Lawrence: Reset The Clock

The Super Bowl just ended, but the NFL isn't taking a break, Amy Lawrence says; in fact, the action is just beginning

Amy Lawrence
February 07, 2019 - 2:24 pm

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Where did the time go? From September to February in the blink of an eye, the 2018 NFL season is now in the rearview mirror.
 
With the New England Patriots triumphant in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history, it's full speed ahead into the next adventure. In fact, the league launched promotion of its 100th season with a remarkable ad at halftime of the Super Bowl, featuring a blend of past and present with some of the greatest players of all time. No fewer than 53 championship rings and 19 Hall of Famers were represented, not to mention all the current household names. Obviously, the NFL is firmly focused on the future, so we can do the same. But where to start? With the new league year looming, there are far more questions than answers.
 
Deep breath...
 
Quarterbacks are always a compelling place to begin. Instead of Kirk Cousins as the primary object of desire this year, Nick Foles is the name that will trend in free agency. The Eagles may search for a trade partner, but regardless of how he leaves Philadelphia, there will be a handful of teams interested in bringing Foles on board as their starter. Will he stay inside the NFC East with the Redskins or Giants? Will the Jaguars or Dolphins take a flyer on Foles? His landing spot could create a domino effect. Will Ryan Tannehill and Blake Bortles be able to find new jobs if they move on? And what about Joe Flacco? The longtime Raven needs another home since Lamar Jackson took over. While we're speculating about veterans, will Cam Newton, Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, and Carson Wentz get healthy in the offseason?
 
The upcoming NFL Draft won't include the same QB intrigue as last spring, and there likely won't be five first-rounders who make the jump to starter next season. But will Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) choose football over baseball and become the top quarterback selected? Will a team move up to draft Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State)? Should the Giants grab Eli Manning's "heir apparent" with the sixth overall pick?
 
The Steelers are in the center of a storm created by two athletes who've formed a formidable trio with Ben Roethlisberger. What will Pittsburgh do with Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell this offseason? The front office has indicated a desire to deal Brown, no matter what the salary cap implications; but when it comes time to actually make the deal, will they trade away one of the best receivers in the league or will they decide his talent is worth the extensive drama? As for Bell, will his gamble pay off? He forfeited $14.5 million dollars by skipping the entire season. Will he find the massive payday he covets if the Steelers cut him loose?
 
Production and cost aren't the only factors that must be considered by teams looking at Kareem Hunt. He will technically be available on the free agent market, but he remains on the Commissioner's Exempt List. How long will the NFL take with his investigation the second time around? Will he face a lengthy suspension after TMZ leaked the video of him shoving and kicking a young woman in a Cleveland hotel almost a year ago? Not much has been said publicly about Hunt the last two months, but eventually, teams will wade into those waters because of his talent.
 
In eight NFL cities, there are new head coaches attempting to change cultures and resurrect franchises. What an eclectic mix in the first-timers who used a variety of paths to arrive at their latest challenges. Freddie Kitchens in Cleveland, Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona, Zac Taylor in Cincinnati, Brian Flores in Miami, Vic Fangio in Denver, and Matt LaFleur in Green Bay couldn't form a more diverse group. Who will tap into a successful formula the quickest? Think NFL Coach of the Year Matt Nagy in Chicago guiding the Bears from worst to first. In New York, the Jets hired their first head coach with previous experience since Bill Parcells in 1997. Will the eyes of Adam Gase see the best in Sam Darnold? And in Tampa, will Bruce Arians click with Jameis Winston and figure out how to turn the Bucs' ship around? Even though the Cowboys kept Jason Garrett as head coach, he's now leading an offensive staff replete with newbies like Kellen Moore and Jon Kitna. Can this new group milk more production out of Dak Prescott and the passing game?
 
The Cowboys also face a major decision on the other side of the ball. How much will it take to keep defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence on the roster? With his 10.5 sacks this season (and 14.5 in 2017), he's a force in the pass rush; he already played a year with the franchise tag. Lawrence is just one of the high profile defensive players who could make headlines this offseason. Will the Texans apply the tag with linebacker Jadeveon Clowney in 2019? Will the Ravens lock up their leader CJ Mosley with a long-term deal? Will the Patriots keep their best defensive lineman in the fold and build around Trey Flowers? What becomes of Dee Ford after his unforgettable off-sides penalty negated a Tom Brady interception in the late stages of the AFC Championship? Do Ndamukong Suh and the Rams stick together for another run at the title?
 
Even with the outrage over the NFC Championship subsiding (everywhere but New Orleans), the NFL Competition Committee needs to consider tweaking its replay and review policies. Should judgement calls be included? Will coaches be allowed to challenge calls or non-calls in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime? The owners have resisted similar changes in the past, but will the call for integrity by Gayle Benson of the Saints be enough to move the mountain this spring?
 
Every offseason starts with a myriad of questions. The next few months will steadily provide the answers because the NFL never truly takes a break. The operation has morphed into a year-round spectacle, and the league is masterful at keeping fans engaged even when there are no games. So we reset the clock and sail off into the great unknown with one critical piece of knowledge: these answers are completely irrelevant if no one can figure out how to dethrone Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots.

 

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, cbssportsradio.com and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.

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