The Daily Briefing Tuesday, June 12, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com points out that Anthem protester S ERIC REID is not the only veteran safety without a contract:

 

A slow-developing safety market has been a part of the Eric Reid storyline. And we’re still where we’ve been on that. On Thursday, Reid, Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston—starting-level players—will hit the three-month mark as free agents. It’s crazy, and an indication of a widening gap in how teams value corners and pass rushers vs. players elsewhere on defense. A lot of teams believe, right or wrong, that they can get by with less at safety. That said, it’s worth mentioning that the two Super Bowl teams invested pretty heavily in versatile pieces at the position—Malcolm Jenkins in Philly, Devin McCourty in New England.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Here is a nice story about RB TARIK COHEN from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Bears running back Tarik Cohen stepped up for some kids who needed it near his hometown.

 

Hampton Elementary School in Greensboro, North Carolina, was severely damaged by a tornado in April.

 

Cohen, who grew up in the area and went to college in Greensboro at North Carolina A&T, showed up at the school with brand new equipment for their gym classes.

 

“Tarik Cohen, running back for the Chicago Bears, bought a ton of PE equipment and delivered it to our school today!” said a message shared on social media. “We are so appreciative! As most of you know, Hampton Elementary was severely damaged by a tornado and we lost all our PE equipment. Tarik was kind enough to not only buy new equipment but deliver it and speak to the children!”

 

Cohen hasn’t sought any attention for his act of kindness, and when someone called him a hero on Twitter, Cohen responded that he’s “Just a guy.” Cohen is more than just a guy, on and off the field.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Kevin Patra of NFL.com with an update on WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr.:

 

Odell Beckham is expected to report for New York Giants mandatory minicamp but isn’t planning on taking team reps.

 

NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones reported that Big Blue and the dynamic receiver are on the same page on OBJ not getting team reps this week. The Giants don’t feel the need to rush their top playmaker back on to the field. Beckham broke his ankle in early October.

 

Jones added that Beckham’s doctors and the New York medical staff have been in concert on the plan since the injury.

 

The fifth-year pro didn’t attend recent organized team activities after reporting to voluntary minicamp in April and working out at a portion of OTAs last month.

 

The continued plan to take it slow with Beckham comes after coach Pat Shurmur told reporters in recent weeks that Beckham “pretty close” to being fully cleared and “possibly” could be ready for minicamp.

 

Despite that optimism, Beckham’s status quo will remain in place this week. Ensuring there is no setback ahead of training camp — when the pads finally come on — remains the priority.

 

Beckham’s offseason has centered around his injury and a desire for a new, massive contract. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport previously reported Beckham wouldn’t set foot on the field without a new deal. Staying out of team drills this week keeps that threat in play.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com on S MALCOLM JENKINS, who seems to understand that the Anthem is a distraction from his social justice activism:

 

“I’m tired of the narrative being about the anthem, about the White House or whatever. The issues are the issues. And the reason that we’re doing any of this is because we have these huge disparities in our criminal justice system; we have this issue of mass incarceration; we have issues of police brutality; our children and access to education and economic advancement is nonexistent in communities of color. And these things are systemic; there are ways that we can change them.”

 

—Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins to ESPN’s Tim McManus

 

I remember a conversation I had with then-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel nine years ago, when Jenkins was entering the draft. Tressel called him one of the two or three best leaders he’d ever coached. All of that has been on display over the last year in how Jenkins has taken a guiding role in the players’ ability to get their message out, and use some of the political collateral they’ve accumulated to make a difference.

– – –

RB JAY AJAYI has taken over the Eagles backfield.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Eagles running back Jay Ajayi said earlier this offseason that he’s looking forward to returning to a workhorse role after splitting time in the backfield following the trade that took him from Miami to Philadelphia last year.

 

Ajayi isn’t the only one looking forward to seeing Ajayi in a more prominent role. Running backs coach Duce Staley said he knows Ajayi is excited about “being able to go out there and dominate and being able to be that guy” and that head coach Doug Pederson is excited about it as well.

 

Staley said it has “been awesome” with Ajayi since his arrival and shared what he’s seen from the back this offseason.

