Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Tom Brady came insanely close to playing for Raiders, plus NFL preseason Week 2 winners and losers

Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

I don’t think Tom Brady has his own national holiday, but we might as well just say it’s today because Tom Brady is all we’re going to talk about. What I think I’m trying to say here is that if you don’t like reading about Tom Brady, then it might be best if you just skip today’s newsletter. I won’t be offended. 

If you stick around, you’ll find out where Tom Brady went during his 11-day hiatus, plus you’ll learn just how close Brady came to signing with the Raiders in 2020. We’ll also maybe talk about non-Brady things like preseason football

Alright, that’s enough of that, 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. Tom Brady returns but he might not recognize any of his offensive linemen

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp

Getty Images

After an 11-day absence, Tom Brady is back, but let’s be honest, after he takes one look at the current state of the Buccaneers offensive line, he might decide to go on another hiatus. 

Let’s check in on how things are going in Tampa Bay. 

  • Tom Brady is officially back. By the time you read this, Brady will likely have already taken the field for a practice in Tampa Bay. The 45-year-old was at the Bucs’ facility on Monday morning getting ready for the team’s 12:45 p.m. ET practice. Brady originally left the team on Aug. 11, and although it’s odd that he took 11 days off during the middle of training camp, I’m guessing no one will care or remember this happened if the Buccaneers are good this year. On the other hand, if the Bucs struggle, a lot of people will likely be pointing to this absence as the reason why. 
  • Where was Brady? One thing I can almost certainly tell you is that he was not filming an episode of “The Masked Singer,” which was easily the most insane theory about this entire situation. According to Pro Football Network, Brady was actually in the Bahamas at an exclusive resort with his wife, Gisele. The trip was apparently a last chance for Brady to get in some family time before starting the season. 
  • Brady is walking into an ugly situation. The Buccaneers were hit with a devastating injury over the weekend with Aaron Stinnie tearing both his ACL and MCL. Stinnie was competing for the starting spot at left guard, and with him now out, that means the job will likely go to Luke Goedeke and Nick Leverett. 
  • Huge hit for a Buccaneers offensive line that’s already taken a bunch of huge hits. The offensive line situation is getting dire for the Buccaneers. Over the past six months, their starting five has been decimated. Left guard Ali Marpet retired, right guard Alex Cappa signed with the Bengals, center Ryan Jensen will miss a big chunk of the season with a knee injury and Tristan Wirfs could miss some time after injuring his oblique. That’s four of five starters from last year that Brady likely won’t have in front of him come Week 1. Considering that Brady is a 45-year-old player with almost zero mobility, this definitely isn’t an ideal situation for Tampa Bay. 

The Buccaneers did trade for right guard Shaq Mason in March, but that might not be enough to keep Brady standing upright. 

2. Tom Brady apparently almost played for the Raiders

I thought for sure that Tom Brady taking 11 days off during the middle of training camp would be the craziest thing we heard about Tom Brady this month, but it turns out I was wrong. Apparently, Brady almost signed with the Raiders back in 2020, at least according to Dana White. 

The UFC president joined Rob Gronkowski for an interview during the first ever GronkCast on Saturday and White had a wild story about Brady’s free agency. (By the way, Gronk and his family will apparently now be GronkCasting during certain UFC fights, so be on the look out for that). 

Here’s what White had to say:

  • White said he helped broker a deal to get Brady (and Gronk) to the Raiders. “I worked to put that deal together for Brady and Gronk to come to the Raiders,” White said. “It was almost a done deal. … And Brady was already looking at houses. It wasn’t said yet that Gronk was going to be coming. So Las Vegas would have had Brady and Gronk the year that the Bucs won the Super Bowl.”
  • Why the deal didn’t go down. According to White, the deal was all but done, but then Jon Gruden had second thoughts about adding a 43-year-old quarterback. “It was almost a done deal, and at the last minute, Gruden blew the deal up and said that he didn’t want [Brady], and all hell broke loose.”
  • Gronk confirms the story. If Dana White was the only source for this crazy story, most people would probably have a tough time believing it, but Gronk actually confirmed the details. “That is exactly what happened,” Gronk said after White finished telling the story. 
  • Mark Davis doesn’t deny the story. The Raiders owner was asked about White’s claims over the weekend and he didn’t exactly deny anything. “I heard about [White’s Brady story],” Davis said, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “That was what — two to three years ago or something? I don’t know, man. Talk to Dana. I remember that Tom Brady went to Tampa Bay. That’s basically what I remember. I have no idea.” If the Raiders didn’t go after Brady, you’d think Davis would simply say it didn’t happen, but since he didn’t say that, it feels like White’s story almost certainly has some truth to it. 

