With the offseason already in full effect, trades being made, players being cut and the NFL Combine just over two weeks away, Blitzalytics dives into some potential moves each team should consider from now until the start of the 2018 season.
Josh Allen- QB, Wyoming
The Cardinals are in an interesting situation this offseason as they have no quarterback under contract. They hired Steve Wilks as their new head coach, so I am sure he wants to find his quarterback of the future; he is in luck with the talented 2018 draft class. The Cardinals have the 15th pick in the draft. They may have to hope some of the quarterbacks fall, and one particularly talented yet questionable one might. Enter Josh Allen, who has all the tools that an NFL team wants in a prototypical quarterback but with some accuracy issues. I understand these concerns, but I believe under the right tutelage he can develop into an elite quarterback at the next level. The Cardinals have Mike McCoy as their offensive coordinator who has worked with the likes of Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. In addition, I believe that the Cardinals should go after a bridge quarterback like Sam Bradford or Josh McCown that can mentor Allen. The Cardinals need to fall in love with a talented quarterback like Josh Allen in 2018.
Justin Pugh- G, Free Agent
Luckily for the Falcons, they are full of young talent all over the place on both sides of the ball. Unluckily for them, that stops at the interior of the offensive line. The Falcons need a guard. Former sixth round pick Wes Schweitzer made strides last year in pass protection, but is still limited athletically. On the other side, 31 year old fellow guard Andy Levitre was more than solid but finished the year on the IR and has an $8.4 million cap hit in 2018. Matt Ryan is at his best when he has a clean pocket, so look for the Falcons to make an addition along the interior of the line this offseason.
Former Giant Justin Pugh has been playing out of position all year at right tackle, but if switched back to guard he can help keep Matty Ice off of his back. The 2013 first round pick did his best to keep the pocket clean for Eli Manning this year, but while playing out of position his production suffered. Presumably any team who signs Pugh will switch him back to guard where he has shown he can play at an elite level and be effective. The Falcons could lock down the position for years to come by signing the 27-year-old Pugh. With plenty of experience and the proper pedigree, Pugh is exactly the type of risk the Falcons should be willing to take.
Sammy Watkins- WR, Free Agent
It’s no secret that the Ravens’ wide receiving corps last year was among the worst in the league. 32 year old Mike Wallace, who led the team with 748 receiving yards, is a free agent and Jeremy Maclin is on the last year of a two year deal. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has not had a great track record of drafting wide receivers either. Former first-round pick Breshad Perriman has been injury prone and is part of the long list of Ravens WRs who have busted.
At some point, Ozzie Newsome will need to accept the fact that the team has a weakness when drafting that position. With any luck, Newsome will realize he will need to pay a free-agent receiver, and hopefully that point is the 2018 offseason. Insert Sammy Watkins.
Watkins is still only 24 years old and has the pedigree of a first round WR. He totaled 593 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns while learning the Rams’ offense on the fly. The speedster from Clemson would be a perfect fit for Baltimore, providing the speed that big-armed Joe Flacco has missed since the days of Torrey Smith. With the Rams needing to pay so many other in-house free agents, Watkins could potentially get lost in the shuffle. If Ozzie Newsome is smart, he’ll hop on the chance of signing the potentially game-changing Sammy Watkins.
E.J. Gaines- CB, Free Agent
After coming over from the LA Rams in the Sammy Watkins trade, Gaines put together a solid performance in a contract year, finishing as PFF’s 13th highest rated cornerback for the 2017 season. Strong performances by Gaines and rookie corner Tre’Davious White established the duo as one of the more promising young cornerback tandems in the league. Re-signing Gaines should absolutely be one of the Bills’ top priorities this offseason, particularly with fellow corners Shareece Wright and Leonard Johnson also entering free agency.
Although Gaines will most likely command an average salary in the ballpark of $9 million per year, according to Spotrac.com, losing him would likely force the Bills to spend multiple draft picks to almost completely revamp the position. Gaines’ age, scheme fit, and performance this past season should give the organization confidence to keep him in Buffalo for the foreseeable future. The Bills’ front office must realize that they have too many other holes on the roster including WR, LB, DT, and of course, QB. Re-signing Gaines gives them security at one of the most important positions in today’s game and allows them to focus their attention on other areas, like improving their 31st-ranked passing offense.
