For all intents and purposes, the NFL offseason is more or less finished, in terms of players switching teams. Sure, there may be a few trades between now and the end of training camp, but by and large, we know how the rosters are going to play out for this season. Indeed, we saw a lot of players leave their incumbent teams in free agency this year, looking for a new start somewhere else. Whether they live up to expectations or come crashing down to earth is yet to be determined, but we can make an estimation considering the situations they're going into.
There are many aspects of a new team that can make a player flourish or regress. System, the head coach and personnel around them all make a big difference in this regard, and in some cases are even more important than the individual player's talent level. There's no doubt we're going to see a mix of both this year, as there were plenty of high-profile signings to go around, some more ill-advised than others. Let's take a look at which players fall into each category for the 2017 season.
Ranked below are 8 NFL players who will succeed with their new team and 7 who will fail.
15 DeSean Jackson: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Succeed)
Despite his increasing age, Jackson keeps proving that he's one of the best deep threats in the league. The veteran still has the ability to keep secondaries on their toes, and burn them when they aren't paying attention to him; or even when they are. Going to the Bucs will have a significant effect on the amount of big plays he'll be able to muster up this year for the better.
Tampa Bay already has a young franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston. Couple that with prime skill players like Mike Evans, Doug Martin, and rookie tight end O.J. Howard, and this offense has the potential to do some serious damage next season. Jackson fits in perfectly with this group, and he should have a stellar season in 2017, no questions asked.
14 Pierre Garcon: San Francisco 49ers (Fail)
Along with the aforementioned Jackson, Garcon was let go in free agency by the Redskins, and signed with San Francisco, as a kind of bridge receiver until they can rebuild that part of the roster. Unfortunately for him, he'll have the likes of Brian Hoyer throwing him the ball this year, and that doesn't bode well for his chances to succeed in this offense.
But Garcon is a veteran player who doesn't have his best years ahead of him. San Francisco was willing to pay him a handsome sum of money, but in reality he's nothing more than a stopgap. Still, with a roster in such a state of flux, and a new coaching regime, Garcon isn't going to be setting the world on fire in 2017. He has very little help on the 49ers offense as it stands now.
13 Tony Jefferson: Baltimore Ravens (Succeed)
This was one of the most under-the-radar signings of the offseason, but also one of the best. Jefferson has proved that he's an upper-tier safety during his time with the Cardinals, and now the Ravens can pair him with Eric Weddle to form one of the best duos in the league at that position.
It may not have been a flashy signing, but it's one that's a savvy roster-building move from the Ravens' front office. Jefferson has been consistently underrated during his time in the league, and is really one of the top-10 safeties in the game right now. It will pay dividends for Baltimore, and Jefferson is likely to have the best years of his career as a Raven, considering he's just hitting the prime of his career.
12 Eddie Lacy: Seattle Seahawks (Fail)
It's really be a Jekyll and Hyde-type career for Lacy, who was once considered to be one of the best young power-running backs in the league. For the last couple of seasons, massive questions about his injuries and weight gain have set him back to just a player who's competing for a roster spot. The Seahawks signed him on a lark, but he's not even a guarantee to make the team.
Seattle has the benefit of a stocked backfield right now, and Lacy will have to earn his spot. Thomas Rawls, Alex Collins and C.J. Procise are all young, and have more upside than Lacy does at this time in his career. If Lacy does end up on the roster, he's unlikely to do much besides goal-line and short-yardage work. It will be a fall from grace for Lacy, who once figured to be the Packers' mainstay running back for years to come.
11 Terrelle Pryor: Washington Redskins (Succeed)
Without question, the biggest individual comeback story in the NFL last year was that of Pryor, and his transition to wide receiver from quarterback. Against all odds, he proved that he can not only be a capable NFL receiver, but that he can excel at the position. The Browns let him walk in free agency, and he inked a one-year deal with Washington during the offseason.
The two advantages that Pryor has coming in are that Kirk Cousins is an accurate quarterback, and that head coach Jay Gruden likes to throw the football for a majority of the time. These two things should aid him, as he continues to have another solid season. Pryor may not have the upside that the game's best young receivers do, but he has the chance to be a solid target for a long time if he can continue his quality play this year.
10 Robert Woods: Los Angeles Rams (Fail)
One of the most head-scratching signings of the offseason, the Rams gave Woods the kind of money that you would expect an upper-tier receiver to get. Woods isn't that guy, and he never was in Buffalo, solidly behind Sammy Watkins on the depth chart. It's hard to believe that he'll become a reliable target for Jared Goff, who still needs to prove that he belongs on an NFL field after being the 1st-overall pick in the 2016 draft.
It's going to be an uphill battle for Woods because of Goff's deficiencies, and this really isn't the ideal situation for him to be in. He should instead be a complementary target on an already-good receiving corps, not asked to carry the load on a mediocre one. Unfortunately for him, that's likely what he'll be asked to do, and that doesn't bode well for his performance in 2017.
9 A.J. Bouye: Jacksonville Jaguars (Succeed)
One of the most coveted cornerbacks in free agency this year, Bouye has a real chance to succeed with the Jaguars this upcoming season. He may not have much experience as a full-time starter, but he's going to be surrounded by a personnel group that is young and hungry for success.
