We're getting closer and closer to the NFL offseason, meaning we're already at the point where college quarterbacks are acknowledging they don't want to play for the Cleveland Browns. Wait, that long-running joke actually happened? Josh Rosen, I don't know whether or not you're awesome or insane. You don't have LaVar Ball-like power, especially not if you excel at the NFL Combine in front of those same Browns scouts you unintentionally dissed.
Though we’ve yet to even hit the Super Bowl, let’s try speculating on free agents that need to happen this NFL offseason. For this list, our only real ground rule is free agents are those who are set to become a free agent in the spring of 2018 because their contract expires. Someone like Eli Manning who still has another year but could wind up getting cut would go under cuts or trades; the free agent section is for someone like Le’Veon Bell who, if the offseason began today, would hit the open market.
Some of these names aren't going to be the flashiest, but that's part of the game. If you’re ready to try playing matchmaker before realizing that over 70 percent of these moves wouldn’t pan out if they happened in real life because this is the NFL, let’s get to work.
15 Shocking: Case Keenum to the Buffalo Bills
If you're Case Keenum, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that your MVP-like play for the Vikings has all but ensured you'll be getting a nice payday this offseason, especially in today's quarterback climate. There's also the fact that even if you spent this year on injured reserve, you'd be guaranteed a contract because your name isn't Colin Kaepernick. The bad news is that with all three quarterbacks - Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater - set to hit free agency this year, Keenum could be the one least likely to return because of how well he's played this year.
As Tyrod Taylor seems guaranteed to go (he's not on this list because he'd have to be released or traded, but we think he'll wind up in Arizona or with the Jets), Keenum could start on day one for the Bills without having to worry about any competition. Sorry, Nathan Peterman...
14 Shocking: Sheldon Richardson to the New England Patriots
Some have raised the idea of Sheldon Richardson reuniting with the New York Jets, but it's Gang Green's rival we see taking a chance on the former Defensive Rookie of the Year. It's habit at this point for the Patriots to scoop other people's used goods - welcome to New England, James Harrison! - and adding Richardson, who has barely gotten to the quarterback in the past two seasons, wouldn't be unlike what Bill Belichick has done in the past.
The only real question is how Richardson, who struggled with attitude issues in New York and has been underwhelming in Seattle, would respond to Belichick's 'unique' coaching style. We're not saying this deal would immediately pan out, but don't be surprised if Richardson links up with the Patriots.
13 Obvious: Kirk Cousins to the Denver Broncos
Kirk Cousins is going to have to go somewhere this offseason, so put it down that our official projection is Denver. San Francisco is almost definitely out of the running, the New York Jets may not have enough other assets to woo Cousins, and the Arizona Cardinals...well, they're in a win-now mode that may not appeal to Cousins. But the Denver Broncos, who are a quarterback away from a return to the postseason, would be a perfect fit for Cousins.
Add in the John Elway factor and Denver not being invested long-term financially in Paxton Lynch (Denver will have to decide in 2019 if they want to keep Lynch for a fifth season if they don't trade him) and Cousins seems like a perfect fit. Can you really argue with this?
12 Shocking: Jamaal Charles to the New York Giants
If Kirk Cousins does wind up in Denver, don't expect Jamaal Charles to be his teammate. Signed in the offseason after being cut by the Kansas City Chiefs, Charles was underused by the Broncos this season and recently complained to the media about wanting to be cut. So, we can probably assume he's not going to be back in Denver next year unless he's given an ownership stake or something.
Why would the Giants go after Charles, you ask? New York needs a running back and while Charles won't be the flashiest name on the market, averaging over four yards per carry this year for the Broncos may be enough for the Giants to take a flier on him. Besides, so long as it's not David Wilson, the Giants should be alright.
11 Shocking: Jarvis Landry to the Chicago Bears
While I put this as shocking for all of you, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if Landry ends up in Chicago. While we'd all like to see what Landry and former LSU teammate Odell Beckham Jr. could do with the Giants both on and off the field, there are more pressing issues for Big Blue to solve. Chicago is going to enter this offseason with a ton of cap space and a need for wide receiver, meaning Landry would be a perfect fit in the Windy City.
Though Landry could always be franchise tagged by the Dolphins, what would be the point? Let Landry walk in free agency, get the compensation pick, and prepare for a new era in Miami - oh wait, the same core will be there next year.
10 Obvious: Malcolm Butler to the Los Angeles Rams
Malcolm Butler is still a solid cornerback, but the time is going to come when the Patriots let him walk because that's Bill Belichick's style. When that day arrives, look for the Rams to be in the running - and potentially the frontrunner - for Butler's services, especially with cornerback Trumaine Johnson set to hit the market as well.
Los Angeles has already shown they can compete with the NFL’s powerhouse teams and should enter next year as the heavyweight favorite in the NFC West. Not only would landing Butler in free agency potentially be the next step in assuring this year’s strong showing is for real, it'd give defensive coordinator Wade Phillips another toy to play with. We saw how well things worked this year on that front...
9 Shocking: Terrelle Pryor to the New York Jets
Wait, Terrelle Pryor is still in the NFL? I know that might be hard to believe with how quiet he's been this year for the Redskins, but with the ex-Ohio State quarterback set to hit free agency this spring after such a disappointing campaign, teams might still want to take a chance on him. Pryor really impressed last year in Cleveland with random quarterbacks throwing his way and, as we all know firsthand, he can still make plays with his legs.
