It’s too early for the 49ers to declare their QB1

Image for article titled It's too early for the 49ers to declare their QB1

John Harbaugh will not be the only coach to have to answer questions about his starting quarterback situation during the NFL League Meetings. Kyle Shanahan won’t be asked about trade requests and franchise tags, but the media will want to know who will be starting at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers come autumn. I hope the franchise’s response has been coordinated, because John Lynch has already weighed in on who he believes is the current front-runner in the 49ers’ QB room.

“I think Brock [Purdy] with the way he played, that he’s probably the leader in the clubhouse,” Lynch said to the media. “I’ll let Kyle make those kinds of decisions but I know when we talk I think Brock’s probably earned the right to be the guy if we were to line up, he’d probably take that first snap.”

“If we were to line up?”

I certainly hope that the 49ers general manager caught himself right before he said “today.” If for some mysterious reason the 49ers’ offense had to line up for a play during the league meetings, their starting quarterback would be Sam Darnold. Neither Purdy nor 2021 No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance is currently ready for game action.

Lynch talked during the press conference about Purdy working with baseball doctors to rehab the torn UCL in his throwing elbow. While the 49ers hope that he will be ready for training camp, Lynch said that they will have a more concrete picture of Purdy’s health in 12 weeks.

Lance broke a fibula and tore muscles and ligaments in his right leg during the first half of the 49ers’ second game of the 2022 season. He underwent surgery shortly after, and had a second one performed on his ankle in December because of some irritation due to “hardware placement,” from the original surgery.

The fact that the 49ers even signed Darnold this offseason is proof that they don’t need to be making any proclamations about who is their “leader in the clubhouse,” to start at quarterback. Lance still hasn’t taken nearly enough snaps for his in-game performance to be properly evaluated. What the 49ers do know is that they were ready to shove Jimmy Garoppolo out the door for the entire 2022 offseason until they couldn’t find a trade partner. Much of that was due to their commitment to Lance.

Garoppolo suffered an injury that ended his season as well. Purdy took over a highly talented offense that had acquired Christian McCaffrey prior to the trade deadline. He deserves credit for being a third-string rookie who went from the final selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, to four touchdowns in a playoff victory.

As well as he played, the situation that he walked into was ideal for an NFL player with no NFL game experience. According to Next Gen Stats, for the 2022 season, the 49ers had three wide receivers who averaged at least three yards of separation at the moment they caught the ball. Brandon Aiyuk averaged 2.9. No other team had more than two pass catchers that were consistently that open. Someone had to get those players the ball, but no one in the league was set up like Purdy.

He certainly deserves the chance to win the job this summer if his arm is right. Lynch did stress that even though Purdy is currently in the lead, there will be a competition for the job.

But if there’s competition for the job, there is no need to declare that a person who can’t currently throw a football is in the lead. The Super Bowl was played just over one month ago. There is still a lot of offseason remaining.

Lynch and Shanahan have plenty of time to evaluate their quarterback situation. There is no need for favorites when they had to bring in a third option for insurance purposes because of the extent of the injuries that Lance and Purdy suffered.

Now is not the time for favorites. These next few days in Arizona are for cocktails and steaks. When Lynch and Shanahan get back to California, it will be time to finalize their draft board and organize OTAs. As long as Old Man Winter is hanging around, and Purdy is still doing range of motion exercises and no throwing, the 49ers’ brain trust can wait a while to pick a favorite.

Hello darkness my new friend, because Aaron Rodgers likes it

Image for article titled Hello darkness my new friend, because Aaron Rodgers likes it

I think New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh is taking that first line from one of the signature tunes of West Side Story too seriously. You know the one — “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way! From your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day!” With the team’s flirtation and outright “You up?” texts to Aaron Rodgers to bring him to East Rutherford, New Jersey from Green Bay, the Jets head coach is familiarizing himself with all things weird. Because that’s what the 39-year-old quarterback is into these days. And we have evidence of that from a Monday news conference where Saleh said he’s “intrigued” by the idea of doing a darkness retreat. So, who’s running the team while you’re in isolation?

