After blowing up the coaching staff and front office, I have a feeling that the roster will undergo a significant overhaul as well. Restructuring our larger contracts (Eli, JPP, Vernon, Jackrabbit, Snacks), doesn’t seem too plausible and I think it is wise to absorb those cap hits now instead of kicking the can down the road. However, we’ll need all the wiggle room we can get if we are going to extend Landon Collins and OBJ. As an aside, my estimates for the LC/OBJ contacts are $12.5m (LC) and $18m (OBJ) AAV. Hopefully we can get both signed before the end of this coming 2018 season. Those two signings will definitely limit our spending ability going forward until we can get Eli’s cap hit off of the books in 2019 or 2020. With respect to Eli, I am of the opinion that we keep him on the roster for 1-2 more seasons and then transition to a young QB (whether that be Webb or a newly drafted signal caller).
Defense – Keenan Robinson, Jonathan Casillas, Kelvin Sheppard, Nat Berhe, Jay Bromley
All of these guys are expendable. Casillas is highly respected in the locker room, but he has durability concerns and was never a standout player when we was on the field. Keenan Robinson can’t stay healthy enough to warrant a significant contract. Bromley never played up to his draft position.
Offense – Shane Vereen, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Geno Smith, Orleans Darkwa, Tavarres King
Vereen can’t stay healthy and his role as a 3rd down back is effectively filled by one of my free agent pickups. From listening to Darkwa interviews, I get the sense that he wants to be a featured back. This RB draft class is super-talented and I feel like we can pick up a contributor in rounds 3-5 (as is tradition in recent years with Andre Williams, Perkins, and Gallman). King’s replacement will also come through the draft. Hopefully we can groom a young WR that can play special teams (either as a returner or gunner). Now for the O lineman: I think it is the popular opinion on here to re-sign Brett Jones as a RFA and let Richburg walk. I agree. Richburg will probably get a contract that averages over $5m a year and we need that money to spend elsewhere. Richburg was also woefully inconsistent when on the field. Pugh is a hard case for me. He is our best and most versatile lineman. However, we’re not the only team that will value his versatility. I feel like a team is going to pay him a salary that averages over $10m a year and, with his injury history, I hope it’s not us.
D.J. Fluker, Kerry Wynn, Ross Cockrell, John Greco, Mark Herzlich, Akeem Ayers, Devon Kennard
Fluker proved to be a decent O-lineman last year and I feel like he is an adequate starter that is powerful in the run game. I’m fine giving him a contract similar to the John Jerry contract from 2 years ago (3 years, $10m). Ross Cockrell surprised me. In my opinion, he played very well towards the end of the season and seemed to conduct himself professionally (a rare case in our DB room last year). I’m hoping that we can sign him to a multi-year deal paying around $3m a year, but he may have multiple suitors. I have always thought that Devon Kennard had a ton of potential and he has been a reliable player on our defense. I also think he will thrive in Bettcher’s multi-scheme defense. I’m really not sure what his value is on the free agent market. Any deal that pays him under $5m per year is fine in my eyes. I think he’ll earn it. Wynn/Greco/Herzlich/Ayers all sign for near the vet-minimum and get a chance to compete in camp.
Dwayne Harris, Brandon Marshall, John Jerry,
While Dwayne Harris was once one of the league’s best special teamers, he has been plagued by injuries and is no longer an effective returner. While he is still a great gunner, his role could be filled by someone on an inexpensive rookie contract. John Jerry’s role will be filled by D.J. Fluker (adequate starter or experienced backup). He was always a low-end starter in his time here anyhow. Brandon Marshall is tricky. I see the reasoning in cutting him outright, but I do think that a big presence outside is of value and we want to try to keep Engram in the slot or on the line to take advantage of mismatches on linebackers and safeties. I say we re-structure his deal to make it heavily incentive-based.
OBJ – Our biggest playmaker and face of the franchise. We’re going to keep him. I’d rather shell out the money now instead of waiting for the WR market to inflate even further. A 6-year $108m deal ($18m AAV) seems about right.
Landon Collins – I love LC and see him as our defensive leader in the years to come. I see him fetching something close to Reshad Jones’ contract (5 yrs, $60m). Perhaps a bit more. I’ll estimate it at 5 yrs, $62.5m (just shy of Eric Berry’s $13m AAV).
RB – Jerick McKinnon. Follows his Offensive coordinator to NY and fills Shane Vereen’s role as a 3rd down back. He is highly explosive and can hopefully give us some chunk plays out of the backfield. Is also a better inside runner than Vereen ever was for us. I see us shelling out something in the neighborhood of 4 yr, $20m.
OL – Ja-Wuan James. With how the OL market has been in recent years, this signing may be unlikely. James is an average nfl right tackle and, with the state of our OL right now, we’d love to be average. I’m hoping we could get him for somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 yrs, $28m ($7m AAV). However, he might be one of those cases where the market pushes him to $10m+ AAV. If that’s the case, some cheaper options are Garry Gilliam and Cameron Fleming.
DL – Ahtyba Rubin or Leger Douzable – 1 year stop-gap 5T lineman to help the transition to Bettcher’s multiple-alignment scheme. Should come over for close to vet-minimum.
LB – Tahir Whitehead. Is an above-average coverage linebacker. Has some durability concerns. His asking price may be high, but we may be able to land him for around $4m-$6m AAV. Cheaper options are Bruce Carter and Jon Bostic.
CB – Nickell Robey-Coleman. Played pretty well last year in Los Angeles. Signed to compete with Cockrell and DRC/Apple for that #3-5 CB role. I think we can get him for around $2m AAV.
Draft Priorities (in order): OT, QB, LB, DE/EDGE, OG/C, P, RB, CB, K,
Thanks for reading! Like most rebuilding efforts, the bulk of the work will have to be done through the draft. I’m sure I’ll throw out a mock draft or two when the time comes. Let me know your thoughts.