Chicago Bears: “Are we trading or keeping the No. 1 pick?”
It all starts with the top overall pick for Chicago. To be clear, I think the answer to this question is unequivocally, “Yes.” There is almost no doubt in my mind that they’ll cash in that selection for a bevy of picks to a team desperate to have their pick of the quarterback litter.
Once that move is made, Chicago can firm up their plans to build the team up around Justin Fields. The passing game was an issue for the Bears last year and most of Fields’ pure throwing metrics were poor. He needs to grow as a player but what the team put around him last year was inexcusably subpar. The Bears already have more cap space than any team by a wide margin and, once this trade is completed, they’ll have a restocked arsenal of draft selections.
Arizona Cardinals: “How focused are we on 2023?”
If the new Cardinals decision-makers have one eye on the future, no one could blame them. Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon took over a roster that got old in a hurry and isn’t likely to have Kyler Murray available to start the season.
The answer to this question is going to dictate how they approach the offseason. DeAndre Hopkins’ status with the team hands in the balance. If the Cardinals are looking to rebuild, it makes sense to see what they can get for their aging veteran receiver.
Based on last year’s film, Hopkins still has some good ball left in him even if he’s a slightly declining player. He makes a ton of sense to pair with a young, growing quarterback looking to take the next step in his development. Hopkins would be a fantasy rebound candidate in the right environment.
Los Angeles Rams: “Are we retooling on offense too?”
The Rams have sent out a definite signal that they’re retooling on defense. Despite getting All-Pro votes last year, Bobby Wagner was cut for cap considerations. It sounds like Jalen Ramsey could also be dealt for picks. The guys around Aaron Donald are going to look different this year as the Rams transition to the next phase of the Sean McVay regime.
On offense, there aren’t as many clear breakpoints. It’s quite possible that the skill-position guys they walked into last year with are the same ones starting Week 1 of 2023. I’m of the mind that a core of Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Cam Akers and a healthy Van Jefferson is more than workable. The Rams just need some functional pass protection, something that eluded them at every turn in 2022.
Carolina Panthers: “What’s the quarterback plan?”
The Panthers have been doing their due diligence on Derek Carr during his free agency-like tour at the NFL Scouting Combine. But I still maintain that both the Panthers and Frank Reich are both more likely to want off the veteran quarterback carousel than to take another spin.
The Panthers could be one of many teams jockeying to move up in the top 10 to select a quarterback. Even if they end up with the third- or fourth-ranked player at the position, there are a variety of stopgap-level quarterbacks available in free agency to hold the fort while that young guy develops. Jacoby Brissett makes a ton of sense after a strong season in Cleveland and with his ties to Reich.
New Orleans Saints: “If we don’t get Derek Carr … then what?”
The Saints have long made the most sense to me when considering a match for Carr. He took a visit with the team prior to getting his release from the Raiders, has ties to the head coach from his Oakland days and New Orleans is just delusional enough to consider themselves a quarterback away from true contention.
However, if Carr — whose decision to nix a trade to the Saints may or may not mean anything about how he views the team — signs elsewhere, I’m not sure where the Saints go next.
They don’t pick until the final few selections of the first round and would be insane to shed more draft capital in a wild move up the draft board. After Carr, there are no clear-cut starting quarterbacks available on the open market and the Packers don’t want to trade Aaron Rodgers within the NFC. That might leave the Saints staring at the idea of a different version of the Andy Dalton/Jameis Winston castoff platoon they just operated with last year, or worse — running it back with those exact players.
Atlanta Falcons: “What quarterback bucket are we shopping in?”
Any team picking in the top 10 has to do their homework on these quarterbacks. It looks like four will go inside the first 10 selections. These squads don’t intend to be picking this high in 2024 so if you love a guy, take them, unless you have a verifiable solution. Ridder showed some signs last year but wouldn’t qualify as “verifiable” just yet. If they merely want someone to compete with Ridder in his second season, there are more than enough passable starters to high-end backups on the open market to supplement the room.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “Now what?”
Tom Brady retiring marked the end of an era for the Bucs. A wildly successful era but one that’s come to a close all the same.
No team is in bigger salary-cap trouble than the Bucs, currently sitting at $56.5 million over the allotted mark. Now makes for the perfect time to look to the future, shed bloated contracts and begin the build for the next iteration of this team.
Of course, the Bucs might disagree.
Perhaps all this Kyle Trask talk is nothing and they have some veteran quarterback plan and funny-money, salary-saving moves up their sleeve. If they are intent on the rebuild, many recognizable faces from this team could be on the move in the coming weeks. The exodus already started with Leonard Fournette and Cameron Brate sent packing.
Green Bay Packers: “Is it Jordan Love time?”
The longer Aaron Rodgers delays his decision on whether to play or not in 2023, the stronger the Packers’ will to turn things over to Love becomes.
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Green Bay seems to be signaling they believe Love took a third-year leap. They’d mostly be going off how he’s been in the building and during practice but he did show well in very limited game action against the Eagles last season. The Packers are young and with a decision deadline on Love’s future with the team rapidly approaching, this offseason makes a natural pivot point.
If the Packers are simply ready to move on but Rodgers still wants to play, they should be able to work out a trade in short order. Then we can move on with the rest of the quarterback carousel. It feels like most teams want Rodgers’ domino to be the first to fall.
Washington Commanders: “Are we serious about this whole Sam Howell thing?”
