Predicting Every NFL Team's Biggest Bust of the 2021 NFL Season

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystJuly 23, 2021

Predicting Every NFL Team's Biggest Bust of the 2021 NFL Season

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    No player wants to be labeled a bust. Very few words in the sports lexicon are considered worse. 

    But the designation is a relative term based on an individual's situation. To define it more simply, a bust is someone who performs well below expectations. 

    A year ago, the New England Patriots signed what looked to be one of the shrewdest free-agent deals when they landed former league MVP Cam Newton on the cheap. Newton struggled, and the Patriots faltered. Newton is returning this fall, and he could very well find himself in similar circumstances. 

    For the purposes of this article, potential busts will be identified based on the possibility of them hindering their respective teams this fall instead of looking at them as long-term failures, as is the traditional designation. 

    Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Johnny Manziel and Tony Mandarich are poster boys for all-time busts. In this case, a far more narrow view is taken to determine which individuals could hold their teams back in 2021 through poor play, reduced production or lack of consistency. 

    Players aren't the only possible targets. Coaches can be included, too. 

    Whatever the case, these are the personnel who are filled with potential but poised to put forth a disappointing season in 2021.

Arizona Cardinals: WR A.J. Green

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    A single quote sums up exactly where A.J. Green's career currently stands. 

    "This is not an A.J. Green situation where the play clearly declined," an AFC executive told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler when discussing a 32-year-old Julio Jones. "He's still that dude."

    Green went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls. His explosiveness greatly diminished due to multiple injuries, though, and the game's most fluid X-receiver is now nothing more than a complementary piece to the puzzle. 

    Last season, the 10-year veteran managed only 523 yards in 16 games. He finished dead last among qualifying wide receivers in the percentage of targets deemed "open," according to Michigan Football Analytics' Tej Seth

    Green isn't Larry Fitzgerald, who has aged like a fine wine. At best, the free-agent addition is the Cardinals' fourth wide receiver behind DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and second-round rookie Rondale Moore. 

Atlanta Falcons: HC Arthur Smith

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    Sometimes, the situation in which an individual is placed overrides actual ability.

    In the Atlanta Falcons' case, Arthur Smith looks to be an excellent hire after he worked wonders with the Tennessee Titans offense, particularly quarterback Ryan Tannehill. 

    Smith could do the same with Matt Ryan if only the Falcons had the same caliber of rosterwhich they don't. 

    Eventually, Smith and his new staff could put together an excellent program capable of competing in the NFC South. But the rebuild will take time. 

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the NFL's best team. The Carolina Panthers should be improved in Year 2 under Matt Rhule. The New Orleans Saints will regress without Drew Brees but should remain competitive. 

    Atlanta, meanwhile, traded away its best player, Julio Jones. Smith didn't bring Derrick Henry with him. The offensive interior is in flux. Defensively, the Falcons were one of the league's worst last season. A promising start seems unlikely. 

Baltimore Ravens: Edge Odafe Oweh

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    Eventually, Odafe Oweh's enormous potential must translate to on-field production. 

    The Baltimore Ravens chose the edge-rusher with the 31st overall pick in the 2021 draft. Odafe managed seven career sacks over his first two seasons with the Penn State Nittany Lions, but the highly regarded prospect didn't notch a single one last season, though. 

    To be fair, Oweh still performed well despite a doughnut in the sack column. He graded as the third-best edge against the run, according to Pro Football Focus. His natural athleticism allowed him to make plays at the point of attack, in the backfield and down the line of scrimmage. He has all the tools to be a dominant defender one day. 

    But the Ravens will need to be patient before Oweh realizes his full capabilities. Until then, Baltimore can lean on Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson at outside linebacker.

Buffalo Bills: TE Dawson Knox

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    Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane didn't pull any punches when discussing last season's tight ends with reporters. 

    "It was never where the opposing defense was like, 'Man, we've got to stop their tight ends from going off,'" Beane said

    What did the Bills do to improve the position this offseason? Very little. 

    The organization signed Jacob Hollister as a free agent, but otherwise, the team will go into another campaign with Dawson Knox as its starter. Knox is an excellent athlete, yet it hasn't translated on the field, hence the reason rumors persist about the Bills trading for Zach Ertz. 

    Knox feels like a player capable of breaking through and becoming a significant target, but the tight end actually doing so considering the possibility of Ertz replacing him or the Bills leaning heavily on their top four receivers this season probably prevents it from happening. 

