The Green Bay Packers are a wildly popular pick to emerge as this year’s NFC representative in Super Bowl XLV, and Packers linebacker Nick Barnett is unsurprisingly on the bandwagon.
Nick Barnett predicts Super Bowl for Pack
The Patriots should have stability on the offensive line.
Which Ravens are set for a step forward in 2017?
Running back depth could be a priority for the Texans this offseason.
SEC linebackers could fit with the Titans in the draft.
Former Broncos RB Terrell Davis is in limited company as a Hall of Famer selected in the sixth round.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio wants his players to stay safe on their New Zealand vacation.
The Chargers are gone, but former C Nick Hardwick remains part of San Diego.
Don’t count former Cowboys WR Drew Pearson among those that feel bad about Terrell Owens missing the Hall of Fame.
Will Tom Coughlin’s moves with the Jaguars wind up impacting the Giants?
Running through some under the radar issues for the Redskins this offseason.
Remembering the historic achievement and perfect name of former Bears QB Willie Thrower.
A Lions-centric free agency preview of wide receivers and tight ends.
The top plays of the Falcons season.
Tight end doesn’t look like a focus for the Saints this offseason.
Former Buccaneers QB Parnell Dickerson will be inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame this weekend.
Jen Welter is going from Cardinals coaching intern to coaching Australia’s entry in in the IFAF Women’s World Championship.
The 49ers are expected to host DT Earl Mitchell on a Tuesday visit.
There have been visits, and some other suggestions of interest in former Browns cornerback K’Waun Williams. But some teams have finally made tangible expressions of their desire.
According to Darryl Slater of NJ.com, the Jets have offered the free agent corner a contract, one of four teams to do so.
He also visited the Lions, and the Vikings, Dolphins and 49ers were reported to have some degree of interest. That leaves the door open for Mystery Team, the most active of free agent shoppers every season.
The slot corner is expected to make a decision later this week.
Williams didn’t play last season because of an ankle injury, and a disagreement over the treatment of it led to an end of his time with the Browns.
Tight end Julius Thomas is set for a physical in Miami on Tuesday, a day after the Jaguars and Dolphins agreed to a trade that would send Thomas to South Florida when trades are officially allowed to be processed on March 9.
Thomas agreed to rework his contract as part of the deal, something that could have turned into a sticking point if Thomas preferred to force the Jaguars to cut him so he could pick his own destination. Miami offered something no other team could offer, however.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Thomas’ desire to reunite with Dolphins coach Adam Gase, who ran the offense for the Broncos in 2013 and 2014, was the impetus to agreeing to a new deal with a new team. Thomas’ 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns during those two seasons landed him the big free agent contract with the Jaguars that he’s now reworking and his failure to replicate that production has him on the move, so it’s not hard to see the appeal.
Thomas was catching passes from Peyton Manning in those two seasons, something that won’t be the case in Miami. Ryan Tannehill turned in a strong first season under Gase, however, and adding Thomas to Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and company sets him up with weapons to do the same in 2017.
Cedric Benson played nearly a decade in the NFL, and now says it has impaired his ability to drive. Or spell. Or something.
The longtime Bears and Bengals running back was charged with driving while intoxicated in Texas Saturday morning, and had a novel excuse for not undergoing a field sobriety test.
According to Rachel Rice of the Austin American-Statesman, police affidavit said that when the Austin police officer asked him to recite the alphabet, Benson “stated he couldn’t do that because he played 8 years in the NFL.” He also claimed he was unable to count higher than 3, and refused a balance test.
Of course, this happened at 2:47 a.m., so there are many possible explanations for his sudden weakness in math and written skills. Police said his eyes were glassy, he was swaying and mumbling, and that he smelled of alcohol and was: “talkative, uncooperative [and] cocky.”
Benson has a long history of trouble with the law in Texas, and with alcohol-related problems. He was cut by the Bears in 2008 after being busted for both drinking and boating under the influence in a short amount of time. He was charged with public intoxication in 2014 after an argument with a woman in a cab. In 2010 he was charged with assault for punching a bar employee and was sentenced to 20 days in jail.
Any of those alone might have been enough to signal a problem that needed to be addressed, but apparently it hasn’t for Benson.
