The intricacies of a new collective bargaining agreement are still being hashed out, and the players have yet to vote on it, but, trust me, the start of the 2020 NFL league year is right around the corner.
We are two weeks away from the official transaction period when trades and most classifications of free-agent signings can be consummated. What will assuredly be a wild and wacky offseason, headlined by an unprecedented class of available quarterbacks via free agency or trade, is just ahead, and with the combine now complete, full attention is being paid to the pro scouting departments and the immediate moves to be made.
Already teams have begun making some obvious moves – letting go of some expensive veterans who no longer fit – with a flurry of cuts and releases still to come. Even with the salary cap soaring, there are no shortage of cap casualties on the horizon and numerous avenues of roster building teams can explore to try to get better right now.
Free agency is quickly approaching and Jason La Canfora joins Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to present a series of offseason moves teams should try to make ranging from expected to bold. Listen below and be sure to subscribe.
With that in mind, I figured I'd take a look at one addition or subtraction that I would recommend for all 32 NFL clubs.
Tagging Chris Jones is a no-brainer, but to me that makes it even more imperative they try to get something for Sammy Watkins via trade. Don't see how a team in this sort of cap bind, especially carrying Jones into the league year with a $16M figure, can afford to pay Watkins another $14M. Too much tied up in the passing game already with Patrick Mahomes set to be a $40M man soon enough.
The NFL combine is over, so who were the biggest winners and losers? Ryan Wilson joins Will Brinson to break it all down, size up the first post-combine mock draft and more. Listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Roll out the red carpet for Tom Brady and pursue him in a way you never have in free agency before. Don't take no for an answer. Oh, and trade Melvin Ingram. Joey Bosa is gonna cost a fortune and you have too many players who are ready for extensions already. With so many pass rushers getting tagged, there aren't enough options to fill the need and teams will be interested in Ingram for one year at $14M. It's a luxury I don't see how they can keep.
Offer Derek Carr and a future second-round pick for Cam Newton. Newton, plus the two draft picks you have in the teens, could make your offense must-see TV, and use your money and cap space to fortify a needy defense. Carr would give the Panthers a highly-accurate bridge QB who would fit in well with Joe Brady's system and the Panthers would have him signed for multiple years if it works out there.
Sign Case Keenum. Yeah it didn't work out with him as the starter, but he knows new coordinator Pat Shurmur's system inside out and would be a perfect mentor with the entire franchise in the balance based on Drew Lock's development.
Get DeForest Buckner re-signed before the league year begins. They have a series of difficult decisions looming, but Buckner is their best player and, to me, the second best interior defender in the league after Aaron Donald. If you can tag Arik Armstead and keep Buckner, too, great. But getting Buckner secured for the long haul has to be priority No. 1 and I am hearing the 49ers are pushing to try to make this a reality.
Sign Bryan Bulaga. Seahawks GM John Schneider is a former Packer and has reached back to that well many times. Finding a stud bookend tackle to pair with Duane Brown would be a big upgrade and with most of the current offensive line pending free agents, this would be a huge pickup for Russell Wilson and the entire offense.
Trade Robert Woods. You are stuck with Brandin Cooks and no one is taking Todd Gurley off your hands with that deal. And you're gonna have to pay Cooper Kupp soon enough. And now Jared Goff is a $30M a year QB. Something has to give and moving Woods or tight end Tyler Higbee should be a priority to free up some cap space, reallocate some assets and get some desperately needed picks.
Sign Jack Conklin from the Titans. It's been very hit-or-miss for teams resetting the offensive line market in free agency, but Arizona needs to throw massive assets at building, finally, at least a half-decent offensive line. And it needs to go beyond merely retaining left tackle D.J. Humphries, as they already did.
It is no revelation they are putting the exclusive tag on Dak and that Byron Jones is gone – I've been reporting that since midseason. The real question is Amari Cooper. And even if they cannot use the franchise and transition tag, there is no excuse for a guy with the revenue streams Jerry Jones is pocketing not to re-sign Cooper even if/when he does hit the market. The cap is soaring and Jerry will tap into the gambling money in unique and creative ways; he's a marketing genius who has always been willing to push the envelope. Funnel that back into Amari, whatever it costs, because that defense is still gonna be pretty suspect in 2020, I reckon.
Splurge on Byron Jones in free agency … and maybe take a run at Chris Harris, too? That would drastically reshape the secondary in the slot and on the outside, and would badly weaken an already-suspect Cowboys defense at the same time.
Trade Trent Williams. Now. Like this week, before free agency opens and the market is more flooded. The reunion thing was cute and all, but keeping him one more year without a new deal is silly, and paying him top market money early in a rebuild is silly, too. So get him to the Browns or Jets or Seahawks or wherever, and move on with draft capital in tow.
Market the hell out of that fourth overall pick and trade down at least once, maybe more. Chase Young will be gone before you pick and you will be able to find plenty of quality players at your zillion positions of need in the teens and on the second day of the draft, too. You need quantity and quality.
Sign Marcus Mariota. If anyone can develop him, Josh McDaniels can. It's some decent Tom Brady insurance in case he does walk, and even if you keep Brady, at his age, injury has to be a concern.
