Playoff Predictions

AFC Wild Card

Bills (7) @ Ravens (2)Ravens

Broncos (6) @ Patriots (3)Patriots

Steelers (5) @ Texans (4)Steelers

NFC Wild Card

49ers (7) @ Buccaneers (2)Buccaneers

Cardinals (6) @ Cowboys (3)Cardinals

Saints (5) @ Vikings (4)Saints

AFC Divisional

Patriots (3) @ Ravens (2)Ravens

Steelers (5) @ Chiefs (1)Chiefs

NFC Divisional

Saints (5) @ Buccaneers (2)Saints

Cardinals (6) @ Seahawks (1)Seahawks

AFC Championship

Ravens (2) @ Chiefs (1)Chiefs

NFC Championship

Saints (5) @ Seahawks (1)Seahawks

Superbowl

Chiefs 27 vs Seahawks 31

Final Record Predictions For All 32 Teams

These are my final record predictions for the NFL. To do this, I went through and predicted every regular season game. If I were to predict the record through how good I think each team is, then 28/32 teams would finish with a record of between 6-10 and 10-6, however, the NFL doesn’t finish like that. Therefore, the records may seem more extreme than other predictions. Playoff predictions will follow tomorrow and award predictions the day after. Enjoy.

AFC EAST

Bills: 10-6 (7 Seed)

Yet again they fall just short of dislodging the Patriots who look like division winners with Cam Newton at the helm. They scrape into the playoffs via the brand new 7 seed.

Dolphins: 5-11

Fitzmagic provides some wins after a slow start and hands over to Tua to gain experience ready for next year – the real target.

Jets: 2-14

Darnold continues to see ghosts and the Jets head directly towards a top 4 pick and into the QB-needy team group. Gase joins Doug Marrone as the two coaches fired by week 8. Their talented draft class takes until next year to make a splash.

Patriots: 11-5 (3 Seed)

Belichick creates an offense that works for Newton and the defence, after struggling early, will come together for a late run with rookies Uche and Dugger stealing the show (Uche will be ridiculously good).

AFC West

Broncos: 12-4 (6 Seed)

They are a team to watch. They steel a win from the Chiefs at Mile High and Miller and Chubb become more consistent and more dangerous. (Miller is now out for the season).

Chargers: 2-14

Not a great division to be in and they have a massive whole at safety with Derwin James’ injury (can’t that guy get a break?). They bench Tyrod, though it won’t be his fault, and Herbert disappoints.

Chiefs: 14-2 (1 Seed)

After losing to the Ravens and at a visit to Mile High Stadium (what it will always be called in my mind) they sprint towards the one seed without breaking a sweat. Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks like a top5 pick instead of NO 32, where he actually went.

Raiders: 5-11

Inconsistent team that will lose many close games, they are on the up even if the win column doesn’t show this.

AFC South

Colts: 10-6

Only miss the playoffs through strength of schedule and division record. Rivers signs on for one final year after showing enough talent to keep the Colts interested.

Jags: 1-15

Not even Minshew can save them, the last winless team surprise the Browns in week 12 to gain their only victory.

Texans: 10-6 (4 Seed)

Essentially only reach the playoffs due to getting the better of the Titans. Watson deserves his extension, but he isn’t enough to overcome GM Bill O’Brian.

Titans: 8-8

Tannehill regresses slightly and whilst Henry has a good year, it doesn’t reach the hights of last. A slight regression means 1 more loss in the column from last year.

AFC North

Bengals: 3-13

A week 1 win over the Chargers gives promise, but this team just isn’t ready to compete at a high level, also has a tough division that essentially takes out 6 games of the season. Burrow still looks good for the future, however.

Browns: 10-6

One win from the playoffs, improvement along the O-Line and GM Andrew Berry in hailed as a genius for making the Browns truly competitive, one year away?

Ravens: 13-3 (2 Seed)

Beat the Chiefs early season but can’t hold onto the 1 seed throughout the season. JK Dobbins explodes in time for the playoffs.

Steelers: 12-4 (5 Seed)

The defence powers them to the playoffs, they grab a win against the Ravens. Big Ben is good but not great. Minkah Fitzpatrick enters DPOY conversation.

NFC East

Cowboys: 11-5 (3 Seed)

The Cowboys are very, very good but not a Superbowl team. However, weak division means they coast into the playoffs.

Eagles: 9-7

Wentz can only lift the injury-riddles (ALREADY!) Eagles so high. Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard out for the year, he’ll be running for his life!

Giants: 1-15

I’m sorry but I have no faith in the Giants this year. I’m still not sold on Daniel Jones and I believe that Saquon will be hounded by all 11 defensive players.

Team: 3-13

The defence is ridiculously good, but the offense is still a year away from being good. Gibson is a breakout candidate at RB. Watch for an upset win over the Ravens after the Ravens dispatch the Chiefs a week prior.

AFC North

Bears: 4-12

Maybe the most lacklustre offense of the entire NFL. This won’t be a good year and Foles doesn’t improve the offense that much when he replaces Trubisky.

Lions: 3-13

No amount of former Patriots will save this team, it’s not that they’re awful, I just don’t trust them in each game. There isn’t two many easy games on the schedule to gain wins, a difficult year for the Lions.

Packers: 10-6

Losses to the Vikings and Bears keep them out the playoffs, maybe if they had a first round pick which helps immediately, they could make the playoffs.

Vikings: 10-6 (4 Seed)

This team gets over the line due to help from newly acquired Ngakoue and the young rookies, Jefferson, Gladney and Dantzler. Helps they only have one Monday Night game this year.

