AROUND THE NFL
Peter King of TheMMQB outlines the offseason QB market, as he sees it, with an emphasis on TONY ROMO:
Let’s take a morning to set the table for the event of this off-season: the re-setting of the quarterback market in the NFL.
The future of Tony Romo is the most compelling story of all. He’ll be 37 in April. He’s missed 27 of his last 32 games due to injury, and by the time he’d suit up for anyone next September (if he does, and we’ll get to that), Romo will have played one series of football in 21 months. Of course the question is: How do you count on Romo, at all? But some team will, and rightfully so, because it’s a good gamble. It’s not a good gamble for a lot of guaranteed money, but Romo shouldn’t care about money at this stage. He should care about the opportunity he’s always wanted—to take a team deep into the playoffs, which he may well have done last year but for the Cliff Avril hit/awkward fall in the preseason game at Seattle that kayoed Romo with another back injury for all but one offensive series of 2016.
Let’s line up the pool of players, and the needy teams, and try to forecast who’s going where—or at least give you a best guess.
Vet likely to be franchised
Kirk Cousins, Washington
I am stunned Washington GM Scot McCloughan could pay Cousins the whopper franchise number of $24 million a year, particularly when there’s a sense the franchise likes him a lot but isn’t sold on him. But what’s the alternative? If Washington doesn’t franchise him, San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan steals him. The Niners still could steal Cousins after being franchised—and after the draft—by signing him and hoping Washington doesn’t match but rather takes the 49ers’ first-round picks in 2018 and 2019. (If not franchised and signed before the draft, Cousins would fetch a team’s 2017 and 2018 first-rounders, trouble because San Francisco owns the second overall pick in April.) Washington blanches at the thought of paying Cousins $44 million over 2016 and 2017, but it’s more likely than not to happen. The alternative, losing Cousins and not having a remotely sure thing in the wings, is worse.
Vets who could be available or are free agents
Jimmy Garoppolo, New England
Tony Romo, Dallas
A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati
Jay Cutler, Chicago
Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay
Brian Hoyer, Chicago
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets
Nick Foles, Kansas City
The Garoppolo story will be fun to see play out, and I’m in the minority here, but I don’t see the Patriots trading him. He’s the first legit heir to Tom Brady that the franchise has had. Brady’s going to be 40 in August. Bill Belichick has never been a slave to high picks. I just think he’d rather have the insurance of Garoppolo with Brady in the saddle at 40. Cleveland and Chicago like Garoppolo, and I’d be surprised if Shanahan doesn’t … More about Romo later, but Houston and Kansas City look like the best landing spots for him, with a contract befitting an old quarterback with a long injury history … McCarron wants to play somewhere, and he knows that Andy Dalton (three starts missed in six seasons) isn’t giving up the chair. He could be an interesting fallback guy for, say, Chicago if the Bears flunk out on their two or three top choices … Cutler? I’m not going to be shocked if he ends up in Arizona … There’s a risk to everyone else, but Glennon could get paid somewhere. I would just remind those GMs on the Glennon trail to study the lesson of the last tall mostly benchwarmer to get irrationally paid. And see where Brock Osweiler is right now.
Top college prospects
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
I’d hate to be in the seats of Hue Jackson and Sashi Brown in Cleveland, or Shanahan and rookie GM John Lynch in San Francisco, or GM Ryan Pace in Chicago. Trubisky started one year and looked good, but a one-year starter in college football, who had some clunkers in that season? Tough call … Kizer is more seasoned. Watson has been better in the biggest games. Mahomes might have the biggest upside. The combine’s going to be very interesting, because it’ll start the clock on the test of a huge-game player like Watson, with people in and out of the NFL putting him to the test to see exactly what he is, on and off the field.
And now for the teams who will be in the market for quarterbacks—either starters, or, in some case, for teams that might not need one now but will be in the market for one this off-season:
• Cleveland (1st, 12th picks in the first round). The Browns have to get a quarterback this off-season, and the quarterback can’t be an RG3-type placeholder or a Cody Kessler-shot-in-the-dark guess. I’m guessing the Browns inquire on Garoppolo and get rebuffed—unless they offer the 12th overall pick plus another high pick. At this stage, the Browns lead the league in high picks acquired, and it’s gotten them to the bottom of the league. Now it’s time to pay through the nose if there’s a quarterback Jackson loves. Then we come to the college guys. If Trubisky’s the guy, just take him first overall, as crazy as it sounds. But if Jackson is lukewarm on the top collegians, he likes McCarron a lot (he coached him as a Bengal rookie), and can fall back on him. He’ll just have to overpay, because Cincinnati owner Mike Brown does not want to trade him. The Browns have the 33rd, 51st and 65th picks to play with if McCarron’s their man.
• San Francisco (2nd pick in the first round). Too dangerous to predict. Shanahan’s been a head coach for 15 minutes and John Lynch a GM for 25. But I do feel it’s likely Shanahan will let Colin Kaepernick walk, do everything he can to try to figure a way to wrangle Cousins from Washington, and then, if that fails, study the college quarterbacks and find the one who fits his system the best. I’d just be guessing what the outcome is here.
• Chicago (3rd pick in the first round). This just looks like Trubisky or Kizer to me, or maybe Mahomes in the second round, or as a late-first-round tradeup. The Bears need to start over, as does Cutler.
• New York Jets (6th pick in the first round). There’s been zero positive buzz out of the Jets on last year’s newest heir to the Namath throne, Christian Hackenberg. He never came close to even getting in a game last season, as though the Jets were afraid to shatter the kid. I think the Jets would seriously consider Mike Glennon or Tyrod Taylor (if the Bills cuts him loose, which could be an 11th-hour call). Cutler was new QB coach Jeremy Bates’ pupil in Chicago, and the two are close, but it sounds like the Jets don’t want to go with the dour Bear. Whatever the Jets do, they’re as far from identifying and training and winning with a quarterback of the future as they’ve been for years.
