The Daily Briefing Tuesday, June 26, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

The NFL Network revealed its top 10 of its top 100 – and Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com says the guy at the top is no surprise:

 

The NFL Network built up the final 10 spots of its top 100 with a two-hour show that lacked any drama.

 

That’s because the top choice was predictable . . . and the same as last year.

 

Tom Brady, of course, repeated at No. 1 in the NFL Network’s Top 100 players of 2018 after winning another MVP award last season. He was the easy choice.

 

The only surprise in the top 10, which was revealed Monday night, was Aaron Rodgers at No. 10, the fourth quarterback on the list. It surely had to do with his missing nine games last season, but still . . . .

 

Carson Wentz missed six games, including the postseason, and still ranked third overall.

 

The Rams and Steelers were the only teams with two players ranked in the top 10. Pittsburgh placed Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the top five.

 

The final 10 players are:

 

1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

 

2. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

 

3. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

 

4. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

 

5. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

 

6. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

 

7. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

 

8. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

 

9. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

 

10. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

 

Nick Shook of NFL.com offers his critique:

 

The “Top 100 Players of 2018” is complete. Another year of rankings has come and gone. And without a doubt, the final results will be used as bulletin-board material for some

 

But what about the guys the players missed? And the players ranked too high? Or too low? Is Carson Wentz really a top-three player in the NFL after just two seasons, one of which he couldn’t complete due to injury? Is Odell Beckham Jr. really not a top-75 player?

 

The rankings are comprised of votes from the best football players in the world, and we acknowledge they know the game better than anyone else. But even the pros make mistakes. Here are the five biggest in this year’s list:

 

1) Leaving Alex Smith and Anthony Barr out

Look, we aren’t shocked that Blake Bortles isn’t on this list. We knew enough from his divisional opponents’ scathing criticism of his skill set to guess he wouldn’t make the “Top 100.” But no Alex Smith after his 2017 campaign? Seriously?

 

Leave your stats argument at home. Here are some numbers for your brain: 4,042 yards passing, 67.5 completion percentage, 26 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 104.7 passer rating. Ninth in most completions for 20-plus yards (52), third in most completions for 40-plus yards (13). Does that do enough to shatter all of the (incorrectly) perceived knocks on Smith? It should.

 

Unfortunately, Smith’s unfair and inaccurate reputation for being a game manager and a quarterback who benefits from better teammates has worn into his uniform so deeply that multiple playoff appearances and top-10 numbers don’t get him into the “Top 100.” Smith has been fighting this stigma since he battled through numerous offensive coordinators and team-wide struggles in San Francisco before finally getting a stable situation with Jim Harbaugh, which was pulled out from beneath him thanks to Colin Kaepernick’s surge to stardom in 2012. Even his consistent success in Kansas City hasn’t been enough to stabilize his reputation. A 12-4 Chiefs finish in 2016 got him to No. 81 last year, even when his statistics were significantly worse than his 2017 campaign. A 10-6 record dropped him out of the “Top 100” entirely. It’s an absolute crime.

 

Alex Smith is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL history. I will die on this hill.

 

Barr’s absence isn’t nearly as egregious, but is still remarkably surprising. Barr is one of just five linebackers to make the last three Pro Bowls (including the most recent) and a key part of the league’s reigning top defense. After three years of being overlooked on this list, Barr appeared set to make the cut. We can’t even blame relative anonymity anymore after he unintentionally drew attention for breaking Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone.

 

But, as often goes with these rankings, another year at or near the top of the NFL’s defensive rankings could see the Vikings’ outside linebacker finally crack this list. After all, he can’t be ignored forever.

 

2) … and putting Case Keenum in the top 60

Recency bias without question influences these rankings. It happens every year, in part because a lot of the players are polled during the season. Keenum’s spot on this year’s list is perhaps the best example of this.

 

Keenum, who ranked 51st in the “Top 100,” completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions (passer rating of 98.3). His Vikings finished the 2017 regular season as NFC North champions with a 13-3 mark. Keenum was at the front of the Minnesota train, one of the feel-good stories of the season, a backup called into duty and playing way above his perceived ceiling.

 

All of that was fine and dandy. Keenum was at times electric in 2017, and it earned him a new job in Denver as the Broncos’ starter. But when compared with Smith’s 2017 — he was also the starting quarterback for a division-winning team, mind you — it suddenly looks less sterling. And there’s a 50-plus position (if not more) gap between the two.

