New Year’s Resolution Each NFL Team Should Make for 2017

NFL

Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) carries the ball for a seven yard touchdown run against the Baltimore Ravens during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

From key signings to targeting certain positions in the draft, here’s a look at New Year’s resolutions every NFL team should make for 2017.

It’s crazy to think how fast the 2016 NFL season flew by when considering it seemed just like yesterday the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos kicked off the first game. Now that the regular season is officially over, it’s time to take a look at New Year’s resolutions every team in the NFL needs to consider for 2017.

By now, it’s easy to determine what most teams need when it comes to addressing areas of weakness since it’s usually on display throughout the season. Between doing whatever it takes to make sure star players return to teams focusing on their needs in the draft or free agency, it’s going to be interesting to see what approach all 32 NFL teams end up taking.

For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers making sure they reward Le’Veon Bell with a hefty contract would seem like a no brainer at first, but there’s more to the situation that could end up complicating a potential deal. Even if Bell is one of the most dominant running backs in the league, it doesn’t take away from some of his off-the-field issues in the past.

Other than Pittsburgh figuring out a way to keep Bell around, what other New Year’s resolutions should NFL teams be focusing on for 2017? Without wasting any more time, let’s take a look at these resolutions for the NFL, beginning with the Arizona Cardinals drafting a quarterback in a few months from now.

Dec 11, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) drops back on the pocket against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals: Draft a QB in First Round

Whether they want to admit it or not, Carson Palmer only has another elite year or two left in him as the veteran quarterback isn’t getting younger anytime soon. After throwing for a career 35 touchdowns in 2015, this was supposed to be the season in which Palmer helped the Arizona Cardinals continue to be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC.

Instead, the Cardinals turned out to be one of the most disappointing teams of the 2016 season as this marked the first time in the Bruce Arians era they will finish with a losing record. What makes this situation even more frustrating is the argument will always be made this was Arizona’s best chance to finally bring home a title when considering all of the talent on both sides of the football.

Fingers can be pointed left and right, but the one area the team needs to focus on in the offseason is the quarterback position as Palmer’s time is coming to an end sooner rather than later. The best thing this team can do is begin the process now of finding the next quarterback to build the franchise around so they’re prepared when the time comes to move on from Palmer.

Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn on the sideline in the first quarter of their game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons: Improve the Defense

Unlike last year, the Atlanta Falcons were able to avoid a second-half collapse and missing out on the playoffs after winning the NFC South title over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Throughout the years, it’s been the offense that has carried the way for the Falcons, as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones continue to make a strong case for being one of the league’s top duos in the passing game.

Once again, the offense was phenomenal throughout the course of the 2016 season as Atlanta ranks near the top of the league for both rushing and passing. However, an offense can only do so much for a team if the defense isn’t doing their job of stopping the opponent.

Just look at some of the games lost by the Falcons in 2016, and it’s clear they could have put together a few more wins with better play from the defensive side of the football. Between allowing the Kansas City Chiefs to score 29 points along with being outscored by the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s easy to see why Atlanta’s defense has ranked near the bottom of the league all season.

On a positive note, at least Vic Beasley has been a stud, as the linebacker finished the season with a league-leading 15.5 sacks. So at least they have one piece settled going forward.

Dec 18, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (89) is congratulated by quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens: Bring in Elite Wide Receiver

Despite leading the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl a few years ago, the argument can be made that Joe Flacco has never been fortunate enough to work with the best group of wide receivers. Unfortunately for Flacco, the quarterback will have to adjust to playing without one of his favorite targets from the last three years in Steve Smith, who decided 2016 would be his final NFL season.

Over the years, the Ravens have established a reputation for having one of the league’s top defenses. And while that was the case again in 2016, the offense was never anything to brag about. Every once in a while, Flacco would find a way to help Baltimore’s offense display impressive numbers, but their inconsistency is one of the reasons why they will be watching the playoffs from home this year.

If the Ravens want to keep Flacco happy, they will need to figure out a way to improve their current wide receiver department, whether it’s through free agency or the draft. Nothing against Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken, but when these are considered the top two wideouts for a passing unit now that Smith is out of the picture, it’s time to hit the panic button.

