FREE AGENT PREDICTIONS
From the crystal ball of John Breech of CBSSports.com:
Over the next four weeks, there’s a good chance the unpredictable is going to happen, because that’s what seems to happen during every offseason in the NFL.
Will Le’Veon Bell get the contract he was hoping for? (Spoiler alert: Probably not). Where will Antonio Brown end up? Will Odell Beckham get traded? I’m going to try to answer those questions for you, and more, with these nine bold predictions for the NFL offseason.
Wide receiver drama finally comes to an end
Prediction 1: Antonio Brown ends up in the NFC West
If one thing has become clear this offseason, it’s that Brown is almost certainly going to get traded at some point over the next few weeks, which raises one obvious question: Where will Mr. Big Chest be playing in 2019?
According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora — the man who originally broke the news that Brown wanted a trade back in January — the Steelers are hoping to trade Brown to an NFC team, so that’s the route we’re going to go with this prediction. The guess here is that Brown ends up in the NFC West with either the Cardinals or the 49ers.
The 49ers make sense because that’s where Brown seemingly wants to go. Since the beginning of the offseason back in January, Brown hasn’t really been trying to hide the fact that he’s interested in playing for the 49ers. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen Brown respond favorably to being recruited to San Francisco by 49ers tight end George Kittle. We’ve also seen Brown follow the 49ers on social media and he even shared a painting on Instagram that featured him and Jerry Rice. Oh, and he also told Rice that he wanted to play in San Francisco.
Of course, just because Mr. Big Chest wants to play for the 49ers doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. For one, the 49ers are going to have to make a generous offer because the Steelers have made it clear they’re not going to give Brown away for free. The other part of this is that the Steelers might try to spite Brown in this trade by sending him to a team that he doesn’t want to play for. Brown has said he wants to play for a winner and it would be a perfect ending to this situation if the Steelers sent Brown to Arizona, the team that ended the 2018 season with the worst record in the NFL.
For a look at the eight most likely potential landing spots for Brown — and four teams he definitely won’t be playing for — be sure to click here.
Prediction 2: Odell Beckham gets traded
I’m not the first person to make this prediction and I probably won’t be the last, and that’s mainly because it’s starting to feel like the Giants don’t want to deal with all the drama that Beckham brings to the team. For one, it was just four months ago that Beckham basically threw Eli Manning under the bus during an ESPN interview that also featured Lil Wayne. The Giants receiver also wouldn’t say for sure whether or not he wanted to be in New York. The Giants were so upset with the interview that they decided to fine him.
Oh, and that wasn’t the first time the Giants have been upset with Beckham. There was the video from last offseason that showed Beckham holding a brown cigarette in his left hand. There was also the time that Beckham celebrated a touchdown by peeing like a dog in September 2017. After that incident, he was forced to have a private meeting with Giants owner John Mara, who wasn’t happy with the situation. The Giants also weren’t thrilled that Beckham and other receivers went on a South Beach boat trip before the team’s playoff game in 2016. The Giants ended up losing that game to the Packers 38-13, and after the loss, Beckham punched a hole in a wall at Lambeau Field.
I could go on, but I won’t, because I think you get the point. Basically, there’s a long list of reasons why the Giants might be open to a trade. If a team is willing to throw a first-round pick at the Giants, it won’t be surprising at all to see Beckham get dealt between now and the NFL Draft. One potential landing spot could be the 49ers, which could bump Mr. Big Chest out of San Francisco. Another intriguing landing spot would be in Cleveland, and the Browns could afford Beckham, because they have nearly $80 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap.
So what does Odell think of all this?
ONE DAY. Everything will all make sense in the end. I promise u. Story’s unfolding, it’s all a part of the journey. #JustWait
I hope he’s right because nothing makes sense right now.
Prediction 3: A new receiving weapon for Tom Brady
Unless you’re a die-hard Patriots fan, there’s a good chance that you can’t name a single wide receiver the Patriots currently have under contract right now, besides Julian Edelman.
Josh Gordon? Nope. He’s going to be a restricted free agent.
Chris Hogan? Nope. He’s going to be a free agent.
Cordarrelle Patterson? Nope. He’s going to be a free agent.
Phillip Dorsett? Nope. He’s going to be a free agent.
I think what I’m trying to say here is that if the Patriots don’t sign a receiver in free agency, they might have to switch their offense to the single-wing next season. Although I’m sure Bill Belichick would love to roll with an old school offense like the single-wing, the more likely scenario here is that the Patriots sign a receiver and the prediction is that the receiver they sign is Golden Tate. This moves makes sense for multiple reasons: For one, the Patriots actually had some interest in Tate just before the 2018 trade deadline in October. Not to mention, the Patriots could theoretically end up landing Tate at a somewhat affordable price, which isn’t usually something you can say when you’re talking about the best receiver available in free agency during any given year. Also, Tate just made $31 million over the past five years and at this point, he might be willing to sign at a slight discount if it means a chance to win the Super Bowl.
The quarterback dominoes fall into place
Prediction 4: Nick Foles makes his way to Florida
The Eagles have spent the entire offseason playing mind games with the rest of the NFL, which is why no one really seems to know what’s going to happen with Foles. As things currently stand, Foles is set to be a free agent on March 13, but that could change if the Eagles decide to hit him with the franchise tag, which is a decision the team will have to make by March 5. The prediction here is that Foles ends up in Jacksonville or Miami, depending on how his situation breaks down.
If Foles gets tagged, it’s going to be difficult for the Jaguars to land him in a trade. The tag number for a quarterback is expected to be roughly $25.1 million for one year, which is a price the Jaguars will have a tough time affording, considering the fact that they basically have negative cap space right now. If the tag happens, then the Dolphins become a logical trading partner. If Foles ends up being a free agent, that’s where the Jaguars come in. If that happens, the Jags could get creative to get Foles’ new contract to fit under their salary cap for 2019.
