The Daily Briefing Wednesday, March 14, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Which one of their three quarterbacks would the Vikings keep?  The answer is none, so CASE KEENUM could be starting in Denver, SAM BRADFORD in Arizona and TEDDY BRIDGEWATER with the Jets.  Meanwhile, KIRK COUSINS takes over in Minnesota.

 

– – –

A big shakeup in the NFL office as Tod Leiweke moves on.  The AP:

 

The NFL has promoted Maryann Turcke to chief operating officer, making her the highest-ranking woman at the league offices.

 

Turcke has overseen NFL Network in the last year. She replaces Tod Leiweke, who has left the league after three years in the job.

 

Turcke will lead the marketing, communications, human resources, international and events and technology departments.

 

“Since joining NFL Media last year, Maryann has distinguished herself by leading NFL Network to a record-setting year,” Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We look forward to Maryann building upon this success, and her previous achievements as president of Bell Media, as she steps into this larger role. I expect her leadership, vision and corporate governance experience to help evolve our organization and take it to a higher level.”

 

Goodell also praised Leiweke.

 

“During his time here in New York, Tod was instrumental in guiding our long-term strategic process and has been a valuable resource, not only to me but to ownership, our clubs and the entire league,” he said. “I thank him for his passion and dedication to the mission of the NFL.”

 

Turcke has been based in Los Angeles, but will move to the New York offices. NFL Network had a strong year with Turcke in charge, ranking second to ESPN in viewership during the season.

 

Goodell says more changes at NFL headquarters are coming. Recently, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones criticized the quality of leadership at the New York offices.

 

One would think that Leiweke left of his own choosing, as the ex-president of the Tampa Bay Lightning and ex-COO of the Seahawks, has found a job perfect for his core interests.  Kyle Cantion of YahooSports.com:

 

A senior member from the NFL front office has left his post and is expected to help run Seattle’s much anticipated NHL franchise, once an announcement is made.

 

NFL insider Adam Schefter shared a memo, sent to all teams from commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday, outlining changes to the NFL executive, including the departure of Chief Operating Officer Tod Leiweke.

 

Leiweke is predicted to be joining the Oak View Group, which is managing the renovation of Seattle’s KeyArena. OVG’s CEO is none other than Leiweke’s brother Tim — former MLSE boss.

 

Aside from his three years as the No. 2 ranking executive with the NFL, Leiweke is the former CEO of the Seattle Seahawks and also has a history in hockey as CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning before leaving in early 2015 to join the NFL office. It appears a return to the NHL is on the cards, as reported Tuesday by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.

 

Oak View Group has gained almost unstoppable momentum the past few months in its attempt to bring an NHL team to Seattle.

 

Leiweke (Tim) told The Seattle Times in February that his top priority is to name a president of the organization — to run the hockey team and arena — before April or May when the season-ticket prices are due to be released.

 

Though it’s not yet official, Seattle is inching ever closer to realizing its NHL dream with a president all but announced and renovations to KeyBank arena set be be completed for fall of 2020. After a wildly successful ticket drive a few weeks ago that saw potential season-seat holders put down over 30,000 deposits in just over a day, the NHL call is expected to come when the league meets for its summer board of governors meeting this June.

 

The DB gained a sense that Leiweke was the most personally respected executive at Park Avenue and was perceived as part of the solution and the not part of the problem.  However, one can easily see how he tired of the daily battles and would welcome a return to his roots running a team in a city he loves.

 

Here is a little more on Turcke who is a) not a United States citizen and b) has not been with the NFL very long.  She joined the NFL not very long ago:

 

The latest executive shuffle at Canadian media giant Bell Media sees Randy Lennox replacing Turcke as president.

 

The National Football League has tapped top Canadian broadcaster Mary Ann Turcke to build its presence in the digital space.

