Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
If you have an NFL offseason calendar in front of you — I don’t know why you would, but if you do — then you may have noticed that today is the first big day of the offseason and that’s because the franchise tag window has officially opened.
It’s also the first big day of the offseason because Aaron Rodgers posted a cryptic message on Instagram, and as we all know, the offseason can’t officially start until we have a cryptic social media message from Aaron Rodgers.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll be covering Rodgers’ secret message plus looking at a list of candidates who might get hit with the franchise tag. It’s a long list, so we should probably get started there. 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. Franchise tag window opens: Davante Adams headlines list of players who might get tagged
You know the NFL offseason has officially started when the franchise tag window opens, which means that, as of today, the NFL offseason has officially started. For the next two weeks, each team is allowed to designate one franchise player, and once that happens, the two sides will have until July to work out a long-term deal. If no deal is reached, then the player will get a one-year deal in 2022 at the franchise tag number, which is different for each position. (This year the number ranges from $5.22 million for kickers to $29.70 million for quarterbacks.)
Last season, a total of 10 teams used the franchise tag, which means nearly one-third of the NFL took advantage of it. This year, teams will have until March 8 to decide if they want to tag someone.
Our Jeff Kerr came up with a franchise tag candidate for each NFL team, and we’re going to go over five of them here.
- Packers: WR Davante Adams ($18.42 million). “The Packers are $50,790,970 over the salary cap — and should still franchise tag Adams. This gives Green Bay the option to negotiate a long-term deal with Adams or trade him and receive premium assets for one of the best wide receivers in the game.”
- Bengals: S Jessie Bates ($12.91 million). “Bates is the obvious choice here for Cincinnati — and the player most likely to be tagged during the franchise tag window. One of the top playmakers on Cincinnati’s defense, Bates has emerged as one of the best safeties in the game.”
- Patriots: CB J.C. Jackson ($17.29 million). “Jackson has been a star for the Patriots since arriving in the NFL four years ago. One of the best cover corners in the game, the Patriots need to place the $17,287,000 tag on Jackson and try to work out a long-term deal. Jackson allowed just a 32.6 passer rating when being targeted as the primary defender last year — he’s worth the investment.”
- Chargers: WR Mike Williams ($18.42 million). “A favorite of Justin Herbert, the Chargers would be wise to keep Williams in the fold for the next several years. With $56,298,356 available in salary cap space, giving Williams $18,419,000 for 2022 while trying to negotiate a long-term deal would be a wise move.”
- Dolphins: TE Mike Gesicki ($10.93 million). “Tua Tagovailoa needs all the pass-catching help he can get — and Gesicki is a reliable target. Gesicki has the fifth-most receiving yards for a tight end over the last three years, and is just 26. The best may be yet to come.”
To see the rest of Kerr’s list, be sure to click here. If you click over, you’ll also be able to see the franchise tag number for each position.
2. Best potential landing spots for free agent quarterbacks
Although we’ve spent a lot of time this offseason talking about quarterbacks who could get traded — hello Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson — there are also several starters who could end up switching teams this offseason because they’re due to be free agents.
This year’s free agent class of quarterbacks isn’t going to blow anyone away, but there are still some big names in it, so Cody Benjamin decided to take a look at those names and take a stab at where they might end up.
If you want to check out Cody’s entire story on free agent quarterbacks, then be sure to click here.
3. Aaron Rodgers shares lengthy message of gratitude on Instagram
As an NFL writer, half my job during the offseason consists of trying to decipher messages that players post on social media, and we got a big one Monday when Aaron Rodgers dropped a 300-word message on Instagram.
Here’s a breakdown of his message:
- He professed his love for Shailene Woodley, who he reportedly is no longer with.
- He got reflective talking about everyone in the Packers’ QB room.
- He got reflective talking about his closest friends on the team.
- He got reflective talking about all of his teammates, including his former ones.
The fact that Rodgers got reflective in his message should at least be mildly concerning if you’re the Packers. It could mean he’s thinking about retirement or that he’s ready to move on from the team. Of course, it could also mean absolutely nothing and that he just wanted to use Instagram to show some gratitude to the people he loves.
Basically, this could be Rodgers’ way of saying goodbye to the Packers or it could be his way of saying he’s coming back or it could be his way of confusing everyone as much as possible. It’s Rodgers, so who knows.
No matter what Rodgers decides, we probably won’t be waiting long to find out. After winning his fourth MVP on Feb. 10, Rodgers said he would make a decision about 2022 in the “near future.” He also said in late January that he wanted to make a decision about his future by the time the franchise tag window opened so Davante Adams could figure out his future.
Rodgers had a chance to clear things up during a Tuesday appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show,” but he offered no new information. “There will be no news today, no decision on my future,” Rodgers told McAfee. Regarding his lengthy social media post, Rodgers told McAfee that he just came out of a 12-day cleanse and his first thought was “intense gratitude” for the people in his life.
Basically, all of this means that we’re all going to have to continue to play the waiting game.