Dec 24, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) runs with the ball as center Ryan Groy (72) blocks Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Jones (98) during the first quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills: Improve Tyrod Taylor’s Weapons

Speaking of teams that need help in the wide receiver department, when looking at all of the money the Buffalo Bills invested in Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, one would hope the organization does whatever it takes to provide him with better weapons in 2017. Over the last two years, Taylor has proven he’s capable of being a top quarterback in this league when he gets rolling on offense, but it hasn’t always been easy.

Having LeSean McCoy in the backfield has certainly made life easier for Taylor at times on offense, but there’s no question the quarterback’s game could be at a whole new level with more reliable targets in the passing game. The potential is always there for Sammy Watkins, but the wide receiver always seems to be dealing with some sort of injury that prevents him from reaching his true potential.

Even if Watkins does get fully healthy in the offseason, it wouldn’t hurt for the Bills to consider another big playmaker on board for Taylor to work with. If Buffalo thinks Robert Woods is one of their answers for the passing game, this offense and Taylor are going to continue being in trouble heading into the 2017 season. Of course, this is all assuming they bring Taylor back. Considering that they played E.J. Manuel and Cardale Jones over him Week 17, that’s far from a certainty.

Oct 10, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber (43) carries the ball as Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry (24) tackles in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers: Find Help at Cornerback

The Carolina Panthers made a bold decision last offseason when they made the choice to not bring Josh Norman back for the 2016 season. If there’s anything to takeaway from this disappointing year from the Panthers, it would be how much they missed having Norman on defense.

To go from being one of the most dominant defenses in the league to allowing opponents to have a field day on offense was easily one of the biggest surprises on Carolina’s end this year as it’s crazy to think about how they will be watching the playoffs from home in January. After falling to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, the Panthers were considered one of the early favorites to win the NFC, as the defense still seemed like it would be one of top in the league.

Instead, stopping opponents through the air ended up being a major issue for Carolina throughout the entire 2016 season as the team clearly needs to bring in a cornerback, whether it ends up being from free agency or the draft. Let’s hope the Panthers learned their lesson when it comes to Norman since the argument can be made this season would have been much different for the defending NFC champions if they just ended up paying their former star cornerback.

Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) runs with the ball against the New York Giants during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears: Move On From Jay Cutler

The Chicago Bears are unfortunately establishing a reputation over the last few years for finishing at the bottom of the NFC North, which was the case once again in 2016. One of the most frustrating things from this past season with the Bears was the poor play at quarterback as Jay Cutler was limited to playing just five games due to injuries.

On top of the injuries, there was plenty of unnecessary drama surrounding Cutler when it came to his future with the organization. Cutler may have put together a few impressive seasons over the last eight years in Chicago, but at this point, the best option seems to be moving on from the veteran quarterback.

If Cutler was the answer for this team, the Bears would have been a much better football team over the last two seasons. Thanks to being one of the worst teams in the NFC, Chicago will at least be in good position for a high draft pick at the end of April.

With another solid class of quarterbacks making the jump to the NFL, here’s to hoping the Bears strongly consider using their first-round pick on one of them to begin the rebuilding process for this offense.

Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis walks the sideline against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals: Draft a Linebacker

Who would have thought of all the teams in the AFC to have a losing record this year, the Cincinnati Bengals would end up being one of them? The Bengals have been one of the top teams in the AFC over the last couple of years, but their streak of five playoff appearances in a row will officially come to an end after finishing below .500 this season.

For reasons that can’t be explained, all signs point to Cincinnati giving Marvin Lewis another chance, despite his 0-7 career record in the postseason. Changes are in order for the Bengals during the offseason if they have any intention of being contenders again in 2017, as this year made it clear how much this team needs improvement at the linebacker position.

Stopping the run was one of the biggest issues for Cincinnati all season, and unless they add a linebacker through free agency or the draft, there’s a good chance those issues will carry over to next season. Lewis has faced plenty of criticism throughout his career, but the pressure to turn this team around, especially on defense, after finishing with a losing record in 2016 could be at an all-time high heading into next year.

Dec 24, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) runs the ball during the first half against the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns: Use One of First-Round Picks On QB

The good news for the Cleveland Browns is thanks to the Carson Wentz trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, Hue Jackson’s team will be lucky enough to have two high picks in the first round during the 2017 NFL Draft. For a team with a history of struggling to find a quarterback to build the franchise around, it would seem impossible for the Browns to find a way to mess it up this time around.

