Once the 2016 season is over, we can expect a slew of moves to be made, including teams cutting players they no longer have a use for. And, in turn, teams in need of players will flock to sign some of the best available players from this group.
Whether it’s a result of poor play, the need to save money or too much depth at a particular position, having a contract doesn’t guarantee a team will keep a certain player. As long as the dead cap number isn’t too high, a player can be cut at a moment’s notice.
Looking ahead to 2017, there could potentially be some intriguing options at multiple positions, including quarterback. Guys like Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, and Tyrod Taylor might be available, with all three certain to get interest from multiple teams.
After all, it’s extremely difficult to fill the quarterback position in the NFL and it isn’t often teams have a chance to sign one legit starting quarterback sitting on the open market, let alone three. The 2017 offseason has a chance to be the exception.
Of course, there will be other impact players who are likely to be cut, and while those players have fallen out of favor with their respective teams, there will be another squad anxious to give them a change of scenery in the hopes said player can be revived in a new home.
Let’s take a look at some players who might be searching for a new home in 2017 after being released by their current team.
15. Sam Bradford: New York Jets
The Minnesota Vikings acquired Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season, but Bradford hasn’t exactly been able to thrive in Minnesota. Instead, he’s the head of one of the worst offenses in the NFL, partially thanks to a horrid offensive line. Once Bridgewater returns, Bradford becomes expendable and he won’t be happy being a backup anyway.
The New York Jets might have Bryce Petty in place to start next season, but he hasn’t shown a lot for the team to have confidence in him moving forward. Bradford would be an insurance policy for the Jets and would challenge Petty for the starting job before the season starts. Granted, Bradford isn’t exactly the best option out there, but he might be better than what the Jets have now.
14. Torrey Smith: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The San Francisco 49ers are quickly regretting their decision to give Torrey Smith a long-term deal, as the wide receiver is having a bad second season in San Fran. With the team looking to rebuild, there isn’t much room in the team’s cap for a receiver who isn’t producing, which is partly because of poor quarterback play.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will likely be losing wideout Vincent Jackson after this season and will need to fill the void at the position. Smith offers big-play ability and can help quarterback Jameis Winston stretch the field. With all the attention of opposing defenses focused on Mike Evans, Smith could see a lot of man coverage, opening the door for him to be the team’s best asset for making plays deep down the field.
13. Julius Thomas: Arizona Cardinals
After signing a huge contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015, Julius Thomas has been a major disappointment after some great years in Denver. Thomas has been riddled with injuries on a weekly basis and his numbers have suffered as a result. For a team that has so many holes, the Jags can’t afford to keep Thomas around when he isn’t contributing much.
Because of the aforementioned problems, Thomas could come cheap on the open market, quite possibly on a one-year deal. That would be great for the Arizona Cardinals, a team in need of a legit option at the tight end position. Taking a chance on Thomas would make sense for an offense that likes to throw the ball and he’d be a low-risk, high reward player if the Cards can get him for the short term.
12. Ryan Mathews: Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens are getting ready to hand the starting running back job to Kenneth Dixon full-time after this season, which likely means Terrance West will be on his way out of town. With that said, the Ravens would love to have a veteran presence behind their second-year back in 2017, making Mathews a perfect fit. With his injury history, Mathews would be an ideal backup considering he wouldn’t have to carry the ball much, and he’s as effective a pass-catcher as he is a runner.
Another team that looks ready to go to a younger back is the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s very plausible that Philly moves on from Mathews because of Wendell Smallwood’s presence on the roster, making Mathews a free agent during the offseason. He’d be a top-notch insurance policy for the Ravens, and one that can make a serious impact on the team’s offense.
11. Victor Cruz: Minnesota Vikings
The emergence of Sterling Shepard has relegated Victor Cruz to irrelevance with the New York Giants. He’s barely used in the passing game and the Giants have been using rookie wideout Roger Lewis even more than Cruz during some games this season. The writing is on the wall that Cruz isn’t long for New York, especially considering he has voiced his displeasure with his role.
