The Ideal Offseason Trade Scenario for Every NFL Team
Everyone in the NFL is available for the right price. More often than not, the holdup comes from teams not being willing to pay the price.
This doesn't stop every general manager from searching for potential upgrades to their current rosters. Each team has an opportunity to make a trade or two throughout the offseason and improve in inferior areas.
Organizations should leap at those opportunities and not look back. The NFL isn't static; either a team is getting better or worse. There's no in-between.
The Washington Redskins weren't afraid to make a significant deal to acquire quarterback Alex Smith, and the Philadelphia Eagles' deadline acquisition of Jay Ajayi helped them win a Super Bowl.
Others should be so bold, because there's an ideal trade scenario out there for every team.
Ideal doesn't mean unrealistic. The Green Bay Packers aren't trading Aaron Rodgers for another franchise's castoffs. Each of the following scenarios serves as an attempt to stay within the realm of possibility. For example, no interdivisional swaps are included. Legitimate reasons why a team would move each of the following players are mentioned as well.
Everyone, let's make a deal.
Quarterback Nick Foles
The Philadelphia Eagles have no reason to move Nick Foles this offseason unless the front office is blown away by a significant offer. Foles and Carson Wentz's combined cap hit for the 2018 campaign is less than 18 other quarterbacks.
Teams must come strong to acquire Foles or not come at all.
The Arizona Cardinals are in a difficult position. The team is starting over with a new coaching staff and in dire need of a quarterback after Carson Palmer's retirement. General manager Steve Keim sits in draft limbo since the team doesn't own a top-10 pick, which makes it difficult to draft a top quarterback prospect.
The Cardinals own a veteran roster with expectations to compete for a division title each year. The chance to acquire the reigning Super Bowl MVP, while bringing him back to the desert where he played his college ball, is just too tempting. A first- or second-round pick plus a little more for the 29-year-old signal-caller shouldn't be ruled out.
Defensive Tackle Danny Shelton
The NFL is a pass-first league, yet defenses still need the requisite bulk along their fronts to slow opposing ground games. Otherwise, smart offensive coordinators will simply overwhelm a defense at the point of attack by jamming the ball down its proverbial throat.
Dontari Poe, Ahtyba Rubin and Courtney Upshaw are set to enter free agency, leaving the Falcons with little to no options at defensive tackle beyond Grady Jarrett. A bigger, more physical presence is needed alongside Jarrett, who excels at penetrating into the backfield.
The Cleveland Browns have an interesting decision to make with Danny Shelton's rookie fifth-year option on the table this offseason, because he's never proved to be the difference-maker the organization envisioned when it selected the 335-pound man-mountain with the 12th overall pick in 2015. Shelton is a strong presence against the run, but he's not an every-down defender. Whereas, first-year defenders Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley showed a lot of promise, which could lead to starting roles.
The Falcons can acquire a perfect complementary piece to Jarrett, while the Browns recoup some of their initial investment, albeit not another first-round pick.
Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas
The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver corps can be counted among the league's worst.
Mike Wallace led the team last season with 748 receiving yards and is a free agent. He'll also turn 32 years old in August. Jeremy Maclin didn't perform to expected levels in his first season with the franchise. Breshad Perriman is a full-blown first-round bust. Chris Moore, DeVier Posey and Tim White make up the rest of the unit.
The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, have a few hurdles to overcome regarding Demaryius Thomas' contract situation.
The 30-year-old wide receiver has a $4 million option due on the final day of the 2017 league year, according to the Denver Post's Nicki Jhabvala. Right now, the Broncos prefer to retain Thomas, yet the organization may still attempt to restructure his contract, per 104.3 The Fan's Cecil Lammey. Thomas can complicate matters if he's not willing to renegotiate. Since the Broncos appear keen on creating more salary-cap space, the move could force the wide receiver out of Denver.
The Ravens have never been shy about making bold offseason moves, especially with aging veterans. Thomas is still a No. 1 target and everything Baltimore needs right now.
Wide Receiver Travis Benjamin
Travis Benjamin isn't the sexiest name to get Buffalo Bills fans excited. However, the Los Angeles Chargers are overloaded at wide receiver, and Benjamin has the ability to help the Bills in multiple areas.