 

Both are now in new cities with new teams, but if I had to make one closing argument on this point, it’s this: We don’t know how either will fare, but we have a much longer track record for Smith than we do Keenum. Flashes in the pan tend to flourish in these rankings. We’ll learn in 2018 whether Keenum is a temporary guest on the list or a mainstay. Smith should be the latter.

 

3) Odell Beckham Jr.’s free fall

The recency bias also affects players who simply don’t play (though it didn’t seem to have as drastic of an effect on the newcomers as it has in past years, which we’ll get to later).

 

Take Beckham, for example. The wideout played in just four games in 2017 due to an ankle injury, catching 25 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first season in which he didn’t break 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns, which is essentially impossible to do in a quarter of a full season. Is that really worth a 69-spot drop?

 

In a word, no.

 

When healthy, Beckham is still a top-tier receiver not even at the peak of his career. One needs to look no further than rumblings of his possible move out of New York via trade ahead of the draft, which sparked speculation of his worth. Many pegged him being worth Cleveland’s two first-round picks, which were both in the top four. That is about as high as one can value a player — despite the fact said player was ranked No. 77 on this list.

 

Perhaps it’s a compliment: Beckham still made the ‘Top 100’ after not playing in 75 percent of the season. But it’s also the strongest illustration we can find of players sharing the guilt for this league being a “What have you done for me lately?” business. They’re products of the league’s environment, but their rankings show they stay true to that standard.

 

4) Carson Wentz debuting in the top 10

Carson Wentz didn’t get to play in the Super Bowl, but he did as much as anyone to get the Eagles on the path to a title.

 

The versatile youngster flourished in Year 2 under Doug Pederson, lighting the league on fire with his highlight-creating play. Wentz completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns (against seven interceptions), and rushed 64 times for 299 yards. When he went down with a season-ending knee injury, it felt as though Philadelphia’s season was over, too. We all know how that turned out. But Nick Foles’ run to a Lombardi Trophy doesn’t distort Wentz’s efforts. What does is where he landed in the ‘Top 100’: No. 3.

 

Ahead of Aaron Rodgers? Drew Brees? Let’s dial it back a little, fellas.

 

Wentz sure appears to be the face of the next generation at the quarterback position. Placing him ahead of established stars and future Hall of Famers seems a tad extreme.

 

A similar sequence happened a year ago to Oakland’s Derek Carr, who made his second appearance in the Top 100 at No. 9. A season of team-wide struggles sent him back to earth, landing at No. 60 this time around.

 

Not saying Wentz is Carr — I think Wentz is better, not by a massive margin, but a decent one — but I am suggesting we pump the brakes on this one, just a bit.

 

5) Jalen Ramsey better than Patrick Peterson? Jared Goff > Philip Rivers??

If you’ve made it to here, you know the theme of this: Players have short memories.

 

Two players who came into their own in 2017 were Jalen Ramsey (No. 17) and Jared Goff (No. 38). They earned their rankings, to an extent. Where the issue lies here is exactly in front of whom they landed.

 

Ramsey, a second-year player and first-time All-Pro, dropped in six positions ahead of Peterson, a three-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler. We can’t lean on traditional stats here as much — given that some cornerbacks are avoided more than others — but we’ll dump them on you anyway.

 

Ramsey: 16 games played, 63 tackles, 17 passes defensed, four interceptions (team finished 10-6).

 

Peterson: 16 games played, 34 tackles, eight passes defensed, one interception (team finished 8-8).

 

Ramsey edged Peterson in All-Pro voting this season, which is driven by what a player did in an individual season. For 2017, Ramsey was the better player (on the better team, which also matters), but has a ways to go to compile a career with the cache of Peterson’s.

 

The greater error of these two is placing Jared Goff, noted quarterback of the high-flying Los Angeles Rams, ahead of consistently successful signal-caller Philip Rivers.

 

Goff’s Rams were also one of the NFL’s premier stories in 2017, bouncing back from a 4-12 season to post an 11-5 mark, win the NFC West and become an important part of the league’s hierarchy in their second season back in L.A. All of that, plus a 3,804-yard, 28-touchdown season boosted Goff to No. 38 on the list. He looks the part of the franchise quarterback the Rams thought they were getting when they selected Goff No. 1 overall in 2016.

