When it comes to the NFL, it’s hard to predict how things will go. Every single season there seems to be a new developments that catch our eyes and startle us. One of these things include how quickly some teams seem to turn their fortunes around. I mean, who would have predicted that the Los Angeles Rams would go from a bottom feeder to a division winner and top tier offense in one season? We went from thinking of Jared Goff as a bust to one of the future faces of the league. Who could have predicted that Jacksonville Jaguars would have one of the most dominant defenses in the league and be a legitimate threat in the AFC after winning only 3 games last season? It’s something that we don’t get to see very often.
The biggest reason for these instant turnarounds are the offseason transactions made by each team that help them get to where they want to be in the seasons to come. There are coaching changes and draft choices, but there are also trades and free agency signings that make a big difference, which is where the focus lies for this article. As we start with the playoffs, we are drawing closer to the end of the 2017-18 season, and for many teams changes need to happen, players need to be added and pieces need to be moved. This article looks at 15 of the top prospects who are likely to move or be moved in the upcoming offseason with an eye towards the 2018-19 season with predictions on where they will end up.
15. Teddy Bridgewater Signs With Arizona
It’s hard to see Teddy Bridgewater exiting from Minnesota, especially when you consider how he was embraced by his teammates and the Vikings fanbase prior to, during, and after the injury he sustained nearly two years ago. However, with the way Case Keenum has been playing as of late I can’t see Teddy sticking around to likely be his backup next season. He’s still very young and will likely be looking to start as he enters free agency this offseason. That being the case, the retirement of Carson Palmer has left the Arizona Cardinals without a starting caliber quarterback (depending on how you feel about Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton). The Cards will also be in search for a new head coach with the retirement of Bruce Arians.
Teddy Bridgewater has shown that he is a capable starter, and is a solid dual threat which is beneficial for the Cardinals, who don’t exactly have the strongest O-Line. Bringing Teddy on board would set up the potential for a dangerous, run-first offense with the return of star running back David Johnson next season. If I were running the team, I’d sign Bridgewater and see if Norv Turner, Teddy’s offensive coordinator while he was starting in Minnesota, is available. It just might be their best bet with an eye towards the future.
14. T.Y. Hilton Traded To Baltimore
Eugene Marquis Hilton is one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL today. The three-time Pro Bowler has been the Indianapolis Colts’ top weapon on offense for the better part of the past six years. Unfortunately for him, much like his Quarterback, Andrew Luck, his talents have been put to waste by his team’s constant underachievement. With the Colts looking to rebuild the team once more to construct a future contender, trading a piece of Hilton’s worth is bound to grant the Colts the assets that they are seeking for. That in mind, the Baltimore Ravens are the best fit for Hilton.
The Ravens fell just short of the postseason, in large part for their struggles on the offensive end at the season’s start. While the Ravens seem to have found their solution at running back in Alex Collins, they still lack depth at Wide Receiver. Enter T.Y. Hilton. Let me paint this picture for you. The Colts need more draft picks and young talent; The Ravens need a WR to make themselves more of a complete roster. Indy has an elite Receiver, Baltimore has a mid-first rounder in the upcoming draft. You do the math. I don’t think the Colts will stop there either…
13. Jacoby Brissett Traded To NY Jets
The New York Jets were off to an impressive start towards the midpoint of this season, especially when you consider the expectations placed on them prior to the seasons opening with veteran QB Josh McCown as the team’s starter. Because of their solid start, the Jets may be out of reach of acquiring a potential franchise quarterback in the draft. As a result, they may be looking to acquire their future quarterback via free agency or through a trade.
That in mind, if you look at the numbers he put up this year, Jacoby Brissett isn’t anyone special. However, if you knew anything about the Colts in the past few seasons, you would know that no one with that O-Line was going to succeed. I am not suggesting that he is a superstar. All I am saying is that he’s much better than the stats will tell you. New York has a better O-Line than Indianapolis, and acquiring Brissett in exchange for like a second round pick could potentially give them their QB for the future. Get on me if you will, but ask yourselves, Jets fans: what do you have to lose really?
