NFC Teams’ Biggest Roster Decisions: Who Stays and Who Goes

Budda Baker, Bryce Young, Daniel Jones, Dak Prescott, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Geno Smith are among the big names with uncertain futures.
Prescott is in the final year of his contract and can't be given the franchise tag.
Prescott is in the final year of his contract and can't be given the franchise tag. / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, the next big decision always looms.

In some cases, it’s about the quarterback. In others, it’s whether to shift away from an organizational ethos because of salary cap constraints. 

Regardless, every front office faces a litany of defining choices every offseason, trying to remain a contender or finally become one.

Ultimately, being correct largely determines who keeps their job, and who has to start packing once more. 

For the 16 NFC teams, here is one big decision each must grapple with in the coming year.

Arizona Cardinals

Biggest decision: Should they move safety Budda Baker at the Nov. 5 trade deadline?

Entering his age-28 season, Baker is a three-time All-Pro and a six-time Pro Bowler. He’s also entering the final year of his contract. With the Cardinals in the midst of a youth movement, should general manager Monti Ossenfort deal Baker at the trade deadline if he gets a good offer?

Atlanta Falcons

Biggest decision: Is it time to find Michael Penix Jr.’s replacement?

The Falcons signed Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract this offseason, making him the biggest acquisition by any team in free agency. Then, in a stunning twist, they drafted Penix, who at 25 years old will sit for at least two years behind Cousins. General manager Terry Fontenot must already be thinking about the next succession plan. We’re kidding … we hope.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young
Young and the Panthers had just two victories in his rookie season. / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest decision: If Bryce Young struggles again, do the Panthers move on?

Young wasn’t just disappointing in 2023, he was downright awful. On the league’s worst team, he threw for 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, averaging 179.8 passing yards per game. If Carolina and Young are atrocious again, does new GM Dan Morgan look to replace him in the 2025 draft?

Chicago Bears

Biggest decision: Which free-agent additions are the right ones?

The Bears may finally have their franchise quarterback in Caleb Williams. They also have a solid roster around him, but notably, retain an approximate $77.4 million in cap space for 2025. GM Ryan Poles should be targeting upcoming free agents on the offensive line and at edge rusher to round out the team.

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest decision: What does Jerry Jones do with Dak Prescott?

The Cowboys are in unknown waters with Prescott, who is in the final year of his deal and can’t be given the franchise tag due to a clause in his contract. If this is it for Prescott in Dallas, the Cowboys either have to find an outside replacement or turn to Trey Lance. Neither is comforting.

Detroit Lions

Detroit defensive end Aidan Hutchinson
Hutchinson had 11.5 sacks in 2023. / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest decision: How long do they wait to extend Aidan Hutchinson?

After handing out $332 million guaranteed this offseason to Penei Sewell, Jared Goff and Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions ownership might be feeling a bit tapped. Yet, after this upcoming season, Hutchinson is extension eligible. It’s always better to extend sooner rather than later as the cap will only increase, but does the Ford family wait an extra year after this winter’s spending spree?

Green Bay Packers

Biggest decision: Jordan Love gets paid, but which of his weapons do, too?

Love is slated for unrestricted free agency next year, but that’s never happening. The better question is which of his weapons are sticking around long-term? The Packers have Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks each signed for at least two more years. It’ll be interesting to see who stays and who goes.

Los Angeles Rams

Biggest decision: What’s the next step at the second level?

The Rams have serious questions in the front seven, and they start at linebacker. Ernest Jones has proven to be a quality starter, but he’s slated for free agency in 2025. He’ll be joined by Troy Reeder and Christian Rozeboom. The front office has to start thinking long-term about how that position looks.

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson
Jefferson's new contract could approach $35 million annually. / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest decision: Do they give Justin Jefferson close to quarterback money?

Signing Jefferson to an extension seems like a no-brainer… until you consider the potential cost. The best receiver in football and only 24 years old, Jefferson is going to reset an already booming wide receiver market, potentially at $35 million annually. Does that make sense, or does Minnesota use the franchise tag before dealing him for multiple first-round picks?

New Orleans Saints

Biggest decision: At what point do they reset their cap sheet?

The Saints’ annual restructure fest is a running joke at this point. GM Mickey Loomis clearly doesn’t want to be the one rebuilding, but at some point, it must happen. New Orleans is already a projected $82 million over the cap for 2025, and the roster is nowhere near contention status.

New York Giants

Biggest decision: When do they move on from Daniel Jones?

Everyone with eyes understands Jones isn’t the answer. He wasn’t when he signed the ill-conceived four-year, $160 million deal in 2023, and he still isn’t. So when does GM Joe Schoen make the move to replace him? The 2025 NFL draft isn’t expected to be a good draft for quarterbacks, but perhaps the Giants get aggressive either there or in free agency.

Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest decision: Is it time to stand pat for a bit?

Howie Roseman has long been (correctly) lauded as one of the league’s best general managers, but he finds himself in a tough spot. The Eagles are expected to be relatively tight to the cap in 2025, with few avenues to create space without pushing money down the road. Roseman should consider adding almost exclusively through the draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Biggest decision: Should the 49ers keep Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk?

The 49ers own the league’s best roster, so this could go many ways. They have myriad decisions ahead, including whether to extend QB Brock Purdy. However, the more immediate question involves their receiving group, including whether to keep Aiyuk on a top-tier deal, which likely means moving off Samuel as he enters 2025, the final year of his pact.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith
Smith passed for only 20 touchdowns in 2023. / Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest decision: Is Geno Smith the starting quarterback in 2025?

Smith signed a three-year deal before the 2023 season coming off a 30-touchdown campaign which earned him his first Pro Bowl recognition. However, last season was more middling, with Seattle missing the playoffs and Smith passing for 20 touchdowns and for 3,624 yards. The Seahawks could look to replace him sooner than later.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Biggest decision: Which priority free agents are going to be kept?

This offseason saw the Buccaneers retain Mike Evans, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Baker Mayfield on big-money deals. The question now is whether GM Jason Licht goes the same route next offseason, with OT Tristan Wirfs, WR Chris Godwin, LB Lavonte David and others slated for free agency. Suffice to say, not all will be back in Tampa for 2025.

Washington Commanders

Biggest decision: Which receivers are good fits around QB Jayden Daniels?

Terry McLaurin is the obvious answer. But Jahan Dotson is an unknown, with one year left before Washington must decide whether to exercise his fifth-year option. However, Jamison Crowder, Olamide Zaccheaus, Dyami Brown and Dax Milne are all hitting free agency after this season. Time to reshape the receiver position as Daniels gets acclimated.


Published
Matt Verderame

MATT VERDERAME

Matt Verderame is an NFL staff writer for Sports Illustrated. He hosts The Matt Verderame Show on Patreon; previously wrote for FanSided and Awful Announcing; and is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. A proud father of two girls and lover of all Italian food, Matt is an eternal defender of Rudy, the greatest football movie of all time.