It’s not an exaggeration to say that every NFL offseason has a ton of shakeup involved. Rosters may seem relatively stable by the end of the regular season, but inevitably there are going to be players who call it quits, and unforeseen moves happen at the blink of an eye. It’s all an inevitable part of the offseason process, and something that every fan of the league looks forward to every single year. While we can render a guess as to which players are prime trade and retirement candidates, at the end of the day it really is a toss up as to what actually ends up happening.
However, the indications so far are that this offseason could be one for the ages. There are many notable names on the retirement bubble, and a similar amount that could be on the trading block. We’re talking about significant NFL names here, and players that could make a difference regardless of which roster they end up on. Let’s take a look at some of the moves we could see in just a few months from some of the game’s biggest stars.
Ranked below are 8 NFL players who will be traded in the offseason, and 7 who will retire.
15. Traded: Tyrod Taylor
Bills head coach Sean McDermott tipped his hand when he removed Taylor from the starting role in the middle of the season to put in late-round rookie Nathan Peterman. The move backfired so badly that he was forced to return Taylor as the starter, as he really should have been all along. Now, the Bills are seeing their first playoff appearance since 1999.
But it’s clear that Taylor isn’t going to be the future quarterback of the team at this point. Despite defying the odds to win the starting job back in 2015, and actually playing quite well for a player that nobody thought could ascend to his spot on the depth chart, Taylor’s upside is limited at this point in his career. Look for the Bills to dish him off to a team looking for a quarterback, in exchange for a draft pick or two.
14. Retire: Dwight Freeney
Miraculously, Freeney actually played in the league yet again this season, this time for the Lions and Seahawks. At this point, Freeney has been simply signing on with whichever team wants to pay him the most money for one season of play, but at the age of 37, he’ll probably want to hang it up this offseason. There’s not much more he can accomplish in terms of being a pass-rusher, and he’s played a whopping 17 years in the NFL.
Freeney stands as one of the most prolific pass-rushers of his era, and was a top defensive player on the Colts for so many years. As an 11th-overall pick, he more than lived up to his draft status, and ended up becoming a marquee defensive lineman, and one of the best to ever do it in his era.
13. Traded: Martavis Bryant
The Steelers are looking at undergoing a massive personnel shakeup this offseason, and Bryant is just one of the pieces in that puzzle. He’s expressed discontent with his role in the Pittsburgh offense in the middle of the season, and he’s a prime candidate to be traded for a quality draft pick. With the emergence of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the elite Antonio Brown, there’s little room for Bryant to ascend to the top of the Steelers receiving depth chart.
However, he’s be a quality pickup for any team looking for a reliable pass-catcher. Bryant has rebounded pretty well from his year-long suspension in 2016, and he’s reestablished himself as a threat, when he does get the ball thrown to him. That’s enough to command a decent return on the trade market this offseason, and the Steelers are already stacked at wide receiver.
12. Retire: Josh McCown
Against all odds, McCown was actually able to turn in a half-decent season for the Jets, even though it was abundantly clear that they didn’t have the roster to compete. The veteran quarterback played well, even though it wasn’t for a contender, but it’s hard to imagine him sticking around for another NFL season, at the age of 38.
It seems like McCown has been in the league forever, and playing on eight different teams over the course of a 15-year career will do that. While he was never a superstar, you could argue that he outlived his 3rd-round draft selection, and was able to turn in a respectable resume, after the odds were slim that he’d last this long. Certainly, McCown can walk away with his head held high, if he wants to this offseason.
11. Traded: Nick Foles
The Eagles are hoping that Foles steps up big in the playoffs. Not only for their own chances of winning the Super Bowl, but so they can deal him to another team to get the most savings out of his contract. Foles helped the Eagles clinch home field advantage this year when Carson Wentz went down with an injury, and if he can perform well on the postseason stage, it would go a long way into boosting his trade stock for the offseason.
There is a significant cap savings involved if the Eagles are able to deal Foles, and they currently have one of the least flexible cap situations in the league. Best case scenario, Foles plays lights out and commands a high draft pick, while the Eagles are able to simultaneously save some money for the offseason.
10. Retire: Julius Peppers
In what has been one of the most impressive careers for a defensive end in the history of the league, it’s likely that Peppers calls it quits this offseason, after returning to his incumbent team in the Panthers to play one more year. It’s not just a nostalgia trip for Carolina; Peppers has really been able to contribute this season, and helped anchor the defensive line as a whole.
The former 2nd-overall pick has simply had a dominating career, and he’s a first-ballot Hall Of Fame player if there ever was one. You don’t often see a player live up expectations the way Peppers has, but he’s terrorized quarterbacks for his entire 16-year career, and earned himself all the praise he’s been given.
9. Traded: Dez Bryant
The Cowboys’ issues with Bryant are mounting as we speak, and there’s a very real chance that the receiver isn’t on the roster next season. While Bryant at his best has been one of the league’s best players, in recent years he’s taken a step backwards, and he’s now starting to hear it from Jerry Jones and the Cowboys brass. He’s being paid as a top-5 player at his position, and without swift improvement, they’ll be looking for a team willing to pick up such a contract.
Clearly, Bryant has struggled ever since the departure of Tony Romo, and he can’t seem to form a consistent rapport with Dak Prescott, who still figures to be the starter in 2018. If the Cowboys can find a willing bidder, Bryant very well could be out the door, and command a very nice return for Dallas to put to use.
