For some, such as the world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it's how to maintain the standard. For others, such as those teams that missed the postseason, it's how to get better, particularly now that there are two extra playoff teams this season.
Mandatory minicamps are done. Some teams shortened theirs; others didn't even feel the need to take the field. For those that did, who showed up and who showed out? Which free-agent acquisitions will pay big dividends? Which rookies will live up to the hype, exceed it or go bust?
Almost anything seems possible before the 2021 season begins. Maybe Carson Wentz is the answer in Indianapolis. Maybe Dak Prescott is ready for an epic comeback. Can Justin Fields end years of quarterback frustrations in Chicago? Will the Aaron Rodgers situation in Green Bay get resolved amicably?
What did our NFL Nation reporters see this offseason? We asked them to assess how the teams they cover did in the offseason and pick the biggestunanswered questions for each squad. Here is what they told us:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE
NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Dak is back. Prescott's health is paramount to the Cowboys' success. He displayed in the organized team activities and minicamp that his right ankle injury is not going to hold him back when things get real. His willingness to put in the work has served his teammates as well. If they see him work as hard as he did to get back, they have no choice but to work just as hard.
Offseason goals: Fix the defense. It's hard to know if it will be fixed, but it can't be worse than it was a year ago. There's a new coordinator in Dan Quinn. They added some low-cost free agents they believe will be better fits in their scheme, such as Brent Urban, Keanu Neal and Tarell Basham. Their first six draft picks were on the defensive side of the ball, highlighted by first rounder Micah Parsons.
Biggest question still to be answered: Can the offensive line return to form? Prescott said the most important players to him are Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La'el Collins. Smith played two games last year, Martin played 10 and Collins played none. They are on track to do everything when camp starts, but can they not only withstand a 17-game season but thrive? -- Todd Archer
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Getting Daniel help. The Giants were intent on getting Daniel Jones more weapons. Mission accomplished.
Offseason goals: This offseason was about trying to fix the 31st-ranked offense. So the Giants went hard in free agency (WRs Kenny Golladay and John Ross, TE Kyle Rudolph and RB Devontae Booker) and even went back to the well in the first round of the draft (Kadarius Toney). On paper, especially with Saquon Barkley returning from injury, they are light years better than what was on the field last season.
Biggest question still to be answered: Is the offensive line good enough? For all the additions the Giants made this offseason, they didn't address the offensive line. They got rid of veteran Kevin Zeitler and are instead banking on a group that includes three second-year players who are all slated to start. All come with question marks. -- Jordan Raanan
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Sudden change. The Eagles banked hard away from the course they'd been on, firing Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson before trading Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts following a disastrous 4-11-1 campaign. Now it's first-time head coach Nick Sirianni and second-year QB Jalen Hurts out in front. They're tasked with the difficult challenge of putting out a winning product during a period of transition.
Offseason goals: The Eagles wanted to add young talent and upgrade at the receiver and cornerback positions. They went 2-for-3. DeVonta Smith headlines a promising draft class featuring nine picks in all, including Alabama offensive lineman Landon Dickerson and Memphis running backKenneth Gainwell. Smith, taken 10th overall, has a chance to be the lead receiver from Day 1. While they did pick Texas Tech corner Zech McPhearson in the fourth round, there is still no clear answer for who will play CB2 opposite Darius Slay.
Biggest question still to be answered: Is Sirianni ready for prime time? Sirianni, 40, has never been a head coach at any level, and has assembled the youngest staff in the NFL. Now he is in charge of a major-market team coming off a dysfunction-riddled 2020 season. He'll have to navigate some of the tricky internal dynamics that appeared to burn Pederson out and find a way to get this franchise back on track, all while adjusting to a new role. Other than that, should be a walk in the park. -- Tim McManus
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Help wanted: offense. Washington's offense ranked 25th in points and 30th in yards last season compared to a defense that ranked fourth and second, respectively. Washington lacked enough talent to threaten teams and needed more consistent play at quarterback.
Offseason goals: Add speed, athleticism and depth. Washington accomplished that on offense by signing receiver Curtis Samuel and drafting receiver Dyami Brown. It increased the depth along the offensive line, drafting tackleSamuel Cosmi, signing tackle Charles Leno, Jr., and trading for guard Ereck Flowers. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't help the speed or the athleticism, but the position should be better. And Washington accomplished this on defense by signing corner William Jackson III and drafting linebacker Jamin Davis, among others. It added depth in the secondary with third-round corner Benjamin St-Juste and free-agent safety Bobby McCain.
Biggest question still to be answered: What will Ryan Fitzpatrick do? Fitzpatrick represents an upgrade over what Washington had last season, especially as a passer. And his leadership skills are close to Alex Smith's. However, Fitzpatrick is now with his ninth franchise and has never led a team to the postseason. In the last eight seasons he has started 12 or more games three times. Can he play well enough for 17 games? Will he avoid enough disasters to take advantage of increased talent at the skill positions? And, if not, can Taylor Heinicke take over and play at a sustained level for more than a couple games? Fitzpatrick was a good signing, and he's capable of good seasons. If he, indeed, has been playing better than ever as he and the team say, then Washington will be good.-- John Keim
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Justin Fields mania. The selection of Fields (11th overall) re-energized the city of Chicago. The Bears have searched in vain for a true franchise quarterback for over 70 years. The Bears believe that that Fields -- when ready -- can turn them into a perennial playoff contender -- for the first time since the Mike Ditka era in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Offseason goals: The Bears accomplished their main offseason goals which consisted of upgrading at quarterback and offensive tackle. Fields has garnered most of post-draft attention, but the Bears have high hopes for second round pick Teven Jenkins, who is lining up at left tackle. Barring an upset, Jenkins will be Chicago's starting left tackle in Week 1. The Bears were unable to reach a long-term deal with star wide receiver Allen Robinson II, but Robinson will play this season under the franchise tag and report to training camp on time in late July.
Biggest question still to be answered: When does Fields take over for veteran Andy Dalton? Bears coach Matt Nagy made it abundantly clear that Dalton will start Week 1 and Fields will open the year No. 2 on the depth chart. Of course, all of that is subject to change. Fields will play as a rookie, that seems obvious. The hope is that Dalton plays well enough and the Bears win enough games to keep Fields on the bench until perhaps the midway point of the year. The Bears do not want to play Fields before he is ready. But eventually, the switch will be made, and there will no turning back after that.-- Jeff Dickerson
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer:Roster reclamation project. Detroit's roster wasn't very good at the top or bottom prior to general managerBrad Holmes and the new regime taking over. The front office did everything in its power to build a respectable roster, starting in the trenches of the NFL draft and the trade of Matthew Stafford to generate future picks while also landing a solid starting quarterback in Jared Goff. How good will they be in 2021? That remains to be seen.
Offseason goals: Detroit had a lot of work to do this offseason, but it was able to maximize the resources they had available while moving without their foot hovering over the brake pedal. Detroit stayed about as aggressive as it could, while still being rational and smart in adding key pieces such as wide receivers Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, running back Jamaal Williams, tight end Josh Hill, defensive end Michael Brockers, linebacker Alex Anzalone and cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
Biggest question still to be answered: Who is Detroit's No. 1 wide receiver? When you look at Detroit's roster this season, the wide receiver position is a legitimate concern with a relatively no-name corps. The team returns just one receiver who had a catch for the squad last season in Quintez Cephus, so that's going to be a big question, especially for a quarterback like Jared Goff who is looking to turnaround his career in the new setting. Who will Goff be throwing the ball to? During minicamp, Tyrell Williams and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown were both solid, but Victor Bolden and Kalif Raymond have been pleasant surprises as well, according to a source. The competition at the position is wide open and training camp will likely determine who fulfills that role.-- Eric Woodyard
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: "It's about the people." OK, this is four words, but that's what Aaron Rodgers indicated his beef with the Packers is about. That beef turned the offseason upside down in Green Bay. It was all anyone wanted to talk about -- and still wants to talk about -- when it comes to the Packers.
Offseason goals: Get over the hump. After losing in the NFC Championship Game two straight years, the Packers made some changes. They replaced two of their three coordinators, hiring Joe Barry to run the defense and Maurice Drayton on special teams. They reworked several veteran contracts in order to bring back most of the roster to make another run at a Super Bowl.
Biggest question still to be answered: Will Rodgers play? He skipped the entire offseason program, including the mandatory minicamp, so now the question becomes: Will he end his holdout, report to training camp and let bygones be bygones?-- Rob Demovsky
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Defense, defense, defense. In order for the Vikings to bounce back from a 7-9 finish and make the postseason in 2021, the defense needs to return to form. This group should show dramatic improvement from the one Mike Zimmer called the "worst" he has ever had. Last year's inexperience is primed to become this season's adeptness along with several players who missed significant time due to injury returning this fall. The Vikings guaranteed nearly $50 million to defensive players via restructured deals (Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter) and with the free agents they brought in since March (Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods, Mackensie Alexander, Nick Vigil, Stephen Weatherly, Bashaud Breeland and Sheldon Richardson). They also spent five draft picks on defensive players.
Offseason goals: At the end of last season, Zimmer felt the Vikings' offense was the most explosive he has had in seven years at the helm. Maintaining that meant fixing the defense so the offense doesn't have to shoulder such a heavy load, while taking another step forward after finishing fourth in yards and 11th in points. The defensive additions, particularly in the secondary, provide depth and experience where it did not exist last season. Offensively, Minnesota also accomplished one of its biggest needs with interior pass protection.
