Bill Barnwell of points out that Rams QB JARED GOFF is playing about as well as Bills QB JOSH ALLEN:


Player A: 61.8% completion percentage, 7.0 yards per attempt, 7 INTs

Player B: 62.4% completion percentage, 7.0 yards per attempt, 7 INTs


Let’s start with a straightforward comparison. Player A is Jared Goff’s 2019 season so far, with the Rams quarterback hitting these relatively mortal numbers only after getting to face the free parking space that is the Falcons’ defense last Sunday. Goff should continue his return to form against the Bengals in Week 8, but the former first overall pick will have to contend with the likes of the Steelers, Bears and Ravens after Los Angeles’ subsequent bye.


Player B is Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who has unquestionably improved as a passer after a moribund rookie season. If anything, he deserves a bit of a boost given that he has played the Patriots, which is his only truly dreadful performance of the season. The Bills have surrounded Allen with a better infrastructure and receivers than the replacement-level talents he worked with in 2018, and his numbers have rebounded by asking him to throw deep less frequently. Throw in Allen’s distinct advantage as a runner (190 rushing yards and 13 first downs, to 16 yards and three first downs for Goff) and you could very well argue that Allen has been the more productive player this season.


Of course, we’re telling different stories about these players because they look to be on different paths. Goff, who played like a franchise quarterback for most of last season, appears to be taking steps backward. Allen, who looked to be in over his head as a rookie, is on the way up. They’re both roughly in the same spot as below-average quarterbacks, with Goff and Allen ranking 27th and 29th, respectively, in Total QBR. Goff’s track record of NFL success suggests that he’s more likely to improve, but who can be sure?





Jeremy Fowler of on how the Vikings have righted their sinking longship:


The state of the Vikings in Week 5 required two responses: ease locker room tension and show that a forgettable performance was an aberration.


Support for Cousins and Diggs got the locker room to a safe place.


Safety Anthony Harris doesn’t remember any team leaders talking up (or down) Diggs after he missed a work day over frustration with the offense and sparked trade rumors in the process. Sources said this was not the first time Diggs had expressed issues with the team. But Harris said, “We really care for that guy here,” and they showed it with daps and hugs as Diggs took his team-issued fines for the absence and worked his way back.


“We pride ourselves in taking care of one another, being a family first, embracing what each individual is going through,” said Harris, a sixth-year safety with the team. “Try to stay together, regardless of any reports that come out. It’s about having your guys’ backs.”


That also meant building Cousins back up. Players knew the Chicago loss was hardly on the quarterback alone; the Bears beat up just about everybody in a 16-6 loss. A now-thriving offensive line had been playing with moving parts early in the season, which didn’t help. A lack of overall offensive groove mimicked Cousins’ rhythmless touchdown celebrations.


Harris remembers thinking amid social media outcry over Cousins’ ability: Lay off him, let him work, go play, and we believe in you. No pressure from us.


Then, offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski saw Cousins immerse himself in the game plan for the Giants, poring over every detail with quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak.


“He’s a pro. He takes his job so seriously,” Stefanski said. “He does a nice job of jumping in, learning a game plan cold.”


Meanwhile, the Vikings’ staff remained confident the explosive plays would come. The outside-zone running scheme, with Dalvin Cook turning 5-yard gains into 15, would facilitate more play-action chances downfield.


Three wins, nearly 1,000 passing yards and 10 touchdowns through the air later — 354 and three of which were to Diggs — the Vikings are glad they didn’t overreact and instead clung to routine. Especially with a now-healthy line that is creating big holes, with young players Garrett Bradbury and Brian O’Neill emerging.


“Sometimes you get beat by a good team at their place,” Stefanski said of the Bears loss. “You see the headlines, get asked the questions, but in our building, guys came to work and kept working. We felt strong in who we were. I don’t think anyone lost any confidence.”


Then, Stefanski stressed a key truism with the Vikings’ offense, which Minnesota must uphold to win the NFC North: “We’re not a one-man show.”





Some concussions take more time than others.  Josh Alper of


Wide receiver Sterling Shepard said this week that he feels ready to get back into the Giants lineup after missing two games with a concussion, but it’s far from certain that he’ll be in the lineup against the Lions on Sunday.


Shepard practiced on a limited basis last week and had the same level of participation in Wednesday’s workout, so he’s made some progress toward clearing the concussion protocol. He hasn’t passed the final stages, however, and head coach Pat Shurmur didn’t sound overly confident that will happen in time for Sunday.


Shurmur told reporters that there’s a “strong possibility” that Shepard, who also missed a game after a Week One concussion, will be out again this weekend.


Golden Tate and Darius Slayton have seen the most snaps at receiver the last two weeks. Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler will round out the group if Shepard is on the sideline again.







Whether the reasons are physical, mental, emotional or a combination, GM John Elway says don’t count on seeing rookie QB DREW LOCK anytime soon. Darin Gantt of


The Broncos aren’t ready to make a quarterback change, primarily because they don’t think they have an option that’s ready.


As tempting (and easy) as it would be to move on from Joe Flacco after a 2-5 start, there are a few practical realities preventing them from doing so.


Second-round pick Drew Lock is expected to start practicing again soon, in hopes of returning from the broken thumb that landed him on injured reserve. But they haven’t started the clock on him yet, perhaps because the boss isn’t sure he’s prepared to play anytime soon.


Via Nicki Jhabvala of, Broncos General Manager John Elway said during an interview on KOA that he’s still thinking about the future of Lock.


“I will say this: The most important thing for a young quarterback is not to put him out there before he’s ready,” Elway said. “So that is the most important thing and if he’s not ready, we’re not going to put him out there. That is the key thing. And as you know dealing with quarterbacks, it’s a very tough thing because if you don’t put him in a situation where he has a chance to be successful and he’s not successful, the whole roof will cave in. So we have to make sure that Drew is ready when he does get in there, if he does get in there.


