The NFL offseason is a long, arduous process in which teams attempt to build up their rosters for the upcoming year. We’ve made it through the brunt of the roster-shaping part, and now comes the competition portion. Rookie minicamps are underway and OTAs will start relatively soon, all before training camp kicks off this summer.
We still have a long way to go before the regular season kicks off, but there will be plenty to talk about between now and then. From free-agent signings to potential trades, these 10 things will happen before Week 1.
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Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes will (barely) lose training camp battles
Trubisky (Bears) and Mahomes (Chiefs) were drafted ahead of fellow quarterback Deshaun Watson (Texans), but they’ll begin the year as backups after barely losing out in training camp. Both are talented and have good potential as future starters, but their time will come later. Why? Because their respective teams already have starters in place who will get the first chance to win the job.
Chicago's Mike Glennon and Kansas City's Alex Smith will remain atop the depth chart in Week 1, but the gap between them and the two rookies won’t be as wide as some believe. Mahomes, in particular, will push Smith for the job after impressing in camp and the preseason. His arm will be difficult for the Chiefs to pass up.
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Deshaun Watson will beat out Tom Savage for the Texans' starting job
This isn’t exactly a “bold” prediction, but expect to see Watson as the Texans’ starter in training camp and the preseason. He may not be polished as a passer, but his potential is greater than Savage's, and it's not like Savage has much more playing experience than Watson.
Watson will prove to be a good fit in coach Bill O’Brien’s offense, edging ahead of Savage in camp. Savage had a chance to be the starter last season after Brock Osweiler was benched, but he couldn’t handle the requirements of the job. Watson will be able to, despite being a rookie.
The Saints will trade Mark Ingram
The Saints went from being decent at running back to having a crowd of players in the backfield when they signed Adrian Peterson and drafted Alvin Kamara. They were surprising moves, particularly the latter, and they will lead to Ingram’s departure from New Orleans with Kamara becoming the No. 1 back.
With the Saints having good depth at running back and a handful of teams – the Ravens, Lions, Browns and Giants, for example – needing a starter, Ingram will be a good trade chip. The Eagles are another team that could use a back, and with Saints center Max Unger injured, could a deal for Jason Kelce be in the cards? Watch out for that one in the next few months.
A quarterback injury will spark Jimmy Garoppolo trade rumors
It happens every single year. A star player gets injured in training camp or in the preseason, touching off rumors of a potential trade. Whether it was Teddy Bridgewater and Tony Romo last year, Sam Bradford in 2014 or Mark Sanchez in 2013, a quarterback almost always seems to get hurt before the season begins.
If/when it happens again, prepare yourself for all the Garoppolo trade rumors. A team could get desperate after seeing its starter go down, much like the Vikings a year ago with Bradford. The Patriots’ asking price will be as high as ever if that happens.
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Colin Kaepernick will sign as a backup
Kaepernick is still available, which is somewhat surprising. With so few teams needing a starting quarterback, though, he could be waiting a while to get a shot. Rather than holding out to land a starter-type contract, Kaepernick eventually will have to settle for being a backup, possibly for a team like the Seahawks or Jaguars.
He played well in 2016, but between his playing style, polarizing personality and contract expectations, it’s hard to see a team making him its starting quarterback. That’s become apparent in the past few months with almost no one showing interest in his services.
A Super Bowl contender will give Josh Gordon a shot
The Browns receiver has yet to be reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell, and there’s no guarantee he ever will be. If that day does come, a team will give him another chance via a trade with Cleveland – a good team with structure and Super Bowl aspirations. When he’s healthy and out of trouble, he’s one of the best receivers in the game.
The Chiefs, Packers, Seahawks and Cardinals should all explore the possibility of trading for Gordon (or signing him if he’s released). His skill set would make each team's offense significantly more dangerous. Gordon simply needs to land with a team that has good veteran leadership and a winning mentality – two things the Browns don’t.
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The Patriots will reunite with Darrelle Revis
Revis was released by the Jets after a disastrous 2016 season, and he’s generated very little interest from outside teams. One team that seems like an obvious fit for the declining veteran is New England. Although the Patriots don’t have a big need at cornerback – Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore are the currently starters – Revis could see valuable snaps in nickel sets. His lack of straight-line speed could make him a candidate to move into the slot, where he wouldn't be on an island.
The Patriots could use a slot corner after losing Logan Ryan in free agency, and though Revis has little experience at that spot, a position change could be the thing that prolongs his career. It’d also give him the best chance to win another Super Bowl.
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Only Marshawn Lynch will prove to be a valuable addition from the “Big Three” RBs
Lynch (Raiders), Adrian Peterson (Saints) and Jamaal Charles (Broncos) all landed with new teams this offseason, but only one will be the starting running back on his team when the season begins. Peterson and Charles are both in crowded backfields, limiting their workloads. Lynch will have a clear path to carries and should still have something left in the tank.
Peterson and Charles, however, might have trouble finding consistent work. They’re simply past their primes and don’t have the durability to handle a heavy workload.
Four rookies will emerge as starters for the Browns
The Browns had an absolutely loaded draft class thanks to three first-round picks. Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku are all expected to be starters in Week 1, but they won’t be the only ones atop the depth chart to begin the season. Third-round pick Larry Ogunjobi will also emerge as a starter, giving the Browns four rookies in the lineup – which will be the most in the NFL.
With Cleveland switching to a 4-3 defense, Ogunjobi has a clear path to being the 3-technique defensive tackle next to Danny Shelton. Gabe Wright is really the only player standing in his way, and as long as the rookie plays up to his potential, he’ll win the starting job.
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The Lions will sign LeGarrette Blount
Blount remains the top unsigned running back. That should change relatively soon with May 9 marking the last day signings count against compensatory picks. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sign in the next day or two, and the Lions would make a lot of sense for him.
They have smaller backs in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, but they lack a guy who can consistently pound the ball on first and second down. Zach Zenner just doesn’t get the job done in that role. Blount would be a perfect fit in Detroit as his career winds down.