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Which Wild Card Losers Will Bounce Back Next Year?

Which Wild Card Losers Will Bounce Back Next Year?

For six teams, this Super Wild Card weekend was incredible, and they will be looking forward to next week’s games. But for their opponents, it is now time to look to next season. Below, we will take a look at the offseason outlook for those six teams including key free agents, cap space, draft picks, and more important information.

Dallas Cowboys

2022 Cap Space: -$13.1M (29th)

2022 Draft Capital: 1 R1, 1 R2, 1 R3, 1 R4, 1 R5, 1 R6 (23rd in Draft Value Rankings)

Key Free Agents: TE Dalton Schultz, WR Michael Gallup, LB Keanu Neal, SAF Jayron Kearse, LB Leighton Vander Esch, WR Cedrick Wilson, SAF Damontae Kazee, P Bryan Anger, DE Randy Gregory

After a brutally disappointing loss against San Francisco, Dallas enters the offseason with some big question marks after falling short yet again. Both Cowboy coordinators are popular head coaching candidates who could be poached by other teams, the team is over the salary cap already, and they have some key players entering free agency.

Dalton Schultz and Michael Gallup would be big losses for the offense as dynamic playmakers, though Gallup’s injury may keep him out for a chunk of the season anyway. Defensively, Neal, Kearse, Gregory, Kazee, and Vander Esch were all key contributors who played over 400 snaps, and they will all need replacing if they don’t return. It will be a tough offseason for Dallas, who will struggle to improve and will likely be trying to avoid losing key contributors to simply tread water.

Las Vegas Raiders

2022 Cap Space: $39.7M (11th)

2022 Draft Capital: 1 R1, 1 R2, 1 R3, 1 R4, 2 R5, 1 R7 (18th in Draft Value Rankings)

Key Free Agents: WR Zay Jones, CB Casey Hayward, CB Desmond Trufant, DT Quinton Jefferson, DT Solomon Thomas

Las Vegas’ first decision to make is at Head Coach, where Rich Bisaccia made a great case for his interim label to be made permanent. After that decision is made, another decision must be made on the future of Derek Carr.

Entering the final year of his existing contract, the Raiders need to decide if they want to move forward with him as the franchise QB and extend him or look into moving him and getting value in a trade. They have a solid amount of cap space to make some moves and retaining Zay Jones will likely be one of them. Elsewhere, they will likely look for another weapon at WR, some OL help, and upgrades at LB and Safety. Las Vegas is in a solid position to improve their roster this offseason, which will be key in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.

New England Patriots

2022 Cap Space: $27.0M (16th)

2022 Draft Capital: 1 R1, 1 R2, 1 R3, 1 R4, 1 R6 (19th in Draft Value Rankings)

Key Free Agents: FS Devin McCourty, CB JC Jackson, RT Trent Brown, LB D’Onta Hightower, C Ted Karras, RB James White, K Nick Folk, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, WR Jakobi Meyers, RB Brandon Bolden, ST Matthew Slater

New England suffered an utterly embarrassing loss to Buffalo that truly underlined how far behind their division rivals they are. De facto DC Jerod Mayo has some head coaching interviews ahead of him and could leave if given the opportunity, while OC Josh McDaniels is expected to return. The roster will likely see some shakeup, with some key players hitting free agency, especially on the defense.

Star CB JC Jackson will likely depart in free agency for a monster payday, while Hightower, Bentley, and McCourty all could as well. The OL has two free agents that would need replacing if they don’t return, and Jakobi Meyers will likely be back as a restricted free agent. New England’s focus will likely be on replacing their losses and potentially adding a WR, if possible, to help Mac Jones in his second year. As long as Jones is on his rookie contract, he is a bargain that allows the Patriots to spend bigger elsewhere.

Philadelphia Eagles

2022 Cap Space: $13.6M (23rd)

2022 Draft Capital: 3 R1, 1 R2, 1 R3, 1 R4, 3 R5, 1 R6 (5th in Draft Value Rankings)

Key Free Agents/Retirees: RB Jordan Howard, RB Boston Scott, C Jason Kelce, EDGE Derek Barnett, CB Steven Nelson, SAF Anthony Harris, SAF Rodney McLeod, EDGE Ryan Kerrigan

The Eagles have the most players under contract for next season, which is a big reason for their low cap space, and why it’s not a huge deal, as they have fewer holes that need filling as a result. DC Jonathan Gannon has had interview requests for Head Coaching positions, so he could leave but most likely will return.

The offense does not have many holes that need filling in terms of departing free agents, as they still have Sanders and Gainwell at RB and have Landon Dickerson to take over from Kelce at Center. The defense will likely see a few departures, but with 10 draft picks, Philly can focus on some areas for improvement. Notably, they could use another WR to play alongside DeVonta Smith because Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins have not been good enough.

Their recent history with drafting WR’s early has been shaky, leaving them still needing one despite constant investment. Defensively, the secondary is also a need that could be addressed in the draft or in free agency. The defense as a whole could see some pretty significant changes. This is a team with good draft capital and a significant amount of their core returning, giving them an opportunity for roster improvement this offseason.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2022 Cap Space: $45.0M (9th)

2022 Draft Capital: 1 R1, 1 R2, 1 R3, 1 R5, 1 R6, 2 R7 (16th in Draft Value Rankings)

Key Free Agents/Retirees: QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, CB Joe Haden, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, SAF Terell Edmunds, DL Montravius Adams, OG Trai Turner

It will be an offseason of change in Pittsburgh, as they will look for a new starting QB for the first time since 2004 as Roethlisberger finally retires. He is not their only loss, as there are losses on the defense that need to be addressed, but the focus will be on improving the OL and finding a solution at QB. If rumors are to be believed, Pittsburgh will not be going after any established veterans at the position, so expect them to draft a QB early based on that. With their cap space, that could leave them to focus on the OL in free agency, and it needs significant improvements for whoever the new QB is and for Najee Harris at RB.

After being fortunate to scrape into the playoffs, the gap between them and the true contenders was exposed, and their offense will need to improve significantly to close that gap, while their defense may need to improve as well. They have pieces to build around, so this isn’t starting completely from scratch, but this may be a process.

Arizona Cardinals

2022 Cap Space: $22.6M (17th)

2022 Draft Capital: 1 R1, 1 R2, 1 R3, 1 R5, 1 R6, 1 R7 (21st in Draft Value Rankings)

Key Free Agents: EDGE Chandler Jones, TE Zach Ertz, WR AJ Green, WR Christian Kirk, RB James Conner, RB Chase Edmonds, TE Maxx Williams

After yet another late-season downslide, Arizona enters the offseason wondering what could have been had they maintained their early season highs. Offensively, Hopkins will return and be healthy again, but most of the rest of the supporting cast hits free agency.

Their top two RBs, top two TEs and WR2 and WR3 are all slated to be free agents, leaving much to be replaced. With their limited cap space, there is simply no way to bring back all or even most of them, so they will need cheaper options to fill these roles.

Defensively, Chandler Jones is a huge loss if he departs, but the remainder of the defense should stay relatively similar. Arizona has holes to fill this offseason to keep its offense as dynamic as it has been, but if they can manage that, they should be in good position to challenge again next season. Maybe they can hold out for a full season next year.