The Daily Briefing Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ross Tucker at SportsOnEarth.com on the GM firings in Kansas City and Carolina:

 

Be careful what you wish for.

 

That would be my message to Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt and his counterpart Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers in the wake of their surprising firings of general managers John Dorsey and Dave Gettleman, respectively, over the past month.

 

Both moves are proof of surprising dysfunction within both organizations and set very dangerous precedents for any men that are picked to lead those organizations moving forward. For the time being, that is the newly-hired Brett Veach in KC and Marty Hurney in Carolina, the latter having the role on an “interim” basis for the 2017 season.

 

Let’s start with the dysfunction. This is not up for debate. Any time you fire your general manager in the summer, especially after each exec made significant moves in the offseason to prepare the roster for 2017 and beyond, there is something amiss.

 

When you make these moves shortly after losing your best in-house candidate to replace them, it makes things even worse. That was the case in both places, as Chris Ballard left Kansas City for the Colts, while Brandon Beane got hired away from Carolina to be the next general manager of the Buffalo Bills a few weeks after the NFL Draft.

 

It’s probably also a good time to mention that Dorsey and Gettleman were both universally praised and respected around the NFL for the jobs they had done over the past four years for each franchise. Neither man was perfect, but both were generally outstanding during their tenures to the point where each guy’s name would usually be found in any listing of the top ten executives in the NFL.

 

What is perhaps even more concerning moving forward for both teams is the very clear message being sent by the owners regarding the handling of star players.

 

In Kansas City, the primary football reason reported for Dorsey’s termination was his decisions to wait before doling out big contracts to star players like Justin Houston and Eric Berry. In both instances, the player ended up performing very well and ultimately costing the Chiefs more money and cap space.

 

It’s a fair critique, but hardly a fireable offense. Not to mention there were reasons in both instances for Dorsey to take his time and be 100 percent sure before offering a lucrative enough deal for the player to sign.

 

Dorsey essentially got fired in large part for being overly cautious with Hunt’s money. You think Veach doesn’t realize this?

 

That doesn’t mean Veach will be handing out big deals like they are candy, but if he is on the fence about inking a player to a big contract extension, which way do you think he’ll lean? Certainly not toward being careful, that’s for sure. Not after what happened to Dorsey.

 

A similar thing played out in Carolina where Richardson fired Gettleman in large part because of the bad feelings that existed between some current and former star Panthers players and Gettleman.

 

Former Panthers like Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams took to twitter immediately to delight in the Gettleman news. Both players had outstanding careers in Carolina before Gettleman decided it was time to move in a different direction.

 

There are also plenty of rumblings that current stars Thomas Davis and Greg Olson, both of whom are among Richardson’s favorite all-time Panthers and are looking for new deals, are unhappy with the pace of negotiations. Davis is 34 and is entering the final year left on his contract, while Olson is 32 and still has two years remaining on the contract he signed back in 2015.

 

History shows that giving extensions to older players with years left on their contract rarely works out well for the organization. Ditto for hanging on to a longtime star like Smith or Williams for an extra year or two for sentimental reasons, even though you no longer believe they are worth the money they are due.

 

Apparently, Richardson either doesn’t know or care that Gettleman was being prudent with the future of the franchise. He just couldn’t stomach having some of the franchise’s all-time greats having a bad taste in their mouth regarding the organization.

 

That’s a heck of a message for the next GM the Panthers end up hiring after Hurney: If you value your job, make sure the long-time Panthers are happy, even if you don’t think it’s in the best interest of building the football team.

 

There are also some whispers that neither Dorsey nor Gettleman handled the “management” aspect of their jobs as well as they should have, but if that’s the case how would that not have come up as a major issue until now?

 

And even if there is some truth to it, whatever their shortcomings were, it wasn’t enough to derail the teams from having on-field success in recent years.

 

At a minimum, the bar has been set high for Veach and Hurney to try to manage the rosters as well as their predecessors did.

 

Having to do so under the confines of the dangerous precedents set by their owners will only make those jobs even tougher.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The Cowboys have become perceived as a team that will never punish anyone, no matter how big a knucklehead. Finally, the unlucky LUCKY WHITEHEAD gave them a chance to be tough with a player who had a marginal skill set.  Even if he didn’t do the crime, he will do the time.

