Welcome to the Friday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
I hope you enjoyed this quiet week around the NFL because things could get chaotic starting next week. First of all, the combine will be starting on Tuesday with the first batch of players reporting to Indianapolis, although testing won't start until Thursday (You can check out our primer on the combine here).
After the combine, we'll be heading straight into free agency, and after that we'll be heading straight into the draft. The offseason is almost crazier than the actual season. Maybe the offseason should be called the season and the season should be the offseason, because that's what it's starting to feel like around here.
All right, let's get to the rundown, where we'll be talking about the wild report about Russell Wilson's final days in Seattle, plus we'll be identifying one free agent target for EACH team.
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1. Today's show: Players we would use the franchise tag on
For the Friday episode of the Pick Six Podcast, I teamed up with Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson for a wild show that involved some role playing. Since the three of us love role playing, we were each given the role of an NFL general manager and we had to decide if we were going to use the franchise tag or not.
Here are three of the situations we found ourselves in during the podcast:
- Ravens GM Eric DeCosta. Ryan Wilson played the role of DeCosta, and Wilson decided that there's a 100% chance that he would tag Lamar Jackson. At this point, it seems highly unlikely that Jackson and the Ravens will agree to a long-term deal by the time the franchise tag deadline hits on March 7, which makes it a no-brainer to hit Jackson with the tag. Once you tag him, that gives you another four months to negotiate a long-term deal. If Jackson ends up playing the season on the tag, that's not the worst thing for Baltimore, because the tag only pays $32.4 million, which is much lower than the $50 million per year he'll likely get if he signs an extension.
- Bengals owner Mike Brown. I played the role of Brown, and the decision I had to make was whether to tag Jessie Bates III. The Bengals safety got tagged last year at $12.9 million, which means if he gets tagged again, he'll get a 20% pay bump up to $15.48 million. Bates is good, but I'm not sure he's worth $15.48 million for one year. If I'm the Bengals, I have other things to worry about -- like Joe Burrow's contract extension -- and l'll likely let Bates walk if he's hoping to land a long-term deal that pays him $15 million per year or more.
- Giants GM Joe Schoen. Brinson played the role of Schoen and he had to decide if he should use the tag on Saquon Barkley or Daniel Jones. Brinson said he would try to get a long-term deal done with Jones, but if that wasn't possible, then he'd use the tag on the quarterback.
We also made decisions for the Raiders, Chiefs, Eagles, Cowboys and Jaguars and if you want to hear each of those conversations, then be sure to listen to today's show by clicking here. You can also watch today's show on YouTube here.
2. Russell Wilson drama: QB apparently tried to get Pete Carroll fired in Seattle
Before getting traded to the Broncos last year, it seems that Russell Wilson attempted to pull off the ultimate power play in Seattle: He tried to get Pete Carroll fired. That's according to a wild new story from The Athletic that doesn't paint a very good picture of Wilson and his actions over the past 12 months.
Here are some of the key details:
- Wilson wanted Pete Carroll and John Schneider out. Not only did Wilson want the Seahawks to fire Pete Carroll, but he also wanted them to dump general manager John Schneider. At some point in February 2022, Wilson went to ownership and asked them to make a change. It didn't take long for Seahawks owner Jody Allen to pick a side. Just a few weeks after making the demand, the Seahawks traded Wilson to the Broncos.
- Wilson wanted Sean Payton to coach the Seahawks. One twist here is that not only did Wilson want a new coach, but his preferred option was the coach who just got hired in Denver, Sean Payton. Wilson is clearly a fan of Payton, because he's been trying to team up with the former Saints coach for at least two years. Back in February 2021, Wilson made a list of four teams he would be willing to accept a trade to, and the Saints were on the list and Payton was the coach of the Saints at the time.
- Wilson's exit from Seattle now makes more sense. When Wilson was traded, Seahawks owner Jody Allen said the QB "made it clear he wanted this change" and that makes more sense now. If Wilson was unwilling to play for Carroll and the Seahawks weren't going to fire him, then trading him away would've become the only viable option.
