As NFL offseasons go, the one that we have seen transpire these past few months has been among the most exciting in recent memory. Since early March, we have seen two of the longest-tenured starting quarterbacks in the past decade in Tony Romo and Jay Cutler retire and head to the broadcast booth. We have seen the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots outbid, out-trade, and out-fight every other team for premium players like wide receiver Brandin Cooks just to keep their roster in top form. We have seen an almost unheard-of salary dump trade net the Cleveland Browns both Brock Osweiler and a second-round pick. Then, in a fittingly crazy climax to a crazy offseason, we saw a draft that featured more trades than any other in league history. However, this offseason is still far from over. With big-name players like quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III still unsigned, there is a wealth of possibilities for what could still happen. These are the five moves that need to be made before the season starts again in September.
1. Jaguars sign Colin Kaepernick
After being drafted No. 3 overall in 2014, and having somewhat of a promising rise in 2015, Blake Bortles took a hard tumble last year. Though the numbers do not look bad on the surface, stats do not show the kind of regression that Bortles experienced justice. Though he had never been a particularly accurate passer, Bortles was especially frustrating last year, especially on deep balls. The post-snap mental process was also poor, as Bortles’ 2016 season was plagued by constant missed reads and poor decisions. However, most alarming was the way that Bortles’ mechanics seemed to completely deteriorate. With a winding, Tebow-esque delivery, Bortles’ pre-existing problems were only compounded.
Though it would be unfair to label Bortles a bust already, the Jaguars would be smart to invest in a contingency plan for any further regression. Kaepernick seems like a perfect fit. As a proven starter with experience under multiple coaches, Kaepernick’s presence would introduce competition, motivating Bortles to improve. Moreover, Kaepernick would make for a solid fallback option in the case of another disastrous season. With big-name free agents like Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye having been brought in, the Jaguars’ roster is talented enough to be approaching “win-now” mode. If Kaepernick ends up starting, he would provide the adequate quarterback play that the Jaguars desperately need to reach their full potential.
Darrelle Revis no longer faces the possibility of NFL discipline stemming from felony assault charges: https://t.co/9UOEUFl7Pp
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 22, 2017
2. Packers sign Darrelle Revis
The Packers’ secondary seems solid on paper. Featuring top picks like Damarious Randall, Kevin King, and HaHa Clinton-Dix, it looks like a solid young unit full of potential. However, last year deficiencies shined through. For just over a month, the Packers’ secondary was picked apart by quarterbacks ranging from Kirk Cousins to Marcus Mariota to even Matt Barkley. Then, to make matters worse, the group only weakened over the offseason with the departures of Sam Shields and Micah Hyde. Though Shields’ release was not a surprise, Hyde was fully expected to be retained due to his unique role. As a nickel/safety hybrid, Hyde contributes all over the field, so his presence will be missed. Though the Packers drafted Josh Jones for a similar purpose, it is unlikely that he has the same impact in his rookie season.
Darrelle Revis had already been rumored to be eyeing a move to safety before his release from the New York Jets, and that makes sense. In his prime as a corner, he was known for his flawless mechanics, instincts, and ball skills, three facets of his game that could carry over despite his deteriorating athleticism. This is especially true at the safety position. On the Packers, Revis could feature in Hyde’s vacant role as a hybrid defensive back. With extensive experience as a man-up outside corner, Revis’ mechanics would let him transition smoothly to the slot, while his ball skills would let him contribute if asked to ballhawk. Furthermore, even if it does not work out, a one-year “prove-it” deal carries relatively no downside for a team like Green Bay.
3. Titans trade 3rd-round pick and WR Tajae Sharpe to Patriots for Julian Edelman
In a league where most careers last less than a decade, players can become expendable in the blink of an eye. After the recent acquisitions of receivers such as: Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Brandin Cooks, this is unfortunately true for Patriots’ staple Julian Edelman. With a multitude of younger options in the building, and Edelman only getting older, the best thing for the Patriots to do is to flip him for assets. The Titans, on the other hand, have the exact opposite problem. For years now, the Titans have sported a consistently underperforming wide receiver corps, featuring players like: Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, and Dorial Green-Beckham. The common problem has been that these are young, naturally talented players that lack experience and mentorship. Though the group has been restocked with premium picks like rookie Corey Davis, the Titans still lack depth and need a veteran leader.
