Every NFL Team's Biggest Reason to Look Forward to 2018 SeasonMay 19, 2018
Every NFL Team's Biggest Reason to Look Forward to 2018 Season
Now that everybody has been drafted and almost everybody has been signed (sorry, Dez), we can start to look forward to the 2018 NFL season with a good feel for how each team will look.
And it's May, so none of those draft picks or free-agent signings have had the chance to become busts. That makes this a great time to take a look at 32 half-full glasses.
Here are the biggest reasons for every team to look forward to early September.
Arizona Cardinals: Rosen to the Rescue
Star running back David Johnson will return to the Arizona Cardinals this year after the 2016 NFL scrimmage yards leader suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 1. But it's tough for even an elite back like Johnson to make a huge difference, as Arizona's 7-8-1 record in 2016 can attest.
The Cardinals know that in order to keep up in the increasingly tough NFC West, they'll need to get strong play out of the quarterback position. That's why rookie No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen will be the center of attention for much of the year, even if he's not starting.
Well-paid veteran bridge QB Sam Bradford will likely enter training camp as the starter, but ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss notes that Rosen—a polished three-year starter out of UCLA—impressed while taking first-team reps when the Cards held an early round of organized team activities this week.
It's likely only a matter of time before Rosen gets a shot, especially because Bradford is so fragile. And until that happens, Cardinals fans will be eagerly anticipating that debut.
Atlanta Falcons: Sarkisian's 2nd Crack
Under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2016, the Atlanta Falcons averaged a league high 33.8 points per game while ranking tops in the league at Football Outsiders in terms of Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) on the offensive side of the ball.
Then Shanahan left for the west coast, Steve Sarkisian took over and an Atlanta offense with the same core fell to the middle of the pack with an average of 22.1 points per game, while dropping to ninth in offensive DVOA.
But it can take a season's worth of growing pains for an offense to adjust to a new system and a new coordinator. So while the Falcons haven't undergone many changes since they were NFC champions, those viewing the glass half-full might have hope that the talented offense can return to that form in Sarkisian's second season.
"It's his second year now calling plays in the NFL, he gets a good idea of what flies and what doesn't fly with the personnel we have and don't have," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this month. "I think that's gonna be where he's gonna make some major strides."
Baltimore Ravens: Alex Collins Is 'The Man' Going in
In 2015 and 2016, only two NFL teams rushed for fewer yards than the Baltimore Ravens, and that lack of balance could help explain why the Ravens failed to post a winning record or make the playoffs in each of those seasons.
But that running game finally received a boost courtesy of surprise breakout back Alex Collins. The 2016 fifth-round pick was waived by the Seattle Seahawks just prior to the start of the 2017 season, the Ravens signed him to their practice squad a few days later, they promoted him to the active roster a couple weeks after that, and he was starting and shining by the middle of October.
Despite the slow start, Collins rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and finished the season ranked ninth among qualified backs with a 4.6 yards-per-attempt average.
Can he become Baltimore's franchise back going forward?
"That's my main focus," the 23-year-old told Ryan Mink of the team's official website last month. "I know I'm capable of it. It's more so just me trying to show everyone else that capability as well."
Buffalo Bills: Fresh Faces at Quarterback
Despite the fact that Tyrod Taylor was the Buffalo Bills quarterback when they made the playoffs for the first time this century, they clearly did not believe he was the long-term answer. Taylor kept his interception totals low, but he averaged fewer than 7.0 yards per attempt the last two seasons and his passer rating dropped in each of those campaigns.
So kudos to the Bills for getting a third-round pick in exchange for Taylor in March before moving on to a pair of intriguing young passing options. They got good value later that month for AJ McCarron. And then they craftily moved up in the draft to add physical marvel Josh Allen with the No. 7 overall pick.
McCarron's making just $5 million a year, and Allen is considered a long-term project, so there isn't much pressure on either signal-caller right now. The Bills would surely love to get back to the playoffs, but this isn't a Super Bowl-caliber team at the moment. The silver lining is that the Bills and their fans will get to spend this season assessing two high-potential fresh faces at the game's most important position.
Carolina Panthers: Cam's Young Weapons
Cam Newton hasn't been able to replicate what he accomplished during his 2015 MVP season, and it's not a coincidence that his Carolina Panthers went to the Super Bowl that year but haven't won a playoff game since.
