The Daily Briefing – Thursday, February 9, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

While 1-15 means the Browns have reduced many of their ticket prices, the Bears are doubling down on 3-13.  Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune breaks the bad news from the Bears.

 

Despite a 3-13 season in 2016 — the franchise’s worst since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 — the Bears are raising prices for the majority of tickets for games at Soldier Field.

 

Team President and CEO Ted Phillips sent a letter to season ticket holders Wednesday detailing the changes for customers who left tens of thousands of tickets unused during the second half of last season.

 

All sections of the stadium will have a price adjustment. Increases will range from 1 percent to 4 percent for most seats, with the average increase 2.6 percent. Ticket prices for certain sections will be reduced, but the team did not specify which seats will cost less in 2017. Club seats will increase by an average of 2 percent while nonclub seats will go up 2.9 percent.

 

“Thank you for your support in 2016,” Phillips wrote. “It was a challenging and disappointing season. One we will not repeat.”

 

The Bears did not raise the overall cost of season tickets in 2016, when they went to a variable-pricing plan that raised the cost of tickets for regular-season games and lowered the price of exhibition games, keeping the total cost flat. Ticket prices remained flat in 2015 after a disastrous 2014 season, making this the first ticket-price hike in three seasons.

 

Attendance decreased dramatically at Soldier Field last season as the Bears struggled. The team announced attendance of 39,837 for the final home game Dec. 24 against the Redskins, meaning 21,663 seats were empty. For the Packers game the week before, the team distributed 61,137 tickets but had an announced attendance of 44,601, leaving 16,536 unused. There were 59,782 tickets distributed for the Dec. 4 game against the 49ers; the announced attendance was 46,622, leaving 13,160 unused. On Nov. 27 against the Titans, the Bears distributed 59,494 tickets and the attendance was 48,408, leaving 11,056 unused.

 

Phillips lauded the work of general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox in transforming the roster from one of the oldest in the league to among the youngest. He also credited them for improving the culture of the organization.

 

“We are positioned for an exciting offseason with the third overall pick in the draft and one of best salary-cap situations in the NFL heading into free agency,” Phillips wrote. “We will take advantage of these assets to bring in more talent.”

 

The Bears will continue with variable pricing this season and will use three pricing tiers for regular-season games, to be announced after the release of the schedule in April. Individual tickets will be more expensive, as has been the team’s policy for some time.

 

So the increases are negligible and the first in three years, but that means the increase in revenue will be negligible if, a big if, the tickets are sold despite the bad publicity today.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The “staff” of ESPN.com puts together nine destinations for QB TONY ROMO, with the three favorites being the Bears, Jets and staying put in Dallas:

 

Buffalo Bills

Why this could work

The Bills aren’t likely to pick up Tyrod Taylor’s option. Plus, new head coach Sean McDermott could switch things up on offense. There’s an argument to be made that the Bills are only a quarterback away from the playoffs, and Tony Romo could make this a win-win for both parties.

 

Why it couldn’t

With the Bills likely to part ways with the quarterback who elevated the offense, ranking ninth in Total QBR in 2016 and seventh in 2015, it’s hard to imagine they would then go for Romo: an older quarterback with a history of injuries who hasn’t played a full season since 2014.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Long shot, but not impossible.

 

Chicago Bears

Why this could work

The Bears are likely to move on from quarterback Jay Cutler, which would open up $13 million worth of salary-cap space. They could replace Cutler by committing a second-round pick to acquiring a younger quarterback, perhaps in a trade with the Patriots for Jimmy Garoppolo … or they could sign Romo and spend that second-round pick on a rookie to groom behind him. John Fox’s job security as head coach looks good, which is an important note for a team with other positions in flux.

 

Why it couldn’t

Signing Romo isn’t a long-term solution for the Bears, and the Bears aren’t the short-term solution Romo would need to contend for a Super Bowl in what’s left of his career. They do have a core group of players, but it’s unclear whether the team will even be in shape to win in the next couple of seasons.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Realistic chance.

 

Cleveland Browns

Why this could work

The Browns need a lot of work, but namely, they need a guy at the most important position on the field. Robert Griffin III has one more year left on his contract, but Hue Jackson has yet to make a decision about Griffin’s future with the Browns. If they take a quarterback like Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky with the No. 1 pick in the draft, they could bring Romo on to start until the younger guy is ready.

 

Why it couldn’t

The answer to Cleveland’s quarterback woes is not as simple as Romo, who turns 37 in April and would be a short-term solution. There is also little to no incentive awaiting Romo in Cleveland. The Browns are simply too young and will not be ready to contend before the end of his current contract in 2019. He cannot win in Cleveland.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Long shot, but not impossible.

