The Daily Briefing Friday, April 7, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

The first thought in the DB’s head after reading this was “Will Aaron Rodgers be repairing his relationship with his family now?”

 

This from People Magazine:

 

Olivia Munn and Aaron Rodgers have split.

 

“They have amicably ended their relationship of three years,” a source close to the situation confirms to PEOPLE exclusively. The source says the couple “remains close friends and wish nothing but the best for each other moving forward.”

 

The actress, 36, and Green Bay Packers quarterback, 33, began dating at the end of 2014.

 

Munn and Rodgers’ breakup comes two months after the couple fueled engagement rumors in January when she was spotted wearing a diamond sparkler on her left-hand ring finger.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com brings us up-to-date on the travels of RB ADRIAN PETERSON.  Since we put it in “NEW ORLEANS”, you can guess what team is involved:

 

Adrian Peterson has scheduled his third visit of free agency.

 

The former Minnesota Vikings running back will meet with the New Orleans Saints next week, NFL Network’s Heath Evans reported, via a source informed of the team’s plans.

 

Peterson visited Seattle early in free agency, only to see the Seahawks sign Eddie Lacy instead. His meeting with New England came and went without a contract, while the Patriots remain interested in re-signing LeGarrette Blount.

 

SiriusXM NFL Radio reported earlier this week that three to five teams are interested in Peterson, who has not set a price nor has he turned down an offer. The seven-time Pro Bowler has made it clear that he’s willing to remain patient in hopes of finding the perfect fit entering his age-32 season.

 

That said, it’s hard to reconcile New Orleans as an ideal fit. The Saints already have Mark Ingram as a power back coming off the best season of his six-year career.

 

More problematic, Peterson is a one-dimensional power runner without a role in the passing game. At this stage of his brilliant career, he’s ill-suited for Drew Brees’ pass-heavy offense.

 

In other words, Peterson is unlikely to wrap up his free agency tour after visiting the Big Easy.

 

How do these visits happen without something that looks like “setting a price” or “making an offer”?

 

For more on Peterson, see NEW ENGLAND.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

RB DAVID JOHNSON (now DAVID JOHNSON SR. by the way) says he is ready for a heavy workload as he shows up at a Diamondbacks game.  Kevin Odegard at AZCardinals.com:

 

NFL Offseason Stories 101: Take an interesting quote from a coach or GM and ask the player about it at an event or charity appearance.

 

A week ago, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said running back David Johnson is “too young to overuse” and would like to get “30 touches” a game out of the dual-threat running back.

 

On Thursday afternoon, while taking batting practice with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson was asked about taking on such a heavy workload. The 25-year-old tailback would welcome the challenge.

 

“I’m still young,” Johnson told Kyle Odegard of the team’s official website. “I’m still on my first contract. So I feel I can definitely handle 30 touches. I did it last year, basically, with running the ball and catching it out of the backfield.”

 

Johnson carried the ball 293 times for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns while adding 80 catches for 879 yards and four receiving TDs.

 

Here’s the breakdown of his 373-touch season: 20 in Week 1; 15; 22; 21; 30; 25; 41 (with 33 carries); 17; 24; 29; 21; 27; 25; 16; 32; and 8 (he was injured early in the contest and did not return). If we toss out the final game, that’s an average of 24.3 touches over 15 weeks.

 

“I never really got fatigued,” Johnson said. “Those tough defense games against Seattle and the Rams, those games might feel a little sore, but that’s not until the adrenaline comes down. I never really feel too bad.”

 

Arians is prone to hyperbole when discussing running back touches. This is the same coach who said in 2014 that a slightly built Andre Ellington could handle “25 to 30” touches from the backfield. Arians is planning to move Ellington to wide receiver this season.

 

While all proclamations in today’s NFL that a running back will take on 30 or so touches should be taken with a grain of salt, at least Johnson possesses the body type and pass-catching acumen to come close to that outsized number.

 

“I just like having the ball in my hand,” Johnson said. “Whichever way B.A. can think of doing it, I’m all for it.”

 

He received mixed reviews for his foray into baseball.  ESPN.com:

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks welcomed yet another big name to Chase Field this week, giving Arizona Cardinals star running back David Johnson the opportunity to take batting practice and throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Thursday’s game.

 

The All-Pro selection followed up Wednesday’s stadium visit from ESPN’s Dick Vitale, who mingled with players prior to the Diamondbacks’ comeback victory over the San Francisco Giants.

 

Johnson got in a few batting practice swings and made solid contact, as evidenced by a video tweeted out by the Diamondbacks’ official account.

 

The Diamondbacks’ account then responded by offering some suggestions regarding Johnson’s hitting mechanics, along with a photo of the NFL player decked out in MLB garb.

 

@Dbacks

Hey @DavidJohnson31, not bad … for an All-Pro. #AllAZ

 

@DavidJohnson31

Thx for letting me BP with u today. Got some redeeming to do next time!! #ZEROHomers

 

@Dbacks

.@DavidJohnson31 Might need to work on that grip though, @DavidJohnson31. 😉

 

Looking forward to your attempt at pitching shortly! #AllAZ

 

But if anyone needed a reminder of why Johnson is in the NFL as a running back instead of as a quarterback, his attempt at a ceremonial first pitch provided a big one.

