Thirty-two teams in professional football. One champion. The Philadelphia Eagles. These are the important numbers as it pertains to NFL championship arithmetic given each season.
What about the 33rd team?
Despite Roger Goodell’s potential thirst for expansion, there is no 33rd team. You didn’t just wake up from a non-realizing coma or hibernate all winter long. Eight divisions times four equals 32. Don’t worry.
There aren’t any Arizona teams in the NFC East or six teams in the AFC Central as previously experienced during the strange and wacky NFL divisional-setup a quarter-century ago. Thirty-two is still very much a reality.
The 33rd squad we’re presenting is a non-entity, the extremely talented NFL all-free agency team of 2018.
***All franchise-tagged and recently re-signed players have been removed from the pool, slowly turning this ultra-talented roster into a solid overall squad.
Quarterback: Drew Brees
Kirk Cousins this and Kirk Cousins that. Drew Brees is the starting quarterback of this club.
The media coverage pertaining to the big whale of the free agency period, Cousins, has brought the general public an extremely interesting perspective about the right-arm.
They suddenly think he’s better than he is.
While the former Washington Redskins QB can be argued as a top eight or maybe seven player at his position, he’ probably more in the 10-to-12 range. Stats have piled up and completion percentage numbers make the dink-and-dunk strategists go nutty, but Cousins has never won a thing.
He’s a career 26-30-1 QB. If the Skins couldn’t build a decent team around him while he was making $20-$24 a year on the tag, why would another franchise believe they could when he’s making possibly $30 million a year, eating up more of the percentage of the total salary cap pie?
Though Brees will be back in New Orleans, he easily takes the starting job on this team for reasons everybody’s already aware of.
Running Back: Carlos Hyde
Prior to the Pittsburgh Steelers tagging Le’Veon Bell, the 33rd team featured the best running back in the game. Now, the starting and tough-yardage spot will go to Carlos Hyde and we’ll rotate the running backs a bit more.
3rd-Down Back: Dion Lewis
Perhaps the team’s best running back is now the third-down back, Dion Lewis.
We already know the New England Patriots don’t want to lose him. He’s a shifty, exciting version of the position who, when at his best, produces like he did this past season.
At 27-years-old coming off an excellent second half of the season that saw him put up nearly 900 yards and six scores on the ground.
Fullback: Zach Line
Why not allow Brees to keep his fullback on the 33rd team? Versatile fullback Zach Line is the best of the bunch without a real NFL home at this moment.
Wide Receiver (Z): Sammy Watkins
Sammy Watkins will play one wideout. The former Buffalo Bills draftee and Los Angeles Rams weapon now finds himself in a strange place in the league they play for pay.
He’s ultra talented. Nobody questions that. As long as he stays healthy, Watkins makes for a terrific starter on this team.
Wide Receiver (X): Allen Robinson
While Watkins is our 9-route deep threat, Allen Robinson lines up opposite him as that possession big-bodied type making for a perfect combination at the starting wide receivers.
As of right now, it looks like the Jacksonville Jaguars are completely fine with allowing the big WR to walk and luckily for Robinson as he’ll earn a ton of dough on the open market.
Wide Receiver (Slot): Danny Amendola
Are there more talented wide receivers on the open market? Maybe. But remember, we’re looking to construct the best overall team and no free agent wideout is better suited for the slot than Danny Amendola.
As, arguably, Tom Brady’s most trusted third-down target, Amendola is a slot weapon extraordinaire.
Tight End (Y): Jimmy Graham
It looks as though Jimmy Graham will be packing up his bags and leaving Seattle. Just where will he end up? We don’t know.
Some have kicked around the idea of the Baltimore Ravens. Other have mentioned different cities. What we know is he’s the most talented vertical threat tight end on the open market at the moment.
Very easily, Eagles youngster Trey Burton could have been the guy here.
Left Tackle: Nate Solder
Perhaps the strongest unit on this team comes upfront with the five big heavies protecting Drew Brees. Super Bowl champion Nate Solder—who’s expected to cash in big time—leads the way.
Left Guard: Andrew Norwell
If Solder is the staple, Andrew Norwell is the beast.
Some believe it’s already a done deal, that Norwell will be following his former general manager Dave Gettleman to New York to join the Giants. In any event, the guy is a flat-out stud coming off a First-Team All-Pro nod in 2017.
Pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar, Norwell could be the best value on the market.
Center: Weston Richburg
Speaking of the Giants, former center Weston Richburg leads the position on the open market. He’s a solid professional at the position who’ll do just fine for this 33rd squad.
Ryan Jensen, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, is the close runner-up.
Right Guard: Josh Sitton
Any guard who lasts eight seasons as a guard for Aaron Rodgers is a good one. Josh Sitton is that guy, barely edging out Justin Pugh of the Giants in 2017.
Sitton, 31, is a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time Second-Team All-Pro NFL guard. Though he’s slowed down a bit, as evidenced over the last two seasons in Chicago, he still has a bit left in the tank.
Right Tackle: Chris Hubbard
The right tackle spot is by far the weakest of the group. Former Pittsburgh Steelers tackle, Chris Hubbard, who started 10 games a season ago, is our man to anchor the right side.
Defensive End: Julius Peppers
The EDGE spot looked a lot better two weeks ago prior to both Demarcus Lawrence and Ziggy Ansah getting slapped with that dreaded franchise tag. But hey, 38-year-old Julius Peppers will do just fine on one side.
