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Justin Jefferson lands record-breaking contract from Vikings, plus ranking NFL divisions

Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

It’s the first Monday of June, a day that will now forever be remembered as “Justin Jefferson Day” and that’s because the Vikings receiver just signed one of the biggest contracts in NFL history, so happy “Justin Jefferson Day” everyone!

We’ll be breaking down Jefferson’s deal in today’s newsletter, plus we’ll be ranking ALL eight NFL divisions from first to worst. We’ll also be taking a look at the eight teams that gained the most salary cap space thanks to the NFL’s June 1 rule.ย 

As always, here’s your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. Actually, you don’t even have to tell all of your friends; just tell two of your friends and I’ll be happy. To get them signed up, all you have to do isย click here.ย 

1. Justin Jefferson gets paid: Receiver lands historical deal from Vikingsย 

The drama between Justin Jefferson and the Vikings is finally over. The two sides agreed to a new contract on Monday and it was definitely worth the wait for Jefferson, who landed a historical deal that will make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history. Jefferson called it the deal he’s been waiting for since he was a “little kid.”

Here’s what you need to know:ย 

  • Jefferson’s historical deal pays him $35 million per year.ย Jefferson signed a four-year extension with the Vikings that’s reportedly worth a total of $140 million, including $110 million in guaranteed money. With an average of $35 million per year, not only does this new deal move him past A.J. Brown ($32 million) as the NFL’s highest-paid receiver, but it also moves him past Nick Bosa ($34 million per year) as the league’s highest-paid non-QB. Jefferson is now under contract through the 2028 season.ย 
  • Why the Vikings were willing to give Jefferson so much money.ย This one’s obvious: The Vikings paid up because Jefferson has been one of the best receivers in NFL history through his first four years. Not only does he have most receiving yards per game in NFL history with 98.3, but he also has the most receiving yds (5,899) and 100-yard receiving games (29) by a player through his first four seasons in league history. To put that last number in perspective, Randy Moss has the second-most 100-yard games through a player’s first four seasons and he only had 23. Oh, and Jefferson hit the 1,000-yard mark in 2023 even though he only played in 10 games, which made him just the third player ever to hit 1,000 yards in a season where the a player played 10 games or less.ย 
  • How the deal might impact other receivers.ย Ja’Marr Chase and CeeDee Lamb were both probably thrilled to see Jefferson’s deal get done and that’s because they’re two of the biggest winners here. Lamb’s career numbers have actually been pretty comparable to Jefferson’s, so there’s a good chance that he’s going to try and get a similar contract number from the Cowboys. Chase will also be in the same situation in Cincinnati: It won’t be surprising if the Bengals star tries to match Jefferson’s numbers or go even higher. This could also impact the potential asking price for Tee Higgins or Brandon Aiyuk. They almost certainly won’t try to match Jefferson’s numbers, but it could open the door for each guy to raise his current asking price.ย 

Jefferson is the latest receiver to get a huge extension this offseason. He joins Jaylen Waddle, A.J. Brown, Amon-Ra St. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Nico Collins, Michael Pittman Jr., Jerry Jeudy and Mike Evans.ย 

The deal means that J.J. McCarthy is going to throwing to one of the best receivers in the NFL for at least the next five years, which is good news for the rookie quarterback. Anyway, you can check out our full story on the Jefferson deal here. ย 

2. Eight teams that just picked up some major salary cap space now that June 1 has passed

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June 1 is one of those dates that gets thrown around a lot in conversation during the NFL offseason, but not everyone knows what it means, so let’s break it down.ย 

During the offseason, each NFL team is allowed to cut up to two players with a post-June 1 designation. When this designation gets used, a team will cut a player — let’s say that happens in March — but the team won’t gain any cap space at the time of the cut. Instead, they’ll gain the extra salary cap space after June 1.ย 

If you’re wondering why a team would go this route, it’s because the player’s salary cap hit can be spread out over two years if he’s released with a post-June 1 designation. If they don’t use the designation and a player gets cut before June 1, then the team has to eat his entire salary cap hit that year.ย 

There were a total of eight teams that picked up at least $9 million in salary cap space thanks to their post-June 1 cuts. We’ve listed each team below along with how much cap space they gained and who they got rid of to gain it (All numbers via Over the Cap).ย 

The extra cap space could really come in handy for the Cowboys, who had less than $3 million in salary cap space before gaining the extra cap room on Saturday. With each of these teams gaining a substantial amount of cap space, it won’t be surprising if we see a few free agency signings go down over the next week or two.ย 

Speaking of the June 1 deadline, Cody Benjamin went through and took a look at the biggest remaining needs for each of the 2024 contenders and you can check out his list here.ย 

3. Divisional Power Rankings: AFC North on top

The Kansas City Chiefs have been the best team in the NFL over the past two years, but they definitely don’t play in the best division, at least according to Jeff Kerr. Now that we’ve made it through free agency and the draft, Kerr decided to rank all eight divisions and the AFC West came in near the bottom.ย 

Let’s check out his rankings:ย 

1. AFC Northย (Bengals, Steelers, Ravens, Browns)
2. NFC Northย (Packers, Lions, Vikings, Bears)
3. AFC Southย (Colts, Texans, Jaguars, Titans)
4. AFC Eastย (Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Jets)
5. NFC Westย (49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals)
6. NFC Eastย (Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Commanders)
7. AFC Westย (Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Broncos)
8. NFC Southย (Falcons, Panthers, Buccaneers, Saints)

