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NFL Nation

As the NFL Free Agency kicks off in 2021, we look back at what happened and look ahead.

Although a number of key free agents have been added, such as. While the Tennessee Titans drafted two edge rushers, the Baltimore Ravens upgraded their offensive line and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-contracted almost all of their free agents, this offseason began with a series of big transactions that sent quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams and the No. 3 quarterback to the San Francisco 49ers.

Many teams are still looking for weaknesses in their rosters, and many stars don’t have contracts yet. The Kansas City Chiefs have cut offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, both of whom remain unemployed. Forwards Melvin Ingram III and Justin Houston are also looking for a team, while Jadeveon Clowney appears to be ready for a one-year deal.

The NFL analyzes new recruits, targets of the season and key questions for each team:


AFC East

Marquis Signature: Matt Milano, LB; Darryl Williams, OT; John Feliciano, G; Emmanuel Sanders, WR; Mitchell Trubisky, QB.

Off-season destinations: The Bills entered the offseason ranked second in the AFC and wanted to return with the same team in 2021. General manager Brandon Beane made room with a series of restructuring and layoffs, and was finally able to contract his key players while also strengthening some areas that needed reinforcement.

Biggest question to answer: Where does Buffalo see its remaining weakness? The Bills’ pass rush needs to improve if they want to beat Kansas City. There are also needs at tight end, cornerback and running back. If the Bills see players on their roster who are ready for a championship, they can choose not to add them to the roster and instead accept players with immediate success later in the month. — Marcel Louis-Jacques



Cameron Wolfe questions Will Fuller’s effectiveness for Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense.

Marquis Signature: Will Fuller, WR; Jacoby Brissett, QB; Matt Scura, C; Bernardrick McKinney, LB (exchange).

Off-season destinations: The Dolphins wanted to improve their offense, which was mediocre in 2020, by building around the quarterback. The big move was contracting Fuller, while the rest of the free agent field focused on depth. All eyes are on the draft, with Miami already making two big trades and looking to use two of the five picks in the first two rounds to add a wide receiver and running back.

Biggest question to answer: The pass rush was a necessity in the free contract, and the Dolphins deteriorated in that area after trading Shaq Lawson for McKinney. Emmanuel Ogbah and Andrew Van Ginkel are their top picks, but they need to add one, maybe two key players in the draft to solve this problem. — Cameron Wolfe

Marquis Signature: Jonnu Smith, TE; Hunter Henry, TE; Matthew Judon, OLB; Davon Godchaux, NT; Nelson Agholor, WR; Kendrick Bourne, WR; David Andrews, C.

Off-season destinations: You need to be aggressive and have plenty of cap room (the NFL salary cap has dropped over the course of the year, meaning less competition between teams) and fill some big holes due to inconsistent draft picks. It’s mostly about controlling the tight ends, wide receivers and front seven on defense.

Biggest question to answer: Who is the quarterback of the future? With all the changes the Patriots have made, and no team has made more, they still have uncertainty at QB. That question could be answered in the draft, but with the No. 15 pick – and the 49ers taking their big step at No. 3, meaning they’ve picked a quarterback – there’s no guarantee the Patriots will find their answer unless they make a bold move on the board themselves. So far, Cam Newton is the expected starter for 2021, and Jimmy Garoppolo could be in play in 2022 (if not sooner). — Mike Reiss.

Marquis Signature: Carl Lawson, DE; Corey Davis, RR; Sheldon Rankins, DT; Tevin Coleman, RB; Jarred Davis, LB.

Off-season destinations: The Jets have done a good job in free agency, but they haven’t improved the offensive line. It’s frightening when you consider the league is in the worst shape ever. Former Chargers starter Dan Feeney will compete with Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten on defense, but he’s unlikely to be an upgrade. GM Joe Douglas hasn’t finished the job yet. There’s not much left of Free Agency, so expect him to come in the first three rounds, preferably as a guard. Mehi Becton is a potential star at left tackle, but he needs help. An upgrade in center Connor McGovern would be a good start.

Biggest question to answer: Everyone knows this: Who’s playing quarterback? It probably won’t be Sam Darnold, whose days in New York are numbered. He will be replaced by BYU’s Zach Wilson, likely the Jets’ second-round pick. Once they fix that, the Jets need to find a QB2, either through free agency or trade. — Rich Cimini.



Jamison Hensley derails the Ravens’ contract of offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler.

AFC North

Marquis Signature: Kevin Zeitler, G; Sammy Watkins, WR.