First and foremost, Benjamin adds to a wide receiver corps that lacks options. Trade-deadline acquisition Kelvin Benjamin has a full offseason to ingratiate himself as the offense's top target, while Zay Jones must improve upon a below-average rookie campaign. Travis Benjamin's 567 receiving yards last season, despite being the Chargers' third option, topped all Bills targets.
Second, the man known as "Rabbit" is a perfect complement to the previously mentioned Bills receivers. His blazing vertical speed adds a different' dynamic alongside the 6'5", 245-pound Kelvin Benjamin and Jones, who works best out of the slot.
Finally, Travis Benjamin is an exceptional punt returner, and he can replace free-agent-to-be Brandon Tate.
The Chargers already have Keenan Allen, Tyrell Wiliams and Mike Williams on the roster; Travis Benjamin is a luxury other teams can afford.
Wide Receiver Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant is still considered an elite wide receiver by the general public despite three straight disappointing campaigns. Bryant missed multiple contests in 2015 and '16 due to injuries. He finally played in all 16 games this past season and managed only 838 receiving yards, with a career-low 12.1 yards per reception.
The Dallas Cowboys are paying Bryant to be a No. 1 wide receiver, though. The 29-year-old target holds the third-highest WR salary-cap hit at $16.5 million in 2018. He'll move to second if Larry Fitzgerald decides to retire. Yet Bryant doesn't come close to producing like the older Fitzgerald or Antonio Brown, who is the league's highest-paid receiver.
Bryant already stated he won't take a pay cut, per ESPN.com's Todd Archer. The Cowboys are left with three options: pay the wide receiver at his current rate, cut him or trade him.
The Carolina Panthers are in disarray, with the team for sale, an ongoing search for a new general manager and a few major coaching staff changes. Also, the organization needs to create extra space to fit Bryant under the salary cap. It can all be worth it, since Cam Newton has never played with a wide receiver of Bryant's caliber.
The three-time Pro Bowl performer may not be as good as he once was, but he's still better than anyone on Carolina's roster and still worth an early-round pick as compensation. The Panthers do own a pair of third-round selections.
Cornerback Delvin Breaux
The Chicago Bears have their hands full trying to address their cornerback rotation this offseason. Starters Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara are set to enter free agency, with Fuller counted among the top available targets at a premium position.
The New Orleans Saints' Delvin Breaux missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with a broken fibula. Originally, team doctors diagnosed the cornerback with a bone bruise until an X-ray showed the severity of the injury. Breaux missed six games during the previous season with a similar injury.
Durability concerns are a good reason to move on from the 28-year-old since Ken Crawley emerged in his absence. Interested teams may be concerned about Breaux's health, but he's been cleared for all activities, according to the New Orleans Advocate's Joel A. Erickson.
The Saints hold some leverage in Breaux's situation since he's a restricted free agent. The team can place a high tag on him to give them the option of dealing the defensive back.
Breaux overcame a broken neck suffered in high school before working his way through the Arena and Canadian Football Leagues. There's no reason to count him out due to his recent injury history.
Left Tackle Cordy Glenn
Top-notch left tackles still in the prime of their careers aren't available often. Teams tend to lock those premium blockers up with long-term contracts.
The Buffalo Bills did the same thing with Cordy Glenn when the two sides agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal prior to the 2016 campaign. Plenty has changed since that point.
First, an entirely new regime is in place. Second, Glenn dealt with foot problems and missed 15 games over the last two seasons. Finally, the Bills have a replacement on the roster in Dion Dawkins, who played well on the blind side as a rookie.
Considering the fact Glenn's salary-cap hit is $14.5 million this fall, his departure should be imminent.
Beggars can't be choosers, and the Cincinnati Bengals are begging for anyone who can competently play left tackle. Glenn may have injury concerns, but a healthy version for an extended period is superior to anyone currently found on the Bengals roster. Cincinnati needs to take drastic steps by using a second- or third-round pick to upgrade an awful offensive front with a veteran addition, since the solution isn't likely to be found in free agency or the draft.
