The 2016 NFL regular season is nearly a thing of the past. Along the way, some new stars were born, but their rise to stardom left some veteran players the odd men out.
Furthermore, it was painfully obvious that some players did not perform to the best of their abilities, thanks to being thrust into less than fortunate circumstances. For some receivers, terrible quarterback play doomed their seasons. Some quarterbacks also drew the short end of the stick.
With that, we have come up with the following ten playmakers who could certainly use a change of scenery if afforded the opportunity.
1. Victor Cruz, wide receiver, New York Giants
Predictably, Cruz returned to regular season action the odd man out behind Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Sterling Shepard. On the season, Cruz has been targeted 68 times compared to 100 for Shepard and 162 for OJB.
Back in the day, Cruz was the featured receiver on the Giants’ offense. He saw no less than 122 targets per year between his star 2011-2013 seasons. Unfortunately, Cruz’s talents are wasting away while he constantly takes a backseat with his team nowadays.
Cruz has had his fair share of health-related issues, but those seem to be in the rear-view mirror now.
At 30 years-old, Cruz appears to still have plenty left to contribute to an offense lacking at true standout receiver. No. 80 catching passes from a quarterback such as Tennessee Titans Marcus Mariota or perhaps even young Jared Goff next year has a nice ring to it.
2. Tony Romo, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
From the sound of Romo’s concession speech from some weeks back, it appears he still wants to actively play football. This is not going to happen anytime soon on the watch of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott in Dallas.
So what are the options for the 36 year-old veteran? Provided Romo can stay healthy, he is certainly a viable quarterback choice for many other teams in need. If he chose to seek a trade or opt out of his contract with the Cowboys, the bidding war would begin.
Tony Romo is the answer … to the Jets quarterbacking situation in 2017. Dallas must stick with Dak.
— Jeff Pearlman (@jeffpearlman) December 12, 2016
The New York Jets for starters, would be an appealing option for Romo. He would inherit some great offensive playmakers to work with, right off the bat. Denver is another interesting spot which offers the high likelihood of seeing the postseason.
Another team name being floated about is the San Francisco 49ers, should Colin Kaepernick choose to depart. Lastly, the Cleveland Browns are always hiring. But, we really hope Romo wouldn’t sink to that level of desperation.
3. Todd Gurley, running back, Los Angeles Rams
Drafted with so much promise in 2015, Gurley now resides on the worst offense in the NFL. He simply has no shot to succeed handcuffed to the nightmare offensive line for which he plays behind on a weekly basis.
The Rams are averaging only 14.5 points per game. Often the team is playing from behind which leaves little time to establish a decent run game. Sadly, Gurley is averaging almost 30 less rushing yards per game than he accomplished in his rookie year. And, he has met the end zone just a half-dozen times.
Gurley has two more years left on his rookie contract after 2016. But, dreamers and fans of Gurley could certainly envision him on a team that needs an upgrade at running back. How sweet would it be to see Gurley suiting up in Packers’ green and gold each Sunday?
4. Kyle Rudolph, tight end, Minnesota Vikings
Rudolph is one of the best all-purpose tight ends in the league. It is just unfortunate he is saddled to one of the lowest-octane offenses in the league. He definitely could be a quarterback’s best friend on a team with a better passer who is more interested in attacking the deep middle.
Instead, Rudolph works with an offense that either depends on field goals for points, or prefers its flavor of the month wide receiver. On the season, Rudolph has 117 targets, but has caught only 61.5 percent of them for six touchdowns — much of his production coming in garbage time at the end of games.
Just imagine if Rudolph was an option for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. All these games that Rob Gronkowski has missed, Rudolph could have stepped up. The Pittsburgh Steelers would be a sweet option as well for the sixth-year tight end.
5. Randall Cobb, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have a lot of receiving mouths to feed. This was even more the case after the Packers lost running back Eddie Lacy back in October. Unfortunately, Cobb is the one who has gotten left out in the cold on more than one occasion. To date, he has started in just 10 of the 13 games for which he has participated.
When he is on the field, Cobb often gets overshadowed by Jordy Nelson, Devante Adams and even Ty Montgomery. Then there is Richard Rodgers, Jared Cook, James Starks, Aaron Ripkowski and even Aaron Rodgers himself, swooping in and stealing scores and opportunities for production.
To date, Cobb has scored only three times and has not had more than six catches in one game since Week 9. The unfortunate situation here is that Cobb is only two years into his lofty four-year, $40 million contract. An eventual change of scenery for Cobb might be the only way he will be ever be featured again in a dominant role.
6. Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
We mentioned Kap in this article earlier. It is not known at this time if he will remain with the 49ers next season. But, he definitely is a player who could use a change of scenery moving forward.
So much has gone downhill for Kaepernick since he competed in the Super Bowl in early 2014. For starters, he has played for three different head coaches in his last three seasons. The 49ers have also lost multiple key players during this stretch for various reasons. And, the final straw was Kap losing his starting job midway through last season.
He is back as the starter this year, but the romance is clearly dead. Looking forward to 2017, there are some clubs, including the aforementioned Broncos, that ought to consider Kaepernick as an option.
Equally, the 49ers are likely looking for a fresh change at the quarterback position, especially in light of general manager Trent Baalke’s recent admission he’s failed the team on this count.
7. DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver, Houston Texans
Hopkins is one of the most elite receivers in the league, and his Texans just clinched the AFC South. But boy, has he put up with some horrific quarterbacking along the way.
DeAndre Hopkins was targeted a season-high 17 times today – 15 of them after Tom Savage entered. Most times with Osweiler was 15. #Texans
— Greg Rajan (@GregRajan) December 19, 2016
Hopkins simply does not deserve to be part of a team whose newbie quarterback, Brock Osweiler, doesn’t spread enough love his way. The talented Pro-Bowler demands to be utilized better than what he’s endured this year.
Hopkins’ targets have drastically decreased since last year. He is on course to end 2016 with 149 targets versus the 192 he garnered last year. With just one game left to play, Hopkins has tallied only 831 yards and scored just four times.
This pales in comparison to his 1,521-yard, 11-touchdown 2015 season. If Hopkins continues to work with Osweiler next year, his numbers will consistently tank. And, that would be a sad waste for a receiver with so much to offer once game time rolls around.
Hopkins needs to be the featured receiver by a quarterback not afraid to throw his way on a weekly basis. Period. Maybe that quarterback is Tom Savage, but then where does that leave Osweiler and his $19 million cap hit next year?
8. Isaiah Crowell, running back, Cleveland Browns
Since his rookie season in 2014, Crowell’s yardage has steadily been on the rise. He is also shaping up quite well as one of the league’s more versatile running backs.
Crowell currently has 800 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns with just one game to go to add to those stats. He has also averaged a swift 4.5 yards on average per carry. On the receiving side, Crowell has caught 37 of his 49 targets equating to 303 receiving yards. These numbers are pretty impressive considering the world never knows who will wind up under center for the Browns come Sunday afternoons.
Crowell’s efforts are unfortunately muted by a team that just managed its very first win of the season in Week 16. This is ridiculous. A guy like Crowell could surely flourish into a top 10 running back if he resided on a team not destined to lose every single week — one that was not always playing from behind.
9. Jay Cutler, quarterback, Chicago Bears
Cutler’s 2016 season went off the tracks. Various injuries caused the veteran quarterback to miss several games, and IR was his final landing spot. With that, the Bears turned to the young Matt Barkley to start in Week 12.
Cutler is now on the mend from shoulder surgery and has surely not thrown his last pass. But it is likely he has done exactly that as a member of the Bears.
Besides losing Cutler, Chicago dealt with its own adversities this season. Multiple players were injured which would have likely hampered Cutler even if he had been able to play. When he did play this season, it was quite apparent that Cutler no longer had the chemistry he did last year.
A fabulous landing spot for Cutler would be with the floundering Jets. If he did end up in the Big Apple, then he would be reunited with his former teammates, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte.
10. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, wide receivers, Denver Broncos
Try as they might to get back to the Super Bowl this season, the Broncos slipped to third place in the AFC West and have been eliminated from playoff contention.
The Peyton Manning era is definitely over, and the Broncos had no other alternative than to rely on the young Trevor Siemian to lead the team in 2016. As a result, both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders watched their scoring production take a huge nosedive.
The duo has combined for just 10 touchdowns in 15 games. That’s a pretty awful stat considering the talent here. Overall, the Broncos offense overall ranks 26th in the league and has failed its fans on more than one occasion.
The interesting thing is, both receivers rank within the top 12 as far as targets go. Unfortunately, the 2,068 combined yards Thomas and Sanders have tallied have equated to very little points on the board.
Whether Siemian starts next season or the Broncos want to wing it with Paxton Lynch, both receivers will likely be in the same boat for a few years to come. That is, unless one or both jumps ship.