Most Important Injuries to Monitor in 2018 NFL Offseason

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistFebruary 13, 2018

Most Important Injuries to Monitor in 2018 NFL Offseason

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Every offseason in the NFL, there are several injuries worth monitoring. And this year is no exception.  

    In fact, after a year in which star players were dropping like flies on what felt like a weekly basis, this offseason will be particularly busy when it comes to checking in on key players recovering from various procedures. 

    Here are 14 high-profile players from 11 teams who are working tirelessly to get back as soon as possible in 2018.

Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Injury: Torn left ACL and LCL on Dec. 10 (surgery Dec. 13). 

    Timetable buzz: Carson Wentz told reporters before the Super Bowl that he is "hopeful" he'll be back for the start of the 2018 regular season, according to Philly.com's Zach Berman. That would leave him less than nine months to recover from reconstructive knee surgery.

    Breaking it down: Recovery from ACL surgery often takes more than nine months, which is why the Eagles will probably keep Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles on the roster at least until Wentz is able to show he's ready to go. Foles revealed in the playoffs that he can do more than just tread water in place of Wentz, but the 2016 No. 2 pick is the team's high-ceiling franchise quarterback. 

    With his crutches gone, Wentz was spotted throwing 50-yard passes prior to Super Bowl LII, according to Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice. That's a good sign, but a lot of work remains. 

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Injury: Surgery in Jan. 2017 to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, an injury that had been present since early in the 2015 season.

    Timetable buzz: Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 campaign despite the fact he was expected to recover well before the start of the season. The result is a lot of murkiness regarding Luck's status. Per Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, Colts own Jim Irsay promised at the conclusion of the season that Luck would be back "with a fierce fire in his eyes" in 2018. And while ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported earlier this month that doctors are concerned Luck could need more surgery, Colts general manager Chris Ballard insisted that's not the case, per the Star's Stephen Holder.

    Breaking it down: We may never know why Josh McDaniels left the Colts at the altar, but it's fair to wonder if Luck's health and the dysfunctional way in which the team has addressed his recovery is a factor. News about Luck should be taken with a grain of salt; I'll believe that he's back when I see him back. And until that happens, the Colts can't be considered a team capable of contending.

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Injury: Torn right ACL in practice on Nov. 2 (surgery Nov. 8). 

    Timetable buzz: Deshaun Watson's got a month on Wentz, and he appears to be on the right track. Per ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien noted in early January that the rookie sensation was ahead of his rehab schedule. And during Super Bowl week, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport added that the team expects Watson on the field for OTAs. Watson provided more good vibes last week when he posted a video of himself running for the first time since the injury. 

    Breaking it down: When Watson went down, he had generated 19 passing and rushing touchdowns over a five-game span, with Houston scoring at least 33 points in each outing. The Texans were 3-3 with him as a starter, and very much in contention in the AFC South. Without him, they won just one game the remainder of the year.

    If indeed the 22-year-old continues to rehab well, the Texans will have a chance to do some major damage in 2018. 

Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Injury: Left tibial plateau fracture on Oct. 8 (surgery Oct. 9). 

    Timetable buzz: The day after the regular season concluded, J.J. Watt told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle that he's "on track" to return in time for training camp. 

    Breaking it down: Watt has now missed all but eight games the last two seasons. Back issues were the problem in 2016, though, so at least we're not talking about one continually nagging injury. Still, it's fair to wonder if the three-time Defensive Player of the Year will ever get return to form, and the Houston defense was a mess without him in 2017. 

    The Texans should build a 2018 defense that relies less on Watt: If he returns and dominates again, it's gravy. If he doesn't, at least you're prepared.

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Injury: Broken left ankle on Oct. 8 (surgery Oct. 10). 

    Timetable buzz: "I don't know a percentage, but I'm actually doing really good," the three-time Pro Bowler told Michael Eisen of Giants.com earlier this month. "They tell me to slow down because I've been out for so long, and I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go."

    Breaking it down: It doesn't appear there's a lot to be worried about here—especially now that both team and player appear to be interested in extending their relationship beyond the final year of Odell Beckham Jr.'s rookie contract. The 25-year-old is the most dangerous weapon on the team, and without him the Giants don't have much of a chance to compete in the NFC East.  

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    Injury: Torn left ACL on Oct. 1 (surgery Oct. 9). 

    Timetable buzz: "He's progressed very nicely," Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said during Super Bowl week, per Eric Smith of Vikings.com. "I talked to [Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer] Eric Sugarman yesterday when we got back in town, and we don't see any reason where he's not going to be where Adrian Peterson was when he came off his knee [injury]."

