The Daily Briefing Friday, January 26, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

A rare double is possible.  From ESPN Stats & Info:

 

Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have dominated their professions of late. But since Saban won his first national title at Alabama in 2009, they’ve never won a championship in the same season.

 

The only time it happened was 2003 when Saban won the title at LSU & NE won SB XXXVIII.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

This from Ian Rapoport:

 

@RapSheet

An intriguing future #Lions defensive coordinator target has emerged: Boston College DL coach Paul Pasqualoni. A mentor to Matt Patricia, Pasqualoni could take a job on the staff after the Super Bowl. Potentially his third stint as an NFL DC.

 

 

MINNESOTA

Dan Campbell, once the interim head coach of the Dolphins and now the assistant head coach of the Saints, is going to interview for the offensive coordinator job vacated by Pat Shurmur.  From NoLa.com:

 

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is familiar with Campbell from their time with the Dallas Cowboys. Campbell played tight end for the Cowboys from 2003 to 2005 while Zimmer served as the defensive coordinator.

 

After his playing career ended in 2009 with the Saints, Campbell entered the NFL coaching ranks as an intern with the Miami Dolphins in 2010.

 

Campbell later served as the Dolphins tight ends coach (2011-15) and interim head coach (2015) before returning to New Orleans in his current position in 2016.

 

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network also has these Vikings OC candidates:

 

@TomPelissero

The #Vikings are casting a wide net for their new OC. In addition to Darrell Bevell and Kevin Stefanski, #Texans QB coach Sean Ryan is set to interview for the job Monday, sources say. Ryan currently here in Mobile coaching in the Senior Bowl.

 

NFC EAST

 

WASHINGTON

Coach Jay Gruden talks somewhat like he expects to be with KIRK COUSINS this year.  John Keim of ESPN.com:

 

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden knows what he wants if Kirk Cousins returns: more big plays. And that stems from building more trust in the receivers around him.

 

At the Senior Bowl on Tuesday, Gruden told reporters what he has said in other interviews, that he’d like Cousins’ contract situation settled. But he also told reporters if Cousins returns on another one-year deal courtesy of either the franchise or transition tag, “We’ll do the best we can with it.”

 

If he does return, Gruden pointed out in an interview with ESPN shortly before the season ended areas where he’d like to see Cousins improve. He told Cousins much of the same in their meeting after the season ended.

 

In his question-and-answer session with fans on 106.7 The Fan earlier this month, Cousins said Gruden told him he gave “defenders too much credit and you hold your eyes too long and you hold the safety too long… Maybe you’re out-thinking what the defense is even ready to do. There are times where you study the game and say, ‘Let’s not give them too much credit and let’s go play.’”

 

Cousins lost two 1,000-yard receivers in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, the latter of whom routinely made big plays down the field. In 2016, Cousins had 72 pass plays that gained 20 yards or more. This past season he had 59.

 

Of those pass plays this season, 20 occurred on throws that traveled at least 20 yards – compared to 38 such plays from the previous season. Some of that stemmed from the loss of those receivers. In other cases, the Redskins felt Cousins had opportunities available that he didn’t take, a function of working with certain receivers for the first time, whether Terrelle Pryor or Josh Doctson.

 

“The biggest thing working with a new receiver group is having a trust in the receivers making plays despite being covered,” Gruden said. “A lot of times he needs to see guys being open instead of throwing guys open from time to time. That’s the next step. Then when you do that, they have to make plays for you. You’ll never know until those balls are thrown.”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

Jenna Laine of ESPN.com tries to get to the bottom of the animated conversation between Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and Sean Payton of the Saints after Tampa Bay’s Week 17 win:

 

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on Wednesday denied that there is any bad blood with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, despite a rather animated exchange when their two teams squared off in Week 17, a game the Bucs won 31-24.

 

“Not at all,” said Payton, who is serving as the head coach of the NFC team at the Pro Bowl.

 

“Listen, he’s a great coach and a good friend and when you get into these games, you just get going 100 miles an hour,” Payton said. “I know he’s building his team, and I like just meeting some of [Koetter’s] guys who are out here. But it’s all good.”

 

Payton and Koetter exchanged aggressive, friendly chest slaps during the coaches’ handshake. Then Payton brought up the Week 9 scuffle in which Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans launched himself into the back of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore after quarterback Jameis Winston tapped Lattimore on the back of the helmet. Evans was slapped with a one-game suspension while Winston was fined.

 

In video captured by Tampa’s Fox 13 WTVT-TV, Payton can be heard telling Koetter, “Here’s the thing, I got pissed in the last game,” before Koetter replied, “Because I couldn’t see it.”

 

Payton grimaced and started to walk away before Koetter said, “Hey, Sean, if I would’ve seen it …”

 

But Payton said, “Come on,” and walked away.

 

Koetter explained afterward that he was merely wishing Payton “good luck” in the playoffs. Koetter had also said that at the time of the Week 9 scuffle, he had not seen the exchange between Evans and Lattimore in real time because he was focused on calling the next play.

