32 NFL players who could use a fresh start this offseason, from QBs to injured stars

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Maybe it's money, maybe it's production. Or, maybe it's both. Sometimes a player just needs to go somewhere new. And this NFL offseason, several big-name quarterbacks could be on their way to new teams.

QB Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers have already announced they're parting ways. The Las Vegas Raiders want to go after Tom Brady, putting Derek Carr's future in doubt. And, with the Carolina Panthers, seemingly in a full rebuilding mold, will Cam Newton want to stick around for that?

That's just the quarterbacks. Here's a look at players our NFL Nation reporters believe would benefit from a move:

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JAX | KC | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE




Buffalo Bills

DT Jordan Phillips

Nothing against Phillips, who had a career year with a team-high 9.5 sacks in 2019, but the salary he's likely to command doesn't fit into the Bills' plan at his position. Star Lotulelei has a $10.8 million cap hit, and Buffalo invested a first-round pick in Ed Oliver last April; former third-round pick Harrison Phillips will also be returning from a torn ACL this coming season. Phillips has said publicly that his numbers from 2019 are those of a top-three defensive tackle. If a team pays him like one, it probably won't be the Bills. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Miami Dolphins

OLB Charles Harris

The Dolphins have waited three seasons for Harris, a 2017 first-round pick, to bring pressure on quarterbacks, and he has responded with 3.5 sacks in 41 games (eight starts). It's time for a change of scenery for Harris, who does not have a secure roster spot if he remains with the team. So far, Harris has been a bust, and the Dolphins have yet to find a better role for him to utilize his skill set. Maybe he can find that elsewhere, but it doesn't seem likely to happen with the Dolphins, who should trade him for a late Day 3 draft pick or release him prior to the 2020 season. -- Cameron Wolfe

New England Patriots

WR Phillip Dorsett

After three solid seasons in New England since he was acquired in a trade for QB Jacoby Brissett, the likable Dorsett seemed to get phased out of the receiver mix as the 2019 season progressed. Considering that the Patriots were badly in need of production from their receivers, that could be an ominous sign for him returning in 2020. Dorsett, who earned widespread respect throughout the organization for his professionalism, is an unrestricted free agent. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

CB Trumaine Johnson

One of the most expensive free-agent signings in team history, Johnson has fallen short of expectations under two different coaching staffs. He was benched for two games last season because of poor practice habits. He has also been slowed by injuries and overall ineffectiveness. His time in New York is over. He will be released in the coming weeks, leaving the Jets with a $12 million cap charge for 2020. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

S Tony Jefferson

He was Baltimore's prized free-agent acquisition in 2017, when the Ravens gave him $19 million guaranteed on a four-year deal. Jefferson never lived up to expectations, totaling two interceptions, two forced fumbles and eight passes defensed in 35 games. Jefferson just didn't feel like the right fit, whether he was playing alongside fellow safeties Eric Weddle or Earl Thomas. The Ravens can save $7 million in cap space by cutting Jefferson and going with Chuck Clark, who took over and excelled when Jefferson was injured. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

QB Andy Dalton

This one is a no-brainer. Dalton wants to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and the Bengals are looking for their next franchise QB. A move is in the best interest for both parties. -- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

TE David Njoku

He fell out of favor under the previous regime, as he was a regular healthy scratch down the stretch after returning from IR after a wrist injury. Had coach Freddie Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey been retained, Njoku almost certainly would have been out the door. Still, while Njoku would have a fresh start under a new coach and front office, it's clear he was also losing the trust of QB Baker Mayfield. That's why the 2017 first-round selection might be better off attempting to resuscitate his career elsewhere -- especially if the Browns can get something that can help them in return. -- Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers

CB Artie Burns

A year after losing his starting job, the 2016 first-round pick also lost his role in sub packages and special teams over the course of the 2019 season. Now an unrestricted free agent, Burns will take the fresh start. With plenty of depth in the corner group, the Steelers have given no indication they intend on bringing him back, and Burns said he had to "get to another team" during a locker room clean-out day. With 32 starts and 149 tackles under his belt in Pittsburgh, Burns has a good foundation to build on at his next stop. -- Brooke Pryor


Houston Texans

G Zach Fulton

The Texans' right guard did not play up to his $7 million salary last season. Fulton has two years left on his four-year, $28 million contract, but he has no dead money in either of the next two seasons. By cutting Fulton, Houston could save enough cap space to make it worth looking for a cheaper option for 2020, including starting Greg Mancz, or drafting another interior lineman to play opposite 2019 second-round pick Max Scharping. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

TE Eric Ebron

A Pro Bowler in 2018, Ebron basically ended his time with the Colts when he surprised the team by saying he needed ankle surgery that would shut him down for the rest of the season in late November. That decision did not sit well with the team. Ebron, who had 31 receptions for 375 yards and three touchdowns, already knows the Colts don't plan on re-signing him. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

