NFL Betting: One Huge Move Every Team Needs to Make Ahead of 2018
Published on February 19, 2018
For the second straight year, the Super Bowl gave us a thrilling contest that went all the way down to the wire. The Philadelphia Eagles, despite playing with their backup quarterback, Nick Foles, managed to climb the mountain and topple Tom Brady and the juggernaut New England Patriots. Foles led the Eagles to the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy with a 41-33 victory in Minneapolis.
The game , but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to next season. We’re going to have to wait about 7 painstaking months before football comes back, but we can kill some of that time by speculating as to how each of the league’s 32 teams can improve themselves during the offseason.
The Patriots will likely enter next season as Super Bowl favorites…again. Westgate Las Vegas already has the odds posted. These will certainly change depending on how free agency and the draft play out, but we are getting a sneak peek into what oddsmakers are thinking as we head into the 2018 offseason. What can every team do to improve their chances of winning it all next season? Here’s one splashy move each team can make.
The Patriots came up just short in their quest for their sixth Super Bowl crown, but you can bet that Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and friends will be right back in the mix next season. It sounds as though Brady has no plans to retire anytime soon, so there’s no reason to believe New England won’t be among the top teams in the AFC again in 2018.
This is a team without a lot of holes, but one area of need will be at the running back spot. James White and noted bust Mike Gillislee are the only backs under contract for next season, while Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis are slated to hit the free agent market. They could bring one (or both) back, but don’t be surprised if they look elsewhere.
The draft could be the spot. Outside of Le’Veon Bell, this free agency class is lacking. The running back class coming out of the draft, though, is strong. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley looks like the top prospect at the position. However, he’ll be well off the board by the time the Pats’ pick comes around at 31. Barring a trade, which Belichick hasn’t been averse to in the past, they’ll likely have to find someone else.
This is the Patriots, though, so they’ll surely find some diamond in the rough. Georgia’s Sony Michel or Nick Chubb, Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson, USC’s Ronald Jones and LSU’s Derrius Guice are all options. Given Michel’s explosiveness in the open field, he would seem to be a superb fit for how Belichick wants to play offensively. He’d look mighty fine lining up in the New England backfield alongside Tom Brady.
Much like last year, the Steelers are staring at the possibility of signing Le’Veon Bell to a new long-term deal. The 2 sides couldn’t come to an agreement last year, which led to Pittsburgh slapping the talented back with the franchise tag. Bell grudgingly signed his tender, though it remains to be seen whether he’d do so again this summer.
Bell turns 26 in February, so he’s still quite young. However, he has had off-field and injury problems in the past, which could give the Steelers some pause when considering committing big money to keep him. That said, this offense will take a massive hit if he’s not in the fold next season.
Some will argue for the likes of Todd Gurley and/or Alvin Kamara, but Bell has a case as the league’s top overall player at his position. The former Michigan State standout has racked up at least, 1,200 yards on the ground in 3 of his last 4 seasons. He’s also a hugely valuable resource in the passing game, as he finished with a career-best 85 receptions this past season.
Bell has said that he would “consider” sitting out for all of next season if he doesn’t get a long-term deal. It’s hard to believe a player would just throw away a year of his prime rather than play on a $14 million deal, but you never know.
The Steelers can’t risk it, though. They’ve already signed Antonio Brown to a long-term deal, and now’s the time to do the same with Bell.
The Eagles just knocked off the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Might a roster raid be next? The Eagles are clearly solid at the quarterback position, and they have no real urgency to add talent at the skill positions, either. This offseason, their focus should probably be on fortifying the offensive line.
All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters tore his ACL last season, and he just turned 36. While he could still return to full health and be a solid starter, it’s fair to wonder whether his days as a premier tackle in the NFL are in the rearview mirror. Doug Pederson has already tabbed Peters as the team’s starting left tackle next season, but we’ll see.
Philly doesn’t currently have a ton of cap space but cutting bloated contracts like Vinny Curry, Brent Celek and Torrey Smith. Would that open enough space to bring in a guy like Solder? It’s tough to say, but the Eagles wouldn’t be doing their due diligence to wonder whether Peters is actually capable of playing up to his lofty potential at this stage of his career.
Protecting Carson Wentz’ blind side should be of the utmost importance moving forward, so would make plenty of sense. Plus, it would give the Eagles another (albeit minor) victory over the Patriots.
We knew Alex Smith would be playing his football somewhere other than Kansas City in 2018. What we didn’t expect was for that place to be the nation’s capital. The Redskins made the shocking trade for Smith next month, which seems to mean the writing is on the wall for the team’s incumbent QB, Kirk Cousins.
The Redskins and Cousins have been doing the contract dance for the last couple of years, so it’s probably best for both parties if he moved on. If Cousins wants a shot to win the Super Bowl right away, making Minneapolis his new home makes plenty of sense.
