20 NFL players who will thrive with their new team
10. Nate Solder, LT, New York Giants
One of the biggest issues plaguing the Giants in recent years has been the play of their offensive line — specifically at left tackle. Since being selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Ereck Flowers has been a disappointment for the Giants and has routinely allowed Eli Manning’s internal clock to be thrown off. With Solder now taking over at left tackle, Flowers will move to the right side. Meanwhile, Solder should find some added motivation to succeed as the league’s highest-paid offensive lineman.
9. Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Green Bay Packers
The New York Jets gave Muhammad Wilkerson a massive five-year, $86 million contract with $53 million guaranteed prior to the 2016 season, but he never quite lived up to the bottom line. In fact, after getting paid, Wilkerson saw a dramatic decrease in his pass rushing productivity, which ultimately led to his release. But with the Packers on a one-year deal, Wilkerson has the benefit of starting over and the motivation of knowing he has one season to rekindle his flame and earn another big contract in 2019. Green Bay will obviously yield the positive results of that, and should see Wilkerson return to his 12-plus sack form.
8. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although Jason Pierre-Paul’s missing fingers are still a significant topic of conversation, he’s spent recent years proving he can still play at a high, and sometimes elite level. He has been near the league lead in quarterback pressures over the last several season despite his sack numbers being down, but that had been a product of the Giants’ defensive system more than JPP’s missing digits. In Tampa Bay, and with Vinny Curry on the other side of the line, Pierre-Paul should have more of an opportunity to go after the quarterback. But don’t discount his ability against the run. JPP has long been one of the best run defending defensive ends in the NFL. Being close to home will also only serve to benefit Pierre-Paul.
7. Josh Sitton, G, Miami Dolphins
Josh Sitton moving on from the Chicago Bears to the Miami Dolphins may be one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated moves of the entire offseason. A four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, Sitton was among the best available offensive linemen not named Andrew Norwell or Nate Solder, and it could be argued that he’s more valuable than the latter. Sitton believes he has several “prime years” left in his career, and he’s given no reason to doubt that. The Dolphins got a good one in Sitton, and he’s determined to prove his doubters wrong in 2018.
6. Jason McCourty, CB, New England Patriots
The Patriots made several key trades and under-the-radar moves this offseason, and based on history, they’ll each pay dividends. But the addition of cornerback Jason McCourty, who will now play alongside his brother, Devin, is likely to be viewed as one of the best offseason moves in 2018. Jason revitalized his career with the Cleveland Browns and finished last season with a Pro Football Focus grade of 83.9. Now with the Patriots, who are known to get the very best out of their players, he stands the chance of climbing the defensive back ladder and establishing himself as one of the league’s very best.
5. Dion Lewis, RB, Tennessee Titans
Although Dion Lewis still won’t receive the bulk of carries in Tennessee, essentially being brought in to back up Derrick Henry, it’s likely he’ll be more featured in their offensive system than he had been in New England, where he split time with a variety of other backs. And while that may prevent him from reaching the 1,000-yard rushing mark, there’s little doubt the Titans will find a number of ways to keep Lewis involved. Lewis is an explosive all-around player that simply finds ways to make things happen.
4. Richard Sherman, CB, San Francisco 49ers
After seven years, the Seattle Seahawks decided to cut Richard Sherman loose earlier this offseason. He didn’t stray far however, quickly landing a contract with the San Francisco 49ers that will keep him in the NFC West. And while some feel Sherman’s best days are behind him, the advanced analytics don’t support that theory. Sherman ended the 2017 season with a 82.7 Pro Football Focus grade and now has the added motivation of squaring off against the Seahawks twice per season. Always highly-motivated, the often dominant Sherman will now be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
3. Danny Shelton, DT, New England Patriots
Some may see Danny Shelton ranked so highly on this list and question its validity, but this is just another case of Bill Belichick acquiring an under-rated talent who will only better his game in New England. Shelton has been consistent throughout his career and will now be added to a defensive line that has been pieced together with other equally consistent players. Even without Matt Patricia, that should result in the skill level experiencing a sharp increase for each player, Shelton included.
2. Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins is an easy choice to not only make this list, but reside near the very top. What he was able to accomplish with the Washington Redskins cannot be understated, and the overriding belief is that some contractual stability will relieve some stress and allow Cousins to focus more on football. Having a slew of offensive play-makers won’t hurt, either. Cousins could very legitimately eclipse 5,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns for the first time in his professional career, while also completing upwards of 70 percent of his passes.
1. Andrew Norwell, G, Jacksonville Jaguars
At the start of free agency, it was considered a foregone conclusion that Andrew Norwell would end up signing with the Giants, but that did not materialize. Rather, former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin swooped in and stole Norwell for the Jaguars. Now among the highest-paid offensive linemen in the NFL, Norwell will get the opportunity to anchor the line for a potential championship club. And with talented running backs behind him and other quality linemen next to him, Norwell should take the next step in his already impressive career.