NFL Teams That Should Completely Rebuild This Offseason

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistFebruary 17, 2019

NFL Teams That Should Completely Rebuild This Offseason

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    Don't expect them to use the "R" word. 

    None of these NFL teams will admit to rebuilding. And some might not even be willing to undergo the process itself, since that'd essentially concede to fans that a run to Super Bowl LIV isn't on the table. 

    But somewhere between five and 10 NFL franchises are typically in rebuilding mode at any given time, and these six would be best-served by approaching the 2019 offseason with a rebuild in mind. 


Miami Dolphins

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    Why they need to rebuild

    It looks as though the Miami Dolphins are ready to move on from veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill under new head coach Brian Flores, and general manager Chris Grier is calling the shots with Mike Tannenbaum out. The franchise is transitioning in the spots that matter, and there's no indication it's on the verge of contending after back-to-back losing seasons in a lopsided AFC East. 

    The Dolphins still have some strong pieces, but an NFL rebuild doesn't require a purge of the entire roster. They're just not positioned to compete, and they're better off parting ways with expensive veterans and focusing on the draft. 


    How they can start rebuilding

    1. Cut or trade Tannehill and draft a quarterback: They hold the No. 13 overall pick, which should give them a shot at some of the draft's top signal-callers. They can combine the quarterback they draft with a cheap veteran and focus on progress during what is likely to be a losing season. 

    2. Say goodbye to Cameron Wake (37 years old), Frank Gore (35), Robert Quinn (28) and Kiko Alonso (28): Will those aging vets be part of the equation in 2020 and beyond? If the Dolphins have any doubt, they should save their money.

    3. But keep Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola: For the sake of the young quarterback they'll groom, it's worth paying experienced, reliable complementary offensive players. They might even want to pay up to keep impending free-agent right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who is only 26. 


    What'll need to wait

    Really, the Dolphins will just be waiting on players to develop. Most rookie quarterbacks need time, and recent first-round picks Charles Harris and Minkah Fitzpatrick are still maturing as professional football players. Plus, there'll likely be growing pains for both Flores and Grier. 

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Why they need to rebuild

    Veteran quarterback Andy Dalton has regressed on paper and empirically the last couple of seasons, and it's become apparent that both Dalton, 31, and top wide receiver A.J. Green, 30, won't carry the Cincinnati Bengals to a Super Bowl. The team can save $28.4 million by parting ways with those two post-prime key players right now, and the timing would be perfect as rookie head coach Zac Taylor takes over. 

    Taylor has endorsed Dalton, but that's the politically correct thing to do. The reality is he and his team would be better off cutting bait and drafting/grooming a higher-upside quarterback who best suits what Taylor wants to do. It's not as though this team is on the brink of contending. The Bengals had the league's lowest-ranked defense last year; even with a healthy Dalton and Green, they're clearly the worst team in the AFC North.


    How they can start rebuilding

    1. Cut and/or trade Dalton and Green: They'd suddenly have more salary-cap space than every team in football except the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets. 

    2. Use those savings to support the quarterback of the future: Upgrade that horrendous offensive line with two new guards and a new right tackle in free agency, bring in a good safety-valve receiver on whom Dalton's replacement can depend, and spruce up the defensive front seven. 

    3. Draft a quarterback in Round 1: The Bengals should then join the Dolphins and New York Giants (and possibly the Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins) in sweepstakes for Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones. We won't recommend one over the other at pick No. 11 because they're all playing craps. 


    What'll need to wait

    Just like Miami, Cincinnati will have to wait for its young, still-unknown quarterback to develop while potentially encountering growing pains with a first-year head coach. That defense can't be fixed overnight, either, and Cordy Glenn's $9.3 million cap hit should probably remain on the books for said quarterback's sake—even if the veteran left tackle is overpaid and unlikely to be part of the next era of Bengals football.

    The same thing applies to Geno Atkins, who is 30 but is too much of a force and would be too costly to release with a $10.4 million dead-cap number. 

Buffalo Bills

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    Why they need to rebuild

    The Buffalo Bills have their quarterback of the future in Josh Allen, but the rest of the roster is a sick joke. LeSean McCoy is practically toast, they cut Charles Clay, Allen doesn't have a single accomplished receiver to throw to, and the offensive line contributed to a scenario in which Allen was one of just eight qualified quarterbacks to be sacked on at least eight percent of his dropbacks in 2018. 

    Allen needs and deserves so much more, and it doesn't help that his defense lacks playmakers and an overall identity. 

    The only Bills players immune to the coming purge should be recent first-round picks Allen, Tremaine Edmunds and Tre'Davious White. 


    How they can continue rebuilding

    1. Cut everybody: OK not everybody, but the Bills should cut anybody whose departure can save them money without jeopardizing Allen's progress and/or health. In other words, forget about 30-year-old Jerry Hughes ($7.5 million in savings), Clay ($4.5 million, already banked), Trent Murphy (nearly $5 million) and McCoy (a no-brainer at $6.4 million). Time to see what the kids can do. 

    2. Sign Adam Humphries: The impending free-agent receiver from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be a perfect slot security blanket for Allen. He's still only 26 years old, so he can be part of the future while bringing some experience to that receiving corps at a potentially reasonable price because he's yet to become a star. An alternative is Jamison Crowder from the Washington Redskins. 

    3. Draft the left tackle of the future: That's really what Allen needs out of that No. 9 pick. Alabama's Jonah Williams is the obvious name to watch, but that could change over the next 10 weeks. 


