The biggest offseason priority for every NFL team

With Super Bowl LV behind us, every NFL team is now in offseason mode. Quarterback maneuvers are stealing headlines thus far, but several teams are set there and need to make key adjustments at other spots. Here is each team’s biggest offseason task.

 

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Patrick Peterson was not the same player over the past two seasons, following a six-game PED suspension. The All-Decade cornerback is a free agent; so is Dre Kirkpatrick. The Cardinals have needs at a few places — Chandler Jones edge-rushing sidekick, WR2, and on the offensive line — but they must field a new crew alongside Byron Murphy. The Cardinals hold pick No. 16, putting them in range to land Virginia Tech corner Caleb Farley. The ex-Hokies stopper opted out of last season to preserve his draft stock. However Arizona plays it, the team will need new blood even if it does not bring Peterson back for an 11th season.

 

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On one hand, Matt Ryan should have a few above-average seasons left. The Falcons could try one more reload around their 35-year-old veteran. On the other, Ryan has not made the Pro Bowl since his 2016 MVP season. The Falcons have not held a top-five pick since they drafted Ryan third overall in 2008. This is a prime opportunity to draft Ryan’s successor, and owner Arthur Blank put that prospect on the table recently. Depending on the Falcons’ fondness for BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, or Georgia native Justin Fields, a seminal decision awaits a franchise that just hired a new coach and GM.

 

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The Ravens have a few key issues. Interior offensive line and wide receiver will be addressed this offseason, but with Baltimore presenting a less-than-ideal situation for free agent wideouts, the franchise’s top priority should be determining a path at outside linebacker. The Ravens franchise-tagged Matt Judon last year and acquired franchise-tagged Yannick Ngakoue. Both are free agents, and Baltimore’s top D-line rushers — Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe — are over 30. The Ravens are not big on paying up for edge rushers, but Judon has proven himself worthy. And he will need a running mate, perhaps in the draft.

 

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A credit to the Brandon Beane-Sean McDermott regime, this roster does not feature many Defcon 1-level need areas. But the Bills took a step back in pass defense last season and have multiple aging defensive ends. This marks an interesting year to have a need for this expensive skill, with the salary cap set to plummet for just the second time ever. Bud Dupree is coming off an ACL injury but is only 27 and has delivered back-to-back strong seasons. Yannick Ngakoue and Carl Lawson are intriguing as well; so is the contract-year breakout, Trey Hendrickson. There will be options for the Super Bowl contender.

 

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If the Texans make Deshaun Watson available, this is an attractive destination. Matt Rhule is entering Year 2 of a seven-year contract and, at least in 2021, the Panthers employ fast-rising, OC Joe Brady. Carolina also has a host of young skill-position talent, in Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson. The Texans would not give the Panthers a major discount because they play in the NFC, but this is  an advantage against AFC competition (primarily the Jets and Dolphins). Teddy Bridgewater’s 2021 dead money will not be an issue for a Carolina team thinking long-term. Watson would solve the franchise’s biggest problem. 

 

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In need at many offensive positions but still possessing an upper-crust defense that is on the verge of the “aging” label, the Bears are desperate. What maybe needs to happen is a full-on rebuild, but ownership retained Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace — the latter the architect of the failed Mitchell Trubisky trade — so that will have to wait. The Bears are in the Carson Wentz mix, but they still need help up front and at wide receiver. Adding a franchise-QB salary to the mix will also make it more difficult for Chicago to franchise-tag Allen Robinson. But the Bears almost have to take a veteran QB swing, given their situation. 

 

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In not directing part of their rare free agency splurge toward protecting Joe Burrow, the Bengals made a considerable error last year. They paid for it, with Burrow not guaranteed to be ready by Week 1 after tearing multiple knee ligaments and suffering structural damage. Whenever Burrow returns, he will need multiple new starting O-linemen. Fortunately, the Bengals’ No. 5 overall pick will be within range of landing Oregon standout tackle Penei Sewell. The 2020 opt-out would fit as a right tackle immediately in Cincinnati opposite Jonah Williams. They would ideally join a free agent guard or center on an improved line.

