The Daily Briefing Monday, February 19, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Clip and save – Peter King guesses where the QBs, rookie and veteran, will end up:
It’s amazing, really. We could see four quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield) picked in the top 10 in the April draft. By the end of April, six of the NFL’s 12 top-rated quarterbacks from 2017 could either move on or begin to be moved out by their teams.
Alex Smith (first, with a 104.7 rating) will be traded from Kansas City to Washington, and will sign a four-year contract extension when the new league year begins March 14 … Drew Brees (second, 103.9) will likely re-sign with the Saints, but he’s free to sign anywhere come the start of free-agency March 14 … Case Keenum (seventh, 98.3) hopes to parlay a career year into a starting job and multi-year contract … Philip Rivers (ninth, 96.0) turns 37 this year, and could see the Chargers draft his heir, even coming off a very good year … Josh McCown (11th, 94.5) will be 39 in July, but coming off a career year, he could keep the seat warm for the Jets or another team drafting a quarterback of the future … Kirk Cousins (12th, 93.9) will be the most attractive vet on the street—assuming Washington doesn’t try to franchise him and trade him, which is possible but not likely.
So, in my first column this winter looking ahead to the off-season, I’m going to do the impossible: guess where each available quarterback will land. On May 1, after free agency and the draft, we’ll all have a good laugh over this column. Because I’ll be wrong on the vast majority, and maybe all. But we’ll go in order, and we’ll go by need.
Again, what follows are my team-by-team best guesses. Send me your pros and cons and best counter-arguments, and I’ll use my mailbag this week to give you your say on who’s going where.
Denver: Kirk Cousins. GM John Elway has made one mega-signing in his tenure: Peyton Manning, in 2012, when Elway was in desperate quarterback straits. To solve this problem again, I say Elway goes big. Cousins isn’t flawless, but he’s got seven or eight prime years left (he’s 29), and has put a premium on going somewhere he can win, somewhere with a good defense, and somewhere he can walk into the building every day excited about going to work. The Broncos, coming off a 5-11 year, haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971 and 1972, and my bet is on Elway, even at the ridiculous sum of something like $30 million a year, going hard after Cousins to make sure he doesn’t have to keep worrying about the position. In the last two years, Denver has employed the 23rd- and 29th-rated quarterback, Trevor Siemian. Elway’s had enough of mediocrity. One other thing that will play a role: Elway’s willingness to whack a couple of big-ticket defenders, Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe, from a tight cap situation. It could play a role in clearing enough cap room to fit Cousins onto the roster.
Arizona: A.J. McCarron. This would, of course, break Hue Jackson’s heart. But I just think the alternatives for McCarron are these: Go to Cleveland, and risk the Browns drafting a quarterback high in the first round, and risk being in the same place he was in Cincinnati, behind Andy Dalton, for the next three or four years … or go to Arizona (or another spot that won’t draft a passer high) and be handed the starting job on a team with a playoff defense. Not a very tough choice in my mind. Of course, when you’re guessing, no choice is very hard. Also: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arizona focus on Sam Bradford and pick a rookie in the first or second round to supplement him.
Cleveland: Sam Darnold and Sam Bradford. The reason Browns GM John Dorsey wanted Alex Smith, or even McCarron or another veteran, is because he wants to be competitive from the start this season. You sign Bradford because you know as long as he stays healthy (Ten days? Ten games?), he’s a top-12-caliber quarterback. But he’s played half the season in just two of his last five years, and so the Browns won’t be guaranteed anything except some sleepless nights if they sign Bradford. But no matter which veteran Cleveland gets (and McCarron is certainly a strong prospect here), Dorsey will backstop with a rookie, and Darnold, who needs a large dose of development, would be fine with a year or more of clipboard-holding.
New York Jets: Baker Mayfield and Josh McCown. To say that McCown made a positive impact on the Jets in his gap year would be a major understatement. He’s a selfless coach on the field, and he would love to spend 2018 doing what he tried to do in 2014 in Cleveland—usher Johnny Manziel into the ranks of respectable NFL starter. We know what happened there, and it wasn’t McCown’s fault. Mayfield is a marvelous talent, if a bit of a wild colt. He’d be a great fit with McCown and new and imaginative offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. And McCown can play (combined 90.8 rating over his last three seasons) until Mayfield’s ready. Now, here’s the other thing about the Jets. Everyone in the league knows they love Cousins, will hotly pursue Cousins, and could get Cousins. It would not surprise me at all. Bates would be a perfect teacher for him, because he has so much in common with his mentors in Washington, particularly Kyle Shanahan. So if I did this exercise two weeks from now, who knows? I could give Keenum to Denver and Cousins to the Jets.
