Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
If you've spent this entire week sitting in a dark room, don't worry, you're not the only one, so did Aaron Rodgers. However, Rodgers is now out of that dark room and he's returned to civilization, which means we might soon be hearing some news about his future.
Speaking of Rodgers' future, we'll actually be covering that in today's newsletter plus, we'll also be going over Pete Prisco's ranking of the top 100 free agents for 2023. Basically, if you're only going to read one newsletter this week, it should probably be this one.
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.
1. Ranking the top 100 free agents
It's been nearly two weeks since anyone has heard from Pete Prisco and although I was starting to get concerned, it turns out that we haven't heard from him because he locked himself in a windowless room. I thought for sure he was pulling an Aaron Rodgers and going on a darkness retreat, but as it turns out, he was in that room so he could finish his ranking of the NFL's top 100 free agents.
Prisco's annual ranking is a must-read piece and with free agency now less than three weeks away, you're probably going to want to start reading it now so you can be as well-versed as possible on this year's class of free agents.
Here's a look at the top-10 players on Prisco's list (the team listed next to the player is the team they played for last year).
1. QB Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
2. QB Derek Carr (Raiders)
3. DT Javon Hargrave (Eagles)
4. DT Daron Payne (Commanders)
5. RB Saquon Barkley (Giants)
6. DE Marcus Davenport (Saints)
7. OT Orlando Brown (Chiefs)
8. OT Jawaan Taylor (Jaguars)
9. QB Daniel Jones (Giants)
10. C Jason Kelce (Eagles)
The Eagles have four of the top-18 free agents on Prisco's list, which means they're going to be busy this offseason (James Bradberry is ranked 13th while Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is ranked 18th). The Bills, Raiders and Giants are the only other teams with at least two players in the top 18.
To check out Prisco's entire ranking of the top 100 free agents, be sure to click here.
2. Packers apparently want Aaron Rodgers back
No one does offseason drama like Aaron Rodgers and for the second straight year, no one seems to have any idea how things are going to play out with the Packers quarterback.
Last week, there was a report that the Packers were ready to move on from their star quarterback, but as it turns out, that might not actually be the case. Apparently, the Packers are actually very open to the idea of Rodgers returning to Green Bay.
Here's the latest on Rodgers situation:
- Packers set one big condition for his return. During an interview on "The Rich Eisen Show" this week, Tom Pelissero of NFL Media made it sound like there was a good chance that Rodgers could end up back in Green Bay in 2023, but that there would be one big condition attached to his return: He'd have to be all in. "If he wants to return to Green Bay and as long as he's fully bought in, the Packers want him back," Pelissero said. "They had good conversations after the season." If the Packers want Rodgers to be "fully bought in," that likely means that they expect him to show up for spring workouts and OTAs, which he didn't do last season.
- ESPN also reporting that Rodgers staying in Green Bay seems likely. ESPN's Jeff Darlington was told by a source this week that the most likely scenario is that Rodgers would return to Green Bay. "I had with a [conversation with a] very important Green Bay Packers source who, quite honestly, believes that Aaron Rodgers will be back with the Packers and that all of this is being overhyped," Darlington said. "He looks at the contract that Aaron Rodgers signed last year and the commitment that he gave to the team and believes that at the end of the day, Aaron Rodgers will be back with the Packers."
- Rodgers emerges from the darkness. The four-time MVP said last week that he would be closer to making a decision about his NFL future once his darkness retreat concluded and he came out of the darkness on Wednesday, according to ESPN.com. One thing I should note is that this darkness retreat was more like a pampered hotel stay. ESPN notes that Rodgers had "a queen bed, a bathroom and a meditation-like mat," and that it was "Fully powered," which means Rodgers was able to turn the lights on in his room if he needed it.
Anyway, what this all means is that it won't be surprising if we know more about Rodgers' future in the next few days and it you shouldn't be surprised if that future involves him staying in Green Bay.
For more details on the Rodgers situation, be sure to click here.
3. NFL Draft: Trades that would make sense for the No. 1 overall pick
The Bears are probably going to be getting a lot of phone calls over the next two months and that's because they currently hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
This year's draft is loaded with a lot of solid talent at quarterback and if the Bears are happy with Justin Fields, that means they won't be taking a QB with the top pick. In that situation, the Bears would almost certainly be looking to trade out of the top spot and that's where R.J. White comes in. The SportsLine draft guru updated his trade value chart and thanks to that fact, we now have a rough estimate of how much it will cost teams to move up to the top spot if they want to trade up to No. 1 overall to grab a QB.
