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NEXT MONTH ONE of the most consequential award votes in recent NBA history will be conducted. It will be worth tens of millions of dollars to a handful of players and could have a drastic effect on free agency both this year and into the future.

And it will be decided by people that Kevin Durant said this week “don’t really know the game.”

The All-NBA team this season — especially the third team — truly carries more intrigue and substance than the Most Valuable Player or Rookie of the Year awards. Not in a historical context — the winners of the biggest individual awards will get their moments to shine and be remembered much longer than any all-league roster.

Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and Bradley Beal are all candidates to make third-team All-NBA. Even if they play it cool when asked about it, trust me, it matters to them.

As usual, the guard spot is deep. Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard are strong candidates to make the first two teams. That will leave a crowded field for those hugely valuable last spots. Beal, Walker and Thompson will be in competition with Ben Simmons, Russell Westbrook, Jimmy Butler and Jrue Holiday, among others.

Here’s why it matters. If Walker, who was voted in as an All-Star starter, makes the All-NBA team, he will hit the jackpot and become eligible for a supermax contract when he hits free agency in July. That would mean up to $220 million over five years if he were to stay with the Charlotte Hornets. If he doesn’t make the All-NBA team, the Hornets’ best offer could be roughly $190 million, a $30 million swing. And if he were to consider going to another team — say, his hometown New York Knicks — his limit would be four years and $140 million. A possible $80 million swing based on the judgment of those 100 voters.

Just because Walker, who is having a career year at the perfect time, hits the mark doesn’t mean the Hornets would make such an offer. But they’d be under pressure to do so, especially because Walker would certainly draw offers elsewhere. The Hornets are in a tenuous position: They would be expected to campaign for their player to be honored, but the accomplishment would hurt the bottom line.

The Washington Wizards wouldn’t have to offer the extension to him, of course, but after they did for John Wall after he made the All-NBA team two years ago, Beal would likely expect it. The bitter circumstance here is that Beal’s candidacy for the All-NBA team is boosted because Wall went down. Wall might’ve been a candidate for an All-NBA spot had he not needed season-ending surgery in January, and his injury has cleared the way for Beal in some respects.

Beal has been playing the best basketball of his career since Wall left, averaging 30 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game since the All-Star break. He’s leading the league in minutes played, pushing himself to the limit as the Wizards head toward the lottery. Coach Scott Brooks has allowed it, playing Beal big minutes and outwardly supporting his growing case for All-NBA.

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1. Chris Paul has some of his snap back
Paul’s shooting hasn’t come all the way around during the Houston Rockets’ climb into the Western Conference’s No. 4 spot, but he has his quick-strike swagger back. Paul isn’t as fast as he once was. He can’t blow by defenders — including big guys on switches — as easily as he could even last season. He’s not a leaper. But when he’s healthy, Paul snaps from a standstill into a high-speed lunge with alarming suddenness. He moves in sync with the ball on defense, or even just before the passer releases it. He is almost always anticipatory, not reactive. His brain makes his body faster.

Paul is doing his best work when James Harden rests. The Rockets have outscored opponents by 11 points per 100 possessions in those minutes, and that number has been even beefier — about 17 points — since Paul’s return from injury in late January. He has a massively positive effect on Houston’s wobbly transition defense, a consistent trend through Paul’s career, per Cleaning The Glass.

Houston’s best lineups haven’t quite clicked, even during this streak. The Rockets are about even for the season when Harden and Paul share the floor, and their starting group — Paul, Harden, Gordon, the indomitable PJ Tucker and Clint Capela — has been a net negative. That will change if Paul keeps playing this way.

2. The Joe Ingles-Derrick Favors dance
A stat that might surprise: The Utah Jazz have destroyed opponents by about 14 points per 100 possessions when Ingles and Favors play without all three of Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, per NBA.com. Ingles has become Utah’s de facto backup point guard, and he and Favors have developed a nimble chemistry in the pick-and-roll.

3. Kelly Olynyk, on his time
After falling to the fringes of the Miami Heat’s rotation, Olynyk has re-emerged as a crucial cog and starter as the capped-out Heat try to salvage a third straight blah season. The king of the slow-motion pump-and-drive is averaging 15 points since Feb. 1 on 54 percent shooting — including 47 percent from deep.

The Heat have outscored opponents by about five points per 100 possessions when Olynyk and Bam Adebayo — their current starting big-man duo — share the floor, and even the maligned Olynyk-Hassan Whiteside pairing has surged over the past month. Olynyk is a heady sort, and he’s doing his best to chase opposing power forwards on defense so Adebayo and Whiteside can hang near the rim.

With Goran Dragic hurting and Wayne Ellington a tax casualty, the Heat sorely need the threat of Olynyk’s jump shot to stress defenses. He’s also delightfully patient around the rim, holding his pivot foot and staying low as shot-blockers fly around him — and using all three seconds of allotted paint time:

4. Julius Randle, sieve
We hearty souls who have been foraging atop Julius Randle Hill for years always knew he could score, trample entire defenses on the fast break, and dish canny assists when he wasn’t getting a little hoggy. It has been nice seeing him flourish as a 20-point scorer with the New Orleans Pelicans. Randle is still moving toward the paint when Avery Bradley’s pass to Danilo Gallinari is airborne in the other direction. That is death.

Randle hasn’t fared much better protecting the rim. He is 451st among 494 players in the defense-only version of ESPN’s real plus-minus — a stat that often makes big men appear better than they are (hi, DeAndre Jordan.) He is dead last among centers.

We will not lose hope! Randle’s numbers defending the pick-and-roll are fine, per Second Spectrum. When Randle digs in, he can be a deterrent at the rim and (kinda) switch across all five positions. He is probably best suited as a switchable small-ball center, but building a roster in which he can play that role as a starter will be tough.

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The five quarterbacks drafted in the first round last April learned on the job in their first season in the NFL. While all showed flashes, the rookies also all finished in the bottom third of the league when ranked by Total QBR.

Here’s a look at the bottom 10 quarterbacks in the NFL (minus the Washington Redskins’ Alex Smith) and how they can improve next season.

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Mayfield on leadership role: Instill ‘chip on your shoulder’ mentalityBrowns QB Baker Mayfield breaks down what his offseason will look like and his expectations for 2019. Mayfield says his role as a leader has evolved into instilling a “chip on your shoulder” mentality on his team.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns, Total QBR: 53.6
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $1,965,590 in salary and roster bonus

Biggest issue in 2018: This question is relative, and the ranking is a bit misleading. QBR takes into account an entire season, and Mayfield had two distinct experiences for the Browns — first with Todd Haley as offensive coordinator and then with Freddie Kitchens in that role. Under Haley in Weeks 1-8, Mayfield had a QBR of 35.8, which ranked 31st of 33 qualifiers. From Week 9 on, though, Mayfield’s QBR was 70.1, which ranked seventh. For Mayfield, the biggest issue didn’t seem to be his play or ability, but the approach and plays called. Placed in a system that eliminated seven-step drops and long routes and gave him the chance to get rid of the ball quickly and play fast, Mayfield responded like the first overall pick in the draft is expected to respond.

How he can improve in 2019: Grow. Pure and simple. Continue to build off what he did with Kitchens, who is now the Browns’ head coach, and to grow as a player and person. It’s what’s expected of any dedicated player going into his second season. Mayfield also can improve on some of the factors that went into his final QBR. First were his turnovers. He threw 14 interceptions and lost three fumbles; those 17 turnovers were tied for the third most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. In addition, his completion percentage (for the season) was 24th (63.8 percent), and he was not in the top 10 in some of the positive ratings categories (touchdowns per attempt, yards per attempt and others), per ESPN Stats & Info. QBR also takes into account how well a quarterback performs at key points in games; it might be interesting to know what Mayfield’s QBR would have been had he completed that final drive against Baltimore.

He said it: “He has a lot more football left in him. He is still a rookie. There are still a lot of nuances of the National Football League. He threw three interceptions [in the finale in Baltimore]. He can still work on those little things and understanding of certain things. He also broke an NFL record [for touchdown passes by a rookie] as well, so you applaud him for that. You would hope that he can grow exponentially, and by Year 3, he is what we all thought he would be.” — Browns general manager John Dorsey
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills, 52.2
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $4,814,326

Biggest issue in 2018: Allen’s 56.2 percent completion rate at Wyoming was scrutinized during the pre-draft process but foretold his 52.8 rate as a rookie in the NFL, raising questions about his accuracy. Among quarterbacks with as many pass attempts (320) as Allen in a season, it was the worst completion rate in the NFL since Blaine Gabbert’s 50.9 percent in 2011. The Bills defended Allen’s college stat by pointing to his lack of a supporting cast and the difficulty of his throws. Both arguments could apply to his first professional season. An undrafted rookie, Robert Foster, led the team with 436 receiving yards on passes thrown by Allen, while 4.1 percent of Allen’s passes (10th-most in the NFL) were dropped by his receivers. Only three quarterbacks over the past 10 seasons — Tim Tebow in 2011, Drew Stanton in 2014 and Jameis Winston in 2018 — averaged more air yards per pass than Allen (10.54) in his first season. Some of the accuracy issues still can be pinned on Allen; a league-high 23.7 percent of his attempts (excluding throwaways and spikes) were off target, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

How he can improve in 2019: Allen had a knack as a rookie for making hard throws look easy and easy throws look hard. He completed a league-low 64.6 percent of his throws that traveled five air yards or less and was off target on a league-high 14.2 percent of those passes, per ESPN Stats & Information. The relative inability for Allen to execute a short, rhythmic passing game put stress on the offense, as did Allen holding the ball longer than any other qualifying NFL quarterback. He averaged 3.22 seconds before his passes, which was second only to Tebow’s 3.35-second average in 2011 in the past 10 seasons. Allen too often looked for the home run as a passer and will need to take coaching that makes him more comfortable and capable of hitting singles and doubles. Expected improvements to the offensive line and skill positions could help, but Allen will need to take steps forward himself.

