Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Pick Six newsletter.
The NFL has apparently turned into a giant game of Madden, because before this week, playing Madden was the only time I had ever seen two giant quarterback trades go down less than 24 hours apart. I mean, I wasn’t even halfway done processing the Russell Wilson trade when the Colts decided to trade Carson Wentz. I need my processing time, NFL, so please SLOW DOWN with the trades.
Thanks to the Wentz trade, the Colts now don’t have a starting QB on their roster, which says all you need to know about Wentz: Indianapolis would rather have no one than him. Of course, the Colts do need someone under center this year and we’ll be taking a look at their options in today’s newsletter, plus we’ll be grading the Wentz trade.
As if that’s not enough, we’ll also be UNVEILING Pete Prisco’s ranking of the 100 best free agents. Basically, if you’re only going to read one newsletter this week, it should probably be this one.
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: Super Bowl favorites after Russell Wilson trade and Aaron Rodgers‘ decision to return
With Russell Wilson making the move from the NFC to the AFC, the competitive landscape in the NFL underwent a dramatic shift this week. If you combine Wilson’s exit with the retirement of Tom Brady, that leaves the NFC with a pretty weak group of quarterbacks compared to the AFC. If you want to start an argument with someone this weekend, just ask them to name the top five quarterbacks in the NFC. The first two are easy — I’d say Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford — but after that, things get kind of dicey (Is Dak Prescott next or is it Kyler Murray? And even if you have them as your next two, who do you put after that? Kirk Cousins?!?!? Matt Ryan!?!?!??!?!)
With the balance of power shifting, Will Brinson and Tyler Sullivan spent today’s episode of the Pick Six Podcast trying to figure out who the Super Bowl favorites should be from each conference.
In the AFC, Sullivan likes the Chargers as a dark horse with 14-to-1 Super Bowl odds, “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if all of a sudden Justin Herbert takes a big leap and they’ve retooled and they’ve created a much more competitive roster going into this year.”
As for Brinson, he loves the Browns‘ odds to win the AFC at 20-to-1.
In the NFC, Sullivan likes the betting value offered by THE BUCCANEERS, who are 14-to-1 to win the NFC. Even though Brady has retired, Sullivan still thinks they have a lot of talent and if they can find a quarterback, there’s no reason they can’t compete for an NFC title, “They’re an organization that’s pretty open to being aggressive. They’re keeping together a lot of this core that won a Super Bowl together.”
To listen to today’s episode, be sure to click here. You can also watch today’s episode on the Pick Six YouTube Channel by clicking here.
2. Colts ship Carson Wentz off to Washington: Full trade details, plus grading the deal for both teams
If there’s one team that has perfected the art of making bad moves during the offseason, it’s definitely Washington and the Commanders continued that trend on Wednesday by acquiring Carson Wentz from the Colts. If the Commanders had asked nicely, the Colts probably would have given Wentz away for free, but instead, Washington decided to overpay for Wentz.
Here’s a look at the trade details:
- Colts receive: 2022 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick, 2023 third-round pick that can become a second-rounder if Wentz plays 70% of Washington’s offensive snaps.
- Commanders receive: Carson Wentz, 2022 second-round pick, 2022 seventh-round pick (the seventh-rounder is a new part of the deal that was just reported by ESPN.com today).
- Other notable parts of the deal: Washington will also pay all of Wentz’s $28.3 million salary for 2022. With Wentz’s salary now off their books, the Colts are currently slated to have the more available cap space than any other team heading into free agency at $69.8 million.
I’m not a huge fan of this trade on Washington’s end. Although Wentz is a slight step up from Taylor Heinicke, he’s not a big enough step up to justify the amount of compensation the Commanders had to give up to land him (plus, they’re paying his entire salary). Also, if Wentz’s two biggest supporters — Doug Pederson and Frank Reich — have given up on him, I have a hard time seeing how he succeeds in Washington. Does this mean I’ll print out today’s newsletter and eat it if Wentz wins a Super Bowl as Washington’s starting quarterback? Yes, I think that’s what it means.
As you can tell, I didn’t love this trade for the Commanders, but I do know someone who liked this trade more for Washington than he did for Indy and that someone is Bryan DeArdo, who handed out CBSSports.com’s grades for the trade.
Here’s a look at DeArdo’s grades:
- Commanders grade: C+. “The 29-year-old Wentz has shown flashes of brilliance during his career. He was in the league MVP conversation before suffering a season-ending injury the year the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Wentz threw just seven interceptions last year while throwing 27 touchdowns. At times, he looked like the player who was in the NFL MVP conversation four years earlier. While he won’t have Jonathan Taylor in Washington, Wentz will have wideout Terry McLaurin and running back Antonio Gibson at his disposal. And with Wentz in tow, Washington can use the 11th pick in the draft on another position to help improve their roster.”
- Colts grade: C-. “While other picks were included, the Colts essentially gave up their 2022 first-round pick for one season with Wentz, a season that ended in disappointment. Given what they gave up to acquire him, it’s somewhat surprising that the Colts bailed on the experiment after just one year.”
Personally, I would probably flip flop these grades. The fact that the Colts gave up on Wentz after giving up multiple first-round picks to land him is definitely a bad look, but they found someone to pay his salary and they’re getting back multiple picks in return. For Washington, they needed a quarterback going into the offseason and I’m not sure they filled that need with this trade.
3. Colts’ options at QB now that Wentz is gone
If you’re wondering how badly Indianapolis wanted to get rid of Carson Wentz, just think about it like this: The Colts decided they’d rather have no one at quarterback than Wentz. Yes, the Colts do have Sam Ehlinger and James Morgan, but it’s highly unlikely either one of those guys will be the starter for Indy heading into 2022.