Defensive Tackle: Dontari Poe
A couple of stud seasons in Kansas City led to a one-year deal in Atlanta. Now, for one lucky team, Dontari Poe can actually come as a nice value.
3-Technique: Star Lotulelei
The open market bar is set at interior defensive lineman by Carolina Panthers draftee Star Lotulelei. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson offer up interesting options, but Lotulelei is by far the cream of the crop.
He’ll play that versatile, quicker 3-technique.
Defensive End: Alex Okafor
Opposite Julius Peppers is Alex Okafor who’s racked up 18 sacks in 35 career starts for the New Orleans Saints.
Sub Rusher: Sheldon Richardson
Usually, the fifth defensive lineman as a sub-rusher would come from the EDGE, but due to the availability of what’s out there, Sheldon Richardson is our guy.
He’s versatile and can play both inside and out. If only his mental makeup matched that indisputable talent.
WILL: Avery Williamson
Only 25-years-old and coming off a nice year while helping lead Dick LeBeau’s nasty Tennessee Titans is where Avery Williamson currently finds himself.
In reality, the fifth-rounder is a 3-4 inside linebacker. He makes the transition to WILL in our 3-4 as he easily can.
MIKE: Demario Davis
After a short stint in Cleveland, the Demario Davis that returned to the New York Jets in 2017 was a completely different guy they drafted. He was a leader on and off the field, piling up 97 tackles while chipping in with five sacks a year ago.
He’s a sought-after defensive captain.
SAM: NaVorro Bowman
On the strong side of the second-level, NaVorro Bowman brings both physicality and toughness to the table. While there are questions about health and age, intangibles remain a key with this individual.
Cornerback 1: Malcolm Butler
What exactly happened between Malcolm Butler and Bill Belichick prior to Super Bowl 52 we’ll never know. What we do know is Butler is a former Second-Team All-Pro corner who probably represents the best at his position in free agency.
Cornerback 2: Trumaine Johnson
Speaking of Rams corners, six-year vet Trumaine Johnson holds down the other side and may be the most wanted corner on the market.
Nickel Back: Morris Claiborne
Initially, Chicago Bears corner Kyle Fuller represented our nickel back. Now that he’s been slapped with the transition tag, the chore goes to Morris Claiborne, who proved himself as a legit starting corner with the Jets in 2017. (Fuller can still be had, but it’ll cost any team who’s after his services.)
Jags product Aaron Colvin would be the dime back if we chose to dig deeper.
Free Safety: Eric Reid
Initially, this spot went to Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner. That dreaded tag hit us again. Instead, it’ll be the 18th man picked in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Eric Reid enters free agency on a bit of a down note, but still possesses enough to make organizations believe he’s worth every penny.
Rams FS Tre Boston would be the third safety on the team.
Strong Safety: Morgan Burnett
The versatile strong safety roster spot came down to three individuals, veterans Tyvon Branch, Morgan Burnett and Kenny Vaccaro. The more steady Burnett gets the call and will be a nice addition to any secondary moving forward.
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski
No more Graham Gano. He and the Carolina Panthers recently agreed to a new deal.
It’ll be 40-year-old lefty Raiders staple, Sebastian Janikowski, instead.
Punter: Shane Lechler
No more Shane Lechler. The Houston Texans made sure he stuck around for at least one more season. We’ll scramble for a last-moment replacement of Dustin Colquitt, the longtime Kansas City Chiefs punter who’s earned two trips to the Pro Bowl.
Long-Snapper: Jake McQuaide
In seven seasons with the Rams organization, Jake McQuaide has been one of the steadiest long-snappers in the league. He’s represented the NFC in the last two Pro Bowls.
Roster at a Glance
- QB: Drew Brees
- RB: Carlos Hyde
- 3RB: Dion Lewis
- FB: Zach Line
- Z: Sammy Watkins
- X: Allen Robinson
- SLOT: Danny Amendola
- Y: Jimmy Graham
- LT: Nate Solder
- LG: Andrew Norwell
- C: Weston Richburg
- RG: Josh Sitton
- RT: Chris Hubbard
- LDE: Julius Peppers
- NT: Dontari Poe
- DT: Star Lotulelei
- RDE: Alex Okafor
- SUBDL: Sheldon Richardson
- WILL: Avery Williamson
- MIKE: Demario Davis
- SAM: NaVorro Bowman
- CB1: Malcolm Butler
- CB2: Trumaine Johnson
- NCB: Morris Claiborne
- FS: Eric Reid
- SS: Morgan Burnett
- K: Sebastian Janikowski
- P: Dustin Colquitt
- LS: Jake McQuaide
Admittedly, so much of this team has taken a hit over the last week or so. It’s why we waited until the franchise tag period was nearly over prior to creating the team. It offers the opportunity to construct the most realistic squad.
On offense, especially with Drew Brees leading the way and a dominant offensive line, a strong running game will set everything up. With Jimmy Graham and solid weapons out wide, the 33rd team’s offense will be a top 10 NFL unit.
Defensively, the secondary is weak. That’s the main issue. It’ll be up to the defensive line and each weekly gameplan to generate enough pressure on the opposing quarterback in order to keep the pressure off our shaky defensive backs.
If this team were to join the NFL as is, I see a playoff team, perhaps a division champ as a 10 or 11-win club and an eventual second-round tournament exit.
In fantasy, it’s a solid, not spectacular NFL team in the grand scheme of things.
In reality, we now wait for 32 teams to gobble up these players.