Last week, we talked about the 16 NFC teams, and today, we’ll talk about the AFC teams.

In some cases, it might not be the most important move of the whole offseason. For example, what the Bears do with the No. 1 overall pick might not be the most important move of the whole offseason. In many cases, this means figuring out how to deal with a complicated salary cap, keeping a key player, or deciding whether to let a player who has been with the team for a long time leave for another team.


Buffalo Bills

Get Jordan Poyer to agree to a new deal.

After a disappointing end to their season, the Bills have to decide on a few important things. They will probably restructure quarterback Josh Allen’s contract in order to get the $18.7 million they need to be under the salary cap. However, they have key players on both sides of the ball who are about to become free agents.

Even though running back Devin Singletary is a good player, the most important decisions will be made about the defense, where Poyer and Tremaine Edmunds are both unrestricted free agents. Buffalo already pays one safety (Micah Hyde) and one off-ball linebacker (Matt Milano), so it would be hard for the team to keep both of them for another season. Most likely, the Bills will bring back one of these two regular starters who have been with the team since Sean McDermott took over.

If the Bills can only have one, you could say that Edmunds is the better choice. At 24, Edmunds might still be playing his best football, while Poyer is 31. Edmunds just finished his best season, in which he only missed one tackle and gave up a career-best 69.9 passer rating while covering the pass. The team may have started to get back on track by putting together a strong duo with Hyde and Poyer, but Edmunds and Milano may now be its most important pair.

At the same time, Poyer has been such an important safety for the last six years. Edmunds has been much less stable. Last season, when Poyer wasn’t on the field, the Bills gave up an extra half-yard per pass attempt. This was a big difference, especially since he missed four games due to injury, two of which were against Kenny Pickett and Zach Wilson, who didn’t exactly throw the ball downfield.

Buffalo doesn’t really have anyone else on the team who can take Poyer’s place. Dean Marlowe is a free agent and mostly plays on special teams. Damar Hamlin’s NFL future is uncertain after he had a heart attack against the Bengals in January. Brandon Beane, the team’s general manager, used a third-round pick on Terrel Bernard last year. Bernard’s physical skills should help him fill in if Edmunds leaves. I’d like to see the league’s best safety duo play together for at least one more season now that Hyde is healthy again.

Miami Dolphins

Take Byron Jones out.

In the offseason of 2020, Miami went on a spending spree that didn’t work out. Edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah did well enough to get a new contract, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy, running back Jordan Howard, defensive end Shaq Lawson, and offensive lineman Ereck Flowers did not. Teams can change their rosters when they get a new manager, but this wasn’t even a new manager because the team didn’t fire Brian Flores and hire Mike McDaniel until after the 2021 season was over.

Jones was the most important player in that class. Miami hoped that Jones, Xavien Howard, and Noah Igbinoghene, who will be taken in the first round of the 2020 draft, would form a powerful big three at cornerback. It hasn’t gone as planned. Howard’s play has been good to great over that time, but Igbinoghene hasn’t become a player who can start, so his fifth-year option is probably about to be turned down.

Jones hasn’t lived up to expectations with the Dolphins. He switched from safety to corner and did well with the Cowboys. He never seemed to be comfortable playing for Flores, and in each of his first two seasons, he let the quarterback score just over 100. Then, in March 2022, he had surgery on his ankle. At the time, people thought the 30-year-old would be back for training camp, but he ended up missing the whole season. In a post on social media over the weekend, he said that because of his injuries, he “can’t run or jump.”

Before thinking about new contracts for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, tight end Mike Gesicki, and safety Eric Rowe, the Dolphins are $12.7 million over the salary cap for 2023. I don’t know if these players will come back, but with undrafted rookie Kader Kohou doing so well, I can’t see Jones coming back at his $18.4 million cap hold for 2023. If Jones was set to come out after June 1, 2023, $13.6 million would be freed up.

New England Patriots

Jakobi Meyers needs to come back.

The Patriots could change their group of receivers again during the offseason. Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, and Jonnu Smith, the tight end, could or probably will be cut because of the salary cap. Nelson Agholor is a free agent. He was the team’s most expensive wide receiver addition during the last round of changes. They will only bring back wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, who is in his second year, and tight end Hunter Henry.

