As the NFL offseason approaches, we can attempt to determine which players are stuck in unfortunate situations with their current team. Of most interest to the fans are some of the most talented players in the league who fall into this category. As a result, many begin to wonder what the possibilities are for these players who desperately need a change of scenery, and what franchises will make the best suitors for them. In some cases, there’s a clear-cut choice, and in others their fate is murkier, but the need for a new team is the common trait that they all have between them.
In this day and age of massive contracts and combative player-agents, it’s never easy to estimate which teams will pick up any given player, but there are certainly clues that can lend a hand. In any event, none of these players listed are served better by staying where they are and will more than likely be searching for a way out, even if it means a tricky contract situation. For some, this will be their last chance of playoff success, something their incumbent teams have almost zero chance of providing them.
Ranked below are 15 NFL players who NEED to change teams.
15. Torrey Smith
A member of the 2012 Ravens team that won the Super Bowl, since then, Smith hasn’t seen the best of fortunes after a move to the 49ers. The veteran wide receiver is in his prime, and stuck in a no-win situation in San Francisco with new head coach Chip Kelly. It’s been a disastrous season for the team, and Smith’s best chance to win another ring will come with changing spaces to a contender. Best options would be a team like the Raiders, Packers, or any team with an established quarterback looking to bolster their receiving corps. Smith is a true deep threat with great skill, it’s just a matter of getting him in the right system again. He certainly won’t be looking to stay with a team as hopeless as the 49ers.
14. Ryan Mathews
The Eagles are in a state of limbo at the moment, and while Mathews has shown promise in Doug Pederson’s system, he’s not getting any younger. Even with a potential franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, there simply isn’t enough guaranteed success in the future of the team to make it worth staying for another year. Mathews is better off with a win-now franchise like the Lions, who desperately need a one-cut runner, who can clean up in the red zone. He’s still an explosive runner, even if he won’t be getting 20-plus carries a game. Right now however, the Eagles aren’t going to improve in the amount of time that will find Mathews able to contribute in a significant fashion. He’s better off looking elsewhere for a suitable backfield.
13. Kenny Britt
Despite a season that’s been disastrous for the Rams in their move back to Los Angeles, as well as one that finally got perennially mediocre head coach Jeff Fisher fired, Britt has been a bright spot on the team. Set to hit free agency if he isn’t resigned, Britt will be a high-profile choice for a team in need of a veteran receiver on the outside. Even with his substantial experience in the league, Britt is still in his prime, and could be a major contributor going forward, in the right situation. A move to a team such as the Redskins, who will be losing some receiving pieces, or the Vikings seems to be in order for Britt. The Rams have too many question marks at head coach and quarterback right now for him to want to stay.
12. Josh Norman
The Redskins in the 2016 season are a tale of two opposite sides of the ball. A quick-strike, potent offense, alongside a porous defense that can’t seem to get off the field. Frankly, Norman made the wrong decision in free agency to come to Washington, only to play alongside this mediocre personnel. The team is going to be stuck in no-man’s-land for the next several seasons, and Norman should be looking for a team willing to pick up his massive contract. A team like the Patriots would seem like a potential suitor, since Norman would be looking to go to a contender. He’s one of the best corners in the game, but his talent is absolutely wasted on the Redskins, and he’s not the only one of the team that this applies too…
11. DeSean Jackson
Jackson is set to be a free agent this offseason, and even though he was jettisoned from Philadelphia for essentially no reason, there remains a possibility for him to return. Truthfully, this isn’t the best move for him. Despite being the best deep threat in the game over the past seven or eight years, Jackson has never seen a playoff win, and needs to go to a team where that result is imminent. Putting him on a team like the Falcons would be flat-out scary in combination with Julio Jones, and likewise with the Cowboys and Dez Bryant (much to the dismay of Eagles fans). Even at age 30, Jackson hasn’t a shown any signs of regression, and will be a huge asset for whichever team is able to pick him up. The Redskins just won’t cut it though for the rest of his career.
10. Brandin Cooks
Cooks is in a crowded receiving corps in New Orleans, and with quarterback Drew Brees seeming to favor the rookie Michael Thomas, he may be looking for a way out. He’s young, extremely talented, and could seriously thrive in the right situation. It ultimately will come down to the contract, and the return the Saints could garner, but Cooks is undoubtedly served better on a different roster, with the competition around him currently. He’s put up good numbers so far, but has the ability to be a top-five receiver in the league if he can find himself the right supporting cast. Time will tell on this, but it’s in his best interest to look for a team with a young franchise QB like the Eagles or Cowboys for a new home.
9. Robert Griffin III
There’s still time for RGIII to prove that he can be a quality starter in the NFL ranks, but that time is beginning to run out. Moreover, he’s not going to be able to do this in Cleveland, as the Browns have been an even bigger dumpster fire than they normally are. There’s no clear-cut solution, but a team in desperate need of a stopgap quarterback could give RGIII the time needed to prove that he’s a reliable player. The Cardinals may be an option with Carson Palmer headed downhill, or maybe the Bears after Jay Cutler is gone. In any event, Griffin needs to find a new home somewhere other than Cleveland, because he’ll never be able to reach potential he may have with such a clueless franchise. He may never reach the peaks of his 2012 campaign, but he still has a shot to be productive.
