It might not be Christmas but it sure feels like it with the start of free agency just around the corner. We’ll have much more to come on free agency in the coming weeks, starting with today’s issue of NFLTR Review:
- 10 potential bargains in this coming free agent class
- Why the Patriots re-signing Cam is the best move for everyone
- Autopsies on past blockbuster deals involving two first-round picks
Potential 2021 Free Agency Bargains
Two years ago at this time, Shaq Barrett was a relatively anonymous rotational pass rusher looking for a cheap prove-it deal and a chance to shine. Now after two breakout seasons he’s poised to become a very rich man, either on a long-term deal from the Buccaneers or another team near the start of free agency.
The lower 2021 salary cap — officially set this week to $182.5 million in a steep drop from last year’s $198.2 million — will provide plenty of opportunities for teams to find similar huge bargains and for players who hope to follow in Barrett’s footsteps.
Here’s some guys to keep an eye on as potential bargain steals with the start of free agency less than a week away. Some of these guys could beat the odds and become stars. Others could morph into valuable role players who carve out a long career in the NFL, which is itself a remarkable achievement when the average is just three seasons. Others are former starters looking to get back to those heights.
Jaguars WR Keelan Cole
Cole burst onto the scene in the second half of his rookie season as a humble undrafted free agent out of Kentucky Wesleyan, totaling 34 catches for 637 yards and three touchdowns. He had some hype as a deep sleeper going into his second season in 2018 and appeared ready to rocket into stardom with a seven-catch, 116-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Patriots in Week 2, highlighted by this jaw-dropper of a grab.
Keelan Cole with an UNREAL one-handed grab vs. the Patriots
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 16, 2018
Instead, Cole fell off the map. He caught a case of the drops and lost his confidence, and his playing time plummeted over the next season and a half. His spot on the roster even drifted into danger. Gradually, though, Cole worked his way back into the good graces of the coaching staff. He actually led Jacksonville’s receiving corps in snaps this past season and finished the full 16-game season with 55 catches for 642 yards and three touchdowns, just in time to hit free agency this offseason.
Wide receivers typically do well in free agency but between the depth of this year’s class of available veterans and potential rookies, it’s doubtful anyone will be beating down Cole’s door to sign him. The team that does, though, has the potential to hit it big if Cole’s confidence continues to grow to match the flashes of talent he’s already shown. Perhaps in a healthier environment than Jacksonville with consistent quarterback play, Cole can blossom for another team as a big-play slot receiver who runs solid routes and makes excellent adjustments to the football in the air.
Washington DE Ryan Anderson
The differences between 4-3 and 3-4 defenses matter less than ever before given that nickel is the new base defense in the modern NFL. But they still matter for a few players and Anderson was one of them. Washington inexplicably held on to Anderson in the final year of his deal despite him being miscast in their 4-3 system and playing a career-low 146 snaps. In 2019 in a much better schematic fit, Anderson had 44 total tackles, four sacks, nine QB hits and five forced fumbles.
Calling Anderson a future star like Barrett might be a stretch. In the right system — specifically any branch of the New England defensive coaching tree, he even plays both sides of the ball from time to time — he could be a great role player and solid starter. Signing Anderson this offseason will come with little risk and potentially a lot of reward.
Seahawks DE Benson Mayowa
It’s been eight years since Mayowa got his start in the league as an undrafted free agent out of Idaho. He’s been on four different teams, including two separate stints with the Seahawks and Raiders, and turns 30 in August. This isn’t the typical profile you look for when trying to spot breakout players. But there are a lot of similarities to another pass rusher who didn’t take off until later in his career, Bills DE Mario Addison.
They’re built similarly at 6-3 and 260ish pounds and are similar athletes. Eerily, Mayowa has 26 career sacks while Addison had 25.5 by the time he was 30. He exploded after his 30th birthday, though, recording 34.5 sacks the past four seasons. Mayowa could be poised to do the same. He’s a high-effort player, as you can see, and that’s a trait that combined with his athleticism could be a winning recipe.
