2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions

Welcome to the first article of my 2019 NFL free agency prediction series!  Today, I’ll be sharing my predictions for where offensive skill position players (QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs) end up signing.  Where will Le’Veon Bell be headed after a year away from football?  Where will Nick Foles find himself a starting job?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and you check out my tentative schedule for the entire series below.  In later articles, I will include links to the previously posted articles:

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2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions

Series Schedule

Monday, March 4: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions

Wednesday, March 6: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 2: Linemen

Saturday, March 9: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 3: Linebackers and Defensive Backs

 

QB

In my eyes, Foles is the only viable starter that’s currently on the free agent market. Blake Bortles or Ryan Tannehill could eventually be released/traded, but for now, the choice is targeting Foles or waiting for the draft. Unlike other QB needy teams, the Jags could easily return to the playoffs with the right QB leading them. That being said, a veteran QB makes sense. The Giants, Redskins, and others will go for a combo of a rookie and a veteran mentor.

For Washington, Alex Smith will not be able to serve as a veteran mentor considering his severe knee injury in 2018. Colt McCoy isn’t a viable starter in my eyes either. However, Teddy Bridgewater is a free agent who has experience starting, so he could serve as Washington’s bridge starter (no pun intended) until their young QB, whether it be Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, or someone else, has time to develop.

The Bucs and Dolphins will also be on the lookout for veteran backups. Look for them to resign their 2018 backup QBs, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brock Osweiler. The Bills could also use some depth at QB behind Josh Allen, so bringing back their former QB, Tyrod Taylor, could be smart.

That would leave Josh McCown as the best free agent QB left. I have him going to LA to backup Philip Rivers until they draft Rivers’ successor.

RB

Viable Starters

Bell might be the best player on the open market in a long time. The Steelers refused to pay him what he wanted. But who will be up to pay him? He reportedly wants $25 million annually. I don’t think anyone will give him that, but I think he’d settle for $20 million/year if he ever wants to play again. If the Eagles free up enough cap between Foles’ departure and a release or two, they will be willing to pay for him for some answers at RB. Right now, they have a surplus of RBs, but no clear cut starter.

I see Ajayi, Philly’s last starting RB, leading a refined RB committee in Tampa. Expect an aging Adrian Peterson to do the same in Indianapolis. On the contrary, Ingram and Coleman will leave RB committees to become full time starters on RB needy teams. Coleman will replace Kareem Hunt, while Ingram will replace Marshawn Lynch (I see him retiring). The Ravens’ backfield is getting pretty crowded after the emergence of Gus Edwards, but I think Alex Collins will wind up back in Baltimore.

RB2 Options

The 49ers may have Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida at RB, but a veteran mentor like 3-time Super Bowl champion LeGarrette Blount could be helpful if they resort to an RB committee.  Yeldon will serve a similar role in Green Bay, playing alongside young RBs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.  The Steelers could also use a veteran in their backfield behind new starter James Conner, and I think Martin could be a good fit.  Despite leading the Rams in the playoffs, Anderson may have to settle for a backup/committee role as well.  He could be a good replacement for Coleman in Atlanta.  Murray was successful in Minnesota, and there’s room for him in the backfield, so I see him coming back.  With Coleman headed to Kansas City, the Chiefs will move on from Spencer Ware as he heads to Dallas to backup Ezekiel Elliott.

WR/TE

Top Tier WRs

Sam Darnold showed flashes of talent in his rookie year.  I think a better RB and a #1 receiver could make all the difference for him.  They should chase after Tate aggressively if they cannot land Antonio Brown (I have him going to San Fran).  Bryant barely played last year, but he still could serve as a WR1.  The Bills could be a fit, but if they pass up on Bryant, they could also take D.K. Metcalf in Round 1 of the draft.

Cobb looks to be leaving Green Bay, and the Steelers may seek depth options at receiver after Antonio Brown leaves.  Cobb could be a fit to play across from JuJu Smith-Schuster.  The Lions have no clear cut WR1 after Tate’s departure, but if they sign a lower tier option like John Brown, Matthew Stafford could look evenly split targets among Brown, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay.

Moncrief and Wallace aren’t viable #1 receivers at this point, but they could still be a big help for WR needy teams.  Moncrief could be a good option for the Pats, rather than overspending for Golden Tate.  I have Wallace returning to the Eagles to play alongside Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.  This trio never played together despite being lined up as Philly’s top 3 receivers on the depth chart in 2018 training camp.

WR Depth Options

The Bills need more than just Bryant or Metcalf – maybe they can pair up Bryant with Beasley, his former teammate.  The Ravens could also use some more depth at WR.  Funchess isn’t a top tier option, but if they cannot land or draft someone top tier, he will have to do.  Maybe they can pair Funchess with a rookie WR1.  The Chiefs may not bring in anyone new, but they could bring back Conley to play behind Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.

