At publishing, we are 16 days away from opening the 2020 NFL season with a juicy Texans-Chiefs matchup. Two weeks from now — a mere fortnight! — we’ll officially be in Week 1. And I cannot wait.
It’s the most unique August in NFL history, with teams ramping up for a season in the middle of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has turned the world — much less the football world — upside down. Understandably, everyone’s just grasping for any available strands of normalcy. That’s where sports come into play. That’s where sports takes come into play. And on that front, I’m here to help!
As we hurtle toward kickoff, here’s a Schein Nine on moves that should be made right now:
1) Las Vegas Raiders should sign Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney has clearly misread the market — or, at least, misread the market in this unprecedented offseason. At this point, he should look to sign a one-year deal, ball out this season, then cash in next offseason. The former No. 1 overall pick will turn 28 next February, so he should still command plenty of loot in free agency — if, of course, he delivers the goods on the field in 2020. And it definitely wouldn’t hurt if he were viewed as the guy who helped a team get over the hump. So, where can Clowney best achieve this?
Vegas, baby! Vegas!! What better place to roll the dice on your future?
Just line up Clowney on the opposite side of Maxx Crosby and let him eat. Clowney, Crosby and Clelin Ferrell (whom I still very much believe in) on the edges, with Maurice Hurst and Maliek Collins manning the interior? That’d be an imposing defensive front. Don’t get caught up on Clowney’s sack numbers — the truth is, he’s a player you must account for on every play.
The Raiders got better on every level of the defense during the offseason, but this could be the move that pushes them over the top. This would be a playoff move for Las Vegas — and a pay-day move for Clowney.
2) New England Patriots should name Cam Newton the Week 1 starter
Bill Belichick won’t tip his hand, but the reality here is crystal clear. Jarrett Stidham started camp throwing the ball to the wrong team. And now he’s hurt. Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer is Brian Hoyer. So end the charade.
It’s time for New England to officially name Cam Newton the starting quarterback. Do it for the team. Let the Patriots rally around Cam as a leader. We’ve seen all the reports about the new QB adding energy to practice and being the first player in the building. Highly encouraging stuff for this shotgun marriage. Time to end the ambiguity. Newton thrives on being an alpha dog, so allow him to fully assume the role. It’s not like Dolphins head coach (and former Belichick assistant) Brian Flores is going to prepare for any other option. Cam needs every rep with the first team. He needs to develop chemistry with Julian Edelman and Co. in a very short period of time.
And let’s be honest: Cam could use a shot of confidence. We are, after all, talking about a quarterback who is winless in his last eight starts, throwing more picks (10) than touchdown passes (9) in that span. Put Cam in the best possible scenario to prove skeptics — like, um, me — wrong.
3) Dallas Cowboys should indeed sign Earl Thomas
When this Ravens organization cuts a player, it feels like back in the day when Jerry West was trying to trade a Laker, or when John Schuerholz wanted to deal a Braves prospect. Probably best to stay away. If you can’t fit into Baltimore’s amazing culture — in a year where the Ravens have the best roster, 1-53, in the NFL — that’s a bright red flag. And opposing teams would be wise to just pass on the seven-time Pro Bowler. Well, besides one.
To me, Dallas is the exception here.
Earl Thomas isn’t the same player he was in his “Legion of Boom” prime with the Seahawks, but he’s still solid. And he’d definitely represent an upgrade for Dallas’ defensive backfield. Oh, and did I mention that the Texas native has wanted to be a Cowboy his entire life and famously told Jason Garrett to “come get me” following a game in Dallas a few years ago?
Now, I know my well-informed colleague Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday morning that the Cowboys are not expected to pursue Thomas. But a short time later, Jerry Jones himself disputed that report on Dallas radio. What’s going on here? Maybe Jerry’s bluffing. Maybe certain Cowboys sources are trying to drive down Thomas’ asking price. Who knows?
One thing I do know: The Cowboys’ should try to sign Thomas to a deal on their terms. I’m talking about an incentive-laden contract with minimal guarantees. If Thomas misses meetings or slugs a teammate, he’s gone. But the upside here on a one-year deal is absolutely worth the risk.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars should trade Yannick Ngakoue …
At this point, debating who’s right or wrong — and how we got here — is pointless. It’s pretty clear that Yannick Ngakoue will never play for the Jaguars again. Those bridges are burnt. To a crisp. So it’s time for Doug Marrone — and the players — to stop having to answer questions about the talented edge rusher. It’s nearly game time. The Jags need to recoup whatever value they can on the trade market. Make a move, David Caldwell.
