The Daily Briefing Friday, February 24, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

The NFL’s new Hall of Fame Weekend schedule will feature the Cowboys and the Cardinals on Thursday night.  Marc Sessler of NFL.com:

 

The Hall of Fame has picked opponents for its annual preseason showdown.

 

The Dallas Cowboys will face the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, August 3, 2017, at the new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

 

The choice of teams makes plenty of sense, with former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones both set to be enshrined into the Hall.

 

The rest of this year’s class includes running backs Terrell Davis and LaDainian Tomlinson, pass-rusher Jason Taylor, safety Kenny Easley and kicker Morten Andersen.

 

This year’s tilt will kick off on Thursday for the first time in NFL history.

 

On Friday, August 4, the Hall will honor the Class of 2017 during the Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner at the Canton Memorial Civic Center. Then on Saturday, Aug. 5, the Class of 2017 will be formally enshrined into the Hall of Fame during a nationally televised ceremony at the stadium. Sunday’s festivities will include the Enshrinees’ Roundtable and the annual Concert for Legends.

 

It’s a scheduling change that wisely places the spotlight on the enshrinement ceremony and no longer holds up the Hall of Fame Game — rarely compelling fodder — as the weekend’s final event.

 

We’d like to tell you that quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Carson Palmer will go toe-to-toe in Canton, but it’s more likely neither will play. Both should be on the field when the Cowboys visit the Cardinals during the regular season.

 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

Vikings GM Rick Spielman says the team has not talked yet to RB ADRIAN PETERSON yet.  The team holds an $18 million option on AP/AD and are not likely to exercise it, making him a free agent.

 

Spielman also spoke about the QB position.  Andrew Krammer in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

 

Sam Bradford has already been named the Vikings starting quarterback for next season, but the future of the position beyond 2017 remains “in flux,” as General Manager Rick Spielman told a small group of reporters on Thursday.

 

“Everything is in flux right now,” Spielman said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

 

Don’t look for Spielman to tip his hand, but a new deal for Sam Bradford could be on the horizon given the uncertainty of Teddy Bridgewater’s recovery and the effusive praise of the 29-year-old Bradford from both head coach Mike Zimmer and Spielman. Currently, the Vikings do not have a quarterback under contract for the 2018 season.

 

“I can tell you looking back on that trade with all the other options,” Spielman said, “I would do that over in a millisecond to get Sam Bradford on our football team with the circumstances we were dealing with.

 

“I think he’s just right now in the prime of his career.”

 

Meanwhile, the Vikings just hope Bridgewater can resume his playing career. Spielman called it “totally unfair” to assign months or years to Bridgewater’s physical rehab, saying only that “everybody’s hoping” he’ll be able to return to full strength on a football field at some point.

 

Facing a deadline in early May, the Vikings may have to make a decision on whether to pick up Bridgewater’s fifth-year option before knowing much more about his playing future.

 

“He’s in the process of working through his motion,” Spielman said. “I know he’s doing specific things in rehab to get him back to being functional. When he’s going to be ready for football, dropping back and things like that — I think that’s still to be determined.”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

The Buccaneers are parting ways with CB ALTERRAUN VERNER according to Greg Auman in the Tampa Bay Times:

 

The Bucs are releasing veteran cornerback Alterraun Verner, who was due to make $6.5-million this season but had fallen into a backup role behind Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves.

 

Verner, 28, came to the Bucs in free agency in 2014 and started 14 games, but was limited to six starts in 2015 and three last season. The Bucs take no salary-cap hit for releasing him, and Verner gets a head start on free agency, which begins in two weeks.

 

“I would like to thank the Glazers, Jason Licht, Dirk (Koetter) and Lovie (Smith) for allowing me the opportunity to compete as a Buccaneer these past three years,” Verner wrote in a post on Instagram. “I have learned so much over these years and i appreciate everything that they have done for me. I will miss my teammates, the community, and the fans for their support of me as a player and personally. You guys always had my backs. Sorry that we couldnt have succeeded more with my time there but there are great times ahead in Tampa Bay.”

 

The former Pro Bowl cornerback had one of the most emotional moments of the Bucs’ season when he came up with a key interception against Russell Wilson in the Bucs’ upset win against Seattle, just two days after his father had died while visiting family.

