From a slew of head-coaching changes to an unpredictable draft (even more so than usual), there’s no shortage of storylines to keep an eye on this NFL offseason. Here are 3 to follow over the next few months. Check back tomorrow and Wednesday for more storylines.
1. What will the Rams do at defensive coordinator?
There are a myriad of questions surrounding the Rams this offseason, including whether or not they’ll bring back Danny Amendola and/or Steven Jackson, as well as how they’ll use their two first round picks in April.
But the biggest question that Jeff Fisher and Les Snead face right now is who they’ll hire as their next defensive coordinator. With the Rob Ryan marriage falling apart before the two sides could settle on a prenup, the Rams have reportedly reached out to Dick Jauron and Mike Singletary. Jauron is the more experienced coach of the two, but he also leaves a little something to be desired considering in 17 years as either a head coach or a coordinator, his defenses have only finished in the top 10 twice (2001 with the Bears and 2011 with the Browns). The Rams could do a lot worse than to hire a well-respected coach that comes from the same coaching tree as Mike Holmgren and Tom Coughlin, but will Jauron enhance anything about Fisher’s defense?
Meanwhile, we know that Singletary is a molder of young men and commands respect as soon as he walks into a room. Players like Ray Lewis have sung his praises and he’s often gotten the most out of the athletes that he’s tutored. He and Fisher also have a relationship that dates back to their playing days in Chicago, and who better to teach the fundamentals to defensive players than Singletary?
That said, he’s never been a defensive coordinator before and he was a disaster as a head coach. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a good DC but since he’s never done it before, how can anyone be sure that he can call plays and build game plans on a weekly basis? Between him and Jauron he’s definitely the more intriguing name but he’s arguably the bigger risk, too. No matter which direction the Rams go, it’ll still be Fisher’s imprint on the defense. But hopefully he’ll find someone that will add something to a defense that is ready to be a top 10 unit very soon.
2. RGIII’s health.
Robert Griffin III vows to be ready by Week 1 of the regular season but in addition to damaging both his LCL and ACL, the dynamic quarterback also suffered a medial meniscus tear in the Redskins’ playoff loss to the Seahawks. While Adrian Peterson proved that ACL tears aren’t always a two-year injury, “All Day” was also a medical marvel. We’re talking about a guy who suffered a sports hernia injury in Week 10 and questioned whether or not he would be able to continue by Week 16, only to rush for 596 yards over the Vikings’ final four games (including playoffs). Not everyone is Adrian Peterson.
According to reports, RGIII was seen walking without a limp at “Media Week” down in New Orleans. But no matter how quickly he’s progressing with his rehab, the Redskins need to first be concerned with his the long-term health. If they rush him back and he suffers even further damage to his knee(s), his career could be in jeopardy. Mike Shanahan and Co. have a couple of months to evaluate the situation but at some point they’re going to be faced with the decision of whether or not to place RGIII on the regular season PUP list. While that would cost them their starting quarterback for the first six weeks of the season, riding Kirk Cousins over that stretch is a lot better than installing him as the franchise signal caller because RGIII’s knees are shot. For the Redskins, there’s more at stake here than just six weeks.
3. Newsome’s unenviable task of re-constructing the Ravens.
Whether anyone thinks Joe Flacco should be paid like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees is rather moot. The going rate these days for franchise quarterbacks is $20 million per season, and Flacco proved in the postseason that he’s Baltimore’s franchise player. He may never put up the same jaw-dropping numbers that Brees has, but Flacco is worth his weight in gold to a team like the Ravens, who consistently draft well and will continue to compete under John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome. When you find a quarterback in this league (particularly a quarterback coming off one of the finest postseason performances in NFL history), you hang onto him. And in order to hang onto Flacco, the Ravens will pay the $20-plus million-a-year asking price.
No, the real storyline in Baltimore is whether or not Newsome can build another Super Bowl contender after he gets done paying Flacco. Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Bryant McKinnie all helped Baltimore win the Super Bowl this year and all four of them are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Receiver Anquan Boldin is also set to make $6 million, so he could be forced to either restructure his deal or become a cap casualty. (He said he’ll retire if Baltimore releases him.) Newsome build two entirely different Super Bowl winners over the past 12 years. But this offseason might offer him his biggest challenge to date. As one of the finest general managers in the NFL, Newsome is certainly up for the challenge but the pressure will also be on Harbaugh and his staff to win with younger players as Baltimore re-stocks through the draft.