The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who is looking ahead to the offseason with a young, talented offensive roster and a defense built on core pieces. When you have big name players under contract, and the majority of your offensive playmakers on rookie deals, it doesn’t make for much excitement in the rumor category during an NFL offsesason.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff going on throughout the AFC North division, and the AFC. In a recent ESPN Insider article, Jeremy Fowler, who talks with many NFL execs and coaches, empties his notebook regarding where players might be headed, or staying, this offseason.
Let’s take a look at some of the latest rumors...
Lamar Jackson to the NFC South?
You read that correctly. There is one NFL executive who can see the Baltimore Ravens shipping away Lamar Jackson, but doing so out of the AFC. With Jackson turning down multiple big money contracts, you have to wonder if the relationship is repairable at this juncture.
“I don’t think Baltimore wants to deal him in conference and have to see him on the field,” a high-ranking AFC exec said. If that leaves NFC teams, then multiple people believe the Falcons would make sense as a destination. General manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith have spent two years cleansing the roster and now have an estimated $56 million in cap space.
“Good running game, an offense that could be friendly to Lamar while helping him grow as a passer, big receivers with a catch radius, which he needs due to accuracy issues, young regime on an improving team looking for a quarterback solution,” an NFL scouting director said. “Not sure if that’s their plan, but it would make some sense.”
Aaron Rodgers potentially to the AFC
Rumors surrounding Aaron Rodgers have been swirling for years now, but it seemed when the Green Bay Packers paid Rodgers handsomely last offseason he would end his career in Green Bay.
Well, maybe not.
The latest rumors suggest if Rodgers is going to play in 2023, and that is a large ‘if’, he might be doing so in the AFC. Two teams were floated around as potential landing spots for the former NFL MVP. The New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts.
Some people around the league can see it — assuming the Jets work on that cap deficit of nearly $3 million.
“That receiving corps is really talented and you know the defense is good,” an NFC coordinator said. “They have pieces and are trending up. They should be desperate to get a QB in my opinion.”
“[Indianapolis general manager Chris] Ballard has to get one [a quarterback] and get it right,” the executive said. “Maybe they just draft one and save the money, but Rodgers would be different than their other past stopgap options because he’s more of a sure thing.”
Joe Burrow cashes in
At the conclusion of the 2022 regular season it marked the time when NFL teams can give extensions to some of their players. For Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, they are predicted to get a major pay day.
As for the rest of the AFC North teams, they will gladly welcome the Bengals to salary cap purgatory where a hefty quarterback contract can lead to other skill position players being forced to find a new home elsewhere.
The Bengals and Chargers aren’t known for their spending, and in big-money deals like this, teams must set aside all of the guaranteed money in escrow, which complicates matters. But both teams have taken care of homegrown talent in the past, with several key players on each side under long-term deals. And Burrow and Herbert — largely considered top-tier passers — take out most of the guesswork often present with long and costly contracts.
“Largely durable, great guys, great players — they will be expensive but this is an easy decision,” an NFL GM said.
DeAndre Hopkins to the AFC?
Of all the players who have been discussed as possible trade bait, DeAndre Hopkins being traded out of Arizona might be one of the more fascinating rumors. The trade would also include a hefty cap hit, but the latest rumors have two AFC teams potentially vying for his services.
Those teams would be the New England Patriots, with recently hired offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, and the Ravens. Yes, the team who might trade away their former NFL MVP, according to these reports.
“That would be interesting to pair Bill O’Brien with Hopkins if O’Brien ends up with the Patriots OC job,” an NFC exec said. “They might not be friendly. But they had success together with subpar quarterback play, so maybe it can work.”
Another team mentioned is Baltimore. In Hopkins, the Ravens would be getting a true vertical threat for Lamar Jackson, who many coaches say needs a rangy target. If Baltimore is serious about keeping Jackson, it’s time to get him more firepower on the outside.
These are just rumors, so take it for what it’s worth, but it is always to have some juicy rumors and reports to consider during the long NFL offseason. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the NFL offseason.