With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, all eyes are now set on the offseason. And when it comes to the NFL, it may be the most exciting time of the year.
The current crop of free agents are set, as names like Kirk Cousins, Le'Veon Bell, Alshon Jeffery, Kawann Short, Melvin Ingram, and A.J. Bouye are just six of the many talents that are looking to cash in this offseason.
But those aren't the only names available.
Unlike other sports, the NFL usually features big-name veterans that get cut for salary cap purposes. In addition, trades of aging players also happens, although it isn't as common as the aforementioned cuts.
Either way, it's going to be an interesting offseason. With the Patriots winning yet another Super Bowl, other teams are going to get desperate to find some way to get a leg up on New England. While some of the aforementioned free agents will stay with their current teams, it's more likely that older players will move on to revitalize their careers, change their scenery, or chase the ring that they've craved for since they entered the NFL.
Let's take a look at 15 NFL players who will change teams this offseason and try to predict where they'll end up.
15 Victor Cruz – New England Patriots
Once upon a time, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was one of the biggest success stories in all of the NFL. After playing for a low-level collegiate program, the pass-catcher signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent, made the team in his rookie year, and by the end of his sophomore campaign, he was the team's top option and Super Bowl champion. When Odell Beckham Jr. was eventually drafted by the team, that was supposed to help Cruz continue to play at a high level.
Unfortunately, however, a devastating knee injury has halted his once promising career. Cruz missed all of 2015 — and although his return was impressive in and of itself, his stats (39 catches, 586 yards, one touchdown) weren't. With Sterling Shepard in the fold, Cruz's time in New York is all but done, as he's expected to be cut. While the market will be slim for an aging, injury-riddled receiver, don't be surprised if the New England Patriots — a team that loves taking fliers on a player like Cruz — sign him and make him a viable option once again.
14 Vince Wilfork — New England Patriots...For One Day
Speaking of the New England Patriots, Vince Wilfork was a staple on the team's defense during their dominant run as the top team in the NFL. The nose tackle's size alone made him an obvious run-stuffer, but it was the big man's quiet agility and athleticism that made him an every-down threat for the organization. After spending 11 seasons up north, the Patriots decided to cut their ties with Wilfork, so he went on and signed a two-year deal with the Houston Texans, where he continued to excel despite being in his mid-30s.
Once the Texans were eliminated in the playoffs this year, Wilfork has let his feelings known that he's ready for his life after football. But just because he won't be playing next year, that doesn't mean he won't sign a deal this offseason. Expect Wilfork to ink a one-day pact with the Patriots so he can retire as a member of the team where he was at his best.
13 Brandin Cooks — Philadelphia Eagles
In the first surprise of this countdown, we have Brandin Cooks, the top wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints. After being in the first round back in 2014, the speedy wideout has become the top target for Drew Brees. Through three seasons, Cooks has compiled nearly 3,000 receiving yards (2,861) and also has 20 touchdowns on his resume. So why would the Saints want to trade their most dangerous weapon? Cooks has continuously voiced his displeasures about his place in the offense as the Saints looked elsewhere at times this past season. No one wants an unhappy player disrupting a locker room, so moving Cooks may be the only option.
One team that should give the Saints what they want is the Philadelphia Eagles, as they need more weapons for Carson Wentz and a legitimate target across from Jordan Matthews. Trading a first round pick may seem steep, but seeing as though Cooks is just 23 years old, it would be a worthy gamble to take.
12 Jimmy Garoppolo — Cleveland Browns
Jimmy Garoppolo is still a member of the New England Patriots but many believe that won't be the case by the time next season rolls around. The 25-year-old quarterback hasn't seen much playing time as he's been stuck behind Tom Brady but his brief appearance in 2016 has made many believe he could be the next great starting quarterback. When Brady was suspended for four games, it was Garoppolo who earned two of the starts before an injury put him out of action. Over that span, he completed 68.3% of his passes, threw for four touchdowns, had zero interceptions, and passed for 502 yards.
The Patriots would be wise to land a nice package in return for Garoppolo's services, and a team like the Cleveland Browns must pull the trigger. With the organization in flux, they desperately need a quarterback to build around. And with an abundance of draft picks, they could be in position to make Garoppolo their man.