Rodgers’ personal quirks have come out over the last year or so, which happens to coincide with his worst professional season in well over a decade. Darkness retreats and ayahuasca have become closely associated with the soon-to-be former Packers’ leader. And I guess if it’s good enough for your quarterback, why not try it yourself? Rodgers credited the time away from society as why he wanted to be at the doorstep of the most populous urban center in America. What interesting thoughts would Saleh come up with as he only gets lost in his own mind? Saleh does have seven kids, so spending time away from them sounds right to truly come into one’s self. Sorry you missed those doctor’s appointments, kids. Your dad was trying to emulate the actions of a quarterback on the downslide of his career.

Months ago, Saleh was at the center of a prophecy by, hopefully, soon-to-be-indicted former President Donald Trump, where the orange Teletubby said he’s better than Vince Lombardi. This conversation allegedly took place after New York’s Week 2 victory over the Browns. At the time Saleh had five wins to his name as an NFL head coach. Lombardi has led teams to five NFL Championships. “Coach, you’re greater than Vince Lombardi because Vince Lombardi never did that. He was never able to pull out a game like that,” Trump supposedly, and in all likelihood made up, all while flailing his arms like he was playing an invisible accordion.

Here’s Saleh’s chance to prove Trump right! The Jets actually have enough pieces in one of the toughest divisions in football to make the playoffs this season. All New York truly needs to compete is a solid quarterback, and the jury’s out whether that’ll be Rodgers, and a good offensive line to protect the soon-to-be-40-year-old purveyor of darkness retreats. And the guy at the helm wants to experience that isolation too. What could go wrong?

In defense of the NFL’s mid-tier quarterback contracts

Seattle managed to sign Geno Smith to a deal that didn’t hamstring the rest of the roster.

The ever-changing landscape of the NFL is, in a way, just like fashion. It’s never standing still, always looking for new and creative ways to evolve and, eventually, it’ll become a cycle. It’s all about trends while in the moment. Outside zone run concepts. Lighter boxes to defend the run. Versatile defensive linemen. At some point, the bell will toll on a new idea.

That theory translates to NFL contracts too, in terms of what they cost and how they’re structured. As the league has grown commercially on a global scale, now hosting games in four separate countries and peeling back the curtain for new and exciting markets, the teams have reaped the financial benefits. The NFL’s salary cap has grown at a steady rate of around seven percent year by year, apart from the COVID-19 impacted season of 2021, where the number dropped by eight percent and the rebounding year after where there was a surge of 14 percent, essentially recouping the cash flow of that lost year and then some.

The NFL cap boom has lead to big QB deals

Predictably, the cap boom of the last few years has led to some large contracts. Most notably at the quarterback position. The quarterback has always been the most important player on the field — the game can live or die by their ability to control the tempo, make plays, and to generally just be good at their job. But as the NFL has transitioned over the past decade to a predominantly pass-heavy league, teams are dedicating considerably more money to their signal callers.

There are currently 13 starting quarterbacks in the NFL making more than $30 million a year for their respective teams, with Aaron Rodgers currently averaging $50,271,667, the highest AAV in NFL history. On average, the quarterbacks earning more than that $30 million threshold are counting for 20 percent of their teams salary cap. Considering that an NFL roster consists of 53 players, one player accounting for that much money is startling.

It’s the nature of the beast, though. The best quarterbacks in the NFL give a team a better shot of winning a championship and, as a result, they command the most money. It’s perfectly acceptable to pay the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Josh Allen that sort of capital. But the current landscape has boomed and things start to get a little dicey.

Was the Kyler Murray deal worth it?

Teams are desperate for starting caliber quarterbacks in the NFL. So much so, that they’ll do anything to get their guy. If that means giving a quarterback a little more to get the deal done, they’ll do it. Even if that guy isn’t necessarily a top of the market player. Look no further than the Arizona Cardinals giving Kyler Murray a five-year $230 million extension with $160 million in guaranteed money.

At his best, Murray has proven to be a borderline top-10 quarterback in the NFL and he’s still only 25. The Cardinals can build around him for the next decade. Or can they? That’s the problem at play. The double-edged sword that keeps teams up at night.

