NFL mailbag: Franchise QBs, Ezekiel Elliott’s contract and Chiefs’ offense

The NFL calendar might be cooling off, but the mailbag? Hot as ever. Answering all your football questions from the week that was.

Ezekiel Elliott by a mile.

Look, the Dallas Cowboys have long been a franchise that operates under the star system. Owner Jerry Jones sells sizzle, and all of the players you mentioned do that. Still, the clear answer is Elliott for a variety of reasons.

For starters, Dak Prescott is a franchise quarterback. He’s also only 25 years old. This next contract will be a long-term deal taking him through his prime. It’s unfathomable that Dallas would allow Prescott to hit free agency after this season, even if negotiations are rough and he has to play on the franchise tag.

Then there’s Amari Cooper. Dallas traded a first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for Cooper’s services only a few months ago. Once with the Cowboys, Cooper looked every bit the No. 4 overall pick he once was, creating instant chemistry with Prescott. There’s no way Jones is letting Cooper out that door.

This brings us to Elliott.

Elliott is signed through the 2020 season and then is slated for unrestricted free agency. At that point, he’s 25 years old (and will turn 26 in July 2021). Dallas could use the franchise tag at least once if not twice, paying a sizable cap hit but not being tied up long term.

It makes ample sense to ride Elliott for 300+ touches over the next 2-4 years before moving on. Let another team pay major money for a back who will cross over the 30-year-old threshold during the deal.

If there’s any position in football that has become devalued over the past 10 years, it’s running back.

If Tyreek Hill remains with the Kansas City Chiefs, I do believe the offense will actually be better than last year’s record-setting group.

While the stats might be down a bit (if they aren’t, it’s the greatest two-year run in NFL history), there’s reason to think they’ll be more efficient. Patrick Mahomes now has a full year of starting under his belt and will have more freedom at the line of scrimmage. The backfield has better depth with Damien Williams, Carlos Hyde and rookie Darwin Thompson. On the outside and at tight end, you’re bringing back the same group, plus second-round choice Mecole Hardman.

Frankly, it would be surprising if Hill isn’t suspended in some capacity. Given what we’ve heard along with his history, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t going to let this slide, and he shouldn’t. I won’t speculate on how long I believe Hill is gone, but he’ll be sitting for at least a chunk of the season.

However, if he’s on the team, his return would make the Chiefs the best offense in football by a considerable margin.

Yes. Absolutely, 100 percent it does.

When your team has a franchise quarterback, the desire for a veteran playmaker — especially one without a ring — will always be there. Think about if you’re Michael Crabtree or Pierre Garcon right now. You’re a free agent on the wrong side of 30 years old. You’ve already cashed in a few times. Do you want to take $4 million this season and play with a non-contender, or take a million dollars less and have a shot to win it all? Easy choice, right?

Right now, these are the teams that have the “Franchise QB” effect working for them

  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • New England Patriots
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (this is counterbalanced by all the nonsense)
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Green Bay Packers
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Los Angeles Rams

Those nine teams have an advantage when a veteran receiver or tight end hits the market. From there, said player can make the best decision for him based on city, depth chart, etc., but there’s no arguing that having an elite quarterback makes a ton of difference.

Now, does it work for players in their primes trying to get their massive payday? No. Guys are going to take the most money because this is a business. Nobody is taking a10 percent discount when they are angling for a five-year, $100 million deal.

Let’s take some educated guesses. Of all the undrafted rookie free agents, former Clemson cornerback Mark Fields has the best chance. His tape shows a kid who competes and has some skill, and many thought he would safely be a Day 3 pick. Plus, Kansas City has a massive need at corner, so the numbers make sense.

Of course, this also answers the second question. Yes, I think Fields makes the 53-man roster along with sixth-round choice Rashad Fenton. The Chiefs usually keep six cornerbacks, and I would expect those two to make it alongside Kendall Fuller, Charvarius Ward, Bashaud Breeland and Tremon Smith.

As for Gary Johnson, that’s a complete unknown. His tape at Texas shows promise, but I’ll guess he ends up on the practice squad.

Finally, the Chiefs will do something with the tight end spot. Watch the Minnesota Vikings, who might be forced to trade or release Kyle Rudolph.

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