It may be a quieter time in the NFL calendar, but you all are still filling the mailbox …
From Lennon Theus (@broncolen30): Who is the frontrunner or favorite to purchase the Broncos?
Lennon, Walmart heir Rob Walton looms as the favorite. He’s there this week, and a quick Google search showed his net worth to be somewhere between $65 billion and $70 billion, which would make him the NFL’s wealthiest owner, surpassing Seahawks owner Jody Allen (who’s said to be in the $20 billion range), and second-wealthiest owner in North American pro sports, behind only Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. Per research from CEO World magazine last month, Walton’s the 16th-wealthiest man on the planet.
Which is all a long way of coloring the fact that, yes, yes, yes … NFL owners would want Walton in their club. And the fact that his family already has boots on the ground in the market—Walton’s brother-in-law, Rams owner Stan Kroenke, owns the NBA’s Nuggets and NHL’s Avalanche—only makes this call easier for the other owners.
Now, that does not mean it’s a slam dunk. The way Pat Bowlen’s will reads, the team has to go to the highest bidder, and someone could outbid Walton. But it won’t happen because Walton’s pockets aren’t deep enough, or through any lack of will from other owners. That’s for sure.
From Bucks26 (@buckOH26): Terry McLaurin’s contact status?
Bucks! The contract, right now, is nowhere. Negotiations haven’t really started. And while there’s still time, it feels like the Commanders have already lost a lot of ground. At the beginning of the offseason, there’d been just two $20 million receivers in league history, one being Julio Jones in his prime and the other being DeAndre Hopkins after a trade. You could argue, at that point, $20 million was just for the elite of the elite. Since, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and McLaurin’s draft classmate A.J. Brown have joined the club.
Brown, for his part, got a new money APY of $25 million over the four-year extension, and a true value of $20.8 million per over five years. And if you look at the two of them, drafted 25 picks apart in 2019, it’s hard to argue that McLaurin shouldn’t be right there with him:
• The smaller McLaurin’s been more durable, playing 46 games to Brown’s 43.
• McLaurin’s been more statistically prolific, with 222 catches for 3,090 yards and 14 touchdowns, though Brown has scored more (185 catches, 2,995 yards, 24 TDs).
• McLaurin’s been a captain the last two years; Brown never was one in Tennessee.
And none of this is to disparage Brown, who’s certainly bigger (6'1" and 225 pounds to 6'0" and 209 pounds) and younger (Brown’s 24, McLaurin’s 26), and arguably has a higher ceiling. It’s really just to illustrate that McLaurin wouldn’t be out of line to ask for what Brown got, especially after being strung along a little here by Washington.
Which is a lot more than it might’ve cost to re-up him in January or February.
(Not to go on a tangent but this is why I don’t understand why more teams aren’t more proactive with their young vets. I get that owners would rather keep the cash on ice in a lot of these cases, and invested with their hedge-fund buddies, but it sure looks to me like they get burned more often than not waiting longer into the offseason.)
From JT Barczak (@jtbarczak): Why is the national media so negative on Justin Fields? Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson get a pass for last year but still have a chance to be great, says the narrative, but people already writing Fields off. Fields has all the measurables and intangibles.
JT, I don’t think the national media’s down on Justin Fields. But I would agree that there’s less anticipation outside Chicago for his second year than there is for guys like Lawrence and Wilson. And I think that’s more about what’s going on around him than it is a referendum on his rookie year.
Fields started 10 games as a rookie and had ups and downs, to be sure. Then, the Bears fired their coach and GM, and hired first-timers into both those roles, with the head coach having come from the defensive side. Then, the new guys Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles conducted a (necessary, in my mind) teardown of a roster that was starting to age out, and, well, Justin Fields is sort of left in the eye of that hurricane.
Conversely, whether they overspent for them or not, the Jags went and got Christian Kirk and Brandon Scherff to help Lawrence, and hired him a former NFL quarterback in Doug Pederson to be their coach. And the Jets drafted Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall within the top 40 picks, and brought the number of former first-rounders on the line to three with the signing of 49ers guard Laken Tomlinson.
Based on all of that, I think it’s fair to say that the Jags and Jets have a better chance to get a clean read on their quarterbacks in Year 2 than the Bears do. But that doesn’t mean what Pace and Eberflus are doing is wrong, nor does it mean Fields won’t make it.
From Nick (@icknau): Why is Darnell Mooney getting so much disrespect from national media? A simple google search shows he put up solid WR2 numbers despite a horrendous offensive scheme in 2021.
Nick, you’re right. Mooney went for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns on 81 catches in his second year as a pro, and got there even with all the aforementioned tumult in the Bears’ organization, and through a few quarterback switches. He’s still just 24 and brings an explosiveness to the field that would indicate he’s still got plenty of room to grow.