“We’re still in the process of evaluating that. He is not ready to go right now, I will tell you that.”


Elway recalled his own experience, in which he was benched during his fifth game in 1983, only to get the job back four games later because of injury.


“Really the four games I was benched, I learned a hell of a lot more than in the four games I played just because it’s such a big step,” Elway said. “Then Steve DeBerg got hurt and it gave me a second chance that year, so I was able to come back and had a different viewpoint of it after I sat for those four games.


“So I think that’s why with young quarterbacks, it’s always good for them to see what it’s all about and the step that it takes instead of throwing them right into the fire, because very few of these guys have a lot of success early. They’re going to take their lumps. As I did and as most quarterbacks do, they’re going to take their lumps, and they have to be able to withstand that, and they got to be able to withstand the negative stuff that’s going to come with the part that he continues to get better.”


Of course, the atmosphere Elway created (they’re 2-5 and their best wide receiver just asked to be traded and was) is the negative one that might stunt Lock’s growth, which might make it best for Lock to wait.




More signs of a Mahomes Medical Miracle.  Mike Florio of


Amazingly, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes returned to practice on Wednesday, only six days after suffering a dislocated kneecap against the Broncos.


Officially, he was limited in practice. It remains to be seen whether this will translate to a timeline-defying return to action for Sunday Night Football against the Packers.


As a source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT over the weekend, any effort to specifically peg Mahomes’ absence amounts to speculation. Natural healing coupled with rehab efforts and MRI results will determine when he’s good to go.


Still, the fact that he did enough on Wednesday to qualify for the “limited” practice label suggests that he’ll be back sooner than later.


On one hand, the 5-2 Chiefs need him, given that the 6-1 Packers and 5-2 Vikings are coming to town over the next two weeks. On the other hand, the Chiefs need to be certain that they’re not exposing Mahomes to enhanced risk of an injury that could end his 2019 season and/or affect his preparedness for 2020. Mahomes will be the franchise quarterback for another 15 years; there’s no reason to assume unnecessary risk at this point.


But Mahomes surely wants to play, and the Chiefs surely realize that 5-2 could quickly become 5-4 without him over the next two Sundays.


Elsewhere for the Chiefs, tacke Eric Fisher (groin) returned to practice on a limited basis. Receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) fully participated. Defensive tackle Chris Jones (groin) did not practice.





Steelers LB ANTHONY CHICKILLO goes on the commissioner’s exempt list after an argument with his pole vaulter girlfriend goes wrong at a Pennsylvania casino.  Jacob Klinger of


The NFL put Anthony Chickillo on paid leave.


The Steelers announced Wednesday afternoon that the outside linebacker was added to the commissioner’s exempt list and that team filled his place on the roster with Jayrone Elliott.


Chickillo was arrested Sunday morning on charges of simple assault, criminal mischief and harassment after an incident in which state police say he got into an argument with Alysha Newman over casino table games at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.


State trooper Nicholas Kunz wrote that Newman, who is an Olympic pole vaulter and Chickillo’s girlfriend, told police the Steeler grabbed her by both arms, threw her against a wall and door, the tossed her to the ground and smashed her cell phone. Newman then hid in the bathroom and waited for police, according to the incident report.


The NFL told PennLive on Monday the league was investigating the incident. Placement on the commissioner’s exempt list allows the league to continue investigations of players without their teams taking action themselves.


In a statement from general manager Kevin Colbert on Tuesday the Steelers said they would await “further information” while cooperating with the league and legal investigations. Chickillo’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30, according to court documents obtained by PennLive.


Newman is a member of the Canadian Olympic team, but she met Chickillo when both were students at the University of Miami.  Here is a story from happier times – from Jeremy Fowler of in 2018:


They met in the University of Miami training room, a romance sparked by bone spurs and ankle sprains.


It was August 2013, and Anthony Chickillo was a promising defensive lineman visibly upset his heavily-taped ankle would keep him out of camp.


“I told him, ‘It won’t kill you, you’re good,'” said Alysha Newman, now a world-class pole vaulter for Canada.


An athletic power couple was born, for better or worse.


That training room session set the stage for a relationship built on love, strengthened by admiration but hindered by personal goals.


Chickillo, in his fourth season as an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was predestined to play football. His father, Tony, and grandfather, Nick, both played in the league.


But while Chickillo pores over game film each week, Newman is getting world-class treatment five hours away in Toronto or traveling the world for modeling shoots and Nike promotional work. She’s rigorously rehabbing a partially torn patellar tendon and has the inside track for medal placement in the 2020 Olympic games. In April, she set a Commonwealth Games record by clearing 4.75 meters. She’s eyeing a 5.0 mark by 2020, and despite Chickillo’s 6.5 career sacks, he knows it’s tough to argue who’s the better athlete.


Chickillo and Newman want marriage. They want kids. And more kids. But ambition blurs visions of an extended life together.


“At times it’s hard. You have to sacrifice some things, make it work,” Chickillo said. “I feel like I want her to be successful in her sport. I want her to reach her goals. Whatever her plan is, I’m for that.”


Those sacrifices include plenty of drives across the Canadian border, and lots of time alone. Newman schedules her training around Steelers home-game weekends, and Chickillo spends a few weeks in Toronto after the season. But Newman can’t just work out anywhere. Her Olympic training center in Toronto is specific to her skill set, so she can’t camp out in Pittsburgh.


Chickillo, who’s signed to a restricted free-agent tender of $1.9 million this year, can’t leave his team on a whim with impulsive trips north.


The separation has created friction they’ve worked through. After Newman withdrew from the Prefontaine Games in May for what she thought was a kneecap rupture suffered during warm-ups, Chickillo reached her by phone for support. Newman, about to be transported to medical care via helicopter, told her boyfriend, “I think you wanted this to happen so I can be [in Pittsburgh] more.” Chickillo assured her that’s not at all what he was thinking.


