Saturday, June 25, 2022

Details on Jeff Gladney’s tragic death, plus Rams’ Aaron Donald sounds like he’s still considering retirement

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter. 

I don’t know how it’s possible, but the start of the NFL season is now just 100 days away. And just in case you’re wondering, I didn’t actually keep track of that myself. I asked Alexa to remind me when the NFL season was 100 days away. I also ask her to remind me when to shower and when to eat. I’m not good at remembering things. 

Alright, let’s get straight to the rundown.  

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

1. Details on tragic death of Jeff Gladney

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Cardinals cornerback Jeff Gladney passed away Monday at the age of 25. The former 2020 first-round pick, who spent the first season of his career in Minnesota, had just signed a two-year deal with the Cardinals in March. 

Police in Texas haven’t released very many details about the situation, but here’s what we know: 

  • Gladney died in a car accident. The accident took place around 2:30 a.m. on Monday in Texas. Gladney was one of two victims in the crash. The second victim has not been identified, as the cause of the crash remains under investigation. 
  • Police details about the crash. There were two vehicles involved in the crash and based on preliminary information, investigators believe that one vehicle was speeding. The speeding vehicle clipped the other vehicle, which caused the speeding vehicle to lose control and hit a beam, at which point the car caught fire. There were two occupants in the other vehicle, who came away mostly unscathed. 
  • Cardinals release a statement. “We are devastated to learn of Jeff Gladney’s passing. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and all who are mourning this tremendous loss,” the team wrote. 
  • NFL community mourns. There was an outpouring of condolences from around the NFL after Gladney’s passing. With everyone from J.J. Watt to Jalen Reagor using Twitter to grieve. You can check out the reactions from around the league by clicking here

You can see our full story on Gladney’s tragic passing by going here

2. Aaron Donald sounds like he’s still open to retirement

There’s been speculation going around since February that Aaron Donald might retire this offseason, and I guess we can go ahead and stop calling it speculation, because the Rams star confirmed the rumors during a recent episode of the “I Am Athlete” podcast.

Here’s what Donald had to say about the possibility of retiring

  • Donald confirms he’s been thinking about retirement. “Me talking about retirement, that was happening way before we won a Super Bowl,” he said. “I’ve been saying that since I got into the league that I was going to play eight years and be done. That’s just what I’ve been saying. It just came out and then everybody thinks that, ‘Oh, he said if he wins a Super Bowl he’s going to retire.’ Nah, I got teammates, coaches, my family who know about this. I said I’m going to play eight years, and I’m going to probably be done playing football.” Donald just finished his eighth season, so in his mind, his retirement window has officially opened. 
  • Winning another Super Bowl is what’s driving him right now. “Winning a Super Bowl, you get kind of a little addicted to it,” said Donald. “I ain’t going to lie. I want to feel that again. That experience is like none other. If I was to play, it’s just to win another Super Bowl, but at the end of the day, it’s still a business and it got to make sense to me and my family.”
  • Rams star would be ‘at peace’ if his career is over. “I don’t need to play football to be fine. I’m fine,” Donald said. “I was blessed to play this game, to make the money I made, the accomplishments I made in eight years is, like, I’m complete. If I can win another one, that’s great. But if not, I’m at peace.”
  • He definitely wants a new contract. “It ain’t about the money, but it’s a business at the end of the day,” Donald said. 

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems pretty obvious what Donald is kind of giving the Rams an ultimatum here: Either give me a new contract or I’m going to retire. Donald is the best defensive player in football — and possibly in NFL history — and with a base salary of just $9.25 million for 2022, he’s woefully underpaid. He knows it, the Rams know it, and he knows the Rams know it. If Donald were to retire, that would be a crushing blow to the Rams defense. The guess here is that the two sides get a new deal done at some point before training camp. 

3. 100 days until the opener means we have 100 things to know about the 2022 season

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I’m not sure how it happened, but we are now just 100 days away from the start of the 2022 NFL season. Cody Benjamin loves to celebrate things like this, so to help us celebrate the fact that the new NFL season is just 100 days away, he decided to come up with a list that consists of 100 things to know about the 2022 season.  

