Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I have some sad news to start off with today (or happy news, depending on how much you like me), this will be my last day of work ... until August. I'm off tomorrow and I'll be out on vacation all next week, which means you won't hear from me again until Aug. 1.
Cody Benjamin will be taking over next week. I've already given him the garage code, now we just have to hope he doesn't burn the place down. If Deshaun Watson gets suspended or if Jimmy Garoppolo gets traded, feel free to tweet the news to me since there's a 90% chance I'll be napping on the beach and will miss it.
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. Let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's show: Predicting one MVP from each AFC division
Sometimes, we like to get a little weird on the podcast, so that's exactly what we did today. Since there are plenty of NFL podcasts out there trying to predict who will win the MVP this year, we decided to do something different: We went through each division in the AFC and tried to come up with a player who will basically end up being the MVP of that division.
For today's show, Will Brinson brought on Tyler Sullivan and the two of them tried to make the MVP predictions together. The only rule was that they couldn't pick all quarterbacks, which kind of threw a wrench into things.
Here's a look at the list they came up with:
AFC North MVP
Sullivan's pick: Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Brinson's pick: Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett, Steelers
AFC South MVP
Sullivan's pick: Matt Ryan, Colts
Brinson's pick: Doug Pederson, Jaguars
AFC West MVP
Sullivan's pick: Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Brinson's pick: Russell Wilson, Broncos
AFC East MVP
Sullivan's pick: Von Miller, Bills
Brinson's pick: Zach Wilson (Jets) or Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins)
So how did Von Miller get on the list? Sullivan thinks Miller's veteran leadership could be a game-changer for Buffalo's defense.
"Part of Miller's upside is helping those young guys when you get in those big moments," Sullivan said. "You can say, 'listen, I've been here before, I know what's going on, I can help elevate this group.' And it's something the Bills are going to need. The AFC has only gotten more competitive this offseason. When you're facing a Patrick Mahomes or a Justin Herbert or a Russell Wilson in the playoffs, you're going to have to make a stop."
The Bills couldn't make a stop in the playoffs last season against the Chiefs and now they're hoping the addition of Miller will help them make those big plays when they're needed.
If you want to listen to the rest of today's show and hear what they have to say about the other MVP picks, be sure to click here. You can also watch today's episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Looking at possible Jimmy Garoppolo landing spots and what the 49ers' options are
One of the biggest questions left to answer this offseason revolves around Jimmy Garoppolo and where he's going to end up. ESPN reported on Wednesday that the 49ers have given Garoppolo's agents permission to seek a trade, which wasn't exactly news because 49ers GM John Lynch actually said that back in March.
With Garoppolo's name squarely back in the news over the past 24 hours, now seems like a good time to review his situation and for that, we're turning to former NFL agent Joel Corry, who wrote a fantastic explainer about all things Garoppolo this week.
- Why the Garoppolo situation is complicated. The 49ers QB is currently dealing with a shoulder injury and he hasn't been cleared to practice. The belief is that he'll be cleared at some point in mid-August, and at that point, the 49ers would be able to trade him. As Corry points out, though, the timeline creates a problem for both Garoppolo and the 49ers. If he gets traded in mid- to late August, it's not going to be easy for him to compete for a starting QB job with a new team while trying to learn a new offense. Also, if the 49ers have to wait that long to trade him, there likely won't be any teams out there desperately looking for a QB since they'll already have their starting QB in place. This will make it difficult for the 49ers to get anything substantial in return in a possible trade.
- Where Garoppolo could end up. The team that needs him the most is the Seahawks, but they don't have the cap room to handle his $25 million salary and the 49ers might not want to trade him to a division rival. The Browns are also a logical destination and they even have enough cap room to take on Garoppolo's contract. There was a report from Cleveland.com that said the Browns wouldn't be interested in a Garoppolo trade, but they could change their tune quickly if Deshaun Watson ends up getting suspended for the entire year. According to ESPN, the Browns are expected to hold workouts with AJ McCarron and Josh Rosen today, which proves that they're definitely interested in adding someone.
- 49ers might have to wait for a QB injury. We've seen this happen before: A QB goes down in training camp and then that team is forced to make a trade for a new QB. After the Teddy Bridgewater was injured in 2016, the Vikings were forced to trade for Sam Bradford. In 2011, the Raiders lost Jason Campbell early in the season, which forced them to make a trade for Carson Palmer. This isn't a situation the 49ers can count on happening, but if a QB does go down with an injury, it will make a trade much easier for San Francisco.
