No head coach, no problem for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
With head coach Kliff Kingsbury back home in Arizona after a positive COVID-19 test on Friday, the Arizona Cardinals kept their offense on track in a dominating 37-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on the road at FirstEnergy Stadium to improve to 6-0 and continue to their reign as the NFL’s only undefeated team.
“I think once we got the news, it was just an opportunity,” quarterback Kyler Murray said after Sunday’s game. “Kind of exciting to go prove ourselves on the road against a great team. I think you could feel the energy before the game.”
Losing Kingsbury and quarterbacks coach Cam Turner on short notice didn’t affect the Cardinals much as they looked to continue their undefeated season. Assistant wide receivers coach Spencer Whipple was the voice in Murray’s ear all game and called the passing plays while run game coordinator and offensive line coach Sean Kugler called the ground attack. Murray said Whipple was “calm, cool” and “didn’t panic” during the game.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who shared the head-coaching responsibilities with assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers in Kingsbury’s absence, said that was a result of Kingsbury having prepared his assistants over the years to call games like he would.
“We made him right,” Murray said of Whipple. “Whenever he called it aggressively, we had all the faith. We were behind him, regardless of what he called it we’re gonna go out there and execute.”
Murray threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns, the second time in his career he’s thrown that many, on 20-of-30 passing. The offense tallied 352 total yards while running for 144, including 42 on a clock-eating 7-minute, 18-second drive in the fourth quarter.
“It was different in the sense of obviously Kliff not being on the sideline,” said wide receiver Christian Kirk, who had five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. “For me, when I was looking at the sideline and I did not see Kliff and it was definitely odd. But like I said, there were so many people who stepped up. In regards to how the game was called the game plan is the game plan. We all have a good feel in certain situations on what play is going to be called, and, obviously Kliff develops that and we practice it all week. So, Spencer did a good job of sticking to it, but also being able to change on the fly.” Joseph said Whipple and Kugler, who has head-coaching experience, talked through different calls.
“It was really seamless,” Joseph said.
Murray said Kingsbury’s absence gave him a little more freedom at the line of scrimmage to check in and out of plays.
“That may be a product of not having a coach out there, just having a little more leeway,” Murray said. “I guess that did give me a little more freedom, just to whatever I did see, go with it and that’s Whipple’s saying to me the whole time: ‘Whatever you see’. And I stick to that same rule, as long as it makes sense. You got a plan and go with it.”
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who shared the head-coaching responsibilities with assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers in Kingsbury’s absence, said it was a “rough week.”
“It’s been an up and down week, but our team leaders were great all week,” Joseph said. “No one wavered, no one blinked. The staff didn’t blink. Every day it was bad news and no one blinked – not one time. Even yesterday. Even Saturday morning at practice when the players knew that Kliff was down for the game, there were no worries.
“There was really an excitement to go play a really good football team. The boys performed. This staff is amazing. It’s a great football staff. It’s our third year all together and that helps – having continuity like this.”‘
The Cardinals put defensive lineman Corey Peters on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Sunday morning, two days after having to put fellow defensive lineman Zach Allen on the list. However, the Cardinals’ assistant to the head coach, Kenny Bell, had the idea to travel with an extra lineman just in case Allen’s positive test resulted in others, so the Cardinals brought practice squad defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter with them. He was elevated to the active roster on Sunday morning and played nine defensive and two special teams snaps, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
After getting tested on Friday, Murray, who turned in a negative test, made a comment to the rest of the quarterbacks as well as Turner, the quarterback’s coach, that it would “suck if somebody gets it.”
Joseph wasn’t sure how Peters would travel back to Arizona but said he was “in good spirits and he is happy for the team.” Kingsbury was asymptomatic as of Sunday morning, a source told ESPN.
The Cardinals’ concern about COVID continuing to spread hasn’t been curtailed.
“I think everyone is nervous about the COVID issues,” Joseph said. “It is a moving target. Obviously, if you have one positive, there can be two or three more. I’m surprised there weren’t more. Right now it’s a moving target. We’ll see what the league gives us this week as far as protocols.
