After arguably the best Super Bowl of all time, we will have to wait until September to see NFL action again. However, the NFL will not be the same then as it is now. The NFL offseason is where dynasties are built, power shifts hands, and more. SST addresses the biggest questions of the NFL’s annual interregnum period below.
Where will the Raiders play in 2017?
One of the NFL’s most recognizable franchises may have a new home, as the formerly-Oakland Raiders filed relocation papers to move the team to Las Vegas. With one of the most passionate fan bases in the sport, it will be interesting to see if the Raiders can cultivate the same “Black Hole” atmosphere in a city centered around tourism. The last NFL team to have to share a stadium with a baseball franchise, the Raiders were unable to get a new stadium deal with the city of Oakland. Despite some negative sentiments from fellow owners who worry about the implications of having a team in a city notorious for gambling, the league appears to be open to letting a move go through.
However, the finances of the move are currently in jeopardy after billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Goldman Sachs both pulled out of their commitments to help pay for the new Las Vegas stadium. While the city pledged $750 million and the Raiders pledged $500 million to pay for the 65,000 seat stadium, the cost was still around $1.9 billion. Unless the Raiders can come up with a $650 million check from someone and get the money fast, the move to Vegas appears to be dead. However, officials from San Diego have began talking to Raiders owner Mark Davis, giving him an option should the Vegas deal fall through. With the Chargers now in LA, Qualcomm Stadium is open for usage, though playing in the former city of their division rival would likely not bode well for fan attendance. The entire situation is convoluted, though it should be resolved by the end of February.
Where will Adrian Peterson wind up?
The face of the Minnesota Vikings franchise, Peterson, who turns 32 in March, could be departing the Purple-and-Gold this spring. The Vikings have a team option for 2017 with the future Hall-of-Famer that has to be decided by March 9, and would pay Peterson a base salary of $11.75 million with a $6 million bonus. That’s a hefty price to pay for a running back with a lot of tread on his tires. In 2016, Peterson rushed for 73 yards and only averaged 1.9 yards per carry before losing most of the season due to injury. Peterson believes he has a lot of football left in him, and he isn’t far removed from being the most dominant back in the game.
If Peterson isn’t retained, he named the Texans, Buccaneers, and Giants as teams he would like to play for, though the Cowboys have recently emerged as a suitor for the Texas-born Peterson as well. The Texans and the Cowboys would be odd landing spots for AP, as both teams have established running backs in Lamar Miller and Ezekiel Elliott, respectively. The Bucs would make more sense, as injuries to Doug Martin could spell the addition of a new rusher. However, it is unlikely they would replace a fading star with another fading star, even if Peterson is a better back than Martin. The Giants would be an ideal spot, as they had one of the worst rushing attacks in 2016. With star power on both and defense and the ability to contend now, Peterson would get a chance at his first ring. However, Peterson has stressed he would prefer to finish his career in Minnesota, but it would come as no surprise if the team let him go.
Will J.J. Watt be the same?
The most dominant defensive force of the generation, Watt’s recent surgeries have cast his career in doubt. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year and only player in NFL history to have multiple 20-sack seasons, Watt suffered a broken hand, a staph infection, two torn abdominal muscles, three torn adductor muscles, and herniated a disc on two different occasions in a one year period. The surgeries, which took place last offseason, noticeably limited Watt’s production in the few games he played in 2016 before being placed on injured reserve. The former Wisconsin Badger said retirement was on his mind when the game was taken away from him, but declared in a Player’s Tribune article that he was far from done.
Even with the loss of Watt, the Texans boasted the top defensive unit in the league in 2016 behind the development of Jadeveon Clowney and AJ Bouye. If Watt can return to at least 80% of his former self, he still would be one of the top defensive players in the league. A pass rush of Watt, Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus would be enough for the Texans to win the weak AFC South again and could put them in Super Bowl contention. However, without Watt, it would be hard to imagine the Texans getting past the divisional round once again if their quarterback situation doesn’t improve.
Who will snag Tony Romo?
The biggest move of the offseason will likely be Tony Romo’s departure from Dallas, as the former Pro-Bowler will almost certainly be traded after losing his starting job to Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott. Romo, 37, stressed being traded to a team that was ready to compete. Houston, who made the divisional round of the playoffs despite starting Brock Osweiler at quarterback, would be a good fit, though Osweiler’s mega-deal would require a restructuring of Romo’s contract. Denver, who started Trevor Siemian in 2016, would also be an obvious landing spot for Romo.
Arizona, amid rumors Carson Palmer is considering retirement, suddenly finds itself with a need for a quarterback just a year after Palmer was the runner-up in MVP voting. If Palmer does retire, then Romo would be in play for Bruce Arians’ Cards. If he doesn’t, then Arizona could target a signal-caller in the draft or a younger player like Jimmy Garoppolo or Tyrod Taylor. Some surprise teams in the mix as well are Kansas City and Chicago. The Chiefs were a holding call away from possibly advancing to the AFC Championship this season, and Alex Smith made the Pro Bowl. However, Andy Reid has shown interest in acquiring his former NFC East rival. Chicago was one of the worst teams in the league in 2016, but Jay Cutler on the outs opens up the door for Romo. Chicago does have a strong running game and a developing defense, as well as continuity at head coach, making it a sneaky option for Romo.
Can the Patriots or Falcons return to the big game next year?
From Julio Jones and Julian Edelman providing two of the best catches in Super Bowl history to the absolutely improbable Patriots 31-unanswered point run, the first overtime game in Super Bowl history has to go down one of the best ever played.
The Patriots looked dead in the water as Atlanta dominated them through the first half of the game, running up the score in a similar fashion to their NFC Championship throttling of the Packers. But then Tom Brady happened. Tom Terrific cemented his legacy as the greatest of all time with his Super Bowl performance, though it will be interesting to see how long Brady, who will be 40 next season, keeps on playing. Brady has said he would like to play until he was 50, and while that seems impossible, the Pats win in Houston showed that nothing is out of the question. Outside of the trio of Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft, the Patriots dynasty has been successful regardless of the other contributors on the team. In a relatively weak AFC, the Patriots have to be the favorites to return to the Super Bowl next year.
On the other hand, the Falcons have some question marks. Despite possessing arguably the most talented young lineup in the league, the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is worrisome. Atlanta’s offense was one of the best in NFL history in 2016, and league MVP Matt Ryan had a career year after mastering Shanahan’s complex offense. There are holes on the offensive line as well, as Chris Chester will be entering his 12th year in the NFL in 2017 among other problems. The defense will have to the carry the franchise next year, but with the return of the unit’s top player, corner Desmond Trufant, from injury, the young group is ready to take on the task. The offense will have to learn a new system, but this team is too talented to not contend in 2017.