Biggest Off-Season Decisions for NFL Contenders

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There is still confetti on the field at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, and already the NFL is turning its attention to the 2024 season.

On February 20, teams can begin to re-sign players and use the franchise tag. On February 29, the NFL Scouting Combine begins in Indianapolis, running through March 3. On March 5, all franchise tags must be in place. On March 13, the new league year begins, and so does free agency.

On April 15, off-season workouts are open. April 19 is the restricted free agent deadline. And on April 25 in Detroit, the NFL Draft will kick off.

For NFL general managers, there is a lot to do.

Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott

Is quarterback Dak Prescott the man who can take the Dallas Cowboys to the Super Bowl? That is a question the Cowboys need to answer quickly. He carries a cap hit of $59.4 million heading into 2024. That can be reduced with a contract extension. But a contract extension commits to him for several more years.

NFL online sportsbooks have him at +1500 to win the MVP award next season, a year after he was an MVP finalist. So one would think that he has the leverage, and the Cowboys do not.

Detroit Lions – Cornerback

The Detroit Lions were so close to playing in their first Super Bowl in franchise history, and there aren’t a lot of areas that need to be addressed. But in order to take that next step, they have to get better at cornerback. In 2023, they allowed the fifth-most touchdown passes, and they allowed the second-most yards per pass.

With the 29th pick in the draft, most of the impact corners will be gone. But the Lions do have $48 million in cap space for next year. Kendall Fuller is a free agent, as is Kenny Moore. L’Jarius Sneed just won a Super Bowl in Kansas City, and he is also a free agent. But he will be an expensive one.

Otherwise, the Lions, who are the second betting favorite in the NFC at Michigan online sportsbooks, may look to trade.

Philadelphia Eagles – Defensive Secondary

Competing with the Lions for help in the secondary will be the Philadelphia Eagles, who have a lot of soul-searching to do after their epic second half collapse. They were at or near the bottom in nearly every pass defense statistic, and the deal for safety Kevin Byard at the trade deadline did not move the needle.

The Eagles got old and slow on the back end since their Super Bowl appearance a year ago, so look for them to use free agency and the draft to try and get younger and better.

Pennsylvania online sportsbooks have the Eagles at +800 to win the NFC next season.

Baltimore Ravens – Derrick Henry

The Baltimore Ravens reportedly tried to trade for Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry at the trade deadline last year, only to have the Titans nix the deal at the last minute. The Ravens are thought to still be interested, and Maryland online sportsbooks are offering odds on where Henry will play in 2024.

The Ravens are the favorite at +200, with the Eagles next at +400. Baltimore does make a lot of sense for Henry. It gives him a chance to compete for a Super Bowl, and it gives Lamar Jackson a star player to take some of the load off his shoulders. Jackson has been the team’s leading rusher for each of the last five years, and Baltimore’s last 1,000-yard rushing running back was Justin Forsett in 2014.

Cincinnati Bengals – Tee Higgins

Next season, the Bengals will have quarterback Joe Burrow back and healthy. It’s also important to make sure that his wide receivers come back. Ja’Marr Chase will get a big contract extension sometime soon, and with $59.4 million in cap space, there should be enough money to keep Tee Higgins, too.

Higgins has twice gone over 1,000 yards receiving in his career, and the Bengals need him in an ultra-competitive AFC North. Ohio online sportsbooks have the Bengals as the big favorite to be his team of choice in 2024, with odds of -200.

Buffalo Bills – Draft a Wide Receiver

New York online sportsbooks believe that wide receiver Stefon Diggs will be back with the Buffalo Bills next season. That bet is paying -300, with the Chiefs, Ravens, New England Patriots, and Houston Texans all paying +1200. But really what the Bills need is a young and inexpensive wide receiver.

They are currently $51 million over the cap, and considering Diggs’ production down the stretch, keeping him might not be such a slam dunk. The Bills pick 28th in the draft, and Adonai Mitchell of Texas and Brian Thomas Jr. from LSU could be available. Or if Diggs has already gone elsewhere, maybe a trade up for Florida State’s Keon Coleman.

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