Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I was going to spend the first five minutes of today's newsletter bragging about my bracket, but that thing has been in the trash since Saturday because that's what happens when you pick Tennessee to win it all. Thanks for nothing Tennessee.
Of course, it's probably for the best that I won't be talking about my bracket because we need to spend as much time as possible discussing everything that happened in the NFL over the past 72 hours, because it was a crazy 72 hours. The fun started at 3:46 p.m. on Friday afternoon when Deshaun Watson decided he wanted to play for the Browns and it's been total chaos since then.
We'll be going over the details of the Watson trade, plus we'll be taking a look at the huge weekend that the Rams had. Also, we'll be taking a look at the top 10 free agents who are still left on the free agent market.
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.
1. Today's show: Monday Mailbag!
During the NFL offseason, we like to spice things up each week on the Pick Six Podcast by adding a listener mailbag every Monday.
Our mailbag episodes are pretty simple: We read listener questions during the show and then answer as many of those questions as possible. Questions can be about literally anything. I mean, I'm pretty sure there was one time when someone asked if I prefer the left Twix or the right Twix, so if we'll answer that question, trust me when I say we'll answer almost anything (Also, the answer is always left Twix).
Anyway, if you want to submit a question, all you have to do is go to Apple Podcasts (click here) and leave a five-star review that includes your question.
Here's one question that Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and I answered in today's mailbag:
Q: Now that Davante Adams is out of Green Bay and with the Packers losing a couple of other pieces already, has the NFC North opened back up? Packers are far, far, far from a lock. Do the Vikings go all in on this season now? Especially given that they have committed to Kirk Cousins as the short-term successful option at quarterback.
A: The biggest winner of the Davante Adams trade might have been VIKINGS FANS and that's because it looks like they've now convinced themselves that they might be able to win the NFC North this year and the thing is, I DONT'T think that's such a crazy idea. There's no team in the NFL that had worse luck than the Vikings last year. I mean, eight of their nine losses came by just one score. The Vikings are a good team that just couldn't finish games and when you lose a lot of close games, coaching tends to play a part in that.
With Mike Zimmer out and Kevin O'Connell in charge now, I think we'll see Minnesota open up its offense. The Vikings have the best skill players in the NFC North, so the offense should be able to put on a show this year. I don't want to say Vikings fans have already brainwashed me, but I feel like Minnesota has a legitimate shot to win the division. If I had to bet now, I'd probably take the Packers, but I won't be surprised if I talk myself into the Vikings by the time August rolls around.
Anyway, to listen to the rest of the mailbag, be sure to click here. You can also watch today's episode on YouTube by clicking here.
By the way, we ALSO had an emergency podcast on the Deshaun Watson trade and you can check that out by clicking here.
2. Deshaun Watson shockingly traded to the Browns: Full trade details, plus grading the deal for both teams
Normally, I don't like to start things off the top here with news from something that happened on FRIDAY, but since that day gave us one of the biggest trades in NFL history, we're going to make an exception here. In a shocking turn of events, Deshaun Watson decided he wanted to play for a team that he had previously decided he didn't want to play for: The Cleveland Browns.
Watson originally had four finalists for his services: The Browns, Panthers, Saints and Falcons.
Last week, he eliminated the Browns (on March 16) and Panthers (on March 17) and it looked like he was going to be dealt to the Falcons or Saints, but then he apparently had a change of heart. Actually, I'm not so sure it was a change of heart, it feels more like the Browns simply offered him a contract he couldn't refuse.
Here's a look at the trade details along with his record-breaking new contract and some ramifications of the deal:
- Browns receive: Deshaun Watson, 2024 fifth-round pick
- Texans receive: 2022 first-round pick (13th overall), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2023 third-round pick and 2024 fourth-round pick
- Watson lands the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history To make the trade happen, the Browns gave Watson a five-year deal worth a total of $230 million, which is an average of $46 million per year. The history-making part here is that the entire contract is GUARANTEED, which means Watson will be getting every dollar.
- The contract was set up so that Watson won't take a hit if he gets suspended. In the first year of the deal Watson will only make the veteran minimum of $1.035 million in base salary. The QB did this to protect himself in case he gets suspended. With such a low base salary, Watson will only lose out on $57,500 for each week he's suspended. In the final four years of the deal, he'll make $46 million per year. If he had made that for 2022, his possible suspension would put him out $2.56 million per game.
- Browns make multiple QB moves over the weekend. Not only did the Browns trade for Watson, but they also made another QB trade over the weekend when they dealt Case Keenum to Buffalo for a 2022 seventh-round pick. With Keenum gone, the Browns then pulled off a third move at quarterback by signing Jacoby Brissett to serve as Watson's backup.
