The Daily Briefing Tuesday, May 8, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
With the Sedins of hockey fame retiring, fans of twins can turn to the NFL. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Seahawks made news at the NFL draft when they selected Shaquem Griffin, the twin brother of Seattle’s second-year player Shaquill Griffin. But the Patriots had already beaten them to uniting twin brothers on the same team this offseason.
New England traded for Jason McCourty this offseason, adding him to a team that already had Devin McCourty, and they already had Jacob Hollister, who was on the Patriots’ regular-season roster last year, and his twin brother Cody Hollister, who was on the Patriots’ practice squad last year.
Barring injury, the Griffins and McCourtys are sure to make their respective rosters, which will make them the first pairs of twins to be teammates in an NFL regular season game since Gene and Tom Golsen played for the Louisville Colonels in 1926, according to ESPN.
Some sources also list Earl and Myrl Goodwin on the 1928 Pottsville Maroons as twin brothers who played together, but suffice to say, twins haven’t been teammates in a regular season NFL game in at least 90 years. And it is likely to happen both in Seattle and New England this year.
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S ERIC REID – a better player at his position than COLIN KAEPERNICK – does not have a contract. The NFLPA files a grievance on his behalf. NFL.com:
The NFL Players Association filed a non-injury grievance and a system arbitrator case on behalf of free-agent safety Eric Reid on Monday.
The union based its grievance on the premise that no NFL rule mandates players stand during the playing of the national anthem, that the league has indicated it respects “the rights of players to demonstrate,” and the collective bargaining agreement states “league rules supersede club rules,” according to a NFLPA press release.
The NFLPA asked representatives of free agent players “who had participated in peaceful on-field demonstrations to collect, memorialize and report any relevant information about potential violations of the [CBA] by teams,” per the release.
Monday’s move by the Players Association comes after Reid and his representatives last week filed a grievance under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, alleging collusion that has denied him a job for the upcoming 2018 season.
“Colin [Kaepernick] and Eric have taken courageous action at the expense of their professional careers and personal lives,” Reid’s attorney, Mark Geragos said in a statement to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Geragos also represents Kaepernick in his grievance case.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the NFLPA in our fight for justice, equality and inalienable rights of all Americans.”
Reid met with the Cincinnati Bengals last month for what has been his only free-agent visit, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
Tony Romo with a heartfelt tribute to Jason Witten.
“Sometimes in life you are lucky to come across someone that will change your life. Most of the time you don’t realize it at the moment the profound impact and impression someone will have on you. The difference with Jason Witten is that I knew right away the impact he would have on me. Not only was Jason the most talented, humble and hardest working individual on our football team, but he was one of the most genuine, good-hearted people you could ever meet.
“Some things that are etched in my memory are the workouts in the off-season during our younger years. Jason wouldn’t give an inch. He had to work the hardest. It was just inside him to give maximum effort every single day.
“When we were young I remember him running the two hundred yard shuttles, the four hundred yard shuttles, and willing himself to the finish line every day. Jason has in insatiable desire to win and no matter how he felt day in and day out, he was going to finish and win. If I were a betting man then I would bet he never lost one of those races… not one. The fastest player didn’t always win those races but it was all will. Nobody had a stronger will than 82.
“Because of that effort nobody in that facility was allowed to give half effort when your two hundred and sixty pound leader was beating everyone to the finish line. He just couldn’t accept someone having an edge on him. He had to succeed… he had to win.
“He couldn’t stand it if a defensive back ever felt like he got the best of 82 that day. He wanted that DB to know that he was in for a long practice or game guarding him. He couldn’t accept being average.
“I will also remember him coming to the side lines trying to be respectful of how tough the quarterback’s job was during the games but sometimes he just couldn’t control himself. He would say things like, ‘Hey 9, I know we ain’t got much time back there, but I got HQ fricking harris guarding me. I’m getting open pretty quickly now, don’t be afraid to take a peek if you got the time.” That was code for Jason saying ‘I am wide open and I have a bum on me if you haven’t noticed.’ ….. and sure enough every time I watched the tape, he was always right.
“During big moments in my career, the first guy I was looking for was Jason Witten. I knew where he would be and I knew he would get open and not once, not once did I ever go to him late in the game on a key down when he was one on one and him not deliver. He always came through.
“In the playoffs in 2014, it was fourth down against the Lions in the fourth quarter…needing a touchdown to take the lead and being our last drive of the game we called a timeout. As I stood on the sideline deciding what play we wanted to call in the most pressure packed moment of our season, by brain wanted to call Y option. The problem was the Lions had double-teamed Jason most of the day and especially on key downs and distances. Nothing would be more key than this.
