Lamar Jackson put an electrical current through some questions John Harbaugh had to answer about him

Lamar Jackson wants out in Baltimore.

Poor John Harbaugh. All the man wants is the starting quarterback that was promised to him when the Baltimore Ravens moved up to select Lamar Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead, five years later he spoke to the media on a Monday at the NFL League Meetings moments after his starting quarterback made public that he no longer wants to play for the Ravens.

On Mar. 7, the Ravens decided to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson after the two sides could not come to an agreement on a long-term deal. If he played under that deal this season, Jackson would have been guaranteed just over $32 million — far below what quarterbacks of his caliber are paid annually. For any team that desires to acquire Jackson, and is willing to sacrifice two first-round draft picks, they can make an offer that the Ravens have the right to match.

Harbaugh most certainly knew that the media would have a slew of questions for him about negotiations between the Ravens and Jackson. He has handled them deftly since 2021 when Jackson’s draft classmate Josh Allen signed a deal that included the most guaranteed money of any player in NFL history — $150 million.

The Buffalo Bills did what most NFL teams do with star quarterbacks. They hammered out a contract extension before the start of the quarterback’s fourth season. Jackson and the Ravens did not come to an agreement on a contract extension in 2021 — one season removed from his 2019 MVP — but Harbaugh was publicly confident then that a new deal was simply an administrative task that would be completed in due time.

In the days following the Ravens hard-fought playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that Jackson missed due to a knee injury, Harbaugh told the media that he was still “100 percent, 200 percent,” about who is the Ravens’ starting quarterback. During this year’s scouting combine, he told the media that all conversations with potential offensive coordinators were centered around the candidates’ plans to best deploy Jackson’s skillset — they hired Todd Monken. Even when Harbaugh was hit with the news that Jackson made a public trade request his response was, “We’re building our offense around [the] idea,” that Ravens will not be making a change at starting quarterback.

Harbaugh even managed to paste a half-grin on his face while reacting internally in real time to the further deterioration of the relationship between the Ravens and Jackson. As many uncertainties as there are between those two parties, one thing I am certain of is that Harbaugh is as good as this country has to offer in middle management.

He is staying publically upbeat and damn near cheery about the last person besides Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes to win NFL MVP, entering his sixth NFL season still without a long-term deal. That’s the type of relentless positivity that can find the good in non-crispy bacon or sugarless Kool-Aid.

Maybe he can keep that tiny grin up while the other team owners give Steve Bisciotti a thunderous round of applause at the big league-meeting party that they will “forget” to inform Jimmy Haslem of its address. The kings of professional sports can continue to stuff cash in their pockets like a money machine with no time limit. Sure the Ravens may have kneecapped their team for the next decade, but for now, the quarterback market has been stabilized.

And Harbaugh had better hope that his sunny disposition can keep the Ravens competitive enough for him to remain employed. 

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.

Stop glorifying NFL Pro Days — they’re just in-person highlight tapes

Zach Wilson had many fooled during his 2021 Pro Day

Before there was Hudl and YouTube, there were VHS cassettes. And before that, film. Studying and watching footage of your opponent, yourself, or a prospect has always been a vital part of sports. There’s nothing like seeing what someone does against live competition and the variables that occur during a game. But, due to America’s addiction to football and the lack of content between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft, Pro Days have become the new “it” thing, despite them being suped-up solo practices that make players look like they can do something they can’t.

Tape don’t lie. Game film is the true revealer of one’s talents.

This week, every show on ESPN and FS1 will be dissecting quarterback prospects as Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young, and Kentucky’s Will Levis had their Pro Days.

Who will move up, down the draft board?

Somebody’s draft stock is about to go up, or down, because they threw a perfect ball to a wide-open receiver, or because their accuracy was off on a few post routes. The idea that a solo workout on steroids in front of scouts and team personnel can tell you more about a quarterback than talking with them and watching what they’ve put on film will never make sense.

It’s as if people didn’t learn from inexplicably falling in love with Zach Wilson after that infamous throw he made at his Pro Day. A practice throw was the best pass he’s ever made.

I’m old enough to remember when the combination of JaMarcus Russell’s performance against Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl and his Pro Day was enough to make people forget that his entire college career was proof that he’d be a bust in the NFL — not the two really good days he had.

