Free agency is one of the most exciting times of the year in the NFL. Year after year we see big name players change teams. The other exciting part about the off-season is the trading. We often see major trades involving game changing players in the off-season once or twice a year.
For instance, this year we saw the New Orleans Saints trade a great wide receiver in Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots for a first round pick. We also may be in line for at least one more major trade involving a big name this offseason, as there are rumours flying that the Seattle Seahawks are open to trading Richard Sherman. Trades like these reminds us that there are really only a few untouchables in the NFL and we should never be shocked at any trade.
With most of this year's big free agents being signed, it is time to speculate next year's big off-season moves. Yes, that is right, this is going to be a way too early look at 15 big name players that will change teams during the next NFL off-season. Just a heads up that this article is going to make a couple of bold predictions that may surprise some people.
16 T.J. Ward - Chicago Bears
T.J. Ward is still a very good player. He is great at stopping the run, makes great open field tackles, and brings toughness that any head coach would love to have on their team. Ward has even improved his coverage game in recent years.
However, all of these positive attributes will not be enough to keep Ward in Denver. Ward will be 31 by the time he is a free agent and I feel the Broncos will try to get younger at the position. As a result, Ward will test free agency and perhaps end up signing with a team like the Chicago Bears. Ward would be reuniting with his former teammate Danny Trevathen and former head coach John Fox. Chicago has a need for safety.
15 Nate Solder - Detroit Lions
After locking up Matthew Stafford to a mega contract, the Detroit Lions will shift their focus to the left tackle spot. Detroit general manager, Bob Quinn was a former Patriot employee and has familiarity with many of the players on the Patriots roster. Add in the fact that Detroit needs improvement at the offensive tackle position, and Solder could be the perfect fit.
Why do I think the Patriots move on from Solder? Solder will be in position to cash in for possibly the last time and I think he will take the most money available rather than taking a discount to stay with the Patriots. I mean the guy has already won two Super Bowls, so might as well cash in, right?
14 Taylor Gabriel - San Francisco 49ers
I know Taylor Gabriel has recently come out and stated he wants to be an Atlanta Falcon for life, but we hear this from many players. The reality is that the NFL is a business and Gabriel will go where there is better opportunity for him to flourish as a number two receiver. This opportunity will not present itself in Atlanta anytime soon, as Gabriel is behind Julio Jones and Mohammad Sanu on the depth chart.
The perfect place for Gabriel to receive a bigger opportunity and showcase his skills is San Francisco. He will get another chance to play under Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator for Gabriel during his successful 2016 season. We've already seen San Fran has no problem overpaying WRs, so Gabriel will likely be next.
13 Malcolm Butler - New Orleans Saints
In the end, I think Malcolm Butler will remain with the Patriots on the tender during the 2017 season. Butler will play for the approximate $4 million and continue to play well and then when free agency rolls around Butler will say goodbye to the Patriots. I see no way Butler will stay with New England long term after they signed Stephen Gilmore for big money, but refused to pay him.
We already know Butler and New Orleans have mutual interest and this will result in a long term contract next offseason so the Saints will not have to give up a draft pick this year. Overall, I am not sure why the Patriots are not making Butler a higher priority for a long term contract. They must know something we do not.
12 Thomas Davis - Buffalo Bills
Somehow, Thomas Davis is still a great linebacker. Davis deserves a tremendous amount of respect for being able to bounce back from so many injuries. What is even more impressive is that Davis is doing all of these impressive things at an older age. However, I do think the Carolina Panthers will decide to move on from Davis when he is a free agent, unless he is willing to sign a one year contract. It is going to be hard for the Panthers to commit long to a player that will be 35 years old. As a result, Davis will feel slighted and decide to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Ultimately, I feel a team Davis could sign with is the Buffalo Bills because recently hired head coach Sean McDermott is the former defensive coordinator for the Panthers.
11 Jarvis Landry - Philadelphia Eagles
If I was in the Miami Dolphins position, it would be an easy call to keep Jarvis Landry. He has a high amount of catches every year and always seems to be the guy that sparks the offense when they are struggling. He is a third down machine and any quarterback would love to have him as a security blanket.
However, there has been some chatter that the Dolphins are open to trading Landry. This could very well mean that the Dolphins think Landry's asking price is going to be too high in free agency and as a result, they are trying to get something in return for him now, instead of losing him for nothing. Ultimately, I think the Dolphins will hold on to Landry and we will see him leave to a team like the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 free agency.
10 9. Devonta Freeman - Carolina Panthers
To me, it is almost a guarantee that Devonta Freeman will be gone next offseason. Quite frankly, if I was the Falcons I do not know if I would want him back. Why would he decide to open his mouth about his contract right before the Super Bowl and create a distraction? Running backs are not as valuable today as they once were and I think the Falcons will be able to find a decent replacement.
Freeman is a versatile running back that can run and catch, so there is definitely going to be interested teams around the league. I just do not think he will get the type of money he wants. Ultimately, I think he will agree to a deal with a team such as the Carolina Panthers, who need a replacement for Jonathan Stewart sooner rather than later.
