Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter.
It's been a solemn week in the NFL. Less than 72 hours after the passing of Jeff Gladney, police in Texas announced that former Cowboys running back Marion Barber III has also passed away. We'll be taking a look back at his career in today's newsletter, plus we'll cover what authorities have revealed about the circumstances surrounding his death.
Let's get straight to the rundown.
1. Former Cowboys running back Marion Barber III dies at age 38
Former Cowboys running back Marion Barber III died on Wednesday at the age of 38. Barber spent seven years in the NFL after the Cowboys made him a fourth-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, finishing his career with the Bears. After that, he became a workhorse for them, scoring at least four touchdowns in each of his six seasons with the team.
Right now, there aren't a lot of details known about the situation that led to his death, but here's what we do know:
- Police were called to his residence. At 2:40 p.m. on Wednesday, authorities in Frisco, Texas, responded to a call about a welfare check at an apartment that was believed to belong to Barber, according to CBS DFW. When police arrived, they found Barber, who was unresponsive. Although the cause of death isn't known yet, police don't currently believe that foul play was involved. Barber's death comes just nine days before his 39th birthday.
- Cowboys release a statement. "We are heartbroken by the tragic death of Marion Barber III. Marion was an old-school, hard-nosed football player who ran with the will to win every down. He had a passion for the game and love for his coaches and teammates. Our hearts go out to Marion's family and friends during this difficult time."
- Jason Garrett fondly remembers Barber. The former Cowboys coach served as Dallas' offensive coordinator for four of Barber's six years with the team (2007-10) and he was devastated to hear of Barber's death. "I am truly heartbroken to hear the incredibly sad news of Marion Barber's passing. He was a rare guy! Marion played the game with such passion! He had a deep-down love for football and it showed in everything that he did!" You can read Garrett's entire message by clicking here.
- Barber's football career was impressive. The running back finished his Cowboys' career with 47 rushing touchdowns, which is currently the fourth-most in franchise history behind only Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett and Ezekiel Elliott. Barber was voted into the Pro Bowl in 2007 after a season where he rushed for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns. Barber's NFL career finished with 4,780 rushing yards and 53 touchdowns in 99 games. On top of that, Barber also caught 179 passes for 1,330 yards and six touchdowns over seven years. During his college career, Barber teamed up with Laurence Maroney at Minnesota to become the first FBS teammates to BOTH rush for 1,000 yards or more in consecutive seasons.
You can see our full story on Barber's tragic passing by going here.
2. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady top Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in 'The Match'
Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have made a career out of coming up in the clutch on the football field and yesterday, they proved that their clutch gene also translates to the golf course. The two quarterbacks came out on top on Wednesday after a dramatic golf match against Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
Under the rules of the match, both players on each team would hit their tee shots before selecting the best drive to use for their second shot. At that point, they would then play their own ball and the lowest score for each team would be the one that counted on the hole (I'm not good at writing about golf rules, so hopefully that made sense).
If you didn't catch the event, here's what you missed:
- Rodgers wins the match with dramatic putt. With the two teams tied on the final hole, Rodgers needed to sink a 15-foot putt for the win and that's exactly what he did and the Packers QB knew the ball was going in almost as soon as he hit it (You can click here to see the dramatic shot). Rodgers had a pretty solid day. Not only did he get a birdie on the first hole, but he also birdied the final hole, which allowed Brady and Rodgers to win.
- Josh Allen took out a few fans. The Bills QB was erratic for most of the day, but that didn't prevent him from having a few solid holes. One of his most dramatic shots in the 12-hole match came on the 11th hole when his shot landed on the green AFTER hitting a fan (you can check out that wild shot by clicking here). Allen also nearly sank a 100-FOOT putt that would have sent the match to a playoff, but it missed by just an inch or two (Click here to check out the putt).
- Patrick Mahomes was on fire thanks to Coors Light. Although Mahomes got off to a slow start, he eventually caught fire and pulled his team back into the match. The most impressive part is that Mahomes did all of this while downing multiple cans of Coors Light. I usually get worse when I drink beer on the course, Mahomes somehow got better.
