2018 NFL – Bold offseason predictions for all 32 teams

NFL


How many quarterbacks will surpass Jimmy Garoppolo as the NFL’s highest-paid player? Will the Eagles shop Nick Foles? Which teams will fail in the bidding war for Kirk Cousins?

NFL Nation reporters make predictions for the offseason.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


AFC East

The Bills will trade up to select a quarterback in the first round of the draft

This might not be bold in the sense that it would be unexpected, but it would be a bold move for second-year general manager Brandon Beane and would likely define his tenure as GM. In public comments since taking over for Doug Whaley last year, Beane has been lukewarm on the future of Tyrod Taylor and has noted how the NFL is a “quarterback league” where the best at their position often lead teams to titles. In three seasons, Taylor has yet to show he can do that, so the Bills could bundle some of their draft picks — they own extra first-, second- and fifth-round selections — to take a quarterback high in the draft with the hope of finding a gem. — Mike Rodak

The Dolphins will fail to re-sign free-agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry

Landry has a record 400 receptions through his first four seasons in the league. The two parties have swapped offers and are far apart in negotiations toward a new deal. Landry will test the open market, which will drive up the price and lead to the Dolphins letting him walk. — ESPN.com staff

The Patriots will draft a quarterback in the first two rounds

They’ll take a QB early hoping to develop “the next Jimmy Garoppolo.” They have good draft capital with three picks in the first two rounds. Tom Brady will be 41 years old next season, and developing his potential replacement is a high priority. — Mike Reiss

The Jets will re-sign Josh McCown as a bridge quarterback to …

After failing to acquire Kirk Cousins, the Jets will re-sign McCown, then draft Mason Rudolph in the second round. General manager Mike Maccagnan refuses to pay the exorbitant cost to trade up to take one of the top three QBs, so he’ll pick the best player with the sixth overall pick and settle for Rudolph on Day 2. — Rich Cimini

AFC North

The Ravens will sign tight end Jimmy Graham in free agency

Baltimore desperately needs playmakers for quarterback Joe Flacco, and Graham can be a difference-maker in the red zone. Graham scored 10 touchdowns last season, which led all tight ends and doubled the production of all of the Ravens’ tight ends combined (five touchdowns). Flacco has always loved throwing to tight ends, and the Ravens relied heavily on 37-year-old Ben Watson because Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams were primarily blocking tight ends. Graham isn’t the same game-changer as he was when he played for New Orleans four years ago, but he would fill a big void on the NFL’s No. 29 passing offense and shouldn’t require Baltimore to break the bank to sign him. –Jamison Hensley

AJ McCarron will lose his grievance, but won’t be on the Bengals’ roster in 2018

McCarron will find out Feb. 15 whether he is a restricted or unrestricted free agent. He has said repeatedly that he would like to get his chance somewhere, and that almost happened in a failed trade with the Browns. If McCarron loses his grievance, the Bengals will place a tender on him, and some quarterback-needy team such as the Browns will likely make a play for him, giving him his shot to be a starter outside Cincinnati. — Katherine Terrell

The experienced quarterback the Browns will add will not be Kirk Cousins

The Browns will reach out to try to sign Cousins, but his desire to go to a team without drama will eliminate Cleveland as an option. Cousins will seek and find a situation more to his liking in Denver or Minnesota. A player like AJ McCarron from Cincinnati seems like a far more realistic possibility. — Pat McManamon

The Steelers find a way to re-up Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger

The hang-up with Bell has been guarantees, which the Steelers usually don’t earmark beyond the first year. But Bell remains encouraged that both sides can strike a sweet spot. Roethlisberger is underpaid for 2018 with $17 million in total money, and though he has two years left on his deal, his private commitment to three more seasons opens the door for one last contract. The Steelers don’t have major cap space but can create more by cutting ties with several aging veterans. — Jeremy Fowler

AFC South

The Texans will make Jadeveon Clowney the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL

Clowney still has one year remaining on his rookie contract and is scheduled to make $13.846 million in 2018. Although Clowney spent nearly half of his first two NFL seasons dealing with injuries, the 2014 No. 1 overall pick has become a dominant pass-rusher, spending time at outside linebacker and defensive end. If Clowney signs a deal making more than $114.5 million, he would pass Von Miller and Ndamukong Suh for the two biggest non-quarterback contracts. — Sarah Barshop

