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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Albert Breer

Packers Make the Right Call to Extend Jordan Love

And now we can wrap things up on the NFL draft …

• It’s fifth-year-option time again, with the deadline for teams to pull the trigger on those with 2020 first-round picks at 4 p.m. ET today. As of this morning, 12 of the 32 options had been picked up.

The big decision coming into the day was the call the Packers had to make on Jordan Love. They’ve since answered the question they were facing there creatively. They negotiated a one-year extension that maxes out at $22.5 million in new money—which tops the $20.27 million Green Bay would’ve given Love by picking up the option. He gets $13.5 million fully guaranteed as part of the deal, so, in all likelihood, getting the full freight will mean he’ll have to play well enough to be the Packers’ starter again in 2024.

It’s good business by Green Bay, and understandable that Love would take the windfall. The cost is a relatively paltry amount for a starting quarterback. And it’s a good vote of confidence for Love, and signals to the locker room that the Packers have seen enough already to put their money where their mouth is.

Love gets $13.5 million fully guaranteed as part of his one-year contract extension.

Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

As for the functional value for the Packers here, the franchise tag at quarterback next year projects at more than $38 million. So if you’re willing to gamble on Love being, well, a good starter—and the Packers are—then you could save more than $16 million even if Love maxes the deal out. Plus, you keep the three tags you have over Love’s career—which can be sources of leverage in negotiations—in your back pocket.

The downside, of course, is that he crashes and burns, and you’re on the hook for that number next year. And that’s a downside that I see as manageable.

Packers Central: Green Bay, Love compromise on contract extension

Anyway, depending on what happens today, there could be a record-low number of options picked up, which is at least in part a result of the options being fully guaranteed now (in the last CBA, they were guaranteed only for injury). Here’s the year-by-year tally of the number of players who had their options exercised since the 2011 CBA ushered in this system …

  • Class of 2019: 19
  • Class of 2018: 22
  • Class of 2017: 18
  • Class of 2016: 17
  • Class of 2015: 20
  • Class of 2014: 23
  • Class of 2013: 18
  • Class of 2012: 20
  • Class of 2011: 21

For all the (deserved) praise over the weekend, the Eagles took a lot of risk.

The issues Jalen Carter brings with him—there were teams in the top 10 such as Arizona and Las Vegas for which he wasn’t really a consideration—are well documented. Fourth-round corner Kelee Ringo is another talent with baggage. And even in the undrafted-free-agent ranks, there is a dice roll with star-crossed former LSU and Alabama corner Eli Ricks.

To be fair, they went safe plenty, too, with Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith, Alabama tackle Tyler Steen and Illinois safety Sydney Brown all emphatically checking the character box. But it’s also indicative of a team that feels like it’s close, and has the balance across its roster to absorb a swing and a miss or two, to go for the payoff of the kind of big hit a Carter or one of the corners might be.

• While we’re there, the Eagles did really well to get a starting caliber back in D’Andre Swift at a very reasonable price—he cost them a late draft position in a swap of seventh-round picks and a 2025 fourth-rounder. But there is a reason why the Lions were willing to let him go, and why other teams weren’t clamoring to get him, and it’s not because other GMs are really dumb. It’s that Swift’s been pretty consistently banged up, and is in a contract year.

The Eagles will have their fingers crossed health-wise, with Swift and Rashaad Penny in the same running back room, with incumbent Kenneth Gainwell in that mix, too.

• DeAndre Hopkins said on Instagram on Monday, “I see everyone telling me to stay. Who said I wanna go? Who said I wanna leave? I’m out here working, baby.”

That all sounds good. It doesn’t change the fact that the Cardinals agreed to allow Hopkins to speak to other teams to facilitate a trade a couple of months ago, something that almost certainly wouldn’t have happened were everything fantastic between player and team.

