The Daily Briefing Friday, March 3, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

Wow.  We are going to be up to six eye surgeries for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.  Kevin Seifert at ESPN.com:

 

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is scheduled for two more surgeries on his right eye as he struggles to regain vision from a detached retina suffered last November.

 

Zimmer, speaking Thursday at the NFL scouting combine, said he hopes the procedures restore 50 percent of his current limited vision. He also said he has been told he has a “high likelihood” for a similar affliction occurring in his left eye, which to this point has been unaffected.

 

Zimmer, who missed the Vikings’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13, had a total of four procedures during the season. The fifth is penciled in for the week of April 17 and will prohibit him from flying for three weeks. The sixth, Zimmer said, will take place about two months later.

 

That schedule was designed to allow him to travel to Indianapolis for the combine and then to any pre-draft pro days he wants to attend.

 

Zimmer said he can see with his left eye now but objects are blurry. It was enough, he joked, to force him to learn “how to shoot left-handed.” Zimmer is an avid hunter.

 

To make sure we understand this correctly, he has “blurry” vision with his good “unaffected” left eye.

 

NFC EAST

 

WASHINGTON

Mike McCartney, agent for KIRK COUSINS, is meeting with Washington’s lead contract negotiator.  John Keim at ESPN.com:

 

The agent for Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins took it as a positive sign that the team placed the exclusive franchise tag on his client, signaling a desire to keep him around.

 

Agent Mike McCartney hopes it leads to momentum. Indeed, the Redskins’ chief negotiator, Eric Schaffer, met with McCartney at the Indianapolis scouting combine on Wednesday night.

 

One source said the Redskins’ latest offer, first reported by the Washington Post and made earlier this offseason, stands at $20 million per year over five years. However, the source said the guarantees “were low,” and the desire remains for any new deal to start at the tag number of approximately $24 million.

 

The Redskins’ best offer last year was $16 million per season, with $24 million in guarantees. If Cousins plays under the tag this season, he will have made $43 million in guaranteed money.

 

Regardless, McCartney took the tag in a positive light. It also enables Washington to control Cousins’ rights. The exclusive tag means only that the Redskins can negotiate with Cousins.

 

“The Redskins had let us know how much they value Kirk and how they see him as a franchise quarterback,” McCartney told the NFL Network on Thursday. “I do think it was a question of whether they were going to put the exclusive tag or the nonexclusive tag on him. When they put the exclusive tag on him, they tried to send a message that, ‘Hey, Kirk is our guy. We believe in him.’ We took that the right way.”

 

As with last year, the tag number has seemingly become the starting point in average salary per year. The Redskins could still trade Cousins, but that would require another team to not only surrender draft picks but also sign him to a lucrative contract.

 

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan remains a big fan of Cousins, but there’s no guarantee the 49ers would make that sort of deal.

 

“At the end of the day, they’re the ones that placed the franchise tag on him,” McCartney said. “A player, when his contract is up, looks forward to going to free agency to see what his value is on the open market. This is the second straight year that’s been taken away from Kirk, so the Redskins did say something about, ‘Hey, this guy is worth $24 million.’

 

“Kirk didn’t ask for the franchise tag. I didn’t ask for the franchise tag. Still, it’s a heck of a commitment from the club, and we view it that way.”

 

McCartney called Cousins’ situation “unique.” He played well in the final year of his rookie contract in 2015, throwing 29 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions, helping the Redskins win the NFC East. Last year, he threw 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions but also had a franchise-record 4,917 yards.

 

It has led to Cousins being in a situation few players are in.

 

“From a leverage standpoint, it was unique for a quarterback to play his best football as his contract is expiring,” McCartney said.

– – –

Dave McKenna of Deadspin thinks GM Scot McCloughan is being “Zorned” by owner Dan Snyder:

 

People wondering what the hell is going on in Washington with the public execution of Scot McCloughan’s career should probably just look to the top of the organization. This is nothing new for the most consistent man on the planet, Skins owner Dan Snyder.

Take Jim Zorn.

 

In 2008, Snyder hired Zorn, a longtime assistant with no head coaching experience, as head coach after a disastrous headhunting excursion where top candidates withdrew from consideration and one guy who appeared to want the job, Jim Fassel, got rejected when fans took to message boards and threatened a civil war once word got out that the ex-Giants coach might be hired.

 

Zorn got a five-year deal worth a reported $15 million.

 

Then Snyder got buyer’s remorse. He reportedly started turning on Zorn because the coach feuded with the owner’s pet, running back Clinton Portis. In any case, Snyder was interviewing prospective replacements for Zorn by early 2009, and fell in love with Mike Shanahan, the ex-Broncos coach who despite two Super Bowl rings was unemployed.

 

But, again, at the time, Snyder already had a head coach. If he fired Zorn, and the initial reports outlining the finances of his contract were accurate, Snyder would be on the hook for about $9 million.

 

Snyder’s two previous head coaches, Joe Gibbs and Steve Spurrier, had resigned and left lots of the owner’s money on the table rather than stick with the famously dysfunctional organization. So he knew that if could get Zorn to follow suit and resign, Snyder could keep all the leftover moneys for himself.

