Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I have to say, it’s a miracle I even got a newsletter done today and that’s because it’s July 11. Usually on July 11, I spend 24 straight hours trying to score as many free Slurpees as possible for 7-11 day, but today, I skipped the Slurpees so I could get the newsletter done.
The only food news more surprising than me skipping Slurpee Day is that the stadium in Pittsburgh is no longer going to be known as Heinz Field.
As someone who hates ketchup, I’m actually completely on board with this name change, even though the new name is kind of weird. We’ll reveal the new name later on in the newsletter, plus we’ll be taking a look at all the drama that Lamar Jackson stirred up over the weekend. 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. Let’s get to the rundown.
1. Today’s show: Monday Mailbag
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, in today’s mailbag alone, someone asked us if NFL teams should start the process right now of tanking for Arch Manning. If we’ll answer that, trust me when I say we’ll answer almost anything.
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 Ryan Wilson and I answered in today’s mailbag.
Q: Do the Ravens have a legit chance to get to the Super Bowl this year? Lamar is poised for a huge bounce back, and I don’t personally believe the receiver situation is as bad as it could be. Mark Andrews is still elite and the defense should be much better.
A: I actually think the Ravens are going to be good this year and that’s mostly because they somehow managed to win eight games last season even though they were hit with roughly 412 injuries. If they can actually stay healthy this year, I feel like they could win 11 or 12 games. That being said, just because I think they’ll be good doesn’t necessarily mean I think they’re going to get to the Super Bowl. I mean, let’s see them get to the AFC title game first. Over the past five years, this team has had a track record of no-showing for playoff games, so although I feel like they’ll be a playoff team, I’m not so sure about the Super Bowl just yet.
If you want to listen to the rest of the mailbag, be sure to click here. You can also watch today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. The franchise tag deadline is coming Friday, and things aren’t looking promising for the four players still looking for long-term deals
Earlier this year, there were a total of eight players hit with a franchise tag. Of those eight players, there are four who are still looking to negotiate a long-term deal, and time is running out. The franchise tag deadline is coming Friday (July 15), and if there’s no long-term deal in place, then the player will be forced to play the 2022 season on the one-year franchise tag deal. Well, they won’t be “forced” to. They could also pull a Le’Veon Bell and not play at all, which I’m only bringing up because one of these situations is getting kind of ugly.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look at the situation each player is in, plus how much their one-year franchise deal will pay them in 2021.
Players who have signed their franchise tag
- Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki: $10.9 million. According to NFL.com, Gesicki and the Dolphins haven’t really been engaging in contract negotiations this offseason, which makes it likely that Gesicki will play out the 2022 season on the tag. The two sides could obviously get together this week to try and hammer something out, but right now, this seems to be trending toward Gesicki playing the season on a one-year deal.
- Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz: $10.9 million. As recently as two weeks ago, we reported that Schultz and the Cowboys weren’t close on making a deal. Since then, it appears the two sides have taken baby steps toward coming to an agreement. According to NFL.com, the two sides will be very active in talks this week in hopes of getting a deal done.
Since Shultz and Gesicki have both signed their tag, that almost certainly means they’ll be reporting to training camp whether or not a long-term deal gets done. However, that’s not necessarily the case for our next two guys.
Players who haven’t signed their franchise tag
- Bengals S Jessie Bates III: $12.9 million. Bates is hoping to land a long-term deal that will make him one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL, but the Bengals don’t seem to thrilled about the idea of giving him that much money. One thing that makes this situation even more complicated is the contract the Steelers just gave Minkah Fitzpatrick. His new deal will pay him $18.4 million per year for the next four years, and Bates will likely be hoping to get something in that neighborhood. According to NFL.com, the chances of a long-term deal getting done are bleak.
- Chiefs OL Orlando Brown: $16.6 million. After making a huge trade for Brown back in April 2021, it would be a shock if the Chiefs weren’t able to get a long-term deal done with their starting left tackle. According to NFL.com, conversations between Brown and the Chiefs are expected to heat up this week, so it won’t be surprising if a deal gets done.
As I noted earlier, Brown and Bates have NOT signed their franchise tag, which is kind of a big deal. If a player has NOT signed the tag, that means they’re not under contract with the team, which means they can skip training camp without any penalty. This is more notable in Bates’ situation, because there was a report earlier this year that suggested he would rather sit out the season than play on the franchise tag. Sitting out a year destroyed Bell’s career and I’m not sure Bates would be actually willing to do that, but it will be interesting to see if the Bengals are willing to call his bluff.