 

Dallas Cowboys

Why this could work

Owner Jerry Jones could resolve the Cowboys’ salary-cap issues by redoing Romo’s deal, giving him a three-year contract at $21 million to be the backup. It would be the best of both words for Dallas: keeping Romo and Dak Prescott. Plus, options available outside of Dallas that would offer Romo a legitimate chance to contend are limited.

 

Why it couldn’t

Even if the Cowboys were able to work out a deal with Romo closer to the three-year, $21 million contract suggested above, $7 million a year is still on the expensive side for a backup quarterback. There is also the matter of Romo saying he still wants to play and compete, neither of which will happen if he stays in Dallas.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Realistic chance.

 

Denver Broncos

Why this could work

General manager John Elway thinks the Broncos are close to returning to the Super Bowl, but it remains to be seen how close Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch is to being the quarterback they’d need to lead them back into contention. Romo could be the guy to make it happen sooner rather than later. Plus, the Broncos already did it with Peyton Manning and proved it could end with a ring.

 

Why it couldn’t

Romo would be an expensive short-term fix for the Broncos. Plus, the chances of Elway bringing on another veteran quarterback not named Peyton Manning seem slim. The Broncos could use the money it would cost them to sign Romo to instead sustain their roster for the long haul.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Long shot, but not impossible.

 

Houston Texans

Why this could work

Brock Osweiler did little to prove himself as the presumed starter, leaving room for Romo to slide into place on a playoff-caliber team. With one of the best defenses in the NFL (which is about to return one of the most dominant players in J.J. Watt), Romo could realistically contend for a championship in Houston.

 

Why it couldn’t

The Texans have $16 million in guaranteed money tied up in Osweiler for the 2017 season. It’s likely they keep him through 2017 and release him before the 2018 season kicks off, as that would cost them only $6 million in dead money. But that wouldn’t leave much room for another starting quarterback like Romo, who would require starting quarterback money.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Long shot, but not impossible.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Why this could work

Alex Smith has been good enough for the regular season, but the Chiefs are only 1-3 in the playoffs with him under center and could very well be a quarterback upgrade away from deepening their run into the postseason and, ultimately, winning a Super Bowl. Romo could be the boost Kansas City needs to contend, and the Chiefs could be the team Romo needs to give him a real chance at a championship before he retires.

 

Why it couldn’t

Trying to squeeze Romo’s contract into an already-challenging salary-cap situation would be one obstacle. Not to mention the concern that applies to any team considering signing the veteran: Romo hasn’t started a game since 2015, let alone played a full season since 2014. There is no way of really knowing whether he could be that upgrade at quarterback the Chiefs need.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Long shot, but not impossible.

 

New York Jets

Why this could work

The Jets started three different quarterbacks in 2016. Ryan Fitzpatrick won three of 11 starts and finished 29th overall in Total QBR, tossing 17 interceptions to his 12 touchdowns. They went from 10-6 to 5-11. The Jets need help, starting with the quarterback position. The team is likely to go outside the organization to find a solution, as the next two guys in line — Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg — don’t appear ready to be that.

 

Why it couldn’t

Romo could be the solution to bouncing back from a sub-.500 season, but the role age played on the Jets’ roster last season cannot be ignored. It’s already an older roster, filled with 30-plus-year-old players … and Romo will be 37 years old when the season begins.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Realistic chance.

 

San Francisco 49ers

Why this could work

Colin Kaepernick’s spot on the roster is tenuous at best. The 49ers could release or trade him, making Romo a replacement option. There’s a case to be made that Kyle Shanahan has played a significant role in elevating the Atlanta Falcons’ offense and deserves some credit for their turnaround from a .500 team in 2015 to a Super Bowl team in 2016. At the very least, his presence could spike Romo’s curiosity.

 

Why it couldn’t

This is a 2-14 team that has changed coaches three years in a row and will be in full rebuild mode under Shanahan. The 49ers are more than a year away from winning … and a few more away from contending. Going to San Francisco could render Romo’s chance of winning a Super Bowl ring all but impossible.

 

Probability of being Romo’s destination?

Long shot, but not impossible.

 

Other long shots

Washington Redskins

Is it a long shot? Of course. But consider this scenario: The Redskins decide not to franchise Kirk Cousins, or even work out a trade to, say, reunite him with old pal Kyle Shanahan. Short a QB, the Redskins persuade free agent Romo to win a familiar division.

 

Arizona Cardinals

This one is pretty simple. If Carson Palmer is back, it’s not an option. If Palmer decides to come back — and he could announce at any moment — then it’s not realistic. One other angle: If Palmer got hurt in August and Romo is still in Dallas, the trade would make sense.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

For one, Blake Bortles is still around, and who says Romo would want to jump into a rebuild? On the other hand, say the new coach thinks Bortles will continue to be as bad as he’s been, and the organization sells Romo on a young team that can grow up in a hurry?