 

Coincidentally or not, Snyder spent the 2009 regular season publicly and privately humiliating Zorn in a clear campaign to oust the coach. Among the lesser indignities: Snyder was reportedly requiring Zorn to have lunch with him each Friday to explain the schemes for the upcoming game and even what plays would be run. Mike Wise’s amazing 2011 chronology of Zorn’s undoing by Skins management for the Washington Post was highlighted by one crazy episode from September where, during a night of drinking after a loss, Snyder forced his top assistants to join him on his private jet and make a midnight flight to Denver to try to get Shanahan to agree to be his next coach.

 

Around the same time, Zorn, who served as the primary play caller, was told that he had to let somebody else take those duties. Team lawyers lectured Zorn that under his contract a refusal to let another coach call plays would be construed as insubordination.

 

The private humiliations became public ones when those duties were handed over to Sherm Lewis, a retired former Green Bay Packers coordinator who, before Snyder hired him, was working as a bingo caller at retirement communities in Michigan. Snyder’s chief stooge, Vinny Cerrato, verbally undressed Zorn on the team bus after a loss to Philadelphia in Week 11, and from then on players knew they had a lame-duck coach.

 

Zorn held out despite the shamings, and got paid to leave at season’s end. Snyder’s reputation as the ringmaster of the top circus in the NFL was cemented.

 

Now we’re seeing more of the same. McCloughan still has two years left on the reported four-year deal he signed in 2015. His deal reportedly gives him final say on such things as all roster matters. Yet he’s not going to be present at the NFL Combine, and didn’t sit with the rest of the Skins braintrust at the Senior Bowl—where the team barred him from speaking to the media.

 

They want him gone. He won’t be around next season. The only question is how much Snyder will owe him when he goes.

 

But honcho Bruce Allen is saying McCloughan will be back when his “family matters” are “handled.”  Mike Jones in the Washington Post:

 

Washington Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan is not with the team at the NFL Scouting Combine. It is a notable absence for a front-office figure whose specialty has long been college scouting and the draft.

 

Two people familiar with the situation said Redskins staffers were told Tuesday during their trip to Indianapolis that McCloughan was “tending to a personal matter.”

 

A Redskins spokesman Wednesday night confirmed that the team’s top talent evaluator did not make the trip to Indianapolis, saying only “he is taking care of some family matters.”

 

McCloughan said via text message late Wednesday night he was dealing with a death in the family. His 100-year-old grandmother Marie McCloughan died Feb. 6.

 

The absence has raised speculation over McCloughan’s job status with the Redksins. Late Wednesday, 106.7 the Fan reported that McCloughan had been sent home from Redskins Park on Feb. 20, and multiple league insiders wonder if there’s more to the story, given the timing.  But McCloughan’s agent, Peter Schaffer, said late Wednesday night that report was “not true,” and that the claim of McCloughan’s absence owed to a death in the family was “100 percent accurate.”

 

Stopped for comment Thursday morning as he headed to a meeting at the combine, Team President Bruce Allen said only, “he is dealing with family matters.”

 

Allen declined to comment on The Fan report that McCloughan was sent home from work, saying, “I’m not getting into speculations.” Allen said McCloughan will return to work, “just as soon as things are handled.”

 

Multiple agents that represent the Redskins’ players have said they were told McCloughan wasn’t in the office last week, and there’s been some confusion with what’s going on in the front office. It’s been a dark cloud hovering over the franchise just a week before the start of the NFL’s free agent signing period, and it’s during a time when Washington has scheduled meetings with the agents of its pending free agents this week at the combine.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Coach Ron Rivera is going to try to limit the rushing of QB CAM NEWTON in 2017 – which actually is something that happened in 2016.

 

– Ron Rivera wants the Carolina Panthers offense to be a different version of itself in 2017.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

Speaking Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Rivera reiterated that he wanted quarterback Cam Newton to run less and limit the pounding of the 6-foot-5 quarterback’s body.

 

“One thing we don’t want to do is overexpose our quarterback as a runner,” Rivera said. “And so we have to go ahead and look to change some of the things that we do. Some of our philosophies, obviously, have to be a little different when it comes to running the football.”

 

Asked if Newton might fight the decision to take away some of his running opportunities, Rivera replied:

 

“Oh yeah, without a doubt. I promise you that’s going to happen. He wants the football. But again, we have to be very dogged in terms of what we are going to do with him and how we are going to do it. We have to pick and choose. It’s got to be the right situations and circumstances. But again, him, he wants to succeed, he wants to do things that help this football team to win.”

 

Newton carried the ball a career-low 90 times in 2016 after 100-plus attempts in each of his first five seasons. The 27-year-old signal-caller dealt with shoulder issues down the stretch of the season that limited his practice reps.

 

Later Rivera said from what he’s heard, Newton has had a “good offseason” while working on “strength and conditioning” while potentially slimming down this offseason.