 

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It is conceivable the Browns become the rare team to return its entire offensive starting lineup (feat. Kareem Hunt), with Odell Beckham Jr. due back (as of now) as well. Cleveland needs help on all three defensive levels, having squandered a golden opportunity in Kansas City. The Browns’ No. 25 defensive DVOA figure was the worst among this year’s playoff teams. Myles Garrett needs a new wingman, and the Ravens keeping both Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue is unrealistic. Ngakoue played in a 4-3 scheme in Jacksonville and thrived. He can both help Garrett and Cleveland’s secondary.

 

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Given the ignition of the quarterback trade market, it would seem the Cowboys could fetch somewhere between the Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford price tags for Dak Prescott. The 2020 NFC East was a reminder of the five-year veteran’s value, and the Cowboys have numerous veteran starters that match up with Prescott’s timeline. But this is now offseason No. 3 of Dak negotiations, and a monster $37 million franchise tag will hurt more once the pandemic-induced cap decrease occurs. With Watson’s 2020 extension raising QB prices further, the Cowboys face a decision: extend their QB now or trade him to avoid a Kirk Cousins-esque ending.

 

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With Stafford gone, Wentz likely headed elsewhere and new GM George Paton unlikely to part with the draft capital necessary to acquire Watson, the Broncos can use this offseason to better build their roster around Drew Lock and/or equip their to-be-determined 2022 starting QB with a strong base. The Broncos have seen each member of their Super Bowl-winning No Fly Zone secondary depart. If/once Denver makes A.J. Bouye a cap casualty, injury-prone Bryce Callahan is the team’s only proven corner. At pick No. 9, investing in Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley or Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II should be strongly considered.

 

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The Rams and Eagles gave up ransoms to trade into the Jared Goff and Carson Wentz draft slots in 2016. Moves for Patrick Mahomes or Watson in 2017 would not have cost as much. The Lions are not planning to contend in 2021, and they now have Goff as a placeholder. The extra first-round pick the Rams gave them to take Goff’s contract could be valuable if the Lions identify a high-ceiling non-Trevor Lawrence QB prospect this year. Picking at No. 7, Detroit could trade up. That would take the team out of a possible 2022 top-three overall passer pick. GM Brad Holmes will need to have a QB timeline ready by April.

 

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The Packers have not done enough to bolster their rosters during the Aaron Rodgers era, leading a three-time MVP to have one Super Bowl berth in 13 QB1 seasons. The least Green Bay brass could do now is keep some of its essential cogs. Aaron Jones and All-Pro center Corey Linsley are free agents; one can be tagged. With all O-linemen grouped together under the tag formula, Jones is Green Bay’s tag candidate. The Packers could use a veteran receiver, and there will be a few second-tier options in a buyer’s market. But the franchise must do all it can to maximize Rodgers now; keeping its two big-ticket free agents is a start.

 

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Unlike the trades involving Hall of Fame-bound QBs Steve Young or Brett Favre, the Texans have a proven NFL superstar in trade rumors. Watson’s situation is closer to Fran Tarkenton’s in 1967. While the Vikings did reacquire their standout QB years after trading him in his prime, the Texans must avoid dealing Watson. The franchise spent several years cycling through QBs a few tiers below Watson. If it means embattled owner Cal McNair firing bizarrely placed executive VP Jack Easterby and taking a background role himself, it needs to happen. If the Nick Caserio-led team cannot make this right, a rebuild will take a bit thanks to Bill O’Brien’s missteps.

 

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The Colts have one of the NFL’s best all-around rosters, but Philip Rivers’ retirement leaves a QB need for the third time in three years. With Andrew Luck out of the picture, this is the team best positioned to revive Wentz. Frank Reich had Wentz on an MVP pace before his 2017 injury, and the Colts have a top-tier offensive line and immense cap space. This move would not be without risk, but the Colts hold pick No. 21 and are unlikely to be picking high in 2022 due to their roster strength. While they must be careful not to overpay, the Colts make sense for Wentz. And his contract would become bearable once the Eagles trade it.

