Now that the NFL offseason is here in full force, there’s a whole lot of rumors spreading around the league. Obviously, having the NFL’s 32 teams meet up in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine will add to these rumors. But it’s clear we’re on the verge of what should be a very active spring around the league.
We’ve already seen Pro Bowlers Alex Smith, Marcus Peters and Robert Quinn traded. Jimmy Garoppolo received the largest contract in NFL history with the San Francisco 49ers after just seven career starts. And that right there is where the noise is going to be around the league. Which teams are slated to go after top-end quarterback prospects in the coming draft? Who will land Kirk Cousins in free agency? Will the Philadelphia Eagles trade reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles?
We’re here to look at that and a whole lot more by checking in on one move each NFL team must make this offseason.
New England Patriots: Sign Frank Gore
Now that we know Gore won’t return to the Colts next season and plans on continuing what has been a Hall of Fame worthy career, the expectation is that he’ll latch on with a contender. What better spot than a Patriots squad that will have to look at free agency and the draft to add to its crop of running backs? Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead are slated to become free agents. After that, New England’s group of running backs combined for less than 150 rush attempts last season. Coming off his 12th consecutive 1,200-plus yard season, Gore would be a perfect fit for Tom Brady and Co.
Buffalo Bills: Trade up for a quarterback
It’a now not a foregone conclusion that the Bills will move on from quarterback Tyrod Taylor. In no way does this mean that he figures into the team’s long-term plans at that position. If last season taught us anything it’s that this team is not bullish on Taylor. It’s in this that Buffalo needs to find that quarterback of the future. Flush with the 21st and 22nd picks in April’s draft as well as two second-round selections, Buffalo has the capital to move up for a quarterback. Why not go out there and make a play for one of the top quarterbacks of the class? After all, the Bills’ brass is seemingly high on UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
New York Jets: Pony up for Kirk Cousins
We’ve read the reports. New York is willing to potentially hand Cousins $60 million in Year 1. The team could also hand the Pro Bowler the first fully guaranteed multi-year contract in league history. It obviously has not been a well kept secret that the Jets are intent on being in the Cousins’ sweepstakes. We’re here to say the team needs to go out there and make it happen. As we’ve seen with Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, and to a lesser extent, Jimmy Garoppolo, a team’s fortune can change on a dime if it’s able to add a franchise-caliber signal caller. Cousins would be that type of acquisition for the Jets.
Miami Dolphins: Somehow move Ndamukong Suh
It’s not that Suh has been a downright bust for the Dolphins. Instead, it’s all about the fact that he’s taking up way too much of the team’s cap capital. This coming season alone, Suh is set to account for 14 percent of the Dolphins’ cap. The issue here is that Miami would incur a $22.2 million dead cap hit by releasing Suh. Though, the team could designate him a post-June 1 cut and put off some of that hit to the 2019 season. A team that’s obviously void of talent elsewhere simply can’t be paying a defensive tackle this type of cash. Miami should have known this when it signed Suh to a six-year, $114 million deal back in 2015. But it now has an opportunity to right this wrong.
Philadelphia Eagles: Trade Nick Foles
It would be a risky move. Now that we know Carson Wentz isn’t guaranteed to be ready in Week 1 after suffering a torn ACL late last season, common logic seems to suggest the Eagles will hang on to the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Common logic also has a way of being a bit tricky in an NFL where starter-caliber quarterbacks are not a dime a dozen. The Eagles have noted that they will include Foles in any decision they make on him this offseason. And coming off a tremendous playoff run, he might actually want to start somewhere. It’s in this that the cash-strapped Eagles (worst cap situation in the NFL) can take $7.6 million off their 2018 cap while demanding a ransom in a trade for Foles. It just makes too much sense not to happen.
Dallas Cowboys: Trade Dez Bryant
It’s come to the point that reports from Dallas surrounding Bryant have become laughable. Owner Jerry Jones says one thing. His son, VP Stephen Jones, then plays bad cop by saying something completely different. What we do know is that Bryant is set to count $16.5 million against the cap next season. Dallas can save $8.5 million by releasing him. Given that the team will be over the salary cap once it places the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence, this situation has become untenable. Bryant is against the idea of taking a pay cut, but he’s not going to remain on the Cowboys without that happening. There’s also going to be no real trade market for Bryant under his current deal. It’s in this that Bryant must back off his current stance. In turn, the Cowboys should trade him to a team of his liking. It’s the only real end result here. Period.
