With the NFL season fast approaching, we'll shortly be able to see whether the risks taken in free agency by general managers will pay off. Free agency in the NFL typically sees a lot of average players get overpaid, which sees the expectations for those players raised to a point that's no longer fair. Guys get paid in the top 5 of their position, despite the fact that they're really a top 15-20 player. While being a top 15 player isn't necessarily a bad thing, it doesn't mean these highly paid free agents are living up to their contracts, which sends plenty of scrutiny their way.
With that in mind, we're going to take a look at which big moves from this offseason will turn out to be successful, while looking at which signings will help sink their teams. Now, a lot of different factors will be looked at on this list and not every player will be looked at with the same criteria. If a player signed a one-year deal with no guaranteed money, they're more than likely to fail, so they won't be included.
Also, we avoided including draft picks on this list, except for one pick that truly made no sense and likely won't end well for the team. The player in question has already faltered during the preseason, making it likely it'll continue into the season and making him a mandatory addition to this list.
With all that settled, here are 8 NFL Players That Will Thrive With Their New Team And 7 That Will Fail.
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17 Succeed: Robert Griffin III
A lot of things are going in RGIII's favor this fall. He has a great offensive-minded coach who believes in him. He has an extremely interesting receiving core, that features first round pick Corey Coleman, QB-turned-WR Terrelle Pryor and the currently suspended Josh Gordon. If Gordon comes back at even 85% of the form he showed in 2013, then Griffin has a true number one WR and an absolute superstar to work with. Lastly, he has a bad defense behind him, which will force him to throw and inflate his numbers.
Griffin signed a two-year, 'show me deal' this summer with the Browns and he's been put in a great position to show everyone that he can still be a valuable commodity. We expect Griffin to impress over the next two years and parlay that into another contract as a starting QB. He's shown flashes in the preseason, so don't be surprised if he succeeds.
16 Fail: Janoris Jenkins
When a team has two cornerbacks to select from and doesn't choose you, that can't be a great sign. This summer, the Rams had to choose between franchising Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, and they went with Johnson. That led the Giants to sign Jenkins to a mammoth five year, $62.5 million contract, with $28.8 million guaranteed. This season, Jenkins' cap hit is only $8 million, but it jumps to $15 million next year, which ranks as the third highest at his position.
The former second round pick is a solid cornerback, but is not considered to be an elite one and will likely falter due to the heightened expectations that come with his salary. He may offer some solid play, but the media in New York will crucify him when he gets beat for some long touchdowns, which tends to happen often with Jenkins. He only ranked 32nd in coverage last season according to PFF and will not be able to live up to his contract.
15 Succeed: DeMarco Murray
DeMarco Murray has a chip the size of Texas on his shoulder going into the 2016 NFL season. After leading the league in rushing in 2014 with the Cowboys, with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns, Murray signed a big money deal with the rival Eagles. Unfortunately, the Eagles scheme wasn't a match for him, so he was a total bust, only starting 8 games and notching 702 yards. That down season doesn't mean Murray is a bad running back and he'll prove that in Tennessee this year.
The Titans have an interesting offense going into 2016, with Marcus Mariota at the helm and two talented running back behind him. The Titans have paired Murray with Derrick Henry, a second round pick who has looked electric in the preseason. The Titans are planning on ramming the ball down their opponent's throat with their run game and Murray will have a bounce back campaign because of it.
14 Fail: Roberto Aguayo
It's not Roberto Aguayo's fault that Tampa Bay wasted a second round pick on a kicker. It's also not his fault that they traded up to get him. However, the pick was universally ripped to shreds by every single NFL analyst, as you should never waste an early pick on a kicker, let alone trade up to get one, which Tampa did.
Aguayo was the most accurate kicker in college history, but he's had a horrific start to his preseason. He's missed plenty of kicks in practice, along with missing a PAT and two field goals in his first two preseason games. He bounced back in his third game, going 6 for 6, but it's almost impossible for this pick to pan out. Why is that? Because he's a kicker who went in the second round. Unless he becomes a top 5 kicker all-time, it'll always be considered to be a ridiculous pick.
