AROUND THE NFL

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com breaks down the huge trade between the Texans and Dolphins:

 

The trade that sent Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil to Houston was an enormous one.

 

The Texans are sending two first-round picks and a second-round pick to Miami to acquire Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills, according to NFL Network. The Dolphins are also getting a couple of Texans players, special teamer Johnson Bademosi and offensive lineman Julien Davenport. The Dolphins also send a fourth-rounder to Houston in the deal.

 

That’s a massive haul, one that eclipses what the Bears gave up last year to acquire Khalil Mack.

 

It’s also a haul that indicates Texans coach Bill O’Brien, who has taken over the personnel department, is desperate to win now and isn’t the least bit worried about the future. O’Brien is likely betting his job on the Texans making the playoffs this season.

 

As for the Dolphins, they’re now as well-positioned for draft capital going forward as any team in the league. Especially now that they’re the overwhelming favorites to earn the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

QB AARON RODGERS wants to follow in the footsteps of TOM BRADY and DREW BREES in beating back Father Time – and not in the path of ANDREW LUCK.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

With Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement still reverberating around the NFL, the question of when some quarterbacks plan to walk away has become an even more intriguing question.

 

One player who has dealt with a series of injuries recently is Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers. The 35-year-old has no designs to leave the sport soon, and already has his retirement plans booked.

 

“Yeah, win the Super Bowl when I’m 45 and ride off into the sunset,” Rodgers quipped Friday during his appearance on The Rich Eisen Show.

 

When pressed by Eisen whether he indeed plans to play another decade, Rodgers said it depends how his body holds up.

 

“We’ll see,” Rodgers said, via the Green Bay Press Gazette. “I envision playing as long as my body feels good and I have the love for the game that I do right now that still fuels me and is still a passion. And I still love the daily grind and the practice and the preparation. If I can give everything to a team in that manner and my body feels good, I’m going to keep rolling.”

 

Rodgers dealt with a knee sprain and bone bruise most of the 2018 season, missed nine games in 2017 with a shoulder injury and endured a slight calf strain near the end of 2016. While Luck retired because he was worn down by injuries, Rodgers pointing to his love of the daily grind suggests he’ll be able to play until his body ultimately lets him down.

 

The other aspect of Luck’s retirement that has been discussed heavily is the idea that the former Indianapolis Colts QB didn’t need football because he had other interests outside of slinging pigskin. Some pundits have suggested those types of people should be a red flag for future football employees.

 

Rodgers told Eisen that those people who think it’s a red flag for players to be considered smart, deep thinkers or have interests outside of football are full of manure.

 

“I think it’s probably a ridiculous view by folks who don’t have any creativity or any other interests outside of the thing right in front of them 24-7,” Rodgers said. “I think the beauty in this game is meeting teammates who have interests outside of football.”

 

Rodgers, who is known to have a variety of interests outside of football, said the diversity within the locker room is one thing that makes him want to continue to show up to work every day, and play into his 40s.

 

“You meet guys who are incredible musicians or really interested in travel or charitable work or whatnot,” he said. “I think having interests is what allows you to have that balance off the field, which I think makes your on-the-field or at-the-stadium or in-the-facility work that much more important …

 

“I think you can’t have enough of those type of guys who are well-rounded people and have a creativity and a curiosity about more than just ball because I think those guys get burnt out and those guys are not as relatable. When you’re talking about leaders, you need to find guys who can be relatable in the locker room.

 

“I think people who only can ever talk about football are going to have a hard time relating to every person or multiple people in the locker room because guys have interests and you have to find ways to relate to them in the locker room to get them to buy into what you’re trying to do.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com signals through Twitter that he’ll be having an EZEKIEL ELLIOTT scoop soon.

 

Here’s the news Dallas has wanted: Talks between the Cowboys and RB Ezekiel Elliott are intensifying, with both sides aiming to wrap up a new deal this weekend, league sources tell ESPN.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

PK MATT BRYANT is back with the Falcons.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When you make a mistake, the best course of action is to recognize it, and fix it as quickly as possible.

 

The Falcons announced they were bringing back their long-time kicker, signing Matt Bryant Saturday.

 

The Falcons released the steady veteran in the spring, calling it “a difficult decision but one that was necessary.”

 

Apparently it wasn’t.

 

Bryant only missed one field goal for the Falcons last season. They guys they tried to replace him with (Giorgio Tavecchio, Blair Walsh) did not engender that kind of confidence, so they brought back the 44-year-old.

 

There are reports that it is a 1-year deal worth $3 million.  Tavecchio missed 5 FGs in the preseason alone.  Bryant has never missed more than 5 FGs in any of his 10 seasons with the Falcons and an average of 3.2 misses per year.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

Jay Glazer says it is the Seahawks who have traded for Texans EDGE JADEVEON CLOWNEY.

 

Scoopage: SEA & HOU have agreed to trade parameters re: Jadeveon Clowney contingent upon Clowney & other players involved passing physicals. Still lot of moving parts but believed Clowney, who rejected going to Miami at first, is headed for his physical with Hawks. @NFLONFOX

 

“Other players” so not just for draft picks…

 

Jason LaCanfora has the scoop:

 

CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has confirmed that the Texans have finalized a multi-player trade with the Seahawks that will send Clowney to Seattle. In exchange for Clowney, the Seahawks will be sending Barkevious Mingo, Jacob Martin and a 2020 third-round draft pick to Houston, according to MMQB.com.

