Every NFL Team's Biggest Potential Distraction for 2018
Distractions are the bane of every NFL coach's existence.
NFL players are supposed to be laser-focused and goal-oriented. But that isn't reality. Life tends to get in the way. Personalities clash. And teams aren't always simpatico with their workforce.
Each team has to contend with potential issues it could face during the 2018 campaign. Some will deal with contract squabbles. Others must attempt to deftly navigate quarterback competitions. Injuries will occur. The unpredictable is what tends to keep coaches up at night, though.
The regular season doesn't start for another 15 weeks, yet plenty can and will happen between now and then to distract teams. The goal is to avoid those scenarios. A team can be proactive by addressing situations now instead of letting them linger for the next few months. Granted, it isn't always possible to do so.
The following issues could plague each NFL team in the 2018 season.
Arizona Cardinals: When Will Josh Rosen Become Their Starting QB?
Five organizations used first-round picks to select quarterbacks in this year's draft. The Arizona Cardinals' situation is different than the rest since Sam Bradford has an extensive injury history and Josh Rosen may be the most capable of the first-year signal-callers to move into the starting lineup early on.
"This guy is extremely smart," head coach Steve Wilks said, per Darren Urban of the team's official site. "I mean, his ability to see certain things from the defense, and pick it up quickly, and execute. ... I don't want to say this, but he has the mindset of a vet. The way he sees the game."
Arizona made a significant investment in Bradford by signing the eight-year veteran to a one-year, $20 million contract with $15 million guaranteed. The Cardinals don't want to admit they're rebuilding, but going with Rosen instead of Bradford may be a good indication that the organization reset is underway.
Atlanta Falcons: How Much Will Julio Jones Make on His Next Contract?
The Atlanta Falcons accomplished little this offseason beyond re-signing quarterback Matt Ryan to the richest contract in NFL history. However, Julio Jones is waiting to renegotiate his current contract, and the franchise must make sure the game's most physically dominant wide receiver remains happy.
"If Matt Ryan is getting $30 million per year, Julio Jones damn sure should be getting at least $20 million per year, because he's their best player," an NFC executive told ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure.
Jones is current the eighth-highest-paid receiver on an annual basis, and Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry and Sammy Watkins all garnered bigger average salaries this offseason. To send a message, Jones didn't attend organized team activities.
Baltimore Ravens: How Will Joe Flacco Handle Lamar Jackson's Presence?
Joe Flacco knows he's being replaced. It falls upon him to delay the inevitable.
"Obviously, when you pick a quarterback, when you pick anybody in the first round, it means something," Flacco said, per Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab. "... I don't know exactly what it is, but that's not my job to worry about what it is. My job, like I said, is to keep my approach exactly what it's been for the last 10 years and help our team go win football games."
Flacco's approach hasn't worked in recent years. His yards per attempt decreased in each of the past four seasons, and the team is 32-32 overall during that period.
Lamar Jackson is exciting and brings a different element to the offense. Even if he doesn't push Flacco to start this year, John Harbaugh and his staff plan to get the rookie on the field as a change of pace, according to Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com.
Buffalo Bills: Will a Subpar Surrounding Cast Hinder Josh Allen's Development?
The Bills accomplished their primary goal when they traded up in the first round (twice) to select quarterback Josh Allen.
Allen is generally considered the biggest boom-or-bust prospect among this year's class. He touts impressive physical tools, but he lacks refinement and struggled with efficiency in college. The Bills have a stopgap in AJ McCarron, but neither quarterback will benefit from a strong surrounding cast this season.
Buffalo has concerns at wide receiver and on the offensive line. Kelvin Benjamin has yet to develop into a true No. 1 target, while Zay Jones must become more consistent. Up front, Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood and Richie Incognito are no longer with the team.
"It's a 12-month process to build this roster," general manager Brandon Beane said in March, per ESPN.com's Mike Rodak. "We have to make sure we have the team the way we want it [in September]."
Carolina Panthers: What Changes Will New Team Owner David Tepper Make?
New Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper isn't Jerry Richardson. That's why the 31 other teams unanimously voted in favor of the former hedge-fund manager to take over the Panthers.