Giving Murray all of that money to keep him around is nice, but he’s currently counting for 22.1 percent of the Cardinals’ cap. They’re hamstrung by their desperation right now. This is a roster that just won 4 games in 2022 and has multiple holes across the board. The Cardinals just aren’t a good football team, but they’ve committed a significant amount of cap to one player. A player that, just like any other, needs a supporting cast around him.

You can see where we’re going with this. Supporting casts cost money and that money becomes increasingly harder to hand out if it’s tied to one player. It’s not a new problem, though. This has been the drawback of the Minnesota Vikings during the Kirk Cousins-era. The team was good enough to contend for the playoffs, but with Cousins – more specifically his contract – they struggled to put all of the pieces together to actually make a real dent in the postseason.

Cousins, like Murray, is a good-but-not-great quarterback. Effectively finding himself right in the middle of the pack as talent goes but, like Murray, earning more than that. Sure, the market eventually catches up and Cousins’ contract doesn’t look as bad as it once did, but the damage is already done.

It’s set a precedent around the league too. Middle-ground contracts just don’t exist anymore. A starting quarterback is either getting paid a rookie scale contract or he’s making the big bucks. There are exceptions, but those contracts belong to players like Mitchell Trubisky, Taylor Heinecke, and Jacoby Brissett. Bridge starters with little upside. They’re making that money because teams don’t expect them to be long-term starters.

Teams are just too scared to be in the quarterback wilderness, though, and continuity is important. But at what cost? The New York Giants just gave Daniel Jones a four-year, $160 million contract with $100 million in guaranteed money. He’s now one of the highest paid quarterbacks in NFL history, despite being 27th out of 35 quarterbacks in EPA per play since 2019, per RBSDM.

Like the Cardinals, the Giants are now hamstrung in the short-term. The Giants won nine games and made the postseason for the first time since 2016 last year, but the roster isn’t talented enough to repeat that success, even with a few additions in free agency. Paying Jones complicates the roster construction moving forward, and he’s just not good enough to carry an abnormal offensive load like Patrick Mahomes.

Consider Geno Smith

There has to be a middle ground. Teams need to find a way to adequately pay starting calibre quarterbacks while also giving themselves the flexibility to construct a roster that can compete. This round of free agency has taught us that it’s possible. On paper. The Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders are providing parity in the quarterback market by giving Geno Smith and Jimmy Garoppolo mid-tier contracts.

The Seahawks and Smith agreed on a three-year, $75 million contract that gives him $40 million in guaranteed money, while the Raiders signed Garoppolo to a three-year, $72.7 million deal with $45 million in guarantees. In terms of AAV, the two slot in at 15th and 16th respectively. If those deals prove fruitful, they can provide a template for what could be.

Those deals perfectly fit the criteria for what could buck the trend of the inflating quarterback contract. The Seahawks can comfortably consider themselves as real contenders in the NFC with Smith, while the Raiders and Garoppolo might have a tougher time making the postseason in a vaunted AFC. These contracts give both teams flexibility, though. The Raiders still have the 11th most cap space in the NFL and the Seahawks have the 17th most, per Spotrac. While that doesn’t mean they have to spend the money right now, it sets them up nicely for free agency next year too. Both teams have top 10 picks in the NFL Draft and have the chance to pick up impact starters from day one, or even a quarterback to sit and develop behind either Smith or Garoppolo — but that’s not a necessity.

The main thing is neither team had to cave and put themselves in an awkward position and that both quarterbacks got paid. This isn’t to suggest that guys like Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert shouldn’t make mega-money. When guys like Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, or even Tua Tagovailoa hit the market soon, there might be a way to appease all sides.

After all, if you’re offering a mid-tier quarterback around $30 million a year instead of $45 million and promising that the extra cash will go towards constructing a team that has a better chance to compete for a Super Bowl, then it might be a hard offer to turn down. Once the formula proves successful, it’ll become just like fashion all over again. Follow the trends.

NFL writer from Glasgow, Scotland. Follow me on Twitter @tvalentinesport and talk Steely Dan to me.

The Seahawks significantly improved their roster, and still have both of their first-round picks

The Seahawks were wise to bring back Geno Smith, in addition to some other savvy moves.

