2018 NFL Free Agency: The Best Move Every Team Can Make This Year

0 of 32


    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Wednesday marks the start of a new league year in the NFL, with the 2018 free-agency period opening and reported trades becoming official. Unrestricted talents will continue to negotiate and narrow down their options.  

    When surveying all 32 rosters, you can easily spot bloated contracts, poor roster fits and glaring needs. Each general manager wants the best product on the field at a reasonable price. 

    Whether it’s a restructured contract, a free-agent target or someone not worth retaining on a new deal, we’ll touch on the best possible moves for each club going into 2018. 

    Where should front-office executives turn for salary-cap relief in order to pursue free agents? Who should your general manager take a look at on the open market? We have all the answers to your team’s roster issues.


1 of 32

    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    In an NFL Network interview, defensive back Tyrann Mathieu revealed the team asked him to take a pay cut. Ian Rapoport, a reporter for the media outlet, added it’s on a larger scale, and there’s a feeling he could hit the free-agent market.

    There’s no way the Arizona Cardinals should allow an impact player, who performed at an All-Pro level a few years ago, to hit the open market. After tearing his ACL, he bounced back during the 2017 campaign and actually turned down a Pro Bowl invite to celebrate his son’s birthday.

    New head coach Steve Wilks will tweak the defense to his liking, but general manager Steve Keim should explore tweaking Mathieu’s deal, a solution the safety talked about in his NFL Network interview: “There’s many ways you could restructure a contract instead of just taking money out of my pocket. Taking money out of my pocket, I don’t like how that feels.”

    Pro Bowlers don’t exactly appear in droves coming out of the draft. The decision to release Mathieu should be an absolute last resort. A restructured deal could satisfy both sides.

2 of 32

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Rookie sixth-rounder Wes Schweitzer edged Ben Garland for the starting spot at right guard last season. He didn’t fare well, though the probability is low that a late-round pick would hit the ground running as a quality plug-in player in the pros.

    The Atlanta Falcons will likely acquire help for the line in the draft, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff could address the position this month with a veteran signing. Experienced guards Matt Slauson, Jahri Evans and Brandon Fusco will all look for new deals. 

    Even though teams decided to let those capable linemen walk, the Falcons could acquire someone to hold the starting spot until a young asset claims the position. 

    That’s not a free-agent move that would light up social media, but Schweitzer’s struggles encourage the need for a Band-Aid on the interior of the offensive line. Several cheap options could satisfy the need.

3 of 32

    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    At the 31 years old, Mike Wallace will hit free agency. Breshad Perriman hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing. Jeremy Maclin didn’t move the needle in his 12 appearances during the 2017 season, racking up just 40 receptions for 440 yards and three touchdowns. 

    In two seasons under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the Baltimore Ravens offense doesn’t look dynamic and has held onto its run-heavy approach, with running back Alex Collins emerging as the primary ball-carrier in the previous season. 

    In order to instill offensive balance, the front office must consider adding playmakers on the perimeter to help much-maligned quarterback Joe Flacco. Baltimore’s aerial attack ranked 29th in yards last year. 

    Flacco hasn’t thrown more than 20 touchdown passes since the 2014 campaign in which Steve Smith led the wide receiver group. Bring the man some offensive weapons.

4 of 32

    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    The Buffalo Bills signed 10th-year veteran cornerback Vontae Davis to a one-year deal, per Rapoport, but the front office’s work isn’t done at the position.

    Davis snagged just one interception in his last 19 games. He’s coming off a shortened season due to a groin injury, which required surgery, and his Pro Bowl years have passed him since he was last honored in 2015.

    The Bills should avoid pushing all their cornerback chips toward Davis as the No. 2 alongside Tre’Davious White and acquire someone who’s proven in defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s system.

    Injuries forced Gaines to miss five contests during the previous campaign, but he flourished in 11 starts. The 26-year-old’s history of missing games (all of 2015 and five games in ’16) will hurt his value on the market, but the Bills should have an opportunity to re-sign him at a reasonable price that corresponds to his value. Davis alone isn’t the answer.

5 of 32

    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    You don’t often hear about a 38-year-old defensive end as a free-agent priority, but Julius Peppers stands apart from the rest. He tied Mario Addison as a team leader in sacks with 11 during the previous campaign.

    According to the Charlotte Observer‘s Scott Fowler, Peppers will weigh retirement, but he’s leaning toward a return only to the Panthers.

