Getting to all your mail, from 30,000 feet, on my way back to Boston from Phoenix …
From Bruce (@bdei80): When will Aaron Rodgers get traded?
Bruce, I think it happens sooner than people think because I don’t think things between the Packers and Jets are in nearly as bad a place as some seem to believe they are. We mentioned earlier in the week the rapport between GMs Joe Douglas and Brian Gutekunst from their time coming up as young road scouts. The two head coaches, Robert Saleh and Matt LaFleur, are best friends. So any raw feelings between Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, I think, are manageable, because of the relationships in place.
There’s also been progress toward hammering out a deal, in large part because despite the whole who’s-got-leverage argument, there’s reason for both sides to be motivated to get this one done.
What will that deal look like? If I had to guess, I’d put it at either the 42nd or 43rd overall pick, and a conditional pick or picks down the line. And to answer your question directly, I think it could happen as early as this week, and certainly will get done before the draft. So have patience, Jets fans—your quarterback is coming.
From Jon Weeks Burner (@joshstanleyekc): What are the Texans doing at pick 2?
Jon, I think they’re taking a quarterback, and the best piece of evidence I have to prove it was with how they handled the availability of the first overall pick earlier in the month. For a time there, it certainly looked like the double trade scenario would happen—with Chicago trading first with Houston to 2, then with Carolina to 9. As we detailed a couple of weeks ago, the Bears and Texans couldn’t quite get to the finish line on a deal.
That said, that Houston was willing to go as far down that road as they did is a pretty good tell they’re where most rival teams think they are, and that’s locked in on taking a quarterback at 2. If there’s a piece of evidence to the contrary, it’s that neither GM Nick Caserio nor coach DeMeco Ryans were at the three quarterback pro days last week. But I tend to think that has more to do with a new coach/GM pairing having better work to do back at the office than what would be accomplished in Columbus, Lexington or Tuscaloosa.
My guess is the Texans wind up with either CJ Stroud or Bryce Young—whichever one isn’t taken first overall by the Panthers.
From brandondiaz (@brandondiaz09): Thoughts on the flexing of TNF?
Brandon, I personally think the flex scheduling and idea of teams playing multiple Thursday night games in a given year (that aren’t back-to-back, and necessitate playing on multiple short weeks) is a short-sighted idea cooked up to satiate a broadcast partner in Amazon that’s vital to the future of the league and paid top dollar for its package. Period.
No less a figure than the reigning Super Bowl MVP, and a guy who’s arguably become the face of the league, denounced the idea on social media. Patrick Mahomes most certainly isn’t alone. I talked to one general manager this week who raised the hidden toll of these games on players—he said his guys feel the effects of playing two games in five days for weeks after the fact. To make players, and particularly older players, do that twice in a season would presumably compound that problem.
Then, there’s the fact that with flex scheduling, you’d be moving teams into that situation down the stretch (the proposal was for Weeks 14-17) that would almost certainly be in contention (otherwise, you don’t flex them in). And that could have an effect on a team’s health/standing going into the playoffs.
After that, there’s what this means for fans who actually go to games, or plan group trips to go see games. Those are the fans that are most fervent about football and, unfortunately, also the ones NFL knows it’ll never lose, mad as they might get over something like this.
Now, I get it. The NFL’s not a non-profit. These decisions are made continue to position the NFL to maximize revenue, and a percentage of that revenue ends up in the players’ pockets, so it’s not like they’re just getting taken advantage of here. And to that, my question would be: When is enough enough? The answer? Probably never, if you pay attention to how the NFL operates.
From Calum (@Calum_C): Any rumor or interview that surprised you? What was it?
Yup. Not telling.
From Blake A. Waters (@blake_a_waters): What team is most likely to make a push for Hendon Hooker late first round?
Blake, the Tennessee quarterback has a lot going for him. He was hyper productive as a senior, and the best player on a team that revitalized the Volunteers long-dormant brand. He’s got good enough size. He’s got a big arm. And he absolutely crushed his meetings, which is how some of the late first-round buzz started percolating.
The downside here is that he tore his ACL at the end of Tennessee’s season, probably will miss a significant portion of the spring and summer, turned 25 in January and is coming from an old Baylor, basketball-on-grass type of offense. But if you can wait a year, and you’re comfortable with the fact that he may not start for you until after his 26th birthday, there might be good value in an affordable end-of-round-one deal that gives you contractual control through 2027 (Some teams like Hooker more than Anthony Richardson or Will Levis).
So a Minnesota or New Orleans could make sense in the 20s, as could a team like Indy by either early in the second round, or after trading up into the back end of the first.
From JoeShmo (@JoeShmo2123): Jon Gannon alluded to items on the NFLPA report card being fixed at the Cards team facility during his round table discussion. But he didn't mention any specifics. Do you by chance have any? Thanks.
