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Breaking Down The Three Biggest Unresolved Issues Of The NFL Offseason

Credit: © Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With offseason moves almost wrapped up, the fate of three players is still up in the air. Where will these players be next season?

We are about two months into the NFL offseason. Almost every free agent has found their home for the 2017 season and the NFL draft starts in just under two weeks. However, there are still a few big names whose destinations are still in limbo. There were four such players in that situation a week ago, but with Marshawn Lynch seemingly headed to Oakland, there are now just three players in this position. Richard Sherman, Adrian Peterson, and Malcolm Butler are the biggest names still wondering where they will play next season. We’ll start by breaking down the situation of a player who has been in trade talks recently.

Richard Sherman

When I first heard of Sherman being involved in trade talks, I thought it was (as Donald Trump would say) ”fake news.” Then Seattle general manager John Schneider said this during a radio interview: “What you’ve seen lately in the news is real. That’s on both sides.” There was a subsequent report from Sheil Kapadia that the reasons they are shopping Sherman are because of his sideline blowups during the season and his age (29). 

This still doesn’t make sense because Sherman is well worth keeping despite those issues. He had a small drop-off this season, being ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 13th best corner in football with a grade of 84.6, which is the lowest since his rookie season. With that said, Seattle still boasted one of the best pass defenses in the game, ranking eighth in passing yards allowed, third in touchdowns allowed, and ninth in opponent’s passer rating. Sherman, along with Earl Thomas, was the driving force of that passing defense.

What makes this even more dumbfounding is that Seattle has almost no depth behind Sherman and they still remain a Super Bowl contender with him there. DeShawn Shead is a serviceable second string corner, but if you put him in Sherman’s spot he would get exposed. Other than Shead, Seattle has slot corner Jeremy Lane and lesser-known names such as Neiko Thorpe and DeAndre Elliott. The trade would make some sense if Seattle was miles away from a Super Bowl and was in desperate need of assets. They don’t come close to fitting that description, as they are right in the thick of Super Bowl discussion, and trading Sherman would hurt their chances tremendously.

If Seattle ultimately decides to trade Sherman, they should settle for nothing less than a first round pick. The reasoning behind that is when giving up a blue chip player in a trade, there should be an asset that has real potential to be a blue chip player in return. If Seattle is willing to take just a first round pick for Sherman, every team with cap space and a pick not in the top 10 should be jumping at the opportunity to get Sherman. Adding a player of Sherman’s caliber, whether a team is a contender or not, is well worth it, as the defense would get significantly better overnight.   

Adrian Peterson

Peterson has only visited with the Patriots, Seahawks, and Saints since free agency began, and obviously has not received an offer that he likes. On the face of it, this is surprising, considering the fact that Peterson is a future hall of famer. When you look deeper into Peterson’s current situation as a player and how running backs are valued in the league, though, it makes more sense.

The biggest problems facing Peterson right now are his age, recent injury history, and off-field behavior. Peterson was suspended for the whole season two years ago for being involved in a child abuse case. For some teams, signing him would be a public relations disaster. 

On the field, Peterson, at age 32, is at the exact spot where running backs typically go downhill. There has only been one running back in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards while averaging four or more yards per carry at the age of 32 or older. Walter Payton did it for the Bears in 1986. Combined with the fact that Peterson is coming off a season in which he tore his meniscus and ran for only 1.9 yards per carry, there is no way he should be getting paid more than $2 million per season.

What’s worse for Peterson is that he has become an NFL dinosaur. He is the workhorse running back that carries the ball for the majority of the team’s snaps and doesn’t provide passing game value. In the last three seasons combined, only Peterson, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, and Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 300 times or more. In just the 2012 season, five players eclipsed that mark, which proves how teams have stopped valuing the workhorse running back that Peterson is. 

If Peterson wants to play next season, he is going to have to accept the fact that he is going to get paid in the range of $2 million per season and he won’t be the focal point of an offense. If he does accept these realities, there are a few teams that could be a nice fit for him. The Patriots, if they don’t re-sign LeGarrette Blount, seems like the most logical destination for both sides. Peterson could come in and play the exact same role Blount did and it would give Peterson a chance to win a Super Bowl. The Giants and the Packers also seem like good landing spots, depending on how much the Giants like Paul Perkins, and if the Packers are comfortable with Christine Michael. If either of these teams aren’t contented with their primary running backs, then they should be in the running for Peterson as well.

Malcolm Butler

Malcolm Butler’s restricted free agency situation is one of the more unusual circumstances a player will endure. It all started when the news came that the Patriots signed former Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal. It was shocking, considering the fact that the Patriots already had a top corner in Butler and that they almost never pay for high-priced free agents outside of their team. Several reports came out afterwards about Butler and the Patriots being far apart on contract talks and how he was upset about the Gilmore signing.

The Patriots, by placing the first round tender on him, limited the leverage that Butler had in contract talks. They then decided to use every bit of this leverage by offering Butler a below-market value deal. When he didn’t accept they just stood pat. This seemed like a very dangerous idea, because a team with a lot of cap space could easily come in and give Butler a contract the Patriots wouldn’t be able to match. While the Patriots would get that team’s first round pick, losing one of the best corners in football would make it a tough exchange. The Saints were the only team who had discussions with Butler and those talks ended when Sean Payton announced a few weeks ago the team would not be signing Butler to an offer sheet.

With no leverage whatsoever, Butler just signed the $4 million franchise tender with the Patriots. The question now is whether the Patriots are going to trade him or not. Butler was previously in trade rumors involving the Saints, but it wasn’t possible because Butler had not signed his tender. Now that he has signed, it has opened the door for that possibility.

There is no question that the Patriots should hold on to Butler, with him being paid just $4 million per season. Even though he would probably play his last season in New England and then leave in free agency, it would give the Patriots one of the best secondaries in football. Having the tandem of Butler-Gilmore at corner for one season, or possibly more, is worth way more than a late first round pick. Belichick has managed this situation perfectly up to this point. All he has to do is hold on to Butler to cap off an amazing offseason for the Super Bowl champions. 

Edited by Joe Sparacio, Emily Greitzer, Amelia Shein.

SQuiz
What college did Richard Sherman play for?
Created 4/18/17
  1. Stanford
  2. USC
  3. Oregon
  4. Michigan

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