The defending champion Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, and Miami Dolphins all watched as key players departed during the initial salvo of free agency in the NFL. With that in mind, we now look at the replacements.
The NFL never stops, and that means the front offices never stop. Right now I’m sure the war camps inside each respective teams front offices are littered with scouting reports, phone numbers, and pizza boxes. They are all looking for ways to improve the team; and in some cases, repair a damaged team. If you think of free agency like a war, the three teams above are in full retreat. Well, not exactly. The fan bases see things in a different manner than the front offices. The front offices know they have solutions to these problems. Why? They’ve all known about these issues for months, and years in reality, and have prepared to find replacements.
Did the Dolphins know they were going to lose Lamar Miller? Yes. They had to know that the chances were not in their favor that the running back would return.
Who can they find to replace him? Well, if we look at the free agent pool, it’s dwindled. The top targets, Chris Ivory, Doug Martin, and Matt Forte are all gone. Arian Foster, Bilal Powell, and Alfred Morris are the top remaining options. All have considerable concerns.
What will they do to patch up the backfield? It’s actually common sense when we look at it. They just traded the number eight pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, and the number 13 pick. A great move for Miami all around and it opens up an even more logical landing spot for their future running back replacement.
With Miller gone, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is the perfect fit in South Beach. ‘Zeke brings an all around beastly running game that has him rated as the draft’s top prospect at the position. Getting him at eight was a possibility. But now at 13, and likely the first team to take a back, it makes too much sense.
The Bengals have known that this offseason was going to be rough for a long time. A lot of free agents is never really a desirable position. However, a lot of starters in the free agent pool is really undesirable. They were able to secure their biggest free agent, safety, George Illoka. Illoka was one of the guys I thought was surely going to leave. He didn’t. And as of writing, Adam Jones appears to be returning to Cincy to finish his roller coaster of a career. This offseason has been really efficient (so far) for the Bengals despite severe losses at a critical position. With the departure of Marvin Jones to Detroit the Bengals had only one of their two free agent receiver’s left to sign. It now appears that Mohamed Sanu will be leaving the Queen City.
The Bengals pass game will now be anchored by A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. But how do they replace the high-flying duo of Jones and Sanu?
The answer is, once again, a simple one. They’ll do it through a combination of rookies and possibly a veteran. However, the rookies will likely play a direct role, much like Green did his rookie season.
Who are the targets? In the first round, there are several that fit the bill. Laquon Treadwell of Ole Miss will be the home run if he falls to Cincy, which appears to be a possibility. Per multiple reports, Treadwell has fallen down draft boards in recent weeks. They’re now saying he’s a mid-to-late first round pick. If he’s there for the Bengals, he’ll be in stripes. Other first round talents are Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas, Notre Dame product Will Fuller, TCU star Josh Doctson, Pittsburgh standout Tyler Boyd (although he carries baggage), and Baylor stud Corey Coleman. Braxton Miller from Ohio State and Sterling Shepard from Oklahoma could be second round pickups. Down the board several picks could happen on days two and three; Jalin Marshall from OSU and Leonte Carroo of Rutgers are both interesting picks to add depth at the position. There are a handful of deep covers that the Bengals will probably have stashed. Jones and Sanu themselves were later picks, fifth round and third respectively.
My take is that they should go rounds one and three or four on receivers. They’ll likely add two or three guys during the three-day draft. And that should be enough to cover the losses of Jones and Sanu.
For the Broncos, they entered 2016 free agency with a clear problem. They had no active QB on the roster that had playing time. Peyton Manning announced his retirement earlier this week, and Brock Osweiler has agreed to terms with the Houston Texans. Without a quarterback life looks bleak in Denver. The fix to this problem won’t sound ideal to Bronco fans, especially coming off of a Super Bowl. But there are a few options.
Via trade there are several backups that could make sense. The top trade target is likely A.J. McCarron of the Bengals. He stepped into a similar role as Osweiler did, filling in for an injured starter with playoff implications on the line. He played decently at times and good, if not great, at others. He is still on his rookie deal and could be gotten for cheap, at least for two more years. He has shown he can win and adjust. This would probably cost a pair of picks, one being early. Not the best option in my opinion. The best option is free agency. The best option is Robert Griffin III. RGIII leaves a bad situation in Washington and now has the chance to revitalize a once-vibrant career.
The best option is free agency. The best option is Robert Griffin III. RGIII leaves a bad situation in Washington and now has the chance to revitalize a once-vibrant career, at least, a career that appeared to be heading in the right direction. A stellar rookie season was marred by injury, and that followed into the next season and into 2015, which was the death nail. Kirk Cousins has taken over in DC, and Griffin is out. He’s got a career 90.6 passer rating and really didn’t look terrible last season with limited opportunity. A new place with a great surrounding cast and tempered expectations are just what the doctor ordered for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
While things may look bad for you fans, they really aren’t. Trust in your organizations to make the most out of the coming days. The draft is just around the corner.