You’ve got to love the start of the New Year. Whether you’re excited for what’s to come (like Pat’s fans) or just ready to put 2017 behind you (like Brown’s fans). It’s a time for everyone to make false promises of getting back into shape, quitting bad habits and fulfilling New Year’s Resolutions. Let’s take a look at a Blitzalytics’ resolutions for all 32 NFL teams.
Go Get Your Guy
With both Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer retiring, the new coaching regime will look to tie their success to a rookie or veteran quarterback of their choosing. This year’s draft is loaded with quality quarterbacks in the first round, and free agency will be littered with names like Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, Blake Bortles and Sam Bradford. Carson retiring saves over 20 million dollars in 2018, creating a total of 37 million in cap room to shore up the offensive line, and possibly sign a veteran signal caller.
At pick 15 of the 2018 NFL Draft, the consensus seems to be that Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson will be the only top QBs left on the board; however, teams have shown over the past few years to be more willing to trade away multiple picks to go get “their guy.” It’s seemed to work for the Rams, Eagles and Texans the past two years, so if any of the top 4 quarterbacks in Allen, Darnold, Rosen, or Mayfield start to slide, expect Arizona to make a move. There’s multiple teams that will be considered only a quarterback away from being a contender. The Cards will be battling teams like Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville, San Diego, and possibly both New Yorks to sign a quality signal caller, driving up the asking price of any trade or free agent in the process. With the return of David Johnson and several others coming back from injured reserve, the right quarterback/coaching combo could make for an Arizona playoff run in 2018.
Fix Their Offensive Production
In 2016, the Atlanta Falcons had the best offense in the league. Matt Ryan won NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, Julio Jones led the league in receiving yards per game, and Devonta Freeman placed top-10 in rushing TD’s and yards per carry, all while the team came within a minute of winning the Super Bowl.
However, this year has been a different story. They are 15th in points scored, 22nd in passing TD’s, they lead the league in drops, and Matt Ryan had his lowest yardage total since 2010. This has only been the Steve Sarkisian’s first season filling in for Kyle Shanahan, but as of now the offense has regressed significantly under his play calling.
The good news is the issues don’t seem to stem from a lack of talent. An evaluation of personnel groupings, situational play-calling decisions, and simple fundamentals (such as utilizing Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman together, running more often on first downs, dropping less passes) from last season’s historic offense should right the ship in Atlanta.
(Stats from Pro Football Reference)
Time to Move on From Joe Flacco!
The Baltimore Ravens have missed the playoffs for 4 of the last 5 seasons, something has to change! Gone are the days of the 2012 Super Bowl season, the Ravens defense in 2017 was number 1 in DVOA rankings, and #6 in overall team defense. The problem with the Ravens, is what many call “the Joe Flacco problem”. By no means is he an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. Joe Flacco is at best a game manager. In comparing his 8 year career with that of Aaron Rodgers, who remember, sat behind Brett Favre for 3 years before getting his chance. Flacco for his career, has 35,780 yards passing, 200 TD’s, 130 ints and an 84 career Quarterback Rating. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers has 38,502 yards passing and 313 TD’s, to only 78 int’s and 103.8 quarterback rating for his career, he also has 6 4,000 yards plus seasons to where Joe Flacco has 1 4,000 yards plus season. So with QB’s such as Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, and Josh Rosen, all declaring for this years draft, if the Ravens do not want to completely cut ties Flacco, then now is the time to draft his replacement and see if one of these young players can beat him out and/or eventually replace him.
Don’t Fix What’s Not Broke
As in the Buffalo Bills and Sean McDermott in particular, need to leave Tyrod Taylor and the quarterback position alone for 2018. McDermott embarrassingly attempted to shake up the offense by benching Taylor during a week 10 road trip to San Diego in favor of rookie Nate Peterman, resulting in a 5 interception in the first half, and a 54–24 loss. Fast forward 2 months, Tyrod has led his team to its first playoff appearance in 18 years, but will that be good enough for the 1st year coach who doesn’t seem to believe in his current QB? Taylor finished the season with an 89.2 passer rating, ahead of names such as Cam Newton, Derek Carr and 14 other NFL starters. He also ranks as PFF’s 13th best QB, all while throwing to noname receivers such as Deonte Thompson (PFF’s 65th WR), Andre Holmes (PFF’s 77th WR), and Zay Jones (PFF’s 115th WR) for a majority of the season, due to both recently acquired widouts Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews battling injuries.
Instead of canning and replacing their QB, they should stick with the devil they know, rather than the one they don’t. No Tyrod will never become a pure pocket passer who throws for 3 TD’s, 300+ yards week in and week out, but he’s also not going to lose it for his team. His 4 interceptions on the season are the lowest in the NFL and his ability to scramble to extend plays makes him an adequate starter for a team that is designed to win with defense and running the ball. The Bill’s won’t be in contention for one of the top QB’s in the draft, as they’ll be picking far too low to make the jump into the top 10; Lamar Jackson would be available but is a Tyrod 2.0 without the ball security. They should instead put their picks and 39.2 million in cap space to use by surrounding Tyrod Taylor with some talented/healthy pass catchers and offensive lineman, as well as fill a few holes in the front 7 of the defense. Any signal caller not named Kirk Cousins would be a mistake in free agency, and that price tag will simply be too much for Buffalo’s taste. Hence the Bills keep Tyrod, maintaining their oldschool ingredients of how to win in the colds of Buffalo, destined for wildcard contention until both Belichick and Brady decide to hang it up.
