The Daily Briefing Thursday, February 23, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

Mike Sando of ESPN.com put a lot of work into a “quarterback carousel” where you can match 14 spinning QBs (including some rookies) with 10 QB-needy teams (Dallas?) and see how things match up. 

 

Here are a couple of examples –

 

Jay Cutler

 

CONTRACT: Cutler is signed through the 2020 season under a contract featuring a $12.5 million base salary, but releasing him would reduce his 2017 cap hit from $16 million to $2 million.

 

CAREER RECORD           68-71 (.489)

2016 QBR                          33.2

 

WHAT LEAGUE INSIDER SAYS: “Cutler is obviously a rental at this point. He’s still mobile for his age and most effective extending plays and making off-rhythm throws — things that make most NFL offensive coordinators pull their hair out. The arm strength is still very good. He had one of his better years [in 2015] when they did a good job limiting him, but he still wasn’t great.”

 

Denver Broncos

 

2016 DEPTH CHART                   Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch

2016 QBR                                     52.0 (25th in NFL)

 

QBS DRAFTED IN LAST FIVE YEARS

Paxton Lynch (2016-1st), Trevor Siemian (2015-7th), Zac Dysert (2013-7th), Brock Osweiler (2012-2nd)

 

NO. OF STARTING QBS IN LAST FIVE YEARS

4 (Peyton Manning, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch)

 

2017 FIRST-ROUND PICK            No. 20

 

THIS MATCH

 

Fat chance

 

Mike Glennon

CONTRACT: Glennon is unsigned for 2017 after playing out his rookie contract with Tampa Bay.

 

CAREER RECORD5-13 (.278)

2016 QBR96.9 (on 11 pass attempts)

 

WHAT LEAGUE INSIDER SAYS: “There is nothing special about Glennon, nothing that makes you think he can do more than he has already done. He cannot run. Everything in the league is going away from guys like that. He will probably be somebody’s No. 2 or maybe compete for a job, but it’s tough to see anyone diving in hard for him.”

 

New York Jets

 

2016 DEPTH CHART

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg

2016 QBR                             38.2 (31st in NFL)

QBS DRAFTED IN LAST FIVE YEARS

Christian Hackenberg (2016-2nd), Bryce Petty (2015-4th), Tajh Boyd (2014-6th), Geno Smith (2013-2nd)

NO. OF STARTING QBS IN LAST FIVE YEARS

6 (Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Bryce Petty, Mike Vick, Greg McElroy)

 

2017 FIRST-ROUND PICK       No. 6

 

THIS MATCH

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?!The Jets already have young QB prospects, which could be one reason they are thought to be interested in a veteran. The 27-year-old Glennon is appealing to teams wary about using draft capital to acquire QB help.

 

Check out the other 138 combinations here.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

The DB has to wonder if a player can tamper.  Especially when that player sounds like he is ready to act as an agent of management.  Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times:

 

ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported Tuesday that the Bucs were a “possible destination” for free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson, citing an “existing rapport” that he has with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.

 

Winston spoke briefly Wednesday afternoon after talking to students at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, and said he’d welcome Jackson as another weapon for the Bucs’ passing game in 2017.

 

“I’ve met him before, and we want DeSean. You better believe we want DeSean here,” Winston said. “I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean.”

 

Winston didn’t specifically remember where he had met Jackson, saying only that it was “a while back,” but he likes the idea that his success in two NFL seasons can be part of the Bucs’ allure to free agents, and he can be something of a recruiter, like he was in college at FSU.

 

“I feel like I can be one of our best recruiters,” he said. “My main focus is to win. That’s what I enjoy doing.”

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

The Chiefs have some salary cap management challenges.  Former sports agent Joel Corry, writing at CBSSports.com, has some thoughts on how to surmount them:

 

Salary cap room projection: $1.757 Million

Team needs: ILB, WR, DL, CB

Key unrestricted free agents: S Eric Berry, NT Dontari Poe

Potential restricted free agent tenders: K Cairo Santos, S Daniel Sorenson, WR Albert Wilson, all at $1.808 million

 

The Chiefs are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and that championship window may drive offseason decisions. Safety Eric Berry is the free agent the Chiefs can least afford to lose. He wants to remain in Kansas City but recently stated he isn’t going to play under a franchise tag again. Berry sat out most of last preseason before finally signing his franchise tender in late August. A second franchise tag for Berry will be $12,967,200, which is 120 percent of his $10.806 million 2016 franchise tender.

 

The expectation was that the five-year, $51.25 million extension that Harrison Smith signed with the Vikings last June would pave the way for a deal with Berry. Tyrann Mathieu’s subsequent five-year extension with the Cardinals averaging $12.5 million per year will be a hurdle to signing Berry long-term. Berry’s camp will view Mathieu’s contract as the new benchmark for safeties over Smith’s instead as a hybrid defensive back deal. Being the lone safety to earn first-team All-Pro honors in each of the last two seasons only helps Berry’s cause.