 

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This is discounting the Jaguars’ slam-dunk decision with the No. 1 overall pick (Trevor Lawrence), but the team has a ways to go in order to put the quarterback in a winning situation. Jacksonville is projected to hold the NFL’s most cap space, and after allowing a franchise-record 492 points, the team needs help at nearly every defensive position. Urban Meyer’s team should prioritize younger free agents. If the Buccaneers tag Chris Godwin, the Jags should go big for Shaq Barrett. This class should house other intriguing edges and possesses safety talent — Marcus Williams, John Johnson — as well. 

 

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While the two-time reigning AFC champions could use help at cornerback and linebacker, Super Bowl LV showed their top investment needs protecting. The Chiefs were without their top three O-linemen Sunday night in Tampa; Mahomes felt the effects. Eric Fisher is 30 and rehabbing a torn Achilles, stalwart right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will be 32 and missed most of 2020 with a back injury. The Chiefs, whose 30-year-old right guard (Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) may be needed elsewhere, need a rookie-contract O-line cornerstone. Michigan tackle Jalen Mayfield has played both left and right tackle and could be there at No. 31.

 

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The Raiders will give former No. 4 overall pick Cle Ferrell more time, but after two years and 6.5 sacks, the likelihood experts were right and the Raiders were wrong moves closer to reality. Maxx Crosby is more of an auxiliary pass rusher; the Raiders at least need to acquire his tag-team partner. Las Vegas is projected to be over the cap, but a few cut avenues exist. Though ex-Bengals assistant Paul Guenther is gone, signing Carl Lawson — whose 32 QB hits ranked second last year —   would complement the Raiders’ rookie-deal D-ends. New DC Gus Bradley bringing over former Chargers pupil Melvin Ingram would not be a bad idea either.

 

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Multiple needs exist for the Chargers up front, with Herbert’s O-line featuring injury-prone vets or unproven younger blockers. The Bolts having needs at left tackle, left guard and perhaps center should prompt them to address their line in free agency and in the draft. With their No. 13 overall pick, Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater may be there. Slater is viewed as a player who could line up at tackle or inside. Penei Sewell will be off the board by this point. If not Slater, the Bolts need to come away with a starting O-lineman early in this draft after striking gold at quarterback.

 

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For the second straight season, a Rams rental outside linebacker came through with a double-digit sack showing. Leonard Floyd followed Dante Fowler in breaking through alongside Aaron Donald, and the Rams now have Floyd and four-year contributor Samson Ebukam as free agents. Taking on a record dead-money sum for shipping out Jared Goff, the Rams are over the cap and will need restructures, cuts, and extensions to create room. But they have no first-round pick, per usual, and nothing of note on the edge. A Floyd return or another rental will need to take place for a star-obsessed regime that made its biggest all-in move yet.

 

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If the Texans smartly opt to keep Watson, the Dolphins have an opportunity to augment Tagovailoa’s receiving corps in the draft and in free agency. Several options will be available in March, in what will be a deep receiver free agent class, and Miami holds the Nos. 3 and 18 overall picks. At No. 3, Alabama phenom and ex-Tagovailoa teammate, DeVonta Smith could well be there. So could LSU superstar Ja’Marr Chase, who dominated with Joe Burrow in 2019 before opting out as a junior. The Dolphins need to land Nos. 1 and 3 wideouts to join DeVante Parker and give their QB a better chance at NFL production. 

 

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None of Mike Zimmer’s first six Vikings defenses ranked outside the top 11 in points allowed; his 2020 unit finished 29th. Granted, injuries battered Minnesota’s defense. The Vikings return no player who recorded more than four sacks for them last season, and with Danielle Hunter missing all of 2020 due to injury and longtime edge mate Everson Griffen gone, the team needs to bolster its defensive front. Miami cogs Gregory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips profile as building blocks who could be available when the Vikings pick at No. 14. The Vikes built their recent playoff defenses through the draft; they need more cost-controlled help.

 

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Multiple parts of New England’s offense need repair. Cam Newton was bad, so were his receivers. If the 49ers upgrade at QB, the Patriots bringing Jimmy Garoppolo home would help them work on other areas. Garoppolo’s pay-as-you-go deal runs through 2022, giving the Pats flexibility to search for a long-term solution. A Patriot for nearly four years, Garoppolo threw 27 TD passes in 2019 and is quite familiar with Josh McDaniels’ system. At least one upper-class wide receiver —  ideally a veteran, given this team’s issues drafting wideouts — needs to join whatever QB the Pats acquire. Fortunately, many receivers will be available.

