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2021 NFL offseason preview, power rankings, Deshaun Watson and more

The 2021 NFL offseason is right here. It’s time to preview each free company and the draft, and what to anticipate in these bizarre occasions.

The Tremendous Bowl is behind us. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are champions, and deserved ones.

Now, we head into the offseason, with 32 golf equipment again in play. Thirty-two golf equipment believing that subsequent 12 months, they will benefit from the Bucs’ present actuality.

After all, we all know these desires are fiction for some, proper? Probably not.

In any case, who right now believed the Buccaneers could be holding the Lombardi Trophy? Few noticed Tom Brady headed to Tampa Bay a 12 months in the past right now. Even fewer believed he might flip a listless franchise into champs.

The 12 months prior, no one noticed the San Francisco 49ers as more likely to go from No. 2 general decide to NFC champions. But, Kyle Shanahan’s crew was seven minutes away from the franchise’s sixth ring.

The purpose? Even the largest dreamers — and a few desires are extra grandiose than others — have an opportunity of realizing them.

Transferring into the offseason, now we have a litany of storylines and subplots to watch. Listed here are 10 quick-hitters which is able to dominate the subsequent few months.

– How does the Deshaun Watson saga finish?

Whether or not OTAs are digital or in-person (extra on that beneath), Watson skipping them would solely create extra drama. The identical, clearly, holds true for minicamps and coaching camp. After all, if the Houston Texans are going to commerce him, doing it earlier than the draft could be clever. Then once more, that is the Texans.

If Watson is dealt away, it seems the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers are all value monitoring.

– Who cashes in rapidly throughout free company’s first few days?

The wage cap is predicted to fall nearly $20 million, which implies free company {dollars} are in brief provide. Speaking to a number of league sources, the expectation is stars will receives a commission, however that second-tier might be squeezed considerably. Count on a ton of one-year offers and incentive-laden contracts for excellent gamers.

In contrast to previous years the place free company basically started at Prime 47 and the Westin resort bar throughout the Scouting Mix, conversations have been going robust because the Senior Bowl. Search for pacts to return collectively rapidly for big-ticket gamers, after which cash to dry up.

– Much less participant motion

Constructing off the above matter, brokers will seemingly encourage mid-level shoppers to take short-term offers earlier than they hit free company. Once more, with the shortage of cash across the league, non-stars could be clever to make sure themselves of an honest deal. In the event that they go to market and nothing materializes, they could possibly be ready till summer season for a job.

– Extension talks between Lamar Jackson, Ravens

I’ve written extensively about this subject in this space before, so I’ll be fast. Speaking to a number of league sources, there’s an expectation Jackson and Baltimore get a long-term, profitable extension completed. Those self same sources additionally imagine it’s a really dangerous proposition for the Ravens.

Jackson is a tough employee, has impeccable character and is an MVP at 24 years outdated. Nevertheless, he additionally has one playoff win and there are questions on his passing acumen. Needs to be an interesting negotiation as he turns into eligible for an extension.

– COVID is right here, however reduction seems on the way in which

Vaccines are being distributed and subsequently, now we have actual hope of a traditional 2021 common season. The looming query, although, is whether or not something previous to coaching camp is in-person or as soon as once more sponsored by Zoom.

Many groups felt not a lot was misplaced by going digital, however others would far choose to have dwell OTAs and minicamps, particularly these with new teaching staffs. It’ll be attention-grabbing to see the place the nation is come April, Could and June.

– Receivers, quarterbacks and corners will rule the primary spherical

There’s an actual likelihood greater than half of the 2021 Draft’s prime 20 selections might be comprised of receivers, signal-callers and cornerbacks.

The league’s most glamorous place will see Trevor Lawrence,  Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and maybe Mac Jones come off the board. The pass-catchers are incredible as nicely, led by DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylon Waddle. At nook, Patrick Surtain Jr. and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley are seemingly top-10 picks.

– The draft could have an outsized significance in 2021

With the aforementioned issues plaguing free company, groups are way more more likely to see their fortunes rise and fall with their rookie lessons than a splurge on the open market. If we see worst-to-first tales, it’ll be as a result of a entrance workplace discovered three or 4 key contributors within the draft, and never from spending $200 million on veteran upgrades.

– Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have one other spherical in them

Everyone seems to be speaking in regards to the quarterback scenario throughout the state, however let’s not neglect about Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. After being tagged final summer season, it appears we’re headed that approach as soon as extra, barring a fast reversal. Proprietor Jerry Jones might be paying Prescott greater than $37 million on the tag, severely hampering every other strikes Dallas could make.

If, nonetheless, the Cowboys can signal Prescott earlier than free company begins, it will open up ample potentialities to bolster the protection. Dallas followers ought to be hoping the 2 sides mercifully discover frequent floor.

– How do Packers assist Aaron Rodgers over the NFC title recreation hump?

This would be the query dogging Titletown all offseason. After doing little to improve round Rodgers final winter, the Packers repeated their 13-3 common season earlier than faltering one step shy of the Tremendous Bowl. Basic supervisor Brian Gutekunst doesn’t have a lot in the way in which of free-agency {dollars}, however will he be aggressive within the draft?

Inexperienced Bay can’t afford to waste any time with Rodgers, who performed to an MVP degree in 2020 however can be 37 years outdated. Gutekunst ought to prioritize receivers and corners.

– Do the Chiefs make huge strikes within the wake of their huge loss?

Kansas Metropolis at the moment sits $23 million over the cap, however with just a few base-to-bonus conversions and an extension for Tyrann Mathieu, the Chiefs could be comparatively flush with money. After dropping the Tremendous Bowl, will normal supervisor Brett Veach proceed his annual custom of taking huge swings, ro does he make just a few modest strikes and add a draft class?

The Chiefs are the Tremendous Bowl LVI favourite, however that doesn’t imply Veach and Co. received’t attempt to remake sure parts of the roster.

Energy rankings

Prime 10 potential cap casualties to look at (financial savings)

1. Derek Barnett – EDGE – Philadelphia Eagles ($10M)
2. Trai Turner – G – Los Angeles Chargers ($11.5M)
3. Eric Fisher – OT – Kansas Metropolis Chiefs ($12M)
4. Geno Atkins – DT – Cincinnati Bengals ($9.5M)
5. Kwon Alexander – LB – New Orleans Saints ($13.1M)
6. Lamarcus Joyner – S – Las Vegas Raiders ($8.7M)
7. Jimmy Graham – TE – Chicago Bears ($7M)
8. Christian Kirksey – LB – Inexperienced Bay Packers ($5.6M)
9. Eric Ebron – TE – Pittsburgh Steelers ($6M)
10. Ricardo Allen – S – Atlanta Falcons ($6.3M)

Quotable

The Indianapolis Colts have the second-most cap area within the NFL behind the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nonetheless, star linebacker Darius Leonard is setting the tone, letting each his personal crew and potential signees understand it’s about perspective, not Q ranking. Find it irresistible.

Podcast

Random stat

With their win in Tremendous Bowl LV, the Buccaneers turned the 14th NFL franchise to win a number of Tremendous Bowls.

The Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns are the one groups nonetheless to by no means seem.

Information discovered this week

1. J.J. Watt kicks off one of many extra intriguing free company intervals ever

Even J.J. Watt had sufficient of Houston.

Solely 13 months in the past, the Texans led the Chiefs 24-0 within the second quarter of the AFC Divisionals. They proceeded to be outscored 51-7, then two months later traded All-Professional receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round decide and broken-down operating again David Johnson. In October, head coach Invoice O’Brien was fired following an 0-4 begin. At season’s finish, quarterback Deshaun Watson started an aggressive marketing campaign to be traded.

Lastly, on Friday, Watt took to social media, telling the soccer world he requested, and was granted, his launch.

Watt, 32, is now not the game-wrecking drive of his prime. Since 2016, Watt has solely performed greater than eight video games in a season twice, and reached only a single Professional Bowl. He’s nonetheless efficient when wholesome — he has 25.5 sacks in 48 video games throughout stated stretch — so the market might be heat for his companies.

After all, it is a completely different market. With the wage cap anticipated to drop roughly $18 million as a result of COVID-19, Watt is just a few groups with cap area as an alternative of a majority.