• Los Angeles Chargers (7th pick in first round). They need a down-the-road successor for 35-year-old Philip Rivers. There’s time, and they won’t do it in the first round. But if, say, Mahomes is around with the 38th overall pick in round two, and if GM Tom Telesco likes him a lot, don’t be surprised to see a Rivers heir go off the board.
• Buffalo (10th pick in the first round). Moot if the Bills hang onto Taylor, and there is a better chance they do than there was before, with new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison in the house. As our Albert Breer astutely points out, Dennison was on the Ravens’ staff in 2014 and liked Taylor enough there to support the Broncos trying to sign him in 2015, when Dennison went to Denver as offensive coordinator.
• Arizona (13th pick in the first round). Name the counter-culture coach who likes to take shots on guys hated by lots of down-the-middle coaches and GMs, who is the biggest proponent of the deep ball of any coach in football, and who may need said deep ball thrower because his quarterback turns 38 this year. I think I just made a Bruce Arians-Jay Cutler marriage—and Arizona can wait till the Bears cut him and sign Cutler for two years and incentives. This doesn’t mean Arizona won’t aggressively scout college kids though.
• Washington (17th pick in the first round). Doubt it comes to this, but imagine the Niners hijack Cousins, and do it after the draft. That’s why Washington has to do its due diligence on the quarterbacks in this draft.
• Houston (25th pick in the first round).
• Kansas City (27th pick in the first round).
See what I did there? Space intentionally left blank. Neither team has to do anything major. The Texans have a great defense and are likely to play Tom Savage at quarterback in Week 1. The Chiefs have a very good defense and are likely to play Alex Smith at quarterback in Week 1.
That’s where Tony Romo comes into play. Some knowledge about Romo first. It’s likely he plays somewhere in 2017, and I say that because I know he had a chance to get at least one very good off-field job offer since the end of the regular season. He didn’t do it, because he still wants to play. He knows everyone thinks he’s a piece of fine china and will crack if dropped to the floor. There’s nothing he can do about that other than to play.
The Cowboys will do the right thing by Romo, who is closer than most players would be to Jerry Jones. Romo helped coach COO Stephen Jones’ son, John Stephen Jones, who led his Dallas high school to a state championship last fall. Romo was at the game, sitting with the Jones family. Jerry Jones knows Romo wants one more shot at playing, and though the cap implications are onerous, those close to the Cowboys believe in the end he’ll likely do what Romo wants. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has stressed, that’s likely a release. No one’s trading for that contract, and if they would, they wouldn’t give much except a future conditional pick anyway.
Given his druthers, Houston coach Bill O’Brien would likely rather have Garoppolo, a long-termer with a grounding in the tough, Patriot Way coaching he’d get under O’Brien. And the buzz around the team is that Savage will have every opportunity to win the job. The 2017 season will be O’Brien’s fourth. He’s made the playoff twice in three seasons, with Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler his forgettable quarterbacks, and O’Brien knows this is a vital year for him and for his program. With Romo, O’Brien would have the veteran winner he’s longed for—and a coachable veteran winner. And if Romo got hurt, he’d have Savage. Seeing that he’s thought all along Savage would probably be his guy this year, why not upgrade there?
In Kansas City, Andy Reid has seen the ceiling of Alex Smith, and it is nice. Nice, as in final eight of the NFL … not as is final two. Reid has never minded upsetting the apple cart for a potentially special player. Romo would be that. Smith is mature enough to take this, to understand the addition of Romo would be good for the team. Smith wouldn’t pout. He’d be a team guy. That’s why the Chiefs make sense too.
Romo’s druthers, I think, would be to stay in Texas. Houston’s a 40-minute private-plane ride. Kansas City’s double that. Romo’s got his third child on the way and loves the Dad life. Houston, being significantly closer, makes more sense—and that’s even before considering the Texans’ defense and skill players are very good. And considering that J.J. Watt’s return in 2017 might make the defense untouchable, though Watt’s health makes that impossible to predict. Then again, Romo’s health is impossible to predict. But I’ve said this since the end of the season: Houston makes the most sense for Romo.
Now smart football people, and a quarterback determined to have his one last hurrah in a place where he knows he can win, have to make that happen.
Here’s Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com on the same subject:
..as we try to sort through what may or may not happen with the various quarterbacks who could be changing addresses, like Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins. The reality, as best I can determine, is that nothing much has really changed with any of them since last I weighed in on their prospects prior to the Super Bowl. But, with so much swirling around and the speculation mounting, I’ll do my best to parse out some fact from fiction.
Where does Tony Romo end up?
Much is being made of how Romo is going to disentangle himself from the Cowboys. And I get that, considering he is someone who will be in the franchise’s ring of honor one day and who is one of owner Jerry Jones’ all-time favorite players. He’s a franchise QB who has experienced his share of highs and lows in Dallas. The larger point is, he won’t be back in Dallas and he will be starting elsewhere next season and we’ve known that for quite some time. Sources said Romo has yet to have a formal conversation with Jones about his immediate future, and that’s likely to take place before the Cowboys’ contingent leaves for Indianapolis, and that will be an emotional exchange for each individual.
But just to be clear: Romo doesn’t have a mandate or expectation about his next NFL transaction. He isn’t dictating or demanding anything to the Cowboys, nor does he intend to do so. He understands the NFL and the salary cap and the business side of things, and is a very shrewd businessman in his own right. Sure, there are certain teams he would prefer, and nothing much has changed with that since I last reported on his situation, other than Carson Palmer affirming he’s coming back for 2017, which means Arizona is out. Houston, Kansas City and Denver remain the most intriguing destinations for Romo.
