The 2018 NFL season has been a rather unique one, as plenty of teams in the NFC saw themselves on the outskirts of the postseason. With franchises such as the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks left out of the picture, the AFC saw some developments of their own.
From arguably the best season of Tom Brady’s career, to the unforeseen success of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, there are now plenty of headlines heading into the 2018 NFL offseason. Here are ten of the most debated topics heading into the spring:
#10: Will Jon Gruden be the right fit for the Oakland Raiders?
After a disappointing 2017 campaign, one in which the Raiders finished 6-10, Oakland elected to move on from Jack Del Rio, and transition into an era that involves Jon Gruden. Signing a 10-year, $100 million deal earlier in the month, many believe Gruden may not turn out to be the best fit for the Raiders.
The ESPN figure does have plenty of experience with younger players, but the head coaching department was only one issue this franchise needed to address in the offseason. Ranking 23rd in points and 25th in rushing yards per game, Gruden will have a lot on his plate before September comes around.
#9: Is Saquon Barkley worth the hype as the best rookie running back?
With running backs Ezekiel Elliot, Leonard Fournette, and even Christian McCaffrey turning out to be with the first round selection, will Barkley fall into the same category? The Penn State running back is projected as a top ten selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, but where he ends up is crucial to the start of his career.
One team that may be interested in revamping their run game happens to be the Cleveland Browns, who haven’t contained a 1,000-yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010. Could Barkley’s hype translate into the NFL, or will he simply be viewed as a flash in the pan?
#8: Will Kansas City move Alex Smith via trade at some point?
The Kansas City Chiefs have indeed informed the league that they are open to the possibility of trading veteran quarterback Alex Smith, which only leads us to believe that the Chiefs are prepared to move onto upcoming sophomore Patrick Mahomes III. Although Mahomes III has seen a very limited amount of the action this past season, at the end of the day, the NFL is an ongoing business.
The market for a quarterback is at a unique place right now, so the value for a player of Smith’s caliber is vague at the moment. As soon as the NFL Draft concludes in April, be on the lookout for this headline.
#7: Will Philadelphia repeat as as the first back-to-back NFC East winners since 2004?
Since the 2004 season, there has yet to be a repeat division winner within the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles will now be coming off of their Super Bowl visit, but should we expect that success to carry over next season?
With Carson Wentz coming off of injury, anything is possible. The Dallas Cowboys are continuing their attempt to re-load on defense, while the New York Giants and Washington Redskins are on the brink of a potential rebuild process.
#6: What will the Cleveland Browns do with their first two draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft?
The Browns contain both the #1 and #4 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, but no one is certain on who the front office will select. The offense could go through yet another quarterback change, but it’s just as likely that Cleveland will improve upon their defense.
Within the mix, names such as QB Josh Allen, RB Saquon Barkley and CB Minkah Fitzpatrick are all rumored to become candidates the Browns could hypothetically call upon. Will this catapult the 0-16 Browns into playoff contention? Absolutely not, but the headline involving who Cleveland is bound to select will be one to follow.
#5: Will the Giants finally replace Eli Manning with a rookie quarterback?
The New York Giants, who are coming off of a 3-13 campaign in 2017, now contain the #2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Based on recent rumors and ongoing reports, the Giants could potentially snag UCLA QB Josh Rosen with the pick, in hopes of shipping Eli Manning elsewhere.
While Manning does contain a full no-trade clause within his contract, could the veteran grant a trade to be moved elsewhere? Teams such as the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars have been rumored to become suitors, but no concrete facts have come out quite yet. The draft will be telling in what New York’s next steps are, so be on the watch for a blockbuster move on the horizon.
#4: Will the Patriots have similar success without coordinators Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels?
The New England Patriots dynasty has been one for the ages, but this could also be an era that is coming to abrupt end. With defensive coordinator Matt Patricia heading to Detroit, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels likely heading to the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots will start the 2018-19 season without two key factors within the franchise’s success.
Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady is only getting older, and rumors have made it seem as though Bill Belichick may be unhappy with the operation of the front office/ownership. Sure, the Patriots should be bound for some success in the upcoming season, but are they nearing the end?
#3: How much does Jimmy Garoppolo earn this offseason?
After a blockbuster move, the San Francisco 49ers may have found their franchise quarterback in backup Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Finishing with 1,500+ passing yards in just over five games, Garoppolo is due for quite the paycheck this offseason.
In order to prevent any “funny business”, how much will San Francisco pay the 26-year old? We have seen plenty of cases in which overpaying at the quarterback position has helped, but just ask the Cleveland Browns (Brock Osweiler) or Arizona Cardinals (Carson Palmer) about that situation, and this instantly becomes a must-watch story.
#2: Which quarterback will the Minnesota Vikings elect to keep?
The Vikings have the best issue on their hands this offseason: Which efficient quarterback should they keep? On one hand, Case Keenum just brought Minnesota to their first NFC Championship game since Brett Favre did it in 2009. On the other, you have potential successors in both Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater.
How many quarterbacks do they sign? Which has the brightest future? Where do the others go? There seems to be a lot more wrapped up in this story than what’s being put on the cover, so pay attention to what the Vikings do at the quarterback department.
#1: Will Kirk Cousins be franchise tagged for the third consecutive year by the Redskins?
This story was ongoing through this past offseason, and nothing seems to be changing in 2018. The Washington Redskins are faced with a tough decision when it comes to Kirk Cousins, as his limited “elite” play has deemed him somewhat unworthy of a long-term deal with the franchise.
In some odd chance that the Redskins once again franchise tag Cousins for the third consecutive season, the veteran will then be owed $34.5 million during the course of 2018. The Redskins either need to explore elsewhere, commit, or gamble a lot of cash on Cousins once again.