Cleveland was hoping to see Robert Griffin III turn out to be the answer at quarterback, but it’s been tough to evaluate what he brings to the table since he spent most of the year on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury. Griffin may have shown potential at times towards the end of the season, but when looking at some of the talent from this year’s draft class, it would be difficult for the Browns to pass on a quarterback with one of their first-round picks.

If anything, Cleveland should select a quarterback in the draft, and strongly consider keeping Griffin around to at least begin the year as the starter in 2017. Who knows, maybe Griffin would make a good mentor to one of the rookie quarterbacks the Browns would consider bringing on board once April rolls around.

Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) before the game against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys: Trade Tony Romo

With the Dallas Cowboys officially passing the torch to Dak Prescott at quarterback, Tony Romo will most likely become a popular trade target during the offseason for teams in desperate need of a quarterback. From the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets, there are plenty of teams that will be looking to improve their quarterback situation in the offseason, and with the Cowboys relying on Prescott moving forward, the only chance Romo has of seeing playing time in the future is with a different team.

Even if he’s going to be 37 years old at the start of next season, Romo still seems capable of having another solid year or two left in him, assuming he can stay healthy. After being the backup all season to Prescott, Romo received action on one drive during the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, and even managed to throw a touchdown pass.

As much as Dallas may want to keep Romo around in case something were to happen to Prescott, they could come across a trade offer from a different team that would be difficult to turn down. It may be difficult for Cowboys fans to see Romo end up playing for a different team, but keep in mind he’s only won the organization two playoff games throughout his career.

Nov 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos general manager John Elway before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos: Find a Franchise Quarterback

Speaking of teams in need of a quarterback, the Denver Broncos find themselves in an interesting situation heading into the offseason as they are one of the teams in desperate need of finding a quarterback for the 2017 season. The potential is still there for Trevor Siemian, but the 2016 season proved he still has a long way to go before he’s ready to handle being a starter at the NFL level.

Most quarterbacks would kill to be in Siemian’s position to have reliable weapons like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the passing game, which is why the Broncos have every reason in the world to be concerned over their quarterback situation. If Siemian was in fact capable of handling the starting role at quarterback for Denver, he wouldn’t have struggled the way he did throughout 2016.

Even if the Broncos ended up bringing in a veteran quarterback like Tony Romo, it would still give Siemian a chance to learn from an experienced player. To go from winning the Super Bowl to missing out on the playoffs a year later is absolutely frustrating for a team like Denver. They know bringing in a new quarterback ranks near the top of the list for offseason needs.

Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay (23) and defensive end Kerry Hyder (61) celebrate after a play during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions: Find Help at Cornerback

No matter what happened at the end of the regular season, the Detroit Lions deserve plenty of credit for turning their year around to make the playoffs, despite a 1-3 start. There were some concerns surrounding this team heading into the 2016 season, and while they proved most of their doubters wrong, the Lions still need improvement on the defensive side of the football at the cornerback position.

There’s only so much a player like Darius Slay can do on his own, as the cornerback could certainly benefit from another key player by his side, whether that ends up being through the draft or free agency. Detroit’s defense had been solid for the most part throughout the regular season, but when looking back at some of their games from 2016, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how much they struggled at times to stop the pass.

If free agency doesn’t work out for the Lions when it comes to bringing in a veteran at cornerback, they could certainly benefit from using their first-round pick in the draft on one. The talent from this year’s class is certainly there when it comes to cornerback, and the last thing Detroit wants to do is enter the 2017 season without addressing the need, as they’ll look to continue being one of the top teams in the NFC once again.

Oct 16, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) hands the football off to running back Eddie Lacy (27) during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay Packers: Find Help at Running Back

When it comes to carrying the load on offense, it’s safe to say that no player has done more for their team this year than Aaron Rodgers, as the Green Bay Packers have been dealing with all sorts of injuries at the running back position between Eddie Lacy and James Starks. While there’s no reason why these two key running backs shouldn’t get healthy in the offseason, the Packers know they can’t afford to have Rodgers throwing the football as much as he has during the team’s playoff stretch, so a backup plan may not be the worst idea in the world.

