The Daily Briefing Friday, August 17, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Kelly Stafford took note of CB JALEN RAMSEY’s comments about her husband. Rod Beard at the Detroit News:
Jalen Ramsey doesn’t often hold his tongue — and he wasn’t trying to make friends in his recent interview with GQ Magazine.
The outspoken Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback is known for his trash talk and he offered his opinions on several NFL players — including Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford — in a controversial story posted on GQ.com on Wednesday.
“I think he’s straight. I don’t think he the best quarterback out there,” Ramsey told GQ. “But he do what he gotta do.”
That’s not exactly scathing commentary, but it didn’t those words didn’t sit too well with Stafford’s wife Kelly, who took to Instagram to shoot back at Ramsey. In an Instagram story posted to her account, Kelly went after Ramsey and questioned why he was even expressing his opinion.
“Can someone tell me why @gq magazine is interviewing @jalenramsey? I understand espn…but not GQ…there is nothing “GQ” about him,” Kelly wrote. “Just seems like a complete waste of time and space.”
In turn, GQ senior editor Chris Gayomali offered his response to Kelly, posting on Twitter: “Kelly Stafford out here playing entire concertos with a dog whistle… impressive.”
It turns out Ramsey is dating the sister of Stafford target WR GOLDEN TATE:
The GQ story opens with a story of Ramsey and Tate’s sister Bre, who told Ramsey that the Tate family would beat the Ramsey family in flag football.
According to the story, Ramsey keeps the trash talk going, calling his father, who assured him that the Ramseys would prevail.
“And your family’s too short! I’m going up on top of all of them,” Ramsey said. “Please let Golden guard me. I’m going up top on Golden.”
It’s fairly innocuous stuff, which Tate took in stride when asked about it after Wednesday’s joint practice between the Lions and New York Giants.
Tate even fired back a little talk of his own, saying: “I’m going to handle Jalen myself.”
Ramsey is 6-foot-1 and Tate is 5-10, but Tate said that height isn’t the only measure to consider.
“He’s got to match my quickness, too. He’s an outside (cornerback); he doesn’t want no business in the slot,” Tate joked. “Jalen is one of the homies. He’s a tremendous talent. I love watching him play and watching him talk some (trash). He’s going to bring it every day. I’m happy he’s part of the family.
“He’s good people and I’m sure over the next few years, we’ll be working out and put it on video and have some fun.”
QB AARON RODGERS knocked off the rust on Thursday night. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played one series in Thursday night’s preseason game, and did everything he wanted to do.
Rodgers said all he wanted from the preseason game was to knock some rust off and connect with new tight end Jimmy Graham and returning No. 1 receiver Davante Adams. Mission accomplished.
“I got rid of the nerves, got hit, had a scramble and a slide, and hit Jimmy and Davante. That’s kind of the checklist of my first action,” Rodgers said.
Thursday night’s game was the first time Rodgers and Graham have played a game as teammates, and Rodgers is liking what he’s seeing from the five-time Pro Bowl tight end.
“He can do it all over the field,” Rodgers said. “He’s an incredible athlete, he’s got a wide, wide catch radius and there’s a lot of things he can do. It’s exciting to be able to have a guy like that.”
After Rodgers hit Graham for a touchdown on the starters’ only series, the backups put on a show, and the Packers beat the Steelers 51-34. Everyone in Green Bay had to like that.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com updates the WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. contract situation:
Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. still doesn’t have his second contract, even though he earned it months ago. So what’s going to happen with the effort to get him signed to a second deal?
“I definitely think it’s going to work itself out,” Beckham told reporters on Thursday, via Dan Duggan of TheAthletic.com. “When is it going to happen? You don’t know. . . . It’s a matter of time, just like everything in life.”
He’s both right and wrong to have this attitude. He’s right, because there’s really nothing he can do at this point but wait. He’s wrong, because he could have done something; he could have refused to show up until he got his new deal, like fellow 2014 first-rounders Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald did.
Beckham should have held out, if he wanted to apply maximum leverage to the Giants. And applying maximum leverage to the Giants would be the best (only) way to get the best deal he can get.
NFL teams negotiate thousands of deals. Players gets one or two major negotiations, at most, during their careers. Beckham has opted to show up for a battle of wills with a bag full of hopes and wishes.
With QB NICK FOLES making an early exit Thursday, does this mean QB CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG is one injury away from starting for the defending Super Bowl champs? Maybe not as Foles is saying his shoulder is okay. Tim McManus of ESPN.com:
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles suffered a shoulder strain during the second quarter of Thursday’s preseason game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Patriots defensive end Adrian Clayborn beat tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai and hit Foles while he was stepping into his throw, knocking the ball loose. Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley scooped up the fumble and ran 54 yards for a touchdown.
Foles grabbed his throwing arm as he went to the turf. He was evaluated inside the trainers tent before returning the sideline.
“It was just the shoulder. It just sort of got jarred in a funny way as I was following through,” Foles said. “But it feels good. We’ll check it out tomorrow more thoroughly.”
Coach Doug Pederson indicated Foles would have played one more series had he not been hurt.
Foles said he would get treatment on the shoulder Friday in Philadelphia. He is “optimistic” about how things will play out.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get back on the field and hopefully practice the first day we get back practicing [Sunday],” he said, “and be ready to roll.”