 

“Just him being focused, coming in, knowing he’s the guy, knowing he’s the guy that’s going to step up there and just put everything on his back and ride with him,” Staley said, via the team’s website.

 

The Eagles still have Corey Clement, Darren Sproles and others in the backfield, but it looks like they will all be vying for time behind Ajayi as the summer unfolds in Philadelphia.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

WR JULIO JONES still has three years left on his contract – but that hasn’t stopped him from wanting more money now.  Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com:

 

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones informed the team that he won’t attend mandatory minicamp, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement released Monday.

 

“We have been in contact with Julio and his representation,” Dimitroff said. “We will not discuss those conversations publicly, except to say we feel they have been productive and constructive. We understand the concerns and thoughts from their perspective. Although not ideal, Julio informed us today he would not be attending mini-camp.

 

“We have much respect for him and what he means to our team, our city and our fans.”

 

Sources told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that Jones’ side sent a proposal to the Falcons, the response was not satisfactory, and Jones did not see fit to attend the mandatory minicamp at this time.

 

Jones has three years and almost $35 million remaining on his contract. He is aware of the seven other receivers who average more than his $14.25 million per year, led by Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown at $17 million per year. When Jones signed a five-year, $71.25 million contract extension in August 2015, he received $47 million guaranteed. That’s the same amount of guaranteed money Jarvis Landry received after being traded from Miami to Cleveland.

 

The Falcons understand Jones’ contract concerns and seem willing to work with him at some point. Jones did not show up for any part of voluntary workouts, including organized team activities. He’ll face maximum fines of $14,070, $28,140, and $42,215 for missing mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday.

 

Falcons coach Dan Quinn initially said he expected Jones at camp but didn’t say that message was relayed directly from Jones.

 

Jones told TMZ last month that there is no bad blood between him and the team. He has been working out with Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens this offseason.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

The Buccaneers will get their first look at DE JASON PIERRE-PAUL when he deigns to attend the mandatory mini-camp.  OTAs weren’t worth $250,000 to him. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:

 

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul stayed away from voluntary offseason workouts, but he will not miss the Bucs’ three-day mandatory minicamp that begins Tuesday.

 

Pierre-Paul arrived at One Buc Place on Monday morning. The Bucs are disappointed that Pierre-Paul chose not to attend organized team activities, although it’s not unusual for veteran players to skip voluntary workouts. He will be a little behind learning a new defense under coordinator Mike Smith. But there is another cost.

 

Pierre-Paul had a workout bonus of $250,000 that he forfeited by not participating in OTAs. As long as he shows up in shape and ready to go, all is well.

 

He missed the installation of Smith’s defense and a chance to mesh with his new teammates. But Pierre-Paul is 29, he has played eight seasons and participated in more than 1,000 defensive snaps with the Giants a year ago. The three-day minicamp, a full training camp and four preseason games are more than enough work to get Pierre-Paul ready at this stage of his career.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The Rams have still not had a meeting of the financial minds with DT AARON DONALD, so he will be absent from the mandatory mini-camp.  Gary Klein of the LA Times:

 

Players paraded through the Rams’ Thousand Oaks practice facility Monday, taping television and in-game stadium promos and posing for media-guide portraits.

 

Aaron Donald was not among them.

 

As the Rams prepare for the start of a mandatory minicamp Tuesday, all indications are that Donald, embroiled in a contract dispute that dates to 2017, will not attend.

 

Last year, after sitting out organized-team activities, the star defensive tackle attended the mandatory minicamp but did not participate in drills. By attending, he avoided slightly more than $80,000 in fines.

 

But this year, the financial penalty probably won’t factor into the decision for the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, a four-year veteran capable of resetting the market for players other than quarterbacks.

 

Donald, 27, is scheduled to earn about $6.9 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract.

 

Neither the Rams nor Donald’s representatives have commented publicly about his desired salary figure or range. Donald, however, is thought to be seeking a deal that will pay him in excess of $20 million per season. That would not only make him the highest-paid defensive player in history, but would also put him in the company of highly compensated quarterbacks.

 

The Rams have leverage: If they don’t eventually come to terms with Donald this season, they could put the franchise tag on him in each of the next two.

