We're already nearing the NFL postseason, which in turn means we're already nearing the NFL offseason. Remember the offseason debates about who would sign Mike Glennon before he got $45 million over three years and had a quarterback drafted to replace him on the same team? Remember the questions about Malcolm Butler potentially being traded by the New England Patriots? Yes, we're here to do all of that again!
Even though we've yet to even hit the Super Bowl, let's try speculating on cuts, free agent signings, and trades that need to happen this NFL offseason. For this list, our only real ground rule is free agents are those who are set to become a free agent in the spring of 2018 because their contract expires. Someone like Eli Manning who still has another year but could wind up getting cut would go under cuts or trades; the free agent section is for someone like Le'Veon Bell who, if the offseason began today, would hit the open market.
If you're ready to try playing matchmaker before realizing that over 70 percent of these moves wouldn't pan out if they happened in real life because this is the NFL, let's get to work.
15 Cut: Mike Glennon
We may as well start our list with the most obvious cut that's coming, right? If the Chicago Bears hold onto Mike Glennon for the 2018 season barring some kind of major injury to Mitchell Trubisky - and by major, we mean Teddy Bridgewater-level - something (or someone) is going to pay the price, especially if a new regime is brought in to replace head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace.
Glennon has two things working for him if he gets cut, the first being that the Bears are still going to be paying part of his contract. The other news? He's not Colin Kaepernick, meaning a team like the New York Jets or Denver Broncos will call him in a heartbeat. That's just the way this league works, folks.
14 Signing: Malcolm Butler - Los Angeles Rams
There's not many times in the Bill Belichick regime that a free agent who will command decent-to-serious money on the open market is brought back at that price, meaning former Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler is on his way out. That's obviously nothing against Butler, who continues to play at a strong level and will be 28 at the start of next season, but more about the way Belichick has run the Patriots for nearly 20 years.
With cornerback Trumaine Johnson set to hit the market as well and the Rams already showing they can compete with the NFL's powerhouse teams, landing Butler in free agency could be the next step in assuring this year's strong showing isn't a fluke. In a way, this would be a bit like what Denver did when they signed Aqib Talib in free agency after the Patriots (!) let him go.
13 Trade: Eli Manning/Kirk Cousins - Arizona Cardinals
We're cheating by putting two names here, but we don't know how either Eli Manning or Kirk Cousin's contract situations are going to play out. Depending on what the new Giants regime is thinking, Manning's contract could easily be reworked so the two-time Super Bowl winner can play a final season in New York and tutor current rookie Davis Webb. At the same time, Kirk Cousins could get franchise tagged again or get locked up to a new deal so Washington doesn't have to look elsewhere for a quarterback.
Why Arizona, though? Not only is Larry Fitzgerald set to come back for another season, but All-Pro running back David Johnson will be healthy and we've seen what Bruce Arians - if he returns next year - has done with another veteran quarterback in Carson Palmer. This could work!
12 Cut: Richard Sherman - Seattle Seahawks
On one hand, this one would be really unfortunate because Richard Sherman has been the face of the Seattle Seahawks since being a late-round pick in 2011, but what else are the Seahawks going to do? At this rate, their window for a championship is rapidly closing - Russell Wilson isn't far from entering Eli Manning territory where he's constantly let down by poor talent around him - and cutting Sherman (who is owed $11 million next season, but there's a $13.2 million cap hit) could help the Seahawks officially enter a transition period.
If Sherman were to be cut, Kansas City and Atlanta both seem like strong options, especially given former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's presence in the Dirty South. Or...could Sherman return home to the Bay Area with the Oakland Raiders or San Francisco 49ers?
11 Signing: Sammy Watkins - Washington Redskins
Washington bombed with their Terrelle Pryor signing this offseason - see, that is why we all need to learn not to immediately grade free agent moves, although I'm guilty as well - so an argument could be made they'd try to avoid going down that road again. But with Watkins, who will only be 25 next June, perhaps the Redskins signing him to a three-year contract so he can be a part of a potential transition period could be a smart move.
Watkins hasn't dominated in Los Angeles this year, but he's stayed healthy and showed flashes of the players the Buffalo Bills were so high on way back in the 2014 NFL Draft. Besides, Watkins' views on the Earth being flat might be a nice fit with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's views that the team's name isn't controversial.
10 Trade: Carlos Dunlap - New York Jets
For this one to work, there's a few things that have to happen, including the Jets figuring out what they're doing with defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (who has three years and $48.25 million left on his contract, $16.75 million of which is guaranteed on the third league day of net season) and potentially moving edge rusher Leonard Williams to a linebacking role. If the Jets can do both of those, Carlos Dunlap - a free agent after 2019 and whose Bengals could enter a rebuilding state - wouldn't be an awful trade option.
As we've seen this year, the Jets might be closer to contending for the playoffs than anyone expected and adding a veteran pass-rusher to the defense who has actually done that job in recent years (sorry, Mo) could be a boost. As would adding a quarterback, but we digress...
9 Cut: Coby Fleener
Coby Fleener is the one player who has been plagued by "yeah, this makes sense" throughout his career. What do we mean? In 2012, the Stanford tight end is drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, who just drafted former Cardinals quarterback Andrew Luck to be their franchise player. Yeah, this makes sense! Fleener doesn't really live up to expectations in four seasons with the Colts, but he signs with the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees, who has always taken advantage of tight ends. Yeah, this makes sense!
