Each NFL Team's Player Whose Best Days Are Behind Him

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2019

Each NFL Team's Player Whose Best Days Are Behind Him

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    For some NFL players, reality hits hard. It isn't easy for them to walk away from the game or realize when their heydays have come to an end.

    Many players have performed at elite levels, so a moderate slip doesn't mean it's time for them to retire. Perhaps those top-notch veterans should accept lesser roles or restricted workloads to extend their careers. 

    Looking around the league, we can pinpoint veterans whose output has slipped a bit or has taken a full nosedive because of injuries, aging or new limitations on their abilities. We'll focus on those with All-Pro or Pro Bowl accolades and career starters, and players who are obviously close to retirement, like 46-year-old kicker Adam Vinatieri, have been omitted for less obvious selections.

    Who's headed for a perpetual decline? Which stars have lost a little bit of their shine?


Arizona Cardinals: CB Patrick Peterson

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    Since entering the NFL in 2011, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson suited up for every game until the league gave him a six-game suspension in May for violating its performance-enhancing drug policy.

    Peterson has suited up for six games this season, logging 31 tackles, two pass breakups and an interception. Because of his early absence and low production, he'll likely finish the season without Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. 

    Peterson will enter a contract year in 2020, and Arizona should allow him to play it out rather than extending him.

    Peterson has contributed to Arizona's lapses in coverage, particularly against the New York Giants in Week 9 and Los Angeles Rams in Week 13. The Cardinals have allowed the most passing yards per game (307.5) and receiving touchdowns (31) this season.

    Peterson will have another year to prove he's a part of the Cardinals' future, but the 2018 campaign could go down as his last Pro Bowl season.

Atlanta Falcons: OG James Carpenter

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    The Atlanta Falcons signed James Carpenter to a four-year, $21 million deal in March, but they may already regret doing so. He's been part of the Falcons' issues on the offensive line.

    According to Pro Football Focus (h/t Will McFadden of the team's official website), Carpenter ranks 71st among guards.

    Across his NFL nine seasons, Carpenter has started 108 out of 114 games, mostly at left guard. After his disappointing 2019 campaign, the 30-year-old may be headed toward a backup role in the near future. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is considering making changes along the offensive line in the final quarter of the season.

    As more teams develop interior pass-rushers, guards must have foot quickness along with the strength to protect the quarterback. Carpenter seems to lack in the former trait. The Falcons should attempt to trade him this offseason and avoid his rising cap hit ($5.2 million) in 2020.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Willie Snead IV

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    Willie Snead IV had a short run as a solid No. 2 and No. 3 receiving option behind Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas in New Orleans during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In 2017, he fell out of the rotation after serving a three-game suspension for driving while intoxicated.

    In 2018, Snead signed a two-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens and logged a team-leading 62 catches. However, he's unlikely to match or surpass that number, especially in his current situation. 

    The Ravens selected two wide receivers in this year's draft: Marquise Brown (first round) and Miles Boykin (third round). Second-year tight end Mark Andrews has emerged as quarterback Lamar Jackson's top pass-catcher, leading the team with 79 targets. Snead ranks third with 35.

    Snead's snap rates are trending downward, too. He played fewer than 62 percent of the Ravens' offensive snaps in each of the last five weeks after eclipsing that threshold in six of his first seven outings. 

    Unless Snead lands elsewhere, he's unlikely to play a significant role in the passing attack. Even if Baltimore does part ways with him, it's still hard to envision the 5'11", 205-pound wideout earning a big role with a new squad after a few nondescript seasons.

Buffalo Bills: DE Jerry Hughes

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    Jerry Hughes can still perform at the level of a starting defensive end, albeit with less impact.

    Aside from back-to-back double-digit sack seasons in 2013 and 2014, Hughes has never piled up a ton of sacks, but that isn't the issue with his production.

    This season, Hughes is on track for his fewest number of total and solo tackles since becoming a full-time starter in Buffalo. Last year, he finished tied for 14th in pressures (39). He's currently tied for 80th with 13.

