I can’t say this for sure, but I think this is the only NFL newsletter in the world that’s run by a kicker apologist. As you may or may not have noticed, I talk about kickers a lot here. I mean, the final section of the newsletter is called, “The Kicker,” which was originally supposed to be a play on words, but really, it just gave me an excuse to name a section after kickers.
As the unofficial newsletter of kickers, it is a sad day here and that’s because Adam Vinatieri has decided to retire after playing 24 years in the NFL. Vinatieri’s first year came in 1996, which was so long that the Cardinals were in the NFC East, the Panthers were in the NFC West and the NFL only had 30 teams.
I only did one interview ever with Vinatieri and during our talk, he mentioned that the Pro Football Hall of Fame needed to induct more kickers (There are only two true kickers in the HOF right now). That conversation now seems fitting since Vinatieri will likely be the next kicker who gets inducted.
Although I thought about making the entire newsletter about Vinatieri today, I didn’t do that, but we’ll definitely be talking about the kicking legend, so let’s get to the rundown.
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1. Today’s show: An in-depth look at the NFC North
Now that we’ve made it through every big event on the NFL’s offseason calendar, we’ve decided to take a look back to see how each team did, and today, that means we’re going to take an in-depth look at the NFC North.
How did each of the teams do in free agency? Did they help themselves in the draft? Did the NFL give them a friendly schedule? We’ll be covering all those topics and more for each NFC North team. Not to mention, we’ll also be going over the win totals and the divisional odds for each team.
For today’s show, Will Brinson brought in our NFC North guru, Cody Benjamin (who also happens to write the Wednesday newsletter every week). Although the two didn’t agree on everything, they did agree that the Detroit Lions are going to be horrible this year. The team’s Over/Under has been set at five wins — which is the lowest win total in the NFC — and both Brinson and Benjamin are taking the under.
“The fact is that they have replacement level parts all over the field,” Benjamin said. “It would be an upset if the Lions sniff close to .500. I don’t think anyone’s in love with the Lions. I don’t think anyone in the Lions’ front office is in love with the total package that is going out.”
Brinson tried to be optimistic, but after looking that the Lions’ schedule, he couldn’t find more than two wins on it before they hit their Week 9 bye.
“When I look at the Lions schedule, it feels to be like they’re going to be 2-6, absolutely best case, going into that [Week 9] bye,” Brinson said.
With the two guys agreeing that the Lions are probably going to finish in last place, that means they like someone else to finish in first place. Will it be the Packers? Could Green Bay win the division without Aaron Rodgers if they traded him away? Could the Bears win it with Andy Dalton or Justin Fields? Will the Vikings rebound from an ugly 2020 season?
To listen to today’s show — and to get those questions answered — be sure to click here.
2. Adam Vinatieri’s top five kicks
After 24 years of playing in the NFL, Adam Vinatieri has decided to retire, which is somewhat shocking, because I was beginning to think he might actually play forever. Vinatieri’s career started as an undrafted free agent in 1996 and all he’s done since then is turn himself into the most decorated kicker in NFL history.
In 10 seasons with the Patriots and 14 seasons with the Colts, Vinatieri scored a total of 2,673 points, which makes him the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. The 48-year-old has also scored more postseason points than any other player in NFL history (238). Not to mention, the three-time Pro Bowler has kicked more field goals (599) and more extra points (874) than any other player ever.
With 599 field goals under his belt, it’s not easy to rank his best ones, but we decided to do that anyway, so without further ado, here’s his top five:
- 1. Super Bowl XXXVI. Vinatieri basically kick-started the Patriots’ dynasty in this game. The kicking legend hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give the Patriots their first Super Bowl win, a 20-17 upset win over the Rams, who were favored by two touchdowns.
- 2. 2001 divisional playoff game. The Super Bowl kick might have been more iconic, but as far as the difficulty level goes, Vinatieri’s kick against the Raiders in the famous ‘Tuck Rule’ game might go down as the best field goal in NFL history. With a blizzard blowing through New England, Vinatieri hit a 45-yard field goal in the waning seconds to send the game to overtime where the Patriots would win 16-13… on a Vinatieri field goal. Two weeks later, he kicked the Super Bowl winner against the Rams.
