The Daily Briefing Monday, June 5, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
The NFL’s master plan was to give Jerry Jones the draft in 2018 – and as outstanding as it was, Philadelphia’s fantastic job as host has apparently not swayed those desires.
It appears the Dallas Cowboys are closing in on being named the official host of the 2018 NFL draft.
Despite some looming logistical and financial hurdles, the Cowboys’ bid is the leading candidate to host the event, two NFL sources told Yahoo Sports. The sources added that the process of naming a 2018 host has been slowed by the two-venue pitch of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is aiming to split the festivities between AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and the Cowboys’ multibillion-dollar training facility in Frisco. The training facility is located about 40 miles north of the stadium, creating additional financial considerations for the league and its broadcasting partners such as ESPN.
“[The two-venue bid] was an outside the box idea,” one league source said. “It’s definitely different. But just from the stance of how you put it together and the costs, you’re doubling up on some of the costs and just the sheer logistics of creating two draft sites. It’s a little more complicated, so [the NFL has] to sort through that.”
The source added that the 2018 bid is also significant on multiple fronts. Among them:
• The city of Philadelphia raised the bar on the event in a way that had the league office and ownership groups buzzing. To the point that the NFL is hopeful the draft can become an offseason tent pole event that approaches the levels of the Super Bowl as a marquee commodity for cities. According to one league source, some owners see the draft as having the potential to become a traveling “sweetener” for NFL cities, giving the league another leverage chip when lobbying for infrastructure improvements. For example, the NFL could someday package a Super Bowl and draft site bid as tandem incentives for cities that are grappling with building new stadiums.
• After some consternation about taking the draft out of New York, league owners have been happy with the raised profile of the event and the performance of the cities – Chicago and Philly – involved. Year over year, the NFL has seen cities expand the event into a bigger affair, with Philadelphia taking it to a new level with an open-air venue. The source said the league would like to continue the upward momentum, and carefully considers bids based on whether some level of marketing expansion is going to be satisfied.
• While the NFL is unlikely to say as much publicly, awarding the draft to Dallas would be a kickback of sorts to Jones for moving some financial mountains in recent years. Most notably, helping broker a lucrative return to the Los Angeles market and building his own state of the art stadium and practice facility in Texas. In a grandiose way, Jones has been pace-setting infrastructure strides that will likely impact the NFL for decades to come – not to mention the league’s financial bottom line. The league owes Jones for both deal-building and some standard-setting moves.
• The Philadelphia experience will be hard to top – but there is belief that if someone could raise the stakes or profile of the draft even further, it would be Jones. And not just because Jones prefers to do everything bigger and better than anyone else. Indeed, he also has a significant incentive to make this draft a spectacle. It would become an infomercial of sorts for his billion-dollar practice facility and business park, and it would give Jones a carrot of sorts for potential vendors and business partners as he rolls on with the facility development in Frisco.
As of now, none of those realities have guaranteed Jerry Jones and his Cowboys the 2018 bid. But they have apparently placed Dallas at the top of the list of considerations. And if money and logistics are the only things standing in the way, Jones has shown an undeniable ability to master those realms in recent years. Barring something remarkable, that will likely place the next draft stages in Arlington and Frisco next year.
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Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com points out that after three seasons a current NFL player will be sitting pretty good if he gets to age 55:
We’re past the halfway point of the current CBA, and the agreement has proven over time to work pretty well for both sides. Much of the focus has been on rising player salaries as the salary cap has risen about $47 million since the start of the agreement in 2011, but just as important is the benefits package negotiated between the league and the players’ union. Players become eligible for the pension plan only after playing three seasons, but the payouts are very good for players who make it past that threshold. Here’s a breakdown of the estimated annual post-retirement income for an active player who began his career in 2016.
• If he takes his benefits starting at age 55: $127,008 (4 credited seasons), $297,204 (7 credited seasons), $441,168 (10 credited seasons)
• If he takes his benefits starting at age 65: $329,016 (4 credited seasons), $769,236 (7 credited seasons), $1,141,764 (10 credited seasons)
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Mark Maske of YahooSports.com on the cooling of the idea to expand the NFL Playoffs.
There was a time, not all that long ago, when the NFL seemed on the verge of expanding its playoff field from 12 to 14 teams.
Then it didn’t happen. Not then. Not now.
Or at least not yet.
So what’s the deal? Will it ever happen?
That’s a very definite maybe.
In May 2014, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he expected the expanded playoffs to take effect in the 2015 season.
“I do believe it will be approved for the 2015 [season],” Goodell said then.
He also said at that point: “I think we want to see one more year of, ‘Will it impact the regular season in a positive way from a competitive standpoint? Will it create more excitement, more races towards the end about who’s going to qualify for the playoffs?’ And we also want to absorb the additional inventory into the marketplace from an advertising standpoint. We’ll be able to do that.… So far we see positive signs in the marketplace. So that’s how we’re going to approach it.”
