Every NFL Team's Riskiest Move of the 2020 Offseason

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 2, 2020

Every NFL Team's Riskiest Move of the 2020 Offseason

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    Risk is a fact of life in the NFL. Every single decision made by a team is based at least in part on risk versus reward, whether it's play calls during the game or personnel decisions after.

    That holds true even in this strangest of NFL offseasons.

    Every team in the league rolled the dice to an extent over the past few months. For some teams, it was a matter of paying big money to a veteran free agent. For others, it was investment of substantial draft capital on youth.

    Then there are the things that teams didn't do. There are the free agents that teams decided not to sign, or couldn't afford. The problem areas that teams were unable (or unwilling) to address.

    In a perfect world, NFL teams would rather not gamble the future of their franchise on anything less than a sure thing. But just as in life, there are very few sure things in professional football. You can play the odds. Do the research. But at some point, you have to take a deep breath, belly up to the table, spin the wheel…

    And hope that the offseason's riskiest move pays off.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Signing OT D.J. Humphries to a Three-Year, $43.8 Million Extension

    Back in 2015, the Arizona Cardinals made offensive tackle D.J. Humphries the 24th overall pick in Round 1. He hasn't exactly lived up to that price tag since. Humphries didn't play at all as a rookie, and the following year he was a turnstile, surrendering nine sacks.

    In fairness to Humphries, there has been some improvement, especially in pass protection. In 2019, he started all 16 games at left tackle for the Redbirds, allowing just two sacks in 1,046 total snaps.

    However, Humphries isn't an elite tackle by any stretch of the imagination. He's being paid like one, though; in February, the Cardinals inked him to a three-year contract averaging almost $15 million a season with $29 million in guarantees.

    That average salary ranks seventh among offensive tackles—a steep price for a player who has had just one decent season over his five-year career.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Signing Edge Dante Fowler to a Three-Year, $45 Million Contract

    It's hardly a surprise that the Atlanta Falcons took steps to upgrade the pass rush in 2020. The Falcons managed just 28 sacks last year. Only the Miami Dolphins had less success getting after the quarterback

    The realities of making those upgrades in free agency in the modern NFL are simple—and expensive. Adding a high-end edge-rusher can cost a team well in excess of $15 million a season.

    The question is whether that money was well spent by the Falcons.

    Yes, Dante Fowler was once a top-five overall pick. The 25-year-old is also coming off the best year of his professional career, an 11.5-sack season with the Los Angeles Rams.

    However, 2019 also marked the first time in four years that Fowler had double-digit sacks. He'll be moving back to a 4-3 "Under" front in Atlanta after playing rush linebacker with the Rams. And the Falcons are short on options behind Fowler to take pressure off him.

    He's going to have to earn that big raise this year.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Rolling with Rookie Inside Linebackers

    The Baltimore Ravens have done pretty well where risks are concerned in recent years. The move up to select Lamar Jackson at the back end of Round 1 in 2018 appears to have worked out OK.

    Still, given where the Ravens have their sights set in 2020, any risk is amplified. And the team is taking one by entrusting the middle of the defense to a youth movement.

    It's not a matter of talent. First-round pick Patrick Queen might well have been the best off-ball linebacker prospect in this draft class, and Ohio State's Malik Harrison (whom the Ravens picked up in Round 3) is no slouch either. Both have a real shot at being Week 1 starters.

    However, in an AFC North that's chock-full of high-end talent at running back, there's going to be considerable pressure on those young linebackers to make an immediate impact for a team that was fifth in the league in run defense in 2019.

    When the expectations are through the roof, the margin for error is minimal.

Buffalo Bills

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    The Stefon Diggs Deal

    The Buffalo Bills had a very good offseason in 2020, one that potentially sets the team up as the favorites in the AFC East. The centerpiece of that offseason was the trade that brought Stefon Diggs to western New York and sent Buffalo's 2020 first-, fifth and sixth-round picks and a 2021 fourth-rounder to the Twin Cities.