 

The trade ends nearly six months of drama between Clowney and the Texans. The two sides have basically been at odds since March when Houston hit Clowney with the franchise tag. The reason that created tension is because Clowney thought he deserved to be tagged as a defensive end (which would mean a $17.13 million contract in 2019), but the Texans tagged him as a linebacker, which means he’s only going to make $15.97 million.

 

After being tagged, Clowney skipped all of the Houston’s offseason training activities in the spring and then never reported to training camp. With the Clowney situation hanging over the Texans’ head going into the regular season, coach Bill O’Brien hinted this week that the team might look to get rid of him.

 

“All I can tell you without getting into the specifics is [it’s] always about what’s best for your team,” O’Brien said, via ESPN.com. “What’s best for your team from a value standpoint, monetarily, skill set-wise, production-wise — all those different things. It’s always going to be well-thought-out and it’s always going to be in the name of what is best for the team — is this the best decision for the team?”

 

The Texans had been trying to deal Clowney for more than a week, but it’s been nearly impossible due to the unique situation they were facing.

 

The problem for Houston was that Clowney held almost all the leverage in the situation. Since he was hit with the franchise tag, that meant the Texans couldn’t trade him unless he actually signed the tag, which he refused to do. Basically, that meant that the Texans couldn’t trade him anywhere he didn’t want to go.

 

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Mingo was a high draft pick who never lived up to expectations, and there was talk out of Seattle that he was about to get released after a so-so preseason. Martin was a sixth-round pick last year who had three sacks as a rookie. Both are pass rushers, neither is close to the same kind of pass rusher as Clowney.

 

The Texans, who currently do not have a general manager, are sure to take plenty of criticism for this deal. Clowney is an elite talent, and the Texans aren’t getting much for him.

 

Even if framed as a rental, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com likes the deal:

 

The Seattle Seahawks badly needed a premier pass-rusher and paid a worthwhile price to get one.

 

The same thing that was true about Ezekiel Ansah in May is true now about Jadeveon Clowney, who is headed to Seattle in a trade with the Houston Texans.

 

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Seahawks are acquiring Clowney in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick plus defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin.

 

You read that right.

 

General manager John Schneider’s latest blockbuster trade looks like a steal for the Seahawks considering what they’ve giving up for a 26-year-old pass-rusher who has made three straight Pro Bowls — even if Clowney ends up being only a one-year rental (more on that in a bit). Mingo may have otherwise been released, and while Martin is a promising young pass-rusher with a quick twitch and three more years of team control, he was only slated to be a rotational piece entering his second season.

 

Clowney’s résumé, on the other hand, includes 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons. According to NFL Research, the 2014 No. 1 overall pick is one of only four players (Aaron Donald, Cam Jordan, Chandler Jones) with 20-plus sacks and 50-plus tackles for loss since 2016.

 

It was hard to envision the Seahawks getting that type of production at pass-rusher when training camp began. Frank Clark was gone, Jarran Reed had just been suspended for six games and Ansah was still on the sideline as he worked his way back from shoulder surgery with no indication of when he’d be available. Even with Ansah returning to practice last week and seemingly on track to play in the opener, the Seahawks were going to have to count on complementary pass-rushers like Martin and Cassius Marsh to fill primary roles. It still looked like a potential Achilles’ heel — particularly with Reed absent for a tough early-season stretch — no matter how loaded the Seahawks are at linebacker.

 

Clowney’s addition changes the outlook in a big way.

 

The Seahawks now have two edge rushers who can legitimately threaten double-digit sacks and, in theory, make life a little easier on their young secondary that has its question marks. Seattle’s front seven could be as formidable as any in football once Reed returns in Week 7 to join Clowney, Ansah, breakout candidate Poona Ford, All-Pro Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks.

 

There is some risk for the Seahawks that this could turn out to be a dud like the trade for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. They gave up more to get Richardson but only paid him about half as much in 2017 as they’ll owe Clowney on his $15.967 million franchise tender. Richardson’s contract only had one year left when the Seahawks acquired it. He wasn’t re-signed, meaning Seattle gave up a second-round pick, receiver Jermaine Kearse and about $8 million for one underwhelming season.

 

Even if Clowney ends up walking after a big season that makes him too expensive for Seattle’s liking, the Seahawks would be in line for a high compensatory pick in 2021 to help offset the 2020 third-rounder they’re giving up. They’re already projected to get an extra 2020 third-round pick and entered cut-down weekend with 10 expected selections in next year’s draft.

 

Not that it’s a foregone conclusion that Clowney is merely a one-year proposition for the Seahawks. They don’t have many big-budget expenses beyond 2019 aside from the recent Russell Wilson and Wagner megadeals, nor do they have any young players other than Reed who are in line for a massive payday. The Seahawks can use 2019 to gauge Clowney’s long-term fit and would be eligible to sign him to an extension once the regular season ends, according to the rules involving franchise-tagged players.

 

Schneider has an oft-repeated phrase about how he wants the Seahawks to always be a “consistent-championship-caliber football team.” His latest bold move is in keeping with that approach, helping the Seahawks win now while they have an elite quarterback in his prime without that coming at too steep of a cost to their future.

