NFL

NFL AM: Fighting For Their NFL Lives

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With three weeks left to play in the 2016 NFL regular season, most of the focus is on those teams that are vying for the postseason, with the others attempting to play the role of spoiler.

Although almost every player will tell you that winning is the only thing that matters (because it’s the right thing to say), what really matters most is that they play well and get to extend their careers.

We’re going to look at a few players who are in vigorous competition these final few weeks for their NFL careers, as they are very much in the balance.

Matt Barkley, QB, Chicago Bears

The former USC star began his fourth NFL season with the Arizona Cardinals, right up until September 3rd, when they waived him.  Just one day later, the Bears claimed him and he began the year on the team’s practice squad.  In a few weeks, he was elevated to the active roster as the third-string quarterback, behind veteran starter Jay Cutler and new backup Brian Hoyer.

It was a long-shot that Barkley would ever see the field this year, but a series of injuries has given him an opportunity.

In three starts, Barkley hasn’t set the world on fire and he likely doesn’t have the Bears thinking that they’ve found their quarterback of the future.  Still, he’s been better than expected and hasn’t thrown an interception in the last two games.

“The young man has continued to impress me,” Fox said about the young journeyman. “He’s been thrown in on the road in Green Bay. He came in and started with a week’s work and performed well [against the Titans].

“The conditions he played in a week ago [against the 49ers], even though it was at home, it was still tough conditions for a quarterback or anybody that handles the ball.

“And then really to come here on the road against a good football team in a loud environment, I just continue to be impressed by the kid’s performance.”

If he can keep up his current level of play, he will be able to stick around in this league as a backup and make a very nice living.  A few more good starts and he could convince Chicago to keep him around next year as a “band-aid” type of starter until they can groom a younger quarterback.

Robert Griffin, III, QB, Cleveland Browns

The artist once known as RG3 has had a much different career path and arc than the aforementioned Matt Barkley.  Griffin was a former No. 2 overall pick, won the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award and led a previous last-place Washington Redskins team to a division title.

Then a torn ACL happened, followed by more injuries that wrecked his career in D.C.  He has never been the same player he was as a rookie, and his career going forward is a bit murky.

After being granted the starting quarterback job in Cleveland, RG3 was injured in the first half of Week 1.  He’s made it back from injured reserve and will be trying to get the team not only their first win, but he needs to at the very least look like a legitimate NFL quarterback, starter or not.

If Griffin never plays another down, he has made millions of dollars, still has some endorsements and will ultimately be okay.

But the player that once told me, “He thinks he can revolutionize the quarterback position” is holding on to his career for dear life, and the final three games of the season will decide whether he’s in Cleveland next year, or really anywhere in the league.

Justin Forsett, RB, Denver Broncos

When most running backs reach 30 years old, they are basically put out to pasture.

Current Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett has had a strange career arc, as he struggled with injuries early on in his career and thus struggled to make NFL rosters.  He finally found a role with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 and had two productive years before falling off and then becoming a true journeyman.

Forsett resurrected his career with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, putting together a 1,266 yard, eight touchdown season.  After injuries hampered him in 2015 cutting his production roughly in half, the veteran found himself as the odd man out this year, as he was one of the Ravens final cuts. Baltimore brought him back temporarily, then let him go and he signed with the Detroit Lions for a game and now he’s trying to resurface in Denver.

The Broncos have had a myriad of injuries at the running back position and this is a great opportunity for Forsett to prove that he can still produce at 31 years of age.  Denver head coach Gary Kubiak was his offensive coordinator in Baltimore when he had his career year, so he should get a fair shake.  After being signed before last week’s game, the veteran carried the ball just six times for 17 yards, hardly making an impact.

If Forsett doesn’t stick on the roster the rest of the year, it could be the end of the road for him as an NFL running back.

Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets

Darrelle Revis has been the best defensive back of his generation and five years after he retires, he will end up in Canton, Ohio in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  He’s one of the greatest New York Jets ever and even won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots two years ago.

His Hall of Fame credentials are better than his credentials to get a roster spot for 2017.

Revis has always maximized his value in the open market and has earned nearly $125 million for his career.  He’s one of the few players who has used leverage against his employers, but that’s about to turn the other way.

The seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro cornerback is due $13 million in salary for next season and if the rebuilding Jets decide to move on from him it will only cost them $6 million.

“That’s how the business goes,” Revis said. “What do you want me to do? Why is everybody so focused on the price tag? That is the problem. They’re not looking at the whole body of work. When Peyton Manning throws three picks, you don’t talk his price.”

He has had his worst season as a pro and has been beaten several times.  “Revis Island” which was once the nickname for the greatest cover corner since Deion Sanders is now little more than a series of meme’s and jokes. 

Revis even did what few athletes ever do, he admitted to a decline in his play.

“You have bumps in the road,” he said. “Are you going to see a one catch for one-yard game? Probably not. I was 23, 24 years old then,” he said, referring to holding Reggie Wayne of the Colts to one catch for one yard in the Jets 2010 wild-card victory. “That’s just not where it’s at. Can I execute better and do things better? That’s going to come. That’s definitely going to come down the road.”

The book may already be written on Revis and his contract will most likely be voided for 2017.  If he plays well down the stretch, he will likely be able to find another suitor for a discounted price.  Possibly a return to New England might be in order?


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.