The NFL offseason is upon us! I break down whether some big names around the league will be staying put or wearing new threads next season.
With the ‘17 NFL season behind us and the ‘18 season in the distant horizon, the March 12th free agency deadline becomes fast-approaching for many teams. Decisions on over-performing rookies and under-performing veterans leave many General Managers in a bind when looking at their books, with many tough decisions to be made up and down their respective rosters.
I’m going to break down some of the most critical decisions some teams have this season and what it could mean moving forward. Of course, some big names have already been thrown around for their bubbles (Eli Manning and Dez Bryant, to name a few), here are some more big names that could be playing in different threads come August:
Blake Bortles, Quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars:
Yes, Bortles made the AFC Championship Game. And yes, Bortles nearly went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady in that game. But no, the Jaguars did not get to that point because of Bortles’ talent. Bortles had a career year in 2017—and still was a below average quarterback. Bortles posted a 55.5 QBR, just .4 worse than his career best QBR, which was good for 14th in the NFL. He threw a career low 13 interceptions— which still put him in the top-10 among quarterback interceptions this year. From a talent perspective, Bortles has steadily improved every year in Jacksonville, but the Jaguars may have seen the best Bortles can play this season. Contractually, Bortles’ salary may just be what pushes him out of Jacksonville.
Bortles’ is due $19 million for this upcoming 2018 season, which is currently the third highest base salary across the NFL, and 18th most expensive contract coming off books so far for the upcoming year. Bortles is currently scheduled to make more than Fletcher Cox, Antonio Brown, and Tyron Smith. That is a complete head scratcher in my opinion.
Lucky for the Jaguars, none of the $19 million owed to Bortles is guaranteed, so they can walk away from this contract without taking any hits. Jacksonville has until March 14th to decide on Bortles’ future before his 5th-year option kicks in and becomes fully guaranteed. Look for this move to be done in the next couple of weeks.
The roster verdict: Jacksonville moves on from Bortles.
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Wide receivers, Green Bay Packers:
How Green Bay handles this situation will be an extremely interesting storyline to follow, especially with the breakout of Davante Adams as one of Aaron Rodgers’ most trusted weapons. Cobb and Nelson sit in the same boat contractually but could be sitting on opposite sides of the fence in the eyes of General Manager Ted Thompson. Outside of Rodgers and Clay Matthews, Nelson has been the epitome of consistency, posting four different 1,000-yard seasons in nine seasons, as well as leading the league in touchdown receptions just two seasons ago.
Cobb, on the other hand, has struggled in carving out a role for himself after battling injuries and a declining market share of Rodgers’ targets since Adams’ breakout in 2015. Cobb accounted for 20% of Rodgers’ targets this year, an improvement on his abysmal 13.7% share in ‘16. For just a 20% share of Rodgers’ looks as well as a similar skill set to Adams, Cobb is an expensive asset that is probably not worth the money he will be owed this upcoming season. The Packers save $9.5 million in cap space by releasing or trading Cobb, which might just be expensive enough to warrant Thompson letting go of Cobb.
The roster verdict: Green Bay keeps Nelson but moves on from Cobb.
Jason Peters, Left Tackle, Philadelphia Eagles:
Peters has been one of the most consistent left tackles in the league of the past decade, but a torn ACL left the All-Pro on the sidelines during Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run. Before the injury, the 35-year old Peters had an overall grade of 86.4, per Pro Football Focus. That was good for the fourth highest overall grade among tackles this season. The nine-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro tackle is currently the third highest paid player on the Eagles’ roster, and with plenty of mouths to feed this offseason, Peters could be on the outside looking in for a roster spot if he does not agree to a contract restructure.
The roster verdict: Philadelphia keeps Peters.
Aqib Talib, Cornerback, Denver Broncos
Another rock-solid veteran making an appearance on this list, Talib stands to make $12 million in Denver this upcoming season. Should he be cut, however, Denver will save $11 million of that. With that said, Talib has been worth every penny thus far for the Broncos. Talib has made the Pro Bowl every season in Denver, and earned All-Pro honors just two years ago. He finished as Pro Football Focuses 15th best cornerback this season, with an overall grade of 86.2, but the problem is that Denver has two other cornerbacks who graded above an 84.
Chris Harris and Bradley Roby both held down Denver’s secondary along with Talib this season, but I am going to focus on Roby for the sake of the argument. Roby is currently just 25 years old and will be entering a contract year in which he is getting paid just over $8 million on the season. Compared to Talib, who still has two more years on his contract, it makes more sense for the Broncos to save their money for an inevitable contract extension for Roby.
The roster verdict: Denver moves on from Talib.
Edited by Brian Kang.
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