 

Marc Sessler at NFL.com:

 

Lucky Whitehead didn’t do it.

 

One day after the wide receiver was informed he had been cut by the Cowboys for facing misdemeanor petty larceny charges in Virginia, Whitehead’s agent, Dave Rich, announced that police had the wrong guy all along.

 

Rich told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that all charges against Whitehead have been dropped and his arrest warrant rescinded. Prince William County Police later confirmed Rich’s account.

 

Despite the mixup, the Cowboys are still cutting the 25-year-old Whitehead. Cowboys executive vice president and CEO Stephen Jones told reporters Monday that the team’s decision stemmed from “a culmination of things over a period of time.”

 

Jones didn’t change his stance when asked about the decision in light of the development.

 

“We have made a decision and moved on,” Jones said six different times when asked by a handful of reporters after the team’s Tuesday morning walkthrough, NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reported.

 

Coach Jason Garrett also did change his stance on the matter.

 

“Yesterday we made a decision that we thought was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys, and we stand by that decision,” he said.

 

Whitehead wasn’t pleased with how everything played out.

 

“No one had my back,” Whitehead told Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday. “I didn’t even get to clear my name … I was pretty much being called a liar.”

 

Whitehead said he was released from the Cowboys less than two hours after he first heard of the reported incident. He expressed disappointment the team didn’t support him.

 

“I don’t want to say my teammates. They believed me,” Whitehead said. “As far as how it was handled? Come on.”

 

Prince William County Police announced Monday that a man identified as Whitehead was arrested on June 22 around 1:30 a.m. ET after being accused of shoplifting less than $200 worth of merchandise from a convenience store in Woodbridge, Virginia.

 

On Tuesday, authorities issued a statement to NFL.com, saying: “Upon reviewing the June 22, 2017 arrest of an individual named ‘Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.,’ the police department is confident that the man charged with petit larceny, and who is subsequently being sought on an active warrant for failure to appear in court, is not Lucky Whitehead of the Dallas Cowboys. The man charged on the morning of June 22 was not in possession of identification at the time of the encounter; however, did verbally provide identifying information to officers, which included a name, date of birth, and social security number matching that of Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.”

 

Police confirmed they are “currently seeking the identity of the man involved in the incident” and “working with the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to clear Mr. Whitehead from this investigation.”

 

It leaves the Cowboys in a super-awkward position after Whitehead told Garrett on Monday that he wasn’t involved in the alleged incident.

 

Garrett said Monday he learned about Whitehead’s situation on the practice field and met with him briefly: “As we gathered more information on that particular situation and conversations we had with Lucky about that particular situation and we put into context with his career with us over the last year or so, we just felt like the best decision for the Dallas Cowboys was to release them.”

 

Garrett also had this to say Monday on Whitehead’s maturity: “When you have someone in your program, in this environment, in this structure, and they don’t grow and develop and they make the same mistakes over and over again, it’s time to move on.”

 

Jones echoed Garrett’s stance on the situation.

 

“I just think we’ve given Lucky a lot of different chances along the way going back to last year,” Jones said Monday, per the team’s official website. “I think we just decided it was time to go in a different direction.”

 

Clearly the Cowboys had issues with Whitehead beyond this isolated incident. Still, it goes down as one of the more beguiling roster cuts in recent NFL lore.

 

T La’EL COLLINS is a guy linked to a crime, murder, whom the Cowboys stayed with.  And he has rewarded their faith and earned a second contract.  Charean Williams at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

For the first time in awhile, the Cowboys have positive news to report.

 

They agreed to a two-year, $15.4 million contract extension, including $4 million to sign, with right tackle La’el Collins, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

 

The $7.7 million average ties for third-highest for a right tackle in the league behind Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson ($11.3 million) and Detroit’s Ricky Wagner ($9.5 million) and ties with Washington’s Morgan Moses ($7.7 million). The deal, per Hill, includes a $2 million escalator if Collins plays 85 percent of the snaps.

