Welcome, friends, to the 2024 NFL offseason. The Kansas City Chiefs are your repeat NFL champions after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 25–22 in Super Bowl LVIII. What is there even to discuss when a pending Tom Brady retirement or unretirement is off the table? That’s what we’re here to find out. Last year, we issued one prediction for the coming season for each of the 32 teams. Full transparency: Five of those 32 predictions were correct. So, we’re hitting at about the average rate of a mock draft.
This year? Onward and upward.
This offseason could see some major landscape shifts at the quarterback position. We also have eight new NFL head coaches who could have a dramatic impact on the state of a few woebegone franchises. We’ll talk about that and more as we try our darndest to predict the future.
The Browns will be aggressive on the backup quarterback market.
Joe Flacco won the Comeback Player of the Year award because of a heroic and unexpected month of NFL football, spelling the Browns after the team was entirely cleaned out at the position. The Browns may know, or will soon realize, how fortunate they were to get that level of performance out of a faux-retired quarterback who had been on the playground with his kids a few weeks before. I had heard a few years back that Flacco desired to play into his 40s. Maybe he is the answer for the Browns. Maybe they lock up a player like Jacoby Brissett. Either way, not backstopping the Deshaun Watson situation is pure lunacy.
Ryan Tannehill starts at least four games for the Steelers.
This isn’t an anti-Kenny Pickett take, but it is an acknowledgement that the Steelers have some pressure to perform, they play in a tough division and were aggressive in pursuing Arthur Smith when Smith was let go by the Atlanta Falcons. Mason Rudolph is a pending free agent, and while he may end up possessing a higher upside than Tannehill, the Steelers could find some Tommy Maddox-style magic in the arm of the former first-round pick.
The Bengals will lead the league in total offense en route to a Super Bowl victory.
No Brian Callahan? No problem. Zac Taylor and Dan Pitcher, the team’s new offensive coordinator and a prospective future star, are going to post the best numbers of Burrow’s career in 2024. That means besting 35 touchdowns, and the 4,600 yards Burrow threw for during the Bengals’ Super Bowl season in 2021.
Oh, and the Bengals defeat the Detroit Lions in Super Bowl LIX.
The Ravens draft another first-round wide receiver.
With some of their positional depth approaching free agency, GM Eric DeCosta takes another swing at the receiver position in the first round. While the back end of the round isn’t always the best spot, DeCosta has a sound sense of positional economics, and possesses a fifth-year option on a potential star corner or wide receiver in this market is extremely valuable. With Rashod Bateman also approaching his walk year, Baltimore needs to stockpile the roster with complements for Zay Flowers.
The Titans will win four games or less.
The Titans’ schedule looks pretty daunting. We know Tennessee has road dates with the two best teams in the AFC East (Buffalo and Miami), as well as trips to Detroit and Los Angeles. Callahan was the long-term solution in Nashville, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t dealing with short-term problems.
Anthony Richardson wins Comeback Player of the Year.
This is a pretty easy one. Richardson was on pace to score … a lot … in 2023 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. While he will need to spend the offseason learning how to more effectively put his body in harm’s way, there is no doubt he possesses a goldmine of untapped potential. If Richardson keeps pace with his numbers from a year ago, and the Colts contend for the division—both occurrences that should not surprise us—a voter’s job is going to be made simple.
The Texans will not win more games than they did in 2023.
Blame the Jacksonville Jaguars. Last year, after the Jaguars surged from behind to clip the Chargers in the playoffs, and then gave the eventual Super Bowl-winning Chiefs all they could handle in the championship game. We all projected the Jaguars as a trendy Super Bowl pick in 2024, and we’re doing the same for Houston without noting everything that went right for the Texans in the process. Success is difficult to replicate. Divisions get better. Ten wins is going to be a slog.
Jacksonville misses the playoffs but finishes with a top-10 defense.
