The Daily Briefing Tuesday, July 28, 2017

As the Ravens contemplate making a controversial addition to their roster, a J.D. Power survey finds out that Colin Kaepernick had more to do with the NFL’s television ratings issues in 2016 than any other single factor.  Darren Rovell at ESPN.com:

 

National anthem protests were the top reason that NFL fans watched fewer games last season, according to a new survey released by J.D. Power.

 

The pollster said it asked more than 9,200 people who attended either one football, basketball or hockey game whether they tuned into fewer games and why. Twenty-six percent of those who watched fewer games last season said that national anthem protests, some of which were led by Colin Kaepernick, were the reason.

 

After that, 24 percent of those surveyed who said they watched fewer games said they did so either because of the league’s off-the-field image issues with domestic violence or with game delays, including penalties.

 

One in five (20 percent) listed excessive commercials and advertising as a reason, something the NFL is seeking to address by moving around traditional ad blocks.

 

Sixteen percent said it was because of their interest being replaced by the 2016 presidential election coverage.

 

Five percent said they watched fewer games because they got rid of cable.

 

J.D. Power noted that only 12 percent of the fans it surveyed said they watched fewer NFL games last season, with 27 percent of people saying they watched more and 62 percent saying they watched just as much as they had the season before.

 

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

NFL game viewership on networks that broadcast games was down an average of 8 percent for the 2016 regular season versus the season before. Before the election (Nov. 8), games for the first nine weeks were down 14 percent compared to 2015. The final eight weeks saw only a drop of 1 percent compared to Weeks 10-17 in 2015.

 

Some Twitter commentators have noted that it wasn’t so much Kaepernick’s protest, but the perception that the NFL and some of its media partners (most particularly ESPN) were all in with Kaepernick’s anti-police stance.

 

debitdoctor

Replying to @jpodhoretz @_CrotalusAtrox_

That and they wouldn’t let the Cowboys wear socks showing support of Dallas Police who died protecting a protest.

 

@inspires25

It wasn’t just the “protest” it was ESPN elevating him to a civil rights icon status and talking about it incessantly.

 

Count the actor James Woods among those repelled by the NFL vis a vis Kaepernick:

 

@RealJamesWoods 

James Woods Retweeted NFL on ESPN

I boycotted the #NFL specifically because of that #POS and proud that others followed. Keep it up.

 

But Mike Florio crunches some math and says ESPN’s story sensationalizes the results:

 

The effort to make ESPN not seem like a left-wing media establishment continues, apparently.

 

At a time when constant (and largely inaccurate) criticism has been registered against ESPN for having a liberal agenda, ESPN has decided to summarize a new poll in a way the definitely isn’t left of center.

 

Here’s the second paragraph of the article from in-house ESPN sports money man Darren Rovell regarding a recent poll from J.D. Power:  “The pollster said it asked more than 9,200 people who attended either one football, basketball or hockey game whether they tuned into fewer games and why. Twenty-six percent of those who watched fewer games last season said that national anthem protests, some of which were led by Colin Kaepernick, were the reason.”

 

Here’s the far more significant seventh paragraph: “J.D. Power noted that only 12 percent of the fans it surveyed said they watched fewer NFL games last season, with 27 percent of people saying they watched more and 62 percent saying they watched just as much as they had the season before.”

 

So the more accurate characterization is that 26 percent of 12 percent watched fewer football games in 2016 due to national anthem protests. Or, in other words, 3.12 percent of the 9,200 people who “attended either one football, basketball or hockey game” (an oddly specific parameter) watched fewer football games on TV last year.

 

There’s another important factor that Rovell’s analysis completely ignored: Market.

 

As noted by SBNation.com, 22 percent of fans in Chicago watched less football in 2016. Only six percent watched less football last year in Boston.

 

And that’s where the poll, and the interpretation of it, become worthless. It appears that there wasn’t a “my team stunk last year” option for explaining the lack of interest.

 

Indeed, it appears that the options were pre-determined and provided in a multiple-choice format. So if “my team stunk last year” wasn’t one of the pre-selected choices, the influence of, for example, the Bears being 3-13 wouldn’t be reflected at all by the 22 percent of Chicagoans who watched less football in 2016.

 

But, hey, ESPN at least has something else to point to the next time someone from FOX shouts “liberal bias!”

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

QB AARON RODGERS says he is in no hurry to move into a post-football career.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

There was a time when Aaron Rodgers thought he’d be finished as a football player in his mid-30s.

 

But now, the Packers quarterback says he’s back to his “love affair” with the game, and that has made him want to continue on much longer than he previously thought.

 

“[That feeling] has kind of given me the idea that this is what I want to do. I love football, and I want to keep playing as long as possible,” Rodgers said during an interview on Wilde & Tausch on ESPN Wisconsin. “And when you have that kind of slight shift in your thinking, then you start going to, ‘How can I do that?’ And the way you can do that, in my opinion, is taking care of yourself at a hyper-sensitive level to all the areas that that entails — the rehab area, the eating area, the workout/focus area. And all those combined have kind of given me the idea that I’d like to keep playing at a high level, as fun as it is right now.”

 

If that sounds a little Tom Brady, it’s probably not accidental, as the two have become friends and Rodgers has taken his own steps (which don’t involve avocado ice cream) to keep himself going into his 40s.

 

So as the 33-year-old Rodgers enters his 13th NFL season, he’s thinking more long-term, and appreciating the game more than he has before.

 

“I think it’s a change, a slight change that happened the last few years, where it really has become just a love affair,” Rodgers said. “From [being] a game I always enjoyed playing and enjoyed competing and am hyper-competitive [in] to just really loving the process even more — the practice, the preparation, just enjoying those moments even more.”

 

Of course, this love story might not include the kind of paparazzi treatment previous relationships have led Rodgers into, but it will certainly make Packers fans swoon, as they imagine a long and happy marriage.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

The story of Frasier the Lion was used by Giants coach Ben McAdoo as a motivating tool.  Darin Gantt at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The NFL doesn’t need erectile dysfunction commercials this season.

 

They just need Giants coach Ben McAdoo to recount his version of what was apparently quite a “Wild Kingdom.”

 

According to Steve Serby of the New York Post, the Giants coach decided to motivate his veteran players yesterday by telling them the story of Frasier, a randy old lion who may have gotten into the Viagra.