 

The Bucs have limited depth at cornerback now behind Grimes and Hargreaves, with second-year player Ryan Smith as a backup after spending last year mostly at safety. Third-year pro Jude Adjei-Barimah and second-year pro Javien Elliott, who worked as the team’s nickel defensive back last season, are also back for 2017.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Veteran guru Gil Brandt, writing at NFL.com, offers a six-point plan to enable the 49ers to strike gold.  The name JAY CUTLER makes an appearance.

 

There is a new regime in place, with coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch attempting to right the ship. What do they need to do to turn around a team that just posted its worst record since 2004? It won’t happen overnight, but below, I’ve outlined a six-point plan for returning the 49ers to glory.

 

1) Present a unified front to the media and fans

Too often in recent years, turmoil has undermined people trying to do their jobs in San Francisco. This team must present a unified front that includes accountability across the board. Owner Jed York should keep a low profile and let Shanahan and Lynch handle the media, at least until the Niners start winning again.

 

It’s tough to succeed when you’ve had three different coaches over the past three seasons. When the players see Shanahan’s steadying hand at the tiller, they’ll play better from top to bottom.

 

2) Find a quarterback solution

Shanahan will get the most out of whoever is under center. The problem is, there’s uncertainty as to who that will be, given that, as Ian Rapoport reported in December, Colin Kaepernick is expected to opt out of his contract. The best option would be to acquire Kirk Cousins, who’s got the kind of competitiveness I love and who has worked with Shanahan in Washington. But I think there’s one half of 1 percent of a chance of that happening.

 

The next best option, believe it or not, is signing Jay Cutler, presuming he’s eventually released by Chicago. Cutler’s apparent inability to put it all together is as well-documented as it is befuddling. But he probably still has some life in him as an NFL starter. He should be familiar with Shanahan’s system, given that he started 37 games in Denver for Kyle’s father, Mike, who thought highly of Cutler. Cutler looks like the ideal quarterback in terms of traits and characteristics, at least in non-game situations. Maybe at 33, he’ll change. The success he had with Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator in Chicago in 2015 (posting a career-best 92.3 passer rating) suggests it’s possible to maximize his talents with the right coach. I wouldn’t trade for him, but if the Niners could sign him, he’d be an ideal stopgap.

 

If the Niners can’t land Cutler, I’d try to bring back Kaepernick as a short-term fill-in who could still reveal himself to be a long-term solution in San Francisco. He’s familiar with this team and his teammates, and he showed improvement as 2016 went along — don’t forget that he’s taken this team to the Super Bowl. After Kaepernick, the Niners should take a look at Matt Schaub, who’s smart, has some ability and played under Shanahan in Atlanta and Houston.

 

Whether Cutler, Kaepernick or Schaub is the starter, I’d draft a quarterback for the future — not at No. 2 overall, but by moving back into the first round for DeShone Kizer. There are some questions, given a checkered 2016 campaign that included a benching against Stanford, but he has a good arm, is a natural thrower and displays some traits that lead to success at the position.

 

3) Develop and/or add leadership

Teams need leadership as they rebuild, and the Niners are no exception. They missed NaVorro Bowman; if he can recover fully from the Achilles tear that ended his 2016 season in Week 4, he can be one of those voices. I also think DeForest Buckner, who showed plenty of promise as a rookie, is capable of being a leader based on what he showed in college at Oregon. Leadership should also be a consideration when evaluating potential free-agent additions.

 

4) Upgrade the pass rush

Despite the fact that the defense logged a ton of snaps and was on the field far more than the offense (the Niners averaged 26 minutes and 56 seconds in time of possession in 2016, the worst mark in the NFL), San Francisco finished with just 31 sacks. Buckner is a good building-block piece, as is Arik Armstead, who went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury in November. Getting Bowman back healthy is key, as is the continued development of Aaron Lynch, who lost much of 2016 to a suspension and high ankle sprain. But I think the Niners will ultimately have to add some pass-rushing firepower, either in the draft or free agency (or both). I’d use the second overall pick in the draft on Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, a playmaker who racked up 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons. In terms of free agency, Chandler Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul and Melvin Ingram look like strong potential fits.

 

5) Build around the offensive pieces already in house

While the roster holes are numerous, the cupboard isn’t quite as bare as the 2016 win total would indicate. Shanahan knows how to optimize his offensive line, and there are three pretty good offensive linemen on the roster. Joshua Garnett is going to be a big-time star. Trent Brown is a mammoth of a man who can thrive at right tackle. Joe Staley is 32, but he’s still a real asset.

