Who doesn’t love fearless predictions? Especially in the dog days of May, with the draft now a week ago and real football still months away? The prime free agents are already signed. We’ve seen more blockbuster deals than anyone could have anticipated. Rosters are well taking shape. We can start to think we know things about the 2022 season, right?
Certainly, more information will be available next week when the schedules are revealed. It tends to be a significant factor, as it’s not just who you play, but when you play them. But for these purposes I don’t believe it would sway much. There are some things I am starting to believe – or talk myself into – and some hunches I am willing to play, and what better time than now to share them (and open myself up for ridicule and derision I the process!).
So after much deliberation and consternation, I am willing to put these 10 bold predictions into the universe. Feel free to throw them back at me:
I am Team Russ. Always have been. Always will be. Dudes like this don’t get dealt in their prime. And make no mistake, he is still very much in his prime. This is the best cast he has had around him in a long time. This is a coach who is going to be the opposite of Pete Carroll and will be skewing everything possible in favor of the passing game. It’s go time. They have speed. They have big targets. They will have a scheme that has worked wonderfully well in Green Bay and with the L.A. Rams, among others. I see Denver as being a very real factor in a loaded AFC, and Russ is going to get his cookies.
2. David Ojabo will have a monster season … in 2023
I love the Ravens’ selection of the Michigan pass rusher in Round 2 as much as any pick in this draft. He is a top 10 talent and he has natural pass rush instincts and moves and a ceiling as high as any pass rusher in this draft, including the top two picks. He will be an instant fit in Baltimore’s evolving scheme under new coordinator Mike Macdonald. He is going to be the first impact pass rusher the Ravens have developed and cultivated since Terrell Suggs. But it ain’t gonna be this year. At least I figure it won’t be. After his horrible pre-draft injury, and given the Ravens’ massive injury woes in recent years and multiple issues with players returning from surgery, a redshirt year and a monster season a year from now makes sense to me.
3. Aaron Rodgers will retire after the season
Green Bay won’t be the same this season. He keeps losing more and more of his guys. Davante Adams is gone and his offensive line might be standing to look much different in 2023. Yes, walking away from another $60M guaranteed in 2023 sounds crazy to most of us. But I anticipate some real regression from this group and they will be in decline and this cat does his own thing and revels in it. Would it really be out of character to put the Packers through all this drama the last two offseasons just to hang it up in the middle of a new extension? And wouldn’t it be even more quintessential Rodgers if he did it after …
Someone will get desperate. This kid is going to want to play. He should get a chance to play. Sitting three years is ridiculous and someone is going to need a QB at some point due to injury, even if Jimmy Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield are dealt.
5. Lamar Jackson will be on a franchise tag by this time next year
An extension has proven to be elusive and the QB market is going to keep changing dramatically once Wilson gets his new deal (and probably Kyler Murray, too). Jackson will be okay with playing things out unless the Ravens drastically alter the scope of what they are willing to do. Neither side will press the issue in the short term. A tag will seem inevitable. And once it comes it will only drive the price up more and will only further complicate the ability to get something done long-term unless someone blinks.
6. Deshaun Watson will play fewer than eight games
No one knows exactly what the NFL will decide here. But I can’t imagine any decision coming until right before the season and I don’t think the NFL will be worried about looking too stringent. They seemed perfectly fine with Watson in the shadows all of last season and won’t be worried about it this year, either, especially after how the Browns reworked the QB’s contract to minimize the financial hit of a suspension. Better to appear to be taking these allegations very seriously than not seriously enough, he got a full salary not to play last year and won’t lose much no matter how longer he is suspended this year. Thus the only way to signal intent is with the length of the penalty. I expect it to be considerable.
7. Browns will eat $12M of Baker Mayfield’s contract
They have no real choice if they want to get anything for him. This will only get more messy and more ugly the longer it goes. They have to bite the bullet and they will eventually bite the bullet. Have done it before and will do it again and this is a case of addition by subtraction. They’ll have enough drama with Watson. Can’t have it from the No. 3 QB, too.
8. The Lions will not be a last place team
Low bar to clear but they are finally ready to clear it. I love their draft, as is well documented at this point. I hated the Bears draft and, well, basically their entire offseason. Justin Fields is gonna get clobbered. Detroit is actually going to get better. They will play a weak schedule. They are poised to make gains.
9. The Eagles will be in the NFC title game
I was big on them a year ago and telling you guys in October that they will surprise people. They made the playoffs. They are ascending and have had a great offseason. The rest of the conference is largely in regression. I think Jalen Hurts has some ‘it’ factor to him. They will have more bite on defense and can play keep-away on offense.
10. The Patriots are in trouble
Mac Jones losing Josh McDaniels (and now having a mystery coordinator) and this franchise adding next to nothing a year after spending big won’t fare well. A front seven that fell apart down the stretch a year ago doesn’t look much better to me. The Dolphins and Jets won’t be easy to walk all over next season. A sophomore slump or two would be damning. I have my reservations.