And Romo is plenty smart enough to know there are things he can do to facilitate a trade with one of those teams if need be. Would it be ideal to simply be released and able to sign any contract he wants with the team of his choosing? Sure. But if Jones, who now finds himself in Super Bowl or bust mode in 2017, can get a third-round pick for him, and find a cheap five-year starter with that pick to contribute to a potential championship run, it would be foolish to not at least explore those options when everyone gathers in Indy. The fact is, no one knows precisely how this will unfold — not Romo, not even Jones — but all can agree that there is no feasible path to seeing Romo back in Dallas next season.
Beyond that, Romo “expects” nothing.
The exact mechanism that leads to his departure will unfold in due time, and in the meantime he is working out like a demon and is prepared to throw himself into the offseason program wherever he lands in hopes of winning a Lombardi Trophy himself. The thought of going to a rebuilding team obviously doesn’t make much sense at this point in his career, and being flexible with regard to massaging his contract to work within the cap constraints of a contending team is something to which he’s open. Keep in mind Romo has never had the chance to play on a truly balanced team. He’s never been with a top-seven defense, for instance. Even with him functioning as a very expensive backup quarterback in 2016, his contract didn’t blow up the Cowboys’ cap or preclude the team from assembling some other expensive talent around him.
Will Garoppolo stay or go?
You’ll hear plenty of back-and-forth about Garoppolo the rest of the month as well. The Pats will trade him. The Pats won’t trade him. The Pats can’t wait to deal him. The Pats would never consider dealing him.
Here’s what I’ll tell you: Everyone has a price. If there is one constant in Bill Belichick’s team building, it’s that he always has an eye on the present and the future, few players are irreplaceable (really, only Tom Brady), and if he believes what he can corral in terms of draft picks and players is worth more than what he believes he can derive from that asset in the near future, then he will move on from him. Ask Richard Seymour. Ask Matt Cassel. Ask Chandler Jones. Ask Jamie Collins.
Belichick has traded players off the franchise tag before and he’s the rare exec to fully explore restricted free agency and he’s not bound to convention or concerned with groupthink. (Hell, remember, even Babe Ruth was traded, and Wayne Gretzky was dealt, what three times? Which I suppose by NFL Hall of Fame voting standards means Gretzky probably shouldn’t in the Hall … lest I digress).
So, if someone puts an offer on the table that Belichick believes is worth more than what he can cull from Garoppolo, he will make the trade. Period. I don’t care if it involves a first-round pick or not. What about three second-round picks, from a bad team, for instance? I wouldn’t get caught up in thinking it has to be for this, or it has to be for that.
The Patriots have all the leverage when it comes to trading Jimmy Garoppolo. USATSI
I don’t anticipate Belichick himself investing a lot of energy or resources into negotiating a trade at all — that’s up to agent Don Yee, who represents Brady and Garoppolo. If Yee finds a team that his player is willing to sign with long-term, and that team presents a package of assets that is to Belichick’s liking, then he’ll gladly move on with Brady and Jacoby Brissett for 2017 and continue to draft developmental quarterbacks along the way to find his next Cassel/Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallett/Garoppolo. The only difference here is that Jimmy G truly has a chance to be a special starter elsewhere, and he’s already displayed that in meaningful NFL games.
As to those downplaying the odds of a trade, I’d keep in mind that it currently works particularly in New England’s favor to have the message out that Garoppolo is not available and won’t be available and that he’s the future. It only increases the Patriots’ already considerable leverage. But this kid has shown he can play at the highest level, Belichick and Josh McDaniels and Brady have already groomed him for the next team, and there are a bevy of quarterback-needy teams that have loved him since his time at Eastern Illinois. And Brady isn’t going anywhere for several years. People can talk about how quickly Peyton Manning hit the wall and all, but Brady doesn’t have the same neck/nerve issues, his offensive line is much improved, and he truly is dead set on playing until age 45 or as close as he can get to it. I firmly believe he has one more contract with New England still in him.
So how long is Garoppolo supposed to sit?
Also consider, the Deflategate ruling robbed the Pats of a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick. Belichick loves to maneuver around the draft board and recouping those losses would be vital to sustaining the Patriots’ long-term run of success. And he did draft Brissett in the third round a year ago for a reason. He already has his Garoppolo insurance. Then consider how desperate teams like the Bears, Browns and 49ers are to find not just a franchise quarterback, but a young one if possible because they have long rebuilds ahead. Garoppolo is far and away the best of the breed in that regard, and they can get their QB and still retain their top-three picks in this year’s draft.
If anything, I’d say every factor — including Brady’s Super Bowl MVP season — points to a deal going down. And after Sam Bradford just went for a 1 and a 4 — albeit it under duress — you can’t convince me teams won’t be willing to give Belichick something similar. I’d also point out that, of the interested teams, Yee has known Bears GM Ryan Pace from his earliest days, as Yee represents Saints coach Sean Payton, and Pace went straight from Eastern Illinois to start a 14-year run with the Saints front office. Yee knows well just how much Payton and Pace valued Garoppolo in the draft. Putting a deal together between those two wouldn’t be difficult.
Yee has also known Browns coach Hue Jackson since his earliest days in college coaching, like when he first became an offensive coordinator at Cal in 1996 (Yee is a Cal grad). And Yee has known 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan kinda, sorta his entire life as Yee has a long relationship with Kyle’s dad, Mike Shanahan, and Mike Shanahan is one of the top consultants in the new Pacific Pro Football League that Yee is launching to develop NFL prospects.
