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NFL teams are constantly in motion. Moves are always being made—even in the offseason.
Players are being added and jettisoned. Offensive and defensive schemes are being tweaked. Players are jockeying up and down draft charts.
In Cleveland, that’s called Tuesday morning.
Whether it’s the Browns taking a buzzsaw to a tomato can or the Philadelphia Eagles making a tweak or two to a championship roster, every team is making multiple changes this offseason.
Whether pretender or contender, every franchise, from Phoenix to Boston and all points in between, has at least one more move it should make before games start to count in September.
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Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
By all accounts, Josh Rosen has shone from the moment he set foot on the practice field for the Arizona Cardinals. While appearing on The Rich Eisen Show (via Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com), Pro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson raved about the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft.
“I’m very impressed,” Peterson said earlier this month. “To see [Rosen] make checks and get guys in line early, I was like, ‘Has this guy been here before?’ I was very, very impressed of his spring camp, minicamp, OTAs. He’s just been extremely sharp.”
If this trend continues into training camp, the future is now for the Cardinals, and Rosen should be under center in Week 1.
We know who Sam Bradford is: a bridge veteran who will all but certainly get injured at some point in the season. Arizona brought him in just as a stopgap.
So far, it doesn’t appear the team needs that bridge. This isn’t to say that Rosen will take the NFL by storm as a rookie, but some young quarterbacks learn best by doing.
It worked for Carson Wentz.
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Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press
Two years ago, the Atlanta Falcons were an offensive juggernaut and a Super Bowl team. Last season, they were good offensively but not great. They got bounced from the playoffs in the divisional round.
The personnel were essentially the same. But under first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the offense was both less consistent and explosive (it dropped from second in the league to eighth). Per Matthew Tabeek of the team’s website, Sarkisian is looking for a big improvement in 2018:
“I think the biggest thing for me is just overall comfort level. When I came in a year ago, it was learning the system that was in place. It was learning the players that were in place. In Year 2, I have a year in the system. Now I can make some of the tweaks that I feel like are needed for this offense to continue to grow.”
With an MVP quarterback in Matt Ryan, one of the NFL’s best receivers in Julio Jones and a two-headed monster at tailback in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman—plus a first-round rookie wideout in Calvin Ridley—the pieces appear to be in place for a prolific, high-octane offense.
Sarkisian needs to channel his inner Kyle Shanahan and open things up. Spread the field. Attack vertically. And then use those backs and Ridley to exploit the holes that creates underneath.
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Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
Were rookie Lamar Jackson more NFL-ready, the title of this slide would be “Bench Joe Flacco.”
Joe Flacco led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory and had one of the greatest playoff runs by a quarterback in NFL history—in 2012.
Since then, the Ravens have made the playoffs once in five seasons. That’s also how many times Flacco has thrown for 4,000 yards. Last year, he barely cleared 3,000 and tossed just 18 touchdown passes against 13 picks.
Flacco was never a great quarterback. His career passer rating is 84.1. But now he’s not even a good one. Supporters will point to a lack of options in the passing game, but even with that figured in, it’s not a good look when you see Flacco hasn’t cleared 3,200 passing yards or 20 touchdowns in two of the past three years.
Given that the Ravens have paid him approximately 171 jillion dollars, I think they’re even. Baltimore knows where it’s going with Flacco. Around .500 and another campaign over at New Year’s.
Is Jackson ready to play now? Probably not. But the Ravens should give him time with the starters in training camp and the preseason to see how close he is.
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Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press
Right now, the Buffalo Bills have a three-way race to start at quarterback.
There’s AJ McCarron, the former Cincinnati Bengals backup Buffalo brought in as insurance in free agency after it traded Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland.
There’s second-year pro Nathan Peterman, he of the five-interception debut as a starter that necessitated said insurance policy.
And then there’s rookie Josh Allen, whom the Bills traded up to grab at No. 7 overall this year.
Per ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak, Peterman was the one who (surprisingly) stole the show in minicamp and OTAs. There’s little doubt that Allen is (they hope) the future of the franchise.