Quarterback AJ McCarron
Owner Jimmy Haslam laid out a succinct offseason plan for the Cleveland Browns after he hired John Dorsey to be the organization's general manager.
"The Cleveland Browns are not going to be successful until we get a quarterback," Haslam said, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot. "We're going to do whatever it takes to find a quarterback we need to be successful."
Achieving the owner's stated goal is easier said than done. The Browns do hold the draft's No. 1 overall pick, with a quarterback being the likely selection. The team will also attempt to add a veteran presence as a bridge until the rookie is ready to start.
The Browns' interest in McCarron is well-documented after ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the organization tried to acquire the Cincinnati Bengals backup at the trade deadline. Head coach Hue Jackson obviously loves the young man from his time as Cincinnati's offensive coordinator. Although, McCarron's availability remains unclear since he filed a grievance against the league to be considered an unrestricted free agent this year.
Until McCarron's status is determined, he's a restricted free agent. The Bengals can tender him to work out a deal with the Browns for his services. Since he's worth a fifth-round pick at his original tender, a third- or fourth-round selection should suffice.
Safety Earl Thomas
The Seattle Seahawks' legendary defense is nearing its end, and everyone knows exactly where six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas wants to play.
"If y'all have the chance, come get me," the Texas native told Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett after a Christmas Eve meeting between the two teams, per the Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota.
Thomas didn't back off his remark, either.
"I've always been a Cowboys fan growing up. The biggest thing when I said 'come get me,' I didn't literally mean, 'come get me now,'" Thomas said, per NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman. "I'm still in the prime of my career, I still want to be here. But when Seattle kicks me to the curb, please, the Cowboys, come get me."
Now is the time for the Seahawks to sell high. Thomas is only 28 years old and has a year remaining on his current contract. The rest of the defense is falling apart, with major or career-threatening injuries to Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril.
The financial aspect of this potential deal will be a little difficult to navigate since the Cowboys only have enough cap space at the moment to re-sign defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Although, a Dez Bryant trade or release creates an avenue toward Thomas' acquisition.
Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson
Quarterback is a far more serious issue for the Denver Broncos to address, but they may be early frontrunners for Kirk Cousins' services. If that's truly the case, John Elway can make another big splash by pursuing New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
Fitting both under the salary cap might require a magician, but the quarterback and defensive lineman's acquisitions have the potential to place Denver back into the Super Bowl picture.
A restructured contract to get Wilkerson out of New York may be best for all parties. His attitude has been a problem the last two seasons, yet the organization couldn't make a move due to financial constrictions. His five-year, $86 million contract also speaks to the defensive lineman's ability. He can be a dominant performer and an upgrade over anyone along the Broncos defensive front.
Even without a restructure, the Broncos can afford both Cousins and Wilkerson by releasing Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko and trading Aqib Talib. Wilkerson gives the Broncos a defensive difference-maker at all three levels, with Von Miller at linebacker and Chris Harris at cornerback.
The Jets are likely to take anything just to remove him from the locker room and get his contract off the books.
Defensive End Michael Bennett
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett understands how the game is played.
"I probably won't be back next year," he said after the Seahawks' season finale against the Arizona Cardinals, per the Tacoma News-Tribune's Gregg Bell. "Just seems like it's a young man's game. I can see them going younger, with younger players. That's part of the game."
Bennett will turn 33 years old during next season, but he still holds value as a versatile pass-rusher.
The Detroit Lions are in dire need of an extra pass-rush presence whether the organization re-signs Ziggy Ansah or not. Bennett's joining a front that features Ansah alongside Anthony Zettel and Kerry Hyder Jr. would present plenty of flexibility. Bennett, Zettel and Hyder are each effective rushing the passer along the interior. New head coach Matt Patricia can mix and match all of this talent to create an unpredictable front.
Seattle still has Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Marcus Smith and Nazair Jones. The organization wants and plans to re-sign Sheldon Richardson, too. A makeover is coming for the Seahawks defense.
