It's the Ides of March, which is kind of fitting for today, because it's definitely back-stabbing season in the NFL. The lead up to free agency can be one of the most brutal stretches on the league calendar for players and that's because dozens of them generally get released before the start of free agency (Hello J.J. Watt, Mark Ingram, Kevin Zeitler and Casey Hayward).
Speaking of free agency, you better grab some popcorn and put the kids to bed because things are probably going to get crazy starting around noon ET today and that's because that's when the NFL's legal tampering period starts.
Although free agency doesn't technically start until Wednesday, players are allowed to agree to a deal with a new team starting today (They just can't sign that deal until Wednesday). To give you an idea of how fast things work once the tampering period starts, two of the biggest names on the market (Shaquil Barrett and Romeo Okwara) agreed to deals just after noon ET.
Barrett is headed back to Tampa while Okwara is headed back to Detroit.
By the time you read this newsletter there could be even more deals in place around the league and to make sure you stay on top of all of those, you're definitely going to want to click here so you can check out our live blog. If you're too busy to be following a live blog, you can also click here to check out our free agent tracker that will be updated any time one of the top 100 free agents signs a deal.
Of course, free agency isn't the only thing we'll be talking about today and that's because DREW BREES RETIRED. Basically, there's a lot on the docket, so let's 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: Mock Draft Monday
From now until the draft starts on April 29, every Monday will be Mock Draft Monday on the podcast. What this means is that we'll be bringing in our draft gurus each week to talk about how they think the draft will play out. This week, that means Will Brinson was joined by the one and only Ryan Wilson. I thought for sure the two of them would spend at least 30 minutes talking about who they're going to pick to win the NCAA Tournament, but I was wrong. These are two professionals and they stayed on topic the entire time. Actually, they didn't stay completely on topic. Over the course of the podcast, they also broke down the reported four-year, $48 million deal that the Packers gave Aaron Jones on Sunday.
As for the draft, this week's main topic revolved around which teams might end up trading out of their spot in the first round. In his latest mock draft, Wilson has three trades going down in the first round with the biggest one coming in the third spot where he has the Dolphins making a big deal with the 49ers (Wilson also has Washington trading with the Broncos and the Jets making a deal with the Vikings).
With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 picks in Wilson's latest mock.
- 1. Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
- 2. Jets: QB Zach Wilson (BYU)
- 3. 49ers (MOCK TRADE WITH MIAMI): QB Justin Fields (Ohio State)
- 4. Falcons: OL Penei Sewell (Oregon)
- 5. Bengals: TE Kyle Pitts (Florida)
- 6. Eagles: WR Ja'Marr Chase (LSU)
- 7. Lions: LB Micah Parsons (Penn State)
- 8. Panthers: QB Mac Jones (Alabama)
- 9. Washington (MOCK TRADE WITH DENVER): QB Trey Lance (North Dakota State)
- 10. Cowboys: CB Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech)
To see the details of each trade and to check out the rest of Wilson's mock draft, be sure to click here.
To listen to today's episode -- and to subscribe to the podcast -- be sure to click here.
2. Drew Brees retires after 20 years
Although it was starting to seem like Drew Brees was thinking about returning in 2021, that won't be happening and we know that because the Saints quarterback officially announced his retirement on Sunday. The announcement came nearly two months after the Saints' season ended.
Although Brees took his time making the decision, he didn't take any time deciding on what he's going to do with his future. On Monday morning, the 42-year-old announced that he would be joining NBC as a football commentator. At NBC, Brees will work as an NFL analyst on "Football Night in America" and as a college game analyst for Notre Dame football. You might also see him covering the Olympics and that's because NBC is apparently planning to have him cover several other sports.
Brees will be leaving the NFL as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the history of the league. To give you an idea of how dominating Brees was during his career, here's a look at a few of the records that he'll be retiring with.
