Well, there have been plenty of disasters and controversies surrounding the 2017 NFL Season. We could write a series of books about what went wrong for half the teams and their players, but we’ll try to keep it short and sweet. Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season, prompting many Indianapolis Colts fans to believe that owner Jim Irsay scammed them by refusing to admit the concerns of his star player’s injury. This is just one of many QB controversies, ranging from the benching of Eli Manning to the unfortunate injury to Eagles starter Carson Wentz.
Kirk Cousins looks bound to leave the Washington Redskins, who don’t seem willing to pony up the big cash for his services. However, some other star players are far too loyal and seem pleased on sticking with their current squads — despite the controversy and questions surrounding them. Add to all the this the allegations of collusion surrounding the Colin Kaepernick situation and you have an NFL season that seems for a TV series.
You can definitely expect a number of superstar players to happily jump ship and find new homes this offseason, but some other loyal stars will stay put. Here are 10 NFL stars who will leave their sinking teams, and 5 who will stay where they are.
15. Leave: Eddie Lacy
Lacy is a prime example of just how much life can change for running backs in the NFL. After rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, Lacy gained a ton of weight and was awful in the 2015 season. Injuries limited him to just five games in 2016, prompting the Green Bay Packers to cut ties with Lacy while replacing the former star with Ty Montgomery in the backfield.
Lacy signed with the Seattle Seahawks this offseason, but has only had 69 carries for 179 yards and zero touchdowns. Seattle is also a mess this season, and they’ll have to retool the offensive line and backfield during free agency. With that, look for Lacy to get a new starting gig somewhere else. He’s only 27 years of age, and has plenty of football left in him. He’s just going to have to star somewhere outside of the Pacific Northwest.
14. Leave: Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitgzerald is going to be in the Hall of Fame one day, no question about it. He’s moved up to third all-time on the career receiving list, despite playing on so many miserable Arizona Cardinals teams. ‘Fitz’ agreed to a one-year extension with the Cardinals, suggesting the 34-year-old will delay retirement for another year. But do you really think Fitzgerald wants to keep playing for a mediocre team whose championship window closed two years ago?
It’s hard to imagine Fitzgerald in another jersey, but don’t be shocked if it happens this offseason. Arizona has to start rebuilding and by moving out some veterans, and Fitzgerald should be chasing championships at this stage of his career. Look for a team to come calling for Fitzgerald, which will set a massive trade in place. A team like the Patriots, Steelers or Packers make sense.
13. Stay: Antonio Gates
You really have to feel for Antonio Gates, who’s among the most dominant tight ends ever. He’s the all-time leader in touchdown receptions among all TEs, and he’s an eight-time Pro Bowler. Gates is a first ballot Hall of Famer, but has had all of these great years wasted by awful Los Angeles Chargers management.
Gates has chosen to stay loyal to the only team he’s ever known. Despite the constant turmoil in the Chargers organization, Gates has refused to leave town and has re-signed for below market value to remain with the team that drafted him. Furthermore, Gates will be 38 this offseason, and he’s not quite the same force he used to be. He won’t get much interest in free agency, so another year with the Chargers is the safe bet.
12. Leave: Terrelle Pryor
A former quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, Pryor decided to make the change to wide receiver – and it paid major dividends immediately. Pryor caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, and became one of the top free agents on the market in 2017.
Pryor signed a modest one-year deal worth $8 million with the Washington Redskins, but it hasn’t gone as planned. He’s caught just 20 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown, and is sure to take his talents elsewhere in 2018. Pryor probably won’t get a long-term deal, so he’s likely going to have to sign a one-year deal and reset his market for 2019. There are plenty of contending teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks that need a second receiver. They could be possible fits for Pryor.
11. Leave: Tyler Eifert
Drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013, Eifert has had a frustrating tenure in The Cincy Jungle. He’s battled numerous injuries and hasn’t been able to get on the same page with quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals are on their way to a second-straight non-playoff season, and head coach Marvin Lewis is expected to leave town.
Eifert showed his potential in 2015 by catching 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. But the injuries have since piled up, and he has become an afterthought. Simply put, Eifert has to find a team that can better maximize his skills. There are very few quality tight ends in the NFL, so Eifert could easily get overpaid by a team that needs a strong red zone target. Look for Eifert to leave Cincinnati as he finds a better team and bigger paycheque in March.
10. Stay: Eli Manning
2017 has been one of the most forgetful seasons in New York Giants history. A year after making the playoffs, this team has completely fallen off a cliff. Head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese have already been fired, and Manning was benched in favour of Geno Smith – bringing his 210 consecutive games started streak to an abrupt end.
Many believe the Giants could decide to part ways with the soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback, but it wouldn’t be the right choice. Manning has had to play almost the whole season without his top three receivers in Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard. The goal for the Giants is to find a new head coach that can implement a better passing system. Realistically, they should draft another quarterback in 2018, and have Manning mentor him. Cutting ties with the two-time Super Bowl champion does more harm than good.
9. Leave: Frank Gore
Gore is one of the greatest running backs of all-time, and perhaps the best of his generation. He’s hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark nine times, but is likely going to fall just short this season (793 through 14 games). Sadly, Gore’s last three seasons have been wasted on mediocre Indianapolis Colts teams. Though he’s 34 years of age, Gore remains a very solid every down back, and can be a nice addition to a team looking for insurance in the backfield.
Gore has no reason to stay with a Colts team that is in absolute turmoil right now. You can expect sweeping changes in the front office, coaching staff and all over the roster. The Colts and Gore were a good match, but they never provided him the chance to chase his first championship ring. Shame.