 

Koetter has also said on multiple occasions he’s drawn inspiration from Payton as a playcaller.

 

The respect is mutual with Payton, who even had breakfast with one of Koetter’s captains, Gerald McCoy, on Wednesday morning. Payton named McCoy one of the NFC team captains for the Pro Bowl. McCoy said that the exchange with Koetter was not part of the breakfast.

 

“Through the years, when you look at it, when [Koetter] was in Atlanta, his backup quarterback was Luke McCown,” Payton said. “And then we had Luke McCown. So there’s been so many ties to his offense, players that have played for him and for us, so it’s all been good and we’ve got a ton of respect for what those guys do.”

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Multiple reports say that Mike McCoy is indeed the new OC in Arizona.

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

As he heads to free agency, S ERIC REID wants you to know that while the Anthem is the visible target of his protest, he really wishes you would call it by its real name:

 

As our part in the NFL’s “Let’s Listen Together” initiative, we offer this Twitter exchange:

 

@cmcmahan29

I know you must get a lot of requests, @E_Reid35, but I’m a journalism major planning on doing my senior project on the national anthem protest and would love to do an interview.

 

@E_Reid35

First thing’s first. In your project, tell the media and journalism world to STOP calling it the anthem protest. While it occurs during the anthem, we are not protesting the anthem. Start calling it the systemic oppression protest.

 

– – –

 

Michael McCann of SI.com on the quirk that not only will QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO be paid for the Super Bowl as if he was still with the Patriots, he will actually be paid a tad more than TOM BRADY:

 

In what world would Jimmy Garoppolo earn more from Super Bowl LII than Tom Brady? Try this world.

 

Because of a strange intersection between the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and state tax laws, the former New England Patriots quarterback is set to take home more (after income taxes) from the Super Bowl than Brady—even though Garoppolo isn’t even on the Patriots, let alone leading them.

 

The explanation is fairly simple. Article 37 of the CBA details postseason pay for players. Unlike in the regular season when players earn different rates based on their contracts, postseason pay is egalitarian. The star quarterback gets paid the same as a backup player and an injured player. Brady, for instance, earned $51,000 for playing in all 64 offensive snaps in the AFC championship on Sunday. Defensive back Johnson Bademosi, who played in only one of 74 defensive snaps on Sunday, also earned $51,000.

 

Article 37 also instructs which players are “qualified” to receive pay. For wild card and divisional playoff games, qualified players are limited to those on the active list, inactive list or the injured reserve list. But for the conference championships and the Super Bowl, the list of qualified players expands to include former players who were on the active or inactive lists for at least eight games that season (or post-season) and are not currently on the roster for another team in the same conference.

 

Enter Garoppolo, who was on the Patriots roster for eight games before being traded out of conference to the San Francisco 49ers. The CBA entitles Garoppolo to the same pay as Brady and Bademosi for the AFC championship game ($51,000) and the Super Bowl ($112,000 if the Patriots win; $56,000 if the Patriots lose).

 

Garoppolo, however, should take home more pay than Brady after income taxes. Garoppolo, unlike Brady, will not be travelling to Minnesota and will not be subject to Minnesota’s state income tax of 9.85%. Among states that have an NFL team, Minnesota has the second-highest income tax in the country after California (13.3%). Garoppolo, obviously, is no longer traveling with the Patriots; if he attends the Super Bowl it will only be as a fan and not for work.

 

Minnesota law dictates that in the case of an individual who is a nonresident salaried employee of a pro sports team, his income subject to tax in Minnesota shall be determined by taking his total compensation from the team in a year and multiplying that by a fraction in which the numerator is the total of “duty days” in Minnesota and the denominator is the total number of “duty days” worked in that year. In other words, each day Brady spends in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl will increase their tax bill to Minnesota. That is not true for Garoppolo.

 

Indeed, Garoppolo will have no “duty days” in Minnesota related to the Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean he’ll avoid having to pay state taxes for his share of the Patriots winning or losing the Super Bowl. The tax, however, would be based on his state of residency. Although Garoppolo spent the last two months of the season with the 49ers, he’s presumably not a resident of California. California law requires a person to have a continuous, physical presence in the state before he or she would be eligible to become a resident. The law is clear that a person present in California only for a “temporary or transitory purpose” is not a resident. Even if Garoppolo later becomes a California resident, the income from Super Bowl 52 will not be taxable in California since he will have earned the income during a period while he was a non-resident of California. More likely Garoppolo is a resident of Illinois, where he was born and raised and played both high school and college football, or Massachusetts, where Garoppolo played for the Patriots from 2014 to ’17. Both Illinois (4.95%) and Massachusetts (5.1%) have a lower state tax rate than Minnesota.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The Rams will be trying to re-sign WR SAMMY WATKINS according to Alex Marvez of The Sporting News:

 

The Los Angeles Rams face contract challenges this offseason with two of their top players in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Even so, Rams general manager Les Snead doesn’t sound like he’s sweating it.

 

Speaking with co-host Mark Dominik and me Wednesday at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Snead expressed confidence Wednesday about being able to strike new deals with Donald and Watkins.