 

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Residing on their own tier of salary cap trouble, the Saints may be forced into a retooling year after their all-in push of the past few offseasons. Sean Payton has stood by Taysom Hill for years and used him as a full-time quarterback during Brees’ 2020 injury hiatus. The Saints have Hill under contract at a reasonable (for a QB1) rate through 2021. Financial issues have not limited the Saints much in recent years, but it looks like they finally will now. The Saints must add another group of rookie-contract contributors in April and use 2021 to find out if Hill truly is a viable long-term option.

 

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Since acquiring Leonard Williams at the 2019 trade deadline, the Giants featured one of the more underrated position groups — a D-line quartet of Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, and B.J. Hill. This helped the team make up for edge-rushing limitations. Both Williams and Tomlinson are free agents, with the former coming off a career-best season (11.5 sacks, 30 QB hits). The Giants still need help outside, and keeping Tomlinson over the more expensive Williams would help here. But given GM Dave Gettleman’s investment in Williams, a big extension is likely on tap. This will decrease funding for outside linebackers.

 

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New York Jets: fix late-season mix-up, land franchise QB

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Jets fans could mock up Lawrence in those green, white, and poorly conceived alternate black uniforms for weeks last season. Their win over the Rams may have been the beginning of the end for Jared Goff; it also killed visions of the likely Jacksonville-bound Lawrence. The Jets have a rare reprieve opportunity. Armed with four first-round picks over the next two drafts, a franchise that has lacked a young franchise QB since Joe Namath is in a position to bring Watson to the Big Apple. If the Texans make Watson available, this is the team that most needs to pounce.

 

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This looks like the waning stretch for the Eagles’ Super Bowl champion nucleus. The team is projected to be well over the 2021 cap and on track to, with the apparently imminent Wentz trade, absorb an NFL-record $33 million dead-money hit. New Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, a Frank Reich disciple seemingly brought in to fix Wentz, must now oversee a rebuild. To start, the Eagles will need to determine if Jalen Hurts’ trajectory points toward “future starter” or “backup/gadget player.” The Eagles hold the No. 6 overall pick and likely will have another first-rounder. Despite extending Wentz in 2019, Philly must consider another QB pick.

 

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While the Steelers will perform their usual contract-restructuring gymnastics to move under what is expected to be a reduced cap, their salary situation will force key departures. Longtime starters JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, and James Conner may all be gone. The Steelers’ top need is a Ben Roethlisberger heir apparent, but with Mason Rudolph and now Dwayne Haskins on the team, Pittsburgh might still wait another year to make that move. The Steelers must come out of this draft with multiple 2021 starters, even though they appear poised to decline before their post-Big Ben reboot.

 

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Kyle Shanahan’s coaching rival now has Matthew Stafford set to lead a Super Bowl-or-bust team, while the Seahawks and Cardinals have franchise QBs. The 49ers have made the NFC West’s most recent Super Bowl appearance and did so with Garoppolo having a good, not great year. But the 49ers were in the Stafford mix. Shanahan must determine if Garoppolo is still enough in a loaded division because the 49ers hold the No. 12 overall pick and may also be connected to other veteran passers (Sam Darnold, Derek Carr among them). With Garoppolo on a flexible deal, the 49ers can scan the market ahead of their April decision.

 

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Prior to Aaron Donald’s rib injury, he led a five-sack charge that keyed a Rams upset over the Seahawks in Round 1. That highlighted an evergreen issue for Seattle. The Seahawks’ best O-lineman, left tackle Duane Brown, will soon be 36. Although they landed a keeper in third-round guard Damien Lewis, he has next to nothing around him long-term. If Pete Carroll insists on making his top-five quarterback pilot a run-based offense, he and GM John Schneider need to use real capital — rather than their usual bargain-buy blueprint — to upgrade their offensive front ahead of Russell Wilson’s age-33 season.