“The most important thing is always gonna be the games,” said Los Angeles Chargers president of football operations John Spanos, all the way back in 2013. “Whether the (pro days) are too scripted or not, it’s always a small piece of the puzzle. But the big pro days are diminishing, especially for the top guys. You’re having more private workouts. You want to get them doing everything, and so for high first-rounders, it makes sense. But you can’t do that with everyone.”

Far too often, unnecessary importance is put on measurables, hand sizes, and 40-yard dash times than need be, instead of focusing on whether a not a player is consistently good during a game — which can be proven by watching film and not some highlights from a Pro Day.

Private workouts held by individual franchises need to be the way of the future, as Pro Days are overrated. The NFL Combine needs to be eradicated, too, due to it resembling a modern-day slave auction. Besides, Bill Belichick skipped the combine this year, and history has shown us that some of the league’s best players don’t receive invites. Malcolm Butler, Julian Edelman, Antonio Gates, Tyreek Hill, and Adam Thielen all did pretty well for themselves without ever showing up in Indianapolis during the pre-draft process.

Drafting quarterbacks is hard. There’s no easy way to know if a player’s game will translate from college to the NFL, if somebody is a bust waiting to happen, or if they’ll be better on Sundays than they were on Saturdays. But despite all that, there’s got to be a better way to get excited by a player than just watching them go through a route tree without a defense in front of them.

What if Aaron Rodgers to New York is just a big April Fools’ joke?

“Just kidding, guys!”

Aaron Rodgers is still the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. More than a week after telling the football world he wants to be in New York taking snaps for the Jets next season, there’s been very little noise out of East Rutherford, N.J., regarding Mr. Rodgers — just the other additions the team has made. This feels like a story that’s almost destined to have a very anticlimactic ending. It sounds a lot like an April Fools’ day joke.

That would be the most incredible twist possible to this saga. A Vince Russo-esque swerve for all the wrestling fans out there. (IT WAS ME, AUSTIN AARON!) The world knows Rodgers wants to wear Jets green in 2023, and now the ball is in the Packers’ court. They hold the key to when this gets done. However, a nicely timed tweet unveiling how they’ve fooled us all and plan to move forward with A-Rod instead would send the sports media world into an uproar.

All the wasted time and resources spent by everyone following this story in hopes of getting the scoop. The demands of certain players the Jets need to sign to make Rodgers happy. Nathaniel Hackett was brought in as the Jets’ new offensive coordinator. Call it what you want, but that will always look like a move made to attract Rodgers because of their relationship. Adam Schefter and other insiders would be cursing Rodgers and Green Bay’s name for putting them through all this, only to have no real outcome. Rodgers even went as far as telling Schefter to lose his number.

The looks on people’s faces would be priceless once they found out this was all an elaborate ruse. Of course, we know the actual resolution will be far less entertaining. They have been affectionately dubbed the No Fun League for a reason. In the age of instant gratification, this whole ordeal is taking way too long for most. By the time this finally gets done, the breaking news will happen on a Friday afternoon when half the country won’t even notice. 

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.

Stand by your (ex) man

They may not be together anymore but Gisele’s got Tom’s back

People really believe that Gisele Bündchen is a witch, huh? I guess there is a vocal segment of the population that isn’t familiar with the yoga, meditation, crystals, and stones crowd. Even though that was the lede, Michelle Ruiz’s entire Vanity Fair profile on one of the most successful supermodels to ever walk the earth was about far more than if she and Aaron Rodgers’ most recent ex-girlfriend are allegedly members of the same tribe. It’s about the cruelty of the modeling industry, navigating co-parenting for the last two decades, learning jujitsu with her children, and her quest for wellness.

The Brazilian model/actress/singer/businesswoman also talked at length about her divorce from Tom Brady. Bündchen shot down several rumors including one about her currently dating one of his friends, and the prevailing public perception that the divorce was filed due to Brady deciding to return to the NFL for a 23rd season. Bündchen even showed that even though they are no longer together, she remains an NFL fan. And her favorite player is still Tom Brady.

“It was tough, but you know what? Let’s just be honest. It’s a team sport and you can’t play alone,” Bündchen said to Ruiz about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-14 wild-card loss to the Dallas Cowboys. “I think he did great under the circumstances that he had. I mean, he had no offensive line.”

