With NFL free agency mere weeks away, the news cycle around the league has been defined by players that might hit the open market and others who have signed news contracts since the 2017 season ended. From a certain quarterback in San Francisco that just broke the bank to a former Heisman winner in Oklahoma receiving a questionable comparison, most of the talk has surrounded this position.
Outside of that, we’re still somehow talking about the potential demise of the Patriots after they earned their second consecutive AFC championship. It’s nothing more than wishful thinking from those who are sick of New England winning on a consistent basis. There’s nothing to see here.
So as the NFL offseason gets going, let’s check in on 10 stories around the league that are simply over-hyped right now.
Lamar Jackson as a wide receiver
The entire idea that Jackson is too small or not accurate enough to be an NFL quarterback is quite simply absurd. It’s a narrative thrown out there by those in the old-school way of thinking. And surely that time has passed. He’s 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. To put that into perspective, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs less than a dozen pounds more than Jackson.
Based on what we saw from Jackson at Louisville and looking at how well he has performed on tape, there’s no reason to believe he can’t be as successful as a Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold in the NFL. Any suggestion to the contrary represents a worn out dogma that frankly needs to be placed in the ash heap of history. And this continued slander directed at Jackson is among the most over-hyped stories around the NFL. It’s not going to end any time soon, either. That will be magnified further should Jackson decide against running during the combine as a way to show teams and scouts he’s not one bit interested in somehow transitioning to wide receiver.
A.J. McCarron’s free agent status
When it was ruled that this Bengals backup quarterback would become an unrestricted free agent, most figured he would have a relatively nice market greet him in March. But with all but three career starts under his belt in four seasons, no one anticipated that the chatter would go this far. Since said ruling, McCarron has been linked to potential contenders such as the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings, among other teams. The question here is why?
We get that Jimmy Garoppolo received the largest contract in NFL history after just seven starts. But that sample size was filled with him proving to be a franchise quarterback after nearly four seasons backing up the great Tom Brady. McCarron himself couldn’t beat out the average Andy Dalton for the starting job in Cincinnati. That has to tell us where he stands in terms of upside moving forward. Unfortunately for some poor quarterback-needy team, the market dictates that McCarron will get north of $15 million annually. Talk about being over-hyped.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract
We get it. Garoppolo played well in his five starts as a member of the 49ers. We get it. San Francisco signed him to the largest contract in NFL history after just those five starts. Can we now stop talking about this? Article after article has been written. Garoppolo has completely reset the quarterback market as we know it. Cool. That’s awesome. It’s now time to move on. San Francisco still has north of $80 million to spend in free agency. The talk surrounding this up-and-coming team should be all about who it adds moving forward this spring.
From a larger league-wide perspective, we’re finally seeing people move on from Garoppolo. With the likes of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan all slated for lucrative extensions, that makes sense. Now that Kirk Cousins is going to hit free agency, we’re going to be inundated with rumors about the soon-to-be former Redskins quarterback. Such is the nature of the beast in a league that’s dominated by this position. But for the sake of everything decent in the world, let’s stop talking about Garoppolo until he takes the field in Week 1. Thanks.
Demise of the Patriots
We read the stories heading into January’s playoffs. A rift had emerged between Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. All three of them denied these reports, but a meeting was said to have taken place following the season. In the meantime, New England earned its second consecutive AFC title and the eighth of the Brady/Belichick era. Even then, some have continued to paint a bleak picture of the future for these three in New England. In fact, Vegas has even made odds on whether Belichick will return to the Patriots after next season. An erroneous report also made headlines following the team’s Super Bowl LII loss to Philadelphia that Brady himself wanted Jimmy Garoppolo money. That proved to be a farce.
Here’s another farce. Until there is actually a regression on the field, there’s nothing to see. The Patriots continue to dominate on the field. They remain the model organization in all of professional sports. That’s seemingly not going to change anytime soon. So can we please stop walking down narrative street here?
Cleveland Browns cap room
For just the second time in NFL history a team went winless throughout a 16-game regular season. All said, these Browns have won one game over the past two seasons. And we’re somehow surprised that they’ll enter free agency with north of $110 million in cap room. Why? The worst team in the NFL having the league’s lowest payroll. Imagine that. And simply because Cleveland has more money to throw around than Donald Trump is demanding for the next great wall, it doesn’t mean that free agents are going to want to sign here.
