People outside of the NFL have only started to think about the offseason since the Chiefs beat the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. However, the league’s 32 teams have been making plans for the offseason for weeks, if not months.

Every organization always has one eye on the present and the other on the future, but once their seasons were over, they moved quickly to get ready for March’s player movement window.

This week, we’ll talk about the 16 NFC teams. Next Monday, we’ll talk about the AFC teams.

In some cases, it might not be the most important move of the whole off-season. For example, what the Bears do with the No. 1 overall pick might not be their most important move.

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.

Let’s start with the Cowboys, dealing with uncertainty at a position that had been set for years.


We are starting with the NFC teams:

Dallas Cowboys

Fix the situation with the running back.

After having a clear one-two punch for many years, the Cowboys now have a lot of options at running back. Since Ezekiel Elliott has been hurt the past two seasons, his status is uncertain. Also, free agent Tony Pollard broke his left fibula when Dallas lost to San Francisco in the playoffs. In 2023, both players could come back, or the team could start over with new players.

Let’s start with Elliott. Before he signed a six-year, $90 million extension before the 2019 season, he was a key player for the team. Before the extension, he ran for an average of 4.7 yards per carry and 101.2 yards per game. Now, he can only run for 4.2 yards per carry and 66.9 yards per game.

Elliott’s 1,013 carries over the past four years have resulted in just 54 rush yards over expectation. This suggests that he could be replaced by a league-average running back. Pollard’s 510 carries have led to a huge 446 RYOE during the same time period. Elliott is known as a good back for short distances, but he has gained five fewer first downs than the average back would have in the same situations.

As part of a $16.7 million cap hit, the Cowboys owe Elliott nearly $11 million in 2023. What stands out for the team is how it handled things during the offseason last year, when Elliott had a rough 2021. Dallas usually restructures the contracts of its star players every year to create short-term cap space, even though it risks having to eat more dead money when it moves on from these veterans. The Cowboys didn’t rework the contracts of Elliott and offensive tackle Tyron Smith last spring, which was a clear sign that the team was getting ready to get rid of both players this offseason.

By making Elliott a post-June 1 release, the Cowboys would get back $10.9 million in cap space. For 2023, they are expected to be $7.6 million over the cap. By letting Smith go with the same label, another $13.6 million would be freed up. Both moves seem likely, unless one of the players wants to get paid less.

Elliott is a great pass blocker and might still be close to an average veteran running back, but an RB with his skills would usually get around $4 million in free agency, which is a huge drop from his current deal. He might have to pay the “hometown premium,” which is when a team that has been paying a player much more for years makes an offer that is below market value.

Pollard’s situation got a lot harder after he got hurt, and he also had to have surgery to fix ligaments in his ankle from a high ankle sprain. It’s not clear if he’ll be ready to play by the time training camp starts, which could make him less valuable on the open market. If Pollard got to free agency, I thought he would get a deal for around three years and $36 million. In hindsight, the Cowboys might have planned to use the $10.1 million franchise tag to keep him until 2023.

Now that Pollard’s ankle is making him less available, the 25-year-old might only be able to get a one-year deal for around $6 million in free agency. This could lead the Cowboys to let him go into free agency and see if he gets a better deal. The easiest thing for the team to do would be to get rid of Elliott, sign Pollard to a long-term deal, and add a veteran back who can play early in the season while Pollard gets up to speed, but the Cowboys don’t do easy well.

New York Giants

Don’t let Saquon Barkley leave.

I have written about how the Giants are in a similar situation to the Titans after their surprising run to the playoffs in 2019. Like those Titans, the Giants had a great season from their running back and a surprising breakout year from their quarterback, both of whom were about to leave the team and sign with other teams. It would be hard to keep both of them without making a mistake.

When Jon Robinson was the general manager of the Titans, he chose to sign his quarterback first. He made sure that Ryan Tannehill would be a quarterback for the Titans for three years by giving him a contract. When Robinson signed that deal, he was able to use the franchise tag on Derrick Henry the next day. Later in the summer, Robinson signed Henry to a long-term contract extension.

Agents are not naive in these situations. Tannehill’s agent knew that the Titans needed to make a deal quickly to avoid giving Henry the franchise tag, and the same was true for Tannehill’s agent. Most quarterbacks who had only played well for one year, like Tannehill did in Tennessee, would have had to settle for one or two years of guaranteed pay in their new contracts. After a disappointing end to the 2022 season, Titans fans were not happy that Tannehill was able to get three.