The most well-liked locations for him are Pittsburgh and Inexperienced Bay, due to household ties and hometown roots, respectively. Nevertheless, each are nicely above the brink and have ample free brokers of their very own.

Watt could have many suitors, and maybe Pittsburgh and Inexperienced Bay will discover their approach into the combo. However not like previous years the place Watt’s arrival on the open market would have meant a feeding frenzy, this winter will carry tempered enthusiasm.

2. City Meyer’s off to tough begin in Jacksonville

Chris Doyle’s hiring was introduced by the Jaguars on Thursday. He resigned Friday night.

Meyer, who many puzzled aloud about upon his NFL ascension, made his first considerably mistake final week. Meyer introduced in Doyle as a director of sports activities efficiency, who allegedly made racist remarks whereas on the University Iowa as a strength and conditioning coach.

In a joint assertion with normal supervisor Trent Baalke, Meyer apologized, saying he “ought to have given larger consideration to how his appointment could have affected all concerned.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Meyer is about to study this isn’t Ohio State or Florida. He can’t unilaterally make choices anymore. In Columbus and Gainesville, Meyer wielded unchecked authority as most faculty deities do. In Jacksonville, Meyer has to reply to homeowners, gamers and the league.

Bringing on Doyle and his checkered previous was a short-sighted transfer by a coach used to getting his approach with out blowback. Welcome to the NFL.

3. The longer Wentz isn’t dealt, the extra we study

Carson Wentz continues to be a member of the Eagles. It’s telling at this juncture.

Philadelphia is aware of it will probably’t return. Wentz might be traded, and the Eagles will roll with Jalen Hurts as their quarterback in 2021, pairing him with first-year and first-time head coach Nick Sirianni.

Nevertheless, it was more than a week ago when Wentz seemed minutes from being dealt. The Colts and Chicago Bears have been the 2 groups most linked to the 28-year-old. But right here we’re, and no one has made the transfer.

Stories are scattershot on the asking worth, however right here’s the truth: the Eagles’ asking worth is just too excessive. No matter normal supervisor Howie Roseman desires, it’s one thing no membership is prepared to supply. If Roseman was merely selecting between two offers he liked, Wentz would have been despatched packing days in the past.

Philadelphia wants to maneuver on and ahead. Buying and selling Wentz for a Matthew Stafford package deal isn’t taking place. The Los Angeles Rams surrendered three top-100 picks and Jared Goff, together with a pair of first-rounders. If the Eagles get a single first-round decide for Wentz it will characterize an upset. Frankly, they need to be thrilled for a pair of Day 2 picks.

Roseman and the Eagles are holding out, ready for extra. Every second that goes by suggests they’ll ultimately have to just accept actuality and reduce bait.

4. Russell Wilson asking for assistance is inflicting issues with Seahawks

Russell Wilson made his emotions identified. Now it’s incumbent upon the Seattle Seahawks to hear.

Wilson went on The Dan Patrick Present and aired grievances in direction of his crew, suggesting he wants extra enter and insinuating the offensive line is subpar. Reportedly, Seattle isn’t pleased with its star quarterback going public, causing what a source told Patrick is an “unsustainable situation.”

In contrast to Houston, Seattle is a secure group. Basic supervisor John Schneider and head coach  Pete Carroll are one of many sturdier energy {couples} within the league. Wilson has spent his total profession with them. The longer term Corridor of Famer is surrounded by explosive weapons in D.Okay. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, together with a supporting solid ok for an NFC West title and a 12-4 mark.

Nonetheless, Wilson isn’t improper. The offensive line has been poor for years, constantly placing him atop the sacks taken leaders. Seattle has completed a poor job investing in its entrance, one thing of accelerating significance to a 32-year-old who more and more must keep away from huge hits.

There’s cause to imagine the Seahawks and Wilson will get on the identical web page with elevated communication about necessary choices. But it surely’s a scenario value monitoring within the coming weeks.

5. Steelers’ lengthy offseason begins with Pouncey’s farewell

Pittsburgh most likely has one 12 months left with Ben Roethlisberger earlier than retirement hits. For the two-time champion, he’ll need to doubtlessly endure his swan track with out longtime middle Maurkice Pouncey.

