2017 NFL Free Agency: Chris Simms' Biggest Remaining Questions
You think fans are the only ones who care who signs where?
Then let me tell you about the time I played Tampa Bay chauffeur for superstar Charles Woodson.
We were a few pieces away from serious contention in 2006, and everyone knew it. First on Jon Gruden’s offseason to-do list: A ball-hawking defensive back who could prevent some of the big chunk plays of previous years. He just so happened to know such a player from his time with the Oakland Raiders. He wore No. 24. Maybe you’ve heard of him?
So when Chucky asked, I jumped at the chance to show Woodson around our city. And I mean jumped; I was waiting for his future Hall of Fame ass at Tampa International when he got off his flight, and I personally drove him to One Buccaneer Place.
He saw the locker room and the weight room. He met with coaches and old teammates. Then I whisked him away for a night on the town. It was some serious future teammate bonding.
Except he ultimately chose to join the Green Bay Packers. All those visions I had of Woodson picking off passes and handing me the football went up in smoke. I was as emotionally invested as any fan was, and I knew losing out on him would seriously redefine our upcoming season.
Teams don’t have to fill every glaring hole now, but like I knew with Woodson, they know where help can be had. Allowing these roster questions to remain unanswered into the season will make fans feel as badly as I did watching Woodson do the Lambeau Leap.
Will the Jets’ Quarterback Disfunction Spill into 2017?
Ryan Fitzpatrick is gone.
Geno Smith is testing the free-agent waters.
And yet somehow there’s more mystery and drama surrounding this job than at any point during last season’s downswing. Typical Jets.
Is Jay Cutler the answer? It would be a far wiser move than the one Gang Green is situated in right now: handing the reins to Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg. We know neither is the long-term option. Hell, Hackenberg’s next snap will be his first, and he was a second-round pick around this time last year.
I’d strongly advise a total reset, but this team only thinks in terms of what the New York Post headlines will be.
What Happens with Adrian Peterson?
Teams won’t pounce on Adrian Peterson now.
Why? Simply because he’s an aging ball-carrier and this upcoming draft is filled to the brim with talented, cheaper options. The former MVP will need to wait.
When a team misses out on its favorite running back prospects, All Day will suddenly become a commodity. A bidding war could spark right around OTAs—not like those are important. Peterson hasn’t taken a meaningful preseason handoff in like nine years. There’s no rush here.
My guess is a team like the Raiders or Buccaneers makes a move, with the express understanding their younger backs get a slice of the workload. Peterson, who turns 32 next week, should agree to that setup.
Can the Cowboys and Bengals Patch Their Holes?
These days, a CNN Special Report features fewer leaks than the depth charts in Cincinnati and Dallas.
Let’s start with the ‘Boys—a team without a scary defense before free agency started. In all likelihood, Byron Jones and Orlando Scandrick will be the team’s only two returning starters in the secondary. The on-again, off-again pass rush also lost Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford.
It’s bleaker in Cincy. Departing linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler further expose the Bengals’ biggest weakness up front. One year after his receivers skipped town, Andy Dalton may no longer have the requisite time to find their replacements. On the other side, three members of the defensive front seven (Domata Peko, Margus Hunt, Karlos Dansby) are now gone.
Players are packing up. They’re leaving two better-than-average situations. The rosters that remain need some work, and fast.
What Is the Browns’ Quarterback Plan?
Step 1: Acquire a player in Brock Osweiler that you clearly have no plan in starting.
Step 2: Release Robert Griffin III and free up even more cap space.
I can’t wait to see what Step 3 is, because Cleveland’s first two steps have been as dumbfounding and as entertaining as they come. I want to believe there’s a long-term plan in place, but again, these are the Browns.
Osweiler seemingly won’t be a part of those plans, but who knows? Perhaps Cleveland keeps him around as a stopgap option to groom a quarterback from this draft class. Or maybe Cody Kessler gets the nod for 16 games and coach Hue Jackson gets a shot at fellow Southern Cal passer Sam Darnold in 2018.