- NFL's all-time leader in completions (7,142)
- NFL's all-time leader in passing yards (80,358)
- Second-most touchdown passes in NFL history (571)
- Most seasons with 5,000 or more passing yards (Brees has five, no other players have more than one)
- Most games in NFL history with 300 or more passing yards (123)
- Most consecutive seasons with 4,000 or more passing yards (12)
With Brees retiring, that leaves a big hole in New Orleans and it's not completely clear who will be taking his place. If you want to see our breakdown of who his replacement might be, be sure to click here (Spoiler alert: It's likely going to be Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill). Speaking of Hill, he signed the most absurd contract in NFL history on Sunday. The Saints' Swiss Army knife inked a four-year deal worth $140 million, but here's the catch: It's only going to pay him about $12.15 million. The final three years of the deal are voidable and they're only in the contract so that New Orleans could spread out his cap hit for 2021.
If this still doesn't make sense, be sure to click here so you can check out how the details of the contract.
3. Tom Brady contract details
When we last talked about Tom Brady's contract on Friday, the only thing we knew was that his new deal was going to save the Buccaneers $19 million in cap space, although at the time of the deal, it was unclear how that money was going to be freed up.
Thanks to Albert Breer of The MMQB, we now know the details of Brady's new contract. Before the new deal was put in place, Brady was set to count $28.375 million against the cap this year. Of that amount, he was going to be paid a $15 million in base salary along with a $10 million roster bonus (The other $3.375 million was money he earned in 2020).
Under his new deal, things will be slightly changing:
- Brady gets $20 million to sign with $15 million being paid in 2022.
- Brady gets a $20 million roster bonus in March 2021.
- Base salary in 2021 is the veteran minimum of $1.075 million.
- Base salary in 2022 is $8.925 million.
- Brady can also earn up to $9 million in performance and playoff incentives.
Thanks to the deal, the $28.375 million cap hit for 2021 is now down to $9.075 million (That's his 2021 base salary plus the prorated portion of his bonus money, which is $8 million). If you like reading about contract minutiae, you can click here for all the details of the deal from Spotrac.
Before the extension, Brady's contract was set to expire after the 2021 season, but now, it's set to expire after the 2022 season unless Brady signs another extension, which is completely possible, because I'm starting to think he's never going to retire and that he's going to be signing one-year extensions for the rest of time.
4. NFL free agency is about to get crazy
Although the NFL calendar says that free agency starts at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the fact of the matter is that you'll miss nearly everything if you wait until then to start following the action. The real free agency began at noon ET on Monday and that's because that's when the tampering period started. Basically, by the time you read this newsletter, there's a good chance that several deals could already be in place.
Once the legal tampering period starts, players are allowed to agree to terms on a contract with a new team (However, they can't sign the contract until Wednesday). Once the tampering period starts, things usually get pretty hot and heavy. For instance, on the Monday before free agency last year, not only did we see nearly THIRTY players agree to a new deal, but we also saw several trades go down, including the ones that sent DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona and Stefon Diggs to Buffalo.
Since deals could be going down all day Monday, here's another reminder that we've put together a tracker for you so that you can stay up to date on what has happened so far. If you'd like to check out the tracker, just click here. We also have a live blog that will cover signings AND trades and you can check that out by clicking here.
Also, to help you get warmed up for free agency, here's a list of Pete Prisco's top 10 free agents who will be available (they're listed with the team they played for last season):
1. Trent Williams (49ers)
2. Kenny Golladay (Lions)
3. Joe Thuney (Patriots)
4. Hunter Henry (Chargers)
5. Jonnu Smith (Titans)
6. Corey Linsley (Packers)
7. John Johnson (Rams)
8. Carl Lawson (Bengals)
9. Curtis Samuel (Panthers)
10. William Jackson (Bengals)
That list has undergone a few minor changes over the past two weeks and that's because Prisco's top four players who were set to hit free agency all got tagged or signed a long-term deal (Dak Prescott, Leonard Williams, Chris Godwin, Brandon Scherff). Shaq Barrett was the No. 2 free agent on Prisco's list, but he's no longer available because he reportedly agreed to a four-year deal worth up to $72 million on Monday.
5. Texans pull off two trades
If you would have told me the Texans were going to pull off two trades over the weekend, I would have assumed that one of them would have involved Deshaun Watson, but that definitely wasn't the case. Apparently, they are now taunting Deshaun by making as many trades as possible that don't involve him.
