Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
You better grab some popcorn and put the kids to bed because today is the unofficial start of free agency. Will your kids look at you awkwardly if you try to put them to bed around lunch time? Probably, but that's just how things go once free agency starts.
Although free agency doesn't technically start until Wednesday, players are allowed to agree to a deal with a new team starting at noon ET today. (They just can't sign that deal until Wednesday.)
By the time you read this newsletter there could already be several deals in place around the league, so to make sure you stay on top of all of those, you're definitely going to want to click here so you can check out our live blog. If you're too busy to be following a live blog, you can also click here to check out our free agent tracker that will be updated any time one of the top 100 free agents signs a deal.
As always, please tell everyone you know to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here and then share the link with them. All right, let's get to the rundown.
1. Mock Draft Monday: Panthers turn draft upside down with blockbuster trade for No. 1 overall pick
From now until the start of the 2023 NFL Draft, the first day of every week here will be known as Mock Draft Monday. What this means is that Ryan Wilson, our senior NFL Draft analyst, will be unveiling his latest mock draft.
This week's mock draft from Wilson is definitely going to look slightly different from last week's and that's because the Panthers turned the draft upside down by trading up for the No. 1 overall pick on Friday. The Panthers are so desperate for a quarterback that they decided to move up from the ninth overall spot to the top overall spot.
Here's a look at the trade details:
- Panthers receive: 2023 No. 1 overall pick
- Bears receive: 2023 No. 9 overall pick, 2023 second-round pick (61st overall), 2024 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick, WR D.J. Moore
(You can read our trade grades here)
First, let me just say that trades like this almost never happen. This marks just the third time since 2000 that we've seen a pre-draft trade for the No. 1 overall pick. The only other times it happened came in 2001 (The Falcons traded up for Michael Vick) and 2016 (The Rams traded up for Jared Goff).
The unfortunate news for the Panthers is that no team has ever traded up to draft a QB at No. 1 overall and then won a Super Bowl with that QB.
So what are the Panthers going to do with their pick? There's some speculation that they might TRADE BACK DOWN, but for now, Wilson has them staying put in his newest mock.
Here's a look at his first 15 picks:
1. Panthers: QB Bryce Young (Alabama)
2. Texans: QB C.J. Stroud (Ohio State)
3. Colts (via mock trade with Cardinals): QB Will Levis (Kentucky)
4. Cardinals (via mock trade with Colts): EDGE Will Anderson (Alabama)
5. Seahawks: DL Jalen Carter (Georgia)
6. Lions: EDGE Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech)
7. Raiders: QB Anthony Richardson (Florida)
8. Falcons: CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
9. Bears: DL Myles Murphy (Clemson)
10. Eagles: EDGE Lukas Van Ness (Iowa) CB Joey Porter, Jr. (Penn State)
11. Titans: OT Paris Johnson, Jr. (Ohio State)
12. Texans: OT Peter Skoronski (Northwestern)
13. Jets: OT Broderick Jones (Georgia)
14. Patriots: RB Bijan Robinson (Texas)
15. Packers: TE Michael Mayer (Notre Dame)
If you want to see how the rest of the first round pans out in his mock, then be sure to check out his entire mock draft by clicking here. We also took a closer look at what the Bears might do with the No. 9 overall pick and you can check that out here.
2. NFL free agency unofficially starts today
The NFL calendar says that free agency doesn't start until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, but don't be fooled by that. The real action actually started today when the legal tampering period opened at noon ET. Basically, by the time you read this newsletter, there's a good chance that several deals could already be in place.
Once the legal tampering period starts, players are allowed to agree to terms on a contract with a new team. (However, they can't sign the contract until Wednesday.) Once the tampering period starts, things usually get pretty hot and heavy.
Since deals could be going down all day Monday, here's another reminder that we've put together a tracker for you so that you can stay up to date on everything that has happened so far (Click here for the tracker). We also have a live blog that will cover signings AND trades as they happen and you can follow along by clicking here.
Also, to help you get warmed up for free agency, here's a list of Pete Prisco's top 100 free agents who will be available. The top guys are usually the ones who get signed first in free agency, so it won't be surprising at all if we see multiple players from this list agree to sign somewhere on Monday.
One player you likely won't hear about today is Lamar Jackson. The Ravens QB and other tagged players aren't allowed to negotiate with other teams until the official start of free agency, which will come on Wednesday.
3. Rams trade Jalen Ramsey to the Dolphins: Full details, plus grading the deal for both teams
Over the past few weeks, there was a lot of speculation that the Rams were going to trade Jalen Ramsey and a deal finally went down on Sunday when they shipped him off to Miami.
