Aaron Rodgers an 'unexcused' no-show at Jets minicamp, plus Christian McCaffrey lands on 'Madden 25' cover



Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter! 

There are 22 teams in mandatory minicamp this week and all of them will be done practicing by Thursday, and at that point, all 32 teams in the NFL will get roughly five weeks off before they have to report to training camp. Since I like to keep myself aligned with the NFL schedule, I will also be taking five weeks off, only I won’t actually have any time off because I’ll be on paternity leave hanging out with a baby. 

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be busy changing diapers over the next five weeks, so Cody Benjamin and Tyler Sullivan will be taking over. Please be nice to them. I’ll be back at some point in mid-July, but I’m NOT gone yet, so let’s get to today’s rundown. 

As always, here’s your daily reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. Actually, you don’t even have to tell all of your friends; just tell two of your friends and I’ll be happy. To get them signed up, all you have to do is click here. 

1. ‘Madden’ cover unveiled: Why Christian McCaffrey might now be cursed 

For the first time in 25 years, the 49ers have a player on the cover of “Madden,” and that player is Christian McCaffrey. 

Look, I’m not going to sit here and say that McCaffrey might have just thrown away the 49ers’ season by agreeing to be on the “Madden” cover, but McCaffrey might have just thrown away the 49ers’ season before it even starts. The problem with being on the cover of “Madden” is that it possibly comes with a curse. 

As our official curse correspondent here at CBS Sports, Cody Benjamin wanted to find out if the “Madden” curse is real, so he decided to see what happened to the last 25 players who appeared on the cover (McCaffrey might not want to read this). 

Here’s a short breakdown of what happened to a few players who appeared on the cover (When reading this, remember that “Madden” is always one year ahead. For instance, this year’s game is “Madden 25” but it’s being created for the 2024 season)

  • “Madden 2002” (2001 season): Daunte Culpepper. “After throwing 33 touchdowns and going 11-5 as a first-time starter in 2000, Culpepper took a nosedive during his cover season. Injuries cost him six games, he fumbled 16 times, threw just 14 TDs compared to 13 picks and went 4-7 in his starts.”
  • “Madden 2008” (2007 season): Vince Young. “He was Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006. For his cover year, though, Young threw just nine touchdowns compared to 17 interceptions, missed a game and earned a seat on the bench for 2008, never fully regaining Jeff Fisher’s trust.”
  • “Madden 2017” (2016 season): Rob Gronkowski. “The five-time Pro Bowler was coming off a double-digit touchdown season in 2015, but he missed virtually all of the Patriots’ first four games with a hamstring injury, then finished with just six starts due to a herniated disk and other injury issues.”
  • “Madden 2019” (2018 season): Antonio Brown. “One of the game’s most gifted route-runners, Brown scored a career-high 15 TDs during his cover year, but it proved to be a tumultuous one in the Steelers’ locker room, resulting in his trade to the Raiders after the season. He only played another 16 games in the NFL, bouncing between three different teams amid a flurry of on- and off-field controversies.”

Overall, 13.5 of the past 24 cover stars have fallen victim to the curse. If you want to know how each player fared during their cover season, you can check out Cody’s full story here.

2. Mandatory minicamp updates: Rodgers a no-show with Jets; Chase attends Bengals camp

When it comes to mandatory minicamp attendance, there haven’t been very many surprises this year, but we got one on Tuesday in New York. 

  • Aaron Rodgers not attending Jets’ mandatory minicamp. Jets coach Robert Saleh revealed that Rodgers won’t be attending camp this week and that the absence is “unexcused,” which means Rodgers could be hit with a fine by the team. Saleh said Rodgers was missing minicamp because he was attending an “event that was very important to him.” The Jets likely are NOT thrilled with Rodgers’ decision to skip mandatory minicamp. 
  • Jets also missing Haason Reddick. The Jets made a trade for Reddick back in March, and that trade already looks like it’s backfiring. Saleh said that Reddick won’t be at minicamp and that it’s an unexcused absence. It’s believed that Reddick wants a new contract, but right now, the Jets aren’t willing to give that to him. Reddick is headed into the final year of a deal that’s set to pay him $14.25 million in 2024, but none of the money is guaranteed. 
  • One Bengals receiver shows up for minicamp, another doesn’t. Ja’Marr Chase didn’t show up for OTAs, but he is at mandatory minicamp this week. The receiver is looking for a new contract, but he does still have two years left on his current deal, so he could have been fined if he didn’t show up. On the other hand, Tee Higgins didn’t show up for minicamp, but he won’t be fined. Higgins isn’t technically under contract right now, because he hasn’t signed his franchise tag, so he can sit out minicamp or training camp without the worry of being fined. You can read more on Chase and Higgins here

In other Ohio receiving news, it looks like Amari Cooper is skipping mandatory minicamp. The Browns receiver is headed into the final year of his deal and may be looking to get a new contract. 

