With nine vacancies around the league, including the Las Vegas Raiders, there’s going to be a lot of competition in the head coach market this offseason.
So, if we take into account each team’s 2021 record, quarterback situation, notable returners, — anyone under contract for 2022 before free agency — notable free agents, projected 2022 cap space, number of top 100 picks and a general outlook of the roster, where do the Raiders rank?
2021 Record and finish: 9-8, 9th in AFC
QB Situation: Tua Tagovailoa (21 starts, 2020 No. 5 pick)
Notable Returners: Jaylen Waddle (WR), Xavien Howard (CB), Jevon Holland (S)
Notable Free Agents: Will Fuller (WR), Emmanuel Ogbah (EDGE), Mike Gesicki (TE)
2022 Cap Space: $70 million (1st in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 30 (Projected from SF), 50, 100
I think just about everyone was shocked when the Dolphins fired Brian Flores, seeing as he was 19-14 and in the playoff picture over the last two seasons. Time will tell if that success had more to do with Flores or Miami’s roster, but there’s no doubt they have talent. Byron Jones and Jalean Phillips didn’t even make the list above but they’re both promising players who are under contract for a while.
The Dolphins do need a lot of help on the offensive line, but the most cap space in the league can help fix that. I don’t love their draft pick situation and there are some questions at quarterback with Tua, however, I’ll take my chances with a young guy who’s shown promise and more than enough money to throw at the other problems.
2021 Record and finish: 3-14, Last in NFL
QB situation: Trevor Lawrence (17 starts, 2021 No. 1 pick)
Notable returners: Laviska Shenault (WR), Myles Jack (LB), Josh Allen (EDGE)
Notable free agents: Cam Robinson (LT), Andrew Norwell (G), DJ Chark (WR)
2022 Cap Space: $59.6 million (2nd in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 1, 33, 65, 70
To me, the Jaguars have nearly everything you’re looking for as a head coach on the open market. A young quarterback who was the No. 1 pick, weapons to surround him, a few playmakers on defense, money to spend and four picks in the Top-100 with the 102nd pick as well. Plus, there’s no way you can do worse than the last guy, right?
I’d feel more comfortable if DJ Chark was for sure coming back and if the situation was a least a little better than a total disaster this past year, but with the right person in charge, things could get turned around quickly in Jacksonville.
3) Las Vegas Raiders
2021 Record and finish: 10-7, 5th in AFC, lost in Wild Card round
QB situation: Derek Carr (127 starts)
Notable returners: Maxx Crosby (EDGE), Hunter Renfrow (WR), Kolton Miller (LT)
Notable free agents: Casey Hayward (CB), Nicholas Morrow (LB), Johnathan Hankins (DT)
2022 Cap Space: $29 million (12th in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 22, 53, 86
For any coach that is looking more to win right away and not necessarily mold the team in their own image, Las Vegas or Miami is going to be their best bet. The Raiders are the only team on the list to make the playoffs this season, and they do have a good foundation with a little money to spend — I believe they can also trim some fat later in the offseason, too. However, the problem is beyond 2022.
Crosby, Renfrow, Carr, Yannick Nagkoue, Denzel Perryman, Josh Jacobs, among others, all have contracts that expire after next season. That’s a good chunk of the roster and Las Vegas only has three top-100 picks to start building for the future. Not to mention Hayward was a big part of the team’s defensive success, so he’ll either be a key loss or cost a pretty penny, and they have more question marks than answers on the offensive line.
It’s the uncertainty past next season that puts the Jags over the Raiders for me. Granted, the attractiveness of these two jobs will certainly vary by the candidate as the franchises are in very different spots, so they’re pretty interchangeable.
2021 Record and finish: 7-10, 13th in AFC
QB situation: Drew Lock (21 starts)
Notable returners: Jerry Jeudy (WR), Courtland Sutton (WR), Patrick Surtain II (CB)
Notable free agents: Teddy Bridgewater (QB), Kareem Jackson (SS), Kyler Fuller (CB)
2022 Cap Space: $42 million (7th in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 9, 40, 63, 75, 95
I know it’s been said for years but the Broncos really do have a good roster if they can just find a quarterback. Drew Lock is listed above but that’s only because he’s the only option who is currently under contract for 2022, however, Denver is expected to move on from him or at least go after someone else. Luckily, they have some cash and a top-10 pick to give it another shot, as well as four other top-100 picks and 111th selection to fill any other holes.
Besides a long search for someone under center, probably the biggest drawback to this job is the instability within the organization. The Bowlen children lived out a Succession-style power struggle for ownership of the team after their father, Pat, passed away in 2019, and the Broncos just overcame another legal hurdle to finally get cleared for sale. Not knowing who’s going to decide your fate moving forward could scare some people away.