I’d throw Cole Kmet in there too, as an ascending 23-year-old coming off a 60-catch season, to make the point that, though the Bears didn’t take a big swing on a skill-position guy this offseason, there’s an infrastructure internally to consider here, too. Now, am I saying we’re talking about Rob Gronkowski and Tyreek Hill here? I am not. But I do think if those guys stay on the tracks they’ve been on the last two years, they’ll give Chicago something to build on.
From Russell Williams (@Russ_Will_): When will Clowney re-sign with the Browns?
Russell, I think at this point that’s pretty much up to him. Clowney’s waited to sign with teams before, and whether he wants to be at OTAs and mandatory minicamp, for whatever team he’s playing for, would be a factor. But I think the trade for Deshaun Watson is a reason, on top of getting to play opposite Myles Garrett, for Clowney to want to return to Cleveland.
There are two potential mitigating factors here when it comes to the Browns being able to close on Clowney. One is geography—I think if a team in the South makes a play for him, that could tug on him and maybe create a little conflict in his head. Two is the contract. I think the Browns would like to get Clowney signed to a two- or three-year deal, so they’re not going through this every year. But Clowney has, of late, preferred one-year deals.
From Rob Wilson (@_W1L5ON): Thoughts on Patriots potentially adding Bradberry to the mix at CB?
From DubZillA (@Rcisneros87): Does Bradberry end up in Vegas?
I understand the connections people are making, and both New England and Las Vegas make sense along those sorts of lines—James Bradberry’s most recent head coach from New York (Joe Judge) is now in Foxboro, and his most recent coordinator from New York (Patrick Graham) is now in Vegas. And since both teams have a need at corner, it makes all the sense in the world that they’d at least check in on the 2020 Pro Bowler.
That said, I think it’s also important to be aware of what Bradberry is, and what he isn’t, going into his seventh NFL season and approaching his 29th birthday. He was drafted to be more of a zone corner in Ron Rivera’s scheme to begin with, and that’s where he’s really been at his best as a pro. He also, per scouts who’ve studied him, doesn’t quite move the way he used to. So if you sign him you want to bring him in with manageable expectations.
Now, both the Raiders and Patriots are going to be multiple on defense (Graham having come from the New England tree), and neither team has a dominant man corner who might influence the coaches to build and call the defense a certain way. All that would indicate that, sure, Bradberry could fit into the equation. So maybe, for those two, this will come down to what they think he’s worth monetarily.
From Moose Block (@moose_block): Any updates on the new Podcast?
Moose, I appreciate the continued support. Will keep you posted.
From Howard Steele (@HowardSteele5): Why do the Texans always get stuck with one of the hardest schedules?
Howard, please take a look at this …
• Home games against the Browns, Steelers, Saints and Buccaneers.
• Road games against the Falcons, Ravens, Panthers and Bengals.
• Home games against the AFC West and NFC West teams that finish in the corresponding spot in the standings.
• Road game against the AFC East team that finishes in the corresponding spot in the standings.
That’s Houston’s 2023 schedule. We can do 2024 for you now, too, if you want. The fact is that the schedule is pumped out via a formula based on a rotation of divisions playing against each other. The Texans play the NFC East and AFC West this year, per that rotation. Simple as that. Now, if later in the week, there are some logistical challenges created with short weeks and primetime games and tough stretches, we can talk about that then.
But no one has anything to complain about yet.
From Jason Reeves (@Phrenitis): Is all this Denzel Mims noise coming from his agents and the Jets trying to build up trade value?
What Denzel Mims noise?
Nothing against the guy, but he had eight catches and played fewer than 300 offensive snaps in 2021. The staff that limited his playing time, and touches, to that degree just paid up to keep Braxton Berrios and drafted Garrett Wilson at No. 10.
From Jeff (@SpillySpillster): Why do you spoil picks during the draft?
Jeff, honestly, I guess I don’t have any motivation not to is the real answer. It’s news, like anything else, and starting the conversation on a pick a little early on social media is just keeping up with what’s actually happening in the league. I’ve worked for places before this that wouldn’t allow me to do it, and I respected those boundaries (which were there for real reasons). But as it is? When we’re doing stuff for our web shows, or on social media, or the site, or I’m doing TV or radio, it just makes sense to be ahead on the discussion.
If there are reasons not to do it that I’m not thinking of, I’d definitely listen to those.
From Jonathan Rosenberg (@frosted_takes): Do NFL front offices really take media reports into consideration? We hear all the time about smoke screens, trying to create trade leverage, etc. Do teams really think, “well the Miami Herald reported xyz so we better hurry up.”?