    To be clear, calling this move Buffalo's riskiest of the offseason doesn't mean it was a bad idea. Diggs gives the team a true No. 1 receiver. Coupled with John Brown and Cole Beasley, the Bills have now quietly assembled a solid trio of pass-catchers for Josh Allen.

    But even good ideas carry risk. Bringing Diggs in cost the Bills a substantial amount of draft capital and well over $10 million in salary. It also changes the offensive dynamic in Buffalo by adding a player who has been known to voice his displeasure when his role in said offense doesn't meet his expectations.

    Diggs' addition most likely makes the Bills a better football team offensively, but it's not a certainty.

Carolina Panthers

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    Switching Quarterbacks from Cam Newton to Teddy Bridgewater

    The Carolina Panthers are undergoing a number of major changes in 2020. There's a new head coach in town in Matt Rhule. Defensive leader Luke Kuechly retired. And the franchise is beginning a new chapter at quarterback after releasing Cam Newton and signing Teddy Bridgewater.

    Newton admittedly has struggled over the past couple of years. Hampered by injuries to his shoulder and foot, he lost his last eight starts with the Panthers. Meanwhile, Bridgewater impressed with the New Orleans Saints in 2019, completing almost 68 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and two interceptions while posting a 5-0 record filling in for Drew Brees.

    Still, Newton was the MVP of the National Football League back in 2015, while Bridgwater's five starts for the Saints were his first in a game that mattered since he went 11-5 as the starter in Minnesota back in that same 2015 season.

    Even if you believe it's a gamble that makes sense, it can't be denied that it's a gamble.

Chicago Bears

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    The Quarterback Controversy

    The Chicago Bears were the NFC North champions in 2018. But last year, the team (and its young quarterback) took a sizable step in the wrong direction. That backslide led the Bears to make a big move in the offseason…and it remains to be seen which direction that one will take them in.

    In bringing in veteran signal-caller Nick Foles in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars and then passing on Mitchell Trubisky's fifth-year option, the Bears seem to have indicated they are willing to turn the page under center.

    But while Trubisky scuffled last season, it's not like Foles was any better; he played in just four games and managed only 736 passing yards in his lone season with the Jags. Over his time in the NFL, Foles has played well when wearing Eagles green and struggled just about everywhere else.

    Maybe Foles will recapture his Super Bowl MVP form. Maybe Trubisky can turn his career around.

    Or maybe the Bears, despite having two quarterbacks, actually don't have any.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Giving CB Trae Waynes a Three-Year, $42 Million Contract

    An argument can be made for Joe Burrow being a risky play by the Cincinnati Bengals. Still, it was hardly a surprise that the LSU quarterback was the first overall pick, and speaking ill of him is a quick way to bring out the pitchforks and torches in the Queen City.

    So it's a big free-agent signing that's the call here. A rather, um, curious signing, especially for a Bengals team that's not exactly known for being big spenders.

    Trae Waynes was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings back in 2015. But for most of his professional career, he hasn't played like one. In 2019, he allowed 74 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed. He gave up five touchdown passes and a passer rating against of 107.9.

    Those numbers wouldn't appear to merit an average of $14 million a season and $15 million in guarantees. But that's what Waynes got from the Bengals.

Cleveland Browns

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    Failing to Upgrade at Linebacker

    The Cleveland Browns did an excellent job of addressing arguably the team's biggest need this offseason. The additions of Jack Conklin in free agency and Jedrick Wills in the 2020 draft should go a long way toward addressing the team's issues at offensive tackle.

    However, there's another need on the other side of the ball that wasn't addressed at all. Cleveland's top two off-ball linebackers both departed in free agency: Christian Kirksey signed with the Green Bay Packers, while Joe Schobert got a big deal from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The Browns did add a veteran stopgap in B.J. Goodson, but he's a replacement-level talent. As things stand right now, second-year pros Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki will both be counted on to play much larger roles in 2020.

    And while both young linebackers flashed here and there as rookies, both also struggled at times, leaving the middle of the Cleveland defense a sizable question mark this year.

