The Daily Briefing Friday, June 15, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Mike Pereira on the future of the kickoff.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The NFL’s new rules designed to reduce the impacts on kickoffs represent a last-gasp effort to keep the play in the sport.

 

That’s the word from former head of officiating Mike Pereira, who believes that if this year’s rule changes don’t result in the desired reduction in kickoffs, the NFL will just abolish the play entirely.

 

“If at the end of this year there are more concussions on kickoffs, forget it. It’s gone,” Pereira said this morning on PFT Live.

 

The flip side is, the new rules have the potential to save the kickoff and keep it in the sport for good.

 

“If we have more returns and less concussions then the kickoff is here to stay, maybe forever,” Pereira said.

 

Pereira believes that if the NFL scraps kickoffs, the most likely replacement would be the “Greg Schiano rule,” in which teams would face a fourth-and-15 from their own 35-yard line and could either punt the ball as the new equivalent of a kickoff, or go for it as the new equivalent of an onside kick.

– – –

The NFL’s new anthem rule is comparable to long-standing MLB practice and more lenient than the socially-approved NBA.  It also would seem to be in-line with the views of the overwhelming majority of the NFL’s customers.  But that might not stop the NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith from spending a boatload of his players’ money to challenge it in court.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Three weeks ago, the NFL changed its anthem policy without input from or discussion with the NFL Players Association. And the NFLPA is preparing for a potential legal fight over the change.

 

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA has retained multiple law firms to research the options for fighting the new policy, which mandates all players in the playing area to stand for the anthem, and which requires any player who would protest the anthem to remain in the locker room.

 

One potential challenge would come in the form of a “non-injury grievance” under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The deadline for filing the grievance would come in late July, and the argument would be that the NFL failed to engage in good-faith bargaining with the union before taking away a right that the NFL had previously given to the players, and that the NFL had confirmed on multiple occasions.

 

The league gave players the right to protest in 2009, via a poorly-drafted policy that requires the players to be present on the sideline for the anthem but that makes standing optional. In 2016, the NFL confirmed that players are not required to stand after Colin Kaepernick was first spotted sitting during the anthem. In 2017, the NFL once again told players that they would have the right to protest, after the President said that he’d like to see an NFL owner respond to an anthem protest by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field, he’s fired!”

 

Other forms of litigation are possible, including an action based on both the U.S. and various state constitutions premised on First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.

 

However it plays out, the NFL’s effort to placate the President and his base backfired badly, and it has put the NFL in line for a fight with the union that the NFL possibly will lose.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

The spoils of victory:

 

 

The Philadelphia Eagles celebrated their Super Bowl LII victory and unveiled their championship rings during a ceremony Thursday evening.

 

“It was a fun process and it took way more hours than I thought previously,” Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said on designing the perfect ring. “I thought, ‘You know, you just sort of come up with some ring, and you make many, and you have a party.’ I never really thought of the details that were required.”

 

The ring is made of pure 10-karat white gold, with a total of 219 diamonds and 17 rare green sapphires. There are 127 diamonds on the bezel to represent the combined jersey numbers of the three players who touched the football during the Philly Special — running back Corey Clement (30), tight end Trey Burton (88) and quarterback Nick Foles (9). There’s also an underdog mask inscribed inside.

 

Way too much thinking to get to 127 diamonds.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Coach Dan Quinn says the Falcons are looking to placate WR JULIO JONES.

 

Your daily ‘The Atlanta Falcons aren’t fretting about Julio Jones’ headline comes from Dan Quinn on this Friday.

 

The head coach said at the close of Flacons’ minicamp that the team has been in conversations with the receiver, who skipped spring workouts in hopes of getting a new deal.

 

“The good news is that there are conversations that have begun,” Quinn said Thursday, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ll keep those private. I have a lot of faith in the organization and also in Julio that things will get resolved with good communications. I’m sure that’ll be a part of it as well.”

 

We’re left to assume those “conversations” were about quelling Jones’ contract concerns, not about where LeBron James will sign this summer.

 

Everyone we’ve heard from this week — Matt Ryan, other teammates, and now the coach — dismissed Jones skipping mandatory minicamp as a big deal. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a long-term issue. Until we hear from Julio, however, it’s all just white noise.

 

Jones has seen his five-year, $71.25 million contract extension — $14.25 million per year average — passed over seven times over. He now sits as the eighth-highest paid receiver in the NFL, behind Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, A.J. Green, and Davante Adams in per year average.

