Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
If you still don’t know what you’re going to do with your weekend, I have an idea: YOU CAN WATCH THE NFL COMBINE. The NFL Network will be airing more combine coverage than you could ever want over the weekend with six hours scheduled for today (4-11 p.m. ET), five hours scheduled for Saturday (4-10 p.m. ET) and five more hours scheduled for Sunday (2-7 p.m. ET).
Please make sure you watch all 16 hours of coverage this weekend because there will be a quiz on Monday. Just kidding, there won’t be a quiz because that means I’d have to make a quiz and I’m way too lazy for that.
We’ll also be covering the combine all weekend on CBS Sports HQ and you can check out our live coverage by clicking here.
If you missed any of Thursday’s action at the combine, don’t fret, because we’ll be covering it extensively in today’s newsletter. We’ll also be breaking down the Cowboys‘ decision to likely dump Amari Cooper.
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. Alright, let’s get to the rundown.
1. Today’s show: Live from the NFL Scouting Combine Part II
For the second straight day, the Pick Six Podcast is live from the combine, but today’s show is coming with a twist. Instead of Will Brinson in the hosting chair, we had Ryan Wilson host the show from Indianapolis and Wilson brought on two special guests in Brady Quinn and Pete Prisco.
As you may or may not know, Quinn is a former NFL first-round pick, so there aren’t many people in the industry who understand what quarterbacks at the combine are going through more than him. With that in mind, the three guys spent a lot of time talking about this year’s crop of quarterback prospects.
Not only did they talk about whether Kenny Pickett’s 8.5-inch hand measurement would impact his draft status, but they also touched on multiple other quarterbacks in the class with scouting reports on Malik Willis, Carson Strong, Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral and Sam Howell.
During their conversation about Pickett, Quinn explained why having small hands can be a problem.
“An NFL ball, it’s just laces, there’s no grip there for you,” Quinn said, comparing it to a college ball. “[Hand-size] is about ball security, it’s about how much of your hand can you get on the ball to protect it.”
If you can’t attend this year’s combine, listening to today’s episode will almost make you feel like you’re there, so you don’t want to miss it. To hear what Quinn, Wilson and Prisco think about this year’s QB class, be sure to click here so you can listen to today’s podcast. You can also watch today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here.
2. Combine roundup: Wide receivers steal the show on Thursday night
The most exciting workout to watch at the NFL combine is almost always the 40-yard dash and that was definitely the case on Thursday night. In front of a prime-time audience, multiple position groups went out and ran the 40 and what happened is that the receivers stole the show.
Here’s a look at how well they ran:
- Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton shows blazing speed. The Baylor receiver ran a 4.28, which was the tied for the seventh-fastest time at the combine since 2000. When Thornton finished his 40, his time actually showed as a 4.21, which would have been the all-time record for the combine, but that was his unofficial time. Each player is electronically timed and once his official number was in, it was bumped up to 4.28.
- Eight receivers ran under 4.4. Thornton isn’t the only receiver at the combine with blazing speed, apparently the entire class is fast. At the end of the night, a total of eight receivers had run a 4.4 or better in the 40, which marks just the second time over the past 15 years that a receiving class has had at least eight guys hit that number. The only other year where it happened came in 2007.
- Ohio State teammates make history. Of the eight guys who went under 4.4, two of them were from Ohio State with Garrett Wilson (4.38) and Chris Olave (4.39) both going under the number. According to ESPN.com, this marked just the second time over the past 15 years that two teammate went under 4.4 at the same combine. Ohio State also produced the other tandem as Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin accomplished the feat in 2019.
- Desmond Ridder was the fastest QB. The Cincinnati QB ran a 4.52 40, which was not only the fastest time among quarterbacks, it was also faster than 12 receivers at the combine. The next fastest QB was EJ Perry out of Brown, who ran a 4.65.
If you want to know who else had an impressive performance last night, be sure to click here so you can check out our combine tracker.
If you’re wondering which players helped themselves the most and which players hurt their draft stock, be sure to click here to check out our winners and losers from Thursday’s action on the combine. We also have a separate winners and loser section on just the quarterbacks at the combine and you can check that out by clicking here.
3. Cowboys likely to release Amari Cooper
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hinted back in January that Amari Cooper’s days might be numbered in Dallas and when Big Jerry hints at something, it usually becomes a reality and it looks like this one is going to become a reality. According to CBS Sports’ Patrik Walker, the Cowboys are likely going to release Cooper before the start of the league year on March 16 if the receiver doesn’t accept a pay cut.
Here’s why the Cowboys would do that:
- Cowboys are in salary cap hell. Every NFL team has to be salary cap compliant by March 16, and right now, the Cowboys aren’t anywhere near that. According to Over the Cap, the Cowboys are roughly $13.4 million over the cap as of today and they need to be under the cap by March 16.
- Release Cooper will free up a bunch of money. The Cowboys receiver doesn’t have any guaranteed money in his contract for 2022, which means the Cowboys will pick up some serious cap space by cutting him. Cooper’s cap hit is scheduled to be $22 million for the upcoming season. However, if he gets released, the Cowboys would pick up $16 million in cap space and take a $6 million dead cap hit. Basically, Cooper’s release alone would put them under the cap. Cooper’s salary becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year, so if they are going to release him, it would have to be by March 20.
- Why it makes sense for the Cowboys to leak this news now. The fact that this news is leaking out now is a GOOD thing for the Cowboys. They’re basically telling the 31 other teams to make a trade offer for Cooper. Since they don’t have to release him until March 16, that means they can entertain trade offers for the next 12 days. That being said, most teams will probably shy away from Cooper because if they pull off a trade, they’ll owe him a $20 million salary for 2022. On the other hand, if they sign him in free agency after he gets cut, he’ll likely come at a much cheaper price.
