4 NFL Teams with Major Work Left to Do Before the 2021 Season Starts

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2021

4 NFL Teams with Major Work Left to Do Before the 2021 Season Starts

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The curtain has closed on the majority of OTAs for NFL teams, leaving fans with a quiet stretch before training camps and preseason games.

    But the NFL has become more of a 24/7, 365 league in the past few years. Fans can still expect some headlines to roll out before camps, whether it's the signing of free agents, trades or even more holdout drama.

    Even as things may get quieter, a handful of teams still have a ton of work to do. Some rebuilders need to keep improving rosters to get ready for the season. Meanwhile, contenders must also improve, addressing weak spots or sorting out situations with key players.

    These are the teams with the biggest to-do lists before the 2021 season starts.

Houston Texans

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans boast the league's most dramatic rebuild as the team attempts to pick up the pieces from the Bill O'Brien era.

    But the team might have to get worse before it gets better.

    According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is being sued by 22 women alleging sexual assault and misconduct, skipped all OTAs and still wants a trade. The first notion of Watson wanting a trade occurred after the process of hiring general manager Nick Caserio, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    It's a situation the Texans will have to resolve, and it will leave them with either Tyrod Taylor or Jeff Driskel as their starting quarterback. That, or they'll have to add a free-agent quarterback such as Robert Griffin III or acquire one via trade.

    The Texans can't stop adding to the roster. Of the 33 players the team acquired this offseason, only seven of them received longer than a one-year deal. The team only has $4.8 million in cap space but shouldn't blink at an upgrade if one becomes available.

    Houston won four games last year before this dramatic roster reset, and that was with Watson completing 70.2 percent of his passes with 33 scores and seven interceptions. Camp battles will be critical to getting this ship going in the right direction again.

New York Jets

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Teams with rookie starting quarterbacks have more to do than most.

    The New York Jets used the second pick on Zach Wilson, and he will get the nod as the starter right away, which makes every rep over the summer critical.

    Continuing to upgrade the roster is a must too, which would explain the team's interest in free-agent offensive tackle Morgan Moses, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. New York did a nice job surrounding Wilson with skill-position talent already (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Tyler Kroft, Tevin Coleman), but using free agency and trades to keep upgrading is a must.

    So too is figuring out the long-term outlook. The Jets used the franchise tag on star safety Marcus Maye, who broke out with an 82.9 Pro Football Focus grade last season, planting him in the starter range with room to keep ascending (he had a 74.5 grade the year prior). Avoiding drama and long-term questions by getting him an extension is next.

    It's a simple blueprint: Keep the roster cornerstones happy and surrounded with as much talent as possible. The Jets just have more to do on the checklist than others as they seek their second season above .500 since 2010.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Urban Meyer-led Jacksonville Jaguars classify as a rebuilder with plenty of work to do too.

    With No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence under center, Meyer has to figure out what to do with Gardner Minshew II. The spot-starter over the past two years would welcome a trade elsewhere for a chance at a starting job, according to Fowler.

    The Jaguars have until July 15 to decide whether to give franchise-tagged left tackle Cam Robinson an extension. The 25-year-old tackle remains a question mark after posting a 61.7 PFF grade in 2020, making him the 62-nd best tackle in the league last season. That was up from his 54.8 grade in 2019, but the Jaguars have to decide whether to make him play on a prove-it tag or go all-in on the belief he can be a starter for the long term.

    Like other rebuilders, Jacksonville also needs to be on the hunt for upgrades via trade or free agency. The latter is simple enough with a league-leading $37.8 million in cap space. Add in battles all over the roster, and the Jaguars have a ton to figure out in the pursuit of a second winning season since 2007.

Green Bay Packers

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    The headline item for the Green Bay Packers isn't hard to figure out: Aaron Rodgers.

    Rodgers is disgruntled with the organization and still wants a trade out of town, according to NFL reporter Jay Glazer on the Pat McAfee Show. Last year's MVP did not report to mandatory minicamp.

    The Packers don't want to trade one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, which makes sense despite the team using a first-round pick on Jordan Love in 2020. But the front office needs to figure out how to mend the relationship with Rodgers (would an extension or front-office changes help?), because a holdout could derail the entire season, hurting contention dreams and possibly the long-term outlook for Love.

    In a normal offseason, needing to extend star cornerback Jaire Alexander would be a big deal. The league's highest-graded corner at PFF last season will play on a steal of a cap hit—just $3.8 million in 2021—before his fifth-year option escalates to $13.3 million in 2022.

    Star wideout Davante Adams also heads into the final year of his deal. Roster upgrades, particularly along the offensive line after losing Corey Linsley in free agency, should be something the Packers keep an eye on, too.

    Normally, a contender wouldn't pop up on a list like this, but given the items above, the Packers sit in a more precarious position than perhaps any other NFL team this summer.

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