10 biggest questions for the 2018 NFL offseason
As Bill Belichick might put it: It’s on to next season.
Super Bowl LII provided the crowning moment for one season and the kickoff to another. Here a few items to ponder from the NFL’s offseason landscape.
1. Where will Kirk Cousins land?
With Dan Snyder and Co. poised to capture another “offseason championship” in obtaining Alex Smith from the Chiefs, Washington has boldly addressed its quarterback situation – leaving Cousins to hit the open market and collect his biggest payday yet. The Cardinals and Broncos, who already have a lot of pieces in place, would be intriguing options. The Jets and Browns might offer more cash … and more rebuilding.
2. When will the Carolina Panthers get a new owner?
Although the deal could fetch a multi-billion sale price, it’s not inconceivable the Panthers could change hands before the start of next season. Whoever emerges as the next owner – Jerry Richardson put the franchise on the market after Sports Illustrated revealed he’s been accused of workplace misconduct, including alleged sexual harassment – probably hasn’t been publicly identified, as legitimate suitors typically work behind the scenes.
3. Will Andrew Luck return to form?
After missing the entire season following shoulder surgery, the Colts franchise quarterback hopes to be on track to resume his career next season, which would include a new chapter with expected coach Josh McDaniels. But there were assurances that he would return during the 2017 season, and those never panned out. Now it’s worth wondering whether he’ll be the same player after surgery. Until that’s confirmed with performance, Indianapolis will be on edge.
4. Who will be the first pick in the draft?
The Browns are on the clock, a familiar position. Also familiar: the presence of a new GM, in John Dorsey, and the need to land a franchise quarterback. In the two previous drafts, the Browns passed on opportunities to grab Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz. Now they can have their pick between Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen. The Browns also have the fourth pick — could they land Penn State running back Saquon Barkley — maybe the best prospect in the draft —– to go with a franchise quarterback?
5. How will Bill Belichick ever catch up?
A day after the epic Super Bowl comeback against the Falcons last year, the Patriots coach grumbled that he was a few weeks behind with his offseason work. He was only half-kidding. And, yes, he caught up. This time, the offseason challenge for Belichick includes replacing defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, though there was one big surprise as Josh McDaniels chose to remain in New England rather than join the Colts. That's the price of success: Short offseasons and promotions for key assistants.
6. Can the league fix the catch rule?
It’s an NFL version of Same Time Next Year. With a few fresh head-scratching examples to consider, the competition committee will once again weigh tweaking the rule that constitutes a catch. As the rule is written now, the officials generally are making the correct call by the book. But that doesn’t always overlap with common sense. New language is needed. So figure on the catch rule headlining the battery of rulebook adjustments.
7. Will Le’Veon Bell get the contract of his dreams?
The Steelers' versatile star running back was a no-show during the bulk of the offseason and during training camp as he waited to sign his franchise tag tender. After he ultimately reported, it took a while for a well-conditioned Bell to regain the rhythm and flow in the offense. What he really wants is a sizable long-term contract, which might start to approach quarterback money.
8. How will Jon Gruden get a jump-start on grand expectations?
For $100 million on a 10-year contract, you’d think Gruden would be expected to guide the Raiders to a Super Bowl crown, ASAP. No doubt, he’ll be trying. But first things first. How Gruden meshes with quarterback Derek Carr in installing his new system will be crucial. Never mind the buzz about whether a personality clash looms — they’ll deal. The crux of the matter revolves around Gruden taking his young quarterback’s game to the next level.
9. Can Roger Goodell restore credibility with the Rooney Rule?
Add Goodell’s determination that the Raiders complied with the rule mandating that teams interview minority candidates before hiring a new coach on the list of situations that weaken his credibility. In the Raiders case, not only did team owner Mark Davis publicly admit to a timeline that seemingly violated the rule, but it is believed that he didn’t personally interview the minority candidates as he did Gruden, which also would be an issue. Goodell needs to back up the lip service by tightening the Rooney Rule — and then enforcing it. Another credibility test looms, too, with the manner in which the league investigates one of its own, Richardson, even as the Panthers being sold.
10. Which Vikings quarterback will wind up elsewhere?
With Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater in the process of rebounding from significant injuries, while fill-in Case Keenum proved to be better than projected, the Vikings seemingly have an abundance of riches at quarterback – albeit three quarterbacks who all are without contracts for next season. Who stays? Who starts? The odd man out might be the front-runner somewhere else, so that’s not the worst consolation prize.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
PHOTOS: Super Bowl LII