 

Although Johnson looked the part after changing into a retro Diamondbacks jersey in honor of throwback night and then loosening up with a resistance band, his offering sailed far from the reach of Arizona pitcher Shelby Miller before rolling all the way to the backstop.

 

 

 

SEATTLE

The Seahawks stood by QB TREVONE BOYKIN after one embarrassing arrest.  Will they do so again?  Sheil Kapadia at ESPN.com, although it should be pointed out that the second arrest does not involve any new bad behavior, it just serves as a reminder of previous bad behavior:

 

Seattle Seahawks backup quarterback Trevone Boykin was arrested Thursday for a possible violation of his parole.

 

He was released on $2,500 bond, according to Bexar County (Texas) court records.

 

Boykin’s arrest stemmed from a motion to revoke his probation from a 2015 incident after he was arrested in March on misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession and public intoxication.

 

Boykin was a passenger in a car that struck pedestrians and then a nightclub March 27. Eight people were injured in the incident, and seven were sent to local hospitals.

 

At the time of his March arrest, Boykin was on probation from a 2015 incident at a bar when he was the starting quarterback at TCU.

 

In June 2016, Boykin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest and paid a $1,500 fine, plus $237 in court costs. He was placed on one-year probation, ordered to take alcohol awareness and anger management courses and serve 80 hours of community service.

 

The Seahawks signed Boykin as an undrafted free agent last spring, and he served as Russell Wilson’s backup in 2016.

 

Last week at the NFL owners meetings, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll indicated that Boykin’s standing with the team was not in jeopardy.

 

“Not yet, we’re just waiting on finding out what all took place and that,” Carroll said.

– – –

David Steele in The Sporting News thinks the Seahawks are insane to thinks about trading CB RICHARD SHERMAN:

 

In football terms, especially in light of where the Seahawks are and where they believe they should still be, trading Richard Sherman would be crazy.

 

In NFL terms, trading him would be nothing even remotely surprising.

 

To most of the sane world, Sherman, 29, is still one of the very best at what he does — and if, as it’s already being hinted, he’s not what he used to be, he’s still better than pretty much anyone with which the Seahawks might replace him.

 

But to the NFL … just focus on one word from above: Replace. Everybody is replaceable. Nobody, not even Richard Sherman, is indispensable. The admission by general manager John Schneider made it sound like just a part of the business — and it is.

 

If there ever was a time and place for the Seahawks to replace him, it would be now, because this is when and where the contract extension he signed in 2014 kicks in big-time. Yes, much of this sudden talk about the Seahawks trading Sherman can be traced to money.

 

According to spotrac.com, Sherman’s cap number each of the next two seasons is more than $13 million, but his dead money drops from $9.4 million this season to $2.2 million in 2018, the deal’s final season.

 

He’s expensive. He’s really good. And the Seahawks have been declaring since right after their playoff elimination by the Falcons last season that their window is not even close to closing yet. The latter two should cancel out the former. Instead, it might be the other way around.

 

Crazy. But very NFL.

 

But Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com wonders if Richard Sherman is still Richard Sherman.

 

If Richard Sherman stays on the path he was on in 2016, then 2017 will be his last season in Seattle. That is, if 2016 wasn’t already his last with the Seahawks. GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have publicly acknowledged that they’re listening to trade offers for the 28-year-old cornerback. Contrary to popular belief, this has little to do with Sherman’s volatility, which last season resurfaced after a multiyear hiatus and took the form of sideline outbursts, media spats and public criticism of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. These blemishes didn’t help Sherman’s image, of course, but what is really diminishing his value is his apparent decline in physical ability.

 

Sherman struggled with change-of-direction last year. When forced to swivel his hips and follow a receiver breaking out on a corner route or, especially, breaking in on a slant, he often allowed too much separation. In-breaking patterns have always posed challenges for the angular Sherman, but 2016 was the first time they consistently posed problems.

 

Nothing can harm a defense faster than a corner with an explicit weakness. The cornerback position is 100 percent reactionary; offenses can always attack it. In and of itself, Sherman’s trouble with changing directions isn’t enough to warrant the Seahawks letting him go. But it might be when you consider that in 2018, the final year of Sherman’s contract, his cap number will be $13.2 million. The dead-money price of cutting him would be only $2.2 million.

 

The question is whether Sherman’s change-of-direction struggles were symptoms of an early decline in athletic ability or just an aberration. When age starts to impact an athlete, it’s often his balance that goes first. Balance is a big part of change-of-direction. But remember, Sherman also played with an undisclosed MCL injury in 2016. That would also impact a corner’s change-of-direction.

 

Trading Sherman for equal value is tricky because he’s more important to the Seahawks than he’d be to many other NFL teams. He’s a perfect fit for Seattle’s foundational Cover 3 zone defense. One of the most important aspects of playing Cover 3 is having outside corners who don’t get beat deep. No corner over the past five years has been better against outside vertical routes than Sherman.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

It may be one more and done for Coach Marvin Lewis.  Conor Orr at NFL.com:

 

Marvin Lewis will be entering the final year of his Bengals contract without the promise of a new deal coming.

 

“I don’t anticipate anything happening,” Lewis told ESPN.com.

 

The last time Lewis neared lame-duck status, he agreed on a one-year extension with owner Mike Brown to avoid a situation where he was theoretically coaching for his job. Lewis, 58, has been the team’s head coach since 2003.