Current pick: No. 2 overall
Texans get: No. 1 overall pick
Bears get: No. 2 overall pick, either No. 33 or 2024 first, and either No. 66 or 2024 second
Current pick: No. 4 overall
Colts get: No. 1 overall pick
Bears get: No. 4 overall pick, 36th overall, 80th, 2024 first-round pick and 2024 second
Current pick: No. 7 overall
Raiders get: No. 1 overall pick
Bears get: No. 7 overall pick, 39th, 175th, 2024 first-round pick, 2024 second- and 2025 first-round pick
As you can see, the price for the top pick gets noticeably steeper the farther down you go. The Raiders would likely have to give up two future first-round picks to move up to the top spot while the Texans could be in a spot where they're surrendering ZERO future first-round picks.
Based on the trade value chart, it's hard to see a team picking after the Colts making a trade up to the top spot. If you want to know what other teams would have to do to acquire the No. 1 overall pick, then be sure to check out R.J.'s entire story by clicking here.
4. Salary cap crunch: How teams with zero cap room can make some space before the start of free agency
If you're a fan of a team with a lot of salary cap space, then free agency is an exciting time, because you know your team has the ability to sign one or two key players if that's what they need. On the other hand, if your favorite team is $55 million OVER the salary cap right now (I'm looking at you, Buccaneers), then free agency is just a giant tease because you know your team is not going to be able to get into a bidding war for any top free agents.
However, just because a team is way over the cap doesn't mean they can't fix their financial problems. With free agency still 20 days away, Cody Benjamin took a look at what some of the most cap-strapped teams can do to free up some space before the official start of free agency on March 15.
The Titans pulled this off masterfully on Wednesday. Going into the day, they were $25 million OVER the salary cap, but after releasing left tackle Taylor Lewan, wide receiver Robert Woods, linebacker Zach Cunningham and kicker Randy Bullock yesterday, they're now $12.4 million UNDER the cap, according to Overthecap.com.
There are currently 10 teams who are at least $10 million over the cap, and with that in mind, here are Cody's suggestions for how three of those teams could fix things before the start of free agency:
Projected over the cap: $16.6 million
Potential restructures or extensions: DT Ed Oliver ($7.7M), DT DaQuan Jones ($4.5M)
Potential cuts: RB Nyheim Hines ($4.8M), C Mitch Morse ($5.4M), DT Tim Settle ($2.2M)
Outlook: "Buffalo just acquired Hines via trade, but with James Cook in tow at running back, cutting him to save almost $5 million feels like a virtual lock. Morse's exit would raise bigger questions up front, but he's now 30 with a growing injury history. The team can also restructure the massive deals of two big-name defensive starters in Von Miller ($10.9 million) and Tre'Davious White ($5.9 million), although you wonder how eager they are to do that after both veterans battled serious injuries in 2022."
Projected over the cap: $9.7 million
Potential cuts: OT David Bakhtiari ($5.7M), LB De'Vondre Campbell ($5.2M)
Potential trades: QB Aaron Rodgers ($15.8M), DT Kenny Clark ($3M)
Cody's outlook: "This all comes down to Rodgers. If he's back for a 19th season, the Packers will have to get creative to restock his supporting cast. But even if he returns with an intent to play elsewhere, a trade will require some hurdle-jumping. A pre-June 1 trade would actually result in an immediate loss of $8.7M, whereas a post-June 1 move would clear almost $16M. But waiting until the summer isn't ideal for maximizing his trade value."
Projected over the cap: $36 million
Potential cuts: QB Jameis Winston ($4.4M), WR Michael Thomas ($1.4M), OT James Hurst ($4.7M)
Potential trades: RB Alvin Kamara ($1.7M), DE Cameron Jordan ($2.2M)
Potential extensions: DE Carl Granderson ($2.4M)
Cody's outlook: "The Saints are bound to cut Winston after refusing to put him back under center following an injury-riddled start to 2022, and Thomas' own medical history suggests a post-June 1 release is inevitable. Dealing Kamara and Jordan would represent an uncharacteristic shift to a full-on rebuild, but it's arguable they'll never be able to get more for the Pro Bowl playmakers, even with Kamara facing a suspension to open 2023."