4. Bubble bursts: No one will be boycotting the NFL Combine
Remember that story yesterday about how the NFL combine could be facing a huge boycott this year? Yeah, well, that’s not going to happen. The boycott is officially off after the organization that runs the combine — the National Invitational Combine — caved in to the demands being made by agents of more than 150 players who will be attending the event.
- Players don’t have to stay in a secure area. Under the original proposal for the combine, the NFL was going to set up a bubble for all players attending and players weren’t going to be allowed to leave that bubble. That rule has now been changed and players will be allowed to leave the secure area that the NFL will be setting up.
- Players can meet with support staff in secure areas, but only one at a time. Under the original proposal, a player could only bring ONE member of their support staff with them into the secure area, but now, they can bring in multiple members, although those members can only enter the secure area one at a time. So if a player wants to work with his trainer, he can bring him in, then kick out his trainer and bring in his nutritionist for lunch.
- Players can meet with anyone they want (trainers, nutritionists, coaches, etc.) outside the secure area. Under the original rules for this year, one of the biggest issues was that players weren’t going to be allowed to travel with their support staff or if they did travel with them, they weren’t going to be allowed to meet with them since each player was only going to be allowed to invite one member of their support staff in the bubble. Under the new rule, any player can leave the bubble and meet with their support team outside the NFL’s restricted area.
Although these concessions by the NIC will end the threat of a boycott, not everyone is happy. Many players and agents are still unhappy that the bench press will be held on the same day as other on-field activities. In the past, those events were held on different days, which allowed the player to recover, but the combine is forcing players to do multiple physical activities on the same day.
5. The Monday night doubleheader is returning in 2022
After a one-year hiatus, the NFL is bringing back the Monday night doubleheader in 2022, but there’s going to be a twist and it’s a twist that people located in the Eastern time zone are probably going to love.
Here’s what we know:
- Two different networks will be involved. For most of the past decade, anytime there was a Monday doubleheader, both games would air on ESPN. However, for the 2022 season, one game will air on ESPN and one game will air on ABC.
- The late game won’t be that late. According to the Sports Business Journal, the NFL is planning to have one game start around 7 p.m. ET while having the other game start around 8 p.m. ET, which means there would be a roughly two-hour window (8-10 p.m. ET) where the two games would be airing simultaneously. Under the old doubleheader format, one game would start at 7 p.m. ET and the other one would start at 10:15 p.m. ET, and that second one is usually the game where everyone on the east coast would be asleep before halftime.
- Doubleheader will happen early in the season. Since 2009, the doubleheader has taken place in Week 1, but that might not be the case in 2022. The belief is that this year’s game will happen sometime between Week 1 and Week 4.
- Saturday doubleheader still happening. Although ESPN didn’t get a Monday doubleheader in 2021, the network did get a Saturday doubleheader in Week 18. The pair of Saturday games will be returning in 2022, so ESPN will have two days of doubleheaders in the upcoming season.
In other scheduling news, Amazon is trying to make a Black Friday game happen. For more details on that and what “Monday Night Football” is going to look like going forward, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Antonio Brown calls out Tom Brady and the Buccaneers
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.
- Antonio Brown calls out everyone. It seems like we get a new Antonio Brown headline every week and this week is no different. On Monday, the free agent receiver used Instagram to let everyone know that he thinks Tom Brady is a liar. He also continued to insist that Bruce Arians tried to make him play with an injured ankle. To check out everything Brown had to say, be sure to click here.
- People in Washington don’t like the Commanders name. Apparently, the Commanders didn’t do any research before coming up with their name because it seems everyone in Washington hates it. You can read about how much they hate it by clicking here.
- DK Metcalf gunning for 2024 Olympics. The Seahawks receiver is hoping to qualify for the 2024 Olympics, “I’m in a boot right now so I can’t do too much,” he told B/R. “But, next year, I’m gonna start back training for it every offseason — training for the 100-meter, or the 60-meter, whichever one I decide to do. And then, in 2024, you’ll see me again.”
- Lovie Smith thinks the Texans can be the Bengals of 2022. The Bengals won four games in 2020 and then made the Super Bowl in 2021, and now, after watching the Texans win four games in 2021, Smith thinks Houston can be 2022’s Bengals. I could list 473 reasons why the Texans won’t be in the Super Bowl next year, but we’re getting near the end of today’s newsletter and no one wants me to add 2,000 words at this point.
- Judge rules that Deshaun Watson can be deposed. The Texans QB is going to have to testify under oath in relation to the first nine lawsuits that were filed against him. Watson’s attorney had asked that the QB not be forced to testify in his civil cases while the criminal cases were being investigated so that his testimony couldn’t be used against him, but that request was partially denied. You can get a good breakdown of where the Watson case currently stands by clicking here.
- Paxton Lynch cut by CFL team. It might be time for the former Broncos first-round pick to give up on football. After flaming out in the NFL, Lynch was trying to make it in Canada, but that dream might be over after he was cut by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. And yes, I had to Google Saskatchewan to make sure I spelled it correctly.