First of all, for those who missed it, the Cardinals really took it on the chin in the NFLPA poll and, fair or not, had a perception problem to clean up in addition to actually making changes at their practice facility. For his part, Jonathan Gannon did a good job of addressing all that on Tuesday—saying he’s been talking to players in getting their suggestions, and that owner Michael Bidwill has been receptive and open to any and all proposed changes.
Second, Arizona already had some renovations underway before Gannon and GM Monti Ossenfort were hired, or the NFLPA report card was released. The Cardinals have already upgraded their weight room and their training room, replaced the turf in their field house and invested in sports science initiatives. And, by the sounds of it, there’s more coming.
Which, really, is the upshot of doing something like this for the NFLPA. It puts the heat on teams to make improvements for their players. I’d expect to see a lot of it happening across the league this offseason.
From Noah Gray burner (@TheGoatMahomes): What is Odell's current asking price for a new contract?
Noah, word before his appearance at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday was that he was looking for something in the neighborhood of $15 million per year. That’s down from where he was previously, so I do think there’s room for negotiation here, and I do think showing up at the hotel where the owners meetings were taking place was a savvy move from a business standpoint.
To me, this comes down to what Odell Beckham Jr. wants, from money to geography to coaching to winning. He’s not young anymore, but he doesn’t turn 31 until November. It’s not hard to see him having another nice run or two, like the one he was having with the Rams before tearing his ACL again in the Super Bowl. Which is why I think landing in the right spot is imperative and, you’d hope, high on his list of priorities.
From Travis Champagne (@tchampagne34): We keep hearing the Patriots are waiting for the price to come down on Jeudy and Hopkins. What’s a price you think or are hearing they are willing to meet? Who is more likely to reach a price point the Pats are willing to meet?
Travis, I don’t know if that’s the case on DeAndre Hopkins. The Patriots check in on everything, and I don’t think a cursory phone call, in which they probably also talked about other players, is a great indication of strong interest. In the case of Hopkins, there’d also be a lot to sort through, from his relationship with Bill O’Brien to his contract to his health to his age ... enough so, if you were in, you’d want to get a look up close.
To my knowledge, and to that end, the Patriots aren’t one of the teams that have gotten (or sought) permission to talk to Hopkins and his camp from Arizona.
Jeudy is more interesting to me. He’s 24. He’s still got the first-round talent that was there in college, and has flashed in the pros. There’s also some solid reasoning to why he hasn’t broken through, given that he’s missed time the last two years with injuries and is now on his third offensive system in four years. Add the Nick Saban connection that’ll allow New England to get the right info on him, and the Patriots pursuing Jeudy makes a ton of sense.
The problem? Denver’s not really shopping him. As we said earlier in the week, the Broncos are creatively looking to add draft capital, with their first- and second-round slots gone to Seattle for Russell Wilson, and the first-rounder they got for Bradley Chubb sent to New Orleans for Sean Payton. So if you’re willing to help Denver fill that hole in their war chest of draft picks, then you can have a conversation about one of their young pass-catchers.
I’m just not sure New England would be willing to fish in those waters, especially with a crying need for tackle to be addressed with the 14th overall pick.
From Fid (@RandyFidler): You're the Panthers GM draft day. Who are you selecting and who would you target with the 2nd round pick to complement?
I think Bryce Young. Everything I’ve heard about Young as a kid is A-plus-plus. His OC from Alabama, Bill O’Brien, told teams in the fall he’s never had a player like Young, and O’Brien coached Tom Brady. Scouts will tell you his accuracy, instincts, pocket movement, football IQ, competitiveness and toughness are all A-plus. I’ve also heard he absolutely blew away Carolina coach Frank Reich when they sat down and talked football.
If he was 6'3" and 220 pounds, there’d be no discussion. He’d be the first overall pick. But he’s not, and that is not a cursory issue for teams.
And it could be a problem for Young, too, because CJ Stroud does have closer-to-prototype size (6'3", 214 pounds) for the position, and brings a lot of what Young does to the table. The questions with him are more on his willingness to run, put his body on the line and create off-schedule—things he actually did flash in his final college game, which happened to be a national semifinal against Georgia.
Ultimately, I think there’s a good chance Stroud winds up going first, because he’s close enough to Young traits-wise, and you’re well within the scouting guardrails size-wise for a quarterback with him. But I’ve heard enough people call Young special—really special—to the point where it’d be hard for me to pass on him.
From Bandit (@ktownbandit): Wearing a N95 on the flight home?
No. Full-on gas mask.
From I'm a Bengals Fan Now! (@DonRidenour): Why don't you update your pinned tweet?
Since you asked, Don, I’ll do it right now.