Graziano’s crystal ball: Daring NFL predictions for the subsequent three years

I am not likely the long-range planning kind, however I do know a few of you’re, and I am right here for you. I’m right here to assist.

You are not content material merely to know what’s going to occur within the NFL in 2019. You need to know what’s going to occur the 12 months after that, and the 12 months after that. It’s for you, Mr. and Mrs. Lengthy-Vary Planner, that we produce this explicit column 12 months after 12 months.

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And whereas it’d seem to be a joke, do not sleep on the three-year predictions column. Look again finally 12 months’s, and you will find that fairly a couple of of them have already come true and various others nonetheless can. That is extra than simply your typical tongue-in-cheek little bit of offseason content material. That is significantly knowledgeable hypothesis, individuals, and it calls for your consideration.

With that, we current the 25 NFL predictions for the subsequent three years:

Bounce to an attention-grabbing participant:
Cousins | Elliott | Manning
Bell | Murray | OBJ | Luck
McCaffrey | Rosen | J. Jones

1. Patrick Mahomes would be the first $40 million-a-year quarterback

I do not suppose Mahomes will get his deal subsequent offseason when first eligible, as a result of (a) why would he be in a rush? and (b) why would the Chiefs be in a rush when his fifth-year choice season is not till 2021? However with Russell Wilson already having pushed the bar as much as $35 million a 12 months this offseason, it isn’t a giant leap to count on quarterback contract extensions to be tickling $40 million a 12 months by the point Mahomes indicators on the dotted line.

Patrick Mahomes, who turns 24 in September, received NFL MVP in his first season as a starter. Jamie Squire/Getty Photographs

2. Kirk Cousins will signal a contract extension with the Vikings

I am pretty bullish on Cousins and the Vikings this season. I feel they will win the NFC North and that followers will really feel very otherwise about Cousins this time subsequent 12 months, when he’ll have a 12 months left on his three-year contract and will very properly be fascinated by speaking about an extension that will preserve him and his household in Minnesota for years to come back.

Three. The Patriots will win no less than yet another Tremendous Bowl

We’ll preserve listening to, over the subsequent few months, that they are weak with out Rob Gronkowski, that no quarterback has ever stored taking part in properly at Tom Brady’s age, and so forth. We have heard all of it earlier than. Invoice Belichick stays the most effective puzzle-solver coach there’s, having simply discovered easy methods to win a Tremendous Bowl 13-Three on the tail finish of the best offensive season in league historical past. New England’s division stays gentle. The Brady-Belichick machine has no complacency setting, and can stay decided to ascertain postseason data nobody will ever knock down.

four. Ezekiel Elliott will maintain out of coaching camp over his contract

I do not suppose it will be this 12 months, although I am unable to utterly rule it out. However until Elliott and the Cowboys come to settlement on a brand new deal this offseason or subsequent — which I do not suppose occurs until he cuts the staff some sort of deal he would not appear inclined to chop — it isn’t laborious to think about Elliott taking a Melvin Gordon-level stance subsequent August.

He is an important participant on a Dallas staff I predicted in final 12 months’s column would win one of many subsequent three Tremendous Bowls, however operating backs are all the time combating uphill in touch conditions. It would not assist that six of the 10 highest-paid backs within the league missed time final season as a result of harm.

5. Eli Manning will play for a distinct staff

I consider the Giants will transfer on from Eli subsequent offseason, however I do not suppose Manning needs 2019 to be his ultimate NFL season. It is going to look super-weird to see him in a distinct uniform, however I’ve two guesses as to which one will probably be. My favourite guess is the Saints, as a result of he is from New Orleans, his dad performed there and it would be a cool story. However that prediction is tied manner an excessive amount of to different issues, particularly the utterly unknown issue of how for much longer Drew Brees needs to play. So my safer guess is the Titans, who may very well be shifting on from Marcus Mariota if he would not ship in 2019.

