The One Move Each NFL Team Still Needs to Make This Offseason
There are many, many moves to be made.
They aren't likely moves that will define seasons, but the next three months in the NFL are heavy on roster tweaks as teams monitor a shallow free-agency pool, consider cuts and assess their projected depth charts based on practice performances and salary-cap math.
With June on the horizon and organized team activities hitting homestretches, here's one move each team still needs to make between now and the start of the 2019 regular season in September.
Arizona Cardinals: Sign a Veteran Running Back
The Arizona Cardinals were left high and dry in the offensive backfield when starting running back David Johnson missed most of the 2017 season because of a wrist injury, and they didn't have any reliable alternatives when Johnson struggled for much of the 2018 campaign.
It's possible the 2016 All-Pro will never regain that form and that his unforgettable sophomore campaign was an anomaly. And Arizona still doesn't have a lot of insurance at the position. Working as Johnson's backup last year, rookie Chase Edmonds averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, and now-departed quarterback Josh Rosen was the team's third-leading rusher.
The Cards should consider bringing in a veteran like Jacquizz Rodgers, Jeremy Hill, Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory, Alfred Morris or Alex Collins to work with Johnson and Co. and provide better support for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.
Atlanta Falcons: Lock Up Grady Jarrett to a Long-Term Contract
The Atlanta Falcons slapped stellar young defensive tackle Grady Jarrett with the franchise tag in March. And now that free agency and the draft are out of the way, the focus should shift to closing the deal on a long-term contract before the deadline for signing franchise-tag recipients passes July 15.
The tag would cost the Falcons $15.2 million in 2019 alone. Not only would the team benefit from the cap flexibility that comes with a long-term deal, but it would also avoid having to deal with a potential tag conundrum when fellow high-profile defensive players Deion Jones and Vic Beasley Jr. are eligible to hit free agency in 2020.
It's a crime that Jarrett has yet to make a Pro Bowl, but it's only a matter of time for a 26-year-old coming off his best season yet. His 86.7 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus in 2018 ranked fifth among all qualified interior defensive linemen. Atlanta can't afford to let him get away.
Baltimore Ravens: Sign One More Veteran Weapon on Offense
Second-year Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson needs as much help as he can get from his pass-catchers as he develops, so it's not ideal that the team lost experience outside with the departures of Michael Crabtree and John Brown this offseason.
Baltimore did bring in Michael Floyd, but the 2012 first-round pick has essentially become a journeyman. There's hope for rookie first-round pick Marquise Brown as well as second-year fifth-rounder Jordan Lasley, but those players have to prove themselves. And Willie Snead IV is strictly a slot guy.
This summer, the Ravens might realize they could still use an established playmaker like Crabtree (who remains unsigned), and they could also consider Pierre Garcon or Jermaine Kearse, both of whom are still available.
Buffalo Bills: Release LeSean McCoy
Good teams know when to cut bait on aging veterans, and the Buffalo Bills want to believe they're becoming a good team. They can prove they have the right football mentality by parting ways with veteran running back LeSean McCoy this offseason.
The move makes sense financially because the six-time Pro Bowler's release can save the team $6.4 million, but it also makes sense on the field considering that Buffalo signed 36-year-old veteran Frank Gore to a one-year, $2 million deal in March, signed T.J. Yeldon in April and then selected Devin Singletary on Day 2 of the draft.
The Bills should try to trade McCoy, but they might not find anybody interested in an expensive, nearly 31-year-old running back who's coming off a lousy season in which he averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Regardless, McCoy isn't worth the money or the roster spot at this point.
Carolina Panthers: Sign Colin Kaepernick
There's been chatter about a potential quarterback controversy after the Carolina Panthers used a Day 2 draft pick on intriguing West Virginia product Will Grier, but the reality is Grier has to develop mechanically. He's not fit to go toe-to-toe with a healthy Cam Newton, nor is he ready to replace Newton if the 2015 MVP's surgically repaired shoulder causes problems this summer and/or fall.