 

Turcke on Monday stepped down as president of Bell Media, Canada’s top media giant, to join the NFL as president, digital media and NFL Network, based in Los Angeles and reporting to NFL executive vp media Brian Rolapp as the league grows its live-streaming and mobile streaming efforts.

 

“We are delighted to have an individual of Mary Ann’s talent and expertise joining the NFL to lead the NFL Network, NFL Films and our digital and technology groups across the organization,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

 

From her Wikipedia page we learn her educational background is civil engineering:

 

Mary Ann Turcke is a Canadian media executive. She worked as a civil engineer, consultant, and IT operations manager before joining BCE in 2005. There, she had assumed various management roles, including president of Bell Media from 2014 to 2017. In 2017, she was hired by the National Football League to lead its digital media department.

 

She was named to the Top 100 list of Canada’s Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013, and was inducted into the WXN Hall of Fame in 2013.

 

Early life and education

Mary Ann Turcke was born and grew up in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of David John Turcke, a professor of engineering at Queen’s University, and Ann Cosgrove Zarichny.

She pursued her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Queen’s University, graduating in 1988. In 1990 she earned her master’s degree in engineering at the University of Toronto.[2] In 1996 she enrolled in the first Master of Business Administration program at the Queen’s School of Business, receiving her MBA in 1997.

 

Career

Turcke began her career as a civil engineer and project manager for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, designing and building highways and bridges.[4][5]

 

After earning her MBA, she moved to A. T. Kearney Management Consultants, primarily as a consultant to railroad clients. In 1999 she moved to the IT sector, serving as vice president of operations and Canada general manager for Internet Pictures Corporation of Palo Alto, California, until 2001.From 2002 to 2005 she was a partner and board director at Codesta LLC.

 

In 2005, she joined Bell Canada as its Vice President of Customer Experience and Operations for Small Medium Businesses.[6] overseeing a team of 1,000 employees. In 2008, she was promoted to Executive Vice President of Field Operations. In November 2014, she became Bell Media’s president of media sales, before becoming the head of the division in April 2015 to replace the outgoing Kevin Crull.

 

Shortly after assuming her position, Turcke was criticized for remarks she made that classified the use of virtual private networks to evade geo-blocking and access the U.S. version of subscription-video-on-demand service Netflix as “stealing”. As president, she led a major re-structuring of the company’s executive staff in August 2015, in an effort to reduce its expenses.

 

On February 28, 2017, it was announced that Turcke would be stepping down from her position at Bell, and would be joining the National Football League as the President of Digital Media and NFL Network.

 

On March 13, 2018, it was announced that Turcke would be promoted to Chief Operating Officer of the National Football League

 

In February 2015 Turcke was named Woman of the Year by Women in Communications and Technology. Also in 2015, she was named one of the Top 25 Women of Influence by the Women of Influence organization.

 

Personal life

Turcke is married to Gordon McIlquham, also a native of Kingston, Ontario. McIlquham represented Canada in sailing at the 1988 Summer Olympics, competing in the men’s two-person dinghy (470) class with Nigel Cochrane; the team placed 8th. Turcke, McIlquham, and their two daughters are all sailing enthusiasts and race on the same team out of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

 

Ken Belson of the New York Times (presumably with internal guidance from the NFL PR machine) spins things this way:

 

The NFL said Tuesday that Canadian Mary Ann Turcke, president of NFL Media, would take over as the league’s chief operating officer, making her the highest-ranking female executive at a major sports league.

 

The league will no doubt be congratulated for promoting a woman to such a lofty position, and for good reason.

 

But the promotion says as much about Turcke’s boss, commissioner Roger Goodell, and what he hopes to achieve in his remaining years at the league, as it does about burnishing the NFL’s public image. Goodell wants to groom a potential successor, and the departure of Tod Leiweke, Turcke’s predecessor as COO, leaves Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer of the NFL, as the leading internal candidate to take over, at least for now.

 

But more immediately, Goodell needs to placate owners who want a more streamlined — and downsized — league headquarters that focuses more heavily on on-field issues and creating revenue.