Biggest question still to be answered: Speaking of offensive linemen, will the projected starting five of Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Wyatt Davis and Brian O'Neill be ready to go Week 1? We didn't see the Vikings' first-rounder Darrisaw take snaps as the first-team left tackle in OTAs or minicamp, partially due to the fact that Minnesota wanted to ease him into the mix and because he was limited while recovering from a groin strain this spring. Additionally, will the Vikings use the $13.5 million in cap space to bring in a No. 3 receiver to give the offense another layer in the passing game? And most importantly, who starts at defensive end opposite Danielle Hunter? The Vikings notched a franchise-low 23 sacks in 2020. -- Courtney Cronin
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: OK, what's next? There wasn't a ton to be gleaned from Arthur Smith's first offseason with the Falcons. The big move came off the field -- trading Julio Jones -- and enough starters were missing from OTAs and minicamps that it's tough to get a feel for what the team on the field might look like.
Offseason goals: When general manager Terry Fontenot took over in January, he was faced with a messy salary cap situation he knew he needed to fix. It wasn't going to be a one-year overhaul, but he found ways to create room by restructuring contracts, asking players to take pay cuts, finding veterans to take one-year deals and -- in a move that will define his first year -- traded star receiver Julio Jones to Tennessee. The plan worked, as Atlanta created almost $15 million in cap space to sign its rookies, give itself an operating budget for 2021 and some cap room to work with entering 2022, where more difficult decisions may have to be made.
Biggest question still to be answered: What will the Falcons actually become this fall? It's a question nobody truly knows the answer to, and if that's wishy-washy, it's also the reality. The offense has a bunch of talent, but it hasn't been on the field at the same time in the spring, and Arthur Smith's scheme is new. Defensively, the Falcons have some high-end players, but depth is a major, major concern. Atlanta could be good enough to contend for a playoff berth or bad enough to be around the top five picks in next year's draft.-- Michael Rothstein
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: All about Sam. Coach Matt Rhule would be quick to remind here that it's a team game and not about one player. But in this case it really is about one. The Panthers in trading for Sam Darnold, said he was better than Teddy Bridgewater and the quarterbacks they could have had with the eighth pick. Free agency and the draft was all about building around Darnold and giving him the best chance to succeed. Because of the other weapons on offense, and a defense with a lot of upside, how much success Carolina has in 2021 really does come down to how effective the quarterback is.
Offseason goals: Upgrade at quarterback and give that guy better protection. Carolina traded a sixth-rounder in 2021, as well as a second- and fourth-rounder in 2022, to the Jets for Sam Darnold, the third pick of the 2018 draft. Whether this truly is an upgrade remains to be seen. Darnold was 13-25 as a starter with the Jets. Only one starter along the O-line, center Matt Paradis, was under contract entering the offseason. The rebuild began with placing the franchise tag on right tackle Taylor Moton. It continued with signing left tackle Cam Erving and left guard Pat Elflein in the first wave of free agency. Then came the re-signing of John Miller at right guard. From there it has been all about adding depth. On paper this looks like an upgrade from 2020.
Biggest question still to be answered: Is there a bona fide threat at tight end? Coach Matt Rhule repeatedly said last year that one reason Carolina struggled in the red zone was the absence of a serous threat at tight end. Ian Thomas had only 20 catches and one touchdown, and the top two players at that spot combined for just 26 catches and one touchdown. Adding Dan Arnold provides a reasonable threat. Former Notre Dame star Tommy Tremble is a solid blocker but still a project as a receiver. Thomas had what Rhule called an "outstanding offseason." While this appears to be an upgrade, how much of one remains to be seen. -- David Newton
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Retooling, not rebuilding. Those were the words of general manager Mickey Loomis, who insisted the Saints are still chasing a title despite losing Drew Brees to retirement and several others to a salary-cap purge. New Orleans still has plenty of talent after a 12-4 season, but much will hinge on whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill can thrive as the new quarterback.
Offseason goals: The Saints stripped down their OTAs and minicamp to conditioning, classroom work and position drills instead of traditional practice sessions. So we're still waiting to see what the product looks like on the field. Training camp will be more compelling than usual with starting-job battles at quarterback, defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback.
Biggest question still to be answered: Jameis or Taysom? The Saints will have a new starting QB for the first time in 16 years, and both candidates have a lot to prove if they want to earn the gig. Winston, 27, feels like the front-runner since he's younger with the ceiling of a former No. 1 overall pick. But he obviously has to clean up the turnover and accuracy issues that doomed him in Tampa.-- Mike Triplett
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Rest and recovery. While it was tempting to go with "New year," which is something coach Bruce Arians has reiterated countless times with his team, "Rest and recovery" is a more accurate description of the offseason's events. Veterans were told to stay home from OTAs because Arians said he learned that after the NFC championship with the Arizona Cardinals,he pushed his team too hard in the spring and it resulted in injuries in the fall. He didn't want to make the same mistake twice. The result? Veterans looked refreshed in mandatory minicamp, and there was surprisingly little rust.