The only free agent I’d like to see the player who was on the team before any of those other players come back. When given the chance to play, Meyers has always been New England’s best and most valuable receiver. In the last two seasons, he has averaged 1.81 yards per route run and been targeted on nearly 24% of his routes. This is better than Michael Pittman Jr., Mike Evans, Diontae Johnson, and Hunter Renfrow.

From the point of view of helping the quarterback, Mac Jones, who has been having trouble, Meyers’ presence has been a big help. Jones had an even 50 QBR in his first two seasons when Meyers was on the field. But Meyers’ QBR dropped to 30.7 when he wasn’t on the field. That’s the difference between being ranked 23rd in QBR over the past two seasons and finishing last, behind Davis Mills, Zach Wilson, and Baker Mayfield.

Meyers plays the position that the Patriots value, which is slot receiver. This is the same team that traded a second-round pick in 2007 to get Wes Welker when the future star wasn’t even a first-team receiver for the Dolphins, signed Danny Amendola in free agency in 2013, and tried to sign Adam Humphries for good money in 2019. New England also got Braxton Berrios with a sixth-round pick in 2018 and signed Meyers as an undrafted free agent in 2019. Both of these players have turned out to be good slot receivers. This is a spot the team can try to fill later in the draft or with a high-priority player who didn’t get picked. Eventually, the team will find a replacement.

Jones’s future is right now, and the Patriots need to put players around him who can help. Meyers will get a big pay raise during the offseason. Renfrow, another slot receiver, had a career year in the red zone in 2021 and signed a two-year, $32.3 million extension with the Raiders this past June. A deal with Meyers would probably cost about the same.

New York Jets

Trade for Aaron Rodgers.

Just do it. I’ve already given you the reasons. Since Ken O’Brien in the 1980s, the Jets haven’t had a quarterback have back-to-back good seasons at quarterback. By expected points added (EPA) per play from Week 3 on, they had the fourth-best defense in the league. Almost all of their most important defensive players are back. I don’t think their offense is as exciting as their fans think it is, but I think Gang Green would have made the playoffs if they had just started Joe Flacco over Zach Wilson all season.

Even though his 2023 cap hit in a trade would only be $15.7 million, Rodgers is still expensive. The Jets would have to pay him $108.7 million for the next two seasons or $129.6 million for the next three, by which time he would be 43. After winning MVP in 2020 and 2021, he had a frustrating 2022 season in which he was often just average. On paper, this was because he was playing with one of the worst receiving corps in the league.

Things wouldn’t be much easier because of the draft capital. It seems unlikely that the Jets would trade for Rodgers without giving up at least the No. 13 overall pick. Even though no team needs him more and is closer to the playoffs, there are enough teams waiting in the wings for the Packers to ask for a lot in return. Could it be the Commanders if it’s not the Jets? Who are they? Who are they? The Pirates? Some teams will look at what happened in Denver with Russell Wilson and wince, but they will always find a way to convince themselves to go after Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

New York might want to keep the draft picks and try to sign one of the other veterans instead. Derek Carr has never played with a defense as good as this one, and Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer were able to win Super Bowls with good defenses. Jimmy Garoppolo, who will also be a free agent, came within a quarter of joining that group in 2019. The ceiling of neither of these guys is as high as Rodgers’, but the Jets could use the No. 13 pick to add an offensive tackle or a defensive lineman and not lose much from Rodgers’ floor.

If Rodgers takes too long to decide whether or not to come back to the league, the Jets might have to take Carr to make sure they get the upgrade they need at the most important position. No matter what the Jets say about Wilson’s future with the team, they must have someone else at quarterback for Week 1. Rodgers is better than Carr, but Wilson can’t be the starter.

If Rodgers is ready to come back, they need to take action. It might need picks 13 and 74. I still think there’s a chance they can trade Wilson to a team that wants to develop a quarterback prospect, like the Jaguars and Cardinals did with Blaine Gabbert and Josh Rosen. Before making a deal, New York would probably have to turn some of Wilson’s roster bonuses into a signing bonus, but they might get a fourth- or fifth-round pick from a team that needs a backup quarterback.


Baltimore Ravens

Before using the franchise tag, you should have serious talks about trading Lamar Jackson.

