Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
With Memorial Day right around the corner, I thought for sure that we were about to hit the slow part of the NFL offseason, but if I’ve learned one thing this week, it’s that there’s no such thing as the “slow part” of the NFL offseason.
Over the past 24 hours alone, we’ve seen Colin Kaepernick get an NFL workout for the first time in five years, we’ve seen Jon Gruden score some major legal wins against the NFL and we’ve seen 31 of the 32 owners forced into paying out a total of $232.5 million to help out Stan Kroenke. I’m guessing they weren’t happy about that.
We’ll be touching on all of those things and more in today’s newsletter, so let’s get to the rundown.
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1. Today’s show: AFC South win totals
For the rest of this week, there’s going to be a noticeable theme on the Pick Six Podcast, and that theme is regular-season win totals. Now that the schedule is out, we know the Over/Unders for each team and we’ll be going through each of those Over/Unders for the next few days.
We’ve been going through each division this week, and today, we’re heading to the AFC South.
Tyler Sullivan joined Will Brinson for Thursday’s episode of the pod, and they debated whether each team would go over or under their win total.
Colts over/under: 9.5
Brinson’s prediction: OVER
Titans over/under: 9.5
Brinson’s prediction: UNDER
Jaguars over/under: 6.5
Brinson’s prediction: Not touching, but lean under
Texans over/under: 4.5
Brinson’s prediction: Not touching, but lean under
The bottom of the AFC South is almost impossible to predict, so I get why the guys didn’t have a strong feeling about either the Jaguars or the Texans. I mean, Jacksonville has a Super Bowl-winning coach in place and there’s no reason to think he can’t get them to seven or eight wins in 2022, but I wouldn’t bet on it because, um, they’re still the Jaguars.
One team that Sullivan really likes is the Indianapolis Colts.
“I’m high on Matt Ryan,” Sullivan said.
After watching the Colts go 9-8 with Carson Wentz, Sullivan thinks they should blow by that win total with Matt Ryan.
“I very basically look at this and say, ‘Matt Ryan over Carson Wentz is more than one game better.’ At the very least, he’s one game better than they were a year ago,” Sullivan said. “When you look at it just like that, I think the Matt Ryan impact is going to be very significant for them. I even have them as a sleeper Super Bowl team.”
I’ve never agreed with someone more. I will probably change my mind 11 times over the next three months, but if I had to pick an AFC Super Bowl team now, I’d seriously consider taking the Colts.
2. Why Colin Kaepernick could make sense for Raiders
After five years of being shunned by the NFL, Colin Kaepernick is finally being given an an opportunity at a return and that opportunity came on Wednesday when the Raiders gave him a workout. Although it’s not usually too notable when a player gets a workout, it’s definitely notable when that player is Kaepernick, who hasn’t played in the NFL since the 49ers‘ regular-season finale in 2016.
After the 2016 season, teams felt that he was too controversial to sign due to the fact that he had decided to protest police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. With teams refusing to sign him, Kaepernick filed a collusion lawsuit against the NFL that was eventually settled in October 2019.
Even though he’s been out of football for five years, Kaepernick has been doing his best to stay in football shape, especially over the past few months.
With that in mind, here’s why Kaepernick could make sense for the Raiders:
- He’s familiar with their offensive coordinator. When you’re trying to make a return to the NFL after a five-year hiatus, one thing that can help that return — especially for a quarterback — is if you’re familiar with the offensive coordinator. The Raiders offensive coordinator is Mick Lombardi, who spent four seasons with Kaepernick in San Francisco (2013-16).
- The owner is a fan. When it comes to NFL owners, there’s really only been one who has come out in support of Kaepernick over the past five years and that owner is Mark Davis. Back in 2020, the Raiders owner said Kaepernick deserved a chance to return and he reiterated that point in April, “I believe in Colin Kaepernick,” Davis told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He deserves every chance in the world to become a quarterback in the National Football League. I still stand by it. If our coaches and general manager want to bring him in or want him to be the quarterback on this team, I would welcome him with open arms.”