Tepper enters a difficult situation, as allegations of workplace misconduct by Richardson, including sexual harassment and use of a racial slur, still loom over the organization.
"For me to exactly speak about that, exactly what I was going to do, is almost impossible," Tepper said, per the Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person and Katherine Peralta. "But I'll say this—and this has nothing to do with whatever's there, because I don't know. But for me...I'm a person that believes in equality for everybody, including men and women."
New ownership also brings uncertainty. General manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera are working on borrowed time even though Tepper is reportedly "incredibly comfortable" with the current setup, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
Chicago Bears: Does Kevin White Still Have a Future in Chicago?
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace did a wonderful job this offseason building the offense around quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. With new imports Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller on the roster, anything from 2015 seventh overall pick Kevin White would be a bonus.
The 25-year-old White remains defiant in the face of three lost seasons due to injury.
"Ah, don't know," the wide receiver responded when asked if the Bears still believe in him, per the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam L. Jahns. "Really don't bother me at all. I believe in myself."
White has the potential to put the Bears offense over the top. However, his unavailability forced the organization to pass on his fifth-year option.
Anytime a first-round pick fails, it's worthy of attention. The Bears may be in a good place, but White isn't.
Cincinnati Bengals: Can They Pay Both Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins?
The Bengals are in a difficult financial position, as Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins are each free agents after the 2018 season. One of the two Pro Bowl performers doesn't appear to be happy, either, since Dunlap didn't attend organized team activities.
"I haven't asked Carlos whether he will be here for minicamp," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said, per the Hamilton Journal-News' Jay Morrison. "It's not a story. It's not a big deal."
Of course it's a story. Coaches always try to downplay any disruptive behavior, though.
Atkins and Dunlap form a dominant inside-outside duo along the Bengals defensive front. But the organization may not be able to afford both beyond this season, and the situation has the potential to fester.
A tough decision is looming since both defenders will demand top dollar if or when they reach free agency.
Cleveland Browns: How Long Can Tyrod Taylor Keep Baker Mayfield Off the Field?
Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson has already stated multiple times that Tyrod Taylor will be the team's starting quarterback in 2018. However, the Browns used the first overall pick to select Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield's determination is the stuff of legend, as he's the first-ever walk-on to win the Heisman Trophy. Eventually, Taylor will give way to Mayfield.
The Browns faithful lust for high-level quarterback play. Taylor may be a logical option to start the season, but Cleveland's front office saw something special in Mayfield. The second Taylor struggles, his standing will be called into question.
"He's a competitor, as well as myself," Taylor said, per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. "I think that's what drives us, that's what gets us to the point that we're at now in our career. Like I said, that doesn't faze me."
Dallas Cowboys: Can They Make Zack Martin the NFL's Highest-Paid O-Lineman
Offensive linemen tend to be overlooked, even when they're counted among the league's best. Dallas Cowboys right guard Zack Martin made the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro honors in each of his first four NFL seasons.
He now wants to be paid.
Martin didn't attend organized team activities, and a holdout may be looming.
"He's a great leader, been a great leader right from the start," head coach Jason Garrett said, per NBCDFW.com's Jean-Jacques Taylor. "But, again, this is the business side of the NFL and he and his representatives are working through things with the Joneses about getting this deal done."
Dallas has less than $5 million in salary-cap space, according to Spotrac. The team may be better served striking a long-term deal with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who is currently operating under the franchise tag, before addressing Martin's situation.
Denver Broncos: Is Vance Joseph Really John Elway's Guy?
Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph almost didn't make it past his first season with the team. A third may be asking too much if Denver doesn't significantly improve upon last year's 5-11 record.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Broncos nearly fired Joseph. However, general manager John Elway changed course after meeting with his coach.
"Vance and I had a great talk this morning about our plan to attack this offseason and get better as a team, Elway tweeted on New Year's Day. "We believe in Vance as our head coach. Together, we'll put in the work to improve in all areas and win in 2018."
The Broncos did make changes to their staff, though. They promoted Bill Musgrave and Joe Woods to offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively.
These type of changes are typically last-ditch attempts to save jobs. The next overhaul likely will include the head coach.
Detroit Lions: Will Matt Patricia's Past Haunt Them?
