The opening weeks of free agency have concluded, and teams have a pretty clear idea as to what their identity is heading into the draft, which will occur from April 23-25. Let’s take a look at where some former NC State players have ended up and others whose roles have changed heading into the season, whenever that may be.
Philip Rivers, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Rivers departed the team that drafted him back in 2004 (the Chargers), heading to Indianapolis to join up with fellow Pack Pro Jacoby Brissett. Rivers will start for a Colts team that finished with a disappointing 7-9 record following the surprise retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck, which took them from being preseason contending favorites to out of the playoffs picture.
Rivers will be going to one of the best offensive lines in football, led by Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly. The former fourth-overall pick led the Chargers to the playoffs in six of his 14 seasons as a starter and has 11 playoff games under his belt. If all goes well, Rivers will be looking to bring the Colts back to playoff form despite a lackluster 2019 season.
Jacoby Brissett, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Brissett remains on the Colts, though his status with the team is up in the air, especially if the team decides to draft a quarterback in the later rounds this year to develop behind Rivers. If the latter is true, Brissett will look to compete for a starting spot anywhere he goes. Brissett has career numbers of 6,442 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with just two years as a full-time starter,
If the Colts hang on to Brissett, he will need to be ready to start if Rivers goes down, though Rivers has not missed a game in his career since becoming a starter for the Chargers. Brissett will look to impact the locker room and act as a leader on the team even if he is not the starter.
Bradley Chubb, linebacker, Denver Broncos
Chubb will be entering the 2020 season presumably healthy after an ACL injury kept him sidelined for the last three-quarters of last season. The Broncos added players like cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey to an already scary-looking defense that retained defensive end Shelby Harris and safety Justin Simmons. With Chubb hoping to return from injury, he looks poised to build on a strong 2018 rookie season in which he posted 12 sacks and 41 solo tackles.
Juston Burris, safety, Carolina Panthers
Like Rivers, Burris also switched teams over the offseason, moving from the Browns to the Panthers, earning a nice two-year, $8 million contract en route to his alma mater’s state. Burris played in 14 games with the Browns in 2019, starting in nine, snatching two interceptions, deflecting seven passes, and making 32 tackles.
Burris joins a Panthers defense that saw several key losses, only returning three starters and losing key figures such as Luke Keuchly, James Bradberry, Eric Reid, Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy and Vernon Butler.
Kelvin Harmon, wide receiver, Washington Redskins
While Harmon did not change teams, the Redskins switched up the coaching staff, with former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera claiming the same job in Washington and Scott Turner taking over as offensive coordinator. Turner spent time with Rivera in Carolina and will look to electrify a Washington offense that has many promising players, like receiver Terry McLaurin and running back Derrius Guice, along with Harmon.
Harmon posted 365 receiving yards in his rookie season, and growth from quarterback Dwayne Haskins will help ensure that Harmon builds on his productive rookie year.
Jakobi Meyers, wide receiver, New England Patriots
It isn’t every day that arguably the best player to ever play the sport leaves the organization they played with for nearly 20 years, but this is what happened with the Patriots over the offseason when Tom Brady departed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leaving New England with questions surrounding the signal-caller position.
The team returns Jarrett Stidham, who has looked impressive in the preseason and training camp time and time again but has yet to play meaningful minutes in the NFL. New England also signed Brian Hoyer for a third stint with the team, where he has played 23 regular-season games. While it is possible that neither is the starter for the Patriots when the season opens, a new quarterback will be slinging passes to Meyers, who will look to build upon his impressive rookie season as an undrafted player.
J.R. Sweezy, guard, Arizona Cardinals
Sweezy had a decent season with the Cardinals after leaving fellow Pack Pro Russell Wilson during the last free agency period and posting a 61.6 overall grade, according to Pro Football Focus. Sweezy only allowed one sack all season, on rookie phenom and first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft Kyler Murray.
Having a young, invigorating offense is exciting for any NFL offensive lineman, and the Cardinals got even better over the offseason after acquiring star wideout DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans in a blockbuster move. Hopkins, Murray and running back Kenyan Drake compose one of the most formidable offenses in the NFC, and Sweezy will get his chance to re-up with the team next offseason if he follows through with a solid performance this season.