Before the 2011 NFL season even ended, fans were already gearing up for the offseason. Talk about Peyton Manning being released from the Colts had fans wondering if he really would be let go once the season was over.
Then when the season finally did end, we saw that Peyton would no longer be a Colt. Peyton going into the free-agent market and deciding to play for the Broncos is only one of several stories that have developed in the NFL offseason so far.
The bounty scandal was another major story that took place during the NFL offseason. It would bring some of the harshest penalties ever seen in the NFL. All the allegations and suspensions would be handed out throughout the beginning months of the offseason.
Peyton and the bounty-gate stories would not be the only ones to develop after the 2011 season was over.
Here are the top 10 stories of the offseason so far.
The Giants would first lose wide receiver Mario Manningham to the San Francisco 49ers during free agency. Recently, the Giants have taken another blow to their receiving corps, with Hakeem Nicks fracturing his right foot.
The recovery time expected for Nicks is twelve weeks. Going beyond that however, will Nicks be able to return to 100 percent by the time the season starts?
Prince Amukamara broke his fifth metatarsal during last year’s training camp and never seemed to be able to play at 100 percent. Even though Nicks’ injury is just a fracture compared to actually being broken, will he also struggle like Amukamara did?
Hakeem Nicks will need to be 100 percent in order for the Giants to have the same success they had at the end of the 2011 season.
With Maningham gone, and Nicks sidelined for awhile, can the Giants have success with rookie wide receivers?
This offseason will prove to be vital to the receiving corps of the defending Super Bowl champs.
Two huge quarterback prospects coming out of college, Griffin and Luck have a lot to prove.
Luck, who was the first draft pick of the 2012 draft, and Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner who followed at No. 2, are going to go into two teams and be expected to deliver.
Before the draft even started, though, the Colts still had to announce that they were releasing Peyton Manning. Once that happened, it was pretty clear the Colts were going to draft either Luck or Griffin to become their new QB.
Robert Griffin III was predicted to go right after Luck, and he in fact did. The Redskins would trade up to get RGIII with the second-overall pick.
Now that both QBs are on their predicted teams, how well will they perform during training camp? Or even preseason?
Can the Heisman trophy winner be the key to success for the Redskins? Can Luck replace Peyton Manning and take the Colts to the playoffs?
We will have to wait for the regular season to find out, but the NFL offseason will undoubtedly play a big role in preparing both of these QB prospects.
Franchising has been a pretty big issue so far this offseason.
The first one that comes to mind is Drew Brees. With everything going on with the Saints and the bounty scandal, they could really use some type of hope, and that would come in the form of Drew Brees signing a contract.
The problem is that Brees and the Saints are still having problems ironing out a contract that Brees will sign. Brees clearly deserves to be paid like a top QB, and the Saints slapping the franchise tag on him is just delaying the inevitable. The Saints know that if Brees were to go into free agency, another team would sign him to a new contract.
So why don't the Saints just give Brees what he wants? He definitely deserves it.
Running backs Ray Rice and Matt Forte are two other examples of franchise tags being used to keep players on a team who deserve better contracts.
Ray Rice was a huge part of the Ravens offense; doesn't he deserve a better contract going into the 2012 season? Contract negotiations are moving forward with Rice, though, and show how a franchise tag can be used successfully to prevent a player from entering free agency, giving both sides a chance to agree on a contract.
Matt Forte is another excellent running back who is being held back by a franchise tag. Similar to Rice, he is looking for an increase in pay. The Bears, however, would not only stick Forte with the franchise tag, they would go and sign another running back to a four-year deal.
Adding salt to the wounds could backfire on the Bears and end up fueling Forte to hold out even longer.
It's understandable that teams don't always have the money to sign players to the deals that they want. But isn't a player like Drew Brees or Matt Forte worth the money they are asking for?
Junior Seau's death shocked everyone. It impacted both fans and football players. His death was tragic but also opened up a discussion for something more.
With a career that started in 1990 and lasted until 2009, Seau had a total of 1526 tackles, 56.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and 18 fumble recoveries by the time his career was over.
With a successful career that lasted 19 years, what would lead Junior Seau to decide to take his own life three years after he retired?
Is the NFL doing enough to protect the health of its veteran players?
Seau was haunted by constant headaches, something that could have been caused by the concussions he suffered throughout his career.
Could the same concussions that caused Seau's headaches also have caused him to decide to end his life in such a violent way?
We have seen the NFL take much stricter precautions when it comes to players and concussions. They also need to focus on the health of their veteran players and learn from the death of Junior Seau so future veterans can live a life free of major health hazards.
With Peyton Manning’s decision to play for the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow's future was unknown.
Would he remain on the Broncos and go from leading the Broncos into the playoffs to playing second fiddle to Peyton Manning? Or maybe Tebow would head to Jacksonville and potentially save a dying Jaguars franchise.
In the end, Tebow ended up selecting the Jets as the team he wanted to play for. This came as a shock to some football fans.
Why would Tebow choose to be a backup to Mark Sanchez and head to a team that was filled with cracks after the meltdown at the end of last season? Why not pick a team like the Jaguars where he would easily be given the starting QB job?
Regardless of Tebow's reasoning, he seems to be excited about being a Jet.