 

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Dated and appropriate Teddy KGB reference aside, the Bucs signed Shaq Barrett for $4 million in 2019 and used their franchise tag on him in 2020. The former Broncos backup has delivered for two years and led one of the top defensive performances in Super Bowl history. He deserves a premier edge rusher contract. The Bucs have Tom Brady, but they are a defense-powered team. A long-term Barrett deal before March 9’s franchise tag deadline would allow for a Chris Godwin or Lavonte David tag. The Super Bowl champions, who also have Ndamukong Suh as a free-agent-to-be, rank top 10 in cap space. They will need to use it soon.

 

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Despite investing in edge rushers and cornerbacks in recent years, the Titans allowed a 52% third-down conversion rate — a 21st century-worst in the NFL. GM Jon Robinson needs a much better offseason. But the team is short on cap space, thanks to some big deals given to offensive standouts last year. Cap cuts will create more needs, but Tennessee must better support Harold Landry on the edge and needs more help at corner. Veterans like Melvin Ingram or Justin Houston would make sense, especially if their markets suffer because of the reduced cap. But the Titans recorded 19 sacks last year (30th); that cannot happen again.

 

32 of 32
Washington: come away with QB upgrade

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As Washington’s offer of a first-round pick and change for Matthew Stafford showed, the team is serious about improving. It needs to be, with Alex Smith set to turn 37 and Kyle Allen coming off a severe injury. Allen and Taylor Heinicke are restricted free agents; each could pass for a stopgap starter. But this offseason is already showing the QB measuring stick has moved. Washington, which also will not land Carson Wentz, is well off the pace. Free agency brings the likes of Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, and longtime Ron Rivera charge Cam Newton. Expect more noise from Washington in the trade market.

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Super Bowl LV X-factors

The performances of role players and less reliable starters will go a long way toward determining if the Chiefs can win back-to-back titles or if the Buccaneers can derail them on their home field. Here are the top X-factors from a game that will feature several famous X-factors.

 

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Brown has rarely approached his Steelers level of dominance — getting there basically against the Falcons and no one else — but this is still one of the 21st century’s best receivers. The 32-year-old former star only averaged 10.7 yards per catch, his lowest since becoming an NFL regular, and is battling a knee injury that may keep him out. But Brown still represents a tough cover for a WR3 if he suits up. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as Tampa Bay’s clear Nos. 1-2 targets, Brown would have an interesting opportunity as a lower-level defensive priority should he play Sunday.

 

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Perhaps Sunday’s definitive boom-or-bust player, Davis has fared well for stretches in his third season. He also submitted one of the worst games by an NFL cornerback in recent history, giving up three TDs to Tyreek Hill. Oddly forced into frequent one-on-one coverage against the league’s scariest deep threat, Davis allowed nine Hill catches for 204 yards in Week 12. However, Davis more than held his own against the likes of Michael Thomas and Davante Adams in multiple games in a four-INT season. He also has ceded three playoff TDs. How this rollercoaster stops will have a big say in determining this season’s champ.

 

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The two-week hiatus could be critical for the Chiefs’ top running back. After returning for the AFC championship game, Edwards-Helaire is practicing in full and stands to be healthier for Super Bowl LV. That will surely mean more than seven touches (his Bills workload). The Chiefs ranked 16th in rushing, and CEH was rarely the centerpiece of any Kansas City game plan. But he totaled 1,100 scrimmage yards while missing two games. While the run-apathetic Chiefs will likely avoid over-challenging the Bucs’ No. 1 DVOA run defense, a healthier version of the 5-foot-7 rookie only increases the AFC champions’ options.

 

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In Week 12, Fournette touched the ball six times. Hill turning in a 10-6 first-round scorecard against Davis steered the Bucs into a pass-geared game. But in the playoffs, the ex-Jaguars starter has been a primary threat. Fournette is averaging five yards per touch on 62 postseason handles and looks fresh after his lowest-volume season (97 carries). Although the Chiefs have elite defensive tackle, Chris Jones, they rank 21st against the run. They have not ranked inside the top 20 in-ground deterrence since 2015, putting a spotlight on Fournette and Ronald Jones.

