NFL news and rumors mailbag: Thoughts on Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence entering Year 2, Bengals’ Jessie Bates contract situation

This week's NFL news and rumors mailbag features questions about Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence, Bengals safety Jessie Bates, and more.

As NFL teams begin their organized team activities (OTAs), 90-man rosters have largely been set up for training camp. However, there are still some notable names lingering in offseason limbo and some potential trade chips who are lacking clarity. With that said, we decided to bring out our weekly NFL news and rumors mailbag to answer some reader questions.

NFL news and rumors: Thoughts on the Jessie Bates situation with the Cincinnati Bengals?

The Bengals franchise-tagged Bates earlier this offseason, and the safety has yet to sign the tender, which is worth $12.91 million. He reportedly wants to be paid among the top safeties in the league, and rightfully so, following his output over the past four years, including his heroic run in the most recent postseason. The Bengals typically pay their own, so it’s a tad surprising this situation hasn’t been resolved.

As CJax noted above, the Bengals drafted three defensive backs last month, including first-round pick Daxton Hill. In theory, the Bengals have a ton of leverage in a negotiation with Bates, who wants to remain in Cincinnati. If Bates balks on re-signing, they can simply replace him with Hill and move on.

Bates, should he become available, would have an interesting trade market. Remember, a team would not only need to give up assets for him but also pay him top-tier money as well.

A team like the Philadelphia Eagles, as CJax mentioned above, could make sense, even after agreeing to a one-year deal with James Bradberry on Wednesday. The Eagles have enough space to give Bates a backloaded deal with a tremendous signing bonus. They are also in pretty rough shape at safety and have been known to be aggressive in the post-draft trade market.

The deal would probably come down to Bates’ price of extension and the Bengals’ price of a trade. Given Bates’ contract demands, the Bengals aren’t likely to get a premium pick (first- or second-round selection). However, the Eagles could offer a third-round selection and maybe a Day 3 pick for the ascending safety.

Again, this situation seems to be far from over, and Bates appears to want to stay with the Bengals. It’s more likely that things get worked out than they don’t at this point. But, obviously, things in the NFL change at the drop of a hat.

How will Nick Sirianni build his offense around Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown?

The Eagles are likely to run a pretty standard blend of West Coast Offense/Spread principles. That outlook will provide opportunities for Hurts to win with his legs and his arm.

Brown will primarily (and possibly exclusively) play the X receiver position. He has the ability to beat press coverage, allowing Sirianni to move DeVonta Smith’s svelte frame to the Z position, where he will be able to take advantage of additional space off the line.

With Brown and Smith playing to their strengths, Hurts should have open receivers regularly. Add in tight end Dallas Goedert, and Hurts is set up to succeed in the passing game.

Hurts needs to improve his accuracy and vision across the middle of the field. Brown’s big body, along with Goedert’s continued ascension, should help in that endeavor. Hurts also could benefit from Quez Watkins (speedster) and Zach Pascal (technician) in the slot. That duo could rotate and provide a nice mix inside.

Ultimately, Sirianni will want to take advantage of his tremendous offensive line. The zone-read and outside-zone concepts will remain. Brown shouldn’t shake up the game plan as much as he should improve its outcome.

The Eagles want to pass more and having a wideout who can consistently beat press coverage is ideal for creating better opportunities for the offense and Hurts.

Thoughts on Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence entering Year 2?

Lawrence is linking up with Doug Pederson at the right time. Year 1 to Year 2 is typically one of the bigger jumps in production for a young QB, and Pederson did an excellent job of boosting Carson Wentz in his second season in 2017.

Pederson understands how to communicate with and see the position from the player’s standpoint. He will be able to relay information to Lawrence effectively, and the pair will be able to offer tangible feedback to each other. That relationship should only help in Lawrence’s development.

Last year, the Jaguars’ offense was a train wreck. While Lawrence probably avoided criticism because of the wild public failure of Urban Meyer, he does need to improve his decision-making and overall vision in his second season. That’s not a criticism as much as an acknowledgment that Lawrence is still just a second-year QB. And like most young QBs, he has areas of his game that he needs to mightily improve as his career moves along.

The Jaguars have done a solid job adding pieces around Lawrence this season. While Christian Kirk and Zay Jones were wildly overpaid, they will provide notable upgrades over what Lawrence had to work with last year. The Jaguars have also improved their line with the signing of Brandon Scherff and the addition of third-round center Luke Fortner.

Another intriguing addition is TE Evan Engram. While Engram took his lumps as a former New York Giants first-round pick, the veteran has the ability to be a standout in the passing game. He’s facing less scrutiny and pressure in Jacksonville, which should help him focus solely on his job. He can be a legitimate safety net for Lawrence.

Overall, I think Lawrence, like Hurts, is set up to succeed. While the situation isn’t ideal, Lawrence has the mental and physical makeup to improve, despite the Jaguars’ growing pains. I’d expect him to have a notably improved TD:INT ratio (12:17 in 2021) in his second season.

Mike Kaye is the Lead NFL Reporter for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @mike_e_kaye.


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