NFL Offseason Preview: What Now For These Eliminated Teams?

by Tyler Knaeble · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

This is an NFL Offseason Preview! As we move onto the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs, I think it’s important for us to mourn the teams that saw their season come to an end after the first round of the NFL Playoffs. What can these teams do to get back in the playoffs? How can they march further toward the ultimate goal of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy

Dallas Cowboys

There’s no team in the NFL that is under more scrutiny, year in and year out than the Dallas Cowboys. However, before we dive into the Wildcard loss, let’s take a look at their regular season. 

2023 Season Recap

The Cowboys finished the season as the No. 2 seed in the NFC, won the NFC East division, and were a dominant force on both sides of the ball for most of the year. As an offense, they finished No. 5 in total yards per game, No. 1 in points per game, and had some real breakout seasons from guys like CeeDee Lamb, Jake Ferguson, and even Dak Prescott to a degree. As a defense, the Cowboys allowed the No. 5-least yards and points per game among all NFL teams. This includes DaRon Bland who set a single-season record for most pick-sixes with five! All of these team and player accomplishments were the reason that Cowboys fans felt like this was their year.

This wasn’t the team from 2022 when Dak Prescott led the league in interceptions. This was a team who was on a 16-game home win streak with the highest scoring offense in the league to go along with a top five defense. That was until Jordan Love took his first drop back in Jerry World and blew them out 48-32. Many fans are calling for big changes. With that being said, firing McCarthy and blowing it up is not the way forward. 

Offseason Moves to Make

The first move the Cowboys made was to bring back Mike McCarthy. This is the right call. When Kellen Moore was pretty much “let go” last offseason, there were a ton of naysayers who thought McCarthy was going to run this offense into the ground as the incoming play caller.  In reality, McCarthy did quite the opposite as the offense finished No. 5 in yards per game. This is a category they finished No. 11 in the season prior with Kellen MooreThey also finished No. 5 in points per game under Moore in 2022. The Cowboys ranked No. 1 in points per game in 2023 under McCarthy.  

Which offense is better? Is it the Kellen Moore offense that had Prescott leading the league in interceptions? Or is it the offense that saw CeeDee Lamb break the single-season record for most receiving yards by a Cowboy? Is it the offense that saw Dak Prescott lead the league in touchdown passes and turned him into an MVP candidate? Or is it the offense that LED THE LEAGUE in scoring and averaged 37 points per game at home?

The Bigger Picture

The overall arching point is would have been the alternative if the Cowboys fired McCarthy? Yeah, Belichick has a really shiny name and a great playoff resume, but what would have happened to that high flying offense when McDaniels and Belichick get their hands on it? Perhaps the defense would play better, but Belichick’s teams have never been elite offensively without Tom Brady under center. 

It doesn’t seem like it right now, but the Cowboys are closer than most teams and will likely be the favorite to win the NFC East in 2024. Sure, there are some decisions to make regarding Tyron Smith, Tony Pollard, Stephon Gilmore, and Jayron Kearse as they are set to become free agents. However, the core of the team is still intact. The wisest move would be to plug holes in free agency, draft the best overall players in the NFL Draft, and build the roster in the best way possible to win a Super Bowl in 2024. 

Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles are another team who experienced an awful playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There are many questions surrounding this franchise? Should the Eagles move on from Nick Sirianni? The short answer is no, they should not. With that being said, they should probably make some changes to their coaching staff in 2024.

2023 Season Recap

It feels crazy to say the Eagles started off this season 10-1 because it’s hard to imagine them playing good football the way they ended this season. Over those first 11 games the Eagles averaged 28.7 points per game, which would have been good for No. 4-best in the league if they would have stayed on that pace. Unfortunately for them, they proceeded to lose six of their last seven games averaging just 18.8 points per game over that stretch. The Eagles would have ranked No. 26 in the league if this had been their scoring output all season. For comparison’s sake, this would rank the Eagles just below the Atlanta Falcons in offensive output. It’s bad being compared to an Arthur Smith offense.

The Eagles’ defense allowed just 22 points per game during that 10-1 stretch. That number jumped to 30 points per game over their last seven games. There are many excuses to point to. However, when a team loses both their offensive coordinator (Shane Steichen) and defensive coordinator (Jonathan Gannon) there are going to be some problems. 