A team like the Minnesota Vikings could really use Cruz in 2017. The veteran receiver has something left in the tank and the Vikings passing attack is short on options outside of Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph. Cruz would be an experienced player thrown into the middle of a bunch of young guys who need support and guidance, and he’d have a chance to win on a good team. The Vikings will be looking to make a deep run into the playoffs next season once Teddy Bridgewater comes back and they simply can’t be satisfied with their lackluster talent at the receiver position.
10. Darrelle Revis: Tennessee Titans
Say what you want about his declining skills, but Darrelle Revis is still as good or better than your average cornerback. Thanks to his giant salary, a team in transition like the New York Jets will likely cut ties with him to save some money after the 2016 season.
The Tennessee Titans would be a perfect fit for Revis. Not only are the Titans sporting one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, but they are also a young team in need of an infusion of veteran talent in the secondary. Revis would cure both of those problems and also be a major upgrade to a Titans pass defense that can’t get any worse. What’s even better is that Revis won’t command a lot of money coming off his worst season as a pro, so this is easily a move the Titans can afford that will make their team better.
9. Jamaal Charles: New Orleans Saints
Jamaal Charles’ days in Kansas City are numbered. Spencer Ware has a firm grasp on the starting job for the foreseeable future and Charles has dealt with multiple knee ailments that have left him as a major question mark moving forward. Not to mention, he will have hit the age of 30 before next season starts.
The New Orleans Saints are without an effective pass-catching back on their roster. Both Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower have done a nice job carrying the ball, but head coach Sean Payton wants an explosive back who can make plays in the short-yardage passing game. Charles has proven to be a great receiver out of the backfield and there may be some juice left in those legs for him to make an impact. The Saints won’t have to take a big risk on Charles also, as he’s likely to command just a one-year deal with whoever signs him. Charles is no longer the workhorse back he once was and this situation would be an ideal fit for him at this late stage in his career.
8. Antonio Gates: New England Patriots
The San Diego Chargers have their tight end of the future in Hunter Henry, and the team might decide to save a few bucks by releasing Antonio Gates at the end of the season. In all likelihood Gates would retire if that happened, but where would he go if that expected scenario doesn’t play out?
The New England Patriots would be a great fit. Head coach Bill Belichick’s squad has been unsuccessful in trying to shore-up Martellus Bennett with an extension and there’s a good chance he tests the market and lands himself a nice chunk of change that the Patriots won’t want to pay. Gates would be one of the better tight ends available despite his age, and playing with the Patriots would finally give him a chance to win a Super Bowl. The Pats badly need a backup plan in case Rob Gronkowski’s injury problems continue to pop up, and a veteran like Gates might be just what the doctor ordered. If there’s one team who can convince Gates not to retire, it’s a perennial winner like the Pats.
7. Randall Cobb: Buffalo Bills
The fall of Randall Cobb this season has been tough to watch, especially if you’re a Green Bay Packers fan. As he has fallen, fellow wideout Davante Adams has become the team’s No. 2 receiver behind Jordy Nelson. Now that Cobb isn’t as important to this offense anymore, the Packers might decide to cut ties with him well before his contract runs out.
Should that happen this offseason, the Buffalo Bills would be wise to give Cobb a look. Outside of Sammy Watkins, there isn’t much talent in the team’s receiving corps and Watkins himself can never stay healthy. Cobb would give the Bills a veteran option to throw to and he would help take some pressure off of Watkins, giving him some more space to work with. Of course, we don’t know who will be behind center for the Bills in 2017, but whoever it is could use Cobb’s services.
6. C.J. Anderson: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are likely to move on from starting running back Eddie Lacy, who is currently out for the season. Replacements James Starks and Christine Michael haven’t done much to earn the job beyond 2016, so that should send the Packers looking for help at running back during the offseason.