- He’s willing to be a backup right now. Kaepernick made it clear in April that he eventually wants to be a starter again, but for now, he’d be willing to settle for a backup position to get his foot back in the door, “I know I have to find my way back in,” Kaepernick said at the time. “So, yeah, if I have to come in as a backup, that fine. But that’s not where I’m staying. And when I prove that I’m a starter, I want to be able to step on the field as such.” If the Raiders were to sign him, a one-year deal would make the most sense. They could let him play most of the preseason and if he’s able to prove himself, that might be enough for a team like the Seahawks or Panthers to call about a possible trade. If he plays well, but no teams are interested in acquiring him, then the Raiders would go into 2022 with a solid backup.
- Players have been raving about him. Kaepernick has been holding workouts all offseason and one common theme is that players have been raving about him. Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett caught passes from Kaepernick and said the QB is “ready” for an NFL return. Bears QB Justin Fields threw with Kaepernick this offseason and said he “looked good.” San Francisco rookie receiver Danny Gray also raved about Kaepernick, “He has kind of like a bazooka” Gray said earlier this month. “That workout was pretty great.”
Basically, this seems like there’s a situation where there’s no downside for the Raiders. If they were to sign Kaepernick and he plays well, then Davis looks brilliant for being the owner who was willing to take a chance on him. On the other hand, if Kaepernick struggles, then the Raiders could simply cut him. In that situation, the NFL would save face because the league could point out that a team did give him a chance and that he simply wasn’t good enough anymore.
3. Jon Gruden scores two early legal wins in lawsuit against NFL
It’s been six months since Jon Gruden filed a lawsuit against the NFL and after slowly trickling its way through the court system, there was finally some action in the case this week and Gruden has definitely been the big winner so far.
Here are the two major decisions that were handed down on Wednesday:
- Judge denies the NFL’s motion to dismiss the case. Back in January, the NFL came up with a long list of reasons why the case should be dismissed, but District Court Judge Nancy Allf didn’t seem to agree with anything on the list. Allf ruled that the case can move forward, which is a huge win for Gruden.
- Judge also rules that the case can’t be moved to arbitration. The NFL was hoping to get the case moved to arbitration, which would have been ideal for the league because Roger Goodell is the one who oversees the arbitration. Allf decided that Gruden’s contract with the Raiders “as drafted [is] not subject to arbitration.” This means Gruden gets to present his case in front of an impartial judge instead of Goodell.
With the case moving forward, that means the discovery process could start soon, which would allow Gruden’s legal team to get its hands on evidence that the NFL probably doesn’t want to share. Remember, Gruden filed this lawsuit because he felt the NFL and Roger Goodell were behind “a malicious and orchestrated campaign” to get him fired. Gruden alleges that the league leaked the emails that led to his ouster. The league had access to more than 650,000 emails as part of its investigation into the Washington Commanders and Gruden is trying to figure out why the ones that damages his reputation were the only ones that leaked.
With Gruden winning two big legal battles, that could put the league in a position where it would consider just settling the case rather than letting Gruden’s camp get its hands on the rest of the emails, which haven’t been made public. The downside for the NFL is that Gruden doesn’t seem motivated by money here. It almost feels like he just wants to get revenge on the NFL, which means he might not be open for settling the case.
4. NFL owners hit with $232.5 million in charges from St. Louis settlement and they don’t seem happy about it
The NFL’s owners got an unexpected surprise this month and it’s a surprise that most rich people don’t like: They had money taken away from them.
The NFL took $7.5 million from each team’s revenue-sharing check, which came as a huge shock to 31 of the league’s 32 owners, according to the Athletic.
So why did this happen? Let’s look at the details.
- The NFL owes St. Louis $790 million. The Rams‘ relocation to Los Angeles led to a lawsuit being filed by St. Louis in 2017 and that lawsuit was finally settled in November for $790 million. The 31 other owners were under the impression that Kroenke would be footing the bill for that, but apparently, that doesn’t seem to be the case now.
- The NFL takes $232.5 million from the other teams. Although $7.5 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money to an NFL team, the league took a total of $232.5 million (that’s $7.5 million from 31 teams), which is an exorbitant amount and the worst part for the teams is that they have no idea if they’ll be getting the money back. According to the Athletic, this has caused budgeting issues for several teams and as you can imagine, they’re not happy about it.
