The 2018 season is in the books and in 27 days the 2019 NFL Season begins! That’s right Free Agency 2019 is just 27 days away! So, while we wait, we at 5 Yard Rush have teamed up with Shaun and Lee from All32 to bring you a 4 part look at the state of the franchises, as they stand today. There is no point in looking back, 2018 is over, so instead we look at what has changed already, as well as what players are going to hit Free Agency and what positions are position of need in FA and the NFL Draft.
We will not make predictions. Instead we are just giving you the facts. The four of us also recorded this in audio form, so download the 5 Yard Rush podcast on all good podcast platforms or pop over to the Podcast Page on this website to listen to us talk these teams out and summarise.
So without further delay, here is the State of the Franchises Part 1, and we start with the AFC East and AFC West
New England Patriots- Shaun (11-5) Belichick and Brady will be back in search of ring number 7 as their begin yet another season with the title “Super Bowl Champs”. Brian Flores has departed from the DC position and will be replaced by former Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano. The Patriots could look quite different when the new season kicks off as a number of key contributors are due to hit free agency. Tre Flowers, their sack leader from last year, Trent Brown, their starting Left Tackle, along with 3 of their rotational wide receivers and several defensive contributors could all leave town. The special teams unit will also need to re-sign both the punter and kicker this year also as both Gostkowski and Allen are also due to become free agents. Expect the Patriots to find a way as usual to keep hold of most of their own valued assets and look to bolster the defensive line in terms of pass rush in particular. A downfield threat at the receiver position will also be a priority with Josh Gordon likely finished in the NFL. The biggest issue might be if Gronk finally retires. They will pick at the end of the rounds with their first pick being 32nd in the draft, with primary needs being EDGE/IDL/WR
Miami Dolphins- Lee (7-9) So it’s all change in South Florida for my 7-9 Dolphins with new head man Brian Flores, fresh off a an impressive Super Bowl win, replacing the taco watching Adam Gase. The biggest loss from the previous regime will be Special Teams Coach Darren Rizzi and he moves on to the Saints after failing to secure the Head Coaching gig in Miami. The call from the owner is to build this team differently to years past. This would mean that you shouldn’t look for the Fins to be big players in Free Agency with the exceptions being a run for Tre Flowers to help Flores implement a new scheme. Also expect a contract for impending Free Agent Right Guard Ja’Wuan James. Look for a lot of the players on large contracts given out by past Head of Football Operations Miken Tenembaum to be moved in the coming weeks like Kiko Alonso and Andre Branch and also not to exercise the 5th year $9 million option on Devante Parker’s rookie deal. Looking forward to the draft, the Dolphins will be picking 13th with needs in the trenches being priority number one unless they can move into a positions to take a QuarterBack to replace Ryan Tannehill at QB. Other needs are EDGE/IOL
Buffalo Bills- Murf (6-10) The Bills stick with Sean McDermott and the OC and DC with a small change on Special teams with Heath Farwell coming in from Carolina to replace long standing ST coach Danny Crossman. They have no notable FA’s after resigning Lorenzo Alexander to a 1 year extension. Buffalo will be picking at 9 in the draft. Needs for the draft- WR/OT/IOL/IDL/EDGE. They need weapons to help franchise QuarterBack Josh Allen. I would expect them to go into FA to sign offensive playmakers whilst drafting OL pieces and DL pieces in the draft. Strengths of this team are the defence who kept them in games last year, but they will need to make acquisitions to improve on the six wins from last season.
