Predicting the Top 5 Offenses This Season

Will the Chiefs top the list once again?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

The 2021 NFL season is now less than 3 weeks away. The preseason is halfway completed and rosters are being finalized as teams prepare for week 1 of the regular season. Now is as good a time as any to start projecting how productive each team will be this year. In particular, let’s predict who the top offenses in the NFL can be this season, counting down from 5th place and continuing all the way to the number one spot.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending Super Bowl champion Bucs finished last season as the 7th ranked offense in the NFL with 384.1 yards per game. This is very impressive considering it was the first year for Tom Brady in a brand new style of offense. Going from the “Patriot way” to the air it out style of Bruce Arians is a drastic change so it took Brady a few weeks before he really got things rolling last year. Now that he has had a full season and offseason to learn the new system and tweak it a bit to fit his own style, it is likely that the Bucs offense will take a step forward this season. They are returning pretty much their entire championship roster from 2020 so another year of chemistry should work in their favor as well. Their combination of weapons is one of the best in the entire league, including one of the top wide receiving groups in the NFL of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. They helped lead the Bucs to the second best passing offense last year with 289.1 yards per game.

4. Buffalo Bills

The Bills finished the 2020 season tied for the second ranked offense with 396.4 yards per game. Most of this was due to the MVP caliber play of quarterback Josh Allen who really had a break out season. He put up by far the best numbers of his career throwing the ball, completing 69.2 percent of his passes for 4544 yards and 37 touchdowns, which were all new career highs. It appears that one of the main keys to unlocking his potential was the addition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs. In his first year in Buffalo, he had the best season of his career while leading the NFL in both receptions with 127 and receiving yards with 1535. The chemistry between Allen and Diggs appears to be extremely strong and this combination should have the Bills as one of the top offenses for many years to come. Having the creativity of one of the top young offensive coordinators in Brian Daboll definitely helps them as well.

3. Kansas City Chiefs

Last season the Chiefs finished as the top offense in football by an incredible margin of nearly 20 yards per game over second place. To show just how wide that gap is, the separation between the second and 12th place offenses was 20 yards. Clearly the Chiefs offense at 415.8 yards per game was absolutely dominant last season and as long as they keep their core together there is no reason at all to believe that they won’t be in the top five every season. The combination of Andy Reid at head coach with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback is a seemingly perfect match, as demonstrated by finishing as the number one ranked offense in two out of their three seasons together. They have the best “tight end” in football with Travis Kelce and one the top, and fastest, wide receivers in Tyreek Hill. Also, second year running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire should take a step forward this year as a true dual threat now that he is more comfortable in this system.

2. Tennessee Titans

Tied for second last season on offense with the Bills were the Titans. Unlike the Bills who relied heavily on their passing game, it was the rushing game in Tennessee that was the key to their success. They ranked second in rushing yards per game with 168.1 while superstar running back Derrick Henry eclipsed the 2000 yard mark. In addition, Ryan Tannehill is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL and his fourth ranked QBR of 78.3 demonstrates that. To make this great offense even better than it already was, the Titans added Julio Jones this offseason to pair with emerging star AJ Brown in what is now one of the best wide receiver tandems in the entire league. In just two season, Brown already has accumulated 122 receptions for 2126 yards and 19 touchdowns in the passing game. Jones, who is one of the best receivers of the past decade, recorded 1000 or more yards in every season of his career that he has played in at least 14 games. Between Henry, Brown, and Jones the Titans create an absolute nightmare situation for opposing defenses to try and match up with. They are in line for a monster season on offense.

1. Dallas Cowboys

In 2019, which was the last full season for quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys lead the NFL in offense by a very wide margin with 431.5 yards per game. In addition to the fact that they were about 24 yards per game clear of second place, they totaled the most offensive yards in a season by any team since the Denver Broncos in 2013. Before Prescott was injured in 2020 they were off to yet another scorching hot start for offensive production. In particular, Prescott was on an absolutely ridiculous pace that could have set a new single season record for passing yards if he did not get hurt. As long as he fully returns to health this season, the Cowboys should have another huge year on offense and could be even better than before with the addition of second year wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. In the five games last season that Prescott started, Lamb registered 29 receptions for 433 yards and two touchdowns. This is a connection to watch this season and could really be something special moving forward. Of course, Prescott will also still have the luxury of his usual arsenal of weapons too with Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup.

Buying or selling Super Bowl LVI contenders

Are the LA Rams really Super Bowl contenders?

By: Chris Thomas

From the minute the Super Bowl ends speculation begins about who could make the Super Bowl the following year. The odds change throughout the offseason as hirings, signings, and the draft happens. At this point of the offseason, the Super Bowl odds seem pretty firm, barring anything crazy. 

Recently Sportsline came up with their Super Bowl odds for the 2022 NFL Season. According to CBS Sports, they simulate every NFL game 10,000 times to figure out their odds for who will win the Super Bowl. CBS Sports also reported that those who have bet $100 on their model since its inception six years ago are now up almost $7,900.

Even though there are so many talented teams around the league only two teams can make the Super Bowl and only one team can win it. There are a lot of loaded rosters across the league, but only a hand few could be considered Super Bowl contenders. Sportsline has set the odds for every team’s chance of winning the Super Bowl next season. Here is whether to buy or sell Sportsline top-10 Super Bowl contenders as teams who could win the Super Bowl. 

1. Kansas City Chiefs (+525)

Despite losing the Super Bowl last year, many believe the Kansas City Chiefs do have the best odds of winning the Super Bowl next year. It’s pretty hard to argue against it. Kansas City did not have many major losses across their roster this offseason. The Chiefs invested a lot of capital into their biggest weakness displayed during the Super Bowl which was their offensive line. They added veterans like Orlando Brown Jr. (via trade), Joe Thuney, Kyle Long, and Austin Blythe. Then drafted high upside interior offensive linemen Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. Also, veteran guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff and 2020 third-round pick tackle Lucas Niang are returning to the team after opting out last season due to Covid-19. That unit is deep enough to ensure that former MVP Patrick Mahomes plays behind a top-10 offensive line all year. 

Kansas City does not have any major holes across its roster. They have done a great job retaining veterans and filling voids on their roster with high draft picks over the last couple of seasons. The combination of having an MVP caliber quarterback, consistency in the roster, and fantastic coaching is what makes the Chiefs a potential Super Bowl contender this season.

Verdict: Buying

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+650)

It would be shocking to not have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers high on this list. The reigning Super Bowl champs did the impossible this past offseason and managed to retain every single player that started during the Super Bowl for them. Tampa Bay somehow managed to retain Shaquil Barrett, Chris Godwin, Ndamukong Suh, Leonard Fournette, and Rob Gronkowski in free agency. They also retained veterans Steve McLendon, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Succop, and signed veteran running back Giovanni Bernard to join their running back committee. During the draft, Tampa Bay took the best player available and Jason Pierre-Pauls potential replacement next offseason Joe Tryon. Adding a prospect like Tryon to a defense that was capable of holding Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to nine points during the Super Bowl was a great move. 

After last season it seems that anytime Tom Brady is a team’s starting quarterback they have a chance of winning the Super Bowl. Another season of Brady in that system with the outstanding weapons he has including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, (A healthy) O.J. Howard, a plethora of great running backs, and outstanding defensive play could result in the Buccaneers winning back-to-back Super Bowls. 

Verdict: Buying

3. Buffalo Bills (+1300)

After the two teams who played in the Super Bowl last year, there is a cluster of teams that could prevent one of them from getting to the big game. Sportsline has the Buffalo Bills as the team most likely to take down the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC and win the Super Bowl. At times last season the Bills looked like the best team in football. Quarterback Josh Allen took a massive leap and asserted himself as a top-10 quarterback and finished the season as the runner-up to the MVP. Last year they also added Stefon Diggs who was arguably the best receiver in all of football. Diggs led the league in receptions and receiving yards last year. On top of that, the Bills have an extremely solid roster with a couple of former Pro Bowl defensive players including Tre’Davious White and Tremaine Edmonds. They let go of John Brown who missed most of last season and replaced him with Emmanuel Sanders. 

The Bills are a really good team, but it is important to ask, how much better did the Bills get this offseason. Buffalo retained a lot of their starters from the year prior and brought in Sanders, but they did not bring any fresh blood who can make a major impact on this roster. During the draft, the Bills spent their first two selections on defensive linemen Gregory Rousseau and Carlos “Boogie” Basham. Both help fill the need Buffalo has for a premier pass rusher. But with all the veteran depth on this roster both in the interior and on the edge, how often are they going to be seeing the field next season? The answer is not extremely likely unless they show immediately that they are better than veterans Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Efe Obada, and 2020 second-round pick A.J. Epenesa. The sad truth is that Buffalo didn’t add enough to their roster to potentially become the sole favorite in the AFC and defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Verdict: Selling

T4. Baltimore Ravens (+1400)

Since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback of the Ravens during the 2018-19 NFL season the Ravens have been one of the most dominant teams in the league. The Ravens are expected to continue that this season and may go farther this year than they have in Jackson’s previous three seasons. A couple of veteran players left Baltimore in free agency this offseason including Mark Ingram, Willie Snead IV, Matt Skura, D.J. Fluker, Matthew Judon, and Yannick Ngakoue. But the Ravens did a great job reloading their roster with more veteran and young talent this offseason to replace those players. In free agency, Baltimore added Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva, Sammy Watkins, Ja’Wuan James (expected to miss the entire 2021-22 season), and Justin Houston. In the draft, Baltimore added both wide receiver Rashod Bateman and Odafe “Jayson” Oweh in the first round after they acquired a second first-round pick in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade.

