AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Coach Matt Patricia is ailing.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

There’s not a list to put him on, but Lions coach Matt Patricia isn’t physically ready for training camp.

 

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Patricia was on a scooter early Thursday after having surgery on his left foot recently.

 

“Really just there’s very few times during the year where we have an opportunity to go in and kind of get things done so just pretty much been dealing with a little bit of a lower leg issue and a muscle thing, bone thing for a while,” Patricia said. “So kind of had that cleaned up. Just trying to stay off it here for a couple days, so day by day and we’ll go from there.”

 

Patricia was wearing a cast, and when they took the practice field later in the morning, he was on a golf cart.

 

“I’m really trying to be careful with it so that I don’t have any setbacks from that standpoint,” he said. “So probably a little bit overcautious, when I can be, as opposed to, it’s a long season.”

 

That means half of the NFC North’s coaches are limited in terms of mobility, after Packers coach Matt LaFleur tore his Achilles playing basketball this offseason.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

WR JULIO JONES has a massive goal for 2019.  D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

 

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell when Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is joking, or if he’s dead serious.

 

“I’m not ever going to lie to you, I’m going crazy this year,” Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after his podium session Wednesday. “I’m going crazy. I’ve been doing everything that I need to do. I’m taking care of my body. Physically and mentally, I’ll be ready to go.”Jones has been working off to the side with the training staff and is about two weeks away from fully returning from a foot injury.

 

Crazy, like 2,000 yards crazy, Jones was asked.

 

“Well, I’m not a prediction-type guy, but I might mess around and go three (thousand), you know what I’m talking about,” Jones said with a straight face.Jones had a franchise-record 136 catches and 1,871 yards receiving in 2015. Last season, Jones had 1,677 yards receiving.The league mark of 1,954 yards was set by Detroit’s Calvin Johnson in 2012.

 

Jones, who has 10,731 career receiving yards and is set to pass Roddy White (10,863) as the franchise’s leader in career receiving yards.Jones was guarded about his contract situation at the podium, but opened up some off to the side.“As far as the contract, I don’t go to sleep thinking about it,” Jones said. “I don’t wake up thinking about it. I just try to be the best person that I can be today and then when tomorrow comes, I’m going to try and be the best person I can that day.”

 

 

CAROLINA

Coach Ron Rivera says QB CAM NEWTON will be limited somewhat in camp.  Grant Gordon of NFL.com:

 

It’s been little more than a month since Panthers superstar quarterback Cam Newton started throwing a football again in front of reporters.

 

As training camp dawns for Carolina, Ron Rivera said Wednesday that his QB will have a pitch count in terms of his work at practice but otherwise “we believe he’s ready to roll,” the coach said, via the Associated Press.

 

“Well, we have a plan. Obviously it’s going to be structured around our installation, so based on the things that we have as far as going in with our install, will dictate what he does. All of his reps will be monitored, they’ll be scripted out and we’ll just follow that pattern as we go through,” Rivera said. “We believe he’ll be ready to roll. He had a good offseason, he had a good break from what we were told. Again, the proof will be in the pudding and we’ll see tomorrow exactly.”

 

The 30-year-old Newton, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was shut down and put on injured reserve at the tail end of the 2018 season, missing the final two games after playing through shoulder issues. Previous to that, he had been sitting out practices starting around Week 8.

 

In January, Newton underwent the second shoulder surgery of his eight-year career. His comeback has been and will continue to be carefully plotted.

 

“We sat down with [head trainer] Ryan Vermillion the other day, myself and [Panthers OC] Norv and [QB coach] Scott Turner and we talked about what the plan would be and how we would implement the plan,” Rivera said. “A lot of it does have to do with the way we’re going to install. There will be a count, obviously. We’re going to pay attention to the reps and see how he is the next morning every day.”

 

The Panthers stumbled to a 7-9 showing in 2018 after a 6-2 start. Hence, when Newton’s shoulder began to trouble him, so too did the team’s fortunes.

 

Rivera’s positive prognosis of Newton being ready to go couched by a cautious approach of how he will proceed in his continued recovery is a good sign for the Panthers and their biggest star.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

WR MICHAEL THOMAS wants his payday.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Another young, rising star is sitting out the start of training camp in hopes of landing a big long-term contract.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo first reported Thursday that New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas did not report to training camp with teammates. Thomas is seeking a new deal and will stay away until he gets one.

 

General manager Mickey Loomis said in June that talks of a new contract for Thomas were underway, but as of now, sides haven’t agreed on what should be a hefty payday for the 26-year-old.

 

On Wednesday, Thomas tweeted out Nipsey Hussle lyrics.

 

@Cantguardmike

 My self-educated, shrewd, negotiations. Got these sharks that I’m sittin’ at this table with afraid to bait me. 🤞🏾

 

Thomas has been Drew Bees’ go-to target since the receiver entered the league. The route-technician has surpassed the 1,100-yard barrier in each of his first three years. Thomas broke the record for receptions in his first three seasons, hauling in 321 tosses and compiling 3,787 yards with 23 TDs. In 2018, Thomas’ 85-percent catch rate (125 catches on 147 targets) topped the league, and he generated 75 receiving first downs, third-most in the NFL.

 

Thomas is the straw that stirs the Saints’ passing attack. Now he wants to be paid like it.

 

Odell Beckham Jr. currently sits as the highest-paid receiver at $18 million per season. Thomas could be looking to surpass that at a rate of upwards of $20 million per season. Thomas is among several receivers who are waiting on new deals, along with Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and A.J. Green. Depending on how the dominoes fall ahead of the regular season, the “highest-paid receiver” designation could change hands several times in the coming weeks.

 

Thomas joins Melvin Gordon, Yannick Ngakoue and Trent Williams as players skipping the start of training camp in search of new deals. Players holding out of camp are subject to daily fines of $40,000 per the CBA.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Camp is not even open and the Raiders are down their starting fullback.  Jon Becker of BayAreaNewsGroup.com:

 

The Raiders were dealt some adversity just days before training camp opens as starting fullback Keith Smith suffered a knee injury.

 

The former San Jose State product was injured while training and is expected to miss at least a few weeks, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

 

Smith will be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which leaves undrafted free agent Alec Ingold from Wisconsin as the only fullback on the roster.