Newman admits she was frustrated and thinking the worst in the moment. But their time apart has required patience.


“It’s taken a long time to figure it out, but we’re stronger than we’ve ever been,” Newman said. “If I had to choose between him and track and field, he knows I’d choose track and field. To be able to impact others with our sports, you can’t duplicate that and we know that. We can’t regret anything so we don’t have to blame each other. Because someone is in your life doesn’t mean you have to lose your dream. Since we’re apart, we can be selfish all the time. This is the time we have to put as much in the bank as we can as athletes. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this is really good for us. You realize that and expect each other to pick up the slack.”


With those challenges come unique perspective on each other’s physical demands. Newman and Chickillo don’t talk much about football schematics, but she understands speed and power. She’ll let him know if she sees something in his game that he needs to improve — such as overpowering a tackle or getting off the edge with a better angle.


Chickillo’s specialty is encouraging her to maximize her ability and fight through injuries.


“It’s really cool. We push each other,” Chickillo said. “She’s competitive. We have a lot of fun. She’s really dedicated. We can talk about that with each other, things to make each other better.”


Chickillo already has targeted the summer of 2020 for some time off while Newman competes in the Olympics. Chickillo watched with teammates as Newman competed in the 2016 Rio games, where she finished 17th overall and was not pleased with her performance. Since then, though, her career has taken off.


Newman wants at least two successful Olympic stints and a long Steelers career for Chickillo. Maybe by then, their sports empires will collide to form a happy home, with kids who look up to parents who did things their way.


“No matter what happens, I have a best friend who’s pumped me up so many times,” Newman said. “We would love for this to work out, but if it didn’t, we would both be grateful. But I can’t wait till we get to the point where we’re successful and we can enjoy it together.”





Jeremy Fowler on how the Colts have gotten to 5-2 after the sudden departure of their franchise QB:


From the thousands of words Luck emotionally spilled onto a stunned media corps the night of Aug. 24, the Colts could pare down his retirement explanation to about six: mental anguish from constantly rehabbing injuries.


Privately, the Colts didn’t attempt to psychoanalyze that reasoning — which wasn’t easy to hear, to be sure. They just accepted it, made the quarterback whole contractually and got back to work. As one source involved told me, everyone is looking for conspiracies and career-ending injuries that simply didn’t exist. The situation dissolved fairly quickly once late August hit.


Indy set a tone nine days after the announcement by signing Jacoby Brissett to a two-year, $30 million extension, rewarding an ascending player without tying the future to him unnecessarily.


Brissett is now playing like he’s worth twice that, throwing 14 touchdown passes to just three interceptions while leading the Colts to a 4-2 start. Teammates love Brissett, who revealed his on-field edge long ago: In college at Florida, he was so upset that coaches went with Jeff Driskel instead of him that he transferred to NC State and vowed to make everyone pay.


It’s hardly a guarantee Brissett can keep up his current pace, but he’s setting himself up for a far more lucrative negotiation next year. And he wears “Run the damn ball” hats, which is a great locker room morale boost.


Around Brissett, general manager Chris Ballard has built a roster with the versatility of a blazer that looks sharp at work and at happy hour.


The Colts’ offense is at its best when it peels back and smothers a defense for nearly 40 minutes of running-game agony. But it looks comfortable when Brissett is throwing more than 35 times, too. Brissett has 901 yards and nine touchdowns to one interception in the three games the Colts gave him more freedom to deliver from the pocket.


The roster has just about everything: the linebacker leader for the next decade (Darius Leonard), the successful reclamation project (Pierre Desir), a Le’Veon Bell footwork disciple (Marlon Mack), the last-chance veteran who can still get to the quarterback at times (Justin Houston), five capable offensive linemen and the potent red zone target who’s just happy to be out of Detroit (Eric Ebron). It could use one or two more splash playmakers on defense and another vertical threat, but this is a top-10 roster right now.


And then there’s Frank Reich, purveyor of culture, picker of spots. He knows his team is ready to handle the storms of an NFL season.


“It really comes down to the mindset and the character of the team and the belief and conviction of what we’re doing, and the trust in each other,” Reich told me this offseason. “You can watch any sport, any time, the championship teams have that. … The trust, the love for each other, is at the center of it. And it’s all about the players. You need the provision, but it doesn’t work without everybody in. You’ve got to have the leaders in the locker room who really believe.”





The acquisition of WR MOHAMMAD SANU apparently came about because the Patriots are ready to give up on their reclamation project with WR JOSH GORDON.  Charean Williams of


The Patriots placed Josh Gordon on injured reserve Wednesday, a day after acquiring receiver Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons. It might not signal the end of Gordon’s season, though.


Gordon’s knee injury is considered “minor,” according to multiple reports, and he expects to be cleared soon. The receiver recently went 22 mph on a treadmill during his rehab, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reports.


Gordon replied to NFL Media’s tweet about the Patriots placing him on IR with one word: “Interesting.”


The Patriots are expected to waive Gordon off injured reserve once he’s cleared, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL, allowing Gordon to play with another team this season. If they waive him after Tuesday’s trade deadline, Gordon would be subject to waivers.


That would improve New England’s chances of keeping Gordon away from an AFC competitor with the worst teams getting the first shots at waiver claims.


Gordon has two bone bruises in his knee, which he aggravated against the Giants. He has not played since the Oct. 10 game.


Gordon warmed up at practice Wednesday but did not participate.


He has 20 catches for 287 yards and a touchdown this season, and 60 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns in 17 games with the Patriots over the past two seasons.


The league handed Gordon an indefinite suspension for another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy Dec. 20, but Commissioner Roger Goodell lifted it during training camp.




