The Browns’ internal conflict is understandable as Bryant’s star has faded considerably in recent years. After averaging 91 catches for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns between 2012 and 2014, his averages plummeted to 50 catches for 678 yards and 6 TDs over the last three years. He also missed ten games due to injury between 2015 and 2016, and some say he wasn’t giving 100% towards the end of his run in Dallas.
Will Bryant be motivated by his release from the Cowboys? It stands to reason that he will, but one can’t help but wonder how Bryant would react to a sharp decrease in targets. Bryant would be in line for plenty of looks if Josh Gordon misses time, but the Browns are hopeful that the troubled star will be ready to go in Week 1. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which Bryant is relegated to being the third wide receiver behind Landry and Gordon, and there’s also a group of talented young receivers to consider, including rookie Antonio Callaway.
With reservations and interest on both sides, we want to know what you think. Should the Browns sign Bryant? Click below to cast your vote.
Washington holds $13MM-plus in cap space, so funding won’t be an issue here given the timing of this injury and the host of proven backs on the market. Of the players available, Orleans Darkwa has generated the most interest this offseason. The Giants’ 2017 rushing leader met with the Patriots in April, before undergoing surgery, and since recovering has met with the Bills, Jets and Colts. Each team passed, but Darkwa has just 276 carries on his NFL odometer. And he averaged 4.4 yards per tote despite running behind an injury-ravaged Giants offensive front.
Alfred Morris led the Redskins in rushing for four straight seasons, and he averaged 4.8 yards per handoff last season as the Cowboys’ primary starter during Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension. The former sixth-round Washington find is 29 and hasn’t generated much interest since his Cowboys contract expired, although he did visit the Jets recently.
Eddie Lacy‘s also fairly young, at 28, but he’s coming off a brutal Seahawks season. After providing per-carry averages north of 4.0 in each of his four Packers seasons, Lacy averaged just 2.6 yards per run for the Seahawks. Branden Oliver has not been as successful on a per-rush basis, holding a career average of 3.4, but he totaled 853 yards from scrimmage as a seven-game starter as a rookie in 2014. Oliver also drew interest from the Bills this summer.
What about the market’s old guard? Adrian Peterson is obviously the first name that comes to mind, and the future Hall of Famer maintains he would like to play a 12th season. Peterson said he’s now healthy and has recovered from the neck injury that ended his 2017 season. While the three-time rushing champion’s best days are behind him, he amassed two 130-plus-yard games with the Cardinals, doing so despite being a midseason acquisition.
Jamaal Charles, 31, made it through last season healthy after extensive knee trouble plagued him in 2015 and 2016, but the Broncos took him out of their rotation. Nevertheless, the two-time All-Pro led Denver backs by averaging 4.3 yards per carry (albeit on just 69 handoffs). DeMarco Murray retired, but he made it clear shortly before that announcement he was interested in playing this season. Could this situation lure the 2014 offensive player of the year out of retirement?
However, the Redskins also have former Broncos backup Kapri Bibbs and third-year UDFA Byron Marshall. Should they bypass the market and go with a cast fronted by Kelley and Perine?
Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section!
In 2017, four first-place teams from the previous season did not earn postseason berths. Those clubs — the Texans, Cowboys, Packers, and Seahawks — all missed the playoffs for different reasons. Injuries, poor luck, off-field issues, and plain old regression to the mean all contributed in certain instances, and 2018 doesn’t figure to be any different for the 2017 first-place teams.
With Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in tow, the Patriots have won at least 12 games for eight consecutive seasons, and earned playoff berths in 14 of the past 15 years. Despite some roster turnover, that streak doesn’t figure to end in 2018. Not only is the AFC weak overall, but the AFC East in particular isn’t going to offer much competition for New England. New faces such as running back Sony Michel, offensive tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown, defensive lineman Danny Shelton and Adrian Clayborn, and cornerback Jason McCourty should help keep the Patriots’ postseason streak alive.