- Wilson denies asking for Carroll to get hired. The Broncos QB responded to The Athletic's report on Friday morning with a tweet, "I love Pete and he was a father figure to me and John believed in me and drafted me as well. I never wanted them fired. All any of us wanted was to win," Wilson wrote. Although it's possible Wilson didn't technically request for Carroll to be fired, it's not crazy to think that he put the Seahawks in a situation where he said something along the lines of "Carroll goes or I go" and if that happened, we all know what Seattle decided.
- Things got kind of weird during Wilson's first year in Denver. Not only did Wilson have his own office at the Broncos' practice facility, but he expected other offensive players to watch film with him on Tuesdays, which is normally a day off for everyone. Wilson's personal quarterback coach, Jake Heaps, would participate in these meetings even though he had no affiliation with the team.
Right now, the Seahawks are definitely getting the last laugh in all of this drama. Carroll got the Seahawks to the playoffs in 2022, proving that he didn't need Wilson. On the other hand, Wilson looked washed up during his first season in Denver. Payton can salvage the Wilson trade for the Broncos if he can fix the QB, but if Wilson doesn't improve in 2023, the Broncos could end up on the losing end of what would become one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history.
3. Jeff Bezos seems to be eyeing a bid for the Commanders
After sitting out the first round of bidding, it appears that Jeff Bezos might now be interested in buying the Washington Commanders.
Here's what we know about the situation:
- Bezos has hired an investment firm. The Amazon founder has hired the investment firm of Allen & Company, according to the Washington Post. The reason this is notable is because this same firm handled the sales of the last two NFL teams that went on the market (Panthers in 2018 and Broncos in 2022).
- Bezos has been interested in becoming an NFL owner for at least four years. As CBS Sports reported back in 2019, Bezos spent some time getting close with several owners back then and he had "strong support within the league" to become an owner at that point. Since that report from November 2019, Bezos' ties with the NFL have only grown. Back in March 2021, Amazon signed an 11-year deal with the league to become the exclusive provider of "Thursday Night Football." According to CNBC, Amazon is paying the NFL roughly $1 billion per year for the rights.
- Bezos has ties to the D.C. area. If Bezos is going to buy any team, the Commanders definitely make sense and a big reason for that is because he's already making roots in the area. Not only does he own the Washington Post, but Amazon's monstrous second headquarters (HQ2) is being built in nearby Arlington.
- No one will be able to outbid Bezos. Money won't be any object for Bezos, who is currently the third-richest man in the world. According to Forbes live rankings, Bezos is worth a total of $116.8 billion. It's not clear how much the Commanders will go for, but there's been at least one report suggesting that Daniel Snyder is hoping to sell the team for $7 billion.
Although Bezos has yet to submit a bid for the team, it seems like he's dipping his toe in the water and it won't be surprising if he jumps all the way in by purchasing the Commanders.
4. One free agent every NFL team should prioritize signing
With NFL free agency right around the corner, CBSSports.com's Jordan Dajani decided to make a list of one free agent that each NFL team should prioritize signing this offseason. If teams are smart, they'll listen to Dajani's recommendations.
Dajani made one recommendation for each of the NFL's 32 teams, but we're only going to cover five of them here:
- Falcons: Lamar Jackson. "I think it's more likely Jackson is franchise-tagged and remains in Baltimore, but if you haven't noticed, it's impossible to predict what will happen in the NFL. If Jackson is allowed to talk with other teams, the Falcons should be in on him."
- Bills: Saquon Barkley. "After spending the majority of the year as the Super Bowl favorites, the front office now faces the sobering reality that maybe they aren't there just yet. The Bills are still one of the best teams in the NFL, and they may just be one piece away. That one piece could be a star running back."
- Bengals: Dalton Schultz. "Hayden Hurst is a free agent, and he certainly had his moments in 2022. However, Schultz would be an upgrade and add to this explosive Bengals offensive attack."
- Patriots: Odell Beckham Jr. "Beckham said he almost signed with the Patriots just over a year ago. Bill Belichick should inquire again. The Patriots are looking to bolster the offensive side of the ball this offseason and OBJ is a versatile wideout who should have some tread left on the tires."
