The Daily Briefing Monday, February 26, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
The NFL has announced it compensatory picks for the upcoming draft. .
The Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders reach received four compensatory picks, while the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans each received three.
The Cardinals, Texans, Bengals and Denver Broncos were issued the earliest picks at the end of the third round.
Green Bay, for example, gets four extra picks between 133 and 207. Dallas has its four fall between 137 and 208. They would seem to be the big winners.
Houston has three picks between 98 and 214.
Denver gets just one pick, but it is #99.
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Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has word on the salary cap:
With the new league year approaching, the NFL and NFL Players Association soon will be finalizing the salary cap number for 2018. In December, the NFL projected a range of $174.2 million to $178.1 million for the cap.
As often is the case, the actual salary cap likely will exceed those projections.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the cap will at least be $178 million. It also could exceed $179 million.
The specific number, generally driven by revenues in the prior years, ultimately becomes the product of negotiation between the NFL and NFLPA. Last year, the parties set the cap at $168 million.
The cap has been experiencing significant growth in recent years, even with a decline in TV ratings. With the Thursday night broadcast package spiking from $450 million to at least $550 million annually as of 2018, the increases likely will continue.
We found this salary cap history (all numbers in millions)
2018: $178 (estimated)
That’s up about $55 million in 5 years.
The contract dance between the Cowboys and WR DEZ BRYANT. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
As free agency approaches and the Dallas Cowboys prepare to make “tough” decisions, questions surrounding the fate of Dez Bryant abound. Will the Cowboys cut the declining wide receiver? Could Bryant take a pay cut? Can Dez ever return to his All-Pro form?
Finally, on Friday, it was Bryant’s turn to respond.
In a wide-ranging, 20-minute interview on 105.3 The Fan on Friday, Bryant passionately professed his love for Dallas and the Cowboys organization and vowed to get his fitness “back right” for the 2018 season. However, the 29-year-old receiver declined to say whether he would take a pay cut if Dallas was to approach him about it.
“I haven’t heard a word on that,” Dez said about potentially negotiating a pay cut. “I’m just controlling the things I can control. I have yet to talk to my agent about anything.”
Bryant is owed $16.5 million in 2018, the third-largest cap hit among wide receivers in the league. In years past, he would absolutely be worth that massive investment. However, Bryant is coming off three consecutive injury-riddled seasons in which he hasn’t broken the 1,000-yard or 10-touchdown barrier. Last season, Bryant averaged a career-low 12.1 yards per reception. Hence, the pay-cut talk.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones have played good cop-bad cop regarding Dez’s contract, with the younger Jones saying Thursday, “This is a business where everybody has to be accountable.”
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that Dallas might attempt to lower Bryant’s cap number by offering a mini-extension, which would kill two birds with one stone: keep a fan favorite and career Cowboy in the building, and open up 2018 cap space, potentially for taggable Demarcus Lawrence, in the process. But there’s been no progress on that front yet.
The Cowboys receiver refused to make excuses Friday for his declining metrics, saying of last season, “I feel like I did damn good. This game is more than the stats. I feel like I ran good.” However, Bryant did intimate that more was going on behind the scenes that kept him from playing his best.
“There was a lot of plays left out on the field because of me,” Bryant admitted, “and because I let my thoughts in my head get in the way.”
When confronted with questions about the chemistry between second-year quarterback Dak Prescott and him, Bryant guaranteed they are “100-percent fine.”
“I guarantee you, man,” Bryant added of Prescott, “he’s got a big chip on his shoulder just like I do.’
Bryant repeatedly reinforced his love and appreciation for the Cowboys organization and his willingness to stay with the franchise long enough to bring a Super Bowl back to North Texas, telling The Fan, “I really give a damn about Dallas.”
When asked whether he could envision wearing “the eights” in any jersey other than Dallas’, Bryant responded, “No. Hell no! It doesn’t seem right, it wouldn’t be right.”
