PFR Originals

Poll: Who Will Acquire Baker Mayfield?

Nearly two months have passed since Baker Mayfield made his trade request. The Browns engaged in trade talks with the Panthers during the draft, but the sides did not come particularly close to a deal. As the team begins its Deshaun Watson era, its previous starter waits to learn his next NFL destination.

The Browns wanted to wanted to trade their four-year starter quickly, but the quarterback market soon featured few potential takers. It became clear a low-level return was to be expected, and to even recoup that, the Browns will have to eat a chunk of Mayfield’s $18.9MM fifth-year option salary. This has caused Cleveland to hold tight, and The Athletic’s Zac Jackson notes the Browns are prepared to ride this out to potentially wait to see if an injury forces a team to reconsider Mayfield in an emergency circumstance (subscription required). The Browns will excuse Mayfield from their June minicamp, if necessary, allowing the QB to satisfy his attendance requirements toward his 2022 salary.

Cutting Mayfield now would benefit him. He is locked into that $18.9MM salary, which would become Browns dead money, and have his pick of teams — perhaps as a chance to prove himself ahead of an intriguing 2023 free agency bid — from which to choose. The longer this impasse goes, the more Mayfield will be limited regarding assimilation with his next team. If the Browns are truly intent on waiting for a training camp injury to change the equation — a la Teddy Bridgewater in 2016 or Ryan Tannehill in 2017 — that will not go over well with Mayfield’s camp.

The Panthers have a fifth-year option salary on their quarterback depth chart, in Sam Darnold, but Mayfield has outperformed his draft classmate. Carolina would probably pounce if Mayfield hit free agency, but the team wanted Cleveland to pick up most of Mayfield’s salary to facilitate a trade. The Panthers then traded up for Matt Corral in Round 3. Mayfield, who led the Browns to their first playoff win since 1994, would undoubtedly give the 2022 Panthers a better chance to win compared to Darnold or Corral — Robby Anderson‘s thoughts on the matter notwithstanding — and USA Today’s Josina Anderson tweets the Panthers have not closed the book here. Carolina also holds the league’s most cap space, at $29MM-plus.

Mentioned as a Mayfield suitor earlier this offseason, the Seahawks are holding a Drew LockGeno Smith competition. Seattle, which also resisted selecting a QB in the draft, is not planning to trade for a passer. This is also a team that would certainly take a hard look at Mayfield in free agency, but if Pete Carroll‘s persistent Lock praise is to be believed, the Seahawks’ post-Russell Wilson plan is to let two 2021 backups vie for the job.

The Texans loom as Mayfield monitors. They did not draft a quarterback and have 2021 third-rounder Davis Mills positioned to start. While Watson’s ex-employer was not interested in taking Mayfield as part of that trade, the prospect of the Browns eating much of his 2022 salary changed the equation. Mayfield’s arrival would throw a wrench into Mills’ development, and Houston does not appear prepared to compete for a playoff spot in a stacked AFC. But the disgruntled vet, once healthy, would represent an upgrade opportunity. Of course, so would fellow trade-block resident Jimmy Garoppolo, who has close ties to GM Nick Caserio from their New England days.

The rebuilding Falcons used a third-round pick on Desmond Ridder but have only Marcus Mariota as a placeholder. If Daniel Jones fails to impress the new Giants regime this offseason, would they look into Mayfield? Barring injuries, are there other teams that would make sense? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

This Date In Transactions History: Tim Tebow Joins The Eagles

On April 20th, 2015, quarterback Tim Tebow joined Eagles. At the time, this was presumed to be the two-time BCS national champion’s last chance in the NFL. 

Tebow inked a one-year deal, seemingly settling for a backup gig in Philly. It was a reminder of how far the former first-rounder had fallen in only a few years’ time. In 2011, Tebow appeared in 14 games (11 starts) for the Broncos, completing 126 of his 271 pass attempts (46.5% completion percentage) for 1,729 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six picks. He also added 660 rushing yards and six scores on 122 carries. The Florida product also appeared in two playoff games that season, including a dramatic overtime win over the Steelers.

