Forget about free agents of the 2019 offseason and the draft; let’s look at some of the unexpected moves that will be made this offseason. Those occur every year, and fans know what players will already be in those talks. What about some other situations that sometimes can be more difficult to predict?
Last offseason, we practically saw a Pro Bowl team retire. Do we get that again in 2019? Probably not. A lot of the older stars that were on the verge of retirement already retired last season. There are a lot of veteran quarterbacks that are close to retiring, but most of them stay after this season. Some quarterbacks might see success close to them, and not want to leave an opportunity where they can win.
An exciting part of the offseason is the trades that occur. Last offseason, we saw some unexpected trades that included players like Alex Smith, Brandin Cooks, and Aqib Talib. Again, this is another offseason that trades don’t seem like they will be as frequent. Many players that were rumored to be traded were traded prior to the trade deadline. The players who didn’t get traded will be heading into free agency.
Then, there’s the least, yet exciting part of the offseason, which is when players get cut. It’s upsetting because fans lose players they love. Both the Cowboys and Packers fan base lost valuable players in Dez Bryant and Jordy Nelson. What is one team’s loss, is another’s treasure. Expect cuts to be a big part of this upcoming offseason.
21 Trade: Sterling Shepard (New York Giants)
During the offseason, the Giants made sure to pay Odell Beckham Jr. In 2020, they will have to make a decision on Sterling Shepard. Shepard’s numbers reflect off a really good No. 2 wide receiver, which will cost a pretty penny. It would be too expensive to afford both Beckham Jr. and Shepard, especially with the other talented wide receivers they have.
The Giants may look to trade Shepard this offseason for a mid-round draft pick. His value will be pretty high considering he’s young, on a rookie contract and has a lot of potential. You could even see a desperate team like the Buffalo Bills overpay and give a second-round pick or a third-rounder with a player involved.
20 Cut: Robert Alford (Atlanta Falcons)
There’s really no way for the Falcons to justify keeping Robert Alford on the roster. This season he’s yet to record an interception and has been part of the secondary’s struggles. On top of his play, he’s 30 years old. Regardless if they keep him or not, the Falcons are almost guaranteed to be looking at upgrading their secondary this offseason.
By parting ways with Alford, the Falcons would save $7.9 million. That is definitely enough to address some weaknesses and replenish their secondary. This should be a pretty easy decision to make for the front office considering his age and production.
19 Retire: Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)
Many expected Rob Gronkowski to retire following last year's Super Bowl. Gronk openly acknowledged that he was questioning his NFL future and even admitted that had the Patriots gone through with trading him, he would've retired rather than play for any other team. Gronk's 2018 season has been difficult, as he's dealt with many nagging injuries and his play on the field hasn't quite been at the level we're used to. We've seen more and more stars retire in their late 20s and early 30s, and considering Gronk's long injury history, it may be wise for him to move on from the game now.
18 Trade: Shane Ray (Denver Broncos)
It might be time for the former 2015 first-round draft pick of the Broncos to get traded. In 2016, one would never expect to hear that, after he finished the season with eight sacks. Now that the team drafted Bradley Chubb who is already making a name for himself, Shane Ray will be on the trading block.
Ray has a lot of potential, though, as he proved in the past. Injuries hurt him last season, but besides that, he’s been able to stay healthy. The Broncos could keep him on the roster for depth, but his value would continue to decrease as time goes by.
17 Cut: Everson Griffen (Minnesota Vikings)
Throughout his career, Everson Griffen has been one of the more underrated defensive ends in the league. Having missed five games this season and looking at his age, it’s time to trade him. Griffen is 31 years old, nearing the end of his career. If the talent is still there, which will be important to look at throughout the rest of the season, he could have some value.
It will be his age and injury that forces the Vikings to cut him, assuming they can’t find a trade partner. By cutting Griffen, they would save $10.7 million. Kirk Cousins still has two years left on his fully guaranteed deal, and the Vikings will want to go all-in for a Super Bowl. They can't pay Griffen over $10 million next year.
16 Retire: Brandon Marshall (New Orleans Saints)
It was an exciting time for Saints fans when they signed Dez Bryant until he went down with a torn Achilles, which finished his 2018 season before it started. As a backup plan, they signed another wide receiver, Brandon Marshall. There was some excitement when he was signed as well, but he came in and was dealing with injuries right away.
