Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
It's the last day of February, and let me just say, this month is going out with a bang when it comes to NFL news. We're not even halfway through the day and we've already seen a starting QB from 2022 get cut (Marcus Mariota), a coordinator for a 2022 playoff team decided he's not going to coach in 2023, the Browns cut their starting safety and the first franchise tag of the offseason got used.
Oh, and the NFL combine starts today. I probably shouldn't forget to mention that since that's what we'll be starting things off with today in the newsletter.
As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. Alright, let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's show: NFL combine preview
It's finally here! The NFL combine is officially starting today and it will be running through March 6, so you can expect to be hearing a lot about the combine between now and then, and that will be starting right now.
Josh Edwards and Will Brinson kicked off our combine coverage with a preview show on today's episode of the Pick Six Podcast. To help preview the combine, Edwards put together a list of players who could be potential sleepers at the combine this year.
- WR Jacob Copeland (Maryland). "Shrine Bowl director of football operations Eric Galko believes that Copeland could run sub-4.3 seconds in Indianapolis. Film shows a wide receiver with an understanding of how to sink his hips into his breaks. If he can perform more consistently, while maintaining his track-caliber speed, then the sky is the limit in his career."
- CB Terrell Smith (Minnesota). "Smith has been lightly discussed during the pre-draft process but the tape tells the tale of a player not to be overlooked. He won the Georgia State Championship in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.39 seconds. He can flip his hips and stay in-phase up the boundary with ease."
- CB Carrington Valentine (Kentucky). "Valentine has good size and competitive toughness to be a man coverage cornerback in the NFL."
For a look at the full list of potential sleepers, be sure to click here. NFL Draft guru Chris Trapasso also made some bold predictions for the combine and you can check each of those predictions out here.
As for the today's episode of the podcast, you can listen to Edwards and Brinson preview the combine by clicking here. You can also watch today's show on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Looking at possible landing spots for Carson Wentz
At this point, I think it's now officially safe to say that the Commanders definitely weren't the winners in last March's Carson Wentz trade. Less than a year after acquiring Wentz from the Colts, the Commanders made the decision to cut him on Monday. From a financial standpoint, this move was a no-brainer as the Commanders will now pick up $26.17 million in salary cap space.
Wentz is now a free agent who will soon be playing for his fourth team in four years. So where will he end up? Glad you asked. Tyler Sullivan took a look at a few potential landing spots.
- Buccaneers. "This might be his best chance of remaining a starter in the NFL. The Buccaneers have a horrid cap situation this offseason, which may keep them out of the running for the top quarterbacks who are expected to be on the market. They also own the 19th pick in the draft, which is out of the range for where this year's crop of young quarterbacks is expected to come off the board."
- Panthers. "New Panthers coach Frank Reich has been with Wentz on multiple stops during the QB's NFL career. On top of being his head coach in Indy, Reich was his offensive coordinator during his days with the Philadelphia Eagles, so these two have quite the history. While Wentz likely will not factor into the discussion to be Carolina's starter, he could reunite Reich as a backup."
- Cardinals. "This is a situation where a starting job could be available. Kyler Murray suffered a torn ACL late last season, which puts his ability to be ready by Week 1 very much in doubt. So, there could be a multi-week window for a quarterback to get starts in Arizona. That should be an appealing situation for Wentz as it'd give him an opportunity to try and turn around his career as a starter."
- Chiefs. "The defending champions are in need of a backup quarterback after Chad Henne decided to retire following the win over Philadelphia in Super Bowl LVII."
- Bills. "Case Keenum, who served as the Bills backup last year, is set to be a free agent later this offseason, which could open the door for Wentz."
To check out Sullivan's full story on possible Wentz landings spots, be sure to click here.
As for the Commanders, they can't stay out of the news. Here's a quick look at the other headlines they've made over the past 24 hours:
- Daron Payne gets hit with the franchise tag. The first tag of 2023 has been used and it's been used on Payne. The tag means that the defensive tackle will get at least a one-year deal that will pay him a fully guaranteed $18.937 million in 2023. The two sides will now have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal, but if that can't be done, then he'll play on the tag.
- Commanders cut Bobby McCain. Carson Wentz wasn't the only former Washington starter to get cut on Monday, so was McCain, who started 32 games in the secondary over the past two seasons. The move will free up $4.42 million in cap space for the Commanders.
