Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I have some good news and some bad news to start off today's newsletter. The bad news is that you won't be hearing from me for the next month because I'll be taking a soul-searching trip to Tibet. Actually, only half of that is true. I won't be visiting Tibet, but I will be going on a month-long hiatus from writing the newsletter, but don't be sad, because now I have some good news.
Since the NFL Draft is right around the corner, the Pick Six newsletter is going all draft all the time starting on Monday. From March 27 through the end of April, this will be the "With the First Pick" newsletter and it will be written by CBSSports.com draft guru Chris Trapasso.
If you're not familiar with Chris, I highly suggest you follow him on Twitter by clicking here. Starting next week, you'll be getting daily mock drafts, updated big boards and a in-depth look at every pro day that's happening around the country.
As for me, although I'm not going to Tibet, I will be taking my kid to Disney World next week for her third birthday, so please pray for me. I've never been to Disney, so if you have any hot tips, please feel free to share them with me on Twitter.
If you have any draft-obsessed friends, make sure to tell them to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. All right, let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's show: Predicting NFL division winners
With the second week of free agency wrapping up today, we thought now would be a good time to predict who's going to win each division next season.
Is it too early to do that? Probably, but we did it anyway for today's episode of the Pick Six Podcast. For today's show, I was joined by Will Brinson and Katie Mox and I'll be honest, we didn't agree on much.
There were only three divisions that we unanimously agreed on and those were the AFC West (Chiefs), AFC East (Bills) and AFC North (Bengals).
- In the AFC North, the Ravens have the second-best odds (+240), but Brinson says you can't trust them, "The Ravens are a terrible bet. You have no idea if Lamar is going to be there."
- As for the AFC East, it's turning into last year's AFC West. Last season, the Broncos, Raiders and Chargers made so many big moves that people started picking against the Chiefs in the division, but of course, the Chiefs still ended up winning it. This year, the Dolphins and Jets have made some big moves, which has led some people to believe that one of those two teams can win the division, but all three of us are sticking with Buffalo.
- One of our most interesting discussions involved the NFC East. After picking the Eagles to win it last year, I'm off their bandwagon. If I had to bet on a team right now, I'd take the Cowboys (+180), who have made some huge moves this offseason with the addition of Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks.
- In the NFC North, Katie like the Lions, who are actually the FAVORITE to win the division right now at +155. However, Brinson and I both like the Vikings. The defending champs are being given +300 odds, which is an insanely high number for a team that won its division last year (The Buccaneers are the only defending champion with worst odds as they current sit at +460 to win the NFC South, but their odds make sense because they lost their starting quarterback).
If you want to hear our picks for each division, you can listen to our entire show from today by clicking here. You can also check out the entire episode on YouTube by going here.
2. NFL has some huge rule proposals on the table for 2023, including Thursday flex games
The NFL's 32 owners will be getting together in Arizona next week for the Annual League Meeting and when that happens, they'll be voting on several potential rule changes for the 2023 season. Earlier this month, we shared some of those rule proposals with you, but those won't be the only proposals that the owners will be voting on.
One big thing the owners will be voting on is to give the NFL the power to FLEX Thursday night games, according to the Sports Business Journal. If this proposal passes, then the league would be allowed to flex games from Sunday to Thursday, but there would be two stipulations:
- The flexing could only happen between Weeks 14 and 17.
- The games would have to be flexed at least 15 days in advance.
This seems like a horrible rule for any fan looking to attend a Thursday game, but a fantastic rule for any fan who's watching at home and hoping to see two good teams play.
As for other things that will be voted on, the competition committee released some new proposals on Thursday and if they get voted through, there could be some major changes coming to the NFL in 2023.
- Touchbacks on punts could mean 5 extra yards for the receiving team. Under this proposal, the receiving team will get the ball at the 25-yard line if there's a touchback on a punt. Under the current rule, the receiving team gets the ball at the 20. If this rule is approve, it would bring it in line with the current kickoff rule, which gives the receiving team the ball at the 25 on a touchback.
- Touchback proposal, Part II. Under this proposal, if a kickoff returner calls for a fair catch anywhere behind the 25-yard line, the receiving team will get the ball at the 25-yard line. This essentially means that any kickoff caught between the goal line and the 24-yard line can be moved up to the 25-yard line as long as the returner calls for a fair catch.
- Tripping would become a personal foul. Under the current rule, a team called for tripping is penalized 10 yards and if the penalty is committed by the defense, then the offense gets an automatic first down. Under the new proposal, tripping would be a 15-yard penalty and the offense will still get an automatic first down if the defense commits the penalty.
