Ladies and gentlemen, the 2021 NFL season is officially one day closer. John Breech is out and about, preparing himself for Joe Burrow’s much-anticipated return (more on that below), so I — Cody Benjamin — am here to take you through all the latest from around the NFL.

This is the Pick Six Newsletter. Now let’s get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don’t want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)

We’ve got QB contract predictions, a report from Bengals camp, Michael Thomas trade rumors and more:

  1. Today’s show: How big will Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson contracts be?

 

Ryan Wilson joined Will Brinson on Tuesday’s “Pick Six Podcast,” and besides discussing Wilson’s plans to actually get a Ryan Finley tattoo (as well as plenty of real NFL news), the guys reviewed Josh Allen’s lucrative extension with the Bills with an eye on the future. With Allen locked up, all eyes now seem to be on Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, the last two 2018 first-round quarterbacks eligible for new deals.

Wilson thinks both Jackson and Mayfield are due to make somewhere around $43 million per year if/when they cash in, or the rough equivalent of what Allen will make in Buffalo. “If Lamar or Baker wins a Super Bowl,” he added, “they’re getting more than Patrick Mahomes probably, (like) the Joe Flacco situation” in 2012, when the ex-Ravens QB held out for an extension and got rewarded handsomely after a championship postseason.

Brinson, meanwhile, thinks Jackson is a much safer bet to match or exceed Allen’s annual average, suggesting the Ravens QB could probably sign for $44 million per year — just behind Mahomes ($45M) ahead of the 2021 season.

Catch the entire discussion (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.

2. Insider notes: Joe Burrow battling mental hurdles in return from rehab

CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora was at Bengals camp this week to dig deep into the anticipated return of QB Joe Burrow, whose promising 2020 rookie season was cut short due to injury. One of La Canfora’s biggest revelations: Both Burrow and the Bengals are keenly aware that the QB’s biggest remaining rehab hurdle is a mental one. Here’s a snippet from La Canfora’s full report from Cincinnati:

(Burrow) has wowed the organization with his ridiculous dedication and tenacity to ensure being cleared to return this spring, but no amount of extra rehab can hasten the mind’s healing and to get the brain to believe that all is back to normal … Gains come in fits and starts, to the point that Burrow requested more drills that feigned pocket pressure and mimicked arms and legs and bodies thrashing about the pocket.

It was clear through the first two weeks of practice that he was fighting his way through some things. “Feeling the pocket is something that always came naturally to me,” Burrow explained. “But I kind of lost it … I would say right now it’s a mental thing, getting back to playing football against top-level competition; getting back to being able to feel the people around me as opposed to seeing people around me.”

3. Michael Thomas rumors: Jaguars among potential trade suitors

 

Thomas is one of the Saints’ best players, but the star wide receiver has seemingly grown increasingly at odds with New Orleans over the last year, this week implying his own team is trying to “damage” his reputation. No divorce appears imminent, but what if the Saints eventually look to trade their disgruntled pass catcher? We identified seven potential landing spots:

  1. Jaguars
  2. Chargers
  3. Ravens
  4. Patriots
  5. Chiefs
  6. Jets
  7. Eagles

Why the Jaguars at No. 1? Jacksonville spent a ton on mostly middling free agents this spring, but the team still has more than enough cap space (an NFL-best $30M) to be bold. They’re out of the NFC, which would put the Saints more at ease. They need any true weapons for Trevor Lawrence they can get, even with D.J. Chark established as a starting WR. And best of all, their new coach just happens to be Urban Meyer, who oversaw Thomas’ emerging stardom at Ohio State and drew an eyebrow-raising endorsement from Thomas this year.

4. Bold Patriots predictions: Mac Jones starts a playoff game

New England is looking to rebound in a big way this year. Resident Patriots expert Tyler Sullivan foresees the club doing just that in 2021. Among his three bold predictions for the Pats: Rookie QB Mac Jones starting a playoff game for New England!

The torch will eventually be passed to Mac Jones. While I do believe Cam Newton will be an improved signal-caller from what we saw a year ago, whenever the kid is ready, it’s in the best interest of the franchise to get him in there to begin this new era. With that in mind, a midseason change should be expected at some point, especially if the offense’s ceiling continues to be capped with Newton under center. There will certainly be some bumps along the way with Jones, but New England’s offensive line, defense and coaching should be enough to squeak them into the postseason as a wild card contender, meaning that Jones will get a taste of playoff football very early in his development.

5. Deshaun Watson not expected to travel for Texans’ preseason opener

 

The star QB, who remains under NFL investigation while facing 22 civil lawsuits, returned to Texans practice this week, even appearing in pads for the first time this summer. But general manager Nick Caserio told reporters Tuesday that Watson is expected to neither play nor travel with the team when it opens its 2021 preseason on Thursday against the Packers. Caserio attributed Watson’s expected absence to a lack of training camp reps — Watson missed a week of practice for undisclosed reasons after initially reporting — but admitted there are “a lot of moving parts” with the QB’s situation.

Reports earlier this week indicated the Texans are still open to having Watson serve as their starting QB in 2021, though conflicting reports have suggested both Watson and the team are intent on finding a trade prior to the start of the season. That, of course, could be contingent on Watson’s legal status as he faces the 22 lawsuits and 10 related criminal complaints.

6. Washington Football Team: 2021 predictions, key injury update

If you’re big believers in Ron Rivera and Co. after Washington’s 2020 division title, this is the section for you. First up, an injury update: Rivera has revealed the team has no timetable for Curtis Samuel’s return to the lineup. The former Panthers receiver inked a $34.5 million deal this offseason to serve as a top pass catcher opposite Terry McLaurin, but he’s back on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a groin injury after a stint on COVID-19 reserve. If he remains on PUP at the start of the season, he’ll be out at least six weeks.

On the bright side, Jordan Dajani has unveiled three bold predictions for the 2021 Football Team, and they’re all positive:

  • Washington owns the NFL’s top defense
  • Rookie Dyami Brown emerges as an offensive centerpiece
  • Rivera and Co. win at least one playoff game





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