Each NFL team's offseason is filled with small moves and marginal personnel decisions. Sometimes, that series of small moves will build a winner. But a big, bold move always helps -- whether by dramatically improving talent at an important position or changing the overall direction of the franchise. Below, Football Outsiders suggests a bold move for each team. Some of these are realistic, others are more far-fetched, but each would provide a significant change and improve a team's chances of winning future Super Bowls.
Pieces may refer to Football Outsiders' DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) metric, which takes every play during the season and compares it to a baseline adjusted for situation and opponent. It is explained further here.
Read through every team, or skip ahead to the division of your choice:
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
Note: Moves are suggested for each team independently of the moves suggested for other teams.
Buffalo Bills: Sign Tyrod Taylor to a short extension
This will almost certainly not happen, as the Bills have done essentially everything they can over the past year to degrade their quarterback in the eyes of the market. They've refused to commit to him. They drafted a quarterback. They pretended that Nathan Peterman was better than Taylor and created one of the most laughable moments of the 2017 season.
Meanwhile, Taylor had a solid season. He ranked 14th in QBR and 21st in passing DVOA, ahead of several quarterbacks who have secured jobs for next season, such as Eli Manning. Even if the Bills don't consider Taylor a franchise quarterback and want to go after one in the draft, Kansas City's handling of Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes last season is a smart blueprint. Make sure the rookie isn't rushed into anything, and perhaps let Taylor re-establish himself in the eyes of the market so he's more valuable in a trade next year.
Miami Dolphins: Trade Jarvis Landry for whatever the market bears
The NFL's statistical analysis commentariat has set up a cottage industry around Jarvis Landry takes. ( Here's a deep dive into how he's overrated by our numbers.) Target sponges are important, and efficiency ratings suffer when a wideout is a key part of the offense, so take this with a grain of salt.
By franchising Landry early in the process, the Dolphins piqued interest among many well-sourced NFL types that they were looking for a trade. Here's the bold take: If all the Dolphins can get for Landry is a mid-round pick, they should take it. They are one of the few teams that are up against the cap in a serious way. Landry isn't one of the Dolphins' most important players, and they have young wideouts such as? Leonte Carroo itching for a fair chance.
New England Patriots: Sign up Julius Peppers for a James Harrison-like late-career ring-hunting tour
The Patriots sprung a leak on pass defense last season, particularly in the first four games. But one problem that was ever present was pass pressure. New England finished 10th in adjusted sack rate, thanks to a high number of coverage sacks, but ranked 27th in pressure rate, per statistics from Sports Info Solutions.
Growth from youngsters such as Deatrich Wise Jr.?and a strong debut from Derek Rivers?in 2018 might be a solution, but the Patriots shouldn't stand pat on hopes. Free agency looks dire for pass-rushers, with Ziggy Ansah already tagged and DeMarcus Lawrence a tag candidate. But one player who was phenomenal last year, even at 38, was Peppers. Peppers had 9.5 sacks and 11 hurries (according to Sports Info Solutions charting) in just 500 snaps. The Charlotte Observer suggested that Peppers may only want to play for Carolina, but you have to wonder if a ring chase with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would change his mind.
New York Jets: Don't spend the entire boat on Kirk Cousins
Last week, news came of the Jets planning to make Cousins an offer he couldn't refuse. It makes some sense. The Jets have almost $95 million in cap room after parting ways with DE? Muhammad Wilkerson. That gives them more cap space than anybody except the Browns.
But ask the Lions and Ravens what it's like to overpay a quarterback so drastically and you'll understand that acquiring Cousins might make the Jets win the Winner's Curse. Both Detroit and Baltimore are in so deep with their quarterbacks that they've spent the past two seasons managing around their huge cap numbers. Cousins is a solid, reliable quarterback and he'll get the Jets closer to good than they'd be without him. But if they have to sign him to a Ndamukong Suh-level contract, they're locking themselves into business by inertia for a long time.
-- Rivers McCown
Baltimore Ravens: Trade up to select Quenton Nelson
The Ravens' interior line took a beating in 2017, and it doesn't figure to improve with the likely free-agent departures of center Ryan Jensen and swingman James Hurst. The line's standard-bearer, star guard Marshal Yanda, broke his ankle early in the 2017 season and is 33 years old. Injuries also ravaged the other guards, Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa.
Guard is not a sexy position, but since Kelechi Osemele was allowed to depart after 2015, the Ravens' offense has missed his athleticism and nastiness. Enter Nelson. The Golden Domer is one of the best prospects in the draft, position be damned, with textbook technique and violent tendencies that would restore some roar to the Ravens' attack. Alas, he won't possibly last until pick No. 16, where the Ravens currently reside.