This offseason, the Ravens won’t let Jackson leave for nothing in free agency. They would like to get a longer deal done right now, but the two sides reportedly aren’t close on a new contract, and the price tag for top quarterbacks is only going to go up as Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Jalen Hurts all sign extensions soon. Jackson is a smart guy who isn’t using an agent in these talks. He isn’t naive about where the market is going. What will change if the price goes up even more if Baltimore isn’t willing to make a deal now?

In that world, it’s inevitable that someone will leave. The Ravens won’t want to let Jackson leave for free, so they’ll have to use the franchise tag to keep him around in 2023. In 2024, they’ll have to make the same decision. By 2025, he would be too expensive to tag in any way, so the team would lose him for a third-round compensatory pick, just like the Commanders did with Kirk Cousins. To avoid this, Baltimore’s general manager Eric DeCosta should make a move before Jackson signs that second franchise tag in 2024. If Jackson signs that tag, Baltimore would lose all of its negotiating power right away.

Jackson missed the last five games of the season for the second year in a row because of a knee injury, but the Ravens have more power to trade him now than they would next year. Because of this, teams are likely to offer them more money this offseason than they will a year from now, when he will only be a year away from being able to sign with any team he wants.

Jackson will have to be put on the franchise tag by the Ravens, which could help set the terms of a possible deal. If DeCosta uses the exclusive tag, Jackson would make about $45 million in 2023 and $54 million the following year, but no team would be able to talk to him about a long-term deal. The non-exclusive tag, on the other hand, would cost $32.4 million for 2023 and $41.8 million for 2024, but Jackson could make deals with other groups. The Ravens could then either match that deal or get two picks in the first round in exchange.

Of course, not every first-round pick is the same, which makes Baltimore’s decision that much harder. If the Ravens don’t have a replacement for Jackson, getting the No. 29 overall pick and a 2024 first-rounder from the Saints or the No. 25 pick and a 2024 first-rounder from the Giants might not be a very exciting return for a 26-year-old former MVP. Aside from his strange trip to the Pro Bowl, Tyler Huntley has averaged 5.8 yards per attempt in 13 games over the past two seasons. Baltimore can sign a backup player in free agency, but the team doesn’t have a long-term replacement.

With this in mind, it makes sense for the Ravens to talk to teams in the top half of Round 1 about Jackson. Would the Falcons be willing to give up the eighth pick overall and a first-round pick in 2024? Would the Panthers at No. 9 or the Titans at No. 11 make a deal like this? Should the Ravens call Colts owner Jim Irsay about the No. 4 overall pick, put the phone on hold, and play a loop of Sam Ehlinger and Carson Wentz throwing interceptions until Irsay agrees? Even if those teams are only willing to offer a top-10 pick and a second-round pick in 2024, Baltimore might prefer those deals to getting two late first-round picks with the non-exclusive tag. Jackson would have to sign the tag for a trade to happen, but if both teams offered fully guaranteed deals, everyone could get what they want.

Cincinnati Bengals

Re-sign Jessie Bates.

Joe Burrow said that his chance to win a championship is his whole career, but things are about to get a lot tougher in Cincinnati. On their rookie contracts, Burrow, wide receivers Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase make a total of about $18.5 million per season. This offseason, Burrow and Higgins will get big pay raises, and Chase will do the same next year. Once these three contracts are signed, the three superstars will make close to $100 million a year between them. All three of them have earned their money, but the cost of doing business is about to go up a lot.

As a result, a defense built mostly on free agents will have to change. This offseason, four Bengals defensive starters are unrestricted free agents, and four more will be after the 2023 season. Many of these investments have paid off, and cornerbacks Eli Apple and Chidobe Awuzie are likely to get big raises when they become free agents. The Bengals can’t pay for all of those players to come back.

One player to pay special attention to, though, is Cincinnati’s best defensive player. Bates is the heart of the defense and is great at talking to people and defending the post. Bates is a must-have for a defense that likes to change its coverages and game plans more often than most other teams.

After a great postseason run in 2021, the Bengals were not able to sign Bates, so the team used the franchise tag. He did have some trouble during the regular season of 2021, but he did better during the 17-game season of 2022, when he picked off a career-high four passes. Apple and safety Vonn Bell are both free agents this offseason, so Bates would give the Bengals the stability they need on defense as they make changes. Last year, the Bengals used a first-round pick on safety Dax Hill. Hill is likely to become a starter in 2023. Hill can’t replace Bates and Bell both at the same time, though.