Off-season destinations: The Ravens wanted to improve the supporting cast around quarterback Lamar Jackson, and they did so with mixed results. Baltimore wanted to improve the blocking for Jackson, and the Ravens achieved their main goal on the first day of the free contract. Zeitler, one of the best guards in free agency, helps fill the one-year void left by Marshall Yanda, who retired after the 2019 season. The veteran receiver’s pursuit didn’t go so well. Baltimore ultimately chose Watkins after JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.Y. Hilton turned down their offers. Watkins is a step above Willie Snead, but he has to prove he can stay healthy.

Biggest question to answer: Who’s dealing with the smugglers? In free agency, the Ravens lost two of the best young pass rushers in the NFL, Matthew Judon (to the Patriots) and Yannick Ngakoue (to the Raiders). Baltimore was able to maintain continuity at outside linebacker with the acquisitions of Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee. But Bowser is known for his pass coverage, and McPhee is one of the best defenders on the team. To fill the need for edge rushers, the Ravens should contract one of their top free agents (Melvin Ingram III, Justin Houston or Jadeveon Clowney) and recruit an outside linebacker in the first two rounds. — Jamison Hensley

Marquis Signature: Trey Hendrickson, DE; Mike Hilton, QB; Riley Reiff, OT; Chidobi Awuzi, QB; Larry Ogunjobi, DT.

Off-season destinations: The Bengals needed a big push to get closer to the end of the current rebuilding cycle. Cincinnati has some great recruits in Hendrickson, Hilton and Avuzi. But Cincinnati has replaced its starters, and it remains to be seen if the new acquisitions will be an improvement. The addition of Ogunjobi and Rafe brought their Free Agency period from neutral or slightly negative to somewhat positive. Reiff gives the Bengals some flexibility on the offensive line as Cincinnati approaches the draft and the crucial No. 5 pick. When Cincinnati Penaeus drafts Shiwell, Rafe gives them the option of using Shiwell as a guard his freshman year or using him as a right tackle.

Biggest question to answer: The middle of the offensive line, particularly the two guard positions, remains a big question mark. Aside from re-contracting Quinton Spain, a 2020 addition, the Bengals have not contracted any other offensive players. This could indicate an increase in confidence in the current team with assistant Frank Pollack. However, Cincinnati can count on its pass defense after second-year quarterback Joe Burrow recovered from a serious knee injury. Cincinnati is still looking for long-term options at the guard position. — Ben Baby

Marquis Signature: John Johnson III, S; Tucker McKinley, DE; Troy Hill, CB; Anthony Walker, LB; Malik Jackson, DT.

Off-season destinations: Cleveland’s priority this season was to strengthen the defense around All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett. The Browns did that by contracting Johnson, arguably the best safety on the market, before bringing in McKinley as Garrett’s counterpart. Johnson’s instincts, versatility and leadership should anchor the second. The Browns see McKinley’s strength as an ideal complement to Garrett’s speed. Garrett’s speed on the perimeter forces the opposing quarterback to move into the pocket; McKinley’s strength collapses the pocket on the other side. But for this theory to work, McKinley must regain his focus and his health.

Biggest question to answer: With McKinley barely playing last year, the defensive line is still a question mark. The Browns also failed to increase the speed and athletic ability of the linebackers by letting 2020 starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell leave in free agency. The Browns will have to address those needs in the draft, starting with the number 26, who will undoubtedly be a defensive back. With the arrival of Johnson, the Browns’ defense has improved, but probably not enough to consider Cleveland a serious contender for the Super Bowl. — Jake Trotter

Marquis Signature: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR; Cam Sutton, CB; Tyson Alualu, NT

Off-season destinations: The Steelers’ main goal is to return to Pittsburgh’s method of anchoring the offense with a strong, physical running game, something that has been lacking the past two seasons. James Conner is gone, and the team did not contract him in free agency, leaving room for the NFL Draft. If you pick 24th in the first round, you have plenty of opportunities to pick a top running back like Najee Harris or Javonte Williams. But if they wait, there are second or third round options like Michael Carter that could add to the back of the roster. In addition to selecting a running back, the team must also find better protection for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at center or left guard, another option for their first-round pick.

Biggest question to answer: When will the Steelers sign T.J. Watt to a huge extension? Team owner Art Rooney II said in a recent conversation with fans that retaining Watt was a high priority, suggesting that the expansion could come sooner than expected. There will be a big baseball meat grinder in Free Agency next year, but the Steelers won’t let that happen. On a team that still has a lot of questions, one of the most immediate is how to structure and plan Watt’s extensions to preserve the cornerstone of the defense long term. — Brooke Pryor.

AFC Zuid

Marquis Signature: Bradley Robey, QB; Randall Cobb, WR; Phillip Lindsey, RB; Tyrod Taylor, QB; Desmond King, CB.

