The NFL never sleeps, but the closest it comes to hibernation is after the draft and before training camps begin in July. For now, the attention shifts to the practice field as teams perform OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamps over the final weeks of May and early part of June.
It's easy to dismiss OTAs as a pointless exercise. There isn't much in the way of actual physical drills, and most of the time it just consists of players running around in T-shirts and shorts going through the motions. However, OTAs still hold some importance among certain groups. For rookies, it's their first chance to work with the team and learn the playbook. For new head coaches, they'll be debuting a playbook and scheme that the players will need a head start on before the real hard work starts in July.
Perhaps the most intriguing OTA story every year is the quarterback competition, particularly among teams that don't have an obvious Week 1 starter. This year should be no different, with several teams looking to hold a competition throughout training camp and preseason. Of course, for those players the real work begins in these spring minicamps, where they will hope to make a good first impression with the coaching staff.
Let's highlight five teams with a quarterback competition looming and see how things could play out over OTAs and minicamps before the battles really ramp up in training camp.
The competitors: Sam Bradford, Carson Wentz, Chase Daniel
Early in free agency the Eagles seemed content to roll with Bradford for another year, re-signing him to a lucrative short-term contract. However, their quarterback situation -- and Bradford's morale -- got blown up when the Eagles traded a boatload of assets to move up in the NFL Draft, selecting Wentz with the No. 2 pick. Philadelphia doesn't exactly plan to start Wentz in 2016, but Bradford took the move hard, having a weak holdout before reporting for OTAs. The starting job is still Bradford's for now, though.
"Sam’s still the starter," new head coach Doug Pederson said. "Carson has a long way to go with this system. He’s learning every day but Sam’s the guy."
Wentz remains their future at the position, and his progress in OTAs and training camp could alter their plans.
Meanwhile, there's a potential wild card in Daniel, who played under Pederson, the former Chiefs offensive coordinator, for three seasons in Kansas City. Despite being a career backup for six seasons, the Eagles signed him to a surprisingly big contract worth $21 million over three years, with $12 million guaranteed. That's a ridiculous amount of money to give a third-string quarterback, so Daniel looks to stay in the competition throughout the summer.
San Francisco 49ers
The competitors: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert
Kaepernick's fall from grace is well-documented by now. He wanted out of San Francisco and the 49ers seemed willing to trade him, but they could never get a deal done. So now Kaepernick is stuck in a quarterback competition with Gabbert, a 2011 first-round pick who infamously flamed out in Jacksonville before having a slightly competent stint as the 49ers' starter last year when he took over for Kaepernick.
Kaepernick was later shut down for a shoulder injury and still hasn't been cleared to practice. While he seems like the most natural fit for Chip Kelly's offense, it's hard to tell how this battle will play out until he can compete on the field. Kaepernick reportedly made a solid impression early on with the new coaching staff, but it would be surprising if the 49ers settled on a starter at any point before Week 1.
The competitors: Mark Sanchez, Paxton Lynch
It feels weird for the defending Super Bowl champions not to have an established starting quarterback, but that's happening in Denver this offseason. After earning Super Bowl rings, Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler left for a $72 million contract with the Houston Texans. The Broncos did what they could to find a new guy, trading for Sanchez and making a big push to acquire Kaepernick. At one point it seemed like a deal was done, but it fell through due to contract details. In the end, the Broncos decided to trade up in the draft for Paxton Lynch.
Sanchez is recovering from thumb surgery at the moment, which would give Lynch more chances to take first-team reps at OTAs. The Broncos are seemingly leaning toward giving Lynch time to learn before throwing him into a starting role, but given Sanchez's poor track record, they might not have that luxury. Lynch may be given every opportunity to prove his worth this summer.
The competitors: Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler
Another year, another quarterback competition for the Browns. This time, Cleveland is taking a chance on Griffin, whose Washington career had a soap opera-esque ending. The change of scenery should help Griffin, but the Browns still have McCown, who was previously anointed the starter before he had an injury-riddled 2015 season. Griffin doesn't expect the job to be handed to him, either.
"Everybody has to earn everything that they get," Griffin told the media after practice. "When you go out there and you perform at a high level and you show guys that they can trust you, that is when they will buy in."
Still, Griffin seems to have the inside track on the starting job right now, but new coach Hue Jackson isn't tipping his hand quite yet.
"We have a ways to go, but I see a lot of progress that has been made from the quarterback position, not just Robert but Josh and Austin (Davis) and Connor (Shaw) and Cody when he practiced the other day," Jackson said. "Everybody’s at different levels."
That potentially leaves the door open for McCown, if he can stay healthy. In addition, third-round pick Kessler could make some waves with a strong performance of his own. This competition is far from settled.
New York Jets
The competitors: Geno Smith, Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty, Ryan Fitzpatrick (maybe?)
The game of chicken between the Jets and Fitzpatrick has been one of the most bizarre offseason storylines. Fitzpatrick has consistently balked at the Jets' contract offers, while New York did everything it could to create more leverage.
"I'd love to continue to play with the guys that I played with last year. In terms of the dollars and cents, that's not really something I'd like discussing right now. There's a negotiation going on, and we'll keep it behind closed doors," Fitzpatrick told SiriusXM NFL Radio.
This saga took a weird turn at the draft, when the Jets arguably overdrafted Hackenberg in the second round. With Fitzpatrick still a free agent, Smith is the frontrunner for the starting job at the moment, despite his failed stints in 2013 and 2014. Hackenberg is nowhere near ready to play in the NFL, but the Jets won't have a choice but to give him a fair shot if they can't re-sign Fitzpatrick.
However, don't sleep on Petty, who spent his rookie year learning on the bench and could potentially make a second-year leap. This whole battle hinges on the Fitzpatrick situation -- if he comes back, the Jets are in good hands. If he doesn't, they have a tough decision to make in training camp.