Washington Redskins: Add a No. 1 receiver
Not only did Washington yield a third-round pick and a young starting defensive back for Alex Smith, the team doled out $23.5 million annually to the veteran quarterback with $71 million guaranteed. That’s what we’d call a major commitment. And based on said commitment, it’s time for the Redskins to use their limited resources to find Smith a true No. 1 receiver. If that means releasing Josh Norman to make room under the cap for a top-end free agent, so be it. It could also include Washington trading for Jarvis Landry or selecting a receiver in the first round of April’s draft. Either way, the time is now for Washington to give Smith that true No. 1 receiving option.
New York Giants: Draft Eli Manning’s successor
There’s now talk that the Giants might look to trade down from No. 2 with a quarterback-needy team. This is a clear indication that the team is bullish on the idea of Manning remaining its starting quarterback over the long term. That would be a major mistake. New York is too talented of a team to expect this golden opportunity to present itself moving forward. It’s not going to be selecting in the top five again any time soon. The time is surely now to add that franchise-type signal caller to sit behind Manning for the next year or two. As we’ve seen with other teams around the league, kicking the quarterback situation down that road has proven to be a mistake. Whether it’s Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, the Giants can avoid making this mistake by keeping an eye to the future in April.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Re-sign Allen Robinson
Now that the Jags have committed to Blake Bortles for 2018 (and potentially beyond), they must do everything in their power to retain his top receiver. That could include placing the franchise tag on Robinson or somehow coming to terms on a long-term deal. Either way, it’s something the team must look at as its top priority. Even after suffering a season-ending torn ACL in Week 1, the 24-year-old Robinson is a clear-cut No. 1 receiver in the NFL. He’ll be paid like it in free agency should the Jaguars let him test the market. Coming off an AFC Championship Game appearance, this is something Jacksonville cannot afford. It’s pretty simple. Retain Robinson at almost all cost.
Tennessee Titans: Sign Malcolm Butler
Adoree’ Jackson performed exceptionally well as a rookie for the Titans last season. Even then, Tennessee ranked in the bottom eight of the NFL against the pass in 2017. In order for the team to compete with Jacksonville in the AFC South moving forward, it needs to add an experienced cover corner to pair with Jackson. The Logan Ryan experiment didn’t work too swimmingly after they signed him from New England last year. Maybe the team should double down on a former Pro Bowl corner in Butler who is all but guaranteed to be leaving the Patriots in free agency. He would immediately become the Titans’ No. 1 corner, and could very well be that missing piece. Make it happen, Tennessee.
Houston Texans: Sign Carlos Hyde
Assuming Deshaun Watson returns to full health as a sophomore, the Texans are going to have tremendous skill-position group in 2018. That includes this young quarterback as well as Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Though, Houston would be well served upgrading at running back from a player in Lamar Miller who averaged just 3.7 yards per rush last season. Hyde should be that guy. It’s looking increasingly likely that the young running back will leave San Francisco in free agency. Coming off a season in which he put up nearly 1,300 total yards and 59 receptions, Hyde would be a major upgrade from Miller. It’s also important to note that the Texans would save nearly $5 million against the cap by releasing Miller.
Indianapolis Colts: Move down in the draft
We’ve heard both the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, picking one and two respectively, talk about the idea of trading down from their spots. Neither seems likely. And at this point, it would be a surprise if the Giants themselves took a quarterback at two (see our blurb on them). If that’s the case, Indianapolis could acquire a king’s ransom in a move down from three. With no need for a quarterback now that Andrew Luck is apparently set to return, Indy could take advantage of desperation from other teams to land a signal caller. And we all know this last-place squad needs upgrades all throughout the roster. It makes just too much sense.
New Orleans Saints: Trade for Michael Bennett
Now that Seattle has firmly placed Bennett on the trade block, multiple teams will come calling here. The one squad we see as the best fit is New Orleans. The idea of teaming Bennett up with All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan is almost too good to pass up. As much as Jordan dominated last season (13 sacks), not another member of the team put up more than 4.5. In order for the Saints’ defense to take that next step, they need to add more pass-rush options. Bennett is that. Maybe the team offers up Mark Ingram to the running back starved Seahawks as compensation.
