Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
The Baker Mayfield trade has finally happened! In a break up that we all saw coming, the Cleveland Browns and Mayfield finally went their separate ways Wednesday. If this was a divorce, Mayfield got to keep the house, the Tesla and the timeshare in Hawaii while the Browns got to keep the cat. I’m not saying the Browns lost this trade… (OK, that’s exactly what I’m saying.) Mayfield is a former No. 1 overall pick, and all they got in return was a fifth-round pick, PLUS they have pay more than two-thirds of his 2022 salary. They are paying him NOT to play for them.
Alright, I’m going to stop talking about the trade because we’ll be covering it extensively in today’s newsletter. Let’s get to the rundown.
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1. Today’s show: Breaking down the Baker Mayfield trade
When you have a big trade like this in July, you definitely have to devote an entire episode to it, so that’s exactly what we did for today’s episode of the Pick Six Podcast. Will Brinson was joined by Jared Dubin, and the two of them spent just over 30 minutes breaking down the trade.
Although Mayfield seems to be an upgrade over Darnold, Dubin isn’t impressed with the Panthers‘ strategy for adding quarterbacks.
“They have now given up a second-, fourth- and sixth-round pick to get Sam Darnold, a third- and fourth-round pick to move up to get Matt Corral and now a fifth to go get Baker Mayfield, and I’m still not sold on their quarterback situation,” Dubin said. “They’re still looking at bottom 10 quarterback play probably. To have spent all that draft capital and to not get that much in return is pretty wild.”
Brinson agreed with Dubin’s point, but also added that it was a move that Matt Rhule had to make. The Panthers coach is going to be on the hot seat heading into the 2022 season.
“If you don’t go out and get Baker, you’re basically sealing your own fate, so I understand why they went out and got Baker,” Brinson said.
If you want to hear the rest of the conversation about the trade, you’ll have to listen to today’s show, which you can do by clicking here. You can also watch today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here.
If you don’t have time to listen to a podcast today, you can also read Dubin’s rankings by clicking here.
2. Browns finally trade Baker Mayfield: Full trade details, plus grades
There isn’t usually a lot of NFL news in early July, but the Browns decided to do something about that Wednesday by surprisingly trading Baker Mayfield to the Panthers. The fact that Mayfield got traded wasn’t a surprise, but the timing of the deal definitely was because big trades almost never go down at this point in the offseason.
Here’s a look at the trade details:
- Panthers receive: Baker Mayfield
- Browns receive: 2023 conditional draft pick (The deal is for a fifth-round pick, but that will jump up to a fourth-round pick if Mayfield plays at least 70% of Carolina’s offensive snaps in 2022, according to The Athletic)
- Other notable parts of the deal: The one big thing that had been holding up a trade over the past few weeks was Mayfield’s salary. The Panthers wanted the Browns to pay most of it and the Browns wanted the Panthers to pay most of it, so they came up with a compromise. Under the deal, the Browns will be paying $10.5 million of Mayfield’s 2022 salary while the Panthers will be paying $4.9 million. Mayfield also agreed to take a $3.5 million pay cut to help facilitate the trade.
The juiciest part of this trade is the fact that the Browns and the Panthers will be playing each other Week 1, which means that yes, the Browns will now be paying Baker Mayfield to try and beat them in the season opener. If that’s not the most Browns thing ever, I don’t know what is.
I don’t really love this move for either team. On the Browns’ end, they only got a fifth-round pick in return for a former No. 1 overall pick who in 2020 was responsible for winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 1995. Unfortunately for Mayfield, that playoff win didn’t earn him any goodwill in Cleveland. The Browns threw him under the bus in March by acquiring Deshaun Watson. If Watson gets suspended for an entire year, this trade looks even worse.
As for the Panthers, I do think Mayfield is an upgrade over Sam Darnold, but not by much. Darnold already has a year in the Panthers offense, so Mayfield is going to be playing catch-up from the start. If Mayfield is bad, then Carolina threw away another draft pick. If he plays average football and leads the Panthers to six to eight wins, then it puts the Panthers in a precarious situation: Do they re-sign him to a big contract hoping he can get better? Or do they move on and roll with Matt Corral in 2023? The only way this pays off for Carolina is if Mayfield somehow leads them to nine or more wins and that doesn’t seem very likely.
Not to mention, there’s not a guarantee that Mayfield will even be the starter. According to NFL.com, the Panthers won’t be handing the starting job to their new QB. The former Browns quarterback is going to have to beat out Darnold if he wants to be the starter.
Whenever there’s a trade, there’s 100% chance we’re going to hand out grades for that deal, and that’s exactly what we did in this situation.
The Baker Mayfield deal was graded by CBSSports.com’s Cody Benjamin. Here’s what he came up with:
- Panthers grade: A-. “Worst-case scenario, Mayfield flops and proves no better than his immediate surroundings, and the Panthers let him walk in 2023, proceeding with the QB reset (and potential regime reset) they were destined for anyway. Best-case scenario, Baker brings some much-needed juice to their QB room, actually capitalizes on some of the talent around him, and the Panthers get a head start on locking up a potential long-term starter without having to spend excess draft capital to start over.”