    The Bills can keep Hughes around while developing younger talent at the position, but they can't rely on him for a consistent pass rush at this stage in his career. 

    Going into his age-32 season, Hughes could serve as a serviceable bookend on the defensive line. But Buffalo can't expect much more than what he's provided this season.

Carolina Panthers: TE Greg Olsen

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    Tight end Greg Olsen put together four solid seasons with the Chicago Bears and developed into a 1,000-yard receiver and three-time Pro Bowler between the 2014 and 2016 seasons in Carolina.

    However, Olsen missed 16 games between 2017 and 2018 and because of recurring foot injuries. The Panthers selected fellow tight end Ian Thomas in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, and he flashed in the final quarter of his rookie season.

    Undrafted free-agent quarterback Kyle Allen replaced Cam Newton for all but two games this year, which may have hindered Olsen's pass-catching production. The 13th-year veteran has hauled in 48 catches for 552 yards and two touchdowns, a far cry from the numbers he put up during his prime.

    Then again, Newton didn't complete even 60 percent of his pass attempts during Olsen's best years. Allen has been a decent fill-in under center, throwing for 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 61.5 percent of his passes. 

    Olsen, who may have a career in television and broadcasting when he retires, could still start for most teams at tight end. However, his recent foot injuries may have affected his quickness off the line of scrimmage and ability to gain a step on linebackers and safeties.

Chicago Bears: OG Kyle Long

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    Over the last four seasons, Kyle Long has missed 30 games (and counting) because of various ailments. This year, the three-time Pro Bowler landed on injured reserve with a hip injury. 

    But even when healthy, Long struggled in the trenches. As Cam Ellis of NBC Sports Chicago pointed out a month ago, the Bears upgraded at right guard with a backup.

    "Line play has continued to be an issue this season, although Rashaad Coward has been an improvement over Kyle Long on the right side," Ellis wrote.

    Before this season, Coward hadn't started a game. He transitioned from a defensive lineman to guard before the 2018 campaign, which means he's still raw at the position.

    With Coward outplaying Long on the interior, the seventh-year veteran's Pro Bowl years are likely over.

Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green

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    A.J. Green earned seven consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl, but that streak ended last year because of a toe injury that cost him seven games. He finished with a career-low 694 receiving yards.

    This year, Green has yet to play a down after undergoing offseason ankle surgery and experiencing a setback during his recovery. 

    Since 2016, Green has missed 25 games (and counting) because of hamstring, toe and ankle injuries. If the Bengals select a quarterback in the upcoming draft, the 6'4", 210-pound wideout would have to build a rapport with a new signal-caller if he re-signs with Cincinnati. 

    Because of Green's recent injury historyall of which were leg and foot ailments—he may be less explosive moving forward. He could still use his size to leap over defenders, but as a possession-type wideout, his average yards per reception (14.8) and overall production figure to decline.

Cleveland Browns: DT Sheldon Richardson

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    As the No. 13 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Sheldon Richardson came into the league on the fast track, logging 16.5 sacks through his first three seasons with the New York Jets.

    Since 2016, Richardson has bounced around the league, suiting up for four different teams. He's no longer much of a pass-rusher, having logged only nine sacks over that span.

    Richardson can still play a major role in run defense, as evidenced by his 48 total tackles (35 solo) and two tackles for loss. However, the 29-year-old isn't able to disrupt plays in the backfield like he used to do in New York. He had double-digit tackles for loss in three of his four seasons with Gang Green.

    As more defensive tackles increase their value with the ability to pressure the pocket, Richardson's lack of production on passing downs may adversely affect his playing time with the Browns in the near future.

Dallas Cowboys: LB Sean Lee

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    Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee has a long history of injuries, but he's been a starter ever since his sophomore season. The 33-year-old has eclipsed his 2018 production in both tackles (57) and pass deflections (three) partially because of Leighton Vander Esch's recent absences with a neck injury. 