The fact that Aaron Ripkowski led the team in rushing with 61 yards against the Detroit Lions during the regular-season finale is the perfect example of what Green Bay’s running back situation has been over the course of the regular season. Nothing against Ripkowski, but he seemed like the last candidate to carry the ground game in a critical game that would end up deciding the NFC North champion.

Obviously, there’s nothing the Packers would love more than to see Lacy fully recovery and be their top running back heading into next season, but that doesn’t mean the team shouldn’t still consider adding another member from this year’s draft class. As mentioned before, there’s only so much Rodgers can do on his own in the passing game as the team needs to focus on getting their star quarterback the necessary help in the backfield.

Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) warms up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans: Trade Brock Osweiler

No matter what happens in the playoffs, it’s safe to assume the Houston Texans will look back at their decision to sign Brock Osweiler to such a hefty contract, and wonder what on earth they were thinking for the deal. It was easy to understand the pressure surrounding this team to find a quarterback to build the franchise around since that always seemed to be the one area holding them back of being true contenders, but Osweiler has been a complete disaster.

The fact that Bill O’Brien feels more confident in an inexperienced quarterback like Tom Savage over Osweiler when seeing all of the money invested in the former Denver Broncos quarterback shows what a terrible mistake this move ended up being. If the Texans were smart, they would do whatever it takes to get rid of Osweiler during the offseason, no matter how difficult the task may seem.

Osweiler may not be happy with a trade, but he also can’t be happy about the playing situation that took place at the end of the regular season. When looking at how things played out, the best option seems to be both sides receiving a fresh start heading into 2017 since there are plenty of teams in need of help at the quarterback position.

Believe it or not, one of those teams happens to be the Broncos, but there’s no chance of Osweiler landing there through a trade.

Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive end Jihad Ward (95) and strong safety T.J. Carrie (38) during a NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Colts 33-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts: Improve Offensive Line

When looking at all of the money invested in Andrew Luck over the next couple of years, the Indianapolis Colts need to do whatever it takes to protect their star quarterback. With that being said, if the Colts don’t focus on improving their offensive line during the offseason, they’re only going to continue putting their beloved quarterback in Luck at risk when it comes to getting hurt.

The fact that Indianapolis ranked in the bottom five of the league with sacks allowed (44) shows why this is one of the biggest areas of concern heading into the offseason. All season, it was a common theme for Luck to receive all sorts of heavy pressure from opponents, as the offensive line always seemed to be doing a poor job of protecting their quarterback.

Throughout his career, Luck has always proven he can be one of the league’s top quarterbacks when healthy, so it was easy to understand why the Colts were willing to spend top dollar to make sure he sticks around for the long run. But unless they invest more money into protecting their franchise quarterback, Luck may be the unfortunate victim of watching more games than he would prefer from the sidelines if they can’t keep him healthy.

Dec 24, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) throws a pass during the third quarter of an NFL Football game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars: Give Blake Bortles One Final Chance

One year after throwing 35 touchdown passes, expectations were high for Blake Bortles running the offense for the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into the 2016 season since many believed this team could end up being a sleeper in the AFC. The talent was certainly there on the offensive side of the football when looking at some of the weapons Bortles was lucky enough to work with in the passing game, but instead this year turned out to be just another disappointing year for the Jaguars as the team even parted ways with Gus Bradley at head coach.

Only time will tell when it comes to who will be the next head coach in Jacksonville, but no matter who ends up taking the job, the real question will be whether they want to have Bortles as their starting quarterback. In a way, the last two games of the regular season seemed to be some sort of an audition for Bortles to prove to the next coach he deserves consideration for being the team’s starter heading into 2017.

Hopefully, the next coach decides to at least give it a shot with Bortles as his quarterback when looking at the potential displayed from the 2015 season. And if things don’t workout, it will be easy for the next head coach and the Jaguars to move on from Bortles at quarterback by saying they did everything in their power to provide opportunities to prove himself.

Dec 4, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) celebrates after defeating the Atlanta Falcons 29-28 at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs: Bring Back Eric Berry

Thanks to some help from the Oakland Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to claim the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, as Andy Reid‘s squad chose the best time to be playing some of their best football. Kansas City’s defense has been one of the main reasons behind the team’s success once again during the 2016 season, and no matter what it costs, the team needs to do whatever it takes to reward Eric Berry with the contract he deserves.