I will…Draft linemen and DB’s
The Panthers are again bound for the playoffs after the 2017 season, but this team is far from complete. The offensive line is still shaky at times, which allows Cam Newton to get pounded against some of the best defensive lines in the league. Carolina’s defensive line on-the-other-hand, has relied on a 37-year-old Julius Peppers and a 30-year-old Mario Addison to lead the team in sacks. The team must get younger on the d-line in order to consistently have a pass rush in the future, and with a bevy of good defenders coming out in this year’s draft, Carolina should have many options to choose from.
The final addition that Marty Hurney, or whomever is the general manager at the time must make is to the secondary. The development of young corners James Bradberry and Daryl Worley, and the re-addition of Captain Munnerlyn in the slot have made Carolina’s secondary better than they were last season. But, the safety play still remains an afterthought with veterans Mike Adams and Kurt Coleman manning the back end. The team must again get younger at the safety position and provide more depth to the secondary as a whole with free agents and draft selections.
Let’s Help Mitch Trubisky Progress as a Quarterback
The Chicago Bears invested a lot of draft capital in order to move up just one slot to select Mitch Trubisky in the 2017 NFL Draft. That includes the original 3rd pick they were at along with their third round pick, one of their fourth round picks, and a 2018 third round pick. It should be the Bears goal to surround Trubisky with as much talent as they can so he can grow during the 2018 season. So by the 2019 season, the team will be ready to compete for the playoffs.
It all starts by hiring the right coach with an offensive mindset, which the team did by hiring Matt Nagy as their head coach. The Bears are estimated to have $47,936,328 (per overthecap.com) in cap space entering Free Agency. They have two-studs at the running back position with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. They need to get Trubisky weapons in the passing game through Free Agency and the Draft. They could go after the likes of Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and Jimmy Graham in Free Agency to help land some weapons. The Bears have the 8th pick but they may want to spend that on defense since the last time they spent a Top 10 pick on a wide receiver it didn’t work out (Kevin White).
With Marvin Lewis inexplicably getting an extension to remain the head coach of Cincinnati, the Bengals have already muffed their first resolution of 2018. So what should they focus on getting better at in the upcoming year? Focus on getting the offensive line back to a team strength rather than a weakness!
The Bengals have had success developing pro bowlers like Andrew Whitworth and Willie Anderson in the past, as well as good players like guard Kevin Zeitler more recently. The issue is that they seem to never re-sign these guys, letting Whitworth go to the Rams and Zeitler to a divisional rival in the Browns, leaving them with a plethora of highly drafted, as well as mid round, underperforming offensive linemen.
Heading into 2017, the Bengals had been in the NFL’s top 10 in fewest sacks allowed in five of the last seven seasons. This year Dalton has been sacked 39 times, tying him for 5th in the NFL in getting taken down. Former first round pick Cedric Ogbuehi has been rated as one of the league’s worst tackles, Andre Smith is sound but most certainly getting long in the tooth, and Trey Hopkins and Russell Bodine are nothing to write home about. The team needs to build around left guard Clint Boling, the only player on the line that has shown any promise.
This organization needs to make a commitment to sign, develop, and draft all of the right offensive linemen as their resolution for 2018. Not only that, but re-sign the guys already on their roster that show potential! The Bengals and Marvin Lewis will not sniff the playoffs, let alone win a game if they do not correct this problem now. It’s your move, Bengals.
Don’t Mess Up This Offseason!!
This offseason is going to be the biggest offseason in the franchise’s history, which is why the New Year’s Resolution for the Browns is to at all costs, DO NOT MESS UP THIS OFFSEASON. They have a chance to turn this team from 0–16 and the laughing stock of the league, to being a competitive football team again. They started this offseason by having a change of guard at the GM and brought in former Chiefs front office exec John Dorsey.
Dorsey has a lot of work to do, but has a lot to work with. To start, they have 10 picks in the first 5 rounds of the draft this year, including the first and fourth pick. This alone could help change the dynamic of the team, but to go along with those picks they also have $112 million in cap space to play with. Cleveland may not be the most popular free agent destination, but may attract some just because of the sheer amount of money they have to throw at players. I personally believe Dorsey has what it takes to turn this team around. I think next year the Browns will be a lot more competitive and set up for a lot of success in the future, because of all the young pieces already on the team and the players that will be coming in through the draft. They have a chance to absolutely
shock the league and maybe, just maybe, go 8–8!!!
Leave 2017 Where it Belongs
Putting the past behind you is a common cliché when the calendar turns to the new year, and it is especially true for the Cowboys. 2017 was a rollercoaster season in Dallas, even by their wild standards. The Ezekiel Elliott suspension saga obviously sits at the top of the list. Whether Zeke would (or would not) serve his suspension this season lasted nearly ten weeks into the regular season and was a constant topic in the Cowboys locker room from the media. To think the Cowboys nearly survived all the hoopla surrounding the Zeke situation and other issues to almost make the playoffs, before being officially eliminated in week 16, is surprising and even impressive to a degree.