 

Nose tackle Dontari Poe could price himself out of Kansas City. He might be the most coveted interior defensive lineman to hit the open market. The expectation is the Panthers will franchise Kawann Short. Poe not only clogs the middle of the defense but also demonstrated some pass rush ability prior to being plagued by back issues. He may look for a contract comparable to the six-year, $85.5 million contract (worth a maximum of $90 million through salary escalators) containing $42 million in guarantees that the Jaguars gave Malik Jackson in free agency last offseason.

 

Inside linebacker is probably going to be addressed. Dont’a Hightower will be the best free agent available if the Patriots don’t put a franchise tag on him for close to $15 million. He is going to be in the high-rent district. The four-year deal averaging $12.5 million per year ($26.4 million fully guaranteed) that former teammate Jamie Collins recently signed to remain with the Browns after a midseason trade will be an important salary data point for Hightower.

 

The Bills’ Zach Brown and the Cardinals’ Kevin Minter will be more affordable. They may view their salary floor as the $8 million per-year average of the unrestricted free agent years that Brandon Marshall gave up last June when he signed a five-year deal with the Broncos as a restricted free agent.

 

The Chiefs can’t to do anything without creating cap room. Backup quarterback Nick Foles is the easiest source. The Chiefs can gain $6.75 million of cap space by passing on Foles’ option year. The emergence of Spencer Ware and persistent knee problems should make Jamaal Charles expendable, and cutting him would create $6,187,500 of cap room.

 

Andy Reid recently reiterating his confidence in Alex Smith hasn’t stopped speculation that he’ll be out of a job because of Tony Romo. Should the Chiefs change plans, $9.7 million of cap room will be gained by walking away from Smith’s $16.9 million cap number and next season’s unguaranteed $13.3 million salary. A short-term Romo deal could be easily structured with a 2017 cap number significantly less than Smith’s cap savings.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com on the groin of RB Le’VEON BELL:

 

After the Steelers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, running back Le’Veon Bell said he was consulting with doctors about whether he needed to have surgery to address the groin injury that knocked him out of that contest.

 

It looks like Bell is going to avoid an operation. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Bell has not scheduled any surgery at this time. Rapoport adds that Bell “would’ve had it by now if necessary.”

 

Bell’s contract expired at the end of the season, but the surgery question isn’t likely to impact how things play out for him in the next few weeks.

 

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said last week that the team wants to have Bell “be a member of the Steelers for life.” March 1 is the deadline to use the franchise tag in the event they don’t reach agreement on a long-term deal before that point.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

We are still more than five months away from the start of training camp, and PK ADAM VINATIERI is already pining for P PAT McAFEE who jilted the Colts for life as a member of the sports talk media.  Alex Marvez in The Sporting News:

 

Indianapolis Colts fans aren’t the only ones hoping Pat McAfee changes his mind about retirement.

 

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri admits he continues to ask his close friend and ex-teammate to reconsider last month’s decision to walk away from football at age 29 despite being one of the NFL’s top punters.

 

 

Vinatieri’s most recent pitch came Tuesday during a telephone conversation.

 

“I’m still begging him to come back,” Vinatieri said.

 

MORE: McAfee voted to SN’s All-Pro team

 

Not long after Vinatieri was interviewed by co-host Bill Polian and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio, McAfee on Wednesday morning posted a photo on his Twitter account showing him prepped for surgery with the message, “Welp.. see ya later.”

 

@PatMcAfeeShow

Welp.. see ya later

 

McAfee announced last month that he would soon be undergoing the third procedure in the past four years on his right knee because of an injury suffered during the 2016 season. Even though a specialist is considered a non-contact position, McAfee during an interview on the Dan Patrick Show cited the physical toll of playing football as part of his reason to retire.

 

“I felt like a 90-year-old man,” McAfee said about the aftereffects of his latest right knee problem.

 

A fledgling stand-up comic, McAfee also wanted to pursue a media career with the Barstool Sports to expand his forays into the entertainment industry.

 

Halfway through the 2016 campaign, Vinatieri said McAfee approached him about quitting to “maybe pursuing a career in comedy and just going in another direction.”

 

“I tried to talk him out of it,” Vinatieri said. “I said, ‘Man, do both (football and comedy). You’re so good at punting. We need you. I need you.’ That was selfish of me to even say that because whatever he wants to do — and I know he’s going to be so successful at this — I’m excited for him.

 

“I just miss him. I talked to him (Tuesday) and I was like, ‘Man, are you sure? It’s not the same without you, buddy.'”

 

The Colts may not be the same without McAfee, either. He led the NFL with a career-high 49.3-yard gross average along with a 42.7-yard net that ranked third among his punting peers. Opponents also averaged only 2.5 yards a return on McAfee’s 55 punts.

