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Projecting What Each NFL Team Could Look Like in 5 Years

Gordon BlockContributor IIIMarch 14, 2012

Projecting What Each NFL Team Could Look Like in 5 Years

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    It's easy to get caught up in the moment, especially when it comes to the world of the NFL (even more so in the heat of free agency talks).

    Who's going where? What needs are my team filling this offseason? What's the big story today?

    However, when fans get caught in this mindset, they can miss out on what's coming down the road.

    The big picture.

    That's why now is as good a time as ever to try and envision the NFL landscape in 2017.

    In addition to breaking down what each NFL team could look like, this slideshow also gives reasons for fans of each team to be optimistic and pessimistic in the next half decade.

    This may not be a DeLorean traveling 88 miles per hour, but it's about as close as you're going to get.

    Here's what every NFL team could look like in five years.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Arizona Cardinals will still have the services of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, as he signed an eight-year deal last offseason.

    The University of Phoenix Stadium is fantastic. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Quarterback Kevin Kolb did not impress in his first year with the team, to the point where rumors have floated about the team cutting him. While the rumors seem premature, they represent a persistent fear by team leadership and fans that they need better quarterback.

    That thought process will probably not go away. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Thanking their lucky stars for Fitzgerald.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Atlanta Falcons have developed an excellent young nucleus of talent that should keep them in playoff contention for the next several years in a row.

    Quarterback Matt Ryan has a good track record of staying healthy, and his play should only get better as he develops with his wide receiver talent.

    All of the pieces are in place for this organization to carry on its success down the road. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    How many years in a row can the Falcons lose in its opening playoff game? A very large monkey is prepping for his annual perching on Ryan's back.

    Without a playoff win to rally around, fan pressure to go to "the next level" could lead to some kind of major shuffling of talent. The results may not be pretty. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Happy, but not satisfied.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Reasons for optimism

    As the defense ages rapidly, the Baltimore Ravens' offense has appeared to improve rapidly. The team is building a solid core with quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice and rookie wide receiver Torrie Smith. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The defense, the foundation for the Ravens' success from the start, will be a completely different looking squad. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Waxing poetically about the good old days of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. 

Buffalo Bills

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    Reasons for optimism

    In what should be the final year of his contract, Ryan Fitzpatrick could be in place to prove the large investment the team made in him was worth it (at least if he plays like he did to start the 2011 season).

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Fitzpatrick may not make it anywhere close to reaching the end of that contract, if the end of the 2011 season is any indication.

    The Bills will probably be dramatically reshuffled at the 2017 mark, as the team is lacking young talent that will figure into their long-term plans.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    About as unenthusiastic about the team's prospects as they are now.

Carolina Panthers

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Carolina Panthers have their star of the future in quarterback Cam Newton, with signs indicating that he is the real deal.

    The offense, as it currently stands, could be a contender, and will only need a replacement for wide receiver Steve Smith within the next five years in terms of solidifying the skill positions.

    It would be a major disappointment to not see them play in a Super Bowl in the next five years.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Newton has a lot of work to do to improve his game from his rookie year. Also, the team is saddled with a bunch of long-term awful contracts that it signed in the free agent frenzy of last offseason.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Frustrated with how close they are to being a major title contender.

Chicago Bears

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Chicago Bears have a lot of great talent, and despite the shuffles in their lineup and coaching positions, they have been able to remain a winning team (or at very least .500). 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Packers and Lions look to be much more competitive in the next few years. Their best offensive talents, quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, will be near the tail end of their careers in 2017 (at least if Cutler can avoid the injury problems that ruined his 2011 season).

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Getting ready to draft their quarterback of the future.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Cincinnati Bengals were sparked last year by the excellent pairing of rookies in quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, and the team established themselves as one to watch going down the road.

    Those two should be good for a while. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Success is fleeting, and the Bengals' recent success this past season will make them a big target for every team looking to prove themselves down the road.

    They still play in the treacherous AFC North division. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Thinking about a championship.

