As crazy as it sounds, the NFL is season is over - and incredibly, improbably the Rams are your Super Bowl champs!!!!
Now we head into the off-season - but as we’ve seen in the last few cycles, the offseason is never truly off. So many stories will get conclusions, a bunch of rumors that need to be cleared up, and of course, things that happen with no foreshadowing that gets everybody talking.
We’ll strike that last one for this piece, but in no particular order; here are the biggest NFL storylines we’ll be looking at this offseason.
What is Aaron Rodgers' future??
Has Rodgers played his last snap in Green Bay? The rumor mill is swirling with potential destinations like Denver and Cleveland. Rodgers buying a plot of land in Tennessee was a top story last week, so that should tell you how starved the media and NFL fans are for Rodgers news. The next dopamine hit could be potential trade scenarios to send Rodgers out of Green Bay. Would the Packers receive a quarterback in return? If so, that should tell you everything about how comfortable they feel with Jordan Love as their starting quarterback. This Rodgers situation is an onion, with many layers to peel back.
With Houston installing brand new head coach Lovie Smith this week, nothing has changed with Watson’s status in Houston. The legal process needs to play out for Watson before any potential NFL suitor comes bearing gifts in the form of draft picks, players, or both. On the field, Watson would be an immediate upgrade to any quarterback room; that’s a given. However, this storyline is still “to be determined,” even though this situation has seemingly gone on forever.
While Wilson has not outright demanded a trade, that hasn’t stopped fans and the media from pondering a 2022 destination for Wilson that isn’t Seattle. Wilson is a player who cares deeply for his legacy and wants to compete for championships each season, so if there is a destination that would satisfy those cravings, why wouldn’t he want to keep his options open? With several quarterback openings around the league, Wilson could be an attractive option for teams that don’t want to pay the ultra-premium price for Aaron Rodgers.
Who and what is next for the Buccaneers?
Tom Brady? Retired. Rob Gronkowski? Probably right behind him. Tampa Bay’s presumptive quarterback is Kyle Trask as of right now. That’s not going to cut it. Antonio Brown isn’t putting the pads on that he left on the Tampa Bay sideline. Chris Godwin is a free agent, as are Ryan Jensen, Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Carlton Davis, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, and others.
Does that sound daunting? Well, the Buccaneers could shift right back to being the NFC South doormat in 2022 after running it back in 2021. We’ll see how this roster reshapes itself and who they tab as their next quarterback. This team will likely have some growing pains in the “post-Brady” era.
The second-year quarterbacks
2021’s rookie quarterback crop as a whole was quite the mixed bag. First-overall pick Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones started all 17 games for their teams and were up and down with their production, especially Lawrence. In his rookie season, Jones led the Patriots to a playoff berth, while Lawrence gets his second head coach (Doug Pederson) in two seasons. Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, and sixth-rounder Davis Mills started double-digit games. Trey Lance started just two games and took a backseat to the steady(ish) hand of Jimmy Garoppolo during San Francisco’s playoff run that fell short in the NFC Championship game.
All but Mills are slated to start for their respective franchises, but the excitement remains high heading into year two as hopefully a handful of these second-year quarterbacks ascend to the franchise players their teams drafted them to be.
The NEXT rookie stars
While the incoming quarterback class isn’t as strong as in past years, there’s still a lot of optimism for Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett. Wide receivers like Treylon Burks, Drake London, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jameson Williams are a healthy crop who could flash and quickly ascend towards the top echelon of NFL receivers like Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase have the last two seasons. While the running backs may not crack the first 32 picks of Day 1 of the draft, but if Breece Hall, Isaiah Spiller, or Kenneth Walker III land with a team with an obvious need at running back like Tampa Bay, Miami, Houston, and Atlanta among others? Look out.
The Alvin Kamara situation
There’s a lot to unpack here and a lot of information yet to come out about Kamara’s Pro Bowl situation. The “TL;DR” here is that Kamara was involved with a group of people in a physical altercation at a Las Vegas nightclub the night before the Pro Bowl, which led to a victim being hospitalized with a fractured orbital bone and Kamara being arrested as the aggressor.
Of course, this is a fluid situation, but it’s not a good start to the offseason for Kamara and, by extension…
The New Orleans Saints post-Sean Payton
Kamara’s situation provides yet another wrinkle into how the offseason will go for the Saints, but just add this to the laundry list of issues the franchise will deal with heading towards the 2022 season. The Saints are currently $76m over the salary cap heading into 2022. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis will need to restructure a slew of contracts, including Taysom Hill, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, and Alvin Kamara.
After Sean Payton stepped away as head coach, the Saints promoted long-time defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. New Orleans also may look for a long-term solution at quarterback in the draft. And what to make of Michael Thomas? There are many questions yet to be answered in New Orleans this offseason.
Analytics: the debate rages on
It’s the internet. People have a lot of opinions on, well, everything. Some people want you to know that they have a smarter human brain than other humans. Analytics in football has been a very touchy subject, and mediums like Twitter don’t exactly help matters with the discussion. Neither do older NFL television analysts, who are giving off way too much “old man yells at cloud” energy when they go on analytics rants during NFL broadcasts.
The fact remains that offenses have never been more aggressive than in the present. Teams have elected to go for it on 4th-and-1 at 69%, 4th-and-2 at 39%, 4th-and-3 at 19%, and teams have attempted two-point conversions at an 11% rate, all of these single-season NFL records, per Michael Lopez.
Analytics are great when they work and terrible when they don’t. The discussion rages on.
Is Tom Brady going to STAY retired?
It took a week. Tom Brady is already a bit non-committal in his retirement, stating on his Let’s Go podcast: "You never say never and at the same time, I know I feel very good about my decision. I don't know how I'll feel six months from now. It could change, it most likely won't."
Brady didn’t leave the door wide open for a return, but the door is open a crack. And as we know, that’s just enough to keep the speculation merry-go-round turning this offseason.
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