New Orleans: Drew Brees and Luke Falk. I can’t see Brees, 39, going elsewhere. I see him playing out his last two or three years (or more) with Sean Payton, particularly with the Saints being on the cusp of another competitive run. Falk? Precision passer (69, 70, 67 percent accurate in his last three years at Washington State) who could use some development. You know who wouldn’t surprise me here? Tyrod Taylor. I think Payton could do very good things with him. By the way, I hear Payton loves Mayfield too. Hard to imagine, though, that Payton and GM Mickey Loomis could move up high enough from their first-round slot (27th overall) to get in position to get Mayfield.
New York Giants: Josh Allen. It could be Darnold or Josh Rosen too, obviously. Much smarter NFLers than I told me in the last few days they think GM Dave Gettleman will pass on a quarterback to fill another major need at number two overall, and I don’t doubt it. But the Giants have a 37-year-old quarterback who has been average at best for the past six years, and I don’t see New York passing on a good quarterback crop when the chance to get the next long-termer is there. Allen’s the kind of big, strong, developmental player (though his accuracy could be a big issue) who would be a good pupil under Manning and Pat Shurmur for the next couple of years. Or less.
Minnesota: Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater. This is too safe. I sort of hate it. Keenum will likely be more inclined to go somewhere with no summer competition for the starting job (Buffalo?), but he also knows his team intimately here, and he knows (or should know) how he’d flourish under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Bridgewater … I have no idea. What do you make of a guy who hasn’t played for two years, and who was not a sure long-term thing the last time he played? Seems the comfort-level play for him would be to stay for an incentive-laden deal.
Buffalo: Josh Rosen. The musical chairs are getting scarce. This could be a McCarron, Keenum or Bradford spot too. If Denver gets Cousins, I could see Elway dealing his one (fifth overall) for Buffalo’s two first-round picks (21, 22) and another high pick this year or next—I could see Tampa Bay, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco at seven through 10 in round one doing the same—to allow Buffalo to jump up and get a good quarterback prospect.
New England: Kyle Lauletta. I write about the Pats and Lauletta later in the column. But this is a year New England has to do what it did in 2014: find the heir to Tom Brady, who turns 41 in August. I can see the future now. In February 2022, I’m writing this column, and I’m writing new Patriots head coach Josh McDaniels saying, “Well, we know Tom just won the MVP, and he looks great even though he’s 45, but we’ve got to look out for the future too.”
Jacksonville: Mason Rudolph. The Jags will say all the right things about Blake Bortles, and actually mean a few of them. But they’ve got to backstop the position. Rudolph should still be there late in round one.
KEEPING THEIR EYES OPEN
Baltimore: Lamar Jackson. Joe Flacco’s last three years: 20-22, 52 touchdowns, 40 picks. Meh. Time to look around, and the versatile Jackson could be a weapon even when he’s not an every-down quarterback.
Miami: Tyrod Taylor. Never know about Ryan Tannehill, either from an injury or talent perspective. Taylor will fare well under mechanics specialist Adam Gase.
LA Chargers: Mike White. Wild guess. Good arm. The Chargers might find a third-rounder this year they believe is a good student of the game who could learn well from Philip Rivers for the next two or three years.
So Nick Foles stays in Philadelphia, Jacoby Brissett stays in Indianapolis. I think I’ve answered all your questions now. Also, if you’d like, I could advise you on some really great Lotto numbers I’ve got for tonight.
A new deal for QB AARON RODGERS is said to be just a few months away per Pete Dougherty:
As the quarterback dominoes fall, the landscape for Aaron Rodgers’ next contract gets a little clearer.
Matthew Stafford signed a new deal with Detroit last August that made him the highest-paid player in the NFL. Jimmy Garoppolo topped that this month, getting a rich new deal from San Francisco.
And when free agency opens, Kirk Cousins almost surely will pass that.
