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PHOENIX — The NFL annual meeting at the ritzy Arizona Biltmore has begun and that means news that fans care about is going to surround the conversations that inevitably happen when coaches and general managers gather in one spot: Trades, contracts big and small, and the upcoming draft.
This year those conversations involve players such as future Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, George Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, and Bengals tackle Jonah Williams.
OutKick has notes on all of them. Let’s get to it:
Commissioner Roger Goodell opened the NFL annual meeting Sunday with a short review of the 2022 season that underscored how America’s most popular sport delivered historic games and records and is well positioned for the future.
The 2022 average final score margin of 9.70 was the lowest for a full season since 1932 when that margin was 9.13. The NFL had a record 52 games in which a deficit of 10 or more points was erased by a team that went on to win or tie.
The NFL is anything but a sequel of itself season after season. For the 33rd consecutive season at least four teams qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the season before. In 2022, 50 percent of the playoff teams did not reach the postseason the year before. And 50 percent of the division winners had not won the title the year before.
As for the future of the game, the NFL is pointing to the fact the four quarterbacks in the two conference championship games are going to be around for awhile. That’s because Patrick Mahomes was 27 years old, Joe Burrow was 26, Jalen Hurts was 24 and Brock Purdy was 23.
So the league is quite proud of it current state and this meeting shows that.
“It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the season and look forward and talk about our achievements as well as our aspirations for next season,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy.
Payday Summer Is Coming For Young QBs
The 2020 draft is looking as if it delivered a great quarterback class in that two of the five selected in the first two rounds — Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts — have already helped their teams take Super Bowl trips.
Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa have lifted the Chargers and Dolphins into playoff teams. And Jordan Love, well, he’ll get his chance to finally start in 2023.
So it’s no surprise this summer is going to be a big deal, literally, for three of those quarterbacks because Burrow, Herbert and Hurts all expect to be offered contract extensions prior to the start of the season.
The Bengals and Burrow’s representatives have been talking for some time, per a source. The Chargers and Eagles each have budgeted for extensions this year.
The only one who will not get an extension before the season, barring a huge course change, is Tagovailoa.
That doesn’t mean Tagovailoa has failed in any regard having to do with playing the position. The Dolphins have made it clear they do not wish to move on from him. And they’ve already exercised a the fifth-year option on him, meaning he’s locked up for both 2023 and ’24.
But unlike the others, Tagovailoa has struggled with injuries all three of his seasons and the Dolphins wisely have decided to wait and see how well he’s able to stay on the field next season before committing to him over half-a-decade or so at the cost of a quarter-billion or so.
The fact Tagovailoa’s issue last year was two concussions bothers the Dolphins somewhat but only in that they want to see more, not less of the player.
It’s logical that the Burrow, Herbert and Hurts are on the way to getting their extensions based on their accomplishments and durability. It’s logical Tagovailoa will have a wait a bit longer.
The Trade Market At A Standoff During NFL Annual Meeting
It’s likely there will be talks between the Packers and Jets concerning an Aaron Rodgers trade at these meetings and teams such as the Cardinals and Bengals will engage with teams interested in receiver DeAndre Hopkins and tackle Jonah Williams, respectively.
But something typically has to change for teams to decide to move on from good players or pay a higher price for those players. The draft next month is the next likely marker that will move teams.
The Packers have more at stake in the Rodgers trade than gaining the best draft pick. Yes, they want picks that could include a first-rounder, preferably this year but definitely next year if Rodgers plays well in 2023.
They also want “cap related concessions from the Jets as well,” one source said.
The Jets appear willing to give up a second-round pick for Rodgers and probably more next year on a conditional pick basis, depending on how well and long Rodgers intends to play. The Jets have two second-round picks (Nos. 42 and 43) following their trade of Elijah Moore to Cleveland.
The Jets are willing to trade No. 43 for Rodgers. But New York does not want to part with their first-rounder, which is No. 13 overall.
Other Notable Trade Conversations
Two other players on the trade market (sort of) are DeAndre Hopkins and Jonah Williams.
The Bengals didn’t intend to trade Williams. They intended to move him to right tackle following the signing of Orlando Brown Jr. as their left tackle. The problem is Williams wants to be a left tackle so he asked to be traded.
But a funny thing has happened to Williams en route to being traded: No one has so far been interested in giving up a high draft pick for the 25-year-old player.
“He’s not a big man with long arms and he plays like it,” one NFL general manager told OutKick. “He might not even be a tackle.”
So who trades for a player perhaps best suited to play an interior position when he’s insisting on playing left tackle? So far, nobody.
Williams has stood his ground and isn’t likely to fold about moving positions. He was asked to move to center at Alabama his senior year and refused, according to one NFL scout.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are open to trading Hopkins but don’t want to simply give him away. They gave up a second-round pick for him in 2020.
“They’ll get less than that,” one NFL source said.
That’s the problem. The Cards don’t want less than that and are willing to hold fast for now.
It must be said that some teams are wary of getting Hopkins. His contract already is set with a $19.45 million base salary in 2023, per Spotrac. That’s a heavy price for a nearly 31-year-old who has been injured or suspended each of the past two years.
Another variable is Hopkins is believed to want a contract extension and wants to play for a winning team. So he remains with Arizona for now.
Draft Notes Of Note
*The biggest question of the 2023 draft remains which quarterback will go No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers.
“We have a higher grade on Bryce Young,” one NFL general manager told OutKick on Sunday. “And it’s not just about how well he plays. He certainly was the best quarterback in the country last year. But if you study him, talk to him, his make-up is off the charts.”
Said another GM: “The only reason we’re talking about there being a debate is because C.J. had a great game against Georgia. We like to look at the broader picture. We look at seasons, careers, other things, not just one game.”
The Panthers, by the way, have not committed to any quarterback as No. 1 overall.
*There is at least one NFL team that intends to take Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter off its draft board, the general manager of that team told OutKick on Sunday.
“Amazing athlete,” the GM said of Carter, “but we’re not going there.”
Carter finished the 2022 season as the likely first non-quarterback drafted. But police charged him with racing and reckless driving and he turned himself in. The 21-year-old has entered a deal with Athens-Clarke County solicitors, per his attorney Kim Stephens.
Then he showed up nine pounds overweight at the Georgia Pro Day. And that’s not all. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has referenced “character issues” in the past. And the GM confirmed to OutKick there are some he’s not comfortable with.
“Having said that, he’s going in the first round,” the GM said. “The talent is there. Someone will be lured by it because it is undeniable. Just not us.”
One Final Thought From NFL Annual Meeting
Over the next two days NFL coaches from all 32 teams will speak to reporters. AFC coaches will meet the press over breakfast on Monday. NFC coaches will meet with reporters Tuesday morning.
This year the NFL is limiting the sessions to 30 minutes. In the past the sessions ran one hour.
The new time limit might present a challenge for Bill Belichick.
The New England coach has been late to these gatherings on multiple occasions in the past. Belichick, you see, has more important things to do than sit down with a bunch of media nerds.
One time he was a full 30 minutes late.
If he repeats that on Monday, he’s going to miss the session altogether.