For many, the NFL offseason is simultaneously one of the most exciting, high-stakes, perplexing and upsetting times of year. When one is looking for utter confusion, hopeful and hopeless speculation and decision-making sure to spark heated debate, look no further than the NFL offseason.
The new league year begins on March 9, also ringing in the start of the NFL free agency period. Free agency can shape the outlook of the season for many teams, for better or worse. This year has been no exception, with each team in the league taking its fair share of acquisitions and losses. It can be argued that, to this point, no team has made a bigger splash than the New York Giants.
The Giants cut former wide receiver star Victor Cruz and did not have to look far for a replacement. In fact, they looked to MetLife Stadium’s other tenant. The Giants signed wide receiver Brandon Marshall after he was cut by the New York Jets. Marshall’s release by the Jets was a shocking turn of events for a receiver who had made the Pro Bowl six times.
With the signing of stud offensive lineman D.J. Fluker from the Los Angeles Chargers and the re-signing of Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants are thrust to the top of the NFC playoff picture. It is fun to imagine an offense with Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning, Marshall and Sterling Shepard; perhaps none are more excited than Marshall himself, as he looks to make his first postseason appearance.
The Jets, on the other hand, appear to be in full rebuild mode. The team unloaded a number of star players and fan favorites, including perennial Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, the aforementioned Marshall and seven-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion cornerback Darrelle Revis, with more moves expected. The Jets are currently looking at a quarterback competition this offseason between Christian Hackenberg, who was their second-round draft pick last year, newly signed veteran Josh McCown and Bryce Petty, who is entering his third season.
Although the team signed former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne to fill Revis’ void, glaring issues remain across the board. The defense underperformed last year and 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson is currently being shopped on the free agency market. The patchwork offensive line lacks an anchor amid Mangold’s departure, and the quarterback situation is not ideal. It is tough to believe that the Jets will settle on McCown in terms of quarterback acquisitions, with multiple free agent options to explore including Jay Cutler, Cincinnati Bengals backup AJ McCarron and Tony Romo. Given their dormant offseason to date, it seems the Jets will start their rebuilding period with the draft.
Around the league, there have been a great deal of shocking moves that will shape the landscape next season. For starters, one of the greatest running backs in the history of the league, Adrian Peterson, is currently unemployed. After an injury ended his 2016 campaign, the Minnesota Vikings released him, bringing in Oakland Raiders starting running back Latavius Murray. Peterson looks to sign with a team willing to take a chance on him. He is on the wrong side of 30 years old and has a history of severe leg injuries. However, in the right system, he can still flourish as he did in 2015.
The Green Bay Packers made an uncharacteristic splash in free agency as they signed tight end Martellus Bennett, who is coming off of a Super Bowl season with the New England Patriots. Green Bay also signed former Los Angeles Rams tight end Lance Kendricks adding a combined 1,200 yards of total offense between both tight ends to what was an already productive offense. On defense, the team reunited with cornerback Davon House, who had a stint in Jacksonville, and re-signed linebacker Nick Perry, a highly touted free agent this year.
Another big move involved the $72 million quarterback Brock Osweiler, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns for draft picks. Osweiler was a failed experiment in Houston and is looking for a fresh start in Cleveland, but he first has to make the team. The Philadelphia Eagles bolstered their receiving corps with the signings of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, adding a veteran presence to a young locker room and two tremendous weapons for Carson Wentz, who looks to develop in his second year. The Buffalo Bills retained quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and signed prized hybrid defensive back Micah Hyde away from Green Bay. They lost, however, starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore to division rivals New England.
While the initial wave of free agency signing is behind them, teams around the league are no less active, as they quietly add value through cheap, sleeper free agent options. Simulataneously, team scouts tour the nation for the top college prospects as they display their skills at their respective school’s Pro Day.
The offseason raises many questions about the coming season, and most of them are yet to be answered. Where will Peterson and Romo play next season? Who will sign Mangold and Revis?
With the NFL draft rapidly approaching and free agency in full swing, football executives are working the phones and scouring the country in search for talent.