Ladies and gentlemen, I have some bad news to start off with today: This will be the final newsletter that you'll be getting from me and that's because I've decided to retire from writing.
April Fools. This newsletter isn't going anywhere and there's a good chance I'll be writing it until the end of time and that's mostly because I love writing newsletters. That being said, for the rest of today's edition, I will try to keep the April fooling to a minimum, but I can't promise anything.
Alright, 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: AFC North free agency grades
With the brunt of free agency now in the rearview mirror, that means it's now time to do our favorite thing here at the Pick Six Podcast: Hand out grades. For the rest of the week, we'll be going through each division and grading how each team did in free agency.
For today's show, Ryan Wilson and I kicked Will Brinson to the curb so that we could talk about the AFC North. Wilson is a notorious Steelers homer and I'm the biggest Bengals homer that's ever been put on any podcast ever and as you can imagine, we didn't agree on much. April Fools! We actually agreed on almost everything. As a matter of fact, the only team grade that we didn't really agree on was the Bengals. Wilson gave them a 'B-' while I gave them a 'C', so it's averaged out to a 'C+' below.
Here are the free agency grades for each team in the AFC North:
If you want a more in-depth explanation on each grade, you're definitely going to want to listen to today's episode and you can do that by clicking here.
2. Big rule changes that could be coming to the NFL
After passing the 17-game schedule on Tuesday, you'd think the NFL would be done making changes this year, but that's definitely not the case. The league's 32 owners actually have another meeting in May and during that meeting they'll vote on multiple rule changes that were unveiled on Thursday.
Here's a quick summary of the key changes that have been proposed, along with who proposed the rule.
- Eliminate overtime in the preseason (proposed by competition committee).
- Expand the prohibition on blocking below the waist by offensive and defensive players on scrimmage downs when contact occurs beyond 5 yards on either side of the line of scrimmage and more than 2 yards outside of either offensive tackle (proposed by competition committee).
- Allow the replay official and designated members of the officiating department to provide certain objective information to the on-field officials. Basically, the replay official would be allowed to help correct a call before it actually goes to replay (proposed by competition committee, coaches subcommittee, and the Ravens).
- Add a loss of down for a second forward pass from behind the line and for a pass thrown after the ball returns behind the line. The Rams almost got burned on a two-pass play by Tom Brady during the 2020 season and they don't want to see it happen again. (Proposed by Rams).
- Expand jersey number options for certain positions. If this passes, the rule would allow running backs, linebackers and defensive backs to wear 1 thru 19 and wide receivers could wear any number 1 thru 19 (along with their normal 80 thru 89). This rule has been proposed by the Chiefs.
- Implement a spot-and-choose overtime rule. Basically, one team would pick where the ball is spotted in overtime and then the second team would pick whether it wants to play offense or defense. You can read more details on the rule by clicking here (Proposed by Ravens).
- Instead of an onside kick, this rule would allow a team to try to convert a fourth-and-15 play to retain possession of the ball. You can read more details on the rule by clicking here (Proposed by Eagles).
There are also a few more changes being proposed and if you want to check all of them out, be sure to click here. The rule proposals will be discussed with coaches and general managers around the league in late April and then the owners will vote on any possible changes in May.
3. One team actually voted against the 17-game schedule
When the NFL's 32 owners voted to expand the regular season on Tuesday, it was assumed that the 17-game schedule was unanimously voted through, but apparently, that wasn't the case.
According to ESPN.com, there was one team that voted against the new schedule and that team was the Chicago Bears. Apparently, even the Bears didn't want to watch more Bears football. The team was asked about the situation, but declined to comment.
Although it's not clear why the Bears voted against it, there are really only two explanations that make sense. The first one is that most players hate the idea of a 17-game schedule and many of them made that clear this week, which means it's possible that Bears chairman George H. McCaskey listened to the locker room and decided to vote in the interest of player safety. It's also possible that McCaskey didn't want to see an extra game added with a pandemic going on, but that seems more unlikely since not only is there now a vaccine in place, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is hoping to have full stadiums this year.
One reason the other 31 owners voted for the expanded schedule is because it means more money. Adding one more week of football was a big reason why the NFL was able to cash in during the most recent round of media negotiations.
Thanks to the expanded schedule, the Bears will be traveling to Las Vegas to play the Raiders in 2021 and I'm not sure why anyone would vote against a trip to Vegas, so McCaskey's decision makes even less sense now.
4. Buccaneers want to wear Creamsicle jerseys, but the NFL won't let them (yet)
One of the best uniforms ever produced by an NFL team was the Tampa Bay's Creamsicle jersey, which the Buccaneers originally wore from 1976 to 1996. The team also wore them as a throwback from 2009 to 2012 and after going nine years without seeing them on the field, it appears that Buccaneers fans would like to see them return in 2021.
The good news for the Tampa Bay fans is that owner Joel Glazer would also like to to see them return.
"On the throwbacks we're constantly on the league's doorstep trying to get them to move so we can wear our throwbacks," Glazer said this week. "We're not there yet. But there are discussions going on and hopefully at some point in the future that will happen. I know how popular they are with our fans."