Jalen Ramsey will be in the mix in the Jaguars secondary, who figures to one day be an elite player. Bouye will have help with some quality linebackers and defensive linemen as well, meaning he won't immediately have to be the best player on the unit. Granted, he was probably overpaid for how good he actually is, but that's just the free agency market for cornerbacks right now. In a vacuum, Bouye is a quality player who should be a lockdown cornerback on Jags for a long time.
8 Logan Ryan: Tennessee Titans (Fail)
There are serious questions about Ryan being able to handle being the number one cornerback in a defensive backfield right now. The Patriots defensive system has made treasure out of trash before, and it wouldn't be surprising to Ryan fall into the latter category. Right now, he's definitely the most talented corner on the Titans' roster, but that isn't saying much.
Ryan will have to prove that he can excel on the back end, and lead that unit as a whole. This contract wasn't as massive as some other cornerback contracts we saw this offseason, but it's enough to demand that Ryan is a shutdown player who can take the defense to the next level. Ultimately, it's unlikely to happen, at least from his own doing.
7 Johnathan Hankins: Indianapolis Colts (Succeed)
Another really underrated signing that occurred late in the free agency period. Hankins is one of the more overlooked defensive tackles in the league, and he's an immediate difference-maker on a Colts defense that desperately needs the help. His contract isn't as big as some of the best players at the position, but Hankins is entering the prime of his career, and may end up being a great value.
At the very least, he'll improve the porous defensive line that Indy has trotted out for the past couple of seasons. This is a signing that really can't go wrong, for the team or Hankins. He has a chance to grow with this defense, and be a cornerstone player on it for years to come. The Colts have a great chance to go far because of Andrew Luck; it's just a matter of shoring up their defense.
6 Brandon Marshall: New York Giants (Fail)
While the signing gained a lot of fanfare at the time, there are now major questions as to how Marshall fits in the Giants' offense. There's also his increasing age, and he's squarely no longer in the prime of his career. With a crowded receiving corps, how much opportunity will there be for Marshall to truly excel, as he had in the past?
That remains a big question entering the 2017 season. Marshall has to prove that he deserves targets among personnel that includes the elite Odell Beckham, and up-and-comer Sterling Shepard. Then there's rookie receiving tight end Evan Engram, who also figures to be a big part of the offense. Marshall may do well in the red zone, but it's unlikely that he'll put up the kind of numbers that do justice to the rest of his career.
5 Stephon Gilmore: New England Patriots (Succeed)
The Patriots had a busier offseason than usual this year, and Gilmore may been the prime pickup. He's one of the premier cornerbacks in the league, and entering an already solid Pats defense, he's going to have a monster year. He received a premium contract, and deserved every penny of it, and now gives the Patriots a true shutdown corner that doesn't need to be elevated by their system.
This one's pretty cut-and-dry. Gilmore is a great young player that has a chance to turn the Patriots secondary into an even bigger juggernaut, combined with the services of Malcolm Butler. He'll excel in this system, and perhaps be one of the key figures in yet another Super Bowl run.
4 Kenny Britt: Cleveland Browns (Fail)
In order to compensate for the loss of Terrelle Pryor, the Browns overpaid for Kenny Britt; a good, not great receiver who admittedly was coming off of his best NFL season. The problem is that Britt has shown too many detriments to show any kind of continuity regarding his quality of play. The Browns have a ton of cap space, so they likely just overpaid because they could.
But it won't change the reality that Britt is just so-so, and that there isn't a good quarterback throwing him the ball. He may notch another 1,000-yard season simply because there's little in the way of good targets on the Browns' offense, but that doesn't mean he'll live up to the deal.
3 Martellus Bennett: Green Bay Packers (Succeed)
The usually quiet Packers made a bit of splash signing when they inked Bennett. This gives Aaron Rodgers a proven, reliable receiving tight end to throw to, on top of a really good receiving corps. Bennett will have plenty of space to work with around the seam of the field, and should rack up some stellar numbers this year.
The Packers probably didn't need to make this signing, but it does bolster their offensive roster into something fierce in the passing game. Even without a stable running back situation, Rodgers now has a plethora of targets to throw to, and that honestly should be enough. Bennett is one of the best tight ends out there, and will have a great season with an elite quarterback.
2 Mike Glennon: Chicago Bears (Fail)
Just about every regarding the Bears and quarterbacks was questionable to say the least during the offseason. Besides inexplicably trading up to get Mitch Trubisky, who is far from a long-term guarantee, they overpaid for Glennon who has been a backup for the last several seasons in Tampa Bay.
Granted, Glennon only figures to be a stopgap, but he's being paid like something much more than that. The Bears don't have the offensive personnel to mask his deficiencies, and he should be out as the starter as soon as next season. Maybe it's not all his fault, but either way Glennon is going to have a rough go of it in Chicago for the 2017 season.
1 Alshon Jeffery: Philadelphia Eagles (Succeed)
No team in the league did as much to help their quarterback as the Eagles did this offseason. Granted, after last season's pathetic display of talent at skill positions, it would have been hard not to accomplish. Regardless, Jeffery gives Philly and Carson Wentz a surefire receiving target, who is arguably a top-10 player at his position, and probably the best receiver they've had since the T.O. days.
There are questions about Jeffery's availability, but until they manifest themselves, he's going to have a strong season. He's automatically the go-to receiving target for the Eagles, and with Wentz's natural inclination to throw the ball down the field, Jeffery could be in store for some true highlight reel plays, to go along with stellar numbers all season long. He's one of the best receivers in the league right now, and the Wentz-Jeffery connection should be able to excel for a long time.
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