Given that, it’s time for the Bills to start shopping a player they just signed a few months ago.
This team isn’t making the playoffs in 2018 no matter who is under center. It’s a season of building for the future. If Peterman’s at all capable, there’s no reason to keep McCarron.
All it will take is one camp injury to a quarterback for McCarron’s two-year, $10 million deal to start looking really good to a QB-needy franchise.
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Bill Feig/Associated Press
The Carolina Panthers were a playoff team in 2017 thanks in large part to a defense that ranked seventh in the NFL at 317.1 yards allowed per game.
However, it doesn’t take long to figure out the weak spot on that side of the ball. Carolina’s starting safeties are Mike Adams (who is 37 and one of the league’s oldest defenders ) and Da’Norris Searcy, a journeyman who didn’t come close to living up to his contract before the Tennessee Titans cut him in March.
If only there was another option—say, a former first-round pick with experience at multiple positions who is smack in the prime of his career.
Granted, Kenny Vaccaro will probably never justify that Round 1 pick in 2013. But the 27-year-old has eight career interceptions and racked up 104 total tackles the last time he played in all 16 games (2015).
Vaccaro’s no world-beater, but he’s better than what the Panthers have now. He also played his entire career for an NFC South division rival, meaning he may have an insight or two about the tendencies of his old mates in New Orleans.
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Paul Sancya/Associated Press
Oh, stop groaning.
Lamarr Houston was never quite the pass-rusher the Chicago Bears hoped he would be. After posting eight sacks in 2015, Houston tore his ACL and missed most of the following season. The Bears let him go last September, and the Houston Texans signed him before waiving him in November. Lammar finished the year in Chicago and is now a free agent.
The thing is, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Bears to consider hopping on the carousel one more time with the 31-year-old.
The outside linebacker position is easily the weak link of the Chicago’s defense—and that’s if Leonard Floyd takes another step forward in 2018. Consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks could be hard to come by—in an NFC North division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and now Kirk Cousins.
For what it’s worth, Houston had four sacks in five games with the Bears in 2017, and he knows the system. Floyd had 4.5 in 10.
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John Minchillo/Associated Press
In a perfect world, the Bengals would make another move to shore up the offensive line. But the world, much like the team’s offensive front, is far from perfect. The free-agent linemen still available are so for a reason, and swinging a trade for one is nigh-impossible without wildly overpaying.
Instead, Cincinnati should try to buy extra time for Andy Dalton by establishing a more consistent rushing attack.
As Jay Morrison wrote for the Dayton Daily News, Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor believes Joe Mixon has all the tools necessary to be a complete tailback.
“The thing I wanted to challenge Joe to be is a complete back, to be able to do everything,” Lazor said. “And I think he has the talent to do that. He has the smarts to do it. He wants to do it. So that’s his challenge.”
Cincinnati needs Mixon to be that—and it has to give him a chance to do so.
Giovani Bernard is a fine third-down back, but a lack of continuity is part of the reason the Bengals had the worst rushing offense in the AFC last season (85.4 yards per game). It was Mixon, then Bernard, then Jeremy Hill, then Bernard and then Mixon. The running game lurched all over the place.
Get Mixon a steady diet of touches, and things will improve. Watch.
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Tony Dejak/Associated Press
Yes, you read that right.
This one won’t happen in August. Instead, the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchise will get through its appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks, parlay that publicity into hopes of a big-time turnaround in 2018 and then fire Jackson in November after things have degenerated into another 0-9 embarrassment.
Yes, the Browns are a better team on paper this year. But they’re led by the NFL’s worst head coach—a coach who won one game in two years and then patted himself on the back for it.
No, really—he did.
By any objective measure, Jackson has been horrible in Cleveland. There isn’t a single thing he’s done well. The play-calling. The clock management. The development of young players.
Bad. Worse. Worser.
The man made “worser” a word.
Jackson never should have been brought back for what will almost certainly be one last campaign of futility.
But it’s not too late. Cut him loose. Elevate Todd Haley to head coach—he can’t possibly be worse(r).
