Mere weeks from the big event of the offseason (the NFL draft), the league continues to prepare for the upcoming influx of young talent. Last week, I delved into the AFC teams’ acquisitions — and they were aplenty. Now, we look toward the NFC side of things, which while not as stacked as the AFC, has made changes that will affect the present and future of several franchises. Let us begin with the North!
The biggest news up in Green Bay was the sigh of relief heard throughout the league when Aaron Rodgers decided to remain with the Packers. Fans were flying high following the news until weeks later when sensational receiver Davante Adams was traded to Las Vegas in a massive trade and signed to an ensuing monster contract. In Chicago, stars like Khlalil Mack and Allen Robinson left for warmer weather by going to both Los Angeles teams. Meanwhile, second year quarterback Justin Fields will continue to work with an offense which, though it will not be run by the stagnant minded Matt Nagy, boasts a pretty lackluster roster. They added receiver Byron Pringle, who is a solid third receiver, but lacks the game changing ability fans would hope the team would surround their hopeful franchise quarterback with. The draft will be a big sign as to where the Bears are going to stand next season and over the next few years.
Detroit is hoping to build a new powerhouse team under second-year head coach Dan Campbell. The team was solid last year despite their horrible record which netted them the second overall pick in this year’s draft. They fought tooth and nail every game and showed every bit of effort to bring a victory to the Lions. The team signed the coveted receiver DJ Chark who they hope will open up the offense around Jared Goff who is looking more and more like a bridge quarterback for the team. It will be interesting to see what this team does in this and next year’s draft in terms of a quarterback. Most believe the team will attempt to pick up top tier defensive end prospect Aidan Hutchinson, but questions remain as to if the squad will make a trade up to acquire one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Given that the prospect this year wouldn’t be a major upgrade over Goff, I would advise the Lions to hold steady and bolster the rest of the roster before rushing a quarterback pick.
Oh and then there’s the Vikings… not too much of a change around their middling roster. Cousins is still the quarterback, the defense is close to the top half of the league, and Justin Jefferson is still miles better than Jalen Reagor (sigh). They did sign former Packers linebacker Za’ Darius Smith. It will be interesting to see the team operate under a new head coach after the departure of Mike Zimmer.
In the East, Washington finally got themselves a new quarterback and a new name! No longer the Washington Football Team (lol), the Commanders (lol even more) acquired the embattled Carson Wentz for a pair of draft picks. We’ll see how it pans out, but for Eagles fans, at least two dates on the schedule will be circled in red. Speaking of the hometown birds, Philly has been fairly quiet thus far aside from the signing of Hasaan Reddick. Much of the focus has been on being able to retain players from last year’s roster such as Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce. It would seem as though Hurts is being given his well-earned shot at starting this year. Time will tell how long he retains that position. Much attention will be paid to the draft for Philly as they hold 11 this year and recently made a trade to attain a second first rounder next offseason.
The Giants will look to the draft for another attempt at fixing the offensive line in hopes that Daniel Jones will finally be able to make the next step and prove he is the quarterback of the future. It has been rough for him to prove as much since his offensive line and receivers have not been the greatest. Dallas, aside from signing Nick Foles last April Fool’s Day (haha) has been equally quiet. They have stuck to the program in the East by simply retaining players who were on the roster last year. In other words, as of now, the NFC East hasn’t changed very much at all.
In the South, after weeks of Deshaun Watson rumors, none of the teams’ quarterback situations improved. In fact, the Falcons situation got worse following the departure of longtime starter and former MVP Matt Ryan who was traded to the Colts. It is understood that the team is now under a full rebuild even though it seemed as though such was the case over the past four years. The Panthers haven’t made many moves as well aside from losing a few key defenders such as Stephon Gilmore and Haason Reddick. Darnold remains the quarterback but many epct the draft or a possible trade may change that soon.
New Orleans lost their head coach, star left tackle, and both their starting safeties. Their cap space has been an issue for the past few years and it was understood that the days of a massive rebuild were on the horizon. The Buccaneers were looking to be a team fallen from grace following the retirement of Tom Brady. Alas, the rest of the league will once more never sleep easy as TB 12 has returned. As the result of Brady’s return, several veterans who were questionable to return, such as Chris Godwin and Ryan Jensen, have re-signed with the Bucs.
Over in the West, the Cardinals retained former Eagle Zach Ertz by signing him to a new extension. Their biggest loss of course was one of the top defensive ends last year, Chandler Jones. Jones, receiver Christian Kirk, and running back Chase Edmonds all left Arizona. Each was a major contributor to last year’s playoff roster. It will be difficult to replace what they had brought to the table. The reigning super bowl champs lost their star left tackle to retirement and Von Miller. However, they were able to acquire the star linebacker Bobby Wagner and what had been concluded as the top receiver in the free agency market this offseason in Allen Robinson. The Niners have yet to find a new home for Jimmy Garoppolo as they hand the keys to second year quarterback Trey Lance. Seattle is preparing for a rebuild following the loss of star quarterback Russell Wilson and the aforementioned Bobby Wagner.
Overall, many of the NFC teams have lost players to the AFC creating a potential scale-tipping phenomenon across the conferences. With a loaded AFC and an NFC weaker than ever before, will the super bowls fall into an “age of the AFC”? Will the Carson Wentz revenge tour bear sweet fruit for Washington? Who knows? Stay tuned for a draft overview following the next big portion of the offseason.
Joseph Gill is a third-year English major with a minor in Journalism. JG923276@wcupa.edu