 

Donald is entering the final season of his five-year rookie contract with a 2018 base salary of $6.9 million. The Rams also would have the ability to use a franchise tag in 2019 and 2020 to guarantee retaining Donald.

But considering he staged a holdout throughout the entire 2017 preseason because of unhappiness with his contract, Donald may not return without a pact that better reflects his standing as arguably the NFL’s best defensive player.

 

The Rams and Donald’s agents spoke last year without being able to strike a deal. The two sides will now need to start anew considering the NFL has projected that the 2018 salary cap is leaping from $167 million to between $174 million and $178 million.

 

“Every year the market changes based on last year’s (free-agent) crop signing and is there a new highest-paid player,” Snead said. “We’ll have to manage that. Also, every year we have more UFAs and decisions to make.

 

“But Aaron is always going to be a big part of that puzzle. We’ll always keep room in the budget for Aaron Donald and work around him.”

 

As for Watkins, the Rams were aware that his rookie contract was expiring at the end of the 2017 season. A franchise or transition tag to retain Watkins is an option if a long-term deal can’t be reached.

 

“We’ve chatted with his agent and told him we were coming back in early February and really discuss the intricacies of our plan,” Snead said. “I know this – going from 32nd to first in offense Sammy was a big part of it down the stretch.

 

“A goal of ours is to keep that (wide receiver) group together because a lot of our weapons are 25 and under.”

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

GM Tom Telesco takes the blame for the Chargers erratic kicking game in 2017.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Chargers missed the playoffs by a small margin this season and the biggest reason why was their 0-4 start to the season.

 

One of the biggest reasons for that start was a pair of missed field goals at the end of their first two games. Younghoe Koo had a game-tying field goal blocked against Denver in the opener and missed a game-winner against Miami the next week to touch off a season that saw the Chargers run through four kickers while making 66.7 percent of their field goal tries.

 

General Manager Tom Telesco said the team went “with what you think is right” and vowed to improve his work on that front this year.

 

“We’ll get that fixed,” Telesco said to Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio. “That was largely my fault. We just didn’t do a very good job managing that situation.”

 

Nick Rose ended the year as the Chargers kicker and was joined on the offseason roster by former Buccaneers second-round pick Roberto Aguayo, who was out of the league last season. Those options could change as the Chargers try to ensure that the results are different in the future.

 

The Chargers had PK JOSH LAMBO – and let him go.  With Jacksonville this year, he hit 23 of 24 FGs, including postseason, and was around 60% on touchbacks.

 

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

A dispute over a phone charger left Ravens CB MARLON HUMPHREY under arrest.  The incident in an Uber happened in Tuscaloosa nearly two weeks ago.  NFL.com with the version somewhat favorable to Humphrey.

 

Baltimore Ravens rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey was arrested earlier this month by University of Alabama police on misdemeanor harassment and theft charges, according to records obtained by NFL.com.

 

Humphrey, a former Alabama player, was arrested Jan. 13 on suspicion of harassment and stealing a charger listed at $15 in value, according to the police report.

 

“Marlon told us that it was a misunderstanding regarding a $15 telephone charger, which he thought was his,” the Ravens said in a statement. “Our understanding is that he has been interviewed by University of Alabama Police and is cooperating. We are monitoring the situation.”

 

Humphrey, who was a First-Team All-American with the Crimson Tide in 2016, was selected 16th overall by the Ravens in the 2017 NFL Draft. He started in five of the 16 games he appeared in with the Ravens this season, recording 34 tackles and two interceptions.

 

Stehanie Taylor of the Tuscaloosa News with this:

 

An attorney representing Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey in a felony robbery case says the charges stemmed from a misunderstanding over a phone charger.

 

Humphrey, 21, turned himself in to police Thursday morning, nearly two weeks after the incident on the University of Alabama campus with an Uber driver.

 

The driver, 30, had picked Humphrey and three women up from the Strip around 2 a.m. Jan. 13, according to the police report. He had dropped two of the women off at another location and was taking Humphrey and a woman to Hotel Capstone.

 

The Uber driver told police Humphrey borrowed his $15 Android charger and refused to return it, saying the former Alabama player elbowed him and “balled up his fist and acted like he wanted to fight.”

 

Paul Patterson, one of the Tuscaloosa attorneys representing Humphrey, called it a misunderstanding and an “innocent mistake.”

 

“Marlon needed an iPhone cord, and he thought he had one with him,” Patterson said. “He reached down and accidentally picked up the Android phone of the Uber driver. As he stepped out of the vehicle, the Uber driver confronted him about stealing a cord, and at this point, Marlon still thought it was his Apple cord. It escalated from this small event to a warrant being issued for Marlon’s arrested. Now he’s having to face all the scrutiny of his reputation and all of the headlines just based on misidentifying a car phone charger.”

 

According to the police report, the driver said Humphrey took other cords from the car before going into the hotel. Police officers who responded found Humphrey and the woman in the lobby.

 

 

They both said the charger belonged to Humphrey, according to the report. But the officer noticed the Android charger didn’t fit Humphrey’s iPhone and returned it to the Uber driver.

