The Daily Briefing Tuesday, April 4, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News is snarky here, but he also is expressing a widespread impression about Roger Goodell’s pay:

 

Roger Goodell’s litany of unpopular decisions have helped make him a wealthy man, but the billionaires who lined his pockets wisely think he needs a pay cut.

 

Goodell, one of the most loathed commissioners in the history of American team sports, has cashed in during his polarizing decade-long run. The NFL is a cash cow for owners thanks, in part, to Goodell’s leadership, but there’s little doubt that he has been severely overpaid.

 

Owners have paid Goodell well over $200 million since he replaced Paul Tagliabue in 2006. He’s made more money than any player during that time, for crying out loud.

 

Some members of the billionaire’s boys club apparently want their mouthpiece to take a smaller piece of the pie.

 

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported Sunday that an executive session of the Finance and Compensation Committees at the league meetings last week in Phoenix focused on a few issues, including Goodell’s contract and succession planning.

 

Goodell’s deal runs through March 2019. He originally signed a five-year contract in 2006 that was extended with two years left. His annual compensation was about $10 million under that deal. It ballooned to more than quadruple that amount in 2012 ($44 million). Goodell’s total financial package has dropped in each of the four years from 2012 to 2015.

 

The NFL paid Goodell $31.7 million in 2015, according to tax filings. The league no longer has to disclose Goodell’s salary after dropping its tax-exempt status. Although it’s unclear what the commish took home last season, some owners evidently believe that it’s still too much.

 

PFT reported that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones introduced a few key topics during an owners-only meeting, including Goodell’s salary. The head honcho in Dallas recommended that all owners, not just the handful or so on the Compensation Committee, be involved in Goodell’s next contract. According to PFT, “multiple owners currently believe that broader involvement of the membership would result in terms more favorable to the league.”

 

Translation: Several owners think Goodell is overpaid.

 

He is, of course.

 

There’s no denying that business is booming (despite a television ratings dip during an election year). The NFL’s annual revenue stream has more than doubled under Goodell’s tenure to about $14 billion. The league hopes to generate $25 billion by the year 2027.

 

Owners are making loot hand over fist. The average NFL franchise value increased by 19 percent from 2015-2016 to $2.34 billion, according to Forbes. Goodell obviously deserves more than minimum wage for overseeing the financial explosion in the past decade, but $30-plus million per year salary is excessive.

 

There’s a school of thought that the NFL is running on auto-pilot these days, which unfairly marginalizes Goodell’s importance to the overall growth and health of the league. But there’s nothing wrong with questioning the commissioner’s exorbitant take-home pay given his shortcomings.

 

Goodell’s strengths (negotiating a blockbuster TV rights deal and labor peace) are outweighed by his dubious treatment of domestic violence issues and air pressures of footballs.

 

Goodell’s Trumpian Q-rating, of course, is his own doing. He’s been vilified by players, who repeatedly question his heavy-handed tactics like the silliness over excessive celebrations. His judge, jury and executioner tack on player discipline for years didn’t win him points with the guys that people actually pay to see on fall Sundays.

 

Although the league rolled out a $100-million campaign to improve concussion research before last season, players and fans remain skeptical of a man at the center of a settlement of a class-action concussion lawsuit for former players.

 

Goodell’s image is likely beyond repair. For years, he provided cover for the same people who are now looking to hit him where it hurts: His wallet.

 

Unfair? Perhaps.

 

But he was making way too much anyway.

 

We would say that at the very least the meeting and the story that leaked out of it is a salvo to the negotiating committee to at the very least not reward Goodell with any more raises going forward.

 

Also, the NFL now has a staggering number of executives with nebulous titles and responsibilities making extraordinary salaries.  While the leaked focus was on Goodell, a further message had to concern the overall perception of “fat” on Park Avenue.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

The Packers now own a wonderfully-named player (just ask him) who used to play for a division rival.  Patrick Finley in the Chicago Sun-Times:

 

Ego Ferguson won’t be going far. On Monday, the rival Packers claimed the former second-round pick, who the Bears waived on Friday.

