The Daily Briefing Thursday, May 4, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
On the day that health care reform may pass on a second try, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com hears that we may still get 10-minute overtime despite its failure to garner enough support at the owner’s meeting.
In March, the Competition Committee recommended that owners reduce overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes during the preseason and regular season. Not enough owners agreed.
So with another ownership meeting looming, where do things stand? Cowboys COO, executive V.P., and director of player personnel Stephen Jones, who also serves as a member of the Competition Committee, addressed the issue during a visit to PFT Live.
“I think some of the membership, and we certainly respect that as a committee, really felt like there might have been some other things that should’ve been looked at in terms of solutions to overtime,” Jones said. “Obviously, when we looked at it, it was from a player health and safety standpoint. Playing five full quarters, which I think happened either two or three times this year where they went the distance, and actually one team turned around and played a game on a Thursday, then you’re looking at what’s in the best interest? And then you say, ‘Hey, if you cut that back to 10 minutes how many games would that effect?’ And then ultimately, ‘How bad is it if a game does end in a tie?’ [Editor’s note: Really bad.] Those were some of the things we looked at.”
So why didn’t the proposal pass?
“I think we were challenged by some of the group and membership to look at other possibilities and opportunities and that’s what we’re doing and we’ll see if we’re ready for a vote,” Jones said. “If we’re not, it may not get changed this year.”
Hopefully, they’re looking into a proposal that came from outside the Competition Committee, the confines of the league, or anyone with any good sense whatsoever.
Said proposal of course comes from Florio and it involves two-point conversions:
Fans (and coaches and players) want resolution. Investing more than 3.5 hours and ending up with an 0-0-1 on the regular-season record of two teams won’t provide it.
So here’s the proposal that the owners should adopt, in a nutshell: A two-point conversion contest.
One offense and defense goes to one end of the field, and the other offense and defense go to the other end of the field. A two-point conversion attempt occurs at each end of the field, three times per team, with either two points or zero points being scored. To keep things moving along, the snaps occur 25 seconds apart. (The officiating crew would be split, with four on one end of the field and four on the other end.)
If the game is tied after each team has three chances to score, the teams go back and forth, one chance each, until there’s no tie after both teams have had their chance to score.
It would be exciting, frenetic, compelling, and it would involve as few as six extra snaps. And we’ve yet to hear a good argument against it.
It’s not football, would be the argument. A fringe play would be deciding a 60-minute game of football.
An update on a new contract for QB MATTHEW STAFFORD from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
On the surface, Wednesday’s comment from Lions G.M. Bob Quinn that the franchise and its franchise quarterback are in the “early stages” of contract talks seems like news. But it’s not really new news.
Quinn said the same thing last month.
“We’re in the very early stages of talking to Matthew and his representatives,” Quinn said in the middle of April regarding talks that actually began in February at the Scouting Combine. The only arguable difference? The “very” has been removed from “early stages.”
Regardless of where things currently stand, here’s where they’re heading: Toward a franchise tag of $26.4 million in 2018, if a deal isn’t done before then.
Although Stafford will be making a Glennonesque $16.5 million in 2017, Stafford’s cap number sits at $22 million for this year, which entitles him to a 20-percent raise via the tag in 2018. Ditto for 2019, when he’d be due to make $31.698 million. So if a new deal isn’t done before Stafford completes his current contract and shifts the injury risk back to the team, Stafford should expect $58 million fully guaranteed over the following two seasons as part of a long-term deal.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has provided to all other players a clear example of what quarterbacks can do if they’re willing to go year to year. For Stafford, a year-to-year approach means $26.4 million in 2018 then $31.698 million in 2019 and then either a 44-percent raise for a third tag ($45.64 million) or a 20-percent raise for the transition tag ($38 million) or Stafford hits the market unfettered and unrestricted in 2021.
If the Lions want to avoid that scenario, they need to get out of the “early stages” at some point before the end of the 2017 season.
The Cowboys are leading the charge to avoid losing players to suspensions for smoking marijuana and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com is glad to give them a forum:
In March, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones privately communicated his concerns to his partners regarding the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. On Wednesday, Cowboys COO, executive Vice President, and director of player personnel Stephen Jones acknowledged that the franchise believes the time has come for careful scrutiny and possible overhaul of the league’s decades-old position on marijuana.
“Well, our system, our testing, has been in place for years and not unlike we do in our organization . . . we always look to see how we can do it better,” Stephen Jones said in an interview with PFT Live that will be included in Thursday’s show. “I think Jerry’s opinion, my opinion, is this program, this system has been in place for a long time. I think it needs to be heavily scrutinized in terms of its results.
“Is it helping players in terms of their accountability? And, obviously, addiction is a sickness and you want to make sure — obviously, there’s accountability but it’s also a program that helps players get better. I think personally, I know Jerry and I think that it might could be done better and we just need to take a look at it. Like I said, it’s been the same program that’s been in place for many, many years and I think all things to do with the NFL, we should all want the very best for our players. We should want the very best for our organizations and we should want the very best for our fans, and that’s anything that has to do with the NFL.
“In my opinion, we should take a long hard look at how we’re doing this and see if there’s a way, a better way to do it. What that is, I don’t have the answer. But we have a lot of smart people that can get in there and analyze something and really make some good decisions and see if there need to be changes.”
In asked Stephen Jones whether the dramatic shift in societal and legal attitudes toward marijuana should be a factor in the league’s assessment of the situation.
“You know, I think it should be a part of what’s looked at,” Stephen Jones said. “When you re-look at the whole program, I think you should take a look at every aspect of it. From the testing to the discipline to the amounts, anything to do with this. At the end of the day our goal should be to help players who have sicknesses and addictions and make them better people off the field, and then how we go about that I think is what needs to be looked at and make sure we’re doing everything the best way we can do it. Obviously, when you look at something like that you have to look at, ‘How do we do it in society right now? How does that affect the way a player sees his situation in that lens?’ And then make decisions based on that.”
Whatever the decisions may be, it’s becoming more and more clear that the status quo, while possibly beneficial from the standpoint of give-and-take collective bargaining with the players’ union, isn’t helping the league from the broader perspective of what’s right for the teams, the players, the fans, and ultimately The Shield.
Comments from owner Jed York. Matt Maiocco at CSNBayArea:
CEO Jed York and the 49ers are coming off what was universally regarded as one of the most-successful hauls in this year’s NFL draft.
