The word “offseason” is quite the misnomer. The 99th season of operation for the NFL has come and gone, but that hardly means league activity will be somnolent. In fact, one could argue that the offseason is often just as capricious as the actual season. In what could be one of the most intriguing offseasons in recent memory, the following includes the most prominent and captivating newsworthy pieces for this offseason.
Where Will Brown and Bell Go? JuJu Smith-Schuster said it best when he made remarks about the state of the Steelers, as they have become the most boisterous team in the NFL despite the lack of on-field results, and that can be attributed to the ruptured relationship between perennial Pro Bowlers Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and their soon-to-be former employer. The Steelers may still want to retain the services of the bell cow running back, but another franchise tag or a transition tag will surely prompt another season-long holdout for Bell, and Anotnio Brown has reportedly demanded a trade, and his most recent tweet has confirmed the veracity of those reports.
So, where will two-thirds of the Killer B’s go? For Bell, speculation has pertained to him joining the Jets or the Colts, both of which are viable options given that both squads will have north of $90 million in cap space, and both are in need of a three-down tailback. As for Brown, he still has $60 million remaining on his current deal, and still led the league with 15 touchdown catches and had 104 receptions in 2018, and a trade could mean the Steelers get a major haul that potentially consists of multiple early draft picks. Speculation had pointed to the 49ers as a possible new home for Brown. Other teams looking for a bona fide No. 1 receiver like the Jets, Bills, and Raiders could give in, although those teams may rather retain their higher draft pick spots; and NFC teams like the Cowboys and Cardinals could be a dark horse contender for the superstar wideout.
Kyler Murray: The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner has stated that he is fully committed to playing in the NFL, and now the scramble begins. Teams in need of a quarterback like the Giants, Jaguars, Dolphins, Broncos, and Redskins, to name a few, will surely prepare themselves to find their franchise passer. Murray is the first legitimate two-sport athlete that this generation has seen, and despite concerns about his size has showcased his arm strength, intellect, and his underrated pocket presence. While the Oakland A’s have reportedly not yet given up on Murray, most believe Murray will command a potentially record-setting rookie contract, or will at least get a contract comparable to former Oklahoma teammate and Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up Baker Mayfield.
Will Gronk Retire? It’s a cliche at this point, but there is no denying that Rob Gronkowski is one of the greatest tight ends to ever play, and he has earned over $53 million in his career, per Spotrac, and has several active endorsements. He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. With much gossip about him potentially hanging up the cleats, the Patriots pivot likely won’t announce his decision publicly for some time. Another scenario, given he has one year left on his contract, could simply involve Gronkowski playing out the 2019 season and then leaving the gridiron for good. Whatever happens, it appears that the career of an all-time great tight end is nearing its end.
Foles Gold: Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles voided an option in his contract a week ago, and will be an unrestricted free agent unless the Eagles tender the franchise tag, which would pay him $25 million for 2019. Or, perhaps the Eagles could seek a trade partner. With the health of Carson Wentz in a precarious position, the Eagles must be judicious in their decision, especially because it doesn’t hurt to have a Pro Bowler and Super Bowl MVP as a backup.
Hunt and the Hunted: In a relatively astonishing move, the Browns signed Kareem Hunt to a one-year, $1 million deal despite his turbulent history, in addition to already having Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson. The NFL’s investigation of Hunt’s altercation with a woman last February is ongoing, though Hunt has yet to be charged with a crime. He could (and will likely) still be suspended, and what becomes of the 2017 rushing leader remains to be seen.
The Draft: My mock draft will come later, and with the tens of thousands of mock drafts already out there, I don’t want to add fuel to the fire. That being said, with the aforementioned Kyler Murray, this year’s draft has premium talent at wide receiver, defensive end and edge rusher, and defensive tackle. This year’s quarterback class, with the exception of Murray and possibly former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, is considered to be the weakest in a while, thought that cannot be said seriously for some time.
This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of ‘Em: Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones confirmed that incumbent head coach Jason Garrett will not receive a contract extension, and it appears that 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year and two-time Pro Bowler Dak Prescott will have to wait on his potential extension as well. Prescott has just one year left on his rookie deal, and it appears unlikely that both will remain employed by Jerry Jones, although Jones did give Garrett a lucrative extension after going 41-31 with one playoff win from 2010-2014. With newly named offensive coordinator Kellen Moore now assuming play calling duties, it appears Garrett could be on his way out, which would be strange given the nature of his last extension.
Flaccid Flacco: The Ravens have moved on from Joe Flacco. Since winning Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl 47, Flacco has posted a passer rating of just 82.3, and still has three years and $79 million left on his current deal, with a potential out in 2020. A pre-June 1st trade would leave the Ravens with $16 million in dead cap money and $10.5 million in savings for the 2019 season, whereas a post-June 1st trade would entail $8 million in dead cap in 2019 and 2020, and $18.5 million in cap savings in 2019. Clearly, the Ravens will begin seeking a trade partner after June 1st, and Flacco will likely go to a team seeking a competent backup, or even a transitional passer.
Where Will the Raiders Play?: After Raiders owner Mark Davis mulled playing in Oracle Park for 2019, the current home of the San Francisco Giants, that fell apart. As of now, potential scenarios include splitting home games between Arizona Stadium and Legion Field, where the University of Arizona and University of Alabama at Birmingham play their games, respectively, according to a report from The San Francisco Chronicle. The Raiders could also potentially share Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers, or playing one last year at The Coliseum in Oakland, though that remains a remote possibility given the fact that the city of Oakland filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the team, and also given that the team’s lease situation is murky.
There are other storylines as well, but the development of the ones listed here are the most interesting for this offseason,