Welcome to "Six Points" for Week 3, with Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen. This week we hit JPP, a huge trade for New England, why teams hate playing Carolina, a secret of Arizona's success, and more.
1. A tough decision on Drew Brees
It's still early, but it is fair to wonder how much longer the marriage between Drew Brees and the Saints will last.
Coming off his worst performance in a decade and heading into a tough road game Sunday at Carolina, it's worth remembering this factoid moving forward: Brees is scheduled to count a whopping $27.4 million against the Saints' salary cap in 2016.
Making matters worse, New Orleans now is projected to be $7.8 million over next year's cap -- and that doesn't include money the team will have to spend to re-sign its restricted free agents and draft class. By the time that gets done, New Orleans could be about $15 million over the cap, and the money has to come from somewhere. The most likely spot is Brees, which sets up a sensitive decision that will dictate the direction of this franchise in the short and long term. New Orleans either can restructure Brees' contract, creating cap space and keeping its quarterback but suffering further cap ramifications in the future -- or it can move on from him, which would free up $20 million in needed cap space.
Again, it's still early this season. But Brees' play will help determine what this franchise does in the offseason. Brees has been so important to the Saints and the city of New Orleans; his contributions cannot be underestimated. But teams don't pay players for what they have done. They pay them for what they will do. And with Brees struggling in ways he hasn't before, there is a question about what he will do the rest of this season -- and what the organization thinks he can do beyond it.
2. Pierre-Paul's questionable media strategy
It was not necessarily evidence that supported his own caption of "Getting back right."
In the video, Pierre-Paul did five reps of an estimated 240 pounds. That was it. He also had a small yellow towel wrapped on the bar to protect his right hand, which was badly damaged in a July 4th fireworks accident. Let's be clear: There is plenty of compassion around the NFL for Pierre-Paul's plight. Only 26 years old, he had earned the franchise tag of $14.8 million before the accident, but was seeking a long-term contract and thus never signed the fully guaranteed tender. While there is some chatter that Pierre-Paul will seek a grievance against the Giants if they do not deem him physically ready to play this season, the video, other photos of the defensive end's hand and physical evaluation have not engendered great confidence.
Not only has Pierre-Paul had his right finger amputated, his thumb was severely fractured and the condition of his middle finger was a much more significant concern than anyone was led to believe before he allowed the Giants' medical staff and a hand specialist to examine him. There is some concern about whether that middle finger will ever be football-functional.
Then there have been varying whispers about Pierre-Paul's weight. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 278 pounds. A week or so before the accident, he posted a photo that showed his weight at just under 275 pounds. He had a goal of reporting to camp at 265 to play lighter and faster. However, he was down at least 20 pounds, maybe more, when he visited the team. One source said he weighed 246 pounds but another team source said he was "around 255 pounds."
Pierre-Paul's ability to gain strength and good weight is understandably in question based on the damage to his right hand. The subsequent video this week of his bench press provides support for pessimism at this time. The defensive end is said to be intensely focused on rehabbing his thumb, which would be vital to his ability to perform well at defensive end. But will it be enough? And in what time frame?
3. Playing Panthers takes a toll
When teams play the Carolina Panthers, one consistent takeaway is that it is always going to be a game that takes a physical toll on players. Such was the case when Texans coach Bill O'Brien, who also demands a physical style of play, conceded that his team was beat up enough when they lost 24-17 to the Panthers, and that several players' workloads would be lightened this week in order to get as many prepared to play Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Even Texans super-stud J.J. Watt got a taste of the Panthers' physical style -- and talent, for that matter. Not only did right tackle Mike Remmers do admirable work against Watt but the reigning defensive player of the year was crushed to the ground by right guard Trai Turner when Cam Newton threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. That block by Turner on Watt is getting some viral video play.
It shouldn't be a surprise that head coach Ron Rivera, a linebacker on the famed 1985 Bears team, has instilled this identity on both sides of the football. When he took the job in 2011, Rivera said the Panthers wanted to be a "physical and attacking" team. It sounded like a cliche, of course, but it's looking like the truth now as the two-time defending NFC South champions take a 2-0 record into an NFC South home game against the Saints, the latest team who could be shortening practices next week.
4. How the Pats loaded up (and Jax didn't)
New England and Jacksonville square off Sunday, but it's not the first time these two teams have gotten together in a significant meeting.
Back in the 2009 draft, they engineered a draft-day trade, the ramifications of which are still being felt.
To get New England's 73rd overall pick in the third round of the 2009 draft, a choice it clearly coveted, Jacksonville sent the Patriots a seventh-round pick and a second-round pick in the next year's draft. The Jaguars went on to select former William and Mary cornerback Derek Cox, who played 47 games in Jacksonville before being released.
With the first pick acquired from the Jaguars, the Patriots drafted former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman. And in 2010, New England packaged Jacksonville's second-rounder (44th overall) and an additional sixth-round pick to move up to Oakland's spot at No. 42, where the Patriots drafted former Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski.
So Tom Brady's two favorite weapons, each of whom will be on display and counted on Sunday, could be playing elsewhere if not for Jacksonville's desire to move up and pick Cox. It helps explain why the Jaguars' front office that engineered that deal no longer is in Jacksonville and why the Patriots are still the Patriots.
5. Rodgers never forgets
By now, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has reminded his head coach Mike McCarthy -- a former 49ers offensive coordinator -- that San Francisco once drafted quarterback Alex Smith ahead of him. This week, on Monday Night Football, with the Packers playing the Chiefs, Rodgers gets another crack at Smith, while making cracks at McCarthy's expense.
But McCarthy and the 49ers were hardly the only team to miss out on their pick and Rodgers. In fact, of the 23 players drafted ahead of Rodgers in the 2005 draft, only two players still remain on the team that drafted them. Carolina drafted former Georgia defensive standout Thomas Davis with the 14th overall pick, and Kansas City selected former Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson one pick later at No. 15. Beyond those two, every player picked ahead of Rodgers either has moved on from the team that drafted him or has moved on from the league.
Davis has been an inspirational leader in Carolina, while Johnson is poised to become the Chiefs' all-time tackle leader Monday night, needing only three more to pass former linebacker Gary Spani. It is only fitting that Johnson is set to do it in a game against Rodgers, who still is serving a reminder of the mistake that 23 other teams made in the 2005 draft.
6. Arizona's hunt for gems
Justifiably, much has been made about the resurgence of Carson Palmer, who has found new life with the Arizona Cardinals and looks better than ever coming off a season that ended abruptly with the second ACL surgery. Palmer, a former Heisman Trophy winner, was another revealing acquisition by general manager Steve Keim, whose work has been lauded by his peers. Palmer's career had soured in Cincinnati and Oakland. Keim got him from the Raiders for a conditional late-round draft pick.
But Keim's success hasn't just been about Palmer, or even in the hiring of Bruce Arians. It's also in his ability to comprehend that winning NFL rosters are not just made up with Power 5 talent.
In getting off to a 2-0 start, the Cardinals have had major contributions from small-school players such as wide receiver John Brown (Pittsburg State, Kansas), running back David Johnson (Northern Iowa) and tight end Darren Fells (UC Irvine basketball), nose tackle Rodney Gunter (Delaware State) and cornerback Justin Bethel (Presbyterian College, South Carolina).
Keim also loved that 2014 free-agent signee tackle Jared Veldheer made his bones with the Raiders but played at Hillsdale College in Michigan.
"If they love it and have the physical traits, you got a chance!" Keim said in a text.