But the 49ers entered with the No. 2 overall pick because the club fell over the past three seasons from 8-8 to 5-11 to 2-14 under three different head coaches. York has been criticized, and that’s the way it should be, York said Wednesday during an appearance on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.”
“That’s who you should question,” York said. “This isn’t where we want to be. We don’t want to be a 2-14 team. And you don’t want to be a team that has its fourth head coach in four years. But you also have to be willing to change path if you’ve made a mistake and know that we’re not going to settle for being a 9-7 team.
“That’s not where we want to be. If you want to make your team great, you have to do everything that you can to get back up to that level. And that’s where we are. And we will get there. We had three NFC Championship games in a row sandwiched between a Super Bowl loss. It’s close, but that’s not where we want to be. We want to be a team that consistently competes for it. And when it’s all said and done, and John (Lynch), Kyle (Shanahan) and I look backward, we want to know that we won more together than anybody else.”
On the final weekend of the season, York fired general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly. He ultimately hired Lynch as general manager to pair with Shanahan, the former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, as head coach.
York was in the 49ers’ draft room and watched how the new 49ers regime navigated the seven-round draft with six trades, including two first-day blockbusters that enabled the organization to select Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. Thomas and Foster were two of the top three players on the 49ers’ draft board.
“I don’t know that there’s enough data to assess where are they and where do they stack against everybody else,” York said. “What I’ll say is, I think the draft was a perfect example of how they work together.
“And watching John and Kyle work together, and watching how the scouts and the coaches work together. I have no idea whether it was a good draft or not — we’ll find out three years from now — but it certainly worked out the way we wanted it to because we planned for it. We were ready. And we executed because we were all on the same page.”
One of the big questions as the 49ers enter this season is whether the quarterback position is strong enough to win a lot of games this season. The 49ers have gone through a transition at quarterback with the depth chart comprised of veterans Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, draft pick C.J. Beathard of Iowa, and undrafted rookie Nick Mullens of Southern Mississippi.
“When you look at Kyle Shanahan, an offensive-minded guy who has history with the 49ers, directly and indirectly, I think he’s going to do a great job – he’s done a great job with Brian Hoyer in the past,” York said. “And I think he’s going to continue to do a great job with Brian. Brian has grown in his career, and I think he’s ready to be a good quarterback for us.
“So that’s a position, until you get your guy, you have to keep taking shots. As much as we compete with the guys up north (Seattle), they did that very well. They signed (Matt) Flynn to a big contract but they still drafted one they like, who happens to be Russell Wilson. And until you’re set, you can never stop taking shots to get your guy at quarterback because that’s what ultimately drives this league.”
– – –
The 49ers had surly LB REUBEN FOSTER as number three on their board. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com says other teams wouldn’t have drafted him at almost any point.
The 49ers chose linebacker Reuben Foster with the 31st overall pick in the draft and later said that they were so high on Foster they would have drafted him with the third overall pick if Solomon Thomas had been off the board. So why did so many other teams pass on Foster if the 49ers were so high on him?
A big reason is that Foster has a history of shoulder injuries. Foster had shoulder surgery three months ago, and one source told Adam Schefter of ESPN “The surgery didn’t take.” For some teams, that was apparently enough to take him off their draft boards.
But not every team: The 49ers’ medical staff thinks Foster’s shoulder will be just fine. And we know the 49ers weren’t the only team to give Foster’s shoulder a passing grade because the Saints were about to draft Foster with the 32nd overall pick before the 49ers took him 31st. New Orleans must have been comfortable with Foster’s shoulder.
So either some teams’ medical staffs were too lax with giving Foster’s shoulder a clean bill of health, or other teams’ medical staffs were overly cautious. We won’t know which side was right until we see whether Foster’s shoulder affects him as a 49er.
Some innuendo from Brent Schrotenboer on the sports crime beat at USA TODAY:
The new NFL stadium in Las Vegas doesn’t yet have a name and isn’t expected to open until 2020. But when it does, at least one nickname certainly will apply: The House That Gambling Built.
The $1.9 billion project never would have made it through the state legislature – or attracted the Oakland Raiders – without the support of the gambling industry, according to experts and the legislative record.
“The industry has been instrumental in the project,” said Jeremy Aguero, an analyst who works for the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, the stadium’s landlord.
After it opens, the Raiders also might not fulfill their potential there without even more of its support, possibly forcing the league to change its longtime anti-gambling policies purely out of business necessity, experts told USA TODAY Sports. The National Hockey League is adding a team in Vegas this year and said it’s already changed one key gambling policy to reflect its new “market reality.”
A similar evolution by the NFL could be a game-changer in the larger push to expand legalized sports gambling – more so than simply being located in America’s gambling mecca.
In November 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified in a legal proceeding that gambling was No. 1 on his list of threats to the integrity of pro football in the U.S. In February, Goodell also said that having a casino own part of an NFL team “is not something consistent with our policies. Not likely a stadium either.”
Yet in just a few years, the NFL will move into a new stadium that was promoted, enabled and governed by Nevada casino executives, paid for by gamblers and directly enriched by the betting industry.
Follow the money
► First, the project was unanimously recommended to the legislature by an 11-member committee that included executives from six casino businesses that make money from legal sports gambling — Caesars Entertainment, Boyd Gaming, MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Station Casinos.
The committee was created by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to identify and prioritize tourism improvement projects in Southern Nevada. In its recommendation, the committee noted the stadium would bring in more gambling, increasing gaming tax revenues by an estimated $4.3 million annually.
► The stadium will be owned and overseen by the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, which is managed by a nine-member board that includes executives from Caesars and MGM. This group will be the NFL’s landlord, an arrangement that appears out of step with what Goodell said in February about casino ownership of NFL stadiums.
Back then, casino boss Sheldon Adelson had just withdrawn his $650 million stake in the project despite helping make it possible with Sandoval and the legislature. His potential investment raised questions about whether the NFL would have allowed him to own part of the Raiders or stadium in return.
He’s no longer involved, but other casino officials will govern it on the Stadium Authority.
“The resort industry is involved in the Stadium Authority board, and, yes, we expect some will consider purchasing suites at the facility,” Aguero told USA TODAY Sports.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy noted that the casino executives represent only two of nine board spots and that the authority will not have rights to football-related assets or control of the stadium on a day-to-day basis. He said the NFL does not consider a Stadium Authority an “owner” in the context of its gambling policy.
“We would look very carefully at the rights associated with the lease,” McCarthy told USA TODAY Sports. “So long as the essential controls and the economics are controlled by the team, we would not expect to view it as a problem with respect to our policies.”
