Don’t look now, but the National Football League’s busy period is about to begin, with free agency, and the NFL Draft, being right around the corner, as they kick-off March 14th, and April 26th respectively.
No matter where they finish at the end of the year, whether it be a case of missing a play-maker at one spot, a lack depth at another, or simply needing to move on from an aging, or injury-prone player, all 32 NFL teams have needs, and the best way to fill them, is the two methods mentioned above.
The influx of new talent to the league, during the NFL Draft’s annual three-day event, along with multiple players changing address, while some electing to stay exactly where they are, during the free agent frenzy, is fast and furious to say the least.
The hopes and dreams, of coaches, executives, players, and fans alike, can be made or broken during both periods in a heartbeat.
With teams now in 2018 and beyond mode, and the wild ride of player movement from agency and the draft about to begin in a matter of weeks, we here at TheSportster, present to you, the 10 Free Agent Signings and Draft Choices That Need To Happen.
20. Signing: Denver Broncos Get Eli Manning
Over the last two seasons, the Broncos have tried Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiller as replacements. The trio, clearly aren’t the answer. After finishing with the 27th and 17th rated offense the last two seasons, the Broncos, obviously need an upgrade at the game’s most important position. Enter Eli Manning.
Looking to move from their dreadful mess, the Giants, hired a new coach and GM, in Pat Shurmur, and David Gettleman. A new group in charge, usually means a new QB, and with the franchise in possession of the draft’s second overall pick in a QB-rich draft, chances are the 37-year old Manning, will be changing addresses.
The most logical destination, would be the Broncos, where Eli, could follow in the footsteps of his older brother Peyton, who played for Denver during the last four seasons of his career, and got to ride off into the sunset as a Super Bowl champion. How fitting would it be for the younger Manning to do the same?
19. Draft: Cleveland Browns Take Josh Allen
After the organization and their fan base, suffered through an 0-16 season this year, the Browns, earned the first overall choice in the upcoming draft.
What better way to finally put the team and their fans out of their misery, than to select the passer who has openly said he wants to be the savior of the franchise, in Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen?
Not only does the Senior have the strongest arm out of any QB in the draft, but at 6-foot-5, and weighing 240 pounds, Allen, also has the most upside, and the prototypical size that scouts and coaches drool over.
After passing over a similar passer in Wentz two years ago, then watching him help lead the Philadelphia Eagles to one of the NFL’s best offenses, as well as the Super Bowl, the winless Browns, need to make sure they don’t make the same mistake again.
18. Signing: Chicago Bears Get Jarvis Landry
When your leading receivers are Kendall Wright, and Dontrelle Inman, you know you’re in trouble. With over $41 million in cap space this offseason, the Bears need to upgrade the receiver position.
The biggest name on market this March, will be Jarvis Landry of the Miami Dolphins. The LSU product, and former first round pick, finished with a career-high 112 receptions, 9 touchdowns, this season, and was named to his third Pro Bowl, while catching passes ironically enough, from former Chicago Bear, Jay Cutler.
After finishing the season with a (5-11) record, that saw the team fire head coach John Fox, the Bears, gave the job to former Kansas City Chiefs OC Matt Nagy.
With a solid run game, led by two-headed monster Jordan Howard, and Tarik Cohen, Nagy, will have weapons at his disposal. If the rookie head coach, and the organization, want to help out their young passer, they will need to give him help on the outside. Adding Landry, will do just that.
17. Draft: Denver Broncos Take Sam Darnold
Even if the Broncos sign Eli Manning, John Elway should still use their first round pick on a QB, and it should be USC Junior Sam Darnold.
Blessed with an arm that can make all the throws, and the ability to make plays with his legs, Darnold, was thought to be the best player in the draft, and a sure-fire choice to be the first player chosen. Unfortunately, he and his Trojans, struggled as turnovers, bad coaching, and a loss of playmakers to the 2017 draft, short-circuited what looked like a promising season.
The Broncos drafting Darnold should happen, because it would greatly benefit both sides, as it would give the team a legitimate QB of the future, after fans had to suffer post Peyton Manning.
For Darnold, who many thought should return to school for another year, it gives him the opportunity to either grab the starting job right away, or sit behind a vet, and learn from him and Broncos’ General Manager, and Hall-of-Famer John Elway, before taking over.
