been in the NFL since 1995 when he broke into the league with the Cleveland Browns as a player personnel assistant. He was with the New Orleans Saints in the same position in 1996 and then was in the New York Jets’ front office starting in 1997 as the director of player contracts.

He worked his way up through the Jets’ organization becoming the director of pro player development in 2000 and then an assistant general manager in 2001. In 2006, he became the Jets’ general manager and senior vice president of football operations. He took over as the Dolphins’ executive vice president of football operations in 2015 before he was reassigned by the end of 2018.

In 2019, he joined ESPN as an NFL front office insider. But aside from that, he serves on the board of directors for X2 PERFORMANCE and founded The 33rd Team — an NFL think tank. He also teaches a sports management course as an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have worked in the NFL for a long time over two decades. I think based on experience, I learned how to run a business and scale leadership and be a great listener. I was fortunate enough to transition from the Dolphins to ESPN and basically my role there is to take people behind the curtain and not tell what happened but why it happened,” Tannenbaum told Fox News Digital.

For those trying to follow in his footsteps, Tannenbaum said the best thing anybody can do when trying to break into the NFL with a team or with the league is learning how to create value.

“I think a lot of it is about empathy and being a great listener. It’s easy to say be the first one in and the last to leave, and of course having a great work ethic is so consequential. But who do you create value? What do you bring to the table to make the boss’ job easier, your client’s job easier. You need to bring value and be a problem solver more than anything else,” he said.

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“I think though it’s really understanding where you can create value where the barriers to entry are lower. For me early in my career, the salary cap was really in its nascent stage in the NFL, so I was able to just sort of work my way up quick because of that. If you were looking to get your foot in the door in the world of sports business for example, I think about things like NFTs, cryptocurrency or Metaverse, understanding of intellectual property and international rules of working in different countries.”

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