Saturday, June 25, 2022

What we know about Jaylon Ferguson’s death, plus why Rob Gronkowski’s retirement might not last very long

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter. 

If you read this newsletter regularly, then you probably know that the Wednesday newsletter is usually written by Cody Benjamin, but he has retired from the newsletter writing game, which means you’re getting an extra dose of me today. Wait, that’s not right. Rob Gronkowski retired, not Cody. I got those two mixed up. Cody actually didn’t retire. We just switched days this week, which means he’ll be coming at you on Friday instead of today. 

With that in mind, 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: Ranking the 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2022 season

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The Pick Six podcast is usually hosted by Will Brinson, but he’s on vacation this week, so for the second straight day, I got to sit in the host’s chair. I’m starting to like it so much that I might not ever let Brinson have it back. That’s right, Brinson is getting Wally Pipp’d. Just kidding. I don’t want your job Brinson. I can barely handle hosting two podcasts in one week, so there’s no way I could do handle hosting every day for an entire year. 

Anyway, for today’s show, I was joined by Cody Benjamin and we spent a good hour ranking the top 10 quarterbacks for the 2022 season. Cody actually wrote a story about this last week, and it was so popular that we thought we would bring him on the podcast to talk about it. 

Here’s a look at Cody’s ranking of the top 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2022 season: 

1. Tom Brady

2. Patrick Mahomes

3. Aaron Rodgers

4. Josh Allen

5. Justin Herbert

6. Joe Burrow

7. Russell Wilson

8. Matthew Stafford

9. Lamar Jackson

10. Dak Prescott

As Cody notes on the podcast, the ranking was put together by looking at a combination of past production, present value and the quarterback’s future outlook.

The most difficult QB to rank was probably Russell Wilson. Even though he’s a Super Bowl winning QB, Cody has him ranked behind one QB who’s never even made the playoffs (Justin Herbert) and another QB who’s never been to a Super Bowl (Josh Allen). 

Cody thought about putting Russell Wilson higher, but he wants to see two things first: He wants to make sure Wilson can adjust to playing with a new team, and he wants to make sure Wilson is fully healed from the hand injury that made him look like a below-average QB for the second half of the 2021 season. 

“There’s a question mark because he’s playing for a team other than the Seahawks for the first time,” Benjamin said.

If you want to hear Cody explain his rankings, then be sure to click here so you can listen to today’s show. On the other hand, if you want to see Cody and I discuss this thing on video, you can watch today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here

If you don’t feel like listening or watching the podcast today, you can also read Cody’s entire story on the subject by clicking here

2. RavensJaylon Ferguson passes away at age 26

The Baltimore Ravens are dealing with a tragedy today following the death of Jaylon Ferguson. The 2019 third-round draft pick was just 26 years old. 

So far, there hasn’t been a lot of information released about the situation, but here’s what we do know

  • Ferguson died just after midnight. According to The Baltimore Sun, police were called to a house last night in regards to a questionable death. When they arrived at the house, they found Ferguson, who wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive. The 26-year-old was pronounced dead just after midnight. Authorities looking into Ferguson’s death have found no signs of trauma or foul play. “Ferguson never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on the scene by medics,” Baltimore Police said in a statement to The Sun.
  • Ravens release a statement. “We are profoundly saddened by the tragic passing of Jaylon Ferguson,” the team said in a statement. “He was a kind, respectful young man with a big smile and infectious personality. We express our heartfelt condolences to Jaylon’s family and friends as we mourn a life lost much too soon.” 
  • Ferguson spent three seasons with the Ravens. Ferguson was originally drafted by the Ravens back in 2019 when they selected him with the 85th overall pick. Ferguson actually started nine games during his rookie year for a Ravens team that would make it to the divisional round of the playoffs. In three years, he played in a total of 38 games for Baltimore, starting in 10 of those. He totaled 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss during his career. 
  • Ferguson was known as ‘Sack Daddy’ in college. Before arriving in Baltimore, Ferguson made a name for himself at Louisiana Tech, where he totaled 45 sacks, which is an FBS record that still stands to this day. 

Ferguson attended every single one of the Ravens’ OTAs this offseason and had been practicing well enough that new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald took notice. “Jaylon, right now, he’s doing a great job. He’s competing,” MacDonald said earlier this month, via SI.com. “The techniques that we’re teaching are slightly different than he knows, so that’s a little bit of a learning curve for him, but once he gets out there full-go and rolling, then I expect him to compete.”