16. Signing: Buffalo Bills Get Star Lotulelei
After 17 long years, the Buffalo Bills, finally made the playoffs. Unfortunately, it, was short-lived, as they were eliminated in the Wild-Card round by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While just about everybody and their dog, knows that the franchise needs an upgrade at quarterback, the Bills, also have a hole at DT, after they traded Marcel Dareus, to the aforementioned Jags, back in October.
In dealing Dareus, the Bills, lost a player who was a two-time Pro-Bowler, who was stout against the run, and had the ability to rush the passer as well.
To fill the gaping hole, the Bills, should look no further than Star Lotulelei. The Carolina Panthers DT is set to become a free agent. Luckily for Buffalo, and Bills Mafia, Lotulelei, brings the same skill set as Dareus.
15. Draft: New York Giants Get Saquon Barkley
While there is a lot of talk about the New York Giants, taking quarterback Josh Rosen with their 2nd overall draft pick, they have free agent options, who we’ll get to later.
Where the Giants don’t have a sure-fire option, is at running back.
Whether it’s the 632 yards he got catching the ball out of the backfield, the 426 yards he accumulated as a returner, the 1,271 he gained as a rusher, or the 23 touchdowns he recorded this season, Penn State RB Saquon Barkley, is the definition of a game-changer, and he is arguably the best player in the entire 2018 draft.
Whoever the G-Men decide to roll with at quarterback this season, adding a difference-maker like Barkley, to an offense that already has Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Evan Engram, could make the unit unstoppable, no matter who is throwing the ball.
14. Signing: New York Giants Get Case Keenum
The New York Giants, quickly turned the page on the disastrous second-year of the Ben McAdoo era, when they hired Pat Shurmur as their new head coach.
Shurmur, who was the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator the last two seasons, was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, where he went (9-23), from 2011 to 2012. To avoid a similar fate with the G-Men, Shurmur, will want to surround himself with talent, most notably at QB.
Case Keenum, who prior to this season, was a mostly a backup, had a career-year under Shurmur this past season, that saw him throw 22 touchdowns, and 3,547 yards, after joining the Vikings on a one-year contract.
Besides getting a huge raise, if he signed with the Giants, he would not only stay with Shurmur, but he would go from throwing to the fantastic duo of Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen, to the equally impressive combo of Brandon Marshall, and Odell Beckham Jr.
13. Draft: Indianapolis Colts Take Bradley Chubb
While Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, could definitely use the help on the o-Line, there aren’t any o-linemen worth taking at no.3 overall in this year’s draft.
One player who would not be a reach at that spot, is North Carolina State Wolfpack DE Bradley Chubb. With 72 tackles, and a team-high 10 sacks this season, at 6’4 and 275 pounds, Chubb, has the perfect combination of size and speed, to get around the edge, and create havoc in the pros.
Currently, the Colts top pass rushers, are the underrated duo of Jabaal Sheard, and John Simon, who combined for 10.5 sacks. While those numbers are respectable, in a AFC South division, that features mobile quarterbacks in Marcus Mariota, Deshaun Watson, and Blake Bortles, having an elite player like Chubb appears to be, is paramount, for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons.
12. Signing: Arizona Cardinals Get Kirk Cousins
With the recent trade, that saw KC send Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith to Washington, it’s clear the Skins’ have moved on from Kirk Cousins, meaning the 29-year-old will hit the open market.
The Michigan State product, would be a perfect fit for the Arizona Cardinals, who just lost their starting QB in Carson Palmer, to retirement.
Arizona is a team not to be taken lightly, as they have an aggressive defense led by playmakers Tyron Mathieu, and Deone Bucannon, along with Pro Bowlers Patrick Patterson, and Chandler Jones.
On the other side of the ball, they have Larry Fitzgerald and will be getting David Johnson back in 2018 from injury. No offense to Cousins’ former Washington teammates, but none of them match the skill and talent of the Cards’ dynamic duo.
11. Draft: New York Jets Take Baker Mayfield
The Jets, got pretty decent season out of veteran starter Josh McCown, as he threw for 18 touchdowns, before going on Injured Reserve in Week 15.
Despite McCown’s solid play, if Gang Green, wants to the next step, they will need to draft a quarterback in the first round this spring.
Currently, the Jets have the 6th overall pick in the draft. With Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Sam Darnold, all expected to be gone by that point, Gang Green, will still have a chance to select the most charismatic, and arguably, the most productive quarterback in college football, in Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield, will always have his critics, and while his cocky attitude, surely rubs some people the wrong way, it shows that the pivot, has the moxie, thick skin, and ability to preform under the bright lights.