The next dispute between a player and a team medical staff (after T TRENT WILLIAMS still holding out from the Redskins) involves Jets G KELECHI OSEMELE.  Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News brings us up to date with a pro-player slant:


Kelechi Osemele’s standoff with the Jets took another strange turn when the two-time Pro Bowl guard revealed Wednesday that after getting a third opinion this week, he will have surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum.


Osemele also said that general manager Joe Douglas admitted that the team inadvertently sent blank and wrong MRI images to doctors when the player was seeking an independent second opinion. To make matters weirder, Osemele conveyed that the Jets team doctor said that he should have surgery now if he’s in pain. However, the Jets had yet to authorize the surgery as of Wednesday afternoon.


 “The conflict is that the team does not think that I’m in pain,” said Osemele, who is getting fined the maximum amount by the team every day that he doesn’t practice.


It’s a jarring statement given the heightened importance on player safety. Osemele has filed a grievance to recoup the money lost through fines. He had a conference call with NFL Players Association officials Monday to chart a course of action.


“It’s ethically and morally wrong,” Osemele said of denying surgery. “They’re saying that pain is the No. 1 thing right now. So, if you can bear it and you can get through it, then yes. But I can’t.”


“I’m 30 years old,” Osemele added. “Let’s be realistic about this. I’m in a lot of pain. My tolerance isn’t probably the same as it used to be… But I can’t go. I just can’t go. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in this situation. I can lift my arm. It just hurts.”


The Jets declined comment Wednesday when asked about Osemele’s assertions. The organization has inexplicably created a PR mess through their actions and public silence. Adam Gase declined comment on Tuesday. The team declined public comment last week, while a PR official disparaged Osemele through back channels, the ultimate amateur move by a poorly run outfit.


Osemele flew to Boston Tuesday to get a third opinion after the Jets viewed the second opinion as nebulous. (The second opinion concluded that surgery was predicated on symptoms). Osemele said that he first noticed pain on August 5 before it “increasingly got worse.”


The Jets have leaned on the “pre-existing injury” crutch without acknowledging this fundamental (and obvious) truth: Pre-existing injuries can worsen.


The Jets gave Osemele a Toradol pain injection before the first three games without listing him on the injury report. Although Osemele conceded that Toradol is commonly used by players in pain, he made it clear that its effectiveness wore off at some point in the first half of the Jets’ Week 3 blowout loss in Philly.


 “A lot of guys play through injuries and you need that to play thru an injury,” Osemele said about Toradol. “But once it stops working and it doesn’t do anything for you anymore, then you’re at a point where it’s like, ‘Now what do I do?’ Do I take Vicodin? Where is the line? How much should a player play through pain? What is the limit? Is there a limit? Am I supposed to take Toradol every day? Does my health not matter?”


Osemele said that he’ll need 4-6 months to rehab and that he “100 percent” wants to play next year. He was also smart enough to acknowledge that he will be cut after the season.


Osemele said that his benching had nothing to do with his decision to want surgery now, citing that he wanted to go under the knife before a switch was made during the Week 4 bye.


He also confirmed a report that the organization didn’t initially send independent doctors the proper MRI images when the player sought a second opinion.


“Douglas told me that was a mistake,” Osemele said. “It wasn’t intentional. They were just blank. And then the wrong one was sent. So, it was just a series of trying to get the MRI and it just not coming together. But it eventually did get put together.”


It was a microcosm of just how much the Jets have botched this entire situation.


Osemele spoke with candor and calm amid what he described as a “slightly disrespectful” situation. He handled the matter like a professional, while his employer essentially called him a liar.


The Jets, meanwhile, stayed true to what they are.

– – –

Meanwhile, QB SAM DARNOLD is limping two days after seeing ghosts.  Manish Mehta again:


Sam Darnold came to work limping on Wednesday after having his toenail removed the day after his forgettable five-turnover performance against the Patriots. Although Darnold isn’t in jeopardy of missing the Jets game in Jacksonville on Sunday, the second-year quarterback was listed as a non-participant in practice on Wednesday after not taking part in team drills.


Adam Gase said Wednesday morning that Darnold will be re-evaluated after doing individual drills and 7-on-7 passing drills. The signal caller has been outfitted with new padding and shoes to alleviate the discomfort.


“We’re just trying to make sure that he feels good with the shoes that he’s got,” Gase said. “He just had that procedure (Tuesday). He had a toenail removed. I don’t know. It was pretty gross, what they were talking about.”


The doctors and trainers will monitor Darnold before determining whether he can participate in team drills. If he can’t, he’ll be listed as a DNP (did not practice) on the team’s official injury report that will be released later in the day.


Gase isn’t concerned at all about Darnold’s availability for Sunday.


 “He’s limping a little bit,” Gase said. “But once we get him in his shoe and the padding and all that stuff, he should be good to go.”


Gase isn’t concerned that Darnold’s poor play on Monday night will linger. He was matter-of-fact in his message to the player.


“Learn from it,” Gase told Darnold. “Move on… got to clear your mind. You got to make sure you do a great job focusing on this game. What happened last week is irrelevant. You have to learn from it, but it’s gone. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”

– – –

Cynthia Frelund of, presented as their “NFL Networks Analytics Expert,” declares that the Jets will make a strong run in the second half of the season.



New York Jets: I understand that, coming off a 33-0 trouncing by the Patriots on “Monday Night Football,” it likely feels weird to see that my model picked the Jets to upset the Jags in Jacksonville this weekend. But don’t let recency bias cloud your vision. The Jets project to have more wins coming to finish the season than their current 1-5 record might indicate.