Cincinnati paid Bates $12.9 million for the franchise tag in 2022, and a second tag this offseason would cost them $15.5 million. Derwin James Jr.’s deal, which pays him a little more than $19 million per season, is the highest for a safety, but I don’t think Bates would get that on the open market. A compromise of $17 million per season seems like it would work for both sides, but the Bengals might prefer to let him go and use the money saved to keep two or three less important players instead.

Cleveland Browns

Create cap space.

The Browns don’t have a lot of options, so this isn’t the most exciting one. They’re over the salary cap for 2023 by $14,4 million and don’t have a first-round pick. Most of their free agents won’t be coming back. The only ones who might are linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., cornerback Greeey Williams, and running back D’Ernest Johnson. Kevin Stefanski’s team has 11 players whose cap hits are at least $5 million, and all of them are coming back in 2023.

The first thing that general manager Andrew Berry and the rest of the team will probably do during a quiet offseason is free up cap space. The most obvious place to start is with quarterback Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed contract. Watson was terrible when he came back from his suspension for breaking the NFL’s personal conduct policy by sexually assaulting massage therapists, as defined by the league. Watson’s base salary of $46 million is fully guaranteed, but the Browns can turn almost all of it into a bonus and add a year that they can get out of to make short-term cap space.

By doing this, they can free up more than $37 million and get well under the salary cap as they try to add defensive line help and roster depth through free agency. Given how much Watson makes and how his contract is set up, it’s likely that Cleveland will have to use this strategy in the years to come.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Cameron Sutton should be kept by letting go of several players.

The Steelers need to get rid of a few veterans to make room on their roster, while the Browns will restructure the contract of their quarterback to free up cap space. Pittsburgh is almost at the salary cap, so it can get rid of cornerbacks William Jackson III, Ahkello Witherspoon, and quarterback Mitch Trubisky to make room. With these three cuts, a little more than $24 million would be freed up. It has a lot of options if it wants to make more room for linebacker Myles Jack and offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, but it would be surprising if any of the three players mentioned before stayed on their current deals.

I think the Steelers should use the money they saved to bring back Sutton, who was their best cornerback last year. He was picked in the third round in 2017, but he didn’t start for good until his fifth year with the team. His best year was 2022. NFL Next Gen Stats says that as a cornerback, he gave up a passer rating of 56.7 as the closest defender in coverage. This was the fifth-best mark for corners who had at least 250 coverage snaps. The Steelers almost always played sides at corner, so Sutton didn’t have to chase down the top receivers for the other team. However, the 28-year-old did a great job on the right side of the defense.

Because Sutton’s career has gone in a different direction than most, it’s hard to tell what his market will be like, but we’ve seen corners with limited track records as above-average starters get paid in recent years. D.J. Reed signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Jets last offseason, which would be a good starting point for Sutton. However, I would expect Sutton’s new deal to be closer to $14 million per season, given how well he played last year and how much the salary cap has gone up. Since quarterback Kenny Pickett is in his second year and still on his rookie contract, the team should be able to afford a new deal for their best corner.


Houston Texans

Brandin Cooks should check out the trade market.

The Texans have hired a new coaching staff, and the No. 2 overall pick is expected to go to their future quarterback. They have a lot of room for cuts and don’t have to make any big ones. Three of their players have cap hits of more than $10 million, so they have some work to do this offseason. Two of the three are offensive linemen, but the team doesn’t have to extend Laremy Tunsil right away, and Tytus Howard’s fifth-year option will probably be let expire.

The other is Cooks, a veteran receiver who missed a game against the Eagles because he was so upset about being stuck on the team after the trade deadline. At 29, he doesn’t fit with how this team is supposed to grow, and he hasn’t for a while. The Texans extended his contract in April, but he’s only owed $34 million over the last two years, which is a fair amount for a high-end No. 2 receiver in the NFL right now.

Reasonable money doesn’t always mean a big return in a trade, which is one reason why Cooks wasn’t dealt in November. He’s a useful player when he’s healthy, and it’s natural to think that a better quarterback would help him do more, but he’s not a dominant playmaker like Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill were for the Raiders or Dolphins. In their trade with the Bears, the Steelers got the No. 32 overall pick for Chase Claypool. However, Claypool is much younger than Cooks, even though he hasn’t been as productive.

