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12 figures who will define the 2019 NFL offseason

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NFL offseason will be defined by some blockbuster trades, a few high-profile free agents changing teams and a draft that’s about as wide open as any we’ve seen in the past.

The backdrop here are those individuals who will define these events once the calendar turns to March.

Multiple general managers are in position to change the fortune of their teams. One specific owner has a ton of work to do in order to keep his proud franchise relevant. Meanwhile, multiple veterans could change the dynamic around the NFL for next season.

It’s in this that we look at 12 figures who will define the 2019 NFL offseason.

John Dorsey, general manager, Cleveland Browns

Fresh off a surprising seven-win 2018 campaign, Cleveland has already made news this winter after signing embattled former NFL leading rusher Kareem Hunt. Now, flush with north of $78 million to spend under the cap, we’re highly intrigued to see what the Browns do in free agency. With young quarterback Baker Mayfield and a player-friendly head coach in Freddie Kitchens, the Browns are finally an attractive destination. How this plays out will tell us a lot about the AFC North next season.

Le’Veon Bell, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers

Speaking of the AFC North, Bell is one of three members of the Steelers’ organization to make the list. As dynamic as they come on the field, he put up north of 3,800 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 2016 and 2017 combined prior to holding out this entire past season. Now set to become a free agent, Bell will certainly be calling another NFL city home next season. How this plays out will be huge for multiple reasons. Can Bell reset the running back market as we know it? And if he were to land on a contending team, that could change the entire dynamic of the NFL.

Nick Bosa, defensive end, Ohio State Buckeyes

Pretty much the consensus No. 1 overall player in the 2019 NFL Draft, Bosa missed all but three games of his junior season with a core muscle injury. Ultimately, the pass rusher withdrew from school to focus on the draft. Bosa’s elite-level athleticism and build potentially makes him a generational talent. Picking No. 1 and No. 2 overall, respectively, the Cardinals and 49ers both have a need for an edge rusher. Though, this is certainly complicated by trade-up scenarios and the draft’s quarterback situation. What happens with Bosa will have wide-ranging ramifications on the draft.

Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner

There’s good news on this front. The NFL heads into its new league year void of a ton of drama. It just settled the Colin Kaepernick collusion case. Meanwhile, both the NFL and NFLPA are set to get together to talk about an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That right there puts Goodell in the forefront of the league’s offseason. Rumors have persisted that there could be a work stoppage following the 2020 season. At issue here, among other things, is the lack of guaranteed contracts. We’re highly intrigued to see how the CBA negotiations play out. We’re also interested to see how Goodell handles Kareem Hunt’s inevitable suspension.

Nick Foles, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles

With Joe Flacco now in Denver, the attention turns to this former Super Bowl MVP when it comes to the quarterback market. Needless to say, Foles remains the top option for teams in need of an upgrade under center. Though, things are not anywhere near settled between him and the Eagles. Philadelphia could look to place the franchise tag on Foles in hopes of trading him. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins have been bandied about as potential destinations. What happens with Foles could very well dictate what we see take place during the early stages of April’s NFL Draft. That makes him a high-profile figure.

Kevin Colbert, general manager, Pittsburgh Steelers

The backdrop in Pittsburgh is rather clear. Colbert held true to his word by allowing Le’Veon Bell to hold out throughout the 2018 season without caving in to the running back. As that situation was coming to a head, Antonio Brown’s future in Pittsburgh became murky following a late-season spat with Ben Roethlisberger. All the while, Colbert and Co. are going to engage in extension negotiations with Big Ben. One of the most stable organizations in pro sports, the Steelers are entering an offseason of change. How Colbert handles this will have wide-ranging ramifications in the AFC North and the broader conference.

Kyler Murray, quarterback, Oklahoma Sooners

Standing at 5-foot-10 (if he’s lucky) and weighing in at less than 200 pounds, this reigning Heisman winner is not your prototypical first-round quarterback. With that said, Murray’s on-field brilliance at Oklahoma (watch here and here) coupled with his decision to forego a multi-million dollar bonus with MLB’s Oakland A’s makes him a high-profile figure heading into draft season. There’s been rumors that the Arizona Cardinals might take Murray No. 1 overall. If so, that would change the entire dynamic of the 2019 draft. Heck, it would make Josh Rosen available. As it is, what we see from Murray during the NFL Scouting Combine will be absolutely huge for his draft stock.

Jerry Jones, owner, Dallas Cowboys

As with Goodell, it’s not all about drama in Big D this offseason. That’s a welcome change for the Cowboys’ brass. Rather, it’s now all about how Jones handles his new trio of stars. Having handed the Raiders a first-round pick for Amari Cooper last season, Dallas has to think about a long-term extension before he hits free agency in March of 2020. Meanwhile, quarterback Dak Prescott will also be a free agent after next season. If that weren’t enough, Ezekiel Elliott is eligible for an extension this offseason and stud pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence is an impending free agent. There’s certainly a lot of work to do on this front.

Dwayne Haskins, quarterback, Ohio State Buckeyes

As much as Kyler Murray has been the buzz of the NFL world in recent weeks, there’s a darn good chance Haskins will be the first quarterback off the board come April. What he did as a first-time full-time starter for the Buckeyes last season was nothing short of extraordinary. A pure drop-back passer if there ever was one, Haskins offers an alternative to Murray’s newish on-field dynamic. We wouldn’t be surprised if quarterbacks were one and two off the board — much like what we saw back in 2016 when the Rams and Eagles both moved up. We’re intrigued to see how the pre-draft process goes for Haskins.

Steve Keim, general manager, Arizona Cardinals

Keim holds all the cards with the first pick in April’s draft. He could go the traditional route with either the above-mentioned Nick Bosa or stud former Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. He could also listen to new head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s previous proclamation that Kyler Murray should be the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. What the embattled Keim decides will tell us not only a whole lot about the future of his Cardinals franchise, but how the remainder of the 2019 NFL Draft plays out. This is a defining moment for the longtime GM in the desert. That’s for sure.

Antonio Brown, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

Let’s look past the drama Brown has created in recent weeks. On the field, his past six seasons rivals any receiver in the history of the NFL. He’s a top-10 player in the league and a dominating force at wide receiver. Where Brown ultimately lands after the Steelers agreed to trade him could have wide-ranging ramifications in the NFL. It could help one team get out of its current rut. It could also turn another mid-level playoff team into a serious championship contender. Sure the drama and petty is fun. But it’s not the only thing we should look at. Brown is a future Hall of Famer. He’s still playing at an elite level. He’ll be a boon for one team this offseason.

Colin Kaepernick, free agent quarterback

Fresh off settling his collusion case with the NFL, attention has turned to whether Kaepernick actually has a future in the league. His lawyer just recently took to the media — indicating that Kaepernick has drawn interest from both the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. Just how amazing would it be to see this high-profile figure return to a league he almost literally brought to its knees? While this remains a highly unlikely scenario, it’s important to note that Kaepernick is still one of the most-viable quarterbacks on the market right now. Yeah, the final chapter in this book has yet to be written.