Which moves will re-shape the NFL?
By: Rachel Maries (Twitter: @rachmariesports)
The Cardinals were an intriguing team this season. Felt like they were almost there, but not quite. While some position groups were strong (wide receiver), others left something to be desired (secondary).
The Cardinals need a veteran piece at safety. How about Anthony Harris? Having been franchise tagged this past season by the Vikings, he is set to hit free agency this offseason and could be just the piece a defense like the Cardinals is looking for.
The Falcons were practically in shambles this season. It seemed that, even with a lead, they perpetually found a way to lose the game. This led to their GM and Head Coach being fired.
While the team searches, one must wonder what the new regime will do. Maybe they’ll come out with a “bang” and get some of the money off of the books, dealing Matt Ryan, Julio Jones (and getting teams to help out with the dead cap hit), or both for draft capital. This would essentially put the team into full-on rebuild mode. But, would anyone really be that mad?
The Buffalo Bills are a serious team to talk about this offseason as they finished their regular season 13-3 and won their division. With a roster full of some serious talent already, what could help this team stay relevant in the future?
How about signing their young, and quite talented star quarterback to a whopping contract extension? And I’m talking substantial enough to make us all say, “WOW”. The quarterback market has shown us the type of numbers we might be able to expect the Bills to throw his way.
The Ravens made a late-season push to secure a fifth seeded playoff spot, but certainly lacked depth at wide receiver that may have made their run a bit easier. With the 2021 draft class looking pretty deep at the position, it’s time for the Ravens to make their splash move in the first round.
Receivers the likes of Chris Olave from Ohio State, or Kadarius Toney from Florida have the potential to be on the board at Raven’s pick. There’s enough wide receiver talent in the draft to help guarantee they get their guy that can win all over the field.
The Panthers had quite the wishy-washy season, showing bursts of promise, but then failing to finish out games. The good news for the Panthers is: it seems like Matt Rhule is driven and has the ability to take the team in the right direction.
The Panthers have the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft, and that spot has been good to them in the past (McCaffrey was selected eighth overall). The team has a shot at one of the top quarterbacks in the class at that spot, and to make some serious noise in the future, they could draft the best available to play under Teddy until his time to shine.
The Bengals have a dangerously gifted young quarterback in Joe Burrow. Unfortunately, Burrow left the 2020 season with a gruesome knee injury. The big move the Bengals can make to try to be sure they have not only adequate protection for their leader but also a player with a promise to make a big name for himself in this league?
Draft Oregon’s left tackle, Penei Sewell. According to SportsNaut, Sewell allowed zero sacks in 926 blocking snaps in 2019 while protecting Justin Herbert’s blindside.
The Browns have made it out of their playoff drought this season, but that certainly does not mean that there are not ways in the which the team could make a few attention-getting offseason moves. For starters, they could definitely bolster their linebacking corp, as it has proven to be one of the weaker spots on the team.
What about working out a trade with the potentially rebuilding Atlanta Falcons for the Foyesade Oluokun? Oluokun has demonstrated his abilities this season notching 3 sacks, 98 tackles, an interception, and 4 forced fumbles!
Over the 2020 season, it seemed that the likelihood of the organization coming to a contract extension agreement with Allen Robinson was getting slimmer and slimmer. So who could make a large enough impact to replace the big-name receiver if it doesn’t work out?
Corey Davis of the Tennessee Titans would make a lot of sense. Once underrated, the world has had a chance to see what Davis has got this past season while he averaged 15.1 yards per reception on a serious run-heavy offense…right in time for free agency. The Bears can’t overlook that, and we all know Trubisky needs reliable receivers.
The Dallas Cowboys have quite a few messes to clean up with offseason, but one might say that the top priority of all would be to work out a contract extension with Dak Prescott. Sure, the entire team had it’s struggles this year, but not coming to an agreement with Prescott could be a move the team would regret for years to come.
This gesture may not be surprising, but it could sure make a splash in Dallas when they can breathe a collective sigh of relief having it worked out.
The Broncos were going through a bit of an identity crisis in the 2020 season and will look to remedy that heading into 2021. This starts with a quarterback. Rumors swirl around who Denver might target.
Names have been thrown around including Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford. But, what if the team reached out to the reeling, and most likely dealing New York Jets to work out a trade for Sam Darnold instead? Darnold is young and has talent, but so far in his career has been lacking it around him.
What a year for this team that seems to be constantly looking for the right GM and Head Coach combo that can get it right. After relieving Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn of their duties following Thanksgiving Day, this team hopes to go onward and upward under the ownership of Sheila Ford Hamp.
Who they hire will make all the difference. How about the combo of a true leader, and player-friendly head coach in 49er’s defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, and a guy that checks all of the boxes, Ed Dodds for GM?
