For those die-hard football fans whose team didn't make it all the way to the big game this year, or most years for that matter, the off-season is a beacon of hope and mystery that is sure to add intrigue and interest stories to fans and journalists alike. The off-season is about player personnel, more specifically adding players who'll be helpful to your team next year, while cutting or trading players who will not be helpful or whose worth is better traded for another position to that team. The major dates of the 2021 offseason are as follows:
* February 7; Super Bowl LV and final day of 2021 football season
* March 1; Last day for NCAA athletes to declare for NFL Draft
* March 9; Last day for NFL teams to designate franchise or transition players (Franchise Tag)
* March 15-17; NFL team's last chance to negotiate in-house players' contracts (Including those franchise tagged)
* March 17; 2021 NFL league year officially starts
* March 17; Free Agency Period begins
* April 23; Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign deals (RFAs final day to accept offer)
* April 29-May 1st: NFL College Players Draft
* August 8; NFL preseason starts signaling end of 2021 off-season
The NFL off-season is a marathon and not a sprint, in total lasting approximately six months out of the year. It's a period that is more likely to have multiple news stories in one day and none for the rest of the week. Most moves being made are not considered intriguing because they deal with positions like OL and DL or coaching changes, which are just as if not more important as skill position changes, but never get the media attention they deserve.
The biggest positional moves as far as the media is concerned have to do with the quarterback position. As of this moment on February 10, almost half of the teams in the NFL have been linked to rumors involving quarterback moves this offseason including but not limited to the Jaguars, Jets, Cowboys and Patriots. While the first two are expected to draft a quarterback from this year's abundantly stacked quarterback-draft class, and the Cowboys are likely to franchise tag Dak Prescott again, the Patriots may have the most eyes on them wondering what they will do about the most important position on their team.
The New England Patriots quarterback position is entering it's second year of uncertainty after a failed experiment using Cam Newton while their previous QB went on to win Super Bowl LV just three days ago. It seems unlikely the Patriots will bring back Newton or start third-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham next year. Luckily for them this year's offseason is highlighted by multiple bridge quarterbacks in free agency and a plethora of potential inside the draft. The Patriots potential quarterback options will be an article released in the coming days, however it's prominent to say that it's likely for Bill Belichick to dip into both talent pools in order to stay competitive in the 2021 season and groom a quarterback for seasons to come after next.
Some teams have already made their move toward upgrading their signal-caller, like the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams, in a trade that will be approved as soon as the new league year starts on March 17, have sent their quarterback Jared Goff along with a first and third round pick this year and a first round pick in the 2022 NFL draft, have received veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions. Stafford's twelve-year career in Detroit started when he was the #1 draft pick to the Motor City in 2009.
Other quarterback potentially on the move that have been rumored include Houston Texans' star Deshaun Watson and Philadelphia Eagles' former MVP runner-up in 2018, Carson Wentz. Both quarterback's have recently signed contracts with average annual salaries north of $30 million, and Watson's closer to $40 million. Both men have requested trades from their team at one point in the last two months with Watson's coming more recently, and both men are expected to garner at least a first round pick to their current team if not two or possibly three.
Lastly, wile Free Agency is sure to shake up the quarterback picture for at least a quarter of the teams in the NFL, the 2021 NFL draft class will help as well. The 2021 NFL draft class has six possible quarterbacks worthy of a first-round draft pick, with three more expected between rounds 2 and 3. We know Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is expected to start the 2021 season for the Jaguars, and expect the Jets to either draft Penn Sate QB Zach Wilson or Ohio State QB Justin Fields with the other possibly landing in Atlanta, Carolina or Denver. After that Division 2 QB Trey Lance from North Dakota St. and SEC gunslingers Mac Jones (Alabama) and Kyle Trask (Florida) have been deemed worthy of a project-based draft pick to any team who feel the pressure of drafting a QB before they're all taken, as demand for QB's is skyrocketing and it seems likely the supply will be dwindling by the 23rd pick or so. Other teams with a reason to draft a QB in the inaugural round include the Football Team, Raiders, Colts, Bears, Steelers and Saints. That makes thirteen teams I've mentioned in this article with reason to draft an early QB with only six that have the skill to deserve it. Six first round quarterbacks would tie the famous 1983 draft for most QBs selected in first round. For the record, the '83 class included hall of famers John Elway and Dan Marino.
With potentially a third of the NFL rosters adding a piece at quarterback, this offseason is sure to be historic one way or another. With the amount of turnover in the NFL, it's expected that less than half of these moves will last more than four years and even fewer to result in a franchise altering quarterback. This adds significant pressure to those teams in desperate need for a QB to get their pick right, and to do so teams will need to make trades that could cost multiple first round picks and players already on their roster. Which teams if any will make the first step toward starting a dynasty with a new QB? Only time will tell.
I love the off-season.