The Daily Briefing Wednesday, February 14, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
There was a time that the NFL had a rotation of teams for the Hall of Fame Game published years in advance. Now, they wait until they see who makes the Hall – and this year there are linebackers from the Bears and Ravens. The AP:
The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL’s 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.
The Ravens’ first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league’s 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.
Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.
The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.
This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.
– – –
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has a list of 21 AFC players that may be cap casualties:
Strong candidates for release
1) Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills: Taylor accepted a restructured contract to remain the Bills’ starter last offseason. He’s not playing that game this time around, so the Bills will have to either use $18 million in cap room on Taylor or set him free. I believe Taylor is worth that money as a mid-level starter, but it will be tough for the Bills to attract anything more than a late-round pick for Taylor in a potential trade after they benched him for rookie Nathan Peterman ahead of a Week 11 game against the Chargers. Taylor’s 2018 status was all but written that day in Los Angeles, despite the fact that he was quickly reinstated as the starter and helped Buffalo end its long playoff drought.
2) DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans: In a feast-or-famine career that has included stints with three teams over the last four seasons, Murray became a symbol for all things Mike Mularkey in Tennessee. With Mularkey out as head coach, it’s hard to see how the Titans justify spending $6.5 million on Murray while Derrick Henry (who is nearly six years younger and gained 4.7 total yards per touch, compared to Murray’s 4.1) waits in the wings.
3) Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets: Wilkerson will wind up earning $36.75 million over two years of the “five-year, $86 million” contract he signed just two years ago. The move looked like a no-brainer at the time, just like Wilkerson’s release does now. The Jets didn’t even suit Wilkerson up late in the season, presumably out of fear that he’d get hurt, which would have potentially meant guaranteeing his 2018 salary. The team can save $17 million in cap space by designating him a post-June 1 cut.
4) Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets: Still an asset as receiver, Forte could potentially find one more job next season, when he’ll turn 33. It just won’t be for the $4 million he’s currently set to make. Respect is due to the former second-rounder from Tulane, who has gained more yards from scrimmage (14,468) than anyone in the NFL since being drafted in 2008.
5) Julius Thomas, TE, Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins seemingly try a different free-agent tight end every year, and they never pan out. Due $6.5 million in base salary next season, Thomas (who scored 12 touchdowns in the last three seasons combined after notching 24 from 2013 through ’14 in Denver) is one of many pass-catchers whom Peyton Manning helped get paid over the years.
6) Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Signed in a headline-grabbing move last summer, Maclin (40 catches, 440 yards, three touchdowns) was outplayed by Mike Wallace (52 catches, 748 yards) in 2017. The team could be starting from scratch again at the position if general manager Ozzie Newsome — in what is planned to be his last free agency period in that role — cuts Maclin, who is due $7.5 million.
7) Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans: Though Cushing is one of the defining players in Texans franchise history, it was a small surprise Houston didn’t cut him after his suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances last season, the second such suspension of his career. Diminishing production — along with the $7.6 million the Texans would save by letting him go — should spell the end of his nine-year run in Houston.
8) Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos: I’m listing Talib based more on local reporting than logic. Talib turns 32 on the day this article gets published, but he’s still performing at a very high level. Longtime beat writer Mike Klis said Talib was expected to be on the trade block, which is usually the kiss of death. ESPN’s Jeff Legwold found three opposing general managers who expected Talib to be released. With Bradley Roby’s salary climbing and Chris Harris making over $10 million, the Broncos now look likely to save $11 million by letting go of Talib. He has the extremely rare distinction of having been a top-shelf free-agent signing for two different teams.
9-10) Chris Ivory, RB, and Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: GM David Caldwell made all the right moves in 2017. The same wasn’t true in 2016, when he gave Ivory a big free-agent contract and re-signed Hurns on a too-early extension for a former undrafted free agent. Cutting both players would save nearly $11 million in cap space, which is far too much to spend on two players who struggled to find playing time last season.