 

Give it a second (and wipe the coffee off your screen), and it begins to make (a little, although twisted kind of) sense.

 

As the story goes, Frasier the Lion was something of a celebrity, once described by Life Magazine as the “reigning sex simba” after he fathered 33 cubs in 16 months at a time when he was expected to retire.

 

“A lion in a Mexican circus, I believe it was the ’70s — ’72 maybe — and he was a little long in the tooth, and it was showing, and they felt he was washed up and they sent him north to California [Lion Country Safari], and the next thing you know, he was eating vitamins,” McAdoo said. “The lionesses were bringing him meat and wouldn’t eat until he was done eating. And was a lion that showed that he still had value, he still had worth. It just took him a little more time and effort to get himself ready.”

 

Oh. Of course.

 

I mean, I guess if you’re really open-minded, you could see the parallel to the Giants, considering 36-year-old quarterback Eli Manning is going to be on a pitch count during training camp.

 

Manning should probably keep an eye on the team’s trainers this summer, especially if they start offering him rare steaks and vitamins. Especially if those vitamins happen to be blue.

– – –

WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. has a lofty goal – and it is personal and not team related.  And it would seem to the DB to be one that could only lead to disappointment as it is not met.  Max Meyer of NFL.com:

 

Even though Odell Beckham is still two seasons out from free agency, he’s making his feelings known already that he wants to get paid.

 

And the Giants star is not settling for the title of highest-paid wide receiver, either.

 

“It’s like the elephant in the room, and you don’t want to talk about it,” Beckham said in an UNINTERRUPTED video on Thursday. “But I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’m like, ‘No, I’m going to … there’s no need to not talk about it.

 

“I believe that I will be hopefully not just the highest-paid receiver in the league, but the highest paid, period.”

 

Per Spotrac, Beckham’s base salary in the final year of his rookie deal is $1.839 million, followed by a $8.459 million payday for the subsequent season because the Giants picked up his fifth-year option.

 

Giants owner John Mara said negotiations with the star pass catcher “haven’t begun as of yet,” but Beckham desiring a higher figure than Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million extension figures to be a tough pill to swallow.

 

Just for reference, the league’s current highest-paid wideout, Antonio Brown, earns an average salary of $17 million.

 

Whenever Beckham’s new deal comes to fruition, it should set the market for his receiving counterparts. But it’ll be fascinating to see if he can also break a monetary record in the process. After all, we’ve been wowed by Beckham before.

 

Here is a list of biggest NFL salaries from May (after DEREK CARR signed).  We note that the top 16 are quarterbacks and that $20 million even seems like a more realistic goal for Beckham.  We bolded the non-QBs.

 

1) Derek Carr,Oakland Raiders –  $25,000,000

2) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts – $24,594,000

3) Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals – $24,350,000

4) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints – $24,250,000

5) Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins – $23,943,600

6) Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – $22,133,333

7) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – $22,000,000

8) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks – $21,900,000

9) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – $21,850,000

10) Eli Manning, New York Giants – $21,000,000

11) Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers – $20,812,500

12) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers – $20,760,000

13) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – $20,750,000

14) Tom Brady, New England Patriots – $20,500,000

15) Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins – $19,250,000

16) Von Miller, Denver Broncos – $19,083,333

17) Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins – 19,062,500

18 – tie) Brock Osweiler, Cleveland Browns – $18,000,000

18- tie) Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings – $18,000,000

20) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions – $17,666,667

21) Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets – $17,200,000

22) Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles – $17,100,000

23-tie) Olivier Vernon, New York Giants – $17,000,000

23-tie) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers – $17,000,000

23-tie) Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs – $17,000,000

 

 

WASHINGTON

Jerry Brewer of the Washington Post likes the cut of QB KIRK COUSINS’ jib:

 

Kirk Cousins is almost stately to a fault. He is so professional, so dignified — so safe — that the Washington Redskins take their quasi-franchise quarterback for granted. No matter how much they botch long-term contract negotiations with him, no matter how much they raise the level of acrimony, Cousins isn’t a threat to turn into the Hulk on them.

 

It’s a luxury, employing a star whose perspective dwarfs his ego. But it also enables the franchise to be at its noncommittal, shortsighted and petty worst. As long as Cousins is on the roster, he will smooth over any issues publicly, make the franchise look as good as he can and resist being a defiant employee.

 

But what’s that really solving? The Cousins predicament is unprecedented. No quarterback has played two seasons on a franchise tag, but here he is, ready to make the wrong kind of history. It’s lucrative history, too: $23.9 million this season and about $44 million over the past two years. Nevertheless, Washington is no closer to solidifying Cousins’s future and, by extension, the future of the formidable offense that Coach Jay Gruden has built. So the problem merely has been delayed, and extra time is just making a multiyear contract more costly and less likely to finalize.

 

But, hey, at least Cousins is kind enough to help the team make the most of this season.

 

“We’re all in a good place right now,” Cousins said Thursday during his first news conference since the franchise tag deadline passed without the two sides agreeing to a new deal.

 

It’s amazing that Cousins, the player seeking money that could create generational wealth for his family, can exhibit more grace and objectivity — not to mention better diction — than Bruce Allen, the team president. Mostly, though, it’s sad. If the 28-year-old quarterback is the more impressive adult, if he is the one to temper frustration and ignore urges to cry to the media, then there’s a problem that goes beyond money and job security.

 

Cousins allows Washington to function without worries that he will act disgruntled, threaten to hold out or make headlines with ill-thought statements. He allows everyone to focus on the 2017 season. But behind the calm facade, there’s an unnecessary tension and pressure that another year of speculation and scrutiny will create, and it’s unhealthy for a team that should be close to completing a major rebuilding effort.

 

For as polished and presidential as Cousins appears to be while declaring that all will be fine, this season is certain to present new and difficult challenges. The offense remains talented, but Cousins won’t have the comfort of throwing to accomplished receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson anymore. The running game may improve, and the defense has better talent, but this is still a team that will rely heavily on its quarterback to direct an elite-level passing offense. And if Cousins faced constant second-guessing about his worth during a 4,917-yard performance last season, he is guaranteed to encounter more skepticism after Allen revealed that he turned down $53 million guaranteed. It will be too easy for Joe Fan to scoff at his every mistake and utter with his disdain, “This guy turned down record quarterback money?”