Give the folks watching HBO a real plot twist to chew on.
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Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
Stop looking at me like that.
With Peterson still looking for work as training camps near, the idea is being kicked around again.
The wild thing about the idea? It’s not that out there.
Obviously, Peterson wouldn’t start in Dallas. For most of 2017 with the Cardinals and New Orleans Saints, he looked his age, averaging just 3.4 yards a carry.
But the 33-year-old peeled off a couple of big games, showing that he could at least take some of the pressure off Ezekiel Elliott. The sledding should be that much easier given Dallas’ dominant offensive line, and Rod Smith could handle passing-down work.
Frankly, this is a move that would make a bigger splash publicity-wise than on the field.
But team owner Jerry Jones has never been shy about making headlines before, and Peterson could help if he’s willing to play second fiddle to Zeke.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
As ESPN’s Jeff Legwold reported, rookie Royce Freeman said he feels good about his chances of winning the lead tailback job for the Denver Broncos in 2018.
“I feel good about competing,” Freeman said. “You just compete, and they’ll make the best decision.”
Freeman should feel good. Because if head coach Vance Joseph and Company do make the “best decision,” he will be the guy.
The thing about incumbent Devontae Booker is that he’s, well, Devontae Booker. In two seasons, he has averaged a whopping 3.6 yards per carry. He’s also fumbled six times in 253 carries.
Those numbers are not good.
Freeman isn’t a guaranteed can’t-miss prospect. He started to wear down a little under a heavy workload late in his career with the Oregon Ducks.
But he also has a featured-back skill set and is a more talented runner than Booker.
If quaterback Case Keenum is going to succeed in Denver, he’s going to need a semblance of offensive balance.
Freeman is his best chance of getting it.
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Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Things are changing defensively for the Detroit Lions under new head coach Matt Patricia, with lots of multiple fronts and new wrinkles.
However, there’s a problem. The team is short on proven pass-rushers not named Ezekiel Ansah, and finding help in that regard this late in the summer is not easy.
There is one name that should interest the Lions, though.
Connor Barwin isn’t going to suddenly morph back into the player who piled up 14.5 sacks for the Eagles in 2014. That was a one-shot deal—he has just 17 sacks over the last three seasons combined.
But the 31-year-old has experience playing with his hand in the ground and coming off the edge, he’s a solid run defender, and he tallied five or more sacks in each of those three years.
He is a steady veteran presence who would help Detroit defensively, and the snaps he’d see in Motown are probably the best deal he’s going to get.
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Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
There’s been plenty of speculation concerning Dez Bryant and the Green Bay Packers—almost from the moment the Cowboys released him.
Bryant himself downplayed the idea, saying, per Will Brinson of CBS Sports: “It wouldn’t seem right. Too much history.”
However, three months of languishing on the open market may have altered that thinking.
Bryant isn’t going to get big money in Titletown. The Packers aren’t going to get the wide receiver who had over 1,200 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns three years running from 2012-14.
But Bryant would get the opportunity both to play with arguably the NFL’s best quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and re-establish his value, as football reporter Ed Werder noted he wants to do.
A Packers team that fashions itself a Super Bowl contender would get an upgrade at the third receiver spot and a dangerous red-zone threat.
It’s a win-win.
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David J. Phillip/Associated Press
As John McClain reported for the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are playing musical chairs defensively with starting strong safety Andre Hall out indefinitely while receiving treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. Veteran cornerback Kareem Jackson will move to safety and try to win the starting job in Hall’s stead.
Having a versatile veteran in the secondary isn’t a bad thing in today’s pass-wacky NFL, but there’s another option.
Rookie safety Justin Reid has the physicality to hold up at the point of attack and the wheels to hold his own in coverage. He’s also more familiar with NFL coverages and concepts than the average youngster thanks to years of bending brother Eric Reid’s ear.
As the Texans move into training came, they are going to see the same thing that led them to draft Reid in the first place: The kid can play.
Jackson can serve as a reserve chesspiece in sub-packages.
