NFL’s version of March Madness set for next week

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots calls a play in the playoffs.
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Ricky Dimon

NFL

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

March Madness, of course, has always referred to college basketball. But with those festivities currently, a question mark due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus (the Ivy League has already canceled its tournament), the madness in 2020 could be reserved for…football?!?!

That’s right; coronavirus or not, things are going to get crazy in the NFL next week. The league had already tinkered with key offseason dates due to ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations, and another change occurred on Tuesday. Initially scheduled for Thursday night, the deadline for teams to designate franchise tags on players was moved to next Monday at 11:59 a.m (and 59 seconds). Legal tampering—the unofficial start of free agency—begins one second later at noon. In other words, it’s going to be madness on Monday.

A new Monday deadline means teams will be able to take into account Saturday’s CBA vote before they make franchise-tag decisions. And it means Monday could be one of the wildest days in NFL offseason history.

Which players could learn their fates on Monday?

Dak Prescott

The Dallas Cowboys must decide what to do with quarterback Dak Prescott. If they cannot come to terms on a long-term extension, the franchise tag becomes a possibility. Dallas has reportedly offered Prescott $33 million per season and upwards of $100 million in guaranteed money. It is unclear how many years are included in the proposal, but Prescott reportedly wants at least a four-year deal.

Tom Brady

Obviously, the biggest name in free agency this spring is Tom Brady. Will he stay with the New England Patriots or will he go? The Los Angeles Chargers have offered two years and $64 million, all of which is guaranteed. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a three-year, $102 million deal on the table ($68 million guaranteed). The Titans are willing to go four years for $112 million ($60 million guaranteed). The Patriots can go higher than that in total dollars ($125 million offer) over five years ($50 million guaranteed). In any of those, both team and player would obviously have exit clauses prior to the full duration. So…what will Brady do?

Jameis Winston

Winston looked like an XFL quarterback this past season (check out our free XFL expert picks), which is why he may be forced to take his talents out of Tampa Bay. If the Bucs do not land Brady (and they are certainly not the favorites to do so), a Winston return could become a possibility. But another veteran, Philip Rivers, is also in the mix. In all likelihood, this stuck-in-neutral franchise has already made its decision regarding Winston, but with this week’s delay, the official word on that decision is no longer imminent.

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