 

“He was such a threat, pinning returners and putting the ball in the corner and inside the 10-yard line,” Vinatieri said.

 

McAfee had additional value as one of the NFL’s top kickoff specialists.

 

“He’s got every single trick in the kickoff book you can imagine with onside kicks,” Vinatieri said. “He can kick it out of the back of the end zone or drop it on the goal-line. He’s such a great athlete and a major competitive type of person.”

 

McAfee’s departure also means Vinatieri must collaborate with a new holder, which means additional work for arguably the greatest kicker in NFL history in building chemistry with a replacement.

 

It’s unknown whether the Colts will expect a new punter and/or kickoff specialist to hold on extra points and field goals or shift those responsibilities to backup quarterback Scott Tolzien.

 

“I’ve got no idea,” Vinatieri said. “It will be interesting to see for sure.”

 

Players who retire as young as McAfee often have second thoughts as the season approaches. But if he wants to return to the Colts, McAfee would probably need to let new general manager Chris Ballard know soon, before a replacement is potentially signed in free agency or drafted.

 

Whatever path McAfee chooses won’t affect the bond Vinatieri has built with him over the past eight seasons.

 

“I wish him all the success in the world,” Vinatieri said. “I love him like a brother. I’m sure he’s going to do great.

 

“It’s not the same not having him around. And like I told him, the true people aren’t going to know how badly we miss you until you’re gone.”

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on the case of TE MARTELLUS BENNETT taking his talents to the free market:

 

When the Patriots traded for tight end Martellus Bennett, they knew that: (1) he had one more year left on his contract; and (2) if he and/or the team had a big year, Bennett would try to parlay the experience into a contract potentially worth more than what the Patriots would be willing to pay. Indeed, the Patriots have a habit of trading for players in the final years of their contracts because if/when the players leave via free agency, the departure counts toward the team’s eventual haul of compensatory draft picks.

 

Of course, that reality isn’t keeping some fans from lobbying Bennett to take less to stay in New England. To that, Bennett had this to say: “Stop @’ing me about taking less money. You take less money [at] your job? All of you take a pay cut hahaha.”

 

Later, he said this: “All I’m saying is cut your own grass don’t be all in my garden f–king with my fruit while weeds are growing all over yours.”

 

Bennett is right. Football players have a limited number of years to play, and they have every right to try to get as much as they can while they can. Owners chase every dollar they can without criticism; players should do the same.

 

Actually, players have even more reason to pursue as much money as possible because they don’t own anything other than their own bodies. At a time when management and labor are roughly splitting the revenues, the players get half the revenue and the owners get all the revenue and all the equity.

 

So go for it, Marty and every other free agent. Get paid. Use your leverage. And don’t apologize to any of the people who aren’t putting their short-term and long-term health interests on the line to engage in a profession that too many trivialize by calling it a “game.”

 

It’s not a game. It’s a multi-billion-dollar enterprise that keeps growing and growing and the men who have careers that last for a blink of an eye in relation to the overall life of the business should do anything and everything to get what they can while they can.

– – –

Peter Lucas of the Lowell Sun thinks he has found a better candidate than Curt Schilling to unseat Senator Elizabeth Warren, D (Mass) in the 2018 election.

 

Forget Curt Schilling. It’s Tom Brady who should be running for the U.S. Senate.

 

His campaign slogan will be, “Let’s go!”

 

After all, if the famous quarterback of the New England Patriots is going to get grief for being President Donald Trump’s friend, or for a visit to the White House, then he should at least make the most of it.

 

Brady should challenge hard left Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is running for re-election in 2018, defeat her, and get to Washington. After 17 years of playing for the Patriots and accumulating five Super Bowl rings, he may be looking for a change. It is assumed Brady votes Republican.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Former sports agent Joel Corry, writing at CBSSports.com, analyzes the Jets and their salary cap woes.

 

Projected salary cap overage: $2.76 Million

Team needs: QB, LT, CB, Edge rusher

Key unrestricted free agents: OT Ryan Clady, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, TE Kellen Davis, OT Ben Ijalana

Potential restricted free agent tenders: TE Brandon Bostick, C Wesley Johnson, CB Marcus Williams, all at $1.808 million

 

A disappointing 5-11 season in 2016 has created a sense urgency for coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan. Since surviving another season like 2016 will be difficult for the duo, expect a lot of work to be done to the roster. It’s already begun with $10 million of cap space picked up by declining the option on Ryan Clady’s 2017 contract.

 

Next season’s starting quarterback probably wasn’t with the team in 2016. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t expected back after a lackluster season in which he was benched and only regained his starting job after a season-ending knee injury to Geno Smith, who is also a free agent. 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty didn’t make a good case for being the quarterback of the future when given the opportunity to play. 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg is a project. He was inactive for every game except the season finale, in which he did not play.