 

In December, the 32 NFL owners, after much consternation, agreed to extend Goodell’s contract an additional five years, through 2024. At that point, Goodell, who has spent his entire professional career with the NFL, will be 65. While he has been coy publicly, Goodell has told some owners that he views this NFL contract to be his last.

 

Like presidents who are re-elected, Goodell is reshaping his staff for what will likely be his stretch run, according to several people familiar with the shakeup at the NFL.

 

“Roger looked at his executive team and is thinking, I’ve just been awarded a new contract, so who do I want on my team over the next five, seven years?” said one person with knowledge of the promotion.

 

Leiweke was brought in three years ago to help handle some of the day-to-day work that Goodell was doing. Leiweke, who was once chief executive of the Seattle Seahawks, was close with Goodell. But he was less visible to the owners, and he did not control any of the major divisions that generate income for the league, most notably the media group, where Turcke worked.

 

Leiweke is just the latest in what is turning into a string of departures. Natalie Ravitz, who was hired as a media specialist, has already left. Joe Lockhart, the league spokesman, is also leaving. Last year, the league offered buyouts to employees at its headquarters, and roughly a dozen people took the offer. Other executives may be eased out of their jobs as well.

 

The question for Goodell is how their replacements will help him accomplish his most important mandate from his bosses: increasing the league’s profits. The commissioner’s two biggest challenges are clear: Renew and enhance the bevy of major media contracts that expire around 2020 and 2021, and renegotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the players union before it expires in 2021.

 

On that front, promoting Turcke makes sense. She worked for the past year in Los Angeles at NFL Network, which has grown in prominence, even as it copes with a series of sexual harassment accusations. Before joining the NFL, the Queen’s University and University of Toronto alum was the president of Bell Media, which included television and radio broadcasting and digital media.

 

Like other leagues, the NFL is trying to figure out how to make more money streaming games and other content over the internet. The NFL’s television ratings have fallen the past two seasons, in large part because younger viewers are more likely to consume sports on their phones or tablets and less likely to subscribe to pricey pay-television services.

 

Despite the decline in ratings, though, the league continues to get a premium for its product.

 

In December, Verizon agreed to pay more than $2 billion (U.S.) over the next five years for the rights to stream games. The league also sold its Thursday Night Football package to Fox for $660 million annually, up from the $450 million it received from CBS and NBC.

 

As a relative newcomer to the league, Turcke may also have an easier time reshaping some of the league’s departments. As COO, she will run the marketing, communications, human resources, international and events, and technology departments.

 

One of the tougher issues the Kingston, Ont., native will face may be pushing out longtime employees and hiring replacements — or not. Some owners have complained that the league office has become too unwieldy, with new departments devoted to investigating players and other employees, another department focused on social initiatives, and a larger public relations profile. Others want to overhaul the league’s constitution to dilute the power of the commissioner.

 

“There’s nobody that doesn’t see the need for changes in the NFL in several areas,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We’re doing a lot of things good, but there are some areas we need to change. One of them is an antiquated constitution, an antiquated situation as to the power of the commissioner.”

 

The power of the commissioner, of course, includes his subordinates, which is why the departure of the league’s chief operating officer is one of the changes on the way at the league’s headquarters.

 

– – –

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com offers this look at the free agent market as of Wednesday a.m.

 

Free agency doesn’t even officially begin for seven more hours, but the quarterback market has already dried up.

 

Of the seven quarterbacks in our Free Agent Top 100, six have already signed or agreed to terms on new contracts: Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Josh McCown. Only AJ McCarron remains available.

 

So who else is available in free agency? Jay Cutler would probably be the No. 2 quarterback on the list, but he is more likely to retire than to play in 2018.

 

After Cutler, Tom Savage is the free agent quarterback who had the most passing yards in 2017. He’s unlikely to sign for much more than the league minimum anywhere.

