NFL free agency and the draft are soon approaching. This will introduce a new class of rookies to the league as well as put some new faces in new places. When these events happen, the trickle-down results will be significant.
It’s inevitable that some rookies will oust veterans from their jobs. Meanwhile, players signed to new teams in free agency will threaten other guys’ jobs that aren’t exactly stable.
With moving and shifting soon to occur, here are 12 veterans who should be feeling nervous about their job security this fall.
Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill is expected to be the team’s starting quarterback, according to head coach Adam Gase. But after a bad season and barely escaping getting fired, Gase also said the Dolphins are considering drafting a quarterback with pick No. 11. It just so happens this year’s draft class is loaded with several noteworthy quarterbacks.
It is also worth mentioning that Tannehill has not played an official NFL game since December of 2016. So, he will attempt to keep his starting job after he scrapes off all of the rust. Back-to-back knee surgeries are not exactly easy to overcome. As a starter in Miami, the former first-rounder from 2012 boasts a 37-40 record.
Kyle Williams, defensive tackle, Buffalo Bills
Age and declining production should have Williams playing to save is NFL career this fall. Williams will be 35 in June and the Bills said they plan to have him back. But, the veteran will need to keep knocking on wood that he stays healthy as he competes against his younger teammates.
Williams’ sack count declined from five sacks in 2016 to just three last season. His combined tackles went down to 41 from 64 the year before, too. For now it is nice that the Bills have committed to Williams. Soon enough, we will see how much gas he still has in his tank. He was selected by Buffalo in the fifth round of the 2006 draft.
Lamar Miller, running back, Houston Texans
Currently, Miller should be worried about his starting job. He rushed for a career-low 3.7 yards per carry and scored only three rushing touchdowns in 2017. Fortunately, he added three scores through the air to offset those dismal stats.
But, if Miller continues to slip down the ranks when he begins competing with second-year rusher D’Onta Foreman, that would be troubling. Foreman outplayed Miller when he averaged 4.2 yards per carry on 78 attempts in 2017.
Miller has two more years left on his contract which will pay him $14 million total over this period. He would definitely become a candidate for early release should he be outpaced again by Foreman.
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, to be determined
Bridgewater has been out of the game for a long time and has not started since his 2015 campaign with the Minnesota Vikings. Though, as free agency inches closer, there should be some teams — the New York Jets for one — that will reach out to the 25-year-old quarterback.
Despite a grizzly knee injury that prevented him from playing for nearly two seasons, Bridgewater will enter free agency with no health restrictions. Should a team take a chance on him, Bridgewater will have to prove that he’s still starting quarterback material. He has a 17-11 record, but has also thrown 22 interceptions compared to just 28 passing touchdowns between 2014-17.
Dez Bryant, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys
Bryant’s current situation with his team is a sticky one to say the least. But, whether it is in Dallas that Bryant continues to play or another team this fall, he must revamp his game.
Across the board, Bryant’s numbers have taken a huge cliff dive since he signed a very lucrative extension with Dallas in 2015. He has not topped 1,000 yards or scored double-digit touchdowns since 2014.
If the Cowboys decide to make their finances work with Bryant and keep him around in 2018, he cannot have another lagging year. If he lands on a new team, Bryant has his work cut out to prove all of the doubters wrong.
NaVorro Bowman, linebacker, Oakland Raiders
After trade rumors surfaced, Bowman was released by the San Francisco 49ers and signed by the Oakland Raiders last October. There, he started in 10 games and recorded 38 combined tackles. Turning 30 later in March, the hope for Bowman is that he re-signs with the Raiders. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther says he wants Bowman back.
Provided this happens, Bowman needs to stay healthy. A nasty knee injury and an Achilles tendon injury forced Bowman to miss a total of 28 games between 2014-16. He will need a strong campaign to ensure he keeps his NFL career going beyond 2018.
Breshad Perriman, wide receiver Baltimore Ravens
To avoid being a bust, Perriman needs to shift out of neutral. In fact, general manager Ozzie Newsome said it is a “make or break” training camp for the former first-round pick, who has been a dreadful disappointment. Unfortunately, Perriman sat out injured his entire rookie year in 2015. Since then, in his 27 games on record, Perriman has recorded only 43 catches for 576 yards and three touchdowns.
He must make a complete 180 and prove he can be a trusted pass-catcher. Perriman caught only 28.6 percent of his 35 targets last year. That was downright awful.
Another poor season will be Perriman’s last with the Ravens when his contract expires after 2018.
Ameer Abdullah, running back, Detroit Lions
Lions fans’ patience is growing thin with Abdullah. He has yet to crack a 600-plus rushing-yard season and has scored only nine combined touchdowns in three years. He is not the lead back the Lions had hoped to get when they selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft. And last year, the Lions rushing offense ranked worst in the league.
Though, according to general manager Bob Quinn, the team has not given up on Abdullah. But he also said the team plans to add another running back. So, if Abdullah does not want to take a backseat to a newbie, he needs to sparkle in training camp. Another underwhelming campaign would leave Abdullah having to beg for a job in next year’s free agency.
Ereck Flowers, left tackle, New York Giants
The Giants’ ninth-overall pick from 2015 has struggled mightily since he was drafted. The likelihood the Giants make some offseason moves to enhance their offensive line remains strong. The team could bring in five new starters for its offensive line in 2018, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.
This would definitely place Flowers’ future with the Giants in jeopardy. He needs to better protect quarterback Eli Manning in the pocket. If he doesn’t, then his NFL future is very much up in the air. This will mark Flowers’ fourth season with the Giants.
Joe Flacco, quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
A couple of recent reports suggest the Ravens will “for sure” consider drafting a new quarterback as an eventual heir apparent to Flacco. The team has done “considerable work” studying the current quarterback class. This is not too surprising considering Flacco ranked 21st in passing yards (3,141) in 2017. There were even a few quarterbacks who did not play in all 16 games (as Flacco did) who passed for more yards.
Flacco’s awful season was head-scratching considering he had capable receivers in Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. Yet the pair combined for only seven touchdowns. If Flacco gets injured or off on the wrong foot again in 2018, the Ravens may look to an alternative solution.
DeSean Jackson, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs signed Jackson to quite the pricey contract last year, and he did not deliver well in his first season with Tampa Bay. Instead, he caught only 50 of his 90 targets for a total of 688 yards and three touchdowns. His 13.4 yards per reception was the lowest mark of his 10-year career.
Once offseason practices resume, Jackson will need to work on his chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston. We would like to think that 2017 was just a fluky season for Jackson. But should he fail to prove himself this year, it might indicate that the 31-year-old receiver is just getting washed up.
Case Keenum, quarterback, to be determined
We are not quite sure where Keenum will land once free agency kicks off on March 14. But, he will need to continue with his level of performance like we all witnessed last season with the Minnesota Vikings. When Keenum signs with a new team, he is going to receive a lucrative contract with the expectation he’ll perform at a high level.
Looking at last season, Keenum did very little wrong and established a 11-3 record while completing 67.6 percent of his passes. But if Keenum plays like he did in years past, it would spell disaster. Prior to his gig with the Vikings, Keenum sported a 9-15 record. And, his quarterback rating was under 80 with both the Houston Texans and Rams.
Keenum will have to prove to his new team that he is not a one-hit wonder.