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Per Over the Cap, only one team has more salary-cap space available than the Indianapolis Colts, who are sitting on over $51 million in wiggle room.
Some of that needs to be spent this summer on late patches to a leaky defense that ranked 30th in the NFL last year.
There isn’t an area of the Colts D that doesn’t need help. Indy is lacking proven pass-rushers as it transitions to a four-man defensive front. The linebacker corps is one huge question mark. The secondary consists of safety Malik Hooker (who is returning from a major injury) and…well…
Whether it’s a veteran defensive end such as Robert Ayers or Charles Johnson, a linebacker like NaVorro Bowman or Lawrence Timmons, a cornerback like Sean Smith or Adam Jones or strong safety help from someone such as Quintin Demps or Vaccaro, the Colts need experience defensively almost as badly as they need talent.
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John Raoux/Associated Press
We live in world where the Jacksonville Jaguars are a Super Bowl contender with a depth chart at quarterback topped by Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler.
That may be the most surreal sentence I have ever typed.
It won’t take much for the Jaguars’ dreams to come crashing down though. The Jaguars made it to the AFC Championship Game last year in spite of Bortles, not because of him. And if Bortles gets hurt or struggles and Kessler sees the field? Well, let’s just say fans may start reminiscing…about Blaine Gabbert.
The answer to this problem isn’t likely to be found on the open market. Matt Moore and T.J. Yates may have more experience than Kessler, but neither is significantly better.
But as training camp progresses, it’s possible that a veteran arm or two could become available, whether it’s AJ McCarron or Teddy Bridgewater.
If one does, the Jaguars need to pounce.
See what I did there?
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Denis Poroy/Associated Press
News flash: The Kansas City Chiefs need cornerback help.
Kendall Fuller (who was obtained in the trade that sent Alex Smith to Washington) is a promising young defensive back, but after dealing Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams, the rest of Kansas City’s corners are a who’s who of “who?”
Given that Kansas City was 29th in pass defense with Peters in 2017, this has the makings of a big-time problem for a Chiefs team looking to repeat as division champs despite a ton of roster turnover.
Bashaud Breeland isn’t going to magically fix the secondary. He a lot closer to “capable” than “superstar” on the talent scale. But he’s good enough that the Carolina Panthers were going to give him $24 million over three seasons before a failed physical nixed the deal.
Assuming that Breeland can pass a physical now (or soon), he isn’t going to cost a Chiefs team short on cap space all that much.
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Denis Poroy/Associated Press
As Herbie Teope reported for NFL.com, LaDainian Tomlinson told SiriusXM Radio that he thinks it’s Chargers or bust for 38-year-old tight end Antonio Gates.
“I believe the only place Antonio wants to play is the Chargers,” Tomlinson said. “I think he has the mind frame of, ‘If I go play, it’s gonna be for the Chargers. If it’s not the Chargers, then I’m good; I won’t play.'”
Granted, it would be a bit awkward for the Chargers to bring Gates back months after moving on from the veteran. But the Chargers made that move before Hunter Henry became the latest victim of L.A.’s seemingly annual litany of injuries.
With Henry now out for the season with a torn ACL, the Chargers are woefully thin at tight end.
And while Gates isn’t close to the talent he was back in his dominant heyday, but he’s still a threat in the red zone.
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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
This one may well get done. As Lindsey Thiry reported for ESPN.com, Rams head coach Sean McVay said the team remains in contract talks with Aaron Donald, its best defensive player, who didn’t attend minicamp.
“He’s in a good place,” McVay said. “Would we want him to be here? Yeah, we’d love to have Aaron here, but it’s kind of the same where it’s been, where we’re just focusing on the guys that are here, but we’re also in constant dialogue with Aaron and his group and would like to come to a solution.”
The mini holdout is a repeat of last year, and missing some workouts didn’t appear to hurt Donald in 2017, when he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
And to be fair, the Rams hold most of the cards here. Donald isn’t going to sacrifice a year of service time with unrestricted free agency looming next year. The Rams could always slap the franchise tag on Donald in 2019.