 

 

WASHINGTON

The Redskins have hired Torrian Gray to coach their defensive backs, replacing the fired Perry Fewell.  Gray was hired after a one-year stint at the U. of Florida, a stint that ended last week.  He was quite the player at Virginia Tech in the 90s, and coached there for Frank Beamer.

– – –

The Redskins have muzzled GM SCOT McCLOUGHAN.  That’s among the tidbits contained here from Mike Jones of the Washington Post on the uneasy state of the NFL team in Our Nation’s Capital:

 

The Redskins just came off of back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 20 years, right? So, what is that smell?

 

The expected, refreshing, raise-your-hands-if-you’re-sure aroma of optimism is missing. Instead, I keep catching whiffs of uneasy, nervous perspiration.

 

A desperate Redskins brain trust finds itself just 20 days away from the start of the NFL Scouting Combine, which also is the deadline for them to use the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins. And that’s also just six days away from the start of free agency. So, basically, the combine is also the start of free agency, because that’s when teams get a good understanding of market values, and who’s available and who’s not.

 

Washington has to hit and has to hit big, both in draft evaluations, free agency and the draft itself. The organization can’t afford any more of the swings and misses that dominated the past two free agent classes, or the recent head-scratcher draft picks.

 

Because so far, the 2017 offseason has not gone well. Already, this team has shown more signs of regression than positive developments.

 

You’d think after falling just one game short of a second playoff berth, this time should’ve been about regrouping, upgrading and fortifying. But instead, the Redskins have been scrambling.

 

Joe Barry was the sacrificial lamb after his talent-deficient defense underperformed too frequently in 2016. The Redskins thought they’d be able to bat their eyes and lure a big-name coordinator to replace Barry, but they guessed wrong. None of their top choices wanted the job, and they wound up promoting one of Barry’s assistants, Greg Manusky. Manusky does have a more-extensive defensive coordinator résumé than Barry, but it remains to be seen if he can get the job done.

 

New defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is well-respected around the league, so he should be an upgrade over Robb Akey. But just what is he going to have to work with? The team’s best defensive lineman, Chris Baker, is now a free agent, and he’s expected to want significantly more than the Redskins, who according to insiders, are only lukewarm on the home-grown talent, are willing to pay. Washington could very well have three new starters along the defensive line. But should anyone feel good about the Redskins’ chances of finding three difference-makers in free agency? Neither of their past two priority free agent D-line signings – Stephen Paea and Kendall Reyes – made it through a full season before getting benched and then cut.

 

The Redskins this week announced the hiring of Torrian Gray as the new defensive backs coach. Virginia Tech fans are excited about this former Hokie player and coach. But the Redskins only settled on Gray after botching this situation. They originally fired Perry Fewell along with Barry because Fewell didn’t relate well to players because of his hard-nosed inflexibility and ineffective communication skills. The Redskins wanted to promote Aubrey Pleasant, a bright, rising young talent, who worked under Raheem Morris and Fewell, and was the only guy capable of getting through to Bashaud Breeland and other youngsters. Team officials denied the requests of other teams to interview Pleasant. But at the same time, they didn’t want to pay him like they really wanted to keep him, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. And, they didn’t want to spend on an assistant defensive backs coach with any experience. So, frustrated, Pleasant walked.

 

Now, they have Gray, who came highly recommended by current Redskins defensive back Kendall Fuller and former Redskins safety Kyshoen Jarrett, who both played under Gray at Virginia Tech. But a check around the league returns mixed reviews on Gray. He’s a stickler for details and strong technician. But some say he also can be abrasive and inflexible, just like his former mentor, Fewell; Gray worked under him at Chicago in 2005. League insiders wonder how Gray will do with some of the veterans, who were all in support of Pleasant, and some of the passionate, yet emotional and sensitive younger guys like Breeland and Su’a Cravens, among others.

 

And concerns continue to loom over the talent. Can Cravens really play safety? Can DeAngelo Hall come back from anterior cruciate ligament surgery and remain the best option at free safety? There has been some talk about moving Breeland from corner to safety, but some within the organization would rather leave him at cornerback.

 

It’s not all peachy on the offensive side of the ball either. The Redskins never really expected to lose Sean McVay this offseason. But now he’s the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, a move that casts uncertainty on what had been the strength of the team. Yes, it’s Jay Gruden’s system. But he did give up play-calling duties two years ago so he could better focus on the entire team. Now he plans to resume calling plays despite promoting quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator – a position Cavanaugh hasn’t held since 2008 while yielding mixed results for Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Extremely detailed and organized, a great communicator and well respected by the players, McVay will be missed and could wind up being a big loss.

