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Let’s overreact to the NFL offseason: Dak headed out of Dallas? Jets moving up in the AFC East?



Let’s overreact to the NFL offseason: Dak headed out of Dallas? Jets moving up in the AFC East?

Football is coming, folks. We’re inside two weeks away from the start of NFL training camps, roughly two months away from Week 1 and more than ready to find out which offseason signings, trades, draft picks, hirings and contract disputes will have the greatest impact on the 2024 NFL season.

In other words, we will soon have real live NFL action to which we can overreact. In the meantime, the offseason has given us more than enough overreaction fodder. So with camps coming up soon, we thought we’d take a look back and a look ahead to what it all might end up meaning. Let’s judge some of the biggest potential takeaways from the past five months and see which are legit.

More overreactions from Graziano:
Free agency | Draft | Schedule release

Jump to:
Prescott’s future | WR trades | Steelers’ QBs
Cousins’ next steps | AFC East shakeup

Dak Prescott will sign with a different team next spring

As we approach the start of training camp, Prescott and the Cowboys have not been able to reach agreement on a contract extension. Dallas’ star quarterback has one year left on his contract, which includes a no-trade clause and a rule that prevents the team from using the franchise or transition tags to keep him off the free agent market. Prescott will carry a 2024 salary cap hit of just over $55 million, and if the Cowboys don’t re-sign him before the start of the 2025 league year in March, he would cost them just over $40 million in dead cap charges for 2025.

The team is in a tough spot, as Prescott’s contract situation gives him all the leverage here. And he doesn’t have to do a deal with the Cowboys unless it’s exactly the deal he wants. That’s why the possibility of Prescott hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent quarterback — and cashing in with a deal likely to exceed $60 million per year — is not far-fetched.


To be clear, this is NOT what I am predicting. I still think the most likely outcome here is that Prescott and the Cowboys find a way to get a deal done before he becomes a free agent. Heck, they could even get one done before the start of this season for all we know. But if they don’t finalize something before or during the season, I think it would be a massive mistake to rule out this possibility.



How concerned should the Cowboys be about Dak’s ankle?

Dan Graziano and Mike Tannenbaum weigh in on Dak Prescott’s ankle going into training camp for the Cowboys.

A partial list of teams that could be looking for new starting quarterbacks next spring includes the Raiders, Giants, Jets, Saints, Steelers, Titans, Rams and Seahawks. There would absolutely be a market for Prescott — who led the NFL in touchdown passes in 2023 with 36 — if he is available. By that time, he and his agent surely would know who’s interested and at what level. The Cowboys do not want it to come to that. But again, it’s not entirely up to them.

A top WR will get traded before the start of the season

While new deals for Justin Jefferson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and others have made this a fantastic offseason for wide receivers, there are still a few prominent ones who are looking for new contracts and don’t yet have them. The Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb, the 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk, the Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill and the Bengals’ Tee Higgins are among this group.

Lamb and Aiyuk skipped their teams’ mandatory minicamps in June over their respective situations. If they remain unsigned when their training camps start, it’s certainly possible they won’t report on time, which would only worsen the headaches. Should one of these situations grow to the point where the team becomes convinced the player won’t play for them anymore, there would certainly be other teams calling to see if the talented WRs are available.


I still believe the Cowboys will get Lamb signed to an extension in time for camp. And even if they don’t, they’d have the option of using the franchise tag on him in 2025 since they aren’t able to use it on Prescott. That gives them some leverage in the current negotiations.

The Niners, meanwhile, seem to have a dialogue going with Aiyuk, and some of his recent public comments indicate that he has begun to make peace with the idea of playing for San Francisco on his current contract this season if no new deal materializes. Teammate Deebo Samuel‘s guaranteed money runs out after this season, so there’s the strong chance the Niners instead move on from Samuel and find themselves able to pay Aiyuk in 2025.

Hill hasn’t actually made any noise about a trade — I only included him here because he’s an elite receiver looking for a new deal — and the Bengals have made it very clear they won’t trade Higgins. By far, the most likely outcome is that all four of these guys end up playing for their current teams in 2024.

The Steelers will be in the QB market again next spring

With the Kenny Pickett experiment having failed, the Steelers signed free agent veteran Russell Wilson and traded for deposed Bears quarterback Justin Fields this offseason. Those two will battle it out to see who starts for Pittsburgh this season, but neither is signed beyond this season, and the Steelers didn’t need to commit significant resources to acquire either of them.

Wilson — who threw 26 touchdown passes in 2023 but also averaged just 6.9 yards per attempt — is playing on a minimum salary deal because he still has $39 million in guaranteed money left over from his Broncos contract. And Fields — who tied Wilson’s 6.9 yards per attempt last season but also rushed for 657 yards — only cost the Steelers a sixth-round pick that could convert to a fourth-rounder if Fields plays enough snaps in 2024.

The expectation is that the combination of Wilson and Fields will be an upgrade over what the Steelers had at quarterback last season, and the hope is that at least one of them plays well enough to merit a look as the long-term starter in Pittsburgh.