Board members also will not be paid, and the Stadium Authority will not share in the stadium’s operating revenues or profits because it would jeopardize the non-taxable status of the stadium’s bonds.
► Support from gambling resort executives was necessary because much of the money to help pay for the stadium – $750 million – is being funded by gamblers paying an increased room tax at their hotel-casinos. McCarthy noted the tax is “not on gambling revenues, but on the hotel rooms.”
The legislation that enabled the stadium – Senate Bill 1 – still calls for much of that money to come from a defined “primary gaming corridor in the stadium district,” around the Las Vegas Strip.
“The room tax is crucial; that’s coming right out of their pockets,” UNLV economics professor Stephen Miller said of the gambling industry.
And the money trail likely won’t stop there. To maximize revenues, the Raiders might need an even deeper relationship with market’s biggest industry – by selling stadium suites, advertising and sponsorships to resort-casinos, some of which is prohibited under the NFL’s current gambling policy.
“While Las Vegas has made some strides towards economic diversification, gaming and tourism remains a dominant business,” said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Prominent leaders like (casino boss) Steve Wynn have been vocal about how happy they are that the Raiders are coming to town, so I think that they will have plenty of buy-in. As the leading industry in the region, that support will be critical.”
The Raiders looked to leave Oakland mostly because their 51-year-old stadium there didn’t make them enough money from suites and other local revenues. They ranked near the bottom in total annual revenue with about $300 million despite playing in the Bay Area, one of the league’s biggest media markets.
By contrast, Vegas will be one of the NFL’s five smallest markets. Making money there will be more difficult without sales to the region’s biggest businesses, such as MGM and Caesars.
For other businesses moving into Nevada, this wouldn’t even be an issue. But this is the NFL, which still has strict restrictions on how its teams and personnel do business with casinos. In 2015, the NFL effectively prohibited NFL players from participating in a fantasy football convention in Vegas because the event was going to take place in a convention facility owned by a casino. Its gambling policy prohibits players from participating in promotional activities or appearances at events held at casinos or gambling-related establishments.
In 2012, the NFL started allowing teams to accept limited advertising from casinos. No rule would prevent casinos from purchasing suites at the facility, McCarthy said. Yet the league still forbids advertising from casinos that have sports gambling, which would include all the big casinos in Las Vegas and those with executives on the Stadium Authority board.
“The entity being advertised must not have a sports book and must not otherwise accept or promote gambling on actual sporting events,” the NFL policy states. “In the case of entities with multiple locations, some of which include a sports book or otherwise accept or promote gambling on actual sporting events, the advertisements must clearly and prominently advertise the locations that do not have a sports book.”
The policy stems from the league’s opposition to traditional sports gambling, which is largely illegal outside of Nevada. For decades, the NFL has worried the expansion of such gambling would increase the possibility that its games would be corrupted by bettors offering bribes to fix scores.
That policy still stands, even after the league recently approved the Raiders’ relocation to Vegas by a 31-1 vote. The vote had nothing to do with gambling or any change of position by the NFL about it. Instead, it happened because the Raiders had no better stadium option, and Nevada offered the best deal – a record $750 million in taxpayer money.
But moving there has a way of changing minds. Just ask the NHL, which will debut the expansion Golden Knights next season as the first major pro sports team to play in Las Vegas — in an arena co-owned by MGM. The NHL recently had a similar policy restricting advertising from casinos that have sports betting.
“The ability to enter deals directly with casinos with sports books is new,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. He said the NHL changed the rule to “reflect the Las Vegas franchise’s market reality (and was) seen as a logical evolution to our current policies, which themselves have been evolving relatively rapidly.”
The NHL doesn’t allow the ads to promote sports gambling and is still against the expansion of legalized betting on NHL games.
Yet now that NHL teams are allowed to be direct business partners with such casinos, it’s easier for that position to change, too. Sara Slane of the American Gaming Association predicts the federal ban on sports betting in more states could fall within three to five years. For that to happen, though, it probably will take the NFL and other leagues changing their minds about it, perhaps because of the closer relationships they’re building with the gambling industry in Nevada.
“The law (which banned sports gambling in more states) was written for the leagues, so when Congress re-evaluates this issue, they’re going to take the NFL’s position on this very seriously,” said Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the AGA.
The Raiders didn’t return a message seeking comment, nor did casino boss Wynn. MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle, who serves on the board of the stadium authority, also didn’t return a message seeking comment.
In March, Goodell said the league “did not change any of our gambling policies in the context of the Raiders relocation. It wasn’t necessary and the Raiders didn’t ask us to do that. We don’t see changing our current policies.”
It might not be necessary now because the Raiders don’t move in until 2019 or 2020. After that, a certain business principle might apply.
“If you’re going into business, you don’t want to handicap yourself by saying you can’t serve some percentage of the market because you’re prohibiting yourself from doing so,” said Miller of UNLV. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Mike Lombardi takes to twitter to lay into the Jaguars’ decision to pick up the fifth-year option on QB BLAKE BORTLES, starting with a devastating stat on when Bortles throws his TD passes.
Bortles has thrown 69 career TDs
35 when behind by more than 7 points.
23 when down by 7 or less
5 when winning
6 when tied
It gets better….When tied, 6 touchdown passes 8 picks, when winning 5 tds 4 picks, averages 5.24 YPA winning, 7.03 YPA losing 19 million
“We’ve got a lot of new eyes on Blake from a new coaching staff and have gotten good feedback from those guys–Caldwell on Blake. Right.
New eyes on him? Does that mean Hackett and Marrone were not paying attention last year? I give up, I am done ranting. on to another team
GM David Caldwell explained the decision thusly as reported by Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Jaguars surprised some people when they picked up the $19 million option on Blake Bortles for the 2018 season. But General Manager Dave Caldwell says the deal made sense.
Caldwell said on PFT Live that in today’s NFL, $19 million is really not a lot of money for a quarterback. And if Bortles has a breakout season in 2017, paying him $19 million in 2018 would be a bargain relative to what they would have to pay him if they put the franchise tender on him.
“I think that slots him as the 16th highest quarterback next year, right around the median,” Caldwell said. “If he was to get the franchise tender that puts him at the third or fourth or fifth ranked quarterback depending on who gets new deals next year.”
Knowing the Jaguars won’t have to use the franchise tag on Bortles also frees them up to use it on another player, such as receiver Allen Robinson, who was the Jaguars’ second-round pick the year they took Bortles in the first round and whose rookie contract is up after this season.