 

Newton was only tied for 4th among NFL QB rushers in 2016:

 

1          Tyrod Taylor                 580                                                                                       

2          Colin Kaepernick          468                                                                                       

3          Aaron Rodgers             369                                                                            

4t         Cam Newton                 359

4t         Blake Bortles                359                                                                                        

6          Marcus Mariota             349                                                                                       

7          Andrew Luck                 341                                                                                       

8          Dak Prescott                 282                                                                                       

9          Russell Wilson              259                                                                                        

10        Matthew Stafford          207                                                                                                                                       

Look, we get trying to keep your franchise QB healthy.  But not running might still mean receiving contact as a sacked/pressured passer, rather than dishing it out or avoiding it as a rusher. 

 

And the ability to rush for 500+ yards is what makes Newton special – and overcomes some of his lack of perfection as a capable, but less-than-wonderful passer.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

The Saints may be trying to move WR BRANDIN COOKS, they may just be sitting there answering the phone when teams call or they may not have any interest in trading him.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Saints coach Sean Payton said recently that he expects wide receiver Brandin Cooks to be a member of the team during the 2017 season, but there could be a trade offer that changes the way things look in the Big Easy.

 

A report on Thursday indicated that the Titans and Eagles are both interested in making a deal that would bring Cooks to their club. Payton said they aren’t shopping Cooks, but confirmed that General Manager Mickey Loomis has heard from other teams about the wideout.

 

“I wouldn’t say he’s on the trade block but certainly when a team calls, a team that’s looking for a receiver — and we’re looking to improve our defense — we’re always listening,” Payton said, via the team’s website. “I know Mickey has probably spoken to a handful of GMs or presidents with other teams, but right now I’m comfortable, we’re comfortable with [Cooks] in a Saints uniform. We think the world of him and his skill-set. [Compensation] would have to be something real significant. That’s part of being at the Combine, it’s one of the things that takes place here and that news certainly spreads quicker now than it would 10 years ago.”

 

If the Titans are making a bid for Cooks, they have two first-round picks and two third-round picks to use as part of a package. Those picks could help stock the defense that Payton wants to improve, although whether that qualifies as “real significant” is in the eye of the beholder.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

If there is a next season for QB COLIN KAEPERNICK, he says he will stand during our National Anthem.  Adam Schefter of ESPN.com carries the message for the free agent to be, which should in some tiny way increase his value:

 

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick will stand during the national anthem next season, sources told ESPN on Thursday.

 

Kaepernick no longer wants his method of protest to detract from the positive change he believes has been created, sources told ESPN. He also said the amount of national discussion on social inequality — as well as support from other athletes nationwide, including NFL and NBA players — affirmed the message he was trying to deliver.

 

As a means of protest, he began sitting during the national anthem in the 2016 preseason before taking a knee for the final preseason contest and 16 regular-season games.

 

Kaepernick will opt out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers this week and become a free agent next week, sources told ESPN.

 

There were other steps Kaepernick took that did not receive the same amount of attention as his anthem stance.

 

The Colin Kaepernick Foundation pledged to give $1 million to community organizations helping underprivileged people; the San Francisco 49ers matched with another $1 million in donations. He has followed through with monthly donations of $100,000 spread out over 10 months to organizations all over the country.

 

Many of Kaepernick’s teammates supported the quarterback during the national debate on the subject. At the end of the season, they recognized the quarterback by giving him the Len Eshmont Award, which, according to the team, goes to the player who “best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team.” It is the highest in-house honor a 49er can receive.

– – –

The best QB in 49ers history went to Notre Dame.  Now, another Irish QB could be in their crosshairs.  Chase Goodbread at NFL.com:

 

DeShone Kizer passed an important early phase in his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, at least where John Lynch is concerned.

 

Kizer met with the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday night, and the club’s new GM said Kizer “blew the doors off” in the exchange. The 49ers hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and are among several clubs holding a top-10 pick who have a need at the quarterback position.

 

“This whole thing is not just about an interview, but if you were grading him on that alone, he blew the doors off. He’s an impressive young man, his film’s very impressive,” Lynch said Thursday. “I think the same can be said for Deshaun Watson. You watch what he’s done, just putting a team on his shoulders and taking down a great champion. (Mitch) Trubisky, (Patrick) Mahomes, I think it’s a very talented draft class at that position, one we’re very excited about.”

 

Along with impressing one of the clubs that needs a quarterback most, Kizer also stood apart from the quarterback field with his size during Thursday’s measurements at the combine. At 6-foot-4 1/2, 233 pounds, he proved to be the biggest of the combine’s QB prospects. And Lynch wasn’t shy about acknowledging that the club is in the market for a young passer.

 

“Look, I don’t think you need to be too transparent to realize that’s a position we’re looking at. We don’t have any (quarterbacks), so that’s a position that’s a big focal point of our preparation right now,” Lynch said.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

The Browns current spin is that they are focusing on Northern Ohio native QB MITCH TRUPINSKY as the first overall pick.  Mary Kay Cabot in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

The Browns are strongly considering drafting hometown boy Mitch Trubisky No. 1 overall, league sources tell cleveland.com.

 

Trubisky, the Mentor, Ohio, native, checked off one of Hue Jackson’s major boxes Thursday when he measured 6-foot-2 1/8 at the NFL Combine.

 

One top NFL personnel executive told cleveland.com Thursday that he’d definitely take Trubisky No. 1 now that he measured over 6-1. “He’s got size, he can move, he sees the field, has a big arm and more upside than Carson Wentz last year. They’d be set,” he said.