But there’s still plenty to be determined for Rodgers, who will be in line for a record-setting contract this offseason, assuming the Green Bay Packers work aggressively to extend their quarterback’s deal with two years left on it. That’s a fairly safe assumption. They don’t want to let Rodgers get inside of two years if they can help it.
But if the most recent quarterback deals have helped clarify Rodgers’ parameters, there still are several factors in play as negotiations commence. Among them is whether the Packers place much priority on getting a deal done before free agency begins in mid-March so they will have a good idea what their salary cap will look like going forward.
Also, there’s the very important question of just how hard Rodgers will try to maximize his deal. Will he be more like Peyton Manning, who pushed for the most money he could get? Or will Rodgers again be more like he was in 2013, when he signed what has to be characterized as a team-friendly deal on his last contract extension?
The Stafford and Garoppolo deals have made the basic outline of a Rodgers deal clearer. The best guess is that somehow, someway Rodgers will become the first NFL player to average $30 million a year. He also will receive the largest full guarantee. But there are a lot of ways to get there from here.
Last August, Stafford signed a five-year extension with Detroit that averages $27 million a season. Now, here we get into the new-money, old-money thing. That $27 million per is new money. If you include the final season he had left on the contract, Stafford’s average dips slightly, to $26.2 million over six years. But that doesn’t seem to matter. Most people in the NFL have accepted new money as the standard. Fine.
Stafford also received $60.5 million in full guarantees. That means he gets the money as long he attempts to play football. That’s the highest full guarantee ever. (Initial reports of Alex Smith’s new deal with Washington, which won’t be official until his trade can be validated in March, had his guarantees at $71 million. But that undoubtedly includes guarantees for injury, which are paid only if the player sustains an injury that prevents him from passing a physical. You can bet Smith’s fully guaranteed money is more in the $40 million range and nothing near $71 million.)
Recently, Garoppolo topped Stafford with a new, five-year deal that averages $27.5 million and included $48.7 million fully guaranteed. He had plenty of leverage despite making only seven NFL starts, because he was set to be a free agent after going a promising 5-0 with the 49ers to finish the season.
Cousins will be able to sign with anyone, so it’s a good bet he’ll top Garoppolo. An agent with whom I had a long conversation last week estimated Cousins will come in at an average of $28 million to $28.5 million.
Either way, Rodgers should be shooting for $30 million. But there’s some wiggle room, as long as he hits it with the new money. Remember, he has two years left on his deal worth a total of $41 million.
The last time Rodgers signed an extension, in 2013, he was in a position much like now. He was one of the top two or three quarterbacks in the league (he’d won a Super Bowl in 2010 and was MVP in ’11). He also had two years left on his contract, which meant the Packers had some leverage, as they do now. If Rodgers wants big money in hand now rather than risk catastrophic injury the next two years, he’ll have to give up a little something.
Rodgers made out well in 2013, but even at the time he signed it, the deal looked relatively team-friendly. The five-year extension made him the highest-paid player in new money at the time ($22 million a year) but the actual average over seven years was $17.7 million. He could have squeezed more out of the Packers if he’d really wanted to. Or he could have waited and hit them really big two years later.
Will he do something similar again? That’s up to him and his agent. There are ways to structure a deal to make it attractive even if on balance it’s a good deal for the team — for instance, a huge amount of the contract could be fully guaranteed, for instance, providing maximum security instead of maximum salary.
But if Rodgers is inclined to do something relatively team-friendly, he’ll have to be convinced new general manager Brian Gutekunst will use the savings to fortify the roster. Is there any reason to think former GM Ted Thompson didn’t fall short in Rodgers’ eyes there?
“He’s going to want some immediate-impact type stuff,” the aforementioned agent said.
As for the timing of a new deal, when Rodgers signed the extension in ’13, the news broke draft weekend in late April. With the stakes involved, it could take until at least the draft, if not later, again this time.
But there’s also the possibility the Packers will push to extend him before the start of free agency March 14. That way they’ll know exactly how their cap looks for the next two or three years regarding their highest-priced player.
Working against that fast timeline is Cousins. Rodgers very well might want to see what Cousins gets on the open market first. Cousins is a good player, but he isn’t in Rodgers’ class. If Cousins gets a ridiculous deal, then Rodgers will gain even more leverage.
