Return of the PFT Mailbag

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Unlike the turning of the seasons or the emergence of the cicadas, the PFT Mailbag knows no temporal cycle. It happens when it happens. And it happens to be that it’s happening now.

With inquiries curated from Twitter, the list of questions and answers appears below.

Follow @ProFootballTalk on Twitter for whenever the next open call for questions emerges, and for quick and easy links to all our stories.

From @Organism_46B: If the Texans had traded Watson before all the allegations against him came out, what would have happened? Would the team that got him be able to rescind the trade somehow? Is there language put into terms of the deal automatically to cover this kind of thing?

If the Texans and another team had finalized and formalized a trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson, the new team would have had no recourse against the Texans. The deal would have been done.

Could the teams have included conditions based on number of games played, number of games suspended, placement on paid leave, etc? Yes. But there would have been no reason to consider such conditions before news of the allegations emerged. The trade would have happened, and the new team would have been stuck.

In this specific case, the first word of the initial lawsuit emerged the night before the commencement of the new league year. If the Texans had a tentative deal in place to trade Watson, the new team could have declined to conclude the deal based on the news of the filing of a civil complaint.

The NFL uses a very simple and mechanical trade process. The two teams agree to terms, the two teams independently communicate those terms to the league office, the league office approves the trade (as it almost always does), and the trade becomes official, whether it’s player(s) for player(s), player(s) for pick(s), or pick(s) for pick(s). If a Watson trade had concluded before news of the off-field issue had emerged, the new team would have been standing in the shoes of the Texans.

From @EdwardGillett: Why aren’t people predicting the chargers to be a 10/11 win team this year? Not going crazy over here, but it’s hard to repeat and Chargers were right there vs the chiefs last year and they’re getting Derwin James back. I just might be missing something, but don’t think so.

Oddsmakers have the over-under win total for the Chargers in the range of nine, so there’s an expectation the Chargers will be good this year. The fact that they compete with the Chiefs in the AFC West prevents the Chargers from getting more buzz. The fact that the Rams like to make big splashes overshadows L.A.’s other team, too.

When the Rams traded for Matthew Stafford — and at the same time unloaded Jared Goff‘s ill-advised contract — it seemed that perhaps the Rams were doing whatever they had to do to stay ahead of the AFC team with which the Rams share a stadium. Quarterback Justin Herbert became an instant star in 2020, looking and moving and throwing like a supersized version of Philip Rivers. Then, after the season ended, the Chargers plucked defensive coordinator Brandon Staley from the Rams. Staley could be on his way to becoming one of the best coaches in the league.

It would help if the Chargers can stay healthy. Yes, safety Derwin James is coming back. But for how long will he be back? After starting all 16 games as a rookie, James has played a total of five games in two years. Injuries are inevitable for every team. In recent years, they seem more inevitable for the Chargers.

Their schedule gives them a chance to get off to a good start, beginning with games at Washington then at home against the Cowboys. The first wave of tests comes in Week Three (at Chiefs), Week Five (Browns), and Week Six (at Ravens).

Can the Chargers be a 10- or 11-win team? Yes. Most fans will choose to remain skeptical. Especially if Aaron Rodgers somehow ends up with the Broncos.

From @Pushpal37863123: There are few reports yesterday about a civil lawsuit against Antonio Brown for alleged non payment to a truck there any potential impact of that on this upcoming season. Please share any insight or knowledge you’ve on this.

The lawsuit alleges assault and battery of the moving truck driver. The incident apparently was sparked by Brown balking at the bill tendered by the driver.

Brown already pleaded no contest to criminal charges arising from the situation. The league already has issued discipline. Thus, the lawsuit should not impact Brown for the upcoming season. He already has been punished.

That said, the litigation itself possibly could prompt misbehavior from Brown that gets him in trouble with the league. Brown lost the lawsuit filed after he trashed an apartment in Miami because he behaved poorly within the confines of the case. If, for example, the process of getting grilled by the driver’s lawyer causes Brown to blow a fuse on camera, he could end up with a fresh problem in the eyes of 345 Park Avenue.

From @XXLfromtheShioc: Do you think the Broncos cut [Ja’Wuan] James at the behest of the NFL to send a message going forward to the players to get the camp?

As one team executive (not with Broncos) observed on Saturday, “You can be assured that the league is advising Denver all the way in this.”

Yes, the Broncos have found themselves squarely in the middle of the cold war between the league and the union regarding the attempt to boycott voluntary offseason workouts. Indeed, the league seized on the news of the James injury to send a memo to all teams reminding them of something they already have known for decades; in actuality, that memo was a message to the players. The NFL Players Association responded by calling the memo “gutless” and a “scare tactic.”