I’ve written this in multiple posts and told other mediums at this point. Hiring Ryan Nielsen was the best nonhead coaching move of the offseason, and not just for Jacksonville. For every team. Nielsen will unlock the raw, amoebic potential of this defense, though I am not optimistic that Jacksonville will consistently outplay the Colts and Texans en route to a playoff berth.
New York Jets
The Jets will bring in either Davante Adams or Mike Evans.
I initially had the Jets drafting an offensive tackle in the first round as my bold prediction, but that wouldn’t necessarily qualify as bold, would it? The Jets are hoping for a banner year from a 40-year-old quarterback who moves aggressively in the pocket, and travels a great distance with some complex footwork on a turf field whilst playing behind a patchwork offensive line. So, here’s bold: The Jets are going to hop on the veteran wide receiver market because, let’s be honest, the owner of this football team will go scorched earth if the Jets don’t make the playoffs. I am all for pushing one’s chips to the center of the table, as long as we accept the cost of what might happen if it all goes wrong.
The Dolphins will bring in legitimate competition for Tua Tagovailoa.
The 2024 Dolphins could resemble a comet hurtling toward earth. Their cap situation is presently not great. Terron Armstead isn’t sure if he’ll come back, and the team will have to readjust about $50 million in order to get under the salary cap. The latter part won’t be that complicated. Teams have financial planners and cap specialists who are already thinking years ahead. The major question is whether Mike McDaniel will wager his critical third season—often the season that determines whether a head coach will receive a long-term extension or be removed from his post, or be placed in a difficult situation where he is coaching on a lame-duck year—on the arm of Tagovailoa. I wrote at the end of Miami’s 2023 playoff run that there was no way the team could. As good a gent as Mike McDaniel is, and as protective of Tagovailoa as he is, I think he’d have to agree. Baker Mayfield, Ryan Tannehill or Jacoby Brissett could be a kind of fast-processing option McDaniel could turn toward.
New England Patriots
The Patriots will finish with a top-two pick in the 2025 NFL draft.
No offense to Jerod Mayo. And maybe the Patriots will try to throw some darts in free agency this year, especially after the owner came out during Super Bowl week and addressed the perception that New England fails to throw money around. But until they do, and even if they do, the fact remains that the Patriots have one of the worst rosters in the NFL and no real path forward with the quarterback as we see it right now. Bill Belichick won five games and posted a -62 point differential in his first season as Patriots head coach. For Mayo, that feels like a high bar to clear.
Josh Allen will win MVP.
How good the Bills will be is a mystery to me. But, I think Allen has the makeup of an MVP candidate based on the likelihood that he’ll have to do a lot of heavy lifting. We saw the Bills offense “take off”—quotation usage intentional—after the restrictions (imposed or inferred) on Allen’s mobility were lifted. All of Allen’s highest rushing attempt games took place after the team fired Ken Dorsey and seemed to encourage Allen to put himself in harm’s way more frequently. If Allen can stay healthy while playing this combative style of football, he’ll be able to stay ahead of his closest competitors.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are going to redo Patrick Mahomes’s contract.
Mahomes is going to continue to get knocked down the financial pecking order as more quarterbacks redo their deals. At the moment, he’s eighth in terms of average annual value and will need a deal commensurate with the top of the market, but, perhaps, also one that allows the Chiefs financial flexibility.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are going to bring in competition for Aidan O’Connell, and that quarterback’s name is …
Sam Darnold. The former No. 3 pick boosted his signability after a year in the Kyle Shanahan system. Darnold has struggled at times but, similarly, has also displayed an incredibly high ceiling. This is especially true when Darnold is throwing on the move. Luke Getsy majored in a strain of the Shanahan offense during his time in Green Bay with the Packers and was a solid play-caller in Chicago.
Sean Payton will not draft a QB until at least the third round but probably later.
Here are the quarterbacks drafted by Payton: Sean Canfield, Garrett Grayson, Tommy Stevens and Ian Book.