The Jaguars cut defensive lineman Jared Odrick this week, just two years into what was billed as a five-year, $42.5 million deal. An injury that limited him to just six games last year was one reason, but Odrick’s off-field interests may have been another.
Odrick is his own man, as detailed last offseason by TheMMQB.com. He says he’s not “blinded by the religion of football.” He spends his time off in Canada, which he says he prefers because America is a “gun culture” that was “built on the backs of slaves.” He has his own methods of training and nutrition, and they aren’t like those of most NFL players. He hopes to go into acting and writing after his football career is over.
According to ESPN.com, all those off-field interests sometimes caused some minor friction in the building.
There are some organizations that would be fine with all of that. But the Jaguars are now an organization run by Tom Coughlin who is very much an old-school football guy. And he wants to surround himself with old-school football guys.
If Odrick had played 16 games and recorded 10 sacks last season, the Jaguars would probably not have much of a problem with his off-field interests. But Odrick played six games and had one sack. That’s not the kind of production that can withstand “minor friction.”
For his part, Odrick doesn’t seem too broken up about it. He posted on Instagram a picture of himself at what he says was the moment he found out the Jaguars cut him. He’s at the beach, with a grin on his face.
The Minnesota Vikings offense floundered in 2016 for a myriad of reasons. Adrian Peterson missed most of the season to injury, Norv Turner resigned as offensive coordinator midseason, Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the year in the preseason and an offensive line that only resembled blockers far too often were among the biggest issues the Vikings had to deal with it.
Now with Pat Shurmur able to rebuild the team’s offense over the course of an entire offseason, the Vikings are hopeful they’ll be in a better position to move the football and score points next season.
“There will be things we do where we’ll be able to operate differently. Some of the plays will look different maybe in special situations,” Shurmur said of the team’s offense, via the Vikings official website. “But the key thing is that we have to do a better job of running the football in all situations, and I think that will be a focal point.
“From an offensive standpoint, you have to be able to score points so we need to be more efficient running the ball, hopefully more explosive, and then when we get in there close we have to score points.”
The Vikings finished last season ranked 28th in the league in total offense, averaging just 315.1 yards per game. They ranked 23rd in points per game with 20.4 points per game as well. Shurmur has some new coaches on the offensive staff as well. Kevin Stefanski is the new quarterbacks coach and Darrell Hazell has taken over as receivers coach. Now the Vikings will look to retool their approach this offseason and get their offense moving forward.
“I was excited about being able to be here,” Shurmur said. “I enjoyed my (first) year, and it’s just a matter now of getting to work and trying to put together an offense and a staff that we feel good about for next season.
“It’s more than just plays, it’s a mindset and how you operate. I think as we move forward, we’ve added some new coaches that have some new ideas, so what you try to do is incorporate the best of everyone that’s in the room and then move forward so it becomes the 2017 Vikings offense.”
As the Patriots bask in the afterglow of a fifth Super Bowl win, their owner will step into the spotlight of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
A profile of Robert Kraft will be included in Tuesday’s episode of the show (10:00 p.m. ET/PT), with Andrea Kremer having exclusive access to him. Coincidentally (or not), Kremer will join Tuesday’s PFT Live to discuss the project.
It’s part of an offseason priorities series that focuses coincidentally (or not) on the AFC East on Tuesday. Other guests include Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald and Tom Curran of CSN New England.
Tune in at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio. The show then slides to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET for the final two hours.
Washington has nine days to apply the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins. One way to avoid using it would be to sign Cousins to a long-term deal before then.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Cousins won’t be doing that.
As explained last week in reference to all players facing the tag, there’s no reason to do it before the player is tagged. The formula for doing a long-term deal doesn’t change after the tag is applied, and the deadline for turning the tag into a long-term contract continues to be July 15.
Absent a significant premium, Cousins has every reason to sit tight and draw a second franchise tag. By rule, he’d be essentially insulated from ever being franchise-tagged again, since he’d be entitled to a 44-percent raise over his franchise tag or a similar markup upon application of the franchise tag for the third time in his career.
And so the flow chart for Washington is simple through March 1: Tag him or don’t tag him. If he’s tagged, Cousins will rush to sign it, adding $23.94 million to the $19.95 million he earned last year. Then, talks on a long-term deal likely will consist of Cousins receiving $23.94 million fully guaranteed in 2017, plus a 20-percent raise (reflecting the increase arising from use of the transition tag) fully guaranteed for 2018. It’s a total of $52.67 million over two years; for anything less than that, Cousins should again take it year to year.
