Ten Bold NFL Offseason Predictions: Aaron Rodgers Returns; operations at the top of the draft board

The 2022 NFL season is over and now an offseason begins that, as always, seems to present a great deal of intrigue. The offseason is often just as entertaining as the regular season, especially in a year like this when several high-profile quarterbacks could be on the move.

In just over a week, the NFL world will descend on Indianapolis for the scouting combine. Evaluation projects will be intensified. Trade discussions and preliminary free agency talks will also take place.

Before then, on February 21, teams can begin using the franchise tag on key impending free agents. They have until March 7 to make the designation.

Then, starting March 13, teams and free agent representatives can begin negotiating contracts before the signing window, which coincides with the start of the league year (4 pm ET, January 15). March).

Get ready for what looks like a wild and wacky couple of months!

Here are 10 bold predictions for how the offseason will play out across the NFL.


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Tom Brady was the first quarterback domino to fall this offseason. Will Rodgers be one of the next?

The Packers quarterback will soon emerge from his “retirement in the dark” and announce his decision on his future. League insiders aren’t sure what Rodgers will do in 2023. Some are predicting retirement. Some think he will stay with Green Bay. Others believe that he is taking his talent elsewhere.

The Jets have their old friend Nathaniel Hackett as their newly hired offensive coordinator, and people like to project Rodgers to the Raiders, largely because of that Davante Adams connection. But there are rumors that the Jets might want a younger, longer-term option. Meanwhile, the Raiders may not be able to afford Rodgers, and they also have a lot of holes to fill.

And so, we have Rodgers in Green Bay for one more season, hoping that a second season with his young cast of receivers will help the Packers get back into the ranks of the contenders. So Rodgers, who has discussed the allure of being a Packer for life, can achieve that goal as well.

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2. Derek Carr to the Jets

The former Raiders franchise quarterback refused to waive his no-trade clause and thus became a free agent. It’s rare for a quarterback in his prime to hit the open market, so Carr will have his share of suitors. We already know the Saints have interest, and some have mentioned Tampa Bay as a possible location for Carr. Others think Carr and Frank Reich would be a good pairing in Carolina.

But instead, the Jets get Carr, luring him with young wide receivers and top-tier defense that give him a chance to compete in the AFC East. Carr gives New York a veteran quarterback in the prime of his career and a longer window to compete than Rodgers would have offered.

As the game of quarterback musical chairs continues, Garoppolo leaves San Francisco for Las Vegas, where he is reunited with former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Garoppolo should do well here while he’s surrounded by plenty of offensive assets (Adams, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller for starters). The Raiders must dedicate resources to improve defensively, but both sides should benefit from this arrangement, even if the Raiders choose to draft a quarterback to develop behind Jimmy G. He’s used to that, didn’t get discouraged, and performed well. after Trey Lance was recruited for the selection. 49ers.

Ravens ownership has so far balked at the idea of ​​giving Jackson a fully guaranteed deal. But Jackson, representing himself, hasn’t lowered the asking price. So it looks like the Ravens are headed to use the franchise tag on Jackson, which would mean paying him roughly $32 million for the 2023 season (although it could be $45 million for the exclusive rights tag).

But… does that mean that he will stay in Baltimore? That is the greatest mystery of all. While some in the league may see him rolling with the Ravens for another year, testing out new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s system, others sense there’s the possibility of a tag-and-trade scenario. If the Ravens find a business partner willing to give them three first-round picks, plus pay Jackson a record $250 million fully guaranteed, they could make a move.

Tannehill, 34, has been solid for the Titans, helping them reach the playoffs in three of the past four seasons. But the winds in Nashville are changing. Tennessee drafted Malik Willis last year, injuries reduced Tannehill’s ERA and availability, and he’s ready to count $27 million against a salary cap the Titans already exceed by nearly $24 million. The Titans need to replenish their defense and further bolster an offense that consists of only moderate talent outside of Derrick Henry.

Willis may not be ready yet, but Tannehill’s release gives coach Mike Vrabel and new general manager Ran Carthon the resources to improve this team and get it back on track to compete for the AFC South. Josh Dobbs or another veteran free agent quarterback could help buy the Titans and Willis a little more time.

6. The Seahawks give Geno Smith a multiyear contract

After a surprise playoff run in 2022, Seattle does right by its quarterback and signs him to a solid, multi-year deal rather than use the franchise tag to retain his services. Returning Player of the Year 2022 signs a two-year contract in the neighborhood of $60 million to $70 million, with approximately $35 million guaranteed, a well-deserved payday for Smith, who earned around $10 million in total during his first three seasons in Seattle. . This gives the Seahawks flexibility to further bolster the roster around Smith while giving them time to find a long-term option at quarterback in this year’s or next year’s draft.

The Cowboys have decisions to make about their running backs, but instead of choosing between the two, they find a way to keep both, because Pollard, Elliott and Dallas’ offense are better together.

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The Cowboys use the franchise tag on Pollard, who has passed Elliott as the top running back on the list. That means the Cowboys retain his services for this year without having to make a long-term commitment as he is coming off a leg and ankle injury. Pollard’s salary jumps from $965,000 to roughly $10 million. Meanwhile, Jerry Jones gets Zeke to rework the rest of the six-year, $90 million contract he signed in 2019. Elliott agrees to lower his $10.9 million base salary and $16.7 million salary cap, and Dallas turns its attention to finding more assets. . for Dak Prescott.

More franchise tag action. Coming off their first playoff appearance in six seasons, the Giants must make decisions about two of their pillars. Barkley has recovered from 2020 knee surgery and produced a career year (1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns). But rather than sign him to a long-term contract, given the lifespan of running backs, the Giants opt for the franchise tag. Then they give Jones, who finally looked like a legitimate starter with Brian Daboll, a multiyear deal that pays him roughly $30 million a season. That’s a pretty good bargain for a starting quarterback, especially if Jones continues to rise.

With the veteran quarterback issue resolved in March, attention shifts to the April draft. The Chicago Bears have the No. 1 pick, but promising third-year quarterback Justin Fields gives them flexibility. General manager Ryan Poles trades from No. 1, retrieving additional draft picks from the quarterback-needy Texans. The DeMeco Ryans and the Texans, who enter this draft with additional picks thanks to Deshaun Watson’s deal last year with Cleveland, move up from No. 2 to No. 1 to pick Alabama’s Bryce Young. The Texans not only manage to find their quarterback of the future, but also lock down division rival Indianapolis from taking the best quarterback in the draft.

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10. Indianapolis Colts trade to No. 2

The Bears aren’t done yet. Poles gets a desperate call from the Colts and is back in business, receiving the fourth pick in this year’s draft, as well as other premium picks this year and next, to continue assembling Fields’ supporting cast. The Colts and new coach Shane Steichen use that second pick to select Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, who gives the former Eagles offensive coordinator another versatile and athletic quarterback to craft an offense.

(Illustration: John Bradford / the athletic. Ezekiel Elliott, Aaron Rodgers and Saquon Barkley Photos: Sam Hodde, John Fisher, Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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