Finally, here's a quick look at several of the more notable proposals from earlier this month that will also be voted on next week.
- Rams want to make roughing the passer reviewable. After a 2022 season with several controversial roughing the passer penalties, the Rams are proposing a rule that would make the penalty reviewable. According to NFL.com, the competition committee doesn't sound excited about the change, so it's unlikely that we'll see this one voted through.
- Lions want teams to be allowed to dress an emergency third quarterback. Under this proposed rule, teams would be allowed to carry 47 active players on game day, but the extra player would have to be a quarterback. Currently, teams are allowed to dress 46 players. The NFL used to allow teams to carry an emergency third quarterback on game day, but the league scrapped that rule in 2011. The rule came up again after the 49ers ran out of quarterbacks in their NFC title game loss to the Eagles.
- Eagles are proposing an alternative onside kick. Instead of attempting an onside kick to get the ball back, teams would have the option to convert a fourth-and-15 from their own 25-yard line. This rule is being used in the XFL and one team actually converted on the play in Week 1 (You can see it here). The rule was popular enough in the NFL that it was proposed in 2019, 2020 and 2021, but in each case, nothing changed (The rule was voted down in 2019 and the owners decided to table the discussion in both 2020 and 2021, which meant that no vote was held).
When the competition committee proposes a rule change, the owners are more likely to vote it through. However, it should be noted that the committee didn't endorse any of the team proposals, so we probably won't see too many of those get voted through. For a proposal to become a rule, 24 of the NFL's 32 owners will have to vote it through at next week's meeting.
3. Lamar Jackson drama: QB accuses NFL of lying after league sends memo to teams
If you like drama, then you're going to want to keep your eye on the Lamar Jackson situation, because that seems to be bringing us some new drama every day. In the latest twist, the NFL sent out a memo on Thursday saying that an uncertified representative may be reaching out to teams on Jackson's behalf.
Here's what the memo said:
- Someone named Ken Francis is apparently helping Jackson. "The NFLPA has informed us that a person by the name of Ken Francis, who is not an NFLPA certified agent, may be contacting Clubs and attempting to persuade Club personnel to enter into negotiations with or concerning Lamar Jackson."
- Teams are not allowed to negotiate with Francis. "As an uncertified person, Mr. Francis is prohibited from negotiating Offer Sheets or Player Contracts, or discussing potential trades on behalf of any NFL player or prospective player or assisting in or advising with respect to such negotiations."
- NFL reminds teams that Jackson doesn't currently have an agent. If any teams want to negotiate with Jackson, then they're going to have to contact the quarterback. "Mr. Jackson is not currently represented by an NFLPA certified agent," the NFL noted. The league also let teams know that if they were to negotiate a contract with Francis, that could "result in disapproval of any Offer Sheet or resulting Player Contract entered into by Mr. Jackson and the new Club."
This all came up because PFT reported on Tuesday that an unnamed representative was contacting teams on behalf of Jackson. After the memo was released yesterday, Jackson shot back at the NFL.
- Jackson says the league is lying. After an NFL Media reporter tweeted that Francis was trying to help Jackson, the QB quickly sent out a response on Twitter, "Stop Lying [Francis] never tried to negotiate for me," Jackson wrote.
- Jackson explains Francis' role. So who is Ken Francis? Glad you asked. Apparently, Jackson is teaming up with Francis and they're going to be releasing something called the "Entire Gym" later this year. If you're like me and you have no idea what an "Entire Gym" is, then you'll probably want to click here so you can watch the infomercial.
The Jackson situation has now reached the bizarre stage, which is something we don't usually see with franchise tagged players. If Jackson wants to play for a team besides the Ravens, he's going to have to contact that team himself and work out a new deal himself and so far, that clearly hasn't happened.
4. Ezekiel Elliot eyeing three teams, but those teams don't appear to be eyeing him
The only thing more bizarre than the Lamar Jackson situation might be the situation involving Ezekiel Elliott. Yesterday, ESPN reported that Elliott had narrowed his options down and that he was going to sign with one of three teams: The Bengals, Eagles or Jets.
So what's the problem there? Apparently, those teams aren't exactly interested in Elliott.
- PFT says those three teams may not want Elliott. According to Pro Football Talk, Elliott doesn't currently have a contract offer from any of these three teams. It seems Elliott put this list out because these are three teams he wants to play for, but he has no idea if they actually want him.
