Storylines to Watch Heading Out of NFL Free Agency

Jeremy SickelContributor IIIMarch 26, 2013

Storylines to Watch Heading Out of NFL Free Agency

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    Two weeks after the 2013 free-agency period kicked off, the frenzied NFL has started to slow down a bit. But as we have come to realize, this league is a year-round event with the offseason just as newsworthy as the product on the field at times.

    Since the Baltimore Ravens hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after their victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, much has changed around the NFL.

    Many players were either traded or awarded new contracts, and most will play with new teams come the start of the season. With the NFL draft fast approaching, Week 1 won't be too far behind.

    Though news around the league will not come across the wire as quickly over the next month, there are still some things to monitor as the NFL's offseason progresses.

    Here are a few storylines to watch for heading out of free agency.

The NFL Draft Is a Month Away

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    While the Super Bowl is the premier event of the NFL calendar year, all eyes during the offseason look toward the draft, which begins on April 25 in prime time.

    Free agency is a useful resource for organizations to build their rosters, but the draft serves as the foundation from which teams are ultimately constructed. From the scouting process to the players' names being called at the podium, the entire process captivates the collective fanbase across the NFL.

    Though this year's edition does not have Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III headlining the talent base, the interest couldn't be any higher.

    With so many options at the top of the draft this year, expect everyone's attention to be focused over the next month.

What Will the Kansas City Chiefs Do with the No. 1 Pick?

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    Beginning with bringing in Andy Reid and John Dorsey to be the new head coach and general manager, respectively, the Kansas City Chiefs have had one of the more active offseasons of any team in the NFL.

    Following a 2-14 campaign in 2012, the Chiefs received the top pick in this year's draft by virtue of a tiebreaker over the Jacksonville Jaguars. While this may not be the ideal year to be in this position, Kansas City certainly has its options here.

    The Chiefs still have plenty of holes to fill on their roster and could go in many directions with their selection. The key, however, will be exploring all routes as the draft approaches, including any trade scenarios that may arise.

    Dorsey is a proponent of the best-available-player approach, but Kansas City will also need to evaluate exactly where this team could use the most immediate impact. With the top pick, however, the Chiefs might look no further than the future at left tackle.

    Regardless of how the draft shakes out, expect the Chiefs to have a pointed agenda with the No. 1 overall pick.

Where Will Geno Smith Land?

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    Though there are surely a handful of teams in search of a franchise quarterback, this year's draft offers much uncertainty surrounding the talent available at the position.

    This year's college crop possesses plenty of names yet fails to deliver the type of impact arm that we have seen in years past—specifically last season with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

    If there is one name that stands alone as the top option under center in this year's class, West Virginia's Geno Smith is it.

    Though not exactly a guarantee to come in and take the league by storm, Smith should be the first quarterback off the board next month. The bigger questions would be when exactly that happens, and whether it causes other teams in search of their own signal-callers to scramble and reach on the rest of the group.

    As the Chiefs have invested heavily in Alex Smith and Chase Daniel this offseason, Smith could go as early as the second pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars—which is exactly the destination predicted by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

Tracking Robert Griffin III's Recovery

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    Robert Griffin III lived up to the hype, winning the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and leading the Washington Redskins to the postseason.

    Though his particular style brings about such positive results, it also injured Griffin in a Week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens. He further aggravated his knee injury in a postseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks, tearing his ACL and LCL.

    Griffin's surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, recently referred to the quarterback as "superhuman" in discussing his recovery process (via USA Today).

    The Redskins' camp will be very cautious with Griffin, who represents the future of the organization. But it is difficult not to get excited about the news that he is way ahead of schedule and targeting a Week 1 return (via the Washington Times).

    Based on what we saw from Adrian Peterson this past season, anything is possible.

The Reconstruction of the Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions but will enter the 2013 season with a much different look.

    Longtime Ravens Ray Lewis and Matt Birk have retired, and the team traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers, who they defeated in Super Bowl XLVII.

    But the changes do not stop there.

    Baltimore failed to retain Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard—all of whom played key roles in the team's title run. But the Ravens will return a solid core of players, including Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb.