Green Bay Packers
Cornerback Richard Sherman
Continuing the theme of Seattle Seahawks departures, cornerback Richard Sherman may be the most likely to be traded. The organization already made the four-time Pro Bowl defensive back available last season, The Ringer's Mike Lombardi reported (h/t CBSSports.com). The Seahawks didn't make a move before Sherman landed on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles tendon. His age (29) coupled with his recovery become problematic when his $13.2 million salary-cap hit is factored into the equation.
An aging veteran coming off injury with a hefty price tag isn't exactly an enticing combination. Some teams still require a presence like Sherman in the locker room to change the overall dynamic.
The Green Bay Packers are expected to be more active in the free-agent and trade markets under new general manager Brian Gutekunst. Dom Capers' defense allowed 7.9 yards per attempt last season, ranked 30th overall. Head coach Mike McCarthy relieved the long-time coordinator of his duties and hired Mike Pettine.
The transition is important in regards to a potential Sherman acquisition. Pettine prefers long, athletic and physical cornerbacks. His aggressive pressure packages only work if he has defensive backs on the outside with the ability to jam and reroute wide receivers. The eight-year defensive back excels in these areas.
Sherman may no longer be one of the league's elite, but he and Damarious Randall can form solid bookends in Pettine's new system.
Left Tackle Jason Peters
The Philadelphia Eagles haven't committed to bringing 36-year-old left tackle Jason Peters back next season, even though he's under contract and head coach Doug Pederson still thinks of him as a starter.
NFL business is tough, and the Eagles can save $5.3 million by releasing the six-time All-Pro performer. The organization can save even more by trading him, and the left tackle is prepared for the possibility of playing with another team.
"They hadn't asked me, but I'm going to be back," Peters said when asked any discussions with the Eagles front office, per the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane. "Step out on a limb, if they don't want me, I'm still [going] somewhere."
The Houston Texans are without their first- and second-round picks, yet the offensive line is in desperate need of overhaul. Since free-agent options are limited, packaging some of their available or picks or leveraging future selections in pursuit of Peters appears to be the best option to provide some stability along the offensive front.
The Texas native can return to his home state and finish his career protecting Deshaun Watson instead of Carson Wentz.
Right Tackle Zach Strief
New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Zach Strief's current status resides in limbo. The 34-year-old blocker is still deciding whether he should return for a 13th season or retire.
He has plenty to contribute as long as he's fully recovered from last year's ACL surgery. His contributions won't be in New Orleans, though. Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead are a talented starting offensive tackle duo. Ramczyk replaced Strief in the lineup, and the rookie never looked back.
The Indianapolis Colts are searching for a veteran presence to stabilize an underperforming offensive line. Currently, left tackle Anthony Castonzo and center Ryan Kelly are the only two on the roster guaranteed a starting spot.
Strief is an exceptional pass-blocker and rarely makes a mistake. He's exactly the type of veteran voice and consistent performer needed to protect Andrew Luck (or Jacoby Brissett) and shouldn't cost more than a late-round draft pick.
The NFL's demand for competent offensive linemen exceeds available options. Strief still has a good year or two in him before retirement becomes a serious choice.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor
There are two quarterback options the Jacksonville Jaguars should consider to be their starter next season.
The first signal-caller completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 7,592 yards, 44 touchdowns and 29 interceptions over the past two season. The second completed 62.2 percent for 5,822 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Who is more valuable, Blake Bortles or Tyrod Taylor? Both helped lead their teams to the playoffs this past season. So, it appears to be a toss-up.
Two areas favor Taylor over Bortles. First, Taylor is a more efficient quarterback. The Jaguars don't need someone to carry the offense. The team needs a quarterback who can keep the chains moving. Taylor's athleticism and addition to the running game make him far more dangerous.
The Bills prefer a pocket quarterback. No problem. Taylor is an ideal candidate to run the Jags offense. Release Bortles. Flip a middle-round pick to the Bills. Voila. Jacksonville is a better team.
Kansas City Chiefs
Outside Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander
Lorenzo Alexander doesn't fit the Buffalo Bills' current defensive scheme. His role as a strong-side linebacker limits his effectiveness as an edge-rusher. Alexander tied for third overall with 12.5 sacks during the 2016 campaign, before his production dropped to three sacks this past season.
The 13-year veteran developed into an elite pass-rusher late in his career thanks to playing in Rex Ryan's aggressive scheme. He's at his best when moving forward, setting the edge and not being asked to drop into space. This is exactly the role he can play for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs already feature Justin Houston and Dee Ford. However, a heavy rotation to keep each fresh is necessary since Tamba Hali is a potential salary-cap casualty.
Kansas City hasn't been particularly effective manufacturing pressure and creating sacks over the last two seasons after finishing fourth overall in 2015. Adding another veteran pass-rusher can help the entire unit. At 34 years old, a team must take advantage of Alexander's skill set now by placing him in the right situation before his abilities start to erode.
Los Angeles Chargers
Right Tackle Ja'Wuan James
The NFL never gives up on top-notch talent. Former first-round picks are given chance after chance to succeed even if they're considered a failure at their previous stops.
Ja'Wuan James falls somewhere between being considered a solid pick and a first-round bust. He started 47 games during his first four seasons, yet the Miami Dolphins might move on from the right tackle due to his $9.3 million cap hit this season and recent injury history—he missed eight games in 2017 because of lingering hamstring problems.
Throughout his young career, James has been inconsistent. He plays really well at times only to disappoint in other contests. The potential is there to be a solid strong-side performer, though.
The Los Angeles Chargers will look for replacements at offensive tackle this offseason, after addressing the interior last year by drafting Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in the second and third rounds, respectively.
James will get a chance somewhere. Even though the Dolphins are considering the possibility of cutting the offensive lineman, he's still worth a late-round draft pick. A team can be proactive by acquiring the 25-year-old blocker on a one-year tryout before being forced to make a long-term decision.
Los Angeles Rams
Cornerback Aqib Talib
Familiarity often spurs movement.
The Denver Broncos are prepared to place cornerback Aqib Talib on the trading block to create more salary-cap space, according to Denver 9 News' Mike Klis. The 31-year-old defensive back carries a $12 million salary-cap hit this fall, while the Broncos may be looking to acquire a much bigger name (Kirk Cousins, anyone?).
The Los Angeles Rams need cornerback help in the worst way since Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner are set to be free agents. The organization used the franchise tag on Johnson the last two seasons, but he's expected to depart. Finding a No. 1 cornerback who excels on the outside isn't easy; they're rare commodities. Talib has been counted among the league's best during the past five seasons.
An obvious connection exists between Talib and the Rams. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips spent two seasons in Denver coaching the five-time Pro Bowl performer. The two won Super Bowl 50 together. Talib can slide into a starting spot and not miss a beat.
Guard Mike Iupati
Mike Pouncey and Laremy Tunsil are the only two offensive linemen guaranteed to start for the Miami Dolphins next season. Otherwise, both guard spots and right tackle need to be addressed in some manner this offseason.
The Arizona Cardinals' Mike Iupati is a four-time Pro Bowl blocker who brings a nasty attitude and physical style of play. The Cardinals may be willing to move on from the 30-year-old lineman due to a $9.7 million cap hit in 2018 and the fact he missed 15 games last season with a triceps injury.
His possible inclusion will upgrade two positions along the Dolphins offensive line.
First, a left side of Pouncey, Iupati and Tunsil has the potential to be counted among the league's best. Second, Jesse Davis can take over at right tackle since Ja'wuan James is a candidate to be let go. James' departure is an important part of this equation since he holds a $9.34 million cap hit.
Defensive Tackle Arik Armstead
The Minnesota Vikings can complete last season's No. 1 overall defense by addressing the defensive tackle spot next to Linval Joseph. Three-technique remains a question mark due to nerve damage Sharrif Floyd suffered during a procedure to repair a knee injury in 2016.
Tom Johnson proved to be a reliable starting option this past year, but the 33-year-old defensive lineman is better in a complementary role. Plus, he's a free agent. Starting options are limited without Floyd and Johnson available.