Cleveland Browns

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    Reasons for optimism

    Parity in the league has made turnarounds possible in a relatively quick time (look at the Cincinnati Bengals). Additionally, a broken clock is right at least two times a day. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    This is Cleveland, the city that has defined the meaning of athletic ineptitude. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Just as disappointed as they are now.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Reasons for optimism

    It's the Dallas Cowboys! As long as he's around, general manager/meddler in charge Jerry Jones will put all the money possible in assembling a team that can win (salary cap chops be damned). 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Cowboys will probably need to reorganize some talent at key skill positions, including finding a replacement for quarterback Tony Romo.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Happy enough to keep emptying their pockets for the overpriced modern Colosseum that is Cowboys Stadium.

Denver Broncos

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Denver Broncos seem to have the right leadership in place with general manager John Elway and head coach John Fox. If they can win the division with Tim Tebow at quarterback, they should be able to win with anybody.

    They also have some young talent, like linebacker Von Miller, who will be a playmaker into 2017 and beyond.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Fan excitement may be too high (mile high?) after their 2011 run, leading to some disappointment when the Broncos experience the inevitable growing pains of developing its young talent. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Demanding that Tebow, traded away to grab a new quarterback in the draft, return to Denver to start.

Detroit Lions

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Detroit Lions have all the pieces together. The defense is stout, the offense is promising...this team can be a title contender for several years.

    The Lions have also shown a willingness to spend on its marquee players. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson, one of the best wide receivers in the game, is now locked in until 2019.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Success isn't exactly familiar territory for this squad. Prior to this past season, the Lions haven't been contenders in...ever.  

    The team also has to worry if stars, like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, draw more attention for their offseason shenanigans than their spectacular play on the field.

     

    In five years fans will be... 

    Laughing at the days when they wore paper bags over their heads. They're probably doing that already.

Green Bay Packers

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Green Bay Packers have all the foundation necessary to continue their winning ways. They have solid coaching and a great front office to build upon. More importantly, the team has developed a great culture of winning and positive teamwork. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Who's next after Aaron Rodgers?

    Rodgers will be 33 by 2017, and the team will need to find their next up. Hopefully, Rodgers is not as big of a flip-flopper when deciding to retire as the last big-time Packers starting quarterback.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Just as willing as they are now to buy ceremonial team stock.

Houston Texans

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    Reasons for optimism

    After nine years in the league, the Houston Texans have finally found the keys to success, making the playoffs for the first time.

    With this taste of success, the team's players and leadership should be primed to keep the momentum going. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The team's best talent will be getting up there in age. Quarterback Matt Schaub and (more importantly) wide receiver Andre Johnson will both be 35 in 2017. Running back Arian Foster will hit 30 at that point, a dreaded age for the position.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Looking for new faces of the franchise to cheer.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Reasons for optimism

    For the Indianapolis Colts, things couldn't go much worse than they did this season.

    They will probably have a few years of high draft picks to get the ball rolling on building a new foundation for success. Quarterback Andrew Luck, the likely first overall pick of the 2012 draft, should be a star at the 2017 mark. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Colts organization caught lightning in a bottle with the selection of Peyton Manning. Can they do it again with Luck?  

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Still missing Peyton Manning badly, and still mad that he came in with his new team and whooped up on the Colts.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of high draft picks in the future. They're a team without direction, and have a lot of holes to fill. However, for this organization the only way to go is up.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Fan support is low. So very, very low.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Thanking their lucky stars that the team's lease makes it almost impossible for the team to leave for over a decade.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Kansas City Chiefs have some great talent on both sides of the ball in safety Eric Berry and running back Jamaal Charles, who are already playing a big part of the team's success already.

    The team's going to get better.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Chiefs have to keep the team's leadership steady. The organization has developed a lack of patience in its head coaches. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Hyped up for a deep playoff run.