It is hard to argue against Baltimore having one of the deepest rosters in the league, even after the roster turnover. The biggest factors for how Baltimore will perform this year will be the Ravens passing game and pass rush. The Ravens have gotten below-average play from their wide receivers in recent years, Baltimore hopes the additions of Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins could boost the team’s production from that position. The pass rush may have been a concern, but after adding Odafe Owey and Justin Houston to this loaded defense the Ravens should be able to generate enough pressure from the outside to play at a high level. Since Lamar Jackson’s contract is looming over the Ravens’ future this may be Baltimore’s best opportunity to win a Super Bowl with Jackson under center on a rookie contract. 

Verdict: Buying

T4. Los Angeles Rams (+1400)

The Los Angeles Rams started the offseason making a huge trade to upgrade their quarterback position. Before the Super Bowl, the Rams agreed to trade Jared Goff, their 2022 first-round pick, and 2023 first-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. This trade signals that the Rams believe they are a quarterback upgrade away from being a Super Bowl contender. A lot of notable players left the team in free agency including Josh Reynolds, Samson Ebukam, Gerald Everett, Malcolm Brown, Austin Blythe, John Johnson III, and Troy Hill. Not to mention they traded away Michael Brockers to free up salary space. The biggest addition the Rams made to this roster is DeSean Jackson who joins a deep receiving core including Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Van Jefferson. The Rams didn’t have a first-round pick due to the Jalen Ramsey trade. They did not add any players who are expected to have an immediate impact, instead, they could likely develop into contributors in year two or three with the team. 

The Rams have a few players on the roster that are considered elite at their position including Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Then they have a couple of players who are great including Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Leonard Floyd, Matthew Stafford, and Andrew Whitworth. But after those guys, the Rams are relying on a bunch of unproven players who at best couple be solid. This roster is extremely delicate. One injury to a Rams star and they could miss the playoffs. Already the Rams have lost 2020 second-round pick running back Cam Akers to a torn Achilles before training camp. Everything for the Rams would have to go perfectly for them to have a shot at the Super Bowl with their current roster construction.

Verdict: Selling

T4. San Fransisco 49ers (+1400)

It is easily forgotten that the San Fransisco 49ers were in the Super Bowl two years ago. After a season derailed by multiple injuries, the 49ers made the most discussed transaction of the offseason. The 49ers traded two future first-round picks to acquire the third overall pick in this past draft. They used that selection of quarterback Trey Lance. The 49ers lost Richard Sherman and few depth pieces but overall had a positive offseason adding solid pieces in Alex Mack, Samson Ebukam, Maurice Hurst, Arden Key, and Wayne Gallman. Their best signing may be the extending left tackle Trent Williams to a six-year $138 million deal. 

Looking at their roster it is clear that the 49ers can be one of the league’s best if they stay healthy. On offense, they have an elite running game and three outstanding pass catchers in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Behind their offensive line, it may not matter if Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance is under center. Then the 49ers’ defense still can be as elite as it was two years ago with all their premier talent. If the 49ers could stay healthy and make it out of the NFC West they are as dangerous as any team in the NFL. 

Verdict: Buying

7. Green Bay Packers(+1600)

Since the NFL Draft, the most talked about team in the league has been the Green Bay Packers. The reasoning is that it became public knowledge that league MVP Aaron Rodgers wants to be traded from the team. He felt he has been mistreated by management and would rather go to a situation where he feels he will be treated as he should. Besides that, the Packers have had an okay offseason. Green Bay lost All-Pro center Corey Linsley and running back Jamaal Williams in free agency. They brought in free agents De’Vondre Campbell and Dennis Kelly to fill voids on their roster. Green Bay also retained cornerback Kevin King on a one-year deal and Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones to a four-year $48 million deal. During the first round of the draft, they added Eric Stokes to upgrade their CB2 spot that was exposed during the NFC Championship.

In all honesty, the Packers have an extremely loaded roster. But their biggest problem this season may be what happens in the locker room. After negotiating with Packers brass Aaron Rodgers agreed to come to training camp under the condition that the Packers trade him following this season. Since he has returned he has been extremely passive-aggressive about all that has happened and seems to have the Packers organization doing his bidding. That bidding included traded for veteran receiver and former Packer Randall Cobb who will now likely start over third-round pick rookie Amari Rodgers in the slot. On top of that All-Pro receiver Davante Adams has now expressed that he may leave the Packers this offseason, especially if Aaron Rodgers isn’t there. Both Rodgers and Adams are under the impression that this is the “last dance” and this is their last shot to win it all before they both split from Green Bay this offseason. It is hard to recall a time where a team with this much dysfunction in the locker room won a Super Bowl. 

Verdict: Selling

8. Cleveland Browns (+1800)

After their outstanding performance, last season the Cleveland Browns are being recognized as a potential Super Bowl contender last season. Cleveland had a fantastic offseason as well. The Browns signed John Johnson III, Troy Hill, Jadeveon Clowney, Takk McKinley, Malik Jackson, Anthony Walker Jr., and resigned Rashad Higgins. They also had a great draft taking two first-round talents in cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the first two rounds. 

It is hard to find a major hole across this roster. The biggest factor for the Browns this season is the play of Baker Mayfield. So far throughout his career, he has played well but is considered an average NFL quarterback. In year two playing for Kevin Stefanski, Mayfield hopes to make that leap. A healthy Odell Beckham Jr. should help Mayfield realize his potential as long as he doesn’t feel pressure to force plays to Beckham as he has in the past. What may hold this team back at the end of the day is the team’s inexperience in huge games. Last year the Browns managed to pick up a playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and came close to beating the Kansas City Chiefs. But it is hard to call the Browns a contender without evidence that they can defeat the teams at the top of the AFC let alone the entire league. 

Verdict: Selling

9. Denver Broncos (+2000)

The most shocking team to appear on this list is the Denver Broncos. According to Sportsline, the team that went 5-11 a season ago has the ninth-best odds of winning the Super Bowl. That sounds crazy but after acknowledging all of the Broncos offseason moves it doesn’t seem entirely impossible. They let go of a few veterans including Phillip Lindsay, Jurrell Casey, A.J. Bouye, and Ja’Wuan James. But Denver added to Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks in Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby to go with their star-studded secondary that features Bryce Callahan, Justin Simmons, and Kareem Jackson. Simmons and Jackson received extensions from the Broncos this offseason as well as Garrett Bolles and Shelby Harris. During the draft, Denver elected not to draft a quarterback and took cornerback Patrick Surtain II in the first round. 

The most impactful move the Broncos made this offseason can be the acquisition of former Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He is engaged in a quarterback competition with Drew Lock. That uncertainty at quarterback is what holds Denver out of conversations as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Denver has a very exciting young offense and premier defensive talent. But their below-average quarterback play likely caps their ceiling at around .500. If Drew Lock wins the quarterback job and breaks out then the Broncos may have a chance of making the playoffs. The only way Denver becomes Super Bowl contenders is if Lock plays at least at a Pro Bowl level or possibly an MVP level.

Verdict: Selling

T10. Indianapolis Colts (+3000)

So far the Indianapolis Colts have not had an outstanding training camp. Freak foot injuries to their new franchise quarterback Carson Wentz and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson have tempered the expectations for the team. However, both may be able to return from their injuries around Week 1. Earlier the Colts made the trade to acquire Wentz from the Eagles to replace the recently retired Philip Rivers. They gave up a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick for Wentz. That conditional second-round pick would become a first-round pick if Wentz plays 75% of the snaps or if he plays 70% of the snaps and the Colts made the playoffs. This offseason Colts lost both of their starting edge rushers Denico Autry and Justin Houston, veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., and former first-round pick Malik Hooker. But they managed to retain Xavier Rhodes, T.Y. Hilton, and Marlon Mack. The Colts also signed former Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. During the draft, the Colts took pass rusher Kwity Paye towards the end of the first round. 

The Indianapolis Colts have a nice blend of younger players and veterans throughout their roster. But they feel like they’re missing another x-factor player to make them legitimate contenders. That player could be Carson Wentz if he returns to his form during the 2017-18 season. Besides Jonathan Taylor behind the Colts’ elite offensive line, there are a lot of questions about their offense. What Carson Wentz will the Colts get, Is T.Y. Hilton still a threat on offense, and can Michael Pittman Jr. emerge as the Colts’ number one receiver. Defensively the Colts have enough to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. It all comes down to the offense that would need to take a big leap forward for this team to become a Super Bowl contender. 

Verdict: Selling

T10. New Orleans Saints (+3000)

As it stands right now it appears the New Orleans Saints missed their Super Bowl window over the last four seasons. But they still have an extremely talented roster. The Saints lost some of their major contributors from a season ago including Emmanuel Sanders, Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, Janoris Jenkins, and Jared Cook. They also brought in a couple of solid veterans in Nick Vannett, Tanoh Kpassagnon, J.R. Sweezy, Jeff Heath, and Brian Poole. Their first-round pick this past year was a puzzling one. They reached on edge rusher Payton Turner who many had a Day 2 grade on. 

The biggest storyline in New Orleans has been what the Saints do at quarterback in the post-Drew Brees era. New Orleans retained both Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill who are both expected to compete for the starting quarterback job. It doesn’t help that their number one receiver Michael Thomas is expected to miss a huge amount of time due to a lingering ankle injury. The Saints are not very deep at receiver after Thomas. New Orleans still has a lot of talent across this roster but will need trustworthy play at quarterback to make the playoffs next season let alone win the Super Bowl. 

Verdict: Selling

Expect the Lions, Eagles, and Texans to have the worst records in 2021

The worst NFL teams in 2021 will be…

By: Andy Davies

Plenty of uncertainty surrounds the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, and Houston Texans going into the 2021 season. Their quarterback situations are far from clear and their overall rosters are mediocre at best.

The same goes for their head coaches, with all three going into their first seasons at the franchise. Neither of Dan Campbell, Nick Sirianni, or David Culley has been a full-time head coach in the NFL. Campbell is the only one to have some experience, with his spell as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2015.

