Thirty-two teams, 32 thoughts on the opening week of the league year.
Early Report Card
1. Chicago. The Bears traded ownership of the draft to Carolina, then owned the first week of free agency.
After a conversation with Bears GM Ryan Poles the other night, it sounds like the trade was almost THE TRADE. Poles told me he had significant discussion with Houston at number two that could have made him trade down twice in the top 10—with both the Texans and Panthers. He wouldn’t be specific on what broke down, but he did say: “I thought there was an opportunity to do something historically pretty cool with a trade from one to two and two to nine. That had potential to add more draft capital this year, and then the possibility that you’re sitting on three ones in the following year. That had my attention. But my gut told me to trigger on it now. At the combine, I thought those quarterbacks did an outstanding job in their interview process. A lot of teams felt really good about some of those guys, but as you get further away from the combine, maybe there’s a bad pro day or something that turns teams off.”
My sense is that Poles is close to Carolina GM Scott Fitterer from years of road scouting and personnel conversations, and he could get a read on exactly what Carolina would do and what it wouldn’t. He doesn’t know Houston GM Nick Caserio as well, so it could be Poles was never sure how far the Texans would go to do the deal. In a draft with questions about all the top quarterbacks and no Andrew Luck or Trevor Lawrence in the group, once Carolina agreed to send wideout D.J. Moore and two ones and two twos, Poles was convinced he shouldn’t wait.
“Scott and I have a pretty good relationship, being around each other on the road,” Poles said. “I think that played a big part of it. And trust. He wanted to get it done. He was clear with his intentions.”
As for the free-agency investments, Poles staked big claims on two defenders, Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, to remake the linebacker corps. Combined, he committed seven years and $91 million to Edmunds and Edwards after both had breakout seasons last year. Edmunds will play this year at 25, Edwards at 27. Edmunds was inconsistent in Buffalo, but, per PFF, was football’s best cover linebacker last year. Edwards was the league’s sixth-rated linebacker last year, per PFF, with the versatility coach Matt Eberflus demands from his every-down linebackers. (Edwards played 1,183 snaps in Philadelphia last year.) For those who’d question huge spending on linebackers, that’s fair. But Eberflus was an NFL linebackers coach for nine years before taking coordinator and then head-coach jobs, so it’s obvious these are two players he wanted and thinks can fit his defense.
Chicago got a starting guard, Nate Davis of Tennessee, and a solid complement to Cole Kmet at tight end in Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan. In the span of two weeks, Poles radically bolstered the offense around Justin Fields while keeping two first-round picks in the bank for next year, if he needs to think about moving on from Fields—which he doubts he’ll have to do. Now, with the ninth overall pick and four picks in the top 64, Poles can upgrade the roster at pass-rush and offensive line, to start.
Poles and the Bears, to this point, have won March. But winning in March is a bitter victory if losing in the next three years follows. So these three things are vital for the Bears in the next six weeks:
Win the ninth overall pick. Either trade down if you don’t love what’s there, or make the right choice in a tricky spot. The biggest X factor in this draft will be Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who possibly will fall to nine now after being the best overall prospect two months ago, then having a disastrous off-season. Poles has to figure out if Carter’s a legit hard-trying football guy or an irresponsible problem person, and whether he’s the kind of person and player he wants to bring in to a building franchise with character and ethos crucial elements to long-term success. I can’t emphasize how important this is. If Carter is there when Poles picks, he has the kind of decision to make that could define his term as Chicago GM.
It’ll be fascinating if Carter and one or both of the top two offensive tackles, Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson, are there at nine. Both needs are major. Do you take the giant risk guy who is the best talent in the draft? Or do you take a solid prospect with perfect makeup at a need position to help protect your young quarterback in a vital developmental year?
Understand that all of this is about 2024 and beyond, not 2023. Don’t make decisions to win now. Make decisions to be the best team over the next five years.
2. San Francisco. Signing Javon Hargrave, quite possibly the best talent in this free-agent class, adds to an embarrassment of riches on a strong defensive front. Aaron Donald is PFF’s only defensive interior player with a higher rating than Hargrave over the past two years. The Niners, in strengthening a strong group, did something smart and underrated. With all the quarterback uncertainty entering the new season, they know they may have to win a bunch of 20-16 games. This ensures a better chance to win the low-scoring ones.
3. Detroit. The signing of cornerback Cameron Sutton is interesting, and says so much about how deals in free agency get done. The Lions on Monday went hard after the former Pittsburgh corner, 28, and the deal got finalized somewhere around 2:30 that afternoon. Agent David Canter had told Sutton he hoped his contract would end up around $10 million a year. Sutton was one of the more highly regarded defensive players in free agency; last year, his 47-percent completion average on men he was covering was 10th in the NFL for corners who played more than 500 snaps.
For players in demand, Canter explained, “The rapidity of how it happens is shocking.” Agents are texting and phoning multiple teams on multiple players. The Lions were straightforward with Canter about wanting to get Sutton done, and when the three-year, $33-million deal with $22.5 million guaranteed (he’d made $23 million total in his six Pittsburgh seasons) was finalized, Canter told the Lions he’d call Sutton to get his okay on the deal. He told the Lions to hold.