- 3. Super Bowl XXXVIIII. Just two years after beating the Rams, Vinatieri hit another Super Bowl game-winner. This time it came against the Panthers. With just seconds remaining, Vinatieri hit a 41-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 32-29 win. You know you’ve had a solid career when a Super Bowl game-winner isn’t even one of your top two kicks.
- 4. Vinatieri becomes NFL’s all-time leading scorer. This field goal wasn’t as exciting as the other ones, but it made him the highest scorer in NFL history. Back in Week 8 of 2018, Vinatieri hit a 25-yard field goal against the Raiders that moved him past Morten Andersen as the NFL’s all-time scoring leader.
- 5. 51-yard game-winner against Broncos in 2019. During Vinatieri’s final season in 2019, the 46-year-old was struggling. After missing multiple extra points and field goals through the first six games of the year, Vinatieri redeemed himself with a 51-yard game-winner against Denver that probably felt extra good considering the struggles he went through in his last year in the NFL.
If you want to watch each of those kicks, be sure to click here. If you have some time to burn and want to read roughly 1,000 words that I put together about Vinatieri’s legendary career, then you’ll want to click here.
3. Ranking the NFL’s top 25 players under the age of 25
Now that the NFL’s oldest player has officially retired, it’s time to turn the conversation to players who are nearly half his age by giving you our list of the top 25 NFL players under the age of 25. The craziest part about this list is that Adam Vinatieri wouldn’t have qualified for it at any point this century (He was last under 25 in 1998).
The biggest winner on this list is the Buccaneers, who had three players make it. Basically, the Buccaneers are already the best team in the NFL and they’re only going to get better because they have a young nucleus.
This ranking, which was put together by Cody Benjamin, only has two rules: Rookies aren’t on the list and to qualify, a player can’t turn 25 before the start of the 2021 season (Any player who is 24 or younger on Sept. 9 qualifies).
With that in mind, let’s get to the ranking:
1. QB Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
2. QB Justin Herbert (Chargers)
3. QB Kyler Murray (Cardinals)
4. DE Nick Bosa (49ers)
5. CB Jaire Alexander (Packers)
6. DE Chase Young (Washington)
7. WR Justin Jefferson (Vikings)
8. QB Joe Burrow (Bengals)
9. WR DK Metcalf (Seahawks)
10. WR A.J. Brown (Titans)
This is only the top 10. Cody’s list actually consists of 25 players and if you want to check out the entire list plus Cody’s full explanation for why players are ranked where they are, you’re going to have to click here.
4. NFL salary cap could shoot up by more than $25 million in 2022
The NFL’s 32 teams got some good news on Wednesday and that good news is that the salary cap could be skyrocketing upward in 2022.
The NFLPA sent out a memo and the most notable part of that memo is the fact that the salary cap ceiling for 2022 has been set at $208.2 million, which is a $25.7 million jump over this year’s cap of $182.5 million. The fact that the ceiling has been set at $208.2 million doesn’t necessarily mean the cap will be that high next year, but it could reach that number if the NFL meets all of its revenue projections for the upcoming year.
The cap potentially making a jump like this is especially good news for teams like the Packers ($237 million), Cowboys ($228 million) and Rams ($212 million), who all have more than $200 million committed to their 2022 cap so far.
Wednesday was actually a pretty busy day in the NFL and that’s because the owners held a conference call where they made a few big decisions. Here’s a quick look at the other league news:
- Cut day is set. For most of NFL history, the league has held its final cut day on the Saturday before Labor Day, but that will be changing this year. With three preseason games in 2021, the NFL will hold three cut days and they will take place on the Tuesday following each preseason week. Teams can take 90 players into training camp and then they’ll have to cut down to 85 on Aug. 17, 80 on Aug. 24 before making their final cut down to 53 on Aug. 31.
- Blocking below the waist rule gets modified. The owners voted to expand the rule that prohibits blocking below the waist in most instances. Players can no longer block below the waist on scrimmage downs where initial contact occurs beyond 5 yards on either side of the line of scrimmage or if the contact occurs more than two yards outside either offensive tackle. This means that blocking below the waist is now only legal on a very small portion of the field.
Roger Goodell also spoke with the media Wednesday and the most notable thing that came from his press conference is the fact that he’s optimistic that all 32 teams will be given the OK by local authorities to fill up their stadiums with fans this year.
