NFL Betting: One Huge Move Every Team Needs to Make Ahead of 2018 (Part II)
Published on February 20, 2018
In Part I of this series, we broke down one huge move 16 of the league’s 32 teams can make in order to improve their chances of winning Super Bowl 53. The 16 teams with the best odds of winning were covered in Part I, and in this follow-up, we’ll roll through what the league’s lesser teams can do in order to shock the world next season.
Part II is below.
The Raiders were one of the league’s most disappointing squads in 2017. The franchise hoped to take another step forward after finally making it back to the playoffs in the 2016 season, but they wound up slogging their way through an uninspired 6-10 campaign instead.
There are questions regarding just how good Derek Carr is, but the Raiders shouldn’t freak out and move on from him yet. He’s still 26 and we’ve seen glimpses of his upside in the past. One thing the team can do to help develop their young passer is upgrade his group of weapons.
Amari Cooper has had a problem with drops, but it’s too early to give up on him, either. You can’t just burn through first-round picks without seeing if they can develop. Michael Crabtree has been serviceable opposite Cooper, but his contract carries no guaranteed money moving forward. Considering dumping him would help the Raiders carve out some cap space, moving on from the 30-year-old receiver with an injury history looks like a fairly easy decision.
The team can use the extra cash to fish in free agency and find a younger upgrade at the position.
We mentioned in the Raiders’ blurb that moving on from former first-rounders prematurely carries risk, but the Lions have to have had it by now with Eric Ebron. Ebron, who was drafted 10th overall back in 2014, hasn’t been able to live up to his draft billing through 4 NFL seasons. His best year came in 2016 when he caught 61 balls for 711 yards with a touchdown. Ebron has found the end zone just 11 times in his career.
He’s another guy that has shown an unfortunate knack for dropping passes. He perked up a bit halfway through last season, but is a late-season hot streak something the team can trust moving forward? Doubtful. Detroit is on the hook to pay over $8 million for Ebron next season, which is a hefty fee for a mediocre pass-catching tight end.
This is a free agency class that features some more established tight ends, most of which would be an upgrade over the disappointing Ebron. Getting Matthew Stafford more help should be among the Lions’ chief priorities this offseason. Don’t be surprised to see Ebron on the chopping block.
The Buccaneers have needs all over the field, but the cornerback spot may be their most glaring hole. Brent Grimes is on the wrong side of 35 now, while the team’s draftees at the position haven’t lived up to billing in recent seasons. If the Bucs are going to stay relevant in a division that also houses Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, they’re going to need to upgrade their pass defense.
That means either drafting a corner No. 7 overall or spending big on a free agent. Or both. The free agency class isn’t really littered with stars at the position, but names like Malcolm Butler, EJ Gaines, Trumaine Johnson and Bryce Callahan would be upgrades over what the team already has.
Tampa Bay could stand to add a pass rusher with their top draft pick, which would certainly help their defensive backs do a better job. Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Iowa’s Joshua Jackson appear to be the top CBs on the board at this stage. If defensive end Bradley Chubb has been snapped up by the time Tampa drafts 7th, then corner is where they should go.
When’s the last time the Ravens had a big, dominant receiver? It’s been a while. Last season, Mike Wallace led the team with 748 receiving yards. Ben Watson led the team with 61 catches. These guys are old and not all that great. Baltimore thought it made a splash by signing Jeremy Maclin as a free agent last year, but he went on to do very little.
The Ravens took Breshad Perriman with their first-rounder back in 2015. To say the UCF product has been a bust would be an understatement. He missed his entire rookie season due to injury, and he’s hauled in a total of 44 passes in the 2 seasons since. We don’t have a massive sample size with which to work, but it seems doubtful that Perryman becomes what the Ravens had hoped.
With Wallace a free agent and Maclin likely to be cut, the Ravens have to revamp their receiving corps. Oklahoma State wideout James Washington appears to be an awfully nice fit that could likely be had with the Ravens’ No. 16 overall pick. Ditto for Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Don’t be surprised to see the Ravens get into the mix for a few free agents, too.
The Titans have a glut of offensive players, which could lead to some heads rolling before long. DeMarco Murray and Delanie Walker each carry expensive salaries, and the team already has younger replacements ready for promotion.
With Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin and Ben Jones entrenched at the tackle and center spots, the Titans should be in the market to upgrade their guards. The best way to do so may be via the draft. Guard isn’t a spot many teams are looking to address, but it still seems a stretch to suggest that Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson will be available when Tennessee picks in the mid-20s. He’s one of the best prospects at the position in years, which means the Titans would probably have to make a trade to get him.
On the free agency market, Carolina’s Andrew Norwell would be a good fit for Tennessee if the Panthers opt to move in a different direction.