- Tom Brady had an interesting day. Although Brady had a decent day, he also struggled at times. On one hole, he sliced a tee shot so badly that it went roughly 50 yards off the fairway (You can see a picture of the shot by clicking here). Brady also had a chance to win the match on the final hole, but he missed the putt that Rodgers eventually made. That being said, Brady did go on a joy ride in his golf cart, which is what life is all about when you're golfing with buddies.
If you want to read a full recap of the event, be sure to click here.
3. Top 25 NFL players under the age of 25
If you look at rosters around the NFL -- and totally ignore the fact that Brady exists -- you'll notice that for the most part, football is a young man's game. Due to that fact, we make a special list every offseason of the best 25 best players who are aged 25 or under and that list is out today.
Cody Benjamin ranked this year's class and if you check out his entire rankings, you'll notice one thing: There are a lot of offensive players on the list. Of the 25 players, there are 14 offensive players, including seven quarterbacks and four receivers.
Here's a look at the top 10 players on the list along with their age:
1. Chargers QB Justin Herbert (24)
2. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (25)
3. Bengals QB Joe Burrow (25)
4. 49ers DE Nick Bosa (23)
5. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson (23)
6. Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase (22)
7. Buccaneers OT Tristan Wirfs (23)
8. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray (25)
9. Packers CB Jaire Alexander (25)
10. Colts RB Jonathan Taylor (23)
Two things that jump out of the top 10 for me: The Bengals are the only team with two players in the top 10, so I'm guessing they probably feel pretty good about their future. Also, the top 10 is going to have a drastically different look next season since four of the players on the list won't be eligible in 2023 due to their age (Jackson, Murray, Alexander and Burrow).
By the way, players were able to qualify for this list as long as they are 25 or younger when the 2022 season officially begins on Sept. 8, so if they were to turn 26 on Sept. 9, they'd still qualify.
Anyway, if you want to see Cody's entire ranking of all 25 players, be sure to click here.
4. Falcons unveil red helmets for 2022 season
After a 10-year hiatus, the Falcons' red helmets are making a comeback this season. The team announced on Wednesday night that the iconic helmets will be returning for one game in 2022.
Here's everything you need to know about the return of one of the coolest helmets in the NFL (You can see several pictures of the red helmet by clicking here):
- Falcons will wear them on Oct. 16. The red helmets will be worn as part of a throwback uniform for the Falcons' Week 6 game against the San Francisco 49ers. That game will mark the first time since November 2012 that the Falcons have worn a red helmet.
- Falcons throwbacks will be honoring their 1966 team. The new red helmet is a close replica of what the Falcons wore in 1966, which was the franchise's first year of existence. The new red helmet not only features a grey face mask, but it also has three different colored stripes going down the middle: White, black and gold. According to the Falcons, the helmet's color scheme was designed to represent the two major colleges in the state: Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.
- Red helmets have always been popular with the Falcons and their fans. The Falcons actually wore their red helmets for 23 years (1966 to 1989) before making the switch to a black helmet in 1990. Despite the switch, the red helmets were still popular, so the Falcons started wearing them as part of a throwback uniform in 2009. From 2009 thru 2012, the Falcons wore the red helmets twice per season.
- Why the Falcons had to wait 10 years to wear their red helmets. Following the 2012 season season, the NFL implemented a one-helmet rule, which meant that teams had to stick with one helmet color for the entire season. This means that the Falcons had to stick with one helmet color starting in 2013.
The good news for the Falcons -- and every other team in the league -- is that the NFL rescinded the one-helmet rule in 2021 and when that happened, the league announced that teams would be free to wear an alternate helmet starting with the 2022 season, which is why the Falcons are now allowed to wear their red helmet again.
Although the Falcons are the first team to officially announce that they'll be wearing an alternate helmet in 2022, they almost certainly won't be the last. According to UniWatch, there could be as many as 15 teams that end up wearing an alternate helmet for at least one game.