The reason the Buccaneers haven't brought back the Creamsicle look is because an NFL rule has prevented that from happening. Back in 2013, the league created a "one shell" helmet rule for safety purposes, which meant that teams could only wear one helmet per season. The NFL's belief is that a worn-in helmet is safer for players to wear than a brand new one that hasn't yet conformed to their head.
Before the rule was implemented, the Buccaneers would occasionally wear a Creamsicle throwback, but they decided to stop in 2013 after the NFL passed its one-helmet rule. The problem for the Buccaneers was simple: They always wore a white helmet with their Creamsicle uniforms, but after the team switched to a pewter helmet, that became the only helmet they were allowed to wear and they didn't want to wear a pewter helmet with their Creamsicle uniform. Just like you don't wear white after Labor Day, you don't wear pewter with Creamsicle.
The NFL has said that there could be a change made for the 2021 season, so let's hope they actually follow through and make that happen because I WANT TO SEE TOM BRADY IN A CREAMSICLE UNIFORM.
5. Robert Kraft admits New England hasn't drafted well, so here's a 2021 Patriots mock draft to help
The Patriots arguably had the most successful span of any team in NFL history when they won six Super Bowl over 19 seasons from 2001 to 2019. However, their success came to a screeching halt in 2020 and although one reason for that is because they lost Tom Brady, another reason for that is because they've been horrible at drafting over the past few years.
As a matter of fact, they've been so bad at drafting that owner Robert Kraft admitted they've been bad.
"I don't feel we've done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope, and I believe -- I have seen a different approach this year," Kraft said. "Look, in the end if you want to have a good, consistent winning football team, you can't do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft because that's when you're able to get people of great talent, whether it's Willie McGinest or Tom Brady -- you get them at a price where you can build a team and be competitive."
Since the Patriots clearly need some draft help, Tyler Sullivan decided to oblige them by coming out with a full seven-round mock today. The Patriots have 10 picks and here's who Sullivan thinks they should go after:
First round (15th overall): QB Mac Jones (Alabama)
Second (46th): LB Zaven Collins (Tulsa)
Third (96th): CB Keith Taylor Jr. (Washington)
Fourth (120th): IOL Aaron Banks (Notre Dame)
Fourth (122nd): IDL Tyler Shelvin (LSU)
Fourth (139th): WR Seth Williams (Auburn)
Fifth (177th): CB Bryce Thompson (Tennessee)
Sixth (188th): WR Shi Smith (South Carolina)
Sixth (197th): S Damar Hamlin (Pitt)
Seventh (242nd): OT Landon Young (Kentucky)
You can check out Sullivan's full explanation for each pick by clicking here. If you need even more mock drafts in your life -- and who doesn't -- we also have a full Bills mock draft (Click here), a Jets mock draft (Click here) and a Dolphins mock draft (Click here).
Finally, if you want to know who the top five picks of all time are to be selected at No. 27 overall, you're going to want to click here to find out.
6. Rapid-fire roundup
This has been a busy week in the NFL and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of it all, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you. Also, I promise not to sneak in any fake April Fools headlines.
- Lockett lands huge extension. The Seahawks receiver is now a rich man thanks to the four-year, $69.2 million contract extension that he agreed to on Wednesday. The deal includes a total of $37 million in guaranteed money.
- Ex-Bengals star bashes everything about Cincinnati. William Jackson spent the first four years of his career in Cincinnati and apparently, he didn't like the fans or the team. "Cincinnati, they got some crude fans, man. Misery loves company," Jackson told 106.7 the Fan in Washington. "Them dudes, they wonder why they're not winning. I'm happy I'm out of that thing man. It's a blessing to get away, and I wish them the best, but Washington...let's go from here." Jackson signed a free agent deal with the Washington Football Team in March.
- Antonio Brown not close to a deal in Tampa. Although every starter from the Super Bowl will be returning for Buccaneers this year, one player who might not be returning is Brown. According to one report, negotiations aren't going so well between the receiver and the Buccaneers.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick won't be given the starting job in Washington. The Football Team's new quarterback will go into training camp as the top player on the depth chart at quarterback, but Ron Rivera made it clear this week that there will be a competition at QB and that Fitzpatrick won't just be given the job.
- More lawsuits against Deshaun Watson. The Texans quarterback is now facing a total of 21 lawsuits that allege either sexual misconduct or sexual assault. For the latest on Watson's legal troubles, be sure to click here.
7. The Kicker: Everyone in Tampa Bay is getting a tattoo
The tattoo industry in Tampa is thriving right now and that's because it seems like everyone on the Buccaneers roster has decided to get some ink to celebrate the team's win in Super Bowl LV. Earlier this offseason, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Evans both got a tattoo, and now, you can add Bruce Arians to the list.
The Buccaneers coach shared his tattoo on Twitter this week and you can check it out by clicking here. The best part is that after seeing the tattoo, Tom Brady chimed in to say that he was also going to get a tattoo and even though he was joking, he shared a picture of a tattoo that he should definitely think about getting and you can see that tattoo by clicking here.
And you know what, since everyone else is getting a tattoo, I think I'm also going to get one. April Fools. No I'm not.