Carolina Panthers: LT Cameron Erving

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    Cameron Erving can already be described as a first-round bust. Now, the Carolina Panthers are flirting with the possibility of Erving becoming a free-agent bust. 

    The Panthers signed Erving to a two-year, $10 million contract on the first day of the new league year. The move came as a surprise since the 2015 first-round pick has been a utility lineman for the majority of his career. He'll enter training camp as the front-runner to become the Panthers' left tackle. 

    Erving started five games as the Dallas Cowboys' blindside protector last season. The backup, who filled in for an injured Tyron Smith, didn't perform horribly, but he didn't exactly excel, either. 

    Carolina recently signed right tackle Taylor Moton to a long-term deal. The team is set on the strong side, but Sam Darnold's blind side could quickly turn into a disaster since Erving is nothing more than a replacement-level performer. 

Chicago Bears: LT Teven Jenkins

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    The Chicago Bears crushed this year's draft process, particularly in the first two rounds. 

    General manager Ryan Pace made the best decision of the entire event when he worked a trade to acquire Ohio State's Justin Fields. The Bears front office then doubled down on its quarterback investment by drafting one of the class' top offensive tackle prospects, Teven Jenkins, at No. 39 overall. 

    Proper protection should be the utmost priority once a first-round signal-caller is brought into the mix, and Jenkins was easily the best pure right tackle available. Then, something funny happened. 

    The Bears chose to release blindside stalwart Charles Leno Jr. and move Jenkins from right to left tackle. The rookie did start a handful of games at left tackle for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

    However, last season, the Cleveland Browns' Jedrick Wills Jr. made the same position switch. He performed well considering the circumstances, but ultimately, he still had some issues, and others in the class became more touted. Don't be surprised if the same happens with Jenkins. 

Cincinnati Bengals: Edge Trey Hendrickson

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    Trey Hendrickson experienced a breakthrough performance in a contract year. The former New Orleans Saints defensive end tied for second in the league last season with 13.5 sacks. 

    In turn, the Cincinnati Bengals handed Hendrickson a four-year, $60 million contract. Essentially, the Bengals paid Hendrickson the same annual salary as Carl Lawson received from the New York Jets even though Lawson proved to be a more consistent pass-rusher during his time in Cincinnati. 

    The Bengals' new edge-rusher won't benefit from playing opposite Cameron Jordan anymore. Sam Hubbard is a quality defender, but he doesn't come close to Jordan. 

    Hendrickson will now be the focal point of the Bengals' defensive front. Blocking assignments will be built around slowing the speed rusher. As such, his production from a year ago likely won't be seen again, with a regression toward the mean (6.5 sacks through his first three seasons) being far more realistic. 

Cleveland Browns: WR Jarvis Landry

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    Jarvis Landry has been a big part of the Cleveland Browns' turnaround. 

    The wide receiver helped change the culture after the organization traded for him following its embarrassing 0-16 campaign in 2017. At times, he's been the team's best wide receiver. Landry is a tone-setter with boundless energy and endless swag. 

    However, his overall value decreases with each passing season. Landry's $14.8 million salary-cap charge places him among the highest-paid wide receivers, yet he's unlikely to surpass last season's production with 840 receiving yards. 

    Odell Beckham Jr. returns to the lineup after 2020's season-ending knee surgery. The team also re-signed Rashard Higgins, who happens to be one of Baker Mayfield's favorite targets, and drafted Anthony Schwartz to go along with Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge. 

    Landry will be an important contributor. But he should no longer be an offensive focal point. 

Dallas Cowboys: LB Jaylon Smith

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    Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith hasn't been the same player since he signed a five-year, $64 million contract extension before the start of the 2019 campaign. 

    His overall level of play has decreased in each of the last two seasons. A downward trend in performance coupled with the acquisition of first-round linebacker Micah Parsons appears to signal change in Dallas. 

    Smith will likely move from middle to weak-side linebacker, thus allowing Parsons to roam as the unit's "Mike." 

    The transition could further hamper Smith's effectiveness since he already struggles to change directions, whereas fourth-round rookie linebacker Jabril Cox excels in coverage. Smith's role could be further diminished as an early-down option who gives way to a pair of rookies in sub-packages. 

    The Cowboys shouldn't expect to get much of a return on Smith's $9.8 million salary-cap charge. 

Denver Broncos: QB Teddy Bridgewater

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    Either of the Denver Broncos quarterbacks—Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lockcould be listed since the entire organization is being held back based on one position. 

    The team could have an ideal quarterback if the two melded their approaches together. Lock is a young gunslinger with an electric arm, while Bridgewater is an efficient yet conservative operator.