– – –
As he rehabs, there is nothing wrong with the arm of QB CARSON WENTZ. More from McManus:
To the naked eye, it appears Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is throwing the ball just as hard as he was pre-injury. Turns out, that’s not the case: He’s throwing it harder — another encouraging sign as Wentz works toward completing his comeback from a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee.
The Eagles had Zebra Technologies’ player tracking system installed at their practice facility in 2014. Tags on the players’ shoulder pads generate biometric measurements, and a chip inside the ball calculates the velocity and spin rate of a quarterback’s throws.
According to the data collected, Wentz’s numbers have improved from last year to this year.
“Those are things we track actually with the footballs and things that we have. We can monitor that stuff. Velocity has been up, accuracy has been up. Those are the things he’s been able to work on over the course of the year,” coach Doug Pederson said.
“He got better last year, obviously, in games. To me it’s all about eye placement, decision-making, accuracy, timing. It’s all about the eyes and where you throw it and how you see it. That’s one thing he’s continued to get better at and work on. I do feel like now, because of the injury, he’s focusing a little more on lower-body strength. It’s really correlated to velocity and overall speed of the throw.”
Added upper-body strength is a factor as well, quarterbacks coach Press Taylor noted.
“I think his velocity has been great. Obviously he had a lot of time to work on his upper body [while rehabbing the knee]. He’s done a good job,” Taylor said. “I think his arm endurance has been really good. He’s been able to maintain those high-velocity throws throughout camp, throughout practice, which has been good to see.”
Wentz is set to increase his workload by returning to team drills next week, he said. According to Pederson, Wentz will be re-evaluated after Thursday’s preseason game against the New England Patriots to get a clearer sense of where he is physically and what he’ll be able to do moving forward.
Lindsay H. Jones of USA TODAY as John Elway reminds us that he did try to get Colin Kaepernick to play for the Broncos at one time:
The Denver Broncos might soon be in the market for veteran backup quarterback, but Colin Kaepernick will not be on the list of players they would potentially call, general manager John Elway said Thursday.
“Colin had his chance to be here. We offered him a contract, he didn’t take it,” Elway said.
The Broncos tried to trade for Kaepernick in 2016, shortly after Peyton Manning announced his retirement. But in order to complete the trade with the 49ers, the Broncos wanted Kaepernick to accept a pay cut. The quarterback declined and returned to San Francisco for another season.
Kaepernick began his social justice protest the following 2016 preseason – he was spotted sitting during the national anthem for the first time during a game against the Broncos – and has been out of the league since opting out of his contract with the Niners in the 2017 offseason. Niners general manager later said the team would have cut Kaepernick had he not opted out.
Kaepernick has filed a collusion claim against the NFL, alleging that his prolonged unemployment is a direct result of his social justice activism and protests rather than a reflection of his on-field skill.
Elway was among the league executives to give a deposition, for which Kaepernick was present, earlier this year.
Elway said Thursday that in that deposition he spoke about the spring 2016 contract offer.
“I don’t know if I’m legally able to say this, but he’s had his chance to be here. He passed it,” Elway said.
The Broncos could add a veteran quarterback to back up Case Keenum before the regular season begins next month. Chad Kelly, a seventh-round pick in 2017 who missed all of his rookie year with injuries, has overtaken former first-round pick Paxton Lynch as the No. 2 quarterback, and the Broncos may want more insurance behind Keenum.
Training camp ended a day early for the Raiders. The AP:
Jon Gruden called off practice Thursday, ending his first training camp back with the Oakland Raiders a day earlier than originally planned.
No reason was given for the change, which caught a few people by surprise. A DJ who plays music during the workouts was setting up his equipment as usual and a handful of fans showed up, only to be turned back at the security gates.
Instead of going through a light practice, as is customary on the final day of training camp, players rushed to pack their bags and sped out to make the 60-mile drive south to the team’s headquarters in Alameda.
The switch also gives the players an extra day of rest before Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. The two teams also meet in the season-opener Sept. 10.
But before things ended in Napa, WR MARTAVIS BRYANT picked up a nickname from Gruden, one he had given Joey Galloway in a prior life, but it’s not exactly a compliment. Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Jon Gruden has a new nickname for Martavis Bryant.
With the Raiders’ bevy of wide receivers, whatever helps keep them straight.
Bryant returned to action Wednesday after missing two practices due to a headache. Seth Roberts also practiced for the first time in more than a week. Their presence underscored the position’s excess, as the Raiders could go heavy at wide receiver when submitting their final 53-man roster on Sept. 1 — and before then, might seek to trade one or two.
The trade market would be a fitting avenue, given it is largely responsible for today’s crowd.
The Raiders acquired two wide receivers in a three-day span this spring. On April 26, they dealt a third-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for Bryant. On April 28, they sent defensive tackle Jihad Ward to the Dallas Cowboys for Ryan Switzer.
Switzer has been fairly consistent.
Bryant has been less so, missing a few practices to illness this offseason.
“We’re calling Martavis the ‘White Tiger,’” Gruden said Wednesday. “I used to go to Busch Gardens in Tampa. We called (former wide receiver Joey) Galloway the ‘White Tiger’ in Tampa. You go to Busch Gardens, and they’ve got a white tiger. Thirteen times I went to Busch Gardens, the white tiger was always in his cage. Well, the white tiger came out today. Bryant came out.
