NFL Offseason Preview

Bold Predictions: What each team will do; what players teams should and shouldn't target; and more

NFL Offseason Preview

Each year in the NFL is a new opportunity for each team. The NFL is one of the few sports leagues where a team can go 3-13 one year and 13-3 the next. In recent years, we saw the Colts go from the first overall pick to the playoffs and then we saw the Kansas City Chiefs do the same thing this past year. Now a days teams can completely remake their franchise in one offseason. This can come in a variety of ways. They can change coaches, release players, trade players, draft players, and even redo front offices. Let’s take a look at what each team should be doing this offseason.

NFC West:

Seattle Seahawks:

The Seahawks completed a truly great season under Pete Carroll. They won the Super Bowl in a crushing defeat of the AFC champion Denver Broncos. Linebacker Malcolm Smith won the MVP and the 12th man brought home their first Super Bowl victory.

A big part of their success was their defense and home-field advantage. They only lost one game at home where they were dominant all season long. Richard Sherman may have made headlines for his postgame interview with Erin Andrews and his taunting of Michael Crabtree but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he was one of the best corners in the game last year.

The main focus of Seattle’s offseason will be to keep their core together and prepare their salary cap numbers for the future. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, both Pro Bowlers, are extension eligible and should be cashing in. They will also have to pay Russell Wilson at some point in the next two years, so managing the cap is going to be key to keeping this team together.

They also have some key free agents. Arguably their best pass rusher is a free agent in Michael Bennett as is one of their top receivers in Golden Tate. Bennett is expected to command a sizable raise this March and has said that he will not give Seattle a discount. The translation of that is he is likely gone because he will get too expensive for the Seahawks. Tate on the other hand could return. The Receiving market is supposed to be slow this year because of the abundance of top receiving prospects in next April’s draft.

They don’t have much cap room at all but that could change due to the expected release of Sydney Rice who was getting insanely overpaid. They could also clear up space by cutting the aging Zach Miller and his ridiculous contract. Former Pro-Bowler defensive end Chris Clemons could also be cut as he has become expendable due to the emergence of Bruce Irvin and signings of Cliff Avril and potentially Michael Bennett.

Another important aspect of this offseason is making sure Percy Harvin is healthy. Harvin of course missed all but two games last season due to injuries to his hip and concussions. Seattle acquired Harvin from Minnesota for first and third round picks. They then gave him a 6 year, 67 million dollar extension. As Harvin displayed in the Super Bowl when he is healthy he is game changer and he could make the Seahawks that much better than they were last year if he can remain healthy all year.

The free agent market will be slow for Seattle. They will likely only target veterans they can get on the cheap that want to win immediately. They could be looking to add a wide receiver, tight end, or a cornerback. Brandon Browner is also a free agent, but he will be suspended for the season after failing to follow the leagues substance abuse policy. His days in Seattle and maybe the NFL could be over.

They own the number thirty-two pick in the draft which is the last in the first round. I can see them grabbing Kelvin Benjamin out of Florida State if he’s available. They could also take Jace Amaro out of Texas Tech.

San Francisco 49ers:

The 49ers came up just short a year after they were one play away from winning the Super Bowl. They lost in that Seattle Asylum in the NFC Championship game. San Fran was the driving down the field but Richard Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick’s pass right to Malcolm Smith for the interception and the game.

                There was a lot of talk after the game involving Michael Crabtree and Richard Sherman, but it was Kaepernicks who was calling out Sherman in the press. He said he doesn’t think Sherman is the best corner in the game and that if he throws that ball a yard further then he is Richard Sherman the goat not the hero. Those 49ers-Seahawks games are going to be fun to watch next year.

Before they can play though the Niners need to take care of some business. Their top priority is retaining wide receiver Aquan Boldin who had a career year in his lone season in San Fran. There have been reports that the 49ers and Boldin are close to a deal. The second priority is to extend the contract of their franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He will almost certainly command a contract of 100 million plus. The question is just when he will get it.

They have other free agents other than Boldin that are just as important to bring back. Pro Bowl safety Donte Whitner will hit the open market and he is on record saying he wants to be back but it just isn’t sure it will actually happen. Running back Anthony Dixon could be a steal on the open market. He was a luxury in San Francisco because he could do it all. He played running back, special teams, and a  little fullback. They won’t bring him back simply because they can’t afford him and have other options such as Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, and Marcus Lattimore.

Phil Dawson, Mario Manningham, and special teams ace Kassim Osgood are also free agents and could all return. Dawson will almost certainly remain in the bay area and Osgood has a good chance too. The team might be in the market for a backup quarterback as Colt McCoy is also a free agent. They could look to the draft or the open market to fill that need.

In the draft San Fran has a late first round pick and they could go a variety of different ways. They could replace Donte Whitner or Eric Wright and draft a defensive back. They did this last year when they traded up to take their Pro-Bowl safety out of LSU. They could also draft a receiver because that position really lacked depth last year. Some targets could include Jason Verrett or DeAnthony Thomas out of Oregon.

Free agency won’t bring a big contract to the Bay Area but it could certainly bring in some big name veterans looking to win a championship. If Champ Bailey gets cut watch out for him to land here.

All-Pro linebacker and leader of their defense Navarro Bowman tore his ACL in one of the strangest plays you will ever see in the NFC championship game. That could be a significant role in what they do this offseason. The team has been on record saying a realistic return for Bowman would be around mid-season.

Arizona Cardinals:

The Cardinals had a solid first season under Bruce Arians. They were able to win ten football games and get a big psychological win in Seattle. Despite winning ten games they finished third in their division and missed the playoffs.

After flirting with the idea of trading All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to the Patriots last summer they will certainly hang onto him this summer. Fitzgerald didn’t put up overwhelming numbers like he has ion the past but at least he is once again playing for a contender.

One of the biggest steals of the offseason last year was not only getting Bruce Arians as their head coach but picking up the once beloved former Cardinal Karlos Dansby after he was cut by the Dolphins. Dansby returned to Pro-Bowl form to anchor an extremely good Arizona defense. However, the Cardinals only signed him to a one-year deal last summer and he will once again hit the open market this spring. He surely won’t be as cheap and the Cardinals have to determine what he is worth to that elite defense.

Another factor of the offseason for the Cardinals is whether or not they are going to give Pro-Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson a contract extension. Peterson will become extension-eligible on March first and he hasn’t ruled out holding out in order to get that extension. The Cards should be willing to give that man a well-deserved raise. He has been among the top cornerbacks in football the last couple years and Arizona will be seeing a lot of Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree in the future.

Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Roberts are also free agents and could be back. Arizona is need or a running back and Arians appears to really like both of them. They don’t have the cap room to re-sign both of them right now but they could cut some pricey veterans in order to do so. Right guard Darren College will get cut and so could the oft-injured running back and former second round pick out of Virginia Tech Ryan Williams.

Arizona should be targeting an offensive lineman in the draft or free agency. Free agency has some options. They could target Michael Oher, Branden Albert, or Anthony Collins. In the draft, they could target Zach Martin form Notre Dame, Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M or Cyrus Koundjou from Alabama.

They also need a big defensive tackle to stuff the run. They could go after Green Bay Packers free agent nose tackle B.J Raji. That would be a big time addition to an already elite defense. Bringing in Maurice Jones-Drew wouldn’t be a bad addition to a run-heavy team. He is a perfect fit in Arizona and they could be motivated enough to work something out.

