Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I was going to start off today by bragging about my bracket, but I think I actually set it on fire two days ago, so let's move on. I'm never filling out a bracket again. The NCAA tournament is too unpredictable.
The only thing more unpredictable than the tournament is the Dallas Cowboys, who pulled off their SECOND trade in five days over the weekend when they acquired Brandin Cooks from the Texans. When it comes to NFL free agency, there was actually a lot of action over the weekend, and we'll be covering it all here.
There will also likely be some action today, and you can keep track of it as it happens by clicking here and following along in our live blog.
As always, please tell everyone you know to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here and then share the link with them. All right, let's get to the rundown.
1. Mock Draft Monday: Raiders trade up for a quarterback
From now until the start of the 2023 NFL Draft, the first day of every week here will be known as Mock Draft Monday. What this means is that Ryan Wilson, our senior NFL Draft analyst, will be unveiling his latest mock draft.
If you're wondering how the first week of free agency might impact this year's draft, Wilson has the answer for you in his latest mock. In one of the biggest twists, not only does Wilson still have the Raiders drafting a quarterback -- despite the signing of Jimmy Garoppolo -- but he also has them trading UP to grab that QB.
With that in mind, here's a look at his first 15 picks:
1. Panthers: QB Bryce Young (Alabama)
2. Texans: QB C.J. Stroud (Ohio State)
3. Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama)
4. Colts: QB Anthony Richardson (Florida)
5. Seahawks: DL Jalen Carter (Georgia)
6. Raiders (mock trade with the Lions): QB Will Levis (Kentucky)
7. Lions (mock trade with the Raiders): EDGE Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech)
8. Falcons: CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
9. Bears: OT Paris Johnson, Jr. (Ohio State)
10. Eagles: DL Myles Murphy (Clemson)
11. Titans: OT Peter Skoronski (Northwestern)
12. Texans: EDGE Lukas Van Ness (Iowa)
13. Jets: OT Broderick Jones (Georgia)
14. Patriots: CB Joey Porter, Jr. (Penn State)
15. Packers: WR Jordan Addison (USC)
If you want to see how the rest of the first round pans out in his mock, then be sure to check out his entire mock draft by clicking here.
2. Cowboys acquire Brandin Cooks from Texans: Full trade details, plus grading the deal for both teams
When it comes to actually signing players, the Cowboys haven't done much of anything in free agency, but they have still managed to make a splash by pulling off multiple trades. The first deal came last week when they added Stephon Gilmore in a trade with the Colts. The Cowboys then pulled off another trade Sunday when they acquired Brandin Cooks from the Texans.
Here's a look at the trade details:
- Cowboys receive: Brandin Cooks
- Texans receive: 2023 fifth-round pick (161st overall) and a 2024 sixth-rounder
- Other notable parts of the deal: The receiver is owed $18 million in 2023, but the Cowboys won't be on the hook for all of that. According to ESPN, Cooks agreed to restructure his contract as part of the deal. The Texans are going to pay $6 million of his salary in 2023 and Dallas will be paying the rest.
If you feel like Cooks gets traded all the time, you're not crazy. Since Cooks' rookie year in 2014, this marks the FOURTH time he has been traded, which is tied with Eric Dickerson for the most times a player has ever been traded in NFL history. (You can read more details on that here.) Cooks started his career in New Orleans, then got traded to the Patriots, who eventually traded him to the Rams. After a stop in L.A., he was traded to Houston before finally being dealt to Dallas. Cooks isn't even 30 years old, so there's plenty of time for him to break Dickerson's trade record.
If there's a trade in the NFL, we almost always hand out grades. The Cooks deal was no exception.
Josh Edwards put on his professor hat and handed out grades to each team. Here's what he came up with:
- Cowboys grade: A. "Not only do the Cowboys only give up a pair of Day 3 draft selections over the next two seasons, they also have the Texans paying $6 million of Cooks' contract for the 2023 season. Cooks is an ideal speed threat who will complement CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup in Dallas' offense. The 29-year-old receiver has been able to put up numbers over the course of his career even when he was given inconsistent play at the quarterback position, so pairing him in a Cowboys offense with Dak Prescott could bring with it a very high ceiling."