Here’s one point to consider from each side of the ball:


Offense: The Jets have faced some strong defenses through Week 7, but among every team’s remaining schedule, the Jets’ features the second-lowest combined unit win shares of opposing defenses. Per Football Outsiders, the Jets’ offense is in the top two in terms of having faced the hardest average DVOA of opponent, and it’s among the top two in easiest remaining DVOA. This week against the Jaguars, who traded away top cornerback Jalen Ramsey last week, expect to see the passing game look more like the outfit that helped them beat the Cowboys in Week 6. While the Jets currently rank last in yards per play (3.75), remember that this average includes the three games Sam Darnold missed with mono. When you combine the Jets’ potential ability to run efficiently against the Jaguars’ defense (Jacksonville is allowing 4.98 yards per rush on first down, fifth highest) and Darnold’s ability to connect with receivers deep, this game projects to be won through big plays and start the Jets’ ascent to 15th in yards per play by season’s end.


Defense: The Jets’ defense has been inconsistent when it comes to applying strategic pressure. For example, they have the lowest percentages of pressure in the red zone in both attempted pressure (16%) and disruption (12.2%), with zero sacks. While stopping the run is an area of success (3.25 yards allowed per attempt, second-best in the NFL), the Jets have stopped the pass only intermittently. This week against the Jags, the Jets project to slow Leonard Fournette enough to force more obvious passes. Deep passing for both teams — especially when it comes to limiting the success of Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew — is likely to be the key to this game. This is also an area where the Jets will improve, especially with linebacker C.J. Mosley, who missed four games with a groin injury, back on the field going forward.






BEST CONTRACTS BY TEAM has a long list of the best contract on each NFL team put together by Rives McCown.  We have the list of names below (with a few excerpts).  The whole thing is here.


An NFL roster is a zero-sum game, thanks to the salary cap. Paying one player more means you have to pay another player less. That means it’s important for every team to get value out of its veteran contracts. We analyzed the rosters of all 32 NFL teams and picked out the most valuable contract on each one. Then, we had NFL Nation reporters give us some insights on each player from teammates, coaches or the player himself, along with what his next contract could look like (and where it could be).




Buffalo Bills: Micah Hyde, S

Age: 28

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $6.618 million (3.5%), 2020: $6.7 million (3.4%), 2021: $6.75 million


Why his contract is so valuable: If the best way to determine if a player is good is the approval of his peers, Buffalo’s opponents sure don’t want to throw at Micah Hyde. Sports Info Solutions had him with just 27 targets last season, despite a forward role in the defense, and in six games this season, he has been targeted just nine times. Hyde was a big steal in free agency for Brandon Beane…Arguably the Bills’ best player, Hyde, who was honored by his inclusion on this list, is in line for an extension that should position him among the highest-paid safeties in the NFL.


Miami Dolphins: Preston Williams, WR

Age: 22

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $498,333 (0.3%), 2020: $588,333 (0.3%), 2021: $673,334


Why his contract is so valuable: On a real, non-tanking football team, we’d probably have a better pick for this category.


New England Patriots: J.C. Jackson, CB

Age: 23

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $573,333 (0.3%), 2020: $663,334 (0.3%), 2021: RFA


Why his contract is so valuable: Tom Brady’s willingness to use his contract to help facilitate greatness for the Patriots is a big reason the Patriots are so good. New England’s draft manipulation and stockpiling of picks via the compensatory pick system is also a big reason the Patriots are so good. And then, hey, they found an undrafted free agent who came on toward the end of last season who just happens to be allowing 3.0 yards per target in 2019, has already picked five interceptions in five career starts and has defensed five more balls just for fun.


New York Jets: Robby Anderson, WR

Age: 26

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $3.1 million (1.6%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Yes, Anderson’s numbers are down this season, but you can blame Luke Falk for that. (It didn’t help to be covered by Stephon Gilmore last week.) Anderson came on late last season and has continuously been one of the most aspirational players in the NFL.




Baltimore Ravens: Michael Pierce, DT

Age: 26

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $3.095 million


Why his contract is so valuable: This pretty much came down to how you value Pierce against offseason bargain Pernell McPhee. Both players are good against the run and contributors against the pass, and I think both have a great understanding of the game.


Cincinnati Bengals: Alex Erickson, WR

Age: 26

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $1.76 million (0.9%), 2020: $1.86 million (0.9%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Erickson was one of the best kick returners in the NFL last season, has been a high-efficiency underneath target whenever called upon and signed a long-term extension for relative peanuts.


Cleveland Browns: JC Tretter, C

Age: 28

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $7.25 million (3.9%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Signed from the Packers in part because of an “injury-prone” tag, Tretter has played like a top-10 center the past three seasons and has been given the contract of a solid starting lineman.


Pittsburgh Steelers: Alejandro Villanueva, OT

Age: 31

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $8.4 million (4.5%), 2020: $8.4 million (4.2%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Villanueva came to the Steelers late because he was active-duty military, but the massive left tackle has been one of the league’s best since he took over as a UDFA in 2015. …What’s next? Villanueva is well aware that almost half the left tackles in the NFL are paid more than he is, but the former Army Ranger’s life experience gives him a unique perspective on his bargain contract.




Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, DE

Age: 30

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $14,628,750 (8.0%), 2020: $15.5 million (7.8%), 2021: $17.5 million


Why his contract is so valuable: This is going to take some unpacking because I know this is a weird name to see on this list. Watt signed his contract in 2014. Times have changed drastically for edge rushers, and though Watt is among the highest-paid 3-4 ends, he’s no longer making superstar pass-rusher money.


Indianapolis Colts: Kenny Moore II, CB

Age: 24

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $9 million (4.8%), 2020: $6 million (3.0%), 2021: $5.65 million, 2022: $5.75 million, 2023: $7.54 million


Why his contract is so valuable: Moore is kind of a contradiction in terms: He’s a great slot cornerback, which is a brand of player that tends to have up-and-down seasons. He’s also a great pass-rusher at cornerback, which he showed in devastating the Texans in the playoffs.


