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Takeaways: How Aaron Donald Knew His Unparalleled NFL Career Was Complete

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Aaron Donald knew his career was complete on the night of Jan. 14. Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay got that message loud and clear the next day when the all-planet all-timer came into his office as the team was shaking off its playoff ouster in Detroit the night before.

“I’m full,” Donald simply told McVay.

Nothing was official yet. But the coach had all the information he needed.

“I’m just like, And you should be. You have every right to feel that way,” McVay said over the phone Sunday afternoon. “What an amazing thing. The words won’t do justice to the way that he so eloquently articulated it to me and just put it in a way that, as a human being, all you’re really looking for is to be at peace and to be happy. He was full. And, man, did you feel that. You’re just so happy because he earned it too.”

Donald earned absolutely everything that’s been said about him over the last few days.

The 32-year-old was the 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year after being drafted 13th that April. He was first-team All-Pro in eight of nine years after that, with the only exception coming in his injury-marred season of ’22. He missed six games that season, and only three in the other nine years of his career. He was a Pro Bowler in all 10 of his NFL seasons, and won Defensive Player of the Year in ’17, ’18 and ’20.

Donald announced his retirement Friday.

Yannick Peterhans/USA TODAY Sports

He is quite simply, to this era, what Lawrence Taylor was in the 1980s, or what Deion Sanders was in the ’90s: a defensive player so great that, at his peak, there was no parallel for him. And, thanks to a relentless passion for both football and competition, Donald’s peak really encased his entire career, right from the start. Jeff Fisher, who coached Donald from 2014-16, will tell you the start goes back to before Donald even put on pads for a full-contact practice.

“You get into camp and you’re trying to teach guys how to practice without pads, and he’s just wrecking practice—so you know when the pads go on he’s going to wreck practice,” Fisher says. “You know this guy’s going to live in the backfield. You knew that. And the one thing that’s interesting is the countless offensive linemen that got better that were on the Rams roster during that period of time because they had to practice against him.”

And therein lies the interesting thing about Donald’s greatness—it seems like half the story Fisher and McVay, the two head coaches he played for, tell aren’t from the game field.

Similar to Fisher, McVay will never forget the first practices he had with Donald. This was as a coach who had worked against Donald as Washington’s offensive coordinator, which gave McVay a good idea of what a terror Donald was on the field. And yet, even given that experience, McVay wasn’t fully ready for what he was about to see in a non-padded practice.

“The only exposure I had to him in preseason activities, because of some of the contract stuff, was when he came to one of the first voluntary mini camps that you are allotted for new coaching staffs,” McVay says. “I have never seen somebody single-handedly destroy practice the way that he did in that two-day practice session. It’s hard enough to block him as it is. But then when you don’t have any pads or anything to really be able to get fits, his quickness, his get off, his accuracy with his hands, it was a human highlight reel.”

Because of all that, McVay says with a laugh, he actually felt fortunate that Donald held out through the coach’s first two offseasons in Los Angeles: “He steals souls. Here’s the thing, it gives false tells for everybody else on defense, and then you just totally ruin the confidence of any player that you’re going against.”

And did it ever translate on to the game field.

Coming out, Donald was seen by many, because of height, weight, and length deficiencies, as a player who would need to be in a certain scheme, and need to be paced, to be his best. But he proved himself to be a monster in, well, just about every system—from Fisher and Gregg Williams’s aggressive 4–3 to Wade Phillips’s attacking 3–4 to the more conservative Vic Fangio–inspired looks Brandon Staley and Raheem Morris ran. And Donald proved to be a player with unbelievable endurance: He played 90.41%, 83.57%, 84.47%, and 89.1% of the Rams’ defensive snaps in 2018, ’19, ’20 and ’20, respectively, which are absurdly high numbers for a defensive tackle.

Part of it was because physically, he was so strong, so quick, so low-to-the-ground and so good with his hands that trying to block him was like trying to catch a greased salmon. It was also, though, because his work didn’t stop with the physical stuff.

“He’s looking around and he’s the last one to put his hand in the ground,” Fisher says. “He knows protection. He knows which way the center’s turning. He knows where the help’s coming from. … He knows where the receivers are. He may not admit to it, but he knows formations. He knows exactly what to expect from a protection standpoint.