- Texans grade: D+. "It became pretty clear that Cooks no longer wanted to a part of the Texans organization, so it's admittedly difficult to try and maximize a return. While the Day 3 draft picks over the next few years are glorified lottery tickets, the more egregious aspect of this trade from Houston's perspective is the team paying one-third of his salary for next season."
You can check out Josh's full explanation for each grade by clicking here.
3. NFL free agency: Looking at the most intriguing moves on the defensive side of the ball
There were a lot of interesting moves made over the past week around the NFL, so Jared Dubin decided to take a look at some of the most fascinating ones.
After going through the most intriguing signings on the offensive side of the ball Friday, Dubin went through every signing on the defensive side of the ball to come up with a list of the most intriguing additions.
Here are three names who made the cut on his list:
- Javon Hargrave to the 49ers. "San Francisco has brought in another high-level disruptor to pair with Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa, and it's interesting that he operates from the defensive tackle spot, while the departing Charles Omenihu was an edge rusher. That might slightly change the complexion of what has long been one of the NFL's best defenses, which was already set to change with Steve Wilks taking over for DeMeco Ryans as defensive coordinator."
- Dalvin Tomlinson to the Browns. "The Browns have struggled badly to stop the run in recent seasons. Enter Tomlinson, one of the best body-eaters in the league on the defensive interior. Cleveland's defense has had a lot of talent, but not lived up to it as of late. Perhaps this the addition of Tomlinson, along with defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronwo and safety Juan Thornhill, can close (or at least narrow) the gap between perception and reality."
- Vonn Bell to the Panthers. "New defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero utilizes a lot of heavy defensive back packages, and in Bell, he gets someone who has experience playing a lot of different coverages (and different roles within them) thanks to his time playing for Lou Anarumo in Cincinnati. Dropping him into a secondary that already includes Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods allows Evero the flexibility to mix and match his personnel and disguise his coverages in the ways he likes to do."
If you want to check out every intriguing defensive addition who made Dubin's list, be sure to click here.
4. NFL free agency: Here's the top remaining player available at each position
Someone might want to let the Ravens and Jaguars know that free agency is happening, because those are the only two teams that have not signed a single external free agent yet. The good news for those two teams -- and every other team -- is that there are still plenty of players left on the market.
If you want to know who the best player is left at each position, you're in luck, because we've got that exact list today courtesy of Jeff Kerr.
Here's a look at the best player still available at several different positions:
QB: Lamar Jackson (tagged by Ravens, but teams can negotiate with him)
RB: Ezekiel Elliott
WR: D.J. Chark
TE: Dalton Schultz
EDGE: Frank Clark
LB: Bobby Wagner
CB: Rock Ya-Sin
K: Robbie Gould
If you want to check out the best remaining free agent at each position, you can see Kerr's entire story by clicking here.
5. XFL Week 5: Highlights from all the action
We have officially hit the halfway point of the XFL season. The eight teams in the league just finished Week 5 of their 10-week season. Through five weeks, there's only one team that still remains winless, and that's the poor Orlando Guardians, who lost again over the weekend.
Here are some of the highlights from each of the Week 5 games:
- Seattle Sea Dragons 21-14 over Houston Roughnecks. Going into Week 5 of XFL action, there were only two undefeated teams left (D.C. and Houston), but that number is now down to one after the Roughnecks got upset by the Sea Dragons. Despite trailing, 15-0, through three quarters, Houston actually had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. The Roughnecks drove down to Seattle's 27-yard line with five seconds left, but the game ended when Brandon Silvers was picked off on the final play. The Sea Dragons were able to win this game despite the fact that QB Ben DiNucci threw three interceptions.