“You’re gonna be a Detroit Lion in about three minutes,” Canter told Sutton, who was ready for anything. Canter said he didn’t have much time, but told him the basics of the deal: $22.5 million guaranteed, $33 milion total, with a signing bonus more than he’d made altogether in his last two years in Pittsburgh.
“Really?” Sutton said, getting emotional.
Canter said Saturday, “He just started crying. He told me, ‘This changes my life. Let’s go to Detroit, baby!’”
4. Denver. The most fascinating signing of the first week: quarterback Jarrett Stidham, two years, $10 million, $5 million guaranteed … after starting a grand total of two games in his four-year NFL life. But one of those games convinced Sean Payton to take a chance on him. After Derek Carr was benched in Vegas in late December, Stidham, in his first NFL start and facing the best defense in football, San Francisco, put up 365 passing yards, three TD passes and 34 points. So now Payton buys him to be Russell Wilson’s backup, and nothing needs to be said to Wilson about it. If Wilson by midseason 2023 is having a similarly disastrous season to his first one in Denver, Payton won’t have to punt on the season. He’ll have an intriguing backup waiting in the wings. But Payton did not go hard after Stidham to put the pressure on Wilson. He considered his options at backup QB and thought he could play it safe for around the same money with an Andy Dalton type, or swing for the fences on a young prospect with significant upside. I like the logic.
5. New York Jets. So they’ll get their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, eventually. What does that mean for their 2023 schedule? A lot. I mean, a lot.
In 2022, the Jets played one game in prime time, a Thursday-nighter against Jacksonville. (The league mandates every team play one nationally televised game, minimum, per year.) Their remaining 16 games were all early-Sunday-window starts. This year, I expect the Rodgers-led Jets to get a full complement of prime-time games—five of them. If you love the Jets and are used to settling in at 1 o’clock Sunday to watch them, those days are over. In 2023, anyway.
Let’s mull over what the league might do when the schedule is announced in May. All of what I’m about to write is educated conjecture because of my years following the scheduling process. The schedule reveal is still seven-plus weeks away.
I’d bet the Jets will appear in either the Sunday or Monday prime-time opener. The league loves Aaron Rodgers. The league will try to capitalize on the fascination of Rodgers changing teams to have a ratings bonanza in week one. My money’s on NBC getting, say, Jets-Eagles or Jets-Bills on the opening Sunday night. Last Jets game on Sunday night on NBC: 2011. But the amazing part of that factoid is the Jets played a Sunday night game on NBC in three of the first 10 weeks of 2011 … and never in the 11 seasons then.
But wait. What about Jets-Cowboys? Wouldn’t that be a ratings rager? Of course it would be, and the league could do that. But often the NFL figures that games on opening weekend will get big numbers, and Rodgers versus the Cowboys will be one of the five biggest draws of the season, so the league could make it an October or November megagame somewhere. The league also has to be concerned about CBS and FOX on opening weekend, because the schedule will include doubleheader games on both networks that weekend. So maybe Dallas in the FOX doubleheader window, and maybe Joe Burrow or Josh Allen in the CBS slot. Again, just spitballing.
Re: national TV games: The Jets had one last year. I bet they have 11 or 12 this year—between a Thursday-nighter, maybe two on Sunday night, one or two on Monday night, maybe five Sunday late-window doubleheader games, and one of the newish late-season games moved to ESPN on a Saturday.
Amazon could provide an interesting Jets alternative this year. For the first time ever, the league has scheduled a 3 p.m. Black Friday game on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving. Might Amazon, likely to get one Jets appearance this year, push for the Jets to host a game in the cradle of capitalism, on the busiest shopping day of the year? My guess is Amazon probably would want to sign up for more of a sure thing for this precedent-setting game, maybe the Eagles playing at home with a guaranteed rocking crowd.
In any case, one byproduct of New York employing Aaron Rodgers this year would be the Jets becoming a national team. For 2023 anyway.
6. Green Bay. While we’re on the subject of Rodgers, two points about the Packers:
- I think it’s silly to try to get a first-round pick off the Jets this year. New York picks 13th in the first round, and with no apparent guarantee that Rodgers, entering his age-40 season, will definitely play in 2024, the Jets would be foolish to give up a pick that could be used on the second- or third-best offensive lineman in the draft—to protect Rodgers. (If that’s how they choose to use the first-round pick.) The fairest deal: Jets trade a second-rounder this year (43rd overall) and a conditional pick in 2025, not 2024, based on whether Rodgers plays football for New York in 2024. If he plays 100 snaps or more in 2024, the Jets give Green Bay a first-round pick. If Rodgers plays less than that, the Jets give Green Bay a third-rounder. So if Rodgers plays two years for New York, the price is a first- and a second-; if he plays one year, the price is a second- and a third-. I totally see Green Bay’s point about playing hardball for Rodgers, but the 13th pick in the draft for a guy who might play one year? I don’t see it. Unless Rodgers flat-out guarantees the Jets he’s there for two years, minimum, I’m not considering paying the 2023 one for him.
