A Super Bowl champion has been crowned, officially closing the chapter that was 2022. Now, the real drama is about to begin: The NFL off-season.
With the new league year (and the start of free agency) one month away, we’re taking a look around the league and highlighting one big question on each club’s agenda.
Arizona Cardinals: Can Ossenfort make a splash on the pass rush?
Yes, Kyler Murray’s health is the top story but that’s all a waiting game. The more answer-able question right now is how new Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort opens his tenure. Bringing in a successor to J.J. Watt seems like a good place to start.
Atlanta Falcons: Can Atlanta make a big swing for a big-name QB?
Caught in the messy middle of the standings with back-to-back 7-10 campaigns, the Falcons have the youngest roster in the league and the second-most cap space to play with.
Baltimore Ravens: How (and when) will the Lamar Jackson contract saga end?
While it’s safe to assume the team isn’t going to just let their era-defining quarterback walk away in free agency for nothing – any combination of a franchise tag, extension and trade is expected – this situation feels just as unclear as it was at the beginning of the season.
Buffalo Bills: Can Beane get creative along the o-line?
GM Brandon Beane made it clear he’ll need to get creative with some cap-clearing moves, and tempered expectations for any blockbuster acquisitions accordingly. It could be an off-season of details in Buffalo – and tweaks along the offensive line to build a little more support for Josh Allen will likely take priority.
Carolina Panthers: Can Carolina finally fill their QB vacancy?
They’ve got a new head coach, a group of new coordinators, a strong defensive core and a division wide open for the taking. And yet, it’s impossible to know where this club is heading without knowing who will line up under centre.
Chicago Bears: What will GM Ryan Poles do with the No. 1 overall pick?
With the first overall draft selection and more cap space than any other team – it’s not even close! – it’s not a stretch to call this off-season the most pivotal in team history. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that they’ve already got (presumably) their franchise QB to build around in Justin Fields, who’s still on his rookie deal, giving them maximum options to trade back in the draft and spend big on weapons to surround him. This should be fun.
Cincinnati Bengals: How much will Burrow earn on his extension?
This off-season is Cincinnati management’s first opportunity to lock up their franchise QB to an extension. The financial figure on that cheque will dictate how the club can approach the players around him – most notably, Ja’Marr Chase (still on his rookie deal) and Tee Higgins, who is heading into his contract year. Both have chimed in already on the matter.
Cleveland Browns: Can Cleveland find a way to get the most out of Watson?
The Browns compromised a lot more than cap space and draft picks when they acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson last year, but with no first-round pick this year and very little spending money, they’ll need to get creative if they are to get the most out of the $230-million man.
Dallas Cowboys: Can the Cowboys find an A- or B-level wide receiver to line up opposite CeeDee?
After trading Amari Cooper to the Browns last off-season, the Cowboys’ lack of receiving weapons was felt in a big way this year. While the WR market isn’t exactly looking electric, adding a weapon for Dak Prescott is even more important considering the fact running back Tony Pollard could be snatched away in free agency, leaving the team’s rushing tandem without its top performer.
Denver Broncos: Can head coach Sean Payton build up trust and a winning culture with Russell Wilson?
After spending big in picks and dollars for Russell Wilson last off-season, the Broncos doubled down and spared no expense in order land the coach they feel is best-equipped to get the most out of him.
Detroit Lions: Can Detroit land a top-name defender in free agency?
With a number of statement-making wins in 2022, including in their final game of the season to put away the Packers, the Lions look poised to pounce in the NFC North. A big swing on a free agent defender – ahem, safeties C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Jessie Bates III, and Jordan Poyer are all slated for free agency – would go a long way in to adding skill and leadership to a secondary that needs it.
Green Bay Packers: Will he stay or will he go?
The future of the organization is hanging in the balance of Aaron Rodgers’ decision about whether he’ll retire or return for another year. But it’s also possible the Packers could be the ones to rule out the latter option altogether and move on from the longtime face of the franchise with a trade.
Houston Texans: Who are the Houston Texans?
GM Nick Caserio is two years into his Texans tenure, and yet we don’t really know what his vision for the franchise is. Following a pretty extensive tear-down, and the hiring of new head coach (and former Texan) DeMeco Ryans earlier this off-season, it’s time for the Texans to reintroduce themselves. There’s a lot riding on that No. 2 overall pick.
Indianapolis Colts: Will the Colts target their QB1 in the draft?
They tried the bring-in-a-veteran route twice, but the Carson Wentz experiment didn’t work out and the Matt Ryan trial was even worse. Ryan’s still technically on the roster, but it’s clear the Colts must move on. With the fourth overall pick, they’ve got their shot now to take a QB at the highest position since selecting Andrew Luck first overall in 2012.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Calvin Ridley be reinstated following suspension?
The wide receiver, who was suspended indefinitely in 2022 for betting on NFL games in 2021, was traded to Jacksonville while suspended and applied for reinstatement on Wednesday. If that’s approved, the Jaguars suddenly find themselves with another weapon for Trevor Lawrence at a reasonable cap hit.
Kansas City Chiefs: Is this the year OC Eric Bieniemy moves on?
His name emerges every off-season as a coaching candidate that could take the next step, but Bieniemy has remained in KC. His contract now up following a second Super Bowl win, that could change.
“Eric Bieniemy has been tremendous for us, and I think he’s tremendous for the National Football League,” Andy Reid said earlier this week. “I’m hoping he has an opportunity to go somewhere and do his thing, where he can run the show and be Eric Bieniemy.”
Las Vegas Raiders: Who succeeds Derek Carr?
Big changes are happening in Vegas.
Oh, and there was also that thing about Derek Carr being released, too.
So, who steps in at QB? Whether the answer comes via the draft or free agency will say a lot about the direction of this club.
Los Angeles Chargers: How much will the Chargers pay Herbert?
Like fellow 2020 draftee Joe Burrow in Cincinnati, Justin Herbert enters his first extension-eligible off-season. While the Chargers don’t need to rush to lock him up that might be a wise move considering he’s expected to make a jump under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and will only get more expensive.