I'm not sure what my favorite day on the NFL offseason calendar is this year, but Feb. 23 is definitely in the top 10 and that's because today is the day that the franchise tag window opens. For the next two weeks, all 32 teams will have the option to use their franchise tag, which will allow them to lock up one of their key players for at least one more season.
My wife once hit me with the franchise tag and then we later agreed to a long-term deal, which I think is the same thing that Aaron Rodgers and Shailene Woodley are doing, so I know these things can work out. Speaking of those two, today's newsletter will have new details on their engagement and, since the franchise tag window is opening, we'll also have a list of the players most likely to get tagged, which means I should stop stalling and get to the rundown.
As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link.
1. Today's Show: AFC North deep dive
With free agency just around the corner, we'll be spending the next few weeks doing a deep dive on each NFL division and for Tuesday's podcast, that meant jumping head first into the AFC North. To spice things up, we brought in noted Browns homer (Josh Edwards), noted Steelers homer (Ryan Wilson) and noted Bengals homer (me) to argue about what each team needs to do this offseason to make themselves better.
- On the Bengals end, we mostly agreed that the most important thing they can do this offseason is beef up the offensive line. If they can't protect Joe Burrow, then they're going to be bad forever. They also have plenty of other holes to plug, especially on defense, but getting some protection for Burrow needs to be their top priority.
- As for the Browns, we spent some time debating whether Cleveland should think about trading Odell Beckham. Although all three of us are still high on Odell, we all agree that the move could make sense for the Browns since it would free up roughly $15 million in cap space.
- In Baltimore, we discussed all the big decisions the Ravens have to make this year. They have several key defensive players set to hit free agency, including Matt Judon, and they will also probably need to find another pass-catcher for Lamar Jackson.
- On Pittsburgh's end, the Steelers might be the team with the most question marks this offseason, which is mildly surprising (that honor usually belongs to the Bengals or Browns). We all gave our prediction on what's going to happen with Ben Roethlisberger and then we followed that up by ranking all the quarterbacks in the AFC North. (Spoiler alert: Roethlisberger came in dead last in all of our rankings.)
To listen to today's episode -- and if you're a fan of any team in the AFC North, you will definitely want to -- be sure to click here.
2. Players likely to be hit with the franchise tag
With the franchise tag window opening up today, now seems like a good time to go through the list of players who might end up being hit by the tag. We briefly covered this list last week, but now that the window is upon us, we're going to take a more in-depth look at who might get tagged.
This list was compiled by CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, who came up with 13 players who might be tagged. The players are broken down into four tiers. Teams have until March 9 to use the franchise tag.
Here's a look at La Canfora's list.
If you want to keep track of everyone who gets hit with the tag, just click here and save that link. That's our franchise tag tracker and it will be updated every time a team uses its franchise or transition tag. If you click over, our tracker also has an explainer of how each tag works.
3. Titans first-rounder apparently doesn't want to play for the Titans anymore
The Titans are currently involved in a situation that you don't see too often around the NFL: Tennessee's first-round pick from last year (Isaiah Wilson) doesn't want to play for them anymore and he made that clear in a tweet that he sent out on Monday night.
"I'm done with football as a Titan... no further comments," Wilson wrote.
Most of the time, when someone complains about their team on Twitter, they do it cryptically so that no one knows what they actually mean. Not Wilson, though. In the since-deleted tweet, he didn't leave much to the imagination. The most surprising part is that he says he's "done with football as a Titan," which might mean he still wants to play, but just not in Tennessee.
Wilson's time in Nashville has been nothing short of a disaster. Since being selected with the 29th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the offensive lineman has made way more headlines off the field than on it.
Wilson's career in Tennessee got off to a rocky start and that was before Week 1 even kicked off. In the lead up to the season, he was given a trespassing warning for attending a party, which is even more notable, because he wasn't supposed to be attending parties due to the pandemic. In September, Wilson was arrested for a DUI, which only added to his mounting issues. Wilson was then suspended by the team in December for "violating team rules."
The Titans are so fed up with Wilson that general manager Jon Robinson called him out during a press conference last week.
"We put him on the reserve/non-football injury list [in December] and haven't spoken to him since," Robinson said. "He's going to have to make a determination on whether he wants to do what it takes to play pro football. That will be on him."
The 6-foot-6, 350-pound offensive tackle out of Georgia once looked he might be the future of the Titans' offensive line, but now, it's starting to feel like he might not have a future at all in Tennessee.
4. Patriots desperate for a quarterback
Last offseason, the Patriots decided it would be a good time move on from Tom Brady and in news that probably didn't surprise most people, the move completely backfired in their face. Not only did the Patriots struggle without Brady, but to add insult to injury, the 43-year-old signed in Tampa Bay and rubbed salt in the Patriots' wound by winning the Super Bowl.
With the Brady gone, the Patriots ended up signing Cam Newton, but that didn't work out so well, as they finished with a losing record (7-9) for the first time since 2000. Last year, the Patriots waited until June to sign Newton, but it doesn't appear they'll be waiting that long again to sign a quarterback. As a matter of fact, it sounds like they've been proactive in the QB market. According to The Athletic, the Patriots have been calling anyone and everyone about a trade.
From The Athletic:
"Bill Belichick and the Patriots, in pursuit of an upgrade at the position, have had conversations regarding every potential trade target in the league... (If) a quarterback has been perceived to be available, the Patriots have picked up the phone."