Barkley and Daniel Jones, who are both free agents in March, give the Giants the same problem. Barkley had his best season since 2018 when he got healthy again, and Jones did well in a quick-passing offense led by new coach Brian Daboll. In an ideal world, general manager Joe Schoen would keep them both on the team at least through 2023. The Giants can keep one of them with the franchise tag, but the other will either get a long-term deal or go into free agency.

The case for putting the franchise tag on Jones is getting stronger. The number for quarterbacks is a huge $32.4 million, while the number for running backs is only $10.1 million, but Jones has a much shorter history of good play. This is the same team that turned down Jones’s fifth-year option last spring, which would have guaranteed him $22.4 million for the 2023 season.

Jones deserves another chance to show that he can improve on his good performance in 2022, but do the Giants really want to guarantee two or even three years to a player who was leaving the team as recently as last summer? We’ve seen teams with high-paid, low-ceiling quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Carson Wentz either move on from their starter or struggle to build a roster around them. If New York paid Jones, would that put the city in that group?

Barkley’s health history is a concern, but if they make a mistake with a long-term deal for a running back, it’s much easier to deal with than if they make the same mistake with a quarterback, even if it’s just because quarterback contracts are much smaller. There are also more teams that aren’t willing to pay veteran running backs a lot of money because they rarely get a good return on those deals.

After the season-ending loss to the Eagles, Barkley said he wasn’t going to try to beat Christian McCaffrey’s four-year, $64 million deal with Carolina in 2020. That deal is the top of the running back market. There is a reasonable middle ground between the franchise tag and McCaffrey’s average value of $16 million per season.

Barkley, who was one of the most exciting players in the league for parts of 2022, would get four years and $52 million if they split the difference. A deal with about $28 million guaranteed over the first two years would reward Barkley for getting back to form and protect the Giants if Barkley can’t stay healthy past 2024. It would also let the team let Jones go to another team.

Philadelphia Eagles

Get Jason Kelce to agree to come back for another season.

The NFC champions have a lot of key free agents on defense, so this will be a year of change. Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Robert Quinn, who play on their defensive line, are all out of contracts. Cornerback James Bradberry had a great season up until the Super Bowl, when he got a penalty. He will need to be re-signed. T.J. Edwards and Marcus Epps, who are also starters, are also not limited in any way. Howie Roseman will have a lot to do as general manager.

On offense, though, getting an All-Pro to come back will be the most important thing. Even though Jason didn’t beat his brother Travis in the Super Bowl, the 35-year-old center did a great job as the center of the Philadelphia rushing attack. Kelce was a key part of Jalen Hurts’ big game on the ground against Kansas City. On a number of key plays, the Eagles used Kelce as part of their power schemes.

Kelce is an unrestricted free agent. He has thought about retiring before, so it’s possible that the future Hall of Famer won’t play for another team. The Eagles used a second-round pick on Cam Jurgens as a possible replacement last year. Kelce helped them scout him before the draft, but he only played 35 offensive snaps as a rookie. Jurgens could be the next Kelce, but the Eagles should do everything they can to keep the one they already have.

Washington Commanders

Cut Carson Wentz.

Wentz’s unguaranteed $26.2 million salary for 2023 will make it easy for Washington to get rid of him as one of the first moves of the offseason. By letting go of the quarterback, the Commanders would get the same amount of salary cap space back. This would give them more than $33 million in room.

Wentz’s days as a sure-fire Week 1 starter are probably coming to an end after he failed with the Eagles, Colts, and Commanders in a row. He has had trouble staying healthy. Over the past three seasons, he has had a QBR of 47.9. Andy Dalton, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold are the only qualifying quarterbacks with a lower QBR since 2020. He also has a reputation in the league for being stubborn and unwilling to take advice or evaluate himself.

Quarterbacks who are picked in the first five spots usually get a lot of chances to stay in the league as backups and almost starters, so if Wentz wants to keep playing, he’ll have them. Has he really settled for a one-year, $5 million deal after making almost $130 million in his career? I’m not sure if we’ve seen the last of the 30-year-old quarterback. That would be surprising for a player who, as recently as 2020, was seen by many as a top-tier passer.

Sam Howell, who was taken in the fifth round of the 2022 draft, is the only quarterback on Washington’s 2023 roster. He did a good job in the season-ending win over the Cowboys. Taylor Heinicke will be a free agent, and he should make more than the $2.9 million he made last year. However, coach Ron Rivera has seemed to want to replace Heinicke in the last couple of offseasons. Howell will probably be up against a player from outside the team for the starting spot.




