I know, I know, I’m late on this. Most of the big ticket free agents have been signed, save for a few notable holdouts (here’s looking at you, Jadeveon Clowney). But now that the dust has settled, and we’ve all more or less processed the absence of sports right now, it’s time to spit the hot takes. I’m going bold with these, because what’s free agency without a little mayhem and overreaction? Without further ado, here are my three big statements on this year’s free agency period.
The Colts are your 2020 AFC South champs
The AFC South is stacked with two other recent playoff teams in the Texans and the Titans. The Texans are easy to peg for regression. They traded one of the league’s best players overall in Deandre Hopkins, and will certainly suffer in the win column. The Titans made an impressive run to the AFC title game last year, but I expect Ryan Tannehill to regress a bit from the hyper-efficient version we saw last year, driving the offense’s stock down.
Emerging from the wreckage of this division is the Colts, who have been defined by smart, calculated moves for several years now. The latest of these is bringing in Philip Rivers to be their next quarterback. He’s not a sexy signing, but he’s a definite upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. His experience and higher floor will bring an already strong roster over the top into contention for the AFC’s top two or three seeds. The offensive line and defense are way better than what Rivers had last year when he tossed 20 interceptions.
The Denver Broncos snag a wild card slot
The Broncos are sneakily building around a potential Drew Lock year two jump. Lock showed flashes when he came in for the injured Joe Flacco, and the second-round pick will certainly get more used to the NFL game.
The Broncos are looking to supplement a roster from last year’s 7–9 season with strong fringe signings, including running back Melvin Gordon and cornerback AJ Bouye. Neither guys are massive stars, but they are reliable veterans who can get the job done and have flashed valuable high ceilings.
Meanwhile, head coach Vic Fangio is headed into year two and can work wonders wielding a defense stocked with pass-rushers Bradley Chubb and Von Miller. The offensive infrastructure is also more exciting now, with young players Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant coming in with valuable additional years of experience under their belts.
The weapons for Denver on both sides of the ball are considerably more numerous now, and I expect them to take a surprising leap into playoff contention.
Chaos in the NFC West
The 49ers ran away with this division last season en route to a Super Bowl appearance, right?
Wrong. They split a series with the Seahawks, who also snagged a playoff spot, and narrowly won twice against a young Cardinals squad.
The Seahawks will likely play like last season for the foreseeable future, meaning they’ll be in every game they play. The Rams are not far removed from a Super Bowl appearance themselves, and are looking to restart their once-vaunted offense that took a step back last year. The Cardinals made the biggest splash of the offseason acquiring Deandre Hopkins, and are poised to take a huge jump under coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray.
Basically, this division is gonna be a crapshoot to predict. I expect every team to stay in the wild card race until the very end, and I don’t expect any of them to have the kind of winning season that pushes for a bye week in the playoffs.