The Daily Briefing Wednesday, March 29, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
David Steele in The Sporting News does not like the new rule that banned leaping over the line to block a kick:
Pre-emptive safety rules are rare, to put it mildly. Almost every other time, the NFL has outlawed things because they are proven to be dangerous — sometimes long before they get around to acting on it, to many players’ detriment. Head slaps. Cut blocks. Horse-collar tackles. Launching. Hitting defenseless receivers. Every rule that protects quarterbacks in every situation (excluding, as always, Cam Newton).
This play was outlawed because someone might get hurt. No one has yet, though.
The danger came from what teams were coaching players to do to counter it. The counter-moves put the leaper’s safety at risk. They threaten the leaper with a landing on his head, neck, back, knee, someplace vulnerable.
All things considered, to protect players, the logical move would be to make the unsafe counter-moves illegal. Then, try to get yourself a proficient leaper. If you can’t … there shouldn’t be a rule to hide behind.
It’s the NFL’s answer to the NCAA outlawing dunking to stop Lew Alcindor, or basketball widening the lane to slow down Wilt Chamberlain, or golf Tiger-proofing its courses.
The NFL took the lazy way out.
They did more than outlaw a play. They outlawed the players who can make it. That’s not how any sport should be run.
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It is not exactly the college football targeting rule, but NFL officials have been officially encouraged to throw players out of the game for horrible hits. Darin Gantt at ProFootballTalk.com:
The NFL didn’t need a vote of the owners to make one significant change this week, as certain dangerous hits on the field can now be cause for ejections.
The competition committee recommendation that ejections or suspensions for certain illegal hits is being added as a point of emphasis this year, meaning it didn’t require a vote from owners to become part of the landscape.
Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said he didn’t think the measure was a sign the league had a huge problem, but that there were examples of three or four “egregious” hits last year that needed harsher punishment, since fines weren’t making them go away.
“We don’t typically get ejections for football plays during a game, we get ejections for other reasons but not football plays — we recommend suspension even for a first-time offense,” McKay said. “Why? Because the hits were very egregious, to be quite frank.
“We quite frankly just want to get any of those hits out of the game. We think one way to get them out of the game is suspension because we think that is the ultimate deterrent to all players to not have those type of plays occur. We didn’t have very many of them. We don’t expect it to happen a lot. But it was a point of emphasis and it will be looked at this year.”
Eagles punt returner Darren Sproles being laid out by Washington safety Deshazor Everett was one of the examples they cited. Everett was penalized on the field and fined later in the week but not suspended.
But enforcing a new edict will still carry the burden of interpretation, giving officials more gray area to wade through, along with the inherent pressure of ejecting a player.
A “toxic leadership” issue in Minnesota? Whoa. Tom Pelissaro in USA Today:
Minnesota Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf says he has no concerns about what one recently departed player’s father claimed is “toxic leadership” in the aftermath of last season’s struggles following the team’s 5-0 start.
“None at all from an ownership (perspective),” Wilf told a few reporters at the NFL meetings Tuesday. “I’m not sure where that really even comes from. I know how close Coach (Mike) Zimmer and our GM Rick Spielman are, and how great they work together, and how great they communicate with us.”
In a tweet shortly after his son, tight end Rhett Ellison, left the Vikings after five seasons to sign a four-year, $18 million contract with the New York Giants, former NFL linebacker Riki Ellison wrote that an exodus of draft picks is a “statement on toxic leadership” within the organization. Riki Ellison later deleted the tweet but elaborated in an interview with the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press and reiterated his contention there’s only one explanation for players leaving.
However none of the free agents who left the Vikings were core players, save for left tackle Matt Kalil, who wanted to play with his brother on the Carolina Panthers. The reality is the Vikings could’ve re-signed them, they just didn’t want to overpay.
Riki Ellison has a history of overblown statements on social media. Last year, he posted on Facebook that his son would sign elsewhere in free agency but deleted it after the Vikings re-signed Rhett.