Although the AFC West is seventh, it actually went 8-8 against the NFC North last season, so that tells you how evenly matched most of these divisions are. It feels like Kerr got it right with the AFC North on top and the NFC South at the bottom, but as for the other six divisions, you could probably rank them anywhere two through seven and have a strong case for your rankings.ย 

If you want to read Kerr’s case for his rankings, youย can check out his full story here.ย 

4. Ranking the top candidates for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year ย 

After ranking the top candidates for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last week, we’re flipping over to the other side of the ball today to look at the top candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year. CBS Sports’ draft guru Chris Trapasso ranked the top eight candidates, and here’s who he likes along with each player’s odds for winning the award:ย 

1.ย CB Terrion Arnold (Lions): +1200
2.ย EDGE Dallas Turner (Vikings): +380
3.ย EDGE Laiatu Latu (Colts): +550
4.ย DT Byron Murphy (Seahawks): +1300
5.ย EDGE Jared Verse (Rams): +1100
6.ย CB Quinyon Mitchell (Eagles): +1100
7.ย DT Braden Fiske (Rams): +5000
8.ย EDGE Chop Robinson (Dolphins): +1300

Defensive Rookie of the Year is one of the most wide-open awards the NFL has. Over the past three seasons alone, we’ve see three different positions win it with LB Micah Parsons in 2021, CB Sauce Gardner in 2022 and DE Will Anderson Jr. in 2023. That makes this award one of the most difficult to predict.ย 

The only thing that’s consistent about this award in recent history is that it almost always goes to a first-round pick. In 16 of the past 17 years, a first-rounder has walked away with the award. (Colts LB Shaq Leonard is the only non-first-rounder to win it since 2007). Fiske is the only non-first round player on Trapasso’s list.ย 

If you’re thinking about making a bet, Arnold and Murphy definitely seem to be the best values based on Trapasso’s rankings. If you’re wondering why Arnold is viewed as the most likely player to win the award (and not Turner or Latu, who are the favorites in Vegas), you can read Trapasso’sย full explanation for his ranking here.ย 

5. NFC West win totals: Will Brinson’s best bet on each team’s over/under

Will Brinson has been handing out over/under bets for every team in the NFL over the past two weeks, and now, we’re finally down to our four teams and those are the four teams in the NFC West.

So what are Brinson’s best bets for that division? Glad you asked.ย 

Los Angeles Rams
ODDS:ย Over 8.5 (-140) / Under 8.5 (+120)
LEAN:ย 
Over 8.5 (-140)
Brinson’s take:ย 
“I trust Sean McVay implicitly — everyone got hurt in his one bad year in 2022 and the world tried to send him to the announcing booth. The Rams are at least a 10-win team in 2024 barring a complete rash of injuries.”

Seattle Seahawks
ODDS:ย Over 7.5 (-120) / Under 7.5 (+100)
LEAN:ย 
Over 7.5 (-120)
Brinson’s take:ย 
“It’s amazing how the Seahawks rebooted the entire franchise on the back of the Russell Wilson trade. Geno Smith isn’t it … but he might be it? … at least for a year or two? The receiving corps is loaded, the running backs are stout, the offensive line is improved. If the defense picks up Mike Macdonald’s scheme in the first year there is a legit ceiling here. I wouldn’t want to be on the under personally.”

If you want to see how Brinson feels about the 49ers and Cardinals, you can get his take on those two teams here. ย 

6. Extra points: Cowboys legend tragically dies at age 52

It’s been a busy weekend in the NFL, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.

  • Cowboys legend Larry Allen dies at 52. The Pro Football Hall of Famer, who went to 11 Pro Bowls during his 14-year career, died on Sunday while on vacation with his family in Mexico. The offensive guard spent 12 of his 14 seasons in Dallas and won Super Bowl XXX with the Cowboys. You can read more about his legendary career here.ย 
  • Commanders cut Brandon McManus.ย The Commanders have decided to cut ties with McManus in a move that comes less than a week after the kicker was accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit. The lawsuit stems from an incident that happened while McManus was playing for the Jaguars. You can check out the full details of the situation here.ย 
  • Darren Waller likely to retire.ย After eight NFL seasons, it’s starting to look like the former Pro Bowl tight end is going to retire. Waller has been contemplating retirement this entire offseason, but the Giants haven’t rushed him to make a decision, which is why he’s still thinking things over even though he’s had four months to figure it out. As it stands now, Waller is expected to announce his decision before the Giants start mandatory minicamp next week, according to ESPN.com.ย 
  • Falcons and Eagles likely to learn their tampering fates this week. The NFL has been investigating these two teams for possible tampering during free agency and it appears those investigations are now over. According to ESPN.com, both teams should find out this week whether they’ll be facing any punishments.ย 
  • Lamar Jackson just set $750,000 on fire.ย When Jackson signed his huge contract extension last year, it included a $750,000 bonus for attending 80% of Baltimore’s offseason workouts. Well, Jackson hasn’t been showing up and as of today, he can no longer hit the 80% mark for this offseason, which essentially means he’s decided to forfeit $750,000 for this season.ย 
  • Bills want to host the 2028 NFL Draft. The NFL hasn’t even awarded the 2027 NFL Draft yet, but the Bills are already looking to 2028. According to the Buffalo News, the Bills want to host the 2028 draft and they want to do it at their new stadium, which is scheduled to be open in 2026.ย 
  • Tua Tagovailoa is unrecognizable.ย The Dolphins QB was at an autograph signing a few days ago and he looked absolutely unrecognizable. You can see video of Tua here and there’s also a picture that you can check out here.

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Author: John Breech
June 3, 2024 | 1:20 pm

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