The NFL regular season is almost over, and with most NFL teams already realizing they won't make the playoffs, it's a popular time to already look ahead to the 2017 offseason. There are plenty of teams that are one or two pieces away from Super Bowl contention, while some teams need a full-on rebuild that should include unloading as many veterans as possible in order to stock up on draft picks.
But unlike other years, 2017 should have more stars traded than ever before. Many struggling stars know they'd be better off on new teams, and many struggling teams know they should trade away their veterans in order to clear salary cap space. But at this point, the question is where these players will go.
Though there haven't been a lot of rumors about some of these guys wanting out, it doesn't take much to see why they could be on the move. Here's a look at 15 struggling NFL stars that will find new homes in 2017.
16 Darrelle Revis: Oakland Raiders
The New York Jets are in full-on rebuilding mode and will try to unload as many veteran contracts as possible. Darrelle Revis was one of the NFL's top corners from 2006-2015 and could go down as the best ever at the position. But father time came quickly, and Revis isn't even a top-30 corner at this point.
Expect the Jets to release Revis, and the Oakland Raiders will give him a chance to show if he has anything left. Though Derek Carr and the offence carry this team, the defence isn't anything scary outside of Khalil Mack. It makes a lot of sense to bring in Revis on a one-year deal in hopes that he can find the fountain of youth for one more season.
15 Colin Kaepernick: Jacksonville Jaguars
Colin Kaepernick took the NFL by storm in 2012 with the read-option play. Nobody knew how to stop him as he guided the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl XLVII trip before they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. Kaepernick has since struggled and fallen out of favor with the 49ers, and it's well-known by now that he's going to be playing elsewhere in 2017.
Most teams that need a quarterback will look for better options than Kaepernick, but the Jacksonville Jaguars could bring him in as a backup to push Blake Bortles. The latter has had a terrible year after showing so much promise in 2015. Kaepernick will have to accept a backup role to start, with the chance to become a starter. Jacksonville is the only team that really makes much sense in that regard.
14 Jonathan Stewart: Denver Broncos
The Broncos have tried everything at running back since letting Knowshon Moreno leave after their dreadful Super Bowl XLVIII loss. C.J. Anderson has come here-and-there, but Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs aren't doing their parts. Denver is in major need of a flashy playmaker in the backfield, and Stewart makes a ton of sense.
According to Spotrac.com, Jonathan Stewart has a $9.55 million cap hit for 2017, and a cap hit of $8.25 in 2018. Given his struggles after an impressive 2015 season, all signs point to the Panthers releasing Stewart in order to create cap space for offensive line and cornerback help.
This is where John Elway steps in and gets a bargain in Stewart. There's no guarantee he will succeed with the Broncos, but it's well worth a gamble. Stewart's power complements his speed well, and the Broncos need a running back like that.
13 Joe Haden: New Orleans Saints
The Saints reportedly tried bringing in Joe Haden at the trade deadline, but a deal never took place. The Cleveland Browns are threatening to go winless in 2016, and there's simply no need to keep the talents of Haden on the roster. They need to once again tear it all down, stockpile on draft picks and try to get the right players this time.
Haden to the Saints makes a ton of sense. New Orleans is rebuilding on the fly, but Drew Brees is turning 38 in 2017 and they have to start going all-in for him. Haden is one of the NFL's premier corners and would instantly upgrade one of the NFL's worst defences we've ever seen from a stretch of five years.
The Browns wouldn't ask for anything more than a second or third-round pick in all likelihood. This is where the Saints step up and make the big move. Haden and Delvin Breaux does have a nice ring to it, no?
12 Philip Rivers: Buffalo Bills
The chances of the San Diego Chargers trading Philip Rivers remain a long shot, but it would be best for the franchise if they decided to restart and find load up on draft picks. Yes, Rivers is the greatest quarterback in franchise history, but San Diego has one playoff win in the past seven years and they've missed it all but one year since 2010.
There's a talented young secondary coming together, but Rivers (35), Antonio Gates (36), Danny Woodhead (31), and Keenan Allen (season-ending injury for second-straight year) aren't going to help the Chargers compete with the three AFC West powers in the long run.