“It speaks to our young guys and our reserve players who can step up and play for us. Everyone is dealing with this. We had our bad stint right now, but it’s not going away.”
Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill called Kingsbury on FaceTime after the win.
“He is fine,” Joseph said. “He is happy obviously and he is at home recovering.”
Do the New York Giants need an experienced head coach to pair with rookie GM? – New York Giants Blog
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — During his first season leading the New York Giants in 1983, Bill Parcells said he was trying too hard to be a head coach.
He believes it almost cost him his job. In 1984 he decided to be himself. The new easygoing head coach was gone. The gruff taskmaster with that trademark mean streak that everybody came to know and ultimately appreciate took over. That suited him and the results followed. The Giants won nine games in his second season after winning three in his first, and hoisted a Super Bowl trophy two seasons later.
Even for the great ones (Parcells was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013), there is a learning curve. The same applies to the general manager position, and the Giants hired first-time GM Joe Schoen on Friday.
That makes their upcoming coaching hire more intriguing, especially after what has transpired in New York for the better part of the past decade and particularly the past few years. Do the Giants really want to have a first-time GM and coach learning on the job? Or does one of the most conservative franchises in the NFL prefer a known quantity amidst the overhaul?
The Giants just watched up close and personal as first-time head coaches Ben McAdoo and Joe Judge had it fall apart in Year 2 after promising debut seasons. Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch didn’t have the patience for them to learn from their mistakes. And that was with veteran general managers Jerry Reese and Dave Gettleman, respectively.
“For me, I’m going young. I’m going ascending on the GM front. But I’m getting some experience [at head coach], because I think in this market your best chance for success is to bring in somebody who has had success and has experience,” former NFL general manager and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum said recently on ESPN New York. “If I owned the Giants, given what has happened over the past six years, I’m getting a guy that has done it. Done it at a high level. I don’t need any guesswork or projections.”
The known coaching candidates for the Giants are Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Bills assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and Patrick Graham, who ran the Giants’ defense the past two seasons.
Frazier, Flores and Quinn have been NFL head coaches — Frazier with the Minnesota Vikings (2011-13), Flores for the past three seasons with the Dolphins and Quinn with the Atlanta Falcons (2015-20). Daboll, Graham and Anarumo have not.
Daboll, Frazier and Anarumo all had a first interview via videoconference with the Giants over the weekend. Quinn was interviewed Monday, Daboll gets a second interview Tuesday, and Flores and Graham are expected to interview this week.
While hiring a candidate with previous experience as a head coach has some obvious advantages, Schoen comes from Buffalo, where they hired a first-time head coach (Sean McDermott) and general manager (Brandon Beane) in 2017. They built the Bills rather quickly and effectively into a Super Bowl contender.
“Joe has seen how Sean and I work here,” Beane said. “And neither Sean nor I walk through the building [saying] that we got all the answers or that it’s my way or Sean’s way. It’s collaborative. We listen to our coaches, we listen to our doctors, our trainers, our scouts. Whatever the decision needs to be made, we listen and then try to make an informed decision.
“Joe will ultimately have to make some decisions, whether it’s a draft pick or that final decision of paying a player on that team or a free agent somewhere else, but he’s going to value everyone’s input.”
That will have to include the coach. It’s imperative they’re on the same page, which is why sources say Daboll is considered the favorite for the Giants. He and Schoen have worked together previously in Miami (2011) and for the past four seasons in Buffalo.
And if everything the Giants are saying is true, Schoen is driving this coaching search. Not ownership, as it had in the past.
The Bills aren’t the only recent example of a first-time coach/GM combination working. The San Francisco 49ers have also experienced success with Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. They will be playing in the NFC Championship Game for the second time in three years on Sunday.
“It’s all people-dependent,” a veteran NFL general manager said about whether it can work with a first-time coach and GM. The belief is it can — as long as it’s the right individuals with a shared vision and philosophy.