 

There may be plenty of experienced veteran quarterbacks available as free agents, through trade or by release. These could include Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo and Tyrod Taylor. An intriguing younger option may be Mike Glennon, who has barely played since the Buccaneers took Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. To land Glennon on a short-term contract, however, it will likely take more than top money for a shot to compete to start, which is currently $7 million to $7.5 million per year with incentives and salary escalators that could make a deal worth as much as $12 million per year.

 

The legal troubles of Darrelle Revis complicate matters for the Jets. An alarming decline in play had the Jets contemplating moving the NFL’s preeminent shutdown cornerback for the last several years to safety with a renegotiated deal. This was before he was charged with four felony counts for his alleged involvement in a street fight in Pittsburgh a little over a week ago.

 

Parting ways with Revis may become more appealing. There is $6 million of Revis’ $13 million 2017 base salary that is fully guaranteed. Revis is also due a $2 million roster bonus on March 10, the second day of the league year. His salary cap number is $15,333,333.

 

The incident has potentially jeopardized Revis’ guarantee. Most NFL contracts contain language allowing for guarantees to void with a suspension under league policies — substance abuse, performance-enhancing drugs and personal conduct — or for conduct detrimental to the team and other things, such as retirement or withholding services. Some contracts have a general catch-all provision where a player engaging in conduct that adversely affects or reflects poorly on the team voids a guarantee. Revis has this type of language in his contract.

 

The Jets trying to invalidate Revis’ guarantee would surely result in the NFLPA filing a grievance on his behalf. Cutting the 31-year-old corner before his roster bonus is due without trying to escape the guarantee would leave the Jets with a $7 million cap charge for him where $8,333,333 of cap room would be gained.

 

Other older veterans could also be salary cap casualties. Releasing inside linebacker David Harris, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and center Nick Mangold would create $7.5 million, $9.075 million and $6.5 million of cap space.

 

A change in scenery may be best for 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson since the Jets have one too many quality 3-4 defensive ends. The Jets shopped the talented-but-troubled Richardson before last season’s trading deadline. The first-round pick the Jets reportedly were seeking for Richardson is probably out of the question because of a subpar 2016 season and his well-documented off-field issues. Moving Richardson would wipe his $8.069 million fifth-year option salary from the books.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

JERRY KRAMER

The DB knows the wonderful Jerry Kramer, still appearing every year at the Super Bowl and telling great stories about the Lombardi Packers.  Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com looks at the biggest question surrounding Kramer – why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?

 

On a Friday night in New Orleans 20 years ago, Jerry Kramer sat in K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, the renowned Cajun restaurant of chef Paul Prudhomme, and celebrated his 61st birthday. Kramer was in town as a Senior Committee finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Family and friends had flown in from as far as Idaho, Kramer’s home state. He was expected to be voted into the Hall, ending 24 post-Packers years of waiting and wondering. Wondering why the NFL’s widely regarded best guard of the ’60s, an iconic member of Lombardi’s Packers, a five-time All-Pro and a five-time NFL champion was not a Hall-of-Famer. And wondering why the same voters who had rejected him for Canton put him on the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1969. Kramer was the only member of that team not in the Hall. Befuddling.

 

But by the next evening, he knew, the issue would be moot. The Hall of Fame class of 1997 would be announced on Saturday, and Kramer would spend that night fielding congratulations and giving interviews. The following day he would watch his beloved Packers play their first Super Bowl in three decades, against New England.

 

Later that Friday evening Bryant Gumbel came by. So did Gary Hart, the former Colorado senator. And Jimmy Buffett. “It was a wonderful night,” Kramer recalls. “We had a great time, a fabulous dinner, a lot of stuff to drink—and we were celebrating, too. We allowed ourselves to get caught up in it.”

 

The next day, Kramer stopped by the set of ESPN’s “Sports Reporters” to hang out with his old friend Dick Schaap. On his TV headset, Schaap heard something and barked a response that stopped the room. “What? He what?” Then Schaap turned to Kramer.

“You didn’t make it.”

 

* * *

“That was probably the most difficult year—’97 in New Orleans,” Kramer, now 81, says. “I had allowed myself to look forward to it and get excited about it.” Kramer is sitting in a white leather recliner in the open-loft living room of his home. Through the windows you see gradually industrializing farmland; behind that, the snow-covered Boise Foothills. Walls and display cases are filled with family photos and football memorabilia. Kramer, who grew up eight hours north of Boise in the town of Sandpoint, has lived in this house for 15 years. His daughter Alicia, who is also his business manager, lives with him, along with Alicia’s 4-year-old son, Charlie. Kramer spends his days traveling and working with a group that researches nanotechnology to increase helmet safety. He’s also involved in stem cell longevity with a company in Houston. He recently underwent a stem cell procedure to combat the ailments that cause him to hunch in weird places and move about gingerly.

