Jets release Brandon Marshall

So much for wide receiver Brandon Marshall spending the rest of his career with the New York Jets as the team granted his request to be released. Marshall had a poor season by his standards as he only had 788 yards on 59 catches in 2016. It is amazing that Marshall has been able to put up over 12,000 receiving yards in his career despite never having a good quarterback to throw the ball to him. Marshall has never even made the playoffs in his career so far and now that he is finally a free agent then he will likely join a contender. The Jets were a dysfunctional offense last season, but without Marshall then they don’t really have a reliable number 1 receiver anymore. Not to mention, the Jets have a major question mark at the quarterback position, so it appears that they will need running back Matt Forte to return to his pro-bowl caliber level of play if this offense even wants to be average. I don’t blame Marshall for wanting to leave the Jets since he is 32 years old and he wants to at least make the playoffs in order to improve his legacy. Don’t be shocked if he takes a bargain deal to join a team like the Patriots just so that he has the chance to be on a good team for once in his career. This move will certainly hurt the Jets, but they did the right thing by allowing Marshall to join a contender for the 2017 season.

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5 Non-playoff teams that could make the playoffs in 2017

5. Carolina Panthers – Record: 6-10

The Panthers still have basically the same roster that they had when they won the NFC in 2015 and went 15-1. However, this season didn’t work out like they had planned due to injuries and inconsistent quarterback play from Cam Newton. The Panthers defense still has a ton of talent and it will be even better if they can add some more pieces to their secondary. Also, if Cam Newton is healthy next season then he should be much better than he was this season and the Panthers will need him to play well in order to make the playoffs. The pieces are all in place for Carolina and now they just have to win the close games that they failed to win this past season.

4. Arizona Cardinals – Record: 7-8-1

Arizona made it to the NFC championship game in 2015, but this past season they certainly underachieved the expectations for them to be super bowl contenders. Cardinals running back David Johnson had an┬áMVP caliber season and I’m sure he will do the same in 2017. Also, Larry Fitzgerald led the NFL in receptions in 2017 and he shows up every season to be an impact player even as he starts to age. Arizona even has great playmakers on defense with Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones. The Cardinals have an extremely talented roster, but the question is how well Carson Palmer will play next season. Palmer didn’t play that well this season and it held the Cardinals back. However, this team is a playoff contender if they can put everything together next season.

3. Denver Broncos – Record: 9-7

The Broncos still have a top NFL defense and that won’t change heading into next season as they will be returning basically every player from that defense. However, it is the offense that made this season such a disappointment following a super bowl win. If the Broncos can find a way to improve their offensive line then this could be a really good team in 2017. Also, running back C.J. Anderson will be returning from injury in 2017 which should provide the running game with a much needed boost. The quarterback position is the one mystery surrounding the Broncos. They could stick with Trevor Siemian despite average play this past season. The Broncos probably will make 2016 1st round pick Paxton Lynch their starting quarterback in 2017 if he is ready to play or they could acquire a veteran quarterback like Tony Romo. Overall, the defense carried Denver this past season to a 9-7 record and I’m sure that unit will do the same again in 2017. Denver will have a new coach, but this should be a playoff team as long as they can improve their offense.

2. Indianapolis Colts – Record: 8-8

It was yet another disappointing season for the Indianapolis Colts as they didn’t make the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive year. However, there is reason for optimism with the Colts that they’ll be able to make the playoffs in 2017. The main reason is because they have Andrew Luck who is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. He has plenty of weapons around him on offense with running back Frank Gore and star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Also, the offensive line play is starting to get better which should allow him to be more effective. The main concern for Indianapolis will be their defense for sure especially after the retirement of their best defensive player Robert Mathis. Indianapolis needs a lot of help on defense and even if their defense can be average next season then this should definitely be a playoff team.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Record: 9-7

It looked like the Buccaneers were out of it after going 3-5 to start the season, but they came up with 5 straight wins to have a chance at making the playoffs. The Buccaneers have a great quarterback with Jameis Winston and a great wide receiver with Mike Evans. Tampa Bay’s defense started to really play well towards the end of the season and that gives great optimism for next season. As long as defensive coordinator Mike Smith remains with the Buccaneers then this defense should be good. If the Buccaneers can get some better offensive line play in order to protect Jameis Winston then it could make their offense really good. Also, a big issue for Tampa Bay was that they didn’t have enough around Winston to make him successful. Tampa Bay needs to find a quality wide receiver this offseason and then they won’t have to rely so much on Mike Evans in the passing game. The Buccaneers proved that they can be a good team, but they need to add a few more pieces in order to be a playoff team in 2017.

