For non-playoff teams, important NFL offseason is underway

Rod Wood
Posted at 4:26 PM, Jan 07, 2021

While 14 teams are focused on their pursuit of the Vince Lombardi Trophy with the expanded NFL playoffs set to kick off this weekend, the offseason is underway for 18 other clubs.

Six teams are searching for new head coaches. Seven are looking for general managers. Quarterbacks and other star players will surely be on the move.

Everyone hopes normalcy returns by the start of the new season.

The league already pulled off a difficult task by completing its 256-game regular season on time during the coronavirus pandemic. The goal now is playing the Super Bowl in Tampa on Feb. 7.

Getting an opportunity to win a championship begins with a strong offseason.

Here are some things to look for this offseason:

COACHES: The Chargers, Jaguars, Texans, Falcons, Jets and Lions need new coaches. Much attention is given to minority candidates because the league strengthened its Rooney Rule. In November, the NFL implemented a seven-point mobility plan that it projects will enhance opportunities for minorities in coaching and front-office positions. The firing of Anthony Lynn by the Chargers leaves only three minority coaches. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh are expected to interview for multiple open spots and would increase the total if they get jobs. Whoever replaces Lynn in Los Angeles inherits a solid nucleus led by quarterback Justin Herbert. The opening in Houston is also attractive because of quarterback Deshaun Watson. Jacksonville has the No. 1 overall pick so the new coach should get a franchise QB.

FREE AGENCY: The new league season begins March 17 and revenue losses due to the pandemic mean the salary cap will be reduced. The floor is $175 million, which would be a decrease of $23.2 million. Over the Cap estimates it’ll be $176 million. There will be a slew of talented players available because teams are going to make cost-cutting decisions. Veterans with big contracts will be looking for new teams. The franchise tag will account for a larger percentage of the salary cap so that will deter teams from using it. The Eagles and Saints are two teams facing major cap issues and will have to slash payroll significantly.

DRAFT: The 86th NFL draft is scheduled for April 29-May 1 in Cleveland. The city is planning for a socially distanced event after last year’s draft in Las Vegas was canceled and held virtually. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is expected to go to Jacksonville with the first pick. The Jets have the second pick and they could take Ohio State QB Justin Fields even though they have Sam Darnold. Brigham Young QB Zach Wilson could crack the top 10. Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith of Alabama and fellow wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase of LSU are projected as potential top-five picks.

QUARTERBACKS: A pair of NFC East QBs could be on the move in the offseason. Carson Wentz may have played his last game with the Philadelphia Eagles, and same for Dak Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys. Wentz had the worst season of his five-year career before he was benched for the last four games. Prescott put up excellent numbers before a gruesome ankle injury ended his season in October. Mitchell Trubisky, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston will be among the free agents. The Lions may shop Matthew Stafford, and retirement is a possibility for Philip Rivers.

COVID-19: It wasn’t business as usual this season because of the pandemic and some changes will become part of the league going forward.

Virtual meetings, a prolonged training camp acclamation period, expanded practice squads and unlimited callbacks from injured reserve are among some of the aspects that will be considered.