 

The case for Kramer is more persistent than for any other player not in the Hall of Fame. There’s an internet petition, a scattershot movement on Twitter and Facebook aided in part by the efforts of Alicia, and scores of pro-Kramer letters written annually to the Hall. His case has been the same for more than 40 years: He was a key blocker for Hall of Famers Bart Starr and Jim Taylor. He was the fulcrum of Lombardi’s patented sweep play. He was a first-team All-Pro guard five times and second-team once. He was named one of the two guards on the NFL’s 50th-year anniversary team. (When the 75-year team was selected, the three guards were Jim Parker, Gene Upshaw and John Hannah.) And, of course, there’s the Ice Bowl block, where Kramer led the way on Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak that won the 1967 NFL Championship Game over Dallas at Lambeau Field.

 

Two little-known details about that block: It came on a play that Kramer himself suggested while watching Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh on film. Kramer noticed Pugh playing tall on a short-yardage snap and told Lombardi he thought they could wedge-block him. “Wind back the tape,” Lombardi said. After another viewing, the coach concurred. Kramer didn’t know the play would be called in the game’s most critical moment. If he had, he says he may not have had the guts to suggest it. The play went exactly as expected. At the snap, Pugh came up high in his stance and Kramer went low, driving himself into Pugh’s left side and creating a path for Starr.

The other detail is that when Kramer lined up, he felt a divot under his left foot. It fit perfectly, like a starting block. And so Kramer pushed out of his stance with that foot, instead of his right foot. It was the only time in his life—game or practice—that he ever did that.

 

When watching footage of old Packers games, a keen football observer notices two things. One: Right Guard No. 64 was remarkably nimble, in pass-protection and especially in the run game. But two: Evaluating Right Guard No. 64 as an all-around player on the little existing game film is essentially impossible. If any wide-angle film or any end-zone shots of film from that era exists, it can’t be found. (The Packers’ own video department has to rely on YouTube clips at times.) NFL Films has only a few games, and they’re all broadcast copy. Which presents the other issue: broadcasts back then employed only a few cameras, and those featured tight shots on skill players and closely followed the ball. You only see Kramer occasionally flash across the screen; you can’t see anything from the defense he was facing or from the players around him. There’s absolutely no context.

 

Context would be a problem even if the cameras captured Kramer. Someone who analyzes the NFL now is probably not equipped to analyze the NFL from nearly 60 years ago. The game was so different. Plus, even if you could somehow pinpoint Kramer’s attributes, they’re only relative to those from the rest of the league’s players. The resources (and time) to study the entire 1960s NFL simply doesn’t exist.

 

* * *

 

Kramer was a modern-era Hall finalist nine times in 14 years between 1974 and 1987. His modern-era eligibility expired in 1988. Fifteen years after a player’s modern eligibility expires, responsibility for his Hall consideration transfers to the nine-member Senior Committee. Depending on the year, the committee selects one or two players—usually those felt to have slipped between the cracks in their initial eligibility period—to have their cases heard before the full panel of voters. Like the modern-era finalists, a senior finalist must receive 80 percent of the full vote.

 

Kramer’s only instance as a senior finalist was 1997. There’s no cap on how many chances a player gets. Five others have appeared twice; only one of them, Chicago Cardinals running back Marshall Goldberg, was rejected both times.

 

So, in total, Kramer’s case was heard 10 times over a 24-year period between 1974 and 1997, and rejected each time.

 

The popular opinion for why Kramer wasn’t elected is that voters felt that too many members of the 1960s Packers were already in. By 1997 that great Green Bay team had 11 men in Canton, including Lombardi. It’s now up to 12; linebacker Dave Robinson was elected as a Senior candidate in 2013.

 

Those were the sentiments of voters back then. Twenty years later voters must rely on the previous generation’s opinions. Most of today’s voters feel that senior finalist spots are there to help players whose cases weren’t fully heard during their years of eligibility. That would not include Kramer, whose case was presented nine times before a group that saw the great ’60s Packers often, and then a 10th time in front of a committee with a mix of voters—some who covered him, most of whom didn’t.

 

Complicating matters is that Kramer is not the only Packer still in Hall of Fame limbo. There’s also fellow offensive lineman Bob Skoronski, Gale Gillingham and Boyd Dowler. In August 2012, Peter King of Sports Illustrated—who is now the editor of this website—spoke to Bart Starr about Dave Robinson’s candidacy, which Starr strongly endorsed. Starr told King there was one other candidate he felt strongly about. “Bob Skoronski,” Starr told King. “Forrest Gregg was great, and he protected me on my front side, at right tackle. Bob protected my blind side at left tackle, and you know how important the blind side is for protection to a quarterback. You’d look at their grades when the coaches graded the film after the game, and their grades were virtually the same, game after game. I am so disappointed he hasn’t gotten in the Hall. Some of the [offensive linemen] who have been selected to the Hall over the years, I’m just aghast. Bob Skoronski is a level above them.”

