My first post-Julio mailbag! And you definitely had questions …
From Myles Powicki (@MylesPowicki): Would you rather have Mahomes with Allen’s supporting cast or Allen with Mahomes’s?
Myles, this is a really fun question. So let’s dive in. I’m assuming you mean just offense here, so on that premise, here’s what we’re looking at:
New Chiefs: QB Josh Allen; RBs Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams; WRs Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Cornell Powell; TE Travis Kelce; OLs Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, Kyle Long, Mike Remmers, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Creed Humphrey.
New Bills: QB Patrick Mahomes, RBs Devin Singletary, Zack Moss; WRs Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, Gabriel Davis; TEs Dawson Knox, Jacob Hollister; OLs Dion Dawkins, Jon Feliciano, Mitch Morse, Cody Ford, Daryl Williams.
Two things to add here. One, this scenario isn’t too far-fetched to imagine—it actually could’ve happened. The Bills kicked the tires hard on Mahomes, then dealt away the pick used to take him to Kansas City in 2017. If Buffalo had just taken Mahomes instead? Maybe the Chiefs would’ve made a move up the board to get Allen the year after, a plausible thought since that’s actually exactly what the Bills did to get him. And two, I think you’re asking this question on the premise that the Chiefs are way ahead of the Bills from a roster standpoint.
I don’t know if that second part is true. Looking at the two offensive groups there, I’d probably give the Chiefs the edge, but I actually think it’s relatively close, especially when you consider the number of players on the Buffalo roster that are still ascending. So while I love the progress Allen’s made, give me Mahomes on the Bills.
From Headlinez (@TreBrownSZN): With Julio Jones off of the board, who’s the next big potential trade name floating around?
Headlinez, I don’t think we have any more surprises coming this offseason. At least up until now, the Packers have been firm that they won’t deal away Aaron Rodgers, but until he shows up, it’s going to be a talking point for everyone; and I do think the Texans will probably look at moving Deshaun Watson after there’s more clarity, both legally and from the league, as to his status. Russell Wilson’s locked in with Seattle for 2021. And that’s where we are.
I’m sure next year, we’ll have more. But these are difficult to forecast ahead of time, for a few reasons, which I’ll list here.
• They’re often driven by coaching changes. The centerpieces of the three big trades this offseason—Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz and Julio Jones—were all moved by teams with first-year coaches. So unless I know who’s getting fired in January, I’m missing a pretty significant pieces of the puzzle.
• Usually the guys traded have monster contracts and are approaching or are in the nonguaranteed segments of those deals. Right now, there are 17 nonquarterbacks making more than $20 million per year. Some of those guys, like Khalil Mack and Frank Clark (for example), are getting toward the back end of those contracts. But it’s not like we can say now that this guy or that guy will get restless because of it six months from now.
• The league can be reactionary. The Bears’ success with Mack and the Rams’ success with Jalen Ramsey has, indeed, led to teams’ looking at being aggressive in these sorts of situations—which explains, in part, the recent boom in blockbuster trades. Those becoming more commonplace really means any big-name player could try and push that button if he’s not happy with his lot in the league.
So when we get to 2022, my belief is the Wilson situation could bubble up again, and we could be there again with Rodgers too, if he eventually acquiesces and plays for Green Bay in ’21. It’s also worth noting that at that point, Arizona will be at a decision point with Kyler Murray; same goes for the Giants with Daniel Jones; and Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo will be going into contract years. And we’ll see if Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen gets deals before then.
Long story short, a lot of things could happen.
From Bronco danny (@DSacharoff): Gut feeling, Rodgers ends up in Denver?
From Jordo (@Jordo42): Rodgers to Denver % chance??
I’d say the chances are low for 2021—maybe 5%—because I don’t think the Packers are going to buckle and trade him. That is not to say that the Broncos wouldn’t be willing to make a move for him, because I think (and this is just my opinion) he’ll remain on their radar for as long as this goes on. I also have a little bit of a hunch that part of passing on Justin Fields, and taking Patrick Surtain, was leaving their options open for that kind of opportunity to present itself.