Eli Manning has a 116-114 document within the common season as a starter for the Giants. Tim Warner/Getty Photographs

6. As for the Giants, no less than three totally different QBs will begin for them within the subsequent three years

And this is not a knock on poor Daniel Jones, who’s getting manner an excessive amount of grief for the crime of being drafted sixth general. It is extra of a nod to what the Giants have had in Manning for the previous 15 years. Since changing into the starter in 2004, Manning has answered the bell for actually each recreation besides the weird 2017 one for which they requested him to not. It is an excessive amount of to count on the identical sort of sturdiness and reliability from his successor, irrespective of how properly Jones performs.

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7. Kyler Murray will lead the Cardinals to no less than one division title

The NFC West is a nutty place. The Rams are on prime, the Seahawks aren’t able to go away and the 49ers have not made their anticipated arrival but. Arizona appears to be like like a transparent No. four, and I do not count on the Cardinals to contend in 2019.

However I do consider the wedding between Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury might be thrilling and laborious to cease — particularly as soon as the Cardinals patch the holes on their offensive line.

eight. There is not going to be an NFL work stoppage

2 Associated

I really put at roughly 43 p.c the possibility that the brand new collective bargaining settlement (CBA) will get negotiated and agreed to this offseason, which might be with two full seasons to go. Either side appear motivated to get this performed, particularly the house owners, who’ve historically dictated timetables on these kinds of issues.

There might be stops, begins and moments of panic alongside the way in which, however I do consider there is not going to be a strike or a lockout when the present CBA ends in 2021, as a result of a brand new one might be in place by then. One of many issues I am unable to wait to seek out out is how lengthy this one might be. One other 10-year deal appears unlikely, however nobody noticed that coming final time, both.

9. The subsequent Los Angeles staff to succeed in the Tremendous Bowl would be the Chargers

How far off had been they, actually, final season? That they had the identical document because the Chiefs within the AFC West however had been consigned to a wild-card berth on the postseason street due to the tiebreaker. On paper, this season’s Chargers are completely within the dialog for finest top-to-bottom roster within the league.

The Chiefs have main questions on protection, will not have Kareem Hunt and may very well be with out Tyreek Hill for a few video games. Philip Rivers is primed for the run he is been ready for, and never a second too quickly.

10. Le’Veon Bell will change groups … once more

We nailed this one final 12 months (although, to be truthful, that was simple), and we will run it again on the market. The wedding between Bell and the Jets is not off to the smoothest begin. His contract actually ensures him solely two years anyway, and it makes him loads simpler to commerce subsequent offseason if 2019 would not go properly.

11. Odell Beckham Jr. will lead the NFL in receiving yards and landing catches

Sure, I consider Beckham will thrive with Baker Mayfield and the Browns. I don’t purchase the notion that he was an issue within the locker room with the Giants. His teammates beloved him. It was the coaches and directors who had points with Beckham.

And whereas that would actually be the case in Cleveland, too, I feel on-field success (assuming the Browns have it) would iron out lots of the off-field mood points Beckham had whereas doing all of the dropping he did in New York. An excessive amount of has been made this offseason of the features of Beckham that don’t have anything to do along with his immense expertise. We should not overlook how good this participant is.

Odell Beckham Jr., who caught 44 landing passes in 5 seasons in New York, was traded to Cleveland this offseason. Nick Cammett/Diamond Photographs/Getty Photographs

12. The Las Vegas Raiders will make no less than one playoff look

I do not suppose the Raiders are able to make that leap on this, their ultimate season in Oakland. However I just like the items they’re placing collectively and consider they will hit the desert floor operating in 2020.

No concept, in fact, how they will be obtained in Vegas or what sort of fan base they will develop there, however I’m predicting that they are going to be a playoff staff in one in every of their first two years there. Heck, the Las Vegas hockey staff went to the Stanley Cup Closing in its first season, proper?

13. The Steelers will win extra AFC North titles than the Browns

The Steelers really feel somewhat bit to me just like the Seahawks did final season. Far too many individuals need to write them off and overlook that Mike Tomlin has by no means had a dropping season. I am not of the college of thought that dropping Antonio Brown is addition by subtraction — they will must make important changes to exchange him and it will not be simple.