Pencil the San Francisco 49ers in as NFC West’s best in 2023 at your own risk. After the shellacking that the Seattle Seahawks suffered at the hands of the 49ers in the postseason, they have taken significant steps to shore up talent deficiencies on the roster. Come autumn, Kyle Shanahan and Co. had better be ready for the 49ers, Seahawks rivalry to be back in full force.

The Seahawks’ bountiful offseason began with the re-signing of Geno Smith. Following a breakout, Pro-Bowl season in his early 30s he signed a three-year, $105 million deal. It includes $27.3 million guaranteed at signing.

The guarantee by itself is nearly $10 million more than he has earned as an NFL quarterback throughout the entirety of his 10-year NFL career. However, the deal is hugely team friendly for the Seahawks. The $52 million that he is owed for his first year, Smith only receives the entire amount if he is on the roster for a calendar year. Also, his cap hit for the 2023 season is only $10 million, and if he is released following the upcoming season his 2024 dead-cap number is $17.4 million. With the NFL leader in completion percentage inked to a team-friendly deal, the Seahawks have been able to be aggressive in free agency.

For the Seahawks to improve on their 9-8, 2022 record they badly needed better personnel to defend against the run. Per Football Outsiders, the Seahawks had the 25th-worst rush defense DVOA in the league. That was exploited by the 49ers in the playoffs.

Brock Purdy was impressive throwing for 300-plus yards and four touchdowns, but he likely doesn’t put up those eye-popping passing statistics without his offense’s beastly performance on the ground. Christian McCaffrey averaged 7.9 yards per carry and Deebo Samuel averaged 10.7. With the 49ers able to consistently gash the Seahawks on the ground it opened up the rest of the field for the 49ers’ wide receivers. Three of them — Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings — averaged better than 20 yards per reception.

The Seahawks’ biggest move in free agency was signing Dre’Mont Jones. According to Next Gen Stats, Jones had the 10th highest Run-Stuff Rate in the league. He is also a versatile player who can line up both inside and outside. Jones is also a capable pass rusher. He has recorded 6.5 sacks in the last two seasons.

He is not the only addition that the Seahawks made to their defensive line. They brought back their 2016 second-round pick Jarran Reed. In his last season with the Seahawks — 2020 — they had the seventh-best rush defense DVOA in the NFL.

Reed is not the only former Seahawk that the franchise signed this offseason. The captain is home. They brought back Bobby Wagner after one season with their division-rival Los Angeles Rams.

Wagner may not be as explosive of a player as he was during the Legion of Boom years, but he is still a highly productive player as an inside linebacker. Pro Football Focus graded him as the best player on the Rams in 2022.

The signing of Julian Love marks an improvement in the Seahawks’ defense at all three levels. Of all the safeties in the NFL who have tallied a minimum of 150 tackles over the last three seasons, Love missed the second-fewest. He will be paired in the secondary with Jamal Adams.

Thanks to the Russell Wilson trade, in addition to all of this defensive improvement, the Seahawks still have two picks in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft — including No. 5 overall.

For the gamblers out there, it’s time to put wagers not only on the Seahawks to win the NFC West but also for them to go to the Super Bowl. They have a strong roster that is going to continue to improve with the draft now only one month away.

Tony Dungy is still talking — and still an intolerant bigot

You’re wrong, Tony

As we’ve previously discussed, NBC NFL analyst Tony Dungy has expressed some awfully bigoted views. In January, Dungy was summarily dragged all over social media by NFL media for his horrible, terrible, no good, very bad takes on the trans community, including spreading the already long-debunked myth that children were identifying as “furries,” forcing schools to put litter boxes in elementary school bathrooms. It was a bullshit rumor made up by the same people on the right who abhor government interference, but want young girls to report their menstrual cycles to their schools and prevent families with trans children from parenting their own children. Even Joe Rogan admitted the rumor was false. Dungy quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, but the damage was done.