The Steelers are rolling it back, as the club won’t have many changes on either offense or defense. The only new factor on the offensive side of the ball figures to be rookie wideout James Washington, who will replace Martavis Bryant as Pittsburgh’s deep threat. On defense, linebacker Jon Bostic takes over for the injured Ryan Shazier, while Morgan Burnett and Terrell Edmunds will form an all-new safety tandem. Competition from within the AFC North might be improved, especially if the Browns don’t play like a winless team again in 2018.
Over the course of the 2017 season, the Jaguars posted the second-highest DVOA variance of any NFL club, meaning their performance wasn’t consistent from week-to-week. Now that they’ve brought back quarterback Blake Bortles, that doesn’t figure to change. In a passing league, Jacksonville will commit to winning via the run game and defensive dominance, and those two areas of the game aren’t nearly as correlated to win as passing offense.
Unlike a postmortem, which helps explain why things happened after the fact, a premortem examines potential crises before they actually occur. Let’s take a premortem approach to a hypothetically-flawed 2018 Eagles roster: Carson Wentz doesn’t recover quickly from his ACL tear and his replacement, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, looks more like the Rams version of himself. Philadelphia’s defensive line ages quickly and can’t match its 2017 dominance, and the Eagles’ defensive back depth chart — which is relying on young players like Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas — can’t hold up. And head coach Doug Pederson‘s aggressiveness, which led him to go for it on fourth downs a league-leading 29 times in 2017, backfires.
Two words: Aaron Rodgers. Sure, the Vikings were among the most complete teams in the league last season, and have since added both Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson to an already-stacked roster. But the return of Rodgers from injury surely strikes fear in the hearts of Minnesota fans, and we haven’t even mentioned the improvements made by the NFC North’s other two clubs, the Bears and Lions.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints undoubtedly have a lot going for them in 2018: a future Hall of Famer in quarterback Drew Brees, dynamic rushing and receiving weapons, and an up-and-coming defense that will add veterans Kurt Coleman and Demario Davis in addition to rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport. The real problem for New Orleans is the strength of the NFC South. Both the Falcons and Panthers made the playoffs in 2017 and figure to be in contention again, so there’s always a chance the Saints slip out of the postseason picture due to their intra-division competition.
Los Angeles Rams
For all the offseason hype regarding the Rams, there are still quite a few questions about the club’s roster construction? Will LA’s offensive line — fronted by aging veterans Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan — hold up? How long will All-World defender Aaron Donald continue his holdout? Can Brandin Cooks improve upon Sammy Watkins‘ performance as the Rams’ X receiver? And who exactly will be rushing the passer from outside linebacker in Wade Phillips‘ 3-4 scheme?
So, what do you think? Which 2017 first place team is likeliest to miss the playoffs in 2018? Vote below!
Five quarterbacks — Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson — were selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, but each signal-caller will have different outlooks for his rookie campaign. Team status, the presence of other options under center, and each quarterback’s own development will play a role in when exactly he starts his first game.
So which rookie passer will start the most contests in 2018? Let’s take a look at each individually:
None of the first-round quarterbacks are guaranteed to open as a Week 1 starter, and Mayfield especially may face an uphill battle to overtake his club’s presumptive starter. Cleveland management has been adamant that Tyrod Taylor will be under center to begin the season, and there’s no reason (at present) to think that will change. However, Mayfield could certainly change minds during training camp and the preseason, and if the Browns get off to a slow start, Taylor could conceivably be benched in favor of the No. 1 overall pick.
Mayfield only needs to overtake Taylor in order to become the Browns’ starter, but Darnold might need to beat out two veterans: Josh McCown, who started 13 games for the Jets in 2017, and Teddy Bridgewater, who reportedly impressed during organized team activities. Darnold is the future of the New York franchise, of course, but that doesn’t mean the Jets are interested in throwing him on the field behind a porous offensive line and with limited offensive weapons.