 

Rivers’ Chargers narrowly missed the playoffs in 2017, but are one of the league’s most promising squads entering 2018. He outperformed Goff by the eye test and blew him away in passing yards (4,515). But as is often the case here, Goff’s team grabbed the headlines while his city’s counterpart flew under the radar after a slow start.

 

In a single-season situation independent of existing coaching staffs, though, I’d be willing to bet that more GMs would take Rivers than Goff. That could change sooner than later, but right now, I’m confident in that statement, even if the ranking doesn’t reflect it.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

This from Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

 

Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb was spotted in a walking boot on his right foot.

 

Cobb described the boot as “temporary” but didn’t say if he underwent surgery. A source said the team may ease him onto the field for camp. There’s no concern about his availability for the season opener.

 

 

MINNESOTA

LB ANTHONY BARR (answering questions at NFL.com’s Oklahoma Drill from Nick Shook) on what he has seen from QB KIRK COUSINS:

 

Kirk’s really taking control of the offense. He’s very vocal out there. He hasn’t been with the guys, the receivers that long, but they seem to have great chemistry. I’ve seen a lot of touchdowns, so I don’t know if that’s something we’ve got to fix on defense or what’s going on. (laughs) But they’re doing a good job over there and I think they’re going to take a little pressure off the defense. Not having to feel like we have to get a three-and-out every time, win the game for us, because we know the offense we’ll have is capable of putting up points.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

With a new deal looming, QB DAK PRESCOTT has new representation.

 

In another example of how important the 2018 season is for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, he is switching agents, leaving Jeff Guerriero of ProSource Sports for Todd France and the mega talent conglomerate known as Creative Artists Agency (CAA), per sources.

 

 

The move has not yet been registered with the National Football League Players Association. Prescott must notify his agent and wait five days before the switch can be made official with the NFLPA.

 

But both Guerriero and France confirmed the switch.

 

Guerriero, based out of Monroe, La., has represented Prescott since he was a largely overlooked prospect coming out of Mississippi State.

 

He held on to him after Prescott was taken by the Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and fashioned the finest rookie season of any quarterback in NFL history.

 

The hunt for services by other agents began almost immediately.

 

With Prescott heading into year three of his modest four-year rookie contract, he is eligible to sign a new deal after this season.

 

The time was now to make a switch.

 

Vice president Stephen Jones and owner Jerry Jones have acknowledged multiple times over the past few months that Prescott is in line for an extraordinary contract based on his play and the cost of the position.

 

“Yeah, you know at that position, it kind of is what it is,” Stephen Jones said last month. “You kind of, when the time comes, [expect to pay him]. I know Dak is going to have a good year this year. I hope it’s up there. It’s going to be as he deserves. He was a fourth-round pick. No one deserves to get paid fairly more than he does.”

 

Prescott’s 2018 base salary of $630,000 in 2018 is 66th among quarterbacks in the league, tied with players such as Brandon Allen, Nate Sudfeld, Jake Rudock, Kevin Hogan, Jeff Driskill and Cardale Jones, per Spotrac. His salary cap hit of $725,848 ranks just 60th among quarterbacks and 37th among players on the Cowboys roster.

 

But as a franchise quarterback, he is set to join another social class.

 

Last month, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan agreed to a five-year, $150 million contract extension, with $100 million guaranteed, to lead top quarterback earners. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to top that soon.

 

Also remember, Jimmy Garoppolo got a five-year contract worth up to $137.5 million from the San Francisco 49ers. Though entering his fifth season, Garoppolo has started only seven games, far fewer than Prescott, who is 22-10 as a starter in two years.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Pay the man, says ex-Giants great Phil Simms when asked about WR ODELL BECKHAM Jr. by Paul Schwartz of the New York Post:

 

The subject was Odell Beckham Jr., specifically the mega-contract the superstar wide receiver is likely to get from the Giants later this summer. It is a deal Phil Simms, the former Giants Super Bowl-winning quarterback, believes is warranted and inevitable.

 

It has to happen. And so, to hammer home his insistence, Simms referenced the movie “Rounders” and the line John Malkovich uttered to Matt Damon: “Pay that man his money.”

 

“He is one of the best weapons on offense I’ve seen in the NFL in a long time,” Simms told The Post. “Antonio Brown is great, but he’s a different type of player. So is Julio Jones. I just look at Odell Beckham Jr. and, man, I don’t know what to say.”

