The 2017 NFL regular season is now behind us, and teams have to start doing their homework on what players they’ll want to sign in free agency. For the first time in ages, there are going to be a handful of quality quarterbacks available on the open market, and money will be spent. A lot of it.
Though this free agent class is devoid of superstar wide receivers, there are still many talented wideouts available that simply just need a change of scenery. Many of these receivers are young and just entering their respective primes, but a different quarterback/system is necessary. They could help an already competitive franchise get over the hump. They turn a contender into real champions. Or they could cash in and hope for the best on a weaker team (we’re looking at you Cleveland).
There are a few franchise-changing players in the 2017 free agent class, and you can expect plenty of quarterbacks and wide receivers to find new homes this summer. Some teams are just one or two pieces away from competing, and free agency gives them the chance to find those pieces. With contracts inflating every year, which players will chase the money and which will chase the glory?
Here are eight quarterbacks and eight wide receivers who will sign with new teams in the offseason.
16. Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Much like Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick was fallen off after a career year in 2015. Fitzpatrick had 3,905 yards for 31 touchdowns that season, and led the New York Jets to their first winning season in five years. But he was awful in 2016, tossing 12 touchdowns against 17 interceptions.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Fitzpatrick to backup Jameis Winston this season, but the genius from Harvard couldn’t do all that much. With Winston hurt, Fitzpatrick tossed just seven touchdowns and three picks in six games of action. Fitzpatrick is now 35 years of age, and is more than done as a starter. The Bucs will likely look for another option in free agency. Look for Fitzpatrick to earn a backup role from a team with a bad quarterback situation, like Denver, Cleveland or even a return to Buffalo.
15. Wide Receiver: Donte Moncrief
How the mighty Indianapolis Colts have fallen. After coming within one game of a Super Bowl appearance in 2014, the Colts have now missed the playoffs for three-straight years, without recording a winning season. The good news for wide receiver Donte Moncrief is that he has the ideal opportunity to abandon the sinking ship. Moncrief broke out in 2015 with 64 catches for 733 yards and six touchdowns. But injuries to Andrew Luck and a brutal offensive line have led to consecutive down years for Moncrief. He’ll be looking to reset his value this off-season.
Moncrief has incredible speed and can be a huge deep threat to a team that needs receiver, such as the Broncos, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and others. An above-average quarterback will make the most of Moncrief’s talents, so look for him to leave the Colts and find a new home this spring.
14. Quarterback: Kirk Cousins
Assuming Drew Brees stays with the New Orleans Saints (99.9 percent chance he will), then Kirk Cousins will be the most sought-after quarterback on the market since Peyton Manning in 2012. The Redskins have given no indicator of willingly investing long-term into Cousins, who’s arguably among the top-10 quarterbacks in the NFL. Cousins could be that final piece for many teams in need of a legitimate starter. Even if Washington offers a big contract, you’ll have to think he at least tries to test free agency.
Among the fits? Arizona, Denver, Buffalo, the New York Giants (if they cut Eli Manning), The New York Jets, and others. Most teams already have established starters or young QBs they’ll want to build around. But Cousins will have no problem finding a big contract from a team that he could really succeed with. You have to think he’ll join a team with a better chance of contending than Washington at this point.
13. Wide Receiver: Eric Decker
Eric Decker became a star with Peyton Manning in Denver, posting 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and 2013 – the latter leading to a Super Bowl 48 appearance. But Decker chased money from the New York Jets, and had a frustrating three-year tenure there. He was released after last season. The Tennessee Titans signed Decker to a one-year deal, but Decker wasn’t able to get on the same page with Marcus Mariota. He caught just 54 passes for 563 yards and one touchdown, while guys like Delanie Walker and Corey Davis outplayed and outperformed Decker throughout the season.
Decker still has the talent to be a game-changer, but it didn’t work out in the Titans rush-happy system. The Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans look like good fits, as both need to help complement their top receivers. But at the end of the day, the man just has to escape the Music City – even though wife Jessie James is a top music star.
12. Quarterback: Brock Osweiler
The ‘Brockness Monster’ is a prime example of how quickly life can change. Two years after backing up Peyton Manning and winning a Super Bowl 50 championship, Osweiler’s career as a starter is very much in doubt.