Like Darnold, Allen may also be competing against two other quaterbacks, as Buffalo signed former Bengal A.J. McCarron this offseason while 2017 draft pick Nathan Peterman is also still in the fold. Additionally, Allen was viewed as a raw prospect coming out of Wyoming, and the Bills will field one of the league’s worst offensive lines during the upcoming season. Buffalo’s wide receiver depth chart is a terrifying sight, while the club’s best offensive player — running back LeSean McCoy — could face discipline if domestic violence accusations prove true. The Bills may want to hold Allen on the bench for awhile, allowing either McCarron or Peterman more reps.
Another rookie quarterback facing a battle with two other options? Sounds familiar. Although in Rosen’s case, it’s unclear if Mike Glennon is a serious obstacle. Sam Bradford is the favorite to act as the Cardinals’ starter in Week 1, but Rosen is viewed as the most pro-ready signal-caller of the rookie bunch, so he could get on the field sooner rather than later. Arizona faces a stiff schedule to open the 2018 campaign, and if the club struggles, the Cards’ staff may choose to turn to Rosen.
Jackson might be the first-round quarterback who sees the field first in 2018, but it may not be under center. The Ravens are reportedly interested in deploying Jackson as an “offensive weapon,” and could line him up on the field with starting quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco has produced poor performances in recent seasons, so Jackson is a reasonable candidate to see starts later in the year, especially if Baltimore falls out of the playoff picture.
So what do you think? Which first-round quarterback will make the most starts in 2018? Vote below!
Turnarounds in the NFL often don’t take long. Unlike Major League Baseball, where prospects usually face a minimum promotion time of two years, new NFL players can make an impact during their respective rookie season. With more teams embracing the use of free agency and trades as avenues of player acquisition, it’s possible to improve a club year-over-year.
Worst-to-playoffs revamps happen nearly every season, and 2017 was no exception. Most famously, the Eagles used the progression of sophomore quarterback Carson Wentz and a few deft free agent signings to navigate a Super Bowl campaign only a year after finishing last in the NFC East. The Panthers, too, rebounded from a down 2016 to earn a postseason berth last season, and the Jaguars improved from 3-13 in 2016 to AFC runners-up in 2017.
So, which last place team from 2017 will make the leap into a playoff team during the upcoming season? Let’s take a look at the candidates:
New York Jets
While the Jets certainly look poised to contend in the future after adding quarterback Sam Darnold with the third overall pick, it seems unlikely they’ll come anywhere near first place in the AFC East in 2018. The Patriots, as ever, are considered the far-and-away favorites, and it’s not clear New York can even compete with the Dolphins for second place in the division. General manager Mike Maccagnan added a long-term building block in cornerback Trumaine Johnson, and solidified the Jets’ backfield signing both Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls, but contention in 2018 probably isn’t in the cards.
Is there a more difficult division to figure out than the AFC South? The Jaguars return much of their core after reaching the AFC Championship Game in 2017, the Titans will add a new offensive philosophy to a roster than earned a Wild Card berth last season, and the Colts (fingers crossed) will see the return of Andrew Luck. The Texans could be the best team, however, especially if quarterback Deshaun Watson and defensive lineman J.J. Watt can stay healthy for the entire year. The major worry for Houston? It’s offensive line, which again looks to be one of the worst in the NFL.
The Broncos won the Super Bowl 29 months ago, but their title seems much farther in the rear-view mirror. Following Peyton Manning‘s retirement, Denver has failed to launch on offense while deploying quarterbacks Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler. Case Keenum is now under center and will try to replicate his outstanding 2017 performance, but he won’t have the benefit of C.J. Anderson in the backfield. The Broncos’ defense is still their strength, but the club is now without corner Aqib Talib, who was traded to the Rams during the offseason.
New York Giants
Instead of opting for a rebuild, the Giants appear to be going all-in for one more run with Eli Manning at quarterback. New York could’ve used the second overall selection on a franchise quarterback, but instead opted for running back Saquon Barkley that may not have set up the club for the long haul (even if it does pay dividends in 2017). Additionally, the Giants are shifting to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher, and with three other strong teams residing in the NFC East, it’s unclear if New York is a serious contender.
