NFL Players Who Just Need a Change of Scenery
NFL players are constantly on the move, sometimes for greener pastures.
Before Oct. 29's trade deadline, the Denver Broncos dealt wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers. In his first two games with his new team, Sanders scored two touchdowns—the same number he had through seven contests in Denver.
Running back Kenyan Drake didn't eclipse 50 rushing yards in any of his six appearances with the Miami Dolphins this season. Following his trade to the Arizona Cardinals, he broke out for 110 yards on the ground.
Before we label players as busts and underachievers, it's fair to question whether they fit with their teams. Although front-office executives may have high hopes for everyone on the roster, reality doesn't pan out that way.
We'll take a look at eight players who should sign elsewhere in the offseason to reach their full potential or who need a trade to leave an unstable situation.
QB Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
When a new coaching staff takes over, the incoming regime will usually turn over most of the roster. We'll likely see this scenario play out in Cincinnati.
According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, Dalton wanted out of Cincinnati, but that never happened. Subsequently, the coaching staff benched him for rookie fourth-rounder Ryan Finley in Week 10.
"Longtime Bengals starter Andy Dalton was forthright in his displeasure with the team for not attempting to trade him before benching him this week and eagerly anticipates an offseason trade, league sources said," La Canfora wrote.
The veteran signal-caller has another year left on his deal, but don't count on him to spend it with the Bengals.
At 0-9, Cincinnati will probably land a top-three draft pick and select a quarterback. Expect the front office to deal Dalton in the offseason, giving the 32-year-old a new start.
For his career, Dalton has recorded 197 touchdown passes and 112 interceptions while completing 62.2 percent of his passes.
Quarterback-needy clubs with top-level defenses such as the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos should inquire about Dalton. Those teams are a decent signal-caller away from playoff contention.
Ideal landing spots: Bears, Broncos, Titans
QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Much like Dalton in Cincinnati, Marcus Mariota's tenure with the team that drafted him seems like it's ending.
In Week 6, the Tennessee Titans benched Mariota for Ryan Tannehill, who's led the squad to a 3-1 record as a starter. Both quarterbacks will become free agents in the offseason.
Even if the Titans fall out of the playoff picture, Tannehill would likely have a better chance to return as the team's starter. The former Dolphin hasn't thrown for a ton of yards (1,017) in four starts, but he's efficient, completing 70 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and only three interceptions.
The Titans supported Mariota as a starter for four-and-a-half seasons. But he went through four play-callers during his time under center. Perhaps constant changes in the coaching ranks stunted his development, but the 26-year-old should look toward a more stable situation rather than think about what could've been.
The Bears, Broncos or a rebuilding squad such as the Bengals can sign Mariota for a year while they groom a top draft pick. The five-year veteran could use a short period to reinvent himself and audition for teams in need of an experienced quarterback with tremendous mobility.
Ideal landing spots: Bears, Bengals, Broncos
WR Rashard Higgins, Cleveland Browns
This isn't about running from a disappointing situation in Cleveland. Rashard Higgins, who'll be a free agent this offseason, must go elsewhere for more opportunities.
The Browns' third and fourth wideouts will fight for scraps behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who have seen 79 and 77 targets, respectively. Running back Nick Chubb is third with 36.
Despite being benched Sunday, Antonio Callaway will likely hold on to the No. 3 wide receiver spot. He's started 13 out of 20 career games. When tight end David Njoku recovers from a wrist injury, he'll command looks in the passing game as well.
If the Browns match an offer for soon-to-be restricted free-agent running back Kareem Hunt, he'll likely see targets in the short passing game too.
Quietly, the 25-year-old Higgins made notable strides in his third campaign last year, registering 39 receptions for 572 yards and four touchdowns. This season, Higgins missed five games with a knee injury, and he's unlikely to build upon his solid 2018 because of the key playmakers ahead of him.
He has the potential to develop into a No. 2 or high-end No. 3 wideout but needs to find a receiver group with less star power and an even target distribution.
The Indianapolis Colts don't have any proven receiving options behind T.Y. Hilton on the books beyond this season. Higgins would be a great fit for the AFC South club.
Ideal landing spots: Colts, Dolphins, Saints
LT Trent Williams, Washington Redskins
Because team doctors told Williams the growth on his scalp was minor before the diagnosis, he doesn't trust the organization's medical group, which factored into a holdout that stretched into the season's first eight games.
The Redskins have requested a medical review of Williams' situation, which potentially adds another layer to the rift between the player and franchise.
Williams reported to the team for a physical and failed because of pain at the surgery site when putting on a helmet, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Before the trade deadline, the Redskins attempted to deal him for a top-32 pick in the 2020 draft but only received an offer for a second-rounder. They'll attempt to move him again in the offseason, per Rapoport.
Regardless of the findings in the medical review or Williams' level of participation with the team this year, he's likely on the way out of Washington. In February and March, franchises with a strong need at left tackle, such as the Browns, may bite on a first-round asking price for a premier pass protector.
Ideal landing spots: Browns, Rams, Cardinals
DE Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons
Typically, teams will give second and third chances to first-round pass-rushers, especially if they've shown glimpses of high-end production.
