Look, I know this is an NFL newsletter, but if Baker Mayfield just discovered aliens, that seems like a bigger story than anything going on around the NFL. The crazy part here is that Mayfield isn't even the first NFL starting quarterback who has claimed to see a UFO. Aaron Rodgers said that he once saw a UFO back in 2005 and for all we know, it could be the same UFO that Mayfield saw. I'm not going to rule out the possibility that there's a UFO following around NFL quarterbacks for some reason.
For the rest of the offseason, I'm thinking I should probably keep a running tally of NFL players who see UFOs. Alright, let's get to the rundown and remember, please let me know if you see any UFOs this weekend. 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. Tell everyone you know to sign up and then ask them to tell everyone they know.
1. Today's show: Friday mailbag
During the NFL offseason, we like to spice things up every week by adding a listener mailbag. Every Friday, Ryan Wilson, Will Brinson and I sift through the mail and then we pick five or six questions to answer on the podcast. If you want to submit a question, all you have to do is go to Apple Podcasts (Click here) and leave a five-star review.
For today's mailbag, the questions were all over the place. Here's a small sample:
- How do you tell a co-worker to put on deodorant? When I said the questions were all over the place, this is what I meant. As for the question, their answer here is two-fold. If the co-worker is someone you're close with, then you just tell them. I did this with Brinson. It works. On the other hand, if it's not someone you're close with, I would leave an anonymous deodorant stick in their cubicle with a short note that says, "Please use this."
- What are your thoughts on Ryan Fitzpatrick? Is he a great quarterback on bad teams or is he just average? Also, does he deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? As the vice president of the Ryan Fitzpatrick fan club, I think the best thing I can say about him is that he's the McDonald's of NFL quarterbacks. He's never your first choice, but if you're in a pinch, there's no problem turning to him. I think he's been a slightly above-average quarterback who's been stuck on bad teams and those two don't mix. If you put an average quarterback on a good team, that can be enough to get you to the playoffs, but Fitzpatrick hasn't really played on a good team yet, except for last year's Dolphins, when he got benched. He's been in the NFL for 16 seasons and he's never been to the playoffs and he's only played on a team that finished with a winning record in three of those seasons. I would like to see him start 16 games for a good team just once in his career.
- A national sports radio host today said the Cowboys have been irrelevant for the last 20 years, only to say five minutes later the only reason the Cowboys were relevant is the star on the helmet, being America's team, etc. Are the Cowboys still relevant? This question fascinates me because I can see both sides of this. If you're under the age of 25, it probably doesn't make any sense that the Cowboys are America's team because they've been terrible nearly your entire life. That being said, the Cowboys are still relevant because they're the Cowboys. Their games draw the most viewers -- their Thanksgiving game against Washington was the most watched game of the regular season -- and they regularly sell the most merchandise. They may not be relevant in the playoff race, but they're the most valuable franchise in the world, which means they're worth a lot of money, which makes them relevant in the NFL.
To hear the rest of the mailbag questions from today's episode and to subscribe to the podcast, be sure to click here.
2. Ben Roethlisberger contract details
In news that you probably heard about yesterday, Ben Roethlisberger has signed a new contract with the Steelers. It was a deal that had to be done because the Steelers made it clear that they weren't going to go into the 2021 season with Big Ben's $41.25 million cap hit on their books.
So how much money did the Steelers end up saving with this new contract and how did they make it work? Glad you asked. Let's take a look at the details.
- Big Ben took a $5 million pay cut. Before the new contract, Roethlisberger was set to make $19 million on 2021, but that number is now down to $14 million after he agreed to the pay cut.
- Most of his salary was converted to a signing bonus. Of that $14 million, Roethlisberger will get a base salary of $1.075 million and the rest will be paid out as a $12.925 million signing bonus. The reason the Steelers needed to turn most of his pay into a signing bonus is because a signing bonus can be spread out over the lifetime of the contract, which brings us to our next point.
- Contract includes voidable years. According to NFL.com, Roethlisberger technically signed a five-year extension that runs through 2025, but four of those years (2022-25) are voidable. Basically, this allows the Steelers to spread out the $12.925 million cap hit over five years, which is $2.585 million per year.
