Offseason Rundown: Rams, Browns, Eagles, Jaguars, Chargers

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Quarterback Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford has yet to shake off the knee injury bug since coming into the NFL. Bradford may come as a low risk option for teams, but the St. Louis Rams cannot go into next season without adding a starting caliber quarterback, to at least compete for the role. Well, then no one should be surprised that the Cleveland Browns are interested in making a run for Bradford, with Brian Hoyer hitting free agency and Johnny Manziel in rehab this offseason. I get the interest, but the Browns need a shift in focus to begin turning things around offensively. Rams coach, Jeff Fisher, has already expressed that he wanted Bradford to play out the final year of his contract. It’s more understandable that the Rams want to give their former #1 pick in the 2010, another crack at being the player they thought he could be. The Browns had a divided locker room, which happens when a team is losing, between Hoyer and Manziel as the starting options. Whether or not Hoyer returns, they have to land someone to compete with Manziel. That guy will likely be a veteran, rather than another rookie.

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Wide Receiver Josh Gordon & Quarterback Nick Foles.

 

Speaking of the Browns, it was actually smart that they lobbed a call over to the Philadelphia Eagles a couple of offseasons ago. Their offer of Josh Gordon for Nick Foles seems really interesting, considering the ties that Joe Banner had, moving on from Philly to Cleveland’s front office at the time. Foles was entering his second season and was named Michael Vick‘s backup, while the Eagles had DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin as starting wide receivers. Unfortunately, Maclin went down with a knee injury and missed the 2013 season, while Jackson was released in the 2014 offseason. The good news is that Maclin returned as a runner-up for Comeback Player of the Year last season, where he recorded career-highs across the board. Maclin would be a hot commodity if he didn’t come to terms, on a likely extension, to stay in Philly. Gordon, on the other hand, has been suspended a couple times and he will always give a franchise something to worry about.

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Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota back in their University of Oregon days.

 

And no, I don’t think they need to make a trade to move up and draft Marcus Mariota. Foles was great for half of a season, then struggled for half of this past season. I do recall his struggles coming from a stagnant ground game, and a battered offensive line that saw 4/5 protectors miss action. Mark Sanchez came in relief with 4/5 linemen healthy up front. Granted, he played better than public perception, there were some questionable decisions on his part and they missed the playoffs. Maybe Foles isn’t a sure thing, but he’s an option that several other teams would take a chance on, if the Eagles decided to trade several picks for Mariota. Chip Kelly has made the offense go at the NFL level, winning 10 games in his first two seasons, so can you really point much blame at the offense? An offense that ranks among the best in points scored and yardage gained, with a different #1 receiver in each season that racked up over 1,300 yards. No, there isn’t much that can sell me on the problem being the offense. It’s the defense. I don’t care if the Mariota experiment results in nearly 40 points per game. At some point defenses catch up, and having a respectable unit to go with an already-elite offense could take them to the next level.

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Justin Blackmon

 

Fantasy Football fans may be without Gordon on their draft boards, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are likely to get Justin Blackmon back from suspension for 2015. I think Gordon has played his last down for the Browns. If Blackmon returned on his best behavior, he could become a star wide out in this league. In 2012, at the Houston Texans, Blackmon caught 7 receptions for a career-high, 236 yards and a touchdown. In 2013, in St. Louis, he grabbed 5 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown. Then the following week at the Denver Broncos, Blackmon erupted for a career-high, 14 receptions for 190 yards. Interesting that his 3 breakout performances all came on the road, but my point was to show how big of a playmaker he was on the field. It won’t be Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert throwing to him this time around, instead it will be first round pick Blake Bortles. The young nucleus that the Jags have assembled could grow into something special: RB Denard Robinson, RB Toby Gerhart, WR Allen Robinson, WR Allen Hurns, and WR Marqise Lee.

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King Dunlap blocking for Philip Rivers

 

So, the San Diego (for now) Chargers continue to give deals to offensive linemen that aren’t top of the line in this league, the latest being King Dunlap. Dunlap will return at left tackle on a 4-year deal. Look, I watched him play for the Eagles before joining the Chargers, he’s a good veteran that improves with each season, but is that really the investment they’re committing to protect Philip Rivers going forward? I really thought the shift in focus under general manager. Tom Telesco, would focus on the line up front for their elite quarterback. They obviously believe in Dunlap under Mike McCoy‘s offensive scheme, I’m just not a fan of it anymore. It’s no wonder that we hear about another injury at the end of each season, it feels like, that Rivers plays through. I’m in favor of giving D.J. Fluker, coming off his rookie campaign, another shot to improve at right tackle. I don’t like that they’re giving both bookends the starting gig without competition this offseason, especially when Fluker is the only linemen that was prioritized with a first round pick.