NFL insider diary: GMs weigh in on WR salary spike that led to AJ Brown, more trades and a draft

Whether paying a wide receiver in today’s NFL is the latest economic and philosophical decision facing general managers, and Thursday night’s first-round draft showed which side some decision-makers are falling on.

the Titans distributed A.J. Brown to Eagles once they reached a contractual stalemate. Clearly, for Titans general manager Jon Robinson, Brown’s value to this team — in its current build — didn’t equal $22 million to $25 million a year. For Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, a four-year, $100 million draft package was fine.

“It’s hard to pay $25 million to a wide receiver and field a playoff-type team with a quarterback and running back getting a big percentage [of the salary cap,]” a team manager told me on Friday.

“You can’t have a high-priced QB and WR,” another team executive said. “The going rate [on a QB] is 35 to 40 million dollars. You can’t turn around and pay for a 25 top flight wide receiver and build parts unless they’re cheap parts.

“At some point you have to pay off your tackle. If you can’t pay off your young tackle, you’re constantly pressing reset. Then you can’t extend the starting cornerback or the free safety or the edge rusher. “

The decision made by the Titans is the same as the one Kansas City Chiefs did when they swapped Tyreek Hill to dolphins earlier this offseason. Davante Adams wanted to leave Green Bay to play with Derek Carr, so it’s not a fair comparison. Still, Vegas was willing to part ways with the first-round picks in order to get a veteran’s help to review the draft.

Tennessee shipped Brown to Philadelphia and got the No. 18 overall pick in return, and the Titans used him on a physical receiver. Treylon Burk (check out our tracker of each pick as well as the ratings and analysis here).

“I can’t say Burks is AJ Brown, but from a fiscal responsibility standpoint, I would have done the same,” a personnel executive said Friday.

For a few years, no one touched the high line set by the Cardinals and DeAndre Hopkins at $27.5 million AAV. The best spreads hovered around $20 million a year, as chief executives decided the Hopkins deal was so unique it was an anomaly that shouldn’t be used as a comparison tool.

Later, Adams broke the mark with his $28 million AAV deal with the Raiders. And then Hill broke it with the Dolphins at $30 million AAV. But before there was a new ceiling, there was a new floor. the jaguars signature Christian Kirk to a four-year, $72 million contract at the start of free agency, league general managers were furious and receivers (and their representation) were licking their chops.

Brown, a far more accomplished receiver than Kirk, can’t play for $16 million a year as he said the Titans offered in a interview with ESPN. So just as some of the top loose players have risen to the top of the market, this next level of player has also seen their market price increase.

“The bar had kind of been raised on that position,” Robinson said Thursday night when explaining his difficult decision to part ways with Brown. “We were trying to work through that and find common ground. But in the end, it felt like it was somewhere we weren’t going to be able to get to.”

As prices for veteran receivers rise, the NFL is seeing an increase in the number of young receivers like never before. On Thursday night, the league saw six receivers break into the top 20 in the draft for the first time in the common draft era.

The proliferation of 7v7 football tournaments has a lot to do with it. The same goes for football all year round with the help of travel leagues. This carries over into the college ranks, where many professional coaches have gone on to college and brought with them more advanced passing and route concepts.

“So you can imagine the amount of improvement you can make when throwing and catching from age 5 and 7 through age 18, and I think that’s what you see” , Chargers coach Brandon Staley said at the combine in February. “You see the skill level of these guys really translate into the NFL game because they’re ready.”

Now that the first round of the draft is over, one executive predicted that “the wide receiver market will correct itself. And I mean with these trades, teams are going to say ‘you know what, I’m not paying these guys.’

Perhaps. There is still the question of Deebo Samuel and DK Metcalf. Metcalf would like a new deal but isn’t making it a public show. (A source noted that Metcalf’s father, Terrance, a longtime NFL veteran, would opt for his son to do his business privately.) Samuel made his demands public, though he didn’t fully explain. why he wants to leave San Francisco.

At this point, if the Niners were ever to trade Samuel, it doesn’t make sense to do so for future picks. San Francisco has a competitive roster today, so losing Samuel just to gain a rookie in 2023 is not good football business. If he’s going anywhere this offseason — and I don’t believe he’s going anywhere anytime soon, if at all — it should be for a player or players.

