The NFL offseason is expected to be a busy one, and some big names are likely to find new homes next season. There will inevitably be some players hit with the franchise tag or retained by their teams, but there are plenty of high-profile players who will be traded or allowed to leave their current teams for a new home elsewhere.
Here are ten big names who could be in a new uniform when the next NFL season kicks off.
10. Jordan Hicks, LB, Eagles
Drafted by Philly in 2015, Hicks’ rookie deal with the Eagles is expiring. He emerged as a force on the team’s defense last season, recording 91 tackles, three sacks, six quarterback hits and five passes defended in 12 games. Injuries are a question with Hicks – he suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon in 2017 and missed a month this season due to a calf injury. Still, when he’s on the field, he makes things happen. He even has seven interceptions in 43 games. He’s expected to test free agency.
9. Donald Penn, OL, Raiders
There’s plenty of reason to believe Penn has played his last game for Oakland. The veteran offensive lineman was shifted out of his original left tackle position by rookie Kolton Miller, and the three-time Pro Bowler is not a Jon Gruden acquisition. That makes him a candidate to be traded or released. He’ll be 36 when the season starts and coming off a season-ending injury - both of which are concerns - but he’s shown he can still play tackle quite well when he’s able to take the field.
8. Dee Ford, LB, Chiefs
Ford is coming off a breakout season in which he collected 13 sacks and forced a league-best seven fumbles, and he’ll still be just 28 when next season begins. He’ll hope that his last game with the Chiefs won’t be remembered for this brutal error, but it may not turn out to be the end of his time in Kansas City; KC could use the franchise tag on him. If he does hit the open market, however, expect the defensive lineman to be in demand.
7. Trey Flowers, DL, Patriots
Flowers doesn’t have the physical attributes one usually associates with the very best pass rushers, but with 21 sacks in the last three seasons, it’s impossible to deny the numbers. Whether he’s a product of the New England system remains to be seen, but he’s an incredibly smart player who seems likely to thrive wherever he lands. Add in the fact that he’s a proven playoff performer — he has 5.5 sacks in nine career playoff games — and you have a guy who’s going to find a soft landing someplace.
6. Nick Foles, QB, Eagles
Foles is done in Philadelphia, where he stepped in to lead them to a Super Bowl and gave the favored New Orleans Saints all they could handle on the road in this year’s playoffs. Whether Foles will be successful is an open question, but lots of teams need quarterbacks and Foles looks like he may well be the best on the market, so many will be willing to take the chance. At this point, he may have to be a trade candidate, though the Eagles are still sorting through their options.
5. Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks
Thomas had held out to try to land a long-term contract, then returned after failing to do so only to break his leg. The fact that he infamously flipped off his own sideline hinted that he wasn’t happy with how things went with the team, and he now hits the open market. The good news is he’s expected to be healthy and is still just 30. He should have options available to him, and if he finds his pre-injury form, he could prove to be a steal.
4. Jadeveon Clowney, DL, Texans
Clowney is on this list because he’s set to be a free agent, though the reality is that the Houston Texans are ultimately likely to use the franchise tag on him. Clowney has developed into an excellent pass rusher and disruptive player, and he would most certainly be in line for a huge payday if he were allowed to hit the open market. He’ll still get a pretty penny, but unfortunately for him, the reality is it will likely be on a one-year tag deal.
3. Demarcus Lawrence, DL, Cowboys
Lawrence may end up on the franchise tag again, which could be a risky play if he’s not willing to play under it. The defensive lineman wanted a massive deal from Dallas before and that isn’t likely to change now after another season with double-digit sacks. Lawrence has developed into an elite pass-rusher with 25 sacks in his last two seasons. At 27, he’ll be right in the middle of his physical prime. The Cowboys are right to want to retain him.
2. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
The big question is whether the Steelers will trade Brown now. There are definitely drawbacks here, as the star receiver is on the wrong side of 30 and has developed a reputation for being a difficult teammate. There’s no denying the talent or the numbers, however, which will ensure that he finds a suitor if the Steelers do allow him to depart. He has six straight 1,000-yard seasons and seven in the last eight years. His 15 touchdowns topped the league charts in 2018.
1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Don’t forget about Bell, arguably the best all-around running back in the game who can finally take his contractual case to the open market, though the Steelers may retain the right to match. A great runner and pass-catcher, Bell has changed the position and wants to be paid like it, and he probably deserves it, too. There are questions as to how he’ll perform after sitting out an entire season, but he’s still only 27, so it shouldn’t be that big a deal. He’ll certainly be the name to watch this offseason.
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