If the players don’t sign their tag, the team also has a nuclear option. For instance, if Bates refuses to report to training camp, the Bengals could rescind his tag, which would immediately free up $12.9 million in cap space. However, if the Bengals pulled that move, then Bates would become a free agent and at that point, he might be able to find a team to give him $18 million per year. (The same thing would apply to Brown if the Chiefs rescinded his tag.) Seeing a tag get rescinded would be a total surprise if it happened, but it has happened before. The most notable recent instance came in 2016 when the Panthers rescinded Josh Norman’s franchise tag.
3. Lamar Jackson accidentally started some social media drama over the weekend
The Ravens quarterback definitely raised some eyebrows over the weekend with his social media activity, even though he’s now saying he didn’t actually mean to raise any eyebrows.
Here’s a look at what happened:
- Jackson changes his Twitter header and Instagram profile picture to a photo that says ‘I need $.’ Jackson is currently in the middle of a huge contract negotiation with the Ravens, and when someone in a huge contract negotiation goes on social media and insinuates they need money, most people are going to interpret that as the player saying that the team needs to pony up and pay them, and that’s how most people interpreted Jackson’s actions over the weekend. (You can see his Twitter header photo here.)
- Jackson says his new photo had nothing to do with his contract negotiations. “I don’t know why people are blowing it up,” Jackson told USA Today. “I just saw Bleacher Report post it. They just take anything that’s posted on social media and just blow it up, and try to think for you. I don’t take it too seriously. They’re making it seem like I’m talking to the Ravens when I’m not. Our contract discussion is going on already. But it ain’t about that though.”
- Why Jackson doesn’t think the photo was a big deal. The photo Jackson used on social media is from the 2001 movie “How High,” and apparently Jackson had just watched the movie, which is why he posted the photo. (You can see the clip that includes his photo by clicking here).
- Jackson doesn’t plan on holding out of training camp. The Ravens QB is currently headed into the final year of a rookie deal that will pay him $23 million in 2022. Jackson is hopeful an extension will get done, but he’s not counting on it. “I’m not going to say ‘yeah’ right now. Hopefully. But it’s God’s timing.” The QB also added that if a deal does NOT get done, he won’t hold out of training camp. “I don’t have that on my mind.”
The moral of the story here is that if you’re in the middle of contract negotiations with your team and you post a picture that includes the words “I need $,” there is a 99.8% chance that people will think that negotiations are going badly.
4. Three teams that helped their QB the most this offseason and three that helped the least
It’s not easy being an NFL quarterback, but things can become slightly easier when your front office does everything in its power to build around you. For some quarterbacks around the NFL, that happened this offseason. However, for a few other quarterbacks, they weren’t so lucky because their front office didn’t really add any help.
So which quarterbacks got the most help this offseason? CBSSports.com’s Bryan DeArdo took a look at the three teams who helped their QB the most this year and the three team who helped their QB the least.
Let’s check out his list:
Three teams that helped their QB the most
- Bengals. “After watching Joe Burrow get sacked 70 times, including the playoffs, the Bengals responded by signing three veteran linemen who between them have 150 career starts. Each player also knows what it takes to block for a talented quarterback. Ted Karras won two Super Bowls while helping protect Tom Brady in New England. Alex Cappa won a ring with Brady during the Buccaneers‘ 2020 championship season. La’el Collins blocked for both Tony Romo and Dak Prescott during his run with the Cowboys.”
- Raiders. “The Raiders sent shockwaves throughout the NFL when they managed to swing a trade with the Packers to acquire Davante Adams. The Raiders didn’t stop with the addition of Adams, though. They further bolstered their receiving corps by adding veteran wideouts Keelan Cole and Demarcus Robinson. To better protect Carr, Las Vegas spent its first draft pick on guard Dylan Parham, who did not allow a sack in 545 protection snaps during his final year at Memphis.”
- Dolphins. “Not only did Miami trade for Tyreek Hill, but they also further increased Tagovailoa’s chances of a big season by signing veteran offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Connor Williams and running backs Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel and Raheem Mostert. The offense will be highly influenced by first-year head coach Mike McDaniel, who enjoyed a successful run as the 49ers offensive coordinator.”