While these are exciting, recognizable names and the Steelers are coming off a year in which they used Pickett and Mason Rudolph at quarterback, there remains the non-zero chance that neither Wilson nor Fields plays well. Wilson is coming off two miserable campaigns in Denver, and Fields is a still-developing prospect who didn’t advance enough in his first three seasons to convince the Bears not to draft Caleb Williams to replace him. And as shown by what the Steelers paid to acquire Wilson and Fields, Pittsburgh wasn’t exactly fighting off half the league for the two QBs’ services.

The Steelers have never had a losing record under coach Mike Tomlin, which means they’ve never really selected high enough to find a true franchise quarterback in the draft. That means they have to find creative solutions in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era. But the two potential solutions they found this offseason are unquestionably imperfect ones, so don’t be at all surprised if they find themselves in the same situation next spring.

Kirk Cousins will be one-season-and-done in Atlanta

The Falcons signed Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract with $90 million fully guaranteed in March … then immediately started the clock on his eventual departure by selecting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick in the draft just a few weeks later. It was a baffling decision that flew in the face of all salary cap logic, irked Cousins and created an uncomfortable dynamic that’s sure to bubble to the surface every time Cousins struggles and/or Penix looks great in practice.

Ideally, Penix would sit and learn behind Cousins for two or three years before becoming a starter. But that plan only seems to work in Green Bay, and with NFL rookie contracts at a maximum of five years in length, the Falcons are going to be under pressure to move to Penix at some point sooner than Cousins would like.


Imagine a scenario in which the Falcons struggle this season and decide to move to Penix in 2024. Or how about a scenario in which the constant presence of a top-10 pick at his position looking over his shoulder frustrates Cousins to the point that he wants out? Could the Falcons trade him after one year?

The short answer is yes, though it wouldn’t be the cleanest move ever. Cousins is guaranteed $27.5 million for 2025, and he has a $10 million 2026 roster bonus that becomes fully guaranteed at the start of the 2025 league year this coming March. So any acquiring team would be on the hook for $37.5 million — more than reasonable for a good starting quarterback in 2025. There’s no doubt that if the Falcons made Cousins available next spring, teams would be interested.

From the Falcons’ end, cutting Cousins after this season would saddle them with a $65 million dead-money cap charge in 2025 and mean they will have paid him $90 million for one season — so that’s pretty unlikely. Trading Cousins would mean a $37.5 million dead-money charge for 2025, and they would have paid him $62.5 million for one season. That’s also not ideal, but if Atlanta really believes in Penix and thinks he’s ready at that point, it’s not prohibitive.

The Jets have jumped ahead of the Bills and Dolphins in the AFC East

By pretty much all measures, the Jets had a strong offseason on the acquisition front. They secured much-needed offensive line upgrades in free agency and the draft, beefed up the wide receiver corps with Mike Williams and added a high-end edge rusher in Haason Reddick. They even upgraded at backup quarterback with Tyrod Taylor — no insignificant move given what happened to them at the position when Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles in the first game last season.

Meanwhile, age and salary cap concerns forced the Bills to move on from several franchise mainstays, including Stefon Diggs, Mitch Morse, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The Dolphins lost defensive stars Christian Wilkins and Andrew Van Ginkel and offensive lineman Robert Hunt in free agency, and they didn’t do a ton to fortify the offensive line in either free agency or the draft. Jets fans are feeling optimistic that if Rodgers can stay healthy, the team can overtake Buffalo and Miami to win its first AFC East division title since 2002.


The Bills might not look as formidable at wide receiver, but they have emerging young stars in tight end Dalton Kincaid and running back James Cook — and they still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Josh Allen. Buffalo saw its defensive overhaul coming, knew it would need to get younger on that side of the ball and then did it. The Bills have won the division four years in a row, and in my opinion, they should still be the division favorites in 2024. And while the Dolphins have also lost some talent, they weren’t shy about adding, too. Miami signed linebacker Jordyn Brooks, cornerback Kendall Fuller, tight end Jonnu Smith and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

As for the Jets: They did everything they needed to do to get better. They took some chances on injury-prone guys such as Tyron Smith and Williams, but they’re trying to shoot for the moon in whatever amount of time they still have Rodgers, so high-risk is a reasonable way for them to go.



Graziano: Rodgers has not made a contribution to winning with Jets

Dan Graziano, Bart Scott and Mike Greenberg react to Aaron Rodgers skipping the Jets’ mandatory minicamp.

In the end, this New York coaching staff still has not proved it can manage a team to the playoffs the way the Bills’ and Dolphins’ staffs have. And everything still comes down to a 40-year-old quarterback who didn’t play last season, didn’t play well the season before that and for some reason scheduled a vacation during the team’s mandatory minicamp. Rodgers has brought nothing but headaches so far. If he plays well enough to make all of them worth it, good for him and good for the team. But are you willing to bet on that?

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