Dallas Cowboys

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    The Dak Prescott Contract Impasse

    It's entirely possible that this will wind up being much ado about nothing. It's awfully difficult to imagine a scenario in which Dak Prescott winds up playing quarterback for any team but the Dallas Cowboys in the foreseeable future.

    But still, the fact that it's in any way even a possibility is alarming in its own right.

    After signing his franchise tender, Prescott is under contract for the 2020 season at $31.4 million. It's still possible that he and the Cowboys could agree to terms on a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline, but at this point, that doesn't appear especially likely.

    Per ESPN's Todd Archer, the Cowboys offered Prescott a deal worth about $33 million a season last year. Prescott declined before going on to have the best season of his career. Now the two sides are at an impasse, with the team lobbying for Prescott to take a smaller deal to help the organization and Prescott seemingly unwilling to do so.

    Assuming that no deal is reached, Prescott''s future in Dallas is going to continue to loom over the team. And that's a distraction a Cowboys team with Super Bowl aspirations doesn't need.

Denver Broncos

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    Declining the Fifth-Year Option on OT Garett Bolles

    It's not at all surprising that the Denver Broncos took a pass on the fifth-year option for offensive tackle Garett Bolles. The 20th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft hasn't come especially close to living up to his draft slot. In just over 1,000 snaps last year, Bolles allowed four sacks and committed a staggering 17 penalties. The year before that, it was two sacks and 13 penalties. As a rookie, he surrendered a jaw-dropping eight sacks and committed 15 penalties.

    That's 45 penalties in three years for the math-averse.

    However, punting on that option year does carry risk, especially if Bolles somehow turns things around in 2020. If he does have a good fourth season, it's all but certainly going to take the franchise tag to keep him around in 2021.

    If you're into silver linings, consider this: If passing on Bolles was the riskiest play of the offseason, the rest must have gone OK.

Detroit Lions

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    Signing OLB Jamie Collins to a Three-Year, $30 Million Contract

    At first glance, paying veteran linebacker Jamie Collins an average of $10 million a season (with $18 million in guarantees) might not seem like that risky of a move by the Detroit Lions. Collins is coming off one of the best seasons of his career: 81 total tackles, a team-leading seven sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions for the New England Patriots.

    The problem is that it's entirely possible the Lions are paying more for what happened in 2019 than what will happen moving forward. Collins will turn 31 during the 2020 season, and his first stint away from the Patriots was more impotent than impact.

    It's an unfortunate reality that after a three-win season, the Lions may have been forced to pay a premium of sorts to land free agents—a sort of bad-team tax.

    But generally speaking, teams that pay that tax to land players (especially aging ones) wind up regretting it more often than not.

Green Bay Packers

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    Trading Up to Draft Utah State QB Jordan Love

    Given that the Green Bay Packers are coming off a 13-win season and an appearance in the NFC title game, the thought was that the team would use its draft capital to patch a few holes in advance of another push for the playoffs.

    Instead, the Packers made perhaps the most shocking move of the first round, trading up to select a potential successor to Aaron Rodgers in Utah State's Jordan Love.

    It was an interesting move, to say the least. It will be 2022 at least before the Packers would be in any kind of position to get out of Rodgers' contract, and even then, it would involve a dead cap hit of $17.2 million.

    By the time Love can reasonably expected to assume the starting role (even in a best-case scenario), a big chunk of his rookie deal will be done.

    And in the meantime, Green Bay's issues at wide receiver behind Davante Adams are as pronounced as ever.

Houston Texans

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    Swapping Out DeAndre Hopkins for Brandin Cooks at Wide Receiver

    The Houston Texans have had an interesting offseason. There has been more than one puzzling personnel call made by Bill O'Brien over the past few months, but the riskiest play the Texans made isn't a single transaction.

    It's the sum of a couple of them.

    In recent years, there hasn't been a more productive or dangerous wide receiver in the NFL than DeAndre Hopkins. The 28-year-old has five 1,000-yard seasons since entering the league in 2013, including two with more than 1,500.

