As someone who lives in Nashville, I've noticed that the national media loves to ignore the AFC South, so today, I'm going to unignore.
Is unignore even a word? I have no idea, but if it's not, I'm making it one.
Welcome to the Thursday newsletter where we're going to be covering the AFC South, the AFC South and then some more AFC South. However, I won't be going 100% AFC South, because you should never go 100% AFC South. We'll also be ranking quarterbacks who could have a breakout year and taking a look at Fred Warner's unique contract, so let's get to the rundown.
As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. You should especially tell them to sign up if they're a fan of an AFC South team. Tell them we don't ignore the AFC South there. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them.
1. Today's show: Burning training camp questions for the AFC South
If I had to rank NFL divisions this year based on which ones are the most intriguing, I'd probably put the AFC South at the top. The Titans have a new star receiver (Julio Jones), the Colts have a new star quarterback (Carson Wentz), the Texans are likely going to trade their starting quarterback (Deshaun Watson) and not only did the Jaguars just hire one of the most successful college coaches of all-time (Urban Meyer), but they also added one of the most successful college quarterbacks ever (Trevor Lawrence).
Basically, there's a lot to talk about with the AFC South so we thought we would use Thursday's episode of the Pick Six Podcast to answer one burning question for each team in that division.
We'll cover our biggest question for the Colts here, but if you want to hear the rest of our questions, you'll have to listen to the podcast (You can also read the questions by clicking here).
Can Frank Reich fix Carson Wentz?
If the Colts want to be a Super Bowl contender this season, they're going to need a super effort from Wentz. Although the former Eagles quarterback struggled during his final few seasons in Philly, there is a chance we could see him improve in Indy and that's because he's reuniting with Reich, who served as his offensive coordinator in 2017 while both were with the Eagles. That was Philly's Super Bowl season and with Reich running the offense, Wentz was an MVP candidate before getting injured late in the year.
I'm not sure about you, but I am fully on the Wentz Wagon. I think Reich is going to fix him and I think there's a good chance we could see the Colts in the AFC title game.
As for the rest of today's episode, Jeff Kerr joined Will Brinson and they spent plenty of time talking about the Titans, Jaguars, and Texans (along with the Colts), so if you're a fan of the AFC South, you're definitely going to want to check out the episode.
To listen to today's episode -- and to follow the podcast -- be sure to click here.
2. Colts unveil new throwback uniform for 2021
The Indianapolis Colts unveiled a new throwback uniform on Wednesday, but since the Colts uniform has never undergone any major changes throughout their history, you might be wondering how this throwback is different from their normal uniform, so I'm going to point out all the changes.
The new uniform is a throwback to the 1956 season.
Here are the main differences between the old school uniform and the uniform they usually wear:
- Helmet. The horseshoe that usually goes on the side of the helmet will be moved to the back of the helmet for the throwback game. The back of the helmet will actually feature two mini horseshoes with one on each side of Indy's blue stripe.
- Player Numbers. Numbers on the throwback jerseys will change slightly to mirror Colts uniforms from the 1950s. The TV numbers will be above the shoulder stripes on the throwbacks (The TV numbers are below the shoulder stripes on the current uniforms).
- Stripes. The shoulder panel on the throwback will feature three stripes instead of the two used on the current uniform (The socks will also feature three stripes instead of two). The pants will feature one blue stripe down the seam instead of two.
The home throwback uniforms, which are blue, will only be worn in one game this year and that will come in Week 12 (Nov. 28) against the Buccaneers. You can see a picture of the throwback by clicking here. If you want to see what the current uniform looks like so you can compare the two, you can do that by clicking here. The Colts also released a special video, which you can check out by clicking here.
3. 49ers hand out unique record-setting contract to Fred Warner
Fred Warner is now the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL after the 49ers gave him a five-year extension on Wednesday that's worth up to $95 million, which means he can now afford to go to space with Jeff Bezos.
Although Warner landed a record-setting deal, that's only one reason why it's notable. The other reason is because of the unique way that the contract is structured. The deal includes two voidable years at the end that the 49ers can BUY BACK so that they don't void.
Signing Bonus: $12.32 million
2021: $920,000 base salary
2022: $2.564 million base salary plus $12.68 million option bonus
2023: $12.925 million base salary
2024: $15.3 million base salary
2025 (VOID): $17.65 million base salary
2026 (VOID): $17.65 million base salary
Buyback bonus: $3.6 million (49ers must pay Warner this bonus in 2024 to buy back the final two years of his deal)
The voidable years are in there for two reasons. First, it allows the 49ers to spread out Warner's signing bonus over six seasons while also allowing them to spread out his roster bonus over five years. If the 49ers want to rescind the voidable years, then they'll have to cut Warner a check for $3.6 million in 2024 to buy them back. If that happens, the final two years will become active and Warner will be under contract in 2025 and 2026 at the salary numbers listed above. Basically, if the 49ers want to keep him for the final two years, they'll have to pay him $3.6 million plus $17.65 million plus $17.65 million, which comes out to $38.9 million.