 

Collins was projected as a first-round pick out of LSU in 2015, but the death of a former girlfriend under mysterious circumstances a few days before the draft caused his stock to drop. Collins, who went undrafted at the request of his agent, Deryk Gilmore, was cleared of any involvement and chose to sign a three-year, $1.5 million contract with the Cowboys as a free agent.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Gary Myers of the New York Daily News tries to mentor WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr.:

 

Hey Odell:

 

Is it okay if I call you OBJ? Let me know if that’s a problem.

 

You are on path to become the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history after this season with a new deal worth $20 million per year, even more than your strip club buddy Von Miller. Think about it: That’s four times what Nike will pay you for those silly shoes you like to wear.

 

When you report to your fourth training camp with the Giants on Thursday, your approval rating with Giants fans will be at its peak after your act of kindness last week. Going out of your way to travel to Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle to cheer up a nine-year-old boy suffering with a rare form of cancer was heartwarming. You are Jayro Ponce’s favorite player and through the magic of social media and the Make-A-Wish Foundation the meeting came together. Nice job.

 

Nobody has ever questioned your heart — on or off the field. You are great with kids. You play with a rare passion. Nobody hates losing worse than you. Just check with the metal wall you bashed with your head in Philly or the wall you punched out in Green Bay.

 

Ouch. Did it hurt?

 

You are the only player in NFL history to have at least 80 catches and 1,000 yards receiving in each of your first three seasons. Not even Jerry Rice did that. Of course, he spent half his rookie year dropping passes from Joe Montana until the son of a bricklayer figured things out. You and your best pal, Jarvis Landry, are tied for the most catches in the first three years of a career with 288.

 

But … we have seen this movie before in New York when the next great thing in sports captivates the city, loves the spotlight a little too much, and it never ends pretty.

 

Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry would have been Mets for life and in the Hall of Fame if they didn’t succumb to the temptation of drugs and throw their careers into a living hell. Lawrence Taylor, despite his cocaine addiction, still managed to be the greatest defensive player in NFL history, but imagine how much greater he might have been if he took care of himself and how his post-football life might not have included so many days in the courtroom.

 

Matt Harvey was supposed to be the next Tom Seaver until he wasn’t. He’s been so unlucky with a series of serious arm injuries, but he also fell in love with being a celebrity. Look at what happened to Darrelle Revis’ career once he was guaranteed $39 million from the Jets. He got satisfied and stopped playing hard.

 

This is the most important year of your career with big money just waiting to fill up your pockets. We know you are doing the Giants a favor playing at $1.8 million this season and not making a big stink about it. At least not yet. I think they are prepared to give you a new long-term deal sometime this season or definitely before next March to wipe out the $8.4 million option for 2018 they picked up.

 

Here’s the issue: You have yet to prove you are all grown up. Maturity was the mandate from GM Jerry Reese after you beat up the wall outside the locker room at Lambeau Field following the worst game of your career in the playoffs in Green Bay. By the way, was it really smart to come out in the pre-game warmups with no shirt when the wind chill was four degrees? Come on, you can catch pneumonia.

 

Also, how do you make all those acrobatic catches in warmups every week and then drop an easy TD in the end zone in the first quarter before your hands have enough time to get numb?

 

Down the corridor from Reese on the second floor of the Giants offices, co-owner John Mara insists he wants another dozen players just like you and hopes you spend your entire career with the Giants.

 

The messages from Reese and Mara may be a bit conflicting, but the realization is the same: They know they have something special and don’t want you to blow it. You are unstoppable on the field — unless you stop yourself.

 

Your meltdowns on the field in the first three years of your career have been talked about as much as your accomplishments: The Josh Norman street brawl at the 50, Reese having to babysit you by your locker following a game in which Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes shut you down, banging your head against the wall in Philly, the playoff week boat trip to nowhere, the dropped passes against the Packers, the hole in the wall, the skipped OTAs.

 

Advice: Stay away from Justin Bieber and Johnny Manziel. Just a bad look hanging with those knuckleheads.

 

Where do you take your career from here? Will you become a shooting star brought down by the intoxication of success? I think you need to spend some time with Derek Jeter. Find out how he navigated through 20 years of being in the spotlight in New York and never generated negative news. Go a few lockers to your left and talk to Eli. Know who your friends are and who wants a piece of you.