 

The Redskins hope that Gruden as play-caller and Cavanaugh as O.C. ensures a seamless transition, but the future of Cousins remains unresolved. Gruden and team president Bruce Allen remain adamant that Cousins will remain with the team. But is that franchise tag, or long-term deal? The Redskins prefer the latter, but well aware of differing opinions within the organization regarding his ceiling and worth, the quarterback still is a little salty and will not give a hometown discount. Things could change quickly, but there are no indications that the sides are venturing closer in negotiations, and so the franchise tag remains a high likelihood. Another franchise tag means a raise from a $20 million to $24 million salary this year, but it also means Cousins likely will not be here next year. The Redskins lose all future leverage if they franchise Cousins a second straight year. Tagging him a third offseason basically isn’t an option in 2018. That would mean having to pay him 144 percent of his previous salary, which translates into $35 million in 2018, which is too outlandish. So, Cousins would wind up being able to test the market. And despite handling himself with professionalism this offseason and last, Cousins would likely have lost all remaining slivers of goodwill toward the franchise if he doesn’t receive a long-term deal this year. Lowball a guy not once, but twice, after back-to-back career years, and he’s most assuredly ticked off and seeing himself as 16 games away from free agency.

 

But Gruden needs Cousins. He’s standing on the table for his quarterback. He’s already lost his right-hand man in McVay. Losing his quarterback spells regression in what’s supposed to be the year that he earns himself a contract extension.

 

However, those differing opinions over Cousins could wind up sabotaging the whole thing for Gruden. Even if Cousins returns, all of his weapons may not. It doesn’t sound as if the Redskins plan to re-sign DeSean Jackson, who is extremely talented, but too inconsistent for management’s taste. The team likes Pierre Garcon, and Garcon says he wants to be here. But as many as five other teams (Rams, Eagles, Bears, Cowboys, 49ers) are expected to want this reliable veteran to serve as a security blanket for their young quarterbacks.

 

If any of those come correct (financially), and the Redskins do the Redskins thing and lowball their own rather than giving them the respect they deserve, Garcon will likely shrug and go elsewhere. That would leave Washington with a poor receiving corps for Cousins (or whichever quarterback) to work with.

 

So, Gruden needs Allen, who has owner Daniel Snyder’s ear, to agree with him and make Cousins’s big pay day to happen, and he also needs his leading wide receiver back in the fold as well. Meanwhile, Gruden also needs general manager Scot McCloughan to have a home-run offseason. McCloughan needs that as well.

 

So far, while he has helped change the mind-set of the franchise, McCloughan hasn’t produced the drafts that the Redskins hoped for when Allen hired him in 2015. From that first draft class, guard Brandon Scherff earned Pro Bowl honors and wide receiver Jamison Crowder is a stud, but the jury remains out on outside linebacker Preston Smith, running back Matt Jones and guard Arie Kouandjio. The 2016 draft class’s first-round pick, wide receiver Josh Doctson, has barely played because of mysterious Achilles’ tendon injuries. Cravens and Fuller seem to have potential, but neither have solidified roles as of yet, and defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and quarterback Nate Sudfeld currently look like nothing but backups.

 

After two slow-developing draft classes and a couple of botched free agent shopping periods, McCloughan has Allen breathing down his neck. The team president wouldn’t let the general manager speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl, and word is, he won’t be permitted to do his usual interview session with local reporters at the combine either. Allen apparently wants McCloughan completely locked in on talent evaluation.

 

If things don’t play out well this offseason, and in the 2017 season itself, not only will Cousins (if only franchised) likely be elsewhere in 2018, but Gruden and McCloughan (and depending on how ugly, maybe Allen, too) possibly could be as well. How crazy, but imaginable, is that? Two years of prosperity and then everything crashes and burns? It does fall in line with the franchises’s inability to sustain success over the past quarter century.

 

But, for everyone involved, let’s hope that this time, the powers that be can push all the right buttons and pull all the right levers this offseason.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

DC Richard Smith won’t be responsible for losing any more 25-point leads for the Falcons.  The AP:

 

After squandering a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons are shaking up their defensive staff.

 

The team said Wednesday that coach Dan Quinn has dismissed coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox, though there’s a chance Smith could stay with the Falcons in an advisory role.

 

The changes mean the NFC champions will have two new coordinators next season. Kyle Shanahan left to become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and was replaced as offensive coordinator by Steve Sarkisian, who was in the same role with Alabama.

 

The Falcons’ defense surrendered 31 unanswered points, including 19 in the fourth quarter, to allow the Patriots to complete the largest comeback in Super Bowl history for a 34-28 overtime win.

