NFL Storylines To Watch Before Training Camp

The period between June minicamps and the start of NFL training camps is typically the quietest time of the year for the league. However, even during these weeks when many coaches, players, and NFL writers are on vacation, there are still plenty of stories to keep an eye on, proving that the NFL is truly a year-round league.

Here are a few storylines worth keeping an eye on as we wait for 2015 training camps to get underway:

Greg Hardy‘s and Tom Brady‘s appeal decisions
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, the fact that we’ve been waiting more than four weeks for arbitrator Harold Henderson to make a decision on whether or not to uphold Hardy’s 10-game suspension suggests that we shouldn’t expect quick resolution in Brady’s case either. The CBA gives arbitrators wiggle room to take their time when making these decisions, but I expect we’ll get an announcement on Hardy very soon, and it’d be a surprise if Roger Goodell hadn’t made a ruling on Brady by the time training camps begin.

The July 15 franchise tag extension deadline
Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Justin Houston, and Jason Pierre-Paul have yet to sign their one-year franchise-tag tenders, and all four players are seeking long-term agreements. If that’s going to happen this year, it’ll have to get done by July 15, so we can expect teams to ramp up extension negotiations over the next couple weeks. If any – or all – of these players don’t sign multiyear contracts by July 15, they’ll have to play on a one-year deal for 2015, if they intend to play at all.

The three remaining unsigned draft picks
The current CBA has essentially made rookie holdouts a thing of the past, since salaries and bonuses are slotted fairly rigorously. However, there are still a few details in those rookie contracts for teams, players, and agents to hammer out, and two AFC South teams have yet to lock up all their draftees. As our tracker shows, the Colts have yet to sign two third-rounders, cornerback D’Joun Smith and defensive end Henry Anderson, while the Titans haven’t got No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota under contract. I think all three players will have reached agreements by the time their respective teams’ training camps start, but Mariota is worth keeping an eye on, since Titans GM Ruston Webster recently said it’s not a big deal if a player misses a few days of camp.

Evan Mathis and other notable free agents
While Evan Mathis is the most coveted veteran player on the open market, there are several other interesting names available, many of whom could be snatched up as teams finalize their camp rosters. PFR’s Dallas Robinson recently published his list of the best available remaining free agents, identifying tackle Jake Long, tight end Jermaine Gresham, wide receiver James Jones, and pass rusher Dwight Freeney as a few of the top options.

Russell Wilson and other notable extension candidates
Wilson has received more attention than just about any other extension candidate, since his contract will expire at season’s end, and he could become the NFL’s highest-paid player, as we discussed yesterday. But there are plenty of other noteworthy players who could be extended by their teams before training camps get underway, including Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, and many others.

The Los Angeles situation
No major decisions on Los Angeles are expected to be made within the next few weeks, considering the NFL’s next meeting on the situation isn’t scheduled to happen until August 11. Still, it seems as if every day there are new updates on the stadium situations in Oakland, San Diego, and St. Louis. The latest sign of possible forward movement for the NFL’s return to Los Angeles came this morning, as the league began formally exploring temporary venues in the L.A. area for 2016.

Are there any other storylines we’ve left out of our list that you’ll be watching over the next few weeks? Let us know in the comment section!

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