The Baltimore Ravens on Monday produced a surprising shockwave throughout the NFL, in deciding that they will not use their franchise tag on linebacker C.J. Mosley, allowing him to test the open market if they cannot agree to a contract extension before March 13. Mosley immediately becomes one of the best defensive players to test the market in recent years, meaning he’ll have a good sized market of teams interested in his services. Below is a list of five teams that should be in the most contention for Mosley.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Outside of Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati has a pressing need for linebackers this off-season. The Bengals’ linebackers have struggled to stay on the field and produce, Burfict included, whether it be because they wind up serving suspensions or wind up getting injured. A four-time Pro Bowler in C.J. Mosley would be giving the Bengals a true ‘QB of the defense’, something that is of obvious need in the jungle.
2. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona’s linebacking corps has Chandler Jones . . . and Chandler Jones. Welcoming a fast, smart, insticual player like Mosley to the desert should be of high priority this spring, and would allow them to focus on other needs with their high draft picks in April.
3. Cleveland Browns
At the Scouting Combine earlier this week, Browns G.M. John Dorsey said publicly that he was planning to meet with Jamie Collins’ agent, Bus Cook, regarding the linebacker’s future with the team. Dorsey stated that “there were some inconsistencies”, referring to Collins’ play in 2018. Subsequent to that, reports surfaced that Cleveland is expected to alter Collins’ contract in some way, whether it be by restructuring the deal or by trading or releasing him. Who better than C.J. Mosley to replace Jamie Collins in Cleveland? Personally, I can’t name someone.
4. Oakland Raiders
Outside of Tahir Whitehead, I cannot think of another Raiders linebacker off the top of my head. Whether that’s a normality or a bad look on me, I’ll leave for you to decide. Nevertheless, Oakland needs linebackers. The group that the Raiders currently employ hasn’t shown that they can destroy opposing offense’s game plans and keep offensive coordinators up at night. Add a cup of C.J. Mosley to the mix, and now they have something cookin’.
5. Indianapolis Colts
The 2018 NFL Draft brought some tremendously promising and talented players to Indianapolis, including future franchise players Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson. Indy’s defense took a great big step in the right direction last season under first-year defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Rookie second-round pick Darius Leonard stood out the most, winning the AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year award. When taking a good look at the Colts linebacking unit, though, there is a lot to be desired outside of Leonard. Luckily for them, the Colts have the most available salary cap space, making it quite easy to bolster the heart of the defense by extending a lucritive contract offer to C.J. Mosley.
Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Rams
When it comes to players like Mosley that will have nearly half of the teams in the NFL jockeying for position to be the team expected to come away with him, it’s hard to limit a list of landing spots to just five. So, allow the Los Angeles Rams to be number six. While the Rams are strapped for cash and a player of Mosley’s caliber and price tag is likely out of the picture for them, the move still makes sense if they can find a way to make it work. Los Angeles announced on Tuesday that the team released linebacker Mark Barron, freeing up nearly $7 million in cap space. The Rams have fielded an interesting group of linebackers the past few seasons, morphing special teamers like Cory Littleton and safeties like Mark Barron into the linebacking unit. Identifiying a way to acquire Mosley would result in the Rams finding a player that can truly play linebacker in Wade Phillips’ defense.