Miami Dolphins

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    Reasons for optimism:

    The Miami Dolphins have had some luck in bringing out the best in the mid-level free agents they pick up (see Reggie Bush's rise this season).  

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The team can't seem to bring any high quality free agents in.

    In this sense, the Dolphins' leadership has left much to be desired. Team owner Stephen Ross is trying his darndest to become the warm-climate Dan Snyder in terms of disappointing fans.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Calling for the sale of the team to new ownership.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of youth on their roster. Fans can only hope they can grow with experience into a team that can compete in a tough NFC North.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The NFC North isn't getting any easier. 

    More worrisome, the team is struggling to get the necessary funding for a new stadium. Without a new stadium, the Vikings may start to entertain offers to move (they've been frequently linked with a move to Los Angeles). 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Really hoping their Vikings don't become the L.A. Lakers for a new generation.

New England Patriots

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    Reasons for optimism

    They may not have won a championship for a few years, but the New England Patriots have developed a formula for winning (insert Spygate joke here). It's unimaginable to envision this franchise not putting out a winning product like it did in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The team will need a replacement for the irreplaceable Tom Brady. Might be time to give a backup some game time, Bill Belichick.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Hoping quarterback Ryan Mallett will be able to step up and take over adequately.

New Orleans Saints

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    Reasons for optimism

    The New Orleans Saints have developed a raucous fanbase, and it's tough to see this team return to the form that led to it being called the A'ints.

    The team's ownership has shown they're willing to spend the money necessary to field a contender (with the notable exception for their confusing low-balling of quarterback Drew Brees).  

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    They probably won't have Brees anymore (he'll be 38 at this point). Yikes! 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Still cursing former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' name.

New York Giants

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    Reasons for optimism

    The New York Giants' have a way of turning water into wine, or in this metaphor, so-so regular seasons into Super Bowl wins. This team has built a tradition of clutch play in tight spots, and that's something that will help no matter who joins Big Blue.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Giants' success has been built mainly from a talented but overachieving veteran players. Many of them will not be around for much longer. This team will need to draft aggressively to avoid skipping a beat.

    Also, who knows how much longer Tom Coughlin, one of the league's oldest coaches, will want to keep in the game?

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Building a statue to commemorate the great career of Eli Manning.

New York Jets

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    Reasons for optimism

    The New York Jets have some good pieces that will be able to age with the squad, including wide receiver Santonio Holmes and all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis.

    Even if the on-the-field product is lousy, one can only imagine they'll still have the best press conferences as long as Rex Ryan remains the head coach. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The team's structure is a mess for the long run. The roster's best players are getting old, and the locker room is in a state of chaos. Those kinds of problems don't go away quickly.

    While he will certainly be active in 2017, how many years can quarterback Mark Sanchez expect fans to defend him from the inevitable trash talk that he will have come his way.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Ready to see the Jets draft another quarterback.

Oakland Raiders

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Oakland Raiders have a few quality young players on its roster, including running back Darren McFadden and wide receiver Denarius Moore. 

    They also have one of the most intimidating fan bases in the league (in both the good times and the bad). That has to count for something. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Raiders will spend a few years digging itself out of the salary cap and draft pick purgatory they have.

    The final results may not be pretty.

    "Just Win, Baby" may end up becoming "Just Try Your Best, Baby."

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Just as passionate, and just as disappointed with the team.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Philadelphia Eagles aren't afraid to spend big to draw the guys it wants to its roster.

    The team was able to improve dramatically over the course of one offseason in 2011, and it wouldn't be too big of a surprise to see them continue with this strategy (if they can somehow get the cap numbers to work).  

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Then again, the free agency binge the Eagles have been on will lead to a nasty hangover in one way or another. The team will need to do some major talent development through the draft in just a few years as their current talent either becomes too old or moves to better paying pastures.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Amazed at their pace in both rising and falling from grace.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have been good at drafting new talent to sustain itself, and have been pretty balanced in its approach of teaming their young talent with experienced veterans. 