    This season, Lee has started nine of 12 games, but he isn't likely to sustain that high of a snap count whenever Vander Esch returns.

    Lee played fewer than 44 percent of the defensive snaps in each of his first five games. The Cowboys coaching must limit his time on the field to preserve him for the long haul.

    Lee has the football instincts, experience and on-field leadership skills to play a prominent role, but his body likely won't allow it for extended periods. He missed 14 games between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, which explains why the team is being careful with his workload.

Denver Broncos: OG Ronald Leary

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    The Denver Broncos have yet to see the best out of Ronald Leary since he signed with them in 2017.

    Over the last three years, he's missed 15 games because of a variety of injuries. The 30-year-old has started every game this season but has racked up a career-high seven penalties, per the Washington Post's STATS.

    The Broncos have a 2020 club option on Leary's deal, and they may decide to decline it to go younger at guard. The eighth-year veteran's back and Achilles injuries may factor into the decision of whether to terminate his contract. Furthermore, Leary's tendency to hold (five infractions) could encourage the front office to look elsewhere for an upgrade.

    SI.com's Erick Trickel provided a mixed assessment of Leary's 2019 performance through his first nine games.

    "There is a lot of focus on the tackles, and rightfully so, but Leary has struggled to start the season. He has allowed 12 total pressures, and got hit with a lot of penalties. His run blocking has been solid, and he has played a huge part in some huge running lanes, but there have been consistency issues there as well."

    In 2020, Leary may have to suit up for a third team to extend his career as a starter.

Detroit Lions: DE Mike Daniels

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    When Mike Daniels steps on the field, he can upgrade a team's resistance against ground attacks and rush the passer. Clubs value versatile 300-pounders who can line up in various spots, but the 30-year-old has missed 13 games since 2017. 

    The Green Bay Packers released Daniels in July, and the Detroit Lions signed the eighth-year veteran to a one-year, $8.1 million deal two days later. A foot injury cost him five games, and he has returned to action in a limited role, playing no more than 40 percent of defensive snaps since Week 10.

    In Green Bay, Daniels started 72 out of 102 games. With the Lions, he's primarily a rotational defensive lineman, which has put a cap on the Pro Bowler's production and restricted his ability to help the team's 23rd-ranked run defense. 

    Daniels' transition from a starter in a prominent role to a nondescript role player suggests his career is trending in the wrong direction.

Green Bay Packers: TE Jimmy Graham

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    Jimmy Graham built a strong reputation as a pass-catching tight end who can win battles in the red zone. Since coming into the league in 2010, he's sixth in total touchdowns (74) and had double-digit scores in four seasons. 

    Graham played with elite signal-callers in New Orleans (Drew Brees) and Seattle (Russell Wilson), but he hasn't experienced comparable success playing alongside two-time All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    In 28 games with the Packers, Graham has 84 catches for 969 yards and five touchdowns. Those are decent numbers for an average tight end, but the five-time Pro Bowler's tenure in Green Bay has been a disappointment compared to his past heights.

    The Packers have a young wide receiver unit behind Davante Adams, but Graham hasn't been able to fill a void as the No. 2 pass-catcher in the offense. At 33 years old, he's past his prime and is no longer a big-time red-zone threat.

Houston Texans: DE J.J. Watt

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    In 2018, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt earned his fifth All-Pro honor, logging 16 sacks, 61 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and four pass breakups. More importantly, he played a full season for the first time since 2015.

    This year, Watt went on injured reserve for the third time in four seasons. He tore his pectoral muscle during a Week 8 contest against the Oakland Raiders, prematurely ending his year.

    Watt has missed 28 games over the last four seasons. When healthy, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year can stop the run and take down quarterbacks, but the Texans may want to consider limiting his snap count to preserve him for the long haul.

    With all of the wear and tear on his body, injuries and surgeries, the 30-year-old needs to pace himself through a grueling season.