Another problem could be at quarterback. Management has said they think Carson Palmer has another year left in him but anybody who saw him on tape would say otherwise. If I was Arizona I would draft a quarterback. Derek Carr makes sense here or they could grab A.J McCarron in the later rounds as a long-term project.

St. Louis Rams:

The Rams were a solid football team last year. They just play in the toughest division in football with three teams that are better than they are.

The Rams have a decision to make with starting quarterback and former number one overall pick Sam Bradford. Jeff Fischer has come out and said that Bradford will be the starter next year. This makes sense, but it would be crazy to not at least consider going in a different direction. Bradford is making a ton of money and just can’t stay healthy enough to be on the field. He missed a large number of games last year and a crazy number in his career. Even when he has been on the field it’s not like he has been anywhere near elite. He has just been average. St. Louis could be on the verge of drafting at least a backup quarterback.

They brought in the much maligned Gregg Williams to be their defensive coordinator. Williams of course was suspended for an entire season after he the whole Saints scandal broke.

The Rams don’t have many free agents to negotiate with. One of them though is an important offensive lineman in Roger Saffold. Saffold could draw significant interest on the market if he leaves St. Louis. If he leaves the team would almost certainly draft a replacement. They are in need of quality offensive lineman even if he stays. Another free agent is linebacker Will Witherspoon. He is 50/50 on being back or not. The team would like to have him back, but he is not a priority.

The real gold of the Rams offseason is the NFL draft. The Rams have a couple top fifteen picks. That includes the number two overall pick in which they got from Washington as part of the RGIII trade two years ago. The Rams could trade back and get even more draft picks in exchange for that number two pick just like they did two years ago. They might get the same value ( 3 first round picks and a third round pick) for that pick too. There might be multiple teams trying to move ahead of the Browns, Jags, or Raiders to take their pick of the three elite quarterbacks in this draft. Those three being Bortles, Manziel, and Bridgewater. If they don’t trade the pick then they could always select left tackle Greg Robinson out of Auburn.

In free agency they should continue to target offensive players. Anthony Dixon is a player that would fit in nicely with the Rams. They can afford him because they are expected to cut Cortland Finnegan and Scott Wells. Both are veteran leaders but have become too pricey. Another player they could go after is cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins has ties with Williams from his New Orleans days.

East:

Philadelphia Eagles:

The Eagles had a season of extreme highs and extreme lows. They started out 2-0 but then dropped down to one of the worst teams in the NFL for about a month. Then they caught fire under brand new quarterback and Arizona product Nick Foles. They went 10-6 and won the division beating the Cowboys in the final week of the regular season to clinch it.

Foles developed into a star in Chip Kelly’s offense. Not only did he take Philly to the playoffs, where they nearly beat the Saints, but he also went to the Pro-Bowl. As for the incumbent quarterback Mike Vick things didn’t work out as well. Vick just couldn’t stay healthy and ultimately lost his job to Foles. All he could do is watch from the sideline as he saw Nick Foles take a team Vick helped build to the playoffs.

Mike Vick likely won’t be back next season in Philly. The Eagles want to re-sign him but to be the backup quarterback. Vick wants to be able to contend for a starting spot. He could end up in New York, Arizona, Jacksonville, Oakland, or Cleveland.

The Eagles have already spent a lot of money this off season. They re-signed Riley Cooper to a 4-year deal and Jason Kelce to a three year deal. They also gave Pro-Bowl left tackle Jason Peters a monster extension after he had a great year. They have already spent in access of 100 million dollars and 42 million in guarantees. The Eagles aren’t done though. They are negotiating and reportedly close to a deal with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Maclin missed all of last season after tearing his ACL early in the season.

It is a little bit of a surprise the Eagles are spending this much money on the offensive side of the ball. Their defense was a big concern last year and their secondary was the main culprit. They could still upgrade the defense through free agency and the draft.

Some players they could target include Aquib Talib and Brent Grimes. Those players won’t come cheap though. Both of them signed one-year deals last year to enhance their value and will be looking to cash in after career years they had in Miami and New England respectively. An interesting player that they could target is Darrelle Revis. Revis was a product of the old regime in Tampa Bay and new management could be looking to sever ties with the All-Pro cornerback because of his 16 million dollar salary.

Another option is to check out the safety market. Some immediate upgrades would be to look to sign Ryan Clark, Roman Harper or Donte Whitner. They would almost certainly be interested in Jairus Byrd if he were to hit the market as well. The oft-injured Louis Delmas is another option they could get on the cheap.

The draft is where they might look to add a pass rusher. An interesting option here would be Kony Early out of Missouri if he’s on the board when the Eagles are picking in the mid-20’s. They could also go running back and take former Chip Kelly standout De’anthony Thomas out of Oregon. I think we would all like to see what the Black Mamba could do in that offense in the NFL. If he is there in round two I think the Eagles will take him.

Dallas Cowboys:

What another disappointing end to the season in Dallas. For the third consecutive season their playoff fate came down to the final game and for the third consecutive season they lost that game and missed the playoffs. Tony Romo had a great season but got hurt on the game winning drive of the second last game of the year. That was a game that they had to win and Romo lead them down the field and scored but he couldn’t play in the final game of the year because he got hurt. If that isn’t classic Tony Romo I don’t know what is.

Jerry Jones was on record saying that both head coach Jason Garrett and embattled defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin would return to Dallas for next season. Both of those have remained true so far, but Kiffin was demoted and next season will almost definitely be an armagedon season in Dallas. Rod Marinelli was promoted to DC while Kiffin was demoted to assistant head coach. Not only did they add a DC but they also changed up the offensive side of the ball. Jason Garrett, a former play caller and pretty good one at that, lost those duties last year to Bill Callahan. Bill Callahan did a good job as the play caller last year, but for some reason the club took those duties away from him. They hired former Lions OC Scott Linnehan to call the plays. That means that Garrett, Callahan, and Linnehan are all on the same coaching staff. That is just asking for a power struggle over the offense. Not to mention that Tony Romo could probably call his own plays.

They gave kicker Dan Bailey the biggest contract in NFL history for a kicker. It was worth about 23 million dollars.

The Cowboys are in a tricky cap situation. They are way over the salary cap and will be forced to release players as cap casualties just to get under it. Jerry Jones recently said that DeMarcus Ware could be cut if he is not willing to take a pay cut and restructure his contract. Jones said that Ware has been hurt too much to warrant his big contract. Miles Austin is another player that could be cut. He has also been injured often over the last two years and we have seen his production take a huge dive.

Jason Hatcher probably won’t be back either because of the cap situation as he is an unrestricted free agent. Their free agent linebackers are also likely gone. Ernie Sims and Anthony Spencer will be missed in the Dallas front seven. Those are the only key free agent for the Cowboys, though. Kyle Orton will also probably not be back.

The free agent market is going to be pretty much non-existent in Dallas due to that cap situation. Veteran players will likely have to take the minimum to sign with them. They could look to sign low risk veterans such as Dunta Robinson or Bryan Mckinnie.

As far as the draft goes they will target a safety. The most likely player is HaHa Clinton-Dix from Alabama. The safety position was a big liability and Orlando Scandrick will also be cut.

Maybe it’s a quiet offseason in Big D?