But a Rams club with Super Bowl aspirations this year doesn’t need an unnecessary distraction.
Give Donald approximately all the money ever and move on.
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Adrian Kraus/Associated Press
Believe it or not, Stephone Anthony was once a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints. And he led them in tackles as a rookie.
From there, the bottom fell out. Anthony got hurt, was moved all over the Saints defense, demoted and then finally traded to the Dolphins for a gently-used toaster.
Per Mike Persak of the Sun-Sentinel, Anthony’s ready to take advantage of what may be his last good chance to start in the NFL.
“I think whenever the opportunity comes or whatever opportunity is presented to me, it’s my job to take advantage of it,” Anthony said. “So whatever it is, whether the coach needs me to play 100 plays or 15 plays, it’s my job to get it done.”
Anthony’s experience should afford him an edge over Jerome Baker and Terence Garvin on the strong side—a position he’s played at the professional level.
Give him the reps he needs to get comfortable. He’s the best bet there.
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Jim Mone/Associated Press
The Minnesota Vikings are one of the tougher calls on this list. They don’t have a ton of glaring weaknesses or outstanding contract issues.
Stefon Diggs will get paid at some point. Anthony Barr will too, but probably by another team.
Next year, cornerback Trae Waynes will join the list. The Vikings have already picked up Waynes’ 2019 option, but decision time on an extension isn’t far off.
A couple years ago, it looked like Waynes would be a hard pass as he struggled early in his career. But he’s gotten better over the last couple of seasons. Not Xavier Rhodes better, mind you, but not cat food, either.
Given that the Vikings used a Round 1 pick on a corner again in 2018 (UCF’s Mike Hughes), it looks like they aren’t sure Waynes is a keeper yet either.
There’s one way to find out. Open the competition up in camp. No edge for the veteran. If Waynes can’t beat out a rookie, he isn’t worth $12 million (or more) a season.
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D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press
No team in the NFL is as good as the New England Patriots at maintaining a high level of success despite roster turnover. The faces in the band change, but the song remains the same.
That capability is being put to the test at wide receiver in 2018. Not only was Brandin Cooks traded, but Julian Edelman will miss the first four weeks of the 2018 season due to a PED suspension. The team signed a couple of free agents in Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson, but neither of those additions elicited oohs and ahhs from the fan base.
Frankly, there aren’t any impact free-agent receivers who will available at this point. But there are a couple possibilities worth exploring anyway.
The pair would offer Tom Brady at least a dependable set of hands while Edelman’s out, though.
In turn, they get to win—they just can’t have any fun while doing it.
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AJ Mast/Associated Press
This one isn’t especially likely. Per Christopher Dabe of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the New Orleans Saints already offered DeMarco Murray the chance to come in and work out as part of a group of veteran tailbacks.
Murray passed, ostensibly because he thinks there’s a larger role out there for him with another team. Now that another month has passed without Murray finding a home, that attitude may have softened.
Serving as a placeholder for the suspended Mark Ingram might not be what Murray has in mind for his eighth year in the NFL, but such is the fate of many an aging running back—especially one who averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last year.
If Murray’s right and he has tread left, the Saints will get him the ball even once Ingram is back. If he’s not, he’ll at least get to ride out the year on a winning team. Meanwhile, the Saints get some veteran insurance against an injury to Ingram or Alvin Kamara, or coming out of the gate slow in a division from which three teams made the postseason in 2017.
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Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
The New York Giants could be set for a quick turnaround. The team isn’t as bad as last year’s record, which landed the team the second overall draft pick and tailback Saquon Barkley.
But the Giants’ 31st-ranked pass defense could be the biggest thing standing in the way of that rebound. They didn’t exactly overhaul the secondary in the offseason. In fact, the argument can be made that losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and gaining William Gay was actually a step back—especially if youngster Eli Apple struggles again this year.
There were rumors of a Big Apple reunion with DRC about a month ago, but that has quieted. Whether it’s a familiar face or a new one, the Giants need to go through the half-off pile of available corners and add at least one.