Here is why you should be expecting the Lions, Eagles, and Texans to have the three worst records in the league in 2021.

Saying Goodbye To A Franchise Legend In Detroit. Struggles For The Replacement

Matthew Stafford was the number one overall pick in 2009, with the entire city of Detroit hoping he would be the man to turn around the fortunes of the franchise. Despite three seasons of making the playoffs, the Lions and Stafford never won a single postseason game as the wait continues. The Lions remain the team with the second-longest period without a playoff win, their last taking place on January 5th, 1992.

Stafford had some great individual moments as a Lion, most notably his Mic’d up moment during his 2009 rookie season. In a week eleven game against the Cleveland Browns, he overcame injury to produce a moment of pure heroism. He played with a separated shoulder despite the efforts of the medical staff to keep him off the field, leading the Lions to a touchdown-winning drive.

Jim Caldwell guided the Lions to these playoff appearances but was not seen as good enough to take them to the next step. New England Patriots assistant head coach Matt Patricia was brought in but never took to life as head coach. The Lions had three consecutive losing seasons under the coaching of Patricia. They will hope that they have found their guy in Dan Campbell. His press conference was certainly not dull, with Campbell referring to “biting kneecaps”. As a former Lions player, he knows what it takes to play in the league. He also knows about the city of Detroit and his intentions are both positive and clear. If he is given time, he has the desire to bring the good times back to Detroit. However, he is inexperienced as a head coach and the roster is below average.

New quarterback Jared Goff has the potential to struggle. This is despite the drafting of offensive lineman Penei Sewell at seventh overall, a selection that had Campbell and new General Manager Brad Holmes very excited.

Despite his brilliant 2018 season that saw the Rams reach Super Bowl 53, Goff had a poor game and struggled in 2020 as he and head coach Sean McVay’s relationship deteriorated.

Goff struggled despite a plethora of offensive talent around him. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp form one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. He is going to a franchise that let go of their two best wide receivers and failed to replace them.

The Lions have a schedule that features the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, and Cleveland Browns. There are also two games against their division rivals, the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears. The Lions do not have it easy.

Prediction: 3-14

Trouble In Philadelphia; Reason For Hope?

The Eagles have seen three years of gradual decline after winning Super Bowl 52. The 2017 season saw the Eagles lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time after two previous attempts.

Doug Pederson was the head coach to guide the Eagles to a Super Bowl but was fired after the conclusion of the 2020 season. His decision to bench rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts in order to lose and gain a higher draft pick appeared to be the final nail in the coffin.

Carson Wentz had an MVP caliber season before an injury derailed hopes of winning the award. Backup Nick Foles stepped in and guided the Eagles to the Super Bowl 52 win. He also stepped in a year later and guided the Eagles to a shock Wildcard Round win against the Chicago Bears, with thanks also going to a Cody Parkey missed field goal.

Both Foles and Wentz are no longer Eagles players. Out of the starters in that Super Bowl 52 win, only seven remain with the franchise. Their decision to draft Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson continues to be mocked by rival fans and nobody knows how new head coach Nick Sirianni will do in the role.

The schedule is mixed for Philadelphia. Whilst they face the New York Jets, Lions, and twice play the New York Giants, they also have to face the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.. This is as well as facing a rising Washington Football Team twice as well as playing the Dallas Cowboys both home and away.

Reports have surfaced in recent days of the Philadelphia Eagles being the favourites for Deshaun, with talks said to be “heating up”.

This could be a move that transforms the franchise. However, Deshaun Watson had his best statistical season yet the Texans only managed four wins all year. This proves that whilst it is very important to have a good quarterback, you need more around to be successful.

Unless the Eagles do something in what remains of the offseason, they will continue to be mediocre if their roster continues to be this poor. If they get offensive or defensive talent in the next one or two offseasons, then they are a team that will compete for years to come. Otherwise, the Eagles will fail to be a threat to both the NFC and NFC East.

This is why Deshaun should avoid the Eagles at this present time. He will be going into a situation no different to what he experienced in Houston.

Prediction: 4-13

What A Difference A Year Makes

Where do we start with the Houston Texans? The 2019 season saw them take a 24-0 lead against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round. However, they allowed 41 unanswered points as they lost 51-31. What has unfolded since in the following nineteen months has been reminiscent of a Greek tragedy.

Head coach Bill O’Brien, who also was general manager, made the unusual decision to trade star wide receiver, Deandre Hopkins. In exchange, the Texans received a running back past his sell-by date in David Johnson, one second-rounder and one fourth-round pick. O’Brien only lasted four games in the 2020 season as they finished the campaign with just four wins.

Since the conclusion of the 2020 season, franchise legend J.J Watt has left and there continues to be an uncertain future surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson. Houston’s quarterback requested a trade in January before allegations of sexual assault arose. These have lingered throughout the remainder of the offseason. It is unclear if Watson will play in the NFL at all in 2021 but even if he does, it is unlikely that he will be wearing a Texans jersey.

Houston has said they would listen to trade offers for Watson, with the franchise said to be wanting three first-round picks. They have also acquired Tyrod Taylor via Free Agency and used their first pick in the draft on Davis Mills in the third round. Even if the Eagles stick with Hurts, there will be plenty of other suitors.

Even with Watson, the Texans are light on the ground when it comes to elite talent. Linebacker Zach Cunningham and Laremy Tunsil are talents and despite adding Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram to the running back room, the roster is one of the league’s worst.

David Culley has developed somewhat of a worrying reputation after his time with the Eagles, Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens. During his fourteen-season spell with the Eagles, his four seasons with the Chiefs, and two years with the Ravens, he had 0 wide receivers earn a PFF grade of 80 or above.

The Chiefs wideouts went an entire season without a touchdown under Culley. With a wide receiver room featuring Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins and Anthony Miller, this is not exactly a position of strength for the Texans. Culley is unlikely to see any of these receivers score high PFF grades.

Whilst the Texans might be playing the Jacksonville Jaguars twice and the Jets, they have a tough schedule. They will face the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks. Houston will also play the Los Angeles Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers as well as the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans twice.

They are unlikely to win many of these games. Fans should be expecting a difficult season.

Prediction: 2-15

Why the Tennessee Titans can upend the Kansas City Chiefs

Tennessee Titans are real Super Bowl contenders

By: Chris Thomas

Not too long ago the Tennessee Titans came within eleven points from completing their Cinderella story, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship, and making the Super Bowl. Instead, the Chiefs went on to defeat the San Fransisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV and representing the AFC in the Super Bowl this past season. At this point, Kansas City appears to be the odds on favorite to win the AFC and appear in the Super Bowl for the third year in a row. However, the Tennessee Titans may have the best chance of making sure that doesn’t happen. Here is why the Chiefs should be considered with the Titans more than any other team in the AFC. 

Outstanding weapons 

It wouldn’t be shocking if Tennessee finished the season as the league’s number one offense. It would be extremely shocking if they finished outside the top-10. The Titans not only have the back-to-back rushing champion in Derrick Henry but they also have two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers in A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. The Titans acquired Jones from the Atlanta Falcons after the draft for a 2022 second-round pick. He is not only a replacement for Corey Davis, who signed with the Jets in free agency, he is a major upgrade. If the Titans’ three offensive playmakers stay healthy they should be able to rack up 1,000+ yards rushing/receiving. 

It is fair to say that the Titans have passed the Chiefs as the team with the best offensive skill players. The Chiefs along with the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have two offensive skill players on their roster that are capable of being named All-Pro at the end of the year. The Titans are not only the only other team in the AFC in that category but are the only team with three players capable of being named All-Pro at the end of the year. Kansas City hasn’t played a team with as much if not more firepower as them in the Patrick Mahomes era. That will change this season when the two meet in Week 7. The Chiefs’ defense features a few great players like Chris Jones, Tyrann Mathieu, and Frank Clark. However at best they are middle of the pack and do not have enough talent on that side of the ball to minimize the production of all three. 

Ability to control the clock

The Super Bowl this past year exposed the weaknesses that the Kansas City Chiefs had not exposed to the rest of the league the last few years. The way to beat the Chiefs is with a stout pass rush, not allowing Patrick Mahomes to make dynamic plays, and keeping the ball out of the offense’s hands. The Buccaneers’ pass rush did not allow Mahomes to make plays downfield and he had to resort to checking the ball behind the line of scrimmage or tossing it up hoping his receivers were in a position to make a play. While Tom Brady and the offense were able to hold the ball to control the clock more than the Chiefs during that game. Holding onto the ball and taking advantage of their offensive opportunities allowed them to dominate the Chiefs the way they did during that game. 

The Titans are well equipped to control the clock better than any other team in the league. They have the league’s most dominant running back over the last two seasons in Derrick Henry and a quarterback who is extremely smart with the ball in Ryan Tannehill. They have the firepower to get a lead early then hand the ball off to Henry over and over until the clock runs out. That has been the Titans’ bread and butter over the last two seasons. That firepower was just Henry last year and now it is their elite offensive trio that could get the Titans a lead early in games. Henry averaged a career-high 5.4 yards per carry last season. So if need be the Titans can rely on Henry to get them a first down in two or three downs, keep the clock rolling, and keep the ball out of the opponent’s hands. 

A lesser-discussed part of the Titans offense is how efficient Tannehill has been as a passer. Since taking over he is well aware that the passing game comes second behind their rushing attack. So he does not feel the pressure to make big plays that other quarterbacks do. Tannehill has only thrown 13 interceptions over the last two seasons because he doesn’t have to make the risky plays other quarterbacks do. Rather than making big plays downfield, Tannehill could throw short passes to move the chains and keep the clock moving. 