Off-season destinations: One of the goals of the Texans offseason is to find a way to build a competitive team despite not being drafted in the first two rounds and entering the offseason with more than $20 million above the 2021 salary cap. General manager Nick Caserio began the process by declaring after the start of the league year on the 17th. In March, more than 30 players joined via free players and trades. Houston still has a long way to go to improve on its four-game winning streak in 2020, but at least Caserio has created a lot of competition for the offseason program and training camp by signing many players to cheap one- and two-year deals.

Biggest question to answer: Who will be the starting quarterback for Texas in Week 1? Deshaun Watson requested the deal in January, putting pressure on Caserio in his first offseason as Houston’s general manager. That decision took a huge turn in March when 19 women filed a civil lawsuit against Watson, accusing him of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault by the Texans quarterback. The lawsuit is not expected to end soon, and Watson will likely be suspended by the NFL while it begins to investigate the situation. The Texans agreed to 16. Mars had a deal with Taylor hours before the first lawsuit was filed against Watson. Houston has since also traded quarterback Ryan Finley to give the team another option at that position. -Sarah Bar Shop

Marquis Signature: T.J. Hilton, WR; Marlon Mack, RB; Xavier Rhodes, CB; Sam Tavy, OL; Isaac Rochell, DL.

Off-season destinations: The best way to describe the Colts’ free agency right now: boring. And it’s boring, although the starting quarterback and left tackle should be found and other pieces of the defensive line and receivers should be added. But that shouldn’t be surprising, because that’s how general manager Chris Ballard has operated every year since he was hired in 2017. The Colts missed the free market by targeting the quarterback position instead of acquiring Carson Wentz in a trade. Two other key moves were the re-contracting of Hilton, 31, and Mack, who tore his Achilles tendon in 2020.

Biggest question to answer: Who will start at left tackle, and where will the pass rush begin? Anthony Castonzo’s retirement in January left a void in an offensive line that was among the best in the NFL in recent years. Owner Jim Irsay recently indicated that they were looking at the draft to find their future left tackle. Another option, which the Colts would rather avoid, is to move Quenton Nelson from fullback to left guard. Defensive lineman Denico Autry has signed with AFC South affiliate Tennessee, and veteran Justin Houston remains unsigned. That’s a total of 15.5 sacks that are gone or could go away in free agency. — Mike Wells

Marquis Signature: Shaquille Griffin, CB; Marvin Jones Jr, WR; Roy Robertson-Harris, DT.

Off-season destinations: Coach Urban Meyer said the Jaguars want to rebuild on the defensive line and tight end. The Jaguars have made a good start in goal with the recruitment of Robertson-Harris and linebacker Jihad Ward and the trade of nose tackle Malcom Brown. The loss of linebacker Tyson Alualu, who agreed to a contract but was later traded to Pittsburgh, is annoying, but the Jaguars also re-contracted linebacker Davuan Smoot and Adam Gotsis, two of their best defenders from last season. At tight end, the Jaguars drafted blocker Chris Manhertz and re-contracted James O’Shaughnessy, who had 80 catches in four years with the Jaguars, but Meyer said there is still work to be done in that area.

The biggest question to answer: The Jaguars will take the quarterback with the first pick. …. Meyer said it was Trevor Lawrence….. So what can they do to get help from him? Signing Jones was a big step, but Meyer wants to add speed at receiver and running back. They also signed wide receiver Phillip Dorsett but did not give him guaranteed money, so expect the team to focus on speedy receivers and running backs in the draft. In addition, the Jaguars need a tight end who can be a factor in the passing game. Tyler Bowen, the Jaguars tight ends coach, coached at Penn State. So former Nittany Lion Pat Friermuth is a name to keep an eye on. -Michael DiRocco

Marquis Signature: Bud Dupree, OLB; Janoris Jenkins, CB; Denico Autry, DL; Josh Reynolds, WR.

Off-season destinations: One of the Titans’ top priorities is maintaining their pass rush after 19 sacks last season. So the Titans wanted to make some changes in the backfield and clean up expensive contracts. Offensively, Tennessee knew it would likely lose receiver Corey Davis and free agent Johnna Smith. The loss of the two best receivers from last season left a void at wide receiver and tight end that had to be filled with little playing time.

Biggest question to answer: There are still question marks here. Both starting cornerbacks from last season are gone after the team fired Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson. Jenkins will take one of the starting spots. The other spot will be occupied by a group led by cornerback Christian Fulton and veteran Kevin Johnson. There is also a void at cornerback after the Titans did not re-contract Desmond King. The Titans also don’t have a solid tight end starter to replace Smith, so they will rely on committee. The literature will also search for a rubber receiver. — Turron Davenport

AFC West

Marquis Signature: Justin Simmons, safety; Shelby Harris, DE; Kyle Fuller, CB; Ronald Darby, CB; Kareem Jackson, S; Mike Boone, RB.

