As the 2018-19 NFL season reaches a close, we are left with a long offseason, where teams are going to bring it all together and attempt to put themselves in position to achieve success for the next season and onward. There's no question that there has been an emphasis placed on offensive weaponry in the past year, with several receivers being given big contracts, and rules being put in place to maintain health for all starting quarterbacks across the league. Knowing this, the priority for most teams this season is probably going to be putting a strong offensive unit together. It's harder than it sounds, but rest assured, they'll give it a shot anyway.
The three key pieces of any offense are the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. The most prolific offenses in the league are teams that have elite talent in each of those spots. The Saints have Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas. The Rams have Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Robert Woods. Those two teams met in the NFC championship game. Teams are going to try to emulate offensive nuclei like these to reach similar heights, as they should.
In this piece we are talking about these key positions. More specifically, we'll be discussing seven players in each position who we think will be on the move this spring and the teams they'll be joining, as well as the reasoning behind each of these new unions. Here are seven quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, and where they will be playing next season.
Nick Foles nearly led the Eagles to consecutive NFC Championship games. That alone will garner interest. He isn't exactly the best in the league, but given his recent performances, I see Miami taking their chances on him, acquiring him from Philadelphia via trade. After a shaky 7-9 season, the Dolphins appear to be inching closer to rebuilding all over again. Before resorting to such measures I think they will give it one more try, but this time with a new starting quarterback. Ryan Tannehill is a solid stater, but he is too often hurt, and the team needs far more consistency at that position, and something tells me they won't be banking on Brock Osweiler to give that to them.
Le’Veon Bell is one of the best running backs in the NFL. For his efforts he feels that he deserves a significant pay raise, one that the Pittsburgh Steelers, and most others are not willing to give him. There may be one team just desperate enough to meet his needs though. The Detroit Lions have needed a running back for about as long as I can remember. It isn't the only issue with the team but it's certainly the biggest. If they are going to get anything out of their current core they're going to need a legitimate star back to lead the offense. You can't get much better than Bell.
Antonio Brown, based on what we've all been shown and told, comes off as short sighted, selfish, and downright narcissistic. If I were a GM I wouldn't entertain the idea of trading for such a personality. However, AB is the best wideout in the game, so it's more than safe to assume someone will make a move for him. The Oakland Raiders are in peril at the moment. I'm not sure if there's a position on the team they don't need help at. Fortunately they've got a bunch of picks for the upcoming draft, some of which I expect them to use to acquire Brown from Pittsburgh.
The Giants have spent the last three seasons hopeful that Eli Manning can lead them to another magical Super Bowl run. Unfortunately, he has only appeared to decline further each season. With that in mind, I see the Giants bringing in a security blanket to backup Eli in Sam Bradford. Bradford is in no way the solution to all their problems, but assuming the Giants will give it one more go with Eli in 2019, Sam could be a useful backup plan in case things go bad early next season, to ensure that they will still be in position to compete as they make plans for a new quarterback in 2020.
The New York Jets have a bunch of cap room going into free agency, and will be using the opportunity to put as much talent around their young stud QB, Sam Darnold, as financially possible. Tevin Coleman has always been capable of being a star running back for any team, but had to take the backseat to Devonta Freeman in Atlanta. Entering free agency, I assume he will be looking for a new home to be the starter, and I can't think of any place better than with an up and coming team like the Jets.
Over their long reign of success, the New England Patriots have developed a specific way of doing things off the field as well as on it. When it comes to bringing in new weapons for Tom Brady, they don't really bid high on wide receivers. Typically they go for quality pass catchers capable of big plays that won't ask for too much money in return. Jermaine Kearse fits that billing to a tee. He isn't an elite receiver, but would make for a strong addition to a receiving core in New England growing more anemic by the season.
Josh Allen showed some promise during the season and will be the starter, hopefully for the long haul in Buffalo. However, when he was absent with injury, the Bills started guys like Derrick Anderson, and Matt Barkley, of whom I didn't even know were still in the league until they were announced as starters for the team. Joe Flacco is more than likely to be released or traded by the Baltimore Ravens this offseason. Since I'm assuming no one will be looking to sign the veteran to start and the Bills are in dire need of a backup, I expect Flacco to end up in Buffalo this offseason.
With the disappointing season that just passed for the Minnesota Vikings, it is safe to assume some players on the roster will be leaving. Latavius Murray is one of the league's better backup running backs. As such, I assume that he will garner much interest from other teams, but ultimately I think he'll sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the likely impending exit of Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers are going to need somebody dependable enough to backup James Connor. Assuming them to be the most attractive team bidding for his services, I see Murray heading to Pittsburgh.
The main priority for Carolina this offseason is to fix Cam Newton's shoulder. After that though, the goal should be to bring in a wide receiver. One that can compliment the other pass catchers on the team and help open up the run game. With their star QBs physical health deteriorating by the season, more offensive talent is needed to keep the team upright. Golden Tate isn't among the elite receivers in the league, but would definitely bring a lot of experience and skill to the current core.
The thing with the Bucs is that they need more talent to compete, but because of the continuous rotation at the QB position between Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, it may not even matter. Both Quarterbacks were turnover machines this season, and if new head coach Bruce Arians is going to right the ship, the priority is to protect the ball. That in mind, I say the Bucs sign Tyrod Taylor. Though he isn't the flamethrower that Famous Jameis still has the potential to be, he is known avoid turnovers, and if things go bad with Jameis next season, Tampa will have Taylor to fall back on for the remainder of the season next year.
