There were questions to be answered this week. I answered them …
From @DJPigLatin (@Javier_Veguilla): When does Jimmy G get traded?
Javier, I’d set the over/under at July 1, and there are a couple reasons for it.
One, the hope is that Jimmy Garoppolo, coming off rotator cuff surgery, will be throwing in late June. If he can prove then that he’s capable, that’d help—remember, with just one year left on his contract, how soon he gets back to full strength is an important element in his marketability. And not being able to throw in March and April, with the rehab finish line months away, hurt his trade value then.
Two, by the time we get there, teams will have wrapped up their offseason programs, which means coaches will have had nine weeks with their players, with three weeks of OTA practices, plus the mandatory minicamp mixed in. An injury in the course of that could, of course, create a quarterback need somewhere. But even absent that, there could be a team or two that decides, after having the spring to look at their quarterbacks, to add a new one.
So, Niners fans, if you want a decent return for Garoppolo, I’d say getting it will ride on the quarterback’s own health, and (literal and figurative) health of the position at other teams.
From Mac Engel (@MacEngelProf): Cowboys reach NFC title game in the year …..
Mac! First of all, thanks for fighting the good fight in the comments off my weekend tweet after the tragedy in Buffalo. And second, I sense some sarcasm in your question.
For those unaware, the last time the Cowboys were in the NFC title game was in their last Super Bowl year, 1995. Which, of course, means Dallas’s drought is going on 27 years. To put that in perspective, just 23 guys on Dallas’s 90-man roster were even alive for that game—and two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott was less than six months old. Dak Prescott had yet to turn three. It’s been a long, long time.
That said, I do think there’s a chance they get there next season. The Cowboys, on paper, should be considered the favorite to win their division, and the conference isn’t what it once was, with the Rams, 49ers, Bucs and Packers (the four teams left at the end last year) still the iron of the circuit. So the door is open.
And really, from there, it’ll come down to checking some boxes. Can Michael Gallup get back fast enough from his ACL to contribute early on? Will Prescott bounce back from an up-and-down year? Does Elliott have any juice left? Does CeeDee Lamb, now clearly the No. 1 wideout, take a big step forward? Can undefined step in at right tackle? Can the older linemen stay healthy? How about replacing Randy Gregory?
Yes, there are a lot of questions. There’s a pretty high ceiling too, though.
From Jack Keating (@NYGJack): Do you think the giants trade toney or saquon before the season?
Jack, I don’t think either guy gets traded, but there are different reasons for that.
In Saquon Barkley’s case, I just don’t think they can bring home the kind of value in a trade that would make a deal worthwhile. Barkley is due a lump sum of $7.2 million this year, and has played in just 15 of 33 games the last two years while averaging a paltry 3.46 yards per carry. And while that number sounds manageable, it puts him in the top 10 at his position in the league.
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So let’s say, when you account for all that, Barkley could bring home a fourth-round pick. Given the time and money the franchise has invested in him, and the ceiling he’s got as a player, if I’m the Giants, I’d probably rather keep him and see what happens.
New York, I believe, could get more for Kadarius Toney. But I do not believe the Giants are looking to move him. At the time when that was being discussed, Toney still hadn’t shown up for the team’s offseason program, and that meant Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll hadn’t met him face-to-face. They have since, and I think Daboll is legitimately excited to see what he might be able to do with Toney in his offense.
From Mike Madden (@Mike__Madden): Aside from unforeseen injuries, who could you see going worst to first in their division?
From Ricker81 (@D_Ricker81): Likeliest team to go from worst to first that isn’t Baltimore?
I’d give you two, Ricker.
One is obvious, and that’s the Broncos—the roster was in good shape to begin with, they got a lot better at quarterback and it looks like Nathaniel Hackett has energized that place. But the mountain they have to climb in the AFC West is a steep one. The Chiefs have hosted four AFC title games in a row. The Raiders made the playoffs a year ago, the Chargers came close, and both added big-ticket stars to their rosters. So it feels like a wild card would be more likely than winning the division here. Still, I’d say the Broncos have a shot.