 

Smith was a solid blocker for the Raiders last season after signing with Oakland following four seasons with the Cowboys. He wasn’t asked to handle the ball much at all as he had one carry (for zero yards) and five catches for 23 yards in 16 games.

 

It’s possible Oakland will add another fullback to its 90-man roster, but Ingold is an intriguing player who was the top-rated fullback available in the NFL draft.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

A medical update on Chargers T RUSSELL OKUNG.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Okung announced on social media that, after experiencing “unusual chest pain at practice,” he learned that he suffered a pulmonary embolism, caused by blood clots. Okung explained that doctors told him that the decision to seek treatment on June 1 at an urgent-care facility “likely saved my life.”

 

“When detected early, this condition is very treatable and I’m grateful to have access to the best available care as I continue on the path to recovery,” Okung said. “Thanks to an incredible medical team and a very supportive family, I hope to be back on the field as quickly as possible. While near-death experiences are certainly a wake-up call, I’m feeling great physically. It’s not an ankle or shoulder. As soon as doctors clear me, my plans include blocking #17’s blind side all the way to Miami.”

 

We wish Russell all the best as he recovers, and anyone who is suffering similar symptoms should do exactly what he did: Get checked out. It could save your life.

– – –

This on the unhappiness of RB MELVIN GORDON.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Melvin Gordon began his holdout Wednesday in an effort to secure a long-term deal.

 

Los Angles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco isn’t peeved that his top back isn’t at training camp and harbors no acrimony towards Gordon.

 

“I love Melvin Gordon,” Telesco said. “He’s an excellent player. He’s tough. He has a great work ethic and represents our organization extremely well. But he’s not here.

 

“I understand his thoughts and opinions of what he’s going through. I always look at the player’s side, so I can see it. It doesn’t mean I agree with it, but I can kind of see what his thought process is.”

 

The final sentence underscores the crux of the discrepancy between Gordon and the Chargers.

 

As a workhorse running back who since being drafted 15th overall in 2015 has amassed the second-most offensive touches in the NFL (1,079), third-most scrimmage yards (5,205), and third most scrimmage TDs (38), Gordon believes he’s earned a long-term deal with a load of guarantees.

 

The Chargers, while acknowledging Gordon is an asset, don’t want to pay the running back position that sort of value. L.A. is comfortable relying on cheaper options like Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson.

 

“I’m not naive: I know we’re better with Melvin Gordon,” Telesco said, via ESPN’s Eric D. Williams. “But we’ve got a strong group of guys that are here, and it’s their time to work and get ready to go.”

 

The standoff is about positional value.

 

Proving running backs matter and should get paid is tough sledding in the current climate. It’s what Le’Veon Bell fought for. It’s what people will point to after Todd Gurley got his contract and is now dealing with a knee issue. It’s what Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott, and every other running back who wants to be paid will battle.

 

Sadly for Gordon, he has little leverage on his side. Set to make $5.6 million this season, the running back must report at some point this season or that year will simply toll to the next. Then the Chargers could slap the franchise tag on him next year and possibly even the following. The team owns three years of leverage. Oh, and they can fine him $40,000 for each day of training camp missed.

 

“My only thought process is he’s playing here,” Telesco said. “He’s an L.A. Charger.”

 

Gordon is a Charger, but he’s not with the Chargers currently.

 

Given Telesco’s comments don’t expect the team to come off their position anytime soon.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

From his new perch in Baltimore, S EARL THOMAS has no regrets for how he exited Seattle.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

One day, Earl Thomas hopes to retire as a Seattle Seahawk. In the present, the current Baltimore Ravens safety still harbors strong feelings towards former coach Pete Carroll.

 

Thomas told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he doesn’t apologize for flipping Carroll the middle finger after he got injured in what would be his final game with the Seahawks.

 

“I don’t regret my decision,” Thomas said. “If my teammates felt like it was towards them, then I regret that part, but I don’t regret doing it to Pete.”

 

The superstar safety flipped Carroll the bird on the field, but it was the off-field histrionics that boiled over for Thomas, who believed that the coach and front office weren’t being genuine in their desire to re-sign him.

 

“It’s a business at the end of the day,” Thomas said. “I think my time just ran out. Pete and the front office, we just didn’t, they didn’t value me, I guess, like they used to. And I had just talked to coach Carroll. He was saying how he was trying to get me in their plans, of getting a new contract. But I got hurt the next week and I think I hurt myself too by my actions getting carted off the field. … I gave Pete the middle finger because I felt like he wasn’t being honest with me.”

 

Added Thomas: “I was basically talking s— to Pete because I knew what happened, because I had been through it before. I knew it was broke. Like when Pete came trying to act like he was concerned, I was like, You won, bro. Just kept moving.”

 

The 30-year-old, who said he hasn’t spoken to Carroll since, relayed that his relationship with the team soured after they didn’t see eye to eye on a new contract.

 

“I feel like we’ve got to walk with each other for the rest of our lives because we won a Super Bowl together. But they’ll love you one minute and they’ll hate you the next,” he said. “I feel like that was our relationship. … It’s just how it is in the game. It’s just how it is. I’m not speaking for every coach. That’s just my experience.”

 

Thomas also said he almost signed in Kansas City on a one-year deal before the Ravens swooped in with an offer he couldn’t refuse (four years, $55 million).

 

When those Ravens travel to Seattle on Oct. 20, all eyes will be on Thomas to see if he has any other gestures for Carroll.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

The Steelers stay all in on Mike Tomlin as he gets an extension.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Steelers have only had three head coaches since the start of the 1969 season and that’s set to remain the case through at least the 2021 season.

 

The team announced on Thursday that Mike Tomlin has signed a one-year contract extension. His deal was set to expire after next season and the Steelers missed the playoffs last year, but the team still decided the time was right to affirm their commitment.

 

“I am pleased to announce we have extended Mike Tomlin’s contract through the 2021 season,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement. “Mike is one of the most successful head coaches in the National Football League, and we are confident in his leadership to continue to lead our team as we pursue our goal of winning another championship.”

