7 Most Intriguing NFL Storylines to Track as 2024 OTAs Begin

7 Most Intriguing NFL Storylines to Track as 2024 OTAs Begin

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    Commanders QB Jayden Daniels

    Commanders QB Jayden DanielsScott Taetsch/Getty Images

    While the early stages of free agency and the 2024 draft are over, the NFL never rests for long. Organized team activities (OTAs) kick off this week, and there’s plenty of intrigue to be found in the next stage of the offseason.

    Fans will get their first real looks at rookies and veterans practicing together in the coming days. And while jobs won’t be won or lost before training camp, the early rounds of positional battles will start to unfold.

    Many players returning from injuries will also start to ramp up their recoveries during OTAs, while contract negotiations will continue for others.

    Here, we’ll dive into the top storylines to follow as 2024 OTAs begin, based on factors such as projected player role, franchise trajectory, roster makeup and the latest buzz.

Many Rookie Quarterbacks Get Acclimated

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    Bears QB Caleb Williams

    Bears QB Caleb WilliamsMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Every high-drafted rookie is going to generate some level of attention during OTAs. However, quarterback remains the most important position in the NFL, and six signal-callers were selected in the first round this year.

    All of the top-six rookie QBs will be worth tracking during OTAs, even if they won’t all be competing for starting jobs. Chicago Bears rookie Caleb Williams, for example, has already earned his.

    “No conversation,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said before the start of rookie minicamp. “He’s the starter.”

    No. 2 overall pick Jayden Daniels should surpass journeyman Marcus Mariota sooner than later. Though he probably won’t be handed the job with the Washington Commanders right away, the early signs are encouraging.

    “There’s a good feeling right now. They’ve got to play the games, of course, but high praise so far for Jayden Daniels,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler told SportsCenter (h/t Bleacher Report’s Joseph Zucker).

    Drake Maye may not have as clear a path to a starting job with the New England Patriots. According to Fowler (h/t Mike Chiari of B/R), they are comfortable with sitting the third overall pick behind Jacoby Brissett if necessary.

    Eighth overall pick Michael Penix Jr. is expected to sit behind Atlanta Falcons free-agent addition Kirk Cousins for the foreseeable future. However, the rookie’s performances in the spring and summer will be intriguing.

    Cousins is recovering from a torn Achilles and likely won’t be as active during OTAs as the Washington product. While a full-on quarterback controversy is unlikely at this point in the offseason, things could get very interesting if Penix shines.

    The Minnesota Vikings are expected to hold a competition between free-agent quarterback Sam Darnold and 10th overall pick J.J. McCarthy. That could be one of the more fascinating battles to track throughout the summer because the rest of Minnesota’s roster is quite strong.

    In Denver, the Broncos are set to hold a competition between Jarrett Stidham, trade acquisition Zach Wilson and 12th overall pick Bo Nix.

    However, the rookie has already drawn praise from head coach Sean Payton.

    “[He makes] pretty good decisions. With each play, the efficiency of how he’s operating, and all of that,” he told reporters.

    Denver’s QB battle may be the least interesting of the bunch, since Nix isn’t facing a high level of competition and the Broncos aren’t widely expected to be a playoff contender.

    Each of these situations bears watching, though.

The Lone Veteran QB Battle

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    Raiders QB Aidan O'Connell

    Raiders QB Aidan O’ConnellIan Maule/Getty Images

    While fans will have several rookie quarterbacks to track during OTAs, minicamps and training camp, this year won’t feature many veteran competitions at the position.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have a pair of new QBs in Russell Wilson and Justin Fields, though the former should have the inside track to the starting job.

    “Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was upfront with Justin Fields—told him that Russell Wilson is the starter, and Fields will work from there,” Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated posted on X in March.

    The only real veteran QB competition we’re likely to see will involve incumbent Las Vegas Raiders signal-caller Aidan O’Connell and free-agent addition Gardner Minshew II.

    O’Connell showed some flashes during his rookie campaign, but Minshew made the Pro Bowl as an alternate with the Indianapolis Colts.

    The 28-year-old also signed on a lucrative (for a journeyman) two-year, $25 million deal.

    While the Raiders weren’t a playoff team in 2023, they did win eight games and beat every one of their AFC West opponents late in the season.

    Las Vegas has offensive standouts such as Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers and rookie tight end Brock Bowers. If it gets strong quarterback play in 2024, it could be a factor in the divisional race.