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However particularly with the entire world leaping on the bandwagon of an AFC North staff that hasn’t received a division title since 1989, the Steelers really feel like a quietly harmful chip-on-their-shoulders kind of squad that might be motivated to remind individuals whose division the AFC North really is.

14. You’ll proceed to listen to speak about an 18-game season, however you might proceed to disregard it

I truthfully don’t know why this retains arising, however yeah, some house owners nonetheless need to broaden the season regardless of that being a horrendous concept on each stage apart from a naked-revenue-grab one. Speaking to individuals near this example, I’ve come away with the assumption that the gamers adamantly oppose the concept and would entertain it provided that the house owners got here to them with important monetary concessions the likes of which haven’t been proposed so far.

I merely do not see a calculus during which the house owners would earn more money by increasing the season than they’d have to surrender with a purpose to persuade the gamers to comply with it.

15. Andrew Luck will win an MVP award

• Watch: Andrew Luck
• Watch: Deshaun Watson
• Watch: Philip Rivers
• Watch: Baker Mayfield
• Watch: Patrick Mahomes
• Watch: Matthew Stafford
• Watch: Josh Rosen

As final season confirmed, the Colts are constructing one thing probably particular. A whole lot of groups that shock the way in which the Colts did take a step again the next season earlier than resuming their ahead trajectories, and it is completely doable that occurs to the Colts in 2019.

But when it would not, count on Luck to be within the MVP dialog as early as this season. And even when the Colts do have a down 2019, count on him to be within the MVP dialog in 2020 and/or 2021. Heck, it isn’t loopy to think about Luck, whose contract runs by way of 2021, beating Mahomes to that $40 million-a-year mark if issues break the suitable manner.

16. Christian McCaffrey will lead the league in yards from scrimmage

With Todd Gurley coping with some sort of mysterious knee harm, the panorama is open for a brand new workhorse monster who can pile up dashing and receiving yards. The Giants’ Saquon Barkley and the Saints’ Alvin Kamara are candidates, however the Panthers will proceed to lean on McCaffrey — particularly whereas Cam Newton works his manner again from shoulder surgical procedure this 12 months — and McCaffrey needs the work.

17. The minimal ‘spending flooring’ will go up within the subsequent CBA

One factor the gamers will need to get out of the approaching negotiations is a requirement that groups spend more cash on gamers. At the moment, there isn’t any concrete “flooring” groups have to succeed in every year, however there’s a requirement that each staff has to spend no less than 89 p.c of the wage cap in money over a four-year interval.

One proposal that has already been floated within the present negotiations is elevating that 89 p.c to 95 p.c and shortening the window from 4 years to 2. The house owners may not go that far, however something the NFL Gamers Affiliation can do to require extra spending would assist create extra favorable floor for gamers and brokers to barter contracts. Talking of which …

18. We are going to begin to see extra absolutely assured veteran contracts — little by little

No, the brand new CBA is not going to require NFL contracts to be absolutely assured, as a result of CBAs actually do not try this. The NBA and MLB CBAs do not mandate contract ensures, nor does the NFL one prohibit them. Gamers in these different leagues get assured offers as a result of gamers and brokers in some unspecified time in the future previously insisted on them and established them because the norm.

NFL gamers, outdoors of Cousins, have been reluctant to do that. Each time a participant like Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck comes up for a deal, brokers across the league hope he’ll push for a full assure, and he would not. However with star quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Jared Goff (to call a couple of) due for offers within the coming years, it is a good wager somebody will resolve to exert the complete extent of his leverage and assist push the ceiling on this matter somewhat larger.

19. Josh Rosen will change groups once more

It might be a cool story if Rosen performed lights-out for the Dolphins and Miami determined he was its quarterback of the long run. However even when he beats out Ryan Fitzpatrick for the beginning job, I simply do not see this season’s Miami staff being robust sufficient to place Rosen in the most effective place to succeed — particularly with him having to study a brand new offensive system for just like the 95th 12 months in a row.

The Dolphins’ monetary dedication to Rosen is negligible — Arizona has already paid the signing bonus on his rookie deal. If their document is as poor as many count on it to be, a quarterback like Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa goes to appear like an attractive choice in subsequent 12 months’s draft.