We’ve been keeping tabs on everyone who’s skipping minicamp this year. If you want to check out our full list, you can do that here

3. Ranking the five worst teams in the NFL

The NFL is built on parity and because of that, it feels like every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl at the start of every season, but not even parity can save the five teams below. 

With 99.9% of the offseason now behind us, Jordan Dajani decided to rank the five worst teams in the NFL and here’s what he came up with: 

1. Patriots. “It’s impossible to predict what this team is going to look like, but the fact that they are coming off the worst season of Bill Belichick’s head-coaching career does not exactly help. … Caesars Sportsbook believes the Patriots will be the worst team in the NFL this season, and one thing that makes life much tougher on them is the AFC East.”
2. Panthers. “The Panthers were undoubtedly the worst team in the NFL last year at 2-15.”
3. Broncos. “The Broncos lost some notable contributors this offseason, trading Jerry Jeudy to the Cleveland Browns and releasing All-Pro safety Justin Simmons, while center Lloyd Cushenberry and linebacker Josey Jewell walked in free agency. Vance Joseph’s defense appears capable of shouldering the load at times, but the Broncos offense can’t struggle like it did last year.”
4. Giants. “New York lost its best playmaker this offseason in Saquon Barkley, plus A’Shawn Robinson and Xavier McKinney on the defensive side. There are also some questions about former NFL Coach of the Year Brian Daboll.”
5. Raiders. “I hate having to place the Raiders on this list because I like Antonio Pierce and believe his defense has top 10 potential. But there are two reasons why Vegas could be a bottom-five team: offense and schedule.”

If you want Jordan’s full explanation on why these five teams are the absolute worst in the NFL heading into the 2024 season, be sure to read his full story here

4. Second-year players primed for a breakout season

The second year of an NFL player’s career is usually a pivotal one. If they showed promise during their rookie year, then teams want to see that carry over into Year 2. On the other hand, if they struggled during their rookie year, then teams want to see some improvement in Year 2.

For most players, there’s a lot riding on Year 2, which is why Chris Trapasso decided to take a look at several players going into the second year of their career who could have a breakout season. 

  • Chargers WR Quentin Johnston. “With Jim Harbaugh, a coach who saw up close the damage Johnston can do when he erupted for 163 yards and a score on six grabs for TCU in the 2023 CFP Semifinal against Michigan, I expect the utilization of Johnston to be more sensical. Do I expect Johnston to become a 85-catch, 1,400-yard receiver? No. But his breakout will represent a return to respectability, and a drafting away from bust territory.”
  • Titans RB Tyjae Spears. “When you’re in a backfield with Derrick Henry, you’re going to be the second option. And that’s precisely what Spears was as a rookie. Spears averaged 4.5 yards per carry with a respectable 26 missed tackles forced on 100 attempts. He made most impressive contributions as a receiver — Spears caught 52 passes for 385 yards with only two drops. … Spears has the juice and vision to sustain his efficiency as a multi-dimensional threat in what should be an improved Titans offense in 2024.”
  • Lions LB Jack Campbell. “Campbell had an up-and-down rookie campaign. On over 600 snaps for the Lions, he amassed 95 tackles with five tackles for loss. In coverage, an area in which he thrived at Iowa, Campbell showed plenty of room for serious improvement. This year, he’ll make the leap in coverage. The size and athleticism are there for him to do it. … Plus, I also love what the Lions have done in front of him. After finishing fourth in defensive pressure-creation rate a season ago at 41.6%, the Lions added hulking nose tackle D.J. Reader in free agency to pair next to Alim McNeill on a front anchored by Aidan Hutchinson who has 21 sacks through two professional seasons.”