It’s what Schoen needs to find with his new coach, whether it be a first-timer or someone with experience.
Patriots’ 2022 plans could be impacted by Raiders’ searches for GM, coach – New England Patriots Blog
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The way the New England Patriots‘ season ended made it clear what coach Bill Belichick’s No. 1 priority needs to be when he looks ahead to 2022.
It’s defense with a capital D.
That will surely come, but from a pure timing standpoint, there is something else that looms large: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ future and his integral role in the development of second-year quarterback Mac Jones.
There are currently eight head-coaching vacancies in the NFL, and the Las Vegas Raiders‘ opening is the main one to watch if McDaniels, 45, ultimately departs. The “tell” will be whom the Raiders hire as their general manager.
If it’s Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, who interviewed in Las Vegas on Friday, the odds of a McDaniels departure likely increase. Sources have told ESPN that McDaniels has relayed to interested teams that aligning with someone he knows well on the personnel side is a top priority, and he brought Ziegler — a fellow alum of John Carroll University — into the NFL in 2010 with the Denver Broncos.
Belichick previously had paid McDaniels one of the highest compliments, comparing him to his longtime friend Nick Saban in terms of his understanding of what every player is doing on the field. And in his season-ending videoconference, Belichick noted the unpredictability of what’s ahead with his staff.
“We have a lot of good coaches. It’s not surprising that other teams would be interested in talking to them, or other staff members,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity for somebody that’s at a high level that we can’t provide here, I understand that they would have to consider that. So we’ll see what happens on that.”
At the same time, it’s not like McDaniels is aggressively pursuing an exit from New England.
He made it clear how much he enjoyed working with Jones and other newcomers when he said in December: “This year’s team has provided a lot of new energy. The ability to really pour into them and create a foundation for a lot of them in our offense and our culture here in New England — and then see them take to it, adapt to it, and really grow and learn, how they fit into the bigger piece of the puzzle — has been really a great experience for all of us.”
In November, Jones said: “Josh is a great coach, and he’s been close with me ever since I got here. He wants me to be the best player I can be … and he’s done a great job putting me in a position to lead the offense.”
Building on that foundation in 2022 — and possibly giving Jones a dynamic No. 1 receiving option like the Cincinnati Bengals did for Joe Burrow with Ja’Marr Chase this season — would be a coup for Belichick and help him dedicate attention to the defense while also restoring the special-teams units to their once-dominant standing.
Among the bright spots for the Patriots’ offense in 2021, with the rookie Jones at the helm, was scoring touchdowns on the opening drive more frequently than all but two teams in the NFL. They were also 11th in the red zone based on touchdown percentage (39 TDs in 63 trips), and fifth in explosive rushing plays (65 rushes of 10 yards or more).
A McDaniels departure could potentially stunt future growth, especially because there might not be a clear-cut successor on staff.
Tight ends coach Nick Caley and receivers coach Mick Lombardi are among those in the pipeline. Lombardi’s thoroughness and intelligence were highlighted by McDaniels this season, who said Lombardi “sees the game very similarly to myself in terms of the passing game.”
In a reflection of that, Lombardi was responsible for preparing the offense for the red zone as part of game plans this season, according to McDaniels.
Former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, set to enter his second season at Alabama, could be a target in the event McDaniels departs. But would that even be something O’Brien entertains?
It isn’t overstating things to say the next week, or however long it takes the Raiders to finalize their GM/head coach decisions, has an added level of significance for the Patriots.
NFL free agency 2022 – Biggest signing decisions for all 32 teams, including Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams, Chandler Jones
The NFL playoffs are down to just four teams, which means the 28 others are giving a hard look at their rosters and planning to make some decisions regarding free agents in 2022.
It may seem like the regular season just finished, but we are a mere month and change away from March 16 — the opening of free-agency season.
Between now and then franchises have to decide how different, or similar, their rosters will look in 2022. Will Green Bay have a rebuild on its hands? How will the Dallas Cowboys sign all their free agents amid cap pressure? Will someone new be at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos?