Before anyone accuses Cousins of being greedy, unreasonable, or not “worth” a contract that would make him the highest paid player in the NFL history, he’s simply playing the cards he has been dealt under the CBA and the salary cap. Washington could have signed him to a very reasonable long-term deal after his third season or during his fourth season. One he completed his rookie contract healthy and effective, the leverage swung to Cousins — and he has taken full advantage of it.
If fans are inclined to blame Cousins for that, the blame is better directed at the team, for not giving Cousins a reasonable degree of financial security until he was in position to finagle nearly $44 million over two years.
After being fired by the Vikings last month, Scott Turner will land on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at the University of Michigan, TheMMQB.com reported Monday.
Turner was the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach the last three seasons. Per the report, he’ll be an offensive analyst at Michigan under Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton, who left his job as quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach with the Browns last month to join Harbaugh’s staff as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator.
Turner is the son of former Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who resigned during the 2016 season. Prior to that, Turner was the wide receivers coach with the Browns in 2013 when his father was the offensive coordinator. He had coached in high school and in the college ranks before getting his first NFL job as quality control coach with the Panthers in 2011.
As the franchise tag deadline approaches, the Steelers haven’t ruled out using it on running back Le’Veon Bell. If they do, the price of it will have nothing to do with the future of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Under the 2011 CBA, the non-exclusive franchise tenders are determined based not on what any one player made in 2016 or will make in 2017, but on the five-year average of the percentage that the tenders for each position consume under the total cap. For running backs, the 2017 franchise tender will equate to 7.257 percent of the overall cap. At a salary cap of $165 million, that’s a tender of $11.9 million.
NFL Network has suggested that a decision by the Vikings to cut Adrian Peterson will cause that number to drop to $8 million. It won’t. Peterson’s $18 million cap number for 2017 is relevant only to the exclusive tag, which is based on the average of the five highest cap numbers at the position the coming year.
Via Spotrac.com, the five highest running back cap numbers for 2017 belong to Peterson, Bills running back LeSean McCoy ($8.875 million), Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart ($8.25 million), Texans running back Lamar Miller ($6.5 million), and Titans running back DeMarco Murray ($6.25 million). Even with Peterson’s $18 million, the next four drag the average down to $9.5 million If Peterson is cut, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles replaced Peterson at No. 5, with a cap number of $6.187 million. That reduces the average to $7.2 million.
As it relates to the exclusive version of the tag, none of that matters; under the CBA, the exclusive tender can be no less than the non-exclusive tender. (The same dynamic applied a year ago to Broncos linebacker Von Miller.)
The broader lesson from this quick excursion is that the Steelers should consider applying the exclusive version of the tender to Le’Veon Bell, sealing off his opportunity to negotiate with other teams and potentially signing an offer sheet elsewhere. Then again, if the Steelers could get two first-round picks for Bell, they should consider pouncing on the opportunity, since a pair of first-rounders (theirs and someone else’s) could be needed to trade up to get their next franchise quarterback, in 2017 or 2018.
Either way, it will cost them 7.257 percent of the salary cap to squat on Bell’s rights for one more year. No specific player’s cap number for 2016 or 2017 will make it any less than that.
Former Giants receiver Victor Cruz is looking for a job, and his first stop happened with former Giants executive Dave Gettleman.
Cruz told Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com that the visit to the Panthers “went well.” Stapleton adds that no deal is imminent, even though interest is mutual. Other visits could occur; currently, none are scheduled.
The Panthers need a slot receiver, and Cruz could fit the bill. With a head start on the open market, however, it makes sense for him to consider his options.
Undrafted out of the University of Massachusetts in 2010, Cruz became a star in 2011 with 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns during the team’s most recent Super Bowl season. In 2012, he generated 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. The following year, Cruz got within two yards of 1,000 despite missing two games.
The governor of Texas recently attacked the NFL for trying to squeeze the Lone Star State into not passing a bathroom bill. Part of the response included a threat to push for a law that would apply to a certain kind of stand-or-sit decision that some NFL players have begun to make.