Berry is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and when seeing the type of impact he’s made for the Chiefs in 2016, it’s easy to see he’s the heart and soul of this defense. His NFL path may over the last couple of years has been more difficult when compared to others, but Berry’s incredible journey of overcoming cancer to reaching the elite level he’s at makes him even more enjoyable to follow.

Without Berry’s leadership, Kansas City wouldn’t be in the position of having one of the most dangerous defenses in the AFC heading into the postseason. If the Chiefs want their defense to remain near the top from a dominant standpoint, working out a new deal for Berry should be a no-brainer.

Dec 24, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) walks off the field after throwing an interception in the closing seconds of the Rams

Los Angeles Rams: Sign a Big Name Wide Receiver

After moving up in the 2016 NFL Draft to select Jared Goff, this was supposed to be the year the offense of the Los Angeles Rams took a major step forward, as they finally had a quarterback to build the franchise around. Instead, the Rams’ offense turned out to be one of the biggest jokes from the regular season by averaging less than 15 points per game while finishing numerous games without scoring a single touchdown.

Hopefully, the investment in Goff will pay off in the long run for Los Angeles, but the only way that’s ever going to happen is if the team provides him with better weapons in the passing game. Nothing against Kenny Britt for becoming the first player in the organization to record a 1,000-yard season since 2007, but the main issue with this team is all of the money invested in Tavon Austin, who turned out to be a complete bust this year.

The worst thing Los Angeles could have done prior to the start of the 2016 season was reward Austin with a $42 million extension, as he’s clearly not cut out to be a No. 1 wide receiver on any team. Without a first-round pick in the upcoming draft, the Rams may have to settle for targeting a big-name receiver in free agency to help Goff elevate his game to the next level during his sophomore year with the team.

Dec 4, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase directs his team during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore Ravens defeated Miami Dolphins 38-6. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins: Draft a Defensive End

Who would have thought after starting off the season with a 1-4 record, it would be the Miami Dolphins earning one of the Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs? The Dolphins may have turned their season around to emerge as one of the hottest teams in football down the stretch, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas in need of improvement heading into the offseason.

In fact, the defense is one of the biggest concerns for Miami when considering they ranked 29th overall from the 2016 regular season. The defense’s inability to stop the run (allowed 140.4 rushing yards per game) could end up haunting the Dolphins in the playoffs, and with the upcoming draft just a few months away, it’s never too early for this team to start thinking about potential defensive ends to bring on board.

There’s no denying that Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake are two of the best in the business, but Miami is still going to need extra help if they plan on remaining contenders in the AFC heading into 2017. Otherwise, the defense is going to end up finishing near the bottom of the league once again like they did this past year

Dec 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Colts defeated the Vikings 34-6. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings: Move On From Sam Bradford

The Minnesota Vikings made a bold move when they decided to surrender a first-round pick to acquire Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the start of the regular season. After winning the NFC North title the year before on top of having one of the league’s top defenses, the Vikings had the “win now” mentality, and believed Bradford was their best option to remain strong contenders.

So how did Bradford’s first season in Minnesota turn out? Well, he did manage to set the single-season record for completion percentage, but Bradford failed to accomplish what the Vikings needed the most, which was lead the team to the playoffs. Even if Bradford deserves some benefit of doubt for all the injuries the team had to deal with, it still doesn’t take away from some of the mistakes made throughout the 2016 season.

Not to mention, setting a single-season record isn’t going to bring back the first-round pick for the Vikings. Between Bradford most likely asking for another ridiculous contract to Teddy Bridgewater hopefully returning to full strength, Minnesota will have plenty to think about during the offseason when it comes to their quarterback situation.

If they were smart, the Vikings would just move on from Bradford, and admit bringing the quarterback on board was a terrible idea.

Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (88) reacts as he leaves the field in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots: Draft Another Tight End

One of the best decisions made by the New England Patriots last offseason was to bring Martellus Bennett on board to play alongside Rob Gronkowski. Turns out, it’s going to be Bennett leading the way for the Patriots heading into the postseason as Gronkowski continues to recover from a back injury, which makes the decision even more valuable.

When healthy, Gronkowski has proven to be one of the league’s most dangerous pass-catching tight ends, as it’s impossible at times to keep him under control due to his massive size and strength. Unfortunately, staying healthy has been a major issue for Gronkowski throughout his career, as there are many who wonder if he’s even worth New England keeping around in the future.