8. Leave: Muhammad Wilkerson
Following a 10-win season in 2015, the New York Jets appeared to be on the cusp of being a playoff contender. So they re-signed star pass-rusher Muhammad Wilkerson to a five-year deal worth $86 million. But the Jets are about to miss the playoffs for the seventh-straight season, and a rebuild is in order. The Jets will want to clear significant cap space and begin stockpiling on draft picks.
Wilkerson could land the Jets a second to third-round pick, or perhaps multiple draft choices. He’s still in his prime and is a game-changer on defence, but the Jets haven’t been able to build a championship contender around their star player. It’s time for them to reset, and finding draft picks for Wilkerson’s services shouldn’t be difficult.
7. Stay: Joe Thomas
The Cleveland Browns are often laughed at for drafting bust after bust after bust. However, Joe Thomas (whom they selected third-overall in 2007), has been an exception. The 10-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman has happily dealt with all the drama, coaching changes and consistent losing years. Thomas is a class act, and a very loyal player. If he wanted to leave the Browns, he would have by now.
Thomas is also 33 years of age now, and the Browns probably wouldn’t get equal value in a trade for him. They’re likely going to own two top-five picks in the 2018 draft (thanks to the Houston Texans), and have the chance to finally make some franchise-changing selections here. If the Browns can find a solid quarterback and another game-changer on defence, they may contend sooner than you think. That gives Thomas all the motivation to stay with Cleveland, as he tries to help them escape the constant losing years.
6. Leave: Vontae Davis
The Indianapolis Colts saw a ton of talent in Vontae Davis, so they traded a second-round pick to the Miami Dolphins to land him in 2012. Davis has been all the Colts could have hoped for, and is one of the game’s elite shutdown cornerbacks.
Unfortunately, the Colts have just become a mess over these last three years. Davis turns 30 this offseason (which is old for a cornerback), and only has one last big contract ahead of him. You have to think he’ll want to chase the money, but also go to a team that’ll help him contend for a championship. Many contending teams have the cap space to give Davis a multi-year deal, and he could easily be the final piece of a club’s championship puzzle. Perhaps a return to Miami is in the cards? Either way, look for Davis to leave the Colts after this season.
5. Leave: Aqib Talib
The Denver Broncos handed Talib a shiny six-year contract in 2014, and he’s been everything they could have asked for. Talib was instrumental in helping the Broncos win Super Bowl 50, while fielding one of the NFL’s elite secondaries. But Denver is about to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season, and 2017 marks their first losing season in seven years.
John Elway is bound to make major changes to the roster, and Talib could be one of them. The 31-year-old has gotten into troubles on and off the field, such as shooting himself with a gun and getting into fights with Michael Crabtree. Talib’s name was mentioned in trade rumors last year, suggesting the Broncos don’t want to keep him around anymore. Look for Talib to either get released or traded by Denver this offseason. It’s time to move on.
4. Stay: Philip Rivers
The Chargers came into 2017 with lofty expectations. Anthony Lynn replaced Mike McCoy as head coach. Joey Bosa, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward were supposed to lead an elite defence. Philip Rivers was supposed to have a big year with Keenan Allen returning to an offence that has Antonio Gates, Travis Benjamin and Melvin Gordon.
But the Chargers look to miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years, and many may wonder if the 36-year-old Rivers will seek to leave the Chargers and join a championship contender. Don’t count on it. Rivers signed a four-year extension in 2015, and his family loves the west coast. If he wanted to find a new team, he wouldn’t have signed that contract. Rivers remains a Charger, at least for 2018.
3. Leave: Johnathan Joseph
Now in his seventh season with the Houston Texans, Johnathan Joseph has been one of the more underrated corners in the NFL. The two-time Pro Bowler is once again a mainstay in an otherwise leaky Texans secondary.
Unfortunately, injuries to top stars in Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus have led to a disastrous year in Houston. With that, the 33-year-old Joseph may look to chase a championship as his career slowly beings to wind down. He’s still a solid No. 2 corner and could provide a big boost to a team looking to beef up its secondary. A team like the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs or Pittsburgh Steelers could use J.J.’s veteran presence. He could be had cheap on a one or two-year deal, so expect Joseph to find a new home this offseason.
2. Stay: Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck was supposed to have won two Super Bowls and multiple MVP awards with the Indianapolis Colts already. But a dysfunctional front office and questionable coaching staff has ruined everything. Luck missed half of 2015, had no talent around him in 2016 and has missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury.
Many believe the 28-year-old Luck may want to jump ship and force the Colts to trade him. But as is the case with Rivers, you shouldn’t get your hopes up. 18 months ago, he signed a $140 million extension, suggesting he’s happy and confident he can win with the Colts. Franchise quarterbacks of his caliber don’t grow on trees. The Colts aren’t going to trade Luck, and there’s no report that says he wants out. Look for Luck to come back in 2018 as he tries to repair this awful organization – something he’s done once before.
1. Leave: Kirk Cousins
If the Washington Redskins valued Kirk Cousins as a franchise quarterback, they would have given him a long-term extension during the offseason. He’s set to hit the free agent market this year, and could be the most sought-after player since Peyton Manning in 2012. There will be at least a dozen teams calling for Cousins, and you have to think he’s happy to leave a sinking Redskins team with too many flaws on the roster to compete for championships.
There are many teams that just need a quarterback like Cousins to be a contender. This includes Denver, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Minnesota (if Case Keenum and Sam Bradford leave in free agency), and Arizona. With so many teams calling and probably willing to offer a contract in the $80-100 million range, look for Cousins to leave the Redskins – who will be going back to the drawing board in search of a franchise quarterback.
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