So, let’s just say there are plenty of pre-existing relationships and bonds that wouldn’t exactly form obstacles to a potential blockbuster trade/signing. I also wouldn’t rule Houston out of this equation, should head coach Bill O’Brien be entrusted with finding a new QB after the Brock Osweiler failure was foisted upon him by ownership a year ago. O’Brien is a product of that same New England system — though he is high on Tom Savage as well. Regardless, I would hardly be writing off the likelihood of a Garoppolo trade just yet, though I would also caution that with New England in no rush to have to deal him, and the Pats with oodles of cap space and Garoppolo costing them next to nothing, I wouldn’t get fixated on the timing of this deal. It hardly has to be completed by the start of the league year in March, though I would certainly bet on it coming to fruition before the draft is complete in late April.
What about Cousins?
Last but not least, there is the Kirk Cousins situation. He’s going to be franchised by Washington, which we first reported on Thanksgiving morning. And, unlike last year, the Redskins will make a legit concerted effort to sign him to a fair-market deal (unlike the low-ball overtures of a year ago). And by July 15, I suspect Cousins has a long-term deal with Washington agreed to. Kyle Shanahan and Pace and others will have trade interest, but when you factor in a $25M annual contract with how many picks it would take to pry him away, I’d put far higher odds on Romo and Garoppolo being dealt than I would on Cousins. Not for lack of interest, however.
Soon enough, Yee and Belichick and Shanahan (Kyle, though, who knows, maybe Mike, too) and Jones and Jackson and O’Brien and Mike McCartney (who represents Cousins) and Romo’s reps will all be in Indiana, walking the same enclosed hallways, eating the same pricy shrimp cocktail, hosting meetings in the same hotels and haunts, and then all three situations will start to come more clearly into focus.
Did RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT have an incident at a club in Columbus, Ohio over the weekend? He says the report is fake news. Vince Langford in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott posted a response, according to two media outlets, to an early report from the website TMZ that he was “detained” for about four minutes by police at a nightclub in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday night.
“I was never ‘detained’ by the police. Nor was I ever questioned or in any type of trouble,” read a social media post attributed to Elliott by 247Sports and NJ.com.
TMZ clarified the headline to its post that Elliott was detained: “Ezekiel’s rep tells us he spoke with cops about something that happened inside a club he had just left. The rep did not describe the incident but says it did not involve Ezekiel.”
During Super Bowl week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that an investigation into a possible violation of the NFL’s domestic abuse policy against Elliott had not reached a conclusion, and he didn’t indicate a timetable.
The allegations first surfaced during training camp in July. An Ohio city attorney closed the alleged domestic violence case four months ago.
A former player, S Quintin Mikell, is leaving the Eagles front office. It sounds like it wasn’t his choice. Philly.com:
Quintin Mikell, the former Eagles safety who spent the last year in the front office as the director of player engagement, is leaving the team.
Mikell confirmed the news on Thursday:
Quintin Mikell confirmed he’s no longer w/ #Eagles as dir of player engagement. Gave no reason why. Harold Carmichael used to have the job.
The job was created during Harold Carmichael’s long tenure with the team. In a story for an NFL website, Mikell explained the role this way:
“This position has been around a while, but it’s changed over the years. It’s different now in that it used to be a former player who would just kind of be around if you needed something. Now, it’s development, just as it says ‘player development.’ My job is trying to help, not just our young players, but any of our players, develop on and off the field. If it’s a rookie, it’s getting them used to the NFL life, the different stresses and ups and downs you go through; to a guy that’s been in the league for a couple years but still isn’t sure where he is. Maybe he wants to start getting ready for his exit. What should he do? How should he plan? And it goes all the way to the guy who is on the way out and I’m helping them transition to life after the game.’’
The Eagles have not yet named Mikell’s replacement.
TE JACOB TAMME could be heading to the 49ers. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
Jacob Tamme hits free agency after a disappointing 2016 season in Atlanta, in which he caught just 22 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns before spending the second half of the season on injured reserve. But that doesn’t mean the soon-to-be 32-year-old tight end won’t have teams vying for his services.
Tamme signing with the 49ers is a strong possibility, ESPN reports. The head coach of the 49ers is Kyle Shanahan, who was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, so Tamme would already know the offense in San Francisco.
At the same time, Tamme indicated that he would like to stay in Atlanta if he can work something out.
“I love being a Falcon, love my teammates, love what we have going on here in this organization,” Tamme told ESPN. “I’m interested to see what the future holds.”
Tamme got a two-year, $3.2 million deal when he signed with the Falcons in 2015. Realistically, he’ll likely have to take less than that now. But a coach who knows him well apparently thinks he still has something left.
The DB would quibble that 22 catches and 3 TDs for Tamme in eight games does not deserve the word “just.” The concerns with Tamme should be concerning his health and age, not his level of production.
– – –
The 49ers are trying to poach the offensive line coach of the Broncos – and Denver is going to let them do it if the price is right. Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post:
The Broncos likely will be on the hunt for a new assistant offensive line coach only weeks after signing one.
Denver granted John Benton permission to interview for the 49ers’ top offensive line coaching job, an NFL source confirmed. The move is a courtesy, especially considering Broncos coach Vance Joseph was denied a similar opportunity by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015, when Denver targeted him as its new defensive coordinator.
The 49ers, now led by first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, recently announced the addition of nine staff members, the hirings delayed because of the Falcons’ trip to Super Bowl LI. Shanahan, the son of former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons.
9News first reported Benton’s interview.
Benton, a 14-year NFL coaching veteran, recently teamed with new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy as a key piece of Joseph’s new staff. Benton had worked with Gary Kubiak in Houston (2006-13) as the Texans’ offensive line coach and previously spent 17 years in the same role for Colorado State (1995-2003). He most recently was the Jaguars’ assistant offensive line coach for one season.