It's also not a coincidence that Newton received better support from his surrounding cast that year (Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen were both Pro Bowlers) than he has since (Stewart faded, Kelvin Benjamin flashed but then was traded, Olsen missed the majority of the 2017 season due to a foot injury).
But the Panthers have used three premium picks in the last two drafts on high-upside weapons.
2017 No. 8 overall pick Christian McCaffrey came on late in his rookie season and should have a chance to explode as a sophomore. 2017 second-rounder Curtis Samuel is a versatile receiver who should become a key cog if healthy. And this year's first-rounder D.J. Moore has the ability to play a major role right away.
If Olsen can also stay on the field, Newton will have plenty of intriguing options beyond veteran receivers Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith.
Chicago Bears: Mitchell Has an Arsenal
Mitchell Trubisky put together a half-decent rookie season as the Chicago Bears quarterback in 2017, but he didn't have much support and the locker room seemed to have become stale under head coach John Fox.
The good news for Trubisky as he prepares for his second season: that has all changed. Fox has been replaced by quarterback guru Matt Nagy, who got the best out of Alex Smith in Kansas City. And general manager Ryan Pace spent the first half of the offseason shopping for new offensive weapons to make life easier for both his signal-caller and new head coach.
The Bears paid up for the well-accomplished Allen Robinson, the speedy Taylor Gabriel and reigning Super Bowl champion tight end Trey Burton, all of whom should immediately become Trubisky's top targets alongside Kevin White.
One of the league's most conservative offenses in 2017 will look completely different in 2018, allowing us to get a better feel for what Trubisky can do.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Next Batch of Pass-Rushers Is Coming
What else have we got here? I mean, how many years in a row can you get excited about Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Marvin Lewis?
The Cincinnati Bengals seem satisfied with being just good, which is why they keep riding with Lewis (despite zero playoff wins in 15 seasons) and Dalton (despite a three-year decline in passer rating). The offensive line isn't what it once was, and they still lack weapons beyond Green.
That said, they got great value by adding former Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard in the third round, while 2017 third-rounder Jordan Willis also has a high ceiling.
Throw in the fact that 2017 fourth-rounder Carl Lawson led all NFL rookies with 8.5 sacks last year, and you've got a hell of a young pass-rushing group. Could one or more of them push veteran starters Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson?
Cleveland Browns: The Results of the Experiment Are Coming
It feels weird to say this about a team that has won just a single game over the course of the last two seasons, but this is an exciting time to be a Cleveland Browns fan.
Why? Because one of the most radical and highly publicized rebuilds in NFL history is basically complete. They've got their supposed franchise quarterback (Baker Mayfield), their new potential long-term left tackle (Austin Corbett), their new shutdown corner (Denzel Ward) and their new elite pass-rusher (Myles Garrett). They've shored up the offensive line (Kevin Zeitler, JC Tretter, Joel Bitonio, Shon Coleman, Chris Hubbard), and they've added reliable veterans on both sides of the ball (Jarvis Landry, Jamie Collins).
The core is in place now. All it took was 25 picks in the first three rounds of the last five drafts. The Browns are no longer flush with future draft capital, and they won't have as much cap space in future offseasons. The experiment is over, and now we get our first look at the results.
Dallas Cowboys: Zeke Is Good to Go
The Dallas Cowboys have to be encouraged that they fell just one victory short of the playoffs last year despite their best player suspended for 38 percent of the regular season.
The 2016 rushing champion is still only 22 years old, and it's not as though his numbers took a nosedive. Elliott accumulated 857 yards from scrimmage in his final six games of the year, which was better than his pace from that monster rookie campaign.
Despite missing seven games since the start of his career in 2016, Elliott is one of just two players with 25 touchdowns over the course of the last two years (along with Todd Gurley). So his mere presence should help quarterback Dak Prescott bounce back from a sophomore slump, while giving Dallas a chance to get back into the playoffs.
Denver Broncos: The Best-'Case' Scenario
Little went right for the Broncos during an 11-loss 2017 season, but Denver has been proactive in trying to right the ship this offseason. As a result, there's a lot to be optimistic about entering 2018.
The Broncos added potential game-changers on both sides of the ball. And while No. 5 overall pick Bradley Chubb is a strong Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, the shoutout here goes to new quarterback Case Keenum.