But then it didn’t happen. The owners, who must ratify such a change, simply seemed to lose interest. And the measure, it appears, generates very little discussion these days among league leaders and the owners.
That doesn’t mean the idea has been discarded for good, however. It has been put aside, for sure. But it could be revisited in the next round of deliberations over the league’s television contracts and its collective bargaining agreement.
The entire conversation goes back to the last set of labor negotiations leading up to the 2011 CBA. The owners, remember, proposed an 18-game regular season with a reduced preseason. The players vehemently objected to a longer regular season and the owners dropped the proposal. They said they never would lengthen the regular season without the players’ approval.
But the owners did not drop the idea of shortening the preseason. Needing a way to boost revenues to offset the loss of revenues associated with a reduced preseason, the owners turned to an expanded postseason field, with a couple extra playoff games to sell to the TV networks.
Under the proposed measure, seven teams in each conference would qualify for the playoffs instead of six. There would be only one team per conference given an opening-round postseason bye instead of two. So there would be six first-round playoff games leaguewide instead of four. One of them probably would be played on a Monday night.
But there were (and are) issues. There were concerns about watering down the playoff field by allowing 44 percent of the league into the postseason rather than the current 38 percent. There also is a potential conflict between the prospective Monday night first-round playoff game and the college football playoffs.
Does that mean it will never happen? No, it doesn’t mean that.
At some point, the NFL calendar will be revisited. The preseason still could be shortened. A longer regular season, either 17 or 18 games, could be reconsidered, although the players’ approval remains the obvious obstacle there. So the expanded postseason could end up being reexamined as the revenue-boosting alternative. The current labor deal runs through 2020, and it makes sense to sort all of this out as the CBA and the next set of TV contracts are being hammered out.
If the expanded playoffs had been in effect this year, we would have added the Tennessee Titans in the AFC and they would have played at Kansas City. In the NFC, the Buccaneers would have made the playoffs and gone to Atlanta.
Not sure that’s compelling, especially when you have to somehow crowd in six games on a weekend. The DB loves the NFL playoffs, but watching four games each weekend is about all we can do.
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Former RB Ray Rice is now officially the running backs coach at his alma mater, New Rochelle High near New York. He has been a volunteer coach the last three years. Will any SJWs protest this?
Coach Mike Zimmer is back from recuperating at his farm. Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:
The Vikings have their head coach back.
The team announced on Monday morning that Mike Zimmer has received clearance from doctors to resume his duties with the team. Zimmer missed the first six Organized Team Activities over the last two weeks while he was recovering from an eighth eye surgery related to a detached retina suffered last year.
Defensive line coach Andre Patterson covered some of Zimmer’s duties while the head coach was recuperating in Kentucky with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, defensive coordinator George Edwards and special teams coach Mike Priefer leading the way for their units.
Monday is also Zimmer’s 61st birthday, so there’s added reason to celebrate the man who will be running the Vikings for a fourth season in 2017. The Vikings have four OTAs this week and wrap up their offseason program with mandatory minicamp next week.
They are breathing easier in Atlanta as the futuristic roof on the top of the new stadium works – at least once. Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com:
Steve Cannon, the CEO of Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s family businesses, insisted the retractable roof would not be a lingering issue regarding the opening of the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Cannon provided visual evidence to back his claim over the weekend, posting pictures of an open and closed roof.
“No concerns about the operability of the roof have ever been expressed to us by the design or construction teams,” Cannon said back in April. “Normal surveying and analysis of the roof structure, as well as steelwork in the roof, have both taken longer than planned. Those two things have had a cascading effect on overall workflows related to the roof, and that is the reason for the new timeline.”
LB LUKE KUECHLEY is already tired of chasing RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY. Conor Orr at NFL.com:
Panthers first-round pick Christian McCaffrey has yet to really take the field in Carolina, but Luke Kuechly is already signing up other linebackers to cover him during practice.
“He’s going to be a nightmare for us,” Kuechly told the Charlotte Observer. “It’ll be a good challenge for us. We’ll put Thomas [Davis] and Shaq [Thompson] on him and see what they can do.”
McCaffrey, of course, is training away from Carolina because Stanford is still in session until early June.
In a lot of ways, it has been a blessing for the casual football observer that McCaffrey and the Panthers will not unite until mandatory mini camp later this month. During his only appearance in rookie mini camp, his blazing speed was an obvious point of focus. The team was neither in pads nor helmets.
While McCaffrey’s time at Stanford more than proved he is more than just an excellent 40-yard dash, spring workouts are populated by reporters gushing over qualities in players that we rarely see translated directly onto the football field.