 

The defensive lineman wasn’t seen as a fit in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme, and didn’t ingratiate himself with a four-game suspension in 2015 for using a performance-enhancing drug.

 

He was first waived with an injury designation at the end of training camp last year because of a shoulder problem. He cleared waivers, was put on injured reserve and stayed with the Bears.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The TONY ROMO matter is coming to a head.  Adam Schefter and Todd Archer of ESPN.com say he is retiring.

 

Tony Romo has chosen retirement.

 

Despite interest from at least one playoff-ready NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys legend and four-time Pro Bowler is set to retire in order to pursue a career in football broadcasting, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Romo was slated to be released by the Cowboys on Tuesday.

 

The news was first reported by ESPN.

 

“Tony Romo made the decision after this comes out, after consulting with those close to him, after examining his body and looking at where he is in his career, he decided to step away from football and embrace one of the broadcasting opportunities that he’s had for some time,” Rapoport reported on Good Morning Football on Tuesday.

 

Romo’s decision comes amid a tumultuous period in his career both emotionally and health-wise. Romo appeared in just five games over the past two seasons due to a twice-broken collarbone and broken back. In both cases, he still managed to claw his way onto the field for at least one appearance.

 

Romo already has informed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of his decision to step away from the game for now, sources said. The networks courting him also are aware.

 

One NFL executive, however, told ESPN via text message that “Romo is now every team’s emergency backup QB in case your starter gets hurt” and that those teams would have to “pay him to come out of ‘retirement.'”

 

Stepping away from the game also will impact NFL teams, as the market for Romo was expected to be robust. But with his transition to TV, Romo no longer will be a consideration for the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos — not unless he were to unexpectedly write another chapter in his NFL journey and return from the broadcast booth to the playing field.

 

And the world waits for word of which network.  FOX clearly has a spot for Romo on the #2 crew with John Lynch now GMing in San Francisco/Santa Clara.

 

This was from ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio last week about CBS:

 

When it comes to playing football, Tony Romo currently has limited options. When it comes to broadcasting football, Tony Romo has two. And one of them could make him a major network’s No. 1 analyst, potentially.

 

Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, CBS is eyeing Romo as a “potential replacement” for Phil Simms. It’s unclear whether this means Romo would supplant Simms right out of the gates, or whether Romo would start at a lower rung and work his way up.

 

An immediate installment as the No. 1 guy could be overwhelming for Romo, given that CBS has the Thursday night package for the first half of the season. In his first year of learning how to call games, he’d be calling two per week.

 

Landing at the top of the CBS football food chain also could make it harder for Romo to pull a Roger Clemens and return to the field during the season, if an opportunity to play half a season for a contender would emerge with the bursting of a tendon or the shredding of a ligament.

 

Then there’s the question of whether Simms would be demoted to the No. 2 team — or whether CBS would simply throw eem overboard.

 

With two networks after him, the money may be pretty significant.

 

And Florio now sees a bigger strategy afoot:

 

Depending upon which report(s) you believe, Tony Romo is, or isn’t, retiring from football. Some are trying to tiptoe on the tightrope between declaring that he’s done vs. done for now, and for good reason.

 

For weeks, a sense has persisted in league circles that, if Romo chooses broadcasting, he’ll negotiate his contract to allow for a return to football during the season.

 

If that’s the approach, it would be an acknowledgement that Romo can’t make it through a full season, but an indication that he could be intrigued by the possibility of sliding into the right situation, if an untimely injury to a starter on a contending team opens the door for an attempt to take a contender deep into the postseason.

 

To properly lay the foundation for such a move, Romo needs to be released by the Cowboys. If they would instead place him on the reserve/retired list, he’d first need to get them to release him if/when he wants to return. And if he wants to return because a team develops a sudden need for his services, the Cowboys may choose at that point to try to get something in return for his rights.

 

Then there’s the potential complication that would arise from a return after the trade deadline. At that point, Romo would be subject to waivers — which means that any other team could squat on his contract and keep him from going where he wants to go.