 

This season will be an interesting one for Lewis who, last winter, was discussing a succession plan with now-Browns head coach Hue Jackson. He rejected reports he was contemplating retirement, though it’s uncertain what lies ahead for the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL next to Bill Belichick.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

OL CHRIS HUBBARD has signed his RFA tender offer.  Joe Ritter in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

 

Steelers reserve offensive lineman Chris Hubbard, one of the team’s two restricted free agents, signed his $1.797 million tender Thursday, according to NFL transactions.

 

By signing his tender, Hubbard is bound to the Steelers for the 2017 season.

 

The remaining restricted free agent is starting cornerback Ross Cockrell, who also received a $1.797 million tender. He faces an April 21 deadline to sign an offer sheet from another team.

 

Hubbard played in 15 games last season and started four — three at right tackle in place of an injured Marcus Gilbert. Later in the season, the Steelers deployed Hubbard as an extra tight end/blocker for running back Le’Veon Bell. He can play all five offensive line positions.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Veteran scribe Dale Robertson with an wanders interestingly around the topics of Tony Romo and the Texans:

 

Thank you, Tony Romo. Thank you very, very much for sparing the Texans and us Houstonians the ultimate of heartaches, the kick squarely to our civic spleen that your coming here to throw a football would have inevitably delivered.

 

It would have started with a cruel tease, with endless droning, pie-in-the-sky chatter about the Texans’ revamped Super Bowl prospects. It would have ended, so predictably, with a teeth-loosening sucker punch in the form of another season-ending injury or a season-ruining gaffe because Tony, your NFL résumé, glowing brightly in many ways, is littered with too many examples of both. You leave with as many of the former as of the latter.

 

But, let it be said, we appreciate your interest in our team and our town, illusory though it could have been. And we salute you for using your intellect, which will serve you well in your new big-dog analyst’s job at CBS, for making the right call personally, for putting future quality time with the kids, Hawkins and Rivers (adorable names, by the way) and the baby that’s coming ahead of a final high-risk shot at plugging that conspicuous hole in your football résumé.

 

That’s all I got for you, Tony. We wish you the best and drop by to see us when you can.

 

An early hint

In retrospect, the Romos’ revelation on Valentine’s Day that Candice was pregnant again should have been the tipoff that football had been relegated to his rear-view mirror. A little simple math would have told us the due date was going to coincide with the high-noon portion of the 2017 season. Did he need Bill O’Brien screaming in his ear while he grappled with a more complex offense than he’d ever had to operate with such bigger-picture issues on his mind?

 

Of course not.

 

No, seriously, this is such a good thing for all concerned parties. While it’s unfair to brand Romo a loser because he never won, and it might even be wrong to call him brittle — as violent the NFL may be, getting seriously hurt is happenstance, the byproduct of being in the wrong place at the wrong time — he is, technically speaking, both with two playoff victories in a decade as the Cowboys’ starter and two season short-circuiting injuries in the past three years?

 

There was no logical reason to believe anything was going to change on the field simply because he changed the shade of blue on his No. 9 jersey and moved 250 miles south down I-45. At 37, an age where excellence is purely accidental for anyone not named Tom or Peyton or isn’t a punter, he would have been just another dart the Texans were throwing at a dartboard.

 

Given the deficiencies of their aim over the last 15 seasons, certainly regarding the quarterback position, the bull’s-eye would have been an improbable landing spot.

 

Woes averted

There’s no pain greater than that of unfulfilled expectations and Romo’s presence in the Texans’ huddle would have guaranteed the likes of which we have never experienced. David Carr arrived with no more than untested-rookie carry-on baggage, waiting until he settled in to become a Paris-bound socialite. Matt Schaub actually outdid himself until his abrupt, awful end. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Hoyer, a pair of card-carrying journeymen, never set us up for the fall. And, if Brock Osweiler did, that was our own damned fault.

 

As for the “now what?” thing, I don’t have much to offer. Brandon Weeden is what he is, which is to say a competent, capable backup, and Tom Savage represents still-uncharted waters. He looks and carries himself like an NFL quarterback and through a second-hand source I’ve been told that Andre Johnson _ someone to hear out on such matters —, believes Tom’s potential terrific-ness because of his hyper-accurate arm.

But nobody, Johnson included, has yet seen Savage stay upright for a long enough patch in games that count to accurately predict his future upside. The best we can say about Savage is that he has done nothing to not deserve the chance to become entrenched as the starter. At the same time, he has done little to show he’s capable of becoming entrenched as the starter.

 

And whomever the Texans draft April 27 — ideally, Patrick Mahomes, although the Texas Tech QB’s stock has risen too high for him to be available with the 25th pick — won’t be the answer this season unless he’s another Dak Prescott. And I don’t have to remind you how improbable a second such lightning strike in Texas is to happen two seasons in a row.

 

Dallas’ dumb luck

The Cowboys are a reminder that it’s usually better to be lucky than good because there’s no way they thought Prescott would reach the level of competence he achieved from the get-go. If Romo hadn’t been Romo, an accident waiting to happen, Prescott would have only seen garbage time.

