NFL News & Analysis

NFL Rumor Roundup: Potential contract boost for Patrick Mahomes, how George Pickens fell to Steelers and more

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

• One league source indicated Patrick Mahomes' mega contract, which has since been surpassed by a handful of quarterbacks in APY, could be sweetened “sooner than later.”

• Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens shined in his first preseason action, and sources weighed in on why he fell in the 2022 NFL Draft.

• The Carolina Panthers' QB competition between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold may be nearing a conclusion.


PATRICK MAHOMES’ CONTRACT FALLING BEHIND QB MARKET WITH CHIEFS

Don’t expect quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 10-year, $450 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs to go untouched throughout the length of the record-setting deal. In fact, with four or five more quarterback contracts due over the next year set to surpass $46 million per year, one league source said Mahomes’ deal could be sweetened “sooner than later,” though there’s no indication that anything is imminent, and “sooner than later” is relative since Mahomes’ deal expires in 2032. The Chiefs quarterback is not focused on the deal and has said so publicly.

But the Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers ($50.3M), the Arizona CardinalsKyler Murray ($46.1M) and the Cleveland BrownsDeshaun Watson ($46M) all signed extensions this offseason that surpass Mahomes’ $45 million APY. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is expected to be the next quarterback to sign a deal worth $46 million or more, and the Cincinnati BengalsJoe Burrow, the Los Angeles ChargersJustin Herbert and the Denver BroncosRussell Wilson could be next in line. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will also be a free agent after the 2022 season, and if he chooses to continue playing, he too could sign a deal worth more per year than Mahomes’.

The Chiefs showed a willingness to work with tight end Travis Kelce, moving money from the back end of his deal to 2022 this offseason. Mahomes, as a Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP and league MVP, has a strong case to be the highest-paid player in the NFL. And as more quarterbacks sign deals worth more than his, he’ll have a stronger case to get his contract reworked in some manner.


HOW WR GEORGE PICKENS FELL TO STEELERS

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk already posed the question Sunday on Twitter, wondering how rookie wide receiver George Pickens fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 52 overall.

Based on some conversations we had with sources before the draft, we can shed some light on the situation.

Pickens was viewed by many teams as the top wide receiver in this year’s draft after the 2020 college season concluded. He tore his ACL in the spring of 2021, however, forcing him to miss most of his junior season at Georgia.

There was buzz before the 2022 NFL Draft that Pickens could go as high as the first round. He wound up being the 11th wide receiver selected behind Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Jahan Dotson, Treylon Burks, Christian Watson, Wan’Dale Robinson, John Metchie III and Tyquan Thornton. That didn’t surprise many folks, however.

One source, an AFC national scout, called Pickens a “complete wild card.” Another source said he expected Pickens to fall due to character concerns. The wideout was viewed by a third source as a “risk/reward” player and compared him to Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who fell out of the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft before being selected by the New England Patriots at 38th overall.

Pickens has been a star of Steelers training camp. He was identified as one of PFF’s training camp risers before posting a 91.2 grade in Week 1 of the preseason, when he caught three passes on five targets for 43 yards with a touchdown.

An unnamed former player told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Pickens reminded him of Randy Moss.

That’s high praise, and Pickens’ NFL career has yet to even officially begin. But it appears, up to this point, that the Steelers made a smart pick.


WILL BAKER MAYFIELDSAM DARNOLD QB COMPETITION BE DECIDED THIS WEEK?

The New England Patriots are hosting the Carolina Panthers in joint practices this week in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold will continue to share No. 1 reps against the Patriots.

Mayfield started Week 1 of the preseason over Darnold and received an 84.6 PFF passing grade to Darnold’s 68.0 mark. The Panthers entered the summer with a legitimate quarterback battle, per a source with knowledge of the situation, but Mayfield, expectedly, seems to be setting himself apart.

Rhule could wait until Week 1 to formally name a starter, but if Mayfield shines this week in joint practices against the Patriots in front of a larger media contingency, it could force the issue. Last year, the Patriots had a starting quarterback battle between Mac Jones and Cam Newton. Newton sat out of a joint practice with the New York Giants due to COVID-19 protocols, and Jones essentially won the competition during those sessions, going 48-of-55 in one particular practice.

We’ll be on hand for the Panthers-Patriots joint practices and will provide an update on the competition this week.

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