As Bortles is still in the fourth year of his rookie contract, the Jaguars are still getting him at a much more affordable price than most teams are paying for their starting quarterbacks.
“We look at two-year values on our contracts,” Caldwell said. “I think this year he’s scheduled to make about $3.2 million in cash, and then the $19 million next year is just a little over $22 million, it’s a two-year, $11 million average on what is considered a new deal, and that puts him not in the Top 16 of quarterbacks.”
The down side is that if Bortles gets hurt this year and can’t pass a physical in 2018, the Jaguars are on the hook for that $19 million salary. But the Jaguars are willing to take that risk.
“We take on the injury risk, but we look at the value total of the deal and we feel comfortable about the financials of it,” Caldwell said.
Only time will tell whether the Jaguars still feel comfortable about having Bortles as their quarterback in eight months.
Brian Gaine of the Texans is a candidate to take over as Bills GM says Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. It won’t be his first interview:
The Buffalo Bills are planning to interview Houston Texans director of player personnel Brian Gaine Thursday for their vacant general manager spot, The Houston Chronicle first reported and The Buffalo News confirmed.
Gaine is due to meet with Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula at their home in Boca Raton, Fla. The Bills also requested permission to interview Carolina Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane as they seek a replacement for Doug Whaley, who was fired Sunday.
The Texans hired Gaine in 2014 to be director of college scouting. In 2015, they promoted him to director of player personnel, and he has established himself as a rising talent in the scouting ranks.
Last January, Gaine interviewed with the San Francisco 49ers for their GM opening before the job went to John Lynch. He also has interviewed for GM jobs with the St. Louis Rams (2012), New York Jets (2013), Miami Dolphins (2014), and the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles in 2015.
Gaine, who has worked in the NFL since 1999, was an assistant GM with the Dolphins in 2012 and 2013. He also was a scout with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets.
But Carucci says the new GM won’t run the show like he would in some places:
The Buffalo Bills might be getting a new general manager, but the power structure of their football operation will continue to work as it has since Sean McDermott was hired as coach in January.
Which is to say that the overall vision on how the team is put together will be McDermott’s, just as it has been through free agency and just as it was through the NFL Draft.
The coach knew he was absolutely on solid ground when he met with reporters after the Bills made their final pick Saturday and provided the following answer to the question of whether he anticipated being the lone spokesperson for the team in future drafts as he was before this one:
“As long as I’m the head coach, I do,” McDermott said. “We’re going with that one-voice approach and streamlined and aligned on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it. I believe in that, we believe in that and that’s an organizational decision at this time.”
At that time, the Bills hadn’t announced Doug Whaley’s dismissal as GM. That would come early the next morning.
But it was known for awhile, by pretty much everyone in and out the Bills’ organization, that it was coming down. McDermott certainly was privy.
Nothing was going to change that. There was no “final straw” for Whaley, as was mentioned in a tweet Monday from CBS Sports’ Jason La Confora, who said the GM sealed his fate by ignoring the stumping Bills owner Terry Pegula did to select Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick and instead trading down with the Kansas City Chiefs, who picked the former Texas Tech quarterback in that spot.
And while Pegula made a point Sunday to reiterate that he and his wife, Kim, were the ones who made the decision to fire Whaley and the entire scouting staff, the moves had been inevitable since McDermott’s hiring. If that was his way of saying that the coach didn’t directly hand out the pink slips, fine.
Let the record show, however, that McDermott never would have taken the job if the previous structure of Whaley primarily having the biggest say on picking players while the coaches stuck almost exclusively to coaching them remained in place. Let the record also show that, as Pegula was careful to explain Sunday, Whaley “wasn’t the only person involved in hiring the new head coach. It was Kim and I and a lot of input from other places.”
One of those places was the NFL’s Personnel Development Committee, which includes former Bills GM and Hall-of-Famer Bill Polian. Polian, fellow Hall-of-Famers Ron Wolf, Tony Dungy, John Madden and other committee members submitted a list of candidates that was distributed to all of the owners of teams searching for a new coach. McDermott’s name jumped out at the Pegulas and they promptly made him the first of four candidates they would interview.
It was notable that, the day before the “formal” interview that would include Whaley and former director of player personnel Jim Monos, the Pegulas invited McDermott to join them for dinner on their yacht in Boca Raton, Fla.
He had the Pegulas at “hello.” He impressed them so much, that as Kim drove McDermott to the airport after the next day’s six-hour session, she was already telling him to have his wife (who had been invited to Boca Raton as well, but couldn’t make the trip) call her for information about housing and other essentials in Western New York.
Whaley’s virtual disappearance from public view after McDermott’s arrival wasn’t a coincidence. It was a fulfillment of a condition of McDermott’s employment.
In what could only be perceived as an effort to preserve Whaley’s dignity and help his chances of getting another job, Pegula tried shooting down any notion that McDermott was in charge of the draft, noting it was Whaley who “put the whole thing together.” Technically, yes, the assembling of names and grades was done by Whaley and his staff, because that happened through the NFL season while McDermott was serving as defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
Once McDermott arrived in Buffalo, however, he combed through the data while doing his own intensive study of video and additional research. He shaped the Bills’ draft plan, with a need-based approach and the pursuit of additional picks for this year and in 2018 and starkly different than the way Whaley had done things in previous drafts.
That was why there was zero point in having Whaley offer any public thoughts about a draft that ultimately belonged to the coach.
Pegula did his best to remain vague on exactly how the Bills’ football hierarchy would look post-Whaley.
“Sean’s a head coach,” the owner said. “When we hire a new GM, we’ll talk about, obviously, his obligations and duties, but Sean’s a head coach. The GM’s going to be the GM.”
Make no mistake, McDermott will very much be a part of those discussions. His satisfaction that he and the next GM will be in lock step philosophically will matter.
One voice. Streamlined. Aligned.
– – –
Hopefully, the new Bills hierarchy won’t make silly deals like trading up for SAMMY WADKINS. Mike Florio:
At Clemson, Sammy Watkins was such a sure-thing prospect that he probably would have been a high first-round pick after his freshman year, if not for the NFL’s rule requiring players to be three years out of high school before they can be drafted. When he finally was eligible in 2014, the Bills were so eager to draft him that they traded two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick to move up and get him.
That was a mistake, as it usually is when teams trade up. The draft is just too unpredictable to justify pouring those kinds of resources into any one prospect. The smarter move is to acquire a lot of picks and hope that at least some of them pan out.