Frank Gore is an ageless wonder bordering on the level of national treasure. Despite the fact that he’ll turn 35 before next season, Gore has given no indication that he plans to hang up the cleats. He racked up nearly 1,000 yards rushing last year as Indy’s top back, and he’s now gone over 14,000 rushing yards for his decorated career.
While Gore may still have something left in the tank, it’s time for the Colts to find their long-term replacement. Of course, they likely won’t spend the No. 3 overall pick on a running back given the vast array of other needs that need to be addressed. Pass rusher looks like the most likely route with their high first-rounder.
Indy can wait until the later rounds to get someone like Nick Chubb, or they can try their hand in free agency. They could try throwing heaps of cash at Le’Veon Bell, but it’s hard to believe Bell would willingly join the Colts. The free agent class drops off considerably after him, but Dion Lewis or Carlos Hyde wouldn’t be the worst consolation prize.
Cousins will obviously be a hot commodity this offseason, and with good reason. You won’t often see quarterbacks of Cousins’ caliber hit the free agent market. Carson Palmer finally retired, and Arizona hasn’t drafted his replacement yet. We could see them do that high in the upcoming draft, but adding a veteran will be important.
The Cardinals should want to maximize whatever Larry Fitzgerald has left. He’s still one of the best all-around receivers in football, but the clock is ticking on his career. He’ll turn 35 just before next season, and he’d obviously like to win a Super Bowl before he’s done. Preferably in Arizona, where he’s spent his entire career.
There are other teams better positioned to offer Cousins more money or a better chance at winning immediately, but he could do worse than landing in the desert.
This offseason is unusual in that there seems to be no shortage of quarterback options out there. The upcoming draft is loaded with talent, while the free agency crop is also strong. Despite having drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round just 2 seasons ago, the youngster hasn’t made any strides during his time in Denver. He may still have a future with the team, but the Broncos have to be looking at alternative plans at this point.
The last time the Broncos were heavily in the marketfor a quarterback , John Elway came up with Peyton Manning. That worked out pretty well. While there isn’t a player close to Manning’s caliber readily available right now, Denver is another team that figures to be in the mix for Cousins.
The Broncos once again have the makings of a team that is just a capable QB away from making some noise. They play in a tough division, but if Cousins winds up in the Mile High City, the Broncos could be playoff (or more) bound in 2018.
The Giants’ 2017 season was a hilarious disaster, resulting in the firing of both the coach and the general manager. Eli Manning’s prime days are clearly in the past, though he’s on the books for way too much guaranteed money for the team to cut him now. However, New York stands to save about $17 million if they cut him in the 2019 offseason. As a result, this is likely Eli’s final season in the Big Apple.
Of course, you don’t cut Eli Manning without having his replacement already in the plans. That’s why the team can’t screw around with the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft. Some teams will get cute and take a defensive end or something, but the Giants have to take a quarterback here. This draft is rife with top-tier talent (Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield.) The Giants would be setting themselves back in a big way to pass up on one of these guys at the top of the draft.
The Giants will likely be terrible again this season, which means they could always draft another QB in 2019. However, nothing is guaranteed, and the G-Men should have themselves the pick of the litter here. Taking Eli’s successor is an easy call.
I mentioned previously that the Cowboys would do well to just cut bait with Dez Bryant and his hefty contract. He hasn’t played up to paper over the last couple of years, so the Cowboys shouldn’t still want to pay a premium to keep him around.
If he finds himself on the open market, Washington should test the waters. There’s no questioning Bryant’s talent, but, for whatever reason, he seems to have declined over the last couple of seasons. Perhaps he just needs a change of scenery. The Redskins have been terrible about identifying free agent talent in the past, so this is certainly another high-risk move that could blow up in their faces.
Still, pairing Bryant with Alex Smith would give the ‘Skins a decent QB-WR combo. If Dez can rediscover his Pro Bowl form, he could presumably be had at a pretty reasonable discount this offseason. Washington could stand to upgrade its group of receivers, and Bryant isn’t a bad place to start.
The Dolphins’ quarterback situation is one to watch. Ryan Tannehill is owed a ton of money next season, and the team could shave his cap hit down to just $4.6 million if he’s cut this offseason. Considering he missed all of last year with a knee injury, there’s no telling what he’ll look like next season. Miami may well decide the risk isn’t worth the hefty salary, so the Dolphins could be another team to throw into the quarterback marketplace.
They’re going to have to do something about the defense, too. Miami already owes big money to the likes of Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons, and they can’t be cut without a pretty hefty cap hit. As a result, they’re almost locks to return next season. With all that money already tied up, Miami is going to have to be shrewd in free agency.