    This should be a fully open competition, though O’Connell will get the first crack at the starting job.

    “Aidan’s earned the right to go out there and get the first snap,” head coach Antonio Pierce said on May 10.

    The Raiders shouldn’t be discounted as a possible playoff contender. If they do return to relevance in 2024, their quarterback competition may have played a significant role.

Kansas City’s Battle at Left Tackle

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    Chiefs OT Wanya Morris

    Chiefs OT Wanya MorrisDavid Eulitt/Getty Images

    Fans of specific teams will have no shortage of positional battles to track in the coming months. From a leaguewide perspective, though, the Kansas City Chiefs’ upcoming competition at left tackle might be the most important.

    The Chiefs are back-to-back NFL champions. They’re widely expected to make another serious push in 2024, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains the most vital piece of the puzzle. Protecting him must be a priority from now until the end of the postseason.

    Kansas City has a strong overall roster, but it’s hard to envision it winning a Super Bowl if the two-time NFL MVP misses significant time with an injury.

    Yet, after losing Orlando Brown Jr. in 2023 free agency and not re-signing Donovan Smith this year, the Chiefs don’t have a clear-cut starter at left tackle.

    “The position battle between Suamataia and Wanya Morris, the Chiefs’ third-round draft pick last year, will be the team’s last one for a starting job,” he wrote.

    Although Morris was recently arrested on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges—along with backup tackle Chukwuebuka Godrick—it should have little bearing on the competition to be Mahomes’ new blindside protector.

    Morris has the edge in experience, having appeared in 14 games with four starts as a rookie, but Suamataia is an intriguing, high-upside prospect. He was the 37th-ranked overall player on the B/R Scouting Department’s final draft board.

    Finding a quality left tackle who can replace Smith on a weekly basis will be Kansas City’s biggest challenge before Week 1.

Joe Burrow’s Recovery

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    Bengals QB Joe Burrow

    Bengals QB Joe BurrowJamie Squire/Getty Images

    No one can expect the Chiefs to be the same perennial contender without Mahomes under center. And the Cincinnati Bengals have shown they’re not a top-level team when Joe Burrow misses time.

    In two seasons with the 2020 No. 1 pick healthy, the Bengals have made the AFC title game twice and appeared in one Super Bowl. In two seasons with him ending the year on injured reserve, Cincinnati has finished last in the AFC North.

    This offseason, the 27-year-old is recovering from a wrist injury that prematurely ended his 2023 campaign. While he expects to be at 100 percent by Week 1, he conceded recovery hasn’t been easy.

    “This was a difficult injury,” Burrow told reporters. “It’s been a tough several months, but physically it’s not the worst injury that I’ve had.”

    The LSU product suffered a torn ACL as a rookie but returned to lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl the following season. He missed part of his 2022 preseason preparation following an appendectomy but made his first Pro Bowl that year.

    While Burrow has a history of overcoming injuries and ailments, the fact that he could be limited for the third straight offseason can’t be ignored.

    He isn’t the only quarterback returning from injury, of course. Cousins, Daniel Jones, Deshaun Watson and Justin Herbert all ended the 2023 season on injured reserve. However, the Bengals have shown that they’re arguably the Chiefs’ biggest threats in the AFC when their signal-caller is healthy.

    Burrow and Tom Brady remain the only quarterbacks to beat Mahomes in the postseason.

    This is why Burrow’s health, recovery and preparation should be critical storylines in the coming weeks and months.

The Many Potential Cowboys Contract Extensions

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    Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

    Cowboys QB Dak PrescottRichard Rodriguez/Getty Images

    The Dallas Cowboys may not actually be “America’s Team,” but they certainly draw a large amount of national attention. They have also been a potent NFC challenger over the last three seasons, winning 12 games in each of them.

    However, there’s a chance the 2024 season provides Dallas’ last chance at making a Super Bowl run. That’s due, in large part, to the fact that quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb are both set to be free agents in 2025.

    The Cowboys must also consider extending star pass-rusher Micah Parsons, who is extension-eligible this offseason.

    Prescott’s extension—if he’s going to get one—must come first. Parsons has two years left on his rookie deal, while Lamb can be franchise-tagged next offseason. Prescott cannot be given the tag, though, as his current contract prohibits it.

    Barring a complete collapse in 2024, the 30-year-old’s price tag isn’t going to be lower next March than it is now, so it would behoove the Cowboys to move quickly on a new deal.

