Around The NFL Podcast Co-Host
On the second day of the negotiating period before free agency begins, the NFL world continued to wait for official word on Aaron Rodgers joining the Jets.
But teams were plenty busy otherwise. Let’s look at some winners and losers from Tuesday’s free agency news:
Anyone Aaron Rodgers has ever played with: Allen Lazard wouldn’t be a bad signing for the Jets in a vacuum, but it will be a very good one with the expectation that Rodgers will join his former Packers receiver on the Jets soon enough. A lot of Lazard’s best plays in Green Bay were improvised between him and Rodgers. Lazard’s excellent blocking should also help the Jets’ run game on the perimeter.
To give Lazard
The other potential names on Rodgers’ reported wish list (per ESPN’s Dianna Russini), including Cobb, Marcedes Lewis and Odell Beckham, make less sense, considering the Jets’ roster. They should want to spend their remaining cap space on line depth on both sides of the ball.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn: I love the Cowboys’ secondary. Bringing back underrated safety Donovan Wilson and trading for
Gilmore, 32, played at an outstanding level last season with the Colts despite his age. It’s telling that the Cowboys committed to paying him (and to retaining linebacker Leighton Vander Esch)
Daniel Jones‘ chances of living up to his new contract: Adding Darren Waller is a start; that can’t be the end of the Giants’ search for new weapons. Acquiring Waller in exchange for the No. 100 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is a great low-risk, high-reward gambit. Waller was electric from 2019 to 2020, but injuries slowed his production the last two years. Now he’ll be the most talented pass catcher on the Giants’ roster.
If the 30-year-old Waller can’t stay healthy, the Giants can move on from him with no salary-cap pain after this season. His contract is manageable if he balls out in new surroundings. The Giants have done a nice job checking boxes by franchise-tagging Saquon Barkley and retaining Sterling Shepard along with trading for Waller, but it feels like they have a move or two left to bolster their wide receiver crew.
The Colts’ salary-cap space: Stephon Gilmore was a bargain for the Colts in a bounceback campaign last season. So why would they trade him to the Cowboys for a fifth-round compensatory pick? Either they are clearing some space for a big name (LAMAR?), given that the release of Matt Ryan will still leave them with $18 million of dead money, or they just don’t see the point in paying an aging cornerback in a year they aren’t contending for a Super Bowl. Let’s hope for the first option, because it’s more fun.
The Raiders’ master plan: The Raiders gave Darren Waller a massive contract in September. Josh McDaniels said two weeks ago that “Waller will be a big part of what we’re doing going forward.”
On one hand, their decision to trade Waller to the Giants isn’t a total shock, because NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported in November that the Packers discussed dealing for Waller at the trade deadline last season, just weeks after he signed that extension (and Rapoport added Tuesday that the Raiders “had talks for more than a year” involving Waller). On the other hand, they essentially gave Waller away for the No. 100 overall pick in the draft. It was basically a salary dump.
I like the Raiders signing Jakobi Meyers on Tuesday as a low-risk move to add depth to the receiver group. But the Waller trade raises questions about how this organization operates. Who was in favor of giving Waller an extension before the coaching staff (hired last offseason) saw him play in the regular season? It feels like what you’d see if ownership and the front office were not on the same page.
As the McDaniels era takes hold in Las Vegas, he and general manager Dave Ziegler need to find some new versions of “their guys.” Getting rid of old guys and bringing in guys they know from their days in New England is not enough.
Receivers hoping to get rich: Jakobi Meyers and Allen Lazard unstuck the receiver market with fair deals that will pay them $11 million per season. Unlike what happened with receivers in previous years, positional scarcity did not wind up pushing their prices beyond what they were worth, which is bad news for the wideouts remaining on the market, like JuJu Smith-Schuster, D.J. Chark and, yes, Odell Beckham.
Eagles haters: Yes, the Eagles had a lot of free agents in my Top 101. They’ve lost their share, but they’re also retaining Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham and James Bradberry, with the cornerback agreeing to a deal including $20 million guaranteed. It’s a fair deal for both sides, and the Eagles are showing which positions they value the most after letting linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White walk.
The signing of Rashaad Penny is a fun one, too. He’s a more dynamic pure runner than Miles Sanders, even if Penny’s injury history makes it a risky bet to count on him.
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