McCaffrey’s real advantage will be his incredible receiving skills, football knowledge and an almost unconscious comfort weaving through a logjam of defenders with pads on. The real payoff will be how spread out Carolina will be able to make their opponents in Week 1.
The McCaffrey hype is well earned and will end up significant once training camp starts. Kuechly isn’t already dreading those one-on-one drills for no reason.
DT NICK FAIRLEY has a potentially serious medical complication. Jen Hale of FoxSports with the scoop:
Saints DT Nick Fairley has been absent from OTA’s bc of medical issues. Tests show heart trouble that could jeopardize future of his career.
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The Saints think they have acquired the 2008 or 2012 version of RB ADRIAN PETERSON. Joel Erickson in the Baton Rouge Advocate:
There are some athletes whose physical stature leaves even the finely-tuned professional athletes around them in awe.
Men who seem to be naturally blessed with a build that comes close to physical perfection.
Jim Brown was that way. So was Bo Jackson, whose feats of sudden power and speed inspired enough legendary tales to make him a folk hero.
Adrian Peterson is this generation’s Hercules, a man capable of inspiring awe with a simple greeting.
“If you look at him, he’s a specimen, he’s cut out of granite,” new Saints guard Larry Warford said. “Don’t shake his hand.”
Peterson, at the age of 32, has never possessed the invulnerability of Achilles, and a torn patellar tendon last fall cost him most of the season and limited the best back of a generation to just 37 carries.
At Peterson’s age, after 2,418 career carries and coupled with the torn ACL and MCL he suffered in 2011, the conventional wisdom holds that he should be on his way down off of the peak, no matter how freakish his physical composition.
From what the Saints have seen since Peterson signed in late April, though, the expected decline hasn’t arrived yet.
“He’d be the one guy that you would say’s already gone against conventional wisdom,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “With not only his skillset, but also his physical ability and the way he trains, I think he is excited to get back.”
Peterson, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound prototype, has been a phenomenon for so long that Saints of every generation have been in awe of him at one point or the other. From the must-watch Youtube highlights he produced at Palestine High School to his Heisman Trophy chase at Oklahoma to the legendary 2,000-yard season he turned in after the ACL tear, Peterson is one of modern football’s most famous players.
Sometimes the myth is larger than the man.
So far, most of the Saints have been shocked at Peterson’s capabilities.
“I’m amazed, honestly,” New Orleans left tackle Terron Armstead said. “Seeing him just take off, his first two steps are as explosive as I’ve ever seen by a human being. It’s unbelievable. I’m excited to see him when the pads get on.”
Pushing back against Seth Wickersham’s ESPN article, Pete Carroll isn’t talking about the furnishings when he declares his locker room to be in great shape (and COLIN KAEPERNICK isn’t going to change that shape anytime soon). Bob Condotta in the Seattle Times:
Richard Sherman walked off the field following the Seahawks’ OTA (Organized Team Activity) Friday talking cordially with general manager John Schneider, then giving him a little hug as he headed into the locker room.
Then seeing a group of waiting reporters he paused for a second, smiled and said “how you guys doing?’’
Sherman didn’t stop to talk to the media longer — word is he may do that next week.
But the statement seemed clear enough — if you’re looking for evidence of the type of internal division detailed in an extensive ESPN article published last week, for now you’ve come to the wrong place.
On this day, team turmoil was instead enveloped only in sunshine and good feeling, with coach Pete Carroll and then quarterback Russell Wilson each spending significant portions of their media sessions shooting down the idea that anything is amiss in the team’s locker room, or that the team’s public acknowledgement that it would consider trading Sherman in the offseason will linger.
“We are in great shape right now,’’ Carroll said. “Everything is going in great fashion.’’
Carroll, in fact, at times seemed defiant as he said that while the Super Bowl loss to New England — detailed in the ESPN story as still haunting Sherman and leading to his discontent and an increasing offense versus defense rift — will never go away, it is not something that the team hasn’t overcome.
“I guess things are a lot differently than maybe you guys think,’’ Carroll said. “I don’t know that, but in here and with us and the work we are doing I think we are in marvelous position. That doesn’t mean everybody is on the same page exactly right all the time — I’m not either. We’ve got to work at it, it’s a challenge and it’s about developing relationships and working with people and helping them find their best and that’s what we’re working at right here. Now we ain’t doing it right all the time but we are trying.’’
Carroll said he didn’t feel the need to talk to the team about the article —- which also posited that some players feel the coaching staff treats Wilson differently — calling it “an old story that was revisited … it’s old stuff.’’
Carroll instead said any perceived tensions have arisen simply out of working in a high-pressure environment in which there have been some unique circumstances.
