Baltimore nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu celebrates after winning Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on February 3, 2013.
The NFL offseason is in full swing. Players, coaches and staffs around the league will spend time away from their respective jobs before reconvening for planning, free agency, the draft and finalizing the rest of their offseason schedules.
The 2013 season is still seven months away, but there are many questions that need answering. Will certain teams address their glaring needs or will they take a more conservative approach and work with what they already have?
Here are 25 of the NFL’s biggest questions heading into the offseason.
Joe Flacco hoists the Lombardi Trophy after defeating San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013.
The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl champions, thanks in large part to the performance of Joe Flacco, who threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions during an incredible playoff run. Now, the attention turns to his contract. Flacco will become a free agent this offseason and the Ravens need to make it a priority to re-sign the Super Bowl XLVII MVP. There’s little doubt the Ravens won’t sign Flacco to a massive contract. The real question is how much is Flacco worth? Speaking solely on his performance, Flacco is worth top-quarterback money. Whether it be $18-20 million or more, Flacco deserves a hefty contract.
Anquan Boldin leaps to catch a pass during Super Bowl XLVII against San Francisco on February 3, 2013.
This is tough another predicament for owner Steve Bisciotti. The Ravens simply can’t afford to lose both Boldin and Jones, two vital weapons for the Ravens in 2012.
Boldin was the leading receiver in the playoffs, with 22 receptions for 380 yards and four touchdowns, a postseason that culminated with a 6-catch, 104-yard performance in Super Bowl XLVII.
Jones caught a pair of touchdowns and had an explosive 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half in Super Bowl XLVII. Baltimore must find a way to keep Boldin and Jones in mind while investing in Flacco.
Mark Sanchez drops back to pass in a game against the Buffalo Bills on December 30, 2012.
Mark Sanchez has been highly scrutinized throughout his four-year NFL career. Last season was atrocious for the 26-year-old quarterback. Throwing 18 interceptions to just 13 touchdowns, Sanchez boasted the second-lowest passer rating among any starting quarterback in the league (66.9) and even lost his starting job to Greg McElroy late in the season.
Just days after the Jets lost their regular season finale, 28-9, to division foe Buffalo, owner Woody Johnson fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum, but retained head coach Rex Ryan. From the looks of things, Sanchez could be shown the door sooner rather than later.
Finding a new home might be Sanchez’s best alternative now, but finding a more suitable team may come difficult.
Wes Welker catches a touchdown pass against the Miami Dolphins on December 30, 2012.
The 31-year-old receiver had a characteristically productive season in 2012, snagging 118 passes for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns. New England placed the franchise tag on Welker in 2012 and owner Robert Kraft would like to keep the veteran receiver around.
If the Patriots and Welker can hammer out a new contract, then Brady would be one happy quarterback. If not, the Patriots would be forced to sign a noteworthy free agent or tap into the draft.
Robert Griffin III scrambles during the NFC Wild-Card game against Seattle on January 6, 2013.
Robert Griffin III toughed it through injuries in the regular season and finally against Seattle in the NFC Wild-Card game, but his toughness was pushed to the brink when he blew out his knee and was relieved by backup and fellow rookie Kirk Cousins.
RG3 had successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in early January and his recovery could take anywhere between 8 to 12 months. However, if his rehab goes quicker than expected, he could be back in 6-to-8 months, putting the 2012 Rookie of the Year in place to start the 2013 season on time. But, will he be the same quarterback we saw last season?
It will be interesting to see if Griffin III will hesitate to scramble as much as he did in his rookie season.
Sean Payton screams from the sidelines during a Wild-Card playoff game against Detroit in 2012.
Saints head coach Sean Payton sat out the 2012 season, serving a yearlong suspension handed down from commissioner Roger Goodell for his involvement in the Saints bounty program from 2009-2011.
The aftershock was devastating.
