The 11 NFL Off-Season Stories That You Must Follow (Or Else)
You want to be a cool NFL fan, don't you? All the cool kids are following these stories.
1. How will Robert Griffin III recover from his knee surgery?
Football players use their knees, kind of like how pianists use their hands and bankers use their complete lack of scruples. Robert Griffin III, rookie of the year, savior of our nation's capital, all-around Winning Dude, does not currently have two working knees, and the surgical efforts to repair the iffy one will be arguably the most-watched narrative of the off-season, and certainly the most tweeted-about orthopedic procedure of the year, unless Kim Kardashian's butt tears an ACL. There is reason to be optimistic and reason to be pessimistic, the optimism stemming from Adrian Peterson's MVP-winning return from ACL surgery as well as RGIII's own previous return from the same procedure. The pessimism stems from the fact that ROBERT GRIFFIN IS 22 AND THIS IS HIS SECOND ACL TEAR. So we'll see.
2. How ridiculous will Joe Flacco's ridiculous contract be?
Probably pretty ridiculous! Joe Flacco had arguably the best postseason by any quarterback ever, throwing 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions en route to a Super Bowl title. Questions about whether the Ravens would pony up "elite" quarterback money for Flacco prior to the postseason have been replaced by questions about whether the Ravens will need to acquiesce to all of Flacco's absurd, inexplicable demands, which reportedly include a permanent Humvee detail to ferry him around Baltimore and a bunch of actual, live ravens that can not only recite but also compose their own poetry. So yeah, the Ravens are going to have to pay Joe Flacco a bunch of money.
3. Who will be the first overall pick?
Chatter about this year's draft class pegs it as one of the worst since 1977, when the Bears used the first overall pick on Edmond Dantes, a fictional character from Alexandre Dumas' 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The first pick belongs the Kansas City Chiefs, who are desperately deficient at the quarterback position, but there aren't any can't-miss QB prospects on the level of Robert Griffin or Andrew Luck this year. They might reach for West Virginia's Geno Smith, or take a lineman from Texas A&M named Luke Joeckel, but that would make people cry, because quarterbacks are way sexier. If KC really wants to make an impact, I'd recommend they take LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, whose name has to be worth at least three sacks a season all on its own.
4. Will Darrelle Revis be traded?
Why would a team like the desperately talent-thin Jets trade away the guy who is unquestionably their best player? It's simple: because one good football player doesn't do you much when the other 52 suck. (Not all of the Jets' other 52 players suck, but a shockingly high percentage of them do.) Revis has a year left on his contract but wants a new one right now — he wants to be the NFL's best-paid defensive player despite having just had ACL surgery, and for a cash-and-talent-strapped team like New York to give him that might be asking a little much. That being said, if the Jets let Revis go elsewhere, they'll be abandoning one of the best players in franchise history, one who could again be the top corner in the league in 2013. Would you rather trip and fall down a manhole or be trapped inside an elevator for an entire season? I don't know.
Also, yes, that is Revis with Nick Lachey pictured above. Definitely points for the "trade him" side.
5. What's going to happen to Mike Vick?
It's hard to imagine that Vick will be back in Philadelphia in 2013, considering last season's inconceivably bad year; the emergence of Nick Foles as a plausible, far less expensive option; and new coach Chip Kelly's presumed desire to schism himself from anything with the particular sheen of deposed walrus Andy Reid. That being said, the Eagles don't look likely to cut Vick outright, meaning that the aerobics involved in shipping him out of town could be daunting. If Vick remains and is forced into a backup role, expect him to be vocally unhappy; if Vick is traded and forced to redo his contract for market value, expect him to remain vocally unhappy.