 

There are going to be flashpoints during the season when it will become evident if you are growing up. Norman is already baiting you. Beat him on one of those 15-yard slants you take all the way and then take advantage of the new dancing rules in the NFL to rub it in. But don’t let him drag you into a fight. Don’t pout if Brandon Marshall has seven catches and two TDs in a season-opening victory in Dallas and Eli has only targeted you three times.

 

Remember, it’s all about the team.

 

If you have another great season and earn the Giants’ trust, you will be on your way to becoming one of the all-time best.

 

You have good parents. You’re smart. New York can swallow up stars. Grow up and be careful.

 

Regards,

 

Gary Myers

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

The Eagles have taken a flyer on a Canadian rugby player.  Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Daily News:

 

The Eagles signed Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to a three-year contract Monday, bringing him in to play tight end.

 

Zaruba, 26, is 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. He joins a tight end group that includes Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Brent Celek, Anthony Denham, and undrafted rookie Billy Brown.

 

Zaruba worked out for the Eagles on Sunday and takes the roster spot previously held by cornerback Dwayne Gratz. He cannot join the team until he’s granted a visa.

 

 

Although he’s a rugby star, he played football at the Carson Graham Secondary School in Vancouver. He was also recruited to play at Simon Fraser University. Zaruba joined Canada’s national rugby team in 2014.

 

He’s the latest rugby player to join the NFL. San Francisco signed Jarryd Hayne as a running back in 2015. The Eagles also had converted rugby player Sav Rocca as their punter from 2007-2010.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

TE GREG OLSEN is not going to engage in a holdout.  The AP:

 

Panthers star tight end Greg Olsen chose team over himself.

 

Olsen reported to training camp on time Tuesday, saying he didn’t want to hold out and be a distraction to an organization aiming to win its first Super Bowl.

 

The 32-year-old Olsen has two years left on his contract, but has outplayed his current deal, becoming the first tight end in NFL history with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He was voted second-team All-Pro in 2015 and 2016.

 

Olsen contemplated holding out for more money, but ultimately decided against it.

 

“I just didn’t feel it was right for me to put my situation and my own personal interests above that of the team,” Olsen said as players checked into their dorm rooms at Wofford College. “If I don’t show up today and cause a big stink, what would have come of that was just not fair to everybody, from ownership to the last guy on the roster. It’s not something I wanted to be a part of when it came down to it. It’s not who I am.”

– – –

Meanwhile, interim GM has canned a personnel exec whose tenure with the team goes back to the team’s inception.

 

The Panthers have fired longtime personnel man Mark Koncz in yet another front office shakeup.

 

The decision came Monday, on the eve of players reporting to training camp.

 

Koncz, 50, had been promoted earlier this offseason by former general manager Dave Gettleman to director of player personnel after serving the previous 17 years as pro scouting director. However, new interim general manager Marty Hurney made the decision to fire Koncz.

 

Hurney told The Associated Press he has the utmost respect for Koncz, but the decision was based on “structure” and “the lines of communication.”

 

Koncz has been with the Panthers since they began playing in 1995.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Jon Benne of SBNation.com touts the 2017 Buccaneers:

 

It’s certainly been trying times for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this decade. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 and are on their fifth head coach in nine seasons. If Dirk Koetter, who is headed into his second season as head coach, makes it to a third year, he’ll eclipse the tenures of his two predecessors, Lovie Smith and Greg Schiano.

 

It sounds like a dysfunctional mess, but things are looking up for the Bucs thanks to having the one thing that’s eluded this franchise for decades: a legitimate franchise quarterback. Jameis Winston took some noticeable steps forward as an NFL sophomore, and the Bucs were one of the league’s hotter teams once the second half of 2016 came around, winning five straight games to enter the NFC’s playoff race. They faded down the stretch but still finished 9-7, the team’s first winning record since 2010.

 

With Winston under center, a superstar wide receiver in Mike Evans, and rising talent on the defensive side, general manager Jason Licht has quietly built one of the most promising young teams in the NFL. The next challenge for the Bucs will be navigating a tricky NFC South, where the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and New Orleans Saints will all be tough opponents.

 

But despite the competition and some question marks left on the roster, there’s little doubt that the Bucs are heading in the right direction.