“The NFL has coddled its players who refused to stand for the national anthem,” Greg Abbott said on FOX News, via CBSSports.com. “Imagine this, if the NFL decides to come down on the state of Texas, I might just pass a bill here in the state of Texas mandating that all NFL players have to stand and put their hand on the heart when the national anthem is played.”
After some pointed out that such a law would be grossly unconstitutional, a spokesman said that Abbott was engaging in “intentional hyperbole” aimed at “demonstrating the NFL’s own shortcoming of how they are disconnecting with their fan base by allowing players to disrespect the U.S. flag.”
So, basically, Abbott can’t pass a law forcing players to stand for the anthem, but he apparently would if he could, since the NFL’s fan base apparently believes players should be forced to stand for the anthem. Constitution notwithstanding.
The expected trades of tight end Julius Thomas from the Jaguars to the Dolphins and offensive tackle Branden Albert from the Dolphins to the Jaguars are awaiting final details, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday evening.
Thomas will be in Miami Tuesday for a physical, one of the final steps to the trade being finalized. Rapoport tweeted that Thomas has agreed to re-do his contract.
Per the report, the Jaguars will give up a 2018 late-round pick for Albert, who spent Monday in Jacksonville and is expected to discuss his contract with team officials Tuesday. Though it was originally reported that a player-for-player swap could happen, these trades are expected to be processed separately.
The Dolphins will give up a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft for Thomas, who had his best seasons in 2013-14 with the Broncos when Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver.
No trades can be made official until the new league year opens March 9.
One of the odder stories of the 2016 college football season came when Utah running back Joe Williams announced that he was quitting the team and quitting the sport of football — only to come back a month later and become one of the best players in the country, rushing for 1,300 yards in seven games.
Williams will be at the Scouting Combine next week, and he’s eager to explain to NFL teams that his brief departure doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the sport.
Instead, Williams told Tom Pelissero of USA Today, quitting football was necessary because grief and guilt he felt over the death of his sister a decade earlier had finally reached the point where he simply had to step away to focus on his mental health.
“People make it a big deal that I quit on the team. To me, it was necessary,” Williams said. “I was learning to come to grips with the fact that it wasn’t my fault. I’m 23 years old now, and I can’t blame myself for something that occurred 10 years ago, no matter how painful or traumatic it was. It would be bigger to honor her in a much more meaningful way.”
Williams’ 7-year-old sister died in her bed in the middle of the night of what her family later learned was a disease that caused inflammation of her heart. Williams says he spent years thinking of himself as responsible — not because that’s a rational thought, but because as a boy grieving his sister, he couldn’t think about her death rationally.
“That’s where the guilt comes in,” Williams said. “Because maybe if I had got out of my bed and maybe I’d held her or she knew I was there, maybe she would’ve woken up. That was the biggest reason of why I blame myself.”
Williams says he is in a better place mentally now, and is eager to keep playing the way he did after returning to his team last year. He wants NFL teams to know that he’s now more focused on football than ever.
So how are the Dolphins and Jaguars working out trades more than two weeks before trades are allowed? They’re not, officially.
Unofficially, they’ve agreed to agree to a trade that will send tight end Julius Thomas to the Dolphins as of March 9 at 4:00 p.m. ET. Unofficially, they eventually may agree to a trade that will send tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville at the same time.
Officially, they’ve agreed to nothing — and either side can back out without consequence. To the extent that Thomas and/or Albert will agree to new contracts contingent on trades being finalized, the players can back out, too, potentially derailing the broader deals.
While such an outcome would be viewed as a breach of the wink-nod etiquette that allows trades to be negotiated before they can officially be consummated, the teams and players have an out, if they choose to use it.
The same thing happened four years ago, when the 49ers and Chiefs worked out a trade for quarterback Alex Smith before the new league year began. Until both teams independently communicated the trade to the league office after the opening of the trading period, either team could have backed out.
Six year ago, the Bears failed to finalize a draft-day trade they had agreed to conduct with the Ravens, prompting sharp criticism from coach John Harbaugh. Still, the league won’t treat a trade as a binding agreement until both teams communicate the transaction to league headquarters.
And so, at any point in the next 17 days, either team can walk away without anything other than hard feelings or an aggressive sound bite that will fall on deaf ears at 345 Park Avenue.