    “A source close to Peppers indicates the star defensive end is leaning toward playing but doesn’t want to commit to it yet,” Fowler wrote. “One thing seems certain: He won’t go elsewhere. Peppers will either play for Carolina or retire.”

    There’s clearly more left in Peppers’ tank. The three-time All-Pro only started five games and played 499 snaps last term, but he’s still effective when laser-focused on attacking the pocket.

6 of 32

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Linebacker Todd Davis hits free agency as an underrated asset on the market. He came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and developed into a starter over the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos.

    The Chicago Bears parted ways with Jerrell Freeman, and Nick Kwiatkoski could see an increased workload at linebacker.

    Nonetheless, Davis would bring more resistance to opposing ground attacks as a reliable tackler who sniffs out the run. He’s not to going to cover the width of the field as a top-notch pass defender but possesses the toughness this fanbase often sees in its linebackers.

    Before handing the job to Kwiatkoski, the coaching staff should consider another former Broncos linebacker to pair with Danny Trevathan in the middle of the defense. Signing Davis would fill a defensive need and avoid dipping too far into Chicago’s cap space for the acquisition.

7 of 32

    John Grieshop/Getty Images

    Over the past two seasons, Andy Dalton has been sacked 80 times. In the recent past, the Cincinnati Bengals surrounded their quarterback with a quality offensive line, which helped elevate his play. Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Andrew Whitworth left last offseason.

    Cincinnati will acquire offensive tackle Cordy Glenn in a trade, per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, but there’s room for another acquisition on the interior. 

    The Bengals have multiple holes to fill across the front line. In order to compete against their hard-nosed AFC North rivals, it’s important for the offense to run the ball effectively in addition to providing adequate protection for Dalton. 

    Cincinnati doesn’t necessarily need to aim for the top guard on the market. However, team brass should make an effort to upgrade the talent around a quarterback with limitations and one elite pass-catcher in the huddle. Running back Joe Mixon could experience a breakout season behind an improved offensive line.

8 of 32

    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey took an aggressive approach leading up to the new league year. Through trades and reported deals, the front office addressed shallow roster spots with players who have yet to leave their mark on the NFL or need a fresh start.

    According to the Akron Beacon Journal‘s Nate Ulrich, the Browns plan to utilize Damarious Randall at safety—a position he played in college at Arizona State. The 25-year-old lined up in various spots during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers but primarily took the field as a cornerback.

    The Browns should sign a veteran cover safety in case the experiment with Randall goes awry. He’s registered 10 interceptions over the past three seasons, which suggests center field shouldn’t pose an issue, but the front office needs an alternative on the roster as insurance.

9 of 32

    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    There’s constant discussion about wideout Dez Bryant‘s $16.5 million cap hit after an average year in which his team needed him to produce numbers similar to the 2012-14 campaigns.

    Nonetheless, it’s fair to talk about the drop-off between a healthy Tony Romo and Dak Prescott in his second season. Analysts will say the 29-year-old can’t separate as he has in the past, but it’s fair to temper expectations with a less experienced quarterback who’s still developing as a pocket passer.

    Bryant hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard season or scored eight touchdowns through a 16-game slate since 2014, but he’s still worth keeping on the roster as Prescott goes through his career progression.

    The front office may not like Bryant’s salary with the return on their investment so far, but releasing him outright, which would leave $8 million in dead money, per Over the Cap, isn’t the best solution. Team brass should restructure the deal and monitor his chemistry with Prescott in their third season together.

10 of 32

    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    The Bears declined offensive guard Josh Sitton’s $8 million option, which put him back on the market. Whoever Denver lands at quarterback needs more pocket protection.

    In 2017, opponents sacked Broncos QBs 52 times. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, quarterback Case Keenum will sign with the Broncos, but he’ll struggle behind a leaky offensive line.

    Sitton has been to four Pro Bowls in the last six seasons, the last of which was for the 2016 season. He’ll turn 32 in June but holds value as a short-term pickup and immediate boost to run and pass protection. The acquisition would also allow the Broncos to address the right tackle spot early in the draft to cover glaring weaknesses across the offensive line.

    Additionally, the ground attack should see an improvement in efficiency with Sitton clearing lanes for the ball-carriers, which helps balance the offense with an unproven or new quarterback under center.

11 of 32

    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Running back Ameer Abdullah has accumulated 1,250 rushing yards in 32 contests over the past three seasons. Injuries and ball-security issues have limited his playing time.

    The Detroit Lions can’t rely solely on quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s arm to mount comebacks and win games. General manager Bob Quinn must add a durable ball-carrier who can churn out tough yardage between the tackles. 