But no moral victories here, as they simply were not good enough over the course of the year to earn a spot in the postseason. Dak Prescott had several games in which he looked like a QB experiencing a “sophomore slump”, key players such as Tyron Smith and Sean Lee dealt with nagging injuries, and Jaylon Smith was thrown into the fire a bit prematurely, causing Cowboys fans to tamper their (probably unfairly) high expectations, though he certainly showed improvement throughout the season. With all that said, there is no reason to think Dallas is not a playoff-caliber team when they have Zeke for 16 games, as this team ultimately goes as the running game takes them. With the suspension out of the way, and young players showing promising glimpses of their potential, particularly in the secondary, expect Dallas to be right back in the hunt at this time next year.
FIX THE HOLES ON OFFENSE: The Denver Broncos were exposed in the 2017 season. 2 years removed from a 3rd Super Bowl Championship, they have fallen on hard times. They have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, and have gone 9–7 in 2016 and 5–11 in 2017. They are the 29th ranked offensive line in rushing after the 2017 season, this line gave up 52 sacks combined with 104 Quarterback hits. Now 3/5 of the line is solid. Ron Leary, Max Garcia and Matt Paradis allowed only 6 total sacks, with Paradis allowing 0 sacks he is also a Restricted Free Agent! Now the two tackles, Garett Boles and Menelik Watson allowed 16 sacks together, but here is the deal, Garett Boles only allowed 8 sacks in 16 games, that’s about .5 sack per game, Menelik Watson allowed 8 sacks in 7 games, that’s almost 1 sack per game folks!! In the 2017 season, the trio of Siemian, Osweiler, Lynch threw for 19 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and were sacked 52 times. Their QBR’s were 29 for Lynch and Seimian and 46 for Osweiler. The TE’s in 2017 for the Broncos had 5 touchdowns totaling 657 combined receiving yards on 50 receptions. Travis Kelce of the Chiefs alone had 83 for 1,038 yards including 8 touchdowns.
The answers to all these issues? The Broncos feel the potential answer to the tight end problem is currently on the roster, his name is Jake Butt. Who needs to get healthy, after a 2nd knee injury! In four seasons at Michigan, Butt went for 138 receptions, for 1646 yards and 11 touchdowns. Had he not been injured in the 2016 Orange bowl, he would have gone MUCH HIGHER in the 2016 draft. Now can he shake of the rust, get back to producing, but most importantly stay healthy in 2018? John Elway and the Broncos think he can! Quarterback is not as easy of an answer. Recently the rumors are running wild, that John Elway is getting ready to make a HUGE offer to Kirk Cousins. Cousins has a 93.7 Quarterback Rating that includes 16,206 career passing yards, followed up with at least 4,000 yards the last 3 seasons. Can Elway pull it off, without breaking up that talented D along with making the additions to offense he needs to? We are about to find out, remember, Elway usually gets what he wants. Finally, the OLine, I think the Broncos are ok at 4 of the 5 Offensive Line positions, but they need to fix the leak at right tackle. Is Connor Williams the answer? He is 6’6 and 315 pounds, but is he worth the #5 pick in the 2018 draft?
- Fawad Khan
Go Get Stafford a Run Game
The Detroit Lions haven’t had a 1000 yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013, and only three 1000 yard rushers since the great Barry Sanders retired back in 1998. The past four years the Lions have finished 32nd, 30th, 32nd and 28th in rushing in the NFL. However, the average NFL fan blames Matt Stafford, due to the fact he’s the highest paid player in the league. A quarterback who’s averaged over 4500 yards and 28 touchdowns since 2011, all while carrying a team with a subpar defense and a non existent run game. Stafford has simply never had the supporting cast needed to succeed in the NFL; in the past ten seasons only two teams finished outside the top 20 in rushing and still won the Super Bowl.
This offseasons current free agent running back class includes Le’Veon Bell, Carlos Hyde, Isaiah Crowell and Jeremy Hill. With over 52 million available in 2018, I would hope Detroit’s front office would at least attempt to bring in one of these proven RB’s, but don’t expect them to throw too much money around with a stacked draft full of promising backs. Saquon Barkley won’t be there with the 20th pick, and Bryce Love is another Riddick/Abdullah 3rd down, scat back type; Detroit needs someone who can run between the tackles. Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, or Derrius Guice would certainly do the trick, though SD States’ Rashaad Penny is quickly climbing up draft boards everywhere.
Detroit was the 2nd lowest team in the league, running the ball only 37% of the time, at a league low 3.4 yards per carry. This allowed defenses to pin their ears back and get after the QB. If you can’t run the ball, your own defense suffers. The opponents defense recovers, and the offense becomes predictable when running isn’t an option. and opposing coordinators are allowed to pick a part your calculable play calling. Hence why 90% of the NFL’s top 10 rushing teams are in the playoffs this year, and only 60% of the top 10 passing offenses are in. It’s not brain surgery or rocket science, It’s FOOTBALL! Run it and play defense, plain and simple.