QB Nick Foles

The Jaguars aren't saying anything, but it seems clear that they're going to go with Gardner Minshew II. At the worst there will be a competition between Foles and Minshew, but the departure of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who worked with Foles in Philadelphia, is a good indication of which way they're leaning. The problem is Foles' contract, which averages $22 million per year and has a dead cap figure of $33.875 million in 2020. The Jaguars will have a hard time finding a team willing to trade considering how much cap space must be absorbed. So the Jaguars could be stuck with him. Foles certainly could start for another team and deserves that chance, but the financials make it hard for him to get a change of scenery. -- Michael DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

QB Marcus Mariota

There were flashes of Mariota's dynamic playmaking ability last season, but some of his issues, such as holding the ball too long and staring down the pass rush, are signs that he still needs further development. Perhaps going to a new team could help him have a Ryan Tannehill-like renaissance. -- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

CB Chris Harris Jr.

He has been to four Pro Bowls, on four top-10 defenses and five division championship teams, and played in two Super Bowls. Harris took a discount to remain with the Broncos when he re-signed in 2015, and his desire to improve his contract reached a simmering point last year when he missed the early portion of the team's offseason workouts before signing a reworked, one-year deal in late May. He has made no secret that he wants to get one last dip into free agency. He bristled at times as the team had three-straight losing seasons, but he has said he likes the current defensive coaches and believes the scheme fits him, especially if he can play in the slot moving forward. Harris is a presence in the community, and his family likes Denver. In the end, he turns 31 in June, so this could be his last, best chance to get a multiyear deal. And he is certain to get a bigger offer elsewhere. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

RB LeSean McCoy

He fell from favor at midseason because of a fumbling problem and was inactive in two of the three postseason games, including the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Chiefs were searching for help in their backfield because of injuries but turned to other players instead. -- Adam Teicher

Las Vegas Raiders

QB Derek Carr

The most polarizing figure in recent Raiders history said it himself the day after the season finale, uttering it would be good to get some "fresh air." Yes, he was referring to getting out of Oakland, where he was mercilessly booed off the field in his final game there, and heading to Las Vegas. But with so many rumors of Tom Brady ready for a Sin City engagement, might Carr just throw up his hands and welcome a complete change of scenery? "C'mon, man, when's it going to end?" Carr said to me when asked about the constant offseason rumors. "I look forward to taking the first snap in that [Las Vegas] stadium, and I look forward to taking every snap from here on out -- until I'm done." Unless something changes. -- Paul Gutierrez

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Philip Rivers

This one just happened. The Chargers and Rivers announced Monday that Rivers would enter free agency instead of returning to the team. Rivers, 38, struggled through a 2019 campaign in which he was responsible for 23 turnovers. Rivers still wants to play and another locale closer to home in Florida could rekindle the end of his career, while the Chargers find his successor. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys

WR Tavon Austin

He produced little in the two seasons after the Cowboys traded for him in 2018. Some of it was due to injury. Some of it was due to circumstance. There are only so many touches to go around when an offense has Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin. Austin did not impact the return game much either, and some of that might not just be his doing. The entire special teams unit struggled. But the Cowboys can find somebody younger to fill Austin's role, or use that money to fill other roles. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

LB Alec Ogletree

It has been a rough go for Ogletree ever since GM Dave Gettleman traded for him. Ogletree can be a contributor elsewhere. It was just unrealistic for him to be the every-down player that his bloated contract mandated. Ogletree has been among the highest-paid inside linebackers the past two years. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

CB Sidney Jones

He was touted as one of the premier corners in the 2017 draft before rupturing his Achilles at his pro day. Injuries have since been a part of his story, preventing him from becoming the fully confident player that his position demands. He has plenty of ability, but a a reset might just be what the doctor ordered. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

CB Josh Norman

There are a few players who would be good candidates here, but after four years, Norman is it -- even though his former Carolina coach, Ron Rivera, is now in Washington. Norman played only 10 snaps in two games over the final six weeks and had clearly fallen out of favor with the organization. There were members of the organization who wanted to move on from him last season. After signing a five-year, $75 million deal in 2016, the Redskins expected quite a bit. He was solid for most of his tenure, but did not duplicate his 2015 season in which he earned first-team All-Pro honors and made the Pro Bowl. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

TE Adam Shaheen

The 6-foot-6 tight end hasn't accomplished much since the Bears drafted him in the second round in 2017. Shaheen, who struggles to stay healthy, has only 26 career receptions for 249 yards and four touchdowns over three NFL seasons. Shaheen doesn't seem to have a defined role in Matt Nagy's offense -- Nagy was not the head coach when Chicago drafted Shaheen. Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Shaheen will still be on Chicago's roster when the team reports to training camp in July, but expectations surrounding Shaheen's 2020 season are understandably low. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

