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Saturday, April 20, 2024

2024 NFL free company: The Texans’ rise and different underrated storylines that we aren’t speaking sufficient about

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This NFL offseason has actually been a wild one. We noticed a number of of the very best operating backs within the recreation change groups, quarterbacks get moved round and monetary information be damaged. We additionally noticed loads of gamers change sides inside their very own division, akin to Calvin Ridley, Saquon Barkley and Aaron Jones

There have been loads of massive storylines to come back out of the primary two weeks of NFL free company, however there are different storylines that are not being talked about perhaps like they need to be. Beneath, we’ll break down 5 underrated free company storylines that we aren’t discussing sufficient. 

1. The WR extension ‘market’

FIVE of the very best vast receivers within the NFL are up for extensions — together with the very best pass-catcher on this planet in Justin Jefferson. The others to control are CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys, Ja’Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals, Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Detroit Lions and Brandon Aiyuk of the San Francisco 49ers

To be extra particular, you would make the argument that perhaps three of the highest 5 receivers within the league are on the lookout for new contracts, that means these three are more likely to reset the market — doubtlessly surpassing Tyreek Hill’s $30 million-per-year common. Somebody has to go first, and will set the brand new “flooring” for the opposite two, who will use that new contract to leverage their very own. Relying on the numbers included in that contract, and taking this unbelievable incoming crop of vast receivers into consideration, might a commerce be coming for one of many prime wideouts within the NFL?

As an alternative of paying a receiver $30 million per 12 months, might a staff commerce that wideout to a different membership that can pay him — very like the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs did with Hill a pair offseasons in the past — after which take their new No. 1 wideout early within the 2024 NFL Draft? That could possibly be in play. Considered one of these groups might determine to go cheaper within the identify of staff constructing.  

It is not assured this offseason can be dramatic regarding the vast receiver market. It could possibly be subsequent offseason. However keep in mind … you wish to be first.  

2. The Houston Texans are doing issues proper

The Texans have been the shock story of the 2023 season. After profitable 11 whole video games from 2020-22, Houston gained 11 video games, together with playoffs, in 2023, and have been AFC South champions. Nobody noticed it coming, however first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans helped orchestrate a defensive turnaround, whereas new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik helped C.J. Stroud flip in probably the greatest rookie quarterback campaigns ever, because the Ohio State product gained Offensive Rookie of the Yr. 

It wasn’t simply Stroud who starred as a rookie for Houston. The participant chosen proper after him, Will Anderson Jr., gained Defensive Rookie of the Yr after notching seven sacks and 59 pressures. Then, rookie wideout Tank Dell was on his solution to having probably the most prolific rookie receiving marketing campaign in franchise historical past earlier than he suffered a season-ending leg damage. 

The Texans clearly have an excellent basis to construct upon, which is why Nick Caserio and Co. made the choice to be aggressive this offseason. Houston locked up go rusher Danielle Hunter, who’s coming off a profession marketing campaign with the Minnesota Vikings wherein he recorded 16.5 sacks, to a two-year contract value $49 million — together with $48 million assured. The Texans additionally upgraded the bottom recreation, buying and selling for former Bengals operating again Joe Mixon. The 27-year-old recorded his fourth 1,000-yard dashing marketing campaign final season, and signed a three-year extension with Houston. 

The Texans did lose a few items on the defensive entrance, akin to Sheldon Rankins and Jonathan Greenard, however Houston additionally added loads, with the underrated Denico Autry, defensive sort out Tim Settle, plus Mario Edwards and Foley Fatukasi. The Texans additionally signed a tackling monster at linebacker in Azeez Al-Shaair, re-signed a former first-round decide in defensive finish Derek Barnett, re-signed tight finish Dalton Schultz and took a flier on former No. 3 total decide cornerback Jeff Okudah

When your star quarterback is coming low cost on his rookie deal, that is once you’re alleged to be aggressive in staff constructing. That is precisely what the Texans are doing. The job isn’t carried out and we nonetheless have the draft, however the Texans are doing issues proper. 