Now it’s time to check out possible off-season moves for the NFC North:

Chicago Bears

Re-sign Darnell Mooney.

The Bears’ most important decision this offseason is what to do with the No. 1 overall pick and whether to use it on a quarterback, a player at a different position, or to trade down for more picks. This move shouldn’t happen until after the NFL combine next month. After that, potential trade partners will have a better idea of how they feel about this quarterback class and how much they might be willing to give up to move up.

The Bears don’t need to make more room to move because they have nearly $100 million in cap space, but they could if they want to by letting go of veteran safety Eddie Jackson. Instead, they could start building up their team around their quarterback, whether that’s Justin Fields or one of the passers in this draft class. Chase Claypool was traded to the Bears by general manager Ryan Poles in November, but he got hurt in his first few months with the team.

Poles could start the offseason by making a deal with Mooney, who is the best wide receiver on the team. Mooney’s first three seasons were a nightmare when it came to quarterbacks, but he still ran routes for 1.90 yards per run in 2022, which was just ahead of D.J. Moore, Christian Kirk, and Mike Evans. Over the course of his career, he has averaged 1.65 yards per route run, which is almost the same as Claypool’s number. However, Claypool’s numbers have been going down since his great rookie year in 2020.

Mooney has gotten better, even though the Bears ran the ball in neutral situations at the fourth-highest rate in the league. Mooney was hurt for most of the last five games of the season, so he only had 40 receptions for 432 yards and two touchdowns. The 25-year-old was better per route and per target, but this wasn’t exactly a career season either.

People say that Kirk’s four-year, $72 million contract extension moved the wideout market forward, but I don’t think that was the only deal going on at the same time. Mike Williams, a different-sized deep threat for the Chargers, signed a three-year, $60 million deal right before free agency last year, while Moore signed a three-year, $61.8 million deal with the Panthers. With the salary cap going up, a Mooney extension would probably be for three years and around $60 million, even though he doesn’t have Williams’ timing or Moore’s track record.

Detroit Lions

Clear out cap space.

Even though the Lions will have the youngest snap-weighted average age in the NFL in 2022, they don’t have as much cap space as you might think. Since they have to pay quarterback Jared Goff almost $31 million next season, they only have $15.8 million left. General manager Brad Holmes and his team will probably want more room to work with as they try to add pieces to a defense that cost them a playoff spot.

With this in mind, the Lions will probably try to free up salary cap space by letting go of a few veteran players. The first player on the line is defensive tackle Michael Brockers, a longtime star for the Rams who lost his place in the lineup after Week 5 and only played 12 defensive snaps after that. Whether Brockers is cut or decides to retire, letting the 32-year-old go will free up $10 million for the Lions.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai was a utility lineman for the Eagles before he was signed by the Lions. He was supposed to start at tackle, but he played guard instead and didn’t do much to impress. Vaitai missed all of 2022 because he had back surgery. The Lions need someone to play right guard, but it’s unlikely that Vaitai will be that person. If he was set to be released after June 1, it would save about $9.5 million.

Edge rusher Romeo Okwara could be the third veteran to be let go. He is in the last year of a three-year, $37 million contract extension that he signed in 2021. He has only played in nine games over the past two seasons because of a torn Achilles tendon he got in October 2021. Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris are also on the Lions’ roster. Okwara owes $11 million in 2023, but he wouldn’t be able to get that much on the open market. In this case, it might make sense to cut his pay, but getting rid of him would free up $7.5 million in space.

Green Bay Packers

Find a solution for the quarterback.

I talked about when the Packers will need to decide about Jordan Love and Aaron Rodgers before the Super Bowl, and that’s the first thing they need to figure out as they plan their offseason. Rodgers hasn’t said whether he’ll play in Green Bay or somewhere else in 2023. The team has until May to decide if it will pick up Love’s fifth-year option for the 2024 season or trade him.

Even though the Packers could wait until May, there’s no reason for them to let other teams fill their quarterback spots before they decide.

Minnesota Vikings

Create cap space.

The Vikings are $21 million over the salary cap for 2023, so they have a lot of work to do. This number doesn’t include the huge new deal that star wide receiver Justin Jefferson is getting. His cap hit of $4.2 million for next season looks small compared to what’s coming. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the team’s general manager, will probably set up Jefferson’s contract so that the Year 1 cap hit is low thanks to bonuses. However, Jefferson is about to become the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history.