Off-season destinations: The Broncos defense needed reinforcement after losing five cornerbacks in three weeks last season (four due to injury, one due to suspension). Bryce Callahan has also missed 22 games over the past two seasons combined. The Broncos spent the most money at this position by giving Simmons long-term guarantees and adding Darby and Fuller. They also exercised an option on linebacker Von Miller’s contract and brought back Jackson. General manager George Paton said he needs a defense that can fight and cover. If the Broncos stay healthy, their defense can get it done.

Biggest question to answer: Broncos say they like quarterback Drew Locke – Paton went so far in recent weeks as to say we’re glad we have a quarterback, when asked if we could add another. But the draft version will show whether it was written with Sharpie or not. If they don’t try to move up and stay at #9 in the first round, the quarterbacks who can start in 2021 are no longer on board, and any quarterback they choose will be competing with Lock. Even if they contract an experienced quarterback late in free agency or after the draft, the Broncos believe Lock is the best option for 2021. -Jeff Legwold



Marcus Spears and Mina Kimes react to the signing of former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Tooney to the Chiefs.

Marquis Signature: Joe Tooney, G; Kyle Long, G; Jarran Reed, DT.

Off-season destinations: The Chiefs needed to rebuild an offensive line that fell apart late last season and was a major problem in the Super Bowl LV loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They addressed the problem in the first few days of the free contract, hiring Thuney and Long, but the work is ongoing. They still have holes at left back and center in the starting lineup. The Chiefs haven’t invested much in the form of free agents or draft picks, so the arrival of Tuni and Long was to be expected. Reed should give the Chiefs a strong pass-rush combination on the inside, paired with Chris Jones.

Biggest question to answer: Who is their number two receiver? The Chiefs, with free agent Sammy Watkins, tried to contract several wide receivers, including JuJu Smith-Schuster. It seems they are not happy with their options behind their #1 wideout, Tyreek Hill. Mecol Hardman is next on the list, but his inconsistency does not inspire confidence in his ability to handle the role. Last year, the Chiefs refused to give him more playing time when Watkins was injured. If the Chiefs can’t find a good receiver in the rest of free agency, they should look for him in the first rounds. — Adam Thacher.

1 Connected

Marquis Signature: Yannick Ngakoue, WA; John Brown, RI; Willie Snead IV, RI; Quinton Jefferson, RI; Solomon Thomas, RI; Kenyan Drake, RI; Nick Martin, C; Matt Dickerson, RI; Darius Fallon, RI.

Off-season destinations: The Raiders needed to address their wretched defense and add some pieces to an explosive offense. Who knew Las Vegas would also have to rebuild its expensive offensive line? After trading right tackle Trent Brown, right guard Gabe Jackson and center Rodney Hudson (the Raiders also cut left guard Richie Incognito before re-contracting him), the goal was changed for a while. At least they re-contracted versatile fullback Denzel Good. The Raiders saved money by changing the O-line, but at what cost? Adding numbers to the defensive front seven was also a counter objective, and Ngakoue is an elite buzzkill, which can only benefit the continued development of Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.

Biggest question to answer: What about the veterans needed in the secondary in general and at the free safety position in particular? The Raiders desperately need the veteran to help young cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnett, as well as safety Jonathan Abram, understand the nuances of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme and become a professional. What’s going on with Richard Sherman? Just kidding. More or less. But it’s not funny: Are the Raiders happy with Jeff Heath and Dallin Levitt as the two free safeties? Overall, the development of a number 17 security would be intriguing, but also counterproductive to an already young unit that in turn desperately needs experienced leadership behind it. — Paul Gutierrez

Marquis Signature: Corey Linsley, C.; Matt Filer, L.G.; Odai Abushi, G..

Off-season destinations: The targets of the season should be healthy – at all positions. Running back Austin Ekeler is recovering from a gruesome hip injury and safety Derwin James should be close to 100% after missing the season with a torn meniscus. The young safety showed incredible promise in his first year. Also, Justin Herbert now has to learn another move (with many of his ideas mixed in with those of Joe Lombardi’s OC).

Biggest question to answer: The biggest problem will be the special teams. They brought back kicker Michael Badgley, who was struggling until the final four plays when he scored a field goal to win the game. But he’ll have a competitor in Tristan Vizcaino, recently acquired from the 49ers. They have a new coordinator in Derius Swinton, who joins Lombardi and defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill at Brandon Staley State. They are young and energetic; now we will see how they fit together. – Shelley Smith

NFC East

Marquis Signature: Keanu Neal, S; Damonte Kazee, S; Tarell Basham, LB; Brent Urban, DE; Ty Nsekhe, OT; Jake McQuaid, LS.