 

And if Donald does not report to training camp at least 30 days before the Sept. 10 season opener against the Oakland Raiders, he would lose the opportunity to accrue a year toward unrestricted free agency.

 

Coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead have said they were in communication with Donald’s agents, but neither side has expressed publicly that they are close to working out a deal.

 

McVay said last week he would speak with Donald regarding the minicamp.

 

“I know we’ll have an idea based on whether it’s ‘OK, I’m not going to come until there’s a resolution,’ or ‘I will be there,’ ” McVay said.

 

Donald is not the only marquee player staying away from an NFL minicamp because of a contract situation.

 

The Atlanta Falcons announced Monday that receiver Julio Jones will not participate. Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, the 2016 NFL defensive player of the year, reportedly also will be absent.

 

Donald’s participation in minicamp would help strengthen a remade Rams defense that features new defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib.

 

But his absence is not regarded as a major distraction for a team that features a majority of players who are familiar with McVay’s offense and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.

 

McVay said the minicamp would seek to “somewhat mimic and emulate” a training camp schedule, with walk-throughs in the morning and workouts in the afternoon.

 

“The goal is to get to training camp healthy and ready to go,” McVay said.

– – –

The Rams seem to love WR BRANDIN COOKS more than the Patriots ever did.  Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com:

 

Speaking of impressive springs, you can also mark down new Rams receiver Brandin Cooks. You might have seen the video of Sean McVay lusting over Cooks’ ability—“How about how fast Cooks looked on that strike? … You see how fast Cooks is? Oh God!” The truth is, the team had a pretty good idea of what the fifth-year pro would bring to the table. What they’ve learned for themselves since is of his great attention to detail, practice habits and work ethic. And it ties into what Patriots OC Josh McDaniels told McVay as the trade was going down: Cooks didn’t miss a single practice rep last year in New England. A first-round pick was, of course, a hefty price to pay. But early indications suggest L.A. won’t regret it.

 

 

SEATTLE

Pete Carroll likes the look of the re-made Seahawks.  Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com:

 

Every April, Pete Carroll has his Seahawks go through an exercise. In the team meeting room, each player gets up from the seats they were in the year before and finds a new spot around different people.

 

The idea, quirky as it might be, is to send the message to everyone that when a new NFL season begins, a new identity, new roles and new relationships have to be forged, because the team itself is brand new. You’ve heard it before—what happened last season doesn’t matter, past accomplishments don’t count—and this is Carroll’s way of physically demonstrating it for his players.

 

The Seahawks went through with it again a couple months ago, but the reminder wasn’t really necessary this time around. Richard Sherman is a 49er. Michael Bennett is an Eagle. Cliff Avril is mulling retirement. Kam Chancellor is awaiting scans on his neck to see if he’ll be able to play. Earl Thomas has stayed away, and plans to keep staying away until he gets a new deal. And those five weren’t just a significant part of the team’s title core—they were also all under contract for 2018 just a few months ago, as five of Seattle’s 10 highest-paid players.

 

“I’m not saying I’m not more challenged this year than some other years,” Carroll said from his office the other day. “But I always feel like, ‘Man, this is my whole deal, to try to figure out how to recapture that.’”

 

Here’s the curveball: The roster turnover, the departure of all those core players, has actually made it easier for Carroll. Crazy? Not really. As he sees it, this offseason has been and will continue to be a chance, at age 66, to sell the bedrock of his program—competition—all over again. It got a little hard, as the above core came to prominence, to keep selling the idea that every spot was up for grabs. It’s not so difficult to sell anymore.

 

“It’s pretty plain to see, that when guys have established themselves for four or five or six years at a spot, and they’ve been really effective at what they do, it’s hard to convince the next guy that he’s going to take their spot,” Carroll said. “That’s for sure. So when opportunities are more open, it does create, in the truest sense, the best connection to what the philosophy and the approach is all about.

 

“And it feels like four or five years ago. It feels fresh and wide open, it’s more of an open competition for some of the spots. And that’s a really good thing for us, because it does feed into the whole approach.”

– – –

Toward the end of last year, a couple things were happening with the Seahawks. There had been a rash of injuries that put a lot of the foundational pieces of the Carroll Era on the shelf. There was some fatigue on the part of the vets who actually were available to play, to the point where they’d tell younger players, “You should’ve seen what this place was like in 2012.”