Jacksonville Jaguars: Calais Campbell, DE

Age: 33

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $14.5 million (7.7%), 2020: $17.5 million (8.8%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Just like Watt, Campbell is a true star end who is playing on a contract that would have been onerous in 2017, but in 2019, the cap has grown to the point that it’s pretty fair.


Tennessee Titans: Ben Jones, C

Age: 30

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $5.375 million (2.9%), 2020: $6.25 million (3.1%), 2021: $7.25 million


Why his contract is so valuable: Although Jones has never been — and likely will never be — a Hall of Fame-level center, he has been one of the steadiest in football at the position the past three seasons.




Denver Broncos: Todd Davis, LB

Age: 27

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $5 million (2.7%), 2020: $6 million (3.0%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Splitting out raw completion percentages against linebackers always feels weird because so much of the current NFL game is against them. But per SportsRadar, Davis is allowing 5.3 yards per target in 2019 and has mostly limited the underneath gains as the main cover linebacker for the Broncos the past three seasons…

What’s next? When the Broncos claimed Davis off waivers (from the Saints) in 2014, the thinking was that he would add some depth, some speed and some athleticism and they liked what they knew about his work ethic. They’ve gotten so much more, given that he played in every game for a Super Bowl winner in the 2015 season and has been a starter the past four seasons.


Kansas City Chiefs: Travis Kelce, TE

Age: 30

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $10.7 million (5.7%), 2020: $10.4 million (5.2%), 2021: $9 million


Why his contract is so valuable: Kelce is one of the highest paid tight ends in football, yes, but he also offers incredible value as the rare tight end to live up to his contract.


Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler, RB

Age: 24

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $646,668 (0.3%), 2020: RFA


Why his contract is so valuable: What did we learn from the Melvin Gordon contract situation? We learned that it didn’t really hinder the Chargers all that much to have Gordon gone. For some teams, it would have been a real problem. But Ekeler plugged in and was fantastic in Gordon’s absence


Oakland Raiders: Richie Incognito, OG

Age: 36

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $569,118 (0.3%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Listen, Richie Incognito has been a pill to deal with for the entirety of the past five years of his career. There’s the Dolphins bullying scandal, and there are his off-field issues that sent him away from the Bills. He doesn’t seem like a particularly good addition to a locker room from the outside. But he is an incredible run-blocker and has done so even at an advanced age and coming off a suspension this season.




Dallas Cowboys: Jeff Heath, S

Age: 28

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $2.95 million (1.6%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Suddenly a starter after the Cowboys let Barry Church walk following the 2017 season, Heath hasn’t exactly been a dynamic tackler, but he is a solid coverage safety who reads the ball well in help defense.


New York Giants: Markus Golden, LB

Age: 26

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $3.28 million (1.7%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Golden had 12.5 sacks with the Cardinals in 2016 but suffered a torn ACL in 2017 and tumbled down the pecking order in Arizona when Steve Wilks changed the defensive scheme last season. Reunited with his defensive coordinator from his Arizona days, James Bettcher, in New York, Golden has five sacks and 17 pressures in seven starts for the Giants.


Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Graham, DE

Age: 31

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $3.5 million (1.9%), 2020: $13.375 million (6.7%), 2021: $16.375 million


Why his contract is so valuable: Graham is probably going to go down as the most underappreciated edge rusher of his era, despite his strip-sacking Tom Brady in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. Graham has never gotten his due on pure sack numbers, topping out at 9.5 in 2017, because the Eagles use a deep rotation of edges. Despite that, Graham has three consecutive seasons with 41 or more pressures and is at 27 after his first seven games of 2019. Graham is not slated to take up a huge amount of cap space compared to that of the best edge rushers in the game the next two seasons.


Washington Redskins: Quinton Dunbar, CB

Age: 27

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $4.11 million (2.2%), 2020: $4.5 million (2.3%)


Why his contract is so valuable: A UDFA success story for Washington, Dunbar re-signed to a three-year contract in 2018. Despite limited starts over the past three years and change, Dunbar has allowed fewer than 7.9 yards per target in all of those seasons.




Chicago Bears: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S

Age: 26

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $3.25 million (1.7%)


Why his contract is so valuable: While Adrian Amos was given a huge contract with the Packers, the Bears have stayed mostly steady in our defensive rankings this year, and Clinton-Dix is a big part of the driving force behind that. Clinton-Dix already has two picks and has looked much more spry as a downhill run tackler this season, freed from Washington’s system.


Detroit Lions: Marvin Jones Jr., WR

Age: 29

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $9.1 million (4.9%), 2020: $9.1 million (4.6%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Since signing this contract — and despite playing in wildly different offenses, thanks to the previous shift to Jim Bob Cooter and this year’s move to a deep passing game under Darrell Bevell — Jones has been a consistent contributor.


Green Bay Packers: Tyler Lancaster, DT

Age: 24

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $570,000 (0.2%), 2020: ERFA, 2021: RFA


Why his contract is so valuable: That’s right: 2018 undrafted free agent Tyler Lancaster. This is partly an expression of the fact that the Packers don’t have much bargain-rate talent on their team and partly about how well Lancaster has fit as a run stuffer in Green Bay’s front seven.


Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith, S

Age: 30

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $10.75 million (5.7%), 2020: $10.75 million (5.4%), 2021: $10.25 million


Why his contract is so valuable: Smith’s 2016 contract extension now falls right in line with the concept of the rising salary cap, making what was once a big deal look a little less so… What’s next? You’d be hard-pressed to find a more valuable player in Mike Zimmer’s defense than Harrison Smith. He does it all, playing up in the box, forcing fumbles, earning tackles for loss and smothering his opponent on the back end while tallying picks. The Vikings knew they had a star on their hands when they gave Smith his extension in 2016, and the perennial Pro Bowler took it upon himself to prove the organization right.