Although they didn't deal Watson, the Texans were definitely busy over the weekend. Let's take a look at their two trades:
- Texans-Patriots trade. New Texans general manager Nick Caserio spent 20 years in New England and it looks like he's still on good terms with the Patriots. In this deal, the Texans reportedly acquired right tackle Marcus Cannon in a trade that involved some draft picks. Even though Cannon opted out in 2020 and didn't play, the Texans needed to beef up their offensive line, so adding Cannon wasn't the worst move. As for the picks involved, New England will reportedly receive pick No. 109 (fourth round), No. 147 (fifth round), and No. 187 (sixth round) while Houston gets Cannon, pick No. 120 (fourth round), No. 158 (fifth round), and No. 194 (sixth round).
- Texans-Dolphins trade. In the other trade, the Texans reportedly sent Pro Bowl linebacker Benardrick McKinney to Miami in exchange for Shaq Lawson. The Texans are getting a former first-round pick in Lawson, who recorded four sacks last season. To land Lawson, the Texans gave up McKinney, who only played in four games last season due to a shoulder injury. The two teams will also swap late-round picks as part of the deal.
Basically, we learned over the weekend that the Texans will answer your trade calls, just not when you're calling about Deshaun Watson.
6. Rapid fire roundup
I thought maybe the NFL would take the weekend off from giving us any news, but I was wrong. As a matter off fact, there was so much news over the weekend that we would need to cover 97 topics in today's newsletter just to get to all of it. But since no one wants to read a 19,000-word newsletter on a Monday, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Aaron Jones gets a new deal. The Packers running back was about to hit free agency, but that won't be happening after he reportedly agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal with the team on Sunday. For details on the deal, be sure to click here.
- 49ers re-sign Kyle Juszczyk. Jones wasn't the only running back who got a big contract over the weekend. The 49ers reportedly gave Juszczyk a new five-year deal worth up to $27 million, which is an NFL record for a fullback.
- Ravens beef up their offensive line. If a player gets cut before free agency starts, that means they're allowed to sign with anyone, so that's what Kevin Zeitler did on Monday. Although he was cut by the Giants, Zeitler wasn't a free agent for long and that's because he signed a three-year, $22.5 million deal with the Ravens.
- Chargers release Casey Hayward. The market for cornerbacks in free agency just got deeper and that's because the Chargers decided to cut ties with the two-time Pro Bowler over the weekend. The move was made to free up some cap space.
- Nate Solder returning to Giants. After watching Solder opt-out in 2020, the Giants made it clear to the offensive tackle that he would have to redo his deal if he wanted to return, so that's exactly what Solder did in a move that will be a pay cut for the veteran.
- Keep your eye on the Rams. When the offseason started, it was the Saints who were in salary cap hell, but now, that title belongs to the Rams. With less than 48 hours to go until the start of the league year -- when every team has to be in compliance with the salary cap -- the Rams are a league-high $33.9 million OVER the cap, which means they're going to have to make a few moves and they're going to have to do it soon.
- Eagles trying to deal Ertz. The Eagles are doing their best to dump Zach Ertz in a trade, but they haven't found a trading partner just yet. According to NFL.com, Philadelphia would like to get a third- or fourth-round pick in exchange for their tight end.
Don't be surprised if there are multiple trades over the next 48 hours and you especially shouldn't be surprised if one of them involves Ertz.
7. The Kicker: Tom Brady throwing to David Beckham
After undergoing surgery on his left knee last month, the belief was that Tom Brady wouldn't be throwing a football until at least June, but because Brady is clearly bionic, he has beaten that timeline by three months. The Buccaneers quarterback was spotted throwing passes over the weekend and the twist here is that he wasn't throwing those passes to any of his teammates, but to DAVID BECKHAM.
I'm not sure what most players do with their offseason, but I'm guessing they aren't randomly throwing passes on the beach to David Beckham. I bet they went out to lunch afterward and ate beluga lentil tacos because that sounds like something Brady would do with a famous friend. If you want to see how healthy Brady and his surgically repaired left knee are looking, be sure to click here.