 

Tomlin is entering his 13th season as the Steelers coach. He’s 125-66-1 in the regular season and 8-7 in the playoffs, including a victory in Super Bowl XLIII that made him the youngest coach in league history to win a Super Bowl.

 

Tomlin, with 12 seasons in the books, ranks 3rd in the NFL in continuity behind only Bill Belichick (19 seasons with New England) and Sean Payton (hired by New Orleans in 2006, one year prior to Tomlin).  Since Payton was docked a year by NFL Justice for Bountygate, you could argue that Tomlin, hired in 2007, has equal total tenure and longer continuous tenure.

 

With 125 wins, Tomlin has seven more than Payton for 2nd behind Belichick.  He is still only 47 years old.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

TENNESSEE

T TAYLOR LEWAN thinks that lack of intent can be a defense for an NFL drug suspension.  We don’t think so.  Turron Davenport of ESPN.com:

 

Tennessee Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan is facing a suspension after a test came up positive for the banned substance ostarine, according to a post he made via social media Wednesday.

 

@TaylorLewan77

 Thank you to everyone who sees this video and supports me. My family and I are so grateful to the Tennessee Titans organization and fans for your support. I will post the polygraph information next. #NoBadDays

 

A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Lewan’s A sample tested positive this summer but that the results of his B sample had not come back yet. If the samples match, he would face a four-game suspension.

 

Lewan, who will dispute the test results in an appeal, said he didn’t knowingly use a banned substance.

 

“I’ve never taken anything that would cheat the game. I’m so sorry to the Tennessee Titans,” Lewan said before pausing, taking a deep breath and wiping his eyes. “I’m sorry to the Titans, to the fans, that I won’t be there for four games. I’ve never cheated myself, and I never want you guys to feel cheated. And I’m sorry. But I’m going to be better for this. I’m going to come back.”

 

Lewan also posted apparent polygraph results on Instagram, and he said his supplements were tested by a third party.

 

He became the league’s highest-paid offensive lineman last season after signing a five-year, $80 million deal that included $50 million guaranteed.

 

The Titans open up the season with a tough stretch of games that includes the Browns, Colts, Jaguars and Falcons.

– – –

Meanwhile, the highest-paid safety in the game now plays for the Titans.  Davenport of ESPN:

 

The Tennessee Titans and safety Kevin Byard have agreed to terms on a multiyear contract, the team announced Wednesday.

 

The deal is for $70.5 million over five years and includes $31 million in guarantees, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That makes Byard, who has the same agent as fellow star safeties Landon Collins and Earl Thomas, the highest-paid safety in NFL history.

 

Byard, who did not receive an invite to the NFL scouting combine, is entering his fourth season after being drafted in the third round (64th overall) by the Titans in 2016. He has since played in all 48 games for Tennessee, including starts in all 32 games over the past two seasons. He has played 99.7% of defensive snaps since 2017.

 

Known as one of the best all-around safeties in the league, Byard has 124 solo tackles and 12 interceptions over the past two years, including a career-high eight interceptions in 2017. He played in the Pro Bowl and was named to the All-Pro first team that season.

 

No safety has more interceptions than Byard over the past three seasons.

 

“He’s always been a ball hawk, somebody who can find and catch the ball,” Byard’s agent, David Mulugheta, told ESPN. “In a passing league, those types of guys are invaluable.

 

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots have turned to veteran TE LANCE KENDRICKS.  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

The New England Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Lance Kendricks, the team announced Wednesday.

 

The deal is for one-year, according to Kendricks’ agent, David Canter.

 

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Kendricks, who has played for the Rams (2011-16) and Packers (2017-18), adds another veteran option at a position where the Patriots are transitioning without the retired Rob Gronkowski.

 

Kendricks has totaled 241 catches for 2,505 yards and 19 touchdowns over his career. Last season, he played in all 16 regular-season games for the Packers, amassing 19 receptions for 170 yards and one touchdown.

 

The Patriots are thin at tight end, with four-year veteran Matt LaCosse — who had a career-high 24 receptions last season with the Denver Broncos — among those atop the depth chart. Veteran Benjamin Watson, 38, is also in the mix but will serve a four-game NFL suspension to open the season.

 

Former practice squad player Stephen Anderson and 2018 seventh-round draft choice Ryan Izzo are also vying for roster spots at the position, along with undrafted Andrew Beck.

 

Kendricks, who entered the NFL as a second-round draft choice in 2011, played in college at Wisconsin under Bret Bielema, who is in his second season on the Patriots’ coaching staff.

 

He also played under Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as a rookie with the Rams in 2011.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

After a year to rest, RB Le’VEON BELL wants to break the bank for handling the ball.  He wants to break a 35-year old record.  Joseph Zucker of Bleacher Report:

 

Having sat out the 2018 season, Le’Veon Bell is prepared to test his physical limits in his first year with the New York Jets.

 

Bell told reporters Thursday at the team’s training camp he’s prepared to register 500 touches in order to help the offense.

 

James Wilder owns the single-season record for total touches (492). He had 407 carries and 85 receptions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1984.

 

Bell had a league-high 406 touches in 2017, running for 1,291 yards and catching 85 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns.

 

There’s at least one recent precedent for the three-time Pro Bowler to pick up from where he left off two years ago following an extended break that wasn’t related to an injury.

 

Adrian Peterson appeared in only one game in 2014 after the NFL placed him on the commissioner’s exempt list and ultimately suspended him for hitting his four-year-old son with a switch.

 

Peterson returned to the field in 2015 and led the NFL in both rushing yards (1,485) and rushing touchdowns (11).

 

The Jets will have to be conscious of Bell’s workload, though. They signed him to a four-year, $52.5 million deal, so they need him to deliver beyond just 2019. New York also has to consider the wear and tear he has already put on his body.

 

Even with his season off, Bell is 10th among active players in career touches (1,541). His yards per carry fell from 4.9 in 2016 to 4.0 in 2017, which led some to question whether he’s already beginning to experience the steady decline that’s becoming typical for elite running backs.

 

Bell’s comment is encouraging in that he’s willing to do whatever the Jets ask of him, but it’s hard to see how 500 touches would represent a positive development for him or the team.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

QB TIERS

Mike Sando, a former ESPNer, is now at The Athletic.  He has 55 NFL insiders who are willing to help him rank NFL QBs in Tiers as each season starts. 