- Baker Mayfield trade will be coming soon. We mentioned on Friday that Baker Mayfield is demanding a trade and with Watson now in Cleveland, that trade will likely be coming soon. Once the Browns trade Mayfield, they'll pick up $18.86 million in much-needed cap space. Mayfield reportedly wants to be traded to the Colts, but it's unclear if the Browns will appease his wishes for a trade to Indy or trade him to the highest bidder, which might not be the Colts.
This deal was a no-brainer for the Texans. Not only did they get Watson out of Houston, but they landed three first-round picks in the process. Now, the pressure is on the Texans not to waste those three first-round picks. Of the four first-round picks the Texans have made since 2015, only one of them is still with the team.
On the Browns' end, the trade has the potential to turn them into a playoff contender for the next decade. Watson could also help the team end the NFL's longest drought without a division title (The Browns haven't won their division since 1989). Of course, this deal does come with some serious risk. Watson hasn't played football in more than a year, not to mention, he's been accused of sexual assault or misconduct by 22 different women and each of those accusations comes with a civil lawsuit. There's a very good chance Watson could be suspended for part of the 2022 season, but that's a risk the Browns were clearly willing to take.
Whenever there's a trade, there's a 100% chance we're going to hand out grades for that deal and that's exactly what we did in this situation.
The Watson deal was graded by CBSSports.com's Tyler Sullivan and here's what he came up with:
- Texans grade: A. "To get the haul of this magnitude for a player that has as much off-the-field uncertainty as Watson does (even as he won't face criminal charges), it says just as much about Nick Caserio's prowess as it does the quarterback's immense talent. This was just the second time in NFL history in which one team landed three first-round picks in a trade (the Herschel Walker trade was the other). With Houston in a full rebuild, getting as many cracks as possible in the first round is vital to turning the franchise around in relatively short order."
- Browns grade: B+. "The Browns get a clear upgrade at quarterback by slotting in Watson over Baker Mayfield, but this move does come with risks. The most immediate is Watson's off-the-field issues with his outstanding civil lawsuits by 22 different women who allege sexual misconduct or assault. The NFL is still investigating Watson regarding this situation and, when you look at how his new contract is structured, it appears like he is bracing for some type of suspension. Naturally, that'll hurt Cleveland's chances to contend out of the gate in 2022 if Watson misses considerable time."
You can check out Sullivan's full explanation for each grade by clicking here.
3. Rams have a busy weekend: Robert Woods traded to the Titans, Matthew Stafford lands monstrous extension
If you spent money this weekend, I'm guessing you didn't spend as much as the Los Angeles Rams and that's because they went on a $160 million shopping spree. Actually, it wasn't technically a spree, it was a contract for one person and that person was Matthew Stafford.
Less then six weeks after winning the Super Bowl, the Rams rewarded the quarterback by giving him a four-year, $160 million extension. According to NFL.com, the deal is "effectively for three years and worth $129 million with added years for cap purposes." The only number that you need to know is $43 million and that's because that's how much Stafford will be making each year under the extension. The deal ties him with Josh Allen as the fourth-highest paid QB in the NFL.
The Rams also pulled off a trade on Saturday when they shipped Robert Woods off to Tennessee.
Here's a look at the trade details:
- Titans receive: Robert Woods
- Rams receive: 2023 sixth-round pick
After the Rams signed Allen Robinson last week, that made Woods expendable and it didn't take long for L.A. to get rid of him.
As we mentioned above with the Watson blockbuster, if a trade goes down in the NFL there's a 100% chance we're going to hand out grades for that deal.
The Woods deal was graded by CBSSports.com's Jared Dubin and here's what he came up with:
- Titans grade: A. "Widely considered one of the best run-blocking wide receivers in football, Woods should fit seamlessly into the Titans' Derrick Henry-led attack. He also has familiarity with the scheme Tennessee runs, as both the Rams and Titans utilize offshoots of the Shanahan-style offense. Woods' salary ($10 million base, $3.5 million roster bonus) is affordable, and nothing is guaranteed beyond this season. To acquire him for only a sixth-round selection next year makes this an excellent deal for Tennessee."
- Rams grade: C. "The Rams basically just shed some salary here, which they needed to do after signing Allen Robinson to a three-year deal earlier this week and extending Matthew Stafford on Sunday. Getting only a future sixth-round pick is pretty paltry return for a player like Woods"
You can check out Dubin's full explanation for each grade by clicking here.
4. NFL insider notes: QB contracts have changed forever
If we've learned one thing over the past week, it's that if you want a top-tier quarterback in the NFL, you're going to have to pay big time. Before Patrick Mahomes signed his new deal in July 2020, there were exactly ZERO quarterbacks making more than $40 million per year. Less than two years later, that number has now jumped from zero to six with a half-dozen quarterbacks now inked to deals that are worth $40 million per year or more.
CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora says that the impact of these big new contracts will be felt by many, for years to come. From his insider notes:
- The new QB market makes Lamar Jackson a big winner. "If Watson got $230 million from a team he's never played a down for, the Ravens best be ready to pay Jackson $50M a year. Or trade him. If he plays out two franchise tags -- which I continue to hear is something he ain't afraid of – then they face potentially losing him for a 2026 comp pick. Yikes. Jackson's silence speaks volumes."
- Russell Wilson is also a winner. "The Broncos want to get a long-term deal done before the start of next season. He is on a first-ballot Hall of Fame path, and wants to play into his mid-40s. So if Rodgers is worth $50M, and Watson is now $46M, what number is Russ cooking at? You do the math."
- One thing most quarterbacks will be including in all future contracts. "Get used to no-trade clauses being included in most major quarterback contracts. Think about how much control Watson and Wilson had of their situations (and Rodgers effectively had a no-trade clause given how he got the Packers to void a season on his deal a year ago). Cousins just got one included in his latest restructure/extension. "I wouldn't do a meaningful quarterback contract without one at this point," one top agent suggested to me. Oh yeah, and they'll be looking for fully guaranteed deals, too."
One other interesting note that La Canfora shared is that things could soon be getting even uglier between Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. To check out JLC's entire piece, be sure to click here.
5. Top 10 free agents left on the market
Before free agency started, Pete Prisco made a list of his top 100 free agents for 2022 and as we enter the second week of wheeling and dealing, only two of his top 18 players are still available.
The biggest prize left on the market continues to be Terron Armstead, who will be an instant upgrade at left tackle for pretty much any team in the NFL. There had been some speculation that Armstead wouldn't be signing with anyone until he knew what Deshaun Watson was going to do, so now that the QB has a new team, don't be surprised if Armstead signs with someone in the very near future.
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. CB Stephon Gilmore (Panthers)
3. LB Bobby Wagner (Seahawks)
4. FS Tyrann Mathieu (Chiefs)
5. DL Akiem Hicks (Bears)
6. EDGE Jadeveon Clowney (Browns)
7. OL Duane Brown (Seahawks)
8. TE Rob Gronkowski (Buccaneers)
9. WR Odell Beckham (Rams)
10. EDGE Derek Barnett (Eagles)
Free agency will be rolling along today and since it won't be easy to keep track of every signing, 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: Falcons taking calls for Matt Ryan
It was a wild weekend 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.
- Matt Ryan could be traded. The Falcons QB wasn't happy to see his team make a play for Deshaun Watson and because of that, it won't be surprising if he gets traded. According to NFL.com, the Falcons are fielding trade calls for their longtime QB. Ryan has a $7.5 million roster bonus that becomes guaranteed at 4 p.m. ET today, so if the Falcons are going to trade him, getting a done deal TODAY would make the most sense for Atlanta. Basically, this is a situation, you should keep your eye on.
- Bengals land La'el Collins. After watching Joe Burrow get sacked 70 times in 2021, the Bengals have spent all of free agency beefing up their offensive line and they added another big piece on Sunday with the addition of La'el Collins. The former Cowboys right tackle joins Ted Karras and Alex Cappa as the Bengals' new additions up front. According to ESPN.com, Collins has signed a deal that's effectively worth $20 million over the next two years.
- Gerald Everett signs with Chargers. The Chargers have been in the market for a tight end and they found one over the weekend when they signed Everett to a two-year, $12 million deal that's worth up to $13.5 million. Everett is heading back to L.A. after spending four of the first five seasons of his career with the Rams.
- Chiefs add JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Chiefs' offense just got more explosive after the team added Smith-Schuster over the weekend. The former Steelers receiver has agreed to a one-year deal that includes a ton of incentives. According to PFT, Smith-Schuster will make a base salary of just $3.25 million, but if he meets every incentive in his contract, the deal could be worth as much as $10.75 million.
- Patriots have a busy Monday. The Patriots landed one of the top offensive linemen left in free agency when they re-signed Trent Brown. The Patriots' free agent haul could get even bigger in the next 24 hours. Not only did they re-sign Brown, but they're also hosting Leonard Fournette and Malcolm Butler on Monday visits, according to the Athletic.
- Cordarrelle Patterson stays with Falcons. The Falcons' biggest offensive weapon from 2021 has decided to stay with the team. Patterson has agreed to a two-year, $10.5 million deal that will keep him in Atlanta through the 2023 season.
- Rasul Douglas scores new contract with Packers. The free agent cornerback will be returning to Green Bay after agreeing to a three-year deal over the weekend that's worth up to $25.5m million, according to ESPN.com.
- Fletcher Cox returns to Eagles. After Cox got cut by the Eagles last week, the belief was that he would be returning to Philadelphia and that's exactly what has happened. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle has agreed to terms on a one-year, $14 million deal.