- Greg Lehr
Tyrell Williams- WR, Free Agent
Ever since dealing away Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills for picks at the trade deadline the Panthers have been in the market for a wide receiver, particularly one with speed. Cam Newton was at his best when he had Ted Ginn Jr. in the lineup stretching the field and catching big touchdowns for Carolina. The big armed Newton needs a speedster on the outside, and Tyrell Williams would fill that role perfectly.
Williams will most likely be the odd man out of the Chargers wide receiving corps this offseason. The team already has budding star Keenan Allen, second-year first-round pick Mike Williams, and a similar receiver to Williams in Travis Benjamin who also has a $7 million cap hit this season. There’s only so much money and assets to go around at receiver. With the Panthers only having about $14 million in cap space, Williams could be a cheap addition that proves to be the missing piece of the offense that the Panthers have so desperately needed.
Allen Robinson- WR, Free Agent
The Bears’ sole focus this offseason needs to be focused on surrounding QB Mitch Trubisky with more weapons. Receivers Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright are both free agents, but their mediocre production could be upgraded anyway. While this year’s free agent crop of receivers is not overly exciting, Allen Robinson could be the true number one receiver the Bears have been lacking since losing Alshon Jeffery a year ago. After tearing his ACL in week one of this past season, Robinson’s name has quietly flown under the radar, but all signs point to him being fully healthy heading into next season. The big-bodied receiver would be a welcome addition to a Bears offense that is starving for playmakers in the passing game and is exactly the type of weapon Trubisky could use. With an estimated $41 million to work with, per Over The Cap, the Bears should be prioritizing additions that support the development of their young franchise QB, and a high-caliber player like Robinson would be a great start to this team’s offseason.
Andrew Norwell- OG, Free Agent
The Bengals need to find help for their offensive line this offseason. They invested a 2nd round pick in Joe Mixon, so they need someone who will help carve up running lanes for him. Offensive guard Andrew Norwell is the player they need to fall in love with. This isn’t a rookie who they will have to hope has a fast learning curve; he will be an immediate impact and will help improve their offense. This signing would also allow them to use their 12th pick on other areas that they need to improve upon. Norwell should be the Bengals’ #1 target in Free Agency.
Kirk Cousins- QB, Free Agent
Although there could be a lot of options for this Valentine’s gift because of the amount of holes on this team, I chose one that I feel would best suit the Browns and allow them to fill the rest of their needs in other ways. I gave the Browns a starting caliber franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins. Adding Cousins to this team would do wonders beyond his play on the field. It would allow the Browns to add talent to put around Cousins on offense and add different pieces on defense without worrying about the most important position in the game. As of now, the Browns are predicted to take a QB with the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Adding Cousins would allow them to take someone like Saquon Barkley, who is the consensus top player in the draft. This is the best possible scenario for the Browns and their offseason, as they have a chance to go from the worst team in the league to being somewhat competitive in the AFC North. They have all the opportunity in the world to make this offseason successful and one of the best in NFL history. But then again, they are the Browns, so we will see…
Josh Gordon- WR, Restricted Free Agent
The Cowboys have been in need of an elite playmaker at the wide receiver position for quite some time now. Dez Bryant has shown he’s still a red zone threat, but looks to have physically slowed down quite dramatically. He can’t get in and out of his breaks like he once could and doesn’t seem to create separation against press coverage. There are 16.5 million reasons as to why Bryant will either be asked to take a pay cut or won’t be in Dallas next season. With Jason Garrett looking to continue to help Dak Prescott grow into a top NFL QB, a deep threat who can stretch the field is exactly what the Cowboys need.
Seeing as how Jerry Jones is notorious for bringing in players of questionable character, Josh Gordon makes far too much sense. Yes, the same Josh Gordon who’s been suspended too many times to count, who’s missed two thirds of his career due to the fact he couldn’t stay off the weed, and who hadn’t played in a regular season game since 2014 before returning to the Browns late this season. Why would they bring him in, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Jerry loves talent and could care less about a player’s past discretions. It’s believed that Josh has gotten his life together and is still as explosive as ever. In his 2017 return he put up 4 receptions for 85 yards against All-Pro DB Casey Hayward and also had a 4 catch, 115-yard game versus the Browns’ division rivals in Pittsburgh to end the season. On film Gordon doesn’t look like he’s missed a step, and the Cowboys need exactly what he brings to the table offensively.