There’s no question the club had some unusual issues last year, including offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s surprise resignation early in the slide toward an 8-8 finish. But Wilf indicated that hasn’t shaken his faith in Zimmer, who coached Minnesota to the NFC North title in 2015.
“Drama is generally not good on a football team,” Wilf said. “To Coach Zimmer’s credit, he has weathered some ups and downs over the last couple seasons incredibly well, and this year will be no different. And I know he’ll do whatever it takes — not just with the strategy or the coaching staff or what have you — to make sure we get back to where we want to be and compete for the division and win playoff games.”
The idea that Dallas thinks it’s getting something in a trade is crazy . Denver is not your spot for that . Maybe it’s just a very bizarre game of chicken .
Whatever the case, according to a report from Jane Slater of NFL Network, the whole process is taking a toll on Romo and he’s starting to take things “personally.”
Not just that the Cowboys won’t release him either — Romo apparently believes the locker room went Judas on him by shifting over to “Team Dak.”
Jane Slater ✔ @SlaterNFL
Tony Romo has taken situation very personally in Dallas and has distanced himself from teammates and coach who were “Team Dak” per source.
Honestly, nothing about this should be that surprising.
Tony Romo IS the Cowboys. Or he was the Cowboys anyway. Romo was the face of Jerry’s franchise, the guy Jones would ride or die with until he retired. Romo was going to bring the Cowboys a Super Bowl before he retired or die trying.
Then Dak Prescott shows up, looks great in the preseason, helps the Cowboys march out to a fantastic record and the entire organization backtracked on the idea that it was Romo’s team . Even Jones backed off that belief before handing the team over to Prescott.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Romo felt like he was left by the wayside. But that’s also the life of an older NFL quarterback. Peyton Manning didn’t finish with the Colts, which is easy to forget now, but he was cast aside unceremoniously for Andrew Luck. Brett Favre was (very reluctantly) pushed out of Green Bay for Aaron Rodgers.
Father Time is busy trying to win a grudge match against Tom Brady right now, but he still has time for Romo. Unfortunately for Romo, he’s not exactly getting the support he might have hoped from the Cowboys.
Chris Chase of FoxSports.com does not like the way Jerry Jones has treated Romo:
“It’s implied we will work in the best way we can for the mutual interest of Tony [Romo] and the Cowboys. […] When you’ve got a situation like we got, we’ll do the do-right rule. That’s it. Very important. We do the do-right rule. We have that kind of relationship.” — Jerry Jones, March 3, 2017
At the start of the month, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones laid out his plans for how to deal with his beloved quarterback turned third wheel, Tony Romo, a Dallas folk hero Wally Pipped out a job by Dak Prescott and on the path to employment elsewhere, whenever Jones decided to do something about it. The nearly universal prediction was that Jones would cut Romo sometime in early March and designate with him with a post-June 1 release, which would allow Dallas to split Romo’s $20 million cap hit over 2017 and 2018. The Cowboys initially appeared to want at least a little in exchange for Romo (why not try to get something for nothing?) but then Jones made his comments in early March, which suggested that if Dallas couldn’t trade Romo by March 9 (the first day he could be cut), he’d get the gold-watch release — thank for your service, best of luck on the open market (and don’t sign with the Redskins). You know, the Cowboys would follow the “do-right rule.”
Fast forward almost a full month and Romo is still on the Cowboys. Any trade momentum that existed is gone and this do-right rule has transformed into “keeping things in limbo.” From the outside, it appears simple: Dallas wants to get something — a pittance, really — in return for Romo. It’s as if the idea of cutting a top-tier quarterback, no matter how superfluous to the team nor how unwieldy his contract, is just too much for Jones to handle. He’s Tony Romo, after all. Eight months ago he was about to get under center for a Super Bowl contender. And now he’s supposed to be given away, for nothing? I mean, I gave away a broken refrigerator this morning and the guys still handed me a Goodwill tax write-off. Romo can’t bring anything (except $5 million less in cap space over the next two years)?