And the great thing about that is that I think it’d be an affirmation of where new GM George Paton thinks the roster is going into his first year. Really, it’s not that different from where Denver was in 2012 before luring Peyton Manning to Colorado. That March, they had promising young receivers on the roster, a great young pass rusher, a promising offensive line group and a veteran head coach and staff. Ditto now (even if the degrees of strength from position to position vary a little).
Bottom line, if Rodgers ever becomes available, I think the Broncos will be a strong suitor.
From Tim (@Dagiantsgoodyet): Who’s the next QB to set the market?
Tim, because Mahomes’s number, under an unorthodox contract, is $45 million per year, $5 million clear of the next highest paid guys (Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson), I do think Rodgers is probably the only one capable of scaling that mountain this offseason. My guess is the guys who do get paid in the coming months (Allen, Jackson, Mayfield) will be work off of the more conventional deals that Prescott and Watson did.
Why? Well, it’d be hard for any team to make the sort of commitment that the Chiefs did from a years standpoint—while it’s absolutely good for the team to have financial certainty on a player for 12 seasons, there also aren’t any escape hatches for a while—and no player is going to sign up for that amount of time unless it’s going to be a market-moving deal. So my guess would be the next deals you see for QBs are shorter, which could land in the coming months, and don’t touch the record APY that Mahomes got to.
From Brandon (@DonthaBrand): How do you see the 49ers’ QB situation playing out? Is it truly up for grabs or is it Jimmy’s to lose?
Brandon, I don’t think it’s up for grabs the way, say, Chicago’s QB job was up for grabs last summer. That one was a true competition, with Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles splitting up reps, and alternating days with the first-teamers. Kyle Shanahan, even with the team having some reservations on Jimmy Garoppolo’s game, knows he has a locker room that believes in Garoppolo. And that locker room is in position to compete for a championship now.
That’s not the hyperbole it might be in other places, either. The Niners were in the Super Bowl just 16 months ago, and stayed in the playoff hunt into December last year despite having arguably the worst injury situation in football. They held on to just about everyone, and so for Trey Lance to even sniff playing time at this point, he first has to show the locker room that he’s a better option than Garoppolo—which won’t be easy.
So I think Lance has to be noticeably better than Garoppolo in camp for that reason, and one other one: He’d have to prove that playing him will have a payoff valuable enough to pay the price of rolling with a rookie and the bumps teams doing so have to ride out.
And again, if we’re talking about a team that’s probably going 9–8 or 8–9, then this is a different discussion. That’s not who the Niners should be, or who the coaches there believe they are. Which is why, despite the noise on Garoppolo’s going home to New England, the Niners were never going to hand him over without a clear overpay from the Patriots. A pick in, say, the 50s, wasn’t going to be worth tying a title contender’s hopes to the development of a rookie.
For all those reasons, health permitting, I think Garoppolo will start Week 1. And if the Niners win like I believe they will, and they believe they will, and Garoppolo can stay on the field for the duration, a true redshirt year for Lance is a pretty likely outcome. Which is something I’m saying as someone who always warns people, with a trusty chart I have to prove it, that redshirt years rarely actually happen for first-round quarterbacks.
From eddie rainer (@yougotime31): Does the WFT have a top-three defense?
Eddie, I think Chase Young’s going to be one of the five best defensive players in the league by the end of the year, and the centerpiece of a top-three defensive front, and that’s one hell of a place to start. From Young to fellow young, ascending former first-rounder Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat, to solid depth pieces Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis, it’s hard to know where to start in dealing with what Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio will be able to throw at offenses.
Baseline, with an average back seven, that makes Washington a top-10 defense, in my opinion. From there, then, I think the assimilation of two players in particular into the defense is going to be the swing factor—one being big-ticket free-agent corner William Jackson, the other being first-round linebacker Jamin Davis. If those two can be what Josh Norman and Thomas Davis were for Rivera in Carolina, look out.
