After extending their respective seasons for one week, four teams and two first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks are now in offseason mode after suffering defeats in the wild-card round.
What is next for them? That’s the focus of this week’s 6-Pack.
I hope this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, college football or NFL draft.
Let's crack this thing open.
Given Wednesday’s Instagram post, it’s safe to say Tom Brady is going to play football next season but there is some doubt as to where that may be. Brady will be a free-agent for the first time in his career and have options outside of New England. There’s some belief he may explore those options, but to that, I say poppycock.
There’s no need to detail Brady’s accolades and accomplishments, they are well-known. He’s the greatest quarterback of all-time, and while some may say the Patriots franchise is better suited to move on and take that new direction, Brady has more than earned the right for everything to be on his terms.
The Patriots have a Super Bowl-caliber defense, finished 12-4 in the regular season and won the AFC East for the 11th consecutive year. Brady didn’t perform to the level he has in previous seasons but his supporting cast was the worst I can remember. New England didn’t replace Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman was banged up, left tackle Isaiah Wynn missed nearly half the year with injury and Brady’s receiving corps’ was a revolving door all season long. The Patriots and Brady’s best chance to win a Super Bowl in 2021 is by staying together and investing in the infrastructure around him. The reset button needs to be pushed eventually, but this team is a strong offseason away from being right back in the contention.
What’s next? Come back to the Patriots.
The New Orleans Saints have experienced heartbreaking finishes for three consecutive seasons. Who Dat Nation, the players, coaches and front office have endured the sting of gut-wrenching defeat in recent years that is unmatched across the league.
Drew Brees is the ultimate competitor; there’s no question those are the moments that fuel him to come back and compete. Brees has shown little to no signs of decline and the team around him is strong enough to make a Super Bowl run. The window to win in New Orleans is still wide open.
At 40 years old, Brees is a free agent but I can’t see him hanging up his cleats after another tragic playoff loss or going to another team.
What’s next? Come back to the Saints.
New England Patriots
Non-Patriots fans want the dynasty to be over so badly. For the last several years, narratives have been forced about the decline of the Patriots and how their reign is over. But all the Pats do is keep winning and logging successful seasons. New England, which boasts the best defense in football, shouldn’t be ready to abandon its course.
The easiest decision the organization should ever make is bringing back Brady for next season; planning a future with him doesn’t make sense with the window that remains open for New England to hang another banner at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots aren’t invincible, which we all saw — and some celebrated — after their loss over the weekend, but teams don’t accidentally go 12-4. Their record combined with a tight postseason loss shouldn’t spark the panic so many hope will happen.
What’s next? Bring back Brady, improve the offense and go compete.
New Orleans Saints
Thomas Moore famously wrote:
"Fight on, my men," says Sir Andrew Barton,
"I am hurt, but I am not slain;
"I'll lay me down and bleed a while,
"And then I'll rise and fight again.”
It’s a peculiar but familiar time in New Orleans after another heartbreaking playoff exit. The Saints finished 2019 with a 13-3 record and its third consecutive NFC South title. Brees is still playing at an elite level and the roster around him is loaded with talent. Outside of Brees, the expiring contracts for New Orleans to consider are fairly light. There’s no reason to believe the Saints can’t be back as the favorites in the NFC South, competing for a top seed in the conference and making a deep postseason run.
What’s next? Regroup, bring back Brees and do everything possible to add talent to seize the window to win a Super Bowl with Brees.
The Sean McDermott era of Buffalo Bills football has achieved uncommon success for a franchise that fluttered since Marv Levy was at the helm in the 1990s. McDermott ended a 17-year playoff drought and led the Bills to the postseason in two of his first three years in Buffalo. The culture has completely changed and Buffalo is now viewed as a strong organization. McDermott combined with general manager Brandon Beane to build a roster full of talented young football players that are developing wonderfully.
With $90 million in cap space and nine picks in the coming draft, the Bills have an opportunity to continue adding to a strong foundation. However, there is still more work to do in quarterback Josh Allen’s development. The Achilles heel for the Bills was their inconsistent offense and not enough scoring. With only two returning starters from 2018, Beane completely overhauled Buffalo’s the offensive unit last year but there is still more work to do. Finding Allen an alpha receiver and improving their backfield will be significant as Allen enters Year 3 of his career.
Buffalo could still use some defensive upgrades, particularly at edge rusher and depth at cornerback but the task ahead of Beane this offseason is less daunting than previous years and he has plenty of resources.
What’s next? Bolster Allen’s weaponry, plug a few holes on defense and enjoy the development of so many young players as they mature in the league.
For the talent on the roster entering the 2019 regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles underachieved. With that in mind, the team was decimated with injuries throughout the course of the season and the perimeter play on both offense and defense was dreadful.
The Eagles aren’t facing an overly challenging offseason to get things right. It’s quite simple for Howie Roseman: get better cornerbacks and wide receivers. In addition, there is some minor work to do along the defensive line and linebacker, but the situation is manageable.
Carson Wentz remains one of the league’s most exciting young quarterbacks and given the new regimes taking over the other three franchises in the NFC East, Philadelphia should be considered the favorite to repeat as division champs.
What’s next? Get healthy and self-scout. Improve the wide receiver corps and secondary while finding answers regarding a few questions in the defensive front seven.