Month: March 2023

Lamar Jackson Requests Trade

In the latest development in the ongoing Lamar Jackson saga, the former MVP has made a major announcement. Jackson tweeted Monday morning that, as of earlier this month, he requested a trade from the Ravens.

In an open letter to his fans, Jackson acknowledges that on March 2 he formally asked to be traded from the Ravens. The reason, he adds, is that the organization “has not been interested in meeting my value” with respect to a new contract. The issue of full guarantees in his newest deal has produced a major stalemate between the two sides, and now this public admission that Jackson wishes to continue his career elsewhere.

The 26-year-old has been at the center of speculation in Baltimore for several years now, as a mega-extension has never seemed to be particularly close to being finalized. It has long been believed that Jackson is seeking a fully guaranteed pact matching (if not exceeding) the value of Deshaun Watson‘s five-year, $230MM contract signed last offseason. The Ravens’ decision to not reach that level of compensation was hinted at last summer by owner Steve Bisciotti, and has been confirmed by the subsequent deals they have offered the agent-less Jackson.

The impasse between club and player made it no surprise that the Ravens placed the franchise tag on the two-time Pro Bowler. Since they went the non-exclusive route, other teams are eligible to negotiate with Jackson on a new deal, but Baltimore would have the right to match any offer sheet he signed with an interested suitor. In the event they didn’t, Jackson’s new team would lose its first-round pick in the next two drafts as compensation.

That price has led to several teams bowing out of the running for a pursuit of Jackson via the offer sheet (with the Colts representing a potential exception). Now, however, a tag-and trade possibility exists. Jackson could sign his franchise tender (valued at $32.4MM) to pave the way for a deal sending him to a new team which, presumably, would appeal to him because they would be able to meet his contract demands. The Ravens and the acquiring team would be free to negotiate trade compensation of any kind, but this latest news doesn’t guarantee that a blockbuster deal is on the horizon.

Jackson’s reveal of his trade request came at exactly the time Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was scheduled to speak at the league’s meeting taking place this week. Amidst his reaction to the news of Jackson’s desire to be dealt, Harbaugh reiterated multiple times that he still fully expects Jackson to be the team’s quarterback in 2023 (Twitter links via NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo).

This latest development comes just days after it was reported that Ken Francis – a business associate of Jackson’s, but not a certified agent permitted to negotiate trade or contract terms – was speaking with potential new teams. It was also reported at that time that Jackson was ready to move on from the Ravens, something confirmed by his actions today.

Never in NFL history has a former league MVP under the age of 30 been traded. That would make a move in which the Ravens meet Jackson’s request an historic one, though a somewhat familiar path to the one taken last spring with wideout Marquise Brown. The latter was traded at the draft in 2022, and it was soon learned after that deal that Brown had asked to be moved. Jackson’s situation is different, of course, but a swap involving him would obviously mark another major alteration to the team’s offense.

This situation could, on the other hand, play out more similarly to the one concerning 49ers star Deebo Samuel last year. Samuel requested a trade after contract talks initially failed to produce a new deal, but the team made it clear they were not interested in dealing him. The two sides later came to an agreement on a big-ticket extension, though a repeat of that would involve a much larger pact in Jackson’s case. How the Ravens (and potential Jackson destinations) react to this news will steer this saga into its next phase.

Sean McDermott To Call Bills’ Defensive Plays

After the announced departure of defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the Bills were in need of a plan for who would be calling plays on defense. General manager Brandon Beane confirmed that the team wouldn’t search externally for a replacement, leaving the responsibility of determining the role to head coach Sean McDermott. Well, according to Mike Giardi of NFL Network, McDermott will be shouldering the role himself.

Two other coaches on staff were considered to be top candidates for the play-calling responsibilities. Senior defensive assistant Al Holcomb recently joined the Bills’ staff after serving as interim defensive coordinator for the Panthers last season. Defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator John Butler was also thought to be worthy of consideration. Butler is extremely well-regarded as a defensive coach and had served as defensive coordinator during his time at Penn State.