The Bears already seem to be everyone’s favorite 2018 sleeper, and they certainly have an exciting roster. Chicago is just the latest team to leverage a rookie quarterback contract, taking the savings on Mitch Trubisky‘s below-market deal to add weapons such as Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, and Taylor Gabriel. Plus, the Bears’ defense remains underrated under longtime DC Vic Fangio. But the NFC North remains one of the NFL’s stronger divisions, and even an improvement from Chicago could keep them in the cellar behind Minnesota, Green Bay, and Detroit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After opting for continuity by surprisingly retaining head coach Dirk Koetter, the Buccaneers are already facing an early-season challenge after learning starting quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended three games following the results of a sexual assault investigation. Tampa Bay certainly improved parts of its roster this offseason (its defensive line added Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, and Vita Vea), but as we’ve noted for other clubs above, even a robust free agent period won’t help if the team’s divisional opponents are difficult. The NFC South is perhaps the league’s most talented division, and it’s hard to see the Bucs placing above the Saints, Panthers, or Falcons.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo has yet to lose a game during his NFL career, but we’ll hold on off on projecting a 16-0 record for the 49ers. Still, San Francisco looks poised to compete for at least a Wild Card spot after inking free agents like Jerick McKinnon, Weston Richburg, and Richard Sherman, plus a draft class that included Mike McGlinchey and Dante Pettis. The Seahawks are no longer the force they once were, while the Cardinals are entering a mini-rebuild, so the Rams are the clear hurdle for the 49ers in the NFC West.
So what do you think? Which of these last place teams is likeliest to earn a postseason berth — either as a division winner or a wild card club — in 2018?
However, the running back position produces annual mid- or late-round surprises — from Devonta Freeman to Jordan Howard to Kareem Hunt — that end up providing immense value to certain teams. The Giants obviously have an incredibly gifted ball-carrier set to take handoffs from Eli Manning, but which of Barkley’s peers is in the best position to challenge him (and the quarterback contingent) for the OROY honor?
The other two first-round RBs look to be less equipped for a strong challenge due to circumstances.
Sony Michel‘s prospects of being an immediate ground producer may have been better on a different team. While the Patriots boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, Bill Belichick notoriously finds myriad usages for his backs and involves nearly all of them. Although, Dion Lewis‘ departure after a 180-carry season opens the door for someone to take over as New England’s primary back. And Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 totes at Georgia last season. Rashaad Penny looks to be behind Chris Carsonto start the season, and the surprise first-rounder may be given time to develop for a Seattle team that’s struggled on the ground for a few years now.
After Round 1, however, it becomes a bit more interesting. The Buccaneers did not possess a formidable depth chart at running back prior to investing their second-round pick in USC’s Ronald Jones. In 2017, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He could well be an early-season starter, with the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in his path toward a first-string role. Chosen just before Jones, Nick Chubb will have to contend with Carlos Hyde in Cleveland this season for the revamped Browns. Chubb, though, notched three 1,000-yard seasons in the nation’s toughest conference.
Kerryon Johnson looks to be set to start in a committee in Detroit, but the Lions have been desperate for a surefire ground producer for years now. And they view Johnson as a three-down back. LeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah reside in the Motor City carries picture, but neither would impede Johnson from a major role if he proves ready from the outset. Derrius Guice could have a quicker path to playing time in Washington. Considered by some the second-best back in this draft, the LSU product fell largely because of character concerns. However, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry in 2016 on nearly 200 attempts and is expected to push for the Redskins’ starting job from the start.
Also expected to challenge for an early role: the Broncos’ Royce Freeman. The Oregon-developed talent posted three 1,300-plus-yard seasons with the Ducks, amassing a staggering 947 college carries. With the Broncos having moved on from four-year starter C.J. Anderson, only Devontae Booker (299 rushing yards last season) resides in the third-rounder’s path. Is he a threat to be the 2018 version of Hunt?