- Having covered Brett Favre from Green Bay to the Jets 15 years ago, I find this one part of the comparable stories to be eerily similar. Green Bay GM Ted Thompson wanted an all-in Favre in March 2008, Favre wasn’t willing to commit to being an off-season warrior, and retired before coming back in a trade to the Jets. I think when this story is finished, we’ll see that Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst wanted an all-in Rodgers in March 2023 and knew he wouldn’t get it. More evidence for that got piled on the other day when Rodgers told Pat McAfee he was 90-percent retired when he went into his recent darkness retreat. So just like the late Thompson turned to the unproven fourth-year former first-rounder, Rodgers, to step in for Favre, now Gutekunst turns to the unproven fourth-year former first-rounder, Jordan Love, to replace Rodgers.
7. Washington. In the ultimate last gasp of the Snyder Administration (D.C. fans can only pray the end is nigh), a franchise that has finished 25th, 23rd and 24th in scoring in the past three seasons, a franchise in the same division with the NFC champ, explosive Dallas and the rising Giants, a franchise in search of a franchise quarterback since forever will cast its lot this season with the 144th pick of the 2022 draft, Sam Howell, and Jacoby Brissett. No need to even speak with the 2019 MVP who plays just up I-95 in Baltimore, Lamar Jackson. Nope. That’d be a waste of time, right? I’m not suggesting the Commanders absolutely should sign a 26-year-old franchise quarterback with injury question marks, but to not even go down the road with Jackson? How do you say you’re doing everything you can to win when you don’t sit with him and see what Lamar Jackson is all about? What does that cost, exactly?
8. Indianapolis. The Matt Gay signing got zero buzz, but it’s a big one. In 41 games for the Rams, over a 2.5-year stretch, Gay hit 74 of 80 field goals (.925), including 12 of 15 from 50-plus. Now there are only two kickers—Gay and Justin Tucker of the Ravens—averaging more than $5.5 million a year. Gay will make $9 million all told in year one and $5.625 million a year for four years, which, for a kicker languishing on the Colts’ practice squad in October 2020, is pretty amazing. This deal got done at 11:45 p.m. ET Monday, and there was this nice touch to it: When agent David Canter texted Sean McVay to tell him Gay was leaving for the Colts, McVay called Gay to tell him how much he appreciated everything he did for the Rams, and to tell him how happy he was that Gay was getting a big contract. The great thing for Gay’s numbers: Kicking in retractable-roofed Lucas Oil Stadium, and in the temperate AFC South, should be very good for his career.
9. Miami. Mike White for two years and $4.5 million guaranteed is a great contract, particularly for a team that wanted to upgrade at the number two QB. Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson were 1-4 in relief of Tua Tagovailoa, and Miami scored 11 points in the one win. White started seven games for the Jets and threw for 405, 369 and 315 yards in three of them, and the locker room loved him. I love Mike McDaniel using White as a ball of modeling clay for the next two years.
10. Cincinnati. Most surprising signing of the first week of free agency: Orlando Brown doing a deal with the Bengals for four years, $64 million. That’s a $16-million average. That makes Brown, per overthecap.com, the 10th-highest-paid left tackle in football.
Think of how the business works. One contract at a position leapfrogs another. In 2020, Laremy Tunsil signed for $22 million a year in Houston. In 2021, Trent Williams signed for $23 million a year in San Francisco. In 2022, a good but not great tackle, Cam Robinson of Jacksonville, signed for an average of $17.5 million a year. This week, Tunsil signed an extension with Houston for $25 million a year.
Next season: Williams is 35, Tunsil is 29. Robinson is 28. Brown is 27.
Brown has less guaranteed money in his contract in four years than Robinson, a lesser player, got in three. It’s not that Brown isn’t better than Robinson; he is. It’s just that with the exception of Tunsil’s extension, the tackle market didn’t go insane, and no team out there loved Brown. But good for Cincinnati. Brown is a good buy for $16 million a year.
Re: the dissatisfaction of left tackle Jonah Williams, who asked for a trade … Grant it. Take a three for him.
11. Baltimore. And on the sixth day, we waited.
All that matters now is one team out of 31 not named the Ravens reaching out and negotiating in good faith with Lamar Jackson. No one can seem to find one of those teams. Tennessee or Indy, maybe. Doubt it. Candidates continue to fall by the wayside—Miami committing to a fifth year at big pay for Tua Tagovailoa in 2024, the Jets committing (apparently) to Aaron Rodgers, Tampa Bay using Baker Mayfield for an apparent bridge year, Vegas going with Jimmy Garoppolo, Washington passing, Atlanta likely to stay with Desmond Ridder, Carolina opting for a rookie. Today is the sixth day teams are allowed to negotiate a contract with Jackson, and there are not even quiet rumors that any team is doing so.
Jackson could take the lack of interest as a hint that he’d be best off to take a shorter, guaranteed deal with Baltimore—two or three years. He implied that was on the table on Twitter last week. If he has gotten a three-year guarantee in the neighborhood of $44 million a year, I think he’d be smart to take it, even if it won’t be as much as he wants. Simple reason: If no one out there is giving him more fully guaranteed for three years, obviously feeling that his injuries must factor in (Jackson has missed 34 percent of the Baltimore snaps in the last two seasons), he could take a three-year deal and be a free agent again at age 29.