The $21 million doesn’t include any new contracts for Minnesota’s free agents. It is likely to let cornerback Chandon Sullivan and tight end Irv Smith go, but it could try to re-sign defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, cornerback Patrick Peterson, center Garrett Bradbury, and running back Alexander Mattlinson, all of whom should have offers in free agency. Brian Flores, the new defensive coordinator, built his defenses in Miami around deep secondaries. However, the Vikings’ defense was already weak, and if Peterson left, it would get even worse.

To get there, the Vikings will have to decide what to do with some of their most famous players. Wide receiver Adam Thielen has the second-highest cap hit on the team, at $19.1 million, and he didn’t have a single game with more than 75 receiving yards in 2022. If Thielen was released after June 1, it would free up $13.4 million that the team really needs. Instead, they could ask Thielen to take a pay cut from the $13.3 million he’s due. They could also get $7.9 million back if they let running back Dalvin Cook go, which they could use to re-sign Mattison.

On defense, the Vikings will focus on Eric Kendricks at linebacker and Harrison Smith at safety. Both of them are older than 30, but Smith, who is 34, did pick off five passes this season. Kendricks is three years younger, but he plays a less important position and for the second straight season, he let a passer rating of more than 100 through his coverage. Getting rid of Kendricks would free up $9.5 million, and getting rid of Smith after June 1 would free up another $15 million.

Last year, when the Vikings signed Za’Darius Smith, he got 9.5 sacks in his first nine games, giving them a much-needed secondary pass rusher. After that, though, he only had a half-sack in the seven games that followed. Teams were worried about Smith’s knee when he was a free agent, which is why the Ravens backed out of a deal to get him last March. By letting him go, the Vikings can save $13.7 million.

Also, the big question is what the Vikings will do with Kirk Cousins. Next season, they owe the 34-year-old quarterback $30 million as part of a $36.3 million cap hit. This is the last year of Cousins’ current contract. They could get that $30 million by trading Cousins, but he has a clause that says he doesn’t want to be traded.

Adofo-Mensah could free up cap space by extending Cousins’ contract, which he did before the 2022 season. However, this only keeps the quarterback on the team longer and puts off the inevitable. It seems likely that the Vikings will be looking for a young quarterback as soon as this offseason. Even though renegotiating Cousins’ contract would make room, it’s probably time to stop doing that, even if it means losing some of the players above.


Atlanta Falcons

Tag Kaleb McGary as a franchise player and work on a long-term deal.

McGary could be like Daniel Jones, but on the offensive line. When he was drafted in the first round in 2019 by a front office that has since left, McGary had already been through three rough seasons. In May, the Falcons turned down McGary’s fifth-year option for the 2023 season. It looked like he would be leaving the team after last season.

Instead, McGary’s best season came about. He only let Marcus Mariota, who might be the quarterback who gets sacked the most in the league, get taken out of the game 3.5 times. McGary played every snap for one of the NFL’s most run-heavy teams, the Falcons. On runs to the right side, the Falcons averaged 5.9 yards per play, which was the fourth-best mark in the NFL.

To be fair, McGary does play with Chris Lindstrom, another 2019 first-round pick and one of the best right guards. Lindstrom’s fifth-year option was picked up, and he might also get an extension this offseason. Like Jones, McGary has only played one season at his current level, so there will always be worries that 2022 wasn’t a new level of play but just a small sample size.

The Falcons have always had trouble staying under the salary cap, but this offseason they are finally in a better position. They have more than $56 million to work with, so they can give McGary a new deal. But, unlike Jones and the Giants, the $18.2 million franchise tag would be too much for any right tackle who isn’t a superstar. Both sides would be happy with a four-year deal worth around $50 million.

Carolina Panthers

Sign Brian Burns up for another year.

In October, it was said that the Rams gave the Panthers two first-round picks as part of a deal to get Burns. When Carolina said no, the pass-agents rusher’s may have been the only ones who cheered louder than anyone else. What could give a star player more power than if his team turned down a trade offer that included two first-round picks? The fact that L.A. made him an offer shows that they thought he was one of the best young NFL players. The fact that the Panthers turned it down shows that it was right.

Now that Burns is in the fifth year of his contract, he is in a good position to get a huge new deal. T.J. Watt signed a four-year, $112 million deal with the Steelers before his fifth season, which is the top of the market for edge rushers at $28 million per season. Burns’ camp will probably look at that deal as a model. General manager Scott Fitterer might instead choose Bradley Chubb’s five-year, $110 million contract with the Dolphins, which he signed after being traded from the Broncos to the Dolphins in November. This contract is worth $22 million per year.