And this appears to be Jones’ folly. There is no trade market to court. It’s non-existent and wishing it weren’t doesn’t make it so. It’s all for two good reasons: 1) The Cowboys have no Romo leverage. They’re sitting back waiting for calls on their spurned quarterback but because Jones overplayed his hand with that phony “do-right rule” nonsense, nobody’s in a hurry to give up anything for a guy they believe will be available for free at some point. And that’s not some hope; the message came straight from Jones! 2) Romo’s contract, as is, can’t be traded — not realistically anyway. The price tag and hits are too high, especially for a 37-year-old with more back problems than Tiger Woods.
Much was made this week about John Elway saying he’s comfortable with his two young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. This was treated as gospel despite the fact that the only time people lie more than during the NFL offseason is if they’re testifying at a Senate subcommittee hearing. Elway’s not stupid. He’s not giving Jones any inkling that maybe, just maybe, the Broncos will cave and give a sixth-round pick just to get it over with. Denver and Houston, possibly, seem very content to wait it out. They know Jones isn’t going to keep a backup with a $25 million cap hit, no matter how much they like each other or how many friendly drinks they’ve had together. So they wait. And if Jones calls their bluff, then good luck with that backup getting paid more than Tom Brady, friendo.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com on a pet saying of Coach Ben McAdoo and how it applies to the possibility of signing RB ADRIAN PETERSON:
Right there in the McAdoo dictionary explaining New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo’s favorite sayings and words is the answer he gave to a question at the NFL meetings Tuesday about whether free-agent running back Adrian Peterson could land with the Giants.
“Never say never,” he said.
We’ve heard that one before. By my count, McAdoo has offered that same response to 13 other questions from reporters in a public setting over the past year.
Could there be changes to his coaching staff this offseason?
Never say never.
Would they add a quarterback with Ryan Nassib going on injured reserve back in December?
Never say never.
My favorite: Would Odell Beckham Jr. play safety?
Never say never.
Would offensive lineman Brett Jones be used as a third-down blocking back?
Never say never.
Did McAdoo think there would ever be an NFL team in London?
Never say never.
Would the Giants re-sign linebacker Jasper Brinkley?
Never say never.
Would they add another offensive lineman (asked multiple times)?
Never say never.
You get the point. It’s one of McAdoo’s go-to lines, with mixed results.
Sometimes these things happen, such as there being changes to his coaching staff, adding another quarterback when Nassib’s season ended and signing another offensive lineman (they added Will Beatty later in the day after McAdoo was asked about adding a lineman last summer).
Sometimes they don’t. The Giants never used Beckham at safety or Jones as a third-down back. Brinkley’s career ended after he was released just days before the start of the regular season.
In the case of Peterson, this was McAdoo’s way of avoiding the question without providing the most telling response: It’s very, very unlikely. If A, B, C, D, E and F unfold, then maybe Peterson will play for the Giants this season.
Despite Peterson’s interest in the Giants, the Giants have never seriously been in the mix for his services. They haven’t shopped at the top of the free-agent running back market this offseason. Peterson wasn’t in their price range given his track record or on their radar given his past problems. That’s unlikely to change, even though McAdoo thinks Peterson has something left in the tank.
“I think Adrian is a guy who is a very talented player and he has a chip on his shoulder,” McAdoo said. “If he can stay healthy he probably has a lot to offer.”
The Giants’ running back picture currently has Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa and Shaun Draughn in the mix. Darkwa and Draughn signed since the start of free agency. The Giants could also add another back in this strong running back draft.
Right now they are intent on handing Perkins a bigger role in his second professional season. Vereen is also a guy that is “right in the mix” and there is a belief that, if healthy, Darkwa can be an impact player, according to McAdoo.
That right there is likely the core of the Giants backfield this season, unless of course an injury or off-the-field incident changes everything.
Hey, it’s unlikely but possible. Never say never, as McAdoo would say.
Jay Gruden speaks out on the former GM, Scot McCloughan. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
Washington head coach Jay Gruden was sorry to see G.M. Scot McCloughan go.
Gruden said at the league meeting that he was upset when he learned McCloughan had been fired.