8. Retire: Ben Roethlisberger
The rumors have been around for the past several years. Roethlisberger has been plagued by injury and to some degree, self-doubt over the past several seasons. With the Steelers sitting as the second-best team in the AFC for the playoffs, this seems to be the last hurrah for his career. At the very least, it’s unlikely that he’ll be set up well enough to win a Super Bowl, especially with the injury concerns.
He’ll be gunning for a Super Bowl this season, because he knows it’s his last chance. While nothing has been confirmed yet, expect to see Roehtlisberger walk away after the season is over. If you had to take a guess now, all the indications are that is what will end up happening, when it eventually comes time to make a decision.
7. Traded: Richard Sherman
There were rumblings last offseason about the Seahawks willing to trade Sherman, and after a season where so much uncertainty surrounded the team, there’s little reason for them to go away. The foundation that led Seattle to their postseason success in recent years seems to be crumbling beneath them, and they may opt to accumulate some draft picks, in order for some of their veterans to go to a surefire contender.
Sherman would definitely fit the bill. He’s still an upper-tier cornerback in the league, even if he’s out of his prime. You can bet that there would be offers on the table if Seattle wanted to go this route. Waiting another year or two could mean the difference in his value, and they desperately need to rebuild key aspects of their roster to compete with the best in the NFC at this juncture.
6. Retire: Kam Chancellor
The aforementioned problems of the Seahawks seem to have been exacerbated by some devastating injuries sustained by some of their best players in 2017. Head coach Pete Carroll recently brought to light the fact that Chancellor is facing an uphill battle to return to the league at all next season. That’s a huge loss for Seattle if that turns out to be the case. Chancellor has arguably been the best player on their defense for the past six years or so.
There really is no certifiable replacement for him. Seattle may want to go the route of a rebuild now, in order to accelerate the process. Without Chancellor, the secondary loses it’s lifeblood, and though Earl Thomas and Sherman (if he doesn’t get traded) are set to return, they’ve both dealt with injuries themselves over the past couple of seasons.
5. Traded: Teddy Bridgewater
The Vikings are in a quarterback conundrum at the moment, and they’re going to need to move some players around one way or another. Case Keenum’s play has turned a lot of heads, and Minnesota has to be considering giving him some kind of a contract extension. The team has won 13 games this year, and though they had a great defense, their offense has been efficient as well.
Bridgewater is fully healed from his injury, and still under contract for 2018, is a prime trade piece for a team that needs a quarterback. The Vikings may not want to risk any regression from him, and could ship him off for a mid-round pick in the offseason, only to re-sign Keenum for the next few years.
4. Retire: Frank Gore
It’s difficult to determine whether or not Gore will walk in the offseason, but if he does play again, it won’t be with the Colts. Now in his mid-30s, he has defied the odds and been able to be a lead NFL running back for over a decade. In his prime, he was one of the best players in the league, and has maintained consistency throughout the years.
So he’d have to go to a contender, but they would likely already have a go-to option out of the backfield. Would Gore be willing to take a cut in playing time to have a chance at a Super Bowl? It’s possible, but it’s also possible he hangs up the cleats, after years of abuse at the hands of NFL defenses.
3. Traded: Adrian Peterson
The Cardinals are going to have David Johnson back next season, and he’ll be the primary backfield option, no matter what. Peterson was certainly just a rental for Bruce Arians, and now that he’s gone there’s little reason to hold on to him. However, Peterson showed enough flashes that he’ll be of interest to a contending team.
With another year left on his current contract, he’ll most likely be traded as soon as the Cardinals have a plan in place for their new head coach. Peterson won’t command the greatest value, given that he’s squarely out of his prime, but he’s a revered name and can still contribute effectively to a winning team. We see him chasing a Super Bowl in New England.
2. Retire: Carson Palmer
With the news just coming around in recent days that Palmer will in fact retire, it marks the end of an era in Arizona, as head coach Bruce Arians is also walking out the door. It had to be expected, as Palmer’s been dealing with numerous injury issues over the last few seasons, and has regressed considerably. His departure means that the Cardinals will be searching for a definitive long-term quarterback option that can get them back into contention.
With Arians gone, the kind of quarterback who will take over the starting job is really up in the air. No longer does it need to be a gunslinger who’s first inclination is to throw deep. Perhaps Arizona will be looking at an option in the upcoming draft, or even consider trading up for Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen.
1. Traded: Eli Manning
The structural issues in New York could wind up seeing Manning out as the starting quarterback, even though Ben McAdoo is now gone as head coach. Everyone will recall McAdoo benching Manning for Geno Smith near the tail end of the season for one game, and he came under heavy criticism for it.
Despite McAdoo’s shortcomings as head coach, the reality is that Manning is past his prime, and offers very little upside this late in his career, to a roster that won a grand total of three games in 2017. The Giants have a 2nd-overall draft pick at their disposal, along with last year’s 3rd-round selection David Webb. Between those, there should be ample resources to field a younger quarterback with some upside in 2017.
Manning’s ties to the Jaguars are real because of the presence of Tom Coughlin, and it makes complete sense from a fit perspective. They’re a run-first team with a great defense, and Manning can use his experience to facilitate a playoff run. He’ll no longer be asked do it all in this scenario, but his veteran status will come in handy.
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