Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Drew Brees seems to open door for possible NFL return, plus predicting each game on Steelers’ 2022 schedule

Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

The schedule is out, the draft is over and free agency is mostly behind us, so I guess this means I can take the next three months off. I’ll see all you guys in August. Just kidding. There’s a reason Bill Belichick once said “No days off” and that’s because there are no days off in the NFL or in newsletter writing. I think what I’m trying to say is that this newsletter will be coming at you every day from now until the end of time. 

Speaking of time, it looks like Drew Brees’ time at NBC might have run out after just one season. We’ll be covering that, plus much more in today’s newsletter, so let’s get to the rundown. 

As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link

1. Today’s show: Monday mailbag

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During the NFL offseason, we like to spice things up each week on the Pick Six Podcast by adding a listener mailbag every Monday. 

Our mailbag episodes are pretty simple: We read listener questions during the show and then answer as many of those questions as possible. Questions can be about literally anything. I mean, I’m pretty sure there was one time when someone asked about our favorite pizza toppings, so if we’ll answer that question, trust me when I say we’ll answer almost anything. (Also, I love Hawaiian pizza way more than I care to admit.)

Anyway, if you want to submit a question, all you have to do is go to Apple Podcasts (click here) and leave a five-star review that includes your question. 

Here’s one question that Ryan Wilson and I answered in today’s mailbag. (Will Brinson wasn’t on the show because I’m pretty sure he only works three days per week during the offseason.) 

Q:  If there was no rookie scale in place, how big of a contract would Trevor Lawrence have gotten last year being the top pick? 

A: If you’ve been an NFL fan for less than 10 years, then you might not know that before 2011, there was no rookie scale, which means that if you were a top pick in the draft, you had the opportunity to land a monstrous contract. After the lockout in 2011, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that limited how much rookies could make. 

The biggest winner of that CBA was Sam Bradford, because he was the final No. 1 overall pick before the new rookie contract rules kicked in. As the top pick in 2010, Bradford landed a six-year, $78 million contract that included in $50 million guaranteed. To give you an idea of how insanely high that is, Lawrence’s rookie contract in 2021 didn’t even match that. Lawrence got a got a four-year, $36.8 million deal and at $12.2 million per year, it’s less than Bradford’s average of $13 million per year. Think about that for a second: The first pick from TWELVE YEARS AGO got paid more on his rookie deal than last year’s first overall pick. 

Both Bradford and Matthew Stafford (the top pick in 2009) basically got deals that ranked them in the top eight for highest-paid quarterbacks. If Lawrence had gotten that kind of deal last year, that means his rookie deal would have been a four-year contract worth roughly $134 million. Instead, he got $98 million less. I’m sure he’ll be happy with his $36.8 million, but I feel like he would have been a lot happier with $134 million. 

Besides the mailbag, we also talked our way through all the quirks on the NFL schedule. For instance, did you know that the Bears don’t play a single road game in December? 

Anyway, to listen to the rest of the mailbag (and to the quirks), be sure to click here. You can also watch today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here

2. Drew Brees seems to open the door for a possible NFL return 

We’ve already seen one future Hall of Fame quarterback unretire this offseason (Tom Brady), and now, it seems like there’s at least a small chance we could see another one after everything that went down with Drew Brees over the weekend. 

If you don’t have your Google alerts set to send you Drew Brees news every hour like I do, here’s what you missed over the weekend: 

  • Brees is reportedly done at NBC. According to the New York Post, Brees is done at NBC after just one season. Apparently, Brees would prefer to announce games over doing a studio show, but NBC doesn’t have very many opportunities for him in that department. Cris Collinsworth is locked into the Sunday night spot and the network doesn’t do many other NFL games outside of ‘SNF.’ 
  • Brees’ response to the report. After the report from the Post came out, Brees tweeted out the following, “Despite speculation from media about my future this fall, I’m currently undecided. I may work for NBC, I may play football again, I may focus on business and philanthropy, I may train for the pickleball tour, senior golf tour, coach my kids or all of the above. I’ll let you know.” The tweet comes off as half-serious, half-joking, so it’s hard to say if Brees would actually consider a comeback. Brees could just be upset that someone leaked out the fact that he’s going to be one-and-done at NBC. 
  • Why he might have been serious about a comeback. Nine minutes before sending out the tweet above, Brees sent out a tweet where he said that the Saints adding Jarvis Landry and Tyrann Mathieu this offseason “makes me want to come back and play again.” That’s almost enough to make you think that he might actually want to play again. 
  • Why a comeback would be tough. According to NBC Sports, Brees just underwent surgery on his non-throwing shoulder on May 2. Not only would he need to spend the next few months rehabbing, but the fact that he’s 43 definitely doesn’t help things. 
  • Saints coach thinks the tweet was made in jest. Dennis Allen was asked about the tweet on Monday and he didn’t seem to think Brees was serious about a comeback,  “I think it was a comment made in jest and we certainly haven’t had any conversations in that regard.” Allen knows Brees better than most of us, so I’ll defer to his interpretation of the tweet. 