11 Colin Kaepernick — Buffalo Bills
Whether it's fair or unfair, that remains to be seen — but quarterback Colin Kaepernick may find it hard to get a job this offseason due to his stances off of the field. Either way, Kaepernick has had an unprecedented fall far from grace as he was once considered the next big thing in the NFL and went on to become a fringe starter that would've been better served as a backup. The 2016 campaign, however, was a different story, as the 29-year-old reinvented his stock as he threw for 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns, and four interceptions, all the while sporting a passer rating of 90.7.
Kaepernick voided his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and is hoping to cash in this offseason. A team like the Buffalo Bills — who also have a ton of questions surrounding the quarterback position — could be an option if they let go of their current QB (we'll get to him in a minute). Would it be a long-term solution? No. But it could give the organization a chance to groom a young quarterback behind him.
10 DeSean Jackson — New Orleans Saints
DeSean Jackson was always viewed as a player who could be one of the top receiving threats in all of football. Unfortunately, it's been nine seasons and he's yet to see his talents truly manifest. A dominant returner and explosive downfield threat, Jackson has posted five 1,000-yard seasons, including last year when he caught 56 passes and scored four touchdowns while compiling 1,005 receiving yards. But at the same time, Jackson also disappears in games, making his inconsistent play a big reason behind his struggles.
Going off the premise that the New Orleans Saints will trade Brandin Cooks, who better to take his place than Jackson? The Saints are known for their prolific offense and someone of DeSean's caliber would thrive catching passes from Drew Brees in the Superdome.
9 Jay Cutler — Denver Broncos
Back when Jay Cutler was with the Denver Broncos, his stats were gaudy and his play made many believe he was one of the brightest young players in football, but it was his demeanor and attitude off of the field turned many off. When he finally was ousted from Colorado and was sent to the Chicago Bears, the hope wasn't only that he would mature, but he would also bring his new team to the promised land. Cutler impressed at times — including 2014 and 2015, where he threw for nearly 7,500 yards and had 49 touchdowns to 29 picks — but his old problems were still at the forefront.
Cutler is still on the Bears roster but many believe it's time for the organization to look towards the future and cut their ties with the QB. It sounds farfetched, but there could be a chance that the Broncos — who can still be considered a win-now team — could take a flier on Cutler. Both Trevor Siemien and Paxton Lynch looked promising in 2016; but if the Broncos want to compete for a Super Bowl in the next year or so, Cutler could be a fit.
8 Tyrod Taylor — New York Jets
It's hard to find success in the NFL if you don't have a legitimate talent at quarterback — and that's something the Jets desperately need. Sure, names like Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick have brought along moderate success — but if the team wants to take it to the next level, they need to invest in a long term option. Unfortunately, neither Bryce Petty nor Christian Hackenberg look like they can be one. A name that should intrigue them, however, is divisional rival Tyrod Taylor.
It remains to be seen if the Buffalo Bills will pick up his five-year extension. Taylor hasn't had the best of weapons around him but he's put up very good numbers with the Bills (3,023, 17 touchdowns, six interceptions in 2016), with some comparing his skill set to Russell Wilson. If he does hit the open market, the Jets need to throw everything they can at him — and with veteran skill players all over their roster, Taylor could excel in a big way.
7 Joe Thomas — Seattle Seahawks
It's a shame to see a legitimate all-time great player like Joe Thomas waste away in the NFL cesspool known as the Cleveland Browns. A model citizen in every sense of the word, the offensive tackle has been a rock in the otherwise unsteady organization. Thomas has started every single game in his career, is a 10-time Pro Bowler, seven-time First Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second Team All-Pro. Despite pledging his allegiance to the only team he's played for, it's time for the 32-year-old to get selfish — and that means demanding a trade.
Seeing that they can get something valuable in return, the Browns would honor his request and ship him to the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks may not be as prolific as they were a couple of years ago, but they're only a couple of players away from being Super Bowl contenders once again. Adding Thomas to their ravished offensive line will not only upgrade the position but would also give the veteran a renewed sense of focus with a winning team.
6 Eric Berry — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The only difference between Joe Thomas and Eric Berry is the quality of team that they play for. Like the offensive tackle, Berry is an all-world player at safety as he can do pretty much everything on the defensive side of the ball. Noted for his tremendous leadership skills, the safety has also seen his stats turn into awards as he's a three-time First Team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler, as well as the Comeback Player of the Year in 2015. Last season was no different, as Berry collected 77 tackles, four interceptions, nine passes defended, and two defensive touchdowns.