 

Other available quarterbacks who started games last year include Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith, Brock Osweiler, T.J. Yates, EJ Manuel and Matt Moore. Derek Anderson, Ryan Mallett and Chad Henne are still floating around, as are some well-known quarterbacks who didn’t play in the NFL last year, including Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick.

 

Some of those players will end up starting in the NFL in 2018. Few would inspire confidence.

 

And what teams would still be in the market to draft a QB in the first round?  We would think Cleveland, the Jets, the Saints, the Cardinals…maybe the Chargers, Steelers and Giants with the Class of 2005 QBs getting older.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

The Bears will be signing veteran backup CHASE DANIEL to support QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the expected deal is for two years and is worth $10 million with $7 million guaranteed.

 

Rapoport added the deal is voidable after Year 1. Making the second year voidable aids Daniel’s career-long quest for a starting gig. If, for example, the QB finds himself thrust into a Nick Foles situation where he takes over after a Trubisky injury and shines (every Bears fan on the planet furiously knocks on wood after reading that thought), Daniel could hit the open market.

 

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Daniel has bounced around the NFL the past nine seasons as a solid backup — making pretty good money to hold a clipboard. The closest the 31-year-old came to a starting gig was in Philadelphia in 2016, before the Eagles decided to ride then-rookie Carson Wentz.

 

In Chicago, Daniel, who spent years as Drew Brees’ backup, will help mentor Trubisky and familiarize him with the new offense. The veteran has experience with new Bears coach Matt Nagy, who spent three seasons as Daniel’s QB coach in Kansas City.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Big shakeup in Green Bay as beloved WR JORDY NELSON is sent packing while TE JIMMY GRAHAM and potential locker room cancer MUHAMMAD WILKERSON are imported. 

 

First, the departure of Nelson touches the heart of QB AARON RODGERS.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

In the aftermath, Aaron Rodgers focused on a tribute to the red-zone target he lost rather than the one he gained.

 

“Hard to find the right words today to express what 87 means to me,” Rodgers wrote on Instagram. “No teammate exemplified what it means to be a Packer quite like him. From living in GB full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field. Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business. There will never be another quite like white lightning. #leader #brother #friend #baller #loyal #champion #legacy #intact #stillcanplayball #backshoulder #1stSBTD”

 

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Tuesday night he talked to Rodgers after making the decision to release Nelson.

 

While ESPN Milwaukee reported Nelson had a chance to take a “significantly lower” salary to stay in Green Bay, Gutekunst declined to confirm the report. The GM was asked if he saw decline in Nelson’s play following his 2015 ACL tear.

 

“I think it’s only natural as players get older, you see some physical decline,” Gutekunst said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “But I think Jordy is a very good player. He’ll contribute for somebody next year.”

 

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com on the addition of Wilkerson:

 

Former Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is reuniting with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in Green Bay.

 

The defensive lineman is signing with the Green Bay Packers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Wilkerson will play under a one-year deal worth $5 million, plus $3 million in incentives, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.

 

After his release from New York, Wilkerson first visited Green Bay before meeting with the Saints, Chiefs and Redskins in recent days.

 

As Jets coordinator under Rex Ryan, Pettine was instrumental in drafting and developing Wilkerson, the No. 30 overall selection back in 2011.

 

The former Temple star started 101 out of 105 games in seven years with Gang Green. After earning Pro Bowl recognition as one of the league’s most disruptive defensive linemen in 2015, Wilkerson ended up breaking his fibula in the finale of that season.

 

Although the Jets showed good faith by rewarding him with a five-year, $85 million deal in 2016, Wilkerson has disappeared on the field and disappointed off the field ever since.

 

Of the 85 players with at least 300 pass-rush snaps in 2017, per NFL Research, Wilkerson ranked No. 69 with a pressure rate of just 5.4 percent. After racking up 28.5 sacks from 2013 to 2015, he has managed a paltry eight quarterback takedowns in 28 games over the past two years.