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49ers fire head coach Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly won’t be able to lead a rebuild of the 49ers as he has been fired after going 2-14 with San Francisco in his one season with the team. Kelly was hired this past offseason to replace Jim Tomsula who also was fired after one season. The 49ers weren’t expected to be a playoff team this season, but they also weren’t expected to play as poorly as they did. One of the reasons that Kelly was hired was to improve the 49ers offense and get the most out of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. However, Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert weren’t good when they had their opportunities to play. The 49ers were the worst passing team in the league with Chip Kelly, although they did run the ball pretty well. I thought that it was a mistake to hire Chip Kelly in the first place and they ended up being worse than they were under Tomsula. San Francisco will have to have better play at the quarterback position and they have to find more talent for their roster if they want to compete soon. It is kind of a surprise that the 49ers are firing Kelly after just one season, but I guess it was also a surprise as to how terrible the 49ers played under Kelly.

Most surprising NFL teams this season

  1. Tennessee Titans – Record:9-7

Not much was expected from the Tennessee Titans after they were the worst team in the NFL in 2015 with a 2-14 record. However, Marcus Mariota became pro-bowl caliber quarterback in 2016 and the Titans improved their win total to 9-7. Mariota threw for 26 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions this season. DeMarco Murray was once again a top running back in the NFL again and they had quite the duo along with talented rookie Derrick Henry. The defense for Tennessee was able to get after the quarterback often and make some big plays as well. This Titans team narrowly missed out on the playoffs, but if they add some secondary help and some more wide receiver help then this team could definitely be a playoff contender in 2017.

2. Miami Dolphins – Record: 10-6

Many people thought this would be a transition year for the Miami Dolphins as they were getting adjusted to 1st-year head coach Adam Gase. However, the Dolphins exceeded expectations with a lot of help from running back Jay Ajayi. He had 3 games of over 200 rushing yards and he carried the Dolphins offense most of the season. Miami appeared done after a 1-3 start to the season, but they remarkably won 6 straight games in order to help themselves get into the playoffs. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill wasn’t great, but he played well enough in order to win games before he was injured late in the season. Miami’s defense was too inconsistent throughout the season, but it was amazing that they won 10 games this season when there were basically no expectations.

3. Dallas Cowboys – Record: 13-3

Everybody pretty much knew that the Cowboys would be better than their 4-12 record during the 2015 season. However, a long-term injury to quarterback Tony Romo in the preseason made it seem as if the Cowboys were doomed this season. That didn’t end up being the case as rookie 4th round quarterback Dak Prescott had an MVP caliber season. Prescott ended up taking over the Cowboys starting QB job even when Romo became healthy and he somehow led the Cowboys to the number 1 seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record. Also, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott had an MVP caliber season as he led the league in rushing. Dallas’ defense wasn’t great, but it was good enough to hold leads and help the Cowboys go on an improbable 11 game winning streak this season. Prescott wasn’t expected to even make the Cowboys a playoff contender, but he surprisingly made them a super bowl contender.

Most disappointing NFL teams this season

  1. New York Jets – Record: 5-11

The Jets were expected to compete for a playoff spot this season after they narrowly missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2015. However, things didn’t work out well as starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick regressed and the Jets defense wasn’t as good as expected. Fitzpatrick was re-signed to a 1-year/$12 million contract to try and help the Jets win immediately, but instead he threw for 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Fitzpatrick was ultimately benched in favor of Bryce Petty, but the Jets quarterback situation turned out to be a complete wreck. Also, former pro-bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis had an awful season on defense despite making $17 million in 2016. Matt Forte was one of the few bright spots for the Jets as he had 7 rushing touchdowns, but this is a team that certainly underachieved.