11-12) Tamba Hali, DE, and Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City Chiefs: Hali is certain to get cut, a move the Chiefs likely would have made a year ago if not for the guaranteed money in the longtime pass rusher’s contract. Dumping Johnson will be a tougher move, even with Johnson at 35 years old. But the team has found his replacement in Reggie Ragland, and new GM Brett Veach wants to make the roster younger. These moves would mark the end of an era, with 25 combined years of experience, nine combined Pro Bowl nods and a lot of terrific play in Kansas City walking out the door. (UPDATE: After the publishing of this piece on Tuesday, the Chiefs announced that Derrick Johnson will indeed hit free agency. The final remaining year of his contract will reportedly void on March 14.)
13) Mike Mitchell, S, Pittsburgh Steelers: Mitchell was hardly the only issue in the Steelers’ secondary late last season, but he’s the easiest to move on from because of his $8.1 million cap figure.
THE X-FACTOR: Broncos receivers. The Denver Post noted that Emmanuel Sanders could be placed on the trade block this offseason. Fellow starter Demaryius Thomas, meanwhile, is scheduled to have a $12 million cap charge.
I wouldn’t think either receiver is at much risk of leaving, but Broncos GM John Elway is looking to shake things up this offseason and was notably non-committal when asked about the duo at the Senior Bowl. Sanders would appear to be the more likely candidate to go.
On the bubble
1-2) Sean Smith, CB, and Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders: Both players were once believed to be goners in Oakland, although the organization’s change in coaching staff could alter those plans. Smith, who has not lived up to his big free-agent contract, has a cap figure of $8.5 million. The release of fellow veteran corner David Amerson could be a sign Smith will stick around. Crabtree’s signing has worked in Oakland’s favor overall, but his trajectory took a nose-dive last season. How much rebuilding does Jon Gruden really want to do?
3) Lorenzo Alexander, LB, Buffalo Bills: A fantastic story as a Pro Bowler in 2016, Alexander — who will turn 35 in May — came back to Earth last season.
4) Ja’Wuan James, T, Miami Dolphins: The Miami Herald believes the Dolphins won’t keep their 2014 first-round pick at his current $9 million salary, which is a bit of a surprise for a talented young tackle.
5) Dwayne Allen, TE, New England Patriots: Bill Belichick barely gave up anything in trade compensation to get Allen from the Colts last offseason, which is good, because he barely produced (10 catches for 86 yards) for a player making so much money. The Patriots would save $5 million by cutting him.
6-7) Adam Jones, CB, and Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals: On most teams, Jones and Johnson’s combined age (65 years old) and cap number ($13 million) would make them likely goners. But owner Mike Brown is more loyal to “his guys” than most, as the team’s coaching situation indicates.
8) Corey Liuget, DT, Los Angeles Chargers: He hasn’t lived up to his contract, but could the Chargers find a better player than Liuget? It’s more likely that the team keeps Liuget on this win-now team and evaluates his status again next offseason.
Other players in trouble: Chiefs safety Ron Parker, Jets guard James Carpenter, Patriots linebacker David Harris, Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch, Jets offensive lineman Ben Ijalana, Steelers safety J.J. Wilcox, Steelers cornerback William Gay, Titans quarterback Matt Cassel, Titans safety Da’Norris Searcy and Broncos tackle Menelik Watson.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Pat Shurmur with an interesting hire as OC and QB coach. Ryan Dunleavy of the Newark Star-Ledger:
Giants coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman officially are thinking alike.
Shurmur will hire Mike Shula as double-duty Giants offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, NJ Advance Media has confirmed. Shula worked as offensive coordinator for the Panthers under coach Ron Rivera during Gettleman’s tenure as general manager.
Rivera received a contract extension last month on the same day that the Panthers fired Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey. Gettleman was fired last May.
There are easily correctable problems with the current system.
Shula, whose father is the legendary former Colts and Dolphins coach Don Shula, and Shumur have not previously worked together. Shurmur intends to call plays on gamedays but wanted a trusted offensive coordinator with input into game plans, and now he has experience at his right hand.
