For pretty much every team except the New England Patriots, Super Bowl windows are rare and fleeting. They need to be taken advantage of rapidly or else suffer through a period of mediocrity without having a Lombardi to lean back on. As we approach the next decade of the NFL, which teams are looking at perhaps the last year or two of contending?
The Steelers are the first team that comes to mind when thinking of depleting windows. One could make the argument that the Steelers window ended with the departures of Brown and Bell. While these two losses were obviously devastating and will make this team less of a threat, until Big Ben retires there is a semi-realistic path. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the QB has been mulling retirement over the past two seasons; the inevitable struggles that will come from the losses of his best weapons will likely push him even further in that direction (remember when it seemed certain he would retire after that stinker against Jacksonville?). It would really be shocking to see the Steelers compete in, say, 3 years. They may have another year or two left, but that window is already small and just keeps getting smaller.
New Orleans Saints
Like the Steelers, the Saints have an aging quarterback who most seem to believe will retire relatively soon. Unlike Pittsburgh, the Saints have a pretty big window open at the moment. This roster oozes talent, with young studs Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara working in tandem with veterans such as Cameron Jordan and Jared Cook. The Saints have had two seasons in a row end in heartbreaking fashion, and this heartbreak will only increase if the Saints cannot win a title in the next two seasons. The Saints are burdened by the upcoming free agency of Michael Thomas, who will ask for one of the highest WR salaries in the league in addition to stress about Brees retiring soon. However, the sole concern to the window is Brees. Once Brees is gone, the Saints are going to have to undergo a transformation. I hope for Drew’s sake that the Saints are able to take advantage but, if not, the cliff is looking steep and rapidly approaching for this team.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are very similar to the Saints. Aging quarterbacks surrounded by very talented rosters who only have a few years left to get it done. The Chargers ought to be in the top tier of favorites to win the Super Bowl this year, but does anyone see that happening once Rivers is gone. Even with Rivers and a team that by Chargers standards was at full strength heading into the postseason, the Chargers fell to Brady and the Pats in the Divisional Round. Minus the face of the franchise, one would imagine that many of the young stars who would enter free agency around that time (Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa, etc.) would jump ship. That means the Chargers have a one-or-two season window to capture the Lombardi. None of that is even mentioning that they are stuck in a division with Kansas City, who feature the next face of the NFL in Patrick Mahomes. The Chargers really have to fight hard to make it to February now, lest they waste the Hall of Fame career of Phillip Rivers and close their Super Bowl window ringless.
Like the Steelers, you may be saying that Jacksonville doesn’t even have a shot this season at the Super Bowl. You would be mistaken. While there are certainly some question marks on this roster, look at their defense! While they didn’t play with heart last year, it’s hard to do so when you have a dumpster fire at quarterback all year. Foles is by no means the super star that some people want to make him out to be, but he is lightyears better than Bortles and is capable of taking this team back to the playoffs, AFC Championship game, and perhaps beyond! Now that you’re convinced that Jacksonville can win the Super Bowl, let’s discuss why that will only be the case for the next two seasons. The Jaguars are expected to have negative cap space going into next offseason. With Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue all set to become free agents, that’s bad news. However, the year after is when everything goes south with Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsay, and Marcell Darius set to hit the market. It would be shocking if Ramsay stayed, given that he has already alluded to wanting an absurd amount of money. Campbell is still producing but is perhaps reaching an age where retirement becomes a consideration. Even if he chooses to keep playing, he costs a lot. Speaking of costs a lot, Marcell Darius will also almost surely be off the team due to the massive amount of money (rather unjustly) tied to his name. In 2 years, this team will be unrecognizable, so do it now Jaguars! Prove this journalist right for believing!