Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
If you're wondering where we are on the Aaron Rodgers trade scale, we're now at the point where people are burning their cheeseheads, and when I say "people," I'm talking about Sauce Gardner. The Jets corner, who stole a cheesehead from Lambeau after the Jets' win over the Packers last season, decided to set that cheesehead on fire in an effort to win over Rodgers. I have no idea if burning a cheesehead will win over Rodgers, but I guess it can't hurt.
Why would he want to win over Rodgers? Because the ball is currently in Rodgers' court. If a trade is going to happen, Rodgers has to decide he wants to play football in 2023. Then he has to decide that he'd be willing to play for the Jets, then trade compensation has to be worked out. However, the third thing can't happen until the first two things happen, so that's where we are right now.
We will not be mentioning Rodgers name again in this newsletter today, but we will be making some bold predictions for free agency, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: Bold predictions for free agency
With the start of free agency right around the corner, we thought we'd use today's episode of the Pick Six podcast to make some bold predictions about what's going to happen around the NFL over the next few weeks.
Did we straddle the line between bold and crazy? Yes.
Will some of our predictions pan out? Hopefully.
I was joined by Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and Katie Mox for the show and here's a few predictions we came up with:
- Wilson: Jimmy Garoppolo signs with the Buccaneers. There was a report this week that the Panthers, Raiders and Texans will likely all be interested in adding Garoppolo, but that's not where Wilson has him going. Wilson has him going to the Buccaneers. The Bucs definitely need a quarterback and unlike the other three teams listed above, they don't have a top-10 pick in the draft, which means if they want to add a QB, it will likely have to be in free agency, which is why Garoppolo could make sense.
- Breech: The 49ers sign a former NFL MVP. I wanted to give myself a few options here, so I went as vague as possible with my bold prediction. The 49ers have hinted that they're going to sign a veteran and I won't be surprised at all if they add Matt Ryan (a former NFL MVP), who would be reuniting with Kyle Shanahan. Also, let's not rule out the possibility of the 49ers talking a former NFL MVP (Tom Brady) out of retirement.
- Brinson. Chiefs trade for DeAndre Hopkins. The Chiefs offense is already scary and Brinson thinks they're going to make it even scarier by adding Hopkins. The Cardinals receiver is on the trading block in Arizona and if the Chiefs were to get him, we should probably just go ahead and hand them the Lombardi Trophy.
- Mox: Broncos trade for Taysom Hill. No one loves Taysom Hill more than Sean Payton and now that Payton is in Denver, it only makes sense that he would try to trade for Hill.
If you want to hear the rest of our bold predictions, you can listen to today's episode by clicking here. You can also watch today's show by clicking here.
2. Texans get punished by NFL
Deshaun Watson hasn't taken a single snap for the Texans in more than two years, but he's still causing trouble for the franchise. The Texans were punished by the NFL on Thursday for a salary cap-reporting violation related to Watson.
Here's everything you need to know:
- The violation. According to the NFL, the Texans provided Watson with $26,000 worth of compensation that the team didn't disclose to the league, which is a salary cap violation. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones reported that the Texans spent the money on a membership for Watson at the Houstonian, which is a luxury hotel and club. According to the New York Times, seven of Watson's massages took place at the hotel.
- Texans lose a draft pick and get fined. Not only did the Texans get fined $175,000 for their violation of NFL rules, but the league also docked them a fifth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
- Texans not happy with the punishment. The Texans made it very clear that they didn't think they deserved to be punished, saying that they "disagree with the league's ruling," but "will accept the imposed discipline and move forward."
The upside for the Texans is that they did receive a pick on Thursday in the former of a seventh-round compensatory pick. The Texans will also be getting an extra first-round pick this year (12th overall) thanks to the trade that sent Watson to Cleveland.
3. Free agent fits for each NFC team
With the start of free agency coming in just five days, we're going to be cramming as many free agency stories as possible into the newsletter between now and then. Yesterday, we had the best free agent fits for each AFC team, and today we're heading to the NFC.
CBSSports.com's Jared Dubin went through the 16 teams in the conference and pinpointed one free agent that each team should target. Here's his advice for three of those teams:
- Cowboys: CB Marcus Peters. "Dallas desperately needs an influx of bodies at corner, where the team proved perilously thin last season in the wake of injuries to Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. Peters can be this year's version of James Bradberry, whom the Eagles picked up on the cheap and got a great season out of him."
- Panthers: QB Jacoby Brissett. "Brissett spent time with Frank Reich in Indianapolis as both a backup and a starter. He played fairly well when filling in for Deshaun Watson last year in Cleveland, and could sign a deal in Carolina that pays him solid backup money if that's his role, with incentives for more if he ends up starting."
- Rams: WR Michael Thomas. "With the Rams looking to trade Allen Robinson (and maybe a few other players to save some salary). I'd like to see them run it back with another recently injured but also very talented wideout in Thomas. He should cost less than Robinson did a year ago, which should help the Rams be able to afford him."
To check out the rest of our free agency fits for each NFC team, be sure to click here.
4. Five moves the Eagles should make this offseason
With several key players set to hit free agency next week -- like Javon Hargrave, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Miles Sanders and James Bradberry -- the Eagles are going to have to make a lot of big decisions over the next few days about who they want to keep.
To help Philadelphia make those decisions, we had Jeff Kerr play the role of Eagles general manager and he came up with a few moves they should definitely make this offseason.
1. Get an extension done with Jalen Hurts before Lamar Jackson gets his new deal. "The first order of business for Howie Roseman is to get a long-term deal done with Hurts as soon as possible. Set the market, don't be reactionary toward other deals that are soon coming with Jackson, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. While Jackson waits to see if a team gives him a fully guaranteed contract next week, the Eagles can strike and lock up Hurts to a long-term contract. Jackson is going to set the market for Hurts, Herbert and Burrow -- unless Roseman beats everyone to the punch."