Edelman is the definition of a “sure thing.” Though he does have occasional drops and mental lapses, he is a phenomenal route-runner with strong hands, and can create after the catch. Still a top-30 player at his position, Edelman can become a mainstay in the Titans’ scheme, especially when it comes to building a short passing tempo offense around Marcus Mariota. Tajae Sharpe, on the other hand, has been largely disappointing. Though he was touted for his “pro-readiness” coming out of Massachusetts, he largely underperformed in his rookie season. With few big moments and little physical upside to speak of, he hauled in only 522 receiving yards while being passed by Richard Matthews on the depth chart. Now, after an ugly assault allegation, Sharpe’s future with the Titans looks bleak. On the Patriots, however, Sharpe could get his career off to a fresh start. Considering his football I.Q. and route-running ability, he is exactly the kind of player that Bill Belichick likes.
Don't give up, NEVER GIVE UP! Actions been louder than my words!! pic.twitter.com/CELu3vUA2n
— FearlessOfGreatness (@shocklinwood) May 1, 2017
4. Giants sign undrafted free agent Shock Linwood (RB, Baylor)
As the 2017 running back class was being talked about as a potentially historic collective, one name that seemed to slip through the cracks was that of Baylor running back Shock Linwood. After a brief suspension during his final season with the Bears, coupled with his baffling decision to sit out the Cactus Bowl, Linwood was largely written off as a fringe talent with “attitude issues” that was a long shot to make it in the NFL. However, having watched some of his film, some parts of his game stood out to me, and separated him from other late-round talents like De’Veon Smith of Michigan and Aaron Jones of UTEP. Most notably, it was his vision. Linwood regularly waited for blocks to develop, which allowed him to maneuver through crowded backfields. Along with that, he showed solid speed that occasionally let him breakaway after a sharp cut. Though he is too small to be a feature back at only 5’9”, I saw him as a viable 7th round pick with potential to develop into a solid backup or complement.
To my surprise, however, he not only went undrafted, but also unsigned post-draft. Though I was among the only people to see him as draftable, I was almost certain that he would catch on somewhere. If he were to be picked up at this point, the Giants would be the best landing spot. Though Paul Perkins showed flashes, he seems like a more of a speedy change-of-pace back than anything. Right now, the starter will likely be Wayne Gallman, who is a little skinny, but has the power, vision, and grit to be a mid-level feature back. Linwood would slide in smoothly as Gallman’s backup. Displaying similar vision and an overall similar skillset to Gallman, Linwood could thrive in a limited role, and should contribute in a pinch if necessary, making him a valuable reserve option for the Giants.
QB Brock Osweiler asked about Houston situation & then if he can be a starting QB in this league. You'll want to watch this exchange pic.twitter.com/VP9jaMoXtj
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) May 24, 2017
5. Browns move QB Brock Osweiler to Tight End
I admit that this is probably something that could only happen in Madden, but it’s hard to put anything past the outside-the-box thinkers of the Browns’ current front office. Standing at 6’7” at very worst, Osweiler’s height has been noted during his time on both the Broncos and Texans. However, Osweiler’s natural ability goes beyond just a big frame. A star basketball player in high school, Osweiler received offers to Division I schools and actually committed to Gonzaga before choosing to focus on football. Furthermore, though Osweiler’s season last year was poor passing-wise, he actually showed solid athleticism and scrambling ability, which could be untapped potential.
When it comes to the Browns, they would not be strangers to a project like this. Last year, they took a similar natural athlete in Terrelle Pryor and successfully made him a starting wide receiver. The project turned out to be a massive success, as Pryor surpassed 1,000 receiving yards while earning himself a new contract with the Washington Redskins. Osweiler doesn’t have the same speed or burst of Pryor, and will likely catch on as a backup quarterback after he leaves Cleveland. However, he could still contribute as a tight end in a highly limited role, similar to how J.J. Watt is occasionally used in Houston. With his size and basketball background, he could be a solid redzone fade target, and could maybe even be put in the seam occasionally to create mismatches. There is little downside to a move like this. With younger options in Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer in the quarterback room, Osweiler does not have much of a future on the Browns at his current position. So, by taking advantage of his size and athleticism, the Browns could still get a contribution from him instead of letting him waste away on the bench for an entire season.
With so many free agents still left, the options are limitless. Quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Antonio Pipkin, for example, are still out there, and could probably be put to good use by a creative coaching staff. Pipkin, being a natural athlete that is too raw to make an NFL roster as a quarterback, is an especially fascinating candidate to be brought in to camp to try out at other positions. This worked in the case of Nick Marshall, for example. He was a college quarterback that stuck around for full seasons with both the Jets and Jaguars as a cornerback. Furthermore, undrafted rookies Patrick Towles and Seth Russell are both still unsigned, despite being players that I saw as potential late pickups with upside. With the season an entire Summer away, the moving, signing, and roster-tweaking has only just begun.