 

Furthermore, if Washington believes it can’t re-sign Cousins, there’s a new wrinkle: What happens if the team starts slowly or falls out of contention early this season? Would Cousins and the team endure questions about whether it’s best for the franchise’s future to let Colt McCoy or Nate Sudfeld play? Gruden was asked Thursday — the first day of training camp — whether he needed to give the backups more reps this camp because Cousins’s future is uncertain. He rejected the thought.

 

Washington has created a mess, and Cousins is so good at making you ignore the mess. But that doesn’t make the situation any cleaner.

 

“I think it was a good season last year,” Cousins said when asked about how he handles playing on a one-year contract. “I don’t think it played any factor into how I played or how we played. The fact of the matter is so many of my teammates, critical teammates to the success of this team, are also on one-year deals. So we’re kind of all in that boat together, so I think that helps. Hopefully, we can all have great years and give the Redskins a lot of options come the offseason.”

 

Washington doesn’t deserve Cousins’s balanced outlook. It deserves a player who constantly gives it headaches, negotiates in public and tries to sway fan emotion. But Cousins is a terrific teammate because he’s suppressing drama and giving his squad a chance to win this season. He did the same a year ago.

 

Of course, the franchise will reward his composure by falling deeper into its ways and making his contract situation more complicated. In the end, he will keep the team together, but when it’s time to negotiate again, the sides will be further apart.

 

Enjoy Cousins’s knack for creating serenity while you can. He creates a perfect picture, but it figures to be a fleeting fantasy.

 

“The lesson I learned [last year] was the same lesson I learned as a senior in high school when I played with zero scholarship offers and the same thing I learned my senior year of college when I played with wondering if I could go to the NFL,” Cousins said. “If you win football games, everything else takes care of itself, and that’s a beautiful thing. So, all we have to do, all I have to do, all anybody with a one-year deal has to do is focus on winning football games. And if you do that, there are going to be plenty of opportunities down the road.”

 

No doubt, the opportunities will be there for Cousins. He could regress and still command significant guaranteed money. He could get injured and still get paid. Washington could lock him into another one-year deal under the franchise or transition tag, and Cousins would make ridiculous money.

 

But what are the chances that he gets a long-term deal from Washington that reflects his crazy leverage and robust market value? Cousins is good at managing complication, but he and the franchise aren’t in a good place right now. Since the NFL introduced the franchise tag 24 years ago, every other quarterback situation in the league has avoided reaching this point. Think about that. For now, Cousins is just being a good employee and making the system work for him.

 

So the high-priced quarterback rental plan should work for another year. But a concerning question still lingers: What happens when Cousins tells us — likely through definitive actions, not words — how he really feels about Washington?

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Jeff Ratcliffe of ProFootballFocus.com ponders the appropriate spot for rookie RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY in your Fantasy draft:

 

1. PANTHERS HAVE BIG PLANS FOR CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY?

So says ESPN Panthers beat reporter David Newton, who observed a number of short passes and screens thrown to the rookie at Thursday’s practice. Newton was careful to note that he saw “nothing great” from McCaffrey, but that the former Stanford standout “is so fast on his cuts” that it left the crowd “gasping for air.” He also said it’s clear that Carolina has big plans for McCaffrey.

 

Let’s dissect Newton’s take for fantasy purposes. McCaffrey is no doubt going to be involved in the passing game. He was arguably the best overall receiver in this year’s class. However, the thing that could limit his fantasy value is his work as a runner. Jonathan Stewart is still there, and despite entering his age-30 season, he’s going to see a bulk of the early-down work.

 

That lack of volume as a runner ultimately lower’s McCaffrey’s fantasy floor and puts a cap of his overall upside. At this point, he’s still best viewed as an RB2, which is precisely where he’s going in ADP as a fourth-round pick.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

No change in the contract situation of QB DREW BREES who will be a free agent at season’s end.  Josh Katzenstein at NoLa.com:

 

For Drew Brees, nothing has changed since January with regards to his contract.

 

The New Orleans Saints quarterback said after last season he planned to play out the final year of his contract in 2017 in order to spend all offseason focused on football. After training camp began Thursday, Brees reaffirmed his stance.

 

“Honestly, my mind has not been there at all,” Brees said. “It’s really a non-issue. For me, it’s all about this season and how good can we be this season. That’s really all I’m focused on right now.”

 

General manager Mickey Loomis was mum on Wednesday when asked about the possibility of an extension for Brees, and Brees said the Saints haven’t approached him about a new deal.

 

“I don’t expect them to,” he said. “I don’t really desire them to. I just want to play football. I want to help this team.”

 

Brees, 38, played like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL once again in 2016, completing 70 percent of his passes and throwing for 5,208 yards and 37 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions.

 

Another impressive campaign would give Brees more leverage in negotiations after the year, but he said he expects to play well each year.

 

Last year, Brees was hoping to receive an extension before the season began. The Saints added one more year to his contract just a few days before Week 1.

 

It’s clear Brees doesn’t want the contract to be as much of an issue this year as it was last year, but, obviously, there could be benefits for both Brees and the Saints if they try to reach a deal at some point before 2018.

 

“That’s not my sense of urgency,” Brees said. “My sense of urgency is in making myself and my team better and putting ourselves in the best position to go out this year and have success. I know that that stuff takes care of itself. It takes care of itself when it’s supposed to. That shouldn’t be a priority right now.”

 

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com thinks Brees could go well past $25 million per if he hits the market in six months.

 

For all of the leverage Kirk Cousins has accrued via the franchise tag over the past two years, he might just take a backseat to Drew Brees in setting a new quarterback market next offseason.

 

While the Saints dodged that unappetizing prospect with an eleventh-hour deal just before last year’s season opener, Brees plans to play out his contract this time around.

– – –

As easy as it is to believe the 38-year-old gunslinger will opt to re-sign in New Orleans before he reaches the open market, he has hinted at the appeal of embarking on a recruiting trail akin to Peyton Manning’s 2012 tour through Arizona, Miami, Tennessee and Denver.

– – –

Even at Brees’ relatively advanced football age, quarterback-needy franchises would line up for the opportunity to pitch woo. Thanks to advances in nutrition, sports science and quick-strike passing attacks, veteran signal-callers are enjoying success much later in their careers.

 

After watching the 17-year veteran ace this week’s conditioning test, Saints teammates marveled at his ability to stiff-arm Father Time.