We wrote in January that the Panthers should be the team to finally give Colin Kaepernick a shot, and Grier's addition doesn't change that. The only other two quarterbacks on the roster, Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, have thrown a combined 89 passes in the NFL.
Kaepernick's collusion case against the league has been settled, and the Panthers were willing to sign safety Eric Reid last season before extending him this offseason.
Reid was essentially the Robin to Kap's Batman during the early stages of the NFL player protests against racial injustice and systematic oppression, so the Panthers seem less likely to shy away from a talented quarterback who could provide insurance for Newton's balky shoulder.
Chicago Bears: Add Another Experienced Defensive Back
The Chicago Bears downgraded at both strong safety and slot cornerback by going from Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine in free agency, which means the team would be smart to at least add some depth and experience to the defensive backfield.
While the focus this summer might be on a wild competition for the right to replace shamed kicker Cody Parkey, Chicago should also entertain established defensive backs such as Tre Boston, Morris Claiborne, Johnathan Cyprien and Da'Norris Searcy.
All of those vets would at least provide depth but would also likely compete for key roles for the talented contender.
Cincinnati Bengals: Extend Tyler Boyd's Contract
A.J. Green is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a major injury entering a contract year, while Andy Dalton is essentially auditioning for a long-term role in the offense of new Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. The quarterback's contract is basically a year-to-year deal, so there's no telling how long he'll last with this coaching staff.
But receiver Tyler Boyd might represent the future for the Bengals offense, and there's little doubt Taylor needs him around beyond his upcoming walk year. Boyd is quietly coming off a 1,028-yard campaign in which he scored seven touchdowns and caught 70.4 percent of the passes thrown his way. But because the 24-year-old was a second-round pick in 2016, the Bengals don't get a fifth-year option.
In an interview this month with Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic, Boyd made it clear he wants to remain in Cincinnati but set a high financial bar for an extension. The Bengals have the cap space to get it done, but now fans have to hope they're willing to spend the cash. Because if he hits the open market next March, there's a decent chance he'll get away.
Cleveland Browns: Sign Gerald McCoy
On paper, there isn't much more the Cleveland Browns can do. The rebuild is complete, and their roster is pretty stacked. Now they just have to prove it can work under new head coach Freddie Kitchens. Quarterback Baker Mayfield needs to take a step forward, and the team has to jell and do so with suddenly lofty expectations.
But an extra experienced Pro Bowler on defense wouldn't hurt, and Gerald McCoy is undoubtedly somewhat of an upgrade over Larry Ogunjobi or Sheldon Richardson at defensive tackle. He might not be the player he used to be, but the 31-year-old would make the Browns even better at a position where there's room to improve.
McCoy visited the Browns last week and left without a contract to keep his commitment to visit Baltimore, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. But the Browns can afford to outspend pretty much all of their competition, and the six-time Pro Bowler would make a hell of a late-spring addition.
Dallas Cowboys: Sign a Starting-Caliber Safety
The Dallas Cowboys still lack an impact player at safety. They've clearly been unwilling to invest heavily in that position, which is their prerogative. But prices should continue to drop as the offseason evolves, and eventually, Dallas should bite the bullet and sign a veteran who would be considered an upgrade over Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, George Iloka and Kavon Frazier.
Some talented safeties remain available, including five-time Pro Bowler Eric Berry, interception machine Tre Boston and former Tennessee Titans big-money free-agent addition Johnathan Cyprien.
The Cowboys have nearly $20 million in salary-cap space, according to Spotrac. They should make something happen with one of those guys before a development in Dallas or elsewhere shifts the supply-and-demand dynamics in favor of the available players.
Denver Broncos: Bring in Competition at Inside Linebacker
Until recently, Denver Broncos fans might have been concerned with Chris Harris Jr.'s contract situation as the elite cornerback continued to negotiate with the team ahead of a walk year. But the Broncos gave the four-time Pro Bowler a nice raise Tuesday, according to Mike Klis of 9News, which shifts the focus to the team's off-ball linebacker picture entering 2019.
