Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter, and let me just say, THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY, because I definitely need a breather after this week.
The craziness in the NFL started on Monday with Calvin Ridley’s one-year suspension. In a normal week, that would usually be the biggest story, but I’m not sure it’s even going to crack the top five for this week. Not only did we see both Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz get traded, but we can now add KHALIL MACK to that list.
Mack is headed to the AFC West after the Bears and Chargers worked out a deal to ship him to Los Angeles. At this point, I’m starting to think Roger Goodell needs to step in and stop all trades to the AFC West because that division is way too stacked. I mean, if he wants to give the winner of the AFC West a bye to the Super Bowl, I think I’d be fine with that.
We’ll be grading the Mack trade in today’s newsletter, plus we’ll be taking a look at free agent fits for every team in the AFC. Alright, let’s get to the rundown.
As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link.
1. Today’s show: How this week’s crazy news could impact the NFL Draft
To say it’s been a crazy week in the NFL would probably be an understatement. Not only did we have the franchise tag deadline, but we saw two quarterbacks get traded in a span of 24 hours. All of those moves are going to have a major impact on the 2022 NFL Draft, and to break down that impact, CBSSports.com draft analysts Chris Trapasso and Josh Edwards joined Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast today.
One of the biggest changes in the draft is that the Seahawks are now picking in the top 10. Thanks to the Wilson trade, Seattle will now be picking ninth overall and Edwards thinks the Seahawks are going to use that pick on a quarterback.
“If you’re a member of the Seahawks organization, are you looking at the 2022 season saying, ‘Yea, I’m comfortable rolling with Drew Lock or Geno Smith?’ I don’t think anyone is comfortable with doing that,” Edwards said. “The fact that you have a top-10 pick, maybe this is the opportunity to take a shot at the position.”
In news that won’t surprise you, Edwards has the Seahawks taking a QB in his latest mock draft.
The Commanders’ addition of Carson Wentz also changes things for them, because now, they don’t need a quarterback. With Wentz on the roster, Edwards thinks Washington will go after a receiver in the first round.
Here’s a look at the top-11 picks in Edwards’ latest mock draft:
1. Jaguars: OL Evan Neal (Alabama)
2. Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)
3. Texans: OL Ikem Ekwonu (North Carolina State)
4. Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
5. Giants: CB Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati)
6. Panthers: OL Charles Cross (Mississippi State)
7. Giants: DL Travon Walker (Georgia)
8. Falcons: QB Malik Willis (Liberty)
9. Seahawks: QB Matt Corral (Ole Miss)
10. Jets: S Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)
11. Commanders: WR Drake London (USC)
2. Bears send Khalil Mack to Chargers: Full trade details, plus grading the deal for both teams
After four seasons in Chicago, Khalil Mack is headed back to the AFC West. The linebacker started his career with the Raiders in 2014 and spent four seasons with them before being shipped off to Chicago in a headline-making deal prior to the 2018 season.
Now that he’s in L.A., not only will Mack be reunited with Brandon Staley, but he’ll also now be on the same defense as Joey Bosa, which should instantly give the Chargers one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL.
Here’s a look at the trade details:
- Chargers receive: Khalil Mack
- Bears receive: 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 sixth-rounder.
- Other notable parts of the deal: The Chargers will also be taking over the rest of Mack’s contract, which has three years and $63.9 million left. That total includes a $17.75 million cap hit that the Chargers will have to take for the upcoming season. Despite adding that hit, the Chargers still have $24.7 million in cap space heading into free agency, which is the 11th most in the NFL, according to Over The Cap.
I don’t completely love this trade for the Bears, but I also don’t hate it. If I were a pessimistic Bears fan, I’d be upset that my team just basically gave Mack away for free. The Bears had to give up two first-round picks to acquire Mack from the Raiders and now they’re getting rid of him for almost nothing. That being said, if I were an optimistic Bears fan — I’m not sure if they exist — I’d like this trade for my team because we just dumped a ton of salary and got rid of a 31-year-old who missed 10 games last season due to injury.
On the Chargers’ end, this trade reunites Staley and Mack, which should be good for both guys. The Chargers head coach got his first NFL job back in 2017 when the Bears hired him as their linebackers coach after he had spent the prior four seasons as a DIVISION III ASSISTANT. Just last year, Staley credited Mack with helping him make that giant leap, “I learned a lot more from him than he learned from me,” Staley said of his time with Mack. “I drew a lot of confidence being able to coach a guy like him. I think that first year in Chicago and that first experience, I felt like I could do this someday.”