 

At some point, however, one would hope the law of averages will kick in on Houston’s behalf. It’s staggering to contemplate that our only championship-winning quarterback remains George Blanda, an NFL washout when he took the reins for the Oilers of the upstart AFL in 1960. Dan Pastorini, a first-round pick in 1971, rode Earl Campbell to a couple of AFC Championship Games and Warren Moon was a high-profile free-agent in 1984 who accumulated Hall-of-Fame-worthy stats but couldn’t escape the divisional round.

 

But the galling one was Steve McNair. A first-round pick in 1995, he alone led the Oilers to the Super Bowl. Alas, by then, they were the Tennessee Titans.

 

Obviously, we’ll never know for sure how Romo’s rolling the dice on his future health and well-being would have played out in Houston. But a preponderance of the evidence, albeit circumstantial, he leaves behind in Dallas suggests he’d have been a train wreck, and we’ve had enough of those already.

 

Star-crossed QB

When the news hit that Romo was retiring, I thought of the cover story Michael J. Mooney wrote for Texas Monthly, timed to run before the start of the 2016 season. Comprehensively recounting Romo’s star-crossed Cowboys tenure over the course of several thousand words, Mooney closed his piece with the following:

 

“Romo underwent the Mumford procedure on March 8 (2016, to correct residual shoulder problems resulting from a broken collar bone). The next day, the Cowboys released a statement saying the surgery had been ‘successful.’ For the first time in several years, he had a full off-season to recover and to prepare for the season ahead. In his last meeting with the media before training camp started, in August, Romo said he felt good. ‘I’m throwing the ball as well as I ever have,’ he explained. Twice he said he was trying to ‘perfect’ his ‘craft.’

 

“Maybe that means that this year will be the year he gets that extra yard. The year he’s able to score on that final possession. Maybe this is the year Romo ends the final play of the final game a winner. We all remember that night in Seattle, or that day against the Giants, or the loss to the Broncos, or the pain of the Green Bay game. But we hope, because we have Tony Romo.

 

“Maybe this is the year.”

 

Nope. Romo couldn’t even make it through the preseason, suffering a broken bone his back during a Thursday-night exhibition game against Seattle. He didn’t get on the field again until the Cowboys had long since become Prescott’s team.

 

Now, he’s done — presumably — for good and everybody’s the better off for it.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com sorts through the conflicting reports about how much the Patriots are in play for RB ADRIAN PETERSON:

 

With starting opportunities dwindling, Adrian Peterson’s free-agent hopes have settled into a hardened reality, one where his biggest problems are scheme and opportunity – not money.

 

Now, with a free-agent visit to the New Orleans Saints on deck next week, the pressing question of which NFL team makes sense is becoming far more obvious.

 

Basically, remove all of the shotgun-heavy teams. That alone will keep the New England Patriots in the picture as long as LeGarrette Blount remains unsigned. And it will open up meet-and-greet opportunities with franchises like New Orleans.

 

Peterson is a running back coming to grips with an NFL that sees him as a player who has limited use in a majority of shotgun-heavy offenses. While speculation surrounding his snail-paced free agency have ranged from injuries to salary to off-field issues, two executives who spoke to Yahoo Sports last week hung Peterson’s lingering unemployment on one overriding issue: His strengths in single-back or I-formations don’t fit a wide variety of NFL offenses anymore.

 

The bottom line: Some (and arguably many) franchises are looking at Peterson as a lower-volume player in their schemes.

 

“He’s really a two-down [running back]. If you’re in [shotgun] a lot, it’s just not working,” one NFL evaluator told Yahoo Sports. “The [film] over the last 12 games really isn’t consistently good. His running between tackles hasn’t been good. …

 

“The first [hurdle] is, ‘Are we under center enough?’ or ‘Are we going to commit to him enough on first and second down to make it worth it?’ That’s before even getting to the age and injuries and everything else.”

 

That wariness may be why other teams have declined to get serious with Peterson up to this point, including almost all of his favored destinations. That group includes franchises like the New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks. All of those ran offenses featuring shotgun formations around 70 percent of the time last season. So unless something changes schematically, Peterson’s ideal “under center” snap opportunities may be somewhere around only the 30 percent mark for each of those destinations. And offensive players whose “best case” utilization falls around 30 percent of the snap count are usually far down the list of priorities. They’re also typically extremely cheap.

 

This means the Patriots can’t be discounted, even after Peterson worked out in New England and left without a deal. While the franchise hasn’t shed much light on where Peterson stands on its list of priorities, one thing is crystal clear: The Patriots aren’t going to pay a big back of Peterson’s age and mileage (or maybe any age or mileage) $4 million a season. If and when Peterson’s price comes down, the Patriots could still be in play, so long as Blount remains unsigned.

 

In a way, New England remains the most sensible fit. The Patriots featured a big back in Blount and ran about 54 percent of the offense through the shotgun last season. So the opportunity is there for Peterson’s skills. He could easily go to New England and still manage 250 carries next season without upsetting the situational rotation that head coach Bill Belichick likes to employ. Indeed, Blount notched 299 carries last season despite starting only eight of his 16 games.

 

There are, however, a variety of factors that make a Peterson marriage challenging for New England. He has never played in a situational rotation similar to what the team employs, which begs questions about how he would embrace the ebb and flow of carries. The Patriots also place a premium on backs who can be top-end pass-blockers, and that’s not something Peterson has been leaned on to do heavily in the past. And again, there’s the reality of price. The Patriots aren’t looking to pay much, which is why contract talks with Blount have been slow. But the longer this goes, the cheaper Peterson gets. And if Peterson’s free agency lasts past the draft later this month, New England could likely get him for a bargain basement deal.

