TOM BRADY, WHO retired with seven Super Bowl rings, and Patrick Mahomes, with two titles over the past four seasons, haven’t just skewed expectations for quarterback play on the field.
They’ve proved to be the outliers off it.
Each signed what some have labeled “team-friendly” contracts. Brady’s deal equated to less money, and Mahomes agreed to a deal that spread a then-record-breaking extension over a long period, in an effort to help manage the salary cap.
So, how do you keep your quarterback financially content and build a team for long-term success?
Biggest weakness in 2023: Wide Receiver
The Chiefs were already thin at wide receiver heading into the offseason, and now they’ve lost JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency. For now, their top receiver is Marquez Valdes-Scantling. However, they do have several potential breakout candidates, such as Skyy Moore and Justyn Ross.
X-Factor for 2023: WR Kadarius Toney
Acquired in a midseason trade with the Giants, Toney showed flashes of the kind of playmaker he can be in the Chiefs’ offense. A full season in Andy Reid’s system should do wonders for the speedster.
Rookie to watch: WR Rashee Rice
The Chiefs traded up in the second round for the former SMU standout, who put up big numbers in his last season with the Mustangs. Given the Chiefs’ lack of depth at receiver, Rice will get plenty of deep looks.
4. AFC West
What was supposed to be the best division in football ended up with the Kansas City Chiefs making a statement, winning the division by four games. Kansas City swept the Los Angeles Chargers for AFC West supremacy, while the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders had issues all season. Will this division be better in 2023?
Kansas City has Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, so the Chiefs are the NFL’s team to beat with two Super Bowl titles in four years. Drafting Rashee Rice should pay dividends for the wide receiver group. It doesn’t hurt that no team in the division can contain Travis Kelce.
The Chargers need to sign Justin Herbert to a contract extension, as Quentin Johnston bolsters an already strong wide receiver group with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. Keeping Austin Ekeler in the fold was huge for a team looking for a return trip to the playoffs. The Broncos hired Sean Payton to make the Russell Wilson experiment work, while signing Mike McGlinchey is an immense improvement at right tackle.
As for the Raiders, who knows what they’re doing? Will Jimmy Garoppolo even be on the roster come September, given his foot issues?
If Denver is better, this division can compete with the best in the NFL. That will come down to whether or not the Seattle version of Russell Wilson shows up under new head coach Sean Payton.
3. Edge Frank Clark
Pass-rusher Frank Clark was the 20th-ranked player on our first free-agent board, and his postseason production had a lot to do with his ranking. Clark has amassed 13.5 sacks in 17 playoff games and had 2.5 during the 2022 postseason with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Clark probably isn’t heading back to Kansas City, though, after the Chiefs signed Charles Omenihu and used a first-round pick on Kansas State’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah. However, any contender looking to unleash a pass rush in the playoffs should have Clark on its radar.
The Bengals would be a terrific landing spot for Clark. Cincinnati seems like a near-lock to reach the playoffs after back-to-back appearances in the AFC title game and it registered only 30 sacks as a team last season.
The Bengals also used a first-round pick on a pass-rusher, Clemson’s Myles Murphy, but a Super Bowl hopeful simply can’t have too much pass-rushing depth.
The 49ers should also look to add Clark to their rotation. San Francisco has a star in reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Bosa, but he was the only 49er to log more than five sacks last season. San Francisco’s next two most-productive pass-rushers, Samson Ebukam and Omenihu, departed in free agency.
Clark and Bosa could be a perfect pass-rushing pair in the postseason.
The Cardinals released DeAndre Hopkins on Friday, months after the All-Pro wide receiver first surfaced as a trade candidate. Several teams figure to consider Hopkins as a free agent, but barely any actually pursued him via trade, according to Sports Illustrated, with only the Bills and Chiefs briefly engaging in “substantive talks” with Arizona.
Both teams backed out of talks for financial reasons, per Albert Breer, with Hopkins carrying a lofty 2023 price tag on his previous Cardinals contract. The Chiefs had initially “made progress” in accommodating Hopkins’ salary cap number, but the Ravens signing free agent Odell Beckham Jr. to a fully guaranteed one-year, $15 million deal reportedly “blew that progress up.”
Around the NFL
The NFL’s “Sunday Ticket” package will continue to be available to restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses that have DirecTV for Business.
DirecTV reached a multiyear agreement with EverPass Media on Thursday to provide the package of out-of-market Sunday afternoon games on CBS and Fox to its business clients. The agreement does not apply to DirecTV’s residential customers.
Mike Wittrock, DirecTV’s Chief Sales and Service Officer, said in a release that his company services more than 300,000 commercial establishments.
The addendum stated that Garoppolo “acknowledges that in the absence of this waiver he would not pass the club’s physical examination because of a preexisting medial and middle cuneiform and a fracture of the base of the second metatarsal in the Player’s left foot and that the Club would not enter into an NFL player contract with player,” NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday.
Pro Football Talk first reported the news on Garoppolo’s contract on Saturday.
Garoppolo agreed to a three-year, $72.75 million contract in March. The move to Las Vegas came after more than five seasons in San Francisco, during which he enjoyed on-field success but also endured a number of major injuries, the most recent being a left foot injury that ended his 2022 season prematurely.
Garoppolo initially elected to rehab the injury in the hope that he could make a postseason return with the Niners, but he eventually had a “clean-up” procedure following his signing with the Raiders, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on May 25.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
I’d argue 2022 was his best year as a Chief.
Clark finished with 45 pressures and six sacks in 2022, which was in line with how he’s performed in Kansas City, but anecdotally, I felt there was more consistency to Clark’s game. Clark has dealt with various injuries and illnesses that have hurt his ability to keep consistent weight and explosiveness throughout the season. Clark would go on long stretches of a season where he was laboring every week, but that didn’t appear to be as big of an issue in 2022. If Clark’s play and health remain stable, he would still be a positive player.
You can never have enough pass rushers, especially in the playoffs. Clark is third in playoff sacks all-time with 13.5. He’s been able to turn up his level of play in the playoffs, especially in clutch moments. With the amount of youth in the defensive line room, having a player with proven playoff production would be incredibly valuable.
Another benefit of Clark being back would be what he provides as a run defender. Right now, the Chiefs are limited on run defenders. Omenihu, Thompson and Anudike-Uzomah have some concerns with run defense. Clark’s inclusion back into the defense gives another option as a run defender that can limit how much the Chiefs need to use Omenihu or Anudike-Uzomah as run defenders.
Besides his play, Clark brings value.
Clark is a beloved teammate who is a terrific leader. Karlaftis credited a lot of his development to training sessions with Clark. Jones waxes poetic about Clark consistently, being one of his best friends on the team. His experience and toughness for a young team were incredibly important last year, which wouldn’t change this year.