While some teams enter December with their eyes on the playoffs, other teams are deciding whether to rebuild or retool over the offseason. While the Panthers are the only team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the season is effectively over for a good 10-12 organizations. Long-term sustained success is always the goal, but can these teams accomplish that in 2024?
If a team is in a rebuild, that means that there is something fundamentally wrong with the roster or coaching staff that will take years to fix. A retool, however, simply means that a team is only missing one or two key pieces to become a contender.
Should These Teams Retool or Rebuild In the Offseason?
For better or worse, this team is going to be Bryce Young’s for at least one more season. Thanks to their aggressive trade in the 2023 NFL Draft, the team does not have their first-round pick in 2024. Without that high draft capital, the Panthers have no choice but to hope that Young’s unimpressive rookie year is due to a terrible supporting cast. The only question now is how can the team rebuild this roster. Carolina has a lot of cap space, and they’ll need to throw a lot of money at wide receivers and offensive linemen during free agency, because Adam Thielen is the only player on the offensive side of the ball that should have any type of job security.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots offense is historically inept. While the defense is still pretty good, Bill Belichick has created an offense that would be bad even by the standards of the 1940’s. Belichick is one of the greatest head coaches in the history of the game, but time comes for us all eventually. After Tom Brady’s departure, the eight-time Super Bowl champion built the team in his image, and this is the result. The Patriots are still looking for their first playoff win in the post-Brady era, and this team will have to rebuild with a new head coach and quarterback.
Despite the record, the Arizona Cardinals have some reason for optimism in the future. The team is 2-2 with Murray at the helm, with both wins coming against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The 2023 version of this team isn’t ready to seriously contend, but they’re not that far away. A good offseason and someone like Marvin Harrison Jr. could have this team fighting for a playoff spot in 2024.
Sam Howell may or may not be a franchise quarterback, but he’s just about the only good thing going for the Washington Commanders. The defense is among the worst in the league, the offensive line can’t block anything, and Terry McLaurin is starting to show signs of slowing down. On top of the questionable roster talent, head coach Ron Rivera is about to post his ninth losing season in 13 years as a head coach. This team could use an upgrade at just about every position, so hopefully, the new ownership is ready to put their money where their mouth is.
Justin Fields may or may not be a franchise quarterback, but Matt Eberflus is not an NFL-caliber head coach. The Bears will need to find a new mind to lead the team in 2024, and they might need a new quarterback as well. Fields can get the job done, but he’ll probably never be a high-level starter. If the team believes that Caleb Williams or Drake Maye will be better, then they’ll be foolish to pass on either prospect. Regardless, the offense is in decent shape, but the defense needs help at every level.
New York Jets
The New York Jets have a strong roster that just happens to feature one of the worst quarterback situations in recent memory. Aaron Rodgers in a wheelchair is probably better than the woeful combination of Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle, and Trevor Siemien. Quarterback is the most important position in football by leaps and bounds, and these three have singlehandedly wasted a great defense, even with Garrett Wilson making their lives a lot easier. The good news is that this team won’t need a rebuild – they just need a healthy Rodgers and a better backup plan if things go sideways.
New York Giants
The 2022 New York Giants were one of the luckiest teams in the league and weren’t nearly as good as their record implied. That luck stabilized in 2023, but not before the Giants spent the entire offseason chasing lightning in a bottle. Daniel Jones is not worth $40 million a year, Saquon Barkley will likely join a new team in a few months, and the Giants are going to have to be one of the many teams embracing a multi-year rebuild.
Will Levis has had moments of gold during his rookie season, but it’s hard to know exactly how good he can be when the offensive line can’t hold a block and the wide receivers can’t separate. DeAndre Hopkins can still play, but everyone else on the offense is an active liability. The defense, while not elite, is fine, so this team should spend the entire offseason trying to rebuild their offense and give Levis a chance to prove what he can do.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are stuck with Derek Carr for at least one more season. Thanks to his large cap hit, New Orleans can decide to run it back in 2024 with the hope that Carr improves, or they can just accept that they won’t be good in 2024 and make a move for a quarterback anyway. The Saints have been mortgaging the future for the sake of mediocrity ever since Brees retired. It’s about time this team finally looked towards the future and embraced a rebuild.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went all-in on Tom Brady’s final years, and that decision paid off. However, now it’s time to pay the bill. Baker Mayfield is a good bridge quarterback, but Todd Bowles shouldn’t be a head coach and the rest of the roster is aging. This team needs to rebuild while using Mayfield as a short-term starter.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders need help at just about every position imaginable. This is one of the easiest decisions on this list.
Los Angeles Chargers
Any team that has Justin Herbert under center will have a shot at the playoffs. However, there is a lot of work to do here. The defense is terrible, the offense is filled with aging playmakers, and the team has no cap space to work with. Firing Brandon Staley is step one in fixing this mess, but this could be a long offseason. That said, Herbert will keep this team competitive so long as he has some talent to work with.