– – –

Presumably, the Seahawks will be bringing in someone else, but for now the Seattle quarterback “room” consists of just RUSSELL WILSON and perhaps, a coach.  Bleacher Report.

 

Russell Wilson is currently the only quarterback on the Seattle Seahawks after the team announced its 53-man roster on Saturday.

 

According to Seahawks.com reporter John Boyle, backup signal-callers Geno Smith, Paxton Lynch and J.T. Barrett were let go, leaving the seven-year starter as the lone quarterback left.

 

However, Boyle noted that the Hawks “can and likely will make more moves between now and next weekend.”

 

One of those moves may be bringing Smith back into the mix, as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times explained.

 

@bcondotta

 Seahawks roster is officially at 53 because Clowney trade hasn’t gone through yet. If you add up their cuts with who remains after that trade goes through, you get 52. So, some roster finagling still going on here. They’ll need to add a QB.

 

@bcondotta

 A reminder that Geno Smith does not go through waivers. So, Seattle may just have an agreement with him that he stays put for a day while the trade works itself out and then he re-signs. Like they meant to do with Tom Johnson last year.

 

Smith, 28, played for three NFL teams in six seasons before signing with the Seahawks in May. He completed 18 of 34 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns this preseason.

 

His isn’t the only team to go with one active quarterback on the 53-man roster after Saturday cuts, with the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts doing the same.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

Memo to Broncos – PAXTON LYNCH is available.  Andie Hagemann of NFL.com:

 

The Denver Broncos are in search of quarterbacks again.

 

On Saturday, the Broncos placed rookie signal-caller Drew Lock on injured reserve and waived Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien. After the transactions, Joe Flacco is the last man standing in the QB room.

 

“[We] needed the [roster] spot,” Broncos general manager John Elway said. “With Drew being out six to eight weeks, [we] figured the best thing for us as a team was to use that spot.”

 

The team will explore all options while searching for a backup for Flacco.

 

“Wide open,” Elway said Saturday of the possible additions at quarterback. “We’ll just see what happens. Obviously, the wire is going to come out in about three or four hours, so we’ll see what’s there. We are exploring all options at this point in time.”

 

Lock suffered a thumb injury on his throwing hand during in Denver’s preseason tilt with the San Francisco 49ers. But, Elway is optimistic that the rookie will be sideline six to eight weeks and not the entire 2019 campaign. The team can designate two players to return from IR during the season.

 

“My discussion with him today [was] it’s not a year off for him,” Elway said. “He’s going to be able to do everything other than be on the football field. And then he’ll be able to work on his own and do some different things too. [I] expect him to continue to work hard and get a good feel with everything and keep learning with the offense, understand what he’s doing there and be right in the middle of everything.”

 

This is familiar territory for the Broncos — who have dealt with QB woes since Peyton Manning retired. With the season opener against the Oakland Raiders days away, Elway will obviously need to add Flacco’s understudy soon.

 

 

KANSAS CITY

The Chiefs have signed RB LeSEAN McCOY to a one year deal worth $4 million.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

Jon Gruden has decided to keep QB NATHAN PETERMAN.  Marcus White of NBCSports.com:

 

The Nathan Peterman Era with the Raiders reportedly will extend into the 2019 NFL season.

 

Mike Glennon won the backup job behind Oakland starter Derek Carr, but Jon Gruden “really does like” Peterman “and wants to help resurrect his career,” NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Friday night.

 

@RapSheet

 The #Raiders are expected to keep 3 QBs, with Mike Glennon slotting in behind starter Derek Carr, source said. Coach Jon Gruden really does like Nathan Peterman and wants to help resurrect his career. Peterman should stick, too.

 

Gruden has said throughout the offseason that he likes to keep three quarterbacks on the roster, and you don’t need HBO’s “Hard Knocks” cameras to see that he has taken a particular liking to Peterman. The Pittsburgh product’s start to his NFL career was disastrous, as he threw four interceptions in his first start with the Buffalo Bills and completed a 52.3 percent of his passes in eight apperances over his first two NFL seasons.

 

Those performances turned Peterman into an NFL laughing stock, but Gruden thinks he can bring out the best in the 25-year-old. With Derek Carr ahead of him (and Glennon, for that matter), it seems unlikely Peterman will take the field in 2019 outside of a worst-case scenario for the Silver and Black.

 

But considering Peterman’s strange journey that reportedly has him on the cusp of a roster spot, would anything surprise you at this point?

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Need a Grade B+ running back who thinks he is a Grade A?  The Chargers will let you trade for RB MELVIN GORDON.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Saturday’s deadline to finalize 53-man rosters has come and gone, and so has the Los Angeles Chargers’ patience with Melvin Gordon.

 

Amid the running back’s contract standoff with the club, Los Angeles has given Gordon and his reps permission to seek a trade, sources told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

 

Gordon intends to evaluate his options, which include returning to the Chargers.

 

The running back has been away from the team all summer as he seeks a contract extension worth more than $10 million per year, which is what Bolts GM Tom Telesco and his front office reportedly initially offered Gordon. The fifth-year tailback is set to make $5.6 million in 2019.