Over the years, the Patriots have flourished with having dominant tight-end duos for Tom Brady to work with in the passing game, but it may be time to consider drafting another play at the position to play alongside Bennett instead of focusing on Gronkowski. It only took one year for Bennett to fit right in with New England’s passing game as an effective tight end, and this could turn out to be one of the most underrated signings from the 2016 offseason.

Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton during the second half of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints: Trade Sean Payton

After three-straight seasons of 7-9 records, the frustration is beginning to pile up for Sean Payton as the head coach for the New Orleans Saints. When looking at the dangerous weapons Drew Brees has to work with in the passing game, there’s no reason why the Saints shouldn’t have been able to make a strong run at the postseason over the last three years.

At the end of the day, Payton is going to be the one that receives most of the blame for New Orleans failing to record winning records in each of the last three seasons. Despite the team’s recent struggles, Payton’s name has been thrown around trade rumors over the last couple of weeks for teams in need of a new head coach. While he says he’s staying and honoring his contract, the right deal could always sway New Orleans.

One of those teams in need of a head coach happens to be the Los Angeles Rams, who would most likely take Payton in a heartbeat with the right offer. The move may sound crazy from the perspective of the Saints, but when looking at how much money the organization would be saving from a trade, it would be tough for the team not to at least consider the move.

Payton may have played a big role in bringing the city a Super Bowl back during the 2009 season, but that was long enough ago where New Orleans shouldn’t feel bad over a possible fresh start at head coach.

Dec 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) hands off the ball to running back Rashad Jennings (23) during first half against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants: Improve at Running Back

Who would have thought it would end up being the defense that would play a big part in helping the New York Giants earn a Wild Card spot in the playoffs? Everybody always knew what Eli Manning was capable of when the Giants’ offense would start rolling, but nobody expected the defense to play at a high level this year.

Only time will tell when it comes to how far New York will go into the postseason, but at least the team knows the one area they need to improve on during the offseason is running back. Even if Manning is lucky enough to have a strong receiving corps consisting of Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, a quarterback can always use the additional help at running back to take off some pressure of running the offense.

The fact that New York ranked near the bottom of the league in 2016 by averaging just 88.2 rushing yards per game shows how desperate this team is to improve at running back heading into next season. There’s only so many opportunities Rashad Jennings can receive from the team before the Giants realize he’s not the answer to carry the load in the backfield.

Dec 24, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) runs off the field against the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Jets 41-3. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets: Find a Franchise Quarterback

Is there even a reason to explain why the New York Jets are in desperate need of finding a franchise quarterback? For a team that almost made the playoffs in 2015 with a 10-6 record, signing Ryan Fitzpatrick was supposed to make the Jets serious contenders in the AF this year, which obviously was far from the case.

Instead, the decision to pay Fitzpatrick a hefty one-year contract will go down as one of the biggest busts from the 2016 season after New York’s offense turned out to be one of the worst in the league. Also keep in mind this was a team that had four quarterbacks on the roster heading into the preseason, which makes this situation even more frustrating since the Jets don’t seem to have a clue about what they should do heading into next year.

The good news is this year’s draft class will have plenty of talented quarterbacks to choose from, and with the sixth overall pick thanks to this year’s terrible record, one can only hope New York will strongly consider selecting a quarterback. Otherwise, this organization is only going to continue holding themselves back from reaching the next level of becoming contenders in the AFC.

Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is helped off the field during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Indianapolis Colts 33-25. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders: Get Derek Carr Healthy

For years, Oakland Raiders fans have been anxiously waiting for their team to put together a winning season, and it finally happened in 2016 after the team earned a playoff berth thanks to Derek Carr helping the offense reach a new level. Unfortunately, the Raiders are the unfortunate victims of the injury bug at the worst possible time after their beloved quarterback suffered a broken fibula during a Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts.

And if that wasn’t already painful enough to deal with, Oakland missed out on a perfect opportunity to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs after falling to the Denver Broncos during their regular-season finale. They say earning a spot in the playoff is always better than watching from home in January, but if Carr was healthy enough to start in that final game of the regular season, chances are the Raiders would have held on to that No. 2 seed in the AFC.