Osweiler spurned the Broncos in 2016 to join the Houston Texans on a four-year contract worth $72 million. He struggled there and was traded to the Cleveland Browns, then released before the season. Denver brought back Osweiler, but he quickly lost his job and simply has no future in the Mile High City at this point. Osweiler is set to enter free agency, and should be able to garner some interest in teams desperately looking for a backup. Osweiler will have to sign with a QB-hungry team and try to win the No. 1 job in training camp.
11. Wide Receiver: Mike Wallace
Though he hasn’t been a Pro Bowl receiver since leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers five years ago, Mike Wallace can still take over games with his game-breaking speed. Following an up-and-down two years with the Baltimore Ravens, it makes sense for Wallace to find a better fit this off-season.
Wallace doesn’t exactly fit in Baltimore’s rush-happy offence, and quarterback Joe Flacco wasn’t able to make the best use of his talents. He would be an excellent fit for a top quarterback like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, who strongly lack quantity in top receivers. Wallace could even join a rebuilding team with a young quarterback to give them a nice option. He’s not a star at this point, but he’s still an above-average wide receiver. There should be at least a half dozen teams inquiring on Wallace this off-season, and he’ll have no problem finding a new home.
10. Quarterback: Jay Cutler
It’s been a strange calendar year for Jay Cutler. He retired after the 2016 season after flopping in his final three years as quarterback of the Chicago Bears. But the QB-desperate Miami Dolphins brought him out of retirement to replace Ryan Tannehill, who had to miss the whole season. Cutler wasn’t great by any means, but he wasn’t terrible either. He tosses 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and beat some top-tier quarterbacks that included Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. The man could easily gain a starter’s job on a really awful team.
But with Tannehill coming back to Miami in 2018, there’s no chance Cutler gets the chance to start again. He showed enough flashes to prove he can still play, but it’s not going to be in South Beach next season.
9. Wide Receiver: Jordan Matthews
The Buffalo Bills made a questionable change at the wide receiver position, dealing star wideout Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams. To make up for the loss, they sacrificed young cornerback Ronald Darby in exchange for Jordan Matthews, who had an awful tenure in Buffalo. Of course, plenty of that can be attributed to the struggles of inconsistent quarterback play from Tyrod Taylor and Nate Peterman. Matthews was limited to 10 games and caught just 25 passes for 282 yards and one touchdown. Simply put, it’s time for the young wideout to find a new home.
Teams will happily forget about his bad 2017 campaign and look at the man who put up at least 800 yards each year from 2014-16. Matthews would be a great fit on a team looking for a No. 2 wideout, like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Seattle or even Green Bay. There’ll be no shortage of interested parties when he hits free agency.
8. Quarterback: Drew Stanton
Because Carson Palmer was often injured, Drew Stanton was able to shine with the Arizona Cardinals. He showed his talents in Week 17, leading the Cards to a shocking win over the Seattle Seahawks that helped end their playoff dreams. But with head coach Bruce Arians retired, Stanton no longer has a quarterback guru to work with. Arizona will need to chase a top quarterback this offseason (trade, draft or free agency), and Stanton might be able to land the starting role on another team.
In an ideal world, Stanton lands on a team like the Browns, Jets or Giants who may roll with a younger quarterback in 2018. Stanton can be there to help mentor the younger signal-caller, while giving his team the chance to win each week.
7. Wide Receiver: Danny Amendola
After losing Wes Welker in free agency, the New England Patriots gave Danny Amendola a five-year deal worth $28.5 million in 2013. Though Amendola hasn’t put up star-like stats (Julian Edelman took his job and all), he has been an unsung hero in New England, helping them win Super Bowl 49 and 51 championships.
But Amendola is 32 years of age, oft-injured and has fallen down the Patriots depth chart. Bill Belichick has to begin going with some of his younger receivers, and Amendola is likely going to be the odd man out this off-season. Because of his nice speed and experience on the special teams unit, Amendola should have no problem landing a contract from another team. It’s just not going to come from the Patriots. He could follow the money to a team that needs experience. Perhaps rival Buffalo to replace Jordan Matthews?
