Five NFL offseason talking points: What is coming next?
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 25/06/19 6:23pm
It may be the NFL's quiet time, but we have picked out five things to look out for over the coming months.
11 weeks. Roughly 77 days (depending on when you are reading this). That's how close (or far) we are to the start of the NFL season.
But June is generally considered a quiet month in the NFL, and we as fans of the game don't have much to keep track of when it comes to news. Most of the discussions are projecting what might happen based on (almost always positive) training camp 'reports' and quotes from players and coaches.
What about 'real' news? What is coming next? Here are five things to look out for...
As we get closer to the season, many teams will look to lock up their stars before the action begins. Michael Thomas is reportedly close to signing a new deal with the Saints, the Falcons are looking to lock up Julio Jones in the coming weeks, and Philadelphia got in early to set the quarterback market by signing Carson Wentz to a four-year, $128m extension.
At the end of August last year, Aaron Donald became the highest-paid defensive player ever - quickly followed by Khalil Mack - and both Aaron Rodgers and Odell Beckham Jr signed bumper deals. Watch out over the coming weeks and months as teams snap up their top performers.
Some names to keep your eyes on? Jared Goff and Dak Prescott, who were both members of the 2016 NFL Draft alongside Wentz, and could command similar deals.
Mack was traded from Oakland to Chicago last offseason for a pair of first-round picks, partially because the Raiders weren't willing to splash the cash on him - while the Bears were. Earlier this summer, we saw another blockbuster when Beckham Jr was dealt to Cleveland by the Giants.
As contract negotiations hit a brick wall, players start dropping like flies with training camp injuries, and rosters gradually whittle down to 53 players. Watch for teams to make moves.
There are some players who seem to be linked to trades every season - Patrick Peterson, for example - and others who find themselves with 'uncertain' futures (Leonard Fournette comes to mind). Don't be surprised when teams on the brink of short-term success make aggressive moves to make themselves more of a contender.
Whether your team has a new head coach, quarterback or shiny toy picked up in the NFL Draft or free agency, you are bound to go into a new season with excitement and hope for a better year ahead. Realistically, not every team is ready to compete for the Super Bowl. But every team goes into the season thinking they are.
The Arizona Cardinals are the best example of the dawn of a new era. They instated a new head coach in Kliff Kingsbury - who doesn't have any experience as an NFL coach but was around the league as a backup quarterback in the mid-2000s - and selected outstanding athlete and QB Kyler Murray number one overall in the 2019 Draft. It doesn't get more drastic than that.
Who is Kyler Murray?
Kyler Murray has been labelled as 'a two-sport athlete', 'too small' and 'a one-season wonder'. But who is he?
Bruce Arians is back in the NFL to re-energise a Tampa Bay team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2007, and Lamar Jackson goes into the season as the starter in Baltimore after Joe Flacco's 11 years as a Raven came to an end. Beckham in Cleveland, Antonio Brown in Oakland, Nick Foles in Jacksonville: it's all new, and it's all exciting. But will all those moves work out?
There is no way around it: injuries happen in the NFL. A lot.
Last season, Flacco's injury paved the way for Jackson - the rookie ran with it and never looked back. Without Alex Smith's brutal leg injury in Week 11, they wouldn't have both traded for veteran QB Case Keenum and drafted Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Cooper Kupp, Earl Thomas, AJ Green. The list of players who could have had major impacts on their teams - and ultimately, the 2018 NFL season - goes on.
Every team will have to deal with injuries this season as early as the first snap of training camp. Who will go down? How will their team react? One injury could affect the entire landscape of 2019.
Before you know it, the season will be upon us. After all the waiting and a long period of off-the-field happenings, we finally have the chance to see the players back on the field. Here are the key dates:
Thursday, August 1: Hall of Fame game - Denver Broncos vs Atlanta Falcons
Thursday, August 8-Thursday, August 29: Preseason Weeks 1-4
Thursday, September 5: NFL kick-off - Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Sunday, September 8: First NFL Sunday on Sky Sports!