    The trade that sent Hopkins to Arizona may have been the most ill-advised move of the entire offseason, and while the Texans acquired an accomplished receiver in Brandin Cooks to offset the loss, Cooks is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career.

    If Cooks can recapture his past form, it will replace much of the production that left town with Hopkins. But it's far from a sure thing that he will be able to do that.

Indianapolis Colts

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    The Philip Rivers Era

    This one's a no-brainer.

    A year ago at this time, the notion of Philip Rivers being the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts would have been considered silly. Andrew Luck was still playing in Indy, and Rivers was still firmly entrenched as the quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers.

    A lot can change in 365 days.

    After a wildly disappointing season in L.A., the Chargers let Rivers walk in free agency. He landed in Indianapolis, where the Colts endured their own letdown season after Luck gave way to Jacoby Brissett under center.

    Now the question becomes whether Rivers is the quarterback who threw 32 touchdown passes against just 12 picks on the way to a 12-4 season in 2018 or the turnover machine who was picked off 20 times last season.

    Rivers will turn 39 in December, meaning he's a lot closer to the end of the road than the beginning. But if he can turn back the clock one last time in 2020, the Colts have the talent to make a run at the Super Bowl.

    If he can't, the Colts are that much farther away from gaining real traction on a rebuild.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Turning the Reins at QB Over to Gardner Minshew

    By just about any estimation, the Nick Foles "era" in Jacksonville was a disaster. Foles played in just four games, threw for less than 750 yards and had just three touchdown passes.

    Rookie Gardner Minshew II, on the other hand, was quite the pleasant surprise. In 12 starts, the sixth-round pick topped 3,200 passing yards, tossed 21 touchdowns against just six picks, posted a passer rating of 91.2 and won six games.

    The Jaguars saw enough from Minshew in those games to turn the keys to the franchise over to the former Washington State standout. Not only was Foles shipped off to Chicago, but there's also no threat to Minshew's status as the starter behind him on the depth chart.

    A quarterback controversy involving Mike Glennon is…unlikely.

    Maybe Minshew is the franchise quarterback the Jaguars have sought for so long. But he's also a sixth-round pick with just one season of experience.

    Success is no certainty.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Letting CB Kendall Fuller Leave in Free Agency

    The Kansas City Chiefs are still riding high after February's Super Bowl win. And all in all, the team appears well-positioned to defend its championship. From 1 to 53, the Chiefs are as good as any team in the AFC, if not all of the NFL.

    But there is at least one position where trouble could be brewing. The secondary in Kansas City was already a bit of a question mark, and after Kendall Fuller departed for the nation's capital, that potential weakness has become that much more pronounced.

    The Chiefs did manage to bring back veteran Bashaud Breeland on a one-year, $3 million deal. But the depth chart behind Breeland and 2019 standout Charvarius Ward gets murky quickly. And it was the third day of the 2020 draft before the Chiefs added any rookies at the position.

    If Rashad Fenton can step up and be even an average starter in Fuller's stead, the Chiefs will be fine.

    If not, Patrick Mahomes may really have to light up the scoreboard in 2020.

Las Vegas Raiders

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    Bringing in QB Marcus Mariota

    It's a time of great change for the Raiders. There's a new home city in Las Vegas. A shiny new stadium. And new faces galore on both sides of the ball.

    Among those new faces is quarterback Marcus Mariota. After five so-so years in Tennessee, Mariota signed a two-year, $17.6 million contract to back up Derek Carr in Vegas.

    Or, perhaps I should say, ostensibly to back up Derek Carr.

    There's been nothing to indicate Jon Gruden is prepared to sit Carr in favor of Mariota yet, but there's been buzz from the moment that Gruden arrived in Oakland that he wasn't Carr's biggest fan.

    If Carr and the Raiders get off to a slow start, it won't take long for the calls to begin for Mariota to take over at quarterback. Maybe that would give the Raiders a spark.

    Or maybe a full-blown, ongoing quarterback controversy will mar the first season in Sin City.

    In any event, neither young signal-caller in Vegas is going to be working with much leash.