 

Then King wrote: Skoronski and Gregg were the bookend tackles on the five Green Bay championship teams. You could hear Starr’s passion for Skoronski—who played 146 games between 1956 and 1968 for the Packers—come through on the phone. I asked Starr if there were other players he wanted to recommend, and he said no.

Voters interpreted this as Starr declining to endorse Kramer.

 

When asked about Starr’s exchange with King, Kramer says, “Very interesting. I’ve never heard that. And I’m kind of surprised by it. Bart has been one of my pals, I thought, for many, many years. I spoke with him last year at the Bart Starr Breakfast. He couldn’t make it, so he called me and asked me to attend in his place. And I have. Also, I’ve given him the tips on the stem cells to help with his strokes, and his heart attack and all his problems. And when he greets me on the field at the alumni game, he gives me a big hug, wraps his arms around me, and says, ‘How ya doing mister?’ So I’m kind of confused by it. I think probably Bart would have a difficult time explaining that today. And I probably would not ask him to.”

 

In 2013, Starr had an email correspondence with SB Nation’s Matt Verderame, and this time the Hall of Fame QB included another teammate in the Canton discussion. “Kramer and Skoronski need to be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” he wrote. “They held key starting positions for a team who won five NFL titles! Jerry and Bob consistently made the plays that directly contributed to those titles, period. There is not another Hall of Fame player at the position of right guard or left tackle, today or before, who accomplished what Jerry and Bob did. I honestly don’t know what you have to do to be more qualified.” When told of this later exchange, Kramer said, “It’s not really a surprise. Bart was like my family … you wonder why one person, who made an off comment, maybe a mistake, maybe he forgot, maybe he was off that day, maybe he didn’t think about it. It’s interesting that we’re hanging so much emphasis on that particular moment and that particular comment.”

 

Skoronski was never a modern-era finalist, and he has not been a Seniors Committee candidate either. Skoronski, Kramer said, “was a hell of a football player and a great friend of mine. If [voters] want to put him on the list ahead of me, that’s OK with me.”

 

But the Kramer case is not dead. Several members of the Hall of Fame’s 48-member selection committee believe it should be heard again. The 2017 Seniors candidate, former Seattle safety Kenny Easley, was voted in. There will be two Seniors candidates in 2018 (it alternates from one candidate to two each year) and it’s likely the drum will start beating anew for Kramer in advance of the annual Seniors Committee meeting next August.

* * *

 

Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame, thanks to a national bestseller, Instant Replay, and a follow-up book, Farewell to Football, plus a speaking circuit that at one point reached 150 appearances a year, Kramer remains the unofficial spokesman of Lombardi’s Packers. In Wisconsin he still encounters waves of adoring fans.

 

Kramer’s life has been a series of new endeavors. Most of them, like his pro football career, lasted a few years, featured incredible highs and quiet, unceremonious endings. There was the apartment business in Oklahoma. A commercial diving business in Louisiana. Coal mines in Kentucky. Motivational films in Hollywood. Telecommunications in Kansas City.

 

 “I get something going and then I’ll go, ‘What else is going on?’ ” Kramer says. “I had this conversation with myself one day. I said ‘What the hell are you doing? Why do you keep changing businesses?’ Well, there’s a challenge to it.”

 

Kramer has been many things, but to most, he remains simply the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s biggest snub. To those who know he’s a snub, anyway.

 

Kramer says Roger Goodell once asked him why he never attends the annual Hall of Fame ceremonies. Kramer told him because he’s not in the Hall of Fame. He said the commissioner was astonished.

 

The exchange with Goodell was nothing new. As Alicia tells it, “Every time we’d go to an appearance, they would either refer to Dad as a Hall of Famer, or they’d ask about it. It was kind of interesting to watch. Dad would try to correct them—‘I’m not in the Hall of Fame’—and there’d always be that conversation.”

 

“That awkward moment,” Kramer interjects. “I’m not really in the Hall of Fame. ‘Well how come?’ So I just quit saying I wasn’t in the Hall, just to avoid all the follow-up bullshit.” He smiles.

 

This past August, Kramer even avoided the monster-sized Packers party that rolled into Canton for Brett Favre’s enshrinement. “I just don’t feel comfortable there,” Kramer says of Canton. “I feel like I’d be prospecting or recruiting or trying to wave my flag.”

 

At Kramer’s personal appearances, patrons would approach Alicia and encourage her to campaign for her father’s enshrinement. Already passionate about perusing Kramer’s old memorabilia and press clippings, she started sharing her findings online and quickly built a network of fans. From this came a public Hall of Fame campaign unparalleled in vigor and volume. Joe Horrigan, vice president of the hall, has said that 25 percent of the mail he receives is about Kramer. Some voters have even started referring to the campaign as a crusade.

 

But it’s not just family, friends and fans hoisting megaphones. More than 40 former NFL players, including 34 Hall of Famers, have endorsed Kramer. It started informally with Sam Huff in ’97. The former linebacking great, inducted in 1982, went around and collected seven other letters of recommendation.