“I was disappointed,” Gruden said, via Liz Clarke of the Washington Post. “I like Scot; I liked working with Scot. I think he’s a good person and a great talent evaluator. Anytime you lose someone, it’s disappointing. But at the end of the day, it’s professional football. Anyone who has been around it understands that change is going to happen.”
Gruden’s public comments stand in contrast with some of the anonymous sources out of Washington who bad-mouthed McCloughan out the door and suggested that he has a drinking problem that contributed to his firing. Gruden wouldn’t say directly when asked if the team needed to fire McCloughan.
“I’m not going to say it had to be made. It was made,” he said. “That’s all I can live with. When decisions are made of that magnitude, you reflect on the good things you learned from Scot and the good things he did for the team. And you move forward.”
Gruden sounds like he would have been perfectly happy to keep working with McCloughan. But the higher-ups in the organization, owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen, apparently thought otherwise.
Gruden, it should be noted, was recently extended by Snyder/Allen, even as McCloughan’s time with the team came to an end.
CB RICHARD SHERMAN wasn’t quite as good on the field in 2016 (or at least that was the perception, it may have had to do with the absence of EARL THOMAS), so maybe the Seahawks are wearying of his off-field drama/entertainment.
Curtis Crabtree at ProFootballTalk.com:
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman may find it hilarious there’s talk he could be traded. However, General Manager John Schneider didn’t exactly slam the door shut on the concept on Tuesday.
In meeting with Seattle reporters at the league meetings, Schneider said that they listen to every proposal that comes their way.
“We listen. We listen to everything you would think,” he said. “We’re in a lot of stuff. We try to pride ourselves on that. I think I’ve told you guys before we walk away from 98 percent of the deals that we’re involved with or talking about. But at least we know that we’ve knocked down their door, we’ve gone in there and checked it out. We’re not just going to assume. We always just have to constantly be thinking about the organization and how we’re going to move it forward.”
The idea of trading Sherman came about after former NFL executive Michael Lombardi said in a podcast that he’d heard Seattle would be open to trading the All-Pro cornerback.
“I truly believe, based on what I hear around the National Football League, that the Seahawks would in fact, for the right deal, trade Richard Sherman,” Lombardi said as part of a larger discussion surrounding the New Orleans Saints interest in New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.
The practicality of a deal for Sherman this year doesn’t seem feasible. Sherman’s contract isn’t particularly advantageous for Seattle to try to move him. Additionally, they need him. With Deshawn Shead expected to be out well into the regular season following a torn ACL sustained in the playoffs, Seattle’s cornerback depth is currently lacking.
However, the fact Schneider didn’t go out of his way to shrug off the idea is notable. Sherman twice blew up at members of Seattle’s coaching staff on the sidelines during games. He publicly criticized offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for calling a pass from the 1-yard line in a December game against the Los Angeles Rams, doubled down on the comments the following week, threatened to ruin the career of a media member and generally remained an issue for the remainder of the season.
The “right deal” probably doesn’t exist right now for Sherman. That doesn’t mean it won’t exist in the future. And Seattle might just be willing to pull the trigger when the time comes.
A rambling Woody Paige column about the Denver QB situation:
Despite all the clutter, prattle and commotion surrounding Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler (three names that have been linked with the Broncos in some fashion in the past or now) and RG3andout and Johnny Footloose, and the four top quarterbacks In the draft, it’s remarkable to realize that 27 NFL teams already have established who will be their starters in September.
Nobody will displace Tom Brady (including the commissioner this time), Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger (who isn’t retiring), Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers or Cam Newton and Derek Carr (both of whom will be recovered from injuries), or kids Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota (coming off a broken fibula), and a dozen others.
Blake Bortles, for God’s sake, even will have a starting job.
And then there were five.
The Jets, the 49ers, the Rams (Jared Goff is no certainty), the Texans and Your Very Own Denver Broncos.
Oh, yes, at the NFL meetings at the posh Biltmore in Phoenix, John Elway and Vance Joseph have reiterated that they “like” the two young quarterbacks on the Broncos’ roster, and they will be in competition starting with OTAs on April 10 to determine the starter.