Shurmur wanted to interview Kevin Stefanski but the Vikings denied the request because they plan to keep Stefanski as quarterbacks coach after bypassing him to hire John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator. Shurmur and Stefanski worked together in Minnesota in 2016-17.
Under NFL rules, teams must receive permission to interview assistant coaches under contract if the vacancy is another assistant job. No distinction is made between position coach and coordinator.
But Shula, 52, checks the box of well-versed with quarterbacks and was on the open market. He previously was quarterbacks coach for the Panthers, Jaguars, Dolphins and Buccaneers, with a four-year stint as head coach of Alabama preceding Nick Saban mixed in to his resume.
In 2015, when the Panthers reached the Super Bowl, Shula was named Offensive Coordinator of the Year by Pro Football Focus. Shurmur was named Assistant Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers Association for his work as Vikings offensive coordinator in 2017.
For the Giants, it’s about trying to squeeze more out of a 37-year-old Eli Manning in 2018 and developing young quarterbacks like Davis Webb and a potential No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft.
It was thought Shurmur might target another of his Eagles’ connections, running backs coach Duce Staley. It seems unlikely the Eagles would have granted permission to their rival, however. Especially after losing offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo off of a Super Bowl-winning staff.
But hiring Staley to his first coordinator job would have required hiring a separate quarterbacks coach.
Former Seahawks and Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell also was connected to the job.
Doug Pederson’s two top offensive aides have moved elsewhere. For now, the plan is to go forward without an offensive coordinator. Matt Lombardo of NJ.com:
The Eagles have no immediate plans to fill the offensive coordinator job left vacant by Frank Reich’s hiring as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, according to a report from Ian Rapoport of The NFL Network.
Coach Doug Pederson has run the offense since arriving in Philadelphia, but Frank Reich had the coordinator title. With Reich gone, RBs coach Duce Staley and WRs coach Mike Groh were believed to be the favorites for a promotion, but it looks like the Eagles will leave the position open. With Reich and ex-QBs coach John DeFilippo out the door, both Staley and Groh will have much more on their plates moving forward even if they are not given an official promotion.
While it appears unconventional, going forward without an offensive coordinator of offensive-minded head coach Doug Pederson — who calls the plays — is not out of the ordinary in the NFL.
The Houston Texans do not have an offensive coordinator on head coach Bill O’Brien’s staff, nor do the San Francisco 49ers on Kyle Shanahan’s staff.
As Rapoport points out, wide receivers coach Mike Groh could be promoted to “Passing Game Coordinator” and running backs coach Duce Staley to “Running Game Coordinator,” which would allow two long-term lieutenants to garner both improved titles and responsibilities while avoiding the need to rebuild the coaching staff and fill multiple vacancies.
Monday, the Eagles promoted Press Taylor to quarterbacks coach, replacing John DeFilippo who was hired as the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator.
Owner Michael Bidwill assures the team’s fans that they will have a quarterback. Darren Urban at AzCardinals.com:
Michael Bidwill has his coach, having hired Steve Wilks a few weeks ago, and he has long had his General Manager, emphasizing that Monday when Steve Keim got a contract extension.
The quarterback comes next. And after the Cardinals’ president watched his new coach and then-new GM follow a similar path in 2013 in search of a signal-caller that ultimately led to Carson Palmer, Bidwill remains confident the Cardinals will do something similar in 2018.
“Today, we’ve got the GM in place (with Steve Keim), and I really like our head coach (Steve Wilks) and everything I’ve seen from him so far,” Bidwill said Tuesday morning during an appearance on 98.7, Arizona’s Sports Station. “The quarterback thing will come. I don’t want to sound like we’re being cavalier about it but we’ve got to wait for free agency to start to see who is out there.
“I know we’re going to be aggressive, we’re going to have a plan.”
Bidwill reiterated the Cardinals will look at free agency and trades – legal “tampering” begins March 12, and trades and signings can be executed starting March 14 – as well as the draft.