“I don’t know if you get that analogy, but sometimes he comes out to play and sometimes he doesn’t. It’s good to see him because he’s really special like the white tiger.”
Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson have the most defined roles among the Raiders’ wide receivers.
Beyond that, there is competition.
Is this Paying It Backwards? QB ANDY DALTON are giving some money that came from Buffalo back to Buffalo. Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com:
Quarterback Andy Dalton and his wife, Jordan, wanted to find a way to show their appreciation for their newfound fans in Buffalo with the Bengals’ preseason game against the Bills coming up on Aug. 26.
Jordan Dalton will give a donation to the pediatric department of the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo on behalf of the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation.
The gesture is the culmination of a saga that began on Dec. 31, 2017, when Dalton threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-12 with 53 seconds left in a game against the Baltimore Ravens. The touchdown essentially sealed a 31-27 win for the Bengals, and put the Bills in the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons.
“We’re so thankful for everything that y’all have done for us, for our community, the families in our community through our foundation that we want to give back to y’all,” Jordan Dalton said in a video posted on Andy’s social media accounts, “We’re forever grateful.”
Dalton and the board members of the foundation will be in attendance to present the donation before going to (716) Food & Sport in Buffalo to meet with Bills fans.
Bills fans began making donations, mostly in increments of 17, to the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation and the charities of Tyler Boyd’s choice as thanks. The fans raised more than $415,000 for the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation and a spokesperson said they have continued to received at least one donation every week or two since January.
The focus of the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation is to provide support and resources to families with seriously ill and physically challenged children in the Cincinnati and Fort Worth areas.
One of the programs that has been able to grow as a result of the donations is the Pass It On Fund, which raises money for medical equipment for families in need. According to the foundation, the fund gave out $465,000 in grants to 208 families last year.
“JJ and I are very excited to get back to Buffalo and support a community that gave so much to our foundation,” Dalton told ESPN’s Michele Steele. “The Pass it On Fund is our grant program and it was able to double in size because of all the donations that we received. So for us, we feel like it’s our responsibility to pass it on and give back to Buffalo.”
WR DEZ BRYANT makes it to Cleveland. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Dez Bryant was excited about his visit with the Browns on Thursday and he sounded open to signing here.
Bryant’s visit went well, according to sources, and both sides were impressed.
Bryant arrived at the Browns facility in the afternoon and was accompanied by his agent, Kim Miale, of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, the same agency that represents Hue Jackson. The visit stretched into the evening and may have included dinner downtown. It was designed from the outset for both sides to get to know each other.
Cut by the Cowboys in April after eight seasons, Bryant originally said he wanted to stay in the NFC East and play for a contender. When those opportunities didn’t present themselves, he visited the Ravens in the spring, but turned down a three-year offer worth about $21 million, preferring instead to sign a one-year “prove it” deal.
During Bryant’s visit, he stopped by the Browns’ in-house radio studio and made a surprise appearance on Cleveland Browns Daily.
“I’m happy to be here, you know excited, you know just trying to work out some things,” Bryant said.
Bryant added that “it’s a lovely place.”
When host Nathan Zegura observed that Bryant looked good in orange at Oklahoma State, he said, “yeah, I did. I’d still look good in the brown. We’ll see.”
That was quick. QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER hit his head on Tuesday and went into the concussion protocol. He was out of it on Thursday.
Idle gossip about WR DANNY AMENDOLA for TMZ.com:
Fancy seeing you here, Danny Amendola.
On Wednesday, Olivia Culpo shared a snap of what appears to be the Dolphins receiver in her bed, according to Terez Owens.
Though the shot has since disappeared from her Instagram story, rumors of Culpo, 26, and Amendola, 32, rekindling their romance first ignited in June. The on-again pair were said to have smooched the night away at a friend’s wedding. They were later spotted getting cozy in Ibiza.
Neither follows the other on Instagram — yet. The two first called it quits earlier this year, after Amendola signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Dolphins.
“It had to do with the distance and them barely seeing each other,” a source previously told Us Weekly. “He got signed to the Miami Dolphins and Olivia wasn’t going to move there.”
Culpo dated Amendola for two years and was an integral part of the Patriots’ AFC Championship celebration in January.
Culpo, for those of you like the DB who did not know, was Miss Universe in 2012. She apparently is from Cranston, Rhode Island. Culpo has previously been linked to singer Nick Jonas and baseball player Tim Tebow.
Plenty of work for a sharp QB TOM BRADY in his first preseason action. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:
Tom Brady, at 41, looks like he picked up where he left off. Playing six drives in the first half, he led an opening touchdown drive and finished 19-of-26 for 172 yards, with two TDs and no interceptions. Meanwhile, perhaps more promising for the Patriots was the way they won one-on-one matchups in the pass rush, specifically with Adrian Clayborn (free-agent signing) and Derek Rivers (2017 third-round pick) picking up sacks. Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (fifth round, Purdue) continues to make a charge for more playing time.
And this happened as Brady tried to put some Fake News to rest, per Reiss:
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles never connected on the field after Super Bowl LII, but they made sure to do so after Thursday’s preseason game between the teams at Gillette Stadium.