“I’ve tried to explain — I don’t know if you guys get it — but we are kind of living in a family in this situation,’’ Carroll said. “These guys have grown up with us as football players and in that we go through a lot of changes and there are a lot of things that happen, a lot of challenges in all directions, not just for one but for all of these guys. And in that I am dedicated to making progress as we go.
“That doesn’t mean everything is always going to go exactly as you plan. Sometimes there are setbacks and challenges. Matter of fact if you don’t count on that then you don’t understand. We are in great shape. This locker room is in great shape. Whatever you guys think may be otherwise, it isn’t.’’
Jenny Vrentas approves of Carroll’s deflections:
I think Pete Carroll put on a clinic for how head coaches should address controversies when he was asked about Seth Wickersham’s thorough ESPN story detailing the rifts in the Seahawks locker room following the Super Bowl 49 loss. Carroll didn’t deny any aspect of the reporting. He didn’t attack the reporter. He simply called it “an old story that was revisited,” and expressed confidence in where the team is now.
This from Sheil Kapadia from ESPN on Seattle opting not to do the media’s bidding and sign Kaepernick:
— Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday that Colin Kaepernick should be a starter in the NFL, but he indicated that Seattle has no current plans to sign the quarterback.
“Colin’s been a fantastic football player, and he’s going to continue to be,” Carroll said. “At this time, we didn’t do anything with it, but we know where he is and who he is and we had a chance to understand him much more so. He’s a starter in this league. And we have a starter. But he’s a starter in this league, and I can’t imagine that someone won’t give him a chance to play.”
The Seahawks had Kaepernick in for a visit last week, but the quarterback left without a contract. The team is looking for a backup option behind Russell Wilson.
Carroll was asked why he thinks Kaepernick has not been signed to start elsewhere.
“That’s not my issue,” Carroll said.
Asked if Kaepernick’s social activism has been a factor, Carroll said, “I don’t know that. Let’s wait and see. There’s some other guys still out too.”
Wilson, meanwhile, said he would have no issues with the team signing Kaepernick.
“I haven’t had the chance to be around Colin too much, but the times I have, he’s been great,” Wilson said. “He’s obviously, first of all, a really, really good football player. He’s made a lot of good plays in a lot of big games and done a lot of good things. So I have tons of respect for him in that way.
“And then in terms of everything else he stood for too, I think that he was trying to stand for the right things. He was trying to stand for equality. And so I respect that too.”
Kaepernick, 29, started 58 regular-season games for the San Francisco 49ers from 2012 to 2016. He made headlines last season for kneeling during the national anthem as a way to protest social inequality.
Carroll did not close the door on the idea of the Seahawks considering Kaepernick down the road.
“The doors are always open to opportunities,” Carroll said. “We’re just going to try to do the best we can for our guys whenever the opportunity presents itself, and we’ll see. But as of right now, we know what we’re doing.
Despite Carroll’s rosy thoughts on his locker room, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has a theory on why Seattle is passing.
In the aftermath of the decision of the Seahawks to not sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick, some have suggested that the inability to get the two sides together results from the fact that the two sides are apart on money.
Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, that’s not the case.
And that makes sense, given the manner in which Seahawks coach Pete Carroll explained the situation on Friday. Carroll declared Kaepernick to be “a starter in this league”; it’s the kind of public assessment that would never break the financial logjam in the team’s favor.
Instead, the Seahawks have made the strategic decision not to add a player they regard as starting-caliber because they have a starter. While that could change if their starter suffers a serious injury, the reluctance of a team driven by competition to embrace a competitive option seems odd — unless the Seahawks don’t want to have an in-house option to which the Russell Wilson Resenters can point if/when he struggles during the regular season.
Currently, Trevone Boykin and Jake Heaps are the only other candidates to play, and no one will be clamoring for either of them. If the Seth Wickersham article regarding the belief that the Seahawks don’t hold Wilson accountable is accurate, the Seahawks have every reason to resist adding a player behind whom certain players could rally.
And this, in another post from Florio:
In theory, that makes sense (signing a second starter quality QB). But what if the Seahawks were to add a backup quarterback who ultimately turns out to be better than the starter? If, for example, Tom Brady were available, Wilson wouldn’t be thrilled about that — regardless of what he’d say publicly before cramming “Go ‘Hawks!” in as parting shot.
While Kaepernick is no Tom Brady (even though the Kaepernick Truthers will now claim that I’ve compared Colin to #Tommy), the question becomes where Kaepernick fits on the Russell Wilson Threat Spectrum. With coach Pete Carroll declaring on Friday that Kaepernick is “a starter in this league” and with cornerback Richard Sherman (who reportedly barked at Wilson three Junes ago “you f–king suck!“) recently claiming that Kaepernick would start for “probably 20 of the team in this league,” it’s fair to wonder whether the Seahawks are worried that some in a divided locker room would align with Kaepernick over Wilson as the starter.