 

“Drew is not 38,” linebacker Craig Robertson gushed Thursday. “That’s just chronological right now. Drew is definitely like 26.”

 

Wide receiver Willie Snead believes his quarterback can match the twilight-year heroics of the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

 

“Tom Brady is 40 years old and still killing it,” Snead said. “I think Drew is just as good as Tom Brady, so I’m not surprised that he’s doing it.”

 

Two of Brady’s finest seasons came at ages 38 and 39. Returning from a series of career-threatening neck surgeries, Manning breathed new life into the Broncos franchise for four years after signing at age 36.

 

“I’ve got a few more (years) at least,” Brees vowed on Good Morning Football this past offseason.

 

If the “King of the Air” is truly intent on exploring his options after the 2017 season, he has the potential to push the high-end quarterback salary to $30 million or more annually.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com on why John Elway’s new deal is important to other GMs.

 

Word is the Broncos’ new five-year deal for John Elway has a base in the neighborhood of $6 million per year, with upside to go beyond that. And that would mean the result of this negotiation was what so many other GMs and personnel people hoped it would be. Previously, no GM had crossed the $4 million per barrier. And this one puts them a little closer to the coaches.

 

 

KANSAS CITY

Robert Klemko with insight on new Chiefs GM Brett Veach:

 

Why Brett Veach in Kansas City? The Chiefs finally introduced their internal GM hire this week, ushering in the man most (rightly) believed was the front-runner for the job from the start and closing the book on a strange month for the team. Without question, Veach’s relationship with coach Andy Reid, and his experience evaluating players to fit Reid’s programs both in K.C. and Philly, were a big part of this. But one interesting aspect of the process was raised to me this week—Veach had to overcome that too, when he interviewed with CEO Clark Hunt. We’ve seen these go the other way in the past, where a fait accompli internal hire winds up losing out on the post, and most often it’s because the team knows the person too well.

 

What does that mean? Well, if you know someone intimately as a lieutenant, it can be hard to envision that person as a general, moreso than it might be to have that same vision for a guy you’re meeting for the first time and is presenting himself as an executive. Veach had to get Hunt to see him in a different light, and he was able to display that, as one Chiefs staffer said, “he could button up and be the guy.” 

 

As for what Veach brings to the table, outside of his familiarity with Reid, his passion for football was one plus, as Hunt saw it. Another was how Veach saw players. There is a group of four college players, in fact, that Veach raised in meetings over the last couple years a season ahead of their draft years, before they were on many NFL radars. And each of those four guys wound up hitting. That showed those there that he could see potential early in guys, which should serve him in putting a roster together. When I asked Colts GM Chris Ballard, who worked with Veach the past four years, about him earlier this week, Ballard affirmed all that to me: “Love Veach. Relentless worker, very good eye for talent. I believe in him.”

 

There are challenges here, of course. The first one, and this goes for a lot of guys who came up as road scouts (Veach did, as did his predecessor John Dorsey), will be managing people in the office on a day-to-day basis. The second one, which every new GM faces, is the learning curve in actually being the triggerman. And yes, this is the way most saw it playing out. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to believe that it was simply the right way to go from the start.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Chargers have good news to report on the back injury of first round pick WR MIKE WILLIAMS.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Despite a report last week that Chargers first-round wide receiver Mike Williams would need season-ending back surgery, the team is optimistic about his prognosis.

 

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said the doctors who have examined Williams believe he can recover from his back injury through rehabilitation, not surgery.

 

“He’s been responding well,” Telesco said. “The path, right now, is rehab and strengthening. That’s good news, obviously.”

 

The seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, Williams has a herniated disc that will likely prevent him from practicing at the start of training camp.

 

“He’ll see our doctors this weekend and will get more of a timetable of where he is,” Telesco said. “I think he’s more trending towards not working early in camp, which is not a surprise. But we’ll kind of take it from there.”

 

After the previous report that Williams could miss the entire year, Chargers fans will gladly take Telesco’s optimistic talk that all he’ll miss is the start of training camp.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

With JOE FLACCO ailing, the Ravens signed another quarterback – and his initials are not C.K.

 

On Thursday, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh brought up the possibility of signing Colin Kaepernick to help offset the team’s rapidly depleting quarterback depth chart.

 

Early Friday morning, the Ravens signed quarterback David Olson, formerly of the Kansas City Phantoms (Champions Indoor Football league), NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The Ravens confirmed the news shortly after on Twitter.

 

While not much is known about Olson, who played college football at Stanford before transferring to Clemson, the signing does make a few things clear. It’s unlikely the Ravens will sign Kaepernick now and, given Baltimore’s choice in camp arm, it’s also likely that Joe Flacco’s back injury isn’t as bad as expected. As Rapoport and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported earlier this week, Flacco’s back injury could keep him out between three and six weeks.

 

Harbaugh said Friday that he still believed Kaepernick would be on an NFL roster this season, though it sounds like he won’t do so as a member of the Ravens.

 

 

CINCINNATI

CB ADAM JONES is appreciative of the support he has received from Bengals owner Mike Brown.

 

An emotional Adam Jones said his motivation is “through the roof” because of the support of Bengals owner Mike Brown. The Bengals cornerback had tears in his eyes as he spoke to reporters about Brown, who publicly stood behind Jones after his January arrest.

 

“When you have a guy upstairs that stands up for you, that sticks up for the players — I haven’t been around a guy like that in my lifetime, speaking of Mr. Brown,” Jones said. “So I’m very eager to be the best and make sure our group is the best. As you can see, it’s a little touching for me.”

 

He later added: “The respect and the love that I have for Mr. Brown is undeniable. Words can’t express the gratitude of how I feel about him. … Words can’t explain. I can’t explain … that I have somebody that understands me as a person and that’s not quick to judge.”

 

“I take all accountability for what I did and my actions and my words. So I accept it, the one-game suspension. I’m ready to move on, man. I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be part of the 50th season here. I think it’s going to be special.”

 

The NFL gave Jones a one-game suspension without pay for the season opener after he was arrested in January on charges of assault, harassment with a bodily substance, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business. Jones pleaded guilty to the obstructing official business charge as part of a plea deal that resulted in the other charges being dropped.