 

I think Shanahan can have success running the ball with Carlos Hyde, who can clearly move the chains, provided he stays healthy. Receiver Torrey Smith is fast, but he’s somewhat of a one-trick pony, limited to deep routes. Receiver is where the Niners need to help themselves in the draft. I’d look at second- or third-round guys like Carlos Henderson of Louisiana Tech (who could grade out as a high second-rounder), Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington, Zay Jones of East Carolina, Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown of Ohio State, Malachi Dupre of LSU and Amara Darboh of Michigan. Free agents DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Pierre Garcon could help.

 

Shanahan’s system is a good system, tried and true, and he will make the most of the pieces already in place.

 

6) Show some patience in free agency

It might be tempting to try to spend your way to a quick turnaround via free-agent additions, but the Niners have so many holes to fill in terms of depth, they should approach the market with the long view in mind. Don’t overpay for older players who might be nearing the end of their prime with the thought of applying a bandage to a gaping wound. You want leaders and players with proven ability, but you also ideally want them to be on the younger side, with an eye toward 2018 and beyond. You don’t have to turn away older players like Jackson (30) and Garcon (30); just be cognizant of how much you’re investing and how long you expect the investment to pay off. In addition to the aforementioned Jones (26), Pierre-Paul (28), Ingram (27) and Jeffery (27), cornerback A.J. Bouye (25) and converted receiver Terrelle Pryor (27) would be worth a look.

 

 

So … when will it all pan out?

This team will be better in 2017 than it was in 2016, if only because Shanahan will get that time-of-possession mark closer to 30 minutes per game. But I think the season to circle is 2018. If the 49ers get a quarterback in place and follow the rest of these steps, I believe it is reasonable to imagine them competing for a playoff spot in 2018, especially given the relative uncertainty dogging other teams in the once-foreboding NFC West.

 

Mike Florio notes that Jim Harbaugh had some thoughts on the changes at the 49ers among other things:

 

Jim Harbaugh never has lasted longer than four years at any of his various coaching stops. For making it last that long in San Francisco, he believes he deserves special recognition.

 

In an appearance on Tim Kawakami’s podcast, via CSN Bay Area, Harbaugh pointed out that he “set a record for coaching there under the present ownership.”

 

“I take pride in that,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe there should be an endurance medal, a courage medal, for that.”

 

The issue came up because new coach Kyle Shanahan mentioned Harbaugh, Bill Walsh, George Seifert, and Steve Mariucci in Shanahan’s introductory press conference. Harbaugh said he doesn’t believe he spent enough time with the team to be compared to those other coaches. Harbaugh perhaps would have made it more than four years if he had been working with new G.M. John Lynch.

 

“I would’ve loved to have worked for John Lynch,” Harbaugh said. “He reminds me a lot of the athletic director we have here [at Michigan], Warde Manuel, who’s also a former player and a teammate of mine. Common-sense guys who are team guys, just the way they go about their business always speaks volumes.”

 

Harbaugh and former 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke didn’t see eye to eye, and that fractured relationship contributed in large part to the “mutual parting” with Harbaugh that came after the 2014 season. The 49ers have hired three coaches in only two full seasons since then.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The agent’s union is happy about the fate of T RUSSELL OKUNG.  Tom Ley at Deaspin.com:

 

Offensive tackle Russell Okung, who signed with the Broncos last offseason, is now a free agent. This is unsurprising, because despite the fact that Okung had a five-year “contract” with the Broncos that was “worth” $53 million, the Broncos faced no financial penalties for cutting him.

 

You might remember that Okung negotiated his contract with the Broncos on his own, and that the most charitable way to describe the deal he came away with was “extremely ill-advised.” Okung’s contract came with no guaranteed money, and was essentially a one-year deal with a single option for the next four. Okung made just $8 million by staying on the team and hitting incentive markers last year, and the Broncos went into this offseason with the ability to pick up his option, which would have guaranteed him another $20.5 million.

 

Okung played in 16 games for the Broncos and didn’t have a great year, which contributed to the team’s overall offensive struggles. Even if he had played better, it was always unlikely that the Broncos were going to pick up his option. He may have thought that he was “betting on himself” when he negotiated a heavily backloaded and un-guaranteed contract, but all he was really doing was giving the Broncos a chance to squeeze one year of service out of a former top-10 pick at a discount rate. Now he’s back on the free-agent market, older and less valuable than he was at this time last year.