Offseason Moves to Make

It’s probably best to look for new coordinators on both sides of the ball. This is different than coordinators leaving after a Super Bowl run. The change in coordinators, especially defensively, is much needed. Matt Patricia doesn’t appear to be the answer this team is looking for. There is no doubt that this team regressed significantly on the offensive side of the ball as well towards the end of the season. 

Jason Kelce is retired. The other big names like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and D’Andre Swift are all set to hit the market as well. It would be best to re-sign Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham to team friendly deals given their age. D’Andre Swift is likely headed toward free agency. 

The good news for the Eagles is they are projected to have about $28 million in cap space this offseason and the two biggest positions of need are the secondary and running back. If the Eagles can improve upon their pass defense and run the ball more efficiently in 2024, it’s going to take a lot of pressure off Jalen Hurts. This will also allow them play a balanced brand of football. This team is still littered with talent. They have to get back to what they were doing in 2022.

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins had fewer wins against .500 or better opponents this year than the New England Patriots. The Patriots are picking No. 2 in the NFL Draft and finished the season with four wins. This is not great for the South Beach Boys. 

2023 Season Recap

According to offensive regular season statistics, the Dolphins were the runaway No. 1 seed. They finished No. 1 in yards per game and second in points per game. 

This led to: 

Tua Tagovailoa leading the league in passing yards and tied for No. 5 in passing touchdowns. 

Raheem Mostert scoring 21 total TDs, tying McCaffrey for the most in the league. 

Tyreek Hill leading the league in yards and ranking No. 2 in receptions. 

The Dolphins defense ranked No. 22 in scoring defense. However, they ranked top 10 in yards allowed per game to opponents. Injuries to Bradley Chubb, Jaelen Phillips, and Jalen Ramsey certainly didn’t help them in this category. 

Offseason Moves to Make

Tua Tagovailoa is the problem. This team’s upside is limited as long as he is their quarterback. Yes, he’s great against bad teams, but when the lights are the brightest, he disappears. It shows in a big way. He is Baker Mayfield with Mike McDaniel as his play caller and Hill as his WR1. It would be wise to explore trades for Tagovailoa this offseason. Tagovailoa has only one year left on his rookie deal. A nice stop gap signing may be Kirk Cousins if he is available.

The Dolphins salary cap situation isn’t the best. They would have to do some cap gymnastics to make a deal with Cousins, or someone else, work. But if they can, that gives them a higher ceiling considering their window to win is right now. Tyreek Hill and Raheem Mostert aren’t getting any younger and their defensive superstars like Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard and Christian Wilkins (who is a free agent) aren’t either. 

Outside of quarterback, they need to continue to improve upon the defense in the offseason via free agency and the draft. Their window is now. And in order to see their ultimate potential, big changes need to be made. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Watching the Steelers play football since Big Ben retired literally feels like Groundhog Day. They rank No. 32 in my most exciting offenses to watch. The Steelers have had mediocre quarterback play at best. However, they always find a way to end up above .500.

2023 Season Recap

If there is one bright spot on this team it’s most certainly the defense. The Steelers finished with the No. 6-best scoring defense despite allowing 342 yards per game. This ranked the Steelers as the No. 21 in the league. Credit that “bend don’t break” philosophy to good coaching and the veteran core they have built around T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick

The offense is a completely different story. The big narrative around this team for the first several weeks of the season was Matt Canada and his atrocious scheme/playcalling. Through the first 10 games, the Steelers averaged 16.6 points per game with Matt Canada calling plays. Over the last eight games, they averaged 19.4 points per game. Granted, they did have to roll with Mitchell Trubisky for a couple games. With that being said, it’s not like Kenny Pickett is anywhere close to being the answer either.

Offseason Moves to Make

In 2023, Kenny Pickett ranked No. 35 in clean pocket accuracy, No. 38 in catchable pass rate, and No. 29 in yards per attempt. The advanced stats say he’s not the guy. The Steelers likely already know this if they were starting Mason Rudolph down the stretch and in the playoff game even when Pickett was healthy. Their first priority should be retaining Mike Tomlin. It sounds like they will. After that, the Steelers should be exploring new options at quarterback. 