    Abdullah is going into a contract year. There’s motivation to produce a breakout season, but the Lions shouldn’t raise their hopes. DeMarco Murray could provide veteran leadership at the position, but a tandem with a young ball-carrier in the draft would suffice. 

    Theo Riddick, who’s an exceptional receiver out of the backfield, remains under contract through the 2019 season. Detroit could go with a trio divvying up responsibilities among its backs in a balanced offense.

12 of 32

    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    The Green Bay Packers will allow cornerback Davon House test the open market and traded defensive back Damarious Randall to the Browns.

    The moves clear room in the secondary for new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to plug in ideal players for his scheme. General manager Brian Gutekunst doesn’t have a lot of cap space to maneuver through free agency, but there’s enough cash to bring in a veteran cornerback to line up with second-year player Kevin King and Quinten Rollins, who enters a contract year

    The team should forget the top talents at the position and focus on a savvy veteran who can still provide serviceable years on a short-term deal. 

    Green Bay ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed last season. It’s an area that will need new faces both young and experienced. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie certainly is as a name to watch during free agency.

13 of 32

    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Here’s another bargain-bin signing that would likely fly under the radar. Offensive tackle Cameron Fleming has served as a reserve for the New England Patriots the last four seasons, starting 20 games.

    Looking at Fleming’s snaps, the perimeter offensive lineman flashed as a solid pass-blocker in a limited role. The Houston Texans traded left tackle Duane Brown to the Seahawks midway through the previous season, and Chris Clark isn’t a candidate to return on a new deal. 

    The Texans expect to see quarterback Deshaun Watson fully recover from an ACL injury to start the 2018 season, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, so it’s important to protect him once he’s back on the field. 

    In this scenario, Fleming would have to adjust to blocking for a mobile quarterback, but the Texans don’t have to overspend to acquire him as a backup with starter potential.

14 of 32

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Offensive guard Jack Mewhort battled triceps and knee injuries over the past two seasons. He only suited up for five contests in 2017. It’s reasonable to allow him to hit free agency, but general manager Chris Ballard should eventually reopen the doors for the fifth-year lineman.

    Before Ballard arrived on the scene in January 2017, the previous regime tinkered with the offensive line to trot out the best combination to protect quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts franchise signal-caller still took a beating in the pocket.

    In 2015, Mewhort put together a standout season, primarily at left guard, through a 16-game slate. After appearing in 15 outings since that year, you wonder if injuries have caught up to him.

    Potential suitors will approach the 26-year-old on the market with caution, but the Colts should hoard offensive linemen until they’re set on a starting five in front of Luck, assuming he’s under center in 2018.

15 of 32

    Logan Bowles/Getty Images

    After 11 years in the league, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny decided to hang up his cleats. He spent four years with the Bills and seven in a Jacksonville Jaguars uniform.

    General manager David Caldwell focused on solidifying the offense during the legal tampering period while moving on from wideout Allen Robinson. The Jaguars will need someone to fill Posluszny’s spot in the middle of the defense.

    The front office’s long-term solution to fill the position will likely become apparent during the draft. In the meantime, Caldwell could cut ties with wideout Allen Hurns to recoup $7 million, per Over the Cap, and put the money toward signing a linebacker on a low-cost one-year deal.

    It’s not an imperative move, but the Jaguars can’t count on finding a starting-caliber middle linebacker at pick No. 29 in the first round.

16 of 32

    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    We already know the Patrick Mahomes era has begun, but don’t underestimate the role of a backup quarterback.

    Other than taking over an offense in a minute’s notice in case of injury or blowout, a veteran signal-caller could share his trials, tribulations and successes stories with the 22-year-old Mahomes, who’s still grasping the basics of the NFL game.

    As his career develops, Mahomes will learn on the fly through experience, but he can also lean on a 30-year-old who’s been there and done that. A player’s habits on the practice field and during the offseason contribute to success on game day.

    We often hear about locker room chemistry, but there’s an even stronger bond between players within a position group or unit.

    Typically, offensive linemen establish a subculture, which allows them to build a connection that translates to the field. Though only one quarterback takes snaps at a time, lessons passed along the sideline and behind the scenes hold value.

17 of 32

    Logan Bowles/Getty Images

    Between their two edge-rushers, the Los Angeles Chargers have question marks at inside linebacker. Denzel Perryman hasn’t started more than 11 games in a season during his three-year career.