To get an early look at the market, we asked our NFL Nation reporters for the biggest looming free-agent decision on every team. Will playmakers Odell Beckham Jr., Jadeveon Clowney and Mike Williams return to their respective teams? Can Chandler Jones, Davante Adams and Dalton Schultz find better offers on the market? Here is where each team stands as of today.
Let’s start by looking at the NFC East.
Free agent: TE Dalton Schultz
Schultz had 78 catches for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2021 after putting up 63 for 615 and 4 in 2020. He has developed into a highly dependable option for Dak Prescott, but will he be out of the Cowboys’ price point? Look at the contracts Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith received from New England; Schultz could get that much on the open market. Would the Cowboys have the type of room to keep him? Maybe. The franchise tag could be an option as well but that might be earmarked for Randy Gregory. — Todd Archer
Free agent: OLB Lorenzo Carter
The Giants need to add pass-rushers this offseason, not lose any useful players at the position. Carter proved to be effective by finishing this season with five sacks in the last four weeks — after not getting to the quarterback the first 14 weeks. His fate likely lies in what system new general manager Joe Schoen and the next coach plan to run. If he fits, Carter could return on a one-year prove-it deal, unless another team is willing to take the risk on a long-term contract based on a handful of games. — Jordan Raanan
Free agent: S Rodney McLeod
McLeod returned from ACL rehab in Week 4 and finished the season on a high note, posting key interceptions in back-to-back games to help the Eagles secure a playoff berth. McLeod, a team leader, will be 32 next season and has dealt with his share of injuries of late. But with safety Anthony Harris and cornerback Steven Nelson also projected to be free agents, it’s worth trying to get McLeod back on a reasonable one-year deal in the name of back-end stability. — Tim McManus
Free agent: G Brandon Scherff
The five-time Pro Bowl guard has played on the franchise tag the past two seasons. Washington GM Martin Mayhew confirmed that last offseason the team offered him a deal that would have made him the NFL’s highest-paid guard. It’s uncertain how it was structured, but regardless it did not get the two sides closer to an agreement. Scherff is an elite guard, but the problem comes with health — he has not played more than 13 games in a season since 2017 and has missed a combined 24 games the past five seasons. — John Keim
Free agent: DT Akiem Hicks
The great run-stopper might be a luxury the Bears can’t afford. There’s no doubt their defense looks different when he is in the game, but the problem has been too much time missed because of injury over the past few seasons. Combined with the amount of money the Bears have committed to their front seven — among the most in the league — Hicks might end up with a new address in 2022. The team has to build around quarterback Justin Fields and the savings on Hicks could provide an avenue to help in that goal. — Jesse Rogers
Free agent: OLB Charles Harris
After a 3-13-1 finish, the Lions certainly don’t have many must-keep players on the roster, but Charles Harris is one of the guys they should re-sign. Under a new coaching staff, in a new situation, Harris enjoyed his best season as a pro with a career-best 65 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Detroit needs as much depth as possible and he’s already comfortable in the position so it would make sense to bring him back. — Eric Woodyard
Free agent: WR Davante Adams
Adams wants to be the highest-paid receiver in the league, but he surely also would like to continue playing with Aaron Rodgers. There has to be a reason — beyond just the money — that Adams didn’t sign an extension during the season. That reason could be Rodgers. If Rodgers decides he wants to play elsewhere next season, then perhaps the Packers’ only option to retain Adams will be to use the franchise tag. — Rob Demovsky
Free agent: CB Patrick Peterson
The Vikings will again be tasked with retooling their secondary in the offseason. Peterson came to Minnesota as a free agent on a one-year deal and was the most experienced, put-together corner the Vikings fielded in 2021. Though he expressed a desire to remain in Minnesota, Peterson will soon be 32. The team cannot afford to pay him a contract that guarantees $8 million, nor should they for a cornerback nearing the final years of his career. If he’s willing to stay for less, the Vikings should consider re-signing him while also eyeing a cornerback with their first-round pick. His guidance paid dividends in helping young defensive backs develop last season and would be a benefit for a defense that’s about to undergo a major transition with a new coaching staff. — Courtney Cronin