2. Bring back Brandon Graham. "Is Graham priority No. 1 or No. 2 on the offseason shopping list? No, but this is a veteran player who is a great leader in the locker room and deserves to be with the Eagles for the remainder of his career. Graham is coming off a season in which he finished with a career-high 11 sacks and 48 pressures with 16 quarterback hits (17.1% pressure rate). The Eagles need to make sure they keep their edge rushers intact, especially with Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat back for at least the next two seasons." (UPDATE: The Eagles reached a one-year deal with Graham, according to ESPN).
3. Sign Tashaun Gipson to replace C.J. Gardner-Johnson. "Gardner-Johnson likely isn't returning to the Eagles next season as he sent a cryptic tweet to Philadelphia thanking the organization. ... Enter Gipson, who played for new defensive coordinator Sean Desai with the Chicago Bears in 2021. Gipson was excellent in coverage last season, finishing with five interceptions and eight passes defended at the age of 32. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 19.3 passer rating targeting Gipson."
If you want to check out all five of Kerr's suggestions for the Eagles, be sure to click here.
In other Eagles news, the team has allowed Darius Slay to seek a trade (details here). The Eagles' secondary was a major strength in 2022, but if Slay were to get dealt, the Eagles could lose three of their four starters with Gardner-Johnson and Bradberry possibly leaving in free agency.
5. Rams trade rumors: Team seems likely to make a deal soon, but it probably won't involve Matthew Stafford
With less than a week to go until the start of free agency, the Rams currently have one of the ugliest cap situations in the NFL. According to overthecap.com, the Rams are currently $16.14 million over the cap, which is the fourth-worst number in the NFL.
To free up some space, there was speculation that the Rams might trade away MATTHEW STAFFORD, but general manager Les Snead shot down that rumor on Thursday. Here's what we know about the Rams' trade rumors that are floating around.
- How the Stafford trade rumor started. The trade speculation started Thursday thanks to former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi, who had this to say on The Pat McAfree Show, "Matt Stafford is fully available," Lombardi said. "They would love to trade [him]. They can't [easily] do it, because he's got $57 million guaranteed. [But] they're trying to get out from it. [They've] called teams, I know this."
- Snead shoots down the Stafford speculation. The Rams general manager met with the media on Thursday and seemed to indicate that Stafford wouldn't be going anywhere. "I think we're going to definitely rely on Matthew. He's definitely one of our pillars." Snead specifically mentioned Stafford as one of three key players that the team can still build around. "When you have someone like Matthew Stafford, players like (WR) Cooper Kupp, (DL) Aaron Donald, there's some weightbearing walls there that we still have and we're going to rely on those."
- Why we should believe him. When a GM talks about anything related to the draft or free agency during the offseason, it's hard to take it at face value. However, Snead's comments about Stafford do seem believable and that's mostly because he ducked almost every other trade-related question. There has been speculation that the team might trade Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd or Allen Robinson and he didn't exactly deny that, "I'm going to keep the specifics of those in-house because time will tell," Snead said. "I know we've communicated with a lot of our players those included. We're trying to assess situations, figure out how to get under the cap, what's the best way to do that."
- Rams have been contacted about nine players for a possible trade. One interesting thing Snead noted is that he's had trade discussions about NINE different players, "I'm not going to get into who we've actually taken calls about, but I can say this that we've probably taken calls on nine players," the GM said. "I think I counted before this press conference, definitely discussed."
What this all means is that we'll probably see the Rams make at least one trade between now and the start of free agency on March 15. However, don't look for that trade to involve Stafford.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: NFL hands out compensatory draft picks and the 49ers are the big winners
It's been a busy 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, and that roundup involves a lot of coordinator firings.
- 49ers land seven compensatory picks. The 49ers are going to have seven extra draft picks to work with this year after the NFL handed out compensatory picks on Thursday. Three of those picks will be in the third round, which makes them extra valuable. The Rams (4), Cardinals (3), Chiefs (3) and Cowboys (3) were the only teams that even got three compensatory picks. To see how all the picks were doled out, be sure to check out our story here.
- Vikings release Adam Thielen. After spending all nine seasons of his career in Minnesota, Adam Thielen will finally be moving on this year. The Vikings released their long-time receiver today in a move that will free up $6.4 million in cap space. In other Vikings news, pass rusher Za'Darius Smith has asked to be released, but right now, the team does not plan on granting his wishes, according to NFL.com.
- Dolphins free up $44 million in cap space. Are the Dolphins planning something big for free agency or at the QB spot? The team has cleared up some major cap space over the 24 hours. The team has restructured the deals of Bradley Chubb, Terron Armstead and Tyreek Hill since yesterday and those three restructures have created just over $44 million in cap space. All of a sudden, the Dolphins have become a team to watch in free agency.
- Odell Beckham to work out for teams. The free agent receiver, who sat out the 2022 season while recovering from an ACL tear, will be holding a workout in Arizona today. Multiple teams are expected to attend and Beckham is clearly hoping that this workout will jumpstart his free agency.
- Seahawks cut starting offensive lineman. The Seahawks cut ties with Gabe Jackson on Thursday, which is notable, because Jackson started 31 games for them at guard over the past two seasons. The move frees up $6.5 million in cap space.
- Titans moving on from longtime center. The Titans have already released multiple veterans this offseason and you can now add Ben Jones to the list. According to atozsports.com, the Titans have decided to move on from Jones, who had been the team's starting center since 2018.