 

But not before the Saints and maybe a few others get a look first. Like the Patriots, the Saints are a more solid scheme fit for Peterson than most. New Orleans ran about only 54 percent of the offense out of the shotgun last season, putting the franchise more squarely into Peterson’s wheelhouse for carries. The Saints also split 338 snaps between a pair of bigger backs last season – Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower – leaning on Ingram’s pass-catching ability to provide added versatility.

 

There is one overriding oddity with the Saints taking a look at Peterson: With Ingram still in place, Peterson’s signing would seem more suited for the second-fiddle role that Hightower filled, which is not the role that Peterson has been seeking up to this point. He wants to be a clear primary back, and pairing him with Ingram would make that a challenge.

 

That makes the Saints look more like a window shopper than a realistic suitor. Much like the Patriots, the Saints aren’t in any hurry to add a player like Peterson. And they could be angling for a cheap buy after the draft. Either way, given Ingram’s $5.2 million salary cap number and solid performance as a centerpiece last season, it seems unlikely the Saints would want to reduce or significantly alter his role in the offense. It’s more likely that this Saints visit comes and goes next week and the team falls into the wait-and-see category along with New England.

 

In the end, where Peterson lands may ultimately come down to what he’s willing to surrender. If he swallows his pride and takes less money, his pursuit could get more serious. If he doesn’t, then his necessity to remain a centerpiece back and stick to a more traditional offense will likely force him to wait until after the draft to find a match. And again, if Blount isn’t back in a New England uniform at that point, the Patriots would have to seriously consider a value buy.

 

At least one thing is clear now that wasn’t a month ago: A majority of the NFL has moved beyond the type of offense that suits Peterson’s skills. And the few that haven’t – like New England – are going to be looking to pay far less than what Peterson expected. At some point and at some time, something has to give. But that moment probably won’t be next week in New Orleans.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

Re-DRAFTING 2008

If teams knew then what they know now, how would the 2008 Draft go?  Gil Brandt at NFL.com.  Of the 31 players who were actually selected, 14 go in the first round in his 20/20 hindsight draft.  We have full explanations for the first 10, plus a few after that.  The entire thing is here:

 

The 2017 NFL Draft — which will begin April 27 in Philadelphia — is one in which there is no obvious quarterback to pick first overall. Thus, it is expected that the No. 1 overall selection will be used on a non-quarterback for just the fourth time in 10 drafts.

 

Interestingly enough, one of the quarterbacks passed over in one of those drafts — Matt Ryan, in 2008 — just led the Falcons to Super Bowl LI. So as teams consider their options with prospects like Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer, I thought I’d look back at that 2008 NFL Draft to see how it would go today, based on how the drafted players’ careers have since turned out. And surprise, surprise — quarterbacks fared much better this time around. Below is my attempt to re-do the 2008 NFL Draft.

 

NOTE: Because the Patriots had to forfeit their first-round pick in 2008, just 31 picks were made in Round 1 — and the same holds true here.

 

1) Dolphins: Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Original pick: Jake Long, OT, Michigan.

Ryan was drafted: Round 1, No. 3 overall by the Falcons.

Ryan took a Falcons team that finished 4-12 in 2007 to 11-5 in his rookie season. He gets better every year and came achingly close to winning it all in February. Here, he easily solves the Dolphins’ long search for a post-Dan Marino franchise QB.

 

2) Rams: Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware

Original pick: Chris Long, DE, Virginia.

Flacco was drafted: Round 1, No. 18 overall by the Ravens.

Flacco is a big quarterback with a big arm and a 10-5 playoff record, which includes this magical line from the Super Bowl-winning 2012 postseason: 11 touchdown passes, zero picks, a 117.2 passer rating and 285 yards per game in four games. Knowing how things turned out with 2010 No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, the Rams waste no time jumping on Flacco, stabilizing their quarterback situation for the next decade.

 

3) Falcons: Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas

Original pick: Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College.

Talib was drafted: Round 1, No. 20 overall by the Buccaneers.

Talib is a true shutdown corner with good size and long arms. He’s very athletic and takes the best receiver most often in Denver, where he’s solidified into a perennial Pro Bowler.

 

4) Raiders: Jamaal Charles, RB, Texas

Original pick: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas.

Charles was drafted: Round 3, No. 73 overall by the Chiefs.

Late Raiders owner Al Davis told me that if he could do this draft over again, he’d take Charles — and with the Rams (Steven Jackson) and Falcons (Michael Turner) already possessing starting running backs, Davis gets his man this time. Charles had rare speed (4.38 40) and has the best ever career yards-per-carry mark (5.4) of anyone with 1,000 or more career attempts — that’s better than Jim Brown and Barry Sanders.

 

5) Chiefs: Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State

Original pick: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU.

Clady was drafted: Round 1, No. 12 overall by the Broncos.

Clady, who came to Boise State as a defensive lineman, is very athletic and has long arms. He started 16 games at left tackle as a rookie and played in 80 games over his first five seasons. He and Charles are the only two members of this draft class to earn two first-team All-Pro nods.

 

6) Jets: DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal

Original pick: Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State.