Free agent: LB Foyesade Oluokun
Oluokun was a force for Atlanta this season. He led the NFL in tackles (192), had a career-high three interceptions and became a leader of Atlanta’s defense. Falcons coach Arthur Smith called Oluokun an “ascending player,” and general manager Terry Fontenot made it clear he would like to retain some of the Falcons’ free agents, even with salary-cap constraints. Oluokun, for his part, said he would like to return, but it’s possible a team covets him highly. It’s too soon to tell what will shake out here, but there appears to be interest from both Atlanta and Oluokun to continue working together. — Michael Rothstein
Free agent: Edge Haason Reddick
The team’s sack leader (11) signed a one-year prove-it deal because there were those that doubted the 12.5 sacks he had at Arizona in 2020 would be the norm. He’s proven on and off the field to be an asset. The question is: Do the Panthers invest in Reddick, better suited for a 3-4 scheme, or in getting bigger on the edge to play more 4-3? Defensive coordinator Phil Snow would like to get bigger up front, so that could decrease Reddick’s value. The market price likely will decide this one. — David Newton
Free agent: QB Jameis Winston
Quarterback is by far the Saints’ top priority when it comes to personnel decisions. All options should be on the table, including a blockbuster trade or the draft. But Winston might have the best combination of affordability and upside if the Saints feel good about his recovery from a torn ACL. He went 4-2 in the six games he completed in 2021 and finished with a TD-INT ratio of 14-3. — Mike Triplett
Free agent: G Alex Cappa
Since quarterback Tom Brady isn’t technically a free agent — and the decision to retire rests solely with him — we can’t choose him. But no doubt, he’s the glue that will keep this roster together. After Brady, the Bucs have 23 players set to become unrestricted free agents, and coach Bruce Arians said Monday that the team will prioritize its own free agents in March. I don’t think there’s any way they let wide receiver Chris Godwin out of the building, even coming off a torn ACL. Center Ryan Jensen also had arguably his best season, as did safety Jordan Whitehead. Carlton Davis remains their best cornerback. They also need to consider the returns of Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette. So where does that leave the starting right guard, Cappa, when there’s only so much money to go around with their projected cap space currently below $15 million? — Jenna Laine
Free agent: OLB Chandler Jones
Jones continues to establish himself as one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, but there’s a distinct possibility he plays for another team in 2022. He wanted an extension before this season and when he didn’t get that he asked for a trade and didn’t get that either. He played for $15.5 million in 2021 and turned in 10.5 sacks — the sixth time in the last seven seasons he recorded double-digit sacks. It’s likely he doesn’t get the type of contract he wants from the Cardinals and tests the free-agency waters before deciding whether to return or, more likely, sign elsewhere. — Josh Weinfuss
Free agent: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The Rams signed receiver Beckham and traded for outside linebacker Von Miller in November as half-season rentals to make a Super Bowl run. Now both are pending unrestricted free agents and the Rams must determine if there’s space on the roster and in the budget for them to return. Beckham has revived his once-stellar career in L.A., catching 27 passes for 305 yards and 5 touchdowns in seven regular-season starts, while Miller has five sacks and a forced fumble in eight starts. Because of salary-cap restraints, it is unlikely both will be able to return but watch for the Rams to find a way to keep at least one of them around. — Lindsey Thiry
Free agent: G Laken Tomlinson
Tomlinson has quietly been one of the Niners’ most consistent and reliable players for a few seasons now and forms a dynamic combination with Trent Williams on the left side. Tomlinson is due to cash in on a deal that should exceed the $5.5 million average value of his last contract, probably by a lot. After the Niners gave Williams a record-setting deal last offseason and with right tackle Mike McGlinchey due for an extension soon, will the Niners want to make another significant investment on the line? That could depend on how far along 2021 second-round pick Aaron Banks is in his development. — Nick Wagoner
Ryan Clark looks ahead to the NFC title game matchup between the 49ers and Rams.