Similar Quarterback Production

The Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill is more than a game manager. He has shown the ability to make big plays and big moments, especially in the playoffs. In late December, CBS compared the statistics of Tannehill’s first 24 games as the Titans starter and Patrick Mahomes’ statistics last 24 games. The results of this comparison are shocking enough and help the argument that Tannehill should be considered one of the better quarterbacks in the league. 

Tannehill’s 114 passer rating beats Mahomes 105.9 passer rating during that span. However, Mahomes’ 6,983 passing yards is higher than Tannehill’s 6,080 passing yards. Shockingly Tannehill beat out Mahomes in total touchdowns with 61 to Mahomes’ 56. They both only threw 10 interceptions during that span. Finally, Tannehill had a higher completion percentage completing 67.7% of his passes while Mahomes completed 66.4% of his passes. If this was a competition Tannehill beat out Mahomes with a final score of 3-1-1 out producing him in three categories.

Now it is unlikely that Tannehill will join Mahomes in the best in the league conversation unless he takes home the league MVP this season. But the stats do show that the two are closer than many think. If it came to a battle of the better quarterback it may end up being a toss-up between the two.

Revamped Defense

This offseason the Titans have focused on retooling their defense. Last year the Titans’ defense was not good enough to get the team back to the AFC Championship. So they got rid of multiple starters including Jadeveon Clowney, Kenny Vaccaro, Adoree Jackson, Desmond King II, and Malcolm Butler. They went out and added big-name free agents like Bud Dupree, Denico Autry, and Janoris Jenkins. Then Tennesee drafted three defensive players with their first four selections including first-round pick Caleb Farley, second-round pick Monty Rice, and third-round pick Elijah Molden. 

It appears that Tennessee swapped out their strength in the secondary to increase the talent level of their pass rush. Four members of the Titans starting secondary were cut during free agency but they signed two high caliber pass rushers to go along with the pass rushers they already had on their roster. Harold Landry has had 14.5 sacks for Tennesee over the last two years and former first-round pick Jeffrey Simmons is closing in on becoming one of the best defensive tackles in the league after his play the last two seasons. Now the Titans added Dupree who could very well have double-digit sacks and be named to the Pro Bowl this season and one of the most underrated pass rushers in the league the last couple of seasons Denico Autry. Dupree has had 19.5 sacks over his last 27 games. While Autry discretely had 20 sacks over the last three seasons in Indianapolis. The Titans should have no problem getting after opposing quarterbacks next season and beyond. 

The reason why Tennessee may have changed the emphasis of their defense from an outstanding coverage team to a dominant pass rush likely has to do with the Super Bowl. Todd Bowles’s defense in Tampa Bay relies more on the play of their front seven than back seven. Their defensive line, pass rushers, and linebackers are all Pro Bowl-caliber players while their secondary is made up of young early draft picks who are capable of playing good enough coverage but are not considered lockdown. A defense with that makeup was able to defeat Tennessee’s biggest rival in Kansas City in the Super Bowl. So Titans’ general manager Jon Robinson decided to remake their defense in Tampa Bay’s image to get past the team standing between them and the Super Bowl. 

Projecting the Kansas City Chiefs Record

How many games will the Kansas City Chiefs win this year?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

According to the Draft Kings Sports Book, the Kansas City Chiefs are projected to win the most games in the 2021 NFL season. Their line is set at 12.5 wins with the over being a -125 betting favorite, which is clearly the highest of any team in the league. This should come as no surprise at all, as the Chiefs have been the best and most consistent team over the last three consecutive since Patrick Mahomes took over as the starting quarterback.

In the past three years, the Chiefs appeared in the AFC Championship game in all three seasons, won two of them, and won a Super Bowl. They had a regular-season record of 12-4 in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons followed by a dominant 14-2 record in the 2020 season. Since Andy Reid took over as the head coach of the team, they have made the playoffs in seven out of eight seasons including the last six years consecutively.

The Chiefs are returning the large majority of their roster and coaching staff for the 2021 NFL season so there is really no reason at all to believe that they won’t once again be one of the very best teams in the entire league. It’s also important to remember that this upcoming regular season has 17 total games for the first time NFL history, so the Chiefs will have an extra game to exceed that high 12.5 projected win total. Additionally, they are ranked a modest 11th in terms of strength of schedule for the upcoming season and will likely be the point spread favorite in all 17 of their games. All things considered, here is what the Chiefs record could look like at the end of the regular season.

Division Games

The AFC West, on paper, is projected to be one of the best divisions in the 2021 NFL season. All four teams have realistic expectations of competing for a playoff spot and none of them will be an easy game for any opponent on their schedule. Just like every season, the Chiefs will play two games each against the Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, and Denver Broncos. All three of these teams are filled with talented young players and have high hopes of being teams on the rise. Last season, the Chiefs had only two losses both came against divisional opponents but one of them was a game that Mahomes did not play. It’s more than reasonable to believe that the Chiefs will once again win at least four of their six division games and more than likely will win at least five of them.

Other AFC Games

The other six AFC opponents that the Chiefs will face this year are the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, and the entire AFC North division. This is the most difficult grouping of games on their schedule considering five of these six teams made the playoffs last season, with the much improved Cincinnati Bengals being the only one that did not. Still, it would be very surprised if the Chiefs did not win a minimum of four of these six games because they will more than likely be favored in all of them. If they were to be an underdog in any of them, it might be when they travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens for Sunday Night Football.

NFC Games

The Chiefs will face off against five teams from the NFC conference this season including the Green Bay Packers and the entire East division. The NFC East is the worst projected division in the NFL so the Chiefs will almost definitely win at least three of these four games but will more than likely sweep them. The Packers are a difficult opponent but the game will be played in Kansas City and the Chiefs will be the favorite to come out victorious. It would not be at all surprising if the Chiefs win all five of their NFC games and would be disappointing if they didn’t win at least four of them.

Final Record

Based on the projections and analysis of each of their groupings of games it looks like the Chiefs are once again in line for a successful season. Even if they stumble, it appears that their floor is right about 12 wins with their ceiling being a perfect 17 wins considering what the probable betting odds will be for each game. That would put their most likely win total for the 2021 NFL season to be either 14 or 15 games. If looking for value, taking the over on their 12.5 total win line for the season feels like a really safe bet as long as they avoid major injuries. In particular, it’s hard to imagine any way they go under that number as long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy.

Why the QB situation may prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West

The 49ers QB spot is a question mark

By: Andy Davies

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Only the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers (both 6) have more Super Bowl wins than the 49ers (5). The 49ers’ five Super Bowls all came between the years of 1981 and 1994. They have lost two since, in the 2012 and 2019 seasons. The quarterbacks that led the 49ers to the Lombardi Trophy were Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young. Three of those five wins saw Montana as the starter and Young as the backup.

Young is seen by many as the best backup quarterback in history, considering the gold jacket that he earned despite many years as the backup to Montana. He would win a Super Bowl as the starter after the franchise moved on from Montana. Ever since Young decided to hang up his cleats, the 49ers have struggled to find his replacement. Have they found the guy in Trey Lance?

Perhaps, but here is why the quarterback situation involving Lance and current starter Jimmy Garoppolo could prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West during the 2021 season.

Struggles Since Young

Jeff Garcia was the man to come in for Young. During his five seasons in the Bay, he threw for 113 touchdowns and 56 interceptions as well as 16,408 passing yards. He had a 35-36 record as a starter for the 49ers in the regular season and a 1-2 record in the postseason, meaning he never hit the heights of his predecessor.

Alex Smith was the number one overall pick in 2005, shattering Aaron Rodgers’ dreams. However, he was a good quarterback, not a great quarterback. Colin Kaepernick replaced Smith and took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. They ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in a game often called the ‘Blackout Bowl’. Kaepernick failed to live up to the standards he set that season.

He would be kicked out of the league for taking the knee in a protest against police brutality in 2016. He has not played a snap in the NFL since. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded from the Patriots to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season. He gave hope to the organization after winning all five of the games he started in 2017. The fanbase had hope going into the 2018 season.

Many non-49ers fans had San Francisco down as their dark horse for the season. A season-ending injury to Garoppolo in Week 3 saw the starting role shared between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. However, the 49ers finished 4-12 as they went into 2019 with the second overall pick. Nick Bosa was selected and transformed the defense of San Francisco and Jimmy G had the best season of his career. He threw for 3,978 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Despite these stats, Garoppolo saw his production limited in the NFC Championship game as the coaching staff decided to use more of their running game. This led to many questions leading to the Super Bowl. The 49ers threw away a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter as they would end up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.

Garoppolo was criticized heavily for an overthrown pass to Emmanuel Sanders that would have given San Francisco back the lead. His 2020 season saw a mixture of poor form and injury. During the 2021 offseason, the 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins to gain the number three overall pick. They took Lance with the pick, showcasing their intentions to eventually move off from Garoppolo. There is now talk of whether San Francisco and head coach Kyle Shanahan will start Lance in week one. The other scenarios discussed are either Lance coming in mid-season or sitting out the whole campaign as the backup to Garoppolo. The uncertainty will have a significant impact on the 49ers’ season.

The Strength of the NFC West

This is a problem that will affect all four teams in the best division in the NFL. There is a chance that all four teams can make the playoffs. Los Angeles has an exciting new quarterback in 2009 first overall pick Matthew Stafford. Both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray that they would never dream of trading away. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ starting quarterback is largely unpopular by fans, due to a mixture of the overthrown pass in the Super Bowl, his poor 2020 campaign and his injury record.

San Francisco has the least trusted quarterback in the division. With the position being one of the most crucial in all sports, it does not bode well for a team when there is uncertainty in the position. Garoppolo may be benched at some point during the season for Lance. However, the 49ers would be putting a rookie that will still be learning the system into the toughest division in the NFL.