Arguably the top player at his position, Berry deserves a boatload of money — and it doesn't look like the Kansas City Chiefs will pony up what it takes to get him. If they don't the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to do everything in their power to bring Berry into the fold. They're an organization on the cusp of something special and bringing in a player — and person — like Berry could put them over the top.
5 Darrelle Revis — Oakland Raiders
Wow, 2016 couldn't have been worse for Darrelle Revis. After returning to the team that drafted him in 2015, New York Jets fans were excited that they got arguably the greatest player to ever wear green back on the team. While he continued to excel at a high level that year, it was this past season that had many questioning his commitment and passion. "Revis Island" was no longer a catchphrase as names like A.J. Green and Kenny Britt torched the one-time elite corner. Cutting ties with their investment isn't farfetched — but if Revis wants to continue his playing career, a team like the Oakland Raiders would be a strong fit.
The Raiders could be a Super Bowl contender for years to come and they have holes at cornerback. Revis could be revitalized playing for a winner, which would be beneficial to both parties involved.
4 Sheldon Richardson — Dallas Cowboys
Let's stay on the New York Jets. When the organization drafted Sheldon Richardson in the first round of the 2013 draft, many speculated that he and Muhammad Wilkerson would make a dominant one-two punch on Gang Green's defensive line. For the first two years of his career, they lived up to those expectations. Richardson played like an elite-level defensive tackle collected 145 tackles and 11.5 sacks while being a menace in the run game. Unfortunately, however, his stock has fallen over the last two seasons due to diminishing play and concerning off the field antics, making it a reality that the Jets could trade him.
The Dallas Cowboys were rumored to have interest in Richardson during this past season — and with the team believing they can win a Super Bowl in the very near future, giving up a first-round pick for 26-year-old talent wouldn't be a terrible investment.
3 Tony Romo — Houston Texans
Speaking of the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Dak Prescott was supposed to be a placeholder until Tony Romo healed from injury. Unfortunately for the veteran, the rookie QB ended up putting up impressive numbers (3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, four interceptions), led the Cowboys to a 13-win season, and is by far and away their best option under center. Because of this, it looks like Romo will be looking for a new job in 2017 — fortunately, he won't have to look too far.
The Houston Texans haven't succeeded at a high level but they've taken advantage of a weak division and have become playoff contenders. Brock Osweiler was supposed to put the team over the top but that move has become a colossal failure. It would be wise for the team to bring in Romo, as he could help them compete on the field while mentoring Osweiler and helping him prepare for the future.
2 Adrian Peterson — Carolina Panthers
It was only a few weeks ago when all-time great running back Adrian Peterson mentioned the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Houston Texans as the teams he'd like to play for if he's cut from the Minnesota Vikings. While those teams could be fits, there is one team that can benefit from his addition the most — the Carolina Panthers. Peterson, of course, played in just three games in 2016; but the 31-year-old rusher is just one season removed from scoring 11 touchdowns while running for 1,485 yards. The Panthers took a huge step back in 2016 but it's likely they'll rebound in 2017. They do need help at running back though, and combining Peterson with Cam Newton could be the recipe for success that gets the organization back on track.
1 Rob Gronkowski — New York Giants
The final prediction may also be the most farfetched — but hear me out. The New England Patriots aren't only known as a winning organization. The team is also famous for moving on from big-name players, only to have younger, cheaper options take their place and excel. In his tenure, Bill Belichick has traded cornerstone players like Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins, Chandler Jones, and Jamie Collins; while many believed they would take a step back with the losses, they didn't. Martellus Bennett emerged as a legitimate number one tight end option and many are speculating he'll re-sign with the team.
Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, is arguably the best player at the tight end position, but injuries are beginning to pile up at an alarming rate. If the Patriots are looking to cash-in, the New York Giants are the most logical team to acquire him. The Giants, of course, have a massive hole at tight end, and Gronk — who can catch impossible balls, can run after the catch, can block at a high level, and is a great red zone threat — could fill that role to a tee. Imagine Odell Beckham Jr. and Gronkowski in the same offense? Don't be surprised if it happens...
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