It’s all wild speculation right now, and I emphasize the term “wild.”
Can Odell Beckham Jr. Coexist with Brandon Marshall?
Randy Moss had Cris Carter.
Larry Fitzgerald had Anquan Boldin.
Will Odell Beckham Jr.—the most talented receiver in football—be as equally open to a 1A receiver as those two legends were? Both guys harbor alpha personalities and wear their emotions on their sleeves. It’s a combustible situation to say the least.
But New York’s not in for a locker room explosion. Marshall is playing his new role perfectly; he knows the show belongs to Beckham Jr., and he’s been open about a desire to be a No. 2 wideout. Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard can continue growing as players in that environment.
That veteran ability to see the bigger picture is what will keep New York’s receivers on an upward trend—and off any boats in Miami.
Do the Texans Let Tony Romo Leave Texas?
Don’t mess this up, Houston.
Finding a willing trade partner for Brock Osweiler was the football equivalent of hitting the lottery. Now this team can capitalize on its Super Bowl window with a quarterback who can actually spin it.
Tony Romo should be head and shoulders above every other option. Imagine what Dallas’ veteran QB could’ve done in the AFC divisional round, when Osweiler’s errors prevented a close game from staying that way. Houston had New England on the ropes; Romo can help get the Texans over the hump.
When I say that, it’s not just lip service. Bill O’Brien’s team has the receivers, backs and line to take the Patriots down (and a pretty good defense, too). Romo is the missing piece and should be treated as such.
Mike Glennon: Bridge or Long-Term Bears Quarterback?
Like that contract or not (three years, $45 million), Mike Glennon will be under center in the Windy City in 2017.
How long he mans that position after remains to be seen. Chicago constructed an easy out in Glennon’s deal; it basically functions as a series of one-year contracts the team can opt out of after any given season. A $15 million price tag buys some flexibility, after all.
It begs the question: What’s stopping Chicago from drafting a Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson? Only a burning desire to win now by both coach John Fox and the front office. Should Chicago go, say, 2-6 over its first eight games, Glennon probably won’t see 2018.
Maybe it’s wise to double down on arms, just in case.
How Do the Jaguars Escape Blake Bortles Limbo?
New football czar Tom Coughlin has upgraded at nearly every position possible, except the one that matters most.
Was that his plan all along? If so, I’m not sure the 2017 Jaguars are completely Blake Bortles-proof. They’re good on paper but not on a Denver Broncos level where bad quarterback play isn’t a big deal.
We should credit Coughlin for trying, though. Branden Albert is the new left tackle. Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye anchor a defense that’ll surely keep scores low. Bortles just needs to play safe for this team to compete in the AFC South.
He hasn’t proved he can do that. So don’t be surprised when Coughlin brings in another Bortles-proofing tool in next month’s draft. His name is Leonard Fournette, and he’s good enough to keep a quarterback’s attempts low.
Is Darrelle Revis Willing to Play off the Island?
Let’s all take a second to reflect on Darrelle Revis’ run.
If this is it—if Revis hangs up his cleats after 10 seasons of football—then what a future Hall of Fame career it was. Behind Deion Sanders, he’s unquestionably the second-best cornerback I’ve ever seen play.
Now comes the tough part. Last season wasn’t pretty on the Pittsburgh product. At this advanced stage in his career, he might not qualify as a top-64 cornerback (each team has two starters). That makes him a nickel or bench player. Will he accept that?
A potential switch to safety carries its own questions. Teams won’t pay a 31-year-old aging star to switch positions. He’d have to accept an incentive-laden contract right around the veteran’s minimum.
No one would be shocked if Revis declined both scenarios. I’d love to see him try his hand at safety, though.
Does Atlanta Realize What It Lost in Kyle Shanahan?
No amount of personal bias between former Texas teammates can skew the facts.
Kyle Shanahan was the straw that stirred Atlanta’s drink. He deserved his Assistant Coach of the Year Award more than his quarterback deserved the Most Valuable Player Award. I really mean that.