 

On the one hand, Jones should have expected when he signed a deal through the 2020 season other receivers would eventually pass him in earnings. On the other hand, with a finite number of years to play professional football Jones owns the right to seek out as many paydays a team is willing to oblige.

 

Jones’ situation — trying to get a new deal with three years left on his current contraction — could be instructive to other superstar players. Might we see playmakers take shorter extensions in the future to get more potential bites at the free-agent apple? Kirk Cousins inking only a three-year deal could be instructive, especially with modern medicine curtailing most of the career-threatening injuries.

 

It’s a positive sign that Quinn is confident a solution with Jones can be agreed to before training camp in late July. If the situation lingers into August, the nonchalance in Atlanta could turn into handwringing.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

In Tampa, the media is frustrated (presumably the Buccaneers are too) about the way the NFL has dragged its feet in the case of QB JAMEIS WINSTON and the Arizona Uber driver.  It would seem to be a he said, she said case – no video, no physical injuries, no police report, a very short duration – that could have been resolved in a week.  But the NFL has neither cleared him nor disciplined him.

 

The accusation of an incident that may have occurred in March of 2016 surfaced in November, 2017.  As of April, the NFL had not got around to talking to Winston.  Now we are in June and crickets.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

The new defensive staff in Arizona has some different plans for CB PATRICK PETERSON.

 

Over his first seven seasons in Arizona, Patrick Peterson came to define “travel corner.” The seven-time Pro Bowler was Exhibit A whenever the discussion about top CBs shadowing No. 1 receivers popped up.

 

“I was an artist at taking No. 1 receivers out of the game, and I was pretty damn good at it,” Peterson said, via the team’s official website.

 

Under new head coach Steve Wilks, that role will change. Instead of being used almost exclusively in press coverage on the team’s top receiver, Wilks will move Peterson around, have him line up off the ball more, and even rush the passer on blitzes.

 

“It should be fun,” Peterson said. “I’m looking to make a ton of plays this year. I’m looking to start jumping routes now. I’m looking to be a little bit more aggressive off the ball, and be the same as I am when I’m in the receiver’s face.”

 

Playing off coverage more often should give Peterson the chance to make more plays on the ball, utilizing his athleticism and reaction speed. Over the past several seasons, teams have mostly avoided throwing Peterson’s way. After earning seven interceptions in 2012, he has three or fewer in each of the past five years, including just one in 2017. For comparison, Richard Sherman, who entered the league with Peterson in 2011, has 32 career interceptions, 11 more than PP’s 21.

 

“Over the last seven years, everyone who played against me knew exactly what I was going to be in,” Peterson said. “When they come here and play in Arizona, nine times out of 10 we didn’t see what they ran in the previous game plan. It was always a lot of motions and a lot of stacks to get my hands off [the No. 1 wideout]. Now they have to play a little bit more honest to where I’m still going to be in a little bit of press, but now my game has evolved into playing off the ball as well.”

 

Peterson’s new role won’t preclude him from sometimes shadowing a No. 1 target in a big spot, but after years of playing mostly press-man, the Cards new coaches are letting one of the NFL’s top cover men dig deeper into his toolbox.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Jon Gruden blames the NFL for QB CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG’s trip to Bustville.  Mike Sando of ESPN.com:

 

– Christian Hackenberg’s release from the Oakland Raiders just three weeks after the team acquired him was more an indictment of the NFL system than it was of the third-year quarterback, coach Jon Gruden said Thursday.

 

“Everybody is an expert out there on Hackenberg and thinks he can’t play,” Gruden said as the Raiders wrapped up a three-day mandatory minicamp. “It’s unfortunate, this whole collective [bargaining agreement]. How do you develop a quarterback? I don’t know how you do it.”

 

The 2011 labor agreement brought reductions to the frequency and intensity of offseason practices. Gruden, five months into his second stint as the Raiders’ head coach after nine seasons away from coaching, has been a frequent critic of the work restrictions.

 

“[Hackenberg] has been working on changing his stroke, his passing motion, and I think he did that,” Gruden said. “We just didn’t have enough reps to take a good look at him. Since we were further along the road with some of our other guys, we didn’t have the space.”

