Atlanta Falcons — Julio Jones’ Holdout
Perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones is holding out for a reworked contract. And as one of the most prolific receivers in the NFL today, he’s deserving to be paid like one.
Jones has three more years left on his current deal, totaling nearly $35 million remaining. Yet there are seven other receivers, per ESPN, averaging more than the average annual salary of $14.25 million Jones is receiving right now.
The good news is these things tend to get worked out before too long. But if there are any hiccups, one can only guess how it will affect Atlanta’s chances in arguably the NFL’s toughest division right now.
Carolina Panthers — Secondary
For years, the Panthers got by with an overachieving secondary. But one can legitimately ask the question if this unit has been the same ever since cornerback Josh Norman left in 2016.
Rookie cornerback Donte Jackson could be good. Or he won’t be. It’s too soon to tell. But the Panthers are going to hope fellow corner James Bradberry can bounce back after a sup-par 2017 campaign.
How long will 37-year-old safety Mike Adams continue to defy Father Time?
New Orleans Saints — Drew Brees’ Age
Yes, Father Time again.
Quarterback Drew Brees turned 39 years old this year. And while there are few reasons to assume he’ll be anything less than his future-Hall of Fame self, 2017 seemed to indicate the Saints are looking to implement something of a more balanced offense. Particularly after the emergence of standout tailback Alvin Kamara.
Brees still led the NFL in completion percentage a year ago (72.0). But his total yardage (4,334) was the lowest it had been since 2005. And his 23 touchdown passes in 2017 were the lowest since 2003.
A sign of things to come, perhaps?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Pass Rush
The Buccaneers had a slew of issues last season. Injuries, inconsistency and defensive woes turned a would-be 2017 Cinderella story into a complete bust. And it didn’t help quarterback Jameis Winston failed to take that next step in his development. Especially with a flurry of offensive weapons at his disposal.
That’s a major question mark. But the bigger issue clearly is the lack of a pass rush.
Last season, during the Bucs’ 5-11 campaign, Tampa Bay finished worst in the NFL with just 22 measly sacks.
Adding former Eagles EDGE Vinny Curry this offseason should help matters some, but it’s still a major weakness heading into 2018.