Buying or Selling Top NFL Trade, Free-Agency Rumors, Franchise Tag Decisions
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Aaron RodgersAP Photo/Morry Gash
Team representatives head to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine to check out the incoming rookie class and conduct business. General managers and head coaches often gauge the trade value of a player or find out the compensation needed to acquire veteran talent. After the combine, we usually see a bunch of transactions.
This offseason, teams followed that script to a T. Several insiders and reporters returned from the combine with juicy rumors that include potential trade targets and free-agency buzz.
Some clubs made last-minute decisions before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. franchise-tag deadline. One front office struck a deal with its quarterback, while another team seems prepared to move on from its longtime signal-caller.
We’ve gathered up all the chatter from the past few days for a pre-free agency primer that breaks down the most prominent rumors and roster decisions. Below, you’ll see a report with a verdict that either buys or sells the decision of a team—or in one case, multiple teams.
Ravens Use Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag on QB Lamar Jackson
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Lamar JacksonGreg Fiume/Getty Images
On Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens used the $32.4 million non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Lamar Jackson. He can now negotiate with other teams, but the Ravens have the right to match any offer he accepts, or they can let him walk in exchange for two first-round picks.
The Ravens took a gamble with this move, because they could probably fetch more than two first-rounders (perhaps three or additional early-round picks) if they trade Jackson. However, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Jamison Hensley, Jackson “wants a fully guaranteed deal in line with” the five-year, $230 million contract that Deshaun Watson signed with the Cleveland Browns last offseason.
At the combine, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen heard “it is not pretty” between Jackson and the Ravens (starting at 4: 19).
Baltimore is willing to let Jackson set his own market. Even if he signs a contract that satisfies his demands, the Ravens can still match that offer to retain him.
In a statement, general manager Eric DeCosta said he intends to build a championship team around Jackson. But he clearly wants to do it with a specific price range in mind.
If another club values Jackson more than Baltimore, that plan could change. It makes sense to let him gauge his market with the two sides at an impasse on an extension.
Watson’s fully guaranteed deal is an outlier, and Jackson has missed 11 games over the past two seasons, including the Ravens’ Wild Card Round loss this past year. He’s played in only one full December or January game since 2021.
Teams may hesitate to sign Jackson to a fully guaranteed deal with a $50-plus million annual salary because of his recent spate of injuries during a critical stretch in the season.
Multiple QB-Needy Teams Won’t Pursue Lamar Jackson
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Lamar JacksonAP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File
Shortly after Baltimore Ravens used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, several beat reporters shot down speculation about certain teams’ interest in him. That seems strange considering he was named the 2019 NFL MVP and helped lead the Ravens to the playoffs in four of his five seasons.
Because of his spotty availability late in the past two seasons, other teams may not be comfortable signing Jackson to a fully guaranteed deal. Teams also may not want to see a trend of top-tier quarterbacks signing fully guaranteed contracts, which would put more front offices in a financial bind in the future.
If Jackson signs a fully guaranteed deal like Deshaun Watson did last offseason, more high-level quarterbacks would probably go into negotiations with the same request. But if Jackson drops the expectation of a fully guaranteed contract, he’ll likely get far more traction despite his recent injury history.
Players deserve big-money contracts for the sacrifices they make on the field. On the other hand, team executives are making a business decision to (possibly) prevent a change in the top-tier quarterback market.
Still, it only takes one team—as we saw with Watson last year—to make a strong proposal. Per ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the Las Vegas Raiders haven’t ruled out any quarterback options, including Jackson.
Giants Sign Daniel Jones to Long-Term Deal, Franchise-Tag Saquon Barkley
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Daniel Jones and Saquon BarkleyStephen Maturen/Getty Images
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the New York Giants signed Daniel Jones to a four-year, $160 million contract with $35 million in incentives shortly before the franchise-tag deadline on Tuesday. They then proceeded to use the tag on running back Saquon Barkley.
Last week, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Jones wanted $45 million annually. Big Blue came close to meeting that demand and then added incentives to cover the difference.