“On the sideline, the coaches and I decided we would call two plays to ensure we got a good call. The problem was as I stood at the line of scrimmage that the Lions changed the defense from what they used all game. Without knowing for sure what they would be in, I changed both plays and went to ‘Tennessee, Tennessee.’
“You see, I didn’t know what the perfect play was versus their coverage, but I did know I had the perfect player. Jason made a move that was rare but brought him wide open. Any high school QB could have delivered that ball. The secret to the play was trusting the best player to be the best player … and he was.
“Jason, you have set the standard for every player and coach who walks through the Cowboys facility that there’s one way to play and there’s one way to practice. …And guess what, you can be a great teammate and husband and father while doing it.
“To the best I ever played with.”
SI.com hears from QB CARSON WENTZ that he expects to be good to go when training camp starts:
When asked about a possible return for Week 1 of the 2018 season, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said he is “very confident” it can happen.
“I’m very confident. It’s a fluid process so you never how it’s going to go. But where we’re at, just trying to do what the doctors say and take it step-by-step…I feel really good and really confident for Week 1,” Wentz said.
Wentz tore his ACL and LCL in his left knee on Dec. 10 during a game against the Rams. He missed the remainder of the season, including the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory.
“We’ve started the running progression and all those things,” Wentz said in April. “I’m feeling good. I’m feeling good with where I’m at. Just trying to stay the course. But, like I said late last season, it’s such a fluid process. It’s so hard to put a time frame and a timetable on these things. I wish I knew, as well.”
The Eagles’ voluntary workout program started last month.
In April, when he was asked how he dealt with seeing Foles lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win from the sidelines, Wentz was honest with his feelings.
“You gotta fight that,” Wentz said. “It’s human nature to want to be on that podium and be that guy. You grew up wanting to do that as a kid. To not be able to be up there, I wouldn’t rather have anyone else up there other than Nick [Foles].”
Former Denver RB C.J. ANDERSON signs with the Panthers. Joseph Person in the Charlotte Observer:
As he was weighing his offers after the Denver Broncos cut him following a 1,000-yard season, running back C.J. Anderson saw in the Carolina Panthers a team that fit his style.
From their offensive system, to the guy he’ll be lining up alongside in the backfield, to the motto that’s plastered throughout Bank of America Stadium and across Charlotte.
“As far as ground and pound, the Keep Pounding slogan that Carolina likes to (use), the ground and pound game I think fits (me) well,” Anderson said Monday, shortly after signing a one-year deal with Carolina. “Breaking tackles and finding ways to use that to make long runs and bigger plays, also catching the ball out of the backfield, too.
“But having a guy like McCaffrey, who’s super shifty and also can do some of the same things, it can be a great complementary (relationship) with each other.”
The Panthers found what they hope will be their thunder to complement McCaffrey’s lightning.
General manager Marty Hurney certainly thinks so, saying he felt fortunate to be able to add a back with Anderson’s ability so late in the offseason.
“He’s such a talented runner,” Hurney said. “He’s got great vision, plays with great pad level and runs with excellent leverage and gets the extra yards after contact.”
Anderson, 27, was released by Denver three weeks ago despite coming off a 1,007-yard rushing season, the ninth-highest total in the league. It was a cost-cutting move by the Broncos, who saved $4.5 million against the salary cap by letting Anderson go.
The Panthers were looking for a physical back to replace Jonathan Stewart, who was released in February and later signed with the Giants. Hurney had his eye on the 5-8, 224-pound Anderson as soon as the Broncos cut him.
“We feel very good. He’s an excellent running back and we’ve been talking with (Anderson’s agent) Peter Schaffer since he was released,” Hurney said. “He certainly comes in an helps make our running back position a lot deeper and a lot stronger with the other guys we have.”
The Panthers weren’t ready to enter the season with seldom-used Cameron Artis-Payne as their only between-the-tackles back.
Anderson said he had other teams interested in him, but would not identify them. But he liked the Panthers’ commitment to the running game as well as their “championship-caliber team.”
“I thought this was the best football move for me personally,” he said. “The style that Carolina likes to play definitely fits my style and my game.”
No surprise. The Saints have parted ways with TE COBY FLEENER. Herbie Teope of NFL.com:
Tight end Coby Fleener’s time in New Orleans has come to a close.
The Saints released Fleener on Monday with a failed physical designation. The team classified Fleener as a post-June 1 cut, which will save them $3 million in salary cap space.
The 6-foot-6, 251-pound Fleener joined the Saints in 2016 on a five-year, $36 million deal during free agency.