General manager Ozzie Newsome is in the process of ceding the big chair in the front office to longtime consigliere Eric DeCosta. What better way to declare the position as yours than to make a bold trade up in the first round? The Ravens would likely have to get in front of the Bears, who pick eighth and would snap up Nelson in a Second City Minute. The price wouldn't be cheap -- this year's third and next year's second, in addition to No. 16 overall, perhaps. But the Jets, at No. 6, might go for it, especially if they land Kirk Cousins in free agency. And Tampa Bay, at No. 7, would almost assuredly trade back to stock up on defensive talent. And the Ravens would have the next Yanda alongside the real thing to steamroll enemy defenses for the next few years.
Cincinnati Bengals: Draft Lamar Jackson
After his seven professional seasons, there is nothing left to discuss about what Andy Dalton is and isn't as a quarterback. He's good enough to take a talented team to the playoffs, and keep a mediocre one from bottoming out. Winning a title (or even a playoff game) seems beyond his capability, yet he's too competent to position the Bengals for a top draft pick. He's the Stealers Wheel of NFL quarterbacks: Stuck in the middle with you.
Alas, owner Mike Brown?doesn't seem to mind endless mediocrity, but Cincy's fans are surely dying for the team to strive for greatness. Jackson's upside promises just that.
Yes, the Bengals have a problematic offensive line, but top-notch quarterback play often has a salutary effect on lines, even those with average talent. With Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner who is not only Louisville's all-time leading passer but rusher as well, you get a player who solves the line problem in two ways. His electrifying movement, comparable to Michael Vick or pre-injury Robert Griffin III, would get him out of sacks and pressure that usually fell Dalton. Meanwhile, Jackson's ability as a passer would force defenses to alter their schemes. Too often defenses can comfortably ignore threats to various parts of the field, given Dalton's limitations. Certainly A.J. Green would welcome a more accurate deep passer.
Jackson enters the league with question marks (as do all the signal-callers in the draft), which is why he should be available when the Bengals pick at No. 12. But with Dalton in place for 2018 at a very reasonable cap figure, Jackson can learn from a high-quality cognitive quarterback while the Bengals win their usual seven to 10 games. Then, ideally, in 2019 they can marry Dalton's pre-snap deductive reasoning with Jackson's explosiveness post-snap, and coach Marvin Lewis will get a postseason win before the end of his Cincinnati tenure (assuming the world doesn't end first).
Cleveland Browns: Trade the house for Aaron Rodgers
As Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton version) once said: "You wanna get nuts? Let's get nuts!" So let's construct a semi-plausible rationale here for the mega-trade of all mega-trades.
The Browns are in the unique position of being able to (A) offer enough draft currency -- let's say this year's No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks, this year's No. 33 and No. 63 picks (both second-rounders) and next year's first- or second-rounder -- to actually entice the Packers, who love them some homegrown talent, into trading Rodgers and (B) have enough cap space (over $100 million) to offer Rodgers the mega-contract that is surely coming his way (he's an unrestricted free agent after 2019). That combination might not be seen again for some time.
But won't that demolish the renovation plans for the rebuilding Browns, you ask? Not so much as you might think. Yes, Cleveland needs players in plenty of areas, but the Browns aren't nearly as devoid of talent as their 0-16 record last year would suggest. Assuming Joe Thomas comes back and is healthy, the offensive line is robust. The Browns' skill position players include running back? Duke Johnson, receiver? Josh Gordon and emerging tight end? David Njoku, only 22 years old this coming season. The front seven played well last year, and Myles Garrett,? Jabrill Peppers,? Joe Schobert?and the other young Browns will surely only get better with experience.
What they lack -- now, then and forever -- is a quarterback. Why take a chance on a rookie when you can get the best QB on the planet? Rodgers is the ultimate equalizer. Put him on this roster and the Browns suddenly are not just a playoff contender right away, but a Super Bowl dark horse. Assuming three to five years of good-to-great play from Rodgers, Cleveland could turn its fortunes around and then some. And it's not like the Browns can't add other players -- they would still have picks No. 35, 65, 103 and 125 in this year's draft, plus plenty of cap room even after paying Rodgers.
Why would Green Bay deal its two-time MVP? Well, Rodgers will be 35 in December, is coming off an injury that cost him most of the season, and the aforementioned contract extension will undoubtedly make him the highest-paid player in the league (at least until the next quarterback extension). Getting all those picks would allow the Pack to add four premium talents this season, including a quarterback to "replace" Rodgers, and give the team immense cap flexibility to fill in other holes. Meanwhile, Rodgers has been outspoken lately about certain dissatisfaction with Packers management, including their lack of play in the free-agent market, and the team letting Rodgers' quarterback coach, Alex Van Pelt, depart for Cincinnati without consulting him. Maybe the Packers will want to give Rodgers a taste of what life is like in the Factory of Sadness for his troubles.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Trade Le'Veon Bell
The Steelers' defense was shredded by Jacksonville, of all teams, in the playoffs, and was never the same after linebacker? Ryan Shazier's injury (though Pittsburgh managed a respectable ninth in defensive DVOA for the season). Now that we know Shazier won't make it back on the field in 2018 (and possibly beyond), Pittsburgh's defense needs help, in the back seven especially. Unfortunately, the Steelers' salary situation (the team is right on the edge of the cap) will make it tough to add players -- and signing Bell to the rich contract he envisions would require the team to cut loose guys it could use on defense.
