The 2019 offseason will undoubtedly have ripple effects across the NFL. Bottom-dwellers can turn into contenders and middle-of-the-road teams can make a big jump. Through the draft and free agency, teams can re-position themselves and turn the tides of their franchise.
There are many teams that are vying to do this in 2019. Here are five teams that are ready to win the offseason through smart drafting and quality signings.:
2018 was a miserable year for the Cardinals franchise. After drafting Josh Rosen as their quarterback of the future, the Cardinals were expected to struggle. However, they tumbled straight out of the gate and ended the year with a league-worst 3-13 record.
This cost first-year head coach Steve Wilkes his job, as he was fired at the end of the year. The Cardinals responded by hiring young hotshot coach Kilff Kingsbury. They hope that Kingsbury can be their version of Sean McVay and turn Rosen into one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Although Rosen had his fair share of licks, he really didn’t have much to work with his rookie year. Now that Arizona has the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, they can reshape their future. There are several options on the board: either take a defense man or take another quarterback and trade Rosen.
Most mock drafts have either Nick Bosa or Josh Allen going first–both are intriguing defensive end prospects. Yet, there have been rumblings that the Cardinals are highly interested in dual-sport athlete Kyler Murray.
Murray, who just recently committed to playing quarterback instead of baseball, would replace Rosen as the man of the future. Furthermore, the Cardinals could flip Rosen for picks or a player.
Whichever route Arizona decides to take, it will have a lasting impact on the franchise. The Cardinals could end up with one of the best young defense men in the league, or get the most polarizing quarterback prospect in years. Either way, the offseason will surely be busy for the Cardinals.
New York Jets
Like the Cardinals, the Jets started the 2018 season with the hope that they had just drafted their franchise quarterback. Their man ended up being Sam Darnold, who many had as the highest-rated quarterback of that draft. However, he slipped to third, and New York has been thanking their lucky stars ever since.
While Darnold struggled in the first half of the year, he proved himself a capable quarterback. In fact, Darnold had the highest QBR of any quarterback over the last three weeks of the season. Therefore, there are signs of growth and maturity that should give the Jets reason for excitement.
The highest priority for the Jets should be to build around Darnold. New York has about $100 million in cap space; this should be used to get multiple playmakers on both sides of the ball. Names like Le’Veon Bell and Jadeveon Clowney have been linked to the Jets. If either or both of these players signed, it would immediately turn New York into playoff contenders.
On top of their riches, the Jets own the third pick in the draft. As they’ve already made it clear that they’ve found their franchise quarterback, the Jets could trade the pick to a quarterback-hungry team. Teams like the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars could trade away assets like the Jets did last year to secure their quarterback.
If the Jets end up keeping the pick, expect them to draft the best remaining player, whether it be Bosa, Allen or offensive tackle Jonah Williams. Williams is the best offensive line talent in the draft. And while the Jets have many holes to fill, including defensive linebacker, shoring up the offensive line to protect Darnold is a must.
Last year, the Colts were predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league. Many people weren’t sure how Andrew Luck would look coming back from his strenuous shoulder surgery. Furthermore, they were replying on a rookie head coach, offensive and defensive linemen.
However, they ended up hitting on each one of their new acquisitions. Head coach Frank Reich ended up winning Coach of the Year. Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard made First-team All-Pro, with Nelson making the Pro Bowl and Leonard leading the NFL in tackles as a rookie, en route to Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Now the Colts find themselves in a similar position to the Jets, as they are flush with cap space. In fact, they have over $107 million in money to spend. With plenty of talent on the market, Indianapolis will look to bolster their team. They have an optimistic future to sell to players, with Luck and Reich leading the team for the next decade.
There is no reason why the Colts shouldn’t back the truck up for premier players like Dee Ford or DeMarcus Lawrence. Although the Colts already improved their offense by finding hidden gems in Marlon Mack and Eric Ebron, there still is more room for improvement.
With their boatload of cash and their bevy of draft picks, the Colts are set up for an even bigger rebound in 2019.
When Jon Gruden took over as head coach of the Raiders, many changes were expected to follow. Few saw the first change coming, one that sent defensive stud Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for two future first-round picks. At the time, many people maligned Gruden for shipping away a generational defensive talent for draft picks.
However, now’s the time to put-up or shut-up for Gruden. The Raiders future is now or never, as they have three first-round picks this year. With a stockpile of picks, the Raiders are in a very flexible position. They can either use their picks to build up the team through the draft, or package one or all of them in a deal to get an established player.
It would be ironic if the Raiders chose the second route, considering that is exactly what the Bears did to them in the Mack deal. Instead, the best move for the Raiders would be to use all three first-rounders and hope that at least two of them can be productive starters.
As for free agency, the Raiders do have over $70 million in cap, which means that they can afford to go after one or two high-end free agents. The first order of business should be to resign their free agent in Jared Cook. Cook had a monster year for the Raiders and is the best available tight-end.
If Gruden wants to make the Raiders into a contender, he’ll have to draft wisely and sign players selectively. With the Raiders set to move to Las Vegas next year, the identity of the team has never been in more flux. They can set aside some of their concerns by making winning moves this offseason.
Of all the teams on this list, the Texans have had the most success in recent years. They’ve made the playoffs in three of the past four years, with their success centered around their stellar defense. Last year, behind former MVP J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, the Texans continued to demonstrate their defensive prowess.
With Deshaun Watson at the helm as well, the Texans fancy themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL. After an 0-3 start last season, they won nine-in-a-row and clinched the AFC South. If everyone on their roster is healthy, it’s one of the best in the league.
Houston will have a chance to strengthen their depth by making the right moves in free agency. Both Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu will hit the open market, but the Texans should do everything they can to try and retain them. So will Demaryius Thomas, who was traded to the Texans last season, and provides them with another quality weapon for Watson to throw to. With almost $78 million in money to spend, they should be able to retain most of their roster.
If the Texans resign their key players, and add another blue-chipper to their offense, they may very well end up being Super Bowl contenders.