Vic Beasley will probably have a second chance to display the skills that helped him earn All-Pro honors following a standout 2016 that saw him collect 15.5 sacks. Since then, he's recorded just 13. Nevertheless, expect general managers to offer the impending free agent a modest contract or a one-year, prove-it deal in hopes of a career revival.
During his five-year tenure with the Atlanta Falcons, Beasley lined up as a defensive end with his hand on the ground and a stand-up edge-rusher. The versatility keeps his options wide-open, regardless of a team's defensive scheme.
Beasley possesses the athleticism to provide more than just a pass rush, but he's struggled to find the ball. He hasn't matched his numbers from his best season, and the Clemson product often disappears on the defensive line, providing little to no impact on run or passing downs.
This season, Beasley has played 73.1 percent of Atlanta's defensive snaps. His combined tackles are up compared to last season, but he's still inconsistent in the pass rush with three sacks. Perhaps a new coaching staff will find a way to unlock the 27-year-old's talent.
Among teams that would likely kick the tires on Beasley, the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins stand out. Both clubs desperately need help applying pocket pressure, ranking 24th and 30th, respectively, in sacks.
Ideal landing spots: Raiders, Dolphins, Buccaneers
DE Shaq Lawson, Buffalo Bills
Through four years with the Buffalo Bills, Shaq Lawson has flashed talent in short stints, but he's performed well below first-round expectations.
In 44 contests, Lawson has 12 sacks. Despite his lackluster pass-rushing results, he's a capable athlete who can chase down ball-carriers and knock down passes at the line of scrimmage.
Teams will probably overlook Lawson's 50 career solo tackles, nine pass breakups and four forced fumbles while trying to find the same dominant player who recorded 12.5 sacks in 2015, his last season at Clemson. At 25 years old, he's worth a second look in a new system. Perhaps a spot alongside a premier interior pass-rusher would open lanes for him.
Lawson may not possess the talent to lead the charge toward the pocket, but as a secondary or situational pass-rusher, he can reemerge in a playmaking role with his best years ahead of him.
The Bills didn't exercise the fifth-year option on Lawson's rookie contract. So, as a free agent in the offseason, he could land on a team that's struggling to generate a pass rush, such as the Buccaneers, Raiders or Detroit Lions.
Ideal landing spots: Raiders, Buccaneers, Lions
OLB Kyler Fackrell, Green Bay Packers
Kyler Fackrell likely won't match his breakout 10.5-sack 2018 in Green Bay because the team signed some heavy-hitters on the edge during the offseason.
Despite his impressive third year, Fackrell has taken a back seat to Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith this season—and for good reason. The duo has logged a combined 18.5 sacks through 10 games. The Smiths are arguably the best pair of edge-rushers in the league.
Where does that leave Fackrell?
The fourth-year veteran has lined up for just 35.7 percent of the Packers' defensive snaps in a situational role. Nevertheless, as we saw last year, Fackrell can provide so much more with expanded responsibilities.
Clearly, the Packers had moderate expectations for him, selecting the Utah State product in the third round of the 2016 draft. Green Bay may attempt to re-sign the impending free agent to maintain depth on the edge, but he can aim for a prominent role with a club that needs help at outside linebacker.
The New York Jets waived rookie third-rounder Jachai Polite in the summer during final cuts. General manager Joe Douglas should explore the idea of signing a high-potential defender such as Fackrell to fill a perpetual void within Gang Green's front seven.
Ideal landing spots: Jets, Texans, Rams
CB Quincy Wilson, Indianapolis Colts
In subtle fashion, the Indianapolis Colts gave up on Quincy Wilson's potential.
General manager Chris Ballard added two cornerbacks in this year's draft, selecting Rock Ya-Sin (second round) and Marvell Tell III (fifth round). The latter played safety at USC, but he's shown positive signs in his transition, per Andrew Walker of the Colts' official website.
"The team has simply decided to give rookie Marvell Tell III an opportunity to show where he is at in his transition from safety to cornerback, and the results—particularly last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers—are promising," Walker wrote.
In addition, the Colts signed Kenny Moore II and Pierre Desir to extensions during the offseason, which essentially locked them into starting corner roles.
With veterans in front of him and rookies not far behind, Wilson seems like the odd man out. He has one more year left on his deal, but the 23-year-old should look for the nearest exit.
Through six contests, Wilson has been on the field for 105 defensive snaps and registered just eight tackles. He missed one game because of a shoulder injury and was a healthy scratch for two outings. The third-year pro started five games in each of the last two seasons. Now, in a minuscule role, the Florida product must seek opportunity elsewhere.
In his first two years, Wilson recorded 39 solo tackles, eight pass deflections and two interceptions, displaying glimpses of the potential that propelled him to the second round of the 2017 draft.
While he's still young, Wilson can latch on to a club that wants a physical perimeter cornerback with decent ball skills. The Lions, who swung and missed on fellow Florida product and 2017 draftee Teez Tabor, should place a call to acquire the Colts cover man.
Unlike Tabor, Wilson has produced when he's seen the field.
Ideal landing spots: Lions, Cardinals, Jets