 

The question is whether he lost motivation on a rebuilding team once he got paid or if he’s simply not the same player since the leg injury.

 

The Packers are banking on Pettine to extract whatever potential remains in the enigmatic 300-pounder.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

It is Dave Gettleman and the Giants who land prized free agent tackle NATE SOLDER.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The New York Giants have beaten the Patriots. Again.

 

Left tackle Nate Solder, who has spent seven years with the Patriots, intends to sign with the Giants, per multiple reports.

 

He becomes the fourth Patriots veteran to exit via free agency, joining cornerback Malcolm Butler, running back Dion Lewis, and receiver Danny Amendola. He also becomes the first major free-agent acquisition for new Giants G.M. Dave Gettleman, who missed out on guard Andrew Norwell.

 

The Texans and Browns also were believed to be talking to Solder, who will spend his eighth year and beyond with the Giants.

 

The Patriots will now have to look within the roster and beyond to replace Solder. Coupled with the other departures, Bill Belichick and company have plenty of work to do. If it were any other team, the fan base would be panicking.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

QB DREW BREES got to the cusp of free agency before he signed with the Saints for two years.  Mike Florio breaks down his “below market” contract that still pays $25 mil per:

 

The below-market deal signed by Saints quarterback Drew Brees is even more below-market than believed.

 

Field Yates of ESPN reports that Brees’ contract includes a $10.5 million signing bonus and a $10.2 million base salary in 2018. That’s $20.7 million in base compensation.

 

Brees also can earn up to $3.3 million in incentives. Without knowing the triggers, it’s hard to know how easy or hard it will be to hit the numbers.

 

If the $3.3 million in incentives are classified as “likely to be earned” (which doesn’t mean they are actually likely to be earned), Brees’ cap number for 2018 will be $24.75 million.

 

Per Yates, the cap number in 2018 is due to be $33.5 million, which could force the Saints to make a difficult decision if they notice any decline in Brees as he approaches his 40th birthday next January.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Peter King is not a fan of the Cardinals deal with QB SAM BRADFORD:

 

Quarterback Sam Bradford to Arizona, one year, $20 million. I mean, I have great regard for Arizona GM Steve Keim. But this is a crazy contract if it’s as reported: $20 million without conditions, and $15 million guaranteed. (That is per ESPN. I’ll change my mind if there’s a smaller guarantee and incentives, all adding up to $20 million.) But in the past five years, Sam Bradford has played 38 games. He has missed 42 (mostly with injury, and a few with a coach’s decision). He is 19-19 in those games. Let’s compare with Tom Brady, the NFL MVP. Bradford: $20 million in 2018 money, and a $20 million cap number. Brady: $15 million in 2018 income, and a $22 million cap number. And let’s compare with Drew Brees, who got $25 million a year for two years. What fan base feels better—the Saints with a guy very likely to play 16 games and throw for 4,500 yards; or the Cards, with a guy who missed 57 percent of the games in the past five years? The Cardinals needed a respectable quarterback, to be sure. But to pay Bradford good money when he hasn’t earned it makes zero sense to me.

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The DB has always kind of liked RB JERICK McKINNON, but we never viewed him as a big money back.  Not so the 49ers per Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Jerick McKinnon wanted a chance to be a featured running back. He’ll get that shot, and he’ll be paid like one.

 

Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager reported Wednesday that McKinnon has agreed in principle to a deal with the San Francisco 49ers.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the deal is worth $30 million over four seasons. The $7.5 million per-year average would put McKinnon — who has 14 career starts — as the fourth-highest paid running back in the NFL (south of only Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy).

 

The deal is massive for a player who spent four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings as a rotational player, earning 1,918 yards on 474 carries with seven TDs while adding 142 receptions for 984 yards and five touchdown catches. McKinnon was ranked No. 51 on NFL.com‘s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

 

After years of playing behind Adrian Peterson, McKinnon took on a larger role in Minnesota after Dalvin Cook went down with a torn ACL. A true dual-threat, McKinnon earned 158 carries for 618 yards and four rushing touchdowns, with 57 catches for 472 yards and two receiving scores from Week 5 onward last season.

