Short-term Predictions on the NFL Off-Season

It’s time to turn to a reality which we must all accept and endure: the 2017-18 NFL season has ended, and we are left without football for the next six months.  Rather than sulking in our own sorrows, though, I suggest that we use the coming weeks as a time for reflection; a time for each of us to wonder what happened to our respective team(s), and argue with one another over what moves said team(s) can make in the offseason to compete for the Lombardi Trophy, or even the playoffs, in 2018.  And I am so grateful that we have been given some serious drama and compelling storylines to begin the offseason. So, I felt the need to share my perspective (which hasn’t been wrong often in my blogging career) on what we could see in the months leading up to the draft and the beginning of the season.

There’s officially a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia (as I predicted) as we enter the offseason.  Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles will compete against an injured Carson Wentz for the reigning champs’ starting quarterback job. Sure, it’s highly likely that Wentz–a frontrunner for league MVP prior to his injury–will easily retain the starting position; but how do you sit a Super Bowl MVP coming off one of the most efficient postseason stretches in NFL history?  Indeed, Foles completed 72.6% of his passes while throwing for 971 yards, 6 touchdowns and only one interception in the playoffs.  Oh, and he also tacked on a receiving touchdown in what is being called one of the greatest play calls in Super Bowl history.  Some believe the Eagles should trade Foles while he’s at his peak and get a high return in talent and/or draft picks.  And if the Browns continue to do Browns things and offer one, or both, of their top-5 picks for the 29-year-old, I think the Eagles could have a difficult time turning that offer down.  But I, a sports intellectual, suggest that the Eagles should keep Foles for the 2018 season as insurance for Carson Wentz. It’s speculated that Wentz’s knee injury could sideline him for the start of the regular season in 2018, and to say that Foles has proven his worth in an Eagles uniform is an understatement.  As I’ve argued before, both Wentz and Foles are system quarterbacks–Doug Pederson has proven himself the real star of the offense.  But don’t get me wrong, both quarterbacks work in the system and both should be kept if the Eagles aim to compete at high levels in the future.  Further, Philly will have to act fast: in one of the most bizarre NFL situations I’ve seen, Foles’ five-year contract (which he’s three years into) is void if the Eagles don’t resign him by the middle of February.  Philly needs to keep the man, and in doing so, ensure another season of reliable quarterback play, whether Wentz is ready to go at kickoff in September or not.

Arguably the second biggest storyline we have was Kansas City’s sending Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. Most obviously, this means Andy Reid is confident enough in sophomore-to-be gunslinger Patrick Mahomes to hand him the starting quarterback role. The real beneficiary of the Smith trade is Mahomes, who inherits such offensive Pro Bowlers as receiver Tyreek Hill, elusive running back Kareem Hunt, and one of the league’s best red zone targets in tight end Travis Kelce.  Alex Smith, who trails only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in wins since 2011, will now lead a Redskins’ offense that was unable to find its identity under head coach Jay Gruden in 2017, with neither a 1000-yard rusher nor a 1000-yard receiver, and an average 234.4 total passing yards and 90.5 total rushing yards per game (12th and 28th respectively).  But I think the bigger question is, what will Redskins starting QB, Kirk Cousins, do?  Heralded as the biggest free-agent QB prospect this offseason, my take is that Cousins will end up with the New York Jets.  The Jets have the third most cap space in the league, trailing only San Francisco, who has a promising franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, and Cleveland, a dumpster fire for nearly the entirety of my existence.  Cleveland is not an attractive place; I’m thinking Cousins will be welcomed to wear the Jets’ green and move up to the Big Apple.  The Jets were tough as hell this year and could realistically be a playoff team if they add consistent quarterback play, which isn’t a guarantee if they turn to the draft to get their guy.  Cousins is one of the hardest-working guys in the league, which will translate well in a system that welcomes him and is willing to build around him.

Finally, I declare that the dynasty in New England is over. There’s a reason Josh McDaniels backed out of the Colts’ head coaching job to remain the Patriots’ offensive coordinator: Bill Belichick’s days as head coach are limited.  First, there was ESPN’s Seth Wickersham’s report on the fallout among owner Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady.   Wickersham reported that Brady, who hopes to play until age 45, forced Kraft to deal Garoppolo despite Belichick’s unwillingness to do so.  Indeed, the 5-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback felt threatened by the 26-year old, pretty-boy quarterback out of Eastern Illinois (for good reason, I might add, considering Jimmy G’s 7-0 record as an NFL starter).  Anyway, the result of all this is that the Patriots are left without a plan for the future at the QB position.  Further, not only did the Pats lose the Super Bowl this week, they also lost defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who has been named named the Detroit Lions’ next head coach.  And there’s even more: the Patriots’ “cheat code,” Rob Gronkowski, suggested the possibility of his retirement during his post-Super Bowl interview.  And cornerback Malcolm Butler was benched during the Super Bowl for unknown reasons, which has led to criticism of Belichick’s coaching tactics for what seems like the first time in his career.  So, it’s looking like Butler will be traded; coupled with a potential Gronk departure, the Patriots could quickly lose two of their most valuable players, further depleting an offense with increasingly few options and a defense which ranked 29th in yards allowed in 2017.  For now, the Pats open as Super Bowl LIII favorites with odds of 5/1–I think this could change very, very quickly.

-IceBurg (@AJBurgess54), Senior Sports Contributor

 

 

So with all of this offseason action already taking place along with the 2018 NFL Draft approaching, we will still be able to discuss and debate football topics, keeping us sane during the forever long drought of football we must undertake.

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