The San Francisco 49ers spent their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft to acquire Arik Armstead. The Oregon product came into the league as an impressive 6'7", 292-pound athlete, albeit a developmental one. Once Kyle Shanahan became the franchise's head coach, Armstead found himself without a defined role in the defense. The 24-year-old lineman even slimmed down in an attempt to become an edge defender.
San Francisco has a fifth-year option to consider for a player who doesn't seem to fit. Armstead is a natural fit in the Vikings' defense as a defensive tackle after regaining some of the bulk he previously shed. The 49ers won't recoup their first-round pick, but the Vikings should be willing to hand over a Day 2 draft pick for the 24-year-old defender.
New England Patriots
Defensive End Robert Quinn
The New England Patriots defense lacks speed, athleticism and difference-makers, particularly along its defensive front. The organization hasn't been able to replace Chandler Jones since trading him to the Arizona Cardinals prior to the 2016 campaign.
Jones is now the NFL's No. 1 sack artist, while the Patriots didn't have anyone on their roster finish with more than 6.5 sacks.
Robert Quinn is one of the league's best at providing edge pressure due to his awesome ability to bend the edge. He dealt with injuries during the 2015 and '16 campaigns which required a careful approach to practice this past season, though. Quinn isn't an ideal fit in Wade Phillips' defensive scheme, either, even though he finished the year with 8.5 sacks.
Money only adds to the Rams' predicament. Quinn's contract counts for over $25 million against the salary cap through the next two seasons. Last year, New England traded a first-round pick to acquire wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Quinn isn't nearly as valuable since he's older and far more expensive.
Still, the 27-year-old defensive is worth the risk and investment if he can help turn around a disappointing Patriots defense.
New Orleans Saints
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson
The New Orleans Saints' Michael Thomas is an unbelievable talent. The 2016 second-round pick became the first player in NFL history to record 200 receptions in his first two seasons.
But the Saints could use more help at wide receiver since the organization appears to be all-in toward a Super Bowl run once it re-signs 39-year-old quarterback Drew Brees. An 11-5 campaign and postseason berth tend to inject hope into a franchise, especially after three straight 7-9 performances. Thus, making a play for a soon-to-be 33-year-old receiver isn't out of the question.
The Green Bay Packers will likely decide between retaining Nelson or Randall Cobb. Both may be available for the right price since Davante Adams is now the team's top target. Nelson also has a $12.5 million salary-cap hit in 2018.
Nelson is coming off one of his worst seasons, with 53 receptions for 482 yards and a career-low 9.1 yards per catch. Of course, Aaron Rodgers' injury played a role, but the receiver is now firmly on the downside of his career.
A new situation with more opportunities, like he'll receive in New Orleans alongside Thomas, may be enough to re-energize Nelson's career.
New York Giants
Left Tackle Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas is the NFL's iron man, and not just because he played 10,363 consecutive snaps to start his career before suffering a triceps injury. No, he's the league's toughest player for executing at an elite level week after week while playing for the league's most dismal franchise. He showed up every day and did his job, unlike his teammates. It's time to set him free.
Thomas wants to remain in Cleveland, but he also wants to play in the postseason and compete for a Super Bowl. A 1-31 squad over the last two seasons is too far away to provide both.
The New York Giants didn't exactly light the world on fire last season, but the team is much closer than Cleveland to achieving something of substance. It has Eli Manning behind center and a defense that finished second in points allowed just two seasons ago.
Plus, Thomas can be reunited with one of his previous six head coaches in Cleveland. Pat Shurmur knows exactly what Thomas' excellence as a pass-blocker provides to an offense, and the future Hall of Fame left tackle's presence in the lineup will send ripple effects throughout the entire offensive line.
New York Jets
Quarterback Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton is coming off his worst non-rookie season with a 59.9 completion percentage, 3,320 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 6.69 yards per pass attempt.
His contract reached the point where it's feasible for the Bengals to move on from their starting quarterback if they're interested in doing so. Dalton's release saves the Bengals $13.9 million against the salary cap. But he's too valuable as a trade chip to let him loose and test the open market.
Marvin Lewis and Co. may be more comfortable moving forward with AJ McCarron as a starter after re-signing the 27-year-old quarterback. If so, teams will start calling about Dalton's availability.
