Heading into the 2021 NFL season, there are a number of teams that are better positioned to contend for a Super Bowl championship than others. Because of savvy moves by general managers and executives behind the scenes, these teams have formidable rosters that have been constructed by smart drafting and shrewd pickups in the free agency market. In this group, you have teams like the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are returning much of the roster that just won it all last year, including the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady (even if he will be 44 by the time the season starts). But then there are other those other teams that fall into the Madden 22 rebuilds category.
Those rebuilding teams have seemingly done the opposite when it comes to putting together their roster, hampering their long-term chances of success by trading away draft picks or inking unfortunate deals with players no longer worth their salaries. The truth is that there are a lot of reasons why teams can end up with bleak outlooks for the foreseeable future, from leveraging assets to attempt to take advantage of rapidly shrinking championship windows to poor evaluations of talent that can lead to those bad contracts. Whatever the root of the problem may be, these teams head into the 2021 season thinking less about hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this year and more about how they can begin or continue the rebuilding process to be competitive again in the future.
So let’s have a look at what teams will present the greatest challenge for anyone who selects them in Madden 22‘s franchise mode and what sorts of glaring weaknesses will need to be addressed before they can even begin to think about making a deep run in the playoffs. If you happen to run an online franchise like myself, these are almost guaranteed to be some of the last teams anyone would want — and therefore will likely be the hardest openings to fill when you’re recruiting for interested people.
Madden 22 Rebuilding Projects
While the Texans still have a huge decision to make when it comes to what to do with their star quarterback Deshaun Watson and his trade demands (not to mention the allegations of misconduct), the team’s entire roster continues to be hampered by the many shortsighted moves made by their former general manager Bill O’Brien. His tenure left the Texans without a lot of draft capital to infuse the team with young talent (though they will have a first-round pick next year for the first time since 2019), and they no longer have the veteran presences of DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt to help make up for any shortcomings.
It seems almost inevitable at this point that Watson will be traded prior to the season, so anyone overseeing a rebuild in Madden 22 would likely have to view the best path to becoming competent again as using the draft picks that would certainly be part of the return in such a deal to start from scratch with some youngsters. That would potentially mean at least a few years of mediocrity while depending on Tyrod Taylor as a temporary option until you can acquire another franchise quarterback like Watson and replenish the talent pool around him. It isn’t going to be an easy job but the roster’s the kind of fixer-upper that those who prefer to overhaul rather than just tinker should be able to fully embrace.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints had been working some salary cap magic for the last few years in order to keep their championship window open for as long as possible before Drew Brees retired and now that the inevitable has finally happened with Brees deciding to call it a career, the Saints are now left at a bit of a crossroads. The big decision looming as they head into training camp is whether to go with Jameis Winston and hope that he can limit the interceptions that plagued him in Tampa Bay or the more esoteric option and lean on Taysom Hill’s run-heavy approach under center. Of course, they could always decide to get real crazy and go with some hybrid of the two.
A reliable quarterback is just as much as a necessity in Madden as it is in the real NFL, if not more so, which is why the Saints look to be a far less attractive option than they had been in the past with Brees at the helm. No matter if you prefer Winston or Hill, you’ll be well advised to focus on and build around Alvin Kamara’s elusive abilities out of the backfield and find players that can continue to open up holes for him. The defense needs some work as well, with defensive end Cam Jordan an expensive salary of note for an aging player who had half the sacks he had in 2020 than he did in 2019.
Without a doubt, the biggest issue facing the Eagles this season is trying to find an ideal path to success in the future now that they have traded Carson Wentz to the Colts and made the decision to bank on Jalen Hurts being their guy going forward. When constructing their roster for the 2021 season, the Eagles’ front office was undoubtedly hampered by the unfortunate fact that they had to work around the $33.8 million in dead money that Wentz leaves behind, which is the largest single dead cap hit in NFL history.
Fortunately for the Eagles and anyone taking control of them in Madden 22, Carson Wentz will officially come off their books in 2022. The flip side to this though is that it’s hardly a certainty that Hurts will be a better answer at QB in the long term, but at least they can determine that while he’s on a cheap rookie contract (drafting receiver DeVonta Smith in the first round should help Hurts as well). Before too long, the defense will need to find a way to replace a couple of their older and more expensive pieces in run stuffer Fletcher Cox and end Brandon Graham, and that won’t be easy considering how important they’ve been to the group.