Offseason goals: The Bucs re-signed every impact player from their Super Bowl LV win: Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, Ndamukong Suh, Ryan Succop and Antonio Brown. They improved their running game and short-passing game by signing Giovani Bernard in free agency. They bolstered depth at outside linebacker, quarterback, interior offensive line, wide receiver, cornerback, inside linebacker and special teams. And most importantly, they stayed healthy and rested.
Biggest question still to be answered: Can they repeat? Fourteen teams have returned to the Super Bowl the year after winning it, and those teams are 8-6. But the last three -- the 2020 Chiefs, 2017Patriots and 2014 Seahawks -- have lost. But Super Bowl winners get poached of talent. Tampa Bay has taken care of business on that front. Practicing and playing an extra five weeks in the postseason, plus the return of preseason games this year, will undoubtedly tax players' bodies. This is where Arians' experience and reliance on sports science can help, knowing when to push and when to pull back.-- Jenna Laine
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Short and sweet. The Cardinals ended their offseason program earlier than most teams, cutting out one OTA and moving up minicamp by a week. They were done by June 11. Whether it's the right decision is, obviously, yet to be seen, but there's no going back now.
Offseason goals: The Cardinals needed to get their offense back on track and find a way not to rely on quarterback Kyler Murray after finishing as the No. 16 offense despite being the second best through the first seven games, in which they went 5-2. Murray spent the offseason retooling his fundamentals, and the Cardinals tried to figure out ways to be successful without having to rely on Murray's running.
Biggest question still to be answered: Can the Cardinals put together a full season? They started 5-2 and finished 3-6 last season, missing the playoffs by a game. A lot of that had to do with the offense's reliance on Kyler Murray's running, which became an issue after he was initially hurt against the Miami Dolphins and also against the Seattle Seahawks. Only time will tell if Arizona can figure out ways to move the ball and score without having to be so dependent on Murray, which could propel them to becoming a playoff team.-- Josh Weinfuss
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Hollywood blockbuster. The Rams proved once again they're not afraid to make a daring, bold and highly scrutinized transaction in an attempt to upgrade their roster, as they traded 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lionsfor veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Offseason goals: The Rams entered the offseason needing a fix for their offense following two inconsistent seasons for the once-prolific group. Two weeks after a divisional playoff loss, the Rams parted with Goff and future draft help to acquire Stafford, a 12-year veteran who owns every all-time passing record for the Lions. Rams coach Sean McVay has raved about Stafford's leadership, football knowledge and physical traits and said that his new QB had an "outstanding" offseason program.
Biggest question still to be answered: Can the defense retain its position as the top-ranked unit in the NFL? Brandon Staley departed after one season as defensive coordinator to become the Chargers' head coach, clearing the path for the Rams to hire Raheem Morris to fill the position. Morris is expected to maintain Staley's scheme and inherits a roster that returns three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. However, the defense lost four starters, including nine-year veteran lineman Michael Brockers and safety John Johnson III, the defensive signal-caller.-- Lindsey Thiry
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Now and then. The Niners' offseason was all about trying to find a way to return to contender status in 2021 while also sustaining success for the long haul. That approach was evident in everything they did, most notably in the dramatic trade up to No. 3 for quarterback Trey Lance while also hanging on to incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo.
Offseason goals: The 49ers hoped to keep a handful of their own free agents while also addressing the elephant in the room at quarterback. Despite the dropping salary cap, they did all of that and then some. Not only were they able to retain key players such as tackle Trent Williams, cornerback Jason Verrett and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, but a few more of their own players also returned at bargain rates, and they were able to bring in notable outside free agents such as center Alex Mack and edge rusher Samson Ebukam. Those moves left the roster in a good enough spot for 2021 for them to move up for Lance as immediate Garoppolo insurance and the long-term answer at the position.
Biggest question still to be answered: Can the 49ers get and remain healthy? Yes, the quarterback situation is going to loom for a while, but that's not quite as pressing as having most of their best players available as often as possible. Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, receiver Deebo Samuel, cornerback Richard Sherman and running back Raheem Mostert combined to play in just 37 of a possible 112 games (33%) in 2020. According to Football Outsiders' adjusted games lost metric (which also factored in players missing games for COVID-19 reasons), the Niners lost 161.6 games to injury, the second most of any team in the past 20 years. None of that offseason maneuvering will matter if the most important 49ers can't stay on the field consistently in 2021.-- Nick Wagoner
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Russell Wilson drama. Frustration that had been building for a few years with Wilson bubbled to the surface in February, prompting QB-needy teams to call Seattle about a potential trade. The Seahawks and Wilson are in a better place now. He likes their new offense (which will feature more tempo) and some of the personnel additions they made (such as guardGabe Jackson and tight endGerald Everett). But Wilson won't remain happy if all that fails to translate to fewer hits and more postseason success.
