A Look Ahead to the 2021 NFL Season

With Super Bowl LV almost upon us, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to next season. Thirty of the NFL’s 32 teams are already doing just that. Several have rosters to reshuffle, notable free agents to sign. A few big-name quarterbacks are looking at trades and the draft will be here before anyone knows it. Here’s what we can look forward to in 2021.

The Stafford Loan
He won’t be loaned to anyone; he’ll actually be traded. That’s Detroit QB Matthew Stafford who has requested that the Lions trade him. Detroit hired a new head coach in Dan Campbell and a rebuild will take a few years. Stafford wants to win now and the best way to do that is to get out of Detroit.

Where Stafford lands is anyone’s guess, but Indianapolis or Chicago are good starting points. The Bears are still kicking themselves since they could have had Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson but settle for Mitchell Trubisky instead. The Bears have a championship defense. What they lack is a quarterback.

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The same is true in Indianapolis where veteran Philip Rivers announced his retirement. The Colts are an above-average defense with one of the best offensive lines and running games in the league. Stafford would make the Colts an instant Super Bowl contender.

It’s Elementary, Watson
The other big-name quarterback looking for a new home is Houston’s Deshaun Watson. There has been some talk of San Francisco where the 49ers are potentially looking for a replacement for Jimmy Garoppolo. Watson’s cap charge would save the Niners a good chunk of money and allow them to re-sign OT Trent Williams.

Plus, San Francisco gets a bona fide 25-year-old franchise quarterback. The same could be said for Stafford, though the Niners are likely skeptical of Stafford’s age, 32. Stafford would also cost the 49ers more.

The Year of the WR
A number of very good wide receivers are set to hit the free agent market this offseason. Leading the way is Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers would need a miracle to pull of the salary cap puzzle needed to keep Smith-Schuster as well as QB Ben Roethlisberger. It’s probably not going to happen, especially since Pittsburgh rarely re-signs wide receivers. Only Hines Ward and Antonio Brown got another contract after their rookie deal.

Sammy Watkins, Corey Davis, Will Fuller V, Allen Robinson, and Kenny Golladay will all be free agents come March. None will likely get top-5 receiver money though one or two – Golladay and-or Robinson – might see a franchise tag.

Even though it’s the year of the wide receiver, there is a big quarterback free agent – Dak Prescott. Dallas will have to make a decision. Roll with Dak at $37.7 million on the franchise tag or work out a long-term deal. The tag or the deal could prevent the Cowboys from luring top free agents in the near future.

The 2021 Draft
If free agency is the year of the wide receiver, the 2021 NFL draft will be the year of the quarterback. There are several big names including Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick. Then, there is Ohio State’s Justin Fields, BYU star Zach Wilson, and another FCS phenom in North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

Many of the experts see four quarterbacks among the first ten picks. Don’t forget, Heisman Trophy winner Mac Jones led Alabama to a national title. He’ll likely be a first-round pick as well.

Early Favorites
Even though Super Bowl LV has yet to be played, Kansas City is favored to win Super Bowl LVI. Not surprisingly, Green Bay, Buffalo, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay are all in the hunt behind the Chiefs. The 43-year-old Brady is still under contract in Tampa Bay and as long as he remains the Bucs will remain Super Bowl contenders.

The odds of several teams could improve depending upon their off-season action. If Stafford does end up in Indianapolis for example, the Colts would likely join the Packers, Bills, Ravens, and Bucs as leading contenders. The same is true for San Francisco which played in last year’s Super Bowl. If the 49ers land Watson, they would be a favorite to win the NFC and get back to Super Bowl LVI.

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