The Colts will use their first-round pick on NC State’s Bradley Chubb

Chubb will be the Colts’ most feared pass-rusher since linebacker Robert Mathis had 19.5 sacks in 2013. Chubb would remain in his comfort zone of playing defensive end instead of outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 scheme. — Mike Wells

The Jaguars will select a quarterback in the first or second round of the draft

The team appears ready to stick with Blake Bortles for 2018 — though there has been nothing definitive — and will work on adding better playmakers at receiver and tight end. But Bortles will have to improve on what he did in 2017 — with a 60.2 completion percentage and 21 touchdowns to 13 interceptions — for the team to consider him the long-term answer. They’ll draft a QB in the first or second round — Lamar Jackson seems to be the name that comes up the most in mock drafts — and let him compete with Bortles throughout the offseason. — Mike DiRocco

The Titans will release DeMarco Murray, but Derrick Henry won’t become the unquestioned workhorse running back

Murray will soon be 30 years old, coming off an injury-plagued and disappointing 2017 season. Mike Mularkey had a special affinity for Murray, but new coach Mike Vrabel will go in a different direction. Murray has two years left on his deal, but there is no penalty to release him, and he’s no longer worth the $6.25 million salary he is due. Everyone assumes the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Henry would then become Tennessee’s 25-touch-a-game back, but the Titans will bring in a more versatile back via free agency, trade or the draft. That back will own passing downs, become a favorite target for Marcus Mariota and force Henry into a time-share for the third consecutive season. — Cameron Wolfe

AFC West

The Broncos will release multiple high-profile veteran players

Most of whom have made at least one Pro Bowl in their time with the team. When Denver’s 5-11 season was finally over, cornerback Aqib Talib, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and running back C.J. Anderson were among the players who were uncertain about their futures. Talib, especially, with Bradley Roby in place to be a starter, is on particularly shaky ground. The Broncos would save $11 million against the salary cap if he were released. — Jeff Legwold

The Chiefs will move on from linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali

Johnson and Hali, the Chiefs’ first-round draft picks in 2005 and 2006, are franchise icons and among Kansas City’s most popular players. But the team appears to have found Johnson’s eventual replacement last year in Reggie Ragland, while Hali looked like a player at the end of his career last season. — Adam Teicher

The Chargers will trade for a defensive playmaker

General manager Tom Telesco has made only six trades in his five-year tenure as the team’s top personnel man. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley developed the Bolts into one of the top defensive units in the league last season, but he could still use another veteran playmaker to join Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa and Casey Hayward. Bradley has experience working with Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who could be headed for greener pastures and appears interested in moving on from the Legion of Boom. — Eric D. Williams

Jon Gruden will part ways with not one, but five big names

And those big names will be: running back Marshawn Lynch, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, linebacker Bruce Irvin and cornerbacks Sean Smith and David Amerson. Gruden will then zero in on Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry and give Khalil Mack his contract extension. Crazy talk? Perhaps, but cutting those five players would give the Raiders an additional $36.3 million in salary-cap space, and Gruden — with general manager Reggie McKenzie’s help and owner Mark Davis’ blessing, of course — could forge ahead with his vision. That vision could include the likes of Landry, who vibed with Derek Carr at the Pro Bowl, another pass-rusher to free up Mack, and a backup quarterback such as (gasp) Colin Kaepernick. Hey, you wanted bold. — Paul Gutierrez

NFC East

Dez Bryant will not be with the Cowboys in 2018

The Cowboys will release the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown catches and gain $8.5 million in salary-cap space. Stephen Jones’ recent comments about Bryant’s sideline antics being a distraction and needing to look at the contract seem to be setting the stage for the parting. It is possible the Cowboys could offer Bryant a pay cut, but that’s not something they did with DeMarcus Ware — the franchise leader in sacks — after the 2013 season. They did not have a replacement for Ware when they made the move then, and they don’t have a replacement for Bryant now, but they can use free agency and/or the draft to add a receiver to do what Bryant has done the past three seasons. — Todd Archer