On Mack’s end, he’s probably going to be thrilled to be reunited with Staley, and that’s because one of his biggest years came when Staley was his position coach in Chicago. In 2018, Mack finished the season with 12.5 sacks while also forcing a career-high six fumbles. Not only was Mack voted first-team All-Pro, but he also finished second to Aaron Donald in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.
I thought this was a pretty solid trade for both teams, and it seems our resident professor, Cody Benjamin, agrees.
Cody handed out grades to each team and here’s what he came up with:
- Chargers grade: B+. “This is exactly the kind of move you make if you believe you’re on the brink, and the Chargers, with an ascending franchise QB in Justin Herbert, rightfully do. Pairing Mack with Joey Bosa and a defensive line that’s also sure to get some upgrades via the draft or free agency is a recipe for one of the scariest front sevens in the NFL, especially considering coach Brandon Staley has a history with Mack from their time in Chicago. Worst-case scenario, the gamble doesn’t pay off with a title in the next year or two, and L.A. can get out of Mack’s deal fairly easily; the veteran can be cut in 2023 to save $16.9M, or in 2024 to save $20.3M.”
- Bears grade: B-. “Chicago is essentially starting from the ground up with a new regime, and Mack is 31, coming off a season-ending injury, and due a whopping $84.9 million over the next three years. He might still be in Pro Bowl form by the time Justin Fields and Co. are (ideally) ready to contend, but instead, the Bears instantly save money while adding a solid Day 2 pick for the rebuild.”
You can check out Cody’s full explanation for each grade by clicking here.
3. Cowboys‘ weird offseason continues with La’el Collins possibly on the trade block
It seems like every week we hear about the Cowboys trying to dump one of their starters, and this week is no different. According to NFL.com, the Cowboys are having “active trade conversations” with teams about right tackle La’el Collins.
It’s not often that a team will try to trade away its starting right tackle, but it seems the Cowboys are comfortable making this move because they believe in the guy behind Collins and that guy is Terence Steele. Steele has gotten some serious playing time over the past two years because Collins hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Collins spent the entire 2020 season on injured reserve and then missed five games due to suspension in 2021.
If the Cowboys truly do want to trade Collins, it should be pretty easy to find a taker.
The Collins situation just adds more drama to what has been a crazy offseason for the Cowboys. Here’s a quick refresher of what we’ve seen so far:
- Amari Cooper is likely getting cut. The Cowboys haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but Cooper is likely going to be released before the start of free agency Wednesday — unless Dallas can find a trade partner.
- Demarcus Lawrence could be out. The Cowboys defender refused to take a pay cut this offseason, which has put the team in an awkward position. There was a report that the Cowboys might release him, but ESPN’s Ed Werder tweeted Friday that Lawrence won’t be going “anywhere.”
- Jerry Jones has been hit with a paternity lawsuit. As we mentioned yesterday, Jones has been sued by a woman who alleges he is her biological father. According to the lawsuit, the woman was born in December 1996, but the woman’s mom wasn’t allowed to tell anyone who the father was. Jones allegedly had the mom sign an NDA in a deal where he sent financial support to his daughter in exchange for the mom’s silence.
- Antonio Brown wants to play for the Cowboys. As if things couldn’t get any crazier, the controversial receiver did an interview this week and made it sound like he wants to play for the Cowboys.
I think what I’m saying here is that we might need a separate newsletter to just cover Cowboys news for the rest of the offseason.
4. Free agent fits for each AFC team
With the start of free agency coming in just five days, we’re going to be cramming as many free agency stories as possible into the newsletter between now and then. Yesterday, we had the best free agent fits for each NFC team, and today we’re heading to the AFC.
CBSSports.com’s Jeff Kerr went through the 16 teams in the conference and pinpointed one free agent that they should target. Here’s his advice for three of those teams:
- Bills: Rob Gronkowski. “The Bills could use another pass-catching option at tight end to pair with Dawson Knox — and Gronkowski seems to be the ideal fit. Buffalo could improve its already impressive third-down offense (third in NFL) and red zone offense (seventh in NFL) with the addition of Gronkowski, who had 55 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games last year.”
- Chiefs: JuJu Smith-Schuster. “Kansas City needs a No. 2 wide receiver and a reliable third option to pair with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in order to win another Super Bowl. Smith-Schuster in the slot would be an incredible asset for this offense, and he could sign a one-year deal with the intent on a big season to raise his stock for next year.”