Here's a look at the trade details:
- Dolphins receive: Jalen Ramsey
- Rams receive: 2023 third-round pick, TE Hunter Long.
I'm not saying the Rams gave away Ramsey for free, but they kind of gave him away for free. The Dolphins are getting one of the best corners in the NFL for pennies on the dollar. This is like going into a car dealership and getting offered a Ferrari for $8,000. Over the past few years, the Rams strategy has been to trade their draft picks away for star players who cost a lot of money and it's hard to fault them for that strategy, because it's earned them two Super Bowl appearances and one win. However, it's now time to pay the piper and the piper always gets paid.
The Rams did free up some salary cap space by trading Ramsey, but they're still over the cap, and because of that, it won't be surprising if we see them release or trade one or two more players this week.
The Dolphins acquired Ramsey for almost nothing, so you can probably guess who we think won the deal. Garrett Podell handed out trade grades to each team and here's what he came up with:
- Dolphins grade: A. "Acquiring a 28-year-old superstar who is one of only seven players in the entire league to make each of the last six Pro Bowls is a significant win. Ramsey was Pro Football Focus' third-highest graded cornerback last season. This is a big deal because the Dolphins will face Josh Allen's Bills twice, Mac Jones with an actual offensive coordinator twice, and potentially Aaron Rodgers' New York Jets twice."
- Rams grade: C+. "For Los Angeles, the bill for their Super Bowl LVI run is now due, and they are paying up. It would've been nice to get at least a second rounder back in the deal for a player of Ramsey's caliber, but the Rams aren't in a position with leverage entering this offseason."
You can check out Podell's full explanation for each grade by clicking here.
In other Dolphins news, Miami decided to pick up Tua Tagovailoa's fifth-year option. The Dolphins were kind of dragging their feet on this decision, which led some people to believe that they weren't 100% confident in Tua. However, the option means that Tua is now under contract for the 2024 season for a fully guaranteed $23.17 million. This means that Tua is now under contract for the next two seasons for a total of just $24.2 million.
4. Your daily Aaron Rodgers update
For most of the past seven days, the Packers have been noticeably silent when it comes to Aaron Rodgers. However, that changed over the weekend when team president Mark Murphy decided to do multiple interviews while attending the girls state high school basketball tournament in Wisconsin.
You don't generally see a lot of NFL news being made at high school basketball tournaments, but that's what we got in this case. Here's what Murphy had to say about the Rodgers' situation.
- Murphy doesn't sound like he wants Rodgers back. Murphy was asked if there was any scenario where Rodgers might return to the Packers in 2023 and he gave an interesting answer. "Yeah, I mean unless, if things don't work out the way we [the Packers] want them, yeah, we would," Murphy told WBAY. It doesn't take much to read between the lines there. I don't think the Packers want Rodgers back.
- Murphy confirms that the Jets were granted permission to speak with Rodgers. The Packers were silent on this issue last week, but Murphy confirmed that the Packers gave the Jets permission to meet with Rodgers. "We did give them [the Jets] permission [to talk directly to Rodgers]," Murphy said. "But I really can't get into the details, and we are just really hopeful that we can reach a resolution that works not only for Aaron, but for us."
- Murphy refers to Rodgers in a past tense. "Very few players play for only one team, and obviously Brett had a great career, Aaron HAD a great career here and regardless of what happens, Aaron will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he'll be in our Hall of Fame and we'll bring him back and retire his number," Murphy said. "But this is just one of the things that you go through as a team." That sounds like a guy who has mentally moved on from Rodgers.
As for Rodgers, he did an interview over the weekend and he said "it won't be long" before we know what's going to happen. The ball is 100% in Rodgers' court right now. If he's OK with being traded to the Jets, then a deal is going to happen quickly. Both teams need to know what Rodgers is going to do before Wednesday, so we'll likely know what's going to happen in the next 24 hours. Basically, don't be surprised if a Rodgers trade goes down at some point today or tomorrow.
5. XFL Week 4: Highlights from all the action
There are eight teams in the XFL, and after four weeks, only two of them are still undefeated: The Houston Roughnecks and the D.C. Defenders. Both teams rolled to victories over the weekend.
Here are some of the highlights from each of the Week 4 games:
- Houston Roughnecks 44-16 over Orlando Guardians. Roughnecks QB Brandon Silvers is looking like the early candidate for league MVP. Silvers threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The Roughnecks victory included one of the coolest trick plays of the season and it came when they threw a double forward pass for a 49-yard TD (You can see the play here). Although you can't throw two forward passes in the NFL, you CAN do that in the XFL as long as both passes are thrown behind the line of scrimmage.