The NFL concluded the Detroit Lions adhered to all employment laws when they hired new head coach Matt Patricia, who had been accused of a sexual assault in 1996, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. However, the story isn't going away.
Patricia's history will hang over the organization even though authorities dismissed the case in 1997 because of the accuser's inability to testify.
"The truth is on my side," Patricia said on May 10, per ESPN.com. "I lived with the mental torture of the situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain that it would create for another person."
As his mentor Bill Belichick taught him, Patricia can only focus on doing his job moving forward. However, many won't look at him the same way regardless.
Green Bay Packers: How Can They Keep Aaron Rodgers Happy?
Aaron Rodgers doesn't seem happy with the Green Bay Packers' moves this offseason, nor should he be.
The Packers didn't renew the contract for quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, and they released longtime wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Rodgers is also still waiting on a well-deserved contract extension.
According to Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson, Rodgers has been "frustrated" and "emotional" over not being included in Green Bay's decision-making. An organization doesn't have to consult its star player, but it would be wise to do so if those decisions affect him and he holds leverage in contract negotiations.
"I know he's thinking about that stuff when it comes to the next contract, because he should have earned a voice by now," a source told Robinson. "In other places with [elite] quarterbacks, consideration is given to those guys."
Making Rodgers the league's highest-paid player is a good starting point toward reconciliation.
Houston Texans: How Much Is Jadeveon Clowney Worth?
When the Houston Texans used the 2014 first overall pick to select Clowney, the organization envisioned the defensive end terrorizing opponents alongside J.J. Watt for years to come. Clowney's career hasn't gone exactly as planned, but he's still been a standout performer when healthy.
As a result, the Texans plan to sign the edge-rusher to a "mega-extension," according to The MMQB's Albert Breer.
"I want to be here, too," Clowney said, per the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. "Hopefully, they lock me in. I want to be here forever. I know it will come soon. It would mean a lot."
Only four defenders command $100 million-plus contracts, including Watt. Clowney's value shouldn't be near that level since he has injury concerns and 20 sacks in four seasons. If the Texans offer a deal nearing Watt's level, the organization's decision should be questioned.
Indianapolis Colts: Will Andrew Luck Be the Same Upon His Return?
The Indianapolis Colts have been more than patient with Luck's recovery from 2017 offseason shoulder surgery. He's still not throwing full-sized footballs, but he participated in individual drills and took dropbacks during organized team activities.
The goal isn't to have him ready now; he needs to be on the field Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I'm completely comfortable with him throwing when he's ready, when the doctors say he's ready," head coach Frank Reich said, per Andrew Walker of the Colts official site. "He's totally engaged in every aspect of what we're doing mentally. The physical part for a guy like him, you've got to work at it, but I'm not worried about that.
"That's plenty of time."
The Colts' primary goal is getting and keeping Luck healthy. Although, no one knows exactly how he'll look upon his return.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Is Blake Bortles the Right Quarterback to Lead Them?
The Jacksonville Jaguars now operate on a Super Bowl standard after falling a half short of making the franchise's first championship game appearance.
An old-school approach placed them in the situation with the league's top-rated run game and an awesome defense. Bortles was nothing more than average after finishing 16th or worse in completion percentage (60.2), yards per attempt (7.0), touchdowns (21) and quarterback rating (84.7).
"You can hate all you want, but at the end of the day, Ws matter, playoff wins matter," tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said, per Jacksonville.com's Phillip Heilman. "He's been guiding this team. He's been doing a really good job."
Bortles signed a three-year, $54 million extension this offseason, but it's essentially a one-year, prove-it deal since the Jaguars can save $5.5 million by releasing him next offseason if he doesn't perform to expected levels.
Kansas City Chiefs: Can Sammy Watkins Live Up to Expectations?
The Chiefs stunned the NFL when they signed Watkins to a three-year, $48 million contract.
The 24-year-old receiver's fit has yet to be determined with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill both demanding over 100 targets. Plus, running back Kareem Hunt is a factor in the passing game.
Watkins' value lies in his ability to stretch the field, even if he's not a primary threat.
