Today, the NFL reminds me of my 50th high school reunion. I recognized most of the names at the reunion – – but somehow, nothing looked the way I remembered it. That is my sense of the NFL in this off-season based on a myriad of unexpected changes and one thing staying the same which I anticipated would have changed by now. At this time of the year, the NFL news feed normally contains a free agent signing or two and a dozen predictions – – really guesses to tell the truth – – about the upcoming draft and which team will take what player(s). Not so in 2022…
I think today’s NFL turmoil began last year when the Rams and Lions traded QBs – – and other assets – – and then the Rams went on to win the Super Bowl. That sequence of events did two things:
- It reinforced in the minds of coaches and GMs that upgrading at the QB position is good idea.
- It provided cover for teams who lacked a top-shelf QB to go out and trade for one instead of trying to draft one and then “develop him”.
I think Item #1 above is the basis for the one thing I thought was going to happen in this NFL off-season that did not and will not happen. The Packers and Aaron Rodgers did not go their separate ways; Rodgers got a monster contract and the Packers’ brass realized that no matter what they got for Rodgers in a trade, it was going to downgrade them at the QB position. And that is not a good idea – – so that did not happen.
Item #2 above is what has made the NFL resemble a 50th high school reunion. The names will be familiar next year but lots of them are going to be in “different places”. Trading top-shelf QBs does not happen in the NFL very often, but there is some history
Back in the 60s, the Eagles and Commanders – – under their previous moniker – – exchanged Sonny Jurgensen for Norm Snead and ten years later, the Giants sent Norm Snead to the Vikings in exchange for Fran Tarkenton. Norm Snead was hardly a star QB, but twice he was part of the compensation that brought a star QB to the team that traded him away.
In the 70s the Eagles sent a boatload of draft picks to the Rams to acquire Roman Gabriel and about a year later the Packers sent 5 top draft picks to the Rams for QB John Hadl. [Aside: It is always difficult to identify the “worst trade ever”, but that one by the Packers would surely be in the discussion…]
There is a history of trading QBs and trading for QBs, but nothing like what has happened this off-season.
- Russell Wilson is now a Denver Bronco. The Seahawks’ roster has 3 QBs listed, Jacob Eason, Drew Lock and Geno Smith. The Broncos upgraded at QB and the Seahawks downgraded at QB.
- Carson Wentz is now a Commander. The Colts then went out and traded to acquire Matt Ryan from the Falcons. The Commanders upgraded at QB relative to Tyler Heinicke; the Colts upgraded at QB relative to Carson Wentz. The Falcons’ roster this morning lists only one QB – – Felipe Franks – – because it has not been updated to include a new free agent signing. The Falcons downgraded at the QB position and will probably be in the market to draft a QB even though they just signed free agent Marcus Mariota whose career has been plagued by “durability issues”.
- Mitchell Trubisky is now a Steeler. The Steelers got him on the free agent market on a 2-year “prove it” deal and in doing so I believe they upgraded over the other two QBs who had been on their roster before the signing – – Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.
- Deshaun Watson is now a Brown. The Browns got him in a trade with the Texans giving up 5 draft picks and then reportedly signing Watson to a $230M fully guaranteed contract. Seriously … The Browns upgraded at QB, and I suspect that they hope to recoup at least some of those draft assets when they trade Baker Mayfield somewhere. The Texans downgraded at QB when they lost Watson.
Tom Brady is back to being a Buccaneer after 6 weeks or so of “retirement”. I guess it would be snarky to say that he decided he wanted to spend “less time with his family” when he unretired… In any event, in this season where the NFL reminds me of my 50th high school reunion, Tom Brady is a familiar face in a recently familiar uniform at QB for the 2022 season.
With all that movement/change at the most visible position for the NFL, you might think that was all that was surprising relative to the league. Not so. When the games return to the airwaves in 2022, you will hear familiar voices doing the broadcasting – – but not where you expected to hear them.
- Al Michaels will no longer do play-by-play on Sunday Night Football. NBC will replace Michaels with Mike Tirico who will work with Cris Collinsworth on the top-rated NFL telecasts.
- Al Michaels will take over Thursday Night Football games which will be streamed by Amazon in 2022. His partner there will be Kirk Herbstreit who will do double duty with these Amazon streaming events plus his work for ESPN on College Game Day and on college football telecasts for ESPN.
- Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be together as usual – – but no longer on FOX. Buck and Aikman will now appear on Monday Night Football on ESPN.
- FOX has not yet announced who will be their “top broadcast team” for the NFL in 2022. The speculation is that they will promote their previous #2 team of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen to that status. Burkhardt is very good on play-by-play and Olsen shows plenty of promise but is still green.
- The only familiar voices in familiar places will be on CBS where Jim Nantz and Tony Romo remain at the top of the broadcasting pyramid there.
CBS also has Ian Eagle doing play-by-play on CBS’ #2 announcing team. I have long been an Ian Eagle fan; he is as good on play-by-play as any other broadcaster. I have no idea what his contract status with CBS might be – – but I wonder if FOX might make a run to get him there as their #1 play-by-play guy…
Finally, since I mentioned above that the Browns will likely be looking to trade Baker Mayfield now that they have acquired Deshaun Watson, here is how Dwight Perry sized up that situation in the Seattle Times:
“If Browns QB Baker Mayfield does get traded, here’s hoping his new team pays him enough so he can stop living in the stadium.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………