NFC South

Buccaneers: 13-3 (2 Seed)

Old man Brady guides his “Super team” to the playoffs, but once they enter the elimination games, they can’t find the top gear to progress far.

Falcons: 6-10

Defence lets them down again and the lack of a consistently good run game. I apologise to Julio Jones that he is yet again being wasted. They’re still not over 28-3.

Panthers: 5-11

The defence is young, really young. All their rookies are on defence (except for one special teamer). Bridgewater can’t keep up with the other team. At least they’ll be the reason you win a fantasy league with McCaffery.

Saints: 12-4 (5 Seed)

The last unbeaten team, their first loss in week 9 against the Bucs. This is based on them keeping Kamara however.

NFC West

49ers: 11-5 (7 Seed)

They lose early due to injuries they are currently enduring. Once they are healthy they rack up wins, George Kittle continues to be a beast.

Cardinals: 12-4 (6 Seed)

The new team to enter battle with the top teams. Hopkins doesn’t skip a beat and Murray significantly improves. However, it will be their defence that makes this possible, climbing from last to a top 10 result this year.

Rams: 4-12

Goff has been exposed; the defence will be good but nothing special. The Rams are a team of great players, not a great overall team. Too many weak spots, especially at QB. Akers is the glimmer of hope for the future.

Seahawks: 14-2 (1 Seed) The running backs finally stay healthy for a season, the best QB in football proves that fact as well. Adams adds a monster onto that defense, exactly what it needed.

All Things RB

One position which has decreased in value over the length of the NFL is that of running back. Whilst teams have proven that a heavy rushing attack can still work in the NFL (49ers, Patriots, Ravens and Saints) but for all 3 of those teams, the individual running back is replaceable after a few seasons, or they use a committee throughout the season. Therefore, the value of each running back has decreased as we move towards an ever more pass heavy league.

Joe Mixon, gets paid:

The general rule with running backs is its fine to draft them high, just don’t give them a second contract. However, in some cases this is not the right choice and I am relieved that the Bengals have given Mixon this contract, especially as it’s a 4-year $48 million contract. This puts Mixon only 6th on the list of highest paid RBs which for one of the best RBs in the game is ridiculous. Mixon is being held back by the rest of the Bengals team, but with rookie NO.1 overall pick Joe Burrow occupying the QB spot, this team is only on the up. With Burrow’s 4-year rookie contract, this signing for Mixon won’t impact Burrow resigning. Mixon already has over 2 seasons with over 1100yds and has receiving potential, something which is essential for a modern-day RB (unless you’re Derrick Henry). The only RBs that I would sign for a second contract would be McCaffery, Barkley, Ekeler and Mixon. I’d add in Derrick Henry because the deal is essentially two years. This is because all of these (excluding Henry) are as good receivers as they are at rushing. Players like Dalvin Cook have the talent but I wouldn’t trust him to stay healthy; I also believe that Elliot’s trade value would exceed hi production on the field. Therefore, Mixon is part of an elite group on a bottom-feeder team, but they are only on the up. One name I left out that I would pay is Alvin Kamara.

Alvin Kamara, cap issues:

The main issue for the Saints with Kamara is that pesky lack of cap space. They are expected to be over $30 million over the cap (before cap cuts/restructuring). Kamara splashed onto the scene his rookie year, the 3rd round rookie took off totalling over 1500 all-purpose yards. He was lethal on the field, but he would be at least $12 million a year and that’s something the Saints surely can’t afford. This is made even worse by the priority of resigning right tackle Ryan Ramczyk who is completely irreplaceable. I would resign Kamara, and I believe the Saints would and will (and reports sound like they are) try everything to do so, I just don’t think they can without hurting the team more in the future.

Leonard Fournette, another piece for the Bucs:

BLOW IT UP! That seems to be the motto of the 2020 Jags. After getting rid of Tom Coughlin and his ridiculous use of fines to just annoy and irritate the Jags players, the Jags had to also offload players who didn’t trust the organisation anymore. With that, Ngakoue is now in Minnesota and the Jags netted two draft picks for it (2nd and 5th). After also offloading team leader Calais Campbell it was clear that this team is going for the NO.1 pick in the next draft. They have just 3 players remaining from the 2017 AFC Championship team. They tried to offload Fournette for something, even just a 5th or a 6th, but no one would bite so they had to cut him. Now, Fournette has ended up on a roster that is the opposite of the Jags, a BUILD IT UP! Roster of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are building a super team for the two years they have Brady and the former 4th overall pick is another brick in the wall. He is a power runner that can complement the speed of Jones. I don’t think he will make an impact in the fist 4 weeks but come the end of the season and the playoffs, the Bucs will use his punishing play to take advantage of the fatigue-filled defences late in the season.

Adrian Peterson, the veteran:

The possible end or one of the greatest careers? I doubt it. Peterson will carve out a Frank Gore like role for the next 2 or 3 seasons. What this shows is confidence in rookie Antoine Gibson. The rookie out of Memphis will have to fill the void left by Peterson because Peyton Barber won’t and if Bryce Love could, I doubt the coaches would have faith injury-wise. Washington now have Haskins, Gibson, McLaurin and Sims. This is going to be a young and exciting team under Riverboat Ron, also don’t forget that defence with Chase Young.

Cam Akers, the young gun:

Akers is very underrated. He was the top high school running back but made what can be considered a mistake by committing to Florida State. He was consistently hit behind the line of scrimmage and had to carry a dyer passing attack. He will be the top running back on the roster, he’ll beat out Henderson is he hasn’t already. Akers is a special running back, the issue is he is on a team with a subpar QB and an average at best O-Line. But with McVay at that helm of play calling, he will find a way to get the ball to Akers, he will have a breakout rookie year and be great running back for the next few years.