OL Graham Glasgow

This move has been clear for a while, between the way Detroit inexplicably rotated its guards in games this season to Glasgow diplomatically making clear his frustration at that situation at the end of the year. He's going to at least test the free-agent market, and someone is likely to pay him more than whatever Detroit might offer, since he's a consistent, versatile interior lineman. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

CB Josh Jackson

The 2018 second-round pick could barely get on the field last season. After playing more than 700 snaps as a rookie, he was relegated mostly to special teams this past season, playing barely more than 100 snaps despite being mostly healthy. Free agents Chandon Sullivan and Will Redmond played more in the defensive backfield than the 45th pick in the draft two years ago. Maybe the athletic, ball-hawking Jackson would be better served in another system. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

CB Xavier Rhodes

Here's a list of everything that went wrong in 2019: Rhodes was flagged for 10 penalties, allowed a 127.8 passer rating into his coverage (fourth-worst among all corners) and an 82% opponent completion percentage per NFL Next Gen Stats (the second-highest in the NFL among CBs), did not register an interception for the first time since 2013 and became a liability for the Vikings secondary. Rhodes, 29, has a $12.9 million cap hit in 2020, so the chances of him being on the team at that price are slim. Parting ways allows the Vikings to turn to their younger corners while Rhodes can go elsewhere in hopes of re-energizing his career. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

DE Vic Beasley

This is already in the works because the Falcons announced they won't negotiate a new contract with the former eighth-overall pick. Beasley wasn't consistent after leading the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016. Wouldn't it be crazy if he ended up with the 49ers as a situational pass-rusher and ex-Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan gets Beasley to play like he did during the Falcons' Super Bowl run? -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton

The Panthers are in a rebuilding mode. Unless they are willing to commit to Newton past the final year of his contract this season, it makes sense to start over with a new quarterback, as the team did in 2011 when making Newton the first pick of the draft. Most of the pieces around Newton when he won the 2015 MVP award are gone. There's uncertainty around his Lisfranc surgery and whether he will be able to return to MVP form as a runner and passer. Newton's goal is to win a Super Bowl, and at 30, with all the hits he has taken, he might not have many years to accomplish that. So why stay with a team that likely won't be in that position for several years? -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

G Andrus Peat

He doesn't need a change of scenery, but the Saints could move on if his price tag gets too high in free agency. The former first-round pick has been very good at times (especially in 2017-2018) as a LG and backup LT, and he played in the past two Pro Bowls as an alternate. But he has also battled inconsistency and injuries and didn't have his best year in 2019. This is a spot where the salary cap-strapped Saints can save money. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TE O.J. Howard

He struggled throughout his first season in Bruce Arians' offense, which has been notorious for not getting the tight end involved vertically as much as Dirk Koetter's did. The Bucs did entertain offers for Howard before the trade deadline. Going to an offense that utilizes him differently might be what he needs to rejuvenate his career. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

RB David Johnson

Something about him isn't right and hasn't been for a couple of seasons, whether it's injuries or his offensive fit. After being touted as a primary piece of the offense by coach Kliff Kingsbury, Johnson recorded fewer than 800 yards from scrimmage. He's still in top physical shape and has shown glimpses of the player he was in 2016, especially as a receiver, but a new setting -- possibly with Tampa Bay and his former coach Bruce Arians -- might be what Johnson needs to get back to his old, dominating ways. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

RB Todd Gurley

The circumstances surrounding Gurley have only grown more curious since he was sidelined late in the 2018 season, then underwhelmed in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. The situation did not appear to improve last season, as Gurley received limited touches and rushed for only 857 yards, his fewest since the 2016 season. At one point, coach Sean McVay called himself an "idiot" for not getting Gurley more involved, and Gurley did not disagree. As long as Gurley is on the roster, the questions will continue about his health and the Rams' apparent unwillingness to make him the focal point of the offense, despite their proven success when Gurley touches the ball. -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

WR Marquise Goodwin

Goodwin has been through a lot the past few years, and he ended 2019 on injured reserve with knee and foot issues. By the time Goodwin's season came to an early end, he had fallen in the depth chart after struggling to produce consistently. The Niners would save a little less than $4 million on the salary cap by parting ways with Goodwin, and it would also allow Goodwin, a world-class long jumper, to follow through on his intention to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

S Tedric Thompson

Although he has been better than his harshest critics suggest -- he was playing through a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in 2019. Before that he had key interceptions in consecutive October wins -- Thompson has had his share of coverage errors over the past two seasons. He no longer projects as a starter with Quandre Diggs on board (2019 second-round pick Marquise Blair is also in the mix). The Seahawks could keep Thompson as experienced depth for the final year of his rookie contract, though he's receiving a raise to a nonguaranteed $2.147 million via the NFL's proven performance escalator.-- Brady Henderson

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