— Get2TheQB (@CoachLawsonTX) March 7, 2021
One key difference between Mayowa and Addison is that even before he developed into a starter, Addison ranked highly in Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity metric which counts hits and pressures, not just sacks, and weighs them against total pass rush attempts, showing that Addison was being disruptive even with limited snaps. Mayowa did rank 25th in that same metric in 2019 but for most of his career he’s hovered closer to average or below average compared to his peers. Continuing to increase his production is going to be key for Mayowa in order to have a late-career breakout like others have shown is possible.
49ers DE Ronald Blair
Blair seemed like he was on his way to, if not a breakout season, a year that would have made him an intriguing free agent on lists like this in 2019 until a torn ACL marred the end of his rookie season. He re-signed with the 49ers on a one-year deal but a setback in his rehab wiped out his 2020 season as well.
Assuming he’s healthy, which is a fair question, Blair was starting to cement a reputation as a solid all-around defensive end. San Francisco would do everything from kick him inside on passing downs to dropping him into zone coverage. He has his fair share of wins as a straight edge rusher on tape as well and was a stout run defender in 2019. He won’t cost more than the minimum due to questions about his health and there’s the possibility for a team to get a lot more than it pays for.
Dolphins LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
A training camp darling in 2019, Grugier-Hill appeared on his way to securing a starting job with the Eagles when a knee injury knocked him out for the first three weeks. He was on a pitch count when he came back and was injured again, ending the season on injured reserve. He signed with the Dolphins as a free agent last offseason but didn’t really settle into a role.
Last season was Grugier-Hill’s worst as a pro, as he had career-low grades from PFF in every area but pass rushing, and that might have been a product of Miami’s scheme. In 2018 with Philadelphia, though, he showed flashes of being a speedy modern linebacker who could run and hit. At the worst, Grugier-Hill could be a valuable special teams player with the potential for more.
Falcons DB Damontae Kazee
A torn Achilles deprived us of most of a season from one of my favorite players, even if he plays for a division rival. Football is full of cliches that lose their meaning, but when you watch Kazee play, there’s nothing else to describe him as other than a heat-seeking missile.
out of all the plays damontae kazee made last year, this might be my favorite. giving up 40 pounds vs an elite RB and runs right through him. pic.twitter.com/c820SWbfvI
— charles (nba top shot investigator) mcdonald (@FourVerts) August 1, 2019
Kazee brings a punch when he comes to tackle you and he does not care that he’s only 5-11 and 190 pounds. He defies the stereotypes of cornerbacks and tackling, and Kazee is indeed a cornerback even though he’s got experience playing everywhere from safety to slot defender. Lest you think he’s just a run defender, he technically has already broken out with seven interceptions his second year in the league.
However, the Achilles injury is a significant one to overcome for a defensive back. Due to the shrinking cap and uncertainty over his injury, Kazee’s market is going to be nowhere near what it could have been had 2020 been a healthy, normal year. The Falcons have already indicated they won’t bring him back. The injury happened early enough in the season that Kazee could rebound well if his rehab goes well. If that happens, the rest of the league has a good chance to see what I see and reward him for it in 2022.
Buccaneers OL Joe Haeg
It’s hard to be a breakout player as an offensive lineman but the NFL is so desperate for quality line play that hitting on a cheap starter is a major win for a team. Haeg could fit the bill for someone. He started the bulk of his first two seasons for the Colts as a fifth-round pick out of North Dakota State and acquitted himself fairly well as a mid-tier starter. An injury derailed his 2018 season and when he returned, it was as a high-level backup for the most part. After finishing out his rookie deal, he signed with the Buccaneers only to be relegated to a role as Tampa Bay’s sixth offensive lineman in jumbo packages by star first-round RT Tristan Wirfs.
Haeg got a Super Bowl out of the experience but he might end up elsewhere with more of an opportunity for a bigger role. He’s limited enough athletically that left tackle might be a bit of a stretch, though he’s done it before. Teams in need of someone who can compete for a job at right tackle and act as depth for four of five positions should take a look at Haeg.
Browns DT Larry Ogunjobi
The pride of UNC-Charlotte’s nascent football program, Ogunjobi looked like a star as a rookie. The stat sheet didn’t necessarily pick up on it but his grade at Pro Football Focus did as he was the 31st-ranked interior defensive lineman out of 134 qualifiers. While his production picked up with 11 sacks over his second and third seasons, his PFF grade has steadily dipped, hitting its low point this past season.