 

The Raiders had acquired Hackenberg from the New York Jets last month for a conditional 2019 seventh-round draft choice. They released him to help make room on the roster for newly signed defensive linemen Frostee Rucker and Ahtyba Rubin. They needed help on their defensive line more than they needed — or could use — a fourth quarterback behind Derek Carr, Connor Cook and E.J. Manuel.

 

“It is hard enough to get Connor Cook enough reps, let alone a fourth guy,” Gruden said. “It really depresses me how we can’t spend more time with these young quarterbacks, and it is really going to be an impactful situation on the NFL in the future.”

 

Sounds like we need the return of NFL Europe.

– – –

The Raiders are wary of WR MATAVIOUS BRYANT.

 

In acquiring Martavis Bryant in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers in April, Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie said the Raiders felt “good about giving Martavis an opportunity.”

 

It appears as though that good feeling may have left the building.

 

According to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders are wary that a new suspension for the talented, but troubled, receiver may be imminent.

 

The team declined to comment on the matter to Gehlken but affirmed they are awaiting word from the NFL about a potential violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

 

Bryant was suspended for the entirety of the 2016 season due to repeated violations of the substance-abuse policy. He was conditionally reinstated last year and played in 15 games for Pittsburgh with eight starts. He caught 50 passes for 603 yards and three touchdowns before being traded to the Raiders in exchange for a third-round pick.

 

A failed test isn’t the only way Bryant could run afoul of the league policy. Missed tests could trigger another suspension as well.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Texans bestow a big extension on LB BENARDRICK McKINNEY.  Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle

 

Standing on the Texans’ practice field days ago, hard-hitting inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney said he would be honored if the team locked him up with a long-term contract.

 

The Texans’ leading tackler emphasized that he wasn’t worried about the pace of negotiations between the team and his agent, Tony Fleming.

 

“I’m not going to stress myself,” McKinney said. “My job is to play football. That’s going to happen. I’m mostly just thinking about football, waking up trying to get on the grind.”

 

Two days later, those words came to fruition as the 25-year-old defensive standout signed a five-year, $50 million contract extension that includes $21 million guaranteed.

 

By signing the 6-4, 255-pound former second-round draft pick from Mississippi State, the Texans have secured a big piece of their defense.

 

McKinney has prototypical size and athleticism. He’s run the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds and recorded a 40 1/2 inch vertical leap.

 

McKinney is a big, strong, mobile inside linebacker who’s capable of chasing down running backs and also doubling as an adept blitzer.

 

Throughout the offseason, Texans general manager Brian Gaine had reiterated that signing McKinney was a priority.

 

“Benardrick plays a key role in our defense and has been highly productive, but more importantly he is a core player who has developed into a team leader within our program,” Gaine said. “We are excited to have him as part of our long-term future here at the Texans.”

 

Before signing this contract, McKinney was entering the final year of a four-year, $5.367 million rookie deal and was due a $1.163 million base salary this year.

 

“Blessed to sign a contract extension with the Texans and continue playing for this great organization,” McKinney wrote on social media after signing his contract. “Houston has become my home. Now the focus is on winning in 2018! Htown stand up!”

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Although things seem hunky dory now, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says that TE ROB GRONKOWSKI was indeed on the block, that the Patriots were shopping him as recently as three days before the draft:

 

It’s indeed “hogwash” that the Patriots had a trade for tight end Rob Gronkowski on the table, that they were ready to proceed, that quarterback Tom Brady threatened to retire, and that owner Robert Kraft vetoed the deal. That doesn’t mean the Patriots didn’t explore the possibility of doing a deal.

 

Per a league source, the Patriots were calling other teams about a possible Gronkowski trade as recently as three days before the draft. Coincidentally (or not), Gronkowski ended nearly three months of uncertainty regarding his future by declaring publicly that he would play in 2018 only two days before the draft.

 

It’s not known what the Patriots wanted, or whether a deal was actually close. If it was, it never got to the point where Brady made a power play and Kraft made a boss move, literally.