 

There is risk here, of course. Beckham, 25, missed 12 games last season and is coming off surgery to repair a fractured left ankle — although he looked spry and ready to roll this spring. The wisdom of making a receiver the highest-paid player on the roster is always a debatable strategy. And then there is Beckham’s off-the-field reliability. The Giants want to invest in someone they can trust to enhance the image of the franchise, and some of Beckham’s past antics have irritated ownership.

 

All valid concerns, but not nearly enough evidence to sway the verdict.

 

“It’s always a gamble,” Simms said. “You want to win, you got to gamble. Nobody knows him better than they do. I’ve never heard a teammate or run into any of his teammates who ever tell me anything bad about him. He makes the Giants really relevant. He’s one of the big names in the NFL. Old-timers and writers look at his antics and this and all that. We had a guy who had some antics, too. We put up with him, and it worked out pretty well.”

 

Beckham’s transgressions are penny-ante compared with Lawrence Taylor’s rap sheet, but Simms’ point is valid: There are no sure things and no perfect players.

 

No one has to sell Simms on what Beckham can do for an offense, how he makes life easier for Eli Manning and what his brilliance as a target can do for everyone around him on the field. In his 14 years as a Giants quarterback, Simms never threw to such a transcendent talent as Beckham.

 

“When you talk about Odell, you can say, ‘They double cover him,’ but you really can’t make people understand what it really means and how it makes life easy for calling plays and designing plays,’’ Simms said. “In this day and age there’s so many formations and so many other things, they want to get Odell Beckham Jr. the ball, they’re gonna find a way to get him the ball. I don’t care what the defense does.’’

 

Simms does care how opponents view Beckham, fearing he is a “marked man” and thus susceptible to cheap shots.

 

“He’s so good and so popular that defenses, they want a piece of him and that would worry me, because there he is running and somebody just goes flying and hits him right on the ankles,’’ Simms said. “When you get paid and you’re a star and he plays in New York, no matter what he does, it doesn’t matter if he does chill out, the old saying, everybody wants a shot at the champ. DBs, they can make a name for themselves, just because he’s Odell Beckham Jr.”

 

As for a price tag, that is expected to start at $18 million per year and perhaps soar above that princely sum. Simms is unmoved.

 

“Here I am, I’ll spend the Giants’ money,’’ he said, breaking into a laugh.

 

Beckham recently said he will report to training camp — the full roster is scheduled to arrive July 25 — even though there is no guarantee a deal will be in place at that time. More likely, the Giants want to see Beckham run around this summer before full-scale negotiations commence.

 

The sooner, the better, Simms says.

 

“You need zero distractions,’’ he said. “You want him on your team, you know what he is and you know you’re all-in this year. All right, so go all-in. You got to go all-in and that means you got to get Odell Beckham Jr. signed and not make it a big part of the whole offseason story on every TV show I have to watch. So get it over with.’’

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

LB ANTHONY BARR of the Vikings (answering questions at NFL.com’s Oklahoma Drill from Nick Shook) has high praise for Seahawks QB RUSSELL WILSON:

 

[Russell Wilson] balled. His ability to extend plays and he never has help, and he’s always able to somehow … He should have won MVP, I think, this past year. No offensive line, no running game, can’t name three receivers on his team and he just makes plays.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

TAMBA HALI, who is also experimenting with a music career, hints that he may not be done yet with the Chiefs.  Pete Grathoff with the Kansas City Star:

 

When the Chiefs released linebacker Tamba Hali in March, some may have wondered whether that was the end of his career.

 

In 12 seasons with the Chiefs, Hali had 89 1/2 sacks, but there had been a serious decline over the final two years. Hali had 3 1/2 sacks in 2016, when he played in all 16 games but had just two starts. Last season, Hali appeared in just five games and had one tackle.

 

By releasing Hali, the Chiefs saved about $7.7 million. Hali was working on his musical career at the time, and most of his posts on social media were about his rap album, “Tamba Juice.”

 

But on Saturday, Hali tweeted: “I’m stepping away from the music world as of today. I thank everyone who’s had a hand in helping bring this amazing project ‘Tamba Juice’ to light especially @masterkraft_. I want thank all the media outlets that’s posted my material. Thank you.”

 

Later he added: “Love doing commercial music but the reality of the business side isn’t yielding as I would like and we haven’t found anyone to sponsor us and our budget we set has ran out. So I need to take a leave until I can find another way to do it. Thank you all again and stay blessed.”

