Ten things to look forward to now that the Super Bowl is over

Click here for six observations on Super Bowl XLIII.

Lucifer himself might as well have created the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday.

Is that extreme? No.

The Monday after the Super Bowl signals the end of another NFL season and that means there is no football on the horizon unless you’re one of the 10 people that watches the Pro Bowl. There are seven months between now and the start of preseason games, which makes me sick to think about. If I could freeze myself for the next seven months and thaw just in time for the 2009 season, I would.

Is that extreme? No.

But fear not my football friends because even though there isn’t any football this Sunday, it doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to get excited about while looking ahead. Below are 10 things to look forward to now that the Super Bowl is over.

Before you read on, realize that I’m not going to cop out and write about how free agency and the draft are things to look forward to. Of course they are, but let’s get more specific here, people.

Tom Brady1. The Patriots’ decision regarding Tom Brady and Matt Cassel.
The Patriots are faced with arguably the biggest decision of any team this offseason. Brady has won multiple Super Bowls for the organization, has been the face of the franchise for almost a decade and he’s one of the Pats’ most outspoken leaders. But he’s also coming off major knee surgery, is 32 years old and his backup (Cassel) is younger and had a productive season as a fill-in. Cassel is also an unrestricted free agent, which makes this situation even more intriguing. Rumor has it that the Pats will franchise Cassel, but that’s a risky move because they would have to pay him $14.65 million for one year. If New England went that route, they would have nearly $30 million tied up in the quarterback position next year and Cassel might not even take a snap if Brady recovers in time for the start of the season. Another option would be to re-sign Cassel to a long-term contract and then trade Brady, but that’s easier said than done. Even though Brady’s a multiple Super Bowl winner, the Pats would still have to find a suitor willing to take on his injury concerns and contract. Of course, New England could keep Brady and allow Cassel to walk, but then they would have to hope golden boy Tom is healthy, and have a backup option in place in case he does get hurt again. Either way, the Pats have one hell of a decision to make soon.

2. Will the Cardinals trade Anquan Boldin?
On the surface, this situation isn’t too complicated. Boldin wants to be paid like a No. 1 receiver, but the Cardinals want him to honor the contact extension he signed in 2005, which won’t make him a free agent until 2011. If Boldin doesn’t get paid, he wants Arizona to trade him, but the Cardinals just got done playing in the Super Bowl and would love to keep their dynamic passing game intact for next season. Will the Cardinals pony up? They might not have to. Larry Fitzgerald once again proved this season that he is the team’s No. 1 and while Boldin remains highly underrated, Steve Breaston is more than capable of being the Cards’ No. 2. The team could find another wideout to play the slot either via the draft or free agency. Plus if they trade Boldin, they could acquire multiple draft picks to use to strengthen other areas on the team, including offensive line and defense. But if Fitz is willing to rework his contract in order to help keep Boldin, then obviously Arizona is a much better team with him than without him.

3. Will the Lions draft a quarterback with the first overall pick?
The Lions have a new general manager in Martin Mayhew and it’s unclear at this point what they’ll do with the first pick in the draft. Some mock drafts have Detroit selecting Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford first overall, while others suggest Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith should be the team’s first pick. With the success that rookie signal callers Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco had last year, many draft pundits will probably urge the Lions to take a franchise quarterback. But taking a quarterback in the first round (especially in the top 10) has proved to be a fatal move for teams in the past and the Lions’ offensive line is one of the worst in the league. Perhaps Mayhew’s plan for free agency will be a telltale sign of what the Lions do come draft day. If the GM decides to rebuild the offensive line, Stafford might be the pick. But considering new head coach Jim Schwartz’s background is in defense, Mayhew might spend the entire offseason rebuilding on that side of the ball and then target quarterbacks Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy next year.