 

Smith, 61, had been Atlanta’s defensive coordinator for the last two seasons. The Falcons ranked 25th in total defense this season, but the young unit showed signs of progress in playoff wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.

 

Also, the Falcons will need a new quarterbacks coach. Matt LaFleur is expected to be named offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.

 

Smith will likely be replaced by a coach already on staff. The Falcons are considering defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel, linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich and defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson.

 

The last Super Bowl team to lose both coordinators was the 2008 Cardinals.  It was a similar situation as Ken Whisenhunt’s staff lost OC Todd Haley to be head coach of the Chiefs and DC Clancy Pendergast was fired.

– – –

Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com on Steve Sarkesian’s short stay at Alabama:

 

Can you blame him?

 

Whatever the circumstances that led him east on I-20 from Tuscaloosa to Atlanta, how could Steve Sarkisian say no? Moving from offensive coordinator at Alabama to offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons is not a lateral move.

 

Alabama has plenty of promise on that side of the ball, but what playcaller in his right mind would pass on an opportunity to coordinate the best offense in the NFL, with the MVP at quarterback, a future Hall of Famer at wide receiver and more weapons than should be legal on one roster?

 

As good a gig as running Saban’s Alabama offense is – three of the other four guys who’ve done it are now FBS head coaches – it doesn’t compare to running Dan Quinn’s Atlanta offense. The man who held that position, Kyle Shanahan, just left to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, despite his head-scratching Super Bowl decision-making.

 

Like Saban, Quinn’s a defensive guy who gives his OC room to fly, even when it might be wiser to, you know, run the dang ball in the biggest game of the year. Sarkisian and Quinn both are former assistants to Pete Carroll, a connection that no doubt played a role in this move.

 

Sarkisian already has a national championship ring from his time as a USC assistant. Now he can take aim at a Super Bowl ring and perhaps work his way toward becoming a head coach again in college or the NFL.

 

It’s easy to see what spending a few months at the Saban Home for Wayward Coaches did for Sarkisian after an issue with alcohol led to his ouster at USC. But what exactly did Saban and Alabama get out of the relationship?

 

Not much. Look at the big picture, and it was a failed experiment.

 

In stark contrast to the significant contributions of friend and predecessor Lane Kiffin, Sarkisian did nothing for Alabama that Alabama couldn’t have done for itself if he’d spent the last season at the Pac-12 Network as planned.

 

Sarkisian played a minimal role as an analyst in Alabama’s roll to a third straight SEC championship and playoff appearance. Both of those goals could’ve been reached without him, as was the case the previous two years.

 

In fact, you could argue that having Sarkisian on the staff hurt more than it helped because it led to key decisions that didn’t exactly work out.

 

When Kiffin was named Florida Atlantic’s head coach, Sarkisian’s presence made it easier for Saban to name him Alabama’s next offensive coordinator. When Kiffin struggled to juggle two jobs through the playoff semifinal, Sarkisian’s presence made it easier for Saban to send Kiffin on his way and call in the OC-in-waiting for the national championship game.

 

Sarkisian’s enhanced presence during the most important week of Alabama’s season didn’t make much of a difference.

 

He did about as well as could be expected against Clemson, including calling the go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, but overall his quarterback struggled and his offense spent too much time on the sideline, leaving the Alabama defense with nothing in the tank when it needed one last stop to protect the lead and retain the title.

 

If you’re keeping score, since Saban named Sarkisian as the next OC in December, Alabama beat Washington in the semifinal but lost to Clemson in the final; lost talented assistants Billy Napier toArizona State and Mario Cristobal to Oregon; and now has lost Sarkisian himself.

 

The Crimson Tide did land the No. 1 recruiting class, but Alabama was doing that long before Sarkisian knew the way to the Mal Moore Building. It’s a good bet most or all of those prospects would’ve stayed committed had Sarkisian left before National Signing Day, but the offensive players in the class in particular were done a disservice if this move was in the works beforehand and they were given no clue.

 

It’ll be interesting to see if Saban, in searching for a replacement, continues down the path of hiring former head coaches with baggage – looking at you, Chip Kelly – or if this failed experiment forces him to rethink that approach. Alabama already had sped Mike Locksley along that path from analyst to on-field assistant, suggesting that Saban was not blindsided by Tuesday’s big news.

 

He usually isn’t.

 

Not sure Locksley as the sole coordinator is the move here, but Saban has surprised us all before. See Kiffin and Sarkisian, who were similar in some ways but far from clones.

 

As awkward as Kiffin’s tenure may have been at times, at least Alabama has a lot to show for his three seasons of Saban-supervised coaching rehab. Sarkisian struck a similar deal, but he got far more than he gave.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

First, LARRY FITZGERALD, now, QB CARSON PALMER confirm they are back for 2017.  Darin Gantt at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

As it turns out, Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer were very much a package deal, so now the Cardinals will enter the offseason with some stability.

