NFL intrigue goes beyond the quarterbacks
The NFL’s offseason features plenty of intrigue beyond where Kirk Cousins and dozens of other quarterbacks will land.
As the Philadelphia Eagles enjoy the city’s first NFL title since 1960 and the New England Patriots smart over their failure to win a sixth ring, 30 other teams are plotting to unseat the conference kings.
That appears to be a tougher task in the AFC than in the NFC, where the Vikings, Saints and Rams all are on the rise and the Pack promises to get back with Aaron Rodgers under center again.
DeShaun Watson’s comeback from a torn ACL could put the Texans in the mix along with the resurgent Jaguars to wrest the Lamar Hunt Trophy from the grasp of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, whose reneging on the Colts coaching job reignited the animosity between Indy and New England.
At league headquarters, Roger Goodell wants to see the mystery of the NFL’s catch rule solved.
Five cities are building their case to host the league’s annual draft in 2019 or 2020. This year’s extravaganza will be held April 26-28 in Jerry’s backyard at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
On Tuesday, teams can designate franchise or transition players and in a week they’ll all be at the NFL combine in Indianapolis to take a gander at this year’s top college prospects.
Free agency starts March 14 with the new league year and that’s when the QB dominoes will start to fall.
Teams that hired a new coach this year — the Cardinals, Bears, Lions, Colts, Giants, Raiders and Titans — get to begin offseason workouts April 2. Everyone else starts two weeks later.
While baseballs soar and basketballs bounce over the next few months, some story lines that will provide a football fix:
KIRK COUSINS’ NEXT DESTINATION : With Washington acquiring Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs, Cousins will say goodbye to the Redskins and hello to the really big bucks. The Broncos, Jets and Cardinals could jockey to see who will pay Cousins $30 million annually.
JOHN ELWAY’S NEXT COMEBACK : The Broncos boss wants to quit fretting over the position he knows the most about. Landing Cousins or one of the top college QBs will allow him to move on from Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian, who all started during Denver’s 5-11 face-plant.
WHICH QB WILL GO NO. 1 ? Teams that miss out on one of the prized free agents can look to the draft, which features Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, who are all expected to be selected in the top 10 picks. But in which order? Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph could join them as first-rounders.
WILL ANDREW LUCK PLAY? Some believe the impetus for McDaniels backing out of the Colts job was the uncertainty surrounding QB Andrew Luck, who missed all of last season following shoulder surgery. Luck hopes to resume his career in 2018, but he still hasn’t thrown a football since October
DID INDY LUCK OUT? McDaniels’ brush-off led the Colts to hiring ex-Eagles OC Frank Reich, who got glowing endorsements from former team president Bill Polian, ex-coach Tony Dungy and former QB Peyton Manning. Reich figured to be atop the list of hot head coaching candidates next winter, so this was a jump-start.
HOW WILL RAIDERS MESH? Last summer, Oakland QB Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million contract. This winter, Jon Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million deal to return to the sideline from the broadcast booth. Now, it’s time for Gruden and Carr to make it work together.
WILL PATS DEFY TIME? Brady and Belichick failed to win a sixth ring when the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Eagles. But McDaniels couldn’t leave the soon-to-be 41-year-old QB coming off an MVP season. Opponents continue to wonder when Brady will hit that wall and quit being so frustratingly good.
WHO WILL LEAD MINNESOTA? The Vikings are in an odd situation at quarterback. They have an abundance in Case Keenum, who was a suburb fill-in with Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford hurt. They’re both getting healthy but none of the three are under contract for next season.
WHAT’S THE PANTHERS’ FUTURE? While former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White looks into claims of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace against Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, potential buyers are exploring purchasing the team. Goodell says he wants the team to remain in Charlotte under the new owners.
WHO WILL WOW NFL ?: Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Nashville and Cleveland-Canton are hoping to land the NFL draft in either 2019 or 2020. Representatives for each site will offer presentations before the final selections are made in May at the NFL spring meetings in Atlanta.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton