The past week has provided yet another reminder that the rest of the NFL has not given up on the next ten years. At times, it seems that with Patrick Mahomes behind center, most teams on most days do not stand a chance against the Kansas City Chiefs. But with the news of Julio Jones being traded to the Tennessee Titans, as well as the ongoing Aaron Rodgers saga that could shift a considerable amount of power to any given team, it is clear that the Buccaneers win over KC in the Super Bowl served to fuel other franchises to make their best effort at maximizing their window and going for broke.
Tampa has continued to add to the team that already bested Kansas City in the Super Bowl, while the Titans took a swing for the fences in trying to put a team on the field who can keep up with the Chiefs on the scoreboard. The Buffalo Bills stayed relevant by resigning most of their key free agents, while adding complementary pieces on short, team-friendly deals, as well as drafting heavy in the trenches spending their first four picks on offensive and defensive lineman. The Cleveland Browns seemed to have their sites set directly on the Chiefs, as they used their offseason to build a secondary that could they hope can keep pace with Kansas City’s high-scoring offense.
Elsewhere in the AFC, the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers all had plus offseasons. The Ravens stayed fairly neutral, but did manage to poach Sammy Watkins from KC, and saw their entire wide receiver group improve. This progression should help the team determine if the problem with the passing game lies more with quarterback Lamar Jackson or with the receiver group, which has taken a lot of flak in the past few years. Similarly, but on a grander scale, the Miami Dolphins poured resources into their receiving corps in hopes of pushing the fast forward button on the development of young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tua will need to take a big step forward if the Dolphins want to keep pace with the New England Patriots, who will be counting on a young quarterback of their own in Mac Jones to quickly connect with the expensive pieces that have been put around them.
On the NFC side, there is no doubt that the Bucs won the offseason, pouring out cash to resign and bring in pieces. The most intriguing contender will likely be the Los Angeles Rams. Bringing in Matthew Stafford is a gigantic x-factor, with the team’s already dominant defense. I think the Bears could be the most improved team in the conference, as well, if Justin Fields has even modest success.
The real twist, though, is that the entire landscape of the league, outside of maybe the top two spots, revolve around the offseason outcomes of situations with two of the league’s top-5 quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers has dug his heels in, staying away from the Packers’ mandatory camp with his trade demand. At this point, it may be almost as likely that Rodgers sits out the season than playing for the Packers or anyone else, as the team is also dug in, insisting they will not trade their star signal caller. On the other side of the league, the Deshaun Watson saga has gone completely silent. Tyrod Taylor looks to be the Texans’ starting quarterback heading into the season, and with a personal and legal scandal in full swing, his trade demands have been met with silence as no one across the league wants a quarterback who may never plan another NFL snap. Chances are huge that Watson does not play this season, but if something major happens to clear his name, he would suddenly become of the most coveted trade pieces ever.
Meanwhile, in the City of Fountains, the Chiefs made a big splash in addressing the offensive line that went a long way toward sealing the Super Bowl loss. The line may not be better top to bottom, but should be more stable. The team also made some interesting moves in the draft, but have had a relatively quiet offseason. Brett Veach took shots at bringing in some big name wide receivers, but the team came up empty, leaving most in-house options to replace Sammy Watkins at WR2, while also losing a couple key defensive pieces. For a team that managed to go 14-2 a season ago despite never firing on all cylinders, what we may be seeing is that management feels like they still have a better product on the field than everyone around them, and that a big season-ending loss will be the motivator that pushes the current roster to new heights in the 2021 season.