NFL Players Who Just Need a Change of Scenery
When circumstances don't work out, moving to a new place can provide a breath of fresh air and new opportunities. It's no different for NFL players buried on depth charts or limited by low expectations.
The next-man-up mentality will benefit some players hoping for a chance to showcase their skills. For others, that scenario never plays out. It'll take a trade or an expiring contract to further their careers and potentially develop into key contributors.
We'll take a look at 10 talents whose production could see a significant spike on another team. Since the trade deadline has passed, all of these selections will have to wait until free agency or hope for a trade during the following campaign.
Along with each mention, there are three ideal landing spots with next year's projected rosters in mind.
Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Another starting opportunity with a new team could jump-start quarterback Jacoby Brissett's career. He's not going to see the field behind a healthy Andrew Luck, who looks like the three-time Pro Bowler we saw between the 2012 and 2014 seasons.
In Luck's absence, Brissett didn't look too shabby during the 2017 term. He formed a rapport with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle—both pass-catchers logged at least 57 receptions and four touchdowns that year. The backup signal-caller also supplemented the ground attack with four rushing scores.
The supporting cast around Brissett failed him. He took the most sacks (52) in the league, the defense ranked 30th and Frank Gore, the team's top ball-carrier in 2017, averaged 3.7 yards per carry.
Clubs looking for legitimate competition at quarterback, someone to potentially outperform an underwhelming talent or step in for an oft-injured player, should pursue Brissett. As a 2016 third-rounder, there may be some upside if given the opportunity to play.
Ideal landing spots: Broncos, Dolphins, Jaguars
Mike Davis, RB, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have done an excellent job establishing the ground attack this year. For the collective group, it's been an impressive showing as the top rushing offense in the league.
On the other hand, Mike Davis is stuck between the present and future at the position. He's the No. 2 ball-carrier behind Chris Carson, who has a stranglehold on the starting job. In April, the Seahawks selected Rashaad Penny in the first round of the draft—an indication he will play a vital role in the years to come.
Where does that leave Davis? As long as he stays in Seattle, he'll probably remain the No. 2 running back or potentially slip to No. 3 if the coaching staff increases Penny's workload.
Davis has shown glimpses that suggest the ability to handle the feature ball-carrier role.
In Week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals, Carson sat out with a hip injury. Davis logged the start and ran the ball 21 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. The next game, again as Carson's backup, he totaled an efficient 68 yards on 12 carries and added a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. The 25-year-old followed that up with 5.3 yards per carry in Seattle's second matchup with Los Angeles in Week 10.
Davis is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and he's tied with Carson for a team-leading three rushing touchdowns. His ability to catch out of the backfield puts him on the radar as a complete running back with the skill set to blossom in a new setting.
Ideal landing spots: Raiders, Ravens, Redskins
Ty Montgomery, RB, Baltimore Ravens
In Week 8, running back Ty Montgomery made a huge mistake when he brought the ball out of the end zone on a kickoff and fumbled with two minutes, five seconds left and the Green Bay Packers trailing the Rams by two. L.A. killed the clock, and Aaron Rodgers never got the chance to bring his team back. The fourth-year pro owned up to the miscue, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky.
The Packers shipped Montgomery off to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2020 seventh-round pick, which translates to a team looking for a deal by any means necessary, but it's a shaky landing spot for him.
At this stage in the season, with the Ravens coaching staff on the hot seat, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, we could see widespread roster turnover, especially with assistant general manager Eric DeCosta taking over for Ozzie Newsome next year.
Alex Collins, the team's lead ball-carrier, will become a restricted free agent in the offseason. Unless he garners major interest, he'll likely remain with the Ravens in some capacity. Montgomery is set to hit the open market as well and needs a fresh start with a team willing to use him in a defined role as opposed to kicking the tires on him in a giveaway.
In Green Bay, Montgomery displayed his versatility, fielding kicks, catching and running the ball. In 2016, he finished with 1,171 all-purpose yards. If he can stay healthy, the 25-year-old could serve as a flexible cog in the backfield and provide a solid boost as a returner.