The Giants will sign All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell

It will be costly, but he has the connection to general manager Dave Gettleman, and the team’s top priority this offseason is improving the line. The Giants also will re-sign Justin Pugh to play tackle. That’s a lot of money to allocate to the line and two of the top linemen in free agency. — Jordan Raanan

The Eagles will reject trade offers for Nick Foles

There’s sure to be at least some level of interest for the Super Bowl MVP, but the Eagles are in the business of collecting talent at quarterback, not giving it away. With one year left on his deal, it seems unlikely a team would pony up what it would take for the Eagles to part ways with Foles. — Tim McManus

The Redskins will not trade Kirk Cousins, but will have to let him hit unrestricted free agency

Even if the Redskins do place the franchise tag on Cousins, as they are considering, they’ll see that it will ultimately be too risky to do this maneuver and possibly get stuck with that cap figure at the start of free agency, thereby hurting their chances of signing players. So they’d be forced to rescind the tag before free agency begins. Cousins will then find a new team on his own terms. — John Keim

NFC North

For the first time since 2010-11, the Bears could draft a quarterback in consecutive years

Last spring’s second overall pick, Mitchell Trubisky, is Chicago’s unquestioned starter heading into 2018, but the rest of the depth chart is fluid. There’s almost no chance that Mike Glennon returns for a second season. Not only is Glennon scheduled to make way too much money ($12.5 million), but he doesn’t fit the style of offense new head coach Matt Nagy is expected to run. Third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez, who dutifully served as Trubisky’s mentor, is a free agent. The odds of Sanchez coming back are exponentially higher than Glennon’s chances of sticking around. Regardless, the Bears are definitely in the market for another backup. — Jeff Dickerson

The Lions take a defensive lineman in the first round of the draft

No, this isn’t extremely bold considering it is Detroit’s biggest need and general manager Bob Quinn has said he knows he needs to add some defensive pieces. Add in that new coach Matt Patricia is a defense-minded coach, and barring something unexpected, a defensive lineman should be the pick at No. 20. Who that is? That’s way too early to tell, although if a player such as Washington’s Vita Vea, Stanford’s Harrison Phillips, Michigan’s Maurice Hurst or UTSA’s Marcus Davenport are available, those could be the early players to look at for the spot. — Michael Rothstein

General manager Brian Gutekunst will try to trade up into the top 10 of the draft

The bold moves might already have occurred with the removal of Ted Thompson as general manager, plus new coordinators on both sides of the ball (Joe Philbin on offense and Mike Pettine on defense). The new GM will be more active in unrestricted free agency than Thompson, but that’s not saying much considering how little Thompson did. Look for Gutekunst to make his biggest splashes in the draft, considering his history as a college scout. Last year, Thompson traded out of the first round. Expect the opposite this year. Look for Gutekunst to try to trade up from No. 14 overall and get the Packers into the top 10 for the first time since 2009. — Rob Demovsky

The Vikings will re-sign Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater in 2018

The move will force a quarterback competition in camp to see who will be the Week 1 starter. Keenum will be a hot commodity in free agency, but I doubt teams are going to go all-in on a quarterback who has had only one stellar season as a starter. Minnesota has the cap space to pay Keenum upward of $15 million to $20 million for a short-term deal and give Bridgewater a contract for $8 million to $10 million. That’s a substantial price tag for a backup, but who knows whether the dynamic will stay that way come training camp. Keenum got the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game this year, but Minnesota has invested too much in Bridgewater’s recovery to part ways with him now. Given how they planned out their cap space for 2018, bringing back both seems like the easiest option. — Courtney Cronin

NFC South

Matt Ryan will give the Falcons a hometown discount

Ryan, the 2016 MVP, has every right to command a contract that would make him the league’s highest-paid player, especially after the 49ers rewarded virtually unproven quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with a five-year, $137.5 million deal with $90 million guaranteed over the first three years. And there is a chance Kirk Cousins could even top that if he reaches free agency. But Ryan won’t get caught in the numbers, especially if taking less means solidifying the roster more for Super Bowl runs next season and beyond. Yes, Ryan has an agent in Tom Condon who won’t settle for peanuts, but Ryan is an unselfish player and will do whatever is best for the team. — Vaughn McClure