Jackson was drafted: Round 2, No. 49 overall by the Eagles

Jackson is not big, but the explosive receiver can fly, which he’s shown in posting a lifetime yards-per-catch mark of 17.7. He’s got a great ability to track the ball and is probably the best I’ve seen at catching it over his head since Don Hutson. Jackson’s 8,819 receiving yards are the most of anyone in this class — and easily outpace the Jets’ most prolific pass-catcher in that span (Dustin Keller, with 2,876).

 

7) Saints: Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina

Original pick: Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC.

Johnson was drafted: Round 1, No. 24 overall by the Titans.

Johnson, of course, ran a record-setting 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He was a do-everything back who could run, catch and return kicks. Durability was a factor, but Johnson was a great backfield weapon in his early days with the Titans. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons and, of course, joined the 2,000-yard club in 2009 with 2,006 yards on 358 carries. Imagine him in an offense led by Drew Brees.

 

8) Jaguars: Jake Long, OT, Michigan

Original pick: Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida.

Long was drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall by the Dolphins.

Long started from Year 1 and earned Pro Bowl honors four times and one first-team All-Pro nod in his first four NFL seasons. He was tough, nasty, very athletic and great as both a run- and pass-blocker before injuries got in the way.

 

9) Bengals: Duane Brown, OL, Virginia Tech

Original pick: Keith Rivers, LB, USC.

Brown was drafted: Round 1, No. 26 overall by the Texans.

Brown, who moved from tight end to offensive tackle while at Virginia Tech, had outstanding athletic ability. Brown has started 132 games, including 76 in his first five years in the NFL. He’s made the Pro Bowl three times and was named first-team All-Pro once, in 2012.

 

10) Patriots: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State

Original pick: Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee.

Rodgers-Cromartie was drafted: Round 1, No. 16 overall by the Cardinals.

Rodgers-Cromartie is not a great tackler, but he has exceptional cover skills. In his first three years in the NFL, he posted 13 picks and has 30 for his career, including six pick-sixes.

 

11) Bills: Calais Campbell, DL, Miami

Original pick: Leodis McKelvin, DB, Troy.

Campbell was drafted: Round 2, No. 50 overall by the Cardinals.

 

12) Broncos: Jordy Nelson, WR, Kansas State

Original pick: Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State.

Nelson was drafted: Round 2, No. 36 overall by the Packers.

 

13) Panthers: Matt Forte, RB, Tulane

Original pick: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon.

Forte was drafted: Round 2, No. 44 overall by the Bears.

 

14) Bears: Cliff Avril, DE, Purdue

Original pick: Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt.

Avril was drafted: Round 3, No. 92 overall by the Lions.

 

15) Chiefs: Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee

Original pick: Branden Albert, OT, Virginia.

Mayo was drafted: Round 1, No. 10 overall by the Patriots.

 

16) Cardinals: Martellus Bennett, TE, Texas A&M

Original pick: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State.

Bennett was drafted: Round 2, No. 61 overall by the Cowboys.

 

17) Lions: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon

Original pick: Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College.

Stewart was drafted: Round 1, No. 13 overall by the Panthers.

 

18) Ravens: Josh Sitton, OL, UCF

Original pick: Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware.

Sitton was drafted: Round 4, No. 135 overall.

 

19) Panthers: Chris Long, DE, Virginia

Original pick: Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh.

Long was drafted: Round 1, No. 2 overall by the Rams.

Long drops quite a bit from his original draft slot, but he’s still a first-rounder, a good, solid player who has 100-plus starts and 58.5 sacks to his name. Long and Forte make for a nice first-round haul by Carolina. Between Long, Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson, the Panthers come away from this re-draft with a truly fearsome pass rush.

 

20) Buccaneers: Carl Nicks, OT, Nebraska

Original pick: Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas.

Nicks was drafted: Round 5, No. 164 by the Saints.

 

21) Falcons: Branden Albert, OT, Virginia

Original pick: Sam Baker, OT, USC.

Albert was drafted: Round 1, No. 15 overall by the Chiefs.

 

22) Cowboys: Ray Rice, RB, Rutgers

Original pick: Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas.

Rice was drafted: Round 2, No. 55 overall by the Ravens.

 

23) Steelers: Pierre Garcon, WR, Mount Union

Original pick: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois.

Garcon was drafted: Round 6, No. 205 overall by the Colts.

 

24) Titans: Matthew Slater, WR, UCLA

Original pick: Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina.

Slater was drafted: Round 5, No. 153 overall by the Patriots.

When would you ever take a special teams player in the first round? If you knew he’d earn six Pro Bowl nods, the most of anyone in this draft class. Slater has played receiver and safety for the Patriots, but he’s one of the all-time best special teams players, and that is an important facet of the game. With Johnson off the board, the Titans could do worse.

 

25) Cowboys: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

Original pick: Mike Jenkins, DB, South Florida.

Dorsey was drafted: Round 1, No. 5 overall by the Chiefs.

 

26) Texans: Brandon Carr, DB, Grand Valley State

Original pick: Duane Brown, OT, Virginia Tech.

Carr was drafted: Round 5, No. 140 overall by the Chiefs.

 

27) Chargers: Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech

Original pick: Antoine Cason, DB, Arizona.

Flowers was drafted: Round 2, No. 35 overall by the Chiefs.

 

28) Seahawks: Gary Barnidge, TE, Louisville

Original pick: Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC.