A correlating factor has been that Ogunjobi’s snap counts have risen sharply since his rookie season. After playing just 300 snaps as a rookie, he led the NFL in snaps from a defensive tackle in 2018 and he’s been near the top each of the past two seasons, averaging 51 snaps a game. There’s a case that Ogunjobi needs to improve his stamina to maintain a bigger role but it’s hard playing that many snaps at that size, which is why most NFL teams employ a rotation on the defensive line.
After watching him through 3 games this year, I'm ready to say Larry Ogunjobi is becoming an elite defensive tackle in this league. The #Browns had better save some of that cap space.
How do you block this animal? pic.twitter.com/r1L2aGmaAc
— Roberto Shenanigans (@Rob_Shenanigans) September 29, 2020
Cleveland appears inclined to let Ogunjobi test the market, so it will be interesting to see what the 26-year-old gets. His age and a weak draft class of defensive tackles could boost his value but it’s a decent bet teams will have the same questions about Ogunjobi’s current career trend. The talent from the video is evident, though, and it’s possible a different environment could help Ogunjobi unlock some consistency.
Steelers OT Zach Banner
It’s impossible not to notice Banner — nicknamed the Hulk — for his sheer size at 6-8 and 360 pounds. He’s had a unique NFL journey, as he was cut as a rookie despite being a fourth-round pick and bounced around to a few teams before landing in Pittsburgh. In 2019, he became a fan favorite somehow as a sixth offensive lineman in jumbo packages and he won a training camp battle to start at right tackle coming into this season, which happened to be a contract year.
Unfortunately for Banner, he tore his ACL in the season opener, throwing another detour in his path. By all accounts, his rehab is going well and he should have the opportunity to re-sign with the Steelers. He’ll have another crack at winning the right tackle job and there’s even some hints that he could be an option for Pittsburgh on the left side. If the Steelers are going to shift to a much more run-oriented offense, that should mesh well with Banner’s skill set.
Why Re-Signing With Patriots Is Best For Newton & New England
Full disclosure: Patriots QB Cam Newton was originally my tenth potential bargain for a team before New England brought him back this morning on a one-year deal worth around $14 million. That’s not as much of a steal as the one-year, incentive-laden contract he signed last year with the Patriots but it’s still near the bottom of the barrel for a presumed starting quarterback. Ultimately there are a lot of reasons why this is the best thing for both sides.
I’ve touched a little bit on it in this space the past few weeks but there was a sense that if the Patriots didn’t re-sign Newton that he would have had a hard time finding work again in 2021. Newton is as polarizing and misunderstood a player inside the league as he is outside of it, that’s clear from gathering what executives, scouts and coaches are willing to say off the record to various reporters. There was very little excitement for Newton in league circles coming off his 2020 season.
I get it. Eight touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 177 passing yards per game are ugly stats, especially for the level of hype the Patriots were getting after finally signing Newton in June. He has a new throwing motion and might not be able to whip it to all corners of the field like he used to. It’s probably fair to say he’s not capable anymore of a season like he had when he won the MVP.
But is he a washed-up shell of a quarterback who isn’t good enough to be one of 32 starters in the NFL? Plenty of people seem to feel that way, both in and out of the league. As uninspiring as Newton’s 2020 season was, I just can’t buy that.
It’s well-documented he wasn’t stepping into the best situation with the Patriots in 2020, facing the burden of catching up to decades of institutional knowledge with no offseason and an abridged camp. An early-season trip to the COVID-19 list set him back even further, like when you miss a week in econ class and are scrambling to catch up for the rest of the semester. He also had the worst group of pass-catchers in the league, bar none.
Despite all of that, there were positive signs from Newton in 2020 to point to. He was still lethal as a runner, especially in short yardage, racking up 12 rushing touchdowns. He took care of the football, recording just 10 turnover-worthy plays the entire season, tied for eighth-best among players with enough dropbacks to qualify. Newton also finished the season with an on-target percentage of 78.1 percent which ranked 12th in the NFL, per PFF, ahead of guys like Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes.
