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With the NFL rumor mill heating up and free agency on the horizon, it’s time to dive into the second edition of my ongoing series based around my trademarked “BS Meter.” I use this meter to parse out the rumors sure to be flying during this wild offseason. Here’s how it’s going to work:
The parameters of the BS Meter
1 - Little to no BS detected
2 - Some degree of BS but not significant
3 - You’re starting to push it
4 - Probably BS but hints of truth detected
5 - Total BS
Most importantly, after we decide just how much BS is clouding a rumor, we’ll look at exactly what it might mean that this bit of gossip has even hit our ears.
Behind every NFL lie, there is some layer of truth.
Rumor: Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are headed for a divorce
A pot that had been simmering was sent boiling over Thursday morning when The Athletic dropped a detailed accounting of what led to the current rift between Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. The reporting in that story confirmed what a few passive-aggressive comments during Super Bowl week only hinted at.
Wilson is not happy.
Earlier in the week, NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported teams imagined any deal for Russell Wilson would "start" with three first-round picks. That tells you that they’ve at least done some background investigating on what it would take to get Wilson. And it at least implies someone reciprocated those talks. All of this locks in the reality that we’re going to be talking about a possible Wilson trade up until it either actually happens, or Week 1 arrives.
BS Meter: 4 out of 5
I’m not going all the way to 5 on this one but I’m not ruling it all the way out. The situation feels very much like not nothing ... but I’m not sure if it's really something. There’s smoke to this story but is there enough fire to burn the bridge between Wilson and Seattle’s brass to the point he gets traded? That’s where my doubts creep in.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter chimed in with another Wilson report later on Thursday:
His note seems to throw cold water on the idea a Wilson trade is imminent. Obviously, the fact that he has not demanded a trade yet cools down the speculation frenzy. Even if there are real issues, it sounds like the quarterback still envisions himself in Seattle.
The final part of Schefter’s report is what truly moved this up the BS meter for me. Wilson’s wishlist of teams is so random. There is almost nothing in common between the Raiders, Cowboys, Bears, and Saints. The four almost run the gamut in terms of organizational competency and have varying degrees of roster quality. The perceived culture in each building is also wildly different.
The Raiders and Bears have huge holes throughout their roster and are behind the eight-ball in the cap resourcing department. Dallas is embroiled in a multi-year standoff with its current quarterback, has a questionable coaching staff, but does boast elite wide receiver talent. The Saints are clearly the best organization but are looking into the abyss in terms of the salary cap. They could gut the roster in a few months.
Straight up, the utterly random list of acceptable teams feels so out of nowhere that it leads me to think this is indeed just a ploy to twist the organization's arm. Wilson wants a bigger seat at the table. He wants to be heard and consulted about some of the moves this team would make. That’s reasonable. It would be wise for the Seahawks to give into some of these demands because they’d be truly lost without him.
Cooler heads will likely end up prevailing. If you’re a dynasty manager invested in DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett, don’t panic just yet.
Rumor: Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reports there's "mutual interest" between the Dolphins and Aaron Jones.
The above whispers follow The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia's opinion that Aaron Jones could get up to $15 million a year in free agency. If that’s the price tag for the two-time 1,000-yard back, he’s definitely played his last down in Green Bay. The Packers already have a tenuous grip on their salary cap situation and with A.J. Dillon waiting in the wings, Jones looks like a surefire goner.
BS Meter: 2 out of 5
Running back value on the open market is just so tough to gauge. A $15 million per year deal would put Jones right among the top-paid running backs in the game. His resume over the last two years with 30 total touchdowns and an average of 1,508.5 yards from scrimmage per season justifies that standing. It all comes down to how the bidding war unfolds.
You’d imagine that Miami would be among those interested in the guy who is clearly the best back available in free agency. The team got solid production out of guys like Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin but you can see why they’d be tempted to take the position to the next level with more explosive talent. They’re one of the few contending teams at the intersection of need and luxury-cap space to swing this signing.
From a fantasy angle, some of the shine would come off of Jones moving out of an offense captained by Aaron Rodgers. But he could do a lot worse than Miami. He’d still be a relatively attractive RB2. There’s plenty of logic to this marriage all the way around.