There are plenty of quarterbacks on the trade market -- like Deshaun Watson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Marcus Mariota and Sam Darnold -- which means the Patriots have had plenty of conversations. If the Patriots don't trade for a quarterback, they could be staring at another lost season, so it won't be surprising at all if they pull off a trade some time in the next month.
5. Ranking free agent edge rushers
With free agency starting next month, now seems like a good time to take a look at players who will be available. Since I don't want to overwhelm you by listing every player who will be a free agent, we're going to do this in an organized manner. I'm going to list off the top-10 players by position and today, we're going to go with edge rushers.
This year's free agent class of edge rushers is actually pretty loaded, which means any team that struggled to rush the passer last season will have a chance to beef up their defense during free agency. The Titans, Jaguars and Bengals all finished with fewer than 20 sacks last season, which is notable, because it marked the first time since 2008 that three or more teams finished with under 20 sacks.
As La Canfora noted earlier, there's a chance that a few of these guys could get hit with the franchise tag, which means they won't make it to free agency, but as of right now, here's a look at the top-10 free agent edge rushers along with who they played for last year
1. Shaq Barrett (Buccaneers)
2. Leonard Williams (Giants)
3. Leonard Floyd (Rams)
4. Bud Dupree (Steelers)
5. Trey Hendrickson (Panthers)
6. Yannick Ngakoue (Ravens)
7. Haason Reddick (Cardinals)
8. J.J. Watt (Texans)
9. Matthew Judon (Ravens)
10. Justin Houston (Colts)
Jeff Kerr put this top-10 list together and if you read his piece, he goes into more detail about how much money each guy will be able to command in free agency, so you can get an idea of whether your favorite team will be able to afford any of these players. To check out Kerr's story, be sure to click here.
6. Pick Six NFL roundup
This newsletter is limited to six main topics each day, but during the meat of the offseason, that just isn't enough, so every so often for the next few months, we'll be doing a roundup where I give you an all-you-can-eat buffet of football news. Since no one is even allowed to go to buffets right now, this is the closest any of us will get to the actual thing for the next few months.
Here are a few stories from around the league:
- Washington's new name coming in 2022. Washington team president Jason Wright said in October that the new name probably wouldn't be coming until 2022 and it appears the team has now made that official. The official website the team is using to feature their rebrand has been updated to say the team will be getting a new name in 2022, which means, the Washington Football Team is here to stay for at least 2021.
- Mike Tomlin diagnosed with COVID-19. The Steelers made it through the season without dealing with any serious COVID problems in Pittsburgh, but the same can't be said for the offseason. Tomlin confirmed this week that he's been diagnosed with COVID-19 and will be staying away from the team facility until he gets better.
- Alshon Jeffery out in Philadelphia. After four seasons in Philly, it appears that Jeffery's time with the Eagles is over. The Eagles are expected to dump Jeffery when the new league year starts on March 17. For more details on Jeffery's impending release, be sure to click here.
- Asking price for Russell Wilson is astronomical. If anyone wants to trade for Russell Wilson, it seems that Seattle's asking price will start at three first-round picks and go up from there. For more details on Wilson, be sure to click here.
- Ex-Cowboys player hated playing for the Cowboys. David Irving spent four seasons with the Cowboys and apparently, he did not like playing in Dallas at all: "I hated going to work for the Cowboys," Irving said. "A Cowboy is all 'hardy har har' and all this America's Team stuff. I belong in Las Vegas with the Raiders." For more on that story, be sure to click here.
And just for the record, I also belong in Las Vegas.
7. The Kicker: Aaron Rodgers making non-football headlines
If I had to rank which NFL player is having the best offseason, I'd probably say Patrick Mahome (he just became a dad) or Tom Brady (thanks to the drunken throw of the Lombardi Trophy), but I have to say Aaron Rodgers might soon be at the top of this list.
Not only did he get engaged, but he's also set to host "Jeopardy!" this offseason. There's a good chance that you've already heard about both of those things, but don't worry, I've got new details to add to each one.
On the "Jeopardy!" end, it was announced in January that Rodgers would be serving as a guest host, but at the time, we didn't know the exact dates of his shows, but now we do. If you want to watch the Packers quarterback host "Jeopardy!" be sure to mark your calendar for April 5-9, because that's when Rodgers will be hosting his first five shows. The 2020 MVP will stick around and host five more shows that will run April 12-16.
As for that engagement, Shailene Woodley finally confirmed that she's the mystery lady Rodgers was talking about when he revealed he had a fiancee during his MVP acceptance speech at NFL Honors on Feb. 6. Woodley did an interview on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" Monday night and of course, Jimmy had to ask about the engagement rumors.
"Yes, we are engaged," Woodley said. "But for us, it's not new news, you know, so it's kind of funny. Everybody right now is freaking out over it and we're like, 'Yeah, we've been engaged for a while,'"
Well, that's interesting. They've been engaged for "a while." I have no idea what the means because everyone has a different definition of what "a while" means, but I won't be surprised if it comes out that they got engaged at some point in December or earlier.
One fun fact about Woodley: The 29-year-old still hasn't had a chance to see Rodgers play in person.
"I still have never been to a football game because we met during this wacky, wacky time and all the stadiums were closed that he was playing in," Woodley said. "So, I have yet to go to a football game."
Woodley didn't mention a wedding date, but based on how quickly these two have moved, I won't be surprised if it's tomorrow. OK, it probably won't be tomorrow, but my guess is that it happens at some point this offseason.