Off-season destinations: The main goal was to get quarterback Dak Prescott to sign a long-term contract, which he did before the free agent contract began, ending a three-year odyssey. The rest of the goal was to play on a defense that needs a lot of help. They did it in bulk, but without paying a huge sum of money. Basham has the highest salary of the eight signees at $2.5 million. Neal could have the biggest impact, as he needs a secondary role as a hybrid safety/linebacker. If Kaze is healthy, the Cowboys will have another player who knows what defensive coordinator Dan Quinn wants and has proven he can catch the ball (seven interceptions in 2018).

Biggest question to answer: The Cowboys may have added quantity in Free Agency with eight contracts, but did they add quality? They decided not to make any new flashy signatures. Will these additions affect the balance of the division or the conference? None of them will put the Cowboys at a specific position in the draft; but cornerback and linebacker top the list (by the numbers alone), while they certainly need pass-rush help and bigger interior defensive linemen. With 10 draft picks, the Cowboys can target specific players and move up after the first round or build their team with all players selected. — Todd Archer

Marquis Signature: Leonard Williams, DL; Kenny Golladay, WR; Adoree Jackson, CB.

Off-season destinations: The Giants needed a No. 1 wide receiver and/or edge rusher as a backup to quarterback Daniel Jones. They came about when Leonard Floyd decided to stay with the Rams. They went to receiver, where they signed a big contract with Galladay. Getting cornerbacks of Jackson’s caliber was a bonus. The Giants filled the holes at WR1, CB2, backup quarterback and added depth at tight end. Not a bad freebie.

Biggest question to answer: Edge rusher continues to be a major need for the Giants. The offensive line is also a big question mark. Can the Giants protect Jones enough to reap the benefits of contracting Galladay, tight end Kyle Rudolph and the rest of the running back corps? At least the fact that it’s free gives them some flexibility in planning a possible solution to this problem. If not with pick 11, then maybe in the first three rounds. — Jordan Ranan

Canopy signature: Anthony Harris, S.

Off-season destinations: After trading Carson Wentz, the Eagles were expected to fill the quarterback position and they took a step in that direction by giving Joe Flacco a one-year contract. He’s an experienced player for likely starter Jalen Hurts. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is expected to pay close attention to the secondary, which needs improvement at several positions. With Harris (one year, $5 million), Gannon has a proven playmaker who can be used at multiple positions. Harris played under Gannon at Minnesota. This should ensure a smooth transition to his system.

Biggest question to answer: Who is going to lose the corner to Darius Slay? The good news for the Eagles is that there are a number of notable free agents who are not yet under contract, including A.J. Bouye, Stephen Nelson and Casey Hayward. You should be able to find a quality player at a good price. They could also use a 12th cornerback like Jaycee Horn of South Carolina. Philadelphia needs to add a third quarterback. Kyle Trask of Florida makes sense as a supervisor. — Tim McManus.

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Marquis Signature: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB; William Jackson III, QB; Curtis Samuel, WR; Adam Humphries, WR.

Off-season destinations: Add to that an experienced starting quarterback and great speed among the receivers. They gave Fitzpatrick the starting quarterback job, which gave them an experienced passer who may be playing the best football of his career. And they have satisfied their desire for speed by contracting the versatile Samuel. They also retained Brandon Scherff, but they needed a franchise tag for that. They had hoped to re-contract cornerback Ronald Darby, but by not doing so, they found the best available cornerback in Jackson.

Biggest question to answer: Who is the quarterback of the future? The man isn’t on the roster yet, and there’s no doubt Washington will consider selecting him later this month; he doesn’t think he should be picked in the first round. While Taylor Heinicke was a good story for his one start, it’s hardly enough to take him out of the league for two years and allow him to play a significant role in the future. They have a wait-and-see attitude towards him and Kyle Allen. But they would like to add someone who they think has much more potential and who can learn from Fitzpatrick as well. — John Keim.

NFC North

Marquis Signature: Andy Dalton, QB; Desmond Trufant, QB; Damien Williams, RB.

Off-season destinations: Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. The Bears are under tremendous pressure to resolve a quarterback situation that hasn’t been resolved in over 70 years. After weeks of trade rumors surrounding Seattle’s Russell Wilson, the Bears chose veteran Andy Dalton, much to the chagrin of an already enthusiastic fan base. The Bears doubled down even more by naming Dalton as their starter for 2021, but that doesn’t bother the Chicago quarterback. With the 20. The Bears will have to get creative if they want a top 5 quarterback. But they have to do something. Going into next season with just Dalton and veteran Nick Foles seems unlikely and unreasonable. Stay with us.