 

The Niners had a need after Carlos Hyde defected to the Cleveland Browns.

 

As San Francisco’s backfield is currently comprised, McKinnon enters as the top option — at least until the draft. He was never afforded that opportunity in Minnesota. When he was finally in line to replace Adrian Peterson, the Vikings’ brass responded by importing Latavius Murray and taking Cook high in the draft.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

In a move that would seem to preclude the drafting of RB SAQUON BARKLEY, the Browns give some pretty serious coin to RB CARLOS HYDE,  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

Draft rumors have swirled since the NFL Scouting Combine about the Cleveland Browns possibly snagging Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 1 overall. Could the team have made a move that indicates they’ll be going in a different direction with the top draft pick?

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the Browns are expected to sign ex-49ers running back Carlos Hyde to a three-year deal worth more than $15 million, with $6 million in Year 1, per a source informed of the deal.

 

Hyde entered free agency as the top running back on the market after back-to-back 900-plus yard seasons as the San Francisco 49ers’ bell-cow. He was ranked No. 20 in NFL.com‘s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

 

At 27-years-old, Hyde possesses the dual-threat ability to be an every-down back in Cleveland. Hyde displays power between the tackles, burst at the second level, and enough pass-catching ability to keep defenses honest.

 

While he was the Niners primary ball carrier in 2017, word out of San Francisco was that the team wanted a back that meshed better with Kyle Shanahan’s zone running scheme.

 

Hyde now joins Duke Johnson in Cleveland’s top two backs after the Browns watched Isaiah Crowell defect to the New York Jets. Cleveland will also add quarterback Tyrod Taylor and receiver Jarvis Landry via trade in an upgraded offense.

 

It’s easy to view Hyde’s signing as a signal from Browns management that they will pass on Barkley at No. 1 and take a quarterback. Perhaps that was the plan all along. The signing shouldn’t change a ton. The Browns needed another back regardless — and have plenty of money to burn. If Barkley is the guy, he should still be the guy. If not, perhaps he never was the true target at first overall.

 

 

TENNESSEE

With DiMARCO MURRAY gone, there is a new back whose first name starts with “Di” in Nashville.  Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:

 

The Titans aren’t finished adding former Patriots stars.

 

Hours after reaching agreement with cornerback Malcolm Butler, Tennessee is set to sign tailback Dion Lewis to a four-year contract, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports Lewis’ deal is worth $20 million with another $3 million in incentives, according to a source informed of the situation.

 

Since assuming the reins as Titans general manager, Jon Robinson has imported ex-Pats Lewis, Butler, cornerback Logan Ryan and quarterback Matt Cassel in addition to hiring New England’s three-time Super Bowl winner Mike Vrabel as head coach.

 

What is new coordinator Matt LaFleur getting in Lewis? No player rushed for more yards (625) in the second half of last season. Among all backs with 150 or more rushing attempts, his per-carry average of 4.98 yards led the NFL in 2017.

 

One of the best bargains of the Bill Belichick era, Lewis was originally signed to a reserve/future contract late in 2014. Over the past three years, the Patriots posted a 32-4 (.889) record with Lewis on the field compared to 13-7 (.650) when he was unavailable.

 

So why isn’t Lewis ranked higher than No. 27 on Around The NFL’s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018? While he’s been extraordinarily effective on a per-touch basis, his size and injury history suggest he’s best utilized as a role player working in tandem with a power back.

 

That will be the case in Nashville, where he figures to handle passing-down and change-of-pace duties as the ideal complement to early-down hammer Derrick Henry.

 

When the Titans coaches reviewed their 2017 game film, they likely encountered a pressing need for elusiveness and big-play ability. Lewis fills the bill on both counts.