Benton’s experience with the zone-blocking scheme was expected to be paired with Davidson’s experience with the power scheme, giving Denver a varied skill-set up front.
“Our offensive line does need to play better,” McCoy said. “Our offense will go as far as our offensive line will take them. Everyone always wants to look at a quarterback and say you have to have this quarterback. I’m not taking anything away from the quarterback position. It is critical to have that guy, but you have to have the five guys up front playing as one and doing everything right. They’ve got to protect their tails off so that quarterback can sit back in the pocket and do what he can do.”
Denver does not have a targeted replacement should Benton leave for San Francisco. Not yet, anyway. Their quest for improved line play and the formation of an offense with “swagger” is still on, but has hit a minor snag.
The Broncos may lose their recently-hired offensive line coach. See SAN FRANCISCO.
Bill Johnston, the longtime P.R. director, has been with his hometown Chargers for 38 years. Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego on the inspiring reason why that run is coming to an end.
Bill Johnston needed to be convinced.
So, he looked.
The Chargers’ director of public relations, who’s been with the organization the past 38 years, scoured skilled-nursing homes in Orange County. He personally visited seven of them, observing each venue’s accommodations and experience level with patients whose condition renders them entirely care dependent. The process brought him clarity.
For his wife, there is no place like home.
From secret supply stockpiles to terrific tax breaks, here are nine things you may not know about nurses!
Several dozen full-time Chargers employees must decide by March 15 if they’ll follow the franchise in its relocation from San Diego to Los Angeles. Johnston will not. His decision was made with wife Ramona in mind, as she continues a lengthy battle with Huntington’s Disease, a genetic neurodegenerative disorder that has robbed her of basic motor functions, including speech.
Hollywood covets its love stories.
Theirs will stay in San Diego.
“Everybody would make the same decision I am making if they were in my shoes,” Johnston, 59, said. “It’s just the situation I find myself in.”
Over the years, colleagues have marveled how Johnston handles his situation.
Many have worked for the Chargers long enough to remember Ramona before her 1999 diagnosis. Yet, if not for the changes seen in her or the visible campaign Johnston has waged to raise funds to combat Huntington’s Disease, they wouldn’t know of it.
They wouldn’t know he wakes up at 4:55 a.m. each day and is out of the house by 5:15, driving to visit his wife at Edgemoor Hospital in Santee. He chooses mornings rather than evenings because that is when, over the course of a day, she is considered most alert.
Even then, she cannot walk to him.
She cannot speak to him.
She cannot hold him.
“She can’t talk anymore, but she’ll make some sounds,” Johnston said. “Sometimes, I think she’s trying to say my name. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking.”
Her eyes trace him as he talks to her, telling her the latest life developments of him, their 31-year-old son Jared and 28-year-old daughter Hayley. He cannot be sure Ramona understands him, but he speaks as if she does. They watch the news on television. Before he leaves, he plays a movie for her that nurses will rotate throughout the day.
Before all this, Ramona always enjoyed watching movies.
For years, Johnston has made a tradition of delivering the Chargers office a boxful of donuts every Friday morning. Most colleagues don’t know the box is one of two he delivers that day; the first is to the staff providing his wife care.
Johnston knows her nurses, and they know him.
He cannot find that in Orange County, no matter how long he looks.
What coworkers see every day from Johnston at Chargers Park, they say, is professionalism. He oversees team media responsibilities and strategies, not including those involving the stadium. He walks off the field after each practice with the head coach before both speak to media. Johnston reads the injury report. The coach follows, taking questions. On game days, he walks with the coach from the locker room to a postgame press conference, discussing talking points and potential forthcoming topics.
In times of crisis, he is often a reporter’s first call or message.
He is available at seemingly all hours.
“I think it may be his escape, for lack of a better word, “ said Scott Yoffe, the Chargers’ assistant PR director who’s worked under Johnston for 21 years. “For those hours when he’s at work, it provides a respite from the real-life stuff he’s dealt with the past 15-plus years.”
For decades, Johnston has not needed a career resume.
He’ll have to figure where to start.
The La Mesa native interned for the Chargers in 1979, a 21-year-old San Diego State student whose baseball career as a speedy middle infielder ended following shoulder surgery. The Chargers then went 12-4 in their first full season under head coach Don Coryell. The PR department needed extra help, so his summer internship became a full season one.
He hasn’t left since.
Johnston graduated with a journalism degree in 1981. He married Ramona, a fellow Helix High grad who caught his eye as a cheerleader, in 1983, and became assistant PR director in 1984. He oversaw the creation of the Charger Girls in 1990. He helped create the All-Star Spanos Classic, an annual showcase game between San Diego prep athletes that last month completed its 27th year, as well as an annual shoe drive for local youth in need.
The 15 marathons in which Johnston’s run have raised more than $800,000 toward Huntington’s Disease research. When including the “Celebration of Hope Gala” and “Shoot to Cure HD,” which are two annual events he’s spearheaded with support from the Chargers and others in the community, his fundraising efforts approach $3 million.
“How do you lose someone like Bill Johnston?” club Chairman Dean Spanos said via email. “He has been a trusted and integral part of this team for 38 years. His personal impact, not only on our organization but also on our lives, is simply without question. Bill’s tireless work to support his wife Ramona and others afflicted with Huntington’s has educated all of us to the ravages of this horrible disease.
“To know what he has gone through each day to do his job, raise his family and still be there for his wife — to me, it speaks volumes of his love and commitment to her. There’s no question Bill’s departure will leave a hole, but he has Susie’s and my deepest respect and admiration for his decision to stay and do what is best for his family.”