Biggest question to answer: That’s it. What are bears? Without a viable quarterback, how can Chicago overtake Green Bay in the NFC North? The defense is relatively strong, but the loss of cornerback Kyle Fuller (cap) was an unfortunate coincidence. But it all comes back to the attack. The Bears need drastic improvement on that side of the ball. Retaining top receiver Allen Robinson (via franchise tag) helps, as does attracting veteran running back Damien Williams, but the Bears have question marks at other receiver positions and on the offensive line (right tackle) that need to be resolved. — Jeff Dickerson

Marquis Signature: Romeo Okwara, DE; Tyrell Williams, R.R.; Breshad Perriman, R.R.; Jamaal Williams, R.B.; Charles Harris, EDGE; Randy Bullock, C.; Alex Anzalone, L.B.

Off-season destinations: The Lions are still looking for linebackers, defensive backs, receivers and draft picks. Detroit did several things in free agency, including making Okwara reserve for years, while the two biggest acquisitions (defensive lineman Michael Brockers and quarterback Jared Goff) came via trade. And then there’s new general manager Brad Holmes, who in theory shines more like a former college recruiter: the draft. He has the 7th pick and has a lot of problems to solve as the team tries to recover from three losses in a row.

Biggest question to answer: It’s hard to pick a theme because there are so many on the Detroit list. In answer to the question, what made us wait? a puzzling question from former CEO Bob Quinn. In the short term, Detroit is wondering what the linebacker corps looks like and who the receivers are that they can build around in the future. The long-term question of whether Jared Goff is the quarterback won’t be answered for another year. — Michael Rothstein



Marcus Spears advises the Packers to consider the future of Aaron Rodgers.

Marquis Signature: Aaron Jones, RB; Marcedes Lewis, TE; Kevin King, CB.

Off-season destinations: Figure out how to get past the NFC title game after losing a game other than the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. General manager Brian Gutekunst said this specifically during the off-season: The important thing is that we get to a point where we play well in this championship game. We had a couple of games where we didn’t play at our level. Gutekunst knew he wouldn’t be able to make many big acquisitions in Free Agency given the tight salary cap (especially if he re-contracted Jones), so in a way his announcement was a challenge to the players and coaches to do it at the most important time.

Biggest question to answer: What is quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ long-term future with the team? When the Packers didn’t rework Rodgers’ contract before signing him on March 19 to pay his $6.8 million bonus, it raised questions again: Do they plan to continue after this season? If not, why not shift some of Rodgers’ roster bonuses to future limits by converting them to signing bonuses? It’s possible they are working on a major restructuring or expansion, but until that happens, it will be hard to say for sure if Rodgers has a future in Green Bay after the 2021 season. — Rob Demovsky

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Marquis Signature: Delvin Tomlinson, DT; Patrick Peterson, CB; McKancy Alexander, CB; Xavier Woods, S.

Off-season destinations: After a year ranked 29th in points scored and 27th in yards allowed, the Vikings have turned to defense to address their biggest problems. Minnesota went from an inexperienced unit without much depth to a defensive end with flexibility and options at multiple positions with the additions of Peterson, Alexander (who was previously Minnesota’s starting nickel corner) and Woods, a promising young plus safety. Coach Mike Zimmer has addressed his team’s biggest weakness to get them back to the playoffs in 2021. He thinks the offense (without a few plays here and there) can stand on its own if the defense can do its job.

Biggest question to answer: How will the Vikings approach the offense through the remaining free agency and draft? Minnesota had problems with its interior pass defense last season and won’t be able to solve those problems by relying on backup players to fill key roles. The Vikings should get a starter-caliber left tackle (or guard) if they don’t think Rashod Hill and Mason Cole are capable of starting. Minnesota also needs to find the #3 wide receiver in the draft. With the team’s focus on defense in Free Agency, the offense should be a priority in April. — Courtney Cronin

NFC South

Marquis Signature: Mike Davis, RB; Eric Harris, S; Brandon Copeland, LB; Barkaviv Mingo, LB; Fabian Moreau, QB; Lee Smith, TE; Younghu Ku, K.

Off-season destinations: The Falcons could have made an impact in free agency given the difficult cap situation and commitments from the likes of. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Grady Jarrett don’t do much, so a one-year contract would probably be the answer to that question. And in that regard, General Manager Terry Fontenot has achieved that goal. This will be the beginning of the process in Atlanta, and it made sense for the Falcons to not make many long-term commitments while they try to figure things out.

Biggest question to answer: Will the Falcons take a quarterback at the fourth position? The trade rumors that move San Francisco to third suggest that the Falcons will have a choice between a fourth quarterback (Justin Fields or Trey Lance?) or the best non-quarterback available on the market. How Fontenot handles this issue could say a lot about the Falcons’ short- and long-term future, and should be the focus of the Falcons’ front office and coaching staff next month before draft day. — Michael Rothstein

Marquis Signature: Haason Reddick, OLB-DE; Morgan Fox, DT-DE; Pat Elflein, OG-C; Cam Erving, OT; LB Denzel Perryman, MLB; Dan Arnold, TE.