Green Bay Packers
Get Younger and Build Around Your Core
This past season for the Packers was a wash, they need to throw that season away and never look back at it again (unless you’re Davante Adams). You lost arguably the best quarterback in the league for 9 weeks, in the heart of the season, and he even made an improbable comeback from a broken collar bone in just 9 short weeks. This offseason needs to be all about getting younger and building around the core of stars you have on this team. This Packers team was primed and ready to make another playoff push this postseason until injuries plagued them once again. They have aging stars all over the field (Jordy Nelson (32), Aaron Rodgers (34), Ahmad Brooks (33), Clay Matthews (31), Morgan Burnett (28)). They need to approach this offseason as if this is the last year they have to win. I do not look for the Packers to make a big splash in free agency especially because of what happened last season (Thanks Martellus), but to again look for value picks throughout the draft. They’re getting their franchise quarterback healthy and have a decent draft pick to work with (14).
There will be a new face in the GM’s chair as Ted Thompson decided to step down from that position and transition to a new role in the front office, so the chance of the Packers making a splash in free agency is still there but still unlikely. There will also be some new faces along the Packers coaching staff as they essentially cleaned house and fired a number of their coordinators and position coaches. On a positive note, they extended head coach Mike McCarthy through 2019, so there will be at least some stability at the HC position. This team as a number of young talented players to work with and will be a favorite again next year to win the Super Bowl if they can just continue to put the pieces together to fill the glaring holes at key positions.
Health is Key
Playoff hopes were trending up in Houston once Deshaun Watson took the wheel and threw for 19 TDs in just a 7 game span at the beginning of this season. Then a freak practice injury that forced Watson to the IR with a torn ACL squashed that dream instantly. The offense could never find its footing after this (unless your name was DeAndre Hopkins), trotting out Tom Savage and eventually T.J. Yates as starters with no positive results. The team had and still does have its quarterback of the future, but as we all know injured players can do next to nothing for a team on game day…
…Which is why the Texans need to go into 2018 with a resolution of getting and staying healthy. The losses didn’t just stop at Watson — the team had a whopping 22 players finish on this year’s injured reserve list. The losses of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus on the defensive side of the ball derailed that unit as well, going from allowing 24.4 PPG to almost 29 PPG! While predicting and preventing injuries is very hard for any team to do, next year’s Texans must commit to injury prevention as their top priority in 2018 if they want any chance at a playoff berth or possible Super Bowl run.
RELOAD, RELOAD, RELOAD
This new year and offseason for the Colts can be extremely pivotal in the direction this organization will head. In my opinion the Colts got off to a fantastic start last year in hiring new GM Chris Ballard. This New Year’s Resolution is to “RELOAD, RELOAD, RELOAD” because you could be having one of the best QB’s in football returning to the field and there are a lot of holes to fill on this team, but I am a firm believer that despite ranking among the worst teams in the league in points and yards on both offense and defense (OP:30, OY:31, DP:30, DY:30), this roster isn’t quite as bad as some may think. Injuries demolished this team all year long and is partially to blame for the sad performance on the field this season. Ballard has an excellent chance to make the Colts contenders again and add very valuable assets to the team. He has almost $83 million in cap space to work with to bring in veteran players to fill some of the holes that you may not want to fill with the draft. Sticking with the draft, the Colts happened to of secured the 3rd pick in this year’s draft and as a team who is not looking to add a franchise quarterback, they are in phenomenal position to either draft the best player available, who would be an instant plug and play star, or trade back and acquire more draft capital. The situation that Ballard is currently in is one of the most ideal situations that a GM of a rebuilding team can have. He has a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck, he has one draft under his belt, he has a boat load of cap space ($83 million!!), and on top of all of that, he gets to bring in whoever he wants to lead this team, after recently firing Coach Chuck Pagano. I look to Ballard to bring this team together and put the pieces in place that are necessary to have the Colts once again competing for a playoff spot in the weaker AFC conference.
Get a new Quarterback (PLEASE)
A New Year for the Jags calls for a new quarterback in town. This past year for the Jags was immensely successful and was one of the best years in franchise history to date. This Jaguars roster is LOADED with talent, they have one of the most talented and best defenses in the league, a good o-line, and offensive weapons to scare even the best defensive coordinators. On top of all of that, they’ve played without their best WR, Allen Robinson, all year long. This Jags team is primed to run the tables in the playoffs, but there is one hole that they need to fill before they can take down the best of the best from across the league, and that’s at quarterback. This is a good problem to have if you’re the Jaguars, you have a mediocre QB in Blake Bortles who has shown you what he can do with this team, but it makes you think, what if they had a gunslinging, play making, game manager back there leading this team. This team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and I believe they are a talented QB away from becoming one of the best teams in the league. When they decide to add a QB with the talent to lead this team, you better watch out because they are starting to heat up, and they’re heating up FAST.
Kansas City Chiefs
Cut Ties With Alex Smith
The Chiefs have been up-and-down this season with Alex Smith at the helm, but are headed to the playoffs for the third year in a row and the fourth time in five years. Before Smith’s arrival, Kansas City had only had 3 playoff appearances in the past 10 years. Smith had always been a “game-manager” type of QB rather than a “game-changer” like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, or Russell Wilson up until the beginning of this season, when he started to shed that moniker to an extent. However, his yardage totals, TD’s, and Quarterback
Rating started to dip as the season progressed.