Sentimentality typically flies out the window during contract and pay-cut negotiations, but as Bryant’s interview Friday made clear, the wideout is taking talk of his potential departure personally.
“I promise you,” Bryant said, “I’m going to shut a lot of people up.”
Matt Lombardo of NJ.com says that TE TREY BURTON is heading for greener pastures and not returning to Eagles green.
Tight end Trey Burton played an integral role in the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory over the New England Patriots, tossing a historic touchdown pass to Nick Foles on the “Philly Special” play, but he could play elsewhere in 2018.
The Eagles have made an offer that Burton “didn’t consider serious,” and unless the offer is sweetened, Burton likely will sign with another team, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told NJ Advance Media.
The Eagles are roughly $9.6 million above the salary cap, heading into free agency. Burton could be the top tight end available, so, it could be difficult for the Eagles to retain him.
“We are fully expecting Trey to sign elsewhere,” said the person, who requested anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the contract talks.
The Eagles ran past the New England Patriots 41-33 on Sunday night to win the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history, and could be well positioned to be favorites at repeating next season.
Last season, Burton caught 23 passes for 248 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in 15 games, playing behind Pro Bowler Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ depth chart.
Burton, an undrafted free agent, made one start in 2017 and saw his snaps increase while Ertz recovered from a concussion suffered in Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks.
RB SAMAJE PERRINE is on tap to be the Redskins starting running back. Rich Tandler of NBCSports.com:
There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.
As their cap is currently constructed, the Cardinals don’t have room for QB KIRK COUSINS. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Cardinals need a new quarterback after the retirement of Carson Palmer. But Kirk Cousins will probably not be that quarterback.
The money Cousins will command is likely too much for the Cardinals, according to Mike Jurecki of Arizona Sports 98.7.
Arizona has about $24 million in cap space, which is far less than the Browns, Jets and Vikings, and a little less than the Broncos. Those are the teams that have been most linked with Cousins, and one of those teams is likely to make Cousins an offer much bigger than the Cardinals would make.
The two quarterbacks who played after Palmer got hurt last year, Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert, are both set to become free agents on March 14. That means the Cardinals, who own the 15th pick in the draft, will hope they can get a good rookie quarterback, as well as a veteran who’s less expensive than Cousins.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams make a big trade, taking on the talent and trouble that is CB MARCUS PETERS. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Rams head coach Sean McVay was at an awards ceremony in Kansas City on Saturday and that meant he got asked about the team’s agreement to trade for Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters.
That trade can’t become official until March 14, which limited McVay’s ability to answer without violating the league’s rules on tampering. McVay said Peters is a “great player” but didn’t have any other comments about the move or the cornerback.
McVay was able to speak more freely about something that was a concern for Peters in Kansas City. Peters was suspended for a game last season due to his behavior during and after a game and such concerns likely contributed to the Chiefs’ decision to trade a young and talented player at this point. McVay spoke in general terms about how the Rams handle their players.
“These are grown men, and it starts with the mutual respect that exists, where they know it’s about developing and building relationships,” McVay said, via the Kansas City Star. “If we’re going to ask our players to be coachable, we’ve got to be coachable as coaches as well. That displays an ownership and an accountability that we try to all have and makes the players more receptive to the messages we try to implement. … They know exactly what the expectations are, what our standards are, and they know what it is to do it the right way.”
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was also at the event and counseled that McVay’s smile shouldn’t fool anyone because “he’ll get after you when you do something wrong.” The Rams surely hope that won’t be necessary with Peters this year.
For more, see KANSAS CITY.
Peter King on the big trade:
News item: Kansas City agrees to make its second major trade in a month, dealing 25-year-old Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters to the Rams.
We don’t know, yet, exactly the compensation. But Ian Rapoport reported he didn’t think the deal involved a first-round pick, which I have heard as well. If true, the best pick the Rams could lose this year would be 87th overall because Los Angeles does not have its own second-rounder. Next draft, if the Rams have a similar 2018 as they did in 2017, their second-round pick would fall in the fifties. But if it’s a low two and low three for a sort of problem child, it’s an intriguing trade for both teams.