The Colts could use some more experienced options across from T.Y. Hilton – Matthews could be a good choice.  They could always draft someone to split time as the #2 receiver with him.  Williams upped his value this season, but I still cannot see many teams paying him WR1 money.  The Jets could use another depth option behind Tate, especially if Robby Anderson leaves.  The Patriots need all the quality WRs they can afford, so Dorsett could be a good option to bring back considering his developing chemistry with Tom Brady.

Top Tier TEs

Eifert has a concerning injury history, and I think it’s time for Cincinnati to move on.  But Detroit could pair him with a drafted TE to ensure security at the position.  Kroft will return to Cincy with Eifert on his way out.  Kroft will return to Cincy with Eifert on his way out.  The Saints could also use a veteran TE alongside the young Dan Arnold, and Cook might be the most consistent veteran on the market.  It would be smart for the Texans to target Noah Fant or T.J. Hockenson in the draft, but signing a veteran in the meantime couldn’t hurt, and James could be a good mentor for their new TE.

Lewis and Rodgers are not cut out to be a team’s #1 tight end at this point.  But they can provide depth as a TE2, with Lewis backing up Vance McDonald and Rodgers backing up Chris Herndon IV.

WR/TE Depth Options

Darnold needs more consistent receivers, so I could see the Jets moving on from Robby Anderson.  Anderson could be a good depth piece in Cleveland, serving as the WR2 over Antonio Callaway.  Humphries is also going into free agency expecting WR2 money.  But I think he will have to settle for a little less, and if his price drops, the Pats may be willing to pay for him for additional depth.  He is a good fit in New England.  Despite a disappointing 2018, I could still see Benjamin contributing behind Davante Adams in Green Bay.  They’ll need to draft a younger receiver to play alongside them though.

If the Lions sign anyone else at TE besides Eifert, I don’t think it will be their 2018 tight end Luke Willson.  Josh Hill has a slightly better track record and could be a good bargain for the Lions.  I see Willson returning to Seattle to compete for playing time with Will Dissly, Ed Dickson, and others.  Kendricks was the most consistent of Green Bay’s tight ends this year, so look for them to retain him alongside Jimmy Graham.

 

Wow, that’s a lot of quality free agents.  The madness will begin in a little over a week.  Stay tuned for more predictions later in the week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2018 NFL Week 8 Picks & Previews: Could be Exciting Sunday with Many Close Games

Welcome to my NFL Week 8 Picks and Previews.  Last week I went 8-6, putting my overall record at 61-44-2 (62-44-2 including Week 8 TNF).  I’m hoping for at least 9 or 10 wins this week to get ahead of the ESPN and CBS Sports experts I am trying to compete with.  I am ahead of just 1 expert from each website.  This week, expect a lot of close, exciting games.  Even Vegas is predicting this, as many of their NFL point spreads this week are under 4.  But with lots of close games comes lots of surprises.  Who will pull a shocking upset?  Who will stand strong and win as expected?  Read below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

Stay tuned for a potential video preview closer to the game!

There are not many locks this week, but the Patriots should be able to take down the QB Josh Allen-less Bills with ease.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in Buffalo, and it doesn’t matter that it’s Monday Night Football.  Expect QB Tom Brady and the Pats to dominate here, taking an early lead and running with it.  The Patriots defense isn’t going to go from shaky to shut down in a week, but it should hold a struggling, banged-up Bills offense to 20 or less points. One thing this offense does have on the New England is a strong run game.  New England has continued to struggle against strong run games this year.  But I don’t expect much else from the Bills offense, and the Pats should end up winning by 10 or more.

Upset of the Week

This would be a shocker given Kansas City’s performance in Denver and Denver’s tendency to perform far better at home.  But it’s hard to beat the same team twice, especially when they are riding the momentum of a 45-10 victory including a spectacular defensive game.  I understand that it was the Cardinals, but momentum is momentum. Thanks to this momentum, I think Denver’s D will do surprisingly well in stopping Kansas City’s dominant offense.  This all-offense Chiefs team will struggle against a Broncos offense that has improved from 2017. TE Travis Kelce will catch Kansas City’s lone TD as the rest of the offense is overwhelmed by the Denver D in an upsetting loss.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night)

Expect a low scoring game as the Texans shut down defense overwhelms QB Brock Osweiler and the young Miami pass offense.  Expect the Dolphins backfield to struggle as well, with Houston’s defense holding them under 50 yards combined. I don’t see the Texans dominating on offense, but it will be enough thanks to a strong game by WR DeAndre Hopkins and the front seven’s performance.
Sunday, 9:30 AM EST (Posted to Twitter before the game)

