RUSSELL WILSON TO THE BRONCOS! DENVER IN THE SUPER BOWL MIX!
I opened this month by calling for a Russ trade, and here we are. It’s a win-win-win for Wilson, Denver and Seattle. Yes, this was a wise move by the Seahawks, who expedited a necessary rebuild by refilling the draft coffers that were depleted by the ill-fated Jamal Adams trade. Yes, 12s, I know it’s tough seeing Wilson go. And those emotions are only amplified by the release of Bobby Wagner, Seattle’s other cornerstone piece from the 2012 NFL Draft. But the ‘Hawks are fresh off a 7-10, last-place finish with those two players. They weren’t going anywhere in the highly competitive NFC West. Time to reboot. I fully support Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and not just because their headline-grabbing actions are good for my business. That said …
… I do love a blockbuster deal. Who doesn’t? And we’re only just beginning offseason roster reconstruction! So, who needs to make the next splash move? Here’s my rundown, Schein Nine style.
Remember when the Panthers started last season at 3-0? And then, in early October, traded for “the missing piece” in CB Stephon Gilmore? Yeah, the rest of the year didn’t exactly play out as hoped …
Carolina was unwatchable down the stretch, losing its final seven games to finish alone in the NFC South cellar at 5-12. After a solid start to the season, Sam Darnold quickly reverted back to TURNOVER MACHINE before getting sidelined by a shoulder injury. With Darnold hitting injured reserve, the Panthers predictably brought back franchise icon Cam Newton … but the 30-something signal-caller was predictably shot. And the contemporary franchise face, Christian McCaffrey missed the bulk of the season due to injury for the second straight year. Consequently, Carolina fielded its worst offense since the Jimmy Clausen days.
In Year 3 on the job, head coach Matt Rhule’s seat is heating up. No doubt about it. With an owner in David Tepper who made his billions as a bold hedge fund manager, this team needs to shake things up. CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reported on Monday that Carolina has received multiple calls about McCaffrey. The Panthers have to listen — and act, if it equals picks and talent. If Deshaun Watson’s legal situation clears up, Carolina should pursue the 26-year-old franchise quarterback. Chances are the Buccaneers will. And speaking of the bigger picture in the NFC South, Tom Brady, Sean Payton and Calvin Ridley are all out of the division in 2022. In theory, it’s go time in Carolina. But the Panthers need to provide some reason to believe. Rhule must change the perception of his team. STAT.
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Buffalo is clearly the team to beat in the AFC East. And don’t overlook Miami, a rising group I’ll discuss in a moment. Personally, I think the Dolphins, as currently constituted, are better than the Patriots. Elsewhere in the AFC, you can make a strong case that all four teams in the West division trump New England on paper. So, while last year’s 10-7 rebound was nice, Bill Belichick’s team is far from BACK back.
New England needs dudes. Mac Jones has to have more juice in the receiving corps. The defense must get more young talent, especially if the Pats are really going to allow stud corner J.C. Jackson to walk in free agency (something I’d highly advice against).
Mac’s rookie season was encouraging, but he’s not about to carry an entire team on his back. And with Josh McDaniels now in Las Vegas, the young quarterback is already facing an uphill battle in Year 2. Get him the personnel help he needs.
While I hated the Brian Flores firing, I absolutely loved the Mike McDaniel hiring. The former 49ers offensive coordinator is inspiring — and for the Dolphins, a needed and true offensive mind. I’m on board the hype train, believing Miami is going to be vastly improved on offense. This is great for Tua Tagovailoa, who has McDaniel’s full support.
“I’m really excited moving forward because the guy has some skills that I think are untapped,” McDaniel said of his quarterback last week on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “I think it’s important that you empower the quarterback with the rest of the players around him and the scheme you bring forth. So, I think his best days are in front of him. And that’s a really cool piece of the process to be part of as a coach.”
I like Tua, too. But he’s in an AFC that’s absolutely LOADED with high-level quarterbacks. Like McDaniel touched on in that quote, Tagovailoa must be surrounded by a better supporting cast. He needs a legit running back (like Christian McCaffrey?) and a significantly improved offensive line.