Teams like the Bills and Giants should be interested in Cooks, but if all they get in return is a late second-round pick or something similar, I don’t think the Texans will want to move him. If Houston picks a quarterback in the draft, it will want as many playmakers as possible in the offense for that quarterback. Running back Dameon Pierce did well as a rookie, and wide receiver John Metchie III is expected to come back after missing his first season to get treatment for leukemia. However, if the Texans traded Cooks, they would need to add a veteran just like him to their team badly. It might be worth trying to find a buyer for Cooks to see what kind of offers come in, but the team can’t afford to trade him for just anything.

Indianapolis Colts

Ryan is probably going to be let go by the Colts. This will free up $17.2 million on their salary cap for 2023, though $12 million of his base salary is already guaranteed. If he doesn’t sign with another team, the team will have to pay that amount. I have no doubt that Ryan could find a job as a backup quarterback for one of the many teams that run a version of the Kyle Shanahan offense, but with that $12 million, he will have made more than $300 million over the course of his career, so no one would blame him if he chose to retire.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Evan Engram needs the franchise tag.

After signing Engram to a one-year deal last offseason, Jacksonville couldn’t have asked for much more from him. He had a career-high number of receptions and receiving yards, and his 93 receiving yards and touchdown helped fuel the Chargers’ dramatic comeback win in the wild-card round. If a team’s quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, is still making peanuts, the best way to help the team get better is to put money into playmakers. Engram is a wide receiver who is pretending to be a tight end. Given the difference in pay between the two positions, Engram might even be a good deal.

All of those things are true, but they don’t tell the whole story. Engram set career highs in these categories, but that was mostly because it was the second time in six years that he played a full season. Aside from that, it was a pretty normal season: He ran routes for an average of 1.58 yards per run, which is a little more than his career average of 1.46 yards. He dropped 4% of the balls that were thrown to him. He was targeted at the same rate as usual and did more after catching the ball because the Jaguars threw him more short passes. His 491 receiving yards on passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage were nearly 200 more than his previous season high. He isn’t a good red zone receiver and doesn’t block well, so Doug Pederson’s offense can’t use him to replace Dallas Goedert.

Even though Lawrence hasn’t been given an extension yet, Engram has done enough to warrant another look. It wouldn’t be smart to sign a long-term deal, but if the Jaguars don’t want to franchise tag offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, he’s the only player who could possibly get that. Engram would make $11.4 million from the tag, up from $9 million a year ago. If he can become Lawrence’s trusted receiver despite competition from Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Calvin Ridley, he should get a bigger contract extension next offseason.

Tennessee Titans

Try to get David Long back.

You can usually count on one or two of the Titans’ draft picks to make it to the Pro Bowl each season. Even though 2022 wasn’t the best year, that player was Long, who is now one of the best off-ball linebackers in the NFL. The sixth-round pick from 2019 moved into the starting lineup in 2021, but he was very important last season because of how far he could cover the field. He doesn’t make as many tackles as he should, but he has more chances to make tackles against the run than most other linebackers.

“On the field” is the most important phrase for Long. In the last two seasons, hamstring injuries have kept him out of 12 games. His coach, Mike Vrabel, called him a “repeat offender” at the end of the season press conference. One linebacker doesn’t make a team win or lose on his own, but the fact that the Titans didn’t win a game last season after Long was put on injured reserve might be a sign of something. In the last two years, they are 16-6 when he plays and 3-9 when he doesn’t.

With Long on the field, the defense has been better with each play. Its allowed QBR has dropped by six points since he was taken out of the lineup, but the difference is much bigger on third down, where he was hard to replace. When he’s on the field, the Titans have given up a QBR of 25.6 on third downs. When he’s not on the field, that number drops to 44.9. On the other hand, the run defense has been better without him, with a 66.7% success rate when he is not on the field. That has gone down to 60.3% since he joined the team.

The Titans have already freed up salary cap space by letting go of a few veteran players, like off-ball linebacker Zach Cunningham. Long would seem to benefit from that position being open, but he could also be a player who gets lost in the mix. Vrabel didn’t seem happy about how often Long got injuries to his soft tissues. If the market bears an offer of more than $14 million per season, the Titans might have no choice but to let Long go, but I’d like to see them try to bring Long back if the offer is less than that.


