While the NFL offseason provides a wellspring of hope for each team thanks to landmarks like free agency and the draft, the reality is some teams will regress.
Roster losses thanks to factors like retirement and bad cap situations are the biggest signals a franchise could regress. In one extreme case, a rift between a franchise player and the team is the main culprit behind an obvious regression.
Whether it's the derailing of a rebuilding plan or a fade from playoff contention, no team is immune from a predictable regression because of personnel changes and cap hurdles.
These are the teams set to decline in 2021.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are in a world of hurt no matter what happens with Drew Brees.
Losing a future Hall of Famer is never easy, and Brees continues to consider retirement after his team's playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Were the cap outlook normal, the Saints could squeak out some production from the quarterback spot even without Brees in 2021. But it's far from normal as they sit last in projected cap space at $105.1 million over the cap.
That number includes Brees' $36.2 million cap hit, but even if that was cleared off the books, the Saints would rank last. Creative restructures, extensions and cuts are the only way they wiggle out of this league-worst predicament after going all-in for years on Brees' final seasons.
That means making the roster worse by likely cutting talent such as linebacker Kwon Alexander ($13.4 million in savings). They'll also have a hard time retaining key free agents such as safety Marcus Williams, never mind paying outside free agents and a draft class.
This is often the cost of contention around an elite veteran passer, though, with regression on the way no matter what happens with Brees.
Like the Saints, the Pittsburgh Steelers have more to figure out than the quarterback position.
Ben Roethlisberger, at the age of 38, remains a retirement question mark heading into 2021. While statistically impressive with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, he and the team feasted on a soft schedule en route to an 11-0 mark before collapsing. Pittsburgh lost four of five to close the season, and Roethlisberger threw four interceptions and four scores in a playoff loss.