Washington Redskins:

The Redskins just went through a nightmarish year in the nation’s capital. RGIII didn’t appear healthy and clearly wasn’t on the same page as head coach Mike Shannahan.

The year ended in turmoil after there were reports that owner Daniel Schnieder showed favoritism towards RGIII at the expense of Mike Shannahan. On the heels of that report were other reports that Shannahan leaked that information himself in an attempt to get fired. The reports read that Shannahan was so disgusted over the owners favoritism that he was ready to quit after the playoff game. The only thing that stopped Shannahan from quitting was the fact that Griffin got hurt in that game and he didn’t want it to look like that was why he quit.

Why would Shannahan want to get fired instead of quit? Because it made him 7 million more dollars as part of his 4 year 28 million dollar contract.

They hired Jay Gruden to replace him and it sounds like he could be a good fit in Wahington. Gruden’s first order of business is to establish a positive relationship with RG me I mean RGIII.

The coaching change and name controversy hasn’t stopped the ‘Skins from making stupid decisions and blatantly overpaying players. Their first move was to re-sign DeAngelo Hall to a 4 year 20 million dollar contract past his prime. They also re-signed defensive end Chris Baker.

The heavy lifting for the Redskins will be to work out a contract with pass rusher Brian Orakp. Orakpo will command a big contract and the Redskins will probably overpay him if not they can always franchise him. It looks like he won’t be leaving Washington any time soon.

They don’t have a first round pick (which would have been #2 overall) due to the RGIII trade. That means they will likely upgrade through free agency. They have a lot of cap room and a lot of pressure to win now.

There has been talk they will trade Kirk Cousins. However, Washington values Cousins as worth a second round pick. I can’t see any team paying that price, so I don’t see Cousins leaving the nation’s capital either.

Giants:  

The Giants just completed their worst season in recent memory. They were among the worst teams in the NFL. If they hadn’t played a stretch of four games where they played even worse teams they might have been much worse.

I was stunned to see that Tom Coughlin is getting another year. I think that he should have retired and let the Giants rebuild. I just don’t see them being any better next year either. I don’t know if Eli had a bad year or he is simply out of his prime. The Giants are going to find that out next year.

Free agents to be Justin Tuck and Hakeem Nicks are both likely gone. The Giants won’t pay the price those guys want. The entire offensive line will either take a pay cut or be released as well. That means David Baas and Chris Snee’s days in New York are numbered.

The Giants should get another pass rusher in the draft. Their once fearsome front seven has been non-existent in recent years. Kony Early would be a good pick for the Giants. They could also go tight end and take North Carolina product Eric Ebron.

 

North:

Packers:

Green Bay won the North but it wasn’t easy. They started out as one of the best teams in the entire NFL, but it went all downhill as soon as Aaron Rodgers got hurt. They went 1-5-1 in the 7 games that Rodgers missed. Matt Flynn looked awful most of the time. Well, except when he is going up against the Cowboys defense and Dallas blows a huge lead. Rodgers did return for the regular season finale and winner take all game for the division against the Bears. He looked great and they won the game and division. However, they lost at home to the 49ers in the playoffs.

They lost their quarterback coach and Aaron Rodgers mentor Joe Lombardi to the Lions this offseason. His presence will be missed but Aaron Rodgers won’t take any steps back on the field because of it.

The Packers have some of their own free agent they will have to attend to. B.J Raji, Sam Shields, Mike Neal, and Jermichael Finley are all free agents and could very well leave Title Town. Green Bay has the cap space to get them all re-signed but they may not want to sign them all. Finley is coming off major neck surgery and might not ever play again. Shields is going to command a big contract that the Packers may not be willing to pay. As for Raji there was a report that head coach Mike McCarthy preferred a smaller front seven and Raji is definitely not small. Despite all of this talk I expect Shields and Neal to re-sign while Raji and Finley move on.

General Manager Ted Thompson said that the team could spend money on free agents this spring. That is very unusual for a franchise that known for not believing in the free agent market. In fact, the only big free agent signing in the franchise’s history was when they signed Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White way back when. That move, of course, put them over the top and won them a Super Bowl. Free agents Thompson could target are all on defense where Dom Capers is going to have to make some changes. For instance A.J Hawk and Ryan Pickett could be wearing different uniforms next year. If I were the Packers and I play in the same division as Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford I am making a call to the Bucs and am asking about Darrelle Revis. This could be a move that puts them over the top. Bengals free agent Anthony Collins also makes sense for Green Bay.

Donte Whitner or Jairus Byrd would be perfect fits for the Packers if they don’t re-sign with San Fran and Buffalo respectively.

The Packers have a first round pick in the mid-20’s and could be looking to trade back with teams who are looking to draft a quarterback late in round one. They could draft the heir apparent to Finley where Jace Amaro would surely be available.

Chicago Bears:

The Bears dropped the ball in the regular season. They appeared to be the front runners to win the division when Aaron Rodgers got hurt. Then Jay Cutler got hurt twice and it looked like they were in the same boat as the Packers. Josh McCown stepped in and played very well in the absence of Cutler. He was playing like an elite quarterback and actually had the best QBR (quarterback rating) in the league. Despite the strong play of McCown the Bears put Cutler right back in when he got healthy. They controlled their own destiny in the final two games and lost them both.

They have already began making moves. They re-signed veteran center Roberto Garza to a one year, 1.5 million dollar deal. They also re-signed tight end Dante Rosario and cornerback Kelvin Haden.

Not to mention they gave Jay Cutler a monster 7 year extension worth around 138 million dollars. I think that is a good contract despite a lot of other people questioning the deal. To Bears fans remember the Rex Grossman era?

Their heavy lifting still has to be done. Former Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton is a free agent and has expressed to the media that he might leave. He has obvious ties with the Cowboys as he is from Dallas. Melton tore his ACL last season and he missed a lot of games. Even he doesn’t know what he will command. The Bears will likely play that one slow.

Josh McCown is also a free agent. McCown’s strong play down the stretch almost guaranteed him a big raise. Last year he made close to the minimum of $800,000. The Bears would like him back but money could be a problem and another team might promise a chance to be the starter. All of that means that he probably won’t be back.

Devin Hester and Charles Tillman are also free agents for the Bears. Hester is probably as good as gone while it would be surprise if Tillman didn’t return to the Windy city.

The Bears have around 10 million dollars in cap space and will likely have even more once they make some cuts. Running back Michael Bush doesn’t really work in Marc Tressman’s system so he will likely be cut to save his 4 million dollar salary. Defensive end Julius Peppers could be joining Bush as potential cuts. He is making a whole lot of money but he just hasn’t had the numbers to back that contract up that last few years. If he doesn’t restructure he could be cut.

The Bears should look at the cornerback market outside of Tillman. Aqib Talib would be a great addition to this team. If not him they could also look to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a cheaper option.

As far as the draft goes they should target a defensive lineman or pass rusher. I think Louis Nix from Notre Dame would be a perfect fin in Chicago.

Detroit Lions:

The Lions dropped the ball even more than the Bears. They appeared to have the division all locked up when the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Bears’ Jay Cutler went down. Instead, they only won one game down the stretch and missed the playoffs all together.

They fired head coach Jim Schwartz and replaced him with former Colts head coach and Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. Schwartz was often criticized for not instilling enough discipline in his teams as they were often penalized and called dirty.