“Probably best for Aaron to keep waiting, market can only get better,” emailed one source who works on NFL contracts.
As for what Rodgers’ deal might look like, assuming the sides can reach an agreement this offseason, it could go a lot of different ways.
One possibility that has come up in national media is a percentage of the cap. The franchise-tag numbers are based on that, and someday a player will get a percentage deal that will bring raises as the cap rises. But it won’t be Rodgers. He’s the rare player who’s good enough to get it, but with two years left on his contract, he simply doesn’t have the leverage.
If he and the Packers approach this like last time, they will add five years and about $150 million to Rodgers’ deal, with about half that fully guaranteed.
But the agent I spoke with offered a more novel possibility as well. He wondered if the sides might add, say, only three years and $90 million or $95 million, but fully guarantee the whole thing. That would be a first, a fully guaranteed long-term deal in the NFL. It would get Rodgers to $30 million or more in new money and leave the Packers on the hook if catastrophe struck, but it would be more than palatable as part of a five-year deal.
The Packers have a projected $16.9 million in cap room, and team vice president Russ Ball could structure Rodgers’ deal to create more room if he, Gutekunst and CEO Mark Murphy desire. That’s where guaranteed money, whether as a bonus or in guaranteed salary, allows for a lot of flexibility.
However it goes, Rodgers will come out of this with a record-breaking contract. The Packers don’t absolutely have to do an extension; he still has the two years left on his deal. But they should. The price will only go up if they wait.
Todd Downing will be joining the Vikings staff. Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
When the Vikings get back on the practice field in Eagan this spring, they’ll do so with the one coach on their staff who can call their location of their former practice facility — Eden Prairie — his hometown.
The Vikings are hiring former Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing as a senior offensive assistant, according to a league source. Downing, who was let go by the Raiders when Jon Gruden became the team’s new head coach in January, returns to the team that gave him his first job in the NFL.
The 37-year-old, who was an assistant coach at Eden Prairie High School in 1999 and 2000, went from there to a role on former Vikings coach Mike Tice’s offensive staff, holding three different titles from 2001-05. He worked for the Rams and the Lions after that, becoming a quarterbacks coach for the first time in 2011, and after spending 2014 as the Bills’ quarterbacks coach, he replaced new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo as the Raiders’ QB coach in 2015.
His work with Derek Carr won him widespread praise in 2016, and Oakland made Downing its offensive coordinator in 2017, as the 37-year-old replaced former Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Under Downing, the Raiders’ offense ranked 17th in the NFL in yards and 23rd in points last season.
The additions of Downing and DeFilippo, as well as the Vikings’ decision not to let quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski interview for the New York Giants’ offensive coordinator opening, means the team will have an infusion of youth among its most prominent voices in the passing game next season; DeFilippo, who turns 40 on April 12, is the oldest of the three coaches.
– – –
With three ways to go from last year’s roster – SAM BRADFORD, TEDDY BRIDGEWATER and CASE KEENUM in alphabetical order – there are rumors the Vikings may look at Door Number 4. Charley Walters in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press offers no attribution or reason for his pronouncement though.
It looks like a new quarterback is about to enter the mix Vikings’ quarterback mix. Should Minnesota be unable to re-sign free agent Case Keenum, it is expected to consider AJ McCarron.
McCarron, 27, on Thursday was ruled an unrestricted free agent after winning a grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals, for whom he was primarily a backup to Andy Dalton.
McCarron, the former Alabama star, will be considered, more seriously, by several other teams besides the Vikings, including Cleveland, Arizona, Denver and the New York Jets. His price tag is expected to be in the $10 million per year range.
If the Vikings were to sign McCarron, it would be for him to compete for the starting job, not as a backup.
This from Peter King:
“It starts off as a normal conversation and then it turns into tears. And I simply just say, ‘I understand. Trust me, I’ve been in Philly. I get it.”
—Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, on meeting long-time fans of the Eagles who can’t quite muster the ability to have a normal conversation with the man who has delivered a dream, on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
I think it appears interim Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is the favorite to take over the full-time Carolina GM job after being cleared by the NFL of harassment claims by his ex-wife. Which is the best decision the team could make. With Hurney free of the claims now, and judged innocent, his role as the favorite for the permanent job should not be affected.