Similar to the Dolphins, this team feels more suited for a veteran presence at quarterback rather than the Justin Fields/rookie QB route. This leaves guys like Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins as the top options. Russell Wilson is the guy they should pursue. They don’t have a ton of cap space to work with this offseason, but luckily for them they don’t have any notable players who are UFA’s. 

Positions of need for them are without a doubt some more playmakers on offense. This draft class is STACKED with talent at the receiver position and guys like Keon Coleman, Brian Thomas Jr., Troy Franklin, etc. are all in their range if they stay put at pick 20. At the end of the day, the Steelers have to do whatever they can to improve this offense because ever since the Big Ben-Le’Veon BellAntonio Brown era ended, it’s been mostly unwatchable.

Los Angeles Rams

This was definitely a season that not a lot of people saw coming from the LA Rams. Most people forgot one very important thing. The Rams have Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford

2023 Season Recap

Sean McVay is truly one of those coaches who can do more with less on offense and is more valuable than one single player on this offense. He was the architect of masterclass seasons from fifth round rookie Puka Nacua who looks like a bonafide future superstar in this league. 2022 fifth round pick Kyren Williams was a fantasy football superstar and league winner this season. Additionally, Williams carved out a massive role in the Rams’ offense. 

It feels criminal to say, but Cooper Kupp was probably the fourth most important piece on this offense this year behind Stafford, Nacua and Williams. All of these players lead to the Rams finishing No. 8 in points per game and No. 7 in yards per game. The defense was a different story as they finished in the middle of the pack in both of those same categories. 

Offseason Moves to Make

The Rams are set to make their own first-round selection in the 2024 Draft for the first time since 2016! On top of that, they are finally out of cap hell and are projected to have around $48 million to spend this offseason. This ranks as the No. 11 most in the league. Some positions of need are CB, S and O-Line. 

The Rams hold the 19th pick in the draft which is a great spot to select any of these positions. Some potential free agents include, S Budda Baker *team option, CB Kendall Fuller, S Micah Hyde, LT Tyron Smith, G Andrus Peat, and C Connor Williams. This has the makings to be a great offseason for the Rams and be the vehicle that drives them back to the Super Bowl. aspirations. 

Cleveland Browns

If head coach Kevin Stefanski doesn’t win Coach of the Year, then I don’t know why that award even exists. 

2023 Season Recap

In 2023, the Browns lost: RB Nick Chubb, RT Jack Conklin, LT Jedrick Wills Jr., QB Deshaun Watson, S Rodney McLeod, S Grant Delpit and LB Anthony Walker. Despite all of that, the Browns end up finishing 11-6 and in the playoffs with Joe Flacco at quarterback. Despite the brilliance that Flacco showed down the stretch of this season, make no mistake that the defense is the reason the Browns had the season they did. Cleveland allowed least yards per game in the entire league this season and kept them in so many games when guys like P.J. Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson were in at quarterback. With that being said, the Browns don’t have the easiest path to roster improvement this offseason.

Offseason Moves to Make

The Browns are without their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and are projected to come in at $-13 million in cap space this off season. As bad as that Deshaun Watson contract looks, it’s virtually impossible to move on from him, so they might as well just try and build around him. The offense is where most of their problems are. The Browns will have an aging running back coming back from a devastating knee injury in Nick Chubb and an aging wide receiver in Amari CooperSome budget options at receiver in free agency or in the NFL Draft feels about where they should focus their efforts. 

Players like WR Curtis Samuel, WR D.J. Chark, WR Tyler Boyd, WR Keon Coleman and WR Troy Franklin are guys who could truly be difference makers for this somewhat lethargic offense, at least when Deshaun Watson was the QB. Expanding upon the offensive and making it more explosive with teams like the Ravens and Bengals in the division should be the top priority. 

That concludes the first edition of “What’s Next.” We will be back next week to break down the same thing for the four teams that are eliminated in the Divisional Round. 

Thank you for reading and make sure to be tapped in on all of the PlayerProfiler Channels!