Super Bowl LVIII is just around the corner, but 30 other teams not named the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of their offseason plans. There are Super Bowl contenders looking to play in New Orleans next year (host of Super Bowl LIX) while other teams that didn’t make the postseason are seeking to make a playoff run of their own in 2024.
The best thing about the NFL is the parity of the league. The Houston Texans won 11 games (including postseason) this season after winning 11 games over the past three years, so teams can go from the basement of the NFL to the top of their division rather quickly.
What does every NFL team need to accomplish this offseason. What do they need to improve on? This might be No. 1 on the offseason checklist.
Find an elite pass rusher: The Cardinals were 30th in the NFL with 33 sacks and 23rd in the league in pressure rate at 32.9%. The lack of pressure affected the play in the secondary as opposing quarterbacks had a 102.9 passer rating (31st in NFL) and 32 touchdowns (30th in NFL) against the Cardinals pass defense. With $41.7 million in cap space and the No. 4 overall pick, finding an elite pass rusher should be a major priority.
Time for a quarterback: This has been the question for the Falcons since they moved on from Matt Ryan, and ultimately what cost Arthur Smith his job. Neither Desmond Ridder nor Taylor Heinicke could seize the job, which is why the Falcons were 27th in points per possession (1.60) and 25th in offensive points per game (18.4) despite having talent at the skill positions and a good offensive line. Being 27th in the NFL in passer rating (80.5) and 26th in touchdown passes (17) doesn’t help either. Perhaps the Falcons can find their franchise quarterback with the No. 8 pick, or at least improve the position with another stopgap in free agency.
Franchise tag Justin Madubuike: Set to cash in this spring in free agency, the Ravens have to make sure Madubuike doesn’t get to that point. Madubuike has been a game-wrecker on the interior of the defensive line, accumulating 65 pressures, 13 sacks and 33 quarterback hits with a pressure rate of 13.4%. Just 26 years old, Madubuike’s best years are ahead of him. He’s the top priority for Baltimore’s No. 1 scoring defense.
Add a No. 2 wide receiver in draft: The Bills have significant salary cap issues to work out ($51.3 million over the cap), which will make the 2024 draft imperative to keep their run of success going. Buffalo needs to find consistent help at wide receiver next to Stefon Diggs, as Gabriel Davis and Khalil Shakir have proven to be inconsistent at times. Again, both Davis and Shakir are good players but a consistent No. 2 would go a long way for this offense. Drafting a wide receiver early could be a luxury, much like Dalton Kincaid was at tight end last year.
Protect Bryce Young: The 2023 No. 1 overall pick never really had a chance to succeed in his rookie year. Young was 31st in touchdown rate (2.1%), 32nd in yards per attempt (5.5), and 32nd in quarterback rating (73.7) among 32 qualified quarterbacks, but his offensive line didn’t help matters. The Panthers were 29th in pressure rate allowed per dropback (41.1%) and 30th in sack rate allowed (10.0%). Allowing 65 sacks with a rookie quarterback is unacceptable. Dave Canales will make Young better, but Carolina needs to shore up the offensive line for Young to have a chance.
Make a decision on the No. 1 pick: The Bears are in a luxury position with this selection right now (thanks to the Panthers). They can retain Justin Fields as their quarterback and trade the No. 1 pick to get even more assets to improve their roster, or they can trade Fields for assets and select their next franchise quarterback (maybe Caleb Williams). The Bears also have $46.9 million in salary cap space to improve the roster in free agency (perhaps retain Jaylon Johnson). The No. 1-pick decision will affect the franchise for years to come, but the Bears’ decision to pass on it last year paid huge dividends for 2024 and beyond.
Retain Tee Higgins: The Bengals still have work to do on the offensive line, but their best chance of making deep playoff runs are when Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Higgins are on the field. Higgins had a down year (42 catches for 656 yards and five touchdowns with 15.6 yards per catch), but the two-time 1,000-yard wideout is an excellent security blanket for Burrow and Chase. The Bengals can’t keep everyone now that Burrow got his extension, but having $59.4 million in salary cap space suggests they can make room for Higgins.