And so a team that embraces competition at every turn possibly doesn’t want to risk an organic quarterback competition between Wilson and Kaepernick. To do that, the Seahawks will instead roll the dice with the undrafted (and twice arrested) Trevone Boykin and ultimate journeyman Jake Heaps as the understudies to a man who played through serious ankle and knee injuries in 2016.
In most cities, the availability of a backup that the organization regards as a starter would result in the player being gobbled up faster than the last piece of pepperoni pizza. In Seattle, where some players think the starting quarterback isn’t held sufficiently accountable for his actual or perceived shortcomings, a competent backup quarterback could end up being the most popular guy in the locker room.
The Chiefs sent a shock through their roster with the sudden waiver of WR JEREMY MACLIN, whose time with Andy Reid dated back to Philadelphia. Blair Kerkoff at KansasCity.com:
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith’s reaction to the release of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on Friday was the same as the fan base.
“Shocked,” Smith said when he heard the news, just a few minutes before it was presented to the media. “Jeremy is a really good friend, an amazing teammate, so still kind of just processing that he’s not going to be in there with us, a guy that’s done a lot for us the last two years, a guy I’ve grown really close to.”
Maclin, 29, spent two years with the Chiefs, with 2015 more productive than last season, when he finished tied for third on the team in receptions with 44 and third in yards with 536. He missed four games with a groin injury.
In his first year with the Chiefs, Maclin posted the team’s highest single-season receptions total (87) since 2008 and became the first Chief to surpass 1,000 receiving yards (1,088) in four years.
He was seen as the team’s top wide receiver since the former Philadelphia Eagle signed a five-year, $55 million free-agent deal, and Smith figured that role would continue for Maclin this season.
“Jeremy’s a great person, a great teammate, a great player,” Smith said. “On all those levels, (I’m) just kind of letting that sink in, I guess.”
Maclin’s release clears $10 million in cap room for the Chiefs, who had about $3.5 million before the move.
Smith took time during his football camp at Shawnee Mission West on Saturday to react to address his friend’s departure.
“He played through a lot last year, played through injuries and pushed through trying to help this team,” Smith said. “Obviously as players we don’t get to make these decisions.
“For us, we have to move on a roll as a group. We obviously wish Jeremy well wherever he lands, and he’ll land on his feet.”
The Chiefs created space to help sign their draft picks. Salary cap expert Joel Corry said that the team’s top three picks — quarterback Patrick Mahomes, defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon and running back Kareem Hunt — should take up $4.4 million in cap space.
Smith, who said he sent Maclin a note on Friday after the announcement, understands the business end of football, but that doesn’t make the move easier to take.
“He and I have been playing a long time, been around this a long time,” Smith said, who along with several other Chiefs players and coaches attended Maclin’s wedding a few weeks ago. “They say it is a business, but obviously for us as teammates it’s not. It’s very personal.”
Without Maclin the most veteran of the Chiefs wide receiving corps is Albert Wilson, starting his fourth season. Tyreek Hill was dynamic as a rookie last season, leading the wide receivers in receptions with 61 and six touchdowns.
Chris Conley had 44 receptions. The other wide receivers are De’Anthony Thomas, Demarcus Robinson and rookie Jehu Chesson.
Could Maclin be re-united with LeSEAN McCOY in Buffalo? Alec Brzenzski in The Sporting News:
LeSean McCoy understands the Bills need to add more playmakers if they are going to compete against the Patriots this season. He has one wide receiver in particular already in mind.
Jeremy Maclin, who was recently released by the Chiefs, has been identified by McCoy as a target for the Bills.
“I know he could help us out tremendously,” McCoy said, via ESPN.com. “I’ve been doing my recruiting already, and don’t be surprised if it happens.”
Jordan Schultz of the Huffington Post reported Sunday the Bills are in “preliminary talks” to sign Maclin.
Here is a list compiled by Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com:
Where could Maclin end up? Certainly teams like the Browns and the 49ers have a big need at the position and the cap space, but I’m not sure a rebuilding club is the best fit for a 29-year-old receiver. Teams looking for another piece to make a playoff push are more likely to pay his price tag in the short term. The Ravens make a lot of sense—they lost Steve Smith (retirement), Kamar Aiken (free agency) and now Pitta (injury), and Maclin began his career playing under Baltimore offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg—but they only have $2.1 million in cap space right now. Other possible fits: Buffalo, Carolina, Tennessee and New Orleans.