Said General Manager Tom Telesco: “His accomplishments go well beyond what he did in the PR department. Bill is as fine a person, husband and father I have ever been around. And no one has more passion for this team than he does. I can’t thank him enough for the work and guidance he has provided for me the last four years.”
Johnston is unsure his final day with the Chargers.
He is unsure his next job, the next San Diego office to which he’ll deliver donuts on Fridays. Maybe it is the old baseball player in him, but along with the people, he is certain he’ll miss most the Sunday atmosphere of a winning locker room.
Yet, he finds peace.
He knows his first Friday delivery stop, the place his wife has lived for nearly the past decade, will remain. Wherever he works, he knows he’ll find comfort in the belief that while he’s in the office, Ramona is there, receiving the best possible care.
San Diego is home for her.
San Diego is home for him.
Awesome story, awesome guy.
A two-year extension for LB CAMERON WAKE. James Walker at ESPN.com:
The Miami Dolphins signed Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake to a two-year contract extension, the team announced Saturday.
The extension is worth $19 million with $11 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Wake, 35, overcame adversity last year by bouncing back from a season-ending Achilles injury in 2015 to lead the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks. He made his fifth career Pro Bowl as a result and is one of Miami’s emotional leaders.
Dolphins vice president Mike Tannenbaum said his biggest priority this offseason was taking care of his own players. Wake is the first major, in-house signing of the offseason. The Dolphins also are expected to discuss contract extensions with leading wide receiver Jarvis Landry and starting safety Reshad Jones. Both have one year left on their contracts.
Jared Dubin of CBSSports.com on the likely trade between Miami and Jacksonville:
Though it was rumored earlier in the week that they’d cut him, the Miami Dolphins are instead prepared to send left tackle Branden Albert elsewhere in a trade. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the Dolphins will trade Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars for tight end Julius Thomas, pending a possible restructuring of contracts and passing of physicals.
Albert signed a five-year, $47 million contract with the Dolphins prior to the 2014 season and has been the team’s starting left tackle since that point. He has struggled with injuries during his three seasons with the team, missing 13 of a possible 48 games. His played slipped badly in 2016 after a Pro Bowl season during the 2015 campaign. As mentioned, the Dolphins were reportedly preparing to release him (and several other players) in order to create $7.2 million in cap space earlier this week.
Thomas, meanwhile, signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jaguars prior to the 2015 season. He has played 21 of a possible 32 games, hauling in 76 passes for 736 yards and nine touchdowns. During his six-season NFL career, he has played more than 12 games in a season just twice — his final two years with the Broncos. He made the Pro Bowl both times. The Jags would save only $1.7 million against the cap by cutting Thomas, so a trade does make slightly more sense for them.
The Jaguars have been looking for offensive line help in front of quarterback Blake Bortles, so a flier on Albert makes some degree or sense for them, but a 32-year old coming off injury-plagued seasons and carrying a significant cap hit is a risky bet. The same is true of the Dolphins, who could use a field-stretching tight end that works well in the red zone but may not want to pay out so much to a player that doesn’t stay on the field consistently.
Peter King did ask TOM BRADY about the Crime of the Century:
• Brady on his lost/stolen/misplaced game jersey: “I don’t know, it was just … I put it in my bag, and went to the bathroom, took my eye black off, came back out and it was gone. So, a lot of players, you know you take your jersey off and you just don’t know what happens. Well that one I wanted to keep because I was like, this is going to be a cool one! Sometimes things just go and they end up somewhere in the Patriot Hall of Fame and you don’t know it, or people have said things like, I saw your such and such in the Canton [Pro Football] Hall of Fame, and I’m like, ‘What? How did they get that?’ You just lose track because there are so many things happening, but I knew I wanted to keep that jersey. But someone got to it. It is what it is. It’s a jersey.”
– – –
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe examines what the Patriots should do with QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO:
The Patriots’ 2016 championship isn’t even cold yet, and already most of New England and the NFL world has moved on to the hottest topic of the offseason – the future of Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots.
Of course, the Patriots would love to have a Brett Favre-to-Aaron Rodgers type of handoff at quarterback, but Tom Brady’s longevity and Garoppolo’s contract make it tricky. Garoppolo’s deal expires after 2017, and Brady isn’t going anywhere.
“I’d like to play until my mid-40s,” Brady, who turns 40 in August, told The MMQB last week. “I know next year is not going to be my last year.”
The NFL trade market doesn’t open until March 9, and the NFL Draft doesn’t start until April 27, but conflicting reports already are emerging.
On Thursday alone, ESPN’s Ed Werder tweeted that he’s not expecting the Patriots to trade Garoppolo “based on what I heard from people inside #Patriots at SB and those familiar with their approach.”
Later in the day, ESPN’s Adam Schefter countered that “I just think there’s going to be too much interest, and somebody’s eventually going to offer enough to pry him loose.”
So what should the Patriots do with Garoppolo? Let’s break it down:
The case for keeping Garoppolo — Keeping him for the 2017 season and beyond hinges on one critical element: the Patriots’ evaluation of Garoppolo. No one truly knows how Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels feel about Garoppolo’s prospects as a franchise quarterback. But the best argument for keeping Garoppolo is that the Patriots believe he’s the real deal, and they would be giving up a Rodgers or a Steve Young by trading Garoppolo. In that scenario, no amount of trade compensation is worth it.
Garoppolo certainly made a decent case for himself in his limited playing time in 2016. In 1½ games against the Cardinals and Dolphins, Garoppolo completed 68.3 percent of his passes, averaged a healthy 8.0 yards per attempt, and threw for 502 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. He showed moxie in leading the Patriots to a 23-21, fourth-quarter comeback win at Arizona in Week 1, then staked the Patriots to a 21-0 lead over the Dolphins in the second quarter before leaving with a shoulder injury. Garoppolo came out of college in 2014 as a highly regarded passer, and he’s done nothing to dispel that notion.