 

Here’s how dismal Tampa’s quarterback history is: Jameis Winston played two seasons and is already seventh all-time in Bucs passing yards. He needs just 6,688 yards to pass Vinny Testaverde as the franchise’s all-time leader. Thankfully for the Bucs, Winston looks like he’s finally their long-term answer at quarterback.

 

There are still holes in Winston’s game, to be sure. He commits too many turnovers — he threw 18 interceptions and fumbled the ball 10 times, losing three, last season. His accuracy isn’t quite as high as you’d like to see (Winston’s 60.8 completion percentage ranked No. 23 out of qualified quarterbacks.) He’s not quite a finished product, but at age 23, Winston has plenty of time to get there.

 

And while Winston isn’t exactly known for his running prowess, he’s shifty in the pocket and has a knack for keeping plays alive even when protection breaks down.

 

Steadily improving under Koetter’s mentorship, it probably won’t be long before Winston joins the NFL’s upper tier of quarterbacks.

 

It helps that the team keeps surrounding Winston with good weapons, greatly taking some pressure off his plate.

 

Mike Evans is an ace who has a new wingman

The Bucs’ first-round pick in 2014, Evans is a beast who stands in at 6’5, 231 pounds and plays every bit like it. It’s almost unfair how much of a mismatch he is for most opponents.

 

Other than struggling with drops, Evans has mostly lived up to the hype since entering the league out of Texas A&M. He already has 27 touchdowns and 3,578 receiving yards in three years, using his body and route-running skills to become a massive game-breaking threat. The Bucs picked up his fifth-year option for 2018, and a long-term extension could come as soon as next spring.

 

So Evans is the real deal, but he needed more help — a solid No. 2 receiver was one of the Bucs’ biggest offseason needs. Vincent Jackson was clearly on the decline even before tearing his ACL last year, and the 34-year-old free agent remains unsigned. With no other serious in-house replacements, the Bucs signed DeSean Jackson, who’s almost the opposite of Evans in terms of skill set.

 

Jackson is small, fast, and can still take the lid off defenses even after turning 30 years old. He’s also a consistent injury risk, having not played 16 games since 2013, but the Bucs will take that risk as long as Jackson frees up Evans to do his thing on the field.

 

Tampa also added some muscle in the draft, selecting Alabama tight end O.J. Howard in the first round. At 6’6, 251 pounds, Howard is a physical specimen who ran a 4.51 40 time at the combine. He gives Winston yet another big-bodied target alongside fellow tight end Cameron Brate, who emerged as a red-zone threat with 57 catches, 660 yards, and eight touchdowns. The Bucs kept Brate on a restricted free agent tender, and he’ll likely be the Week 1 starter as Howard gets up to speed.

 

Although Howard might not earn the starting job right away, he’s already drawing rave reviews from his quarterback.

 

“What he’s going to do to this team is going to be amazing,” Winston said, via Buccaneers.com. “You guys are going to see it, just sit back and watch. This is the fastest, most athletic 6-foot-6 (and) 255-pound guy I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s unreal. He looks like he’s 230 but he’s about 260 or 255. It’s amazing.”

 

With so much receiving talent, it’d be easy to overlook the running game, which has more upside than it appears at first glance.

 

How much can the Bucs trust Doug Martin?

Martin’s had a strange career, to say the least. He burst onto the scene as a 2012 rookie with 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, only to devolve into an injury-prone mess over the next two years. In 2015, Martin stayed healthy and racked up 1,402 yards, just in time to sign a five-year, $35.75 million extension.

 

However, 2016 was a disaster in every way for Martin. He missed eight games and performed dismally when he was on the field (2.9 yards per carry on 144 attempts). Late in the season, he was handed a four-game suspension by the league, which will cost him the first three games of 2017.

 

It wouldn’t have been surprising if the Bucs simply cut their losses and moved on with Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers, and possibly a rookie draft pick. But instead, they supported him the whole time. Martin entered rehab, was a full participant in OTAs, and coaches couldn’t stop raving about him in the spring. Via Florida Football Insiders:

 

“We’ve been happy with the trajectory he’s on,’’ Licht said of Martin. “I’ve said that before but it’s the truth. He has the right mindset right now and he looks good physically.

 

“We still have some time there but just two years ago he was the second leading rusher in the NFL. Within the building here, we feel comfortable with our guys, and that includes Doug.’’