And this list from Dan Graziano of ESPN.com:
So here’s a partial list of teams that make sense from the outside as possible Maclin landing spots, along with a quickie explanation. In no particular order:
Buffalo Bills. No one knows whether 2014 first-round pick Sammy Watkins will be or stay healthy. The Bills drafted Zay Jones in the second round, but none of the veterans they brought in this offseason — Andre Holmes, Philly Brown, Rod Streater — come with Maclin’s resume. The Bills coaching staff also has plenty of familiarity with Maclin. Quarterbacks coach David Culley was the Chiefs’ wide receivers coach for both of Maclin’s years in Kansas City, and of course, Bills head coach Sean McDermott and assistants such as Juan Castillo and Chad Hall were in Philadelphia when Maclin spent the early part of his career there.
Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore’s current depth chart at wide receiver looks like a fence someone forgot to finish painting. The Ravens have still-unproven 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, veteran Mike Wallace and nothing but question marks. They didn’t even draft a receiver. Add in Friday’s loss of tight end Dennis Pitta — their leading receiver in 2016 — to another hip injury, and you have a team that needs to add passing-game weapons for Joe Flacco. Baltimore offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg served in the same capacity in Philadelphia when Maclin was there. The only issue is cap space. As of Friday morning, the Chiefs and Rams were the only teams with less cap space than Baltimore, and now it’s probably just the Rams. Speaking of which:
Los Angeles Rams. They signed Robert Woods away from Buffalo and still have 2013 first-rounder Tavon Austin. They drafted wide receivers in the third and fourth rounds of this year’s draft and sound high on third-rounder Cooper Kupp. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look to add a veteran. If they can afford him, Maclin would be the best receiver on their roster.
Cleveland Browns. If you’re still dreaming of a Josh Gordon return, you haven’t been paying attention. Cleveland’s starters appear to be 2016 first-rounder Corey Coleman and free-agent signee Kenny Britt. They also picked pass-catching tight end David Njoku in the first round in April. But none of that prevents them from adding a veteran wideout for depth.
San Francisco 49ers. Even after adding Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and old Kyle Shanahan favorite Aldrick Robinson to a nearly empty wide receivers room, the Niners had hoped to draft a receiver early. They didn’t take one until the fifth round (Louisiana Tech’s Trent Taylor) and are still piecing together one of the league’s thinnest rosters.
Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com talks to Coach Jack Del Rio on how he has the Raiders focused on 2017 in Oakland.
“It’s really easy for me,” Del Rio says. “I grew up about 10, 12 miles from here, so it’s not hard for me to stand up in front of the team and say: These are my people, these are my family and friends, and I’m telling you what I need. We are going to give our very best to where we are, and that’s where we are here and now, and not worry about things in the future.”
“You are talking about three years from now,” he continues. “It really serves no purpose to talk about something that’s going to happen in three years when you are talking about an NFL team. That’s the message, and every time I get asked about it, it’s the same message. We are here, and we are going to focus on the here and now. We are all about returning ourselves to greatness and committing to the things that need to happen to make that happen.”
Del Rio took the Raiders job in 2015 asking owner Mark Davis for upgrades to everything, from the roster to the facilities. That’s continuing, even if the team won’t be in these facilities for that much longer. On this year’s to-do list, Del Rio says, are adding a rehab pool to help players with their recovery as well as an on-site kitchen (unlike most teams, all the food at the Raiders’ facility is currently brought in from outside). “Those are a few of the things I’m working on right now,” he says, “to let our guys know we are going to continue to invest in them here and now, and do great things while we are here.”
Gerry Dulac in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the size of the Steelers receiving corps:
When the Steelers went to the Super Bowl in 2010, none of their top five wide receivers was taller than 6 feet.
Just five years ago, only one of their top three wideouts — Mike Wallace — was 6 feet tall.
Remember when the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl with a collection of wide receivers known as “The Smurfs”?
Well, those days are gone in the NFL, and they are especially gone with the Steelers, who have abandoned their collection of vertically challenged receivers with a crew that would not be too out of place on the basketball court.
“I’ve never seen this many,” said one of them, Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is 6 feet 2, 210 pounds. “We got a lot of tall ones.”
Granted, they still have Antonio Brown, the most productive receiver in the NFL the past four seasons. And the league still has smurf-like receivers such as T.Y. Hilton (5-9) of the Indianapolis Colts, who led the league in receiving yards in 2016. Or even Odell Beckham Jr., of the New York Giants (5-11).
But receivers like Martavis Bryant (6-4, 225), Sammie Coates (6-2, 215) and even rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster (6-1, 215) are becoming the norm in the league. They are just three of the seven receivers on the Steelers roster during offseason training activities who are 6-1 or taller and weigh more than 200 pounds.
They added one of them in free agency — Justin Hunter (6-4, 210), a former No. 2 draft choice in 2013 who played four seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
“Shoot, that’s what helps the team when you got a lot of big-body guys,” Hunter said after a morning practice on the South Side. “When you got a lot of big-body guys with a wide range, that helps out Ben, too.”