- The wild card situation. If Garoppolo is going to be stuck in San Francisco until at least mid-August, things could get interesting if Trey Lance has a bad training camp. If that happens -- and Garoppolo is still on the roster -- that could put San Francisco in an awkward situation where they have to at least thing about going back to Jimmy. This isn't likely, but it's not impossible.
- Key date to watch out for: Aug. 30. The final day of cuts is on Aug. 30 and if Garoppolo is still on the roster at that point, he'll be eating up one of San Francisco's 53 roster spots, which wouldn't be ideal. Also, if Garoppolo is on the roster for the Sept. 11 opener against the Bears, then his salary becomes fully guaranteed for 2022 and you have to think the 49ers will do everything in their power to avoid that scenario (Right now, Garoppolo only has a $7.5 million injury guarantee for 2022, but that guarantee goes away if he gets cleared to play before the season starts).
Basically, if the 49ers can't find a trade partner by early September, they could be forced to cut him and that's where a team like the Seahawks could swoop in. Due to Garoppolo's injury, it's unlikely we'll see anything happen until at least mid-August, so we're going to get another month to debate about where he might end up.
If you want to check out a few more possible landings spots for Jimmy G, then click here.
3. Kyler Murray lands monstrous extension from Cardinals
After nearly five months of drama, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals are ready to let bygones be bygones. The two sides agreed to terms on contract huge extension today that will keep Murray in Arizona for the next seven seasons.
Here's what we know about the deal:
- Murray is now the second-highest paid QB in the NFL. The contract is a five-year extension that will keep Murray in Arizona through the 2028 season. According to ESPN.com, the five-year deal is worth a total of $230.5 million and includes $160 million in guarantees. Although Murray isn't getting the fully guaranteed contract that Watson got, he will be making $46.1 million per year, which is just above Watson's annual salary of $46 million. Murray is now only behind Aaron Rodgers, who will be making $50 million per year thanks to the deal he signed this offseason.
- The extension ends some major drama for the Cardinals. The drama between the two sides started in February when Murray's agent, Erik Burkhardt released a statement that basically demanded a new contract. That statement had come just weeks after Murray had erased all mentions of the Cardinals from his social media accounts. There was also an ESPN report from February that said the Cardinals had some major concerns with Murray with people in the organization describing him as "self-centered, immature and someone who points fingers." Larry Fitzgerald's dad also said Murray was spoiled. As you can see, there was definitely a lot of drama, but despite that, the two sides were able to get a deal done.
- Murray now needs to earn the money. Of the top five highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, Murray is the only one without a playoff win. Murray has shown flashes of being great, but he's also struggled in big games with Arizona's playoff loss to the Rams being a recent example. If Murray can't play consistently good football, then the Cardinals could eventually feel the way about this deal as the Rams did about the Jared Goff deal.
For the full story on Murray's contract extension, be sure to click here.
4. Cowboys to wear a special throwback helmet for Thanksgiving
There have been so many alternate helmets unveiled this offseason that I'm starting to lose track of them, and things didn't get any easier today because we are now adding one more to the collection. The Cowboys announced today that they'll be wearing their iconic white helmet for one game this year.
Here are a few details on the alternate helmet (You can see a picture of it by clicking here):
- Cowboys going with a throwback helmet. When the Cowboys played their first game back in 1960, they wore a white helmet with a blue star on the side and that's the look they'll be honoring with this throwback helmet. Although the Cowboys only wore the white helmets for five seasons (1960-64), it's become a popular look with fans.
- The classic look will be worn just once. The Cowboys will be wearing the helmet one time and one time only this year and that will come on Thanksgiving Day against the Giants. From 2004 to 2012, the Cowboys actually wore this helmet every Thanksgiving, so there's a good chance you've seen them wear it before.
- The Cowboys are the eighth team to announce an alternate helmet. Now that the NFL is allowing teams to wear an alternate helmet, everyone seems to be taking advantage of it. Besides the Cowboys, the other seven teams with a new helmet are the Giants (navy blue helmet), Panthers (black helmet), Bengals (white tiger helmet), Texans (red helmet), Patriots (white helmet), Saints (black helmet) and Falcons (red helmet).
