The Green Bay Packers released Jordy Nelson on Wednesday, the latest in a line of seismic shifts this offseason for one of the NFL's more stable organizations.
Nelson, who turns 33 in May, managed a career-low 9.1 yards per carry in 2017, when he struggled to click with backup Brett Hundley after winning the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year and leading the league in receiving touchdowns in 2016.
Nelson might never again be the downfield demon he was en route to ranking fifth in franchise history in receiving yards, but after finishing second all time in receiving touchdowns in green and gold, he figures to have plenty of red zone and intermediate value to appeal to a WR-needy contender.
Here are our five favorite landing spots for Nelson:
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Are they the most natural fit? No. Does Nelson's family live two hours west of Arrowhead and rabidly root for the Chiefs? Absolutely.
Sure, the Chiefs already splurged at the position on Sammy Watkins. But a player like Nelson to take pressure off the former No. 4 overall pick, never mind mentor immature Travis Kelce and volatile Tyreek Hill, could be invaluable. Kansas City would have to get creative with its cap, and its easy to say bigger needs exist on 'D,' but this is an interesting scenario.
Pat Mahomes, like another AFC West quarterback lower on this list, surely could use a big-bodied slot to patrol the intermediate part of the field and always be where he's expected. Who knows, returning home might even compel Nelson to take the hometown discount it likely would require to get this thing done.
4. New England Patriots
It's unclear whether there's mutual interest between the two parties, but a Yahoo! report Tuesday indicates Nelson has his eyes on going from Aaron Rodgers to the GOAT (smart guy). New England just lost its No. 2 slot WR Danny Amendola and it's uncertain how much of Julian Edelman's stop-start suddeness will return and how soon after his ACL tear last preseason.
Obviously Bill Belichick has a history of plucking guys from the scrap heap and helping them start a new successful chapter. There's only one, maybe two quarterbacks who might be able to establish a rapport with Nelson that can even somewhat compare to Rodgers', and it starts with Brady.
3. San Francisco 49ers
On the heels of the Richard Sherman move signaling they're ready to compete, the Niners could pair one of the game's more QB-friendly targets with Jimmy Garoppolo. They appeared to get a good one in the middle rounds last year in Trent Taylor, but Nelson is a finished product who could work with fellow possession stud Pierre Garcon to continue creating over-top chances for Marquise Goodwin.
Garoppolo was exceptional working the middle of the field last season, where Nelson figures to earn most of his money moving forward, not in the red zone, where Nelson remains among the NFL's best. The Niners are loaded with cap space and can make Nelson an offer that reflects his past accomplishments without ignoring his future limitations.
2. Baltimore Ravens
Ozzie Newsome has done this before. From Derrick Mason to Anquan Boldin to Mike Wallace, the Ravens hit on vet wideouts as frequently as they whiff on premium-round skill guys. But their most recent foray, landing Jeremy Maclin a year ago, did nothing to rectify the NFL's worst WR corps, and we highly doubt that the curious splurge on former Washington WR3/WR4 Ryan Grant is the solution.
But we can absolutely envision Nelson being the next Boldin or even Larry Fitzgerald, a player who continues to produce for a competitor long after he loses a step because he's just too brilliant of a complete receiver not to adjust.
1. Oakland Raiders
There's a reason Nelson's first stop on his first free agent tour is in Oakland. His former position coach/offensive coordinator, Edgar Bennett, now oversees the Raiders wideouts. He could be an outstanding mentor for Amari Cooper, who's coming off a truly disappointing and drop-filled third season, and also a steadying influence on Derek Carr.
Nelson is a consummate pro, unlike Michael Crabtree, whose fit with Jon Gruden is questionable. And his smarts and savvy paired with Cooper's speed and dynamism could turn into a thing for the Raiders. Not to mention, the Raiders finished 9th in the red zone with Marshawn Lynch last season but just 24th two seasons ago without him and Nelson is the only Packer ever with three seasons of 13-plus touchdowns.