I thought about covering all 100 things here, but this is a newsletter, not a newsbook, so we’re going to take a look at five of the nuggets from Cody’s list: 

  • Bills are the Super Bowl favorites. “The Bills are arguably the hottest preseason pick to take over the throne. Caesars Sportsbook has Buffalo as the early favorite to win Super Bowl LVII, just ahead of the Buccaneers and Chiefs, the most recent champs before the Rams.”
  • Broncos looking to end long drought. “The Broncos are looking to snap a six-year streak of missing the playoffs with maybe the biggest addition of the offseason, longtime Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, acquired in a blockbuster trade at the start of free agency. The Broncos’ last playoff appearance came in 2015, which gives them the second-longest postseason drought in the NFL.”
  • AFC West is tougher this year, but never bet against Andy Reid. “Under Reid, the Chiefs have won at least 12 games in five of their last six seasons. They’ve also logged double-digit wins in eight of Reid’s nine seasons atop the staff, as well as six straight AFC West titles and three straight AFC Championship appearances. They came within four points of appearing in a third straight Super Bowl in 2021.”
  • Could Matt Ryan be the next Matthew Stafford? “The 37-year-old Ryan is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Lions-turned-Rams star Matthew Stafford, another proven QB who found instant playoff success after relocating from his longtime NFL home to a win-now setup. Indianapolis’ top pieces, including RB Jonathan Taylor and a stingy defense now led by Gus Bradley, figure to get him back in the postseason mix.”
  • Don’t bet on the Cowboys to repeat in the NFC East. “If there’s one division winner from 2021 that you can bet will lose its crown, it might be the Cowboys: Dallas hasn’t had back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins since the 1990s. Also, this is the NFC East we’re talking about, where there hasn’t been a repeat champion in 18 years.”

If you want to check out all 100 nuggets from Cody’s list, be sure to click here

4. One burning question for every team in the AFC South

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 question for each team heading into the upcoming season, and today, we’re going to cover the AFC South. 

Here’s one burning question that Jordan Dajani has come up with for each team. 

  • Texans: Is Lovie Smith the guy? “How confident are the Texans really in Lovie Smith? And how long of a leash is he going to have? David Culley did much better than people thought he would in 2021, and he was still fired! An important part of any rebuild is getting the right head coach in place. All eyes will be on Smith in 2022.”
  • Colts: How much of an upgrade is Matt Ryan over Carson Wentz? “Head coach Frank Reich has loved what he’s seen from Ryan so far. The question is, will his play be enough to take the Colts from 9-8 to Super Bowl contenders? Or will Indy’s offense be up and down like last year? If Ryan is better than Wentz, the Colts could have a huge season.”
  • Jaguars: Can Trevor Lawrence make a jump in Year 2? “The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft threw for 3,641 yards, 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his rookie season while going 3-14 as the starter. It was not a good start to Lawrence’s NFL career, but the Clemson product had to deal with an unfair amount of outside noise that mostly had to do with Urban Meyer. Now under Pederson, he should be hopeful about the future.”
  • Titans: Can Ryan Tannehill bounce back? “Tannehill called his playoff performance against the Bengals “a scar” that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. He also spoke about going to therapy to get out of the dark place he was in. Overcoming that failure will obviously be tough, but Tannehill will also now have to deal with the loss of A.J. Brown and a new young, dual-threat quarterback behind him on the depth chart. The real burning question for the Titans is will Tannehill be able to overcome these mental hurdles and bounce back in 2022.”

To read Dajani’s full answer for each question, be sure to click here.

5. Five best bets to make on NFL win totals

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If you’ve been reading this newsletter over the past week, you may have noticed that we’ve been spent a lot of time covering the over/under win totals for the 2022 season, so you’re probably not going to be too surprised when I tell you we have even more win totals today.

Jordan Dajani went through each teams over/under and came up with the five best bets that you can make right now: 

Saints over/under: 8. 

Pick: OVER. “I understand if people don’t see Jameis Winston as a top-tier signal-caller, but you have to keep in mind that he finally has a wide receiving corps to work with thanks to the additions of Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave and the return of Michael Thomas.”

Ravens over/under: 9.5. 

Pick: OVER. “This team won eight games last year in a season where they were decimated by injuries. Lamar Jackson is 37-12 as the starter in Baltimore, and the Ravens have won at least 11 games in both of his two seasons as the full-time starter before 2021.”

Dolphins over/under: 8.5. 

Pick: OVER. “The Dolphins won nine games last year with one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and with Tua Tagovailoa missing five starts. … The Dolphins have won at least nine games in each of the last two seasons, and they could be the second-best team in the AFC East in 2022.”

Seahawks over/under: 6. 

Pick: UNDER. “I could talk about Seattle’s QB situation entering this season or how this defense isn’t one of the best in the league, but there are two factors driving my decision to take the Under: Seattle resides in arguably the toughest division in the NFL, and it has to face the other toughest division in the NFL in the AFC West. That’s 10 games where Seattle likely won’t be favored.”

Eagles over/under: 9. 

Pick: OVER. “The Eagles went 9-8 last season with first-year head coach Nick Sirianni, and all this team did this offseason was get better. Philly swung a trade for star wide receiver A.J. Brown, but I’m more excited about the defensive side of the ball. Kyzir White, Haason Reddick and James Bradberry were all great free agent pickups, and then the Eagles added Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean in the draft.”

To check out the rest of Dajani’s story, be sure to click here

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Darren Waller could soon be getting a monstrous new contract

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. 

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