When the Bills announced this week that they would not pick up Watkins’ fifth-year option, they were essentially admitting that the move up for Watkins was a mistake. And it was a particularly costly mistake because the Bills probably would have ended up with a better player than Watkins if they had just stayed put at No. 9, rather than moving up to No. 4 to take Watkins: Still on the board at No. 9 was Odell Beckham, who has proven to be a much better receiver than Watkins, not to mention Pro Bowlers Anthony Barr, Taylor Lewan, Aaron Donald, Ryan Shazier, Zack Martin and C.J. Mosley, all of whom went off the board between Pick 9 and Pick 17.
If the Bills didn’t want Beckham for whatever reason, they could have drafted one of those other Pro Bowlers with the ninth overall pick and used their second-round pick to take Allen Robinson or Jarvis Landry, second-round receivers from the 2014 draft who have both out-performed Watkins through the first three seasons of their careers.
If you’re going to give up two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick for one player, you’d better be absolutely certain that one player is going to be far better than the players you could get with the picks you gave up. And in reality, no team is ever absolutely certain. Absolute certainty just isn’t available in the NFL draft.
This isn’t hindsight; I tweeted on draft night in 2014 that the Bills gave up too much for Watkins. That’s not a knock on Watkins, who was a great receiver at Clemson. It’s just the simple reality that trading up in the NFL draft is a big risk, one that usually doesn’t pay off.
Robert Kraft says that pressure from jealous owners led to the irrational and unjust actions of his friend Roger Goodell in the matter known as Deflategate. That and other thoughts from an appearance covered by A.J. Perez of USA TODAY:
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said “envy and jealousy” played a role in the NFL’s Deflategate sanctions over a violation he described as “nonsense and foolishness” at a business leader summit on Tuesday night.
Kraft touched on several topics in the wide-ranging interview that was part of Bloomberg Breakaway in New York. He certainly wasn’t any more candid than when it came to his views on the four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady and the lost draft pick imposed by the league over under-inflated footballs at the AFC title game in January 2015.
“Well, I don’t hold grudges, but I also don’t forget anything,” Kraft said with a smirk. “Envy and jealousy are incurable diseases. I’m going into my 24th season as an owner. I’m passionate about owning a football team in my hometown.
“If I hadn’t won, I would be so angry at our folks and thinking about what we’d have to do (to win a title). So, our competitors, I understand how they brought pressure on the league office to be very strong and (lobbied) not to compromise on an issue that was nonsense and foolishness.”
Kaft praised his team’s ability to go 3-1 without Brady at the start of the 2016 regular season. He called the Patriots’ historic comeback victory against the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl LI a “great lesson for the millennials on how hard work, perseverance and never giving up” can pay off.
Kraft also discussed his 25-year friendship with President Donald Trump, one that he said was solidified after the death of Kraft’s wife, Myra, in 2011.
“He called me once a week for a year and invited me to things,” Kraft said. “That was the darkest period of my life. I’m a pretty strong person. My kids thought I was going to die. There were five or six people who were great to me, and he was one of them. Loyalty and friendship trumps politics for me. I always remember the people who were good to me in that vulnerable time, and he’s in that category.”
Kraft doesn’t like how Trump is often portrayed in the media, but added that “part of that is self-inflicted.”
“He doesn’t mean everything he says,” Kraft said. “I’m privileged to know that. People who don’t know him maybe don’t see the better side. I tell you one thing: He’s very hard-working.”
Kraft also praised the two cornerstones of his franchise for the last 15-plus years: Head coach Bill Belichick and Brady.
“When I hired him, people told me I shouldn’t,” Kraft said of Belichick’s hire in 2000. “We had to build a stadium. We needed goodwill from the public. We needed people who interviewed well and were gracious. People sent me tapes of him from Cleveland. In his five years in Cleveland, he had a losing record in four of the five years.
“In life, if you’re picking your life partner or key managers in your company, you can look at the curriculum vitae and look at all these things, but it’s (about) the simpatico of a connection. What is right for me may not be right for you.”
Kraft also raved about Brady, calling him “a special human being.”
“He’s nicer than anyone,” Kraft said. “He’s genuine. He knows how to connect (with people.)”
THIS AND THAT
KAEP IN EXILE – THE STATE OF THE MARKET
As COLIN KAEPERNICK lingers unsigned (and we are reminded that was his choice, he chose to opt out of his 49ers contract), some in the media smell an evil conspiracy. Longtime social activist Christine Brennan at USA Today:
What does it say about the NFL, and about us, when at least a half-dozen men who have been accused of physical or sexual assault have been welcomed into the NFL over the past week, while Colin Kaepernick still has not?
Is it worse to be known for not standing for the national anthem than for being accused of hitting or assaulting someone? Is Kaepernick a less desirable member of an NFL team or community than, say, Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick Gareon Conley, who is being investigated by the Cleveland police on a rape allegation, or Cincinnati Bengals second-round pick Joe Mixon, who was caught on videotape knocking out a woman with a devastating punch?
As of now, it appears the answer is yes. At the moment, Conley and Mixon have more of a foot in the door in the NFL than does Kaepernick, the 29-year-old, six-year veteran who took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl during the 2012 season.
No matter how much some of you might despise Kaepernick for what he did last season, you have to admit that’s a stunning arrangement of values.
It was quite a surprise to see so many young men with so much violence attached to their names drafted by NFL teams little more than a week after USA TODAY Sports reported that Ray Rice himself was going to participate in the league’s social responsibility education program this year. You think everyone is getting with the plan, and then you realize they’re not. Not at all.
Then throw in the fact that the guy famous for making a controversial social statement still hasn’t landed back in the league when more than a dozen other quarterbacks have signed, and the player he replaced during last season — Blaine Gabbert — is in talks to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, and you really do have to wonder what’s going on.
To those people who are angry that Kaepernick knelt or sat during the national anthem last season, including some of you in the owners’ and general managers’ suites, I hear you. I stand for our national anthem and would be very surprised if someone around me did not. Who doesn’t understand the opinion of current service members or veterans in particular who thought that what Kaepernick did was a sign of disrespect?
But to fail to acknowledge – and even celebrate – that what Kaepernick did was his right as a U.S. citizen is to ignore one of the reasons the United States is the great and free nation that it is.