6. Quarterback: Case Keenum
After spending his first four seasons with three different teams as a backup, Case Keenum finally got his chance in 2017. He became starter of the Minnesota Vikings in 2017, as both Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford got sidelined with long-term injuries. Keenum went 11-3 as a starter, leading the Vikings to the NFC’s second seed. But the Vikings have made it clear that Bridegwater is their quarterback of the future – even though he’s missed the last two seasons with a torn ACL injury. Keenum is sure to hit the market this offseason, and will look to find the starting job on a team that is desperate for a QB.
The market for Keenum will be limited, however. Teams will be cautious about giving him a big contract, since he’s only had one solid season. But if anything else, Keenum will be signed to start for an awful team, or push for the starter’s job on a team looking to push for the playoffs.
5. Wide Receiver: Terrelle Pryor
The quarterback-turned wide receiver had a great year with the Cleveland Browns in 2016. He racked up 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns, but had to settle on a one-year deal worth $8 million from the Washington Redskins. Injuries and an off year for Kirk Cousins led to a down season for Pryor, who finished with just 240 yards and one touchdown reception. But we know the man is a talent, and he’ll easily choose to test the market in free agency. No reason to go back to Washington, especially with Cousins’ departure looming.
Pryor will probably look to reset his market value for 2019, so don’t be surprised if he only accepts a one-year “prove it” deal from another team. The New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers all make sense as landing spots.
4. Quarterback: Sam Bradford
Sam Bradford may finally get the chance at a big contract, plus the chance to be the undisputed starter somewhere. The Rams gave up on him and traded Bradford to the Eagles in 2015. That didn’t go well, and he was traded to Minnesota in 2016 after losing the starting job to Carson Wentz. Bradford then had an excellent year for Minnesota in 2016, but was limited to just two games this season after suffering a season-ending knee injury. As mentioned earlier, Minny is rolling with Bridgewater from here on out, not Bradford nor Keenum.
But Bradford has the skills to be a starter, provided he’s healthy. He’ll likely have to accept a two or three-year pact, but it will come from a talented team looking to make the playoffs. Arizona, Buffalo and Denver look like the three most logical landing spots. But for now, the only guarantee is that he’s out of Minnesota after this season.
3. Wide Receiver: Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson hasn’t been able to build off his 2015 Pro Bowl season, when he caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was on-and-off in 2016, but had to miss all of 2017 after tearing his ACL in Week 1. Without Robinson, quarterback Blake Bortles struggled – but the defence propelled the Jacksonville Jaguars to a playoff spot.
Robinson will likely want to join a team with a better quarterback, and he’ll surely be offered more money elsewhere. Bortles isn’t the guy to make Robinson a perennial Pro Bowler, so it should be a no-brainer for the talented wideout to find a new team. Robinson can easily chase a huge contract (worth $40-55 million), and/or join a very good team. I’m sure half the NFL teams will be lining up to get him. Robinson will find a new home, and will regain his old form. It’s just not going to happen in Jacksonville.
2. Quarterback: Josh McCown
You truly feel for Josh McCown. After years as a consistent backup/struggling starter, he was piecing together a career season for the New York Jets in 2017 – at the age of 38, we may add. McCown tossed 2,926 yards for 18 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. This was on a Jets team that many picked to be among the bottom-three in the NFL, too. But during a Week 14 game, McCown broke his hand and was ruled out for the season.
The Jets are sure to draft a quarterback this year, given the wealth of talent at the position. That means letting McCown leave in free agency – and he’ll have the opportunity to join a team that needs a quarterback. McCown showed he can succeed in the right system. A team like Buffalo, Arizona, Chicago or Washington (if Kirk Cousins leaves), may want to take a look at him. McCown isn’t great, but he’s good enough to remain a starter in today’s NFL.
1. Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins
The Buffalo Bills traded up to nab Watkins with the fourth pick in 2014, but he’s never had a star quarterback. As such, Watkins has struggled through his first four NFL seasons – hitting 1,000 yards just once. Watkins had a frustrating year with the Rams, despite a breakout year from quarterback Jared Goff. He caught 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns, but did admit he’d be happy to return to the Rams.
Watkins has all the qualities and talent needed to be a top receiver. It’s just going to take an above-average quarterback to show it. He won’t be too expensive, given his inconsistent play up to this point. With that, look for Watkins to join a team with a Pro Bowl quarterback. Then the breakout will finally happen.
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