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NFL slaps Falcons for tampering with Kirk Cousins, plus Patriots honor Tom Brady with rousing tribute

Happy Thursday, everyone! John Breech is enjoying some much-needed offseason rest, so you’ve got me, Cody Benjamin, to deliver all the latest from around the NFL, right here in the Pick Six newsletter.

Be sure to subscribe right here, to ensure you never miss a daily dose of NFL updates. Today we’ve got NFL tampering news, a Tom Brady night to remember and so much more. 

Kirk Cousins USATSI

Three months after signing Cousins to a $180 million deal to kick off free agency, Atlanta has been penalized for having “improper contact” with the former Minnesota Vikings quarterback during this year’s negotiating period. The punishment: forfeiture of a 2025 fifth-round draft pick and payment of a $250,000 fine, with general manager Terry Fontenot also docked $50,000.

While the tampering violations did not involve communications prior to the NFL’s two-day negotiating window in March, per NFL Media, they likely included Cousins — plus fellow signees Darnell Mooney and Charlie Woerner — making direct contact and/or travel arrangements with Atlanta before their contracts could be finalized. The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, were cleared of potential tampering charges for signing former New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, the NFL said.

2. Backup QB watch: Dolphins, Lions may need help

Speaking of big-name quarterbacks, not every team has the luxury of entering 2024 with both a premium starter and backup plan. We’ve sorted through every depth chart to identify six quietly concerning No. 2 spots, while proposing some potential upgrades. Two 2023 playoff teams made the list:

Detroit Lions | Current backup: Hendon Hooker | Proposal: Trade for Taylor Heinicke

Hooker has a third-round pedigree, but he’s 26 and still in the learning stages of the No. 2 role, fresh off a “redshirt” season spent recovering from a torn ACL. Heinicke is a different animal, starting 28 games the last three years and showcasing enough spunk as a gutsy passer to win over multiple fan bases. He’d be sure to get the Dan Campbell stamp of approval for his never-say-die mentality, and his role is fuzzier with the Atlanta Falcons after the dual addition of Kirk Cousins and Michael Penix Jr.

Miami Dolphins | Current backup: Mike WhiteProposal: Sign Ryan Tannehill

When the Dolphins get done negotiating Tua Tagovailoa’s inevitable contract extension, they might want to think twice about their backup plan, as White has gone just 2-5, with nearly as many picks (13) as games played (14), in his career. Tannehill, the ex-Dolphins and Tennessee Titans No. 1, has 144 more games of starting experience, plus a play-action resume that could translate to Mike McDaniel’s timing-based system. General manager Chris Grier has defended Tannehill’s Miami run in the past.

3. Agent’s Take: Proposing a Trevor Lawrence deal

Trevor Lawrence

The Jacksonville Jaguars have yet to sign their former No. 1 overall draft pick to a long-term contract, but Trevor Lawrence’s next deal is a tricky projection, considering his roller-coaster NFL journey. Former agent and salary cap expert Joel Corry has unpacked the potential negotiations, arguing there’s a specific fellow quarterback who could prove to be a financial model for Lawrence:

A compromise for the parties could be following in another first overall pick’s footsteps when he extended his rookie contract with two years remaining. Matthew Stafford, the first overall pick in 2009, signed a three-year, $53 million extension, averaging $17,666,667 per year, in 2013. The deal made Stafford the NFL’s sixth-highest-paid player upon signing. 

There are some parallels with Lawrence and Stafford early in their careers. Stafford was coming off a 2012 season that didn’t measure up to his 2011 campaign in which he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdown passes. Although Stafford set an NFL record with 727 pass attempts and was second in the league with 4,967 passing yards, he only threw 20 touchdown passes in 2012. His passer rating also dropped from 97.2 (fifth in the NFL) to 79.8 (22nd in the NFL). … Becoming the league’s sixth-highest-paid player on a three-year extension would put Lawrence between the $51 million per year Jalen Hurts received on a five-year extension from the Philadelphia Eagles last April and the $46,338,889 per year in Patrick Mahomes‘ renegotiated nine-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

4. Vikings coach: Sam Darnold is QB1 for now

No surprise here, but Kevin O’Connell indicated that Darnold, the former New York Jets prospect and journeyman spot starter, will enter training camp atop the unofficial quarterback depth chart. It’s a nod to Darnold’s NFL experience, which first-round draft pick J.J. McCarthy does not yet have, and also the former’s performance in spring practice. McCarthy is clearly the future in Minnesota, but all signs point to the Vikings proceeding cautiously with his rollout.

5. Patriots retire No. 12, preview Tom Brady statue

Tom Brady, left, and Robert Kraft

Brady may be retired (for now), but he’s remained a central piece of the 2024 offseason, previewing his debut as a broadcast analyst and teasing additional post-football ventures. His latest moment in the spotlight: Wednesday night, in front of a sold-out Gillette Stadium crowd, during which Patriots owner Robert Kraft officially inducted the longtime quarterback into the team’s Hall of Fame, retired Brady’s No. 12 jersey and previewed a 12-foot-tall statue of Brady that’ll be unveiled this season.

6. Extra points: Jets tweak play-caller, Saints TE out

Here are a few other nuggets from concluding minicamps to keep you informed:

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Author: Cody Benjamin
June 13, 2024 | 1:15 pm

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