- Daniel Snyder in hot water. There seems to be something new every day with this guy. In our latest installment of "What did Snyder do to anger everyone today," it turns out he angered every NFL owner over a demand he recently made. According to the Washington Post, Snyder wants the NFL and his fellow owners to indemnify him if he sells the team so that he can't be held legally responsible for anything he did while he owned the Commanders. This demand is not sitting well with his fellow owners. Also, Snyder appears to have taken out a secret $55 million loan that was actually a credit line against the team and he wasn't supposed to do that. He also charged his own team $4.5 million to put Washington's logo on his private plane. For more details on that wild story, be sure to click here.
Things are getting so crazy with Snyder that if he doesn't sell the team, the other owners might force him to do it against his will (They could actually force him out if 24 of 32 owners voted for his ouster).
3. Free agency matchmaker: Projecting the landing spots for the NFL's top free agent running backs
When it comes to playing matchmaker, there's no one better than Cody Benjamin. I'm not sure if it's because he spends half his week watching old episodes of "The Love Connection" or if it's because the only show he used to watch as a kid was "Singled Out," but Cody is the king of matchmaking.
Due to that fact, we asked him to match up several free agent running backs with the team that would be the best fit for them. Cody decided to play matchmaker for 12 free agents and we're going to list five of those below.
- Match: Saquon Barkley and the Bears. "The Giants would surely welcome him back as the focal point of their offense, but QB Daniel Jones will likely cost a pretty penny, and Chicago has all kinds of money to spend as it prepares to build around Justin Fields."
- Match: Tony Pollard and the Dolphins. "The Cowboys would like him back, but they've got Ezekiel Elliott business to sort through first. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have all but one of their backs projected to hit the market. Head coach Mike McDaniel leans on the run, and Pollard is the kind of multipurpose weapon who could aid Tua Tagovailoa."
- Match: Josh Jacobs and the Lions. "The Lions could lose 17-touchdown man Jamaal Williams to free agency, and former second-rounder D'Andre Swift has yet to stay healthy. With a decent chunk of change at their disposal, and early draft capital to address other spots, Detroit could juice up its balanced offense by spending big for Jacobs."
- Match: Miles Sanders and the Panthers. "Sanders loves Philly, but the Eagles aren't typically in the business of shelling out top dollar for running backs, and their Super Bowl bid featured more of Kenneth Gainwell. Coming off a career year as a more physical, traditional ball-carrier, Sanders would fit in nicely in Carolina, where ex-Eagles coordinator Frank Reich now employs Duce Staley, Sanders' old position coach."
- Match: David Montgomery and the Broncos. "Denver has a top back of its own in Javonte Williams, but he's expected to be sidelined into 2023 due to a knee injury, and new coach Sean Payton would probably embrace a tough, proven fill-in -- a guy who does all the little things well -- to help lessen Russell Wilson's burden."
To check out where Cody has seven other free agent running backs landing, be sure to click here.
4. NFL to consider several major rule changes for 2023 season
The NFL makes several rule changes every year and when that happens they're usually approved at the NFL owners meetings in late March. It's not yet clear how many proposals will be voted on this year, but we know the league will be contemplating at least three big rule changes.
Here's a look at those rules (via the Washington Post):
- Making roughing the passer reviewable. After a 2022 season with several controversial roughing the passer penalties, the Rams are proposing a rule that would make the penalty reviewable. According to NFL.com, the competition committee doesn't sound excited about the change, so it's unlikely that we'll see this one voted through.
- Allow teams to dress an emergency third quarterback. Under this proposed rule, teams would be allowed to carry 47 active players on game day, but the extra player would have to be a quarterback. Currently, teams are allowed to dress 46 players. The NFL used to allow teams to carry an emergency third quarterback on game day, but the league scrapped that rule in 2011. The rule came up again after the 49ers ran out of quarterbacks in their NFC title game loss to the Eagles.
- Alternative onside kick. Instead of attempting an onside kick to get the ball back, teams would have the option to convert a fourth-and-15 from their own 25-yard line. This rule is being used in the XFL and one team actually converted on the play in Week 1 (You can see it here). The rule was popular enough in the NFL that it was proposed in 2019, 2020 and 2021, but in each case, nothing changed (The rule was voted down in 2019 and the owners decided to table the discussion in both 2020 and 2021, which meant that no vote was held). The competition committee was in favor of this rule in the past, so it will be interesting to see where they stand now. The problem with the current onside kick is that it has been almost impossible to recover since the NFL changed its kickoff rules in 2018. Last season, there were only three onside kicks recovered the entire year.
I actually wrote something on why I LIKE the alternative onside kick rule and you can see that explanation here (And yes, I do sometimes write things besides this newsletter). As for whether we'll see any changes, each rule would have to be approved by 24 of the 32 owners before it can officially be added to the rule book for the 2023 season.
5. NFC South offseason team needs
Since the middle of last week, we've been covering the offseason needs for each NFL team by going through every division, and today, we'll be continuing that run by going through the NFC South.