 

So a free and clear release makes sense for Romo. It also makes sense for the Cowboys, since it would allow the cap charge to be spread over two years. Still, what makes sense and what actually happens have at times been at odds in this saga, so there’s no reason to try to predict with certainty where this roller coaster is heading next.

 

If this is the end, Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com with a relatively positive look at Romo’s legacy:

 

All you remember is Seattle, the playoffs, the botched hold, the images of Tony Romo’s slippery fingers costing the Cowboys a chance to move on to the next round of the postseason — and maybe even a Super Bowl.

 

You remember the injuries, the agonizing broken bones and bad back that almost made you feel sorry for him, other than that he was the quarterback of America’s team, which, like the shortstop for the New York Yankees, is one of the glamour spots in all of sports, and a beacon for hate.

 

What you don’t remember is how truly good Romo was as a quarterback. Some of you do, but most of you were part of a legion of fans and media members who made ripping Tony Romo a bloodsport, something you might actually see on a gaming console.

 

You get two points for ripping his postseason failures.

 

You get three for mocking his beaten-up body.

 

You get four points for comparing him to Troy Aikman.

 

You get five points for saying if he weren’t the quarterback of the Cowboys, he’d be just average.

 

The reality is the most points awarded in that game should come from saying this:

 

Romo, who is retiring to enter the broadcast booth after his release from the Dallas Cowboys, leaves as one of the most under-appreciated passers of this generation.

While most were picking him apart like vultures on a dead carcass, they missed out on what should truly be a career that is lauded.

 

This was a kid who was not drafted, a self-made player, who became the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys — and a damn good one.

 

Tony Romo overcame long odds to make himself a star of America’s Team. USATSI

Romo leaves the game 29th all time in passing yards. He is 21st all time in touchdown passes with 248. And, using a favored stat of some quarterback cults — you know who you are — Romo is fourth all-time in passer rating at 97.1.

 

The guys above him are Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson (it’s his cult who loves the stat).

 

Romo wasn’t just a dink-and-dunk guy either. He averaged 7.9 yards per attempt, which ties him for fourth overall with Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner — pretty good company.

 

Oh, but he wasn’t good in the playoffs, right?

 

Well, his record was 2-4 and he had the muffed field-goal hold in Seattle that burns images into many minds. The reality is he wasn’t nearly as bad as you might think. He threw eight touchdown passes in six games with two picks. His postseason rating is 93.0.

 

I don’t use quarterback playoff wins to grade any player. Those are team stats. Why else would Trent Dilfer have a ring, but Dan Marino does not?

 

Was Romo always great in the playoffs? No, but he wasn’t as bad as you would think.

The best example of all of how Romo was mistreated by the fans and media came on October 6, 2013. The Cowboys lost to the Denver Broncos that day in a shootout, 51-48. Romo went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning that day, and was better. Manning  threw for 414 yards, four touchdowns and one pick. Romo threw for 515 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

 

Yet it was a late interception, after rallying the Cowboys from down 15 in the third quarter that set up the Broncos’ game-winning score. On a second-and-16 from his own 14, he was intercepted by Danny Trevathan to set up the Broncos’ game-winning field goal.

 

That set off the madness. Romo choked. Romo can’t get it done in crunch time.

 

The idiots lost sight of the fact Romo threw for 515 yards and five touchdowns.

 

Without him, it’s a rout.

 

Romo isn’t a Hall of Fame player in my book. He is in the Hall of Very Good.

 

Rid your worry of colon cancer. Search these listings to determine what symptoms are worth discussing with a health care professional.

 

He’s also in the Hall of Under-appreciated.

 

So as he leaves the field to go to the broadcast booth — where he will be a star by the way — close your eyes for a second and imagine a Romo moment.

 

Most of you will remember Seattle.

 

I will see the undrafted kid, who should be revered for what he became, taking a snap, moving around in the pocket, avoiding pressure, and, contorting his body in an awkward-looking way, firing a laser for a touchdown in the back of the end zone.

 

That’s the Romo I remember.

 

That’s the Romo you should too.