If San Diego was smart, they would decide to trade Rivers for a plethora of picks. Rivers has done a lot for the franchise, but they haven't gone anywhere with him. There's simply no reason to keep him, and the talented Buffalo Bills are a quarterback away from contention. Rivers for multiple picks would be a major blockbuster that would benefit both sides in the long-term.
10 Matt Forte: Baltimore Ravens
Eric Weddle, Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace are just a small number of veterans that the Baltimore Ravens scooped up and turned into reclamation projects. This Ravens offence has always relied on a star running back, from Jamal Lewis to Ray Rice to Justin Forsett. But the Ravens haven't had any flashes in the backfield in 2016, and it's hurt their offence as a result.
Because of that, expect them to once again look for a veteran to bring in. Matt Forte has been a liability on a disastrous New York Jets, but the future Hall of Famer could easily fill in nicely on the right team. The Ravens offensive line would help him rediscover his old form with the Chicago Bears.
And the rebuilding Jets would probably be thrilled to simply give him away for a mid-round selection. Well worth it for Baltimore.
9 Brandon Marshall: Carolina Panthers
Brandon Marshall has one year left on his contract, and there's no reason to believe the New York Jets will want to carry a 33-year-old receiver when they're in rebuilding mode. There should be no doubt they'll trade him away in 2017, and the Panthers probably make the most sense for him.
All AFC contenders have enough star receivers, but Carolina lacks tough wide receivers that would work well in an offence that features Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. Carolina's missing the playoffs in 2017, and a huge splash will need to be made if they want to get back into NFC South contention.
Carolina loves high character players, and Marshall is undoubtedly one of them. Marshall's the kind of guy the Panthers will need if they want to go on another deep playoff run, and they'd probably have to only give up a fourth or fifth-round pick to get him.
8 Jamaal Charles: Detroit Lions
There was a brief time in 2010 where Jamaal Charles was the NFL's best running back. Sadly, a torn ACL in 2011 derailed a significant portion of his prime years. The Chiefs wasted his talents by going 2-14 in 2012. Charles then suffered a torn ACL in 2015 and missed most of the season. Charles has played in just three games so far in 2016, and the rise of Spencer Ware suggests the former is expendable.
Kansas City also has Charcandrick West on the depth chart, so there's really no need to carry Charles and his $7 million cap hit for 2017 any longer. The Detroit Lions have one of the NFL's elite aerial attacks with Matthew Stafford, but Theo Reddick is more of a pass-catcher than an actual running back.
Bringing in Charles to fulfill their weakness at running back would make the Lions a near-complete team, giving them one dangerous two-dimensional offence.
7 Brandin Cooks: New York Jets
Brandin Cooks broke out in 2015 as the Saints' top receiver with 84 catches for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns. However, the addition of Coby Fleener coupled with the rise of rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas have made Cooks less productive. Willie Snead has also been a stud in the Saints' passing game, and Cooks was reportedly unhappy with his role in the offence some weeks ago.
For one, the Saints don't need to keep players around who put themselves before the team. Secondly, the Saints really don't need Cooks since Drew Brees has Fleener, Thomas and Snead. They need to get draft picks, and the New York Jets (should they trade Marshall) could give an interesting package offer.
The Jets, if they want to rebuild, need some flashy young guys that can produce. Cooks would be that guy, and giving up a pair of draft picks (second and/or third or fourth) could be an ideal trade for both.
6 Alshon Jeffery: Buffalo Bills
2016 was a down year for Alshon Jeffery, who was suspended for four games after being caught using PEDs. After posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2013 and 2014, Jeffery played in just nine games all of last season and finished with 807 yards and four touchdowns. Jeffery has surely worn out his welcome in Chicago, who will let him walk and sign a giant contract elsewhere in the offseason.
Should the Bills make a big splash in trading for a quarterback, they'll be quick to go all-in. This would include bringing in a star wide receiver like Jeffery, who could help ease the pressure off of Sammy Watkins - the only quality receiver the Bills have.