If Jackson simply figures he doesn’t want to play for the Ravens anymore and would risk missing the 2023 season over that—and I have no idea if this is the case—then he can sit out this season and see if the Ravens would get tired of the drama and cut him after the season. Do I think that’s probable? No. But I also never thought we’d be in a situation where a 26-year-old former MVP is sitting out there with scant interest either.
12. Philadelphia. For now, the ethos should be, “In Howie we trust.” After building a terrific roster and coming within a few snaps of a Super Bowl win with a neophyte QB, GM Howie Roseman chose to bring back some of the longest-in-the-tooth Eagles: center Jason Kelce, who will be playing his age-36 year in 2023; defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, who will play this year at 33 and 35, respectively; and 32-year-old corner Darius Slay. The last two teams that reached the Super Bowl and tried to run it back didn’t. Tampa Bay brought back every starter from its 2020 Super Bowl team and lost in the divisional round in ’21. The Rams got all emotional after winning it in 2021 and had a disastrous 5-12 season last year.
The difference here may be that Kelce played as a top center in the league last year, and spot-playing Graham—43 percent of the snaps, his lowest over a full season in eight years—led to his first double-digit sack season. But sticking with four vets to play prominent roles at an average age of 34 is pretty risky.
Roseman did bring back his best cover corner, James Bradberry, and didn’t get seduced into a second contract for an effective back, Miles Sanders. Paying running backs often leads to wasteful deals, sadly for them, and the Eagles budgeted wisely in the backfield.
13. Seattle. Hard not to love the signing of safety Julian Love for the reasonable sum of $12 million over two years. If you watched much of the Giants last year, you saw an impact player in every game. Imagine the combinations Seattle will be able to use in the back seven if Jamal Adams can stay healthy with Quandre Diggs and Love.
14. Dallas. The Sunday acquisition of Brandin Cooks sets what I believe to be an NFL record: Cooks is the first player to be traded four times before turning 30.
I’d be bullish on this trade if I were Dak Prescott. Here’s why: Cooks just finished three years with the Texans—one year with Deshaun Watson, one year with Davis Mills/Tyrod Taylor, and the last year with Mills. He averaged 76 catches a year with the Texans in the midst of the QB mayhem. He’s on the last year of a bloated two-year, $39.6-million contract, but the Texans will pay $6 million of the $18 million he’s due this year, and the deal cost the Cowboys fifth- and sixth-round picks. I think it’s a smart trade for both teams. Houston clears out a big salary and deals a player who wasn’t happy being there. The Texans now have a league-high 13 picks in the April draft.
15. Las Vegas. Interesting trade, basically, that the Raiders worked out. They sent tight end Darren Waller to the Giants, signed wide receiver Jakobi Meyers in free agency, and got a third-round pick in return from New York. On the surface, you think it’s a hard move to justify, trading an offensive tight end and great complement to Davante Adams when you’re trying to build around new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But Waller’s entering his age-31 season and has missed 14 games due to injury over the past two years. Meyers, an egoless guy, is four years younger and had 150 receptions over the past two seasons, playing 31 of 34 games.
Re: the third-round pick, 100th overall, the Raiders have four picks in the top 100 now, with a tight end need whether Foster Moreau leaves in free agency or not, and this is a draft heavy on tight ends.
Re: the quarterback situation, it’s got to be a significant disappointment for Josh McDaniels to lose Jarrett Stidham. McDaniels coached him in New England, traded for him in Vegas, and prepped him for a very impressive late-season two-start run for the Raiders. Stidham jumped to Denver for what couldn’t have been much more money. I hear Stidham figured with Garoppolo coming and the chance the Raiders could take a quarterback with their early first-round pick, he’d have a better chance at playing time under Sean Payton in Denver. I’m not so sure the Raiders will pick a quarterback at number seven, or wherever they end up in the first round. (Certainly, with the departure of Stidham, they’ll pick a quarterback in the top three rounds.) To me, the opportunity with the Raiders likely not trading into the Bryce Young/C.J. Stroud stratosphere and with Garoppolo’s injury history would have been golden in Vegas.
Notes on 16 through 32.
Arizona is not gaining ground on the NFC West, though importing LB Kyzir White from Philadelphia is a plus … The reunion of Jonnu Smith with coach Arthur Smith in Atlanta should rekindle some of the innovative ways Arthur Smith used Jonnu in Tennessee—and a Kyle Pitts–Jonnu Smith combo platter will be tough to defend … I guess Jordan Poyer will have to stomach those New York taxes for at least another year in Buffalo. I love Poyer and Matt Milano returning, though Tremaine Edmunds will be a tough loss … Carolina’s offseason is the trade for the top pick. The Panthers will try to buck the don’t-pay-running-backs trend by investing $24 million in Miles Sanders … Cleveland’s been quiet with the exception of an intriguing Edge bookend for Myles Garrett, signing Ogbonnia Okoronkwo—who had an impressive second half—from Houston … Smartest move by Jacksonville: re-upping consistently underrated defensive tackle Roy Robertson-Harris … Smartest move by Kansas City: stealing under-valued edge player Charles Omenihu (54 QB pressures in spot play last year, per PFF) from the Niners. Not sure about the Orlando Brown-for-Jawaan Taylor swap, particularly paying Taylor $4 million more per year than Brown got in Cincinnati … The L.A. Chargers are gambling that Eric Kendricks, a top-five NFL linebacker in 2020, can regain that form in the middle of the Charger D at age 31 … The L.A. Rams are in a gap year, trying to get their team and future and cap right in 2023 with a recharged Sean McVay. It’s smart, and don’t expect them to apologize for winning a Super Bowl while robbing from the future in 2021.