Like is not love.
On the positive side, the Broncos have two competitors. The Browns have none (unless you count Brock Osweiler, and who does any more?), and the 49ers and the Jets have two career backups they signed (Matt Barkley and Josh McCown), and the Texans have Tom Savage.
Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch are fine fellows, polite young men and skilled football players, but neither obviously, according to their bosses, is the “established starter” for 2017 or as accomplished as the 19 starters who have been quarterbacks for their teams in the postseason. Pro Football Focus ranked Siemian as the No. 27 quarterback in the league (behind Barkley) at the end of the regular season. He was rated 24-27 by other five nationally respected websites – and ahead of Osweiler and Kaepernick. Lynch was unranked after appearing in three games (with two starts).
Will either Trevor or Paxton, who combined for nine victories and seven losses last season, get to the Broncos to the playoffs this year? No. The defense might. Can one or the other win a Super Bowl, which is all that is important to the Broncos’ brass and the Broncos’ backers? No.
After all, the Broncos do have the most difficult schedule in the NFL, based on last year’s results, and confront eight teams that won 10 or more games last year.
Could Tony Romo lead the Broncos to the playoffs and perhaps a Super Bowl victory? Who knows? But, with a Romo who stays healthy, the Broncos probably would have a better chance to get to the AFC Championship, given the improvement by the Raiders and the Chiefs last season, and especially considering the upgrades for the Patriots this offseason.
Yet, at the NFL meetings, Elway indicated the Broncos intend to stay the course with the two quarterbacks and aren’t interested in pursuing Romo?
Is it possible the Broncos are posturing? Romo still hasn’t been released. Of, could it be that if the Texans, who desperately need a quarterback, end up with Romo, the Broncos wouldn’t have to spin for a second season why they lost a quarterback to Houston?
It’s just been suggested that the Broncos are worried about Romo’s recent injuries. That’s news? But the Broncos don’t seem worried that Siemian was limited all season as a junior at Northwestern with an ankle injury, then suffered a torn ACL as a senior, and was hurt three times the past season (right shoulder, left foot and left shoulder – a sprained AC joint that ended up with offseason surgery). He’s oft-injured.
Lynch is healthy and practicing in Florida with a quarterback guru and, presumably, without poster boards.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, John Fox and the Bears no longer have Cutler, but they did just sign Mark Sanchez, who was supposed to beat out Siemian and Lynch last year, and ended up with Dallas.
The owners’ meetings will conclude without a resolution of The Romo Matter.
It will go on until it doesn’t go on.
Oakland politicians refuse to take any blame for the departure of the Raiders – and one councilman wants to break their lease and kick them to the curb now. David DeBolt in the East Bay Times:
Minutes after NFL owners approved the Raiders move to Las Vegas, Councilman Larry Reid, angered by the decision, said he wants the team out of Coliseum as early as next season.
Reid is consulting with city attorneys to see if there is a legal way to kick the Raiders out of the facility, forcing them to play the next two seasons elsewhere. The current lease gives the team the option of playing the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons in Oakland.
But Reid, a longtime fan, was having none of that.
“I don’t want them here,” Reid said Monday morning. “They can go down to Santa Clara and play.”
The 31-1 NFL vote on Monday caps a stadium saga that dates back years in Oakland, with different attempts to move the team to Los Angeles, failed efforts to build a new stadium at the Coliseum site and a year of silence between owner Mark Davis and city officials.
It isn’t the first time the Raiders have left fans heartbroken. Davis’ father Al Davis moved the team to Los Angeles in 1982 when his demand for luxury boxes at the Coliseum didn’t come to pass. The team returned to Oakland for the 1995 season, after millions of dollars in renovations were made to the stadium, debt that the city and county are still paying off.
At a press conference after the vote, Davis sharply criticized Oakland city and Alameda County leaders, saying he lost confidence in them before he tried to move his team to Los Angeles in 2015. Davis was also unhappy over an annual rent increase, from $925,000 to $3.5 million, approved in 2016.