Kirk Cousins- QB, Free Agent
Cousins is the Godiva Valentine’s chocolate of free agency. As a healthy, high-level QB in his prime, he will be in significantly high demand across the league. Cousins won’t come cheap- after Jimmy Garoppolo’s massive contract with San Francisco, the QB will likely demand about $30 million a year. The Broncos will have to make a few moves to clear space, but they should be able to do so to afford Cousins. The team currently has $26 million in cap space; I can see them releasing Aqib Talib, which would save them $11 million. Though Talib is still a premier corner, the Broncos have two younger high level players at the position. Emmanuel Sanders could also be a cap casualty, as he will be 31 years old and has dealt with injuries throughout his career. Cutting him would save the team about $11 million for the next two years as well.
Cousins would seem to be walking into a great situation in Denver, as they have a top defense, a Pro Bowl receiver in Demaryius Thomas, and the 6th pick in the draft. If the Broncos sign Cousins they will have enormous flexibility to fill their two biggest needs of a right tackle and a wide receiver to pair with Thomas. With Cousins on the team, the Denver Broncos would be just a couple parts away from becoming a legitimate playoff contender.
Le’Veon Bell- RB, Free Agent
According to overthecap.com, the Lions will have $45 million in cap room. They have not had a feature back that keeps defensive coordinators up at night since Barry Sanders retired. When the Lions had Sanders they went to the playoffs 6 out of 10 seasons, with Sanders winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and Offensive Player of the Year twice. The Lions now have Matthew Stafford under contract for another 4 years, and the team has finished a strong 9–7 the past two seasons in the NFC North.
Flush with cap money, the Lions have the perfect opportunity to go after a running back like Le’Veon Bell. He had over 1000 yards rushing with 9 touchdowns and 655 receiving yards. He could bring that experience that the Lions have been lacking at RB for almost 20 years now, while providing Matthew Stafford with a running back that he knows he can count on both in blocking situations and with catching the ball out of the backfield. If the Lions can make this happen and draft wisely, they may be able to win out in the NFC North in 2018.
Green Bay Packers
Denzel Ward- CB, Ohio State
With their top two picks in last year’s draft the Packers addressed their secondary needs by drafting both Kevin King and Josh Jones. Both players showed this year that they have a lot of potential in the secondary but could still use a little bit of work. I have graciously gifted the Packers with arguably the best cornerback in this year’s draft, Denzel Ward. There is a very good chance that Ward does not fall all the way to #14 where the Packers have their first selection, but it is still a possibility based on other teams’ needs and the talent in the draft. Ward is not the ideal size for a shut-down corner in the league, standing at 5’10” and weighing in at 190 lbs, and he is going to be smaller than most of the receivers he faces. But this still has not stopped Ward from being a physical presence in the Ohio State secondary. He is a physical corner who will punch you in the mouth at the line and has the athleticism to keep up with almost any WR. He is one in a long line of Ohio State DBs to come into the draft with the projection of a first round pick. Ward would fit very well in the Packers secondary and would be able to grow and develop among some very talented young players.
Trumaine Johnson- CB, Free Agent
The Texans look to be stacked for the upcoming 2018 season with the return of All-Pro J.J. Watt, Pro Bowler Whitney Mercilus, and Blitzalytics #1 rated QB by our per game metrics in Deshaun Watson, who would have been Rookie of the Year had he not torn his ACL in practice. The Texans have two glaring roster needs: the secondary and offensive line. Luckily for Houston, they also have $54 million in cap to play with and will look to heavily address these issues in free agency since they don’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick this draft after trading up for Watson. I believe they’ll attempt to solidify the line with mid tier O-lineman instead of paying top dollar for someone like an Andrew Norwell.
Though Trumaine Johnson had somewhat of a down year compared to previous seasons, he’s still looked at as one of, if not the best, corner on the open market and will command a massive 5 year, $55+ million dollar deal according to spotrac.com. With 3 of the 4 best defenses in the league this past season making it to the Conference Championship, it would be wise for Houston to lock up a shutdown corner and put themselves right back in the conversation for best defense in the league.
Saquon Barkley- RB, Penn State
This year for Valentine’s Day, I gifted the Colts a once in a lifetime player that may fall right into their laps on draft day. The Indianapolis Colts hold the #3 pick in the 2018 NFL draft. This pick is usually reserved for a highly touted player who can come in and make an immediate impact on the team who’s picking roster. Not only do the Colts have a chance to make a roster changing pick, because of the way the draft is looking like it will play out, they have a chance to take not only the best player in the draft, but one of the best running back prospects anyone has ever seen. Saquon Barkley is one of the most electric playmakers that I have ever seen. The way he impacts a game is unlike any other prospect I’ve scouted. Watching him on film made me say more than one time per game “How did he do that?”