Brady relayed that he was never trying to avoid Foles after the heartbreaking Super Bowl defeat.
“That was kind of made up to me because that was never my intention that I would be a bad sport,” he said after the Patriots’ 37-20 win in the rematch. “But, I have a lot of respect for Nick and Carson [Wentz], all those quarterbacks, and that team and the way they played. They’re a great team.
“I know how hard it is to win that last game, and they did it and congrats to them. But, we’re on to 2018. We’ve got our goals ahead of us. We’re going to try to go out and put together a great year.”
Brady had visited the field before the game, which he seldom does before the full-team warm-up. He might have been looking for Foles at that point, but Foles was still in the Eagles’ locker room. Brady spoke with Wentz for a brief period.
As for the postgame meeting between Foles and Brady, the Super Bowl MVP said, “I think everyone’s made a big deal about it. There’s a lot of craziness. I’ve always respected Tom, I met Tom several times and it was great to see him.
“But like I said, I think everyone made a bigger deal, because at the end of the day, he’s a great dude. He’s a heck of a player, one of the greatest of all time, and you know, to say hi, that’s what quarterbacks do after games. I know everyone made a big deal of the Super Bowl, but the Super Bowl’s chaos after. But he was nice, as he always is, so I wished him the best of luck this season.”
NEW YORK JETS
It looks like QB SAM DARNOLD may be a rookie who starts the first game. At least in the eyes of Phil Simms who tweets:
Suspense is over. Jets have seen enough in practice and 1st preseason game to know they have their franchise QB…Let him get the experience of starting now instead of waiting till next week or 1st game of season #Jets @Jets #FranchiseQB
Sam Darnold’s presence on the field vs #Atlanta @AtlantaFalcons and movement in the pocket was outstanding. Moving in the pocket and throwing on the run is a must for a QB in #NFL now. #Jets @nyjets
Jets have a chance to win this season. Schedule is not overly difficult, Darnold will bring excitement and offensive coordinator, Jeremy Bates will be a big help for the team and the QB ! @nyjets #Jets
Darnold started Thursday night’s game against the Redskins with this report from Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Jets gave Sam Darnold the start at quarterback in Washington on Thursday night and the rookie played the entire first half before giving way to Teddy Bridgewater.
Darnold’s night wound up covering three possessions and ended with his first interception of his NFL career. Washington defensive back Deshazor Everett tipped a pass intended for Jermaine Kearse into the hands of defensive back Troy Apke to end a second quarter drive that had moved into the red zone.
Darnold was 8-of-11 for 62 yards overall and led the Jets to a field goal on their second possession. He went 5-of-5 for 45 yards on that scoring drive, but the first two drives ended with third down sacks and one of them may have been attributable to Darnold holding the ball too long against the Washington defense.
Jets coach Todd Bowles told Lisa Salters of ESPN that the rookie’s performance was “not bad.” Bridgewater’s performance will likely have some bearing on how “not bad” helps or hurts Darnold’s bid for the starting job.
Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com sees Darnold getting closer to the starting job:
The New York Jets have probably made up their mind about who will start at quarterback for them in Week 1. If they were leaning toward giving rookie Sam Darnold the start, Thursday night probably brought them closer to making it official.
Darnold, the third pick of this year’s draft, followed up last week’s promising preseason debut with another solid game Thursday night against the Washington Redskins. It wasn’t perfect, but Darnold showed plenty. He has displayed all the physical skills the Jets thought they were getting when they selected him. He finished completing eight of 11 passes for 62 yards.
While there wouldn’t be anything wrong with giving veteran Josh McCown a start in Week 1 (and Teddy Bridgewater played well again on Thursday night — better than Darnold, actually — and that complicates matters), it doesn’t seem like there’s a great reason to delay the inevitable.
Sam Darnold’s all-around skills have been impressive
Darnold reportedly had a good week of joint practices against the Redskins (Washington cornerback Josh Norman was impressed) and he carried that over to the game.
One pass in particular will make the Jets’ coaches happy. On a third-and-4, Darnold dropped back. His initial read was to his right. He quickly came off that read when it wasn’t open – something that’s crucial for any quarterback and not something all rookies do easily – and scanned right to left before he found Tre McBride. Then Darnold fired a perfect strike to McBride in tight coverage. McBride made a nice catch for 13 yards and a first down. It was a great play on an important third down.
It was just one play in a preseason game, but it was impressive for a rookie.
Not everything went well for Darnold
Of course, Darnold’s night was far from perfect. The Jets didn’t get into the end zone, which was disappointing. He also threw an interception on fourth down, which is troubling for a player who had turnover issues at USC.
Darnold dropped back on fourth-and-1 in Redskins territory and he never saw safety Deshazor Everett. As new ESPN color analyst Jason Witten pointed out, Everett dropped off his man-to-man coverage of the running back when the back stayed in to block. Darnold never saw that Everett was lurking as an extra defender near the line of scrimmage, Everett tipped the short pass and it was picked off by safety Troy Apke.
It’s not a mistake that was so bad it should change the Jets’ mind on whether Darnold gets the opening-game start. But it was a reminder that Darnold is a rookie.