To check out Cody's entire story, which includes financial fixes for a total of 10 teams, be sure to click here.
5. NFC North offseason team needs
Over the next two months, every NFL team is going to be looking to fill multiple needs in free agency and the draft. Since it's hard to keep track of every need that every team has, we decided we're going to do it for you. Over the next few days, we'll be presenting each team's needs by division, and today, we have Cody Benjamin breaking down the team needs in the NFC North.
Team needs: OT, DE, WR, DT
Cap space: $94.4
Outlook: "If their happy with Justin Fields, then their needs start on the offensive line. Starting right tackle Riley Reiff is set to hit free agency, as are two of their interior depth pieces. So they at least need competition there... Up front on defense, they simply need bodies to push the pile. Only a single player in Matt Eberflus' 2022 lineup logged at least 10 QB hits. That needs to change, either with power off the edge, up the middle, or both."
Team needs: CB, DT, TE, QB
Cap space: $13 million
Outlook: "The defensive backfield has been their biggest weakness for awhile. A truly reliable cover man would not only take pressure off former first-rounder Jeff Okudah but aid the Aidan Hutchinson-led pass rush... While their receiving corps is young and spry, their offense could also use another safety valve with the ever-trusty T.J. Hockenson since traded to Minnesota."
Team needs: TE, WR, S, OLB
Cap space: -$4.7 million (Yes, that's a negative sign)
Outlook: "With or without Aaron Rodgers, QB is tentatively situated with Jordan Love's live arm waiting on the bench. But the aerial weaponry still leaves a lot to be desired. Christian Watson was a thrilling late-year revelation and could enter 2023 as WR1, but Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, two serviceable but replaceable A-Rod pals, are both slotted for free agency."
Team needs: CB, S, WR, DE/OLB
Cap space: -$23.3 million
Outlook: "Reinforcements at corner and safety would be a major help, with three regulars -- CB Patrick Peterson, CB Chandon Sullivan, S Harrison Smith -- set to enter free agency or exit as a cap casualty... Securing Kirk Cousins someone other than Justin Jefferson would help alleviate the pressure on No. 18 to constantly hit a home run; Adam Thielen still deserves a role, but if he sticks, he's better suited as a No. 3 type going on 33."
For a full look at each team's needs and who they should go after, be sure to check out Cody's full story by clicking here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Ex-Broncos head coach returning to Denver as defensive coordinator
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.
- Broncos hire Vance Joseph for DC job. After spending the past two weeks kicking the tires on everyone to find their new defensive coordinator, it seems that the Broncos have finally found their guy. As confirmed by CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones, the Broncos are giving the job to Vance Joseph. It will be a return to Denver for Joseph, who served as the Broncos head coach for two seasons (2017-18) before getting fired, but that was under the old ownership group, which might be why Joseph was willing to return. More recently, Joseph spent the past four seasons as Arizona's defensive coordinator. The Broncos also interviewed Matt Patricia and Rex Ryan, but in the end, it was Joseph who got the job.
- Brock Purdy might not be ready to start the season. The 49ers QB was expected to undergo UCL surgery this week, but that has now been postponed until at least March due to inflammation in his elbow. Right now, Purdy is still expected to be ready for the start of the season, but that could change. If his doctor determines that he needs a more complicated surgery, then Purdy will almost certainly miss part of the regular season. The 49ers also have Trey Lance on the roster, but he's still recovering from a second surgery that he had on his fractured fibula.
- Top 2024 draft prospect wants to play for the Dolphins. Caleb Williams won't be eligible for the NFL Draft until 2024, but he already knows who he wants to play for. The USC quarterback said this week that he'd like to end up with the Dolphins. If you want to know why, you can check out his comments here.
- NFL partners with Netflix for docu-series. The NFL and Netflix are putting together a docu-series on what it's like to play quarterback in the NFL. To make this happen, Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota all agreed to be mic'd up for every game in 2022. They also agreed to let cameras into their home during the season. It actually sounds kind of interesting and it will be debuting on Netflix this summer.
- Ravens add former college head coach to coaching staff. The Ravens are raiding the college ranks. Not only did they hire Todd Monken as offensive coordinator, but the team is also adding Willie Taggart as the running backs coach. This will be the first NFL gig for Taggart, who has served as head coach at Oregon, Florida State and South Florida.