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#pounditThursday, May 13, 2021

Stories by Dan Benton:

5 potential trade-up targets in the 2021 NFL Draft

Mac Jones

The 2021 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and phones are heating up across the league. Wheeling and dealing is already well underway with more moves to come.

Draft night rarely goes according to plan and to believe things would be any different this year would be foolish. We can expect a slew of trades throughout the first round and beyond, but especially over the top 15 picks.

Here’s a look at five players we consider to be the most likely trade targets for teams in this year’s draft.

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5 biggest movers of the 2021 NFL Draft

Mac Jones

The 2021 NFL Draft is near and will continue as planned despite continued limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, teams are still doing their due diligence, reviewing game tape and re-watching pro day workouts to get a feel for the players they can no longer work out privately.

Here’s a look at five players who have either seen their draft stock rise or fall in recent weeks and months.

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5 of the worst NFL free agent deals this offseason

Andy Dalton

NFL free agency has come and gone, with most of the attention turning to the draft. To say there were a few surprise signings would be an understatement. In fact, most of the signings came as a surprise because there were far more multi-year deals handed out than the one-year deals so many people expected to see.

Even with the league’s salary cap dropping for the first time, teams were handing out big-money deals. That also means several players landed much larger contracts than they likely warranted.

Here’s a look at five players who received unreasonably large deals.

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‘Pristine condition’ Kobe Bryant rookie card sells for $1.8 million

Kobe Bryant

In the aftermath of his tragic and untimely death, Kobe Bryant cards popped up for sale all over the world. From online auctions to in-person auctions and to private sales, they became a hot commodity overnight.

More than a year later, Bryant’s cards continue to skyrocket in value and never was that more evident than on Saturday night.

Goldin Auctions, an online auction house and repository for sports memorabilia, put a “pristine condition” Kobe Bryant rookie card up for bid and when the hammer finally came down, it was sold for $1.795 million. The price tag makes it one of the most expensive basketball cards ever sold and the highest-priced Bryant card in history.

Only three other basketball cards have ever sold for more money than the Bryant rookie card. A 03-04 Rookie Patch Autograph LeBron James card sold for $1.845 million in July of 2020, while two others — a Giannis Antetokounmpo 13-14 Logoman Patch Autograph and a Luka Doncic 1:1 Logoman Autographed — eclipsed that price.

The Antetokounmpo card fetched $1,857,300 in September of 2020 and the Doncic card sold for $4.6 million earlier this year.

A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle remains the highest-priced card ever sold or auctioned, earning a total pot of $5.2 million here in 2021. The same card had been sold for $2.8 million in 2018.

Video: Josh Gordon catches game-winning Hail Mary in FCF debut

Josh Gordon

The career of Josh Gordon has been a rollercoaster and that continued on Saturday night as he made his debut alongside Johnny Manziel in the Fan Controlled Football league.

“I want to come out here and make some plays and have some fun and most importantly be a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than football,” Gordon said in an interview prior to the game. “Passing the game down to guys younger than me, guys that might have questions about how the game is played at the next level. If I can impart some wisdom, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Two days after being released by the Seattle Seahawks, the troubled Gordon suited up for the first time since Week 15 of the 2019 NFL season and he put on quite the show. The 29-year-old hauled in a touchdown on his first-ever league drive and immediately followed that up with a two-point conversion.

Gordon saved his best for last, however. With the game tied at 26 and the final seconds ticking off the clock, Zappers quarterback Braden Smith uncorked a desperation Hail Mary and wouldn’t you know it, Gordan managed to fight off several defenders to come down with the ball.

Walk-off.

“Welp… That was fun,” Gordon tweeted after the game. “First W in a while for da kid.”

Gordon had his conditional NFL reinstatement rescinded in January. In total, he had been suspended five times for performance-enhancing substances and other “substances of abuse.”

Packers approached Aaron Rodgers about restructuring his contract in January

Aaron Rodgers

NFL general managers face difficult decisions in the coming weeks as the new league year officially begins and free agency gets underway.

While that’s usually a time for money to be thrown around like Fat Joe and Lil Wayne making it rain, things in 2021 will be very different. Due to financial losses brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL salary cap will drop for the first time since its inception in 1994.

There is some potential for the floor to be raised above $180.5 million should the league agree to a new television deal, but even then, more than half the teams will find themselves in some sort of financial trouble. Accordingly, there will be a slew of restructures, extensions, pay cuts and releases.

For the Green Bay Packers, they will need to clear more than $11 million in space to reach the projected cap floor, which is why they restructured the contract of All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari. It’s also why they approached quarterback Aaron Rodgers about a contract restructure in late January, reports Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal.

According to a source, the team approached Rodgers around the time of the team’s Jan. 24 season-ending loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game about altering his contract to free up cap space. After that game, Rodgers notably mused about his own uncertain future with the team, and multiple sources said at the time Rodgers was merely seeking a longer-term commitment to him as the quarterback in the wake of last year’s first-round selection of Jordan Love in the NFL draft.

Around that time, Rodgers was a bit cryptic about his future in Green Bay, implying that his status in 2021 and beyond was uncertain and that he’d have to take some times to figure things out.

Rodgers later walked back those comments, but it’s now clear they stemmed from being approached about a possible restructure. And that, of course, came on the heels of Green Bay essentially drafting his successor, Jordan Love, in the 2020 NFL draft, which also didn’t sit well with the three-time NFL MVP.

The 37-year-old Rodgers still has two years and $50 million left on his current deal. Including signing bonuses and other built-in bonuses, he’ll account for a cap hit of $39.85 million in 2021 and $28.35 in 2022. By releasing Rodgers this season, the Packers would absorb a dead cap hit of $17.204 million. It becomes much more manageable next year.

As things sit, there’s no way the Packers can afford the dead cap hit or Rodgers’ current salary. He wants an extension, they want a restructure. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays itself out in the coming weeks.

5 NFL players who could be cut before free agency

Alex Smith

The start of the new league year, which is ushered in with the beginning of free agency, is now less than one month away. Leading up to that time, NFL teams will continue shuffling their rosters. Teams are hoping to not only clear salary cap space for players they covet, but also to clear roster space.

That means many players will be cut in the coming weeks, and you can bank on a few of them being big names. We’ve already seen one big name make that list.

Here’s a look at five more players who could be sent out to pasture leading up to free agency.

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5 impending under-the-radar NFL restricted free agents

Gus Edwards

The 2020 season has reached its conclusion with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Attention will now turn to the league’s offseason, which promises to be every bit as interesting as the last one, due to COVID-19.

One thing that will not change is the rush on free agents come mid-March. Previously, we broke down a list of under-the-radar unrestricted free agents who may helps teams at a bargain price, but what about restricted free agents?

Although these players are less likely to switch teams (especially if tendered at a high round), some teams might decide to make a big move for them. Here is a look at five under-the-radar restricted free agents.

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