 

On Sunday, Hali shared a message on Instagram. There was a photo of Hali chasing former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning from a game a few years back.

 

The message: “When you need to get there in a hurry. I’m coming this time will be different.#chiefskingdom”

 

The hashtag sure seems to hint that Hali is at least considering a return to the Chiefs.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

As QB LAMAR JACKSON understands it, only one team was thinking about making him a receiver.  John Breech of CBSSports.com:

 

Thanks to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, we now have the answer to one of the greatest mysteries that came out of the NFL combine this year.

 

Although Jackson is a quarterback — and has been a quarterback his entire life — a report came out during the combine that several teams wanted Jackson to work out as a wide receiver so they could get an idea of what he might be capable of, if he were to switch positions. Jackson was so upset by the request that he decided to pull out of the 40-yard dash.

 

When the report about Jackson switching positions originally came out, it didn’t list which teams asked him to play wide receiver, so all we could do was guess. However, we no longer have to guess, because Jackson revealed the details during a recent podcast with the Ravens official website. 

 

The one interesting nugget here is that there weren’t multiple teams that asked Jackson to do receiving drills, apparently, there was only one: The Los Angeles Chargers. 

 

“It was a Chargers scout, he was the one who told me about it,” Jackson said. “Like, he was the first one to come to me about it, and I’m like, ‘What?’ He caught me off guard with it. I even made a face for him like, ‘What?’ I’m thinking he’s trying to be funny, but he  kept going with it, so it just became blown out of proportion.”

 

Jackson said he made it very clear that he had exactly zero interest in playing receiver.

 

“He was like, ‘Oh, Lamar, you’re going to go out for some wide receiver routes?'” Jackson said. “I’m like, ‘Nah, quarterback only.’ So that made me not run the 40 and participate in all that other stuff.”

 

The Chargers must have gotten their scouting report from former NFL general manager Bill Polian, because he was all about the position switch. Before the combine, Polian, who was the Colts’ GM from 1997-2011, was very vocal with his opinion that Jackson should switch to wide receiver, because his throwing “accuracy isn’t there.”

 

Although most teams viewed Jackson as a talented quarterback, he still took a tumble in the draft. After sitting through the first 31 picks, Jackson didn’t get selected until the Ravens traded up and grabbed him with the final pick of the first round.

 

It’s a good thing the Chargers didn’t select him, because this quarterback thing seems to be working out well so far in Baltimore. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora was at Ravens’ minicamp in mid-June and based on his report it’s only a matter of time before Jackson takes over the starting job from Joe Flacco.

 

 

CINCINNATI

Frank Schwab of Shutdown Corner offers this look at the 2018 Bengals, still under the guidance of Marvin Lewis:

 

On the morning of last Dec. 17, ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke some big news: Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals were going to part ways.

 

It surprised exactly nobody. Lewis wouldn’t have lasted as long as he did in most NFL cities, with his 0-7 playoff record. And 2017 was his second straight losing season. His contract was expiring. It was a good 15-year run, but time for some new blood.

 

Then the funniest thing happened. Lewis didn’t go anywhere.

 

In one of the stranger NFL coaching carousel stories (but not even the strangest this offseason; thanks, Josh McDaniels), the Bengals and Lewis decided to run it back. He got a two-year deal. Lewis has basically turned into that famous Undertaker gif. When you thought he was done, he rose from the ashes.

 

I’ve defended Lewis and said before that the Bengals’ next coach probably won’t be as good as Lewis, whose run in Cincinnati has been great by the franchise’s historical standards. But now the whole thing is awkward.

 

What’s strange is it sounds like the final two games, after that Schefter report, swayed team owner Mike Brown’s decision. Cincinnati beat the Lions at home and finished the season with a miraculous win at Baltimore.

 

“I would say that while we had serious reverses and they were unsettling, to put it mildly, we bounced back at the end of the year,” Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We beat two teams that were in playoff runs. We beat them in games that were important for them where they gave their best shot and I was impressed how we rebounded. That played into what was in my mind when I had to make a final call.”

 

Had Tyler Boyd not caught that memorable touchdown on fourth-and-12 to beat the Ravens, would Lewis have returned? Maybe not, if you believe Brown. Incredible.

 

Lewis is back, though it’s unfair to look at the Bengals as being the same old team just because the head coach is back. Some major changes to the staff were made.

