Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
It's the Ides of March, which is kind of fitting for today, because it's definitely backstabbing season in the NFL. The lead-up to free agency can be one of the most brutal stretches on the league calendar for players and that's because dozens of them generally get released before the official start of free agency, which will be coming on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
Today alone, we've already seen reports that the Rams are going to cut four-time All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker, the Jaguars are done with linebacker Myles Jack and the Titans will be moving on from cornerback Janoris "Jackrabbit" Jenkins. I would say I'm surprised by the Jack move, but let's be honest, the Jaguars had to cut SOMEONE to make the salary cap work after going out and spending nearly $250 million in free agency yesterday.
Hopefully the Jags will let a few other teams sign some players today. As the tampering period heads into Day 2, deals will be happening all day Tuesday, so to make sure you stay on top of all of those, you're definitely going to want to click here so you can check out our live blog. If you're too busy to be following a live blog, you can also click here to check out our free agent tracker that will be updated any time one of the top 100 free agents signs a deal.
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. Alright, let's get to the rundown.
Also, with NCAA Tournament tipping off this week, I'd like to formally invite everyone to join the Pick Six Podcast bracket challenge. It's free to enter and if you somehow win, you'll take home a $100 gift card to Paramount Plus. You will likely destroy me in this pool, but unfortunately, there's no prize for destroying me (there's also no prize for destroying men, which is what I think I wrote yesterday). Just click here and sign up if you want to enter.
1. Today's show: Recapping Day 1 of 'free agency'
The unofficial start of free agency came on Monday and as expected, things got kind of crazy: The Jaguars spent nearly $250 million, the Bengals finally got some protection for Joe Burrow and the Chargers are apparently building a super team out West, at least from a defensive standpoint.
After a wild day, Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and I sat down to record a podcast together to discuss every single move that was made and since there were a lot of moves made, the podcast lasted more than an hour, which is arguably impressive, because with all the deals that happened on Monday, this thing could have easily gone on for nine hours.
As a matter of fact, we probably could have done a separate nine-hour podcast on just the Jaguars, who went on a huge spending spree. Here's a look at what Jacksonville did on Monday:
- WR Christian Kirk agrees to a four-year, $72 million deal (that's worth up to $84 million)
- WR Zay Jones intends to sign a three-year, $24 million deal
- Brandon Scherff gets a three-year deal worth up to $52.5 million (including $30 million guaranteed)
- LB Foye Oluokun agrees to a three-year, $45 million contract
- DT Foley Fatukasi gets a three-year, $30 million deal
- TE Evan Engram lands a one-year, $9 million deal
If you're scoring at home, that's $229.5 million. During the podcast, we talked about why Trevor Lawrence was a big winner on Monday (he got a new offensive lineman and three new receiving targets), but we also felt that the Jaguars were losers for blowing so much money in free agency. (The Jags have blown money in free agency before and it never seems to work).
Unfortunately, the podcast for today was recorded at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, which means there were several deals from Day 1 of the tampering period that we didn't get to talk about (Basically, any deal that happened Monday night didn't make it in the podcast). The good news is that we'll be covering those deals and today's deals for Wednesday's podcast. Does all of that make sense? I hope all of that makes sense.
To listen to today's episode -- and to subscribe to the podcast -- be sure to click here. You can also watch today's episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Free agency winners and losers for Day 1 of tampering
The only person busier than the Jaguars on Monday was our very own Jordan Dajani, who was in charge of putting together CBSSports.com's list of winners and losers for Day 1 of the tampering period.
Here's what Jordan came up with:
- Jaguars: "The Jaguars shelled out a ton of money on the first day of legal tampering, but also landed legitimate starters. All six players are immediate-impact guys who will help Doug Pederson in turning this franchise around."
- Chargers: "The Chargers landed the best cornerback in the class in J.C. Jackson, who reportedly agreed to a five-year, $82.5 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. L.A. had the third-worst run defense in the NFL last season and the Chargers tried to address that as well, reportedly landing Austin Johnson after a career-year (two-year deal, up to $14 million), and stealing defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day from the rival Rams (three-year deal, $24 million, $15 million guaranteed). "
- Bengals: "The Bengals filled their biggest need by adding two key offensive linemen in Alex Cappas and Ted Karras. This was something the Bengals had to address this offseason, as Cincy's offensive line allowed 19 sacks in the postseason, which broke a record. Joe Burrow was sacked a total of 70 times last year, which was the third most in a single season since the merger."