Green Bay Packers
While approaching the 2020 season’s trade deadline, many Packers fans and football fans alike expected the team to make a trade for a wide receiver to play opposite the astounding Davante Adams. This trade never came to fruition, and means that this is still a need for the team when looking towards the 2021 season.
Luckily for the Pack, this draft class is full of talent at wide receiver. Even later in the first round pick, they are almost guaranteed to grab someone that will suit their needs. The move may not be the splashiest, but their offense with two loaded weapons at wide receiver will be.
I’m sure that most of the Texans fans are happy that the disaster that was Bill O’Brien is over in Houston. But, the terrible money situation he created is still at play.
What shocking move could the Texans make this offseason to get them back on track? Outside of hiring the right guy to run the team, what about dealing J.J. Watt? He may be one of the only bright spots left, but the Texans are in a serious cap crunch, and a J.J. trade could undoubtedly help ease the strain.
Ah, the Colts, a team in quarterback limbo since the retirement of Andrew Luck. We will likely not see Philip Rivers behind that monster Colts offensive line in 2021, so what could the Colts do to generate some faith from the fans?
Aside from attempting to draft one of the better quarterbacks in this year’s bunch, what if they took a shot at impending free agent Jameis Winston? Sure, he had turnover issues in Tampa, but so did Rivers in Los Angeles and that didn’t stop the Colts from giving it a go.
Kansas City Chiefs
It would be hard to top the splash move the Kansas City Chiefs made last season when they offered Pat Mahomes a MONSTER, record-breaking contract extension. But, there are still a few key additions needed to keep this powerhouse at the top of the pack.
For instance, an edge rusher. And Shaq Barrett is set to test the waters in free agency pending any offers from the Bucs. Now that signing could instill even more fear around the league in this already top tier Kansas City team.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders did not have the season that fans wanted in their first year at their shiny new Death Star-Esque stadium in Las Vegas. Heading into 2021, there are a few bold moves that could help push the team over the edge, but my particular favorite is to cut Derek Carr and promote Marcus Mariota to QB1.
The Raiders have arguably one of the best young deep threat wide receivers in the league in Henry Ruggs III and Carr does not take big shots downfield nearly as often as he should. Mariota could not only increase the team’s big-play potential but can also scramble out of the pocket creating sizeable plays with his feet too. Not to mention this move would save the team in cap space.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers shocked many in the NFL community when they released head coach Anthony Lynn. Many thought that injuries were the biggest thorn in the side of this team. Alas, the coaching search is on, and the Chargers would be making a bold move if they brought in the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, for the job. Sports Illustrated discusses the benefits of the hire based on his success with Josh Allen in more detail in the article.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are not in a good place when it comes to cap space looking towards the 2021 season. Although it will be hard for them to shake things up too much, they could still step onto the scene next year with a veteran, reliable backup quarterback option in case of Goff injury. Enter: Jacoby Brissett.
The Jaguars. The struggle. The start to the answer? Sorry that this seems pretty obvious, but its got to be drafting Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the 2021 draft.
This team is more than a few pieces away from glory, but a young talent the likes of Lawrence is without a doubt the place to start. And stay strong Jags fans, because I’m 100% positive they won’t let you down if this is the move that you’re looking for.
The Dolphins put up quite the fight this season and displayed a much improved defense after their front office overhaul. So, naturally, this coming season the Dolphins will need to switch focus to the offensive side of the ball. That means establishing an offensive identity and cutting out the quarterback rotation. To solidify this, the team needs to let Ryan Fitzpatrick go.
Yes, he came in and played well when necessary, but Tua is the future of the team, and Fitzpatrick has clearly stated he wants his own team too. The Dolphins have a ton of draft capital this year and could easily invest in a third or fourth round backup for Tagovailoa. Though it may not be the popular decision, it’s time to let the vet move on.
The Vikings will be entering the 2021 season with the eight worst cap situation in the league. This means they will have to make some difficult decisions to balance out the books. One shocking way to get the job done? Let Anthony Barr walk. Although extremely popular amongst fans, and even having taken a step back in recent years from his spectacular 2015 season, Barr will still command a decent chunk of cash.
The Vikings saw what Eric Wilson could do while filling in for Barr this season, and it didn’t look too shabby. According to Inside the Vikings: “Through eight weeks Wilson had three interceptions, 2.5 sacks, and two fumble recoveries, and he was second to Kendricks in tackles.” Read more here about how Inside the Vikings think the team can turn it back around and make it to the postseason:
New England Patriots
In Bill Belichick’s first season without Tom Brady, the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. There are a lot of questions surrounding the team coming into the 2021 season, including who will be playing at quarterback.