    Watt may have proved doubters wrong in his 2018 comeback, but he'll turn 31 in March and will be coming off yet another offseason of rehab and recovery. The ninth-year veteran can still be a game-changer on the defensive line, but his superstar days may come crashing to a halt.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Jack Doyle

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    Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle might have peaked during the 2017 season with quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center, not Andrew Luck, who missed that entire year to recover from shoulder surgery.

    Based on that connection two years ago, one would think Brissett's ascension to the starting spot following Luck's unexpected retirement would elevate Doyle back to a Pro Bowl-caliber level.

    However, that hasn't been the case.

    Doyle has been sharing snaps at the position with Eric Ebron and Mo Alie-Cox. The former landed on injured reserve after Week 12 to undergo surgery on both ankles.

    Doyle has logged the most snaps (72.3 percent) among the Colts' tight ends, but he isn't the player who led the team in receptions (80) two years ago, even with star wideout T.Y. Hilton healthy for an entire season. 

    Down the stretch, the Colts need one of their pass-catchers to step into a bigger role as Hilton battles a calf injury. Despite his high snap count, Doyle has eclipsed 50 receiving yards only twice in 2019. 

    Doyle doesn't possess the athleticism to take over in the passing game. Even in an expanded role, he's an average tight end who doesn't stretch the field.

    This season, Doyle has bumped up his career high in yards per reception (10.5), but he has a career-low 67.9 percent catch rate. That doesn't bode well for his chances of carving out an expanded role as he heads into his 30s.

Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Nick Foles

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    Nick Foles is an anomaly among the players featured here because his best days came during an improbable playoff run that ended with a victory in Super Bowl 52. He's never played through a full season, but he earned a Pro Bowl invite following the 2013 campaign.

    Foles had a solid two-year run during his second stint with the Philadelphia Eagles in relief of quarterback Carson Wentz, who went down with a torn ACL and a back fracture in consecutive seasons.

    The Jaguars rolled the dice on Foles during free agency, signing him to a four-year, $88 million deal. He broke his collarbone in Week 1 and returned in Week 11, but he underwhelmed during his limited time under center. Head coach Doug Marrone benched him for Gardner Minshew II on Sunday, and the rookie has been named the starter for the remainder of the season.

    Foles led an Eagles squad that beat the New England Patriots, the most accomplished team over the last two decades, on the biggest stage. Last year, he sparked Philadelphia's playoff run. Yet this season, the eighth-year veteran lost his job to a rookie sixth-rounder. 

    Foles' demotion significantly hurts his trade value, so the Jaguars may be stuck with a high-priced backup unless they release him. Going forward, he's a tough sell as a starter in this league.

    Perhaps Foles' name will come up as a short-term fix for a playoff-bound club that loses its quarterback, but we're unlikely to see him replicate what he did two years ago or start a season from beginning to end.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Sammy Watkins

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    When the Bills selected Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft, he seemed to possess the tools to blossom into a top wide receiver for years to come. But after posting two 60-catch seasons during his first two years in the league, nagging foot injuries may have taken their toll. 

    Watkins hasn't played a full season since his rookie campaign, although he averaged more than 15 yards per catch in each of his first four seasons. In 2017, the Clemson product logged his second-highest touchdown total (eight). 

    Injuries have forced Watkins to miss eight games over the past two seasons. He's lost his big-play ability, averaging no more than 13 yards per catch in either 2018 or 2019, and he's reached paydirt only six times over that span.

    Despite playing with one of the NFL's best passers in Patrick Mahomes, Watkins hasn't been able to produce as a consistent threat in the aerial attack or viable red-zone option. He hasn't scored since his three-touchdown performance against the Jaguars in Week 1.

Los Angeles Chargers: QB Philip Rivers

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    The Los Angeles Chargers should contemplate quarterback options in the offseason. Philip Rivers has a 3.8 percent touchdown rate, which is his lowest mark as a starter.