 

 

KANSAS CITY

The Chiefs have some salary cap management challenges.  Former sports agent Joel Corry, writing at CBSSports.com, has some thoughts on how to surmount them:

 

Salary cap room projection: $1.757 Million

Team needs: ILB, WR, DL, CB

Key unrestricted free agents: S Eric Berry, NT Dontari Poe

Potential restricted free agent tenders: K Cairo Santos, S Daniel Sorenson, WR Albert Wilson, all at $1.808 million

 

The Chiefs are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and that championship window may drive offseason decisions. Safety Eric Berry is the free agent the Chiefs can least afford to lose. He wants to remain in Kansas City but recently stated he isn’t going to play under a franchise tag again. Berry sat out most of last preseason before finally signing his franchise tender in late August. A second franchise tag for Berry will be $12,967,200, which is 120 percent of his $10.806 million 2016 franchise tender.

 

The expectation was that the five-year, $51.25 million extension that Harrison Smith signed with the Vikings last June would pave the way for a deal with Berry. Tyrann Mathieu’s subsequent five-year extension with the Cardinals averaging $12.5 million per year will be a hurdle to signing Berry long-term. Berry’s camp will view Mathieu’s contract as the new benchmark for safeties over Smith’s instead as a hybrid defensive back deal. Being the lone safety to earn first-team All-Pro honors in each of the last two seasons only helps Berry’s cause.

 

Nose tackle Dontari Poe could price himself out of Kansas City. He might be the most coveted interior defensive lineman to hit the open market. The expectation is the Panthers will franchise Kawann Short. Poe not only clogs the middle of the defense but also demonstrated some pass rush ability prior to being plagued by back issues. He may look for a contract comparable to the six-year, $85.5 million contract (worth a maximum of $90 million through salary escalators) containing $42 million in guarantees that the Jaguars gave Malik Jackson in free agency last offseason.

 

Inside linebacker is probably going to be addressed. Dont’a Hightower will be the best free agent available if the Patriots don’t put a franchise tag on him for close to $15 million. He is going to be in the high-rent district. The four-year deal averaging $12.5 million per year ($26.4 million fully guaranteed) that former teammate Jamie Collins recently signed to remain with the Browns after a midseason trade will be an important salary data point for Hightower.

 

The Bills’ Zach Brown and the Cardinals’ Kevin Minter will be more affordable. They may view their salary floor as the $8 million per-year average of the unrestricted free agent years that Brandon Marshall gave up last June when he signed a five-year deal with the Broncos as a restricted free agent.

 

The Chiefs can’t to do anything without creating cap room. Backup quarterback Nick Foles is the easiest source. The Chiefs can gain $6.75 million of cap space by passing on Foles’ option year. The emergence of Spencer Ware and persistent knee problems should make Jamaal Charles expendable, and cutting him would create $6,187,500 of cap room.

 

Andy Reid recently reiterating his confidence in Alex Smith hasn’t stopped speculation that he’ll be out of a job because of Tony Romo. Should the Chiefs change plans, $9.7 million of cap room will be gained by walking away from Smith’s $16.9 million cap number and next season’s unguaranteed $13.3 million salary. A short-term Romo deal could be easily structured with a 2017 cap number significantly less than Smith’s cap savings.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

CB A.J. BOUYE doesn’t know what is going to happen when he hits the market.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com

 

If you’re going to have a breakout season, you might as well have it when you’re about to be a free agent.

 

That’s a lesson that cornerback A.J. Bouye is learning this offseason. Bouye had his best NFL season for the Texans in 2016 and heads into free agency poised to cash in on that success via the franchise tag or the open market. Recent word out of Houston is that the Texans aren’t planning to tag Bouye — the salary is expected to be over $14 million with a tag this year — and Bouye says that’s fine with him.

 

“I talked to my agent, and I’m not mad that they probably won’t franchise me, just because of how much the franchise tag is for a corner,” Bouye said to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. “It’s a lot. At the same time, the situation in Houston, money-wise, there’s no telling what’s going to happen. At the end of the day, I know they want to bring me back, but they have other things they have to address, which I totally understand.”

 

Breer spoke to an AFC personnel exec who said he believes Bouye will be the “clear king of the class” in free agency once tags are given out and referenced the five-year, $62 million deal that Janoris Jenkins signed with the Giants last year. That’s heady territory for an undrafted player who got his first extended playing time last season, but it doesn’t sound unrealistic given the rising cap and the constant need for cornerbacks around the league.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

We are still more than five months away from the start of training camp, and PK ADAM VINATIERI is already pining for P PAT McAFEE who jilted the Colts for life as a member of the sports talk media.  Alex Marvez in The Sporting News:

 

Indianapolis Colts fans aren’t the only ones hoping Pat McAfee changes his mind about retirement.