Learning From Mahomes, Jackson, Tua and Burrow

If San Francisco are to help Lance succeed, they will need to take some lessons from recent draft classes. Patrick Mahomes, widely seen as the best quarterback in the league, spent all but one game of his 2017 rookie season as a backup to Alex Smith. The Chiefs then traded Smith the following offseason and Mahomes has never looked back. In his first three full seasons as a starter in the NFL, he has reached two Super Bowls, winning one. He has also been crowned MVP and Super Bowl MVP and reached three successive AFC Championship games. All three have been at home. On the flip side, 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow started in week one of his rookie year. He wouldn’t last the season, only playing ten games before injury curtailed his first NFL campaign. He was impressive before his injury but there are no guarantees he will be the same player when he returns.

Lamar Jackson was a backup to Joe Flacco during his 2018 rookie year but won the starting role midseason. He has since gone on to win an MVP award and is the future of the franchise. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins brought Tua Tagovailoa in mid-season but he struggled in his rookie season. He is seen to already be on the hot seat, with many feeling the Dolphins rushed him in. These examples all show there are reasons for the 49ers to be hasty when it comes to choosing when to bring Lance into the starting role.

Lance Or Garoppolo In 2021?

The 49ers will have to decide soon who their starter will be in 2021. Considering Lance has only played one full season (2019), he is likely to start the season as the backup. He only threw for a combined total of 31 passing attempts, two touchdowns and 1 interception across the 2018 and 2020 seasons, albeit the latter campaign being disrupted by the pandemic. He is likely to be a work in progress but his 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in 2019 mean that he is one for the future.

Garoppolo will likely start in week one but it was clear from the NFC Championship game that Shanahan doesn’t completely trust him.

Jimmy G is a capable quarterback but his health is a concern. Expect Garoppolo to remain as the starter provided the 49ers are winning games but for Lance to come in should Garoppolo either be injured or start the season poorly.

Should this happen, this will be the end of Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco. Depending on timing, he will then be traded either before the deadline or in the 2022 offseason.

Can The 49ers Returning Players Avoid A Repeat Of 2020?

This is key if the 49ers are to challenge for both the NFC West and the NFC. After earning the number one seed and reaching Super Bowl 54 during the 2019 campaign, San Francisco finished 6-10 in 2020 and bottom of the division. A ‘Super Bowl Hangover’ played its part but the main cause of such a decline was down to a colossal amount of injuries the team suffered. Along with the aforementioned Garoppolo, the 49ers also saw Bosa, Dee Ford, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel and Solomon Thomas miss large chunks of the 2020 season due to injury.

San Francisco had 33 players reported questionable and there were 186 occasions when the 49ers reported a player on injured reserve. They had the second-most injuries of any team in the NFL over the past twenty years. Should all these players come back, then this 49ers roster will be one of the best in the league. This will make life much easier for whoever the San Francisco starting quarterback is.

However, from the strength of the division to the uncertainty at quarterback, San Francisco will find it tough to win the NFC West.

Could the AFC West have four Playoff Teams?

Could AFC West feature four playoff teams?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

With the NFL Playoffs expanding its field of Wild Card teams to three per conference instead of two, it is now possible for an entire division to make the postseason. That is what the AFC West division will be looking to accomplish this season, as all four teams have aspirations of making the playoffs. It would be the first time NFL history for that to happen, but the question is whether or not that is a realistic scenario. Let’s first take a quick look at each of the four teams’ outlooks for the upcoming 2021 NFL season.

Kansas City Chiefs

The two-time defending AFC Conference Champion Kansas City Chiefs are pretty much a lock to make it to the playoffs as long as superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes is healthy. They were the best offense in the NFL last year by a wide margin, with their 415.8 yards per game leading the second-best offense, the Buffalo Bills, by almost 20 yards per game. As an example of how big of a gap that is, the 12th ranked New Orleans Saints offense were 20 yards behind the second-ranked Bills. The Chiefs are returning both of their key offensive weapons in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill so there is no reason at all to believe that their offense won’t once again be a dominating force. Pair their elite offense with one of the greatest offensive minds of all time in head coach Andy Reid, and even an underrated defense to go with it too, and the Chiefs are without a doubt one of the best teams in the NFL.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers are a team that has the potential to take the next step this season. The main reason being that it looks like they found a star quarterback in Justin Herbert. He put together a very impressive rookie campaign by completing 66.6 percent of his passes for 4336 yards and 31 touchdowns on his way to leading the Chargers to a solid seven-win season. If he can continue to improve in his second season, he can already be a top ten quarterback in the league, which always gives any team a chance to make a run into playoffs. They have a solid defense that ranked 10th in the NFL last year at 343.4 yards allowed per game and will get a huge boost this coming season with the return of superstar Derwin James. He is not only one of the most dynamic players in the entire NFL but also one of the absolute best all-around defenders. With the rise of Herbert and the return of James, the Chargers have a shot to make some noise this year.

Denver Broncos

On paper, the Denver Broncos are stacked on both sides of the ball. Their offense has a ton of dangerous skill position players including Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, and Javonte Williams while their defense is loaded with talented and productive players like Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Kyle Fuller, and Justin Simmons. The only real problem with their team, and it’s a huge one, is the question mark at the quarterback position. There’s an old saying that “if you have two QBs, you have no QB” and that applies to the situation in Denver with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. Neither of them are necessarily bad, but they are definitely not impressive either., If one of the two QBs can emerge as a reliable option, or if they trade for an upgrade, then they can surely be a contender because the rest of the team is fully built and ready to win now.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders, who finished in second place in the AFC West last year with eight wins, are the type of team that has a low floor but also a high ceiling heading into the 2021 NFL season. They were the 8th ranked offense last season at 383.3 yards per game, mostly due to their two stars in tight end Darren Waller and running back Josh Jacobs. They did add another back in Kenyan Drake, which adds another dimension to their offense because of his pass catching abilities out of the backfield. The Raiders biggest loss by far this offseason is to the offensive line, which used to be a major strength of the team. They very strangely traded away three of their starters in Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson, and Rodney Hudson to rebuild a unit that didn’t appear to need it. Regardless, they will enter this year with hopes of competing for a postseason appearance, which is something they fell just short of last year.

AFC Playoff Picture

Anything can happen in the NFL, but realistically it appears that 12 of the 16 teams in the AFC have a shot to make the playoffs, excluding the Jaguars, Texans, Jets, and Bengals. Of those 12 teams, four of them will get in automatically for winning their division, so that guarantees one team from the AFC West. Along with the remaining three teams from the AFC West competing for the three remaining wild card spots there will also be five other solid teams that were not division winners fighting for those same spots. That field of teams joining the race will likely be some combination of five of the following teams including the Bills, Patriots, Dolphins, Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Colts, and Titans.

All things considered, it is very likely that the AFC West will get at least two teams and there is a real shot that they will get three teams in the playoffs, but because of the competition that they are facing, it is unlikely that all four will find their way into the NFL Playoffs this year.

Top fits for the remaining FA RBs

Where will Le’Veon Bell sign?

By: Chris Thomas

In recent memory, it is hard to recall so many extremely talented free agent players still available at this point of the offseason. The reasoning may be that teams wanted to wait till after the draft to see if they could fill the remaining needs on their roster in the early rounds. Teams may also want to wait till training camp to see if the players on their roster have developed to a point where they could fill that need. On top of that in recent years veteran free agents have decided to wait till after the draft and training camp to sign with teams so they can look at a team’s overall roster before signing and skip training camp and get ready for the season with their own personal trainers. 

One of the deepest positions in this free-agent class is running back. Multiple former Pro Bowl running backs are still on the market. There are a couple of teams around the league who could still use a veteran to add to their running back rotation. Here is where the top free agent edge rushers could land.

Le’Veon Bell to the Miami Dolphins

Less than a year ago Le’Veon Bell had the option to sign with the Miami Dolphins. But Bell decided to join the Kansas City Chiefs backfield with 2020 first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire than to become the lead back in Miami or Buffalo. Bell was more interested in joining a championship contender than joining an unproven contender like the Bills and Dolphins who both ended up with over ten wins this past season. 

Bell started his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he quickly became known as one of if not the best running back in football. He had three seasons with over 1,800 scrimmage yards and 10+ touchdowns. Bell was voted to three Pro Bowls, named a First-Team All-Pro twice, and Second Team All-Pro once in 2016. After a conflict with the Steelers involving a contract extension, Bell hit the market as a free agent and signed with the New York Jets for 4 years $52 million. He only had 789 rushing yards in his first season in New York. Bell was released by the New York Jets following his return from injury in Week 5. this past season He had demanded that the team trade him, but after not finding a trade partner the Jets decided to release him. Bell rushed for 328 yards and two touchdowns on 82 attempts in games with both teams last season. He only started four games combined for both the Jets and Chiefs.

It felt like the Miami Dolphins were beat out in multiple situations when they attempted to add a star running back this offseason. Miami went after Chris Carson, Kerryon Johnson, and 2021 Second Round pick Javonte Williams at different points of the offseason. But they could not land any of those three backs. The Dolphins were able to sign former Los Angeles Ram Malcolm Brown to a two-year $3.5 million contract this offseason and still have Myles Gaskin on their roster from the year before. Gaskin led the Dolphins in all rushing categories putting up 584 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 142 attempts in ten games (seven starts). Miami also has Salvon Ahmed who was a great find for them last offseason. Last season’s undrafted free agent rookie rushed for 319 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 75 attempts in six games (four starts). 

If Miami signed Bell they realistically cannot expect him to be the player he was in Pittsburgh. But they can hope he can compliment Gaskin by putting up the production that he did in New York. It is at least worth it for the Dolphins to kick the tires on the former All-Pro since their backfield is still very unproven. Miami is expected to still be a run-first team despite adding Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle this offseason. So it would make sense for the Dolphins to make sure they have as much talent as they can get at this point in their backfield. Miami has playoff aspirations and may look to achieve more. Signing Bell would make sure the Dolphins did all in their power to make sure their backfield isn’t holding them back.