So, why the Jets? New York is probably going to cut ties with Jeremy Kerley again and actually enjoyed a strong year from their receiving corp this season, so adding Pryor on a prove-it deal could work for both sides. But, who will be their quarterback?
8 Shocking: Brock Osweiler to the New York Jets
Wait, I can explain! Brock Osweiler isn't going to be owed any type of expensive contract by the Jets, the former second-rounder hasn't been awful the past two years - just not anywhere clse to how he was supposed to play when the Texans gave him that major deal in early 2016 - and New York could use another veteran quarterback regardless of what they do with Josh McCown. It's quite clear that Bryce Petty isn't the future in New York and Christian Hackenberg seems resigned to be a full-time scout quarterback, so Osweiler would fit the bill.
As for what the Jets would consider doing in the NFL Draft, watch them go for a mid-round quarterback between rounds four and six. Remember what happened to the Jets' last first-round quarterback?
7 Obvious: Jimmy Graham to the New Orleans Saints
Other than this deal making too much sense to not happen (see: James Harrison to the New England Patriots), what would be stopping the New Orleans Saints from bringing Jimmy Graham back to town for a second stint? Seattle is facing a transition period that could border on major rebuild for players not named Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin, meaning the soon-to-be-free-agent Graham might be on his way out of town.
On the other hand, the Saints are in a win-now position so long as Drew Brees is their quarterback and if they don't win the Super Bowl this year, Graham could be a missing piece. Not THE missing piece - the drafting of Alvin Kamara to add a scat back filled that hole - but a missing piece.
6 Shocking: Frank Gore to the Miami Dolphins
Even if Miami isn't a guaranteed playoff team next year and may not even be a guaranteed .500 team, this move makes too much sense to not happen. Miami needs another running back, but not one who has to carry the ball 250-300 times, which is a perfect role for Gore, a Florida native who played college ball at the University of Miami. Gore would be wasting his time in another year with the Colts, especially with Andrew Luck's health and future uncertain, but the Dolphins could at least be competitive next year even without Jarvis Landry.
Call me a sucker for homecomings or just someone who thinks such a move could work for all parties, but I'll happily accept the praise if this partnership ends up happening.
5 Shocking: Sammy Watkins to the Cincinnati Bengals
While Sammy Watkins hasn't exactly been a legitimate No. 1 target since joining the Rams this summer, he's shown enough potential to warrant a team taking a chance on him. Cincinnati needs another receiver along with A.J. Green - and that's going to be even more true if Tyler Eifert can't stay healthy - so Watkins taking a prove-it deal (or a small, two-year contract) with the Bengals could actually wind up working for everyone.
Cincinnati's hopes at a Super Bowl are quickly fading, but many seem optimistic a regime change can rejuvenate a franchise that made six playoff appearances in seven years...although they never won any of those games. Is Watkins going to be the savior? No, not likely, but he could help potential saviors Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
4 Obvious: Trumaine Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Do we really need to outline why this seems like an obvious partnership? Tampa Bay is going to enter this offseason with boatloads of cap space, enough to lure in a premier free agent like Trumaine Johnson who may see himself replaced by his old team. Johnson would have the opportunity to be the potential face of a rebuilt secondary possibly under a new coach (Jon Gruden??) for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in over a decade.
Tampa Bay has a lot they need to fix, especially on the offensive side of the ball, but their secondary is important in a league with a top five quarterback of all-time and two former MVPs at quarterback. Now, all the Buccaneers need to do is bring Monte Kiffin back...
3 Shocking: Kenny Vaccaro to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two defenisve backs going to the Buccaneers? Like we said, Tampa Bay needs a lot of help and Vaccaro, who was injured for most of this season before being placed on IR last month, could be looking for a prove-it deal. With the Buccaneers knowing Vaccaro pretty well from his days with the Saints, this could be a quiet signing that could pay off for both parties. Vaccaro comes in and plays well to help his chances in 2019's free agent class while Tampa Bay gets production from a safety in a pass-heavy NFC South.
Besides, Buccaneers fans who are feeling wary, do you really want another year of Chris Conte? Do you want your team to go out and get Mike Mitchell? No? Just take Vaccaro and hope for the best.
2 Shocking: Demario Davis to the Detroit Lions
We warned you that there were going to be players on this list that weren't flashy or mainstream, but who would have guessed anyone would bother caring about Demario Davis in 2017? After stints with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, Davis returned to Gang Green this year and nearly made the Pro Bowl (and could still make it depending on who opts out). Jets fans will naturally want Davis to stay and though I am part of that group who thinks he should stay for a bit longer, let's say that's not an option here.
If Davis can't stay, going to Detroit and signing with the linebacker-desperate Lions could be a smart play. If Detroit had a better defense (and a better run game), they might have made the playoffs this year, which should be more than enough incentive for Davis. If not, here's one more: your offense has a quarterback.
1 Obvious: Nate Solder to the New York Giants
Nate Soldier is a marquee free agent on the New England Patriots with a coach/general manager who really doesn't care about marquee free agents. The New York Giants are in need of more offensive linemen and have had no issues in the past going out to sign marquee free agents. This seems to be a match made in heaven, especially if the Giants wind up hiring Louis Riddick - the same Louis Riddick who would likely bring in Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to be his head coach.
Solder isn't a flashy offensive line name the way he might have been a few years ago, but the Giants desperately need help to protect whoever is their quarterback. Maybe Solder protects said quarterback in next year's Super Bowl when they beat Tom Brady on the final play...
Which of these players do you think should go where?