- Browns grade: D. “The Browns can only blame themselves for Mayfield, a 27-year-old proven starter with multiple playoff starts, fetching a single future late-rounder. Why? Because they are responsible for alienating him to the point reconciliation was implausible. Was it wrong of them to seek an upgrade this offseason, especially after Mayfield regressed in an injury-riddled 2021? Not necessarily. But when your prized replacement is Watson, a polarizing QB who hasn’t played in two years and may not play for one more, you’d better be sure you have a backup plan that doesn’t involve selling your former No. 1 pick for a conditional fifth two years down the road.”
3. Predicting the MVP for each NFC team
The NFL only hands out one MVP award every year, but we’re slightly more generous around here, so we’re going to hand out 16 of them today. Our Jeff Kerr decided to run through every team in the NFC and predict who is going to be the MVP for each team. If this drill sounds familiar, it’s because we did the exact same thing earlier this week, but with AFC teams.
So who is the predicted MVP for Dallas? Who made the cut for the other 15 teams in the NFC?
Let’s find out.
Cardinals: QB Kyler Murray
Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts
Panthers: RB Christian McCaffrey
Bears: RB David Montgomery
Cowboys: LB Micah Parsons
Lions: DE Aidan Hutchinson
Packers: QB Aaron Rodgers
Rams: WR Cooper Kupp
Vikings: WR Justin Jefferson
Saints: WR Michael Thomas
Giants: RB Saquon Barkley
Eagles: Jalen Hurts
49ers: DE Nick Bosa
Seahawks: RB Rashaad Penny
Buccaneers: QB Tom Brady
Commanders: DE Chase Young
If you want a detailed explanation for why each of the players got the nod, then you’re definitely going to want to click here so you can read Kerr’s entire story.
4. Free agency matchmaker: Here’s who the biggest remaining free agents should sign with
It doesn’t seem possible, but in less than three weeks, every team in the NFL will have started training camp. Even though we’re inching closer to the start of the preseason, there are still a surprising amount of big name free agents available on the market.
With that in mind, we decided to do what we do best around here: Play free agency matchmaker.
Tyler Sullivan took a look at some of the biggest names left in free agency and then came up with their best possible landing spot. Let’s check out his list:
- Julio Jones should sign with the Colts. “The best years of Julio Jones’ career included Matt Ryan throwing him the football. Now that the quarterback is in Indianapolis as the Colts’ new signal-caller, it’d be quite the reunion for these two Falcons legends.”
- Odell Beckham Jr. should sign with the Packers. “Beckham tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl has derailed his free agency some, but the Packers could be a team that is fine with only getting Beckham for the second half of the year considering their lack of depth at receiver. Currently, Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and rookie Christian Watson make up the top half of the depth chart.”
- Jason Pierre-Paul should sign with the Ravens. “One team that could use some bodies at pass rusher is the Baltimore Ravens, who did host Pierre-Paul on a visit about a month ago. Outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and rookie David Ojabo are both dealing with Achilles injuries, so Pierre-Paul could provide some immediate relief at that spot behind 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh.”
If you want to read Tyler’s entire story, be sure to click here.
5. Ranking the 10 players most likely to have a bounce-back season
For some players, the 2021 season ended up being an ugly one, but sometimes, when a player has a bad season, it’s not necessarily their fault. For instance, sometimes they’re stuck on a bad team (just ask Matt Ryan about that). In other instances, a player can have a bad season because they got stuck playing for arguably the worst first-year coach in NFL history. (You know, like Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville.)
The good news for these two players is that the 2022 season is going to bring a clean slate, which means it could end up being a big bounce-back year for them. With that in mind, Cody Benjamin decided to rank the players most likely to have a big bounce-back season this year.
Here’s a look at five of the players on Cody’s list:
- Colts QB Matt Ryan
- Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence
- Titans RB Derrick Henry
- Chiefs WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Rams WR Allen Robinson
If you want to see Cody’s full list of players who are likely to have a bounce back season, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Aaron Rodgers just got a mysterious new tattoo
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.
- Aaron Rodgers shows off a wild new tattoo. If you haven’t seen this tattoo, you definitely need to see it. It combines mysticism, new age symbols and astrology, and the best part is that I tried to break down what it all means, and you can check that out by clicking here.
- Von Miller would have taken less to play for the Cowboys. The former Super Bowl MVP ended up signing with the Bills, but it turns out he would have been willing to sign with the Cowboys for less. That didn’t happen because Dallas didn’t make an offer that was anywhere close to what he was looking for. For more on that story, be sure to click here.
- Raiders to announce new team president. The Raiders are about to hire their third team president in less than a year, and that hiring will be coming at 4 p.m. ET today. The team actually sent out a PRESS RELEASE to announce that they would be making an announcement, which isn’t something you see every day. Due to that fact, I am now very curious about who they’re going to hire.
- Brett Favre open to joining broadcast booth. The Hall of Fame quarterback told TMZ this week that he would be interested in broadcasting, but he’d only do it if he got a “great deal.” I’m guessing he saw Tom Brady’s broadcasting contract and decided he wanted to try and get a piece of that pie.
- Jameis Winston is throwing without a knee brace. It’s not clear if Winston will be able to start Week 1 for the Saints, but right now, things definitely seem to be trending in that direction. In a video taken this week, Winston was shown throwing passes without wearing a knee brace over his surgically repaired left knee, which is definitely a positive step forward for the quarterback.