 

Police wrote the report as a harassment and fourth-degree theft. The driver later went to a magistrate, who issued a warrantn to charge Humphrey with third-degree burglary, based on the driver’s account of force or the threat of force used.

 

Humphrey, the son of former Alabama player and NFL running back Bobby Humphrey, signed a four-year contract worth $11,847,480 with the Ravens on May 4, 2017 that included a $6,756,348 signing bonus.

 

“He’s got 11 million reasons, and I think everyone would agree, not to steal a $3 cord, because he didn’t,” Patterson said.

 

Patterson is representing Humphrey alongside attorneys Chuck Malone and Jessica Schaub of Malone & Nelson LLC. He said the attorneys will prepare for trial and ask the Tuscaloosa County District Attorneys Office to dismiss the charge.

 

“We look forward to clearing his name, to clearing this up,” he said.

 

Humphrey turned himself in to police Thursday. He was released around 10:30 a.m. after posting 10 percent of a $2,500 bond for the felony charge.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

Peace in our time as Jaguars DE YANNICK NGAKOUE makes up with Bills G RICHIE INCOGNITO at the Pro Bowl.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said Wednesday that he and Bills guard Richie Incognito spoke to each other before a Pro Bowl practice and Incognito shared a bit about the meeting on Thursday.

 

It was the first time the two men saw each other since Ngakoue accused Incognito of using racial slurs during Jacksonville’s 10-3 win over Buffalo in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Incognito said “we are just going to keep it between us” in terms of the details of a conversation he believes was productive.

 

Incognito said he “apologized for my part in this” and “shook hands and hugged it out” with Ngakoue when the conversation was over.

 

“It was important for me to be able to speak man-to-man with Yannick about it,” Incognito told Peter King of SI.com. “It was a reminder how powerful our words can be. But it gets crazy out there. Real crazy. Things are said and done on the football field that are never said off the field, never seen off the field. What happens on the football field very often is not a reflection of who we are as people. That’s why I wanted to see him here. It’s a great setting to talk as men. Yannick is celebrating his first Pro Bowl—much deserved, and he is a heck of a pass-rusher, and we had our hands full with him when we played. And I was glad we were able to get together as men and talk about it. … I do think it’s dead. I hope it can be put to bed.”

 

Ngakoue declined to speak with King via a Jaguars spokesman. The NFL opened an investigation into the matter that remains open.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FREE AGENCY

For fans of the 30 teams not still competing for the Super Bowl 52 title, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com offers his list of the top 50 potential free agents who could be available this March. Edited version below, full thing here:

 

The NFL’s 2018 offseason could feature the rarest of moments: an upper-level quarterback available on the free-agent market in the prime of his career. That’s the expectation for Kirk Cousins, who has spent the past two years playing as the Washington Redskins’ franchise player.

 

Anticipation over Cousins’ likely availability, and presumably precedent-setting price tag, clouds what could be an unusually deep free-agent class. The following is a ranking of the NFL’s 50 most notable players with expiring contracts.

 

Keep in mind several won’t be on this list in March. Some could face the franchise tag when the franchise/transition period begins Feb. 20, while others could re-sign with their current teams before the market opens on March 12.

 

1. Kirk Cousins, QB

Team: Washington Redskins | Age entering 2018 season: 30

After two years under the franchise tag, with combined earnings of nearly $44 million, Cousins has a chance to experience a rarity for upper-level quarterbacks: a true bidding war for his services. Unless the Redskins franchise him for a third time to the tune of $34 million, Cousins could set a new bar for NFL contracts.

 

2. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB

Team: San Francisco 49ers | Age entering 2018 season: 26

The 49ers acquired Garoppolo from the Patriots in October on an expiring contract — without negotiating an extension. His brilliant debut as their starter ensured a maximum payday, either through the franchise tag or a long-term deal. It’s hard to imagine the 49ers allowing him to leave, unless they are not prepared to pay him $20 million-plus annually after an end-of-season tryout in which he completed 118 of 176 passes for 1,542 yards and six touchdowns en route to a 5-0 finish.

 

3. Le’Veon Bell, RB

Team: Pittsburgh Steelers | Age entering 2018 season: 26

After playing 2017 on the franchise tag, Bell told ESPN that he was prepared to sit out the coming season if he is tagged again. Time has a way of modifying such threats. If Bell signs a 2018 franchise tag, he would have earned more than $25 million over two years. But if he’s serious about his threat, it might be a rare opportunity to acquire a potential Hall of Fame player at the age of 26.

 

4. Drew Brees, QB

Team: New Orleans Saints | Age entering 2018 season: 39

It’s difficult to imagine Brees and the Saints parting ways, especially with the team again competitive while lacking an heir on the roster. Brees himself said this week that he doesn’t anticipate testing the open market. But it’ll be a little tricky. Brees’ contract does not allow the Saints to use the franchise tag, so they’ll have to meet his price for a standard contract without the leverage of the tag. The situation provides an opening for Brees to test the market if he changes his mind.