While some NFL teams were busy drafting names from the police blotter last weekend, Kaepernick was standing outside a New York City parole office, handing out two boxes of his own custom-made suits to men who needed them for upcoming job interviews. He has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity. In March, it was reported by several news media outlets, including USA TODAY Sports, that Kaepernick will not protest the national anthem this coming season. And yet he’s still a free agent, so far unwanted by all 32 NFL teams.
“I’m of the opinion he’s going to end up on somebody’s roster,” Harry Edwards, the noted sociologist and activist who has worked with Kaepernick as a team consultant with the 49ers, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
“It would be in the league’s interest for that to happen, to not create a martyr out of him, especially when they have people on teams accused of rape and knocking women out. He was just named one of the 100 most influential people in the world (by Time magazine). Give me a break. If you’re the NFL, you want him on a team.”
Edwards said Kaepernick “has moved on from protest to promotion of progress, from resistance to resolution. He has pledged that his taking a knee is over, that he is concerned now with actions that help resolve problems, not just actions that simply communicate that there is a problem. In this regard, he would be a great model for those players in the league who really want to contribute to solutions and not just send a message.”
And if he ends up not playing this year?
“If for whatever reason Kaep is not on a roster during the preseason and for the regular season,” Edwards said, “I think that the league should offer him another position – deputy commissioner – if for no other reason than to have his input and perspectives on the management of emerging situations.”
Perhaps he can start by getting the league’s priorities in order.
Here’s Eric Branch in the San Francisco Chronicle, who finally gets around to pointing out that Kaepernick is not alone on the unemployment line:
Fifty-six days after the start of NFL free agency, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed.
What’s happening here? That depends on who is asked. Some players believe Kaepernick is being ignored because of his decision to kneel during the national anthem before games last season. Others believe the issues are more complex and involve his on-field regression and potential distractions he’d bring to a franchise.
At this point, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Kaepernick has played his last snap.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” 49ers safety Eric Reid said. “It’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media PR reasons. And it’s sad. You’re doing something to better the world. … He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation, without the anthem, they would be praising him and giving him awards for it.”
Reid and Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall, who played with Kaepernick at Nevada, have said Kaepernick’s anthem stance and outspokenness on social issues have made NFL teams wary. Reid and Marshall joined Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem.
Reid said he and 49ers linebacker Eli Harold will stand this season because they thought they had accomplished their goal of raising awareness.
In March, Kaepernick helped secure an airplane and $1 million in aid to assist with the famine in Somalia. On Monday, Kaepernick, who recently was named one of Time magazine’s most 100 influential people of 2017, handed out custom-made suits outside a parole office in New York. He also has made good on his August pledge to donate $1 million, and all proceeds from his jersey sales, to community organizations.
“He’s probably being blackballed,” Marshall said to the Denver Post. “Maybe part of it is owners don’t want their franchise tagged with that. But I still stand by what I said (on Twitter), that he’s the best quarterback in free agency.”
Kaepernick’s career had steadily nose-dived since he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, but he made a modest comeback last year. After replacing Blaine Gabbert in October, he threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions, posted his best passer rating (90.7) since 2013 and ranked second among quarterbacks in rushing yards (468).
NFL teams have signed 17 free-agent quarterbacks this offseason, but Kaepernick, 29, isn’t alone. Jay Cutler and Ryan Fitzpatrick, longtime starters who had career-best seasons in 2015, haven’t been signed. In addition, Robert Griffin III, whose skills to run as well as pass mirror those of Kaepernick and are no longer in vogue, is still a free agent.
Jason Reid of ESPN’s The Undefeated goes through all 32 teams to find a home for Kaep. We’ll show you some where he, like Jim Carrey, thinks there is a chance – although since he regards Kaep as a starter-quality QB, there aren’t many spots left – and a few others to give you the flavor of his analysis which you can read in its entirety here:
The NFL draft is finally over. After three days and seven rounds, the league now has 243 new rookies. Even so, there are many veterans still seeking jobs, including the NFL’s most famously woke quarterback.
Colin Kaepernick is without a team after a season in which he chose not to stand for the national anthem — first sitting, then kneeling — in an effort to draw attention to the oppression of black people and people of color in the U.S. There’s a belief among some African-American players that teams have effectively blackballed Kaepernick because of his political activism.
But even if Kaepernick were evaluated only on a football basis, there are not many landing spots for him to compete for a starting job. The fact is, most teams believe they have solidified their QB situations after the moves made in free agency and in the draft.
It’s not merely a question of whether Kaepernick is more talented than some passers listed atop depth charts. Teams won’t want to play Kaepernick ahead of first-stringers who are owed significant guaranteed money or high-round draft picks who must learn on the field.
With Kaepernick’s potential employment in mind, let’s examine where each team stands at quarterback post-draft.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Brian Hoyer, signed a two-year contract in March.
Quarterback drafted: C.J. Beathard, Iowa, third round.
What it means for Kaepernick: Hoyer, who was with the Bears last season, and new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan worked well together when they were with the Browns in 2014. Beathard starts his career behind No. 2 quarterback Matt Barkley. Kaepernick spent his first six seasons with the 49ers. Don’t count on him rejoining them anytime soon.
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Blake Bortles, drafted third overall in 2014.
Quarterback drafted: None.
What it means for Kaepernick: The Jacksonville Jaguars are all in on Bortles, who has a lot of work to do. He hasn’t proved he’s capable of consistently directing an NFL offense. In theory, Kaepernick would be a good fit here as Bortles develops.
NEW YORK JETS
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Josh McCown, signed a one-year contract in March.
Quarterback drafted: None.
What it means for Kaepernick: Based on the QB talent on their roster, the Jets should send a jet to pick up Kaepernick. But owner Woody Johnson has expressed his displeasure with Kaepernick’s protest. Still, it’s hard to imagine how the Jets could possibly be better off with McCown under center than Kaepernick.
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Andy Dalton, second-round pick in 2011.
Quarterback drafted: None.
What it means for Kaepernick: Dalton is well-established in the job. Also, the Cincinnati Bengals are dealing with their controversial decision to draft former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was caught on tape hitting fellow student Amelia Molitor in the face in July 2014. Signing Kaepernick would bring even more scrutiny.
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Carson Palmer, acquired in 2013 trade with Oakland.
Quarterback drafted: None.
What it means for Kaepernick: Palmer had one of his best seasons in 2015. He wasn’t as good last season. Still, Palmer is atop the depth chart in the desert.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Jameis Winston, drafted first overall in 2015.
Quarterback drafted: None.
What it means for Kaepernick: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers believe Winston is on the doorstep of his breakthrough season. They’re not interested in bringing in anyone to challenge him.