The Bucs showed their commitment to Martin by not bringing in any serious competition. Their only offseason moves at RB were re-signing Rodgers and drafting Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round. By all accounts, it sounds like Martin’s turned a new leaf, and if he’s back to dominating like we saw in 2012 and 2015, the Bucs’ offense suddenly looks a lot more dangerous than it would otherwise.

 

Even the defense showed real signs of growth

One of the more pleasant surprises from last season was how fast the Bucs’ defense made a leap. During the first half of the year, Tampa gave up at least 30 points four times, which contributed to the team’s slow 3-5 start. However, over the final eight games, the defense held opponents to 20 points or less five times and went 6-2 in that span. In the end, the Bucs finished a respectable 12th place in defensive DVOA.

 

Perhaps the team’s most important player on defense is defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, fresh off his fifth straight Pro Bowl selection. McCoy is a rock in the middle of the line and a talented pass rusher for a tackle — his 6.5 sacks tied for the team lead last season. Robert Ayers also had 6.5 sacks after joining the team as a free agent. Youth is one of the biggest things this line has going for it, with William Gholston (25 years old) and Noah Spence (23) both playing key roles. Spence in particular was impressive, recording 5.5 sacks as a rookie.

 

Lavonte David remains one of the best linebackers in the league, but Kwon Alexander (22 years old) is another rising young player on this defense. After missing four games to suspension his rookie year, Alexander played all 16 games in 2016 and led the team with 146 tackles, while putting up three sacks of his own.

 

If there are any glaring concerns left on defense, it’s in the secondary. Cornerback Brent Grimes is still producing at age 34, and Vernon Hargreaves showed promise as a rookie, but the safety positions have been a liability for a while now. Free agent signee J.J. Wilcox and second-round rookie Justin Evans are expected to challenge Chris Conte and Keith Tandy, who worked as the starting safeties in minicamp. Don’t expect this position to be settled until training camp is well underway.

 

Well, guess we have to talk about the kickers

Normally the kicking competition doesn’t get much ink, but when you trade up to draft a kicker in the second round like the Bucs did last year, you invite that kind of scrutiny. Roberto Aguayo entered the league with some hype as the most accurate kicker in college football history, but the second round was just too high and he didn’t come close living up to expectations.

 

Last season, Aguayo made just 22 of 31 field goals, a 71 percent conversion rate that was lowest in the NFL among qualified kickers. Under most circumstances that might be written off as rookie jitters, or the team might even just cut him without a second thought. Instead, the Bucs signed veteran Nick Folk to compete with Aguayo in camp.

 

With the Bucs starring on Hard Knocks this season, don’t expect this to be one of the top stories they focus on.

 

Is it ready to all come together?

Looking at the depth chart from top to bottom, there’s a ton to love about this Bucs team. It has the proper mix of young drafted players starting to come into their own and a handful of legitimate star talent still in their primes. Tampa came close last year, so it’s not hard to imagine the team fixing its glaring flaws and getting back into the postseason.

 

That said, the Bucs will have to get through a strong division that features the NFC’s last two Super Bowl representatives (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers), so the Bucs won’t have much room for error. Still, this team has a bright future ahead, and if Winston fulfills his potential, the Bucs won’t just be playoff contenders this year. They will be for many more years to come.

 

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

John Elway signs a big money extension, and Gary Kubiak returns in a less stressful role.  Alec Nathan at Bleacher Report:

 

John Elway transformed the Denver Broncos into Super Bowl champions as one of the leading minds in the team’s front office, and he was rewarded for his commitment to the franchise Monday with a new five-year contract.

 

The Broncos announced the new deal after ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the agreement. Schefter later reported that while figures aren’t yet available, the contract is “fully expected” to make Elway the league’s highest-paid general manager.

 

“We’re pleased to reach an agreement on a five-year contract with John to continue leading our football operations,” Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis said in the team release. “During these last six seasons, John’s clearly established himself as one of the best general managers in all of sports. He’s demonstrated impressive football instincts, a strong business acumen and a consistent ability to build competitive teams.

 

“There’s no doubt John means a great deal to the Broncos, our fans and the entire community. It was important for us to reach this long-term agreement, and we’re all excited to now turn our full attention toward the 2017 season.”