Add WR help for Deshaun Watson: Of course Watson has been a disappointment in his two seasons with the Browns (81.7 rating with 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions in 12 games with the team), but Amari Cooper is the lone reliable option at wide receiver. Elijah Moore as a disappointment as a No. 2 and the Browns could improve from Cedric Tillman as the No. 3 wideout in terms of receiving yards. This is about getting Watson more pass catchers so he can succeed in Cleveland, hence the $230 million investment. Perhaps Moore is better in Year 2 with the Browns, but Cleveland needs help at wide receiver regardless.
Figure out the Dak Prescott contract: Whether Prescott can take the Cowboys to the Super Bowl is another topic, but Prescott did lead the league in touchdown passes (36) and was a Second Team All-Pro. Prescott has a $59.4 million cap number in 2024, so an extension could be done. Prescott has all the leverage for an extension with a no-trade clause and the cap hit the Cowboys would take if they just retained his salary for 2024. Restructuring the contract would only push back the dead money, which doesn’t help the Cowboys in 2025 and beyond. The Cowboys are backed into a corner here and have to decide if Prescott is their quarterback past 2024.
What to do with Russell Wilson: Denver essentially made the call Wilson isn’t the franchise quarterback anymore, so how much could the Broncos realistically get for a 35-year-old quarterback who was third in the NFL in touchdown rate (5.8%), 20th in yards per attempt (6.9), and eighth in passer rating (98.0). The Broncos are $24.1 million over the cap and would eat $85 million in dead money by moving on from Wilson. Other teams are fully aware of the situation, especially with five years remaining on Wilson’s contract. The Broncos benched Wilson last year and clearly are moving on, but the return for him from another team will be interesting.
Improve at cornerback: The pass defense was a major weakness on the Lions talented roster this season, as Detroit was 27th in the NFL in touchdown passes allowed (28), 31st in yards per attempt (7.8) and 21st in passer rating allowed (91.5). Emmanuel Moseley’s injury was significant and Cam Sutton struggled in the second half of the year. C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s injury didn’t help the secondary either. Finding a No. 1 cornerback will be tough in free agency, but the Lions do have $46.6 million in salary cap space to work with. The draft may be the best option.
Renovate the safety position: The Packers were a mess at safety all year, but they have a golden opportunity to hit the reset button. Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford and Jonathan Owens are free agents. Green Bay could bring one back as a solidified starter or position depth, but the draft could be massive for upgrading at safety. With five picks in the top 100, the Packers will be active in improving a pass defense that was 25th in passer rating allowed (95.7).
Find a No. 2 cornerback: Derek Stingley Jr. is a budding star, but the Texans will have to find someone to start opposite him. Steven Nelson, Desmond King Jr. and Tavierre Thomas are free agents, so finding a good starting corner is paramount for a team that was 29th in the NFL in yards per attempt allowed (7.7) and 18th in passer rating allowed (90.1). Houston has the 23rd overall pick and $57.4 million in available cap space. It’s time to spend.
Help out Anthony Richardson: Of course Richardson has to stay healthy for this to work, but the offense is going to look significantly different in 2024. Michael Pittman is a free agent and could command a high salary, so the Colts have to decide whether he’s worth the price tag. Even if the Colts keep Pittman, an upgrade at the No. 2 wide receiver is paramount. This draft class is deep with wide recievers, so theoretically the Colts could move on from Pittman and revamp with younger talent. The Colts could use an early pick or some of their $58.9 million in cap space at tight end too.
Franchise tag or extend Josh Allen: What Allen was able to accomplish for the Jaguars in 2023 was unmatched by any pass rusher in franchise history. Allen set the single-season franchise record for sacks (17.5), part of a season which he had 90 pressures, 33 quarterback hits and a pressure rate of 18.3%. The Jaguars need depth at edge rusher, but this pass rush begins and ends with Allen. An unrestricted free agent, the Jaguars should tag Allen at the very least — but need to extend him. This is a homegrown talent Jacksonville must retain.
Keep L’Jarius Sneed in house: This is easier said than done, but Sneed played a major role why the Chiefs went back to the Super Bowl. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 45.2 passer rating targeting Sneed, who didn’t even allow a passing touchdown in the regular season and had two interceptions. He’s becoming a shutdown corner who quarterbacks don’t even target, as Sneed is set to get paid. The Chiefs have some free agent decisions to make, but Sneed is a key piece toward this franchise making deep playoff runs.
Find a starting quarterback: New offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will have a decision to make regarding Aidan O’Connell, but is he really the long-term answer in Las Vegas? With Davante Adams as the No. 1 wide receiver, the Raiders need someone who can consistently get him the ball (assuming Vegas retains Adams). There are quality starters available in free agency and the Raiders have $36 million in cap space, so getting one is feasible. O’Connell is fine, but the Raiders can significantly improve.
Improve the offensive line: The Chargers have significant cap limitations as they are $45.8 over the cap, so improving in free agency is limited. They might move on from some key pieces (like Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack), making other positions a priority. Los Angeles has to protect Justin Herbert up front, especially with Corey Linsley close to retirement and Trey Pipkins being a liability at right tackle. The Chargers were 11th in sack rate (6.4%) and 12th in pressure rate allowed per dropback (34.8%), but the offensive line is set to take a massive hit if Linsley goes through with retirement. This unit needs to be addressed.
Replacement for Tyler Higbee: The Rams probably need an edge rusher more and have a lot of money shelled to Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald. Higbee’s knee injury is a major concern for a team that prioritizes points on the scoreboard. Higbee’s injury is significant for an offense that likes to use the middle of the field, so some of that $27.7 million in cap space or that first-round pick (yes the Rams have one) could be used to significantly upgrade that position.
Extend Tua Tagovailoa: The Dolphins have seen enough of Tagovailoa to know that he can be a franchise quarterback, even if he doesn’t have a playoff win on his resume yet. Miami couldn’t win games against good teams, but Tagovailoa raises this team’s potential because of his play on the field. One year after leading the NFL in passer rating, Tagovailoa was the first Dolphins quarterback to lead the league in passing yards since Dan Marino in 1992. He has the fifth-year option to play out, but it would be wise for the Dolphins to pay Tagovailoa before quarterback contracts get even bigger.
Is the Kirk Cousins era over? With Cousins being an unrestricted free agent, are the Vikings willing to part ways with the 35-year-old quarterback after all the struggles they had when he was injured? Do the Vikings really want to be the Falcons, a franchise in constant search for a franchise quarterback? Do the Vikings even have enough money to pay Cousins ($24.7 million in camp space)? Minnesota could be in for a soft rebuild, which may be the road the Vikings have to take in 2024.
Find a quarterback: The Patriots offense was an embarrassment last season, ranking 32nd in points per possession (1.10) and 31st in yards per possession (23.1). Most of this had to do with the inefficiency at quarterback, as Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe combined for 16 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The Patriots were 30th in passer rating (73.8) and 27th in touchdown passes (16). The offense was pitiful and needs a significant revamp, starting with finding a quarterback. The No. 3 overall pick will help.
Shed all the cap space (again): The Saints are annually in perennial cap hell, this time being $83.7 million over the cap and having no way to improve a roster that missed the playoffs for the third straight year. There will be plenty of restructuring contracts (Derek Carr, Ryan Ramczyk, Marshon Lattimore) and roster decisions to make (Cam Jordan, Michael Thomas). Even then the Saints will have to be creative to find ways to get under the cap by the start of the new league year. Hard to see this roster getting any better in 2024.