C.J. Anderson is also dealing with a season-ending injury, but in his place, Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs have done a good job and Booker was already working his way to being the starter when Anderson was healthy. The Broncos could move on from Anderson after this season and he’ll hit the open market as one of the best backs out there. His ability to be both an effective runner and catch the ball out of the backfield makes him an ideal fit for a Packers offense that needs a stable solution at the running back position.
5. Jay Cutler: Cleveland Browns
With all the negative press out there surrounding Jay Cutler’s time with the Chicago Bears, there’s a possibility the Bears shed his enormous contract and move on from the troubled signal-caller. There will be teams with quarterback problems lining up to grab him, with one of those teams being the Cleveland Browns.
Head coach Hue Jackson’s team is always looking for the answer at quarterback and Cutler would be the closest thing to a credible quarterback this franchise has seen in years. Cutler can stretch the field and help get the ball to some of the talented young receivers this offense has. Granted, the Browns must fix their offensive line in order to make this work, but Cutler could really improve this offense after the team was unsuccessful in running Josh McCown, Cody Kessler and Robert Griffin III out there in 2016.
4. Tyrod Taylor: San Francisco 49ers
With the news that the Buffalo Bills aren’t sold on Tyrod Taylor being the team’s starter beyond 2016, he could hit the open market as a top quarterback available. Taylor has had two solid seasons in Buffalo, but a change of scenery could be just what he needs to take his game to the next level.
Signing with the San Francisco 49ers could do just that. Sure, the Niners are in a rebuilding phase at the moment, but the 27-year-old is still young enough to be their answer behind center for the long term. Head coach Chip Kelly’s offense is quarterback-friendly and he would love to have an athletic quarterback to make it even better. Taylor is the perfect fit for Kelly’s offense and would instantly give his team some credibility at the quarterback position. The quarterback will be just one of many holes to fill for the Niners this offseason, but signing Taylor would be a big piece to the puzzle and a nice compliment to Carlos Hyde.
3. Brian Cushing: Dallas Cowboys
With Brian Cushing set to turn 30 during the winter, the Houston Texans may decide to part ways with the linebacker considering his problems with injuries might get worse as he gets older. Not to mention, Cushing is in the midst of a down year and the Texans have other holes to fill that could be done by saving money from releasing Cushing.
The Dallas Cowboys are set on offense with a slew of weapons and a great offensive line, but the defense could use some improvement. Cushing would be a great addition to a Cowboys defense that already features Sean Lee, and he would be a major upgrade for a team that could use help at linebacker. The veteran linebacker might be the final piece the Cowboys need to be one the best all-around teams in the NFL.
2. Brandon Marshall: Arizona Cardinals
Brandon Marshall is likely to be a casualty of the Jets’ rebuild-on-the-fly during the offseason, easily making him one of the most attractive offensive players on the market. Marshall has seen his numbers decline in 2016, but that is mostly a result of poor all-around play from a Jets team that is poorly coached and lost on both sides of the ball.
Marshall would be a great fit in a pass-heavy offense like the Arizona Cardinals’. Head coach Bruce Arians loves to air it out and Marshall would be a great asset to quarterback Carson Palmer. Bringing Marshall on board becomes even more important if Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t return for another season, however, even if he does the Cards are short on good receivers and a veteran stud like Marshall would quickly give this team a No. 1 receiver it so desperately needs.
1. Tony Romo: Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have a solid run game, a great defense and a talented corps of receivers. The only thing missing in Denver is a quarterback, which is where Tony Romo comes into play. Now that Romo has been permanently replaced by Dak Prescott, there’s a great chance he’s either traded or released before next season.
Both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch have proven to be quite limited in their ability to move the ball downfield. While Lynch might be the future for the Broncos behind center, it wouldn’t hurt to have him sit behind a veteran quarterback for another season given the fact that he’s clearly not ready to lead this team. Sure, Romo does have a history of injuries a laundry-list long, but the Broncos would still have their young quarterback behind him just in case. If Romo can stay healthy, he would undoubtedly flourish with this offense and be the missing piece that turns this Broncos team from a simple playoff squad to a Super Bowl contender.
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