 

If you don’t want to scroll further down, here is how they line up –

 

Tier 1

 

AARON RODGERS, Green Bay

TOM BRADY, New England

DREW BREES, New Orleans

ANDREW LUCK, Indianapolis

PHILIP RIVERS, LA Chargers

BEN ROETHLISBERGER, Pittsburgh

RUSSELL WILSON, Seattle

 

Tier 2

 

MATT RYAN, Atlanta

CARSON WENTZ, Philadelphia

MATTHEW STAFFORD, Detroit

DESHAUN WATSON, Houston

JARED GOFF, LA Rams

BAKER MAYFIELD, Cleveland

 

Tier 3

 

CAM NEWTON, Carolina

KIRK COUSINS, Minnesota

DAK PRESCOTT, Dallas

NICK FOLES, Jacksonville

JIMMY GAROPPOLO, San Francisco

DEREK CARR, Oakland

JOE FLACCO, Denver

ANDY DALTON, Cincinnati

JAMEIS WINSTON, Tampa Bay

ELI MANNING, NY Giants

MITCHELL TRUBISKY, Chicago

MARCUS MARIOTA, Tennessee

SAM DARNOLD, NY Jets

 

Tier 4

 

LAMAR JACKSON, Baltimore

JOSH ALLEN, Buffalo

RYAN FITZPATRICK, Miami

CASE KEENUM, Washington

JOSH ROSEN, Miami

 

The whole thing is immense task and that which we present below is in edited form:

 

Welcome to my sixth annual Quarterback Tiers survey. As “QB Tiers” makes its debut on The Athletic after five years at ESPN, a short primer is in order.

 

Fifty-five NFL coaches and executives contributed to the survey this year by placing all veteran starting quarterbacks into one of five tiers and then offering insights into their thinking.

 

Tier 1 is reserved for the best, while Tier 5 is so poor that no starters received a majority of votes in that tier this year.

– – –

The rankings are not gospel. No single voter agrees with the final results exactly. There are quarterbacks I’d move higher or lower if filling out my own ballot. This is a composite look at what the league thinks of its quarterbacks and why.

 

I’ve defined each tier based on input collected over the years during hundreds of discussions with coaches and evaluators. Tier definitions are spelled out below, atop each section. Generally speaking, the better the tier, the less help the quarterback needs from his defense and running game to succeed. Every quarterback resides within the tier for which he received the most votes.

 

Only non-rookie starters were included, on the thinking that mixing rookies with veterans would create an apples-to-oranges dynamic.

 

The Miami Dolphins have two quarterbacks in this survey. Thirty teams are represented once. The Arizona Cardinals, with rookie Kyler Murray identified as the clear starter, are the only team not represented.

 

Tier 1

A Tier 1 quarterback can carry his team each week. The team wins because of him. He expertly handles pure passing situations.

 

AARON RODGERS, Green Bay

Tier 1 votes: 53 | Tier 2 votes: 2

 

Rodgers has at least tied for the top spot six times in six years of QB Tiers balloting, but some voters were less enthusiastic this time around. Two even placed Rodgers in the second tier, the first time Rodgers received a second-tier vote since 2014, when he was coming off an injury.

 

“It was always Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy’s fault, and when it gets to be two people’s fault, then you wonder,” a GM who nonetheless placed Rodgers in the top tier said. “You see the body language and then you realize the heroics come when there is nothing to lose.”

 

Those most critical of Rodgers raised concerns about him becoming less coachable, going for big plays instead of running the offense, failing to get Green Bay into the playoffs and losing some dynamism through cumulative injuries.

– – –

Another Rodgers defender said he charted all the catchable passes Rodgers delivered that were not caught through the bulk of last season. His conclusion: Rodgers’ incomplete passes were better than a lot of starters’ highlights.

 

“Debating whether Rodgers is in the top tier is the equivalent of asking whether LeBron James is the best basketball player,” a defensive backs coach said, “because he is just so gifted with some of his abilities, and there is no way you can say a Matt Ryan is better even though there could be some years statistically where a case can be made.”

 

TOM BRADY, New England

Tier 1 votes: 52 | Tier 2 votes: 3

 

Go ahead, take out the microscope and look for evidence Brady is declining as his age-42 season approaches.

 

“You can try to find something,” an exec said. “Brady is like Steph Curry. The first quarter might look like crap, but you’d better have a big lead because when it comes to nut-cutting time, he is going to make it happen.”

 

Some microscope wielders suggested Brady had a harder time throwing as consistently well on passes outside the numbers.

 

“That is what happens when you get so high up there — people pick for little holes,” a defensive coordinator said. “At the end of the day, would you like that guy running your team? Hell, yeah! You’d take him 16 out of 16 weeks.”

– – –

“Brady is a 1, and I don’t know how you could argue it,” an offensive coordinator said. “People can be critical about his movement or whatever, but just look at the criteria: can carry his team each week, the team wins because of him, he handles pure pass situations and has no holes. Brady plays his best in the most critical situations. Anyone who doesn’t put him as a 1 is evaluating the wrong things.”

 

One last question: When might Brady decline?

 

“I don’t see a drop-off without a catastrophic injury or, like the great pitchers, if he loses his legs,” a defensive coach said. “I believe he is increasing his fitness. And then he has the best footwork, the best execution of the screen pass, and if you watch the cutups of his fakes, it is like a f—ing magic act. Beyond that, I’m not sure the game has seen a competitor that exceeds him.”

 

DREW BREES, New Orleans

Tier 1 votes: 51 | Tier 2 votes: 4

 

Brees commanded top-tier votes at a higher rate this year than last, but quite a few voters thought he belonged at the bottom of Tier 1. There was greater enthusiasm for Mahomes than for Brees among voters who placed both in the top tier, but Brees’ much longer track record gave him the benefit of the doubt with some.

 

“I like to think of the ones being so rare over the years — Peyton, Brady, Rodgers,” an offensive coordinator said. “Then you take a breath and you say it’s Brees, whoever else. Look, I’m president of the Drew Brees fan club, but last year, when the run game dried up a little, I felt he was not carrying them like he was before.”

 

Much of the praise for Brees comes with subtle qualifiers.

 

“Drew can carry his team in those pure passing situations,” a head coach said. “He is limited in certain throws he has to make on rhythm now, but I think you still have to give him a 1.”

 

A defensive coordinator called Brees a 1 for knowing what to do but a 2 from a physical standpoint.

 

“The system bails him out with the run game, the quick passing game and the play-action,” said this coordinator, who placed only Rodgers and Brady in his top tier. “I don’t think he can carry a team (without that). His quick decision-making makes him.”

 

PATRICK MAHOMES, Kansas City

Tier 1 votes: 48 | Tier 2 votes: 7

 

All voters agreed Mahomes played at a top-tier level in 2018, his first as the Chiefs’ full-time starter. The seven who placed Mahomes in the second tier said they wanted to see him do it again before granting him entry into the club that Rodgers and Brady headed for so long. It’s a tough crowd.

 

“He is as good as I’ve ever seen,” an exec who placed Mahomes in the top tier said. “I remember seeing that last game two years ago when he played against Denver, and I said, ‘Ho-lyyy s—!’ We just could not believe some of the throws he was making. It’s ridiculous, and he is only going to get better. How can you not give him a 1? Who is better right now? You would take him over any player in the league.”

 

Even voters who loved Mahomes coming out of college thought he would need more time to become an MVP candidate.

 

“I want to see him do it again when people study him and their offense,” another exec said, “but from what I’ve seen, he might end up being the best ever. He has got some of the best-ever superpowers.”

 

ANDREW LUCK, Indianapolis

Tier 1 votes: 40 | Tier 2 votes: 15

 

Luck carried the Colts for years and paid a heavy price physically. An improved offensive line and a shift toward offensive balance and quicker passes made Luck’s job easier upon his return from shoulder surgery.

 

“I personally believe that Andrew Luck is a great quarterback,” a defensive backs coach said. “I really do, for leadership, intangibles, communication. He can throw all the balls, he is very accurate, he can see what is going on in front of him. He gets it done fast.”

 

Finally healthy, Luck polled better in this QB Tiers survey (1.28 average) than he had in any of them since 2015 (1.14).

 

“Andrew Luck’s accuracy is unbelievable,” a GM said. “He can put the ball anywhere.”

 

 “Mahomes and Luck are going to be battling for that mantel in the future because Luck is special,” a personnel director said. “I think Brady is No. 1 right now.”

 

PHILIP RIVERS, LA Chargers

Tier 1 votes: 33 | Tier 2 votes: 22

 

The Chargers know Rivers, as the owner of a 208-game starting streak, will be in the lineup every week. Opposing defenses know Rivers will be in the same spot — right there in the pocket — on just about every pass play.

 

What has changed over the past two seasons is that Rivers, backed by an improved defense, has reduced the interceptions that dogged him in 2014 and 2016. Throwing 508 passes last season, Rivers’ lowest total since 2009, probably helped reduce chances for negative plays.

 

“Right when you have seen some age, it disappears,” a head coach said.

 

The knock on Rivers is he can’t create when plays break, but the way Rivers compensates makes him special, with one offensive coordinator calling Rivers’ field vision unbelievable.

 

“We play him this season, so I’ve been watching him, and he is just a conductor,” a defensive assistant said. “If you are a poor poker player and he has any sense of what you are in, he knows what to do, so it is all about disguise. You have to f— with him presnap or he will pick you apart.”

 

Some would like to see more from Rivers in the biggest games.

 

“Don’t get me wrong, I hate playing against the f—r, but I have him right there with Roethlisberger, just an inch below the top guys,” a defensive coordinator said. “(The Chargers) made the playoffs last year, but it’s almost like they are stuck right there.”

 

BEN ROETHLISBERGER, Pittsburgh

Tier 1 votes: 32 | Tier 2 votes: 23

 

The voting results for Roethlisberger have held steady over the past three summers, but he lost ground to the field in 2019 with Mahomes breaking out, Luck getting healthy and Rivers rising.

 

“Is he Tier 1?” an evaluator asked. “To me, no, but would I want him in one game over every other player who is not in Tier 1? Yes.”

– – –

“I have no problems with our quarterback calling our players out here in the building,” an evaluator said, “but to do it in public on that radio show, I can’t believe they allow that.”

 

RUSSELL WILSON, Seattle

Tier 1 votes: 29 | Tier 2 votes: 26

 

This year marks the first time most voters placed Wilson in the top tier.

 

That might seem surprising given Wilson’s stats and championship pedigree, but Seattle has won so many games over the years with an elite defense and run-oriented offense that Wilson, for all his excellence, hasn’t had to win from the pocket as a passer consistently. That is typically how quarterbacks must win if their defense and/or ground game are lacking, and it’s usually a big part of earning a place in the top tier.

 

“What makes him unique is, with the game on the line, he can beat you, extend plays and do that,” a defensive coach with NFC West ties said. “But throughout the whole course of the game, they gotta keep the score down and they gotta run the ball.”

 

Tier 2

A Tier 2 quarterback can carry his team sometimes but not as consistently. He can handle pure passing situations in doses and/or possesses other dimensions that are special enough to elevate him above Tier 3. He has a hole or two in his game.

 

MATT RYAN, Atlanta

Tier 1 votes: 13 | Tier 2 votes: 39 | Tier 3 votes: 3

 

Ryan got 13 top-tier votes, more than double the total for the rest of the second tier combined, but with the Falcons missing the playoffs four times in the past six years, most voters had a hard time pushing Ryan into the top tier. Some feel as though he’s prone to the costly turnover.

 

“He was on his way to being a major one if Kyle Shanahan had stayed (as offensive coordinator),” a GM said. “The coordinator changes he has gone through have led to some inconsistencies. He has a chance now with Dirk Koetter. I’m not as scared of Ryan in pure pass, but when he gets going, he can carry a team.”

 

CARSON WENTZ, Philadelphia

Tier 1 votes: 5 | Tier 2 votes: 34 | Tier 3 votes: 16

 

A good chunk of voters think Wentz would be a 1 if knee and back injuries hadn’t forced his career to take a detour.

 

“He’s a 1,” an offensive coordinator said. “We played them; he made four to five throws I really did not think he could make. He has great confidence, great stature. Big arm. Competitive. He gets hit more than he should, but he played young and should grow out of that.”

 

Some dropped Wentz into the third tier this offseason simply because they weren’t sure he would recapture the form he showed before the knee injury.

 

“We have played him, and our head coach thinks the world of him, and I think he is a great player and a strong athlete,” a defensive coordinator said. “I just don’t know his ability to read it and have touch passes. He can throw hard balls in there, and he has a super-strong arm. I do not yet know if he has the touch and the feel to ascend.”

 

MATTHEW STAFFORD, Detroit

Tier 1 votes: 1 | Tier 2 votes: 41 | Tier 3 votes: 13

 

“The top (QBs) usually make (other) guys better, and you just do not see that happening with him.”

 

Stafford’s average tier slipped from 1.7 last summer to 2.2 this time, as only one voter placed him in the top tier, down from 15 a year ago. Voters expressed disappointment that Stafford’s top-tier talent hasn’t translated to greater team success.

 

DESHAUN WATSON, Houston

Tier 1 votes: 2 | Tier 2 votes: 36 | Tier 3 votes: 17

 

Watson moved more solidly into the second tier after his first full season as a starter. There was much to like — and a few concerns as well.

 

“He can get the ball to the right people, he leads his team, he makes all the guys around him better — I think the guy is legit,” an offensive coordinator said.

 

A defensive coordinator said Watson surprised him with his throwing ability.

 

“Their offensive line was a disaster; he had no chance. They had an injury at receiver, they did not have a front-line back, and I do not think they have a tight end that scares you,” a GM said. “(Watson) does a lot of that on his own, and maybe that is how he is at his best — off-schedule stuff. He is a guy who can win games for you when things are down.”

– – –

A defensive coordinator offered a quick rebuttal to the idea that Watson doesn’t produce enough within the rhythm of the offense.

 

“Neither does Rodgers,” this coordinator said.

 

JARED GOFF, LA Rams

Tier 1 votes: 1 | Tier 2 votes: 38 | Tier 3 votes: 16

 

Goff moved up seven spots and a full tier in the rankings from one year ago. The most common analysis says Goff makes spectacular throws from a clean pocket, but he struggles amid chaos and depends more than most on his play-caller putting him in position to succeed based on what the defense is showing before the snap.

 

“I like him a lot,” an offensive coordinator said. “He didn’t play as well as you’d like in the Super Bowl, so people are overreacting, but you watch his season, he makes some unbelievably good throws. He is the perfect guy for them. Definitely a 2.”

 

Nearly a third of voters placed Goff in the third tier.

 

“The couple games he had to carry it, he could not do it,” a defensive coordinator who faced the Rams said.

 

BAKER MAYFIELD, Cleveland

Tier 2 votes: 30 | Tier 3 votes: 21 | Tier 4 votes: 4

 

Voters are betting on Mayfield even more enthusiastically than they bet on Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo one year ago, when those quarterbacks made their QB Tiers debuts after starting less than one full season. Voters think Mayfield has what it takes to reach the top tier.

 

“I put on the tape and watched his whole season, and I’m like: ‘OK, this guy is special. I see what all the fuss is about,’” an offensive coach said. “He can do everything — no limitations at all schematically. For him to take the next step, he has to be a little bit smarter with the football, which comes with experience. I think he will get there.”

 

No voters placed Mayfield in the top tier.

 

“He will be a 1, if not this coming season, the season after,” a coach with AFC North ties said. “His mentality is like the 1s. He can handle his s—. He can direct the traffic. He can handle personalities. It is not too big for him. He doesn’t have to overcome anything in the intangible area to play. It is just a matter of the timing and the footwork and those things to catch up to what he already is mentally, which is great.”

 

Mayfield got 30 votes in the second tier and 21 in the third. The four fourth-tier votes for Mayfield came from voters who thought there wasn’t enough information yet.

 

Tier 3

A Tier 3 quarterback is a legitimate starter but needs a heavier running game and/or defense to win. A lower-volume passing offense makes his job easier.

 

CAM NEWTON, Carolina

Tier 2 votes: 26 | Tier 3 votes: 27 | Tier 4 votes: 2

 

A season-ending shoulder injury contributed to Newton’s fall from the second tier even though the Panthers’ offense was cruising at a high level for much of the 2018 season.

 

“I don’t think he trusted his arm last season, and you could see it in the deep passing game,” a coordinator said.

 

Newton completed a career-low nine passes for a career-low one touchdown on throws traveling at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. He averaged 20 such completions with seven for touchdowns over the previous three seasons.

 

“When he is healthy and everything is going, I think he is a 1,” a personnel director said. “He changes how that team plays, but with the injury, he would be a 2 for me.”

– – –

 “I think he still has the qualities to be a 1 if he’s healthy,” an offensive coach said.

 

While the deep ball was a problem for Newton in 2018, he completed a career-high 77 percent of his passes on throws traveling fewer than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. That included a career-best 78 percent rate when targeting wide receivers, which means Christian McCaffrey’s receiving skills were not necessarily driving the improvement.

 

“Cam has good vision, knows what is happening out there, and, at least last season, I thought he was very accurate on the short throws,” a coordinator said. “He has to get back to throwing the deep ball or defenses are just going to sit on them. That should come if he is healthy.”

 

KIRK COUSINS, Minnesota

Tier 2 votes: 16 | Tier 3 votes: 39

 

Most expect Cousins to fare better as the Vikings continue their shift toward an under-center offense similar to what he ran with Washington under Mike Shanahan. That transition began last season when Kevin Stefanski took over as offensive coordinator. Gary Kubiak’s arrival should only reinforce it, not that people in the league are buying the idea that Cousins is suddenly going to be dynamic.

 

“The world is going to pick Kirk Cousins over Case Keenum, but both are system guys to me,” a GM said. “I get concerned with him when it counts.”

– – –

 “Good guy, smart, throws a good ball, knows how to get people lined up,” another head coach said, “but when there are 30 seconds to go in the game and you need a guy to make a play …”

 

DAK PRESCOTT, Dallas

Tier 2 votes: 16 | Tier 3 votes: 38 | Tier 4 votes: 1

 

The voter most bullish on Prescott saw potential for the Cowboys’ starter to produce like a top-tier quarterback in 2019, his contract year.

 

“When they got Amari Cooper, he really ascended,” said the voter, a veteran personnel evaluator. “Throw in the O-line, the running back, they add (Randall) Cobb in the slot, and I think (Tier) 2 could be the low number. I could see them winning 12 or 13 games and having people come back next year saying, ‘Oh, maybe he is closer to a 1.’”

 

That was not the prevailing opinion.

 

“I just think when it comes down to it, his accuracy is going to limit him because those three to four throws a game you miss, they get you in the long run,” an offensive coordinator said.

 

NICK FOLES, Jacksonville

Tier 2 votes: 18 | Tier 3 votes: 32 | Tier 4 votes: 5

 

Foles drew 18 second-tier votes, which trailed only Newton (26) among players in the third tier. Some voters weren’t sure whether he was a great relief pitcher or a legitimate starter.

 

“He might be the greatest 4 of all time,” a GM joked.

 

A head coach said he thought the more Foles prepared, the worse he got. That seemed like a harsh assessment, but even Foles’ supporters agreed there was truth to the thinking. It wasn’t a criticism of Foles as much as it was a prescription for how to use him best.

 

JIMMY GAROPPOLO, San Francisco

Tier 2 votes: 15 | Tier 3 votes: 31 | Tier 4 votes: 9

 

Garoppolo’s latest injury knocked him from the bottom of the second tier deep into the third. The voters who liked his upside one year ago still liked his upside, but they weren’t as willing to bet on it until Garoppolo proved he had staying power.

 

DEREK CARR, Oakland

Tier 2 votes: 6 | Tier 3 votes: 47 | Tier 4 votes: 2

 

Carr’s obvious talent made him a QB Tiers darling a few years ago, but a couple of rough seasons have changed perceptions, bringing to the foreground concerns that contributed to Carr slipping into the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

 

“It is tough when guys get stuck in bad situations,” a quarterbacks coach said. “Carr has 2 ability, but he is probably just a 3 right now.”

– – –

 “He is sensitive and needs encouragement, and that is not the style he is going to get,” an offensive coach said. “When someone shows disappointment in him, he shrinks. The head coach not coming out and completely endorsing him has to be eating him alive. When there is blame to be placed each week, it falls to the quarterback, and that is going to be a problem, so they had better hope they win or it’s going to be rocky for him.”

 

JOE FLACCO, Denver

Tier 2 votes: 9 | Tier 3 votes: 39 | Tier 4 votes: 6 | Tier 5 votes: 1

 

Flacco polled slightly higher this year than last, partly because some think the scheme fit in Denver could be good for him. Flacco enjoyed his finest statistical season in 2014, when Gary Kubiak was his offensive coordinator. Kubiak left Denver this offseason, but the Broncos’ new coordinator, Rich Scangarello, comes from the same coaching tree, via Kyle Shanahan. Scangarello spent the past two seasons coaching quarterbacks for the 49ers.

 

ANDY DALTON, Cincinnati

Tier 2 votes: 1 | Tier 3 votes: 51 | Tier 4 votes: 3

 

Dalton got more Tier 3 votes than anyone (51), and it wasn’t very close.

 

“He is a (Tier) 3 365 days a year,” a defensive coordinator said. “Not bad, just is what he is.”

 

Dalton was at his best in 2015 when the Bengals were at their best from a talent standpoint.

 

“I was surprised how solid he seemed when I watched him last year,” a quarterbacks coach said.

 

JAMEIS WINSTON, Tampa Bay

Tier 2 votes: 6 | Tier 3 votes: 41 | Tier 4 votes: 8

Winston entered the NFL as a turnover-prone quarterback, the kind who might benefit the most from a strong defense and ground game to facilitate a more conservative approach. Instead, the Buccaneers gave Winston the keys to their high-powered passing offense and asked him to win games for a roster that was lacking on defense, lacking in the run game and among the NFL’s very worst in the kicking game.

 

It has not always gone well. Now along comes new coach Bruce Arians, a proponent of offensive balance who is better known for pushing the ball down the field aggressively, which is what Tampa Bay has been doing already.

 

“It’s going to be interesting,” a GM said. “I think Jameis is the closest thing to Ben (Roethlisberger) in terms of similar playing style: a big dude who you try to sack and you fall off of him, can make some things happen off-script. Ben had great success with Bruce.”

– – –

“He is a low 3, but if something happened, half the teams in the league would take him,” this coordinator said.

 

ELI MANNING, NY Giants

Tier 2 votes: 7 | Tier 3 votes: 38 | Tier 4 votes: 10

 

Manning keeps slipping in these rankings even though voters acknowledge the Giants’ offensive line has put him in a difficult position.

 

“I have a feeling Eli is going to do better than what people think,” a head coach said. “We can give him a 3 till he proves it, but I think he is more of a 2. Getting rid of that receiver (Odell Beckham Jr.) is a big thing. I think that guy was a (problem), but that is my own feeling.”

 

A defensive coordinator thought the Giants’ drafting of Daniel Jones in the first round could regenerate Manning mentally, making the team a candidate to surprise in 2019.

 

MITCHELL TRUBISKY, Chicago

Tier 2 votes: 6 | Tier 3 votes: 39 | Tier 4 votes: 10

 

While some voters expressed serious concerns about Trubisky’s outlook, reviews were generally more favorable than his No. 25 ranking might indicate.

 

“He has a really good arm, he can make the great throw, he is a good deep-ball thrower, he is not afraid to stand in the pocket, he’s not afraid of the noise of getting hit, which is a good sign,” an offensive coordinator said. “I just don’t think he really knows what’s going on yet.”

– – –

Six voters placed Trubisky in the second tier, while others wondered whether he had the accuracy and anticipation to ascend.