Three teams that helped their QB the least
- Ravens. “Instead of signing a top-flight receiver, the Ravens traded away their best receiver — to the ire of QB Lamar Jackson — during the NFL Draft.”
- Packers. “Don’t feel bad for Aaron Rodgers. Life is largely good for Rodgers after the reigning two-time league MVP penned a record-setting contract extension earlier this offseason. That being said, it’s never easy to lose your top receiver and that’s what happened to Rodgers in the Davante Adams trade.”
- Chiefs. “With Tyreek Hill gone, Patrick Mahomes will likely lean more on Travis Kelce, at least until he gets more comfortable with his revamped receiving corps.”
If you want to check out DeArdo’s entire story, be sure to click here.
5. Ranking divisions by wide receivers
After the arms race that went on in the AFC West this offseason, it definitely now feels like that division will be toughest one in football in 2022. Not only do the four AFC West teams have the best overall rosters, but that division also has the best group of receivers. At least that’s the conclusion Jared Dubin came to today when he ranked all eight divisions based on how good the receivers are in that division.
Here’s a look at how his rankings broke down along with a short list of some of the best receivers in each division:
1. AFC West (Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jerry Jeudy, Hunter Renfrow)
2. NFC West (Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyler Lockett, Marquise Brown)
3. AFC North (Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Amari Cooper, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool)
4. NFC East (A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, CeeDee Lamb, Kenny Golladay, Michael Gallup)
5. AFC East (Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, Corey Davis)
6. NFC South (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Michael Thomas, D.J. Moore, Jarvis Landry)
7. NFC North (Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Amon-Ra St. Brown)
8. AFC South (Brandin Cooks, Michael Pittman, Marvin Jones, Robert Woods, Christian Kirk)
If I had a vote on this, I probably would have put the NFC West on top, but I don’t have a vote on this. Maybe next year they’ll let me vote. That being said, I do mostly agree with how the Dubin’s ranking. If you want a full explanation for his ranking, be sure to click here so you can check out Dubin’s entire story.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Heinz Field getting a new name
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.
- The Steelers’ stadium will no longer be known as Heinz Field. After 20 years, Heinz Field is going to have a new name. According to Andrew Fillipponi in Pittsburgh, the building will now be known as Acrisure Stadium, which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue in the same way. For more details on the name change, be sure to click here.
- Five-time Pro Bowler gets arrested over the weekend. Free agent offensive lineman Duane Brown was arrested at LAX on Saturday for allegedly trying to bring a concealed weapon into the airport. The five-time Pro Bowler was arrested after security found an unloaded gun in his luggage, according to TMZ. Brown is due in court on Aug. 3 for a hearing on the misdemeanor charge. Brown spent the past four and a half seasons with the Seahawks, but is now a free agent.
- Condoleezza Rice joins Broncos ownership group. New Broncos owner Rob Walton announced today that the former Secretary of State has joined his ownership group. Although Rice is a huge Browns fan, she does have plenty of ties to Denver having attended both high school and college in the city.
- Tony Romo wins American Century Championship. The biggest celebrity golf tournament in the country was held over the weekend and CBS’ Tony Romo came away with the win. Romo held off Joe Pavelski and Mark Mulder to win the American Century Championship for the third time. Adam Thielen (fourth), Aaron Rodgers (ninth) and Marshall Faulk (10th) were the only other golfers with NFL ties to finish in the top-10.
- Packers could pass Bears as NFL’s all-time winningest team. The Bears have more wins than any other NFL team, but that’s something that could finally change this season. Heading into the 2022 season, the Bears have 783 wins in franchise history while the Packers have 782. If the Packers win in Week 1 and the Bears lose, that would set the stage for a Week 2 showdown between the two teams where the winner would be the current record-holder. No one is better than the Bears at blowing a lead and they’re about to blow this one, which they’ve held for decades.
- Today is the due date for court briefs in the Deshaun Watson case. The NFL and NFLPA have a deadline of today to turn in their briefs for the Watson hearing. This is mostly notable, because once the briefs are in, that means judge Sue Robinson will have all the information she needs to make a decision. Basically, this deadline means that the door will be opening for her to make a decision. There’s been multiple reports that the decision is expected to come before the Browns start training camp on July 27, which means the decision window would seem to be anywhere between tomorrow (July 12) and July 26.