PFR Originals

Poll: Will Patrick Mahomes Get $40MM/Year?

Patrick Mahomes is Super Bowl bound. He’s also in line for a monumental payday. 

Last year, at the age of 23-and-a-third, Mahomes became the league’s youngest MVP since Dan Marino won the award in 1984. He didn’t disappoint in his encore, either. The grizzled 24-year-old threw for for 4,031 yards with 26 touchdowns against just five interceptions in 2019. He also threw in some dazzling running plays, for good measure, resulting in two more scores and 15 first downs.

His incomparable skillset and early accomplishments point to a historic contract. The NFL’s all-time average annual value (AAV) record is made to be broken and routinely shattered each year, sometimes by quarterbacks who are not considered to be among the league’s very best. Mahomes’ case is decidedly different – he’s simply from another planet, and some execs think he’ll cross the $40MM/year threshold.

I think he’s gonna get $40MM [per year], either over four or five years,” one NFC personnel evaluator told ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler.

Another NFC exec with negotiating experience mostly echoed that sentiment:”If Russell Wilson is at $35MM, then probably $37.5MM.”

Wilson’s deal with the Seahawks calls for $140MM across four years. Rams QB Jared Goff isn’t far behind with $134MM over the same stretch, with a whopping $110MM in guaranteed cash. Carson Wentz fell just shy with his four-year, $128MM Eagles extension. There will be new additions to this tier – including Cowboys QB Dak Prescott – but Mahomes is poised to top Prescott’s deal (whenever that happens) and set a watermark that won’t be approached for a while.

Mahomes’ rookie deal runs through 2020 and the Chiefs hold his fifth-year option to take him through 2021. Still, league officials say time is of the essence for KC.

If I were [the Chiefs], I would be as proactive as humanly possible,” one exec told Fowler. “If Jared Goff can get no offset language in his entire contract after three years in the league, then this specific player has all the leverage. I think $40MM would be Mahomes selling himself short.”

Will Mahomes net $40MM per year, or more, on his next deal? Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which NFL Team Made The Best Hire?

This year’s head coaching cycle came and went in a flash. The Redskins, Cowboys, Panthers, and Giants moved quickly to find their new sideline leaders and the Browns weren’t far behind as they filled their vacancy on January 11th.

Now that the dust has settled, we want your take on the best hire of the bunch:

Ron Rivera, RedskinsThe Panthers axed Rivera in early December, just before he could finish his ninth season at the helm. Quickly, the Redskins identified him as their top target to take over for interim head coach Bill Callahan, who had been holding down the fort since Jay Gruden‘s midseason dismissal. The Panthers struggled in 2019 without one-time MVP Cam Newton under center, but Rivera comes to D.C. with an impressive resume that includes four playoff appearances, three NFC South titles, and a Super Bowl appearance. The Redskins, meanwhile, haven’t been to the big game since their Super Bowl XXVI victory over the Bills following the 1991 season. Or, to put it another way – more than five years before quarterback Dwayne Haskins was born.

Mike McCarthy, CowboysDuring the season, many speculated that the Cowboys would make a splash by luring former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer out of retirement. Instead, once the Cowboys finally fired Jason Garrett, they restricted their search to experienced NFL head coaches. Only two candidates formally interviewed for the job and McCarthy got the nod over longtime Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. McCarthy clashed with Aaron Rodgers down the stretch in Green Bay, but he’s also credited with grooming him into one of the league’s top quarterbacks. The Cowboys are hopeful that McCarthy can have a similar impact on Dak Prescott’s development.

Matt Rhule, PanthersThe Panthers backed up a Brinks truck to hire former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule is credited with turning around the Baylor program and, before that, the Temple program. Despite his lack of pro experience, teams have been eyeing him for the last couple of years. He was also hot during the last cycle, but a would-be deal with the Jets was nixed when Gang Green insisted on picking his assistants for him. This time around, Rhule had all the leverage he needed to get full control over his staff, and a lucrative contract that could pay him anywhere between $60 and $70MM.

Joe Judge, GiantsThe Giants were infatuated with Rhule, but they were only willing to go so far. They were also blown away by Judge, who previously served as the Patriots’ special teams coach. Judge didn’t have the household name value of other candidates, but the Giants see him as someone who can handle the New York press and get the most out of young QB Daniel Jones.

Kevin Stefanski, Browns: Stefanski joined the Vikings in 2006 and climbed the ladder to become the team’s offensive coordinator midway through the 2018 season. In 2019, Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points while the the trio of Dalvin CookAlexander Mattison, and Mike Boone cracked the top six in rushing yards and touchdowns. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins turned in one of his best seasons yet. The Browns have one of the game’s most promising young QBs in Baker Mayfield and a talented backfield group, so they saw Stefanski as a perfect fit, even though the Vikings came up short in the round.

Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comments.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Not as many head coaching vacancies have emerged this year, compared to a fourth of the league hiring new HCs in 2019. But there are a few teams going through the process presently (and another taking its time in getting started).

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1/11/20, 2:43pm CT

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

  • Mike McCarthy, former head coach (Packers): Hired
  • Marvin Lewis, former head coach (Bengals): Interviewed 1/4
  • Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator (Patriots): Cowboys interested?

New York Giants

Washington Redskins

  • Ron Rivera, former head coach (Panthers): Hired

Poll: Should The Seahawks Sign Antonio Brown?

The Seahawks were dealt a bad blow this week when Josh Gordon was banned indefinitely by the NFL. Down a major deep threat, could they consider signing Antonio Brown, the game’s most talented and controversial free agent?

Mike Florio of PFT touched on the possibility today, while noting the obvious barriers: Brown is still waiting to find out whether he’ll be hit with a suspension of his own and the PR backlash would be enormous.

The Seahawks did their “due diligence” on Brown before claiming Gordon this year, but it’s not clear what they uncovered in their own investigation. Meanwhile, teams interested in Brown have been in a holding pattern as they await word on the wide receiver’s status from the NFL.

The belief is that if Brown is signed, the league will instantly place him on paid leave. But, if the Seahawks were to sign Brown after Week 17, there would be no real financial risk, since his compensation would be limited to just his playoff share.

With all of that said, the potential upside is enormous. Brown has caught 841 passes for 11,253 yards over the course of his ten-year career, which includes seven Pro Bowl appearances. And, in his last playoff game (January 14, 2018), reeled in seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. That’s the kind of weapon Russell Wilson could use as the Seahawks gear up for their 2019/2020 push.

Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Who Will Get The No. 1 Overall Pick In 2020?

With only four weeks left in the 2019 regular season, a number of non-contending NFL teams have already started to look ahead to the impending offseason, and specifically, the 2020 draft. Four teams — the Bengals, Giants, Dolphins, and Redskins — still have a realistic chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft, according to Football Outsiders’ odds.

Let’s take a look at each of those teams and assess the likelihood that they’ll be picking first overall next April:

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Record: 1-11
  • 59.6% chance of securing No. 1 overall pick per FO
  • Remaining schedule: Browns, Patriots, Dolphins, Browns

The Bengals didn’t exactly head into the 2019 campaign with the intention of tanking, but that’s what’s happened, as Cincinnati didn’t secure its first victory until last week. With Andy Dalton now back under center, the Bengals certainly stand a better chance of winning another game or two than they would have under rookie three-game starter Ryan Finley. But there’s still a very real — and perhaps even likely scenario — in which Cincinnati finished 1-15 en route to selecting LSU quarterback Joe Burrow first overall.

New York Giants

  • Record: 2-10
  • 22.7% chance of securing No. 1 overall pick
  • Remaining schedule: Eagles, Dolphins, Redskins, Eagles

Like the Bengals, the Giants are also turning back to their old starter, albeit involuntarily. With Daniel Jones nursing an ankle sprain, Eli Manning could potentially start Big Blue’s four remaining games. They’ll get to face the reeling Eagles twice over the next four weeks, and will also go up against two other clubs — Miami and Washington — which are also vying for the No. 1 pick. With Jones already in tow, New York isn’t going to draft another quarterback, so it could either trade down (not a favorite tactic of general manager Dave Gettleman) or select a generational defender like Ohio State’s Chase Young with the first overall pick.

Miami Dolphins

  • Record: 3-9
  • 8.5% chance of securing No. 1 overall pick
  • Remaining schedule: Jets, Giants, Bengals, Patriots

The Dolphins’ tanking efforts haven’t exactly gone according to plan, but that’s okay, as Miami’s players have continued to go hard for first-year head coach Brian Flores, with the club winning three of its last five games. While it doesn’t appear the Dolphins are going to secure the top pick in next year’s draft, they do still have an outside shot at doing so, especially given that they’ll play both the Giants and Bengals over the next month.

Washington Redskins

  • Record: 3-9
  • 7.9% chance of securing No. 1 overall pick
  • Remaining schedule: Packers, Eagles, Giants, Cowboys

The only team on this list that will definitively have a new head coach in 2020, the Redskins probably lost any chance they had at the No. 1 pick by surprisingly defeating the Panthers in Week 13 (and may have gotten Carolina head coach Ron Rivera fired in the process). Of all the teams vying for the first overall pick, Washington faces arguably the most difficult schedule, as they’ll square off with three teams that are still contending for the postseason.