 

This latest development allows Gordon’s camp and Los Angeles to gauge what Gordon would be worth on the trade block and what type of extension other teams would be willing to hand the running back.

 

Though Gordon has stated publicly that he wishes to remain a Charger, if both sides find a RB-needy suitor eager to compensate both Gordon and the Bolts in a way they seem fit, then the running back might enjoy a future in football elsewhere.

 

Los Angeles is operating from a point of leverage because of its deep running back room. The Bolts employ Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, both of whom thrived down the stretch of the 2018 season when Gordon was hampered by injuries. Gordon is also statistically not in the realm of the top-paid backs in the league like Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell.

 

For the last few weeks, the Bolts have been betting that Gordon would eventually return from his holdout and play out his contract. Allowing his reps to discuss a trade with other teams could expedite that process — or fast-track Gordon’s one-way ticket out of town.

 

Ryan Phillips of TheBigLead.com offers four trade destinations:

 

Gordon not only wants to be traded, he wants a contract extension. When considering options we took that into account.

 

As a reminder what Gordon can do on the field, he’s a two-time Pro Bowler who has spent the first four years of his career with the Chargers after they took him with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. After a struggle his rookie year, the Wisconsin product has picked things up, rushing for 2,987 yards and 28 touchdowns over the past three seasons. He has added 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns on 149 receptions.

 

During the 2018 season, Gordon rushed for 885 yards and 10 scores on 175 carries (5.1 yards per carry), while catching 50 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns. He’s a fast, versatile back who can hit home runs when he gets into the open field.

 

Here’s a look at the teams who could really use his services.

 

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans have problems at running back. They acquired Duke Johnson to help offset that, but the problem remains unsolved. The Texans currently rely too heavily on quarterback Deshaun Watson to bolster their rushing attack. Something needs to change.

 

With DeAndre Hopkins at receiver, Watson has a top-line playmaker available, Gordon could be another. He’s a well-rounded back, can make plays in the passing game and is lethal in the open field. They did trade for Carlos Hyde on cut-down day to help replace Lamar Miller, but Gordon is  miles better than Hyde or Johnson. He’d be a good option for a team with a wide-open path to the AFC South title.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are incredibly close to the salary cap with about $3 million left to play with. But they also have a muddled running back situation and a new coach that could use a flashy running back to get things done. While Bruce Arians may not be a big fan of paying a ton for a solid ball-carrier, he may need one to succeed in Tampa Bay.

 

Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones don’t exactly form an imposing duo in the backfield. Jones has a ton of potential but struggled mightily as a rookie in 2018. Jameis Winston needs weapons other than receiver Mike Evans if Arians truly wants to turn the quarterback’s career around.

 

Winston could use someone to take pressure off him in the backfield. Gordon is a threat as a receiver and a runner and can take the ball to the house with just a sliver of daylight. The only way Winston will improve is if the pieces around him do as well. Gordon could be worth a move, even if the Bucs have to shift around a lot of money to make it work out.

 

Green Bay Packers

Gordon is a native of Kenosha and went to Wisconsin, so why wouldn’t he welcome a trip home? The Green Bay Packers always seem like they have their next great running back lined up, but have failed to produce a true go-to threat over the past decade.

 

Ryan Grant, Eddie Lacy, Ty Montgomery, James Starks, Jamaal Williams and more have all gotten the opportunity to be the team’s top running back. All have failed to sustain their success. The latest guy up is third-year back Aaron Jones, who averaged 5.5 yards per rush on 133 carries in 2018. Can he finally be the team’s answer in the backfield?

 

We don’t know if Jones is just the latest in a long-line of short-term solutions, but Gordon is a two-time 1,000-yard back who has gained more than 1,375 yards from scrimmage in each of the past three seasons. He’d be a great fit and would immediately add credibility to a running game desperate to find some.

 

Aaron Rodgers is incredible, but he’s not getting any younger. He needs help. Davante Adams is a true weapon on the perimeter, but the Packers need a running game to take pressure off their quarterback. Gordon is a fit now and in the future.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars are clearly fed up with what they’ve gotten from Leonard Fournette since selecting him with the fourth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The LSU product went over 1,000 yards as a rookie but has missed 11 games over his first two seasons, due to injuries and a suspension for fighting.

 

Things got so bad between the two parties that the Jaguars voided the guarantees left in his contract and even considered outright releasing him in the offseason. Fournette is back in Jacksonville this year, but it’s clear he’s on thin ice.

 

The Jaguars threw a ton of money at Nick Foles this offseason to solve their offensive problems. They have a pair of talented receivers in Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook but both are huge question marks. The Jags have no other real playmakers on offense. With an uber-talented defense, Jacksonville needs something (read: anything!) out of its offense.

 

Gordon could finally be the piece that moves the needle for the Jags’ dormant offense. Foles won’t make the mistakes Blake Bortles did at quarterback, and Gordon would give Jacksonville a rock to build a foundation on.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Texans made a third trade on Saturday.

 

On the same day the Houston Texans shipped out disgruntled former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, the team acquired a veteran for one of its biggest needs.

 

The Texans have acquired running back Carlos Hyde from the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for offensive lineman Martinas Rankin, Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor reports.

 

@TerezPaylor

 The Chiefs are trading RB Carlos Hyde to the Texans for OT Martinas Rankin, a source tells me.