The Patriots also have a history of not making a move until their hand is forced. If they don’t have to activate a player until Friday at 4 p.m., they wait until Friday at 3:59 p.m. If the franchise tag deadline is March 1, they make the decision on March 1.
Garoppolo won’t be a free agent until the spring of 2018, and he’s only set to make $820,077 with a $1,108,513 salary cap number next season, so the Patriots could certainly stand pat and wait for 2017 to shake out. Yes, Brady wants to play several more years, but he’ll also be 40 years old, and who knows what will happen next season? And even if Brady does come out of 2017 healthy, maybe the Patriots decide that they want Garoppolo to take over in 2018 or at the latest 2019.
The Patriots could always use the franchise tag for Garoppolo in 2018, and either install him as the starter (unlikely) or buy themselves one more year to decide (much more likely). They could also tag Garoppolo and then have until July 2018 to trade him, as they did with Matt Cassel nearly a decade ago.
And if they simply let Garoppolo walk away in free agency at some point, they’ll collect a third-round compensatory draft pick in return.
The case for trading Garoppolo — The most compelling reason to trade him is that Brady guy, of course. Age is just a number with Brady, and he’s arguably playing better and feeling better at 39 than he has at any time in his career. He’s under contract through 2019, and it seems reasonable that he will play it out, at least.
The Patriots’ No. 1 priority at this point should be maximizing the time they have left with Brady — likely two or three years. And while Garoppolo might be the real deal, he’s also a valuable asset — a player who could potentially land a first-round pick, or at worst a high second-round pick and probably another draft pick or player.
Instead of letting the asset waste away on their bench, the Patriots could potentially land the No. 12 overall pick from Cleveland, or the No. 33, 34, or 36 pick from the Browns, 49ers, or Bears to go along with the No. 32 pick the Patriots already own. Give Belichick two shots at drafting players in the 30s, and he’s likely going to come away with one, if not two, immediate starters.
Garoppolo’s trade value might never be higher than it is this offseason. He is only 25 years old, and he played just long enough this season to show what he can do.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s career stats
Att. Comp. Yards TDs
2016 63 43 502 4
2015 4 1 6 0
2014 27 19 182 1
And if the goal is to keep building around Brady, trading Garoppolo before the draft is a must. If the Patriots let Garoppolo walk in free agency after the 2017 season, they won’t get a third-round compensatory pick until the 2019 draft. If they trade Garoppolo in the next two months, they get even better draft picks, and two years earlier. The Patriots used this principle in trading Chandler Jones before the final year of his contract, and in trading Jamie Collins midseason for a 2017 draft pick instead of letting him walk after the season and collecting a 2018 compensatory pick.
The money, of course, is a big factor. The franchise tag for a quarterback by 2018 should be close to $25 million, which is an absurd number to be paying a backup, particularly for a penny-wise team such as the Patriots.
Garoppolo’s shoulder injury also has to factor into the evaluation. Yes, injuries happen all the time in football. But what if Garoppolo is fragile? He’s not the biggest quarterback at 6 feet 2 inches, and he couldn’t make it two full games before hurting his shoulder. Not even the Patriots know how Garoppolo’s body can withstand the beating of a full NFL season.
And lastly, the Patriots seem to love Garoppolo’s backup, Jacoby Brissett. He clearly was not ready to play this past season as a rookie, but at the same time showed great composure in leading the Patriots to a 27-0 win over the Texans on “Thursday Night Football,” and impressive toughness in playing against the Bills with a broken thumb. It’s not like the Patriots would have to start all over again at quarterback if they trade Garoppolo.
The verdict? Trade him. We wouldn’t blame the Patriots for keeping Garoppolo on his cost-effective deal for 2017 and seeing how the chips fall next offseason. There still will be a healthy trade market for him in 2018.
That said, we see Brady continuing to play at a high level over the next two years, and Garoppolo is too valuable an asset for the Patriots to just sit on him and let him walk away for a compensatory pick in 2019.
The Patriots could use the return on investment now, especially if they lose a handful of players in free agency. Given how desperate teams such as the Browns, Bears, and 49ers are for a quarterback, the Patriots can turn Garoppolo into several useful players who can help them win Super Bowls in the next three years.
While we think Garoppolo is a good young quarterback with a bright NFL future, we’re just not sold that Garoppolo is of the level of Rodgers or Young, if for no other reason than the durability question. If the Patriots can find Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois in the second round of the draft, they can probably find another quarterback to develop (if it’s not Brissett already).
NEW YORK JETS
Did the two victims/miscreants knock themselves out? Or lie about it?
That is our first reaction to the headline that there is a video that shows that DARRELLE REVIS did not punch anyone. It turns out someone who does not have the “voice” of Revis is claiming responsibility. Paula Reed Ward in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
TMZ posted a video on its website this afternoon purporting to be from the scene of the incident on Feb. 12 involving New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
In the video, which shows two men apparently unconscious on the ground, a man can be heard saying, “I knocked both these [expletive] out. Both of them. Shut up before I knock your [expletive] out next.”
Late Sunday night, Mr. Revis’ attorneys, Robert DelGreco Jr. and Mark Fiorilli issued a statement again denying their clients’ involvement.
“Darrelle Revis absolutely, categorically and positively did not knock out anyone, did not conspire with anyone to commit an assault, did not say ‘shut up before I knock your [expletive] out next’ and surely did not ‘rob’ another of a cell phone,” the statement said. “The voice and admissions made on the video are not that of Darrelle Revis. We have no doubt but that further investigation relative to the clothing and voice verification will corroborate the above assertions.”
Mr. Revis is charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, robbery and terroristic threats.