Adding a player of Barkley’s caliber to the Colts would do wonders for this offense. The Colts are presumably getting their franchise QB Andrew Luck back, have hired a new HC, and have a yacht load of money to spend in free agency. If the Colts can add some depth on defense and shore up the offensive line in free agency, they will be open to adding offensive weapons like Barkley in the draft. Barkley should be the first overall pick in this year’s draft, but with team needs and priorities in different places the Colts have an opportunity to add a generational talent. This offense is already potent with Andrew Luck, TY Hilton and a couple young players who will continue to grow, and they have a chance to get back to playing fast and fun.
Baker Mayfield- QB, Oklahoma
For a team with few holes to begin with, this Valentine’s gift was a little bit tricky. I decided to give them a gift that may not pay off right away but would set them up for a ton of success in the future. With Blake Bortles entering the final year of his contract the Jaguars have a big decision to make next offseason. Do you stick with the guy you chose 3rd overall in 2014 and was a part of an AFC Championship run, or do you move on? With my gift, that question will become a lot easier. My gift to the Jaguars is Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Now is the perfect time to add a talented QB for the future. The Blake Bortles experiment has been fun, but if you want to win a Super Bowl you need a real difference maker under center. Although he doesn’t fit the typical QB mold, Mayfield was one of the best playmakers in college football the last few seasons. His ability to make plays with his arm and legs has been nothing like the Jaguars have had for a long time.
Mayfield has not played with the offensive talent and defense that the Jaguars have, and the fact that he took a good offense and mediocre t defense at Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff speaks to the impact that he could have. Adding Mayfield this offseason would allow him to sit behind Bortles and learn the nuances of the league, including the verbiage, speed, and overall feel of the NFL. Mayfield is younger, cheaper, and in my mind better than Bortles, and could be the difference between winning multiple Super Bowls and losing a lot of playoff games in the future.
Kansas City Chiefs
Equanimeous St. Brown- WR, Notre Dame
The Chiefs enter the offseason with little cap space and without a 1st round pick in the draft. They will need to be methodical with how they spend their money during free agency. With the trade of Alex Smith they will be turning the page to the Pat Mahomes era. He will be surrounded with talented skill players like Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, but the Chiefs need to find a big athletic receiver to compliment Hill. While they could potentially go after the likes of Donte Moncrief or Brice Butler, I think they should fall in love with Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. He is currently projected to be drafted in the 2nd-3rd round, and I think he has 2nd round talent. The Chiefs should target him with their first pick in the draft. He is young and could develop as a weapon for Mahomes to depend on for years to come.
Los Angeles Chargers
Ja’wuan James- RT, Free Agent
It is no secret the Chargers are close to playoff contention. They were one of the hottest teams by the end of the 2017 season, but unfortunately just missed their first playoff appearance since 2013 after a miserable 0–4 start. The Chargers only have a few pieces missing before they can contend for the Lombardi trophy. Their roster is loaded, and it is only a matter of time before they figure it out. Their defense is filled with game changing talent. They boast one of the best pass rushing duos with second year stud Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and a high-flying cornerback pairing of Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett. They also added Desmond King in the draft this past year. King finished his rookie season with an impressive seventy-six tackles, four sacks, and an interception. This is a defense built to win championships, and their offense isn’t too far off, either. Leading the pack is future Hall of Fame quarterback, Philip Rivers, who may have his most talented offense since the days of Ladainian Tomlinson. Keenan Allen just won Comeback Player of the year; he helped rejuvenate an aging Rivers and lifted the offense to stardom. Mike Williams, their number one pick from the 2017 draft, is returning and should finally be healthy to contribute as the big-bodied red zone target the offense has been craving. Melvin Gordon is a star in the making. He is the consistent presence that each team needs to game-plan against, as he has the versatility to beat opponents between the tackles or through the air. This Chargers team that has failed repeatedly to meet their goals may just go above and beyond in 2018; however, there is still one flaw that will need to be fixed and that is the offensive line.
