This NFL free agency period is bound to be dominated by a select few names that are going to break the bank. Looking at guys such as Alshon Jeffery, Kenny Stills, AJ Bouye, and Dontari Poe can take an article to each of them because they could land anywhere based on their skill alone. These five free agents that I will touch on, however, have a bit of a murkier future.
1. Jamaal Charles, Running Back
On February 28th, the Kansas City Chiefs cut ties with their all time leading rusher in Charles. After having been injured each of the last two seasons, it made sense for the Chiefs to move on from Charles and use his salary elsewhere while holding on to their backfield of Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware that has won games for Kansas City in the last two years in Charles’ absence. However, where does that leave Jamaal Charles for next season? When healthy he can be an elite running back that may still have something left in the tank to give to a team in need of a running back. My predictions for Charles would be one of two teams, the Philadelphia Eagles or the New Orleans Saints. The first team, the Eagles, is a simple equation. The Eagles were a middle of the road team in the NFL, 11th, in total rushing yards in 2016. Doug Pederson, the Eagles’ head coach, was the offensive coordinator for Kansas City when Charles was healthy, thus having the offensive scheme fit Charles perfectly. Lastly, as good as Carson Wentz was at times in his rookie campaign, he would be vastly better if he had a rushing attack. Charles could come to Philadelphia, play in a scheme he already knows, and finally play in a larger market where, should he find his old form, could be one of the biggest stories of the 2017 NFL Season. The other team I mentioned was the New Orleans Saints. This is a bit of a more confusing proposition, but hear me out. Mark Ingram was hit or miss at times during the 2016 NFL Season. Tim Hightower is going to be 31 at the start of the season. Charles could come in to New Orleans and, if healthy, be an upgrade over Hightower in third down passing situations. The Saints provide an easier location to be nursed back to health, and should Charles bounce back and regain his old form, Mark Ingram is not the mountain that, say, Ezekiel Elliott or Todd Gurley would be to climb back into a starting role.
2. Adrian Peterson, Running Back
The second veteran running back on this list is Adrian Peterson after the Vikings declined his option on February 28th to make him a free agent when the new league year starts on March 9th. He provides a just as interesting case as Charles in the sense that he has been out for significant time in two of the last three seasons, but he is also now four seasons removed from his amazing comeback and subsequent MVP season in 2012. But now, as a free agent, where will Peterson land? While Peterson did say to Josina Anderson of ESPN that he wouldn’t rule out a return to Minnesota at the right price, my predictions for Peterson are the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, or the New York Giants. The first team I will discuss, probably make the least sense out of the three, the New England Patriots. Coming off their Super Bowl Championship, the Patriots are always looking for ways to get better. While the Patriots do not traditionally run the ball as much as Peterson may like, he did say his ultimate goal would be to win a Super Bowl and more than any other team in the league, New England is the place to chase a ring. The second team I will address on the list is the Oakland Raiders. While the Raiders finished 6th in the NFL in rushing yards in 2016, Latavius Murray is a free agent and there are questions as to whether Jalen Richard can be a starter in Oakland. Peterson can fix all of that right away. In the short term, he provides a terrific replacement for Murray who is likely to cash in with another team in free agency. Additionally, in the long term, Peterson can serve as a mentor to the second year back in Richard. The last team on the list, probably makes the most sense in the New York Giants. The Giants were absolutely awful in 2016 at running the football, 29th in the league. While they have a strong interior offensive line, Rashad Jennings never got going and the Giants began to use rookie Paul Perkins more often as they got deeper into the season and into the playoffs. Unfortunately, as much of a pleasant surprise Perkins was in 2016, if the Giants get half of Peterson’s normal production, he is an immediate upgrade over any running back the Giants currently have on their roster. Additionally, the Giants realize that the clock is ticking on trying to win Eli Manning a third championship ring. Adding Peterson can give the Giants a rushing attack that they have not had since Tiki Barber, and when you pair that with players such as Eli Manning, Sterling Shepard, and of course Odell Beckham Jr., along with a returning shutdown defense from last season, the Giants could have the potential to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 52.
3.Darrelle Revis, Corner Back
Darrelle Revis has made a lot of money over the course of his NFL career. Between the New York Jets, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Revis has made upwards of $100 Million dollars, showing just how important it is to stop a passing attack as it is to have one. But once again, Revis is a free agent after being released by the Jets on February 28th. This time, unlike other free agent ventures, is weighed down by the alleged altercation in Pittsburgh last month involving Revis. That aside, my guess would be that Revis will play in 2017, the question is where? My prediction would be the Pittsburgh Steelers. Revis has done it all, made a lot of money, won a Super Bowl ring, the only thing he hasn’t done is play for his hometown team. Going to the Steelers would do just that. Additionally, the Steelers were a game away from trip to Houston for Super Bowl 51 and could easily advance past the AFC championship with Revis in the secondary. The only hurdle to clear would be the financial side of it. In my opinion however, Revis needs to prove his worth again. After two down years in a row with the Jets, Revis’ value could not be lower. Additionally, the Jets will still pay him $6 Million in guaranteed money for this season for him not to play for them. Revis can get a one year deal in Pittsburgh for five to six million dollars and play in a division in which the only legitimate threat at receiver is AJ Green. Pittsburgh makes a lot of sense for Revis, the only hope I have is that we look back at it similarly to Deion Sanders’ time with the Ravens and not like Terrell Owens’ time with the Seahawks.
4. Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback
Kaepernick lit the news cycle on fire in 2016 for his protesting during the national anthem. Political stances aside, Kaepernick had a slight resurgence in 2016 under Chip Kelly, but it did not lead to any extra wins and Kelly was fired. With that said, on March 1st Kaepernick made it known that he would be opting out of his contract and will become a free agent when the new league year begins on March 9th. The question is, where will the controversial quarterback land, and will he play in 2017? I feel as though he will play, and he will do that in a Cleveland Browns uniform. Regardless of which way the Browns decide to go in the 2017 Draft, there is no doubt that Kaepernick is the flavor of the month very similar to Robert Griffin III last season. Bringing in Kaepernick can do one of two things, it can provide a buffer so that the Browns avoid throwing Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, or Deshone Kizer into the fire right away or it can provide the Browns, who are bound to be in the top five of the draft again, a one year stopgap before potentially drafting either Jake Browning or Lamar Jackson. Ultimately, Hue Jackson needs Kaepernick to save his job. In the back half of the season, the Browns were in almost every game they played, and the lack of a quarterback bit them hard. Kaepernick can spell some of those issues and could provide a couple extra wins for the Browns.
5. Jay Cutler, Quarterback
Oh Happy Days! The Bears who have the third overall pick are finally going to move on from Jay Cutler. The Bears are going to try to trade Cutler and his massive contract, but ultimately they will likely cut him with no guaranteed money left and draft their quarterback of the future. While in my honest opinion, Jay Cutler stinks, he can still be a valuable backup for almost any team in the NFL at the right price. However, there is one team in the NFL that I feel is desperate enough to bring in Cutler and start him, the New York Jets. There are two names on the Jets that make this an ideal landing spot for Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte. The former Bears can team up and try to rekindle some of the old “magic” they had in the Windy City. While Cutlers’ vanilla personality will likely get eaten alive by the New York media, he can also serve as a veteran presence for the young Christian Hackenberg, who actually has some similar traits to Cutler when he came out of Vanderbilt oh so long ago. The Jets need something to either cling on to for dear life or sink them to the bottom of the NFL and get to pick at number one in the 2018 draft and Cutler is just the man for the job.
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