Improve the offensive line (again): This is an annual problem for the Giants, as they continue to possess one of the worst offensive lines in football. New York gave up 85 sacks (the most in the league by 20) and had a sack rate allowed of 14.1% — both 32nd in the NFL. The Giants were 31st in pressure rate allowed (42.5%) and have questions at both guard positions and right tackle. There isn’t much cap space to improve ($21.8 million), but New York could invest at tackle with the No. 6 pick (or hope Evan Neal somehow gets better). This unit can’t be worse than it was in 2023.
Have a contingency plan for Aaron Rodgers: The Jets decided that Zach Wilson was a more than capable backup for Rodgers in 2023, and Wilson ended up completing 60.1% of his passes with 6.2 yards per attempt for a 77.2 passer rating. The Jets were 32nd in touchdown passes (11) and passer rating (70.5), showing they didn’t have a No. 2 quarterback in case Rodgers went down with an injury. They need a better backup signal-caller in 2024, whether Rodgers is healthy the whole year or not.
Revamp the secondary: This could apply to the entire defense, but the pass defense was the biggest culprit in 2023. The Eagles were 31st in the NFL in touchdown passes allowed (35), 31st in touchdown-to-interception ratio allowed (3.9) and 29th in passer rating allowed (97.6). James Bradberry was one of the worst cornerbacks in football and Kevin Byard didn’t solidify the secondary like the defense though. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will have to improve the communication issues in the back end and get younger at cornerback and safety. A position revamp is what the Eagles need.
Find another tackle: Quarterback is the primary concern here, but Dan Moore was the primary starter at left tackle last year. Broderick Jones could move to left tackle and is a solidified starter heading into Year 2, but the Steelers will have to find another starter in free agency or the draft. The Steelers are $16 million over the cap, but have the 20th pick in the draft. Like Jones last year, they can find a lineman in the middle of the first round.
Improve interior of offensive line: Guards Spencer Burford and Aaron Banks combined to allow five sacks (all via Burford) and 56 pressures — a pressure rate allowed per dropback of 6.36%. This would be significantly worse without Trent Williams in the fold, and the one weakness the 49ers’ loaded roster possesses. Jake Brendel also helps the guards out, but the 49ers can slightly improve the pass blocking there. The 49ers were 26th in presser rate allowed per dropback (40.3%) this year, so that can be better.
Improve interior of offensive line: Just like the 49ers, the Seahawks have massive holes to fill at guard and center. Damien Lewis, Evan Brown and Phil Haynes are all unrestricted free agents, but all three could be replaced on an offensive line that had a pressure rate allowed per dropback of 40.2%. Seattle allowed just 38 sacks on a makeshift offensive line. The Seahawks are slightly over the cap ($5.2 million), but can clear cap space easily. Getting better at guard and center will be a huge help for Geno Smith and the run game.
Sign Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans: Tampa Bay found its quarterback in Mayfield, who completed 64.3% of his passes for 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns to 10 interceptions (94.6 rating) while Evans had his 10th straight 1,000-yard season for the Buccaneers. Mayfield had an 111.6 passer rating when targeting Evans, so the connection clearly worked between the two. For Tampa Bay, Mayfield and Evans seem like a package deal. The Buccaneers should bring both back.
Find a left tackle: Will Levis was sacked 28 times in nine games, a recipe for disaster for a young quarterback. Derrick Henry will likely not be back, so the Titans can’t use the run game as a security blanket like in years past. The run game wasn’t necessarily good either thanks to the defensive penetration up front. The Titans have $68.1 million in available cap space to find tackles in free agency and the No. 7 pick in the draft. They can find a left tackle at No. 7 if the dominoes fall into place. Being 31st in the NFL in sack rate (11.5%) isn’t good.
Draft the franchise quarterback at No. 2: Sam Howell was arguably the worst quarterback in the league in the second half of last season, and clearly not the franchise quarterback Washington envision. New offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury likely wants his own guy and the Commanders could potentially get Caleb Williams pending on what the Bears do with the top pick. Either way, the Texans proved you can get the better quarterback at No. 2 if the franchise has the right coaching and offensive system in place. The Commanders can’t win without a franchise quarterback, which has to be the pick at No. 2.