The Doug Pederson hire was juicy, adding a Super Bowl-winning coach with a knack for getting the most out of his quarterbacks. This is key in Duval County, where Trevor Lawrence just endured a complete debacle of a rookie season under Urban Meyer. Pederson can get the generational QB prospect back on track, but he needs some help from his new front office. And that shouldn’t be an issue, considering Over The Cap has Jacksonville with nearly $39 million in cap space.
First and foremost, Lawrence needs a stud at the receiver position. Amari Cooper? Allen Robinson? A trade? I’d be cool with Jacksonville using draft currency on the position, too, but the second-year signal-caller needs a veteran with proven production. And while the Jags used the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson for the second straight year, there’s plenty of work to do still on the offensive line.
Sean Payton is gone, but stellar GM Mickey Loomis remains. Mickey thinks big, acts big — and typically wins. Yes, there’s a correlation. And while the Saints just missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, the NFC South is suddenly wide open in the wake of Tom Brady’s retirement. Of course, New Orleans has a hole of its own at the game’s most important position.
Will Loomis re-up Jameis Winston? Bring back Teddy Bridgewater? Would either be enough to get this team back in the winner’s circle? There’s been chatter about Daniel Jones or Jordan Love heading to NOLA, but I can’t see it. Mainly because neither is any good. Time for some Mickey magic.
Nobody likes Derek Carr more than me. Which is why I found myself feeling sorry for the eternally underappreciated quarterback in the aftermath of Russ hitting Denver. Carr is a stud. Facing a staggering amount of adversity last season, he set a career high with 4,804 passing yards and carried the Raiders into the playoffs. The man is a bona fide franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, he’s now the fourth-best QB in his own division.
I dig the Raiders’ new leadership combo of head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler. Las Vegas needs to bring in more defensive help, as well as another target for Carr. And sign the 30-year-old QB to a monster contract extension! What else does this guy need to do?
New coach? Check. New general manager? Yep. And the replacements are young, smart and inspiring. Which is why I wonder aloud about the future for Kirk Cousins.
Turning 34 in August, Cousins is entering the final season on his contract — and carrying a $45 million cap hit. With Aaron Rodgers staying put in Green Bay, Minnesota’s a long shot to win the division. Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah didn’t sign Cousins, so there’s no reason not to shop him. I like Kirk. He’s in the 8-16 range at quarterback, depending on the week. But I don’t think the Vikings are going to seriously contend with him this season, so it makes sense for the new regime to turn the page and start fresh. The Colts feel like a very realistic trade partner. Or how about New Orleans? Tampa Bay? Seems like someone could use a top-half field general, no?
It’s telling that many Big Blue fans are drooling over speculation that Mitchell Trubisky could follow the eastern migration of Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll, going from the Bills to the Giants. Trubisky is much more talented than Daniel Jones, who just ain’t it. Schoen and Daboll are an encouraging duo, and they should indeed come right in and shake up the quarterback room.
Don’t stop there, either. Like I said last week, New York should trade Saquon Barkley. Dave Gettleman mercifully left the building in January, but his personnel blunders remain present. Wipe the slate clean!
Joe Douglas’ Jets have to start winning games at some point here, right? That’s not to sound flippant. We’re three seasons into his GM tenure, and the Jets have 13 total victories. Not just that, but the roster is riddled with holes. On the plus side, Gang Green has two top-10 picks in the draft.
Is Zach Wilson a quarterback to build around? Douglas better hope so, considering he spent the No. 2 overall pick on the BYU product. After a rough rookie campaign, Wilson needs an upgraded receiving corps. Last offseason’s big WR signing, Corey Davis, didn’t work out as planned. And the only thing worse than the Jets’ offense was their defense, which ranked 32nd in yards and points allowed. Robert Saleh needs more horses on that side of the ball.
The Jets are clearly the worst team in the AFC East. Now that the Jaguars have a real head coach, New York’s arguably the worst team in the AFC. Douglas has to put that $48 million in cap space to good use.
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