 

Scouts had told NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock that Trubisky would be closer to 6-1 than the 6-3 he’s listed at in his North Carolina bio.

 

Most draft experts, including Jackson’s good friend Mike Silver of NFL Network, have the Browns taking Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett No. 1 overall, but that’s not a lock.

 

“I’m almost positive that they’ll do the no-brainer thing at No. 1 and take Myles Garrett, the very talented pass rusher out of Texas A&M,” Silver said on NFL Network Wednesday. “It’s early in the Combine, but the more I talk to talent evaluators that I respect, the more that I realize this is even more of a slam dunk in those people’s minds than Jadeveon Clowney a few years back. They’re thinking this is a generational pass rusher that has so much talent off the edge.

 

“Not only is he the clearcut choice at No. 1, but there is no obvious No. 2 sitting there. It’s a draft where people think 2 and 25 could be about the same range of players. Very deep draft at the top but not crazy top-heavy. The top-heavy is Myles Garrett and whatever quarterback you may fall in love with.”

 

Asked about such reports here Thursday, Jackson said it’s too early to say.

 

“Obviously he’s a tremendous player,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot of good players in this draft. It’s just so early for us to determine exactly where we are. All those things will be discussed and thrown around as we continue to move forward.”

 

Trubisky is one of about four players on the Browns’ radar at No. 1, but he could have a slight edge given that Jackson said at the Senior Bowl a good quarterback would trump an elite non-QB. The three other top candidates are Garrett, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Alabama pass-rusher Jonathan Allen.

 

Jackson insisted Thursday that the Browns don’t have the top quarterbacks ranked yet.

 

“We kind of have an idea, but there’s no final, final (ranking) right now,” he said. “I think we have an idea heading into it who are the guys that we really want to see more and find out more about, but I think it’s way early to make a decision about exactly where that position is.”

 

 

PITTSBURGH

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com explains how the Steelers are closing in on a long-term deal for RB Le’VEON BELL:

 

The NFL is a deadline-driven business, but the Steelers like to drive their own deadlines.

 

Only days after a team-created artificial trigger for doing a deal with receiver Antonio Brown, the Steelers and running back Le’Veon Bell are in negotiations for a long-term contract, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Media.

 

The likely artificial deadline for Bell’s deal is the start of the new league year on Thursday, when the new salary cap of $167 million locks in. With Bell carrying the exclusive franchise tag of $12.11 million and with the rest of the running-back market languishing at or below $8 million, he’ll easily be the highest-paid tailback in football.

 

But the deal likely won’t set the market; Bell’s contract will be the aberration that no other running back reaches, because none of them have the leverage that comes with the franchise tag.

 

Also, with the Steelers typically unwilling to guarantee payments in the second year of a long-term contract, it’s likely that the structure will look a lot like receiver Antonio Brown’s deal, with 2017’s compensation fully guaranteed and a large non-guaranteed roster bonus due in early 2018.

 

No matter what the final deal looks like, the Steelers have the ability to get players to go along with what they want to do and how they want to do it. So even though the real deadline for doing a long-term deal is July 15, if the Steelers want it to happen sooner, look for Bell to accept that and every other rule that the Steelers apply to the process of negotiating long-term contracts.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Texans did not tag WR DeANDRE HOPKINS, but GM Rick Smith maintains the team still wants to ink him to a long term pact.  Chris Wesseling at NFL.com:

 

DeAndre Hopkins’ disappointing 2016 season hasn’t diminished his value in the eyes of the Houston Texans.

 

Due to collect $7.915 million after the AFC South champions exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract last offseason, Hopkins is in line for a lucrative long-term deal in the coming months.

 

“Our goal is to keep all of our good young players, and DeAndre is a good young player,” general manager Rick Smith acknowledged Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “So, yes, we are absolutely intent on re-signing him. When that happens is up for debate.

 

“He’s definitely in our plans. He’s an excellent young football player, and I think he’s one of those guys we just talked about that’s an arrow-up player. And we certainly want to continue to build around him.”

 

Smith reportedly rejected offers for Hopkins when the Patriots and Buccaneers reached out at the trade deadline last October.

 

Vastly underpaid on the heels of a “flat-out incredible” 2015 Pro Bowl campaign, Hopkins staged a one-day holdout to express his dissatisfaction at the opening of training camp last summer.

 

Although Hopkins generated an anemic 55.1 passer rating on 151 targets last season, coach Bill O’Brien intimated that the responsibility for that poor production lies with the subpar passing performance of Brock Osweiler.

 

“He made some important plays in the games, third-down plays, red-area plays,” O’Brien explained Wednesday. “As far as production and things like that, yeah, the production dropped off a little bit, it wasn’t anything that he did. I think he’s a great player. I love coaching the guy. I’m looking forward to coaching him next year.”

 

As frustrated as Hopkins may be with the organization’s quarterback woes, he made it clear during Super Bowl week that the interest in a long-term deal is mutual.

 

“I love this organization and what this team is doing,” Hopkins said, via the Houston Chronicle. “It seems like we’re getting better and better every year, so why not?”