Marshall was a talented receiver in his prime but has been banged up. Of course, he would love to make a comeback and play at the level he was playing at in 2015, but those days are long gone. Marshall seems to have a clear future as a broadcaster, and it won't be surprising if he decides to join other retired players up in the booth.
15 Trade: Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Maybe, just maybe the Jaguars now realize that they shouldn’t have extended Blake Bortles this offseason. It’s awesome that he had a good season in 2017, but at this point, they should’ve known what they got themselves into. Following a trip to the AFC Championship Game, the Jaguars will almost surely miss the playoffs.
Quarterback is the team's primary need, making Bortles's spot on the roster problematic. The problem is, the Jags owe him too much money to just cut him. The Jaguars will likely pull a similar move that the Texans did with Brock Osweiler, by trading him away along with a second-round pick for a team with the cap space to take his contract off their hands.
14 Cut: Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)
Another team that can cut their quarterback is the Baltimore Ravens. After going through a losing streak, Lamar Jackson has turned things around in Baltimore, by running an unconventional, but effective offense. Flacco wasn’t playing all that bad this season, but his injury opened up the opportunity for Jackson to take over.
Jackson is the quarterback of the future and even the quarterback of the present. The Ravens will likely cut Flacco, forcing him to explore free agency. It will be difficult, but don’t be surprised if he finds another home. This is an experienced quarterback who has won a Super Bowl before.
13 Retire: Julius Peppers (Carolina Panthers)
It’s time for one of the best pass rushers in the NFL to retire. Julius Peppers should be retiring following this season. Peppers has always played at a high level, but this is his least productive season since 2007. Granted, Peppers will be 39 years old in January.
Through the beginning of the season, the Panthers looked like a playoff team. Now struggling, this team looks like it will miss the playoffs after being the frontrunner for the fifth seed, and even looked like a potential challenger to New Orleans for the NFC South title. There’s a lot of changes that have to be made, and it won’t make sense for the veteran to stick around during that time.
12 Trade: Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles)
It’s the time a lot of fans have been waiting for, the time when Nick Foles gets traded. There really aren’t any starting quarterbacks available this offseason as free agents, which should help boost Foles’s value. The Eagles didn’t want to trade Foles last offseason because of the concern for Carson Wentz. Foles ended up starting the first two games of the season.
Foles’s value will either be higher because there are not many quarterbacks available or lower because it would be over a year since he won the Super Bowl. Regardless, he should be worth at least a fourth-round pick. There's no way the Eagles can keep him on the roster when they can save around $20 million by moving him.
11 Cut: Robert Quinn (Miami Dolphins)
This past offseason, the Dolphins' focus was to spice up the pass rush. One major acquisition they made to help that was to trade for Robert Quinn. Now looking back at it, the Dolphins probably wish they didn’t agree to that trade. Similar to recent years, Quinn has struggled.
If the Dolphins cut Quinn in 2019, they would save nearly $13 million. Despite Quinn having shown the ability to produce, that's a lot of money saved. The Dolphins have needs all over their roster and could use that to benefit them in free agency. Right now, they can’t hold on to expensive players that aren’t performing up to expectations.
10 Retire: Antonio Gates (Los Angeles Chargers)
Everyone thought that Antonio Gates would retire last offseason, considering he was a free agent and the Chargers had no intentions of re-signing him. With notable injuries at the tight end position, including Hunter Henry going down for the season, the Chargers brought back the long-time tight end.
This is the perfect end to the story for Gates. It's looking like he'll be making his first playoff appearance since 2013, playing with quite possibly the most talented team he’s played with his whole career. Considering his age, no team will sign him next offseason. No matter what happens, Gates will retire at the end of this season as a Charger.
9 Trade: LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills)
LeSean McCoy is currently having the worst season of his career. He’s averaging under 3.5 yards per carry, and looks far removed from being a 1,000 yard rusher. McCoy’s value has definitely crashed during this season, especially because he will be 31 years old at the beginning of the 2019 season.
The Bills are a long way away from winning, so it makes sense to get more draft picks while they can. Teams will be interested in McCoy, including the Eagles and Chiefs. Get draft picks, move on and find yourself a young running back in the draft that can grow with Josh Allen.