Barnidge was drafted: Round 5, No. 141 overall by the Panthers.

 

29) 49ers: Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College

Original pick: Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina.

Cherilus was drafted: Round 1, No. 17 overall by the Lions.

 

30) Jets: Tracy Porter, CB, Indiana

Original pick: Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue.

Porter was drafted: Round 2, No. 40 overall by the Saints.

 

31) Giants: Eddie Royal, WR, Virginia Tech

Original pick: Kenny Phillips, DB, Miami.

Royal was drafted: Round 2, No. 42 overall by the Broncos.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Peter King with his thoughts on Tony Romo and CBS:

 

Check me on this, loyal readers, but I do believe Tony Romo is the first player in at least a quarter-century to leave the field and start his TV career as the number one analyst in a two-man booth for a major network’s top crew. On Tuesday, CBS announced Romo would be paired with Jim Nantz on the lead AFC team this fall, breaking a 20-year run by Phil Simms in the top CBS booth. I think Boomer Esiason (Bengals 1997, Monday Night Football booth 1998) is the closest; he and Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf worked the MNF booth in ’98. Troy Aikman had some training in NFL Europe and then in a three-man FOX booth. Cris Collinsworth worked on a low NBC team, and with HBO, before getting top billing. Phil Simms had a short run at NBC, and in a three-man booth, before taking the top CBS job two decades ago. This is a gutsy, risky move by CBS, particularly for a rookie who’s never done TV, throwing Romo in with the sharks as a TV rookie, and the football and TV worlds were chirping about it throughout the day.

 

• Boomer Esiason on Romo. The advice from the only player recently to walk off the field and into one of the biggest booths was plentiful. “It’ll be a trial by fire. It’s dangerous,” Esiason told me Tuesday night. Esiason is now in the CBS “NFL Today” booth, as well on “Inside the NFL” with Simms. “I guess my first reaction is: If I only knew then what I know now. I should start by saying I am really sad for Phil. He is a very close friend of mine. I have the utmost respect for him. … Jim Nantz will be really good for Tony. He knows how to make a guy in the booth feel comfortable, and he knows they’ll be highly scrutinized. … One thing I would say is, try not to be all things to all people. I just overkilled the first year. I read so much, prepared so much. Have fun. Don’t think you know more about football than everybody you’re talking to. … Social media will be a killer. The slings and arrows, you won’t know where they’re coming from. But they’re coming. It’s Twitter muscle. Alcohol Twitter muscle. But it’s just like being a quarterback. We’re used to criticism. We know we’re going to take shots. It’s part of the job. He has to know that going in. … I hope he can criticize a play call. He has to do that.”

 

• What this is like. This is a ridiculously simplistic view, but I will tell you what major-league TV is like for a newspaper/magazine/web writer like me. I’d proven myself to some degree in my world, the written word, and then I went to a few TV gigs, and most recently to NBC for the Sunday night games. If you’re in the studio, you’re around 30 strangers (at first); if on the road, you’re around 30 different strangers. They all have jobs, and you have no idea what they do. They’re scurrying around, and you’re told you have 45 seconds to bat a topic back and forth with a host or a partner, and if you exceed it by eight or 15 seconds, you’re in deep crap. You might say to yourself, There is no way to explain that in 15 seconds, but it doesn’t matter; that’s what you have. And if you blow it, you’re the goat. Multiply my pressure times 13, and that’s what Romo faces in the first year he’s ever done TV. Romo is going to be in an altogether different world, with no football players around, no coaches. And the red light will go on, and he’ll have to smile and be really smart, and he’ll have to do it opening day, in 11-second bites. He’s going to have to be brilliant, fast. Or else. Is it insurmountable? No. Is it different? Yes—like becoming fluent in Russian in three months.

 

• You need to have different gears. Great verbiage by a TV veteran Tuesday evening, who said that. His point: You’re going to be critiquing a play-call one moment, yukking it up about a player’s funny vacation the next, and a few snaps later, talking seriously about a star being suspended for domestic violence. Viewers will want Romo’s opinion on all those things.

 

• I was impressed by the support for Simms by his peers. Reviled by social media, respected by those in the booth. I asked three different top network analysts for their opinions about this move, and about whatever advice they had for Romo. All declined. One said it just didn’t feel right because of his respect and friendship for Simms.

 

• Not sure this is a big deal, but it seems significant to me. Romo played his career, 162 games, all in the NFC. The CBS schedule is AFC games—or games with at least the AFC team being the road team. In Romo’s 162 games, he played at New England once, at Denver once, at Pittsburgh once. In 2017, he’s likely to do eight games or so involving those marquee AFC teams. He’s stood on the sidelines in Philadelphia 11 times, and all that homework may go for naught now. Think of this, too: Phil Simms and Bill Belichick are tight. Simms played when Belichick was the Giants defensive coordinator. They’ll be close for life. Belichick told Simms things he didn’t tell anyone else. Troy Aikman found how foreboding Belichick could be when he started doing Patriots’ game. One Aikman friend said, “For a long time, Troy thought going to Foxboro and talking to Bill was a total waste of his time—because it was.” So will Romo get much out of Belichick, a coach he probably doesn’t know well? Doubt it.

