By Stephen “Twist” Kearns
Welcome to the state of the NFC review! We’re gonna take a look and see what is and has happened within the NFC since the Super Bowl before we hit the draft, covering some news and featuring some opinions!
The NFC, home to the worst division in football this season (the NFC South), the Super Bowl losers in the Eagles, the resident crazy man Aaron Rodgers, the holders of the 1st pick in the draft the Bears and much more! We’re gonna take a quick look at each team this offseason!
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals will have to pray for a miracle this offseason. While they do hold the 3rd overall pick in the Draft, they are seeing most of their starting Offensive Line hitting Free Agency along with their top Defensive Lineman (Allen) and Cornerback (Murphy) so they will have to look to sign as many as possible back while using the Draft to pick up players for their Offensive Line, Cornerback and since J.J. Watt retired, an Edge Rusher.
The retirement of Watt will put pressure on to find someone as explosive and disruptive as Watt off the Edge. The Cardinals find themselves in a tough division. The 49ers are the powerhouse and the Seahawks are not far behind.
While Kyler Muray is an explosive playmaker, everyone will be watching him when he eventually returns from his ACL injury. Will he still have the flash and speed like when Adrian Peterson returned from his or will he be like RGIII? All signs point to him not being ready for week 1 of the season and with Strong and Morgan the only Quarterbacks on the roster it will be interesting to see who the starter is come week 1!
Atlanta Falcons: With the 8th overall pick in the draft the Falcons will be looking to bolster their defence, now that the Saints have signed Derek Carr. Ridder has the support of the Falcons owner and looks to be their starter at Quarterback for the future unless something crazy happens in the draft and they are presented with an opportunity they cannot miss out on!
With little pressure off the edge, look for the Falcons to try and secure a stud Edge Rusher in the draft to help keep their team in games in a division that only slightly favours the Saints but could realistically be won by anyone based on last season’s results. They have not agreed to a contract extension with their Right Tackle Kaleb McGary as of yet, and he is an important part of their rushing attack. They have until March 15th to ink a deal otherwise he hits the Free Agent Market and there will be many teams looking to bolster their line prior to the draft who could offer him a big pay day.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers hold the 9th pick in the draft this year and while they were in the worst division in football (all losing records) they could easily make a push in this very weak division with a smart draft. They desperately need a Tight End and a veteran free agent Quarterback as Darnold is not the answer and Corral missed the season due to injury so the rookie hasn’t had a chance yet and Cheek is just a backup.
Corral could make a push during camp but he would still benefit from having a veteran Quarterback to help him along the way. Mason Rudolph or Gardner Minshew could be good fits to plug a hole while Corral gets up to speed. Don’t expect the Panthers to splash out on a Quarterback in the 1st after spending a 3rd rounder on Corral last year. However any improvement to their offence in this division will give them a big boost!
Chicago Bears: The Chicago Bears are on the clock! They have confirmed Fields is still their starter so don’t expect them to consider a Quarterback with the 1st overall pick. They may consider trading down if the offer is right but look for them to bolster the offensive line to keep Fields safe and they will no doubt pick up some help for the defensive side of the ball as after all it’s the Bears!
They need to build up their offence to give them more opportunities to score and not rely solely on the mobility of Fields as that is how you shorten the career of your starter. There might be a party outside Soldier Field if Rodgers leaves the Packers and the conference, and the Bears will finally be able to escape the Rodgers championship belt celebration in Soldier Field twice a year!
Dallas Cowboys: Well the Cowboys went into Tampa Bay and beat a wild card team who didn’t deserve to be there, from the worst division in football and gave “Dem Boys” fans a glimpse of hope only to be stopped by Purdy and co.
The Cowboys have placed Pollard on the franchise tag, after a Pro Bowl season and being their work horse they need to keep him around since Zeke tends to get injured. The Dak contract extension is looming and they need to address it sooner than later to reduce his cap hit especially before the draft (where they hold the 26th pick, look for them to address the defensive side of the ball) and to give them wiggle room to contend for some big free agent signings. The cycle of hope begins again for Dem Boys!