The Saints went 7-9 and lost four of their last six games last season. But Payton’s suspension is history. He’ll be back roaming the sidelines in 2013. Payton's presence will pay huge dividends for the Saints, especially quarterback Drew Brees who, without his coach, threw for a league-best 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns. Imagine what Brees will do with Payton back on the sidelines.
Expect New Orleans to get back into the playoffs with Payton returning next season.
Jake Longs prepares to block the New England Patriots during a game in December 2012.
Jake Long—Miami’s left tackle—was placed on injured reserve early last December after tearing his left triceps. That decision was a no-brainer, but the next big move regarding the future of Long may not be so easy for general manager Jeff Ireland.
Miami must decide whether to sign their former No. 1 overall draft pick to a long-term contract or let him slip away as a free agent. Ireland insists on keeping Long in Miami for a long time, but a deal has yet to be worked out. If Long walks, Miami will be in a world of hurt next season.
Geno Smith hands the ball off during the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse on December 29, 2012 at Yankee Stadium.
The Kansas City Chiefs are on the clock, holding the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft. Who should they select with their golden ticket?
The Chiefs are in desperate need of a reliable quarterback. Matt Cassel’s time appears to be growing shorter by the day. The eight-year veteran threw six touchdowns to 12 interceptions last season. Backup Brady Quinn is set to become a free agent and Ricky Stanzi doesn’t appear to have a Pro-Bowl caliber future, either.
Kansas City could use its first overall pick on Geno Smith of West Virginia or Matt Barkley of USC. An alternative would be to trade the pick and collect multiple first or second round picks. Kansas City must fill the void at quarterback through some avenue, be it through via free agency or through the draft.
With head coach Andy Reid in charge, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Chip Kelly is introduced as the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach on Jan. 17.
Chip Kelly ran one of the fastest offenses in college football while calling the shots at Oregon. But will his high-tempo offensive scheme work in the NFL? It’s hard to say.
As head coach of the Eagles, Kelly will need to utilize both free agency and the draft by coming away with agile playmakers. The Eagles will also need to decide on a quarterback for 2013. We saw San Francisco perfect the zone read offense last season and, if Kelly can get his offense to work in the NFL, the Eagles will be explosive next season. That’s a big if.
Jay Cutler prepares to throw a pass against the Detroit Lions on December 30, 2012.
It was obvious for Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler. He needed new direction, a different path from the one he was tumbling down after missing the postseason.
That new direction finally arrived in the form of Marc Trestman, newly hired head coach. Trestman, who has been out of the NFL for eight years, has experience as a head coach. He won consecutive Grey Cup championships as coach of the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. He seems eager to work with Cutler, who possesses the necessary tools to be an elite quarterback in this league if properly coached. Expect Trestman to remold Cutler into a winning quarterback for the Bears.
Tim Tebow hands the ball off in a game against the Buffalo Bills on December 30, 2012.
If Denver and Tebow was a failed marriage for Tebow, the match between the celebrity quarterback and the Big Apple was the odd couple. But here is Tim Tebow, 25, his future still uncertain.
The likelihood of Tebow remaining a Jet is slim to none. He was never given a fair shot by the Jets, failing to score any touchdowns in the limited playing time he was given with Gang Green. He has no reason to remain there, in a city that scrutinized his every move.
Look for Tebow to head South this offseason. The most logical destination is hometown of Jacksonville. The Jaguars are in need of a quarterback. Blaine Gabbert has regressed since the Jaguars selected him as the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He’s popular and would boost ticket sales.
Above all, Tebow would be a good fit for Jacksonville.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses for a picture with Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco in a news conference.
Major League Baseball lives by it. So do the Olympic Games. Now, it’s time for the NFL to do the same by ratifying Human Growth Hormone testing.
Nobody likes or cares for cheaters, no matter the sport or competition. HGH testing is long overdue for the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell plans to incorporate HGH testing next season. But nothing has been written in stone.