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Steelers are an old team, especially on its defense. All positions on the field will need a boost of young talent. The team will also need to find an heir to starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

    Things might get worse before they get better. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Fondly waving goodbye to Roethlisberger.

San Diego Chargers

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    Reasons for optimism

    The San Diego Chargers should be a playoff contender.

    They play in a weaker AFC West division (a division that doesn't look to improve drastically in the next five years) and they've had more talent than most of its opponents.

    They can't go five years without putting it together...right?

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Who's playing quarterback for the team in 2017 (starter Philip Rivers will be in his mid-30s)? Who are the stars going to be? Who will be in coach or GM of this squad?

    The amount of variables at this point is not something that should make any Chargers fan excited for the future. 

     

    In five years fans will be

    Ticked at the amount of talent that left town under general manager A.J. Smith's watch. 

San Francisco 49ers

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    Reasons for optimism

    The San Francisco 49ers appear to be a team on the rise. Head coach Jim Harbaugh, like his brother John (coach of the Baltimore Ravens), appears to have a strong ability to motivate his players and put together an excellent game plan. 

    The roster also has some promising young contributors, including running back Kendall Hunter and linebacker Aldon Smith.

    The franchise will also be inspired by the opening of its new stadium in Santa Clara, which should be ready by the start of the 2014 season.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Many of the stars of the current team, including running back Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and linebacker Patrick Willis, will be near the tail end of their careers (if they're not out already).

    By 2017, this will be a drastically different looking squad.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Energized by how far the team has come from the past decade.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Seattle Seahawks have some pieces that they can build on for the next five years, including running back Marshawn Lynch.

    They also have one of the most rabid fanbases in the league. That may not affect the on-the-field product, but that'll at least keep optimism high.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Seahawks may have some of the most questionable player evaluation skills in the league (see the selection of Tarvaris Jackson as starting quarterback).

    Head coach Pete Carroll could consider a return to coaching on the college level if the heat were to die down about the infractions that took place on his watch at USC.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Laughing that the organization tried to rely on quarterback Tarvaris Jackson for several seasons.

St. Louis Rams

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    Reasons for optimism

    The St. Louis Rams could have the ability to shake things up in the next few years in the personnel department.

    Hurt by expensive, ineffective rookie contracts, the team should be able to dump many of these loose ends in the next few years. With money off the books, the Rams could have a lot of room to work with to solidify its roster.

    Additionally, quarterback Sam Bradford has all the tools to be successful for the foreseeable future.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    For some reason, the team's management is insisting on playing as many games as possible away from St. Louis. The team has several games scheduled for London over the next few seasons. 

    It could be a way for the organization to test the waters of a potential exodus from the city.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Wondering if the Rams take its show on the road...for good. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Reasons for optimism

    This is a young team, and with some time this is a group that can do some big things.

    The verdict is still out on quarterback Josh Freeman, but it looks like he has the talent and focus necessary to be successful on the big stage.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The organization appears to be pulling in several different directions, especially after the firing of head coach Raheem Morris. Fans have to hope new coach Greg Schiano can bring some stability to the franchise.  

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Cheering on a division championship contender. 

Tennessee Titans

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Tennessee Titans' likely quarterback of the future, Jake Locker, has looked good in limited time. He's got a decent arm, and has shown a surprising amount of mobility and athleticism.

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    The Titans are starved for talent at most of the other positions around the field. The team punched about its weight class in 2011, but it's not clear it will be able to do that going down the road.

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Impatient about the slow improvement of the team.

Washington Redskins

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    Reasons for optimism

    The Washington Redskins big trade to snag Robert Griffin III will be the turning point for when this team becomes successful or falls into an even deeper pit of despair than it is currently at now.

    Also, Dan Snyder's pocketbook has never seen a free agent it didn't want to overspend on. That has to turn up something positive right?

     

    Reasons for pessimism

    Dan Snyder will still be running this team. 

     

    In five years fans will be...

    Wildly happy or disappointed. No middle ground here.

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