According to Pittsburgh police, two men, Dallas Cousins, 22, and Zacheriah Jarvis, 21, both of Kittanning, said they saw Mr. Revis in the 23rd block of East Carson Street about 2:40 a.m. and began following him. Police said Mr. Revis told Mr. Cousins to “get out of [his] face,’ and then Mr. Revis pushed him and began to walk away. Mr. Cousins then took out his cell phone and began recording.
Mr. Cousins said Mr. Revis grabbed the phone and threw it in the street.
The next thing the men remembered was getting punched and waking up to talk to the police.
Mr. Cousins said he sustained broken bones around his left eye.
Mr. Revis was released on nonmonetary bond and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Thursday.
Here is how Peter King interprets the situation:
I think Darrelle Revis has given the Jets the easiest out of a big contract and a big headache of this off-season. But I would be very careful about passing judgment on the guilt or innocence of Revis, who has never sniffed trouble like this before. Revis surrendered Friday to Pittsburgh police on charges of felony assault and robbery, stemming from a street altercation last weekend. Late Sunday, TMZ released video of the aftermath of the incident which shows the two victims knocked out. Revis does not appear in the video.
This is what the cops are known to have from Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:
The complaint report filed by the Pittsburgh police officer on the scene early on Sunday morning at the altercation allegedly involving Darrelle Revis is now available. The New York Jets cornerback was charged with four felonies — including aggravated assault and robbery — and a misdemeanor.
A few of the main bullet points from the report:
The complaint report is built around statements from three men — the victims, Dallas Cousins, 22, and Zacheriah Jarvis, 21; and a witness, Nathan Watt. None of them said they saw Revis throw a punch. Cousins and Jarvis, roommates, said they were knocked unconscious and don’t remember. There was a mystery man at scene, an unidentified black male who might have been an acquaintance of Revis. Is it possible this man, not Revis, attacked Cousins and Jarvis? The report doesn’t say. The man was described as 5-foot-11 with a tattoo of stars on his neck.
According to the complaint, “Cousins stated that another black male showed up on the scene as he and Revis were arguing over him throwing his phone and Cousins stated that he believed that he was Revis’ friend. Cousins stated that after arguing over his phone, the next thing he remembers was getting punched and then waking up to talk to police.”
The officer said Jarvis confirmed Cousins’ account, adding in the report that Jarvis also “was attempting to grab his phone off of Revis before he threw it into the street. Jarvis stated that after Revis threw the phone into the street, he too was punched and remembers waking to speak to police.”
What about Watt?
The report states that Watt corroborated Cousins and Jarvis’ version of the events, adding, “Revis approached (Watt) and stated, ‘I got more guys coming.’ Watt stated that Revis stepped within a foot of his face with an aggressive demeanor on his face, fists clenched and stated, ‘Do you want to be next?'”
The officer said in the report that he asked Watt if it was Revis or the unknown man who knocked out Cousins and Jarvis. Watt replied, “I don’t know, it happened so fast.”
Cousins said he approached Revis on the street and started taking cell-phone video after Revis became agitated. Revis “pushed him in the chest,” he told police. Revis’ attorney, Blaine Jones, told ESPN his client became upset because Cousins was harassing him and taking video.
Cousins said Revis grabbed the phone and attempted to delete the video. The video, viewed by the officer at the scene, doesn’t show any physical altercations, per the report. The video shows Revis “becoming hostile” toward one of the victims and his friends. The report goes on to say, “The video then shows Revis walking away from the group and [a victim] following him describing what Revis is wearing. The video then shows Revis standing in front of the White Eagle Bar and stating ‘Why are you following me?’ several times before the video stops.”
Revis apparently was in the area for at least two hours. The officer noted that he spotted him outside another bar about two hours before the incident occurred. Revis was in the neighborhood to check out real estate he’s developing, according to Jones. Mind you, the altercation occurred at 2:30 a.m.
The officer observed injuries to Cousins and Jarvis at the scene. Cousins had a bruise above his left eyebrow half the size of a golf ball and a 1-inch laceration, and Jarvis had a bruise on his right cheek. They declined medical treatment. But later that day in a follow-up interview with police, they said they went to a nearby hospital. Cousins said he was diagnosed with a fracture near his eye, Jarvis a bruised cheek.
Three 911 calls were made from the scene, including one from Cousins. A cab driver who witnessed the argument also called 911, as did a woman who lives above one of the bars. Essentially, they both told police the same thing: They saw two men unconscious in the street and called police. There are no details in the report about what occurred.
Mike Florio, a lawyer, predicts a settlement for significantly lesser charges. But what NFL Justice might do is beyond prediction:
A witness, who apparently didn’t witness any punches thrown, claims that at one point Revis said to him, “Do you want to be next?” While that would count as persuasive circumstantial evidence, something more clear will be needed to eliminate reasonable doubt as to whether Revis threw punches.
All things considered (including the notion that the alleged “robbery” resulted simply from the notion that Revis took away the cell phone that was being used to create video), this doesn’t feel like the kind of incident that will result in the investment of significant prosecutorial and judicial resources. Incidents like the one that happened early Sunday morning in Pittsburgh happen throughout the country late in the evening/early in the morning on virtually every weekend of the calendar.
Unless prosecutors have some specific animus toward Revis or a proverbial smoking gun that makes it an open-and-shut case, it’s safe to say that the charges eventually will be reduced (like they were for Joey Porter) and that, ultimately, the situation will be resolved with Revis never facing jail or any other significant consequence.
That said, the NFL may approach the situation differently, given that the league decided after the Ray Rice debacle to no longer defer to the justice system. Given that two men were knocked out cold, a more-probable-than-not conclusion that Revis did it could result in a suspension.