Apparently, embarrassing himself in front of everyone on Rihanna’s internet wasn’t enough though, because now that a few months have passed, Dungy is back at it. This time, Dungy responded to a Twitter query about why he’s not more outspoken about members of the Christian cloth sexually abusing children. Here’s how it went down:

“Jesus Saves’ is the best answer for them.”

Great advice from a man who, by all accounts, has made absolutely no effort to understand anything about the trans community or the medicine and science that goes into 1) identifying as a trans person, 2) helping a person decide whether or not to transition, and 3) determining how to transition. I feel safe making an educated guess that Dungy hasn’t thought too deeply about what life is like for trans folks or the bigotry and hatred many of them face on a daily basis. But Dungy feels it’s somehow his place to know and tell the entire world what is best for trans people. I wish you all the confidence of Tony Dungy sharing takes on things he knows nothing about.

A 2022 study of suicide and young trans people found that 82 percent of trans kids have considered suicide, and 40 percent of them have attempted it. Meanwhile, another study presented to the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that there was a 60 percent decrease in moderate and severe depression among children who received trans-affirming care. In short, there are actual scientific studies showing that, where desired, trans-affirming care makes the lives of those in the trans community markedly better.

To throw out a vague platitude like “Jesus Saves” as some kind of alternative to medical care for trans people is arrogant, insulting, and demeaning, and goes a long way toward showing how deeply Dungy thinks about anything. Does he not believe that any one of the thousands (millions?) of trans people, down through the centuries, who chose to end their lives rather than live the identity the world had assigned them were Christian? Does he really think people haven’t tried “Jesus Saves” to all manner of things that cause personal pain? Does he not believe the trans community prays? Or is saved? Or has a fulfilling relationship with their own God, the same way he does with his?

This was far from the first time Dungy has revealed himself as intolerant when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. Outsports’ Cyd Ziegler, who has covered Dungy’s homophobia extensively, wrote this:

The public debate about Dungy’s anti-gay leanings started in earnest in 2006.

That year, Dungy was the headliner at a fundraiser for the Indiana Family Institute, whose primary objective was to oppose same-sex marriage. The event’s invitation featured a picture of Dungy coaching an NFL game in his Colts attire, with assurances that “an opportunity to financially support the Indiana Family Institute” would be available.

“I appreciate the stance [IFI is] taking, and I embrace that stance,” Dungy said during the IFI fundraiser of the group’s opposition to same-sex marriage. “IFI is saying what the Lord says. You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be. I’m on the Lord’s side.”

In 2013, when NBA player Jason Collins came out publicly as gay, Dungy said he doesn’t “agree with Jason Collins’ lifestyle.”

The following year, after Michael Sam came out publicly as gay and was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, Dungy said he would not have wanted Sam on his team.

“I wouldn’t have taken him,” Dungy said of the Rams drafting Sam. And wait for it… “I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.”

The fact that NBC remains silent on Dungy’s homophobia and transphobia is mind-boggling, considering there are dozens of analysts in the NFL world who could do Dungy’s job better than he can by a country mile. Has there ever been a worse-called NFL game than the Jags-Chargers game Dungy and Al Michaels did together in January? Is Tony Dungy, the broadcaster, really so irreplaceable that NBC fears even commenting on his narrow-minded takes?

NBC should have denounced Dungy’s intolerance long ago. It’s a stain on the network that they haven’t.

Is Lamar Jackson’s mom telling teams he’s ready to move on from Baltimore?

Is Lamar Jackson ready to move on from Baltimore?

Another wrinkle has been added to the ongoing Lamar Jackson saga in Baltimore. The Ravens and Jackson aren’t any closer to coming to terms on a new long-term deal. Now it’s been reported that a representative for Jackson has allegedly been contacting teams claiming the former MVP is ready to move on from Baltimore.

This entire situation surrounding Jackson has spun out of control and has many in disbelief at how things have been handled. This latest revelation has ramped up speculation around who’s pulling the strings and orchestrating Lamar’s campaign for a fully guaranteed contract. There are people who think Jackson’s mother is telling NFL teams that her son is ready to leave the team that drafted him in the first round in 2018.