 

Some think that the Patriots were hoping to add the assets needed to make a move for quarterback Baker Mayfield, who didn’t emerge as a serious candidate for the No. 1 overall pick until the week of the draft. It likely would have taken much more than the Patriots would have or could have surrendered to get all the way to top of the draft order.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BEST QBs

From 16 to 1 – here are the top QBs of all-time per Gil Brandt of NFL.com:

 

16. Jim Kelly

Buffalo Bills, 1986-1996

» Voted to Pro Bowl five times, First Team All-Pro once

» 35,467 career passing yards, 237 career touchdowns

» 101 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

15. Drew Brees

San Diego Chargers, 2001-2005; New Orleans Saints, 2006-present

» One-time Super Bowl champion, one-time Super Bowl MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl 10 times, First Team All-Pro once

» 66,111 career passing yards, 465 career touchdowns, NFL-record 66.7 career completion percentage

» 131 career victories

 

14. Fran Tarkenton

Minnesota Vikings, 1961-1966 and 1972-1978; N.Y. Giants, 1967-1971

» One-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl nine times, First Team All-Pro once

» 47,003 career passing yards, 342 career touchdowns, 32 career rushing touchdowns

» 124 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

13. Warren Moon

Houston Oilers, 1984-1993; Minnesota Vikings, 1994-1996; Seattle Seahawks, 1997-1998; Kansas City Chiefs, 1999-2000

» Voted to Pro Bowl nine times, First Team All-Pro once

» 49,325 career passing yards, 291 career touchdowns

» 102 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

12. Terry Bradshaw

Pittsburgh Steelers,

» Four-time NFL champion, two-time Super Bowl champion

» One-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl three times, First Team All-Pro once

» 27,989 career passing yards, 212 career touchdowns,

» 107 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

11. Sammy Baugh

Washington Redskins, 1937-1952

» Two-time NFL champion

» Two-time NFL Player of the Year

» Voted First Team All-Pro seven times

» 21,996 career passing yards, 187 career touchdowns

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

10. Troy Aikman

Dallas Cowboys, 1989-2000

» Three-time Super Bowl champion, one-time Super Bowl MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl six times, First Team All-Pro once

» 32,942 career passing yards, 165 career touchdowns,

» 94 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

9. Dan Marino

Miami Dolphins, 1983-1999

» One-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl nine times, First Team All-Pro three times

» 61,361 career passing yards, 420 career touchdowns

» 147 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

8. Brett Favre

Atlanta Falcons, 1991; Green Bay Packers, 1992-2007; N.Y. Jets, 2008; Minnesota Vikings, 2009-2010

» One-time Super Bowl champion

» Three-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl 11 times, First Team All-Pro three times

» 71,838 career passing yards, 508 career touchdowns,

» Tied for career victories lead with 186

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

7. Johnny Unitas

Baltimore Colts, 1955-1972; San Diego Chargers, 1973

» Three-time NFL champion, one-time Super Bowl champion

» Three-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl 10 times, First Team All-Pro five times

» 40,239 career passing yards, 290 career touchdowns

» 118 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

6. Roger Staubach

Dallas Cowboys, 1969-1979

» Two-time Super Bowl champion, one-time Super Bowl MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl six times

» 22,700 career passing yards, 153 career touchdowns

» 85 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

5. John Elway

Denver Broncos, 1983-1998

» Two-time Super Bowl champion, one-time Super Bowl MVP

» One-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl nine times, First Team All-Pro once

» 51,475 career passing yards, 300 career touchdowns, 33 career rushing touchdowns

» 148 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

4. Otto Graham

Cleveland Browns, 1946-1955

» Three-time NFL champion

» Three-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl five times, First Team All-Pro four times

» 23,584 career passing yards, 174 career touchdowns, 44 career rushing touchdowns

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

3. Joe Montana

San Francisco 49ers, 1979-1992; Kansas City Chiefs, 1993-1994

» Four-time Super Bowl champion, three-time Super Bowl MVP

» Two-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl eight times, All-Pro First Team three times

» 40,551 career passing yards, 273 career touchdowns, 92.3 career passer rating

» 117 career victories

» Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

2. Peyton Manning

Indianapolis Colts, 1998-2010; Denver Broncos, 2012-2015

» Two-time Super Bowl champion, one-time Super Bowl MVP

» Five-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl 14 times, All-Pro First Team seven times

» NFL-record 71,940 career passing yards and 539 passing touchdowns

» Tied for all-time career victories with 186

 

1. Tom Brady

New England Patriots, 2000-present

» Five-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Super Bowl MVP

» Two-time NFL MVP

» Voted to Pro Bowl 12 times

» 61,582 passing yards, 456 passing touchdowns, 97.2 career passer rating

» 183 career victories

 

So who does Brandt not list?

 

Matt Ryan

 

Fran Tarkenton

 

Dan Fouts

 

Aaron Rodgers

 

Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning

 

Do any of them belong?  If so, who goes out?