Bündchen defends Brady post-divorce

Married or not, Bündchen is still willing to do what Brady never would or will — blame his teammates for a loss. She did the same thing after the New England Patriots’ second Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, but that time she was not talking to a magazine writer. She was a frustrated spouse, upset that his teammates didn’t carry their share of the load as Brady again lost to Eli Manning.

“My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time,” she said at the time.

First, to the person who exclaimed “Eli owns your husband!” I know that it has been 11 years and there is a chance that you have grown as a person, but that was lame. You’re at the Super Bowl, standing in a hallway that celebrities are using, and your team just won. Enjoy a memorable evening. Don’t be an ass.

Second, we all know that infamous ball that Julian Edelman wasn’t able to haul in was a bad pass.

It was nice though to find out that Bündchen still sticks up for Brady. Not because he deserves it, but because it was an insight into their relationship. Yes, they are no longer together, but there is still a lot of love there. All she had to say was that it was unfortunate watching him lose that way, but no. She wanted it to be on the record that the father of her children is still a baller.

For all the denying of rumors that she did, that one quote was a clear glimpse at how she feels about him. Forget what it means for Brady, for her to be that protective over his performance is a good sign for her newest co-parenting relationship.

It certainly isn’t any evidence of her being a witch, regardless of what energy she believes that certain stones provide.

It’s always sunny in the Motor City?

Dan Campbell is the early betting favorite for Coach of the Year

The early returns of NFL free agency are here, and the clear winner is the Detroit Lions — at least according to the media’s reaction. Everybody’s favorite dysfunctional franchise finished 2022 strong after an abominable start and barely missed the playoffs. Some would say they were the best team to miss the postseason, and to that, I would ask, did you see some of the teams in the postseason?

But before we dive into the hype that’s made Dan Campbell (pictured) the betting favorite for coach of the year, let’s look at the moves the experts loved.

Kings of the offseason?

The Lions improved an Achilles heel of a secondary by adding corners Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Mosley, as well as coveted safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. They added David Montgomery to bolster the running back depth, and retained or added pieces to both fronts.

It was enough to get the Pride of Detroit blog to aggregate various talking heads heaping atta boys upon Detroit. Rich Eisen, Kyle Brandy, and Kay Adams all were effusive in their praise, and that’s without a single draft pick, of which the Lions have eight.

The front office will be able to fix or bulk more areas with four selections in the top 55, a third-rounder, a fifth, and two sixes. And that doesn’t even include getting a fully healthy Jameson Williams, who sat out most of his rookie season while recovering from a torn ACL. Jared Goff or not, this Lions’ buzz feels eerily reminiscent of the adoration pundits had for the Eagles last year.

So Lions fans should book tickets to Las Vegas?

There’s more than just draft picks and hype that has me looking at Lions like the Eagles. The motivational/emotional style of Dan Campbell and Nick Sirianni is one in the same vein. Mix that with an appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks, and Campbell has already endeared himself to NFL fans like he just cried for the 15th straight presser. Hell, during Week 3 of last year, bettors were still so enthused by the Lions that they were the public’s betting favorite for the Super Bowl.

Proof that the house is still undefeated aside, next year’s big game is in Las Vegas, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if football fans were enamored by Detroit’s chances to get there. The other likeness to the 2022 Eagles is how the Lions finished the season prior. While Philly didn’t look great in a Round 1 loss to Tampa in Jalen Hurts’ first season as the starter, the team had a whiff of confidence and, more importantly, a keen sense of self-awareness as it relates to its quarterback.

Say what you will about Goff, he did get the Rams to the Super Bowl, and helmed a top-seven passing offense in 2022 while playing a key role in Detroit finishing third in total touchdowns scored. You know how many QB rooms in the NFC have a starter who’s been to a Super Bowl? It’s Detroit, Philly, Los Angeles, and Green Bay until Aaron Rodgers stops holding sports media hostage.

I really want to hop on the Lions’ bandwagon because I looked like an idiot after not buying into/actively lashing back at the Eagles. The evidence and critics indicated otherwise, and all those folks can say, “See, I know what I’m talking about,” while I’m left out in the rain with a deflated balloon.