The Chargers’ biggest concern and need for improvement lies on their offensive line. They drafted two rookies in the second and third rounds of the 2017 NFL draft in Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney. Feeney played exceptionally well in his rookie campaign, but to the Chargers’ dismay, Lamp’s season ended before he stepped on the field. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his right knee before the end of preseason. With Lamp returning to the lineup, the interior may be the strongest it has been in years. The addition of Russell Okung did wonders. He was a stud in their offense and provided stability on their left side; however, make no mistake, the Chargers O-line needs to improve if they want to push towards a Lombardi Trophy. A free agent addition of Ja’Wuan James, the former Dolphins Right Tackle could be just what the doctor ordered.
James had the makings of a pro-bowler early in the season before suffering a hamstring injury in the Dolphins’ week 8 game against the Raiders. The Chargers have 53 million dollars in cap space, and James could be signed on a one year prove-it deal, as he missed half the season due to injury. James may be a bargain this year and could prove to be beneficial in the long term. This would give the Chargers much needed stability on their offensive line, a trait they haven’t had in years. If he passes a physical, this signing could give the Chargers an edge in each phase of the game. By slotting James in at right tackle, opposite Okung, the Chargers may have the talent to finally keep Rivers off the ground. The Chargers have struggled with consistency for years to solidify their line, and a combination of Russell Okung, Dan Feeney, Matt Clausen, Forrest Lamp and the new addition of Ja’wuan James may finally push the Chargers into contention.
- Jason Feiner
Los Angeles Rams
Mike McGlinchey- LT, Notre Dame
The Los Angeles Rams made a terrific move in the previous offseason to go out and sign veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth. The Rams had one of the best lines in the NFL this season and the results showed, with Todd Gurley nearly winning the MVP race and Jared Goff and the entire Rams offense having a breakout season. Whitworth is signed through the 2019 NFL season, when he will be 38 years of age with no succession plan behind him. Insert Mike McGlinchey, the Rams new Valentines Day sweetheart. McGlinchey is a big 6’7, 310 pound left tackle with good athleticism, foot speed, and strength to anchor an offensive line. He is strong in both the passing game and running game, where he was continuously able to get movement at the point of attack.
The transition from college football to the NFL is a big jump, which is why I am such a strong believer in giving guys a year to sit behind a veteran and learn. This would be the perfect situation, as McGlinchey would have time to learn behind Whitworth and even fill in when the inevitable injuries occur on the offensive line. The Rams have the 23rd pick in the NFL Draft, and although I see McGlinchey as the best offensive tackle prospect in this draft, I believe that both Connor Williams and Orlando Brown will go ahead of McGlinchey, leaving him to fall right into the arms of the Los Angeles Rams. For Valentine’s Day this year the Rams are getting an extremely high level left tackle prospect, a succession plan for the aged Whitworth, and a bright future to protect Goff and open holes for Todd Gurley.
-Nick Van Fossen
Roquan Smith- Linebacker, Georgia
The Miami Dolphins are in quite the predicament this offseason. For starters, they only have $8.2 million in cap space. With Ryan Tannehill taking up $19.8 million and Ndamukong Suh cashing out in 2018 with a salary of $26.1 million, it’s going to be extremely hard to be able to resign a player such as Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins will have to move on from a few star players, renegotiate some contracts, or be restricted to improving their roster only through the draft.
Miami was ranked 25th in total offense and 17th in total defense. The blame of the offensive struggles can be shared between the QB position and O-line. The defense needs help at both the linebacker and cornerback positions; with the 11th overall pick the Dolphins would be wise to lock up a player by the name of Roquan Smith. The freakishly athletic Georgia linebacker can play middle as well as outside LB in either the 3–4 or the 4–3. He’s versatile, aggressive, and will instantly add speed and tenacity to any NFL defense. Unless the Dolphins plan to cut starting right tackle Ju’wuan James and tight end Julius Thomas, which would create an extra $15.9 million in cap room, they’ll be stuck to the draft, hoping a talent like Smith will fall to them at 11.
Teddy Bridgewater- QB, Free Agent
The Vikings are entering the offseason with questions at the position that no team wants problems with: quarterback. While Case Keenum is coming off a career year, the biggest concern with him is if he will be able to repeat that performance again. The Vikings lost their offensive coordinator, so there will be some changes on that side of the ball. Prior to his injury, Teddy Bridgewater was the future of the Vikings franchise, and I believe it’s time for Minnesota to fall back in love with him. He was nothing but supportive when he came back in 2017, and its time for the organization to return the favor. They and the fans will once again need to chant, “Teddy, Teddy, Teddy”.
