Happy New Year, everyone. All of the tampering we witnessed this week had a chance to become official on Wednesday, as the NFL's new league year began. Wednesday was a very dramatic day in general. Baker Mayfield found his new NFL home with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys released Ezekiel Elliott, Darius Slay was reportedly released, but then actually not released by the Philadelphia Eagles and of course, Aaron Rodgers revealed his intentions for the 2023 season.
That's right, the Green Bay Packers legend announced on The Pat McAfee Show that he plans on being traded to the New York Jets. Now, the two teams just need to figure out compensation. While it's not "official" just yet, the Jets were clearly a winner. Who else won on Wednesday, and who lost? Let's take a look.
From Monday: Day 1 winners and losers
From Tuesday: Day 2 winners and losers
For the first time in a long time, the Jets appear to have some consistency at the quarterback position. Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, is leaving his Packers to play for the Jets in his 19th NFL season. Rodgers went 8-9 last year, but before the 2022 campaign, won 13 games in three straight seasons, and won NFL MVP in both 2020 and 2021. Remember when people clowned the Jets for hiring Nathaniel Hackett earlier this offseason? Well, that was clearly a calculated play.
"There's a lot of reasons why the Jets are attractive, but there's one coach who has meant as much to me as any coach that I've ever had, and he happens to be the coordinator there," Rodgers said Wednesday.
The Jets were always an intriguing landing spot. New York has a couple of talented running backs, a solid wide receiving corps headlined by Garrett Wilson and then an elite defense led by Sauce Gardner. If the Jets had a solid quarterback, they would have made the playoffs last year. Now, we have to ask ourselves if New York is the best team in the AFC East.
The Ravens of course placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson last week, but I would argue this Wednesday was even weirder. For one, the Ravens placed the low RFA tender on Tyler Huntley, per The Athletic. This tender means any team can sign Huntley to an offer sheet, but Baltimore has the opportunity to match. If he does sign with another team, the Ravens get nothing in return. Why would you not tender the Pro Bowler higher? Isn't Huntley a quarterback other teams should have interest in? We are about to find out his market this offseason.
So, that was an interesting decision coming from the Ravens, but it paled in comparison to what ESPN reported on Wednesday afternoon. According to Jeremy Fowler, Baltimore was looking into Baker Mayfield and Jacoby Brissett before both signal-callers were scooped up in free agency. Why is Baltimore looking into borderline starting quarterbacks? That doesn't feel like a due diligence thing. Is this them preparing not to match a potential Jackson offer sheet? Additionally, with Wednesday came Jackson officially being able to speak with other teams. Let's see what happens.
How could the Packers be winners for losing a franchise legend? Well, it's because that's what they wanted to happen. We had seen reports over the last few weeks indicating this, but Rodgers said it out loud on Wednesday.
"The Packers would like to move on," Rodgers said. "They let me know that in so many words. They were saying the right thing public, they were going to move on ... I still have that fire and I wanna play."
There's more to the Packers being winners, though. Green Bay is going to save money with this move. (For a detailed breakdown on that, check out Joel Corry's piece). On top of saving money, the Packers are going to get compensation for moving Rodgers. Now that this entire story is out there, I would be a bit more stingy in negotiations. The Jets can't let this fall apart now. Give me that extra pick.
Plus, this is the official start of the Jordan Love era, and that's exciting.
It's the end of an era. Ezekiel Elliott has been released after signing a monster six-year, $90 million extension in 2019. According to multiple reports, the move will be processed as a post-June 1 cut. The Cowboys will see $10.9 million in cap relief, and be left with $5.82 million in dead money on this year's cap. Elliott was owed $64.76 million for the remainder of his contract, but there was no guaranteed salary remaining on his deal.
This was actually a bit of a surprising move. I know that sounds crazy, but Elliott was reportedly open to taking a pay cut, and Jerry Jones said less than TWO WEEKS ago he wants Zeke on the roster, and believed the team could find a way financially to keep both Elliott and Tony Pollard in 2023. That did not happen. Zeke must have been open to parting ways, because Jones' statement mentions it was a mutual decision.
Elliott is sure to have suitors, but who is going to feed him the ball like the Cowboys did? He ranked 10th in rushes last year despite missing two games!
Among the 22 NFL players to record 200 rushes, Elliott ranked last or tied for last in yards per rush (3.8), percentage of 10-yard rushes (7.4%) and tackles avoided (32). Pollard on the other hand ranked first in the NFL in yards per touch (5.9). It's going to be weird seeing Elliott in a different uniform. While this was the correct decision for the Cowboys, it's a sad day for their fan base -- and a sad day for Zeke, too.
Not only did the Kansas City Chiefs not want to pay their perennial Pro Bowl left tackle, they insulted him by paying a RIGHT tackle to take his place. That clearly upset Brown, who agreed to a four-year, $64.09 million deal with the Chiefs' biggest postseason rival in the Bengals. The deal reportedly includes over $31 million as a signing bonus, which is the largest ever given to an offensive lineman. NFL Media also reports 67.87% of the $64.09M comes fully guaranteed.
Did Kansas City not know how important playing left tackle was to Brown? His father literally taught him as a child that the right tackle was the inferior player. Well, now he's going to be blocking Chiefs for Joe Burrow.
Loser: Sam Howell
When the Washington Commanders were interviewing candidates for their open offensive coordinator position earlier this offseason, they were saying Sam Howell was QB1, per CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones. When head coach Ron Rivera was asked about it at the NFL Combine, Rivera refuted this by saying the second-year signal-caller is entering the offseason as QB1, and will have to win the job. Wednesday, the Commanders brought in his competition: Jacoby Brissett.
The former Brown was solid in starting for the suspended Deshaun Watson last season. He posted a career-high 88.9 passer rating, while also completing a career-high 64% of his throws for 2,608 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Brissett is 18-30 in his career as a starter, but is regarded as one of the best backups in the league. He is very good competition for the young Howell.
If you want my opinion, I think Howell ultimately wins this job, and I think the fan base is very intrigued by him after his performance in the preseason, and his one start against the Cowboys. However, he's going to have to earn the gig.