- Why the other owners thought Kroenke would be paying. The other NFL owners thought that Kroenke would be on the hook for the entire settlement due to an indemnification agreement he signed when the Rams moved out of St. Louis following the 2015 season. However, Kroenke doesn’t feel like he was legally required to fork over the entire $790 million. The Rams owner covered the legal fees in the case, but he doesn’t believe the language in the indemnification agreement required him to pay the settlement (Back in November, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio outlined here why Kroenke actually has a pretty strong legal leg to stand on, which is why the other owners might have to suck it up and take the $7.5 million loss).
The biggest winner in all of this might be Dan Snyder. For the past few weeks, it seems like he’s held the title of most unpopular NFL owner among the other owners, but that honor might now belong to Kroenke, who cost each owner $7.5 million.
5. Burning questions for AFC East
With all the roster changes that have happened around the league this offseason, there are plenty of questions that each team will need to answer before we know if they’ll actually be good in 2022.
With that in mind, we’ve been going through each division to look at the biggest questions for each team and today, we’re going to cover the AFC East.
Here’s one burning question that Tyler Sullivan has come up with for each team.
- Bills: Is this the year? “If there was ever going to be a year to hope (expect?) that this could finally be the year that the Buffalo Bills pull off the impossible and win the Super Bowl, this would be it. After all, they are the betting favorite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this year and have a quarterback in Josh Allen that is also the favorite to win league MVP.”
- Patriots: Who is calling plays on offense? “The departure of Josh McDaniels has left a massive hole in the Patriots’ offense at a critical juncture with Mac Jones entering his second season in the league. New England has been reluctant to reveal who in fact will be calling plays for them in 2022, but it does appear to be down to either Matt Patricia or Joe Judge.”
- Dolphins: Will Tua Tagovailoa answer the bell? “The spotlight is now officially on Tua Tagovailoa. The Miami Dolphins came into this offseason and surrounded their former first-round quarterback with all the pieces necessary to succeed in 2022. In free agency, they added star left tackle Terron Armstead, inked wideout Cedrick Wilson to a three-year deal, and brought in a new stable of running backs in Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, and Sony Michel. The biggest move of them all, however, came with the blockbuster trade that landed them former Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill.”
- Jets: Will Zach Wilson take a leap in Year 2? “The Jets are currently tied for the second-worst odds in the NFL to win the Super Bowl this season, so expectations aren’t exactly high in East Rutherford. The Jets will only be successful if their No. 2 overall pick from the 2021 NFL Draft, Zach Wilson, lives up to that billing and becomes a true franchise quarterback.”
To read Sullivan’s full answer for each question, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: NFL approves several major roster changes for 2022
It’s been a wild 24 hours 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.
- NFL approves major changes to roster rules. The NFL made a few changes to the rules regarding the amount of practice squad players going forward. The league has also finalized the rule changes for injured reserve heading into 2022. If you want to read about those changes, be sure to click here.
- Why Baker Mayfield trade between Browns and Panthers fell apart. We already knew that the deal fell apart due to money, but now we know how much money. According to the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers want the Browns to pay $13 million to $14 million of Mayfield’s 2022 salary of $18.8 million, but the Browns refused, so the Panthers moved on.
- NFL set to launch a paid streaming service. If you’re thinking about subscribing to another streaming service, then I have some good news for you: The NFL is starting one. According to the Sports Business Journal, the service will likely be called NFL Plus and it’s expected to be launched in late July. The focus of the new service will likely be on mobile access to live games, plus special podcasts. I will pay whatever the NFL wants, but only if they give me access to every regular-season game that has been played since 1980, otherwise I’m out.
- Al Michaels to work playoff game for NBC. The venerable broadcaster will be making the jump from NBC to Amazon for 2022, but that doesn’t mean he’s completely ditching NBC. The Peacock network announced this week that Michaels will be returning to call a playoff game for the upcoming season.
- Pepsi no longer sponsoring Super Bowl halftime show. After more than a decade, Pepsi is out as the main sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show. It’s not clear who the next sponsor will be, but whoever it is, the NFL is expecting to get between $40 million and $50 million per year from them, according to CNBC.
- NFL expands Rooney Rule. The NFL’s 32 teams are already required to interview a minority candidate for open head coach and GM jobs, and now you can add another job to the list: QB coach. If that job comes open, each team will be required to interview at least two minority (or female) candidate before making a hire.