 

While it appears that it’s only a matter of time until the two sides reach a deal, the price tag has the potential to skyrocket on the heels of Antonio Brown’s market-setting extension.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Coach Chuck Pagano says we are all day to day.  Mike Wells at ESPN.com:

 

Chuck Pagano isn’t naïve. The Colts coach still has three years remaining on his contract, but he also knows he can’t afford to have another season that doesn’t live up to expectations.

 

If he does, his job status with the franchise will be even murkier than what it has been at the conclusion of the past two seasons.

 

Pagano survived the first round of firings by Jim Irsay when the owner decided to cut ties with general manager Ryan Grigson in January. There was no guarantee given to Pagano beyond next season, though. There’s no more being tied to the hip of Grigson. This is essentially a prove-it season for Pagano.

 

“I think we all understand the expectations that come with this job,” Pagano said in his first interview session since Grigson was fired in late January. “We’re all on one-day contracts. That’s how I look at it. We’re going to work hard, roll up our sleeves, like we always do. Every season is different; every team is different. Again, we have a lot of work to do, a ton to do. My focus is on that.

 

“Control the controllables. Throw it out there, start the new year with you guys [the media]. There are things that I can control and there are things that I can’t control so I’m going to focus on the things that I can and go to work on that.”

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

WR KENNY STILLS is going to make a lot of money in 2017, but probably not from the Dolphins.  Armando Salguero in the Miami Herald:

 

According to sources familiar with the situation, the Dolphins this week hope to make a strong pitch to the wide receiver’s representation in hopes of getting feedback that will suggest Stills will be re-signing with the team.

 

But if this assignment is viewed through the prism of a regular season game, the looming work with Stills has the Dolphins in the fourth quarter because free agency begins March 9. And, sources say, Miami seems to be trailing.

 

That’s because, multiple NFL sources agree, Stills is more likely to leave via free agency than stay in Miami.

 

The Stills camp is already aware of the receiver’s potential value in free agency. And the market is said to already be in the $12-million-a-year range, per sources.

 

There is even a team on everyone’s lips as a likely landing spot for Stills — The Philadelphia Eagles.

 

Kenny Stills to Philadelphia has been an open secret for weeks before agents and teams are officially allowed to talk about potential deals starting March 7. It is so well known in league circles that NJ.com reported weeks ago the Eagles would be targeting Stills if he made it to free agency.

 

And that report is correct, sources confirm.

 

So that leaves the Dolphins in an unenviable position because they are aware that a bidder exists and the likely price for their player is quite high. And so far the Dolphins have not been ready to climb to the price plateau the Eagles — in dire need of a speedy, deep-threat receiver — seem poised to reach.

 

The Dolphins, per sources, have had internal discussions about all their free agents and placed monetary values on those players relative to their cap structure. And paying Kenny Stills $12 million per season is nowhere close to the model the Dolphins feel comfortable about.

 

It is not known how high the Dolphins are willing to go to keep Stills. Stills and his representatives are likely to know in the coming week after they meet with the team. But the Dolphins so far do not intend to be the high bidder.

 

And that is a point they’ve made to Stills and several other of their valued free agents, such as defensive end Andre Branch and tight end Dion Sims.

 

The Dolphins are universally telling their players they want to re-sign players who show commitment to the team and its current favorable direction. They want players that wish to remain in Miami to continue building what was begun in 2016 when the Dolphins were 10-7 and went to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

 

None of that suggests the Dolphins are going to match the offer of other teams dollar for dollar.

 

And this from SBNation:

 

Adam Gase has been the head coach of the Miami Dolphins for a year now, and he’s settled in to the role. But if there’s one thing he doesn’t care for, it’s free agency.

 

During a press conference before the 2017 NFL Combine, Gase spoke to reporters and was very honest about his thoughts on free agency — which is set to begin next week on March 9 — and the Dolphins’ chances at retaining wide receiver Kenny Stills who is set to hit the market in a week.

 

 @harrylylesjr

Adam Gase says he hates free agency

 

@greggrosenthal

On optimism of Stills returning, Gase says “some days I feel good about it, some days I feel like crap about it.”

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is among those who hear that JIMMY GARAPPOLO is still in play despite Adam Schefter’s message that the Patriots will not trade the young QB.

 

The Patriots will still trade Jimmy Garoppolo if the offer is right, a league source told cleveland.com.

 

“Everything is still on the table,” the source said.

 

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Patriots will not trade their backup quarterback, and that it wasn’t a tactic to get teams to up the ante.

 

“They love Jimmy Garoppolo,” Schefter said on SportsCenter. “They’re holding onto Jimmy Garoppolo. They view him as somebody they want around. They know the value of quarterbacks and they’re not in the market of getting rid of 25-year-old quarterbacks even if they have a year left on their contract. Jimmy Garoppolo is not going to be traded.”

 

Bill Belichick’s close friend and associate Mike Lombardi, the former Browns general manager, also tweeted, “this is not about increasing his value, this is the player being good, really good.”

 

But the source insists coach Bill Belichick will part with Garoppolo if the compensation is right. One preliminary “offer” has already been floated and another is expected to come soon from a second team.

 

Nothing is expected to happen at the NFL Combine, although some discussions might take place. The Patriots will likely want a first-round pick and more.