– – –

Sometimes, it is the free agents that you keep.  Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com:

 

The Tennessee Titans have re-signed right guard Josh Kline, the team announced Wednesday.

 

The Titans intend to sign former Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler to a five-year, $61 million contract, which includes a $30 million guarantee, and ex-Pats running back Dion Lewis to a four-year, $23 million deal, sources told ESPN.

 

A source told ESPN that they agreed to a four-year, $26 million deal with $12 million guaranteed.

 

Kline, 28, performed well as a pass-blocking right guard protecting Marcus Mariota for his two seasons in Tennessee after being picked up off waivers in 2016.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots have reached out to QB A.J. McCARRON as the starting QB openings dry up.  Darrin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Quarterback A.J. McCarron may finally have an offer, even if it’s not the one many thought he might find this week.

 

According to Kirk Minihane of WEEI, the Patriots have made a contract offer to the Bengals backup.

 

It’s unclear if that offer is substantial or a fishing expedition, but it’s interesting that they want to find a certain grade of backup to 40-year-old Tom Brady.

 

After trading away Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo last year, the Patriots signed Brian Hoyer to a three-year deal to stand behind Brady because he knew what to do.

 

But McCarron’s a younger option, and although he hasn’t had much of a chance to show it on the field (he’s thrown seven passes in the last two years), there are people who think he might be a better option.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Brian Costello of the New York Post on Plan B with the Jets:

 

Plan B it is.

 

The Jets saw top free agent quarterback target Kirk Cousins go to the Vikings on Tuesday for a record-breaking contract. They moved on to their fallback option — agreeing on a deal to bring back Josh McCown and another deal to sign former Vikings first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater.

 

The Jets were all-in on Cousins and made him a big offer on Monday, believed to be more than the three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed deal he got from the Vikings. But once he decided to visit Minnesota first, the Jets knew they were out. Cousins can officially sign the contract on Wednesday when the new league year opens.

 

After getting rebuffed by Cousins, the Jets quickly moved on to bringing back McCown. A source said he agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal. McCown, who will be 39 in July, had a strong season for the Jets in 2017, throwing for a career-high 18 touchdowns.

 

The Jets did not stop there, though, later agreeing on a one-year deal with Bridgewater, according to a source. Bridgewater has missed most of the past two seasons after a gruesome knee injury, but the Jets must be banking on him being fully healthy again. Hid deal is for roughly $5 million, according to multiple reports.

 

While McCown is the Jets’ own free agent, he can sign his deal at any time. Bridgewater must wait until 4 p.m. Wednesday.

 

A source said the Jets told McCown that he will enter the offseason as the starter, which is consistent with what Todd Bowles has done in the past for incumbents.

 

McCown had to wait for Cousins to land somewhere before getting a deal to return to the Jets.

 

 “It was a crazy process but obviously for me to be able to come back, I’m excited about that,” McCown told The Post in a phone interview. “I’m just looking forward to being able to continue to build with these guys and the chemistry and all that. I’m excited about being back.”

 

Bridgewater is a fascinating signing. Since suffering a gruesome knee injury in August 2016, Bridgewater has not played other than some garbage time at the end of Week 15 in December.

 

The 25-year-old could be a steal for the Jets if he recovers from the knee injury. He was a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2014 and made the Pro Bowl in 2015, a season in which the Vikings went to the playoffs.

 

The Jets could also take a quarterback in the first round of next month’s draft, setting up a quarterbacks room of McCown, Bridgewater and a rookie. That would give the rookie time to develop and the Jets could start with McCown unless Bridgewater is healthy and can win the job in training camp.

 

For McCown, it was the end of an interesting process. He and Cousins have the same agent, Mike McCartney. McCown knew the Jets had a strong interest in Cousins and he had to wait it out. He said he knew when developments happened with Cousins from McCartney but tried not to ask too much to respect their relationship.