A Lions beat writer wondered if the team should trade their All-Pro defensive tackle Suh. That would be stupid to trade him now. His value isn’t as high as it could be and he is the one that makes your defense feared. I would be stunned if they dealt Suh.

They have already made some cuts. They traded the oft-injured but talented safety Louis Delmas and wide receiver Nate Burleson. More could be coming. Quentin Grove, Reggie Bush, and Stephen Tulloch could all be cut.

There is no telling what the Lions will do in free agency. I think that they are going to go for the division again and sign some key players. I think they should target Hakeem Nicks and put him next to Calvin Johnson.

As far as their own players they will have to re-sign one tight end. I don’t know if that will be Brandon Pettigrew or Tony Scheffler. Other than that they don’t have any free agents that will jump out at you.

In the draft they should target offensive lineman. Zach Martin out of Notre Dame would be solid, but they also might grab Marquis Lee out of USC. C.J Mosley would be an interesting fit in Detroit as well.

Minnesota Vikings:

Just one year after making the playoffs the Vikings struggled mightily last season. Everything that could have went wrong did. The quarterback situation was a mess and the defense was one of the worst of all time.

Leslie Frazier was fired as head coach and the entire organization got accused of being cowards and bigots by former punter Chris Kluwe. Mike Zimmer replaced Frazier and brought in a whole new staff besides the main culprit of Kluwe’s remarks, the special teams coach was the lone holdover.

The Vikings top priority is to find a quarterback. Not just a quarterback but a franchise quarterback. They should be looking to draft either Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, or Johnny Manziel. They could also draft Derek Carr or Zach Mettenberger in round two.

They could sign a stop-gap free agent such as Mike Vick or Josh McCown but there is no guarantee they will get a franchise quarterback next year and might get similar results this year.

Long time main-stays and defensive anchors Kevin Williams and Jared Allen are both free agents and almost certainly won’t be back in Minnesota. Those guys will probably be looking to sign with contenders.

Minnesota is expected to overhaul their roster. That is possible because they have a lot of free agents and around 35 million dollars in cap space. That means they can target a number of players in free agency.

Michael Oher would be a good fit in Minnesota. They also need to upgrade the entire secondary which was weak spot of their horrible team. That means that Aqib Talib, Louis Delmas, Jairus Bryd, Rodger-Cromartie, and Donte Whitner all could end up in Minnesota.

 

South:

Carolina Panthers:

The Panthers had a great season winning 13 of their last 14 games last year. Cam Newton looked like he could be the next elite quarterback. Signing him to an extension will be the main focus of the offseason. Cam could command 100 million plus  in his new contract. The Panthers also have some free agents they need to re-sign such as DE Greg Hardy and WR Ted Ginn Jr. Hardy will test the market and will probably be gone because of the Panthers cap concerns. The Panthers are another team looking for veteran free agents that want to win now. Some needs they have are DBs and OL. The Panthers will try to upgrade their team enough to take the next step and become Super Bowl contenders.

Re-signing Greg Hardy could present a problem for the Panthers but he will likely get franchised if he is not retained.

New Orleans Saints:

The Saints had a bounce back year, but seemed to get pushed around by the Seahawks in the regular season and the Seahawks. The top priority is to sign TE Jimmy Graham long term. Graham is the best free agent out there, but he will not ever see the market. The Saints will franchise him if all else fails. The Cap situation is going to be tricky as they already had to cut veterans Will Smith, Jonathon Vilma, and Jabari Greer. They will likely also say goodbye to FS Malcolm Jenkins after drafting budding star Kenny Vacarro last year. They will have to target cheap free agents and build through the draft this offseason. I think the Saints need to get more physical so watch out for a defensive tackle or a linebacker in round 1 of the draft.

UPDATE: They have franchised tight end Jimmy Graham and prepared for a legal battle on which position he actually plays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

 The Bucs fired Head Coach Greg Schiano after a horrible start to the season. The Bucs had a lot of optimism going into the year. They had so much talent and were able to add Pro-Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis from the Jets. Lovie Smith will replace Schiano and he has already left the door open to take a quarterback in the draft. Mike Glennon is a product of the old regime so it could interesting how that plays out. I don’t believe the Bucs will make a splash in free agency again after singing Vincent Jackson, Carl Knicks, and Dashon Goldson to big deals in recent years. I do expect Lovie to build up the defense just like he did in Chicago. All of the talent is there, they are just waiting on a quarterback. They will certainly target a left tackle or a pass rusher in the draft or free agency. I expect the Bucs to be among the NFL’s most improved next year.

Now, will they trade Revis?

Atlanta Falcons:

Atlanta was among the NFL’s biggest disappointments last season. They thought they were Super Bowl contenders and ended up owning the #3 pick in the draft. Tony Gonzalez will move on to CBS leaving a glaring need at tight end. They also might want to upgrade the offensive line, running back (Stephen Jackson was a huge bust last year) and defensive line. They need a pass rusher and Jadeveon Clowney could be available to them at #3. If not, look for Greg Hardy or Michael Bennett to sign here. They will have about 19 million dollars in cap space so they certainly could look to upgrade multiple positions via free agency. Also, look for Branden Albert or Anthony Collins to be targeted. The Falcons still believe they have the talent to win it all and Arthur Blank is giving HC Mike Smith one last shot to get it done.

AFC:

WEST:

Denver Broncos:

The Broncos just came up short last season and they will be right back in the hunt again next season. This offseason they will be looking to add more talent to its secondary. Champ Bailey will either take a pay cut or be cut to save cap room and Mike Adams will likely be just a back up next season. They will target Jabari Greer and Charles Woodson via free agency and Bradley Roby via the draft. They will also have to keep some free agents. Eric Decker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Knowshon Moreno won’t come cheap. Which is why they probably won’t be in Denver next season. DRC though should re-sign and help their secondary. Peyton Manning’s physical is also coming up. If he fails it, then he has said he will retire but if he passes he will suit up. That physical will likely determine the Broncos fate this offseason.

San Diego Chargers:

The Chargers were able to squeak into the playoffs at 9-7 last year. Phillip Rivers and co. even won a game at the expense of the Bengals in the postseason. That was good and all, but the reality is that the Chargers were an inconsistent team last season.

They have to upgrade their pass rush. It was pretty much non-existent until Melvin Ingram returned from the PUP list late in the season. This upgrade will most likely come in the draft where Missouri defensive end Michael Sam could end up. They could also look to free agency where Jared Allen, Michael Johnson, or Greg Hardy could be options.

They don’t have the cap space to sign a Greg Hardy type free agent, but they could clear space by cutting disappointing free agent acquisition from last year Dwight Freeney. They are over the cap so they will have to cut some players. So, it looks as if the Chargers will have to upgrade through the draft where they will also look to add an offensive lineman and safety.

Kansas City Chiefs:

The Chiefs were the NFL’s most improved team last year. After having the number one overall pick the year before they started out the season 9-0 under Andy Reid and finished 11-5. They lost the playoff game in which they blew a huge lead, but it was still a successful season.

They have some free agents that they need to re-sign in order to be just as dominant on defense as they were a year ago. Defensive lineman Tyson Jackson and safety Quentin Demps are too valuable in run support to let walk. Left tackle Branden Albert and the electric Dexter McCluster are also free agents for Kansas City. McCluster could be too expensive for what they value him as and Albert could easily be replaced on the left side by last year’s number one overall pick Eric Fisher.

