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PFT mini-mailbag

Sometimes, I’ll do a PFT mailbag with more than a dozen questions answers. That’s usually more than my attention span can take. I’ll assume you feel the same way.

So I decided to do a short version of the usual slow-Sunday mailbag today. I am embarking on it with a plan to answer only five or seven questions from those posed via the response to a call for inquiries on Twitter. We’ll see if I can stick to it.

Away we go.

From @PFTPMPosse: It feels like EVERYBODY has known for a while that Mike Zimmer didn’t like Kirk Cousins, so why did the Vikings keep re-signing him? No other options, even though it feels like there are more great QBs than ever before, and they are changing teams regularly?

The Vikings originally signed Cousins to a three-year deal in 2018. After two seasons, the Vikings extended the deal to get cap relief and certainty beyond 2020. After two more seasons, the Vikings did it again.

Zimmer’s feelings for Cousins don’t mesh with how the organization feels about him. That disconnect likely became the focal point for the dysfunction that eventually got both Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman fired.

As to the availability of other quarterbacks, who would the Vikings have gotten if they’d gotten rid of Cousins? Deshaun Watson? Russell Wilson? Jimmy Garoppolo? Baker Mayfield? Carson Wentz? Matt Ryan? There weren’t many options who were obviously better than Cousins, and his $35 million guaranteed salary for 2022 could have made it hard to trade him without the Vikings picking up some of the salary.

So they decided to continue the all-in play with Cousins, and to hire a coach who would be far more likely to work well with Cousins. That’s surely one of the biggest reasons why Kevin O’Connell is there, and why Jim Harbaugh isn’t.

Will it work? That’s one of the most interesting questions of the next season or two.

From @NeilWatchesPFT: Should the NFLPA negotiate a better injury recourse for players to take when franchise tagged? It’s a tool that shifts ALL of the injury risk from the team onto the player with 0 recourse if they get a career-ending injury.

The problem with negotiating is that, to get something, something else has to be given up. The NFL, if it were even inclined to entertain any major changes to the franchise-tag process, would want a significant concession. The union would then have to decide whether to yield on some other term in order to enhance the terms of the franchise tag.

It’s unfortunate. For the players who get restricted by the tag, it’s unfair. And the fact that those players don’t hit the market on the first day of free agency and set a new bar hurts other players, indirectly.

Despite a few advances that have helped the players, the tag has remained in place for nearly 30 years. I don’t expect it to change in the next 30 -- unless the players tie those revisions to something like expanding the regular season to 18 games, a possibility mentioned by @PMGUKColt in a separate question.

From @leepers500: What would it take for the NFLPA to reach parity with the NBA and MLB and force player’s contracts to be guaranteed? Is it pointless as we all know now that contracts are kind of guaranteed money plus Monopoly money?

It’s a one-contract-at-a-time arrangement. That’s why other owners weren’t happy with the five-year, $230 million, fully-guaranteed deal that the Browns gave to quarterback Deshaun Watson. It potentially sets a new bar for other quarterbacks, starting with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson -- or maybe Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.

If all player contracts were guaranteed, most contracts would be shorter. And there would be a significant unintended consequence arising from long-term, fully-guaranteed deals for veteran players. If the player’s performance dips, through injury or otherwise, money that could go to the guys who are actually getting it done gets tied up on players who aren’t earning it. In a salary-capped system, that hurts the players who are doing the work while someone else gets the money.

That’s probably one of the reasons why Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti isn’t thrilled about the Watson contract. Given Lamar’s playing style, he may not be the same guy in the final year or two of a five-year, fully-guaranteed deal.

From @aredzonauk: What’s more likely, the Cowboys win the Super Bowl or a guest appearance by @AaronRodgers12 on PFT Live?

It’s more likely that any/every team will win any/every Super Bowl than Rodgers ever appearing on PFT Live. Unless we agree in advance that I’ll call in sick that day. Or unless NBC agrees to suddenly pretend I don’t exist. That would probably do it.

I still think Rodgers and I have more in common than he realizes, other than the fact that he’s a world-class athlete and I am the exact opposite. He has a good sense of humor. He likes Scotch and tequila. He likes The Office. He likes to read, or at least to act like he likes to read. Regardless, I think with a bottle of booze and a couple of cigars, we’d have a much better time than he’d imagine.

Then again, his expectations would be very low.

From @ovohmar: Would you be interested in joining a dynasty league?

Those assholes at Pardon My Take (and I say that lovingly) have me so nervous about being set up to have them yell at me, “No one gives a shit about your fantasy team” that I can’t even consider this question without wondering whether it’s all part of a ruse aimed at getting me to step right into it, again.

From @downmamabear: If Jimmy G. is not traded before Friday does it mean the Niners have doubts with Lance as a starter? Or is it just the market situation?

The 49ers have repeatedly bungled the quarterback position over the past five years, from passing on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft to trading for Garoppolo instead of waiting for Kirk Cousins in free agency to saying “no thanks” to Tom Brady in 2020 to making a desperate move to the No. 3 overall pick in the draft in 2021. Currently, they have to decide whether to trade or maybe even cut Garoppolo, or whether to continue to carry his gigantic cap number while waiting for a trade opportunity to surface. Once he passes a physical, he has no guaranteed pay unless he’s on the Week One active roster. If, however, he ends up suffering a season-ending injury in training camp or the preseason, the team will be on the hook for his full pay.

Garoppolo should want out now, so that he has a fair chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere. However, he’d benefit from a possible season-ending injury to a starter elsewhere, since that team possibly would be willing to pay all or most his full freight in 2022. Otherwise, he’s not seeing anything close to that money, especially if he’s cut after the preseason concludes.

Absent an injury, the 49ers will have a hard time getting significant value of Garoppolo -- and he’ll have a hard time getting much of a salary -- given that the Panthers got Baker Mayfield for a fifth-round pick and $5 million. The question is whether Garoppolo is truly willing to play along with waiting for an injury that may not happen.

From @glrush13: What team or teams in the league do you feel has the largest range of outcomes this season meaning which team or teams would you not be surprised if they turned out to be good or just stink?

In the NFC, I’d put the Vikings and Saints in that bucket. They both could be great, and they both could have the wheels fall off. Ditto for the Seahawks; I tend to think they’ll be better than many expect.

In the AFC, I think the Steelers will be better than people expect, primarily because they usually exceed low expectations. I also think that the three teams in the AFC West other than the Chiefs (Broncos, Raiders, Chargers) can be Super Bowl contenders or bottom-dwellers. The Dolphins also are a team that could have a very wide range of potential outcomes, with the outcome largely hinging on the play of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

From @GamblingAvenge1: What is the difference in the disciplinary process between Calvin Ridley and Deshaun Watson? You keep saying this is the first test of the new system.

That’s a great question, with a simple answer. Ridley was suspended under the gambling policy. Watson will be suspended, if at all, under the Personal Conduct Policy. The “new system” relates to the conduct policy, not the gambling policy. As to the former, an independent disciplinary officer conducts the hearing and makes the initial decision on punishment. As to the latter, the Commissioner retains full control.