For the Patriots, there’s a strong argument that Newton is the best blend of affordability and upside that was available to them at quarterback this offseason, especially considering how much of a hurdle onboarding into the scheme is. It’s hard to argue that Marcus Mariota, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Carson Wentz are demonstrably better options to pursue, though some people will try. Re-signing Newton also doesn’t prevent the Patriots from going after a quarterback in the draft if they have a shot at someone they like. It does take the pressure off of New England to have to draft a quarterback, though.
For Newton, this is realistically about the best he could have hoped for if reuniting with Ron Rivera in Washington was truly off the table. Again, it was hard to realistically project any other teams being interested in him as a potential starter and that makes $14 million potentially the best he could have gotten by far. He’ll have the benefit of a full offseason in the system and the Patriots have a lot of cap space and draft picks they can bring to bear on rebuilding the team, particularly his supporting cast on offense.
A strong environment might be the key to emphasizing some of the positive traits Newton showed he still possessed this past season. If he gets it, it’s quite possible we could see a strong second act to Newton’s career like what we’ve seen from guys like Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham and Steve McNair. Stay tuned.
This Week In Football
- This was easily the busiest week of the year with the news that the NFL set the final salary cap number giving teams the final bit of security they needed to finalize plans for the 2021 offseason. Perhaps the biggest story is that the Cowboys finally closed their years-long negotiation with QB Dak Prescott, signing him to a four-year, $160 million deal. We’ve beaten this story to death, so I don’t have much more to add, except to drop a reminder that every flipped out when his agent asked for $40 million a year and a half ago and here we are.
- The franchise tag deadline was on Tuesday and like every year there were a couple of surprises.
- The Saints put the franchise tag on S Marcus Williams for $10 million despite being about six times that over budget. At this point, I think the Saints pull moves like this partially just to troll fans and media who still don’t understand how they run their books. It’s at the very least a perk.
- The Jaguars had the other surprise, putting the tag on LT Cam Robinson that has a value of about $13.7 million. That’s a few million more than anyone thought Robinson was going to make in free agency and appears to take left tackle off the board for Jacksonville.
- There were a few non-tags that were also notable. Most indications had the Lions putting the tag on WR Kenny Golladay, but Detroit will let him walk unobstructed into free agency. He’s the top receiver available but he’s also 27 and might not have fit the Lions’ timeline given they’re looking at a long rebuild.
- The Chargers elected not to tag TE Hunter Henry again for $12.9 million. They hope to bring him back but this suggests he’ll find more money elsewhere.
- Green Bay historically has shied away from using the franchise tag but there was some thought the $8.655 million running back tag would have been too much of a steal not to use on Aaron Jones. The Packers declined, though, and now they’ll face competition to bring him back.
- Tagging Williams came at a cost for the Saints, as they had to get a little more aggressive with moves to get under the cap than some predicted. There were obvious restructures for guys like DE Cameron Jordan, LB Demario Davis, S Malcolm Jenkins and G Andrus Peat and the expected release of LB Kwon Alexander. But they also had to say goodbye to No. 2 WR Emmanuel Sanders and No. 2 CB Janoris Jenkins, two key starters they’ll need to draft or sign cheaper replacements for.
- Plenty of other teams had to make tough cuts from their rosters as well, with probably more to come before the start of the new league year. Getting chopped this week:
- Raiders G Richie Incognito and S Lamarcus Joyner (NFLTR)
- Seahawks DE Carlos Dunlap (NFLTR)
- Bears RT Bobby Massie (NFLTR)
- Titans CB Malcolm Butler and S Kenny Vaccaro (NFLTR)
- Bills WR John Brown and DL Quinton Jefferson (NFLTR)
- Giants G Kevin Zeitler (NFLTR)
- Vikings LT Riley Reiff (NFLTR)
- Dolphins LB Kyle Van Noy (NFLTR)
- Chiefs LT Eric Fisher and RT Mitchell Schwartz (NFLTR)
- Lions CB Justin Coleman and TE Jesse James (NFLTR)
- It was not all news about players exiting. After placing the franchise tag on WR Chris Godwin, the Buccaneers re-signed LB Lavonte David to a two-year, $25 million extension to keep a key piece of their Super Bowl team in the building. They immediately turned their attention toward negotiating with OLB Shaq Barrett, who would be one of the top pass rushers available if he makes it to free agency.
