NFL offseason questions: a trade for No 1 and Russell Wilson’s future

Will the Bears trade the No. 1 overall pick?

What the Bears do with the top pick in the draft is the pivotal point of the offseason. They have three options:

  • They can take Caleb Williams, the best quarterback in the class, and trade Justin Fields

  • They can trade the pick and stick with Fields

  • They can draft Williams and to hold Fields

From a team building perspective, the third option makes sense. It gives the Bears two rolls on the franchise quarterback dartboard, or at least for Williams to work in the background until he’s ready to replace Fields as the starter. But once you add feelings, contracts and agents into the mix, things get tricky. If Chicago chooses Williams, they will be operating on a new timeline and will look to get the most value out of Fields in a down year for the available quarterbacks. If they attack Williams in favor of a wealth of picks, they will be firmly entrenched in win-now mode, with an extension of Fields looming.

The decision will come soon. We’re approaching Chicago’s anniversary, giving away last year’s top pick to a slew of selections, including the pick that ended up being the No. 1 pick in this year’s class. Reports suggest that if the Bears choose to go the Williams route, they will too would try to reach a deal earlyTrading Fields before Free Agency opens on March 13.

It’s hard to imagine the Bears falling out of first place two years in a row. There are subtle signs of progress from Fields, but not enough to pass on Williams.

Where will the big free-agent running back end up?

We’re a year removed from the sky-is-fall discourse surrounding running backs and their contracts. But we also just experienced a season where running the ball was as valuable as it has been in recent seasons – and where Christian McCaffrey beat the drum as the foundation for a championship-caliber offense.

This year’s crop of free agents is a who’s who of the position’s biggest stars. Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Derrick Henry will be available. Further down the list are D’Andre Swift, Austin Ekeler and Gus Edwards.

Running back is the most interchangeable position in the league. And given the number of injuries, teams don’t want to concentrate a high percentage of their cap space on one guy, preferring instead to spread the cost or put their money into the offensive line, the group that makes a run game sing.

That makes sense. But in the in the midst of a salary cap increase, teams may be willing to shell out extra dollars to land the best players available. Who wouldn’t want to see Henry or Jacobs in the backfield with Lamar Jackson in Baltimore? What about the Chiefs’ Barkley?

Last year’s free-agent period presented a crisis point for the position. But if this If the group of runners fails to secure multi-year contracts with decent compensation, this will mark a new low.

Will Kirk Cousins ​​leave Minnesota free?

Kirk Cousins ​​would be an upgrade for many teams. Photo: Duane Burleson/AP

Cousins ​​is the best quarterback on the market this season despite tearing his Achilles tendon last year. He kept the Vikings’ offense afloat when Justin Jefferson missed time last season — finishing somewhere between the fifth and eighth most effective quarterback in the league. the dumbest stats in the league.

The top eight quarterbacks rarely, if ever, become available via free agency. When they do, it’s usually because they have an injury (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees) or they’re nearing retirement and are tired of their coach (Tom Brady).

Cousins ​​is only 35, a baby compared to some franchise-changing quarterbacks who have moved in recent seasons. You can scoff at Cousins’ place in the quarterback rankings or his performance in big games, but the market will still be plentiful this season. Cousins ​​would be an immediate upgrade for the playoff-hungry Falcons, Steelers, Raiders or Broncos.

When Cousins ​​was last a free agent, he earned a first of its kind, fully guaranteed three-year contract. Somehow, despite the injury, he might have even more influence this time around. With needy teams and a tight quarterback market, his contract could end up around $60 million per year.

Any Cousins ​​deal could be too rich for Minnesota’s tastes. Even with Cousins, the Vikings will likely be in the league’s mediocre wasteland: not good enough to get past the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, but too good to throw in the towel and tank. Their cleanest option is to re-sign Cousins ​​and bring it back to the NFL’s junior varsity conference, but they’ve already indicated they would unwilling to sign another fully guaranteed deal. If one or two more bidders push up the price, he will probably play elsewhere next season.

Does Russell Wilson have any juice left?

Wilson’s time in Denver was a disaster. It started with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs catching the eye and ended in embarrassment. There were a lot of on and off-field issues surrounding the relationship between Sean Payton and Wilson last season, and it deteriorated enough for the The Players’ Association is investigating.

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However, if Cousins ​​returns to Minnesota, Wilson will be the best available veteran quarterback. And there will be a market. Short of trading for Fields or striking gold in the draft, there are few opportunities for teams to upgrade at quarterback. The teams that take one last chance on a young quarterback — the Steelers, Raiders, maybe the Patriots — will most likely target Wilson as a steady hand who could still have some life left in his arm.

Can the Chiefs keep their defensive core?

Kansas City enters the offseason in an unprecedented position: They’re trying to sustain a 10-year, dynastic run while being within tantalizing reach of the league’s first-ever three-peat.

That raises a number of difficult questions. How are they going to rebuild their wide reception area? Is their offensive line good enough? Can they keep most of their star-laden defense intact while maintaining cap flexibility?

The Chiefs’ defense helped them through tough stretches last season. At the center of that were defensive lineman Chris Jones and All-Pro cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Both will be free agents in a few weeks. Keeping the pair will be expensive, and the team can only franchise one of them all signs indicate it will be Sneed.

No team in the league has been better at signing replacement-level players and getting them to play above their career average than the Chiefs. But Jones and Sneed represent something different. They are two impact pieces in the two most valuable spots on a defense.

Given their investment in Cornerback in recent years, the Chiefs probably could can live without Sneed for the long term, but not without lowering the 2024 cap. In cold financial terms, the Chiefs should let one player walk and reinvest his dollars into the roster. In emotional terms, they owe it to themselves to bring back two A-plus stars and try to win three in a row, even if they have to pay taxes in the coming years.

Who will be the biggest traded star?

The last few seasons have been dominated by trades: Aaron Rodgers to the Jets; AJ Brown to the Eagles; Davante Adams to the Raiders; Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. All were transformative, although some were more effective than others.

There will be a lot of big names up for grabs this season. The Vikings have already rejected a potential Jefferson trade. But if Cousins ​​walks away with free will, that could change the calculus. Tag and trade rumors continue to hang over Sneed (Chiefs), Tee Higgins (Bengals), Barkley (Giants) and a host of potential free agents.

Other names will also be available. The Bills could improve their cap position by trading away Stefon Diggs. The Saints (as always) need to shed some salary, which could make Alvin Kamara available. Sit in hell hellthe Chargers will have to cut or trade some of their star names, including Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and Mike Williams. The Broncos will likely dangle Jerry Jeudy into any discussion to move up in the draft and try to get one of the top quarterbacks. Adams appears settled in Vegas now that Antonio Pierce is the full-time head coach, but that could change if Rodgers and the Jets come calling.

However, the most impactful trade target could be Brandon Aiyuk. The Niners have yet to reach an agreement on a long-term extension with the receiver. “Brandon is a guy we want to keep for a long time,” Niners general manager John Lynch said at the combine. But San Francisco is paying the price for multiple deep playoff runs. They have handed out bumper contracts to Trent Williams, Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner and George Kittle over the past two seasons, while taking McCaffrey’s contract. Someone must be the odd one out.

A cap tree could help the Niners keep Aiyuk. But it will be difficult for San Francisco if the receiver wants to be paid at the highest level of the league ($25 million per year).