After a dismal 5-11 season in 2020, the Lions decided that drastic times called for drastic measures, firing coach Matt Patricia and replacing him with Dan Campbell. As if that weren’t enough of change to right the ship, they also decided to move on from long-time quarterback Matthew Stafford by shipping him to Los Angeles for a return that included the Rams’ own QB Jared Goff and a couple of valuable first-round picks. Unfortunately, the Lions also lost a couple of weapons that could have potentially helped Goff with wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. both heading elsewhere in free agency.
Anyone who assumes control of the Lions in Madden 22 is going to probably need to figure out within a season or two if they view Goff as the QB of the future in Detroit or merely a placeholder until they spend one of those first-round picks on a quarterback. Other than the receiving corps, the offense is not too worse off when compared with the group on the other side of the ball. With former Patriots Trey Flowers and Jamie Collins continuing on as fingerprints of Patricia’s time with the franchise, the defense doesn’t have a lot of other depth. There are also significant holes in the secondary that will need to be addressed before they’ll be able to get stops with any consistency.
New York Jets
The Jets are seemingly a prime rebuild candidate every year, and this year is no exception as they embark on a new era with yet another head coach and quarterback. With Adam Gase gone and former 49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh hired to take the reins, the Jets traded away fledgling quarterback Sam Darnold to Carolina for some picks and went ahead and drafted his replacement, Zach Wilson, with the second-overall pick. They also made a splash by trading up in the first round to grab guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to ostensibly help keep Wilson upright and made some notable free agency pickups in the offseason by signing players like receiver Corey Davis and pass rusher Carl Lawson.
Though it’s possible that the Jets have finally taken strides in the right direction, developing a young QB can prove to be even more difficult in Madden than in real life so any Jets rebuild is going to have to start with some errant passes that you’ll just have to learn to accept as part of the process until Wilson makes some tangible progress. The team has some other glaring holes that will need to be filled in the coming years, as they enter the 2021 season with a running back by committee featuring Tevin Coleman and a suspect secondary that will need help alongside standout safety Marcus Maye.
New York Giants
As much as it pains me to admit it as a fan of the New York Giants, the team has enough issues to likely make a lot of people hesitate to assume control of them in a Madden 22 franchise. For one thing, there’s the question of whether they currently have an actual franchise quarterback in Daniel Jones, as he’s been erratic and turnover-prone enough to leave some doubts that he’s the answer. It would be easy to say then that the Giants should lean instead on running back Saquon Barkley, but the team will have to give him a huge contract when his rookie deal expires after 2022 if they want to keep him around.
The Giants drafted wide receiver Kadarius Toney in the first round and also signed receivers Kenny Golladay and John Ross to help make their offense more dynamic, but there’s certainly an argument to be made that their subpar offensive line has been the biggest issue hampering the development of both Jones and Barkley. If the Giants’ GM in Madden 22 can figure out how to assemble a group that can keep Jones from running for his life and open up some more holes for Barkley so that he doesn’t have to regularly create them on his own, it’s possible the offense could become a high-scoring juggernaut.
The Falcons find themselves in a similar situation to the Saints with the important distinction being that the Falcons’ franchise QB, Matt Ryan, is still on the verge of retiring rather than having already retired like Drew Brees. This would inspire more optimism and confidence around Atlanta if it weren’t for the fact that the team just acquiesced to the trade demands of Julio Jones and dealt him to the Titans, receiving second and fourth-round picks in the deal.
The big struggle then for anyone trying to rebuild the Falcons is whether they will be able to surround Ryan with enough talent to take advantage of whatever he has left in the tank before he decides to walk away from the game. The harsh reality about this is that it will be awfully challenging given the dearth of skill players at receiver and running back (Mike Davis is the lead back!?) currently on the roster, though the front office did help Ryan out a little by selecting promising tight end Kyle Pitts in the first round of the most recent draft. The defense also has plenty of question marks, particularly in the secondary, so those will need to be addressed along with hunting for that important QB of the future to take over for Ryan.
As a team that’s been riding the quarterback carousel for the better part of a decade now (anyone remember the Brock Osweiler years?), the Broncos find themselves in a familiar situation in 2021. This time around they’ll be torn between continuing to see what the younger Drew Lock has to offer or turning things over to the veteran Teddy Bridgewater.
Whatever the powers-that-be leading the Broncos in Madden 22 choose to do at the QB position, they will have plenty of weapons on offense, especially at receiver where Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy should help stretch defenses and create some space. On defense, however, the Broncos have a tough decision to make soon about how much Von Miller will be worth in the future as the 33-year-old linebacker is commanding a cap hit of more than $22 million in 2021, which is double the cost of the next highest cap hit on the team.
Who you got, who’s going to be your rebuilding project this year in Madden 22 franchise mode?