The cliche in the NFL says it is better to build a long-term winner through the draft than free agency, and it is hard to argue that while the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers prepare for the playoffs with drafted quarterbacks, while teams like the Miami Dolphins struggle after making an offseason splash with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
However, adding the right free agents on the correct deals is an ideal way to subsidize shrewd drafting (cornerback Darrelle Revis certainly helped the Patriots win the Lombardi Trophy a season ago).
The offseason before the 2016 campaign will give teams looking to reach the upper echelon of the league a chance to add some firepower on the open market before it is time to draft. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the latest speculation from around the NFL with one week of regular-season games remaining.
Kirk Cousins Appears Primed for Commitment from Washington
It wasn’t long ago that Washington was 4-6 and coming off a blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers. Since then, it has won four of its last five games, and quarterback Kirk Cousins looks like one of the best signal-callers in the league.
As a result, Josina Anderson of ESPN noted, when talking about Cousins, “a source told me today, ‘he's very important to our organization. We want him here. He's not going anywhere.’”
Matt Bowen of ESPN.com chronicled Cousins’ turnaround and pointed out the former Michigan State star had pedestrian numbers at best in the initial 12 games of the season with 251 yards per outing, 17 touchdowns and 10 picks. Since then, Cousins is averaging 328 yards per game and has nine touchdowns to only one pick.
He also leads the league with a 69.5 completion percentage and ranks in the top 10 in passing yards (3,964) and passer rating (99.2). Cousins is trusting his playmakers—wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed—and Washington is suddenly a dangerous squad heading into the postseason.
Mentioning Cousins is not going to elicit the same automatic respect as the Tom Bradys and Aaron Rodgerses of the world without postseason success, but his turnaround is impossible to ignore this year. Even if Washington fails to win a single playoff game, Cousins has proved too valuable to its long-term future to give up, especially given Anderson’s update.
Prediction: Cousins signs a long-term deal with Washington this offseason.
Canadian Football League Star Turning Heads
Sometimes NFL talent is in the unlikeliest of places, and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle noted “the Texans tried out Canadian Football League wide receiver Eric Rogers, according to a source not authorized to speak publicly.”
The Texans were not the only team Rogers worked out for as the 2015 season comes to a close. In fact, Wilson pointed out “he is scheduled to work out for 14 teams” even though “he’s not eligible to sign a contract with an NFL team until January, when he can sign a reserve-future deal.”
Rogers went to school at Division III California Lutheran and led the CFL with 1,448 yards this year. He also hauled in 10 touchdowns and is physical enough at 6’3” and 210 pounds to earn looks from NFL teams.
Adam Caplan of ESPN noted Rogers also worked out for the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday, which is interesting considering their pass-catcher concerns in 2015.
Josh Gordon was suspended before the season for violating the substance-abuse policy and will always be a question mark moving forward until he proves he can stay on the field. Elsewhere, Travis Benjamin dealt with injuries throughout the year, and Dwayne Bowe was nonexistent after coming over from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cleveland could certainly use more depth at the receiver position next year, especially if it plans on trusting Johnny Manziel’s development at quarterback with the offense.
Prediction: Hoping to add more options to a position of need, the Browns take a chance on Rogers.
Eric Weddle Not Seeing Eye-to-Eye with San Diego Chargers
Few safeties in the NFL have been as effective as Eric Weddle the past few years, but he will likely no longer be a San Diego Charger heading into the 2016 season and beyond.
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune broke down the downright ugly relationship between the team and player, and he said “no one could be dumb enough to think it is not a virtual certainty the five-time All-Pro will depart in free agency.”
Weddle stayed on the field in San Diego’s home finale to watch his daughter dance as part of the halftime entertainment, and the team promptly fined him $10,000. Weddle was also placed on injured reserve Monday even though Acee said “there is some disagreement between the sides about whether that call needed to be made now.”
It is the latest chapter in a tumultuous relationship that was tested when there were contract disagreements and frustration during the offseason.
Acee added more context:
If you want the guy who makes plays and makes up for others missing plays and who so often plays when his body is telling him to not play, you take the man who speaks his mind and, in certain instances, you treat him differently.
Weddle did not tell team officials beforehand that he was staying on the field. He should have done that. But he missed a seven-minute halftime and a much shorter address by defensive coordinator John Pagano during the intermission in a game in which the Chargers had a 23-0 lead. The team did not have to penalize him for what it termed “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Weddle is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All-Pro member, and he was the only safety to be first- or second-team All-Pro for five straight years. He was also on the field for more than 98 percent of San Diego’s defensive plays from 2011-14, while no other player was on the field for even 75 percent of his respective team’s defensive snaps during that span, according to Acee.
Weddle’s agent, David Canter, told the Associated Press (via Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com): “If you do bad things to good people, you deserve to have your dirty laundry aired in the limelight. Eric's done nothing but give nine years to the Chargers organization—his heart, his soul, his body.”
Hopefully, the Chargers fans will remember their superstar safety fondly because he isn’t coming back.
Prediction: Weddle leaves San Diego this offseason, and the situation continues to get uglier before he inks a deal with another team.