Indeed, while Ben Roethlisberger has not had problems finding Brown — the 5-foot-10 receiver has more receptions in a four-year span (481) than any player in league history — he is always talking about the value of having tall receivers. One of the advantages is not having to loft the ball so perfectly over a defensive back to a smaller receiver down the field.
But there is another for Roethlisberger.
“It gives him the opportunity and us the opportunity in the red zone, in the red area, to go up high,” Heyward-Bey said. “We’re a team that definitely throws the ball deep, but when we’re in the red zone we haven’t been a big fade team. I think having tall guys, having [Bryant] back, having Sammie fully healthy, gives us the opportunity to do that. I think that’s what Ben likes.”
Trying to cover those tall receivers is one of the reasons many of the top cornerbacks in this year draft were taller than 6 feet. In fact, 11 of the top 13 cornerbacks selected were 6 feet or taller, including two who were 6-3 — Washington’s Kevin King and Colorado’s Ahkello Witherspoon.
That percentage is even greater than the percentage of taller receivers drafted in the first three rounds. Three of the top four wideouts were 6-3 or taller, including the first two — Corey Davis and Mike Williams. Five of the first seven were at least 6-1, including Smith-Schuster.
Teams will need the big cornerbacks to counter some of the league’s taller receiving duos. Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started two wide receivers who were 6-5, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. The New York Jets started 6-4 Brandon Marshall and 6-3 Eric Decker before Decker was injured. Even the Jacksonville Jaguars started a pair of 6-3 receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
“You find taller receivers who can run and catch, and can play, it’s a plus,” said Bryant, one of the best and biggest playmakers in the league before his yearlong suspension. “But now they have tall cornerbacks for tall wide receivers.”
NEW YORK JETS
Two Jets were involved in a kerfuffle with poor DT LEONARD WILLIAMS getting his name mentioned although all he did was calm down an irate teammate. Emma Baccialierri at Deadspin.com:
Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams was filmed breaking up a fight between a man who appears to be teammate Darron Lee and a woman at the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City last night.
Per Twitter’s @gunnerpunner, who filmed the incident, the man in question was shouting at the woman and starting to “manhandle her.” Though bystanders were reportedly trying to help, the man was “aggressive” and did not stop until Williams appeared—calmly blocking the man before finally picking him up and moving him aside.
Some other tweets from the videographer:
Aggressive guy came back. Only this time he was confronted with the biggest person I’ve ever seen in my life – 6’5 and 300lbs (thanks Wiki)
Aggressive man was trying to get to the woman but the big dude was just in the way. So calm just like you’re not getting through.
THIS AND THAT
MANGINI AND BELICHICK
Eric Mangini sends a message to Bill Belichick with Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:
Ten years after Spygate shattered his relationship with Bill Belichick, former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini hasn’t given up on the possibility of reconciling with his once-close friend and mentor.
They haven’t spoken since 2007.
“Am I surprised? I hope it’s something that can come back,” Mangini told ESPN on Saturday at his alma mater, Bulkeley High School, where he conducted his annual youth football camp.
“Look, Bill is a big part of my life. Bill gave me a tremendous opportunity, and I enjoyed that experience, and I respect him. It’s disappointing, the way it’s been. Hopefully, it can change at some point.”
Mangini left Belichick and the New England Patriots in 2006 to become the Jets’ head coach, which strained their relationship. It was destroyed at the start of the 2007 season, when the Jets and Patriots met in New Jersey. Before the game, Mangini told Jets security to keep an eye on the Patriots’ sideline, where they were illegally videotaping opponents’ signals.
The Jets informed the NFL and, sure enough, the Patriots got busted during the game.
So began one of the biggest scandals in NFL history. Ultimately, Belichick was fined heavily and the Patriots were docked a first-round draft pick.
Mangini, portrayed in New England as a snitch, reiterated Saturday that he regrets the outcome.
“It was never supposed to go the way that it went,” he said. “It was more about, ‘Hey, don’t do this here.’ It wasn’t about reporting it. Sometimes things get out of hand and get rolling in one direction. It was never, ever supposed to go that way.”
Mangini, 46, got his start in the NFL under Belichick while with the Cleveland Browns. They coached together with the Jets and Patriots. They were so close that Belichick read at Mangini’s wedding ceremony.
Currently out of coaching, Mangini said he admires the Patriots and still is friendly with members of Belichick’s staff. In fact, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was an instructor Saturday at Mangini’s camp, which drew more than 700 high school-age kids and dozens of pro and college coaches.
“It’s been fun watching Bill’s kids,” said Mangini, referring to Steven and Brian, both current members of the Patriots’ staff. “I’ve known them for a long time. To see them play a role is nice.”
Mangini said he’s surprised Belichick, 65, still is coaching.
“I thought Bill might have stopped,” he said. “We always joked about it. He’d be like, ‘Oh, I can only do this for X number of years,’ and get out of it.”