He said it: “He’s not arrived by any means. There’s going to be things when he steps out next year that somebody else is going to get him on. But I know who he is, and he is not complacent or anything like that. This guy is competitive, this guy wants to get better, wants to be the best at his craft, and I know he’s got a really good plan. He has a really good plan for the offseason to come back here bigger, stronger, faster, and mentally even stronger.” — Bills GM Brandon Beane
Eli Manning, New York Giants, 51.6
Experience: 15 seasons

2019 salary: $17 million

Biggest issue in 2018: Manning simply didn’t make enough plays. He accounted for 22 touchdowns and 15 turnovers. Only two quarterbacks (Case Keenum and Derek Carr) started 16 games and threw for fewer touchdowns. With Manning, everything needs to be perfect for success at this point of his career. The combination of his offensive line struggling in the first half of the season with his immobility was crippling. Manning was sacked 31 times in the first eight games and threw one touchdown pass under pressure during a 1-7 start. He produced a first down on 13 percent of his dropbacks under pressure in the first half of the season. The NFL average during that span was 19 percent.

How he can improve in 2019: If Manning returns for another season — the Giants haven’t publicly committed to that yet — the hope is he can build off the second half of 2018, when he was a passenger rather than the conductor. New York relied more heavily on Saquon Barkley and the running game and asked Manning to do less. It slowed down the pressure and resulted in Manning throwing 13 of his 21 TD passes. He had a passer rating of 87.8 over the final eight games compared with 53.1 in the first eight games. Manning’s physical skills aren’t going to improve at 38 years old, but his efficiency can if the Giants ask him to do less.

He said it: “If you think about it, the guy was running for his life last year [2017]. This year [2018], we calmed it down. Once we got rolling, once everybody got comfortable with the offense, if you’re going to look at stats, it wasn’t too shabby what [Eli] did.” — Giants GM Dave Gettleman

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Carr has issues with Kellerman questioning his desireRaiders QB Derek Carr explains his frustrations with Max Kellerman’s comments criticizing him.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders, 49.0
Experience: Five seasons

2019 salary: $20 million

Biggest issue in 2018: Choose one: a leaky offensive line that saw Carr sacked a career-high 51 times (he took 36 sacks combined in 2016 and 2017); no speedy playmakers at receiver (the inconsistent Amari Cooper was traded Oct. 22); a steep learning curve in Jon Gruden’s back-to-the-future offense (dink, dunk, bomb?). It truly was a baptism by fire for Carr, who entered the season with many people simply wondering how he would react to Gruden’s oft fire-and-brimstone coaching approach. Having a pair of rookie tackles in first-rounder Kolton Miller protecting his blind side and third-rounder Brandon Parker also had to test the confidence of Carr, who has suffered a broken right (passing) finger, a fractured right fibula and three broken bones in his back since Dec. 24, 2016. He admitted to “taking inventory” after big hits, although the quarterback did improve in the second half of the season.

How he can improve in 2019: A more buttoned-up O-line, a speedy No. 1 receiver and a threat at running back to open up the play-action game would do wonders. Though perhaps simply a second season with Gruden will produce a bounty. Consider: The only other time Carr played in the same system for a second consecutive year, in 2016, he played at a league MVP level. Then there’s this — after throwing seven touchdowns and eight interceptions in the Raiders’ first six games, Carr had 12 TDs and two INTs after the bye, the TD-INT ratio of 6.0 the fourth best in the NFL in Weeks 8-17. He also had a streak of 332 passes without a pick, the third-longest streak in NFL history. Sure, Carr might have the third-most losses by a QB in his first five NFL seasons (his 46 career defeats are seven behind his brother David and three behind Blake Bortles), but there are some positive things to build upon.

He said it: “When you look at 32 teams in this league, and there aren’t 32 starting quarterbacks, yet we have one of them. He’s a starting quarterback in the NFL. He can make every throw … Derek Carr, at this point, is kind of the least of our problems.” — Raiders GM Mike Mayock
Sam Darnold, New York Jets, 48.4
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $1,854,895

Biggest issue in 2018: Interceptions. Darnold was picked off 15 times, an average of once every 27 attempts. Every rookie throws interceptions, but it was somewhat alarming in Darnold’s case because it was a continuation of his final season at USC, when he had 13. Mostly, he sabotaged himself with poor decisions, based on misreading coverages, but there were two or three instances in which he was victimized by a poorly designed play. The Jets, who changed their offensive hierarchy with the hiring of coach Adam Gase, are hoping that no longer will be an issue.

EDITOR’S PICKS
How the NFL’s top rookie QBs performed, and what’s next in Year 2
Baker Mayfield and the other four first-round quarterbacks from the 2018 draft ended the season as starters. Here’s what’s ahead in 2019.
Kingsbury on Murray chatter: ‘Josh is our guy’
With speculation ramping up that Arizona could trade quarterback Josh Rosen and select Oklahoma star Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Tuesday that he’s sticking with Rosen.

Baker Mayfield raising expectations and attracting respected coordinators
The Browns quarterback says “the excitement’s real” for 2019, and that positive outlook extends to the new coaching staff.

How he can improve in 2019: He already started. Darnold led the league in Total QBR over the final four weeks (80.9), thanks to no interceptions in the last three games. The key to his turnaround? Instead of forcing a pass under duress, he used his athleticism to get outside the pocket, keeping it himself or throwing on the run. To keep the arrow pointed up in 2019, Darnold must have a better understanding of risk vs. reward. He was the fifth-most aggressive passer last season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which bases its ranking on the percentage of tight-window throws. You’d rather have an aggressive quarterback than a Captain Checkdown, but there must be a happy medium. When Darnold finds it, he could be special.

He said it: “He has a quick release, movement skills and pocket presence. I like his fire. You see it the way he plays. Just when you talk to him, you can see there’s a love for football there.” — Jets coach Adam Gase
Case Keenum, Denver Broncos, 46.9
Experience: Eight seasons

2019 salary: $18 million

Biggest issue in 2018: Last season was the first time Keenum entered as the unquestioned starter for his team. Keenum seemed uncomfortable at times with the weight of the job in a quarterback-mad region used to winning a lot. He isn’t the first to suffer that fate with a team whose current GM — John Elway — also happens to be the franchise’s greatest player. But the Broncos’ injuries on the offensive line — three starters ended the season on injured reserve — and an ill-fitting offense that too often tried to protect him in three-wide receiver sets didn’t help, either. In the end, Keenum’s footwork and fundamentals eroded as the season wore on, and he consistently looked unsettled as he finished tied for the second-most interceptions in the league with 15, including 10 in the first eight games.

How he can improve in 2019: With the acquisition of Joe Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens, Keenum might be trying to make fixes on another team. But Keenum is at his best in an offense that has a play-action element. Although his history as a college player at Houston was filled with shotgun snaps in open formations, that’s not when he has been best as a pro. Too often last season, Keenum tried to escape pressure in the shotgun by retreating rather than climbing in the pocket or by simply getting rid the ball. He often gave up too much ground with no room for recovery.

He said it: “I’m excited to work with Case. We were not in the market for a quarterback in San Francisco last year. But he was a free agent, and I did my due diligence on him. He really played outstanding in Minnesota. He was a big part of helping them get to where they got to that NFC Championship Game. He’s gritty, he’s a winner, he’s competitive. You can see that on the film. I think in our system — and I think you can see that based with Kyle [Shanahan]‘s history, that’s what I believe as well — in San Francisco, where I was directly coaching those guys, each guy is a little unique, and you have to adapt to them. I see traits that we can help Case be the best that he can be.” — Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, 45.8
Experience: Five seasons

2019 salary: $14 million

Biggest issue in 2018: Inconsistency. He was pretty darn good the first month of the 2018 season: 64.7 percent completions, 1,095 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions. Then his season deteriorated. He threw for a career-high 430 yards but also committed a career-high five turnovers (four interceptions) in a loss at Kansas City and was benched early in the second half two weeks later after he lost a pair of fumbles. He started the following week before getting benched again Nov. 26 after he was terrible in a loss at Buffalo. Bortles started the regular-season finale but managed only 107 yards and an interception.

How he can improve in 2019: He’ll be getting a fresh start elsewhere, because the Jaguars are expected to release him before the 2019 league year begins, even though that’ll cost them $16.5 million in dead money. Bortles’ mechanics have always been loose, and he has struggled with turnovers throughout his career: He leads all QBs in interceptions (75) and all players in turnovers (94) from the time he entered the league (third overall pick in 2014). He needs to be in a situation where he’s got playmakers around him and a coach with a touch for QBs (such as Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay).

He said it: “When things don’t go well, a lot of it falls on the quarterback’s shoulders. I know that and signed up for that. I have no problem with it. Whether it’s the scapegoat or whatever you want to call it. Somebody has to take the blame when things don’t go well. I think [former offensive coordinator] Nathaniel [Hackett] was one of those guys, I think I’m one of those guys. There’s other guys on this team that were part of that as well.” — Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens, 45.1
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $910,529

Biggest issue in 2018: Accuracy and consistency. In seven regular-season starts, Jackson completed more than 60 percent of his passes only twice and produced over 200 yards passing once. He was much more comfortable making plays with his legs than his arm. It wasn’t that Jackson showed impatience in the pocket. He was just more likely to break a long run than hit a receiver deep. There were times when John Brown was wide open downfield and Jackson didn’t come close to hitting him. His biggest problem was driving the ball to the sideline. His 47.8 completion rate outside the numbers was the worst among quarterbacks in 2018.

How he can improve in 2019: Work — a lot of it. What no one can doubt is Jackson’s commitment to becoming a complete quarterback; he’s been described by coaches and teammates as a “gym rat.” Jackson is expected to meet with his wide receivers this offseason for private throwing sessions, which should help his rapport with them. Before he took over for the injured Joe Flacco around midseason, Jackson received few reps with the starters and didn’t throw much to Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead. In order to work on his fundamentals, he often spent a half-hour after practices working with quarterbacks coach James Urban. This offseason, Jackson will get a majority of the snaps, which many see as the crucial piece of his development. The Ravens also will look to upgrade at wide receiver. But that should come in the draft (perhaps as early as the first round) because it will be difficult to persuade free-agent wide receivers to play in Baltimore until Jackson proves he has taken the next step.

