Not only is it Friday, but it's the Friday before a holiday weekend, which can only mean one thing: The NFL's annual Fourth of July holiday news dump is upon us.
The NFL loves to dump news just before the holidays and it got a big start on Thursday when it announced that the Washington Football Team would be hit with a league-record $10 million fine.
There could also be more news today and that's because it's the deadline for any player who wants to opt out of the 2021 season due to COVID concerns. A total of 67 players opted out last year, but this year, no one has opted out so far. Right now, all eyes are on Aaron Rodgers and that's because opting out is basically his nuclear option. He likely won't do it, but if he does, there would be a lot of ramifications involved and you can check out those ramifications by clicking here.
For everyone else, let's get to the rundown. We've got a lot to cover, including America's Team getting tabbed for "Hard Knocks" just two days before America's birthday. George Washington would be proud.
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1. Today's show: Ranking the top 10 safeties in the NFL
If you read this newsletter every day, you've probably noticed that we've been ranking every position group in the NFL over the past few weeks. The man in charge of ranking the top 10 safeties in the NFL was Tyler Sullivan and he joined the Pick Six Podcast on Friday to discuss his list with Will Brinson. To be honest, we were lucky to even got a podcast today because Brinson usually takes the entire week off in the lead up to a holiday weekend.
Anyway, according to Sullivan, the top three safeties in the NFL heading into the 2021 season are:
1. Justin Simmons, Broncos
2. Tyrann Mathieu, Chiefs
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers
Of course, Brinson isn't the type of host who wants to focus on the top three. Instead, Brinson decided to grill Sullivan about a few of his snubs and he started that grilling process by bringing Jamal Adams and Budda Baker into the conversation (Neither guy cracked the top 10).
To listen to today's episode -- and to hear Sullivan get grilled about his snubs -- be sure to click here. You can also check out Sullivan's entire top 10 list by clicking here.
2. NFL hits Washington with record-setting fine
After a lengthy investigation into the workplace misconduct of the Washington Football Team, the NFL dropped the hammer on Thursday, hitting the franchise with a record-setting $10 million fine.
The NFL had been investigating the team since Sept. 1 when the league decided to take a look at Washington's workplace issues following a bombshell story from the Washington Post where 15 women accused former team executives of sexual harassment.
Here's a look at the fallout from the NFL's ruling:
- Washington hit with largest fine in NFL history. The $10 million fine was the largest in NFL history and it's not even close. Before Thursday, no team in the NFL had ever even been hit with a $2 million fine. If you want to check out the 10 biggest fines in league history, be sure to click here (Washington might end up being out more than $17 million and that's because the team is also required to pay for the investigation). The fine money "will be used to support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics," according to the league.
- Dan Snyder sidelined. Snyder didn't get suspended, but it kind of feels that way. The Washington owner isn't allowed to handle day-to-day team operations for the foreseeable future. Snyder's wife, Tanya, who was appointed co-CEO of the team this week, will assume responsibilities for all day-to-day team operations and represent the club at all league meetings and other league activities for at least the next several months. Dan Snyder will reportedly have to get approval from Roger Goodell before he's allowed to assume day-to-day operations.
- Washington has to follow a 10-step process to help repair things. Under the NFL ruling, the team has to put in place better protocols for reporting harassment. It also has to agree to create a more diverse workplace and establish clear lines of authority. When it comes to improvements that the team has to make, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The team will have to file regular progress reports until July 2023.
- NFL receives some blowback. The NFL decided not to released its findings in the Washington investigation, which is a decision that didn't sit well with a lot of people. Two lawyers who were involved in the case, because they represent multiple former team employees, released a scathing statement on Thursday. "The NFL has chosen to protect owner Dan Snyder. Ignoring our requests that it make the report prepared by Beth Wilkinson public, the NFL has chosen instead to receive only an oral report of the findings and to find Dan Snyder what amounts to pocket change." You can read the entire statement by clicking here.
The NFL dropped the hammer on Dan Snyder, but the team came away unscathed for the most part. Over the past few years, the NFL has shown that it will strip draft picks away from a team that breaks the rules, but with Washington, the league decided to only punish the team's front office.
3. Predicting every game on the Lions' 2021 schedule
Now that summer is here, that means the dead part of the NFL offseason is upon us and although things can get kind of boring during this period, we're going to keep things spicy around here by going through and predicting every game on each team's 2021 schedule.
There are 32 teams and we'll be doing one team per day until we make it through every team, which is actually about to happen. After 28 days of doing this, we're down to our final four teams and all of those teams just happen to be in the NFC North.
Since I like to go from worst-to-best, we're going to start our run through the NFC North by looking at the Lions' schedule.
Our Jeff Kerr went through Detroit's entire schedule and picked out all the games the Lions are going to win and all the games they're going to lose and let me just say, if Kerr ends up being correct with all his picks, the Lions are going to lose a lot of games.
Here's a look at how Kerr sees the Lions doing in three key games, along with the final record he sees them ending up with:
- Week 1: 49ers at Lions. "The 49ers are a division contender and look to put their stamp on any opponent in Week 1 -- it just happens to be the Lions. Detroit's offensive line will be tested against San Francisco's fearsome pass rush, a good challenge for the young group." Prediction: San Francisco over Detroit.
- Week 6: Bengals at Lions. "Detroit's defense has a breakthrough performance against Cincinnati's high-powered offense. The Bengals offensive line won't be enough to protect Joe Burrow and Dan Campbell gets his first victory as Lions head coach." Prediction: Detroit over Cincinnati.