New England Patriots
Sheldon Richardson- DT, Free Agent
The New England Patriots are coming off one of their most disappointing losses in recent memory. Their defense struggled throughout the season to generate any sort of pressure and paid dearly. Trey Flowers led the team with a mere 6.5 sacks, and the team failed to generate any push at the line of scrimmage. Since trading sack artist Chandler Jones, the Patriots defensive line has gotten little penetration over the past two seasons. Trey Flowers and Malcolm Brown are their two most talented defensive linemen, but neither will win you a game or dismantle an opponent’s rushing attack. It is no secret that New England’s front four is among the least talented units in the league. The Patriots should opt to fill the void on the defensive line through free agency and fill their other holes through the draft.
There are talented additions that may conceivably make it to the market. An interesting prospect is productive, but disgruntled Seattle Seahawk, Sheldon Richardson. He was traded from the Jets last summer, in exchange for a second-round pick and Jermaine Kearse. Unfortunately Richardson didn’t live up to the lofty expectations Seattle had originally expected. He had a down year statistically, but that doesn’t take away from his upside and game changing ability. The Patriots love taking chances on high profile players with off the field issues. Richardson could be signed on a bargain contract, a one-year prove-it deal, or a two-year deal filled with incentives. Richardson is still in the prime of his career and only 27 years old. New England knows what the DT is capable of, as his most productive years came in New York where he played his former rivals twice a year. Richardson is a perfect fit for New England’s defensive front, as they love versatile players who can play a hybrid role in their defensive system. Richardson could play outside on early downs and inside in pass rush situations. He would be a much-needed upgrade, and his position flexibility and penetration ability mesh well. This is a very New England-esque move and could bring dividends as Belichick and Brady push towards another Super Bowl appearance.
- Jason Feiner
New Orleans Saints
Dimitri Flowers- FB, Oklahoma
Valentines Day presents are typically more about the sentiment than the actual gift itself, but not here at Blitzalytics. This year, the New Orleans Saints won’t appear to have a dime on their shoulder to the average NFL fan, but those who understand the nuances of the game will see the Saints as one of the luckiest teams around.
The New Orleans Saints’ 2017 NFL Draft was one of the best in history. It produced both the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year winners, along with a franchise left tackle. The Saints’ should not get caught up trying to top last years draft, but instead focus on key areas of the roster that need bolstering and set themselves up for another run at the Super Bowl. One of those areas is at fullback. Zach Line is a pending free agent and will need to be replaced. Insert Dimitri Flowers, the Oklahoma prospect who is 6’1 260 pounds and an extremely physical blocker at the point of attack who also has good hands. During his time at Oklahoma, Flowers had 26 receptions for 470 yards and 5 touchdowns. Since the new look New Orleans Saints team has become run-centric behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, adding in a young, physical full back with pass catching skills will be a dream for the New Orleans Saints. The best part about the Saints falling in love with Flowers is that he can be taken in the late 4th round and could last until the 6th, allowing Mickey Loomis and Co. to fill other holes in the draft such as tight end, the secondary, and a pass rusher. Flowers won’t be the flashy pick or one to make headlines, but typically guys like that are the differences makers in making a Super Bowl.
-Nick Van Fossen
New York Giants
Nate Solder- T, Free Agent
The Giants are in a difficult scenario this offseason. They hold the #2 pick in the draft, which will likely be used to draft their QB of the future. However, the position group that has plagued the G-men for years is the offensive line. They have had atrocious starters like Ereck Flowers, John Jerry, and Bobby Hart, and their two top linemen, Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh, have dealt with injuries throughout their career. Both Richburg and Pugh will be free agents this offseason, but I believe the Giants need to prioritize finding a left tackle over resigning their center and guard.
Enter Nate Solder. A veteran left tackle but only 29 years old, Solder could finally give the Giants stability at the position for a few years. This will be especially important if they are trying to groom a new QB, and if GM Dave Gettleman tries to give Eli one more shot at a Super Bowl this season, Solder is more than capable of playing at that high a level. If the Giants sign Solder they will likely only be able to sign either Richburg or Pugh. But with strong offensive line draft candidates in the 2nd and 3rd rounds they should be able to find a replacement for the one they let go. Hopefully Solder can bridge the gap until the Giants find a young left tackle for years to come.