Off-season destinations: To improve the quarterback rating after Teddy Bridgewater’s disappointing 2020, the offensive line needs to rebuild, find a pass interception threat at tight end, improve the pass rush and find a cornerback to shut down. The offensive line has been revamped, although free contractors Erving and Elflein could be considered projects at left tackle and left guard. Contracting right guard Taylor Moton and re-contracting right guard John Miller were good moves. The addition of Hason Reddick (12.5 sacks in 2020 at Arizona) has been huge for the pass rush. He gives defensive coordinator Phil Snow the freedom to be multi-dimensional with his schemes. Arnold is just a slight improvement on the tight side.

Biggest question to answer: Updated the quarterback position and added a starting cornerback. Carolina tried to trade him for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but to no avail. San Francisco has scaled back its options to No. 3 and is negotiating with Miami, presumably for a quarterback. If Trevor Lawrence becomes the #1 pick in Jacksonville, that means the first three or four options could be quarterbacks, so getting one of the best players at #8 makes it uncertain. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin’s contract looks like a band-aid, not a big one. — David Newton

Marquis Signature: Marcus Williams, S (franchise tag); Jameis Winston, QB; P.J. Williams, DB; Nick Vannett, TE; James Hurst, OL; Alex Arma, FB. Tano Kpassagnon, DE.

Off-season destinations: Unfortunately, the Saints’ goal was to get under the salary cap. With the loss of quarterback Drew Brees retiring and the release or sale of several second- and third-rounders, they lost more than $110 million. It should be noted, however, that the Saints chose to keep all of their top talent rather than rebuild. They didn’t trade any of their most expensive players and gave Williams the franchise tag. They also re-contracted Winston to compete with Taysom Hill for the team’s top job.

Biggest question to answer: Quarterback is the obvious choice, as the Saints must name a starter for the first time in 15 years. With Winston and Hill as two interesting candidates, they’re in good shape, and they probably don’t have enough safeties to get a clear upgrade via a trade or draft. But they will at least consider all options, as the position is vital. The second big question is whether they can add the depth they’ve lost with guys like linebacker Trey Hendrickson, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive backs Malcom Brown and Sheldon Rankins. They filled a couple of corners with free agents, but there was little room left at the ceiling. — Mike Triplett

Marquis Signature: Lavonte David, ILB; Shaq Barrett, OLB; Rob Gronkowski, TE; Ndamukong Suh, DL; Leonard Fournette RB; Ryan Succop, K; Rakim Nunez-Rochet, DL; Kevin Minter, ILB; Josh Wells, OT; Aaron Stinney, OL

Off-season destinations: Bucs general manager Jason Licht and coach Bruce Arians promised to do everything in their power to keep the group together, and they did: The Bucs have all 22 starters from their Super Bowl LV victory back, both on offense and defense. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time this has happened in the salary cap era (since 1994). They were able to do that by extending quarterback Tom Brady’s contract and letting tackle Donovan Smith go, freeing up $29.65 million, plus the money created by using termination years on all contracts – something the Bucs didn’t use earlier in the contracts to manage football executive Mike Greenberg’s work schedule. So far, they have only lost two players to other teams: Linebacker Andrew Adams and offensive lineman Joe Hag.

Largest question to answer: Will Antonio Brown return? He’s the only non-key agent who hasn’t re-signed. The Bucks already pay two No. 1 wide receivers – a rarity in the NFL. Mike Evans counts against the salary cap at $16.64 million in 2021 and Chris Godwin, who will play for the franchise, at $15.98 million. The market for broadband receivers has been slow to develop. It’s also clear that other teams are wary of contracting Brown. He is on probation for assaulting a delivery driver a year ago and faces a civil trial for alleged sexual assault, the trial of which has been postponed from 2020 to 2021. The Bucs have praised Brown as a person and teammate, but both sides need money. — Jenna Lane.

NFC West



Ryan Clark explains why he thinks A.J. Green would be a great asset to the Cardinals’ offense.

Marquis Signature: J.J. Watt, DE; A.J. Green, WR; Malcolm Butler, CB; Matt Prater, K.

Off-season destinations: The Cardinals needed to strengthen their receiving corps and find the No. 1 cornerback, which they did by contracting Green and Butler. But the goal of the offseason was to become good enough to make the playoffs, of which they won only once last year. The acquisitions of Green, Butler, Watt and Prater should be enough to get the Cardinals over the proverbial top and into the postseason. The Cardinals’ offense has been unyielding, if not stagnant, in the second half of the season, so the Green should be a force to be reckoned with. Adding Watt to the defense wasn’t a necessity, as at other positions, but it gives the Cardinals the same offensive strength they have in the NFL. And Prater could be a veteran kicker who can make the difference between winning and losing, the difference between making the playoffs and staying home.