12. Allen Robinson Signs With San Francisco
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had their best season since the early years of the the century, making a return to the postseason. They did this in large part without the services of their top WR, Allen Robinson, who has spent the entire season out with an ACL tear in his left knee. That in mind, they may not see much reason to bring Robinson back onto the team next year as he enters free agency. After all, he went from a 1,400-yard season in his sophomore season to a 500+ yard regression just last year. On Robinson’s side of things, however, he had Blake Bortles and Chad Henne – not the greatest pair of quarterbacks – passing him the football for his entire career thus far, and may want to look elsewhere to maximize his on-field performance. This is where the 49ers come in. The Niners seem to have found their franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, have plenty of cap room, and a plethora of young talent. Robinson is still a young talent, and can put up even bigger numbers with a better QB tossing him the ball. Seems like a great fit for both sides.
11. T.J. Ward Signs With Dallas
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were expected to make a huge leap entering into this season. This is in large part due to the promise shown by the team last year and how they looked going in with all the pieces acquired in free agency. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as expected. The team couldn’t find a solid placekicker all season, the quarterback play regressed, none of the the free agent acquisitions panned out as hoped, and the team underperformed in every aspect of the game. That being the case, some players may be looking to play elsewhere next year. I see T.J. being one of these players. Being only two years removed from being a key component to a championship winning Broncos squad, Ward may look to go to a team where he can get back into championship contention. Enter the Dallas Cowboys.
Being a year removed from a 13-3 season that saw them fall just short of the NFC Championship game and failing to make the playoffs this year, the Cowboys are due for a bounce back year. Adding T.J Ward and his veteran presence to the secondary can help elevate a promising young defense to new heights. You couple that with the prospects on offense and you just might have a championship contender in 2018.
10. Kirk Cousins Signs With Denver
This is both a prediction and a wish. I am convinced that the Washington Redskins have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. They don’t want to commit to Kirk Cousins because he isn’t that great a quarterback. This would be more understandable if they had a high draft pick and their last great QB wasn’t a guy who played for them in the 90’s. Kirk Cousins is a solid quarterback who for all intents and purposes had a pretty good season given that his offensive line was battered with injury, and his top running back, Chris Thompson, the team’s best option on offense, got hurt at mid-season. Despite these setbacks, Kirk still put up a respectable 27/13 TD/INT ratio.
All that being said, the Denver Broncos, a team in dire need of a starting quarterback are already reported to be set to make an offer to Cousins to become the team’s new QB. It’s a good fit. The Broncos have maintained their stout defensive identity, and much of the 2015 championship core remains intact. Signing Cousins would surely get them back on track.
9. LeGarrette Blount Signs With Detroit
To say that the Detroit Lions have struggled at running back would be an understatement. Since 2004 the team has had just one 1’000+ yard rusher. It is one of the things that has held the Lions back from doing any real damage in the league. So acquiring a Running Back will likely be near the top of the list of things to do for the Lions once they find a new head coach. LeGarrette Blount signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last offseason because they were in need in some depth in the backfield. However, after acquiring Jay Ajayi from Miami at the trade deadline and the emergence of rookie, Corey Clement, along with Darren Sproles set to return next season, Blount would be bound to get far less carries if he were to return to the team next year. If he were to go to Detroit, however, he would be the undoubted no.1 back on the depth chart and could potentially complete the offense and thus make the Lions a bigger threat overall.
8. Malcolm Butler Signs With Oakland
The Raiders have had a down year on offense, but their biggest need remains in the secondary. Oakland is looking to get back into championship contention as soon as they can, and the best way to do that is to patch up the defense. This brings us to Malcolm Butler. Known best for his championship-clinching end zone interception in Super Bowl XLIX, Butler has remained as one of the Patriots’ key starters in the defensive backfield since. However, despite that being the fact, it didn’t keep him out of trade talks between the Pats and Saints in a trade centered on Brandin Cooks.