Meanwhile, Bell, while a tremendous player, quietly wasn't the game-wrecker in 2017 he had been in the past. He ranked? eighth in DVOA among running backs?and only 28th in efficiency when it came to catching passes out of the backfield. He did manage to stay healthy for the entire season, but that has not been the trend during his career. And while Bell remains a special talent, the Steelers' passing attack will allow the team to score in bushels with or without a standout runner.
So deal Bell to the 49ers for the No. 9 overall pick, or perhaps to Philly for No. 32 and a defensive player or two (the other Keystone State squad has plenty of them). This will allow the Steelers to restore their defense to what we expect of them, while keeping financially flexible for the years ahead.
-- Robert Weintraub
Houston Texans: Sign Eric Reid, then draft Iowa's entire O-line
For a team one season removed from a playoff win that has since found a potential franchise quarterback, the Texans are in a strangely difficult situation. Their defense, ranked ninth in DVOA in 2016, dropped to an injury-ravaged 23rd in 2017. The franchise quarterback, Deshaun Watson, tore his ACL in October. Other top-tier starters from 2016 such as Duane Brown and A.J. Bouye are now long gone. The fourth-worst record in the league would usually mean a premium draft pick, but Houston's first- and second-round picks belong to Cleveland, sent over in trades for the pick to acquire Watson and offload the salary of Brock Osweiler.
The Texans have two remaining assets: cap space (most estimates give them around $60 million free) and a wealth of mid- to late-round picks, including three in the third round alone. Of course, this does not make up for losing the fourth and 36th overall selections, and would not be enough to swing a blockbuster trade (or even to win the annual Joe Thomas Imaginary Trade sweepstakes) -- but it's also not nothing.
For their $60 million and picks, the Texans urgently need to find a strong safety and an entire offensive line. The first of those is simpler: Throw whatever money it takes to persuade Reid to come over from San Francisco. That would give Houston a versatile player capable of playing moneybacker, slot corner or a more traditional safety spot from down to down. The team could then theoretically find four Day 2 and Day 3 offensive linemen from one college with a reputation for producing NFL talent -- let's say Iowa, trading up into the second round for center James Daniels, then picking up teammates Sean Welsh, Ike Boettger?and Boone Myers with later selections. Such a strategy would alleviate some of the chemistry concerns that come with building an entire offensive line from scratch.
Indianapolis Colts: Plan to be without Andrew Luck
For too many years now, the Colts have been stuck relying on the talents of a transcendent quarterback to overcome the limitations of the rest of the roster. Peyton Manning was able to drag a subpar Colts squad to the playoffs in 2010 before a neck injury cost him all of 2011. Similarly, Andrew Luck carried the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons but has now missed games in each of the following three -- and has made only 22 appearances total since the end of 2014. This decade, the Colts have missed the playoffs every time their starting quarterback has missed a game because of injury. Even if Luck does make the Week 1 start -- which at the time of this writing is far from guaranteed -- the Colts cannot rely on him lasting the season with the team on his back.
Jacoby Brissett will not be confused for Luck anytime soon, but he has shown signs that he can operate a professional offense at a functional level. New coach Frank Reich, one part of the Eagles brain trust that turned Nick Foles back into a playoff-caliber quarterback, can immediately look to build an offense that will allow Brissett to be successful. If Luck is then able to go, so much the better; if not, the team cannot afford to be caught cold again. Installing an offense that plays to the strengths of Brissett will allow the team to overcome any loss of Luck, whereas surely any offense Brissett could run, Luck could run better. With the right planning, Luck's return should be the piece that finally takes the Colts over the top -- not merely the savior returning to make a bad team competitive.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trade up to draft a quarterback
If the Vikings are the most obvious team to allegedly be one quarterback away from a championship, the Jaguars are their exact AFC counterpart: a defense-first team that won its division, two playoff games, and finally bowed out one game away from the Super Bowl. Unlike the Vikings, though, the Jaguars do have a quarterback signed for 2018: Blake Bortles?signed a new three-year contract last week.
The structure of Bortles' deal is interesting. Although he is signed to the Jaguars for three years instead of one, at approximately $18 million in base salary per year, the average falls below the injury-guaranteed figure of $19.5 million from his fifth-year option. While it indicates some degree of confidence in the QB, it is also not prohibitive for the team to escape in the likely event Bortles does not improve further. This lets the Jaguars stick with Bortles in the short term, see how he develops, and move on to his replacement if he either stagnates or regresses in 2018.