That's because Keenum is indeed a quarterback, and quarterbacks are sort of a big deal. Only six of them posted higher qualified passer ratings than Keenum did with the Minnesota Vikings last year, which is a good sign for a Broncos team that had the second-lowest team passer rating in the league in 2017.
Is Keenum a one-hit wonder or a late bloomer? If it's the latter, the Broncos might have signed a franchise quarterback in March for a more-than-reasonable $36 million over two years.
If he can perform the way he did in Minnesota, the Broncos will have a shot at the playoffs in 2018, regardless of what Chubb does opposite Von Miller.
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford's Trajectory
Detroit Lions fans are allowed to be discouraged by the team's failure to win more than nine games in five of the last six seasons. We're in the post-Calvin Johnson era, and the Lions don't appear as though they're on the brink of a Super Bowl run in a division that features the juggernaut Minnesota Vikings and the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers.
But it's entirely possible we've yet to see the best of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who just turned 30 and is coming off his highest-rated season.
Stafford has always been clutch, and that hasn't changed—he's orchestrated 12 game-winning drives in the last two seasons alone—but he's also been more accurate and responsible than ever in his last two seasons. If Stafford can climb to that next level, it won't matter that Johnson is gone and there are legitimate questions on both sides of the ball.
So long as Matthew Stafford is a Lion, there'll be hope for this team to experience playoff success for the first time since the 1991 season.
Green Bay Packers: They're Running out of Patience
While they're bigger contenders than the Lions, the Green Bay Packers look as though they've become frustrated from winning just a handful of playoff games in the seven seasons that have elapsed since they captured Super Bowl XLV.
As a result, a team that is usually prudent and conservative has committed some bold moves this offseason. New general manager, new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and even a new mentality on the open market.
Yeah, the Packers actually invested in not one, but two high-profile free agents this year, adding tight end Jimmy Graham to help Aaron Rodgers out in the red zone and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson to contribute up front.
Add in that Rodgers has seemingly been in a bad mood all offseason, and this team could be dangerous when they take the field in September.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson Is Worth the Wait
Extrapolate quarterback Deshaun Watson's seven-game start to the 2017 season over the course of the entire year and here's what you get...
- Watson leads the NFL with a combined 48 passing and rushing touchdowns
- His Houston Texans average a league-high 30.7 points per game
- Watson's 103.0 passer rating is the second-highest qualified mark for a rookie in NFL history
Of course, we'll never know what Watson actually had in store for us in the second half of 2017 since the football gods robbed of us of that opportunity after the No. 12 overall pick tore his right ACL in an early-November practice.
At the time, the dynamic Clemson product was the talk of the league while running away with Offensive Player of the Year honors.
On the bright side, the injury took place early enough in the year that Watson might be 100 percent before the Texans play another game that matters.
"Doing a good job in his rehab, I think he's on schedule to be able to participate in training camp," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said of Watson on NFL Network on Monday, per Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports. "We're excited about that. We've had a good four-week session with him in the offseason program."
Indianapolis Colts: They've Got Andrew Luck's Back
It's been well over a year since Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck last threw a regular-sized football, but Colts head coach Frank Reich said last week—per Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star—that Luck's "doing exceptionally well" as he continues to rehab from early-2017 shoulder surgery.
The half-decent chance that Luck returns in time to play regular-season football is something that should excite the Colts and their fans, especially since the team has finally gone out of its way to bolster their franchise quarterback's supporting cast.
Reich, who was hired in February, is a quarterback whisperer who helped turn Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate overnight. His presence should help, as should that of No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson, who should dominate from the get-go as a pass protector and run-blocker at left guard.
They also didn't draft a quarterback or chase any of the high-profile free-agent QBs. They're doubling down on Luck in multiple ways, which must indicate they're confident he can return to his Pro Bowl form soon.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Respect
Despite the fact they'd been accumulating talent for years and seemed primed to finally contend, the Jacksonville Jaguars were one of just two NFL teams that weren't scheduled to play a single prime-time game last season. Twelve of their 16 games kicked off at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, indicating that the football world still wasn't buying the young Jags after years of futility.
Then they went out and won the AFC South while ranking in the top five in points scored and allowed before earning a trip to the conference title game thanks to a 45-point performance in Pittsburgh.
This year, the Jaguars will play the Steelers on Sunday Night Football in November, they'll play the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football in December and they'll play the Philadelphia Eagles in an exclusive time slot from London in Otcober. Don't be surprised if they're also on national television when they play the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys in late-Sunday afternoon slots during the first half of the season.
Nobody, including the media, is taking the Jaguars lightly anymore. That's reason to celebrate.
Kansas City Chiefs: Meet Patrick Mahomes
Those who believe the Kansas City Chiefs had gone as far as they could with efficient but conservative quarterback Alex Smith have to be fired up: It's the dawn of a new era.
Smith was the league's highest-rated passer last season, but the Chiefs were booted early in the playoffs—in excruciating fashion—for the fourth time in a five-year span. And so it was time to make a change. The veteran was traded to the Washington Redskins in March, paving the way for cannon-armed 2017 No. 10 pick Patrick Mahomes II to take the reins.
Mahomes has a lot to prove, and there's always a chance a young quarterback will fall on his face. The floor is lower since he'll be replacing Smith, but the ceiling is also a hell of a lot higher. And I think Chiefs fans will take that and run.
Los Angeles Chargers: This Might Be the Year It Finally Comes Together
It seems like every year we find ourselves saying the Los Angeles Chargers were better than their record. Injuries and bad breaks always seem to get in the way for a franchise that often feels snake-bitten. But that dynamic also gives us a good reason to look forward to the 2018 Chargers season.
After all, the Bolts are even more stacked than when they won six of their final seven games last season. New center Mike Pouncey brings a strong veteran presence to the offensive line, safety Derwin James was an absolute steal in the middle of the first round on draft night, and they might even get a boost if their top two picks from last year—wide receiver Mike Williams and guard Forrest Lamp—are able to actually get on the field consistently in 2018.
It's hard to find a weak spot on the Chargers roster, which might explain why a rival general manager thinks they might be the team to beat in the AFC West.
"It's the wild, wild West," Broncos GM John Elway said last week, per Peter King of The MMQB. "If you look at the Chargers, I think the Chargers really did a nice job with the draft. So they've got the settled quarterback, even though the Raiders do too. But, you know, I think looking at it, (the Chargers) may be the ones to beat."
Los Angeles Rams: Donald + Suh = Love
After taking the football world by surprise in 2017, the Los Angeles Rams will have to prove their 11-win campaign wasn't a fluke by continuing to win with a target on their back in 2018. It might help that they weren't satisfied with the status quo in the offseason, with general manager Les Snead bringing in a trio of superstar defenders to work with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
And while it'll be fun to see what new cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib bring to the table, the arrival of three-time All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh could be a game-changer. Suh and Donald will team up to give opposing offenses absolute fits; there certainly isn't another defensive tackle duo of that caliber anywhere else in the NFL.
In a go-for-it year, that could be the element that puts a stacked Rams team over the top.
Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick Can Do Everything
The Miami Dolphins will likely miss Suh, just as they'll find themselves reminiscing about the departed Jarvis Landry on the other side. It could be a tough year in Miami, but the team and its fans might be able to take solace in the fact No. 11 overall pick Minkah Fitzpatrick looks like the real deal.
The NFL-ready Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate out of Alabama earned both the Bednarik (best defensive player) and Thorpe (best DB) Awards in 2017 and recorded eight interceptions and four touchdowns in the two preceding seasons. He can play safety, cover the slot, blitz the quarterback and I've heard he makes a mean cup of coffee.
The Dolphins don't know what they're going to get out of quarterback Ryan Tannehill in what might be a transitional season for the franchise, but Fitzpatrick will at the very least make it more fun to watch them on defense.
Minnesota Vikings: Take Last Year; Add Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook
The Minnesota Vikings went 13-3 last year, despite losing stud running back Dalvin Cook four weeks into what was becoming a sensational rookie season. They made the NFC Championship Game, despite haveing gone the entire year without their top two quarterbacks entering the year (Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater).
It's not as though Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon weren't solid in place of Cook, or that Case Keenum didn't put together a fantastic season in place of Bradford and Bridgewater. But if you take that 2017 team, add a full season of Cook and throw in new quarterback Kirk Cousins, you get the potential for something special.
