There are no guarantees in the NFL, even for its biggest stars. Even on the most long-term player-friendly deals and perceived good situations that an individual talent may have with their current team, there always remains a possibility that they will move on to a new team. As is the case with any professional sport, money and a desire to win a championship are paramount in importance for an athlete, and a clear-cut above sheer loyalty. Players will change their situation at the drop of a hat if they think it will benefit them, and we can only expect that to remain the case as the seasons roll on.
So, how will the NFL landscape look in several years with the sport's biggest names? While there's no doubt that some will stay in their incumbent situations, we can also expect to see quite the shakeup of players signing deals with new teams in free agency. Let's take a look at how it all may play out in a few years, and which teams will be getting a boost from some of the elite players in the sport.
Below is a projection of where these 15 NFL stars will be in 2020.
15 15. Tyrod Taylor
Seemingly against all odds, Taylor has actually turned into a productive quarterback for the Bills over the last couple of seasons, after being a backup for the Ravens. While there may be some incentive to try to find the next game-breaking elite young quarterback (which Taylor is not) in the draft, stability speaks volumes, and Buffalo would be wise to keep Taylor around, and build up other aspects of the roster around him.
Taylor just restructured his contract, and is locked up for the long-term with the Bills, if they want to keep him. Rebuilding with a new quarterback is always a risky proposition, and it's just not worth it in this case. Taylor has proven to be a smart player who doesn't bit off more than he can chew. The Bills shouldn't overthink it, and roll with him for the proceeding seasons.
Destination: Buffalo Bills
14 14. Brandin Cooks
Cooks was dealt to the Patriots during this offseason by the Saints, and there's no doubt that he's one of the most dynamic young receivers in the game right now. Pairing him with Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense is simply a fright to opposing defensive coordinators, and Cooks is going to put up big numbers right away. However, that still doesn't speak to his future in New England, as he's going into the final year of his rookie contract in 2017.
The Patriots have a penchant for not keeping players too long, and also being reticent to hand out big money contracts to just anybody, even if they're very good players. It's extremely possible that Cooks ends up being a one-year rental for Brady to get another Super Bowl, and then he's forced into the free agent market. In that case, consider the Titans to be bidders, as they'll continue looking to build their receiving corps to help Marcus Mariota take the next step.
Destination: Tennessee Titans
13 13. Robert Quinn
A few years ago, Quinn was one of the game's best pass rushers. He's still effective now, but has dealt with some serious injuries over the past two seasons which have stalled his production slightly. It seems unlikely that he's going to play out the rest of his career with the Rams at this point, and at only 27-years-old, he'll be looking for a new team that needs pass-rushing help.
The Cowboys would seem be a good bet because they desperately need help in that regard, and on their defense as a whole. Quinn's injury history could lessen the price tag, which otherwise would have him command premium money. This way, Dallas can afford to pay him, and if he stays healthy, he would be an immediate upgrade to their defensive line in a couple of seasons.
Destination: Dallas Cowboys
12 12. Odell Beckham Jr.
Despite all of the questions about Beckham's on-field antics, his maturity and his attitude, the Giants aren't going to give him up. He'll get a long-term contract before he even reaches the end of his rookie deal. With Eli Manning set to retire soon, the Giants need an offensive player who is elite, that they know they can count on to keep the passing game afloat while they find a new franchise quarterback. It goes without saying that Beckham is a top-3 receiver in the league, and could succeed with anyone under center.
So while many teams would like a chance to sign him in free agency, they likely won't get the chance. New York knows that their entire offense changes for the worse without him, and while they may not be enthralled with his antics at times, they'll ultimately pay up to keep him around.
Destination: New York Giants
11 11. Jimmy Graham
So far in his two seasons with the Seahawks, Graham has posted a poor season along with a very good one. What he does this year will go a long way in determining just how long he's likely to stick around in Seattle, going into the final year of his contract. Given his so-so play so far with them, it's definitely not a guarantee that the Seahawks' brass will want to resign him.
The Patriots can't get enough of reliable tight ends, and will almost inherently have interest if Graham hits the open market. They're always looking for someone to pair with Gronk, as they utilize the position more than any other team in the league. New England has shown that they'll spend money when they want to, and Graham's position and skill set fit right into their wheelhouse.
Destination: New England Patriots
10 10. Kirk Cousins
The fallout of the contract negotiations between the Redskins and Cousins are going to sever the ties between the two, at least eventually. Cousins probably doesn't want to stay in Washington at this point, and he'll play one more year on the franchise tag before departing next offseason. A long-term contract between the respective sides seems like a long-shot at best, at this point.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers could be the top target for Cousins, who has experience playing under the new San Francisco head coach during his first two years in Washington. Don't be surprised to see Cousins man the job as the 49ers franchise quarterback in several years. He's young enough to see the rebuild come to fruition, and be a key piece to the roster for years to come.
Destination: San Francisco 49ers
9 9. Le'Veon Bell
As good of a player as Bell is, there's no doubt that he's had his share of issues off the field, as well as a pronounced injury history. All of this has led to him having to play on the franchise tag for the Steelers this season, and his long-term future with the team remains up in the air. It's safe to assume that he's at least considering the possibility of switching teams.
In a few years, the revamped Bucs offense is going to be operating at peak performance, and they'll be a legitimate Super Bowl threat. Bell could hop in seamlessly after this season, as the team doesn't have a true "lead" running back after Doug Martin, and he seems to be on his way out the door. Bell would make an immediate impact, and only has more incentive to change teams, due to Ben Roethlisberger's impending retirement after the season ends.
