It really doesn't get worse for passionate fans of the National Football League during the offseason. That's because there really is no offseason...and there never will be.
Every little piece of news is fascinating to the average football fan, whether it's the Atlanta Falcons trading for the Houston Texans' fourth-string quarterback or cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman exchanging in a war of words.
The offseason is all about predicting how teams and even individual players will do the next year after the changes that occurred since the end of the season. How will the first-round offensive tackle fit in his team's zone-blocking scheme? Which slot receiver is poised for a breakout season?
And most importantly, which players will be affected either positively or negatively by the events of the past few months?
Here's a list of seven players, in order of most extreme change to least extreme, with whether their team's changes will affect them positively or negatively this season.
1. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: NEGATIVE
The Carolina Panthers must hate Cam Newton. Seriously. They traded away his top receiver, veteran Steve Smith, replacing him with rookie Kelvin Benjamin. Other wide receiver acquisitions like Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery won't exactly etch fear on the faces of opposing defenses.
Throw in the loss of left tackle Jordan Gross (retired), who was replaced by an undrafted rookie, and it's easy to see a serious regression for Newton in 2014. That's a shame too, because the former number one overall pick turned in the best season of his career in 2013.
2. EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills: POSITIVE
There wasn't a whole lot that EJ Manuel did as a rookie to show that he will be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. He was mediocre, at best, when he played, and he also missed six games with injuries.
No worries. The Bills acquired a solid backup running back, Bryce Brown, and the best wide receiver in the draft, Sammy Watkins. By surrendering their first-round pick for Watkins, the Bills basically ensured that Manuel has at least two more seasons before the franchise moves on. After all, if Manuel struggles in 2014 and the Bills win their usual six games, they're not going to be able to use a top 10 or 12 pick on a quarterback even if they wanted to.
It's Manuel for at least two more seasons in Buffalo.
3. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: POSITIVE
Could things have gone better this offseason for former number one overall draft pick Matthew Stafford?
For starters, the Lions hired a new head coach, Jim Caldwell, a man who helped take Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl back in 2009. I'll take Caldwell over Jim Schwartz any day of the week.
The Lions also brought in, finally, a legitimate number two receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. The game's best receiver may finally see some single coverage instead of constant double- and triple-teams.
Oh, and the Lions also added tight end Eric Ebron with their first-round pick. That's a fantasy football dream, and the Lions' new offense should be one of the best in the game.
For Stafford, the 2014 season is about showing that he can return to the near-elite form that helped him throw for more than 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011.
4. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: POSITIVE
Andrew Luck is already the best young quarterback in the National Football League. Here's what he'll have in 2014 that he didn't have for most or all of the 2013 season: a healthy Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, rookie Donte Moncrief and a healthy Dwayne Allen. Now if only the Colts could actually get some production out of former No. 3 overall draft pick Trent Richardson.
Luck entered the postseason with Griff Whalen as his number two receiver—and he still led the Colts to an improbable comeback victory against the Chiefs. How will he do in 2014 with a star-studded cast?
He'll be unstoppable. He's a legitimate MVP candidate.
5. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans: POSITIVE
J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the National Football League. His team just spent the number one overall draft pick on a once-in-a-generation player to line up on the opposite side of the field at the exact same position.
Could life get any better for Watt?
I'm not buying that Watt's production will go down because he'll lose some sacks to Jadeveon Clowney. No way. Life is only going to get better. He's no longer the focal point of his team's defense. He's not going to be double- and even triple-teamed.
It's not just Clowney too. The Texans added talented nose tackle Louis Nix III in the third round, giving them a potentially historic defensive line. Watt, of course, will be the best player.
6. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams: POSITIVE
The St. Louis Rams had a golden opportunity to shed Bradford's massive contract, free themselves from mediocrity and dive right into the quarterback of their choice this offseason. They passed.
Instead, the Rams added a power run-blocking offensive lineman in Greg Robinson, plus a quality running back in Tre Mason.
Everything Bradford did (or didn't do) from 2010 to 2013 is now irrelevant,. The 2014 season is officially Bradford's one chance to show that he can earn a long-term contract extension as the Rams' franchise quarterback.
7. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: NEGATIVE
Just one year ago, Doug Martin was considered one of the best running backs in the league. In a normal year, Martin likely would have earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors after collecting almost 2,000 total yards and 12 touchdowns.
Now, Martin is barely a starter on his own team. A disappointing, injury-plagued 2013 season led the Bucs to draft Charles Sims in the third round. Throw in last year's rookie, Mike James, and you have a terrific three-headed running back instead of one dominant starter.
That's great news for Lovie Smith and the Buccaneers, bad news for Doug Martin.
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