 

We think Prisco gets it about right here.  The DB had a similar conversation with a Queen City correspondent last week who is not a Romo backer.  We did agree that Romo was better than ANDY DALTON.

 

Another DB correspondent points out that if Romo is indeed heading to the broadcast booth there is a distinct possibility that the interest of the Texans and Broncos was largely a creation of the agent/media confluence.  In actual fact, those two teams might not have wanted to pay him that much more than the broadcast networks.

 

He is a favorite of ProFootballFocus.com:

 

Romo leaves the game having been the Dallas starter for the past decade before 2016 after entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois in 2003.

 

Romo may never have quite hit the heights he was capable of consistently, but for seven of his first nine seasons in the league he posted a PFF grade of over 80 over a season, including both of his first two years starting.

 

Perhaps the biggest issue over Romo’s career has been durability, or lack thereof. He played a full 16 games just four times in his career and on only one occasion (2009) did he play every snap of the season. That year, including the playoffs, he was on the field for 1,247 snaps without being forced from the game.

 

Over the past two years though, he has played just 244 snaps due to injuries, ultimately opening the door for 2016 rookie Dak Prescott to take the starter job going forward.

 

Romo at his best was an excellent QB, and he had a chance of proving that elsewhere in 2017, but any team he would have been playing for would have exposed him significantly more to hits from which he has proven very vulnerable in recent seasons. The Dallas offensive line has averaged 119 total pressures surrendered over the past two years and 54 sacks or hits. Denver and Houston, the two teams seen as front-runners for his signature if he had hit the open market, surrendered 208 and 210 total pressures last season, respectively, and combined to allow their QBs hit the ground 108 times.

 

Romo may have been able to hold up and show his talent again in either venue, but elected not to put his body at more risk of injury.

 

Ultimately he has enjoyed the most unlikely of NFL careers given his starting point in the NFL, and will go down as one of the best QBs of the past decade.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

A sabbatical/retirement for DE OWA ODIGHIZUWA.  Paul Schwartz in the New York Post:

 

It appears as if Owa Odighizuwa, a promising young defensive end who has struggled to stay healthy and get on the field in his two seasons with the Giants, is walking away from football.

 

Odighizuwa took to Twitter on Monday to express his intention to take a break. In rough grammatical fashion, he tweeted: “I have all love for everyone .. at the point and time I believe it’s in my best interest to take sometime to get away from the game.’’

 

If he indeed is leaving the game, it is a shock to the Giants. Team officials saw the news on social media and were in the dark as to the meaning or origin of any potential issues.

 

Odighizuwa is only 25 years old and although he has not contributed much since arriving as a third-round draft pick from UCLA in 2015, the Giants had not given up on him. He would have been expected, coming into the 2017 season, to back up starters Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, marquee players who logged a ton of playing time last season, perhaps too much time.

 

The Giants’ offseason program begins April 18, when voluntary workouts start at the team facility. There has been no outward sign of any problem with Odighizuwa, who has been in New Jersey working out, which is typical at this time of year.

 

@LPJ_Odighizuwa

I truly apologize that it has to be made known like this

 

Odighizuwa played in 14 games in 2016 but mostly was used on special teams, as the coaching staff did not fully trust him as part of the defensive-end rotation. He had only three tackles all season and was overtaken on the depth chart by Romeo Okwara, an undrafted rookie from Notre Dame. It was Okwara who moved into a starting role when Pierre-Paul went down late in the season with an abdominal injury.

 

 

WASHINGTON

The Redskins have added LB ZACH BROWN.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com on the significance of the move:

 

One of the few big-name free agents left on the market found a home Monday.

 

Linebacker Zach Brown agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $4.65 million with the Washington Redskins, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the situation. The team later announced the signing.

 

Brown is coming off a breakout Pro Bowl season with the Buffalo Bills, compiling 149 tackles, four sacks, one interception, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

 

Ranked No. 20 on Around The NFL’s top 101 free agents list, Brown was one of the few playmaking inside linebackers available this offseason.

 

Brown visited the Dolphins, Raiders and Bills before landing with Washington.