Nobody likes to see athletes get hurt, and watching Carr suffer an injury like this late in the season was absolutely heartbreaking to witness. Here’s to hoping the quarterback has a quick recovery, and returns to MVP form to help Oakland remain strong contenders in the AFC once again heading into next season.

Dec 22, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor (17) reacts in front of New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple (24) after his touchdown reception in the first half at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles: Get Carson Wentz Better Weapons

Remember when the Philadelphia Eagles used a first-round pick on Nelson Agholor back in 2015? In the 28 games he’s played as a member of the Eagles, Agholor has only caught 59 passes for 648 yards to go along with three touchdowns.

In other words, this shows how weak the receiving corps of the Eagles has been over the last two years as it’s never been clearer this team needs to finally address the issue. Philadelphia realizes the future is bright with Carson Wentz after a phenomenal rookie season, but the only way he’s going to reach his true potential is if the organization provides him with the necessary weapons to make him successful.

The good news for the Eagles is despite giving up a first-round pick in order to acquire Wentz in last year’s draft, the team was able to get one back from the Minnesota Vikings from the Sam Bradford trade. Even if they decide to use this year’s first-rounder on a different position, Philadelphia could at least make an effort to bring a big playmaker on board for Wentz through free agency.

If not, it’s only going to hold Wentz back from elevating his game to the next level during his sophomore season with the team.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Reward Le’Veon Bell With New Deal

The Pittsburgh Steelers face a tough situation in the offseason when it comes to deciding what to do regarding the contract situation of Le’Veon Bell. Normally, a decision to bring back a player with the talent level of Bell would seem like a no brainer, but there are concerns over paying the running back too much money with his history of off-the-field issues.

Even if Bell missed the beginning of the season due to a  suspension, the running back has played a big part in helping the Steelers end the year on a positive note by carrying the offense during the team’s seven-game winning streak. From leading the charge in the ground game to being just as reliable through the air as a target for Ben Roethlisberger, Bell posses the type of talent Pittsburgh can’t afford to lose, no matter what mistakes he’s made in the past.

No matter what it takes, the Steelers need to make their running back happy by locking Bell up to the long-term deal to make sure this offense continues to be dangerous for years to come. Bell is simply too valuable of a weapon to risk losing in the backfield, so let’s hope Pittsburgh doesn’t find a way to ruin this glorious opportunity.

Dec 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) yells at the line of scrimmage during the second half of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Raiders won 19-16. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Chargers: Learn to Close Out Games

The good news for the San Diego Chargers is the team wasted no time with firing Mike McCoy as the argument can be made this was a move that was long overdue. Hopefully, the next head coach for the Chargers figures out a way to help the team with their inability to close out games.

One of the most frustrating things about San Diego during the 2015 season was how 10 of their 12 losses ended up being by single digits. Somehow, the Chargers figured out a way to carry the trend over to this season after nine of their 11 losses were by single digits as well.

If only San Diego didn’t struggle so much in the fourth quarter over the last two years, there’s a good chance they would have actually been stronger contenders in the AFC, and McCoy may even still have a job. For a team with one of the league’s most competitive quarterbacks, it’s tough not to feel bad for Philip Rivers when looking at the numbers he puts up each season.

Here’s to hoping Rivers and the Chargers can figure out a way to fix their issues of struggling to close out games next season to avoid dealing with the problem for a third year in a row.

Dec 24, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) tries to elude Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Quinton Dial (right) during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers: Part Ways With Colin Kaepernick

On a positive note, at least the San Francisco 49ers were smart enough to realize that Chip Kelly was far from the answer for this team at head coach. In fact, it’s becoming clearer that Kelly isn’t fit for the NFL when looking at how his stints with the 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles played out.

Up next, San Francisco needs to start fresh and part ways with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback after seeing how much the offense struggled for a majority of the 2016 season. A few years ago, Kaepernick was considered one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league due to his ability to run effectively, but he’s nowhere close to being on that same level anymore.

After finishing with only two wins all season (both of which came against the Los Angeles Rams), it’s obvious the 49ers will be experiencing plenty of changes during the offseason to help the team bounce back from this disaster of a season. The good news is San Francisco’s two-win season helped them land the second overall pick in this year’s draft, and when seeing some of the big-name quarterbacks worth of being selected in the first round, it will hopefully make moving on from Kaepernick easier to deal with.

