NFL Free Agency: 13 moves that could twist the NFL Draft

Mock Drafts are fun. But they mean nothing until after the free agency period.

Detroit Lions trade QB Matthew Stafford

As reported by PFN this week, the Detroit Lions aren’t planning on letting go of their franchise quarterback. The thing is, what if you don’t believe it. After two injured-ridden seasons, perhaps Stafford, a quarterback who has thrown for over 41,000 yards in his career, might not be considered part of the long-term plan.

The Lions could test the market and see what they could get for the team’s all-time pass leader. If the price is right, what is stopping the team from pulling the trigger? The 31-year-old, when healthy, can lead a team deep into the postseason, and let’s be real; does anyone believe that Detroit is ready to contend in the NFC North?

The quarterback would become the top priority for the Lions in April should the team let go of Stafford. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa would all but likely be the selection whatever the team would add in a trade could address needs at both cornerback and wide receiver later in the draft. Plus, with Detroit needing a quarterback, a team like the Panthers or Chargers could try to trade up for the No.2 pick to add a quarterback for their future as well.

Stafford could be the x-factor for a wild draft night. And while I personally would never trade him, it’s Detroit, and they don’t have Honolulu Blue in their uniform arsenal for giggles.

Denver Broncos let Justin Simmons walk

How often do ball-hawking safeties make it to free agency? Stop wasting time, and know they don’t. Since being drafted out of Boston College, few safeties have earned as little respect as Simmons. After a career-high in interceptions (4) and pass deflections (15), the second-team All-Pro is in for a payday.

But does that mean that Denver will pay him a top dollar? If the team doesn’t franchise tag him, they’ll have to. And even if they do, does that mean they’ll offer him the most?

Rangy safeties will always have value in the NFL. Look at Kevin Byard or Earl Thomas’ recent deals to see what the range is for someone on the rise like Simmons. With rumors flying that Denver could be interested in Byron Jones, maybe he would be worth a chunk of the $62 million in place in the Mile High.

Should Denver lose Simmons, the 15th pick should be an easy one. LSU’s Grant Delpit might have been down this season, but his range and ability to track balls in coverage is remarkable and would help Vic Fangio’s defense immediately. His tackling will need work, but as for flexibility, line Delpit up and let him fly.

With the depth at wide receiver, this would be a natural selection for John Elway, but a tough act for Simmons to follow in the orange and blue.

Ryan Tannehill leaves Tennessee Titans

Although the Titans won’t be selecting until the 29th pick, the team could have several holes they need to fix this offseason. With Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and Jack Conklin all free agents, one player will likely be left out in the cold.

For all intents and purposes, let’s say it’s Tannehill. Now, what do the Titans do to under center?

The team will need to sign a quarterback in free agency on a short-term deal, but that also means the team will need to focus their attention on the young quarterbacks in the class. Should they be unable to move up, Tennessee likely would settle with some like Eason or Georgia’s Jake Fromm for their future under center.

The Titans could potentially make a trade for someone young in free agency like Miami’s Josh Rosen, but besides that, Tennessee would likely focus on the quarterback early. That would leave positions such as tackle, cornerback, and even potentially running back.

Just because a 7-3 record is promising doesn’t mean the Titans are set on bringing him back. Keep a lookout on Tannehill’s time in Tennessee.

New York Giants sign Cory Littleton

The New York Football Giants are one of those teams that could go multiple paths in the NFL Draft. One player, the team, could bring in April is Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons as a multi-purpose weapon on defense. But if the Giants need depth at linebacker, perhaps the team goes for someone in free agency.

As one of the top young defenders in football, Littleton tallied 134 total tackles and was one of the elite defenders in coverage. The Rams will only have roughly $15 million in cap space, meaning they’ll likely let the Pro Bowl linebacker walk in favor of future extensions. The Giants, who have approximately $62 million in cap space, have a need at linebacker and should release Alec Ogletree this coming offseason.

Should Littleton sign with the Giants, the team will likely draft an offensive tackle. Once the first domino falls, multiple teams with depth on the line could be trying to trade up to secure a pass protector of the future. That would likely lead to someone such as Simmons — plus a plethora of wide receivers drop.

All it takes is one player to disrupt the balance if Littleton heads to the Big Apple, except the swing of tackles to be coming towards the top of draft boards.

Miami Dolphins sign RB Melvin Gordon

This is one that might not be a big deal, but also could be the one area in the draft that will not be addressed on the first day. Melvin Gordon’s contract dispute backfired in the standoff, leading to the Pro Bowl runner returning from his holdout early. Los Angeles just let Rivers leave in free agency, so why wouldn’t they let Gordon walk with Austin Ekeler being the starting option?

If that’s the case, Miami might be the best landing spot for the former Wisconsin star.

Without an established running back, Miami would be in a place where Gordon could thrive on the roster. The team’s leading back last season was Kalen Ballage — and he only 74 rushing attempts for 135 yards and three touchdowns.

Yikes is right.

But the Dolphins bring in Gordon, the running back class likely will become a big catch on day two instead of the first day. Outside of the Dolphins, few teams need running backs as a top priority. And if Kansas City is somehow isn’t able to keep Chris Jones, does defensive tackle become a priority?

The Dolphins have three first-round picks this upcoming season. If Gordon heads to south beach, don’t expect the team to draft Georgia’s D’Andre Swift of Ohio State’s JK Dobbins. And if that’s the case, perhaps it’s another year without a first-round running back.