Folks, congratulations. We're now down to the second-to-last Wednesday before the official start of 2021 NFL free agency. It may seem like a pretty insignificant day right now, but just wait until the frenzy kicks off in a couple weeks; you'll be looking back gratefully on these quiet, peaceful mornings, when your favorite team didn't miss out on the hotshot quarterback or high-priced free agent.
Anyway, it's Wednesday, which means I, Cody Benjamin -- the man with two first names -- am happily here to guide you through the Pick Six Newsletter while John Breech takes his weekly vacation to plot out Andy Dalton's own NFL future.
Now let's get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you're signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don't want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)
We've got free agent rankings, more veteran QB predictions and so much more:
- Today's show: Sorting through the 2021 quarterback carousel
After a few weeks of dizzying trade rumors, not to mention a couple of reported blockbuster deals involving Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford, the NFL's quarterback carousel has slowed a bit now that free agency is finally around the corner. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of situations left to be solved. A half-dozen teams, if not more, could still be shopping -- or shopping for -- veteran signal-callers before turning to April's draft for help under center. And that's not even accounting for the few big names set to hit the open market, from Cam Newton to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
What's the next domino to fall? Pete Prisco joined Will Brinson on Wednesday's Pick Six NFL Podcast (listen and subscribe here) to discuss his 2021 ranking of the top 100 free agents (more on that in a second). While doing so, he offered some insight on some of the next QB questions to be answered.
Could Teddy Bridgewater go back to the Saints? It seems like a possibility if the Panthers get their wish and pay up for Deshaun Watson. Could Fitzpatrick or Andy Dalton be the next bridge QB in Washington? Prisco sure thinks so, though he's not buying the idea of Cam Newton reuniting with Ron Rivera there. Alex Smith to the Jaguars as Trevor Lawrence's future backup under new coach Urban Meyer? Prisco says you can pretty much take that one to the bank, firstly because Smith is "Urban's guy" and secondly because of Gardner Minshew: "(He) can't be a backup quarterback to Trevor Lawrence," Prisco says. "It's just not gonna work. Too much he thinks he should be playing."
2. Pete Prisco's Top 100 free agents of 2021: Leonard Williams in top three
If you like Pete Prisco, this is the newsletter for you. If you don't like Pete Prisco, I'd urge you to stick around anyway. Because he dropped a whopper of a piece on Wednesday, just in time for the start of free agency later this month. While a good portion of the best players set to hit the market figure to get the franchise tag, Pete's rundown of the best 100 free agents of 2021 is a must-read if you're looking for a survey of the talent available. Perhaps the biggest early surprise on his list: Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams ranking second behind only Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Here's his explanation:
Some might see this as being too high, but there is a shortage of good down players who can influence the quarterback like Williams and still anchor against the run. His best football is coming.
And here's a peek at the rest of the first 10 free agents on Prisco's 100-man ranking:
- Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
- Giants DL Leonard Williams
- Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin
- Washington OG Brandon Scherff
- 49ers OT Trent Williams
- Buccaneers DE Shaquil Barrett
- Bears WR Allen Robinson
- Broncos S Justin Simmons
- Panthers OT Taylor Moton
- Lions WR Kenny Golladay
3. Insider notes: Melvin Ingram headlines dark-horse free agents
Prisco's Top 100 list will keep you busy and informed when it comes to free agency, but if you're just looking to identify a few underrated veterans -- some potential low-risk, high-reward pickups -- then CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora has you covered. His compilation of eight dark-horse free agents includes a handful of former standout defensive players, like Colts safety Malik Hooker and Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris; and is topped by a three-time Pro Bowler in Chargers pass rusher Melvin Ingram:
It wasn't that long ago when Melvin Ingram was the most feared pass rusher on the Chargers and one of the elite edge performers in the NFL. But Joey Bosa was drafted -- and then subsequently paid big -- and Ingram has had difficulty staying healthy in recent years. But there is still skill to be culled, and in a situation where his reps could be limited, on a short-term deal, someone might hit an absolute home run.
4. 2021 draft: Five QBs who won't go in first round (but deserve your attention)
Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson and Justin Fields are getting plenty of buzz as first-round prospects under center, as are Trey Lance and Mac Jones. But if you're sick of reading about those guys, or you're just wondering which QBs might be on teams' radars after the first 32 picks of this year's draft, then boy does Ryan Wilson have something for you: A dive into the top five QBs who won't go in the first round but still deserve your attention. Here's Ryan's list, followed by a snippet on his No. 2, Kyle Trask:
- Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
- Kyle Trask, Florida
- Davis Mills, Stanford
- Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
- Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
Trask is one of the best touch passers in the country, but NFL teams will have questions about his arm strength and athleticism. He can overcome some of the physical shortcomings because he's accurate, throws with anticipation as well as anyone in college football, and is also incredibly smart. And don't misunderstand, Trask isn't a statue -- he moves well enough in the pocket to buy time, and he can even move outside the pocket and make plays downfield -- but he'll never be a threat to run. NFL teams know this, of course, but that will have to be part of the calculus that comes with drafting a pure pocket passer with limited physical tools.
5. Mock draft: Broncos trade up for Justin Fields, Texans draft Trey Lance
At this point, no one knows who the heck is actually going to take QBs at the top of the 2021 draft, save for the Jaguars at No. 1. So we're proud to introduce Chris Trapasso's latest first-round mock draft, which includes some especially spicy projections for this year's top signal-callers. You'll want to give the whole mock a look-see, but some of the boldest predictions come early, with the Broncos moving all the way from No. 9 to No. 3 to take Ohio State's Justin Fields and the Texans selecting NDSU's Trey Lance after a projected blockbuster swap with the Panthers involving Deshaun Watson.
Here's Trapasso's first 10 picks in Wednesday's mock:
- Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence
- Jets: QB Zach Wilson
- Broncos: QB Justin Fields
- Falcons: WR Ja'Marr Chase
- Bengals: OL Penei Sewell
- Eagles: WR Jaylen Waddle
- Lions: WR DeVonta Smith
- Texans: QB Trey Lance
- Dolphins: TE Kyle Pitts
- Cowboys: LB Micah Parsons
6. Rapid Fire Roundup: Alex Smith's future, Bears QB plans, Dolphins' surprise cut
This time of the year, there's far too much offseason news to include in six newsletter points, so we've expanded the sixth into the Rapid Fire Roundup, a rundown of all the rest of the NFL news and notes you may have missed:
- Bears 'have a plan' at QB: Or so they say. GM Ryan Pace revealed that "everything is on the table" to fix the position.
- Top eight Alex Smith landing spots: The Dolphins and Jaguars top our list of potential destinations for the Washington QB.
- Top Leonard Williams landing spots: The Seahawks and Titans could be players for the big Giants defender.
- Dolphins surprisingly cut big free agent: Linebacker Kyle Van Noy is out just one year after inking a $51 million deal.
- Vikings cut longtime TE Kyle Rudolph: A number of teams figure to pursue the former Pro Bowler.
- Packers may use franchise tag on RB Aaron Jones: GM Brian Gutekunst isn't ruling it out.
- Steelers tried to sign J.J. Watt: It turns out that money talked more than a potential sibling team-up.
- Cardinals used Blake Shelton to recruit Watt: Country singers are also more appealing than the Steelers, I guess.