Rob Ryan looks on during a game against the Washington Redskins on December 30, 2012.
Rob Ryan, the ousted ex-Cowboys defensive coordinator, claimed he’d be unemployed for five minutes. Turns out Ryan was unemployed for more than a handful of minutes.
St. Louis nearly hired Ryan for the same position, but shied away at the last minute.
Now, New Orleans plans to hire Ryan after firing Steve Spagnuolo, who lasted one season. On Sean Payton’s third day back from a yearlong suspension, the Saints head coach decided to shuffle the defense, switching to a 3-4 scheme, rather than a 4-3. Ryan and what the Saints want to accomplish defensively go hand-in-hand. It will be intriguing to see if Ryan can turn one of the worst defenses in NFL history (an record 7,000-plus yards given up last season) into a competitive group in 2013.
Ray Lewis hoists the Lombardi Trophy during the Ravens parade after winning Super Bowl XLVII against San Francisco.
Baltimore had plenty of motivation for a win in this year's Super Bowl, thanks to Ray Lewis announcing his retirement after the season.
Replacing Lewis and the motivation that came with his presence won't come easy. But, it’s something that must be addressed in the offseason. Dannell Ellerbe, a four-year veteran out of Georgia, could fill the void left by Lewis. Last season, Ellerbe amassed 92 combined tackles for the Ravens. He was down on the depth chart in 2012, but could work his way up the ranks next season.
The Ravens could also take a look at outside linebacker Albert McClellan, who forced two fumbles 2012.
Alex Smith takes a hit from Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar on November 11, 2012.
It’s almost a certainty Alex Smith won’t be suiting up for San Francisco in 2013. Colin Kaepernick has taken over the reigns for the 49ers and nearly won a Super Bowl in his 11th career start. There are plenty of teams in need of a quarterback this offseason, including Oakland, Kansas City and Arizona.
With the Cardinals being a division foe, Smith appears less likely to be heading to the desert, unless the Cardinals give the 49ers an offer they couldn’t turn down.
Michael Vick takes a snap against the Dallas Cowboys on November 11, 2012.
Michael Vick is another quarterback that could be looking for a new home. The 32-year-old headed the Eagles to a porous 4-12 mark last season and is due to make $16.5 million next season if the Eagles decide to retain him. Having already drafted talented rookie quarterback Nick Foles last season, keeping Vick as part of the new Chip Kelly offensive regime doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the Eagles.
John Skelton throws a pass during a game against the Seattle Seahawks on December 9, 2012.
Arizona is the most desperate organization in need of a starting quarterback. The three-part experiment of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Lindley and John Skelton failed miserably. The trio combined for three touchdowns and 18 interceptions last season. Change is in the fold for the Cardinals. With the seventh overall pick in April’s draft, it would be wise for the Cardinals to invest their pick in a young, talented quarterback, one who can the ball to Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald, preferably.
Darrelle Revis goes in for a tackle against the Miami Dolphins on September 23, 2012.
Darrelle Revis may be the best cornerback in the league.
He’s tough, physical and downright hard to beat in one-on-one coverage. Over his six-year career, Revis has racked up 19 interceptions and shut down many elite receivers. Great work should equal great pay. At least that’s what Revis is thinking.
The four-time Pro Bowler wants a new contract—one that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. There might be a problem. The Jets certainly want to keep Revis around. Who wouldn’t? But is any cornerback worth that much money? There are plenty of outstanding pass rushers and linebackers who are more deserving of that kind of money, so it could be difficult for the Jets to meet Revis’ demands. It doesn't look like the Jets are interested in making Revis the highest-paid defensive player in the league.
That said, losing Revis could be very costly for owner Woody Johnson and head coach Rex Ryan.
Isaac Bruce catches a pass and runs for extra yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game on January 27, 2002.