Biggest question to answer: Why didn’t Arizona target young free agents? The answer is probably that the former free agents they signed were willing to sign a one-year deal for the 2021 season with the cap reduction. But the other question is whether the names of the free agents they signed – Watt, Green, Butler and Prater – are too old. They’re all in their 30s. And while Arizona hasn’t signed a contract with any of them in over two years, the possibility that their bodies will begin to falter or deteriorate further this season should be a major concern. — Josh Weinfuss

Marquis Signature: Matthew Stafford, QB (trade); Leonard Floyd, OLB; DeSean Jackson, WR.

Off-season destinations: The Rams entered the offseason looking to revitalize an offense whose production faltered the past two seasons and maintain their presence on the front lines of the 2020 defense. Both objectives have been achieved. The Rams traded him for Stafford, who was in his 13th season. He signed Jackson to become the deep threat that the 2020 offense lacked. After a record 10.5 sacks last season, Floyd returns on a four-year contract and anchors at least one side of the pass rush.

Largest question to answer: What’s the solution in the middle? Austin Blythe remains a free agent after playing center in 2020 and seven games in 2019, making Brian Allen the only center on the roster with experience. Allen started nine games in 2019 before suffering a knee injury that ended the season, and questions remain about his health going forward. What we don’t necessarily know about Brian is how he’s going to play, how he’s going to play after his injury,? General manager Les Snead said earlier this month. It was a pretty serious injury he suffered, and he’s had a great rehab. Coleman Shelton can also play center, but he has no experience at that position. — Lindsay Tyree

Marquis Signature: Trent Williams, LT; Kyle Juszczyk, FB; Jason Verrett, CB; K’Vaughn Williams, CB; Alex Mack, CB.

Off-season destinations: The 49ers’ main goal in the transition to free agency was to keep their own key free agents and determine how they would rebuild their quarterback. They both did it in a solid way. Retaining Trent Williams was the domino that toppled all others, as the Niners benefited from the cap hit of mid-range free agents and retained many of their own players. The Niners also made a deal to change the franchise to No. 3 to get their quarterback in the future.

The biggest question to answer: Which quarterback will the Niners focus on and what does that mean for Jimmy Garoppolo? If BYU’s Zach Wilson slides to third, the Niners should go for him, but if not, there’s a tough choice between Trey Lance, Mack Jones and Justin Fields. All three could probably use a year off, and since the Niners believe they can be competitive again in 2021, they could keep Garoppolo for another year. Of course, the Niners’ loyalty to Garoppolo doesn’t extend beyond the best deal they can get for him, so there’s no absolute deadline yet. These are decisions that will affect the organization, not just this season, but for years to come. — Nick Wagoner

Marquis Signature: Gerald Everett, TE; Gabe Jackson, G (exchange); Akello Witherspoon, CB; Kerry Hyder, DE; Chris Carson, RB; Carlos Dunlap, DE; Benson Mayowa, DE; Poon Ford, DT; Ethan Posick, C; Jordan Simmons, G; Cedric Ogbuehi, T; Nick Bellore, FB.

Off-season destinations: Quarterback Russell Wilson’s complaints about his pass protection have drawn the Seahawks’ attention to free agency. Trading Jackson and contracting Everett are steps they could have taken even without Wilson’s public pressure, but those additions helped ease tensions between the organization and its frustrated quarterback. Jackson was an expensive acquisition, but general manager John Schneider got reasonable contracts for Dunlap and Carson in anticipation of their deals. He also brought back Mayowa and added Hyder to the team’s terms, giving the Seahawks three picks for what it would have cost them for Dunlap if they had kept him to the old contract. The Seahawks pass rush seems to be underway now, at least at the rim. They’ll miss Jarran Reid in the middle after they release him for the judge cap.

Biggest question to answer: What will Wilson’s situation be like? Wilson and the Seahawks seem to be in a better position than they were before Free Agency started. He liked some of their additions to the offense and had a positive conversation with coach Pete Carroll. He did his best to convince Carson to re-sign and then publicly celebrated his return and several other signings in Seattle, giving the impression of being a player fully committed to the game. But this is not a situation that can be completely remedied by a few mid-season changes. And while Jackson will help the Seahawks’ passing defense, he’s not the only player they need on the offensive line. Expect them to keep looking for someone who can compete with Pocic as a center, whose $3 million contract suggests he’s not necessarily destined to be a starter. They also need a third receiver and a strong linebacker without the signing of C.J. Wright. — Brady Henderson.

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