Prediction: Le’Veon Bell signs with the Miami Dolphins for one year $1 million 

Todd Gurley to the Kansas City Chiefs

Out of all of the remaining free-agent running backs, Todd Gurley had gained the most attention from teams. Gurley had visited the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens this offseason. The Lions had an interest in signing Gurley “on their terms“. The Lions would make a lot of sense considering they appear to be embracing a run-first approach with their lack of weapons at receiver, new Lions general manager Brad Holmes was a major part of the Rams front office who drafted Gurley who almost won them to a Super Bowl in 2017-18. Gurley would also be reuniting with former Rams’ teammate quarterback Jared Goff who was traded to the Lions this offseason. However, it appears at this point the Lions won’t be signing Gurley and don’t need to with a backfield featuring D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. 

During his time in St. Louis/Los Angeles Gurley was one of the most dominant running backs in the league. In three of his five seasons with the Rams Gurley rushed for 1,100+ yards and had over ten touchdowns. In two of those seasons, Gurley led the league in rushing touchdowns. His accolades with the Rams include Offensive Rookie of the Year (2015), Offensive Player of the Year (2017), three Pro Bowls, two First-Team All-Pro selections, and Second Team All-Pro recognition in 2015. Following the 2019-20 season, the Rams released Gurley two seasons into his four-year $60 million deal. He then signed a one-year $5.5 million prove-it deal with the Atlanta Falcons. He rushed for a career-low 678 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 195 carries. The Falcons decided not to bring back Gurley and elected to sign veteran Mike Davis to a two-year $5.5 million deal. 

The Kansas City Chiefs were in the middle of the pack in most major rushing stats last season. However, they were in a five-way tie for 22nd in the league in rushing touchdowns with 13. Only six teams had fewer rushing touchdowns than the Chiefs did a season ago. Having Patrick Mahomes as the face of the offense can be to blame for most of that. However, it would be a major help to the offense to have a running back on the roster capable of punching it into the endzone when they’re close rather than relying upon Mahomes to scramble or shovel pass it to All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was one of the worst running backs in the league in the red zone last season. Within the five-yard line, Edwards-Helaire was one for nine on attempts to punch it into the endzone. Edwards-Helaire is a great pass-catching running back but struggles in short-yardage situations. 

Although Todd Gurley’s health issues have regressed him to the point where he runs like he has been in the league for ten years despite only playing in the league for six, one constant throughout Gurley’s career has been his ability to score when his teams get in close. Since 2015, Gurley has rushed for 67 touchdowns. Last year in arguably Gurley’s worst season he still managed to have nine rushing touchdowns which was tied for 11th last season. Kansas City should consider pairing Edwards-Helaire with a former All-Pro running back for the second season in a row, but pair him with a back who compliments his skillset in Gurley. Signing in Kansas City would give Gurley another opportunity to be a part of a Super Bowl team and allow him to display what he is still capable of. 

Prediction: Todd Gurley signs with the Kansas City Chiefs for one year $1.5 million deal

Adrian Peterson to the Los Angeles Chargers

Adrian Peterson is one of the few running backs in the NFL who definitely will be receiving a gold jacket in Canton, Ohio after he retires. Peterson spent his first ten seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. A majority of running backs don’t even play in the league ten seasons, let alone play as dominant as Peterson had during that span. During his time in Minnesota, he led the league in rushing three separate times and led the league in rushing touchdowns twice. Peterson accumulated multiple accolades including league MVP (2012), NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, seven Pro Bowl appearances, four First-Team All-Pro acknowledgments, and three Second Team All-Pro acknowledgments. He also was a unanimous selection onto the 2010’s All-Decade Team.

Since leaving Minnesota Peterson had defied the odds and continued to be a major part of multiple team’s backfields for the next four seasons. After a tough 2017 season where he split time with the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, Peterson ran for over 1,000 yards at age 33 in his first season in Washington. He followed it up the following season with just under 900 rushing yards in his second season in Washington. This past year Peterson started ten games for the Detroit Lions at age 35. As it stands right now Peterson is the fifth all-time in rushing yards in NFL history. 

Last offseason the Los Angeles Chargers gave their lead back Austin Ekeler a 4 year $25.4 million contract. Ekeler had outshined former first-round pick Melvin Gordon and was well deserving of being paid like the team’s lead back. But last season Ekeler got hurt and missed six games last year. The Chargers struggled to run the ball during that six-game stretch. Their best running back when Ekeler got hurt was Kallen Ballage who is now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It would make a lot of sense for the Chargers to bring in Peterson for a lot of reasons. Los Angeles is a warm-weather city that is extremely attractive to free agents and playing there could open up opportunities for Peterson in media after he retires. Secondly, his playstyle compliments Ekeler very well. Ekeler is most dominant as a receiver out of the backfield. If Peterson was brought in to Los Angeles, he could take on some of the between the tackles and short-yardage runs while Ekeler can focus on being a receiving threat out of the backfield. The Chargers could even explore the option of having both Peterson and Ekeler on the field at the same time, lining up Peterson in the backfield and Ekeler in the slot as a wide receiver for a couple of plays a game.

Also, another feature of the Chargers that would be attractive to Peterson is the fact that they are considered a borderline playoff team. Despite being one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game, Peterson had only been to the playoffs four times in his career and hadn’t been to the playoffs since the 2015-16 season. At this of his career, Peterson has done it all except play winning and meaningful football. Peterson has only played past the Wild Card round of the playoffs once in his career back in the 2009-10 season.

Prediction: Adrian Peterson signs a one year $2.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers

Frank Gore to the Arizona Cardinals

Similar to Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore is one of the only running backs still in the NFL that will be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame shortly after he retires. He has played for four different teams over the last four seasons. But Gore began his career with the San Francisco 49ers. During his ten seasons with the 49ers, he had been named to the Pro Bowl five times and was named a Second Team All-Pro in 2006. After leaving San Francisco, Gore played three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and followed that with one-year stints with the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and New York Jets After only starting one game his rookie season, Gore has started 217 of 227 games since 2006-07. That is an unreal feat for a running back. Gore has the NFL record for most games played for a running back (241) and is the first player in NFL history with 12 consecutive seasons with 1,200+ scrimmage yards. A resume like that earned him a spot on the 2010’s All-Decade Team.

It is unclear what to expect out of the Arizona Cardinals backfield this upcoming season. Their projected starter Chase Edmonds has only started four games in his career at this point and has never reached 500 rushing yards in a single season. Last season Edmonds took snaps away from starter Kenyan Drake being the team’s primary receiving back. He had a career-high 53 receptions for 402 yards and four receiving touchdowns last season. They also signed former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner to a prove-it one year $1.75 million deal. In Conner’s first season as a starter in 2018-19, he was voted to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns along with 497 receiving yards. Since then multiple injuries have kept Conner off the field or limited in the action he has seen. Pittsburgh decided to move off of Conner and go in another direction at running back.

The best-case scenario for Arizona’s backfield in 2021-22 is for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense to put Conner in a position to play similar to his best similar to what it did for Kenyan Drake while reducing his carry count having him split carries with Edmonds. For a team that has playoff aspirations, there is a lot of uncertainty in Arizona’s backfield. That is why the Cardinals should bring in Frank Gore. Over the last couple of seasons, Gore has remarkably been extremely consistent with his production despite being in his late thirties. At worst Gore could be a veteran presence in a locker room filled with both veterans and young players. But if Conner cannot remain healthy and Edmonds struggles to play like a lead back, Gore can be a safe option in the backfield that could be good for between 8-12 carries a game.

Arizona is also a great landing spot for Gore because it has been the final landing spot for multiple veterans and future Hall of Famers looking to finish their career in a great warm-weather city. At age 38 Gore will likely be playing his final season this year if he hasn’t already.

Prediction: Frank Gore signs a one year $1.75 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals

Duke Johnson Jr. to the Atlanta Falcons

For just over half of a decade Duke Johnson Jr. has been one of the best complimentary backs in the league. Despite only starting 17 of 91 career games, he has been an important part of the offenses he has played for during his time in Cleveland and Houston. During each of his first three years in Cleveland, Johnson had over 800 scrimmage yards. In his last season in Cleveland Johnson’s role was reduced. Then after receiving a three-year contract extension Johnson asked to be traded and was moved to the Houston Texans for a 2020 Third Round pick. Johnson had a career-high 410 rushing yards in his first season in Houston then split carries with David Johnson this past season. The new Texans administration cut Duke Johnson this offseason.

The Atlanta Falcons lost their best two running backs Todd Gurley and Brian Hill in free agency. They replaced them with veteran running back Mike Davis. The Falcons signed Davis to a two-year $5.5 million deal after a career year with the Carolina Panthers.

Davis was drafted in the fourth round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 then after two seasons was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle started Davis for six games in 2017 after being activated off the practice squad late in the year. The following season Davis posted career highs in a rotational role. Davis signed a two-year $6 million deal with the Chicago Bears in 2019 but did not finish his first season with the team. He was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers. During his first full year with the Panthers this past season, Davis was forced into a large role because of multiple injuries to former All-Pro Christian McCaffrey. Davis showed during his twelve starts last season that he is capable of being a team’s starting running back. T

His performance last season was enough for the Falcons to feel comfortable with Davis being their lead back next season. Based on Atlanta’s running back depth chart Davis may be the workhorse back for the Falcons next season. For a team trying to be competitive in 2020, it is risky having Davis as the team’s only capable running back on the roster. Atlanta should add a veteran backup or change of pace back in case Davis gets hurt or needs help carrying the load. That role would be perfect for Duke Johnson. That is the exact role Johnson had last season in Houston. Johnson could serve as Davis’ primary backup and take a couple carries a game when Davis needs a breather.

