AROUND THE NFL

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Hunker down for a long holdout between the Cowboys and RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT.  This tweet from Jane Slater of NFL.com:

 

@SlaterNFL

 How close is this Zeke deal to getting done? A source informed told me, “close? Nope.” So, what are the sticking points? The guarantee? Length? “Everything” #ZekeWatch

 

Unspoken in the whole thing is the knucklehead factor.  If you are the Cowboys, are you really comfortable in giving tens of millions guaranteed to someone with Elliott’s combustible record off the field?

 

But as Daniel Jeremiah tweeted, the Cowboys have kind of backed themselves into a corner.

 

@MoveTheSticks

This DAL roster is Zeke dependent. The offense runs through him. Was it smart to build the team around him? That’s another issue but it is built around him.  That’s why he has leverage. If they had 3 stud WRs, great TE & top tier QB, they could call his bluff. They don’t.

 

This from Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Dallas Cowboys want to keep their young core intact, but don’t want to pay top-dollar to do so.

 

With Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper all actively seeking new deals, Dallas is attempting to juggle giving the key players what the market dictates and keeping its own flexibility.

 

Speaking on 1310 The Ticket on Wednesday, Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones said the Cowboys don’t want to be a “market-setter.”

 

“We’ve got three really good football players that we’re dealing with here and that have very good representation. And they want to see the market,” Jones said, via Jon Machota of The Athletic. “We can’t push the issue unless we want to be a market-setter. And we’re damn sure not going to be a market-setter, because of all the things that go with being a Dallas Cowboy.

 

“We want to be fair. We want our players to feel good about their contract. But at the same time, we don’t want to do things that are out of line because we can’t afford to be that way. Whether it’s Dak, whether it’s Amari, whether it’s Zeke, they all understand we’ve got a whole group of young players coming behind them that want to be Dallas Cowboys and want to stay here. When we save money, whether it’s with Dak, whether it’s with Zeke, whether it’s with Amari, it’s not saving Jerry and I a dollar. It’s just money that’s going to go to another player. … We’re very convicted that we’re going to get these deals done.”

 

Jones noted Byron Jones, Jaylon Smith and La’el Collins among those players the Cowboys also need to keep in order to remain a playoff contender down the line.

 

“All these are guys that are so important to our football team,” Jones said. “I promise you, Zeke, Dak, Amari all understand that.”

 

Stephen Jones’ insistence that the Cowboys can’t pay every top-of-market dollar echoes the sentiments of his father, Jerry Jones, earlier in the week. After years of overpaying to keep his own players, it appears a new Jerry Jones is showing restraint.

 

The Jones’ comments mesh with NFL Network’s Jane Slater’s report this week that the Cowboys didn’t like the way Todd Gurley’s contract was structured and are trying to reset the market with Zeke.

 

Resetting the market, in this case, doesn’t mean being market-setters.

 

With Michael Thomas earning a record-setting $20 million per year on his new five-year, $100 million extension with the New Orleans Saints, Stephen Jones was asked Wednesday if it raises the price for Cooper.

 

“No. I think it’s probably in line with what we were thinking,” Jones said. “I’ve got a little better numbers than that. … We’ve drilled down on it and got some good numbers.”

 

Whether those numbers are “good” for the Cowboys or “good” for Cooper remains to be seen.

 

Elliott’s holdout with two years left on his rookie contract is currently the negotiation garnering the most attention as it threatens to stretch deep into training camp with Zeke spending his time in Cabo.

 

“Do we like it? Of course not,” Jones said of Elliott’s holdout. “Do we think there’s a better way to handle things? We do. Are we focused and convicted on getting Zeke a contract? We are.”

 

Focused and making strides are two different viewpoints.

 

 

WASHINGTON

With the relationship fractured, the Redskins are shopping T TRENT WILLIAMS.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Trent Williams has made it reasonably clear he wants out of Washington.

 

It appears the team is now taking him seriously.

 

According to Jeff Howe of TheAthletic.com, Washington is “having trade discussions” regarding the Pro Bowl left tackle.

 

Williams is reportedly unhappy with the team over the handling of a medical issue this offseason. He had a benign tumor/growth removed from his scalp.

 

He also has two years left on his contract and could reasonably be considered underpaid.