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Tyrod Taylor, signed as a free agent in 2015; restructured contract in March.
Quarterback drafted: Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh, fifth round.
What it means for Kaepernick: Just based on football, this is another spot that would seem to make sense for Kaepernick. The Bills haven’t made the playoffs in 17 seasons, Taylor has only shown flashes of being a franchise quarterback and management drafted Peterman without giving Taylor any assurances he’s still the starter.
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Dak Prescott, drafted in fourth round in 2016.
Quarterback drafted: None.
What it means for Kaepernick: Prescott led Dallas to the NFC East title. He was the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and named a Pro Bowler. The Cowboys are set at quarterback for a long, long time.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Top quarterback on roster before draft: Tom Brady, drafted in the sixth round in 1999.
Quarterback drafted: None.
What it means for Kaepernick: Brady is a five-time Super Bowl winner and four-time Super Bowl MVP. Top backup Jimmy Garoppolo is widely considered to be a franchise-quarterback-in-waiting. Also, President Donald Trump has a bond with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick. We’ll leave it at that.
So basically all Reid sees is Jacksonville because he is looking at Kaep as a starter. The DB would think his best bet is as a back-up behind a team that wants someone who gives them a chance to win if the starter goes down – Tampa Bay? Atlanta? But do team’s want to bring in a “distraction” for the back-up role or a quarterback with a unique skill set that doesn’t match up with the offense the team runs with the starter.
Jason Lisk of TheBigLead.com also tumbles to Jacksonville as Kaep’s best option:
The smoke from the quarterback fires that began in free agency and continued through the draft is starting to clear.
We had three teams trade up for quarterbacks in the 2017 first round, Cleveland picked up Deshone Kizer in the second, and the Giants, Steelers, 49ers and Bills used mid-round picks on the position. Before that, the Tony Romo retirement news altered the landscape (likely leading Houston to then trade up for DeShaun Watson).
We are now over a month removed from the 24-hour news cycle buzz of Colin Kaepernick being blackballed, based on a Spike Lee social media post. Kaepernick, along with Jay Cutler, represent the top of the free agent pecking order right now at the position. Cutler, though has been busy baring his personality this offseason, and at age 34, his simply moving on to something else is very much in play.
After those two, you are looking at 34-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was awful last year with the Jets, and Robert Griffin III, who seems like more of a reclamation project than Kaepernick to recapture past glory at this point. Then, it’s a bunch of never-weres and journeymen for teams wanting to round out the quarterback depth.
So let’s try to assess the opportunities for Colin Kaepernick. There are no starting spots. No one is signing him expecting him to be the week 1 starter, so unless he wants to wait for an injury, here are his options:
New York Jets: They don’t seem to be concerned about their complete lack of a quarterback, and seem willing to go with veteran Josh McCown, or Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Yes, they restructured the Chad Henne deal and Henne has been the backup to Blake Bortles in recent years. That deal is not prohibitive in terms of moving to Kaepernick.
Baltimore Ravens: Ryan Mallett is Joe Flacco’s backup. John Harbaugh has publicly said Kaepernick’s stances wouldn’t be an issue, and his brother coached him and drafted him.
Arizona Cardinals: He would compete for snaps behind Carson Palmer with veteran Drew Stanton.
Denver Broncos: John Elway sends letters to Donald Trump on Denver letterhead, and the team drafted Paxton Lynch last year, and Trevor Siemian is also young (and they added Chad Kelly as Mr. Irrelevant). The QB situation is unsettled but they don’t be setting up to make a move.
Of those, Jacksonville makes the most sense for both Kaepernick and for the team. Here’s why:
Kaepernick isn’t starting right away anywhere, he needs to go somewhere where he could play, and get a chance to show himself, if things break.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, has Blake Bortles is entering a key fourth season. He was at times brutal last year, especially early in games. Bortles averaged 5.7 yards per attempt in the first quarter of games last year, and Jacksonville had only 51 first quarter points.
Jacksonville just exercised the fifth-year option, which is guaranteed for injury only for Bortles until the start of next year’s league calendar. We’ve seen teams exercise that option, then sit their quarterbacks for fear of having to pay someone they no longer trusted. (See for example Robert Griffin III in his last year in Washington.) In fact, Kaepernick had to renegotiate his injury-only guarantees and restructure to get back on the field last year.
Bottles put up decent raw numbers a couple of years ago, while leading the league in interceptions, but his rate stats have been below average for three straight years, and his yards per attempt were pretty poor a year ago for a third-year starter who should be closer to breaking out. Using adjusted net yards per attempt compared to league average, the most similar quarterbacks over the first three seasons of a career are: (1) Steve DeBerg, (2) Mark Sanchez, (3) Rick Mirer, (4) Tony Banks, and (5) Jeff George. That’s not a group that screams “put all your eggs in that basket.”
If Bortles struggles, and the organization realizes they can’t pay him upwards of $18 million the next year, then they are going to need to sit him down and not risk that injury only guarantee coming due with a November knee injury.
The rest of the Jacksonville roster seems like it has been building and getting better. There is talent in Jacksonville, but the results certainly haven’t been there. Kaepernick would provide a reasonable fallback alternative if Bortles gets off to another bad start in year 4. Good organizations don’t accept mediocrity, and if Bortles can’t handle it, I’m not sure he’s a franchise quarterback to begin with. This seems like the ideal situation to bring in competition and try to push Bortles, and for Kaepernick to get an opportunity if he doesn’t respond.
REST OF REMAINING FREE AGENCY
Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com with a primer on veteran free agents that are still available. He has some QBs like Kaepernick in there as well:
Two Super Bowl rings in three years with the New England Patriots. An NFL-high 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016. Over 1,000 rushing yards added to a career in which he boasts a 4.4-yards per carry average. These are the numbers that LeGarrette Blount believed would translate into one last payday in NFL free agency.
Instead, he’s the most accomplished NFL player from last season still unemployed.
It’s been a particularly rough existence for 30-year-old running backs in free agency this offseason. Jamaal Charles will reportedly get his first free-agent visit this week when he sees the Denver Broncos. Reggie Bush‘s career appears to be over. Even Adrian Peterson had to wait around for six weeks just to land one contract offer. Then there’s Blount, who has been boxed into a category of the two-down running back best suited for a traditional under-center quarterback. There aren’t many of those left in the NFL. That reality – along with Blount’s age and character/effort history – left him in a chilly market.
But the thaw appears to have finally arrived.