Of the bunch, Delvin Breaux may be the most interesting. The 28-year-old has shown flashes of plus talent but just hasn’t been able stay on the field. That lack of durability is why he doesn’t have a home yet.
It’s a cheap gamble that could pay off in a big way.
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Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
Despite a knee injury that almost cost him his leg, Teddy Bridgewater is back on a practice field, which is fantastic. That he’s in the thick of the three-way race to start for the New York Jets Week 1 is even better.
Were he to actually win the job? Disney movie time.
The thing is, Bridgewater shouldn’t even be on New York’s roster at the beginning of the year if everything goes well.
It’s not that the Jets don’t need a quarterback. Do they ever.
But the Jets traded up to the third overall pick this year to take one in USC’s Sam Darnold. He’ll be in town for the next five years (at least). Bridgewater’s on a one-year, $6 million deal.
The odds that the Jets would both pay Bridgewater big money after the season while keeping Darnold on the pine are as slim as slim gets.
The chances another team will come calling for Bridgewater at some point over the next six weeks if he continues to fare well are most definitely not. Dealing Bridgewater for a pick next year would be nice. Dealing him for some edge-rushing help would be even better for a Jets team badly in need of a boost in that regard.
Bridgewater’s value has peaked with New York before ever playing a snap, and any time you’re the team trading a talented quarterback (as opposed to trading for him), you’re negotiating from a position of strength.
Ah, the sweet smell of desperation—and the windfall that can come with it.
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Gary McCullough/Associated Press
Khalil Mack is one of the most formidable defensive players in the NFL. He’s dominant. He’s relentless. He has a doctorate in quantum physics.
OK, maybe not that last one, but he’s really good.
He’s also tired. With no one else up front to take pressure off Mack, he’s constantly double-teamed. The Raiders need pass-rush help to complement Mack and Bruce Irvin.
The odds of doing so in free agency aren’t great. The list of available players is headlined by the likes of Robert Ayers and Charles Johnson.
Please, hold the applause.
However, there is a young pass-rusher who might be available. Jacksonville has already passed on the 2019 option for Dante Fowler, who was the third overall pick in 2015. Fowler had eight sacks for the Jags last year, but his role with the team has been scaled back with the ascent of Yannick Ngakoue.
Rolling the dice on what could be a rental player would be risky.
And very Raiders.
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Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press
This admittedly isn’t a splashy move. Blame the Eagles. The defending Super Bowl champs are loaded to make another deep run. The team has a Super Bowl MVP as its backup quarterback.
It’s gross, really.
But the linebacker position is a bit of a question mark in Philly. Jordan Hicks has a long injury history. Nigel Bradham has already drawn a one-game suspension to open the season. And Mychal Kendricks is in Cleveland now.
The Eagles were able to overcome bumps at the position last year. But a little added depth would help increase the odds they can successfully do so two years in a row.
It doesn’t have to be a big name like NaVorro Bowman. Jonathan Casillas isn’t a great player by any stretch, but he can hold down the fort if an injury strikes. So can Gerald Hodges and Dannell Ellerbe.
There’s enough cheap help available to make this an easy fix.
So fix it.
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Ben Margot/Associated Press
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2018 season with hopes of making a trip to Atlanta next February.
They also enter the season with a gaping hole in the middle of the defense—a hole caused by the absence of star linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Vince Williams is a capable pro, but he isn’t exactly known for his range. Tyler Matakevich is a glorified special-teamer. Free-agent signee Jon Bostic is coming off a career-high 97 total tackles with the Colts last year, but there’s a reason he’s on his fourth NFL team.
NaVorro Bowman is no longer the player who was named a first-team All-Pro four times. Injuries have cost the 30-year-old a step or two. But in 15 games split between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders last year, Bowman racked up 127 total tackles.
Even if Bowman’s not the player he once was, he’d still be a sizable upgrade over Matakevich and Bostic, and the Steelers can offer Bowman the opportunity to make one more run at a ring.
