BS Meter on Latest NFL Free-Agency and Trade Buzz, Rumors
We're closing in on the start of 2021 NFL free agency. Teams can officially sign players starting March 17 and begin negotiations two days earlier. The next week is going to be chock-full of free-agent rumors and trade buzz—not all of it genuine.
As is the case leading up to the draft, the eve of free agency can be filled with team- and agent-generated smoke. It's not at all uncommon for parties to leak less-than-accurate information to gain leverage in trade talks or negotiations.
Of course, not every leak or insinuation is false. Teams and players know that a little bit of honesty can be beneficial in the right situation. The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, put it out there that Carson Wentz was available earlier this offseason. While it might not have generated the trade market they were hoping for, the Eagles were still able to get a trade done before the start of free agency.
Here, we'll dig into some of the latest trade and free-agent buzz and try to separate reasonable reports from the b.s.—using previous reports, quotes and good, old-fashioned common sense as tools of detection.
Let's dig in.
New England's "Plan A" at Quarterback Is Jimmy Garoppolo
The New England Patriots are still searching for their answer at quarterback in the post-Tom Brady era. Cam Newton was a serviceable stopgap in 2020, but he couldn't lead New England to the playoffs while Brady was busy winning a title with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Patriots' answer might just be former Brady backup Jimmy Garoppolo. According to Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal (h/t Jiwon Kim of CLNS Media), New England has circled the San Francisco 49ers quarterback as its No. 1 option.
"From what I gather from talking to people this week, over the past week, Jimmy Garoppolo is still far and away their Plan A," Bedard said on his podcast. "That, if they had to draw it up, exactly the optimal situation for the Patriots for this coming season, it's Jimmy G coming back here."
This doesn't feel like total b.s., as the Patriots would probably jump on Garoppolo if he becomes a free agent. However, the idea that the oft-injured 29-year-old is "far and away" the Patriots' top target feels unlikely. There are several quality quarterback prospects in this year's draft who would potentially provide New England with a longer window of opportunity.
This may be an attempt on the part of the Patriots to prompt the 49ers into action. San Francisco inquired about Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. The 49ers may be considering moving on from Garoppolo in the not-too-distant future, and if they know that New England is interested, they may reach out with a trade proposal.
It's more likely that Garoppolo would be the Patriots' top target if released or offered for a lower-tier trade package. The Patriots probably aren't going after Garoppolo with a strong trade offer.
B.S. Meter: Mild b.s.
Seahawks Are Making Calls About Trading Russell Wilson
The relationship between the Seattle Seahawks and quarterback Russell Wilson appears to be deteriorating. Wilson has publicly voiced his displeasure with his lack of protection, and Seattle hasn't been happy about it.
"A source told me that the Seahawks management is not happy with Russell Wilson and his camp for taking this to the media. ... The current situation is unsustainable," Dan Patrick said on The Dan Patrick Show (h/t Rob Staton of BBC Sports).
According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, the Seahawks may now be mulling the idea of trading Wilson.
"I know there's been calls made on both sides," Russini said on The Pat McAfee Show. "Going to Seattle, and from Seattle to other teams."
Just because the Seahawks are making calls, though, doesn't mean that Seattle wants to move Wilson—at least not at the moment. Seattle has a legitimately elite quarterback in Wilson and an open playoff window that would likely close without him. It also has a 69-year-old coach in Pete Carroll who may not be interested in overseeing a rebuild.
It's likely that, for now, the Seahawks are simply interested in gauging Wilson's trade value to prepare for a move down the road.
B.S. Meter: No b.s. on Seattle making calls.
Bears Prepared to Push for Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson may be more interested in leaving Seattle than the Seahawks are interested in trading him. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Wilson hasn't "demanded" a trade but has named four teams he'd consider waiving his no-trade clause to join. This suggests that Wilson has at least considered playing elsewhere in the near future.
One of the four teams is the Chicago Bears—and the interest appears to be mutual. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are prepared to make a serious run at the future Hall of Famer.
"The thinking among multiple sources is the Bears have prioritized making a run at Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson," Biggs wrote.
