We say it every year: There is no offseason in the NFL.
This offseason, though, felt particularly breathless. Understandable when one of the biggest stars in the game joins a new team and another one of the biggest stars in the game ends a two-year contract staredown by making himself the highest-paid player in the league -- with both developments occurring just before the 2023 NFL Draft.
The NFL, we promise, really does quiet down soon. For about a month -- from mid-June to mid-July -- players scatter, coaches leave the facility, even the league office briefly eases off the gas.
Before everybody takes a much-needed breather, though, there is the matter of mandatory minicamps. It's an opportunity to get an early look at how teams are coming together -- just enough to whet our appetites for training camp and the season to come.
Here are 10 things we can't wait to see during minicamps.
1) Aaron's acclimation. The biggest question for the New York Jets: How fast can Aaron Rodgers, the offense and new faces get on the same page? Rodgers, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb have the advantage of familiarity with one another, but there are still questions about other facets of the offense. How will Hackett, who did not call plays for Rodgers in Green Bay, bounce back from a rough one-year head-coaching stint in Denver? What iteration of the offensive line will the Jets use? And, most critically, how is Rodgers' rapport with Garrett Wilson, the Jets' No. 1 receiver?
2) Green Bay redux. Finally, we will get an extended view of what the Packers saw in Jordan Love to convince them to move on from Rodgers. Love looked promising in limited 2022 regular-season action, but this is the first time he will get all the starter's reps, the first time the offense will be tailored to him, the first time Rodgers' long shadow is not cast on him. And, also, the first time Matt LaFleur is calling plays for someone who is not already a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
3) The return of Sean Payton. Payton has had his fingerprints all over virtually every part of the Broncos operation since taking the head job in January, but what everyone wants to know is what his offense will look like and how a noticeably slimmed-down Russell Wilson will fit in. Payton has been unsparing in his critique of the Broncos' offense last season, and his early moves -- shoring up the offensive line and signing running back Samaje Perine and fullback Michael Burton -- point to Payton's desire to run the ball to ease some of the pressure on Wilson. There won't be any sacred cows with Payton, so the early returns on this relationship will be fascinating.
4) The Ravens' new look. The Ravens have gone all in on surrounding Lamar Jackson with the best wide receiving group he's had in the NFL. Let's see how Odell Beckham Jr. looks now that he appears to be fully recovered from his second knee surgery. Let's see what first-round draft pick Zay Flowers does. And Nelson Agholor. And let's see what new offensive coordinator Todd Monken has in mind for this offense, which was 28th in passing last season. During OTAs, Jackson said he was loving Monken's offense. This is expected to be one of the most extreme makeovers in the NFL -- and, given the contract investment in Jackson, one that has some of the highest expectations attached to it.
5) The Anthony Richardson timeline. After the Colts made Richardson the fourth overall draft pick, team owner Jim Irsay made it clear he believes a raw talent like Richardson, who started just 13 games and attempted only 393 passes in college, needs to play to develop. Irsay also said head coach Shane Steichen will develop an offense that Richardson can operate while he learns. We'll at least get hints on what that offense looks like -- and how quickly Richardson can improve -- in minicamp.
6) The Dolphins' defense. The Dolphins finished 24th in scoring defense and 27th in passing D last season. Enter revered defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey. At Fangio's introductory press conference, he said he spent 2022 -- his year off from coaching -- studying other defenses, and he now has a few new tactics he wants to try. One thing to watch: How much will the Dolphins, who have been one of the most frequent blitzing teams in recent years, dial down the blitz with Fangio, who has not typically leaned on it? And in what positions will Fangio put Ramsey, who is coming off a down season but is now paired with Xavien Howard to form one of the league's elite cornerback duos. How Fangio deploys players who were not originally drafted to fit his scheme will tell us plenty about how quickly this defense can come together for a team that should contend in the AFC.
7) The Bengals' offensive line and secondary. It's been a multi-year project to improve the line, and how this group comes together will play a big part in the Bengals' championship hopes. Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was one of the most significant free-agent signings of the offseason. And though Jonah Williams wanted a trade after he was moved to right tackle, the Bengals have held onto him and -- assuming he reports for the mandatory minicamp -- Williams will be on the right side. In the secondary, the Bengals lost both starting safeties (Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell) in free agency. How defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo fills those spots with currently unproven commodities is worth watching for one of the league's stingiest defenses (No. 6 in scoring D in 2022) and a very real Super Bowl contender.
8) The Cowboys' offense. Yes, the Cowboys got speedster Brandin Cooks, but the intrigue this offseason is how much different the offense will look with Mike McCarthy taking over play-calling duties and Brian Schottenheimer functioning as the offensive coordinator. McCarthy insists he wants to run more, and Schottenheimer says he wants the Cowboys to play fast, while adding that the unit isn't broken. That's true: The Cowboys were the fourth-best scoring offense in the NFL in 2022. But how much better the unit can get, and how much further Dallas can push into the playoffs, will be, as always, season-long obsessions.
9) The Lions' new reality. Suddenly the darlings of the league -- they will play the Chiefs in the NFL Kickoff Game -- the Lions made one of the most intriguing selections of the 2023 NFL Draft, taking running back Jahmyr Gibbs 12th overall to join David Montgomery, who signed a three-year deal in free agency. Those two backfield additions should fit quite nicely with one of the best offensive lines in the league. Minicamp offers a first look at the reshaped Lions offense and how Gibbs will also be used as a receiver.
10) Life after Brady in Tampa. There is still talent on the Buccaneers' roster, and the NFC South remains a winnable division, so whether Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask appear to be up for the starting QB job has huge implications. Mayfield breathed new life into his career during his brief stint with the Rams, and Bruce Arians has always liked him. But minicamp should tell us plenty about whether the former No. 1 overall pick has a solid hold on the job. Can the Bucs reach the playoffs with either quarterback? Or could they be in the trade market for a signal-caller if they believe the rest of the roster is still good enough to be a postseason participant?