    The team also brought in Chris Canty, Elvis Dumervil and Marcus Spears along the defensive line and re-signed cornerback Chris Johnson to help a steep transition on defense.

    Though it is hard to gauge what exactly the results will be in 2013, the Ravens are obviously in rebuilding mode. With the rest of free agency and the draft to come, Baltimore likely isn't finished either.

How the NFC West Was Won

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    Aside from the obvious interest in quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have each done their part to make the NFC West arguably the league's most exciting division.

    The 2012 race was fun to follow, but it seems this season will be very special.

    The 49ers are in the driver's seat and made subtle moves to position themselves for another run at the title, including the signings of defensive end Glenn Dorsey and kicker Phil Dawson.

    San Francisco has 14 picks in the upcoming draft to fill any remaining holes on the roster.

    The Seahawks were more aggressive this offseason, however, trading for wide receiver Percy Harvin and signing defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to short-term deals.

    With only a half-game separating these two in the standings last season, expect both games between these teams to be very spirited.

    They are constructed very similarly, focusing on a sound running game, strong defense and the mitigation of glaring mistakes on offense. Something has to give, though, and the NFL is all the better for it. 

Where Will Darrelle Revis Call Home?

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    Darrelle Revis will be about one year removed from an ACL injury when the 2013 NFL season kicks off in September. Which team he suits up for may be the bigger question than whether he can actually make a healthy return.

    Though the New York Jets are a much better team with Revis locking down one side of the field, a trade seems inevitable after following the news this offseason.

    The latest rumor has Revis landing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Peter King of Sports Illustrated), though it might not happen until closer to the draft.

    The Jets will want to hold out as long as possible to eventually come away with the best deal for Revis. While his injury and subsequent contract negotiations could be a deterrent, a team looking to get over the hump as early as next season will ultimately overpay for his services.

Chip Kelly's Integration into the NFL

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    While player transactions usually hog the headlines this time of the year in the NFL, the offseason's biggest move might have been Chip Kelly making the jump from the college ranks to become the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Eagles are in a transition period, having moved on from longtime head coach Andy Reid. Kelly's presence will signify a much different way of doing things in Philly.

    Kelly brings with him to the NFL a certain style that the league has only witnessed in small doses. The questions surrounding the coach's arrival will be whether his players will embrace his approach and if it will actually be successful in the professional ranks.

    The initial challenge will be Kelly taking over a roster that he had no hand in building. It will certainly take time to integrate his players while adjusting to the NFL itself, so expect a very steep learning curve early on.

    Kelly should get a mulligan for this season, though he will be very active in owning the responsibility as the head coach in Philadelphia.

What Is Next for Tim Tebow?

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    The most polarizing figure the NFL has ever seen is still a major source of interest around the league, as anything involving Tim Tebow will always be a hot-button topic.

    After the Jets acquired Tebow from the Denver Broncos last offseason, no one knew what to expect from the quarterback in 2012. Nothing has changed one year later.

    Critics will forever question Tebow's ability to play quarterback in the NFL, but his presence in football has always resulted in success—other than his time in New York.

    While there are no current plans to move the quarterback (via USA Today), another season with the Jets can't possibly be positive for the team or Tebow.

    If the NFL doesn't work out, however, Tebow won't be short of options to continue his football career. The Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League would welcome him with open arms (via the Orlando Sentinel).

Adjusting to the Change of Scenery

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    Though it is impossible for teams to retain all of their free agents, this offseason seemed to be filled with much more activity than in years past—especially with players synonymous with a certain franchise signing elsewhere.

    While it might not hit home until we actually see these guys in their new uniforms, it is strange to think of Ed Reed patrolling center field for the Houston Texans, Wes Welker catching passes from Peyton Manning in Denver or Steven Jackson taking handoffs from Matt Ryan in Atlanta.

    Throw in the fact that Brian Urlacher and Dwight Freeney will have new homes in 2013, and the NFL landscape will have a much different look next season.

    As this group of players looks to carry out their legacies with new teams, others are in position to create their own—whether in a new city or by trying to live up to those who moved on to different opportunities.

     

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