NFL insider notes: Six teams to keep an eye on, for better or worse, when the new league year begins

This is a time of great uncertainty in our country, throughout the professional sports world and within the business of the NFL. Key deadlines have proven fungible, the union vote on a new collective bargaining agreement was pushed back and questions about the new league year loomed through the weekend.

There are more questions than answers, and a few teams stick out for me when it comes to intrigue, mystery and roster movement. There are a handful of teams that I keep coming back to that I believe will play a crucial role in how this transaction period unfolds, once it officially gets started. For better or worse.

Some will be active in adding players on big contracts, in hopes of hastening a turnaround in fortunes. Others are still being preyed upon by other clubs – or are about to be – because they seem vulnerable on several levels … and many smart, successful organizations know that patience can be a virtue this time of year as they wait for more veterans to be purged or traded below value for cap purposes (and those types of transactions do not count against the ever-important compensatory pick equation). It’s a bad time to be over or up against the cap, especially when loaded up with bloated contracts on aging veterans.

When the contracts do begin flying around, I suspect that these teams factor in, heavily, between now and June. Headlines will continue to come back to them. They have much to still sort through, and I have so many questions about these franchises that I eagerly await an answer to.

New England Patriots 

There is all kinds of speculation about where the GOAT will roam next season. Some are writing the Pats off. I am not. But if they do lose Tom Brady, then for the first time in over two decades there would be uncertainty about the starting QB in New England. You have to go back pre-Drew Bledsoe for that. Unchartered territory for them. And if Brady walks, I hear there could be an exodus of other Pats free agents, and a real reboot in order for this team. They still need a major influx of skill position talent no matter what. Where is that all coming from?

Minnesota Vikings 

Cutting Xavier Rhodes is just the start. Will they sniff around on a new deal for Kirk Cousins? Will they finally trade Stefon Diggs? When even back-up safeties are talking about wanting out, you’ve got problems. Jacksonville Jaguars-type problems (more on them in a minute). And with the coach and GM in lame duck years for now, things get even hotter. Not sure how they keep most of their free agents in their cap crunch, and bringing back Everson Griffen could prove challenging, too. Do they really try against the odds to keep this band together despite their mounting contract and cap crunch? Do they really think this bunch is on the cusp of something monumental? Do they pay their running back? So many questions.

Jacksonville Jaguars 

The Jags have the disgruntled player market on lockdown. They own that space (okay, they are sharing it with the Vikings these days). It’s their brand. How much can they get for Yannick Ngakoue in trade? How long do they wait to trade him? Winning teams have been trying to pick them to shreds since before the combine and with Calais Campbell now joining A.J. Bouye as being dealt for little in return, they might as well see if they get anything for Brandon Linder or Andrew Norwell. I’ve been telling you guys for weeks this teardown was inevitable, and now that it’s here the issue becomes, how deep does it extend? How does a team that has been this bad – going 6-10 last year was their second-best season in like a decade – manage to be in this horrific of a contract and cap situation? Can they give Nick Foles away by the draft? And how high of a draft pick do they need to include along with him to facilitate the deal (assuming ownership does the right thing and eats some money to move him)? How soon until they start playing three or more games a year in London?

New York Jets

Young GM Joe Douglas has all of the cap space you could ever need to make a splash. And boy do they have some needs. Other than stud safety Jamal Adams, there isn’t anyone on that roster in line for a big day or extension. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which they aren’t very active in free agency. Pass rush is a huge need (Jadeveon Clowney, Dante Fowler are among those who make sense). Also, along the offensive line. And pass catchers. Can they give away Le’Veon Bell? Or do they try to run the offense through him? Is Woody coming back from London in the next few months? What might that mean for the direction of the franchise?

Philadelphia Eagles

They have enough cap space to be dangerous and they have spent big to ensure a window to compete. But even under some constraints, GM Howie Roseman is all about that action on the trade and free agent market. He will land a big corner – I keep thinking Byron Jones – and address other concerns, too. They may be stuck with Alshon Jeffery’s deal, but could they trade for another wideout or sign a guy with local ties like Robby Anderson? They always have a trick or two up their sleeves. I keep getting a strong vibe around the league that Roseman is going to shake things up.

Las Vegas Raiders

Mark Davis is going to want to make a splash in Las Vegas. After being burned by the Antonio Brown acquisition a year ago, receiver remains a chief issue. As is pass rush. They dealt their best pass rusher and wideout in 2018. Can’t wait to see how they replace them now. Would Tom Brady agree to wear the silver and black? If not, are you like me, believing that Cam Newton and/or Jameis Winston would make a perfect Raider QB? Where does Derek Carr land? I expect these guys to have their noses in a lot of areas and their quarterback transition – whether through free agency, trade or the draft (moving up for Tua, anybody?) – will be fascinating.

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