Ultimately, Buffalo will turn to its skipper to take on the added responsibility. McDermott is obviously one of the more respected minds in football after helping to turn the Bills into a genuine contender. He also earned his position as head coach after stints as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator (2009-10) and the Panthers’ defensive coordinator (2011-16). McDermott had two strong seasons with the Panthers, fielding the second-best defense in yards and points allowed in 2013 and the sixth-best defense in yards and points allowed in 2015, when Carolina went the Super Bowl.

The Bills will certainly miss Frazier, who led a Bills defense that has allowed the fewest yards in each of the past two seasons while allowing the fewest points in 2021 and the second-fewest points in 2022. But Buffalo has a capable leader who will step up and attempt to keep the Bills defense at the top of the league.

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst Addresses Aaron Rodgers Situation

The Packers have been entrenched in their drama with Aaron Rodgers for years now. With the end seemingly drawing nearer and nearer, general manager Brian Gutekunst gave some comments to the media today.

Primarily, Gutekunst confirmed what we all presumed, that he expects Jordan Love to take over as starting quarterback for the Packers in 2023. While he admitted that there were unknowns to be dealt with, mainly the pending trade deal shipping Rodgers to New York, everything is trending toward an offense centered around Love, according to Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Additionally, Gutekunst added that he is not necessitating a first-round pick in exchange for Rodgers. He stated that he wants a fair value for Rodgers, whom he called a “premier” player, but claimed that he isn’t drawing a line at the first round.

Gutekunst was also asked some hard-hitting questions from The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman about the team’s inability to communicate with Rodgers and Rodgers’ displeasure concerning the perception that the Packers were shopping him out, and Gutekunst didn’t shy away from the answers. Gutekunst basically asserted that they attempted to reach out after the season and, after they failed to reach him or get a response, Gutekunst “had to do (his) job.”

“Certainly, whenever a player may have issues, you prefer that they talk to you directly and not do it in the media,” Gutekunst said Monday, via Schneidman“But that’s not necessarily the way he goes about it and that’s okay.”

Gutekunst’s efforts to reach Rodgers were an attempt to discuss the future of the franchise and Rodgers’s part in it. After the season, though, he was only able to reach Rodgers’s representatives. After Gutekunst talked with the veteran’s representation, Rodgers asked for the trade, leading to the limbo that Green Bay is currently in. Most parties involved are going about their business as if Rodgers is a member of the Jets already. It’s only a matter of compensation at this point.

Saints Sign WR Bryan Edwards

The Saints have reunited new quarterback Derek Carr with a former Raiders teammate, signing wide receiver Bryan Edwards to a new contract, according to executive vice president and general manager Mickey Loomis. Edwards will be joining his fourth team in as many years in the league.

The former third-round pick out of South Carolina easily had his best year during his sophomore season with Carr. That year he caught 34 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns. Following that season, though, Edwards was traded to the Falcons along with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a fifth-round pick. His tenure in Atlanta was quite short as he was released after only seven appearances. He signed with the Chiefs’ practice squad but was released again at the end of the regular season, failing to appear in a contest for Kansas City.

Edwards immediately adds depth to the Saints’ receiving corps and is a candidate to return to the level of production that he originally had with Carr. At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, Edwards also provides the size that New Orleans has sorely missed anytime Michael Thomas is out of the lineup. Besides Thomas, Edwards will also be competing with Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, and Tre’Quan Smith for targets.

The Saints were searching for further depth at wide receiver, specifically eyeing Edwards, and they got him. They’ll hope that reuniting Edwards with the quarterback who has done the most for him in the past will elevate Edwards from his recent struggles.

Broncos Sought Second-Round Pick For Courtland Sutton; Jackson, Murray On Radar

Sean Payton did his best to confirm, despite persistent trade rumors, Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton would be part of the Broncos’ equation in 2023. The team has long been linked to wanting a first-round pick for Jeudy; its ask on Sutton was (is?) not far off.

Denver wanted a second-round pick in exchange for Sutton, Mike Klis of 9News reports. A former Pro Bowler, Sutton has shown flashes of high-end play. The Broncos’ years-long quarterback issue has held both Jeudy and Sutton back, and the latter is attached to what has become midlevel money at the position. This and the receiver trade market not being what it was in 2022 has generated Sutton buzz.

