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Happy midweek, everyone! Tee Higgins remains a Cincinnati Bengal for now, so John Breech has taken a weekly day off to celebrate. In the meantime, you've got me, Cody Benjamin, to deliver all the latest.

This is the Pick Six newsletter. Now let's get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you're signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don't want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)

We've got reactions to all the franchise tags, more quarterback drama, and Will Brinson's first mock draft:

1. Today's show: Franchise tag deadline special

Michael Pittman Jr. USATSI

Former NFL player Leger Douzable joined Will Brinson on the latest "Pick Six NFL Podcast" to assess all the franchise and transition tags issued ahead of this week's deadline. Some highlights:

  • The guys are in agreement that Michael Pittman Jr. warranted a tag from the Indianapolis Colts. Douzable thinks the $21 million price tag is "a little steep" considering he's yet to match the production of top-tier wideouts, but "you want some continuity for your young quarterback" in Anthony Richardson.
  • Brinson sees the Brian Burns and Josh Allen tags as two fundamentally different decisions at pass rusher: "The Jaguars defense has to have Josh Allen. That's a situation where you pay him a ton of money (because you're competitive), whereas the Panthers ... are hoping someone comes to get him" via trade after years of failed contract talks.
  • One name that could benefit from the tags at receiver? Buffalo Bills speedster Gabe Davis, who's set to hit the open market and registers as a spicy target for the AFC East rival New York Jets, according to Douzable.

Catch the full episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.

2. Fact or Fiction with QB drama: Cousins leaving Vikings?

Lots of gossip circulates around NFL at this time. But which rumors and reports deserve our attention, and which ones can safely be brushed off? We did our best to make a ruling on some of the hottest topics surrounding big-name quarterback movement. Here's a sneak peek at the breakdown:

  • FACT -- Kirk Cousins is on track to leave the Vikings: This is a rare case of two sides genuinely liking each other, just not enough to prohibit a mutual split. The Vikings say they'd like Cousins back, but their actions tell a slightly different story, essentially asking all 31 other teams to contend for his services. And Cousins, though favorable to his Midwestern setup, has never been one to shy away from a business opportunity. Keep a watchful eye on the Atlanta Falcons.
  • FICTION -- Justin Fields could stay with the BearsOf course it's possible he could stay. In fact, there's a strong argument to be made the Bears should keep the young, ascending playmaker rather than start over. But nothing about Chicago's actions and words this offseason suggests the team isn't moving full-speed toward selecting Caleb Williams atop the 2024 NFL Draft.
  • FACT -- The Steelers still believe in Kenny PickettWhether or not they should is another story entirely. Could they still pursue competition for Pickett in the form of a mid-tier free agent like Ryan Tannehill or Tyrod Taylor? Sure. But all indications are they're not willing to outright pull the plug on Pickett's development, even though they sidelined him for Mason Rudolph to open the 2023 playoffs. It may burn them in the end, but for now, he's set to remain Option 1 or 1A.

3. Brinson's Mock Draft: Patriots make stunning move to No. 1

Caleb Williams USATSI

Free agency is just around the corner, but the blockbuster moves of March will ultimately pave the way for draft-day decisions in April. And Will Brinson envisions all kinds of chaos when that time comes. In his first mock draft of the 2024 season, he's got Caleb Williams going No. 1 overall, but not to the Chicago Bears. Here's a look at his top five:

  1. Patriots (via projected trade): QB Caleb Williams -- The Patriots are hell-bent on getting a franchise quarterback to help them forget Mac Jones ... and Tom Brady.  
  2. Commanders: QB Drake Maye -- Washington has talked about trading down, but it's also talked about trading up. I think the Commanders ultimately stand pat and take Maye here.  
  3. Bears (via projected trade): WR Marvin Harrison Jr. -- The Bears could go with a quarterback here or they could kick the can down the road and grab a superstar wide receiver to see how things could work in 2024 with Justin Fields. 
  4. Giants (via projected trade): QB J.J. McCarthy -- The Giants move up to grab a quarterback, a leader type who can step in and take over for Daniel Jones. This franchise needs a reboot at QB, and McCarthy can handle the pressure that comes with being the quarterback in New York.  
  5. Chargers: OT Joe Alt -- Rashawn Slater is still slotted in at left tackle, but Jim Harbaugh loves to draft in the trenches, and he'll want to get his franchise quarterback help early.  

4. Tag winners and losers: Saquon Barkley makes out well

Now that all tags have been issued, which players should be celebrating or lamenting what's happened ahead of free agency? Bryan DeArdo thinks these big names are actually winners after the deadline for franchise tags:

  • Giants RB Saquon Barkley: Rest assured, Barkley isn't shedding any tears at not being tagged. Instead of going back to a 6-11 team, Barkley can try to find a better situation via free agency. While the money may not be great, Barkley will at least get a chance to shop his wares for the first time.
  • Bengals WR Tee Higgins: Sure, Higgins would have much rather preferred a long-term deal. But by getting the tag, he doubled his career earnings and gets another year to play alongside Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase. Higgins will also likely increase his market value after being injured for a good portion of 2023.
  • Chiefs DL Chris JonesHad he been tagged, Jones would have played for $6 million less than his projected market value in 2024. Jones will now either sign a long-term deal with the Chiefs or he will do so elsewhere.

5. Big-name cuts: Jamal Adams among veterans released

Jamal Adams Getty Images

As free agency nears, some teams are still working to clear salary cap space. Here's the latest on notable cap casualties:

6. Worst free agent signings of all time: Le'Veon Bell on list

Free agency can be fun, but it is often volatile. Hence resident historian Bryan DeArdo recounting some of the most unsuccessful offseason signings of all time. A couple former Pittsburgh Steelers stars ended up making the list. Here's a sneak peek:

5. RB Le'Veon Bell (Jets, 2019): Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets after sitting out the entire 2018 season over a contract dispute. A two-time All-Pro with the Steelers, Bell struggled to find his footing in New York. He averaged a scant 3.2 yards per carry during his first season with the Jets. Bell played in just two games for the Jets in 2020 before being released.

4. QB Nick Foles (Jaguars, 2019: The Jaguars were hoping for more magic from Foles, a former Super Bowl MVP who signed a four-year, $91 million deal that included a franchise-record $50.125 million guaranteed. A broken collarbone, poor play and the emergence of Gardner Minshew ultimately ended Foles' run in Jacksonville after four uneventful games. 

3. S Adam Archuleta (Washington, 2006): Washington made the former Rams first-round pick the highest-paid safety in NFL history with a six-year, $30 million deal. Archuleta started just seven games for Washington, though, before he was traded to the Bears in 2007.

2. WR Kenny Golladay (Giants, 2021): Golladay was a Pro Bowler with the Lions in 2019, was injured most of the 2020 season, then signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Giants in 2021. He caught just 43 passes in two seasons with the Giants, who released him last offseason.

1. DT Albert Haynesworth (Washington, 2009): Washington signed the two-time All-Pro to a seven-year, $100 million contract, but quickly regretted that decision. During his first year in Washington, Haynesworth publicly questioned the coaching staff while failing to produce up to expectations. Conflicts between Haynesworth and the coaching staff continued in 2010, along with his lack of production. Haynesworth was traded to the Patriots in 2011.