 

The Browns and 49ers are two teams interested, and the Bears could be too.  Those teams have the first three picks, respectively. The Browns also have the No. 12. Garoppolo will be a free agent after next season, and the Patriots would likely have to franchise him at more than $22 million for 2018 to keep him — as Tom Brady’s backup.

 

If the Browns can’t land Garoppolo, they’ll see if Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor becomes a free agent on March 11. If those two options fall through, they’ll likely make an offer for Bengals backup AJ McCarron, who wants to be traded and would love to be reunited with Hue Jackson, who coached him in Cincinnati.

 

The Bengals would likely want at least a second-round pick, one source said, and wouldn’t rule out trading within the division.

 

“We’ll listen to whatever anyone is thinking,” said Bengals director of personnel Duke Tobin. “We’re not actively looking to diminish our football team by trading AJ McCarron and that diminishes our football team. It has to be something we feel is valuable enough to warrant doing that. What it is, I don’t know. Who it is to, I don’t know.

 

“It’s not ideal to trade guys within your division, particularly at that position. But we listen and if something comes up we’ll certainly announce it to all you guys.”

– – –

It could be the end of the road for T SEBASTIAN VOLLMER.  Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:

 

A mainstay on New England’s offensive line for the majority of this decade, Sebastian Vollmer’s football career is in jeopardy.

 

The Patriots will release Vollmer, who is contemplating retirement due to lingering hip pain, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

 

Vollmer was scheduled to reach free agency this offseason, but his 2016 contract “tolled” to 2017 because he spent all of last season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list with the hip injury.

 

Standing a behemoth 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds, Vollmer was late to the game after growing up in Dusseldorf, Germany. He was viewed as an intriguing developmental project when the Patriots “reached” for him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

 

“There was no way he was really a second-round pick,” coach Bill Belichick explained in Michael Holley’s book War Room.

 

“He should have been a fourth- or fifth-round pick, by the film, by his performance. But you saw him as an ascending player and he had rare size, and there were a lot of things that you had to fix and all that. But it was clear that the league liked him. … We just said, ‘Look, we really want this guy. This is too high to pick him, but if we wait we might not get him.'”

 

Vollmer went on to start 80 of 88 games over eight seasons in New England, emerging as one of the premier right tackles in football from 2010 through 2014.

 

The Patriots are moving forward with Marcus Cannon, who earned a five-year, $32.5 million contract extension during a breakout 2016 season.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

C NICK MANGGOLD, CB DARRELLE REVIS – and now WR BRANDON MARSHALL.  The Jets are shedding recognizable names at quite the pace.  NFL.com:

 

The New York Jets are releasing veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall at his request, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday according to a source informed of the decision.

 

The news comes just days after the team notified both cornerback Darrelle Revis and offensive lineman Nick Mangold of their impending release. All transactions will become official once the new league year begins on March 9.

 

The Bears dealt Marshall via trade to the Jets in 2015. In his first season with the team, he recorded franchise-record-setting numbers in receptions (109) and receiving yards (1,503) and matched the team’s all-time mark in receiving touchdowns. In 2016 — and his second season with the club — Marshall totaled 788 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

 

The 32-year-old wideout, who will be 33 later this month, was scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2017. And as Rapoport noted, with Marshall’s departure, the Jets will save over $7 million dollars on the salary cap and will have not any dead money.

 

Marshall took to his Instagram page early Friday morning to thank the Jets organization.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

AwfulAnnouncing.com with a report on ESPN’s plan to replace Chris Berman with a trio of broadcasters:

 

Jim Miller, the ESPN maven has tweeted that instead of using one person to replace Chris Berman on the NFL, the Worldwide Leader will go with a triplecast of broadcasters.

 

@JimMiller

Chris Berman’s @ESPNNFL role will be split up. Hearing @sam_ponder gets Sunday Countdown; Suzy Kolber MNF & @wingoz doing all #NFL draft.

 

@JimMiller

On Berman @espnnfl replacements — deals not done.

 

It’s an interesting trio to take the Berman roles. Kolber and Wingo were expected. They’ve been working the NFL for ESPN for quite some time so to have them on Monday Night

Countdown/Monday Night Football and the NFL Draft aren’t out of their realm. However, the X Factor here was Samantha Ponder. She’s been associated with college football since she started with ESPN and hosted segments on College GameDay.

 

If Miller’s tweet turns out to be true and there’s no reason to think otherwise, it would mean there’s an opening on the college football sidelines as Ponder was the reporter on the ESPN “A” team with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit last season.

 

The idea of putting Ponder on Sunday NFL Countdown is a little out of the box. But as she’s having another baby, she’ll be able to continue to work for ESPN and cut down on the the travel each week. Before this news surfaced, there was the rumor that ESPN was looking at Fox’s Charissa Thompson for the Sunday Countdown spot so putting a new face on the show might have been the plan all along.

 

Kolber is a solid choice for Monday Night Football as she has been the on-site host on Countdown so taking over the show would be a natural progression.

 

And Wingo has been hosting the NFL Draft from the 2nd round on for the past few years so this seems to be a good fit to have him take over the entire event. And with him rumored to be the replacement for Mike Greenberg on ESPN Radio, giving him the Draft keeps Wingo associated with the NFL.