Initially, it was Jackson’s mom, Felicia Jones, who was reported as representing her son in talks with Ravens management during the 2021 offseason. It wasn’t that far-fetched that she would do so since Jones had done the talking for her son in negotiating his rookie deal a few years prior. So, while it’s possible that Jackson’s mom isn’t running the show this time around, the speculation isn’t unwarranted.

Similar to the Roquan Smith situation

What this news does, though, is it brings up an interesting aspect and something the NFL has instructed teams not to do. The league specifically instructed teams to refrain from negotiating with representatives who aren’t certified by the NFLPA. This came down last year after teams were allegedly contacted by a man named Saint Omni on behalf of former Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith. Omni also allegedly helped Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil secure his three-year, $75 million contract. Tunsil got $50 million of that guaranteed with “no official” representation.

This also speaks to the NFL keeping control over what’s happening with its biggest investments. That being the players. While they may be looking out for their assets in handing down mandates like the one outlined above, it also keeps the balance of power in place. Certified agents and teams work hand in hand as agents usually represent multiple clients throughout the league. Both sides want to keep each other happy and avoid outsiders coming in, especially if they haven’t gone through the proper channels.

In Jackson’s case, having someone contact teams off the cuff when he’s still technically signed with Baltimore could be considered tampering. What the NFL does with this is yet to be seen, but if true, this could make the situation much tougher as potential negotiations progress. 

At least 1 of these 3 tight ends in the NFL Draft will be an incredible pro

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer runs a drill at the NFL Combine.

The NFL Draft is five weeks away, which doesn’t feel close at all, yet the more dialed-in part of the evaluation process has long been underway. The quarterbacks and certain skill players get all the pre-draft glory, but a deeper look into this year’s class shows one position group, in particular, has more than a few top-end game-changers: The tight ends. While a majority of NFL offenses have done away with every-down running backs and focused more on mobile quarterbacks who also have a decent arm, the more options to throw to the better.

Teams need elite QBs, but QBs also need weapons

As much as an elite quarterback is now one of the near-universal requirements to win a Super Bowl, having at least one elite passing target is on the list as well. For the Kansas City Chiefs, Travis Kelce is obviously better than any wide receiver they had on this year’s team. Kelce was also better than any receiver Kansas City had for its first championship with Patrick Mahomes steering the ship. Yes, better than now-Miami-Dolphins star Tyreek Hill. And I’m not saying the next Kelce is in this draft class. Calling your shot and plucking someone as one of the best to put on shoulder pads at any position is blasphemous. What I will predict is that one of the next great NFL tight ends will hear his name called by the end of the second round at the end of April. Let’s look at the contenders.

Here’s who could be the next great TE

The highest-rated tight end prospect on ESPN’s draft board is former Notre Dame standout Michael Mayer, who is their No. 9 overall prospect in the draft. Since the 2004 NFL Draft, five tight ends have been selected within the top 10 picks and Mayer will no doubt bring that number to a half-dozen. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder consistently improved every year in South Bend and while his statistics aren’t jumping off the page as fantastic, that’s rarely a great way to evaluate potential at the next level anyway. His size and pass-catching ability make Mayer the safest bet among the tight ends in the draft. In terms of potential, I wouldn’t put Mayer No. 1, but there’s a clear top three.

Alongside former Utah legend Dalton Kincaid and Darnell Washington, who was part of Georgia’s back-to-back national championship teams, Mayer completes the trio of top prizes, among a stacked group. The chance one of the three of them lands as an All-Pro player in the next few seasons is high. Washington and Kincaid are the other two tight ends that’ll be selected who currently have first-round draft grades, and for good reason. The drop off to the No. 4-rated tight end, Luke Musgrave from Oregon State, is significant. It isn’t Wile E. Coyote, but it’s noticeable for any scout with two healthy eyes.

It can’t be understated how being part of a program that consistently wins is sexy to NFL teams. What’s the best recruiting pitch Nick Saban has to bring incredible talent to Alabama? “Look at how many of our guys have success in Tuscaloosa and after leaving my program,” Saban probably says while eating Whataburger (which is so much better than In-N-Out). Georgia’s Kirby Smart is starting to have that same swagger. And Washington will reap the benefits of that. Do you not remember five Georgia players being taken in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft? Washington will hear his name called on April 27 in Kansas City. His length and height at 6-foot-7, 270 pounds will make some team’s mouth water. You can’t grow a player in the NFL, but you can’t adopt a giant!