The Jets have a decision to make soon
The Jets don’t have to make a decision now on their Week 1 starter. Darnold started on Thursday, and it seemed obvious that it was an audition for him to win that job. But the Jets could wait another week and make the decision after the third preseason game (most starters don’t play in the fourth preseason game).
The last time there wasn’t a rookie starting quarterback in Week 1 of an NFL season was 2007. It seems like a good bet that Darnold will keep the streak alive, especially after he looked good again in the Jets’ second preseason game.
THIS AND THAT
Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com points out that Denver’s offer to Colin Kaepernick came after the QB started to behave strangely, but before his first formal protest.
So John Elway offered to trade for Colin Kaepernick and make him a Denver Bronco in 2016 – if Kaepernick was willing to take a significant pay cut from the $12.3 million he was about to earn from the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick declined the pay cut, Elway said that was his chance to be Denver and he blew it forever. History moved on.
Until Thursday, when Elway engaged in the latest iteration of the NFL’s shell game of arguable excuses for why Kaepernick can’t get a job in the league.
Elway told reporters, “Colin had his chance to be here. He didn’t take it. We offered him a contract. He didn’t take it. As I said at my deposition – and I don’t know if I’m legally able to say this – hey, he’s had his chance to be here. He passed it.”
In the Kaepernick narrative, it was a stunning statement. Not only did it appear to be a breach of the confidentiality order in the Kaepernick collusion case against the NFL, there is a devil in the broad, illogical details. And in that broader view, it’s worth considering facts about Elway that are football-related (see: quarterback Brock Osweiler spurning Denver in 2016 free agency, only to be signed by Elway one year later) and also politically related (see: Elway’s documented support of Kaepernick foe, President Donald Trump).
In short, there are layers here. And like many of the simple rationales tossed out regarding Kaepernick’s unemployment, there appears to be some significant intellectual dishonesty taking place. Why Elway opened this can of worms is anyone’s guess. But he did, and that makes a recounting of the facts worthwhile. With that in mind, here is what went down between Kaepernick and the Broncos – including some time stamps and political leanings that should be considered in the context of Elway’s claim.
From multiple sources familiar with the timeline:
In March of 2016 – more than five months before Kaepernick first protested during the national anthem at an NFL game – the Denver front office was coping with the reality that it was about to lose Osweiler in free agency. Running on a parallel track, agents for Kaepernick were pursuing trade partners for the 49ers, hoping to find a team that would entertain the quarterback’s pending $11.9 million base salary and a $400,000 workout bonus. The Broncos were one of the teams Kaepernick’s agents targeted as a potential trade partner. Calls were made arranging permission from the 49ers for a Kaepernick visit to Denver, where he would meet with Elway personally.
During his visit in Denver, Kaepernick joined Elway at his home, where they discussed details of his time with the 49ers, including how Kaepernick had been fitting into the locker room and what he envisioned for himself going forward in the league. Sources familiar with the visit termed it as a “positive meet-and-greet” between the two. At the time, Kaepernick was aware that Elway and the Broncos’ scouting staff had previously given him some positive evaluations heading into the 2011 draft. He also believed he would have the opportunity to compete with Mark Sanchez for the starting job. When Kaepernick departed, he was optimistic the Broncos would be his next team, pending an agreement on contract details.
In the wake of Elway’s meeting, the Broncos told Kaepernick’s agents that he would be worth the trade investment if one of two things happened: Either the 49ers agreed to pay a portion of Kaepernick’s 2016 salary in an effort to trade him, or Kaepernick agreed to take a pay cut from $11.9 million to $7 million and forgo his $400,000 workout bonus. The 49ers ultimately refused. After some back and forth with Kaepernick’s agents, the Broncos were informed that he had declined to take the pay cut. The trade talks were scuttled, and Denver’s focus on drafting a rookie quarterback in the first round began to take shape. Ultimately, the belief in Kaepernick’s camp was that if Denver didn’t trade for him, he would eventually be cut by San Francisco and line up suitors in free agency – or he could potentially reestablish himself under Chip Kelly and regain his cornerstone quarterback status.
That’s the thumbnail of what transpired between Elway and Kaepernick, a fairly garden-variety trade effort in the NFL that fell apart. But the backdrop of Elway’s latest comments add a new twist to a fairly mundane piece of history. By bringing his deposition details into focus on Thursday (and in turn, Kaepernick’s collusion case), Elway’s implication is that Kaepernick isn’t an option for the Broncos because he turned down a pay cut to $7 million and chose to return to the 49ers, where he ultimately ended up booking the full $12.3 million if his remaining salary in 2016.
Now the added context that is worth consideration:
Much like Elway’s apparent disappointment with Kaepernick’s refusal to take a pay cut, the Broncos general manager appeared to come out of the 2016 departure of Osweiler with some hurt feelings. Some less-than-veiled criticism was exchanged between the two parties and some bridges appeared to be burned. Despite spurning the Broncos in 2016, Osweiler was brought back into the fold by Elway roughly 18 months later, verbally agreeing to terms one day after Osweiler was cut by the Cleveland Browns. For whatever reason, Osweiler’s contentious free-agent divorce from Denver was apparently less hurtful than Kaepernick’s refusal to take a pay cut to consummate a trade.