At that point, sure, Washington can be a top-three defense.
From the thick krassenstein brother (@Glasshomes12): How likely is it that Julio Jones being traded to the Titans produces similar results as Andre Johnson landing on the Colts in 2015? Similar age and production profiles.
Thick, I think it 100% depends on Jones’s ability to stay healthy. He’s got a foot issue he’s managed for a decade, a knee that needs consistent maintenance, a hamstring that cost him half of the season last year, and his practice schedule over the last few years has been built around finding a way to keep him on the game field. Was last year’s missed time a sign of the dam breaking? Or more so a player recognizing a lost season and getting the time off he needed?
Based on what I’ve heard, I’m inclined to believe it’s the latter, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some level of concern that the bottom could drop out at some point over the next year or two.
But if he holds up? He’s still been damn impressive, and I wouldn’t equate his situation at 32 directly to Johnson’s at 33. Johnson’s yards per catch were slipping his last couple of years in Houston, and after spending one year with him, Bill O’Brien decided that Johnson would need to be in a reduced role in 2015. Johnson believed he had more than that left, the Texans allowed him to seek out a trade partner and he got very little interest, which led to the team’s cutting him a week later.
Now, moving Jones wasn’t easy for the Falcons either. But eventually, they found another team willing to take on his $15.3 million base for this year, the prospect of having to give him another raise if it works and a second-round pick. And while that’s not a one, all of it put together tells you that the league was still a lot higher on Jones now than it was on Johnson in March 2015.
So yes, there’s risk here for the Titans. There’s also potential for big reward.
From Aaron (@aaronmacn): Are the Chargers effectively using their limited-time, team-friendly cap space situation with Herbert effectively by not pursuing Julio and other big-ticket FAs?
Aaron, it’s a very fair question to ask—the Chargers have $19.40 million in cap space, fifth most in the NFL, and they let tight end Hunter Henry walk in free agency, and it does make you wonder if the new-stadium windfall that didn’t come in 2020, with SoFi empty all year, dented their cash budget this offseason. It’s also worth adding that the rookie-contract window closes quickly on young quarterbacks. Justin Herbert will be eligible to negotiate a top-of-the-market deal starting in early 2023.
All that said, I really like where the Chargers are. The offensive line was clearly the team’s biggest need, and if spending on Corey Linsley to be Herbert’s center and captain a new-look front is what cost them Henry, I’d take that tradeoff. I also thinking getting Rashawn Slater to play left tackle where they did, with the 13th pick, was stealing a player who could be an anchor for them for a decade. Matt Feiler is another interesting add for the line, Jared Cook’s a good stopgap replacement for Henry and the receiver room there is loaded.
Maybe, in the end, that extra money they have lying around will go to Mike Williams or something. Maybe it being there really is a budgetary thing. Either way, Brandon Staley’s staff’s got a really group to lead into Year 1.
From Star-Technology Productions (@StarTechnolog16): What is the latest on a potential Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers trade? Which teams are still interested? Do you think Eli Manning will eventually work in the Giants’ front office?
Star-Tech, again, I don’t think Rodgers will be traded in 2021, but I think Watson could be. And I think a number of teams have sort of kept the quarterbacking options at least somewhat open—Panthers, Broncos, Dolphins—and could pounce on there being a sudden opportunity if either guy were to wind up on the block.
As for Manning, I’m really interested to see where the Manning family goes over the next few years. I do believe it’s Peyton Manning’s ambition to eventually run a team, but it sure sounds like he’s found himself happier in retirement in Colorado than maybe even he figured he’d be—so I’m not sure there’s any timeline on that. And Eli’s very graceful exit from playing wound indicate the Giants could bring him back some day in some capacity.
Or … is it possible that, someday, the Mannings would collectively get involved in an ownership group down the line? While Eli and Peyton were still playing, the idea of that, as each did record-breaking contract after record-breaking contract, was something that people in the league figured they may eventually want to pursue.
