By Rob Silverman ’15, contributing writer
What a crazy year it has been for the NFL. The rise of Nick Foles in Philadelphia, Belichick and the Pats taking the win in OT to beat the Broncos, and Kansas City’s remarkable resurgence have all given fans of the league plenty to enjoy in this past year. That being said, fans of 30 teams now have the long wait until September to look forward to, with only the Super Bowl left on this year’s postseason schedule. A lot is going to happen in these next eight months, so let’s have a look at what we can expect in that time frame.
Where will Johnny Football land? A firestorm of press has surrounded Johnny Manziel in the past year, ever since his record setting freshman year at Texas A&M University ended in winning the Heisman trophy. Since then he has been asked to leave the Manning Passing Academy, tweeted about his dislike of Texas A&M, and has been investigated by the NCAA over receiving compensation for signatures on memorabilia. The Aggies’ QB has been rated by scouts as a mid-first round pick, with only Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville being ranked higher amongst quarterbacks.
With the Texans, Browns, Raiders, and Jaguars all in need of quarterbacks (and in the top five for draft picks), there is a chance that Manziel could be taken significantly above his estimated value in the NFL draft. Individual teams will not be able to trade down within the draft order and expect him to still be on the board, since so many teams are searching for a long-term signal calling solution.
For players a few years removed from the draft, the first major payday of their professional careers is quickly approaching. This year will be focused on defensive spending, as there are very few top-tier skill position players in a contract year. The one glaring exception is Jimmy Graham, who put together a massive 1,215yd/86rec/16td year, marking his third consecutive 85+ reception season. The Saints organization is now going to have to determine whether it is willing to pay a premium for the player who has (at least temporarily) stolen the receiving tight-end crown from Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots.
Speaking of teams from this weekend’s AFC Championship matchup, each participating club has a well-known cornerback up for a new contract. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the Broncos and Aqib Talib of the Patriots each are finishing the final year of their respective contracts. While Rodgers-Cromartie has had a consistent year and will be rewarded accordingly, Talib has jumped onto the national stage this year after being traded to the Patriots from Tampa Bay in 2012. A former first round pick with a PED suspension on his record, Talib has found a new home in Foxborough where he has finally lived up to his potential as a shutdown corner.
With the PED history and career-best year both in the rear view mirror, it will be interesting to see how much money (and how many years) a team is willing to invest in the 27-year-old corner.
Junior Rob Silverman is a contributing writer. His email is email@example.com.