Although the Giants and Redskins also seem like logical landing spots, the Eagles will likely do everything in their power to keep Foles from going to an NFC East team.
Prediction 5: Case Keenum follows Foles to Florida, but not with the same team
When the Broncos decided to trade for Joe Flacco, they apparently forgot to tell Case Keenum that a deal was about to go down, because he was shocked when the trade happened.
One thing that shouldn’t shock Keenum is the idea of the Broncos cutting him. With Flacco now in Denver, the writing is on the wall for Keenum: He’s either going to be traded or cut by the Broncos. The Jaguars and Dolphins will probably be paying close attention to this situation and that’s because they both need a quarterback. The prediction here is that one of these teams is going to land Foles and the other team will go home with the consolation prize of Keenum.
Prediction 6: Mr. Tannehill goes to Washington
With Alex Smith unlikely to play in 2019, the Redskins are in serious need of a starting quarterback and it appears that all options are on the table. One thing we know for sure is that the Redskins are definitely open to trading for a quarterback and we know that because they were the Broncos main competition for Joe Flacco. With Flacco now in Denver, the prediction here is that the Redskins will turn their eyes to Miami to try and pull off a trade with the Dolphins. For Washington, there’s a lot of upside to adding Tannehill. For one, he should come cheap. The Dolphins don’t really seem interested in keeping him, which means Washington probably won’t have to give up much to land him. The other upside for the Redskins is that Tannehilll has an affordable contract that Washington could easily absorb. The Dolphins quarterback is scheduled to make just $18.725 million in 2019, but none of that money is guaranteed. Tannehill’s 2020 salary of $19.5 million also isn’t guaranteed, which means he could be released after the 2019 season with little cap repercussions.
There’s also the possibility that the Redskins might not even have to pull off a trade for Tannehill. If the Dolphins can’t find a trading partner, there’s a good chance they’ll end up cutting Tannehill, which would allow the Redskins to work out an even more team-friendly contract.
Prediction 7: Colin Kaepernick gets signed
Of all the predictions on this list, this one might be the craziest, and that’s mainly because Kaepernick has been out of football for the past two years due to the fact that there have been zero teams willing to sign him. Although there were probably multiple teams that passed on him due to his politics, it’s also possible that a few teams only passed him because he was in the middle of a collusion lawsuit against the NFL. With that case now settled, it could pave the way for Kaepernick to get back into the league. One person who definitely thinks Kaepernick is going to get another shot is his lawyer, Mark Geragos. During an interview after the settlement was announced, Geragos named two teams that might go after Kaepernick: The Patriots and Panthers.
The Patriots make sense if only because signing Kaepernick might be the perfect way for them to make some offseason headlines that don’t involve their owner.
It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the Dolphins or Seahawks make a play for Kaepernick. Although the Redskins and Jaguars both need a quarterback, it’s highly unlikely either team would go after Kaepernick due to political reasons (Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was reportedly not happy about player’s kneeling and Jacksonville’s Tom Coughlin has said his team has zero interest in Kaepernick).
Le’Veon Bell returns to football
Prediction 8: Bell joins Jon Gruden in Oakland
If I’ve learned one thing about the Raiders over the past two years, it’s that they’ve perfected the art of making a splashy move any time they need some positive PR. After the NFL’s 32 owners approved the team’s move to Las Vegas back in March 2017, the Raiders kept their fans in Oakland happy by luring hometown hero Marshawn Lynch out of retirement and convincing the Seahawks to trade him. After the team broke ground on their new stadium in Vegas in November 2017, the Raiders kept their fans in Oakland happy by signing Jon Gruden to a 10-year deal just two months later.
This year, the Raiders have spent most of the offseason as the NFL’s only homeless team and what better way to make fans forget about that than adding Bell. With Lynch and Doug Martin both over the age of 30, it’s not that crazy to think that Gruden will be looking to bring in a younger running back. The advantage of having Bell is that he can catch passes out of the backfield, which is exactly the kind of running back Derek Carr needs right now. Ever since his leg injury in December 2016, Carr seems to have a minor case of the jitters and it would probably help him a lot to have a back to dump the ball off to.
Oh, and lets not forget the fact that Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, an Oakland native, really wants to see this move happen.
Although there have been reports that Bell ballooned up to 260 pounds during his year away from football, his trainer has sternly denied those accusations, which means the reports probably won’t scare away the Raiders.
One NFL Draft prediction
Prediction 9: Kyler Murray is a top-5 pick
Although Murray will almost certainly be selected in the first round, most draft pundits out there don’t feel that he’ll be taken in the top-five. In our five mock drafts here at CBSSports.com, only one writer has Murray going in the top-five and that’s Will Brinson, who has the former Oklahoma quarterback going with the first overall pick to the Cardinals. Brinson’s mock might sound crazy, but don’t forget, the Cardinals are coached by the guy who said he would take Murray first overall if he ever got the chance.
Of course, the reason most other people aren’t projecting Murray to go in the top-five is because he doesn’t have the size of a prototypical quarterback. Murray is listed at 5-foot-10 and 195-pounds, although there have been recent reports suggesting that he’s now up to 206. There will be a lot of teams that DON’T like Murray because of his size, but the good news for him is that it only takes one team to love him to make the top-five happen, and based on how many quarterback-needy teams there are in the draft this year, it won’t be surprising at all to see Murray taken with one of the first five picks.
If the Cardinals don’t take Murray with the top pick, then that will open the door for a team like the Jaguars, Dolphins or Giants to trade up and grab him.