 

“The names on that list are validation if you need it without the other [accolades],” Kramer says. “It’s really comforting for me to have Merlin Olsen and Alex Karras and those kind of guys write notes.”

 

Many of the other letters came from Alicia and a marketing company that worked pro bono for Kramer reaching out to former teammates and opponents in 2014. Today, the campaign is slowing—Alicia keeps a lot of other balls in the air—but endorsements still come in. The most recent were from Warren Moon and Donald Driver, via Twitter.

Kramer is introduced during a Packers’ alumnus ceremony last September at Lambeau Field.

 

When asked point-blank why he thinks he’s not in the Hall, Kramer struggles to find an explanation. Huff once offered to ask around and find out. The search yielded little more than speculation about Green Bay’s voter reps. (Each team has a person on the Hall voting committee charged with representing players from that team.) Kramer remembers a post-practice “pissing contest” he once got into with Green Bay writer and voter Art Daley, though Kramer later apologized and came away confident that everything was straightened out. (Daley has since endorsed Kramer.) He wonders if the attention from his books rubbed some voters the wrong way but can’t imagine how.

 

Of course, all of this pertains to those past voters. If Kramer is ever selected, it will be by a new generation that never saw him play. If voters who did see him said no, why should voters who didn’t see him say yes?

 

“Well, the same people [who rejected me originally] voted me on the All-Time 50-Year Team,” Kramer says. “And they voted me one of the top 10 Packers of all time, or top 3 Packers or whatever—I’m not sure of all of this stuff.” He also cites the All-Time Super Bowl team that was announced last year, for which he was one of the guards. “If they know me enough to elect me the All-Time Super Bowl team, it’d seem like they’d know enough to put me in the Hall. But maybe they just don’t feel like I played that well. Or maybe they’re aggravated at me for something I don’t know about.”

 

There’s no hint of bitterness when Kramer says this, though you sense maybe there used to be. He talks about the Hall only when asked, and he constantly circles back to his disbelief and gratitude for all that football has brought him.

 

“If you take me back to Sandpoint High and tell me I’m going to be the top guard in the first 50 years of football, All-Pro, All-Everything, five world championships, I’m gonna say, ‘Yeah, out of a pig’s ass. I’m gonna be skidding lumber up in Montana, that’s what I’ll be doing.’ You couldn’t dream this.”

 

There’s also the irony that many of his life opportunities have come about because he’s not in Canton. When you’re known as the biggest living Hall of Fame snub, and maybe the biggest snub in history, you develop somewhat of a cult following. The last player regarded as a snub on Kramer’s scale was Art Monk. And how often have you heard his name since he was enshrined in 2008?

 

This isn’t lost on Kramer.

 

“[My son] and I were talking one day 10 years ago and he said, ‘Dad, you selected fame instead of the Hall of Fame, didn’t you?’ I said not really, I didn’t select anything, it just worked out that way. He said, ‘You’re better known now than if you had been in the Hall.’ I said there might be something to that.”

 

 

CURIOUS CENSORSHIP

Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com on an odd firing in the Atlanta-area high school realm:

 

Former Jaguars and Lions cornerback Fernando Bryant has been fired from his job as a high school coach over a seemingly innocuous photograph his wife posted on social media.

 

Strong Rock Christian School initially hired Bryant as a teacher and its head football coach, but then sent him a letter three weeks later telling him that he would not get the job.

 

“This letter will confirm that Strong Rock Christian School has made a decision not to move forward with your employment in the position of head coach of the football team and physical education teacher. As we discussed, after we made the offer to you, some within our parent community raised concerns regarding your family’s public presence on social media and the internet and questioned whether the postings and information were consistent with our Christian values. We’re sorry that our relationship had to end before it started. We wish you the best,” the letter stated, via Atlanta TV station 11 Alive.

 

Bryant says he’s baffled by the decision. The school did not tell him specifically what was posted on social media to get him fired, but he was led to believe it was a picture of himself and his wife holding a bottle of alcohol. Bryant said the school never told him employees weren’t allowed to drink alcohol.

 

“I’m a Christian, but that’s the one thing that gives Christianity a bad name, when we start passing judgment on one another,” Bryant said.

 

Bryant was the Jaguars’ first-round pick in the 1999 NFL draft. He played five seasons in Jacksonville and four in Detroit.

 

The DB has seen the post, which was three years old.  The “bottle of alcohol” doesn’t even look like a classic “bottle of alcohol.”  The context of the post is not clear, but it looks like the kind you would do if you were thanking someone for a gift.

 

More from Shalize Manza Young at YahooSports.com:

 

A source within the football program provided WXIA with the photo that apparently caused the controversy, a three-year old photo on Amber Bryant’s Instagram account of the couple at a party, with Fernando holding a bottle of liquor. The football team source said program officials knew of the photo before hiring Fernando Bryant, but a parent raised concerns.