Atlanta Falcons: Deion Jones, LB

Age: 24

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $4.7 million (2.5%), 2020: $10.3 million (5.2%), 2021: $12.63 million, 2022: $14.09 million, 2023: $16.379 million


Why his contract is so valuable: The Falcons have been very aggressive about extensions for players who they think are part of their core. As such, this largely came down to the most stable players. I think Matt Ryan, Jones and Grady Jarrett are probably the best players, and of those three, I think Jones has the least onerous contract


Carolina Panthers: Gerald McCoy, DT

Age: 31

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $7.9 million (4.2%)


Why his contract is so valuable: It was bizarre when McCoy hit free agency late in the offseason, and it was even more bizarre that he wound up in Carolina for a pittance. McCoy had 2.5 sacks against the Bucs in London, and his 10 hurries are right in line with his career norms.


New Orleans Saints: Jared Cook, TE

Age: 32

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $4 million (2.1%), 2020: $9 million (4.5%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Cook finally delivered on his massive physical promise as a receiver in Oakland in 2018. We don’t really know enough about how he’ll work in New Orleans, given that Drew Brees has been hurt, and that has taken away a lot of the team’s main offensive philosophy. That said, tight ends who turn 101 targets into six touchdowns and 896 yards aren’t easy to find.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Shaquil Barrett, DE

Age: 27

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $4 million (2.1%)


Why his contract is so valuable: That’s one helluva prove-it contract. Through seven weeks, Barrett has nine sacks. It was easy to see the way that Barrett flashed for the Broncos when he got on the field, but teams were a little nervous about giving him a long-term deal. With his destroying the competition in almost every game of this season, including eating Daryl Williams’ soul against Carolina and strip-sacking Jared Goff to finish a road win in Los Angeles, we bet he won’t be settling for a one-year deal again.




Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB

Age: 29

Remaining contract (cap hit, % of cap): 2019: $8 million (4.3%), 2020: $13.1 million (6.6%)


Why his contract is so valuable: Peterson is still a star cornerback in his prime, and given that his long-term contract was signed in 2014, his dollar figures have depreciated greatly, compared to most players’.


Los Angeles Rams: Robert Woods, WR

Age: 27

Remaining contract (cap hit, % of cap): 2019: $7.675 million (4.1%), 2020: $8.175 million (4.1%), 2021: $10.175 million


Why his contract is so valuable: Woods has been by far the most consistent receiver for the Rams since he was signed away from a bad situation in Buffalo…What’s next? It’s no secret inside the Rams’ building that Woods has out-performed the five-year, $34 million contract he signed in 2017, which is why the Rams reworked his contract going into this season, guaranteeing him an extra $1 million that would have been earned through incentives


San Francisco 49ers: Matt Breida, RB

Age: 24

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $646,668 (0.3%), 2020: RFA


Why his contract is so valuable: In Kyle Shanahan’s tenure, no team has spent quite as heavily on running backs as the San Francisco 49ers. They inked both Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman to massive contracts. They spent a fourth-round pick on Joe Williams. Yet the best running back on the team remains a holdover from pre-Shanahan days who upstages every other back the team has when he hits the field.


Seattle Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Age: 27

Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $7.35 million (3.9%), 2020: $10.25 million (5.1%), 2021: $12.55 million


Why his contract is so valuable: It was a bit of a surprise when the Seahawks extended Lockett before the 2018 season, with $11 million in guarantees on a $33 million contract. He hadn’t broken out yet. But he did as soon as he hit the ground running in 2018, leading the NFL in receiving DVOA and having one of the most efficient seasons by a deep receiver in NFL history.




Marc Sessler of compiles a list of the hot assistants, which surprisingly includes 60-year-old Leslie Frazier”


Good morning from Los Angeles, where the fog of Week 7 gives way to a cloudless horizon of possibilities for the latter half of this NFL campaign.


One team will be crowned king — and one player MVP — but from where I sit and tap out this communiqué on my company-issued laptop, no greater honor exists than the ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR award.


You might disagree, but the accolade itself doubles as a crystal ball for future league business. Since the award was launched in 2014 (about 80 years too late IMHO) four of the five winners went on to become head coaches, with the only exception being Wade Phillips, a three-time lead man who, at age 72, appears surface-level content to spin chaos as a coordinator.


This year’s race for ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR honors is thick with challengers. A few of these entries are bound to melt away as teams fall apart, while new names will emerge. As of this writing, here’s my nonscientific pecking order:


Cream-of-the-crop, wind-beneath-my-wings clubhouse leaders for the vaunted ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR (ACOY) trophy:


1) Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco’s defensive play-caller is living the reality all assistants dream of: In the course of a game, Saleh’s name is mentioned roughly 20 to 25 times by the likes of Troy Aikman, Tony Romo or fill-in-the-blank broadcaster crooning over his handiwork. The praise is just, as Saleh has the Niners whirling into weekly action as a star-flushed cadre that sucks the life out of enemies. His stock was down a year ago when the 49ers set an ugly league record with just seven takeaways all season, but the switch has flipped in 2019, with Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Nick Bosa and offseason trade acquisition Dee Ford joining Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner and breakout disrupter Arik Armstead to comprise a ferocious front.


Riding a high that’s seen the Niners allow seven or fewer points in three straight tilts and just 98 passing yards over the past two games combined, Saleh’s glistening dome and sideline fist-pumping act have become a centerpiece of televised Sunday action. He’s got three more months TOPS in chilled-out NorCal before another club swoops in and makes him The Guy. Saleh is your easy leader in the clubhouse to see the ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR golden wreath placed upon his brow.