 

“I take all accountability for what I did and my actions and my words,” Jones said. “So I accept it, the one-game suspension. I’m ready to move on, man. I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be part of the 50th season here. I think it’s going to be special.”

 

Jones, who will be 34 in September, said he knows his career is winding down, but he would still like to play four more years.

 

“I feel really good; I feel great. I’m 182 pounds and probably about 3 percent body fat,” Jones said. “So I’m on borrowed time, as I know. But I love playing football and I’m eager for the camp and I’m ready.”

 

Playing for Mike Brown is one motivator for Jones, but he said he’s always thrived on reading the negative things written about him.

 

“I’ve always been the one that thrived off the little things, and I’d be sitting here lying to tell you all I didn’t read half of the s— that you all write, and I do because at the end of day I have this thing in the back of my head that tells me to prove every last one of you all wrong. Motivation comes in all different forms of factor. At the end of the day, I like winning. I’ve always been like that. I love to compete to prove you guys wrong to make you write something different. Of course, the record had a lot to do with it, but you guys have a lot to do with motivation, too.”

 

Fifty seasons of Bengals football.  The DB saw them play at Nippert Stadium in 1969, their second season.  Bill Walsh ran the offense.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com thinks it is fascinating to see if TOM SAVAGE can hold off the first round QB DeSHAUN WATSON.

 

Tom Savage is listed atop the Texans depth chart at quarterback. And Savage was the best quarterback at the team’s first training camp practice on Wednesday. So does that mean Savage will be the starter Sept. 10?

 

Not necessarily.

 

Answering who will be under center when the AFC South champs open against Jacksonville is complicated. But the reason why it’s complex is pretty simple: Houston isn’t like most teams that aggressively move to draft a quarterback in the first round.

 

Between 2008 and 2016, 24 quarterbacks were drafted in Round 1, and only one (Tennessee’s Jake Locker) failed to start a game as a rookie. Conversely, just one of those 24 quarterbacks went to a playoff team, and that guy, Denver’s Paxton Lynch, owed both of his rookie starts to injuries to the starter (Trevor Siemian).

 

So that two of the three quarterbacks drafted in this year’s first round, Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, landed with playoff teams makes the 2017 draft an anomaly. And that one of those two, Watson, went to a club without a returning starter at the position makes the Texans quarterback derby my No. 1 story to watch as I embark on my camp trip this morning.

– – –

To me there’s very little question that topping the list is the Texans and what they do with their quarterback position, a revolving door for the franchise since Matt Schaub was traded after the 2013 season.

 

When I touched base with Houston coach Bill O’Brien after his team wrapped up Day 1 on the field Wednesday, my first question centered on how the team’s spot as a contender could affect his decision-making. And whether fairness to the team’s bevy of in-their-prime vets will have an impact on his call.

 

 “It’s always about the team. It’s always about the team,” he said. “It’s always that way, whatever decision we make. So Tom Savage is No. 1. But he knows that he has to go out there and earn it every day. And that’s what’s best for the team.”

 

And as for where Watson is, O’Brien said, “There’s no doubt he’s ahead of schedule. He’s put a lot of time in, and he’s doing a good job.”

 

So here’s what else I’ve been able to glean about the situation, and how it’s played out over the past three months.

 

Watson’s pace in picking up the offense has impressed everyone in the building, from his understanding of protections to route reads to the run game. Maybe the big thing is that while he makes rookie mistakes, he’s done well not to repeat them. Watson is more confident now than he was, and he finished his first practice day in West Virginia—the Texans are holding camp at The Greenbrier Resort to escape the Houston heat—without a major mental error.

 

The Texans’ belief in Clemson’s ability to prepare players for the NFL plays into the confidence in Watson. DeAndre Hopkins headlines the alumni chapter, and certainly assimilated quickly under O’Brien (he also played two years for Gary Kubiak). But there was also D.J. Reader last year—he became a starter on the defensive line as a rookie—and now Watson’s rookie classmate Carlos Watkins is showing well early this year. Some saw Watson as a “spread” quarterback pre-draft. The Texans certainly never pigeonholed him like that.

 

All you have to do is look at the investment to know there’s no question that Watson will eventually start, whether it’s this year or not. But it should be said that the coaching staff views Savage as having more ability than a typical stopgap journeyman. I wrote last October that Savage was turning a corner. And my feeling is, if not Brock Osweiler’s contract, he’d likely have been the starter then. As it is now, the Texans love his arm talent and size, so it’s not like they have to manage any physical shortcomings.

 

Watson’s presence has positively affected Savage. Naturally, it put pressure on the vet, and he’s responded well.

 

If Savage holds serve, we probably won’t hear much about a decision coming on this. He’ll just remain in place as No. 1. Two keys for Watson to overtake him: 1) showing he can execute the offense at a high enough level to give the other 10 guys in the huddle the best chance; and 2) avoiding turnovers.

 

Most times a team drafts a quarterback in the first round, and the tie would go to that player. In this case, because the team’s in win-now mode and naturally less willing to ride out a rookie’s ups and downs, I think that’s in reverse.

 

So if Watson’s going to be the starter, it’s going to have to be clear that he’s the best guy for the team now, and not just the one who is best for the franchise long-term.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

WR SAMMY WADKINS passed his physical and will not start camp on PUP.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

The usually gloom Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News is curiously enthused about the Jets in 2017.

 

Amid the summer-long chatter about tanking the 2017 season, Jets fans should embrace this reality: Believe it or not, now is an exciting time for a franchise that has historically gone sideways. Fun, in fact.

 

Woody Johnson’s billion-dollar baby is 132-140 under his 17-year stewardship. The average annual win total under his watch: 7.8. In other words, the Jets have been the epitome of average, and thus, forgettable.

 

The organization’s commitment to undergo a full-fledged rebuild this offseason has made it an easy target for armchair general managers, predictably prompting laughter across the NFL landscape.

 

Pay no mind to the white noise. These Jets are doing what needs to be done. It’s their only real chance to break free from a two-decade vortex of mediocrity.

 

Sure, players, coaches and management will be the butt of countless jokes during the next six months, but that’s short-term nonsense that will pass if/when the team’s plan to set a proper foundation with young talent through the draft ultimately works.

 

There are plenty of reasons to enjoy the upcoming campaign, which begins in earnest Friday when players report for training camp in Florham Park.

 

First, let’s dispel one giant annoying myth: The players will not be tanking the season.