Tyler Sullivan went through every team in the division and made a list of their biggest needs that they should be looking to fill this offseason. The NFC South is a fascinating division and that's mostly because every single team in the division needs a quarterback. The team that lands the best QB this offseason will likely have the upper-hand when it comes to winning the division in 2023.
Alright, let's check out the needs for each team:
Team needs: QB, CB, EDGE, OL, RB
Cap space: -$55.5 million (Yes, that's a negative sign. They have the worst cap situation in the NFL)
Tyler's outlook: "Quarterback is, of course, the glaring need in Tampa Bay with Tom Brady retiring. Before they embark on addressing that or any need on their roster, however, they'll need to create quite a bit of cap space just to get them compliant. The Buccaneers are in a pretty rough spot that could lead to some hard decisions. They are in an unenviable cap situation and have just three draft selections within the top 150."
Team needs: QB, LB, IOL, WR, DT, S
Cap space: -$9.5 million
Tyler's outlook: "Besides quarterback, Carolina could use more pass-catching weapons to complement D.J. Moore. Also, a true red zone threat at the tight end position would be ideal, especially if they bring in a young quarterback. In the backfield, retaining D'Onta Foreman in free agency could be a cost-effective way to still have a sturdy rushing attack in 2023."
Team needs: QB, IOL, CB, WR, S, DL
Cap space: -$36 million (Yes, that's a negative sign)
Tyler's outlook: "Just like every other team in this division, the Saints need a quarterback. They've dipped their toes into the Derek Carr waters, so the former Raiders quarterback could be an option for them and they seem more likely to go down the veteran QB route than others in the NFC South."
Team needs: QB, EDGE, IOL, WR, DB
Cap space: $55.6 million
Tyler's outlook: "The Falcons need a lot of help. Fortunately for them, however, they are in the best position out of anyone in the NFC South to make noticeable improvements this offseason. They are armed with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft and they also have the second-most amount of available cap space out of every team in the NFL."
For a full look at each team's needs and who they should go after, be sure to check out Tyler's full story by clicking here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Falcons release Marcus Mariota
It's been a busy 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.
- Falcons dump Marcus Mariota. After one season in Atlanta, Marcus Mariota is out. This decision was an easy one to make for the Falcons and that's mostly because it's going to free up $12 million in salary cap space. Mariota went 5-8 as a starter for the Falcons before being benched late in the season. It will now be interesting to see what the Falcons do at quarterback. They could turn to Desmond Ridder or go after a veteran free agent. As for Mariota, we came up with a list of a few possible landing spots and you can check that out here.
- Bills defensive coordinator surprisingly decides to sit out 2023. In a total shocker, the Bills have announced that defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is taking a year off in 2023 with plans to return in 2024.The team didn't announced why Frazier made the decision. The Bills haven't announced a replacement, but they did hire Al Holcomb as a senior defensive assistant.
- Packers GM hasn't spoken to Aaron Rodgers yet. During an interview with reporters today, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst admitted that he has yet to speak with Rodgers this offseason. It's still not clear if Rodgers will be returning to Green Bay and Gutekunst admitted that the Packers will be considering every option at their disposal, "He's a great player, but until we have those conversations, I think all options are on the table," Gutekunst said, via ESPN.com. "We need to have those conversations. We want what's best for the Green Bay Packers, what's best for him so we'll get to that coming up." With free agency starting on March 15, Rodgers' future will have to be decided before that, which means the clock is ticking.
- Derek Carr to meet with Panthers, Saints and Jets this week. The former Raiders QB is going to be in Indianapolis this week to make it easier for him to meet with teams and we now know three of the teams he'll be meeting with. According to NFL.com, Carr already has plans to meet with the Jets, Saints and Panthers. It will be his second meeting with New York and New Orleans, but first meeting with Carolina.
- Eagles have their new offensive coordinator. In the least surprising move of the day, the Eagles have promoted Brian Johnson from QB coach to offensive coordinator. Johnson is taking over for Shane Steichen, who was hired as Colts head coach earlier this month.
- Giants set to release Kenny Golladay. The receiver was a huge signing for the Giants in 2021, but he never panned out for them. Golladay hit rock bottom during a 2022 season where he caught just six passes for 81 yards. Cutting Golladay will free up $6.7 million in cap space for the Giants.
- Browns set to release starting safety. After starting 32 games for the Browns over the past two seasons, the team has decided to move on from John Johnson III. The Browns will likely try to trade him over the next two weeks, but if nothing happens, then he'll be cut at the start of the new league year on March 15. Cutting Johnson will free up $9.75 million in cap space.