Due to Brees’ age and the fact that he’s coming off surgery, it would be downright surprising if he were to return to the NFL in 2022. If I had to guess right now, I’d say he ends up with Fox, which is really the only network at this point that can hire him to do what he wants to do, which is announce games. If Brees were to stay at NBC, he could still announce Notre Dame games, but it appears he wants to be doing more than that. 

3. Insider Notes: Ranking the five teams headed for the roughest ride in 2022

The best thing about being a fan in the NFL is that hope springs eternal. Even if your favorite team was absolute garbage last year, that doesn’t mean they can’t compete this year, just ask the Bengals about that. After winning just four games in 2020, the Bengals rebounded by winning the AFC North in 2021 and making it all the way to the Super Bowl. 

Although there could definitely be another Bengals this year, this part of the newsletter isn’t about that. Instead, it’s about five teams that definitely won’t be this year’s Bengals. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora decided to make a list of five bad teams from last year that will likely still be bad in 2022. 

From JLC: 

  • Bears. “Not much there, but an awful lot of hopes and prayers. Is there anything this team seems to be poised to be particularly good at? Has ownership gotten anything of note right anytime recently? What are their strengths? Generally, the Bears just leave me dazed and confused and I don’t see much reason to expect anything less than a limp and tepid-at-best season from them.”
  • Texans. “It’s pretty clear that for the second straight year ownership/team officials really, really, really wanted to hire Josh McCown as head coach, but couldn’t bring themselves to do it, fearing significant backlash from the fanbase, the league as a whole and the league office as well, I presume …  they have a bunch of draft picks in their pockets, but it also seems pretty clear that results in 2022 are not all that important. Again.”
  • Falcons. “Going with Marcus Mariota as your starting quarterback is waving the white flag, whether they want to admit it or not. I like Arthur Smith a lot and believe he might have some special sauce to his offense, but we’re not going to find out with this QB, and the defense still looks fairly brutal. … I figure we see Desmond Ridder plenty in the upcoming season, so we’ll know more about that. But the Falcons remain a very tough sell in Atlanta.”
  • Panthers. “Not sure there is a more meandering franchise in the NFL right now. Don’t have enough draft capital to restock. Chasing their own tail forever at quarterback. Shoulda sold Christian McCaffrey long ago and when they do, it will likely end up being for cents on the dollar.”
  • Commanders. “The franchise formerly known as WFT and a racial slur are at odds with the best player on their offense, they are dealing with a constant onslaught of off-field allegations and investigations, they play in a total dump that people go out of their way to avoid and they are going to try to be the latest team to prop up Carson Wentz. Good grief.”

If you want to read JLC’s full thoughts on why these five teams won’t be any good in 2022, be sure to click here

4. Jaire Alexander lands record-setting deal from Packers

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When the 2022 NFL offseason started, Jalen Ramsey was the highest-paid corner in the NFL at $20 million per year, but now he’s down to third. Browns cornerback Denzel Ward passed him in April when he got a contract extension in Cleveland, and now, Jaire Alexander has passed them both. 

Here’s what we know about Alexander’s deal. 