Politically, some interesting things happened surrounding Kaepernick and Elway after the scuttled trade. First, Kaepernick began protesting during the national anthem, sparking an initial skewering from Trump during his campaigning for president in September of 2016. That skewering from Trump would eventually grow into a large part of his political platform as president, resulting in multiple direct and indirect political attacks on Kaepernick. In the midst of this: Elway attended Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017, then later made the monumental gesture of writing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee (on Broncos letterhead), stumping for Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, in March of 2017.
Unless Elway decides to expound on it further, it’s unlikely we’ll get a full accounting for why he decided on a “one shot” mandate on Kaepernick. Instead, we’ll be left with a few facts to try and interpret why Elway took such an open swipe at Kaepernick: the quarterback refused to take a pay cut and was apparently unemployable by Elway from that point forward; Osweiler engaged in a messy divorce with Elway and somehow returned to the good graces of the franchise; and along the way, Elway engaged in some political stumping for Trump.
Like so many other parts of the NFL’s saga with Kaepernick, the relation of those facts to each other is open for debate. But as always, the devil is in the details, regardless of how intellectually dishonest their presentation may be.
What is not mentioned here is that Kaepernick’s attitude changed by 2015 before his meeting with Elway. Previously cordial, if not the life of the party, by the time the Niners were slogging through ’15 he was notably curt and distant in various situations (or so we here from multiple sources). The first protest came the next summer.
Chris Berman may be back-back-back with ESPN on Sundays. Andrew Marchand of the New York Post:
A changing ESPN is working on bringing back Chris Berman.
ESPN is in talks with Chris Berman about an expanded role for this NFL season, sources have told The Post.
There is no deal yet, but there is interest on both sides. While the move would not be for a full-time position, sources said the possibility of Berman contributing more to or even hosting some Sunday night “SportsCenter”s has been broached.
There is a hope that Berman could work a quarter of the NFL season, according to sources. ESPN would want Berman for more, but in semi-retirement, Berman already has made plans for some weekends, and so that is likely unfeasible — at least for this year.
In addition to appearing on “SportsCenter” this season, Berman could do more features and interviews to aid “Sunday NFL Countdown,” whose ratings dropped by double digits in his first year away from the program.
Berman, arguably the most significant on-air personality in ESPN’s history, accepted a lesser role with the company at the conclusion of the 2016-17 football season. The reduction of Berman’s role was spearheaded by ex-ESPN president John Skipper.
Though Skipper jettisoned Berman, he did keep Berman on the payroll, but in a very limited role that included no Sunday regular-season gig. Berman does do a weekly spot centered around history for “Monday NFL Countdown.”
After the NFL conference championship games and the Super Bowl, Berman is scheduled to host “NFL Primetime.” He also does the radio call of an MLB divisional playoff series.
With Berman gone last year, the “Sunday NFL Countdown” ratings suffered. Without Berman as the familiar face leading “Countdown,” the show’s numbers were down 12 percent. Sam Ponder replaced Berman as the host.
Berman’s potential comeback coincides with executive vice president of production Norby Williamson re-emerging as the leader of a good portion of the network’s studio programming. Williamson has championed some ESPN classics, including Keith Olbermann’s renewed presence on the network and a return to a more traditional “SportsCenter” for some hours of the day.
The old-school approach has worked on the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” as viewership with Sage Steele and Kevin Negandhi rose each of the past five months compared to the Jemele Hill-Michael Smith combination from a year ago. The hope would be that Berman could add more gas into the old engine.
Semi-retirement has not been easy for the 63-year-old Berman. A little more than a year ago, his wife, Katherine Ann Berman, died in a car accident. She was 67.
He was recently asked on the SI Media podcast if he could see coming back.
“I mean, I could see doing it, but I experience other things in life — and of course we had a tragedy last year, too, so that was not the most important adjustment I was going to make,” Berman said.
Berman, according to sources, would be unable to do a weekly stint on Sunday nights because he already has some weekend plans. In late September, he is attending the Ryder Cup in France. Berman splits his time between homes in Connecticut and Hawaii.
A final decision on whether he will have a role and how big it would be is due in the next few weeks, but as Berman might say, he very well could be “Back, back, back, back …”
Clay Travis approves:
New management at ESPN is working to replace virtually every decision John Skipper made. Smart move
RANKING THE ROSTERS
Pro Football Focus has a grade for each NFL player and their editors (writing here at ESPN) have toted them all up to rank the rosters of the member clubs 1 to Cleveland.
A severely edited version appears below and you need to go to the link to see the individual players.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Biggest strength: As a part of the most dominant defensive front in football, Brandon Graham had the best year of his career in terms of sack total while continuing to cement his place as one of the most consistent edge defenders at producing pressure.
Biggest weakness: The departure of Mychal Kendricks, who was the team’s highest-graded linebacker, leaves a question mark over the Eagles’ linebacking corps.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Biggest strength: While his overall play did take a slight step back from his 2016 MVP campaign, quarterback Matt Ryan still played at a high level.
Biggest weakness: Interior defensive lineman Terrell McClain struggled for the second consecutive year.
3. New Orleans Saints
Biggest strength: Edge rusher Cameron Jordan produced his best season to date last year, and he ended the campaign as our highest-graded edge rusher.
Biggest weakness: Linebacker A.J. Klein struggled mightily in his first year as a Saint.
4. New England Patriots
Biggest strength: It’s Tom Brady.
