For once, QB-hungry teams have plenty of options. A look ahead at the start of a wild offseason
Want to know how quickly things have changed? Twenty-five years ago this spring, Reggie White turned down offers from Washington and San Francisco to sign a floodgate-opening four-year, $17 million deal with the Packers. A quarter century later, Green Bay could break a new barrier by inking Aaron Rodgers to the league's first $200 million contract—and that's far from the buzziest storyline as we head into the offseason. February and March in the NFL have been defined by convoluted financial discussions rather than landscape-altering moves in recent years. But 2018 could be different.
Welcome back to The Morning Huddle! The official league year does not begin until March 14, but with teams able to designate franchise tag players as soon as Tuesday, the personnel posturing period is well underway. A quick rundown of what's ahead before the first free agents sign:
• Feb. 20-March 6: Teams can put the franchise tag on star free agents. The biggest names to keep an eye on are Cowboys edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (who played under a franchise-tag contract last year and is looking for a market-setting deal).
• Feb. 27-March 5: The NFL scouting combine unofficially kicks off draft season. This year's draft is headlined by a crowded QB class (with four passers in the top 20 of our initial big board).
• March 12: Teams can begin talking to free agents-to-be, including Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum. Free agents can start signing on March 14.
The Eagles proved that being aggressive in the offseason can lead to success in the postseason. Two years ago, a trade up in the draft landed them Carson Wentz, and nearly half of their starters came outside of the draft process entirely. An expanding salary cap has allowed more teams to follow that model (and made trades that much easier to pull off). We've already seen Washington and San Francisco put down a combined $231 million for Alex Smith and Jimmy Garoppolo. Twenty-five years after missing out on The Minister of Defense, those two clubs have learned the lesson many times over: There's no more avoiding the NFL spending season.
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NOW ON THE MMQB: Peter King predicts all of the QB movement in his Monday column ... Andy Benoit puts together a must-read free agency guide ... Tim Rohan finds out why Hall of Famer Harry Carson would not play football if he could do it over again ... Conor Orr compiles a franchise tag watch ... and more.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Peter King took us behind the play that won the Eagles the Super Bowl ... Albert Breer talked with Kyle Shanahan about his newly paid QB ... Robert Klemko looked back at Baker Mayfield's last "rookie year" ... and more.
1. Frank Reich was named the next Colts head coach while The Morning Huddle was on hiatus. Heading into the weekend, Zak Keefer chronicled Reich's story, starting with an opening paragraph that captures the former QB's magical rise: "He was the backup who became a folk hero, the jock who became a pastor, the pastor who became a 45-year-old intern, willing to scrub toilets if that’s what it took to scratch that football itch of his after eight years away from the game."
2. If skiing and skating's ability to fill that football-sized hole in your viewing schedule is fading as we enter Week 2 in PyeongChang, I . . . don't have good news for you. But, if you look closely, you might be able to spot Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif slopeside. So that's something.
3. As we near the final chapter of the Washington-Kirk Cousins saga, things aren't getting any prettier. Reports indicate the QB would file a grievance with the players' union if the team franchise-tags him again with plans to trade him, rather than letting him walk as a free agent.
4. Washington corner Josh Norman is among seven current and former players who have taken a surprise visit to Israel. In the ancient city of Shiloh, he reconnected with a memorable fan.
5. An independent arbitrator assured AJ McCarron a serious windfall when he ruled in the QB's favor, making him an unrestricted free agent during an offseason that also includes several QB-hungry teams. "It's just a blessing," McCarron said. "I was going to be blessed either way because you're still in the league, you're still being able to play the game for a living, but it's just awesome just to be free now and to hopefully get that opportunity and be able to compete somewhere. That's all I've ever wanted. I'm just super excited. Just really excited that I get that opportunity now and I just can't wait to just showcase what I can do and show a team that I can lead a team and win ballgames."
6. The NFL says that it found no evidence supporting any violation of the league's personal conduct policy by Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney, who was reinstated following the investigation into claims of domestic violence.
7. At the end of last week, the Giants officially announced Pat Shurmur's new coaching staff, headlined by offensive coordinator Mike Shula and defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Previously, the Vikings had prevented Shurmur, their OC last season, from interviewing Vikings QB coach Kevin Stefanski.
8. Could Chiefs star corner Marcus Peters be on the move?
9. After a surprise run to the AFC championship game, the Jaguars will be removing tarps from their home stadium. Combine that with new uniforms and a new stadium name and Jacksonville will look quite different in 2018.
10. Bears fans eager to see new coach Matt Nagy in action will be excited to hear that Chicago will play the Ravens in the preseason opener, the Aug. 2 Hall of Fame Game.
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Derek Carr's In-N-Out order: two cheeseburgers, a chocolate shake, and one very excited window attendant.
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