Minnesota signed versatility in slot/outside CB Byron Murphy, and they’ll need top production to make up for the loss of Patrick Peterson to the Steelers … New England is a cautionary tale for this time of year. Two years ago, the smartest man in football, Bill Belichick, went nuts in free agency, signing 11 players from outside the team in a post-Brady roster makeover. Last week, the Pats parted ways with two of those mainstays, Jonnu Smith and Jalen Mills. The only star of the group: Matt Judon, with 28 sacks from the edge in two years. DT Davon Godchaux and TE Hunter Henry have been solid, but it all goes to show you that winning free agency in March is a hollow crown. New England is 18-17 since, with zero playoff wins … New Orleans is doggedly trying to stay relevant, signing Derek Carr and praying that Michael Thomas (last three years: 40 games missed, 10 games played) might turn into Michael Thomas again … The N.Y. Giants are the richest slot team in football, with the very bright prospect Wan’Dale Robinson due back from ACL surgery early in the season, free agent Parris Campbell in from Indy and Sterling Shepard re-signed for a song. Along with Darren Waller (fingers crossed he can stay on the field), Daniel Jones has some significant security blankets in the intermediate area now … Pittsburgh signed the best guard in free agency, Isaac Seumalo, from the Eagles on Saturday night … Kudos to Tampa Bay for keeping its two best free agents, corner Jamel Dean and linebacker Lavonte David. Baker Mayfield, on his fourth team in 15 months (true fact: he played with Cleveland on Jan. 9, 2022, and has meandered to the Panthers, Rams and Bucs since), seems like a bridge to 2024 to me … He’s a little light at 228, but Azeez Al-Shaair is Mike Vrabel’s kind of sideline-to-sideline linebacker and will play as many special teams snaps as Tennessee wants. He’s one of my favorite players, and should be just entering his prime in his age-26 year.
Quotes of the Week10
I think it’s all the other three-ring circus that comes with it. Nobody wants to put their organization on blast every Tuesday for a podcast. And that’s really what the Packers have been.
–Former NFL GM and scout Randy Mueller, now the director of pro personnel for the XFL’s Seattle Sea Dragons, on the “Football GM” podcast with Mike Sando, on why more teams haven’t been interested in dealing for Aaron Rodgers. “The podcast” he refers to is the interview Rodgers does each week with Pat McAfee.
I went in the darkness 90 percent retired and 10 percent I was gonna play.
–Aaron Rodgers, to Pat McAfee, in the most surprising thing that was said in their Tuesday session.
There’s a sanctuary of solace that surrounds my house, [giving] conversations the proper privacy.
–Rodgers, sounding very much like Aaron Rodgers, to McAfee, saying he wanted to keep his talks with the Jets private.
I really can’t imagine taking the field without him.
—Dak Prescott, after the Cowboys cut ties with Ezekiel Elliott last week. Both men came to Dallas via the draft in 2016.
There is nothing I love more than football, but I have young children and they watched enough of their dad’s games and it’s time for me to watch their games.
—Tom Brady on Thursday, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
Players under contract with the New York Jets on Jan. 1, 2019: 75.
Players under contract with the New York Jets on March 17, 2023: 71.
Players under contract with the Jets on both Jan. 1, 2019 and March 17, 2023: 0.
There is turnover, and then there is the New York Football Jets.
New Denver quarterback Jarrett Stidham is the son-in-law of Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown, which might have set up an interesting family situation had the Denver ownership story gone differently in 2022. Brown was part of the Josh Harris ownership group bidding to buy the Broncos. Harris was ultimately outbid by the Walton/Penner group.
Tweets of the Week
Every team is going to the Super Bowl today.
— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) March 13, 2023
Pete Prisco, the blunt one, tweeting on the day the free-agent market opened.
Ezekiel Elliott's final snap with the Dallas Cowboys will end up being this play, where he lined up at center: pic.twitter.com/vh3MpJhdsX
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) March 15, 2023
Ari Meirov is a contributor to The 33rd Team.
“A preemptive breakup. This is an incredible idea. I got nothing to lose. We either break up, which she would do anyway, but at least I go out with some dignity. Completely turn the tables. It's absolutely brilliant.”
– George Costanza, 1992
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) March 15, 2023
—NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano, with an absolutely brilliant use of Seinfeldology.
Okay, I’m the furthest thing from a football expert, but I am a Jets fan. Is it wrong, then, for me to think, “Aaron Rodgers will turn 40 years old before the end of next season. What can possibly go wrong?”
— Howie Rose (@HowieRose) March 15, 2023
Rose is a play-by-play broadcaster for the Mets on WCBS radio in New York.
The @princetonian coverage of the last time Princeton won in March Madness — the 1996 upset over UCLA.