Cousins' numbers weren't as strong as Keenum's in 2017, but he had far less support from a Redskins team that was crushed by injuries. With more help, he posted a triple-digit passer rating and a league-high 69.8 completion percentage in 2015 before making his first Pro Bowl in 2016.
That's why the Vikings made him the highest-paid player in NFL history (at least at the time).
This Minnesota team has more potential than last year's squad, which is scary considering how close that one came to glory.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady Is Unhappy
It's been a bumpy offseason for the New England Patriots. Key players Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Brandin Cooks are gone. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have encountered more bad press related to Brady's personal trainer, and there's even been buzz surrounding Brady's contract as well as his future with the team.
Not the ideal way to cope with the hangover stemming from a painful Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
But a lit fire under Brady could actually be a good thing for the Patriots. The last time Brady wasn't happy, he returned from a four-game suspension and led the Pats to 14 wins in a 15-game span that culminated with their Super Bowl LI victory.
Unhappy Tom Brady is the best Tom Brady. Watch out.
New Orleans Saints: Historic 2017 Rookie Class Should Get Better
The 2017 New Orleans Saints ranked tops in the NFL in DVOA, which is pretty amazing considering how heavily the Saints relied on their rookies.
It helped that their rookie class was one of the best in league history. They became the first team in half a century to possess both the Offensive (Alvin Kamara) and Defensive (Marshon Lattimore) Rookies of the Year, but it didn't stop there. First-round offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and second-round safety Marcus Williams also became tremendous assets as regular starters.
There's no reason to believe those four won't continue to improve coming off their first full offseasons in the league. And if that happens, a team that was a Super Bowl contender in 2017 might actually become a favorite in 2018.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. on 1 Field Together
The New York Giants struggled mightily in 2017, but they spent the majority without Odell Beckham Jr. (who missed all but four games due to an ankle injury) and all of it without Saquon Barkley (who was starting his junior year at Penn State).
Beckham—who caught 90-plus passes for 1,300-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns in each of his first three seasons—has been participating in individual drills at OTAs, according to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan.
Barkley—who accumulated 3,801 yards from scrimmage and scored 43 touchdowns during his final two seasons with the Nittany Lions—looks primed to make a huge impact right away and is the early favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Congratulations, Eli Manning.
New York Jets: Sam Darnold Brings Hope
The New York Jets haven't won a division crown since 2002 and haven't been to a Super Bowl since winning it in 1968. A big reason why? Just five Jets quarterbacks have made Pro Bowls in the last 40 years, and their recent efforts to find an answer under center have all failed.
But for only the second time in franchise history, the Jets just used a top-three draft pick on a signal-caller. The first occurrence was in 1965, when they took Joe Namath first overall. This time, it was polished USC product Sam Darnold in the No. 3 spot.
He might have to fight to replace Josh McCown and even Teddy Bridgewater on the depth chart, but ESPN's Dianna Russini noted earlier this month that head coach Todd Bowles would be willing to hand the 20-year-old the starting job if he outperforms those guys in training camp.
Even if the Jets stink, it'll be worth participating in Darnold Watch 2018.
Oakland Raiders: Something New and Something Old
Jon Gruden is new (hasn't coached in a decade) and old (coached the Oakland Raiders for four years at the turn of the century). So while Gruden has attracted a lot of criticism in his first offseason back in Oakland, his return will undoubtedly be one of the most buzz-worthy stories.
Can he help franchise quarterback Derek Carr bounce back from a down year? Gruden didn't have much success late in his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he hasn't worked with a signal-caller like Carr since the days of Rich Gannon. This Raiders team has a lot of top-end talent and is two seasons removed from a 12 wins.
All eyes will be on Gruden during the first season of his 10-year, $100 million deal.
Philadelphia Eagles: Super Bowl Winners Get Their Best Player Back
The Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl in 2017 and did so without starting quarterback Carson Wentz. It's rather remarkable considering he was an MVP candidate before a knee injury ended his season in December.
But the 25-year-old appears to be making progress in his recovery, and a Week 1 return looks like a distinct possibility.
"My goal is to not miss a game," Wentz told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio earlier this month. "I feel I missed plenty last year. I want to be out there with the guys. It's a fluid process. We'll see what happens, but I'm confident I'll be back Week 1 and ready to play against Atlanta."