The Vikings made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game with Case Keenum as their starter. While Keenum was excellent, it’ll be interesting to see how they approach the QB spot this offseason. Both Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater are free agents. The Vikings could bring them both back and have them compete with one another for the starting job, or they could look to make a splash by signing a big-money player like Cousins.
Cousins would obviously command far more money than either of the other two, but stabilizing the QB spot should be a priority for a team that already boasts a talented defense and an array of skill position talent. Cousins may well be the final piece of the puzzle. Minnesota can’t offer him as much money as a team like the Jets or Browns can, but they can offer him something neither of the others can: the chance to win right away.
Tight end has been a revolving door for the Packers for as long as I can remember. Last season, the team signed Martellus Bennett before quickly releasing him before the season was even halfway over. After Bennett left, the unremarkable Lance Kendricks took over as the top option at the position. Lance Kendricks is not good, so the Packers should dive into the free agency pond once again.
The Packers have never been willing to commit big money to fill that spot, but they should do it now. Aaron Rodgers needs a reliable safety valve, especially coming off a serious injury. Tyler Eifert is a massive risk, but he comes with tremendous upside. We’ve seen flashes of his potential in the past, but he’s been largely derailed over the last couple of seasons by injuries. Back problems have a way of lingering, so it’s not impossible that Eifert may never get back to peak athleticism again.
Because of the injury concerns, though, there’s a chance Eifert may not command as much in free agency as you might think. Playing with a passer like Rodgers may be all it takes to unlock the player the Bengals thought they had when they drafted him in the first round back in 2013. Rather than running out another also-ran at tight end last season, the Packers should get aggressive.
If Eifert’s injury concerns are too serious, then the Pack should take a look at other available options like Trey Burton, Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Cameron Brate.
OK, isn’t a strategy that has gone particularly well for the Saints in the past. Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have gotten themselves into some hairy situations as a result of their tendency to overpay guys that don’t wind up living up to billing. Nick Fairley, Coby Fleener, CJ Spiller, Brandon Browner and Jairus Byrd are just a few of the names that didn’t pan out for New Orleans.
The Saints exceeded expectations last season, and they would’ve been in the NFC title game if not for the Minnesota Miracle. They’re close, the roster may just need a bit of tweaking. While they may do well to take a low-key approach to free agency this year, the prospects of signing an impact defender like Zeke Ansah may prove too tempting to ignore.
Ansah battled injuries last season, but the 28-year-old still managed to find a way to contribute 12 sacks to the Lions’ defensive cause. The Saints may well decide to bring back Alex Okafor, but he ruptured his Achilles in Week 11 last season. Recovery from that particular injury is tough for an athlete, so there’s no telling how Okafor will look upon his return to the field
Signing Ansah is a risk considering the money he’ll earn, but it would be a worthwhile cause for a Saints’ pass rush in need of a leader.
The Falcons have all sorts of internal business to which to attend this spring/summer. They’ll presumably pick up the fifth-year option on pass-rusher Vic Beasley, and then they would do well to ink Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett to new extensions of their own.
Due to the impending free agency of both Dontari Poe and Ahtyba Rubin, Jarrett may be the only defensive tackle on the roster heading into the offseason. Jack Crawford can moonlight at the position, though he’s probably best deployed playing on the end of the line.
The incoming draft class doesn’t seem to have a can’t-miss defensive tackle that will go in the top-10, which plays into Atlanta’s hands considering they’re picking 26th. Vita Vea out of Washington may be the top player on the board at the position. He could get scooped up before 26, but he’d sure be a nice fit for the Falcons on the inside of the line next to Jarrett.
Defensive tackle looks like the team’s top need this offseason.
2 years ago, the notion of the Cowboys outright cutting Dez Bryant probably would’ve sounded insane. The team inked him to a new long-term deal that put him among the highest-paid wide receivers in the game. Playing with Tony Romo, Bryant was incredibly productive and was worth the cash.
Since Dak Prescott took over, though, Bryant hasn’t been the same. He’s battled injuries in that span, but the production just hasn’t been there. No team in the league would willingly pay over $16 million for a receiver that has racked up about 800 receiving yards in each of the last 2 years. That’s just not going to cut it.
Dallas isn’t exactly rife with talent at the position, which makes cutting Dez a risk. Terrence Williams and Cole Beasley aren’t really scaring anyone. Straight-up cutting Bryant would save the Cowboys about $8.5 million. They could ask the player to take a pay cut and earn back some of the money via incentives, but there’s no telling whether Bryant would actually willfully take less money.
The Cowboys should just cut bait and find his replacement elsewhere.
The Rams have the makings of one of the most talented receiving corps in the league, but most of that is based on names. Tavon Austin and Sammy Watkins were both huge prospects coming out of college, but neither player has made much of an impact to this point at the pro level.
