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Happy midweek, everyone! John Breech is roaming the Cincinnati area campaigning for Tee Higgins' return (or so we think), so you've got me, Cody Benjamin, to deliver all the latest from around the league, with NFL free agency just around the corner.

This is the Pick Six newsletter for Wednesday, Feb. 21. Now let's get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you're signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don't want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)

We've got Prisco's top 100 free agents, franchise-tag predictions and much more:

1. Today's show: To tag (or not to tag) 2024 free agents?

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John Breech and Tyler Sullivan joined Will Brinson on the latest "Pick Six NFL Podcast" to dissect this year's top franchise-tag candidates, predicting which big names could -- or should -- be tagged ahead of free agency. Some highlights:

  • Brinson is convinced teams increasingly "want to wait as long as possible" to apply the tag (as opposed to, say, a decade ago) in order to avoid the perception "they are abusing" the option. In a sense, it shows "more respect" to players.
  • Sullivan thinks there's "no doubt" Jaguars pass rusher Josh Allen will get the tag, especially after team brass all but guaranteed the 2023 breakout would be back. If Allen were to hit the market, he added, it'd be "almost impossible" to retain him.
  • Breech believes a tag and trade of Brian Burns is the most likely scenario for the Panthers, who have "so many holes" they almost need to get something valuable in return for the young pass rusher.

Catch the full episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.

2. Prisco's top 100 free agents: Kirk Cousins headlines list

It's that time. Free agency is still a few weeks from kicking off, but Pete Prisco has locked in his top 100 veterans set to hit the open market, and boy is this year's crop chock-full of Pro Bowl-caliber talent. A handful will come off the board due to franchise tags, of course, but there are still plenty of names worth monitoring. At the top of Prisco's 2024 list? None other than Kirk Cousins.

Let me make this clear from the start: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins does not play his position better than defensive tackle Chris Jones plays his position for the Kansas City Chiefs. So why is Cousins ranked as the top NFL free agent on my top-100 list? Position value. That's the reason. Cousins is a good quarterback, the kind who can take a good team to the Super Bowl and win it. He is coming off a torn Achilles tendon, but he should be ready for the open of the 2024 season, which makes him a starter of value in a league where teams crave that type of player under center. Cousins has his faults for sure, but he's rolled up big numbers in his career and the Vikings found out the cruel truth about his immense impact on their team when he was lost for the year. They would be wise to bring him back, but if he hits the market he is free-agent No. 1 in my book.

3. Coaching staff rankings: Texans among NFL's best


Now that the 2023 season is in the rear view, Jordan Dajani is taking stock of all 32 coaching staffs to identify the best of the best. And while typical contenders like the Chiefs and Ravens have cracked his top tier -- the "cream of the crop" -- he's also got a lot of love for an up-and-coming organization in the Texans, who one year ago may have been all the way at the bottom of the mix.

Maybe a hot take, but I really like what the Texans have going for them. First-year head coach DeMeco Ryans was a finalist for Coach of the Year after his thought-to-be rebuilding Texans won the AFC South, and even won a playoff game. First-year offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik helped C.J. Stroud win Offensive Rookie of the Year after a historic campaign, and he also got the most out of playmakers like Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Slowik was a head-coaching prospect this offseason, but he's back for 2024. The future is bright in Houston.

4. Belichick to the 49ers? Shanahan once hinted at it

Now that all of this year's head-coaching vacancies have been filled, it appears longtime Patriots coach Bill Belichick will spend 2024 on the figurative sidelines, perhaps pivoting to a TV career before returning to the game in 2025. But what if there's a unique opportunity for Belichick to coach for a contender this year? While it seems unlikely, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan once suggested it'd be "smart" to hire Belichick if he happened to be available, and he does have an opening at defensive coordinator.

5. Best fits for top QB prospects: Drake Maye to Patriots?

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QB prospects will be all the rage once free agency passes and 2024 draft talk takes over the NFL landscape. But which top signal-callers best align with specific NFL teams ahead of April's event? Draft expert Josh Edwards has done his best to match each of the consensus top incoming QBs to different franchises. Here's a sneak peek at his breakdown:

  • USC's Caleb Williams -- Bears: Chicago hired former Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron to replace Luke Getsy. While in Seattle over the past three seasons, the team executed designed quarterback runs on 1.72% of plays, according to TruMedia. ... Williams could best be described as a pocket passer capable of rushing when the situation necessitates. His ability to extend plays and complete passes outside of the pocket is what makes him so intriguing, but it is not his identity.
  • UNC's Drake Maye -- Patriots: Prototypical pocket-passing quarterbacks are all first-year head coach Jerod Mayo and the Patriots have known over the past two-plus decades. ... New England's roster is not necessarily in a position to drop in a rookie quarterback, but Maye is a top-tier talent and the Patriots are picking inside the top-10 overall for just the second time since 2001. The timing is not ideal, but who knows how long it may be before they are in a position to take a top quarterback again.
  • LSU's Jayden Daniels -- Commanders: The hire of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury signals that the organization may prefer Williams, but Chicago is not moving off the No. 1 overall selection unless it has similar grades on a few quarterbacks. With Williams likely off the board, the choice comes down to Maye or Daniels. Kingsbury has worked with Kyler Murray and Williams, so the mobility of Daniels could be appealing.

6. Tracy Walker landing spots: Eagles could be top suitor

The Lions added another big name to the free-agent pool this week, releasing veteran safety Tracy Walker after six seasons. Where could Walker end up? Jeff Kerr likes the Eagles as a top landing spot for the former third-round pick:

The Eagles badly need help at safety with Kevin Byard likely a cap casualty if he doesn't agree to a restructure, and rookie Sydney Brown likely out for all of next season with a torn ACL. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prioritizes the safety position. ... Walker has played under Paul Pasqualoni, Cory Undlin and Aaron Glenn in his six seasons with the Lions. None have any connections to Fangio, but the Eagles could use a box safety who finds the football. There could be a No. 3 safety role for Walker.