So what do you think? Which of these teams will be first at the podium when the 2020 draft rolls? Vote below (link for app users):

Poll: Who Will Earn NFC’s No. 1 Seed?

The NFC’s contender class (non-NFC East contingent) has separated from the pack, giving the conference a clear top five going into December. With the NFC-leading 49ers set for a historically brutal late-season stretch, cases can be made for each of the top five moving to the home-field advantage bracket position.

While the Cowboys and Eagles are almost certainly vying for the conference’s No. 4 seed, the 49ers, Saints, Seahawks, Packers and Vikings comprise one of the more interesting pursuits of a conference’s No. 1 slot in recent memory. Week 17 in the NFC may not feature many starters resting.

Armed with the ninth-best defensive DVOA figure through 11 games in the Football Outsiders-developed metric’s 34-season history, the 49ers carry a 10-1 record into the regular season’s final month. They made a statement in the first leg of their difficult three-game stretch, a defensive line-keyed rout of the Packers, but still have games in Baltimore and New Orleans (both oddly staying in the early-Sunday time slot) on tap. The 49ers also conclude their season with a Seattle trip. They have not won in Seattle since 2011, when Tarvaris Jackson was at the controls for the Seahawks, and have not earned a playoff bye in seven years.

While the 49ers have the NFL’s second-toughest schedule remaining, the Seahawks’ remaining SOS is not much easier. Their final five games double as the seventh-most difficult stretch run. Seattle (9-2, No. 8 in DVOA) is 9-2 but won in San Francisco during a 6-0 road start. Following their home tilt against the Vikings, who lost in Seattle on a Monday night in December 2018, the Seahawks have a road Rams game scheduled before meetings with the Panthers and Cardinals.

New Orleans does not have it any easier, with the league’s fifth-toughest slate remaining. After the 49ers, however, the Saints (10-2, No. 6 in DVOA) face the Colts at home before outdoor games in Nashville and Charlotte. Since 1994, only the Seahawks (2013-14) and Eagles (2002-04) have earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed in back-to-back years. Illustrating the stakes for the Saints: they are 6-1 at home in the playoffs under Sean Payton, with the loss obviously coming in controversial fashion last season, and 1-5 on the road during the Payton-Drew Brees era.

The Vikings (8-3, No. 7 DVOA) sit 11th in the December SOS rankings but do have each of their divisional home games remaining, with a “road” game against the Chargers mixed in. Were they to stick the landing and reach the playoffs, it would mark an extraordinarily rare run. With no Viking quarterback helping the team to two postseason berths since Daunte Culpepper, Kirk Cousins guiding Minnesota to January football would make six different starting quarterbacks since Culpepper’s 2004 season to lead the Vikings to the playoffs.

With two of their worst offensive games of the decade occurring in November trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Packers (8-3, No. 10 DVOA) have cooled off considerably. They do, however, have by far the easiest road to January among the NFC’s premier quintet. Only the Eagles and Browns face a worse run of opponents than the Packers, who draw the Giants, Redskins, Bears and Lions. The Packers have not earned a playoff bye in five years but appear a stealth threat to make such a push this season.

So which of the NFC’s powers will end up securing home-field advantage? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts on this race in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which AFC .500-Or-Worse Team Has Best Chance At Playoff Berth?

Once again, the NFC has presented more depth this season. Two current non-division-leading teams have eight wins, raising the floor for what it will take to bring road whites to a postseason game in that conference. The AFC has a few obvious contenders, but several teams can be included on “In the hunt” graphics despite .500-or-worse records.

Prior to seeing the Colts start 1-5 and make the playoffs last season, the AFC saw the 1-5 2015 Chiefs go 11-5. This season may not feature a second-half surge on that level, but the conference has a few teams occupying its middle class that are not yet building for the future.

If the season ended today, two teams in the 6-4 Colts-Texans-Raiders contingent would make the playoffs. But the Titans (5-5), Steelers (5-5), Browns (4-6) and Jaguars (4-6) are still technically in the race. Of the 163 teams to start 4-6 in the six-team playoff era (1990-present), only 13 (8%) made the playoffs. That number jumps up to 29% (40-for-138) for 5-5 teams.