Then comes Kincaid, who I believe is the biggest boom-or-bust prospect of the three. And bust is relative here because I can’t see him not panning out positively in some form or fashion. He was an indelible part of Utah’s Pac-12 powerhouses of the last two years. Kincaid is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, which is oddly the same exact measurables as Mayer, but the duo is easily discernible from each other from their playing styles. Mayer is more of your Jason Witten-type tight end. He’s bulkier, a great blocker, and has enough speed to beat linebackers off the line of scrimmage. Kincaid is more of the larger wide receiver, with the ability to twist his body and make incredible catches. The former Ute is the best pure athlete in this tight-end class and maybe the whole damn draft. A few other interesting tight-end prospects exist in Tucker Kraft, Davis Allen, and Sam LaPorta, and they could all turn into great pros. That top trio though …get them while supplies last. I’m betting they end up being constantly compared for the rest of their careers because at least one is going to be an NFL beast.

A tale of two Jerrys

Jerry Jones reportedly wouldn’t give Denver a first-rounder for WR Jerry Jeudy

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is never shy in front of the cameras, especially when it comes to self-promotion. We often hear from Dallas’ head honcho that he’s willing to do “whatever” it takes to win. That makes for a good sound bite to get the fan base excited, but when presented with those opportunities, Jones rarely capitalizes.

The Cowboys completed a trade over the weekend, acquiring wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans. The Cowboys got Cooks for a couple of late-round picks in the 2023 and 2024 drafts. Come to find out, Cooks was basically the consolation prize for Dallas as the team was in contention to land Denver Broncos wideout Jerry Jeudy. Jones reportedly didn’t want to give up a first-round pick for Jeudy.

Holding onto a first-rounder for?

While it’s understandable not wanting to let go of that first-round pick, there would’ve been a few advantages to bringing Jeudy to Big D. For one, he’s still on his rookie deal and makes a lot less money than Cooks right now. Although the Broncos’ former first-rounder will be up for an extension soon, the Cowboys could’ve gotten at least one year where his deal costs them next to nothing. Extra spending money for free agents (even your own) is always a good thing.

In terms of production, there wasn’t a huge gap between Cooks and Jeudy last year, although the latter is viewed as having the greater upside being about five years younger. Playing in that Dallas offense might have helped Jeudy grow immensely as a pro. Having played at Alabama, it’s almost expected that Jeudy will become one of the next great receiving threats in the NFL.

During Jeudy’s first three years in the league, he has yet to have a quarterback who can get him the ball consistently. We all witnessed the Russell Wilson/Nathaniel Hackett situation in Denver last season. It would’ve been difficult for some all-time greats to have thrived in that environment. But that lack of production (despite the circumstances) might have been enough for Jones to think twice about Jeudy and opt for Cooks.

That’s Jerry, though. He loves his draft picks. Some mock drafts have Dallas taking another receiver anyway, so they could still end up with another pass catcher on a minimal deal. Dallas selected a receiver in last year’s draft, taking Jalen Tolbert from South Alabama in the third round. In his rookie campaign, Tolbert barely touched the field, catching two balls for 12 yards.

Jackass Tournament: First-Round Results

Image for article titled Jackass Tournament: First-round results
Image for article titled Jackass Tournament: First-round results

New York fans probably disagree, but Brett Favre won this matchup easily, taking nearly 75 percent of the vote. There could be some recency bias with Favre having frequented the national news over the past 12 months for all his jackassery (accusations which he has repeatedly denied). Ultimately, this matchup wasn’t close, and just about everyone in or outside of NYC should’ve predicted this outcome.

Image for article titled Jackass Tournament: First-round results

These athletes have been attempting to out-jackass one another recently, with Aaron Rodgers coming out on top in the eye of the public. While they play different sports, one thing A-Rod and Ja Morant have in common is they’ve brought most of the negative attention to themselves. The biggest difference here is Rodgers has been jackassing around professionally much longer than Morant.