However, after Denver inked Peyton Manning to a contract prior to the 2012 season, Tebow was traded to the Jets. The quarterback ended up making 12 appearances (two starts) for New York that year. While he only attempted eight pass attempts, he did compile 102 rushing yards on 32 carries. His season ended prematurely after he suffered two broken ribs.

Tebow was released by the Jets following that season, and he caught on with the Patriots during the 2013 preseason. Ultimately, New England let him go prior to the regular season, and Tebow transitioned to a broadcasting gig. However, on this date, he received a new NFL opportunity.

When the Eagles signed Tebow, they were hoping he’d compete with Matt Barkley to be the team’s third-string signal-caller behind Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez. Tebow ended up getting action in all four of Philly’s preseason games, completing 21 of his 36 attempts for 286 yards, two scores, and one pick. He also added another 82 rushing yards. However, after nearly two years away from football, Tebow was clearly a step behind the other signal-callers on the Eagles’ depth chart, and the team released him prior to the regular season.

Tebow later moved on to a new sport and joined the Mets’ farm system before retiring from baseball in February of 2021. That wasn’t a wrap on his playing career, however. In 2021, old pal Urban Meyer signed Tebow to the Jaguars’ 90-man roster as a tight end. Tebow was released midway through the preseason, bringing his pro football career to an end — we think.

NFL Offset Language, Explained

Ever since the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, rookie contracts have been fairly regimented. Now, negotiations between teams and draft picks go pretty smoothly, with few – if any – unsigned rookies by the time training camp starts. 

These days, if there is haggling, it’s usually due to offset language. Offset language relates to what happens to a player’s salary if he’s cut during the first four years of his career, while he’s still playing on his rookie deal. For the top 15 to 20 picks in the draft, those four-year salaries are fully guaranteed, even if a player is waived at some point during those four seasons. For example, if a player has $4MM in guaranteed money remaining on his contract and is cut, he’ll still be owed that $4MM.

However, if a team has written offset language into the contract, that club can save some money if and when the player signs with a new team. For example, if that player who had $4MM in guaranteed money left on his contract signs with a new club on a $1MM deal, his old team would only be on the hook for $3MM, with the new team making up the difference. If there’s no offset language on that first deal, the old team would continue to be on the hook for the full $4MM, and the player would simply earn an additional $1MM from his new club.

In 2015, Marcus Mariota‘s camp went back-and-forth with the Titans until the two sides finally agreed to partial offset language in late July. In 2016, Joey Bosa’s holdout dominated headlines until the linebacker inked his deal on August 29th. In most cases, a lack of offsets for a player simply depends on which team drafted him — clubs like the Rams and Jaguars traditionally haven’t pushed to include offsets in contracts for their top picks, even in an era where most other teams around the league do.

In 2020, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Panthers defensive lineman Derrick Brown were the first Round 1 picks to sign and they agreed to offset language. It’s impossible to gauge how this year’s top stars will approach those talks, but offsets rarely come into play for elite prospects – few top picks flame out badly enough to get cut inside of four years. And even in those rare instances, if a player has performed poorly enough to be cut in his first few years, he likely won’t land a big-money deal elsewhere, so offset language wouldn’t help his old club recover more than the league minimum.

This Date In Transactions History: Dolphins Acquire Junior Seau From Chargers

For a three-year stretch in the mid-2000s, the Dolphins rostered three All-Decade defenders. Eighteen years ago Friday, Miami brought in Junior Seau to start on its Jason Taylor– and Zach Thomas-led defense.