For now, there is only planning. “What we can do is we can get ready for free agency,” Bidwill said, noting that the coaches and front office were set to begin three days of meetings Tuesday to rank potential free agents across the league, “including lining them up against our own roster.”
Some of the other topics Bidwill addressed:
— On the contract extension for General Manager Steve Keim through the 2022 season: “This is about creating stability in the organization and making sure we take care of the folks who really deserve an extension, and Steve really did.
“You want to reward success and, back to that word, stability. You want stability in our leadership around our organization. This isn’t the first time I’ve come to him early. Again, he’s one of the best in the National Football League. But we also had a long conversation about what we need to do, and not just this offseason. It’s about winning Super Bowls.”
— On his impressions of Wilks and his new staff: “There’s a new vibe in there now. … Coach Wilks has come in, this is the beginning of his third week, and he has hit the ground running. He is organized, he is efficient, he talks about accountability, holy cow, he has been banging out the decisions and put together a great staff. It has been all business.”
– – –
— On waiting for Larry Fitzgerald’s playing-or-not-playing decision: “As I’ve said everyone needs to relax … Just give him some time. He’ll make his decision and he’ll let us know.”
— On improvements on University of Phoenix Stadium, Bidwill said a two-year, $18 million upgrade to the club level will be completed, as well as a long-awaited improvement to the parking situation with the city of Glendale. There will be 4,000 new spaces south of Bethany Home Road, allowing the team to get rid of off-site parking with shuttle buses, and instead park closer to the stadium with a pedestrian underpass to the stadium.
— On the benefit of adding a former head coach to the staff in offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, given that Wilks is a first-time head coach: “A former head coach would really be an advantage to any first-time head coach,” Bidwill said. “In many ways, any new head coach, you’re going to feel like you’re drinking water from a fire hydrant. He’s going to want a peer to bounce things off of when things come up. Things he may not want to ask Steve (Keim) or he may not want to ask me, but he’d want to ask another coach.”
— On what he wants the fanbase to know: “We’re committed to putting a championship team on the field, and Steve Wilks, Steve Keim and I have a plan, and we’re going to execute that plan. We’re going to be very aggressive about getting this team back on its winning ways and making sure we’re not just winning, but bringing championships back to this community.”
S KAM CHANCELLOR wants to continue as an NFL player. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
Kam Chancellor isn’t walking away from the NFL just yet.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday the Seattle Seahawks safety intends to play in 2018 if he gets medically cleared. Chancellor has no plans to retire.
There was little question the hard-hitting safety would return if healthy, despite a vague social media post several weeks ago. Chancellor would forfeit $12 million in guarantees if he retired.
Turning 30 in April, Chancellor’s $6.8 million salary for 2018 became guaranteed on Feb. 9.
The issue is whether the safety will be medically cleared to return to the field. The four-time Pro Bowler missed seven games in 2017 because of a neck injury. Coach Pete Carroll said in January that Chancellor could have a hard time playing football again.
Chancellor intends to give it a shot.
LB VON MILLER seems to hope a shared love of cereal will convince QB KIRK COUSINS to join the Broncos. Scott Allen in the Washington Post:
If Redskins quarterback and free-agent-to-be Kirk Cousins signs with Denver this offseason, he and Broncos linebacker Von Miller might celebrate their new union with a big bowl of cereal.
Miller, who sang Cousins’s praises during an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show” during Super Bowl week, dropped into the comments thread of Cousins’s recent Instagram post about the cereals the quarterback was raised on to say that he grew up eating the same two varieties. What are the odds?!
“Raised eating both,” Miller commented on Cousins’s photo of Frosted Mini Wheats (an excellent cereal that cracks former Wizards forward and cereal aficionado Trevor Booker’s top three) and Cracklin’ Oat Bran (a less excellent cereal that should crack no one’s top 30).
“Nothing but the best,” Cousins replied.
I’ve always said the best way to recruit a QB is via the common bond of cereal.
One day later, Cousins posted a photo of a rainbow in Grand Cayman with a comment about how he loves a good rainbow.