 

To have three people replace Berman shows how big ESPN considers the role. It tells us that no one person can replace him and it wants to spread the wealth among three people on the NFL.

 

ESPN declined to comment on Miller’s tweets.

 

 

2017 DRAFT

RB LEONARD FOURNETTE show up heavy at the Combine after sitting out LSU’s bowl game.  Chase Goodbread at NFL.com:

 

Slow down the alarm bells on the extra weight that Leonard Fournette brought to the NFL Scouting Combine.

 

One of the 2017 NFL Draft’s elite running backs attributed five of his 240 pounds to excess water weight that already has left his body, although he admitted he didn’t expect to arrive in Indianapolis quite so heavy.

 

“It was surprising. I drank a lot of water before I weighed in, so it was water weight. It went away completely. (I wanted to weigh) 235, which is what I played at in the season,” Fournette said Thursday.

 

At 240, Fournette was the heaviest running back at the combine, which drew plenty of attention on Wednesday. He certainly doesn’t expect to be any slower on Friday, when running backs take part in the 40-yard dash and other combine drills.

 

“Somewhere in the 4.4s,” Fournette said when asked what should be expected of his clocking in the 40.

 

Be it at 235 or 240, Fournette is an imposing rusher whose combination of size and speed could make a big impact for an NFL offense this fall.

 

And if he runs a sub-4.5 40 time on Friday, as he expects, nobody will be questioning five extra pounds

 

Meanwhile, RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY says he is “disrespected” without ever specifically stating the reason.  Dan Parr at NFL.com:

 

– Christian McCaffrey doesn’t feel like he’s getting his due.

 

The former Stanford RB broke Barry Sanders’ single-season all-purpose yardage record in 2015 (3,864) and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. He still rushed for 1,639 yards in 2016 despite being hampered by a hip bruise. Now, the 5-foot-11, 202-pounder is facing doubts about whether he can carry a full workload in the NFL at his size.

 

When asked on Thursday if he feels like he’s disrespected in the 2017 RB class, he said yes, definitely.

 

Why’s that?

 

“Because I play with a chip on my shoulder always,” McCaffrey said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “So I feel like a lot of people don’t give me credit for my skills and talents and that’s just the way it is, but I also don’t really care too much.”

 

It’s not uncommon for athletes, even the very best of them, to use any slight, perceived or real, as motivation, so it’s not stunning that McCaffrey feels this way.

 

However, it is true that debates about which RB in this year’s draft is the best include two players, and neither is McCaffrey. The former Stanford star is third in NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock’s ranking of the draft’s top RBs, right behind Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and LSU’s Leonard Fournette, and both Cook and Fournette have their backers when it comes to discussing who’s the best at the position.

 

McCaffrey, on the other hand, is a more polarizing prospect than those two. He’s as versatile as any back, making contributions as a rusher, receiver and returner, but scouts are skeptical that he can be a No. 1 back. He said on Thursday that he can be an every-down back and a specialist, doing both at the same time.

 

If a team entrusts him with that kind of workload and he flourishes, he’ll have proved the doubters wrong and suddenly have a lot more respect. Until that happens, plan on that chip staying on his shoulder.

– – –

A Mock Draft from Bucky Brooks at NFL.com:

 

My first mock draft of 2017 came right after the conclusion of the Senior Bowl, which helped solidify, in my mind at least, the first-round statuses of a few players, like LSU CB Tre’Davious White, Alabama TE O.J. Howard and Temple pass rusher Haason Reddick.

 

While not a whole lot has transpired since then, you’ll notice player movement from my first mock to this one, including the absence of a quarterback in the top half of the first round. That’s because I’ve had a chance to watch a lot more tape on this draft class and also speak to many within the league to get a better understanding of where the prospects are starting to slot onto draft boards.

 

With that said, we are entering a two-week period with two events that might have the biggest impact on the first round. The NFL Scouting Combine and free agency will further re-shape how the first 32 picks of the draft could unfold. For now, this is how I see it.

 

1    BROWNS

Myles Garrett – DE, Texas A&M: Browns opt for the best player available instead of reaching for a QB at the top of the draft. Garrett gives them a Julius Peppers-like edge rusher to build around.

 

2   49ERS

Malik Hooker – S, Ohio State: John Lynch resists the temptation to reach on a QB to select a dynamic centerfielder with outstanding instincts and ball skills.

 

3   BEARS

Jamal Adams – S, LSU: Adams is exactly what the Bears need between the hashes — a “pack leader” with a versatile game and a knack for playmaking.

 

4   JAGUARS

Solomon Thomas – DE, Stanford: Tom Coughlin puts his personal touch on the Jaguars’ transformation with the selection of Thomas. The ultra-athletic defender checks off all of the boxes (smart, tough, fast) on Coughlin’s character sheet.

 

5   TITANS

Marshon Lattimore – CB, Ohio State: The Titans need a legitimate CB1 to hold up in a division with a number of speedy pass catchers on the perimeter.