- Cap hit for 2021. When you look at Roethlisberger's original cap hit of $41.25 million, a total of $22.25 million was going to count against the salary cap no matter what. Thanks to the new deal, Big Ben's total cap hit for 2021 will now be $25.91 million ($22.25 million plus $2.585 million in prorated signing bonus plus $1.075 million in base salary), which means the Steelers will be saving roughly $15.34 million in cap space thanks to the new contract.
- Cap hit for 2022. After the 2021 season, the voidable years will void out and the Steelers will have to take on the rest of his signing bonus for 2022, which means he'll cost $10.34 million against the cap in 2022 even if he's not on the team.
And this is why you don't ever want to be the guy on any team who's in charge of the salary cap.
3. Russell Wilson trade rumors
I have no idea if Russell Wilson is going to be traded this offseason, but if I had to bet on it, I'd probably put my money on "yes" at this point. Wilson has made it pretty clear over the past few weeks that he's unhappy with the team and it seems that things haven't gotten any better since he made his initial complaints back in mid-February.
Here's a look at where the situation stands right now:
- Seahawks are taking calls. According to ESPN, the Seahawks aren't actively "shopping" Wilson, but they have been answering the phone when other teams call. One thing that's not clear is which teams have been calling, which is important to know, because Wilson has said he'll only accept a trade to four specific teams (Bears, Raiders, Saints and Cowboys).
- Seahawks are now unhappy with Wilson. Just when you thought this rift couldn't get any worse, it appears the animosity between Wilson and the Seahawks is now mutual. According to NFL.com, the Seahawks are "not happy with how" things have gone down since the end of the season. It's starting to feel like a breakup might be the best thing for all parties involved.
- Lots of chatter around the Bears. Former Bears lineman Kyle Long tweeted this week that he thinks the Bears are going to make a big move at quarterback, although it's not clear if that was his opinion or some informed speculation. Also, ESPN has reported that Wilson likes three specific things about the Bears: He believes they have an emerging offensive line, he likes the fact that Matt Nagy is an offensive-minded coach and he views Chicago as an "intriguing" market.
Basically, what all of this means is that these trade rumors aren't going to go away any time soon. As a matter of fact, from a salary cap standpoint, it would actually benefit the Seahawks to trade Wilson after June 1, so there's a good chance we'll be talking about this for the next few months, unless a trade happens soon. So if you're tired of the Wilson talk already, you should be rooting for a trade to happen ASAP.
4. NFL schedule likely coming out in May
After releasing the NFL schedule in May last year, it looks like the league has decided to move forward with the same timeline in 2021. According to the Sports Business Journal, the 2021 NFL schedule will be released during the second week of May with the exact date still to be finalized.
What this means is that the schedule will likely be released somewhere between May 10-14 and if that happens, it will mark the latest date that the NFL has ever released the schedule.
Before last year, the NFL generally released the schedule in April, but due to the pandemic, the release got pushed back to May. I'm not sure if the NFL is going to make this a regular thing, but releasing the schedule in May this year definitely makes some sense and here's why:
- Potentially adding a 17th game. The league is likely going to add a 17th game, but that won't be voted on until the owners meeting that's being held March 30-31. If it gets approved then, that gives the schedule-makers just over a month to hammer out a final schedule.
- Pandemic is still happening. It's still not clear if fans will be allowed to attend games or if players will be vaccinated by the time the 2021 season starts. Since the pandemic could still be a threat, the NFL may need to work a few contingency plans into the schedule like it did in 2020.
- After the draft. One big advantage of a May release is that it comes after the draft, which allows the NFL to take into account where some of the higher-profile rookies will be playing in 2021. For instance, the Jaguars and Bengals are playing each other in 2021 and although that might not be a game that usually gets prime-time treatment, if it turns out to be Trevor Lawrence vs. Joe Burrow, it's a game the NFL might consider putting in prime time.
If you're like me and the schedule release is your favorite day of the offseason calendar, then you should probably just go ahead and circle the entire week of May 10-14 on your calendar right now.
5. Free agency: 10 most underrated veterans set to hit the market
With the start of free agency just 12 days away, there's a good chance we're going to spend a lot of time here looking at the free agency market over the next two weeks and that's going to start today with Cody Benjamin's list of the 10 most underrated veterans set to hit the market.