I don’t think Jacksonville’s defense will look as sharp as usual in London, especially after 4 Jaguars defenders were arrested last night.  But they will improve from the surprising struggles of the last couple weeks.  Look for QB Blake Bortles to regroup and rebound after being replaced last week, leading the Jags to a surprising London victory.  But Philly should keep it close with strong run defense against the troubled Jags run game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

In this battle of two of the league’s rising defenses, don’t expect much from either young QB.  QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers will put up a dud against New York’s amazing secondary. But the Jets offense won’t be looking any better with RB Bilal Powell and most of their best receivers hurt.  Chicago’s defense should come up clutch, holding the Jets under 10 and saving Chicago the game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Browns tied the Steelers in Cleveland, but don’t expect as close a game in Pittsburgh.  The Steelers will make up for RB Le’Veon Bell’s continued absence with a dominant day by WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.  Pittsburgh’s D should also appear surprisingly better, holding the Browns young offense under 20.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Jameis Winston and his TE duo to lead Tampa to victory against a Bengals defense left with holes after losses in free agency.  QB Andy Dalton and his receivers should make this close, but the defensive problems will begin to stab them in the back. The Bucs will win on the road thanks to another big day on offense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a strong game out of QB Cam Newton and the Panthers offense.  But the Ravens versatile defense should slow them down significantly.  However, Baltimore’s receivers will still struggle to keep up as Newton’s multi-TD game is enough to lead Carolina to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

I know most people would call me crazy for expecting 34 points out of the Giants.  But this is a team that beat the 5-3 Houston Texans.  I don’t think the G-Men are really as bad as they seem.  Even the GM has given up.  But I think the Giants will turn it around and win a few games before the season ends.  They have a talented, star-studded offense.  All they need is a QB who can manage that.  If QB Eli Manning cannot, maybe another QB on the roster is the answer.  WR Odell Beckham Jr. will be kept busy against CB Josh Norman, but you can expect strong games out of RB Saquon Barkley and New York’s other offensive weapons. The Redskins will make this close with a clutch offensive performance, but I have them falling just short.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Matt Patricia’s Lions to win another one on home turf as they begin to look like legitimate contenders.  The Seahawks should be able to overwhelm the Lions D, one of Detroit’s biggest flaws this year.  But QB Matthew Stafford’s 3 TD game should be enough for a Lions home victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Colts should make this close with a surprisingly strong offensive performance led by QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton.  They will take advantage of a weak, rebuilding Raiders D.  But expect Oakland to shine on offense against Indy, who has one of the worst defenses in the league.  It doesn’t matter if WR Amari Cooper is here or not. The Raiders will miss Cooper and injured RB Marshawn Lynch, but should still manage to win. If they can beat the Browns in Oakland, they can do the same to Indy.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST
I was tempted to pick the Packers in an upset as the Rams offense struggles without injured WR Cooper Kupp.  But this versatile Rams defense is just too good to allow 20+ points to a Packers offense that lacks WR depth despite an amazing QB in Aaron Rodgers.  Defense will win the Rams this game as they remain undefeated.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Arizona’s only win so far this year was in San Francisco.  I think they can beat the QB Jimmy Garoppolo-less 49ers again in Arizona.  They will be led by strong games out of young QB Josh Rosen and RB David Johnson.  The Niners should look decent on offense and make this close.  But I think the Cardinals will hold on on home turf.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

 

I think Minnesota’s offense will be slowed by a young Saints D that just added CB Eli Apple.  But the Vikings defense should look even better, holding the Saints under 20 points and to just 1 TD.  This shut down defensive performance should lead the Vikes to victory.

That’s all for my picks and previews this week.  Stay tuned for more NFL posts soon, including my midseason report next week.

Pats Stun Pittsburgh and Steal Win

With 8 minutes left in the game, the Pats were down by eight points, and I was losing hope.  I don’t know how they won.  They had a nice drive going, but Pats QB Tom Brady was sacked, and they were held to a field goal.  Then they took a 27-24 lead in a 2-minute drill by scoring a TD and a 2-point conversion.  But they left 1-minute for the Steelers.  They almost blew it.  On the first play with 52 seconds left, the Pats couldn’t get their hands on Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster on a short pass over the middle as he escaped tacklers and scurried down the field for 69 yards.  On the next play, TE Jesse James scored a TD on a pass up the middle diving into the end zone.  But video replay reversed the call.  2 plays later with no timeouts left and about 15 seconds left, Big Ben faked the spike and then tried to force a pass up the middle.  Eric Rowe deflected it right into the hands of Harmon, stunning the Steelers, and stealing the win

The Patriots won in comeback fashion in what was arguably the game of the year, as the Pats beat Pittsburgh 27-24.  You could argue that there was no tangible evidence to overturn the Steelers last-minute touchdown but the resilience the Pats showed leading up to the play, they deserved a call in their favor.  It all started on New England’s first drive.