“The interesting thing was over the years, just talking to people, the offensive coordinator sitting up in the box calling the plays would have the mandate all week prior to playing the Rams, O.K., you guys got one job and that’s to tell me when he’s not in, when he’s taking a breath. They’d have like a separate call sheet for that. But when he’s in, I gotta stay with these calls.

It all added up to, simply, one of the greatest careers a defensive player has ever had. Maybe the greatest.

“They asked me personally, where does he rank [of guys I coached]? He’s there with Reggie White, as far as the career,” Fisher says. “Different positions. Reggie was either, (a), a left end or (b), we put him on the nose. Reggie just couldn’t play any of the other positions, because it was awkward for him. The dominating player that he was, that’s where he kind of fit in. …

“Aaron was different. Just watch him. I’m so excited for him. I’m honored that I got to be somebody that got to be around him and the career that he had. When the great ones come, everybody wants to be part of those careers. It was just delightful to coach, he’s a great young man.”

Through our conversation, that’s what McVay kept coming back to, as well—how the person, the dad he is, the worker he is, the teammate he is, helps to complete the picture of just how impactful Donald has been on everyone around him.

Now, McVay is charged with charting life without him for the Rams.

The coach said he had a feeling, really, all year this might happen. Donald would take an extra moment during a game, or an additional few minutes with a young player after practice, or time to laugh with a buddy of his. He even went a little further with Christmas gifts this year, and those, to McVay, were all tells on where the veteran’s head was at. And maybe his way of leaving behind a little something extra for those he played with.

“I’m hopeful that he’ll be around a lot,” McVay says. “He’s welcome. I think the way that he lives on is you continue to honor his legacy and use him with the stories that you can tell to these guys. Fortunately, a lot of these guys have seen it, so when you reference it, they’ve seen it and you can use that as an example. His legend will never go away. There are stories upon stories. There’s evidence on the film. I think the things that resonate the most are usually storytelling when you’re really trying to paint a picture or teach a lesson.

“And he’ll be someone that I reference for the rest of my life as long as I’m fortunate enough to be coaching.”

How the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback situation in 2024 plays out, for better or worse, rests on the shoulders of Mike Tomlin. This, of course, relates to how the last 10 days played out in Pittsburgh. It also relates to how the last 10 years played out.

Regardless of how you feel about how Kenny Pickett handled the Russell Wilson signing, it’s fair to say that the 2022 No. 20 pick was in a less-than-ideal environment to develop the last two years.

Pittsburgh’s offensive issues trace back to the team moving on from Todd Haley, who, for all the friction he may have caused, fielded units that finished second, third, seventh and third in total offense over his last four years with the Steelers (2014–17), and finished top 10 in scoring in each of those seasons. Tomlin turned to quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner after firing Haley, in large part because Fichtner was close with Ben Roethlisberger. Then, when that didn’t work, the coach promoted Fitchtner’s quarterbacks coach, Matt Canada.

The results have been ugly. The Steelers have been 23rd or lower in total offense the last five years running, and out of the top 20 in scoring in four of those five years.

Pickett threw seven and six touchdowns, respectively, in his first two NFL seasons.

Philip G. Pavely/USA TODAY Sports

That’s what Pickett walked into when he was drafted in 2022. He also was pushed out onto the field in Week 5 as a rookie after spending all spring and summer taking third-team reps behind Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. Year 2, as it turned out, would be worse. In early December, word leaked that the team had considered benching Pickett before the midseason firing of Canada, and before the season finale, rumors surfaced that the 25-year-old, recovering from tightrope surgery, was refusing to dress as Rudolph’s backup.

Pittsburgh had a quarterback who had his first two seasons thrown in a blender, finished that stretch hurt and then got raked over the coals based on those end-of-season whispers. And all of that’s without touching on how a mercurial receiver room affected the offense as a whole.

Regardless of how you see Pickett, that’s a lot for any player to work through in his first two years; it contextualizes what happened over the weekend leading into free agency.

On Saturday night before the legal tampering period kicked off, Tomlin told Pickett that he wasn’t sure if the team would land Wilson, but if it happened, there’d be an open competition for the job. Pickett said he was fine with that. Wilson agreed to terms Sunday. On Monday, Tomlin told Pickett that Wilson would work from pole position to start, and get the first reps at the beginning of OTAs, with Pickett competing from there.

Wilson hadn’t been given any assurance to be the starter (or really much of anything else). But you can see how Pickett’s first two years as a pro affected how he saw what Tomlin was telling him. His guard was up. He felt misled, based on conversations less than 48 hours apart from each other. Which is why he ended up asking for a trade. You can assign blame on that to whoever you want.