 

5. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE

Team: Dallas Cowboys | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Lawrence picked a good year to break out. His 14.5 sacks were tied for second in the league over the regular season. It’s difficult to imagine the Cowboys letting him leave, but a pass-rusher with those numbers (he also had eight sacks in 2015) would spark a frenzy on the market.

 

6. Case Keenum, QB

Team: Minnesota Vikings | Age entering 2018 season: 30

The Vikings would be hard-pressed to let Keenum leave after he finished the season with the NFL’s second-highest Total QBR (69.5) and led them to the NFC Championship Game. Even if they’re not ready to commit long term based on 15 high-level starts, the franchise tag could be a reasonable option. Otherwise, Keenum would find multiple suitors on the open market.

 

7. Andrew Norwell, G

Team: Carolina Panthers | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Norwell picked a pretty good year to earn his first All-Pro honors. When you look at the five-year, $60 million deal the Browns gave to Kevin Zeitler — who has never made All-Pro or even the Pro Bowl — last season, you understand the value Norwell would find on the open market.

 

8. Ezekiel Ansah, DE

Team: Detroit Lions | Age entering 2018 season: 29

Twelve sacks in 2017 served as a reminder that Ansah can be one of the NFL’s more effective pass-rushers. His (somewhat disputed) age could cause some pause for teams, but generally speaking, pass-rushers are heavily pursued and well-paid if they make it to the open market. The Lions could end up using their franchise tag on him.

 

9. Jimmy Graham, TE

Team: Seattle Seahawks | Age entering 2018 season: 31

Although he never matched his early-career production after the 2015 trade to the Seahawks — in part because of a serious patellar tendon injury that season — Graham remains a major weapon in the red zone. His 10 touchdown receptions (on only 95 targets) in 2017 are tied for second in the league. Someone will see major value there.

 

10. Sheldon Richardson, DL

Team: Seattle Seahawks | Age entering 2018 season: 27

A preseason trade from the Jets to Seattle, if nothing else, gave Richardson tape in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. The Seahawks, who gave up a second-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse to get Richardson, might want him as a younger replacement for Michael Bennett. Richardson made a few splash plays in Seattle, but he probably wasn’t dominant enough to spark a frenzied bidding war.

 

11. Jarvis Landry, WR

Team: Miami Dolphins | Age entering 2018 season: 25

You won’t find many receivers more durable or productive than Landry, who didn’t miss a game and caught 400 passes in his first four seasons with the Dolphins — the most catches for any receiver over his first four years in the league. To maximize his career, Landry will need to find a team that can manage a highly competitive nature that occasionally pushes him over the edge. Perhaps that’s the Dolphins.

 

12. Nate Solder, LT

Team: New England Patriots | Age entering 2018 season: 30

Solder finished the regular season on a strong note but is undeniably an inconsistent player who would have never been a candidate to hit the open market if his play had smoothed out. With that said, it’s rare for even a capable left tackle to hit free agency. Solder would be a popular target.

 

13. Trumaine Johnson, CB

Team: Los Angeles Rams | Age entering 2018 season: 28

Johnson earned $30.7 million while playing under the Rams’ franchise tag over the past two seasons. He was a reliable starter, but he didn’t approach his seven-interception performance of 2015 (he had just one in 2016 and two in 2017) and has yet to make a Pro Bowl.

 

14. Star Lotulelei, DT

Team: Carolina Panthers | Age entering 2018 season: 28

After five years of anchoring the middle of the Carolina defense, Lotulelei could be ready to test the market. The Panthers would have to decide whether to add another significant contract to a defensive line that already includes Kawann Short’s monster deal ($16.1 million annual average).

 

15. Allen Robinson, WR

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars | Age entering 2018 season: 25

A torn ACL limited Robinson to one catch in 2017, but it occurred early enough for him to be fully recovered in time for training camp this summer. Giving significant money to a player returning from a torn ACL is tricky, but Robinson will generate a ton of interest. Catching 201 passes from Blake Bortles in three seasons (2014-16) is impressive.

 

16. Sammy Watkins, WR

Team: Los Angeles Rams | Age entering 2018 season: 25

After a 1,047-yard season for the Bills in 2015, Watkins combined for 1,023 over the next two for the Bills and Rams. In other words, his career arc moved in the wrong direction as free agency approached. But his size (6-foot-1, 211 pounds) and efficiency (eight touchdowns on 39 receptions last season) will intrigue some shoppers.

 

17. Lamarcus Joyner, S

Team: Los Angeles Rams | Age entering 2018 season: 27

Joyner blossomed under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, notching the first three interceptions of his career and proving to be one of the Rams’ best defensive players. His timing, in a contract year, couldn’t have been better.

 

18. Dontari Poe, DT

Team: Atlanta Falcons | Age entering 2018 season: 28

Poe proved reliable, if nothing else, after signing a one-year deal with the Falcons. He was on the field for 745 snaps, the second most on the Falcons’ defensive line, and started all 16 games.

