It is once again that time of year in the NFL when the offseason rumor mill starts spinning round and round. Despite the season not being officially over, top NFL players and coaches are the center of rumors peppered with different NFL spots for them to land in next season. Some of these NFL stars are shooting their way out of town like a black hat-wearing villain from an old western movie while others simply don’t fit into the future plans of their current teams. Some are aging veterans with a questionable amount of fuel left in their gas tanks while others are young talents looking for a big payday. History has told us that some teams will strike gold with their offseason acquisitions while other teams will be left scratching their heads. Some players will have the option of testing the free agent market and others will be a part of blockbuster trades. By whatever means, there will be a number of household NFL names that will be changing laundry and addresses in 2017. It is the way the NFL works and that’s why fans love this time of year.
Let’s take a look at 15 NFL faces that will be in different places next season.
15 Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick proved to be one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL this season and more of a distraction than a step in a winning direction. Kaepernick has regressed from a Super Bowl quarterback to a laughing stock. However, in his defense, Kaepernick played on a very bad San Francisco 49ers squad and for an equally bad head coach in Chip Kelly. A fresh start somewhere else is what he needs and he does have the talent to attract a number of suitors. Kaepernick may even still have a shot at starting in places like Cleveland, Buffalo, or Denver. The Denver Broncos would be an ideal landing spot for Kaepernick who probably needs to be some place more focused on winning than whatever it is Kelly is trying to do in San Francisco.
14 Sean Payton
NFL insider Ian Rapoport is reporting that, although a long shot, current New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton could wide up patrolling the sidelines for the Los Angeles Rams in 2017. Payton, who is still under contract to coach the Saints for another four seasons, is reportedly interested in taking his talents to Hollywood. A deal making the move possible is said to be very complicated. However, is this really such a long shot? The Saints are three seasons removed from their last playoff appearance and six since their victory over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. The team has also been on a slow decline over the last several seasons. Their once high-octane offense has lost some steam and even when operating at a high level hasn’t been able to make up for a Swiss cheese defense. At this point, feelings about a divorce between the Saints and Payton might be mutual. And if he doesn’t land in L.A. then the Buffalo Bills could also potentially be willing to work out a deal to spring Payton out of the Big Easy.
13 Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson has had a stellar career for the Minnesota Vikings. The star running back has rushed for over 1,000 yards seven times and has been selected to the Pro Bowl seven times. However, the 31-year old running back is facing the NFL running back cliff. Peterson has only played in three games this season due to early season surgery on his knee. The Vikings may likely choose to cut the future Hall of Famer at the end of the season in a cost cutting measure. This season has exposed a number of needs on both sides of the football for the Vikings and they could use money saved by cutting Peterson to address those needs. It would be strange to see him in another uniform but legends like Joe Montana, Emmett Smith, and Jerry Rice weren’t immune to ending their careers in unfamiliar cities. Peterson could draw interest from a team like the Washington Redskins that are looking for more offensive balance.
12 Ron Rivera
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is also a rumored candidate for the Los Angeles Rams head coaching vacancy. According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, Rivera to the Rams would be a match made in heaven because the Rams are a “young team in need of discipline in a city with a large Hispanic population.” This would be another complicated deal involving a coach still under contract. However, the Panthers might be just as eager to rid themselves of Rivera as the Rams might be to acquire him. The Panthers went from NFC Champions in 2015 to a mediocre team in turmoil in 2016. Especially considering the defiant behavior of Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton, it is possible that Rivera has been tuned out by the team. Newton was benched for a series during a game earlier this season for a dress code violation. Carolina’s loss could prove to be Los Angeles’ gain.
11 Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick went from being a savior when he resigned with the New York Jets in July to one of several goats in a deplorable season for Gang Green. What a difference five months makes. Fitzpatrick has been benched several times this season only to return due to injuries to the quarterbacks that took his starting job. The lowlight of Fitzpatrick’s season came in Week 3 at Kansas City when he threw to the wrong team six times. Some NFL experts have ranked his Week 3 performance as one of the worst ever by a quarterback. Fitzpatrick has a total of 17 picks for the season with only 10 touch down passes. Fitzpatrick won’t be a Jet next season but he will likely land somewhere as a backup.
10 Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler’s career as a Chicago Bear will likely come to an end after this season. The underachieving quarterback was known for inconsistent play, not protecting the football, and untimely interceptions in the Windy City. Fairly or unfairly, he has also been criticized for lack of toughness and leadership qualities. The Bears have only qualified for the playoffs once in Cutler’s eight seasons as their starting quarterback. The Bear’s first year head coach John Fox is a defensive minded coach who is probably eager to replace Cutler and find a quarterback that is a bit more responsible with the football. With that said, Cutler still possesses a cannon for an arm and has talent at the position that other teams are in desperate need of. Cutler would probably draw interest from teams such as the Jets, Bills, and Browns.
9 Sheldon Richardson
Sheldon Richardson has been at the center of controversy and trade rumors throughout the season. The talented but troubled New York Jets defensive end was being shopped around earlier this season to contenders such as the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos. Richardson has also made it appear that making the Jets a winner is not at the top of his list of priorities. He has been involved in some grade school shenanigans that must make head coach Todd Bowles feel more like a baby sitter. Richardson was caught on camera, before an embarrassing defeat at the hands of hated rivals the Miami Dolphins, saying, “F*** this game” and “where the hoes at?” He is also involved in a mysterious and heated feud with teammate and star wide receiver Brandon Marshall. It would be more of a surprise if Richardson remained a Jet next year.