"The first day was crazy," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of his new receiver, per the Chiefs' official site. "... The first pass in OTAs he was running a go route and caught it in one hand. And then later on in the practice I thought I overthrew him ... but I just saw a hand come out of nowhere and he brought it down."
Los Angeles Chargers: What Can They Expect from Their Tight Ends?
The Chargers are loaded at wide receiver, but their tight end depth took a massive hit Wednesday when Hunter Henry suffered a season-ending knee injury during organized team activities.
"I'm not going to minimize it: He's a Pro Bowl talent with Pro Bowl intangibles," general manager Tom Telesco said, per the Associated Press.
Tight end has been a big part of the Chargers offense for a long time. Antonio Gates was one of the most productive tight ends in the league for most of his 15 years with the Chargers, and Henry finished third on the team last season with 45 receptions. Los Angeles doesn't have a proven receiving tight end on the roster after Henry's injury.
Gates' return is a possibility. He's currently a free agent.
"Just looking at where we're at right now, we've got to look at really all of our options and what are out there, and kind of take it from there," Telesco said.
Los Angeles Rams: How Long Will They Prolong Aaron Donald's Negotiations?
The idea seems so simple to some.
"Pay the man. I mean, s--t," Rams cornerback Marcus Peters said of Donald, per the NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano.
The game's best defender enters his second offseason without receiving the massive extension his play warrants. Donald didn't report to the Rams until Sept. 9 last year, and he still managed a team-leading 11 sacks.
The two sides could experience another lengthy holdout if an agreement isn't reached. Donald already missed organized team activities, and there's no reason to believe he'll report to minicamp or training camp without a new deal.
General manager Les Snead hinted Donald is on the verge of "being the highest-paid defensive player in football" in a conversation with Peter King on The MMQB Podcast in early April, yet no announcement has been made.
Miami Dolphins: Is Ryan Tannehill Their Long-Term Answer at QB?
Everything started to come together under Adam Gase's direction until Tannehill suffered an injury toward the end of the 2016 campaign and then tore an ACL at training camp.
The 29-year-old quarterback returned to the field during organized team activities.
"His calmness," Gase described when asked what stood out about Tannehill, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Chris Perkins. "When you have the offense to the point where you're reacting, you're not thinking, I think he's really to that point. And he can do next-level things to where he can get us out of bad plays. He can do run checks to get us out of bad looks."
Everyone is playing nice even though the Dolphins were linked to multiple quarterbacks this offseason. For example, there were rumors that Gase was "smitten" with Baker Mayfield, according to The MMQB's Albert Breer. Tannehill has a year to prove himself. Otherwise, the Dolphins will be looking for another signal-caller.
Minnesota Vikings: Can They Pay Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs and Danielle Hunter?
Drafting is the lifeblood of any franchise. The downfall of drafting well, however, is the difficulty trying to retain all of the team's talent.
The Vikings spent lavishly this offseason with Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson's acquisitions, yet the organization still has the eighth-most available cap space, according to Spotrac.
Most of that money has already been accounted for since Barr, Diggs and Hunter are free agents after the season.
"I would be lying if I said you don’t feel some pressure," salary-cap guru Rob Brzezinski told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Chip Scoggins, "because you want to be able to keep this team together and keep all your best players."
Minnesota plans to sign all three, but wishing for something is often different than reality. All three are 26 years old or younger, and they'll demand top dollar.
New England Patriots: Will Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski Rip Their Dynasty Apart?
Cassius Marsh spent 80 days as a member of the Patriots, and his experience seems to perfectly sum up the organization's approach.
"They don't have fun there," the defensive lineman told the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch. "There's nothing fun about it. There's nothing happy about it."
What does fun matter if a team is winning? Well, the cracks are obvious after all of these years. They began to show early last season, according to Seth Wickersham's ESPN report. The organization isn't comfortable with Brady's TB12 method or Gronkowski following suit.
Neither Brady nor Gronkowski attended organized team activities as both await new contracts.
"These are voluntary workouts," owner Robert Kraft said when asked about their absence, per the Sports Xchange.
The two plan to attend mandatory minicamp, according to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, but a message has been sent: Even the Patriots need to keep their star players happy.
New Orleans Saints: How Will Mark Ingram's Absence Affect Them?