 

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For name recognition, the Bucs probably have the most famous offense in Super Bowl history. While Gronkowski and Antonio Brown are in the WCW phases of their careers, the 30-somethings remain dangerous in spots. Set for his fifth Super Bowl, Gronk is this event’s defining tight end. He dominated in the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles, and his late diving grab sunk the Rams a year later. He scored seven regular-season TDs and posted a six-catch, 106-yard line against the Chiefs in November. Despite making just two playoff catches this year, Gronk should not be overlooked even if he is now an auxiliary piece. 

 

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It seems unfair a historically potent offense has one of the NFL’s fastest players both operating as a part-time receiver, alongside an even faster wideout and representing a lethal return threat. Like they did in 2020 with Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs opted to eschew defensive needs with their first pick in 2019. Hardman is not exactly reliable, as his fumble last week showed. But the former second-round pick is at best the No. 3 priority for defenses and can provide a boost in both kick and punt returns. The 2019 All-Pro breaking loose on a big play may be too much for the Bucs to handle.

 

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Overall, the Chiefs’ Hitchens signing — for five years and $45 million in 2018 — has not worked out. The Chiefs have been shaky in run defense for years (though their offense’s dominance has rendered this a niche issue), and Hitchens has delivered inconsistency at best. But Kansas City used him as its lone dime linebacker extensively against the Bills. He came through with seven solo tackles to help the Chiefs force ill-advised field goals. The Bucs have a better O-line and run game than the Bills, creating more important tasks for a linebacker who may be readying for his last game as a Chief.

 

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If Brown returns, Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich must find a way to have Miller on the field more often. Brown usurped Miller upon arrival, and the young deep threat played just 11% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps in both the wild-card and divisional rounds. Miller averaged 15.2 yards per catch and is coming off a game in which he made arguably the biggest reception in Bucs history. Tom Brady has never been a great deep-ball thrower, but he has formed a rapport with the second-year wideout. Miller is one of Super Bowl LV’s most fascinating players, with or without AB in uniform.

 

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Sean Murphy-Bunting

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After navigating an injury during the regular season, the second-year cornerback is on a tear entering the Bucs’ home Super Bowl tilt. Murphy-Bunting intercepted passes in each of Tampa Bay’s three NFC playoff games, with each of the thefts leading to touchdowns. The Central Michigan alum set up the second one on a 36-yard return. After a mediocre regular season that saw QBs complete 78% of their passes against him, Murphy-Bunting has fared better in the playoffs. This is obviously good news for a Bucs team needing all the help it can get against one of the best passing attacks ever.

 

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Statistically, the Chiefs did not boast a strong pass rush this season. Top sacker Frank Clark somehow made the Pro Bowl with five sacks before the team was announced, and starter Tanoh Kpassagnon finished a 16-game season with one. Okafor was injured for Super Bowl LIV, but the veteran has been more effective than Kpassagnon opposite Clark this season. Okafor recorded three sacks and 10 QB hits in the regular season. Non-blitz pressure is critical against Brady, but the Chiefs’ edge rushers have strong opposition in tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs. They will need one of their supporting casters to help out. 

 

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Five years after his defining game, Remmers will have another shot. The Panthers left him alone against Von Miller too often in Super Bowl 50 , and Cam Newton’s career took a sharp turn after Miller’s two sack-strips. Remmers has bounced around since and signed with the Chiefs as a backup, but he has a redemption opportunity. After starting for Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle, Remmers moved to left tackle following Eric Fisher’s Achilles tear. If Remmers is indeed the left tackle, he will primarily face Jason Pierre-Paul. This matchup will go a long way toward determining how live an underdog the Bucs will be.

 

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Extending Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Chris Jones in one offseason — and being the NFL’s lone team with two $20 million-per-year D-linemen, in Jones and Clark — means the cost-cutting elsewhere. The Chiefs have skimped at cornerback for years but found a rookie-contract gem in Sneed. The 2020 fourth-round pick flashed in September before an IR stay and has been a difference-maker since returning. Sneed has delivered multifaceted performances down the stretch, registering a sack in four straight games while covering well in the slot. He will not be a pushover for the Bucs’ high-profile receivers.