Biggest weakness: The linebacking corps — specifically the middle, which is currently occupied by Elandon Roberts.
5. Minnesota Vikings
Biggest strength: Harrison Smith’s 97.0 grade last year established a new PFF-era record for the safety position. He missed just two tackles all season.
Biggest weakness: Tom Compton is penciled in as Minnesota’s starting left guard for now, but he has struggled in pass protection throughout his NFL career.
By the numbers: The Vikings certainly hope new signal-caller Kirk Cousins brings with him the deep-passing ability he displayed last year in Washington, as his 106.4 passer rating on pass attempts that traveled at least 20 yards through the air was fifth best in the league.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Biggest strength: The Chargers got away with highway robbery in free agency following the 2015 season, as the team’s brass signed then-four-year veteran Casey Hayward to a three-year, $15.3 million deal to play slot cornerback.
By the numbers: Chargers second-year edge defender Joey Bosa has now earned back-to-back season grades at 89.8 or above, a telltale sign of what’s to come for the 22-year-old superstar.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Biggest strength: The Steelers have a bunch of talent on both sides of the ball, but Antonio Brown is the one who stands out the most.
Biggest weakness: Drafted with the expectation that he would become the next great Steelers outside linebacker, Bud Dupree has failed to live up to his draft billing so far.
8. Dallas Cowboys
Biggest strength: Center Travis Frederick continued last season right where he left off in 2016 and is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the greats at the position.
Biggest weakness: While the team’s biggest strength is on the offensive line, its weakness lies on the opposite side of the trenches. Entering his third year, defensive tackle Maliek Collins has yet to register a grade above 46.8 and has struggled against the run, scraping together just 15 stops from his 471 run-defense snaps over the past two years.
By the numbers: In 2017, no player embodied the term “breakout” more than Dallas edge defender DeMarcus Lawrence, who ended the year with an elite grade of 94.1 — the third-best mark among edge defenders.
9. Los Angeles Rams
Biggest strength: Interior defender Aaron Donald was the best player in the NFL in 2016 and still somehow managed to get better the following season, leading to his placement at No. 1 in our top-50 list for the second consecutive year.
Biggest weakness: Brought in as a third-round pick out of Louisville in 2015, Rams guard Jamon Brown underwhelmed in his first two years as a depth player and carried his poor play as the starter in 2017
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Biggest strength: The Jaguars fielded arguably the best defense in the NFL in 2017, and the most important player for them was CB Jalen Ramsey.
By the numbers: On 84 regular-season targets, CB A.J. Bouye allowed a catch rate of 45.2 percent and zero touchdowns while snatching six interceptions and breaking up eight more passes.
11. Green Bay Packers
Biggest strength: The most obvious name on this list, Aaron Rodgers had a season-ending injury in October that effectively ended Green Bay’s playoff ambitions. Keeping Rodgers upright has proved profitable for the Packers, as he has posted a passer rating over 100.0 when not faced with pressure in every year of his outstanding career.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Biggest strength: The centerpiece to the Seahawks’ defense for the past six seasons, veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner has been the epitome of consistency throughout his career and still managed to best previous career highs in 2017.
By the numbers: Doug Baldwin is as sure-handed as they come in the NFL, as he was the only wideout last season to drop one or fewer passes with at least 55 catchable targets. A byproduct of his catching ability, Baldwin’s 88.2 grade ranked sixth among qualifying wide receivers.
13. Kansas City Chiefs
Biggest strength: One of the few NFL tight ends to even be in the same conversation as New England’s Rob Gronkowski, four-year veteran Travis Kelce has solidified himself as one of the league’s best at the position.
14. Carolina Panthers
Biggest strength: Inside linebacker Luke Kuechly remains one of the best defenders in the NFL.
Biggest weakness: What was a position of strength in 2017 now becomes a question mark. Replacing star guard Andrew Norwell (88.8 grade) will be no easy task for Jeremiah Sirles, who ended the year ranked 48th among 77 qualifying guards with a grade of just 45.2.
By the numbers: Cam Newton’s passer rating from a clean pocket last season was just 87.1, which ranked 31st in the league and was more than 10 points below the league average. Even when passing from a clean pocket, Newton overthrew his intended target 9.2 percent of the time, which was the highest rate in the NFL.
15. Detroit Lions
Biggest strength: No cornerback played the ball in the air better than Darius Slay last season, as he led the NFL in both interceptions (eight) and total passes defended (21).
16. Buffalo Bills
Biggest strength: Tre’Davious White is one of the league’s best young cornerbacks, and he took home our Rookie of the Year award in 2017.
Biggest weakness: The Bills have a handful of issues on their roster, but their biggest is with the cornerbacks after White.
By the numbers: Buffalo’s defense ranked last in the NFL in 2017, generating pressure on just 29 percent of opponents’ passing plays.
17. Tennessee Titans
Biggest strength: The Titans have a defense full of potential, led by lineman Jurrell Casey, one of the NFL’s most underrated players.
By the numbers: Quarterback Marcus Mariota experienced an odd 2017 season, throwing more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (11) from a clean pocket and generating a passer rating of 81.7.
18. Cincinnati Bengals
Biggest strength: Geno Atkins remains one of the league’s top interior defensive linemen.
