BY ZACHARY KRUEGER
It's been a crazy offseason for the NFL so far in 2017. The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions rounded out the season with a 31-24 Packers victory on Sunday night, and the whirlwind known as Black Monday was officially underway.
Has it actually been a crazy 2017 offseason already? We're not even a full two days into Black Monday/the offseason and I'm actually going to claim that it has already been crazy?!
Yes I am.
Take a look at some of the current offseason narratives that have already unfolded.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Gus Bradley after his Week 15 loss to the Texans 21-20. Bradley at least had the privilege of riding home on the team plane with his former employers, and they have already started interviewing the legendary Tom Coughlin, who will be 71 next season.
- The Bills fired Rex Ryan after Week 16, and have already begun their search for their new coach. The job was reportedly offensive coordinator's Anthony Lynn's to lose, but if Sunday's Week 17 performance was his make or break debut, Lynn is out.
- The Denver Broncos lost Gary Kubiak to retirement just after the team's Week 17 victory over the Oakland Raiders, in what was a more recently announced story that seemed to have come out of left field. Kubiak's retirement will turn into somebody's fortune. The Broncos still have one of the leagues top defenses, and only need a few more offensive weapons to return to Super Bowl contention.
- In what seems to be turning into an annual theme now, Sean Payton's name is getting tossed around as a potential coach to be traded. In a sport where 99.9% of trades are player transactions, a coach has now found his name on the trading block for two straight years. At least that's the story this morning. As was the story at the end of the 2015 season...see here.
- The Cleveland Browns have officially been awarded the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and college seniors everywhere are treasuring their final moments with a well-run organization. Will Cleveland trade the pick? Will they pick somebody? What about a quarterback? When will he fail? HOW MUCH LONGER WILL THAT QUARTERBACK JERSEY THAT HANGS IN THE WINDOW OF BROKAW Inc. IN CLEVELAND GET!?!?! (Oh wait, the owner retired that jersey finally) The questions around the Browns organization alone is enough for a full offseason narrative.
- And then the Browns also have to hope they can retain Terrelle Pryor now that he's a free agent! Which they won't.
- The San Diego Chargers fired Mike McCoy already, only to ensure that Philip Rivers will never escape the league with a ring, much less a Super Bowl appearance. At least not with them.
Let's not also forget the huge (Giant) disappointment pending free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins was on Sunday, as his team was eliminated from the playoffs in a 19-10 loss to the New York Giants.
Surely he, and Dan Snyder did not, "like that."
Cousins was/is set to be one of the highest paid free agents this offseason, but watched his value plummet after he and the Redskins failed to orchestrate any kind of offensive attack in their biggest game of the year.
The fifth year quarterback finished the game going 22-for-35 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions, including a critical turnover late in the game that all but sealed the Redskins' fate.
The good news for Cousins in all of this, is that he is currently the best quarterback in the 2017 free agent class, and it isn't even close. That alone will help him draw a high price tag, but he's going to be kicking himself as he realizes what his payday could have been had he led his team to the playoffs.
I haven't even mentioned the question that is weighing on everybody's mind yet...
WHERE IS TONY ROMO GOING TO PLAY!?!?!
With Kubiak now out in Denver, and current defensive coordinator Wade Phillips having a shot at the head coaching job, do the Broncos now become the favorite to land the veteran quarterback?
Phillips was Romo's coach in Dallas from 2007 to 2010, before Phillips was dismissed after a 1-7 start in 2010.
Romo and Phillips did enjoy some success together in Dallas, and a reunion with a top-tier defense, and plenty of offensive weapons could be enough to draw Romo to Denver with the hope of one last run at a Super Bowl. Ala Peyton Manning 2012.
Wide Variety of Talent in Free Agency
There is a substantial amount of talent hitting the free agent market this offseason in regards to wide receiver...
The one not on the list that I think is a virtual guarantee to be on it in a few weeks is Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets.
The Jets are about to hit a full rebuild on offense, and the embattled veteran isn't going to want to hang around for that.
Marshall's time in the league as a relevant receiver is dwindling, but at 33 years old (at the start of the 2017 season), Marshall can still be a key contributor in an efficient offense.
Maybe I'm getting too ahead of myself here, but if Marshall is in pursuit of a championship, there are only a handful of teams currently equipped to make that run, and who are in need of a wide receiver.
One of those teams happens to be the rival of his current team, and while they always do well with what they have, they still have room to get better at wide receiver.
Enter the New England Patriots.
Interestingly enough, Marshall has already come out and announced that he would not want to go to the Patriots as a hired gun under a one-year contract, but instead would be looking to secure a multi-year deal for 2017 and beyond.
While Marshall's desires for a multi-year deal are understandable, not many teams are going to be willing to commit to an aging veteran who is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career (59/788/3).
Most of Marshall's struggles were in light of the fact that he had to catch passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty all season, but putting aside his numbers on the field, his age will still be a deciding factor in his upcoming contract.
The most intriguing wide receiver on this list however, is Alshon Jeffery, who is a real threat to leave Chicago this offseason.
Like the Jets, the Bears are another team that is in rebuilding mode, and could benefit from letting a high-priced free agent like Jeffery walk, as they look to groom younger wide receivers like Cameron Meredith.
Jeffery is certain to demand a big contract, and what better place to get that than in free agency?
Despite missing four games in 2016 due to a PED suspension, Jeffery still finished the season with 52 receptions for 821 yards and two touchdowns.
Jeffery will be 27 at the start of next season and will need to convince teams that he is not at risk for injury or suspension going forward, but he is certain to garner a high price tag wherever he lands.
NOTE: Jeffery has already guaranteed a Super Bowl victory for the Bears in 2017. If that's true, don't expect him to be a part of that. Also, don't expect that to be true.
A Few Final Narrative Notes
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Right?
What if life decides you aren't good enough to get drafted in the NFL? You turn that into a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal, as is soon to be the case for Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye.
Bouye went undrafted in the 2013 NFL draft out of the University of Central Florida. This year, he turned into one of the most dominant cornerbacks in the game, just in time for him to be a free agent.
Seriously, Bouye was expected to be a nobody. Don't believe me? Look at his boring scouting profile for NFL.com. It's like it was done just because it had to be. No player comparison, no long, drawn out history of his college career, nothing.
Heck, if you see his picture and think it's blurry, that isn't your screen, it's what was posted on the website.
For a guy who nobody had anything to say about in 2013, Bouye has come a long way.
As a matter of fact, most people can't say enough about him at this point.
Bouye should have been named to the 2016-2017 Pro Bowl roster this season, due to being one of the least targeted cornerbacks in the NFL this year, but snubs happen all the time. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up going because of players choosing to sit out.
Furthermore, in the last three seasons, Bouye has played in 44 regular season games (19 starts) and notched six interceptions while returning one for a touchdown. He also notched a combined 63 tackles in 2016, which ranked tops in the league among cornerbacks for the year.
Bouye is a key cog in the run stopping game, as well as pass defense, and is one of the most valued players on the market.
It isn't unrealistic to think that Houston would franchise tag him this offseason to avoid him leaving for another team, but having already been burnt on the Brock Osweiler deal, this decision could be slightly complicated.
Follow Zachary on Twitter at @CentralBirdland