 

• Houston wanted Romo. I doubt Denver really did. Denver GM John Elway would have been interested in a low-cap-cost Romo, but wouldn’t have spent much for him; he didn’t want to retard the development of Paxton Lynch, and Elway still has hope for Trevor Siemian. But the Texans, once Romo was released, were going to pursue him if the price wasn’t silly. Romo has to imagine what that would have been like, playing with probably the best defense in football with J.J. Watt likely back, and with DeAndre Hopkins his new (and calmer) Dez Bryant.

 

• Don’t cry for Romo, but he got jobbed last year, and that was always in the back of his mind as he made this decision. I did a podcast with Romo a week before he got hurt for the last time in Seattle (he broke a bone in his back) in an August game. And his passion, his excitement about playing with so much offensive talent, dripped from the conversation. Funny thing: After the preseason game in Seattle, when he thought he just had a crick or a muscle pull in his back, he was in the locker room telling a friend, “We’re gonna be so good. It’s scary how good we’re gonna be.” And then Dak Prescott experienced the goodness. It’s life. But it’s also one of the reasons why coming to this decision was harder than you think it was.

 

• Romo works his rear end off, and that will help. He knows everyone’s doubting the CBS call. He knows he has to get good, and very fast. He’s already had dinner with TV power people, and talked to others on the phone, and surveyed the TV landscape at the Super Bowl two months ago. He’s learning his new world. He knows his voice has to get more authoritative. He’s taken in the advice, and he’ll spend the next four months working like he’d have worked studying the Houston Texans offense had he signed there.

 

• I still think the door is 3 percent open to a return to football. He misses it. He will miss it in August. Interesting that he said Tuesday on a CBS conference call it was 99 percent he would not return. “I don’t envision coming [back to football],” Romo said, “but I’ve also seen enough things from ‘I’m not going to Alabama’ to ‘I’m not returning to football.’ Do I envision coming back to football? I do not. You never say never.”

 

• Finally … Romo told me on my podcast last summer what makes him tick, and now we’ll see if he follows that. He said, “There is a naive thing in there sometimes, where people say, what was your backup plan if you didn’t play football? And I was like, you know, that half-scholarship kid at Eastern Illinois just knew he was going somewhere. So at some point I was going to get to the NFL. It seems naive in some form but I feel like you just don’t make decisions based on money. It’s not how you get anywhere in life. If someone is going to offer you to go play over here for 100 million and someone else is going to offer you 100,000, I understand. … You should definitely choose where you are passionate about and where is going to give you the best chance to be successful.”

 

This spring, for Tony Romo, that was CBS, and the broadcast booth.

 

Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com remembers that Simms has been on both sides of an abrupt change:

 

Did CBS mistreat Phil Simms by replacing him with Tony Romo without giving him any notice? Phil’s son Chris Simms seems to think so. But Phil Simms knows something about broadcasters changing jobs without any notice — because he did it to ESPN at the outset of his career.

 

Immediately after he retired from the Giants, Simms was hired as a studio analyst by ESPN. He was shaky and visibly nervous on air at first, but he grew into the role, and ESPN had plans for him. Although he hadn’t signed a contract beyond the 1994 NFL season, ESPN said it had an assurance from Simms’ agent that he would be back at ESPN, unless an opportunity arose for him to return to the NFL as a player.

 

The next thing ESPN knew, Simms was appearing on NBC, which made the surprise announcement that Simms had been added to its No. 1 broadcasting team for the AFC Sunday afternoon package. Simms had never called a game before, and now he was thrust into the top commentator job for AFC games — sound familiar?

 

Simms stayed with NBC until 1998, when CBS took over the AFC package. He’s been at CBS as the top AFC analyst ever since. And now, according to Chris Simms, he’s been demoted without any notice. Chris thinks that was unfair to his dad. Perhaps it’s a case of what goes around, comes around.

 

Here are some thoughts from Chris Simms, also from Michael David Smith:

 

The decision to oust Phil Simms as the No. 1 NFL analyst on CBS and replace him with Tony Romo was done with the approval of play-by-play man Jim Nantz, according to Simms’ son.

 

Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms said on his podcast that Nantz played a part in the move.

 

“Listen, I think that certainly a company like CBS, they’re going to run this by Jim Nantz,” Chris Simms said. “If I’m going to sit here and be honest with you, yeah, that’s what I would envision happens. Jim Nantz is their guy. ‘Hello, friends.’ He’s kind of the face and voice of the network. He’s a bigger linchpin than Phil Simms for that network, that’s for sure. So I would think in some degree or fashion, I’m not trying to throw Jim under the bus, but yeah, I think he signed off on this.”

 

Chris Simms also chuckled while his podcast partner, Adam Lefkoe, denigrated Nantz as an announcer, and Simms also said he thinks Nantz is more suited to calling golf and college basketball than to football. (Although Chris Simms added that he likes Nantz personally.) And Chris Simms said he didn’t have much respect for the way CBS handled the transition from Phil to Romo, saying that Phil deserved for CBS executives to be upfront with him, and they weren’t.

 

“I had to tell my dad first, before CBS or anybody, because I found out from an NFL insider,” Chris Simms said. “I don’t think he feels like they talked to him right away, at least warned him to let him know what was happening. I mean, that’s just not what you do to a good, hard-working employee for 20 years.”

 

Chris Simms has called some games for CBS in the past, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be back on CBS given those comments. And those comments may make it harder for Phil Simms to return to CBS in any capacity.