The 2019 NFL offseason is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent history. A handful of living legends and future Hall of Fame players could ride off into the sunset and call time on their playing careers. Some other big names could change teams either via trades or free agency signings depending on the directions their current employers will head following the postseason tournament and the Super Bowl. Even before the first playoff game kicked off, purported drama hovering over the Pittsburgh Steelers made national sports headlines. With that said, those thinking that team is about to begin a new era may want to pump the brakes at the start of 2019.
Unlike the NBA, blockbuster transactions are not all that common in the NFL for multiple reasons. The league’s hard salary cap and also the fact that younger players sign cheaper contracts than proven veterans often cause organizations to not go out of the way to acquire stars. That wasn’t the case for the Chicago Bears in 2018, as that franchise happily traded with the Oakland Raiders for Khalil Mack, an annual Defensive Player of the Year candidate who could help the Bears win a championship. Of the reported and rumored blockbuster NFL moves mentioned in this piece, will any legitimately shake the league as did the Raiders sending Mack to Chicago?
20 Expect: Giants (finally) using a first-round pick on a QB
Pockets of New York Giants fans have spent years asking for the club to draft a future replacement for quarterback Eli Manning, the two-time Super Bowl MVP who is much closer to retirement than to his physical prime and who may not find a home in the NFL if the Giants were to release him come March. Those individuals finally get their wish during the 2019 NFL Draft. Ohio State product Dwayne Haskins, who is from New Jersey, is the flavor of the month among some Big Blue followers, and it’s possible Haskins could go first overall in the draft if a club such as the Giants went all-in on him following the combine.
19 Won't Happen: Giants releasing Eli Manning
Sometimes, wishes don’t come true exactly as planned or hoped. As of the first week of January, those running the New York Giants have given no hints that the team plans on releasing Eli Manning. Truth be told, it seems more likely the club will restructure his contract to provide some salary cap relief and then allow him to begin training camp as the team’s starting signal-caller ahead of a younger QB. This isn’t necessarily the worst plan if the front office bolsters the offensive line. After all, there are not many better veterans to mentor a rookie than Manning. Whether or not Eli will be the best QB on the roster come September has yet to be determined.
18 Expect: Ravens trading Joe Flacco
Franchise quarterbacks do not grow on trees — heck, it took the Cleveland Browns nearly 20 years until the team found Baker Mayfield, who has only had one good season but also looked like the real deal as a rookie. That reality leads one to believe that the Baltimore Ravens will not merely cut Joe Flacco once the new NFL year opens. The Ravens have Lamar Jackson leading the offense during the postseason and into next summer, but there are other teams that, theoretically, should want to send picks to Baltimore for Flacco. The Denver Broncos have the need and the available cap space to try to win a title with Flacco under center for the next few years.
17 Won't Happen: Ben Roethlisberger retiring
Ever since 2016, new rumors about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger possibly retiring have emerged each offseason. Big Ben turns 37-years-old in March, and the Steelers are currently not the most stable of franchises when compared with others in the division. Don’t, however, believe that Roethlisberger will want to end his career watching the Baltimore Ravens knock him and his teammates out of the playoffs. Cooler heads will prevail, and the greatest regular-season QB in Pittsburgh history will return for at least one more campaign. The Steelers can afford to wait before either drafting or signing the man who will, ideally, play under center for the team through the 2020s.x
16 Expect: Jaguars trading or cutting Blake Bortles
The Jacksonville Jaguars replaced Blake Bortles with Cody Kessler during the 2018 regular season. There’s no way Bortles recovers from that as a member of the franchise, right? Jacksonville would accept a pricey salary cap hit by cutting Bortles, but that would be better than wasting another season and a roster spot on somebody who isn’t going to be the guy moving forward. The Jacksonville front office needs to do whatever possible to find a way to convince a different coaching staff that it can salvage Bortles’ career. Getting a seventh-round pick for Bortles in 2019 would have to be considered a win for a team ready to move on.