On April 16, 2003, the Dolphins finalized a trade that brought Seau over from San Diego. It took only a conditional draft choice for the Dolphins to acquire the 13-year Chargers starter, who was 34 at the time of the trade. (That pick ended up becoming a fifth-rounder in 2004, which turned into future LaDainian Tomlinson backup and Falcons Pro Bowler Michael Turner.)

The 2003 offseason brought considerable change for the Chargers, who said goodbye to Seau and Rodney Harrison. While these two would end up teammates again in New England, Seau took a three-season detour. The Dolphins brought Seau over to join a defense that had ranked fourth in 2002; it ranked third in ’03, which turned out to be Seau’s best Miami season.

A Chargers first-round pick in 1990, the San Diego native became the greatest defender in franchise history. Seau ventured to 12 straight Pro Bowls from 1991-2002 and was a first-team All-Decade performer in the 1990s. The USC alum was the best player on the Bolts’ Super Bowl XXIX team, pairing elite tackling skills with pass-rushing ability that allowed him to put together three seven-sack seasons despite not working as a pure rusher. The Chargers, however, moved in a different direction in 2003, allowing Seau to seek a trade. The Bolts paid Seau around $2MM of a $2.7MM roster bonus, which was due the day before the trade was finalized.

Seau started 15 games for the ’03 Dolphins. He posted 96 tackles (12 for loss) and three sacks that season, a 10-6 Dolphins campaign that ended with the team just missing the playoffs. However, the Dave Wannstedt-run team could not generate momentum coming out of the season. The Dolphins started 1-9 in 2004 and fired Wannstedt. Seau battled through injuries — a pectoral tear in 2004 and an Achilles malady in ’05 — and was only able to log 15 games in that span. Prior to joining the Dolphins, Seau had not missed more than three games in a season.

The Dolphins released Seau in 2006, and he retired soon after. However, the Patriots pulled him out of retirement and used him as a starter in 2006. Seau played four more seasons, becoming one of the only NFL defenders to enjoy a 20-year career, before retiring for good in 2010. Tragically, Seau died by suicide in 2012. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2015.

This Date In Transactions History: Dolphins, Panthers Make Unusual Draft Trade

The Broncos resisted trade overtures and passed on filling their longstanding quarterback need in the 2021 draft, taking Patrick Surtain II ninth overall. Surtain’s father entered the NFL 23 years earlier as part of a more complex draft strategy.

On April 16, 1998, the Dolphins made an interesting short-term-geared trade with the Panthers, dealing their 2000 first-round pick for Carolina’s 1998 second-round choice. This trade was part of a multipronged process by then-Dolphins honcho Jimmy Johnson, but the second-round selection Miami obtained ended paying off for both the Johnson and Dave Wannstedt regimes.

This trade occurred two days before the 1998 draft. On Day 1 of the then-two-day event, Miami traded its 1998 first-rounder to Green Bay by moving down 19 spots — from No. 10 to No. 29 — and picked up an additional second-round pick. While the Dolphins did not fare as well in part two of this plan, taking running back John Avery at No. 29 after the Packers chose long-term defensive end starter Vonnie Holliday at 10, they landed the top player involved in this swap in Patrick Surtain. The Dolphins used the Packers’ Round 2 pick to trade back further, but no player helped their cause like Surtain.

Chosen 44th overall in 1998, the elder Surtain helped the Dolphins craft a playoff streak that reached five seasons by the end of the 2001 campaign. The talented cornerback moved into the Dolphins’ starting lineup during the 1999 season and intercepted five passes in 2000, helping Miami to the divisional round that year.

The Dolphins won wild-card games during the first three seasons of Surtain’s career, with he and current Dolphins cornerbacks coach Sam Madison forming one of the league’s top corner tandems during this period. The duo combined for seven Pro Bowl invites and three All-Pro nods. Surtain’s All-Pro bid came in 2002. Both players signed extensions, Madison’s coming in 2000 and Surtain’s — a six-year, $27.7MM deal — coming in March 2001. Surtain spent seven seasons with the Dolphins, who traded him to the Chiefs in 2005. Holliday, whom the Chiefs cut shortly before signing Surtain, interestingly wound up in Miami as a free agent that year.