Jonathan, I do think NFL front offices pay attention to the media, and public perception, to try to ascertain how other teams might be thinking. That doesn’t mean that general managers and head coaches are poring over every word written on their teams and others—but they do have people monitoring all of it for them (which, honestly, can be how messages that get to them become mixed).
And the benefit of it is obvious. It’s another piece of information to work with in the poker game all 32 teams are playing against one another on a daily basis, even in May.
From Mr Perfect (@perfecthennig): Where will Baker Mayfield be playing next year?
Mr. Perfect, loved your work in the ’90s. I still think it’s two teams—the Panthers and Seahawks, though I’d listen to other ideas, because I think the Browns are waiting for their mystery team to emerge. The Panthers might want to get a look at Sam Darnold and Matt Corral in Ben McAdoo’s offense in OTAs before making a call on going after a Mayfield, Jimmy Garoppolo or Nick Foles.
As for the Seahawks? They found Russell Wilson by continuing to throw darts at the quarterback board—from keeping Matt Hasselbeck for a year, to getting Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Flynn, before finding Wilson. And rolling the dice on Mayfield and throwing him in a competition with Drew Lock and Geno Smith would, to me, be a worth dice roll.
As we’ve said all along, much of this will come down to how much of Mayfield’s contract the Browns are willing to swallow to facilitate a deal, which is really tantamount to buying a draft pick. Not ideal, but if there’s a better option now, I’d like to see it.
From Drew Leonard (@dleonard1991): Is Brady trying to surpass Jordan as a brand icon?
From Dat Boy BETTIS (@Bettis3636): Was Brady’s retirement a gimmick? Never felt real, just felt like he was trying to spoil Ben's enshrinement.
Sorry, Jerome, I don’t think Brady was trying to overshadow the goings-on of Ben Roethlisberger. The way I see Tom Brady’s retirement now was as a sort of cooling-off period. Those six weeks served to give Brady time to consider his options without being under the will-he-or-won’t-he scrutiny that used to follow Brett Favre every offseason, and I do think (this is my opinion) he wanted to explore the idea of Miami or San Francisco.
Ultimately, the Bucs were never going to let him go, and their messaging at the combine made that clear. And the large number of free agents they had (Ryan Jensen, Chris Godwin, Alex Cappa, Leonard Fournette, Carlton Davis, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Rob Gronkowski) gave them leverage in forcing a decision from Brady—if he was going to come back, it behooved him to make it clear before free agency start, or else he’d risk being left with a shell of the team he won with the last two years around him.
So now we’re back where we were, with Brady surrounded by a really good Tampa roster, and with a new head coach in Todd Bowles who I actually think is a really good fit for him. In the end, this all worked out alright for him.
From Thiago Pinheiro (@tiguts): Are the Jaguars going to find a way to not finish last in the league this year for a record 3rd year in a row?
Thiago, I’d be optimistic. I like Doug Pederson and the staff he’s put together. Lawrence is still a stud. Adding Travis Etienne and Kirk to the skill group—even if you think the investment in each guy was a little rich—should help. The line, with Scherff in the fold, should be good enough. And there are at least some pieces on defense, with a good mix of veterans like Josh Allen, Foley Fatukasi, Shaq Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins surrounding promising young talent.
The division they play in just O.K.. The schedule is manageable.
Am I’m talking myself into 9–8 for this team? Maybe.
From Simon Hunter (@SimonHunter_): How do you judge the quality of a HC in today’s world? There is a lot of talk about mastering the X’s & O’s/being innovative, etc. and situational football, but I think people are underestimating coaches who have mastered culture. What do you think?
Simon, culture has become the buzzword. But really all that culture is, in the end, is having an ability to reach, connect with and get the most out of people. If you don’t have that, the rest doesn’t matter at all. So I’d say, in general, leadership is the first thing. Mike Tomlin’s such a great example of it—his ability to get the most out of everyone is a starting point for everything the Steelers do, and it’s allowed outgoing GM Kevin Colbert and his staff to cast a very wide net in personnel, which makes talent acquisition that much easier.
After that, I think you have to show you can develop talent, first and foremost, and then have a strong vision for how you’re putting your team together. The X’s and O’s, play calling and all that is important, and becomes more important the longer a coach is on the job—because eventually, giving players an ability to win and get rich in the process is a big factor in the climate of your program. But you can delegate some of that if you’re good at the important stuff (Bill Belichick’s a unicorn in that he really is good in all areas).
So that’s my answer, in a nutshell, to a pretty complex question. And thank you, Simon, because you may have just given me a story idea for down the road.
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