2. Carolina Panthers – Record: 6-10

A year ago the Panthers were 15-1 and they were the NFC champions before they lost to the Broncos in the super bowl. However, the Panthers failed to live up to expectations in 2016 as they went 6-10 and they failed to make the playoffs. The Panthers defense wasn’t nearly as dominant after the departure of star cornerback Josh Norman in the offseason. Also, an injury to star linebacker Luke Kuechly later in the season made a big difference as well. Quarterback Cam Newton was the NFL MVP in 2015, but he regressed this season by throwing 14 interceptions compared to only 19 touchdowns. He also didn’t run the ball as much as in previous years and it made the Panthers offense less effective. Jonathan Stewart had a good year at running back, although he struggled to stay healthy. The one bright spot for Carolina was tight end Greg Olsen who once again had over 1,000 receiving yards. This team is still pretty much the same as the one that won the NFC in 2015, but if this team wants to improve in 2017 then they’ll need better play from Cam Newton.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Record: 3-13

The Jacksonville Jaguars were picked by many experts to be a playoff contending team in 2016, but instead the Jaguars actually got worse as they went 3-13. Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t very good as they allowed 24.9 points per game which was 26th in the NFL. Defense wasn’t expected to be a strength for the Jaguars though and it ultimately cost head coach Gus Bradley his job. It was Jacksonville’s offense that was surprisingly terrible this season after they were one of the best offenses in 2015. Jacksonville struggled to run the ball despite signing starting running back Chris Ivory in free agency. Also, the big disappointment was quarterback Blake Bortles who wasn’t very good in 2016. Bortles turned the ball over way too often as he was intercepted 16 times. However, he didn’t get much help from his wide receivers as Allen Hurns had a down season as he dealt with injuries. Also, Allen Robinson didn’t look nearly as good this season as he didn’t even reach the 1,000 receiving yards mark. Jacksonville has a talented young roster, but Blake Bortles and the offense worsened this season and therefore the Jaguars did as well.

Chargers fire head coach Mike McCoy

The San Diego Chargers made a move that didn’t surprise many as they fired head coach Mike McCoy after 4 seasons with the team. It’s difficult to completely blame McCoy for the 5-11 season that the Chargers had in 2016 as they dealt with numerous injuries. However, the team’s inability to close out games reflected the poor coaching of McCoy. Also, the team just couldn’t seem to get out of their own way as they had too many turnovers on offense. The Chargers made the playoffs in their first season with McCoy in 2013 and they beat the Bengals in the playoffs that year before losing to the Broncos in the divisional round. It has been a struggle in the 3 years since then for San Diego as they haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 despite having a pretty good roster. This was the right move for the Chargers because their offense hasn’t been as good as expected under McCoy despite McCoy being an offensive-minded head coach. San Diego still has plenty of talent especially on offense with quarterback Phillip Rivers and star running back Melvin Gordon. McCoy is a good offensive coordinator probably, but he just wasn’t very successful with the Chargers as he went 27-37 in 4 seasons.

Top 10 Free Agents in 2017 and projected landing spots

  1. Kirk Cousins – Quarterback – Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins has quietly become a really good quarterback, so I’m sure that the Redskins will do anything to keep him around. However, if Cousins does hit free agency then he will surely have tons of interest in him as there are no other good starting quarterback options in free agency. It is really hard to find good quarterbacks these days and if the Redskins let Cousins go then the quarterbacks that Washington could get is very limited. I don’t believe that Cousins and Washington will reach a long-term extension, but I would be shocked if they don’t at least apply the franchise tag to him.

Projected landing spot: Washington Redskins

2. Chandler Jones – Outside Linebacker – Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals gave up a 2nd round pick to get Chandler Jones from the Patriots prior to this season and he has 9.5 sacks to show for it so far. Jones is by far the Cardinals best pass rusher and he has the ability to change a game on his own. There is a chance that Jones and the Cardinals could get a contract extension before March. However, I believe he will stay with Arizona on the franchise tag if they can’t get a long-term deal done.