 

“We play football to win,” team leader Leonard Williams told the Daily News. “We’re not here to say that we want a certain record. We want a championship. It doesn’t matter what outside people think. It doesn’t matter who’s here and who’s not here. We’re just going to work on what we got and work on a championship. Every year if you’re not focused on a championship or a Super Bowl, what are we doing it for? Why are we showing up to OTAs and the offseason program and putting our bodies on the line if we’re not focused on a Super Bowl?”

 

Some might cast aspersions at Williams for such a boast, but every player on every team should feel like he does entering every training camp. The Jets are establishing a new core with plenty of promising young players. Some will become integral pieces for the long haul. Some will disappoint. But make no mistake: It will take time to cultivate the talent, but fun to witness.

 

In the meantime, an emerging star like Williams holds on to the belief that the Jets will hoist the Lombardi Trophy sooner rather than later.

 

“I think it’s definitely realistic,” Williams said. “I know how much talent we have on our team. I think at this level it’s not about who’s the most talented. It’s about who’s the most together as a team and who’s going to play well with each other and have the least amount of mistakes.”

 

The external perceptions of Todd Bowles’ team don’t seem to matter to these players.

 

 “It’s like an opinion: Everybody got one and sometimes they stink,” defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson told The News. “So (you) just live with that. That’s everybody else’s opinion, but not ours.”

 

It can’t be. It shouldn’t be.

 

The bottom-line truth is that Bowles & Co. simply don’t have the horses to make a legitimate playoff run this season, but that shouldn’t discourage the fanbase from the big picture.

 

Although Johnson & Johnson (Woody and brother Christopher) absolutely need to make several meaningful concessions to season ticket holders and hearty souls willing to fork over their hard-earned cash to watch games at MetLife Stadium this season given the likely low win total (one national publication recently predicted a 1-15 campaign), there are reasons for Jets fans to be optimistic about several young cornerstone pieces that could become the foundation for future success.

 

Williams has the makings of a star. Most football fans couldn’t recognize Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Juston Burris, Jordan Jenkins, Darron Lee, Brandon Shell or ArDarius Stewart if they passed them on the street, but it should be intriguing to watch these first-and second-year players develop in 2017.

 

All eyes, of course, will be on the most pivotal piece to this rebuilding puzzle: The quarterback.

 

Christian Hackenberg will get a fair chance to prove that he’s the answer that Johnson has been looking for since doling out $635 million to buy the franchise at the turn of the century.

 

If he does, problem solved.

 

If not, fans can take solace in knowing that Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen — the cream of the crop in a loaded 2018 quarterback class – awaits.

 

There’s a lot of fun and exciting times ahead in this supposedly miserable season.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

FOUNDATION DRAFT

ProFootballFocus.com with an interesting exercise.  Draft all the current players – both for 2017 and beyond:

 

Picking one player to build a franchise around is one thing. The first pick — Aaron Rodgers — probably didn’t even require much thought. The first 15 picks, and 17 of the first 32, in PFF’s Foundation Draft were quarterbacks, as we noted a couple of weeks ago.

 

But the next few rounds require more thought. If you have that stud quarterback, do you build him a strong offensive line, or give him studlike weapons on the offense? Or do you assume the quarterback can take care of the offense, and instead build him a powerful defense? And what if you missed out on one of the true foundation quarterbacks? Do you just build a great roster and hope some roster-filler QB can make it work? Or do you pounce on one of the middle- or low-tier quarterbacks so you at least have someone?

 

Basically, is there one way to build a football team?

 

Those were the questions our analysts had to answer over Round 2 and 3 of the draft, as we continued the draft. The rules were simple: Heading into 2017, we’re starting a new football league from scratch, and the draftable player pool is made up of everyone in the world. Age matters, position matters. Current contracts do not matter. This is not a one-year exercise; drafters were theoretically building a team for now and forever. So maybe some analysts wanted to build a team that might struggle for a year but could be a dynasty as the studs develop, while others might have an eye on a title this year and then who knows, because Flags Fly Forever.

 

That strategy was up to the individual drafter. Below is the full three-round draft (conducted snake-style), and then below that see a bit of analysis on the process:

 

PFF Foundation Draft

                                 First round                              Second round                        Third round

Analyst                     Player                   Position     Player                   Position      Player      Position

Steve Palazzolo       Aaron Rodgers       QB           Geno Atkins            DI            Lane Johnson         T

Harley Sherman      Andrew Luck           QB           Bobby Wagner        LB            Melvin Ingram         Edge

Ben Stockwell         Russell Wilson        QB           Fletcher Cox           DI            Trent Williams         T

Bryson Vesnaver    Derek Carr              QB           Arden Key               Edge        T.Y. Hilton               WR

Nate Jahnke           Dak Prescott           QB           Chris Jones            DI            Ronnie Stanley        T

Josh Liskiewitz        Jameis Winston      QB           Ndamukong Suh     DI            Rashan Gary          Edge

Jordan Plocher       Marcus Mariota       QB           Christian McCaffrey                RB           Tyrannn Mathieu     CB

Zoltan Buday           Matt Ryan               QB           DeAndre Hopkins   WR          Whitney Mercilus    Edge

Louie Benjamin        Cam Newton           QB           A.J. Green              WR          DeForest Buckner  DI

Steve Slowik           Kirk Cousins           QB           Derwin James         S              Kawann Short         DI

G McGuinness       Tom Brady              QB           Richard Sherman    CB           Travis Kelce            TE

Khaled Elsayed       Drew Brees             QB           Cameron Jordan     Edge        Gerald McCoy        DI

Bill Douglas             Patrick Mahomes II QB           Taylor Lewan          T              Leonard Williams    DI

Aaron Resnick        Matthew Stafford     QB           Jack Conklin           T              Vic Beasley             Edge

Zac Robinson         Sam Darnold           QB           Jamal Adams          S              Dez Bryant              WR

Mark Harrington      Joey Bosa               Edge        Mitchell Trubisky     QB           Brandin Cooks        WR

Matt Claassen         Aaron Donald          DI            David Johnson        RB           David Bakhtiari        T

Jeff Ratcliffe            Khalil Mack              Edge        Carson Wentz         QB           Terron Armstead    T

Mike Renner           J.J. Watt                 Edge        Jared Goff               QB           Nick Bosa               Edge