    What'll need to wait

    Left tackle Dion Dawkins probably isn't suited to be a long-term pillar on Allen's blind side, but he's still extremely cheap, and the Bills would be foolish to ditch him until they have a better option there. It would ideally be nice to give Allen some continuity among the guys charged with protecting him, so I also wouldn't blame them for bringing back impending right-side free agents Jordan Mills and John Miller. They do have the cap space

Washington Redskins

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    Why they need to rebuild

    Let's not pretend Alex Smith is still the long-term answer at quarterback for the Washington Redskins. It's a shame he suffered a terrible leg injury in 2018, but Smith wasn't playing well before he went down. Now the 14-year veteran might miss the entire 2019 season, which means he might not be available to start another game until he's 36 years old. What kind of shape will he be in at that point?

    Smith is too expensive to cut ($42 million dead cap), but it's time to find his long-term replacement while making wholesale changes in a lot of other key spots. 


    How they can start rebuilding

    1. Replace Smith in the draft: That means using the No. 15 overall pick on Jones, Haskins, Murray or Lock, because the alternative is either too expensive (Nick Foles) or will be a short-term solution at best (Tannehill or Blake Bortles) for a team that probably isn't about to make a Super Bowl run. 

    2. Raise cash: The Redskins can't afford Foles or any other established veteran quarterback without taking hits elsewhere because they only have about $20 million in cap space, according to Spotrac. But they should ask themselves if the injury-prone Jordan Reed or aging defenders Ryan Kerrigan (30) and Josh Norman (31) are worth keeping around for the next wave. They can save over $25 million by parting ways with those three vets. 

    3. Lock up Brandon Scherff and Trent Williams: The offensive line still has plenty of talent, and the Redskins could actually save money while maintaining line continuity by handing out extensions to those two key linemen now. Scherff's entering a walk year, while Williams' contract expires in 2021. 


    What'll need to wait

    A coaching change isn't coming, apparently. The Redskins brought back Jay Gruden, and—considering the circumstances at quarterback—it might take a truly horrible season for that to change next year. That could make this rebuild tricky. 

New York Giants

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    Why they need to rebuild

    The New York Giants don't need to reconstruct to the extent that the Dolphins or Bengals do, but any team that's on the verge of a transition at quarterback is in a good position to rebuild. The Giants obviously have to replace Eli Manning soon, and the return on investment just hasn't been there for a high-priced defense. 

    Saquon Barkley is the future, and it looks as though the plan is to stick with Odell Beckham Jr., which is fair considering his talent and upside. But nobody else on the Giants roster should be immune to a potential trade or release. 


    How they can start rebuilding

    1. Replace Manning: That's always the first step when you've got an over-the-hill signal-caller, and an argument can be made that the G-Men would have been better off doing this last April. But that ship has sailed, and now they have the No. 6 overall pick, which positions them well to land whichever quarterback they want from the 2019 class. 

    2. Gut the high-priced defense: This could lead to tougher times in 2019, but the Giants have to accept that this will be a year of transition and grooming and let the D struggle. It should pay off in the long run. Save $11.5 million by parting ways with highly paid disappointment Olivier Vernon, save another $7.5 million by waving goodbye to 30-year old corner Janoris Jenkins and pocket $6.5 million by sending Alec Ogletree packing. That'll give the Giants plenty of cap space with which to...

    3. Bolster support for Manning and his successor: We're good with the Giants forgoing $17 million in savings to give Manning a goodbye tour, mainly because the 38-year-old could be a good mentor and there's no reason to put pressure on whoever they draft. But the Giants should invest in a quality young receiver to match with Beckham and Sterling Shepard. Both Humphries and Crowder would work here, too. 


    What'll need to wait

    Again, the divorce from Manning doesn't have to happen overnight because he's off the books next offseason anyway and the Giants probably won't need to spend to the cap if they indeed take our advice on veteran defensive players such as Vernon, Jenkins and Ogletree. It's also unfortunately too early to get out of left tackle Nate Solder's inflated mistake of a contract, but some experience and continuity isn't a bad thing there.

Oakland Raiders

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    Why they need to rebuild

    The Oakland Raiders already started doing so last year by parting ways with Michael Crabtree, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper and Bruce Irvin. Might as well keep it up.

    All of the ingredients are there in terms of draft capital (five first-round picks in the next two years) and cap space (they're projected to have more money to spend than all but six other teams), and they already have a franchise quarterback in place. Now it's just about building up the remainder of the roster. 


    How they can continue rebuilding

    1. Find the new Cooper and Crabtree: We know there are a lot of punchlines available here regarding the fact that they could have just kept Mack, Irvin, Cooper and Crabtree! But Jon Gruden is building this team his way, and there's nothing that can be done about those moves now. The Raiders can at least commit less money to potential future star offensive weapons than they would have with those veterans. Oakland should use one of its three first-rounders on a wideout such as D.K. Metcalf or Marquise Brown, and it should be in on free-agent receivers John Brown and Golden Tate.

    2. Find the new Mack and Irvin: Likewise, the Raiders can at least commit less money to potential future star pass-rushers than they would have with those veterans. Oakland should use one of its three first-rounders on an edge-rusher such as Josh Allen, Nick Bosa or Jachai Polite, and it should be in on free-agent pass-rushers Jadeveon Clowney, Demarcus Lawrence, Trey Flowers, Frank Clark, Dee Ford and Za'Darius Smith. 

    3. Keep the offensive line intact: The unit is old and expensive, but the transitioning offense needs that wisdom and stability. They've got the money to keep Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson and Donald Penn around, so they might as well have them there to help blue-chip second-year offensive tackle Kolton Miller. 


    What'll need to wait

    This is more about who will need to wait. Quarterback Derek Carr is ready to run, but his team has yet to walk under Gruden. He'll turn 28 next month. The Raiders don't want to waste a good chunk of his prime, but they'll be relying on a lot of young players to develop in 2019 and 2020. 


    Salary-cap numbers provided by Spotrac.