 

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri admits he continues to ask his close friend and ex-teammate to reconsider last month’s decision to walk away from football at age 29 despite being one of the NFL’s top punters.

 

Vinatieri’s most recent pitch came Tuesday during a telephone conversation.

 

“I’m still begging him to come back,” Vinatieri said.

 

Not long after Vinatieri was interviewed by co-host Bill Polian and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio, McAfee on Wednesday morning posted a photo on his Twitter account showing him prepped for surgery with the message, “Welp.. see ya later.”

 

@PatMcAfeeShow

Welp.. see ya later

 

McAfee announced last month that he would soon be undergoing the third procedure in the past four years on his right knee because of an injury suffered during the 2016 season. Even though a specialist is considered a non-contact position, McAfee during an interview on the Dan Patrick Show cited the physical toll of playing football as part of his reason to retire.

 

“I felt like a 90-year-old man,” McAfee said about the aftereffects of his latest right knee problem.

 

A fledgling stand-up comic, McAfee also wanted to pursue a media career with the Barstool Sports to expand his forays into the entertainment industry.

 

Halfway through the 2016 campaign, Vinatieri said McAfee approached him about quitting to “maybe pursuing a career in comedy and just going in another direction.”

 

“I tried to talk him out of it,” Vinatieri said. “I said, ‘Man, do both (football and comedy). You’re so good at punting. We need you. I need you.’ That was selfish of me to even say that because whatever he wants to do — and I know he’s going to be so successful at this — I’m excited for him.

 

“I just miss him. I talked to him (Tuesday) and I was like, ‘Man, are you sure? It’s not the same without you, buddy.'”

 

The Colts may not be the same without McAfee, either. He led the NFL with a career-high 49.3-yard gross average along with a 42.7-yard net that ranked third among his punting peers. Opponents also averaged only 2.5 yards a return on McAfee’s 55 punts.

 

“He was such a threat, pinning returners and putting the ball in the corner and inside the 10-yard line,” Vinatieri said.

 

McAfee had additional value as one of the NFL’s top kickoff specialists.

 

“He’s got every single trick in the kickoff book you can imagine with onside kicks,” Vinatieri said. “He can kick it out of the back of the end zone or drop it on the goal-line. He’s such a great athlete and a major competitive type of person.”

 

McAfee’s departure also means Vinatieri must collaborate with a new holder, which means additional work for arguably the greatest kicker in NFL history in building chemistry with a replacement.

 

It’s unknown whether the Colts will expect a new punter and/or kickoff specialist to hold on extra points and field goals or shift those responsibilities to backup quarterback Scott Tolzien.

 

“I’ve got no idea,” Vinatieri said. “It will be interesting to see for sure.”

 

Players who retire as young as McAfee often have second thoughts as the season approaches. But if he wants to return to the Colts, McAfee would probably need to let new general manager Chris Ballard know soon, before a replacement is potentially signed in free agency or drafted.

 

Whatever path McAfee chooses won’t affect the bond Vinatieri has built with him over the past eight seasons.

 

“I wish him all the success in the world,” Vinatieri said. “I love him like a brother. I’m sure he’s going to do great.

 

“It’s not the same not having him around. And like I told him, the true people aren’t going to know how badly we miss you until you’re gone.”

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

QB RYAN TANNEHILL will be good to go when the Dolphins start their off season program.  Armando Salguero in the Miami Herald:

 

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who missed the last three regular-season games and the postseason because of a left knee injury, is healed and will be available for the start of the team’s offseason program. He will not have surgery to reconstruct the knee.

 

Numerous sources with knowledge of Tannehill’s recovery from a partially torn ACL and grade 2 sprained MCL said that weeks ago he passed a battery of tests that determine the stability and functionality of his knees and that he is now ready to go.

 

Even better for all involved, these sources insist, is that Tannehill will not be any more susceptible to a future ACL tear in his left knee following his completed rehabilitation than if he had had a reconstructive surgery.

 

Tannehill, pronounced healed by team doctor John Uribe and with a concurring second opinion from respected surgeon Dr. James Andrews, will be participating in the team’s conditioning program in April, OTA days which begin in May, minicamps after that and training camp, which is scheduled to begin in late July.

 

Coaches, and specifically head coach Adam Gase, will reserve the right to manage Tannehill’s work load, but the player will be fully available as the team wishes.