Free agent: S Quandre Diggs
The Seahawks did not want to extend Diggs last offseason, presumably in part because they gave a record-setting deal to their other main safety, Jamal Adams. But Diggs was arguably their team MVP in 2021. He led the Seahawks with five interceptions and was as big a reason as any why they were among the best defenses in the NFL in limiting explosive passing plays. The question is whether they’ll gamble and let him hit free agency, where his market could be tempered by his broken leg from Week 18, or lock him up beforehand. The franchise tag, at a projected cost of around $13 million, seems possible. — Brady Henderson
Free agent: CB Levi Wallace
After losing cornerback Tre’Davious White for the season with a torn ACL, the Bills needed Wallace to step up as their top corner. He played well in that role and the Bills would be wise to bring him back after his efforts. They lack depth at corner and could use a variety of solid defensive backs on the roster. Re-signing him, however, is not a guarantee given the team’s cap situation and his role on the roster. He may be on a path to getting more money for a bigger role elsewhere. — Alaina Getzenberg
Free agent: DE Emmanuel Ogbah
Miami will keep Ogbah, who has 18 sacks in his past two seasons and is a critical component of its pass rush. He signed a two-year, $15 million deal with Miami in 2020 and is likely to get a pay increase with his next deal — which Spotrac estimates will be around the three-year, $30 million range. With roughly $70 million in cap space, it’s a move the Dolphins can afford before focusing on the other side of the ball. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Free agent: CB J.C. Jackson
A deal likely won’t be cheap, but Jackson seems to have an affinity for New England, so if it’s close to another offer, the tiebreaker seemingly goes to the team that initially gave him a chance as an undrafted free agent in 2018. But one factor to consider is how Jackson’s poor playoff performance against the Bills — as part of a complete defensive dud — alters the team’s evaluation of the fifth-year pro. — Mike Reiss
Free agent: WR/KR Braxton Berrios
The Jets really want to re-sign Berrios, a hardworking football devotee who had a strong finish (four touchdowns in the final three games) that endeared him to the fan base. Not only did he make first-team All-Pro as a kick returner, but Berrios proved to be a dependable slot receiver with the ability to run jet sweeps. The question is whether the Jets are willing to pay him as a full-time player on offense. If they see him as just as part-time gadget player, he probably will hit the open market. — Rich Cimini
Free agent: C Bradley Bozeman
Bozeman has been a dependable starter for the past three seasons, playing left guard before moving to center. The sides haven’t been close on a new deal, and Bozeman recently said he doesn’t know whether he has played his last game in Baltimore. The Ravens recently re-signed Patrick Mekari, who started at right tackle this season but could prove to be a fallback option at center if Bozeman doesn’t return. Baltimore also has Trystan Colon, who has filled in at center over the past two seasons. — Jamison Hensley
Free agent: S Jessie Bates III
Even before the start of the season, Bates was trending toward a franchise-tag designation for 2022. Cincinnati opted to not give Bates the long-term deal he was looking for before this season started. A franchise tag gives him one year of a strong salary. Then we’ll see how willing both sides will be to negotiate when 2023 rolls around. — Ben Baby
Ryan Clark looks back at the Bengals and Chiefs meeting earlier in the season and is eager to see their matchup in the playoffs.