If you want to see Trapasso’s full list, be sure to click here

5. One burning question for every team in the AFC West

Things are about to get hot around here, and that’s because we have another round of burning questions coming up. As you may or may not know, we’ve been going around the NFL to take a look at the biggest question that each team still needs to answer before the start of the 2024 season. We’ve been going through each team by division, and today, we’ll be looking at the AFC West. 

Here’s one burning question that Bryan DeArdo has come up with for each team: 

  • Chiefs: Will they make history by winning their straight Super Bowl? “The short answer is that the Chiefs will probably join the long list of teams that won two Lombardi Trophies in a row, but were unable to complete the three-peat. The real question is: What will keep the Chiefs from making history? It’ll likely be either injuries (which largely contributed to the Chiefs losing Super Bowl LV), a bad day at the office (see the second half of the 2021 AFC Championship) or not being able to overcome some of the holes on their roster.”
  • Chargers: Can Jim Harbaugh lead Los Angeles to the playoffs in his first year on the job? “Several things will have to go the Chargers’ way if they are going to make the playoffs. Their wideouts will have to come of age, [J.K.] Dobbins will need to stay healthy, and the secondary will have to make a noted leap. But there’s enough positive things going on in Los Angeles to convince me that the next chapter in Harbaugh’s truly unique coaching journey will include a playoff berth for his new team in 2024.”
  • Broncos: Who will be the starting QB? “Each quarterback has their own unique advantage. Along with being the most athletically gifted player of the three, Zach Wilson also has 33 regular-season starts under his belt. Jarrett Stidham has the benefit of playing in Denver’s system last year. For Bo Nix, it’s the advantage of being a first-round pick and the opportunity that presents. …. In my mind, the job if Nix’s to lose. Sean Payton didn’t spend a first-round pick on Nix to watch him ride the bench.”
  • Raiders: Will Davante Adams get traded?  “My guess is that Adams won’t be a Raider when this year’s trade deadline comes to pass. Adams, after all, is still a high-level player who could be the difference for a team that is heading to the playoffs. In fact, if Adams is indeed traded, two possible destinations could be the Packers (his former team) or the Jets (who employ Aaron Rodgers, his former quarterback in Green Bay).”

To read DeArdo’s full answer for each question, be sure to click here.  

6. Extra points: Chiefs’ BJ Thompson out of hospital

It’s been a busy 24 hours in the NFL, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.

  • BJ Thompson cleared to return home just days after medical emergency. The Chiefs defensive lineman, who went into cardiac arrest last week, was cleared to return home on Monday. That positive development came from his agent, Chris Turnage. The family thanks everyone for their prayers and wants to especially thank the Chiefs medical and training staff for their rapid response and professionalism throughout this situation,” Turnage told NFL Media on Monday night.
  • Chiefs set to get their Super Bowl rings this week. For the fourth time in franchise history, the Chiefs will be getting a Super Bowl ring and the team will be holding its ring ceremony on Thursday. To help hype up the occasion, the Chiefs have released a celebratory video that’s narrated by Jon Hamm. You can see the video here. 
  • Mike Tomlin gets extension from Steelers. The Steelers head coach was heading into the final year of his deal, but that’s no longer the case after he was given a three-year extension on Monday. The new deal means that Tomlin is now under contract with the team through the 2027 season. If he coaches out the entire contract, that means he’ll have been with the Steelers for 21 years. 
  • Dolphins sign veteran safety. The Dolphins have two solid veteran safeties in Jevon Holland and Jordan Poyer, but they don’t have much depth after that, so they decided to fix that problem by signing Marcus Maye, according to multiple reports. Maye has started in all 77 games he’s played in during his seven-year career, but he’s had trouble staying healthy over the past few seasons. Since the start of the 2021 season, Maye has missed 28 games to injury. 
  • Tua Tagovailoa’s brother signs with CFL team. After going undrafted this year, Taulia Tagovailoa was hoping to latch on with an NFL team, but that didn’t happen, so he’s now headed for the CFL. The Big 10’s all-time leading passer has signed with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The former Maryland QB did earn a tryout with the Seahawks in May, but Seattle didn’t end up signing him. You can check out our full story on Taulia here
  • Former Pro Bowler retires at age 29. Pharoh Cooper, who made the Pro Bowl in 2017 as a kickoff returner, has decided to retire. Cooper suffered a serious ankle injury during his third year in the NFL and he was never quite the same after that. He ended up playing for five teams — Rams, Cardinals, Panthers, Giants and Bengals — over seven seasons. 





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