REX AND ROB
ESPN employee and Trump supporter (there aren’t many in both subsets) Rex Ryan gets in a Nashville brawl with his brother. We await the worldwide leader’s response. Ben Krimmel at RealClearSports.com:
Video emerged Sunday of former NFL head coach Rex Ryan and his brother Rob involved in a scuffle at a bar in Nashville.
Cooper Stefaniak shared two videos on Twitter of two men who appeared to be Rex and Rob.
— Cooper Stefaniak (@CooperStef) June 4, 2017
The brothers have been spotted around Nashville during events for the Stanley Cup Final and earlier Sunday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Sean Gentille posted a picture of the same two men on Twitter and identified the pair as Rex and Rob Ryan.
The brothers last worked in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills until they were fired on December 27. The Bills went 7-9 in 2016.
If you know what happened, we would love to know more.
You can see it here – although based on the video it is not all that much.
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?
ESPN is fighting back against charges that it is a den of liberals, by re-hiring Hank Williams, Jr. who was Curt Schilling before Curt Schilling was Curt Schilling. Hank Busbee of YahooSports.com:
Huge news for those who think ESPN’s gone all soft and politically correct: Hank Williams Jr. is coming back to Monday Night Football!
Six years after giving Williams the boot for comments about then-president Obama, ESPN is bringing back the iconic “All My Rowdy Friends” theme song (you know, “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?”) The song will feature some contemporary artists in conjunction with ol’ Bocephus, and each week the song’s lyrics will be updated to reflect that night’s games. The first airing will be Sept. 11 before the Saints-Vikings Adrian Peterson Revenge Game.
It’s been a little while, but you remember the Hank tune. It’s encoded in the DNA of every football fan.
Fighter jets! Cheerleaders! The Statue of Liberty! Football! Fields of grain, for some reason! Man, that just screams AMERICA right in your face, doesn’t it?
Williams, a man so conservative he won’t even turn his truck left, is happy to scream America into your face. And that extreme patriotism got him into a bit of trouble back in 2011. On “Fox & Friends,” Williams called Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden “the enemy,” and said of a golf outing the president played with then-House Speaker John Boehner, “It would be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli leader) Benjamin Netanyahu.” Back in that kinder, gentler time, comparing the president to Hitler actually got you in trouble, and Williams got fired from the gig he’d held since 1989.
But time heals all wounds—or, as a cynical sort might say, ESPN is looking to shore up defense against the charge that it’s too liberal—and so Hank is back. ESPN officials indicated they expect a bit of backlash, but nothing they can’t handle.
“I never said, ‘Are you ready for some football’ on stage one time the last five or six years, but I will now,” Williams told USA Today on Sunday. “I’m feeling at home and it’s a real good thing.”
More from Mike Florio:
The news that Hank Williams Jr. will return to ESPN’s Monday Night Football after a hiatus fueled by a Hitler comparison includes word that the revamped launch to the game will include “two additional contemporary music artists to freshen the song’s presentation.”
Per an industry source, the two contemporary artists are Jason Derulo and Florida-Georgia Line (pictured).
ESPN presumably will be announcing the addition of the two acts sooner than later. The opening was filmed Sunday in Nashville, which means that plenty of people already know that Derulo and Florida-Georgia Line were involved.
How important to a football broadcast is the opening? For ESPN, the Monday Night Football opening was regarded to be important enough to embrace someone they had shunned for making a foolish right-leaning political statement, at a time when some are blaming ESPN’s death spiral on a habit of having too many left-leaning views.
While it’s premature to suggest that ESPN is making decisions aimed at eliminating the impression that the network swings blue, it makes sense to wonder whether or not the next guy to make a comeback in Bristol will be Rush Limbaugh.
Was the taping the reason that Rex Ryan was in Nashville to get in a fight? (see above)
– – –
Peyton Manning has a gig upcoming on ESPN (hosting The ESPYs) but he still did something deplorable over the weekend.
Peyton Manning has a busy year ahead of him, one full year removed from retirement.
On Sunday, he played golf with President Donald Trump.
According to several reports, Manning and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., were guests of the president at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, and visited the White House later in the day.
The occasion marks one of several high-profile highlights for the future Hall of Famer.
CNN, citing pool reports, said Manning would be honored later Sunday with the Lincoln Medal at Ford’s Theatre in Washington. The medal’s recipient “exemplifies the lasting legacy and mettle of character embodied by the most beloved president in our nation’s history, President Abraham Lincoln.”
On Oct. 7, the Indianapolis Colts will unveil a statue of the former quarterback in front of Lucas Oil Stadium before retiring his jersey and putting him in the team’s ring of honor at halftime of the next day’s game.
Manning also will take the helm as host of the ESPYS for the first time in July.