 

Still just 27 years old, Brown is a solid run defender and good covering in space. He should be an upgrade over incumbent inside linebacker Will Compton next to Mason Foster on the interior of the Redskins D.

 

Brown is a needed addition to a Washington defense that struggled against the run for long stretches last season, allowing 119.8 yards per game on the ground.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Gordon McGuinness of ProFootballFocus.com on what the Ravens need in the draft:

 

The last time the Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs was in 2014, and as a franchise that had become used to being in the playoffs, anything short of a return to the postseason in 2017 would be considered a failure, and one that may see changes at the top in Baltimore. Their roster has plenty of talent, and they have done a solid job filling most of the needs they have so far this offseason, but there is still work to be done to shore up the roster both for 2017 and beyond on draft weekend.

 

Need: Right tackle or left guard

The Ravens lost starting right tackle Ricky Wagner to the Detroit Lions in free agency, unable to compete with the salary he commanded on the open market. That leaves a big hole on the offensive line heading into the 2017 season, though the team will be counting last season’s fourth-round draft pick from Wisconsin, Alex Lewis, can take over as the starter, the question is just at what position. Lewis didn’t allow a sack in three starts at left tackle last year, but did allow four hits and 17 hurries, and looked far better at left guard, and might make more sense as a starter at that spot next season.

 

Early-round target: Forrest Lamp, T, Western Kentucky

There are two players who fit in the first round for the Ravens, and while Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk is considered the more natural fit at right tackle, Lamp would have the potential to start at either guard or tackle in 2017.

 

Need: Edge defender

With the release of Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens definitely need to address their pass rush fairly early in the draft process this year. Even if they hadn’t released Dumervil, with Terrell Suggs not getting any younger, the time to address the position is now. They need a short-term boost to their pass rush if they are to make a serious playoff push in 2017, and long term they need to find someone who they can rely on to be their top pass-rusher for the future.

 

Early-round target: Carl Lawson, Edge, Auburn

 

Need: Inside linebacker

The retirement of Zach Orr has left the Ravens with an immediate need to find a starter at inside linebacker to pair with C.J. Mosley, who had the best season of his three-year career in 2016, with a PFF grade of 85.8 that ranked 11th at the position. Right now, Patrick Onwuasor would be the starter, but with just 62 snaps on defense to his name, an early draft pick makes a lot of sense.

 

Early-round target: Jarrad Davis, Florida

If the Ravens wanted to target Alabama’s Reuben Foster or Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham, they’d likely have to spend a first-round draft pick, but waiting until the second round and snagging Davis from Florida would make a lot of sense.

 

 

CLEVELAND

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks invites us to call him crazy.

 

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback situation is nearly as dire as many seem to think. Despite the constant chatter regarding the organization’s need to find a franchise quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, I believe the Browns might be better served by standing pat at the position and relying on the current options on the roster.

 

That’s right: I’m saying the Browns should pin their immediate hopes on Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler to lead the team out of the doldrums in 2017 and beyond.

 

Now, I know I might be the only evaluator in the football world to take an optimistic view on Cleveland’s quarterback situation, but I believe the team’s young field generals are better options than what’s available in the draft, free agency and trade markets. While the allure of trotting a new “face of the franchise” to the podium is tempting — and the Browns have a whopping 11 draft picks, including two in the first round (Nos. 1 and 12) — the better business decision would involve developing the quarterbacks currently on the roster to see if they spawn an effective NFL starter in the short term.

 

I know it’s hard to grasp that concept when Jimmy Garoppolo has been hailed as a potential savior at the position, but the Browns’ current signal callers should provide the Dawg Pound with just as much hope and optimism for the future. No disrespect to the New England Patriots’ QB2, but what has he really accomplished in the league to make us believe that he is a franchise quarterback capable of engineering a major turnaround in Cleveland?

 

Sure, Garoppolo flashed some potential during a pair of successful starts for the Super Bowl champions at the beginning the 2016 season, but aren’t the Patriots viewed as the best-coached in football? How much stock should we place in his efficient efforts when we watched an unheralded rookie (Jacoby Brissett) lead the same squad to a 27-0 victory the following week?