There are issues that Chicago would have to overcome to make a deal, of course. The Bears would have to put together an enticing trade package and create enough cap space to absorb Wilson's contract. Chicago is currently projected to be $2.8 million over the salary cap.
However, the notion that Chicago's top priority is landing Wilson isn't unrealistic at all. The Bears were a playoff team in 2020 despite getting shaky quarterback play from Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky. They would likely be a lesser overall team if making this move, in part because they'd likely have to include some key contributors in the trade package—and re-signing Allen Robinson II would become virtually impossible financially.
However, having an elite quarterback can cover a lot of warts on a roster, and coach Matt Nagy would finally have one with which to work. While it may be unrealistic for Chicago to get a deal done this offseason, expect the Bears to make a serious attempt.
B.S. Meter: No b.s.
Teams Believe a Deshaun Watson Trade Will Happen
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has been the topic of trade rumors all offseason, due in no small part to his desire to leave the organization. Watson has even threatened to not play for the Texans if he doesn't receive his desired trade, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.
"I highly doubt [Watson] will suit up in a Texans uniform again," Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey told the Huddle & Flow podcast. "He's extremely serious."
While Watson's demands are music to the ears of teams interested in acquiring him, the Texans aren't willing to play along.
"Houston is not only not interested in trading Watson but also not interested in listening to offers for him. At least two teams have given offers to Houston and gotten zero feedback. Like, no reaction, no 'We'll get back to you.' Nothing," Pro Football Talk's Peter King wrote.
Still, teams around the league believe Houston will eventually give in and field offers, according to ESPN's Jeff Darlington.
"They sense that Houston has no reason to jump at this point," Darlington said on The Rich Eisen Show (at the one-minute mark). There's a belief that Watson will eventually be available, that he will wind up playing for another team."
This is a logical belief for teams to have, as Houston could conceivably land a historic trade package for Watson—especially if it pulls the trigger just before the draft. It would potentially get nothing more than a headache and another lost season if it staunchly refuses to move Watson at all. This does not feel like a team trying to diminish the dwindling leverage that the Texans still have.
B.S. Meter: No b.s.
A Stephon Gilmore Trade Is a 'Foregone Conclusion'
While not as hot a trade target as Deshaun Watson, Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore will still be highly coveted if he becomes available. Most teams seem to believe that he will be.
"Most GMs have considered it a foregone conclusion that the Patriots would trade top corner Stephon Gilmore this offseason and I haven't heard anything about a contract extension, so a trade still seems like an eventuality," CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote.
This one seems logical, as Gilmore is entering the final year of his contract and should net the Patriots a nice return in a trade. The Patriots also have a history of moving on from players while they're still playing at a high level—Logan Mankins and Richard Seymour are two of the most notable.
The 30-year-old Gilmore could be approaching that point.
Of course, this could always be a rumor sparked by the Patriots to help gain the team leverage in contract negotiations with Gilmore. If the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year doesn't want to play elsewhere, he may be willing to take a pay cut to stay.
And the term "foregone conclusion" is probably a bit hyperbolic. The Patriots are projected to have $68.7 million in cap space, so dumping Gilmore's contract shouldn't be a priority. If the right offer comes along, the Patriots would probably move him, but not for a bargain-basement offer.
This could very well be an attempt by one or more general managers to drive down the market price of cornerbacks in free agency. If Gilmore can be had at a base salary of $7 million in 2021, who should free-agent cornerbacks expect to reset the market?
B.S. Meter: No b.s. that teams expect Gilmore to be available. Total b.s. that it's a "foregone conclusion."
Raiders Looking to Trade Trent Brown
Two years ago, the Las Vegas Raiders gave offensive tackle Trent Brown a four-year, $66 million contract. They've only had him available for 16 total games in two seasons, however, and may now be looking to move on.
"The Raiders have had talks about potentially dealing tackle Trent Brown, sources said, and with few available tackles in free agency, Las Vegas has a shot," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport tweeted.