 

“I just knew that [Cousins] was kind of the prize, so to speak,” McCown said. “Everybody was going after him. I was just kind of waiting and being patient. It seemed like everybody kind of had their order of what they were going to do if they got Kirk and if not what would they do, what was Plan B. It was a matter of waiting that out.”

 

Instead of lavishing big money on QB KIRK COUSINS, the Jets will make CB TRUMAINE JOHNSON their prime free agent signing.  Chris Wesseling at NFL.com:

 

After playing under the Rams’ franchise tag for the past two years, Trumaine Johnson has finally cashed in with long-term security.

 

The Jets are set to sign Johnson to a deal worth approximately $15 million annually, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, via a source informed of the situation.

 

Ranked No. 10 on Around The NFL’s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018, Johnson will end up with one of the richest contracts in this year’s market.

 

Johnson, 28, started 62 of 85 games in six years with the Rams. His former position coach, Brian Heimerdinger, is now vice president of player personnel with the Jets.

 

“This is a marriage that was always going to happen,” Rapoport explained on NFL Total Access. “It was just a matter of settling on the right number.”

 

A big, physical cornerback at 6-foot-1 and over 200 pounds, Johnson figures to replace free agent Morris Claiborne as the No. 1 cover man in Todd Bowles’ defense.

 

Although Johnson and the talented second-year safety duo of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye form an impressive nucleus, the Jets aren’t finished making over a secondary that had grown stale after dominating under Rex Ryan earlier this decade.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2018 DRAFT

After the Combine, here is how Mike Mayock at NFL.com sees the top five players at each position:

 

Quarterback

1. Sam Darnold, USC

2. Josh Allen, Wyoming

3. Josh Rosen, UCLA

4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

T-5. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

T-5. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

 

Running back

1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State

2. Derrius Guice, LSU

3. Sony Michel, Georgia

4. Ronald Jones II, USC

T-5. Nick Chubb, Georgia

T-5. Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

 

Rise: Michel (4), Penny (NR)

Fall: Jones (3)

 

Wide receiver

1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama

2. DJ Moore, Maryland

3. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

4. Courtland Sutton, SMU

T-5. Anthony Miller, Memphis

T-5. DJ Chark, LSU

 

Rise: Moore (T-5), Chark (NR)

Fall: Kirk (2), Sutton (3), James Washington, Oklahoma State (4), Dante Pettis, Washington (T-5)

 

Tight end

1. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

2. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State

3. Mike Gesicki, Penn State

4. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma

5. Will Dissly, Washington

 

Tackle

1. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

2. Connor Williams, Texas

3. Kolton Miller, UCLA

4. Tyrell Crosby, Oregon

T-5. Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State

T-5. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

 

Rise: Williams (3), Miller (T-5)

Fall: Brown (2)

 

Interior OL

1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia

3. James Daniels, Iowa

4. Will Hernandez, UTEP

T-5. Billy Price, Ohio State

T-5. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas

 

Rise: Ragnow (NR)

 

Interior DL

1. Vita Vea, Washington

2. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

3. Taven Bryan, Florida

4. Maurice Hurst, Michigan

5. Harrison Phillips, Stanford

 

Rise: Bryan (4)

Fall: Hurst (3)

 

Edge rusher

1. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State

2. Marcus Davenport, UTSA

3. Harold Landry, Boston College

4. Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

T-5. Arden Key, LSU

T-5. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

 

Rise: Landry (4), Carter (NR)

Fall: Key (3)

 

Linebacker

1. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith, Georgia

3. Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State

4. Rashaan Evans, Alabama

5. Uchenna Nwosu, USC

 

 

Cornerback

1. Denzel Ward, Ohio State

2. Jaire Alexander, Louisville

3. Josh Jackson, Iowa

4. Mike Hughes, UCF

5. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

 

Rise: Alexander (5)

Fall: Jackson (2), Hughes (3), Oliver (4)

 

Safety

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

2. Derwin James, Florida State

3. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

4. Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest

5. Justin Reid, Stanford