5. Predicting the Eagles’ final record for 2021
With Memorial Day right around the corner, that means the dead part of the NFL offseason is almost upon us and although things can get kind of boring during that period, we’re going to keep things spicy around here by going through and predicting each team’s record for the 2021 season.
There are 32 teams and we’ll be doing one team per day until we make it through every team. Today, we’re covering the Eagles.
Our Jeff Kerr went through the Eagles’ entire schedule and picked out all the games they’re going to win and all the games they’re going to lose. Kerr is never wrong — well he’s mostly never wrong — so his predictions are likely going to be 100% right.
Here’s a look at his predictions from three key games:
- Week 1: Eagles at Falcons. “Whether Julio Jones is with the Falcons or not, the Eagles are going to have trouble stopping Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts if they don’t have the cornerback situation figured out.” Prediction: Falcons over Eagles.
- Week 4: Chiefs at Eagles. “The Eagles are facing the best team in the AFC. This is a Chiefs team that most teams lose to.” Prediction: Chiefs over Eagles.
- Week 18: Cowboys at Eagles “The Cowboys have to come to Philadelphia for a chance at a playoff berth and the Eagles will play spoiler.” Prediction: Eagles over Cowboys.
Overall, Kerr is predicting that the Eagles will end the season with a 8-9 record, which doesn’t sound too crazy. If things start clicking for Jalen Hurts early in the season, Philly could be a surprise team in the NFC East in 2021.
If you want to see Kerr’s prediction for each game, be sure to click here to check out his entire story.
6. Rapid-fire roundup
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
It’s been a busy 24 hours in the NFL and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a small roundup for you.
- Julio Jones trade could happen as soon as next week. It appears the Falcons are getting plenty of offers for Jones and one of those offers even involved a first-round pick. Due to the salary cap, the Falcons won’t be making a deal until at least June 1, but as soon as the calendar hits that date, a deal could come together quickly. According to ESPN.com, it won’t be surprising if Jones gets dealt as soon as next week.
- Cowboys hire Ben McAdoo. Apparently, the Cowboys and Giants have a deal in place to hire the other team’s fired coach. Last year, the Giants hired fired Cowboys coach Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator. This year, the Cowboys have decided to hire former Giants coach Ben McAdoo as a consultant.
- Katie Sowers headed to Kansas City. After making history with the 49ers as the first female coach to make it to the Super Bowl, Sowers could soon be back coaching in the big game and that’s because she’s accepted a job with the Chiefs as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity fellowship, which is designed to increase the number of full-time NFL minority coaches.
- Eagles promote Catherine Raiche to VP of football operations. Sowers isn’t the only female making moves in the NFL this week. Thanks to her promotion, Raiche is now the highest-ranking female in terms of personnel jobs in NFL history. Raiche has been with the Eagles since 2019 and before that, she spent five years in the CFL. The Eagles have also hired former Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell as a personnel executive.
- Lamar Jackson wants to be with the Ravens ‘forever.’ It doesn’t look like Lamar Jackson is going to be playing hard ball in his contract negotiations. Jackson made it clear this week that he wants to spend his entire career in Baltimore. “I would love to be here forever. I love Baltimore. I love the whole organization. I love everybody in the building,” Jackson said. The 2019 NFL MVP is going into the fourth year of his five-year rookie deal and is currently working on an extension with the Ravens.
7. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are trash-talking each other on Twitter
Less than six months after facing each other in the NFC Title game, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are going to be taking their rivalry to the golf course and that’s because they’re two of the four participants in the latest version of “The Match.”
In a golf event that will go down on July 6 in Montana, Brady and Phil Mickelson will be going up against Rodgers and Bryson Dechambeau. The best part of this match is all the trash-talk that’s already happening on Twitter.
Over the past 24 hours alone, Brady has made fun of the fact that the Packers kicked a field goal in the NFC title game and the fact that Dechambeau might not be such a great partner (You can see his tweets by clicking here). Not to be outdone, Rodgers took a timeout from his Hawaiian vacation to tweet out a 30-second clip from Star Wars that featured some hilarious photoshop work.
This match is still six weeks away, which is probably for the best, because that means we’re going to get six more weeks of these guys trash-talking each other.