With no guaranteed money remaining on Brown's contract, a trade is entirely realistic, and the Raiders probably have made some calls to gauge his value. However, it may be a stretch to believe Las Vegas is actively shopping a player who was a Pro Bowler in 2019.
It's more likely that the Raiders are attempting to leverage a contract renegotiation and/or motivate Brown to get and stay on the playing field. Recent comments from general manager Mike Mayock seem to support this idea.
"What he needs to do more than anything is get himself in the best shape of his life and come out ready to prove that he is a dominant tackle in the National Football League. That's all it takes. If Trent gets in shape and stays committed, there's not a better talent out there," Mayock said, per Ron Futrell of the Associated Press.
If the Raiders can get a first-round pick or more for Brown, they'll probably make a deal. However, this particular trade rumor may simply be an attempt to either get more out of Brown or get him at a lower price point.
B.S. Meter: Moderate b.s.
Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Norwell on the Trade Block
While the Raiders may be posturing with Trent Brown, the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars are probably more serious about moving their pricey offensive linemen. According to La Canfora, the Giants are looking to trade guard Kevin Zeitler, while the Jags are trying to move guard Andrew Norwell.
However, La Canfora noted that trades are unlikely for both players and that teams expect them to be released instead.
With Zeitler owed $12 million in base salary and Norwell owed the same, it could indeed be difficult for the Giants and Jaguars to land an enticing trade package. New York could save $12 million in cap space by cutting Zeitler, while Jacksonville could save $9 million by cutting Norwell. Again, the idea that teams believe both with be released makes sense.
However, it appears more likely in Zeitler's case. While a quality starter, he's never been a Pro Bowler, and cutting him could save the Giants valuable cap dollars. Norwell was an All-Pro in 2017, before he joined the Jaguars. While he hasn't returned to an All-Pro level of play, new Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer doesn't seem eager to massively restructure his offensive line.
"Our offensive line is pretty good. You know, it's not a blow-up offensive line," Meyer told NFL Network's Jane Slater.
The Jaguars widely expected to draft a new franchise quarterback this offseason. Creating a question mark along the line by cutting a stating guard wouldn't make a ton of sense unless it was financially necessary. It isn't. For the Giants—who are looking to bring back breakout defender Leonard Williams—it could be.
Still, both guards can likely be had via trade if a team wants them.
B.S. Meter: No b.s. on the trade rumor. Mild b.s. that Norwell is a heavy cut candidate.
Browns Interested in Levonte David, Breshad Perriman
The Cleveland Browns made their return to the postseason in 2020, and they'll look to take the next step in 2021. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, two impending free agents could be part of the improvement process.
Per Cabot, linebacker Lavonte David and wide receiver Breshad Perriman are both on Cleveland's radar.
The idea of the Browns chasing David seems reasonable. David is one of the league's top all-around linebackers and fresh off a Super Bowl victory. Cleveland ranked 21st in points allowed last season and is looking to build a championship culture.
However, the idea of Cleveland chasing Perriman seems less realistic. The speedy wideout did play for Cleveland in 2018 and was set to return as a free agent before the Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr. However, the Browns have Beckham and Jarvis Landry as their top two receivers. Perriman has a projected market value of $8.8 million annually, which is a lot for a team already heavily invested in the receiver position.
Cabot has also reported that the Browns will make an offer to impending free agent and No. 3 receiver Rashard Higgins, though it may not be a substantial one.
"If a team is willing to pay him $6 million a year, his estimated market value by Spotrac.com, he should probably take it and run. The Browns, with more than $30 million of their cap tied up in Beckham and Landry, they probably won't want to pay him that much," Cabot wrote.
If the Browns aren't willing to pay $6 million per year to a receiver who has already established chemistry with Baker Mayfield, why would they pay more for an inconsistent and sporadically injured retread from three years ago? It seems more likely that the rumored interest in Perriman is part of a ploy for the Browns to gain leverage in their negotiations with Higgins.
B.S. Meter: No b.s. with David. Major b.s. with Perriman.
Cap and contract information via Spotrac.