Brett Whitefield        Von Miller                 Edge        Landon Collins        S              A.J. Bouye              CB

Vinnie Ronca           Jadeveon Clowney Edge        Amari Cooper          WR          Ryan Tannehill        QB

John Gatta              Luke Kuechly          LB            Michael Thomas     WR          Tyrod Taylor           QB

Sam Monson           Odell Beckham Jr   WR          Earl Thomas           S              Danielle Hunter       Edge

John Kosko             Myles Garrett          Edge        Marshon Lattimore  CB           Jordan Hicks          LB

Wes Huber             Mason Rudolph       QB           Ezekiel Elliott           RB           Dexter Lawrence    DI

Trevor Lynch          Mike Evans             WR          Le’Veon Bell            RB           Zack Martin             G

George Chahrouri   Josh Allen               QB           Marcus Peters        CB           Frank Clark             Edge

Scott Barrett            Chris Harris Jr.       CB           Josh Norman          CB           Doug Baldwin          WR

Kiernan Hogan        Patrick Peterson     CB           Rob Gronkowski     TE           Chandler Jones      Edge

Cam Mellor              Ed Oliver                  DI           Jalen Ramsey         CB           Luke Falk                QB

Ryan Smith             Brandon Graham    Edge        Antonio Brown         WR          Andy Dalton            QB

Eliot Crist                  Tyron Smith           T              Julio Jones              WR          Travis Frederick     C

 

Some of the unfamiliar names (see Mason Rudolph, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold in the first round) are still in college.  A full analysis of each selectors picks can be found here (sample below):

 

PICK 16: MARK HARRINGTON

Roster:

Edge Joey Bosa (22)

QB Mitchell Trubisky (22)

WR Brandin Cooks (23)

 

Harrington was the first drafter not to go quarterback in the first round, so he circled back to the position by taking the first quarterback taken in this year’s draft. These three players are a combined 67 years old (for comparison’s sake, the first two picks of Gordon McGuinness’ roster — Tom Brady and Richard Sherman — are 68), and that includes Cooks, who already has three NFL seasons under his belt, and Bosa, who just won Defensive Rookie of the Year. If Trubisky develops like a No. 2 overall pick could, this could be a foundation for a roster for a long time.

 

Analyst comment: “After going defense in round one, it was time to find a QB before they were all gone. Trubisky fits the mold of what I did in round one going young with high upside. Looking for a big-play receiver who will turn just 24 in September, Cooks fits the bill. He reeled in 544 yards on deep passes (20 yards or more downfield), which was second-most among WRs.”

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Does he mean it this time?  Once again, Jon Gruden is sending signals that he wants to return to the sidelines.  Scott Reynolds of PewterReport.com:

 

Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden wants to coach in the NFL again.

 

After a 40-minute interview in his office that covered a lot of ground from his days in Tampa Bay, where he won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002, that was the big takeaway.

 

I met Gruden early on Wednesday morning at his Tampa office – the official headquarters of the FFCA – that’s Fired Football Coaches Association just in case you didn’t know. There are very few lights on in any room and the blinds are closed, which is just the way Gruden likes it, as he leads me to a dimly light film room where he sits down next to a jumbo sized cup of coffee.

 

Gruden will be addressing the media next Wednesday, August 2, at a press conference at One Buccaneer Place where he will discuss his induction into the Bucs Ring of Honor, but after spending an entire SR’s Fab 5 last week previewing the Bucs’ 2017 training camp, I wanted to get ahead of that story for our PewterReport.com readers.

 

Gruden’s name will be illuminated and affixed to the upper deck at Raymond James Stadium at halftime of the Atlanta game on December 18. That Bucs vs. Falcons game will be Tampa Bay’s lone appearance on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, where he’s been employed since 2009, a year after being fired by the Buccaneers following back-to-back 9-7 seasons. He’s humbled by the honor. But, more on that later in this week’s edition of SR’s Fab 5.

 

He will tell you over and over again how much he loves what he does at ESPN from co-hosting Monday Night Football, to his pre-draft Gruden’s QB Camp series to covering the NFL Draft, but you can see the desire that burns to coach again. His eyes lie and give it away.

 

You can hear it in Gruden’s voice. He’s always been emphatic when he talks, but he wants to coach me – or anyone that walks through the doors at the FFCA building for that matter – rather than just do an interview for PewterReport.com.

 

I asked Gruden, who turns 54 on August 17, but looks 45, if he was annoyed or flattered that his name gets attached to vacant, high profile NFL and college coaching jobs each year. Fresh off of watching some game tape for the millionth time this year, he took that question and ran with it.

 

“I’ve met with several people – I won’t deny that,” Gruden said. “People – just about every year I talk about coming back to coach. I’m not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball. You know? I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I’m preparing to come back.

 

“It helps me in my broadcasting and I think if you lose that edge … you can’t come back unless you are totally wired with college football, personnel, schemes, the CBA, how people are practicing, trends, you know. You’ve got stay on top of this stuff.”

 

Gruden enjoys working for ESPN, and why wouldn’t he? He’s paid millions – $6.5 million per year according to a report in USA Today – to watch football, talk about football on-air and travel all over the country to talk to head coaches and players about football. Then in the offseason he gets to study and watch NFL Draft prospects for The Worldwide Leader In Sports. But, in some ways, you get the sense that Gruden is using his resources and his time wisely by making even more connections all around the league with players, coaches and general managers, and studying the latest wrinkles and trends offensively and defensively.

 

Gruden is all about preparation. Ask any of his former quarterbacks and they’ll tell you he had them over-prepared at times. At ESPN, Gruden is preparing for his comeback, biding his time and plotting his return by studying the league and finding the best possible situation at the right time.

 

“I love ESPN,” Gruden said. “I mean I love what I’m doing. I’m with a great team – a great group of guys. I’m still real close to the game. I still stay in contact with a lot of players and coaches at the league at every level. I don’t know if [all the talk] is flattering or irritating. I don’t really pay attention to a lot of it. But I am – every year – preparing myself to coach. Sometimes I show up at camp and I show up in the offseason and people let me coach. I jump in drills and they still let me install plays and call plays at some places. I still have a lot of fun.”

 

Gruden knows that wherever he goes expectations will be as high as the salary he’ll command, which could be around $10 million per season. The situation has to be right, and with his youngest son almost out of high school, the time could be drawing near.