They should not wait. This is the richest, deepest class of both free-agent and draft-eligible quarterbacks in living memory. The Jaguars do not have the cap flexibility to compete for Kirk Cousins, but the depth of the draft class probably means somebody, somewhere is going to slide. If Louisville's Lamar Jackson, to give one example, falls far enough that Jacksonville could trade up to grab him, that might even allow the Jaguars to move on from Bortles sooner -- and firm them up as favorites for next season's AFC South title.
Tennessee Titans: Sign one top edge rusher, draft another
The boldest move the Titans could possibly have made this offseason would have been to fire the head coach who took them from 5-27 over the 2014 and 2015 seasons to two straight 9-7 records and the franchise's first playoff win since 2003. They duly obliged, leaving little scope for anything we could suggest to top that.
But on the player personnel side, the Titans are odd in that while they appear to have few glaring weaknesses now that the questionable strategic vision has been discarded, they also do not have any overwhelming strengths. So much of what happens in 2018 depends on the vision and approach of new coach Mike Vrabel and his staff.
General manger Jon Robinson has stated that he intends to be aggressive this offseason, a statement evidenced by the aforementioned coaching change. Aggressive play in the modern NFL usually begins with the defense, specifically the pass rush. The Titans have the cap room to upgrade their aging pass rush by signing the best free-agent edge rusher available -- probably Trent Murphy or Adrian Clayborn, assuming DeMarcus Lawrence (like Ezekiel Ansah) is franchise-tagged. Tennessee would then have a good chance to grab a second edge rusher in the draft, such as LSU's Arden Key. A combination of Clayborn and Key would add a much-needed injection of pass-rush spice to a presently bland Titans defense, and could make a big difference in a division not exactly famed for its dominant offensive tackles.
-- Andrew Potter
Denver Broncos: Go all-in on a new QB
Super Bowl windows are fragile and must not be wasted. The Broncos opened their window when they went all-in on Peyton Manning in 2012 and continued to spend frivolously to ensure Manning the best possible chance at a Lombardi trophy. Though Manning retired after the 2015 season, Denver has maintained a playoff-caliber roster -- with the exception of a quality quarterback.
Denver's only real effort at landing a franchise-changing quarterback since Manning's departure was drafting Paxton Lynch late in the first round in 2016. Credit to the Broncos for taking a swing on a quarterback, but they hardly made the all-in type of deals that the Rams and Eagles did to secure quarterbacks at the top of the draft. Furthermore, Lynch was always seen as a project quarterback and Denver knew that going in. With a swarm of important contracts coming up following each of the next two seasons, Denver does not have time to slow play the quarterback position any longer.
Kirk Cousins should not slip Denver's grasp. Among Cousins' possible options, the Broncos are one of the few teams ready to compete for a title right now. Cousins would step right in and provide the productive quarterback play Denver needs to return to the postseason. In the event Cousins cannot be convinced, the Broncos need to make a play for their quarterback prospect of choice, even if it requires trading up from the fifth overall spot they currently hold. General manager John Elway has to strike before the team's window closes.
Kansas City Chiefs: Sign Josh Sitton
The future of the Chiefs rests in the hands of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. As is the case with any young quarterback, Mahomes deserves to be properly equipped for early success in the NFL. Tight end? Travis Kelce, receiver? Tyreek Hill?and running back? Kareem Hunt make for a devilish set of playmakers at Mahomes' disposal, but Mahomes needs better protection than Kansas City is currently ready to provide.
Josh Sitton is set to hit the market and is a perfect fit for the Chiefs. The Chiefs are a zone-oriented team with pull concepts sprinkled in. Sitton has plenty of experience in zone systems from his long tenure with the Packers and, most recently, a short stint with the Bears. Additionally, Sitton provides flexibility along the offensive line, as he has starting experience at both left and right guard.
Interior protection is a premium in a modern NFL littered with freakish pass-rushing defensive tackles such as Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins. Young quarterbacks, especially, need to be shielded from the immediate danger of pressure in the middle of the pocket. Signing Sitton to shore up the interior offensive line would provide Mahomes with necessary comfort in the pocket to more easily develop sound mechanics and good habits as a growing quarterback.
Los Angeles Chargers: Do not pick up Melvin Gordon's option
The Chargers have a decision to make regarding Gordon's fifth-year option. A first-round pick in 2015, Gordon has not produced up to the standard of a high selection. Gordon has posted a career 3.8 yards per carry through three seasons, not once cracking the generally bare-accepted-minimum of 4.0 yards per carry in any given season. Additionally, Gordon ranked 41st out of 47 qualifying running backs in success rate in 2017, and 26th out of 42 qualifying running backs in 2016.
In fairness to Gordon, the Wisconsin product has cut down on fumbles since his rookie season and has become an increasingly more useful figure in the passing game. Gordon netted over 80 targets last season, more than double the 37 targets he received as a rookie in 2015. Still, Gordon's production and value on the field do not match that of a player worth clinging on to.