    Breaking it down: That's a heck of a comparison because Peterson's recovery was historically fast. But Dalvin Cook tore his ACL two months earlier than Peterson did back in 2011. He appears to be on track for training camp, which is huge given his ceiling is much higher than any other back on Minnesota's roster. Cook led the NFC in rushing before suffering that Week 4 injury. 

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill

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    Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Injury: Partial tear of his left ACL on Aug. 3 (surgery Aug. 17). 

    Timetable buzz: Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported in January "the expectation is that [Tannehill] will be ready for the team's offseason program beginning in April," which makes sense considering the injury is a partial tear and took place back in August. 

    Breaking it down: That being said, Ryan Tannehill suffered two partial ACL tears in the same knee in a span of eight months. That's a tad concerning. He was playing the best football of his career before the first knee injury knocked him out for the final few weeks of the 2016 season, and the Dolphins offense took a step backward without him in 2017. Miami is likely to be extra cautious this offseason. 

Cleveland Browns OT Joe Thomas

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Injury: Torn left triceps on Oct. 22 (surgery Oct. 24). 

    Timetable buzzNate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal reported last month that doctors told the 33-year-old he's "on track to be cleared" by July, but Ulrich noted that "Knee and back problems are a greater cause for concern."

    Breaking it down: Joe Thomas has indicated he's unsure about his future, noting that his body has endured a lot over the course of an 11-year career. He and the Browns will be monitoring all of it, not just the triceps, and it looks as though it'll be a while before we find out Thomas' status for the 2018 season. 

Philadelphia Eagles OT Jason Peters

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Injury: Torn right ACL and MCL on Oct. 23 (surgery Oct. 27). 

    Timetable buzz: The 36-year-old might be questionable for the start of training camp. But he has already said, via Philly.com's Jeff McLane, that he wants to return, and the team has already said, per Philly.com's Zach Berman, that they want him back. 

    Breaking it down: Fighting off a Super Bowl hangover is never easy, especially with questions at quarterback (Wentz? Foles? Nate Sudfeld?), several key in-house impending free agents and no money to spend. Getting Jason Peters back could make that a lot easier on the Eagles. 

Baltimore Ravens G Marshal Yanda

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Injury: Fractured left ankle on Sept. 17.

    Timetable buzz: ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley reported in early January that the six-time Pro Bowler "likely won't be on the field again until training camp but he should be healthy before then." In other words, they won't rush him back. 

    Breaking it down: Marshal Yanda is 33, but he was exceptional in 2016. That Baltimore offense needs him back, so a setback would be costly. That said, the Ravens should attempt to put some better players around him this offseason. 

New England Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Injury: Torn pectoral muscle on Oct. 22 (surgery Oct. 26). 

    Timetable buzz: Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported last week that the 27-year-old "is expected to be ready for training camp."

    Breaking it down: Dont'a Hightower was one of the heroes of Super Bowl LI and a Pro Bowler in 2016. His presence undoubtedly would have improved New England's defense—so much so that I wonder if they'd be reigning Super Bowl champions had he been healthy. 

    They'd better hope he doesn't suffer any setbacks this offseason. 

Seattle Seahawks DBs Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Injuries: (Sherman) ruptured right Achilles tendon on Nov. 9, surgery Nov. 17; (Chancellor) season-ending neck injury the same night.

    Timetable buzz: According to ESPN.com's Brady Henderson, Richard Sherman expects to start running in April or May and to practice by the start of training camp. Meanwhile, Henderson noted that Kam Chancellor is unlikely to retire despite Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll saying in early January that the safety would "have a hard time playing football again," per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

    Breaking it down: The two famous Legion of Boomers turn 30 just four days apart in late March/early April. Sherman was superb as recently as 2016, but his contract expires after the 2018 season. Chancellor is locked up for three more years, but he hasn't played more than 12 games since 2014. Pretty soon, the Seahawks might have to move on from both. But if they don't get both back this summer, they'll have a tough time competing in the stacked NFC West in the fall. 

Kansas City Chiefs S Eric Berry

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Injury: Ruptured left Achilles tendon on Sept. 7 (surgery Sept. 12). 

    Timetable buzz: Last week, Eric Berry's agent, Chad Speck, posted an encouraging video of his client's workout, which supported ESPN.com's Adam Teicher's suggestion that the five-time Pro Bowler "should have little trouble returning by the start of next season."

    Breaking it down: The Chiefs better hope so, because a defense that in 2016 led the league in takeaways and ranked seventh in points allowed declined across the board in 2017 without its superstar safety.

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