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The NFL's overrated, underrated offseason storylines

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There's no offseason. Not in today's NFL.

While other team sports still drift into hibernation between campaigns, pro football's constantly churning news cycle keeps the NFL front and center 12 months a year.

Shadowy League Figures love the attention, but the endless spotlight creates at least one issue: Low-octane news stories, ponderous rhetoric and trope-laden narratives generate far too much consideration while more important developments go overlooked.

What are we paying too much attention to? And what isn't getting its due? Let's take a look:

Overrated storylines


1. Will Von Miller get paid?: Of course he will, and we'll be treated to every tedious detail along the way. Denver's star pass rusher seeks a deal worth $70 million-plus over the first three seasons. Miller wants more guaranteed scratch than Olivier Vernon, Ndamukong Suh, J.J. Watt or anyone else hired to destroy quarterbacks. The Broncos are playing hardball, but spare us the breathless, agenda-heavy reporting on where negotiations sit. Miller will get paid and it will happen before the July 15 deadline.

2. Ryan Fitzpatrick's summertime standoff with Gang Green: Jets fans didn't expect The Amish Rifle -- a hero last season in Gotham -- to star in the offseason's most energy-sucking narrative. Fitzpatrick is annoyed with New York's offer, but let's not lose sleep over the veteran missing reps against air. Fitzpatrick isn't some beguiled naïf. He could sign a week into training camp and wouldn't skip a beat. Bottom line: Jets fans shouldn't panic until Geno Smith is starting Week 1. If that becomes a reality, New York's long-hassled faithful has my permission to light itself on fire.

3. Tom Brady's four-game suspension: A) It's obscene and depressing that Deflategate remains a thing in our society. B) Assuming Brady's four-game ban isn't reversed through another sleep-inducing courtroom appeal, it's Jimmy Garoppolo's team to open the season. He'll be tested right away with a season-opening tilt in Arizona, but New England spends the next three weeks at home against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills. Winning half of those games should do the trick. People forget that New England started 2-2 in 2012 and still made the AFC title game. The Pats did the same in 2014 and won the Super Bowl. There's no replacing Brady, but Bill Belichick will have Garoppolo prepared to play until Tommy arrives like a heat-seeking comet from outer space in time to flatten the Browns in Week 5.

4. Cleveland's quarterback competition: The Browns did themselves a big favor by dumping off-the-field A-bomb Johnny Manziel. The quarterback role became fodder for more overanalysis, though, when the Browns signed Redskins flameout Robert Griffin III. By all accounts, RGIII has been a solid teammate and tireless worker in Cleveland. We like coach Hue Jackson's chances of getting the most out of his signal-callers, but expecting any Browns quarterback to light up the skies with this roster is unfair. Barring the unexpected, Cleveland remains a top candidate to grab their quarterback of the future in next year's draft.

Underrated storylines


1. Green Bay's juggernaut-in-waiting: On last week's edition of the Around The NFL Podcast, Chris Wesseling predicted this year's Packers offense would break a string of NFL records. It makes plenty of sense. The problems faced by Aaron Rodgers last season centered mostly around his injury-depleted cast of wideouts. With Pro Bowler Jordy Nelson healthy again, Randall Cobb can naturally shift into the role he played two seasons ago. In the backfield, Eddie Lacy's weight issues are behind him after trimming the fat through P90X. Garbage conspiracy theories about Aa-Rod's decline will be scattered to the wind by Week 1. 

2. The development of Paxton Lynch: It's not that Lynch hasn't been covered enough -- he certainly has -- but we're less than three months away from Denver's season-opening Super Bowl rematch with the Panthers. While general manager John Elway said the first-round pick will be ready to start "quicker" than most expect, we're talking about a talented but raw prospect who played in a spread attack at Memphis that featured a host of screens, quicks and RPOs. With only the underwhelming Mark Sanchez standing in his way, Lynch is one injury -- or one Sanchez meltdown -- away from leading Denver's title defense.

3. Chicago's rising defense: The Bears won't be taken very seriously with Jay Cutler under center, but coach John Fox has the makings of a juicy defense. Especially up front, where Chicago did more than any team in the league to upgrade at linebacker. While new additions Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman take over inside, the Bears also grabbed first-round pass rusher Leonard Floyd to team with Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston. With linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman up front, the Bears and talented play-caller Vic Fangio have completely reimagined a unit that finished 30th overall just two seasons ago. 

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