    The front office signed Korey Toomer off the Oakland Raiders practice squad in 2016 and plucked Hayes Pullard off waivers during the previous offseason for depth at the position. Nonetheless, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley needs a starter to complete a strong front seven. 

    This year’s free-agent inside linebacker class includes several veteran players available for short-term deals, such as NaVorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson, Karlos Dansby and Brian Cushing.

    At the moment, Los Angeles can place a savvy experienced player there until Bradley grooms another young asset for the position.

    Injuries and subpar play at linebacker hindered the Chargers defense from reaching its peak during the previous season. Adding someone who can chase down ball-carriers should improve the team’s 31st-ranked run defense.

18 of 32

    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is expected to ink a long-term deal with the team. When looking at personnel close to the line of scrimmage, Donald could use some help in rushing the quarterback

    General manager Les Snead traded edge-rusher Robert Quinn and a sixth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for a fourth- and a sixth-round pick, according to NFL.com. The move opens up a need for a defender who consistently pressures the quarterback. At 31 years old, Connor Barwin will test the free-agent market, and there’s no reason to prioritize re-signing him. 

    Snead could acquire a forgotten man among pass-rushing linebackers in the league. During the previous offseason, Trent Murphy underwent surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot. He tore his ACL and MCL, which kept him out for the 2017 campaign. 

    Skeptics will question Murphy’s nine-sack season since he served a four-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy, per Master Tesfatsion, formerly of the Washington Post. At the right price, it’s a fair gamble to roll the dice on a player who can possibly rack up six to eight sacks on a bargain deal.

19 of 32

    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    According to the Miami Herald‘s Armando Salguero, the Miami Dolphins will part ways with tight end Julius Thomas after one season. The transaction saves $6.6 million in cap space, per Over the Cap

    The Dolphins have been diligent in shedding contracts and recouping millions during the offseason, which likely means the front office acquires a tight end in the draft. 

    However, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill returning to action without a starting-caliber tight end, executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum may look for experience. Aside from Thomas Duarte, the Dolphins don’t have a player at the position under contract beyond the 2018 campaign

    Pay close attention to the second wave of tight ends on the market or released in the coming days. The Dolphins could negotiate with an asset in the bargain bin and fill a position of need.

20 of 32

    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    According to Schefter, the Minnesota Vikings intend to sign coveted free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, but the front office’s work on the offense won’t be done.

    The Vikings can’t expect to seamlessly plug in Cousins and for him to yield similar results as Keenum did last season, so the front office should look to upgrade the pass protection around the new signal-caller.

    When under duress, Keenum scrambled to extend plays. Cousins did the same behind a Washington Redskins offensive line that struggled to stay healthy in 2017. However, that’s not an ideal situation, especially late in the season when aches and pains start to pile up.

    With quality offensive linemen still available, general manager Rick Spielman should target assets who can shift to various spots if necessary. In the meantime, expect a push to re-sign guard Joe Berger, per the Pioneer PressChris Tomasson.

    The Minnesota offense features two capable running backs and playmakers on the perimeter. Nonetheless, Cousins needs adequate time to execute in the pocket.

21 of 32

    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    There’s one important rule when fielding a 41-year-old, five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Protect him at all costs.

    Offensive tackle Nate Solder could see offers between $12 and $13 million annually on the open market, but he’d like to stay in New England, per Boston Herald‘s Jeff Howe

    Despite his preference, the Patriots should offer a deal that comes close to competing suitors looking to sign a starting left tackle.

    Bill Belichick isn’t one to bend over backward to re-sign players, but New England’s first-round draft position (31st overall) puts them out of reach for a top prospect at the position, barring a trade. As a proven commodity, Solder’s return seems like the logical option.

    Simply put, the Patriots have enough cap room to satisfy Solder’s financial expectations over the short or long term. Pay him and keep Brady’s hope of playing until he’s 45 years old, according to ESPN.com’s Ian O’Connor (h/t NBC Sports Boston).

22 of 32

    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Talented linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha has suffered ankle ailments and an ACL tear that limited him over the past two seasons. In his first year with the team, A.J. Klein logged a significant amount of snaps, but his season also ended on injured reserve after 12 appearances.

    Second-year player Alex Anzalone dealt with injuries through his collegiate career at Florida. His first season ended on injured reserve with a right shoulder issue.

    The New Orleans Saints front seven, specifically on the second level, needs contributors who can play the entire season as the defense steadily improves.

    Kikaha enters a contract year. Klein will remain under team control through the 2020 season. There’s hope Anzalone can avoid the injury bug to show his full potential, but it seems like a long shot at this point.