The Jets desperately need a calming presence behind center. Dalton may not be the most gifted quarterback, and he can't carry his offense, but he's an experienced veteran with deep West Coast roots, like Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. A timing offense can be built around Dalton, while New York general manager Mike Maccagnan continues to improve the rest of the roster.
The Bengals need to decide between Dalton and McCarron. Whoever isn't chosen to be Cincinnati's starter will find a significant market for his services.
Cornerback Darqueze Dennard
Secondary depth is a luxury most teams don't have. The Cincinnati Bengals do, while the Oakland Raiders need plenty of help.
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has in-depth knowledge of the Bengals secondary and should be pressuring general manager Reggie McKenzie to make a move for his new team's benefit. Guenther spent 13 seasons on the Bengals staff and saw firsthand how talented the team's current crop of defensive backs is.
Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III are top cover corners, and they have the experienced Adam Jones playing behind them as long as the 34-year-old is retained this season. Josh Shaw has starting experience, too.
Darqueze Dennard entered the season as a starter and played the second-most snaps among Bengals defenders, according to the Athletic's Joe Goodberry. Jackson must be on the field after a stellar second season, which means Dennard gets demoted. Yet Guenther knows how valuable he can be to a Raiders secondary that needs a starter opposite last year's first-round pick, Gareon Conley.
Dennard may not have lived up to first-round expectations in Cincinnati, but he still carries value, especially for a coordinator and team that need cornerback help.
Safety Derrick Kindred
The Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL's deepest roster, which explains how they won a championship even after losing their starting quarterback, left tackle, middle linebacker and kicker. Very few positions can be pointed to as legitimate concern areas.
Left tackle seems to be an obvious candidate, since Jason Peters is 36 years old and coming off a major knee injury. Yet Halapoulivaati Vaitai deserves credit for his continued improvement after taking over for the nine-time Pro Bowl blocker. As a result, Vaitai earned the right to enter next season as a starter.
Otherwise, the Eagles will look for added depth at linebacker and the secondary since Nigel Bradham, Dannell Ellerbe and Patrick Robinson are free agents. A relative unknown has the potential to help both areas.
Derrick Kindred isn't a name most will recognize since he's only played two seasons for the woeful Cleveland Browns. The strong safety is exceptional against the run, though, and has enough flexibility to play free safety or serve as a nickel linebacker.
Cleveland may move Kindred for a middle-round pick since his skill set mirrors last year's first-round pick, Jabrill Peppers. Peppers can't be forced to play deep safety another year, and his development is more important to the team's long-term goals.
Linebacker Mark Barron
Ryan Shazier's injury places the Pittsburgh Steelers in a sad and difficult situation. Everyone wants Shazier to fully recover, but the organization has to move forward without him in their plans. The NFL machine doesn't stop, and inside linebacker is now a major concern.
Very few defenders can do everything a healthy Shazier could. As one of the NFL's fastest linebackers, offensive linemen struggled to gain angles on him when run-blocking, and when he dropped into space he covered more ground than most.
Mark Barron, who famously converted from safety to linebacker, has a similar skill set. At 225 pounds, he lacks the bulk to hold up in the Los Angeles Rams' attacking scheme, but he has the range and athleticism to produce alongside Vince Williams (or Tyler Matakevich).
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has to manipulate multiple contracts over the next month to get the team under the salary cap. Taking on another $10 million hit isn't ideal considering the circumstances, but the franchise was willing to sign Dont'a Hightower last year, and Barron is the best option at inside linebacker this offseason.
San Francisco 49ers
Running Back Tevin Coleman
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo needs a running mate after signing a contract to become the NFL's highest-paid player, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. One can be found on the Atlanta Falcons roster in running back Tevin Coleman.
Coleman is a year away from reaching free agency and his chance to become a lead back. The process of becoming a starter can be expedited if his former offensive coordinator pushes for a trade.
Kyle Shanahan coached Coleman during his first two campaigns. Devonta Freeman emerged as the Falcons' starting back during that period and even signed the league's richest running back contract last year. Coleman's best season came under Shanahan's supervision, though.