Atlanta Falcons: Fire Steve Sarkisian
We might have already yawning crossed that Rubicon with Sark, but the Falcons surely have to be thinking that they made a mistake in hiring him to replace former offensive coordinator and current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. A year after putting up an NFL-best 33.8 points per game under Shanahan, Atlanta ranked in the middle of the pack at 22.1 points per game. That’s nearly a regression of a full two touchdowns per game. Sark doesn’t have it. One year at the helm in at Atlanta proves that. And with the Falcons likely set to make Matt Ryan the highest-paid player in the league, he surely deserves better than this.
Carolina Panthers: Sign Sammy Watkins
It’s not a secret that Carolina will be going after receiver help this offseason. The team has already made that clear. Whether it comes in the draft, a trade, free agency, or a combination of the three, this definitely needs to happen. Having running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end Greg Olsen as his top two receiving options just doesn’t make sense for former MVP Cam Newton. So now, the Panthers hit free agency to add a high-upside and still young 24-year-old Watkins in free agency. Sure he struggled with Jared Goff last season in Los Angeles. Watkins is also seemingly injury prone. That doesn’t mean he lacks the talent to be a go-to guy. A change of scenery to Carolina could do the former first-round pick wonders here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Draft Saquon Barkley
It’s time for the Buccaneers to give struggling quarterback Jameis Winston some help on offense. At this point, it’s readily apparent that the former No. 1 pick is not going to succeed in a pass-happy offense. He’s never going to be of the Drew Brees or Tom Brady ilk. That’s clear. The sooner Tampa Bay recognizes this the better. Selecting seventh overall, it’s not yet known whether Barkley will even be available when the Bucs are on the clock. His brilliant combine performance leads us to believe he won’t be. We’re here to say the team should consider moving up into the top five to acquire his services. Not only will Barkley make a huge impact in the running game to create balance on offense, he’s among the best receiving backs that has come down the pike in some time. Add him to this offense, and Winston should thrive.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Get Le’Veon Bell signed long term
It’s rather simple here. Pittsburgh can’t afford to continue kicking the Bell’ contract situation down the line. It needs to either sign the All-Pro running back long term or trade him to a team that’s willing to make that entire commitment. Short of a squad like San Francisco offering up a top-10 pick, a trade seems highly unlikely here. Instead, the Steelers need to bite the bullet and make Bell the highest-paid running back in NFL history. Here’s a dude that has put up over 3,800 total yards over the past two seasons, accounting for 32 percent of the team’s yards during that span. He’s as valuable as a quarterback to the team. And it’s high time the Steelers recognize this by offering him a contract that will effectively reshape the running back market around the NFL.
Baltimore Ravens: Draft Joe Flacco’s successor
Since leading the team to a surprising Super Bowl victory back in 2012, Flacco just has not been a starter-caliber quarterback in the NFL. He’s posted a 38-36 record with 74 interceptions in as many starts during that span. Last season alone, Flacco threw for a substandard 3,141 total yards with just 18 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions. Folks, those just aren’t good numbers. Sure the team might be looking to add more playmakers on offense. And that’s needed. But it’s also time for Baltimore to think about drafting an eventual replacement for Flacco. He’s 33 years old and set to count north of $104 million against the cap over the next four seasons. We’re not saying Baltimore should use a first-round pick on an eventual successor. But a Day 2 selection should definitely be part of the team’s thought process here.
Cincinnati Bengals: Replace Andy Dalton with A.J. McCarron
It might not be the most popular move. Heck, there’s no guarantee that McCarron would even re-sign with the Bengals if given the opportunity to start. But given that Cincinnati has decided to keep Marvin Lewis as head coach, something else needs to change here. Lewis should have never been given an extension. That’s now a thing of the past. At this point, it should be all about moving on from Dalton under center. He’s 0-4 a a starter in the postseason with one touchdown and six picks. He’s led the Bengals to unflattering finishes each of the past two seasons. Oh, and did we mention that Cincinnati can save $14 million against the cap by releasing Dalton? Heck, other team might be interested in trading for him. We know the Bengals have valued McCarron in the past. Why not bite the bullet and turn the starting job over to him?