    The Saints need able bodies at linebacker who can add a layer to the run defense and cover intermediate pass routes.

23 of 32

    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    General manager Dave Gettleman reportedly acquired linebacker Alec Ogletree and a 2019 seventh-round pick for fourth- and sixth-round selections in April’s draft.

    It’s a logical acquisition to fit new defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s blitz-heavy system, but the 26-year-old comes with a $10 million salary-cap responsibility for the 2018 season. He’s behind Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner as the third-highest paid inside linebacker in the league.

    Fortunately the front office could convert his signing bonus into a prorated roster payout to save $5.2 million for the current year, per ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan. That solution makes sense. Ogletree would have to produce his best season to justify the current cap hit. 

    As Gettleman looks to trim bloated contracts, he should start with his newest acquisition to add cap flexibility for free agency. Restructuring Ogletree’s deal should rank high on his to-do list as he negotiates with unrestricted players on the market.

24 of 32

    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    The New York Jets made some big splashes Tuesday for their defense. General manager Mike Maccagnan should carry over that aggressive approach when addressing the offense.

    Regardless of who’s under center or taking handoffs, the offensive line needs upgrades, especially on the interior. Center Wesley Johnson isn’t expected to return, and Brian Winters has yet to pan out as a starter at multiple spots.

    James Carpenter put together two solid seasons before struggling in the last campaign, but he’s going into a contract year.

    Maccagnan should aim for an overhaul between the tackles. The acquisitions would help pay dividends for the ground attack and serve as building blocks for a stronger pocket.

    Despite the frenzy before the official league year, there are quality choices at guard and center still available on the open market.

25 of 32

    Harry How/Getty Images

    Similar to Donald with the Rams, it’s expected that the Raiders strike a new deal with edge-rusher Khalil Mack at some point during the offseason. General manager Reggie McKenzie moves methodically, but he’s never wavered on his plans to sign the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year to a long-term deal, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur.

    Mack needs help pressuring the pocket; he had a team-leading 10.5 sacks last year as the Silver and Black tied for 24th with 31 sacks. Linebacker Bruce Irvin’s pass-rushing production improved in the second half of the previous year when John Pagano took over the defensive play-calling duties; he finished with eight sacks. However, the front seven still needs a consistent interior pass-rusher.

    Oakland re-signed defensive tackle Justin Ellis to a three-year, $15 million contract, per Rapoport, but he’s logged one sack in four seasons. McKenzie needs a pass-rushing interior lineman to complement his run-stuffer in the middle.

    Similar to Irvin, Pagano utilized defensive lineman Denico Autry’s pass-rushing capability late in the season. He logged a career-best five sacks while improving his run defense, a weaker part of his skill set that kept him off the field.

    Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther could have a similar effect to Pagano on Autry’s overall improvement as a complete defensive lineman with a specialty in pursuing the quarterback.

26 of 32

    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Defensive end Vinny Curry’s value dropped once the Eagles reportedly acquired Michael Bennett. The rotational pass-rusher will carry an $11 million cap hit, and the team can release him to save $6 million, per Over the Cap.

    According to Rapoport, the Eagles have discussed reworking Curry’s salary in an attempt to trim their 2018 cap number. It’s still unclear what’s next for both sides.

    Philadelphia has a surplus at the defensive end position with Bennett, Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett under team control for the upcoming season. Curry can take a pay cut or resist, but the latter option could encourage general manager Howie Roseman to aggressively look for a trade partner. 

    In the best-case scenario, Curry agrees to restructure his deal to stay in Philadelphia. Keeping him on the roster at a team-friendly price puts this front seven in the conversation as the deepest among all 32 teams.

27 of 32

    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Linebacker Ryan Shazier will have as much time as he needs to recover from a spine injury. Sean Spence hits the free-agent market after his second stint with the team. A potential draft pick such as Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans might not be available when the Pittsburgh Steelers select at No. 28.

    For the short term, Pittsburgh can plug a veteran into the front seven who can hold the spot as Shazier works his way back and a young talent develops in a rotational role. As mentioned with the Chargers’ solutions at inside linebacker, the Steelers could choose from the same pool: NaVorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson and Karlos Dansby.

    According to Schefter, the Dolphins parted ways with Lawrence Timmons, and general manager Kevin Colbert may entertain the idea of a reunion. Otherwise, 31-year-old Brian Cushing could fill the role on a cost-friendly one- or two-year deal. It’s not an imperative move, but it would allow a young player time to progress at a moderate pace.