10. Draft: Browns Take Minkah Fitzpatrick
We already had the Cleveland Browns drafting Wyoming Quarterback Josh Allen.
After a trade with the Houston Texas last year, that allowed them to take Deshaun Watson, the Browns have the 4th overall choice in this year’s draft as well. With their second selection in the first round, the Browns should take Alabama Defensive Back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick, is the best Defensive Back in the entire 2018 draft. He has superb cover skills, is a physical and willing tackler, and brings versatility to the table, as he is talented enough to play both safety and corner.
Teaming him up with last year’s first round pick in Jabrill Peppers, would instantly help out a Cleveland defense, that ranked 14th overall, and 19th against the pass.
9. Signing: L.A. Chargers Get Matt Bryant
If the Los Angeles Chargers had a more reliable kicker this season, they would have made the playoffs.
The Chargers, missed the playoffs by one game. Their opening day kicker, rookie Younghoe Koo missed two field goals which would have either tied or won a game. Nick Novak was brought in to replace him but landed on injured reserve. Travis Coons lasted just three weeks before being released. Nick Rose then went 11-of-14 to finish the year.To avoid the same mistake from happening next year, they should sign the biggest name on the market.
Soon-to-be free agent kicker Matt Bryant, will not only the biggest name if he becomes available, but he is one of the most accurate, as the 16-year pro, has made at least 87% of his kicks, four out of the last five seasons, including a career-high 91.9% in 2016, where he was named to the Pro Bowl. With over $24 million in cap space, the Chargers need to make this happen.
8. Draft: Baltimore Ravens Take Calvin Ridley
This one is pretty easy. Former first-round draft choice, Breshad Perriman, is a bust. Speedy WR Mike Wallace, is a one-trick pony, who isn’t consistent enough to rely on, and last year’s big free agent edition Jeremy Maclin, didn’t really work out.
Alabama WR Calvin Ridley, is the best player at his position in the draft. Last year, while helping the Tide win their second National Championship in three years, the Junior, finished with 63 receptions, for 967 yards (both team highs), and 3 touchdowns.
While those numbers are impressive, they would potentially look even better, if Ridley played in another offense, instead of the run-heavy Tide.
Drafting Ridley, makes too much sense for the Ravens.
Not only does Ridley’s size, speed, hands, and play-making abilities make him a potential number one receiver that they currently lack. Additionally, Wallace, is set to become a free agent, and the cash-strapped franchise, might release Maclin, as the move would create $5 million salary cap space.
7. Signing: San Francisco 49ers Get DeMarcus Lawrence
For the last three drafts in a row, the San Francisco 49ers, have chosen a Defensive Lineman with their first round pick.
Over the last few years, the 49ers, have been among the worst teams in the NFL. Because of that, the team has been able to stockpile talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite all the high draft choices, San Fran still struggles to rush the passer. Finding an elite pass rusher is never easy. The draft, is the ultimate hit or miss solution, while acquiring that type of player in free agency almost never happens, because most teams lock those players up before they can hit the open market.
With a league-leading 15 sacks last season, Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence, is that type of player. If America’s Team elects not to use the franchise tag on him, the Boise State product will be free to sign anywhere he choses. Armed with the most salary cap space in the league at $114 million, the franchise can speed up the process, by adding a player like Lawrence.
6. Draft: Dallas Cowboys Get Courtland Sutton
Rumors of the Dallas Cowboys, potentially releasing former Pro Bowl wideout Dez Bryant, have popped up a lot. Bryant’s behavior has a part to play in the equation, as Executive Vice President, Stephen Jones, recently labelled the Oklahoma State product a distraction due to his sideline antics during games. The veteran’s decline in production, has also brought a lot of attention, as he has failed to go over the 1,000-yard mark in three straight seasons.
What makes matters worse for the Cowboys, is they get no help across the field from Bryant, as fellow starting wideout Terrance Williams, who has never passed the 1,000-yard mark in his five pro seasons, also failed to score a touchdown this season.
Whether or not the team decides to keep Dez Bryant, they desperately need to add more options at the position.
With two straight 1,000-yard campaigns, and a combined 31 touchdowns over his last three seasons SMU’s Courtland Sutton, would not only give the team a valuable option, but he would provide Dallas, with an upgrade they desperately need.