    Bridgewater knows he must do more in Denver's system. 

    "I'm a guy who just takes what the defense gives me," Bridgewater told reporters. "... This offseason, I've just been trying to complete the football by pushing the ball down the field, crossing them over the field, throwing a shallow cross and throwing it to the back out of the backfield." 

    The Broncos have a roster capable of competing for a playoff spot. But the idea of Bridgewater (or Lock) developing a new approach may be wishful thinking. 

Detroit Lions: QB Jared Goff

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    A change of scenery can be a wonderful thing. Jared Goff likes to think so after the Los Angeles Rams traded him to the Detroit Lions. 

    "But I think in regards to myself personally, Dan [Campbell] and [offensive coordinator Anthony] Lynn have really empowered me to kind of [say], 'What do I want? What do I like? How do I want to see it? How do we want to do things?' And they're constantly bouncing things off me, and I'm constantly bouncing things off them," Goff told reporters. "And I think that's been a healthy relationship and something that's been fun for me to experience and be a part of guys that are really wanting to hear from me and wanting to hear what I like." 

    Detroit's staff may be open to Goff's input, but the quarterback entered a worse situation overall. He excelled as a distributor in Sean McVay's scheme; he didn't necessarily elevate the play of those around him, though.  

    Unfortunately, the Lions lack talent at wide receiver. As such, Goff could realistically produce career lows in passing in 2021. 

Green Bay Packers: Edge Preston Smith

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    Preston Smith's decline started a year ago when his sack production dropped from 12 to four between the 2019 and '20 campaigns. 

    Smith can expect his usage to be further scaled back this fall with continued improvement from 2019 12th overall pick Rashan Gary. 

    "He learns quick, and whatever he learns in the meeting room he takes to the field," fellow linebacker Za'Darius Smith said of Gary, per Mike Spofford of the Packers' official site. "He's progressing every year, and he's doing to be dominant for us this year, man, and I can't wait."

    The Packers have an excellent trio working off the edge, and defensive coordinator Joe Barry can get creative in how he uses each. However, Gary's emergence almost certainly signals fewer snaps for Preston Smith since Za'Darius Smith remains one of the league's best. 

Houston Texans: HC David Culley

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    David Culley spent a lifetime as an NFL assistant coach before he finally got a chance to lead a team. Unfortunately, the Houston Texans placed their new head coach in an impossible situation. 

    The 65-year-old first-time head coach just became the captain of a sinking ship. 

    Houston owns the NFL's worst roster. The franchise may be on the verge of moving on from its starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson. J.J. Watt already got his release and signed with the Arizona Cardinals. General manager Nick Caserio made a slew of offseason moves that will require time and patience as the coaching staff tries to make heads or tails of who should be playing. Overall, the entire Texans organization is a mess

    Culley has been a well-respected coach for decades, yet his team's failure this fall seems inevitable. 

Indianapolis Colts: WR T.Y. Hilton

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    T.Y. Hilton will eventually retire as an all-time great for the Indianapolis Colts. Only Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne surpass the 31-year-old among the franchise's most prolific pass-catchers. 

    However, Hilton's role will continue to diminish. Michael Pittman Jr. should build upon last year's second-half success, and besides, new quarterback Carson Wentz loves bigger targets. 

    Speaking of Wentz, Zach Ertz's involvement in the Philadelphia Eagles helped tremendously in the quarterback's development. Ertz caught 356 passes for 3,719 yards and 26 touchdowns during Wentz's first four seasons. Colts tight ends Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox should be a big part of the passing attack, which takes away opportunities for wide receivers. 

    Throw the progression of Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell into the mix as further obstacles. 

    Hilton is a consummate professional. But the days of 1,000-yard campaigns are long gone. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: LT Cam Robinson

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    Certain expectations are placed on those who receive the franchise tag from their respective teams. 

    Cam Robinson's situation is quite different. The Jacksonville Jaguars decided to pay their left tackle $13.8 million this season because they didn't see the value in anyone else on the market. 

    Basically, the organization looked at the free-agent pool and decided it couldn't get anyone better than its current serviceable left tackle. 

    The rationale is terrible. Sure, Robinson is only 25 years old. But he hasn't been particularly good during his career. The organization could have spent far less on a comparable talent like Russell Okung, Alejandro Villanueva or Charles Leno Jr. The draft was still an option at the time as well. 

    Instead, the Jaguars decided to overpay a marginal performer. Robinson will be forced to improve his level of play or be continually chastised. 