2) Dennis Allen, defensive coordinator, New Orleans Saints: It feels like eons ago when a befuddled Allen wandered up and down the Raiders sideline guiding Oakland to an 8-28 record over three seasons. The jettisoned head coach landed on his feet in New Orleans in 2015 and deserves more attention for his work with a Saints defense currently operating as the neighborhood bully. Pro Bowler Cam Jordan fronts a line allowing a measly 58 yards rushing per tilt over the past month and just 17 to the Bears in Sunday’s knockout punch of Chicago. Allen’s defense flat-out embarrasses opponents. When his crew shut down the Cowboys in Week 4, Dallas talk radio lit up with questions over the real-life prowess of heavily celebrated coordinator Kellen Moore. The Saints also forced mustachioed icon Gardner Minshew into his quietest performance of the year before leaving Chicago a tattered mess on Sunday amid questions over the future of low-ceiling flinger Mitchell Trubisky.


After years of the Saints operating as a Drew Brees-led points machine forced to tug the defense along for the ride, Allen has helped alter the identity of the franchise. To get past New Orleans in 2019, you’re being asked to win a middle-of-the-night alley brawl with a gang of behemoths dressed in black, white and old gold.


3) Mike Pettine, defensive coordinator, Green Bay Packers: Pettine is another example of the coordinator role serving as a proven comeback trail for former head coaches who tumbled out of sight. I interviewed Pettine in 2016, when he was jobless and wondering about his future after a failed head-coaching stint with the Browns. Instead of grabbing any role he could, Pettine took the equivalent of a sabbatical year to reconnect with family, build a log cabin from scratch in the Ohio wilds (for real) and watch the NFL from a distance.


“There’s kind of that fear of the unknown of, ‘Wow, if I step away from football for a year, is that going to hurt my chances to get back in?’ ” Pettine acknowledged at the time.


That exodus, though, also provided a “30,000-foot view of the league,” with Pettine saying he was “exposed to more ideas and what’s working and what’s not working. And you also get a better sense of the personnel around the league.”


Perhaps more coaches should consider a sabbatical after seeing the results. Pettine has returned to the NFL and brought life to a Packers defense that desperately needed a jolt after a thousand Januarys ended with network cameras cutting away to show ex-coordinator Dom Capers staring into the void high above a Green Bay playoff collapse. Prior to this season, Pettine’s second on the job, the Packers’ front office helped by adding free-agent, pass-rushing home runs Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith and drafting a plug-and-play Pro Bowl talent in safety Darnell Savage. Jaire Alexander, meanwhile, is the kind of cover man Pettine dreams about.


These awards are narrative-driven. While Pettine deserves every bit of praise he garners, it helps that whenever first-year head coach Matt LaFleur’s name arises, the conversation quickly turns to his defensive coordinator. The Packers are rolling through the schedule with balance on both sides of the ball. That’s a new feeling in Green Bay, and Pettine has made all the difference.


4) Leslie Frazier, defensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills: Frazier fizzled out as head coach of the Vikings, but his Bills defense is all the rage. Sunday’s 31-21 win over the out-to-lunch Fins actually marked the first time a Buffalo opponent has cleared 17 points this season. The Bills have stymied challengers with a sticky secondary led by Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. Edge rusher Jerry Hughes is off to another strong campaign, while rookie lineman Ed Oliver fits right into a scheme dreamt up by Frazier and head coach Sean McDermott.


I’m placing Frazier a notch below Pettine because of McDermott’s presence in Buffalo. A defensive coordinator thriving under a defensive-minded coach raises the question: Who actually spins the magic here?


Also in the running for ACOY prizes and glory

5) Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore’s offense is a weekly must-watch because of how Roman deploys uber-athletic signal-caller Lamar Jackson. While not shying away from the pass, Roman isn’t afraid to unleash his quarterback against cowed defenses to the tune of 576 ground yards on the year, the most by any passer over seven outings since 1950. Jackson’s 116 yards rushing against Seattle on Sunday marked the third time he’s single-handedly outgained an opponent on the ground this season.


Roman’s black-and-blue attack has churned out 309 more rushing yards than the next-closest club and sits on pace to finish at 200-plus yards per game on the ground. This is the same play-caller who unleashed Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, an era that comes to mind when Baltimore blisters teams with an array of heavy sets, shifts and formations that feel spun from another age. Roman makes football fun to watch and isn’t afraid to zig when the league is zagging toward pass-happy netherworlds.


6) Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys: Moore would have been a lock for prestigious ACOY honors if the season had ended after Week 3. A whopping 97 points scored during a 3-0 romp to start the campaign had the 31-year-old play-caller strutting across the NFL landscape as a child genius laying waste to the old boys club. A swarm of injuries amid three straight losses — including a 10-point bust against the Saints’ defense in Week 4 — shoved Moore’s name into the background. He’s back in business, though, after Dallas dropped a 37-10 bomb on the Eagles in front of a national audience. The brainy son of a coach, Moore’s story is ultra-compelling. If the offense stays hot, he climbs this list in a hurry.


7) Chuck Pagano, defensive coordinator, Chicago Bears: Pagano deserves credit for keeping Chicago’s defense chugging after the departure of Vic Fangio. It was always a tall order to expect this year’s incarnation to dial up turnovers and defensive touchdowns at the same rate we witnessed in 2018. Giving up a combined 58 points and 800-plus yards in back-to-back flops against the Raiders and Saints doesn’t help — and neither does a paint-by-numbers Bears offense that resembled the helpless subject of a CIA mind-control project in Sunday’s meltdown against Sean Payton and friends.


Honorable mention: Eric Washington, DC, Carolina Panthers; Dean Pees, DC, Tennessee Titans; Eric Bieniemy, OC, Kansas City Chiefs; Kevin Stefanski, OC, Minnesota Vikings; Josh McDaniels, OC, New England Patriots; John DeFilippo, OC, Jacksonville Jaguars; Norv Turner, OC, Carolina Panthers.