Wouldn’t you know it, Miller LOVES rainbows, too! (The linebacker especially likes rainbows, I’m guessing, that lead from Ashburn to Denver with a pot of salary cap space, or Cracklin’ Oat Bran, at the end.)
You’re absolutely right! If Kirk loves rainbows, I LOVE RAINBOWs! Lol https://twitter.com/jackaayoh/status/962838763205484544 …
Miller expressing his interest in Cousins coming to Denver is nothing new.
“Yeah, I’ve had a conversation with Kirk,” he told Patrick in Minneapolis ahead of Super Bowl LII earlier this month. “Yeah, we need Kirk. I would like to have Kirk. We have great quarterbacks now. Kirk could take us over the edge, but that’s the National Football League. It’s a lot of teams that need Kirk. It’s a lot of teams that need a great quarterback. Whatever team he ends up with will be a different team.”
The Chiefs artfully frame the fact they don’t want LB DERRICK JOHNSON on their team anymore. From the team’s release:
The Kansas City Chiefs announced on Tuesday that linebacker Derrick Johnson will become a free agent when his contract with the club expires at the start of the new league year on March 14. The announcement ends Johnson’s 13-year run with the Chiefs.
“Few players in recent history have meant more to the Chiefs franchise and the Kansas City community than Derrick Johnson,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “His tireless work ethic and passion for the game made him one of the most productive defensive players to ever wear a Chiefs uniform and one of the most respected players both in our locker room and around the league. Over the last 13 seasons, Derrick represented himself and the Chiefs organization with integrity and class, and he will always be a part of our Chiefs family.”
Johnson is the franchise’s all-time leading tackler, compiling 1,262 career stops (993 solo) in his 13 seasons with the Chiefs (2005-17). He earned four Pro Bowl berths in his time with the club.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization my entire career,” Johnson said. “I’d like to thank the Hunt family, my coaches, teammates and the staff for the tremendous amount of support I received over the years. I love Kansas City and this fan base, they’ve always had my back. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to spend 13 years in a place I love. I plan on playing for several more years because I love this game so much, but I look forward to retiring as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs when my career is over. I’ll miss my Chiefs teammates – we made a lot of big plays together over the years – and I wish them the best in bringing a championship home to the best and loudest fans in the NFL.”
General Manager Brett Veach and Head Coach Andy Reid weighed in on Johnson’s tenure in Kansas City.
“Letting go of a player like Derrick is particularly tough because of how much respect I have for him as a player and as a person,” Veach said. “He’s had a tremendous career here in Kansas City, and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
New coach Frank Reich with a good line as he discusses being the Colts’ second choice for the position. Mike Wells of ESPN.com:
Frank Reich is ready to embrace being the backup option again.
He spent the majority of his 14-year NFL playing career as a backup quarterback. And he’s the Indianapolis Colts’ second choice for head coach after Josh McDaniels reneged on his agreement at the very last minute.
“The backup role has suited me well in my career,” Reich said as he drew a roomful of laughs during his introductory news conference at Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday.
Reich replaces Chuck Pagano, who was fired after six seasons, and McDaniels. The Colts announced that McDaniels had agreed to become coach of the Colts early on Feb. 6, only to have him call general manager Chris Ballard later that day to tell him he was remaining as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.
“We don’t always choose what happens to us, but what we get a chance to do is choose how we react to it,” Ballard said. “I really believe that’s what shows what we’re made of. I can’t be more proud of our organization, the city of Indy and how they’ve handled this last week. Can’t be any more proud of our new head coach Frank Reich.”
Ballard had Reich on his initial list of nearly 10 candidates back in December, but Reich didn’t make the general manager’s top-five list.
“I thought about it after I got done interviewing him. I go, ‘My Lord, what was I thinking?’ You talk to people,” Ballard said. “You make your list. You don’t panic.”