The other one is less obvious, and that’s the Jaguars. The Titans have some questions on their roster to work out, have absorbed attrition on offense, and Derrick Henry’s got a lot of mileage on his legs. The Colts will be introducing their fifth starting quarterback in as many years. The Texans are still retooling. And the Jaguars? We’ll have more on them in a second, but it’s not that difficult to envision the team making a leap in Doug Pederson’s first year.
From Joey (@YoeyBerg): What are realistic expectations for the Jaguars this year?
Joey, if the offensive line comes together, Cam Robinson is solid at left tackle, Christian Kirk is a real threat and Mike Caldwell’s scheme can maximize Travon Walker, undefined, Foye Oluokun, Devin Lloyd, Tyson Campbell and Rayshawn Jenkins … and you can talk yourself into this being an eight- or nine-win team.
I feel like people have quickly forgotten how we all saw Trevor Lawrence a year ago, and I’m not gonna be the one who lets the dumpster fire that broke out around him during his rookie year cloud my judgment. Were there questions about how quickly he saw the field last year? Sure. Was he a little more raw than expected coming out of Clemson’s offense? Yup. But he’s still got generational ability and a really steady hand.
In fact, I had one head coach last year, when the you-know-what was hitting the fan, compare Lawrence to Troy Aikman for me. And it had nothing to do with how Lawrence was playing. To this coach, how Lawrence was handling himself was reminiscent of how Aikman battled through a 1–15 rookie year of his own.
So if Pederson can get the sort of Year 2 bounce out of Lawrence that he did Carson Wentz in Philly in 2017? Then all of this could come together faster than anyone would’ve expected. I think the Jaguars pretty easily could be an eight- or nine-win team.
From Mahomes (@JesusPatMahomes):Why did the rest of the NFL allow the Chiefs to draft 5 Hall of Famers in one draft class?
Mahomes, I like the over-the-top sarcasm. And while I’m always a little cautious of falling in the trap of liking a draft class just because I’ve heard of, or watched live, the guys they took, I’m with you on the quality of the group. The Chiefs made their big swing up the board to take care of a need at a premium position (dealing up to get CB Trent McDuffie at 21), then doubled back to do it again in nabbing George Karlaftis with the 30th overall pick.
Skyy Moore was a really good get in the second, giving the Chiefs a speedy slot to take some of the work that would’ve been done by Tyreek Hill. And safety Bryan Cook and linebacker Leo Chanel after that both fit into what Kansas City looks for on defense, with Cook having the sort of coverage ability that makes you think he could take on some work Tyrann Mathieu had done of late for the Chiefs.
It’s still early, so it’s obviously hard to predict how things will turn out for any rookie. But the Chiefs’ top five picks all were good values, and fit the team they’re looking to build.
From Mike (@MikeMifflin11): What do you think will be more important to the success of the Colts this season; high level play from Matt Ryan, consistent play from Jonathan Taylor, or continual production/turnover-ability by the defense?
I think it’s the same as last year—quarterback and left tackle. The Colts front seven was already really solid, and Yannick Ngakoue should help the pass rush. Stephon Gilmore, even if he’s just 80% of what he was a few years ago, adds a dimension the secondary didn’t have. Rookie Alec Pierce is another big target to go alongside Michael Pittman. And you get the picture. What was a really good roster is still a really good roster.
I think what could push the Colts from good to great is being a lot better at arguably the two most important positions, and they’ve got a solid shot to get there this year. Matt Ryan, so long as Father Time doesn’t run him down in the fall, should be a very real upgrade over where Wentz down the stretch. And given the struggles of Eric Fisher last year, Matt Pryor or Bernhard Raimann have a shot to be one, too.
The Colts are still a really good team. Maybe this is the year they’re more than just that.
From Omicron survivor (@MaazAAbbasiMD): Texans are meeting the Browns Week 13. Is there any chance Watson is suspended for that game?
Barring an unexpected curveball, I think he’s on the field in Week 13. If there’s a suspension, I think it’s probably 10 games tops. And if it’s coming, the agreed-upon quiet period in Watson’s case—the sides decided that if there’s no resolution by July 1, they’ll hit the pause button and pick back up after the NFL season ends—should ensure that any suspension coming starts right at the beginning of the regular season.
So I think he either gets a 6- or 8- or 10-game suspension to start 2022 or he plays through this year with the possibility of a suspension pushed into 2023.
More NFL coverage:
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