- The Bills were also busy, signing S Micah Hyde to a two-year, $19.25 million extension. That was important, but the really big news was Buffalo coming to an agreement on a four-year, $44 million deal with LB Matt Milano, a player GM Brandon Beane sounded resigned to losing just a few weeks ago. Milano either didn’t want to risk free agency with the lower cap or got some intel on what was out there, as $11 million is less than what some projections had for him. He gets $24 million guaranteed, though, so he didn’t do too shabby for himself.
- Two more trades were agreed to that will be processed at the start of the new league year next Wednesday. The Titans dumped 2020 first-round OT Isaiah Wilson on the Dolphins, moving a seventh-round pick from 2022 to 2021 and eating the rest of Wilson’s guarantees to cut bait. It’s almost zero risk for the Dolphins aside from the few million they’ll still have to pay him, and there are some former coaches and teammates who can perhaps help him get his career on track. It’s not as disastrous a start as another first-round pick out of Georgia, CB Deandre Baker. It’s not that far behind, though.
- The Raiders agreed to a trade that will send RT Trent Brown back to the Patriots, freeing up $14 million in cap space for Las Vegas after it had become disillusioned about Brown’s ability to stay healthy. If he can stay on the field, though, it becomes a major addition to New England’s decent but not overwhelming offensive line. All it cost was moving down from the fifth to the seventh in next year’s draft. Well worth the risk, as a few of Brown’s ailments were of the fluke nature in 2020.
- Others who could be available in a trade either before the league year or soon after it starts include Eagles TE Zach Ertz, who is also a candidate to join numerous other tight ends who have already been cut this offseason, and Browns TE David Njoku, where the writing has been on the wall for some time. It’s not a bad year to need a tight end.
- There was also more quarterback news. The Eagles are apparently going to be more invested in Jalen Hurts as the quarterback of the future, at least in 2021, than some people thought, as owner Jeffery Lurie wants the team to focus on giving Hurts what he needs to be successful rather than spending resources on competition or a successor.
- As for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, teams are calling and the Seahawks are listening, so trade talks are happening. Out of his list of four teams, the Cowboys are out and the Raiders have apparently yet to get involved. That leaves the Saints, who have some cap issues to work out first, and the Bears — who are thrilled that Wilson is interested after they were staring at a bunch of non-inspiring potential solutions to their issues at the position this offseason in a make-or-break year for GM Ryan Pace and HC Matt Nagy. We went more in-depth on how the logistics of a Wilson trade could work a couple weeks ago in NFLTR Review.
The Big Picture: Is Trading Two Firsts Ever Worth It?
We’ve already seen a couple of blockbuster trades this offseason and there’s a fair chance we might see more with all of the quarterback movement set to potentially unfold. It continues a trend of modern general managers being more willing to aggressively part with picks than ever. In just the past few seasons, we’ve seen huge trade packages put together for players like Khalil Mack, Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey and Jamal Adams. But were they worth it?
We’ll have to wait a few more seasons to judge how these major swings for quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford and potentially Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson will go. We have enough data to start to judge the blockbuster deals for non-quarterbacks though, which include moves for Mack, Tunsil, Ramsey and most recently Adams.
The Mack trade is now three full seasons into the books, and to the Bears’ credit, they got what they were looking for — a star impact pass rusher. In Mack’s first year, he had 12.5 sacks and helped lead the league’s No. 1 defensive unit in points per game.
However, in the past two seasons there has been some slippage. Mack’s sack totals have dropped to 8.5 and nine the past two seasons and his pass-rush productivity rating has also slipped from elite to just good. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the Bears have also slipped, from No. 3 in defensive yardage to No. 8 in 2019 and down again to No. 11 this past season.
One benefit of bringing Mack on board was supposed to be how he would elevate the rest of the defense, including making it easier for other pass rushers to win one-on-one battles. In 2018, that vision was executed, as the Bears were third in the NFL with 50 sacks. Even though that total dropped to 32 a year later, Chicago was still creating pressure at a similar clip (25.2 vs 26.7 percent) even if it wasn’t converting into sacks. By this past season, though, the sack numbers stayed fairly flat at 35 and the Bears’ pressure percentage fell to 22.4 percent.