Destination: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8 8. Randall Cobb
If we're being honest, we can see the fact that Aaron Rodgers is the main cog in the wheel for the Green Bay passing game, and that he could post outstanding numbers with just about any corps of receivers. Cobb, a former 2nd-round pick, is a fine player, but the Packers don't depend on him for offensive success.
That doesn't mean he would be useful to a team in need of help at receiver, though. The Rams need to supply Jared Goff with a steady supply of weapons, and Cobb would be a veteran option that makes a lot of sense. Los Angeles would be wise to make a play for him in a trade this year, or sign him when he hits the open market in the 2019 free agency period. Either way, he's a quality talent who's actually attainable, and could significantly aid in Goff's development.
Destination: Los Angeles Rams
7 7. Matt Ryan
This may seem strange, given that the Falcons are coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, but Ryan's contract is up in 2019, at which point he'll be 34-years-old. For such a tenured quarterback, Atlanta's offer may not match up with what Ryan wants to see in a new deal. He'll still be be at the age where he can be relatively effective, so what will he do?
While returning to the Falcons certainly remains a possibility, that would be predicated on them continuing their dominant play. Otherwise, Ryan may look to go to a team who has just completed a rebuild, and is looking to win at the moment. The Jets still don't have a future franchise QB on their hands, and they realistically may not by the end of 2019. If that's the case, they may go after Ryan to complete their roster puzzle.
Destination: New York Jets
6 6. Sammy Watkins
When Watkins is on the field, he's one of the best receivers in the league, and a terror for opposing cornerbacks everywhere. Since he's been bitten by the injury bug recently however, there's no guarantee that he stays in Buffalo after his rookie deal is up. The former 4th-overall pick has the potential to be a juggernaut, but the Bills may not want to pay him if he continues to the miss portions of seasons.
With a ton of cap space to their name, it's unlikely that the Browns would have any qualms about signing Watkins. They need the help at receiver for whomever is able to land the job of their future franchise quarterback (if they get one at all). Watkins is both a name and a talent, and he would fit in very quickly in Cleveland, most likely coming at a reduced price.
Destination: Cleveland Browns
5 5. Alshon Jeffery
He's only currently in Philly on a one-year deal, but there's plenty of reason to believe that Jeffery will play himself into a big contract after the season ends. Carson Wentz needs a true go-to receiver, and Jeffery fits the bill in almost every way. He's still young enough to re-establish himself on a team like the Eagles, and be a key long-term contributor.
While other teams would like to get a hold of Jeffery is he posts a good season in his contract year, it's just not likely to happen. The Eagles will have the resources necessary to resign him if they want, and there's not much chance that he doesn't produce if he's on the field. Not a surefire guarantee, but definitely likely, and something the Eagles are clearly hoping to accomplish next offseason.
Destination: Philadelphia Eagles
4 4. Tom Brady
The question as to whether Brady is going to retire after this season is wholly inconclusive. Logic would dictate that someone of his tenure in the league wouldn't be playing much longer, but given how unique of a talent he is, combined with the Patriots' tendency to not let information like this leak, it's really anyone's guess.
Brady is going to be playing this upcoming season at 40-years-old. Quarterback of a generation or not, that's old for an NFL player, and even though he's stated that he "could" play for multiple more seasons, the smart bet is to think otherwise. He may scratch out another year and play the 2018 season as well, but by 2020 Brady is going to have hung up the cleats.
3 3. Jarvis Landry
Though not as flashy as some, Landry is one of the best receivers in the game right now. A reliable possession target, he's able to rack up plenty of catches and move the chains on a consistent basis. He's coming up on the end of his rookie deal with the Dolphins, a team that is stocked to the brim with talent at wide receiver. The fact that he hasn't inked a new deal yet is telling that he may be keeping his options open.
If that's the case, a trip to the 49ers along with Kirk Cousins may be the most logical move. He'll get paid a premium contract, and Cousins excels throwing to possession receivers like him. Miami has a solid team, but is oversaturated at receiver, and as a result they may be willing to let Landry walk.
Destination: San Francisco 49ers
2 2. DeAndre Hopkins
The Texans really need to hope that rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson is the real deal. As far as Hopkins is concerned, this is the only year that matters, because he'll be looking for a new contract after the fifth year on his rookie deal is up following the 2017 season. He's one of the best receivers in the league, and he'll have plenty of suitors willing to provide him with a hefty contract.
With all of the quarterback disarray that Houston has seen over the past few years, Hopkins has reason to search elsewhere for a more competent arm. How much would a team like Oakland be willing to give up in order to pair him with Amari Cooper? A duo like that would make the Raiders a truly frightening passing attack with Derek Carr at the helm. Even in 2020, Hopkins will still be in the prime of his career.
Destination: Oakland Raiders
1 1. Richard Sherman
There were rumors this offseason that the Seahawks may be interested in trading Sherman for the right price, but that never did materialize. Still, the fact that they aren't bound to Sherman says a lot about the chances of him not remaining on the roster for the rest of his career. He can be had for the right price, the question is who's willing to pay up?
Wherever Sherman ends up going, he's going to want to be an addition to an already-good defense. The Titans have plenty of pieces in place on both sides of the ball, and have needed cornerback help for years now. Depending on whom they acquire in the interim, this is a situation that Sherman may seek out, considering they're bound to be a consistent contender by 2020. It's an up-and-coming franchise that could potentially give Sherman a shot at one last Super Bowl victory.
Destination: Tennessee Titans
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