Cleveland Browns: Bite the bullet, go quarterback
There’s now speculation that Cleveland will listen to offers for the first overall pick in April’s draft. Listening to offers and actually making a trade are two different things. Having put themselves in a position to miss out on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in the past two drafts, the fledgling Browns simply can’t pass up on the opportunity to select a quarterback No. 1 overall in April. Whether it’s Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield, the team needs to bite that bullet in order to move forward with what still looks to be a lengthy rebuild. The time is now, and new GM John Dorsey can’t screw the pooch here.
Minnesota Vikings: Re-sign Case Keenum
It’s looking less and less likely that Keenum will return to the Vikings after a career performance this past season. In fact, one recent report suggests that Sam Bradford is more likely to re-sign. Meanwhile, it’s a common belief around NFL circles that the Vikings are favored to land Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins. But why? Cousins will come in at north of $30 million annually. Depending on his market in free agency, Keenum will likely come in $10-plus million less annually than Cousins. With one of the best young running backs in the game (Dalvin Cook) and a beastly defense, the Vikings don’t need to use this much cap space on a quarterback. After all, Keenum did lead the team to the NFC Championship Game last season. Re-sign him. Period.
Detroit Lions: Add a first-round running back
After finishing dead least in the NFL in rushing last season, it’s obvious Detroit needs to find itself a three-down back. In fact, this team has not had a 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush topped that total on Thanksgiving Day back in 2013. That’s just really bad. Picking 20th overall, Saquon Barkley won’t be an option for the Lions. It’s also possible that LSU’s Derrius Guice will be off the board. Even then, the Lions have to think long and hard about adding either Ronald Jones III or Sony Michel to the mix with that pick. Heck, a trade up for Guice could be in the cards here. Boasting the NFL’s second-richest quarterback, it’s time the Lions give Matthew Stafford some help.
Green Bay Packers: Sign Trumaine Johnson
New Packers general manger Brian Gutekunst has made it clear that they will be more aggressive in free agency. It’s now time for the money to do the talking. The team simply cannot have sustainable success in the NFC with Aaron Rodgers being such an important figure. We saw that first-hand last season when he went down to injury. Adding a running back could be in the cards here. Some more protection for Rodgers makes sense, too. But the Packers’ secondary was a complete and utter disaster last season. As the best cornerback on the market, Green Bay must pony up what promises to be $15-plus million per season for Johnson.
Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley in the top 10
The Bears are assuredly going to go out there and get young quarterback Mitch Trubisky weapons this offseason. They didn’t bring in an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy to watch the second-year signal caller throw to a collection of scrubs in Chicago. It sounds harsh, but it also couldn’t be any more true. Sure Chicago will look to the veteran market for a receiver. The team has already been linked to Jarvis Landry in a trade. Even if that were to happen, GM Ryan Pace and Co. should double down in the draft at this position. That’s where a pro-ready Calvin Ridley comes into play. He might only be 6-foot and not boast true breakaway speed. But here’s a guy that catches almost everything thrown in his direction. He’s also the best pure route runner of the 2018 NFL Draft. Adding someone of Ridley’s ilk would enable Trubisky to progress leaps and bounds this coming season.
Kansas City Chiefs: Trade Eric Berry
We’re already seeing a mass exodus of veterans from the defending AFC West champs. Both Alex Smith and Marcus Peters have been moved. Kansas City also released former Pro Bowler Derrick Johnson and will do the same with Tamba Hali here soon. If the Chiefs are intent on getting younger on defense, they then need to move on from Berry as well. The idea here would be to get something in return while the former All-Pro still boasts trades value. It would also enable Berry to latch on with a team that seemingly has a better opportunity at contending for a Super Bowl next season. While his tenure in Kansas City has been defined by stellar on-field performances and a miraculous comeback from cancer, Berry isn’t in the team’s long-term plans. It’s time for the two sides to divorce.
Los Angeles Chargers: Sign Derrick Johnson
Not only would this fill a need at inside linebacker for the Chargers, it would be adding one of the best players in modern Kansas City Chiefs history to the roster of a division rival. We fully expect the up-and-coming Chargers to add a linebacker in the draft. But Johnson would be a tremendous short-term option for this team. Even at the relatively advanced age of 35, Johnson is still a productive player at this stage in his career. Last season saw him record 71 tackles, seven passes defended and a forced fumble in a Pro Bowl caliber performance. Bringing him on to a defense that yielded the third-fewest points in the NFL last season would be a boon for the Chargers.