Peter King defines receiving greatness strictly by catches here:
Larry Fitzgerald, who has played 14 NFL seasons, had his best regular seasons in years 12, 13 and 14, with 109, 107 and 109 catches. He’ll play a 15th year in 2018.
Don’t get the DB wrong, we still love the current LARRY FITZGERALD. But he used to have nearly as many catches and average about 14 yards per grab. Now, he gets 10 per.
More praise from King:
I think if you want to know why Larry Fitzgerald, who will return for a 15th season with a new coach and quarterback in 2018 in Arizona, should be judged as one of the best receivers ever—say, certainly in the top five—consider these nuggets:
• If he has a normal season in 2018 based on recent history, he’ll finish next year with about 200 more receptions than any wideout who ever played other than Rice, and with 500 or so more receiving yards than anyone who ever played, save Rice.
• Rice had Steve Young or Joe Montana as his quarterback in 85 percent of his career starts. Fitzgerald had Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer for 51 percent of his career starts.
• In the five seasons he’s played since turning 30, Fitzgerald has missed three games due to injury (all in 2014).
I think—and have for a year now—that 2017 was not going to be Fitzgerald’s last year. Too many footprints he wants to leave in the sand. When the NFL elects its 100th anniversary team in three years, my bet is Fitzgerald, who has significant respect for history and loves to be a major part of it, would want badly to be one of the four wide receivers on that team. Who would they be? Just a guess: Don Hutson, Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, and either Steve Largent or Randy Moss. Could be different, of course, because the candidate list at that position will be very strong.
An influx of arriving cornerbacks, make Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com think that the Chiefs have grown weary of CB MARCUS PETERS.
With the Chiefs adding veteran cornerback David Amerson and, officially in three weeks, acquiring cornerback Kendall Fuller as part of the Alex Smith trade, some in league circles are wondering whether the Chiefs will be making another transaction involving a cornerback.
The question being asked is whether Marcus Peters, a first-round pick in 2015, is available in trade.
Peters has become one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, but Peters has at times been a bit of a handful for the Chiefs. The situation came to a head last season, when he seemed to try to get himself ejected, then seemed to assume he was ejected when he wasn’t, then returned to the sidelines with his uniform on and socks off, showing no intent to return to action.
The incident, along with an argument with a coach, got Peters suspended for a game. For the Chiefs, it quietly may have been the last straw.
Subject to a fifth-year option, the Chiefs (or whoever holds his contractual rights) will have to decide by early May whether to extend the contract through 2019. As the new league year approaches, Peters has become a name to watch for a possible trade — especially with the guy who drafted him four years ago now the G.M. in Cleveland.
Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thinks the return of WR TERRELLE PRYOR could be in order.
Hey, Mary Kay: Are the Browns going to pursue Terrelle Pryor? — Stan Foltz, Garden Ridge, Texas
Hey, Stan: I do believe the Browns will pursue Pryor, and I think he would want to come back to Cleveland. I don’t think he ever he really wanted to leave in the first place, but before he could work something out with the the Browns, they had signed Kenny Britt to the four-year, $32.5 million deal they originally offered Pryor, and the opportunity dried up. Critics would argue that Pryor didn’t fare well in Washington, but he was suffering from an ankle injury that required surgery in November. Before going on injured reserve, he appeared in nine games, catching 20 passes for 240 yards and a TD, almost the same as what Britt did here before the Browns cut him. Pryor will be a free agent in March, and will be on the Browns’ radar.
We’re rooting for LB RYAN SHAZIER:
Colbert says Ryan Shazier works out daily at Steelers facility, then meets with coaches, then meets with scouts, then goes to outpatient rehab.
“Never once has he said Why me?”
Peter King offers hope with a comparison:
First two choices in the coaching search for the 1996 Bucs: Jimmy Johnson, Steve Spurrier.
First two choices in the coaching search for the 2018 Colts: Josh McDaniels, Mike Vrabel.
The Bucs, spurned, picked Tony Dungy. Seven seasons later, they won the Super Bowl.
The Colts, spurned, picked Frank Reich.
Of course, Jon Gruden won that Super Bowl, not Dungy as the DB is oft reminded. Still, Colts fans have every reason to wish for a second coach of Dungy’s caliber.