The craziest part of all this is that it now seems like the Buccaneers were Brady’s FOURTH OPTION during his free agency tour in 2020. Based reporting over the past two years, it now seems that Brady was eyeing the Dolphins, Raiders and 49ers before he eventually signed with Tampa Bay. 

3. NFL preseason Week 2: Ranking the top performances by rookie quarterbacks

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For the second straight week, we’re ranking how rookie quarterbacks played in the preseason and for the second straight week, Kenny Pickett is at the top of our rankings. 

Once again, Pickett was brilliant and the crazy thing about his performances over the past two weeks is that he’s looked like the best QB on the Steelers’ roster. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll overtake Mitchell Trubisky to win the starting job, but it does mean that Mike Tomlin is going to have a lot to think about over the next three weeks. 

During Pittsburgh’s 16-15 win over Jacksonville, Pickett finished 6 of 7 for 76 yards and a TD on two possessions. Pickett also had a 19-yard completion to George Pickens called back after the Steelers were called for holding. The big difference between last week and this week is that Pickett’s performance came against legit NFL players. In Week 1, Pickett played the fourth quarter and was mostly going up against the bottom of the Seahawks’ defensive roster. This week, Pickett was going up against a Jaguars defense that featured mostly first- and second-stringers. 

If Tomlin wants to give Pickett a chance to win the job, he could start him next week against the Lions to see what he can do. 

Anyway, here is a look at this week’s ranking of each rookie quarterback (via Cody Benjamin). 

1. Kenny Pickett, Steelers: 6 of 7 for 76 yards, 1 TD

2. Malik Willis, Titans: 7 of 17 for 80 yards, 1 TD — five rushes for 42 yards

3. Skylar Thompson, Dolphins: 9 of 10, 129 yards, 1 TD 

4. Jack Coan, Colts: 7 of 11, 83 yards, 1 TD

5. Brock Purdy, 49ers: 14 of 23, 128 yards

If you want to check out our full look at how each rookie QB played this weekend, then be sure to click here

Note: Desmond Ridder will be playing tonight when the Falcons play the Jets and if dices up New York’s secondary, then we’ll update our rankings accordingly. 

4. Winners and losers from Week 2 of the NFL preseason

Every week during the preseason, we’ll be creating a winners and losers list, and this week is no exception. Cody Benjamin sat in front of a television for 72 straight hours this weekend so that he could watch every preseason game the NFL threw at us. 

After watching everyone play, here’s the list of winners and losers the came up with:  

WINNERS

  • KaVontae Turpin. “The USFL MVP logged not one but two return touchdowns in Dallas’ win over the Chargers. Even if just as a kick or punt returner, he probably locked up a roster spot.”
  • The run game. “If you played preseason fantasy football with second- and third-string running backs this week, congratulations. The Bills rolled all over the Broncos by deploying every member of their deep backfield: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, James Cook and Duke Johnson. The Eagles got steady burst from Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell with Miles Sanders absent. The Lions’ trio of Justin Jackson, Craig Reynolds and Godwin Igwebuike combined for over 100 yards against the Colts. Who says the ground game is dead?”
  • Isaiah Likely. “Looking for a sleeper who’s Likely to have a bigger impact on the Ravens’ offense this year than expected? A guy who’s Likely to warrant some red-zone targets from Lamar Jackson? And maybe even Likely to share snaps with Mark Andrews? We can’t get enough Likely after the rookie fourth-rounder went off with eight catches for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals.”

LOSERS

  • Antonio Gibson. “Gibson genuinely appears to be losing his grasp on the Commanders’ top running back job. The former rookie standout, now entering Year 3, rotated with the second- and third-team units at practice recently. Against the Chiefs, he stood on the sidelines while rookie Brian Robinson Jr. started in the backfield, then totaled just two carries while being relegated to kick-return duties.”
  • Josh Rosen. “Flopping in each of his career stops, his shot at claiming No. 3 QB duties for the Browns behind Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett is pretty much shot after Joshua Dobbs showcased both an efficient arm and play-extending mobility to keep Cleveland competitive.”
  • Michael Thomas. “Getting hurt isn’t necessarily his fault, but the star Saints receiver is trying to return to the field for the first time since 2020, and two days after sitting out his second straight preseason game, he missed practice with a hamstring issue. All while first-round rookie Chris Olave continues to rise up the ranks and approach 2022 as New Orleans’ most likely No. 1 target.”