15 Won't Happen: Raiders trading Derek Carr
We are not at all convinced that the Oakland Raiders, specifically Jon Gruden, will keep Derek Carr as the starting quarterback through the end of his contract. The Raiders trading Carr now, however, makes little sense for multiple reasons. For starters, Oakland doesn’t need the draft picks in 2019 that would come from such a transaction. It also can’t be ignored that Oakland wouldn’t get equal value for Carr in a trade coming off the 2018 campaign when everybody could tell the Raiders were essentially tanking. The Raiders trading Carr may be the inevitable end of this story, but that end shouldn’t arrive during the upcoming offseason.
14 Expect: Teddy Bridgewater joins the Panthers
One of the worst-kept secrets, if it was a secret at all, during the 2018 NFL regular season was that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t 100 percent for at least half the campaign. The state of Newton’s shoulder should concern the franchise that can’t afford to move on from the QB this offseason but that needs to ensure that a solid backup is on the roster. Teddy Bridgewater may not receive the starting opportunities he desires in 2019, but the to-be free agent should want to do more than sit behind Drew Brees for another season. Bridgewater signing with the Panthers on a one-year contract could lead to him taking more than a few snaps during the fall.
13 Won’t happen: Dolphins moving on from Ryan Tannehill
Those who aren’t sold that Ryan Tannehill will win a title with the Miami Dolphins may believe that team is in football purgatory and a spot where the club doesn’t have a true franchise QB but also can’t use a top-five pick on the best college signal-caller available in the draft. Eventually, a coaching staff that didn’t draft Tannehill will want to start a different QB, but the time for that isn’t 2019. Tannehill's contract becomes less of a burden after next season, and the Dolphins can afford to play him for 16 more games and see what he is able to accomplish. Miami wouldn’t find many buyers if the team actually put Tannehill on the trade block.
12 Expect: Earl Thomas signs with the 49ers
Safety Earl Thomas practically begged the Dallas Cowboys to trade for him while he was holding out and attempting to get the Seattle Seahawks to give him a contract extension. Thomas’ situation and future changed when he sustained a broken bone in his left leg during a Week 4 contest. Dallas does not have the need in the secondary, and Thomas is likely going to want more money than what the Cowboys would offer him in March. The San Francisco 49ers, meanwhile, could use Thomas, and the team could afford to make him a lucrative offer. This would also give Thomas the opportunity to team up with Richard Sherman once again.
11 Won't Happen: Patriots cut Julian Edelman
Rumors about the New England Patriots potentially cutting wide receiver Julian Edelman during the offseason don’t make a lot of sense. Edelman’s contract isn’t any significant financial burden against the salary cap. The Patriots know that Josh Gordon won’t be available as he is facing yet another ban, one which could end his career. Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger, and taking one of his favorite weapons out of the offense ahead of what could be the quarterback’s final season isn’t logical. As long as Edelman is smart about what he does and doesn’t put in his own body after the playoffs, he should be on the New England roster for Week 1 of the 2019 campaign.
10 Expect: Seahawks trade Bobby Wagner
The Seattle Seahawks have only begun to rebuild the team’s defense that once featured the "Legion of Boom.” Seattle trading Bobby Wagner during the offseason should be the next step of that process when the new NFL year opens. Wagner will have one more season left on his current contract, he’s shown he can still go at an elite level, and he turns 29-years-old before the start of the 2019 campaign. Some team that could use Wagner in the lineup and would also be willing to offer him a contract extension should send multiple assets to Seattle. As much as fans would miss seeing Wagner play for the Seahawks, they should trust that the front office can continue to win without the linebacker.
9 Won't Happen: Bengals trade A.J. Green
Wide receiver A.J. Green has stated that he wants to remain with the Cincinnati Bengals past 2019 and the final season of his contract, but he may not have a say in the matter if the Bengals were to explore trading him later this year. Cincinnati is about to have a new head coach, though, and that coach is probably going to want one of the best receivers in the NFL in his lineup for at least one season. Green turns 31-years-old in the summer, and the Bengals may be on the verge of a roster reset that includes acquiring a new quarterback. However, Green should remain with the club through February 2020.
8 Expect: Ndamukong Suh signs with the Browns
These aren’t your same Cleveland Browns that were routinely kicked around by the better teams in the NFL. Baker Mayfield is giving Cleveland fans reason to believe the team has found a franchise QB, and the organization has finally moved on from Hue Jackson and needs to find the right coach to help Mayfield further develop. The Browns also have money to spend this offseason and a hole on the defensive line. Ndamukong Suh is set to enter free agency, and he will leave the Los Angeles Rams if money matters more to him than attempting to win a title with that franchise. Suh and the Browns could be great fits for each other in March.