 

19. Sam Bradford, QB

Team: Minnesota Vikings | Age entering 2018 season: 30

Bradford demonstrated in Week 1 what he can do when healthy, carving up the Saints for 346 yards and three touchdowns. But after a long history of knee injuries caught up to him, forcing surgery and limiting him to two starts this season, it’s fair to wonder how a team could commit to him for anything more than an incentive-laden flier.

 

20. Bashaud Breeland, CB

Team: Washington Redskins | Age entering 2018 season: 26

The Redskins might not be able, or willing, to squeeze in the market-level contract Breeland has earned as a four-year starter. They’re already paying fellow cornerback Josh Norman an average of $15 million per year, and they have several young players who could step in. That could make Breeland one of the more desirable defensive players available.

 

21. Aaron Colvin, CB

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Colvin has been an excellent nickelback for the Jaguars but won’t be a starter as long as Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are on the roster..

 

22. Trey Burton, TE

Team: Philadelphia Eagles | Age entering 2018 season: 26

The understudy to starter Zach Ertz has enough versatility as a blocker and as a receiver — he has caught 60 passes in the past two seasons — to merit a starting job elsewhere.

 

23. Eric Reid, S

Team: San Francisco 49ers | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Reid will provide another test case for the ongoing impact of NFL player protests during the national anthem.

 

24. Teddy Bridgewater, QB

Team: Minnesota Vikings | Age entering 2018 season: 25

Healthy but without a meaningful snap in two full seasons, Bridgewater poses a conundrum on the market.

 

25. Dion Lewis, RB

Team: New England Patriots | Age entering 2018 season: 27

Teams don’t often make significant investments in veteran running backs, but Lewis’ versatility will make him an attractive target for someone.

 

26. Malcolm Butler, CB

Team: New England Patriots | Age entering 2018 season: 28

Butler’s life-changing interception in Super Bowl XLIX catapulted him into a three-year starter.

 

27. Ryan Jensen, C

Team: Baltimore Ravens | Age entering 2018 season: 27

Jensen emerged as a full-time starter just in time for his contract year.

 

28. Marqise Lee, WR

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Any receiver who has put up decent numbers in the Jaguars’ offense in recent years merits a close look.

 

29. Paul Richardson, WR

Team: Seattle Seahawks | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Richardson stepped into the starter’s role following the trade of Kearse and proved to be a big-play option

 

30. Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR

Team: Washington Redskins | Age entering 2018 season: 29

An ankle injury that ultimately required surgery cut Pryor’s 2017 season short and scuttled the bet he took on a one-year deal to increase his value for 2018.

 

31. Carlos Hyde, RB

Team: San Francisco 49ers | Age entering 2018 season: 27

 

32. Justin Pugh, G

Team: New York Giants | Age entering 2018 season: 28

 

33. Nigel Bradham, LB

Team: Philadelphia Eagles | Age entering 2018 season: 29

 

34. Anthony Hitchens, LB

Team: Dallas Cowboys | Age entering 2018 season: 26

 

35. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE

Team: New York Jets | Age entering 2018 season: 25

Any team considering an investment in Seferian-Jenkins will have to investigate his considerable off-field history when he was with the Buccaneers and while at the University of Washington.

 

36. Morgan Burnett, S

Team: Green Bay Packers | Age entering 2018 season: 29

 

37. Kyle Fuller, CB

Team: Chicago Bears | Age entering 2018 season: 26

 

38. Rashaan Melvin, CB

Team: Indianapolis Colts | Age entering 2018 season: 28

 

39. Kenny Vaccaro, S

Team: New Orleans Saints | Age entering 2018 season: 27

 

40. Adrian Clayborn, DE

Team: Atlanta Falcons | Age entering 2018 season: 30

Clayborn’s age and his somewhat misleading sack numbers will force more analysis than typically required for veteran pass-rushers.

 

41. Weston Richburg, C

Team: New York Giants | Age entering 2018 season: 27

 

42. Jerick McKinnon, RB

Team: Minnesota Vikings | Age entering 2018 season: 26

 

43. Morris Claiborne, CB

Team: New York Jets | Age entering 2018 season: 28

 

44. Avery Williamson, LB

Team: Tennessee Titans | Age entering 2018 season: 26

 

45. Josh Kline, G

Team: Tennessee Titans | Age entering 2018 season: 28

 

46. E.J. Gaines, CB

Team: Buffalo Bills | Age entering 2018 season: 26

 

47. Jordan Matthews, WR

Team: Buffalo Bills | Age entering 2018 season: 26

 

48. Patrick Robinson, CB

Team: Philadelphia Eagles | Age entering 2018 season: 31

 

Although he is older than most desirable free agents, Robinson put together a strong season as the Eagles’ slot cornerback and should have several more productive years remaining.