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Cutting Bait on Philip Rivers

    It may well be that crow will be served regarding this call in a year or two. If rookie quarterback Justin Herbert turns out to be the real deal and spends the next decade winning games for the Chargers, then 2020 will have been nothing more than a passing of the torch.

    If he isn't, though, that's another story.

    There's no argument to be made that Philip Rivers didn't have a lousy 2019 season. His turnovers were way up. His touchdowns and yards per attempt were way down. He looked, for lack of a better term, finished.

    However, it wasn't that long ago that Rivers looked like a very good veteran quarterback who made it to three straight Pro Bowls from 2016-2018. In 2017 and 2018 combined, the Bolts were 10 games over .500.

    The decision to move on from Rivers this year is a franchise-definer, one that could ripple across southern California for years.

    And potentially cost head coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco their jobs.

Los Angeles Rams

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    Moving on from Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks

    Just two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams were NFC champions, In 2019, the team backslid in a number of areas and failed to make the playoffs at all. Then came an offseason of tough decisions borne of a precarious salary-cap situation and the departure of running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

    Admittedly, neither player fared especially well in 2019. Gurley averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and rushed for a career-low 857 yards. Cooks missed two games and had a career-low 42 receptions. Releasing Gurley and trading Cooks offered the Rams some badly needed cap relief.

    But those players were major contributors during the Rams' run to Super Bowl LIII, and while the team still has Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods at wideout and a trio of young backs in Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson and rookie Cam Akers, the Rams are facing more questions on offense than they have in some time.

Miami Dolphins

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    Drafting Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa Fifth Overall

    The Miami Dolphins hope to have taken a major step forward in the organization's rebuild after making three picks in the first round of April's draft. With the first of those picks, the Dolphins chose a player they hope will lead the franchise for years to come in Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa.

    The fifth overall pick's talent is undeniable—had things broken a little differently this past year, it could have easily been Tagovailoa who went first overall to the Cincinnati Bengals.

    But Tagovailoa's injury history cannot be ignored. In addition to the dislocated hip that ended his 2019 season, Tagovailoa also suffered ankle injuries in each of the last two seasons.

    Neither of the ankle injuries were especially serious, and the rehab on Tagovailoa's hip is reportedly progressing well.

    But for a quarterback who depends on his mobility as much as Tagovailoa, a series of lower-body maladies is cause for more than a little concern.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Turnover in the Secondary

    The Minnesota Vikings were a playoff team last year, but the pass defense was only average: 15th in the NFL at 233.6 yards per game.

    Even that benchmark may be hard for the Vikings to hit in 2020.

    Losing players in free agency is an annual event for all 32 teams. But this year was especially rough for the Vikings in the secondary. After a down 2019, the Vikings released veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander both signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.

    That's the Vikings' top three cornerbacks from 2019—gone, gone and gone.

    The Vikings didn't sit on their hands at the cornerback position; the team traded back to draft TCU's Jeff Gladney 31st overall and took Cameron Dantzler in the third round.

    But there's going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on an unproven Vikings secondary to grow up in a hurry if Minnesota is going to get back in the postseason in 2020.

New England Patriots

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    Staying the Course on Defense

    Just a short time ago, it appeared the riskiest move the New England Patriots were making this year was entrusting the offense to second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham. But with Cam Newton now in Beantown, it looks like the Pats are going in a different, more proven direction with Tom Brady's replacement.

    The front seven on defense is another story.

    The player who led New England in sacks last year, linebacker Jamie Collins, will be plying his trade in Detroit in 2020. The player who ranked second, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, is in Miami. There's young talent behind those players, but it's untested.

    The Patriots have long been known as an organization where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The "Patriot Way" (in theory) is bigger than any one player.

    Between the change under center and the attrition on defense, that's going to be put to the test in 2020 more than any time over the past two decades.

New Orleans Saints

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    Shuffling the Interior of the Offensive Line

    When you have the sort of success the New Orleans Saints have over the past decade-plus, even the risky moves pay off more often than not. That may well be the case with the musical chairs the Saints played on the offensive line this year.