Right now, 2018 fourth-round pick Josey Jewell might be the top candidate to replace the departed Brandon Marshall alongside Todd Davis, and there are no obvious in-house candidates to push Jewell this summer.
Potential veteran targets include on-and-off starter Manti Te'o, 2018 Cardinals breakout player Josh Bynes and 2015 first-round pick Stephone Anthony.
Detroit Lions: Add One More Pass-Rusher
The Detroit Lions upgraded one edge spot on defense by letting Ezekiel Ansah go in favor of the expensive Trey Flowers, and fourth-round pick Da'Shawn Hand also flashed as a rookie in 2018. But Hand and A'Shawn Robinson work inside, and Romeo Okwara is not an exciting alternative on the edge.
While the team waits to see what it has in rookie fourth-round pass-rusher Austin Bryant, it might want to see about getting a summertime discount on a proven edge defender who can serve as part of the rotation.
Nominees include Michael Johnson, Derrick Morgan, Connor Barwin and Andre Branch, all of whom should be affordable for a team that has more than $20 million in cap space.
Green Bay Packers: Sign Another Receiver
The Green Bay Packers should consider releasing overpaid veteran tight end Jimmy Graham, but that's probably not in the cards since it didn't happen back in March. So instead, the Packers ought to at least get quarterback Aaron Rodgers one more weapon on the cheap this summer.
Beyond Davante Adams, Green Bay continues to be short on experience at the wide receiver position. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown showed some promise last season, and Geronimo Allison is healthy again. But it was surprising that the Packers didn't add any significant receivers despite losing Randall Cobb.
Rodgers would probably appreciate the addition of someone like Michael Crabtree, Jermaine Kearse, Pierre Garcon or Terrance Williams, and there's no reason to rule out a potential Jordy Nelson return.
Houston Texans: Lock Up Jadeveon Clowney to a Long-Term Contract
J.J. Watt might be the most popular member of the Houston Texans defense, but the 30-year-old is probably on the back nine of his career. Jadeveon Clowney, 26, is the future of said unit, and after three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, he is in prime position to become one of the highest-paid defensive players in the NFL.
Clowney, who was franchise-tagged in March, is slated to count just under $16 million against the salary cap in 2019, but with a long-term deal, the Texans can ensure they'll have him for those prime years while gaining some cap flexibility moving forward.
The Texans could use another veteran outside corner to create camp competition (Claiborne would be a good addition), but getting a deal done with Clowney before the July 15 deadline takes precedence.
Indianapolis Colts: Extend Eric Ebron or Anthony Castonzo
It's an either/or deal for the Indianapolis Colts, who have two key offensive players entering contract years. There's Anthony Castonzo, who has been a steady presence at left tackle in Indy the last eight years. And there's Eric Ebron, who led all tight ends with 13 touchdowns in 2018.
If both perform well without new deals in 2019, the Colts will have to get creative to keep both around with only one franchise tag at their disposal.
Of course, Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard has approached free agency in conservative fashion for this reason. The Colts appear to be focused on keeping this team together, and fans would probably feel more comfortable if they locked up either Castonzo or Ebron this offseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Sign a Veteran Safety
With both Tashaun Gipson Sr. and Barry Church off the roster, the Jacksonville Jaguars are rolling the dice at safety. But do they actually believe current projected starters Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson are going to start for them Week 1?
It's possible Jacksonville has been waiting for prices to drop on lingering free-agent safeties who could at least come in and compete with Harrison (a 2018 third-round pick who generally struggled as a rookie) and/or Wilson (an undrafted Michigan product with 26 career tackles under his belt).
The Jags have less than $10 million in cap space, but it might be worth it for the contending team to chase Eric Berry, Tre Boston or Johnathan Cyprien.
Kansas City Chiefs: Release Tyreek Hill
The Kansas City Chiefs handed Tyreek Hill an indefinite suspension soon after audio was released in which his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, is heard asking Hill why their three-year-old son said Hill broke his arm. Hill is also heard telling Espinal that she needs to be afraid of him. An investigation into the situation is ongoing.