Most of you know the whole situation that went down with Kareem Hunt by now. While Kansas City was able to get as far as they went without him, it's hard to see them going as far had he not contributed at all. Knowing that, I think the Chiefs will prioritize finding a new starting running back this offseason. T.J. Yeldon has had his shining moments with the Jags, but given the poor season that just passed, and the opportunity to enter free agency to sign with a contender, as well as get a pay raise is being presented to him, I can't see him sticking around. With Chiefs current position and youth, I doubt Yeldon would pass on them.
I watched Minnesota in most of their nationally televised games, and one of the biggest problems with them was the lack of depth at wide receiver. I know they have Thielen and Diggs, but that's all they have. I'm not excusing the Vikings or Kirk Cousins for the season. They underperformed in a sad and disappointing fashion. All I'm saying is that picking up a possession pass catcher to compliment the other pieces already on the team couldn't hurt. Dez Bryant isn't what he used to be, but coupled with the pieces Minnesota already has he could be just as big a threat on the field as he once was in Dallas.
I believe the Miami Dolphins are likely to move on from Ryan Tannehill this offseason. He has produced, but the constant injuries and lack of results is something I see pushing them to find a new starting quarterback. The Washington Redskins, on the other hand, will be searching for a replacement starter as they await the possible return of Alex Smith. Tannehill does have injury concerns of his own, but aside from the draft he will arguably be the best QB available in the offseason. That said, with limited options in front of them, the Redskins will sign the veteran QB to a short-term deal.
The Indianapolis Colts have had a resurgent season. No matter where they finished this season, they ought to be in position to improved that much more this offseason will all the cap room they'll have. They do already have a back who showed promise this season in Marlon Mack, but I think they'll add seasoned vet and champion, LeGarrette Blount, to the backfield. Having worked with head coach Frank Reich in the championship season in Philadelphia, Blount can add another threat to what already appears to be a strong offensive unit.
While the offensive line still desperately needs work, this season the Seahawks have rediscovered themselves offensively. An identity predicated on speed and rushing the ball up the field, I assume the team will approach the offseason looking to add to their strong suit. Desean Jackson isn't the game-breaker he was in his younger days, but he still has breakaway speed, and would fit seamlessly into the Seattle offense, giving Russell Wilson another dependable weapon in his arsenal. Given his age, I don't think bringing him in would be too costly.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play in the beginning of the season made the Bucs understand what they ought to expect from Jameis Winston. However, I don’t think he will be returning next season. For all his ability, Fitzpatrick is still prone to give away the football. Still, he is still one of the better backups in the league and will likely be pursued by a plethora of teams. I think he will ultimately sign with the New Orleans Saints. A championship contender that will be void of a backup assuming the exodus of Teddy Bridgewater, Fitzpatrick will take his talents to New Orleans and will be ready to take advantage of the many weapons on the team whenever his number is called.
Unless the market isn’t as appealing as he and many of us anticipate that it will be for him in free agency, it looks like Mark Ingram will be playing elsewhere starting next season. It’s not that the Saints wouldn’t like to keep him and give him to big contract extension, it’s just that at the end of the day it would boil down to paying big money for either him, or Alvin Kamara. Based on what we’ve seen, who do you think the Saints would pick? Oakland as mentioned previously needs help practically everywhere. Acquiring Mark Ingram is definitely a good place to start patching things up.
The 49ers were supposed to be one of the favored teams to compete for playoff contention this season, but an ACL tear for Jimmy Garoppolo ended any chance they may have had. Even in knowing that their star QB will be back healthy for next season, more needs to be put around him if the team wants to succeed next season. Devante Parker to me is a solid receiver with untapped potential. Putting him in that San Francisco offense could help him take a step forward. The Dolphins expressed interest in moving him not too long ago. If the interest insists, then the Niners should pounce on the chance and make a deal.
Teddy Bridgewater won’t be heavily pursued in free agency. While his comeback story is inspirational, he wasn’t exactly one of the best ball throwers before his injury, and certainly isn’t considered to be one of them now. All things considered, I think he will be looked at as a backup entering free agency. Fortunately for him, there are teams that will need a fallback option incase their starter falls off. Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars. With Blake Bortles struggling for most of last season, leading to him getting benched, the Jags will bring in Bridgewater as a failsafe option in case Bortles can’t get it together next season.
It's safe to assume that Jameis Winston's time as the starting QB in Tampa Bay in close to an end. Next season will be his last chance to prove that he can take this team where it needs to be. However, the Bucs first have to put the requisite pieces around him to be able to properly evaluate him. In their case this means patching up the o-line and strengthening the run game. LeSean McCoy will likely be on the move as the Bills continue to rebuild, and If I'm the Bucs, I don't think I'll find a more trustworthy back that will be available this offseason, especially if the goal is to win now.
The Denver Broncos, to me, are falling farther and farther from the team they once were. Even with much talent on the defense and experience on offense, the Broncos were only able to accomplish so much this past season. Sooner or later they have to realize that changes need to be made with the roster, especially on offense. That said, I think they will trade Emmanuel Sanders. He has his injury history, but he's still capable of being a leading receiver as he showed this year. The Jets, who are going to need to put some more pieces around Sam Darnold, is a team I see making a deal to acquire the veteran receiver to bolster the pass attack.