The Bills have a world-class defence but just need a quarterback and someone to help out Watkins and LeSean McCoy. Be it Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick or any other QB. He's going to need help. Jeffery fits the bill(s) and will sign a lucrative deal in free agency.
5 DeSean Jackson: Philadelphia Eagles
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported earlier this month that the Eagles are planning to take a run at their old friend when he becomes a free agent in 2017. There should be no doubt that the Washington Redskins won't keep him with Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, and Jordan Reed already in the fold as Kirk Cousins' pass-catchers.
With the Eagles, DeSean Jackson was far-and-away one of the NFL's premier receivers, using his ridiculous speed to put up a trio of 1,000-yard seasons. He's been hot-and-cold with the Redskins during his three years, but it's been hard for him to win targets in a stacked receiving core. If he goes back to the Eagles, he's instantly their top receiver.
Also, Chip Kelly, the man who controversially released Jackson in 2014, is no longer with the Eagles. That has to help, right?
4 Joe Staley: Denver Broncos
Joe Staley has three years left on his $44.65 million deal he signed with the 49ers, according to Spotrac.com. His cap hit in 2017 is $11.5 million, followed by $7.7 million in 2018 and 2019. There's simply no reason for Staley to stick around with the San Francisco 49ers, who could see housecleaning on the roster, in coaches and in the front office.
Staley is 32-years-old and isn't going to remain an elite left tackle much longer. A championship-caliber team with a clear need for offensive line help will come calling. In case you didn't know, the Denver Broncos offensive line is among the NFL's worst.
This would be another chance for John Elway to scoop up a veteran that the 49ers would probably give away. Staley's too expensive for a rebuilding team like San Francisco to keep. Elway has gone all-in since landing Peyton Manning back in 2012. No reason to think he won't pull off another trick like this.
3 Mike Adams: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are probably not going to prevent Eric Berry from hitting the open market in 2017 after failing to reach an agreement on a long-term deal last offseason. Assuming Berry doesn't re-up in Kansas City, Indianapolis Colts safety Mike Adams would be a solid replacement at a cheap price.
Though he's up there in age (35) he's made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons. Talk about a late bloomer. Adams has been one of the few quality parts of a mediocre Indianapolis Colts championship team, and with another makeover on the looks for them, Adams doesn't fill their needs in the long run.
Look for the Chiefs to find a cheaper option in Adams. He probably has one or two solid years left in him, and Kansas City will be onto him right away.
2 Sheldon Richardson: Dallas Cowboys
The New York Jets have themselves a stud on the defensive line in Sheldon Richardson. He's an elite pass-rusher but also a force against the run. But as we've touched base on earlier: The Jets need to clear out as many veterans and as much cap space as possible because a full-on rebuild is on the horizon with this team.
Richardson was linked to the Dallas Cowboys earlier in November, but Jerry Jones' crew backed away from the deal. Everyone knows how great this Dallas offence is, but the defence isn't exactly championship-caliber. They need a pass-rusher to help Sean Lee, and Richardson is ideal.
Jones has the chance to go all-in once again, and Richardson is an absolute game-changer on defence. Whatever the price is, this one trade would give Dallas all they need to be a force on both sides of the ball for many years.
1 Tony Romo: Denver Broncos
Yup, the Broncos are going to look a lot different in 2016.
They're fielding a top-notch defence, but it means nothing because of a lackluster offence. John Elway won't want to waste what Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, and Bradley Roby are doing. If he gets Jonathan Stewart and Joe Staley, the ground game and 0-line problems are taken care of. But if he wants to get even better, Tony Romo is the answer. There's no doubt that the Cowboys are going to trade him in the offseason, thanks to the emergence of rookie Dak Prescott.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport had this interesting information to share back in November:
The Cowboys would probably be reluctant to trade Romo in the NFC, and he wants a Super Bowl. Well, the only contenders in the AFC already have a quarterback. Denver makes all the sense in the world. They have a rookie in Paxton Lynch who Romo could mentor for two years.
Denver won a Super Bowl with a 39-year-old Peyton Manning. No reason to believe Elway wouldn't take a chance on 37-year-old Tony Romo in 2017.
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