Ingram plans to voluntarily and involuntarily miss critical time with the Saints this season. First, he skipped organized team activities as he awaits a contract extension.
"It's important to separate personal feelings and professional feelings," head coach Sean Payton said, per the Salamanca Press' Joel A. Erickson. "I care too much for him and think the world of him, and I told him when we spoke, I don't necessarily agree with it."
The timing couldn't be worse since the veteran running back is also suspended for the first four regular-season games after violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara can still be found in the Saints backfield, but Ingram is the team's workhorse after two straight 1,000-yard seasons. Payton will likely rely on Trey Edmunds and Jonathan Williams, who have 36 combined career carries, to complement Kamara until Ingram is back.
New York Giants: Will Odell Beckham Jr.'s Attitude Change?
Beckham is simultaneously one of the league's greatest players and counted among its most combustible. How he channels his attitude determines his worth to the New York Giants.
Value is important as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. His presence at organized team activities is no small gesture.
"I think he's showing them that it's about the team," safety Landon Collins said, per Newsday's Tom Rock. "Take all the attention off of him and put it on the team so by him being there the attention is that he's there, he's with the team, he's a team guy. It’s really big for the team. Him doing that shows his maturity and that he's grown."
Beckham paired with Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram give Eli Manning arguably the NFL's most talented skill positions. But the star receiver must be fully committed to the team, not himself.
New York Jets: Which Veteran QB Will Keep Sam Darnold on the Bench?
Josh McCown is the Jets' presumed starter because head coach Todd Bowles said so. But Teddy Bridgewater is a wild card, and this year's third overall pick, Sam Darnold, is waiting in the wings.
Darnold will eventually take over the offense. The Jets, however, have plenty of leeway with the rookie's development since he's still 20 years old.
Bridgewater is a lottery ticket after missing the majority of the last two seasons due to a significant knee injury. According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, the 25-year-old signal-caller "has impressed his new teammates with his football acumen and mental toughness."
Said Jermaine Kearse: "For him to keep his optimism and continue to battle, I respect the s--t out of that. Can't have nothing but respect for that."
Quarterbacks win their teammates over with hard work long before the regular season starts. Bridgewater is already staking his claim to start.
Oakland Raiders: Which Version of Jon Gruden Will They Get?
The public knows two different versions of Jon Gruden. He's either the brilliant young Super Bowl-winning head coach or the Monday Night Football color analyst. The latter developed into a caricature after years of national exposure.
Gruden's mannerisms and colloquialisms became grist for comedians and fans alike.
After 10 years away from the sideline, Gruden must show the game hasn't passed him by.
"He's a bowling ball of butcher knives. He's great," general manager Reggie McKenzie said, per Raiders Wire's Luke Straub. "I love the fire, I love the enthusiasm. We can talk football all day, watch film, it's been really good. I'm excited to watch him on the grass, you know, get out there and watch practice. It's fun."
All eyes will be on Gruden, but it can't be about the coach for the team to succeed.
Philadelphia Eagles: Will They Trade Nick Foles?
A Super Bowl-winning quarterback will be available sooner or later, once the Philadelphia Eagles find the right spot for backup Nick Foles.
Foles is already a hot commodity. According to NFL.com's Michael Silver, the Cleveland Browns attempted to trade this year's 35th overall pick to acquire 29-year-old signal-caller. Foles, who agreed to a revised one-year deal with a mutual 2019 option this offseason, preferred to stay in Philadelphia.
"Do I want to lead a team again? Absolutely," Foles said in April, per ESPN.com. "But am I trying to run away and do that right now? Well, if it presents itself and that works out, then fine, I'll live in that moment. But at the same time, I'm so grateful to be a part of this organization."
Once Carson Wentz is healthy, the Eagles should attempt a Jimmy Garoppolo-like deal by sending Foles to a QB-starved franchise.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Will They Ever Reach a Long-Term Deal with Le'Veon Bell?
Another year of wondering whether Le'Veon Bell will be in a Steelers uniform beyond the upcoming season is forthcoming. The organization franchised the running back for a second straight year, and the two sides are at an impasse regarding a long-term extension.
As a result, Bell already skipped organized team activities despite Antonio Brown's plea.