12 Succeed: Josh Sitton
This is the most recent acquisition on our list, but one that we believe is destined to be a huge success. The most surprising cut leading up to the regular season was Josh Sitton, a guard for the Green Bay Packers. Though he had made the Pro Bowl over the last two season, the Packers cut him in a move that blindsided everyone. No one is exactly sure why they cut him, but there's been rumblings that his relationship with the team behind the scene was fractured, as he had criticized their offensive scheme and refused to negotiate a contract extension.
Despite all that, Sitton is still a terrific player and signed a three-year deal with the Bears, who couldn't believe their luck when he was available in early September. Sitton will want to prove everyone in Green Bay wrong and we shouldn't be surprised if he plays at a Pro Bowl level this season.
11 Fail: Coby Fleener
Back in June, the Coby Fleener hype train was running at full force. Then, the train hit the breaks in August when Sean Payton admitted that he was in a work in progress. Then it got worse when Fleener said that he was still adjusting in the playbook. Then the Saints released their unofficial depth chart, which had Fleener slotted third, behind Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui. That's a lot of bad news to come out in short succession.
With all those issues in mind, we don't expect Fleener to have the level of impact that was predicted earlier this summer. He signed a massive five year, $36 million contract this summer, so they'll likely try to make this work, but we don't see it happening. Think about it, he played with Andrew Luck for four years and never topped 774 yards, so maybe he's not as good as we think...
10 Succeed: Bruce Irvin
There's one certainty when you play on the defensive line with Khalil Mack; you'll never get double teamed. That had to make going to Oakland awfully enticing for Bruce Irvin, who signed a four year deal worth $37 million. Despite never starting 16 games for the Seahawks, Irvin was key piece for them, notching 22 sacks over four seasons. Now, that might not sound like a whole lot, but he had to compete with some great players for snaps, which won't be as big of a deal in Oakland, who are trying to build a Seahawks-caliber defense.
Khalil Mack notched 15 sacks last season and seems like a solid bet to eclipse that in 2016. With Mack getting plenty of attention, expect Irvin to feast in one-on-one situations and end up with double digit sacks in 2016.
9 Fail: Chase Daniel
It's entirely possible that Chase Daniel has already failed going into the 2016 season, but we'll get into that in a second. Let's look at the timeline for Eagles QBs over the offseason. At first, when the Eagles signed Chase Daniel for $21 million over three years, it looked insane cause they still had Sam Bradford on the roster making big bucks. They then drafted Carson Wentz and looked even crazier, as they now had three QBs on the roster and lots of money allocated to them. Then, they traded Bradford for picks and looked like geniuses for signing Daniel, as he knew Doug Pedersen's offense from his time in KC and could let Wentz develop. They then looked crazy again, as Wentz was named the starter, meaning they're paying $7 million for a backup. It's been a rollercoaster ride in Philly this summer.
When Wentz was named the starter, it technically made Daniel a failure from the get go, as he obviously hadn't shown enough to be given the reigns while Wentz developed. It's an interesting twist in this story and it doesn't seem like Daniel will have noteworthy stay in the City of Brotherly Love.
8 Succeed: Tashaun Gipson
Tashaun Gipson signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars this summer was one of those signings that went under the radar, but that could make a huge impact. Gipson is a relative unknown to casual fans, who likely think that we're misspelling his name by including a 'p' in it. However, they should get to know him, as he was one of the only bright spots in Cleveland over the last few years, even making the Pro Bowl in 2014.
Apparently, Gipson left Cleveland to "start winning." Now, before you laugh at the idea of Jacksonville winning games, they've actually acquired plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and are a dark horse to win the AFC South. If they do, Gipson will be a huge part of it, as he'll look to bring his playmaking abilities to the Jags secondary.
7 Fail: Matt Forte
Don't get us wrong, we absolutely love Matt Forte. He's been one of the most entertaining running backs of the last decade and often doesn't get enough love for what he's provided to the Chicago Bears. However, he's made the switch to the Jets this year and we're not confident that he'll live up to his own lofty standards.
