10 NFL players who will thrive with their new team
The 2019 offseason has seen no shortage of major trades, big names on the move, and players full of potential landing in new locations. Some of the fits appear obvious, while others may make you scratch your head. But which moves will turn out to be the best? Which players will thrive in their new locations? Let’s take a look.
10. Earl Thomas, Baltimore Ravens
As talent began to depart in Seattle, Earl Thomas saw his production and playing time decrease — the latter the result of injuries over the previous three seasons. A fresh start in Baltimore may prove revitalizing for Thomas, who will bring to the Ravens the same sort of playing style the team lost when Ed Reed walked following the 2012 season. Needless to say, it’s been a long drought for the once defensively superior Ravens, but that comes to an end in 2019 — at least at the safety position. Thomas provides the exact style of play Baltimore has been in search of, while his veteran experience and leadership in the locker-room can not possibly be overstated.
9. Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants
Jabrill Peppers entered the NFL essentially position-less and unsuccessfully tried to take over the free safety role during his rookie campaign. The growing pains were obvious, but more than the first-year transition, Peppers simply wasn’t cut out to take on big-time receiving threats in coverage. In 2018, Peppers took a dramatic leap forward playing strong safety and playing closer to the line of scrimmage. In New York, taking over for Landon Collins, that is precisely the role Peppers will assume, allowing him to develop his strength without having to concern himself with playing free safety.
8. Joe Flacco, Denver Broncos
The pressure had begun mounting for Joe Flacco in Baltimore years ago, so his benching a season ago came as little surprise. However, contrary to popular belief, Flacco was actually performing at a solid clip early on, ranking 16th overall in DVOA just behind Jameis Winston, Baker Mayfield and Aaron Rodgers. In Denver, Flacco will takes the reigns with far less pressure while also providing the Broncos’ offense with the one thing they’ve been lacking: a quarterback capable of throwing the deep ball. Expect Flacco to produce at or above his career averages, especially if John Elway & Co. cut him loose.
7. Michael Bennett, New England Patriots
Michael Bennett has already established himself as a quality defensive lineman capable of playing both inside and outside, but even after an arguable career year in 2018, he’s poised to get even better as a member of the Patriots. His off-field controversies and locker-room presence aside, Bennett is the exact type of player Bill Belichick tends to get the most out of. As for those potential locker-room issues, they won’t fly in Foxborough. The Patriots have a way of nipping that stuff in the bud and keeping players completely focused on the game of football. Expect big things from Bennett in 2019, which may be frustrating to hear for those who are sick and tired of New England.
6. Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s been a wild and rewarding ride for Nick Foles in recent years, and he has the Eagles to thank not only for that, but also for doing the right thing and letting him walk into free agency unimpeded. Now Foles finds himself in Jacksonville as the face of their franchise. There’s no one looking over his shoulder, his job is secure, and he knows what to expect going into work each day. All of that will culminate in Foles finally reaching his ceiling, which was witnessed in a glimpse during the team’s improbable Super Bowl run just two seasons ago. So long as the Jaguars can shore up their offensive line, Foles may rapidly develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the game.
5. Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions
Trey Flowers had a level of success with the New England Patriots, but was capped by their system and style of play. That’s not a bad thing. For some, like the aforementioned Michael Bennett, it will work out. But for Flowers, he needs a little more defensive freedom, which he will find in spades in Detroit. Additionally, the Lions have suddenly begun to churn out pass rushers with remarkably frequency — Devon Kennard, Romeo Okwara and Jarrad Davis come to mind. Flowers, of course, is more of a pure pass rusher who will excel in those situations, wracking up the sacks at a faster clip than his new teammates. Expect double-digit sacks in 2019 and beyond.
4. Landon Collins, Washington Redskins
It was only a few seasons ago that Landon Collins was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. Since then, Collins’ production has steadily declined and the “box safety” label that plagued him coming out of college has returned. Part of that is due to repeated defensive coordinator changes, a lack of talent alongside him, and being forced to play out of position due to injuries. Whatever role Collins has in Washington will be defined, which immediately puts him ahead of the curve. So long as they pair him with a quality ball-hawking safety, Collins will be able to return to the player who was one considered on the level of elite defenders.
3. Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets
After sitting out an entire year, Le’Veon Bell will return to the field as a member of the upstart New York Jets, who are suddenly feeling quite good about themselves. Not only will Bell be running with a chip on his shoulder, but he’ll do so behind a quality offensive line and ascending young quarterback. And that is precisely where Bell will bring the greatest value. Although he’ll likely gain upwards of 2,000 yards from scrimmage, providing Sam Darnold a trusted outlet will go a long way is helping to build his confidence. It will also boost Darnold’s numbers and create opportunities for other playmakers to step up as Bell draws the vast majority of defensive attention.
2. Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders
It was clear to anyone with a pulse that Antonio Brown had worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh and was no longer capable of coexisting with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Accordingly, he forced a trade to the Oakland Raiders where he will be able to start fresh with a new quarterback. And as the Raiders continue to retool, head coach Jon Gruden will lean heavily on his veterans and superstars, meaning Brown immediately will become the focal point of Oakland’s offense. How high he can fly as the centerpiece of a potentially talented offense is anyone’s guess, but we’re all going to find out in short order.
1. Odell Beckham Jr, Cleveland Browns
Odell Beckham Jr. is already an elite superstar, but things simply weren’t working out in New York. Fresh scenery and a new start in Cleveland could be just what he needs, not only because Beckham escapes the bright lights and gossip of The Big Apple, but also because he reunites with friends and former college teammates. Additionally, Beckham now has the added benefit of playing for a team on the rise with a young quarterback who may fit his style of play better than Eli Manning did previously. So long as he can stay healthy, Beckham should have his best season in 2019.