Additionally, it would cost the Chiefs $17 million to roster Smith in 2018, but only $3 million in dead money to cut him. Patrick Mahomes is waiting on deck, has undoubtedly been working on his accuracy and decision making with the uber-consistent Smith, and will presumably slide into a team with an excellent young running back, a solid offensive line, receiving weapons, and defense. After losing in the Wild Card round this past weekend, Mahomes could be the spark to put them over the top next.
(Stats from Pro Football Reference)
Los Angeles Chargers
Go All In
Had the Chargers not gotten off to such a poor start this year, starting 0–4, they would be in the postseason and be a team that nobody wanted to play. 2018 is the year for the LA Chargers to go all in on a championship pursuit. Philip Rivers, one of the most underrated players in the NFL over the course of the last decade, is still playing at an elite level. The edge-rushing tandem of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who combined for 23 sacks this year, led a Chargers defense that allowed the third fewest points in the league. Keenan Allen was finally able to stay on the field for a full season and return to his pro bowl form, and Melvin Gordon rushed for over 1,000 yards. Looking ahead, the offensive line should continue to improve with the addition of their 2017 2nd-round pick Forrest Lamp, who did not play a single down in his rookie season due to a torn-ACL suffered in training camp. They also hope to get more from their 1st-round selection, WR Mike Williams, after a frustrating, injury-plagued rookie campaign.
The Chargers have the necessary pieces in place while the rest of the AFC West could be looking at major questions going into next season. Kansas City will likely look to transition to QB in Patrick Mahomes, Denver is still looking for a capable starting QB, and Oakland has too many holes throughout their roster, not to mention a new coaching staff coming to town. If the Chargers are to make a run at the Super Bowl with Philip Rivers at the helm, 2018 is the year to do it. Time to slide their chips to the middle of the table.
(Stats from Pro Football Reference)
Los Angeles Rams
Pretender or Contender?
No one could have seen the Rams’ historic turnaround coming at the beginning of this season after the Jeff Fisher debacle. The Rams went from NFL’s lowest scoring team under Fisher in 2016 (14.0 PPG), to leading the league in 2017 (29.9 PPG), the largest PPG turnaround in NFL history. Was this an anomaly? Is the Rams offense really as good as we all think it is?
The LA Rams resolution will be to prove to everyone around the league and in the business that 2017 was not out of the ordinary. Head coach Sean McVay had his work cut out for him this year, with Goff having a less than spectacular rookie campaign and Gurley’s sophomore season being more than forgettable. He took these two cornerstones and turned one into a top 10 QB in this league and another into a legitimate MVP candidate. To go from the lowest scoring team in the NFL in 2016to the highest scoring team in 2017 is something that has never been done before, and needs to be recognized as one of the greatest coaching improvements in the history of the NFL. While it will be a tough feat and an impractical task to be the league’s highest scoring offense two years in a row, this team does seem to have the firepower to be somewhere near the top of the league again next season. Let’s see if McVay and company can conjure up some of that 2017 magic in 2018.
Let’s Play Some Consistent Football Next Season
The Miami Dolphins had an up and down football season throughout the 2017. They beat the likes of playoff teams such the Patriots, Falcons, and Titans, but they also loss to teams like the Bucs and Jets. They had times where the offense was stagnant and looked like they had no clue what they were doing throughout games. Adam Gase needs to regain control of the locker room this offseason and return to their 2016 version, when they went to the playoffs.
Their number one priority this season needs to be resigning Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins will be entering the offseason with an estimated $15,965,140 in cap space. To make that happen they will have to create more cap space by restructuring players contracts like Suh and Tannehill. I bring up Tannehill, because he has been hurt over the past two seasons and we don’t know yet if he will return to his old form when he was showing progress during the 2016 season. He will be a $19.8 million cap hit but they could cut him and he would only be $4.6 million in dead cap money. If they were to do this then they would need to find a quarterback, which they could in the upcoming draft, where as much as five could go in the first round.
Continue to Build the Team Through the Draft/UDFAs
Since Rick Spielman has taken over as the General Manager in 2012, he has had some ups and downs with his picks in the NFL Draft. While he has hit on picks with the likes of Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, and Stefon Diggs. He has also failed with picks that include Matt Kalil, Laquon Treadwell, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Sharrif Floyd. While some of the players I mentioned have proved some value in their careers but not at the 1st round value that they were picked at. The Vikings are estimated to enter the offseason with $57,594,809. (per overthecap.com) While they will have some cap space the team will have to start giving out extensions this offseason to players like Case Keenum, Adam Thielen, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Stefon Diggs. With future cap space being taken up the Vikings will have to turn to draft picks and UDFAs to to help build the roster for the
New England Patriots
A Sixth Championship, and a Coach’s Uncertainty
New England has secured the number one seed in the AFC and finished with the best record in the NFL. Tom Brady is on track to win his third MVP award at the age of forty, and he has a chance to come away with his eighth Super Bowl appearance, and sixth win. This outcome will be difficult to achieve, as New England will have to win three more games against top rated opponents to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. New England has had flashes of inefficient play, and in effectiveness. Brady has looked mortal over the past month throwing six touchdowns to five interceptions over the past five games of the regular season. However, I wouldn’t look too far into this narrative. As Brady has shown over the past seventeen years, just when you begin to count him out he begins to play some of his best Football. New England hasn’t been so lucky in avoiding injuries this season. They lost Julian Edelman, Tom Brady’s safety blanket, and left tackle Marcus Cannon. New England lost linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, two leaders on the defensive side of the ball, and key contributors Malcolm Mitchell (returned from IR), Eric Rowe (missed eight weeks), Matthew Slater (missed seven weeks), James White, and Rex Burkhead who are both expected to return in the playoffs. New England will be playing without starters on both sides of the ball, but they will be getting multiple players back from injury as they take on either the Titans in the divisional round. James Harrison figures to be involved as well, after getting two sacks late in their week 17-matchup vs. the Jets. The Patriots are in good position for another Super Bowl run, a third in the last four years.