But Sutton is also four years older than Jeudy; the SMU product is going into his age-28 season. The 6-foot-4 wideout is attached to a $14MM base salary in 2023. Sutton has manageable cap hits, considering the receiver market’s explosion in the months after he signed his $15MM-per-year extension in fall 2021, but that salary is lofty for teams to consider parting with a second-round choice.

The Broncos should not be viewed as dead-set against trading one of their starting wide receivers, though the Browns and Cowboys — each a Jeudy suitor — have moved on. The Patriots and Giants also were in on Jeudy at various points since last year’s trade deadline. Sutton’s market has been quieter, but the Broncos — due to the Payton and Russell Wilson trades — do not pick until the third round. Payton said this component has brought teams to inquire about the team’s top receivers; the new Broncos HC added that he does not view this coming wideout draft class as particularly impressive.

Another player who could be part of Denver’s 2023 offense: Latavius Murray, who figured to remain on the radar due to Payton’s ties with him. Broncos GM George Paton, while expressing that new signing Samaje Perine will be the team’s go-to guy if Javonte Williams (ACL) is not ready to start the season, said (via the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson) the team still likes Murray.

The former Raiders 1,000-yard rusher came in and played effectively for the Broncos, his fifth NFL team. Murray, 33, led the Broncos with 703 rushing yards, even as he arrived just ahead of Week 6. While Kareem Hunt remains available, Murray’s Saints past and undoubtedly lower asking price compared to the former rushing champion opens the door to another Broncos deal.

The Broncos have another 30-something on the radar to stay. Kareem Jackson has signed three Broncos contracts; the team has not ruled out a fourth. Paton added (via Klis) the Broncos have been in contact with the veteran DB’s representatives.

Jackson, who signed a three-year deal worth $33MM in 2019, has been a Denver safety starter over the past four seasons. Next season would be Jackson’s age-35 slate, but he has started 61 games for the Broncos. Jackson did arrive just after Vance Joseph‘s first Denver tenure wrapped, and the team has rookie-contract safety Caden Sterns as a potential option opposite Justin Simmons. But Jackson has signed for less money on each of his most recent deals. He took a pay cut from $5MM to $2MM in 2022.

Jets Willing To Give Up Second-Round Pick For Aaron Rodgers

The Jets and Packers remain engaged in trade talks on Aaron Rodgers; this week’s league meetings will allow for additional time for the sides to produce a resolution. While Douglas said Monday no timetable is in place, the Jets GM acknowledged progress has occurred.

Another Jets transaction may have changed the Rodgers talks. In trading Elijah Moore, the Jets obtained an additional second-round pick (No. 43 overall) from the Browns. They are willing to give up that pick for Rodgers, Armando Salguero of notes, but have thus far refused to part with their first-rounder (No. 13 overall). The Packers want a first-rounder in this trade.

Gang Green is also likely prepared to part with a conditional draft asset down the road, Salguero adds. That choice’s value could be a sticking point as well. When asked about parting with the No. 13 pick in this deal, Douglas did not shoot down that prospect, nor did he address which picks have been discussed. But the veteran Jets GM said that selection will give the team a chance to “bring in a strong player,” while confirming (via The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt) the Jets and Packers’ talks are not where they need to be yet.

Fifteen years ago, the Jets sent the Packers a conditional draft choice — which ended up a 2009 third-rounder — for Brett Favre. The Packers are positioned to land more for Rodgers, who made it clear he is ready to join the Jets. The Packers are moving forward with Jordan Love, but they want better draft capital than the Jets have offered. They also want “cap-related concessions” in this deal, Salguero adds.

It would cost the Packers just more than $40MM to trade Rodgers before June 1. While that dead-money number drops considerably (to $15.8MM) on a deal after that date, the Packers look to be targeting more than just draft capital from the Jets, who would — absent any contract maneuvering — have Rodgers on their 2023 cap sheet at barely $15MM in 2023. The Jets are, assuming they finish this trade, prepared to pay Rodgers’ roughly $59MM bonus negotiated into his three-year, $150.8MM extension agreed to last March.

