Redemption Tour: Aaron Rodgers, Stefon Diggs, Christian Watson Among 12 NFL Players Determined To Bounce Back in 2024

Which NFL players can redeem themselves next season? We're breaking down the top candidates to bounce back in 2024, including Aaron Rodgers and Stefon Diggs.

The Dallas Mavericks are one win away from earning a trip to the NBA Finals, and guard Kyrie Irving is on a redemption tour. The Mavs acquired the former No. 1 overall pick from the Brooklyn Nets for 50 cents on the dollar last spring, and Irving has been dominant during Dallas’ playoff run.

The NFL is full of players who could manage their own redemptive arcs in 2024. Whether they’re trying to recover from an injury or rebound from a poor performance, myriad players will have a lot on the line next season.

Here are the top 12 NFL players who can redeem themselves during the 2024 campaign.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, New York Jets

The New York Jets‘ 2023 campaign was almost instantly a disaster, as Aaron Rodgers missed all but the first four plays of the season after rupturing his Achilles.

Gang Green overhauled its offensive line and added WR Mike Williams this offseason, and Rodgers knows this year is make-or-break for head coach Robert Saleh, GM Joe Douglas, and most of the club’s roster.

“I like that kind of pressure,” Rodgers said last week. “[New York is] a tough market to play in. It’s not for everybody. I relish that opportunity. That’s the way the NFL is. I’m not saying anything monumental.

“This is how it is every single year. You just might not say it, but as you get older in the league, if you don’t perform, they’re going to get rid of you. Or bring in the next guy to take over.”

Russell Wilson, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

While Russell Wilson showed improvement under Sean Payton after a dreadful under ex-Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, he still ranked just 18th in EPA per play and 21st in QBR. The Pittsburgh Steelers are paying Wilson the veteran minimum, so they’d probably be pleased with a repeat performance at that cheap rate.

However, Wilson hopes to score at least one more multi-year contract. He’ll only be 36 next offseason, and a team could be willing to bet on the former Super Bowl winner if he takes Pittsburgh to the playoffs in 2024.

Wilson has to hold off fellow QB Justin Fields, but reports have already suggested the Steelers will be interested in re-signing the elder passer next offseason. Pittsburgh’s policy of not negotiating contracts in-season means there’s no hope of Wilson landing a new deal until next February at the earliest.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

The NFL’s leading rusher as recently as 2021, Jonathan Taylor missed the first four games of last season while dealing with an ankle injury and engaging in a contract dispute with the Indianapolis Colts. He missed three more games in December after tearing a thumb ligament and never quite got on track, failing to eclipse 100 rushing yards in a game until Week 18.

Taylor has since been paid, and Indy will return its same excellent offensive line in 2024. Assuming second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson can remain healthy, his mobility and gravity as a rushing threat could take the focus off Taylor and create even more rushing lanes for the former second-round pick.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Injuries have limited J.K. Dobbins to just 24 of a possible 67 games since entering the NFL in 2020. He’s now attempting to recover from a torn Achilles, typically a debilitating injury that can sap an RB’s explosion.

However, Dobbins has usually been effective when he’s been able to stay healthy. He leads all running backs with 5.8 yards per attempt since entering the league in 2020 (min. 200 carries).

Dobbins will need to battle fellow ex-Ravens RB Gus Edwards for touches. But both backs will benefit from a strong OL and new Los Angeles Chargers OC Greg Roman, who worked with Dobbins and Edwards in Baltimore.

Stefon Diggs, WR, Houston Texans

Stefon Diggs’ 2023 statistics were undoubtedly concerning. He posted his fewest yards (1,183) and yards per reception (11.1) since 2018, his second-to-last season with the Vikings. Diggs went from seventh to 31st in yards per route run from 2022 to 2023; he slipped from fourth to 67th in ESPN’s tracking metrics.

Diggs’ role with the Buffalo Bills was all but erased by the end of the season. The Houston Texans, perhaps knowing they needed to motivate the four-time Pro Bowler, altered Diggs’ contract upon acquiring him this offseason, ensuring he’ll become a free agent next spring.

With a chance at one more significant payday on the horizon, Diggs should be locked in.

Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Few NFL players have more on the line in 2024 than Tee Higgins.

The Cincinnati Bengals franchised the 25-year-old receiver this offseason after injuries limited Higgins to just 11 starts and 656 receiving yards last year, his worst results as a pro. He’ll earn over $21 million this season, but Higgins is targeting a larger annual value and far more guarantees as a free agent in 2025.

MORE: Tee Higgins Signing Franchise Tag a Matter of When, Not If

Higgins, who hasn’t signed his tag and isn’t participating in Cincinnati’s OTAs, could be the best wide receiver available next spring if Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, and Brandon Aiyuk ink extensions with their respective teams.

Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers

Hamstring issues have been the bane of Christian Watson’s NFL experience, but the third-year Green Bay Packers wideout may finally have the problem solved. As ESPN’s Rob Demovsky recently explored, Watson discovered an asymmetry in his leg muscles, likely contributing to his hamstring injuries.

Watson is working on a solution to his hamstring concerns. If he can stay healthy next season, there’s no reason he can’t emerge as Jordan Love’s true WR1.

Fellow Green Bay pass catchers like Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, and Dontayvion Wicks have each flashed, but Watson might be the most dynamic athlete on the depth chart.

Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Rashod Bateman signed a short-term extension with the Baltimore Ravens this offseason, so he doesn’t have any money on the line in the immediate future. However, the former first-round pick must significantly improve in 2024 to live up to his draft billing and become an integral part of Baltimore’s offensive plan.

Bateman has failed to top 50 catches, 550 yards, or two touchdowns in any of his three NFL seasons.

With Odell Beckham Jr. no longer on the roster, Bateman won’t have as much competition for Lamar Jackson targets and could be on the precipice of his most productive campaign.

Tyree Wilson, DL, Las Vegas Raiders

Because he was the seventh overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, it might be tempting to look at Tyree Wilson’s rookie year stats — 3.5 sacks, eight QB hits — and call him a potential bust.

However, the Texas Tech product looked much better after the Raiders started playing him at defensive tackle near the end of the season. Fifteen of Wilson’s 24 pressures came after Las Vegas moved him to the interior in Week 14.

He might not be twitchy enough to dominate as an edge rusher, but Wilson’s size and power will work on the inside. A Raiders D-line that goes Maxx Crosby-Christian Wilkins-Wilson-Malcolm Koonce could be frightening.

AJ Terrell, CB, Atlanta Falcons

A.J. Terrell’s 2021 campaign was so outstanding — 4.8 yards per target, second-team All-Pro — that it might be challenging for the Atlanta Falcons CB to get back to that level. Terrell’s allowed more explosive plays and committed more penalties over the ensuing two seasons, but his elite upside remains tantalizing.

Those flashes are hard to forget, especially as Terrell enters a contract year. He might have to show more consistency under first-year DC Jimmy Lake for Atlanta to feel comfortable extending him.

Tre’Davious White, CB, Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams were searching for new cornerback starters this offseason and found a former All-Pro after the Bills released Tre’Davious White in March.

Los Angeles landed the 29-year-old for just one year and $4.25 million; while White’s deal has a maximum value of $10 million, the Rams are absorbing little risk by adding the veteran CB.

Of course, White is only cheap because of his devastating injury history, which most recently includes a ruptured Achilles in Week 4.

The Rams, who helped running back Cam Akers return in-season after learning his Achilles in July 2021, might’ve been the perfect landing spot for White, who said LA’s work with Akers played a role in his signing.

Kevin Byard, S, Chicago Bears

While Kevin Byard allowed the second-highest passer rating of his career in 2023, there are reasons to think he can improve with the Chicago Bears next season.

Last year, Byard opened the season with the Titans — who didn’t provide much help around him in the secondary — and closed it with the Eagles — whose defensive backfield might’ve had more coverage busts than any team in the league.

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Chicago isn’t asking Byard to be its defensive savior. He’s merely a piece of the club’s secondary puzzle that also includes fellow safety Jaquan Brisker and a solid cornerback trio of Jaylon Johnson, Tyrique Stevenson, and Kindle Vildor.

Now playing inside a better infrastructure, Byard could return to his 2021 All-Pro level.

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