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Chargers will consider an in-season quarterback change if Rivers doesn't show improvement in the final four games.

    Since Week 10, Rivers has thrown five touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed fewer than 55 percent of his attempts in two of the last three contests.

    Rivers finished with Pro Bowl honors in each of the last three years, but he's unlikely to extend that streak with his career-low 46.7 QBR and a tendency to toss up inaccurate deep balls in crucial moments.

    Typically a model of consistency in the pocket, Rivers has become a liability because of his turnovers and poor decisions. He's in a contract year and may be headed toward retirement sooner than later.

Los Angeles Rams: S Eric Weddle

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    Earlier in his career, Eric Weddle earned his keep with reliable tackling and ball-hawking skills. At 34 years old, he can still make a stop or end a play, but he isn't much of a threat to force takeaways.

    Weddle ranks second on the Rams in total tackles (82), but he hasn't recorded an interception since the 2017 season with the Ravens. The two-time All-Pro logged six picks that year. On top of that, Weddle has only seven pass deflections over the last two seasons combined. 

    The Rams coaching staff has trusted Weddle with a full workload. He's been on the field for 91 percent of the team's defensive snaps. The cerebral safety is typically in the right spot to take down a ball-carrier or receiver, but he doesn't provide the impact plays that will change the complexion of games. 

    This season, Weddle has lined up in center field, in the box and at slot cornerback. However, he's replaceable if rookie Taylor Rapp can perform similar duties and cause more disruption in the passing game.

Miami Dolphins: WR Allen Hurns

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    During his breakout 2015 campaign with the Jaguars, Allen Hurns logged 64 receptions for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. He signed a four-year, $40 million contract in the following offseason, but his extended time in Jacksonville didn't pan out well. 

    Hurns battled injuries and underachieved after inking that deal, recording fewer than 40 catches in consecutive seasons before the team released him. He attempted to resurface in Dallas but registered a career-low 20 receptions during the 2018 campaign. The sixth-year veteran then suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula during the postseason. 

    Allen has started five out of 11 contests for the Miami Dolphins this year, but he's playing only 52 percent of offensive snaps.

    Even after undrafted rookie wideout Preston Williams went down with a knee injury, Hurns hasn't been able to fully capitalize on additional opportunities in the passing attack. Coming off a significant leg injury, he's averaging 12.4 yards per reception. 

    Although Hurns is a serviceable receiver, he's unlikely to match or top his 2015 campaign after several underwhelming seasons and a serious injury.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Xavier Rhodes

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    Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes had double-digit pass breakups in each of his first five seasons, but his production took a dive last year. Head coach Mike Zimmer publicly called out the All-Pro cornerback before the start of the 2019 campaign, per Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

    "I just don't think he played as well as he can play," Zimmer said. "He needs to play up to his ability level. We're paying him a lot of money. He needs to play up to that contract."

    Despite his coach's demand for improved play, Rhodes has continued to struggle.

    "Xavier Rhodes entered the game surrendering a 126 rating and 9.5 YPA, ranking 11th worst out of 135 CBs per PFF. Tonight: 4/4 for 99 yds and 1 TD," Warren Sharp of Sharp Football tweeted heading into Monday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

    Zimmer temporarily benched Rhodes on Monday after the two had a back-and-forth discussion on the sideline, but the seventh-year corner eventually returned to action. Still, he isn't close to the player that earned All-Pro honors two years ago.

    The Vikings might have to consider approaching the 29-year-old about a paycut or trade if he doesn't show notable improvement in the final quarter of the season.

New England Patriots: S Patrick Chung

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    The New England Patriots typically use Patrick Chung closer to the line of scrimmage, specifically in the box as opposed to a free safety in center field. As a result, he isn't going to haul in a ton of interceptions.

    With that said, Chung is often able to disrupt the short-to-intermediate passing attack. Since signing with the Patriots in 2014, the 32-year-old finished among the top three on the team in total tackles each season.