The NFL has been struck by a wave of tragedy this offseason, as Ferguson is the third active player to pass away following the deaths of Dwayne Haskins on April 9 and Jeff Gladney on May 30. 

3. Rob Gronkowski announces his retirement, but the door is apparently wide open for a 2022 return

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For the second time in three years, Rob Gronkowski has announced his retirement. The last time Gronk called it quits came back in March 2019, and as you may or may not remember, that retirement only lasted one season before he made the decision to return to the NFL. 

This time around, it sounds like the door is once again wide open for another return. Here’s everything we know about Gronk’s retirement: 

  • Gronk’s agent wouldn’t be surprised if the tight end returns in 2022. After Gronk announced his retirement Tuesday, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, released a very interesting statement, “It would not surprise me if Tom Brady calls him during the season to come back and Rob answers the call. This is just my opinion but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob comes back during the season or next season.”
  • Why he might stay retired. In the statement announcing his retirement, Gronk sounded like a guy who doesn’t plan on making a return to football, “I will now be going back into my retirement home, walking away from football again with my head held high knowing I gave it everything I had, good or bad, every time I stepped out on the field,” Gronkowski wrote on Instagram. “The friendships and relationships I have made will last forever, and I appreciate every single one of my teammates and coaches for giving everything they had well.” 
  • Tom Brady releases a statement on Gronk’s retirement. “Nobody has ever embodied the idea of ‘leaving it all on the field’ like Rob has throughout his entire career. Every single snap, I knew that no matter how many people you put in front of him, he was going to get to his spot,” Brady wrote. “Even more important is the person he was on and off the field. Focused when he had to be, and FUN the rest of the time.” You can read Brady’s entire statement by clicking here
  • Gronk snubs the Patriots. When Tom Brady announced his retirement in February, he seemed to thank everyone in his retirement statement, except for the Patriots. Interestingly enough, Gronk went that same route Tuesday. In his retirement statement, the tight end didn’t mention the Patriots a single time. 

My personal take on this is that it feels like Gronk has decided to retire from training camp. The guy is 33 years old and his body has been getting beat up on the field for 11 NFL seasons, so he probably has zero interest in training camp practices or playing in preseason games. Rosenhaus’ statement almost makes it sound like Gronk is definitely going to return. It sounds like he just doesn’t want to deal with stuff like practice (Cue Allen Iverson, “PRACTICE. PRACTICE. We talkin ’bout practice! Not a game!”

If Gronk does stay retired, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer who will likely go down as one of the best tight ends in NFL history, if not the best. If you want to re-live Gronk’s career, be sure to click here so you can check out his best on-field and off-field moments

If you want, you can also re-live the time Gronk showed up at my bachelor party dressed as a leprechaun, and you can do that by clicking here (Seriously, that actually happened). 

4. Ranking the top 10 offensive tackles heading into the 2022 season

As you may or may not have noticed, we love to rank things here at CBSSports.com. And because of that, we thought we would spend the next few weeks ranking every position group heading into the 2022 season. 

After ranking the NFL’s top 10 tight ends Tuesday, we’re going to move on to offensive tackles for today. That’s right, we’re ranking the big uglies. The top 10 list below was put together by Jeff Kerr, and if you’d like to tell him how perfect it is, you can do that by clicking here. That link will take you to his Twitter profile, where you can also argue with him if you don’t like his list. 

Top 10 offensive tackles for 2022

1. Trent Williams, 49ers

2. Tyron Smith, Cowboys

3. Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers

4. Lane Johnson, Eagles

5. Rashawn Slater, Chargers

6. David Bakhtiari, Packers

7. Ronnie Stanley, Ravens

8. Ryan Ramczyk, Saints

9. Kolton Miller, Raiders

10. Jordan Mailata, Eagles

One thing that sticks out right away about this list is that the NFC seems to have all the best tackles with five of the top six and seven of 10 overall playing in that conference. Also, Jalen Hurts should probably feel pretty good about his protection this year since the Eagles were the only team that landed both of their starting tackles on this list. 

If you want a detailed explanation of Kerr’s rankings, then be sure to click here so you can check out his entire story

5. Third-year players finally primed for a breakout season

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Between now and the start of the 2022 NFL season, you’ll probably read plenty of lists about rookies who could have a huge first season. You’ll probably also even read a list or two about second-year players who could have a big year. But I’m guessing we have the only list you’ll read of THIRD-YEAR players who are primed to have a breakout season, and we have that list coming at you right now. 