- Cowboys new plan at receiver. According to Yahoo Sports, the Cowboys want to bring back Michael Gallup and they felt that it was going to be impossible to bring back both Gallup and Cooper, so Cooper became the odd man out. Gallup is set to be a free agent, but if Cooper does get released, that likely means we’ll see Gallup get a new deal before March 16. Prioritizing Gallup over Cooper does come with some risk since Gallup tore his ACL near the end of the 2021 season.
For more details on Cooper’s likely release, be sure to click here.
4. NFC West team needs: Rams need to beef up their offensive line if they want to repeat
Over the course of this week, we’ll be covering the offseason needs for each team by going through each division. Today we’re going over the NFC West.
With that in mind, Jeff Kerr went through every team in the division and made a list of their biggest needs to fill this offseason.
Top needs (in no particular order): G, LB, WR
Kerr’s take: The Rams could be losing center Brian Allen and guard Austin Corbett to free agency and may not have the cap space to retain both. Adding depth in the later rounds in the draft will be vital, especially since Los Angeles doesn’t have a pick until the third round. Then there’s the impending decision on Andrew Whitworth’s future (he’ll be 41 in December), so the Rams will have to address the tackle position.
Top needs: WR, CB, IDL
Kerr’s take: The Cardinals don’t have enough cap space to give top dollar to a free agent cornerback, so the draft may be their best bet to attack that position. Arizona played Robert Alford, Antonio Hamilton, and Byron Murphy at outside corner this year, a position that needs a total overhaul in a division loaded with great quarterbacks.
Top needs: CB, S, G
Kerr’s take: San Francisco needs to revamp a secondary that had just nine interceptions last season, sixth-fewest in the NFL. Cornerbacks Josh Norman and K’Waun Williams are free agents, along with safety Jaquiski Tartt. D.J. Reed would be an ideal fit in San Francisco, as he can play both cornerback positions and safety. A veteran cornerback to pair with Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas would work, too, as another strong fit in DeMeco Ryans‘ defense would be Casey Hayward.
Top needs: EDGE, CB, T
Kerr’s take: Seattle needs some pass-rushing help on the outside, and has the cap space to give a premium amount to one of the top edge rushers available. Keeping Von Miller or Chandler Jones in the NFC West while taking them away from their division rivals would be nice, but Seattle can also make a play for Haason Reddick or Harold Landry. Either player would immediately bolster the Seahawks’ pass rush.
If you want to see the full explanation for each team’s needs, then be sure to click here.
5. Top-10 most underrated free agents: Chase Edmonds headlines group of overlooked players
With free agency kicking off on March 16, you’re probably going to notice that we’re going to be talking a lot about free agency between now and then, so please get mentally prepared for that. Today’s free agency topic is the most underrated free agents who will be hitting the market.
Cody Benjamin combed through the list of impending free agents and came up with a list of the top-10 guys who are being overlooked. Here’s five of the players on his list:
- Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds. “Injuries limited him to 12 games in 2021, but he has still topped 40 catches and 800 scrimmage yards in two straight seasons. Pair him with another ball-carrier for a top-10 backfield.”
- Falcons WR Russell Gage. “The big story in Atlanta’s 2021 receiving corps was the absence of Calvin Ridley, but Gage proved to be a steady hand for Matt Ryan, logging a 70% catch rate and posting 65+ catches for 770+ yards and four scores for a second straight year.”
- Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling. “Like Russell Gage, he’s not an Allen Robinson or Odell Beckham Jr. — a big name with the juice to command a No. 1 role. He’s best suited for a No. 2 or No. 3 role. his game isn’t collecting targets as much as stretching the field. MVS has averaged 17.5 yards per catch for his career as Aaron Rodgers‘ deep man.”
- Cardinals TE Zach Ertz. “Ertz remains ultra-reliable over the middle and in the red zone. You’re still talking about a top-10 starter at an important pass-catching position.”
- Colts OG Mark Glowinski. “You’d rather pay for a tackle than an interior man, but Glowinski, 29, has been a rock-solid right guard for the Colts’ vaunted O-line for three years running.”
If you want to see the entire list of 10 players, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: NFL suspends COVID protocols
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.
- NFL suspends COVID protocols. After two seasons of testing, the NFL and the NFLPA have finally decided to suspend all COVID protocols. This applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated players and means that no one will be tested going forward. It also means that everyone can eat lunch together and work out together like they used to before the pandemic started. The NFL did note that the protocols could be restored if the league is hit by any sort of outbreak.
- Cowboys tight end likely to miss start of season. According to NFL.com, Blake Jarwin underwent hip surgery in February and due to that operation, it’s looking like he’s going to miss the start of the 2022 season. Jarwin’s injury likely means the Cowboys will do everything possible to keep Dalton Schultz, which could even mean we see him get hit with the franchise tag.
- RG3 decides not to write book. Robert Griffin III was going to write a “tell-all” book about his time in Washington, but for some reason, it looks like he has decided to scrap the book. For more details on why he might have decided to quit the project, be sure to click here.
- Falcons won’t commit to Matt Ryan as their starting QB for 2022. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith were both asked this week about the possibility of trading Ryan at some point this offseason and both left the door wide open. I took a look at what their vague comments might mean and why they won’t commit to Ryan as their starter and you can check that story out by clicking here.