Game changer. So many franchises are looking for the move that will become the next threat to take down the current 17-year juggernaut that is the New England Patriots. Last season, the Atlanta Falcons had a historic offense, led by league MVP Matt Ryan and arguably the best wide receiver in the league, Julio Jones. The Falcons selected Jones with the sixth pick of the 2011 Draft.The team received backlash for giving so many of the team’s basic needs to move up in the draft to pick a skilled player on a team that already had Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Six years later, most will agree the decision was a game changer for the 2016 NFC champions. Here are five immediate game-changing moves teams in the league can make to get closer to the Lombardi Trophy in 2018.
5. Desean Jackson to Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay benefits from being in the NFC South division. The division champs change so often, that it was a huge deal when the Panthers actually clinched the division two consecutive seasons in 2015. With defending champion Atlanta experiencing personnel and roster changes, the door is more than open to any other team that wants to wear the far too temporary crown. If third-year quarterback Jameis Winston had an All-Pro receiver like Jackson to line up opposite of Mike Evans? The Buccaneers could become the third consecutive NFC South champion to make an appearance in the Super Bowl.
4. Giants sign Brandon Marshall (already happened)
One word probably went through Marshall’s head as he agreed to a deal with the Giants: “Finally.” In eleven NFL seasons, he has never played a playoff game. The talented, All-Pro receiver was a victim of having Jay Cutler as his quarterback in Denver and Chicago. Then, the misfortune continued when he was traded to the New York Jets in 2015. While Eli Manning may be the most complicated quarterback to figure out in history, he sure makes Odell Beckham, Jr.’s statistics look impressive. Adding Marshall to the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback’s arsenal now puts the Giants back in the discussion for NFC contenders.
3. Tony Romo signs with Houston Texans or Denver Broncos
Both of these teams share the same narrative. Great defenses, with offenses that are held back by their quarterbacks. Although he’s infamous for getting injured and throwing critical interceptions down the stretch of big games follow Romo wherever he decides to sign, he’s still better than a lot of other starting in the league right now. In 2016, a team with a retiring quarterback who barely threw anything past 15 yards or just a quarterback that barely threw period.
Last season, the Broncos just missed the playoffs and the Texans even won a playoff game (granted, without MVP candidate Derek Carr). Having a guy like Romo at the end of his career now with a chip on his shoulder for losing his job to a rookie should add a couple of more wins to the end season total.
2. Atlanta Falcons trade running back Devonta Freeman
Last season, the Carolina Panthers finished four games under .500 after taking the league by storm in 2015. A large part of this had to do with role players and stars leaving the team for more money in the offseason prior. Freeman made it clear that he wanted a new deal around the time of the Super Bowl. Now, reports are surfacing about his agent being close to asking the Falcons to trade the former Florida State running back. Unless the team gets an elite NFL running back in the deal, the Falcons should just say “no” for this season at the very least. A lot of the historical offensive season occurred in large part due to the two-headed running backs system. The injury-prone Tevin Coleman may not be the most logical lone solution as the running back for the Falcons. A trade would take the Falcons out of all Super Bowl conversations (all 2018 conversations of course).
UPDATE: Freeman’s agent said a trade hasn’t been requested. She said her husband’s tweets, who originally posted the Freeman trade idea, don’t represent her views or interactions with her clients. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff called the possibility of trading Freeman “ridiculous.”
1. Adrian Peterson signs with the Oakland Raiders
Having one of the most remarkable running backs of this generation to go along with Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper, and 2016 MVP candidate Derek Carr could give “The Greatest Show on Turf” a run for its money next season.