While there was hope Fleener would provide quarterback Drew Brees another weapon on one of the NFL’s top offenses, the tight end’s production over the past two seasons didn’t match the contract.
In two seasons with the Saints, Fleener appeared in 27 games with nine starts, totaling 72 catches for 926 yards and five touchdowns. Fleener’s 2017 season came to an early close after suffering a devastating concussion in Week 12 against the Rams.
After first recanting her story of domestic violence by LB RUEBEN FOSTER, his former girlfriend is now adding even more lurid charges. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
More details have emerged about the domestic violence complaint against 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, including a previously unreported allegation that he threw his ex-girlfriend’s dog across a room.
Although Foster, who is charged with three felonies, is not facing any type of animal cruelty charges, the Sacramento Bee reports that Foster’s ex-girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, told police he threw her dog across a room during an argument. The dog was not injured.
Ennis told police that Foster hit her 10 times and smashed her phone as she was calling 911. Police charged him with a felony domestic violence charge, a felony charge of attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime, and a felony charge for possessing an assault weapon. Ennis later said through her attorney that she made up the story about him hitting her because she was angry at him.
However, prosecutors did not drop the charges after Ennis recanted, and there are other witnesses, including a driver Ennis flagged down who allowed Ennis to use her phone to call 911, and a friend Ennis called from that driver’s phone. Police also say that Foster admitted he broke phones belonging to Ennis on two separate occasions.
And even if Foster can’t be convicted of the domestic violence charge because Ennis recanted her claim, when police responded to the scene they found a Sig Sauer short-barreled rifle on the floor of the bathroom with a loaded 30-round magazine and a round in the chamber. So the case against Foster goes beyond just the word of one accuser.
Foster has a court date Tuesday morning in connection with the case.
Owner Steven Ross had to be talked into letting the Dolphins pick DB MINKAH FITZPATRICK. Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wasn’t initially on board with his team taking Minkah Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports.
Instead, Ross wanted the Dolphins to trade back in order to acquire more picks and to save money on the first-rounder, per Volin.
The Dolphins’ football people talked Ross out of giving up the spot.
As Greg Cote of the Miami Herald noted Monday, the pressure isn’t on Fitzpatrick. It is on the Dolphins to have made the right choice. Fitzpatrick is the 15th player the team has selected 11th overall or higher, and the previous 14 produced a mix bag.
Fitzpatrick, a first-team All-American, was not expected to remain on the board as long as he did. He had nine interceptions and 171 tackles in his career.
The Dolphins might have drafted a quarterback if any of the top-four prospects remained on the board, but of course, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen were snapped up in the top-10 picks.
Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier admitted after the first round that the team had talks with “a couple of teams” about moving up or down, which is not unusual for any team.
“Really, the way it all played out, we didn’t think any of the quarterbacks would make it to us,” Grier said. “For us, we talked to a couple of teams about maybe moving up or down but nothing real serious. For us, at the end of the day, if one of those [top quarterbacks] was there, we would have talked about it; but we just didn’t think anybody would be there.”
The Patriots are signaling a willingness to “re-structure” the contract of TE ROB GRONKOWSKI. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
Rob Gronkowski assured the New England Patriots two weeks ago that he is intent on playing for the franchise in 2018.
After reportedly flirting this offseason with a second career on the big screen, in the professional wrestling ring or most recently, for promotion’s sake, on a dirt-bike track, Gronk assuaged fears that he would retire when he announced via Instagram statement that he was “looking forward to another championship run.” But his return to Foxborough won’t come cheap.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported two weeks ago that Gronk’s reasons for skipping voluntary workouts were financial, and the Patriots have received the tight end’s message loud and clear.
“The Patriots are willing to adjust Gronkowski’s contract for at least a year,” Rapoport reported on Monday’s edition of NFL Up to the Minute. “They never do extensions two years out, but they are at least open to taking a look at Gronkowski’s deal and giving him some more money which he no doubt deserves.
“He has stayed away from the Patriots, which is believed to be related to his contract. When they do come up with a new deal or part of a new deal, Gronkowski will in fact probably show up.”
Rapoport added that Gronk and the Pats are doing a similar dance to one they did before last season after which New England reworked the 2017 year of his deal and added $5.5 million in incentives, all of which the tight end hit.
It’s not known how exactly Gronkowski wants to redo his deal. As his contract currently stands, Gronk is slated to make $8 million in base salary, including a $656K roster bonus and $250K workout bonus, per Spotrac. The tight end’s $10.9 million cap number is the highest of his career. Gronk’s deal runs through 2019 after which he is an unrestricted free agent.