8. Andrew Luck
This one isn’t likely to happen, but truth be told, Luck needs to find a way out of Indy. Hindered by a poor general manager, and head coach in Chuck Pagano who just can’t get over the hump, Luck is the one redeeming aspect of the Colts right now. He’s a certified franchise quarterback who has proven that he can win in high-stakes games with little talent around him. The front office has done him no favors however, and he should be finding out a way to go to a team that can put the necessary pieces around him. It’ll be tough with his contract, but must begin to see the writing on the wall. A quarterback with his skill set could get a team like the Bears to pick up on his deal in the right circumstances. Unfortunately, he’ll probably stay with the Colts, never to gain a ring.
7. Adrian Peterson
Despite his struggles when he’s been healthy and active this year, Peterson still has another season of productivity left in him. It’s not going to come with the Vikings however when they have a piss-poor offensive line, and proven mediocrity at quarterback in Sam Bradford (or the slightly better Teddy Bridgewater coming off a major injury). At this point, he’s just asking opposing defenses to keep at least eight players in the box to stop the run. AP needs to go to a currently high-powered offense with an elite passing attack. If the Redskins were willing to try and make it happen, that could be an ideal fit, same with a team like the Giants. Another scenario that’s unlikely, but if it was entirely up to him, Peterson would be looking for a way out of Minnesota.
6. Brandon Marshall
With the Jets implosion during the 2016 season, the entire franchise seems to be a mess. Marshall is an elite talent, and not getting any younger. With no certified franchise quarterback in the waiting, and most of the team’s best talent old and on the way out, Marshall is caught between a rock and a hard place. He could have several more productive seasons, but will have to go to a receiving corps that is already somewhat established. The Redskins? A return to the Broncos? It’s difficult to say who would actually be willing to pony up the money for a receiver who’s productivity isn’t guaranteed at this stage in his career. At the same time, Marshall has enough inherent talent in order to make it a possibility.
5. Allen Robinson
Robinson had a breakout 2015 campaign, followed by a more lackluster season this year statistically. There are multiple theories on why this may be, but it likely has to do more with recently-fired head coach Gus Bradley, and the ineffectiveness of Blake Bortles. It’s tough to say what the scene is going to look like in Jacksonville going forward, since they’ll be hiring a new head coach, but when a new regime comes in, there’s never a guarantee that even the best players will stay. Robinson is young enough that he could grow with a new team that would give him a long-term contract. He’d automatically be a number one receiver on the Eagles or Rams, and could be hitting his prime just as (or if) those two teams find a winning formula in the next several seasons.
4. John Brown
One of the most talented young receivers in the league, Brown has been hurt this year from poor quarterback play, as well as a lack of identity on the Cardinals offense as to who really is their go-to receiver. On a team with a more clear-cut receiving corps, he’d jump right up as a compliment to a WR1, and perennially post 1,000 yard receiving seasons. It wouldn’t be so outlandish to see a team like the Ravens or Titans attempt to take the risk, in order to bolster their offense. In the end, Brown may end up staying in Arizona, but he’s probably better off going to a team with a more defined offensive vision, rather than the logjam that seems to be going on with the Cardinals. Definitely a receiver to keep an eye on over the next few seasons.
3. Melvin Gordon
After a disappointing rookie season in 2015, Gordon has emerged as one of the league’s top running backs. The only problems is that with the rapidly increasing age of Philip Rivers, uncertainty about head coach Mike McCoy, and a seemingly impending move to another city, the Chargers are a mess right now. It’s fair to wonder if Gordon wants to see it through, and if not, he’ll have plenty of takers that would be willing to give him a shot. He’d fit well on just about any team with a decent offensive line, and competent passing attack. He begs to be a feature back in a system that can throw the ball, where he’ll shred defenses who can’t stack the box. If he stays with the Chargers, the future looks a lot murkier, given all the turmoil and controversy surrounding the team right now.
2. Terrelle Pryor
Perhaps the one beacon of hope on the Browns right now is the emergence of former-quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor. After being drafted by the Raiders in 2013 and subsequently bombing as a starting quarterback, he’s made the switch to receiver, and excelled this year despite poor QB play and almost no talent around him. He would be wise to look for greener pastures, and sign with a team that actually has a chance to contend. Pryor’s young enough that he doesn’t have to go to a contender quite yet if the money isn’t there, which gives him the pick of the litter; the Eagles, Rams and Titans are all teams that would make sense for Pryor. It remains to be seen, but given the talent that he’s shown in his first full year as a receiver, it makes sense for him to relocate.
1. Alshon Jeffery
The most high-profile free agent for the upcoming offseason, Jeffery is an elite receiver who just happens to be on one of the worst teams in the NFL. There’s little doubt that he’ll be wanting to leave the Bears, but exactly who wants to pony up the money for the inevitably massive contract is the question on everyone’s mind. You could make an argument for just about any team that is currently a contender, or has a potentially bright future ahead of them. Could Jeffery and Carson Wentz be a perennially elite QB/WR duo? Would the Patriots be willing to make such a splash signing, such as they did with Randy Moss? The possibilities are endless, but someone is going to end up paying. Jeffery has no reason to stay in Chicago on a team with no direction, and he’s just entering his prime as a free agent, making him one of the most desirable players on the market in the last five years.
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