The Chiefs don’t have that much money to spend in free agency (around 2 million dollars), so don’t expect a big move out of them. They can target some veterans to add depth at positions like cornerback, running back, and wide receiver. Some potential options could be Sydney Rice or perhaps Nate Burleson.

The draft will be key for the Chiefs as well. They need a cornerback or a wide receiver so Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State or Marquis Lee out of USC would make sense. The Chiefs need some offense to go with a stout defense.

Oakland Raiders:

The Raiders completed another awful season in 2013. Terrelle Pryor started out promising but appeared to regress as the season went along. Nobody could stay healthy for them and it showed on the field. The other three teams in the division made the playoffs, so the Raiders need to step it up this offseason and make the necessary changes.

The Raiders nearly fired coach Dennis Allen and his staff, but barely decided against it. It will be interesting to see if there is a rift between management and coaching staff this offseason.

They have a ton of free agents to work with. That also means they have a ton of cap room to work with. So, if the Raiders want (and they should!) to overturn their roster they can. Some free agents they may want back are running back Darren McFadden, and Khalif Barnes. Although those guys are talented they couldn’t stay healthy. That is why the Raiders will probably let both of them walk.

The Raiders own the #5 pick in the draft and could address a number of needs. It will likely depend on what they do on free agency. If I were them I would draft a quarterback especially if Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles is still on the board. They could also draft a wide receiver and go with Sammy Watkins out of Clemson. A lot of people think Watkins is the best player in this draft and we all know how much the Raiders love their speed.

Free agency should be fun for the Raiders who are going to have around 65 million dollars to spend. That means they will likely add a big name free agent. They should target Brian Orakpo or Branden Albert to bolster those parts of their team. Expect the Raiders to be active.

EAST:

New England Patriots:

The Patriots were knocked out again in the AFC championship game last season. Everything that could have gone wrong did for the Pats. Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Amendola got hurt last year. Despite all of that they still nearly pulled off a miracle.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reportedly wanted the Browns job, but he didn’t get the job. It makes me wonder how long before he leaves New England, so the Pats may have to adapt to a new offense in the coming years.

The Patriots will have to take care of some business before focusing on other needs. Julian Edelman, Aqib Talib, and LeGarrette Blount are all free agents and should be priorities for the Patriots. Talib should be the top priority because they looked like a completely better defense when he was out there. He needs to be back for this defense in order for the Pats to get back to being a Super Bowl contender.

The Patriots own the #29 pick in the draft and will target either a wide receiver or tight end if the go offense in round 1. They also need a safety and linebacker to replace Brandon Spikes.  I would watch out for tight end Eric Ebron from North Carolina or Brandin Cooks from Oregon State in the first round.

As far as free agency goes the Patriots have flexibility. They will have about 12 million dollars in cap space and it could be more if they cut some players. They will target Roman Harper as a safety and they will also target wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the Steelers. They have to get Brady more weapons and hope the defense comes back together when they get healthy.

New York Jets:

The Jets were better than they were expected to be last year. Rex Ryan had the defense flying around as always. Sheldon Richardson and the rest of the defensive line were really good last year. Geno Smith wasn’t as good.  He had some rookie growing pains last year and they might have made the playoffs had Mark Sanchez not got hurt. Instead, they missed the playoffs and Smith got benched multiple times.

Rex Ryan was rewarded for his efforts as the Jets gave him an extension. Ryan was viewed as a lame duck head coach last year, but he did prove that he should be the coach of the New York Jets.

The lone free agent the Jets have made a priority to re-sign is offensive tackle Austin Howard. Howard had a solid year playing right tackle, but he shouldn’t command an expensive contract extension.

They have about 22 million dollars in cap space, but that number will grow once they make some cuts. Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes will definitely be cut and will move on from New York where they were once beloved. The Sanchez-era in New York will finally come to an end.

The Jets will also be active in free agency and spend that 22+ million dollars. They will target offensive players to put around Smith. Hakeem Nicks could be a fit right across the River. With Geno Smith struggling, don’t be surprised if former Eagles and Falcons quarterback Mike Vick winds up as a Jet this spring.

Marquis Lee and Mike Evans are two players the Jets covet in the draft. They need more playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Lee and Evans can provide that for an offense that was lackluster most of the time last year. They also need an offensive guard, but the feeling is they will address that need later in the draft.

Miami Dolphins:

The Dolphins had a little bit of a rough season. They controlled their own destiny to make the playoffs late, but faded down the stretch. Not only did they miss the playoffs a year after making some big time free agent acquisitions (Mike Wallace), but they also had the whole Jonathon Martin-Richie Incognito scandal that changed the landscape and culture of that locker room.

They made some big time changes to that coaching staff. Joe Philibin remained head coach, but he was forced to fire incumbent offensive coordinator and his good friend Mike Sherman. They also fired their offensive line coach and head strength trainer as a result of the Ted Wells investigation. Their President of Football Operations Jeff Ireland was also canned after he lost a power struggle with the new general manager.

The first thing the Dolphins must figure out is what they are going to do with their talented but troubled offensive tackle Jonathon Martin. Owner Stephen Ross has said that the team doesn’t expect him back next season so the team will likely trade or release him. Richie Incognito is already a free agent after his contract expired.

They have other free agents they have to take care of as well. Brent Grimes is an absolute must re-sign. He returned to Pro-Bowl form after tearing his Achilles the year before. He won’t come cheap, though. The team may not be willing to give him a lucrative contract extension so they will probably franchise him. This will be the second time in the last 3 seasons Grimes will have been tagged. Other than Grimes no other Dolphin free agent is a must re-sign. They probably will want to bring back nose tackle Paul Soliai to sure up the middle of that defense.

The ‘Fins will be picking number 19 in the draft and will likely target an offensive tackle, tight end, or linebacker. They could target Zach Martin out of Notre Dame or Cyrus Koundjio out of Alabama as an offensive tackle. They will probably sign a veteran free agent or draft a quarterback to get Ryan Tannehill some competition.

Free agency could be just as busy as it was last year for Miami. They have around 32 million dollars in cap space and not that many players they have to re-sign. A big name acquisition could heading to South Beach again. Brandon Spikes isn’t a huge name, but he would be a fit for them and he went to college at Florida.

Buffalo Bills:

The Bills record may not show it, but they did make some strides last year. They played a lot of their games close and got some real progress out of some young pieces.

I’m still not sold on E.J Manuel, but when healthy he played pretty good. Backup quarterback Thad Lewis played great last year considering he was signed off the practice squad before making his second career start. He almost lead them to victories over the Patriots, Bengals, and Ravens. All three of those games were close losses.

The Bills lost their defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to the Browns to be their head coach. Other than that the Bills coaching staff remains intact.

Free Safety Jairus Byrd will likely follow his former DC to the Browns, but the Bills have other free agents that could leave. Tight End Scott Chandler is also a free agent and should be a priority for them to re-sign. He is too important in the run blocking game to let go. They might want to re-sign Dan Carpenter but he is a kicker so he isn’t that important.

They could make move or two in free agency if they wanted too. They will have around 18 million dollars to spend. Their big free agent move came a two years ago when Mario Williams got 50 million guaranteed. So, the Bills will have to overpay any free agent they like to get them to go to Buffalo.