Check down further in the column for my Stat of the Week, but you’ll see why Peters’ value was still high, though tarnished in Kansas City because of his anthem stance (he kneeled, much to owner Clark Hunt’s chagrin), his unpopularity in the arch-conservative area because of his anthem protest, and his one-game suspension after blowing up and throwing a penalty flag in the stands at the Jets. The man averaged 9.7 big plays (interceptions, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles) a year in his three Kansas City seasons. It seems like a perfect fit for the Rams, too, at an unbelievably good price: a low third-round pick, at most this year, and they get in return a player under contract for two years and $10.5 million. Peters should thrive in a Wade Phillips defense that asks its top corner to play head to head against great receivers. If the Rams can coax Peters into buying into their way of doing things, this will have been a smart purchase.
Maybe the Chiefs couldn’t have made this work, and maybe coach Andy Reid figured Peters was just too much of a handful. But if the Chiefs don’t get a first-rounder in return for a 25-year-old cornerback who, if he can control his temper and play within the scheme, could be a Hall of Fame player, I like the deal for Los Angeles, risk and all.
I’m told there was no agreement or even “we’ll see” about re-doing Peters’ contract, so the Rams will have to count Peters only $1.7 million against the cap this year. With the Rams’ biggest need being at cornerback, and with Peters surely understanding this season will be huge in figuring the value of his next contract, the Rams are likely to get the very good Peters—and in an area where the anthem protests do not roil the locals the way they do in the Midwest.
The Niners were also in play, and the Browns, too, to a lesser degree. But here’s what’s interesting: The Rams, 49ers and Browns are all on the Chiefs’ 2018 schedule. L.A. and Kansas City will play in Mexico City this fall. Peters might be a little fired up for that game.
Peter King on the opportunity before the Browns:
Cleveland Browns Draft Factoids of the Week, actually, now that the NFL has assigned Compensatory Picks and the draft order is complete:
Picks in the top 65 of the 2018 NFL Draft
Picks in the top 130 of the 2018 NFL Draft
In the likely event the Rams include their third- or fourth-round pick in the trade to Kansas City for cornerback Marcus Peters, then:
Picks in the top 159 of the 2018 NFL Draft
L.A. Rams 2
Over the 2017 and 2018 drafts, as the draft order stands this morning…
Picks in the top 65 of the 2017 and 2018 NFL Drafts
But one of those two Houston picks was QB DeSHAUN WATSON.
Adam Stiles of SBNation.com pierces the veil of the contract extension for QB BLAKE BORTLES.
Blake Bortles hasn’t been the best NFL quarterback in his four years in the NFL. Far from it. But he did enough to get a contract extension from the Jacksonville Jaguars that will add two years to his current deal and keep him tied to the Jaguars through the 2020 season.
Bortles, 25, will reportedly receive a three-year, $54 million deal from Jacksonville that includes $26.5 million in guaranteed money and can reach $66.5 million if he reaches all of his incentives, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. His cap hit in 2018 will drop to just $10 million. He would have eaten up $19 million in cap space without the extension, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
It comes after a bounce-back year for the quarterback who posted a completion percentage above 60 for the first time in his career in 2017 and threw 21 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. The Jaguars leaned heavily on an elite defense and powerful running attack to finish the regular season 10-6, but Bortles played well in the playoffs to help the team get to the AFC Championship.
Why did the Jaguars make the deal
Bortles was due to play 2018 on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract that would’ve paid him $19.053 million guaranteed. With Chad Henne set to reach free agency, Bortles was the only quarterback on the roster for the upcoming season and didn’t have a deal that kept him on the team in 2019.
But even though the numbers look big, they’re relatively cheap for a quarterback in the NFL today. Bortles’ contract ranks 17th among quarterbacks in terms of per year average at $18 million and will only fall further when Kirk Cousins and possibly even AJ McCarron get new deals in free agency.
By the time 2019 rolls around, it will be one of the cheapest deals in the NFL for a starting quarterback.
It also doesn’t mean the Jaguars are convinced Bortles should be the starter much longer. Until the cap hits are revealed, it’s tough to know how tied to Bortles the Jaguars really are. It’s entirely possible that the Jaguars could move on from the quarterback as early as 2019 and take on minimal dead money in what would have been the final two years of his contract.
Ultimately, the contract likely means the Jaguars are out of the market for Cousins or McCarron. It doesn’t mean the team won’t aggressively pursue a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft and give that rookie a chance to compete with Bortles for the starting job.
What does this mean for Bortles?
The new contract doesn’t mean Bortles has three more years of starting for the Jaguars. But it does mean he’ll be the favorite to start in 2018 and that’s another opportunity to show he’s worth keeping for the long-term.
Bortles will be just 26 when the next season starts and he already has 61 NFL starts and 90 touchdown passes under his belt.
He had his most efficient and mistake-free season in 2017 and will likely have more weapons to work with in 2018 after losing Allen Robinson in Week 1 due to an ACL tear. If Bortles takes another step forward and plays up to his lofty draft status four years after he was taken No. 3 — he’ll have a chance to cash in even more after this new short-term deal is close to up.
Even though his contract is expiring, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com thinks that WR DANNY AMENDOLA would only sign with the Patriots:
The feeling is positive from a standpoint of the Patriots being the team that Danny Amendola would want to be with if he decides to play another season. Amendola has mentioned in recent years (and proved with his actions) that money isn’t the most important thing to him. He wants to be in position to play in meaningful games in December and hopefully into January, and he’s also close with Julian Edelman and Tom Brady, so the Patriots are in a good spot from that standpoint. And as the 32-year-old Amendola has shown, he still has a lot to offer as well.
THIS AND THAT
FREE AGENT BARGAINS
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report has a list of folks that he thinks will be free agent bargains.
The salary cap continues to grow on a yearly basis, and teams are carrying an average of more than $32 million into free agency.
But just because many teams have a lot of money available, they don’t need to spend it carelessly. One or two high-priced veterans can certainly help put a team over the top, but looking for bargains on the open market can also help improve a roster without breaking the bank.
For a team looking at a long-term rebuild or staring down a smaller amount of cap space, the frugal approach is better.
Fortunately, there are going to be plenty of bargain free agents available. They aren’t going to be the guys grabbing headlines at the start, but they may well be the best additions.
We’re here to examine the biggest potential bargains of 2018 unrestricted free agency.
CB Pierre Desir
With Malcolm Butler, Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne and Prince Amukamara headed toward free agency, we’re likely to see a lot of money spent on cornerbacks. This is one of the most important defensive positions in today’s pass-driven NFL.
Four-year veteran Pierre Desir isn’t going to be one of the guys collecting ridiculous money this offseason, but he’s a solid player who can help improve a defense on the cheap. At worst, Desir would be a high-end depth player.
Having good depth is nearly as important as having raw talent at the cornerback position.
Desir, who entered the league as a fourth-round pick, has battled for playing time his entire career. He ended up starting over former Pro Bowler Vontae Davis—who is currently a free agent—for the Indianapolis Colts last season.
Desir appeared in nine games (six starts) for the Colts in 2017 before a pectoral injury ended his year. Desir racked up 32 tackles, seven passes defended and an interception on the season.
Desir probably isn’t a shutdown corner in the making. But he is a starting-caliber corner who works hard and is entering his prime. He will turn 28 at the beginning of the 2018 season.
Most importantly, he comes cheap. Desir played on a one-year, $790,000 deal last season.
QB Josh McCown
Quarterback Josh McCown is only a bargain to a team looking to draft and develop a quarterback. There are several quarterback prospects expected to go in the first round, meaning multiple teams will be in this exact position.