If the 49ers decide otherwise, it’s only going to hold them back from getting out from the bottom of the NFC West.

Dec 11, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) hands the football off to running back Thomas Rawls (34) during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks: Improve the Running Game

The Seattle Seahawks knew it wasn’t going to be easy to adjust to life without Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, but they didn’t expect to struggle this much during the 2016 season. The Seahawks may have run away with the NFC West title over the Arizona Cardinals, but their inability to consistently get rolling in the ground game was on display all year after averaging just 99.4 rushing yards per game.

Thomas Rawls was a running back with high potential at the beginning of the season as Lynch’s replacement, and while he’s put together some impressive performances, he’s still not at the level the Seahawks need him to be at. Not to mention Rawls has unfortunately been limited to appearing in just nine games in 2016 due to injuries.

Take a closer look at the game logs by Rawls from this year, and it’s easy to see why Seattle has some concerns since the running back was limited to less than 40 rushing yards in six of the nine games he played in. It’s tough to replace a running back that plays at such a high level like Lynch did, but the Seahawks didn’t even see these issues at running back coming before the start of the regular season.

As bad as it sounds, Seattle’s struggles in the ground game puts even more pressure on Russell Wilson leading the offense heading into the playoffs.

Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs the ball as San Diego Chargers strong safety Jahleel Addae (37) and inside linebacker Korey Toomer (56) defend during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Draft a New Running Back

When it comes to the biggest surprises towards the end of the regular season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the four-game suspension for Doug Martin after testing positive for Adderall ranks at the top of the list. In fact, reports are beginning to emerge the team may end up parting ways with the running back in the offseason, which puts the Buccaneers in a tough position.

Keep in mind there was a point early in his career when Martin was considered one of the most dangerous running backs in the league since his small size and speed made it impossible for opponents to defend at times. Obviously, there’s nothing the team wants more than to see the running back bounce back from this incident, whether it’s with Tampa Bay or somewhere else.

No matter what happens, the Buccaneers will have to address their need at running back during the offseason after ranking in the bottom half of the league in 2016 thanks to only averaging 101 rushing yards per game. Tampa Bay emerged as one of the best surprises in the second half of the season, but everyone knows it was the defense that carried a majority of the load.

Dec 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) drops back to pass during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Tennessee won 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee Titans: Bring In Wide Receiver For Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota nearly led the Tennessee Titans to a playoff berth during his second season as the starting quarterback, and even though the team fell short of their goals to play in January, this should still be considered a successful year. To go from finishing at the bottom of the division to only missing out on the AFC South title due to losing the tiebreaker to the Houston Texans, there’s every reason in the world to feel confident about the Titans heading into the 2017 season.

One of the main reasons behind Tennessee finishing the year with a 9-7 record was due to an improved ground game led by DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Assuming all goes well, this running back duo should be on top of their game once again heading into next year, but if the Titans really want  to make the playoffs, they need to provide their quarterback with a big-name receiver.

Tennessee’s current group of wide receivers certainly showed potential at times this season, but Mariota needs more from his teammates in the passing game to reach a more elite level. This year’s free agent class has plenty of attractive wide receivers that would love the opportunity to play with a team on the rise like the Titans, especially with the progress Mariota continues to make on a weekly basis.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks to pass during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Redskins: Give Kirk Cousins Long-Term Deal

Before anyone freaks out about how the regular-season finale played out against the New York Giants, keep in mind the type of numbers Kirk Cousins has put together over the last two years as the starter for the Washington Redskins. The numbers don’t lie as Cousins has proven he deserves consideration for being one of the league’s top quarterbacks, and the last thing the Redskins can afford to do is start over with someone else at quarterback.

Washington may have fallen just short of reaching the postseason, but it’s tough to ignore how dangerous this offense can be when looking at all of the weapons Cousins has to work with in the passing game. From DeSean Jackson to Pierre Garcon, the Redskins have done everything they could to make life easier for Cousins on offense, but now it’s up to the team to make sure their quarterback is around for the long run.

At this point, Washington simply can’t afford to place the franchise tag on Cousins again, and the wise choice seems simple to just reward him with the long-term contract he’s been fighting so long for. The Redskins currently have a playoff-caliber team at the moment, but losing Cousins would be a major step back for the organization, so here’s to hoping they don’t find a way to mess up the situation.

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