The Bills own the number 9 pick in the draft and could go a number of different ways. I think they will go offensive lineman. They may even move up to get Jake Matthews from A&M. They also need a linebacker, and a wide out.

North:

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals had a disappointing end to what was a pretty good season in Cincinnati. They lost to the Chargers in the first round in a game that wasn’t even close.

They lost both of their coordinators to head coaching jobs after the season. You can read about their replacements right here one the Purple Quill.

Backup offensive tackle Anthony Collins and sack artist defensive end Michael Johnson are both free agents. There has been a lot of chatter around the league that the Bengals will let both of them walk because they don’t want to pay them each a lucrative contract. However, the salary cap increased 7 million dollars from last season. That might be the thing that makes the Bengals re-sign both of them. The Bengals could also give AJ Green a big extension like Cam Newton will get but that is extremely unlikely. Mike Brown will probably franchise Green when his contract is up in a few years and continue to pay him on his rookie deal as long as possible until then. BenJarvous Green-Ellis could be cut to save his 4 million dollar cap number to save money.

Critics had a field day when Andy Dalton struggled in the playoffs for a third year in a row to make his record 0-3. A lot of analysts out there don’t believe Dalton can get the Bengals to a Super Bowl and consider Dalton a weak spot on the team. I believe Dalton should get one more chance, but they should bring in competition for the incumbent starter. They could look to add Vince Young, Michael Vick, Kyle Orton or they could draft a quarterback.

In the first round of the draft the Bengals will be picking 24th. They have some needs they could address. That includes cornerback, linebacker or safety. C.J Mosley, Ryan Shazier, Jason Verrett are all options. They could also take Haha Clinton-Dix from Alabama if he falls to them.

They will once again have all the money they need to make an upgrade via free agency. They have a large amount of 35 million dollars in cap space. They probably won’t make a big signing, but could make a cheap upgrade. I think adding free safety Malcolm Jenkins would be a great move. He won’t cost a ton and fits right in with the defense. They will move Vontaze Burfict to inside linebacker, so Rey Mauluga could also be cut. They could also add a replacement for Rey Mauluga via free agency, but that’s also likely to come via the draft.

Baltimore Ravens:

The Ravens also controlled their own destiny late in the year, but collapsed in the last game of the year against the Bengals. They missed the playoffs for the first time in a long time and looked like they missed the leadership of Ray Lewis and Anquan Boldin.

They lost offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to the Lions head coaching vacancy. They replaced him with former Texans coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak was one of the best offensive coordinators in the league when he was with the Broncos years ago so that could be a big time addition to their offense.

As far as re-signing players goes they need to re-sign tight end Dennis Pitta. Joe Flacco looked way better when Pitta was in there in the second half of the year. Pitta got hurt in training camp and missed the first 10 games of the year. Linebacker Arthur Jones is also a priority for them to re-sign. While, Jones might walk Pitta will definitely be back in Baltimore next season via contract extension or the franchise tag. Michael Oher and Eugene Monroe are also free agents and could both easily sign else where. The Ravens cant afford both and will likely have to pick one or none.

The Ravens hold the number 17 pick in the draft and will be looking to draft an offensive tackle. Oher and Monroe both aren’t going to re-sign so they will need to replace one of them. They could also select a wide receiver in round one where it could be one of the deepest in years. Mike Evans could be a perfect fit in this offense.

The Ravens have 22 million dollars in cap space but will likely use that all up re-signing their own free agents.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

The Steelers were a botched call in the Chiefs-Chargers game away from making the playoffs in what would have been a miracle. They needed four teams to lose and three of them did in order to make the playoffs. The fourth team, the Chargers, survived in overtime after the Chiefs missed a 30 yard field goal as time expired.

I doubt offensive coordinator Todd Hailey will be back, so the Steelers will have to get a knew play caller.

They have a number of players to re-sign such as Ryan Clark and Emmanuel Sanders. None of the Steelers free agents will be back because they are 6.6 million dollars over the cap. That means they cannot sign any more players. They will also probably have to cut players. Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, and Heath Miller could all be cut as cap casualties as a result.

They could do a number of different things in the draft. It depends on who they cut, but the defense struggled last year so they could draft a corner or safety.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns completed yet another season of mediocrity last season. They traded former number three overall pick Trent Richardson and lost a ton of players to injuries. Brian Hoyer came in and won three games in three starts before tearing his ACL. Despite the trade, injuries and the fact that new owner Jimmy Haslam said this would be a “long-term rebuild” they fired head coach Rob Chudzinski.

They replaced Chudzinski with former Bills DC Mike Pettine. They hired Pettine after a series of coaches turned down the job including 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. There were reports last week that the Browns were close to acquiring Harbaugh but Harbaugh ultimately nixed the deal. For their offensive coordinator spot they signed Klye Shannahan the son of the recently fired Mike Shannahan.

Not only did they fire their coach after one season during a “long-term rebuild” but they also fired their GM and replaced him with their assistant GM Ray Farmer.

Despite all of the negativity the Browns have a chance to really improve this offseason. They have around 40 million dollars in cap space and only two free agents that would be expensive to re-sign. Those two players are Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and starting safety T.J Ward. Both players have a strong chance at re-signing but Mack is the one that is more likely to be back.

Cleveland is loaded with draft picks and have three of the first thirty five picks. If I were them I would draft Johnny Manziel with their first pick which is number four overall. Then I would go wide receiver and if Marquis Lee is there I would definitely take him. With the number thirty five pick I would draft hometown hero (not actually from Cleveland) and Ohio State product Carlos Hyde. This would be a great start for a rebuild in Cleveland. Other options would include drafting Sammy Watkins with the fourth pick and I wouldn’t mind that pick. I think Watkins is one of the top players in the draft , but Cleveland must grab a quarterback if they see one they like.

In free agency the Browns have to active. They have 40 million dollars in cap space and that number could grow to 50 million dollars if they cut D’Qwell Jackson and Davone Bess as expected. That means they will likely upgrade the offensive line or receiving core. What they do in free agency will likely dictate what they do in the draft. If they sign a receiver they will probably draft a quarterback high and vice versa. Quarterbacks they could target via free agency include Mike Vick or Mark Sanchez. If I were the Browns I would target Michael Oher or Anthony Dixon but they apparently have their sight set on Texans free agent running back and Auburn product Ben Tate. Other players they could target are in the safety market.  Jairus Byrd and Donte Whitner both have ties to head coach Mike Pettine from when he was in Buffalo and they would once again make a pretty good duo in Cleveland.

South:

Indianapolis Colts:

The Colts won the worst division in football last year and actually won a game in the playoffs. They stunned the Chiefs in one of the largest playoff comebacks of all time.

In the middle of the season the Colts made a shocking acquisition of former number three overall pick Trent Richardson in exchange for a first round pick. The move didn’t work out as Richardson averaged a little less than three yards per carry and had a couple of big fumbles. Its safe to say that there is no way in hell the Colts would do that trade again.

They also have a couple free agents they would like to re-sign. They must re-sign cornerback Vontae Davis as he was a big time playmaker for them. They also gave up a second round pick for him a couple of years ago so it makes sense they try to re-sign him. They also have veteran safety Antoine Bethea to re-sign as a leader and tackler in that secondary. Future hall of fame kicker Adam Vinatieri is also a free agent but he might draw more interest from other teams. Darius Heyward-Bey and his butterfingers certainly won’t be back.

