By Jeff O'Brien

While 14 teams are focused on their pursuit of the Vince Lombardi Trophy with the expanded NFL playoffs set to kick off this weekend, the offseason is underway for 18 other clubs.

DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 03: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks on in the fourth quarter during a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on January 3, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Six teams are searching for new head coaches. Seven were looking for general managers. Quarterbacks and other star players will surely be on the move.

Everyone hopes normalcy returns by the start of the new season.

The league already pulled off a difficult task by completing its 256-game regular season on time during the coronavirus pandemic. The goal now is playing the Super Bowl in Tampa on Feb. 7.

Getting an opportunity to win a championship begins with a strong offseason.

Here are some things to look for this offseason:

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – NOVEMBER 22: Head coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions looks on during the first half against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 22, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

COACHES: The Chargers, Jaguars, Texans, Falcons, Jets, and Lions need new coaches. Much attention is given to minority candidates because the league strengthened its Rooney Rule. In November, the NFL implemented a seven-point mobility plan that it projects will enhance opportunities for minorities in coaching and front-office positions. The firing of Anthony Lynn by the Chargers leaves only three minority coaches. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh are expected to interview for multiple open spots and would increase the total if they get jobs. Whoever replaces Lynn in Los Angeles inherits a solid nucleus led by quarterback Justin Herbert. The opening in Houston is also attractive because of quarterback Deshaun Watson. Jacksonville has the No. 1 overall pick so the new coach should get a franchise QB.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JANUARY 03: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans in action against the Tennessee Titans during a game at NRG Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

FREE AGENCY: The new league season begins March 17 and revenue losses due to the pandemic means the salary cap will be reduced. The floor is $175 million, which would be a decrease of $23.2 million. Over the Cap estimates it’ll be $176 million. There will be a slew of talented players available because teams are going to make cost-cutting decisions. Veterans with big contracts will be looking for new teams. The franchise tag will account for a larger percentage of the salary cap so that will deter teams from using it. The Eagles and Saints are two teams facing major cap issues and will have to slash payroll significantly.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – JANUARY 03: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks on following their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

DRAFT: The 86th NFL draft is scheduled for April 29-May 1 in Cleveland. The city is planning for a socially distanced event after last year’s draft in Las Vegas was canceled and held virtually. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is expected to go to Jacksonville with the first pick. The Jets have the second pick and they could take Ohio State QB Justin Fields even though they have Sam Darnold. Brigham Young QB Zach Wilson could crack the top 10. Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith of Alabama and fellow wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase of LSU are projected as potential top-five picks.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 05: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY through Tuesday, January 12, 2021. Approval by the Heisman Trust will be needed for any usage thereafter or any Commercial usage requests at any point.) Wide receiver DeVonta Smith of the Alabama Crimson Tide poses with the Heisman Memorial Trophy on January 05, 2021 in New York, New York. (Photo by Kent Gidley/Heisman Trophy Trust via Getty Images)

QUARTERBACKS: A pair of NFC East QBs could be on the move in the offseason. Carson Wentz may have played his last game with the Philadelphia Eagles and the same for Dak Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys. Wentz had the worst season of his five-year career before he was benched for the last four games. Prescott put up excellent numbers before a gruesome ankle injury ended his season in October. Mitchell Trubisky, Cam Newton, and Jameis Winston will be among the free agents. The Lions may shop Matthew Stafford, and retirement is a possibility for Philip Rivers.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 13: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions reacts during the second half against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on December 13, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

COVID-19: It wasn’t business as usual this season because of the pandemic and some changes will become part of the league going forward.

Virtual meetings, a prolonged training camp acclimation period, expanded practice squads and unlimited callbacks from injured reserve are among some of the aspects that will be considered.

 

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