He said it: “Throughout the course of the offseason, he’s going to throw the ball a lot. He’s going to have his receivers and throw the ball to them, he already told me that, and all those other things. He should come back, I expect him to come back a better quarterback, skill-wise, than he was when he left. He’s determined to do that.” — Ravens coach John Harbaugh
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, 35.4
Experience: Seven seasons

2019 salary: $18,725,000

Biggest issue in 2018: Tannehill’s biggest career issue has been an inability to stay healthy, and that popped up again when he missed five games because of a right shoulder capsule injury. His biggest issue in 2018 was that he lacked the pocket presence, mobility and consistent accuracy needed to lead Miami to playoff contention. It might be a function of injuries, but Tannehill held the Dolphins’ offense back at times and often collapsed when the talent level started to dissipate. By the end of the season, opposing defenses forced Tannehill into third downs, and he consistently failed to convert.

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How he can improve in 2019: Tannehill needs a fresh start in a place other than Miami, and it seems the Dolphins are prepared to move on. After seven years of being Miami’s uncontested starting quarterback, Tannehill needs legit competition to press him. Tannehill can use this offseason to get healthy and work on his feel within the pocket. Tannehill’s low QBR shows, at this point in his career, he should be a complement to the offense rather than the focal point. But Tannehill has been and still is a starting-caliber QB who will have an opportunity to bounce back with better health, pass protection and weapons in 2019.

He said it: “We’ve just been so all over the place. One game we’ll do well on offense and then we’ll just be nonexistent one game. That’s where it can help at the quarterback position. You make an off-schedule play or you do something where it just sparks the rest of the group. Sometimes we have that and sometimes we don’t.” — former Dolphins and current Jets coach Adam Gase
Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals, 25.9
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $1,849,898

Biggest issue in 2018: Inconsistency. Rosen would start games slowly, throwing passes too high and out of reach, and then calm down by the fourth quarter and look like the first-rounder the Cardinals need him to be. But it was always too little, too late. If he can start playing well earlier in games, he can prove he was worth the 10th overall pick and that he’s better than the worst QBR in the NFL.

How he can improve in 2019: He needs to be smarter. Throughout last season, Rosen repeatedly said he was trying to make the “hero” throw. He simply can’t do that in the NFL. If he can cut down his mistakes, especially early in games, he’ll keep Arizona in those games longer — which could lead to more wins. But with any rookie, time and experience is needed to improve. Rosen played as a rookie, whether that was a benefit or a hindrance, giving him the opportunity to see what kinds of defenses NFL teams run. He needs to take that experience, study the tape and learn how to combat the various looks and disguises all while being safer with the ball.

He said it: “Josh Rosen is incredibly talented, one of the most talented throwers you’ll see. A young player, obviously, that I’m excited to work with and develop. But as a pure thrower, it’s hard to find a guy that throws it better.” — Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury

ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon, Bills reporter Mike Rodak, Giants reporter Jordan Raanan, Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold, Jets reporter Rich Cimini, Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez, Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco, Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley, Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe and Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss contributed.

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The five quarterbacks drafted in the first round last April learned on the job in their first season in the NFL. While all showed flashes, the rookies also all finished in the bottom third of the league when ranked by Total QBR.

Here’s a look at the bottom 10 quarterbacks in the NFL (minus the Washington Redskins’ Alex Smith) and how they can improve next season.

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1:34
Mayfield on leadership role: Instill ‘chip on your shoulder’ mentalityBrowns QB Baker Mayfield breaks down what his offseason will look like and his expectations for 2019. Mayfield says his role as a leader has evolved into instilling a “chip on your shoulder” mentality on his team.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns, Total QBR: 53.6
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $1,965,590 in salary and roster bonus

Biggest issue in 2018: This question is relative, and the ranking is a bit misleading. QBR takes into account an entire season, and Mayfield had two distinct experiences for the Browns — first with Todd Haley as offensive coordinator and then with Freddie Kitchens in that role. Under Haley in Weeks 1-8, Mayfield had a QBR of 35.8, which ranked 31st of 33 qualifiers. From Week 9 on, though, Mayfield’s QBR was 70.1, which ranked seventh. For Mayfield, the biggest issue didn’t seem to be his play or ability, but the approach and plays called. Placed in a system that eliminated seven-step drops and long routes and gave him the chance to get rid of the ball quickly and play fast, Mayfield responded like the first overall pick in the draft is expected to respond.

How he can improve in 2019: Grow. Pure and simple. Continue to build off what he did with Kitchens, who is now the Browns’ head coach, and to grow as a player and person. It’s what’s expected of any dedicated player going into his second season. Mayfield also can improve on some of the factors that went into his final QBR. First were his turnovers. He threw 14 interceptions and lost three fumbles; those 17 turnovers were tied for the third most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. In addition, his completion percentage (for the season) was 24th (63.8 percent), and he was not in the top 10 in some of the positive ratings categories (touchdowns per attempt, yards per attempt and others), per ESPN Stats & Info. QBR also takes into account how well a quarterback performs at key points in games; it might be interesting to know what Mayfield’s QBR would have been had he completed that final drive against Baltimore.

He said it: “He has a lot more football left in him. He is still a rookie. There are still a lot of nuances of the National Football League. He threw three interceptions [in the finale in Baltimore]. He can still work on those little things and understanding of certain things. He also broke an NFL record [for touchdown passes by a rookie] as well, so you applaud him for that. You would hope that he can grow exponentially, and by Year 3, he is what we all thought he would be.” — Browns general manager John Dorsey
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills, 52.2
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $4,814,326

Biggest issue in 2018: Allen’s 56.2 percent completion rate at Wyoming was scrutinized during the pre-draft process but foretold his 52.8 rate as a rookie in the NFL, raising questions about his accuracy. Among quarterbacks with as many pass attempts (320) as Allen in a season, it was the worst completion rate in the NFL since Blaine Gabbert’s 50.9 percent in 2011. The Bills defended Allen’s college stat by pointing to his lack of a supporting cast and the difficulty of his throws. Both arguments could apply to his first professional season. An undrafted rookie, Robert Foster, led the team with 436 receiving yards on passes thrown by Allen, while 4.1 percent of Allen’s passes (10th-most in the NFL) were dropped by his receivers. Only three quarterbacks over the past 10 seasons — Tim Tebow in 2011, Drew Stanton in 2014 and Jameis Winston in 2018 — averaged more air yards per pass than Allen (10.54) in his first season. Some of the accuracy issues still can be pinned on Allen; a league-high 23.7 percent of his attempts (excluding throwaways and spikes) were off target, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

How he can improve in 2019: Allen had a knack as a rookie for making hard throws look easy and easy throws look hard. He completed a league-low 64.6 percent of his throws that traveled five air yards or less and was off target on a league-high 14.2 percent of those passes, per ESPN Stats & Information. The relative inability for Allen to execute a short, rhythmic passing game put stress on the offense, as did Allen holding the ball longer than any other qualifying NFL quarterback. He averaged 3.22 seconds before his passes, which was second only to Tebow’s 3.35-second average in 2011 in the past 10 seasons. Allen too often looked for the home run as a passer and will need to take coaching that makes him more comfortable and capable of hitting singles and doubles. Expected improvements to the offensive line and skill positions could help, but Allen will need to take steps forward himself.

He said it: “He’s not arrived by any means. There’s going to be things when he steps out next year that somebody else is going to get him on. But I know who he is, and he is not complacent or anything like that. This guy is competitive, this guy wants to get better, wants to be the best at his craft, and I know he’s got a really good plan. He has a really good plan for the offseason to come back here bigger, stronger, faster, and mentally even stronger.” — Bills GM Brandon Beane
Eli Manning, New York Giants, 51.6
Experience: 15 seasons

2019 salary: $17 million

Biggest issue in 2018: Manning simply didn’t make enough plays. He accounted for 22 touchdowns and 15 turnovers. Only two quarterbacks (Case Keenum and Derek Carr) started 16 games and threw for fewer touchdowns. With Manning, everything needs to be perfect for success at this point of his career. The combination of his offensive line struggling in the first half of the season with his immobility was crippling. Manning was sacked 31 times in the first eight games and threw one touchdown pass under pressure during a 1-7 start. He produced a first down on 13 percent of his dropbacks under pressure in the first half of the season. The NFL average during that span was 19 percent.

How he can improve in 2019: If Manning returns for another season — the Giants haven’t publicly committed to that yet — the hope is he can build off the second half of 2018, when he was a passenger rather than the conductor. New York relied more heavily on Saquon Barkley and the running game and asked Manning to do less. It slowed down the pressure and resulted in Manning throwing 13 of his 21 TD passes. He had a passer rating of 87.8 over the final eight games compared with 53.1 in the first eight games. Manning’s physical skills aren’t going to improve at 38 years old, but his efficiency can if the Giants ask him to do less.

He said it: “If you think about it, the guy was running for his life last year [2017]. This year [2018], we calmed it down. Once we got rolling, once everybody got comfortable with the offense, if you’re going to look at stats, it wasn’t too shabby what [Eli] did.” — Giants GM Dave Gettleman

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Carr has issues with Kellerman questioning his desireRaiders QB Derek Carr explains his frustrations with Max Kellerman’s comments criticizing him.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders, 49.0
Experience: Five seasons

2019 salary: $20 million

Biggest issue in 2018: Choose one: a leaky offensive line that saw Carr sacked a career-high 51 times (he took 36 sacks combined in 2016 and 2017); no speedy playmakers at receiver (the inconsistent Amari Cooper was traded Oct. 22); a steep learning curve in Jon Gruden’s back-to-the-future offense (dink, dunk, bomb?). It truly was a baptism by fire for Carr, who entered the season with many people simply wondering how he would react to Gruden’s oft fire-and-brimstone coaching approach. Having a pair of rookie tackles in first-rounder Kolton Miller protecting his blind side and third-rounder Brandon Parker also had to test the confidence of Carr, who has suffered a broken right (passing) finger, a fractured right fibula and three broken bones in his back since Dec. 24, 2016. He admitted to “taking inventory” after big hits, although the quarterback did improve in the second half of the season.