As for Barkley, he has the most obvious route to a full-time gig. Despite Jonathan Stewart now being in the Big Apple, the Penn State dynamo will factor in from the start of the Giants’ season. And the three-down back totaled at least 2,300 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years for the Nittany Lions. The Giants have questions up front, having lost Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, but they added multiple UFAs — spearheaded by Nate Solder — and chose likely Day 1 starter Will Hernandez in Round 2.
So, will Barkley’s situation be too much for the rest of this class to overcome, a la Ezekiel Elliott? Or will one of the later-round picks emerge in Hunt fashion? Is there a Day 3 dark horse in this year’s class in the mold of Freeman or Howard? Take PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!
The AFC South’s received some justifiable buzz about being perhaps the conference’s strongest division. However, for sheer intrigue, the AFC West might have that beat.
A credible case can be made for all four teams winning the division. Prior to training camp and preseason injuries, though the Chargers have already suffered a big one, this division can be categorized as wide open.
The Chiefs are coming off the only instance in franchise history of back-to-back division titles. They added Sammy Watkins to an explosive skill-position core, albeit at a lofty price, and return most of their improving offensive line. The obvious question will be the viability of Patrick Mahomes, the franchise’s first Round 1 QB investment since 1983 but a player who is replacing one of the NFL’s most risk-averse passers in Alex Smith. Will Mahomes be able to keep the Chiefs’ loaded offense afloat while he learns on the job?
Defensively, the Chiefs threw big dollars at longtime Cowboys starter Anthony Hitchens, poached RFA Xavier Williams away from the Cardinals and traded for Kendall Fuller to man the slot. However, the since-traded Marcus Peters profiled as one of the best cornerbacks in team history and was responsible for the most forced turnovers among any corner since he entered the league. Can the Chiefs, who have some injury questions affecting edge presences Justin Houston and Dee Ford, be expected to boast a sufficient pass rush?
Derwin James joins a defense that houses the now-extended Casey Hayward and the dynamic Melvin Ingram/Joey Bosa edge tandem. While Hunter Henry‘s ACL tear deprives Rivers of one of his go-to options, an issue the Bolts have dealt with frequently in the recent past and haven’t taken any steps to remedy this year, Keenan Allen and Co. represent a promising pass-catching contingent.
Oakand plummeted from last season’s favorite to a team that purged its coaching staff. And the Raiders, after steady building under Reggie McKenzie since he took over as GM, set off on a different course this offseason under Jon Gruden. Some of McKenzie’s power’s been stripped, and the Raiders signed a slew of free agents. They took more risks in the draft and free agency than in the recent past, Martavis Bryant chief among them.
That said, the Silver and Black still have one of the league’s better offensive lines and a 2016 MVP candidate who suffered an injury last season in Derek Carr. This is likely the division’s most enigmatic team.
What needs to happen for the Broncos to rebound isn’t mysterious. Case Keenum must provide the kind of improvement over Denver’s previous quarterbacks that will justify a franchise-QB (albeit at just $18MM AAV) salary. The Broncos still have plenty of holdovers from their Super Bowl 50 team and managed to add Bradley Chubb and three offensive players — Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman and DaeSean Hamilton — the team hopes will provide a better supporting cast for Keenum after featuring top-heavy skill batteries the past three years.
All of this said, the Broncos are entrusting the back end of some key players’ primes to Keenum’s out-of-nowhere breakout being legitimate. They passed on Josh Allen and Josh Rosen for a more immediate solution, so plenty rides on the 30-year-old Keenum.
So, who enters training camp with the best roster? Can Mahomes elevate the Chiefs to a higher level from the get-go, or will Smith’s exit be noticeable in 2018? Will the Chargers finally break through after a quiet offseason? Can the Broncos salvage what’s left of their championship core’s windows, or is that contending avenue closed? What do you make of the Raiders’ new-look depth chart?
Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!