Tennessee, which benched Marcus Mariota during a 16-0 shutout loss in Denver, has rallied under Ryan Tannehill. The former Dolphins starter has completed 71% of his passes and has helped the Titans to wins in three of his four starts. The Titans rank fourth in run-defense DVOA but among these fringe contenders sport the lowest overall DVOA ranking (23rd), though some of that stems from Mariota’s starts. Tennessee is also this quartet’s only team with a positive point differential at plus-6. (The Raiders, for reference, have a minus-25 differential.) The Titans close their season with five winning teams on their schedule — by far the toughest among this group.

The Steelers and Browns each play two teams with winning records apiece down the stretch. Neither has presented a particularly formidable passing attack, the latter’s struggles representing one of this season’s biggest surprises given Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry being on Baker Mayfield‘s side. An offense-geared team for the past several years, Pittsburgh ranks third in defense DVOA and 28th offensively. But will the T.J. Watt– and Minkah Fitzpatrick-powered unit be enough to aid Mason Rudolph (31st in Total QBR) to any kind of relevant stretch run? The Browns have won two straight and have three games left against the Bengals and Dolphins, but Freddie Kitchens‘ team has proven to be unreliable and undisciplined. And that was with former defensive player of the year candidate Myles Garrett, who is likely out for the season’s remainder.

Although the Jaguars may look like the longest-odds team here, they outflank each of these mid-pack outfits with a No. 16 DVOA ranking. Most of that work came with Gardner Minshew at quarterback, but three of the Jags’ wins came against the Bengals, Jets and Broncos. Jacksonville also has yielded 200-plus rushing yards on three occasions, undercutting D.J. Chark‘s breakout season and Leonard Fournette‘s bounce-back effort somewhat. But Jacksonville also faces just two teams with winning records (Oakland, Indianapolis) down the stretch. Nick Foles also has a notable history of late-season rallies.

With the Bills already 7-3 and the Raiders playing just one team with a winning record the rest of the way, this year’s AFC might be feature a thinner playoff pursuit. But which of these aforementioned teams has the best chance of staying in the playoff race well into December? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts on this year’s playoff race in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Is Jalen Ramsey Worth Two First-Round Picks?

Jalen Ramsey wants out. The Jaguars, meanwhile, don’t necessarily want to let him go. 

The Jags’ star cornerback has been frustrated for some time – he’s been openly campaigning for a top-of-the-market extension, but the Jaguars have been mostly unwilling to have serious talks with him. Then, this season, he had a major blowup with head coach Doug Marrone.

On the field, Ramsey is upset that he has been utilized in zone coverage, even though he ranks as one of the league’s best man-to-man defenders. Off the field, he wants to secure the bag, though he no longer wants that bag to come from the willing hands of owner Shad Khan.

With that in mind, the Jaguars seem to be following the old axiom of “Don’t tell them no. Tell ’em how much it’ll cost.” The asking price was initially set at two first-round picks for Ramsey. Now, it has advanced to two first-round picks, plus moreThe Jaguars did secure an offer of two first-round picks, but they declined, because the offer came from a contending club that is likely to pick near the backend of the draft.

Reportedly, it will take an “astronomical” offer for the Jags to part with him, but that could just be an attempt by the Jaguars to improve their leverage. Meanwhile, roughly every other team in the NFL has at least some interest, but they’re scared off by the draft capital required since acquiring Ramsey would also mean giving him a fat contract.

Of course, a first-round pick from, say, the Patriots, does not carry the same value as a first-round pick from, say, the Dolphins. But – we want to know: if you were an NFL GM, would you be willing to cough up two first-round picks for Ramsey, with the knowledge that you would also have to give him an extension north of $75MM?

Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comments.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Waiver Priority For Week 4

Starting today, the NFL’s waiver claim order will be reflective of 2019 records, rather than 2018, as ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. As is the case with the NFL Draft, the order of priority is inverted based on win/loss record.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Waiver System, Explained]

In cases of ties – and there are many at this stage of the season – they are broken by the cumulative record of the team’s previous opponents. For example, the Redskins and Broncos’ (0-3) opponents have a combined record of 6-3, they have priority over the Jets, whose opponents are 7-2. If two teams with the same record, and same opponent record, happen to claim the same player, the dispute is settled with a coin toss (h/t to Field).