Defensive end Julius Peppers will return for one more season

Then the 38-year-old will retire. The Panthers also will draft a young defensive end in the first round to develop as a future replacement. Peppers, with 11 sacks, showed this past season that, when managed right, he still can be productive. He had surgery on his right shoulder Thursday and is not under contract for 2018, but retaining a veteran leader at a low salary-cap figure will enable the staff to make other moves needed to make a run at the Super Bowl, which Peppers still has on his bucket list. — David Newton

Drew Brees will sign a short-term extension with $30 million or less in guarantees

The Saints have made it clear in recent years that they want to take things one year at a time with Brees’ contract, and the 39-year-old has been willing to play ball. So even though we just saw Jimmy Garoppolo raise the bar for franchise QBs with a reported five-year deal worth $27.5 million per year and Alex Smith “set the floor” for this year’s QB market with a reported four-year, $94 million deal that includes $71 million in guarantees, I expect Brees’ deal to be much smaller in scope. I also expect it to get done before he gets the chance to flirt with other teams on the open market in March. — Mike Triplett

The Bucs will move on from running back Doug Martin

The two-time Pro Bowler was given a second chance after a four-game suspension and a stint in a drug rehab program in 2016, but he has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry the past two seasons, which doesn’t warrant a $6.75 million salary for next year. The Bucs no longer owe him any guaranteed money and can move on with three years remaining on his contract without any penalty. — Jenna Laine

NFC West

The Cardinals will make a major move to acquire the quarterback they need

It could come through free agency, a trade or the draft, but the Cardinals will do something to figure out a solution to their most pressing need at the moment. If it’s in free agency, it could be taking a chance on a high-priced option. If it’s through a trade, they could move a piece of their vaunted defense. If it’s through the draft, they could move up from 15th overall, so when the run of quarterbacks begins early in the first round, they’ll be prepared to take one. — Josh Weinfuss

Aaron Donald will become the game’s highest-paid defensive player

The Rams seemed ready to do that last offseason, but Donald’s side appeared to lean toward waiting — unless, perhaps, he was offered quarterback-level compensation. It’s different now, with Donald coming up on the final season of his rookie contract. Chances are Donald’s representatives would still prefer to let Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack set the market first. But Donald should nonetheless command more money, as a three-time first-team All-Pro who just won AP Defensive Player of the Year and is far and away the game’s best interior lineman. Donald is suddenly very pleased with the Rams’ direction under Sean McVay. It might not lead to a discount, but it should lead to him putting pen to paper at some point before training camp. — Alden Gonzalez

At least three quarterbacks will exceed Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract before next season begins

The Niners and Garoppolo agreed to a five-year, $137.5 million contract Thursday, making Garoppolo the highest-paid player in the league with an annual salary averaging $27.5 million. But Garoppolo’s status as the top dog isn’t going to last long. Kirk Cousins is about to hit the open market, which means Cousins will likely be the focal point of a serious bidding war. On top of that, the Packers and Falcons have said they intend to sign quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, respectively, to new deals this offseason. Don’t be surprised if Garoppolo is “only” the fourth-highest paid quarterback in the league by the time training camp opens. Life is tough. — Nick Wagoner

The Seahawks will shop Earl Thomas in trade talks

And they’ll pull the trigger if the price is right. Thomas, who’s entering the final year of his four-year, $40 million extension, already has drawn a line in the sand by saying that he won’t play without a new deal. Will he be satisfied with anything less than topping Eric Berry as the NFL’s highest-paid safety at $13 million per season? Thomas is coming off another excellent season, and his importance to Seattle’s defense is obvious. But he’s also turning 29 in May and has missed seven games because of three injuries over the past two seasons. The Seahawks need to get younger on defense and might be wary of making another huge financial commitment to an aging player after getting burned on big-money extensions for Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett. So it’s not at all hard to envision a stalemate. The Seahawks openly shopped Richard Sherman last year only to hang on to him when no team was willing to meet their asking price, which was reported to be a first-round pick plus another selection. If extension talks for Thomas reach an impasse and another team is willing to give up just a first-round pick for him, the guess here is that the Seahawks would take it and move on from one of the best players in franchise history. — Brady Henderson



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