As Bill Belichick famously said, “we’re on to Cincinnati,” inevitably creating a path to Super Bowl 49, the Patriots don’t often look to far ahead into their schedule. They take it one step at a time, and as for their 2018 resolution, the victories in the next three games are certainly on their bucket list. The Patriots always play the short game, and the franchises sixth championship may be on the horizon. They will need to get players back from injury, and Brady will have to step up his game, but their ultimate goal is another title.
Aside from the short term, let’s take a look at another resolution the Patriots will want to keep a close eye on down the road. The 2018 offseason is closing in, and coaching vacancies and potential hires are always a hot topic. And, two Patriots assistants may be the most desired candidates. Josh McDaniel’s and Matt Patricia are two of the brightest minds in the game. Year in and year out, McDaniel’s and Patricia take interviews for potential head coaching jobs but never end up leaving the safety net of New England. However, this may be the year one or both decide to pack up shop and head out of the cocoon shaped by Belichick. The Patriots will have many objectives this offseason, but their coaching staff should be a top priority. The Patriots have had the most stable coaching staff in the NFL and need to do everything in their power to keep it that way. They need to retain their two sought after coaching assistants in order to keep their dominance over the league. They both have stayed put in the past, but with an aging Tom Brady and a vulnerable team, they may want to book a flight out of New England sooner than expected. The Patriots resolution is two fold. New England’s first goal will be a to capture their sixth championship, but retaining their coveted coaching assistants will need to be addressed soon after.
New Orleans Saints
Don’t Stop Now
No team in the history of the league has drafted both the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year winners in the same draft. Now the titles have yet to be awarded, but Saint’s rookie running back Alvin Kamara and corner Marshon Lattimore are the clear favorites. Kamara finished 5th in yards from scrimmage amongst RB’s and Marshon Lattimore laid out an impressive stat line that included allowing only a 45.3 passer rating when targeted, 0 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions on the year, according to PFF. The Saints have had a tremendous turn around season, going from 5–11 in 2016, to NFC South Champs with an 11–5 record, and the 4th seed in the playoffs. This year’s bright spot has been the addition of a running game, allowing the saints to become a lot more balanced on offense. Drew Brees had career lows in both touchdowns and yards as a saint this year, yet the offense was top 5 in every possible category; much thanks to the RB duo of Kamara and Ingram, who combined for 3441 total yards and 26 touchdowns.
New Orleans is set to make a run in the playoffs, but regardless of how far they make it this season, next year they will be even scarier. The “Big Easy” should go all in this offseason, assuming this is their last window to win a championship with Brees. A repeat of this past year’s draft would be an impossible feat, but if the Saints continue to hit on prospects at a similar rate, they’ll surely be the NFC favorites come 2018.
New York Giants
Draft their QB of the future
The Giants are wrapping up arguably their worst season in team history, one mired in injury, firings, suspensions, and a terrible season point differential. On paper, though, it seems like the Giants are not too far away from contention. They have a star playmaker in Odell Beckham and two young, very talented receivers in Sterling Shepherd and Evan Engram. On defense, Landon Collins is one of the best safeties in the league, and players like Janoris Jenkins and Olivier Vernon are excellent defenders at their respective positions. With upgrades to the offensive line and some injury luck, the Giants could be right back in the playoffs next season.
However, they now find themselves with the unique opportunity to draft their potential QB of the future in Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen and have them spend a year under the tutelage of a 2-time Super Bowl MVP in Eli Manning. Though trading down and bolstering the rest of their roster may be better for next season, drafting Rosen or Darnold could allow the Giants to have an almost seamless transition at the most important position in the game.
(Stats from Pro Football Reference)
New York Jets
Jets DRAFT FRANCHISE QB
The Jets are #6 pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft! With Josh McCown turning 38 years old and having 1 year as a solid starter, this is the year the Jets draft there Franchise QB. With names such as Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, armed with the 6th pick, the Jets must draft the QB of the future and it is now or never. In Jets history, no QB has been the starter for more than 5 seasons! The Jets are ranked #23 in overall defense and #24 in overall offense in the NFL. The key weakness on the Jets is QB. The 2 backups have 56 combined completions for 575 yards, and to say the least, Josh McCown is no Tom Brady!!! So it’s time for the jets to make some noise in the draft and go after a franchise QB, because the future is now. The Jets have approximately 24.6 Million dollars in cap space, which means room to improve and if they draft the QB in the first round, they can sign the needed Guard and Tackle in free agency!
Bring in the Carr!