In his first year under head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, Jones had a career-best season despite the lack of reliable perimeter pass-catchers around him. Richie James led the receiving corps with 57 catches, while Darius Slayton had a team-high 724 receiving yards this past season.
We should always consider the structure (details to come) of a new deal rather than the headline numbers (years and total money). The Giants will probably insert an early out in Jones’ contract, which would allow them to cut ties with him after a few years without being left with a huge dead cap hit.
As for Barkley, he plays a devalued position. Across the board, mid-tier quarterbacks have a much higher market value than high-end ball-carriers.
Though the Giants placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Barkley, they have until July 17 to work out a long-term deal with him.
Packers ‘Hope’ to Move On from Aaron Rodgers
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Aaron RodgersAP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Prior to the conference championship games in January, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Green Bay “prefers to move on from Rodgers, just as it once did with Brett Favre.” Longtime Packers beat reporter Bob McGinn echoed that to Tyler Dunne on GoLongTD.com a few weeks ago, while ESPN’s Jeff Darlington tweeted last week that the Packers and Aaron Rodgers were seemingly “trying to navigate the perceptions of a breakup.”
While in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, Rich Eisen heard Green Bay hopes that Rodgers wants to move on. On his NFL Network show, Eisen said he heard this rumor “over and over and over again” (starting at 5: 03).
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky and Dan Graziano reported that New York Jets team officials flew out to see Rodgers on Tuesday. Because he’s under contract, the Packers would have to grant permission for this meeting, which is usually what happens when a club permits a player to seek a trade.
Over the past several weeks, various insiders, reporters and pundits have pointed to a Packers-Rodgers split. That seems more likely with the Jets set to speak with the quarterback, who’s still mulling his future.
If the 39-year-old doesn’t like Gang Green’s sales pitch, he could choose to retire or target another team such as the Las Vegas Raiders, who acquired his longtime teammate Davante Adams last offseason.
Broncos Are ‘Quietly’ Shopping WR Courtland Sutton
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Courtland SuttonAP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Will the Denver Broncos trade one of quarterback Russell Wilson’s top pass-catchers? NBC Sports’ Matthew Berry says they may consider it if another team makes a viable offer.
“As long as we are talking Denver, I’m told the Broncos are quietly shopping Courtland Sutton,” Berry wrote. “Not actively pushing him, but definitely trying to see if there’s a trade market for him and if they get a decent offer, would move him.”
At the beginning of the 2022 season, Sutton emerged as a lead target for Wilson, racking up double-digit targets in three of the first five weeks. He finished the campaign with 64 receptions for 829 yards and two touchdowns.
However, Jerry Jeudy built a stronger rapport with Wilson late in the campaign. He recorded a pair of 100-yard performances in two of the last three games of the season, including a career-high 154 receiving yards against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 18.
Tim Patrick’s return from a torn ACL could make one wide receiver expendable, but Sutton proved he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player with a substandard quarterback situation in 2019. He accumulated 72 receptions for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns with Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Brandon Allen at quarterback. Imagine what he could do if new head coach Sean Payton helps Wilson rediscover his Pro Bowl form.
Even with a reasonable offer, the Broncos should think twice about trading Sutton if they want Wilson to bounce back from his worst season.
Texans Will Push to Sign QB Jimmy Garoppolo
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Jimmy GaroppoloEzra Shaw/Getty Images
The Houston Texans have the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft, which will allow them to replace Davis Mills with one of the top two quarterback prospects. They could also sign a veteran free agent to give the rookie time to develop before he sees regular-season action.
According to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones, “there’s a push within the building to sign quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.”
Texans general manager Nick Caserio served as the New England Patriots’ director of player personnel when the team selected Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft. New Houston head coach DeMeco Ryans joined the San Francisco 49ers’ coaching staff as a defensive quality control assistant in the same year (2017) that the team acquired Garoppolo from the Patriots. They became familiar with each over the past six years.
While Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud may be equipped to start Week 1 of the 2023 campaign, the Texans might roll the dice on Anthony Richardson‘s upside or want Kentucky’s Will Levis, who may need a year of coaching before he takes regular-season snaps.
If the Texans push hard for Garoppolo, they might go with a less polished rookie quarterback. The 31-year-old figures to have multiple suitors in free agency, so Houston would have to sell him on being a stopgap signal-caller, though the idea makes sense for the Texans.
Titans Are Shopping RB Derrick Henry
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Derrick HenryAP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
New Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon has made significant waves over the past few months. He’s already jettisoned notable players such as left tackle Taylor Lewan, edge-rusher Bud Dupree, linebacker Zach Cunningham and wide receiver Robert Woods.
All of those players either underperformed on the field or dealt with injuries that contributed to an underwhelming 2022 season. That isn’t the case for star running back Derrick Henry, who led the league in carries (349), finished second in rushing yards (1,538) and tied for the second-most rushing touchdowns (13) this past season.
Henry has been arguably the league’s top workhorse tailback over the past four years, leading all ball-carriers in rushing attempts in three of those seasons. He’s the engine of the Titans’ run-heavy offense that ranked among the top five leaguewide in rushing yards in three of the last four seasons.
Michael Silver of Bally Sports reported Henry was “among the players who’ve been shopped in recent days,” although CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones disputed Silver’s report.
“I know there’s talk that the Titans are shopping running back Derrick Henry but my sources tell me they are not,” Jones wrote.
While the Titans’ new regime may want to change the identity of the offense and trade Henry before he declines, Carthon should hold on to him. That’s especially true if he wants to keep veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill around.
Frankly, the Titans should shop Tannehill and recommit to Henry, who has carried their offense in recent years.
Cardinals Have Parameters to Trade WR DeAndre Hopkins
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DeAndre HopkinsCooper Neill/Getty Images
If you want to count on one rumor that comes to fruition, bank on this one. The Arizona Cardinals will probably move wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the coming weeks.
In January, Jordan Schultz of The Score reported that Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell would “express the idea of moving Hopkins” to candidates for the general manager position following Steve Keim’s decision to step down for health reasons. Schultz also noted that Hopkins will likely seek a new contract this offseason.
A source told Mike Jurecki of Arizona Football Daily that Cardinals have the framework for a trade that’s likely to happen “after free agency starts.” They want a second-round pick and a “conditional pick or player.”
Fellow Cardinals wideout Marquise Brown, who’s a former college teammate of quarterback Kyler Murray, is heading into the final year of his rookie deal. The Cardinals will likely pivot toward younger players as they reshape their wide receiver room.
Hopkins, who’s going into his age-31 season, appears likely to suit up for a new team in 2023.
Rams to Part Ways with CB Jalen Ramsey, WR Allen Robinson II, DE Leonard Floyd
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Jalen RamseyAP Photo/Abbie Parr
According to multiple outlets, the Los Angeles Rams are prepared to release or trade a few notable veterans to clear salary-cap space.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the Rams are “very likely” to trade star cornerback Jalen Ramsey (h/t Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio). Pelissero also reported that the team has granted wide receiver Allen Robinson II permission to seek a trade. Meanwhile, the Rams plan to release linebacker Leonard Floyd if they’re unable to trade him, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Rams signed Robinson to a three-year, $46.5 million deal last offseason, but he turned out to be a dud, hauling in only 33 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns in 10 outings. Los Angeles should make a strong attempt to move him.
On the flip side, the Rams defense would take a significant hit if the team trades Ramsey and Floyd. That seems counterproductive for a defense that ranked 21st in points allowed and 19th in yards allowed this past season.
In 2022, Ramsey had another Pro Bowl-worthy year, leading the Rams in interceptions (four) and pass breakups (18). Floyd led the defense in sacks (nine), and he’s recorded nine or more sacks in all three of his seasons with the team.
Going into his age-32 term, Aaron Donald cannot neutralize an offense alone. Even if it means restructuring contracts, the Rams should do what it takes to retain Ramsey and Floyd for a mediocre defense.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.