For many football fans, the NFL offseason is as exciting as the actual playing season itself. Utilising the NFL Draft and free agency, teams are constantly looking for ways to bolster their roster and find the missing link that will push their franchise into Super Bowl LIV conversation. Some moves make more noise, then others, however. Below is an offseason move for each franchise in the AFC that could move the needle and get people talking.
Antonio Brown requested a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers after nine years with the franchise, while the Ravens are lacking depth at wide receiver. The Ravens have settled in on young quarterback Lamar Jackson, after trading veteran quarterback Joe Flacco. Having a veteran pass-catcher, such as Brown, for Jackson to target will aid in his development. Given the rivalry between these two franchises, if this move happens, expect a lot of noise from Steeler fans directed at AB when he returns to Heinz Field. Pittsburgh are likely to be reluctant to trade within the division but stranger things have happened in the NFL.
The public seems to believe that Andy Dalton, the starting quarterback of the Bengals for the past eight seasons, is on the hot seat. Dalton is 0-4 in the postseason and has never been able to jumpstart the Bengals offense into legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The selection of Kyler Murray to provide competition for Dalton will definitely send shockwaves throughout the NFL. The selection would bring the third dual-threat, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback into the AFC North, to complement the Browns' Baker Mayfield and the Ravens' Lamar Jackson. But, will Murray be available at 11 when the Bengals are on the clock or will they need to engineer a trade?
The Browns have an enormous amount of capital heading into this year's draft. They not only hold their own picks in rounds one through six, but they also own the Patriots' third and fifth-round picks and the Jaguar's fifth and seventh round picks, giving them 10 picks overall. They have stars scattered all over their roster, but definitely could use some fortification on the offensive line to protect star quarterback Baker Mayfield. Jonah Williams is arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft this year and comes from a winning programme in Alabama, where he won one College Football Playoff national championship and competed in two others.
During the 2018 NFL season, there were some whispers about a running back trade between the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell and the Eagles' Britain-born Jay Ajayi. Throughout the season, Steelers' running back James Conner established himself as a reliable starter. Now, with Ajayi likely going to need to limit his carries after ACL surgery and Le'Veon Bell's future in Pittsburgh in jeopardy, Pittsburgh could be a landing spot that makes sense for both parties. The Steelers would receive a strong running back to complement Conner at a discount and Ajayi would land in a situation where he would not need to rush back too soon. If he performs after a one-year, "prove-it" deal Ajayi could be a strong candidate for a bigger contract during next year's offseason.
If the Texans manage to work out a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers to acquire fullback Derek Watt, people will be talking about it. It would unite Derek with his brother, JJ, who is a defensive end and a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Texans have featured a fullback in their offense under head coach Bill O'Brien in each of the first four years of his tenure in Houston. Last season marked the first time they did not feature a fullback but it is reasonable to believe they might revert back to their former strategy for next season.
The Colts need some pass-catchers for Andrew Luck to target. Free agent wide receiver Golden Tate is a reliable player, who has recorded at least 795 receiving yards and played in at least 15 games in each of the last six seasons. Among Colts fans, expect a bit of elation for acquiring a talented receiver, peppered with some grumbling, due to his 30 years of age.
This next moves seems inevitable. Given Blake Bortles was just handed a three-year $54 million contract extension that included $26.5 million guaranteed, this will cause serious frustration among Jaguar fans. If he is cut before June 1, Jacksonville will be stuck with $16.5 million of dead money and only save about $4.3 million on the salary cap. If he is cut after June 1, $11.5 million would be lost, with only about $9.3 million in cap saving as a result. Ultimately, this would be a fairly expensive release.
This is not a move that has been rumored, but it certainly could make some sense. Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, an Ohio State alum, got a coaching job early in his career from Urban Meyer, when Vrabel was hired onto his staff at the university. Meyer is a legend in the American football community, winning two National Championships at Florida and one at Ohio State. He just retired from his post as Ohio State's head coach, but Meyer willingly stepped down from his post at Florida a few years prior, so he is known to return back to football after a break. Vrabel, who is still a young head coach, would likely love to have one of his mentors as a resource for when needed.