How he can improve in 2019: A more buttoned-up O-line, a speedy No. 1 receiver and a threat at running back to open up the play-action game would do wonders. Though perhaps simply a second season with Gruden will produce a bounty. Consider: The only other time Carr played in the same system for a second consecutive year, in 2016, he played at a league MVP level. Then there’s this — after throwing seven touchdowns and eight interceptions in the Raiders’ first six games, Carr had 12 TDs and two INTs after the bye, the TD-INT ratio of 6.0 the fourth best in the NFL in Weeks 8-17. He also had a streak of 332 passes without a pick, the third-longest streak in NFL history. Sure, Carr might have the third-most losses by a QB in his first five NFL seasons (his 46 career defeats are seven behind his brother David and three behind Blake Bortles), but there are some positive things to build upon.

He said it: “When you look at 32 teams in this league, and there aren’t 32 starting quarterbacks, yet we have one of them. He’s a starting quarterback in the NFL. He can make every throw … Derek Carr, at this point, is kind of the least of our problems.” — Raiders GM Mike Mayock
Sam Darnold, New York Jets, 48.4
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $1,854,895

Biggest issue in 2018: Interceptions. Darnold was picked off 15 times, an average of once every 27 attempts. Every rookie throws interceptions, but it was somewhat alarming in Darnold’s case because it was a continuation of his final season at USC, when he had 13. Mostly, he sabotaged himself with poor decisions, based on misreading coverages, but there were two or three instances in which he was victimized by a poorly designed play. The Jets, who changed their offensive hierarchy with the hiring of coach Adam Gase, are hoping that no longer will be an issue.

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How he can improve in 2019: He already started. Darnold led the league in Total QBR over the final four weeks (80.9), thanks to no interceptions in the last three games. The key to his turnaround? Instead of forcing a pass under duress, he used his athleticism to get outside the pocket, keeping it himself or throwing on the run. To keep the arrow pointed up in 2019, Darnold must have a better understanding of risk vs. reward. He was the fifth-most aggressive passer last season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which bases its ranking on the percentage of tight-window throws. You’d rather have an aggressive quarterback than a Captain Checkdown, but there must be a happy medium. When Darnold finds it, he could be special.

He said it: “He has a quick release, movement skills and pocket presence. I like his fire. You see it the way he plays. Just when you talk to him, you can see there’s a love for football there.” — Jets coach Adam Gase
Case Keenum, Denver Broncos, 46.9
Experience: Eight seasons

2019 salary: $18 million

Biggest issue in 2018: Last season was the first time Keenum entered as the unquestioned starter for his team. Keenum seemed uncomfortable at times with the weight of the job in a quarterback-mad region used to winning a lot. He isn’t the first to suffer that fate with a team whose current GM — John Elway — also happens to be the franchise’s greatest player. But the Broncos’ injuries on the offensive line — three starters ended the season on injured reserve — and an ill-fitting offense that too often tried to protect him in three-wide receiver sets didn’t help, either. In the end, Keenum’s footwork and fundamentals eroded as the season wore on, and he consistently looked unsettled as he finished tied for the second-most interceptions in the league with 15, including 10 in the first eight games.

How he can improve in 2019: With the acquisition of Joe Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens, Keenum might be trying to make fixes on another team. But Keenum is at his best in an offense that has a play-action element. Although his history as a college player at Houston was filled with shotgun snaps in open formations, that’s not when he has been best as a pro. Too often last season, Keenum tried to escape pressure in the shotgun by retreating rather than climbing in the pocket or by simply getting rid the ball. He often gave up too much ground with no room for recovery.

He said it: “I’m excited to work with Case. We were not in the market for a quarterback in San Francisco last year. But he was a free agent, and I did my due diligence on him. He really played outstanding in Minnesota. He was a big part of helping them get to where they got to that NFC Championship Game. He’s gritty, he’s a winner, he’s competitive. You can see that on the film. I think in our system — and I think you can see that based with Kyle [Shanahan]‘s history, that’s what I believe as well — in San Francisco, where I was directly coaching those guys, each guy is a little unique, and you have to adapt to them. I see traits that we can help Case be the best that he can be.” — Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, 45.8
Experience: Five seasons

2019 salary: $14 million

Biggest issue in 2018: Inconsistency. He was pretty darn good the first month of the 2018 season: 64.7 percent completions, 1,095 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions. Then his season deteriorated. He threw for a career-high 430 yards but also committed a career-high five turnovers (four interceptions) in a loss at Kansas City and was benched early in the second half two weeks later after he lost a pair of fumbles. He started the following week before getting benched again Nov. 26 after he was terrible in a loss at Buffalo. Bortles started the regular-season finale but managed only 107 yards and an interception.

How he can improve in 2019: He’ll be getting a fresh start elsewhere, because the Jaguars are expected to release him before the 2019 league year begins, even though that’ll cost them $16.5 million in dead money. Bortles’ mechanics have always been loose, and he has struggled with turnovers throughout his career: He leads all QBs in interceptions (75) and all players in turnovers (94) from the time he entered the league (third overall pick in 2014). He needs to be in a situation where he’s got playmakers around him and a coach with a touch for QBs (such as Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay).

He said it: “When things don’t go well, a lot of it falls on the quarterback’s shoulders. I know that and signed up for that. I have no problem with it. Whether it’s the scapegoat or whatever you want to call it. Somebody has to take the blame when things don’t go well. I think [former offensive coordinator] Nathaniel [Hackett] was one of those guys, I think I’m one of those guys. There’s other guys on this team that were part of that as well.” — Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens, 45.1
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $910,529

Biggest issue in 2018: Accuracy and consistency. In seven regular-season starts, Jackson completed more than 60 percent of his passes only twice and produced over 200 yards passing once. He was much more comfortable making plays with his legs than his arm. It wasn’t that Jackson showed impatience in the pocket. He was just more likely to break a long run than hit a receiver deep. There were times when John Brown was wide open downfield and Jackson didn’t come close to hitting him. His biggest problem was driving the ball to the sideline. His 47.8 completion rate outside the numbers was the worst among quarterbacks in 2018.

How he can improve in 2019: Work — a lot of it. What no one can doubt is Jackson’s commitment to becoming a complete quarterback; he’s been described by coaches and teammates as a “gym rat.” Jackson is expected to meet with his wide receivers this offseason for private throwing sessions, which should help his rapport with them. Before he took over for the injured Joe Flacco around midseason, Jackson received few reps with the starters and didn’t throw much to Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead. In order to work on his fundamentals, he often spent a half-hour after practices working with quarterbacks coach James Urban. This offseason, Jackson will get a majority of the snaps, which many see as the crucial piece of his development. The Ravens also will look to upgrade at wide receiver. But that should come in the draft (perhaps as early as the first round) because it will be difficult to persuade free-agent wide receivers to play in Baltimore until Jackson proves he has taken the next step.

He said it: “Throughout the course of the offseason, he’s going to throw the ball a lot. He’s going to have his receivers and throw the ball to them, he already told me that, and all those other things. He should come back, I expect him to come back a better quarterback, skill-wise, than he was when he left. He’s determined to do that.” — Ravens coach John Harbaugh
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, 35.4
Experience: Seven seasons

2019 salary: $18,725,000

Biggest issue in 2018: Tannehill’s biggest career issue has been an inability to stay healthy, and that popped up again when he missed five games because of a right shoulder capsule injury. His biggest issue in 2018 was that he lacked the pocket presence, mobility and consistent accuracy needed to lead Miami to playoff contention. It might be a function of injuries, but Tannehill held the Dolphins’ offense back at times and often collapsed when the talent level started to dissipate. By the end of the season, opposing defenses forced Tannehill into third downs, and he consistently failed to convert.

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How he can improve in 2019: Tannehill needs a fresh start in a place other than Miami, and it seems the Dolphins are prepared to move on. After seven years of being Miami’s uncontested starting quarterback, Tannehill needs legit competition to press him. Tannehill can use this offseason to get healthy and work on his feel within the pocket. Tannehill’s low QBR shows, at this point in his career, he should be a complement to the offense rather than the focal point. But Tannehill has been and still is a starting-caliber QB who will have an opportunity to bounce back with better health, pass protection and weapons in 2019.

He said it: “We’ve just been so all over the place. One game we’ll do well on offense and then we’ll just be nonexistent one game. That’s where it can help at the quarterback position. You make an off-schedule play or you do something where it just sparks the rest of the group. Sometimes we have that and sometimes we don’t.” — former Dolphins and current Jets coach Adam Gase
Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals, 25.9
Experience: One season

2019 salary: $1,849,898

Biggest issue in 2018: Inconsistency. Rosen would start games slowly, throwing passes too high and out of reach, and then calm down by the fourth quarter and look like the first-rounder the Cardinals need him to be. But it was always too little, too late. If he can start playing well earlier in games, he can prove he was worth the 10th overall pick and that he’s better than the worst QBR in the NFL.
How he can improve in 2019: He needs to be smarter. Throughout last season, Rosen repeatedly said he was trying to make the “hero” throw. He simply can’t do that in the NFL. If he can cut down his mistakes, especially early in games, he’ll keep Arizona in those games longer — which could lead to more wins. But with any rookie, time and experience is needed to improve. Rosen played as a rookie, whether that was a benefit or a hindrance, giving him the opportunity to see what kinds of defenses NFL teams run. He needs to take that experience, study the tape and learn how to combat the various looks and disguises all while being safer with the ball.

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As the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams play in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, the rest of the league is, to steal a phrase, on to 2019. The other 30 organizations might sneak a peek at the television — Doug Marrone aside — but after chasing down everyone Sean McVay is friends with on social media, the league’s runners-up are now spending time planning out their roster cuts, scouring college tape for the draft, and preparing for free agency.

Likewise, while I have a Super Bowl preview coming later this week, I have thoughts about where each of the league’s franchises might look under a totally different light in 2019. During the spring, Vegas sportsbooks post over/under marks for the upcoming season and give a general estimate of where they expect each team to land in the months to come. Those numbers are generally designed to attract even amounts of money on either side of the bet, although there are some exceptions I’ll get to later in this piece.

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I’m going to give my projections for where those over/under marks will land when the books open their 2019 totals for betting. In the process, I have to make some educated (and/or wild) guesses about what will happen in the months to come for players such as Antonio Brown and Cam Newton, whose 2019 home and status, respectively, remain unclear. I don’t know where the major free agents will go or whether veteran players will retire, but I do have each team’s schedule and their advanced metrics from the 2018 season to help guide the way.

Before we get started, I have to make one thing clear. This is not my projection of how each team will finish in 2019. I’ll have my own thoughts on that as we hit the summer. This is merely trying to estimate what Vegas will set as the average expectation for each of the league’s 32 teams in 2019 this spring.

Jump To A Team:

Arizona Cardinals (2018 record: 3-13)
Projected 2019 over/under: 4.5 wins (over -130, under +110)

Explaining The ‘Juice’
The typical over/under bet has a line of -110 on both sides, meaning bettors would need to bet $110 on either the over or the under to win $100. For many of the bets below, I’ve shaded the bets in one direction with shorter odds, or what’s commonly known as “juice,” to emphasize that one side is more likely to come in than the other. In 2018, for example, the Patriots were listed in Vegas with an over/under of 11 wins at -130 on the over, suggesting that the book thought they would take more action on the over side of the action at an 11-win total. When over/unders arrive in Vegas and begin to take action, sportsbooks will respond to the betting by adjusting the juice on each side of the line before eventually moving to a new point total.

The list has to start somewhere, and the natural beginning point might as well be the worst team in football. The 3-13 Cardinals fired coach Steve Wilks and replaced him with Kliff Kingsbury, who has no NFL coaching experience and was fired by Texas Tech. Years of poor drafts have limited the Cardinals to a few precious stars, and while it’s unfair to judge Josh Rosen after he spent 2018 playing behind backup linemen, the Cardinals probably won’t be able to address all of their issues on offense in one offseason. A trade out of the No. 1 overall pick might help.
A division with two playoff teams and a returning Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco also means the Cards will play one of the tougher last-place schedules in the NFL. It’s hard for a team to be this bad in back-to-back seasons, which is why the line builds in a 1.5-game improvement and has juice going over 4.5 wins, but the Cardinals don’t have much going for them heading into 2019.
Oakland Raiders (4-12)
Projected over/under: 5 wins (over +110, under -130)

The Cardinals at least have a home, which might be more than we can say for the Raiders. The Raiders don’t have a lease for the 2019 season. They’ve already lost one home game to the schedule-makers, as they will host the Bears in London.
Oakland’s roster is a work in progress, as just about everyone who wasn’t acquired by Jon Gruden is likely available for trade or subject to release this offseason. The Raiders have four of the top 35 picks in this year’s draft, but given Gruden’s track record with personnel, should they really be expected to make an immediate impact?
Miami Dolphins (7-9)
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Projected over/under: 5.5 wins (over -115, under -105)

Ownership has already suggested that the Dolphins need to rebuild after years of mismanagement under the previous regime of Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum, which repeatedly tilted at windmills in the hopes of stumbling on a sustainable roster or team culture.
They could draft a quarterback, which would likely mean the end of Ryan Tannehill’s tenure on the roster and $13.4 million in dead money on Miami’s cap. The likes of DeVante Parker, Andre Branch and Danny Amendola could follow Tannehill out the door, while Miami’s 7-9 record included a 5.2-win Pythagorean expectation, suggesting the team is likely to decline in 2019.
Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Projected over/under: 6 wins (over +105, under -125)

The Bills would benefit from a weakened Dolphins team, and after spending the past two years clearing out cap space, general manager Brandon Beane projects to have more than $80 million in room to build infrastructure around Josh Allen. With a weak crop of offensive talent waiting in free agency, though, the Bills might not be able to add enough in support for their young quarterback.
There are also still plenty of questions about Allen, who needed a late surge to finish with a 67.9 passer rating, the 14th-worst mark for a quarterback in a 300-attempt season in league history. Sean McDermott’s defense has ranked among the best in football over the past two seasons and should continue to carry the load in 2019.
Josh Allen finished his rookie season with a Total QBR of 52.2, which ranked 24th in the league. AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

Washington Redskins (7-9)
Projected over/under: 6 wins (over -105, under -115)

Optimistic fans might note that Washington was 6-3 before Alex Smith broke his leg and was down to Josh Johnson by the end of the season, but even during that 6-3 stretch, the team had outscored its opposition by a combined one point, and its Pythagorean expectation suggested Washington was playing like a .500 team.
Washington also has just $15.5 million in cap space to work with and may need to replace Smith, who has a guaranteed $15 million base salary coming in 2019 and might never be able to play again. Washington has an underrated defense and a great offensive line when healthy, but unless it adds another quarterback, its ceiling with Colt McCoy is capped.
New York Jets (4-12)
Projected over/under: 6 wins

Jets fans are excited about their future with Sam Darnold, and the team could easily top $100 million in cap space this offseason. As I suggested with the Bills, though, there might not be many offensive weapons worth investing in this offseason, as a desperate franchise might look to hand Le’Veon Bell a blank check to win the back pages in New York.
General manager Mike Maccagnan’s spending record in free agency is spotty at best. New coach Adam Gase also failed to impress during his time in Miami, although he hasn’t had a young quarterback to work with like Darnold since, well, Tim Tebow in Denver.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Projected over/under: 6.5 wins (over +110, under -130)

The perennial breakout pick will be among the favorites to take a step forward in 2018, given that the 5-11 Buccaneers went 3-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less and replaced Dirk Koetter with wise sage Bruce Arians, who went 29-12-1 in those same games with the Colts and Cardinals.
The issues are, well, also perennial: Jameis Winston is unreliable on and off the field, the defense is coming off a horrific season, and the other three NFC South teams have a more plausible path to the postseason. Chances are that the Bucs will improve, but new coordinator Todd Bowles would need to turn around a woeful Bucs defense overnight to get Tampa into playoff consideration.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)
Projected over/under: 6.5 wins

The Bengals seemed like a lock to hit or go over their Vegas preseason total of seven wins when they reached their bye at 5-3, but a dismal defense and injuries to Andy Dalton and A.J. Green helped sink their offense during a 1-7 second half. The collapse finally prompted the Bengals to make a coaching change, although Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, the man who’s expected to take the reins in 2019, doesn’t even have a full season of playcalling experience at the professional level.
Taylor is reportedly considering hiring Jack Del Rio as defensive coordinator, and it could be the most important move Cincinnati makes this offseason, given the success Del Rio had in that role with the Broncos.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
Projected over/under: 6.5 wins (over -115, under -105)

Perhaps the league’s most disappointing team in 2018, the Jaguars fell by five wins in dropping to 5-11. Ownership resisted the urge to make offseason changes to the coaching staff or front office, but after years of spending in free agency, the Jags are $10 million over the projected cap for 2019 and will realize only $4.5 million in savings by releasing beleaguered quarterback Blake Bortles. Malik Jackson and Carlos Hyde are likely to follow Bortles out the door, while the future of Leonard Fournette with the Jaguars remains uncertain after the team attempted to void the remaining guarantees in his contract following a suspension.
Jacksonville’s over/under could rise if it finds a serious upgrade at quarterback; of course, given that the Jags doubled down on Bortles last offseason, they might not be very good judges of quarterback play.
Leonard Fournette had a disappointing Year 2 in the NFL, rushing for just 439 yards and five touchdowns in eight games. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions (6-10)
Projected over/under: 7 wins (over -105, under -115)

The Lions had a bizarre season in the AFC East alone; who would have projected that the Lions would blow out the Patriots, comfortably beat the Dolphins, and then lose to the Bills and Jets? Matt Patricia’s team was 23rd in offensive DVOA and 27th in defensive DVOA, so Patricia promptly fired offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and replaced him with former Seahawks coordinator Darrell Bevell.
The Lions have yet to fill many of their holes on defense, as hiring Patricia was no immediate salve. They’ll need to make investments on that side of the ball this offseason to improve much on their 6-10 mark.
New York Giants (5-11)
Projected over/under: 7 wins

The Giants might be one of the rare teams both the public and sharps expect to improve in 2019. Teams with long-standing fan bases tend to attract more over action from tourists visiting Vegas, which is why the likes of the Giants, Cowboys and Bears have higher-than-expected lines most seasons.
Pat Shurmur’s team went 5-11 with a seven-win Pythagorean expectation, suggesting the Giants are one of the most likely teams in football to improve next season. If any team is going to benefit from a Cowboys decline, it’s likely the Giants, although they might need to improve upon Eli Manning at quarterback to rise much beyond 7-9 or 8-8.
Denver Broncos (6-10)
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Projected over/under: 7 wins (over -115, under -105)

John Elway’s Broncos are another team likely to improve in 2019, as they were ravaged by injuries along the offensive line and still managed to post a 7.4 Pythagorean expectation, leaving Denver comfortably ahead of its 6-10 record. By DVOA, the Broncos ranked 13th in the league, ahead of playoff teams like the Eagles (15th) and Cowboys (21st).
Their ceiling is probably limited by the difficulty of playing in the AFC West and the inconsistent play of Case Keenum, but if new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello can protect Keenum, the Broncos have more upside than you might see at first glance.
Carolina Panthers (7-9)
Projected over/under: 7.5 wins (over +130, under -150)