For a full look at Cody’s complete list of winners and losers, be sure to click here

5. Cowboys unveil a SECOND alternate helmet

The Cowboys made a surprising announcement over the weekend when they revealed that they’ll be wearing a second alternate helmet this year. They say everything is bigger in Texas, so I guess it makes sense that the Cowboys will be the ONLY team in the NFL with two alternate helmets.  

Here’s what we know about the new look:

  • The “Arctic Cowboy” look will be similar to their throwback helmet. The Cowboys previously announced that they would be wearing a throwback helmet on Thanksgiving and this helmet will be similar to that. The most noticeable difference is that the star on the side of the Arctic helmet will have a different look than the star on the throwback helmet. You can see the Arctic helmet by clicking here and you can see the original throwback by clicking here.
  • The Arctic helmet will be worn in prime time. The Cowboys will be debuting the helmet on Dec. 29 when they play the Titans on “Thursday Night Football.” The helmet will be worn with a white Color Rush uniform in what will be the final Amazon Thursday game of the year. 

  • Cowboys will be wearing a total of three helmets. With the introduction of a new helmet, the Cowboys will now be wearing a total of three helmets this year. Besides their standard silver look, they’ll also have a throwback helmet and an alternate helmet. I’m guessing Jerry Jones’ ultimate goal is to have 17 different helmets so his team can wear a different one for each game. 

If you want to see the Cowboys introduction video for their new helmet, be sure to click here.  

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Baker Mayfield named Panthers starting QB for Week 1 

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Washington Commanders

USATSI

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. 

  • Mayfield will start in Week 1 vs. Browns. We mentioned last week that the Panthers had already decided on starting Mayfield in Week 1, but they didn’t officially announce their decision until today. The decision means that Mayfield will now get an early shot at revenge on his old team. 
  • Nick Mullens traded to Vikings. The Vikings picked up another QB on Monday after making a trade with the Raiders. With Mullens going to Minnesota, the Raiders will be getting a conditional draft pick in return. If Mullens is active for just a single game, the Raiders will get a 2024 seventh-round pick from Minnesota. 
  • Matt Corral likely out for season. The Panthers rookie is likely done for the year after suffering a Lisfranc injury during Carolina’s 20-10 preseason loss to the Patriots on Friday. Corral was 9 of 15 for 58 yards before exiting the game. The rookie almost certainly wasn’t going to be play this year as he was buried behind both Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold on the depth chart. 

  • Roquan Smith returning to Bears. The drama between Smith and the Bears has finally come to an end (for now). The linebacker, who requested to be traded a few weeks ago, has returned to practice and has apparently decided that he’ll quietly play out the final year of his deal in Chicago. 

  • Pete Carroll not putting a timeline on Seahawks’ QB battle. At the rate things are going, the Seahawks might not have a starting QB in Week 1 and that’s because Pete Carroll is refusing to name one. “I’ll talk to you more about it later in the week, or I won’t. I’m not sure,” Carroll said over the weekend, via the team’s official website. I’m guessing that’s him secretly telling us that he’s still hoping to get Jimmy Garoppolo. 

  • Bills give punt job to ‘Punt God.’ It took two preseason games, but Matt Araiza has officially claimed the punting job in Buffalo. The rookie, who bashed an 82-yard punt in Week 1 of the preseason, was given the job on Monday after the Bills cut veteran Matt Haack.  
  • Lamar Jackson’s newest contract offer. Kyler Murray got $230.5 million in his recent contract and it seems the Ravens are willing to top that in a deal with Jackson. However, the two sides are in a stalemate because the QB wants his deal to be fully guaranteed like Deshaun Watson’s. 

  • Saints news: James Winston returns to practice, but he won’t have Michael Thomas. After missing almost two weeks due to a foot injury, Winston was finally back in practice on Sunday. Although the Saints had Winston, they didn’t have Thomas, who is apparently dealing with a hamstring issue.  The receiver has been battling injuries almost nonstop for the past two years. 
  • Aqib Talib stepping away from NFL broadcasting job. The former NFL corner was recently hired by Amazon to appear on the company’s coverage of “Thursday Night Football,” but that will no longer be happening. Talib told NFL Media that he’s going to step aside in light of “recent tragedies.” Talib’s brother is accused of shooting and killing a youth football coach in Texas. Talib was on-site when the incident happened. 

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