Offseason goals: The first order of business was to hire a new offensive coordinator to replace Brian Schottenheimer, who bore some of the blame for their second-half nosedive on offense. Pete Carroll picked Shane Waldron with a strong endorsement from Wilson. Then they had to navigate the Wilson drama and plug holes with limited resources. They resorted to adding void years in several contracts to work around their lack of cap space, but they only made three draft picks. Their pass rush, nonexistent early last season, now looks like the deepest part of their roster, at least on the edge.
Biggest question still to be answered: Jamal Adams' contract. It doesn't appear to be a question of whether the Seahawks and their Pro Bowl safety will agree to an extension but when they will and what it will look like. They wouldn't have made such a bold move to acquire Adams if they didn't plan on keeping him long term. Which raises another question: Does GM John Schneider have another big summer trade up his sleeve? If so, cornerback would be the most logical position since that's Seattle's biggest weakness.-- Brady Henderson
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Run it back. The Bills' front office and coaching staff believe in the core of their AFC runner-up roster and made it a point to keep it intact -- the only major departure being wide receiver John Brown. Buffalo hopes that another year of development for its younger players and another year with the same coaching staff will be enough to push it past Kansas City in the AFC.
Offseason goals: The Bills had three major free agents:Matt Milano, Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano. Through a series of restructures, they created enough space to re-sign all three. Buffalo also needed to improve its pass rush and spent its first two draft picks on defensive ends Greg Rousseau and Carlos Basham, and it added depth to the offensive line by drafting Spencer Brown, Tommy Doyle and Jack Anderson.
Biggest question still to be answered: Is cornerback still a need? The Bills have said publicly they are comfortable with their options at cornerback, with incumbent starter Levi Wallace and 2020 seventh-round pick Dane Jackson. It's yet to be seen, however, how much quality depth Buffalo has at the position. There is talent on paper, but it is still relatively unproven behind Wallace and Tre'Davious White.-- Marcel Louis-Jacques
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Tua or bust. Despite multiple opportunities to add a starting quarterback in the draft and trade market, the Dolphins bet on Tua Tagovailoa making a Year 2 jump. They named co-offensive coordinators to create an offense that would best utilize his skill set and added much-needed speed in Will Fuller V and Jaylen Waddle. This team looks like a contender in a lot of places, but Tagovailoa has to take the next step to get them there.
Offseason goals: The Dolphins' top priority was adding offensive playmakers. They slow-played the free-agency market before signing Fuller to a good-value one-year deal, and then after trading back from the No. 3 pick, they eventually landed at No. 6, where they selected Waddle. Two explosive playmakers for Tagovailoa was a win. They also swapped out two offensive line starters, sending out veteran guard Ereck Flowers and veteran center Ted Karras and bringing in rookie second-round tackle Liam Eichenberg and veteran center Matt Skura.
Biggest question still to be answered: How will the Dolphins resolve Xavien Howard's request for a new contract? Howard held out of mandatory minicamp, resulting in over $93,000 in fines, as a stance for wanting a new contract. Howard signed an extension in May 2019, but he's since outplayed the deal with a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber 2020 season and has just one fully guaranteed season left. Howard's reps have approached the team about a new deal -- at least one that can help him resume his place as the highest-paid cornerback on the team over Byron Jones -- but the Dolphins are hesitant to redo a deal just one year into the new portion of that extension. If something doesn't give, Howard could make things stickier by requesting a trade this summer.-- Cameron Wolfe
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Cam and Mac. While this offseason was truly about the rebuilding of the entire roster -- and how much the Patriots paid in free agency to help do so -- the most intriguing question comes at quarterback with incumbent starter Cam Newton and first-round pick Mac Jones. Bill Belichick set the stage initially when he said, "Cam's our quarterback. Whatever time Jarrett [Stidham] or Mac [Jones] are ready to challenge and compete, then we'll see how that goes." Jones received a lot of reps in the spring in a teaching-based environment, and now comes the competition in training camp.
Offseason goals: Free of the constraints of the salary cap, which handcuffed them in 2020, the Patriots aggressively set out to replenish the talent on the roster. No team spent more in free agency. Then came the draft and Jones slipping to them at No. 15, which could be the answer to the biggest question: Who is the next franchise QB after Tom Brady? The Patriots look like they accomplished their goals, but the true answer will come in the form of on-field results.
Biggest question still to be answered: Will Jones challenge Newton for the starting job? There was a temptation to highlight whether the defense -- with considerably more talent in 2021 -- could return to form. But that seems to be overthinking it. So much centers around quarterback play, and when Jones had it going in spring practices, the Patriots' offense looked the closest to what it had been over the majority of the past two decades from a timing, anticipation and accuracy standpoint. Newton also looked more comfortable.-- Mike Reiss
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Welcome back, Hope. After two years of gloom and doom under former coach Adam Gase, new coach Robert Saleh has energized the organization with his upbeat personality and proven systems on both sides of the ball. This is the first time in franchise history the Jets have been in a rebuilding situation with a first-year coach and a rookie starting quarterback (wild, right?), sparking optimism after 10 straight years out of the playoffs.