So far, that leaves the Bears with one great season, both from Mack and the defense as a whole, and two good to decent ones. Is that worth two first-round picks? It might not be once the opportunity cost of not having two first-round picks the past few seasons is factored in. Or the fact that Mack is on the other side of 30 and the defense is trending the wrong way with a number of other leaks popping up.
This trend will emerge as we examine these trades further. While football doesn’t yet have a reliable WAR metric like baseball to measure value added over replacement-level production, it’s clear that quarterback stands above all other positions in terms of how varying degrees of competency can positively impact a team. Every other position is minimized by how interconnected they are to each other.
Running backs depend on their blocking, receivers depend on the quarterbacks getting them the ball. Defenses are often only as good as their weakest link, especially when faced with a quarterback or play-caller who knows how to mercilessly hone in on an advantage. A shutdown corner, ball-hawking safety or sideline-to-sideline linebacker can only take away so much of the field. A top pass rusher has the most impact because of how they directly impact the quarterback, which is why there is an argument to be had over Mack being worth that trade. But even elite pass rushers can be stymied when teams are getting the ball out in 2.5 seconds or less.
If pass rushers are the most important position aside from quarterbacks, then it stands to reason the players tasked with blocking them should also have a case for being of high importance. There are more big, fast and scary athletes that choose to play defense than offense, so the NFL always puts a premium on quality linemen, especially tackles. That was the rationale for former Texans HC Bill O’Brien when he traded two first-round picks for Tunsil to finally solve Houston’s issues protecting Watson.
Like Chicago, the Texans got what they were after with a rock-solid blindside protector. Tunsil has allowed just five sacks in two seasons and has dramatically cut back on the penalties. His immediate predecessor, Julie’n Davenport, allowed 12 sacks the year before Tunsil arrived in 2018.
However, that hasn’t necessarily solved Houston’s pass protection issues. Watson has been sacked less than the league-leading 62 times he was taken down in 2018 the past two seasons, with Houston allowing 44 and 49 sacks in that time. The Texans still are among the worst teams every year in sack rate allowed, ranking 31st, 32nd, 27th and 30th since drafting Watson. Paradoxically, they were even better with Tunsil off the field in 2020.
Interesting splits with and without Laremy Tunsil on the field for the #Texans…
9.1% sack rate on 534 dropbacks
45.2% offensive success rate
4.7% sack rate on 119 dropbacks
51.8% offensive success rate
— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) January 21, 2021
Insert standard caution about small sample size and all that. But it does appear clear that while Tunsil himself has been a quality player, adding him alone has not solved the protection issues Houston faces. When you dig deeper into offensive line play, that actually makes sense. While there are five positions, the whole line works together as one unit. After weeding out non-NFL athletes, it almost becomes more important to have chemistry and strong communication handle complicated protection schemes and seamlessly pick up blitzes, twists, stunts and other devilry cooked up by defensive coordinators.
It’s why the best offensive lines often are the ones with the most continuity. Adding Tunsil was a strong move by the Texans but it’s clear they overpaid massively even if tackles see more one-on-one isolated matchups against the game’s best rushers. Tunsil alone was not worth two first-round picks, and we haven’t even gotten into the opportunity cost that Houston surrendered which will include not having the No. 3 overall pick in this draft which they could sorely use.
Unlike Tunsil and Mack, we’ve only seen Ramsey with the Rams for one whole season. That one year was admittedly terrific as he was used all over Los Angeles’ defense as a matchup eliminator to shut down whoever they deemed the biggest threat on the other team. The Rams had the league’s best scoring defense in 2020 so it will be interesting to follow their arc over the next couple of seasons. It’s worth mentioning that like the Texans and Bears, the farthest the Rams have advanced since their blockbuster trade is the divisional round.
Adams has also only had a season with the Seahawks, and one hampered by injury at that. He missed four games and was limited in most of the others with a litany of injuries, notably to his shoulder. Still, he was incredibly productive in a specific role, with 9.5 sacks to set an NFL record for most by a defensive back.