Kansas City Chiefs: DT Chris Jones

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    The Kansas City Chiefs' Chris Jones is a fantastic football player. He should be counted among the game's best two or three interior defenders. 

    However, a potential issue looms. 

    "He has gotten better in a number of areas," an AFC coordinator told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "If he's one-on-one in a pass-rush situation, rarely does he lose that matchup. Tremendously better as a run-stopping player."

    But those one-on-one matchups have been slowly disappearing. His 15.5-sack campaign came while working alongside Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Allen Bailey. Jones' sack production declined during the subsequent two seasons. 

    Why? A
     diminished surrounding cast mitigated Jones' overall effectiveness. At this point, the Chiefs don't really have a secondary pass-rush threat with Frank Clark's pending legal matters. Every opposing offense will focus solely on stopping Jones and let others try to win one-on-one matchups. 

Las Vegas Raiders: Edge Yannick Ngakoue

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders have taken multiple shots at addressing their edge rush since the organization traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears three years ago. 

    Yannick Ngakoue is the latest attempt to fill the void. 

    Ngakoue is a smooth pass-rusher with the ability to bend and turn the edge as well as anyone. He's registered 45.5 sacks in his first five seasons, and furthermore, he reunites with former head coach and current Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. 

    Issues with Ngakoue stem from his poor run defense. He's not a true every-down defender, which is a problem for the third-highest-paid player on the Raiders roster. At $13 million annually, Ngakoue better show he's more than capable of setting the edge and not just serve as a sub-package defender. 

    Plus, two different stops last season because of trades should create a slight pause when joining yet another new squad. 

Los Angeles Chargers: RB Austin Ekeler

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    Austin Ekeler has yet to prove he can handle the rigors of being the Los Angeles Chargers' feature back. 

    When given the opportunity to take on the lead role last season, Ekeler played in only 10 games due to a hamstring injury and a hyperextended knee. He'll serve in the same capacity this season, and the Chargers must see if the running back can handle an expanded workload. 

    A healthy Ekeler is one of the game's best dual-threat backs. He's a slashing runner and a natural receiver in the passing game and posted 2,483 combined yards from scrimmage the last two seasons. 

    The Chargers have plenty of talent in the backfield, though. Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson are more than capable of producing when needed.

    Until Ekeler shows otherwise, the Chargers should be ready for him to miss some games and not be available as much as hoped.

Los Angeles Rams: C Austin Corbett

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    The Cleveland Browns originally drafted Austin Corbett back in 2018, and the offensive lineman floundered because the previous coaching staff shifted him all over the offensive front without allowing the young blocker to establish himself at a specific position. 

    The Browns traded Corbett to the Rams, where he eventually found a home at right guard last season. 

    What did the Rams staff decide to do? Corbett will switch positions again, of course. The 25-year-old lineman is now working at center. 

    "He and Matthew [Stafford] have established a nice rapport together," head coach Sean McVay told reporters. "I know that Austin can play really well at guard, and we're going to continue to see what it looks like at center and try to find the best combination of five to play up front."

    Another position switch could wreck what Corbett built with the Rams. McVay and Co. shouldn't mess with what's worked. 

Miami Dolphins: RB Myles Gaskin

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    The Miami Dolphins were thought to be one of the favorites to draft a running back sooner rather than later this year. Instead, the organization chose not to take a running back prospect until its final selection in the seventh round. 

    The organization appears comfortable going into another year with Myles Gaskin leading the way. Gaskin did start seven games last season, but the wear and tear caught up with the ball-carrier. 

    "I work on knee health, ankle health, things like that," Gaskin told reporters when asked about his offseason regimen. "Work on stability, just being more like sure—just work on those small muscles. I did a lot of Pilates when I went back home to Seattle, and I think that helped my body just working on those small muscles, working on awkward movements."

    The Dolphins aren't loaded at running back, but Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed are capable options, so Gaskin will share reps. He could potentially lose some, as well as his starting role if he can't stay healthy. Either way, Miami did little to improve upon last year's 22nd-ranked rushing attack. 

Minnesota Vikings: TE Irv Smith Jr.

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Irv Smith Jr. is a potential mismatch waiting to happen. The Minnesota Vikings are having none of it. 

    With Kyle Rudolph's departure, Smith's role should expand. Nope. 

    "Honestly, I don't think it's any bigger role for him whatsoever," head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters. "I think it's a bigger role for Tyler Conklin. He's kind of emerged as a guy that's moving upward and with those two guys, we have a lot of weapons there." 