Rumor: Panthers and owner David Tepper are desperate for a new quarterback
NBC’s Peter King got the exact phraseology of "obsessed" from a “well-placed” source. However, you could have figured this one out for yourself by doing even the smallest bit of news scrolling.
The Panthers brass has made it abundantly clear that they’re over the Teddy Bridgewater experience less than one calendar year into the marriage. That was an inevitability but it’s still jarring to see them this upfront about it so quickly. The Panthers' quarterback thirst even led former GM Mike Tannenbaum to declare that Alabama quarterback Mac Jones’ draft-day floor was Carolina’s No. 8 pick. Ok, let’s run with that.
BS Meter: 4 out of 5
Remember King’s word: "Obsessed." "Obsessed" is very different from "desperate." Replacing Teddy Bridgewater just for the sake of replacing him would indeed be desperate. Making Mac Jones the eighth overall pick? Yeah, that would be desperate.
The fact that they were all-in on the Matthew Stafford trade (offering the No. 8 pick) but didn’t even call about Carson Wentz perfectly illustrates an “obsessed, but not desperate” mindset.
My lean is that the Panthers quarterback situation ends up in one of two ways. The team will either swing the dream trade for Deshaun Watson that will put a huge dent in the roster and future draft capital. That said, this organization and Watson do have a mutual affection for each other.
In a more likely universe, they end up moving up from No. 8 (perhaps to Miami’s spot at Pick 3) to select one of the extremely talented rookie passers in the 2021 draft.
Rumor: Kenny Golladay is another tag and trade candidate
The Athletic's Nick Baumgardner reports a "second-round pick might be on the table" if the Lions elect to trade Kenny Golladay this offseason. Since his contract expires in March, he’ll have to be tagged. Then Detroit will go into the delicate dance.
BS Meter: 2 out of 5
The Lions are a difficult team to figure out. After turning over the front office and coaching staff, it felt like this was a full-on teardown-to-rebuild operation. However, the addition of Jared Goff — even if it was just a cash dump favor for LA — and the rhetoric around that move threw a small wrench in that operation. If the team does want to win six to seven games in 2021 for whatever reason, giving Goff a top-level vertical receiver like Golladay is smart. Especially when you consider Goff’s pass-catching cupboard would be truly bare without him.
At the same time, Golladay operated like a man ambivalent about his standing with the Lions as he attempted to come back from injuries in 2020. Who knows if going from Matt Patricia to Dan Campbell moves the needle for him.
To me, the odds Golladay plays for another team next season feel straight 50/50. If or when he gets tagged won’t change that equation. The franchise tag could be a way for the Lions to retain a fringe true No. 1 receiver or a vehicle to bolster their already enviable chest of draft picks.
Whichever direction they go will tell us a lot about the team plans to be this season.
Rumor: Cam Newton still has plenty of gas left in the tank
Admittedly, the source for this rumor is a bit biased ... considering it’s Cam Newton himself. Following a viral video of some goofball kid — who would be a legend if he ever accomplished even one percent of what Newton has in his football career — the 2020 Patriots starter continued to make headlines.
Newton said that his time lost due to COVID-19 essentially wrecked his season. In his own words, he “wasn’t just trying to learn a system for what it was, I was learning a 20-year system in two months.” And just as he was feeling comfortable, COVID caused a setback he couldn’t overcome. According to the quarterback, he’s open to re-signing a one-year deal with New England but 100 percent views himself as a starter and has no plans to retire.
BS Meter: 3 out of 5
There’s a part of me that will always feel the need to defend Cam Newton. He’s gotten a bad rap as a player for way too much of his career. With that caveat laid bare, I buy the idea that his extended stint on the COVID-19 list threw off some of the progress it looked like he was making in New England, despite playing with a depleted roster.
Still, whether he has starter-caliber play left in him is without question up for debate. It would probably take the perfect ecosystem to bring that out of him for one last run, and it’s tough to look around the league and identify that situation. The most likely outcome is that Newton returns to New England to compete with other players, takes a backup role, or waits until camp to sign onto a team that has an injury. The latter scenario would put him right back in catchup mode, though.