Can the Vikings roll in Green Bay? Will the Colts go into Detroit and kick the Lions when they are down? Does no Big Ben mean no chance for the Steelers in Baltimore? The PFT guys sort through Week 13’s mess with their Sunday picks.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Week 13 picks
Patriot owner Robert Kraft testified in the first Aaron Hernandez trial. Patriots coach Bill Belichick could testify in the second Aaron Hernandez trial.
Via the Associated Press, Hernandez’s lawyers have added Belichick to the list of possible witnesses. The head coach joins offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as persons who may take the oath and answer questions.
The potential purpose of Belichick’s testimony isn’t known. Typically, lawyers pump up the list with an overly broad list of names in order to conceal the actual case strategy that would arise if the lawyers listed only the witnesses who actually will testify.
Putting it another way, it’s like listing 20 players as “questionable” so that the other team won’t know who’s actually injured.
Already convicted and serving life without parole for the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez now stands trial for the July 2012 murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Jury selection has begun, and opening statements are scheduled for March 1.
Former North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky will participate in everything except the bench press at next week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Trubusky’s father told the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio.
Though that’s subject to change, it’s noteworthy because some top prospects skip their group’s workout session and instead choose only to throw or fully work out on their own campuses.
Earlier this week, former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said he plans to fully participate in the NFL Scouting Combine. Trubisky, Watson and DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame — all early entries in the 2017 NFL Draft — are generally considered the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft, while some would put Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech among the top group.
There doesn’t seem to be a consensus No. 1 quarterback at this point of the process, so the hand-shaking, medical-checking and interview portions of next week’s event figure to be just as important as what goes on in the formal throwing session, which ends the three days the quarterbacks will spend in Indianapolis.
Workout groups in Indianapolis are generally divided alphabetically and by position, so Trubisky and Watson will likely be throwing together in the second group during the on-field quarterback workout.
The 49ers announced Wednesday that longtime personnel executive Tom Gamble is leaving the team.
Gamble has spent 10 of his 29 NFL seasons with the 49ers. He returned to the team for the past two years after serving as vice president of player personnel with the Eagles in 2013-14.
“The 49ers organization has tremendous respect and appreciation for Tom Gamble and his many years of service,” new 49ers General Manager John Lynch said in the team’s release on Gamble’s departure. “He is a class act who has helped a great deal in this transition, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him.
“After working together over the last month, Tom and I agreed that it would be in both of our best interests for him to pursue other opportunities. Tom is a true professional and we wish him and his family great success in the future.”
Gamble was director of pro personnel with the 49ers from 2005-10 and director of player personnel in 2011-12 before going to Philadelphia. He was the team’s assistant G.M. last season, putting him in position to help Lynch transition into his first front office job.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick can bail on the balance of his contract between March 2 and March 7. The 49ers can do so at any time. For now, both sides are still weighing their options. The process included a recent meeting between the player and his new coach and G.M., Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, respectively.
“We had a great discussion and Colin left excited, we left excited and I think as Kyle and I really believe, the evaluation is still very much fluid,” Lynch told KNBR, via Chris Biderman of USA Today.
“And we’ve only been on the job a couple weeks. I can tell you, we both really very much being around Colin and he seems like he’s in a real good place.”
Kaepernick is due to earn $14.5 million in 2017, and the 49ers surely won’t be paying him that kind of money for one more year. Given that Shanahan and Lynch are newcomers, Kaepernick is no different to them than any other free agent quarterback would be. Because he’s still under contract with the 49ers, however, the team has the ability to talk to him and to negotiate with him before he voids the contract and becomes a free agent.
There’s a chance that, in the end, both sides will decide that its in their mutual best interests to give it another try. The final decision will depend on the other options for the team and the other options for the player. Given that multiple other teams will not be inclined to alienate a large swath of the fan base by signing the player at the heart of the 2016 anthem protests, staying in San Francisco could be his best option.
In weighing his options, Kaepernick would benefit from some third-part advice. For now, though, he still doesn’t have an agent.
When the Patriots traded for tight end Martellus Bennett, they knew that: (1) he had one more year left on his contract; and (2) if he and/or the team had a big year, Bennett would try to parlay the experience into a contract potentially worth more than what the Patriots would be willing to pay. Indeed, the Patriots have a habit of trading for players in the final years of their contracts because if/when the players leave via free agency, the departure counts toward the team’s eventual haul of compensatory draft picks.