The 28-year-old tight end is a year-in, year-out injury risk, but when healthy he’s a surefire All-Pro and debatably the greatest tight end in the history of the sport.
Gronkowski will be back in a Patriots uniform and catching passes from Tom Brady in 2018, but under what terms remains to be seen.
THIS AND THAT
Besides Jason Witten, there is another analyst joining Monday Night Football – and even with Jon Gruden gone there is still a Tampa resident on board. Andrew Marchand in the New York Post:
ESPN has its full “Monday Night Football” broadcasting team in place.
ESPN is adding Booger McFarland as an on-field analyst, sources confirmed. The previously reported Joe Tessitore and Jason Witten will be in the booth. Lisa Salters will continue in a more traditional sideline role.
The Athletic first reported McFarland’s hiring.
The Post reported last month that McFarland had auditioned for a role on Monday Night. McFarland is looked at internally as a rising star after his work on college football. During the first week of the much-publicized “Get Up!” McFarland occupied the rotation fourth role next to Michelle Beadle, Mike Greenberg and Jalen Rose.
The use of an on-field analyst has been done before, as for years Fox had Tony Siragusa on the sideline with Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston in the booth. Siragusa even had a whole setup on the sideline, including, at one point, a telestrator.
The advantage for an analyst on the field is having a sideline view of line play and potentially pick up tidbits from the bench. The disadvantage is the three broadcasters can’t make eye contact, which can lead to talking over one another or sounding stilted as they wait for the go-ahead from a producer.
For ESPN, this concludes a long process in their search for Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden’s replacement on Monday Night. Gruden left for a $100 million coaching contract with the Raiders, while McDonough switched spots with Tessitore. McDonough is once again ESPN’s No. 2 college football play-by-player.
ESPN first wanted Peyton Manning to be the lead analyst and was willing to pay him around the same as Gruden’s $6.5 million salary, but Manning said no. It also auditioned Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Louis Riddick and Rex Ryan, among others, for the job.
Our first look at the 2019 draft comes from Dane Brugler of ProDraftScout.com. JOEY BOSA has a brother.
It is way too early to forecast prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft, let alone matching them with specific teams.
But a mock draft this year can be beneficial if used as a watch list, predicting 32 of the top NFL prospects to track entering the 2018 college football season.
In fact, predicting the top 32 players is probably a lot easier than figuring which teams will draft where after next season is over. So, the order here was determined using the inverse order of the current Super Bowl odds, per my personal advisor. Of course, like all other long-range guesses, odds may vary elsewhere.
And we’re assuming that certain underclassmen on this list will actually declare for the draft. Most of those picks seem like good bets, but everyone would have said the same thing last year about a trio of Clemson draft-eligible defensive linemen who decided to return to school. Two (senior Christian Wilkins and redshirt junior Clelin Ferrell) are listed here in 2019, along with Tigers junior defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.
1. New York Jets — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State*
The Jets believe they have the quarterback of the future in Sam Darnold, but they are still missing the second-most important piece on the roster: an impact pass rusher. Bosa, who is growing into a better version of his older brother, would solve that.
2. Chicago Bears — Ed Oliver, DL, Houston*
At 290 pounds, Oliver has the foot quickness of a linebacker to penetrate gaps and give blockers trouble. The Aaron Donald comparisons will be plentiful over the next 12 months.
3. Miami Dolphins — Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan*
Lining up both inside and outside in Michigan’s hybrid front, Gary is entering year three in Don Brown’s scheme and should emerge as one of college football’s most disruptive forces.
4. Cincinnati Bengals — Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Similar to Josh Allen in the 2018 class, Lock checks the boxes with his physical traits, although he remains undeveloped in several key areas of playing the position.
5. Cleveland Browns — Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama*
A physical freak at 6-7 and 305 pounds, Davis has a chance to emerge as the best NFL prospect produced by Alabama during the Nick Saban era.
6. Buffalo Bills — Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
At 300 pounds, Wilkins has the body control and athleticism of a defensive end with his ability to knife through gaps, find the ball carrier and finish.
7. Arizona Cardinals — Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson*
The former top high school recruit in the nation, Lawrence is a massive human being (340 pounds) who can force his way through gaps or handle double-teams.
8. Washington Redskins — Devin White, LB, LSU*
The SEC produced the best linebacker prospect in the 2018 class (Roquan Smith) and they will do the same in the 2019 class with White, who is bigger, but just as fast as Smith.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss*
With Donovan Smith entering the final year of his rookie deal, left tackle could be on the shopping list next offseason for Tampa, and Little has the potential to be the top offensive line prospect next spring.
