NFL Teams with the Most Work Left to Do This Offseason
In a matter of days, rookies will report to early-starting NFL training camps in places such as Owings Mills, Maryland (Baltimore Ravens); Bourbonnais, Illinois (Chicago Bears) and Metairie, Louisiana (New Orleans Saints). Soon after, the 2018 season will arrive.
But every team still has work to do. Barely more than half of the 90 players on every roster will make final cuts, and only about a quarter of them will earn starting jobs.
Plenty of tough decisions loom.
Which teams have more on their plates this summer than others? Let's look at eight with particularly heavy workloads.
Any team coming off a zero-win season isn't likely to run out of offseason work to do. And while the Cleveland Browns loaded up on talent this winter and spring, they're left with a lot of decisions to make this summer.
With Joe Thomas gone, they'll be holding auditions for a vacant and vitally important starting left tackle job, which will require careful assessments of Shon Coleman, Austin Corbett and Greg Robinson in particular.
They also have to sort through a handful of potential starting cornerbacks (Denzel Ward, E.J. Gaines, T.J. Carrie, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Terrance Mitchell); they'll have to decide soon whether they believe in wide receiver Corey Coleman; and they may even face pressure to make a change at quarterback if rookie No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield outperforms veteran Tyrod Taylor.
It'll be an interesting, and busy, couple of months in Cleveland.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten were the only Dallas Cowboys to catch five or more touchdown passes in 2017. Both are gone, and there are no clear-cut replacements.
That leaves the Cowboys holding open competitions between Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson and Cole Beasley at wide receiver and Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers at tight end. If those battles aren't fruitful, it could leave them exploring the free-agent or trade markets.
Beyond that, they have to determine what their secondary is going to look like, especially if they officially move Byron Jones from safety to cornerback. And they have less than two weeks to negotiate a long-term deal with franchise player DeMarcus Lawrence, who has to sign a contract by July 16 or spend the season playing under the tag.
Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones will have their hands full this summer.
For the second consecutive offseason, the Carolina Panthers are installing a new offense. This time, it's with a new coordinator in Norv Turner. But unlike teams that changed head coaches this offseason, Ron Rivera's squad wasn't entitled to hold an extra minicamp in the spring.
That'll leave the Panthers with plenty of work to do when they kick off training camp July 25, especially because quarterback Cam Newton will be throwing to new receivers Torrey Smith and D.J. Moore while they also try to break in Curtis Samuel after an injury-derailed rookie campaign.
Throw in that they're also trying to determine who will back up Newton, and Rivera's coaching staff might be a little overwhelmed right now.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are experiencing the same offensive transition as Carolina as they move from Todd Haley's offense to the one being installed by Randy Fichtner, without the benefit of extra OTAs.
Look for Fichtner—a well-reputed play-caller from his days running the Memphis offense—to speed up the tempo on that side of the ball, with Ben Roethlisberger and Co. going no-huddle more often than in the past.
Getting used to that will require plenty of reps throughout training camp and the preseason, and that learning process won't be the same if running back Le'Veon Bell isn't on the field. According to NFL.com's Tom Pelissero, the Steelers don't expect their franchise-tagged star running back to show up before Sept. 1, but that would change if they were to sign him to a long-term deal before the July 16 deadline.
Both the coaching staff and the front office have work to do.
New England Patriots
In addition to possibly having to mend head coach Bill Belichick's relationships with stars Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots will face big personnel challenges this summer following several significant offseason losses.
Who'll start on Brady's blind side with left tackle Nate Solder gone? And Brady's receiving corps is dealing with a lot of change as well, with Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola now in Los Angeles and Miami, respectively, and Julian Edelman facing a four-game suspension to start the season.
It's easy to forget that they're also working without a defensive coordinator following the loss of Matt Patricia. You know Belichick will figure it all out, but he's definitely had lighter summers.
The Seattle Seahawks offensive line continues to be riddled with question marks, with youngsters Ethan Pocic and Germain Ifedi still trying to prove they belong in the starting lineup. Now they'll have to prove themselves in a new offense under the tutelage of incoming coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Mike Solari.
It's also the first time quarterback Russell Wilson has worked with a coordinator not named Darrell Bevell, which could make it harder to adjust to new supporting castmembers Brandon Marshall and Rashaad Penny.
It'll be a process on that side of the ball, and it'll be just as complicated on defense as they transition from Kris Richard to Ken Norton Jr. in the coordinator role. Superstar safety Earl Thomas has been holding out for a new contract, while Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor are all gone.
Have fun with that, Pete Carroll and John Schneider.
The Houston Texans are still trying to determine who will start at both tackle spots on their offensive line while also installing a new offense that will cater more to franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson.
"The teaching portion of this is going to be the challenge because of Deshaun's specific skill set that is so different and so lethal at the same time," NFL Network's James Palmer said in March. "But they are changing things up dramatically on the offensive side of the ball."
That won't be an easy task, especially with Watson still recovering from a torn ACL.
The Buffalo Bills are also installing a new offense under incoming coordinator Brian Daboll, but that alone doesn't mean they have more work to do than three quarters of the league. Instead, it's the fact that there's still plenty of mystery regarding who will quarterback that new offense.
The Bills just might have the only real quarterback competition in the NFL this summer, with rookie No. 7 overall pick Josh Allen potentially pushing free-agent pickup AJ McCarron and second-year fifth-rounder Nathan Peterman. All three have generated buzz already.
Plenty of evaluatin' to do.