 

Team doctors, athletic trainers and Andrews told Tannehill and coaches in December that not having surgery on this particular injury but instead taking on a rigorous workout and healing regimen that spanned approximately two months would bring results just as good as surgery.

 

Tannehill’s regimen concluded in early February.

 

A side benefit of Tannehill not having surgery is having him ready for the team’s offseason work. Atlhough sources said it wasn’t the reason to avoid surgery, the fact remains Tannehill would not have been able to participate in any camps, OTA days and likely would have missed much of training camp while rehabbing from surgery.

 

Tannehill’s recovery included him getting adult stem cell treatment in the United States.

 

Tannehill will play the 2017 season with a brace on his left knee. A source said Tannehill has been working out with multiple braces to see which one he’s most comfortable using.

 

The brace is meant as a preventative tool. The quarterback’s knee is said to be stable without it. And his mobility is not expected to be affected.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Former sports agent Joel Corry, writing at CBSSports.com, analyzes the Jets and their salary cap woes.

 

Projected salary cap overage: $2.76 Million

Team needs: QB, LT, CB, Edge rusher

Key unrestricted free agents: OT Ryan Clady, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, TE Kellen Davis, OT Ben Ijalana

Potential restricted free agent tenders: TE Brandon Bostick, C Wesley Johnson, CB Marcus Williams, all at $1.808 million

 

A disappointing 5-11 season in 2016 has created a sense urgency for coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan. Since surviving another season like 2016 will be difficult for the duo, expect a lot of work to be done to the roster. It’s already begun with $10 million of cap space picked up by declining the option on Ryan Clady’s 2017 contract.

 

Next season’s starting quarterback probably wasn’t with the team in 2016. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t expected back after a lackluster season in which he was benched and only regained his starting job after a season-ending knee injury to Geno Smith, who is also a free agent. 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty didn’t make a good case for being the quarterback of the future when given the opportunity to play. 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg is a project. He was inactive for every game except the season finale, in which he did not play.

 

There may be plenty of experienced veteran quarterbacks available as free agents, through trade or by release. These could include Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo and Tyrod Taylor. An intriguing younger option may be Mike Glennon, who has barely played since the Buccaneers took Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. To land Glennon on a short-term contract, however, it will likely take more than top money for a shot to compete to start, which is currently $7 million to $7.5 million per year with incentives and salary escalators that could make a deal worth as much as $12 million per year.

 

The legal troubles of Darrelle Revis complicate matters for the Jets. An alarming decline in play had the Jets contemplating moving the NFL’s preeminent shutdown cornerback for the last several years to safety with a renegotiated deal. This was before he was charged with four felony counts for his alleged involvement in a street fight in Pittsburgh a little over a week ago.

 

Parting ways with Revis may become more appealing. There is $6 million of Revis’ $13 million 2017 base salary that is fully guaranteed. Revis is also due a $2 million roster bonus on March 10, the second day of the league year. His salary cap number is $15,333,333.

 

The incident has potentially jeopardized Revis’ guarantee. Most NFL contracts contain language allowing for guarantees to void with a suspension under league policies — substance abuse, performance-enhancing drugs and personal conduct — or for conduct detrimental to the team and other things, such as retirement or withholding services. Some contracts have a general catch-all provision where a player engaging in conduct that adversely affects or reflects poorly on the team voids a guarantee. Revis has this type of language in his contract.

 

The Jets trying to invalidate Revis’ guarantee would surely result in the NFLPA filing a grievance on his behalf. Cutting the 31-year-old corner before his roster bonus is due without trying to escape the guarantee would leave the Jets with a $7 million cap charge for him where $8,333,333 of cap room would be gained.

 

Other older veterans could also be salary cap casualties. Releasing inside linebacker David Harris, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and center Nick Mangold would create $7.5 million, $9.075 million and $6.5 million of cap space.

 

A change in scenery may be best for 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson since the Jets have one too many quality 3-4 defensive ends. The Jets shopped the talented-but-troubled Richardson before last season’s trading deadline. The first-round pick the Jets reportedly were seeking for Richardson is probably out of the question because of a subpar 2016 season and his well-documented off-field issues. Moving Richardson would wipe his $8.069 million fifth-year option salary from the books.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2017 DRAFT

A “clean” scan for Pitt RB JAMES CONNER in his battle with lymphoma.  Zac Jackson at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Former University of Pittsburgh running back James Conner got “a clean scan” Thursday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

 

Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 but returned to play last season. The news of his clean medical report comes a week before he heads to Indianapolis to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine with a talented class of running back prospects.