Forte had a bit of a down year last season, failing to reach 1,000 yards for the first time since 2011 (when he missed it by three yards). He dealt with injuries last year, which only allowed him to play in 13 games, and has already been dealing with hamstrings injuries during the preseason. Considering the fact that he's on the wrong side of 30, we're making a calculated bet that Forte will fall off this season. With the talented Bilal Powell behind him, we don't see Forte finishing the year as the starter.
5 Succeed: Marvin Jones
Over the last two years, Marvin Jones' contributions to the Bengals have been overlooked. In 2013, despite only starting three games, he managed 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. Then, last year, he started 13 games, notching 816 yards and 4 touchdowns. Those aren't monster numbers, but he was playing in an offense that had a bunch of options and a terrific defense. Well, that won't be a problem anymore.
Jones signed a big deal with the Lions (five years, $40 million) and will become a huge part of their offense. With Calvin Johnson gone, Jones and Golden Tate will look to fill that massive void. The Lions love to pass and have an absolute gunslinger in Matt Stafford. They also don't have much a run game, nor do they have an imposing defense, meaning Jones will get plenty of targets and a change to prove himself. We think he will.
4 Fail: Mohamed Sanu
Stop us if you've heard this narrative before: Mohamed Sanu will have a big year as the number two option to one of the best receivers in the game. The hype train is running for Sanu again this summer, but we've been burned before and won't be again. Over the last three years, Sanu has served as the number two or three option to A.J. Green and has offered very little in terms of production. He's started 31 games over the last three years and has only managed 1,639 yards and 7 touchdowns. PFF has given him negative grades each of those years and he's amassed 22 drops over that time span.
While the Falcons have less options than the Bengals, meaning that Sanu could get more targets, that doesn't mean he'll do much with them. When look at the two former Bengals receivers who have moved on, we have Marvin Jones well ahead of Mohamed Sanu.
3 Succeed: Lamar Miller
We think the Dolphins made a huge mistake by letting Lamar Miller leave in free agency. Jay Ajayi has looked terrible this summer and Arian Foster is a slightly violent breeze away from a serious injury.
Last year, with Arian Foster only playing four games, the Texans struggled rushing the ball. That shouldn't be a problem with Lamar Miller taking over. He's been durable over the last three years, not missing a single game and rushing for 4.6 yards per attempt. Despite his high Y/A, Miami's coaches never believed in him and didn't use him as much as he should've been. Again, we don't expect that to be a problem in Houston, as they gave him a sizeable four year deal worth $26 million. They'll use Lamar Miller to his fullest and Houston's offense should be potent in 2016.
2 Fail: J.R. Sweezy
Despite the fact that Tampa Bay seems to be much improved going into the 2016 season, they made some strange decisions this summer, like drafting a kicker in the second round, which we already discussed. It would seem impossible for them to top that, but they did when they signed J.R. Sweezy to a five year, $32 million contract.
They gave $14.5 million guaranteed to a player who ranked as the 66th best guard last season, according to PFF. While we understand how hard it is to find offensive linemen during free agency, that doesn't mean you should give big money to a player who, by the looks of his stats, shouldn't be starting for most NFL teams.
1 Succeed: Rodney McLeod
During the offseason, most Rams fans were wondering who they'd keep between Trumaine Jackson and Janoris Jenkins. We think they should've paid more attention to Rodney McLeod, who they let walk in free agency. During an offseason with plenty of quarterback drama, the Eagles still made some good moves and one of them is signing McLeod to a five year deal worth $35 million.
McLeod has been durable over the last three years, not missing a single game and has proven himself to be a leader during his short time in the league. On top of that, he's a damn good player. He ranked as the fourth top tackling safety in the league, along with being ninth best in coverage at his position, according to Pro Football Focus. This signing has gone under the radar, but McLeod's signing gives the Eagles one of the more interesting defenses in the league. Despite the confusion at QB, look out for the Eagles in the wide open NFC East this season.
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