- Eagles don't seem interested. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Eagles haven't had any talks with Elliott and they're "happy with the running backs they have right now." That doesn't mean Elliott won't sign with them, but it does mean that the Eagles were probably surprised to see that they had made his list.
- Bengals sound in the dark about this whole Elliott thing. Bengals coach Zac Taylor was asked about Elliott's list last night and he sounded like someone who was hearing about it for the first time. "There's a lot of great players that are available right now," Taylor told WCPO-TV. "We like our team as where it's at right now, but it's always funny when things get thrown around. Sometimes, it's the first you hear of it, but that's just the way life works."
There hasn't been any update on the Jets' end, so they could certainly be an option for Elliott, but right now, it seems that two of the three teams on his list aren't interested in adding him.
5. Ranking the best and worst signings of free agency
As we finish up the second week of free agency, we've seen dozens and dozens of players around the league get signed over the past few days. Some teams made good decisions in free agency while plenty of other teams made bad decisions.
To help you decipher between the two, we had CBSSports.com's Jordan Dajani rank the five best signings of free agency and the five worst.
We're going take a look at three on each side, starting with the best signings:
- 1. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the Lions. "Gardner-Johnson was projected to sign a five-year deal with an average annual value of $13.3 million per season. Instead, he got a one-year, $8 million deal from the Lions. Not only is this a bargain, but Dan Campbell and Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn also have familiarity with CJGJ from their time together in New Orleans."
- 2. Orlando Brown Jr. to the Bengals. "The Bengals had to upgrade the offensive line, and they did that by scoring a Pro Bowl left tackle from a rival. After the Chiefs replaced Brown with a RIGHT tackle, he decided to take his talents to Cincinnati, where he signed a four-year, $64.09 million deal. Brown's average annual value of just over $16 million per year ranks No. 10 among left tackles, which makes him a steal for Cincy."
- 3. Javon Hargrave to the 49ers. "Pairing Hargrave with Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa and Javon Kinlaw is an incredible move. Hargrave recorded 11 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 16 QB hits from the interior last season."
And now for the worst signings:
- 1. Jimmy Garoppolo to the Raiders. "I have two worries with this signing: One, can Jimmy G remain healthy? He's played a full season just once. Second question: can he find success without offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan? Jimmy G looked pretty good in his two career starts with Josh McDaniels in New Engalnd, but is he the quarterback that's going to take the Raiders to the next level? I'm not sur"
- 2. Zach Allen to the Broncos. "The former Cardinal agreed to a three-year, $45.75 million deal that includes $32.5 million guaranteed with the Broncos -- who were quick to throw money around in free agency. Allen averaged 2.8 sacks per year in four seasons with Arizona, but recorded a career-high 5.5 QB takedowns in 13 games played last year. This contract is obviously gambling on his upside."
- 3. Jawaan Taylor to the Chiefs. "Reports indicate that Taylor will be flipping over from the right side to the left to serve as Patrick Mahomes' blindside blocker, which is clearly a gamble for the Chiefs. Four years and $80 million for a player who hasn't played left tackle in the NFL? That's top tier left tackle money! Taylor has been a good right tackle, but is he going to be better than Orlando Brown was?"
If you want to see Jordan's full list of of best and worsting signings, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Lane Johnson gets monstrous extension from Eagles
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, and that roundup involves a lot of coordinator firings.
- Eagles give extension to Lane Johnson. The Eagles left tackle landed a one-year extension, which isn't necessarily huge news by itself, but it is because of how much money he was given. Johnson's deal is worth $33.4 million and includes $30 million in guaranteed money. You can read more about his extension here.
- Tom Brady just bought part of a WNBA team. Raiders owner Mark Davis has finally landed Tom Brady, only it's not to play football. Davis also owns the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces and on Thursday, he sold a minority stake in the team to the NFL legend. For more on Brady's new role as team owner, be sure to click here.
- Giants sign Jamison Crowder. The veteran receiver is about to complete his tour of the NFL teams in New York. After playing for the Jets (2019-21) and Bills (2022), Crowder will next be playing for the Giants after signing a one-year deal with the team, CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson reported.
- Buccaneers cut their kicker. After three seasons with Ryan Succop, the Buccaneers have decided to part ways with their kicker. Although Succop was pretty solid from inside 50 yards during his time in Tampa, the Buccaneers likely made the move because he struggled outside 50. Over the past three years, Succop hit just 30% of his kicks (3 of 10) from beyond 50 yards.