The Chiefs released star running back Kareem Hunt towards the end of last season and, as a result, they might go after a free agent at the position and C.J. Anderson could fit the bill. Given the Chiefs' AFC West rivalry with the Denver Broncos, this move would definitely cause a stir. After Anderson had a breakout season in 2017, where he ran for over 1,000 yards, the Broncos released him. After five seasons with the franchise, it seems like the breakup was not very smooth. Anderson bounced between the Carolina Panthers and the Oakland Raiders, before landing with the Rams and playing an integral part in their run to Super Bowl 53. Clearly, there is still disdain between Anderson and John Elway, the President of Football Operations and General Manager of the Broncos, given something Anderson said after their NFC Championship win. After the game, Anderson told a reporter, "call Elway and tell him I said 'ha ha'!" The thought of Anderson lining up against Elway's franchise on two occasions next year would definitely create some anticipation.
It is no secret that the Broncos need some help in the secondary, particularly at cornerback. Given their spot in the draft with the 10th overall pick, selecting LSU cornerback Greedy Williams is definitely possible. Moreover, it will send a message that recently-hired head coach Vic Fangio will keep the defense as a top priority, which was arguably the reason the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.
Rex Ryan moves the needle, no matter what he does. He mentioned on air at ESPN this year that he would likely be moving back into coaching from media in 2019. Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn has had a relationship with Ryan for a while now. Lynn worked under Ryan for eight years when Ryan was the head coach for the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. Moreover, Lynn hired Ryan's son, Seth, to his coaching staff in LA. It is reasonable to believe that Ryan would appreciate the opportunity to work with his son, similar to how Rex worked for his father, Buddy, as a part of the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff in the mid-90s.
It is clear that Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has been looking to rebuild. He has dealt away star linebacker Khalil Mack and star receiver Amari Cooper already. The Raiders currently hold three first-round picks in this year's NFL Draft. Do not be surprised if they look to offload Derek Carr and take a chance at developing a quarterback from this year's class. Given that Carr has played reasonably well during his five years in the NFL, expect a move like this to create some serious conversation and interest around the league.
Trent Brown, the starting left tackle for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, is currently a free agent. He was arguably the best left tackle in the league last season. The primary job of the left tackle is to protect the most valuable player on the field, the quarterback. It would definitely be a dagger to a Patriots fan to lose Brown, given his ability and the importance of his role in protecting Tom Brady. The Bills are looking to solidify the offensive line to protect their young, up-and-coming quarterback, Josh Allen, and Brown would be a great candidate to do so. To see Brown leave for another AFC East team will definitely raise some eyebrows amongst Patriots fans and fuel some banter for Bills fans.
Ryan Tannehill has been a fixture in Miami for the past six seasons, but could definitely be released this offseason after all trade discussions fall through. The availability of a seven-year starting quarterback, in a league where consistent quarterback play is a necessity, will make waves throughout the NFL. That being said, it is reasonable to question how much he could really help another franchise, given his history of consistently leading the Dolphins to average performances. Names you can expect to hear has his replacement include Teddy Bridgewater, Nick Foles or Tyrod Taylor.
The Patriots definitely would make some noise if they used a mid-late round pick to draft wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who was under-recruited out of high school and walked onto Clemson's squad. Standing at 5-foot-10, Renfrow strongly emulates the style of play of many current and former Patriot receivers, including Julien Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Wes Welker. He has performed in big games, holding the College Football Playoff record for receptions and touchdowns. Moreover, he scored the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the 2016-17 national championship. He even filled in at quarterback and punter in emergency situations this past season. Renfrow and Bill Belichick appear to be a match made in heaven.
In recent history, the NFL Draft has been just about the best thing Jets fans have had to look forward to. The Jets need to improve their defensive line and doing so during the draft could be their best bet. The Jets traded up in the draft to number three to get quarterback Sam Darnold in last year's draft, but this year is likely to be all about defense. The theatre around the Jets trading up for the first pick of the draft to select Ohio State's star defensive end Nick Bosa would be perfectly on-brand for Jets, who tend to make more highlights during the offseason than the actual season.