- Buccaneers: Jimmy Garoppolo. "With Tom Brady opting to retire, the Buccaneers need a new quarterback. Could Brady's former backup finally replace him under center? Time is a flat circle."
If you want to to check out Dajani's recommendation for each team, be sure to click here.
5. AFC East offseason team needs
Over the past few days, we've been covering the offseason needs for each NFL team by going through every division, and today, we'll be going through the AFC East.
Tyler Sullivan went through every team in the division and made a list of their biggest needs that they should be looking to fill this offseason. One thing you'll notice about the AFC East is that this division isn't in the best financial shape, with three of the four teams currently OVER the salary cap (They don't have to be in compliance with the cap until March 15).
Team needs: IOL, CB, RB, WR, S
Cap space: -$18.71 million (Yes, that's a negative sign)
Outlook: "The Bills have a couple of heavy hitters set to hit free agency in safety Jordan Poyer, guard Rodger Saffold and inside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. First and foremost, they'll need to get cap-compliant and get their books in order to make a run at not only trying to re-sign these stars but add even more talent onto the roster."
Team needs: OT, WR, LB, DB
Cap space: $37.82 million
Outlook: "The status of Jonathan Jones (unrestricted free agent) and safety Devin McCourty (mulling retirement) are major question marks in the secondary. Adding more bodies to the defensive backfield should be among the priorities, especially if McCourty calls it a career."
Team needs: OT, OG, TE, RB, LB
Cap space: -$12.67 million (Yes, that's a negative sign)
Outlook: "The Dolphins spent big along the offensive line last offseason by bringing in left tackle Terron Armstead and center Connor Williams, but the unit still needs more to help keep Tagovailoa upright. Specifically, the right tackle and guard spots were the big issue for Miami, which will need to improve in some capacity in 2023."
Team needs: QB, OL, S, DT, LB
Cap space: -$2.45 million
Outlook: "The major thing holding the Jets back from being a contender is the quarterback position. This offseason, the Jets do seem hellbent on trying to upgrade at that spot by any means possible and could look to swing big. They've already hosted recently released Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and are also expected to be in the market for Aaron Rodgers if he and the Packers decide to part ways."
For a full look at each team's needs and who they should go after, be sure to check out Tyler's full story by clicking here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Rams set to cut All-Pro linebacker
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.
- Rams to part ways with Bobby Wagner. The Rams are way over the salary cap, and to help them get under, they have decided to part ways with Bobby Wagner, who was just one season into a five-year, $50 million deal. The move will save $5 million in cap space. The upside for Wagner is that he's now a free agent and he's coming off an impressive season where he was named a second-team All-Pro, which means he should be a hot commodity. We took a look at several possible landing spots for Wagner, and you can check those out here.
- Broncos hire Giants backup QB from last season. Giants backup QB Davis Webb is headed to Denver, except he's not headed there as a player. The 28-year-old has retired from football and will now be joining the Broncos as their QB coach. This means that Russell Wilson will now be coached by a guy who only started one career NFL game. To put that in perspective, Wilson has started in more Super Bowls (2) than Webb did in regular season games (1).
- Broncos expected to hire former Chargers offensive coordinator. In another coaching move, the Broncos are expected to hire Joe Lombardi to join their offensive staff, according to 9News.com. Lombardi spent the past two seasons as the Chargers offensive coordinator before being fired in January.
- Patrick Mahomes defends Eric Bieniemy. The Chiefs QB took to Twitter on Thursday to defend his former offensive coordinator, who got ripped by LeSean McCoy earlier this week, "There should be no questions on how great of a man/coach Coach Bienemy is," Mahomes wrote. "His leadership has a direct impact on the player/person i am today! 10+ years learning under one of the greatest coaches of all time."
- Former NFL receiver released from prison after 10 years. Back in 2013, former NFL receiver Sam Hurd was sentenced to 15 years in prison on federal drug charges by a judge in Dallas, but he was released this week after serving 10 years. Hurd spent six seasons in the NFL, including five with Dallas and one with Chicago. Hurd was actually playing for the Bears when he was originally arrested in December 2011.