8 Tyrod Taylor
Buffalo Bills fans have grown tired of seeing inaccurate passes, bad reads, and all around inconsistent play from their quarterback, Tyrod Taylor. Apparently, the Bills brass has also had enough of Taylor. After firing head coach and Taylor supporter Rex Ryan, the Bills front office have decided to pull the plug on Taylor’s season by benching the starting quarterback in the season finale against the New York Jets. The administrative decision was reportedly made to avoid an injury that would have the Bills owe Taylor guaranteed money. This all points to a game plan to jettison Taylor out of town. Taylor was a career backup for the Baltimore Ravens before winning the starting job in his first year with the Bills last year. He will land somewhere next year but probably in his previous role as a backup.
7 Brock Osweiler
Brock Osweiler was supposed to be the missing piece of the championship puzzle when the Houston Texans signed the quarterback away from the Denver Broncos this past offseason for four years and $72 million. Instead, the Texans have claimed the AFC South title despite the horrible play of Osweiler. He was benched two weeks ago in favor of backup Tom Savage and it is unclear if he will make his way back into the starting lineup for the playoffs. If Osweiler had a problem with future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning stepping in for him last year then he has to be irate with his latest benching. After what went down in Denver last year, it’s hard to imagine Osweiler being in Houston next season despite his gaudy contract.
6 Jamie Collins
Talented young linebacker Jamie Collins reportedly fell out of favor in New England over not feeling valued and began having issues with the coaching staff. Bill Belichick, never one to put any player above the team, swiftly dealt the disgruntled linebacker to the Cleveland Browns. Collins is a free agent at season’s end and reports are swirling around that he wants big money to remain a Brown. Franchising Collins could be an option for Cleveland but will he respond positively or will he revert to the behavior that for all intents and purposes got him kicked out of New England? Rather than overpaying him or franchising him, the Browns could choose to simply let him walk. The former Pro Bowler has also been hush, hush on the potential of signing a long-term deal in Cleveland. Collins knows the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills would all probably pay him big bucks to be a thorn in the Patriots’ side twice a year.
5 Robert Griffin III
There are several factors that could lead to Robert Griffin III being chased out of Cleveland. The Browns quarterback was injured in Week 1 and didn’t return until Week 14. RGIII sustained a concussion in the Browns first win of the season over the San Diego Chargers during week 16. He simply cannot stay on the field. It’s being reported that the Browns will ask him to take a pay cut at season’s end. And if that’s not enough to for the former second overall pick to want to take a hike then being a back up might do the trick. NFL insider Mike Lombardi believes that there is a real chance that the Browns will trade for New England Patriots’ backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The writing could be on the wall for RGIII’s career in Cleveland.
4 Jimmy Garoppolo
When Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of this season, it gave third year New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo a chance to be showcased. Garoppolo played well in relief of Brady. He compiled a 2-0 record and had a big three-touchdown game before being injured in that same game against the Miami Dolphins. Garoppolo is now probably eager to be a starter and Bill Belickick might be willing to let that happen, somewhere else, with Brady showing no signs of slowing down even at the advanced age of 39. Patriot confidant Mike Lombardi has stated that a Garoppolo trade this offseason is a real possibility and even named Cleveland as a possible destination. A trade to the Browns would make a lot of sense given the fact that they need a starting quarterback and they have become Belichick’s new favorite trade buddy. The Chicago Bears will also most likely be searching for a new starting quarterback and Garoppolo would make a lot of sense in Chicago as well.
3 Jamaal Charles
With several options at running back (Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West) and a looming salary cap issue, the Kansas City Chiefs might be tempted to release often- injured star running back Jamaal Charles. Charles was dominant from 2009 to 2014 when he rushed for over 1,000 yards in five out of six seasons while being selected to the Pro Bowl four times. However, the 30-year old hasn’t seen the field much the last couple of seasons and might be on the edge of the infamous NFL running back cliff. Cutting Charles would reportedly save the Chiefs $7 million. Considering the shelf life of NFL running backs, it might be wise for the Chiefs to save a few bucks than to gamble on if Charles has anything left in the gas tank.
2 DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Washington Redskins wide receiver could be playing somewhere different but at the same time very familiar next season. Prior to signing with the Redskins in 2014, Jackson played his first six seasons in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles. He became a victim of the mad scientist, Chip Kelly who also booted LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles out of Philly. With Kelly now off attempting to destroy another organization, NFL insider Adam Schefter is reporting that a reunion could be in the works. Jackson had great success in the City of Brotherly Love where he went over 1,000 yards receiving three times and was selected to three Pro Bowls. The veteran would also make a nice weapon for young quarterback Carson Wentz.
1 Tony Romo
Dak Prescott has confirmed what many Cowboys fans already knew. Tony Romo is not the quarterback to lead the Dallas Cowboys to the promise land. Romo has been a steady and popular quarterback (especially with owner Jerry Jones) in Dallas for ten plus years but America’s team hasn’t look this good in years. Romo’s injury allowed Prescott into the starting role, which has produced immediate results. Even avid Romo supporter and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now realizes the future is Prescott and Romo must go. Romo will also want to continue on as a starter elsewhere in a quest to win a ring and secure his legacy as one of the great NFL quarterbacks. The Denver Broncos are a hot rumored landing spot for him next season. Look for the Bears, Bills, and Jets to also be in the running for Romo’s services next season.