Prediction: Duke Johnson Jr. signs a one year $990,000 deal with the Atlanta Falcons

How the Chiefs learned from their Super Bowl mistakes this offseason: evolution of the OL

By: Brady Akins

The Kansas City Chiefs, the champions of 2019’s Super Bowl 54 and the back-to-back champions of the AFC, are not stupid.

Perhaps you don’t need anyone to tell you that, but regardless, it bears repeating. The Kansas City Chiefs, a model of consistency for years in the NFL and more recently the model for championship-level success, are not stupid.

Rather, the Kansas City Chiefs are well built, from top to bottom. Andy Reid has never been the kind of coach who attempts to fit square pegs into round holes. You will never see Reid attempting to force an outdated style of offense into the modern NFL simply because it’s how things used to be done. Rather, Reid adapts. His offenses change as the personnel changes. Because of this, Kansas City thrives.

Similarly, Brett Veach has never been the type of general manager who sat on his hands when an opportunity presents itself. He was in the front office when the team traded an arm and a leg to trade up 17 spots and draft Patrick Mahomes when they had the chance. He was the man in charge when they offered Mahomes a historically high-value contract, and he’s been in lock-step with Reid since day one, building a roster that has recognized its championship window and capitalized on it. 

One more time, for those in the back of the room, the Kansas City Chiefs are not stupid.

And so, it comes as no surprise that the smart, well-coached, well ran Chiefs have had an offseason for the ages. It’s no surprise that a coach as sharp as Reid and a general manager as aggressive as Veach were able to identify their roster’s most glaring weakness, address it in a variety of ways over the span of months, and transform that weakness into a strength.

That weakness of course being the offensive line. 

It doesn’t take a football mastermind to figure that out. You don’t need hours of film study to identify the holes in the Chiefs’ near-perfect roster.  One look at one game, Super Bowl 55, will show you all you needed to know. One glance at the stat sheet, one that shows that Patrick Mahomes was pressured on nearly half of his total dropbacks, lets even the most casual of NFL observers know that this line was a problem.

But not anymore.

Patrick Mahomes is an All-Pro, and possibly the best player in the league at his position. Tyreek Hill is an All-Pro, and possibly the best player in the league at his position. Travis Kelce is an All-Pro, and, well, you get the idea.

And that’s just on offense. Look toward the opposite side of the ball and you’ll see more of the same. Players like Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu are established NFL superstars, while players like L’Jarius Sneed and Willie Gay are fast approaching that level. 

All of this star power is what drove the Chiefs to a 14-2 regular-season record, the best in the NFL. It’s the star power that propelled Kansas City to win yet another AFC Championship with relative ease, despite that nagging issue on the line.

But all the star power in the world couldn’t mask that weakness when the chips were down. Super Bowl 55 was a blowout, and not in the favor Kansas City had come to expect with their recent playoff success. 

But Kansas City’s offseason overhaul happened. Their efforts to address the offensive line weren’t a patchwork job, but rather a top to bottom remodeling. Combine the superstars from the 2020 Kansas City Chiefs with the solidity of the 2021 Chiefs offensive line, and what you have is a perfect storm brewing in Kansas City.

This team was one game away from back-to-back NFL titles. Now, they’ve fixed their only issue. And they’re coming for the throne. Not just for another Super Bowl, but for the honor of the greatest football team in decades.

Who Were the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020?

A wrecking ball. A nearly unstoppable force. Perfect? No. Well, actually, they were pretty close to perfect. At least as perfect as you could expect.

Football is the ultimate team game, one where all 11 offensive starters, all 11 defensive starters, all the backups, all the coaches and coordinators and just about every member of the franchise in the stadium on game day needs to be constantly on their game. One position group, one player, or any deficiency whatsoever can be the difference between winning and losing.

And the Chiefs weren’t just better than any team in the AFC, or better than every team in the regular season, but they were among the best in just about every conceivable metric.

Despite having a quarterback who earned a reputation as a gunslinger in college, one who threw 29 interceptions through 32 college games, the Chiefs finished top five in the NFL in total turnovers, and were top ten in turnover differential.

Despite having a rushing attack that ranked toward the middle of the pack, the Kansas City offense as a whole flourished, finished ranked sixth in points per game and first yards per game. No other team in the league averaged more than 400 yards per game. The Chiefs broke that mark with room to spare, averaging over 415 in 2020.

Somehow, the individual stats are even more impressive.

Mahomes in 2020 was, once again, among the league’s best quarterbacks in just about every aspect you could ask for from a burgeoning Hall of Fame player. Not only was he first in wins, but Mahomes finished second in passing yards, second in quarterback rating, third in passer rating, fourth in total passing touchdowns and first in interception percentage. And after rewriting the standard for quarterback greatness in 2018, winning MVP honors in just his first year as a starter, this 2020 season was considered a relatively down year for Mahomes.

Of course, the quarterback had help, namely in the form of Kelce and Hill, two pass-catchers who have proven to be elite in their own right. Kelce, a tight end, finished second overall in 2020 for receiving yards with 1,416. The next highest tight end, Darren Waller of the Raiders, ended the season with 1,196 yards, despite playing one more game than Kelce. In fact, Kelce’s season marked the first time that a tight end has ever had more than 1,400 receiving yards in one year.

Hill had an impressive season himself, albeit in the shadow of Kelce’s historic 15-game stretch. On 87 catches, only the 17th most in the league in 2020, Hill ended the year with 1,276 receiving yards, the eighth-best in the league. Hill outdid himself in his ability to reach the endzone too, ending the year with 15 receiving touchdowns, the most behind only Davante Adams.

The offense is the bread and butter of the Kansas City Chiefs’ well-oiled operation, but it’s far from the only standout part. The Kansas City defense also finished as a top ten unit in points allowed per game, as well as quarterback rating allowed and turnover percentage.

The defense will never be mistaken as the strength of the Kansas City roster during the Reid era, but it’s far from a weakness. With an offense as star-studded as the one the Chiefs wield, the defense can afford to allow some touchdowns,  but they don’t even do that. Finishing top ten in both scoring offense and defense, Kansas City ended up second in point differential following the regular season.

And remember, all of this statistical dominance and offensive spectacle came before the moves made to address the offensive line. Kansas City retained all of their key contributors from the team that made the Super Bowl in 2020, the team that played so brilliantly for so long. The one thing holding them back from immortality, that pesky offensive line. 

Heading into 2021, the Chiefs made it their mission to make sure that one issue was addressed.

Fixing The Offensive Line

The Chiefs’ depth chart for Week 1 listed these five men as starters on the offensive line. From left tackle to right, the list went Eric Fisher, Kelechi Osemele, Austin Reiter, Andrew Wylie and Mitchell Schwartz.

Only Wylie remains on the Chiefs roster of those original five. Replacing them, a series of trade assets, free agent signings, and even draft picks looking to prove themselves. After the remodel, the Kansas City line has the chance to ascend from the group that gave away a Super Bowl, to a group that can help carry a team to a Super Bowl.

Fisher is gone. Stepping into his place at left tackle, the much younger Orlando Brown, a player who has made two Pro Bowls in his first three seasons. Brown fell all the way to the middle of the third round in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the Baltimore Ravens took him and made him a star. After trading a collection of draft picks to Baltimore, that star power is now coming to Kansas City.

Osemele is gone. Likely to replace him is Kyle Long, one of Kansas City’s free-agent acquisitions. Long is an NFL veteran, but a plug-and-play talent with three Pro Bowls to his name. After not playing for the entirety of the 2020 season, Long is back, and looking to prove himself. 

Reiter is gone, but a rookie steps in to potentially take his place as a starter. Creed Humphrey, Kansas City’s second-round pick in 2021, comes from the Oklahoma Sooners after a decorated college career. Humphrey finished as a freshman All-American in 2018, a Second-Team All-American in 2019, and a Third-Team All-American in 2020. He was the Big-12 co-offensive lineman of the year in 2019, and the sole winner in 2020. All this to say, the big guy can play. And he could be just the right player to put the Chiefs’ offensive line back on track.

Wylie isn’t gone, but he might be gone from the opening week starting spot. Joe Thuney comes in from New England as another free agent guard signings. Thuney has played five seasons in the NFL, has never missed a start, and was a part of two Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams. 2016 and 2018, New England’s two championship seasons with Thuney, the guard started on an offensive line that finished top five in sacks allowed.

The depth behind these new potential starters might be even more solid than the starters themselves. Lucas Niang will be a second-year tackle for the Chiefs and is a player with a decorated college resume that rivals Humphrey’s. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif rejoins Kansas City as a more than capable guard, one who sat out the 2020 season, but actually started for the Chiefs in their 2019 Super Bowl victory. And Austin Blythe, another Chiefs free agent signing, could even be Kansas City’s starting center himself, coming off the Rams roster where he started all 16 games at the position for Los Angeles.

The influx of talent on the Kansas City roster is concentrated nearly entirely on the offensive line, and in a way that covers all their bases. If the team needs youth and high ceilings, they have that in Brown, Humphrey and Niang. If they need seasoned veterans to come in and be solid, above-average players, Long, Thuney and Blythe will be there.

The Kansas City Chiefs were a couple of offensive line offseason acquisitions away from building an NFL superweapon. A Death Star of an offense, ran by Sith Lord Patrick Mahomes and all the toys he could need to wreck shop on a regular basis.

What Kansas City did instead of making a couple of moves was go all the way in. The Chiefs have completely remodeled their biggest weakness, and it could spell trouble for the rest of the league. 

The Ascension of Kansas City

As a reminder, the Kansas City Chiefs are not stupid. They are not a stubborn team that simply seeks to run it back. 