While Hill hasn't been convicted of a crime, it is time to move on.
The Chiefs have already used a second-round draft pick on Mecole Hardman, who appears to be a tailor-made replacement for Hill. It's hard to imagine that Hill will play much, if any, football this season, and keeping him on the roster could make if difficult for a young contender to move forward in what is supposed to be a big season.
History doesn't grant Hill the benefit of the doubt. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation in August 2015 after Espinal, who was pregnant at the time, said he hit her in the face and stomach before choking her in December 2014. The conviction was expunged from his record in 2018 after he completed the conditions of his plea deal.
The Chiefs should rid themselves of his stink and gain some good karma before the 2019 regular season arrives.
Los Angeles Chargers: Sign a Veteran Offensive Tackle
Los Angeles Chargers 2017 sixth-round draft pick Sam Tevi was a liability in his first full season as a starting right tackle in 2018. And while the Bolts did create some competition when they used a Day 2 pick on Trey Pipkins last month, they could use another established player to either push Tevi or work as a swing tackle.
One guy to watch would be Donald Penn. The 12-year vet was a Pro Bowler with the Oakland Raiders in 2016 and 2017. And while he's 36 years old and coming off a season that was derailed by a groin injury, he plays a position with a relatively long shelf life.
A healthy Penn would probably be a better option than Tevi right now, especially considering that the Chargers are in win-now mode and Pipkins requires some development. And he'd probably come pretty cheap at this point too.
Los Angeles Rams: Sign Cory Littleton to a Long-Term Extension
The Los Angeles Rams might at some point look for an experienced defensive tackle to compete with several young options they have to replace the departed Ndamukong Suh, but Aaron Donald is so dominant that they could probably survive with 2017 sixth-round pick Tanzel Smart, 2018 sixth-rounder Sebastian Joseph-Day and/or rookie fourth-round selection Greg Gaines.
Instead, the top priority should be to avoid a situation in which they might have to choose between key young front-seven defenders Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler Jr. next offseason.
Both players are entering contract years (Littleton on a second-round tender, Fowler on a one-year prove-it deal), and both have high ceilings. But Littleton is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he emerged as a tremendous leader on defense. Ideally, the Rams can take care of him now and let the (until now) less reliable Fowler prove himself in the fall.
Miami Dolphins: Release Kiko Alonso
Veteran linebacker Kiko Alonso has been pretty reliable for the Miami Dolphins the last three seasons, missing just two starts over a stretch that has contained 355 total tackles. But Alonso will turn 29 before the 2019 campaign begins, he's relatively expensive for a non-star (two years, $16.4 million remaining on his deal), and he isn't likely to be part of Miami's rebuild.
The goal during said rebuild should be to assess and groom talent, not win games. Alonso has probably hit his ceiling, and the Dolphins are better off using his roster spot on somebody trying to prove himself.
That'd also make it easier to tank, and after June 1, it'd save the Dolphins nearly $4 million in salary-cap space.
Minnesota Vikings: Trade Trae Waynes or Xavier Rhodes
Had 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes not torn his ACL in October, there's a good chance the Minnesota Vikings would have already traded either Trae Waynes or Xavier Rhodes. After all, 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander is turning into a star at slot corner, making at least one of those expensive cornerbacks expendable so long as Hughes remains healthy and on the right track.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported in February that the Vikings were shopping Waynes, and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported in March that teams have called the Vikes about the 2015 No. 11 overall pick. But there's also been speculation about Rhodes, who struggled while dealing with injuries last year but was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and 2017.
Rhodes' value might be higher, but Waynes is a couple of years younger and coming off a better season. Rhodes' contract—he's due more than $54 million over the next four years—is also more of an albatross than Waynes' deal ($9.1 million fifth-year option). Regardless, now that Hughes appears to be getting close to a return, the Vikings should take the best deal they can get for one of those two corners.