That said, knowing how the Pats don’t appear committed to him or are very keen on paying top dollar for non-QB players, it may be wise for Butler to look elsewhere to play starting next season. Oakland seems like a good spot: he’d get paid more, he’ll likely be a projected starter, and he’d be part of a up and coming team, not to mention that it would improve the defense’s overall on-field production.
7. Sheldon Richardson Signs With Green Bay
For the Green Bay Packers and its fan base, missing the playoffs is a foreign occurrence, but now that it has happened now is the time to see change to ensure that there won’t be a repeat of it next season. Green Bay has had the luxury of having the services of the most talented Quarterback in football in Aaron Rodgers, who has been able to compensate for the team’s glaring holes. One of the biggest holes were their lack of ability on defense. They finished the season 26th in points allowed and 22nd in yards allowed, so it’s safe to say that they could use some help on that side of the field.
Fortunately for them, the once feared Seattle Seahawks look to be on the downturn with their glaring hole in the offensive line and injuries to key players in the defense. It just so happens that Sheldon Richardson, one of the better defensive tackles in the league, is hitting the free agent market this spring, and just may look to go somewhere with a little more stability, he can make money, and somewhere he can compete for championships. If I were the Packers, I would jump on the opportunity and bring him on board.
6. Jimmy Graham Signs With Houston
Speaking of the Seahawks breaking apart, word has gotten out that Jimmy Graham is unlikely to sign back with Seattle. The Pro Bowl tight end has had an up and down tenure with the Seahawks since being traded there in 2015. With the Hawks facing a decline as the Niners are set to rise and the Rams seem to have arrived, the timing seems right for Graham to take his talents elsewhere. The Houston Texans season was lost to injury to key players. Quarterback phenom, Deshaun Watson, and defensive stalwarts J.J Watt and Whitney Mercilus spent a majority of the season out. With all of their key pieces set to return and the team looking to finally compete for championships upon their comeback, Jimmy Graham could be another dangerous weapon added to the Texans offensive repertoire. Lamar Miller at RB, Deshaun Watson at QB, and a striking receiving core of DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Jimmy Graham along with the pieces on defense; give me that, and the Texans are looking pretty scary next season.
5. Frank Gore Signs With Green Bay
Earlier I advocated for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to sign with the Packers to help bolster their lacking defense, as it was one of the team’s biggest holes. Well, the other big hole keeping the Pack from getting back in championship form is the lack of running game that has been with the team since Eddie Lacy departed. For this reason, along with his desire to compete for a championship, I think Frank Gore should take his talents to Green Bay. Now I do understand that Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams both showed some promise during the season, but so did Ty Montgomery last year, and that didn’t work out too well this year now, did it? You bring in a proven veteran, and a total workhorse like Gore, and it’ll open up the passing game even more.
We’re talking about a guy who while playing in his 30s for the team with the worst O-Line in the league averaged over 980 rushing yards a season and started every game. Aaron Rodgers really doesn’t need all that much to get the team back in contention. Just last year he took a team with no running backs, practically no defense, and injured receivers to the NFC Championship game. It’s a good fit to me, Green Bay, make it happen.
4. Josh Gordon Traded To Dallas
I will admit that this is a bit of a reach. Josh Gordon hasn’t exactly been the most dependable employee in the past few years. However, since making his return to the league with Cleveland, he seems to have gotten better and is now focused on producing on the football field. Unfortunately for him, he is playing for a team that is currently in the midst of a never-ending rebuild, thus wasting his talents once more. I anticipate that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel for Gordon however, in the form of one Jerry Jones. The Cowboys team owner is known to take chances on players that most teams wouldn’t. He drafted Ezekiel Elliott despite the legal issues that followed him, drafted Randy Gregory despite breaking the weed rule, and took chances on guys like Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain despite their off-field issues.