The bottom line coming out of all this is that where the Steelers are, now two full seasons separated from Roethlisberger’s last snap, is a function of how Tomlin has handled his quarterback room. Now, he’s gotten a ton right over his 17 years in Pittsburgh. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt.

Still, this one’s messy. And while the Steelers did come out of it with a good solution, pivoting to a very affordable trade for Justin Fields (we’ll get to that in a minute) and ending up with both Fields and Wilson for $4.44 million and a conditional 2025 Day 3 pick, their future at the most important position in the sport is now completely up in the air, with neither quarterback under contract for ’25.

Bottom line, if Pittsburgh doesn’t get good quarterback play in 2024 (with Pickett now off to the Philadelphia Eagles, Rudolph with the Tennessee Titans, and Trubisky back with the Buffalo Bills), there’ll be some tough questions for one of the NFL’s best coaches of the last 25 years to answer.

The Chicago Bears got stuck in between on Fields. In the end, I’m not sure what Chicago could’ve done to get more for its 2021 first-round pick.

As we detailed two weeks ago, Bears GM Ryan Poles accelerated just about everything on the evaluation of USC quarterback Caleb Williams, in order to give the team flexibility to trade Fields early in the offseason if the right opportunity came along. And after the combine, it was clearly uncertain whether that opportunity would come at all.

The two teams they’d circled as potential suitors for Fields—the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh—were fishing around other players at the position. How the top of the market, stocked with Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield and Wilson, shook out would affect the Bears’ ability to find the right trade. Then, the top of the market did shake out, and not in Chicago’s favor.

The Falcons landed Cousins. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kept Mayfield. The Steelers signed Wilson. And as all that was happening, action on the second tier of the market materialized. The Minnesota Vikings replaced Cousins with Sam Darnold; the Las Vegas Raiders landed Gardner Minshew as a bridge; and the New England Patriots did the same with Jacoby Brissett. Those three players cost a grand total of zero draft picks, illustrating something else pretty vividly: Teams might’ve seen Fields as a better option than Darnold, Minshew and Brissett, but not enough so where they’d give up draft picks for the difference, particularly given the spots the Vikings (positioning themselves to trade up for a quarterback), Patriots and Raiders (retooling, and doing so without a surplus of picks) were operating from.

So that left Chicago with a couple options. One was to keep Fields, which could make things awkward for the No. 1 pick coming in. Another was to squat on his rights and hope someone else would get desperate, be it because of an injury or some plan laid out not coming to fruition. In the end, though, Poles kept his word and did right by Fields (and probably Williams, too), in moving forward with the trade with the Steelers.

That deal materialized Friday night and into Saturday after Pittsburgh moved Pickett, giving Chicago an extra sixth-rounder in 2025 that can become a fourth-rounder if Fields plays 51% of the team’s offensive snaps next season. That might be unlikely—Tomlin was clear with Fields that he’s coming in as the backup and will work from there behind Wilson—but it does protect the Bears if Fields finds his way on the field and stays there.

Is it ideal? No. The Bears were hoping for a return like the one the New York Jets got for Sam Darnold three years ago, or the San Francisco 49er and Kansas City Chiefs once pried for Alex Smith. But in the end, if Williams fulfills his potential, this will be a simple sunk cost along the way. And Chicago did, again, do right by a young quarterback who did all the right things for them as a worker and a person over the last three years.

The Eagles had an interesting week. It happened, of course, with a couple of moves that were right up GM Howie Roseman’s alley: a contract extension for a lineman (guard Landon Dickerson scored a four-year, $84 million deal), and the acquisition of a distressed asset at quarterback (grabbing Pickett). And, then, there was the needle-mover that was uncharacteristic.

A year ago, Roseman and the Eagles were lauded for their backed-off approach at running back, with Miles Sanders allowed to leave for just $6 million per year with the Carolina Panthers, and D’Andre Swift coming in for a 2025 fourth-rounder and a seventh-round pick swap. The reality that just 12 months later the Eagles would move on Saquon Barkley at more than $12 million per year in base pay seems to fly in the face of that.

Barkley goes from one NFC East team to the next.

Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports

But there’s more to this than meets the eye. After digging around a bunch, here are some factors I can outline that played into the Eagles’ decision to go big on Barkley …

Last year, the Eagles’ run game ranked first in the NFL in yards before contact and dead last in yards after contact. So where Swift brought a ton to the table, Philly saw a little more meat on the bone there, if they could bring a bigger back to the table. The 230-pound Barkley fits the bill. He’s one of six players in the league to have over 1,000 yards after contact over the last two years.What’s different about Barkley, from there, is his ability to combine that with real pass-game value, which Philadelphia felt was underutilized a bit in his time with the Giants, particularly amid the quarterback tumult there after Daniel Jones’ injury last year. So where some might pigeonhole Barkley as a back, the Eagles saw a difference-maker.The 49ers’ success after trading for the league’s biggest running back contract, belonging to Christian McCaffrey, didn’t hurt from a precedent standpoint. It allowed San Francisco to move the needle on offense past the stacked deck it was already playing with at receiver, tight end and even fullback. McCaffrey, in that environment, found a way to become the 49ers’ most important offensive player.Part of the reason for that is the amount of touches a premier back gets, more than any receiver or tight end could. So the value was there, if you saw Barkley in the very elite category at the position, from a per-touches standpoint.The dollars make sense too. Barkley, even if he hits every incentive, will be on a contract with an APY lower than Courtland Sutton’s with the Denver Broncos, or where Hunter Renfrow was at on his last deal with Vegas.The caveat, of course, is that Philadelphia has to keep Barkley healthy to get the sort of return they’re hoping for. But there’s some precedent there, too. The Detroit Lions made Swift available last year because it had gotten to the point where they felt like they couldn’t trust his health. The running back only missed one game with the Eagles, who have a lot of faith in what their medical and training staffs (revamped a couple years ago) do to keep players on the field.

And then, there’s this: smart teams don’t work from absolutes. So just because the Eagles did one thing one year doesn’t mean they’re going to operate the same way the next. In this case, the Eagles were open-minded and diligent, and that all led them to Barkley.

The Arizona Cardinals love Kyler Murray. I didn’t think I’d be writing that a year ago—when everyone thought Arizona would be the worst team in the league, preparing to draft Williams and offload Murray in 2024—but that’s where we are. And the team has now backed up the feelings it expressed on social media in a very big way.

By carrying Murray on the roster through the weekend, they locked in a $29.9 million guarantee for him for 2025. Now, it’s not like they could’ve just cut him without penalty (not that they’d considered it) over the last couple of weeks, since his $35.3 million for this coming season is already locked in. But if GM Monti Ossenfort and coach Jonathan Gannon had any intention on bailing, doing it sooner would’ve been better than later.

Instead, those two are now building around Murray, which, again, isn’t the result many people expected a year ago.

How’d Murray win over his new bosses? I collected some anecdotes …

• Quickly, through his rehab from ACL surgery, Murray started blowing up what perception held. In the early parts of 2023, right after Gannon and Ossenfort were hired, some might’ve expected Murray to retreat to Texas or California. Instead, he was in Arizona and at the facility daily, working with Cardinals senior reconditioning coordinator, Buddy Morris, going above and beyond to work his knee back to health.

• Oftentimes with players going through such a rehab, you’d see a reluctance to get too in the weeds on football stuff, but the opposite happened in April as the classroom-heavy beginning of the offseason program got going. At that point, there was no certainty that Murray would play at all in 2023, but he was engaged and inquisitive in working with OC Drew Petzing and staff, even as they built an offense that would look very different from the air raid schemes that Murray ran in high school, college and his first four years in the pros.

• Murray actually stayed in Arizona to keep working through parts of late June and July—after the offseason program concludes, but before training camp starts—which is very unusual for veterans, who normally use that time to get away.

• When he first got back out there (and after he’d established he was more coachable and relatable to teammates than previously advertised), he looked like Kyler. In his first game of 2023, Murray engineered a game-winning drive. He rode out a bumpy effort against the Rams. And at the very end, he was playing his best ball, in a win over Philadelphia, and a tight loss against the Seattle Seahawks.

• That Eagles game was where Murray’s steps in the offense turned a corner. As Gannon, Petzing and the staff called out things on the headset (throw the slant), they saw a quarterback who was running the offense as they saw it, with his actions closely matching those little missives between the coaches. And as for Murray’s one mistake, a pick, he quickly told them after: “I f—ed up.”

Murray has essentially been designated as Arizona’s franchise quarterback.