Offseason goals: Short answer: The offseason goal was to change pretty much everything, but let's focus on the biggest personnel move -- Zach Wilson for Sam Darnold at quarterback. The Jets gave up on Darnold too soon, but general manager Joe Douglas was determined to reboot with a rookie contract. Wilson, drafted No. 2 overall, needs to be a star to validate the decision. Another goal was to bolster the lines, which they did by signing defensive endCarl Lawson and defensive tackleSheldon Rankins, drafting guardAlijah Vera-Tucker in the first round and adding veteran right tackle Morgan Moses last week.
Biggest question still to be answered: The Jets don't have a No. 1 cornerback. They might not have a No. 2 cornerback either. Their cornerbacks have a total of 35 career starts. Not only are they inexperienced, but none of them is a high-round draft pick. So yes, the Jets need a veteran (Richard Sherman, anyone?), but the current plan is to let the kids fight it out in the preseason. Bryce Hall and Blessuan Austin will go into camp as the starters, but that could change. Chances are, it will.-- Rich Cimini
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Take next step. The Ravens, who are 1-3 in the postseason with Lamar Jackson, upgraded his supporting cast in the draft and free agency in an effort to make an extended Super Bowl run.
Offseason goals: Improve the NFL's 32nd-ranked passing attack. With limited cap room, the Ravens did their best to help Jackson develop into a more consistent passer. Jackson got a couple of new weapons at wide receiver when Baltimore drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round and signed Sammy Watkins in free agency. The Ravens also revamped their offensive line -- bringing in free agents Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva as well as drafting Ben Cleveland in the third round -- after they allowed their quarterbacks to be pressured on 35% of their dropbacks, the fourth-highest rate in the league in 2020.
Biggest question still to be answered: Which edge rusher is getting to the quarterback? The Ravens lost their two most accomplished pass-rushers in Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Baltimore's top returning outside linebackers -- Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee -- are known more for their run stopping and pass coverage. The Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh in the first round, but he didn't have a sack in his last season at Penn State. No one would be surprised if Baltimore signed Justin Houston or Melvin Ingram before the start of training camp.-- Jamison Hensley
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Build around Burrow. The Bengals made sure they continued to add key pieces around franchise quarterback Joe Burrow. Cincinnati added a couple of starters to the offensive line (tackle Riley Reiff, rookie Jackson Carman) and drafted wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick.
Offseason goals: The Bengals wanted upgrades on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Cincinnati made some player acquisitions to improve the offensive line, but the biggest move was bringing back assistant coach Frank Pollack. On defense, end Trey Hendrickson got a big contract after Carl Lawson left in free agency. Cincinnati is banking on Hendrickson's 2019 production not being a one-year fluke.
Biggest question still to be answered: Is the roster finally good enough to compete for a playoff berth? Right now, the Bengals will have to outperform what's on paper if they want to make the postseason for the first time since 2015. The team has been rebuilding the past couple of years and spent significant money in free agency to make improvements. But will that show up in the win column, where it matters? It's time for that to happen. -- Ben Baby
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Revamp the defense. The Browns boasted one of the top offenses in the league last year. Yet despite the star power of pass-rusher Myles Garrett, Cleveland didn't have the consistent defensive capability to match its offense. As a result, the Browns invested heavily in the draft and free agency to bolster the defense.
Offseason goals: The Browns were aggressive in free agency, signing arguably the top available safety in John Johnson III. They also added former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to complement Garrett in the pass rush. Other free-agent additions, notably defensive tackleMalik Jackson, nickelback Troy Hill and linebackerAnthony Walker, are expected to start as well. In the draft, Cleveland grabbed cornerbackGreg Newsome II in the first round, then linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second. Both players have the talent and potential to enrich Cleveland's promising young core.
Biggest question still to be answered: How long will it take for this revamped defense to find its stride? Cleveland invested substantially in its offense before the 2020 season. But with so many moving parts, it took several weeks for the offense to find a rhythm. This new-look Browns defense could experience some initial growing pains. But if and when it finds its footing, the Browns could be a load come playoff time.-- Jake Trotter
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Rebuild the run. Every decision-maker on the Steelers' staff -- plus new offensive coordinator Matt Canada -- emphasized the importance of recommitting to the run game, and the offseason reflected that, beginning with the selection of running back Najee Harris in the first round. The Steelers need a more balanced offense in the twilight of the Ben Roethlisberger era, and revamping the run with Canada, Harris and a more physical offensive line under new coach Adrian Klemm is the way to get it done, even as the line returns only one starter.
Offseason goals: Recommitting to the run game was the top priority, but the other is to maximize Roethlisberger's effectiveness at 39 years old with a reconstructed elbow. To do that, the Steelers are focusing on a new offensive scheme designed by Canada. The instillation is still in its infancy, but Roethlisberger is asking all of the questions to get it nailed down by the season's start.
