One legend who’d make each NFL team great again in
2018 – (Yardbarker)
An in-his-prime Johnson would have complemented DeAndre Hopkins quite well in what would be probably the best duo of outside receivers in the league. Second-year QB Deshaun Watson would have an embarrassment of riches with those two studs on the perimeter and speed demon Will Fuller tearing the top off of defenses from the slot.
Watt has been afflicted with injuries in recent years but provided he and Watson are healthy this season, the Texans are poised to make some noise in the AFC South. If only Johnson could’ve entered the league a little later, or lasted a little longer to be around for the heydays of Watson and Hopkins. There’s little doubt Houston would be having even stronger visions of a Super Bowl in the near future.
Tennessee Titans: Keith Bulluck, LB
Pass-rushing specialist Jevon Kearse might have been here had he been more productive over a longer span. That being the case, Bulluck gets the nod. The middle linebacker was the heart and soul of the Titans defense and missed only three games in 10 seasons from 2000 through 2009. In addition to being a heavy hitter versus the run, Bulluck was more than capable dropping in coverage as he racked up 19 interceptions for Tennessee. The three-time All-Pro just missed being a part of the Super Bowl finalist team from 1999.
Bulluck is a prototypical fit for new Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who starred as a linebacker for the Patriots on three championship teams. Rookie first-round pick Rashaan Evans figures to start at inside linebacker and would’ve benefitted from a seasoned pro in Bulluck mentoring and starting alongside him.
It’s important to have a linebacker who can hold his own in the open field, particularly with lethal weapons at the tight end spot. Bulluck would’ve been able to do that, not to mention serve as a catalyst for Evans’ development and a boon to Tennessee’s pass defense that ranked 25th in yards allowed last year.
Los Angeles Rams: Deacon Jones, DE
Famous for his patented helmet-slapping antics to rattle opposing blockers, Jones was a sensational pass-rusher who literally came up with the term “sack,” which in turn became an official statistic. Thus, he unofficially registered three seasons of 20 sacks or more during his 11-year tenure with the Rams.
With a big-market personality and the gridiron game to back it up, Jones would be an ideal fit in LA today. The Rams are a hotshot, upstart team led by young head coach and offensive genius Sean McVay, who rapidly reversed LA’s fortunes from division cellar-dweller to NFC West champion in 2017. Decorated defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has always been known as a player’s coach, so Jones would be given freedom to be himself and not be encumbered by something like the “Patriot Way.”
Not only is Jones a good fit from a personality, chemistry and culture standpoint, but his presence on the field for the Rams would be downright scary for their adversaries. Reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is the superstar in the trenches on Los Angeles’ defense, which added Ndamukong Suh in free agency this offseason. Phillips runs a 3-4 defensive alignment, but would find a way to make it work with Jones, Donald and Suh on the field at the same time. It’s scary to fathom the possibilities of what that trio could do.
San Francisco 49ers: Jerry Rice, WR
The GOAT. What more needs to be said? Okay, well, Rice would be an—ahem—upgrade from the Niners’ current cast of skill position players.
Newly anointed franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo learned coach Kyle Shanahan’s intricate offensive system on the fly after being traded to San Francisco in the midst of last season, but managed to win all five games as a starter, posting a 96.5 passer rating with Marquise Goodwin as his No. 1 receiver.
I do think Goodwin is finally in a system where his skill set and world-class speed can thrive, but Shanahan would do wonders with Garoppolo pulling the trigger and Rice as the go-to guy. Shanahan made Matt Schaub an NFL passing yards leader in Houston, helped a Brian Hoyer-led Browns team to a 6-3 start and temporary AFC North co-lead in 2014 and orchestrated a Matt Ryan MVP season for the Atlanta Falcons in 2016. A Garoppolo-to-Rice combo would be dynamite, putting “Jimmy GQ” in position to be on par with Niners legends Joe Montana and Steve Young.
Seattle Seahawks: Walter Jones, LT
The consensus, glaring weakness on recent Seahawks teams has been a putrid offensive line. Plugging Jones in is therefore a no-brainer. One of his former head coaches, Mike Holmgren, called Jones the best offensive player he ever coached, per ESPN.com’s Mike Sando.
Dual-threat dynamo Russell Wilson is often running for his life, sometimes ill-advisedly from a clean pocket, but mostly as a result of horrendous pass protection. Seattle has not established the run over the past two years as it managed to in the first several seasons of Wilson’s tenure, much of it due to a dearth of blockers up front.
Jones was not only a Hall of Fame protector of the blind side, but he was tenacious, almost impenetrable and a wrecking ball when it came to run-blocking. Rashaad Penny was selected in the first round to give Seattle’s backfield some help in April. He does need a good line to run behind, though, and Jones qualifies as the best centerpiece to build around in Seahawks history.
Arizona Cardinals: Anquan Boldin, WR
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