    That isn't going to happen this year.

    Chung missed three games with heel and chest ailments. And when he's been healthy, the Patriots have tinkered with his snap count on defense.

    Not counting Week 6, when he exited early because of a chest injury, Chung has played no more than 70 percent of the team's defensive snaps in three contests. In Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, the coaching staff opted to use backup safety Terrence Brooks rather than Chung on a critical down, per Henry McKenna of Patriots Wire.

    Chung signed a three-year extension in the offseason, but he could lose some ground to Brooks or an upstart talent at the position. The Patriots are known for letting go of players before they experience a sharp decline. Unless he begins to make more impact plays, Chung's best may be in his past.

New Orleans Saints: WR Ted Ginn Jr.

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    Ted Ginn Jr. put together a strong season with the New Orleans Saints in 2017, hauling in 53 receptions for 787 yards and four touchdowns with a career-high 75.7 percent catch rate.

    Perhaps the benefits of playing with Drew Brees, one of the most accurate quarterbacks of all time, has lost its effect on Ginn. Over the past two seasons, he's hauled in only 41 receptions for 557 yards and four touchdowns.

    Ginn missed 11 games because of a knee injury last year, but he's played in every game this season. However, he hasn't given the Saints a reliable No. 2 wide receiver opposite Michael Thomas. 

    Ginn initially provided speed and a field-stretching aspect to an explosive passing attack. Now, he's fifth on the team in receptions (24) and fourth in yards (348). The Saints should focus on Tre'Quan Smith's development or acquire another young talent this offseason to take some pressure off Thomas.

New York Giants: LT Nate Solder

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    Nate Solder's tenure with the New York Giants has been a roller-coaster ride that's currently in a downward spiral. 

    The Giants signed Solder to a four-year, $62 million contract in March 2018, making him the league's highest-paid offensive lineman at the time. After two seasons, that looks like a glaring mistake.

    He's a liability on quarterback Daniel Jones' blind side, which puts a lot of pressure on the rookie signal-caller to get rid of the ball before play designs develop downfield. According to the Washington Post's STATS, Solder has allowed an alarming 17.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

    Big Blue signed Solder as he was coming off his best season as a pass-blocker with the Patriots, allowing only three sacks. For most of his years in New England, he served as a solid pass protector on the edge, but he's been far less consistent in New York.

    Dan Schneier of Big Blue Banter saw improvements in Solder's play last year but admits the ninth-year veteran has taken big steps backward.

    "Nate Solder has quickly gone from arguably the #Giants best OL in the second half of 2018, to arguably their worst starter in 2019," Dan Schneier of CBS Sports tweeted last week.

    The Giants may want to cut their losses and draft a left tackle this offseason. Solder left his best years in New England.

New York Jets: WR Demaryius Thomas

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    When healthy, Demaryius Thomas could fill the No. 2 or No. 3 role in a wide receiver group. He's suited up for 10 games with the New York Jets this season and has produced some solid outings, logging a 63 percent catch rate

    However, Thomas' glory days ended in Denver.

    After the Broncos traded the four-time Pro Bowler to the Texans last October, he tore his Achilles two months later. The Patriots signed and then waived him during the offseason, although they re-signed him shortly thereafter.

    With Gang Green, Thomas served as a decent starting option for a few weeks, but the 6'3", 225-pound wideout still hasn't found the end zone. He ranks third on the team in receiving yards (405) and fourth in catches (34), but he's on pace for his lowest output in both categories since 2011. 

    Three years removed from his last Pro Bowl campaign, Thomas is no longer a marquee player. He'll likely have to settle for one-year deals on the free-agent market moving forward.

Oakland Raiders: LB Vontaze Burfict

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    Vontaze Burfict only knows how to play with physicality on every snap, but the league came down hard on his latest on-field violation.

    In Week 4 against the Colts, Burfict hit tight end Jack Doyle with his helmet on a tackle. After a thorough review, the NFL suspended the Pro Bowl linebacker for the remainder of the season.

