It took thousands of gallons of Ray Lewis tears, Bernard Pollard’s one-man New England wrecking crew performance, and a furious (and controversial) last-minute red zone stand in the Superbowl, but you’re the champions of the league.
The 2012-2013 season is over. Let us remember it fondly (conveniently overlooking the replacement referees). Now, we head into that dark night – the longest possible time of the year before actual NFL football. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t still talk about it.
Here are the top storylines to watch out for in the upcoming NFL offseason. Don’t worry – training camps will be here before you know it.
- - Who’s #1? Unlike last year – which saw two franchise quarterbacks go first and second in the draft in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III – there isn’t a clear-cut, number-one option for the Kansas City Chiefs at the top of the draft heap. Just the luck the franchise needed; Kansas City desperately needs something exciting behind center. Will they roll the dice on a prospect like West Virginia QB Geno Smith, or build through the trenches with Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel?
- - Welker walking? The Patriots’ “slot machine” wide receiver maintained his brilliance throughout 2012, with another 100+ catch, 1,000-yard receiving season – but how long can he keep it up? There have been some very subtle signs that Welker is slipping (witness his famous drop in last year’s Superbowl, and a big drop in the AFC Championship game) and the Patriots might be wary of sending $11.4 million (if they franchise him again) or more (if they give him a long-term contract) his way. With similarly-skilled Julian Edelman in the mix, the Pats might decide to part with Welker.
- - Ravens flying? – The core of the Superbowl champions might take a giant hit in the 2012 offseason. Ray Lewis is set to retire, Ed Reed is a free agent, and Joe Flacco is in need of a gigantic contract extension – and that’s not even including the free agencies of CB Cary Williams, LB Dannell Ellerbee and up-and-coming LB Paul Kreuger. If the Ravens don’t choose wisely, they could go from worst to first relatively quickly.
- - New York, New York – What a mess in the Meadowlands. Will the Jets be able to trade Tim Tebow, or will they be forced to release him? What kind of veterans will they have to cut with their upcoming cap apocalypse? Has the franchise lost faith in Rex Ryan? Does anyone have any faith in Mark Sanchez at quarterback, or will they pursue someone else – like Alex Smith – to take over the reins?
- - Heading to San Francisco - The 49ers were really one good wide receiver short of a Superbowl championship – as anyone who saw Randy Moss’s pathetic effort in the biggest game of the year can attest. They need to go out and get one. Do they spend another first-rounder on a receiver to pair with Michael Crabtree, or do they go out and sign a free agent WR like Greg Jennings or Wes Welker? It could be the difference between another end-of-the-year disappointment or a Superbowl ring.