Welcome to another Wednesday in the NFL. Free agency may be in the rear-view mirror, and the draft may still be a few weeks away, but the news never stops in this league. Fortunately, we've got you covered. John Breech is away, so you're stuck with me -- Cody Benjamin, the man with two first names -- on this fine afternoon as we traverse the latest from around football.
This is the Pick Six Newsletter. 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.)
The 2021 NFL Draft is still a few weeks away, but the Panthers appeared to settle their quarterback position for this year by trading for the Jets' Sam Darnold. How did New York fare in the deal? Where do the Jets and Panthers actually go from here? Draft expert Chris Trapasso joined Will Brinson on Wednesday's Pick Six NFL Podcast (listen and subscribe right here) to break it down.
"To get three selections for (Darnold) when everyone knew they were gonna pick Zach Wilson or (another) quarterback at No. 2 overall, three weeks away from the draft, I was applauding the Jets," Trapasso said, adding that Wilson should make for a nearly seamless fit in New York as Darnold's successor: "He's my No. 2 overall player, No. 2 quarterback, in this draft class ... I don't think he's near Trevor Lawrence in terms of being a prospect, (but) he's a very natural play-maker ... There is some Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson to his game ... The system he was in is very similar to the Mike LaFleur system he's going to be in in New York."
As for the Panthers, Brinson posed that Darnold may or may not be the club's answer at QB beyond 2021, but rather that he represented their "best option" after missing on guys like Watson and Matthew Stafford.
"They're over Teddy Bridgewater," Brinson said. "They're mad about the deal they gave Teddy Bridgewater. They don't like Teddy Bridgewater anymore. He couldn't really operate the offense at the tempo they needed him to ... (He) is a fantastic person, his story is great, (but) I think he's a poor man's Alex Smith with his high floor and low ceiling ... I think (owner) David Tepper got a bee in his bonnet, got his head set -- his heart set -- on, 'We've gotta get a quarterback.' Sam Darnold kinda became the best option. I prefer Sam Darnold to Teddy Bridgewater. I prefer Sam Darnold to signing Andy Dalton. I do like the fact that you're buying as low as humanly possible on a distressed asset and hoping that it rebounds."
2. Deshaun Watson latest: Nike suspends partnership amid more allegations
A few months ago, Watson's name dominated headlines for his potential trade availability. Now, the star Texans QB is facing far more serious matters. As of the start of this week, 22 different civil lawsuits had been filed against Watson, alleging sexual misconduct or assault during private massage sessions. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the legal situation escalated, with two of the 22 accusing women identifying themselves and Nike, one of Watson's top endorsement partners, suspending its deal with the QB.
"We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson," Nike said in a statement. "We will continue to closely monitor the situation."
The NFL released a similar statement Tuesday following a press conference with Ashley Solis, the first woman to publicly accuse Watson of misconduct, calling the allegations "deeply disturbing." The QB remains under investigation by the league for a potential violation of the personal conduct policy. It's possible NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could eventually place Watson on the commissioner's exempt list, which is essentially paid leave while the league continues its investigations.
With Sam Darnold set to take over in Carolina, the Panthers have reportedly already given Teddy Bridgewater, their 2020 starter, permission to seek a trade elsewhere. But where, exactly, could the former first-round pick be headed? According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, the Broncos are the favorites for Teddy, though the Panthers' rivals could also come calling.
It's well established how much Sean Payton loves Bridgewater. He has already won vitally important football games with Bridgewater during Drew Brees' injuries. He was a huge part of that locker room. And the Saints have just modest investments in Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston; neither is making real QB money ... And I know Tampa just won a Super Bowl, and somehow managed to keep the band together, but if Bridgewater is willing to move some things around to help from a cap standpoint, then why not let him go there as Tom Brady insurance? Because it is definitely something being discussed internally in Tampa.
(But) I keep coming back to Denver here. The Broncos' new GM George Paton was a top evaluator with the Vikings when they selected Bridgewater in the first round. Broncos coach Vic Fangio, if he had a coaching comp in the league, it would be Mike Zimmer; both are old-school defensive-minded coaches who had a very long wait to get their shot as a head coach. Both are risk-averse in their offensive philosophies -- run the damn ball! -- and believe in putting their defense in positions to thrive. Zimmer was obviously very involved in the drafting of Bridgewater in Minnesota.
With the Panthers seemingly out of the 2021 rookie QB mix, how will the draft shake out? Chris Trapasso is back with another mock draft, this time with a two-round projection. Here's a sneak peek at the top 10 in his forecast, which includes the Niners going for upside at QB with the No. 3 pick and the Patriots standing pat at No. 15 to land Alabama's Mac Jones:
- Jaguars: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
- Jets: BYU QB Zach Wilson
- 49ers: NDSU QB Trey Lance
- Falcons: Florida TE Kyle Pitts
- Bengals: Oregon OL Penei Sewell
- Dolphins: Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
- Lions: LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase
- Panthers: Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater
- Broncos: Ohio State QB Justin Fields
- Cowboys: South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn
5. Draft buzz: Jets' QB plans, best picks of all time, seven-round team projections
We've got tons of draft content for you as this month's big event draws near. Stock up right here:
- Jets GM all but admits New York will draft a QB at No. 2: No surprise, but still notable for a team in transition.
- Nick Saban says 49ers didn't ask about Mac Jones: Smoke screen or a sign that San Francisco isn't sold yet?
- Top No. 21 draft picks of all time: Randy Moss headlines the latest entry of our all-time series.
- Buccaneers seven-round mock: Tampa bolsters its D-line, then adds a developmental QB.
- Falcons seven-round mock: Atlanta double-dips on Gators playmakers early on.
- Panthers seven-round mock: Carolina adds protection for Sam Darnold.
- Saints seven-round mock: New Orleans stocks up on defense early.
6. Russell Wilson latest: Is Seahawks QB staying ... or due for divorce?
Is Seattle's star QB locked into place for 2021? That depends whom you ask. A month after longtime Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said he wasn't buying talk of a potential Wilson trade, multiple other teammates revealed this week that Wilson assured them he would remain with the Seahawks this year. But that's not stopping Hall of Famer and onetime Seahawks QB Warren Moon from predicting that the two sides are headed for an inevitable divorce.
"I think it's kind of headed, unfortunately, in the same direction (as Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman)," Moon told the "Hustle & Flow" podcast this week. "So, I think he's definitely there this year unless they just want to take a hit and not become a really good football team for a year or so. But I think that the marriage is not going to end very well going down the road. I think this squabble is going to turn into more of a separation and then a divorce at some point. And that usually happens with most players anyway."