The player jumping in the picture? Current coach @M_Henderson98.
The author of the article on the left? The late great @GrantWahl pic.twitter.com/1TKivIUIMR
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) March 16, 2023
Kruse is a historian and author.
It’ll be a big deal for Princeton to make the Sweet 16. I bet so many more people will hear of the school and apply!!
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 19, 2023
Auerbach covers college sports for The Athletic.
Reach me at email@example.com, or on Twitter @peter_king.
Thinks Carolina has to know who it’s picking. From Jeff Brunswick, of Powell, Ohio: “I’m a longtime reader who enjoys every part of your column, but I was shocked to read that you don’t think Carolina has decided which QB it will pick and that it wouldn’t be smart if they did. Even if what they traded was fair value, I can’t imagine a team giving up all those picks, plus (in your words) their best remaining offensive player, if they didn’t feel very confident that the player they were going to pick was worth it. I know pro days are still upcoming but what’s really left to learn in the next 45 days if you already feel that strongly about a player?”
Jeff, I have only a strong opinion based on those I’ve spoken with. Also, I have common sense. The owner and GM have been on the scene for the entire college football season and the lead-up to the trade, obviously. At the time of the trade, the four men who will coach the player Carolina will pick had been on the job for between three and six weeks. That’s head coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, assistant head coach Jim Caldwell and QB coach Josh McCown. The Panthers have said this will be a collaborative decision, not one ordered by the GM, owner or coach. At the time of the trade, there was 48 days before the draft—and the only personal contact the four coaches had had with the top QB candidates was a 15-minute meeting at the Scouting Combine. Do you think all four of the coaches, settling into new jobs and in some cases having to hire a staff of coaches and move families, etc., have spent the time to form a confident and comfortable opinion about which quarterback they’d fight for, knowing they’re going to have weeks before the draft to research this critical decision? I don’t. You, and many others, think they’ve decided. It could be you’ll be right when the story is told post-draft, but that would surprise me. There is a great advantage in having the top pick, because if the Panthers know they can trade down one spot and get the player they’d have taken at number one, they can recoup some of what they’d traded to move up. The Panthers also now can breathe easy, knowing they can pick whoever they end up wanting.
Annoyed with my Twitter stance. From William, of Chicago: “I was surprised to read your feelings about Twitter. You wrote: ‘Twitter’s a good information tool, but there are too many tools using it.’ Why would you insult your readers that way? There are a lot of us who get a lot of good information from Twitter, and that felt like a slap in the face.”
I certainly didn’t mean it that way, William. I get a lot of good news nuggets from information people and beat people who cover the NFL, and I look at Twitter every day. But I don’t enjoy much of the interaction anymore, after 14 years. A lot of it is insulting, and as I said, if I’m going to spend my own time, extra time, throwing opinions and ideas out there, and the reaction is somewhere between negative and brutal … well, been there, done that. I’ve got no interest in engaging.
On your side, Jean. From Jean, of Paris: “I’ve never been in favor of adding a 17th game to the schedule, but I’m enough of a realist to understand it’s not going away. I have 2 suggestions to make it at least better:
1 Make it against a fixed opponent. The current formulaic approach may seem fair, but wouldn’t it be a bit more entertaining to create new enduring rivalries? That way you ensure (kind of like a division game) that the game matters. I’d even try to make it somewhat regional: LA versus LA, Baltimore vs. Washington, Houston vs. Dallas.
2 Make it a neutral site game. It baffles me that in a league that strives for competitive balance and fairness, one of the deciding factors between winning your division and missing the playoffs may be that one team played eight home games while another played nine. International games would fall in this neutral site category, and I’m sure there are college stadiums that could be leveraged for the other games.”
Both ideas are great, Jean. Did it really take a French NFL fan to tell the big American sport how to do it better? Thanks so much for the thoughts.
10 Things I Think I Think
1. I think the Damar Hamlin comeback story might now be a question of when it’s announced, not if. “He definitely has every intention to play,” Bills GM Brandon Beane told the Buffalo News. Good news for Hamlin, for the Bills, and for modern medicine.
2. I think time marches on for all of us in life, and it’s marching on for Odell Beckham Jr. To be a prime free-agent in your age-31 season, you’ve got to have played more than seven, 14 and zero games in your last three seasons. Two ACL surgeries enter the picture too.
3. I think if I were the Bills, I’d have been more aggressive in trying to sign Adam Thielen. He reached a deal with Carolina Sunday night. That’s fine, and good for him to get real money from the Panthers. I don’t get a building team signing a player in his age-33 year. Thielen belonged with a contender.
4. I think these were the best few sentences written about Aaron Rodgers in the wake of him telling Pat McAfee he wants to play for the Jets. Written by Ben Solak of The Ringer, they’re about Rodgers’ dissatisfaction with so many in the Packers’ organization (notably president Mark Murphy, though he skirts naming him very often), so many in the media, so many in the public sphere. Solak put it well here:
Rodgers spoils for a fight so relentlessly that he often ends up conjuring his own demons to battle, the noble warrior of the tragic narrative he authored himself.
