We're getting to the point in the NFL regular season where many teams are starting to eye-up potential additions for next offseason to improve their roster. There's plenty of talk about which players on the free agent market and in the draft could be acquired to best give them a chance to take the next step. While new additions are always going to take up the bulk of speculation, it's also important to realize that there are players who are going to be leaving unexpectedly, which could throw the team for a loop if they aren't prepared.
We see this every offseason, and the upcoming one won't be an exception. In fact, there lies a chance for even more players to leave their team prematurely, given all of the respective circumstances. It's all shaping up to be one of the most anticipated offseason in recent memory, and there will be plenty of shakeup to occur all over the NFL. Let's begin to speculate what could end up happening when push comes to shove, and which players will be packing up and leaving their current team.
Ranked below are 15 surprise departures from NFL rosters that we'll see during the offseason.
15 Andy Dalton
The Bengals have to be wearing thin on both head coach Marvin Lewis, as well as Dalton as their franchise quarterback. He's been good enough to warrant keeping the starting job, but hasn't been able to elevate the franchise to any success in the playoffs. While the logic says to keep a competent quarterback on the roster until a certified replacement can be acquired, the Bengals may want to shake things up entirely.
If they could find a prospective buyer for Dalton's services, it wouldn't be crazy to see him leave via a trade. There's also a potential out on his contract after the conclusion of this season. Either way, Cincinnati may be looking to move on from Dalton, and that transition could begin as soon as this offseason.
14 DeSean Jackson
When Jackson signed with Tampa Bay last offseason, he probably wasn't expecting to be on a team that is squarely outside of the playoff race in December. The Buccaneers were projected to be one of the most improved teams in the league, and Jackson was looking for a contender to go to before he retired. That hasn't been the case, unfortunately for him.
This allows us to consider the possibility that he would request a trade during the offseason, and ultimately find himself playing elsewhere in 2018. He's had a pretty good season overall, and a true contender would definitely want his services as a burner-type wide receivers. For the right price, Tampa may be willing to oblige Jackson's possible trade request.
13 Andrew Luck
The saga that has unfolded, seeing Luck be reduced to a question mark in Indianapolis is sad, but it's also not entirely his fault. The fact is that the Colts are a mess, and probably not the best place for Luck spend the rest of his career. Eventually, he's going to shake the injury and get back on the field. There's no guarantee it's going to be in Indy, and Luck may want to strong-arm his way out of a bad situation.
Needless to say, this would make the quarterback market for the upcoming offseason a whole lot more interesting. Luck is a premier talent when healthy, and the smart money says that he's going to get healthy. With a less-than-appealing Colts team to return to, the possibility of Luck's departure could become very real over the proceeding months.
12 Ben Roethlisberger
Despite what he said earlier in the season, and the claims he made during last offseason, Roethlisberger is still healthy, and currently under center for a team that's one of the best in the league. The fact is that he's only 35 at the moment, and if there's been any regression, it hasn't hurt the Steelers. So you can bet that Roethlisberger is at least considering a return for next season, if it's not imminent.
But will it in fact be in Pittsburgh? In the end, the Steelers may be the ones who want Roethlisberger gone more than Roethlisberger himself. If they win the Super Bowl this year, there's a chance that he could just retire. Otherwise, it'll be a toss-up as to whether Pittsburgh opts to go with the younger Josh Dobbs as their starter in 2018.
11 DeMarco Murray
Murray will be playing the 2018 season at 30-years-old, and there's an out in his contract after this season is over. The Titans may very well be willing to let the young Derrick Henry take over the full-time duties, and transfer the starting running back spot over to him wholesale. Murray is due for some type of regression, and Tennessee would be wise not hang on to him too long.
He'd value to a contending roster that needed running back depth, and could command a draft pick or two from the right team. Everybody thinks of Murray as the go-to runner in Tennessee right now, and while that's true, it's also clear that he's not going to be there for the long-term, one way or another.
10 DeShone Kizer
Only in his rookie season, Kizer has already been benched on three occasions by head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns are a mess and nobody denies it, but doing that to a rookie quarterback is inexcusable, and is really telling about how they feel about him for the long-term. Kizer wasn't a blue chip prospect, but he's more deserving of an opportunity than what he's currently getting in Cleveland.
The fact is, the Browns are probably gearing up to draft a quarterback with their likely 1st-overall pick in the 2018 draft. Kizer likely isn't the franchise player for the long-term. There's a good chance they could be looking to deal him, as a team in need of quarterback help could convince themselves that he only struggled because of his poor surroundings, and give up a draft pick or two for him. Either way, Kizer doesn't figure to stay in Cleveland for multiple seasons after this.
9 Jordan Matthews
The Bills traded for Matthews just before the start of the regular season, where they also acquired a 3rd-round pick from the Eagles in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby. In what has been an injury-riddled season for him, he's never been able to connect with Tyrod Taylor, and now Matthews sits on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
One may think that Buffalo would be willing to give him more of a chance, since they just traded for him and spent a valuable resource to acquire him. But Matthews is set to be a free agent in the offseason, and the Bills may not be keen on paying an injured player a sure-to-be multi-year deal. In all likelihood, Matthews will be moving on in the offseason, as some team will be willing to pay out for him, out of desperation.