 

Hyde probably isn’t a quality NFL starter at this point in his career, but that probably didn’t matter to the Texans given the position they’re in.

 

Starting running back Lamar Miller is out for the season with a torn ACL, leaving Hyde’s former Browns backfield mate Duke Johnson as the only running back left on the Texans’ roster with any significant NFL experience.

 

Johnson had long been more of a third-down, receiving-specialist back with the Browns, so the need was clear for an early down runner like Hyde.

– – –

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com looks at what Bill O’Brien has done and thinks he has lost his way:

 

With a rare opportunity to shape his team’s personnel in his image as a first-time head coach, Bill O’Brien went all-in and rebuilt the core of the Houston Texans on Saturday afternoon. By trading away Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for peanuts and using the money saved to acquire the duo of Kenny Stills and Laremy Tunsil from the Miami Dolphins, O’Brien has addressed his team’s biggest weakness in dealing from his team’s most obvious strength. In terms of pro personnel, the Texans probably have about as much talent now as they did yesterday, but that talent is now spread throughout the roster in a more valuable way.

 

If this were simply a swap of Clowney for Stills and Tunsil, this Texans trade would have been defensible. Unfortunately, there’s the small consideration of the draft picks involved in this deal. When you factor that the Texans got a third-round pick from Seattle while sending two first-round picks and a second-round selection and more to Miami, though, this looks like a desperate attempt to fix a problem the team created for itself. In sending away years of valuable draft picks, O’Brien and the GM-by-committee running the Texans mortgaged the future for a quick fix.

 

There is no doubting that the Texans are one of the many organizations around the league trying to capture the essence of the Patriot Way. They hired O’Brien as coach, imported Patriots character coach Jack Easterby this offseason and then tried to hire Pats executive Nick Caserio in June to take over as general manager, only to be put off their pursuit by tampering charges. During the committee’s brief time in charge of personnel decisions in Houston, it has become clear that the committee — which includes Easterby and has O’Brien as an undefined-but-significant influence — doesn’t have any clue what actually might qualify as the Patriots’ blueprint for success.

 

The power grab

While every coach has at least some semblance of a voice when it comes to acquiring personnel, few NFL coaches have final say over the 53-man roster. The ones who do have incredible amounts of leverage. Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick. Jon Gruden got a 10-year deal to come out of broadcasting. Andy Reid and Sean Payton have assumed those duties over their lengthy careers. Other coaches might have a level of control, but the only other one I could find is Kyle Shanahan, who has control over the 53-man roster but cedes all other personnel decisions to GM John Lynch.

 

By several accounts and recent decisions in Houston, O’Brien has craved more power over the organization’s personnel choices for years. Executives around O’Brien in Houston suggested the former Penn State coach wanted a Belichick-type role back in January 2017. There were reports of power struggles between O’Brien and former GM Rick Smith, who resigned after the 2017 season to take care of his ailing wife. When the Texans fired GM Brian Gaine in June and eventually replaced him with a committee, one report from longtime Texans beat reporter John McClain said O’Brien was now in charge of personnel.

 

The trades

None of the trades the Texans have made over the past month would fit what Belichick has done during his time with the Patriots. Belichick is a master of understanding timing and leverage. Whether you want to chalk it up to O’Brien himself or the nascent Texans personnel committee, Houston’s recent moves have shown little aptitude or understanding of either. Consider the three trades Houston has made:

 

A fourth-round pick (likely to become a third-round pick) to the Browns for RB Duke Johnson. While Johnson might play a bigger role than expected after Lamar Miller tore his ACL, the Texans were essentially trading a valuable draft pick for a player who was likely to serve as a rotation back. The Patriots have repeatedly targeted running backs in the middle rounds of the draft and as low-cost additions in free agency during Belichick’s run, with rare exceptions.

 

They traded a second-round pick for Corey Dillon in 2004 and got a great season out of the former Bengals standout, but Dillon was a three-down back in a different era, and his resulting contract extension ended up as a mistake for the Patriots. The Pats then used a first-round pick on Laurence Maroney to serve as Dillon’s replacement, only for Maroney to also flame out.

 

Johnson can be a valuable player, but he was buried on Cleveland’s depth chart and was weeks away from being the Browns’ third-string back behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Cleveland had no leverage and still came away with a significant pick for a player it didn’t need. There’s no sense of positional scarcity here.

 

Clowney to the Seahawks for a third-round pick and backup LBs Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin. Perhaps you could argue that the Patriots have clearly deemphasized paying top dollar for pass-rushers. In that scenario, the Texans are probably better off trading Clowney. Furthermore, if you figure that the $16 million in cash the Texans had budgeted for Clowney’s franchise tag will instead help pay for the 2019 salaries of Stills ($8 million) and Tunsil (to be determined), you could try to frame it as a redistribution of resources.

 

What the Patriots don’t do very frequently, though, is wait until it’s too late to trade a player, with Jimmy Garoppolo as the rare exception to that rule. The Texans absolutely blew their leverage with Clowney, as our Sarah Barshop noted earlier Saturday. When the Seahawks traded Frank Clark in April, they were able to take advantage of a desperate Chiefs team and pocket first- and second-round picks as the primary return from their haul.

 

The Chiefs were able to pay that much for Clark, in part, because they were able to simultaneously sign Clark to a long-term extension while making the deal. Teams making that sort of trade for a player who’s about to get a new deal lose all their leverage when the trade is finished, because nobody wants to give up first- and second-round picks for a veteran and then subsequently let that player leave in free agency.

 

After the July 15 franchise deadline, though, a franchised player can’t sign a long-term deal until he plays out the tag or is released by his original team. Any team trading for Clowney, as the Seahawks did on Saturday, would be forced to keep Clowney on a one-year deal before likely applying a second franchise tag in 2020 in advance of contract negotiations. That alone drastically reduced Clowney’s trade value.

 

The Texans could have kept Clowney for 2019, waited out his demands for a new deal, likely seen him play at least a partial season, and then either franchised him again in 2020 in advance of a more valuable trade or let him leave for what would have been a third-round compensatory pick. Houston would have lost that compensatory pick if it spent money in free agency, so making this trade suggests that the Texans expect to be spenders in free agency next offseason. The Patriots, of course, almost always eschew free agency to pick up these exact sorts of compensatory picks.

 

Two first-round picks, a second-round selection, T Julie’n Davenport and DB Johnson Bademosi to the Dolphins for LT Laremy Tunsil, WR Kenny Stills, and fourth-round and sixth-round choices. If there is a position the Patriots clearly value outside of quarterback, though, it’s left tackle. Belichick used a second-round pick on Matt Light in 2001 and then followed with a first-round pick on Nate Solder. Those two guys covered Tom Brady’s first 18 years as a starting quarterback. When Solder got too expensive to keep in free agency last year, Belichick used a first-round pick on Isaiah Wynn and traded a third-rounder for Trent Brown and a fifth-rounder. When Wynn tore his Achilles in training camp, Brown took over and excelled en route to a Super Bowl LIII victory.

 

The Texans created their own mess at left tackle when they refused to give in to Duane Brown during his 2017 holdout, shipping Brown and a fifth-round pick off to the Seahawks for second- and third-round picks. They’ve narrowly missed on solutions over the past two seasons. In 2018, they tried to sign Solder in free agency, only for the Giants to outbid them. During the 2019 draft, Houston seemed likely to take Washington State tackle Andre Dillard with the 23rd pick, only for the Eagles to use fourth- and sixth-round picks to move up from No. 25 to No. 22 and beat the Texans to the punch.

 

If either of those moves had broken Houston’s way, the Texans wouldn’t have made this trade. Instead, the acquisitions the organization made were half-measures. They ran with Davenport in 2018, which worked out so well that Deshaun Watson was forced to take a bus to Houston’s game against the Jaguars at Jacksonville because the team was concerned about the air pressure of a plane affecting his bruised lung and ribs. This offseason, the Texans signed oft-injured Panthers tackle Matt Kalil to start and used the 23rd pick on inexperienced tackle Tytus Howard, who spent most of his time in camp at left guard and wasn’t healthy. Kalil was alternately injured and ineffective in practice, and while the Texans said throughout the summer that Kalil would be their starting left tackle in Week 1, the former fourth overall pick just isn’t a starting-caliber tackle and hasn’t been for years.

 

Of course, you might point out that they made a similarly aggressive move at quarterback and came out smiling. After fumbling through the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler with limited success under O’Brien, the Texans shipped a second-round pick to the Browns to dump Osweiler’s contract and then sent a pair of first-rounders to Cleveland to move up and grab Watson. The price ended up higher than Houston expected, given that the 2018 first-rounder it packaged for Watson ended up as the fourth overall selection, but the team would make that same trade again, given how Watson has performed when healthy.

 

The issue in making the same trade for Tunsil, Stills and two Day 3 picks is economic. The draft locks in quarterbacks at below-market prices for five seasons, offering a huge amount of surplus value if the pick breaks right. Watson will make a total of $13.8 million from 2017 to ’20 without even considering the value of his fifth-year option in 2021. A Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback making market value would probably take home somewhere around $110 million over that same time frame. There weren’t any guarantees Watson would work out at the time, of course, but the upside if the move worked helped justify the draft cost.

 

In trading for Tunsil and Stills, though, the Texans can’t realize the same economic benefit. They’re forgoing draft picks — the best way to lock in useful contributors at below-market rates against the cap — to acquire proven talent at market rates. The two years and $15 million left on Stills’ deal is team-friendly given how the wideout market has shot up in recent seasons, but that’s also a lot to pay for a receiver whose skill set is likely duplicated by Will Fuller. Stills gives the Texans a third wideout and valuable insurance if Fuller and/or Keke Coutee go down injured, but it’s hard to see how the 27-year-old raises his production given the presence of those two receivers and DeAndre Hopkins on the roster.

 

This trade is realistically about Tunsil, and the Texans aren’t going to realize any surplus value on his deal. The 25-year-old has rounded into one of the league’s best young left tackles, and after dropping on draft day as a result of the infamous gas mask photo hacking incident, Tunsil is in position to get paid. Tunsil is under contract for the next two years at a total of $12.5 million, but his deal is coming.

