The great NFL dry period is finally over. In the month since the end of offseason training activities, players have been away from team facilities while newsrooms struggled to fill the time with football content. Now, with training camps starting up, fans and media alike can resume speculation of and anticipation for the 2023 season.
As teams come together to gear up for the preseason, here are some of the key storylines and unanswered questions from across the league.
How long will Saquon Barkley be gone?
After head coach Brian Daboll guided the New York Giants to the franchise’s most successful season since 2016, quarterback Daniel Jones signed an extension that will keep him with the team until 2027 while paying $40 million a year. Jones’ breakthrough season earned him the big extension, but another impact player is struggling to get paid.
Running back Barkley has had a turnaround season of his own. After struggling with injuries for long stretches of his professional career, Barkley earned his second Pro Bowl selection in 2022.
The Giants placed their franchise tag on Barkley for the 2023 season in the spring, effectively putting off contract talks until the next offseason. However, Barkley has yet to sign the franchise tag in hopes of working out a better deal. With the holdout now stretching into training camp, Barkley has floated the idea of skipping training camp, and even holding out through the entire season.
His status will be a major question mark for the Giants moving forward as they try to build on their success from last season. But given that fellow star running back Dalvin Cook was just let go from the Minnesota Vikings, and as the value of running backs continues to fall, New York may just let its former first-round pick walk come 2024 free agency.
Rookies suit up
The 2023 NFL Draft saw three quarterbacks selected within the top five picks. And though the former college stars have already spent some time with their new teams, training camp will mark the true start to their NFL careers. All eyes will be on first-overall pick Bryce Young, No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud and No. 4 pick Anthony Richardson as all three try to earn respect in the locker room and take control of the offense.
In Carolina, Young enters training camp viewed by many analysts as this rookie class’ most “NFL-ready” quarterback. Joined by an all-new staff geared toward quarterback development, Young will work with Panthers head coach Frank Reich, quarterback coach Josh McCown and veteran quarterback Andy Dalton to overhaul an offense that ranked 28th in 2022.
When Stroud was selected as Demeco Ryans’ first-ever pick as the Houston Texans’ head coach, the rookie became the latest heir apparent to the Texans’ starting quarterback position that has had a long history of instability, especially since the departure of Deshaun Watson. With Houston hitting the rebuild button once again, the team seems to have taken a slow and steady approach to developing Stroud.
Even if the former Ohio State standout does end up starting in week one, the Texans’ priority is laying the foundation for a franchise quarterback to thrive, and training camp will likely continue to put Stroud’s development first.
Much is the same for Richardson. Considered to be the most physically gifted quarterback in the class, Richardson’s development has been at the top of the list for the Indianapolis Colts and first-year head coach Shane Steichen.
With former Eagles quarterback Gardener Minshew in the wings ready to step back into Steichen’s offense at a moment’s notice, there is a long runway for Richardson to get off the ground. But once the pads come on in training camp, it will be hard to ignore the athletic ability Richardson brings to the table.
Broncos Country, let’s ride?
Things have been rough in Denver ever since Peyton Manning led the team to a win in Super Bowl 50 nearly a decade ago. Broncos fans thought that good times were on the way back when the team traded a haul of players and draft picks for Russell Wilson. But with the former Seahawks quarterback showing signs of decline for the first time in his career and Denver firing former head coach Nathaniel Hackett before the end of his first season, the Wilson experiment has failed to launch thus far.
The 2022 debacle led the Broncos to bring on a different Super Bowl winning Payton. After a year away from coaching as an analyst at Fox Sports, former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton signed with Denver through the 2027 season. Payton was a top candidate for many organizations in the early parts of the offseason, and the Broncos had to send even more draft capital to New Orleans to seal the deal.
Payton brings along several new faces to the coaching staff, including a new offensive and defensive coordinator. Training camp will be crucial to see just how well Denver’s new coaching staff, and especially the recently unretired Payton, can get the Broncos up to speed.