Five predictions for 2015 offseason

PHOENIX -- Everyone is making Super Bowl predictions; those are easy. The tougher, riskier predictions are the ones that involve offseason storylines, and how they will be settled.

So despite the risk of looking silly by speculating on events that will unfold in the coming months, here are predictions on five of the NFL's most compelling non-Deflategate offseason storylines:

1. Who will be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft? Many NFL executives and scouts believe Florida State's Jameis Winston is the best pro quarterback prospect in this draft. Of course, teams still have three months to dig into Winston's past and see what they can uncover. Plus, there's a real sense that Tampa Bay has its sights set on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. So for now, Mariota shapes up as the most likely No. 1 pick. But there are still three months of combine work, pro days, interviews and investigations to go.

2. Where will Adrian Peterson play next season? If there were no legal issues, Peterson would be back in Minnesota. But now it is far less certain. The Vikings would like him back -- they've made that fairly clear -- but Peterson might not be entirely comfortable returning to Minnesota.

That is the bigger issue here. And if he's not comfortable in Minnesota, then the question becomes where Peterson would like to play. By my count, at least a half-dozen teams have done some background work on Peterson in the event he becomes available, per league sources. Makes sense, too. Both the Seahawks and Patriots have proved that running the football is key to winning championships. There will be a team, maybe even the Dallas Cowboys, that wants to make Peterson the centerpiece of its offensive attack next season. But (to put it in injury terms) Peterson is questionable for Minnesota, probable for somewhere else.

3. Which team will land potential free-agent-to-be Ndamukong Suh? Many around the league do not expect the Lions to use their franchise tag on Suh because it would cost them $26.87 million -- just too steep a price. Assuming Suh is not tagged, he will be free to leave, and he probably would be the most desirable unrestricted free agent on the market. Those who know Suh believe that playing in New York, Dallas or Chicago always has appealed to him. The four teams in those cities certainly have the need; then again, any team could use Suh.

4. Which position will get the most attention this offseason? Easy: wide receiver. The list of the wide receivers scheduled to become free agents -- which includes Dallas' Dez Bryant, Denver's Demaryius Thomas, Green Bay's Randall Cobb, Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore's Torrey Smith, San Francisco's Michael Crabtree and Jacksonville's Cecil Shorts III -- is long.

Other wide receivers, including Houston's Andre Johnson, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson, the Jets' Percy Harvin, Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe, have huge salary-cap numbers that will likely result in restructured deals or releases. And the '15 draft is said to be as rich at wide receiver as last year's, when five were selected in the first round and 12 were picked in the first two rounds. So one thing we can count on: The supply of quality wide receivers will exceed the demand.

5. Who will play in the 2015 regular-season opener? The team that might have the best chance of playing in next season's regular-season opener is not New England or Seattle; it's Pittsburgh. Next season, the Steelers play road games at New England and at Seattle. Not only that, but they might be the most compelling away opponent on those teams' schedules.

New England's home opponents include the AFC East teams, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Seattle's home opponents include the NFC West teams, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Carolina and Pittsburgh. So I believe the Steelers have the best chance to play in the Thursday night opener.

Exceptions at offensive coordinator: Part of the reason New England and Seattle have been so successful is their overall stability. It is most evident at head coach and quarterback, but there's also a lot of stability at offensive coordinator.

New England's Josh McDaniels and Seattle's Darrell Bevell are two of the NFL's longest-tenured offensive coordinators, despite the brief periods they have been with their current teams.

McDaniels and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley have been with their respective teams for three seasons, making them the longest-tenured offensive coordinators in the AFC. Bevell has been with Seattle one season longer, making him the second-longest-tenured offensive coordinator in the NFC, behind only New Orleans' Pete Carmichael (six years).

Every other NFL team has hired at least one new offensive coordinator within the past two offseasons. But McDaniels and Bevell have outlasted, and outperformed, the competition.

So when the coaching carousel starts spinning later next season, remember that it often spins even faster with offensive coordinators, who seem to change jobs about as often as the Oakland Raiders change head coaches. But New England and Seattle have, for the most part, stood pat.

Big changes for Pats? No team ever returns the next season the way it finished the previous one. New England's roster will be different, and so will Seattle's, though the Patriots face more intriguing contractual decisions than the Seahawks, who already have taken care of some of theirs.

Eleven Patriots are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, not including cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has a $20 million option bonus in his deal that New England is not likely to pick up. If it doesn't, then Revis would become one of the most coveted free agents this offseason.

But New England has other players it will try to re-sign before they can hit free agency, the most notable of whom is safety Devin McCourty, an underrated player in the Patriots' secondary. New England will try to re-sign McCourty, and he would like to remain in New England, but business is business.

There also is the business of New England's other unrestricted free-agents-to-be, a list that includes guard Dan Connolly, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley and linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas.

Seattle has done a tremendous job of re-signing its players before free agency, the most recent deal doled out to linebacker K.J. Wright. Seattle re-signed defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas last offseason and re-signed safety Kam Chancellor in the previous offseason. Seattle still wants to do what it can to re-sign linebacker Bobby Wagner, but this team has done everything possible to keep its core intact.

Still, in the end, no team can afford everything it wants. Sixteen Seahawks are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, but most of them are not foundational building blocks.

The ones Seattle would most like to keep, but will struggle to do so, are guard James Carpenter, cornerback Byron Maxwell, linebacker (and reigning Super Bowl MVP) Malcolm Smith and linebacker O'Brien Schofield.

Of course, Seattle's most pressing contractual affair will involve quarterback Russell Wilson, who's still on a rookie deal that has allowed the Seahawks to spend in ways they will not be able to when his contract is completed this offseason. There also is the issue of running back Marshawn Lynch and his future, which usually feels unsettled.

But Seattle is set up to succeed now and in the future.


Game of the Week: Patriots vs. Seahawks -- Over the past three seasons, including the playoffs, the Seahawks and Patriots are tied for the league lead in turnover margin at plus-51; the next-best team is the 49ers at plus-28. The ability to protect the ball and create takeaways has gotten these teams where they are, and it will likely be the difference in the Super Bowl.

Player of the Week: Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount -- All the talk is about Lynch, but don't overlook the other power back in this game.