Although the Broncos made a smart and prudent business decision by parting ways with a player from whom they received three games for $17 million — and in turn avoiding $15 million in guaranteed pay — the Broncos could have simply kept James on the non-football injury list and declined to pay his salary, one week at a time. They decided instead to make the move now, on the brink of the commencement of Organized Team Activities.

Surely, this approach benefits the other teams when it comes to providing a clear and obvious example of the risks assumed when players choose both to skip voluntary workouts and in turn to work out on their own, despite knowing (or at least they should know) that injuries away from work aren’t covered. The reaction from James hammers that point home, and it has prompted some to wonder whether James will explore pursuing compensation for his lost $10 million from the NFL Players Association, if he can’t get it from the Broncos.

From @MyDropTop: Will Mac Jones start in any games this season?

As Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently said, that will be up to coach Bill Belichick. But even if Belichick never decides to make his first-round draft pick QB1 at any point this season, there’s a chance Jones will eventually play due to an injury suffered by current starter Cam Newton.

The first overall pick in the 2011 draft has played 10 NFL seasons. In five of them, he played in every game. In the other five, he missed at least one. This year, for the first time, there will be 17 regular-season games. Thus, if the over-under for Mac Jones starts in 2021 were 0.5, I’d be inclined to take the over.

From @rational_yankee: Who should be favored to win the NFC East?

DraftKings currently has the Cowboys as +125 favorites to win the division. The defending champions, Washington, have +260 odds.

But while Dallas is favored to win the division, should they be?

Washington quietly has improved this offseason, both via free agency and the draft. Could they have done more at the quarterback position? Sure. But they still should be better than they were last year.

Whether their record reflects that is a different question. Finishing first in the NFC East last season means that they’ll play the Bills, Packers, and Seahawks while the Cowboys, who finished third, will face the Patriots, Vikings, and Cardinals. All teams in the division will play all teams of the AFC West and NFC South, which could result in the eventual champion once again having a sub.-500 record, especially since 8-8 is now off the table.

Washington closes with five straight division games, including two against the Cowboys and two against the Eagles. That’s quite likely the stretch in which the NFC East will be decided.

From @CASTJ1EVP: If the Aaron situation drags out which side would it damage more? I would think the more it drags on the worse it became a public nightmare for the organization.

The Packers hold the cards on this one. With no inclination to trade Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP has two choices — play for the Packers or play for no one. If he chooses to play for no one in 2021, the Packers will be entitled to recover $18.3 million in previously-paid bonus money. Also, the Packers won’t have to worry about Rodgers making them look foolish for letting him play for another team.

Meanwhile, Rodgers seems to be laying the foundation to return to the team for mandatory minicamp or for training camp. If he skips minicamp, the pot will boil. If he doesn’t show up for training camp, the kettle will implode. And the screams from Packers fans will be blood and/or cheese curdling, with most of the venom likely directed at the player who is under contract for three more years and is choosing to breach it.

Never mind the fact that the labor deal gives Rodgers the right to stay away from training camp, along with the right to sit out all of 2021, if he so chooses (and if he’s willing to pay the financial price for doing so). Fans always tend to fall in line behind the laundry, not the players who are always wearing it only temporarily.

From @danrymas: Over/Under for week Fields starts?

In 2017, after the Bears traded up from No. 3 to No. 2 to select Mitchell Trubisky, veteran Mike Glennon started the first four games of the year, before the team turned to the rookie. Now, after the Bears have tried to rectify their decision to leave Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson on the board by trading up from No. 20 to No. 11 to select Justin Fields, the question becomes when, not if, he’ll supplant veteran Andy Dalton.

There’s a different coach this time around, with Matt Nagy replacing John Fox. Perhaps more importantly, there’s an urgency to show that the player in whom the organization entrusted two first-round picks, a fourth-round pick, and a fifth-round pick justifies the selection. Indeed, if Fields can’t beat out Dalton, they shouldn’t have given up so much to get Fields.

The release of the schedule introduces another wrinkle into the equation. The Bears open the season not tucked in the cluster of nine 1:00 p.m. ET kickoffs but on Sunday Night Football, against the Rams. Everyone will be watching. Everyone will be wondering why Fields isn’t playing, if he isn’t playing.

The best-case scenario for the Bears would be to give Fields a crash course in the Matt Nagy offense and get Fields in the game, hopeful that he’ll quickly begin the process of proving the front office right. With so much invested in Fields, why would the Bears do it if they didn’t believe he could be groomed to start from Week One?

If he fails to do so, some will regard that as the first indication that the Bears possibly have made another ill-advised first-round quarterback decision.

So it should be Week One, and the Bears should do all they can to make it Week One.

From @GriffJanssens: Which 1st year coach is going to have the most success?

The 2021 cycle resulted in seven new coaches getting jobs. Whether and to what extent any of them will be a success depends on plenty of factors. Also, for some new coaches, fewer wins will constitute greater success.