Watkins was brought in to be Jared Goff’s No. 1 target last season, but that didn’t pan out. The Rams could decide to give the 24-year-old another year to try and improve, but it may not be worth the trouble. Simply letting him walk as a free agent makes more sense.Austin is owed way too much money for his production, so releasing him should be an easy call. Getting rid of a former top-10 pick doesn’t look great, but they would look even more foolish if they decided to overpay for a player that doesn’t feature heavily in the passing game.
The Seahawks seem to have had the same problem forever. Russell Wilson is clearly a franchise quarterback, but the team has struggled to piece together an offensive line that can adequately protect him. They traded for through last year, and he’s certainly an upgrade over what they were previously running out there.
It may be tough to find the money, however. The Seahawks have all sorts of bloated deals on the books, including the injured Kam Chancellor. They’ll also have to commit money to their current players, like Earl Thomas and Frank Clark. Finding the money to lure free agent O-linemen won’t be easy.
So, Seattle may have to burn draft picks on some bigs to put in front of Wilson. Right tackle looks to be the most glaring area of need along the line, so nabbing a player like Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, Ohio State’s Kolton Miller or Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown.
The Niners started the 2017 season as one of the worst teams in the league. Now, before the offseason feeding frenzy even begins, they’re among the teams with the best odds to win Super Bowl 53. How’d this happen? Well, it seems as though people are really buying into Jimmy Garoppolo, who just became the highest-paid player in the history of the league.
The team has some question marks on the interior of the offensive line, but there are plenty of options available in free agency and in the draft. Carlos Hyde has been a serviceable player since coming out of Ohio State, but he’s hardly a modern back. He’s more of a bruiser than the versatile, pass-catching types that are in vogue these days.
The 49ers should give a long look to someone like Dion Lewis, formerly of the Patriots. Lewis was generally unheralded during his time with the Pats, and he comes with some injury question marks. He’s not a guy that’s going to be able to hold up as an every-down back, but he can be a very solid contributor in a timeshare.
The Jags may have a quarterback decision to make, but it feels for now as though the team is going to run it back with Blake Bortles for another year. Regardless of who starts the season under center, Jacksonville needs to take a long look at their pass-catchers.
Both Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson are set to hit the free agent market, while Allen Hurns looks like a candidate to be cut. We could see this team overhaul the WR group completely this offseason. It seems likely that the Jags will look to the draft. They have a late first-rounder, but they should still be able to find a capable contributor. SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley would all be tempting additions.
If they opt to take the free agent route, Miami’s Jarvis Landry looks like a strong possession receiver that could help stabilize the passing game.
The Texans traded Duane Brown last season after his contract holdout. Finding protection for prized passer Deshaun Watson is clearly Houston’s top priority this offseason. Doing so via the draft will be quite the challenge considering the Texans don’t have a pick until the third round thanks to the Watson and Brock Osweiler trades.
The Texans are a team with talent all over the place on both sides of the ball. The O-line was once a strength of this team, but it is now its only glaring weakness. The aforementioned Nate Solder is a potential free agent fit, especially considering how we know the Texans love to siphon talent from the Patriots. Miami’s JuWuan James is another free agent option.
Just find someone to help keep Watson healthy in 2018.
The Panthers are in a weird spot. Longtime owner , while their interim GM has been placed on leave and is doubtful to return. So, the Panthers don’t really have anybody steering the ship at the moment, which could lead to a complicated offseason.
It’s also worth noting that this team won’t have much to spend in free agency. They only have about $15 million in cap space, most of which they’ll have to use in order to bring back their own players. As a result, Carolina isn’t likely to be a big player in free agency.
Fortunately, they own all of their draft picks save for their fourth-rounder, and they also have a pair of later-round picks coming in from Buffalo. Wide receiver looks like an area of need, so some of the players I previously linked with the Jaguars would also make sense for the Panthers.
This has been something of a theme here. The Chargers boast one of the league’s most talented defenses, and just about everyone is under contract to return in 2018. With the skill positions looking well-stocked, as well, the team could stand to use some of their capital on helping to protect Philip Rivers.
Russell Okung is fine as the left tackle, but each of the other 4 spots isn’t as fortified. Another area of need could be the interior of the defensive line. Corey Liuget is a strong player, but he could use some help. If the Chargers are able to address these spots, they should be in line for a playoff berth in their second year in L.A.
The Chiefs already made their big move of the offseason when they shipped Alex Smith to D.C. That means second-year QB Pat Mahomes will be handed the full-time keys to the offense next season. There aren’t many better ways to help a young passer than by supplying him with all the help he can get. One way the Chiefs can do that is to invest in another wide receiver.
Tyreek Hill is arguably the game’s most electrifying open-field talent, but the quality at WR drops off considerably after him. Jeremy Maclin left a rather large hole when he left for Baltimore. Kansas City , but they could dip their toes into the free agency pond.
Landry makes sense as an underneath threat to complement Hill’s over-the-top game. Allen Robinson is another high-upside option if the Jaguars decide to move on.