Murphy once shared an analysis of Rodgers that he often heard many times from Thompson—whom Rodgers loved. He said that Thompson called Rodgers “a complicated fella.” Out of Murphy’s mouth, it feels a little pejorative. But in this moment, it encapsulates where we’ve landed nicely. This is a complicated man and a complicated situation. Thank goodness it’s finally reaching its conclusion.
5. I think we can only hope it’s reaching its conclusion.
6. I think this thing he has with Adam Schefter is just plain weird. Schefter is the best info-man on the NFL since Will McDonough, and maybe even including McDonough. He’s crossed the line a few times, and he’s admitted that. But his job is to cover the biggest stories in the league. Two months ago, he shook the landscape when, pretty much out of the blue, he reported there was a “real possibility that Aaron Rodgers is going to be traded … Both sides are fully aware that a trade is a very real scenario this off-season for Aaron Rodgers.” A couple of times Rodgers has taken jabs at him, implying he knows nothing about Rodgers and what he’s thinking. Well, he knows something from somewhere, obviously. No one was thinking about a Rodgers trade in mid-January, and Schefter reported it, and he’s been proven prophetic on it. Now Rodgers takes pride in jabbing Schefter with a “Lose my number” text to him. Reporters get phone numbers. They text sources and subjects. Sources and subjects might want to talk and they might not, but in any case that’s not going to—or shouldn’t—stop reporters from trying to find out information.
7. I think I was curious about the Schefter story, and so I asked him for his side of it. On Friday, he told me: “I’ve had his number for a while. I never once used it. Trey Wingo reported [last Monday] he was ‘hearing’ that Rodgers to the Jets was done. The day he did it, ESPN was going live from 3 to 5 on free agency. Everyone was saying Aaron Rodgers to the Jets is done. We’re on the air for two hours. I call the Jets, I call the Pack, I call Rodgers’ advisers. No one’s saying anything. So, I’m sitting there on the set with Dianna Russini. ‘Should I text Rodgers?’ She said, ‘Yeah, text him.’ At 3:35, I texted him. I say, basically: ‘Have you informed the Jets that you’d like to play there? I wanted to open it up to you.’ He didn’t respond for maybe 10 minutes. So then I called the number, got sent to voice mail. Then he texts me, ‘Lose my number. Good try tho.’ That’s all. He’s the one who says the media’s getting it wrong. I wanted to go to source and get it right. That’s all. I was just trying to do my job.” I don’t know how you do the job any differently, frankly.
8. I think I know this isn’t the most notable thing of the week, but I find it amazing 2022 Miami franchise player Mike Gesicki got buried by the new staff in Miami (“buried” is 11 catches and 22 targets in his last nine games as a Dolphin) the way he did. Interesting now that Gesicki takes the place of another disappointing tight end in New England, Jonnu Smith.
9. I think this is a good, and important, news note from Pro Football Talk about Washington owner Daniel Snyder. PFT reported that Snyder has vacated his office at the team complex in Ashburn, Va., and during our “PFT Live” show Friday morning (I am Mike Florio’s sidekick for two hours each Friday), Florio said he’d heard not only that Snyder was out of the team offices but was now living in London. Not sure what exactly all of that means, other than to say it seems the franchise is on the way to being sold in toto Florio and I discussed on the show Friday how ludicrous it was to think that noted legal eagle Mary Jo White is now in her 14th month of investigating Snyder. Enough already. Get this pox on the NFL out of there.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Story of the Week: The grandson of the founder of The Last Great Race on Earth, the 1,000-mile sled-dog race in Alaska known as the Iditarod, became the first family member ever to win the race in its half-century of existence.
b. Joey Klecka of KTUU-TV in Anchorage reports the winning time of the race was 8 days, 21 hours, 13 minutes 58 seconds. And for the first time in the history of the race, all three top finishers were native Alaskans.
c. Reported Klecka:
Redington’s grandfather, Joe Redington Sr. — known as the “Father of the Iditarod” — never won the race but was instrumental in organizing and fundraising for the inaugural race in 1973, and is considered the leading man in popularizing and modernizing the sport of dog mushing in Alaska. Joe Sr. ran 19 Iditarods between 1974 and 1997 with a best finish of fifth, which he accomplished four times.
Four other Redington family members have raced. Before Tuesday, the highest any Redington family member had finished was third, which Ryan’s uncle Joee accomplished in 1975.
Redington said his resting strategy for his team proved to be key to the victory, saying he rested two extra hours in the checkpoint of Nikolai.