Mayor Libby Schaaf at a somber press conference Monday said the city did all it could to try to keep the team in Oakland. Davis, she said, refused to discuss the deal.
“The manly thing for him to do is at least admit we had a viable plan,” Schaaf said in response to Davis’ criticism.
Oakland is claiming to lose money by hosting Raiders games – and at the very least the stadium authority wants them gone by 2019. Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today:
The landlord of the Oakland Coliseum has been losing money on Raiders games and might force the team out of its current facility before its new, $1.9 billion Las Vegas stadium is ready in 2020.
Contractually, the Raiders only have options to stay at the Coliseum for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. But that leaves open the question of where they will play in 2019.
The answer — for now at least — is probably not in Oakland.
“I would say to you with the highest level of confidence, my opinion and recommendation and that of my board members — I don’t believe there is any appetite for a third season (in Oakland),” Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority executive director Scott McKibben told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.
That could put a wrinkle in Raiders owner Mark Davis’ hopeful message from Monday, when the NFL approved his franchise’s eventual move to Vegas.
“We have two more years of lease options for Oakland right now,” Davis said at the league’s annual meeting. “If the fans would like us to stay there, we’d love to be there for that and possibly talk to them about extending it for maybe 2019 as well, and try to bring a championship back to Oakland.”
It’s unclear where the Raiders would play otherwise.
Sam Boyd Stadium, home of the UNLV football team in Las Vegas, is an option but only has about 35,000 seats.
“It is possible and has been discussed as a potential solution,” UNLV spokesman Mark Wallington told USA TODAY Sports.
McKibben said Coliseum generates about $7 million per year in revenue from Raiders games, including $3.5 million in rent. But it has more than $8 million a year in Raiders-related expenses, including security, sanitation, ushers and field conversions between baseball and football events. The 51-year-old Coliseum is the only stadium left in the U.S. that houses both an NFL team and Major League Baseball team. There are roughly three field conversions per year, at a cost of about $450,000 each. Without the Raiders, that headache goes away and so do the financial losses under the current arrangement.
“It’s actually financially to our benefit if they didn’t exercise the options and play here even in the two years they’ve got (in 2017 and 2018),” McKibben added.
It sounds like MYLES GARRETT is heading to Cleveland. Mary Kay Cabot in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Hue Jackson met with the media at the annual coaches breakfast at the NFL Annual Meeting Tuesday and addressed a number of topics, including trying to trade for a quarterback, private workouts instead of pro days and who will play right tackle for him.
He can’t specifically address players on other teams, so he wasn’t able to talk about Jimmy Garoppolo or AJ McCarron, but he made it clear the Browns are still chasing some of those trade opportunities and “that everything is still on the table.” He also said the Browns aren’t finished in free agency and gave his thoughts on Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler.
1. If the Patriots ask for No. 1 for Garropolo, they won’t get it
Jackson will do everything he can to put a quarterback on the team — except trade the No. 1 overall pick.
“No. No. I can tell you no on that one, no,’’ he said.
He added, “Until we have the guy that we feel comfortable with that will be the face of our franchise, and play QB the way we want them to play, we’re going to keep searching. … There’s the draft that’s coming up. There’s trade opportunities hopefully. We’ll exhaust every opportunity.”
If Coach Adam Gase has his way, we may be seeing a lower completion percentage from QB RYAN TANNEHILL in 2017. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
Dolphins coach Adam Gase doesn’t want quarterback Ryan Tannehill worrying about making mistakes.
Gase said on PFT Live that his No. 1 priority for Tannehill in 2017 is to be willing to take chances, both with his arm and with his legs, if that’s what he has to do to make plays.
“Just be more aggressive,” Gase said. “I really want him to feel comfortable that his decision is going to be right. If he feels like something is not really happening the way he wants, escape from the pocket and not hesitate and worry about, Did I miss something? He’s a perfectionist so he wants to be able to stand back there and go through his progression, go one to two to his checkdown. Guys that have athletic ability, that can run, want to prove they can be a great pocket passer. All I care about is getting the first down and scoring points.”