 

49. Jack Mewhort, G

Team: Indianapolis Colts | Age entering 2018 season: 27

 

50. Mike Wallace, WR

Team: Baltimore Ravens | Age entering 2018 season: 32

 

Honorable mentions

Prince Amukamara, CB, Chicago Bears

Vontae Davis, CB, free agent

Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

Justin Bethel, CB, Arizona Cardinals

Josh McCown, QB New York Jets

Tahir Whitehead, LB, Detroit Lions

Adam Vinatieri, PK, Indianapolis Colts

Andre Smith, OL, Cincinnati Bengals

 

You can compare the top of Seifert’s list, with this list from Mark Chichester of ProFootballFocus.com.  Somewhat edited below, the full thing here:

 

1. DREW BREES, QUARTERBACK

2017 Grade: 88.6, 2017 Team:  New Orleans Saints

Another year, another exemplary season from a quarterback who has perennially been the league’s most accurate passer. At age 38, in his 17th NFL season, Brees put together yet another masterful performance in terms of accuracy and ended the year with an adjusted completion percentage (the PFF metric that eliminates outside factors to give a clear measure of accuracy) of 80.7 percent, the best mark among quarterbacks. With all signs pointing towards Brees staying in New Orleans, the Saints appear set to retain a quarterback who has now finished in the top-five in this statistic in nine of the 12 seasons that PFF has data for.

 

2. JIMMY GAROPPOLO, QUARTERBACK

2017 Grade: 85.2, 2017 Team:  San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers likely found the franchise’s savior when they traded for Garoppolo last October, and after watching perform so well in his time as the starter, it makes little sense to let him walk straight back out of the door…Since taking over as quarterback in Week 13, Garoppolo produced an adjusted completion percentage of 71.4 percent on his throws under pressure, which ranked second among 39 quarterbacks with at least 40 attempts, but that mark is made all the more impressive by the fact that he averaged a whopping 8.3 yards per attempt on those throws, the best mark of the season and the 11th-highest mark ever recorded by PFF.

 

3. KIRK COUSINS, QUARTERBACK

2017 Grade: 78.9, 2017 Team: Washington Redskins

After playing two straight seasons under the franchise tag in Washington, the veteran quarterback will once again enter the offseason with his sights set on a long-term contract. As the saga rolls on, the eventual winner of the Cousins sweepstakes will get one of the coolest performers in the NFL when it comes to throwing from a clean pocket.

 

4. LE’VEON BELL, RUNNING BACK

2017 Grade: 85.4, 2017 Team:  Pittsburgh Steelers

At the halfway point of the season, it seemed highly improbable that the Steelers would part ways with the versatile playmaker, but as we further we approach the offseason, it seems more and more apparent that Bell and the Steelers are heading for divorce.

 

5. DEMARCUS LAWRENCE, EDGE DEFENDER

2017 Grade: 94.1, 2017 Team: Dallas Cowboys

PFF’s breakout player of the year picked the perfect time to unleash the best season of his young career and will look to cash in on a big payday after he spent most of the 2017 campaign terrorizing opposing quarterbacks.

 

6. MALCOLM BUTLER, CORNERBACK

2017 Grade: 79.2, 2017 Team: New England Patriots

 

7. ANDREW NORWELL, OFFENSIVE GUARD

2017 Grade: 88.8, 2017 Team: Carolina Panthers

Prior to the 2017 season, the Panthers signed both right guard Trai Turner and left tackle Matt Kalil to big contracts and because of this, the Panthers will have limited cap space to work with impending free agent Norwell…He was also the only offensive lineman in the NFL to log at least 500 pass-blocking snaps without allowing either a sack or a quarterback hit, which makes him one of only four guards who have achieved this feat since PFF started collecting data back in 2006.

 

8. ALLEN ROBINSON, WIDE RECEIVER

2017 Grade: 71.7, 2017 Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Robinson was lost for the 2017 season after he tore his ACL on just his third snap of the year, so he will consequently hit free agency without the kind of leverage that he’d been hoping for. Despite the injury, Robinson is still arguably the most talented offensive player on the Jaguars roster, therefore he could be one of the most intriguing free agents on the market. Wherever he ends up, Robinson has proved that he can produce as a game-changing deep threat, evidenced by his stellar 2015 campaign, where he racked up a colossal 672 receiving yards from passes of 20 or more yards downfield, the most ever recorded by PFF.

 

9. SHELDON RICHARDSON, INTERIOR DEFENDER

2017 Grade: 83.8, 2017 Team: Seattle Seahawks

Richardson, who was acquired from the New York Jets prior to Week 1 of the 2017 season, enjoyed a productive first year with the team and has publicly expressed his desire to remain with the Seahawks going forward. However, If the Seahawks do decide to let Richardson walk, several teams could pursue the 27-year-old, as he was a force in both the run game and in the pass-rush this year. Through 17 weeks of the 2017 season, Richardson racked up 36 total quarterback pressures and 22 run stops, which ranked ninth and 17th among defensive tackles this year, respectively.

 

10. JARVIS LANDRY, WIDE RECEIVER

2017 Grade: 82.0, 2017 Team: Miami Dolphins

Since he entered the league in 2014, Antonio Brown (472) and Julio Jones (411) are the only two wide receivers who have logged more receptions than Landry’s 400, which justifies his desire to be paid like a true No. 1 WR. As free agency looms near, the Dolphins need to make a decision on the fourth-year pass-catcher.