For two reasons, Burns’s deal could be closer to the former than to the latter. One is that Chubb was only traded for one first-round pick, but he is now a year closer to being free to sign with any team. Watt’s record after four seasons was better than Burns’, but Watt’s deal also came when the cap was less than $200 million. Now that the cap is $224.8 million, his deal could come close to Watt’s, even if he takes up a smaller percentage of the cap. Burns just had a season with 12.5 sacks, so a four-year contract extension should cost around $100 million.

New Orleans Saints

Sign Derek Carr.

Carr didn’t do anything for his old bosses on his way out of Las Vegas because he didn’t have much reason to. With a no-trade clause, the quarterback could have said yes to any trade that gave the Raiders draft pick compensation. As the Feb. 15 deadline for Carr’s contract guarantees got closer, he told the team he wouldn’t accept a trade. This led to his release, and he became a free agent a month before the other players.

Carr would only have agreed to a trade to keep his contract, which guaranteed him $33 million in 2023 and at least $7.5 million (out of a total of $42 million) in 2024. We’ll know what happens when he signs his next contract, but he turned down a trade because he either thought he could get the same money or more guarantees in free agency, or he wanted to take a pay cut so his new team wouldn’t have to send Las Vegas a mid-round draft pick. It could also be out of spite, but usually, money is the reason.

The Saints need as many draft picks as they can get, so signing Carr would fit with their goal of trying to win now with a core of veterans. The Saints don’t have enough room in their salary cap to pay Carr $34.9 million in 2023. If they had traded for him, they would have changed his base salary into a bonus and added voidable years to the end of his contract to make short-term cap space. If they sign him, they can start from scratch and make a new deal with short-term cap benefits.

Given what New Orleans could do, Carr is probably the best choice. Even though they got a first-round pick from the Broncos in exchange for the rights to coach Sean Payton, the team is not in a position to trade up for one of the quarterbacks in this draft class. Given Aaron Rodgers’ salary and the draft picks that would be needed to make a deal, the Saints shouldn’t be looking to trade for him. The teams that already have Daniel Jones and Geno Smith are likely to keep them. Which player, Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo, would you rather have? I could see why New Orleans would like the first one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Explore trading Chris Godwin.

Right now, things aren’t going well for the Bucs. They are $55.7 million over the salary cap for 2023, which is partly because they owe $35.1 million in “dead money” from Tom Brady’s retirement. Tampa, like its divisional rivals in New Orleans, will have to restructure the contracts of most of its top veterans to make much-needed cap room. With the Bucs winning a Super Bowl in 2020, the front office is probably not complaining, but this team will have a hard time putting together a better team than the one that played in 2022.

The Bucs could lose defensive starters like franchise legend Lavonte David and breakout star Jamel Dean, who just had his best season. General manager Jason Licht will have to make some hard decisions, especially if he wants to replace quarterback Tom Brady with a veteran quarterback.

One way to get more room in the salary cap and improve the weaker parts of the team is to trade from a position of strength. The wide receiver position is Tampa’s best. Mike Evans is 30 and in the last year of his contract, but he has been restructured so many times that the Buccaneers wouldn’t save much money if they traded him. They could only free up $2.3 million if they traded him before June 1. They could free up an extra $12.2 million if they traded Evans after June 1, but this is about what the Bucs can do at the start of the offseason.

On the other hand, Godwin’s trade is a different story. Getting rid of the 27-year-old player would free up almost $9 million in cap space and get rid of a big earner in 2023 and 2024. Godwin wasn’t as good after coming back from a torn ACL last season, and even though he should still be in the prime of his career, Tampa should be able to get by with Evans and Russell Gage at wide receiver. Evans is likely to get a new contract out of this, too.

The Bucs would also get some good draft picks from the deal. I don’t think they could expect to get a haul like Tyreek Hill or Davante Adams, but a late first-round pick wouldn’t be impossible. The Giants are ranked No. 25 and quarterback Daniel Jones doesn’t have a good receiver on the team. If they traded for Godwin, would that help their offense? I wouldn’t recommend trading Godwin for pennies on the dollar, but Licht should be willing to take calls on him.


Arizona Cardinals

Re-sign Zach Allen.