Oakland Raiders: Sign Kyle Fuller
It’s safe to say that Oakland is going to do everything in its power to add multiple starter caliber defensive backs during the spring. It will likely come in combination free agent signings, trades and the draft. We’ve already linked Richard Sherman to the Raiders for obvious reasons. But if GM Reggie McKenzie and Co. don’t want to look for a short-term option, Fuller could very well be the way to go. A former first-round pick out of Virginia Tech, Fuller struggled through his first three NFL seasons. But he came on big time for the Bears this past year, recording 68 tackles and 22 passes defended in a Pro Bowl caliber performance. Fuller won’t come cheap. That’s for sure. He would, however, change the entire dynamic of the Raiders’ pass defense after this unit struggled a great deal in 2017.
Denver Broncos: Draft Baker Mayfield
It’s safe to say that Denver is going all in on Kirk Cousins. That’s fine. It makes sense. The issue here is that John Elway and Co. might not have the capital to expend on Cousins while keeping the core of this team together. In reality, both the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings are in better positions to pay Cousins what the market says he’s worth. We also know that Elway might not want to double down on a first-round quarterback for the second time in three years after the entire Paxton Lynch debacle. Even then, the status quo is not working for Denver. Given that Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold will be off the board by the time Denver picks at fifth overall, Mayfield makes the most sense. He’s as pro ready as they come and would become an immediate rock star in Denver with an outgoing personality and fun style of play. Why not make that splash and add that quarterback who can solve this team’s issues under center?
Los Angeles Rams: Extend Aaron Donald
The Rams have a lot of decisions to make over the relatively short term. That includes thinking about extensions for the Pro Bowl backfield of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. It also means potentially extending the recently acquired Marcus Peters. This is a whole lot of cash the team is set to dole out to three players moving forward. But Donald himself should take precedence. He held out throughout the preseason last year for a new contract and is set to earn a mere $6.9 million in the final year of his rookie contract. As the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Donald deserves a whole heck of a lot more. In fact, he deserves to be the highest-paid defender in the NFL with a total contract worth north of $100 million. It’s time for GM Les Snead and Co. to make it right. Period.
Seattle Seahawks: Move on from the Legion of Boom
There’s some conflicting information out there regarding the status of Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. Thomas himself has said he’d like to play for his hometown Cowboys. He’s also seeking an extension. Seattle has reportedly placed Sherman on the trade block, which could be complicated by injury. Meanwhile, head coach Pete Carroll has openly questioned whether Chancellor will be able to return from a neck injury. We’re here to say Seattle should move on from all three in addition to Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. That would save the Hawks about $30 million in cap room and enable the team to move forward with Russell Wilson as the face of the franchise. The time is now to move on from this era. Get Wilson more assets on offense. Get younger on defense. And remain competitive after missing out on the playoffs last season.
Arizona Cardinals: Trade for Nick Foles
We focused on Philadelphia needing to trade Foles as a way for the team to capitalize on his postseason success. If that were to come to fruition, the Cardinals should be the first team to come calling. The need here is real following the retirement of Carson Palmer. And with a roster that’s capable of competing in an increasingly difficult NFC West, relying on a rookie makes no real sense. Foles could come in and be both the short-term and long-term option in the desert. It’s a move the Cardinals must think long and hard about making. Pure conjecture here, but they could even offer up Tyrann Mathieu as trade bait. After all, Arizona’s front office doesn’t seem sold on the defensive back long term.
San Francisco 49ers: Sign Andrew Norwell
San Francisco could go a number of directions in free agency. Should he hit the open market, Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson might be a nice option to pair up with Garoppolo. The 49ers also showed interest in trading for corner Marcus Peters, meaning they could be interested in either Malcolm Butler or Trumaine Johnson. But in reality, a signing of this magnitude would be absolutely huge for the 49ers and their franchise signal caller. Norwell has performed like a top-three guard in the NFL with Carolina over the past several seasons. He would immediately strengthen what was a weak interior of the 49ers offensive line last season. After investing in Garoppolo, it only makes sense to give him more help in pass protection. Norwell would be that guy at guard, helping out in the running game in the process.