The NFL is by nature conservative. Teams are risk-averse in their maneuvers, and even with a spate of major in-season trades, the overall team-building philosophy is mostly the same across the league. Draft well, keep the players you draft whenever possible, and avoid splashy, attention-grabbing moves.
Still, sometimes bold action is needed. With that in mind, I’ve taken it upon myself to recommend one bold move for every team in the league. Would all of them work? Of course not, but many of the “safe” moves made this offseason will also fail to bear fruit. Let’s take a look at how each team in the league can step outside its comfort zone and potentially reap rewards as a result.
Arizona: Don't draft a skill player on offense
The Cardinals need help almost everywhere -- offensive line, secondary and linebacker, to name a few positions. Although it might be tempting to give QB Kyler Murray someone else to target, the Cardinals must take a disciplined approach in this year’s draft. Arizona needs more skill on offense, but it needs everything else more.
Atlanta: Make a play for Terrell Suggs
Suggs had eight sacks last season, splitting time with Arizona and Kansas City. He’s at the end of the line, but the Falcons could use someone else to help out newly signed pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. Suggs might take some convincing, but he’s the kind of low-risk player who won’t cost much, and could produce surprising results in a situational role.
Baltimore: Draft WR Chase Claypool
Notre Dame’s Claypool is a rare combination of size (6-foot-4 and 240 pounds) and speed (4.42 40-yard dash), and the Ravens should snare him on the second day of the draft, despite not being connected to him in many mock drafts. Baltimore already has a unique offense, and a receiver so big he could pass for a tight end would give them yet another matchup nightmare.
Buffalo: Draft RB Jonathan Taylor
Buffalo’s first pick in the draft is No. 53 overall, but it must get Taylor. It might be a slight reach, but the Bills need a physical hammer of a running back to pair with Josh Allen, Devin Singletary, John Brown and Stefon Diggs, and Wisconsin’s Taylor fits that bill –- and he has sub-4.4 speed, to boot.
Carolina: Trade Christian McCaffrey
Let’s assume that Matt Rhule really is overseeing a rebuild of the Panthers’ roster. If that’s the case, McCaffrey is a luxury item that they can no longer afford, and is more valuable to them in a trade than on the field. He would fetch a great draft pick return, which the Panthers could then use to rebuild a defense that was gutted this offseason.
Chicago: Name Nick Foles the starter
GM Ryan Pace traded for Foles, reuniting him with three of his former coaches. Pace also said that there would be an open competition between Foles and Mitchell Trubisky for the starting quarterback job. That has the potential for disaster. The Bears need a major spark, and they should see from the get-go if the highly paid Foles ($15.6 million salary in 2020) can provide it.
Cincinnati: Trade A.J. Green
The Bengals like to keep their own, but Green sat out all last season with an injury and was not thrilled about being tagged. Cincinnati should deal him for draft capital, with the aim to find a young wide receiver who can develop alongside QB Joe Burrow, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick. Attention cheapo owner/general manager Mike Brown: This is a much less costly scenario than keeping Green.
Cleveland: Sign Jadeveon Clowney
Cleveland was connected to Clowney over the weekend, and the defensive end’s price has reportedly come down from $20 million per year. The Browns should use their ample cap room ($43 million, per Spotrac) to make a splash and sign Clowney, who is good against the pass and great against the run. He had the 12th-highest run defense grade among edge defenders in 2019, per Pro Football Focus, something that would be valuable in the run-heavy AFC North.
Dallas: Take a wide receiver in first round
The Cowboys have approximately a half-dozen greater needs, but the biggest question the franchise must answer is at quarterback. One way to find out if Dak Prescott is the long-term answer is to give him an embarrassment of riches on offense. Cornerbacks? Linebackers? Safeties? Who needs ‘em?
Denver: Trade Von Miller
Miller is Denver's best player, but with his contract running two more years, and the team trying to figure if Drew Lock is the quarterback of the future, a premium edge rusher seems superfluous. (Yes, even for a team sharing a division with Patrick Mahomes.) To accelerate the Broncos' rebuild, GM John Elway should make the tough call and trade Miller.