If there is anyone that would be willing to take a chance on someone like Josh, it would be Mr. Jones. It makes good football sense too: the Cowboys need some help at the Wide out position, and when he is right there are few receivers in this game better than Josh Gordon. He’s still only 26-years-old, it would make things easier for Dak Prescott in the passing game, and because of his history, Gordon’s stock isn’t very high and will probably be a rather cheap acquisition for Dallas.
3. Larry Fitzgerald Traded To Oakland
The Oakland Raiders as of late have been doing everything they can to re-establish their popularity with star power as well as making themselves a contender. It is for this reason that they brought back Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, it is why they just signed Jon Gruden to return as their head coach, and why trading for Larry Fitzgerald is what should happen next. One of the most revered players in the NFL, Larry Legend has just about accomplished all that there is to accomplish in the NFL with one exception: he has never been part of a championship-winning team. His Cardinals came close nearly a decade ago but since then he has never gotten another shot at glory. The Raiders could be his ticket.
Oakland’s offense struggled in large part due to leading the league in dropped passes. If you know anything about Larry, you would know that dropping the ball is something he just doesn’t do. You can under-throw, overthrow, throw a wobbly ball or a spiral, he’s going to catch it more often than not. His presence will elevate Derek Carr, and open up the field for guys like Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook, and others, as well as bring on board that star power that the Raiders are seeking.
2. Eli Manning Signs With Miami
Oh I know, I know it’s crazy. There’s no way he’d go to Miami. Why though? There’s great weather, an offensive minded coach, an opportunity to start, weapons on offense in Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry (assuming he re-signs), Devante Parker, Julius Thomas, Kenyan Drake in the backfield, plenty of talent on defense – what’s the problem? Miami over the course of the past few seasons has had trouble with their quarterback position: Ryan Tannehill can’t seem to stay healthy, Matt Moore can only do so much, and Jay Cutler struggled with health, and on-field play for a majority of the season. Eli Manning on the other hand, is considered by most a better Quarterback than each of the gentlemen previously mentioned, and doesn’t struggle with his health at all.
As a matter of fact, at 36-years-old, if not for poor management by both the Giants’ now-former head coach and GM, Manning would have started every game. The Giants had a terrible offensive line, so that is a pretty impressive accomplishment, something the Dolphins should take interest with. Miami’s current head coach, Adam Gase, has a history with Eli’s brother Peyton back from his Denver days, and Eli has a pretty good track record against a division rival of the Dolphins, the New England Patriots. You know – the team Eli led his Giants to defeat in the Super Bowl – twice. The G-Men will release Manning and he’ll then sign with the Dolphins.
“But what about Jacksonville?”
1. Alex Smith Traded To Jacksonville
Here’s the thing, Eli Manning is Hall of Fame bound, a two-time Champion, a four-time Pro Bowler, he has history with one of the Jags executives, Tom Coughlin, and for many reasons is an easy fit for Jacksonville. However, he isn’t a better fit than Alex Smith. The Chiefs could always keep him around, but are likely to move forward with Patrick Mahomes if the team doesn’t go deep into the postseason. In any case, Smith is a valuable asset and can help KC acquire a young talent from a trading partner. For Jacksonville, what do people complain the most about with Blake Bortles? He turns the ball over too much, the very thing Alex Smith doesn’t do.
The issue with the Chiefs in past years has been that they are good at everything but aren’t great at anything. That isn’t the case with the Jaguars. They have a great defense and have more capable pieces on offense than Kansas City. The only thing that seems to be missing is a dependable quarterback. Alex Smith is coming off his best season as a starter in the NFL (statistically speaking) and won’t always deliver, but definitely never falters. He’s a key veteran presence, his game is strengthened by a strong running game, which the Jaguars have with Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon in the backfield, and he just may be that missing piece to put the Jags over the top in the AFC.
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