 

That deal simply isn’t going to be cheap. Since the Texans weren’t able to sign Tunsil to an extension before completing this trade, the former Ole Miss standout holds the vast majority of leverage in negotiations. Houston can’t feasibly pretend that it will be willing to trade Tunsil again or let him leave in free agency in 2021. Tunsil knows as much. He’s primed to become the highest-paid left tackle in league history, as early as this upcoming week. Khalil Mack was able to make about 20% more than Von Miller, the previous standout deal on the edge, over the first three years of his new deal after the Bears acquired him last offseason. Apply the same escalator to the top of the left tackle market and you’re looking at something in the range of a five-year, $100 million contract.

 

Does Tunsil deserve that sort of money? Maybe. Given that the Texans are also shipping two first-round picks and a second-round pick to the Dolphins as part of the deal, though, they’re also forfeiting the surplus value of those picks and essentially paying that to Tunsil as part of the contract. I wrote about the idea in discussing the Mack trade, but in making this trade, the Texans are realistically valuing Tunsil as worth something more in the range of $35 million to $40 million per season. Tunsil would basically have to be an MVP candidate on an annual basis to get this deal to make sense. Even the best left tackle on the planet would find it hard to make that work.

 

The future

The proper way to frame this is as an enormous risk. The Bears feel great about the Mack trade after Year 1, but his contract is underwater if he slips or gets injured. Even if Mack continues to play like a star, the Bears could easily end up in a scenario in which the missing draft assets prevent them from filling holes on their roster or upgrading on Mitchell Trubisky when the third-year quarterback gets expensive. Those possibilities don’t make the Mack trade a good decision or a bad idea in a vacuum, but they have to inform the way we view the trade. If the deal wins the Bears a Super Bowl, nobody will miss those draft picks.

 

The Bears saw the opportunity to get a Hall of Fame talent and went all-in. Tunsil doesn’t have the same sort of cachet and isn’t yet the same caliber of player, but the Texans have a better quarterback and are making the same sort of move. It certainly increases their chances of competing in 2019 and 2020, when Watson is likely to make far less than market value. With the Colts losing Andrew Luck, the Texans should be comfortable favorites to win the AFC South and host a playoff game in January.

 

 

O’Brien has led the Texans to the playoffs in three of his five seasons in charge, but Houston is just 1-3 in the postseason. Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

The teams that have won a Super Bowl around a cheap, talented quarterback haven’t made this sort of move and felt good afterward. The Seahawks built around Russell Wilson and a historically great series of defensive drafts and imported several veterans, including players such as Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, but the first-round pick they sent to the Vikings for Percy Harvin turned out to be a disaster. Harvin was gone after making $16 million for six regular-season games in a Seahawks uniform. Given how narrow and specific the margin of defeat was the following season, it’s fair to wonder whether a better decision at wide receiver might have won the Seahawks a second consecutive Super Bowl.

 

Philly built its own Super Bowl winner in two years around Carson Wentz after trading up for the second overall pick in 2016, but the Eagles used players such as Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to help defray the cost of moving up for Wentz and then added an extra first-round pick in the Sam Bradford deal. Most of their other moves came in free agency and didn’t require significant draft capital. They didn’t make this sort of move.

 

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Belichick, too, has never come close to sending this sort of draft capital out for a single player. He has never packaged a first- and second-round pick to move up for a prospect or sent a first-round pick out for a veteran (he did trade a first-round pick for Brandin Cooks, who was on a rookie deal, but he got it back the following year and didn’t sign Cooks to an extension). The only times he has shipped a second-round pick in direct swaps for a player were in 2004 (Dillon) and 2007 (Wes Welker, with a seventh-rounder also heading to Miami). You can point to Brady and point out that Belichick doesn’t have to be desperate when he has arguably the best player in NFL history on his roster, but it’s clear that the Pats haven’t and wouldn’t use their draft picks in the way O’Brien has over this past month.

 

All the surplus value in the world doesn’t matter if the team wins a Super Bowl. That’s the realistic new bar for O’Brien to justify this trade, given how much it cost to acquire Tunsil. Houston can add something in free agency next offseason — maybe it can sign someone like Logan Ryan or Trae Waynes to help at cornerback — but it is going to move forward with a core of Watson, Tunsil, Hopkins and J.J. Watt. Those are four stars at arguably the four most crucial positions in football. Over the next two years, though, the Texans will need to address holes at running back, tight end, along both lines of scrimmage, and in the secondary, and that’s without considering the possibility of injuries.

 

If it doesn’t work out over the next two seasons, I’m not sure there’s a way back for O’Brien. The Texans will be missing years of young talent, given that they’ll have made just one first-round pick over a four-year span between 2018 and 2021. The Texans will have granted O’Brien his quarterback, his character coach, and finally, his power. Now, after one stunning day of trades and a series of divergences from Belichick’s decision-making, O’Brien will need to prove that he can win a Super Bowl the Texans Way.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The DB isn’t as surprised about this as most.  RB LeSEAN McCOY is always potential trouble and his skills and health have been in decline.  Still someone, will be inking him soon.  Andrew Callahan at MassLive.com:

 

The Buffalo Bills have pulled off the first stunner of cutdown day.

 

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bills released starting running back LeSean McCoy on Saturday.

 

McCoy had been expected to share a crowded backfield in Buffalo with fellow veterans Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon, plus third-round rookie Devin Singletary. The 11th-year back has made six Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. Last season, he rushed for 514 yards and three touchdowns at a 3.2 yards-per-carry clip, a career low.