Finding bargain talent obviously isn’t easy. If everyone could find high-upside players on the cheap, they would do it. Still, being cap-tied should keep the Dolphins from opening the checkbooks and handing out a ludicrously expensive deal. Essentially, they’re being saved from themselves here.
Remember last year when the Bears gave Mike Glennon a huge contract only to bench him a few games into the season? Good times. Glennon is a lock to be cut this offseason, which will free up a considerable amount of cap space to be spent on other needs.
Mitch Trubisky will start next season under center, and the Bears need to work on getting him some help. Jared Goff struggled as a rookie before the Rams got him some capable weaponry. We saw him break out last season. Might a similar storyline be in store for Trubisky? We’ll see.
We’ve mentioned that the free agent crop of receivers isn’t exactly electrifying, but there’s plenty to like. Jarvis Landry seems assured of leaving Miami, and he’d make for a nice safety valve type to pair with Trubisky in Chicago. Landry’s about as underrated as they come, and he’s the type of player that would make a young quarterback’s job quite a bit easier.
Josh Gordon is clearly a tantalizing talent, but he may not be the type of player you want spending his downtime around South Beach. That would seem to have the makings of a disaster. The Bears could also look at Sammy Watkins or the ex-Jags twosome of Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee.
I was one of many that had the Jets pegged as the worst team in football last season before the campaign got underway. While they still weren’t good, the notion that they would go winless looks silly at this point. Josh McCown deserves plenty of the credit. The ageless wonder came into New York and helped the team win 5 games, which was far more than anyone could have thought.
McCown has already said that he’d like to return next season, and the Jets could use him as a mentor/leader. He’d be the perfect player to pair with a rookie in order to help the latter learn the ropes of the league. That didn’t work out so well for McCown and Johnny Manziel in Cleveland, but Manziel was certainly a unique case. The Jets are also expected to pursue Cousins.
Baker Mayfield isn’t all that unlike Manziel in a number of ways, but the Jets certainly have to be intrigued by his talent. There’s a good chance he’s available for New York with the No. 6 overall pick. The Jets are likely to be mediocre again next season, but at least they’ll be respectable under McCown while his eventual replacement is groomed to take over in 2019.
It’s a bit weird to see the Bills way down here considering they were a playoff team this past season. Evidently, the oddsmakers don’t think that was much more than a flash in the pan.
Regardless, they’re one of many teams with a quarterback decision to make. Tyrod Taylor was solid last season, but remember when he was randomly replaced in the middle of the season, only to return at halftime after Nate Peterman threw 5 picks? Yeesh.
Clearly, Taylor isn’t in the Bills’ long-term plans, so they should let him leave as a free agent. They could vy for someone like Cousins, or they could go all-in on the future by trading up for a QB like Darnold or Rosen. Buffalo has the ammo to do it, with a pair of back-to-back first-rounders (21,22).
If the Broncos or Jets find the QB they want in free agency, they could be tempted to take Buffalo’s pair of first-rounders and trade out of their places in the top-10 of the draft. The Bills would do well to forfeit those picks in order to nab their QB of the future at the top of the draft.
The Browns were tabbed by many as a team to watch last season. Of course, they wound up going 0-16 instead. Classic Browns. For the second year running, Cleveland owns the No. 1 overall pick. After taking Myles Garrett last year, they have to take a quarterback this year…right?
The Browns could draft a QB No. 1 overall and start him from day one, but there are enough capable veterans available to where they should instead sign a vet and let him teach the rookie. This is essentially what we want the Jets to do, except their veteran isn’t already in the organization.
It wouldn’t be hard for the Browns to find their placeholder in free agency. Either of Minnesota’s Sam Bradford or Case Keenum would fit the bill, though Keenum may be looking to cash in after his breakout year. AJ McCarron, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Moore are a few other candidates.
Slicing Andy Dalton from the roster would create $14 million in spending cash for the Bengals, but it makes sense to keep him at this point. It’s not like any of the veterans other than Cousins would be an upgrade, and we know Cousins isn’t joining the freaking Bengals. Just keep Dalton and make sure he can stay upright next season.
That means restocking an offensive line that was full of holes last year. Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler both left as free agents prior to last season. The only O-lineman that should stay as a starter from last year is left guard Clint Boling. The other 4 spots can stand to be upgraded.
It’s hard to completely revamp your offensive line in one offseason, so the Bengals are going to have to be smart about which places to attack. The most obvious spot is left tackle. You want to protect Dalton’s blind side, so the Bengals could certainly look to nab an LT or a guard. We mentioned Quenton Nelson in the Titans’ blurb, but he would also make for a nice fit here with Cincinnati. At 12, he will likely still be there for the taking.