The new general manager, Monti Ossenfort, and the new coach, Jonathan Gannon, have a lot to do. Three of the Cardinals’ starting offensive linemen and four of their backups are about to become free agents. The center, Rodney Hudson, is expected to retire. Kyler Murray and Zach Ertz both tore their ACLs at the end of the 2022 season, and Murray won’t be ready for the start of the 2023 season. Their best defensive end, J.J. Watt, has retired, and their best cornerback, Byron Murphy, is a free agent who can go anywhere.

The Cardinals only have $13.5 million in cap space before they sign any of their free agents, so it’s not like they can go crazy on the open market to solve their problems. One thing they should do, though, is to keep one of their best defensive players. Allen had the best season of his career in 2022. He had 5.5 sacks and 20 knockdowns, even though injuries kept him out of four games. He moved all over the defensive line, and teams that use their linemen in a lot of twists and games up front will find him useful.

Allen won’t get paid like a superstar, but a lot of teams will look at him as an underrated contributor and a good choice for the inside. It wouldn’t be surprising if his three-year contract was worth about $36 million. Even though the Cardinals have problems in other areas, they should jump on this deal.

Los Angeles Rams

Baker Mayfield needs to come back.

The Rams had a terrible season after winning the Super Bowl. They went 5-12 and had a lot of injuries. Coach Sean McVay thought about retiring before deciding to come back, and quarterback Matthew Stafford missed time with different injuries, including a contusion to his spinal cord. Stafford has said that he plans to play again, but the 35-year-old quarterback has been having trouble with his elbow for the past two seasons. At the very least, the Rams need to be ready for Stafford to miss more time.

When Mayfield was picked up off waivers in December, he led the Rams to a win over the Raiders right away. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick didn’t have very good numbers in his five starts, but he was playing with backups at wide receiver and on the offensive line. By the end of the season, he had hardly learned the offense.

Mayfield was terrible when he played for the Browns in 2021 and for a short time with the Panthers last year. He won’t get a chance to start for a long time this offseason. He is probably looking for a chance to start before a rookie or a high-quality backup. Considering Stafford’s health, staying in Los Angeles could be one of the best ways for him to get a lot of playing time. A one-year deal for $4 million to $5 million would make sense.

San Francisco 49ers

Bring Mike McGlinchey back.

McGlinchey’s career has taught him a lot about what to expect. In 2018, he was taken with the No. 9 overall pick, which was before 11 players who have since made the Pro Bowl, including right tackles Brian O’Neill and Orlando Brown. McGlinchey seemed like he would be the natural successor to longtime 49ers tackle Joe Staley, but he started his career on the right side and stayed there even when Staley and new superstar acquisition Trent Williams were playing.

McGlinchey is a good, above-average right tackle who most weeks won’t be able to beat the player on the other team. From the point of view of a top-10 pick, that’s not very good. If you look at him as a football player, though, he’s a useful part of the team from week to week. San Francisco changed the middle of its offensive line in the offseason before last and played three players all season who had only three career starts between them before 2022, so his consistency was important.

McGlinchey’s salary might be too high to keep on a team where the running back, tight end, left tackle, and wide receiver all make a lot of money. The 49ers are saving money on the inside of their offensive line and moving forward with Trey Lance and Brock Purdy as their quarterbacks, so general manager John Lynch should be able to give him a new deal to keep him. McGlinchey probably won’t get a deal like those of top right tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Taylor Moton, but a four-year, $56 million deal might be enough to keep him.

Seattle Seahawks

Bring Geno Smith back.

I wrote about Smith’s next step in January. Before deciding whether to keep him after his breakout season, the Seahawks can either franchise him for $32.4 million, sign him to an extension, or let him go into free agency.

The Seahawks might get the best deal for Smith if they let him test the market, but after what the 32-year-old just did, there’s not much reason for them to do that. After beating out Drew Lock for the job during training camp, he led the league in adjusted completion percentage (75.2%). Seattle could use the No. 5 overall pick on a quarterback, but even if it does, Smith would be a good choice to start the season as a high-end bridge.

People will compare Smith’s situation to that of Daniel Jones, but there are some important differences. Jones is seven years younger, which makes it more likely that he will keep getting better as time goes on. In 2022, Smith was also better than Jones, especially as a pocket passer. Jones was better because of what he could do with his legs, but Smith was better because of how he played quarterback.

The most important thing for Jones is that Saquon Barkley’s freedom gives him more power, since only one player per team can get the franchise tag. Even though the Seahawks might want to keep Cody Barton, Rashaad Penny, and Poona Ford, who are all free agents, none of them would be worth a franchise tag. The tag seems like a more real threat to Smith, which could make it easier to sign a two-year deal before the March 7 deadline.