  • Alexander becomes highest-paid corner in NFL history. The Packers corner has landed a four-year extension worth a total of $84 million, according to ESPN.com. The average salary of $21 million per year moves him way past Ward ($20.1 million) and Ramsey ($20 million), who had been the two highest paid corners before Alexander signed his extension. 
  • Alexander’s signing bonus also sets a record. Most of that $84 million will come in the form for a $30 million signing bonus. According to ESPN.com, that’s the biggest signing bonus that any defensive back has ever been giving in NFL history. 
  • Why the deal happened now. Alexander, who was the 18th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, was going into the final year of his rookie deal. The Packers clearly view him as a cornerstone of their defense, which is why they decided to lock him up through the 2026 season. The move should also free up a few million dollars in cap space for the 2022 season.  
  • Alexander has been one of the best corners in the NFL. The Packers corner was good as a rookie and he’s gotten even better every year. In 2020, he arguably had his best season and it ended with him being named a Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro. 

The cornerback did miss 13 games last season due to a shoulder injury, but clearly, the Packers aren’t too worried about that injury possibly impacting his future play. For more details on the Alexander signing, be sure to click here

5. Predicting the Steelers‘ final record for 2022

The 2022 NFL season will be kicking off in 115 days, which means we have exactly 115 days to get through all of our predictions for the upcoming season. We’re going to start things off here by making predictions about how each team is going to do this year and I’ve decided we’re going to begin those predictions with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

With Ben Roethlisberger now in retirement, the Steelers’ biggest question this year revolves around their quarterback. Will it be Mitchell Trubisky? Will it be Kenny Pickett? I have no idea, but we tried to pick their games anyway.  

Our Bryan DeArdo went through the Steelers’ entire schedule and picked out all the games they’re going to win and all the games they’re going to lose. DeArdo is never wrong — well he’s mostly never wrong — so his predictions are likely going to be 100% right. 

Here’s a look at his predictions from three key games: 

  • Week 1: Steelers at Bengals. “The Bengals whiplashed the Steelers in both games between the two teams last season. Cincinnati’s pass rush keyed Cincinnati’s first win, while the Bengals Joe Mixon and Joe Burrow were unstoppable in the rematch. Pittsburgh’s offense scored just 17 combined points against the eventual AFC champions.” Prediction: Bengals 23-17 over Steelers. 
  • Week 8: Steelers at Eagles. “The City of Brotherly Love has been anything but kind to the Steelers over the years. Pittsburgh hasn’t won in Philadelphia since 1965 and are 0-2 in such matchups under Tomlin.” Prediction: Eagles 20-17 over Steelers. 
  • Week 16: Raiders at Steelers. “No matter how you spin this contest, it should get the juices flowing, and it’s one that could also help determine seeding if one or both of the clubs earn their way into the playoffs.” Prediction: Steelers 19-17 over Raiders.

Overall, DeArdo is predicting that the Steelers will end the season with an 11-6 record, which might be the most optimistic prediction that anyone makes about the Steelers this year. 

If you want to see DeArdo’s prediction for each game, be sure to click here to check out his entire story

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Two big free agent signings highlight the weekend

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It was a wild weekend in the NFL, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you. 

  • Jarvis Landry headed to New Orleans. The five-time Pro Bowler is returning home after signing a one-year deal with the Saints over the weekend. According to NFL.com, the contract is worth up to $6 million. Landry went to high school and college in Louisiana, so it’s only fitting that he’s now playing professional football there. 
  • Melvin Ingram signing with Dolphins. The 33-year-old pass-rusher will be taking his talents to South Beach this season. Ingram will add some serious depth to a Dolphins pass-rushing unit that already includes Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips and Andrew Van Ginkel

  • Sean McVay doesn’t sound like he’s retiring anytime soon. It looks like we can put all that Sean McVay retirement talk on hold. During a recent appearance on the Rich Eisen Show, McVay sounded like someone who plans on coaching for the foreseeable future. “If I was to put a timeline on it, I am nowhere close to not wanting to coach football,” McVay said. 
  • Panthers QB job is up for grabs. Sam Darnold might end up winning the Panthers QB job, but Carolina isn’t just going to give it to him, according to GM Scott Fitterer. “He’s in the lead right now, but until someone really owns that position, gives us an opportunity to win, it will always be up for grabs,” Fitterer told PFT during a recent interview
  • Deshaun Watson taking Browns players to the Bahamas. To help build team chemistry this offseason, the Browns QB is treating the offense to a vacation in the Bahamas, CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson has reported. This won’t just be a vacation though, the team will also be holding work outs. No word on whether Watson invited Baker Mayfield

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