 

Team officials have denied that the issues with Williams were that serious, and made it clear they wanted him back. It’s also unclear whether team president Bruce Allen’s phone is simply ringing from teams gauging the market or whether he’s the one dialing the numbers.

 

Regardless, moving Williams now would be a huge problem for a team breaking in a new quarterback, one way or another. Donald Penn was signed and has experience, but that’s a huge step down for the protection of either Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The first round pick of the Falcons, T KALEB McGEARY, has a chronic irregular heart beat. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

 

Falcons rookie offensive lineman Kaleb McGary will undergo a cardiac ablation procedure Wednesday afternoon, the team announced.

 

The team called the procedure minimally-invasive. It takes four hours and is similar to two previous procedures McGary has undergone in his playing career. A potential recovery timetable is expected following the procedure, according to the Falcons. McGary, who played 47 of 53 possible games at the University of Washington, could be out six to eight weeks, according to ESPN.com.The procedure if performed to correct heart rhythm problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, cardiac ablation is a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in the heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm. During the procedure, usually long, flexible tubes (catheters) are inserted through a vein or artery in your groin and threaded to your heart to deliver energy in the form of heat or extreme cold to modify the tissues that cause an arrhythmia.McGary left practice on Tuesday with what the team described as an illness.

 

McGary, who’s in a battle with Ty Sambrailo for the starting right tackle spot, was selected in the first round (31st overall) of the NFL draft. After the draft, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was asked if the team was comfortable with McGary’s previous heart procedures.  “Yes, we were,” Dimitroff said at the post-draft press conference.

 

McGary’s heart problems first started in high school, according to the Seattle Times.  His heart arrhythmia caused him to lose consciousness while playing in a basketball game at Fife High School in January of 2013.There were three subsequent procedures, according to the Times. Dr. Kimberly Harmon, University of Washington head team physician, said McGary was “thoroughly” evaluated by the specialists and noted that he went through regular checkups. “Above and beyond what we put the other kids through,” Harmon told the Times. Harmon contended that McGary’s issues were and are not life-threatening, but said “just performance-limiting.” McGary was signed to a four-year, $10.2 million deal on May 10. A total of $9.1 million of the deal was guaranteed.

 

Four hours of a “minimal” invasion.

 

Must be a heckuva player to spend a first round pick on.

 

 

CAROLINA

RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFERY will play less, but not lose any touches.  Or at least, that’s the preseason plan.  Brendan Marks of the Charlotte Observer:

 

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has made it abundantly clear: Carolina doesn’t intend to stop giving Christian McCaffrey a heavy workload — it just wants to manage some of the extra snaps he takes to best protect his health.

 

“The goal is to cut down on his plays, but we’re not going to take away his touches,” Rivera said after training camp practice Wednesday at Wofford College. “We want the ball in Christian’s hands. When he’s on the field, there’s no reason for him to be a decoy or be a swing guy.

 

“That’s what coach Norv (Turner) wants to do. He basically said that the other day when he talked to you guys: We don’t want to take away the touches. What we want to do is take away the excess plays that he doesn’t have to be out there.”

 

When Turner, who is entering his second season as offensive coordinator, spoke to reporters Monday, he said the Panthers will continue to funnel their offense through McCaffrey because he’s so dynamic.

 

 “We need to get someone else on the field, but we’re not going to minimize (Christian’s) carries or touches,” Turner said.

 

Turner also said he was “concerned” about McCaffrey’s touches, but Wednesday, the running back said Turner had misspoken and echoed his head coach’s thoughts about snaps vs. touches.

 

McCaffrey played 91.3 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2018, and that’s factoring in that he only played 10 offensive snaps in Week 17 against the New Orleans Saints. No other running back played even 85 percent of their team’s offensive snaps, and only two — Saquon Barkley (83 percent) and Ezekiel Elliot (82.6 percent) — played more than 80 percent.

 

McCaffrey also played the most amount of offensive snaps in the league last season with 965. Elliott was second with 890, followed by Barkley with 853 and Todd Gurley with 825. No other running back played even 750 snaps last year.

 

For reference, the Panthers’ offense averaged about 63 plays per game in 2018, which means McCaffrey played more than a full extra game’s worth of offensive snaps than any other back in the league. But he only had 326 touches last season (for 1,965 total yards), which was third-most in the league.

 

Not that McCaffrey would ever say he can’t handle that immense workload.

 

“I prepare so that I can be in the whole game,” McCaffrey said. “I felt great all last year, felt great all offseason, and I feel really good right now.

 

“The goal for me is be ready to play, be ready to get the ball as many times as possible.”

 

To cut back on McCaffrey’s snaps, the Panthers must rotate their running backs more than they did in 2018. Doing so serves a number of purposes: it keeps McCaffrey fresher — on a per-game basis and in terms of his career longevity. It also allows the Panthers’ stable of young backups — Cameron Artis-Payne, Jordan Scarlett and Elijah Holyfield — to develop.

 

“You watch the other three young guys (and Artis-Payne), they’re all guys that have a certain type of skillset,” Rivera said. “We’ve got a good mix of guys that we have to find the answers on them.”

 

What this does not mean is that the Panthers will only keep McCaffrey in the game on plays where he’s designed to get the ball. But there’s a difference between him being on the field for five plays without touching the ball versus being out there for 35 pays without the ball.

 

Even handling someone as well-conditioned as McCaffrey is, Carolina’s coaching staff has to be careful how they utilize him.

 

“He’s really put a lot of emphasis into it of trying to build up the stamina. He constantly tells me, ‘Coach, if we play 1,000 plays, I want to play 1,000 plays,’” Rivera said. “You know him, he does not want to leave the field.

 

“But for his own well-being as a football player, we have to be smart and be judicious as to when he’s out there.”

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com gets huffy about $3.75 million over the course of a 5-year deal for WR MICHAEL THOMAS.

 

Yes, $20 million per year gets halfway around the world before $19.25 million per year gets its pants on.

 

When it comes to the contract signed by Saints receiver Michael Thomas, it most definitely is not a five-year, $100 million contract extension. It’s a five-year, $96.25 million base deal, with the opportunity to bump the contract to $100 million based on performance in 2022 and 2023.

 

Here is the full breakdown of the contract, followed by some analysis.

 

1. As previously reported, Thomas gets a signing bonus of $20 million.

 

2. 2019 base salary: $1.648043 million, fully guaranteed.

 

3. 2020 base salary: $11 million, fully guaranteed.

 

4. 2021 base salary: $12.6 million, $3 million of which is fully guaranteed at signing. The remaining $9.6 million is guaranteed for injury only at signing, and it becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2021 league year.

 

5. 2021 workout bonus: $200,000, guaranteed for injury only.

 

6. 2022 base salary: $15.35 million, guaranteed for injury only and fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2022 league year.

 

7. 2022 roster bonus: $250,000, due on the fifth day of the league year. Not guaranteed.

 

8. 2022 workout bonus: $200,000, guaranteed for injury only.

 

9. 2023 base salary: $15.5 million. Not guaranteed.

 

10. 2023 roster bonus: $250,000, due on the fifth day of the league year. Not guaranteed.

 

11. 2023 workout bonus: $200,000, not guaranteed.

 

12. 2023 46-man per-game roster bonuses: $31,250, with a maximum of $500,000.

 

13. 2024 base salary: $18.5 million. Not guaranteed.

 

14. 2024 roster bonus: $250,000, due on the fifth day of the league year. Not guaranteed.

 

15. 2024 workout bonus: $200,000, not guaranteed.

 

16. 2024 46-man per-game roster bonuses: $46,875, with a maximum of $750,000.

 

For 2023 and 2024, the deal has escalators that max out at $1.875 million each year, with $375,000 payable based on each of five different triggers tied to achievements in 2022 and 2023, respectively: 12 touchdowns, 1,400 receiving yards, 1,400 and a playoff berth, 100 receptions, and 100 receptions and a playoff berth.

 

Thus, it’s a base deal of $96.25 million. To get to $100 million, Thomas needs to do each of the following in 2022 and 2023: Catch 100 passes, gain 1,400 yards, score 12 touchdowns, and get to the playoffs.

 

The full guarantee at signing is $35.64 million, covering the first two years and a slice of 2021. For the bulk of 2021 and all of 2022 through 2024, it’s a series of year-to-year team-held options.

 

And even if it truly were a $100 million deal, Thomas wouldn’t be the first non-quarterback to get there, despite reports characterizing it that way. Larry Fitzgerald signed a $120 million contract in 2011, and Calvin Johnson signed a deal worth up to $132 million in 2012.