Payton doesn’t have the patience for the job, and the Broncos aren’t in an ideal draft position. This is a roster that needs all the equity it can possibly find after blowing high draft picks in subsequent years for Russell Wilson and Payton. This team needs to rebuild itself with cost-controlled contracts. The Broncos can’t waste the No. 12 pick on the fourth- or fifth-best quarterbacks in the draft. They can’t trade up for one, either, at the risk of squandering even more capital.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers reach the playoffs and lose … to John Harbaugh.
The NFL script algorithm is going to need to heighten the drama in order to keep pace with the Taylor Swift storylines of 2023. What better than a late regular-season Harbaugh showdown in prime time, followed by a prime-time playoff game between the two coaches. Jim will win the regular season matchup, while John takes it home in the postseason.
The Detroit Lions will lose in Super Bowl LIX.
I don’t think it’s all that controversial to bet on a team that nearly won the NFC championship this year and returns most of its core and is in a pretty healthy cap situation. The Lions will face some stiff competition from a surging Packers team, and potentially a Bears team that keeps Justin Fields with the arrow pointing upward. All that said, OC Ben Johnson will spend the offseason steeped in ways to maximize this offensive line and powerful, dynamic running game.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers will have two 1,000-yard wide receivers.
Jayden Reed and Romeo Doubs will both be vying for All-Pro votes next year. While I’m ultra careful about immediately projecting the ascending Packers to pick up where they left off, there are so many candidates on this team to reach the milestone. Maybe it is Reed and Doubs. Maybe it’s Doubs and Christian Watson. Maybe it’s Watson and Reed. Maybe it’s Watson and Luke Musgrave. This is really just a fun way of saying that Jordan Love is going to rip it up next year.
The Vikings will seriously consider trading Justin Jefferson.
Facing the possibility of a wide receiver who will cost well over $30 million per season, with a percentage of guaranteed money nearing 100, the Vikings will look at a barren roster and wonder what else they can do to generate some capital. The Vikings need to add more than a handful of solid starters if they hope to compete in the near future. They also need to consider the possibility of drafting a quarterback high in the first round, and what it would cost them to move up.
The Bears will pick three times in the top 20.
The Bears have the No. 1 and No. 9 selections in the first round. It’s unlikely they remain static and use both of those picks in those slots. GM Ryan Poles has done a fine job managing assets and this is a critical draft for Chicago as it tries to bolster the roster for Matt Eberflus’s make-or-break third season. How do the Bears acquire another first-round draft pick? They will either trade Fields and will use the capital from that trade to maneuver, or they will have traded the No. 1 pick, with some additional late-round compensation they can use to bundle for an additional first.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers will be tied to a high profile free agent coach before the end of the season.
There were folks in the coaching world discussing the idea that Tampa Bay could be looking to pivot if the team got stale under Todd Bowles in 2023 before the Buccaneers went on a run, made the playoffs and knocked out the Eagles in the first round (not to mention giving the Lions a handful the following week). This year, with a pair of big-named coaches sitting out in Mike Vrabel and Belichick, both with Patriots ties like Jason Licht, the Buccaneers will need to play well early to acquire the finesse necessary to avoid people pointing this out.
Bryce Young outplays the 2024 rookie class in a bounce-back campaign.
So, I debated suggesting that Young would outplay C.J. Stroud, but the problem is one of existing talent infrastructure. I do think a Stroud dip could come at some point, especially if offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik gets a head coaching job next year after interviewing really well on the circuit during this cycle. All that said, I wanted a way to get into my prediction that the Panthers will look far different offensively this year and lightyears better in terms of efficiency. We will finally see an offense designed for Young, by a play-caller who has already made life so much better for the likes of Baker Mayfield and Russell Wilson.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints will have the division locked up within three weeks of Thanksgiving.
Count me among those who are excited for Klint Kubiak’s take on Derek Carr. I know for a fact that Carr was hopeful the Saints could pull someone from his past and inject a little bit of familiarity for the wayward quarterback. There seemed to be some hostility both ways in the building last year. But Kubiak has a cool demeanor and a background in the finer points of the best offensive system in the NFL. New Orleans will be rewarded for keeping the band together all these years.
The Falcons will finish the season…7–10!