“The backup role has suited me well in my career,” said Frank Reich, who will take over as Colts head coach after Josh McDaniels backed out of the job. Michael Conroy/AP Photo
Having McDaniels back out of the job ended up helping Reich because he told his agent he wasn’t going to interview for any openings while Philadelphia was still in the playoffs. Reich wanted his focus to be strictly on getting the offensive game plan together so that the Eagles would be prepared for each playoff game. Ballard interviewed Reich on Feb. 9, the day after the Eagles had their Super Bowl celebration in Philadelphia.
THIS AND THAT
Muhammad Ali Award winner Colin Kaepernick seems to have an unlimited legal budget as he wants to deposition everyone in sight to find collusion that might have kept him sidelined. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
After weeks of silence regarding the pending grievance filed by unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick against the NFL, someone is talking a blue streak now, Jack.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports has a list of witnesses Camp Kaepernick wants to question under oath. One will raise eyebrows: Jane Skinner. Also known as Jane Goodell. Also known as Mrs. Roger Goodell.
Mrs. Goodell’s name was added to the list this week, per Robinson. The development comes after a review of text messages, emails, and phone records produced by the NFL to Kaepernick’s lawyers.
The Commissioner’s wife created headlines in October, when she admitted that she had been using a Twitter account to support her husband against criticism. It’s unknown what specifically has caused Kaepernick’s lawyers to believe she may have knowledge relevant to the question of whether NFL owners colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league for his role in the commencement of anthem protests in 2016.
According to Robinson, the list also includes Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Texans owner Bob McNair, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome, Seahawks G.M. John Schneider, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent, and NFL senior V.P. of player engagement Arthur McAfee.
The Ravens and Seahawks were the two teams that considered signing Kaepernick in 2017. Jones had publicly taken a hard line regarding players not standing during the national anthem, Kraft counts President Donald Trump as a friend (owners allegedly feared being called out by Trump if they sign Kaepernick), and McNair notoriously proclaimed that the NFL “can’t have the inmates running the prison” during an October meeting regarding the anthem issue.
The NFL has declined comment on this issue, pointing PFT to Article 15, Section 10 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement: “Unless the parties agree otherwise, proceedings before the System Arbitrator and Appeals Panel, other than their decisions, shall be confidential, and may not be disclosed to persons other than counsel, senior executives of the NFL and any involved Club, senior executives of the NFLPA, the NFLPA Executive Committee, NFLPA Player Representatives, and any involved player(s), player agent(s), or Club or League personnel. The foregoing does not prejudice the right of any party to seek any additional confidentiality restrictions (including as to the decision) from the System Arbitrator or Appeals Panel, if such party demonstrates just cause.”
We may finally get a glimpse of John Schnatter in something other than a bright red shirt.
The former CEO of Papa John’s, who stepped down late last year due in part (we’re told) to his misguided effort to blame reduced earnings on the NFL, will be getting a ticket to the Colin Kaepernick Collusion Party. Kaepernick’s lawyers want to take the deposition of Schnatter, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
Some believe that Schnatter publicly chastised the NFL at the urging of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who disagreed with the league office’s handling of player protests during the national anthem (and who was trying to block Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension). Jones has an ownership interest in more than 100 Papa John’s stores.
Although some within the NFL may actually be intrigued by what Schnatter would say about the situation under oath, there’s a fundamental problem for both Kaepernick and the league: The arbitrator who will resolve the grievance has no jurisdiction over Schnatter.
He can’t be forced to testify, and there’s no reason why he would want to testify — unless he’s bitter about what happened and now wants to create trouble for the NFL. (If that’s the case, Kaepernick’s lawyers shouldn’t be taking his deposition prior to the grievance; they should be preparing him to show up and testify as part of Kaepernick’s case-in-chief.)
Thus, fascinating as it may be to hear the pizza man get grilled about his effort to cook the NFL’s goose, chances are that the grievance will proceed without Schnatter’s testimony being one of the better ingredients.
Former NFL GM Charley Casserly minces his words as he offers this Mock Draft at NFL.com:
1 – Cleveland
Sam Darnold – QB, USC
Darnold is the best QB in the draft.
