Some might conclude that the NFL Draft is the end of the so-called offseason and the start of the next campaign. But with more than two months remaining until training camps get going, a lot can still happen.
All the while, rookie quarterbacks will look to forge ahead and make an impact. Meanwhile, a couple other big-name players could be traded ahead of the start of the 2021 season. Below, we look at the top-five remaining NFL storylines of the offseason.
The Deshaun Watson situation
A recent report from CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora notes that Watson’s short-term future is in question now that north of 20 women have come forward and accused him of sexual assault. While Watson is only being accused in civil court, the Houston Police Department has opened up a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, the NFL is conducting its own investigation under the guise of the personal conduct policy.
What does this all mean? Well, it seems highly unlikely that the Pro Bowl quarterback will be on the field to start the 2021 season. This also comes mere months after Deshaun Watson requested a trade from the Texans. Should things work out off the field, it could lead to a blockbuster. If so, this would be one of the top storylines remaining in the NFL offseason.
More NFL blockbusters on the horizon?
We’ll touch on Aaron Rodgers and his situation with the Green Bay Packers below. However, there’s other big-name players who could be dealt ahead of the start of training camp. That starts with seven-time Pro Bowler and future first ballot Hall of Famer Julio Jones with the Atlanta Falcons. The odds are in favor of the star pass catcher being traded at some point in June. If that does indeed come to fruition, a ton of teams would love to bring in one of the best receivers in modern NFL history.
Circling back to quarterback for a second, there’s an off-chance that San Francisco 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo could be dealt should Trey Lance prove his worth as a starter during training camp. The 49ers invested three first-round picks and a mid-round selection to bring Lance aboard. These are just two of numerous big-name players who could be moved.
Potential rift between the NFL and NFLPA
Following a 2020 NFL season that was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, most figured that there wouldn’t be much drama as it relates to this in 2021. Americans are getting vaccinated. NFL stadiums will be filled this coming fall. Even then, there could be a major backdrop filled with drama behind the scenes.
It starts with the injury Denver Broncos right tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered in an individual workout earlier in the week and the fact that said injury might cost him roughly $20 million in cold hard cash. NFL rules dictate that players who suffer injuries while working out away from team facilities can be stripped of guaranteed cash. The NFLPA is not having it.
“It was gutless to use a player’s serious injury as a scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts,” the union stated in a memo to its players. “This memo is another sign of what they think of you and also affirms that they simply want to control you year-round in any and every way that they can.”
All the while, the NFL has set up guidelines as it relates to vaccinated and unvaccinated players during both off-season programs and training camp. In short, vaccinated players will be able to roam free without strict guidelines while those who opt to remain unvaccinated will have to follow the same rules as last season. This could, too, create a rift between the NFL and Players’ Association.
Read More: Ranking the 5 best 2021 NFL Draft classes
Rookie quarterbacks, headed by Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance
Fresh off selecting Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping he leads them back to relevance. The Clemson product is a sure-fire Day 1 starter in Duval and will soon take to the field as off-season programs get going big time around the league. It will be interesting to see how the generational prospect looks.
As for Trey Lance, he could very well compete with the aforementioned Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers’ starting job during camp. Given San Francisco’s status as one of the top title contenders in the NFC, it’s going to be interesting to see this situation play out. No rookie quarterback has ever led his team to a Super Bowl title.
In New Jersey, the Jets will also likely rely on rookie No. 2 pick Zach Wilson to be their starter this season. I am highly intrigued to see how he looks during the summer months. The same thing can be said about New England Patriots rookie first-round pick Mac Jones and Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears. Both have an outside shot at replacing current starters with their new teams.
Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers drama
Here we are. About four months until the start of the 2021 campaign and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers has requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers. New broke in late April that Rodgers is unhappy about the direction of the team, primarily its decision to select Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In turn, there’s a good chance that Rodgers either opts to sit out the 2021 season or retire altogether rather than play another down in a Packers uniform.
The backdrop here is a Denver Broncos team that’s set to make a major play for Rodgers after they acquired Teddy Bridgewater to compete with Drew Lock for the starting job. Meanwhile, the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders are also one of the teams favored to land Rodgers. If the future first ballot Hall of Famer is moved here in the coming weeks, it will be one of the biggest NFL stories of the past quarter-century.