 

Six years ago, the intensity, tension and dog-eat-dog ethos were palpable. And last season, the guys making the decisions heard what the vets were saying—that’s evident in the calls they made this offseason. It started with Carroll’s staff; he hired new coordinators (Brian Schottenheimer on offense, Ken Norton Jr. on defense) and a new O-line coach (Mike Solari). It continued with the players. And it permeated how they drafted.

 

In fact, if you look at the Seahawks’ rookies, you’ll notice they’re all hardened by something significant they overcame. Shaquem Griffin is the most obvious example, but not the only one. First-rounder Rashaad Penny had to earn his way onto the field at mid-major San Diego State, behind Donnel Pumphery. Third-round pick Rasheem Green battled injury at USC. Fourth-rounder Will Dissly was a zero-star D-line recruit who grew into a great blocking tight end. Michael Dickson went from Australia to Texas to punt.

 

“We really hit it across the board,” Carroll said. “This year was a really good year for connecting with the right kinds of guys to really compete and add to the mentality. I don’t want to say that we tried harder at it. As always, we refocused, and we did better this year collectively hitting it. That’s why camp is good, that’s why every day these guys are juiced and ready to roll. They just add a nice energy. You can feel it.”

 

Carroll has seen it with veterans too, most notably in how Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin are working together. It’s there with a crew of running backs that Carroll calls “the most competitive group we’ve had,” with Penny fighting Chris Carson, Mike Davis and C.J. Prosise for snaps. And on defense, the addition of ex-Viking Tom Johnson has helped in pushing young D-linemen like Jarran Reed.

 

“There’s just been a lot of highlights, a lot of spots that fire me up,” Carroll said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how we come together when we get to camp.”

 

Of course, there’s another side to this, and that’s the fact that the previous crew was really, really good. It’s fine to be excited now. It’s another thing to actually win like those Seahawks did over the last six seasons. (A regular-season record of 65-30-1, five playoff appearances, three division titles, two NFC championships and a Super Bowl win.)

 

Carroll acknowledges that, of course, but he also doesn’t see this as a teardown. That brings us back to the other piece of last year to remember, which is the rash of injuries the Seahawks went through. It pushed onto the field a lot of guys who will be playing bigger roles this year, forcing them to get their feet wet. And what he saw then, and is seeing now, gives him hope that this could be 2012 again.

 

“It does feel like that,” Carroll said. “There was a time when our star players weren’t star players yet—they were just coming up, and it was exciting to see that emergence. That’s what we’re counting on in the next year, seeing these guys start to come to prominence and make a spot for themselves. I’m not even concerned about it. I just want to see what the timeline is. I hope it happens now. I want to see it happen right away.”

 

Last year a lot of people saw the changes looming and thought it was the perfect time for Carroll to walk away—he’ll be 67 in September, and after this year he’ll have been in Seattle as long as he was at USC. He sees it as a new start.

 

“I was clearly aware of what other people thought from the outside, because it was stated enough. Really, from my perspective, it turned me the other way,” Carroll said. “It made me more jacked up to get back into it, because we were taking all the right steps in the transition we were going to have to face, to make it work out.

 

“Somebody said, ‘You’re 65, are you thinking of retiring?’ or whatever it was. Who says at 65, you have to retire? What does that mean? It means nothing to me. I’m not old enough to retire. I’m not there at all. I do understand why people thought that. [But] we are not low on juice around here.”

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Add LB KHALIL MACK to the list of those skipping mini-camp in hopes of getting a new contract.  Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:

 

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther recently revealed that the Raiders have a plan in place to get Khalil Mack caught up as quickly as possible once the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year rejoins his teammates.

 

As it turns out, that plan will have to wait.

 

The Raiders are not expecting Mack to report for mandatory minicamp this week, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via sources informed of the situation. Skipping mandatory practices will make Mack an official holdout as he seeks a lucrative contract extension.

 

Slated to earn $13.846 million under the fifth-year option of his rookie pact, Mack has his sights set on a new deal with guarantees in excess of $65 million, per NFL Network’s Steve Wyche.