New England Patriots: Convince Rob Gronkowski to Unretire
This isn't a "move" in a traditional sense, but it's the best action the New England Patriots can take in order to maximize their chances of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls this decade.
In 2018, Rob Gronkowski might not have been the same player he once was before announcing his retirement in March, but the Hall of Fame-worthy tight end was still a difference-maker down the stretch for the Pats, catching 12 passes for 166 yards in New England's last two playoff games.
His absence puts a lot of extra pressure on a so-so pass-catching corps, but Gronk's own agent, Drew Rosenhaus, "wouldn't be shocked" if the 30-year-old were to return at some point this year, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
New Orleans Saints: Add Another Pass-Rusher
The New Orleans Saints don't know if they can rely on Marcus Davenport right now. There's hope for the 2018 first-round pick as he attempts to replace departed veteran Alex Okafor on the edge, but the raw UTSA product recorded just 4.5 sacks during an injury-impacted rookie season.
Davenport dealt with hip, thumb and toe injuries at various points last year, and after early-offseason surgery, he suggested on Twitter that he played through an injury that should have ended his season prematurely.
The Saints need more options beyond Davenport opposite star pass-rusher Cameron Jordan. Michael Johnson, Derrick Morgan, Andre Branch, Connor Barwin and Nick Perry are the top five free-agent edge defenders available, and all could be good rotational rushers in New Orleans.
New York Giants: Cut Ties with Janoris Jenkins
Way back in October, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that teams were "sniffing around" New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Considering what the franchise has undergone in the last few months, it's surprising that Jenkins remains in New York as we approach June.
But the rebuilding Giants can save $11.3 million in salary-cap space by cutting or trading Jenkins after June 1, and doing so would make a lot of sense considering that the 30-year-old is unlikely to last the entirety of said rebuild.
The Giants should get what they can for Jenkins now and focus instead on young corners Deandre Baker, Julian Love and Sam Beal.
New York Jets: Re-Sign Morris Claiborne
The New York Jets did—and still do—have plenty of money to spend, which is why it's odd they let two of their top three cornerbacks go. One of them, slot specialist Buster Skrine, is now a Chicago Bear. But Morris Claiborne, 29, remains available, and the Jets have only brought in former Atlanta Falcon Brian Poole at that position.
Poole is likely to replace Skrine in the slot, but nobody has replaced Claiborne. Now that the draft is out of the way, expect the Jets to eventually re-sign him. The 2012 No. 6 overall pick hasn't lived up to expectations yet in his career, but he is a decent starter with some upside.
There aren't a lot of quality alternatives, but there's no telling where the Jets will go after a recent regime change.
Oakland Raiders: Trade for a Tight End
Somewhat lost in hoopla of the Raiders' offseason is that Oakland lost a tight end who was coming off a 68-catch, 896-yard, six-touchdown season. Replacing Jared Cook won't be easy, especially if the plan is to try to do it with Derek Carrier, Luke Willson and rookie fourth-round pick Foster Moreau.
But it sounds as though Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph could be on the trading block after Minnesota selected former Alabama tight end Irv Smith in the second round, while you have to wonder if veterans such as Jack Doyle, Jimmy Graham and Cameron Brate could be available based on circumstances on their respective rosters.
The Raiders have 2020 draft capital and cap space to burn. They should be calling Minnesota, Indy, Green Bay and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Philadelphia Eagles: Add a Pass-Rusher
Veteran pass-rushers Michael Bennett and Chris Long are off the Philadelphia Eagles roster, and the jury remains out for now on 2017 first-round edge defender Derek Barnett.
Even with Vinny Curry's return following a year in Tampa Bay, we are wondering if Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is lobbying for one more established lineman to join his Wide 9 attack.
The Eagles might now have the cap space to bring in Nick Perry, but Michael Johnson and Derrick Morgan would also be quality options to join Schwartz's famously deep rotation.