2021 Record and finish: 4-13, 29th in NFL
QB situation: Daniel Jones (37 starts, 2019 No. 6 pick)
Notable returners: Leonard Williams (DT), Kadarius Tooney (WR), Adoree’ Jackson (CB)
Notable free agents: Evan Engram (TE), Jabrill Peppers (S), Lorenzo Carter (EDGE)
2022 Cap Space: -$7.1 million (28th in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 5, 7, 36, 67, 81
Like Miami, there are plenty of questions at quarterback in New York. Jones has shown flashes and there is some weight to the argument that he can be good if the offensive line can at least get up to average. However, it’s going to be hard to make that happen when they’re starting the offseason in the negative for cap space.
The good news is, they aren’t losing too much and they do have a defense that needs little to no work. Offensively, Kenny Golladay was a bust this season but was a quality receiver in Detroit, Tooney put together a few impressive outings as a rookie and can be a weapon, and then there’s Saquon Barkley who just needs to stay healthy. Plus five top-100 picks and the 108th overall bodes well for the future.
2021 Record and finish: 6-11, 13th in NFC
QB situation: Justin Fields (10 starts, 2021 No. 11 pick)
Notable returners: Khalil Mack (EDGE), Darnell Mooney (WR), Jaylon Johnson (CB)
Notable free agents: Allen Robinson (WR), Akiem Hicks (DT), Germain Ifedi (RT)
2022 Cap Space: $30 million (11th in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 39, 71
The Bears are in a very interesting spot. They do have a young and promising quarterback in Fields and some money to play around with in free agency, but they also are losing some key players — or resigning them, thus eating the cap space — and only have two top-100 selections and five overall in 2022.
While Roquan Smith and Johnson are a couple of young defenders to build around, other key players on the defense like Mack and Robert Quinn are aging. Plus, a shaky offensive line can stunt a young quarterback’s growth, so it’s hard to find this job all that attractive.
2021 Record and finish: 8-9, 9th in NFC
QB situation: Kirk Cousins (120 starts)
Notable returners: Dalvin Cook (RB), Justin Jefferson (WR), Eric Kendricks (LB)
Notable free agents: Anthony Barr (LB), Patrick Peterson (CB), Xavier Woods (S)
2022 Cap Space: -$13 million (29th in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 12, 46, 77
Another team with questions at quarterback but this time without the upside of having a young, developing and talented player. Cousins is who he is at this point and that’s an average quarterback who eats up a ton of cap space. Also, he carries $45 million of dead money into next season, per OverTheCap.com, so it’s not even like they can get rid of him and save some cash/get out of the negative.
It feels like there is a rebuild coming in Minnesota and with just three top-100 picks in this year’s draft, whoever takes over better be ready for a few rough seasons. Given the short leashes we’ve seen for other head coaches in the league over the last few years, you’ve got to either be brave, desperate or some combination of the two to take this job right now.
2021 Record and finish: 4-13, 30th in NFL
QB situation: Davis Mills (11 starts, 2021 3rd round pick)
Notable returners: Laremy Tunsil (OT), Brandin Cooks (WR), Nico Collins (WR)
Notable free agents: Justin Britt (C), Desmond King (CB), Justin Reid (S)
2022 Cap Space: $17.4 million (19th in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 3, 37, 68, 80
The franchise quarterback doesn’t want to play here anymore and is facing several serious legal allegations, the rest of the roster is in shambles, they rank in the bottom half of the league for cap space and fired the last guy who overperformed — with four wins — after just one season.
There are two things that make the Texans job attractive, David Mills looked sharp for a few games this past season and they have four top-100 picks in addition to five more selections in the fourth round or later. However, the circus show in Houston over the last few years weighs too heavily on my mind to rank this any higher than second to last.
2021 Record and finish: 9-8, 8th in NFC
QB situation: Tayson Hill (26 starts), Ian Book (1 start, 2021 rookie)
Notable returners: Alvin Kamara (RB), Marshon Lattimore (CB), Demario Davis (LB)
Notable free agents: Terron Armstead (LT), Marcus Williams (FS), Jameis Winston (QB)
2022 Cap Space: -$74 million (Least in NFL)
2022 Top 100 picks: 18, 49, 99
While I have a ton of respect for Sean Payton and wish him the best in retirement, I also feel like we can’t ignore the fact that he’s leaving the Saints in a miserable situation. New Orleans isn’t just in cap hell, they are locked in Satan’s torture chamber with how deep they are in cap hell. It almost felt pointless to list the notable returners because the Saints are so far into the negative, they’re likely going to have to part ways with a few key players just to get back in the black.
What makes the lack of cap space even worse is they don’t even have a stable quarterback situation. To make the even worse situation, even worse, they don’t even have a top-15 pick to find a new one. New Orleans, and whoever their next head coach is, could be in for some tough seasons ahead.