The Patriots rounded up to pay DT LAWRENCE GUY an incentive bonus. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:
The Patriots have a reputation for being tough at the negotiating table, but they have also shown a more sensitive side in certain situations. What they did for defensive tackle Lawrence Guy on Feb. 15 is one example.
Similar to how the team adjusted the incentives in offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer’s contract in 2014 to give him a better chance to earn them when circumstances changed, the Patriots rewarded the hard-working Guy with a $500,000 renegotiation signing bonus, per documents filed with the NFL Players Association (and first noted by Twitter follower @IanWhetstone).
The $500,000 renegotiation signing bonus was a result of Guy missing a $500,000 playing time incentive by less than 1 percent from this past season. Guy would have earned $500,000 if he played in 55 percent of the defensive snaps in 2017. He played 54.8 percent, in part because of a limited workload (27 of 59 plays) in the season finale against the Jets as the game was in hand and resting Guy — who is a starter — became more of a priority.
Guy’s agent, Jack Scharf, declined comment when asked about the $500,000 bonus.
Nonetheless, it is a kind gesture, and reflects how Guy has earned the respect of the Patriots’ brass, specifically Bill Belichick.
– – –
Two names to watch to take JOEY GAROPPOLO’s place as the heir in waiting (and waiting and waiting) for TOM BRADY from Peter King:
New England picks 31st, 41st or 42nd (it will be San Francisco’s pick, and a coin flip will determine which of these slots the Patriots will own) and 63rd. You’ve got to think sometime between 31 and 63, New England gets its new Garoppolo, the long-term replacement for Father Time, aka Tom Brady.
Todd McShay of ESPN thinks either Luke Falk of Washington State or Kyle Lauletta of Richmond could fit the bill for New England somewhere after the top 30 picks. McShay says: “Highly driven, very intelligent, accurate passers who both lived in the pocket, very good at going through their progressions. Lauletta has a slightly bigger arm, and he was impressive in how he carried himself at the Senior Bowl.”
The Senior Bowl is where each man got noticed. In 2014, A.J. McCarron dropped out of the Senior Bowl, and the first alternate at quarterback was Garoppolo, who hustled to Mobile after playing in the East-West game the previous Saturday. By week’s end, writing about the 10 most impressive in Senior Bowl practices, former NFL safety Matt Bowen listed Garoppolo as his most impressive player of the week. In 2018, Lauletta was an unheralded FCS player behind the more storied Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. But Lauletta was the Senior Bowl’s biggest star, completing eight of 12 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly wrote about Lauletta at the Senior Bowl, and Lauletta told Edholm he’s been compared to Garoppolo a lot, and thinks he’d fit with the Patriots because he “processes information well.”
Comparing the numbers between the two:
Jimmy Garoppolo 2014 Kyle Lauletta 2018
School Eastern Illinois Richmond
Level of play FCS (I-AA) FCS (I-AA)
Height 6-2 ¼ 6-2 ½
Weight 226 217
Arm length 31.00 30.75
Hand size 9.25 inches 9.62 inches
40 times 4.97 seconds 4.85 (estimated)
Accuracy 62.8% career 63.5% career
Draft pick 63rd overall TBD
Whoever the Patriots pick—assuming it’s a draft choice they use to pick their long-term development quarterback and heir to Brady—you can bet Josh McDaniels will have a lot to say about the process. It’s McDaniels whose head-coaching prospects could be tied most closely to whoever succeeds Brady.
Here are some other reasons (you may say, really?) to see synchronicity between Belichick and Lauletta. Will Brinson of CBSSports.com was among those noting this connection during Senior Bowl Week:
As detailed by Eric Edholm over at Pro Football Weekly, the three-year starter for the Spiders is the ideal candidate to play “Bill Belichick Bingo.” He checks the boxes for things Belichick loves and he checks them quickly.
For starters, he has experience and has shown to be an accurate passer who minimizes mistakes. Lauletta threw 73 touchdown passes over four years (three as starter for Richmond) to just 35 interceptions. That’s not a perfect ratio, but he is playing at an FCS-level school.
But digging past just the stats you see a guy Belichick could drool over.
Lauletta comes from a family full of lacrosse players and was “a big lacrosse guy” himself.