8 Brock Osweiler
Denver may have landed Osweiler back for this season, but it's only a one-year deal, and he's done nothing to entice the team to give him the starting quarterback job for 2018. With Paxton Lynch in the mix now, the Broncos will likely be keeping Trevor Siemian as a backup instead of Osweiler, and they may be in the market for a quarterback in the draft, which would further decrease his chances of a 2018 return.
Some may have thought that Denver would be willing to hang on to Osweiler for the long-term given his experience with the team, but at this point he's nothing more than a garden variety backup who has little value going forward. He will be on a different roster for the 2018 season.
7 Sammy Watkins
Again, this is a situation where just about everybody would assume that Watkins would be re-signed, but that's very much in question at the moment. Despite coming on recently to become a favorable target for Jared Goff, the Rams have also proven that they don't need to rely on the former top-10 draft pick to have a successful offense.
The question will be, exactly how much money would Watkins command? There's little doubt that there would be a slew of teams willing to shell out for his services as a top-target wide receiver. The Rams may want to hold on to the money, as their passing game already has a ton of quality targets for Goff to throw to. They could re-sign Watkins, but it's not at all a necessity.
6 Mark Ingram
The Saints got the steal of the draft when they took Alvin Kamara in the 3rd round, and he's been able to prove without a shadow of a doubt that he has the ability to be an every-down running back. What does that mean for the incumbent starter in Ingram? Well, his future is now in doubt, as the Saints have an out on his contract after this season if they want to cut some costs.
While the duo of Ingram and Kamara has proven to be very effective, Kamara is solidified as the more dynamic player. He's a better pass-catcher, and won't need another prominent running back in the rotation to be eating snaps from him. At least not one at Ingram's price tag. There were rumors swirling that the Saints would trade Ingram last offseason, and in 2018 it may actually come to fruition.
5 Teddy Bridgewater
Though Bridgewater is thankfully fully recovered from his devastating injury that he suffered a few years ago, there's actually a chance that the Vikings wouldn't want to bring him back. Most people were lukewarm on Case Keenum before the season started, and though he'll never be viewed as an all-world talent, there's no question that he's been able to run the Minnesota offense with efficiency, at worst.
As such, there may be more incentive for them to have the continuity with Keenum, in lieu of bringing back a so-so player who was coming off of injury for the past two seasons. Bridgewater getting the axe would be further shakeup to what will undoubtedly be one of the most intriguing quarterback markets in recent memory.
4 Lamar Miller
Miller has been ho-hum in just about every statistical category since joining the Texans prior to the 2016 season. On paper, he's actually gotten worse than he was in Miami; not a good look given that he was a major free agent signing. The Texans have an out for his contract after this year, or he may have interest on then trading block, for a team to combine him with an already-proven running back.
With Dont'a Foreman in the mix in Houston's backfield next season, Miller's fate is still up in the air. All things considered, the Texans would be smart to try to trade him when he still has some value. His name will command a decent price tag, and he's not doing anything for their running game that another player couldn't.
3 Jimmy Garoppolo
In what was the blockbuster move of the trade deadline, the 49ers were able to acquire Garoppolo from the Patriots after it was previously thought that he would be unattainable. Essentially, Garoppolo is getting a tryout for half a season on the 49ers roster, but there's really no guarantee that they'll be sticking with him long-term.
And they'll have to make that decision quickly. Garoppolo is set to be a free agent after this season, and the expense of a 2nd-round pick doesn't require San Francisco to keep him at any cost. In reality, Garoppolo is a so-so talent that had a couple of good games inside the confines of Belichick and the Patriots. Nothing more, and that's why he'll likely be gone from the 49ers before long.
2 Richard Sherman
The game's loudest cornerback has a real chance to be moving on next season, and there will be plenty of bidders who need held in their secondary. Sherman's contract is up after the 2018 season, and the Seahawks may want to try and trade him while they can still get something of value. He'll turn 30 in the 2018 season, and there remains real questions as to whether Seattle would be interested in giving Sherman a new deal after that milestone age.
Consider the fact that just about any contender would have interest in kicking the tires on a Sherman trade, at least. He's still one of the game's best corners when healthy, and could be an asset to a Super Bowl run immediately. While not a guarantee, it makes sense for the Seahawks to try and deal Sherman when he still has some gas left in the tank.
1 Eli Manning
Now that Ben McAdoo has finally been axed as head coach in New York, Manning is going to be returning to the starting role that he held before his benching for Geno Smith. This would make it seem like talks of a Manning departure from the Giants would no longer apply, but there's more than meets the eye to this story.
For one thing, the Giants new head coach likely isn't going to have any ties to Manning whatsoever, and will want to start his own hand-picked quarterback. There's no point in keeping Eli on the bench, so a trade scenario is still a distinct possibility here.
So don't be surprised if the Giants still desire to move on from Manning, despite McAdoo being relieved of his coaching duties. The Jaguars could be a likely target for him with the Tom Coughlin involvement. No matter what happens, Manning's time in the league is coming to an end, and the Giants should really be invested in trying to find his long-term replacement.