5. Best bets to make on AFC East win totals
If you've been reading this newsletter regularly over the past two weeks, you may have noticed that we've been spent a lot of time covering the over/under win totals for the 2022 season, so you're probably not going to be too surprised when I tell you we have even more win totals today.
Since win totals are one of the most popular NFL bets you can make right now, Tyler Sullivan decided to reveal his best bets for every team in the AFC East.
Bills over/under: 11.5.
Tyler's pick: OVER (-130). "Given that the Bills are the betting favorite to win the Super Bowl and also have the MVP favorite in quarterback Josh Allen, it's not going to be a surprise to see them with a win total projection that's well into the double-digits."
Patriots over/under: 8.5.
Tyler's pick: UNDER (+110). "The Patriots don't have an easy path out of the gate. They have two road games against the Dolphins and Steelers before facing the Ravens in their home opener and heading back on the road to take on the Packers. Depending on how Miami meshes with its new weapons and the Steelers' quarterback situation develops, there's a possibility for a .500 or under-.500 start to the year. ... At this stage, there's value in the under."
Dolphins over/under: 8.5.
Tyler's pick: UNDER (+115). "Out of any team in the division, the Dolphins have undergone the biggest facelift as they've barreled into the offseason on a mission to revamp the roster. Offensively, they've added tackle Terron Armstead, wideout Ced Wilson Jr., and running backs Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds. They also traded for star receiver Tyreek Hill. So can this team win at least nine games? It's certainly possible, especially if Tagovailoa takes a leap. That said, the value is on the Under as we're in the midst of OTAs."
Jets over/under: 5.5.
Tyler's pick: OVER (-160). "I think this number is low enough that you can have some faith that Gang Green catches some opponents off-guard this year to pick up some unexpected wins like they did when they beat the Bengals AND Titans last season. If you pencil in home wins against the Bears (Week 12), Lions (Week 15), and Jaguars (Week 16), the over starts to feel like a better bet."
To check out the rest of Sullivan's story, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Kyler Murray returns to Cardinals
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.
- Kyler Murray actually showed up for OTAs: After nearly three months of drama, it appears that Kyler Murray might be ready to move forward with the Cardinals. The QB actually showed up for OTAs on Wednesday, marking the first time that he's been to a voluntary workout this offseason. Murray's presence comes roughly one week after Cards GM Steve Keim said that he envisioned a deal getting done with his QB at some point this summer. Murray must have liked the sound of that.
- Steelers defensive starter announces retirement. The Steelers are going to have to find a way to replace Stephon Tuitt, who unexpectedly announced his retirement on Wednesday at the age of 29. The defensive lineman had been with the Steelers since 2014. Tuitt actually sat out the 2021 season following the death of his brother in a hit-and-run crash and it seems that tragedy played a part in his decision to retire. Tuitt also had knee surgery in 2021, which kept him off the field. For more on Tuitt's surprising retirement, be sure to click here.
- David Tepper's real estate holding company files bankruptcy. Tepper is the richest owner in the league, but that didn't keep one of his holding companies from filing for bankruptcy this week, according to the Athletic. The bankruptcy was filed as a way to protect the Panthers owner from the losses his company suffered from the $800 million practice facility project that went awry in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
- 49ers restructure Alex Mack's contract. Mack was the 49ers starting center last season, but no one seems to know what his plans are for 2022. In the first sign that he might be retiring, Mack agreed to a contract restructuring that will add $4 million in salary cap space for the 49ers. Although this doesn't necessarily mean that Mack is retiring, NFL.com noted that Mack restructured his contract in a way that players usually do before retiring.
- Frank Gore to sign one-day contract with 49ers. After 16 NFL seasons, Frank Gore is finally set to retire. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Gore is going to sign a one-day contract with the 49ers and officially retire at a press conference scheduled for 4 p.m. ET today. If Gore does retire, he'll officially finish his career with 16,000 rushing yards, which would be the third-most in NFL history. If Gore doesn't pull a Tom Brady and he actually retires, we'll have more on his 16-year career tomorrow.