    According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, though, there has been no progress.

    “No progress there, still a lot of work to be done,” Schefter told Read & React (beginning at the 33-second mark) on May 15. “Still a lot of questions to be answered moving forward.”

    Dallas’ ability to extend Lamb and Parsons could hinge on its ability to first extend Prescott since it has just $1.9 million in cap space available. However, the quarterback’s situation is likely to impact more than just the Cowboys.

    The Detroit Lions recently signed Jared Goff to an extension worth $53 million annually. Prescott is poised to top that amount, and other signal-callers could be waiting to see if he does and by how much.

    Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is extension-eligible this offseason, while Jordan Love of the Green Bay Packers and Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins are both set to be free agents in 2025.

Tua Tagovailoa’s Quest for a New Contract

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    Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa

    Dolphins QB Tua TagovailoaKara Durrette/Getty Images

    While Prescott undoubtedly wants a new deal, he hasn’t played hardball to this point. He has no real reason to, as he’s set to earn $29 million just in base salary this season ($55.5 million cap hit) before possibly hitting the open market in less than a year.

    Tua Tagovailoa, however, appears to be pressuring the Miami Dolphins. According to Fowler, he has skipped at least some of their voluntary workouts this offseason.

    “He has missed some OTA time, I’ve confirmed, and really it could depend on how negotiations go with his contract as to whether he starts to show up or is there full time,” Fowler said Sunday on SportsCenter (h/t Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway).

    CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reported on Friday that the 26-year-old has missed the “majority” of offseason work since the Dolphins first reported in April. However, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reported on Monday that the Pro Bowler did arrive for the start of OTAs.

    With Tagovailoa at OTAs, a prolonged holdout appears unlikely. That doesn’t mean, though, that the quarterback won’t find another way to pressure the Dolphins into a new contract. According to Fowler (h/t Nick Kosko of On3), negotiations haven’t “progressed all so well.”

    Theoretically, Tagovailoa could set a deadline for reaching a new deal, vowing not to sign a contract after it passes—a tactic unsuccessfully used by Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans last offseason.

    Tagovailoa could then either A.) force Miami to use the franchise tag in 2025 or B.) force the Dolphins to offer a (likely) more expensive contract after quarterbacks like Prescott and Love have signed their new deals. Miami’s other option would be to try replacing Tagovailoa in free agency or through the 2025 draft.

    There’s no guarantee that Tagovailoa will go this route, but it’s something he might consider amid stalled contract talks and after skipping the start of the offseason. And if this tactic yields the long-term deal he’s seeking, it could lead to quarterbacks like Love and Lawrence—maybe even Prescott—following suit.

Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and the Receiver Market

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    Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

    Vikings WR Justin JeffersonNic Antaya/Getty Images

    While Goff didn’t reset the quarterback market, he came close. Only Burrow is paid more on an annual basis among signal-callers.

    However, Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. did reset the defensive back market this offseason, and there’s a chance either Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase does the same at wide receiver.

    Whoever signs a contract first between the two will likely become the league’s highest-paid receiver, before having his deal topped by the second to sign. Lamb is somewhere in the mix as well.

    Jefferson and Chase have each made an argument for being the league’s best wide receiver when healthy. While the latter just became extension-eligible this offseason, the former has been able to sign an extension since last offseason.

    The Minnesota Vikings wideout also skipped early offseason workouts, though the team is confident a contract agreement can be reached.

    “I know everything’s going to get worked out there,” head coach Kevin O’Connell told Kay Adams on Up & Adams.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Cincinnati tries to jump Jefferson’s inevitable market reset by extending Chase first—the Bengals also extended Burrow before his fourth season—and if Jefferson continues to be absent.

    It will also be intriguing to see how new deals for the NFL’s top receivers might trickle down to other pass-catchers seeking extensions.

    Calvin Ridley essentially reset the market for second-tier receivers with his four-year, $92 million deal in free agency, and other receivers want part of the action.

    Denver Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton joined Jefferson and Lamb as early offseason holdouts, and Bengals wideout Tee Higgins requested a trade after being given the franchise tag instead of a long-term deal.

    It’s also an important situation to follow for other impending 2025 free agents such as Stefon Diggs, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper and Mike Williams.

    Receiver contracts are going up, and they could go up significantly before the end of the offseason.

    *Cap and Contract information via Spotrac.

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