All it takes is one trade, one retirement announcement, one free agent signing, and an NFL franchise can face a completely different outlook for the foreseeable future. Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson officially retired this week, and the Philadelphia Eagles just traded away franchise running back DeMarco Murray to the Tennessee Titans. Here’s a look at what each team needs to do to rebuild their franchise.
It’s (NOT) Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The Eagles look to be in complete rebuilding-mode. After firing Chip Kelly and replacing him with first-time NFL head coach Doug Pederson, it looks like Philadelphia is on a purge to rid itself from the poison from the Kelly-era. In addition to trading Murray, the Eagles also sent linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell to the Miami Dolphins. All three players were offseason acquisitions made by Kelly.
Philadelphia re-signed quarterback Sam Bradford last week to a two-year deal after he threw for 3,725 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 14 games. The Eagles underachieved last year, finishing with a 7-9 record in a weak NFC East. Their biggest problems were on the defensive side, finishing 30th in total defense.
The Eagles are expected to receive draft-pick compensation from the Dolphins and from the Titans, but not their coveted number-one overall pick. Getting rid of Murray also saves them $13 million in salary cap space for the upcoming season. With money to spend and extra draft picks, Philadelphia seems to be in a good position to set up the franchise for success. But will the front office make the right moves? During Kelly’s tenure, there was a culture of acquiring players that he liked rather than seeking players who would be better fits in the grand scheme. The Eagles need to be smart with how they choose to approach the rebuilding process. They already made a move to replace Maxwell, which is a step in the right direction:
Eagles and former Bills CB Leodis McKelvin reached agreement on a two-year contract.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 8, 2016
Wrath of the Titans?
The Titans have been wallowing in NFL purgatory for a while now, going 5-27 over the past two years. Tennessee had the second pick in last year’s draft and selected Marcus Mariota. With a franchise quarterback secured and now the addition of Murray, the team looks to be taking the right steps in revamping the franchise.
Murray was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2014 after leading the league with 1,845 rushing yards to go with 13 touchdowns when he was with the Dallas Cowboys. His tenure in Philadelphia was a contentious one as Kelly didn’t make proper use of his downhill running-style and he finished with just 702 rushing yards. Under new Titans head coach Mike Mularkey, it can be expected that Murray will see a heavier workload. The Titans ranked 25th in the league with an average of 92.8 rush yards.
Murray will be able to alleviate the pressure on Mariota and open things up in the passing game. Mariota’s favorite target Delanie Walker should be able to duplicate last season’s 1,000-yard campaign. Now what to do with the number-one pick? The smart move would be to shore up the offensive line, especially in a year where there are no clear-cut can’t-miss prospects. More protection for Mariota and blocking for Murray would work wonders. Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil out of Ole Miss would probably be a good fit.
Our own Maurice Jones-Drew weighed in on the Murray move to Music City and thinks it’s an excellent move for the Titans:
To enter or leave the Lions’ Den? That is the question.
For some reason, the Lions have a propensity for forcing their biggest stars into early retirement. (See: Barry Sanders.) “Megatron” is just 30 years old, but decided to call it quits after his body broke down while Detroit toiled around in futility with seven losing seasons during his nine-year career. Where do the Lions go from here?
Detroit does have a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback in Matthew Stafford, but outside of him there’s not much else that screams potential. The Lions tried to go with a three-headed rushing attack with Joique Bell, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah and all three had flashes of success, but it just wasn’t a sustainable system and Detroit ranked last in the league in rushing. The Lions are suffering from an identity crisis: Are they a gunslinging, air-it-out offense? Or are they a subdued, ground-and-pound-and-dominate-on-defense attack? Whatever the case, they made an important move to ease the transition from Johnson:
Top WR off board…. https://t.co/9ZtmM7taTt
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2016
Detroit’s defense wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great either, ranking 18th in the NFL. Ezekiel Ansah is a stud, racking up 14.5 sacks which was good for third in the league, but fellow defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker are free agents. The Lions should look to re-sign one if not both of them and also need to target defense in the draft. With the 16th pick, linebackers Reggie Ragland of Alabama and Myles Jack of UCLA would be sensible targets. Alabama defensive tackles A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed are also solid options.
Saddle up and ride.
OK, Peyton Manning is retired. He’s gone. There’s no way to replace a legend like him. We know this. But the Broncos have a bunch of in-house free agents they need to take care of, starting with quarterback Brock Osweiler. Osweiler was a serviceable starter during Manning’s injury-forced absence last year, throwing for 1,967 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games. There are absolutely no big-name quarterbacks on the free agent market, so Denver would be wise to stick with Osweiler for the sake of familiarity.
But the real issues are on the defensive side of the ball. Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller, leading tackler Danny Trevathan and run-stuffing defensive lineman Malik Jackson are all free agents. Jackson is already leaving for Jacksonville after agreeing to terms with the Jaguars, and it can be assumed that Denver won’t be able to keep both Miller and Trevathan. Miller has expressed a desire to stay with the Broncos, and with the numerous teams chasing after Trevathan it’s more likely that he’ll be Denver’s choice. Defensive ends Chris Long of Los Angeles and Olivier Vernon of Miami could be good fits to replace Jackson.
As long as the Broncos retain the core of their defense and continue to wreak havoc on offenses by relying on Wade Phillips’ intricate scheme, they should be fine. With the last pick in the first round of the draft, Denver should look to bolster an offensive position. An offensive lineman or a receiver would work nicely, giving Osweiler or whoever is under center added protection or an extra weapon to rely on.
Tags:2016 NFL Draftameer abdullahbarry sandersbrock osweilerbyron maxwellcalvin johnsonchip kellydallas cowboysdanny trevathandelanie walkerdemarco murraydenver broncosdetroit lionsdoug pedersonezekiel ansahhaloti ngatajoique bellkiko alonsolaremy tunsilleodis mckelvinmalik jacksonmarcus mariotamarvin jonesmatthew staffordmiami dolphinsmike mularkeynflnfl free agencyole miss footballpeyton manningphiladelphia eaglessam bradfordtennessee titanstheo riddickvon millerwade phillips
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