28 of 32

    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    General manager John Lynch hasn’t been definitive about re-signing running back Carlos Hyde but said the team remains in contact about a possible deal, per Bay Area News’ Cam Inman.

    “We’ve had discussions with Carlos all the way through the season,” Lynch said. “We haven’t been able to come to an agreement but those discussions are ongoing. I wouldn’t say anything is imminent there.

    It sounds like Hyde will field offers on the free-agent market. It’ll likely lead him to sign elsewhere on a second deal. After missing time through the first three seasons due to injuries, he appeared in all 16 games during the 2017 campaign and registered 1,288 yards from scrimmage. 

    Hyde’s recent production as a ball-carrier and receiver will attract several suitors. The 49ers should prepare to move on and land a younger running back who can handle a steady workload.

    One possibility is Jerick McKinnon, who expressed interest in a bigger role out of the backfield after the 2017 season, per ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin

    The 25-year-old running back compiled 991 yards from scrimmage as a dual threat and improved in pass protection. He profiles as a good fit in San Francisco.

29 of 32

    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    It’s a different year with the same need in Seattle. Head coach Pete Carroll made changes to the coaching staff. He fired offensive line coach Tom Cable, who took the same position with the Raiders under Jon Gruden. 

    Mike Solari will coach the Seahawks offensive line. Personnel changes should be expected in order to adequately protect quarterback Russell Wilson.

    After moving Michael Bennett and releasing cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane, Schneider will pursue free agents with approximately $28 million banked. The Seahawks should focus primarily on the offensive guard position to seal the interior gaps and open lanes for a ground attack that’s struggled over the past two seasons. 

    Former New York Giant Justin Pugh should land on the Seahawks’ radar as a potential target. He also brings versatility as a perimeter blocker on the right side. Despite his recent injuries, he’s 27 years old and a starting-caliber asset.

30 of 32

    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Add the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the list of teams in need of quality interior linemen. There’s a slight chance Notre Dame prospect Quenton Nelson falls to them at the No. 7 pick in the draft. In that case, general manager Jason Licht should select him to address the offensive line, but it’s an unpredictable premise.

    The Buccaneers will likely speak to the top players available at this position. Barring a return to the Titans, Josh Kline should also come into focus as a potential target.

    Tampa Bay will probably have a new lead back after releasing Doug Martin, who has drawn interest from Oakland, per Rapoport. Jeremy McNichols, the team’s 2016 fourth-rounder, should see an expanded role. 

    Regardless of who’s taking handoffs, it’s important for the front office to make a concerted effort to balance the offense with capable run-blockers who can elevate the ground attack. A complementary run game will take the pressure off quarterback Jameis Winston’s arm and potentially lessen his mistakes in the pocket.

31 of 32

    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Inside linebacker isn’t a premium position. Typically, it’s a role full of grunt work and having to fill gaps in the run defense. Depending on the scheme or defensive play-caller, designed blitzes will send quicker defenders toward the pocket for a boost in the pass rush.

    Tennessee fielded the No. 4 run defense in the league, allowing 88.8 yards per game, during the 2017 season and only allowed 100 yards or more on the ground in only five contests. The defensive line deserves credit. But linebacker Avery Williamson chased down ball-carriers and finished plays as a reliable tackler in the open field.

    The Titans let Williamson walk, and he’s expected to sign with the Jets, per Rapoport. The 26-year-old made a significant impact on the defense, so the front office should bring in the top assets at the position for visits to fill the void.

32 of 32

    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Over the past two seasons, inside linebacker Zach Brown has signed one-year deals with Buffalo and Washington. The Redskins are interested in re-signing him, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

    “One team source told me, ‘Obviously it has to be at the right price,'” she wrote. “My understanding is that Brown wants to be compensated ‘like a top-three inside linebacker.'”

    Brown didn’t live up to the billing in coverage compared to previous seasons, but he vastly improved his play in run defense. 

    However, his improvements as a second-level run defender go unnoticed because Washington allowed the most rushing yards in 2017. It takes one team to agree with Brown’s asking price, which would slightly surpass Alec Ogletree with the Giants at $10.6 million, per Spotrac.

    Essentially, Brown wants to stand on a pay scale behind only Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner, who both have multiple All-Pro seasons. The impending free agent has one Pro Bowl year in 2016. Clearly, there’s a gap in production that doesn’t warrant similar salaries.

    Washington should let Brown walk and allow the open market to dictate his asking price.


    Players’ contract details courtesy of Spotrac and Over the Cap.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *