The Daily Briefing Thursday, November 1, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Bill Barnwell has a look at the two-year futures of all 32 teams here.

 

Here is his explanation of what he did:

 

Recently, I was talking to Lindsay Jones of The Athletic on my podcast, and we started wondering what the 2020 Raiders’ roster might look like as Jon Gruden & Co. make their move to Las Vegas. We didn’t get very far, and that was before the Amari Cooper trade happened.

 

I think it’s an interesting exercise, though, so I’ve gone ahead and tried to project which players from each team’s 2018 roster are likely to make it onto their roster come Week 1 of 2020. Those rosters will obviously include 2019 and 2020 draft picks, and there are young players who will emerge as meaningful contributors between now and then, so consider this an imperfect look into what each team’s long-term core currently looks like, nearly halfway through the 2018 campaign.

 

I’ve split each team into three groups. The virtual locks section is for players I think have at least a 90 percent shot of making the 2020 roster, given their contract situation and draft status. In most cases, I would expect 2017 and 2018 draft picks taken in the top three rounds to make it to 2020, which is reflected here.

 

The on the bubble group is for the players I think have something closer to a 55 percent shot of appearing on the roster in 2020. They might be starring veterans who have onerous contracts in the future, young players who haven’t found their role, or placeholders who are likely to be usurped by a draft pick or let go as part of a regime change.

 

Finally, the unlikely notables section is for players who have no more than a 15 percent shot of making it to 2020 on the same team. This section is for mid-30s veterans who are likely to retire, young players who are riding pine, and regulars whose contracts will be even more difficult to swallow by the 2020 offseason. I’ve tried to limit this to more notable players, if only to avoid listing every practice-squad member or backup long-snapper and make this column five times as long.

 

As always, I’m sure a player or two sneaked through the list, but this should be some comparative insight into what each NFL organization has built for the future. Some of the cores surprised me.

 

We have some of his team recaps below, but feel free to hit the link for your favorite club.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

The ankle of KHALIL MACK may keep him out of Sunday’s game in Buffalo.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Bears played without linebacker Khalil Mack against the Jets last Sunday because of the ankle injury that he’s been dealing with for the last few weeks.

 

It was the first time that Mack did not play in a game since entering the NFL and the time off was not enough to get Mack on the practice field Wednesday. Mack was out as the team began working ahead of this week’s game against the Bills and head coach Matt Nagy said that things haven’t changed much from last week.

 

“Hopefully he’s getting better — I feel like he is,” Nagy said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s gonna be what we just went through last week. It’s gonna be very similar this week.”

 

Wide receiver Allen Robinson was also out of practice on Wednesday after sitting out last week with a groin injury. Robinson and Mack both practiced on Friday only the last two weeks and it seems likely that will be the most either player practices this week.

 

 

DETROIT

Coach Matt Patricia tries to explain why the Lions had to get rid of the very productive WR GOLDEN TATE.  Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com:

 

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said trading receiver Golden Tate was a “difficult” decision but one the franchise believed was the “best logical decision” to make.

 

Tate, the team’s leading receiver in catches (44) and yards (517) this season, was dealt to Philadelphia for a 2019 third-round pick. The 30-year-old receiver is in the final year of his contract.

 

“For us, it’s again the holistic picture of taking a look at what’s best for us to do as a team and in those situations. They are not easy decisions, and they are certainly difficult decisions,” Patricia said. “Again, for us, it’s not about one player. It’s about a team. It’s about everybody. We have a lot of guys that are really good on this team that can produce, and honestly, for me, we have confidence in everybody on this team right now, that everybody can go out and do their job.

 

“I think we’ve seen through the course of multiple different examples of years in the NFL where these things happen and people move on and they keep going and they keep winning. So, is it difficult to win in this league? One hundred percent it is. Every single week is hard, so we’re just going to have to work harder and keep going.”

 

Patricia said he spoke to his players about the deal and stressed to them that they have to start preparing for the Vikings on Sunday and that he believes in the players Detroit has on its offense even without Tate.

 

“The biggest point for me to make sure everybody understands is that this also shows a lot of confidence in the people that are in that room,” Patricia said. “There’s great players in that room and there’s a lot of them and there’s a lot of guys that have opportunities to go out there and make plays and go out there and play at a high level, and we’re all good with that from that standpoint.”

 

The first-year Lions coach said Detroit would replace Tate with a multitude of players depending on the situation and the game. Likely candidates include receivers TJ Jones and Brandon Powell, tight end Michael Roberts and running back Theo Riddick.

 

“You never want to see somebody go, whether it’s one day or four-and-a-half years, you build a rapport with the people around you,” Jones said. “So any time someone leaves, it’s a shock. It’s something you go through. You want to comfort them but also give ’em space to adapt to their new team and all of htat. I think everyone is just supporting him but we all know the task at hand here.”

 

The decision to deal Tate, though, appeared to come down to short-term gains versus long-term goals in the team’s evaluation of whether to keep Tate.

 

“it’s important for us, when we evaluate everything that we do as a franchise, I think there’s certain value that we can get at times during the season that will help us long term and obviously have faith and confidence in the people that are on this team right now,” Patricia said. “So we put all that into play and we’re trying to make the best decision we can in that moment, and it’s hard, very difficult when you’re in that ‘one game at a time’ mindset and that’s really where we are, from the standpoint of it’s week to week for us and that’s good, but there’s also a big picture here that is good for those to keep an eye on as we move forward.

 

 

GREEN BAY

QB AARON RODGERS was “limited” in practice due to his ongoing knee injury.  He “fully participated” in all of last week’s practices.

– – –

Two key players out, no new players of note in – but GM Brian Gutenkist says the Packers are not giving up on 2018.  Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:

 

Trading a former Pro Bowl safety, along with a contributor at multiple positions, without getting any immediate return could look to some like the Green Bay Packers are playing for the future and giving up on this season.

 

General manager Brian Gutekunst disagrees.

 

A day after he sent safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington for a 2019 fourth-round pick and running back/kick returner Ty Montgomery to Baltimore for a conditional 2020 seventh-rounder, Gutekunst explained his thinking and the impact it might have in his own locker room.

 

“I don’t necessarily think there’s a message it sends to the locker room,” the first-year GM said Wednesday. “I think the decisions that we make are always in the best interest of our team, not only in the short term, but the long term, as well. But I think our locker room knows where we’re headed and, like I said, I think we’re humming at the right time and I think there’s a lot of positive things going forward.”

 

The moves came on the NFL’s trade deadline day and within 48 hours of the Packers’ 29-27 loss to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams. The loss dropped the Packers to 3-3-1 heading into Sunday’s Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady showdown in New England.

 

Rodgers never got the ball back with a chance to beat the Rams after Montgomery brought a kickoff out of the end zone — he was supposed to take a knee, per coaches’ instructions — and then fumbled.

 

Players criticized Montgomery’s decision. He then responded by wondering who in the locker room he could trust.

 

That came a few weeks after Clinton-Dix said he expected to be playing elsewhere next season.

 

“I think you take everything into consideration when you make these kind of decisions, but performance comes first,” Gutekunst said. “That’s always the major factor in these decisions. Everything’s taken into account, but it’s never usually just one thing.”

 

Though they have options, the Packers have not said how they will replace Clinton-Dix, a former first-round pick who made the Pro Bowl in 2016.

 

They could use cornerback Tramon Williams at safety; he moved inside to a slot position Sunday against the Rams. It also might force the Packers to finally play 2017 second-round pick Josh Jones, who had a standout special-teams game in Los Angeles but surprisingly has played only four defensive snaps all season while sitting behind former undrafted free agents Kentrell Brice and Jermaine Whitehead.

 

There’s also the possibility that cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was signed last month but has yet to play in a game, could move to safety.

 

At running back, Montgomery’s departure could help dynamic Aaron Jones get more touches. He leads the Packers in rushing yards (274) and average (6.2 yards per carry) but has only 44 attempts.

 

“We’ve got to trust what Brian is doing and he’s making moves that are in the best interest of the team,” Rodgers said. “In this situation, we need guys to step up in those spots. Obviously Aaron and Jamaal [Williams] have been playing really well, so more opportunities for those guys, and the defense will take care of what they need to with the safety spot.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Cowboys:

 

Dallas Cowboys

Virtual locks: QB Dak Prescott, G Zack Martin, T Tyron Smith, LB Leighton Vander Esch, LB Jaylon Smith, DE Taco Charlton, S Xavier Woods, RB Ezekiel Elliott, CB Chidobe Awuzie, WR Michael Gallup

 

Though the Cowboys still might theoretically move on from Prescott, there really hasn’t been a quarterback in recent memory who played as well as Prescott has during his rookie contract and subsequently failed to get an extension (barring injury).

 

On the bubble: C Travis Frederick, WR Amari Cooper, G Connor Williams, T La’el Collins, DE DeMarcus Lawrence, CB Byron Jones, CB Anthony Brown, DE Randy Gregory

 

Frederick’s future, sadly, has been clouded by Guillain-Barré syndrome. The Cowboys will have the cap space to re-sign Lawrence and Jones this offseason, given that Tony Romo’s contract will finally come off their books. Cooper is under contract through the end of 2019, although the Cowboys might choose to extend their new wideout this offseason.

 

Unlikely notables: WR Allen Hurns, WR Tavon Austin, DT Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, S Jeff Heath

 

When the Cowboys drafted Vander Esch, Lee’s days in Dallas were numbered. The oft-injured star linebacker is under contract through 2019.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Giants:

 

New York Giants

 

Virtual locks: WR Odell Beckham Jr., T Nate Solder, RB Saquon Barkley, TE Evan Engram, G Will Hernandez, DL B.J. Hill, DL Dalvin Tomlinson, LB Lorenzo Carter

 

Lost amid the Giants’ problems is that free-agent signing Solder has been a mess, allowing six sacks in eight games, per Stats. To contrast, Solder had allowed six sacks in a 16-game season just once during his time with the Patriots.

 

On the bubble: WR Sterling Shepard, S Landon Collins, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Alec Ogletree, LB Kareem Martin, S Curtis Riley

 

Shepard is a talented wideout, but as the Giants move away from the three-wideout sets of the McAdoo era and toward the run-first approach GM Dave Gettleman wants, you have to wonder whether the Giants might want to let someone else pay a receiver who does his best work in the slot.

 

Unlikely notables: LB Olivier Vernon, QB Eli Manning, OL Patrick Omameh, RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Cody Latimer, CB B.W. Webb

 

Cutting Manning and Vernon next year would free up $32.5 million in cap space. If you want a reason to be anxious about that, consider that Omameh already has been benched after signing a three-year, $15 million deal this offseason.

 

 

WASHINGTON

The Redskins are excited to add S HA HA CLINTON-DIX for the playoff push.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Washington Redskins upgraded their defense at the trade deadline, adding Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from the Green Bay Packers.

 

The trade was an indication from the Redskins that they’re all-in, and improving the backend of an already good defense could be the final piece.

 

Clinton-Dix will team with D.J. Swearinger to make one of the best safety units in the NFL.

 

“I was lit!” Swearinger said of adding the fellow safety, via the Washington Post. “It’s going to be something that they ain’t seen before. I don’t think they’re ready for it. I feel like they’re really getting this defense right. They’re banking on getting the defense right, and I got some extra help for sure on the back end. A veteran guy. A Pro Bowl guy. … When he gets comfortable, it’s going to be very scary. I don’t know where they’re going to throw it. … With that D-line, we’re going to be scary.”

 

On paper, Swearinger has a point. The safety crew is joined by corners Quinton Dunbar (when healthy) and Josh Norman. The front-seven has been dominant, led by Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Zach Brown, Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, and Mason Foster.

 

With Clinton-Dix taking over, there isn’t a glaring weak link in the group.

 

“Adding a big-time player like that in the middle of the season when you’re in the hunt for everything,” Foster said, “I think it shows everybody that we want our defense to continue to play at a high level and get even better each and every week. Here’s another piece to help with that product. … It’s time to go now.”

 

Sitting at 5-2, knowing a run is likely coming from the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins solidified their defense to take their shot at swiping the NFC East crown.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com is impressed with how well QB CAM NEWTON is playing.

 

Coaching matters. Just ask Cam Newton, who received arguably the biggest coaching upgrade of any quarterback in the NFL when the Panthers replaced Mike Shula with Norv Turner. The hire of Turner, who had been coaching in the NFL for four years before Newton was even born, raised plenty of skeptical eyebrows given his history with deep drops and a vertical passing attack.

 

But Turner has taken the Panthers skill players and deployed them in an entirely different way and the trickle-down effect on Newton and the Panthers offense has been stunning.

 

For starters, let’s simply look at Newton’s statistics. Turner was roundly mocked for claiming Newton could complete in the high 60 percent of his passes — understandably, given Newton’s career completion percentage was below 60 percent coming into this year. But Norv wasn’t wrong; Cam is now completing 66.4 percent of his passes after hitting on almost three fourths of his throws against the Ravens in Carolina’s surprising 36-21 win over the NFL’s best defense.

 

Newton’s interception rate is also the lowest its been in his career and, without really drawing any attention, he is having a better year through seven games than he did in 2015 when he led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and won MVP.

 

That year Newton became the only quarterback to ever throw for 3,500 yards, throw for 30+ touchdowns and rush for 600 yards in a single season. He’s on pace to become the second quarterback ever to do it.

 

But Panthers fans should be even more enthused about this year’s rendition, because Newton is being hit far less often. He has been sacked just 10 times so far this season, registering by far the lowest sack percentage (4.0 percent) of his career.

 

Carolina’s offensive line is playing at a surprisingly high level as well, managing to protect Newton when he does have to throw deep from a precarious position.

 

All of this is a culmination of a shift in personnel coupled with Turner’s ability to adjust his offensive philosophy to fit Newton’s and the talent around his unique quarterback. Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore are chess pieces, players who can seamlessly move around different formations and make an impact rushing or receiving. It’s no surprise Moore leads the NFL with 12.1 rushing yards per game by a wide receiver, or that the Panthers are first in rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks and wide receivers or that they’re sixth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns by running backs.

 

Turner hasn’t messed around with trying to reduce Newton’s running. There’s no need to do that — the Panthers idea of running Newton less before the 2017 season was asinine. Cam gets hurt when he spends too long in the pocket, holding the ball, waiting for plays to develop and then taking huge shots from defenders at full speed.

 

By putting an emphasis on quick throws and accuracy to playmakers, Turner has increased Cam’s efficiency, improved the play of the offensive line, maximized his playmakers’ skillsets and managed to create an offense that should keep Newton healthier over the course of the season.

 

The result has been an MVP-caliber start to the season for Newton and a Panthers offense that is beginning to really find its groove. If everything clicks for Carolina on that side of the ball in a 2015-type fashion, watch out.

– – –

Coach Ron Rivera, despite his military background, seems to be supportive of S ERIC REID’s National Anthem protest.  Reid is not impressed by his coach having his back.  David Newton of ESPN.com:

 

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera consistently has made it clear he has no issue with safety Eric Reid kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against social injustice even if it goes against his personal beliefs having grown up in a military family.

 

Rivera has said repeatedly Reid simply is exercising his First Amendment rights.

 

“Very respectfully, he doesn’t have a choice,” Reid said on Wednesday when asked about having Rivera’s support in kneeling. “He’s entitled to his opinion, but I know what my rights are. His family was a military family much like many of my people were in the military. My cousin just got back from Afghanistan. My mom was in the armed services. My uncle was enlisted. The list goes on.

 

“But when they get home they’re still black in America. They’re going to fight the same wars when they get home and still face the same things I’m talking about. So I get encouragement from my family that served in the armed forces because they agree with what I’m saying.”

 

The Panthers (5-2) will honor the military during Sunday’s NFC South game against Tampa Bay (3-4) as part of “Salute to Service Week.”

 

Reid plans to kneel during the anthem just as he has the past four games since signing with Carolina. He is the only Carolina player who has taken a knee during the anthem since former San Francisco teammate Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during their 2016 season with the 49ers to protest police brutality and social injustice.

 

The closest the Panthers had to a protest before Reid’s arrival came during Week 3 last season when defensive end Julius Peppers stayed in the locker room during the anthem. Peppers has been on the field and standing since that game.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

From Bill Barnwell’s exercise on what 2020 Buccaneers might look like:

 

Virtual locks: WR Mike Evans, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Gerald McCoy, LB Lavonte David, DT Vita Vea, TE O.J. Howard, RB Ronald Jones, S Justin Evans, WR Chris Godwin, CB Carlton Davis, CB M.J. Stewart, G Ali Marpet, G Alex Cappa

 

The Bucs are unique in not handing out signing bonuses, so the only players on their roster who would incur dead money in 2020 after being released would be their players on rookie contracts. It leaves Tampa with a ton of flexibility, so if it wanted to (for some reason) get rid of Evans, David and Pierre-Paul come 2020, it could without eating any dead money.

 

On the bubble: QB Jameis Winston, WR Adam Humphries, T Donovan Smith, C Ryan Jensen, T Demar Dotson, TE Cameron Brate, RB Peyton Barber, DT Beau Allen, DE Vinny Curry, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Ryan Smith, P Bryan Anger, DE Carl Nassib, G Caleb Benenoch

 

Winston’s future is obviously in question after being benched last week. The Bucs picked up his fifth-year option for 2019, but Tampa can cut or trade him without penalty after the year as long as he can pass a physical.

 

Unlikely notables: WR DeSean Jackson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, CB Brent Grimes

 

Fitzpatrick will turn 38 during the 2020 season. While he might still be on an NFL roster, chances are the journeyman will have moved to another NFL destination.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Bill Barnwell’s projection for the 2020 Cardinals:

 

Arizona Cardinals

Virtual locks: DE Chandler Jones, RB David Johnson, CB Patrick Peterson, ILB Haason Reddick, QB Josh Rosen, S Budda Baker, WR Christian Kirk, C Mason Cole, RB Chase Edmonds

 

Peterson will be entering the final year of his current deal in 2020, so the former LSU star is likely to see an extension during the 2019 season. Reddick seemed to be on the outs in September, but the 2017 first-rounder has made his way back into an every-down role.

 

On the bubble: WR Chad Williams, LT D.J. Humphries, G Justin Pugh, TE Ricky Seals-Jones, DE Markus Golden, DL Robert Nkemdiche, CB Bene Benwikere

 

Golden had a 12.5-sack season in 2016, but he has played just nine games over the past two seasons while recovering from a torn ACL. He might not get the multiyear extension he seeks. The Cardinals picked up Humphries’ fifth-year option for 2019, but the 2015 first-round pick hasn’t distinguished himself on the left side of the line, allowing five sacks in eight games this season, per Stats.

 

Unlikely notables: WR Larry Fitzgerald, G Mike Iupati, QB Sam Bradford, LB Deone Bucannon, S Antoine Bethea, LB Josh Bynes, S Tre Boston

 

Bucannon played 38 snaps against the 49ers after racking up just 13 over the three previous weeks, but the Cardinals might just have been showcasing their former first-round pick before the trade deadline. The 26-year-old is likely to leave after the season.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Terez Paylor of YahooSports.com on why DANTE FOWLER will be a hit with the Rams:

 

He seems a good candidate to benefit from a “Wade Bump” — a nod to their creative, respected and outstanding defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips.

 

I’d tend to agree. Phillips asks his unit to play aggressively and make plays, and that often frees up guys to go get the football and have fun. In turn, he often gets the best out of players, and there’s no doubting Fowler’s physical ability; he simply got nudged out of a starting job in Jacksonville by the 2017 signing of Calais Campbell (an All-Pro) and the arrival of 2016 third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue, a superior pass rusher who is also better against the run.

 

In Los Angeles, Fowler — who is slated to be a free agent in March — will be motivated to play his best football, and he’ll see a lot of single blocking next to Suh, Donald and Brockers. But for him to get the payday he wants, he’ll need to be more disciplined and sound against the run.

 

 

SEATTLE

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Seahawks:

 

Seattle Seahawks

 

Virtual locks: WR Tyler Lockett, QB Russell Wilson, RB Rashaad Penny, CB Shaquill Griffin, DE Rasheem Green, S Tedric Thompson, S Delano Hill, LB Shaquem Griffin, S Tre Flowers, P Michael Dickson, RB Chris Carson, DT Jarran Reed

 

The Seahawks have gotten off to a surprisingly impressive start this season, given that they’re currently sixth in DVOA while running out one of the league’s youngest starting defensive lineups. Coach Pete Carroll is going to count on those players as building blocks.

 

On the bubble: WR Doug Baldwin, T Duane Brown, C Justin Britt, S Bradley McDougald, OL Ethan Pocic, T Germain Ifedi, TE Nick Vannett, DT Nazair Jones, DE Frank Clark, LB Bobby Wagner, LB K.J. Wright, WR David Moore, G J.R. Sweezy, CB Justin Coleman, DL Quinton Jefferson

 

I would imagine the Seahawks will keep around Wagner, but he’s a free agent after the 2019 season and hasn’t signed an extension. The Seahawks have enough money to sign both Wagner and Clark over the next year, but they also had the money to sign Earl Thomas and chose not to do so.

 

Unlikely notables: S Kam Chancellor, K Sebastian Janikowski, S Earl Thomas, TE Ed Dickson, DT Malik McDowell, LB Mychal Kendricks

 

McDowell is still technically on Seattle’s roster, although the 2017 second-rounder was waived with injuries suffered in an ATV accident before ever playing a game with the Seahawks. That’s not even the weirdest reason a player is in this notables section.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The Broncos say the trade of WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS was all about clearing the way for WR COURTLAND SUTTON.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Denver Broncos’ trade of Demaryius Thomas was as much about opening playing time for a younger stud as it was getting an asset for an aging player.

 

Jettisoning Thomas now opens snaps for rookie Courtland Sutton, who general manager John Elway said deserves more playing time.

 

“We thought that this would give Courtland a chance to get out there, play more and become a bigger part of it because we think he’s ready to go,” Elway said, via the Denver Post. “He’s played well up to this point in time. Hopefully this accelerates his maturity.”

 

Through eight games, Sutton has played 68.7 percent of the Broncos’ offensive snaps, almost exclusively in three-receiver sets. Of the Broncos’ 131 2-WR sets this season, the rookie has participated in just 21. Thomas, conversely, played in 104 of those two-receiver situations.

 

The Broncos’ view Sutton as a star on the rise. Allowing him more opportunities in his young career could help escalate that growth.

 

“He’s a second-round pick that probably should’ve been a first-round pick,” coach Vance Joseph said on Wednesday. “Obviously, he’s a gifted guy. He’s not a finished product by any means, but our hope is that he’s going to be special. That’s our hope. He has to continue to work, to perfect his routes and to continue to play hard and to study. We’ll see, but it’s his time, so he has plenty of reps and time to prove he’s that guy we think he can be.”

 

Through the first eight weeks, the rookie has compiled 17 receptions on 37 targets for 324 yards and two touchdowns. The 45.9 catch rate puts him near the bottom of the NFL (183rd per Pro Football Reference).

 

 

THE RAIDERS

Not many locks for the 2020 Raiders roster according to Bill Barnwell:

 

Oakland Raiders

Virtual locks: T Kolton Miller, DT P.J. Hall, DE Arden Key, T Brandon Parker

 

That’s it. Four players, all of whom were picks in this year’s draft. We’re not even sure if these guys are even any good. The Raiders have $112.5 million in 2020 cap space without making any other moves, and nobody on their roster besides Derek Carr would cost more than $1.4 million in dead money to release. This is going to look like an entirely different team in 2020.

 

On the bubble: QB Derek Carr, C Rodney Hudson, WR Seth Roberts, G Kelechi Osemele, G Gabe Jackson, DT Johnathan Hankins, CB Daryl Worley

 

Carr would cost $7.5 million in dead money to release in 2019 and $5 million in 2020, so if Gruden wants to find his quarterback, cap concerns aren’t going to get in the way. Having players like Osemele and Jackson around would make any offense’s life easier, but there seems to be little reason to think Gruden will keep them around.

 

Unlikely notables: WR Jordy Nelson, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Doug Martin, LB Bruce Irvin, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Gareon Conley, S Karl Joseph, CB Leon Hall, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Marcus Gilchrist, S Reggie Nelson, T Donald Penn

 

Ten of these 12 players are over 30. The only exceptions are Conley and Joseph, who are first-round picks Gruden doesn’t seem interested in playing. Everything’s great.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Bill Barnwell on the roster makeup of the 2020 Bengals:

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Virtual locks: DT Geno Atkins, DE Carlos Dunlap, C Billy Price, RB Joe Mixon, DE Carl Lawson, WR A.J. Green, CB William Jackson, DE Sam Hubbard, LB Malik Jefferson, S Jessie Bates, DE Jordan Willis

 

The Bengals perpetually draft and develop their own talent, so the guys you see here aren’t going to be joined by much outside the organization.

 

On the bubble: WR Tyler Boyd, WR John Ross, T Cordy Glenn, G Clint Boling, QB Andy Dalton, LB Nick Vigil, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, S Shawn Williams

 

Boyd wasn’t even a lock to make the 53-man roster this offseason after failing to make the game-day roster at times last season, but the former second-round pick has reinvigorated his career and is on pace for 1,240 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Dalton will be entering the final year of his deal in 2020, and if he doesn’t lead Cincinnati back to the postseason before then, you would have to imagine the Bengals will look for a replacement under center. Right?

 

Unlikely notables: T Cedric Ogbuehi, TE Tyler Eifert, RB Gio Bernard, DE Michael Johnson, LB Vontaze Burfict, CB Darqueze Dennard

 

Ogbuehi has been a healthy scratch all season. Burfict’s inability to play by the league’s rules is going to shorten his career. Dennard is the rare Bengals first-round cornerback pick who hasn’t panned out.

 

 

CLEVELAND

Gregg Williams is known for his outlandish statements.  He made one on Wednesday.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Gregg Williams was fired as the Bills’ head coach after the 2003 season, and since then he’s only been a defensive coordinator–until this week, when he became interim head coach of the Browns. But Williams claimed today that he’s had multiple offers to be a head coach since leaving Buffalo.

 

In his first press conference as the Browns’ interim head coach, Williams said today that he doesn’t see his current job as auditioning to be a head coach, because he’s already been given offers to be a head coach and turned them down.

 

“Since I left Buffalo, I’ve had 11 letters sent in to interview for head coaching jobs, and all of them behind the scenes I have, four of them I didn’t even have to show up, just sign the contract and come,” Williams said.

 

So why didn’t Williams take one of those four jobs? He said it’s about finding the right fit, and that other job offers he had were from organizations that had a different philosophy of what a head coach is supposed to be. Specifically, Williams said he wants to be a hands-on coach, and some teams want their head coach to delegate more.

 

“I’ve talked about all those other spots that have called me,” Williams said. “You know what is fun about sitting in a chair and being a head coach? Coaching football. Not coaching marketing, not coaching scouting, not coaching ticketing, not coaching analytics. Coaching football. So why would I not do that? And when people say you can’t do that and be the head coach, you don’t know.”

 

Suffice to say, a lot of people around the NFL will be extremely skeptical that Williams had four different offers to be a head coach and turned them all down only because he didn’t think they were the right fit. And the idea that four different NFL owners were willing to just hand the reins to Williams without even asking him to come in for an interview is ridiculous.

 

But Williams is a head coach now. Perhaps if he can win enough games he’ll have a real job offer to be a real head coach in 2019.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Jaguars:

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

 

Virtual locks: G Andrew Norwell, CB A.J. Bouye, CB Jalen Ramsey, OLB Telvin Smith, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Marqise Lee, T Cam Robinson, DL Taven Bryan, WR DJ Chark, WR Keelan Cole, DE Yannick Ngakoue, LB Myles Jack

 

This is going to be an expensive core, given that the Jags will likely need to pony up new contracts for Jack, Ramsey and Ngakoue by 2020 without having the benefit of tons of cap rollover.

 

On the bubble: QB Blake Bortles, T Jermey Parnell, C Brandon Linder, WR Dede Westbrook, RB Corey Grant, S Tashaun Gipson, DE Calais Campbell, DE Malik Jackson, CB D.J. Hayden, DT Abry Jones

 

The Jags can get out of Bortles’ deal after 2019 with just $5 million in dead money. Their next step at quarterback might determine whether they can keep expensive veterans like Campbell or Jackson in the fold.

 

 

Unlikely notables: S Barry Church, DT Marcell Dareus, RB T.J. Yeldon, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Donte Moncrief

 

If Jacksonville has to sacrifice one of its defensive linemen to create cap room next offseason, Dareus makes the most sense, given that he hasn’t shown much at all as a pass-rusher since 2014.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Fate has handed QB NATHAN PETERMAN a chance to change his destiny.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman has become a punchline during his short NFL career, throwing nine interceptions and just three touchdown passes during his two seasons with the Bills. But Peterman hasn’t lost confidence.

 

Peterman said that with Josh Allen and Derek Anderson both injured, he’s ready to start — and ready to win — on Sunday against the Bears.

 

“I’m ready to go win a game and be my best every time I take that field. I’m thankful every time I take that field,” Peterman said.

 

The Bills did win a game last year when Peterman started, a 13-7 win over the Colts in a blizzard. In that game Peterman completed just five of 10 passes for 57 yards. Suffice to say, most NFL games aren’t going to be won when the starting quarterback throws for just 57 yards.

 

“I’m going to go play my best every time I’m out there. That’s what I’m going to be focused on doing,” Peterman said.

 

So far, his best hasn’t been good enough.

 

For those keeping score – Peterman has thrown 3 TD passes to his teammates, 2 to the other team on Pick-Sixes.

 

 

MIAMI

Whatever the state of QB RYAN TANNEHILL might be, the Dolphins are going to continue to roll with QB BROCK OSWEILER against the Jets.  Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com:

 

Brocktober will continue into November. Brock Osweiler will make his fourth consecutive start for the Dolphins Sunday against the New York Jets because Ryan Tannehill is still out.

 

Tannehill hasn’t played in a game since injuring his right shoulder Oct. 7 at Cincinnati, and he was ruled out on Wednesday by coach Adam Gase.

 

Tannehill’s progress has been slow, and he hasn’t thrown a pass in the open period of practice since Oct. 11. He will likely need multiple full practice days in a row without any setbacks before he’s able to play in a game.

 

The shoulder is still bothering Tannehill, which isn’t a good sign considering that he often plays through minor ailments. Gase clarified that Tannehill’s injury isn’t a sprain, but he has yet to make public the actual injury. He has said surgery still isn’t an option for Tannehill at this point.

 

“This is a rest type thing,” Gase said.

 

There’s a reasonable chance that Tannehill won’t see the game field again until after the Dolphins’ Week 11 bye. Their next game after the bye would be Nov. 25 at Indianapolis.

 

Gase said earlier this week that Tannehill’s injury is “unusual,” with “a lot of gray.” He says Tannehill has been throwing with trainers, but he doesn’t yet have the velocity or power required to throw in real action.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Patriots:

 

New England Patriots

Virtual locks: G Shaq Mason, T Marcus Cannon, RB Sony Michel, CB Stephon Gilmore, T Isaiah Wynn, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, CB Duke Dawson

 

Not much, huh? The Patriots have a lot of flexibility, which is good, and they can shift their roster in a number of different ways depending on what happens with Tom Brady over the next couple of years, but they don’t have a ton tied down.

 

On the bubble: QB Tom Brady, WR Julian Edelman, WR Josh Gordon, T Trent Brown, C David Andrews, G Joe Thuney, RB James White, RB Rex Burkhead, DE Trey Flowers, DL Lawrence Guy, DT Malcolm Brown, LB Dont’a Hightower, S Devin McCourty, LB Kyle Van Noy, S Patrick Chung, CB Jonathan Jones, LB Elandon Roberts

 

Plenty of these players — specifically Andrews, White, McCourty, Hightower, Guy and Van Noy — are under contract for 2020 at reasonable prices. The Patriots will keep some of them, but it would hardly be a surprise if half of those veterans are no longer on the roster. The looming Flowers negotiation could be difficult, given that he doesn’t have huge numbers but is regarded in many front offices around the league as a valuable player. If the Patriots let him test the market, somebody’s going to go over the top to bring Flowers in.

