NFC's hottest seats: Which veterans face the most intense scrutiny?
Former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins' seat is already hot with his new team in Atlanta. Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

NFC's hottest seats: Which veterans face the most intense scrutiny?

Following the NFL Draft, a handful of veterans on each team have good reason to be nervous.

Could one of the team's draft picks replace them as a starter? Or could other circumstances put them on edge?

We asked Yardbarker's NFL writers to spotlight the veterans on the hottest seat on every NFC team.

NFC East

DALLAS COWBOYS | RT Terence Steele | First-round pick Tyler Guyton played right tackle for Oklahoma but is targeted to start at left tackle for the Cowboys. If he struggles, Tyler Smith will slide over from guard, moving Guyton to right tackle, where former undrafted free agent Terence Steele struggled after signing a five-year, $83M contract extension in 2023.

NEW YORK GIANTS | WR Darius Slayton | Slayton skipped the start of the team's voluntary offseason workouts in search of a new contract he’ll never get with Malik Nabers on the roster. The team’s first-round pick had 14 TD catches and 1,569 receiving yards for LSU last season, more than double that of Slayton (770 yards receiving in 2023), who carries just a $1.75M hit in dead money with a post-June 1 trade.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES | CB James Bradberry | As if the team drafting Toledo’s CB Quinyon Mitchell in the first round wasn’t enough, Philadelphia used a pair of second-round picks to move up for Iowa CB Cooper DeJean. According to Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Bradberry’s opposing passer rating was fifth worst in the league last season, and his 11 touchdown catches allowed were the most on record since Stathead began keeping the stat in 2018.

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS | WR Jahan Dotson | Washington surely expected better than 520 yards and 5.5 touchdowns per year from the 16th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. If he continues to struggle, a new coaching staff won’t hesitate to give snaps to Luke McCaffrey, last year’s leading receiver for Rice, 49ers RB Christian McCafferty's brother, and one of the team’s two third-round picks in 2024. — Bruce Ewing

NFC West 

ARIZONA CARDINALS | RB James Conner | Conner had a career year for the Cardinals in 2023 (1,040 yards rushing) and is a solid pro, but running backs have short shelf lives, and he is 29. Not only that, but Arizona signed DeeJay Dallas in free agency for depth and drafted one of the top backs in the draft in the third round, Florida State’s Trey Benson.

LOS ANGELES RAMS | CB Derion Kendrick | The hot seat could be for any of the cornerbacks from last season, but Kendrick's seat is especially sizzling because he has not made much of an impact yet in the NFL. The Rams did not make any major defensive back additions in the draft, but they signed two significant additions in free agency: Darious Williams and Tre’Davious White.

 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS | RT Colton McKivitz | The 49ers are bringing back all five starters from their offensive line, but not every spot is set in stone. They could use an upgrade on the right side of the line. Third-round pick Dominick Puni can start all over the line and could be a contender to take over at right tackle, replacing McKivitz.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS | CB Mike Jackson | After starting every game for Seattle during the 2022 season, Jackson lost his starting job to Tre Brown in 2023. After the Seahawks added two cornerbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft class (Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James), he should worry about his spot on the roster. — Adam Gretz

NFC North 

CHICAGO BEARS | WR Velus Jones Jr. | Selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Jones has had little, if any, impact during his two seasons with the Bears, amassing only 11 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown catch over 26 games. With star D.J. Moore at WR1 and the additions of first-round pick Rome Odunze and veteran Keenan Allen, Jones will be lucky to make it out of training camp.

DETROIT LIONS | K Michael Badgley | The six-year veteran supplanted Riley Patterson as the starter late in 2023 and was solid but unspectacular, going 7-for-7 on field-goal attempts and 13-of-15 on extra points. However, the team lacked trust in him from long distances, with only two of his attempts coming from 40 yards or more. 

GREEN BAY PACKERS | CB Eric Stokes | Following a promising rookie season in 2021 for the former first-round pick, Stokes was limited by foot and hamstring injuries to only 11 games over the past two seasons. The Packers recently declined his fifth-year option, so the CB's future in Green Bay could be short.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS | LB Andrew Van Ginkel | After the Vikings lost Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter and former first-round pick Marcus Davenport this offseason in free agency, they signed Van Ginkel, who was brought in to beef up an edge-rushing unit that lacked depth. With the additions of free-agent end Jonathan Greenard and the selection of Alabama standout Dallas Turner in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, the five-year veteran’s role might be minimized before he even plays a snap.  —Mike Santa Barbara

NFC South

ATLANTA FALCONS | QB Kirk Cousins | The honeymoon period is already over for Cousins and the Falcons. The soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback is coming off a torn Achilles and the team surprisingly drafted his eventual replacement, Michael Penix Jr., with the No. 8 overall pick, suggesting his term as starter might be far shorter than most of us thought before the draft.

CAROLINA PANTHERS | RB Miles Sanders | One of the only backs to get paid last offseason, Sanders was outplayed by Chuba Hubbard in 2023. Carolina also selected the first running back off the board in the 2024 NFL Draft, Texas running back Jonathon Brooks, which could shrink Sanders’ number of touches even more.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS | CB Marshon Lattimore | In the second round pick of the 2024 NFL Draft (No. 41 overall), the team selected cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry. His addition could be a way for the Saints to brace for a potential Lattimore departure — per Spotrac, the team would save roughly $10.8 million by releasing or trading him in 2025.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS | OL Cody Mauch | Life comes at you fast in the NFL. Second-year pro Mauch is entering a pivotal second season after having a disastrous 2023 in which Pro Football Focus graded him as the second worst among guards with at least 1,000 blocking opportunities. — Eric Smithling

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