Tannehill’s completion percentage was a career-high 67.1 percent in his first year in Gase’s offense, but Gase may be willing to see that number go down a little bit if it means Tannehill is taking more chances and making more plays downfield.
Get ready to boo New England fans. Roger Goodell says he is coming your way at last. John Breech at CBSSports.com:
After staying away from Gillette Stadium for two years, it looks like Roger Goodell is finally ready to make his return.
During his press conference at the NFL’s annual league meeting on Tuesday, the NFL commissioner was asked point blank if he’d be in New England for the the Patriots’ regular season opener, which is scheduled for Sept. 7.
Goodell didn’t hesitate with his answer and quickly offered up eight words that Patriots fans probably didn’t expect to hear.
“I plan to be at the kickoff game,” the commissioner said.
Goodell hasn’t attend a game at Gillette since January 2015 when Deflategate started. In May 2015, Tom Brady’s four-game suspension was handed down for the first time , and Goodell immediately became a villain in the Boston area. Since then, Goodell hasn’t been seen at at Patriots’ home game.
After attending the Falcons’ divisional playoff game in January, most fans thought for sure that Goodell would show up for the AFC title game in New England the next week. Instead, Goodell was in Atlanta, where he attended a Falcons game for the second straight week.
When Goodell didn’t show up for the AFC title game, fans in New England felt that he was purposely avoiding Gillette Stadium because he was actually afraid to step foot in the Patriots’ stadium.
NEW YORK JETS
Jets coach Todd Bowles is not handing the starting QB job to anyone. Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com:
The highly scrutinized Christian Hackenberg, who didn’t play a single snap last season as a rookie, will have a chance to claim the New York Jets’ starting quarterback job.
Todd Bowles, speaking to reporters Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings, declared it an open competition between holdovers Hackenberg and Bryce Petty and recently signed veteran Josh McCown.
Bowles also mentioned the possibility of selecting a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick, saying “there is a scenario” where that could occur.
Some assumed the 37-year-old McCown, with 14 years of experience, would be given the inside track after signing a one-year, $6 million contract (fully guaranteed) last week. But the organization wants to give Hackenberg, a second-round pick in 2016, a legitimate shot at the job.
“There will be heavy competition for the job,” Bowles said. “Nobody has been promised the starting quarterback job. They’ll all get a chance to play and we’ll make that decision, going forward, when training camp starts as we see production from certain people.”
The immediate plan is to have them “alternate reps” through the offseason, Bowles said. The organized team activities (OTA practices) begin May 23 and continue through June 15 with the conclusion of minicamp. At that point, they will re-evaluate.
Petty’s status is up in the air, as he’s still recovering from labrum surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. Bowles said he’s not sure when Petty will be able to resume throwing.
The Jets are rebuilding at quarterback because their most experienced signal callers from last season are gone. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a free agent (he won’t be re-signed) and Geno Smith signed a free-agent contract with the New York Giants.
In his first two seasons, Bowles declared a No. 1 quarterback at the start of training camp because he wanted the presumptive starter to get the bulk of the practice time to prepare for the season. He’d like to follow that plan, assuming one player separates from the field.
Essentially, Bowles is looking for a game manager.
“We just have to make sure we have a guy that doesn’t turn the ball over and we have a guy that can manage the room, and make sure we help that guy and not put it solely on the quarterback,” he said.
The organization is hoping Hackenberg can take a big leap in Year 2. He played poorly last preseason and struggled during in-season practices, although he never got much quality practice time because of a four-man depth chart.
“This year, he’ll have a chance to play and he’ll have some pep in his step,” said Bowles, who promised to be more involved in the offense under new coordinator John Morton.
As the draft approaches, the Jets have been linked to Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky with the sixth pick.
“We’ll see how it falls and we’ll look at the pros and cons of it and we’ll make that decision, but there is a scenario, yes,” he said.
Asked which quarterback he prefers, Bowles said without hesitation, “Roger Staubach.”