The Chiefs got close, and how could they not? Their control over the rest of the NFL shows up on the stat sheets. Kansas City players constantly found their names on the top of the stat sheets, some of them even made history, and it all came together to form a complete group that coasted to 14 wins. 

And rather than chalking up their Super Bowl defeat to bad luck, rather than sitting on their hands and opening the dice roll better for them next year, Kansas City took action. The Chiefs identified their weakness after that Super Bowl loss, and moved Heaven and Earth to fix it. The near-perfect team, with Hall of Famers lining the roster like it’s a Madden Dynasty, just got a whole lot better at roster spot that needed the most attention.

All of a sudden, that near-perfect team from 2020 is looking about as close to perfect as you can get for 2021. 

Where the best available edge rushers could sign before Week 1

Where should Justin Houston sign?

By: Chris Thomas

In recent memory, it is hard to recall so many extremely talented free agent players still available at this point of the offseason. The reasoning may be that teams wanted to wait till after the draft to see if they could fill the remaining needs on their roster in the early rounds. Teams may also want to wait till training camp to see if the players on their roster have developed to a point where they could fill that need. On top of that in recent years veteran free agents have decided to wait till after the draft and training camp to sign with teams so they can look at a team’s overall roster before signing and skip training camp and get ready for the season with their own personal trainers.

One of the deepest positions in this free-agent class is edge rusher. Multiple former Pro Bowl edge rushers are still on the market. There are a couple of teams around the league who could still use another pass rusher off the edge. Here is where the top free agent edge rushers could land.

Justin Houston to Baltimore Ravens

Before free agency started in March, Justin Houston was viewed as one of the best free-agent edge rushers. However, due to his age and slight decline, teams may have been hesitant to give Houston a long-term big money contract. But that being said Houston showed last year that he is still capable of being a player opposing offenses need to plan for. After racking up eleven sacks in his first season in Indianapolis, Houston had eight sacks this past year after the Colts traded for DeForest Buckner in the offseason. The pairing of Houston and Buckner was disruptive enough to give Indianapolis one of the better defenses in the league last season.

A team that has not done enough to replace the pass rushers they lost in free agency is the Baltimore Ravens. During free agency, the Ravens lost both Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon who both signed large deals with the Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots. Ngakoue and Judon had 9 of the teams 39 sacks last season. Along with Jihad Ward, they were three of the six payers that had three sacks or more for Baltimore last season.

They did manage to resign situational pass rusher Pernell McPhee and former second-round pick Tyus Bowser. But neither McPhee nor Bowser has shown the capability to play like a true number one pass rusher on a playoff team. The Ravens did use their second first-round selection (31st overall) on Penn State edge rusher Odafe “Jayson” Oweh. The hype around Oweh as a prospect was his athletic testing and high ceiling, but in year one he will likely be better in a rotational role.

Baltimore hasn’t been a stranger to signing veteran defenders over the years. Houston would arguably be the Ravens’ best pass rusher next season depending on how Calais Campbell plays. His eight sacks from a season ago would have led the Ravens last year and he could very well lead the team in that category if he were to sign there. The transition to Baltimore’s defense wouldn’t be that large considering Houston was largely looked at as just a 3-4 outside linebacker before landing in Indianapolis. Actually, the reason why Kansas City let him go was because of the fear that he would not be able to fit in with Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defensive scheme. Bringing in Houston could be more than a bridge until Oweh can take on a full-time role. Houston could be what boosts this defense to play at a top-10 level this season. He has Pro Bowl upside and could very well make people question why he didn’t land with a team earlier in the offseason.

Prediction: Justin Houston signs with the Baltimore Ravens for one year $7.5 Million

Melvin Ingram to Pittsburgh Steelers

Throughout his career, Melvin Ingram has been a player who is good for about just under ten sacks a season who is capable of playing at a Pro Bowl-caliber level and put up double-digit sacks. Going into this season it seemed unlikely that Ingram would play his way into another huge contract. He was likely going to land somewhere as a veteran secondary pass rusher. However, a season riddled with injuries limited Ingram to seven games. He also did not have a single sack on the season. The knee Ingram injured that put him on IR twice is likely the reason why he remains unsigned. If Ingram’s knee heals, he could be a valuable addition to a defense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers arguably had one of the worst offseasons last year. Not only did they lose four of their five starters along their offensive line, but they also lost two starting cornerbacks, and edge rusher Bud Dupree. To replace those players Pittsburgh is betting on the players they have drafted in the middle rounds over the years that have shown the ability to potentially become starters for them. 2020 third-round pick Alex Highsmith is expected to take over for Bud Dupree this coming season. After Dupree tore his ACL last year, Highsmith was thrusted into the starting lineup. He had 48 tackles and two sacks in five starts. But since Pittsburgh believes they are in a win-now mode they should try to bring in a veteran to compete with Highsmith for the job starting opposite T.J. Watt.

Ingram appears to be the perfect veteran for Pittsburgh to bring in to compete with Highsmith for one of their starting edge rusher roles. Over the course of his career, Ingram has been very consistent over the last couple of seasons averaging 8.6 sacks a year between 2015-2019. That type of production is good enough to take away attention from premier edge rusher T.J. Watt and keep this defense playing near an elite level. At the worst, Ingram and Highsmith rotate rough out the season, and as the year progresses Highsmith develops into a full-time starter while Ingram reverts into a situational role. If Ingram signed to a low-risk contract he could be the real difference-maker this upcoming season.

Prediction: Melvin Ingram signs with the Pittsburgh Steelers for one year $5.5 million

Olivier Vernon to Dallas Cowboys

One of the forgotten free agents that hit the market this offseason is former Cleveland Browns edge rusher Olivier Vernon. He had nine sacks in 14 games this past season which is his highest total since he had 11.5 during his second season in the league in 2013-14. It was so unfortunate that during Week 17 Vernon tore his Achilles. Vernon was a vital part of the Browns’ defense this past season and could have gotten a large payday. His Achilles injury may be a large part of why he remains unsigned, but the fact that he has not been able to stay healthy and finish a 16 game regular season since 2017-18 may have derailed his market.

The Dallas Cowboys are one of those teams that could finish near the top or bottom of the league this year. It is hard to predict how they will finish the season. They are expected to have an elite offense but may be held back by their defense. Besides replacing Mike Nolan with Dan Quinn and drafting a couple of defensive rookies early, what else has Dallas done to improve their defense this offseason? How much better is Dallas’ defense this season compared to last year? After evaluating their roster, the answer is not much better.

The one position Dallas did not address this offseason is pass rusher. Since getting his huge contract from the Cowboys, DeMarcus Lawerence has been extremely inconsistent putting up five sacks in 2019 and six and a half sacks this past year. A trend Dallas has had the past couple of seasons has been adding a veteran pass rusher later in the offseason to pair up with Lawrence. In 2019, Dallas traded for Robert Quinn who had a borderline Pro Bowl season and got a huge payday after that. Last year Dallas signed Pro Bowler Everson Griffen to a deal but dealt him once it became clear that Dallas would not be contending after Dak Prescott’s injury. Dallas could do the same by adding Oliver Vernon this offseason. If Vernon is healthy and added to Dallas’ defense it gives them an extremely athletic pass-rushing duo who are dynamic enough to put up between 15-20 sacks combined next season.

Dallas desperately needs a veteran player opposite Lawerence because there is uncertainty whether Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong, Bradlee Anae, or third-round pick Chauncey Golston could fill that void.

Prediction: Olivier Vernon signs with the Dallas Cowboys for one year $5 million

Everson Griffen to Kansas City Chiefs

At this point last season one of the best available free agents was former Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffen. Late in the offseason, Griffen signed a one-year $6 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys. He had 2.5 sacks in his seven games with the Cowboys but then was traded to the Detroit Lions for a conditional sixth-round pick. Griffen started two out of seven games with the Lions and had 3.5 sacks for them. So overall in 14 games, Griffen had six sacks which is solid for a secondary or rotational pass rusher.

The biggest theme for the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason was upgrading the trenches after their loss in the Super Bowl. Kansas City primarily focused on adding to their offensive line but has made some upgrades to their defensive line as well. They retained former first-round pick Taco Charlton and made the extremely underrated signing of former Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed. The Chiefs have an elite group of defensive linemen including Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Jarran Reed, and great run defender Derrick Nnadi. According to NFL.com’s Kevin Patra, the Chiefs are planning to use Jones as an edge rusher this season opposite Frank Clark while playing Reed and Nnadi primarily in the middle. Jacob Lang of the St. Joseph News-Press reported that Jones has wanted to play defensive end for the Chiefs, but played in the interior because they had Justin Houston and Dee Ford at the time off the edge. Over the last four seasons, Jones has developed into one of the elite pass-rushing interior defensive linemen in the league. Jones has averaged 9.6 sacks a season since 2017.

So if Jones has been so dominant rushing the passer from the interior, why would the Chiefs try to move him around the line instead of keeping him at his natural position on the interior and finding another player to put opposite Frank Clark. Jones deserves the right to lineup at defensive end in a couple of packages a game, but it may not be the best thing for him to move all over the line.

Very few defensive linemen are able to play on multiple spots across a defensive line. It seems like almost every season a star defensive lineman signs with a large money deal with a new team and that team tries to play him in a different role than he is accustomed to and that player struggles. Jones may be one of the few players who can transition to a different role on the defensive line. But signing a veteran like Everson Griffen could give Kansas City a security blanket at edge rusher in case Jones is unable to transition well to his new role and lines up in the interior for a majority of the season. Griffen showed last year he is still capable of producing at a starting level and could rotate with Taco Charlton off the edge opposite Frank Clark. If he can mimic the production he had last season on this dominant defensive line it could be well enough to not consider this a major need or hole on the roster until they address it the following offseason.

Prediction: Everson Griffen signs with the Kansas City Chiefs for one year $4.5 million

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