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Christian McCaffrey resets the running back market, plus one burning question for every AFC South team

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter! 

It’s your good pal Tyler Sullivan here to help guide you through what has been an extremely busy week considering that it’s only the first week of June. No matter which way you turn, some of the NFL’s biggest stars are getting paid, and the latest bag that got handed out came in the Bay Area. On top of seeing the rich get richer, we’ll comb through some of the latest updates going on with various teams as they either continue through OTAs or spark up minicamps. 

As always, make sure you tell everyone you know to sign up for the newsletter. To get them signed up, just click here

49ers RB Christian McCaffrey USATSI

Another day, another massive contract extension. 

This time, it’s Christian McCaffrey, who put pen to paper on an extension that is resetting the running back market. According to CBS Sports lead NFL insider Jonathan Jones, McCaffrey and the San Francisco 49ers agreed to a two-year extension worth $38 million. Of course, the All-Pro is no stranger to resetting markets, as he had previously held the honor of the NFL’s highest-paid running back after signing a four-year, $64 million deal back in 2020 when he was still with the Carolina Panthers, which the Niners picked up when they traded for him. Under this revamped deal, McCaffrey will see an average annual value of $19 million per year. 

“Two years ago, we were ecstatic to welcome Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers,” President of Football Operations and General Manager John Lynch said in a statement released by the team coupled with the announcement of the extension. “Since his arrival, he’s been everything we thought he would be and more. His versatile skillset has been a seamless fit within our offense. His professionalism and work ethic are as exemplary as I’ve seen since I’ve been associated with the NFL. We look forward to working with Christian for many years to come.”

McCaffrey is now under team control through the 2027 season.

2. All-Pros CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk not present at mandatory minicamp

While some players are getting paid, others are still waiting for their deals to come across the negotiating table, which has resulted in a couple of holdouts. As both the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers opened up mandatory minicamp Tuesday, they were down a couple of All-Pro wide receivers. 

On the day the 49ers inked McCaffrey, wideout Brandon Aiyuk was not present at Niners minicamp as he seeks a new contract, per NFL Media. Aiyuk, who was a second-team All-Pro in 2023, had his fifth-year option picked up last spring and is set to make $14.1 million in 2024 before possibly entering the open market next offseason. San Francisco has publicly stated its desire to keep Aiyuk in the fold, but the two sides are reportedly not close to an extension. 

Meanwhile, as Dallas opened up minicamp, CeeDee Lamb was missing in action as he eyes a new deal. Head coach Mike McCarthy noted that Lamb has ‘been engaged” but highlighted that he’s going through a ‘business decision.” 

Similar to Aiyuk, Lamb is currently set to play the 2024 season under his fifth-year option that’ll pay him close to $18 million. Given his production and spike in wide receiver money that has poured in this offseason, a Lamb extension could see him nearly double that total on an average basis. 

Both Lamb and Aiyuk are subject to up to $101,716 in fines for missing minicamp. 

3. One burning question for every team in the AFC South

Texans QB C.J. Stroud USATSI

With offseason workouts ramping up with minicamp before the summer break, we’ve been combing through each team and identifying one burning question that hovers over the franchise leading into the season. Next up is the AFC South, and our own Jordan Dajani was tasked with coming up with a key question for each club. 

  • Texans: Can DeMeco Ryans and Co. build on last year’s surprising success? “This offseason, the Texans became the first team in NFL history to add a player coming off a season with 100-plus receptions (Stefon Diggs), 1,000-plus rushing yards (Joe Mixon), and 10-plus sacks (Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry) in the same offseason. With all of these additions, are the Texans really going to be Super Bowl contenders? Or, could they take a step backward after the unexpected debuts of Ryans and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik? The Texans clearly appear to be on the right track, but you have to go out there and prove it with the eyes of the NFL world now upon you.”
  • Colts: Can Anthony Richardson stay healthy?This one is simple. Can the Colts’ former No. 4 overall pick stay on the field and develop into an NFL star? Richardson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5, and was able to finish just ONE NFL game healthy during his first year. Still, Richardson became just one of four players in NFL history to record three or more passing touchdowns and three or more rushing touchdowns in his first four career games. Will Richardson be a dynamic, Cam Newton-like clone? Or someone who perennially struggles to stay on the field?”
  • Jaguars: Did they do enough this offseason to improve? “I’m more concerned about the Jags’ offseason at large compared to Lawrence as a franchise quarterback. Jacksonville replaced Calvin Ridley with Gabe Davis, but also drafted Brian Thomas Jr. in the first round. Maybe he ends up being a stud — but losing your top receiver is notable. 