Hyping the Right Teams (Hopefully)

Hyping the right team is always difficult. A person can be drawn in by flashy moves and forget about the unsexy parts of football that make the difference; see last years Browns for an example. Originally, I had 3 teams that I seemed to have a higher opinion of than others based on potential win totals. However, since this years Browns have hit hard by injuries on defence (the side of the football that they improved on) that list has been decreased to two teams.

Arizona Cardinals:

Last year, I was highly sceptical on the ability of Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid offense to adapt to the NFL. After an underwhelming record as Texas Tech head coach (35-40), I believed that his scheme would be figured out and then thrown out of the NFL by defensive coordinators. However, it appears that I was wrong. Whilst the record of 5-10-1 doesn’t inspire confidence, that is not the full story. Arizona improved immensely late in the season on both sides of the ball, culminating in a win over the Seahawks in week 16. Firstly, play calling improved, they were able to firstly set up a pounding run game before targeting the middle of the field when the linebackers moved up to stop said rushing attack and finally target deep on the outside once the safeties come down to stop the middle of the field attack. They were also more content to move up the field rather than rely on a single 40-yard-deep shot. This was set up by the trade for Kenyan Drake. Drake was taken from the Dolphins for 5th round pick which was later traded by the Dolphins. As soon as this RB stepped foot in Arizona, he exploded to accomplish 5.2yds/carry after only 3.7yds/carry with the Dolphins. His ability opened the offense up, increasing the Cardinals points per game from 21.25 to 23.875. That includes facing the 49ers defence twice and a matchup with a playoff bound Seahawks team. This all leads to why the Cardinals had the most improved offense from 2018 to 2019 as according to Football outsiders, its offensive DVOA increased 44.9%, the largest in the league.

Add this to the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins and the Cardinals are getting ready for a special season. They have an O-line capable of keeping tacklers off Drake till after the line of scrimmage at which point he can use his speed. Drake’s one-cut ability is ridiculous and he is no slouch in the passing game, get Drake into open space on a screen and he is gone for 30+ yards. Once the Cardinals can get Drake going, they can target Maxx Williams, Peter Schrager’s favorite Dan Arnold, and the legend that is Larry Fitzgerald in the center of the field. Kirk can attack deep on the outside with Isabella forcing safeties back running seems from the slot with the ability to turn a 5-yard slant into a 20+ yard gain. Then add the best receiver in the NFL, running comebacks posts and corners, using his large body and catch radius to muscle out opposing corners. Kyler Murray’s running ability will also require defensive ends to play more conservatively than against non-mobile QBs. This offensive is going to explode.

However, it’s not just the offense. The defence will also improve immensely. After being the worst ranked defence by yards given up (6432). Vance Joseph finally started to get this defence to a good level. Bubba Baker got paid this offseason (4 year, $59 million) and will continue his insane closing speeds from sideline to sideline, Chandler Jones will be able to rush the pass rusher more, which is only a good thing for the Cardinals, now Isaiah Simmons patrols the field at inside linebacker instead of Haason Reddick. Include Jordan Hicks returning and De’Vondre Campbell addition, and this defense is stacked. Don’t forget Leki Fotu, 4th round rookie, who will be able to make an impact in the latter part of the season. The inly issue for the Cardinals is they are in a division with the 49ers and Seahawks, but an early game against the 49ers, who have hit the injury bug, can kickstart their season. I believe they are still a season from challenging for a Superbowl, but this team is definitely playoff bound.

Minnesota Vikings:

The Vikings had one of the best drafts in the NFL. Yes, they had the most picks (by far) but they got talent with those picks. Justin Jefferson will by the top Vikings receiver by the end of the season and Jeff Gladney is severely underrated. Gladney’s tenacity will be highly valued by Zimmer and the Vikings coaching staff. Their O-Line has improved every year and if Dalvin Cook can stay healthy, their rushing attack will be devastating, especially with a very capable backup in Alexander Mattison. Irv Smith will only improve this year and Cousins won’t get any worse (even if he won’t improve either).

Harrison Smith is still one of the best safeties in the league and we’ve already touch on the corners with Jeff Gladney. The opt-out of Michael Pierce will not help the centre of this defence but Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are capable of covering losses at the second level and this will be helped by the exterior pass rush. Danielle Hunter will reportedly be ready for week 1, his quality is shown by him being the fastest player to 50 sacks in league history. Now, at the price of only a 2nd and 5th, the Vkings have acquired disgruntled rusher Yannick Ngakoue who’s averaging over 4 sacks a season. This creates one of the best pass rushing duos in the league. Add this to the fact the Vikings are in a very weak division and suddenly they are in contention for the 3 seed (maybe, just maybe the 2 seed?). Their steady offense that will be consistently good, if not spectacular, and a great defence will propel the Vikings back to the playoffs and this time they can go deep.

The Latest Extensions and Signings

A flurry of recent contract extensions (and a signing) has swept the NFL. These are likely to be the last big moves before roster cut downs and then the season. Let us dig into each one.

George Kittle TE-SF (5 year-$75 million)

Kittle did reset the TE market in the NFL albeit not to the extent that most thought. This signing is benefiting the 49ers more than Kittle. Kittle would have reached high teens or even $20 million a season if he hit the open market when one team gets desperate. Instead the 49ers have locked up the best TE in football for 5 more years. Kittle is as good of a blocking TE as Gronkowski in his prime, while having the speed of Evan Engram and the intelligence of Kelce. The 49ers just need to find a QB capable of winning the Superbowl, Garoppolo may grow into this QB but he is not there at the moment.

Travis Kelce TE-KC (4 year-$57.25 million)

Kelce is looking to have the long career of Tony Gonzalez. He is now signed till he is 35 years old. Kelce seems to have always been the second best TE in the league, being Gronkowski and now Kittle, but he is still a beast. Kelce is practically uncoverable. He can physically beat out any safety and on plays the safety slows him down, Kelce has been in the league long enough to know how to shake him loose. Crosses and hitches are bread and butter for him. Signing to keep him under contract for 6 years to partner the speed of Hill, Hardman and Watkins will give defences nightmares for seasons to come. 2015 was the last time Kelce had under 1000yds receiving. That’s just plain ridiculous for a TE.

Kenny Clark NT-GB (4 year-$70 million)

Clark is now the highest paid NT in the league. Clark is underrated, seemingly never talked about outside of Green Bay. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t play a sexy position, but the big guys help make the big plays. Averaging 5.5 sacks over the last 3 seasons and 57 tackles. That’s more than Damon Harrison or Eddie Goldman or Dontari Poe over the same period of time. To add to this, Clark creates so much disruption un the centre of that D-Line, that he helps boost teammate’s stat lines (it’s basically the NT’s job to boost other’s stats). Blake Martinez got 155 tackles last year and the Smiths (Za’Darius and Preston, not related) got 13.5 and 12 sacks respectively, that isn’t happening without the 313lbs Clark dominating opposing centres and guards.

Dion Dawkins OT-BUF (4 years-$60 million)

The one thing that a young, erratic QB needs is a good O-Line. Josh Allen can start thanking Brandon Beane for keeping 1/5th of his O-Line intact. Dawkins is easily on a better deal than Laremy Tunsil on $22 million a year. He allowed only the 9th fewest pressures in the league last year and that’s with the highly talented but problematic Josh Allen. Allen is great but he can hold onto the ball for too long and he won’t ever be picking up blitzes like a Tom Brady, all make the O-Line job more difficult. Dawkins is an absolute steal; Buffalo is being run really well.

Everson Griffen DE-DAL (1 year-$6 million)

Griffen has finally found a home for the coming season. He had the 11th most pressures last year and the idea that his play dropped by the end of the season can be explained by Griffen having to rush the passer more than he ever has in his career. If anyone doubts his ability, watch him destroy Tyron Smith last year. He won’t have to rush the passer as much with a strong rotation that the Cowboys have, with Tyrone Crawford, Bradley Anae and Aldon Smith. Griffen’s deal increases the Cowboys defence by more than his own talent. He will help keep others fresh and therefore more terrorizing for young QBs Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins. A great signing.

The Implications of Covid 19 In The NFL

The opt-out deadline has come and gone in the NFL for players. 69 players opted out of the season (according to Fox) and therefore get a season salary of between $150,000 and $350,000. The $350,000 is for high risk players and the $150,000 are for “voluntary opt-outs” and is effectively an advancement on a future salary. Hopefully, all decisions are respected, the reasons range from high risk medical reasons to new-born children joining families. All decisions need to be respected how ever much their absence may hurt the team. Big names are not devoid from this list either.

Eddie Goldman (Bears), Ja’Wuan James (Broncos), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (Chiefs), Damien Williams (Chiefs), Nate Solder (Giants), CJ Mosley (Jets), Michael Pierce (Vikings) and a whole lot of Patriots (Bolden, Cannon, Chung and Hightower) being the players who looked to have starting roles in their teams locked up. However, no QBs are on that list which is important. It will hopefully mean that no team has an “excuse” (if QBs can still stay healthy) and therefore whoever wins Superbowl 55 won’t have a large Asterix next to their victory. It’s a shame that 69 players will miss this year and it’s sadly likely that that number will increase throughout the season, but it is something that the sport can navigate.

To help navigate this, practise squads have proposed changes as to how the practise squads work. Firstly, the size will increase from 12 to 16 players and 6 of those players can have unlimited accrued seasons. This is to cover for Covid affected players but can (and will) be used by teams to get detailed looks at players they are interested in for future rosters. To add to this, a team can protect 4 players a week from being signed by other rosters. Allowing the most valuable practise squad players to stay with the team. Therefore, I expect next years rosters to be full of talent with the amount of players the teams will get to rate this year due to the practise squads. Other changes include being able to promote a practise squad member to the active roster 90 minutes before a game and that unlimited number of players can return from IR after 3 weeks. This allows for more player changes throughout the year, however, will it be used for matchup purposes rather than health reasons?

All of this is why I expect the teams with the most experience staff to have a mid-season surge as they are able to work out loopholes in the rules to benefit their team from more than a health perspective. . Belichick, Roseman and Schneider will all get their teams (Patriots, Seahawks and Eagles respectively) into the playoffs by winning a few games they shouldn’t because they use the new rules to help their teams in ways others don’t. This is going to be a year where coaching comes to the fore.

The one worry for the NFL that can is in the immediate future is the deadline for officials to opt out. This deadline is Thursday the 13th of August. Players opting out (even 69 of them) won’t kill a season, but a few of the right officials opting out could lead to major trouble. Weather that is replacement referees (not again…please) or gaps in communication between teams and the league leading to more chaos, this may be the more important deadline for opt outs. Hopefully, the number is low.

The Jets and Seahawks Make A Splash

Seahawks Receive: Jamal Adams (S), 2022 4th Round Pick

Jets Receive: 2021 and 2022 1st Round Picks, 2021 3rd Round pick, Bradley McDougald (S)

This “splash” trade of the late offseason is a rare trade that seems to be at least not detrimental to either team. A 2022 4th round pick is around the value that McDougald is worth. A 29-year-old improving safety who’s started 39 games over the last 3 seasons for the Seahawks. He has learned from an organisation who created the “Legion of Boom” and has had the chance to play alongside both Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. This has rewarded McDougald with ever improving play, as he has got 5 of his 10 career interceptions over the last 2 seasons. He is not one of the best in the game, unlike Adams, but he is a good player who will be capable of holding the Jets defence together for the next few seasons before they hope to find a less outspoken version of Adams.

Therefore, the Seahawks essentially gave up two firsts and a 2021 3rd round pick for Adams services. THIS IS A LOT! Especially for a non-QB who has displayed that he will not hold back in criticizing his own team. However, some would argue that Adams’ opinions on the Jets organisation, especially Adam Gase, are not wrong and a competent organisation like the Seahawks will be one Adams will be more comfortable in. Here, Adams will play alongside ex-Lion Quandre Diggs and the last of the Legion of Boom in Bobby Wagner. This is added to with a great corner in Shaquill Griffin. Adams won’t have many complaints about the coaching staff either, head coach Pete Carroll is far superior to Adam Gase and has a Superbowl ring to prove it. To further the argument for Seattle, Adams’ 6.5 sacks would have led the Seahawks last year by 2.5 sacks. That’s pretty incredible for a safety (and incredible that Rasheem Green’s 4 sacks led the Seahawks). Adams also has the ability to cover tight ends and with George Kittle being on the fixture list twice a year, that ability is coveted by the Seahawks.

For a team that is already playoff bound, having a true game changer added on defence is likely what can put them over the top and make them Superbowl bound. This is also important in terms of the draft capital they have given up. A team this good (especially with Adams) is likely to be drafted at best in the mid-to-late 20s. A first round pick of the Seahawks isn’t as valuable as one from the Jaguars for example. To add to this, the Seahawks 1st round picks of late have been underwhelming unlike their late round picks. As Schneider seems to draft in reverse to the other 31 teams (only the Patriots have the same kind of results) a 1st round pick may not be viewed as valuably as from other organisations.  Even though the Seahawks gave up a lot, there is a large possibility that it’s a good trade for them.

The Jets get two first rounders to use in their rebuilding. Adams wanted a massive extension and there is no way he would have received this with the Jets. Therefore, they would have had one year of Adams before he hit free agency and a disgruntled Adams at that. Therefore, trading him now was the only option, especially as the Jets are still a few years from truly challenging whilst they wait for Darnold to develop. However, it will be difficult for the Jets to find even one player of Adams’ calibre with picks in the late 20s but it is possible. The trade can work out for both teams, the Seahawks immediately whilst the Jets could see a large return in the future. It will be a while before we can judge “a winner” but right now it seems both teams will benefit, even if the price was a little high for the Seahawks.

The Tagged Players For 2020

This year, there are 15 players that have been franchise tagged (Kenyan Drake was transition tagged by the Cardinals but included within the 15). In a year like this, the franchise tag is likely a better option than most years due to the uncertainty of the cap for this season and possibly even next season. An extra year to gain information about how the league will adapt and an extra year to negotiate a contract with the players are both great reasons to tag a player. This has been seen with 15 players tagged whilst just 6 were tagged last year and 5 the season before (Chris Jones and Derrick Henry have since signed a long-term deal with the Chiefs and Titans respectively).

Arizona Cardinals – Kenyan Drake RB ($8,483,000)

Drake was transition tagged by the Cardinals which guarantees them the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may make with another team. Drake was electric last year once he was traded from the Dolphins to the Cardinals. After averaging only 3.7 yds/carry on 47 attempts and 0TDs with the Dolphins, Drake exploded for 8TDs whilst averaging 5.2 yds/carry on 123 attempts. This allows the Cardinals to see if Drake can continue this impressive pace, at 26, he’s young enough to be given a multi-year contract. Running backs are usually replaceable so one more year of Drake before finding a new starter next year isn’t a bad idea, if Eno Benjamin can be as electric at RB as he will be when returning kicks, then he could be the replacement.

Baltimore Ravens – Matthew Judon OLB ($16,808,000)

Over the last 4 years, Judon made just $3,900,736 whilst returning 28.5 sacks. Now he will make over 4 times that in just one year. To add to this, he’s coming off a career high 9.5 sack season leading to a pro bowl nod. He is a perfect fit in the Ravens scheme and can lead a very young LB core with the draft additions of Queen and Harrison. There is no doubt that Judon will get a big payday next offseason from another team, and after listening to Bootleg Football (highly recommended) the Colts are a good bet to land him if he doesn’t resign with the Ravens. Something which is likely considering the upcoming negotiations with Lamar Jackson and Ronnie Stanley who will likely take priority.

Cincinnati Bengals – AJ Green WR ($17,865,00)

This is likely the last year Green spends in a Bengals uniform and I would not be surprised to see him traded before the season starts. He was a popular deadline day trade pick last season and the same could be this year. Keep him through camp to help teach rookies Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins as well as help continue the development of Tyler Boyd before trading Green to recoup what they can. The Patriots, Jets and 49ers are potential landing spots. Patriots and 49ers looking for a spark to help them dive further into the postseason and the Jets looking for a veteran to develop the young inconsistent QB, Sam Darnold.

Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott QB ($31,409,000)

By far the most controversial tag of the year, Prescott is the only QB to be tagged. Prescott is a good QB if not great. His stats put him in the top tier of QBs, 4902yds, 30TDs:11INTs and a 99.7 rating. However, the output of point and wins is disappointing for a QB surrounded by such a strong supporting cast. The tag gives new coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the new regime a chance to assess him before committing to a player at the most important position in the NFL.

Denver Broncos – Justin Simmons FS ($11,441,000)

Simmons has been steady throughout his career which is no bad thing. Having a reliable player at the safety position is important, he can stop any large gains down the field and can turn a game around with 4 INTs and 15 pass breakups last year. Elway is waiting for a season where Simmons becomes a game changer or to see if he can become a “star” rather than “very good”. A second year in Vic Fangio’s system and playing alongside Kareem Jackson will give him a good chance, I reckon he’ll be signed long term before next year’s free agency, he’ll have that breakout year.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Yannick Ngakoue DE ($17,788,000)

The Ngakoue saga continues. After having a rather public argument with the team owner’s son (Tony Khan), Ngakoue is still trying to be traded. As the Jags waited till after the draft to potentially trade him, his value has decreased. The Jags wanted a first round pick, they will likely get a 3rd at the trade deadline this year. My expectation is Ngakoue opts out of the year (Covid 19 being a convenient excuse) before opting in once traded when the Jags realise, he’s leaving. A consistent over 8 sacks a year rusher, Ngakoue would collect a 3rd round compensatory pick for the Jags, but the Jags will trade him to move up a few spots. They are in the depths of a rebuild, they need the draft capital.

Kansas City Chiefs – Chris Jones DT (4 year – $85 million)

The first of the tagged players to be turned into a long-term deal. Jones said he wouldn’t player for less than $20 million a year. It seemed unlikely then that he would stay in Kansas City but due to a low cap hit for 4 years on the Mahomes deal, this remind possible. This is result of Mahomes player a team game with his contract rather than go for full market value, a top tier interior pass rusher who’d one-season removed from a 15.5 sack season. Mahomes made this possible and the Chiefs stay strong for the future.

Los Angeles Chargers – Hunter Henry TE ($10,607,000)

Hunter Henry’s output does not match his potential. This isn’t helped by injuries; he missed the entire 2018 season. The tag will allow the Chargers to have one more year to see if Henry becomes an elite tight end or another OJ Howard. However, with either Tyrod Taylor or rookie Justin Herbert at QB, I don’t expect Henry’s stats to improve, however, a rookie QBs best friend is a good TE.

Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Harris FS ($11,441,000)

Harris is coming off a career year with a league leading 6 INTs. Playing in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford (sorry Bears fans) great DBs are needed and Harris has become one. Alongside Harrison Smith, the Vikings have one of the best safety duos in the league. Add this with promising rookie Jeff Gladney at CB and this defence is returning to dominance.

New England Patriots – Joe Thuney G ($14,781,000)

One of the best guards in the game, Thuney looks like he will become the next victim of Belichick’s strict contract outlook. The Patriots and Thuney are reportedly not close to a deal. However, this year was important to keep Thuney, hence the franchise tag. Dante Scarnecchia left and the Patriots have a new generation of O-Lineman in Isaiah Wynn, Hjalte Froholdt and Yodny Cajuste as well as this year’s rookies. They will need Thuney’s leadership in this post Brady era. He has started games at tackle, guard and centre for the Patriots, he is invaluable – but Belichick will let him go next year and replace him with a guy nobody’s heard of.

New York Giants – Leonard Williams DE ($16,126,000)

After the Giants traded a 3rd and 4th for the former sixth overall pick, they were hoping to have stolen a great pass rusher from their city rivals. However, a disappointment is an understatement. Never a factor with only 0.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss, he seems a bust. A bust getting paid $16,126,000 is not a good look for a struggling team at the moment. This franchise tag is likely money down the drain and no team will trade for him with the tag value on him. At least Gettleman is capable of making Bill O’Brien look competent.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Bud Dupree LB ($15,828,000)

Alongside Devin Bush (inside) and TJ Watt, the line backers of the Steelers are quite amazing. They are the core of this top 5 defence. However, the tag value may increase if Dupree wins a grievance case to be registered as a DE and not a LB, it leads to more money. Dupree’s speed and refusal to slow is deadly. Not just demolishing QBs but also stuffing runs, especially successful when playing against counters. The Steelers should do all they can to retain Dupree, defence wins championships.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Shaq Barrett LB ($15,828,000)

Probably the most predictable of all these tags, Barrett will have to produce again for a long-term deal. It is no surprise that a rusher who recorded 14 sacks in 4 years, leaves and joins a second team and explodes for a league leading 19.5 sacks, gets tagged. Barrett has got to prove he’s not a one-year wonder. The speed that he can carry on his rushes is ridiculous and his fluid movement will beat any rookie or unathletic tackle. I predict a regression to around the 10-sack mark, but 10 sacks also gets paid in the NFL.

Tennessee Titans – Derrick Henry RB (4-year $50 million)

Tagging the human wrecking ball was a great idea from the Titans, load up for one more year before replacing Henry, you should rarely give a RB a second contract. This is also the case for Henry. People point to his speed and power, he’s unique. However, he looks for contact, a physical runner. These types of runners slow down quicker than shiftier backs. Therefore, the Titans should have tagged him and run him into the ground on route to a Superbowl and then let him go, even if it would be a year too early. However, they signed him for 4 years which seems like a mistake. They are tied in too long. However, after 2 years, they can move on from Henry with only $6 million of dead cap. This is perfect for the Titans; they have Henry throughout his prime and do not have only a single season to find a replacement. Love this deal from the Titans view.