 

The team put out a release from Palmer saying the veteran quarterback would return for the 2017 season.

 

“My intent was to take some time after the season to get away and see where I was physically and mentally,” Palmer said. “On both fronts, I can say I’m ready to get back to work and prepare for the 2017 season. This is a phenomenal group with a very special opportunity in front of it.

 

“I know how rare that is and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.”

 

It seemed pointed this way when Palmer said he planned to return “if my body responds” as he expected, and his favorite receiver declared his intentions to come back for another year as well.

 

There was a specific reason for the timing, as the Cardinals would have had to guarantee his $15.5 million salary by Friday if he was still on the roster.

 

They’re still going to be looking for a potential replacement, as the 37-year-old took a beating last year and looked very much worse for wear. He was sacked 40 times last season, and coach Bruce Arians said Palmer “got the hell beat out of him this year.”

 

But a few weeks off were apparently enough to invigorate him, and bring him back for another year.

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

John Lynch has made another hire, brining on board Martin Mayhew who was leaving the Buccaneers as a player about the time Lynch was coming in.  Zac Jackson atProFootballTalk.com:

 

Former Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew has been hired by the 49ers as a senior personnel executive.

 

New 49ers General Manager John Lynch made that announcement Thursday as the team formally introduced Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan. Lynch and Mayhew were teammates with the Buccaneers in the mid-1990s.

 

Lynch has no previous front-office experience. Mayhew was G.M. of the Lions from 2008-15.

 

After being fired during the 2015 season, Mayhew was hired last winter by the Giants to be their director of football operations/special projects. Mayhew attended law school at Georgetown after his playing career and was first hired by the Lions in 2001.

 

 

SEATTLE

The Seahawks are believed to be ready to let PK STEPHEN/STEVEN HAUSCHKA walk off in free agency.  A sign in that direction was their signing of former Vikings PK BLAIR WALSH on Thursday.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Texans have decided to replace the Saints in the mountains of West Virginia this August.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The bad news for folks at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia is that the Saints won’t be back for a fourth year of training camp. The good news is that the Texans will be.

 

Houston’s NFL franchise has announced that it will hold 2017 training camp at The Greenbrier, the first time in franchise history that the team will conduct preseason practices away from the training facility adjacent to NRG Stadium.

 

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to hold training camp at the Greenbrier,” executive  V.P. of football operations and General Manager Rick Smith said in a statement. “It’s a wonderful place and the facilities and climate combine for an ideal environment as our team trains, bonds, and prepares for the 2017 season.”

 

The Greenbrier built a state-of-the-art football training facility in 2014, and the Saints trained there for three seasons. In 2015, the Cardinals spent a week at The Greenbrier between games at Detroit and Pittsburgh. (Some of the players thought the place was haunted. Which perhaps means that they didn’t leave the peyote in Arizona.)

 

When I told defensive end J.J. Watt last week that word of a West Virginia training camp had been making the rounds, he asked whether the morning temperatures will be 108 degrees. It should be roughly half that. For a team that plays indoors, it makes plenty of sense to practice out of the heat and humidity of Houston.

 

The Saints have opted to hold their camp at their facility in Metarie, Louisiana.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

T.O.

Maybe Terrell Owens wasn’t quite the disruptive coach-killing cancer that his detractors claim.  Steve Young is standing up for him reports Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Some Hall of Fame voters who hope to justify the snubbing o Terrell Owens have chosen to toss around false narratives and hollow arguments, opting for a now-familiar “many people are saying” approach without pointing out with specificity those who are actually saying that Owens was a cancer to a football team. Meanwhile, some of the guys who actually played with him are speaking out.

 

For Owens’ eight years in San Francisco (yes, eight years; not bad given that the 49ers “couldn’t wait to get rid” of him), few voices are more authoritative than quarterback Steve Young’s, since Young was T.O.’s quarterback for three-plus seasons.

 

“Yeah,” Young told KNBR regarding whether Owens should be enshrined in Canton. “Because I played with him, I felt like I knew him. I knew the abilities he had. There’s no question he’s struggled with a lot of things, but in the end, yes. . . .

 

“In ’97-’98 he would say, ‘Yes sir.’ I said, ‘Terrell, call me Steve . . . I know I’m old, c’mon.’ But he was very respectful. He worked as hard as Jerry Rice — I’ve never said that about anyone else by the way. He was willing to stand next to Jerry and work, and I’ve never seen that before. So to me, what I saw were his physical abilities were incredible. The work ethic, incredible, and a very respectful guy.”