 

Thus, the Browns run the risk of overvaluing a backup quarterback who really hasn’t shown the football world that he is a franchise quarterback — or even a legitimate NFL starter at the position. Considering the draft currency and financial commitment it could take to pry Garoppolo away from New England, the risk-reward ratio doesn’t make sense for an organization that remains several pieces away from playoff contention.

 

The draft is just as risky, without a sure-fire option at the top of the board. While DeShaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb are intriguing talents, there isn’t a consensus superstar in the bunch — and questions persist on whether any of them are capable of thriving in Year 1. With question marks surrounding the entire class, the Browns are better off developing one of their own instead of taking on another young quarterback at this point.

 

Once again, I know that’s an unpopular opinion in the microwaveable quarterback age, but it takes time for young signal callers to grow into the position — and the Browns would return to Step 1 with a rookie at the helm. I’m beginning to think Cleveland realizes this, which is why we are starting to hear a different tone from the team when it comes to Osweiler.

 

“He’s a guy that’s gonna come in and compete,” Hue Jackson told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche at the Annual League Meeting.

 

That’s how the Browns should treat a 26-year-old quarterback who was viewed as a hot commodity just one offseason ago. Osweiler had plenty of suitors on the open market last year before signing with the Houston Texans on a four-year, $72 million deal that featured $37 million in guarantees. While Osweiler has been called a bust for his disappointing performance in Houston as a starter this past season, it is important to remember he is still a young quarterback with the potential to function as a quality starter in the league. He played a key role in the Denver Broncos’ most recent championship campaign by posting a 5-2 mark while filling in for Peyton Manning.

 

Naturally, skeptics will point to that all-time defense as the driving force of those Broncos, but Osweiler deserves credit for his efficient effort as a starter on team that allowed him to simply manage the game from under center. I know fans see the “game manager” label as a huge taint, but the capacity to understand and execute in critical moments is key to winning games. Osweiler’s ability to hold down the fort for the Broncos in Manning’s absence suggests he can win games in this league when set up for success.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

In addition to the usual suspects that seem to always need first round quarterbacks (Cleveland and the Jets come to mind), there are a number of teams that may be looking to add their current starter’s successor in the 2017 draft’s first round (thinking San Diego and New Orleans).  Add Pittsburgh here as well with this news from Dan Parr at NFL.com:

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ search for Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent includes a closer look at two prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft on Monday.

 

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs and Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes are among the players visiting the club, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

 

Mahomes is firmly in the Round 1 conversation, while NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks has said Dobbs could be this year’s Dak Prescott as a potential middle-round QB who could exceed expectations in the NFL.

 

It won’t be the first time the club has taken a close look at the two players.

 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin attended Tennessee’s pro day last week and his offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, was present for Texas Tech’s pro day, as NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt pointed out.

 

Roethlisberger has yet to definitively say he’ll be back in 2017, although Steelers team president Art Rooney II expects him to return. However, the team has made it clear it’s preparing for life after Big Ben, and Monday’s visits are part of that process.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Luke Kerr-Dineen at ForTheWin.com wonders what the Texans will do now that Tony Romo is headed to the world of broadcasting:

 

Sad though it’ll be, as a fan, to see Romo step away, you can understand it. His body simply couldn’t take it anymore, and rather than push through another season at a team he’ll never love as much, he called time on proceedings. Truth be told, it makes a lot of sense.

 

But for Texans fans, it creates a massive headache.

 

Up until this point, the Texans’ offseason looked to be going rather well. They managed to rid themselves of the expensive mistake otherwise known as Brock Osweiler for pennies on the dollar, JJ Watt’s recovery from injury seems to be going well, and with Romo about to grace the open market, Houston were starting to look like early Super Bowl contenders. They did have the 11th-ranked Defense last year, after all, along with the eighth-ranked rushing offense. Add a quarterback like Romo into the mix, and things start looking really interesting.