5. Signing: Oakland Raiders Get Trumaine Johnson
Looking to turn the fortunes of the franchise around, Raiders owner Mark Davis, went back into the team’s past, as he hired ESPN Analyst Jon Gruden, to be the Raiders new head coach.
Gruden, who previously was the team’s coach from 1998-2001, led the franchise to a 40-28 record, that included two trips to the postseason, has arguably been the organization’s most popular, and successful coach, since the legendary John Madden.
One of the biggest things Gruden must do to get the team back on track, will be to turn around a defense, that despite having the best defensive player in the league in Khalil Mack, still managed to finish 23rd overall.
If Gruden, and the Raiders, want to stop the bleeding they will need to upgrade the cornerback position. That upgrade, would come from Los Angeles Rams’ CB Trumaine Johnson.
The six-year corner, has 10 interceptions over the last three seasons, and has allowed opposing QBs to complete less than 45% of their passes against him. At 6’2’,the Montana product, has the size, length, and speed to play in either a man-on-man, or zone defense.
4. Draft: 49ers Get Quenton Nelson
Appearing to be headed nowhere, things changed dramatically in San Fran when the New England Patriots, traded backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, to the 49ers for a 2018 second round pick. As soon as the Eastern Illinois product took over as the team’s starter in Week 13, he immediately changed the fortunes of the franchise, as he elevated the offense to the top three, in almost every major offensive category, and more importantly, led the team to a 5-0 record.
To Garoppolo’s credit, he was able to work some of his magic, behind one of the weaker o-lines in football. Despite having Pro Bowler Joe Staley at left tackle, and the ascending Trent Brown at RT, the team lacks a difference-maker in the interior.
Enter Quenton Nelson.
The Notre Dame guard, is the consensus top lineman in the draft, and would immediately upgrade the middle of the line, both in run blocking, and pass protection.
3. Signing: Jacksonville Jaguars Re-Sign Allen Robinson
In possesion of the top defense in the NFL, and fresh off of an AFC Championship game appearance, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are set to bring back 10 of 11 starters from their league-leading unit.
To take the next step however, the Jaguars, will need to bring back their best play-maker of the other side of the ball, Allen Robinson. The Penn State product, who missed all but one game this year due to a torn ACL, is a game changer at the position, due to his combination of speed, and size.
The urgency to re-sign Robinson, should be high, given that he, along with the team’s other starter in Marqise Lee, is also set to hit the market in March, while WR Allen Hurns, who signed a 5-year $41 million contract extension before the 2016 season, hasn’t come close to living up to the deal.
With a young Jaguars offense constructed with cornerstone pieces like stud rookie Leonard Fournette, a quarterback in Blake Bortles, who quieted many critics with a successful playoff run, signing Robinson, just makes too much sense for a Jags squad.
2. Draft: Bears Take Denzel Ward
After the great play of rookie corner Marshon Lattimore for the New Orleans Saints this past year, teams will be looking for an instant shut-down CB in his mold, near the top of the draft. What better player to look for in a Lattimore clone, than at his school, and with the player who lined up right across the field from him?
Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, is that player. What the 5’10 DB lacks in size, he makes up for it in speed, and play-making ability, as he led the Buckeyes in passes defended with 15, and tied for second in interceptions, with two. This season, the Bears’ defense, finished seventh against the pass. Both their starting cornerbacks, in Prince Amukamara, and Kyle Fuller, are set to become unrestricted free agents.
New Bears coach Matt Nagy, will have his hands full on the offensive side of the ball, trying to bring along second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky. Having a potential shut-down corner he can rely on, while taking on fellow NFC North QBs in Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford, would be one less thing to worry about.
1. New Orleans Re-Signing Drew Brees
Even at the age of 39, Brees’ production hasn’t tailed off in the least bit, as this season, the two-time Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year, threw 23 touchdowns, completed an NFL record, and personal best, 72% of his passes, and helped lead his team to the NFC South title. If it wasn’t for a missed tackle by Saints safety Marcus Williams, New Orleans, would have taken on the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game.
Armed with an offense that features young, and explosive game-changers in running back Alvin Kamara, and Wide Receiver Michael Thomas, keeping Brees in New Orleans, is the biggest move that needs to happen this offseason. Could you imagine the offers Brees would get if he hit the market?
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