    Defensively, I look to the secondary. There was certainly some turnover, but the big headlines were probably the Jaguars replacing Darious Williams with Ronald Darby at cornerback, and Rayshawn Jenkins for Darnell Savage at safety — although Savage may play some nickel corner. Did the seventh-worst pass defense in the NFL from last year get any better?”

  • Titans: Can Will Levis prove he’s a franchise QB? “The table is set for Levis. Tennessee went out and acquired an offensive-minded coach who has worked with several different big-name quarterbacks throughout the course of his career, a new left tackle, a new center and a few new special weapons in Ridley, Tyler Boyd and Tony Pollard to work alongside DeAndre Hopkins. Levis’ first nine NFL starts did not put him in the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion by any means, but he showed plenty of flashes that have fans excited — from his four-touchdown debut against the Atlanta Falcons, to the improbable comeback victory over the Miami Dolphins in prime time. Levis has a legitimate NFL arm, and now what appears to be a legitimate supporting cast. How far can Tennessee go in 2024 if Levis takes that next step in his development?”

To read Jordan’s full write-up, click here.

4. Lower-round AFC rookies who could shine in 2024

On Tuesday, we highlighted CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso’s list of rookies in the NFC that were drafted after Day 1 who could have key roles in 2024. Now, it’s the AFC’s turn. 

Similar to the NFC where we saw the likes of Puka Nacua and Sam LaPorta emerge as key pieces to their teams in Year 1 despite not having first-round status, the AFC had some youngsters step up as well, including Dolphins running back De’Von Achane.  

Here’s a look at a few rookies who Trapasso has his eye on. 

  • Jets WR Malachi Corley (third round, 65th overall pick). At 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, Corley is almost identically sized to young rocket of a back Breece Hall, who was 5-foot-11 and 217 pounds at his combine. While the aerial portion of the offense will run through Wilson, Corley has the unique skills to contribute right away. He doesn’t need to master a multitude of routes to get open. Most of his targets will be of the schemed-open variety. 
  • Steelers LB Payton Wilson (third round, 98th overall pick). I cannot rave enough about Wilson in Pittsburgh. I ranked Wilson at No. 1 in my player-team fits piece few weeks back, so it would be silly not to highlight him again. Actually, second-round center Zach Frazier would’ve been a sensible selection here, too. Both are going to play in Year 1, without question. Wilson can be better. This is a supremely gifted athlete who was wildly productive as a blitzer, against the run, and in coverage at NC State. He had 13 pass breakups and seven interceptions in his five-year stint with the Wolfpack. And the Steelers were desperate for steady — and explosive — linebacker play a season ago. 
  • Colts WR Adonai Mitchell (second round, 52nd overall pick). Despite a 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jump all above the 88th percentile at his position, Mitchell was the surprise fall from the stacked receiver class. No one expected him to be picked in the 50s. He was hardly a YAC weapon at Texas, but there was some thought it was due to the mostly perimeter, chain-moving responsibilities he had with the Longhorns after his stay at Georgia. Regardless of whether or not you liked Mitchell on film or his analytics profile, there’s no questioning he’s a size-and-speed specimen at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds with sub 4.40 speed.

If you want to see the full list of every NFC rookie who made Trapasso’s list, click here

5. Reporting from Dallas, Philadelphia, and New England

Patriots QB Drake Maye Photo by Maddie Meyer/

Teams are either wrapping up OTAs or kicking off minicamp this week, and we’ve had boots on the ground across the country. I was in Foxborough, Massachusetts, covering the Patriots‘ final OTA session before they begin minicamp on Monday. Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ Garrett Podell was in Frisco, Texas, checking in on the Cowboys and Jeff Kerr was on hand in Philadelphia as the two NFC East clubs opened up minicamp. 

6. Extra points: Tua growing impatient over contract talks

The NFL never slows down, so let’s make sure you’re covered with even the tiniest bit of football-related news.

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Author: Tyler Sullivan
June 5, 2024 | 1:30 pm

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