So here’s the crux of it—Hopkins is due $19.5 million this fall, and it appears as if the only place he’ll make $19.5 million in base pay is where he is right now. The Chiefs, for one, have explored it, and what it’d take to get Hopkins, but don’t have close to the wiggle room to do it at his current price. I know he’s intimated that Buffalo would be an attractive destination, and I think the Bills would have it but can’t take on his contract as structured.

Bottom line, if he wanted out that badly, and he was willing to take a lot less to do it, I think it’d have happened by now, even though Arizona’s original asking price was probably too high. And, honestly, with his 31st birthday a month away, and only so many of these paydays left, I wouldn’t blame him at all if he just decided the best play was to take the nearly $20 million that’s sitting right in front of him.

Tyree Wilson is going to be a fascinating case to watch. Even after five college seasons, he’s a little raw, having transferred and gone through staff turnover at Texas Tech. But the 22-year-old produced, and still has a lot of room to grow as a freakishly long (6'6") 276-pound defensive end.

The Raiders loved his ability to play the run, too, and while they already have a lot invested in his position, in what they’re paying Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, there’s an acknowledgment they played those guys too much last year. Crosby was in on a staggering 96.3% of the team’s defensive snaps last year. The 33-year-old Jones was fifth on the team at 69.6% despite missing two games (he was over 84% in eight of 15 games he played).

Wilson should give defensive coordinator Pat Graham the opening to lighten that load on Crosby and Jones by creating a rotation, and Wilson can also rush inside, having done it consistently at Tech, which will give Graham the chance to get all three on the field together on passing downs.

• It’ll be interesting to see what C.J. Stroud does in the AFC South. Once the Ohio State QB came off the board, the Titans dropped out of the bidding for the third pick, which should tell you what you need to know about why Tennessee wanted to move up. And now, the Titans will see Stroud twice a year, playing the team that blocked them from getting him.

• We’d mentioned before the draft how Seattle was considered a threat to take Florida’s Anthony Richardson with the fifth pick, and Pete Carroll conceded as much the other day, saying, “We considered him.” Seahawks GM John Schneider really liked Josh Allen coming out in 2018, and Richardson drew more comparisons to Allen from NFL people than he did to Cam Newton (which seemed to be the more popular media comp). Another factor? Seattle viewed picking fifth as a rare opportunity to get a young quarterback. They obviously don’t plan on picking up there again for a while.

• I had one exec from another team praising the Browns’ Day 3 haul on the strength of UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and two Ohio State linemen. Fourth-rounder Dawand Jones’s predraft process went as sideways as possible (constant weight questions, handling of the Senior Bowl and pro day, telling teams his dream was to play in the NBA, not the NFL), but the fourth round was a good place to bet on his immense talent. And sixth-round center Luke Wypler probably made a mistake leaving school early, but a lot of folks felt like with another year, he’d have been a Day 2 pick, so he’s got a shot to develop, too.

• We’ve mentioned the Vikings’ unresolved situations with Dalvin Cook and Za’Darius Smith over the past few days. One thing that helps—GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s work in resetting the team financially this offseason. As such, the Vikings have told other teams they're cap clean now, so there’s no urgency at this point to offload Cook and Smith (some teams might need the space in such a situation to sign their draft picks).

• I love the Panthers getting Jonathan Mingo, the big, strong Ole Miss wideout, with the 39th pick to go with Bryce Young. I don’t know whether Mingo will make it, but he came on through the draft process, and definitely has physical traits to develop, while giving Young someone to grow with. To me, it’s not unlike the Bengals drafting Joe Burrow No. 1, and then coming back to take Tee Higgins with the 33rd pick three years ago. And it’s fair to say that one worked out O.K.

• I’d mentioned the Patriots not addressing their tackle need—there’s a postscript to that one. I know New England was excited to get Sidy Sow from Eastern Michigan, who has been projected as an interior offensive lineman, and who they got with the pick in the fourth round that they picked up for going back from No. 14 to No. 17 (in the Steelers trade) in the first round. My understanding is they’re gonna try Sow at tackle, where he actually played as a true freshman in 2018.

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