6. What the hell are the Jets going to do at quarterback?
There were barbarian tribes of Gauls that ran smoother than the 2012 New York Jets did, and much of that had to do with their calamitous quarterback situation. (The Jets', not the Gauls'. The Gauls were very happy with their quarterback, Budaggnatus Manning.) In the off-season, the Jets will have three decisions to make: 1) whether to keep or cut Tim Tebow; 2) whether to start Mark Sanchez, whose hilariously overinflated contract makes him more or less impossible to get rid of, and whose incredible badness at playing quarterback makes him more or less impossible to start at quarterback; and 3) whether to just pour lye on the whole operation and set it on fire. Just kidding! Decision three is figuring out who to bring in if they decide to sit Sanchez. Top choices right now include Alex Smith, Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson, Pee-Wee Herman, and the ghost of Joe Namath, who isn't even dead, but will need to be approached since regular Joe Namath has already turned down several Jets contract offers.
7. Where will Alex Smith play football next year?
Colin Kaepernick may have lost the Super Bowl this year, but if you are someone who questions his status as one of the most promising quarterbacks in the NFL, you should be banished to the island of Elba to live like Napoleon did, in exile, until you apologize with a loudspeaker while people throw footballs at you, like Napoleon didn't, which was his biggest mistake, according to history. Kaepernick's not going away, and his backup, Alex Smith, remains an attractive potential starter, particularly when you consider that in 2012, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez were allowed to take snaps. Where will Alex Smith end up, then? Possibly the Jets. Possibly Mars. The chances of him ending up on Mars are admittedly low, but chance dictates that anything that is possible can happen, regardless of how unlikely it seems. But yeah, probably the Jets, or maybe Jacksonville or Kansas City or Arizona.
8. What the hell is drafting Manti Te'o going to be like?
Hokay, so, there's this guy named Manti Te'o who you might have heard of. He had this girlfriend. Turned out she didn't exist. Now everyone thinks he's dumber than a box of socks. You know the story. The important thing, as we crawl bleeding-kneed into the NFL draft's waiting April arms, is that, despite being a national laughingstock and kind of a goofballish void, Te'o remains a quite good linebacker and likely first-round pick. For Te'o, though, the draft is certain to be bizarre: If he's invited to the live event, he'll be the subject of endless discussion and camera pans, not to mention a pained lunatic smile from Roger Goodell when he eventually reads Te'o's name. If not, he'll probably have a camera pointed at him by ESPN wherever he is; if he declines this camera, ESPN will point them at his house, or maybe at pictures of him mounted on a table in Bristol. And then, eventually, he'll meet his new teammates, and they'll all be like, "Dude LOL [prank involving a sex doll with 'Lennay' written on it]." Te'o's rookie hazing will definitely be super-weird.
9. How many minutes will Rob Ryan be employed for?
After hilariously declaring that he would be out of work for only five minutes after being fired by the Dallas Cowboys, Rob Ryan was allegedly hired by the St. Louis Rams after 22,987 minutes, then officially un-hired 6,899 minutes later. Now, it looks like he will be hired again, this time by the New Orleans Saints. Please visit your local bookie and place a bet on how long Rob Ryan will be the Saints' defensive coordinator for. (Put your smart money on less than a year's worth of minutes, because you just KNOW that Ryan won't be able to resist dusting off the old bounty system.)
10. Will the Patriots pay Wes Welker?
Bill Belichick does not operate according to the dictates of normal humans. When Belichick decides that a player has exceeded his value to the Patriots, that player is gone. Despite being 31 years old, Wes Welker had what anyone would consider a tremendous season in 2012, but Belichick is still considering letting him walk, because that's just how Bill do. And because Welker is now a 32-year-old possession receiver who already lacks speed and whose quickness will only decline. But like, 1,354 yards in 2012, so: He's getting paid either way. If it isn't by the Patriots, expect riots in Boston.
11. Will the NFL replace footballs with baby otters?
They are kind of football-shaped. Because that would also mean the changing of football rules to involve transferring the otter from player to player as delicately as possible and also making sure not to wake it up if it falls asleep, this change seems unlikely. BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE.