The NFL is winding down for the summer. Free-agent cash has been spent, draft classes selected, and while rosters around the league are far from set, we now have a firm grasp of how each team is set up for the upcoming season.
No team is perfect, though. Every franchise in the league still has major issues to address before the gridiron violence resumes. From uncertainty surrounding the performance of aging quarterbacks to the impact of new ownership, here are the biggest questions for all 16 NFC teams:
Can the offensive line protect whoever wins the starting job? - The Cardinals tied for third in sacks allowed last season; they also have two quarterbacks atop their depth chart - Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen - who both have injury histories, with the former having one of the lengthiest in NFL history. Justin Pugh and Andre Smith were added to the line in free agency, but the unit is still one of the weakest in the league. Whether it's Bradford or Rosen under center in Week 1, the Cardinals' top priority is stabilizing their protection.
Can Steve Sarkisian fix the offense's woes in the red zone? - In 2016, under offensive wizard Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons' offense turned red-zone chances into touchdowns roughly 64.5 percent of the time (eighth-best in the league), according to teamrankings.com. A year later, however, the Sarkisian-led unit plummeted to around 45 percent (23rd-best), a disaster considering the team's plethora of weapons. The under-fire Sarkisian needs to get the Falcons back on track with essentially the same skill group. Maybe that Julio Jones guy could be useful?
What does new ownership mean for the Panthers? - It seems like a Diddy-Curry-Kaepernick ownership faction was too good to be true, as billionaire David Tepper has bought the franchise for a reported $2.2 billion. After the sale, major questions will need to be answered, from the team's future in Carolina to the new owner's day-to-day involvement.
Can Matt Nagy build a top offense with his new weapons? - The Bears aggressively upgraded their offense this offseason, giving incoming offensive-minded head coach Nagy some exciting toys to play with. How quickly and effectively Nagy can integrate the likes of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, and rookie Anthony Miller into a unit that already boasts Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, and of course Mitch Trubisky, will likely determine how far Chicago can go in 2018.
Who will step up to replace Dez Bryant and Jason Witten? - One-hundred and thirty-two - that's the number of catches the Cowboys need to redistribute following the release of Bryant and the retirement of Witten. Dallas has a lot of bodies, but few quality pass-catchers. Maybe Allen Hurns bounces back, or perhaps Michael Gallup turns into an instant star? Whoever it is, the Cowboys need to quickly determine who will be Dak Prescott's go-to guy.
Will the running game finally produce? - The last time the Lions had a 100-yard rusher in a game, the "Harlem Shake" dance was taking over the Internet. Fast-forward nearly five years, and the Lions are still pouring resources into fixing the ground game, which ranked dead last in 2017. Detroit signed LeGarrette Blount in free agency and drafted fellow runner Kerryon Johnson and mauler Frank Ragnow. The Lions don't need a dominant ground game with Matthew Stafford under center, but it's past time the team gave its quarterback some backfield support.
Can the young secondary grow up fast enough to help Aaron Rodgers pursue his second ring? - The Packers' pass defense - or lack thereof - has held back the team's pursuit of a second title in the Rodgers era. Outside of veterans Tramon Williams and Davon House, Green Bay is banking on a youth movement to reinvigorate the unit. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (25), Kevin King (23), Jaire Alexander (21), and Josh Jackson (21) should all play critical roles and will be under immense pressure to come together quickly in order to give Rodgers the support he needs.
How will the star additions jell with the young core? - With Jared Goff and Todd Gurley on controlled rookie contracts for the foreseeable future, the Rams loaded up on star veterans to push them over the edge. Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Ndamukong Suh undoubtedly make L.A. better, but it's no easy task to integrate outspoken - and sometimes volatile - vets into a young team that's still growing, especially for a coach as inexperienced as Sean McVay.
Can Kirk Cousins take the offense to the next level? - Despite paying Cousins an NFL record $28 million per season, the Vikings don't need, nor expect him to play, like an elite quarterback. But, Minnesota does need to get its monies worth. The Vikings' offense was 10th in scoring and 11th in passing in 2017, so while there's room for improvement, a significant jump is a tall task - but one that Cousins will need to be equal to in order to prove the Vikings' historic investment was worth it.
Is Marcus Davenport the final piece to the championship puzzle? - Believing they were another top pass-rusher away from the second title of the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era, the Saints made a blockbuster move to jump up for Davenport. New Orleans gave up its 2019 first-rounder to snag the defensive end, so he'll be under enormous pressure to produce from Day 1. Brees turns 40 before next year's Super Bowl; he simply doesn't have the time to wait for Davenport to find his feet at the pro level.
Does Eli Manning have enough left in the tank? - The Giants have gone all-in on the 38-year-old Manning. If he has a Pro Bowl-worthy season left in him, New York could be contenders. But, if the regression he has shown of late is more about his age and less about his previously-weak supporting cast, it won't matter how many highlight-reel plays Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. produce.
Will Carson Wentz be ready for Week 1? - The reigning champs have few concerns, and even the uncertain status of Wentz is softened by the presence of Nick Foles. Still, while Wentz is "very confident" he'll be healthy for the season opener, it's likely he won't be the force of nature he was in 2017. Wentz should eventually get up to speed, but how the Eagles manage his return will be vital to their chances of repeating.
Does Jimmy Garoppolo have the weapons to live up to his mammoth contract? - Armed with the second-most cap space in the league entering free agency, the 49ers eschewed most of the big-name offensive players available, inking only running back Jerick McKinnon to a surprisingly large contract. Head coach Kyle Shanahan's system is a star-maker, but opting not to surround Garoppolo with as much top talent as possible is a choice the 49ers will have to answer for if the $137-million man struggles early on.
Was enough done to fix the offensive line? - A different year but the same question for the Seahawks' faithful. Due to his woeful protection, Russell Wilson was battered and bruised to such a degree that it's a miracle he made it through 2017 in one piece. Seattle did little this offseason to address the issue - though the team's limited resources was likely a factor in the lack of moves - outside of bringing in two blocking tight ends, and are apparently banking on their current unit making a significant leap under a new position coach. For a retooling team that looks set to rely on Wilson more than ever, opting to essentially stand pat is a risky strategy.
Can Jameis Winston fix consistency issues and reach his star potential? - For three seasons, we've waited for that moment, that breakout performance from Winston - the one where everything clicks and his enviable skill set is maximized. Adding DeSean Jackson last year was meant to be the final piece to the puzzle, but the same accuracy and game-to-game consistency issues plagued Winston. An improved running game could be the real final piece, but the clock is ticking for Winston to prove he's the guy instead of just a guy.
Who will be Josh Norman's running mate? - Beyond star cornerback Norman, the Redskins face great uncertainty at the position. After sending Kendall Fuller to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade, seasoned veteran Orlando Scandrick is the favorite to earn the starting job next to Norman, while Fabian Moreau and Josh Holsey will fight it out to be the primary slot corner. The pass defense was a strength for Washington last season; they can't afford for it to be a weakness next year.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)