    After all, while Larry Warford was a Pro Bowler in 2019, he had become a much better run blocker than pass protector. It may well be that the arrival of Michigan's Cesar Ruiz will give the Saints a younger offensive line. A quicker offensive line. A better offensive line.

    But as good as Ruiz was in Ann Arbor, we're still talking about a youngster who has yet to play an NFL snap. Either Ruiz or Erik McCoy will be kicking to guard, playing out of position (albeit only slightly) and taking over for a three-time Pro Bowler after New Orleans released him in May.

    A Saints team with its sights set on Tampa and Super Bowl LV can't afford a big drop-off up front.

New York Giants

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    Hiring Joe Judge as Head Coach

    A risky move isn't necessarily an ill-advised one. It's possible that Joe Judge is just the head coach to lead the New York Giants back to respectability in the NFC East.

    But the 38-year-old was probably the most surprising of this year's head coaching hires for a couple of reasons.

    For starters, while Judge cut his teeth under coaching greats Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, he has no head coaching at experience at any level. He's never been an offensive coordinator. Or a defensive coordinator. He spent the last five years running the special teams unit for the Patriots.

    To his credit, Judge hired a veteran with head coaching experience to run his offense in former Cowboys head man Jason Garrett.

    But given the massive monkey wrench the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into the 2020 offseason, this year's first-time head coaches (like Judge) face even more adversity than they usually would.

New York Jets

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    Failing to Adequately Help the Pass-Rush

    There's cause for optimism with the New York Jets in 2020. They took a buzz saw to one of the NFL's worst offensive lines last year, adding a handful of players and at least three new potential starters.

    This was no doubt welcome news for quarterback Sam Darnold.

    There's a flip side to those O-line acquisitions: Spending so much cap space and draft capital on one position group left little with which to get better elsewhere.

    Like, say, the pass rush.

    The Jets weren't terrible at getting after the quarterback last year. But they also weren't anywhere close to good—the team was 23rd in the league with 35 sacks.

    If they are going to better that mark in 2020, incumbents will have to improve; outside third-rounder Jabari Zuniga, the front seven is virtually unchanged.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Leaving a Mess in the Middle

    The Philadelphia Eagles entered the 2020 offseason facing a number problems. For the most part, the team did a good job of addressing them. Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay was a big acquisition on the back end. First-round receiver Jalen Reagor should add pop to a subpar wide receiver corps.

    However, the middle of the defense was left untouched—and that could spell trouble.

    Now, this could be rectified easily enough. Nigel Bradham is no worldbeater, but he's a capable veteran linebacker who has started 58 games for the Eagles over the last four years. He knows the scheme and remains a free agent.

    If the Eagles don't add a veteran, though, there'll be a lot of uncertainty at the position. Whether it's Nathan Gerry, Jatavis Brown or T.J. Edwards, the starter at "Mike" linebacker will either be a so-so veteran or an unproven youngster.

    It's a stark contrast with a linebacker corps in Dallas that includes a pair of young stars in Jaylon Smith, 25, and Leighton Vander Esch, 24.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Not Adding Inside Linebacker Help

    The Pittsburgh Steelers were the hardest team to find a risky move for. Last year's disappointing campaign aside, they are well-equipped on both sides of the ball to make a postseason run. Pittsburgh addressed needs at wide receiver (Chase Claypool) and running back (Anthony McFarland Jr.) in this year's draft.

    One spot might be an issue, however.

    The Steelers traded up in 2019 to draft inside linebacker Devin Bush, and to his credit, Bush was more hit than miss as a rookie. But he had some blown assignments and coverages. Vince Williams is a capable veteran run-stuffer, but he's a classic two-down "thumper" and a liability against the pass.

    There's also little depth behind the pair—what is as much nitpick as real problem area could change quickly if there's an injury, and Williams hasn't played all 16 games in a season since 2017.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Trading DT DeForest Buckner

    The San Francisco 49ers are the NFC reigning champions in no small part because of a defensive front that featured five first-round picks last year.