 

 

 

2017 DRAFT

There is an NFL exec who has a minority opinion on the best QB in the draft.  Sean Wagner-McGough at CBSSports.com:

 

Almost all of the hype surrounding the 2017 NFL quarterback class has been dedicated to Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, and Deshaun Watson. If quarterback-needy teams want to find their next franchise quarterback in the draft, those are the three candidates they’re likely targeting.

 

It might be time, though, to throw another name into the mix: Davis Webb.

 

“If I were a team like Cleveland, I would take impact players at (pick Nos.) 1 and 12 and then trade back into the bottom of the first round for Davis Webb,” an NFL executive told NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah. “I think he will end up being the best quarterback of this draft class.”

 

If you’re wondering who Webb is, well, that’s entirely fair considering most of his draft stock is built on one season at Cal, a school that often finishes their games after midnight. Plus, the last quarterback to come out of Berkeley, 2016 top overall pick Jared Goff, might’ve been a tad overhyped based on his first season in the NFL.

 

So, here’s what you need to know about Webb: He actually spent the first three years of his college career at Texas Tech, where he posted solid numbers: a 61.4 completion percentage, 7.4 yards per attempt, 46 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions. But Webb eventually lost his starting job and, as a result, transferred to Cal before the 2016 season. The Bears needed a quarterback after Jared Goff left for the NFL and they got one in Webb.

 

In his one season at Berkeley, Webb completed 61.6 percent of his passes, averaged 6.9 yards per attempt, and threw 37 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. For the sake of comparison, in Goff’s final season at Cal, he completed 64.5 percent of his passes, averaged 8.9 yards per attempt, and threw 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. So no, Webb did not outperform Goff in the same offensive system, which is why he isn’t regarded as a first-round pick.

 

But Webb does ooze potential. Having covered both Goff and Webb at Cal, I don’t think it’d be wrong to suggest that Webb boasts better arm strength than Goff. But I’d also say that Webb was erratic and probably lacked some of the qualities (footwork, reading defenses, and decision making) that made Goff so dominant in college. In a way, he sorta reminded me of Jay Cutler in the sense that he was capable of making the greatest throw and the worst throw on consecutive snaps.

 

Webb did win the MVP award at the Senior Bowl, going 11 of 16 for 165 yards and a touchdown. The last player to win MVP at the Senior Bowl? Dak Prescott. Of course, that doesn’t mean Webb is the next Prescott, but it’s certainly worth noting.

 

Webb also doesn’t lack confidence. That much was clear when I covered him and he made that clear at the Senior Bowl, when he told CBS Chicago that adapting to an NFL offense won’t be an issue.

 

“I went from Lubbock, Texas, to Berkeley, California,” Webb said. “That’s enough said.”

Fair.

 

Then, just earlier this month, he said that he was the best thrower in the country.

 

“Ask the coaches at Texas Tech and now at Cal and they’ll all tell you the same things,” Webb told CSNBayArea.com. “I’m the hardest worker in the facility, I’m a great teammate.

 

“And I can spin the rock better than anybody in the country.”

 

All of that — his arm, his confident personality, his potential — definitely makes Webb a draftable player, someone a team should take a chance on and develop over time. But it still seems unlikely that he will be selected over the three quarterbacks listed above.

In Dane Brugler’s latest mock draft, he had Kizer, Trubisky, and Watson all going in the top 10. He did not have a team picking Webb, who is ranked as the seventh QB in the 2017 class by NFLDraftScout.com, in the first round.

– – –

Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com on how it will be an owner, not a GM, drafting RB JOE MIXON:

 

The team that drafts former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon will be getting a very talented player. That team will also be getting a public relations nightmare, as the local TV news in Mixon’s new NFL city will surely feature plenty of footage of Mixon punching a woman, breaking bones in her face.

 

There’s no doubt that NFL personnel people will like what they’ve seen of Mixon, but will an NFL owner sign off on the possibility that Mixon will tarnish the team’s reputation? That’s the question that will determine where Mixon is drafted — or if he’s drafted at all.

 

That’s the word from Mike Mayock, who said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he has talked to “a bunch” of NFL teams and they’ve all told him the same thing: Evaluating Mixon isn’t so much about the football people determining how good he is as about the owner deciding whether he wants to take a PR hit. Mayock said every team he’s talked to about Mixon has told him it will be an “ownership decision.”

 

The Mixon video is similar to that of Ray Rice, whose career was ended by the video of him punching his wife. So it’s conceivable that all 32 teams will take a pass on Mixon, just as all 32 teams have taken a pass on Rice.

 

However, Rice was already on the downside of his career when that video surfaced. Mixon is a very promising player who’s just 20 years old. It’s likely that some team will take a shot on Mixon. Just as long as the owner is OK with it.