CBSSports.com’s Chris Trapasso took a look at several players who have been pretty good through their first two seasons, but could be even better in Year 3. 

Here’s a peek at the list. 

  • Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy. “As a rookie, Jeudy was good but didn’t quite meet the lofty expectations set for him, with 52 grabs, 856 yards, and three scores. The big year was coming in 2021, right? Maybe. But we’ll never know because injuries derailed it. And now Jeudy has Russell Wilson throwing him the ball? HELLO. Plus, alpha wideout Courtland Sutton should be back to 100%, and his presence has gravitational pull on coverage.”
  • Texans DE Jonathan Greenard. “Greenard had eight sacks in 2021. Of all the players on this list, he’s probably the closest to someone who’s already experienced a breakout. The problem with his numbers last year is that no one outside of Houston noticed because he was playing for the Texans. And Greenard didn’t just luck into eight coverage or cleanup sacks. On 215 pass-rushing snaps, he generated 27 total pressures. Small sample, yes, but that 12.5% pressure-generation rate is respectable and represents a noticeable uptick from his 5.3% rate as a rookie.”
  • Jaguars WR Laviska Shenault. “Shenault has gone about his business in his first two NFL seasons without much attention or fanfare. He had 600 yards as a rookie and 619 yards in Year 2. Solid, but barely noticed. He forced 20 missed tackles in 2021, the second-most among all receivers in the NFL, behind only receiving triple crown winner Cooper Kupp. And Kupp forced 24 missed tackles on 145 receptions. Shenault’s 20 forced missed tackles came on 63 passes. Absurd. If that doesn’t hint at a breakout, I don’t know what does.”

If you want to see every player on Trapasso’s list, then be sure to click here..  

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Roger Goodell getting grilled by Congress today

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. 

  • Roger Goodell testifying in front of Congress today. The NFL commissioner is answering questions about workplace misconduct. His hearing started at 11 a.m. ET, so there’s a chance it will be over by the time you read this. 
  • Daniel Snyder under fire. It hasn’t been a great 24 hours for Snyder. Last night, The Washington Post published some sexual assault accusations that were made against Snyder back in 2009. According to the Post, a woman “accused Snyder of asking her for sex, groping her and attempting to remove her clothes.” Also, before Goodell’s hearing on Wednesday, Congress released a 29-page memo that outlines nearly everything Snyder has done wrong over the past few years. You can read a breakdown of all the damning information by clicking here. One big reason these congressional hearings are happening is because of the Commanders owner. Congress wanted to question him about Washington’s workplace misconduct, but he decided to bail on the hearing. In response, the U.S. House Oversight Committee will issue a subpoena for Snyder to testify at another deposition next week.
  • Steelers sign Larry Ogunjobi. The defensive tackle is now one step closer to playing for every team in the AFC North. After spending the 2020 season with the Browns and the 2021 season with the Bengals, Ogunjobi is now headed to Pittsburgh. Ogunjobi is a strong run-stopper who played a key part on Cleveland and Cincinnati teams that both ended long playoff droughts with him on the team.  
  • Jalen Ramsey underwent shoulder surgery. The Rams star underwent surgery on his shoulder Tuesday, according to NFL.com. The good news for both Ramsey and the Rams is that the cornerback is expected to be healed up and ready to play by the time the 2022 season starts. 
  • NFL says Watson’s settlements have no impact on discipline. One big question surrounding Deshaun Watson was whether his settlements would have an impact on a potential punishment. According to the league, the answer to that question is no. “[Tuesday’s] development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process,” the league said in a statement following the settlements. 
  • NFL trying to push the Brian Flores lawsuit to private arbitration. The league is doing everything it can to get the Flores lawsuit out of the court system and into private arbitration. According to The Athletic, the NFL has filed paperwork in court asking the judge to move the case to arbitration. Flores’ coaching contract with the Dolphins calls for him to settle disputes in arbitration, but it’s not clear if this lawsuit, which was filed after he was fired, would be subject to those terms. 

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick joins Amazon’s TNF coverage. The retired quarterback won’t be out of a job for long and that’s because he’s going to be joining the coverage team for Amazon’s first exclusive season of “Thursday Night Football.” Fitzpatrick will be joining Richard Sherman and Tony Gonzalez, who have also been hired to appear on the pregame, halftime and postgame shows. 

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