According to UniWatch, there could be as many as 15 teams that end up wearing an alternate helmet for at least one game in 2022, so don't be surprised if we hear a few more announcements over the next few weeks.
5. Buccaneers add Kyle Rudolph after Rob Gronkowski doubles down on retirement plans
With Rob Gronkowski officially retired, the Buccaneers were in serious need of some help at tight end, and they added that help Wednesday night with the signing of Kyle Rudolph.
The signing means that Tom Brady now has a veteran tight end to throw to, which is something the Buccaneers desperately needed.
Here's a look their current situation at tight end:
- Buccaneers needed a veteran. Before signing Rudolph, the Buccaneers only had ONE tight end on the roster (Cameron Brate) who had more than one career catch. Besides Brate, the Buccaneers tight end group consists of two rookies (Cade Otton and Ko Kieft) and Codey McElroy, who has one career catch that came in 2019.
- Buccaneers appear to have given up on a Gronk return. Over the past five weeks, Gronk's agent (Drew Rosenhaus) and his girlfriend (Camille Kostek) have both said they could see Gronk returning to football this year. However, Gronk has been insisting for the past month that he's going to stay retired, and he double downed on those statements during a Wednesday appearance on "Good Morning America". After his most recent interview, the Buccaneers seemed to have gotten the message that he's not planning to return right now.
- Rudolph brings 11 years of experience to Tampa Bay. The two-time Pro Bowler has been in the NFL since 2011 when the Vikings drafted him. He then spent the first 10 seasons of his career with the Vikings before signing with the Giants last year.
- Why Rudolph could have a big year with the Buccaneers. One reason Rudolph could have a big season is because he's never gotten to play with a quarterback who's anywhere as close to as good as Brady. During his 11 seasons, Rudolph has caught passes from 14 different quarterbacks including Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford, Shaun Hill, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Daniel Jones, Jake Fromm and Mike Glennon. That's not exactly a list of future Hall of Famers. If Rudolph has anything left in the tank, Brady would seem like the perfect QB to take advantage of that.
The 32-year-old has finished with at least 330 receiving yards in six of his past seven seasons, and if he can hit that number in Tampa, the Buccaneers would probably be happy. However, don't be surprised if he easily tops that now that he's playing with Brady.
Rudolph, who has caught at least four touchdowns in five of his past seven seasons, could also turn into a red zone weapon for Brady.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Rams will be unveiling their Super Bowl rings tonight
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.
- Rams handing out Super Bowl rings tonight. Four months after winning the Super Bowl, the Rams will finally be handing out their championship rings. Basically, if you want to see what a really expensive ring looks like, then make sure to follow the Rams' Twitter account tonight.
- Bengals stadium could soon have a new name. The Bengals are one of three teams in the NFL that has never sold the naming rights to their stadium, but that could be changing this year. According to multiple reports, the team is on the verge of selling off the naming rights. According to WLWT, the Paul Brown Stadium name will likely stick around with the building being called "XXX Field at Paul Brown Stadium." The stadium is named after Bengals founder and all-around NFL legend Paul Brown, who also happens to be the father of Bengals owner Mike Brown.
- Owners set to approve Broncos sale in August. Although Rob Walton won the bid to buy the Broncos last month, the sale still isn't official. However, that will be changing in August. The NFL's 32 owners will be meeting on Aug. 9 to approve the sale, which is more or less a formality at this point.
- Deebo Samuel deal not imminent. It's looking like the contract drama between Samuel and the 49ers is going to carry over into training camp. According to NFL.com, there's no deal imminent between the two sides, and now, there's a chance that Samuel could end up holding out.
- Former NFL first-round pick Charles Johnson dies at 50. Johnson spent nine years in the NFL after the Steelers made him the 17th overall pick in 1994. During his five seasons in Pittsburgh, he played on a Steelers team that went to three AFC title games and a Super Bowl. Although he didn't get to play in Super Bowl XXX due to an injury, he did get back to the game -- and win a ring -- as a member of the Patriots in 2001. Besides Pittsburgh and New England, Johnson also played for the Eagles (1999-2000) and Bills (2002). Johnson's best year came in 1996 with the Steelers when he caught 60 passes for 1,008 yards. Overall, he finished his career with 354 catches for 4,606 yards and 24 touchdowns. You can read more about his life by clicking here.