New York Jets
Baker Mayfield- QB, Oklahoma
The Jets are not far behind the Browns when it comes to the QB carousel, continuously missing on starting quarterbacks over and over again. Since Chad Pennington retired in ’07, the Jets have had a total of ten different starting QB’s over a ten-year span including: Brett Favre, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, and Josh McCown, who played particularly well in 2017. Regardless, the Jets need to find their guy of the future. Sitting with the 6th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Jets are behind three other QB needy teams in Cleveland, Denver, and the New York Giants. With the consensus of mock drafts having Baker Mayfield as the 4th quarterback off the board, the pairing of Baker and the Jets seems like a great fit. He has the best resume amongst all of his competition- Heisman Trophy winner, unanimous first-team All-American, AP Player of the Year, and FBS passing leader in completion percentage, points, and yards per attempt, as well as monstrous amounts of Big 12 and Oklahoma University records.
Baker’s size and on/off field issues have come into question and are the reason why he’s looked at as the lesser of the top 4 QB’s, even though his college accolades are far superior. He’s extremely accurate, finishing his career with an impressive 70.5% completion percentage and a 5.4 touchdown to interception ratio. I believe that the Jets resign McCown as a bridge and groomer, then draft their QB of the future in Baker Mayfield.
Jarvis Landry- WR, Free Agent
If there’s one thing Derek Carr has been missing during his time in Oakland it’s been a reliable go to target, especially one who has the polished route running skills of a Jarvis Landry. The Raiders pair of starting wideouts have been wildly inconsistent- Cooper has shown to be a raw athlete with some of the worst hands in the league and only a 50% catch rate. Crabtree can make a miraculous catch one play and drop an easy TD the next. He lacks elite speed and can’t separate from tight coverage to save his life, forcing Carr to constantly take risks to throw him open. The Raiders currently have just under $20 Million in cap space to work with this offseason and would like to free up as much money as possible to shore up the secondary. Cutting two overpaid under-performers in Crabtree and DB Sean Smith would give the Raiders another $16.2 million, bringing the total to $36.2 million and allowing John Gruden to bring in weapons to revamp the offense, while also having enough money to bring a corner to pair with last year’s 1st round pick Gareon Conley.
Though corner is a much more pressing position of need for Oakland, Gruden will look to do whatever it takes to help his struggling franchise QB, insert Jarvis Landry. In his four years in the NFL, he’s averaged 100 catches, 1000 yards receiving, and an impressive 70% Catch Rate, all while being thrown to by Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, and Ryan Tannehill. An elite slot wide receiver would do wonders for Derek Carr’s game.
Shaq Barrett- LB, Free Agent
The Eagles have only about $9 million in cap space for 2018, so there is about to be a mass exodus on defense for the eagles. They are losing three linebackers, including their best defender in Nigel Bradham, and DT Beau Allen. Unfortunately, they can not afford to resign all four players, so there are going to be some tough decisions to come in Philly! Philly is a very attractive destination, as the Eagles just beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. With most of their offense locked down, the Eagles need to focus on the defensive side of the ball. A good, young, and inexpensive LB the Eagles need to go after and sign long term is Shaq Barrett! He is an up-and-coming 25 year old LB with two solid, productive seasons, and can fill a need for a cash-strapped team.
- Fawad Khan
Sony Michel- RB, Georgia
The Pittsburgh Steelers head into the 2018 NFL offseason with very little wiggle room in the salary cap department. The league’s most notable free agent, Le’veon Bell, will be demanding “highest paid running back in the NFL” type of money and simply is not worth the price tag, despite his extreme talents. The Steelers should look to turn their backfield into a one two punch similar to the New Orleans Saints. They already have drafted their second punch in James Conner and will be set up for years to come with Sony Michel as the head of the backfield. Michel is seen by many as the second best running back in the class behind Saquon Barkley and most believe he will not make it the second round, meaning the Steelers can grab him with their 28th overall pick. Michel is a three down back with deceptive speed, tremendous quickness to the edge, and above average hands for a running back. He is also a great locker room guy, one who I would much rather have than an entitled Le’veon Bell being paid $9 million a year. The Steelers should save the money on Bell, add Michel into the backfield ,and use that money to fill holes at ILB and pass rusher.
