The 2017 edition of NFL free agency is right around the corner, and now that the scouting combine is in full swing, we're beginning to get an idea of which players might actually be on the move and where they could land.
It's technically illegal for teams to contact pending free agents at this time of year, of course. The "legal tampering" period doesn't begin until March 7. However, it would be ignorant to believe that discussions aren't taking place when scouts, agents and representatives of all 32 teams are together in Indianapolis. At the very least, we're beginning to find out which players will be testing the market, which opens on March 9.
While these discussions aren't likely to (officially) come to light, talk of potential trades already has. The New England Patriots have already let it leak that they don't intend to move backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, New Orleans Saint receiver Brandin Cooks is a player who might get traded:
Chris Mortensen @mortreport
Saints WR Brandin Cooks is the object of trade talks with the Titans and Eagles identified as two interested suitors, per league sources.2017-3-2 15:22:05
These moves and non-moves will undoubtedly affect the free-agent market. Using what we know to this point, let's look at the latest free-agent buzz and make some predictions.
Bears, Jets Interested in Mike Glennon
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon could be hot property when the free-agent market opens for business—especially with Kirk Cousins sitting under the franchise tag and Garoppolo reportedly off the table.
Glennon has some intriguing attributes and some decent production as a starter. The 6'6" signal-caller has appeared in 21 games as a pro, has thrown for 4,100 yards and has 30 career touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
According to Mike Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Buccaneers would like to keep Glennon and have "offered to make him the highest-paid backup in the NFL."
Free agency, though, could offer Glennon a legitimate opportunity to start. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday that the Chicago Bears and New York Jets are two teams that could be interested in acquiring Glennon:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
As teams sort through the various QB options -- there are many -- 2 potential landing spots have emerged for Mike Glennon: #Bears and #Jets2017-3-1 20:34:19
The situations in Chicago and New York would be vastly different for Glennon. Believe it or not, the Jets are relatively close to being a playoff team. They just need a few key pieces—like a quality quarterback—in place. When Ryan Fitzpatrick played well in 2015 (passer rating of 88.0), the Jets went 10-6. When he played poorly last year (69.6), the team went 5-11.
Does Glennon want to try to play savior for the Jets? It would be an interesting move, but the problem is that if the current regime continues to fail, the team could decide to blow the whole thing up and start over—without Glennon.
Chicago is in more of a rebuilding mode, so there may be a longer leash in terms of wins and losses. Chicago may be able to offer Glennon more long-term stability and an opportunity to fully develop as a pro passer. The one caveat is that the Bears pick third overall in the draft and could use it on a quarterback.
Glennon might only be a two- or three-year placeholder in Chicago. Though, the lack of pressure could still help Glennon in his long-term audition for another starting job.
Per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are planning to make runs at Glennon and Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore this offseason.
While the Jets might be the team better-suited to win now, Chicago feels like the better option for Glennon's overall career.
Prediction: Glennon Signs With Chicago
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Bears May Lose Alshon Jeffery
If the Bears are going to entice Glennon to be part of the rebuilding process in Chicago, the team may have to do so without the appeal of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The South Carolina product, who was given the franchise tag last offseason, is scheduled to hit the open market and appears ready to dive into the free-agent pool.
Jeffery spoke with ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Thursday and made his intentions about the future pretty clear. Here's what he said, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com:
I don’t have any hard feelings towards the Bears -- it’s all love. Whatever the next chapter is, I’m ready for it. I’m looking at the teams that obviously need a wide receiver, but also put me in the best situation to win a championship right now. I also want to see what other free agents may be attracted to the same teams I’ll be looking at. That can help that goal.
If Jeffery really is intent on joining a contender, then he probably won't be returning to Chicago. While the Bears appear to be rebuilding in the right way, they're probably still a few years away from being a legitimate threat in the NFC.
Per Anderson, the Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers are also interested in chasing Jeffery in free agency:
Josina Anderson @JosinaAnderson
I'm told potential suitors for WR Alshon Jeffery once he hits FA include the #49ers & #Titans, along w/ t/ #Eagles & of course of t/ #Bears.2017-3-2 14:30:51
Of these teams, Tennessee is the one that could offer Jeffery the best chance to win now. The team narrowly missed out on the AFC South title last year and could legitimately challenge in the division for the foreseeable future. The Titans are young and have both an improving defense and a strong running game.
A receiver like Jeffery could help transform Tennessee's offense into a playoff-caliber unit.
The caveat here is that Tennessee probably comes off the table as a possibility if the team acquires Cooks from the Saints. Under current circumstances, Tennessee feels like a good fit for Jeffery—unless a surprise team like the New England Patriots come calling.
Prediction: Titans Land Jeffery Unless They Acquire Cooks First
Browns Hoping To Keep Pryor
The Cleveland Browns decided not to use the franchise tag on wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, which means the converted quarterback is scheduled to hit the free-agent market. Considering he is a fast 6'4" pass-catcher who produced over 1,000 yards in his first full season at the receiver position, Pryor could generate quite a bit of interest.
The market demand for Pryor could grow depending on what happens with Cooks and Jeffery. If a team like the Eagles, Bears or 49ers cannot land the guy they want, they might turn to Pryor. This would ultimately drive up his price and make it less likely that the Browns are able (or willing) to keep him.
Pryor has made it clear that he would like to return to Cleveland, but his agents, Drew and Jason Rosenhaus, won't hesitate to drive up the asking price.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson sounds reserved to the fact that retaining Pryor is completely out of his hands.
“We want all of our guys back,” Jackson said, per Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan. “But again, it’s free agency, so they get to make a choice and a decision too. Hopefully, he’ll make the right one and stay here with us.”
Per Ruiter, the Browns have scheduled visits with the Rosenhaus brothers at the combine. If they cannot get a deal done before other teams can contact Pryor on March 7, there's a very real chance that Pryor will continue his career elsewhere.
Prediction: Browns Re-Sign Pryor Before Free Agency