If we were actually posting these odds at a sportsbook, the Panthers’ line would likely be off the board until there’s some clarity about Cam Newton’s 2019 status. Since I have to post a number for every team, though, this is a best-fit line based upon a wild guess at Newton’s health. This number projects that Newton has a 60 percent chance of entering the season healthy, a 25 percent shot of missing the first four weeks of the year, and a 15 percent chance of missing the majority of the season.
Given that the Panthers are losing veterans such as Thomas Davis and Ryan Kalil and need to rebuild their depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage, this could be a difficult year even if Newton is on the field in Week 1.
Cleveland Browns (7-8-1)
Projected over/under: 7.5 wins (over even money, under -120)

After years of ranking as the lowest over/under on the board, the Browns aren’t a joke anymore. Baker Mayfield & Co. would have come narrowly short of this total at 7-8-1 in 2018, as ties count as losses for the purposes of these bets. With a young core and Hue Jackson safely ensconced outside of the Cleveland metropolitan area, it would be reasonable to expect the Browns to improve in 2018.
What might hurt the Browns, though, are some of the factors that pushed them to success in 2018. Their schedule will be tougher, as they got to face Jeff Driskel for one and a half games vs. the Bengals, while the move up the standings will get the Browns a third-place schedule in 2019. Cleveland’s turnover margin was extremely likely to improve in 2018, but its plus-7 mark could be tough to keep up. Teams that improve as much as the Browns did in general often have a consolidation year; 67 of the 89 previous teams (approximately 75 percent) that improved by five or more wins since 1989 declined by at least one win the following season.
San Francisco 49ers (4-12)
Projected over/under: 7.5 wins

The 49ers will be an easy pick to improve in 2019. Obviously, they’re getting back Jimmy Garoppolo, and while there’s no guarantee he will play 16 games, chances are that the 49ers will get more than three starts out of their top quarterback in 2019. Injuries to many of the 49ers’ other skill-position weapons aren’t likely to all simultaneously recur.
The 49ers forced just seven takeaways on defense and posted a minus-25 turnover differential, which often regresses toward the mean, as it did for the Browns, who went from minus-28 in 2017 to plus-7 in 2018. Kyle Shanahan’s team went 3-5 in one-score games and played more like a six-win team than its 4-12 record. The NFC West remains difficult, but if any team is likely to leap from the bottom quarter of the league into the postseason in 2019, it’s the Niners.
The 49ers’ season was derailed when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3. Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Projected over/under: 8 wins (over -125, under +105)

After a disappointing season, the Falcons fired both of their coordinators and went back to what worked in the past. Their offensive staff now includes Dirk Koetter and Mike Mularkey, both of whom are former Falcons offensive coordinators. Dan Quinn added defensive coordinator duties to his role as coach. Atlanta will hope that the familiar faces can bring new life to a team that never seemed to click on both sides of the ball at the same time in 2018.
If Quinn can get a defense that ranked 31st in DVOA back toward the middle of the pack, the Falcons should be able to make the playoffs. With just $4.7 million in cap space before addressing Grady Jarrett’s free-agent status, however, the Falcons don’t have the flexibility to make major additions on either side of the ball.
Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Projected over/under: 8.5 wins (over -105, under -115)

The league’s most confusing team was wildly inconsistent in its debut season under Mike Vrabel; while the 9-7 Titans soundly defeated the Patriots and finished the season with four wins over playoff teams, they lost to the Dolphins and Bills and were swept by a combined 44 points in two losses to the Colts, with the second costing Tennessee a playoff spot.
The Titans lost offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to the Packers, and while they promoted Arthur Smith to try to secure some stability, Marcus Mariota will be on his fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons. With Mariota yet to complete a full 16-game season as a pro and the AFC South going up against the AFC West and the NFC South in 2019, the Titans could struggle to hit nine wins for the fourth consecutive campaign.
Green Bay Packers (6-9-1)
Projected over/under: 8.5 wins

Matt LaFleur’s new team had a shockingly disappointing 2018, as it managed to get a 16-game season out of Aaron Rodgers and still went 6-9-1, which cost Mike McCarthy his job. I think it was time for McCarthy to go, and the lack of interest in hiring McCarthy around the league suggests that he wasn’t seen as a great coach, but it’s also fair to note that the move doesn’t guarantee success.
Fans were thrilled when the Packers promoted Ted Thompson and new general manager Brian Gutekunst actually spent money in free agency, but his first class delivered Jimmy Graham, Tramon Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, who failed to make an impact thanks to injuries and aging. LaFleur isn’t McCarthy, but the 39-year-old might not turn out to be an upgrade, either.
Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
Projected over/under: 8.5 wins (over -125, under +105)

Cowboys fans will likely see this as easy money, given that Dallas went 7-2 after trading for Amari Cooper and won’t have any cap constraints preventing Jerry Jones from retaining the team’s core contributors. The reality is that few teams project as more likely to decline than the Cowboys, who played more like an 8.4-win team all season and will face a first-place schedule in 2019.
Dallas finished the year 8-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and nothing about its track record under Jason Garrett suggests it will be able to keep that up.
Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Projected over/under: 8.5 wins (over -130, under +110)
Likewise, the Colts ran a furious second-half stretch into the postseason, where they won in Houston in the wild-card round before getting blown out by the Chiefs. They’re in great shape for the future with Andrew Luck, a strong 2018 draft and more than $115 million in cap space heading into this offseason, but they played the league’s easiest schedule in 2018.

Indy will play a second-place schedule in 2019 and goes up against the NFC South and AFC West, so it is likely to face tougher competition.
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Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
Projected over/under: 9 wins

The Seahawks made an unexpected return to the playoffs this season, thanks in part to their home turf; Russell Wilson & Co. were 6-2 at home, with their only losses coming against the Chargers and Rams. Their 4-4 record on the road included losses to the Broncos and 49ers.
Assuming the Seahawks place the franchise tag on pass-rusher Frank Clark and let star safety Earl Thomas leave in free agency, Seattle will have about $35 million in cap space, but that money might go to extending Bobby Wagner and Wilson. It remains to be seen whether the team’s run-heavy approach will work as well in 2019.
Houston Texans (11-5)
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Projected over/under: 9 wins

Bill O’Brien’s team is top-heavy and predicated upon a core of star players staying healthy and playing at a high level. In 2018, those players mostly did: Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Tyrann Mathieu and Benardrick McKinney combined to miss one game all season, and four of the six delivered Pro Bowl campaigns.
Instead, the Texans’ secondary pieces such as Will Fuller, Demaryius Thomas and Seantrel Henderson missed serious time with injuries, and while the core carried them to the postseason, an injury to Hopkins was enough to stifle the offense in a frustrating loss to the Colts. Those stars aren’t as likely to be as healthy in 2019, although the Texans will have three top-55 picks after sitting out the first two rounds of the 2018 draft.
Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Projected over/under: 9 wins

Baltimore continues to profile as a better team by advanced metrics than by on-field performance; after going 9-7 with 10.4 Pythagorean wins in 2017, it improved to 10-6 with 10.8 Pythagorean wins in 2018. The Ravens should force more takeaways in 2019 after the same defense that racked up 34 in 2017 fell to 17 this season, but they’ll play a first-place schedule, which means they’ll get the Chiefs and Texans in lieu of the Chargers and Colts.
The perennially cap-strapped Ravens also won’t realize many of the savings after they move on from Joe Flacco until 2020, given that they would eat $16 million in dead money with a Flacco trade. That would leave Baltimore with $41 million in cap room, but it will need to use that room to re-sign C.J. Mosley and John Brown and to start working on deals for restricted free agents Patrick Onwuasor and Michael Pierce.
Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1)
Projected over/under: 9 wins (over -125, under +105)

It seems like the Vikings cycle between wildly successful and despair-inducing seasons from year to year under Mike Zimmer, but in the bigger picture, they’ve won an average of 9.5 games in their five years under the former Cowboys and Bengals assistant.
Minnesota doesn’t have much cap room after the Kirk Cousins deal and could lose Sheldon Richardson, Anthony Barr, Dan Bailey and Latavius Murray this offseason, but if you ask Vikings fans, Richardson might be the only one in the bunch they’ll miss.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Projected over/under: 9.5 wins
With the Carson Wentz tempest quickly struck down on Twitter by what seemed like most of the Eagles’ locker room, Philadelphia should have no issues contending again in 2019. The concerns with Wentz are instead about health and what the Eagles do if their star quarterback can’t stay on the field in 2019. Nick Foles will likely leave for a starting job one way or another this offseason, and the Eagles might not be able to afford a significant replacement, given that Philly will have about $4 million in cap space after Foles comes off the books while Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Ronald Darby, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles all hit unrestricted free agency.

The Eagles would benefit from a Cowboys decline, although by DVOA, the 2018 team was the worst edition of the Doug Pederson era and finished with the exact same DVOA — 0.0 percent — as the Giants.
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1)
Projected over/under: 10 wins
Will Antonio Brown still be on this roster in August? This projection would be at 10.5 wins if I felt more confident that the Steelers would work something out with their star receiver; remember that in what felt like a disastrous 2018 season, the Steelers still went 9-6-1.

Assuming that the Steelers end up amassing draft picks for their mercurial wideout, Pittsburgh will run things back in 2019 with a second-place schedule, although the division rotation within the AFC means Mike Tomlin’s team will still manage to play the Patriots for the fifth consecutive season. Their biggest concern is Ben Roethlisberger falling off of a cliff as he enters his age-37 campaign.
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)
Projected over/under: 10 wins
For years, the Chargers underperformed their point differential and posted a dismal record in close games. The 2017 Chargers posted a 10.4-win Pythagorean expectation and went 9-7, which is why they were likely to get better the following season. The 2018 Chargers posted an identical 10.4-win expectation, but Philip Rivers & Co. improved to 12-4. Chances are they’ll decline some in 2019, but they’ll also presumably get something closer to a full season from star pass-rusher Joey Bosa.

One thing seems certain: The same team that went 7-20 in one-score games from 2015 to ’17 won’t be able to repeat its 5-1 mark in those same contests last season. The Chargers also lose a home game to Mexico City.
Joey Bosa had 5.5 sacks in seven games this season, and the Chargers got to the AFC divisional round. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears (12-4)
Projected over/under: 10.5 wins (over +115, under -135)
Matt Nagy’s team returns virtually everyone on the field from the 12-4 Bears of 2018, but they’ll be without stud defensive coordinator Vic Fangio after the Broncos poached the 60-year-old to take over as coach.

