NFL teams are becoming more open to rebuilds, with the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons becoming the latest to tear things down. While it’s a direction no organization wants to take, there are signs a few more teams could be headed in this direction.
A front office choosing to hit the reset button is regularly tied to the quarterback. When Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson asked for trades this offseason, their teams realized change was necessary. A few clubs avoided joining this group in 2022, but they might not be far behind.
The 2022 offseason taught us things can change quickly. One year a team can view itself as a Super Bowl contender, 11 months later it’s preparing for ‘Year Zero’ and just views the upcoming season as a chance to develop young talent. Looking at rosters across the league, a few NFL teams could be on the verge of just that a year from now.
Here are five NFL teams wh could explore a rebuild in 2023.
A Kyler Murray trade isn’t happening in 2022. The Arizona Cardinals have zero incentive to deal their superstar quarterback in the fourth year of his rookie contract. The roster is built to win right now and contract extensions signed by coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim highlight that.
Just don’t be surprised if the situation changes drastically a year from now. Murray is already not happy about where things stand and there is still a belief among some in the NFL that Cardinals’ ownership won’t spend heavily to sign Murray. Given the highest paid NFL quarterbacks are now making at least $40 million per season, that price point might be outside Arizona’s comfort range.
If Murray repeats what we’ve seen before, nothing will likely change. Putting up gaudy stats that earn a Pro Bowl selection only to fall short in the playoffs likely won’t be enough for Arizona to open up the wallet. At that point, Murray will demand a trade. Once he’s gone, the Cardinals will have no choice but to start fresh.
The Tennessee Titans struck a nerve in Ryan Tannehill this offseason. It was one thing to trade A.J. Brown, a close friend and his No. 1 receiver. But seeing the franchise draft quarterback Malik Willis with a top-100 pick, Tannehill’s response about mentorship spoke volumes.
Tannehill sees the writing on the wall. The Titans are more than willing to make a run at the AFC in 2022, it’s why they traded for Robert Woods and Austin Hooper. With that said, it seems the front office is also aware of where it likely stands in the conference this year and long term. Tennessee is setting up an exit strategy in 2023.
The Titans can create $27 million in cap space by designating Tannehill as a post-June 1 cut in 2023, per OvertheCap.com. There’s even a possibility that Derrick Henry, entering his age-29 season with over 1,600 touches in his NFL career, is a cap casualty next year to save $12.5 million. Keep in mind, Taylor Lewan ($14.84 million savings). Robert Woods ($13.75 million savings) and Bud Dupree ($9.35 million savings) are also potential 2023 cut candidates.
If those moves happen, Tennessee would be among the top NFL teams in cap space ($81 million) and it could reset the roster. The 2023 offseason would become all about building a team around Willis.
The Minnesota Vikings easily could have joined the rebuilding NFL teams this offseason. Instead, first-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decided to make a run with the roster to see if Kirk Cousins and Co. could surpass expectations with the help of a new coaching staff.
In all likelihood, this will just end in disappointment. Adofo-Mensah will realize that while Cousins is a good quarterback, he’s not at the level where he can uplift a franchise. Recognizing that, Minnesota hits the reset button. Cousins becomes a trade candidate and there’s a possibility both Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen get shopped around the league.
At that point, Adofo-Mensah signs Justin Jefferson to a massive contract and finds a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft. At least in Minnesota’s case, this could be an accelerated rebuild.
Years of quarterback purgatory led the Washington Commanders to acquire Carson Wentz this offseason. While the organization is confident this move could have huge rewards, recent history suggests this was a misguided attempt to avoid the inevitable.
The Commanders have a problem. There isn’t a lot of elite, young talent on the roster and that surprising 2020 season is proving to be a fluke. Terry McLaurin deserves a new contract but that doesn’t seem to be in the immediate plans. If a new deal isn’t signed, Washington might have a real problem on its hands.
That is without even addressing a woeful quarterback situation and a defense that needs a lot more work than realized. If it doesn’t all come together in 2022, the Commanders might have no other choice but to change everything.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints keep kicking the can down the road. At some point, they have to finally become one of the rebuilding NFL teams. It felt like that would finally happen in 2022, drafting a rookie quarterback and building for the future. Instead, New Orleans is once again putting all its chips on winning now.
Expect the end result to be a first-round exit in the NFL playoffs, that’s the best-case scenario. New Orleans is going to try and make things work in 2022, but the truth is the quarterback play isn’t good enough to realistically challenge the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South.
Our attention is on 2023. Sean Payton could return to coaching, with the Saints shipping him off to another team for at least one first-round pick. At that point, the Saints can finally begin tearing things down and accepting the consequences of salary cap shenanigans that will all come with a hefty final bill.