The NFL is a narrative-driven league. We're locked in all year round because they've found storylines and characters to keep us in our seats. Here are five that will dominate this offseason and 2019 season to come.
The offensive guru
This offseason is going to be about NFL owners tripping over one another to find someone who can replicate the high-flying Chiefs, Saints or Rams. The interesting part? There aren’t that many coaches available who can do it. Owners can either dig through the coach recycling bin in hopes that a long-time coordinator or former head coach has learned something, or they can pray that a collegiate coach with a dynamite scheme can somehow.
Saying goodbye to legends
While Tom Brady expresses a desire to play until 45, he has notably slowed this year, as have some of the key role players in the Patriot dynasty. Elsewhere, Drew Brees will turn 40 before the Super Bowl. Larry Fitzgerald is 35, Julius Peppers is going to be 39, Rob Gronkowski is going to be 30, but with two careers’ worth of serious injuries on his body. That’s just a few of the names we’ll be keeping an eye on as the grind of another NFL season forces players to make decisions about their long-term health and life after football. Luckily for the NFL, the league was infused over the past two or three seasons with a bedrock of young stars capable of replacing the outgoing class. Still, it is never easy for a league to wave goodbye to its biggest cash cows.
A new coach for Aaron Rodgers
There will be plenty of shifting atop NFL organizations this offseason, but nothing more notable than a new head coach for Aaron Rodgers. Arguably the most talented quarterback in the NFL, Rodgers has had just one head coach during his career—a singular voice that has lifted him to the top of the profession. Amid Mike McCarthy’s ouster, there have been suggestions that Rodgers unofficially took over the team years ago. Coaches who have worked in the building know how difficult it can be to coach the skilled but mercurial passer. Whoever is coming in not only has to wrangle Rodgers and present him with a scheme that maximizes his ability, but has to scrub a culture that has been in place for a decade.
Le’Veon Bell’s future
The first player since Sean Gilbert to sit out an NFL season will hit the market (or enter into another strange game of contractual ping pong with the Steelers) once the new league year starts. He is supremely talented, but he is also soon to be 27, with a lengthy injury and suspension history behind him. James Conners’ emergence may have spooked opposing general managers who wonder if Bell was a product of the system, or if the Steelers are simply very good at drafting and developing generational talents at the running back position. While some teams will have gobs of salary cap space this offseason, will one team pay him enough to negate the money he lost by missing all of 2018?
Year 2 of the Oakland Grudens
Jon Gruden has now assumed full control over the Raiders. Any controversial move he makes, the owner will take the blame for. Any shortcomings in free agency can be blamed on the soon-to-be relocated Las Vegas Raiders. What happens when a coach with an authoritarian streak and something to prove in today’s NFL gets handed the keys to the entire operation? We’ll find out. Oakland has a stockpile of draft picks and, thanks to this season’s trading spree, a lot of holes to fill.