The 210-pound runner finished the 2016 campaign with 941 total yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns in a backup role. The Falcons drafted the Indiana product with the intention of playing in Shanahan's scheme. His intimate knowledge of the system makes him an instant upgrade over other available options.
Coleman is going to be a starter for some team. The 49ers were wise to make an early move for Garoppolo. General manager John Lynch should use the same foresight and acquire the fourth-year back, who is well worth one the team's second-round pick, acquired from New Orleans.
Tight End Cameron Brate
Jimmy Graham never worked out like the Seattle Seahawks expected when general manager John Schneider shipped center Max Unger and a 2015 first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints. Three years later, Graham is about to enter free agency, and the Seahawks require a tight end alternative.
Yes, offensive line is a major concern, but the amount of available, quality blockers is limited. The Seahawks can still improve their offense by addressing a position of need.
Graham may not have been the same caliber of weapon in Seattle he was with the Saints, but he still proved to be an effective red-zone target. The tight end led the Seahawks in 2017 with 10 touchdown receptions.
Cameron Brate's 17 touchdowns the last three seasons are only one fewer than Graham managed, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' target produced in a limited role. The organization spent last year's first-round pick on another tight end, O.J. Howard. He's the Bucs' future at the position, while Brate is a restricted free agent.
Tampa Bay must know Brate will be looking for an opportunity to start elsewhere. The organization can benefit by placing a tender on him and getting something in return instead of letting him walk in free agency next year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Defensive End Shaq Lawson
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished dead last in sacks this past season with 22 total. Half of those came from the team's starting defensive tackles, Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald. Defensive end is an obvious sore spot. An edge presence is needed to capitalize on the pressure created from the interior.
Top pass-rushers don't become available too often, so the Buccaneers can invest in a former first-round pick with plenty of potential.
Shaq Lawson never built a comfort level as a rookie after requiring offseason shoulder surgery. In his second season and first under head coach Sean McDermott, the defensive end started strongly, only to fade during the second half of the season.
The Bills aren't sure what to expect of Lawson, and the current regime has no investment in him as a player. Last year, this regime traded 2016 second-round pick Reggie Ragland to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fourth-round selection. A third-round pick is commensurate for Lawson.
Thus, the Bills can gain an asset by trading the 23-year-old defender, while the Buccaneers can add a former top talent while still looking to add more pass-rush talent through this year's draft class.
Wide Receiver Randall Cobb
The Tennessee Titans' entire offseason will revolve around quarterback Marcus Mariota and the best way to build the offense around his unique skill set. Mike Vrabel's hire of offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur is a monster step in the right direction.
In order to take the next step, the right type of personnel needs to be acquired.
Mariota is at his best when he gets the ball out his hand quickly and decisively. His natural accuracy allows receivers to create after the catch. However, the Titans lack playmakers at wide receiver. The team used the fifth overall pick on Corey Davis last year, but he dealt with issues throughout the season and must provide more in 2018.
Randall Cobb is an extremely versatile piece—whether he lines up in the slot, out wide or is used in multiple gadget plays—even though his production hasn't lived up to his massive contract. The 27-year-old wide receiver is a potential salary-cap casualty due to his $12.7 million hit during the 2018 campaign.
The Titans have over $49 million in projected cap space and can easily absorb Cobb's contract to give Mariota another option in the passing game.
Running Back Spencer Ware
The Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs already completed a significant deal this offseason. Another can be concocted for Washington to add a running mate alongside Alex Smith.
Kareem Hunt wasn't supposed to be the breakout star in the Chiefs offense last season; Spencer Ware was. Ware led Kansas City with 921 rushing yards in 2016 before suffering a torn PCL and LCL in a preseason contest and being placed on injured reserve, which paved the way for Hunt.
The running back is also a capable receiver out of the backfield, with 33 receptions during his previous healthy campaign.
Washington leaned too much on Chris Thompson last season; he's far better in his role as a third-down back. Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley combined to average 3.4 yards per carry. A far more explosive and versatile option is needed to become Washington's lead back.