Now that the NFL regular season has concluded, some players have unfortunately played their final game with their current team.
The 2015 campaign saw former first-round draft picks embarrassingly alienated. Even worse, some top picks were stripped of their starting duties altogether. Then there are other players whose current contracts are in limbo or are ready to hit free agency.
A new environment may be just what the doctor ordered for these talented players to have a bounce-back 2016 season.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers was probably the last time we will see Griffin — in a uniform or plain clothes — as a member of the Washington football team.
With the #Redskins season over, they'll release RGIII. Just a matter of timing. Was important to owner Dan Snyder he be on the team all year
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 11, 2016
Reading the writing on the wall, Griffin cleaned out his locker leaving only an inspirational message behind.
After a terrific rookie season in 2012, he wound up on an injury-riddled road of demise that eventually landed Griffin as the third-string quarterback.
However, surely this is not the end of the road for the 25-year old quarterback who calmly sat back and watched Kirk Cousins take the starting job.
Griffin will be one of the most sought-after free-agent quarterbacks when he hits the open market. With several teams in need of upgraded backups, RGIII’s phone should be ringing with potential suitors.
The Houston Texans, for one, could benefit from Griffin’s talents. Brian Hoyer, who was simply dreadful in the Wild Card Round, is not a long-term answer. Just imagine what type of production Houston would get from DeAndre Hopkins with a better quarterback.
Or, how about the Cleveland Browns, who are up to their eyeballs in frustration with Johnny Manziel? What a refreshing change Griffin and his level-headed temperament and dedication would be for the organization.
And we cannot forget that old Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys need a better backup plan moving forward. RGIII fits this bill perfectly.
As the next months unfold, Griffin’s journey into free agency will certainly be one of the more exciting stories to follow.
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Boldin is set to hit free agency in 2016. During his past three years with the 49ers, he has proven to be one of the more productive veteran receivers in the NFL.
Unfortunately, due to the chaos at quarterback and San Francisco’s overall poor season, Boldin saw a drop in production. However, his 111 targets ranked him 25th among all the wide receivers. This was also well ahead of teammate Torrey Smith and his 62 targets.
At 35 years old, Boldin appears to have a few of more years of football left. Whether he attempts to remain with the 49ers or test the market is uncertain. But after the 49ers finished 2015 at the bottom of the NFC West, Boldin may opt for the latter option.
With other teams always in need of better receivers, Boldin should draw some interest. The New England Patriots could use a complement for Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.
Boldin would also be a tremendous asset to the Cowboys, who are simply lost when Dez Bryant is absent. And, Boldin’s former Baltimore Ravens could be a landing spot. The Ravens young receivers fell short last season after the loss of Steve Smith Sr. to injury.
If Boldin wants to finish his career in grand fashion, envisioning him catching passes from Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for a couple of more seasons.
Boldin — a tough red-zone threat with great hands — offers upside to any team not quite stocked at the receiver position.
Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers
The Chargers all but kicked their 2007 second-round draft pick out the door last December.
First, Weddle was placed on injured reserve and wasn’t allowed to travel to play in the team’s final game against the Denver Broncos in Week 17. After his IR designation, though, Weddle was spotted running sprints in practice to prove he was healthy and could have played.
The team further burned its bridges with the All-Pro by fining him. A couple of weeks before the end of the season, Weddle stayed on the field at halftime to watch his daughter perform with the cheerleaders. His reward for being a good daddy was a $10,000 fine.
For all of his recent hassles, Weddle said he likely won’t speak to the Chargers again.
Set to become a free agent and only 30 years old, Weddle will attract interest from several teams in need of a safety.
For starters, the New York Giants defense has glaring holes and could make a play for Weddle. Even worse than that wretched defense is the New Orleans Saints, which managed only nine interceptions in 2015.
The Oakland Raiders now have a vacancy left by the retiring Charles Woodson. It would be sweet revenge for Weddle to join one of San Diego’s AFC West rivals.
Over the course of Weddle’s successful nine-year career in San Diego, he tallied 680 solo tackles, 19 interceptions and had 74 defended passes. Where he lands will unfold soon enough.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
After playing for the Bears since they drafted him in 2008, Forte could be looking for a new home to finish his NFL career.
One of the NFL’s most durable running backs, Forte has been a sturdy rusher and reliable pass-catcher. During his eight-year tenure in Chicago, the versatile running back totaled 12,718 yards and 64 touchdowns.
With no contract negotiations in the works, the 30-year-old is aware that 2015 was probably his last season in Chicago. He isn’t sold on a short-term contract, either.
“Nobody wants to play on a one-year deal, especially with the uncertainty of how football is,” Forte said back in May. “You just figure, a guy who’s been there since day one, has put in hard work and continues to produce, that guy should be rewarded. But it’s a business, and that doesn’t always happen.”
Plus, the Bears are in good hands with 2015 draft pick Jeremy Langford. When he started for an injured Forte in a couple of games, Langford showed all the makings of a capable successor.
If Forte’s time in Chicago is up, the Patriots could benefit from his versatility. Other teams with lagging rush offenses like the Browns, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts could reach out to Forte, but the Patriots are by far the sexiest scenario.
Forte is sure to draw plenty of interest in free agency if Chicago officially decides to let him walk.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Kaepernick could find himself out on the market this spring depending on whom the 49ers hire as their new coach.
The quarterback stands to put a $16 million cap hit should San Francisco keep Kap aboard, according to Spotrac. Instead of keeping him, the team could build around Blaine Gabbert as the starter and his ultra-cheap $2.25 million price tag.
As for Kap with his incredible mobility and unique skillset, he’s not played in his last NFL game. Perhaps a change of scenery is what Kaepernick needs to rebound in 2016.
A previous article we featured detailed potential landing spots for Kaepernick. The teams we discussed include the Cowboys, Browns, St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles for many obvious reasons.
Dallas is in dire need of a backup and future leader, while Cleveland is a lost cause waiting for Johnny Manziel. The Rams could certainly do better than Case Keenum and Nick Foles, and the Eagles could use a mobile, durable quarterback who isn’t scared about getting injured when taking chances outside of the pocket.
We must keep in mind Kaepernick is still in his prime at just 28 years old. Plus, he did lead the 49ers on a Super Bowl run in 2013. There is no denying he can be a considerable improvement talent-wise for some teams.
Where Kaepernick could be headed should be one of the more entertaining offseason storylines.