Free agent: DE Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney proved to be a terrific complement to Myles Garrett rushing the pass from the other side. After a banner season, Clowney is likely going to ask for more than just a one-year deal this time around. But even if it costs them, the Browns would be wise to keep the Clowney/Garrett pairing together moving forward. — Jake Trotter
Free agent: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
For the second season in a row Smith-Schuster will likely return to Pittsburgh, the team that drafted him in 2017. This seemed improbable even a year ago, but the Steelers found a way to bring him back on a one-year deal for 2021. And they have even more cap space in 2022. Once Smith-Schuster went down in Week 5 with a significant shoulder injury, it was obvious how much the Steelers missed his physicality and energy. Smith-Schuster will undoubtedly keep an eye on the quarterback situation, but don’t be surprised if he’s back in a Steelers uniform next season. — Brooke Pryor
Free agent: S Justin Reid
Reid, a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, is one of the best players on the Texans defense — but he is not expected to re-sign in Houston. Reid will command more than what the rebuilding Texans will want to play on the open market. He was suspended for one game this season for violating team rules after he challenged David Culley’s coaching in a team meeting. — Sarah Barshop
Free agent: WR T.Y. Hilton
Hilton is one of general manager Chris Ballard’s favorite players. But the receiver has made it no secret that he is thinking about retiring after 10 seasons in the NFL. Hilton, who has missed 16 games over the past four seasons, is coming off a down year statistically with 23 receptions for 331 yards. The issue the Colts face is they lack depth at receiver beyond Michael Pittman Jr. That’s why the possibility of re-signing Hilton is a priority. That’s if Hilton wants to play another season. — Mike Wells
Free agent: LT Cam Robinson
The Jaguars have many decisions to make along the offensive line and they start with Robinson, who played the 2021 season on the franchise tag. He played well enough for the Jaguars to consider signing him to a new contract, but they also could use the franchise tag again at roughly $17 million.
Rookie Walker Little was solid in the final two games of the season with Robinson out. But was that enough evidence that he could slide in and be the starter in 2022 and beyond? Probably not. Plus, the Jaguars have a major issue at right tackle with Jawaan Taylor, who has really struggled the last two seasons (17 penalties, tied for the NFL lead). Bringing Robinson back and moving Little to right tackle makes a lot of sense. — Michael DiRocco
Free agent: OLB Harold Landry III
Landry’s 12 sacks on the season marked the first time a Titans pass-rusher finished with a double-digit total since Brian Orakpo had 10.5 in 2016. Tennessee simply can’t allow a pass-rusher it developed to leave via free agency after the many swings and misses it has had in free agency and the draft. The Titans will find a way to re-sign Landry but it will come at a high cost because his position holds a four-year, $70 million market value. — Turron Davenport
Free agent: QB Teddy Bridgewater
The Broncos have several prominent players poised for free agency, guys like RB Melvin Gordon III, S Kareem Jackson, CB Bryce Callahan, LB Alexander Johnson and LB Josey Jewell. But Bridgewater is part of the team’s biggest offseason decision — what happens at quarterback. Drew Lock is under contract for the 2022 season, but once the Broncos’ new coaching staff is in place a decision needs to be made. With limited options in free agency and the draft, especially for an immediate upgrade, the Broncos need to try to make a blockbuster trade or they’ll have to decide whether Bridgewater is part of the stopgap strategy for at least one more season. — Jeff Legwold
Free agent: S Tyrann Mathieu
Kansas City wants to retain the nine-year veteran and he would like to finish his career with the team, so eventually the sides will reach an agreement. The Chiefs have no reasonable way of replacing all that Mathieu brings, both as a player on the field and a leader in the locker room. He is too valuable in both areas for the Chiefs to let him go. — Adam Teicher
Free agent: QB Marcus Mariota
Yes, an underused backup quarterback whose greatest skill set is in an area that’s an Achilles’ heel for the Raiders — red zone efficiency — is the biggest looming free-agent decision. Because with so many dominoes still to fall with the Raiders — from a new general manager to potentially a new coach — starter Derek Carr‘s status also bears watching. And if Las Vegas was to bring back Mariota, it would likely not be as a backup again. — Paul Gutierrez
Free agent: WR Mike Williams
Williams is coming off his most NFL productive season, as he put up a team-high 76 catches for 1,146 yards and 9 touchdowns. He has great chemistry with quarterback Justin Herbert. At age 27, Williams would be coveted in the offseason free-agent market, and it might be tough for the Chargers to keep him. If it comes down to it, a franchise tag could cost more than $18 million for one more year of the Herbert-to-Williams connection. — Shelley Smith
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