Pouncey, 31, is a nine-time Professional Bowler and two-time First-Crew All-Professional. There’s a stable likelihood he walks into Canton within the decade forward, very similar to former Steelers facilities Dermontti Dawson and Mike Webster. For years, Pouncey was the person in Pittsburgh’s pivot, anchoring one of many league’s finest strains with guards David DeCastro and Ramon Foster on his flank. No extra.

Roethlisberger was by no means a runner, however he was cellular inside the pocket for greater than a decade. These days are lengthy gone. With Pouncey gone and left sort out Alejandro Villanueva hitting free company, Pittsburgh’s quarterback could have a lot adjusting to do. The largest change being the person snapping him the ball.

Gambler’s recreation

Final gambler’s recreation till coaching camp, as a result of in any other case we’re merely spinning wheels!

Till then, right here’s a futures wager so that you can think about. Rumors are swirling about Watson and the place he lands, as aforementioned. Denver and Miami, currently at 40/1 and 12/1 respectively, are intriguing bets for the AFC championship if Watson is on the town. Maybe a small wager that might money properly.

Two cents

Control the Washington Soccer Crew this offseason.

Stories linked Washington to talks with the Lions over Matthew Stafford, and it is sensible. Alex Smith is 37 years outdated and whereas heroic, additionally replaceable. Taylor Heinicke is a good backup choice, however he’s not a long-term reply both.

If Washington could make a transfer for one of many “different” first-round quarterbacks within the draft — assume Justin Fields (Ohio State), Trey Lance (North Dakota State) or Alabama’s Mac Jones, it will make sense. With the NFC East representing the most-winnable division and head coach Ron Rivera seeking to defend and enhance, the Soccer Crew is a participant to make a giant splash.

Contained in the league

I’ll have a characteristic approaching the way forward for the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame this week, and right here’s a enjoyable nugget from the story.

Just a few weeks in the past, the 49 voters got here collectively to finalize the 2021 class. Peyton Manning was offered by Colts beat author Mike Chappell. The presentation lasted seven seconds, and solely as a result of Chappell had a technical problem which ate up just a few seconds.

Suffice to say, Manning was one of many best “conversations” in Corridor historical past.

Historical past lesson

Since 2000, there have been 56 quarterbacks taken within the first spherical. Solely 5 groups haven’t taken a single one, together with the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.

Stands to cause just a few of these groups would possibly break their respective streaks come April.

The longest draught belongs to the Saints, who haven’t used a first-round selection on a quarterback since choosing Archie Manning in 1971 at No. 1 general.

Parting shot

Terez Paylor died on Tuesday morning. He was 37 years outdated. A lot forward, a lot misplaced.

Paylor, a Senior NFL author for Yahoo Sports activities, was the rarest of issues amongst sportswriters. He was genuinely completely satisfied. The lack of him is the extinguishing of a shining gentle in an all-too-often dim career.

Since changing into an NFL reporter — changing from an editor —  two years in the past, I started touring to Cellular, Ala. for the Senior Bowl, the Tremendous Bowl and the Scouting Mix. On the latter two occasions, I might at all times see Paylor, who had turn into a buddy through the years. The sort of buddy who you go with out seeing for months, and inside pleasantries, really feel such as you noticed an hour in the past.

Sure, I’ll miss his columns. I’ll miss his perception and podcasts. All of it was first-rate, similar to Terez.

However what I’ll miss most is the human being.

One would think about this career to be full of folks so grateful, so thrilled to be among the many few who receives a commission to look at and write about soccer. It’s a privilege to by no means have to truly work. But most are the definition of depressing, wrought with nervousness about getting beat on a scoop, consistently believing somebody is plotting in opposition to them.

Terez was by no means that man. He was the alternative, regardless of being among the best at what he did. In his mid-30s, he was a Corridor of Fame voter and nationwide author with an actual voice and sourcing to go with it. He was going to be the subsequent nice NFL scribe, if he wasn’t already.

Shedding Terez is a hammer to the guts, immeasurable in each future scope and disappointment.

Relaxation straightforward, Terez. You’ll be dearly missed by so many.

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