4. Donovan McNabb’s situation in Philadelphia.
McNabb is under contract with the Eagles until 2013, but according to several sources, he’s only signed through 2010, which is why he and the team are talking about a possible contract extension. Let the rumor mill start. Some media outlets claim that McNabb wants out of Philly, while others suggest that he wants to retire an Eagle. The fact that Andy Reid benched McNabb for former second-round pick Kevin Kolb in a game against the Ravens earlier this season adds intrigue. But I guess before anyone gets too wrapped up in the McNabb-Eagles offseason story, more information has to be released about his contract. If he’s under contract through 2012, there’s no sense in buying the rumors that he won’t be an Eagle next year. But if his contract is up, there are seemingly endless possibilities in this situation.

5. Brett Favre…the saga continues.
If this were a list of “top 10 things not to look forward to now that the Super Bowl is over”, this same exact topic would be listed. Favre’s retirement dance is brutal, but it makes for good drama. Jets’ owner Woody Johnson recently said that if Favre isn’t in OTA’s this spring, he wouldn’t be with the team next year. Peter King thinks that Favre will retire. Methinks that unless Favre isn’t in uniform next year, then he won’t retire. He’ll never retire…ever.

Ray Lewis6. What will the Ravens do about their linebacker corps?
Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs are all set to become free agents this offseason. The Cowboys are reportedly willing to spend upwards of $30 million to acquire Lewis, but that’s just a rumor at this point. If you’re Baltimore and another team wants to spend that kind of money on an aging linebacker, you might have to let him walk. Scott is highly underrated and Suggs is one of the premier pass-rushers in the league. Both players are also younger (Scott is 28, Suggs is 26) than Lewis and the Ravens can’t afford to lose all three players, especially considering their defensive coordinator (Rex Ryan) just became the new head coach of the Jets. Baltimore finally found a franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco and an offense that can score points and now their defense could be falling apart.

7. Will Kurt Warner stick around?
Warner proved that he has plenty left in the tank after leading the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, but he’s no spring chicken at 37 years old and he’s set to become one of the more sought after free agent quarterbacks on the market. While Arizona might be the best fit for him, this will likely be his last opportunity to get a decent-sized contract and while the Cardinals would love to have him back, Matt Leinart is still waiting in the wings to take over the reins again (again). Warner’s agent recently said he’d test the market, but it’ll be interesting to see how many teams will pursue him given his age and decreasing arm strength.

8. Scott Pioli’s first offseason in Kansas City.
It’s time to see what the mastermind behind the Patriots’ drafts this past decade can do outside of New England. The situation in Kansas City is a mess and it’ll be interesting to see whom Pioli hires to replace Herman Edwards at head coach. He has a plethora of candidates, but will he hire a veteran like Jon Gruden or go with an unknown? It’ll also be interesting to see what he does in his first draft, with the Chiefs in need at all positions. KC needs to rebuild the offensive line, has tons of holes on defense and unless Pioli thinks Tyler Thigpen is the answer, he’ll probably look at quarterback this offseason, too. Chiefs fans have one hell of a busy offseason to look forward to.

9. Is LaDainian Tomlinson done in San Diego?
By now, most people understand the situation in San Diego. Tomlinson is coming off his worst season as a pro, isn’t getting any younger and his backup is a free agent. All of this has spurned the idea that GM A.J. Smith will trade or release LT this offseason, re-sign Darren Sproles and then concentrate on landing another back either in free agency or the draft. But when you stop and think about it, the Chargers obviously didn’t think LT was on his last legs last offseason when they didn’t try and persuade Michael Turner to stick around. Had they known Tomlinson was done, they would have taken preemptive measures in trying to keep Turner and pair him with Sproles. Tomlinson is still under contract and Sproles is likely to test the free agent market. So maybe Smith’s decision isn’t as tough as everyone thinks and LT will remain a Charger for at least the 2009 season. Or Smith could part ways with the most productive back in team history and then the fun really begins.

10. Mock Drafts – in all of their glory.
All right, I had to do one less specified thing to look forward to this offseason. Mock drafts – are they pointless? Yeah. But you know damn well that you’ve already Googled over hundreds of them. Don’t lie.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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