Their dominant defense might struggle to lead the league in takeaways and rank among the healthiest units in football for a second consecutive season, but will improvement from Mitchell Trubisky and a young offense be enough to offset any defensive decline?
Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Projected over/under: 11 wins
All Patrick Mahomes did during his first season as a starter was likely win league MVP. What’s on tap for his second season at the helm under Andy Reid? After firing defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, the Chiefs clearly hope to build a better defense to capitalize on their dominant offense.

Mahomes & Co. became the second team in league history to score 30 or more points in a game and lose four times in one season (playoffs included), joining the 2002 Chiefs in the process. Those Chiefs went from 8-8 to 13-3 the following year. The 12-4 Chiefs can’t make that sort of leap, but if they can get something close to a full season out of Eric Berry, they might not need the offense to score 35 points per game.
Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
Projected over/under: 11 wins
The NFC champions are likely to suffer some slight drop-off in 2019, as the 13-3 Rams played more like a 10.9-win team during the regular season. A 6-1 record in one-score games goes a long way. Barring an injury to Jared Goff, Sean McVay’s team should be able to ride a devastating offense and its big-play defense to another double-digit win total.

I might have placed Todd Gurley within that caveat a month ago, but after the emergence of C.J. Anderson, the Rams almost have to bring back the former Broncos starter into the fold for a full season in 2019, right? The Rams don’t always have traditional home-field advantage, as their playoff game against the Cowboys showed, but they’re losing one home game to a London trip against the Bengals this upcoming season.
New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Projected over/under: 11 wins (over -125, under +105)
Arguably the most complete team in the league on paper, the Saints saw Drew Brees fade badly over the final two months of the season. As Mike Sando pointed out on my podcast, the 40-year-old Hall of Famer was playing like an MVP candidate and posting a league-best Total QBR of 88.1 heading into the Cowboys game in Week 13. From that point forward, Brees posted a QBR of 55.3, placing him between Nick Mullens and Derek Carr.

Could it be a blip, a small sample of middling play from an oft-excellent quarterback? Of course. Could it also be something similar to the late-season decline we saw from Peyton Manning in 2014 before Manning struggled mightily in 2015? That’s also on the table. The Broncos still managed to win the Super Bowl with a compromised quarterback that season, and the Saints can win plenty of games in 2019 with their defense and an excellent running game. It’s also fair to say that their highest ceiling comes with the Brees of old, and there are no guarantees we’ll see that same level of genius at work next season.
New England Patriots (11-5)
Projected over/under: 12 wins (over +125, under -145)
They’re the Patriots. They won 12 or more games in eight consecutive seasons before 2018, and the only reason they didn’t get to 12 wins was because the Dolphins beat them on a laterals play with all zeros on the clock. Yes, they will be in some level of flux. Rob Gronkowski might retire. Stephen Gostkowski, Trey Flowers and Trent Brown are unrestricted free agents. Tom Brady is going to be a year older. They’re likely going to lose defensive coordinator Brian Flores to Miami.

You know what? I have faith Bill Belichick will figure it out, because Bill Belichick always figures it out. They’re going to fall to earth one day, but it probably won’t be in 2019.

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Will the Texans bring back Tyrann Mathieu? Could Clay Matthews move on from the Packers after 10 seasons? Which players could get the franchise tag?

NFL Nation reporters evaluate the biggest looming free-agent decisions facing all 32 teams.

Scan through each team by division, or click here to jump ahead to your team:

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Offensive guard John Miller

Miller and right tackle Jordan Mills are the only two full-time starters among the Bills’ seven remaining unrestricted free agents after they re-signed linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. Miller, a 2015 third-round pick, has started since his rookie season and finished tied for 26th in Pro Football Focus’ grading of NFL guards. However, the Bills could choose to part ways as they look to overhaul their offensive line this offseason. — Mike Rodak

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Miami Dolphins

Offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James

James wasn’t optimistic that a long-term deal would get done with the previous Dolphins staff in place, but with a new regime it will be interesting to see whether the team values James as a piece to build around. The Dolphins’ offensive tackles, James and budding star Laremy Tunsil, are one of their biggest strengths, and the two have a great relationship. Good offensive linemen get paid handsomely on the free-agent market, and it’s possible that number could get too high for a Miami team not close to contention. James isn’t the perfect right tackle, but it will be difficult to replace him with someone as good or better given their resources. — Cameron Wolfe
New England Patriots

Defensive end Trey Flowers

Flowers is a perfect fit for the Patriots’ multiple scheme because he can play a traditional role on the edge or move inside to play over a guard or center — and is equally as effective as a pass-rusher or defending the run. The Patriots value that as much as any team, which is why Flowers figures to be a top priority to retain, not to mention that he is a top “program” guy in the locker room. Because Flowers isn’t an elite speed rusher, he might not command a top-of-the-market contract, but a significant payday is coming his way. — Mike Reiss
New York Jets

Defensive end Henry Anderson

The Jets locked up their No. 1 priority by re-signing wide receiver Quincy Enunwa to a four-year, $33 million extension. Anderson isn’t a must-keep, but he’d be a nice player to keep as part of their foundation. He recorded a career-high seven sacks in his first season with the Jets, showing the ability to play inside and outside. Anderson is only 27, just entering his prime. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Linebacker C.J. Mosley

It’s surprising that the Ravens haven’t reached a deal with Mosley, who has reached the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons and made the season-saving interception in the regular-season finale. He’s a core leader for the NFL’s No. 1 defense that could part ways with veterans Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. If Baltimore fails to keep Mosley, it would go against the franchise’s history. Of the Ravens’ 10 first-round picks who made the Pro Bowl, nine were re-signed to a long-term deal. The only exception was guard Ben Grubbs. — Jamison Hensley
Cincinnati Bengals

Tight end Tyler Eifert

Although Eifert’s broken ankle this season was a freak accident, it’s yet another season that he wasn’t able to stay on the field. The Bengals signed him to a one-year deal with incentives for this very reason. The Bengals have to decide whether to gamble on Eifert for another year or move on in free agency or the draft. However, they do have several other needs and no true No. 1 tight end on the roster to replace him, so moving on from Eifert isn’t the easiest decision. — Katherine Terrell
Cleveland Browns

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor

Taylor would be a good backup quarterback, but he said late in the season that he would not make a decision until he met with his agent. Taylor admitted he wants to play and might see what’s on the market. If he finds little, he does like Cleveland, and would be a good fit — though he won’t make anything close to the $16 million he earned in 2018. — Pat McManamon

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Graziano lists potential landing spots for BrownDan Graziano lists the 49ers, Jets and Colts as teams that could be fits for Antonio Brown in 2019.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Running back Le’Veon Bell

Though the relationship between Bell and the Steelers appears doomed, the team still faces a decision on Bell’s future that will shape their offseason. They can place the transition tag on Bell or let him walk in free agency and recoup a mid-round compensatory pick in 2020. Either way, the likelihood of Bell playing for the Steelers in 2019 is remote after Bell just skipped an entire season. The team must decide whether to re-sign guard Ramon Foster, tight end Jesse James and linebacker Anthony Chickillo, but those calls won’t be made until Bell’s future is mapped out. — Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

Safety Tyrann Mathieu

In one season in Houston, Mathieu quickly elevated himself to a team leader. He brought a veteran presence to the Texans’ secondary and served as a mentor for future star Justin Reid. The ability to move Mathieu around enhances the defense against both the run and the pass. — Turron Davenport
Indianapolis Colts

Kicker Adam Vinatieri

The 46-year-old hasn’t officially made up his mind on whether he wants to play a 24th season, but he said he’ll definitely listen to the Colts if they approach him about re-signing. Vinatieri, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, is still an effective kicker. He was 23-of-27 on field goals and 44-of-47 on extra points this season. It would be surprising if the Colts didn’t try to re-sign him. — Mike Wells
Jacksonville Jaguars

Kicker Josh Lambo

He’s the only key player who will become a free agent with whom the Jaguars should spend their time. Lambo has been fantastic since the team signed him off the street in October 2017, making 38 of 41 field goal attempts (including 6 of 7 from 50-plus) and 41 of 44 PATs. He was pretty much the only player the Jaguars could count on in 2018 to score points until he suffered a groin injury and missed the last three games, so he should be a priority to bring back in 2019. The Jaguars have used the franchise tag on a kicker before — Josh Scobee in 2012 — but don’t expect that to be the case with Lambo. — Mike DiRocco
Tennessee Titans

Safety Kenny Vaccaro

The Titans were 9-4 when Vaccaro was in the lineup and 0-3 when he wasn’t. Vaccaro teamed with Kevin Byard to give Tennessee one of the top safety tandems in the league. Although Johnathan Cyprien is returning from a season-ending knee injury, retaining Vaccaro is a move the Titans have to make. His physical play sets a tone for the team every time he steps onto the field. The 27-year-old has taken to social media frequently to express a desire to return to Tennessee and enjoys playing for defensive coordinator Dean Pees. — Turron Davenport

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Center Matt Paradis

The Broncos have a number of soon-to-be unrestricted free agents who might score higher on the glamour meter, such as cornerback Bradley Roby and outside linebacker Shane Ray — both former first-round picks who are not expected back. The 29-year-old Paradis suffered a fractured lower leg and ligament damage in the Broncos’ loss to the Texans in November, but he had not missed a snap in his 56 career games until that injury. The Broncos are looking at a makeover along the offensive line, but Paradis should return to form. The Broncos haven’t always broken out the checkbook for a player returning from an injury, but if the doctors like where Paradis is in his recovery, they should pay him. He has been one of the league’s best bargains for years. — Jeff Legwold