When you think about the top free agents this year, you think about guys like Trent Williams, Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay and Shaq Barrett (You could also throw Dak Prescott on this list since the Cowboys haven't tagged him yet, which means he's technically set to be a free agent). However, this list isn't about the top free agents, it's about the most underrated free agents. With that in mind, here's Cody's top 10 list.
1. QB Jacoby Brissett (Colts)
2. RB Mike Davis (Panthers)
3. WR Corey Davis (Titans)
4. WR T.Y. Hilton (Colts)
5. WR Nelson Agholor (Raiders)
6. TE Richard Rodgers (Eagles)
7. DE Trey Hendrickson (Saints)
8. CB Mike Hilton (Steelers)
9. CB Xavier Rhodes (Colts)
10. S Malik Hooker (Colts)
Based on this list, I'm guessing that Cody is a closet Colts fan. To check out Cody's full story and his explanation for why each player made his list, be sure to click here.
6. Rapid fire roundup
There has been so much news in the NFL over the past 24 hours that we would need to cover 51 topics in this newsletter just to get to all of it, but since no one wants to read a 12,000-word newsletter on a Friday, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Alex Smith gets cut. We mentioned this was going to happen in the Monday newsletter and now the move is official. You can read more about Smith's exit from Washington by clicking here.
- Josh Gordon gets cut. If Gordon is going to make it back to the NFL, it's not going to be in Seattle. The Seahawks decided to move on from the beleaguered receiver this week.
- Saints cut ties with Thomas Morstead. When you need to save money, you'll cut ties with anyone, even the second-longest tenured player on the team. That's what happened on Thursday when the Saints cut ties with Morstead, who had been in New Orleans since 2009. Only Drew Brees has been with the team longer.
- Lions to release Desmond Trufant. Sometimes free agency signings don't work out and this was one of them. Trufant, who signed a two-year, $20 million in Detroit last year, is out after just one season with the team, according to ESPN.
- Dolphins haven't cut Kyle Van Noy yet. It was reported on Tuesday that Van Noy would be released, but it appears the Dolphins are holding on to him in hopes of trading him away. If Miami can't find a trading partner in the next few days, then he'll likely be cut at some point next week.
- Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman retires. After 10 years in the NFL, Sherman has decided to hang up his cleats for good. The fullback's career started in Arizona after the Cardinals made him a fifth-round pick in 2011. He signed with Kansas City in 2013 -- the same year Andy Reid arrived -- and played his role to perfection in Reid's offense.
- Chiefs finally sell stadium naming rights. When NFL teams started selling the naming rights to their stadiums, the Chiefs didn't initially jump on the bandwagon, but that changed this week. Starting with the 2021 season, the team's home will now be known as GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (GEHA stands for Government Employees Health Association).
- Jimmy Graham involved in car crash. The Bears tight end was involved in a one-car crash on Thursday that saw him roll his car over while trying to avoid a stopped vehicle. Graham didn't get injured, but his vehicle did sustain some serious damage and you can see the extent of it by clicking here.
- Maia Chaka to become first Black woman to officiate an NFL game. Chaka will be making history in 2021 when she becomes the first Black woman to serve as an official in an NFL game. Chaka was added to the NFL's officiating roster on Friday. Not only is she the first Black woman, but she's also just the second female, joining Sarah Thomas, who served as an official in Super Bowl LV.
7. The Kicker: Tom Brady rookie card sells for $1.32 million
I'm not sure what the best way is to get rich quickly, but I'm starting to think that it might involve selling football cards. A Tom Brady rookie card was auctioned off this week and when all was said and done, the card set the all-time record for highest sale price of a football card at $1.32 million. It blew away the old record of $861,000, which is what someone spent on a Patrick Mahomes card back in February.
Part of the value of the Brady card was that it had been autographed by the 43-year-old quarterback. FitBit CEO James Park bought the card and if you're wondering what would drive someone to spend nearly $1.5 million on a football card, here's your answer:
"I lived in Boston for 10 years and so am a huge fan of Brady," Park told PWCC Marketplace (The online auction house that handled the sale). "I've also had a love of collecting cards since I was a kid. Given Brady's uncontested status as GOAT in football, this card is an important piece of sports history and of any collection."
If you need me, I will be spending the entire weekend scouring my basement for Tom Brady rookie cards and if I'm not back on Monday, it's because I found one, sold it and then promptly moved to Barbados.