The NFL offseason has reached its slow burn, but roster moves are still taking place as teams look to take advantage of a ripe free agent market. With the NFL schedule release finally done and over with, Pro Football Network decided to open up its weekly mailbag to answer readers’ questions about news and rumors around the league.
NFL news and rumors mailbag: Will the Eagles add a veteran defensive back?
How long of a leash does the bargain bin level talent of DBs not named Slay do the Eagles allow before they go get a starter?
— HotCakes33 (@hotcakes_33) May 11, 2022
Well, I think the Eagles are telling the truth when they say they like their secondary much more than fans and the media do, as that’s a low bar.
Last year, the Eagles selected Zech McPhearson in the fourth round and traded for Kary Vincent and Tay Gowan in the middle of the season. They also filled up the transactions list with Mac McCain nearly every other week during the season. He was a waiver-wire pickup that they seemingly couldn’t quit.
At safety, the Eagles like Anthony Harris as a starter, as they seemingly chose to re-sign him over longtime captain Rodney McLeod in free agency. Harris is likely to play a strong safety-ish role, while Marcus Epps is likely to man center field. Epps has steadily improved during his three seasons in Philly, but outside of Harris and Epps, the rest of the group is groan-worthy, at best.
The cornerback depth chart seems to have a longer “leash” than safety. As I’ve stated in previous mailbags, I do believe the Eagles will address the secondary before training camp, likely with a defensive back who has versatility.
Former Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King seems to be the most logical candidate, while Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes have established relationships with defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
While fans would probably prefer to read that James Bradberry is a logical target, I’d expect him to price out of the Eagles’ range. Bradberry would be an excellent fit, but he can probably find a team that has a better chance of winning in 2022 or is willing to offer more cash.
Last year, the Eagles signed Steven Nelson on the eve of training camp. I’d expect a similar move this year, even if it happens shortly after camp starts.
Will Kenny Pickett take over the Steelers’ QB1 job this season?
Do you see Pickett taking over the job this season, or does Trubisky have a decent chance to hang onto the starting gig?
— OC Ospreys (#PINdejo) (@OspreysFB) May 12, 2022
At the NFL owners’ meetings in March, Pro Football Network asked Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett about the rookie QB class.
Here’s what he said: “I think they’re going to be really good. I know that there are going to be a lot of guys that are going to get drafted and get opportunities. I always hope that a young guy can have time to train before he’s thrown out there into the wildness.
“I think the longer they can wait, the better. Just so they can learn and get prepared and get more tools to help them as they move forward because there are so many things — especially going from the college game — I think they’re all good guys, they’ve got great attributes, but once you get out in this game, it’s different. The speed, the different protection stuff, the different pressures you’re going to see.
“I think they’re going to be a good class. But I definitely hope that they get some time to acclimate.”
I think Hackett’s point is astute. While Kenny Pickett is seen as the most NFL-ready QB of the draft class (and was the only first-round pick), he still needs to adjust to the NFL game. Mitchell Trubisky signed a very team-friendly contract with Pittsburgh. Still, he has experience and was probably given a raw deal in Chicago after being over-drafted ahead of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes.
Trubisky gives the Steelers the option of giving Pickett the time he needs. There is basically no reason to force Pickett out there.
If Trubisky struggles during the season, Pittsburgh could maybe play Pickett. Otherwise, the Steelers should take the approach they used with Tommy Maddox and Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. Maddox was the Week 1 starter and played until he got hurt. Roethlisberger took the reins from there and never looked back.
Trubisky needs to win to hold off Pickett. It’s likely a matter of “when,” not “if,” regarding Pickett taking over this season.
Which team has the best chance of going from worst to first within their division?
What team has the best chance to go from worst to first?
— ™ (@_TimmyJimmy) May 12, 2022
Here are the teams that finished last in their respective divisions last season: New York Jets (AFC East), Baltimore Ravens (AFC North), Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC South), Denver Broncos (AFC West), New York Giants (NFC East), Detroit Lions (NFC North), Carolina Panthers (NFC South), and Seattle Seahawks (NFC West).
Of that group, the Ravens have the best setup. They went 8-9 last year with QB Lamar Jackson dealing with injuries throughout the second half of the season. Jackson will presumably return healthy, and the Ravens had an excellent offseason. Baltimore should be much-improved, even after changing defensive coordinators.
The free agent additions of Marcus Williams, Michael Pierce, and Mike Davis should keep Baltimore afloat in their respective positions. The draft additions of Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Linderbaum, Charlie Kolar, and Travis Jones should make the team better for the long haul.
While the Cincinnati Bengals have improved their Super Bowl runner-up roster, the Steelers and Cleveland Browns are wild cards. The Ravens could easily surge up the standings.
The Jets had a great offseason, but they still seem to be building for the long haul. The Jaguars improved mightily, but they are more likely to be playing for .500 — at best — in Year 1 of the Doug Pederson era. The Broncos have a tall ladder to scale in the AFC West, with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers leading the charge.
The last-place NFC teams from last year aren’t going to sniff first place, most likely.
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