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

And in that game, there was also a single play that showed Murray’s poise. In the fourth quarter, on fourth-and-4 from Philadelphia’s 5-yard line, Gannon decided to go for it. The Eagles threw a zero blitz at the quarterback. Murray quickly digested it and threw the ball to a spot where Michael Wilson would corral it for a touchdown to tie the game at 28.

On the play, Murray was coachable, he was gutsy, and he was clutch. By then, the Cardinals knew they had a quarterback they could build around.

I’ll give the Jets a hat tip for their creativity in fixing their offensive line. No one thought, going into last week, that Morgan Moses would’ve been a critical piece for a New York team that clearly needed help up front. But he was, in part because his acquisition, which was hardly simple on its own, would also enable a few other pieces to fit into the puzzle.

First and foremost, it doesn’t happen without GM Joe Douglas being willing to admit that letting Moses walk two years ago was a mistake. It also might not happen if Douglas doesn’t have a close relationship with Ravens GM Eric DeCosta (the two worked together for a decade-and-a-half in Baltimore). It might not have happened had those two elements not opened the lines of communication, and had the financials not really worked for New York.

All of it came together with the two GMs discussing the deal as the Ravens worked out a restructure with left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Once that was done, they could move forward.

From there, they negotiated a deal that had the teams swapping fourth-round picks (the Ravens moved theirs up from 135th to 113th in the process), and the Jets sending Baltimore a sixth-rounder. After that, with Moses locked in at that affordable number as the team’s presumed starter at right tackle, Douglas moved forward aggressively.

First he went and poached guard John Simpson from the Ravens—a player the Jets saw as an explosive run blocker, particularly in how he’d maul defenders as a puller—at $12 million over two years. Then, he landed eight-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith on a deal that carries a base value of $6.5 million, with incentives that can lead him to a place where he’s paid like a top-five tackle. The Jets saw Smith as perhaps the greatest pass protector of all-time in his prime, and still one of the best in that area when healthy.

So at a base cost of $18 million, the Jets surrounded center Joe Tippmann and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker (whose ability to play tackle gave a little flexibility in who the Jets pursued) with three proven commodities, and put a fleet of young players the team wants to keep working with into backup roles where they can develop properly.

And so what’s next?

Well, Smith and Moses are only under contract for this coming year, so this does not, to be very clear, take the idea of the Jets drafting a tackle at No. 10 off the board. But it does give them the flexibility to look somewhere else with that pick—and it all happened at a pretty affordable rate, thanks to the team going a little outside the box with the position group.

Things worked out fine for the Los Angeles Chargers last week, in freeing themselves from the cap logjam created by last year’s contract restructures. The end result was Mike Williams being cut, Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa accepting pay cuts, and Keenan Allen turning one down and getting dealt to Bears. That shapes up to create an equation that Jim Harbaugh’s very familiar with.

In San Francisco, and at Michigan, Harbaugh’s team were often loaded with defensive stars, and had rugged offenses without a ton of flash at receiver. So having to make it work with Quentin Johnston and Joshua Palmer at receiver, rather than Williams and Allen, is probably more palatable to the new program than going without Bosa and/or Mack would’ve been.

Also, the Chargers still have the fifth pick in a receiver-rich draft. If the Cardinals trade out of No. 4, Harbaugh could land his old No. 1 receiver’s son, Marvin Harrison Jr., or Washington’s Rome Odunze or LSU’s Malik Nabers. Even with a short trade down, they could get one of those players, or Georgia’s Brock Bowers, to restock Justin Herbert’s weaponry.

Meanwhile, the Chargers got Gus Edwards, and there’ll be another tailback they can grab somewhere in the draft (maybe even Harbaugh’s guy Blake Corum).

So overall? This was a pretty good turnout from a tough situation for the new Chargers regime—one that, good as Allen and Williams are, shouldn’t compromise the team’s ability to contend in Harbaugh’s first year back in California.

There will be smart signings this week—and some of them will be guys who are available now because of their age. Which is seen as a drawback by a lot of folks, but it doesn’t have to be.

The last iteration of the Patriots dynasty feasted on third-contract guys like that, and the Ravens have done something similar, both with the same logic. The thinking goes that when you sign someone who lasted that long in the league, you’re not guessing on how they’ll handle money, you have a longer track record to go on, and in a lot of cases (not all) you’ll get a player who’ll bring leadership ability to the table.

Among those who fit into that category this year for Baltimore: Odell Beckham Jr., Kevin Zeitler, Michael Pierce, Jadeveon Clowney and Ronald Darby.