Just watch what Steve Sarkisian does in Shanahan’s place and you’ll understand. I’m willing to bet money that Matt Ryan finds fewer receivers streaking wide-open in 2017. His now-former play-caller was unrivaled in setting up plays to set up plays. Each call was two steps ahead of an opposing defensive coordinator.
Another valuable asset the Falcons will miss: Shanahan’s ability to mask offensive weaknesses. Atlanta’s guard play was that of a 7-9 team; he coached it to a Super Bowl level. Sarkisian might not have that Midas touch.
Can the Packers Buy Aaron Rodgers Time?
In one word: Yes.
Forget the losses of guard T.J. Lang and center J.C. Tretter. Green Bay still has its top two tackles from 2017. It’ll plug second-round pick Jason Spriggs at guard. Lane Taylor manned the other guard spot for all 16 games last season. And Corey Linsley played over Tretter for stretches in 2016, anyway.
We forget coach Mike McCarthy is an offensive line guru at heart. Green Bay didn’t shell out big money to return its line because the front office is confident in McCarthy’s abilities. He can coach up just about anyone.
Rodgers should continue doing Rodgers things.
What Does Torrey Smith Have Left in the Tank?
Torrey Smith is what people in the scouting community call a “straight-liner.” He’ll run fast in one direction, but that’s it.
And that’s all Philadelphia needs out of him. Defenses were able to play up on Carson Wentz and Co. far too often in 2016. With Smith in the fold, they’ll always have to worry about an over-the-top throw.
Can Smith deliver on two or three home run balls a game? Potentially. From what I see on film, he’s lost a half-step from the days he blew by safeties and hauled in Joe Flacco bombs. He’ll have a role to play for Wentz as long as he can make defenses think about the deep try, though.
Does Denver Really Want in on the Tony Romo Race?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Broncos are just a quarterback away from winning it all.
In fact, stop anyone if you hear this again. General manager John Elway loves his big moves, but he shouldn’t leverage the farm on a soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback. Tony Romo isn’t the answer here.
Remember: This Broncos team won it all with Peyton Manning as the acting worst quarterback in the game. I promise Trevor Siemian won’t hit those lows. Should he approach them, Paxton Lynch is an option. His growth would be stunted if Romo gets imported. I like the quarterback depth chart as is.
Stick to the script. Play lights-out defense under new coach Vance Joseph and let the best quarterback win, as long as he’s not Romo.
Are the Rams Ready for Wade Phillips’ 3-4?
An offseason alignment change is tough on most defensive coordinators.
Wade Phillips isn’t most defensive coordinators. He’s a mastermind on that side of the ball who inherited just as many athletes as he left behind in Denver. Something tells me a simple scheme switch will be a piece of cake to this group.
Put 326-pound Michael Brockers at his more natural position at nose tackle. Aaron Donald can play a J.J. Watt-esque end. Robert Quinn is probably a backside linebacker like DeMarcus Ware before him.
Phillips is missing cover corners (great draft for them) and a frontside edge like Von Miller (good luck with that). The transition shouldn’t be too painful in Los Angeles.
Are the Patriots Done Wheeling and Dealing?
Bill Belichick has more than made up for the perceived five-week head start other teams had on New England.
He’s just getting warmed up. Prospective Malcolm Butler and Jimmy Garoppolo trades could net three future first-round picks for his war chest. In short: Belichick could set his team up for the present and future.
Smart money says New England will keep working the NFL’s rumor mill. As draft day approaches, Garoppolo will look like a filet in a quarterback class full of T-bone steaks. Sooner or later, one quarterback-hungry team will bite on a deal that Belichick wants. We’ll all wonder how the guy pulls this stuff off all over again.
And again when Butler gets dealt.
New England has already announced it values newcomer Stephon Gilmore over its Super Bowl 49 hero. The fact it can still recoup a first-rounder in a usually disadvantageous negotiating position speaks to how well this team is run.
Belichick has the funds to keep Butler, whereas other teams would be forced to settle for less on the trade market.