Leverage in the form of a Lamar Jackson pursuit could have been an option for the Jets, but Douglas joined the host of teams preparing to stand down on the Ravens’ disgruntled quarterback. Praising Jackson but not wanting to negotiate with the Packers in bad faith, as they are far down the Rodgers road, Douglas said (via the New York Post’s Brian Costello) the Jets will not pursue him. Hit with the franchise tag, Jackson has requested a trade.

Jackson would likely have been a Jets consideration had he requested a trade in January or February, SNY’s Connor Hughes adds (video link). The team met with Derek Carr, but its Rodgers meeting took place a day after Carr signed with the Saints. It would seem the Jets could still pivot to Jackson, though the former MVP would cost far more in a trade and require a monster extension. But they are pot-committed to Rodgers at this point. That represents good news for the Packers. While Green Bay is certainly taking a risk with its Rodgers-to-Love transition, the team is set to collect a premium draft choice for a player no longer in its plans.

Bills To Add RB Damien Harris

MARCH 27: Buffalo has managed to add Harris at just $1.7MM, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Harris will receive $1MM fully guaranteed, per OverTheCap. This deal checks in at slightly less than what Singletary received from the Texans and further illustrates the grim market that awaited most of this year’s running backs.

MARCH 20: Brandon Beane said another running back would be on the Bills’ radar. Shortly after starter Devin Singletary joined the Texans, the Bills are making their addition.

Former Patriots starter Damien Harris will sign a one-year deal with the Bills, Adam Schefter of tweets. The former third-round pick played out his New England rookie contract in 2022.

Although Harris did not hit free agency with much momentum, the Bills observed his better work up close in 2021. Harris totaled 15 rushing touchdowns during his third season, when he rushed for 929 yards at 4.6 a clip. The Alabama product will join James Cook and Nyheim Hines in Buffalo’s backfield, which has gone through some changes since the team rolled out a Singletary-Zack Moss duo for two-plus seasons.

Beane said a bigger back to complement Cook would be the likely move, and while Harris (213 pounds) should not be confused size-wise with Derrick Henry, the Patriots used him as a between-the-tackles runner during his two seasons as their primary starter (2020-21). Harris finished with five 100-yard rushing games during his 15-start 2021 season. The most memorable one probably came in Buffalo, when Bill Belichick pulled passes out of his game plan on a windy night. Harris amassed 111 rushing yards on just 10 carries during the Pats’ upset win in Buffalo, and he topped the century mark against the Bills two weeks later — in a loss in Foxborough — as well.

Last season, Harris dealt with hamstring and thigh injuries that cost him six games. He did not play the same role as he had in 2021, however, as Rhamondre Stevenson began to take over as New England’s primary back. The Pats still have Stevenson on his rookie contract through 2024, and they added ex-Jaguars 1,000-yard rusher James Robinson last week. The Robinson addition pointed Harris out of town, and he should have an opportunity to be a regular part of Buffalo’s offense in 2023.

The Bills used Singletary as their primary back for most of his four-year stay. Cook showed flashes late last season and will likely play a bigger part in Buffalo’s run game next season, but Harris should be expected to be part of the equation.

49ers To Pick Up Brandon Aiyuk’s Fifth-Year Option; Trade Interest Emerging For WR

Add Brandon Aiyuk to the list of wide receivers generating trade interest this offseason. The 49ers have fielded inquiries from multiple teams on the former first-round pick, but John Lynch plans to keep him in San Francisco.

The 49ers are also planning to pick up Aiyuk’s fifth-year option for 2024, Lynch said. That figure, per the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch, is set to come in at $14.12MM. Aiyuk is set to count just $3.9MM against the 49ers’ 2023 cap, which certainly helps drive some trade interest.

Brandon’s been excellent for us. I’d be shocked if we didn’t,” Lynch said Monday at the league meetings regarding the fifth-year option decision. “We still have some time … we’re still discussing, but it probably makes sense to do that for Brandon. He’s a really good player. He’s a guy we’re very fortunate to have and he’s just coming into his own, too. He’s only going to get better. So we’re excited about watching Brandon move forward with us.”

