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“Black Monday” is coming in the NFL. That day of the football season when coaches, general managers and more are handed the one gift no one asks for for the holidays: A pink slip.
We cannot prevent the inevitable, but we can start thinking about some of those jobs that are going to be open come January. There are a number of general manager positions available, and a few that we believe will become available when the season is over. What are these potential GMs walking into? That is what we will examine in this piece, looking at the attractiveness of each expected GM landing spot.
If you’d like to read about the potential candidates for any of these jobs, I strongly recommend this piece from Dan Hatman on that very topic.
It is possible that the Chicago Bears, thanks to their recent run of play, make the playoffs. It’s possible. It is also possible that the recent good play saves the jobs of both general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy, that too is certainly possible. If, however, Pace is not brought back next year how attractive would this job be? You would still have Khalil Mack up front to lead a defense that remains solid on paper, although help at inside linebacker would be wise. David Montgomery seems like the solid, complete running back he was advertised to be during his final college season. Allen Robinson remains as steady as they come at wide receiver. Oh right. The quarterback position. Then there is the salary cap situation. According to OverTheCap.com the Bears are looking to be, as the website is titled, over the cap in 2021. Now they can make some moves, such as restructuring Akiem Hicks and Kyle Fuller, perhaps moving on from players like Charles Leno Jr. and/or Bobby Massie, and maybe Jimmy Graham (who your predecessor gave a rather large contract to) to free space, but that is going to be an issue. Still, this is a team that made a late run to get into playoff position, so you will be working from a strong starting point. The Chicago Bears are the most attractive GM spot potentially available. Verdict: Big overreaction. Between the cap situation, the fact Chicago has just the six draft picks to work with in 2021, and the fact that you need to solve the quarterback dilemma that seems to be a staple of Bears football, this would be a heavy lift to take on. All the luck in the world to the man or woman who takes on their job, as they’re gonna need it.
(Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports)
Just think of what the next general manager of the Houston Texans will inherit: A team that finishes perhaps with a 4-12 record but without any picks until the third round. A team that, depending on what the cap number is for 2021 could be in a difficult situation with respect to the cap. Right now, the Texans are expected to be over the cap according to...quite appropriately, OverTheCap.com. Now of course, the salary cap is a construct and all that, but still, this could be a difficult situation to manage. There are moves to be made, such as moving on from Brandin Cooks and David Johnson, which would free up some space quickly. Restructuring J.J. Watt would be another way to attack the cap issue, but freeing up space to make the necessary moves - given the lack of draft capital - would take some work. And yet, there is a reason why this job remains enticing. Deshaun Watson. Heck, for Watson alone this is the most attractive GM job out there. Verdict: Medium overreaction. If the Houston Texans called me today to interviewee for GM, I’m getting on the next plane. And friends, I am the world’s worst flyer. I mean, this is usually the time of year when, an entire MONTH before the Senior Bowl, I start worrying about my two short-as-heck flights from D.C. to Charlotte or Atlanta and then from there into Mobile. Seriously, I hate flying. But the chance to build a team around Watson would get me to Houston within hours. But the reasons why - even with the quarterback position sorted out - this job is not the most attractive are the reasons listed above. Other teams have a venerable wealth of draft capital when compared to Houston. In some other situations you could turn the team around overnight given the picks at your disposal, along with the cap space. Watson is great, but you’re gonna need to thread every other needle to turn Houston around in a hurry. Still, though, I’m willing to try…
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