 

Unlikely notables: TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Chris Hogan, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Matthew Slater

 

Given that Gronkowski was nearly traded this offseason and is going through another run of back problems, there’s a good chance he’ll retire by the time his contract expires at the end of 2019.

– – –

 

TE ROB GRONKOWSKI leaves his weekly press session abruptly.  Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal:

 

Rob Gronkowski wasn’t feeling it on Wednesday.

 

The Patriots tight end abruptly ended his weekly press conference in Gillette Stadium on Wednesday evening after a little over three minutes. According to reporters, Gronkowski then walked briskly through the locker room and looked agitated as he spoke to a Patriots media relations member.

 

It seemed like Gronk was tired of being asked about his lack of production red zone. The 29-year-old has one touchdown, scored in Week 1. Early in the press conference, Gronkowski was asked what he could do to end his touchdown drought.

 

“I’m not really sure, Gronkowski said. “Yeah. Everything. Everything you said. I don’t know what to say.”

 

Does he miss the end zone?

 

“I think it misses me,” Gronk replied.

 

What does that mean?

 

“I don’t know,” Gronk said.

 

Gronkowski was then asked about Green Bay tight end Jimmy Graham and Gronk wasn’t willing to engage, saying, “Good player. Yeah.”

 

Gronkowski hasn’t had a 100-yard game since Week 1. On Monday night, he caught three passes for 43 yards. Is there a level of frustration for the big tight end?

 

“No. We’re 6-2. We just won five games in a row and we’re just trying to get the W every week,” Gronkowski said.

 

Gronk was then asked how he was feeling. He responded, “living.” When told he seemed subdued, Gronkowski replied, “Thank you.”

 

Then, Gronkowski was about where he thought his confidence level was it.

 

“It’s good,” Gronk said.

 

Why?

 

“Because we’re winning,” he replied.

 

“Alright guys,” Gronkowski said as he walked off the podium.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Luke Easterling of USA TODAY’s Draft Wire has a 2019 Mock Draft to chew on:

 

With all those factors in mind, here’s an updated look at how the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL draft could shake out, using the latest updated draft order after Week 8 action:

 

 

1. San Francisco 49ers

Nick Bosa | EDGE | Ohio State

 

2. New York Giants

Justin Herbert | QB | Oregon

 

3. Oakland Raiders

Ed Oliver | DL | Houston

 

4. Arizona Cardinals

Jonah Williams | OT | Alabama

 

5. Buffalo Bills

Greedy Williams | CB | LSU

 

6. Cleveland Browns

Deandre Baker | CB | Georgia

 

7. New York Jets

Clelin Ferrell | EDGE | Clemson

 

8. Indianapolis Colts

Raekwon Davis | DL | Alabama

 

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

Daniel Jones | QB | Duke

 

10. Denver Broncos

Will Grier | QB | West Virginia

 

11. Detroit Lions

Brian Burns | EDGE | Florida State

 

12. Tennessee Titans

Jeffery Simmons | DL | Mississippi State

 

13. Oakland Raiders (from DAL)

Devin White | LB | LSU

 

14. Atlanta Falcons

Josh Allen | EDGE | Kentucky

 

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jachai Polite | EDGE | Florida

 

16. Philadelphia Eagles

Greg Little | OT | Mississippi

 

17. Miami Dolphins

Dexter Lawrence | DL | Clemson

 

18. Baltimore Ravens

A.J. Brown | WR | Mississippi

 

19. Green Bay Packers

Mack Wilson | LB | Alabama

 

20. Minnesota Vikings

Rashan Gary | DL | Michigan

 

21. Seattle Seahawks

Deionte Thompson | S | Alabama

 

22. Oakland Raiders (from CHI)

Montez Sweat | EDGE | Mississippi State

 

23. Houston Texans

Kris Boyd | CB | Texas

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals

Noah Fant | TE | Iowa

 

25. Pittsburgh Steelers

Julian Love | CB | Notre Dame

 

26. Washington Redskins

N’Keal Harry | WR | Arizona State

 

27. Los Angeles Chargers

Dalton Risner | OL | Kansas State

 

28. Carolina Panthers

Dre’Mont Jones | DL | Ohio State

 

29. New England Patriots

Anthony Johnson | WR | Buffalo

 

30. Green Bay Packers (from NO)

Chris Lindstrom | OL | Boston College

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Amani Oruwariye | CB | Penn State

 

32. Los Angeles Rams

Taylor Rapp | S | Washington