 

11. EZEKIEL ANSAH, EDGE DEFENDER

2017 Grade: 80.1. 2017 Team: Detroit Lions

In 2015, Ansah enjoyed a breakout season and flashed the traits of a perennial Pro-Bowler after he ended the season with 13 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and 33 hurries on his 397 pass-rushing snaps. While injuries have played a major part in hindering his progression since, the fifth-year edge-rusher looked to be back to his best form down the stretch of the 2017 season

 

12. JUSTIN PUGH, OFFENSIVE GUARD

2017 Grade: 52.4, 2017 Team:  New York Giants

Since entering the NFL as a first-round pick in 2013, Pugh has emerged as one of the better guards in the NFL, but unfortunately, injuries have plagued him in all but one of his professional seasons.

 

13. NATE SOLDER, OFFENSIVE TACKLE

2017 Grade: 75.1, 2017 Team:  New England Patriots

After spending the majority of his career as the man responsible for guarding Tom Brady’s blindside, Solder’s experience will make him one of the most appealing names in free agency. While Solder’s performance in pass protection has been up and down over recent years, he has always been one of the more consistent run-blocking tackles in the game and has achieved run-blocking grades above 80.0 in 5-of-7 professional seasons. This year, his run-blocking grade of 83.4 is good for ninth among all players at the position.

 

14. JIMMY GRAHAM, TIGHT END

2017 Grade: 53.8, 2017 Team:  Seattle Seahawks

The veteran tight end has now come to the end of the four-year deal that he signed with the New Orleans Saints, a deal that he signed just a year prior to being traded away to the Seahawks in an experiment that will ultimately go down as a disappointment.

 

15. SAM BRADFORD, QUARTERBACK

2017 Grade: 68.9, 2017 Team:  Minnesota Vikings

Following a very successful season that almost took them to the Super Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings will no head into free agency with what could be the trickiest offseason quarterback situation in recent memory. Bradford, who has arguably been the Vikings best signal-caller, will be entering the eighth year of his career but he’s only managed to make it through two of those seasons without injury. While it could be a risk to sign him long-term, teams could opt to take a flyer in the hopes that Bradford can recapture the form that he found during his first year with the Vikings, where he ranked in the top three among quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage (80.3 percent), deep passer rating (121.5) and passer rating under pressure (87.7). In the 12 years that PFF has recorded data, only two quarterbacks have ended the regular season ranked in the top three in each of those categories, with Robert Griffin III (2012) being the other.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

The NFL Network’s defense to the suit from former employee Jami Cantor is that she welcomed the lewd comments of her fellow employees.  This from TMZ.com:

 

The NFL Network is firing back at the former wardrobe stylist who claimed she was sexually harassed by on-air talent like Marshall Faulk and Donovan McNabb … saying she approved of the inappropriate behavior.

 

NFL Enterprises — which runs the football network — filed its response to Jami Cantor’s lawsuit on January 18 … denying all of her claims and asking the court to throw it out.

 

As we previously reported … Cantor made several claims of sexual harassment from 2006 until she was fired in 2016. She alleges Faulk pulled out his genitals in front of her and asked invasive questions.

 

Cantor also claims McNabb sent texts to her asking if “she was a squirter” and telling her she “looked like the kind of girl that squirted when getting f***ed,” … and accused Warren Sapp of urinating in front of her.

 

Ike Taylor, Eric Davis and Heath Evans were also named in the suit.

 

The response claims Jami “approved, consented to, authorized, and/or ratified” all of the misconduct … translation — she was cool with it.

 

The response also claims the network properly addressed any concerns that may have been raised by Cantor during her time with the company.

 

NFL Network has suspended Faulk, Taylor and Evans in wake of the lawsuit … and McNabb and Davis were fired from their gigs with ESPN.

 

Lawyer Mike Florio:

 

Companies accused in court of sexual harassment always deny it, especially at first. (And if they’re not willing to deny it, they quickly settle the case before they have to admit it.)

 

Like all other successful businesses, getting sued is a cost of doing business, and the league has lawyers and law firms trained in the business of cobbling together the various snippets of cookie-cutter lawyer-talk on a $500-per-hour assembly line that spits out a smattering of phrases like a doll with a string that gets pulled to make it talk.

 

At the heart of it all: Admit nothing. Agree to nothing. Deny everything. And at the very worst, claim ignorance.

 

Basically, the initial filing from a defendant in a case like this means nothing. What matters is whether the defendant has a legal argument that would provide a potential silver bullet to the entire lawsuit (or to some of the specific claims). Once that all gets sorted out, the focus becomes the so-called discovery process, where documents are exchanged and questions are answered in writing and witnesses are grilled under oath.

 

For now, the most important development (or lack thereof) continues to be that Faulk, Heath Evans, and Ike Taylor continue to be suspended. Which means that the league has yet to conclude that they are blameless or otherwise suited to return to work. The longer they remain off the job, the more probable than not that some or all of Cantor’s allegations have merit — and that the NFL has legal and financial exposure.