Projected landing spot: Arizona Cardinals

3. Le’Veon Bell – Running Back – Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is getting old, so the Steelers offense going forward will be basically run by Le’Veon Bell. He has quickly become one of the top running backs in the game and he had a remarkable 1,268 rushing yards this season despite missing 3 games. The Steelers have a great passing game, but it is obvious that the offense revolves around the success of Bell. He seems to want to stay with the Steelers and certainly Pittsburgh wants to keep him around. I think they will probably end up reuniting with a long-term deal this offseason.

Projected landing spot: Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Eric Berry – Safety – Kansas City Chiefs

Eric Berry is a defensive player of the year candidate in 2016 as he has made big plays all season for the Chiefs. There are many teams that would be interested in Berry if he were to test free agency, but ultimately the Chiefs want to keep him. The two sides will likely sign a contract extension soon, although if they don’t then he’ll at least receive the franchise tag to stay with the Chiefs for 2017.

Projected landing spot: Kansas City Chiefs

5. Jamie Collins – Outside Linebacker – Cleveland Browns

Cleveland wanted a playmaker that they can build around on defense which is why they acquired Jamie Collins from the Patriots at the trade deadline. Collins is a great player as he can succeed in coverage and plan the run equally successfully. Collins has said publicly that he wants to get paid a lot of money to remain with the Browns. However, it seems highly likely that the team will give him the franchise tag at least.

Projected landing spot: Cleveland Browns

6. Alshon Jeffery – Wide Receiver – Chicago Bears

It was a down season for Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as he didn’t even reach 1,000 yards receiving in 2016. Also, Jeffery really hurt his market value as he was suspended 4 games late in the season for using PED’s. I don’t think he has much interest in returning to the Bears next season, but the question is how much money he’ll get from another team. The one team to watch for to sign Jeffery in free agency though is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are in desperate need for a number 2 wide receiver to go along with Mike Evans in the passing game. Jeffery certainly would be a good number 2 receiver for the Buccaneers and they have the cap flexibility in order to pay him a big contract.

Projected landing spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7. Dont’a Hightower – Outside Linebacker – New England Patriots

The last time that Dont’a Hightower left the Patriots in free agency it didn’t work out well as he signed with Buffalo and didn’t do much there. I don’t believe that he’ll make the same mistake this time and he’ll just remain with the Patriots. Hightower is a really good run stopper and he is a key part of the Patriots defense. New England probably won’t franchise tag him, although they should be able to reach a long-term deal before March.

Projected landing spot: New England Patriots

8. Melvin Ingram – Outside Linebacker – San Diego Chargers

Melvin Ingram kind of looked like a bust not too long ago as he dealt with tons of injuries, but now he has become an effective pass rusher for the Chargers. Ingram had 8 sacks in 2016 and if San Diego keeps him then they could have a really good pass rush duo along with 2016 1st round pick Joey Bosa. San Diego has the cap space to get a deal done and I’m sure they will since he is one of their only playmakers on defense.

Projected landing spot: San Diego Chargers

9. Kawann Short – Defensive Tackle – Carolina Panthers

Carolina’s defense is built to be successful based on their front 7 and Kawann Short is the key to that success as he is their best defensive lineman. Kawann Short stops the run well and he gets after the quarterback with interior pass rush as he had 6 sacks last season. Carolina will make it a priority to keep Short because their defense will be a lot worse without him. I don’t see him leaving the Panthers as they’ll either franchise tag him or reach a long-term deal.

Projected landing spot: Carolina Panthers

10. Kevin Zeitler – Guard – Cincinnati Bengals

Zeitler has quietly become one of the best players at the guard position in the NFL and it is hard to find quality interior offensive linemen like him these days. Cincinnati has a history of trying to retain their key free agents and draft well in order to be successful. Therefore, I’d be shocked if Cincinnati doesn’t try to bring him back by reaching a long-term contract extension with him.

Projected landing spot: Cincinnati Bengals

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