 

Young added that, once he and other veteran players left after 1999, Owens “stepped into shoes he clearly wasn’t ready to step into, and you got a sparkler shooting all kinds of ways.” The 49ers nevertheless kept Owens for four more years (i.e., the opposite of “couldn’t wait to get rid” of him).

 

Hopefully, more voices with direct knowledge of Owens’ abilities and behavior will speak up. Even more hopefully, those voters who oppose T.O.’s candidacy will be willing to take a step back and be fair and objective about the situation, even though they may be tempted to cross their arms and scowl and continue to prove the adage that no power is abused more than hardly any power at all.

 

 

HUBBUCH SUES TO GET JOB BACK

Much like Curt Schilling did with ESPN, Bart Hubbuch popped off politically on Twitter.  And like Schilling, he lost his job at the New York Post.  He has sued to regain his position.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says a key component of the case will be whether Hubbuch did his popping off during work hours:

 

NFL reporter Bart Hubbuch has sued the New York Post for wrongful termination. Eventually, the Post will be required to say something, in the form of a formal response to the complaint. For now, the Post is opting to say nothing.

 

A spokesperson for the Post told PFT that the publication is standing on its prior comment regarding the situation.

 

Said the Post last week, after news surfaced of Hubbuch’s termination: “We expect our reporters to interact with the public, including on social media, in a professional manner. Unfortunately, Mr. Hubbuch has engaged in a pattern of unprofessional conduct and exhibited serious lack of judgment, including most recently showing disrespect for the victims of Pearl Harbor and 9/11.”

 

The Post will be required to respond within a specific time frame after being officially served with a summons and the complaint. The Post will be able to file a motion to dismiss the case if it chooses. It also can opt to submit an official answer, which responds point by point to the allegations made in the lawsuit.

 

The easiest argument would be to prove that Hubbuch’s tweet, which compared the inauguration of Donald Trump to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, doesn’t fall within the protections of New York Labor Law Section 201-d, which prohibits termination from employment based on “legal recreational activities outside work hours, off of the employer’s premises and without use of the employer’s equipment or other property.” If the Post can show that Hubbuch was within work hours or on the company’s premises or using a computer, tablet, or cell phone owned by the Post, the legal protection would arguably evaporate.

 

The unofficial playbook for defending employment discrimination cases typically entails an aggressive attack against the person who sues, with any and all plausible arguments pursued in an effort to complicate the process as much as possible and to make the case less about the conduct of the employer and more about the conduct of the employee. Whether the Post will pursue such tactics will begin to become clear after the Post begins the process of defending itself against Hubbuch’s claims.

 

 

2017 DRAFT

Chase Goodbread at NFL.com has Mike Mayock saying the odds are against any of the quarterbacks in the 2017 draft.

 

NFL clubs that are considering taking a quarterback with one of the top 10 picks of the 2017 draft do so at their own peril.

 

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer are considered three of the most promising options in a relatively weak pool of draftable quarterbacks, and NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock left little doubt about whether any of them merit a top-10 selection in the draft.

 

“All three of these quarterbacks, to me, I would be scared to death in the top 10,” Mayock told The College Draft podcast.

 

The Cleveland Browns certainly have a need at the position, and hold the No. 1 overall pick, as well as the No. 12 pick. If NFL clubs see the quarterback field as Mayock does, the Browns could potentially address a different position with the No. 1 pick and still have their pick of any quarterback at No. 12. Other clubs with a top 10-pick and a quarterback need include the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and New York Jets.

 

Mayock addressed concerns on each of Watson, Trubisky and Kizer. Whether Watson has the ability to maintain accuracy when his first read is not open, particularly while remaining in the pocket, is among the questions NFL clubs will want answered about him, per Mayock. As for Trubisky, who was a backup at UNC to Marquise Williams for two seasons prior to 2016, a lack of college experience for a one-year starter is a top concern.

 

“If (Trubisky is) so talented and gifted, and a top-10-type pick, one of the first questions a lot of teams are asking is, why couldn’t he beat out Marquise Williams the last couple years at North Carolina? What’s the answer to that one?,” Mayock said.

 

Mayock believes Kizer has the highest ceiling of the three, but his play at critical times for the Fighting Irish wasn’t impressive.

 

“The problem I have is that (Kizer’s) pocket mechanics seem to break down at the worst times. He got removed in the fourth quarter from two or three games last year. He got replaced at Stanford, he got replaced at USC. I’ve watched five of his games so far, and in almost every game at critical times, the pocket mechanics, the feel in the pocket, the decisions you’re making with the football, seems to break down when the team needs him the most.”

 

As tempting as it might be for an NFL club to address the most important position on the field with the best any given draft has to offer, drafting for need over value is reputed to be a bad strategy.