"Well, the first rule of getting better is showing up," the wide receiver said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Chris Adamski. "... Come out here and show up, show you want to get better and show guys you're serious."
The running back isn't shy about his demands. He asked for $15 million per season during a song he debuted last year. The Steelers may be better served leaning on Bell for one more season then moving on.
San Francisco 49ers: Will Any More Off-Field Concerns Arise for Reuben Foster?
Last Wednesday, a judge dismissed domestic violence charges against Reuben Foster after his ex-girlfriend said she fabricated the story. Two days later, Alabama authorities dismissed a marijuana possession charge.
However, Foster still has some obstacles in his path. First, he faces a misdemeanor weapons charge. Also, an NFL investigation into these matters remains ongoing, and the linebacker could face suspension.
The 2017 first-round pick must regain the trust of the 49ers organization as well.
"It has been made clear to Reuben that his place on this team is one that must continue to be earned," general manager John Lynch said, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
The 49ers already experienced multiple off-field issues with Aldon Smith. Foster could proceed down a similar path or learn to become a better professional on and off the field.
Seattle Seahawks: How Much Longer Will Earl Thomas Be in Seattle?
The Seattle Seahawks will never be the same without Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Earl Thomas is a remnant of a bygone era.
According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the Seahawks engaged in discussions to trade the All-Pro safety prior to the NFL draft.
As the organization transitions, general manager John Schneider holds a valuable trade chip, albeit on the last year of his contract. Thomas skipped organized team activities, and the team isn't sure if he'll show up for mandatory minicamp.
"Veterans sometimes look at those rules and they see 'voluntary' and they see it differently than the other guys, so we'll see," head coach Pete Carroll said, per ESPN.com's Brady Henderson.
Two outcomes are possible: Either Schneider trades Thomas, or the safety signs a long-term extension. But the franchise can't allow him to play this season on his current deal.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Will Head Coach Dirk Koetter Survive Another Season?
Dirk Koetter's career is inextricably linked to Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. Last year's 5-11 record and Winston's regression don't bode well for the head coach. Yet, Buccaneers ownership decided to retain him for the 2018 campaign.
"I think he has taught me a lot, especially just me playing quarterback," Winston said after the team announced Koetter's return, per ESPN.com's Jenna Laine. "You just don't understand that relationship in that quarterback room. We spend so much time together—me, him, Coach Mike Bajakian [and] those other quarterbacks—it's like a family."
Progress needs to be made in 2018, though. Tampa Bay was a trendy playoff pick prior to last season. The Bucs still have that potential as long as Winston plays well and the NFL's 32nd-ranked defense improves. It falls on Koetter to right the sinking ship.
Tennessee Titans: Will Marcus Mariota Ever Realize His Potential?
The Tennessee Titans are in a difficult position because their franchise player is far from reaching his potential. Mariota reached the point to renegotiate his rookie contract after being the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, but the Titans' investment is dependent on two factors.
First, Mariota must stay healthy. The quarterback has been seen without a knee brace for the first time since he sprained an MCL during his rookie campaign.
"It might be a different story when the pads roll on, but for now, yeah, I feel comfortable, I feel good. The whole knee brace, it felt restricting," Mariota said, per ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe. "But at the same time, I have to be smart and try to be safe out there. We'll see, I'm not sure."
Second, the fourth-year pro must also improve upon last year's 13-to-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio in Matt LaFleur's new offensive scheme.
Washington Redskins: Will Team President Bruce Allen Eventually Leave?
The Washington organization hasn't been known for its stability since Daniel Snyder became the owner. Team president Bruce Allen helped create some of the discord. Last year, for example, Allen and Co. forced general manager Scot McCloughan out with no successor in place.
The organization never hired a replacement. Instead, Allen promoted Doug Williams to senior vice president of player personnel.
More instability could be forthcoming, since Allen has been linked to the Oakland Raiders.
"Well, first of all, I do like the Silver and Black," he said during an interview with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on Sirius XM NFL Radio (via NBC Sports Washington's Rich Tandler). "And I think Mark Davis, Reggie [McKenzie] and Jon [Gruden] are going to do great, and I'm so excited for them to go to Vegas. But I’m not going there."
We've all heard this story before.