Biggest question still to be answered: Can the Steelers' offense do enough to become not so predictable in 2021? The biggest problem as the 2020 season slid to a finish was the team's predictability on offense. Canada's scheme is supposed to fix that problem -- but there has to be a buy-in from Roethlisberger. Whether he does that and can execute Canada's plans will dictate the success of the offseason and 2021 season. -- Brooke Pryor
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Lots of change. Not only do the Texans have a new coach and general manager, but they also have 49 new players on their roster. Houston could also have a new quarterback, whether it's because Deshaun Watson is suspended, on the commissioner's exempt list, sits out or is traded.J.J. Watt, the face of the franchise, asked to be released to try to win a Super Bowl elsewhere.
Offseason goals: Find a new quarterback. Between Watson facing 22 active lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior and him asking for a trade, it seemed unlikely he would return as the Texans' Week 1 starting quarterback. On March 16, hours before the first lawsuit was filed against Watson, the Texans signed Tyrod Taylor to a one-year, incentive-laden deal. Houston also drafted quarterback Davis Mills with their first pick, but he's expected to start the season as Taylor's backup.
Biggest question still to be answered: What will Watson's status be in 2021? The NFL's investigation into the lawsuits and any possible criminal charges is ongoing, so it could be a long time before we know the answer. If the investigation is still going when training camp or the regular season begins, Roger Goodell could put Watson on the commissioner's exempt list, which would mean Watson could not play while on the list but would be paid.-- Sarah Barshop
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Building necessary chemistry. Unlike 2020, when the pandemic caused a lack of on-field work, Carson Wentz had the offseason to develop chemistry with his new teammates. He is following Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers as Colts starting quarterbacks since 2018. The hope is that Wentz, who is only 28, will become a franchise quarterback.
Offseason goals: The quarterback position was taken care of with Wentz. The Colts hope they've replaced the combined 15.5 sacks lost with the departures ofJustin Houston and Denico Autry, having used their first two draft picks on their edge rushers of the future in Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo. It's uncertain whether Odeyingbo will play during his rookie season after tearing his Achilles while working out in January.
Biggest question still to be answered: Who replaces the retired Anthony Castonzo to protect Wentz's blind side? The Colts signed left tackle Eric Fisher, who has been selected to two Pro Bowls, but the veteran is still recovering from a torn Achilles. It doesn't appear now that Fisher will be ready for the start of the regular season, which means the Colts will have to plug somebody in at the position -- probably Sam Tevi-- to help protect Wentz, who was sacked 50 times in just 12 games last season.-- Mike Wells
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Changing the culture. Owner Shad Khan brought in Urban Meyer to conduct a thorough evaluation of the franchise and make the changes that can take the Jaguars from one of the league's worst franchises to one of the best. It's going to take a while, but Khan is gambling that Meyer can duplicate what he did at Florida and Ohio State in the NFL. Meyer has already made significant changes, and players seem to have bought in heading into training camp.
Offseason goals: The Jaguars wanted to improve their personnel at key positions, and they did that at quarterback, receiver, running back and defensive back. Trevor Lawrence was the most important addition, obviously, but adding WR Marvin Jones Jr. was big too because it gives the offense a consistent, productive veteran who will take heat off DJ Chark Jr. Running backTravis Etienne will be used at receiver too, and he has the big-play ability the offense has lacked. Adding cornerShaquill Griffin, safetiesRayshawn JenkinsandAndre Cisco and defensive backTyson Campbell to a unit that already includes second-year cornerCJ Henderson turns what was a major weakness on defense into a strength. The Jaguars' roster is significantly better -- on paper, anyway -- than it was in February.
Biggest question still to be answered: Pass rush? The switch to a 3-4 under coordinator Joe Cullen meant the team had to rework the defensive front, but it also allows Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson to move to their more natural OLB/DE positions. That should free up Allen, who had 10.5 sacks as a rookie in 2019, to be more disruptive. The hope is the move does the same for Chaisson, who struggled last season as a rookie and had just one sack. But the only other player on the roster with double-digit career sacks is DE Dawuane Smoot (11.5), so the Jaguars will need to be creative to pressure the quarterback. Expect a lot of blitzes and alignments to try to create some confusion, but even if that works, the team should still prioritize adding pass-rushers in 2022. -- Michael DiRocco
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: To be continued. Bud Dupree was the biggest free-agent addition during the offseason. Unfortunately, he is not yet able to take the field after suffering a torn ACL in December. First-round pick Caleb Farley hasn't been on the field either. So the Titans haven't seen the two players who created the most buzz during the offseason. However, both are working toward being ready to go for training camp.
Offseason goals: Julio Jones is easily the biggest splash Tennessee made during the offseason. But the Titans also wanted to bolster the defense after having a down 2020 season. They added Dupree and Denico Autry to improve the pass rush. Fourth-round pick Rashad Weaver figures into the improvement plan as well. The secondary needed to be revamped, so the Titans signed Janoris Jenkins and drafted Farley along with Elijah Molden. They will bring more aggressiveness to the DB group.