Detroit: Fire Matt Patricia
The franchise publicly declared it wouldn’t can him, but Detroit should reconsider. Patricia’s tenure has been a disaster; the Lions are 9-22-1 in his two seasons, his players seem to dislike him, and defense, supposedly his calling card, has been a major issue. Detroit was 26th in points allowed in 2019, and gave up the second-most yards in the league. It’s awfully late to fire a head coach, but in this unprecedented time, Detroit should make the move.
Green Bay: Trade out of first round, stock up on wide receivers
Aaron Rodgers needs weapons, and while most mock drafts have the Packers taking a wide receiver at 30th overall, they would be even better served to trade out of the first round and use both second-round picks on pass catchers. Rodgers should be able to get young players up to speed in a hurry, and if Green Bay can fully unleash its offense, which was just 15th in the league in points per game in 2019, it could be one of a handful of Super Bowl favorites next season.
Houston: Fire Bill O’Brien
O’Brien’s has been an embarrassment as de facto general manager ever since assuming the role when Houston’s pursuit of New England's Nick Caserio ended in disaster. O’Brien’s trades have drawn near-universal criticism. If the Texans want to ensure that Deshaun Watson sticks around, they should cut their losses now.
Indianapolis: Sign Theo Riddick
Riddick missed all of 2019 with an injury, but the former Lion is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, so much so that he blurs the line between running back and wide receiver. He would give Philip Rivers an intriguing weapon, and would make the Colts’ offense much more unpredictable.
Jacksonville: Sign Jameis Winston
No one seems to want Winston, whose 30 interceptions last season apparently outweigh his 33 touchdown passes with NFL teams. But the Jaguars should take a low-cost flier on him. Gardner Minshew might end up being a good NFL quarterback, but nothing in his rookie season suggested he should have a firm grip on the starting job. Winston has major talent, got his eyes fixed, and if Jacksonville can find a way to fix his decision making, it will have its franchise quarterback.
Kansas City: Trade down, draft Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Edwards-Helaire is a tough runner, as he showed during LSU’s national championship run, but he’s a truly dynamic receiver -- the kind of weapon that would be particularly scary when paired with Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City will need cheap offensive weapons when Mahomes gets his mega-extension, and trading out of the first round to get Edwards-Helaire in the second would help.
Las Vegas: Draft Justin Herbert
Oh sure, Jon Gruden has Derek Carr, and Vegas just signed Marcus Mariota, but Chucky loves quarterbacks. If Herbert tumbles out of the top 10, Vegas should nab him; the chance that the Raiders could land a superstar is too great to pass up. Plus, there will still be multiple great wide receivers available at pick 19.
LA Chargers: Sign Cam Newton
The Chargers need people to notice them. Tyrod Taylor doesn't do it. Newton would instantly become a big star in Los Angeles and make the Chargers relevant. Even at 85 percent healthy, he would be a considerable upgrade over Taylor. The barren market for Newton's services should make him plenty affordable, too. Los Angeles doesn’t seem interested, but it should be.
LA Rams: Sign Dez Bryant
The Rams have several huge contracts, and they still must find a way to keep cornerback Jalen Ramsey, which will cost even more money. So how do they give Jared Goff another viable weapon now that Todd Gurley is gone? Simple: Roll the dice on Bryant, who has been working out with Dak Prescott while trying to come back to the NFL. Bryant might want to rejoin the Cowboys, and his personality makes him risky, but he and the Rams would be a fascinating match.
Miami: Be willing to trade down from fifth spot
Many have predicted a Tua Tagovailoa-Dolphins marriage, but if enough teams behind Miami are desperate, the Dolphins should add to their massive draft capital and deal the pick. Ryan Fitzpatrick can be a bridge QB for another year. Miami should try to load up its roster in other areas.
Minnesota: Sign Josh Gordon
The Vikings traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills, and they should make a big gamble to replace him. Gordon still hasn’t been reinstated by the NFL, but if he is accepted back into the league, Minnesota should sign him and pair him with Adam Thielen. Kirk Cousins would suddenly gain one of the most intriguing talents in the league, and the Vikings would instantly become must-see TV.