By the numbers: Cornerback William Jackson III could be the NFL’s next breakout star. Jackson allowed just 15 of the 43 passes thrown into his coverage to be caught in 2017, coming away with an interception and 10 pass breakups.
19. San Francisco 49ers
Biggest strength: Slotted as the No. 43 player entering the 2018 season on our annual top-50 list, interior defender DeForest Buckner put together a career year in 2017.
By the numbers: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo stole the Bay Area’s heart in just five starts last season. In addition to winning all five games, Garoppolo ranked No. 1 in passing grade while under pressure, No. 1 in third-down grade and No. 5 in avoiding turnover-worthy plays among all qualifying signal-callers.
20. Baltimore Ravens
Biggest strength: Guard Marshal Yanda, who broke his ankle in Week 2 last season, is the best player on the Ravens’ roster.
21. Washington Redskins
Biggest strength: Despite playing through injury for most of his season, Trent Williams showed why he’s one of the premier left tackles in the league. He allowed just 17 pressures from 363 pass-blocking snaps in 2017, and he was the only left tackle to play more than 350 snaps without allowing a sack.
Biggest weakness: You only have to slide a spot over on the offensive line to go from the strength of a talented unit to the weakest link. Guard Shawn Lauvao has ended his past three seasons with grades below 46.5, with his 2017 grade of 37.9 the lowest of his career. He allowed 28 total pressures from his 306 pass-blocking snaps, resulting in a pass-blocking efficiency of 93.0, which ranked 78th of 79 players at the position.
22. Chicago Bears
Biggest strength: Akiem Hicks has been a force on the Bears’ defensive front since arriving in Chicago in 2016.
By the numbers: Mitchell Trubisky needs to show improvement in a number of areas this season, one of them being against the rush. His 48.7 passer rating when under pressure ranked 34th out of 40 quarterbacks last season.
23. Arizona Cardinals
Biggest strength: Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the team’s best player spent nearly all of 2017 on injured reserve. Star running back David Johnson suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the opener, averaging 2.2 YPC before he got hurt, which explains his low grade
24. Oakland Raiders
Biggest strength: Khalil Mack has been Oakland’s best player since joining the team as the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft.
25. Denver Broncos
Biggest strength: Von Miller has been the epitome of consistency across his NFL career, earning elite season grades in each of his seven years in the league.
26. Miami Dolphins
Biggest strength: The ageless Cameron Wake ranked second among 4-3 defensive ends last season with a 13.5 pass-rushing productivity rating.
Biggest weakness: The Dolphins have their fair share of question marks, but their most glaring weakness comes at right guard, a spot currently occupied by Jesse Davis, an undrafted free agent out of Idaho in 2015.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Biggest strength: Gerald McCoy continued to be a one-man wrecking crew on the Buccaneers’ defensive front and ended 2017 with 47 quarterback pressures, the 10th most among all interior defensive linemen.
Biggest weakness: On an offensive line that has one of the better right tackles in the league in Demar Dotson, the left tackle spot is a relatively weak link for Tampa Bay. Donovan Smith ended the 2017 campaign with a 51.9 grade after he allowed a whopping 42 quarterback pressures in 658 pass-blocking snaps.
28. New York Giants
Biggest strength: With all due respect to Odell Beckham Jr. — whose 51.6 grade was thanks to an injury-shortened season in which he caught 25 passes for 302 yards in four games — the honor goes to safety Landon Collins, who over the past two seasons has emerged as arguably the best strong safety in the league.
Biggest weakness: The offensive line remained an issue for the Giants in 2017, and tackle Ereck Flowers struggled for the second straight year.
29. New York Jets
Biggest strength: From the moment he stepped foot on an NFL field, Leonard Williams has been one of the better interior defenders in the league, finishing all three of his professional seasons with an overall grade of at least 84.8.
Biggest weakness: Sometimes teams really hit with their first-round pick, and other years they really miss. In 2015 the Jets nailed it when they selected Williams sixth overall, but the same can’t be said about the 20th overall pick they used on Darron Lee in 2016.
30. Indianapolis Colts
By the numbers: Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton experienced his worst season since his rookie year, with 1.74 yards per route, and he forced just two missed tackles. Hilton was sure-handed when targeted, though, dropping just four passes, the second-lowest drop rate of his career.
31. Houston Texans
Biggest strength: Full disclaimer — a healthy J.J. Watt is the Texans’ biggest strength. But considering his injuries the past two seasons, it’s difficult to judge what Watt will be capable of in 2018. The Texans’ next best is wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who finished 2017 with the fourth-highest grade of any wide receiver at 90.6.
Biggest weakness: If the Texans want to take the next step with sensational first-round quarterback Deshaun Watson, protecting him must be addressed, as the Texans’ offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL.
32. Cleveland Browns
Biggest strength: Coming off an 0-16 season, some optimism is needed for the Browns, and it comes in the form of last season’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Myles Garrett. Bothered by injuries early in the year, he found success once he got going, racking up 7 sacks, 11 hits and 19 hurries in 11 games.
Biggest weakness: If Shon Coleman is to be the man to replace Joe Thomas at left tackle, expect a big drop-off. Not only was Thomas one of the best offensive linemen of all time, but Coleman struggled at right tackle in 2017, allowing 6 sacks, 9 hits and 49 hurries.