Denver Broncos

Move on from disappointing additions to make room for new ones.

The Broncos are in a bit of a pickle, in case you hadn’t noticed. After trading several first-round picks for Russell Wilson and then having a terrible season in 2022, they don’t have many options for reshaping their team. In a trade during the season, general manager George Paton got a first-round pick in exchange for edge rusher Bradley Chubb. He then sent that pick to the Saints to get the rights to Sean Payton, who will be the new coach. Denver doesn’t have its first- or second-round picks, but it does have two high third-round picks.

Wilson’s cap hit in 2023 ($22 million) will be low because the team gave him a contract extension before the season. The Broncos have a little less than $12 million to work with. However, if they let go of running back Chase Edmonds and guard Graham Glasgow, they could raise that amount to about $30 million. They will need to fix their offensive line and defense this offseason, and it seems likely that Payton will look to some of his former students in New Orleans.

Ronald Darby, a cornerback who came to Denver as a free agent and has missed 18 games in his two seasons there, is another player on the team who might be cut. Last season, when Darby wasn’t there, rookie fourth-round pick Damarri Mathis held his own. Slot corner K’Waun Williams and third-year star Pat Surtain II fill the other two spots for the Broncos. If the team cut Darby, they would have $9.7 million more space and $9.5 million more cash, which they could use to buy a safety to replace Kareem Jackson. Could this be a place for Vonn Bell to land?

Kansas City Chiefs

Bring back one of the two offensive tackles who are free agents.

It’s good to be the defending Super Bowl champions, especially when quarterback Patrick Mahomes is under contract until 2031. The Chiefs will likely restructure Mahomes’ $34.4 million roster bonus to free up space in their salary cap. They should also get rid of edge rusher Frank Clark, whose $30.2 million cap hold is unsustainable given that he doesn’t play well enough to make the playoffs. This offseason, they will have some freedom.

They will need that flexibility to get Mahomes back on his feet. Both of the future Hall of Famer’s offensive tackles are free agents, and if you remember Super Bowl LV against the Buccaneers, you know what happens when the Chiefs put replacement-level linemen in front of their superstar quarterback. After that game, they rebuilt their offensive line. Mahomes’ movement was a big reason why the Eagles couldn’t get a sack on him in Super Bowl LVII, which the Chiefs won.

The big name in the mix is left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who was bought from the Ravens before the 2021 season without signing a new contract. The Chiefs used the franchise tag to keep him until 2022, but they couldn’t get him to sign a new contract. Brown has been to four straight Pro Bowls, but as a pass blocker, he has been more good than great. A second franchise tag would cost the Chiefs $20 million, but they could lose him for nothing more than a compensatory pick after next season if they used it.

On the other side of the line, the Chiefs have a player who had trouble in Super Bowl LV. After taking over for an injured Lucas Niang in 2021, right tackle Andrew Wylie has stayed there for the past two years. He was always there in 2022 after signing a $2.6 million one-year deal last offseason. Stats LLC said that Wylie gave up eight sacks last season, but some of those were caused by Mahomes, whose ability to change plays on the fly and tendency to drag them out make it hard for his tackles to set up and block opposing pass rushers. Wylie is not a top-tier tackle, but he will get a raise in the offseason.

It’s an interesting problem for general manager Brett Veach, who got away with trading away his best wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, last offseason. If the Chiefs don’t think they can re-sign Brown, they might franchise him again and try to trade him to a team that needs help protecting their quarterback’s blind side. If the Jets don’t trade the No. 13 overall pick to the Packers for Aaron Rodgers, it might make sense for them to trade that pick and picks back to the Jets for Antonio Brown. Brown could also be traded to a team that picks in the first quarter of the second round.

Wylie might be a better long-term choice, even if the market gives him a raise similar to the three-year, $21 million contract that La’el Collins signed with the Bengals last year. If Wylie leaves, Niang could take over at right tackle, but Kansas City should focus on getting another tackle this offseason.

Las Vegas Raiders

Josh Jacobs is a franchise tag.