QB Tom Brady and WR Brandin Cooks tried to set the tone early as Brady threw Cooks a 43-yard pass that brought the Patriots into the red zone within the first five minutes of the game.  RB Rex Burkhead ran in for the TD and the Pats took the early 7-0 lead.

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But the Steelers weren’t about to let New England win easy.  Using the Patriots’ defensive weaknesses to their advantage, they marched down the field and responded with an 18 yard TD of their own, tying the game at 7.

The Steelers didn’t stop there.  In the next drive, their defense thrived, sacking Tom Brady and forcing them to punt.  Led by a 39-yard Martavis Bryant reception, they had another big drive following that.  But after Bryant’s nice catch, the Pats were at least able to hold Pittsburgh to a field goal.  It was now 10-7 Steelers as Chris Boswell made a 51-yard field goal.  But Steelers superstar WR Antonio Brown had hurt his calf, and he was taken to the hospital.

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The Pats countered with another big play drive, this time a 31-yard catch by Pats TE Rob Gronkowski and the Pats were able to tie it up again at 10.   This was just one of two catches Gronk made in the 1st half, but he made a huge impact in the 2nd half.  But before the half, the Steelers were able to score 1 more TD, while also preventing a Patriots double score opportunity as their drive burned most of the 2nd quarter clock.  The Steelers clock-eating drives were led by star RB Le’Veon Bell, who dominated against the depleted Pats front seven.  They did not slow down even with Brown out of the game.  The Pats would get the ball in the 2nd half but would have to do so without RB Rex Burkhead who was knocked out of the game with a knee injury.

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The Pats began the 2nd half with a strong drive as Brandin Cooks scored a touchdown after Gronk began to make a bigger impact.  But they missed the extra point which put them down by one 17-16.  After they shut the Steelers down, the Pats were ready to score again.  But Tom Brady was intercepted early in the drive.  Le’Veon Bell led the Steelers into the end zone quickly, and the Pats were now down by eight, 24-16.

As the 4th quarter began, the Steelers had the ball, and they began to eat up a lot of time as they tried to hold off the Patriots.  They held onto the ball for the first 7 minutes of the 4th quarter, leaving the Pats down by eight with just 8 minutes to come back.  In their first drive of the 4th quarter, they started off strong.  Gronk almost caught a 23-yard pass and the Steelers were penalized for clear pass interference.  However, Brady got sacked on third down after a pair of incompletions, and they were held to a field goal.

It wasn’t over though.  The Pats shut down the Steelers on the next drive with the only 3 and out for either team and got the ball back with a little over two minutes to go.  If they could successfully complete this 2-minute drill for a TD, they could secure a victory.  They marched down the field, as Gronk caught three straight passes for a total of 69 yards.  You could argue that his final catch was almost as good as WR Julian Edelman’s catch in Super Bowl LI.  Gronk just barely saved the ball before it hit the ground.

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RB Dion Lewis ran it in for the touchdown, but New England scored too fast going 77 yards in 1:10.  They needed to go for the 2-point conversion to take a 3-point lead and at the very least hold Pittsburgh to a field goal and head into overtime.  Brady tossed it to Gronk for the conversion.  Gronk finished the 2nd half with 7 receptions for 135 yards, making a huge impact.  The Steelers had a little under a minute to respond.

The Steelers were confident that they could still win it, and Big Ben completed one 69-yard pass to WR JuJu Smith-Schuster.  As the Pats couldn’t get their hands on Smith-Schuster, the Steelers were able to do what the Pats did in three passes in just one big play.  The Steelers then scored with what was ruled a touchdown by TE Jesse James.  But the call was reversed, giving hope to all the Patriots fans out there, including me.  Two plays later, Big Ben tried to throw a TD again, but this time, he was picked off by Duron Harmon!  The Pats had done it again!

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A couple minutes earlier, I had thought the Pats were done, and I was hoping they could hold on to the 3rd seed.  But now they lead the AFC after a stunning comeback victory.

There were two huge plays that secured the Pats their current #1 seed edge showing #1 seed confidence under tough road pressure in Pittsburgh.  Without the 2-point conversion, Pittsburgh would’ve likely won on a field goal after Smith-Schuster’s catch and run play.  The Pats held on with a great goal-line interception by Harmon.  The Pats lead the league in goal-line stops and today’s play was arguably the most clutch of the year.

This game reminded me of Super Bowl XLIX.  The Pats won in a comeback, a lot of points were scored late in the game, and the Pats secured victory with an interception after the opposing team almost scored.  The one major difference was the time left on the clock.  Super Bowl XLIX ended with a bad coaching decision, but in this game, Big Ben made the mistake forcing a pass instead of throwing it away to give his team a shot in overtime with a short field goal.

With this win, the Pats clinch the division and take the AFC lead.  They control their own destiny and will secure the #1 seed with 2 division wins at home.  Can they do it?