 

But, again, it’s not a $100 million deal. It’s a $96.25 million deal. And the rolling guarantees give the Saints plenty of flexibility beyond 2020, if Thomas isn’t performing at a high level, or perhaps if the Saints don’t have a quarterback who can get the most out of Thomas.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The late Pat Bowlen is going into the Hall of Fame.  Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com collects some memories of the Broncos owner:

 

His tenure was marked by as many Super Bowl trips — seven — as losing seasons. The Broncos won 13 division titles, seven AFC championships and three Super Bowls between his purchase of the team in 1984 and his death in June.

 

There are 30-somethings in Denver whose entire football lives have been filled with wins and the ever-present pursuit of the Super Bowl as Bowlen annually made no secret he believed his team should “go 16-0” and “be No. 1 in everything.”

 

Bowlen was the only owner in the NFL to have had four different head coaches reach the Super Bowl, and his team is the only one to have at least 90 wins in three consecutive decades.

 

‘It was never about him’

Rod Smith, former Broncos wide receiver: “Mr. B, man, that guy was a champion, a success, he knew what it took to get everybody going in the same direction. He had that ability to be the boss and still make everyone feel like they were empowered to do the best they could do. It was never about him, you know? It was always about the Broncos, the players, the coaches, never about him.”

 

John Elway, Broncos president of football operations/general manager: “Pat’s greatest strength, to me, was how he made you feel. He guided the organization, made decisions, listened to opinions, tried to hire the best people, and he made it clear the Denver Broncos were about trying to be world champions all the time. But he did it while letting people do their jobs and he made everyone feel like they had a piece in it. And the credit always went to other people from him. But really he was behind it all.”

 

Bowlen (in 2006): “I’ve said I would much rather operate behind the curtain and let the athletes and the coaches be the entertainment. I do believe that. I think that’s the way it should be.”

 

The pain of 1996

The Broncos went 13-3 in 1996, earning home-field advantage in the playoffs. Former coach Mike Shanahan said he believed the team was poised “to do something special, I think we all believed that, I mean we were top five in offense and defense that year.” And yet, the Jacksonville Jaguars upset the Broncos 30-27 at home in the divisional round, bringing a shocking end to the year.

 

Shanahan: “We lose to Jacksonville; they frickin’ beat us at home. We were a good football team, but if you’re a good team, you have to beat Jacksonville in that situation. I told Pat ‘I didn’t do a very good job of preparing us.’ … We weren’t ready to play, we weren’t physical, you can’t lose a game like that if you’re a head coach. And how we played was a reflection of that and I told Pat ‘I’m responsible, I didn’t do a good job in that situation.’ But he said we needed to do everything possible not to let it happen again, the get back to work, it was a big part of the next two years when we did get it done.”

 

Smith: “Everybody in that locker room, from John on, wanted to make sure it never happened again. You don’t forget that kind of loss because you really don’t know what will happen, you don’t really know if you’ll really get another chance.”

 

Elway: “We weren’t going to let that happen again. We carried that. I think you could see that when we did win it.”

 

‘This one’s for John’

The Broncos went 12-4 in 1997, finishing second to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. They overpowered the Jaguars 42-17 in the wild-card game, won 14-10 against Kansas City and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-21 in the AFC Championship Game. Super Bowl XXXII against the favored Green Bay Packers marked Elway’s fourth trip to the title game, with three of those being crushing defeats.

 

Smith: “We just had that feeling we could do what we needed to do. That we could play any kind of game we needed to.”

 

Elway: “You look back and I think I had 123 yards (passing) in the game, not one of those huge games, for sure. But we were a tough team, with T.D. (running back Terrell Davis) on offense, and we prepared and we worked.”

 

Former Broncos guard Mark Schlereth: “We were tested, we could play with toughness. I don’t think we felt like we could be kept from where we wanted to go.”

 

Elway: “I’ll always remember how it felt when we won. Just everything that had gone into it, 15 years, disappointments, big games, some big wins, the guys you played with. I’ll always remember that.”

 

Davis, who was the game’s MVP: “Greatest feeling. It’s always yours. You and the guys you played with are always a Super Bowl champion. And Mr. B put the stamp on it forever.”

 

Just minutes after the Broncos’ win, Bowlen took the microphone on the victory stand and said: “There’s one thing I want to say here tonight, there’s only four words …”

 

Bowlen then picked up the Lombardi Trophy with his right hand and held it aloft as he said:

 

“This one’s for John.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

QB BAKER MAYFIELD briefly yelled at some receivers.  Stop the presses.  Jake Trotter of ESPN.com:

 

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has already shown that he isn’t afraid to get after his star wide receivers.

 

Over the weekend, Mayfield briefly screamed at his receiving corps for not working their way back to him while he was scrambling.

 

Mayfield explained Wednesday that blowing up on them that way was about getting on the same page as the offense.

 

“Those guys know that’s a big part of our offense. And they know that,” said Mayfield, who can be a prolific playmaker through the air scrambling outside the pocket. “It’s just the fact that if we get lazy and let things slide — we need to be open to communicating right now.

 

“That’s what the good teams do.”

 

Among the big questions surrounding the upstart Browns this training camp has been how star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will gel with the second-year quarterback.

 

Mayfield noted that so far he and Beckham — along with leading returning receiver Jarvis Landry — have been able to talk through any missteps or miscues that have surfaced on the field as they continue to establish chemistry.

 

“Absolutely. And there’s an appreciation from my end that [Beckham] has been able to come communicate and talk through things,” Mayfield said. “Just being able to talk through things and see it from their perspective and mine is really good.”

 

Coach Freddie Kitchens has said that he has no issue with Mayfield yelling at his receivers or any other player on the team.

 

“I expect my quarterback to get everybody on the same page,” said Kitchens, a former quarterback at Alabama. “That’s what I want.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

This from Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on QB JACOBY BRISSETT:

 

The Colts resisted the temptation to trade Jacoby Brissett this offseason, putting a high price on their backup quarterback.

 

And while it’s probably too soon to panic about starter Andrew Luck‘s calf strain (Narrator voice: It’s never too soon to panic), they do feel good about the progress Brissett has made.

 

Via Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star, Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said Brissett had a “firmer grasp” on the offense.

 

“I think any time a guy gets reps, a lot of reps, that’s huge for us as a team,” Sirianni said. “Obviously, yeah, you want Andrew out there, but when a guy’s getting some reps and getting the timing down with the receivers, the snap count and cadence, and the calls down with the center and the offensive line, that’s invaluable.

 

“What I think he’s really done is gain the trust of everybody in the offensive huddle. They have confidence in him that he’s going to get the job done.”

 

For his part, Brissett didn’t want to make a big deal of the extra work he’s getting while Luck’s recovering.

 

“I’m not worrying about that,” he said. “Just taking it one day at a time, you know, and just getting better at this time of the year. That’s the only thing I can focus on.”

 

Brissett’s experience as a starter (15 games for Luck in 2017) was helpful in its own way, and they hope they don’t need him that much. But in case they do, they think he’s in a better position this year.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

There is more to QB TOM BRADY in 2019.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Pliability has been the buzzword of the TB12 Method, Tom Brady‘s approach to fitness. But this offseason Brady trained a little more like an old-school football player, adding muscle mass.

 

Brady said he decided to add muscle because he thinks it will help him take punishment.

 

“I wanted to get a little bigger this year and put on a few more pounds and try to absorb the hits a little bit more,” he said, via ESPN. “I worked pretty hard at that.”

 

Brady, who will turn 42 on Saturday, has managed to stay remarkably healthy in his NFL career. A torn ACL in 2008 is the only injury that has ever caused him to miss playing time. He thinks putting on muscle will be part of staying healthy for what he hopes is at least a few more years in the NFL.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

THE TOP 100

NFL.com’s Top 100 list has been revealed.  We’ll boldface the 15 QBs.

 

Rank   Player                            Position         team                               Rank change

1          Aaron Donald                 DT               Los Angeles Rams                  +6

2          Drew Brees                   QB               New Orleans Saints              +6

3          Khalil Mack                    LB                Chicago Bears                         +13

4          Patrick Mahomes         QB               Kansas City Chiefs               NR

5          Todd Gurley                  RB                Los Angeles Rams                  +1

6          Tom Brady                   QB                New England Patriots           -5

7          Antonio Brown              WR                Pittsburgh/Oakland                 -5

8          Aaron Rodgers            QB                Green Bay Packers               +2

9          Julio Jones                   WR                 Atlanta Falcons                      -5

10        Von Miller                     LB                   Denver Broncos                    -1

11        DeAndre Hopkins          WR                Houston Texans                    +2

12        J.J. Watt                        DE                 Houston Texans                    +72

13        Michael Thomas            WR                New Orleans Saints              +68

14        Alvin Kamara                 RB                 New Orleans Saints              +6

15        Bobby Wagner              LB                  Seattle Seahawks                 +6

16        Saquon Barkley            RB                  New York Giants                   NR

17        Phillip Rivers                QB                Los Angeles Chargers         +39

18        Ezekiel Elliott                RB                  Dallas Cowboys                     +36

19        Tyreek Hill                    WR                 Kansas City Chiefs                 +21

20        Andrew Luck                QB                Indianapolis Colts                 NR

21        Travis Kelce                  TE                  Kansas City Chiefs                 +3

22        Stephon Gilmore           CB                 New England Patriots             NR

23        Odell Beckham Jr.        WR                 Giants/Cleveland                    +54

24        Luke Kuechly                LB                   Carolina Panthers                  -12

25        Russell Wilson             QB                 Seattle Seahawks                 -14

26        Darius Leonard             LB                  Indianapolis Colts                   NR

27        Jalen Ramsey               CB                 Jacksonville Jaguars               -10

28        Fletcher Cox                 DT                  Philadelphia Eagles                +41

29        George Kittle                 TE                  San Francisco 49ers              NR

30        Eddie Jackson               S                    Chicago Bears                       NR

31        Derwin James                S                    Los Angeles Chargers           NR

32        Jared Goff                     QB                Los Angeles Rams                +6

33        Adam Thielen                 WR                Minnesota Vikings                  +3

34        Melvin Gordon                RB                Los Angeles Chargers            NR

35        Davante Adams              WR               Green Bay Packers                 +10

36        Chris Jones                    DT                 Kansas City Chiefs                 NR

37        Jamal Adams                 S                   New York Jets                         NR

38        Keenan Allen                  WR               Los Angeles Chargers             +3

39        Akiem Hicks                   DE                 Chicago Bears                        NR

40        Zach Ertz                       TE                   Philadelphia Eagles              +28

41        Cameron Jordan            DE                  New Orleans Saints              -15

42        Christian McCaffrey       RB                  Carolina Panthers                 NR

43        David Bakhtiari               T                    Green Bay Packers               +48

44        Ben Roethlisberger      QB                Pittsburgh Steelers               -26

45        DeMarcus Lawrence      DE                 Dallas Cowboys                    -11

46        Patrick Peterson            CB                  Arizona Cardinals                 -23

47        JuJu Smith-Schuster     WR                 Pittsburgh Steelers               NR

48        Melvin Ingram                DE                  Los Angeles Chargers          +28

49        Myles Garrett                 DE                  Cleveland Browns                 NR

50        Baker Mayfield              QB                 Cleveland Browns                NR

51        Deshaun Watson          QB                 Houston Texans                   -1

52        Tyron Smith                    T                    Dallas Cowboys                    -13

53        Mike Evans                    WR                 Tampa Bay Buccaneers       NR

54        Calais Campbell             DE                 Jacksonville Jaguars             -40

55        Xavien Howard               CB                 Miami Dolphins                     NR

56        Joey Bosa                      DE                  Los Angeles Chargers          -19

57        Danielle Hunter              DE                  Minnesota Vikings                NR

58        A.J. Green                      WR                 Cincinnati Bengals               -36

59        Zack Martin                     G                    Dallas Cowboys                  +12

60        Larry Fitzgerald              WR                  Arizona Cardinals               -33

61        Jaylon Smith                  LB                   Dallas Cowboys                   NR

62        James Conner               RB                   Pittsburgh Steelers              NR

63        Jadeveon Clowney        LB                   Houston Texans                   -31        

64        Amari Cooper                 WR                 Oakland/Dallas                    NR

65        Jason Pierre-Paul           LB                  Tampa Bay Buccaneers       NR

66        Eric Ebron                       TE                 Indianapolis Colts                 NR

67        Dee Ford                         DE                Kansas City/San Francisco   NR

68        Phillip Lindsay                RB                 Denver Broncos                     NR

69        Matt Ryan                      QB               Atlanta Falcons                     -40

70        T.Y. Hilton                      WR                Indianapolis Colts                  NR

71        C.J. Mosley                    LB                  Baltimore/New York Jets       +27

72        Jason Kelce                    C                   Philadelphia Eagles              NR

73        Stefon Diggs                  WR                 Minnesota Vikings                -8

74        Leighton Vander Esch    LB                 Dallas Cowboys                    NR

75        Gerald McCoy                DT                 Tampa Bay/Carolina             NR

76        Robert Woods                WR                Los Angeles Rams               NR

77        Taylor Lewan                  T                   Tennessee Titans                 +1

78        Kirk Cousins                  QB                Minnesota Vikings               +16

79        Geno Atkins                    DT                 Cincinnati Bengals               -16

80        Mark Ingram                   RB                 New Orleans/Baltimore        -37

81        Trent Williams                  T                  Washington Redskins          -24

82        Bradley Chubb                LB                 Denver Broncos                   NR

83        Harrison Smith                 S                  Minnesota Vikings                -37

84        Jarvis Landry                  WR                Cleveland Browns                -32

85        Frank Clark                    DE                  Seattle/Kansas City             NR

86        Darius Slay                    CB                  Detroit Lions                        -37

87        Cam Newton                QB                  Carolina Panthers              -62

88        Cameron Heyward        DE                  Pittsburgh Steelers               -40

89        Devin McCourty             S                    New England Patriots          NR

90        Julian Edelman              WR                 New England Patriots         NR

91        Andrew Whitworth         T                       Los Angeles Rams              -4

92        Jurrell Casey                 DE                    Tennessee Titans               -26

93        T.J. Watt                        LB                    Pittsburgh Steelers              NR

94        Mitchell Schwartz           T                      Kansas City Chiefs              NR

95        Kyle Fuller                     CB                    Chicago Bears                    NR

96        Carson Wentz              QB                   Philadelphia Eagles           -93

97        Byron Jones                  CB                    Dallas Cowboys                  NR

98        Tyler Lockett                 WR                    Seattle Seahawks              NR

99        Derrick Henry                RB                    Tennessee Titans               NR

100      Eric Weddle                   S                      Baltimore/LA Rams             NR

 

 

Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com doesn’t like the looks of some of the rankings:

 

Lists are trouble. Lists are arbitrary. Lists are the only positive thing the internet has left to offer us.

 

So it is with NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2019,” a ranking compiled via ballots filled out by thousands of players. The result of this two-week exercise is supposed to broadly represent the hierarchy of athletes playing professional football in the United States, a counterpoint-slash-prettier cousin to “Madden” rankings as a way to grade players.

 

It asks the big questions: Who’s the best? Or at least, Who do the players think is the best? Which should be the same thing. Right?

 

As with all rankings and lists, the “Top 100” is not meant only to standardize and educate, but to ostracize and infuriate. Every year, players are left out or ranked too low, inspiring them to express their discontent on the web. These players’ umbrage is so great that, overnight, the Chips on their Shoulders multiply and their Motivation Levels rise to heights previously undetected by the league’s Motivation Meters.

 

But for those who don’t take the player-curated list so personally, there are broader themes and questions that arise out of this ranking and are worth analyzing: trends that are strange, results that are questionable and choices that are flat-out wrong.

 

Sometimes the players get it right; I personally agree with the decision to rank reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald as the game’s top footballer, the first defender to receive the honor since J.J. Watt in 2015. Good eye, professional athletes! But that doesn’t mean there aren’t faults in the ranking.

 

I’ve got five qualms, five issues with this product that does not completely align with my worldview. Here they are:

 

1) Drew Brees higher than Patrick Mahomes? In 2019?

I can understand the potential reasoning behind voting Brees ahead of Mahomes. Players of all ages, rookies and veterans, usually defer to guys who, over time, have displayed excellence and continue to do so deep into their careers. That benefits Brees. A 39-year-old in the MVP conversation leading one of the league’s most high-octane offenses toward home-field advantage? Crown him! Yeah, so it seems like some of these votes might have been tallied before the close of the 2018 season, when Brees’ long ball started to sputter, while Mahomes, on the other hand, rose to the challenge. Both QBs lost in their respective conference title games, but while Brees blew the Saints’ opening overtime possession by throwing an interception (which preceded the Rams’ game-winning field goal), Mahomes drove Kansas City 48 yards in 21 seconds to set up a game-tying field goal and send his match into overtime (where the Patriots ended matters before Mahomes could get his hands on the ball again). The player who watched all seven hours of that special Sunday would have had no choice but to place Mahomes ahead of Brees, as the reporters did at “NFL Honors” when they named the Chiefs QB the league’s Most Valuable Player.

 

2) Why did Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson plummet?

The underlying bias in this exercise is that certain players are boosted by their team’s overall performance. Would second-year safety Derwin James be so high on this list (the second-best safety at No. 31 overall, one slot behind Eddie Jackson) if the Chargers hadn’t tied for the AFC’s best record at 12-4? Is Derrick Henry even on this list if Tennessee hadn’t been a playoff contender (or if the Titans hadn’t caught the flailing Jaguars flat-footed on a short week)? The same argument can be made in the opposite direction. Great players can be penalized for their teams’ substandard seasons. Take Ryan as the clearest example. His numbers from 2018 are almost identical to those of his 2016 MVP campaign — and yet, due to Atlanta’s major injury issues and missing the postseason, Ryan dropped 40 spots from No. 29 last summer to 69. And then, what about Roethlisberger and Russ, who put up stellar statistical seasons, only to have their clubs fall short either before or in the postseason and see themselves drop 26 and 14 spots, respectively? Quarterback is the single hardest position to master in football, and maybe sports. And yet these three multi-time Pro Bowlers lose stock in the eyes of their colleagues because their clubs weren’t in the title game. Yeah, football is a team sport, but this list — the Top 100 Players list — is all about celebrating individual accomplishment. So celebrate individual accomplishment!

 

3) DeAndre Hopkins NOT in the top 10?

What more does Nuk have to do to get top-10 respect? Over the past four years, there have been just eight receiving seasons of 1,375 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Hopkins has three of them — and one of those seasons came with Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden splitting snaps under center. Woof. Pertaining to starting QBs, Hopkins has crawled through rivers of s— and come out clean on the other side. And yet, not clean enough to garner top-10 consideration. I know he’s only one spot short of the honor, but that one-gap difference feels 20 times as wide. Nuk belongs to be in the conversation with Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, who’ve benefited from outstanding QB play for their entire careers.

 

4) Fewer receivers! More offensive linemen!

I don’t want this point to make it seem like I hate “fun” or “cool catches” or “yards of separation” or what have you. That’s not the case. I just wanted to point out how imbalanced the appreciation is among players for those outside the hashes versus those in the trenches. Why are there 20 wide receivers (the most of any position group) on this ranking and just 12 offensive linemen and tight ends combined? There’s just one center (Jason Kelce) and one guard (Zack Martin). Jeez, at least two make the Pro Bowl! Where’s David DeCastro, who dropped out of the list entirely from No. 44 in 2018, or Quenton Nelson, who made first-team All-Pro in his rookie season? There’s no love for Jared Cook, whose career year kept the Raiders just barely above water last season, or O.J. Howard, who was deemed by Pro Football Focus the second-best tight end in football?

 

5) Get a Bills player on there!

Only one team does not feature at all on this year’s listicle: the Buffalo Bills. Last season, Buffalo boasted two players, LeSean McCoy and Micah Hyde; McCoy followed that up with a career-worst campaign, while Hyde had an above-average season but fell back to the pack from his 2017 Pro Bowl campaign. Listen, the Bills went 6-10, but they weren’t pitiful pushovers; Cleveland went 0-fer-friggin’-everything in 2017 and still got Carlos Hyde on the ensuing ranking. (I know, Carlos wasn’t part of the 0-16 business, having spent the 2017 season in San Francisco. Stop ruining my flow.) What do the Bills have to do to get some love from you players? Offer Buffalo News subscriptions or free round-trip tickets to Niagara Falls with ponchos included?! I have an easier solution. Go sign into NFL Game Pass, watch Matt Milano and Tre’Davious White impact plays and re-evaluate your ranking/life choices.

 

BONUS: A moment of silence for these highly paid snubs …

 

Trent Brown, OT, Oakland Raiders

Kevin Byard, S, Tennessee Titans

Landon Collins, S, Washington Redskins

Chris Harris, CB, Denver Broncos

Grady Jarrett, DT, Atlanta Falcons

David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Lane Johnson, OT, Philadelphia Eagles

Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta Falcons