Ideal landing spots: Redskins, Bills, Buccaneers
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings
In his third season, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has shown marginal improvement with Kirk Cousins under center. He's reached single-season highs in receptions (27), yards (253) and scored his first touchdown this year. It's a low bar for the 23-year-old, who's been a disappointment as a 2016 first-rounder out of Mississippi.
The Minnesota Vikings reinvested in Stefon Diggs on a five-year, $72 million extension. It's possible Adam Thielen could land a new deal in the near future because of his extraordinary start to the season in which he logged eight consecutive 100-yard receiving performances, leads the league in receptions (78) and ranks third in yards (947).
At best, Treadwell is the No. 3 option at wide receiver and fourth in the pass-catching pecking order when including tight end Kyle Rudolph among Cousins' targets. Looking at his increased production this season, he could develop into a solid No. 2 with an accurate or high-volume passer under center.
Treadwell won't see enough targets to reach his full potential in Minnesota. Teams looking for a big-body (6'2", 215 lbs) red-zone target or an underutilized wide receiver with potential upside should inquire about him next year.
Ideal landing spots: Colts, Saints, Cardinals
Gerald Everett, TE, Los Angeles Rams
Every year, a crop of pass-catching tight ends emerges as matchup nightmares because of their size and reliable hands. To name a few, Trey Burton, George Kittle and Vance McDonald have attacked the seam and posted solid receiving numbers for their respective teams.
The Los Angeles Rams may have an unheralded gem at tight end, but the offense features a trio of wide receivers—all of whom eclipsed 550 receiving yards in 10 games. Behind the top three wideouts, running back Todd Gurley ranks fourth on the team in targets (53) with 40 catches. Quarterback Jared Goff can only feed but so many targets.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp suffered a torn ACL in the last outing, but assuming he returns healthy next season, the 2017 third-rounder will likely remain a big part of the passing attack. He's accumulated 102 catches for 1,435 yards and 11 touchdowns in 23 games.
Tight end Gerald Everett caught 12 touchdown passes over his last two seasons at South Alabama, but we've yet to see him pose a consistent threat as a red-zone target in the pros. Even if he sees an uptick in looks without Kupp on the field for the remainder of the season, his long-term outlook as a pass-catcher doesn't seem promising with the lineup back to 100 percent.
In addition to the high-end pass-catchers who've earned Goff's trust, Tyler Higbee serves as the starter over Everett, who's playing 24.9 percent of the offensive snaps. Everett is a 2017 second-round pick with a modest role in his second season. On another squad, the 6'3", 240-pounder could use his frame as an imposing presence inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Ideal landing spots: Bengals, Saints, Lions
Mario Edwards Jr., DE, New York Giants
Mario Edwards Jr. entered the league as a versatile defensive lineman. He lined up as a 3-technique defensive tackle, defensive end on a four-man front and played the "Leo" (rush end) role with the Oakland Raiders between the 2015 and 2017 seasons.
When healthy, the Florida State product excelled as a two-gap defender, stuffing the run and collapsing the pocket on the interior. For Edwards, availability is key. He missed 18 games in his first three years largely because of neck and hip injuries.
Head coach Jon Gruden started the rebuild in Oakland and attempted to trade Edwards before waiving him, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The 24-year-old landed with the New York Giants, but he's serving in a reserve role behind two young starters in Dalvin Tomlinson and rookie third-rounder B.J. Hill. The former has started every game since the team selected him in the second round of the 2017 draft.
Edwards won't have the chance to shine behind two early-round investments. With 53 solo tackles and 5.5 sacks in his first 30 games with the Silver and Black, a club seeking a multipurpose defensive lineman could use him in run and pass situations. He may flourish as a 3-4 defensive end—a position he played at the collegiate level—or a 4-3 base defensive tackle.
Ideal landing spots: Texans, Falcons, Seahawks
DeMarcus Walker, DE, Denver Broncos
Similar to Mario Edwards, DeMarcus Walker came out of Florida State as a 3-4 defensive end. Initially, the Denver Broncos attempted to transition him to outside linebacker to compensate for Shane Ray's absence because of a wrist injury last year. He played 100 snaps, and the experiment failed.
Head coach Vance Joseph called out Walker (h/t Andrew Mason of Orange & Blue AM 760) for his struggles on special teams, but let's be honest. The Broncos probably didn't draft him to excel in kick coverage. He's a defensive lineman who does his best work rushing the passer on the front line. The former Seminole logged 16 sacks during his senior year.
This season, Walker barely takes the field, playing just 21 snaps in nine games. He's only two years into his career but may need a reset button for some meaningful reps. The Broncos have Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis entrenched as primary starters at his position.
Walker's rookie deal remains on the books until 2020, but his workload is trending down. Wolfe and Gotsis have taken on lead blockers up front, making life easier for Von Miller and Bradley Chubb to pressure the quarterback. For now, the coaching staff will likely keep the status quo at defensive end.
If the 24-year-old lands with a team that needs a 3-4 base defensive end or help with an interior pass rush, we might be reminded of the player who flashed at Florida State in 2016.
Ideal landing spots: Jets, Packers, Texans
LeShaun Sims, CB, Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans cornerback LeShaun Sims appeared in 26 games and started seven in his first two seasons. He notched 44 solo tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions during that period.
Over the last two offseasons, the Titans signed two former New England Patriots cornerbacks in Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, spending a combined $22.3 million per year on their deals. The front office used a 2017 first-rounder on Adoree' Jackson, who plays the same position.
As a result, Sims has faded into an afterthought as a boundary defender. Through nine games, he's been on the field for 43 defensive snaps and needs an out to recapture some playing time.
With the cash and draft capital invested in Butler, Ryan and Jackson, the Titans have their trio of cover men for base and nickel alignments. A trade could help Sims land a starting position or an opportunity to at least compete for a prominent role in the secondary.
Ideal landing spots: Chiefs, Giants, Cardinals
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have a plethora of solid cornerback options, including Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis. It's difficult to spread snaps among the four. Someone has to take on a minimal role.
When Jones shifted back to cornerback after two years at safety, Lewis became the forgotten man at the position. As a rookie, the Michigan product lined up for 71.4 percent of the defensive snaps. This year, he's dropped to 16.3 percent.
Given the age of the young talents in the top three spots at cornerback—Jones (26), Brown (24) and Awuzie (23)—barring an injury to one of the cover men, Lewis won't see much playing time. The 23-year-old had a solid first season in Dallas, recording 48 solo tackles, 10 pass breakups and an interception through 15 contests.
The Cowboys could place Lewis on the trade block and receive good value for him next year. He plays with physicality and possesses the coverage skills to start on the perimeter.
Ideal landing spots: Cardinals, Bills, Raiders
Karl Joseph, S, Oakland Raiders
On the surface, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther doesn't seem to have an interest in developing Karl Joseph into a starting safety. The Raiders play-caller commented on the youngster's chance at an expanded role before their Week 3 matchup with the Miami Dolphins, per Vic Tafur of The Athletic:
"I just think Karl needs to keep working on what he's doing," Guenther said. "I have talked with him a bunch about those things. He just has to keep progressing. You get in those games where it is hot. You're going to spell some guys, and I think he's going to have his chance this Sunday."
Joseph took the field for one defensive snap in that game. It's quite alarming that Guenther used the term "spell" in reference to Joseph's opportunities. He's the No. 14 overall pick from the 2016 draft but only expected to serve as a substitute for two underperforming safeties (Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson) who are 29 years or older.
That's a major red flag and an indication the team doesn't see the 25-year-old Joseph in its long-term plans. It's not a surprise considering the West Virginia product has struggled to cover tight ends. He's 5'10", 205 pounds and best suited for an off-ball coverage assignment as a deep safety.
Joseph displayed solid tackling (101 solo tackles), upside in coverage with two interceptions and 10 pass breakups in his first two seasons. If he is available for trade next year, he's bound to land on his feet in a role that requires reading the quarterback's eyes 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Ideal landing spots: Rams, Panthers, Packers