Detroit Lions: The Lions finally have teeth again and they made sure to use them on the Packers to kill their playoff hopes. These are not the Lions of old, 0-16 no more. They have a bright future and can be real contenders in the 2023 season. They hold the 6th and the 18th pick in the first round of the draft. If they can pick two future superstars with these picks they will instantly raise their stock in a tight NFC North division.
Look for all defensive players to come off the board with these picks by the Lions, their offence performed much better than anyone expected but they need their defence to keep them in games. Giving Hutchinson some help up at the front seven will make the Lions defence scary good and cause headaches for the rest of the NFC North. If Goff can improve on last season, we might see the Lions winning the division for the first time since 1991!
Green Bay Packers: Is he still in the dark, has anyone checked in on Rodgers? While he mulls over his future in the league and flirts with the New York Jets, we have to look at the Packers overall. Being held out of the playoffs by the Lions and holding the 15th overall pick in the draft, the Packers are waiting on Rodgers final decision before they can really plan their draft.
Excluding the need for a Quarterback, the Packers need help at Safety so expect them to draft one in the first round if available. If Rodgers leaves, or the team moves on without him which some expect will happen, they are left with Jordan Love and Danny Etling. Can the Packers contend with either of these at Quarterback,or do they gamble to try and jump up in the draft and grab a future Quarterback? Just don’t expect the Bears or Lions to consider trading with them!
Los Angeles Rams: Welcome to the worst season for the Rams in the Sean McVay era! With no pick in the 1st round of the Draft the Rams will have to hope they can build out their Offensive Line, Edge and Defensive Line via the Draft and Free Agency.
While this isn’t the worst season for Stafford (see the Detroit years) you have to consider at 35 years old, how many more seasons does he have left? When do the Rams look at a possible replacement? It will cost a lot of draft capital for them to get inside the top 10 if they decide to go into rebuild mode, but don’t worry just yet Rams fans, I don’t think you’ll see it happening this season.
If they can get better at protecting Stafford they can look to make a push towards the playoffs. Add an explosive Edge Rusher and the Rams will quickly find themselves bouncing back, but if they finish up with a losing record again and miss the playoffs, look to find McVay on the hotseat!
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings fans have to realise that Kirk Cousins is just an average Quarterback who can occasionally make splash plays or comeback drives. Winning the division is always sweet but a Super Bowl winning quarterback he is not, and they need to come to terms with this fact. They hold the overall 23rd pick in the draft so expect to see some defensive players come off the board after they stole Brian Flores from the Steelers to be their new defensive coordinator. With the future of Adam Thielen uncertain, the Vikings might look to draft a Wideout as well to take some focus off Jefferson.
They won’t have a shot at a Quarterback in this draft unless they find a hidden gem like Purdy in the later rounds. The Vikings lately have been stuck in playoff purgatory, they get in – but they rarely make it far and if they do make the Championship game it’s either a blowout loss or a nail biting defeat and they never make it to the dance. With a stud wideout (Jefferson) and a new defensive coordinator could the missing piece really be the quarterback?
New Orleans Saints: The Saints landed Derek Carr, signing him to a 4yr $150 million deal with $100 million in guarantees and a no-trade clause. Have the Saints finally found the heir to Brees? Only time will tell but with Carr at 31 who knows how many more years he has under centre. This does however reunite Carr with his old coach who started him back in 2014 so there will be good chemistry from the get go!
The Saints have the 29th overall pick and with Quarterback off the board look for them to add depth at either the Defensive Line or Running Back position. However I do not see them using a 1st round pick on a Running Back as this is pretty rare in today’s NFL.The Saints now have to be favourites to win the division on the strength of signing Carr alone as the the NFC South is in turmoil and a big Quarterback signing can easily swing the pendulum their way. With the Panthers struggling across all areas, the Bucs without a starting Quarterback, the Falcons would be the only team to challenge them in this division.
New York Giants: Daniel Jones, sorry Danny Dimes wants a big deal from the Giants. Yes they got to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and Jones is reportedly looking for a contract in the range of $48 million per season which the Giants were shying away from initially. They faced having to use the franchise tag on Jones or Barkley and as they only had one tag available, if no deal was reached they would have had to let either Jones or Barkley hit Free Agency.