- D.C. Defenders 28-20 over St. Louis BattleHawks. The Defenders (5-0) are now the final remaining unbeaten team in the XFL after topping the BattleHawks. The star of this game for DC was running back Abram Smith, who gashed up the BatteHawks defense for 218 yards and three touchdowns on just 23 carries (Smith had a 70-yard TD run that you can see here). Smith did get some help from a Defenders defense that forced two turnovers while also sacking BattleHawks QB A.J. McCarron four times.
- Vegas Vipers 35-32 over Orlando Guardians. The winless Guardians had a chance to pick up their first victory of the season, but QB Quinten Dormady lost a fumble on a fourth-and-15 onside kick play in the waning minutes. Dormady's fumble overshadowed an impressive performance by the QB that saw him go 22 of 25 for 256 yards and two touchdowns. This was a true QB duel, which we haven't seen very often in the XFL this year. Vipers QB Luis Perez was as good as Dormady, throwing for 269 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Jeff Badet was Vegas' top receiver, catching five passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
- Arlington Renegades 12-10 over San Antonio Brahmas. If you like defensive struggles, then this was the game for you. The Brahmas turned the ball over three times, with two of those coming in the fourth quarter on interceptions thrown by QB Jack Coan. Overall, the Brahmas were only able to muster 181 yards of offense. Renegades kicker Taylor Russolino hit two field goals to help give Arlington the win. The other six points came from De'Veon Smith, who scored on a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter that ended up being the game-winning points.
I didn't watch every minute of every XFL game over the weekend, but our XFL expert Brett Anderson did, and you can read what he had to say about Week 5 by clicking here.
6. Free agent frenzy: C.J. Gardner-Johnson finally signs, Laremy Tunsil lands a record deal
It was a busy weekend 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.
- Gardner-Johnson signs with Lions. C.J. Gardner-Johnson was one of the top safeties in free agency, but he didn't land a deal until Sunday, when the Lions signed him a one-year contract that's worth just $8 million. Apparently, the Eagles actually offered him more money before free agency, but he turned it down with the thinking that he would hit it big, but that's not what happened. Instead, he'll essentially be playing the 2023 season on a one-year prove-it deal.
- Texans sign Laremy Tunsil to record-setting extension. The Texans' left tackle won't be hitting free agency anytime soon after landing a record-setting extension that will keep him in Houston through the 2026 season. Tunsil's three-year deal is worth a total of $75 million and includes $60 million in guarantees. At $25 million per year, that makes him the highest-paid offensive linemen in NFL history.
- Adam Thielen headed to Carolina. With D.J. Moore now in Chicago, the Panthers needed some help at receiver, and they got that over the weekend by signing Thielen. The former Vikings receiver has signed a three-year deal that's worth up to $25 million.
- Steelers land Isaac Seumalo. The best free agent guard left on the market was Isaac Seumalo, but he's no longer available because he signed with the Steelers over the weekend. Seumalo, who will provided an instant upgrade on the Steelers' offensive line, has agreed to a three-year worth a reported $24 million.
- Odell Beckham Jr. disputes reports of his asking price. Over the past week, there had been some reports suggesting that Odell is looking for $20 million per year in a potential contract, but over the weekend, he seemed to indicate that those reports are wrong, "I'm just so confused where the quote is from me that said I want 20.....all I'm sayin is 4 AINT enough," Odell wrote on Twitter. No matter where Odell signs, it likely won't be with the Cowboys because they are apparently no longer interested in him after trading for Brandin Cooks.
- Dolphins pick up Tua Tagovailoa's fifth-year option. It was reported last week that this was going to happen, and now, the Dolphins have finally gone through with it. By picking up the option, this means the Dolphins are now on the hook to pay Tua $23.17 million for the 2024 season (he'll make $1.01 million during the upcoming season). When Tua is healthy, he's certainly worth that money, but the Dolphins could find themselves in a dicey situation if he's battling injuries again in 2023.