I don't know that another splashy free-agent class is as important to this franchise now, as it would be to secure some of its best young talent deep into the future. Tre'Davious White, Dion Dawkins and Matt Milano – get them all locked up now if you can. Shovel the money and cap space there and draft some WRs.
Trade up for Tua. Don't get too cute. You loaded up on all of these picks for a reason. It's go time. Stay on the phone with the Skins and Lions and Giants and go and get that franchise QB, ASAP.
New York Jets
Sign Jadeveon Clowney and pursue another pass rusher who is on a franchise tag. This team has gotten no pressure off the edge for as long as I can remember, and it's time for young GM Joe Douglas to make his mark and pour his oodles of cap space into this deficiency. Even if you get Clowney, after seeing guys like Dee Ford and Frank Clark and Clowney traded while on a tag a year ago, find out what it might take to get Matt Judon out of Baltimore (heck, you were there when the Ravens drafted him) or Yannick Ngakoue out of Jacksonville.
After last year's massive free agent splurge, better do what you can to get pending 2021 free agents David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones and Kenny Clark signed immediately (and cut Jimmy Graham already). And after sinking so many assets into what was still a largely mediocre defense, better invest on some assets for Aaron Rodgers in this receiver-deep draft.
What would the trade value be for Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook? I'd be finding out. Keeping this team together will be impossible given the cap crunch and, furthermore, it would be misguided. This front office needs to embrace creative ideas and be open to remaking the roster now, because a year from now it will only be much worse.
Get Kenny Golladay signed longterm. He and Matthew Stafford will wreck defenses together for years to come. Pray someone trades to 2 and takes Tua, also, every day and night, in hopes that Chase Young is sitting there with the third pick.
Sign Emmanuel Sanders (and still draft a WR by Day 2) and be aggressive on the pass rush market. Is there a Matthew Judon – plus picks or Hayden Hurst – for Yannick Ngakoue deal that makes sense? I'd be all over the Chargers about Ingram.
Sign Eric Ebron. Tight end has bene an issue forever and keeping Vance McDonald is way too steep a price. Hunter Henry will get tagged and Austin Hooper will get way overpaid on the open market. The Steelers don't have cap space and renting Ebron for a year could provide value in the red zone.
Extend Myles Garrett. Buying low with him coming off his lengthy suspension should provide a little relief. And be prepared to move up for a stud tackle in the draft if need be. Too many teams picking ahead of them have acute need for pass protection, as well.
Extend Joe Mixon. I am generally against doing this with running backs, but the Bengals have plenty of cap space – even after tagging A.J. Green – and Mixon will be huge for rookie Joe Burrow.
Did you know that Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk are all entering the final season of their rookie deals (Lattimore and Ramczyk would be eligible for fifth-year options in 2021), while Sheldon Rankins and Demario Davis are in the final year of their deals in 2020? And the cap situation is tight, and Drew Brees hasn't even been paid yet. I'd be trying to secure as much of my core youngsters into the future and be willing to let a lot of this year's free agent class (Eli Apple, Andrus Peat, Vonn Bell, Teddy Bridgewater) walk.
Luke Kuechly and Greg Olsen are gone and a bunch of Carolina's free agents are likely not coming back, either. Why not fully explore what Newton could bring in return? If the Panthers like Justin Herbert or Jordan Love, they could be in position to draft a QB in the first round. Or try to load up on assets for the next two drafts. They aren't exploring extending Cam and that would be a trick proposition either way. Could he be of interest to the Patriots, Raiders, Chargers, Bucs or Titans if their 2019 QBs are gone?
Give Shaq Barrett his $20M a year on a multi-year deal, and put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jameis Winston. If it leads to an offer from another team, great – maybe there is trade potential. But give me Jameis back for $27M for another year to see what Year 2 is like back in this Bruce Arians system.
Move Desmond Trufant, Devante Freeman and Alex Mack for what you can get. Need picks and need cap room, badly. Most of these deals are so bad the Falcons will be stuck with some players, or end up just cutting others. This franchise is stuck in no-man's land, to me, with enough talent not to be horrible but nowhere close to being an actual contender and too much money tied up into a handful of aging players.
Trade a WR. Laremy Tunsil and Deshaun Watson are about to be making, conservatively, a combined $50M a year. Will Fuller is a free agent in 2021 and DeAndre Hopkins is on a team-friendly deal. You are desperately short on draft capital and this is one area of the roster where there is some real flexibility. Better get creative.
Offer to make Jack Conklin the highest-paid right tackle in the league and see if he will bite. Put the non-exclusive tag on Ryan Tannehill and let Derrick Henry see what the market will bear. How many teams are really looking to break the bank on a RB – even one this big, strong and impactful? I'd go ahead and find out.
Sign Philip Rivers. Don't let the Bucs get him. Give him $60M for two years even if you are stuck eating $16M on Jacoby Brissett to back him up. Jim Irsay hasn't had to spend big for a while, and you have infinite cap space. Go for it.
Gut the roster. Take your lumps in 2020 – it's going to be a lean year no matter what – and see what Gardner Minshew looks like for 16 games and re-position the team for the long-term. Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, Nick Foles should all be on the trade block. Tag Ngakoue with an eye to a trade (newsflash: he, like many others, really doesn't want to be there).