The main objective for the Colts is to get protection for Andrew Luck. Everybody on that offensive line played bad last year. Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilous might be replaced next season and the Colts will definitely upgrade the interior offensive line. Watch out for Branden Albert or Anthony Collins to sign in Indy.

As far as the draft goes they don’t have a first round pick as mentioned in the Trent Richardson trade, but when they are picking in the second round they could do a number of different things. They could draft a wide receiver, guard or linebacker. If offensive guard David Yankey is on the board I expect the Colts to pounce.

Tennessee Titans:

The Titans suffered a number of injuries and as a result had a poor season. Jake Locker got hurt and so did Kenny Britt, Chris Johnson among others.   Their long time owner Bud Adams died and he was a big loss to the NFL and will be missed around the league.

After Mike Munchak refused to make changes to his staff he was fired and replaced by former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. It was an ugly ending for the hall of fame offensive lineman.

The Titans have big decision to make regarding their star running back Chris Johnson. The Titans have to decide whether or not Johnson is worth his large cap number and pay check or it will be better if they cut ties with the former 2,000 yard rusher. Johnson has not been the same since holding out for his massive contract extension the summer after hitting that 2,000 yard mark.

They will likely target an offensive lineman, cornerback or defensive back in free agency or the draft. They will also pick up a quarterback after deciding not to pick up the 2015 option on Jake Locker. This means that they don’t think that Locker is the future quarterback in Tennessee and he might be injury-prone so they will need a better backup than Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

The Jaguars had a better season than most thought they would. They rattled off four straight wins after a lot of people thought they could go 0-16 after the first half of the season.

If the Jaguars learned one thing it is that Blaine Gabbert is clearly not the future. He struggled mightily last year and the Jaguars number one priority should be getting a franchise quarterback in Jacksonville. They will have a number of options in the draft. Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, or Teddy Bridgewater will be there when they are on the clock. If they don’t take a quarterback Tim Tebow is always available.

It will be interesting to see what they do with their star wide receiver Justin Blackmon who has already been suspended by league multiple times for substance abuse and has gotten a DUI. The Jags may try to trade the talented by troubled wide out to get more picks to rebuild.

Free agency should be fun for Jaguar fans as the team has a crazy 55 million dollars to spend. With that money they could target almost anybody, but the problem is that nobody wants to go to Jacksonville unless they are being paid an insane amount of money.

Maurice Jones-Drew is the only noteworthy free agent they have and his time in Jacksonville is probably up as he is expected to join a contender.

Houston Texans:

The Texans were unbelievably bad last year after being Super Bowl contenders the previous three years. They started out 0-2 and then lost fourteen consecutive games. It was so bad they were forced to cut Ed Reed in the middle of the season.

They fired Gary Kubiak and his staff and now appear to be starting from scratch. They replaced Kubiak with former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien. They also replaced Wade Phillips with former Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel to be the defensive coordinator.

Now they have the number one pick and have plenty of options. They could select Johnny Manziel, JaDeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater. I would draft Johnny Football, but they could also trade the pick.

I don’t believe the Texans will take Clowney. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s system doesn’t need or favor pass rushers. He rarely has players get double-digit sacks in his system. Plus, they already have JJ Watt so I don’t think it would make much sense to draft Clowney. To me, they have to get a quarterback.

We are looking at perhaps the most talented team ever to hold the number one pick. The Texans could be looking to get their quarterback and be headed right back to the playoffs. The division they play in is the weakest in the entire NFL. I could easily see Manziel or Bridgewater turning the Texans around under Bill O’Brien.

They don’t have that much cap space and will likely lose running back Ben Tate in free agency. That could be a problem because Arian Foster seems to be a little injury-prone. To free up space they could look to cut some veteran players (Matt Schaub).

Overall, the Texans could be a quarterback a way from turning their ship around.

 

10 Bold Predictions:

  1. 1.       Jimmy Graham, Saints will complete a long-term deal.

Jimmy Graham is often referred to as the top tight end in the game and he wants to be paid as such. The Saints are cash-strapped though don’t necessarily have the money to assuage his needs. There is no way that they would let their star tight end leave New Orleans, so they will almost certainly slap the franchise tag on him if they can’t work something out. If the Saints choose to go down that road there will be a legal battle on what position Graham actually plays. Graham believes he is used as a wide receiver and the Saints believe his position is tight end. Why does it matter so much? because the tight end’s franchise number is about 4.5 million dollars less than the wide receiver’s pay. I don’t think the Saints nor Graham want to go through that legal battle. At the end of the day, I believe both sides want to work something out and they will. If that means Graham has to take a little less than what Gronk got or the Saints have to cut some more salary then they will do it. I think Jimmy Graham will be a very rich man in New Orleans pretty soon.

  1. 2.       Johnny Manziel will be the number one overall pick

There has been a lot of debate on what the Houston Texans should do with the number one overall pick in this year’s draft. They aren’t short on options, they could draft South Carolina defensive end JaDeveon Clowney, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, or Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. They could also trade out of the top spot and still potentially get one of those guys. I am of the belief that the Texans should take Manziel. There is just no other player that can make the plays he makes. It will be too hard for the Texans to not take hometown product and Texas native Manziel. He already put up some impressive numbers at the combine and will almost certainly light up his pro-day at A&M. The Texans know that the only piece they are missing is the quarterback. Everything else is there for a team that just imploded last season behind poor quarterback play.  If the Texans don’t take him number one then they will trade the pick to somebody who will. Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota, and Jacksonville are all potential landing spots and it could end up being a bidding war for the former Heisman trophy winner.

  1. 3.       The Ravens will cut Pro-Bowl running back Ray Rice, Broncos will cut Champ Bailey

The Ravens and Broncos will both be looking to upgrade their teams this offseason but both of them don’t have a ton of money to get that done. They also both have some key free agents that they would like to re-sign. The Ravens have rising tight end Denis Pitta to take care of and the Broncos have breakout wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Knowshon Moreno. To free up money this offseason each will make some difficult decisions to cut players. The Ravens will cut former Pro-Bowl running back Ray Rice who is in the midst of a 5 year, 35 million dollar deal. Rice took a big step back this season where he only rushed for just over 600 yards. Not only did his production dip, but he also got arrested for allegedly knocking out his fiancée at a casino. All of that coupled with the fact that running back is no longer a premium position anymore and their shelf-life is about 30 years old does not look good for Rice.

Champ Bailey is a different story. He did not get arrested and cornerback is still an important position, but he has lost a step. The former shut-down corner was hurt for much of last season and when he did play he got beat quite a few times. Doug Baldwin beat him multiple times in the Super Bowl and it appeared as if the Seahawks were attacking him the entire game. Plus, champ Bailey would count for about 13 million dollars off the salary cap. If Champ doesn’t agree to a pay cut his days in Denver could be over.

  1. 4.       AJ McCarron will fall into the fourth round of the NFL Draft (at least)

Quarterbacks are always hard to predict in the draft. They either go way too high or free fall down in the draft. Recent examples of quarterbacks going to high include Christian Ponder, E.J Manuel, Tim Tebow, Ryan Tannehill, and Blaine Gabbert. Quarterbacks who went into free fall after not going in the first round include Matt Barley, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, and Russell Wilson. AJ McCarron thinks that he will be a top-20 pick next April. I just do not see that happening. There is only a certain amount of teams that need to draft quarterbacks early on and there are plenty of quarterbacks that I have ahead of McCarron on my board. I think Manziel, Bridegewater, Bortles and Derek Carr will be first round picks. Then I think that LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Eastern Illinois Jimmy Garoppolo are all going to go ahead of McCarron. Add that to the fact that the second tier quarterbacks tend to drop in the draft. All of the signs I’m getting are that the Alabama product will be a 4th or a 5th round pick.

  1. 5.       Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam will be drafted by the San Diego Chargers

Most NFL players seem to support Michael Sam’s decision to come out as gay a couple months before the NFL draft and become the first openly gay player in the NFL. The former SEC defensive player of the year is expected to be a middle round pick. Sam will be drafted in the fifth round by the San Diego Chargers. This is a perfect spot for Sam to land. Remember the whole Manti Teo Saga last year? Well, he goes to San Diego and you don’t hear a word about him the entire season. The lack of media fire storm in San Diego would be perfect for Sam. Plus, San Diego is an area that is very gay friendly. Not to mention that San Diego desperately needs a speed rusher coming off the end. It makes too much sense for the Chargers to not take him.

  1. 6.       The Bengals will sign free agent free safety Malcolm Jenkins, draft a linebacker

The biggest needs for the Bengals are at the safety and linebacker positions. They signed Chris Crocker off the street for a second season in a row to help out at the safety spot. Ohio State product Malcolm Jenkins is a free agent this year and it would be a big time move if they were to add the former Pro-Bowler. He is a hard hitting safety that is also good in coverage and would fit right into the Benglas defensive scheme.

Linebacker is also a need and Rey Mauluga could get cut as a result of trying to find somebody else to step in. Vontaze Burfict will move inside this year, so the Bengals will be trying to find an outside linebacker to replace Burfict’s production. The Bengals will target Ryan Shazier or CJ Mosley via the draft.

  1. 7.       The Patriots will spend money on free agents

The Patriots had absolutely nothing around Tom Brady last year. Not only is Julian Edelman a free agent, but Gronk is out for at least the first half of the season after tearing his ACL and MCL in his knee late in the year.

Unlike last year, the Pats will upgrade the receiving core and defense. They tried to get Emmanuel Sanders last year, but failed. Sanders will be a free agent again this year, so watch out for him to join New England. Also, watch out for the talented but troubled wide receiver Kenny Britt to draw some interest from the Patriots. They are known to take chances on these low-risk, high reward type players and Kenny Britt could be a cheap option for them. Jared Allen could also be a fit on defense. Allen said he wants to play for a winning team and he would be a good fit in New England.

Brandon Pettigrew could be a stop-gap tight end till Gronk gets back and the Pats could be right back in the Super Bowl hunt with one big move.

  1. 8.       The Cleveland Browns will be the most improved team this offseason

The Browns have the second most cap space in the league and will be looking to add free agents. They also have two first round picks and a ton of talent within the organization. Josh Gordon,  Jordon Cameron and Joe Thomas anchor an offense that could be a quarterback away from the playoffs. The defense has always been borderline-elite but they do need to add a few pieces to take the next step into being elite.

They can move up in their division. If the Browns can add that quarterback and use their money wisely they will have the most improved team, especially with the Ravens and Steelers aging and cash-strapped.

The cap space they possess will allow them to upgrade all areas of their team. That means expect the Browns to be much improved on offense this year. Just add that to their already stout defense. Their abundance of draft picks will help too and the Browns will be back in the playoffs for the first time in a while.

  1. 9.       Jonathon Martin and Richie Incognito both will not play in the NFL this season

Jonathon Martin is trying to get back to normalcy after the Richie Incognito saga ended in Martin’s favor. When private investigator Ted Wells found that Richie Incognito did bully Martin it pretty much ended Incognito’s career. Nobody is going to be willing to take a chance on him now. Not only did Incognito bully Martin but he also used racial slurs toward him which I believe is more of a reason why Incognito won’t ever see an NFL field again. His career is over.

As for Martin, he does have a chance to catch on with a team and have a successful career. He is a former first round pick out of Stanford in only his third season. He has unlimited potential as a left tackle or a right tackle. After all that, he does carry some baggage as well. A lot of NFL players took Incognito’s side and believe Martin to be soft. That is not something a GM would like an offensive lineman to be described as. Plus, not one Dolphins player came to Martin’s defense. They pretty much sided with Incognito as well.

I don’t think GM’s are going to take the risk of having Jonathon Martin in their locker room. When this blows over, he will get a chance. I don’t see him getting a chance this season, though.

  1. 10.   Tim Tebow will sign with an NFL team but not as a QB

Tim Tebow sat out last season after being cut by the Patriots and Jets. He recently made headlines by agreeing to a deal with ESPN and the SEC network as a commentator. I’m sure that contract has an out clause because Tebow is going to get another chance in the NFL. I don’t think it will be a quarterback and Tim is going to have to mentally adjust to not being the quarterback, but he can make it work.

The H-back position is perfect for him. He can run the ball, block, and catch passes. He can do all of those things well. Plus, he can play quarterback when needed. It’s not like practice really helps Tebow. He is more of a guy who can improvise.

The Jaguars should give him a shot to play quarterback but if not there will be multiple teams lined up to give him a try at H-back.

 

Let’s explore the free agent market.

Buyer Beware:

  1. 1.       Knowshon Moreno/RB-Broncos

Had a good year, but will he do when teams don’t have to stop Peyton Manning first and worry about him later?

  1. 2.       Greg Hardy/DE-Panthers

Good stats but he was protected by a great pass rusher opposite him in Charles Johnson and really good linebackers behind him.

  1. 3.       Aqib Talib/CB-Patriots

Great talent but can he stay healthy and out of trouble? I wouldn’t invest in that.

  1. 4.       B.J Raji/NT-Packers

Raji is a great talent and is ruthless against the run but he is a one dimensional player. If he cant rush the passer he will only play two downs. That takes him value way down in my opinion

  1. 5.       Josh McCown/QB-Bears

He had a great second-half of the year and played great as Jay Cutler’s replacement. How do we know this isn’t just a fluke? Remember the last backup quarterback to play great in a quarterback-friendly system? That would be Matt Flynn and that makes any team who signs McCown worried.

Bargains:

  1. 1.       Anthony Dixon/RB-

I just have a feeling that Dixon is going to be a steal for some team. I watched him play in San Fran and this kid has talent. He was buried behind some really good players in San Fran and I think he could shine as the lead back in a run heavy system.

  1. 2.       Anthony Collins/OT-Bengals

Collins played behind Pro-Bowlers Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith in Cincinnati but when Whitworth slid over to left guard Collins never missed a beat at Left Tackle. Any team who signs him is going to get one heck of a steal at left tackle.

  1. 3.       Mike Neal/DE-Packers

Mike Neal can really get after the passer. He stepped up big time in Clay Matthews absence and was a constant force at getting to opposing quarterbacks.

  1. 4.       Red Bryant/DE-Seahwaks

Bryant was a cap casualty in Seattle but he can still help a team stuff the run. He would be a great value at this point in his career.

  1. 5.       Kenny Britt/WR-Titans

Big-time talent but also can be big-time trouble. His off the field trouble will force him to take an incentive-laden contract with little or no signing bonus money. The Patriots would be agreat spot for him to land.