    That front will again feature a quintet of first-rounders in 2020—just not the same five.

    It can be argued that San Francisco's trade of Pro Bowl tackle DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis for the No. 13 pick (the team then traded down to No. 14 and took South Carolina tackle Javon Kinlaw) was simply a matter of San Fran general manager John Lynch's getting ahead of the financial realities of his situation. Buckner got an extension from the Colts that averages $21 million per season. Kinlaw will spend at least the next four years on a rookie deal.

    But this assumes he can "be" Buckner. That he can peel off 28.5 sacks over his first four seasons. That he can average 66 total tackles per year. That he can be a Pro Bowler and an anchor on the inside.

    Even for a player as talented as Kinlaw, that will be no small feat.

Seattle Seahawks

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    The Edge-Rusher Situation

    During their Legion of Boom heyday, the Seattle Seahawks were keyed by a punishing defense. That unit also featured talent up front with the likes of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett rushing the passer.

    The Seahawks got back into the playoffs in 2019, but it wasn't because of the pass rush—it was in spite of it. Only the Miami Dolphins had fewer sacks last year than the 28 the Seahawks managed.

    Seattle traded for Jadeveon Clowney a year ago in the hopes that he could get the pass rush back into gear. But after just three sacks in his lone season with the team, Clowney hit free agency and remains unsigned.

    The Seahawks did make a couple of additions up front in 2020—they reunited with Bruce Irvin and brought in Benson Mayowa on a one-year deal.

    However, the team's ability to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks remains a massive question mark.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Tom Brady Gambit

    There hasn't been a personnel move in 2020 that has generated more excitement than the arrival of Tom Terrific in Tampa. The Buccaneers have gone from NFC afterthought to one of the conference's most talked-about teams.

    Of course, with all that hubbub comes something else: expectations. Before Brady's arrival, the Bucs were an also-ran. Now the team is expected to compete with the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South—and make a real run at being the first club in league history to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium.

    And while Brady may be the most successful signal-caller the NFL has ever seen, he's also going to be 43 when the 2020 season starts and is coming off a campaign that wasn't his best.

    There's no guarantee it will be the rousing success so many anticipate. And if it isn't, Tampa's Brady era will take the Bruce Arians era down with it.

Tennessee Titans

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    Ryan Tannehill's Contract Extension

    This isn't meant to slam the Tennessee Titans for inking Ryan Tannehill to a four-year, $118 million extension. After all, Tannehill just peeled off a Comeback Player of the Year season that included completing 70.3 percent of his passes, throwing 22 touchdown passes against just six interceptions, posting a passer rating of 117.5 and pushing the team to the AFC Championship Game.

    However, as well as Tannehill played in 2019, it was also more exception than rule. That completion percentage was almost seven full points higher than his career average. The passer rating was almost 30 points higher. And last year's 7-3 record as starter in the regular season was easily his best and just the second time that Tannehill won more regular-season games than he lost as a starter.

    Maybe Tannehill's just a late bloomer. And the Titans had little recourse but to pay the 31-year-old. But $91 million in total guarantees for Tannehill—even after last year's success—remains a risk.

Washington Redskins

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Standing Pat at Wide Receiver

    In some respects, the Washington Redskins appear primed for a major step forward in 2020 under new head coach Ron Rivera. The addition of No. 2 pick Chase Young gives Washington a front seven that features five first-round picks. If the offense gains momentum in Dwayne Haskins' second season, the defense should keep the team in games.

    But the Redskins didn't exactly set up Haskins to succeed in the passing game.

    Yes, Washington found a gem on the second day of the 2019 draft in Terry McLaurin. But behind him is a lot of maybe and probably not. Kelvin Harmon. Trey Quinn. Cody Latimer. There's no one on the depth chart to frighten opposing secondaries. And it was the fourth round of the 2020 draft before Washington addressed the position with Antonio Gandy-Golden.

    McLaurin is looking at double coverage (or worse) approximately 132 percent of the time this season.