 

“Even though they have Khalil (Mack) and some high-juice guys, it is his team,” an offensive coordinator said of Trubisky. “That is how it appears from the outside, and talking to people there, he is an awesome guy. His production is not great, but I think he has the ability. I think he is going to get better. He has what you need in terms of leadership at that position.”

 

MARCUS MARIOTA, Tennessee

Tier 2 votes: 2 | Tier 3 votes: 44 | Tier 4 votes: 9

 

Mariota enters his fifth-year option season facing two questions: Is he good enough to be a long-term starter? And can he get/stay healthy enough to play consistently? There’s more optimism regarding Mariota’s ability than his availability.

 

“I think they are looking for a guy next year,” a GM said. “Can’t stay healthy, I still question him in the pocket, a little disappointing.”

 

SAM DARNOLD, NY Jets

Tier 2 votes: 5 | Tier 3 votes: 37 | Tier 4 votes: 13

 

Darnold ranks a distant second to Mayfield among the first-round quarterbacks selected in 2018. Most voters were optimistic he would ascend this season.

– – –

Voters lauded Darnold’s makeup while calling him solid but unspectacular as a passer and needing work as a protector of the football.

 

“He has to fix his penchant for the turnovers,” a GM said. “He did it in college; he did it as a rookie. He is a great kid. He is really young. He has a chance to do it, but until he takes care of that issue, I think that will always haunt him a little bit.”

– – –

“He has some special qualities,” a GM said of Darnold. “There is something about Sam. He makes you feel like you are going to win.”

 

Tier 4

A Tier 4 quarterback could be an unproven player with some upside or a veteran who is ultimately best suited as a backup.

 

LAMAR JACKSON, Baltimore

Tier 2 votes: 1 | Tier 3 votes: 18 | Tier 4 votes: 34 | Tier 5 votes: 2

 

There are two kinds of Tier 4 quarterbacks: the veteran who ideally would not start all 16 games in a season (think Ryan Fitzpatrick), and the young player for which there simply is not enough evidence to make an evaluation (think Mahomes one year ago, when his résumé consisted of one start in a meaningless 2017 Week 17 game).

 

Jackson fits into the not-enough-evidence category. However, unlike with Mahomes last summer, a sizeable chunk of voters questioned whether Jackson could become a polished-enough passer for the Ravens to become contenders in the absence of a dominant defense and strong rushing attack. Some feared injuries would derail Jackson in the long term.

– – –

One of the two voters who placed Jackson in the fifth tier called him a system-based quarterback in a system in which quarterbacks do not last long.

 

“I was high on Lamar coming out,” a personnel director said. “I think he’s a winner; he has the ‘it’ factor. It does not always show with his passing accuracy, but guys like Lamar who have the ability to electrify and bring their teammates together — that is a pretty cool deal.”

 

JOSH ALLEN, Buffalo

Tier 3 votes: 18 | Tier 4 votes: 36 | Tier 5 votes: 1

 

Some voters saw Allen as Buffalo’s version of Cam Newton now that Carolina alums Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane are running the Bills. These voters also noted that Buffalo is building a smaller receiving corps than Newton had with the Panthers, a potential concern for a team whose quarterback has accuracy issues.

 

“I think he’s a 4 with the arrow definitely pointing up,” an exec said. “I think he has to be careful. He is not as talented as Deshaun Watson, but everyone thinks because he can throw the ball 80 yards, that is a good thing. He holds the ball too long, he is not a quick decision-maker, he relies on his feet, and I don’t know over the long haul if you can stay healthy doing that. Where he is in his career, if you try to make him a passer, I’m afraid he’ll struggle.”

 

RYAN FITZPATRICK, Miami

Tier 3 votes: 17 | Tier 4 votes: 33 | Tier 5 votes: 5

 

Two quarterbacks represent the Dolphins in this survey because it’s not yet clear which veteran will be their starter. There’s a good chance, it seems, that Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen will start for the team at various points in 2019.

 

“Fitz is a 2 when he’s hot and a 5 when he’s not,” a quarterbacks coach said.

 

“Fitzy is — I want to play against Fitz!” a head coach said. “He don’t give a s—. He goes in, tears it up and then just falls off the map. For a Harvard guy, he does some crazy s—.”

 

CASE KEENUM, Washington

Tier 2 votes: 2 | Tier 3 votes: 15 | Tier 4 votes: 28 | Tier 5 votes: 10

 

Washington might go with Dwayne Haskins as its starter, but Keenum makes the appearance here because rookies aren’t part of the survey.

 

Fifteen voters placed Keenum in the third tier, and when they did, sometimes I’d joke that they just placed him in the same tier as someone much more appealing. One voter had Wentz and Keenum in the third tier for vastly different reasons.

 

“A 3.0 is different from a 3.9,” this voter said, “but my reason for the 3 on Keenum is with the right coordinator, in the right system, Case Keenum can have a year like he had with Minnesota, and a lot of the 4s cannot do that. Wentz is a 2 who has fallen to a 3 because of the injuries, until he learns to stay healthy while using his mobility.”

 

JOSH ROSEN, Miami

Tier 3 votes: 7 | Tier 4 votes: 47 | Tier 5 votes: 1

 

Rosen is not hated, despite his No. 32 ranking.

 

Voters felt the circumstances Rosen faced in Arizona were so dire that they could not be used as part of an evaluation. For that reason, voters almost reflexively placed Rosen in the fourth tier, citing a lack of information.

 

“When you talk to people who have been around Rosen, his ability to lead is the question,” a quarterbacks coach said.

 

 

 

 

2018 DRAFT

An update on “40 Yards of Gold” or Fool’s Gold as the case may be.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

In late June, 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin won the inaugural (and perhaps only) “40 Yards of Gold” competition, and the giant novelty check for $1 million that went along with it. The check continues to be coated in rubber.

 

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Goodwin still hasn’t been paid. However, Goodwin’s representatives are working toward getting the player’s seven figures “soon.”

 

Given the history of the event and its obvious financial struggles, that may be wishful thinking. Regardless, Goodwin is owed $1 million; at some point, he’ll need to consider other options, including litigation.

 

Goodwin isn’t the only one to be stiff armed by the event’s bank accounts. Vikings receiver Jeff Badet is still carrying around a tennis ball of a $25,000 check that he received for participating in the event.