League sources said at least two teams are squarely in play for Blount now that the draft has ended: The Detroit Lions and New York Giants, two franchises that are still mulling the addition of a bell-cow running back to eat up some early-down and short-yardage carries next season. The Lions failed to draft a running back despite a deep class at the position, while the Giants still have the need for a big back to shoulder some of the load from younger, less experienced players.
The Lions may be the most obvious fit, with a stable of running backs who don’t bring the same physical mentality to first or second down. Detroit also has general manager Bob Quinn who was in the New England personnel ranks during Blount’s tenure with the Patriots. It means something to have Quinn calling the shots, especially after he watched Bill Belichick add Blount to the roster twice.
Beyond knowing the player, what might intrigue Quinn most is that Blount wasn’t booted from New England. The Patriots were interested in retaining him. The sticking point was cost. Belichick wasn’t anywhere close to paying Blount a deal with solid guaranteed money. Not with him turning 31 next season – and most certainly not after Blount showed the penchant for showing up overweight and ending up in the doghouse. New England saw Blount as a useful player, but only at the right price.
Now things have changed. With the draft wrapped, Blount’s market is as thin as it is going to get. That should soften his position on price and put both the Lions and Giants in a position to hammer out a team-friendly deal. The expectation is that Blount will find a team in the next few weeks, and most-certainly not later than the resumption of organized team activities following rookie minicamps.
Here are a few other free-agent players whose future is still up in the air …
Jason McCourty, CB – His biggest sin was not performing well enough to justify the $7 million base salary that was on the books. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a serviceable No. 2 cornerback for someone. He turns 30 in training camp and still has the goods to be a starter. That will get him some looks from teams that still have money to spend in free agency and didn’t address the corner spot in a deep draft at the position. More than any other player still on the market, McCourty cuts the image of a quality late-offseason addition for someone. But he’s also not going to be dirt cheap.
Ryan Clady, OT – Clady has missed 23 games in two years, but he also played in four Pro Bowls and there are executives who remember him being a very worthwhile player. This occasionally happens with offensive tackles, who fall off or struggle with injuries for a few seasons and then rebound to string together a few more years on the positive side of the ledger. Michael Oher appeared to be one of those guys before running into a concussion issue last season with the Carolina Panthers. Clady will get a look from a team that needs some talent and competition at offensive tackle and has little downside in taking a look (hello, Giants).
Anquan Boldin, WR – Yes, he’s getting really old. Soon to be 37. That said, Boldin likely still has one year left and he brings the added value of presence in a wide receiver meeting room and in practice. Boldin is still tough as nails and can bring a veteran worker’s mentality to a group and offense. That’s worth a price in the NFL – particularly if the player can offer something as a third wideout. Boldin can still do that. But it will almost certainly be a one-year marriage. After that, well, how many guys line up at receiver at 38?
Jay Cutler, QB – He’s probably older than most realize (34) and had a rough 2016 with the Chicago Bears. There’s a legitimate question of how much his heart is still in the game (or some would argue whether it ever really was). But Cutler has two things the NFL needs as soon as there are any worries at the quarterback spot: an arm and tons of experience. While teams have stayed away in free agency, some franchises will fish for a backup quarterback with experience following the draft. And his talent will put him at the top of a lot of lists if there is a training camp injury. One way or another, Cutler still has the talent to play in the NFL and will eventually be given another opportunity. Maybe not as a starter, but almost certainly as a talented insurance policy for a worst-case scenario.
RECOGNIZABLE NAMES WITH CAREERS TEETERING
Robert Griffin III, QB – Maybe this one will shock some people. Maybe it won’t. But don’t be surprised if Griffin ends up sitting out the 2017 season and mulling the state of his career a year from now. At the moment, there appears to be zero – zero – free-agent interest in him. And this is after there was basically no interest in him last season beyond the Cleveland Browns (no, the New York Jets leverage visit doesn’t count). It’s a real possibility (maybe even a probability) that Griffin doesn’t make a single free-agent visit before training camp. And it might take a spate of quarterback injuries to land him as a backup somewhere. He doesn’t look anything like the player he was in 2012 and carries immense injury baggage. It’s stunning to consider how far he has fallen since his historic rookie campaign in 2012. It can’t get much lower than this. If there’s a guy who has a future “30 for 30” documentary, RG3 is it.
Colin Kaepernick, QB – Like RG3, the market is comatose. Also like RG3, there is a chance Kaepernick won’t make a meaningful free-agent visit until a quarterback injury occurs. The chief reason: Kapernick’s game and build have appeared to significantly regress over the past few seasons. His national anthem protests last season and the emotions that roiled fan bases across the NFL can’t be discounted. Bottom line, if he were still considered an upper-echelon player, he’d be on a team right now. But he’s been billed as a low-tier starter or backup for over a year now, and that puts any perceived baggage squarely in play when it comes to a signing. Right now, he’s not worth it for teams. But should there be a sudden need to fill a backup slot due to injuries, he could get another chance. Even that’s not guaranteed.
Reggie Bush, RB – He’s 32 and hasn’t had an impactful season since 2013. A litany of injuries have caught up to Bush, who never panned out as a durable, consistent NFL running back. If Peterson, Charles and Blount are struggling to get a contract offer in this market, what does that spell for Bush? Most likely, it will eventually spell retirement after he doesn’t catch on anywhere. His position is oversaturated and he doesn’t appear on the radar anywhere. Much like Vince Young before him, one of the most dynamic and exciting players in college football history will be largely remembered for his time before the NFL – if Bush isn’t there already.
Chris Johnson, RB – Like Bush, he’s aging and the athleticism isn’t what it once was. Johnson will turn 32 soon and his position is saturated with young, fast players. A string of running back injuries will almost certainly open up a low rung of some depth chart, but he’s headed for a role as a bit player at best. He believes he still has something close to his sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash speed, and he’ll likely get a workout or two to show if that’s true. Regardless of where he’s headed, the end is near.
Darrelle Revis, CB – He turns 32 in July, but his game has hit a wall. The Jets didn’t see the athleticism or even some of the technically sound mechanics that used to be there. Revis has made a ton of money and would need to work harder than ever to survive at a position that is swelling with talent in recent drafts. It’s going to be hard for him to justify what it takes for money that isn’t going to be all that great in the NFL. And if he’s not “all-in” every day, he’s liable to get torched to the point where teams can’t keep him in the fold. The move to safety gets a lot of play, but there is skepticism amongst former coaches that Revis can – or wants – to buy in to that transition.