Resolutions are usually about improving from one year to another and building upon past years accomplishments. The Raiders need to look no further than 2016 for their resolution and completely disregard 2017. Get Derek Carr back to his 2016 form!
This season Carr regressed heavily along with the Raiders’ record, going from 12–4 in 2016 to 6–10 in 2017. Carr’s passer rating dropped from 96.7 to 86.0, his TD’s from 28 to 22, and his INT’s more than doubled from 6 to 13. This season was a huge step back for a guy who was considered a heavy MVP favorite heading into the season.
The team does look like they’re taking steps in the appropriate direction with the hiring of renowned quarterback guru Jon Gruden as their new head coach. Gruden will presumably be micromanaging Carr’s every move from here on out to make him the best QB he can be.
With that being said, Gruden’s goal for the upcoming 2018 season, along with that of the entire Raiders organization, is simple. Put Derek Carr in position to replicate his MVP worthy 2016 season and, in turn, take the team back to the top of the AFC and back into the playoffs.
Believe That Defense Wins Championships
The Eagles were primed to make a Super Bowl run before Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL against the Los Angeles Rams. But with their defense, they still are. Philadelphia must lean on its defense and strong running of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount in order to still have a chance. Nick Foles will need to make plays too, but the coaches should try to limit the amount of critical plays by running the ball and using clock.
As the playoffs go right now, the Eagles will play the Falcons in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This pits Matt Ryan, a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback against their defense. It will be quite a fight, but Philadelphia has shown it has the right pieces on defense to stop anyone. The only thing that could hurt them is their cornerback play because of their knack for biting on double moves. Overall this defense is for real and worthy of a trip to the Super Bowl, no matter what happens on the offensive side of the ball.
Sign Bell and Draft the Future QB
The Pittsburgh Steelers will start their quest for a seventh franchise Super Bowl win when they take on their opponent in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. But, after their season is over, they have a major contract negotiation to commence. Le’Veon Bell was franchise tagged this past offseason after not being able to come to an agreement with the team on a long-term contract extension. Bell, arguably the best running back in the NFL, wants to be compensated as such. The Steelers will need to make sure they secure their All-Pro running back for the foreseeable future in order to keep their offensive nucleus together.
Another offseason move Pittsburgh will need to think about is the quarterback position. Ben Roethlisberger has contemplated retirement since last season and it will be interesting to see whether he steps away or not after the playoffs. The 2018 Draft should be loaded with many quality options in the first couple of rounds to choose from depending on who all declares. With a team built to win now, the veteran quarterback market would also be an enticing option but Pittsburgh has nothing behind Roethlisberger even though they just drafted Josh Dobbs in the third round in 2017. With so many quarterbacks available via free agency and the draft, the Steelers should be in good shape to hand pick their next franchise quarterback in 2018.
San Francisco 49ers
Building the Offense
The future didn’t look too bright at the start of the 2017 NFL season for the San Francisco 49ers. They fired their coach and GM and signed John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan (A brand new executive and first time head coach) both to five-year contracts. They were expected to go through a total rebuild, looking to make a turnaround a few years into their tenures; however, with a late move at the trade deadline, the 49ers traded their second round pick, one projected to be in the top three of the second round for the highly sought New England backup, Jimmy Garoppolo. They were sporting a 1–10 record before Garoppolo received his first official start in the red and gold colors of San Francisco. Jimmy G picked up the complex Shanahan offense in only four short weeks, and led this defeated team to five straight wins, and a coin flip for the 9th or 10th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. This trade was thought to be a bargain for the 49ers, and now it looks similar to a bank heist, as the 49ers pick fell and their record rose.
As the New Year starts, the 49ers season has ended, and it may be time to look at the year ahead. With their new front office and coaching staff, and the hopeful signing of Jimmy Garoppolo their future looks bright. They have four former first round picks on the defensive line, and Reuben Foster leading the charge in their front seven. They will need to develop their secondary in order to make their defense truly elite, but they are ready to make a push. Their offense is still lacking. The 49ers emphasis should lean toward the offense, and get Jimmy Garoppolo a supply of weapons who can help push the field and get into the end zone. They will make his life much easier and take less pressure off of Robbie Gould who hit five field goals in Jimmy G’s first start to win the game 15–14 against the Chicago Bears. The 49ers will need to add a big bodied, speedy receiver who can move the chains on the outside, open up the run game and the field for Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin. This will be the focus of their offseason and the 49ers resolution; they must find adequate players to bolster the talent of the franchise quarterback. Of course, first things first, John Lynch must lock up Jimmy Garoppolo to a long-term deal. Only then, will the train begin to move.
Reclaiming Their Crown
Let’s just say the Seahawks had a down year. They finished second in the NFC West and missed the playoffs to cap off an injury-marred 2017 season. They saw key starters leave the game with injuries, some worse than others. Richard Sherman left with a torn Achilles, and both Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril suffered neck injuries, after which both question the remainder of their careers. The Legion of Boom was left with Earl Thomas, a rookie in Shaquill Griffin and a reunion of an unproductive cornerback, Byron Maxwell. KJ Wright and Bobby Wagner injured their hamstrings; however, only Wright missed a game. This is hardly the same unit once regarded as the best secondary and most feared defense in the league. Their offensive struggles have revolved around the play of Seattle’s offensive line, the worst in 2017, letting up 43 sacks on Russell Wilson. Wilson was forced to run away from pressure on almost every snap and make a play with his arms or legs. He accounted for 97 percent of their offensive scores. Russell Wilson firmly placed himself in the Elite category. After injuries made their mark in Seattle, Wilson was the only positive attribute of this disappointing Seattle team.
