The story lines that pop up at this point of the offseason are unique to the NFL. No other American sport is as popular, and no other professional sport has as much downtime. Every summer, those two factors collide to produce beautiful, precious minutiae during organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamps, generating some of the best Offseason Stories.
Now, there’s a difference between a story that occurs in the offseason and an Offseason Story. There are plenty of stories that unfold in the offseason and truly matter: This week, for example, the Jets revealed that they’re straight-up tanking, a revelation most notable for teaching us that they weren’t tanking before. Colin Kaepernick’s continuing free agency and the reasons behind it is one of the most important stories in recent memory.
The Offseason Story is something different. It’s something that exists only in its time and place — the ultimate “you had to be there” of football. None of these stories really matter or will seriously impact the season; they’re just brilliantly entertaining ways for the football-starved among us to pass the time in May and June. Many of these stories are part of the same genre: minor developments or optimistic projections that get blown up because we all need some good football tweets at this time of year. Look, the Cowboys have a new T-shirt slogan! Deshaun Watson is handling everything well in Houston! Kevin White is ready to put it all together! These kinds of stories are disposable takes that can be thrown away as soon as September comes and reality sets in.
Here are some of the most Offseason-y Offseason Stories so far:
Offseason Story: Adrian Peterson Still Has It
The aging running back with a little left in the tank! This is a classic offseason angle. Like the James Bond series, you can simply plug a new running back into this take each offseason and keep it rolling forever. Arian Foster annihilated his Dolphins conditioning test last summer, then retired midseason. Steven Jackson looked like he was going to be a “freak of nature” for the 2014 Falcons; he wasn’t.
It’s not impossible that Peterson could contribute in some way to the Saints this season, but it’s impossible that he’ll live up to the hype that Duncan described. Peterson is 32 years old and coming off a torn meniscus and an LCL sprain in 2016, the second season in three years in which he missed most of the campaign. (He was suspended during the 2014 season after being indicted for child abuse.) Peterson’s role will be small and clearly defined, but he’s used to getting tons of carries and has shown limited ability to do the things that niche running backs do. He’s working on his pass catching in New Orleans, for instance, a well-worn cliché of previous Peterson offseasons. There’s a lot of offensive talent in New Orleans, and perhaps the wide-open offense will create holes that Peterson has not before seen, but the only thing that’s certain now is how Offseason-y this story is.
Take Rating: Lukewarm
Offseason Story: Blake Bortles Is Fixed
We are so lucky to be witnessing an offseason take this good: Blake Bortles’s mechanics are fixed! “Had some flaws in his throwing motion that he did a nice job of working on in the offseason and pretty much correcting,” said new Jaguars executive Tom Coughlin. “So, we’ve seen some good things there.” And yes, this is different from when those flaws were fixed in March, and training camp 2016, and May 2015. Bortles’s mechanics stories are now yearly appointments, like the Star Wars franchise, except more exciting. The only other quarterback who had his mechanics fixed so routinely was Tim Tebow.
Take Rating: Incredible
Offseason Story: Brock Osweiler Is Not a Disaster
Brock Osweiler is such a bad quarterback that the Houston Texans traded a second-rounder to ship him to the Browns, who then immediately leaked that they might dump him (we’re still waiting, Cleveland). And yet, he’s getting some hype! I didn’t think something this Offseason was possible: Folks, Brock Osweiler is good.
Last week Browns coach Hue Jackson called Osweiler “outstanding” since joining Cleveland, and Osweiler now reportedly has the inside track for the starting job. “Arrow up” said a coach — that is, a coach of the Texans last season before Osweiler staged one of the most famously disastrous quarterback campaigns in recent memory. June can make any quarterback look good, even Osweiler.
Look at Jets passer Christian Hackenberg — Christian Hackenberg! — a quarterback being propped up by the sheer lack of other things to write about. He was just praised wildly for a 3-yard OTA touchdown pass. I swear, read the story.
Take Rating: Great
Offseason Story: Roberto Aguayo Is Missing Kicks but Also Getting Better
My God. This take has it all: an alleged reclamation of a bust, a makes-and-misses tally of field goals on modified goal posts, tons of different explanations for what the hell is going on. Is this Offseason Story heaven? No, it’s Tampa Bay.
You remember Roberto Aguayo, a historically good kicker at Florida State who got the yips in 2016 and delivered a nightmarish rookie season. The Bucs brought in some competition in Nick Folk, and Aguayo failed on their first day together, making one of four kicks on the “skinny posts,” which are smaller goal posts.
General manager Jason Licht set out to defend Aguayo, telling Sports Illustrated (1) the media sees only certain kicks, (2) Aguayo is “actually getting better,” (3) Licht’s noncommittal about whether the competition will be close. His battle against the Aguayo narrative is a waste of energy; roster spots are determined in August, not June. Still, it creates the most ludicrous June narrative I can think of. Find a more Offseason Story than a debate over whether there’s a kicking competition. God, I love the NFL.
Take Rating: My Favorite of the Offseason
Offseason Story: Eddie Lacy Is in Shape
Eddie Lacy, seen last year literally living with P90X guru Tony Horton to get in shape, is back in shape this year, making weight last month in his quest to stay below 255 pounds in the summer. (His weight goals are on a sliding scale, with his next mark coming at 250 pounds in mid-June.) Of course, he looked “shredded” at one point last year, then gained about 30 pounds over the course of the season to wind up just shy of 270. Now he’s on a deal that calls for huge chunks of his contract (up to $385K) to come when he meets his weight goals. His method? You guessed it, P90X.
Whether or not Lacy continues to make weight, his journey sheds light on how ridiculous offseason weight watches have become. Because large portions of the offseason are conditioning-only and cannot feature much real football due to the collective bargaining agreement, weight is way overcovered. There is no football and thus, there’s no football to talk about. There is only running. This leads us to contextless photos and narratives such as “Kelvin Benjamin is fat” and last year’s favorite: Tony Romo is fat. There are plenty of words to be found on the internet about Aaron Rodgers’s weight right now: It’s breaking offseason news that he weighs less than 220 pounds, a marked change from last offseason, when he weighed, uh, 218 pounds.
Take Rating: Robust