9 Dontari Poe - Indianapolis Colts
Dontari Poe had a bit of an off year in 2016 with Kansas City. That is why signing for one year with the Atlanta Falcons was a smart move by Poe. He is still very young and will be on a prove it type deal to show the NFL that he is still a dominant player.
I believe Atlanta will help resurrect Poe's career and as a result, he will be able to sign a long term deal worth big money. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Poe will price himself out and a team that desperately needs help on the D-Line such as the Indianapolis Colts will make him an offer he cannot refuse. Remember, the Colts were one of the reported interested teams in Poe during this offseason before he signed with the Falcons.
8 Julian Edelman - Houston Texans
As much as Patriots fans love Julian Edelman, Bill Belichick is ruthless and do not be surprised if he is not willing to pay a lot of money to Julian Edelman. Edelman is over the age of 30 and we all know Belichick likes to let players leave a year too soon rather than a year too late. In addition, the Patriots have just acquired Brandin Cooks who could be seen as a long term replacement (remember, there has been talk that Cooks will be playing a lot of slot reciever in New England).
Overall, Edelman will look to sign with a team that he has familiarity with and this will be the Houston Texans. Remember, Bill O'Brien is a former offensive coordinator of the Patriots and the Texans run a similar offensive system.
7 Kam Chancellor - Jacksonville Jaguars
Who can forget the infamous Kam Chancellor holdout? I think this is going to bring back bad memories for both negotiating parties and it will ultimately lead to Chancellor's departure. Another problem is that Seattle has a brutal offensive line. If the Seahawks decide to move on from Chancellor, they will be able to invest more money into their offensive line. Finally, Chancellor has had health issues and we have seen the Seahawks move away from those type of players.
A team such as the Jacksonville Jaguars will make him an offer that makes it easy to leave Seattle. In the end, I think Chancellor will get around $12 million per year like other safeties from this offseason. Jacksonville always seems to go overboard with a big name signing every offseason, so Chancellor seems like someone they could acquire quite easily with their cap space.
6 Trumaine Johnson - Cleveland Browns
The fact that the Los Angeles Rams have placed the franchise tag on Trumaine Johnson two years in a row is not a good sign. This means that the player and the team have very differing opinions on what Johnson's long term worth is. The Rams cannot keep tagging Johnson and as a result, Johnson will be gone in the 2018 offseason. Another thing to remember is that Johnson has been linked in trade rumors this offseason as well so who knows, maybe he is gone before next year.
Ultimately, I feel a team like the Cleveland Browns will make Johnson a big money offer he cannot refuse. Also, remember that Gregg Williams, the D coordinator for the Browns, was also the coordinator for Johnson in St. Louis.
5 Kirk Cousins - San Francisco 49ers
The reason I have Kirk Cousins so high on this list is because he plays the most important position. Cousins is actually a pretty good quarterback anyway. He is capable of putting up huge numbers as we have seen over the last couple of seasons. Cousins has just not been able to take that next step to classify himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the game, yet.
I am sure Washington would love to keep Cousins, but after not being able to agree to a long term deal the last two years and with Cousins apparently requesting a trade, it is almost certain he will leave in free agency of 2018. Cousins will look to team up with Kyle Shanahan and Pierre Garcon in San Francisco.
4 Sam Bradford - Cleveland Browns
Again, the reason for Sam Bradford being so high on this list is that he plays the most important position in the game. Bradford has quietly put together a couple of good seasons. I am finally starting to see why he was taken number one overall. However, I do not see this being enough for the Vikings to invest in Bradford as a franchise quarterback.
As a result, Bradford will continue to do what he has been doing the last few years, be a holdover at the quarterback position. This time, that team will be the Browns. You would think the Browns will have a young, potential franchise quarterback on their team by this time and while they wait for him to develop, Bradford can be a competitive option.
3 DeAndre Hopkins - Arizona Cardinals
A lot of DeAndre Hopkins leaving will depend on the Houston Texans quarterback situation. If Hopkins is still playing with average quarterbacks, I see no reason he will want to stay in Houston. Of course, the Texans can franchise tag him, but I am going to go with an assumption they will try to save the money. Hopkins suffered statistically last year, and the majority of this blame can be put on the fact he was playing with poor quarterbacks. If Hopkins had an even middle of the pack quarterback, he would have much greater numbers.
It is hard to predict one exact team for Hopkins because there will be so many teams interested, but fit wise, I think Hopkins would look good in a Arizona Cardinals jersey as a potential replacement for Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, this is based on my belief of Arizona being able to find a good replacement for Carson Palmer.
1 Tom Brady - Houston Texans
This selection will be a shocker to many and I must say the chances of this happening are very slim. However, I have this feeling that if the Patriots do not trade Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason, 2017 will be Brady's last year in New England. As I said, Belichick is ruthless, no matter who you are. Belichick will look at this long term and see that Garoppolo could be a starter for 10 years, while Brady is near the end of his career. Remember, even Brady's dad has said in the past that he does not think it will end well in New England.
Ultimately, Brady will not retire because he loves the game and go join up with his former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien in Houston. If this does not happen, I can see Brady and Josh McDaniels going to their own team.