For example, if the Chargers go 10-7 (it still feels weird to type that) and the Jets go 8-9, New York coach Robert Saleh will be regarded as being more successful than L.A. coach Brandon Staley. If Texans coach David Culley goes 6-11, he may get coach of the year votes.

If we define success by best record, I’ll go with Staley. If we define it based on coach whose team most exceeds expectations, I’ll go with Saleh.

From @DrJ144: Is Mike McCarthy on the hot seat this season? Most people give Rodgers more credit than him for GB’s success, and McCarthy was able to blame Mike Nolan last year. Does he have any excuses this season?

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Bengals owner Mike Brown don’t have much in common. Here’s one area where they’re similar — they don’t like to pay coaches to not work.

For Jones, he also doesn’t like to admit mistakes. He hired McCarthy less than 18 months ago. It’s unlikely that Jones will bail on McCarthy so quickly.

That won’t keep Jones from constantly being asked about it. Consequently, he may continuously dig his heels in deeper and deeper. Which means that, indeed, he’ll fully and completely support McCarthy, until the precise moment at which Jones no longer does.

From @danrymas: If you were Gutekunst, would you trade Rodgers or keep him? If trade, what’s your minimum asking price? If keep, what salary seems reasonable?

If I’m Packers G.M. Brian Gutekunst, I’d want to trade Aaron Rodgers, for various reasons. Here’s why I’d do it.

First, would I ever get more for him than I’ll get now? Chances are that Rodgers won’t be the league MVP for a second straight season. And he’ll be a year older if I trade him in 2022. The current offseason arguably provides the best chance to maximize the return on the player. By delaying the trade until after June 1, I also would minimize the salary-cap consequences.

Second, I’ve already decided to trade up to get quarterback Jordan Love. I presumably believe in him. Given the widespread criticism of my failure to use the 2020 first- and fourth-round picks on players who could have helped the team get to the Super Bowl and win it last season (and my inability to realize that I should have called Rodgers before doing it), I want to see what Jordan Love can do. If he does whatever I expected him to do when I traded up to draft him, I’ll be vindicated.

Third, I’m pissed off that Rodgers wants me fired. Sure, I’ll say all the right things publicly. Privately, I don’t want the leader of the team to continue to undermine me with whatever he’s saying or texting to teammates or others. Rodgers has the ability to influence plenty of people. He’s apparently trying to influence them to regard me as inept. The sooner he’s no longer on the team I run, the better off I’ll be.

But here’s the problem. Gutekunst isn’t making the final decision on something this big. CEO Mark Murphy will authorize, or not, a trade. From Murphy’s perspective, it’s better to keep Rodgers. It’s better not to let him go to a new team and make Murphy look bad for trading Rodgers. It’s better to not have to worry about Rodgers eventually making his way back to the NFC North, with the Vikings, Lions, or Bears.

Plus, if Rodgers chooses to retire, the Packers pick up nearly $30 million in cash and cap space. There’s value in that, value that necessarily offsets whatever draft picks or players they’d get for letting Rodgers potentially torment the Packers for the next four years or longer.

So Gutekunst should want to trade Rodgers. Murphy should want to keep Rodgers in a spot where he plays either for the Packers or retires.

And if the Packers are inclined to give Rodgers more money, it’s fair to make him the highest-paid player in football. However, the issue isn’t the money he’d make under a new deal but the extent to which a new contract would take away Green Bay’s current power to decide on a year-by-year basis whether to move on from Rodgers, potentially rendering the drafting of Jordan Love moot.

From @hickoryhound: How long before the NFL goes to 2 byes for a season? That would get you to the President’s day 3 day weekend Super Bowl.

The NFL had two byes in 1993. The networks didn’t like it. For that reason, the NFL has resisted trying it again.

The presence of four extra teams since then (Panthers, Jaguars, Browns, Texans) offsets the impact of doubling of the number of weeks that each team would have off, given that the baseline in any given week is now 16 games, not 14.

Don’t be surprised if the two-bye possibility creeps back onto the table, especially as more and more states legalize gambling. Eventually, it will make more sense to have fewer games being played at any one time, and to have as many total windows in a given year for wagering. Adding a second bye instantly provides five more windows.

Then, adding an 18th game and a second bye creates a total of 10 more windows. That could be the eventual outcome. A 20-game regular season, with 18 games and two byes. It’s possible that the NFL will hold the second bye as part of the quid pro quo for the inevitable expansion of the season to 18 games.

After that happens (or possibly before), look for the NFL to start adding more teams. More teams will mean more games will mean more opportunities for legalized betting will mean more money will mean more, more, and more.

Return of the PFT Mailbag originally appeared on Pro Football Talk