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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

20 NFL players who will thrive with their new team

Richard Sherman

The NFL free agency frenzy has officially come and gone, and while there are still plenty of moves to be made, the noteworthy trades, signings, releases and tenders are all set in stone.

Free agency itself was as wild as ever, but the trade market was also far more active than usual. And as the result of both, a plethora of superstars have new homes heading into the 2018.

Here’s a look at 20 NFL players who will thrive with their new team.

20. Justin Pugh, OL, Arizona Cardinals

Behind Andrew Norwell, Nate Solder and one or two others, Justin Pugh was arguably the most talented offensive lineman available in free agency. The versatile Pugh proved himself to be a selfless team-first player with the Giants, shifting positions based on the team’s needs. He played both tackle and guard positions, and played relatively well at each. With some positional stability in Arizona, Pugh should excel so long as he can remain healthy.

19. Alec Ogletree, LB, New York Giants

In one of the most unexpected moves of the offseason, the Los Angeles Rams traded linebacker Alec Ogletree and a 2019 seventh-round pick to the Giants in exchange for 2018 fourth- and sixth-round picks. And shortly after adding him, the Giants restructured Ogletree’s contract in an effort to save some salary cap space. It not only provided them a leader at linebacker, but it also upgraded a position that has been neglected for years. And in James Bettcher’s projected 3-4 scheme, Ogletree will play a major role.

18. Tyrann Mathieu, S, Houston Texans

It came as a bit of a shock to see the Arizona Cardinals part way with Tyrann Mathieu, but with a recent history of injuries and a rather substantial salary cap number, they decided it was best to cut ties. That turned out to be good news for the Texans, who beat out several other teams vying for The Honey Badger’s services. Now they get the one-time All-Pro on a one-year prove-it deal, which is the best possible scenario for Houston. Mathieu will be looking to cash in come 2019, so if health is no concern, the Texans will have themselves one of the league’s best safeties.

17. Vinny Curry, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vinny Curry had been nothing if not remarkably consistent during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t carry over to the Buccaneers. However, in Tampa Bay, Curry may finally have the chance to start on a regular basis, which will allow him the opportunity to show what he’s truly made of. And with Jason Pierre-Paul lining up on the opposite end of the line, Curry will have a chance to show the NFL what he can do at his very best.

16. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Ndamukong Suh has proven he can excel with just about any team he suits up for, and that’s not likely to change with the Rams. However, he’ll have the added advantage of lining up next to the league’s most elite defensive tackle, Aaron Donald, creating an interior force the likes of which the NFL has never seen. The overall talent, athleticism and football IQ shared by Suh and Donald is second to none. The presence of each will make the other better, so don’t be surprised to see Suh playing the best football of his career in 2018.

15. Aqib Talib, CB, Los Angeles Rams

Aqib Talib may be 32 years old, but he’s still among the best cover corners in all of football. That’s why it was a bit of a shock that the Denver Broncos shipped him to the Rams, but it’s a solid deal for Los Angeles nonetheless. Adding to that is the fact that Los Angeles also acquired Marcus Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs, forming one of the most formidable cornerback combinations in football. How much longer Talib has left at the elite level remains to be seen, but for a team in win-now mode, his addition will be viewed very favorably in 2018.

14. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Cleveland Browns

The Browns may be poised to select a potential franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, but at least for now, Tyrod Taylor is their starter and will have an opportunity to run the show next season. And in a sad indictment of how bad it’s been at the position over the last decade, Taylor immediately becomes the best quarterback the Browns have trotted out on the field since Bernie Kosar. He also has the benefit of playing alongside some quality offensive talent, including Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde and David Njoku.

13. Alex Smith, QB, Washington Redskins

Alex Smith joining the Redskins may be one of the more overlooked moves of the offseason. With all the hype focused on the departure of Kirk Cousins, it was almost immediately forgotten that Smith, coming off his best season in the NFL, would be under center for the Redskins in 2018. And while he’ll never put up the sort of numbers required to be considered among the elite in football, Smith will bring his unwavering consistency to the nation’s capital. In the dangerous NFC East, Smith will thrive due to his mobility, accuracy and ability to avoid the big turnover.

12. Michael Bennett, DE, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles won their first Super Bowl last season on the shoulders of their defense. Specifically, Philadelphia rode their dominant defensive line to a championship. And while they lost Vinny Curry to the Buccaneers this offseason, they benefited from the Seahawks’ fire-sale, acquiring defensive end Michael Bennett and a seventh-round pick in exchange for a fifth-round pick and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Bennett’s recent legal issues aside, he’s one of the most disruptive defensive ends in football and will likely take his game to the next level under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

11. Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns

Jarvis Landry found tremendous and, in some aspects, unparalled success with the Miami Dolphins despite their issues at the quarterback position. After being traded to the Browns, he not only lands with a quality quarterback in Tyrod Taylor who is expected to excel in his own right, but is now also teamed with Josh Gordon and David Njoku. Defenses will only have so many coverage options, which will likely lead to Landry facing more one-on-one matchups than he has in recent years. As a result, the talented young receiver could actually have his best season as a pro in a place where most careers go to die.

See Nos. 10-1 on Page 2

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