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Packers’ Jaire Alexander Extension Sets Up Parallel to Chiefs

Green Bay and Kansas City will be engaged in an interesting team-building test going forward. Plus, Bill Belichick’s staffing gamble, reading the Deshaun Watson tea leaves and more.

I was on assignment all day Monday (more to come soon!), so this week’s MAQB is actually a TMQB …

Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) prior to a NFC Divisional playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field; Cleveland Browns new quarterback Deshaun Watson enters a news conference at the NFL football team’s training facility, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Berea, Ohio; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick calls to his players during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass.

• Packers CB Jaire Alexander’s four-year, $84 million extension is well-deserved—he’s been one of the NFL’s best corners for a couple years now, and doesn’t turn 26 until next February—and it’s also interesting to look at how far Green Bay was willing to go cash-wise to keep an elite player, because it can inform the Davante Adams discussion. Here’s the cashflow on Alexander’s deal …

Through 2022: $31.076 million (including $30 million signing bonus)

Through 2023: $45.076 million

Through 2024: $61.076 million

Adams, by comparison, is getting $23.35 million in Year 1 in Las Vegas, $50.02 million through two years, and $67.51 million through three years. So the two deals are in the same general ballpark over the most relevant period, which tells you that, yes, the Packers had the wherewithal to get Adams signed, had he not been focused on reuniting with Derek Carr in Vegas. But it’ll also set up an interesting team-building test going forward.

Both the Packers and Chiefs have top-shelf franchise quarterbacks losing No. 1 receivers. Both have young players at premium, nonreceiver positions to pay now (Alexander for the Packers, Orlando Brown Jr. for the Chiefs), with more possible in the near future (Rashan Gary for the Packers, L’Jarius Sneed for the Chiefs), and some already on the payroll (David Bakhtiari, Preston Smith for the Packers; Frank Clark for the Chiefs).

So does a true franchise quarterback really need the type of No. 1 receiver that can open things up for everyone else? Or are you better off sinking a little less into the skill spots, shooting to be more balanced there, and maintaining the ability to win different types of games?

Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are about to give us a good litmus test on that.

• The Patriots' staffing situation bears watching. Bill Belichick’s coaches did conference calls with the media on Monday, and confirmed some of what has been out there—Matt Patricia is working with the offensive line and Joe Judge is with the quarterbacks—without clarifying much of what’s not, like who will call the offensive plays or whether there’ll be a full-time defensive coordinator in 2022.

As is stands, the Patriots don’t have an offensive or defensive coordinator, which is similar to the situation they were in through the 2010 season. And it’s worth pointing out they went 14–2 that year.

Now, as for the difference, in 2010, they had a quarterbacks coach (Bill O’Brien) and linebackers coach (Patricia) who were very clearly in coordinator-like roles. Everyone knew the score on that, and Belichick was just making them earn the titles, which they did in time to carry them into the ’11 season.

This time around? Even internally, there are questions on who’ll call the offensive plays (Patricia? Judge? Nick Caley? Belichick?), and even how other work will shake out, given that neither Patricia nor Judge has much experience working exclusively on the offensive side of the ball. And if Belichick has to spend more time on offense, what does that mean for the defense, where Steve Belichick has called plays and Jerod Mayo has run meetings?

And yes, Belichick forgets more football in a blink of an eye than I’ll ever know. But this is a critical year for his young quarterback, and really his entire program based on how rugged the AFC looks, and the state of the powerhouse (Buffalo) in his own division. Considering all that, it’s hard not to be reminded of the time Andy Reid tried something similar to this in Philly—making highly respected offensive line coach Juan Castillo his defensive coordinator for the 2011 Dream Team—and how it led to his demise as Eagles coach.

I’m not saying that’s how this will turn out. But I think the gamble Belichick’s taking here is similar to one Reid took. And Reid paid a heavy price in that case.

Deshaun Watson’s meeting with the NFL this week in Texas is one we can read the tea leaves on. Generally, the league wraps up these sorts of investigations by interviewing the player, which presumably means they’ve already talked to as many of his 22 accusers as are willing to talk. And they’d been waiting on talking to the women for the criminal proceeding to conclude (which happened in March).

That said, this might not mean a ruling is coming from the league.

Why? Well, if the 22 lawsuits don’t reach resolution by July 1, the sides, and the court, have agreed to essentially press pause until the NFL season is over. And if there isn’t closure there, there will be those in the NFL office who argue to wait on issuing any sort of suspension. The league has shown over the last few years, really going back to the Ezekiel Elliott case, that it wants out of the business of playing judge, jury and executioner, and as such won’t make a decision that preempts what might happen in court.