McCown will turn 39 this summer, so he won’t be a long-term solution. He’s still capable of playing at a high level, though—he completed 67.3 percent of his passes last season and posted a passer rating of 94.5—and would be an ideal one- or two-year bridge.
Because of his age and journeyman status, McCown will also come cheap.
Kirk Cousins leads the group of QB free agents, and he’s expected to garner a deal worth more than Jimmy Garoppolo’s five-year, $137.5 million contract. AJ McCarron won’t command as much money on the open market, but he’s still likely to receive a hefty contract. The same can be said for Case Keenum.
Reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles may be available via trade, but the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t going to let him go for nothing.
McCown, on the other hand, probably won’t command a whole lot more than the $6 million he received last season from the New York Jets. Compared to the three-year, $45 million deal Mike Glennon received last offseason, McCown was a massive bargain.
Glennon was brought in by the Chicago Bears to provide a bridge and to mentor then-rookie Mitchell Trubisky. McCown could do the same for a team in 2018—and he’s said he’s open to it.
“I really root for these guys being able to find that long-term answer at quarterback and want them to succeed,” McCown said, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “If that’s through the draft or that’s through people already on the team, if I can be a part of helping that, I’d love to.”
WR Taylor Gabriel
There are some enticing available names at wide receiver. Players like Allen Robinson, Mike Wallace, Sammy Watkins and Danny Amendola top the list.
Amendola specializes in making plays out of the slot and in the middle of the field. While slot receivers aren’t as highly coveted as outside pass-catchers like Robinson, Watkins and Wallace, the franchise tag on Jarvis Landry proves that their value is growing.
This is why Atlanta Falcons slot receiver Taylor Gabriel can be valuable in the right offense—possibly Kyle Shanahan’s in San Francisco.
Gabriel had a breakout year playing under Shanahan in 2016, when he amassed 579 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 12.8 yards per reception. His reward was a bargain-priced one-year, $2.75 million deal for 2017.
Gabriel wasn’t as effective in Steve Sarkisian’s offense last season—he had just 378 yards and a 6.1 average—and that’s going to drop his potential earnings. He doesn’t blame Sarkisian for his dip in production, though.
“Sarkisian, he’s a great offensive coordinator and a great mind,” Gabriel said, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “You can say we missed plays and things like that, but it’s football. Sometimes the ball goes your ways; sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
Gabriel has speed, and he can be a big-time playmaker out of the slot. However, he’s still a 5’8″, 167-pound pass-catcher coming off a disappointing season.
This means some team is going to get a solid No. 3 wideout at a bargain price.
WR Terrelle Pryor
We can’t talk about receivers having disappointing 2017 seasons without bringing up Terrelle Pryor. He rarely seemed to be on the same page with Cousins, and he never looked completely comfortable in Jay Gruden’s offense.
Pryor finished the season with just 244 yards and a touchdown in nine games.
Washington signed Pryor to a one-year, $6 million prove-it deal. Unfortunately, Pryor wasn’t able to prove much of anything, and he isn’t likely to get a better deal in free agency this offseason. That’s bad for Pryor, but potentially great for whichever team is willing to take a chance on him.
The former quarterback can be a dominant pass-catcher. He played his first full season at wide receiver in 2016 and finished the year with 1,007 yards, four touchdowns and a 13.1 yards-per-catch average. He did that playing for the Browns and with quarterbacks like Cody Kessler, Robert Griffin III and Kevin Hogan under center.
If Pryor can be a 1,000-yard receiver with that collection of quarterbacks, he can be a 1,000-yard receiver once again—assuming he finds a team and offense that fit him better.
At 6’6″ and 240 pounds, he’s strong, physical and on the right side of 30. While Pryor is still adjusting to life as an NFL receiver, he should still have several productive seasons left.
A team is going to be taking a chance with Pryor, but that chance could pay off with a ton of value.
DE Alex Okafor
Edge-defender Alex Okafor didn’t have a disappointing season with the New Orleans Saints in 2017, but he did have a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 11 against Washington. and according to Sean Fazende of Fox8Live.com, he may not be ready for the start of training camp.