2 – NY Giants
Josh Rosen – QB, UCLA
The Giants land the most pro-ready QB in the draft.
3 – Indianapolis
Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn State
Andrew Luck gets a dominant runner.
4 – Cleveland
Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB, Alabama
A versatile talent who can play CB or S.
5 – Denver
Marcus Davenport – OLB, UTSA
Davenport is an excellent pass rusher; best as a 3-4 OLB.
6 – NY Jets
Baker Mayfield – QB, Oklahoma
Will Mayfield have the best NFL career of any QB in this class?
7 – Tampa Bay
Bradley Chubb – DE, N.C. State
Improving the pass rush is a major need for Tampa Bay.
8 – Chicago
Calvin Ridley – WR, Alabama
The Bears get Mitchell Trubisky a weapon with this pick.
9 – San Francisco
Denzel Ward – CB, Ohio State
With Bradley Chubb off the board, the 49ers fill their next biggest need on defense.
9 – Oakland
Tremaine Edmunds – LB, Virginia Tech
Edmunds is the best all-around LB in the draft.
11 – Miami
Roquan Smith – LB, Georgia
Smith’s an excellent athlete who excels in coverage.
12 – Cincinnati
Quenton Nelson – OG, Notre Dame
The Bengals land the best player in the draft. They bypass a bigger need at OT to get Nelson.
13 – Washington
Vita Vea – DT, Washington
With Vea and Jonathan Allen, the D-line all of a sudden becomes a strength of the team.
14 – Green Bay
Mike Hughes – CB, UCF
Hughes is a versatile CB who can play both off and press coverage.
15 – Arizona
Josh Allen – QB, Wyoming
Allen will be the fourth QB off the board. Arizona would do cartwheels if he were still available here. Someone will probably trade up to get him, and maybe Arizona will be the team to do it.
16 – Baltimore
Mike McGlinchey – OT, Notre Dame
This gives the Ravens a bookend OT with Ronnie Stanley.
17 – LA Chargers
Rashaan Evans – LB, Alabama
A DT is also a possibility here.
18 – Seattle
Arden Key – DE, LSU
With questions about whether Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril will be with the Seahawks next season, a pass rusher will be needed.
19 – Dallas
Taven Bryan – DT, Florida
Bryan has excellent upfield quickness. He fits Rod Marinelli’s scheme.
20 – Detroit
Da’Ron Payne – DT, Alabama
Strong player vs. the run, and he has some pass-rush potential.
21 – Buffalo
Billy Price – C, Ohio State
The first priority for Buffalo should be to trade up to get a QB. If that doesn’t work out, then Price can replace Eric Wood at center.
22 – Buffalo
Josh Jackson – CB, Iowa
The Bills get a bookend CB to pair with Tre’Davious White.
23 – LA Rams
Isaiah Oliver – CB, Colorado
Trumaine Johnson is due to become a free agent, and CB is already a weakness for the Rams.
24 – Carolina
Christian Kirk – WR, Texas A&M
The Panthers need a speedy WR. Kirk fits the bill.
25 – Tennessee
James Daniels – C/OG, Iowa
Help is needed on the interior of the Titans’ O-line.
26 – Atlanta
Isaiah Wynn – OG, Georgia
He played left tackle in college but fits best as a guard at the next level.
27 – New Orleans
Harold Landry – DE/OLB, Boston College
Landry racked up 16.5 sacks in 2016 before an injury-plagued senior season.
28 – Pittsburgh
Derrius Guice – RB, LSU
I am not optimistic the Steelers will get a long-term deal done with Le’Veon Bell, which is why Guice makes sense here.
29 – Jacksonville
Connor Williams – OT, Texas
TE and WR are also a possibility here.
30 – Minnesota
Derwin James – S, FSU
Solidifies the safety position opposite Harrison Smith.
31 – New England
Harrison Phillips – DT, Stanford
Phillips is a run-stopper. He fills a need for New England.
32 – Philadelphia
Donte Jackson – CB, LSU
Philly has worked to improve the CB position, but the Eagles still need help there.