I think Raheem Morris will breathe some life into the building in Atlanta, but I am left with some pressing questions. Who is going to be the quarterback? Is the defense going to be able to significantly best a scheme and a coordinator last year who had the unit in top shape? The NFC South got much better this offseason. How much better did the Falcons get to this point by canning Arthur Smith?
New York Giants
The Giants will generate some cap space and try to spend their way back into contention.
The NFC East is at a point of vulnerability. Dallas is losing Dan Quinn and has put its head coach in a horrendously disadvantageous, lame-duck situation. Washington is turning over its roster and could be playing a rookie quarterback. Philadelphia is in the kind of panicked coordinator switch that typically releases a whiff of desperation. The Giants, I think, could create some financial breathing room and attack a class that is rich in positions they need most: wide receiver, defensive back and pass rush.
The Cowboys will extend Dak Prescott, making him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.
The Cowboys cannot possibly go into next season with a quarterback amassing nearly a quarter of their cap space. They can also forget about attracting a Mike McCarthy replacement (if the team underperforms and McCarthy is fired) without a franchise quarterback in tow. This means the Cowboys have little option but to play the game Prescott and his agent would like to play. Big-money, short-term contracts that allow for the most bites at the apple.
The Eagles will draft a quarterback high enough to raise eyebrows.
The Eagles’ strength has always been an ability to move on and plan for the future. Jalen Hurts was drafted in the second round in the midst of the Carson Wentz era and initially billed as a kind of Taysom Hill chess piece. In reality, owner Jeffrey Lurie was sold that Hurts would be a more effective, modern-day Russell Wilson. It wouldn’t surprise me, in a draft with a lot of quarterbacks who have big potential but some physical red flags, if Philadelphia doesn’t take a crack at strengthening the depth chart.
The Commanders will either pick No. 1 in the NFL draft or get Caleb Williams at No. 2.
A phenomenally talented and unique quarterback prospect in Washington? What could go wrong? Oh, wait, Daniel Snyder is gone. We actually don’t know the answer to that question with any degree of certainty now. Either way, I think OC Kliff Kingsbury helps bridge the gap between Williams and the NFL. I know his interview with the Bears was also part of Chicago’s learning process as it pertains to Williams. If Chicago is smart, especially if they are not totally sold on Williams, they will trade down at least once. Ryan Poles nearly pulled off the double trade down a year ago. Might it happen again?
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers will sign Kirk Cousins to a two-year deal.
Kyle Shanahan was really smart these past two weeks in making one talking point clear: He felt that signing Tom Brady and stashing Brock Purdy to the side was a benefit to Purdy and an investment. Could he be able to make the same claim about Cousins who, while less successful, does carry a certain amount of gravitas? Shanahan wants fast processors who don’t miss throws. His affinity for Cousins is known. If the 49ers plan on running it back, it makes sense to bolster the QB room.
Los Angeles Rams
L.A. will lose to the Lions in the NFC championship.
I had a smart coach tell me just before the playoffs started that if the Rams had beaten the Lions in the first round, they would have made the Super Bowl. Los Angeles was that hot. The Rams have the most unique offense in the NFL. And now? They have a chance to spend the offseason prepping for a playoff run at a time when some of their divisional rivals have gotten much weaker. Hang on, Aaron Donald, for one last ride into the final four.
Mike Macdonald will bring at least two Ravens defenders with him to Seattle.
Every first-time head coach needs a player in his area of expertise who can relay the system and vouch for the coach’s character. This is especially true in Seattle, where the personality dynamic seemed to get complicated toward the end of the Pete Carroll era. Macdonald is a defensive savant, but it helps when there’s a handful of voices who can relay as much to the other players.
The Cardinals draft both an offensive and defensive rookie of the year candidate, both of whom finish in the top three in voting.
Following in the Texans’ and Jets’ footsteps, the Cardinals crush their two first-round picks, Marvin Harrison Jr. and defensive stalwart TBA. The Cardinals do not make the playoffs but win at least seven games.