Eagles fans have a lot to look forward to, including the banner ceremony that will precede the team's first game back in Philadelphia, but Wentz's return has to top that list.
Pittsburgh Steelers: What More Can JuJu Do?
OK, Pittsburgh Steelers fans are probably most looking forward to another year with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell running things on offense. But there's nothing particularly new or notable regarding that trio, which should continue to dominate in 2018.
The question is whether Pittsburgh's famous offensive core might have room for one more (rhyme not intended), because it often looked like wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had that potential during a magnificent rookie season.
Smith-Schuster led all rookies with 917 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, despite being the league's youngest player and seeing the field for under 64 percent of the team's offensive snaps.
The sky's the limit for the 21-year-old playmaker, especially now that Martavis Bryant has been shipped out of town.
Time to see what else JuJu can do (rhyme intended).
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy G from the Get-Go
After winning all five of the December games Jimmy Garoppolo started and averaging 28.8 points, the San Francisco 49ers decided to put all of their eggs in his basket. Now, Garoppolo is a very rich man and officially the franchise quarterback in San Francisco.
How will he look as a September starter after his first full offseason as a member of the 49ers? That's the $137.5 million question.
The Niners enter 2018 surrounded by hype; but if Jimmy G doesn't deliver, it'll all be for naught.
Seattle Seahawks: A Pretty Penny
With the Legion of Boom no longer what it was—and in the early stages of the post-Richard Sherman era—the Seattle Seahawks are trying to avoid falling behind in the chic NFC West. And the best way to accomplish that might be to make life easier on Russell Wilson.
Much has been made of the lack of pass protection, which continues to be a concern considering the sorry state of Seattle's offensive line. But renewed backfield balance would go a long way toward taking pressure off Wilson; the Seahawks running game ranked in the bottom 10 in each of the last two seasons.
Enter first-round pick Rashaad Penny, who is coming off a monster senior season (2,383 scrimmage yards, 25 touchdowns) at San Diego State and appears to have the experience, patience, vision and talent to play a major role from the get-go.
Penny is a dark-horse Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate and a potential silver-lining provider for a team that could have its hands full in 2018.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Philadelphia 2.0?
This is a copycat league. So when the Eagles rode a deep defensive line rotation to Super Bowl LII, teams took notice. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were clearly one of those teams, because they went out and loaded up on talented D-linemen.
They went straight to the example-setter on two occasions, signing former Eagles Beau Allen and Vinny Curry just days apart in March. They also traded for veteran Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and used a first-round pick on mountainous former Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea (6'4", 347 lbs).
Those four will team up with six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and veteran William Gholston to form one of the deepest rotations in the league. And if it works, look for more teams to follow suit.
Tennessee Titans: Mike Vrabel Is Energy
Many expected the Tennessee Titans to take a leap in Marcus Mariota's third season, and while they won a playoff game, Mariota hit a wall and the team won nine games for the second year in a row. They entered 2018 needing fresh energy, and it looks like they've found exactly that in new head coach Mike Vrabel.
Vrabel replaces Mike Mularkey, a retread who lacked the "it" factor you want in a head coach. Vrabel is a well-reputed natural leader who learned from the best when playing for Bill Belichick for the majority of his NFL career.
"Mike Vrabel is as well-suited for coaching as any player I have ever coached," Belichick said in a statement following Vrabel's retirement in 2011, according to Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe. "He has a tremendous feel for people, players, coaches and what his team needs regardless of the situation. He is outstanding in his knowledge of the game, which contributed to his excellence as a player. I have no doubt Mike will develop tough, intelligent, fundamentally sound winners."
This should be fun.
Washington Redskins: The Kirk Cousins Saga Is Over, and Alex Smith Ain't Bad
Regardless of how you feel the Washington Redskins handled quarterback Kirk Cousins—as the two parties played the franchise-tag game—the team and fanbase can take solace in the fact there are no longer any questions regarding the quarterback position.
Cousins is gone, Alex Smith is on board. And Smith is under contract for the next five years.
The 34-year-old may have his physical limitations and a reputation for coming up short in January, but quarterbacks' shelf lives are long, and Smith is coming off a career year in which he was the highest-rated passer in the NFL.
If that was a sign that he's blooming late, the Redskins could contend for years to come.
At the very least, that's something to look forward to in 2018.