The next wave of the NFL offseason has arrived.
With June 1 in the books, NFL teams can now cut or trade veterans with salary cap assistance. Instead of major cap hits being charged to the 2021 cap, moving on from veterans now comes with the ability to spread the cap hit over two seasons. It’s a big deal, and one many teams will take advantage of over the next few weeks. Consider it the last true NFL transaction period before training camp gets underway in late July.
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Here are five moves we should see in June across the NFL.
Eagles’ Zach Ertz to Bills
This one feels too obvious not to happen. Ertz wants out of Philadelphia, so much so that the notorious team-first player and great locker room guy skipped voluntary OTAs with a new coaching staff in tow. This is the same player that emotionally said goodbye to Eagles fans at the end of last season. He now seems physically checked out.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman doesn’t seem like he’s ready to just cut Ertz. Nor should he. Ertz is coming off an injury-plagued and down year, but is still too good of a player to simply get nothing back for.
Buffalo, a contender that cleared some cap space and can use more at tight end, feels like the perfect fit. Perhaps a conditional 2022 pick (fifth-rounder that could become a fourth if Ertz reaches something close to his peak numbers and/or the Bills reach the Super Bowl) is easy enough to make this work.
Falcons’ Julio Jones to AFC contender
If the Falcons are smart, they’ll send Jones to the opposite conference. Atlanta feels like a sneaky-good team in 2021 and a potential bounce-back playoff contender with a new coaching staff and Matt Ryan. Having to face (or potentially miss out on the playoffs due to Jones’ new team) their future Hall-of-Fame receiver seems foolhardy. So let’s rule out teams like the Packers, Rams, Seahawks, or Eagles.
In the AFC, three teams make the most sense: Patriots, Titans and Ravens. All three can use difference makers on the outside.
New England made big splashes on offense during free agency and the draft. By October, Bill Belichick could roll out an offense with Mac Jones at quarterback, Julio Jones, Nelson Agholor and Kedrick Bourne at wide receiver, and Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry at tight end.
Tennessee, a very good team that’s built on its tough, physical offensive identity, could pair Jones with wide receiver A.J. Brown and running back Derrick Henry to form the most imposing group of weapons in the NFL.
Baltimore could finish its remake of the wide receiver position (Sammy Watkins was added in the offseason) and give Lamar Jackson enough to compete for a Super Bowl.
Packers call Aaron Rodgers’ bluff
Does anyone think Rodgers is sitting out a full season? Are we to believe the reigning MVP is leaving football to host Jeopardy? Come on. Green Bay vs. Rodgers is the NFL’s juiciest soap opera, but the team is still in control here. Let’s see if Rodgers is ready to give back millions in signing bonus money and walk away from the sport. I doubt he is.
Cowboys’ Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to Chargers
Dallas’ offseason moves on defense came across as surprising for anyone who thought the linebacker position was filled in Cowboys land. Former Falcons safety Keanu Neal was signed to play linebacker. Dallas then drafted Penn State star Micah Parsons in the first round, and LSU star Jabril Cox in the fourth round.
That’s three new linebackers coming into town with a new defensive coordinator (ex-Falcons head coach Dan Quinn). It sure feels like incumbents Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are on borrowed time in Dallas. The Los Angeles Chargers are thin at linebacker, and have a new head coach (Brandon Staley) that’s a defensive coach. A trade here almost makes too much sense not to happen sooner than later.
Cardinals’ Jordan Hicks to Patriots
Arizona already promised Hicks’ starting spot to first-round pick Zaven Collins. Hicks, a star when actually on the field, has stayed healthy in Arizona after an injury-plagued career with the Eagles. If the Cardinals are looking to dump the veteran, the versatile defender would be perfect for Belichick’s scheme in New England. The Patriots keep loading up for a big run in 2021.
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Joe Giglio may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.