The other team involved in Miami’s initial trade did not make out well. Johnson was not around by the time the Panthers used the Dolphins’ 2000 first-round pick, having retired from coaching after the 1999 season. Carolina chose cornerback Rashard Anderson at No. 23 in 2000. The Division I-FCS product lasted just two years with Carolina, seeing a substance-abuse suspension sideline him indefinitely beginning in 2002.

This Date In Transactions History: Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey Signs Record-Breaking Deal

Today marks the two-year anniversary of Christian McCaffrey‘s four-year, $64MM extension with the Panthers. The deal included $36MM guaranteed, $30MM fully guaranteed, and made CMC the highest-paid running back in NFL history. 

[RELATED: CMC To Remain At RB]

McCaffrey and the Panthers had been discussing an extension for some time, even though the youngster was a long way from free agency. Elsewhere, the Panthers were in the midst of an overhaul, having bid farewell to head coach Ron Rivera, tight end Greg Olsen, one-time MVP quarterback Cam Newton, and other longtime figures. McCaffrey, of course, remained as a building block of the team’s future.

In September of 2019, Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott broke the RB record with a six-year, $90MM extension. CMC beat that $15MM AAV by a cool $1MM. More importantly, he landed his deal on a much shorter term. The Panthers standout would secure the bag in the near term and be able to do it all again in his prime.

Saints star Alvin Kamara would later threaten his mantle, but fall just short at $15MM per annum. McCaffrey, meanwhile, went on to play in a combined ten games over the next two seasons. That was a bummer for CMC, who had previously earned a First-Team All-Pro selection. And, even in a “down” ’19, McCaffrey still managed 1,387 rushing yards off of 287 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per tote. He also caught 116 passes for 1,005 yards through the air to finish the year with 19 total touchdowns.

The injuries even prompted the Panthers to consider a position change for their franchise RB. But, just a few weeks ago, head coach Matt Rhule confirmed that McCaffrey will remain in the backfield.

“We can always move him around and utilize him, but at the end of the day, he’s a back”, Rhule said. “You can do a lot of things with Christian, but to take him out of the backfield, to me, is taking him out of what he does best. We’ll keep him at tailback.”

As great as McCaffrey is, the Panthers’ offer was panned by many. Market-setting deals for running backs, like the four-year, $60MM deal Todd Gurley once had with the Rams, often go south. Gurley couldn’t stay healthy after putting pen to paper, and neither has CMC. At least, that’s been the case so far.

This Date In Transactions History: Packers Re-Sign TE Robert Tonyan

Three years ago today, the Packers re-upped a relatively unknown tight end on their 90-man roster. The move went unnoticed by many, but it proved to be one of the savviest pickups of the offseason. On April 10, 2019, the Packers re-signed tight end Robert Tonyan

[RELATED: Packers Pursued DeVante Parker]

The Indiana State product went undrafted in 2017, but he managed to secure a lucrative three-year, $1.66MM deal with the Lions. He didn’t end up making the regular season roster, and he spent the majority of his rookie year as a free agent before catching on with the Packers practice squad. Following that 2017 campaign, Green Bay retained the young tight end via a futures contract.

Tonyan ended up sticking the team in 2018, appearing in all 16 games. However, other than a memorable 54-yard touchdown catch, the tight end didn’t do much on the offensive end, and he ended the season having appeared more on special teams (191 snaps) than on offense (67). Still, the Packers apparently believed in his potential, as they extended him a tender as an exclusive rights free agent. That decision (and the subsequent negotiations) culminated in the minor move that was made three years ago today.

Tonyan’s 2019 campaign was similar to his 2018 season; he saw a bit more offensive responsibility, but he still didn’t put up notable numbers. Following that season, the Packers made him an exclusive rights free agent once again, and the player ultimately signed the tender.