Gordon is a talented, but flawed, running back who has yet to prove he can produce up to par with the best backs in the NFL. It is possible Gordon does so in 2018, but there is little evidence to believe he will ascend so dramatically. The player Gordon is today is not worth committing to, especially with a loaded running back draft class on the horizon.
Oakland Raiders: Cut Sean Smith, sign Kyle Fuller
New coach Jon Gruden's first order of business with the Raiders should be to retool their secondary. With a new coaching staff in place, there is no reason to hold on to the players who plagued Oakland's pass defense last season. Cornerback Sean Smith needs to go.
Smith would not be the first cornerback the Raiders got rid of this offseason. They already cut David Amerson, who has signed with the Chiefs after three seasons in Oakland. Smith, however, is under contract through the 2019 season and would have to be cut. Fortunately for the Raiders, Smith can be cut without the repercussion of a dead cap penalty due to an option in his contract. Given that Smith did not perform up to standard in 2017 and the new coaching staff has no ties to him, Oakland should move on and open up cap space for a big-time free agent.
Fuller is the best cornerback available. After battling injury and growing pains as a young player, Fuller bloomed into a fantastic cornerback last season. Fuller had the athleticism and savvy to match up with any wide receiver, finishing the season tied for second in the league in passes defended with 22. Sports Info Solutions charting ranked him fifth among cornerbacks in coverage success rate. Fuller would be a massive talent upgrade for Oakland and a quality fit for new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Pairing Fuller with Gareon Conley, who showed great potential in his rookie season, would give the Raiders a cornerback duo they can count on for years to come.
-- Derrik Klassen
Dallas Cowboys: Cut Dez Bryant
Personnel moves don't get much more bold than this. Since Bryant became a full-time starter in 2011, he leads the NFL with 67 touchdown catches, and he is in the top 10 in receptions and yards gained as well. And the Cowboys haven't proved they can win without getting major contributions from Bryant. In the past three seasons, they have gone 17-8 when Bryant has gained at least 40 yards in a game, but just 9-14 when Bryant has been held below that number or missed a game entirely.
Hidden in those records, though, is how unreliable Bryant has become. He has gained 40 yards only 25 times in the Cowboys' past 48 games. That's not simply a result of Bryant missing 10 games in 2015 and 2016, either. Of the 180 players with at least 100 targets in the past three years, Bryant's catch rate of exactly 50 percent ranks in the bottom 10. He hasn't gone over 1,000 yards or caught 10 touchdowns in a season since 2014.
Bryant will be 30 years old in 2018, with a cap hit of $16.5 million. Releasing Bryant would save the Cowboys up to $12.5 million, depending on when he was let go. Dallas vice president Stephen Jones has admitted that Bryant's actions can be "a distraction." A free agent such as? Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins would be cheaper and younger than Bryant -- and might be less of a "distraction," too.
New York Giants: Retain Eli Manning as starter
Josh Rosen: junior. Josh Allen: junior. Lamar Jackson: junior. Sam Darnold: sophomore.
With the second pick in April's draft, the Giants will have a chance to select their next franchise quarterback. Whichever quarterback they choose, however, is going to bring questions about his maturity -- the top prospects are mostly underclassmen. The only senior quarterback who might warrant the second overall pick is Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, who brings with him a track record of some questionable behavior that will need to be addressed by any team drafting him.
It's fair to ask whether any of these men will be ready to lead an NFL offense six months from now, so the best move for the Giants might be for Manning's New York career to end as it began, in a student-mentor relationship. Manning was the first overall pick in 2004, but the Giants did not put the burden of the entire franchise on his shoulders out of the gate. Instead they signed veteran Kurt Warner that June, and Warner started the first nine games of the season. He led the team to a 5-2 start, then was benched for Manning after back-to-back losses to Chicago and Arizona. Manning, of course, went on to start 210 games in a row for New York.
Manning does carry a $22.2 million cap hit in 2018, but that would be a small price to pay if he can help develop the man who will eventually replace him.
Philadelphia Eagles: Draft a running back in the first round
This counts as a bold move in 2018. Only five running backs have been drafted in the first round since 2013. Ezekiel Elliott has been tremendous, leading the NFL in rushing yards per game in each of his first two seasons, but the quartet of Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette have enjoyed more moderate success in the NFL. With just one superstar first-rounder in the past five drafts, it's clear that teams have devoted their resources to players at other positions in recent years.
For the Eagles, however, there's no other position that warrants immediate attention. Carson Wentz and Nick Foles give them the league's best duo at quarterback. They have a stacked crew of wide receivers and a star tight end, and their offensive line dominated the Football Outsiders reader awards. The defense has stars at tackle, end, linebacker and safety, plus a stable of young corners.