So whoever signs Okafor will be betting on his ability to be ready to start the season as the same player from years past.
The Okafor the Saints got last season was fantastic. In just 10 games, he amassed 43 tackles, four passes defended, two forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks. While Okafor isn’t a dominant pass-rusher, he can create pressure—he did have eight sacks in 2014—and that’s always valuable to an NFL defense.
If the gamble on Okafor pays off, some team will be getting a quality defender at an affordable price.
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RB Isaiah Crowell
Le’Veon Bell is easily the best free-agent running back. Even though he carries a suspension risk for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, he’s going to be coveted.
After Bell, Dion Lewis and Carlos Hyde are likely to be the hot runners in free agency. Browns running back Isaiah Crowell may not draw as much interest as Lewis and Hyde, and he isn’t on the same level as Bell, but teams looking for a new leading runner should consider him.
While Crowell has never reached 1,000 yards rushing in a season, this is due to his workload, not his ability. Crowell has shared running back duties in Cleveland in each of his four seasons, the last three with receiving back Duke Johnson. Crowell has averaged 4.2 yards per carry—slightly less than the 4.3 averaged by Bell—but has never logged more than 206 carries in a season.
Crowell has just 737 career carries, meaning he has relatively little wear and tear on his body. He is also younger than Bell, Lewis, Hyde and other free-agent backs like Rex Burkhead, Alfred Morris, LeGarrette Blount and Jeremy Hill. More importantly, he’s remained healthy and appeared in all 16 games in each of his four seasons.
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There are going to be some quality backs in the draft, but Crowell is an ideal bargain option for teams not looking to invest a draft pick in the position. Latavius Murray received $5 million per year from the Minnesota Vikings last offseason, and Crowell will probably command a similar deal.
RB Jerick McKinnon
Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon is a nimble runner with excellent receiving skills. Last season alone, he racked up 51 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns. That came on top of 570 yards rushing and three scores on the ground.
McKinnon has admitted that he’ll be looking for a bigger role when determining his next destination.
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This will likely to lead to an incentive-laden deal that is a potential bargain, because McKinnon has yet to prove he can handle a prominent role as a runner. While he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry over his career, he’s averaged 3.6 over the last two seasons.
Considering the overall value of the position and the crop of incoming rookie running backs, McKinnon is going to have to prove his worth as a runner in order to earn significant snaps.
TE Trey Burton
One team is going to gamble on Eagles tight end Trey Burton developing into a top-tier receiving tight end.
Burton has been a good pass-catcher over the last two seasons, but he hasn’t exactly been putting up Pro Bowl numbers. Between 2016 and 2017, Burton totaled just 575 yards and six touchdowns.
Someone will bet on his upside. He’s a young, fast and athletic tight end who can create mismatches. Think of the 6’3″, 228-pound Florida product like an oversized receiver with enough blocking ability to play on the line of scrimmage. He has produced respectable numbers while backing up Zach Ertz and Brent Celek.
G Josh Kline
There is a shortage of top-end offensive linemen in the NFL, and there are several high-profile players—like Nate Solder, Luke Joeckel, Andrew Norwell and Weston Richburg—heading toward free agency. Naturally, some linemen are going to be overpaid this offseason.
Tennessee Titans guard Josh Kline may also benefit from a league-wide need for quality offensive linemen, but he’s enough of an under-the-radar option that he can still be a bargain. He isn’t an emerging star, and he isn’t a big-name veteran with multiple Pro Bowls.
Still, Kline is an excellent run-blocking guard with plenty of starting experience. He started 13 games for the Patriots in 2015, and spent the last two years starting for the Titans, who had one of the league’s most dominant rushing attacks in that time.
At 6’3″ and 300-pounds, Kline is a solid interior lineman. He has the size and strength teams look for at guard, and he has enough athleticism to pull on outside running plays. He can also start in two different offensive systems.