Having said that, I still can’t do it. My bias prevented me from siding with Philly, and now it’s happening again with the Motor City. I don’t hate the Lions with a searing passion, but I do feel that passionately about the team’s ability to rear back and uppercut the city of Detroit in the balls with unrelenting efficiency.

So cast in pennies and pounds at your own risk, because I’ll be investing mine in precious metals.

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.

Patrick Mahomes will never make as much money as Roger Goodell

This guy is gonna get paid even more

For those who want to be a multi-millionaire, the secret is not on LLC Twitter. Starting a business in which you give people personal and financial life advice on TikTok when both aspects of yours are in shambles will not result in a massive payout from advertisers. The easiest way to a life of riches is to do what Roger Goodell has done. Put his privilege to good use and be the pin cushion that protects his employers from a prying media and sports public.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Goodell’s newest contract extension should be finalized next week. Per the New York Times, Goodell was already making nearly $64 million per year. That was already quite a bit more than Patrick Mahomes. The NFL’s biggest star had better continue to look to State Farm to make up the difference in income.

Born into privilege

Goodell is the son of former United States Rep. and Sen. Charles Goodell. His father served in Congress — representing the state of New York — from 1959-71. This is the world that young Roger was literally born into. He was born the same year that his father’s first term in the House began.

Goodell attended high school in Bronxville, N.Y., the same town where he conducted the 2020 NFL Draft from his home basement. Goodell has worked in the NFL since 1982 when he first served as an intern when Pete Rozelle was still commissioner. He stepped down a few years later, and Paul Tagliabue did the same in 2006. Goodell took over after Tagliabue and is responsible for taking the advantages the team owners already had, and increasing them exponentially.

Revenue splits

In both the NBA and NFL, ownership locked out the players in 2011 because they were unsatisfied with the revenue split. The players were taking home the larger percentage of revenue and ownership wanted a change. Unlike the NBA, the NFL missed no regular season action in its efforts for more cash. Before that lockout, the owners took home the first billion dollars of league revenue and the rest was split with the players receiving 60 percent. These days players receive 48-48.8 percent of league revenue.

The amount of revenue that the NFL receives is currently more than ever before. This is largely due to the fact that the NFL can guarantee something that no other live broadcast can — viewership. While Goodell was both being praised and castigated for his unilateral stiff punishment of players in the late 2000s, the number of people watching the NFL was already steadying the league for the change in television viewing habits over the next 10 years.

The Super Bowl just prior to Goodell’s takeover was the league’s highest-rated since the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1996. While the starting quarterbacks were Matt Hasselbeck and Ben Roethlisberger pre-motorcycle accident, this game outdid Donovan McNabb and Tom Brady the season before.

Four years into the job, Goodell presented the NFL team owners with his goal of $25 billion in annual revenue by the 2027 season. Per Sportico, the league is very much on track to reach that goal.

The dangers of playing football

While some may want to credit Goodell’s early punitive player punishments for the NFL’s dominance in content, his best work has been in keeping the team owners away from the questions about the existential danger for players in the NFL.

The team owners can answer questions about CTE and all of the other issues surrounding the health of NFL players if they so choose, but it’s Goodell who unflinchingly eats those arrows.

There is serious data available to the public that directly links playing football to future brain damage. Many players that football fans are quite familiar with have taken their own lives, and later been diagnosed with CTE. The number of brains of former football players that have been tested and confirmed to have the disease is frightening. Will Smith made a movie about it.

Yet, television’s most watched product still chugs along. In the front office, former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was living foul, and he stepped away. Dan Snyder is still technically in control of the Washington NFL franchise, but his dirt has been public knowledge for years. His local fanbase is a top-10 American market that is disgusted with him and actively chooses to withhold their dollars from his team. Maybe that hurts the NFL, but certainly not enough for the other team owners to vote him out of the league and forcefully speed up his exit.

Goodell took over a bulletproof product and arguably his largest contribution has been to be the first NFL employee standing in front of that glass. Aim all concerns, fears, and disgust his way. He can take it. Now in his early 60s, this son of a U.S. congressman will make more money than his father could have ever dreamed.

There is great value in this country to taking blows for wealthier people as long as you’re in a position for the money to rush down as opposed to trickling.