 

But with news of Romo’s apparent retirement, that sunny road ahead has suddenly turned overcast.

 

Now the Texans are left with just two quarterbacks on the roster: Tom Savage (ugh) and Brandon Weeden (UGH!). Osweiler was hardly a world-beater, but at least you might be able to improve his output in his second season in the same system, knowing all his flaws and tendencies.

 

But that option is gone, so now the Texans find themselves in the unenviable position of needing a quarterback on relatively short notice, and in a crazed market where Mike Glennon can command up to $15 million. With so many eggs placed within the Romo basket — and with that basket now removed — there are simply not many good options left for the Texans.

 

Kirk Cousins has been tagged. Hoyer’s in San Francisco. Chase Daniel, who could work in the right system, is back in New Orleans. The only real options left with are Colin Kaepernick or Jay Cutler. Two names that, when you were expecting to land Romo, are pretty hard to get excited about.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

The Jaguars may be signaling their intentions to draft a running back.  Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union:

 

Three weeks ahead of the NFL Draft, the Jaguars will host several prospects this week for meet-and-greets with the scouting and coaching staffs.

 

Per a league source, the list includes Florida State tailback Dalvin Cook, LSU tailback Leonard Fournette, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, Oklahoma tailback Joe Mixon and Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson.

 

Teams are allowed 30 pre-draft visits per season and the prospect can spend 24 hours in the team’s city. They cannot be put through an on-field workout at the facility.

 

The most polarizing name on the list is Mixon, whose stock has plummeted since video surfaced of him punching a woman during a 2014 incident. He was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.

 

Mixon, 20, left Oklahoma after his redshirt sophomore year and rushed for 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

AB TYROD TAYLOR says he is feeling great after surgery.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Bills were one of two teams to start their offseason workouts on Monday and that meant quarterback Tyrod Taylor was doing football activities for the first time since having groin surgery in early January.

 

Taylor was declared medically cleared in late February, but there was no way to put that to the test in a team setting. Monday’s workout was hardly a full-scale practice, but it did give Taylor the chance to do some things he hasn’t done since the surgery and he said it all went well.

 

“That was my first time actually sprinting and going out there and doing full-movement things,” Taylor said, via the Buffalo News. “But I feel great since the surgery. The doctors here and the training staff here have done a great job of getting me back to 100 percent, so I feel real good. I feel very explosive.”

 

The workout was also Taylor’s first since the hiring of coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who was on the Ravens’ staff when Taylor was in Baltimore. Taylor said that led to some familiarity when he first reviewed a playbook that he describes as player-friendly because it takes “advantage of each player’s strength.”

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

RB ADRIAN PETERSON has come and gone from New England.  Max Meyer at NFL.com:

 

The Patriots’ big offseason just took another interesting turn.

 

Adrian Peterson met with New England on Monday, a source informed of his plans told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. It was the veteran running back’s second free-agent visit of the offseason, as he met with the Seahawks in mid-March.

 

However, Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager reported that Peterson left his meeting with the Patriots without a deal.

 

There is no one quite like Bill Belichick when it comes to zigging when everybody else zags. So who can be surprised that he’s taking a chance here when the rest of the market so far has cooled on Peterson following a nightmarish 2016 campaign?

 

The Patriots have already signed Swiss Army knife Rex Burkhead in free agency to add to their stable of running backs. Peterson would certainly add a more physical dimension to the ground game, something New England is lacking with LeGarrette Blount currently out of the picture.

 

Belichick has experience taking a gamble on a veteran running back and it paying off. Corey Dillon was acquired from Cincinnati in exchange for a second-round pick in 2004. Dillon, who was 29 years old at the time of the trade, broke out for a career-best season in his debut in Foxborough, rushing for 1,635 yards and 12 scores.

 

Peterson is 32, and at this point, it’s fair to wonder if he would take a potential discounted offer to have an opportunity at a Super Bowl before the gas tank reads “E.”

– – –

Patriots hi-jinks at the Fenway Park opener:

 

The saga continues. This morning, Patriots owner Robert Kraft officially presented Tom Brady with his missing Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI jerseys. The moment was documented and tweeted out on the Patriots Twitter page.