 

And if the teams needing a quarterback stick to value-based picks early in the draft, the top QBs could slide for a while.

 

And here is a Mock Draft from Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com:

 

1  BROWNS

Myles Garrett – DE, Texas A&M

The Browns need an instant-impact defender and Garrett is the obvious choice.

 

2  49ERS

Marshon Lattimore – CB, Ohio State

The 49ers could address the QB position with this pick but Lattimore carries a much higher grade than any of the signal-callers in this draft class.

 

3  BEARS

Jonathan Allen – DT, Alabama

Allen is a high-impact player and would add to a talented front seven in Chicago.

 

4  JAGUARS

Jamal Adams – S, LSU

Adams has an ideal blend of physical tools and off-the-charts intangibles.

 

5  TITANS

Reuben Foster – LB, Alabama

Foster is an explosive, playmaking linebacker who would be a perfect fit in the Titans’ system.

 

6  JETS

Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU

I know the Jets have other needs, but Fournette would be a very tempting option to consider.

 

7  CHARGERS

Malik Hooker – S, Ohio State

This would fill a major need for the Chargers; Hooker would be ultra-productive roaming behind a gifted collection of pass rushers.

 

8  PANTHERS

Solomon Thomas – DE, Stanford

Thomas has the versatility to move up and down the line, and the Panthers need to upgrade their pass rush.

 

9  BENGALS

Mike Williams – WR, Clemson

Williams would be a matchup nightmare playing on the opposite side of A.J. Green.

 

10  BILLS

Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson

I feel confident the Bills will add a quarterback early in the draft, but I don’t have a great feel yet for which player they prefer at the position.

 

11  SAINTS

Quincy Wilson – CB, Florida

Wilson is a big, physical cornerback with excellent ball skills.

 

12  BROWNS

O.J. Howard – TE, Alabama

Howard would team up with Gary Barnidge to give the Browns a potent 1-2 punch at tight end.

 

13  CARDINALS

Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan

Davis is a complete wide receiver who is ready to play Day 1.

 

14  COLTS

Dalvin Cook – RB, Florida State

The Colts need an explosive running back; Cook would be a perfect fit with Andrew Luck.

 

14  EAGLES

Sidney Jones – CB, Washington

The Eagles are desperate for cornerback help; Jones is very polished and consistent on tape.

 

16  RAVENS

Taco Charlton – DE, Michigan

In this scenario, Charlton would continue to make plays for a Harbaugh brother.

 

17   REDSKINS

Forrest Lamp – OG, Western Kentucky

Lamp could play either guard or center for the Redskins.

 

18  TITANS

John Ross – WR, Washington

The Titans need to provide more playmakers for Marcus Mariota; Ross has elite speed.

 

19  BUCCANEERS

Alvin Kamara – RB, Tennessee

The Bucs can’t rely on Doug Martin any longer; Kamara is a three-down back who would fit perfectly in this offense.

 

20  BRONCOS

Ryan Ramczyk – OT, Wisconsin

The Broncos must address the offensive line; many consider Ramczyk the top tackle in this draft.

 

21  LIONS

David Njoku – TE, Miami

GM Bob Quinn appreciates the benefits of having two athletic tight ends after spending so many years in New England.

 

22  DOLPHINS

Derek Barnett – DE, Tennessee

Barnett won’t test very well, but he is extremely productive and plays with a relentless motor.

 

23  GIANTS

Mitch Trubisky – QB, North Carolina

The Giants need to start thinking about Eli Manning’s eventual replacement.

 

24  RAIDERS

Tre’Davious White – CB, LSU

One of the cleanest players in this draft, White can play outside or in the nickel.

 

25  TEXANS

Garett Bolles – OT, Utah

Bolles is very athletically gifted and can play tackle or guard at the next level.

 

26  SEAHAWKS

Marlon Humphrey – CB, Alabama

Humphrey has the ideal size and length to excel in the Seahawks’ scheme.

 

27  CHIEFS

Budda Baker – S, Washington

Eric Berry is due to become a free agent, and Baker has a similar skill set.

 

28  COWBOYS

Charles Harris – DE, Missouri

The Cowboys need help on third down; Harris is a very skilled pass rusher.

 

29   PACKERS

T.J. Watt – OLB, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin native doesn’t have to travel far. He would provide some punch to the Packers’ pass rush.

 

30  STEELERS

Haason Reddick – OLB, Temple

Some guys just play like a Steeler — Reddick is one of those guys.

 

31  FALCONS

Takkarist McKinley – DE, UCLA

McKinley would team up with Vic Beasley to give the Falcons two fastballs coming off the edge.

 

32  PATRIOTS

Jabrill Peppers – S, Michigan

Nobody appreciates versatility quite like the New England Patriots.