New York Jets-Stocks. (4-12-0) J-e-t-s, jets, jets. That’s the feeling around gang green right now. At least now Sam Darnold has shown he has what it takes to be a franchise Quarterback. Give the lad an O-line and some top talent to throw at and the jets could be a dark horse for next year’s playoffs. The defence is sneaky good, nasty even, that are led by Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye (he landed on IR after six games in ’18) at Safety. The Jets’ Edge rusher situation is dire, however, with no immediate solutions on the roster. If they aren’t able to land the Cowboys’ Demarcus Lawrence in free agency— where they will surely throw big money at Steelers Running Back Le’Veon Bell — it could make a lot of sense for the Jets to go with an Edge rusher at No. 3. The Offensive Line needs a complete overhaul and need an elite pass protector to keep Darnold’s face looking fresh. The Offensive Line ranks dead last against run blocking so this is a massive piece to improve on to give Elijah Mcguire a chance this season. Robby Anderson is a decent receiver but I think they need a legitimate deep threat and D.K Metcalf fits that bill. The Jets should trade back from the 3 pick to one of the teams that need a QB as they don’t have a second round pick this year. Bolster up on picks and maybe, just maybe they fire up in 2019. If they trade back, expect them to look at EDGE/OT/WR/IOL
Kansas City Chiefs- Murf (13-3) Andy Reid will return in 2019 after leading the Chiefs to the 1 seed and the AFC Championship game in 2018. Straight after the defeat to the Patriots in the title game, DC Bob Sutton was fired, and has been replaced by Steve Spagnuolo. He is still hiring a defensive staff as we record and write this. They do have some notable players going into Free Agency: Dee Ford, coming off 13 sacks in 2018, CB Steven Nelson, who was their best outside Corner last year, C Mitch Morse who is talented but he does have injury issues, having missed 12 games in the last 2 years and RB Spencer Ware. The Chiefs will be picking 29th in the draft and they need primarily CB/S/LB and potentially RB. The strengths of this team are of course the offence. They were rated number 1 according to DVOA rankings, but they will need to massively improve the secondary and backs to have any chance of going one step further in 2019
L.A. Chargers- Shaun (12-4) Anthony Lynn and crew were unfortunate to play in the same division as the Chiefs last year as despite tying for the best record in the AFC they ended up on the road in the playoffs, losing to eventual champs the Patriots. Tyrell Williams may be the most notable pending free agent on the roster and following the emergence of Mike Williams last season it could be that the Bolts decide to let him walk away. Hunter Henry should return at the Tight End position and will feel like a new signing after missing all but a few snaps of last season. The Chargers are a team who look likely to add defensive depth on both the interior line and within the linebacking corps, and a developmental prospect to take over from Philip Rivers should be addressed sooner rather than later. The Chargers will be picking 28th and I would expect them to be looking at OT/IDL/LB with that 28th pick.
Denver Broncos- Stocks (6-10-0) In a season where Vance Joseph needed to steady the ship, gain the trust of Elway, as well as the locker room and the fans, he failed spectacularly. Hiring Fangio is a great move seeing as the defence has some truly remarkable pieces already. Bradley Chubb looks the real deal next to Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr is as good a corner as anyone. Plus he plays slot cover and with that becoming a position of attack in the new NFL offensive schemes he is a real bonus star. Where Denver need help on the defence is in the secondary. Cornerback and safety in respective need. Adding a bruising defensive tackle will also need to be on Elway’s radar but I think he deals with this in free agency. On Offence the priority should not be Quarterback but Offensive Line. Garry Bolles has struggled hugely in his first 2 seasons and in my opinion should be pushed to right tackle. Guard is another huge concern with Billy Turner and Max Garcia being unrestricted free agents the line needs a major upgrade. Expect a Tight End to be added either in free agency or the draft. 2013 is the last time the Broncos had a relevant threatening Tight End on the roster. John Elway needs a franchise Quarterback and it’s not out of the possibility he goes and drafts Drew Lock. He is a quintessential Elway Quarterback with a great arm and great feel and touch on his passes. He makes errors though and his 5 step drop back footwork needs looking at. Sitting behind someone like Keenum isn’t such a bad idea and would help Lock out no end. Primary needs in the draft other than QB is CB/OT/IDL.
Oakland Raiders- Lee (4-12) The Raiders head in to year 2 under Head Coach Jon Gruden in the unique positions of have a lot of holes on the roster and plenty of draft picks to fill them. After a poor season in which the Raiders traded away their best players Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper for 1st round picks in this year’s draft giving them 3 picks and moving them to 10 picks in total. Don’t expect one of the draft picks collected to be used on a QB as the Raiders this week fully guaranteed Derek Carr’s $19.9 Million 2019 salary. Instead look for them to be used on needs at CB/WR/S/LB and DE I would expect them to go PBA through this year’s draft to stockpile talent with the aim of being an ascending team heading into the 2020 season to coincide with the teams move to Las Vegas. This team could be an interesting offseason watch with talks they may be the focus of this year’s Hard Knocks. The Raiders will be picking 4th, 24th and 27th in the first round, so it will be an exciting opening day of the draft for Raider fans.
Look out for our Part 2 shortly and get in touch via the comments below, or with Shaun @all32shaun, Lee @all32lee or Murf and Stocks @5yardrush. Please download and listen to the podcast and get in touch with our Facebook group Rush Nation on the Facebook Page @5yardrush
See you for Part 2.
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