The tight end rewarded the Packers’ confidence with a breakout season in 2020. The then-26-year-old emerged as one of Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite targets, finishing the season with 52 receptions for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. He continued producing in the playoffs, hauling in eight catches for 82 yards and one score in two games.

Tonyan was slapped with a second-round tender last year, locking him into a $3.3MM salary for 2021. In 2021, Tonyan got off to a similar start, minus the massive red-zone impact. Unfortunately, his season was cut short by a torn ACL in a Week 8 game against the Cardinals, but the Packers believe that he’ll make a full recovery. Despite the uncertainty, Tonyan is back on a new one-year, $3.75MM deal for 2022.

This Date In Transactions History: Cowboys Release Tony Romo

Five years ago today, the Cowboys released longtime quarterback Tony Romo. At least, that’s how the official record reads. Romo — who had ceded the starting job to rookie Dak Prescott in 2016 — retired in order to begin his broadcasting career. 

“We wish Tony and his family nothing but the best,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “As an organization, we did what he asked us to do in terms of his release, and we wanted to do what was ultimately in his best interest and in the best interest of his family. Tony has been a wonderful representative of the Cowboys organization for 14 years, and he left everything he had on the field. He will leave us with many great memories and a legacy of being, truly, one of the greatest players in Cowboys history. We are thrilled for him and his family that he will be able to continue working as a professional in the game he so dearly loves. He is a young man who is just getting started on a long journey in life. All the best my friend.”

Romo, who was on the verge of his 37th birthday, took over for Phil Simms at CBS. His health, he said, wouldn’t allow him to continue playing football. Still, even with his surgically-repaired back, the nature of his retirement led to lots of speculation. After the Cowboys granted his release, Romo was now free to sign with any team. At one point, he considered joining up with the Jets, but ultimately declined. Over the summer, Romo continued to leave the door open ever so slightly, saying that he wouldn’t rule out returning to the Cowboys in an emergency situation. That emergency call never came in though, and Romo has been in the booth ever since.

In effect, this all played out as a standard retirement. Romo didn’t leave the game exactly the way he wanted to, but he did complete a league-high 69.9% of his passes in 2014, his last full season. All in all, Romo collected four Pro Bowl nods over the course of his career in Dallas while earning upwards of $127MM in NFL earnings alone.

This Date In Transactions History: Patriots Trade Brandin Cooks To Rams

When Brandin Cooks was traded to the Patriots in 2017, there was hope that the wideout would stick around New England as one of Tom Brady‘s top targets. About 13 months later, Cooks tenure with the team had come to an end. On this date in 2018, the Patriots traded the wide receiver to the Rams. 

Cooks was plenty productive during his lone season in New England, with the wideout leading the air attack (alongside Rob Gronkowski) following Julian Edelman‘s season-ending injury. The receiver finished the regular season having hauled in 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns, and hee continued producing in the postseason, catching another 19 receptions for 292 yards.

That performance apparently wasn’t enough, as the Patriots sent him out on April 3, 2018. Perhaps the team was wary of Cooks’ impending free agency following the 2018 campaign, or perhaps they thought Brady and Bill Belichick‘s clout would land them a comparable (and/or cheaper) receiver via free agency. Either way, New England ultimately sent Cooks and a fourth-rounder to the Rams in exchange for a first-rounder (a pick that eventually turned into lineman Isaiah Wynn) and a sixth-rounder. The Rams subsequently signed the receiver to a pricey five-year, $81MM extension (including $50.5MM guaranteed).

Even though Cooks didn’t last all that long is Los Angeles, it’s hard to be too critical of the Rams. Cooks had a 1,200-yard season during his first year with the Rams, but he fell off in 2019, compiling only 635 yards from scrimmage in 14 games. Following the season, the Rams paired Cooks with a fourth-rounder and sent him to the Texans for a second-rounder (which ultimately turned into receiver Van Jefferson).