I’ve always thought Ngakoue is a pass-rushing stud. The former third-round pick has 37.5 sacks in his first four NFL seasons. If he were playing in a major market, Yan would have a candy bar named after him. Or something. Having said that …
5) … New York Jets should trade for Yannick Ngakoue
Jamal Adams is in Seattle. C.J. Mosley opted out. Forget about the obvious lack of star power — the Jets currently lack any real threats on defense. Go get Yan! Ngakoue would be amazing in Gregg Williams’ defense.
I do think, in general, the pieces are in place for the Jets to be better in 2020, but the schedule is brutal. Thus, it’s still all about 2021. Now, Ngakoue’s on the franchise tag — and the July 15 deadline for a long-term deal came and went, so the Jets wouldn’t be able to lock him up until after this season. But they could sure get a jump-start on the courting process by making him The Man on this defense in the Big Apple. As a Washington DC native and University of Maryland product, he’s quite familiar with the East Coast. Not hard to imagine him getting comfy in NYC and eventually extending the marriage for years to come.
Ngakoue could become entrenched with the team in 2020 and help Sam Darnold carry Gang Green into the playoffs … in 2021.
6) Miami Dolphins should hold a legitimately open QB competition
I’m not a doctor. Occasionally, I play one on television. But if Tua Tagovailoa is cleared medically, he should be given every opportunity to start at quarterback from Day 1. And if he isn’t ready in this unique offseason and preseason for Week 1 duties, Miami should turn to him the second that light goes on.
This shouldn’t be about wins and losses in 2020. This shouldn’t be about Ryan Fitzpatrick. It needs to be about Tua — you know, the guy Miami just took fifth overall.
Tagovailoa has all of the tools to be a star in this league. The only question is his health. If he has a clean bill, he plays. This certainly could help the 2020 Dolphins. With all due respect to Fitz, who’s entering his 16th(!) NFL season, Tua is just more naturally talented. But there’s another obvious factor here, too: The franchise, which has been seeking quarterback stability since Dan Marino’s retirement at the end of last millennium, also has to keep the big picture in mind. Giving Tua the reins puts Miami in position for sustained success.
Miami has the right coach. And now quarterback. But he needs to play.
7) Indianapolis Colts should give Jonathan Taylor a majority of first-string reps
I know all about Marlon Mack. He reportedly looks great in camp. And given the landscape this year, experience — when all other things are equal — can sway the pendulum in a position battle. But I would argue that in this competition, when it comes to raw talent, things are not equal. And it’s not close. Taylor — who rushed for 1,977, 2,194 and 2,003 yards during his three seasons at Wisconsin and then blazed a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine — is a freak. He cannot by Indy’s RB2.
I am very high on the Colts this year. I think they can win the AFC South. And Taylor can be special. Let him eat, Coach Reich.
8) Chicago Bears should name Nick Foles the Week 1 starter
While there are legit questions on how much Foles has left in the tank, he has one very important attribute: He’s not Mitch Trubisky. That’s good enough for me — and it should be for the Bears, as well.
Foles has a Super Bowl ring and familiarity with the offensive staff. He needs all the work possible with stud receiver Allen Robinson (who, by the way, deserves a new contract).
I think the Bears have 8-8 written all over them. There’s no upside or reason for optimism with Mitch. While I thought there were better options than Foles this offseason, this is the route Chicago went. Might as well see if you can capture some Foles magic.
9) Cincinnati Bengals should keep A.J. Green in bubble wrap until Week 1
I’ve long argued that Green is a Hall of Famer. I’ve short argued that the Bengals’ offense is going to be great in Year 1 with uniquely talented rookie Joe Burrow at quarterback.
Green didn’t play a down last season and he’s been nicked this preseason. As a great leader — and a fantastic target for Burrow — his value to this Cincy roster can’t be overstated. Keep him in bubble wrap. He will respond when called upon in Week 1. Green’s the ultimate pro.
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.
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