10. Indianapolis Colts — Andraez Williams, CB, LSU*
Better known by his nickname, Greedy, Williams has a tall, long frame with the ball skills (17 passes defended and six interceptions in 2017) that will draw NFL attention.
11. New York Giants — Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama*
Williams has started all 29 games in his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa, first at right tackle before moving to the left side as a sophomore. His draft arrow is pointing north.
12. Tennessee Titans — Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State*
The off-field baggage will be hotly debated next draft season, but strictly talking about on the field, Simmons has the athletic traits at 6-4 and 310 pounds to be a dominant player.
13. Detroit Lions — Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson*
With Ziggy Ansah playing the 2018 season on the franchise tag, pass rusher could be a dire need next offseason and Ferrell (9.5 sacks in 2017) will push for top-10 consideration next April.
14. Baltimore Ravens — Devin Bush, OLB, Michigan*
A substantial reason Michigan ranked top-three in the FBS in total defense last season was the emergence of Bush, who led the Wolverines with 102 tackles and did a little bit of everything.
15. Seattle Seahawks — AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss*
The only proven pass-catcher on the Seattle roster with a contract beyond the 2018 is Doug Baldwin, putting Brown (75 catches, 1,252 yards, 11 touchdowns) on the Seahawks’ radar.
16. Los Angeles Chargers — Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan*
Although he still has plenty to prove, Patterson flashed big-time potential at Ole Miss, and one season under Jim Harbaugh could catapult him into the draft’s first round.
17. Denver Broncos — Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
Stidham performed well in his first season at Auburn last season (66.7 percent completions, 17-4 touchdown-interception ratio), and NFL scouts are hopeful to see another promising step in 2018.
18. Oakland Raiders — Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia*
The team-leader in passes defended (12) last season, Baker plays tight coverage down the field, getting his head turned to locate and make plays on the football.
19. Kansas City Chiefs — Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
The 2019 draft class’ version of Haason Reddick, Allen has been asked to do a little bit of everything, rushing off the edge, playing the run and even lining up across from receivers in the slot.
20. Houston Texans — Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma*
Baker Mayfield was the main playmaker on the Oklahoma offense, but he wasn’t the only playmaker and Anderson doesn’t get enough credit for his sophomore production, finishing with 201 rushing yards vs. Georgia.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech
With Dante Fowler hitting free agency after the 2018 season, pass rusher could be a position the Jaguars look to upgrade through the draft and Ferguson has a chance to break into round one with a strong senior year.
22. Carolina Panthers — Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Adams was considered a potential first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft before a torn ACL forced his return to school for his senior season.
23. San Francisco 49ers — N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State*
Another weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo, Harry has a tall, rangy frame with the innate ball skills to pluck the ball out of the air and make acrobatic catches appear routine.
24. Green Bay Packers (from NO) — Mack Wilson, OLB, Alabama*
The Packers need to get younger at pass rusher and Wilson might be the best all-around athlete on the Crimson Tide defense at 6-2 and 235 pounds.
25. Atlanta Falcons — Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
While Harold Landry was the main attraction on the BC defense last season, Allen also caught the eyes of NFL scouts and enters the 2018 season with a chance to be a top-32 pick next April.
26. Dallas Cowboys — Noah Fant, TE, Iowa*
It is now the post-Witten era in Dallas and unless a tight end on the roster emerges this season, the position could be high on the wish list next offseason. His athleticism makes Fant an appealing up-and-coming prospect.
27. Los Angeles Rams — Chase Winovich, DE/OLB, Michigan
The fourth Michigan player on this list, Winovich might not have any special qualities, but he consistently brings pressure off the edge with his hard-charging motor.
28. Minnesota Vikings — Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State*
A possible first-round pick if he left early for the 2018 NFL Draft, Jones would be the first Buckeyes interior defensive lineman drafted in the first round since 2001.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers — Brian Burns, DE/OLB, Florida State*
The Florida State tape shows a streaky player, but Burns has first-round potential with his burst and length off the edge.
30. Green Bay Packers — Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami (Fla.)
With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix entering the final year of his rookie deal, safety could be a need next offseason and if it is, Johnson is one of the few safety prospects with top-32 potential.
31. Philadelphia Eagles — Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State*
Oklahoma State had one of the most explosive offenses in college football last season and Hill (not Mason Rudolph nor James Washington) was the most impressive cog in that machine.
32. New England Patriots — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon*
Despite missing almost half of last season with a broken collarbone, there is plenty of optimism surrounding Herbert as a pro prospect as he enters his junior season in 2018.