Similarly, it’s hard to be too critical of the Patriots; after all, Wynn was a fine consolation. However, the Patriots’ motivation for the trade has never really been explained. While the financial reasons were obvious, it was assumed that the organization would subsequently replace Cooks spot in the lineup. The team was also especially shallow at wideout after Danny Amendola signed with the Dolphins.

While New England would be connected to a number of receivers throughout that 2018 campaign, the team never did anything to significantly improve their receiver corps. That 2018 squad finished without a 1,000-yard receiver, with running back James White leading the squad in receptions. Per usual, that didn’t end up mattering all that much; the Patriots still won the Super Bowl that season after beating (you guessed it) the Rams. While the Patriots selected receiver N’Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 draft, they never really added another veteran receiver like Brady desired, an issue that was exacerbated after Gronkowski’s sudden retirement. That 2019 campaign would ultimately be Brady’s final season in New England.

This Date In Transactions History: Cardinals Trade For Carson Palmer

In the years between Kurt Warner‘s retirement and Bruce Arians‘ 2013 Arizona arrival, the Cardinals experienced persistent issues at quarterback. A few months into Arians’ tenure, the franchise made a move to stabilize that position. 

Nine years ago today, the Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer from the Raiders. In the second Palmer trade in less than two years, the Raiders were not able to fetch what the Bengals did in 2011. On April 2, 2013, the Cards sent a 2013 sixth-round pick and a conditional seventh-rounder in 2014 for Palmer. Arizona immediately extended the then-33-year-old passer, signing him for two years and $16MM. That would not be the last Cardinals contract Palmer signed.

Palmer spent eight seasons with the Bengals, essentially redshirting as a rookie before starting from 2004-10. However, the former Heisman winner grew impatient with the Bengals’ conservative offseasons and staged a brief retirement that lasted well into the 2011 season. The Raiders ended the Palmer-Bengals stalemate by sending a 2012 first-round pick and a 2013 second-rounder to Cincinnati in October 2011. Those picks became Dre Kirkpatrick and Giovani Bernard. While Palmer mostly stayed healthy in Oakland, the Raiders went just 8-16 during the Pro Bowler’s starts in silver and black.

The USC product threw for 4,018 yards, with 22 touchdown passes compared to 14 interceptions in 2012, but went 4-11 as a starter that season. Oakland parted ways with Hue Jackson, their head coach in 2011, and hired Dennis Allen in 2012. The Raiders made an unusual pivot in 2013, using Terrelle Pryor as their primary starting QB — with Matt McGloin mixing in — but acquired Derek Carr in the 2014 second round. Interestingly, the conditional seventh-round pick the Raiders acquired in the Palmer deal turned into defensive lineman Shelby Harris, who played eight games in Oakland before catching on as a regular in Denver.

The Cardinals, who went 5-11 in 2012 and had used John Skelton as their primary post-Warner QB, improved immediately. Palmer started 16 games and guided Arizona to a 10-6 record in 2013. He went 6-0 as Arizona’s starter in 2014, but the second ACL tear of his career harpooned a talented Cardinals squad — one that also lost backup Drew Stanton and ended up starting Ryan Lindley in its wild-card playoff outing. In 2015, Palmer rebounded and finished second in the MVP voting. The then-35-year-old quarterback threw a Cards-record 35 touchdown passes and led the NFL with 8.7 yards per attempt, guiding the team to a 13-3 record and an overtime playoff victory over the Packers.

Injuries ended up limiting Palmer again in 2017, and he retired shortly after that season. This came after Palmer signed a three-year, $49.5MM contract — in 2014, days before his second ACL tear as a pro — and a one-year, $24.4MM extension in 2016. While the Cardinals traded up for Josh Rosen months after Palmer’s exit, they reversed course a year later and drafted Kyler Murray first overall.