“I was a big lacrosse guy, absolutely,” Lauletta told Edlhom from the 2018 Senior Bowl. “For a while I thought I might enjoy playing that in college. I just enjoy football more. I think it’s a better team sport. But I’ve always grown up a lacrosse guy. My dad was an All-American in high school. My uncle played in college.”
Belichick is, quite notoriously, a huge LAX bro. He has visited Johns Hopkins team to see them practice, and has actually practiced with the Maryland lacrosse team before. He’s talked/joked about how Brady would make a great lacrosse goalie (“can’t dodge, can’t run”) and named lacrosse positions for all his players. He will sit down with Lauletta and have some LAX talk. That’s a guarantee.
“You think about skills on the lacrosse field that translate to football — toughness, change of direction, lot of good things that helped me in football,” Lauletta said.
LAX. TALK. BRO. Pats scouts even found out about Lauletta loving lacrosse and said “Belichick will love this” according to the quarterback.
But wait, there’s more. The Richmond quarterback is also a product of a family who spent significant time around the Naval Academy and the football program there.
Lauletta’s father was a quarterback for the Naval Academy in the mid-’80s, per Edholm, and his uncle Lex was also a PUNTER for Navy in the mid-’70s.
This is the perfect storm. Belichick is very passionate about the service academy, after his father Steve coached there, and Belichick is a huge history/war buff. Belichick loves punters too, as he is the ultimate football geek.
And then there’s this — according to Lauletta, he’s been compared by people to Jimmy G multiple times.
“Jimmy Garoppolo, an FCS guy, a guy I’ve been compared to a few times throughout the process,” Lauletta said. “He’s a great guy to be compared to; he’s doing really, really well. That whole system they have, the success speaks for itself.”
I mean, COME ON. There’s a LAX-playing, LAX-loving FCS quarterback who had a Navy quarterback dad and a Navy quarterback father and has drawn Jimmy G comparisons in draft process? Belichick is about to turn into a human heart-eyes emoji on this one.
Go ahead and use that second-round pick from the 49ers on this robot sent from the future to be Bill Belichick’s perfect quarterback.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets want TE AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS back, but for now he is playing hard to get. Ralph Vacchiano in the New York Daily News:
He caught 50 passes (plus two others that were overturned on controversial replay rulings), and that’s a miracle for a Jet tight end — especially considering he seemed to be underused all year. He’s 25 and still has untapped potential, especially now that he’s turned his life around. He already turned down a two-year, $8 million deal that was short on guarantees and total value. Chances are the two sides will talk again and work something out.
Is he really only 25? Seems like he has been around longer.
THIS AND THAT
Did Peyton Manning contribute to this report from Peter King?
I think the best TV fit for Peyton Manning might be FOX—and as the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported, FOX and ESPN both want him for weeknight prime-time games this year—for three reasons.
• The FOX deal is for 11 games a year, and it’s on Thursday nights, which means Manning could dip his toe in the water of TV without being married to it for a long season. Manning could be home every week in Denver by 3 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, and not leave again till Tuesday evening, if he chooses. And his work would be 11 weeks long, not 19 or 20 including playoffs.
• Manning, I believe, eventually wants to be an Elway or a Jeter, a guy who runs his own team. This would allow him to fact-find with good coaches and GMs for free, and allow him to see the teams that do it the right way and the teams that do it wrong. Jon Gruden can tell him how much you can learn by sitting in on productions meetings with the coaches and players you’ll either be trying to beat in a couple of years—or trying to hire.
• Though I don’t think Manning wants to be a TV guy, this is a low commitment way that will allow him to find that out for sure.
Manning’s good friend John Lynch could also tell him about the value of production meetings.
Would it just be for 11 games? There are also going to be some FOX-produced Thursday night game on NFL Network. And there should be one playoff game for the Thursday night analyst.
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Interesting story about ESPN from Deadspin:
On February 13, ESPN published an article from Mike Rodak about Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown and the improvements he made in the offseason that helped him become the NFL’s leading tackler last season. Brown credits his improvement to playing 10 pounds lighter thanks to a superior diet, and specifically, cutting out the Wendy’s wraps that sustained him for the first three years of his career. The initial headline of the post was: “How avoiding Wendy’s helped Preston Brown become NFL’s lead tackler.”
