Super Bowl XLV is now a
ncient history, so it’s time to look ahead to the stories that will dominate the next few football-less months.
Here are the top storylines for the 2011 NFL offseason:
- Will there be a lockout? Everything else is secondary at this point. Much like the “romance is in the air” theory surrounding weddings, it seemed that the spirit of Super Bowl week brought the two sides together. A series of bargaining sessions ensued and there have been encouraging signs that a deal may indeed be completed by March 4th. But so far, we haven’t heard that either side is willing to give in on any major issues, so a lockout is still a very real possibility. If this gets past that deadline, there’s no telling how long it will go.
- What changes will be included in the next CBA? Whenever an agreement is reached, there are sure to be major changes to the landscape of the NFL. The potential 18-game season is the most dramatic possible change, but we could also see some major tinkering to the league’s economic system which would have far reaching impact on the draft and free agency.
- The QB carousel. As many as 10 teams could be looking for new starters. Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Mallet, and Jake Locker could become starters in their rookie seasons, but there are also intriguing veteran options that will be available via trade or free agency including Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, and Tavaris Jackson.
- Who goes No. 1 in the draft? Carolina was the victim of awful luck when Andrew Luck decided to return to Stanford for his senior year, and now there’s no consensus top pick. Auburn’s Nick Fairley seems like the best bet, but Carolina could listen to trade offers or may reach for one of the other QBs.
- Who will the Jets keep? New York went all-in on an attempt to reach Super Bowl XLV, but the Jets fell short by losing to the Steelers in the AFC Conference Championship. The team has plenty of young stars locked up, but the Jets will have to decide what to do with LaDanian Tomlinson, who to keep between Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, and which other veterans are worth re-signing from a group that includes Antonio Cromartie, Brad Smith, and Shaun Ellis.
- Mike Vick and Peyton Manning will get new deals. Manning’s will almost certainly shatter records, but Vick’s value is tough to determine. He’s coming off a phenomenal season, but he still has plenty of baggage and the Eagles may be weary of making a long-term investment in him.
- Who’s going to get into trouble? It wouldn’t be an NFL offseason without a star player getting into some kind of run-in with the law.
- Hard Knocks. This is a long way off, but the return of HBO’s mini-series will be hotly anticipated after Rex Ryan and the Jets made the show must-watch TV for football fans last summer.
- What will the Patriots do? New England has a great chance to add to it’s talented roster with three picks in the draft’s first 33, but the Patriots do have obvious holes. They need a big-time receiver to help Tom Brady, they could use a running back, they need to add offensive line help, and they’ll want to make some upgrades on defence. The Patriots are a popular Super Bowl choice for next year, but they have plenty of work to do in the offseason.
- Nnamdi Asomugha. The man with the impossible name became a free agent due to a bizarre contract clause with Oakland, and he’s already drawing plenty of interest. Few teams will be able to meet Asomugha’s contract demands, but he’ll have a huge impact wherever he signs.
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