- Colts: "The Colts are looking for a new starting quarterback after trading Carson Wentz to the Commanders, but Monday took away some options. Teddy Bridgewater is reportedly headed to the Dolphins and Mitchell Trubisky is headed to the Pittsburgh Steelers. To make matters worse, the Houston Texans declined the Colts' attempt to speak with Deshaun Watson, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter."
- Seahawks: "Seattle just got Noah Fant in a trade with the Broncos so why did the Seahawks reportedly re-sign tight end Will Dissly to a three-year, $24 million deal? Dissly is a young, talented blocking tight end who hasn't surpassed 262 receiving yards in a single season in four years, but is certainly worth an extension. Yet giving him $8 million a year -- an AAV higher than Darren Waller -- is pretty surprising. Dissly is going to get plenty of playing time as TE2, but this is an overpay. "
- Cardinals (Bonus loser from the podcast): "Not only did they lose Christian Kirk, but they handed out questionable deals to both James Connor (three years, $21 million) and Zach Ertz (three years, $31.65 million)."
For a more in-depth explanation on each of those choices, be sure to check out Jordan's full story by clicking here.
3. Grading some of the biggest free agency deals
The only thing better than making a winners and losers list for the first day of the NFL tampering period is to grade each one of the deals, so that's exactly what we had Professor Bryan DeArdo do (I'm not sure if he's actually a professor, but I'm giving him that title for the day).
Here's a look at the grades DeArdo handed out for five of the biggest deals from Monday:
- Mitchell Trubisky agrees to terms with the Steelers (two years, $14.25 million): B. "Pittsburgh nabs the top-rated quarterback in free agency, and for a good price (a two-year, $14.25 million deal worth up to $27 million, per NFL Network). A Pro Bowler in 2018 as a member of the Bears, Trubisky presents a formidable challenge to Mason Rudolph in the upcoming battle to be Ben Roethlisberger's successor."
- J.C. Jackson agrees to terms with Chargers (five years, $82.5 million): B. "The Chargers' big offseason now includes the addition of Jackson, who picked off eight passes for the Patriots last season. Jackson wasn't cheap, so the pressure for him to perform will be on."
- Christian Kirk agrees to terms with Jaguars (four years, $72 million): D-. "In Kirk, the Jaguars now have a 25-year-old receiver who appears to be coming into his own as a big-time player. But the price tag (a reported four years for as much as $84 million) is way too much money for a receiver who has yet to top 1,000 yards in a season."
- Justin Reid agrees to terms with Chiefs (three years, $31.5 million): B-. "Instead of re-signing Tyrann Mathieu, the Chiefs instead decided to sign the former Texans safety to a three-year, $31.5 deal. Was this really an upgrade? Only time will tell."
- Teddy Bridgewater agrees to terms with Dolphins (one-year, $6.5 million): B+. "Bridgewater gives Miami a very capable and experienced backup behind Tua Tagovailoa. The only possible concern here could be if Bridgewater practices/plays well enough to start a quarterback controversy."
If you want to see the rest of DeArdo's grades for Day 1, be sure to click here.
4. Aaron Rodgers finally signs his new contract: Here are the details of his record-setting deal
When Aaron Rodgers announced last week that he would be returning to the Packers, it was reported that Green Bay got him to come back by offering him a record-setting four-year contract worth up to $200 million. One week later, Rodgers has finally signed his new deal and although he did end up scoring a record-setting contract, it's not quite for $200 million.
According to multiple reports, Rodgers signed a three-year extension on Tuesday that will pay him $150 million. It had been reported for weeks that Rodgers would be getting $50 million per year, and even though he denied it, that's exactly what he ended up getting, which makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history in terms of average annual salary (The previous record belonged to Patrick Mahomes, who is making $45 million per year).
Here are the details on the pay in his new contract (via NFL.com) and the cap hits the Packers will be taking (also via NFL.com):
2022: $42 million in pay, $28.5 million salary cap hit
2023: $59.52 million in pay, $31.6 million salary cap hit
2024: $49.3 million in pay, $40.7 million salary cap hit
The most notable number here for the Packers' is $28.5 million, which is Rodgers' salary cap hit for 2022. Under the terms of his old deal, Rodgers was scheduled to have a $46.7 million cap hit, so the Packers just picked up $18.2 million of much-needed cap space for the upcoming season. Thanks to the new deal, the Packers are now inching closer to being salary cap compliant. The team only has a few million dollars more to clear off their books before the NFL deadline of 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The biggest downside of the new deal is that the Packers will be in a lot of trouble if Rodgers doesn't play all three seasons. According to NFL.com, if Rodgers retires or gets cut following the 2023 season, the Packers will be stuck with a $68.21 MILLION DEAD CAP HIT in 2024, so there definitely could be some drama following the 2023 season.