 

Lewis said after the season the key to an improvement on defense is pressuring the quarterback. New coordinator Teryl Austin, formerly of the Lions, will be in charge of that. It sounds like he’ll play more man coverage, and the Bengals have the cornerbacks for it. That could lead to more aggressive calls up front.

 

Offensively, Bill Lazor isn’t technically new. He took over coordinator duties after Ken Zampese was fired following a terrible 0-2 start. Given a full offseason, Lazor overhauled the Bengals offense.

 

“Everything’s different,” quarterback Andy Dalton said early this offseason, according to the Dayton Daily News. “Nothing’s really similar to what we were doing.”

 

Lewis said he wants the Bengals to get back to being a vertical-threat offense, and that sounds like part of Lazor’s vision. There were reports that the Bengals will play with a faster tempo (Lazor was on Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles staff), and use more of an Air Coryell attack to stretch the field while moving away from the West Coast offense that Dalton has mostly played in. But it sounds like Lazor’s offense will incorporate a bit of everything.

 

The Bengals needed a shakeup. The failure to win a playoff game with Lewis has been a theme of the franchise for many years. Then came a step back the past two seasons, which produced a 13-18-1 record.

 

The Bengals didn’t make the ultimate shakeup and fire Lewis — while holding the status quo at head coach in the strangest way possible — but the Bengals will look different this season. Even if the guy running the show is the same, yet again.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

RB Le’VEON BELL is relatively optimistic he can reach a deal with the Steelers.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell believes he can work out a long-term contract with the Steelers before training camp.

 

Asked on NFL Network if he’s optimistic that he’ll be there for the start of camp, Bell answered, “Yeah.”

 

“It’s a business,” Bell said. “The people in the organization try to do what’s best for them and I’m trying to do what’s best for me. We’re working on it. We’re a lot closer than we were last year at this time, and that’s what I’m happy about. But none of that matters if we don’t get it done. So hopefully we’ll try to get something done. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I’ve got confidence we’ll get it done. I want to do it.”

 

Bell said he might end up signing the franchise tag, as he did last year, but he’d prefer to have a long-term deal. If he signs the franchise tag he would hit true unrestricted free agency next year, as his college teammate Kirk Cousins did this year.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

The Colts love their first round pick, G QUENTON NELSON.  Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:

 

When Quenton Nelson fell to Indianapolis at No. 6 overall in this year’s draft, general manager Chris Ballard described the organization’s first-round decision as the “easiest” he has ever experienced.

 

After watching the former Notre Dame star up close and personal in offseason practices, the Colts’ decision-makers have only crystalized their opinion that they have added a once-in-a-generation talent to their beleaguered offensive line.

 

 

“You can see the instincts,” coach Frank Reich said recently, via the Indianapolis Star. “One of the things on tape everybody said was this guy was the best pulling guard (prospect) ever. You can see that — man, it just shows up all over the tape.”

 

Reich is referring to the team’s practice films, which also showed double teams unable to move Nelson off his spot.

 

From the time the Colts first reported for OTAs in early May, Nelson has been entrenched as the starting left guard on an overhauled offensive line that might just be the league’s most improved.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

More on WR JULIAN EDELMAN’s appeal of his four-game suspension that occurred on Monday.  He has a chance, since the appeal was before a neutral arbitrator.   Austin Knoblach of NFL.com:

 

Julian Edelman’s representatives argued Monday that mistakes made in testing and other processes led to the New England Patriots wide receiver’s four-game suspension under the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.

 

The arguments were made during an often contentious suspension appeal hearing in front of arbitrator Glenn Wong, Pelissero reported. A decision on Edelman’s appeal isn’t expected imminently, Pelissero added, and there’s a chance it could come next week. A federal lawsuit remains an option for Edelman if the suspension isn’t vacated.

 

After the impending four-game suspension was reported during Patriots minicamp earlier this month, the veteran wide receiver apologized for what happened, adding he didn’t know how he failed the test.

 

“I am very sorry — I don’t know what happened,” Edelman wrote on Instagram. “I’ve taken many, many tests obviously over the course of my career, and nothing like this has ever happened.”

 

Edelman missed the entire 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL during a preseason tilt. He took part in the Patriots’ offseason program and was on the field during mandatory minicamp.

 

If the suspension holds, Edelman will miss the Patriots’ first four regular-season games against the Texans, Jaguars, Lions and Dolphins. Unless the suspension is dissolved or reduced, Edelman would make his 2018 debut against the Colts on Oct. 4.