With the Detroit Lions firing Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia earlier this season, the focus in Detroit turns to filling those two positions. The next general manager is going to have a lot on their plate from day one. First, what to do about wide receiver Kenny Golladay? He is nearing the end of a contract year, and wants a big deal. Do you pay him? Use the franchise tag? Then there is the Matthew Stafford question. For my money Stafford remains one of the elite talents at the position, and one feels that he is starting to get his due on the national stage this season. When you look around the league, Stafford’s current contract - which runs through the 2022 season - looks almost team friendly by comparison. That might make it easy to hang onto him for the next two years and give you time to look for a quarterback of the future, or it could make it easy to trade him. A potential monkey wrench in the situation is the cap positioning of the Lions. According to OverTheCap.com the Lions have just over $13 million in available cap space for the 2021 season. That might force your hand on Golladay and to attempt a restructure with Stafford, among other players. Still, if you decided to hang on to Stafford you might see a great player fall to you in the first round, as teams trip over themselves to draft one of the QBs in the top ten. A new left tackle in Christian Darrisaw? Perhaps an off-ball linebacker in Micah Parsons or another edge rusher to pair with Trey Flowers? Or one of the top wide receivers to replace Golladay should you move on from him? There will be hard decisions to make, but this job does have some things going for it. So yes, the Detroit Lions general manager position is the most attractive one available this offseason. Verdict: Medium overreaction. Were it not for the cap situation and the work that needs to be done on the defensive side of the football, this might be the most attractive job out there. Why? Because if you believe in Stafford you have the quarterback issue solved for the next few years, and you can use the draft capital you have to rebuild on the defensive side of the football, as well as the cap space available to you. But others might disagree with the assessment on Stafford, and facing a rebuild around a new quarterback when you are picking in the middle of the first round is a tough road. Given Detroit’s cap position, you cannot back the Brinks truck up to Dak Prescott’s house. So that will make things tougher. The attractiveness of this job might come down to how one feels about the veteran QB.
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
Many expected that the Carolina Panthers would struggle this season, and eventually, they did. A three-game winning streak earlier in the year clouded the picture, but that was followed by a five-game losing streak and they are in the midst of another streak of losses. If the 2021 NFL Draft were to take place right now, Carolina would be sitting in a pretty good spot - generally - picking fourth. What might make this a bit different is that if they want to draft a quarterback, that could mean they end up with the fourth option. Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets are going to finish with worse records no matter how the rest of the season plays out, so the Panthers are going to at least be behind those teams. Furthermore, both the Atlanta Falcons and a number of teams sitting at 5-9 could finish with worse records, so they could tumble further in the draft depending on how the final few weeks shake out. Which might take them out of quarterback range. Still, the next GM will have some talent to work with. Obviously Christian McCaffrey missed the bulk of this season with injuries but he is a modern NFL running back built for today’s game. They have weapons at wide receiver including Robby Anderson who has grown beyond a pure vertical threat. Defensively, a pair of rookie standouts have emerged over the course of this year. Safety/linebacker hybrid Jeremy Chinn is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, and in the past few weeks Derrick Brown has shown the promise offered by a first-round pick. Yes, the quarterback situation is an issue, but outside of that, the Carolina Panthers are the most attractive general manager spot for the 2021 NFL season. Verdict: Medium overreaction My parents taught me growing up that nothing good comes after the word “but.” Now as someone that uses that word as a huge crutch in their writing I tend to disagree, however in this case it is very applicable. Why? Because the quarterback dilemma facing the next GM in Carolina is a huge question and one that you have to get right. If the Panthers do indeed end up picking fourth, that would mean deciding between Zach Wilson and Justin Fields, which is not a bad position to be in. Yet if the Panthers tumble out of fourth due to events around the league, now you might be in more of the Trey Lance/Kyle Trask/Mac Jones range. Which might force your hand towards addressing another position unless you are sold on one of those players. How would Kyle Pitts look as a consolation prize? Or Christian Darrisaw? Aside from the quarterback question, the rest of the job looks great. However, that is a pretty big question.