Bear in mind when Aaron Rodgers was traded from the Inexperienced Bay Packers to the Jets? Some considered the four-time NFL MVP because the lacking piece for the Jets to develop into contenders, however Rodgers tore his Achilles only a handful of performs into the 2023 season, and New York stunk once more. 

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It is unlucky, as a result of the Jets are a greater staff than you assume. The protection is elite below Jeff Ulbrich; it is simply that the offense was a catastrophe — particularly at quarterback and offensive line. Nathaniel Hackett is not an offensive thoughts in excessive demand, however keep in mind that his system is made for Rodgers. With Rodgers below middle, might or not it’s … good?

So, what is the Jets’ outlook for 2024 in comparison with 2023? Final offseason, New York added Allen LazardRandall Cobb and Mecole Hardman. None labored out. The Jets additionally scored Dalvin Prepare dinner, however he was launched earlier than the tip of the common season. This offseason, Joe Douglas put an emphasis on the offensive line (as he ought to), signing a brand new left sort out in Tyron Smith, a brand new guard in John Simpson and traded for proper sort out Morgan Moses. The Jets additionally landed vast receiver Mike Williams, which I really feel higher about as an addition in comparison with Lazard/Cobb/Hardman. 

The AFC is loaded, however ought to we be speaking concerning the Jets extra heading into 2024? They must show they’ll win video games, in fact, however Rodgers has this superpower the place he steps as much as make his doubters look foolish. Can he do it once more?

“Final 12 months was a bit of loud,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh mentioned Sunday, per “We welcome a bit of little bit of quietness.”

The Browns began 4 completely different quarterbacks of their first 16 video games of the 2023 season, and it’s totally clear the Deshaun Watson commerce and signing has not labored out simply but. Cleveland is getting into the third 12 months of a six-year deal they gave Watson, which incorporates an NFL-record $230 million assured. Watson has missed 11 video games in every of his first two seasons with the Browns, because of a suspension in 2022, and accidents in 2023. Cleveland has averaged 19.7 staff offensive factors per recreation in Watson’s begins in comparison with 21.5 factors per recreation with different beginning quarterbacks over the past two years.

This offseason, it was thought the Browns would re-sign Flacco or add a special backup quarterback, however who noticed them shortly including two quarterbacks on prime of former preseason phenom Dorian Thompson-Robinson? Two former Professional Bowlers? Who might doubtlessly begin?

Cleveland now has Watson, Jameis Winston, Tyler Huntley and DTR. Why is that? Are the Browns shifting ahead with the understanding that their $230 million man goes to be perennially injured? Or is one in every of these guys commerce bait? 

The Steelers parted methods with quarterbacks Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky and introduced on Russell Wilson. Then got here the Justin Fields commerce. On the floor, the Steelers add a younger quarterback by means of an inexpensive transaction (conditional sixth-round decide), who might begin if the Russ experiment goes awry. The Fields commerce was clearly a serious NFL storyline, however what precisely is the sport plan right here? 

Wilson is the front-runner to be QB1, based on coach Mike Tomlin. A little bit of a controversial resolution, certain. But additionally take into account that the Steelers have a large choice to make regarding Fields this offseason in choosing up or declining his fifth-year choice. Now we have no official phrase on this simply but, nevertheless it does not seem Pittsburgh will decide up the choice, which might pay the previous No. 11 total decide $25.66 million in 2025. So, it is doable Fields can be in Pittsburgh for one 12 months, particularly if Wilson is not unhealthy. 

However what if Russ is unhealthy? Or simply not that good? Did the Steelers commerce a sixth-round decide to create a quarterback controversy and divide the fan base? My opinion is that there really could also be a contest. Or perhaps Tomlin makes a change in the course of the season if issues aren’t going Pittsburgh’s method. However backside line, there are a number of unanswered questions that include this commerce.

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