Image for article titled Jackass Tournament: First-round results

Even with Brandon Miller being involved in an ongoing investigation, Trevor Bauer took 80 percent of the votes in this first-round matchup. This entry was a no-brainer, especially after what transpired with Bauer and his suspension from MLB for sexual abuse. Although Bauer was reinstated by MLB in late 2022, he’ll be playing baseball in Japan for the foreseeable future.

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Our first “upset” of the tournament is Antonio Brown coming away with the ‘W’ over Dana White in a bout that wasn’t too close. Brown finished with two-thirds of the votes advancing to the round of eight. AB has been in the news seemingly non-stop over the past couple of years for all the wrong reasons, including alleged sexual assault and exposing himself in public, among other things. White was recorded hitting his wife in a club and is generally known as an asshole. He was also heavily involved with Power Slap, which was terrible.

Smells like collusion on the menu for Lamar Jackson this offseason

Seems a little odd that nobody’s making a move for Lamar Jackson.

One week into the NFL’s free agent signing period, the Baltimore Ravens have received zero offers for Lamar Jackson. The Ravens slapped the non-exclusive franchise tag on the former league MVP, which allows other teams to make him an offer that Baltimore can match. Thus far, all is quiet on the home front, which feels odd.

With all these teams that need to upgrade the quarterback position, having no one step up yet is simply astonishing. The ‘C’ word gets thrown around, but the way this has played out so far feels like collusion is in the air. Some will think that’s far-fetched, but we already know some NFL owners were not happy when the Cleveland Browns traded for and signed DeShaun Watson to a guaranteed $230 million contract that’s fully guaranteed.

In an article by NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, released last week, he stated the following about guaranteed contract structure concerning franchised players:

“For example, the fully guaranteed structure for franchised players in the NFL CBA was created precisely because we as a union know that owners have colluded in the past – and might do it again, as they are potentially doing right now— when it comes to highly sought-after players. So for those people out there who chant the power of a mythical NFL “free market” — the market that would supposedly work to secure the highest and best contracts without a draft because all the owners want to win just the same — wake up and look at a market that is supposed to be but isn’t, and teams that should be doing everything to win but do not.”

It’s been reported that Jackson is looking for a massive deal that rivals or exceeds that of Watson’s in Cleveland. NFL owners desperately want to avoid this becoming the norm. Had it been almost any other QB in Watson’s place, it may not have been as shocking to see that type of money handed over. But this time a year ago, Watson was in the midst of dealing with more than 20 sexual assault/harassment civil lawsuits and hadn’t taken a snap since the 2020 campaign. While Watson has always denied any wrongdoing, the Browns jumping out there and offering up everything was not a good look.

Another huge, guaranteed deal for a QB is not what NFL owners want. However, Watson wasn’t the first QB to snag a fully guaranteed deal from an NFL team. He may have been the first to break the bank in such a manner, but Kirk Cousins was well ahead of the curve when he signed with Minnesota in 2018 on a three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed contract. That’s still a lot of money, but it isn’t $200 million plus in guaranteed funds. And speaking of the Vikings, it’s been reported by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that Minnesota could emerge as a dark horse to land Jackson.

It seems like Jackson will settle for nothing less than what he feels he’s worth. And since he’s representing himself, this contract negotiation could drag on much longer than anyone expected. NFL owners will do whatever it takes to ensure guaranteed contracts worth well over $200 million fully guaranteed aren’t given out back-to-back offseasons.

Placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson was a strategic move by the Ravens. Since they can match any offer, another team would likely need to offer much more than they’d truly want to pay to ensure Baltimore doesn’t counter. The whole idea of this non-exclusive tag has collusion seemingly built into the deal. These owners are business partners and will take drastic measures to look out for each other’s interests. Look no further than Colin Kaepernick. And the same goes for Daniel Snyder’s situation. Most, if not all, owners want him out but don’t necessarily want it to be on them to make that decision.

When it comes to player contracts, however, everybody is on the same page. They always have been. QB contracts have already blown up over the past decade, and guaranteeing them entirely at such a steep price tag is not a bridge most owners are willing to cross right now.