 

Regardless of the appeal outcome, Edelman remains eligible to take part in training camp and play in all Patriots preseason games.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FORMER PLAYERS

Good news about former Bills QB Jim Kelly.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jim Kelly’s football camp was already on the schedule. So he wasn’t going to let something as minor as surgery keep him away from it.

 

Three days after his latest procedure which was part of his cancer treatment, the Hall of Fame quarterback was playing flag football at his annual camp.

 

“This is my life,” Kelly said, via Jack Goods of the Buffalo News. “This is why I do it. If you don’t love it doing it for 31 years, then something is wrong with you. My heart is in it.”

 

Kelly spent part of his time in a golf cart, but was able to participate with campers at New Era Field.

 

Last week, he had a follow-up surgery to put five implants in his jaw to help reconstruct the area taken away because of cancer. Her said he’d have two more procedures in August and September to help rebuild his mouth and put permanent dentures in.

 

“I knew I’d be here, but I didn’t know how much I would participate,” he said. “The only part for me [that’s hard] to do a lot of is talking. My upper jaw is completely covered in stitches. But I’ve been hit after games and I was a lot sorer. It’s all good. . . . It seems like every year I’m sore three or four times for a period of time. It is what it is. I just keep fighting, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to walk out of my front door and feel good.

 

“I’ve got a lot of things on my plate that I want to do and I can’t do them when I’m in this state. But I’m going to keep working. The Good Lord is the only one who knows what the outcome is going to be for what I’m about to do, for what I’m about to go through. I still have a few more surgeries to come, and I take it one day at a time.”

 

Kelly’s next appearance is scheduled for mid-July, when he’ll receive the Jimmy V award at the ESPYs in Los Angeles.

 

 

2018 DRAFT

DB BRANDON BRYANT is an interesting name in the upcoming supplemental draft.  Chase Goodbread of NFL.com brings us up to date:

 

Brandon Bryant was out of bed at 7 a.m. Monday preparing for a huge step in his football future — a workout for NFL scouts at Mississippi State University in advance of the 2018 NFL Supplemental Draft, which will be held July 11. But for Bryant, the workout wouldn’t be the tough part.

 

“This process has been pretty crazy, just meeting with all these teams and trying to show them what I can do, and let them know what happened to put me in this position,” Bryant said. “But the athleticism part, I knew that would come easy.”

 

Indeed, it did.

 

With representatives from 14 NFL clubs on hand, Bryant ran official 40-yard dash times of 4.45 and 4.52, per NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt, vertical jumped 34 inches and turned in a broad jump of 10-3. In agility drills, he ran 3-cone drill times of 7.26 and 7.52, with a 20-yard shuttle clocking of 4.23. He opted not to perform in the bench press. Scouts from the Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants were on hand for the morning workout. Among those, the Colts and Ravens were his favorite interviews.

 

“Those teams really stuck out to me the most. I had a great conversation with those guys,” Bryant said. “But wherever I get drafted or if it’s as a free agent, I just need an opportunity and I’ll make the most of it.”

 

Toward the end of his workout, during position drills, Bryant suffered a flare-up of a shin splint that cut his performance short. But by that point, he had already shown scouts the athletic traits that made him one of Path to the Draft’s fastest and most freakish athletes in college football the past two years.

 

“It felt a lot like a cramp, but I tried to fight through it as much as I could,” Bryant said. “I actually hurt it during training for this, working on broad jumps.”

 

Bryant was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, making more than 150 career tackles, though he struggled to develop a reputation as a playmaker with just one interception in each of the last two seasons. A host of clubs met with Bryant privately on Sunday, and following his workout, several more pulled him aside, including the Redskins, Texans, Steelers, Colts, Jaguars and 49ers.

 

The NFL supplemental draft allows players who become draft-eligible after the regular draft an opportunity to be selected, though teams typically don’t make a pick. Bryant was withheld from spring practice at MSU for academic reasons, and later announced his plan to withdraw from school. A team that drafts a player in the supplemental draft forfeits a draft pick in the corresponding round in the following year’s regular draft. This year’s field for the supplemental draft is stronger than usual, with three defensive backs considered legitimate possibilities for selection: Bryant, former Virginia Tech DB Adonis Alexander, and former Western Michigan DB Sam Beal.