 

 

Elway joined the Broncos front office in 2011 as the director of player personnel, and it wasn’t long before he became the team’s chief decision-maker.

 

A season later, Elway’s title was changed to executive vice-president of football operations, and he officially became the Broncos’ general manager in 2013 after he served in that role on a de facto basis in 2012 when Peyton Manning was brought aboard.

 

This on Kubiak from Scotty Payne at Mile High Report:

 

The Denver Broncos announced on Tuesday that former Denver Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak would join the team as a senior personnel advisor.

 

@Broncos

Gary Kubiak rejoins #Broncos as senior personnel advisor.

 

Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said in the press release that Kubiak would “primarily help on the college side and assist us in free agency as well”.

 

“With as much experience as he has evaluating players, Gary’s going to be a tremendous resource for our personnel department,” Elway said. “He’ll primarily help on the college side and assist us in free agency as well.

 

Kubiak will be based at his home in Texas but make a handful of appearances at Dove Valley throughout the year. Kubiak’s son Klien Kubiak serves as a southwest area scout for the Broncos as well.

 

In the press release released by the Broncos, Kubiak said it was “an honor to continue to be a part of this great organization”.

 

“It’s an honor for me to continue to be part of this great organization,” Kubiak said. “John and I talked long ago about any opportunity like this, and I’m very happy to be able to contribute on the personnel side. I said when I left that I still wanted to be involved in football. This gives me an opportunity to be involved with the game, and I’m excited to get to work.”

 

Mile High Sports Benjamin Allbright gave some more insight on what exactly Kubiak will be doing for the Broncos.

 

@AllbrightNFL

Told Kubiak will be cross check on on the offensive players on the #Broncos draft board.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

Andrew Brandt of TheMMQB.com believes the Steelers should welcome (secretly) a holdout from RB Le’VEON BELL:

 

A potential deal between Bell and the Steelers was a nonstarter, largely due to the fact that the marketplace for veteran running backs has fallen off a cliff.

 

Bell is certainly entitled to a top-of-market contract, but he understandably does not and should not like that market (thus his request to also be paid as a receiver). The 2017 free-agent running back market saw veterans such as Eddie Lacey, Latavius Murray, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch all land contracts at or below $3.5 million on essentially one-year deals. When it comes to NFL money, that is a sobering marketplace.

 

Bell is both benefiting and suffering from running back contracts in the recent past that are no longer. Per the CBA, franchise tag calculations look back five years— compared to the previous calculation of looking back one year—and, in this case, have brought in the substantial numbers from Peterson’s Vikings deal and Charles’ Chiefs deal, among others, to create the $12.2 million tag number. On the other hand, the market decline for these same players now contributes to the inability of Bell and the Steelers to find common ground.

 

The highest-earning running backs in 2017 will be Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, due to front-loaded rookie contracts, and veterans DeMarco Murray ($6.25 million) and LeSean McCoy ($6 million). There is simply no upper level market for veteran running backs; with no true data points, and a franchise tag placeholder, this deal never had a chance.

 

As to a report that Bell wanted to be paid as both a top running back and a No. 2 wide receiver (combined): good luck with that. As to his potentially sitting out training camp, which he’s certainly allowed to do as an unsigned player . . . if I were the Steelers, I would secretly embrace that prospect, because Bell does not need preseason reps, he needs as little contact as possible. Finally, as to any threat of him holding out into the season and turning his back on $712,000 per week, well, please.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

The Dolphins have signed former Buccaneers and Titans CB ALTERRAUN VERNER.  And LB KOA MISI goes on IR with a neck injury.  ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Verner worked out for the team on Monday and the Dolphins were looking a bit thin on cornerback depth for much of the offseason. Verner was released by the Buccaneers early in the offseason three years after signing a big free agent deal that didn’t result in much on-field production, so there’s no guarantee he’ll provide it.

 

Misi’s status for the upcoming season has been in doubt for some time because of a neck injury, although coach Adam Gase said on Tuesday morning that he was confident Misi will play again. Tuesday’s move means he won’t be playing for the Dolphins in 2017 as players need to be on the initial 53-man roster in order to be eligible to return to action.