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NFL week in review: JJ, Russ, Dak and a whole lot more as action heats up

J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, the release of Alex Smith, plus more

NFL: JAN 05 NFC Wild Card - Seahawks at Cowboys Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s already March? Time really does fly and NFL Free Agency is set to begin in just over two weeks (March 17th). Teams, including the New York Giants, are forced to make some difficult decisions on veteran players in the coming weeks. The Giants have to worry about offensive linemen Kevin Zeitler and Nate Solder, who just this week stated that he intends to play after a high-risk opt-out in 2020.

Other teams have already made moves this past week. The Texans released running back Duke Johnson, center Nick Martin, veteran offensive lineman Senio Kelemete, and linebacker Peter Kalambayi. Pittsburgh restructured Cam Heyward’s deal to free up $7 million in cap space and Tennessee released veteran wide receiver, Adam Humphries.

Another big move is set to become official after rumors surfaced about its legitimacy and that happens to be the inevitable release of Washington quarterback Alex Smith. Smith almost lost his life playing the sport of football back in 2018. He suffered a spiral compound fracture of the tibia and fibula in his right leg after taking a sack from Texans Kareem Jackson.

Smith’s leg ended up infected and he ultimately needed 17 surgeries. The infection nearly killed him and he needed months of painful rehab just to learn how to walk. Defying all the odds in the world, Smith earned comeback player of the year after helping Washington win the NFC East with a 5-1 record.

It was the first NFC East title since 2015 for Washington and it came after Smith relieved 2019 first-round pick, Dwayne Haskins. Smith is now set to be released by the Football Team. In an interview that Smith recently did with GQ magazine, he stated that his play this season “threw a wrench” into Washington’s long-term plans at the quarterback position.

The 36-year-old Smith could find some suitors on the market as a backup with starting potential. He could possibly reunite with Matt Nagy in Chicago, a team that seems to always need quarterback help.

Smith’s career arc has been unique, to say the least. He was the first overall selection in 2015 over Aaron Rodgers. Then he earned a draft bust label after not working out in a tumultuous 49ers situation. He lost his job to Colin Kaepernick and was traded to Kansas City where his career was rectified by Andy Reid. Then he groomed Pat Mahomes for a year in 2017 as he led the Chiefs to a 10-6 division-winning record. Washington then traded cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round selection for Smith in 2018...he led Washington to a 6-3 record before suffering the devastating injury. His career had its highs and some very concerning lows, but it’s not over yet...what’s left for Alex Smith and his time in the NFL?

J.J. Watt

Watt is off the market after causing Peloton to trend on Twitter. The three-time defensive player of the year signed a two-year, $31 million contract with $23 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will now be getting a healthy Chandler Jones back and he receives J.J. Watt - scary.

It’s a very competitive division for Watt to join with the Rams, 49ers, and a Seattle team that could be influx soon (more on that a bit later). However, there’s a lot of promise in the desert with quarterback Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and the air raid system that head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been running the past two seasons. Watt heading to the Cardinals almost all but assures that Haason Reddick will hit the market - that could be important for the Giants.

I’m sure Steelers, Packers, and Bills fans are a bit perplexed. Three Super Bowl contenders, although I feel the former is on the decline, that lose out on a huge defensive asset. This just made the NFC West even more interesting, much to the irritation of an already perturbed Seattle quarterback.

Russell Wilson

The Super Bowl XLVIII champion made a lot of headlines this week by saying that he’s not demanding a trade, buttttttttttttttt if he was traded he’d like to go to Dallas, Chicago, New Orleans, or Las Vegas. Wilson’s agent informed Adam Schefter of Wilson’s desires if a trade does ensue.

It’s obvious that there’s agitation in Wilson’s camp between the star quarterback and head coach Pete Carroll. The conservative nature of Carroll’s philosophy to run the football and rely on defense seems to be rubbing Wilson the wrong way. Wilson is well aware that he can throw the football with the best of them and that he just needs some time upfront to accomplish that goal, but the offensive line has been a mess.

Throughout his nine-year career, Wilson has been sacked 394 times - that’s an average of 43.8 times per season. No quarterback since the 1970 merger with the AFL has been sacked more than Russell Wilson per year. He’s 32 years old and he’s set to become the most sacked quarterback in league history, surpassing Brett Farve’s 525 total sacks, according to Kaelen Jones of The Ringer.

Wilson isn’t blind, he sees what Pat Mahomes is doing in Kansas City, Josh Allen in Buffalo, and even Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. He knows he has Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and other solid receiving options, but he has no time to throw the football and a coach that doesn’t fit the Let Russ Cook mantra.

This is the second offseason in a row where whispers about Wilson leaving Seattle are leaked into the media, but this one seems to have more legitimacy after Wilson is coming off a 47 sack, first-round exit, season. If I were asked two weeks ago if I felt Wilson would be a Seahawk, I would have unequivocally said’m much more hesitant to commit. However, Wilson signed an extension in 2019 and the dead cap for Seattle would be $39 million if he’s traded prior to June 1st.

Dallas and Wilson?

Insert Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys into this equation. This past week, Cowboy great Michael Irvin stated that Russell Wilson is coming for Dak Prescott’s chair. That Dallas offensive line needs work, but the Cowboys have receiver Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Micahel Gallup, as well as running backs Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard on their roster. The presence of Zach Martin, La’El Collins, and Connor Williams is a foundation for their line, as Tyron Smith continues to age.

Furthermore, Dallas is a huge market that shines bright for stars like Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara, who was also born in Texas, where there is no state income tax. The compensation for a player like Wilson would be intense and I don’t ultimately feel this will happen (crossing fingers that it doesn’t), but it’s certainly interesting when you consider the Dak Prescott contract situation.

The Cowboys offered Prescott a deal between $33-35 million annually with $110 million guaranteed and $70 million owed over the first two years and included a $50 million signing bonus, according to NFL Network’s Jane Slater. The deal was set for five years, and that caused disturbance for Prescott’s camp. The Dallas quarterback wanted only a four-year deal, so he could cash in on another big contract while he was just 30-years of age.

The two sides could not agree on a deal, so Prescott played 2020 on the tag earning $31.4 million. Prescott was on pace for ridiculous video game type of numbers before breaking his leg against the Giants and now the two sides are in a similar situation. If Dallas were to attempt and franchise tag Prescott this season, it would cost them $37.7 million, which totals $69.1 million for two seasons on the tag.

In four years, Prescott earned just over $4 million on the field of play. He was a huge discount and now, rightfully so, he’s attempting to leverage a contract that will take care of him and his family for years to come. Dallas offered him a contract that would have paid him handsomely, but the two sides couldn’t agree.

Now Russell Wilson is on the market and the Cowboys have another option, a cheaper and better option, than Prescott. Cheaper in the sense of monetary contractual value and not compensation. This offseason continues to get interesting and we’ll see if anything materializes between these two teams.