However, leading rusher LeGarrette Blount seems likely to leave in free agency. Jay Ajayi was Philly's top runner in the playoffs, and Corey Clement chipped in with 10 catches for 139 yards in the postseason, but neither looks like a Pro Bowler at this point. In a draft that is very deep at running back, the Eagles might find a game-breaker such as Auburn's Kerryon Johnson, LSU's Derrius Guice, or one of the Georgia duo of Sony Michel and? Nick Chubb. That would make them even scarier on opening day than the offense that won the Super Bowl.
Washington Redskins: Trade Ryan Kerrigan
Washington has fallen from nine wins in 2015 to eight wins (and a tie) in 2016 to seven wins last year. The team has slipped from 10th to 12th to 16th in points scored, and from 17th to 19th to 27th in points allowed. Washington is likely about to lose at least a half-dozen starters in free agency, including a quarterback who ranks in the top eight in passing yards and touchdowns in the past three seasons. This team is trending downward and is in desperate need of an injection of young talent.
Enter Kerrigan. The outside linebacker has led Washington in sacks five times in the past six seasons, tied for third in the league in sacks over that span. He has been Washington's best defensive player by far in recent years. However, he also turns 30 in August, and is due more than $30 million in guaranteed money over the next three seasons. It is time to sell high.
This trade would probably make Washington a worse team in 2018. But it will make it a better team in 2019, 2020 and beyond, and that is where Washington needs to focus. The best way to rebuild is to amass as many draft picks as possible, not overpay aging vets as they enter the twilight of their careers.
-- Vince Verhei
Chicago Bears: Sign Jimmy Graham
The Bears desperately need to put receiving talent around second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. This is not shaping up to be a strong free-agent class for wide receivers, but Graham will be available at tight end/slot receiver. The Bears have some promising talent coming back at wideout, but at tight end, Zach Miller suffered a very serious leg injury last year and rookie Adam Shaheen?caught only 12 balls in 13 games.
New head coach Matt Nagy comes over from Kansas City, where he creatively used Travis Kelce in his offense. Graham offers versatility as a receiver, though some nagging injuries did slow his production in Seattle. He had 520 receiving yards in 2017, his lowest total since his 2010 rookie season. But Graham certainly helped in the red zone, and he had 10 touchdown catches in 2017. Trubisky struggled in the red zone -- his 11.9 QBR in the red zone was the second lowest in the NFL. Going on 32, Graham isn't worth breaking the bank, but the Bears have enough cap space and a new identity on offense to possibly lure the veteran in for the next phase of his career.
Detroit Lions: Don't give Ezekiel Ansah a long-term deal
The Lions made a big decision by placing the franchise tag on pass-rusher Ansah, who had 12 sacks last year. Now the question is: Do they give him a long-term deal that will surely be one of the richest contracts in the league? He's already going to make over $1 million per game in 2018 on the tag, but Ansah's consistency and injury history are issues. He had three games with three sacks in 2017 to inflate his sack count, and he produced only 21.5 pressures, according to Sports Info Solutions. That's not an impressive number when you consider that backup Kerry Hyder (injured in 2017) had 23 pressures for the Lions in 2016.
Detroit can get Hyder back and also can draft someone to eventually replace Ansah. New head coach Matt Patricia comes from New England, where he learned from Bill Belichick how to ruthlessly deal with players and under-performance. Patricia could possibly scheme around a lack of talent without Ansah. So at best, the Lions should give Ansah only a one-year tryout on the franchise tag to see if he can pick up his game. If not, the door will be waiting for him next offseason. Even Ndamukong Suh did not earn a second contract from the Lions, and it is hard to say that the move has cost Detroit anything. The Lions are still looking for their first playoff win since the 1991 season.
Green Bay Packers: Sign Malcolm Butler
The Packers are infamous for their apathy toward free agency, but perhaps that will change under new general manager Brian Gutekunst. It's not like Green Bay never dips into the veteran talent pool -- Reggie White (1993) and Charles Woodson (2006) are classic examples of free agency done right -- but it is rare to see this team invest in players developed elsewhere.
It would be bold to go after Butler, a player who learned from the best in Bill Belichick in New England, and likely ended his time there with a bizarre Super Bowl benching. Going after a different former Patriot, tight end Martellus Bennett, backfired badly this past season. However, cornerback has been a major need for this defense and the recent draft picks have just not been cutting it for the Packers. Butler would bring experience and the skills to match up with the opponent's top outside receiver. He won't give new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine the equivalent of 2009 Darrelle Revis on the field, but Butler would be an instant upgrade to a secondary that needs to improve if Green Bay ever wants to get back to a Super Bowl in the Aaron Rodgers era.
Minnesota Vikings: Sign Kirk Cousins
Since 2015, the Vikings have had a season of promising quarterback play from Teddy Bridgewater (2015), Sam Bradford (2016) and Case Keenum (2017). All three are free agents, creating a difficult decision for the team to make on its 2018 starter. Keenum owns the most recent success, but Bridgewater, prior to injury, was supposed to be the franchise quarterback, which is something people have expected of Bradford since 2010.