That opens the possibility Watson plays the whole year in 2022, and then perhaps deals with any consequence the league assesses him in ’23. And like I said, I wouldn’t speak in absolutes on that. But I do think the possibility of such a scenario is real.

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Jessie Bates (30) celebrates an interception against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter of Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium

Jessie Bates celebrates his Interception in Super Bowl LVI.

• The news Monday, from Tyler Dragon of USA Today, that Jessie Bates doesn’t plan to sign his tender now, or play on it in 2022, isn’t surprising. And I’d offer two thoughts on that …

1. Long-term deals for franchised players rarely happen before we’re much closer to the July 15 deadline to do them.

2. Walking away from $12.91 million is easy to talk about now. But for a guy who’s “only” made $6.85 million, actually doing it won’t be easy for Bates.

So for now, I don’t think there should be much panic. Once we get to mid-July, we’ll see if it’s time to reassess that.

• While we’re there, Monday morning we covered Cincinnati getting back on the field, and I think it’s worth remembering one theme from last season—there were a couple times, if you remember, where Joe Burrow showed up in my column saying that the old Bengals were gone. And at the time, it seemed really focused on where the team was in the moment, and overcoming any sort of Here we go again ideas that might creep in people’s heads if there were bumps along the way.

But really, I think the message was as much focused on now as it was then, with the team coming off a conference title and looking to clear the bar it set for itself last year.

While it’s nice to be an underdog in the moment, those Bengals never really embraced being one, and Burrow voiced that repeatedly to me. And that was because they wanted what they were doing to become the expectation, not the exception. So now, as Zac Taylor brings the team back together, it’ll be easier to carry that over—and you can tell in the way that Taylor talked in my column Monday that’s sort of the overriding idea. He trusts the team to take care of business, and that the standard set will be maintained.

• Interesting to see Alec Pierce turning heads at Colts minicamp, and there’s a lesson there for all of us in the predraft process. On the morning of April 15, Indianapolis GM Chris Ballard led a contingent from the team on the 90-minute drive down I-65 to Cincinnati, purportedly to work out the Bearcats’ star quarterback, Desmond Ridder.

Pierce, maybe less notably to the rest of us, was one of the skill players taking part in that workout, and that workout became one of the final pieces in Indy’s assessment of a wideout the team’s brass already really liked. And as it turned out, the Colts took Pierce with the 53rd pick, with Ridder still on the board. So sure, Ballard, Frank Reich & Co. are happy to see Pierce adjusting fast. But they aren’t surprised by it.

• You can tell by talking to people there that Panthers rookie QB Matt Corral flashed real physical ability at the team’s rookie minicamp. Do I think it means he’ll wind up beating out Sam Darnold? I think, based on the relatively simple, RPO-heavy offense he’s coming from, it’s way too early to even think about that yet.

• I heard this story from a coach Monday on his team’s rookie minicamp, and he said that he looked around deep into practice at his team’s players and “everyone’s kind of dying.” Afterward, he talked to the trainer about it, and the trainer responded, “You gotta remember, this is the first practice these guys have had since their bowl game.”

So you can cut guys who’ve been training for a track meet some slack if they’re out of real football shape.

That said, the case of Tennessee rookie wideout Treylon Burks bears watching. He had to leave practice twice the other day, and he had trouble keeping his weight down through the predraft process. Teams heard he played in the 240s at points at Arkansas last year. He checked in at 225 at the combine, but was back in the 230s for some of his private workouts. And that plus his 40 time in Indy (4.55) contributed to his falling out of the top group of receivers in the minds of a bunch of teams.

• The Jaguars have officially hired 49ers exec Ethan Waugh as their assistant GM, and it looks at least on the surface like Jacksonville doubling down on Trent Baalke. Waugh worked with Baalke for 12 seasons in San Francisco, and was a top lieutenant of his in his seven seasons as Niners GM. He essentially replaces another former Niners exec, Tom Gamble, in Jacksonville, so it’s not like the Jaguars didn’t have an opening.

Still, allowing Baalke to fill it with a close confidant is a pretty good sign that owner Shad Khan’s plan (and plans can change) is to go forward with Baalke leading scouting.

• Good on Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith for organizing to support the families of the shooting victims in Buffalo. The ’90s Bills have a really cool connection with that community, and it’s great to see those guys use that connection to try to do great things in a really, really horrible circumstance.

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