With that in mind, and with serious help from Sam Robinson, here’s the full rundown of every team’s current waiver priority as we get set for Week 4:

T-1. Broncos (0-3)
T-1. Redskins (0-3)
3. Jets (0-3)
T-4. Bengals (0-3)
T-4. Dolphins (0-3)
T-4. Steelers (0-3)
7. Cardinals (0-2-1)
8. Eagles (1-2)
T-9. Browns (1-2)
T-9. Titans (1-2)
11. Panthers (1-2)
T-12. Buccaneers (1-2)
T-12. Falcons (1-2)
T-12. Raiders (1-2)
15. Jaguars (1-2)
16. Chargers (1-2)
17. Giants (1-2)
T-18. Colts (2-1)
T-18. Bears (2-1)
20. Ravens (2-1)
21. Texans (2-1)
T-22. Seahawks (2-1)
T-22. Vikings (2-1)
24. Saints (2-1)
25. Lions (2-0-1)
26. Patriots (3-0)
T-27. 49ers (3-0)
T-27. Bills (3-0)
T-27. Cowboys (3-0)
30. Rams (3-0)
31. Chiefs (3-0)
32. Packers (3-0)

Biggest Roster Weakness: NFC South

The 2019 regular season is right around the corner, but every NFL team still has at least one position on its roster that could use improvement. And there’s still plenty of time to address those areas of need! Free agents are readily available on the open market, while preseason trades provide another avenue of player procurement. 19 NFL trades were executed between August 1st and September 1st of 2018, and that number could increase this year.

Let’s take a look at the weakest positional group — and a potential solution — for each NFL club. Today we’ll examine the NFC South:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Weakness: Defensive tackle depth. When healthy, the Falcons boast one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, so finding a true weak area was admittedly difficult. But defensive tackle is a roster spot where Atlanta could potentially use a few more bodies behind star Grady Jarrett. At present, former Saint Tyeler Davison is projected to start next to Jarrett, while Jack Crawford, Deadrin Senat, and reclamation project Ra’Shede Hageman will also see time.
  • Solution: Sign Mike Pennel. Surprisingly released by the Patriots earlier this week, Pennel is a 6’4″, 330-pound mammoth who would give the Falcons size on the interior. Now 28 years old, Pennel spent the past two seasons with the Jets as a rotational defensive tackle, and last year graded as the NFL’s No. 15 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus, which lauded Pennel’s strength in run defense. Pennel will almost surely land a new contract before the regular season begins, so Atlanta should act quickly.

Carolina Panthers

  • Weakness: Backup quarterback. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera expects Cam Newton to be ready for Week 1 after the veteran quarterback suffered a foot injury during the preseason, but Newton has now already broken the injury seal. Newton, of course, struggled with a shoulder issue in 2018 and was deactivated for the season’s final two games, allowing backups Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen to start one contest each. Heinicke and Allen are both still on the Carolina roster, as is third-round pick Will Grier, but the Panthers could use a more proven commodity behind Newton.
  • Solution: Trade for C.J. Beathard. While 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has said he’s keeping three quarterbacks — Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, and Beathard — on San Francisco’s roster, that’s likely a ploy to get another club to sacrifice a draft pick in exchange for either Mullens or Beathard. Mullens could be expensive to acquire given his performance in 2018, but Beathard should come cheaper given his relatively lackluster results last season. He’d come with two years of club control at cheap rates, with base salaries totaling less than $2MM through 2020.

New Orleans Saints

  • Weakness: Offensive tackle depth. The Saints have one of the league’s best offensive lines, ranking top-three in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate in 2018, per Football Outsiders. But left tackle Terron Armstead had been riddled with injury questions throughout his career — he’s never played a full 16-game slate, and he’s missed 23 contests over the past three years. Journeyman Michael Ola is currently New Orleans’ top reserve at both left and right tackle.
  • Solution: Sign Jermey Parnell. New Orleans attempted to address their offensive tackle issue earlier this month by signing veteran Chris Clark, but the nine-year veteran is done for the season after suffering a leg injury. While he’s entering his age-33 campaign, Parnell is still a solid blocker, especially in the run game. He’s probably limited to right tackle, but given that Ryan Ramczyk can play both sides, Parnell could make sense for the Saints.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Weakness: Running back. The Buccaneers’ running game has been a disaster in each of the past two seasons, and while supplementing their offensive line is also an option, there are far more running backs available at this point in the NFL calendar than there are offensive linemen. Peyton Barber returns as Tampa Bay’s lead back after ranking bottom-seven in efficiency last year, while 2018 second-rounder Ronald Jones and Dare Ogunbowale also figure to have roles.
  • Solution: Trade for Rex Burkhead. Burkhead is an effective running back, but he’s behind Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, and maybe even fullback James Develin for carries in New England. A versatile player who can succeed on the ground and in the passing game, Burkhead would give the Buccaneers’ another option in their backfield. At the very least, he could be a third-down back and special teams maven for Tampa Bay.