 

“He’ll be a junior this year,” Gruden said. “I don’t know. I don’t know, Scott. Like I said, I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I haven’t lost the itch, though. I miss the players. I miss … I won’t deny that. I don’t want to start anything, but I say the same thing to everybody. There are very few passions in my life. The man upstairs, family and football.”

 

While Gruden didn’t reveal what the right situation would be to prompt him to leave ESPN and dive back into battling the media and fan expectations in the coaching world, it won’t be in college football. In the past, Gruden’s name had been linked to previous openings at Notre Dame, Tennessee, Miami and Ohio State, but Gruden admits that after doing his research he wouldn’t be able to handle the limited amount of time that players can practice and be at the football headquarters watching film.

 

 “Yeah, when I first got fired I went to Alabama and spent a couple of days with Nick Saban,” Gruden said. “Then I went to Oregon and spent four or five days out there with Chip Kelly – just to see two polar opposite programs that were very successful. I was very determined to be a college coach. Then I realized that if I became a college coach I would probably have you on probation within four or five weeks.

 

“Too many rules, man. I mean I like to work. I don’t like to be working 15 hours a week with players. The recruiting, Facebook, texting, e-mails – all that stuff. Yeah, I’d probably have you in real deep, deep trouble if I was your college coach.”

 

As our conversation progressed, I began to get a sense of why I think Gruden has the burning desire to get back into coaching again. Each year he sees some of the best college quarterbacks strut into his offense and he missed the chance to develop a young gun.

– – –

Gruden’s name was linked to the Los Angeles Rams last December when Jeff Fisher was fired, but he turned down interest from Rams COO Kevin Demoff, who worked with Gruden as Bruce Allen’s assistant in Tampa Bay from 2005-08. Perhaps Gruden didn’t care for quarterback Jared Goff, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, after having him as a guest on Gruden’s QB Camp.

 

Instead, the Rams hired 30-year old Sean McVay, the Redskins offensive coordinator, who coached for Gruden in 2008 with the Bucs and then with Jay Gruden in Washington from 2010-16.

 

But, as Tampa Bay revels in Winston’s early success and the buzz around his former team continues to grow, it will reach the point where Gruden will eventually seek to escape and find a team with a young quarterback or a team with a high draft pick in a year that has franchise quarterbacks coming out like 2015 with Winston and Marcus Mariota, 2016 with Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, and Mahomes from this year’s QB class.

 

In the part that was edited out, he talks about his biggest regret – which is not drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2005.  You can read it here.

 

 

TEBOW RISING

Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post has come to believe that Tim Tebow might make it in baseball:

 

A funny thing happened on the way to the circus:

 

Tim Tebow, it turns out, can play a little. This probably comes as a surprise to you, because it almost certainly comes as a surprise to the Mets. The only people this doesn’t surprise, in truth, are those Tebow acolytes willing to believe he’s capable of just about anything.

 

It was 12 days ago that Sandy Alderson tried to throw cold water on the notion the Mets were pondering Tebow as a call-up after Sept. 1, when rosters can expand from 25 to 40.

 

“Never crossed my mind until about 10 days ago, when somebody said it was likely to happen,” Alderson said then. “I don’t foresee that kind of scenario.”

 

Of course, it was 12 days before that when Alderson offered the least-surprising Tebow observation ever uttered by a member of Mets brass when he had said: “Look, we signed him because he is a good guy, partly because of his celebrity, partly because this is an entertainment business. My attitude is, ‘Why not?’ ”

 

There are plenty of sound business reasons why it would have been wise anyway to keep Tebow away from Citi Field as some kind of marketing ploy, beginning with the very credibility of the franchise, which is supposed to be in the business of developing baseball players, not carnival barkers.

 

But now they have the best reason of all to forget about that.

 

What if Tebow really is what these last 28 games and 92 at-bats have hinted at? In the Florida State League, the most advanced level of Class-A ball, he’s hitting .315 after going 3-for-5 against Bradenton Wednesday night, with an eye-raising OPS of .922.

 

To find a higher number than that on the St. Lucie Mets’ roster, you stop at names like Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares and Lucas Duda, members of the varsity Mets who made brief rehab appearances at Port St. Lucie.

 

Look, the odds remain heavily stacked against Tebow, who three weeks shy of 30 is still three steep steps away from the majors. But this is also true: There was no way to foresee even these past 28 games and 92 at-bats. And what he has done is raise the possibility — however remote it may still seem — that he really might be a player, and not just a jersey.

 

So it would behoove both the Mets and Tebow to proceed accordingly. Under no circumstance would a player — even one enjoying a breakout year — make the jump from Port. St. Lucie to Flushing. To do that to Tebow would only exacerbate the notion he’s a freak show.

 

As recently as a month ago, when he was still scuffling in the Sally League with Columbia, that’s what it seemed the Mets were cultivating, a baseball bearded lady for a three-ring circus. But Tebow has made that cloud go away the only way he could: five doubles, a triple, four homers, 16 RBIs, a .400 on-base percentage.

 

Based on this season, there will be 95 percent less snickering if Tebow starts next year at Double-A Binghamton, and even less if he hits his way to Triple-A Las Vegas. And then …

 

OK. Slow it down. Again: Tebow is still the longest of long shots, and 28 games at the doorstep of 30 doesn’t guarantee anything. But the Mets don’t need Tebow to artificially enhance their September gate assuming they remain far out of the playoff hunt: That’s what Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith are for.

 

What the Mets couldn’t possibly have banked on was the notion of Tim Tebow and legitimacy arriving in the same paragraph together. But that’s happened. No need to invite the circus to town.

 

And make no mistake: It would be a circus of spectacular proportions. We are not a college football city, so we really have little idea just how big Tebow remains among the parishioners of Saturday’s football pulpits. Every time I am on an out-of-town radio show talking about the Mets — Every. Single. Time. — Tebow is the one subject that always comes up. Not Jacob deGrom. Not Yoenis Cespedes. Not Conforto.

 

All Tebow. All the time. Maybe Alderson was serious, and maybe the plan was to keep Citi Field spared of all that this September. But it would have been tempting. Now? You wouldn’t ever expose a real prospect to that kind of ridicule. And amazing as this sentence is to contemplate, it’s even more astonishing to write:

 

It’s right to treat Tim Tebow like a real prospect, because he just might be one.