At just 28, Kline is in his prime. He’ll likely earn a significant raise over the $2.4 million he received last season, but his contract will probably still be a good deal compared to the five-year, $60 million pact Kevin Zeitler got last year.
Mike Mayock talks to Peter King about the quarterback class:
Was it just me, or did it seem like there were four or five franchise-type quarterbacks headed for the draft last summer … and now every one of them is covered with zits? “I think it’s more media hype than anything,” Mayock said. “During the season, everybody is going crazy about Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold and the Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield, and Lamar Jackson, and that’s before the scouts and the teams and the analysts like myself and Daniel Jeremiah and Mel Kiper, before we all start to set up shop and talk critically about these kids. The season brings things back to earth a little bit, I still think there is some excitement about this class and I still think there are some franchise quarterbacks involved, but I also think it has been tempered somewhat by the availability of NFL free agents that typically aren’t out there.”
Mayock also points out that in the last three drafts, the first round receivers have not produced:
Prompted by Mayock, let’s look at the receivers in the first round of last three drafts:
• 2015: Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett.
• 2016: Corey Coleman, Will Fuller IV, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell.
• 2017: Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross.
Wow. Is that awful. One of 13 has played like a first-rounder. Amari Cooper. One!
“I think there is some trends emerging,” Mayock said. “It’s a pass-first league. Who were the best rookie wide receivers last year? JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp, taken at 62 and 69 [overall]. If you look back since ’14, at all the first-round receivers, there is a history of injury problems—guys who can’t answer the bell and most of them had that history in college that we didn’t pay attention to. All three of the ones last year—Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross—had durability concerns coming into last year’s draft. And I’m not saying they can’t become great players, because it typically takes a couple years at that position. I’m just saying, hey, beware of a history of injury at that position. Take a look at drafthistory.com and go back and look at those four or five draft classes.
“Number two: It takes a long time for these wideouts to develop. They are not used to quality press coverage and they are not used to the complexity of NFL defenses. Nelson Agholor was supposed to be a bust but he got moved inside in year three and finally contributed to a degree. I look at this and say what do we learn from this and apply to this year’s draft class. I want to figure out Courtland Sutton, the big kid from SMU. It looks to me like the bigger guys without any injury issues have been able to contribute quickly. Go back and take a look and see if it holds out. I think [Alabama’s] Calvin Ridley and [Texas A&M’s] Christian Kirk are really good route runners. It will be interesting to see what they run. You can’t bang the table for any one guy that is going to come out and catch 60 balls next year. What are we going to see at the combine? I’m intrigued by that.”
Asked Mayock if there’s a guy he’s smitten with after weeks of tape study. “The Boise linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch,” he answered right away. “I haven’t watched much of him. I have only seen two tapes so far; that’s the caveat. But I could make the argument that his tape against Oregon [in the Las Vegas Bowl] was as good an off-the-ball-linebacker tape as I’ve seen in five years. Key for him at the combine: Over/under 4.65 in the 40. I am anxious to see what he runs.”
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Some quotes from other sources on other QBs, also collected by Peter King:
“I love Lamar Jackson. He’s gotten better and better each year. He does sit in the pocket. He can read defenses. He’s very poised. He takes a lot of shots downfield. He’s not running some dink-and-dunk system.”
—Former New York Giants director of player evaluation Marc Ross, fired by new GM Dave Gettleman in January, on the first-round Louisville prospect in an ESPN appearance Thursday.
“You wanna compare him to Russell [Wilson], right? This guy’s [one inch] taller than Russ. They’ve been that height their whole life, so they work with it. You’re not trying to throw over him; you’re trying to throw in lanes. You know what’s not showing up with Mayfield? Batted balls. If his height is a concern, you’re looking for balls getting tipped and batted down at the line. The height is not showing up as an issue for me.”
—Darrell Bevell, Russell Wilson’s offensive coordinator for the first six seasons of his Seattle career, to Robert Klemko of The MMQB, on Oklahma’s first-round quarterback prospect, Baker Mayfield.