The Seattle Seahawks have a lot to do in order to compete with the highly competitive division the NFC West is morphing into. Health will be key moving forward; the futures of linebacker Cliff Avril and the “Boom” of the Legion of Boom, Kam Chancellor are both in doubt. They will also have to make decisions on the futures of Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman — who was a hot topic on the trade radar over the 2017 offseason. Earl Thomas gave his message loud and clear after the win over Dallas when he walked into the oppositions locker room and spoke the words, “come get me,” referring to the potential opportunity he may have if the Seahawks decide to release him, saving 8.5 million dollars in cap space. This pill would be hard to swallow, as releasing their field general may be the boldest move the Seahawks make. By releasing or trading their star cornerback (often referred as the best in the game), the Seahawks would save 11 million in cap space, but wanted a first round pick over the last offseason, and will drastically need to lower their price to trade the injured and aging Sherman. The offensive line will need to be addressed, as Russell Wilson’s safety is paramount to Seattle’s success. They may have found an adequate running back going into next season, with Mike Davis running away with his opportunity late in the season, but they may want to find additional help at the position. They will need to focus on rebuilding their defense and acquiring talent and athleticism for their offensive line, but Seattle still isn’t too far away from what they once were. Seattle’s new-year resolution for the 2018 season would be to win the division for the fourth time in six years. It is still shocking that this former juggernaut didn’t make the playoffs, but with this powerful NFC, something had to give.
A playoff run won’t be easy in the NFC West, but Seattle will be up for the challenge. Their preparation for the 2018 NFL season is well underway and crucial to next season’s success.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Live up to our 2017 Hype
Prior to the 2017 season, the Buc’s entered the season with a lot of hype as potential playoff contenders and even some peoples dark horses to win the Super Bowl. After starting the season 2–1 it looked like the Bucs were primed to go after a winning record and end their playoff drought. Everything went downhill after that, and the Bucs were one of the most disappointing teams in the 2017 season. While the Jags, Bills, and Rams ended their playoff droughts, the Bucs continued theirs and will be looking to end it in 2018.
The team will enter the offseason with an estimated $68,266,220 in cap space. (per overthecap.com) That gives them a lot of space to work with to help shore up the defense. The Bucs had a tough time getting to the Quarterback, so they should look into Free Agency at finding someone that could help them get pressure and sacks. Jason Licht could take a look at DeMarcus Lawrence, Ziggy Ansah, and Trent Murphy in Free Agency. They will also have the 7th pick in the draft and I expect the team to use it on the defensive side of the ball. With most teams being quarterback needy, the Buc’s could luck out and have some of the top defensive players in the draft fall to them. The offense has the pieces to be a one of the best in the league, it is just about putting them all together. It is their goal to end their drought and reach the playoffs in 2018.
Cut Ties with DeMarco Murray
After an excellent year in 2016 after arriving from Philadelphia, Murray struggled mightily in his second season with the Titans. Despite starting 15/16 games this year, Murray only managed to gain 659 yards on 184 carries, a mere 3.6 YPC. His counterpart in the backfield, Derrick Henry, posted 744 yards on 176 rushes for a more respectable 4.2 YPC (Per Pro Football Reference). The fact of the matter is that Murray and Henry are similar players, but Henry is younger, fresher, and much cheaper.
According to Spotrac.com, the Titans can get out of the final two years of Murray’s deal, of which he is owed just over $6 million per year, without any additional dead cap going forward. On his current contract, Murray is slated to be the sixth highest cap hit at the RB position in 2018, but after a poor 2017 performance, he has not shown to be worth that value to keep in the future, especially considering the nature of the RB position in the NFL. It’s time to let Derrick Henry be the bell cow back and then draft an elusive change of pace RB to add a much-needed dimension to the Titans backfield.
Finally Make Kirk Cousins the Franchise QB
The Redskins’ hesitancy to sign Cousins to a long-term deal fascinates me. Since the 2015 season, he has consistently ranked in the top 10 in most major statistical categories, including ranking 3rd in yards in 2016, 6th in QBR in both 2015 and 2016, and 1st in completion percentage in 2015. This season the Redskins only had a 7–9 record, losing crucial players to injury like Trent Williams, Jordan Reed, Jonathan Allen, and their three top running backs. Despite this, Cousins was top 10 in completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns.
The Redskins have a pretty talented roster when healthy between Reed, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Jamison Crowder, and Terrelle Pryor. Their pass defense was 9th best in the league, and though their run defense was abysmal, that can be easily fixed with a returning Jonathan Allen and a solid defensive tackle free agent class. After seeing Deshuan Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo jumpstart their respective teams, or the Colts’ and Packers’ records plummeting without their starting QB’s, the importance of stability at the position cannot be overstated. With a healthy roster and a couple more positions on defense filled, the Redskins can open a multi-year year playoff window with Cousins at the helm.
(Stats from Pro Football Reference)