What this means is that the Colts are going to have to acquire a quarterback and with that in mind, Cody Benjamin took a look at Indy’s best options for 2022.
Here are the four most notable ones:
- Jimmy Garoppolo. “The 49ers have all but confirmed they’ll be dealing the former Super Bowl starter as they transition to the Trey Lance era, and Garoppolo has proven he can be the point guard Indy wanted Wentz to be in 2021.” According to NFL.com, the Colts are expected to be in the mix for Garoppolo’s services.
- Jordan Love. “With Aaron Rodgers locked up in Green Bay, the Packers will assuredly field — if not seek out — offers for their former first-round pick. And while Love is obviously unproven, touting a big but unrefined arm, he was reportedly a hot target of the Colts back in 2020, when Indy didn’t have a first-round pick.”
- Kirk Cousins. “He might be the Colts’ most realistic potential “big” swing at QB. While new Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell has a positive history with Cousins, Minnesota brass has every reason to explore a trade, with the QB due a whopping $45M in 2022.” (Note: CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported on Wednesday that the Vikings are looking to dump big contracts and it wouldn’t be surprising to him if Cousins’ deal was one of those).
- Derek Carr. “New coach Josh McDaniel has committed to Carr as his 2022 QB. But let’s say contract talks don’t go nearly as smoothly as anticipated; Carr, for instance, figures to command at least $35 million per year on a new deal. Is there a scenario where McDaniels would rather take a flyer on old pal Jimmy Garoppolo (and reassess the entire position in 2023) than pay top-10 money to a QB from another regime? Maybe. And if so, the Colts would give Carr a chance to jump from one borderline playoff team to another.”
To check out Cody’s entire list, be sure to click here.
4. Pete Prisco ranks the top 100 free agents
It’s been nearly a month 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 small 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 less than a week 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 sneak peek 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. OT Terron Armstead (Saints)
2. OLB Von Miller (Rams)
3. CB J.C. Jackson (Patriots)
4. EDGE Chandler Jones (Cardinals)
5. CB Carlton Davis (Buccaneers)
6. OG Brandon Scherff (Commanders)
7. FS Marcus Williams (Saints)
8. WR Allen Robinson (Bears)
9. DE Randy Gregory (Cowboys)
10. OLB De’Vondre Cambell (Packers)
To check out Prisco’s entire ranking of the top 100 free agents, be sure to click here.
5. Free agent fits for each NFC team
With the start of free agency coming in just six days, we’re going to be cramming as many free agency stories into the newsletter between now and then. Not only do we have Prisco’s top 100 today, but we also had Jeff Kerr go through every team in the NFC to find the best free agency fits.
Basically, 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:
- Cowboys: Kyle Van Noy. “The Cowboys typically do not go big-name shopping in free agency. They’re also very conscientious about how their signings affect the compensatory pick formula. Kyle Van Noy was cut by the Patriots, so they can sign him without having to worry about that. With Leighton Vander Esch likely not being re-signed, Dallas needs some veteran help at this spot.”
- Eagles: Amari Cooper. “This signing serves dual purposes. It gives the Eagles another strong receiver to pair with De’Vonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert, and it allows both them and Amari Cooper to stick it to the Cowboys. (This suggestion assumes that Cooper becomes available in free agency, which is expected.)”
- Seahawks: Chandler Jones. “After trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos, the Seahawks need a real solution at quarterback and some help along the offensive line, but they’re likely going to try to win on the strength of their defense — at least for 2022. If they want to do that, they badly need pass-rush help. Chandler Jones is one of the best available, and would carry the added benefit of weakening a division rival.”
To check out the rest of our free agency fits for each NFC team, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Jerry Jones named in paternity lawsuit
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.
- Cowboys owner hit with paternity lawsuit. Jerry Jones has been sued by 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. For more on this story, be sure to click here.
- Titans set to cut Rodger Saffold. The offensive line market is about to get a major boost in free agency. According to ESPN.com, the Titans are going to release Saffold, who has started at guard in 46 of Tennessee’s past 49 regular-season games. Saffold is coming off a Pro Bowl season for a Titans team that ended the year with the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
- Bills release Jon Feliciano. Saffold isn’t the only starting guard who has been cut over the past 24 hours. The Bills have decided to move on from Feliciano, who started six games for them on the offensive line last season before suffering a calf injury that caused him to miss multiple games.
- Ravens offensive lineman retires. The Ravens are going to have a big hole to fill at tackle after Alejandro Villanueva announced his retirement on Wednesday. After spending the first six seasons of his career in Pittsburgh, Villanueva signed with the Ravens for 2021 and started all 17 games on the offensive line for them.
- Commanders dumping Landon Collins. According to CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson, the Commanders are releasing Collins after the safety refused to take a pay cut. The three-time Pro Bowler had started 35 games for the Commanders since signing with them in 2019. With the move, Washington will pick up $6.42 million in cap space heading into free agency.
- Cardinals release Jordan Hicks. There are a lot of surprising cuts in the lead up to free agency and Hicks was one of them this year. Hick, who started all 17 games at linebacker for Arizona last season, is being released after a season where he tallied 118 tackles and four sacks. The Cardinals will pick up $6.5 million in cap space thanks to the move.
- Panthers listening to offers for Christian McCaffrey. CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones has reported that the Panthers are taking calls on McCaffrey and they might actually be willing to trade him. If a deal does go down, the Panthers want at least one first-round pick in return, plus at least one other piece of compensation.
- Johnny Grier, the NFL’s first Black referee, passes away. Grier worked in the NFL as an official for 23 years, starting in 1981 when the league hired him as a field judge. In 1988, Grier was promoted to referee, which made him the first Black ref in NFL history. Grier was 74.