A move that might surprise many around the league, but could make complete sense? Sign Dwayne Haskins. Belichick is notorious for taking in “troublesome” players (if that’s what you want to call Haskins after his release from The Washington Football team for being spotted at a strip club violating Covid protocol), and could undeniably help Haskins reach his full potential.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees suffered a nasty injury this season suffering 11 fractured ribs and a collapsed lung. Although he made a timely recovery, and has been able to play for the team in the postseason, the time may be looming that every Saints fan dreads: retirement for #9. Does this mean that we can anticipate seeing Taysom Hill behind center in New Orleans?
Although this is likely the case, the Saints could still attract attention by taking a quarterback in the 2021 draft. Hill is impressive in that he has taken at least 10 snaps at each offensive skill position this year, but the Saints should plan for the scenario in which he doesn’t pan out as a permanent starter.
New York Giants
The Giants were devastated at the end of the 2020 season when the Philadelphia Eagles seemingly tanked their last game of the season and the Giants were eliminated from the post season because of it. Still, most of the blame lies on the Giants themselves, as they did not stand out from the rest of the pack in the lowly NFC East and finished the season at just 6-10.
One way to get noticed and get serious going into 2021? Get rid of Jason Garrett. One season is more than enough time to see that Garrett’s play calling does match Daniel Jones’ skill set, and that Garrett was not able adjust accordingly.
While in the process of writing this article, the Philadelphia Eagles did it. They made the move that would cause the league to be set ablaze with talk and speculation. They relieved head coach Doug Pederson of his duties following what looked like his decision to throw their season finale to The Washington Football Team.
This felt like a bombshell to many considering this decision came down just two seasons after the Eagles’ first EVER Super Bowl win.
Big Ben is undoubtedly heading towards (if not already there) the end of this career in football. This leaves question marks surrounding what the Steelers will do to replace him. My thoughts? Go big or go home going after Carson Wentz.
The cap situation wouldn’t be easy, but Wentz is due for a change of scenery, and is projected by many to thrive outside of Philadelphia’s offensive scheme and lack of playmakers.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers did not live up to the hype after their appearance in last year’s Super Bowl. Granted, the team was ravaged by injuries right off the bat. That means that there is still hope to turn things around next season, but it may take a few impactful moves to get there.
One of which would technically just be to not make a move at all and let veteran cornerback Richard Sherman walk. Although a fan favorite, Sherman’s latest injury and age makes extending him too risky.
The Seahawks had a lot things going for them this season. Pressure off of the edge was not one of them. With the cap situation being of concern heading into 2021, it might be hard for the Seahawks to make any terribly splashy signings.
However, injuries might help them secure a player for less that could rebound nicely and make a significant impact on an already stacked roster. Think Bud Dupree or Melvin Ingram, or potentially Everson Griffen whose market value may have decreased after being moved around multiple times throughout the year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are back in the playoffs under the leadership of the G.O.A.T. himself, Tom Brady. They look pretty sturdy on the defensive side of the ball as well. But that will change heading into the 2021 season and beyond as many veteran names are heading towards either retirement or free agency.
The key for Tampa Bay- make a statement while getting younger defensively. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson could help do just that. According to FanSided, “Hutchinson is a very active defensive lineman with a huge frame…As a sophomore in 2019, he had 68 tackles (34 solo), 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and six passes defended”.
He suffered an injury in his junior year that may help him fall to Tampa Bay’s pick. Surely Brady would welcome the fellow Wolverine to replace Ndamukong Suh who is heading to free agency.
The Titans experienced monster success on offense under Tannehill and the league’s premiere rusher Derrick (King) Henry. However, Vrabel’s defense proved to be one of the worst in the league.
The main culprit for the defense’s failure? Not having an actual defensive coordinator. According to the Tennessean, “Players all season long bemoaned a lack of communication, a lack of execution…You know, a lack of coordination.”
If the Titans want to have a chance to stay in the upper echelons of the league, they need to do the simple, yet necessary, and put a name on that defensive coordinator title. If they want to get the league talking, maybe Vrabel will bite the bullet on his self proclaimed “defensive mindedness” and hire from the outside. Now that would get ’em talking.
The Washington Football Team
Although The Washington Football Team’s Alex Smith will undoubtedly win Comeback Player of the Year (deservedly so!), it is time for the team to plan for their future in a younger starter with less injury risk and history.
They can try to trade for one, search through free agency, or bank on the draft. But here’s a wild idea: why not propose a trade for Gardner Minshew? The Jaguars are set to pick Trevor Lawrence with the 2021 first overall pick, and that means Minshew’s days as a starter are all but a thing of the past.
A trade for Minshew would leave The Washington Football team with a young quarterback with untapped potential who hasn’t had the most talent around him, and the Jaguars with potentially even more draft capital than their 11 picks.