After cutting Derek Carr, the Raiders need to make a quick decision about their quarterback, but they are likely to do so in free agency or the draft. Before that, they will have to decide what to do with their star running back. Jacobs seemed to be leaving town after the team didn’t pick up his fifth-year option and played him with backups early in the preseason. However, the 2019 first-round pick turned out to be an every-down back during Las Vegas’ crazy 2022 season.

Jacobs was an average back for most of his first three seasons, but last season, something clicked. He had only 43 rush yards over expectation (RYOE) and nine first downs below expectation (FDOE) on 490 carries between 2019 and 2021. On 340 carries last year, he had 174 RYOE and four FDOE. He got 10 or more RYOE 10 times, which is more than the 15 times he did it in the three seasons before. He also had his best passing season, with a career-high 400 yards through the air. One of those yards came from a 43-yard catch on a pick play that helped set up a game-tying field goal against the Broncos late in Week 11.

Should the Raiders try to get Jacobs to sign a long-term deal? I wouldn’t blame the team for keeping homegrown players, especially since its top-100 picks during the Jon Gruden era didn’t work out. He is still only 25, and it’s hard to count on any running back to stay healthy for 340 carries every year. However, Derrick Henry and Marshawn Lynch are two examples of backs who broke through at this point in their careers and played at a high level for several more seasons.

Putting a price on that deal might be hard, if only because the Raiders have the franchise tag as a team-friendly back-up. With two franchise tags, general manager Dave Ziegler and his team could pay Jacobs $10.1 million in 2023 and $12.1 million in 2024. This isn’t much more than what he might expect to get as guaranteed money on a long-term deal.

When the Packers brought back their top rusher, Aaron Jones, in 2021, it was almost like they gave him two franchise tags. A deal like that would make sense for Jacobs. I think the two sides will settle on a four-year, $56 million deal with $24 million guaranteed in the first two seasons. For that to happen, the Raiders might have to use the franchise tag on him first to keep him off the open market.

Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert’s deal should be extended.

The Chargers have made it clear that they will do everything they can to help their franchise quarterback. Since they picked Herbert in the first round in 2020, they have used their next two first-round picks on offensive linemen, kept wide receiver Mike Williams, and signed the best center on the market, Corey Linsley. The Chargers fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi because the offense stalled at times over the past couple of seasons and fell apart badly in the second half of the season-ending loss to the Jaguars. They replaced him with Kellen Moore, who came from Dallas and is highly regarded.

Now, after three years, the Chargers can pay their franchise quarterback like a franchise quarterback. Herbert can get a new contract, and it’s clear that the team will pick up his fifth-year option for 2024. He hasn’t had the All-Pro season that almost everyone thinks is in his future yet, but L.A. isn’t going anywhere with Herbert anytime soon.

Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts are also up for extensions this offseason, so the Chargers should do everything they can to get Herbert’s done first. None of these quarterbacks will give their teams a discount, and they shouldn’t. However, history shows that the team that signs their quarterback first will get the best price.

The number is $51 million per season for the Chargers. Kyler Murray signed a five-year, $230.5 million deal with the Cardinals after his third year in the league. That’s $46.1 million per year on a $202.8 million salary cap. With the salary cap going up to $224.8 million this season, Herbert would have to pay $51.1 million per season for a similar deal. Aaron Rodgers was the first player to talk to the Packers about extending his contract for $50 million per season, but that was for a contract at the end of his career. Herbert, Burrow, and Hurts’ contracts after their rookie years should all be worth more than $50 million per season.

Could the Chargers get the deal done early if they gave Herbert a full guarantee of $255 million? Maybe. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes don’t have fully guaranteed contracts, but the way their contracts are set up makes it almost certain that they will be able to make good money for years to come, since their guarantees lock in a year before each season. Murray has a version of these deals that isn’t as big and doesn’t cost as much. It has year-ahead guarantees that the Cardinals could force themselves to pay after 2025.

Herbert will probably get a big pay raise, which will make him have more responsibilities. Burrow and Hurts, who will also get paid during the offseason, have already been to the Super Bowl. Herbert hasn’t even won a playoff game, and the one time he did play, his team lost badly. I wouldn’t blame him for that game, and I wouldn’t mind giving him this kind of deal, but most of the talk about him over the course of his career has been about what the young quarterback can do. But once he makes a deal like this, the future is now.