 

6   JETS

Jonathan Allen – DT, Alabama: Allen might not make sense on paper but his arrival could allow the Jets to trade Sheldon Richardson to acquire more playmakers on both sides of the ball.

 

7   CHARGERS

Jabrill Peppers – S, Michigan: The Michigan standout would add some juice to the Chargers’ secondary as a versatile playmaker. He will remind Chargers’ fans of four-time Pro Bowler Eric Weddle.

 

8   PANTHERS

Derek Barnett – DE, Tennessee: Despite ranking near the top of the charts in sacks, the Panthers need a legitimate pass rusher off the edge to alleviate some of the stress on the back end. Barnett might be the best pure pass-rushing threat in the 2017 class.

 

9   BENGALS

Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan: Finding a playmaker opposite A.J. Green should be a priority for the Bengals. Davis is an ideal WR2 with the size and route running skills to destroy cornerbacks on the backside.

 

10   BILLS

Sidney Jones – CB, Washington: With Stephon Gilmore set to depart as a free agent, the Bills could turn their attention toward finding an ideal CB1. Jones is the cleanest cover corner in this draft.

 

11   SAINTS

Takkarist McKinley – DE, UCLA: Sean Payton has made upgrading the Saints’ pass rush the No.1 priority this offseason.

 

12   BROWNS

Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU: Nothing like a workhorse runner to alleviate the pressure on the QB to carry an offense. Given the Browns’ uncertainty at their RB1 position, the LSU star could make sense at this point.

 

13   CARDINALS

Mike Williams – WR, Clemson: The expected loss of Larry Fitzgerald to retirement after this coming season makes it imperative for the Cardinals to find a WR1 in this draft.

 

14   COLTS

Taco Charlton – DE, Michigan: The Colts desperately need a pass rusher to energize a defense that’s struggled of late.

 

14   EAGLES

John Ross – WR, Washington: The Eagles could opt for a DeSean Jackson clone to add some speed and playmaking to the passing game.

 

16   RAVENS

Teez Tabor – CB, Florida: It’s time for the Ravens to find Jimmy Smith a partner on the island. Tabor is a long, rangy defender with a tenacious attitude and competitive spirit.

 

17   REDSKINS

Mitch Trubisky – QB, North Carolina: If the Redskins can’t get Kirk Cousins signed to a long-term deal, they could opt to take a young QB to serve as an apprentice until he is ready for the starting job in 2018.

 

18    TITANS

Budda Baker – S, Washington: Dick LeBeau would love to have a dynamic safety to feature in his exotic blitz schemes.

 

19   BUCCANEERS

Dalvin Cook – RB, Florida State: The Florida State star would add some spice to the Buccaneers offense as an electric runner-receiver out of the backfield.

 

20   BRONCOS

Garett Bolles – OT, Utah: Contrary to popular opinion, it was the Broncos’ offensive line struggles that prevented them from making another run at the title, not other factors.

 

21   LIONS

Ryan Ramczyk – OT, Wisconsin: The Lions need to make sure their prized possession (Matthew Stafford) stays upright in the pocket.

 

22   DOLPHINS

Jarrad Davis – LB, Florida: The ‘Fins could use a rock-solid linebacker with positional flexibility and a pit-bull mentality between the tackles.

 

23   GIANTS

Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson: Ben McAdoo’s quick-rhythm passing game is ideally suited to Watson’s game. With Eli Manning still a few years away from calling it quits, the Giants could patiently develop the Clemson standout until he is ready for the lead role.

 

24   RAIDERS

Tre’Davious White – CB, LSU: The Raiders can’t continue to ignore their pressing need on the island. White is an experienced cover corner capable of snuffing out wide receivers with his length and athleticism.

 

25   TEXANS

Cam Robinson – OT, Alabama: After struggling at right tackle for most of the season, the Texans could snag a premier road grader to shore up the running game.

 

26   SEAHAWKS

Quincy Wilson – CB, Florida: The ‘Hawks typically find their CB1s in the late stages of the draft but it might be time to invest in the position with Richard Sherman getting a little older.

 

27   CHIEFS

Reuben Foster – LB, Alabama: After watching Derrick Johnson suffer another injury, the Chiefs could decide to find a long-term replacement at the position. Foster not only brings some attitude and toughness, but he is an instinctive playmaker between the tackles.

 

28   COWBOYS

Charles Harris – DE, Missouri: The Cowboys still need to find a legitimate pass rusher to feature off the edge. Harris is a blue-collar worker with a rugged game and non-stop motor that fits the Cowboys’ profile.

 

29   PACKERS

O.J. Howard – TE, Alabama: If Jared Cook departs, the Packers could target the Alabama standout to fill a key role in the passing game.

 

30   STEELERS

Haason Reddick – OLB, Temple: If Lawrence Timmons leaves via free agency, the Steelers could turn to the Temple star to fill the void in the middle of the defense.

 

31   FALCONS

Adoree Jackson – CB, USC: The Falcons could use some more sizzle in the return game. Jackson certainly provides that and gives the Dirty Birds another feisty defender to add to the secondary.

 

32   PATRIOTS

Tim Williams – OLB, Alabama: If the Patriots can win without a dynamic rusher on the edge, imagine how the defense could play with an electric pass-rush specialist in the stable.