10 Questions That Must Be Answered in the 2013 NFL Offseason

Marc LillibridgeContributor IFebruary 5, 2013

10 Questions That Must Be Answered in the 2013 NFL Offseason

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    Now that the Baltimore Ravens have won Super Bowl XLVII, the NFL embarks on the offseason.  The NFL Combine will be held in Indianapolis February 20-26.  Free agency starts March 12.  The 2013 NFL Draft is held April 25-27.

    Every offseason, the teams in the NFL will assess their strengths and weaknesses.  Some teams started that process the day after the 2012 regular season by firing their coaches. Now is a key time for player evaluations.  From building through free agency and the draft, each team must have a plan in place. 

    Here are 10 questions that, depending on how they get answered, will change the scope of the 2013 NFL offseason.

No. 10: How Do the Baltimore Ravens Replace ILB Ray Lewis?

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    Part of the problem with success in the NFL is that other teams will raid you of your players.  The Ravens have some key free agents that need to be signed if they want a chance to repeat in 2013. 

    Replacing Lewis should not be quite as hard as signing pass-rusher Paul Kruger back.  Linebacker Josh Bynes filled in admirably when Lewis was lost for part of the season with his triceps injury.  The Ravens may look to move outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw to inside linebacker.

    The Ravens also have Jameel McClain still on the roster, though he is coming off a neck injury.  The Ravens' best bet to replace Lewis, though, is by making sure they re-sign Dannell Ellerbe.  Ellerbe played some of his best football in the playoffs and will make the loss of Lewis more bearable. 

No. 9: Will Safety Ed Reed Still Be a Baltimore Raven?

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    Reed has said he wants to be a Raven for life.  Reed has also said he has great appreciation for other teams in the NFL, notably the New England Patriots.

    Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is not shy when he talks about his infatuation with Reed either.  While the Ravens will do everything to keep Reed, they also have a bunch of pending free agents and must work to keep a young corps together.

    Reed will be a Raven if he accepts a contract that is Ravens-friendly.  If not, there is a very good chance Reed will be wearing a different jersey in 2013.

No. 8: What Is the Free-Agent Market for Green Bay Packers WR Greg Jennings?

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    Rumors have been swirling for months that Jennings is the key free-agent target of the Miami Dolphins.  Jennings played for head coach Joe Philbin and knows the offense.  The issues with getting a deal done with Jennings are if he will ever be full healthy and how much is he worth.

    Jennings is coming off a season in which he only played in 10 games and had a total of 531 snaps.  Jennings had 481 total receiving yards and four touchdowns in all of 2012.  What a team pays for that kind of low production will be interesting. 

    Jennings is a solid player when healthy and has Pro Bowls to prove that.  But can any general manager pay the $9-million-a-year deal that Jennings is looking for?  Where Jennings signs and for how much will also set the bar for the other receivers in this offseason.  Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Wallace and Kansas City Chiefs Dwayne Bowe will be watching carefully.

No. 7: What Do the Kansas City Chiefs Do with the No. 1 Pick in the NFL Draft?

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    New general manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid will need to hit on this selection or risk setting the franchise back for years.  The Chiefs have tons of young playmakers on both sides of the football.  But the Chiefs front office needs to get this pick right to add to that talent.

    The quarterback situation in Kansas City is wide open and was mainly to blame for the Chiefs' lack of success in 2012.  If the Chiefs make a play for a free-agent quarterback before the draft, that will change the direction they will take in the draft.

    But if the Chiefs do not trade or sign a quarterback before April 25, is there a quarterback in this draft class that deserves the No. 1 overall ranking?  Like all of these questions, one question leads to another.  But that is what makes the offseason interesting.

No. 6: What Do the San Francisco 49ers Do with QB Alex Smith?

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    Smith is under contract with the 49ers for the 2013 NFL season but has expressed interest to be able to compete for a starting job.  That will not be happening in San Francisco where Colin Kaepernick has firmly entrenched himself as the man to lead this team.

    General manager Trent Baalke will need to explore ways to trade Smith.  But Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh also know having a starter as a backup is must in the NFL.  If Kaepernick were to get injured, is Scott Tolzien the answer as a backup?

    There is no way the 49ers can just let Smith walk.  If they cannot get a trade partner for Smith, they need to keep him on as the backup in 2013.

No. 5: Does WR Wes Welker Move on from the New England Patriots?

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    Welker is one of the best receivers in the NFL and his five of the last six seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving backs that statement up.  But some people would say Welker is simply a product of the high-powered Patriots offense and could be replaced fairly easily.

    Welker is a free agent and after playing the 2012 season as the Patriots franchise player, Welker is looking for a long-term contract.  Welker made $9.5 million last year but for a player who will turn 32 this offseason, he is looking for security.

    The Patriots are a great fit for Welker but teams like the Seattle Seahawks, the St. Louis Rams or the Arizona Cardinals all make sense as well.

No. 4: What Do the Philadelphia Eagles Do at the QB Position?

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    Newly hired head coach Chip Kelly is looking to bring a new brand of football to Philadelphia.  The uptempo style that Kelly had success with at Oregon will test not only the Eagles’ opponents next season but the front office as well.

    General Manager Howie Roseman and his staff will need to change the way they scout to find players that fit Kelly’s scheme.  This is especially important at the quarterback position. 

    Nick Foles is coming off a solid rookie season and will head into the offseason as the starter.  But Foles’ skill set is not ideal for Kelly’s offense, so what the Eagles do at that position will be a major question going forward.  Who Philadelphia gets for the position will make or break Kelly’s tenure with the Eagles.

No. 3: Do the Baltimore Ravens Pay QB Joe Flacco $20 Million Dollars a Year?

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    The Ravens are in a tough spot.  Their quarterback is coming off one of the greatest playoff runs in NFL history and finished the year as Super Bowl MVP.  Flacco and his representatives have said they are looking for a contract similar to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

    The major issue with that is the Ravens have four key defenders who are also free agents.  Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Cary Williams all have contracts that expire. 

    And add in the fact Ray Lewis will need to be replaced. 

    The Ravens will have a projected $15.7 million in cap space to work with, but depending on how Flacco’s contract is structured, a majority of that could be eaten up.

No. 2: Will Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III Be Healthy by Opening Day?

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    Much has been made about how and why Griffin III was injured in the Redskins' playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.  The 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year will miss the entire offseason as he rehabs from major reconstructive knee surgery.

    Griffin III is the unquestioned leader of the Redskins locker room.  But will the offense be able to jell and stay cohesive with Kirk Cousins taking most of the repetitions in mini-camps and training camp?  The staff of the Redskins have to handle the situation very carefully.  The team needs to prepare for Cousins to be the starter in case there are complications with Griffin III.

    At the same time, this is Griffin’s team and when healthy, the Redskins are a better team with his at the helm.  This will be a very interesting situation to watch in the offseason.

No. 1: Who Is the Starting Quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals?

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    New head coach Bruce Arians is known for his offensive-minded game plans.  But in Arians’ last two coaching stops he was fortunate to have two of the best playing quarterback for him.  Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck can make any offensive coach look good.

    The Cardinals do not have that talent on the roster at that position.  While Kevin Kolb and John Skelton are decent players, neither is a franchise-type player.  Ryan Lindley was drafted in the sixth round last year but does not look to be the answer as well.

    The Cardinals have a very good defense but need help on the offensive side of the football.  How they address the quarterback position will either set Arians up for success or set the franchise back for years.