 

Brady wore the Super Bowl LI jersey to the Red Sox Opening Day game at Fenway Park and even held it up for the Boston faithful. However, seconds later, Rob Gronkowski — fresh off his WrestleMania 33 appearance — swiped the jersey away and attempted to run off with it. Brady chased him down and once again had the jersey — valued at $500,000 — in his possession.

 

Sidenote, based on his WrestleMania appearance and his agility in the Opening Day clip, Gronk looks fully recovered from last season’s back injury.

 

If you look at the video, should one be concerned about Brady’s ability to chase down Gronkowski, as well as the quarterback’s remarkably poor first pitch?

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2017 DRAFT

DE JONATHAN ALLEN of Alabama, also destined to be a high draft choice, sings the praises of Clemson QB DeSHAUN WATSON:

 

Former Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen has no doubts about former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

 

Allen said on PFT Live that although he would prefer not to give credit to the player who beat his team in this year’s national championship game, he has never seen a better player than Watson.

 

“Unfortunately, I hate to say it, but Deshaun Watson is probably the most mentally tough player I’ve ever played against. There’s no way around it. He’s by far the best player I’ve ever played,” Allen said. “As much as I hate to say it, he’s the real deal. When I hear reporters say he’s a mid- or late-round guy, it blows my mind. I see him as a Top 5 pick. That’s just my personal opinion about it. He’s the real deal.”

 

Allen, who is viewed by many as the No. 2 overall prospect in the draft behind Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett, said many teams are showing interest but he’s unsure which one will pick him.

 

“A lot of teams have shown interest but you really never know,” Allen said. “The Panthers came in about two weekends ago, I visited the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens, I leave tomorrow to go to Jacksonville, and from there I have the Chargers and the Titans.”

 

Allen will be in demand and will probably go higher than Watson, the quarterback he faced in two national championship games.

 

Meanwhile, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly thinks his former QB DeSHONE KIZER needs more of his coaching:

 

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly says quarterback DeShone Kizer should have stayed with the Fighting Irish for another season rather than turning pro as a redshirt sophomore.

 

“He should still be in college. … He needs more time to grow in so many areas, not just on the field but off the field,” Kelly told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday.

 

Kelly said he recommended Kizer get more playing time at Notre Dame but added that he supported the quarterback’s choice.

 

“Once a decision was made, we were united and we went to work to put him in the best situation,” Kelly said.

 

When Kizer declared in December that he would enter the draft, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both said Kizer should have returned to Notre Dame for another season, though McShay listed Kizer as his No. 3 quarterback prospect last month.

 

Kizer started 23 games for the Fighting Irish, going 12-11. He threw for 5,809 yards with 47 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, adding 992 rushing yards and 18 scores on the ground.

 

Kelly touted Kizer as having the best skill set among NFL quarterback prospects, saying he would fit well if a team can draft him and give him time to develop.

 

“He’s got a strong arm. Physically he’s gifted,” Kelly said. “He’s got all those tools that you’re looking for at the quarterback position.”

 

Uh – needs to grow “off the field.”  Imagine, and NFL teams will, what leads Kelly to say that.

– – –

Another QB who may need to “grow off the field” also now has a wrist problem.  Chase Goodbread at NFL.com:

 

Chad Kelly’s pro-day workout at Ole Miss was derailed by an injury.

 

The former Rebels quarterback and nephew of Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly cut his throwing session short after aggravating a wrist injury he suffered during training, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. After considering a return to finish the session, Kelly decided the workout would not continue. He has rescheduled a second pro day workout for April 22, per Rapoport, just five days before the draft will begin in Philadelphia.

 

“I just aggravated it earlier in the week,” Kelly told NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock, who attended the workout. “Tried to come out here and tried to do the best to my ability and I kind of threw one into the flats, kind of aggravated it there and threw another one on a swing route and it really just didn’t feel the same, so they decided to call it quits.”

 

It was already going to be a short workout for Kelly, just not this short.