We’ve heard very little about Bryant over the last four weeks, so it’s anyone’s guess as to where he’ll land. And, if it’s anyone’s guess, it might as well be our guess. Before we ask you predict where Bryant will land, let’s run down some of the possible contenders:
49ers – Bryant has openly lobbied for an opportunity with the Niners and there’s reason to believe that could become a reality. The 49ers stayed away from the wide receivers at the top of this year’s free agent market, but Bryant’s price tag figures to be a lot lower than that of Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson. With more than $45MM in cap room – good for third-highest in the NFL – the Niners certainly have the space to take on a player of Bryant’s caliber. And, because they have an eye on the future, they could be willing to give Bryant the one-year platform deal he is seeking. The 49ers have some talent at wide receiver including Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, but none of the receivers expected to make the roster are above 6’0″. Bryant – billed at 6’2″ – would give provide them with a tall red zone target.
Cardinals – After losing both John Brown and Jaron Brown, the Cardinals could be interested in adding some talent to their wide receiver group. Then again, they may already feel comfortable with J.J. Nelson, rookie Christian Kirk, and free agent addition Brice Butler behind Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals have upwards of $13MM in cap space, according to the NFLPA, so they have the cash necessary to sign Bryant if they want him.
Cowboys – When the Cowboys released Bryant earlier this year, they were not aware of Jason Witten‘s impending retirement. Months later, could they circle back to Bryant in order to fortify their lackluster WR group? Probably not, but we’ll put them on the board anyway and let you decide.
Eagles – After Bryant was released, he indicated that he wanted to play in the NFC East in order to face the Cowboys pay twice in 2018. The Eagles, in theory, could make some sense now that Torrey Smith is out of the picture and Alshon Jeffery is out for the offseason with a shoulder injury. However, the Eagles already have a new veteran in Mike Wallace and their $6MM in cap space might not be enough to land Bryant, even if they wanted him.
Patriots – The Patriots will be without Julian Edelman for the first four games of the year, which could lead them to consider Bryant. They also have a history of signing older big-name wide receivers with reputation problems, including Randy Moss and Chad Johnson (some worked out better than others), so the possibility of adding the mercurial Bryant cannot be discounted. On the other hand, they have plenty of weapons to get them through the opening month of the season in Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson, not to mention Malcolm Mitchell and speedy rookie Braxton Berrios, who may or may not make the final cut. There’s also a tight end by the name of Rob Gronkowski who should be able to catch an extra pass or two while Edelman is out.
Saints – With a wide receiver group of Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., free agent addition Cameron Meredith, third round pick Tre’Quan Smith, and Brandon Coleman, is there room for Bryant? Not necessarily, but there also wasn’t a clear spot for Adrian Peterson in New Orleans before the Saints signed him last year. The Saints have a little more than $7MM in cap space, which could be enough to sign Bryant depending on his market at this stage of the offseason and his desire to play for a contender.
Redskins – Former teammate Orlando Scandrick has advocated for Washington to sign Bryant and the Redskins would give him the opportunity to face the Cowboys twice per year. The problem, however, is that the Redskins seem pretty set at the top of the order with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, and Paul Richardson.
Titans – The Titans have talent at wide receiver, but Rishard Matthews‘ support staff is decidedly inexperienced. With Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Tajae Sharpe all yet to celebrate their 24th birthday, could the Titans consider Bryant? In theory, he would add some experience to the group, but he might not be a great influence on the younger guys.
Click below to make your choice and defend your decision in the comment section:
It’s a new year for every coach in the NFL, but not every coach will survive the year. Already, there’s speculation about which coaches could be on the hot seat in 2018. Some coaches with shaky job security may include:
Hue Jackson, Browns: Jackson is the oddsmaker’s favorite to lose his job first. After compiling a 1-31 record in his two seasons at the helm in Cleveland, it’s hard to argue with the professionals. Jackson certainly has more talent to work with thanks to the arrivals of running back Carlos Hyde, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and a vastly improved secondary, but along with that comes raised expectations. When also considering that Jackson is a holdover from the previous regime and not necessarily the preferred choice of new GM John Dorsey, it’s quite possible that Jackson could be ousted with another bad start.