(Must be nice to have those sorts of options.)
From Johnny Foxboro (@calijgh): If Mac outplays Cam through preseason won’t Bill Belichick just release Cam? Lots of talk about Cam’s big personality hurting Mac’s ability to command locker room. Thoughts?
Johnny, I don’t know that there’s been much talk inside the Patriots’ building on Cam Newton’s presence overwhelming Mac Jones’s ability to assert himself as a player at all. For now, my belief is that the Patriots plan to start the season with Newton, while Jones develops in the background and see where that goes.
But this week and next do present an opportunity for Jones to make some headway, with Newton nursing a right-hand injury. I do know, for what it’s worth, that the Patriots see Jones having arrived as advertised, and that’s a good thing—considering New England spend a first-round pick on him, something the Patriots hadn’t done with a quarterback in 28 years.
Now, if Jones were to somehow win the job? Then, yeah, it’s hard to see Newton sticking around as the backup.
From Mac Jones Future Hall of Famer(Brycen) (@PaprikEh): Do you see Bill Belichick stepping away from his GM or coaching role and just doing one in a few years? Like go into a Tom Coughlin–type role with Patriots to let Josh McDaniels or whoever take over the day-to-day.
Brycen, I don’t think it’ll happen like that—where Belichick would step off the field and into the Patriots’ front office. The only time I can think of that happening in the last 25 years was with Bill Parcells, who went from Jets coach in 1999 to Jets executive in 2000, and that one only lasted for a single year. For whatever reason, I do believe it’s very difficult to pull that off, where a coach goes directly into a solely front-office role with the same organization (maybe because of what it does to the next head coach).
What I could see is something more like what we saw with Parcells when he went to the Dolphins, or where Tom Coughlin returned to the Jaguars in a non-coaching role after years away, or where Mike Holmgren landed with the Browns a couple years after leaving the Seahawks. Belichick has, in recent years, played kingmaker behind the scenes in other teams’ GM and coaching searches, and so I could see him being intrigued, somewhere in his 70s, in being a sort of over-the-top figure in an organization where he hand-picks a GM and coach.
There’s not a ton of history of that working. But there’s also no one quite like Belichick, so I don’t think he’d have trouble finding that sort of job if he wanted it a few years from now.
From Kiel Tilley (@tilleyki): Why does the national media report so negatively on Dan Campbell? Of course, he has to win, but he's building differently with so many former players leading, with enthusiasm. Diverse staff and already involved in the community (look for his meeting with Ford employees).
Kiel, here’s what I appreciate about Campbell—he’s unabashedly himself. And that, to me, is the No. 1 thing it takes to win over a locker room as a head coach. Football players have varying intelligence levels, varying athletic abilities, etc., etc. But there is one thing I’ve found they do have in common, and that’s that they all seem to have an amazing capacity to sniff out someone who’s full of it. And that incredible B.S. meter means if you’re not yourself, and trying to be someone else, they’re gonna figure that out and you’ll have no chance.
So why do people push back on Campbell’s shtick? I think it’s an urge some have to equate having fun with being a meathead (and Campbell clearly does have fun with it) with a guy being dumb, and fighting old-school jock culture. Which is probably a different discussion for a different day. Anyway, I think you’ll see in time that there’s more to Campbell than putting on a racing helmet to promote the Detroit Grand Prix.
From Matt Mosley (@mattmosley): Can you build a defense around off-ball linebackers? Will the Cowboys have any down linemen this season? Matt in Dallas County.
Matthew! Clearly, you’re looking at Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Micah Parsons, Keanu Neal and Jabril Cox, and wondering how Dan Quinn will get all of them on the field. I’ll be interested to find out too, with the potential that Parsons and Vander Esch might be used a little more as hybrids (and Neal and Cox have that potential on the back end too). As for the front, well, much rides of the development of young guys like Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore.
Thanks for checking in from Dallas County. Say hello to everyone in Lake Highlands.