However, it now reads “How a diet helped turn Preston Brown into NFL’s leading tackler.” The post’s URL still reflects its initial headline, and while you won’t find any links to the post on ESPN’s NFL Facebook or Twitter pages, @ESPNNFL did post a tweet reading “The key to becoming the NFL’s leading tackler? Don’t eat Wendy’s.” That tweet was quietly deleted after the brand’s own Twitter account responded, and a Facebook post bearing the same copy was also deleted, though a cached version is still available.
A source told Deadspin that ESPN only did so after being pressured by Wendy’s, an ESPN advertising partner. Per our source, Wendy’s threatened to pull sponsorships, which led to the quiet deletion of the social media posts and the headline change. The post-hoc alteration of the story’s packaging is similar in kind, if not degree, to a mess BuzzFeed got itself into a few years ago, when they deleted several posts due to pressure from its own business department.
Rodak did not respond to a request for comment, while an ESPN spokesperson told Deadspin that changes were due to “simple editing. Brown cites multiple reasons he lost weight in the article, and after it posted, an editor read it and thought singling out a single reason didn’t accurately represent the reporting.” Wendy’s also did not respond to a request for comment.
This week’s Wendy’s incident does not seem to be the first instance of ESPN changing the packaging of a story because of an advertiser. ESPN’s sales department also held up an Oct. 2016 story on Packers tight end Jared Cook finding a revolting chicken head in his Buffalo Wild Wings order. Internal emails obtained by Deadspin show that ESPN sales personnel asked for the image in Cook’s gross tweet of the bird’s fried skull not to make its way onto ESPN or social channels or shows like SportsCenter.
“They spend a lot of money with us….can we avoid this?” one asked. “Can we make sure we don’t use this […] they’re a big spender with us. This is truly nasty, but may hurt us with an important client,” another wrote. In this case, it appears Buffalo Wild Wings was not involved in the process, though sales still dictated editorial decisions.
Peter King debates whether or not you should take a back, even one as can’t-miss as RB SEQUON BARKLEY with an early first round pick:
The recent history of rookie running backs suggests to me that picking Barkley, the Penn State star and very highly rated running back, in the top five would be … well, I won’t call it a mistake. Because a great player is a great player. But I am saying the history of this position shows a team might be much better off solving its needs at another position and getting the back later in the draft.
2017: Offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara was the 67th overall pick, the fifth back picked overall. NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt was the 86th overall pick, the sixth back picked overall.
2016: Jordan Howard, the 10th back chosen and 150th overall pick, finished second in rushing as a rookie. The 13th back picked, Alex Collins, has developed into the Ravens’ number one and stalwart back.
2015: Seventh running back picked: David Johnson (86th overall), who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2016 with 2,118 … Thirteenth running back picked: Jay Ajayi, 149th overall.
2014: Devonta Freeman (ninth back picked, 103rd overall) is the Falcons’ franchise back.
And so on.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has Barkley as his highest-rated player in the draft. “Adrian Peterson is the last back I gave a higher grade to,” McShay told me. “But I hear you. The question I would ask is, say I needed a pass-rusher—really needed one. Would I pass on [North Carolina State’s] Bradley Chubb to take Barkley in the top five, then try to get a rusher near the top of the second round? If you’re picking 33, 35, 38 [overall], I can tell you that you’ll have a chance to get a running back with a first-round grade who will be very productive for you. But the pass-rushers may be gone by then.”
I’m not ignoring the greatness of Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, all of who were top-10 picks and have played great. But the average overall pick for Kamara, Hunt and David Johnson—each of whom are either franchise backs or verging on that title—was number 80. I just think smart teams can solve franchise-player needs high in the first round elsewhere, and get a very good back down the line. History backs it up.
The DB thinks King simplifies things just a bit, because the draft is littered with “pass rushers” drafted early who never get to the passer. Some examples are LEONARD WILLIAMS, 6th overall by the Jets in 2015; DION JORDAN, 3rd overall in 2013; BARKEVIOUS MINGO, 6th overall by the Browns in 2013; QUINTON COPLES, 16th overall to the Jets in 2012, etc.
So you are better off with say TODD GURLEY III than you are with LEONARD WILLIAMS. The key is to get a really good player in the early part of the first round – and not blow it on a mediocrity, no matter what the position.