8 Cut: Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a sticky situation at the quarterback position. Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston have had really high moments, as well as really poor moments. The difference is, Winston is owed a lot of money in 2019. If the Buccaneers cut Winston, they would save nearly $21 million.
Winston was the first overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft but doesn’t seem like the future of this franchise. His inability to sustain drives and avoid turnovers makes him a liability for this team. The best bet for the Buccaneers is to find a new quarterback in the draft and move on.
7 Retire: Jordy Nelson (Oakland Raiders)
The reports of Jordy Nelson retiring will ultimately come to fruition. Nelson will be 34 years old soon, with one more season on his contract. Look at the situation he’s in. He’s been hurt and playing for arguably the worst team in football. Jon Gruden plans on turning things around, but that is going to take more than just this offseason. According to reports, a few players on the organization want out.
Since Nelson is later in his career and has struggled the past two seasons, no team will really want him. He does have the option to opt out of his contract, which would make sense if he came back next season. Considering the reports, it all seems too accurate.
6 Trade: Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
As illogical as this might seem, we really can't count anything out with the Oakland Raiders. If in fact, the Raiders plan on rebuilding it doesn't make much sense to keep a quarterback on an expensive contract. The Raiders can cut Carr this offseason and save up to $20 million in cap space. That could happen if Jon Gruden starts eying another quarterback. Carr hasn't looked like the MVP candidate he was in 2016 before his leg injury. He's dealt with more injuries since then and it's likely the Raiders may not want his $25 million salary on their books while in a rebuild.
5 Cut: Sean Lee (Dallas Cowboys)
One of the most obvious cuts this offseason would be Sean Lee. The Cowboys may have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, led by Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. In the past, the Cowboys’ defense was known for falling apart when Lee got hurt. Now, this defense has been the best it’s ever been.
Both of their star linebackers are under the age of 24, which is incredible. At such young ages, these players are playing at an insane level. Considering how well they have been performing, the days of needing Lee are gone, especially when they can save around $8 million by cutting him.
4 Retire: Marshawn Lynch (Oakland Raiders)
We have to remember why Marshawn Lynch signed with the Oakland Raiders in the first place. Lynch was already retired after an injury riddled 2015 season in Seattle. After taking a year off, Lynch decided to return to the NFL to play for his hometown Raiders before their move to Las Vegas. He also signed at a time when the Raiders were coming off a 12-4 season and were seen as a potential contender.
That's all gone down the drain, as the Raiders have dismantled their roster and are set to live out the rest of their time in Oakland in the AFC basement. Lynch's contract is up and there's no way he's sticking around for a rebuild.
3 Trade: Sammy Watkins - Kansas City Chiefs (WR)
This may sound unexpected, as we believe Sammy Watkins will last only one year in Kansas City before being traded. Watkins signed a three-year deal worth $48 million, which may be one of the worst contracts signed this offseason. Now that the Chiefs are in need of a running back, they will trade away Watkins, who a lot of teams had interest in, to clear up some cap space.
One player they could have their eyes on is Le’Veon Bell. With Kareem Hunt being released, the Chiefs now need a replacement, and an elite one at that. They could afford Bell by clearing up cap space and signing him while Patrick Mahomes is on his rookie deal.
2 Cut: Eli Manning (New York Giants)
This will be tough for Giants fans to swallow, but also an exciting time. Eli Manning will be cut following this season. The Giants have shown passion and talent in the last few weeks of the season, while Manning still continues to struggle. Regardless of the two Super Bowls he led the Giants to, he’s holding this team back.
Manning has a no-trade clause, which wouldn’t allow the Giants to trade him. To save money and build towards the future, the Giants move forward. Eli likely won't retire, as he looks at a team like the Jaguars where he could lead them back into the playoffs immediately.
1 Retire: Josh McCown (New York Jets)
He's been in the NFL for 15 years, and it took until year 14 for Josh McCown to show he could be a productive starter in the NFL. In 2017, McCown finished with a 5-8 record but threw for 2,926 yards, 18 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. This past offseason, he signed a one-year, $10 million contract.
Considering his contract, it made sense that he would be the starter, but they gave Sam Darnold the nod right away. McCown likely won’t find a job after this year considering there aren’t many quarterback-needy teams, and there’s already plenty of talent out. McCown would be 40 years old heading into his 16th season, so he will retire.