- Week 12: Bears at Lions. "Thanksgiving games always have a special meaning for the Lions, who typically play well on the holiday. The Lions have played the Bears tough on Thanksgiving in recent years. Look for Jared Goff to shine on the nationally televised stage. Huge upset for Detroit against a division rival." Prediction: Detroit over Chicago.
Overall, Kerr is predicting that the Lions will end the season with a 4-13 record. If Lions fans are looking for a small upside to Kerr's prediction, he does have Detroit finishing strong down the stretch, well, strong for Detroit. After getting off to a 1-9 start, Kerr is predicting that they're going to go 3-4 in their final seven games. Look, I know it's not much, but that's the only good news I have for Lions fans.
If you want to see Kerr's prediction for each game, be sure to click here so you can check out his entire story.
Coming on Monday, we'll be continuing our run through the NFC North by predicting the Vikings' final record.
4. Ranking the top 10 backup quarterbacks
Over the past few weeks, we've been ranking the top 10 players at every position group heading into the 2021 season. From running backs to receivers to quarterbacks to kickers, I'm pretty sure we've hit every position group possible. Actually, I take that back, there are still two groups left and they'll be coming at you today and Monday.
Today, we're going to be ranking the top 10 backup quarterbacks heading into the 2021 season. This list was put together by Cody Benjamin and if you'd like to tell him how perfect it is, or if you'd like to argue with him, you can do that by clicking here. The crazy thing about this list is that there's a good chance we'll see at least six of the 10 quarterbacks below start multiple games this season.
Top 10 backup quarterbacks
1. Trey Lance, 49ers
2. Justin Fields, Bears
3. Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos
4. Jacoby Brissett, Dolphins
5. Case Keenum, Browns
6. Tyrod Taylor, Texans
7. Jordan Love, Packers
8. Marcus Mariota, Raiders
9. Mac Jones, Patriots
10. Gardner Minshew, Jaguars
Cody actually ranked all 32 backup quarterbacks and if you want to see the entire list, just click here.
5. Cowboys tabbed for 'Hard Knocks'
In what might go down as the least surprising "Hard Knocks" decision of all time, the Dallas Cowboys have been selected to be this year's team on the HBO show. For the 2021 season, there were only five teams eligible to appear on the show and if you look at the list of those five teams -- Cardinals, Panthers, Cowboys, Broncos and Giants -- there was no way the Cowboys weren't going to be picked, especially when you consider that this is the 20th anniversary of the show.
On a somewhat related note, this choice proves my theory that the only reason the Cowboys are called "America's Team" is because the NFL loves to shove them down America's throat.
Here are a few nuggets about the show:
- Cowboys set record for most appearances. This year will mark the third time that the Cowboys have appeared on "Hard Knocks", which is the most ever. Going into 2021, the Cowboys had appeared twice, which was tied with the Bengals and the Rams.
- "Hard Knocks" did not help the Cowboys. Dallas' two "Hard Knocks" appearances came in 2002 and 2008 and neither season ended with a playoff appearance. In 2002, the Cowboys finished dead last in the NFC East with a 5-11 record. In 2008, things were slightly better, but the Cowboys missed the postseason even though they had a 9-7 record.
- There will be plenty of storylines. Not only will we be getting a front row seat to Dak Prescott's return from injury, but I'm thinking we're also going to get to see whether or not Mike McCarthy has completely lost his ability to coach. Ezekiel Elliott should also be interesting to watch, plus, there's also Jerry Jones, who will undoubtedly do his best to make sure he shows up on camera for at least 30 minutes on each show.
The show will be kicking off on Tuesday, Aug. 10 and then it will air every Tuesday on HBO and HBO Max until Sept. 7.
6. Rapid-fire roundup
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.
- 49ers, Jaguars and Cowboys all fined for OTA violations. Washington wasn't the only team hit with a fine on Thursday. In another news dump from the NFL, three other teams were also hit with some pretty big fines. The Jaguars were fined $200,000 and Urban Meyer was hit with a separate fine of $100,000 for an OTA violation from June 1. The fines were slightly smaller for the Cowboys and 49ers, who were both hit docked $100,000. In both instances, the coaches (Mike McCarthy and Kyle Shanahan) were also fined $50,000.
- Kurt Warner's movie has a release date. Late last year, Lionsgate announced that it would be making a movie about Kurt Warner's life and that movie now has a release date. The film, which is called "American Underdog" will be hitting theaters on Dec. 10. For more details on the movie, be sure to click here.
- NFL rookie indicted on murder charge. Former Seahawks wide receiver Tamorrion Terry, who was cut by the team this week, has been indicted on felony murder charges stemming from a 2018 mass shooting at a night club in Georgia. Terry was one of eleven people indicted in the case. For more details on the situation, be sure to click here.
- NFL and the Olympics Part I. Although Marquise Goodwin didn't make the U.S. Olympic team, the league will have some indirect representation at the games. Jessica Pegula, the daughter of Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, was named to the U.S. Olympic tennis team on Thursday.
- NFL and the Olympics Part II. Not to be outdone, Melissa Gonzalez will also be headed to the Olympics after she qualified for the Colombian Olympic team in the 400m hurdles. If you're wondering how that's related to the NFL, Gonzalez is the wife of Lions backup quarterback David Blough.