Biggest question still to be answered: Will there be enough footballs to keep everyone happy? The Titans suddenly have a wealth of weapons with Julio Jones joining A.J. Brown, Derrick Henryand the crew. But Henry needs his touches as well. Finding ways to make sure everyone is taken care of falls on new offensive coordinator Todd Downing's plate. Said Downing: "The addition of Julio and our weapons on the outside, in the backfield are all ways to help us stay balanced and attack in different ways. That's our biggest charge, not to make sure there are certain mouths that get fed."-- Turron Davenport
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Choose a quarterback. Look, the Broncos have done plenty this offseason to repair most of their roster holes, but the continued hunt for a quarterback in the post-Manning era has consistently stunted their growth.
Offseason goals: The biggest roster needs when the offseason began, beyond anything the Broncos did at quarterback, were in the secondary and, after Ja'Wuan James' season-ending injury, at right tackle. The Broncos signed safety Justin Simmons to a long-term deal, signed cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency, re-signed safety Kareem Jacksonand selected Pat Surtain II with their first-round pick. So, problem solved there. The Broncos then released James before signing Bobby Massie andCameron Flemingin free agency, as they expect one of those two to start at right tackle, with Massie expected to get the early look with the starters in training camp.
Biggest question still to be answered: Who, exactly, is the quarterback? Until the Green Bay Packers formally announce Aaron Rodgers is, or isn't, going to be traded, the Rodgers-to-Denver narrative certainly will not get any quieter in the world of drive time, but in the here-and-now either Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater is still the likely Week 1 starter. The bottom line is if the Broncos can avoid another rash of injuries like they faced in 2020. They did enough in the offseason to be better, but they have to be right that either Lock or Bridgewater is good enough to turn progress into a return to the postseason. And if they're not right about that, a sixth consecutive playoff miss will be on the way, and the Broncos will be on the quarterback carousel once again in 2022.-- Jeff Legwold
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Building a wall. The Chiefs re-made their offensive line over the past few months, adding eight linemen to better protect quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Offseason goals: The offseason for the Chiefs was mostly about upgrading the offensive line. They added linemen in every possible way (trade, free agency, draft, return from opt out). And after adding among others guardsJoe Thuney and Kyle Long, and tackle Orlando Brown, they have no excuses to protect Mahomes as poorly as they did in the Super Bowl LV loss to the Bucs.
Biggest question still to be answered: Will the Chiefs regret not adding a wide receiver? They lost veteran Sammy Watkins and have nobody proven as a No. 2 receiver. In Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson, the Chiefs have some candidates but nobody who has done it every week.-- Adam Teicher
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Work in progress. The Raiders had a top 8 offense last season and QB Derek Carr, who had career highs in passing yards (4,103), passer rating (101.4) and Total QBR (71.0), received added weapons in John Brown,Willie Snead IV and Kenyan Drake to go with Pro Bowlers Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs. But the offensive line was reimagined with three new starters, and the defense is being overhauled by new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Add in a tough start to the schedule and, well, it's all a work in progress.
Offseason goals: The Raiders wanted to get younger, less expensive and deeper. Mission accomplished. That does not mean Las Vegas necessarily got better, but the Raiders did add depth, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. Time will tell if improved play is also in the mix. Games are won and lost in the trenches.
Biggest question still to be answered: Will the reimagined offensive line hold up to protect Carr? Look, the projected O-line of Kolton Miller, Richie Incognito, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown played a grand total of three snaps together last season. Three! The Raiders did not get much, if anything, in return from their expensive investment there. So it's on Miller and Incognito to help out centerAndre James, guardDenzelle Good and first-round tackleAlex Leatherwood to keep Carr clean. Otherwise, another built-in excuse is there for the taking if things don't quite work out.-- Paul Gutierrez
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Protect the quarterback. Justin Herbert is the franchise, and the Chargers had one of the league's worst offensive lines last season. He waspressured 217 times, most by a rookie quarterback since ESPN began tracking pressures in 2009. The Chargers' offensive line depth chart looks completely different in 2021.
Offseason goals:This team had to get help around Herbert. They signed centerCorey Linsley, and he looked fabulous in minicamp. They brought in guard Matt Feiler. They drafted Rashawn Slater in Round 1, and he's likely to start at left tackle as a rookie. The Chargers were serious about finding the best guys to protect their most important player; now they need to take the step to playoff contender in Year 1 with new coachBrandon Staley.
Biggest question still to be answered: Will the Chargers' kicking game doom them again? Michael Badgley's nine missed kicks last season were the most in the league andthe most by a Chargers kicker since Wade Richey missed 11 in 2001. Herbert is the real deal, but Badgley has to be better if the team expects tochallenge the Chiefs and become a playoff team.-- Shelley Smith
Will the Steelers' winning season streak end this year?
Ryan Clark explains whether the Steelers will be able to keep their streak of consecutive winning seasons going this year.