And yeah, we're nitpicking a tad, which goes to show just how strong Philly's roster is.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Extend Joe Haden's Contract
Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have extended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it's time to shift the focus to top cornerback Joe Haden. The 2010 top-10 pick hasn't lived up to those expectations, but he's performed well the last couple of years in Pittsburgh. And the Steelers can probably shave off some of his $11.9 million walk-year cap hit with a new deal this offseason.
The key, though, is to get Haden done now so that the team isn't left with a predicament next offseason, when he and fellow defensive starters Bud Dupree, Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave are all supposed to become unrestricted free agents.
Davis and Hargrave remain cheap for now, and Dupree is entering what is likely a make-or-break fifth-year option season, leaving Haden as the obvious lead candidate for an extension ASAP.
San Francisco 49ers: Trade Solomon Thomas
When you've got Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and DeForest Buckner, do you really need an underachieving Solomon Thomas? That's got to be the San Francisco 49ers' mindset entering the dead of the offseason, and the potential upside is that the 2017 No. 3 overall pick comes cheap while retaining some upside at the age of 23.
Pro Football Talk reported during draft week that the team was shopping Thomas. And although the 49ers refuted that, they have to know there's a chance he'll lose plenty of trade value while serving in a limited role in 2019.
Somebody might eventually make San Francisco an offer it can't refuse based on something that develops elsewhere. Then we'll see if general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have the humility to give up on their first draft pick together.
Seattle Seahawks: Add a Veteran Receiver
The Seattle Seahawks probably know they can rely on underrated wide receiver Tyler Lockett in 2019, but the same can't be said of rookie DK Metcalf, overachieving 2017 seventh-round pick David Moore or disappointing 2018 free-agent acquisition Jaron Brown.
That could mean bringing back Kearse's familiar face, or it could mean pursuing another established vet like Michael Crabtree, Pierre Garcon or Terrance Williams. Regardless, there's little reason not to if you've got close to $30 million in cap space and you're trying to contend.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Add a Veteran Running Back to the Fray
Both Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones performed terribly while posting a combined yards-per-attempt average of 3.6 for the 2018 Buccaneers. But the Bucs made no significant changes at that position this offseason, indicating that new head coach Bruce Arians believes he can fix what ailed the running game.
The still-unsigned Jacquizz Rodgers was also a mess last year, but Jeremy Hill, Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory, Alfred Morris and Alex Collins are potential targets, as is Jay Ajayi if/when he's ready to roll back from major knee surgery.
All of those guys would likely come cheap with small commitments at this stage in the offseason, so expect the Bucs to take that path unless they're blown away by Barber and/or Jones this spring.
Tennessee Titans: Extend Kevin Byard
It's beginning to appear as though the Tennessee Titans nailed Day 2 of the 2016 draft, which is only problematic now because both second-round running back Derrick Henry and third-round safety Kevin Byard are entering contract years without fifth-year options.
The Titans could consider using the franchise tag on either superb young player, but that process will be a lot easier if they can sign one of those guys to an extension well before next offseason arrives. And it's also possible they'll need the tag for quarterback Marcus Mariota at the conclusion of his looming option year, so time is of the essence.
We're prioritizing Byard over Henry because the former plays a slightly more critical position. And unlike Henry, the ball-hawking safety has been an All-Pro. Both are tremendous playmakers, but Byard has a league-high 12 interceptions since the start of 2017.
His extension should be at the top of general manager Jon Robinson's to-do list.
Washington Redskins: Add One More Receiver
The Washington Redskins are trying to get an extension done with top-notch guard Brandon Scherff ahead of a contract year. But the 2020 franchise tag remains in their back pocket, and that can wait if need be. More pressingly, the Redskins lost their primary slot receiver, Jamison Crowder, in free agency and didn't do much to replace him.
Washington could use another established pass-catcher with slot experience to work with Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Brian Quick and rookie third-round pick Terry McLaurin, especially if the team plans to go out of its way to support rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
One potential safety-valve type of option is Bruce Ellington, who was recently released by the Patriots. And the top slot-oriented candidate on the open market might be Jermaine Kearse.