    In an interview with The Athletic's Vic Tafur, Burfict had some choice words for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, which could add an obstacle in his pathway back into the league. 

    Burfict has been fined or suspended 14 times, but he does want to play again, per Tafur.

    "Yeah, I'm coming back," Burfict said. "The NFL can't kick me out like that. They are going to have to kill me. I am too strong for that."

    If Burfict takes the field again, he'll have to change his style of play to abide by the rules. The 29-year-old would have all eyes scrutinizing his every move coming off a lengthy ban.

    The eighth-year veteran also has a long history of concussions and hasn't played a full season since 2013.

    Between his concussion history, potential tentativeness to tiptoe around the rules and another ban looming if he's reckless, Burfict's best years have come and gone.

Philadelphia Eagles: DT Timmy Jernigan

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    In 2016, Timmy Jernigan put together a standout season with the Ravens, logging 31 tackles, nine tackles for loss, five sacks and an interception. The Ravens traded him to the Eagles the following offseason, and he signed a four-year, $48 million extension in November 2017.

    However, the Eagles seem to realize they don't have the same player who dominated in the trenches a few years ago. Philadelphia declined the option on Jernigan's contract in March and re-signed him a month later on a modest one-year, $2 million deal.

    Jernigan underwent back surgery in May 2018 and suited up in only three regular-season games that fall. The Eagles were likely concerned about his ability to bounce back from a significant injury, which resulted in his contract termination. 

    In Week 2, Jernigan took the field as a starter against the Falcons, but he broke his foot, which sidelined him for six games. He's opened with the first-stringers for the last four contests, but he's logged only five tackles over that span..

    Because of his recent injury history, Jernigan may not receive too many multiyear offers moving forward. In six seasons, he's started more than eight games only twice. The 27-year-old's ceiling maxes out as a solid rotational defensive lineman who's solid against the run.

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Mark Barron

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    Mark Barron has the experience to thrive in today's league. He's played the hybrid linebacker-safety role that has become a valuable commodity with an increasing number of tight ends involved in the passing game.

    However, Barron's production in coverage has slipped into the bottom three in yards allowed per coverage snap, according to Pro Football Focus (via The Athletic's David Lombardi).

    "There are 83 qualifying LBs who have been in pass coverage on > 20% of snaps... Bottom 3 in PFF yards per cover snap allowed:

    "81. Damien Wilson, Chiefs: 1.62 
    "82. Mark Barron, Steelers: 1.72
    "83. Patrick Onwuasor, Ravens: 2.37

    The Steelers trust Barron with coverage duties, but pass-catchers have been successful against him. 

    Barron can still finish plays. He's third on the team in tackles (62), but the Steelers should dial back on his coverage assignments against running backs and tight ends.

    Barron logged at least four pass breakups for six consecutive seasons, but that streak ended with the Los Angeles Rams last year. He's recorded only three pass deflections over the past two seasons.

San Francisco 49ers: K Robbie Gould

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    Kickers and punters typically have longer careers than players at any other position, which means they could peak in their early or mid-30s.

    That seems like the case for Robbie Gould.

    Before he signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, Gould made 85.9 percent of his field-goal attempts over his first 12 seasons. During his first two seasons with the Niners, he drilled 95.1 and 97.1 percent of his field-goal attempts, respectively, and he led the league in conversion rate last year. 

    However, his accuracy has plummeted this season. He's gone only 14-of-22 on his field-goal attempts, and he's 0-of-4 from beyond 50 yards.

    Gould signed a four-year, $19 million extension with the Niners in mid-July after they initially franchise-tagged him. However, they can get out of his contract after the 2020 season and eat only $1.5 million in dead cap.

    Gould is a perfect 28-of-28 on extra-point attempts, but if his kicking woes prove costly down the stretch, the Niners may enter this season looking for his replacement.

Seattle Seahawks: DE Ezekiel Ansah

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    In his best years, Ezekiel Ansah logged two double-digit sack campaigns with the Lions and went to the Pro Bowl following the 2015 season.

    After playing out the 2018 campaign on the franchise tag, Ansah landed on the free-agent market, but he needed time to recover from an offseason procedure.

    Last year, Ansah played only seven games because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. He didn't sign with the Seattle Seahawks until May. The 30-year-old then missed the first two games of the season and battled through back and ankle ailments in the following weeks.

    During his first five seasons, Ansah played a starting role, taking the field for about half to two-thirds of the Lions' defensive snaps as a pass-rusher. Over the last two seasons, he's appeared in 16 contests but has started only three times. 

    Looking ahead, it's difficult to envision Ansah matching his production from his standout campaigns in Detroit coming off consecutive injury-riddled seasons and on the wrong side of 30.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Ndamukong Suh

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    Ndamukong Suh's best work isn't detected in the box score anymore.

    During his All-Pro days, Suh racked up sacks and penetrated offensive lines to disrupt plays in the backfield as one of the most dominant interior defenders in the league. He'll still occasionally burst through the pocket for a sack—he had 4.5 in both 2017 and 2018—but his presence is now helping his teammates succeed.

    Suh still draws frequent double-teams, which is allowing fellow edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett to take advantage of one-on-one opportunities while pursuing the quarterback. 

    "Shaq Barrett may be getting most of the attention up front for the Bucs' defense but don't overlook these guys: Carl Nassib's got a league-high 22% pass rush win rate versus double teams. @NdamukongSuh has seen the fifth-most double teams (137) in the league," ESPN's Jenna Laine tweeted. 

    At 6'4" and 313 pounds with tremendous strength, Suh will draw attention in the trenches. Offensive linemen must account for him, but the three-time All-Pro isn't beating double-teams like he used to do in Miami. 

    Suh is still a valuable asset for a defensive line, but he's more beneficial to others around him as opposed to a one-man wrecking crew.

Tennessee Titans: TE Delanie Walker

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    Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker recorded at least 60 catches and 800 receiving yards for four consecutive seasons between 2014 and 2017. However, he's been unable to finish the last two campaigns healthy.

    Last year, Walker dislocated his ankle and suffered some ligament damage in the season opener. He recovered in time to open with the starters this year, but he struggled to stay healthy through October. The Titans placed him on injured reserve in November, ending his season.

    In Tennessee, Walker had not missed more than one game in a season until 2018. Since then, he's missed 20 games.

    With 2017 third-rounder Jonnu Smith as the next man up at tight end, Walker will likely return to a reduced role if he comes back for his age-36 season in 2020. If he's released and lands elsewhere, the 14th-year veteran should expect to play a small role because of his recent issues with his problematic ankle.

Washington Redskins: CB Josh Norman

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    Once upon a time, Josh Norman played a key role in the Panthers' run to Super Bowl 50. He earned All-Pro honors in that campaign, logging 18 pass deflections and four interceptions.

    The following offseason, the Panthers didn't retain Norman, and he signed a lucrative five-year, $75 million deal with the Washington Redskins. The All-Pro cover man continued to produce at a high level, breaking up 19 passes and notching three interceptions. 

    In recent years, quarterbacks may have thought twice about targeting Norman in coverage, but that changed this season. According to NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay, the 31-year-old has routinely allowed wide receivers to run up and down the field.

    "On the year, he has one interception and 40 tackles, but repeatedly in what seems week after week, Norman gets beat for touchdowns by opposing receivers," Finlay wrote.

    According to Matthew Paras of the Washington Times, head coach Bill Callahan largely benched Norman in recent weeks because he wanted to take a look at younger players. Nonetheless, that decision came at a time when Norman can't cover his assignments.

    If the Redskins release Norman next year, he'll probably be serviceable with a new team, but he's nothing close to the star defender from years past.


    Offensive line sacks and penalties provided by the Washington Post's STATS.