 

 

McCoy is now free to sign with any team.

 

After drafting Singletary in late April, Bills GM Brandon Beane insisted to reporters that McCoy would remain the starter.

 

“LeSean McCoy is still here. Before you ask that question, he’s still the starter,” he said. “We roll the ball out. There’s no questions about that.”

 

McCoy arrived in Buffalo in 2015 via trade after he spent his first six seasons in Philadelphia. Both of his All-Pro nods came with the Eagles. Over his four seasons with the Bills, McCoy twice rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Over eight career games against the Patriots, he averaged 57.3 rush yards per game and totaled two rushing touchdowns.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Veteran WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS was among New England’s cuts.

 

The New England Patriots have released veteran wide receiver Demaryius Thomas according to the team’s official website.

 

The news is a bit of a surprise after Thomas absolutely went off in the final preseason game against the Giants’ backups, posting a 7-87-2 receiving line.  But Thomas, who was just activated from the PUP list 11 days ago and is only eight months removed from another Achilles tear, admitted he still felt a bit “rusty”.  Cutting Thomas right now saves the Patriots over $2.7 million against the cap, leaving behind just $150K in dead money.  It would not be a shock is Thomas and the Patriots negotiated a return after Week 1, when veteran salaries are no longer guaranteed.

 

For now, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry get bumps, along with Phillip Dorsett, behind Nos. 1 and 2 receivers Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman.

– – –

QB JARRETT STIDHAM is the new JIMMY GAROPPOLO.  NBC Sports Boston:

 

“A lot of mistakes.”

 

That’s how Jarrett Stidham summed up his performance in four preseason games. But not everyone agrees with the Patriots rookie quarterback.

 

Take one NFL scout, who marveled at how the fourth-round pick has looked thus far while also repeating a refrain that many other NFL players, coaches, scouts, and fans have asked about the Patriots over the past two decades.

 

“How the f–k do they always do this? Kid falls right into their laps and looks like the second coming,” the scout told Bleacher Report. “It’s like Bill [Belichick] and Josh [McDaniels] undid all the damage Auburn did to him.”

 

After playing behind a mediocre-at-best offensive line at Auburn last year, Stidham has seized the opportunity to replace Brian Hoyer as Tom Brady’s backup in 2019. He finished second in the NFL in passing yards in preseason play, completing 61-of-90 passes for 731 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception, demonstrating command of the play book and developing chemistry with his receivers.

 

“I think whatever decision is made, whatever my role is on this team, that’s what I’m going to do,” Stidham said when asked if he would be comfortable as the Pats’ No. 2 QB this season. “Whatever it is, I’m going to continue to work as hard as I possibly can to do that and to help the team in whatever way I can, so that’s kind of how I’m looking at it.”

 

And while it’s way too early to anoint Stidham as the “second coming,” Patriots fans are hoping that the team once again struck gold on an unheralded quarterback taken in the late rounds of the draft.

– – –

Apparently the condition of C DAVID ANDREWS is such that he will not be designated to return.

 

Patriots center David Andrews was placed on season-ending injured reserve, Rapoport reported.

 

Earlier in the week, Andrews was hospitalized for a blood clot in his lungs. While Andrews was released from the hospital, he will not return to the team this season and the Patriots are left to replace their four-year starting center. That plan is already in flux after trades for linemen Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor during the week.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Adam Gase wanted nothing to do with deposed GM Mark Maccagnan’s 3rd-round pick from the Gators.  Eric He of YahooSports.com:

 

Usually, third-round selections in the NFL draft are pretty safe in terms of making the team’s roster.

 

Except if that team is the New York Jets.

 

In what can only be politely described as a comedy of errors, the Jets drafted Florida pass rusher Jachai Polite in the third round despite him turning in a disastrous combine. They then fired GM Mike Maccagnan in May and brought in Joe Douglas the following month, meaning that Douglas was strapped with all of Maccagnan’s draft picks.

 

When it came time for NFL cut day, that meant we got to see how much the two executives differed. And Douglas obviously did not agree with the selection of Polite, cutting him on Saturday, according to multiple reports.

 

The Jets ignored the warning signs that flared at the combine, despite Polite being projected to go in the first round.

 

His 4.84-second 40-yard dash was third worst among edge rushers and he pulled out of some drills due to a questionable hamstring injury. He also aired out publicly the questions he was asked in interviews with the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

 

If there was any optimism that Polite might turn a page in the NFL, it was quickly erased by his preseason performance, which proved that he would be more of a project than the Jets would have liked.

 

But there is talent in the 21-year-old. Polite did not record 15.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss in college by accident. He’ll probably find another team, and the Jets need to move on from what was a bad call by the previous regime.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2020 DRAFT

We only watched the fourth quarter – but was anyone else singularly unimpressed by QB JUSTIN HERBERT of Oregon in crunch time Saturday night? 

 

The Ducks had the ball twice in the fourth quarter, needing to control the ball to win the game.  One punt, one failed fourth down where Herbert stayed down on a minor hit, was attended to and couldn’t play the decisive fourth down failure.

 

He may end up in Canton’s class of 2048, but we still haven’t seen anything other than his tangible height and arm strength to take him in the top of the first round.