 

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A secondary glue player for most of the Andy Reid era in Kansas City, Sorensen is on tap for his 12th playoff game as a Chief. Sorensen made titanic plays in the past two divisional-round games, the most recent via his controversial goal-line strip of Rashard Higgins, and has played 100% of Kansas City’s defensive snaps since Week 9. The 30-year-old has been critical to Spagnuolo’s complex defense, intercepting three passes this season while affecting plays on blitzes. He will join Sneed in matching up with some famous opposition in Tampa. 

 

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The Chiefs have the less healthy offensive line going into Super Bowl LV, but the Bucs are missing a starter too. Right guard Alex Cappa’s absence moved Stinnie into the starting lineup. Some of Tom Brady’s big-stage failures featured inside pressure — from Steve Spagnuolo’s 2007 Giants to the 2015 Broncos to Brandon Graham’s sack-strip in Super Bowl LII — and Stinnie will be part of an interior line tasked with preventing Chris Jones from wrecking the game. The Chiefs employ one of the NFL’s premier inside pass rushers and will likely look to get him some matchups against the new starter.

 

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A torn ACL kept Thornhill out of Super Bowl LIV, and the second-year safety spent much of this season as a part-timer trying to recapture his previous form. But Spagnuolo deployed Thornhill on 77% of Kansas City’s defensive plays against Buffalo, and the former second-round pick came through with four passes defensed. Thornhill had the look of a longtime Chiefs starter alongside Tyrann Mathieu last season. With the Chiefs set to be in sub-packages for most of Super Bowl LV, Thornhill will have a chance to build momentum for the future. He will face difficult opposition in doing so.

 

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The top three Chiefs O-linemen from their Super Bowl LIV victory — Fisher, Schwartz, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif — are either out or not expected to play Sunday. This makeshift line must face a menacing front four. Ndamukong Suh has been one of this era’s most physically imposing blocking assignments; he now has the larger Vea back flanking him. The 347-pound nose tackle returned from IR for the Packers game; despite playing only 33 defensive snaps, Vea disrupted Green Bay’s attack. He is crucial to the Bucs’ top-tier run defense and frees up his pass-rushing mates. More Vea work will create a problem for the Chiefs.

 

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Through a cost-effectiveness lens, the Chiefs missed on Watkins. The former top-five pick has been frequently hurt and did not post a 700-yard season in Kansas City. That said, Watkins has lived up to his contract in the playoffs. He was vital to the Chiefs’ comeback in their last playoff outing against Brady — the 2018 AFC title game — and combined for 212 yards between last year’s conference championship game and Super Bowl LIV. Watkins has cleared 60 yards in all five of his Chiefs playoff assignments but has not played in this postseason. If Watkins can overcome a calf injury and suit up, it could change the game.

 

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The Bucs exited last week with neither of their starting safeties — Winfield and Jordan Whitehead — practicing. Winfield has a better chance to suit up, in being deemed questionable. The Bucs missed the versatile rookie in Green Bay. Winfield has consistently made plays, with the most recent — stripping Jared Cook as the Saints were driving for a two-score lead — perhaps changing the complexion of the NFC playoffs. The second-generation NFLer (three sacks) also serves as part of Tampa Bay’s oft-used blitz tactics. Having Winfield available will be crucial and perhaps necessary against this opponent.

 

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The Bucs’ 2020 first-round pick has the look of a long-term starter at right tackle. It is not out of the question, however, the biggest game of his career occurs Sunday. Wirfs has delivered steady work protecting Brady. He allowed one regular-season sack, has not missed an offensive snap, and produced the second-best season by a rookie right tackle (per Pro Football Focus) in over 10 years. But the Chiefs will likely send Frank Clark over to his side frequently. With the Chiefs featuring a greater margin for error, Wirfs’ work will help determine if the Bucs can maximize their chances.

 

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Had Shaq Barrett not intervened, the Packers are probably in Super Bowl LV. Beating right tackle Rick Wagner for three sacks, Barrett helped the Bucs stave off Green Bay’s rally. He will have a less experienced adversary Sunday. The Chiefs’ post-Eric Fisher-injury O-line configuration featured Wylie at right tackle. The third-year guard stands to be primarily matched up with Barrett, who has 30.5 sacks in two Tampa Bay seasons. With Mahomes boasting an NFL-best QBR against blitzes, Bucs DC Todd Bowles may limit his blitz-happy ways to protect his secondary. That will amplify the Barrett-Wylie matchup.

Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.

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สถานการณ์กองหลังของ New England Patriots สำหรับฤดูกาล 2021 ไม่ใช่เรื่องที่ดี ใครคือผู้เล่นคนแรกของทีมที่ได้รับความสนใจจากหลาย ๆ คนในช่วงฤดูหนาวนี้รวมถึงผู้เล่นด้วย ในตอนล่าสุดของพอดคาสต์ “Double Coverage” Devin และ Jason McCourty ได้พูดคุยกันในหัวข้อนี้ Devin ยังยืนยันว่าเขาไม่รังเกียจที่จะเห็น Cam Newton กลับมาในฤดูกาลหน้า “ ฉันไม่รังเกียจที่พวกนี้หลายคนจะเล่นให้กับทีมของฉันฉันจะเริ่มด้วยการบอกว่าฉันไม่ต้องการเห็นเพื่อนของฉัน Cam Newton กลับมา” Devin กล่าวตามที่ Ryan Hannable จาก WEEI เขียน “ ฉันคิดว่าเขาแข็งแกร่ง [situation] มา – ไม่มียุไม่มีอะไร [He] เล่นในซูเปอร์โบวล์และได้รับรางวัล MVP “Devin ยังกล่าวถึงผู้เล่นที่ดีที่จะมีให้ใช้งานได้รวมถึง Deshaun Watson ที่ไม่พอใจฮุสตันเท็กซัสด้วย” ดู Deshaun Watson: yo, Aaron Rodgers: yo, [Matthew] Stafford: พิน [Dak] Prescott: แกน [Carson] Wentz: ยอจิมมี่จี [Garoppolo]: พินเท็ดดี้บี [Bridgewater]: yo “เขากล่าวผู้รักชาติที่สูญเสียไปจาก Stafford ซึ่งถูกแลกเปลี่ยนกับ Los Angeles Rams ในวันเสาร์มันไม่น่าเป็นไปได้ที่ทีมจะแลกเปลี่ยนกับวัตสันซึ่งอยากจะย้ายไปที่ New York Jets และ Miami Dolphins การกลับมาของ Newton คือ เป็นไปได้ แต่ Adam Schefter ของ ESPN ประกาศเมื่อต้นเดือนมกราคมว่าทั้งสองฝ่ายคาดว่าจะลาออกนอกฤดูกาลนี้จากการกล่าวถึงของ QCs McCourty คนอื่น ๆ Rodgers คาดว่าจะอยู่ที่ Green Bay Packers เวนทซ์มีแนวโน้มที่จะอยู่ในฟิลาเดลเฟียกับหัวหน้าโค้ช Nick ของ Eagles Siriann แสดงความมั่นใจในตัวเขา Dallas Cowboys วางแผนที่จะจับ Prescott หัวหน้าโค้ช 49ers Kyle Shanahan และ CEO John Lynch ให้การสนับสนุน Garoppolo ต่อสาธารณะในฐานะผู้เริ่มต้นของทีมในปี 2021 สิ่งนี้จะออกจากเมือง Bridgewater แต่ถึงแม้จะเป็นการค้าเขาก็ยังยิงไกลเมื่อได้รับเลือกให้อยู่ที่ 15 สถานที่ในร่าง NFL ปี 2021 ผู้รักชาติสามารถเลือกกองหลังได้ด้วยจุดร่างขึ้นอยู่กับอัล Abaman นำแสดงในแฟรนไชส์ ​​Mac Jones นอกจากนี้ยังมีความเป็นไปได้ที่ Bill Belichick จะตัดสินใจเริ่มงาน Jarrett Stidham แต่หัวหน้าโค้ชไม่ได้แสดงความมั่นใจมากนักในฤดูกาลที่แล้ว ตามตรงเราอาจไม่มีความชัดเจนมากขึ้นก่อนที่ร่างจะหมุน จนถึงตอนนี้แฟน ๆ ผู้รักชาติยังคงคาดเดาเกี่ยวกับอนาคตของทีมได้

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