Voluntary OTAs are not required and have much less contact than what you would see during minicamp, but they can still be very crucial. This is especially the case for young players and newly signed free agents, who get their first chances to learn their new playbooks, gel with their new teammates, and have a chance to develop further before the season begins.
Each year when voluntary OTAs finish up, controversy surrounds each team, whether it is warranted or not, as many key players decided to not attend. In addition, many other storylines come out about each team and player during the OTAs.
Now that mandatory minicamp is upon us and the voluntary 10-day offseason programs are in the past, we will highlight 10 things that we learned from OTAs around the league.
Seattle QB Competition
After Russell Wilson was traded to begin the offseason, it was clear that Seattle would have a question mark at QB going into the season. They acquired Drew Lock in the same trade, adding him to a QB room featuring Geno Smith, who started a few games in place of an injured Wilson last season. During the week of voluntary OTAs, the experienced Seahawks signal-caller in Smith seemed to outplay the younger and newly acquired Lock. While this could change as we get closer to the season, it seems that Smith has the clear upper hand in the QB competition.
Franchise QBs Want To Get Paid
This was not a surprise to many, but it is still important to note that Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray both skipped out on voluntary OTAs. Both players are engaged in important contract talks headed into the season, eager to get it done before it’s too late. For Jackson, he is going into his fifth and final year, while Murray is going into his second to last year on his rookie deal. Both players are expected to be at mandatory minicamp, but they both want to reach an agreement, and soon.
Star WRs Want To Get Paid
Like the QBs, this one is no surprise. After all the WR contracts that have been getting handed out all offseason, it makes sense that these young star wideouts want a new salary and some security for the future. Terry McLaurin has been clear on his stance of wanting a new deal skipped OTAs and is now skipping mandatory minicamp. DK Metcalf attended the first phase of the offseason workouts, but then skipped the rest of it due to extra rehab on his surgically repaired foot. Thanks to his foot and not agreeing on an extension, Metcalf did not show up for mandatory minicamp. Deebo Samuel was at the front of trade rumors all offseason, and while those settled after the draft, there is no doubt that Samuel is still upset. He wants to be paid before the season and his contract expires, and because a deal has not been reached, he did not attend voluntary OTAs. However, perhaps to avoid fines, Samuel did show up for mandatory minicamp.
Second-Year QBs Development
With roster and coaching improvements for each second-year QB, this offseason has been crucial in helping how much each young QB will grow headed into their second seasons and the future. Former first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, enjoyed his new fast-paced offense under Doug Pederson and improved each day. New York’s Zach Wilson came into camp heavier and more comfortable but still struggled with some accuracy issues. The third overall pick, Trey Lance looked livelier and made many highlight throws, although still has not been named the starter in 2022 by coach Shanahan. Despite the lack of high-profile weapons surrounding the Bears’ Justin Fields, he seemed to have progressed in Chicago's new-look offense. For Mac Jones and Davis Mills, the two QBs who played the best as rookies, they played well during OTAs, as both QBs will be going into mandatory mini camps as the undoubted starters, unlike the position they were in last year.
Veteran Star QBs Not Participating
This is no surprise, as it happens yearly, and is all but a non-story, but QBs Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers both decide to skip OTAs. Of course, players of their caliber do not need the extra reps, especially since they are not on new teams. That said, it would not have hurt to attend, especially for Rogers who has a new batch of wide receivers. Both QBs not attending highlight the idea that the voluntary OTAs are usually more useful for younger players than they are for the veterans.
The Browns Situation
Cleveland has been all over the media all offseason, largely thanks to their decision to not have faith in Baker Mayfield and trade for the controversial Deshaun Watson, then make him the highest-paid player in NFL history. Each day more and more reports come out about Watson and leave his future more uncertain. With all of those distractions going on, the disgruntled Baker Mayfield was not there at OTAs, as he still looks to be traded. The entire situation in Cleveland will be an interesting one to monitor, especially given the talent of the rest of their roster and their ability to contend.
A Few High-Profile Rookies Must Earn Their Spots
Each year after the NFL draft, it is assumed that rookies will come in and start immediately, which is even more common for the first-round picks. However, this is not always the case, especially in OTAs, when it is the rookie’s first exposure to NFL talent. In the past week and a half, Jets’ HC Robert Saleh said that rookie Sauce Gardner will have to earn his spot, as veterans Bryce Hall and newly signed DJ Reed both will compete for starting positions. It will be similar for first-round pick Kenny Pickett with Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph also in the QB room, Pickett worked with the third team, as he will have to work and grow to become the starter. A third player that comes to mind is Christian Watson, who could easily be thrust into a Davante Adams-type replacement role. However, he has already struggled with some drops and will need some time before developing into Rogers’ number one option right off the bat.
Rams Continue to Take Care of Their Own
Los Angeles has made it clear that they are not just content with one Super Bowl, as they have done everything possible to not only improve the roster but keep their core of players together and reward their own. The front office has done a terrific job balancing all of the contracts of star players on the books, as they have been able to retain most of their players while keeping them happy. During the last week, the Rams made Aaron Donald the highest-paid non-QB in league history, while giving Cooper Kupp more guaranteed money than any WR in history.
More Clarity on the Patriots Offensive Staff
After the departure of long-time OC Josh McDaniels, the Patriots’ offensive staff was left with many holes. While still unknown on the specifics of Bill Belichick’s staff, it seems that OTAs may have answered some questions. Of course, Belichick will play a role in what goes on in the offense, while former HC Matt Patricia will focus on the rushing attack, and former HC Joe Judge will be more focused on the passing game. This arrangement is both unique and surprising, as both former head coaches have ties to different sides of the ball than offense. It will be interesting to monitor this set-up throughout the offseason and season, and its effect on Mac Jones.
More Extensions For Offensive Weapons
This offseason has made it even more evident that the league is one centered around the offense. As a result, the importance of giving QBs and OCs talented offensive weapons has increased, as skill position players have been getting picked higher and have been earning richer contracts. With record-setting extensions all throughout the offseason, the WR market saw another important extension, as Hunter Renfrow agreed to a deal to remain a Raider. Similarly for the Browns, Cleveland agreed to an extension with TE David Njoku, in somewhat of a surprise deal, who was set to play on the franchise tag this season.