As Lynch confirmed what had long been assumed — Trent Williams‘ top-market salary impeded the team from paying Mike McGlinchey — teams will naturally wonder if the 49ers will be open to dealing Aiyuk months after they extended Deebo Samuel, who signed a three-year, $71.6MM deal last August. The 49ers also have a record-setting Nick Bosa extension in sight this offseason.

Lynch said “a lot of people” have asked about Aiyuk at the various league gatherings, but the 49ers plan to have he and Samuel back. The 49ers join the Bengals (Tee Higgins), Chargers (Keenan Allen) and Broncos (Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton) to shoot down trade interest in wide receivers. These stances do not guarantee no trade will commence, but it will certainly take a big offer to convince the teams to change their minds.

Chosen in the space between Jeudy and Higgins’ slots in 2020 (No. 25 overall), Aiyuk has continued to progress. Despite his name not coming up as often as Jeudy’s in trade talks, Aiyuk has beaten the Denver wideout in eclipsing the 1,000-yard barrier. The Arizona State product, who is going into his age-25 season, tallied a career-high 1,015 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last year.

McGlinchey, who signed a five-year deal worth $87.5MM with the Broncos this month, said in an piece Kyle Shanahan informed him the team was considering a trade that would have shipped him out last year. At the time, McGlinchey was coming off a season-ending quad injury. That indication, one that stemmed from the price the 49ers expected him to fetch on the open market, came ahead of McGlinchey’s fifth-year option season. Aiyuk is not at that point on his timeline, but a trade will be something to monitor — with Samuel signed through 2025 — regarding Aiyuk. Though, the 49ers being off Jimmy Garoppolo‘s contract may affect their interest in having both Samuel and Aiyuk on veteran deals.

Jets Interested In C Ben Jones

MARCH 27: Having brought in Jones’ former position coach this offseason, Douglas confirmed Monday (via SNY’s Connor Hughes) the team is indeed interested in signing the veteran center.

MARCH 26: The Jets’ pursuit of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been one of the NFL’s biggest storylines in 2023. A resolution to the Rodgers situation will obviously remain the top priority for both Green Bay and New York, but even assuming the Jets ultimately land Rodgers as expected, they will still need to determine who is snapping the ball to him.

Connor McGovern, who has operated as Gang Green’s starting center over the past three years, is now out of contract. He remains unsigned, and there have been no public reports of interest in his services despite his starting experience, durability, and the fact that he has achieved average or better grades from Pro Football Focus in each of his professional seasons outside of his rookie campaign in 2017.

Still, it does not appear as if a new contract for McGovern is Plan A for GM Joe Douglas. Instead, as Brian Costello of the New York Post reported last week, the Jets appear to be interested in Ben Jones (Twitter link). Jones, a longtime starting pivot for the Titans, was released by the club earlier this month, and as former Tennessee OL coach Keith Carter is now with the Jets, there is an obvious connection to be made.

Prior to missing five games last season, Jones, an 11-year veteran, had been a model of durability for the Titans. He missed just one game in his first six Tennessee slates, becoming a central part of Derrick Henry‘s two rushing titles and the team’s Mike Vrabel-era resurgence. Jones’ 108 starts at center are the most in Titans history.

Now 33, Jones has been consistently rated by PFF as a top-10 center, a trend that continued in 2022 despite the fact that he suffered two concussions during the season. Jones was said to be contemplating retirement as a result of those injuries, though we have not heard anything on that front one way or another in recent weeks.

The center market has been fairly team-friendly this offseason, so the Jets could likely acquire Jones for a modest price relative to his experience and abilities. Rich Cimini of confirmed today that the Georgia product is a consideration for Douglas & Co.

New York has already added a possible center option in Trystan Colon-Castillo, but it appears the team wants a more proven talent at the position (which makes sense given the likely Rodgers acquisition). And although Wes Schweitzer is now on hand to offer experienced depth across the O-line, he does not profile as a starting-caliber option as a snapper.