-Nick Van Fossen
San Francisco 49ers-
DeMarcus Lawrence- DE, Free Agent
The 49ers did a complete 180 last season after signing Jimmy Garoppolo. They won their last 5 games in a row, with impressive victories coming against the Jaguars and Rams. To take his team to the next level, GM John Lynch needs to bolster the defense; defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is exactly the long term relationship that this team needs to commit to. At just age 25 Lawrence is already an elite defensive end, someone who can single handedly change a defense. This move is obviously contingent on the Cowboys not resigning Lawrence, but the 49ers are an attractive team for any free agent due to their youth and late-season success. If San Francisco can sign Lawrence and then use their first draft pick on a CB like Denzel Ward, they will have the potential to take another huge leap forward in 2018.
Justin Pugh- G, Free Agent
Seattle has an elite QB in the prime of his career in Russell Wilson, but the franchise has played with fire for far too long by relying on his exceptional mobility to elude pressure and create plays. They finally began taking action when they traded this year’s 3rd round draft pick to the Texans for LT Duane Brown. However, the line is still plenty porous and leaves Wilson running for his life much too often. With free agent Luke Joeckel likely on his way out to test the market, Seattle currently only has one guard under contract for 2018 (Jordan Roos).
Enter Justin Pugh. The former first-round draft pick of the NYG has showed marked improvement each year and has proved to be one of the better interior linemen in the league since shifting inside from tackle a couple of seasons ago. Without a 2nd or 3rd round pick this year due to trades, Seattle might be forced to allocate more to money to free agency to address some of their key issues. If they are going to splurge anywhere, it needs to be on the offensive line. Signing Pugh would greatly upgrade the interior of the line and he offers valuable position flexibility while also likely coming at a more manageable price due to his injury history.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ziggy Ansah- DE, Free Agent
The Bucs are entering the offseason in an ideal situation. They have all the talent, but just need to fill some small holes that they have on their squad. They have the 7th overall pick in the draft and are currently projected to have the 5th most cap space entering free agency. While they need to keep future contracts in mind, they could find a bargain and fill a need by falling in love with Ziggy Ansah. Tampa Bay struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2017. Ansah has the talent that can help fill that role, and because of his durability questions, the Bucs could get him on a deal that would be a win-win for both sides. This move would allow them to focus on other needs with the 7th pick or even trade out to gain more draft capital. Tampa Bay needs to fall in love with a pass rusher like Ziggy this offseason.
Malcolm Butler- CB, Free Agent
The Titans addressed the cornerback position in both the draft and free agency last year in the form of Adoree Jackson and Logan Ryan, respectively. Both players played very solidly for the Titans, especially Jackson. With that being said, the NFL has turned into a three cornerback league. While cornerback is not a pressing need, it is one the Titans should address if they want to compete next year in the playoffs. What better way to do so than with a cornerback who has made the biggest play in Super Bowl history in Malcolm Butler.
It’s no secret that Butler will not be signing with the Patriots after the benching fiasco in this year’s Super Bowl. He will be taking his services elsewhere, and what better place than Tennessee?! Butler has the big game experience and has shown that he can match up with some of the best receivers in the NFL. He is used to playing second fiddle with Gilmore being the number one last year, and he is better than most corners who hit the open market.
Butler can provide the stability that the Titans are looking for and will most likely not garner top cornerback value. Not only that, but he will be teaming up with former Patriots teammate Logan Ryan! This is a match made in heaven for both sides- hopefully GM Jon Robinson sees it that way as well.
Courtland Sutton- WR, SMU
The Washington Redskins always manage to make headlines in the offseason. This year they went out and got Alex Smith, a game manager with a low ceiling whose limitations are throwing the ball down the field and making big plays after the first five games of the year. To compensate for this decision, the Redskins need to go after a high end receiver. Terrelle Pryor couldn’t have failed more miserably this season, and while Josh Doctson has shown signs of play making, he is extremely inconsistent. Luckily for the Redskins Alex Smith is consistent, so this Valentines Day we will be giving the team a cheap, reliable, young prospect out of SMU with great size at 6’4. Courtland Sutton is a high level prospect coming into the draft, as he is a dynamic receiver with good hands, height, body control, and leaping ability. In 2017 he totaled 68 catches, over 1,000 yards, and 12 touchdowns. The Redskins have the 13th pick in the draft, meaning they could either take Sutton early or attempt to trade back and take him in the 18–25 range. Either way, Sutton would be a day one starter for the Redskins and could give Alex Smith a terrific young player to grow alongside.
-Nick Van Fossen