That really makes this two contracts in one with the second deal being a two-year, $38.9 million contract.
4. Ranking quarterbacks by who's most likely to have a breakout season
If there's one quarterback last year who had a breakout season, it was definitely Josh Allen. After putting up mediocre numbers during his first two years in Buffalo, Allen exploded onto the scene in 2020 with a season that was so good he spent most of the year in the MVP conversation.
With that in mind, Chris Trapasso took a look around the NFL to try and figure out which quarterbacks are mostly likely to have a breakout season in 2021. Here are his top three candidates.
- Joe Burrow, Bengals. "Burrow got his guy -- Ja'Marr Chase -- in Cincinnati. How amazing of a reunion. He also has the burgeoning Tee Higgins -- who quietly had over 900 yards at nearly 14 yards per grab as a rookie -- along with Tyler Boyd, who has established himself as one of the league's steadiest slot options over the middle and at the intermediate level. The offensive line -- which, in terms of pressure rate was actually right around league average last season -- will be better in 2021 thanks to the additions of veteran Riley Reiff and second-round draft selection Jackson Carman."
- Kyler Murray, Cardinals. "I see your argument that Murray shouldn't be included in this piece because he's already 'broken out,' and I raise you that his passer rating of 94.1 was lower than league average (95.2) among qualifying starters in 2020...Murray is still a "breakout waiting to happen" candidate. And the rationale for him being this high on the list is simple: He's in Year 3 in Kliff Kingsbury's offense and he's in Year 2 with DeAndre Hopkins plus now you're adding A.J. Green."
- Daniel Jones, Giants. "Giants GM Dave Gettleman was a man on a mission this offseason, a mission to prove to doubters Jones was indeed worthy of the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph were signed. Explosive gadget weapon Kadarius Toney was grabbed in Round 1. All these new weapons should help Jones."
If you want to check out Trapasso's entire list of breakout candidates, be sure to click here.
5. Three teams possibly eyeing Deshaun Watson trade
Due to his legal situation, Deshaun Watson's NFL future is still completely up in the air. The Texans quarterback is facing 22 separate civil lawsuits that all allege sexual misconduct and/or assault. Although his legal issues could linger into next year, there's also a chance that he could reach a settlement with his accusers, which would open the door for him to play this year.
If a settlement happens or if the NFL concludes its investigation and rules that Watson won't be punished in 2021, there will be multiple teams looking to make a trade for the Texans star. According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, there are the three teams who are most likely to pursue Watson if he becomes available for trade:
All three of these teams are going into the season with an unproven quarterback and all three would see a major upgrade at the position if they were to add Watson. Rapoport also mentioned the Panthers, but at this point, they might be content to see what they have in Sam Darnold.
The guys over at NFL.com did note that the the Texans haven't really had any trade conversations since Watson's legal troubles started in March.
One thing that will be interesting to watch for over the next week is whether Watson shows up for training camp. If he doesn't, the Texans can fine him, but if he does, Houston would probably want to try and deal him as quickly as possible so that he's not a distraction to the team.
6. Rapid-fire roundup
It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Buccaneers getting their Super Bowl rings tonight. Tom Brady and his teammates will be receiving their rings in Tampa Bay tonight. Although no one has yet leaked a picture of the new ring, you can pretty much be assured of two things: There will be a lot of diamonds and the ring will likely be worth more than your car.
- "This isn't the real Caesar's Palace, is it?" The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans is getting a new name. Starting this year, the stadium will be known as the Caesar's Superdome. Now all it needs is a buffet... and maybe they can film the next "Hangover" sequel there.
- Steelers starter unexpectedly retires. The Steelers received a surprise on Wednesday when linebacker Vince Williams announced his retirement. Williams, who was a sixth-round pick in 2013, started 14 games for the Steelers last season. His retirement will create a hole in the Steelers defense that won't be easy to fill.
- Eric Dickerson thinks the Rams should sign Todd Gurley. Rams coach Sean McVay has already said this his team won't be bringing in any veterans right now to replace Cam Akers, but if he changes his mind, Dickerson thinks the team should give Gurley a call. Gurley and the Rams ended things on bad terms, which makes a reunion highly unlikely, even if Dickerson wants to see it happen.
- Zach Ertz will be at Eagles training camp. After Ertz requested a trade this offseason, it seemed almost certain that the Eagles would deal him away, but that didn't happen. With training camp just around the corner, he's apparently decided he's going to show up and the expectation is that he's going to be playing for the Eagles this year.
- NFL partners with technology company. CBSSports.com's Jonathan Jones broke some news on Thursday and it's news that we should all be celebrating: The NFL is teaming up Hawk-Eye in hopes of using the company's technology to enhance instant replay capabilities and shorten delays. Anything that speeds up replay is a good thing.