Will Tebow work on the Jets? Can he have a successful role and help the Jets fix whatever problems they think they have? Or will Tebow turn out to be a bust and end up regretting his decision?
The Baltimore Ravens are renowned for their defense. A huge part of that defense is linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Suggs had 70 tackles during the 2011 regular season, 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Clearly, Suggs is a force to be reckoned with and played a huge part in the Ravens' defense.
However. during the beginning of May, while practicing for the conditioning test for the Ravens, Suggs tore his Achilles tendon.
While the average length of time for full activity after having surgery to repair the Achilles tendon is four to six months, the average return of a NFL player is 11 months.
Suggs is out to prove the statistics wrong and is hoping to return much sooner than the predicted 11 months.
If, however, Suggs is out for the entire 2012 season, it will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the Ravens' defense. Who will be able to step up and do what Suggs has been able to do?
Dan Benton over at Giants 101 stated that a potential rumor involving a trade had been discussed between the Giants and the Ravens that would have sent Osi Umenyiora over to the Ravens, but in the end it was just a rumor.
The Ravens will have big shoes to fill if Suggs doesn't return. Suggs getting injured during the offseason could end up having drastic effects on the Ravens during the upcoming regular season.
Randy Moss still has something to prove. Deciding to come out of retirement, Moss clearly is back to make a statement.
Can you really blame him?
After being bounced around during the 2010 season, and having a horrible year statistics-wise, Moss left the NFL on a whimper, instead of on a high note that he was capable of.
Moss has been given a chance by the San Francisco 49ers, arguably a top team going into the 2012 season, to play once again.
While the contract he signed is a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, $4 million with incentives, Randy Moss is getting his chance to prove that even at 35, he can still play with the best of them.
Will Moss come back and be the freak he once was? Or have the San Francisco 49ers wasted their time giving Moss the chance to come back?
We will have to wait until the start of the 2012 regular season to find out.
After playing for the Detroit Lions for five years, Calvin Johnson would be rewarded with an eight-year contract worth up to $132 million. He has become the highest paid receiver in the NFL.
Of course, before Johnson was even offered the contract, he would have to prove his worth. Statistically, during the 2011 season, Johnson had a great year. With 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns, clearly Megatron is a dominant force in the NFL.
Johnson's value also goes beyond statistics. Johnson has played a huge role in helping revive the Lions franchise and making it now one of the younger teams to watch in the NFL.
His popularity goes beyond just Detroit, however, as Johnson would win the vote to be on the Madden 13 cover.
It was easy to see that the Lions would go above and beyond to try and re-sign Johnson to a deal. Who wouldn't? But with Johnson receiving such a contract, could other top receivers also want a Megatron contract?
The $132 million deal that Johnson signed proved Megatron should not be taken lightly.
Peyton Manning deciding to sign with the Denver Broncos was a top story of the NFL offseason. The Colts deciding to release Manning during the offseason in itself could be considered a top story. But the rumors that would swirl around which team Manning would pick added another level to the media circus surrounding Manning and his decision.
We would see teams like the San Fransisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals, and even the New York Jets talk to Peyton and test their luck to see if they could get the highly rated quarterback to play for them.
Teams would clamor over Manning, and eventually teams like the Jets and the Cardinals would be thrown out as potential landing places for Manning.
Peyton would work out for both the Broncos and the 49ers. Would Manning leave the AFC and join with the 49ers, who made huge improvements and were able to make it to the NFC championship? Or would he choose the Broncos and send the hugely popular Tim Tebow packing?
By now, we all know that Peyton picked the Broncos. Did Manning make the right choice? We will have to wait for the 2012 season to find out. But without a doubt, Manning's decision was a huge story thus far in the NFL offseason.
If you have been watching anything about the NFL during the offseason, more than likely you have come across something about the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal.
Bounty-gate, as it's referred to, began when the NFL started investigating the Saints during the 2009-'10 playoffs because of alleged accusations that Saints players were deliberately attempting to hurt other players.
The end result of Bounty-gate would leave the Saints and a lot of other people speechless.
On March 2, 2012, the NFL would announce that it had evidence that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had created a program during the 2009 season in which Saints players would be paid bonuses for successfully hurting other players. The money would come from Williams himself, as well as other Saints players. The full NFL statement can be read here.
With the lid blown off, the next step of the bounty scandal would happen over the next few months. From March to May, we saw Saints players and staff suspended.
As far as staff members go, Gregg Williams, who left the Saints for a coaching position on the Rams staff, was suspended indefinitely, and Sean Payton will be suspended for the entire 2012 season.
Players who were found to be involved in the bounty scandal would also be suspended. Jonathan Vilma would receive the biggest suspension, which will take Vilma out of action for the entire 2012 season. Anthony Hargrove, now on the Packers, Will Smith and Scott Fajita, now on the Browns, would also receive suspensions.
The Saints would be fined $500,000 and would also lose draft picks in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, on top of the suspensions handed out.
Without a doubt, the bounty scandal is the biggest story of the NFL offseason so far. Not only has it clearly impacted the Saints, it has also impacted other teams. The NFL and commissioner Roger Gooddell have made it clear that any action like Bounty-gate will not be tolerated.
What offseason stories would make your list? Comment below and share your opinion.