Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Cowboys 49-17. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
There is a lot to look forward to even after the 2013 NFL season is over. Based on the outlook of free agency and the draft to come, here are some predictions about the 2014 off-season that could come to pass.
The Washington Redskins will trade Kirk Cousins
Next year will mark the second-straight the Washington Redskins will go without a first round pick. The price they paid for Robert Griffin III still looks like a worth investment but it has made things difficult as far as keeping the talent level high enough to stay competitive, particularly on defense. That might mean the team could look for a way to gain an extra high pick. Trading is their best chance for that, and they might have something other teams will covet. That is quarterback Kirk Cousins. Despite a 2014 draft that is apparently loaded with quality passers, there is an advantage in taking Cousins via trade in that he already has game experience and lots of quality coaching. He’s won games as a starter too. Teams that don’t want to take time with a rookie but still want a young quarterback can view him as a solution, provided they have the draft pick to spare.
Julius Peppers will reunite with John Fox in Denver
Change is on the horizon for the Chicago Bears defense. Six of its opening day starters and a number of its reserves all become free agents next year. Most feel the team will try to get younger on that side of the ball by unloading the older, pricier veterans. In that case, many believe defensive end Julius Peppers will join them. His contract isn’t up next year but it does become a backbreaking burden on the Bears. Salary cap-wise his number inflates to $18 million by the 2014 NFL season. Considering he turns 34 and only has two sacks this season in nine games, it’s hard for Chicago to justify keeping him. Should they unload him, which is more than plausible, he will likely seek out a team geared for a championship. That could land him with the Denver Broncos, who are coached by the man who drafted Peppers in 2002, John Fox.
Jimmy Graham will become the highest paid tight end in history
The only question left for the New Orleans Saints is how much salary cap space they will have to create in order to keep tight end Jimmy Graham. Already under 200 yards from a 1,000-yard season and having 10 touchdowns, he’s more than earned his big pay raise. The big debate ahead is whether the Saints will try to pay him as a tight end or as a wide receiver. Considering wide receivers make more on average, it’s obvious Graham will make a case, and a strong one no less, that he deserves money in line with wide receiver production. Given his value to the offense, fans can expect him to surpass Rob Gronkowski as the highest paid tight end in NFL history.
The St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns will trade up for a quarterback
Plenty of drama should await when the 2014 draft begins. Much of it should center around two teams by nature of them each having two first round picks to spend. What makes it even more exciting is that they, the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns, both could become favorites to take a quarterback. Having those two first rounders affords them not just two shots at a quality one, it might grant them the opportunity to go after the best in the class. Having them to trade could allow either team to move up several spots on the big board to go after a Teddy Bridgewater or Marcus Mariota. Much will depend on their draft position and pick values, but expect the Rams and Browns to become aggressive if the quarterbacks are there for the taking.
The Chicago Bears will trade out of the first round
One team about to have a lot of problems to solve next year is the Chicago Bears. They have the most free agents of any team in 2014 and stand to lose a lot of starters and depth players. That means they will have some work to do to replace them, which will require draft picks. At present Chicago has a full slate of seven, but in all likelihood more are needed in order to accomplish their goals. That is why the Bears may be one of the teams willing to not just trade down but even out of the first round. Their keys areas of need such as cornerback and defensive tackle have good depth in the coming college class, as does quarterback. Moving down will get them some extra picks in the later rounds, where they can start addressing their depth concerns.