There’s a section of the football world that has taken some of Ron Rivera’s quotes to mean that Howell is going to be the Commanders’ starting quarterback this season. Not so fast.
Let me explain how this works. Howell was a fifth-round pick last year. It took until the last week of the season for this team to even consider playing him despite middling to poor output from the position all year. Nothing about that says, “Unquestioned starter, or even favorite to start, heading into Year 2.”
Washington is in an eternally weird spot with their ownership in flux. That might be enough of a deterrent to keep big-name quarterbacks from wanting to go there despite a tantalizing skill-position crew. I’m expecting them to land someone, in the Jimmy Garoppolo tier at best, to compete with Howell in camp. That means Howell might be the Week 1 starter but that cannot be Washington’s only plan behind center.
Seattle Seahawks: “Do we merely complement this offense?”
Seahawks' brass has made it clear they expect Geno Smith to be retained one way or another but they’ll consider quarterback at the top of the draft regardless. Before you instantly default to “smoke screen,” consider that Seattle is unlikely to ever pick this high again. They’re not even supposed to be there this year. Pete Carroll and co. are only picking fifth overall thanks to the Broncos’ pick in a trade you may remember from last year.
This team is close and will always be contenders under Carroll. So they may indeed opt to trade down or pass on a top passer despite the rare opportunity. In that situation, they’ll mostly be making small tweaks to a well-set-up offense. They could take a luxury third receiver to groom behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. A few more offensive linemen may be on the way. The Seahawks' offensive distribution is likely to look the same for fantasy next year but a few more players with juice in big, real-game moments would help.
Detroit Lions: “Do we take advantage of a rare opportunity?”
Much like the Seahawks, the Lions have a rare opportunity at a top-10 pick. These aren’t your old Lions. They are building something and don’t intend to be picking this high again any time soon. Their 2022 selection should be deeper in the draft but they're picking high thanks to a disaster season from the Los Angeles Rams.
General manager Brad Holmes is a huge fan of Jared Goff and has spoken highly of him but does want to add to the room. Few teams are better set up to add a high-upside developmental player to groom. Goff is a more than passable starter who can keep the growth of the receivers and running backs on the roster on track.
A rookie can wait in the wings and be ready when guys like Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams are hitting their primes. Of course, you can’t blame them for passing on a quarterback and adding to a defense that desperately needs talent to get a final push into the postseason.
New York Giants: “How do we handle Daniel Jones?”
The public Daniel Jones contract negotiations have gotten a little wild. It’s old news at this point but everything in the Giants' offseason really does hinge on Jones. If they can’t get a deal done, they’ll end up franchise-tagging him to keep the team on a building track but then they’ll likely lose Saquon Barkley in free agency. That’s not ideal.
It just doesn’t make sense to do any Giants’ projecting until we know what they’re going to do with Jones.
Dallas Cowboys: “How do we find juice?”
The only guy Dallas has under contract who brings that aforementioned juice is CeeDee Lamb. Tony Pollard is a free agent and while Michael Gallup might return to form with a full year between now and his ACL surgery, the Cowboys would be foolish to simply bank on that.
Veteran receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks have been connected to the Cowboys in the past and will be again in the coming weeks. A veteran to complete this room makes sense after the team swung and missed on a rookie last year in Jalen Tolbert.
Elsewhere, Pollard needs to be retained or replaced, and Dalton Schultz’s impending exit should welcome a new face at tight end.
San Francisco 49ers: “What’s our quarterback insurance?”
John Lynch told the media there are “a variety of time tables” for when Brock Purdy, who has yet to have surgery, will be ready to play. It’s been a tricky situation. Meanwhile, they like where Trey Lance is health-wise but everyone knows he’s a wild card at this point because of a lack of game reps.
Lynch admitted they’ll have to explore the veteran quarterback market. They aren’t likely to take a big swing but the level of insurance policy they take out (in the form of a veteran passer) will say a lot.
Right now, this is Lance’s job to lose. Someone in the Marcus Mariota range isn’t changing that. However, if Lance falters in any way, Purdy’s shadow will loom large the closer we get to Week 1. Lynch sounded exhausted by continuing to have to chase at the quarterback position but health has made it his burden to bear.
Minnesota Vikings: “Do we add more pass-catchers?”
Adam Thielen’s time with the team has likely come to an end. Depending on health, Dalvin Cook’s clock may strike 12 as well.
Those big names would leave holes that need to be filled. Thielen is especially interesting. Justin Jefferson is one of the best players at his position but he needs a running mate. We’ve seen how two premier threats at receiver can take an offense from great to elite. The Vikings must weigh this decision against the needs along the offensive line. No quarterback was hit more than Kirk Cousins last year.
Philadelphia Eagles: “What does the running back room look like?”
What a luxury to come off a Super Bowl appearance and your biggest offensive-team need question lies with the running back position.
Miles Sanders is scheduled to hit free agency. He’s a Pennsylvania guy so he might want to take a team-friendly deal to stay with the contending Eagles. If he bolts for a bigger payday, no one could blame him.
That would leave the Eagles with a body to replace in the room to work alongside Kenneth Gainwell, who doesn’t necessarily profile as an option to replace Sanders’ early-down work. If the Eagles carry that hole into the NFL draft, every fantasy manager will be laser-focused on whom the team taps to step into this backfield. That hypothetical running back would rocket up fantasy draft boards, especially if they came via a Day 2 draft pick.