    Smith could be so much more than what he showed last season. The 22-year-old caught 30 passes for 365 yards, while Rudolph basically replicated Smith's production (28 receptions for 334 yards). 

    It's a shame because Smith is an athletic target capable of becoming one of the league's best young tight ends, yet he's being held back by a system and coaching staff that's not willing to build around his skill set. 

New England Patriots: QB Cam Newton

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    Cam Newton knows he wasn't good enough last season and already looked like a free-agent bust during his first season with the New England Patriots. 

    "For me, the Patriots' organization has been impeccable ... my time there has been everything I could have asked for," Newton said during an interview on ESPN Radio's Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin Show (h/t ESPN's Mike Reiss). "I guess it's now time for me to uphold my end of the bargain, through and through."

    This year will be completely different because legitimate competition exists with this year's 15th overall draft pick, Mac Jones. 

    Jones' biggest selling point is his ability to digest information, recall and translate everything to the field. Obviously, he's not the same gifted athlete as Newton, but the veteran sits on a scorching hot seat as training camp nears. 

New Orleans Saints: QB Taysom Hill

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    The thought of Taysom Hill starting as the New Orleans Saints quarterback is worrisome. Hill isn't an NFL quarterback. At least, he's never showed he's capable of being one. 

    Despite reservations from those outside the team facilities, head coach Sean Payton already views Hill as the starter, according to the Boston Herald's Ben Volin.  

    Issues regarding Hill's play have nothing to do with attitude, athleticism or the support of his team. He simply limits what the Saints are capable of doing. Hill completed 72.7 percent of his passes in 2020 but never truly threatened the opposition, especially when trying to push the ball downfield. 

    Payton's offense is built around being efficient and mistake-free. Drew Brees was the master. Hill is a 30-year-old apprentice trying to replace Michelangelo.

    At the very least, Jameis Winston can threaten all three levels of the field if he takes over the offense. 

New York Giants: DT Leonard Williams

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Leonard Williams finally emerged last season as the player so many expected when the New York Jets originally chose the defensive lineman with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft. 

    Williams registered 11.5 sacks after only putting up 17.5 during his first five seasons. He re-signed with the New York Giants this offseason on a three-year, $63 million contract. 

    The massive payday will change how those around the league view Williams. He's now expected to be a dominant force, but therein lies the problem.

    "Talented, just doesn't put it together consistently," an NFC scout told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

    A regression from his double-digit sack campaign could be forthcoming. Williams looked great a year ago, but he hasn't been that player for an extended period of time. With salary-cap hits exceeding $25 million in 2022 and '23, questions about his deal will come to the forefront. 

New York Jets: WR Jamison Crowder

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    The New York Jets and wide receiver Jamison Crowder are hurtling toward an eventual breakup. 

    Crowder didn't attend voluntary workouts this offseason. The organization, meanwhile, wanted him to take a 50 percent pay decrease to stay with the team, per ESPN's Rich Cimini. Eventually, the two sides reached an agreement on a reworked deal for this fall. 

    The 28-year-old pass-catcher led the Jets last season with 59 receptions, 699 receiving yards and six touchdown grabs. Things have significantly changed in a matter of months. 

    Sam Darnold, who established a strong rapport with Crowder, is no longer the Jets' quarterback. Instead, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson now has Corey Davis and second-round rookie Elijah Moore to target. Like Crowder, Moore excels from the slot. 

    Crowder has clearly been phased out of the team's plans as free agency awaits after the upcoming campaign. 

Philadelphia Eagles: HC Nick Sirianni

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    The current state of the Philadelphia Eagles organization can be best described by a recent quote regarding tight end Zach Ertz. 

    "He's probably tired of the bullcrap in Philly," a veteran NFL offensive player told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler about the possibility of Ertz being traded. "With a fresh start, he'll still be great."

    The Eagles moved on from head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz this offseason. Enter Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts. 

    Sirianni walks into a difficult situation.

    "[Pederson] was ridiculed and criticized for every decision," one source told The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia, Bo Wulf and Zach Berman

    Things aren't likely to be better under the team's new head coach. Plus, Sirianni must make the most of an offense that now features Hurts, even though the organization made the draft selection without any intention of him becoming the starting quarterback. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger

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    Ben Roethlisberger's implosion against the rival Cleveland Browns during the Wild Card Round of the NFL postseason can't be glossed over just because the Steelers decided to promote a new offensive coordinator, draft a first-round running back and re-sign wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

    Roethlisberger is a 39-year-old quarterback who already had a major elbow surgery. Plus, he's been pummeled throughout his career. In fact, Big Ben could end the 2021 campaign (and possibly his career) as the all-time leader in sacks taken

    To make matters worse, the Steelers offensive line is a work in progress. 