2019 NFL DRAFT
When: April 25-27
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
How to watch: ABC/ESPN/ESPN App

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Kansas City Chiefs

Linebacker Dee Ford

The 27-year-old Ford had a career season with 13 sacks in a contract year. The Chiefs can’t afford to let Ford go as he heads into the prime of his career. Look for the Chiefs to retain him whether on a long-term contract or as the franchise player at a cost of about $15 million. Ford recently said he wouldn’t hold out if the Chiefs made him the franchise player, saying the decision to sign the tender would be a “no-brainer.” — Adam Teicher
Los Angeles Chargers

Wide receiver Tyrell Williams

Signed as an undrafted rookie out of Western Oregon in 2015, Williams has been productive as a vertical threat for the Chargers, totaling 155 receptions for 2,530 yards and 17 total touchdowns in four seasons. Williams has an impressive career average of 16.3 yards per catch. The Chargers would like to have back the hard-working Williams, but they also have a replacement on the roster in second-year pro Mike Williams. With speedy receivers such as Sammy Watkins and Paul Richardson receiving lucrative contracts on the free-agent market last year, the price for Williams could get too steep for the Chargers. — Eric D. Williams
Oakland Raiders

Running back Marshawn Lynch

The late-season play of Doug Martin might have made Oakland’s favorite son expendable. Lynch, who went on injured reserve on Oct. 22 and never returned, sure looked content to simply light the Al Davis Torch in the home finale — even if both players averaged 4.2 yards per carry, with Martin scoring four touchdowns and Lynch three. Moving on from Lynch would mean the Raiders probably have to re-sign Martin, who is also scheduled to be a free agent. Undrafted rookie Chris Warren, a big-bodied back who spent the season stashed on injured reserve, would figure to have a bigger role. — Paul Gutierrez

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence

The Cowboys can use the franchise tag for the second straight year on their Pro Bowl defensive end, but they shouldn’t let it get to that point. Reaching a long-term deal is a must. Lawrence is the Cowboys’ best pass-rusher, the war daddy Jerry Jones has sought since DeMarcus Ware’s departure. Without Lawrence, the defense would lose a lot of its identity. It’s not just how he rushes the passer. It’s how he affects the running game, too. Without Lawrence, the Cowboys would have to find a pass-rusher in the draft, and they don’t have a first-round pick because of the Amari Cooper trade. It will be costly, but the Cowboys have a history of keeping their own players off the market with high-end deals. — Todd Archer
New York Giants

Safety Landon Collins

He just turned 25 years old and has made three Pro Bowls. Think the Giants can afford to let him walk? Collins is a playmaker who led the team in tackles this past season even after missing four games. The franchise tag is in play here if the two sides can’t come to an agreement on a long-term deal. — Jordan Raanan

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Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive end Brandon Graham

The defensive hero of Super Bowl LII, Graham played through a high ankle sprain last postseason and wasn’t fully healthy for much of the 2018 campaign. He ended up with four sacks — his lowest total since 2013 — but the 30-year-old picked up steam as the season went on. He can be a force both against the run and as a pass-rusher, and he has been a key figure in the locker room over the past several seasons. Graham loves it in Philadelphia. If the Eagles can get him at a discount, a deal could get done. But his best chance at a bigger payday will be elsewhere. — Tim McManus
Washington Redskins

Linebacker Preston Smith

Wide receiver Jamison Crowder is right there with him — and perhaps just a little higher on the list of guys they’d like to re-sign. But Smith provides a bigger conundrum: He recorded only four sacks this season, but he’s also just 26 years old, so he’s just now entering his prime. It’s hard to let young pass-rushers leave. However, he’ll also be expensive because of the position he plays and the subsequent demand. It’s hard to see the Redskins going too high for Smith; if they switch to a 4-3 they can mitigate his loss, or they could draft someone else if they stay in a 3-4. Smith did not make enough big plays for them to automatically re-sign him, but it’s a difficult position to fill. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Safety Adrian Amos

The Bears re-upped with starting cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara last offseason, but they appear content to let Amos test free agency. A former fifth-round draft pick, Amos has carved out a nice career, starting 56 regular-season games since 2015. Amos had 71 tackles and a career-best two interceptions for the Bears’ top-ranked defense in 2018. The Bears likely want to keep Amos, but at their price. — Jeff Dickerson
Detroit Lions

Defensive end Romeo Okwara

This isn’t a star-power move, but Okwara’s contract situation makes him the most intriguing after his 7.5-sack breakout season. He’s a restricted free agent, so the Lions can either tender him and hope no team goes after him or they can give him a new contract on its own. After the way general manager Bob Quinn spoke about Okwara during his season-ending news conference, he seems like a player they want to keep around. The question will be the cost. He’s a tougher call than some of the bigger names heading toward free agency (Ezekiel Ansah) and some of the cap decisions they’ll have to make (T.J. Lang, Glover Quin) because of his youth and figuring out whether it was a one-season aberration or the start of the growth of a key player. — Michael Rothstein
Green Bay Packers

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews

Look at the sack numbers — 3.5 last season and just 16 over the past three seasons — and you’d probably think it’s a no-brainer to move on. But if Matthews agreed to move to inside linebacker, where he has been effective before, then it might be worth bringing him back. The Packers have plenty of holes to fill on defense and retaining Matthews — at the right price, of course — could help. — Rob Demovsky
Minnesota Vikings

Linebacker Anthony Barr

Because the Vikings chose not to extend Barr’s contract last offseason, the former ninth overall pick could soon be headed toward free agency. Given the restrictions they face with the salary cap, the Vikings aren’t likely to make a ton of moves in the offseason, and the cost to keep Barr (somewhere in the range of $11 million to $12 million) could mean Minnesota prices itself out of that sweepstakes. Placing the franchise tag on Barr is a possibility, but that, too, would be expensive. Barr’s fifth season was up and down, but he shined brightest when used to rush the passer (three sacks, four QB hits, eight tackles for loss). With that in mind, Barr might want to go play for a team that would allow him to be a 3-4 outside linebacker tasked with pursuing the quarterback regularly. After all, Barr did say he feels like he’s better at going forward rather than going backward. He might have a better chance of fulfilling that role on a different team. — Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett

General manager Thomas Dimitroff said signing Jarrett to an extension is the top priority, though those talks were put off during the season. Jarrett could get as much as $17 million per year in a new deal. The Falcons just have to find a way to be creative with it so they have enough cap room for other priorities, such as taking care of wide receiver Julio Jones and upgrading the offensive line. Franchising Jarrett could be an option, but that seems unlikely based on the Falcons’ history. — Vaughn McClure
Carolina Panthers

Safety Eric Reid

The decision to move on from 35-year-old outside linebacker Thomas Davis was a big one but somewhat expected. Finding a way to keep Reid, who at 27 has a lot of good football left in him, will be key for a secondary looking to maintain stability with strong safety Mike Adams not likely to be re-signed. The Panthers already have reached out to Reid’s agent. The question is will they be willing to give Reid the “fair market” price he wants when the organization hasn’t spent a lot of money at safety in the past? — David Newton
New Orleans Saints

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

I could have listed either Bridgewater or running back Mark Ingram, but Bridgewater is a bigger financial decision because he should cost somewhere between $10 million and $20 million per year. Still just 26 years old, Bridgewater would be an ideal successor to Drew Brees, who turned 40 on Tuesday. But the only realistic way for the Saints to keep Bridgewater is if Brees were to announce he plans to retire in the next year or two — and there’s no indication he plans to do that. More likely, Bridgewater will leave for big money and an opportunity to start right away. — Mike Triplett
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Linebacker Kwon Alexander and offensive tackle Donovan Smith

Prior to Alexander suffering a torn ACL in Week 7, his representatives wanted $12 million per year, and the Bucs weren’t willing to go above $10 million, sources familiar with the negotiations told ESPN. Now the Bucs have a scheme change under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Will Bowles see Alexander as the “heart and soul of the defense” the way Dirk Koetter did? Then there’s Smith, who is still battling consistency issues but has not missed a single game in four seasons, which is so rare at the left tackle position. — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Defensive end Markus Golden

Yes, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is a free agent, but the team won’t decide whether to re-sign him. He’ll decide whether to return or retire. Golden, however, might be the Cardinals’ tell when it comes to the first pick in the draft. If they re-sign him to a multiyear deal, it will be hard to believe Arizona will draft a pass-rusher first overall, since he and Golden play the same position and there are only two edges from which to rush. Golden was slow to return from an ACL injury suffered early in 2017 and finished with 2.5 sacks in 11 games. If the Cards believe Golden, who had 12.5 sacks in 2016, can return to form next year with an entire offseason healthy, then they could re-sign him and pass on Ohio State’s Nick Bosa in the draft. — Josh Weinfuss
Los Angeles Rams

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh

The Rams signed Suh to a one-year, $14 million contract last year as he was considered a one-year rental. His numbers didn’t jump off the stat sheet, with 4.5 sacks in a run defense that ranked last in the NFL, allowing an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Perhaps that means the Rams could re-sign Suh at a discount, or that they’ll look for a younger, less expensive option. — Lindsey Thiry
San Francisco 49ers

Kicker Robbie Gould

The Niners don’t have many incumbent starters set to hit free agency, but Gould is an important piece in a league in which kickers have become more and more unreliable. In two seasons in San Francisco, Gould missed just three of his 75 field goal attempts for a league-best 96 percent conversion rate. The 49ers want him back and Gould has said he’d like to return, but terms must still be reached and Gould would be a hot commodity if the 49ers don’t sign or tag him and he hits the open market. — Nick Wagoner
Seattle Seahawks
Defensive end Frank Clark

It’s not a question of whether Clark will be back with the Seahawks next season because there’s no way they’d let a 25-year-old pass-rusher with 33 sacks over the past three seasons leave in free agency. It’s a matter of whether they can agree to a multiyear deal or if Seattle will have to place the franchise tag on him. Remember, his agent told ESPN in October that Clark is willing to wait for the right deal, even if it means playing on the tag first. That line of thinking makes it hard to imagine Clark taking a deal this offseason that averages much less than the franchise number for defensive ends, which is projected to be upward of $18 million for 2019.