Also, with Rodgers now under contract through 2024, this raises a lot of questions about Jordan Love's future with the Packers. Love's contract expires after the 2023 season, so the Packers could hold on to him for cheap for at least the next two seasons, but then they'd have a huge decision to make after 2023 if Rodgers is planning on playing in 2024. On the other hand, they could look to trade Love for some draft compensation so that they can take advantage of the small Super Bowl window they still have with Rodgers.
5. Biggest free agents left
Free agency hasn't even technically started and we've already seen four of the top 10 available players get signed. If your team sat out the first day of free agency tampering, you don't need to worry just yet and that's because there are plenty of good players who are still available.
The biggest prize left on the market is definitely Terron Armstead, who will be an instant upgrade at left tackle for pretty much any team in the NFL. With that in mind, let's check out the 10 highest-ranked players from Prisco's top 100 list who are still available (they're listed with the team they played for last season):
1. OT Terron Armstead (Saints)
2. OLB Von Miller (Rams)
3. EDGE Chandler Jones (Cardinals)
4. WR Allen Robinson (Bears)
5. CB Stephon Gilmore (Panthers)
6. CB Darious Williams (Rams)
7. LB Bobby Wagner (Seahawks)
8. FS Tyrann Mathieu (Chiefs)
9. OT Trent Brown (Patriots)
10. DL Akiem Hicks (Bears)
The six players from Prisco's original top 10 who are now off the market are: J.C. Jackson, Carlton Davis, Brandon Scherff, Marcus Williams, Randy Gregory and De'Vondre Campbell. Davis (Buccaneers) and Campbell (Packers) both re-signed with the team they played for last year. As for Scherff, he's making the jump from Washington to Jacksonville, while Williams is leaving New Orleans for Baltimore and Jackson will be going from the Patriots to the Chargers. The strangest twist was Gregory's decision to spurn the Cowboys for the Broncos, which you can read more about below.
The tampering period will be continuing today and since deals could be going down all day Tuesday, here's another reminder that we've put together a free agent tracker so that you can stay up to date on what has happened so far. If you'd like to check out the tracker, just click here. We also have a live blog that will cover signings AND trades as they happen and you can check that out by clicking here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Patriots and Browns pull off trade, plus latest on Deshaun Watson
It's been a wild 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.
- Patriots and Browns exchange defensive players. It's not often you see a player-for-player trade that involves zero draft picks, but that's what we got on Tuesday when the Patriots sent Chase Winovich to Cleveland in exchange for Browns linebacker Mack Wilson. For more details on the trade, be sure to click here.
- Deshaun Watson meeting with the Browns today, four teams appear to have inside track to landing QB. The trade with the Patriots might not be the last one the Browns pull off this week. According to multiple reports, the Browns are meeting with Watson's camp today in hopes of making a deal happen. Right now, the Watson sweepstakes seems to be down to four teams with the Browns, Panthers and Saints all in the running. According to ESPN.com, the Falcons have also emerged as a mystery team that we need to keep an eye on. The Colts wanted to be in the running, but the Texans basically told Indy that there's no way they were going to trade the QB to a division rival, so the Colts are now out.
- Randy Gregory drama in Dallas. The Cowboys are always good for some drama and that was definitely the case on Tuesday. In the early morning hours, it looked like the team had agreed to terms with Gregory on a five-year deal worth up to $70 million, but just hours after that deal was reported, it seems Gregory has had a change of heart. According CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora, the defensive end has now decided to sign with the Broncos.
- Cardinals restructure DeAndre Hopkins' contract. The Cardinals have reworked Hopkins' deal in an effort to clear up some salary cap space. The team turned a $10.65 million roster bonus into a signing bonus, which allows the franchise to spread the cap hit over the life of the contract. According to ESPN.com, the move will free up $7.1 million in cap space for Arizona.
- Seahawks star catches passes from Colin Kaepernick. Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett joined Colin Kaepernick for a throwing session on Monday as the QB continues his effort to make an NFL return in 2022. The interesting thing about Lockett being involved is that the Seahawks need a QB AND Seattle was the ONLY team that brought Kaepernick in for a workout during the five years where he was basically black-balled from the NFL.