7 Won’t happen: Lions trade Matthew Stafford
Cold water should have been poured on rumors regarding the Detroit Lions possibly trading quarterback Matthew Stafford as soon as they surfaced during the fall. Stafford’s contract carries a dead cap value of $49 million for 2019 and $20 million for 2020. To be blunt, he isn’t going anywhere even if those in charge of the Lions are concerned the team won’t win a Super Bowl with the signal-caller on the roster. Stafford has plenty to prove to his coaches over the next two seasons. He will attempt to silence his critics while playing in Detroit colors through December 2020, when the team could reevaluate his status.
6 Expect: Buccaneers part ways with Jameis Winston
Nothing that anybody associated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers says about quarterback Jameis Winston in January should lead you to assume he will be back with the franchise for the start of the season. The Bucs could keep Winston around through training camp and until a team makes Tampa Bay an offer for the signal-caller the franchise cannot refuse. It was rumored last summer the organization wanted to go in a different direction at the position for several reasons, and Winston didn’t play well enough in 2018 to earn a contract extension. Trading Winston ahead of the draft is Tampa’s best option. Finding a team to spend anything of note to take him may prove a difficult task.
5 Won’t happen: Browns sign Kareem Hunt
In late December, Mark Podolski of The News-Herald offered reasons for why the Cleveland Browns signing former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt could be worth it for the franchise. Hunt unquestionably possesses talent, and he is from the Cleveland area. Perhaps returning home would allow him to get his life back on track. The Browns are finally locating both stability and respectability. This isn’t the offseason for the franchise to take a flier on somebody who would attract negative press from national outlets. Odds are Hunt will play in the NFL at some point in 2019. He won’t do so with Cleveland.
4 Can Expect: Nick Foles signs with Redskins
The Philadelphia Eagles cannot afford to keep both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles on the roster for the 2019 season, and Wentz isn’t going anywhere. Foles likely won't receive as much money in free agency as he would have earned coming off his Super Bowl MVP run, but a team such as the Washington Redskins will pay him starting-QB cash. Alex Smith may never play in the league again, and the Redskins cannot possibly sell starting a journeyman such as Mark Sanchez under center. Foles has shown he’s rather comfortable playing against NFC East opponents. The Redskins should keep him in the division for at least the next couple of seasons.
3 Won't Happen: Seahawks trade Russell Wilson
The Seattle Seahawks making the playoffs quieted the rumor that the team could look into trading quarterback Russell Wilson during the upcoming offseason. That reported move is likely off the table, and with good reason. Wilson is only 30-years-old. He owns a Super Bowl ring, and he should already have multiple titles on his resume (run the ball next time, Pete!). He would start for a handful of teams if the Seahawks were serious about trading him, which is why doing so is out of the question. As much as the Seattle front office wants assets to help build for the next decade, the team needs Wilson to be its leader on the field and in the locker room.
2 Expect: Le’Veon Bell signs with the Colts
The New York Jets have been linked with running back Le’Veon Bell for months because the team has the money to pay him and a need to surround a young quarterback with more talent. Bell can get his cash and also play for a team that’s closer to competing for a championship by signing with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are in a win-now mode with Andrew Luck healthy and in the lineup. Improving the offensive line and signing Bell could make the Colts favorites to make it all the way to the Super Bowl. Owner Jim Irsay probably won’t hesitate to give Bell a historic two- or three-year contract as long as the back would sign.
1 Won't Happen: Steelers trading Antonio Brown
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown may want a divorce from that organization, but he will probably have to give some money back to make that a reality in 2019. As multiple individuals have pointed out, Brown’s contract, as it exists in January, virtually makes him an unmovable asset. Questions about whether or not his skills are declining and about his attitude could also lead to teams wanting to stay away. Just as the New York Giants aren’t trading Odell Beckham Jr., in part because of his deal, the Steelers shipping Brown out of town seems unlikely for at least another year. Brown and Big Ben need to make up before next summer.