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9 Biggest NFL Offseason Storylines

Sam Spiegelman breaks down the nine biggest NFL offseason storylines we’re following this spring.

DeMarco Murray

The NFL offseason is officially upon us, and we have seven months between now and the start of the 2015 season.

Of course, there’s plenty of offseason events to keep us occupied, from the NFL draft to free agency and training camp.

There are also a handful of looming questions that are sure to remain on the forefront for most of the offseason. Here are the nine biggest:

1. What will be the verdict of Deflate-gate?

The New England Patriots just won the Super Bowl, but we still await word from the NFL’s independent investigation as to who’s to blame for the team’s use of deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game.

During the week leading up to the big game, owner Robert Kraft stated he wanted a public apology from Roger Goodell once the Patriots were found innocent in this investigation, but will it come? Or will the Patriots be found guilty and have to surrender draft picks or pay record-setting fines?

The Pats were docked a first-round pick for Spy-gate in 2007, and Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended a year for Bounty-gate in 2012. We await a verdict in the latest NFL scandal.

2. Will rehab change Manziel?

Johnny Manziel took the NFL world by surprise when his agent announced the notorious party animal was checking into rehab for alcohol addiction. Without question, it at least looks like Manziel is trying to get himself in order so he can compete for the starting job in 2015.

Manziel struggled when inserted into the starting lineup down the stretch of the season, and even after promising he’d stay out of the nightlife he couldn’t. The Browns are reportedly very unpleased with the first-round pick’s actions, so this is a potential first step in the right direction toward fixing the situation.

3. What will come of Atlanta’s Noise-gate?

Perhaps even bigger than New England’s Deflate-gate is the report that the Falcons added extra crowd noise into the Georgia Dome for home games the past two seasons. If true, it’s a major rules violation that gave Atlanta an unfair home-field advantage.

Dan Quinn was just named the Falcons’ head coach, and this will be his first major obstacle in his new position. Of course, he wasn’t a part of the organization when this reported infraction occurred, but his team could receive the punishment.

4. New deals for Luck, Wilson

Every year a new set of quarterbacks cash in for record-setting deals, and this year it’s Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck who are in store for major paydays.

Wilson, who has back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and a Lombardi Trophy on his resume, and Luck, touted as the best young quarterback in the game, are likely to earn contract extensions worth upwards of $25 million per year.

It’s a huge raise for Wilson, who as a third-round pick earned about $600,000 in 2014. Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, should be on track to become the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.

5. Who will be the first quarterback taken in the draft?

The Buccaneers are on the clock, and it seems as if Lovie Smith could draft a quarterback in the first round for the first time ever in his career.

Tampa will have its choice between reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota of Oregon, and last year’s winner, Jameis Winston of Florida State. The Bucs hired Dirk Koetter as their new offensive coordinator, and he’s notorious for his spread offense, which best suits Mariota. However, Winston played nearby with the Seminoles and won them the National Championship a year ago, so it may appease the hometown fans to stick with the local favorite.

6. Will Manning retire?

Any day now, it’s expected that Peyton Manning will announce he’s going to return to Denver or hang up his cleats and ride into the sunset. Signs point toward The Sheriff coming back for at least one more year.

Manning will have a new head coach and offensive coordinator, since John Fox and Adam Gase are now in Chicago. He also may be subject to some new personnel, as we’ll address later on in this piece. Manning suffered through a major injury throughout the latter part of the season and in the playoffs, so he may be eager to make one last run at the Super Bowl at 100 percent.

7. Is Beast Mode on his way out of Seattle?

One of the biggest divorces we may see this offseason is Marshawn Lynch getting released by the Seahawks. Lynch, no question, is the best offensive weapon at the defending NFC champions’ disposal, but the running back will be 29 years old by the start of the 2015 season and he reportedly wants another deal.

Last offseason, there was a lot of hype about young backup Christine Michael, but there’s no doubt that the 12s will be upset to see Lynch and his league-leading 17 touchdowns eat Skittles elsewhere. One potential destination: Oakland, his hometown.

8. What team will Peterson play for?

Adrian Peterson‘s suspension could be lifted in time for the 2015 NFL season. Minnesota would owe him $12.75 million in 2015, and that’s quite a sum of money for someone who brought a lot of drama last season and will turn 30 in the spring.

Still, Peterson has made it clear he wants to play next season, and six teams reportedly have already shown interest. It’s not hard to connect Peterson with the Cowboys. Jerry Jones has a known interest for the former Oklahoma star, and his team may be without DeMarco Murray next year.

9. Free agency: Murray, Bryant, Suh and Thomas

Speaking of Murray, he and Dez Bryant headline the 2015 free-agent crop, along with Ndamukog Suh, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas.

The Cowboys may be able to retain both Murray and Bryant, should one receive the franchise tag. Suh will be one of the biggest players available — both literally and figuratively — and should set the bar in terms of contracts for defensive linemen. Denver faces a major task in trying to bring back both Demaryius and Julius Thomas, and it might wind up that one hits the open market.

Elsewhere, Larry Fitzgerald could be a cap casualty should he refuse to accept a pay cut. Other big-name players heading toward unrestricted free agency include Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, Torrey Smith, Shane Vereen, Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Jordan Cameron, Jason Pierre-Paul, Greg Hardy, Justin Houston, Jerry Hughes, Byron Maxwell, Malcolm Smith, and Devin McCourty.

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