Washington (INSERT NAME HERE) – Brandon Scherff G ($15,030,000)

Scherff is one of the few bright spots for Washington over the past years. A pro bowl right guard he has been keeping the QB safe from the right side of the pocket for years. Sadly, the O-Line is 5 strong and Scherff can’t play every spot. This is why he is desperately needed, the current starting left tackle is Cornelius Lucas, not good for the starting QB. Even worse news is that the team and Scherff were reportedly far away on contract talks, however, he has expressed interest to stay in Washington. A regime change with new head coach Ron Rivera could keep Scherff around for the future. Good guards are hard to find. Consistent pro bowl guards like Scherff are almost impossible – he needs a long-term deal.

The First Half A Billion Dollar Contract

Mr Mahomes is a very rich man. According to nfl.com, the extension is worth up to $503 million over 10 years with $477 million in guarantee mechanisms. This means that Mahomes will be 36 once the contract ends and the richest player in all American sports. This is the first time an NFL player has the richest contract throughout American sports. Kansas City has their QB locked up for many years to come.

This easily exceeds Russell Wilson’s 4-year $140 million contract for highest average salary. This means that the two best QBs in the league are paid exactly like who they are – the best. Both of which have full no trade deals in their contracts. I expect to see a Chiefs vs Seahawks Superbowl more than once over the next few years. Large contracts like this, however, are not necessarily a good move.

With a cap hit of $42.450 million in 2023, a cap hit that falls slightly before rising again, Mahomes will eat up a large percent of the salary cap. Whilst the QB is the most important position, overpaying at the position can be deadly for a teams Superbowl aspirations. Over the past 27 seasons only 3 teams have won the Superbowl with a QB salary at more than 12% cap hit (S.Young 1994, P.Manning 2016 and T.Brady 2019). Teams need to be deep at other positions. Constant injuries require backups to come to the for (including at the QB position). That is why Brady and Brees have continually taking less than market value so the rest of their team can be of a high standard, just look at the defence that Belichick created for the Patriots over the last two seasons, leading to a Superbowl. Mahomes also missed a few games last year due to injury and you don’t want to be paying a player that’s not on the field. However, that injury was an injury aggravated by a QB sneak where his ankle was crushed. Mahomes is also good at sliding when he runs out the pocket. He does sometimes hang on to the ball too long and get pummelled by a D-Lineman. This also leads to the odd bad throw just like one of his interceptions in the Superbowl (he shouldn’t have won MVP, same issue as when Brady won MVP in Superbowl 51). But there is something different with Mahomes.

Paying a QB is a dangerous game but not having a good won is worse … so much worse (just ask the Bears and Jags). Mahomes has propelled the Chiefs to an AFC Championship game and following that up with winning the Superbowl this past year. Mahomes is one of the best QBs in the league and therefore his talents deserve such a contract. Whilst it will mean that Chris Jones won’t get his $20 million per year in Kansas, Mahomes should be able to keep the Chiefs a title contender. Don’t forget that Andy Reid is contracted till 2023 and with a talent like Mahomes, he will want to be coaching for many years to come to add to his Superbowl ring collection (currently only 1). Reid and Mahomes for many years is devastating to the rest of the NFL. It coincides with the rise of John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson, as well as Deshaun Watson and whoever replaces O’Brien after this year. The AFC looks competitive again and in the short-term, the Chiefs still have flexibility.

The cap hit for the next two years for Mahomes are $24.8 million and $31.4 million (according to sportrac.com). This allows the Chiefs to pay others short-term, before they have to dilute their roster to stay under the cap. Add this to the ever-increasing cap. Whilst the cap may decrease over the next few years due to the current unknowns of the sports world, it will only increase. We’ve seen how the monster Kirk Cousins contract looks average now; just imagine how Mahomes’ contract will look in 10 years – a bargain. Saying that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a negotiation before the 2027 season, not only due to the potential bargain contract but also because of a large rise in cap hit on that year: $59.9 million. This deal is great for the Chiefs, he deserves it and although it seems large as of now, it won’t in years to come. All he needs to do is maintain his current level of play.

NFC West Offseason Grades

The final division is finally here. It’s a division I expect to be 3 strong in the playoffs this year. Therefore, their draft and free agency may be the difference between picking in the 20s come April and playing in the Superbowl.

Arizona Cardinals (A-)

Jordan Phillips had a breakout year with 9.5 sacks with the Bills. Therefore, a 3-year deal may be misguided but Phillips was signed on the bases of the Cardinals getting bigger on the D-Line whilst having athletic LBs flying from sideline to sideline. The 324lbs NT Phillips will also help the development of Fotu, the 335lbs rookie. Devon Kennard adds even further to the pass rush of the Cardinals, he will probably only be used in spells, but that will likely benefit him as he isn’t consistent in pass coverage. Kennard either needs to be in a blitz heavy scheme or have a top tier pass rusher on the other side, hello Chandler Jones. Campbell is a veteran tackling machine who will help down the strong running games of the 49ers and Rams in division. A one-year contract is an especially good idea. A decent free agency, signing a great interior O-Lineman would have improved it (like getting Connor McGovern to help protect Kyler Murray over current centre Mason Cole).

The draft was a great success. Getting the incredibly versatile Isaiah Simmons who gets to learn from Chandler Jones, Bubba Baker and Jordan Hicks at his LB/Safety hybrid position. Then their second-round pick was the best WR is football … DeAndre Hopkins. The steal of the decade. Now Murray can throw to Hopkins, Fitzgerald, Kirk, Isabella and don’t forget the above average catching skills of Kenyan Drake. Kingsbury’s air raid offense will take off this year. In the third, they grabbed the falling Josh Jones to protect Murray. Fotu and Lawrence are monsters on the D-Line. Lawrence has the pedigree of LSU but an injury history. Fotu has 335lbs of muscle and will eat up interior rushing games along with Phillips, they can help make holes for Campbell. Evan Weaver was Pac-12 defensive player of the year who’s instincts and understanding of the game will lead to him being a vital player in the future. Benjamin in a high ceiling flyer in the 7th who can take over from Drake is injury strikes.

Los Angeles Rams (B)

The Rams continue along the downward slope from losing Superbowl 53. Losing Fowler Jr isn’t the end of the world with the $15 million per year being put to better use. Brockers seemed to take a below market price deal to stay in LA which still leaves the Rams with a fearsome D-Line. Resigning Littleton was a good move, but he will have to play linebacker essentially by himself with the depth at that position non-existent. Extending Whitworth is a little worrying as the out is after 2 years, not 1. He is past his prime and makes his decision on retirement yearly. Losing Gurley isn’t worrying but the biggest loss may be Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein. Quality kickers are difficult to find and Zuerlein (despite some issues last year). Now they’ll just need to settle the payment disputes with Clay Matthews and others.

Cam Akers was a great pick in the second round. He had no help from his O-Line at Florida State but looked slick at the combine, easily catching the ball and with a sharp change of direction; he can step into Gurley’s shoes once he beats out Brown and Henderson. Jefferson is faster than many see, saving his speed for the pitch rather than a 40-yard dash. He is a great route runner as well so for a 3rd round pick, he was a good choice. Lewis needs to not get injured and he won’t be starting for a few seasons, he’s very raw. Burgess is the next defensive back out of Utah that can quietly become a starter in the NFL. For now, he gets to learn from Rapp and Johnson. His special teams value is high and makes up for some slight doubts in man coverage. Brycen Hopkins will be able to push Everett and Higbee, one of them will likely be traded before the season or at the trade deadline. Sam Sloman will have to replace Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein so a lot of pressure on his young shoulders.

San Francisco 49ers (B+)

The defending NFC champions were tasked with having to replace losses. These losses were mainly Deforest Buckner and Emmanuel Sanders. Buckner is one of the best DTs in the NFL and whilst he leaves a big hole behind, moving him for a first round pick when they wouldn’t be able to resign him next year was a good move. However, I would have signed him over Armstead so we’ll see if Buckner shines in Indy and if Armstead stops improving in San Francisco. While the defence is still going to be good without Buckner, the offense will be greatly affected by the loss of Sanders. The difference in Garoppolo’s game with/without Sanders was ridiculous. Garoppolo passed for an average of 232.6yds per game without Sanders (excluding the Washington game, the weather meant he would never throw for a lot of yardage), once Sanders turned up at week 8, Garoppolo threw for 266.4yds per game (excluding playoffs). Kittle is still the best tight end in the league and Deebo Samuel will only improve, but Sandres was a key part of the offense and Garoppolo needs a supporting cast. If Jason Verrett can keep healthy, he’ll be a steal but that is a big IF for him.

The draft was in the quality over quantity group. Kinlaw will regularly wins with a bull rush and is very quick for a man of his size 6ft 5in, 315lbs. He will be immediately tasked with replacing Buckner, he won’t be able to do this his rookie season but with Bosa and Armstead at the edges, Kinlaw should see double teams rarely. His small flaws are coachable, like losing his balance whilst trying to gain penetration to the pocket. Second of the 49ers first round picks, Brandon Aiyuk, is the Sanders replacement. He has a ridiculous wingspan (one of a 6ft 8in person yet he is only 6ft). Aiyuk won’t be dropping passes and he is likely better than his former teammate N’Keal Harry. Shannahan reportedly had him as the NO.1 WR on his board and they got him at pick 25, if the 49ers are to return to the Superbowl, Aiyuk will need to have an impact like Sanders did last year. Woerner and Jennigns will be fighting for roster spots.

Seattle Seahawks (C+)

If there are two teams that these rankings mean literally nothing for, it would be the Patriots and the Seahawks. Their drafts don’t look great, their free agent signings look shallow, but the teams are good every year. And this year will be no different. There O-Line went from average to flat out bad this year with the losses of Fant, Flucker and Ifedi. BJ Finney and Brandon Shell help but are not top tier talents. Wilson will be running for his life again, but he is a rare talent which can survive such a challenge. Losing Quinton Jefferson shouldn’t hurt the defence too much and Bruce Irvin will help bring leadership to this suddenly young defence. Olsen will do the same on the offensive side of the ball and will provide Wilson for a tight end if Dissly can’t stay healthy. Hyde adds to the rotation at running back and will be a big help if the injuries strike the position yet again.

Jordyn Brooks was never considered a round 1 talent, but he was selected at the end of the first round. He will instantly be starting in the Seattle defence. The good news is he will be trained up by Bobby Wagner, the best middle linebacker in the league. Brooks is a great run stopper which will help in a division with the 49ers rushing attack and QB Jared Goff forcing the Rams to be run heavy. However, he really struggles in zone coverage. Taylor is an edge rusher who flashes but is rarely consistent for a game at getting penetration into the backfield. He will be a 4-6 sacks a season guy. Damien Lewis is the jewel of the draft class, a great guard who will be starting by mid-season. Look for Wilson to be more comfortable in the pocket once Lewis Starts, early on he’ll be a backup, however. Colby Parkinson enters one of the best places in the NFL. He learns from Greg Olsen and is being thrown to by Russell Wilson, he has no excuses in the future, but this year he will hardly see the field. Deejay Dallas is a power runner, another player in a strong stable of running backs. Robinson is limited in his pass rush skills but is effective at what he does. He should get odd pressure but won’t be consistent.