- Seattle Sea Dragons 15-6 over San Antonio Brahmas. This game was tied 6-6 at halftime, but then the Sea Dragons took over in the second half, outscoring San Antonio 9-0. The Brahmas were limited to just 21 rushing yards and 191 total yards, which is a big reason why they lost. One bright spot for the Brahmas was kicker John Parker Romo, who hit the longest field goal in the history of Lumen Field with a 57-yarder just before halftime (You can see the kick here). The previous record belonged to Dan Bailey, who hit a 56-yarder against the Seahawks in 2014.
- St. Louis BattleHawks 24-11 over Orlando Guardians. Former NFL QB Kyle Sloter is having a rough time in the XFL. A big reason the Guardians lost this game is because Sloter threw three interceptions. On the other hand, BattleHawks QB AJ McCarron was nearly flawless, going 20 of 27 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns while playing in front of the biggest crowd in XFL history (38,810).
- D.C. Defenders 32-18 over Vegas Vipers. The Defenders steamrolled the Vipers with 179 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground in this game. DC QB Jordan Ta'amu led the way for his team. Not only did he throw for 177 yards, but he also rushed for a team-high 89 yards. Ta'amu wasn't he star of the game though, because that honor went to D'Eriq King, who rushed for both touchdowns while ALSO throwing a 32-yard TD pass that you can see here.
Our writing crew of Bryan DeArdo, Cody Benjamin and Shanna McCarriston watched every minute of all four XFL games over the weekend and you can read about all the XFL highlights from the weekend by clicking here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Patriots trade Jonnu Smith to the Falcons
It was a busy weekend 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.
- Jonnu Smith shipped off to Atlanta. The Patriots have decided to move on from Smith after just two seasons. The veteran tight end was traded to the Falcons today, per multiple reports. The Patriots will be getting just a seventh-round pick in exchange for Smith. This should be a good move for Smith, who will be reunited with Falcons coach Arthur Smith. The two spent four seasons together in Tennessee and Jonnu Smith had the two most productive years of his career in 2019 and 2020 when Arthur Smith was his offensive coordinator.
- Jimmy Garoppolo likely to have a hot market. Garoppolo might not be available for long in free agency and that's because the Raiders and Texans are both expected to pursue him, according to ESPN.com. The Jets could also get in on the Garoppolo sweepstakes if things don't work out with Aaron Rodgers.
- Browns restructure Deshaun Watson's contract. The Browns will be going into free agency with some extra money after pulling off a restructure of Watson's contract today. Watson's 2023 salary was converted to a bonus, which will allow the Browns to free up $35.87 million in cap space. Of course, the downside for Cleveland here is that he now has a $64.96 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons.
- Buccaneers to target Baker Mayfield. With Tom Brady retired, the Buccaneers are now in the market for a quarterback and it appears they have their eyes set on Mayfield. You can read more about that situation here.
- Daron Payne gets monstrous extension. Payne was the first player to be hit with the franchise tag this year, but he won't be playing on the tag after agreeing to a four-year, $90 million deal with Washington. Payne is now the second-highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL, behind only Aaron Donald.
- Robert Woods signs with Texans. After spending the 2022 season in Tennessee, Woods is now headed to Houston. The receiver has signed a two-year deal with the Texans that includes $10 million in guaranteed money.
- Tyreek Hill is insanely fast. You already knew Hill was fast, but he might be even faster than you thought. The Dolphins receiver showed up in Kentucky over the weekend to run the 60-meter race at the USA Track and Field Masters Indoor Championships and HE WON. Hill dominated the field with a time of 6.70 seconds, which was just .36 off the world record (You can see the race here).
- Odell in talks with multiple teams following workout. The free agent receiver held an open workout with NFL teams on Friday and apparently, he's now drawing interest from several of those teams, according to NFL.com. We decided to take a look at potential Odell landing spots and you can check those out by clicking here.
- Devin McCourty retires. The three-time Super Bowl winner has decided to call it a career after 13 seasons. McCourty was selected by the Patriots in the first-round of the 2010 NFL Draft and then he proceeded to spend his entire career in New England. The two-time Pro Bowler was somewhat of an iron man as he hadn't missed a game since 2014. You can check out more details on his career here.
- Vikings legend Bud Grant dies. There was no one who embodied the Minnesota Vikings more than Bud Grant, who died on Saturday at the age of 95. During his 18 seasons as coach of the Vikings, Minnesota made the playoffs 12 times while also getting to four Super Bowls. "No single individual more defined the Minnesota Vikings than Bud Grant," Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement. "A once-in-a lifetime man, Bud will forever be synonymous with success, toughness, the north and the Vikings." For a much more detailed look at Grant's legacy, be sure to head here.