And since Samuel played this out in public, it’s reasonable to assume he’ll react publicly to not being moved this weekend when Brown was.

‘Hollywood’ Brown deal doesn’t fit the mold

One receiver shot that doesn’t fit into the above narrative is Marquise “Hollywood” Brown being dealt to Arizona. Brown, 24, is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract but has yet to have the type of career that would lend itself to a mega-deal.

No, the crows just decided that they would part ways with the speedster and lamar jackson‘s good friend because the relationship had come to an end. As I understand it, Brown was unhappy with his role in the Greg Roman scheme and made no secret of it. You’ll recall he deleted the Ravens from his social media platforms shortly after. Kyler Murray did the same with the Cardinals earlier this offseason.

It didn’t help matters that the last taste in the Ravens’ mouth was Week 18 Steelers Game. Brown had just three catches for 37 yards on six true targets. He dropped a touchdown pass and lost another hold late on a Minka Fitzpatrick hit. The Ravens would lose that game in overtime and miss the playoffs.

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta can still add at receiver through the draft and post-draft free agency. The Ravens love their speed with Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay. Mark Andrews is basically a big wide receiver and James Close may have the best hands on the team.

But things have yet to be worked out with Jackson, who a source described as “inseparable” from Brown. The Ravens had informed Jackson of the move earlier in the week, so he wasn’t surprised by the trade. I’ve been told that Jackson “gets the business” and was ultimately happy for Brown, but he still showed his emotions on Twitter.

This tweet came shortly after the Ravens were selected Tyler Linderbaum with the 25th pick acquired via trade. Jackson later said his previous tweet had nothing to do with Linderbaum, and a source said it may have had to do with Jackson seeing photos of Brown at the Cardinals’ draft party. Another source disputed this and said Jackson was “just sad” that his good friend was leaving.

We’ll know more when Jackson decides to speak publicly about certain things, but I’ll just say that Jackson let the emotion show after it really set in.

Explain the choice of Pats’ Strange

the patriots taking on UT-Chattanooga offensive guard Cole Strange came as a shock. But that’s also not shocking because… well, it’s Bill Belichick.

Belichick did not disclose the process behind Strange’s move to No. 29. But a league source said he believed the New England board was wiped out at the time. I’ve had several teams tell me that Strange has a second-round class in their building. And in this year’s draft, by picking at No. 29, you take a second round anyway.

And although Strange comes from a small program, it is a familiar program. Strange joined UT-Chattanooga in 2017 and played under head coach Tom Arth, a former NFL quarterback who is a product of John Carroll. We know Belichick (like many in the NFL) loves John Carroll’s people. Additionally, Patriots defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington was briefly on the UT-Chattanooga staff in 2017 before heading to New England.

Bucs’ likely move to No 33

the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want everyone to know they’re comfortable picking a 33rd overall defensive lineman on Friday. If they do, I’d bet it’s Travis Jones or Logan Hall. But the Bucs could very well get out of this place if the price is right.

Open for business

the giants will listen to offers at #36 as they don’t resume until #67. Chicago picks at #39 and again at 48, and I’m sure the Bear will welcome all offers to step back from 39 to acquire more choices.

Buzz on how Panthers will add a QB

The Panthers are very interested in participating in the second and/or third rounds of the draft. They don’t have a choice until No. 137 and they’re afraid they’ll miss the draft meat. But they don’t have any players on the trading block to acquire picks, so they’ll likely have to deal with future picks in order to get back to Day 2.

You’d think if they did that they’d be aiming for a quarterback. It’s possible. But I think the winds are picking up on a veteran quarterback trade. We knew it could be Jimmy Garoppolo or Mayfield Bakerand I would say there is still movement for Mayfield.

Some in the building are split on QBs, and team owner David Tepper thinks he has the leverage, so he’s not inclined to send much to San Francisco or Cleveland. .

Some teams are high on Howell

Don’t be surprised if Sam Howell is the next quarterback taken in the draft. I had a team (who didn’t need a QB) told me he was top of their roster at that position. Another team said they were surprised he hadn’t been picked up by the end of the first Thursday night.

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