St. Louis has lacked a true No. 1 receiver since the glory days of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. A plethora of busts have come and gone: Donnie Avery, Drew Bennett, Keenan Burton, Mike Furry, Dane Looker, Shaun McDonald, Brandon Gibson, Marques Hagans, Ruvell Martin, Mardy Gilyard, Laurent Robinson and Dominique Curry.
To say the Rams have had bad luck developing quality receivers would be an understatement. With injury-prone Danny Amendola set to become a free agent, they claimed ousted Detroit receiver Titus Young off waivers earlier this week, but it isn’t likely he’ll be Sam Bradford’s go-to target in 2013.
The Rams have two first-round picks in April’s draft. Selecting a receiver is a must.
Carson Palmer fires a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 16, 2012.
Oakland’s quarterback situation is a nightmare. Terrelle Pryor has yet to show he’s worthy of a starting job, though the organization insists he will be given a shot at the starting job behind center next season. Matt Leinart has played for three different organizations in his seven-year career and the play of Carson Palmer is declining. The Raiders have two options: draft a quarterback or find one via free agency.
Either way, there’s no excuse for the Raiders not to have a legitimate quarterback in 2013.
Tony Romo walks off the field after losing to the Wasington Redskins in the regular season finale on December 30, 2012.
The leash around Tony Romo’s neck is growing tighter by the season. Romo, who has been the Cowboys quarterback for the last seven seasons, has yet to prove himself in the postseason.
Behind Romo, Dallas has made the playoffs four times in the last seven years, but failed to get past the second round. Romo did throw for nearly 5,000 yards last season, but he also tied for the league lead with 19 interceptions. Romo must get the Cowboys back to the playoffs and get the organization to prosper rather than regress.
Greg Jennings nearly catches a pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoff game on Jan. 12.
It looks like Aaron Rodgers will be without one his most reliable receivers in 2013. Greg Jennings will become a free agent this offseason and it's unlikely he'll return to Green Bay. Jennings was limited to just eight games last season because of injury, but managed to catch four touchdown passes. The market could be even more competitive with Jennings up for grabs.
St. Louis is one possible destination for Jennings. The Rams need talented receivers, something they've lacked in recent years. Another possible suitor would be Miami. The Dolphins are also in need of playmaker at receiver, one who will also sell tickets.
Manti Te'o dives for a ball during the Discover BCS National Championship game against Alabama on Jan. 7.
By now, we all know the story.
No, Mani Te’o never had a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua. Yes, Te’o was the target of a hoax – the biggest in recent memory. Though Te’o wasn’t involved in the hoax, he was never clear about the whole thing from the beginning.
That could determine where and when he’s drafted in April. Te’o shouldn’t fall beyond the second round, but teams might be extra cautious when determining if he’s a right fit for their organization.
Ahmad Bradshaw runs through a Washington Redskins tackler during a game on December 3, 2012.
Teams in need of a running back might turn their attention to Ahmad Bradshaw. The 26-year-old running back was released by the New York Giants this week and could draw some interest from a couple of teams.
One potential suitor is St. Louis. With Steven Jackson’s future in limbo, head coach Jeff Fisher could take a gamble on Bradshaw. Another possible destination is Pittsburgh. The Steelers were 26th in rushing last season and need a boost in their backfield.
Gregg Williams looks on during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 31, 2010.
Gregg Williams was exiled indefinitely by commissioner Roger Goodell for his involvement in the Saints bounty scandal from 2009-2011.
Today, the NFL reinstated the former New Orleans defensive coordinator, making the Tennessee Titans' hiring of Williams official. The Titans announced Williams will be a senior assistant coach of their defense.
It will be interesting to see if Williams gains the respect from the Titans players, especially after losing virtually all of his credibility in New Orleans following the bounty scandal.
Williams is known for his physical, rugged defenses. If he can get the Titans to buy into his schemes, then they will be a tough unit to line up against.
Given a second chance to work in the NFL, Williams will attempt to regain his confidence and reputation as top defensive mind by attempting to fix Tennessee's defensive woes.