Regardless of what Big Blue did in this situation, there will be fans who are not happy with the outcome, however they managed to secure a last minute deal with Jones which allowed them to tag Barkley and keep both. Now already a lot of fans are questioning the 4yr $160 million deal Jones got for putting up the numbers that Drew Brees would have by week 8. Is Jones really the future for the Giants? They seem to think so!
With the 25th pick in the draft the Giants need to shore up their Offensive Line to keep their franchise Quarterback upright and they desperately need to pick up a Wideout to help Jones in the passing game.
Philadelphia Eagles: Can Hurts sneak? That’s one thing the NFL is possibly reviewing this offseason. Can the QB be pushed during the sneak, if they outlaw this for the 2023 season then one of Hurt’s most effective plays is removed. The Eagles have also brought to the NFL the jersey number issue, they want to bring back the ability for players to wear 0 or 00 which has not been allowed since the 1970’s.
Although many Philly fans might want the team to focus more on their large list of Free Agents and the Draft where they hold the 10th and the 30th pick in the first round.
Using these picks, the Eagles could look to fill some gaps in their defence caused by free agency (they have a lot of free agents to re-sign). The window to get back to the Super Bowl waits for no team and while many question the Eagles schedule and how they got there, the team needs to focus on the return trip before that window slams shut for who knows how long.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers found themselves one game away from the Super Bowl and then Purdy went down injured. Following this injury to both Purdy and Johnson and McCaffery finding himself under centre briefly, the 49ers are understandably annoyed at the removal of the Emergency Quarterback option on game day. However, it seems the NFL Competition Committee is reviewing this rule once again.
Without a pick in the 1st round of the Draft the 49ers will need to focus on locking up important free agents like Offensive Tackle McGlinchey as they need to keep their Quarterback safe from potential injury!
They will also need to build out their Defensive Backs and Defensive Line via Free Agency and the Draft. The closest contender in their division was and is the Seahawks and if the 49ers can build on what they had last season there is nothing stopping them making another run at the Super Bowl, however the biggest question is who will be under centre, Lance, Garoppolo or Purdy? As it stands Purdy could be out for anywhere from 6-12 months depending on the repair needed to his injury, so right now it’s between Lance and Garoppolo!
Seattle Seahawks: Well how about that, Geno Smith got paid! The NFL Comeback Player of the Year bags himself a 3 year $105 million dollar contract from the Seahawks. If you asked any Seahawk fan after Wilson left who’d be under centre for the next few years, less than 1% would have guessed Geno Smith.
Now that the question around Quarterback is addressed the Seahawks can focus on Free Agency and the Draft. They hold the 5th and the 20th pick in the Draft. Look for them to pick up a young Wideout to help Metcalf and Lockett and they will be looking to shore up their defence as well during this offseason.
They are looking up at the 49ers and will push to challenge them for the division now that they are confident in the work of Geno Smith and with their defence slowly starting to look like the Legion of Boom 2.0, it’ll be an interesting season for Seahawks fans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady is retired(already rumours about him signing with the Colts) and the Buccaneers are facing an uncertain future at the position as Gabbert and Trask are not the future of the franchise. With the 19th overall pick the Buccs need to fill holes in the defence as a whole and also need to find a future franchise Quarterback. Julio Jones may not be back with the Bucs as they look to enter a rebuilding phase, showing just how quickly the Super Bowl window closes on teams.
Considering the state of the NFC South, even in a rebuilding year the Bucs still would have a shot at winning the division once again. With their cap room on the tight side and in the red, don’t look for them to make any splash moves in free agency. It’s going to be a tough season for Bucs fans after Brady retired.
Washington Commanders: The Wentz experiment is over in Washington as they released him and now look towards the draft. Holding the 16th pick in the draft a lot of mock drafts have them taking a Corner,but will this change with no concrete starter under centre for the Commanders. Although the team does seem to be putting a lot of stock behind Sam Howell going into the 2023 season after his debut against the Cowboys in the season finale. It’s either Howell or Heinicke to start, and Heinicke has the experience.
The biggest news for Commanders fans however is the hiring of Eric Bieniemy, the Chiefs OC and leaving behind the shadow of Reid and Mahomes to have full control of the Commanders offence. While only a lateral move for Bieniemy, it gives Washington and him the chance to shock the division and show why he was a two-time Super Bowl winning coach!