 

Finding common ground on mega deals for Mack and Rams 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is easier said than done. Whereas average annual salary and guaranteed money continues to increase at a steady rate for top quarterbacks, the league’s best defensive players have not kept pace.

 

Are the Raiders willing to set the market for pass rushers to get their most valuable player under contract?

 

In a report on NFL Network, Ian Rappoport said that Mack is looking to make a “million dollars per sack” which is puzzling since last year he had only 10.5 sacks and 11 the year before.

 

Based on his four-year career, Mack seems to be demanding $10.125 million per year, not the $13.846 mil he is slated to make in 2018.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

TE ROB GRONKOWSKI and QB TOM BRADY are now gone from Patriots camp.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

After attending a mandatory three-day minicamp last week, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski are back to volunteering.

 

Brady and Gronkowski are not expected to be present for the Patriots’ final days of voluntary organized team activities this week, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday.

 

The two players previously skipped the voluntary OTA portion of the offseason workout program.

 

Rapoport and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on April 18 that Brady is hopeful for a new contract ahead of the 2018 regular season. Brady, who has two years remaining on his current deal, is slated to earn a base salary of $14 million in 2018.

 

Gronkowski also has two years remaining on his current deal, which pays a base salary of $8 million in 2018. NFL Network’s James Palmer reported on May 21 the two sides are working on a contract restructure.

 

– – –

What substance did WR JULIAN EDELMAN partake of to get suspended?  No one knows.  Literally.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com explains:

 

At first blush, the report that Patriots receiver Julian Edelman‘s positive PED test was “triggered by a substance that wasn’t immediately recognizable” created an opening for thinking that the NFL has yet to conclude that Edelman took a banned substance, and that the NFL ultimately may conclude that he didn’t. Closer inspection of the PED policy paints a different picture.

 

There’s no provision in the PED policy that transforms a “substance that wasn’t immediately recognizable” into a positive result. Instead, a four-game suspension arises from a positive test for an anabolic agent that comes from the laundry list of 71 specific substances or that falls within the potentially broad catch-all of “other substances with a similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s).”

 

That’s the more likely (and likely more accurate) description of the situation. It’s not that Edelman’s urine sample showed the presence of some substance that medical science is incapable of identifying; it’s that the sample had a substance with “a similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s)” as one of the 71 specific anabolic agents listed in the PED policy.

 

Whatever it was, it presumably showed up in both the “A” bottle and “B” bottle, which are created when the urine sample is split into two separate samples, in order to allow for two separate tests. And even if the NFL’s medical experts haven’t specifically fit the substance within any of the 71 anabolic agents listed in the policy, it wouldn’t have been a positive test unless the unrecognized substance has “a similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s)” to an anabolic agent.

 

Logic points to an anabolic agent because of the length of the suspension (a positive test for a masking agent or similar substance triggers only a two-game suspension), and because stimulants don’t fall under the PED policy in the offseason. Common sense points to the reality that if the NFL truly had no idea what the substance was, the outcome wouldn’t have been a positive test — because the PED policy does not contemplate any discipline for a player based simply upon the fact that there’s something in the urine that can’t be identified.

 

It’s also possible that the unrecognized substance came from an effort to adulterate the sample, which provides separate grounds for discipline. In those cases, however, the discipline may be enhanced, in order to deter efforts to manipulate the outcome via an additive aimed at scrubbing the sample after it is provided. (Masking agents, in contrast, are taken by the player to hide the presence of the banned substance in the urine.)

 

Here’s the bottom line: The NFL doesn’t immediately dub a sample with an “unrecognized substance” a positive test. If it’s a positive test, that means the NFL discovered something in the urine that indicates PED use. And while Edelman will still have appeal rights, the fact that the substance doesn’t neatly fit within the scope of one of the 71 listed anabolic agents is irrelevant if the unrecognized substance has “similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s).”

 

The fact that the test was positive points to a substance that fits within that catch-all language, and the characterization of this as a positive of “a substance that wasn’t immediately recognizable” seems like a not-so-subtle effort to create the impression that Edelman didn’t ingest a banned substance. The circumstances suggest that the NFL believes he did.