- Steelers: Mitchell Trubisky. “The Steelers need a quarterback and can find a signal-caller in this year’s draft class, which isn’t as deep as the last two years. They still should sign a proven veteran with upside on a roster that’s capable of competing for a playoff berth in 2022. Enter Trubisky, who’s free agent stock has raised with the weak draft and free agency class this year. “
To check out the rest of Kerr’s free agency fits for each AFC team, be sure to click here.
5. Trading for a Super Bowl winning quarterback has never worked out before
After seeing Russell Wilson get traded to the Broncos this week, I decided to do something that most newsletter writers would never do: research. I wanted to know how many quarterbacks have been traded by a team they led to a Super Bowl win, and what I found isn’t necessarily good news for either Wilson or the Broncos.
Basically, Wilson is going to have to defy NFL history if he ever wants to get the Broncos to a Super Bowl and that’s because no one in his situation has ever made it to the big game.
The Broncos’ trade for Wilson marks the eighth time in NFL history that a starting quarterback has been traded by the team he won the Super Bowl with. In the seven prior instances, not only did each quarterback fail to get back to the big game, but only ONE of the seven even won a single playoff game with their new team.
Here’s a look at the starting quarterbacks who have been traded by the team they won the Super Bowl with (Carson Wentz does not qualify for this list since he wasn’t the Eagles‘ Super Bowl starter):
- Johnny Unitas (Traded from Colts to Chargers in 1973)
- Joe Namath (Traded from Jets to Rams in 1977)
- Ken Stabler (Traded from Raiders to Oilers in 1980)
- Jim McMahon (Traded from Bears to Chargers in 1989)
- Joe Montana (Traded from 49ers to Chiefs in 1993)
- Brett Favre (Traded from Packers to Jets in 2008)
- Joe Flacco (Traded from Ravens to Broncos in 2019)
This is only a list of quarterbacks who got traded by the team they won the Super Bowl with, so quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning don’t qualify because they were cut and signed in free agency.
Of the guys on this list, only two of them — Stabler and Montana — made the playoffs with their new team and only Montana was able to win a playoff game. (He led the Chiefs to the 1993 AFC title game.) None of them made it back to the Super Bowl, so Wilson has a chance to make history.
For more on how these trades turned out, be sure to click here.
If you need more Russell Wilson content in your life, then you can click here to check out a story on why the relationship between Wilson and the Seahawks broke down. (Wilson apparently lost trust in the Seahawks while teammates say he “checked out” in 2021.)
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Colin Kaepernick eyeing a comeback
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.
- Kaepernick eyeing a comeback, apparently in best shape of his life. The former NFL quarterback tweeted out a workout video Thursday and made it clear he’s still interested in playing football. According to ESPN.com, Kaepernick is in the best shape of his life.
- Lions expected to release Trey Flowers. The Lions are trying to clear some salary cap space before the start of free agency, and one way they’re going to do that is by releasing Flowers, according to the Detroit Free-Press. By cutting Flowers, the Lions will free up nearly $10.39 million in cap space.
- Jason Kelce announces he’s playing in 2022. The Eagles center was on the fence about returning this year, but he’s now definitely coming back. Kelce made the announcement while drinking beer poured from a keg in a video that you can see here.
- Raiders to release starting linebacker. After watching Cory Littleton start 27 games over the past two seasons, the Raiders have decided it’s time to move on from their starting linebacker. Littleton struggled during his time with the Raiders, which is a big reason why they’ve decided to let him go.
- Packers pulled in nearly $66 million from sale of team stock. The Packers held their sixth stock offering in franchise history over the past few months and that offering ended with the team selling more than 198,000 shares that allowed the franchise to raise $65.8 million.
- Saints restructure Alvin Kamara’s contract. The Saints created $8.4 million in cap space Friday by restructuring Kamara’s contract. Over the past 24 hours, the Saints have restructured three different contracts that have freed up more than $22 million. The Saints need to be salary cap compliant by March 16 and according to Over the Cap, they’re still $24 million over the cap, so they still have a lot of work to do.
- Eagles almost traded for Calvin Ridley. The Eagles basically had a deal in place to acquire the Falcons’ receiver, but Atlanta ended up nixing the trade at the last second due to Ridley’s impending suspension. Honestly, I would have loved to see the ensuing drama between the two teams if the Falcons had let the trade go through.