    Chukwuma Okorafor will move from right to left tackle, and Zach Banner returns from a torn ACL after only one start in 2020. Kevin Dotson will become a full-time starter in his second year, and Trai Turner joined the team in June to replace David DeCastro. Center, meanwhile, remains an open competition. 

    The Steelers have weapons. What they don't have is stability up front, which will drastically affect their immobile quarterback. 

San Francisco 49ers: CB Jason Verrett

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    Very few careers have been snakebitten by injuries quite like Jason Verrett's. As such, his return to the field last fall after three seasons in which he played in just six total games seemed like a fairytale ending.

    "I don't want to deal with any more injury questions; that's in the past," Verrett said, per NBC Sports Bay Area's Jennifer Lee Chan. "I finished the season out healthy, going into this season healthy, and looking at playing lights out football for this team and win some games."

    When healthy, Verrett is a fluid cover corner capable of mirroring any receiver. 

    Obviously, no one wishes another injury on Verrett. He feels he's past that stage of his career. Yet the fact he's never played a full 16-game season since being drafted in 2014 can't be dismissed. Maybe he just takes a small step back from last season's standout performance. Either way, Verrett could have a hard time building upon his recent success. 

Seattle Seahawks: WR D'Wayne Eskridge

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    The Seattle Seahawks had the least amount of draft capital entering this year's event. Ultimately, the organization chose three prospects, with Western Michigan wide receiver D'Wayne Eskridge headlining the group as a second-round selection. 

    Eskridge comes with explosive downfield speed to serve as another vertical threat alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. 

    "[Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron] has talked since we first started talking about schematically how we're going about it, philosophically how we're going about the offense, about having three legitimate threats in passing situations so defenses can't lock you down," head coach Pete Carroll told reporters

    That third target doesn't have to be a wide receiver since Seattle signed tight end Gerald Everett in free agency, and he will more than likely serve in that role. The rookie, meanwhile, may have a bigger impact on special teams than anything else, at least this season. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE Cameron Brate

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense didn't feature tight end Cameron Brate much during the 2020 regular season. His role expanded during the franchise's Super Bowl run, but that usage likely won't be sustained this fall. Instead, Brate is far more likely to become the Bucs' third tight end option behind Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard, who returns from a torn Achilles tendon. 

    Howard may take a few weeks before he gets up to speed. Even so, Tampa Bay's coaching staff clearly sees a legitimate weapon in the '17 first-round pick. According to Pewter Report's Jack Barrett, Howard ran a higher percentage of snaps flexed out from the line of scrimmage than the other two tight ends. Granted, Howard played in only four games in 2020, but he can be a weapon if utilized correctly. 

    Brate will almost certainly take a back seat to Gronk and Howard this coming season. 

Tennessee Titans: CB Caleb Farley

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    Caleb Farley's injury history is worrisome.

    Maybe it's unfair to include him due to circumstances outside of his control, but previous issues that kept him off the field can't be overlooked. 

    Farley suffered a torn ACL in 2017 before putting together a stellar '18 performance. A back injury suffered during training cost him games during the 2019 season. Normally, these things can be rationalized if not for the fact the cornerback opted out of last season, then required a microdiscectomy in March, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter

    No one denies Farley's natural ability. When healthy, he brings everything a team wants in a No. 1 cover corner. He could have easily been a top-10 draft pick had it not been for his list of injuries. Instead, the Titans took a chance with the 22nd overall pick and must now worry if Farley will stay healthy during his rookie campaign. 

Washington Football Team: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    The Washington Football Team must know Ryan Fitzpatrick's history as a starting quarterback.

    When Fitzpatrick is at his best, he's a gunslinger capable of putting up big numbers. Yet those same qualities usually create multiple-turnover duds as well. 

    "The rapport he developed with the line, the rapport he developed with the skill positions, the way he developed his relationship and is challenging of our defense. That's what I'm expecting from him," head coach Ron Rivera told reporters. "As long as he plays at a high level and handles those situations, he has every opportunity to be our starter."

    Fitzpatrick isn't guaranteed the starting job. Even if he wins this summer's competition, he could still lose his spot.

    Washington barely won the NFC East last season, but disappointing play from Fitzpatrick could easily take the team out of the race. 

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