Washington Football Team
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Right now the Washington Football Team is operating without a general manager. Head coach Ron Rivera is serving as the team’s de facto general manager, but perhaps the organization looks to add someone in that role. When the Carolina Panthers fired Marty Hurney immediately connected the dots between Hurney and Rivera’s time in Carolina, and that might make some sense. Currently the team has Jason Wright as the Team President, Doug Williams as the Senior Vice President of Player Development, and Rob Rogers as the Senior Vice President of Football Administration. Rogers does have some experience on the scouting side, worked under Hurney in Carolina, and is well-versed in the cap and in the analytics world. As far as how attractive that job would be, there is a lot to work with in Washington. You would inherit one of the league’s best defensive fronts, potentially a Top-15 pick depending on if the Football Team makes the playoffs or not, and potentially a good deal of cap space, depending on the final 2021 salary cap number. Washington is currently slated to have four picks in the first 90 selections of the 2021 draft, as they have a third-rounder from San Francisco due to the Trent Williams trade. That is not a bad situation to walk into. For these reasons, Washington is the most attractive GM job. Verdict: Medium overreaction. There is a lot to love about the Washington situation. Beyond the on-the-field stuff previously outlined, you also will be walking into a situation where if you can deliver a Super Bowl, you will be a local legend. Having lived in the D.C. area for over 20 years now I can emphatically declare that Washington is not so much a sports town as it is a Washington Football Team town. Sure, the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards and the Washington Mystics have all won recent championships, but those teams are all still vying for second-fiddle behind the Football Team. Deliver a title, and you can punch your ticket. The problem, however, goes beyond the field. You will also be walking into a maelstrom of problems stemming from recent allegations of sexual harassment that go straight to ownership, and yes there is the Daniel Snyder factor. The owner was implicated directly in the sexual assault allegations and reporting from the Washington Post indicates that the team settled one such claim against the owner years ago. An investigation is underway and in the wake of the recent news outside counsel - in the form of former attorney general Loretta Lynch - has been retained by the league to investigate the allegations. Those are some things to consider that might make this job less appealing than others out there.
(Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)
With the Atlanta Falcons firing both head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff earlier this season, both of those positions are in need of being filled for the year ahead. The next general manager in Atlanta will have some things going for them, after all the team still has Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, although recent play from Ryan and injuries to Jones have generated some rumbling about their tenure in Atlanta. There is also young talent to work with. Grady Jarrett has enjoyed a tremendous season and was a part of Atlanta’s ability to stop the run. Deion Jones is another solid defender, and Dimitroff seemed to get the evaluations right on linebacker Mykal Walker and cornerback A.J. Terrell. The Terrell pick, much maligned at the time, might prove to be Dimitrioff’s last brilliant stroke. One could make the case that the next general manager is inheriting a team that could, if everything breaks right, contend for a division title in 2021. That is a pretty nice situation to walk into. As such, the Atlanta Falcons provide the most attractive general manager position available. Verdict: Minimal overreaction. This is a really good landing spot, particularly when you look around the rest of the division. The Carolina Panthers, as previously discussed, seem to be playing a bit of a longer game. The New Orleans Saints might be nearing the end of the Drew Brees window, and a similar situation could play out in Tampa Bay with Tom Brady. If Ryan plays more like the quarterback we saw in the first half of Week 15 against Tampa Bay, if Jones stays healthy, if Calvin Ridley continues to emerge as a true threat across from Jones, and the defense fills in pieces around the talent in place, this really is a team that could contend for the playoffs in 2021. Decisions will have to be made about the future, and many in Atlanta would love a quarterback in the first round, so it won’t exactly be smooth sailing, and the expectations are likely to be high.
(Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are 1-13 and steaming towards the first-overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Having already relieved general manager David Caldwell of his duties, the team has begun the interview process for their next GM. What will that person inherit? A team projected to have a ton of cap space. According to OverTheCap.com the Jaguars are going to have north of $50 million in space if the league institutes a cap of $175 million next year. As the cap stands now, the Jaguars are slated to have almost $80 million in cap space. A team that has pieces in place on the offensive side of the football including Offensive Rookie of the Year contender James Robinson, pieces on the outside in Laviska Shenault Jr., Keelan Cole and D.J. Chark. A defense that has talent up front but needs some pieces. And as of the moment, a team slated to have five of the first 65 picks in the draft. Jacksonville has a pair of first rounders and a pair of second rounders. Oh, and I mentioned the first-overall pick, right? So you’ve got the keys to the Trevor Lawrence castle. Say what you want, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are the most attractive GM option. Verdict: No overreaction. Jacksonville has talent and cap space, they have a ton of draft capital, and you would be in position to draft Trevor Lawrence, perhaps as safe as it gets at the quarterback position. There is so much to like about this potential landing spot for the next general manager.