What if the Vikings sorted out this mess by making Cousins the highest-paid player in NFL history? Cousins has been playing well since 2015, which means he has sustained a run of quality play longer than anyone Minnesota has recently employed. Since 2015, Cousins' 62.4 Total QBR ranks seventh in the NFL. He also ranks fifth in yards per pass attempt (7.80). It's a massive price to pay, but that is the market these days for a proven quarterback. If the Vikings can get the best out of players such as Keenum and Bradford, then Cousins could flourish in Minnesota as well -- and right in his prime, as he turns 30 in August.
-- Scott Kacsmar
Atlanta Falcons: Sign Muhammad Wilkerson
Wilkerson has played his last down for the Jets and is a supremely talented, freakishly athletic defensive lineman whose play tapered off a bit after he received an $86 million contract before the 2016 season. A one year "prove-it" deal for a contender-level team makes a lot of sense for both sides.
Dontari Poe's future in Atlanta is a bit murky. His play in the second half of the 2017 season might have priced him out of Atlanta's price range. If so, taking a swing at Wilkerson could be in the Falcons' future. Players have thrived in the environment and system that coach Dan Quinn has installed within the Falcons' defense, and perhaps Wilkerson can be the next player to rekindle his flame in Atlanta.
Carolina Panthers: Acquire Sammy Watkins
Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, Damiere Byrd, Russell Shepard, Kaelin Clay and Brenton Bersin were the Panthers' options at wide receiver throughout the 2017 campaign. That's ... not exactly the most explosive group of skill players to have. It's time for the Panthers to maximize the superstar talent they have at quarterback in Cam Newton.
Giving Newton a legitimate downfield threat would reignite the Panthers' offense and open up the underneath portion of the field for Christian McCaffrey to work. It remains to be seen whether Watkins will be signed to an extension by the Rams, franchise-tagged or simply left to hit the market, but Carolina should find a way to get him regardless. Watkins was the No. 6 receiver, according to Football Outsiders DVOA, even though he totaled only 70 targets on the season. An offense that would feature him as the No. 1 threat to go with Newton's arm strength makes sense for both sides.
> Wilkerson has played his last down for the Jets and is a supremely talented, freakishly athletic defensive lineman whose play tapered off a bit after he received an $86 million contract before the 2016 season. A one year "prove-it" deal for a contender-level team makes a lot of sense for both sides.
Dontari Poe's future in Atlanta is a bit murky. His play in the second half of the 2017 season might have priced him out of Atlanta's price range. If so, taking a swing at Wilkerson could be in the Falcons' future. Players have thrived in the environment and system that coach Dan Quinn has installed within the Falcons' defense, and perhaps Wilkerson can be the next player to rekindle his flame in Atlanta.
Carolina Panthers: Acquire Sammy Watkins
Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, Damiere Byrd, Russell Shepard, Kaelin Clay and Brenton Bersin were the Panthers' options at wide receiver throughout the 2017 campaign. That's ... not exactly the most explosive group of skill players to have. It's time for the Panthers to maximize the superstar talent they have at quarterback inCam Newton.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sign Star Lotulelei or Andrew Norwell
Carolina's biggest free agents happen to coincide with the Buccaneers' largest needs going into 2018. The Bucs could use another player on the interior of their offensive line as they attempt to revamp a rushing attack that finished 25th in rushing DVOA. According to most estimates, Tampa Bay has roughly $75 million in cap space, which means it has the room to offer Norwell a contract that will make him the highest-paid guard in football.
The Bucs also could use that money to sign defensive tackle Lotulelei as they scurry to patch up a defense that finished 32nd in defensive DVOA (31st against the run, 19th against the pass). Tampa Bay just released free-agent bust Chris Baker, leaving a huge hole next to star defensive lineman Gerald McCoy. If the Bucs are going to make a leap in 2018, they're going to need to improve their play in the trenches. Snatching these two talented trench players could pay immediate dividends on the field, while weakening a division rival.
New Orleans Saints: Trade up for Roquan Smith
The Saints are in a different territory from where they've resided during the past decade or so; they have a legitimate core of young playmakers on defense. Cornerback? Marshon Lattimore, safety? Marcus Williams, safety? Vonn Bell and defensive tackle? Sheldon Rankins?were added in the first two rounds of the past two drafts and already have started to pay dividends.
Where they're lacking a potential stud for the future is at linebacker.Roquan Smith is the best linebacker in the draft and would add a level of speed, athleticism and instincts that the Saints have lacked in the middle of their defense since the 1990s. In order to get Smith, they'll likely have to give up a considerable amount of resources, because it's highly unlikely he will fall to the 27th overall pick.
-- Charles McDonald
Arizona Cardinals: Trade for Nick Foles
With Carson Palmer's retirement, the Cardinals currently have zero quarterbacks under contract for 2018. That is somewhat less than ideal.
The Cardinals first need to decide whether they can be contenders in 2018. With David Johnson returning from injury, a returning Larry Fitzgerald, and the fourth-best defense in football, according to DVOA, there's certainly an argument for a reload rather than a rebuild. For maximum "win-now" potential, finding a quarterback in the draft isn't optimal; by the time Arizona is on the clock at No. 15, all the top quarterbacks should be long gone. Signing a free agent such as Kirk Cousins would be a solid option, but there's only one Cousins, and the Cardinals aren't exactly flush with extra cap space. The wisest move would be to grab the best free-agent quarterback they can (Sam Bradford?), draft a Day 2 quarterback to develop ( Luke Falk?) and call it a day, but that hardly qualifies as bold now, does it?
Trading for the Super Bowl MVP certainly does qualify. While Foles' 2013 Pro Bowl season was more outlier than indicator, he was an average starting quarterback the next year before breaking his collarbone. He struggled in 2015 with the Rams, but we've seen how Jeff Fisher develops his quarterbacks. In a league where Joe Flacco, Trevor Siemian and Brian Hoyer were considered viable starters last season, Foles seems like he at least deserves a kick of the tires -- as long as Philadelphia's asking price doesn't move this from "bold" to "crazy."
Los Angeles Rams: Break the bank for Aaron Donald
The Rams won a contract negotiation war with Donald last season. Donald held out throughout training camp, but returned in time to play all but one of Los Angeles' games, despite failing to receive any sort of extension. Donald has a weaker negotiation position this offseason; he must report at least a month before the regular season to become a free agent in 2019, and the Rams could then use the franchise tag on him for the next two seasons and still get solid value out of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
That's a great strategy ... if your overall goal is to not have Donald around for the long term. Witness the multiyear dance between Washington and Cousins to see how constantly delaying a long-term deal can sour a relationship. Donald was the Rams' pass rush, as he had 52 pressures with no one else on the team topping 18.5. Delaying Donald's second deal to squeeze more value out of his rookie deal made sense last season, but it's time to lock up the future of the defense. No non-quarterback has ever received a $20 million-per-year deal, but it's time for Donald to be the first -- if for no other reason than to avoid the potential drama of Donald's pending free agency in 2019.
San Francisco 49ers: Acquire Sammy Watkins
San Francisco's passing offense went from remedial to exemplary when quarterback? Jimmy Garoppolo entered the lineup. Advanced stats aren't necessary to back up that statement, but for the record, the 49ers went from 27th in passing DVOA in Weeks 1-12 to first once Garoppolo went behind center -- or third, if you exclude Week 17's game against Los Angeles' backups. Making that jump all the more impressive is the fact that Garoppolo's top targets were the Bills' former No. 3 wideout ( Marquise Goodwin), the fourth-smallest contributing receiver in the NFL (rookie Trent Taylor) and a fullback ( Kyle Juszczyk).
The 49ers have needed receiver help since Jim Harbaugh came to town. With a thin class of receivers in the draft, and the third-most cap space in the NFL, this could be the year to fix that in free agency. And why bother just fixing your own weaknesses when you can attack a divisional rival's strengths as well?
Watkins' traditional stats were down in 2017. That can be chalked up, in part, to the Rams' focus on spreading the ball around on short-to-intermediate passing routes, as well as Jared Goff's relative weaknesses throwing the ball to his left. In short, it was a matter of fit, not efficiency: Watkins still ended up sixth in DVOA and didn't drop a pass all season long. Watkins would give the 49ers a proven downfield threat, as well as a top receiver willing and able to go over the middle and catch the ball in traffic.
Seattle Seahawks: Shop Richard Sherman
The Seahawks find themselves in a tight financial predicament. They have about $14.1 million in cap room to play with and 17 free agents to worry about, including players such as Jimmy Graham, defensive tackle? Sheldon Richardson and receiver? Paul Richardson. Once you start factoring in the cost of signing a rookie class, it looks more and more like Seattle is going to have to make some difficult decisions this offseason.
Sherman has a $13.2 million cap number this season and cutting him would free up $11 million in cap space. That would be a terrible idea; even in a season cut short by a torn Achilles tendon, Sherman tied for 16th in success rate among qualified cornerbacks in 2017 by Sports Info Solutions charting. Getting rid of a player like that for no compensation simply isn't worth the extra cap space.
However, what if another cornerback-needy team came calling? Sherman has only one year left on his current deal, will turn 30 in March, and has had his share of clashes with Seattle management. The emergence of rookie Shaquill Griffin also makes Sherman a little more expendable than he was at this point last year, when the Seahawks already were considering shopping him. $11 million in cap space plus a package of picks is a tempting offer. Seattle shouldn't give Sherman away for pennies on the dollar, but if one of the runners-up in the Marcus Peters sweepstakes still wants a top-quality corner, the Seahawks should pay attention.
-- Bryan Knowles
Source : http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/bold-offseason-moves-32-nfl-teams/story?id=53476201