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The Dolphins gave up little for former top-10 choose Josh Rosen, who’s competing with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the beginning job. Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports activities

20. The Packers will not win a division title within the subsequent three years

A part of that is that I simply suppose the Vikings (this season) and the Bears (this season and long run) look too robust, and I do not suppose the Lions are a staff to be neglected. However apart from Davante Adams, the skill-position group round Aaron Rodgers hasn’t proved a lot, and Rodgers hasn’t proven lots of persistence these days when issues have not gone properly round him. He isn’t a quarterback to underestimate; I simply suppose Minnesota and Chicago are in higher locations proper now.

21. The marijuana coverage will change within the subsequent CBA

This looks like a simple name, significantly with the league and the gamers’ union forming a committee to check various pain-management methods. The NFL’s coverage on marijuana is outdated and overly punitive. Do not be shocked to see the league undertake a coverage much like the NHL’s — nonetheless testing for marijuana however not punishing gamers for utilizing it.

With the league making an attempt to broaden the assistance it is providing gamers within the space of psychological well being, the concept can be to make use of the testing as a diagnostic device to establish gamers who would possibly want some sort of off-field assist they don’t seem to be getting.

22. Julio Jones would be the first $20 million-a-year extensive receiver — however not the final

The one gamers within the NFL averaging greater than $20 million per 12 months are quarterbacks, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack. The best-paid extensive receiver? Odell Beckham Jr. at $18 million a 12 months.

Jones has two years left on his contract, however the Falcons bought him to camp final 12 months by promising him they’d rework his deal. He’s the most effective participant within the group of 4 famous person wideouts — himself, A.J. Inexperienced, Michael Thomas and Amari Cooper — who’re on the lookout for new offers earlier than the season begins, so let’s choose him to set the bar. However do not be shocked if a kind of different guys indicators after he does and tops him. It appears to be like like everybody in that group is ready for somebody to go first.

23. Carson Wentz and the Eagles will win no less than one division title

The NFC East hasn’t had a repeat champion for the reason that Eagles did it in 2003-04, in order good because the Cowboys look on paper you’ll be able to’t choose them to win it once more this season. It appears to be like like a two-team race between them and the Eagles, so as an example Philly wins it. It might assist, in fact, if Wentz might keep wholesome for 16 video games, and I consider he’ll in some unspecified time in the future.

Wentz is underneath a unique sort of stress: What number of quarterbacks have needed to dwell as much as the accomplishments of their backups? The Eagles consider he is as much as it, they usually have the individuals in place to assist him thrive.

24. Nick Foles will win no less than one division title with the Jaguars

Talking of that former Eagles backup! In 15 of the previous 16 seasons, no less than one NFL staff has received its division after ending final the season earlier than. The Jags are the betting favorites to do it in 2019, and with a still-elite protection main the way in which, they actually simply want Foles to be accountable with the ball with a purpose to leap again into competition.

Foles hasn’t all the time been the mannequin of well being or consistency, both, so he is underneath stress now that Jacksonville has tabbed him as its man. However the Jaguars appear like a staff that has a few probably good years in it earlier than the contract/cap issues begin piling up.

25. The brand new replay guidelines might be a giant, silly mess and can create extra large, silly messes

It is a pet peeve. I get that everyone (however the Rams) was upset a few blown name serving to the Rams beat the Saints within the NFC Championship Sport. However is making move interference calls reviewable actually the reply we wish? Overlook the truth that replay critiques are horrible TV and take away from the circulation and pleasure of the sport — move interference calls are judgment calls.

All you are doing by reviewing them is bringing in another person’s judgment. There completely might be extra controversy arising from the brand new guidelines, and I concern the league will as soon as once more decide the reply is MORE REPLAY when actually the NFL and all of sports activities can be much better off with LESS REPLAY or, even higher, NO REPLAY as a result of replay evaluate is dumb, boring, pointless rubbish that ought to go away eternally and allow us to benefit from the video games once more.

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