Future Hall of Fame tackle Joe Thomas — someone that has not committed to returning next season — is out there making free agent pitches to Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees. Awesome. Good luck with that. As we enter free agency, Cleveland’s excess of cap room has been the talk of the water cooler. At the end of the day, it’s going to mean very little. Maybe the team overpays for a free agent or two. Again, cool. But we’re not looking at a mass exodus of players from better organizations to the mistake by the lake. Instead, the real talk here should be Cleveland boasting two of the first four picks in April’s draft. That’s how the Browns are going to continue a massive rebuild that seemed to be sidetracked by Hue Jackson and Co. last season.
Andrew Luck situation
Is he throwing? Is he not throwing? When will he be back on the field? We get it, everyone wants to know Luck’s status after missing last season with a shoulder injury. A franchise quarterback and one of the top young players at his position pre-injury, Luck is key to the Colts’ future. There’s no doubt about this.
The issue here is that there’s been report after report dissecting the situation. Some have aligned. Others haven’t. And with OTAs still months away, we’re not going to have any concrete updates on Luck’s status for a while now. Until then, it’s going to be conjecture on top of conjecture, making this one of the most over-hyped stories around the NFL right now.
Jarvis Landry being franchised tagged
A lot was made of the Miami Dolphins placing the franchise tag on Landry. Is the team willing to pay him north of $16 million for the 2018 season? What is Landry’s value after averaging less than nine yards per reception last season? After all, he does boast an NFL record 400 receptions over the course of his first four NFL seasons. It’s in this that the Landry contract situation has dominated the news cycle in South Beach.
But the franchise tag itself really doesn’t do a lot to change the narrative here. Miami is still shopping Landry in trades. That hasn’t changed. And should some team give up valuable draft assets while making Landry one of the highest-paid receivers in the game, it would surely be a buy high proposition. The dynamic there hasn’t changed a whole lot since he was franchised. It’s just going to lead to more talk. More reports of potential suitors. And a huge contract for a player that has to be considered over-hyped due to the lackluster receiver group set to hit free agency.
Kirk Cousins’ bidding war
This became front and center the minute Cousins’ soon-to-be former Redskins team traded for Alex Smith. Despite reports that the Skins might look to franchise Cousins, he’s going to be a free agent next month. That’s going to lead to a whole lot more chatter on this front. It’s also going to lead to Cousins receiving the richest contract in NFL history. But really what does that even mean anymore?
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo currently holds the title of NFL’s highest paid. Cousins will capture that title once he signs. After that — in no particular order — Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady will fall in line. It’s the new normal. It’s a representation of a league that relies too much on one position. So whether Cousins signs with the Vikings, Jets or Broncos, he’ll be vastly overpaid. That’s what makes this entire story and the hubbub surrounding it so darn over-hyped.
Baker Mayfield comparison to Johnny Manziel
Sure the reigning Heisman winner had his off-field issues at Oklahoma. He’s also seen as an athletic quarterback and someone who can beat defenses with his feet. But in no way does this mean that both the on-field and off-field comparisons between Mayfield and Manziel are legitimate. They aren’t. It’s only because the two have volatile personalities and boast similar frames that people have started to compare them.
Here’s a fact. Mayfield has a stronger arm than Manziel. He’s also among the most-accurate quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Remember, accuracy was an issue for Johnny Football coming out of Texas A&M. Here’s another fact. Mayfield relies a whole heck of a lot less on his legs than Manziel does. It’s just a lazy comparison in every possible way. And it’s going to lead to the entire Mayfield situation being majorly over-hyped until the NFL Draft itself takes place in April.
Le’Veon Bell contract situation
Here’s another situation that has not changed since the season ended. Le’Veon Bell will either play under the franchise tag in 2018 or sign a lucrative long-term deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s not going to hit free agency. The Steelers are not trading one of the best running backs of this generation. Neither of those scenarios are going to magically take hold once the calendar flips to March and the new league year starts.
Even more importantly, the entire notion that Bell is upset about his contract situation is overblown. He’s seemingly happy with the way things are progressing on that front. This is a major change from the end of the 2017 campaign, when Bell himself hinted retirement could be in the cards. In any event, Bell will be with Pittsburgh next season. He’s unlikely to hold out. That’s where we are in regards to this situation. Period.