 

Conner scored 56 touchdowns in his time at Pitt, an ACC record, and ranks second in school history in total rushing yards behind only Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett.

 

He was the ACC Player of the Year in 2014 when he ran for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns. He had a knee injury in 2015 that led to his Hodgkin’s diagnosis, but he was cleared last year.

– – –

Today, we have a Mock Draft from Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.  No sign of QB DeSHONE KIZER from Notre Dame, while MITCH TRUBISKY of North Carolina goes 2nd:

 

In my latest mock draft below, I stayed static with my quarterback selections but decided to become a little more fluid with the pass rushers, cornerbacks and running backs to see how the dominoes might fall if I were operating each team’s draft.

 

Note: The Vikings, who traded their first-round pick to the Eagles, have the same record and strength of schedule as the Colts, so there’s a tie for the 14th pick. A coin flip at a later date will determine which team picks first.

 

 1  BROWNS

Myles Garrett – DE, Texas A&M: With an all-pro ceiling, Garrett combines elite traits and high-end football character. The Browns obviously need a quarterback, but they need great football players first and foremost, and Garrett has a chance to be special.

 

 2  49ERS

Mitch Trubisky – QB, North Carolina: While he has only one season of high-end production, the tape shows a player with an NFL arm, throwing anticipation and poise. Trubisky might have the toughness to learn on the go as an early starter.

 

 3  BEARS

Solomon Thomas – DE, Stanford: Chicago could use a great pass rusher, and Solomon Thomas is extremely unique in that he can rush as a defensive end, defensive tackle, or 3-4 outside linebacker.

 

 4  JAGUARS

Jamal Adams – S, LSU: The Jaguars have some promising young talent, but they looked undisciplined too often last season. Adams is the ultimate “sheriff” in this draft, with an ability to lead from the back end and in the locker room.

 

 5  TITANS

Marshon Lattimore – CB, Ohio State: The Titans need to tighten up their secondary, and Lattimore is the premier cover man in this draft. He was a full-time starter for only one year, but he showed enough for scouts to believe he could develop into a lockdown corner.

 

 6  JETS

Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU: If you don’t have a good quarterback, you better have a good defense and a sound running game. The Jets have some defensive pieces, but Fournette would give them a potentially dominant runner to handle the heavy lifting on offense.

 

 7  CHARGERS

Taco Charlton – OLB, Michigan: The Chargers are in need of an edge rusher with Melvin Ingram likely on the way out. Charlton fits with high-end physical and play traits.

 

 8  PANTHERS

Jonathan Allen – DT, Alabama: Hard to believe Carolina wouldn’t sprint this card up to the commissioner if Allen were still there. He can play defensive end in a base defense and rush from inside on sub-packages.

 

 9  BENGALS

Reuben Foster – LB, Alabama: Vontaze Burfict’s volatility might make it tough for the Bengals to remain status quo at the position. Foster gives them a three-down linebacker who plays with tremendous speed and physicality.

 

10  BILLS

Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson: Watson’s draft stock is all over the place in NFL circles. The Bills could make Tyrod Taylor a cap casualty, saving them money and opening the door for Watson.

 

11  SAINTS

Sidney Jones – CB, Washington: The Saints, who have had issues at the cornerback spot for quite a while, should be making the position a priority in this year’s draft. With good length and tremendous ball skills, Jones could step in and start immediately.

 

12  BROWNS

Malik Hooker – S, Ohio State: Hooker has elite ball skills and instincts and is the type of player who can make a huge impact on his side of the ball. The biggest question for him could be tied to how his medicals turn out after two offseason surgeries.

 

13  CARDINALS

O.J. Howard – TE, Alabama: While the Cardinals could use a big target to become their future WR1, Howard has the ability to play in-line or from the slot and could become a tremendous pass-catching threat in Arizona’s offense.

 

14  COLTS

Derek Barnett – DE, Tennessee: New general manager Chris Ballard says he wants to build the fronts along the offense and defense. Barnett has posted elite production in the SEC as a pass rusher and would add a level of physicality on the edge for the Colts.

 

14  EAGLES

Dalvin Cook – RB, Florida State: One of the best ways to take pressure off of a young quarterback is to find a strong running back who can shoulder the load. Cook is that guy.

 

16  RAVENS

Takkarist McKinley – OLB, UCLA: McKinley burst onto the scene last year with an ultra-productive season as a pass rusher. He’s relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback and still has room for more growth as a player.

 

17  REDSKINS

Jabrill Peppers – S, Michigan: This is probably earlier than I personally would go with Peppers, but with DeAngelo Hall on the back end, Peppers would be allowed to play in space and be deployed all over the field like he was at Michigan.

 

18  TITANS

Mike Williams – WR, Clemson: The Titans have taken their shots in the past but haven’t been able to nail down a WR1 in the draft. Williams gives them a pretty good shot for success.

 

19  BUCCANEERS

Malik McDowell – DT, Michigan State: McDowell has Pro Bowl potential, but there is some bust potential as well. He often played on the nose at MSU but can play anywhere along the defensive line.

 

20  BRONCOS

Cam Robinson – OT, Alabama: If Robinson is available here, he could be the choice as Denver looks to transition away from a zone-based running game to one featuring more power.

 

21  LIONS

Marlon Humphrey – CB, Alabama: Humphrey’s tape can be a little uneven when he has to guard down the field, but he should put on a show at the combine and get DB coaches excited about his potential.

 

22  DOLPHINS

Haason Reddick – OLB, Temple: Coming off an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl, Reddick is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft. He has the athleticism to play in space on first and second down, and the talent to rush from the edge on third down. Sounds exactly like someone the Dolphins could use.

 

23  GIANTS

Ryan Ramczyk – OT, Wisconsin: The Giants have to consider bolstering that left tackle spot with a good technician who offers more consistency than what they are getting now.

 

24  RAIDERS

Tre’Davious White – CB, LSU: White isn’t going to be the classic height-weight-speed prospect, but he’s big enough, fast enough and has outstanding feet to play man coverage from outside or the slot.

 

25  TEXANS

Garett Bolles – OT, Utah: If Bolles is still on the board, the Texans might have to run the card up considering Duane Brown is getting older on the left side and their consistency issues at right tackle.

 

26  SEAHAWKS

Caleb Brantley – DT, Florida: Brantley has some of the same play traits that former Seahawk Brandon Mebane had, but I think Brantley has a chance to be an even more impactful player.

 

27  CHIEFS

Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama: Alabama would cut Williams loose and let him get up the field rather than worrying about dropping in coverage. I see him in a similar role here. He can be a third-down specialist who can add some life to the Chiefs’ rush.

 

28  COWBOYS

David Njoku – TE, Miami: Njoku is insanely athletic with tremendous upside. He’s still learning to block and has a lot of room for growth, but he would also give Dallas yet another high-end skill position player.

 

29  PACKERS

Alvin Kamara – RB, Tennessee: I know the Packers need a cornerback, but they were rolling with a wide receiver at running back to end the year. Kamara is a three-down player with tremendous athleticism and not very much tread off the tires.

 

30  STEELERS

Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan: Davis could go higher than this, but until he puts a 40-yard dash in the books (currently injured), I’m probably not moving him beyond this spot. There is no way the Steelers can trust Martavis Bryant, and Sammie Coates simply doesn’t have the hands Ben Roethlisberger is likely to trust ever again.

 

31  FALCONS

Marcus Williams – S, Utah: The Falcons added an enforcer last year in Keanu Neal to lock down their strong safety spot. Now, they take a ball-hawking free safety with good range and great ball skills.

 

32   PATRIOTS

Forrest Lamp – OT, Western Kentucky: Remember in 2005 when the Patriots drafted Logan Mankins? This is their chance to repeat history because there are some similarities between Mankins and Lamp, who could step in at guard or center as an immediate starter.

– – –

Steve Palazzolo of ProFootballFocus.com looks at Texas Tech QB PATRICK MAHOMES:

 

Is Patrick Mahomes a first-round pick?

Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, a fair expectation for the early enrollee. In my latest mock draft, I slotted Mahomes in at No. 25 overall to the Houston Texans, and given the number of QB-needy teams, it would not surprise to see Mahomes in the first-round mix. As we go through the evaluation process, a number of PFF analysts have declared Mahomes not only their favorite quarterback to watch, but potentially the top option. After grading at 80.7 overall in 2015, Mahomes improved to 90.2 in 2016, ranking fourth among Power-5 quarterbacks.

 

Mahomes is one of the most intriguing quarterbacks in the class as he has a great feel for the game, making a number of big throws both within and outside of structure. That also gets him into trouble as he’ll force passes and have some ugly plays, but he makes plays with his arm both from a velocity, touch and accuracy standpoint that few quarterbacks can make. The big question for him at the next level is harnessing that ability while allowing him to keep the creativity that makes him a potentially special player.