The question many have is if a “box safety” with a limited skill set can be worth the price of two first-round picks. Adams was bad in coverage last year and it’s been an aspect of his game that’s dogged him throughout his career. He’s always been at his best closer to the line of scrimmage. It’s worth noting the injuries last year could have played a role, as Pro Football Focus had him with borderline elite coverage grades in 2018 and 2019. He needs to get back to that level to be able to justify the investment, especially with a new contract coming this offseason.
All four of these guys — Mack, Tunsil, Ramsey and Adams — are elite players at their respective positions. Teams wouldn’t have parted with two precious first-round picks if they didn’t think otherwise. But to truly justify that type of investment, these guys will have to not only reach a transcendent level, but sustain it over multiple seasons.
That’s just not a high enough probability bet to be worth making.
Nickels & Dimes
Quick-hit thoughts and observations from around the NFL…
Good look at how the NFL and the NFLPA set the salary cap each year and why it’s not just copy and paste from a spreadsheet spitting out all the revenues…
Thursday I asked NFLPA exec director DeMaurice Smith to pull back the curtain a bit on the salary cap negotiations and help explain the math. Here's what he said and what the league and union are trying to figure out now pic.twitter.com/NfoYBkFEEl
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) March 8, 2021
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie might want to consider changing his first name to Jerry, as it’s becoming increasingly clear the fella over in Dallas isn’t the only meddlesome owner in the NFC East…
It’s a tough economy to be a guard this year. Incognito, Jackson and Zeitler have all been cut so far. Chargers G Trai Turner and Jaguars G Andrew Norwell could face similar fates when no one bites on them being dangled as trade bait. The Eagles are mulling trading former All-Pro Brandon Brooks. It clearly shows how the league as a whole values the position…
With the one exception being Washington G Brandon Scherff, who received the franchise tag for the second straight season, meaning he’s due to make $18 million in 2021. Back in October, we looked at what a second tag for Scherff could mean for the guard market in NFLTR Review. It still holds up. Washington isn’t going to get much of a discount on that $18 million figure in a long-term deal…
For context, Cowboys-Giants Week 5 had 23 million viewers last season. https://t.co/j9e8TPws9x
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) March 8, 2021
There are a million examples of this illustrating the same point that the NFL is king when it comes to TV. Just keep this in mind whenever the discourse about boycotts or the league failing crops up again…
The Titans are looking like they’re about to start over completely at the receiver position. Corey Davis is headed to free agency, Adam Humphries was a cap cut. Tennessee didn’t even try to re-sign diminutive speedster/return man Kalif Raymond. It’s A.J. Brown and a bunch of street free agents right now…
We still have a long way to go to really be thinking about fantasy football, but I think Brown is someone you should try to make sure you roster in 2021. There’s zero competition for targets. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill should be competent at minimum, and they just cut half their secondary on a bad defense to begin with, so they might be throwing a lot more to catch up. Derrick Henry has also been linked to the Madden cover, and whether you believe in that or not, he’s touched the ball over 700 times the past two seasons…
Gruden, from 2019: "If we came up with the money to make the (Khalil Mack) contract happen, we wouldn’t have Trent Brown, we wouldn't have Antonio Brown, Lamarcus Joyner, and Vontaze Burfict, we wouldn’t have Tyrell Williams" …
Raiders did also get two 1st rounders for a 2nd.
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) March 9, 2021
Oof. The Raiders have lit money on fire in free agency the past two seasons. Gruden’s seat is a long way from getting hot. Mike Mayock on the other hand…
Vikings K Dan Bailey is the latest example of how teams have zero patience for kickers and specialists in general. He was good for Minnesota, a team that has struggled to find reliable kickers at times, in 2019, making 27-29 of his field goals and 40-44 of his PATs. He slipped in 2020, going just 15-22 from three and 37-43 for one. The Vikings signed another kicker off a practice squad and cut Bailey before his guarantees kicked in…
It was unlikely before, but after the Panthers’ restructure of RB Christian McCaffrey it would cost Carolina almost $18 million against their cap to trade him before June 1, meaning there’s no way in hell he’s a part of any Watson trade before the draft…