So that’s my way of saying that free agency isn’t over, and some smart, enterprising team could wind up getting a lot out of someone from this 30-something bucket of players: CB Xavien Howard, OT Trent Brown, S Justin Simmons, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Steven Nelson, DE Calais Campbell, WR Michael Thomas, QB Ryan Tannehill or even a couple of those Ravens names (Beckham, Zeitler and Clowney) we already mentioned.

That Vikings trade gives us all a window into where J.J. McCarthy now stands in the eyes of NFL teams. And that’s not to say that they all love him. It is to say that, assuming the Bears, Commanders and Patriots stay put and draft quarterbacks—zero of the three have shown an appetite for trading one of those picks—McCarthy is not just worthy of being, at worst, the fourth QB off the board, but maybe someone worth moving up for.

For now, what we know is Williams will almost certainly be a Bear. We also know that North Carolina’s Drake Maye and LSU’s Jayden Daniels are likely to go at No. 2 and 3, in some order.

Maybe Washington or New England pulls a shocker and takes McCarthy over one or both, but, for now, any team investigating a trade up to No. 4 or 5 with the Cardinals or Chargers has to be comfortable with McCarthy, as well as the other two, since there’s no guarantee of anything past the likelihood Williams won’t be there.

McCarthy is projected to go at No. 5 in Sports Illustrated’s most recent mock draft

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

So if Minnesota’s loading up for a trade up from No. 11, it’s a pretty good signal that McCarthy has worked his way into a spot within the first 10 picks.

And that leaves us with this week’s quick-hitting takeaways. Let’s get rolling with those …

• With Calvin Ridley, Tony Pollard and Lloyd Cushenberry aboard, the new Titans regime should be able to get a clear answer coming out of 2024 on whether or not Will Levis is the guy. And if he is, there’s a nice core on offense to work with, presuming the tackle need there is addressed in this tackle-rich draft (the Ridley signing could be a sign they’re leaning tackle at No. 7 already).

• While we’re there, Allen, Swift, DJ Moore, Cole Kmet, Braxton Jones and Darnell Wright should give Williams a good group to work with as a rookie. And the Bears can still add to that with the ninth pick.

• The Rams have been a logical landing spot for Jets QB Zach Wilson. I’d say maybe even more so now with Jimmy Garoppolo signed in Los Angeles. Wilson could use a reset, and to sit for a year, so going somewhere he’d be third string, would afford him such much-needed time. I’ve also heard his old OC from the Jets, Rams OC Mike LaFleur, would be very open to a reunion.

• Good move by the Cleveland Browns bringing in Mike Vrabel as a consultant. He’s got a connection through Jim Schwartz, who Vrabel had in Tennessee for two years, and a growing friendship with Kevin Stefanski. Vrabel’s value should be in the vision he has for game management and building a program. With a lot of turnover on staff the last two offseasons, adding such a voice with the experience he has should be valuable for Stefanski and the Browns.

• That it slipped that Drew Lock will compete for the Giants’ job with Daniel Jones only re-opens the discussion on New York taking a quarterback in the first round. Like a few teams, they have investigated the price of going up. And teams below them, whether right or wrong, view the Giants at No. 6 as a team you may need to leapfrog to get one of the top four quarterbacks.

• The Chiefs’ signing of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to a one-year, $7 million deal (with upside to $11 million) is one that we could be talking about a lot in the fall. At his best, Brown was a home-run hitter who had to be accounted for from the minute he left the huddle. And Kansas City has a pretty good idea on how to use big-play threats.

• Nine years after drafting him, the Jacksonville Jaguars went out and landed Arik Armstead. And the championship pedigree that Armstead, a captain the last four years running in San Francisco, can bring should be really valuable for a Jacksonville group that struggled to take the next step last year.

• De’Vondre Campbell’s signing in San Francisco was a reminder of how unfortunate Dre Greenlaw’s injury was in Super Bowl LVIII. Campbell is there largely as insurance for the possibility Greenlaw’s absence carries into the season.

• How did Sam Howell fetch a nice little haul for the Commanders, with Washington moving up the 102nd pick to 78th, and the 179th pick to 152nd, for moving the quarterback to Seattle? A key factor was that he has two years left on his rookie contract, giving the Seahawks runway to develop him and see what he’s got.

• Lots of rules talk coming this week, with the league meeting kicking off in just six days.

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