New England: Trade up for Jordan Love
The Utah State signal-caller is seen as a first-round pick by many, but one with some risk. Bill Belichick had unprecedented success with Tom Brady, but dual-threat quarterbacks are the future. With Patrick Mahomes poised to lord over the AFC for the foreseeable future, Belichick should move up from pick 23, and try to fight fire with fire.
New Orleans: Roll dice on a Brees successor
The Saints can talk up Taysom Hill like he’s the next big thing, but I don’t buy it. They should wait around until the third round and hope Washington’s Jacob Eason is still available. Eason is a project who may have left school a year too early, but studying at Brees University for a season would get him up to NFL speed nicely. Eason has prototype size (6-foot-6 and 231 pounds) and a huge arm, and could be a steal in the late third.
NY Giants: Draft Jalen Reagor
The Giants have many needs, particularly on defense, but no player on the roster topped 60 catches last year. Reagor, the TCU wide receiver, should be an instant-impact threat, and would give New York a game-breaker to go with running back Saquon Barkley and wideout Darius Slayton, who was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last year.
NY Jets: Trade Le’Veon Bell ... somewhere
Bell has been the subject of countless trade rumors, and it is clear to anyone watching that he and Adam Gase don’t see eye-to-eye about his role with the team. The Jets probably wouldn’t get much in return, but it would be better if the parties separate. Bell might thrive again elsewhere, and organizationally speaking, it would at least be Gase’s vision moving forward, not that that’s necessarily a good thing.
Philadelphia: Sign Antonio Brown
Brown faces felony charges stemming from a January incident, and there is still the specter of NFL discipline, likely in the form of a suspension. But the Eagles have nothing at wide receiver. If Brown is still in good football shape -– and he’s long been one of the game’s most maniacal workers –- he would be a low-risk/massive reward addition for Philadelphia, even if he must serve a suspension.
Pittsburgh: Trade JuJu Smith-Schuster
Smith-Schuster, entering the final year of his deal, had a very poor 2019 (42 catches for 552 yards). The Steelers could use more draft capital, and despite his down season, Smith-Schuster should fetch at least a second- or third-round pick. This is a particularly deep class for wide receivers, and Pittsburgh could easily find a replacement with the 49th overall pick.
San Francisco: Sign Antonio Brown
This was also suggested for the Eagles, yes, but it is good advice for San Francisco as well. Brown faces hurdles to get back into the league, but adding him to San Francisco’s devastating offensive mix would make the Niners the clear favorite in the NFC again, and give them flexibility with their first-round picks at 13 and 31 overall.
Seattle: Forget Clowney, give Russell Wilson more weapons
Defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney is good but not great. Instead of trying to bring him back, Seattle should focus on surrounding Russell Wilson with as much offensive talent as possible, specifically wide receivers. Wilson is one of the best passers in the league, and the Seahawks need to turn him fully loose, and that starts with emphasizing the pass. Adding a dynamic weapon to join receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf would help.
Tampa Bay: Ignore defense, get Brady another weapon
The Buccaneers have studs on the outside in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. They should look to Godwin’s alma mater to load up even more on offense. Advice to Bucs: Select Penn State’s K.J. Hamler. Most draft experts have him as a first- or second-round pick, and he’s the kind of shifty, run-after-catch receiver who could be particularly lethal with a precision passer like Brady.
Tennessee: Take a risk on Jalen Hurts
Nothing about what Ryan Tannehill did last season was fluky in any objective sense. Still, there must be major questions about his long-term viability as Tennessee’s franchise quarterback. Hurts, the former Oklahoma/Alabama star, is a project who would benefit from sitting a year, or even two, to refine certain parts of his game. He’s also an A-plus character guy who would likely mesh well with head coach Mike Vrabel. A third-round pick for your potential quarterback of the future is a risk worth taking.
Washington: Scrap Haskins, draft Tua
The assumption is that Washington thinks it has its franchise quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, and will draft his former Ohio State teammate Chase Young, the D-lineman. Instead, Washington should leap at the chance to draft Alabama's Tagovailoa, who has a much higher ceiling than Haskins. Ship the former Buckeyes QB to a team with an aging quarterback. Is such an about-face a good idea? Ask Arizona Cardinals fans.
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