After two seasons of doing nothing, Fleener will probably be a cap casualty this spring, though I'm not sure who exactly would be high on signing him right now. Maybe the New England Patriots since they're always looking for tight ends? Another reunion with Luck and the Colts? Yeah, those make sense!
8 Signing: Jimmy Graham - New Orleans Saints
How much of an NFL thing would it be if, after years of wondering if the Seattle Seahawks will finally get rid of Jimmy Graham, they lose him in free agency to the team they traded center Max Unger for? Graham will be a free agent this spring and with the Seahawks needing to do plenty of things to become contenders again, perhaps letting the 31-year-old tight end walk is the best move.
Why the Saints, other than Graham having been an All-Pro in his first five seasons in New Orleans? Well, Graham knows Drew Brees and that offense, not to mention the Saints are really entering a win-now mode. We have no idea how much Brees has left in the tank and if the Saints want one more title, Graham could be the missing piece.
7 Trade: T.Y. Hilton - Dallas Cowboys
What? We can explain this one, we promise. Dallas has the cap space and the desire to make splashes, as well as 10 current draft picks - including four compensatory pick,s, although they're lacking a fifth-round pick after a draft day trade with the New York Jets last year - and this year has shown the Cowboys need more than Ezekiel Elliott. Jason Witten isn't going to be around forever, Dez Bryant hasn't looked like an elite receiver since his not-catch against the Green Bay Packers three years ago, and Cole Bealsey is a free agent after next season.
With that said, Hilton - who won't be a free agent for three more seasons and is stuck middling away with the Colts - could be a fine trade piece. We've seen Jerry Jones go after the big fish plenty of times before...
6 Cut: Mike Pouncey - Miami Dolphins
Now the good news for the Miami Dolphins is that they have an out in Pouncey's contact after this season, which would save them $28 million but also have $2 million in dead cap. Is the risk worth it? Given Pouncey has been a mixed bag in recent years and the Dolphins seem to have no idea what they want to be in the next few years, parting ways with the 28-year-old center could be a smart move for both sides.
Again, the Dolphins don't know if they want to compete or if they want to weigh rebuilding, but when has this team made sense? If Pouncey hits the market, you'll see a fair number of teams with mediocre to average centers take a chance, lock Pouncey up, and regret it sooner rather than later.
5 Signing: Nate Solder - New York Giants
Be honest, would you want the New York Giants to really go through another year of Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart at the offensive tackle positions? Even if Nate Solder has battled some injuries in recent years, he'd be a fine addition to a Giants team which, in large part because of poor offensive line play, hasn't gone over 30 points in a game since 2015 and has failed to generate a productive running game.
Depending on what the Giants decide to do with their new regime - it's not unreasonable to think an ex-Patriots staffer gets added as either head coach (Josh McDaniels?) or in the front office - things could even make for a possible reunion. Besides, at least Solder wouldn't be going to the Browns...
4 Trade: Dez Bryant - San Francisco 49ers
Earlier on, we mentioned T.Y. Hilton as a possible target for the Dallas Cowboys, which would make even more sense if Dez Bryant was sent packing. Bryant has been productive this season - not elite, not awful, but productive - but does a point come where the Cowboys decide to start anew. Bryant has done everything and more since the Cowboys took a chance on him in the 2010 NFL Draft, yet the team has one playoff win through December 2017. Not good!
If the 49ers were to do this, it'd be a major step in the way of cementing themselves as NFC West contenders, a job being made easier by Jimmy Garoppolo's strong play and their 2017 draft class not being a failure yet. Good days are coming in San Francisco again!
3 Cut: Mike Mitchell
If you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan out there who enjoys watching Mike Mitchell, are you a sadist? Mitchell could probably work as a role player/change-of-pace defensive back on some teams, but as a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Not quite, especially not with $5 million due next year. Pittsburgh would have to consider an $8 million dollar cap hit if they parted ways with the veteran safety, but such a move would have to be worth it they can't rework the contract, right?
Again, we don't hate Mike Mitchell the way a fair number of Steelers fans seem to do, but we think it's time for him to either rework his contract or get cut. Pittsburgh is going to have to do something at some point if they want to win another Super Bowl...
2 Signing: Jarvis Landry - Chicago Bears
New York Giants fans immediately cry out in anguish about Jarvis Landry not being reunited with ex-LSU teammate Odell Beckham Jr., but Big Blue has more pressing needs than adding another big-name wideout. (For what it's worth, the Giants might benefit more from taking a one-year flyer on Terrelle Pryor and actually trying to incorporate him into the offense unlike their rival Redskins, but we digress.)
So why would Landry bother going to Chicago? First off, the Bears cannot keep going with Kevin White and Markus Wheaton; the time has come for a new playmaker in the form of Landry. Chicago also has what seems to be a stable quarterback situation, money to make a large contract happen, and a division that doesn't feature the New England Patriots. It seems like a winner!
1 Trade: Eric Ebron - Baltimore Ravens
This isn't a flashy trade or anything, but it is the type of buy-low option Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome would be willing to try. Ebron has one year left on his contract after the Lions questionably exercised his fifth-year option for 2018 and both sides are likely going to want to start over, so why not send the former first-rounder to a team in need of a tight end? We've seen Joe Flacco return to a competent level this season, one which could be helped by the addition of a pass-catching tight end.
At this point, I don't think we're expecting Ebron to ever become a star or live up to expectations. Is a one-year, $5 million contract enough for the Ravens to take a chance? We think so.
Which of these moves do you think would help teams the most? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!