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NFL offseason: Ten (actually interesting!) subplots

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Tony Romo.

Prepare yourself for plenty of Tony Romo.

As the new league year approaches, NFL fans are in for a barrage of fever-dream speculation over the future of the veteran Cowboys quarterback. Will he be traded? Released? Kept around for "security" behind Dak Prescott?

Tired landing-spot lists, unrequested think-pieces and windy chatter about Romo serving as the "final piece in the puzzle" for Team X will invariably bubble up if Dallas parts ways with the 36-year-old field general.

Not to say that Romo's future isn't a massive narrative. It certainly is. It's just that the NFL offseason has so much more to offer -- especially this year, with a host of veteran passers potentially on the move and two Super Bowl teams facing waves of transition.

In a world BEYOND ROMO, here's what I'm excited to track this offseason:

Shanahan's fixer-upper by the Bay: In the course of a day, Kyle Shanahan went from running Atlanta's top-scoring offense to inheriting a backlog of challenges in San Francisco. The new 49ers coach must pinpoint a quarterback and restock a cupboard on offense entirely bare beyond running back Carlos Hyde and tight end Vance McDonald. Once Colin Kaepernick exits stage left, look for Shanahan to aggressively chase a veteran passer he trusts. More on that below.

What becomes of Jimmy G?: With Tom Brady primed to play another 12 seasons in New England, backup Jimmy Garoppolo has emerged as trade bait for the rich-get-richer Patriots. It's worth noting that Shanahan reportedly valued Jimmy G as the draft's second-best quarterback behind Derek Carr in 2014. The Niners would face competition, though, with the Bears, Saints and Browns all reportedly interested in swapping for the fourth-year signal-caller. With just two starts to his name, Garoppolo has proven little in the NFL. Still, any trade scenario would likely include a big-money contract extension, putting plenty of pressure on the coach who inherits him.

The courting of Cousins: I don't expect Kirk Cousins to play for anyone but the Redskins next season. Team president Bruce Allen emphasized that Washington is determined to re-sign the impending free-agent quarterback, saying: "I don't think it's as complicated as everyone wants to make it. And we'll get together with his agent, and I'm sure we'll come to an agreement." Despite reports that San Francisco has eyes for the ultra-competitive Cousins, the Redskins remain in the driver's seat. After all, they can franchise him for another season if talks fizzle.

Cleveland's offseason strategy: Can the Browns possibly enter September with Robert Griffin III under center? No way. Coach Hue Jackson is guaranteed to address the quarterback void, but how? Do they package picks to win the Garoppolo sweepstakes, or swing for the fences on a rookie? The Browns have been smart with their trades. Look for Cleveland to nab pass rusher Myles Garrett at No. 1 before using the No. 12 pick to move up or down for a passer instead of selling the farm for a quarterback. The Browns also could fill that need pre-draft by signing Tyrod Taylor (provided the Bills part ways with him) or making a low-risk trade with the Bengals for former Jackson protégé AJ McCarron.

Peterson on the move?: Unless he agrees to a restructured deal with the Vikings, Adrian Peterson is bound for a new home. Turning 32 next month, the Vikings running back listed the Texans, Buccaneers and Giants as teams he would consider playing for. ESPN also named the Cowboys as an "option" for A.P., which feels like a super-strange choice considering, well, Ezekiel Elliott.

Falcons coaching carousel: Within days of losing Super Bowl LI, Atlanta fired defensive coordinator Richard Smith and watched Shanahan float west for San Francisco. The hiring of Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator was a surprise, no matter how close he is to coach Dan Quinn. So what kind of attack will Sarkisian bring to Atlanta? As coach of the Washington Huskies, he employed mirrored route concepts, play-action passes and plenty of short strikes to his running backs -- all elements of Shanahan's scheme. College Football 24/7's Chase Goodbread told me that while Sark might rely on the run more than Shanny, he's definitely into the screen game. With that in mind, look for Atlanta's new play caller to push for the re-signing of Devonta Freeman. Days removed from the most crushing defeat in franchise history, the Falcons are a reminder that the business of football never rests.

New England's next move: No team survives change like the Patriots. Star players come and go, but the presence of Brady and Bill Belichick keep this dominant mothership floating high above all challengers. New England, though, will watch a laundry list of key players -- Dont'a Hightower, LeGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett, Logan Ryan, Jabaal Sheard and Alan Branch -- go to market in March. The return of Rob Gronkowski will help, but the Patriots are primed to field a rash of new starters next season. Something tells me they'll figure it out.

McVay's Rams resurrection: Colleague Conor Orr wrote a revealing piece on the daunting transition faced by first-time head coaches. "You work your whole life to get that opportunity," former Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "You prepare. You study. You lay out just for the interview process itself who is on your staff, what's the schedule going to be like and this, that or the other. You prepare for that. You go through the interview. You get the job. Then, you sit behind your desk for the first time and realize, 'Holy s---, I don't know what I'm doing.' " At 31, Sean McVay is taking over the Rams at an age when plenty of college grads still live rent-free at home. Experience matters more than age, but McVay won't get much rope in Los Angeles, a city with zero patience for losing. Hiring Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator was a coup, but McVay will be judged primarily on the development of second-year passer Jared Goff and a Rams offense lost at sea for years under former coach Jeff Fisher. McVay's first offseason will be fascinating to watch.

Chargers' comfy confines: Color me intrigued with the temporary home of the Los Angeles Chargers. The 30,000-seat StubHub Center in Carson offers something completely new to NFL fans: An intimate home that will give pro football the feel of a raucous soccer tilt. With the NFL eternally peddling bigger, louder, more in-your-face experiences, the Chargers have taken a counter-cultural route that could help a team struggling for roots north of San Diego.

Pursuit of Jeffery and Taylor: Gregg Rosenthal's top-five free agents -- Le'Veon Bell, Eric Berry, Cousins, Kawann Short and Chandler Jones -- all appear destined to stay with their current teams. That would make Alshon Jeffery the premier prize on the open market. A bona fide No. 1 receiver, Jeffery has battled injuries and endured a four-game suspension, but that won't stop teams from considering him.

Tyrod Taylor, meanwhile, could throw the quarterback carousel into heavy rotation if the Bills decide to dump him. If they do say goodbye, here's my (irresponsible) early-February prediction of how the QB chips will fall:

» Browns: Tyrod Taylor
» Niners: Jimmy Garoppolo
» Bears: Deshaun Watson
» Jets: Mitch Trubisky
» Bills: Trevor Siemian
» Redskins: Kirk Cousins
» Broncos: Tony Romo

BONUS: Ten ultra-tedious future storylines I will refuse to entertain: (1) Blake Bortles a "new man" in Jacksonville; (2) Browns haven't lost faith in RGIII; (3) Ben Roethlisberger still toying with retirement; (4) Dom Capers building "tougher" Packers defense; (5) Christian Hackenberg ready to "make the leap" in Florham Park; (6) Bill O'Brien: "We can rock with Brock;" (7) Tom Brady: Cantaloupe terrible for human digestive system; (8) EJ Manuel "Peyton-like" in Bills minicamp; (9) Brandon Marshall: Josh McCown will take Jets to promised land; (10) Ndamukong Suh: Patriots "vulnerable" after free agency exodus.

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