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Adam Hunger/Associated Press
There’s zero question who the starting tailback is for the San Francisco 49ers. The hype regarding Jerick McKinnon has been building from the moment the 26-year-old signed a lucrative free agent deal to come to the Bay Area.
But behind McKinnon on the depth chart, Matt Breida and Joe Williams aren’t an imposing pair of backups, and depth at tailback could be an issue for the 49ers given that McKinnon has never carried the ball 160 times in a season or more than 20 times in a single game.
Most of the running backs still available would be great choices—if this were 2014. DeMarco Murray, Alfred Morris, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles are all well past their primes, but Murray rushed for almost 1,300 yards two years ago and Peterson had a couple big games for the Arizona Cardinals last year.
Morris may be the best choice. He’s used to a reserve role and quietly piled up 4.8 yards a pop on his 115 carries in Dallas last year.
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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
The Seattle Seahawks are in a period of transition. Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett were let go in the offseason. Kam Chancellor recently announced his retirement from the NFL. And Earl Thomas has yet to report as he seeks a new contract.
That’s a lot of big names gone from what was once one of the NFL’s most formidable defenses.
Luckily for the Seahawks, there just so happens to be a player out there still available who would provide substantial and immediate help on the back end.
From a talent perspective, there’s really no reason why Eric Reid should still be without a job. And while Reid’s collusion grievance against the NFL makes signing him a bit of a tricky proposition, the Seahawks have never shied away from making waves in the past. They are also no strangers to activism among their players, whether it’s Sherman, Bennett or wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
Politics aside, Reid can play, and quite well.
If Seattle’s serious about contending in the NFC West in 2018, that’s the only thing that really matters.
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Julio Cortez/Associated Press
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a precarious position. With Jameis Winston entering his fourth NFL season, the time is rapidly drawing near when the Bucs will have to decide whether to ink him to a massive extension.
Not too long ago, it was considered a foregone conclusion that they would. But that was before more off-field trouble got Winston a three-game personal conduct suspension.
By most accounts, Teddy Bridgewater has looked great in OTAs and minicamp with the New York Jets. But with Sam Darnold on New York’s roster, the reality is that Bridgewater is not in the team’s long-term plans after coming over on a one-year deal.
Ryan Fitzpatrick can hold down the fort in Tampa for three weeks. If Bridgewater’s close to the player he was before shredding his knee in 2016, he can do that and more—including serving as at least some insurance against the uncertainty swirling around Winston.
With every good practice, Bridgewater’s asking price will go up—assuming the Jets are willing to deal him at all.
The time to act is now.
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Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
The Tennessee Titans won a playoff game last year for the first time in well over a decade. If the Titans are going to get back in 2018, a lackluster offense must improve.
That means quarterback Marcus Mariota has to make a big jump.
Yes, Mariota was nicked up much of last year. The play-calling of Mike Mularkey wasn’t exactly revolutionary. And the team’s receiving corps wasn’t scaring anyone.
But injuries and meh receivers aren’t fully to blame for Mariota throwing two more interceptions than touchdowns. Mariota has to make better decisions with the football.
New head coach Mike Vrabel and the team has to put Mariota in a better position to succeed though. Open the offense up. Make calls that highlight the things Mariota does best, like throwing on the move.
Assuming that an improved receiving corps (featuring a healthy Corey Davis) does its part, we should see a little more exotic and a little less smashmouth.
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Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press
Washington was aggressive in addressing the departure of quarterback Kirk Cousins by adding veteran Alex Smith in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.
But that move came at a cost. Washington shipped one of its best young corners (Kendall Fuller) to Kansas City as part of that deal, and now the team’s depth chart behind Josh Norman is shaky.
Fortunately, there are still a few cornerbacks looking for work with the potential to help Washington out. The best among them is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
This isn’t to say that Rodgers-Cromartie is a game-changer at this point in his career. The 32-year-old had a disappointing 2017 season for the Giants in which he didn’t record a single interception.
But as recently as 2016, DRC picked off half a dozen throws. His arrival would allow Washington to kick Orlando Scandrick (another new face in DC in 2018) to the slot, where he’s much more comfortable.