Training camp is right around the corner, with certain teams' rookies reporting later this week. How great is that?!
But the back half of last week provided some rather large news items with major implications for the 2016 season. Here's our take on a busy NFL news cycle, Schein Nine style:
1) Von Miller's mega deal surprises ... no one
Really. There was never a doubt that Denver would get a deal done with the superstar pass rusher. It was too important. It was everything. John Elway and the Broncos needed to pay the Super Bowl 50 MVP, needed to pay one of the five best and most impactful defensive players in the sport today. And Miller never wanted to leave.
Chatter of holding out a season or seeking a trade always felt like hot air in the middle of negotiations. As Miller told me the week after the Super Bowl on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," he didn't want to play anywhere else. He loves Denver and his teammates. Even when Miller cropped John Elway out of an Instagram photo from the White House, I wasn't worried. Miller remembers the organization fully supporting him when he had to deal with off-the-field issues.
A six-year, $114.5 million deal felt about right -- enough to make everyone forget about the relatively contentious back-and-forth of this offseason.
2) QB or not QB? That's the question in Denver
And the Miller pact is even bigger when you consider the big question on the other side of the football: Who's going to play quarterback for the defending champs?
I think first-round pick Paxton Lynch should be given an opportunity to win this job. Yes, I know he'll be quite raw, but the hulking (6-foot-7, 244 pounds) signal caller can rely on the Broncos' great defense and the fine coaching around him. Not to mention, a fantastic 1-2 punch at receiver, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders -- two guys who can make a quarterback look quite good with their run-after-the-catch abilities.
Just last week, Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. told NFL Media's Dave Dameshek that Paxton Lynch made a better first impression on him than former Denver QB Brock Osweiler (who signed a four-year, $72 million deal with Houston this offseason).
"[Lynch] had better touch on his ball -- more, actually, I think, than Brock had when he first came into the league -- that's one thing I can see that is gonna definitely help him," Harris said. "And he's more mobile. He can run and he can do a little bit more moving in the pocket than what Brock could, too."
Not surprising that Harris would say this when discussing his new teammate vs. his old one. But he could be onto something in regards to Lynch's impressive set of tools.
Sanchez's knack of playing his worst when it matters the most would doom this team. The Powers That Be must know that, right? Give the kid a chance.
3) Patriots power! Tom Brady's suspension changes nothing
My feelings on Deflategate are well-documented: A four-game suspension just does not fit the "crime" here. But with Tom Brady deciding last Friday to not pursue further legal action, the suspension is officially official. This is a sad conclusion. Now, unfortunately, we have to move forward with the fact that Brady won't participate in the first four games of the 2016 campaign.
And I've never been more convinced that New England is clearly the team to beat in the AFC.
I think New England will go 3-1 or 2-2 with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. The schedule doesn't give the young QB any breaks, with the Cardinals in Week 1 and the Texans in Week 3. I think those teams each will boast a top-five defense in 2016. Plus, division games against the Dolphins (Week 2) and Bills (Week 4) are never automatic. But don't let that fool you. These are the Patriots of Bill Belichick, the best coach in football. They'll find a way.
And after that opening stretch? Well, you thought last year was the Tom Brady revenge tour? Wait until this year's edition!
Brady and Belichick are the best quarterback-coach combo ever. And now they are angry. Be afraid.
4) Mo money!
While I wasn't remotely surprised that Miller got paid, I was pleasantly floored that the Jets locked up Muhammad Wilkerson for the long term. There were no signs that this was going to happen. And I'm thrilled for Wilkerson.
I've been campaigning for the D-lineman to get his just due for years, going back to when the clueless John Idzik failed to lock up his star. But after Idzik was rightly canned after two laughable years as Jets GM, Mike Maccagnan initially wouldn't pay Wilkerson, either. It was illogical. Then suddenly, logic prevailed! Maccagnan smartly paid his leader on defense.
I still don't understand what took so long. Wilkerson is a do-it-all stud in the defensive front who bleeds Gang Green. When you have one of the best defensive players in the game and he wants to be on your team forever, you pay him. It was never a multiple-choice question. Maccagnan did the right thing. Wilkerson is worth the $86 million -- and then some.
5) Paging Mr. Fitzpatrick ...
And if he does, there will be a ton of pressure on him to be successful early. Personally, I don't think that would end well. His Week 17 clunker against the Bills -- with a playoff spot on the line -- still sticks out like a sore thumb.
This isn't exactly Montana v. Young. Truthfully, I don't believe the Jets are a playoff team, regardless of who is under center.
6) Bear it, Alshon -- for now
But make no mistake: Eventually, Chicago must pay him.
7) K.C. confusion
Eric Berry is a great player. He's an exceptional leader. His fight is a beautiful story. Thus, I was surprised to see the Chiefs and Berry not come to terms on a deal. In fact, they were "miles apart" according to NFL Media's Rand Getlin. How?
Berry is one of the best safeties in the NFL. He was an integral part of the Chiefs' success last year. He just earned first-team All-Pro honors -- after beating Hodgkin lymphoma in the previous offseason!
I fault the team here. This was odd. Berry should've received the commitment he deserved from the organization.
8) Tag for Cousins: I like that
Cousins is a leader. It's his team. He's Jay Gruden's guy. That became wonderfully apparent last season, when the quarterback led the Redskins to the playoffs by completing an NFL-high 69.8 percent of his passes for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns (against 11 picks). So Cousins instantly signed the tag when it was slapped on him in March. And then he took part in the offseason program. Cousins is wisely banking on himself. He is banking on the great rapport with his talented group of pass catchers. He's banking on the draft helping his cause by providing first-round receiver Josh Doctson.
And while Washington offered him a solid deal ($24 million in guarantees, $16 mil a season, according to NFL Media's Mike Garafolo), the club will be thrilled to pay him more if it means Cousins gets even better, becomes more of a leader and Washington keeps winning.
9) Wizard of Oz
Ozzie Newsome is fantastic. And his dealings with kicker Justin Tucker prove it yet again. Seriously. A day after Tucker's agent said his client wouldn't sign with Baltimore long term if he had to play 2016 under the tag, Newsome smartly paid the best kicker in the NFL not named Gostkowski.
With competitive balance, I've argued that kicking is more important than ever. And now with the new rules -- and extra points no longer automatic -- Newsome was smart not to mess around. Baltimore is going to compete this year. And that means the Ravens have to bank the points when needed. Now, they have a focused Tucker.
Plus, according to what Joe Flacco told me on SiriusXM last year, no Raven talks more smack during ping-pong than Tucker. Nobody wanted to see that locker room lunacy come to an end.