Adam Gase, Dolphins: When Gase was hired in 2016, he was the league’s youngest head coach at the age of 38. He earned a playoff appearance in his first year on the sidelines, but last year turned ugly after quarterback Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season and replaced by Jay Cutler. Tannehill’s return should help matters, but it’s fair to wonder whether this team has improved much at all after losing Ndamukong Suh on the other side of the ball. The Dolphins’ early schedule may also hurt Gase as they open against the Titans, Jets, Raiders, and Patriots. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Dolphins split those games, like they did in 2017, but it’s also conceivable that they could open the year 0-4. As you can probably guess, an 0-4 start is historically difficult to climb out from. Of the 117 teams that have started 0-4 in the 16-game era, the ’92 Chargers are the ones to have reached the postseason with with an 11-win campaign. The 2004 Bills and the 2017 Chargers both rallied to win nine games, but neither club reached the playoffs.
Vance Joseph, Broncos: Joseph was nearly axed after the 2017 season before John Elway ultimately decided to retain him. The Broncos’ defense is still jam-packed with talent and they have a capable quarterback in Case Keenum, so anything short of a playoff appearance will be a disappointment in Denver. This will be Joseph’s second season at the helm in Denver, but it’s clear that he is under pressure it win.
Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers: Koetter was already believed to be on the hot seat but he was placed squarely behind the 8-ball last week when quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first three games of the season. Even if the Bucs come out of September unscathed, they’ll be up against an overall schedule that is the fourth-toughest in the NFL, based on the combined win percentage of opponents in 2017.
The list goes on from there. Jay Gruden (Redskins), Todd Bowles (Jets), Bill O’Brien (Texans), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), John Harbaugh (Ravens), and Ron Rivera (Panthers) could also be in varying degrees of jeopardy with disappointing seasons. We’d be surprised to see a quick hook for Garrett, Harbaugh, or Rivera no matter what happens, but you may feel differently.
Click below to make your pick for who will be the first to get the axe. Then, you can head to the comment section to back up your choice.
As could be expected given the events of the past 1 1/2 years, the Le’Veon Bell/Steelers saga is coming down to the wire. By July 16, Steelers fans will almost certainly know if the two-time All-Pro running back will be a long-term Pittsburgh resident.
The Steelers appeared closer to reaching the finish line with Bell last summer, when they reportedly offered him a deal that would have paid him $42.5MM in its first three years and $30MM across the first two. Bell will be collecting just more than $26MM on his two-franchise tag arrangement between the 2017 and ’18 seasons. The 26-year-old ball-carrier, though, said the Steelers’ top 2017 offer was for $13.3MM per year for the life of the contract. While that still would have represented a seismic raise for the running back market, and was a $1.1MM AAV increase from Bell’s 2017 franchise tag rate, Bell wanted his contract to reflect his contributions as a receiver as well.
Bell then caught a career-high 85 passes — his second 80-reception season — and stayed healthy throughout a dominant slate that doubled as the Steelers’ best since their 2010 AFC championship campaign. But he also added a career-high 406 touches to his odometer. The Steelers have used him as an old-school workhorse. Despite that helping Bell’s statistics, his usage rate may be hurting his long-term value.
Although Kevin Colbert expressed optimism back in March the Steelers would extend Bell, it’s possible that given the way these talks have progressed the team views him as a high-end short-term rental rather than someone who will still be an elite player into his late 20s or early 30s.
However, the Steelers don’t have a ready-made Bell replacement lined up. That would be unrealistic, since the former second-round pick’s been one of the best backs of the decade. But would it be better for a team that’s struggled on defense for years to let Bell walk in 2019 and devote most of that money to helping its weaker unit? Or is Bell essential to Pittsburgh keeping its Super Bowl title window open?
The Steelers may well be the Patriots’ top threat in the AFC, but might this be the last season where Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Bell are teammates? Bell and the Steelers not agreeing to an extension by the July deadline would put the running back on a Kirk Cousins path, with a 2019 tag number exceeding an untenable $20MM, and make Cousins’ former Michigan State teammate a unique free agent just as he was this year. Or, will Bell back down from his lofty price point and lock in some multiyear guarantees while he’s still in his mid-20s?
Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!