THIS AND THAT
How about a Mock Draft from Charley Casserly of NFL.com? He has the Browns getting hometown QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY at the bottom of the first round.
Myles Garrett – DE, Texas A&M
The Browns, who are going to a 4-3 defense, get the best pass rusher in the draft.
2 SAN FRANCISCO
Solomon Thomas – DE, Stanford
Pass rush is the 49ers’ biggest need. My question is whether Thomas can provide an outside rush.
Jonathan Allen – DE, Alabama
Allen is an excellent 3-4 defensive end who gives you an inside pass rush.
Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU
Fournette will take pressure off of Blake Bortles.
Marshon Lattimore – CB, Ohio State
Lattimore has terrific cover skills, but are his hamstrings an area of concern?
Jamal Adams – S, LSU
Jets get an impact safety who can cover and play the run.
Malik Hooker – S, Ohio State
Hooker is an exceptional cover safety.
Dalvin Cook – RB, Florida State
Cook is an explosive back who will help Cam Newton.
Derek Barnett – DE, Tennessee
Barnett will instantly upgrade the Bengals’ pass rush.
Mike Williams – WR, Clemson
This would give Tyrod Taylor an exceptional target, especially in the red zone.
11 NEW ORLEANS
Reuben Foster – LB, Alabama
Foster reminds me of Luke Kuechly. I expect Saints to fill their cornerback need by trading for Malcolm Butler.
O.J. Howard – TE, Alabama
Howard fills a major need for the Browns. Quarterback comes later. Keep reading!
Gareon Conley – CB, Ohio State
A strong spring and combine has helped him. So has the injury to Sidney Jones.
Tre’Davious White – CB, LSU
Cornerback was a major problem for the Eagles last season.
Takkarist McKinley – DE, UCLA
The Colts need help with their outside pass rush.
Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan
Davis is a big target for Joe Flacco.
Caleb Brantley – DL, Florida
The Redskins don’t have a defensive lineman who can stop the run. If Brantley is their guy, they could trade back and pick him up later.
John Ross – WR, Washington
Marcus Mariota gets a deep threat.
19 TAMPA BAY
Christian McCaffrey – RB, Stanford
The versatile McCaffrey can fill many roles, including running back, wide receiver, and return specialist.
Garett Bolles – OT, Utah
Left tackle is a major need for the Broncos, and Bolles is a good fit.
Charles Harris – DE, Missouri
The Lions get a bookend pass rusher opposite Ziggy Ansah.
T.J. Watt – LB, Wisconsin
Miami can play him at outside linebacker on run downs and defensive end on passing downs.
Ryan Ramczyk – OT, Wisconsin
The Giants get the left tackle they desperately need. Erick Flowers moves to the right side.
Zach Cunningham – LB, Vanderbilt
Cunningham is an instinctive, athletic linebacker who can play all three downs.
Cam Robinson – OT, Alabama
Robinson would start immediately at right tackle for the Texans. Tony Romo is happy!
Haason Reddick – LB, Temple
I think the Seahawks will take a pass rusher over an offensive lineman and cornerback in the first round. They have had success getting those positions later in the draft.
27 KANSAS CITY
Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson
Good landing spot here for Watson. He doesn’t have to play right away, and Andy Reid has had success developing quarterbacks.
Marlon Humphrey – CB, Alabama
Humphrey fills a major need created by losses of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency.
29 GREEN BAY
Teez Tabor – CB, Florida
Tabor needs to run faster than he did at the combine. I like him as a player.
Jabrill Peppers – S, Michigan
Is Peppers another Troy Polamalu?
Taco Charlton – DE, Michigan
Charlton plays better than he times.
32 CLEVELAND (from New Orleans)
Mitchell Trubisky – QB, North Carolina
(Projected trade with Saints) Excellent first-round haul by Browns with Myles Garrett, O.J. Howard and now Trubisky.
Not sure why Casserley has this trade here. The Browns also have the next pick, the first pick of the second round.
If the Browns do want Trubisky, we think they would invest more of their capital to get ahead of Houston at #25.