“Just a little bit more patient on my speed, and setting them up for a strong run in the second half of the race, and we were able to achieve that,” he said. “Just perfectly planned, everything came together really well.”
d. Interesting key to the race—winner Ryan Redington rested his dogs for two hours more than his competitors. Maybe the dogs appreciated it. Whatever, they had enough left to conquer the course.
e. Beernerdness: Marlowe American Pale Ale (Marlowe Artisanal Ales, North Haven, Conn.) is one of the best beers I’ve had in months. I bought a 4-pack of the 16-ounce cans because I’ve gotten into APAs recently, and my beer-loving brother-in-law was coming for a visit and I know he likes to try new ones. I like to support Connecticut breweries too, hailing from there. This beer is a smooth, slightly hoppy brew with a hint of citrus. Strongly recommend if you can find it. I found it at a Whole Foods in Brooklyn. My bro-in-law loved it too, and he quickly had a second.
f. Art Story of the Week: Shelley Murphy of The Boston Globe, on the biggest art heist in the world, still unsolved after 33 years.
g. One of the fascinating stories of our lives, at least to me. Two thieves in disguise walked into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—for such a small and relatively obscure museum, it had a tremendous collection—33 years ago Saturday and stole 13 pieces of art valued at more than $500 million. A 450-year-old painting by the Dutch artist Vermeer, “The Concert,” is the gem. The empty frames sit in the Gardner, waiting to be whole one day.
h. Wrote Murphy:
Anthony Amore, the Gardner museum security director, who has worked with the FBI on the investigation for the past 17 years, said the search continues.
“I really do believe we’ll get the paintings back, and we won’t stop looking for them,” Amore said. “They need to come home. No institution in the world has made the effort that the Gardner museum has made since Day One to get its paintings back.”
The crime has been one of Boston’s most enduring mysteries.
In the early morning hours after St. Patrick’s Day in 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers talked their way into the museum, tied up two guards, and removed the masterpieces from their frames. Among the 13 pieces are three by Rembrandt, including his only seascape, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” “A Lady and Gentleman in Black,” and a stamp-sized self-portrait; Flinck’s “Landscape with an Obelisk”; Degas sketches; “Chez Tortoni” by Manet; an ancient Chinese vase; and a bronze finial eagle from atop a Napoleonic flag.
i. I can’t get enough of this story. Amazing that after these years the works never turned up anywhere. Where could they be? Are they destroyed? Who, if not, could be harboring them?
j. Of all the weird sporting schedule quirks of 2023, this must be the quirkiest: I present to you the three-game series between the Devils and Lightning in this National Hockey League season:
- Tues., March 14: Tampa at New Jersey
- Thur., March 16: Tampa at New Jersey
- Sun., March 19: New Jersey at Tampa
k. The NHL season is 189 days long. The Lightning and Devils play their three-game series in six days.
l. The NHL season is 82 games long. The Lightning and Devils play three times—in games 67, 68 and 70.
m. Say it ain’t so, Sylvia Poggiolli. “It’s time to hang up my headphones,” Poggioli, the long-serving Italy correspondent for NPR, said. Poggioli is the perfect correspondent—interested and interesting, with a nose for good stories. I’ll miss her voice twice a week, or however often, as I soak in the news of the week.
n. A few personal things …
o. No kidding: I walked 51.91 miles last week. Having a pedometer app on my phone, and the WHOOP app, has really changed my life.
p. I Am Truly Old Dept.: I have been binging the old “Perry Mason” series since the playoffs began two months ago. I am 73 episodes in, early in the third season. It’s good to listen to on long walks with Chuck the dog.
q. You really have to be a person of a certain age to get this: William Hopper (private investigator Paul Drake, Perry Mason’s right-hand man) was the only child of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
r. Rotisserie baseball draft is this week. My keepers are Nolan Arenado, Marcus Semien, Sandy Alcantara. I stink every year, BTW. Any advice on sleepers for the late rounds Thursday night? Send thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
s. Rob Demovsky Highlight of the Week: You may know that the ESPN Packers beat person has a son who plays high school basketball in Wisconsin at a high level. How about Hogan Demovsky making a play with one shoe?
t. Gotta love March Madness. Fairleigh Dickinson got swept this year by Sacred Heart. FDU lost to Queens University of North Carolina. FDU lost to—at one point—the lowest-rated team in division I basketball, Hartford. And they beat one of the best four teams in the country, Purdue.
u. Hartford (5-23) 74, FDU 66, on Nov. 30.
v. I’m no basketball guy, so this is either an over-simplification or indictment of the Purdue coaching in this game. Zach Edey is Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center. Fairleigh Dickinson is the smallest team, in average height, of all of the country’s 363 Division I basketball teams. The score was tied at 49 with nine minutes to play. Edey did not attempt a shot from the floor in the final nine minutes. That’s slightly absurd.
w. Great line from Dan Rather, crossing over to March Madness after Princeton dominated Missouri: “Princeton looked a lot less like a David and a lot more like a Goliath.”
x. Attaway, Trea Turner. Man, the electricity in those World Baseball Classic games is cool to see. I’m conflicted after the Edwin Diaz injury, but the WBC is so good for the game, around the world. It needs to continue.
TREA TURNER, ARE YOU KIDDING! 😱
3 HOME RUNS IN 24 HOURS 🔥pic.twitter.com/bl1K01xT4A (via @MLB)
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 20, 2023
y. Welcome to the world, Betty Schrager. You are going to live in a home with lots of love, which makes you one of the lucky ones. Your dad Peter is a good friend, and I predict he will lead the NFL in baby pictures shown off. Have a great life, Betty.
z. And congrats to another friend, Jay Glazer, on getting engaged over the weekend. What an adventure you’re about to go on, Rosie. All the best to you both. One prediction for your life together: It absolutely will not be boring.
The Adieu Haiku40
On Rodgers trade finish line:
April 7. Zzzzzzzzz.