Of course, that reality isn’t keeping some fans from lobbying Bennett to take less to stay in New England. To that, Bennett had this to say: “Stop @’ing me about taking less money. You take less money [at] your job? All of you take a pay cut hahaha.”
Later, he said this: “All I’m saying is cut your own grass don’t be all in my garden f–king with my fruit while weeds are growing all over yours.”
Bennett is right. Football players have a limited number of years to play, and they have every right to try to get as much as they can while they can. Owners chase every dollar they can without criticism; players should do the same.
Actually, players have even more reason to pursue as much money as possible because they don’t own anything other than their own bodies. At a time when management and labor are roughly splitting the revenues, the players get half the revenue and the owners get all the revenue and all the equity.
So go for it, Marty and every other free agent. Get paid. Use your leverage. And don’t apologize to any of the people who aren’t putting their short-term and long-term health interests on the line to engage in a profession that too many trivialize by calling it a “game.”
It’s not a game. It’s a multi-billion-dollar enterprise that keeps growing and growing and the men who have careers that last for a blink of an eye in relation to the overall life of the business should do anything and everything to get what they can while they can.
“You better believe we want DeSean here,” Winston told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday. “I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean.”
The new league year begins March 9, and Jackson will be a free agent unless he signs a new deal with Washington before then.
Winston was asked about Jackson during an appearance at a school because of an ESPN report from earlier in the week that listed Tampa Bay as a possible destination for Jackson, who’s talked openly about free agency. The ESPN report said Jackson and Winston have an existing relationship and listed the Bucs as a possible suitor.
Winston said now that he has two seasons under his belt, he “can be one of our best recruiters. My main focus is to win.”
Jackson, 30, has long been one of the NFL’s best deep threats. A potential pairing of Mike Evans and Jackson would allow Winston the opportunity to throw the ball vertically on both sides of the field and dare safeties to devote extra attention to one side or another.
Linebacker James Harrison didn’t spend much time after the end of the Steelers’ season weighing whether he wanted to return for another NFL season.
Harrison, who turns 39 in May, said after the team’s playoff loss that he wasn’t done playing. It appears he’s already thinking about his plans for after his 40th birthday as well.
Harrison’s agent Bill Parise told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that his client would like to sign a two-year contract this offseason. This week also brought word of “mutual interest” between Harrison and the Steelers in yet another year in Pittsburgh and Parise confirmed their side of it.
“Of course James wants to be in Pittsburgh,” Parise said.
It remains to be seen if the Steelers share that interest, but there are a lot of ways to structure a contract so that parting won’t be too onerous if the Steelers decide that Harrison has reached the end of the line by the end of the 2017 season.
If you watched or listened to Wednesday’s PFT Live, you saw or heard (or both) a discussion about the teams that could be or should be interested in Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. And while Cutler has the power to essentially scare away any potential suitor, it doesn’t get to that point unless and until potential suitors emerge.
So which teams could be or should be interested in adding Cutler via trade or, if he’s released, as a free agent? Here’s the list that Stats and I discussed on Wednesday’s show.
49ers: This one makes a lot of sense, for various reasons. First, the cupboard is largely bare. Second, new G.M. John Lynch called Cutler a “once-in-every-15-year-type talent” after the Broncos traded Cutler to the Bears eight years ago. Third, the father of new coach Kyle Shanahan drafted Cutler 11 years ago in Denver. And while Shanahan has said he’s not interested in a short-term fix at quarterback, Cutler at the age of 33 could, in theory, have five or more years left.
Jets: Last year, the Jets reluctantly paid Ryan Fitzpatrick $12 million to be the starter. This year, they could trade for Cutler at $12.5 million (plus up to $2.5 million in per-game roster bonuses). That comparison, along with the presence of Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg on the roster, makes Cutler a potential arrival in New York — even though ESPN.com reported in the aftermath of the hiring of Jeremy Bates, a twice-former Cutler tutor, as quarterbacks coach that the Jets won’t be pursuing Cutler.
Bills: If they decide not to guarantee $27.5 million to Tyrod Taylor, the Bills need a quarterback. Enter Cutler, who arguably would walk through the door as the best signal-caller since the days of the Doug Flutie/Rob Johnson rigmarole. But a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since Johnson and Flutie were on the roster should think twice about embracing a quarterback who hasn’t been there since 2010 — especially since Cutler may have no interest in spending his final years playing second fiddle in the AFC East to Tom Brady.
Chiefs: Adding Tony Romo makes sense because it can be argued that Alex Smith has taken the Chiefs as far as he can. That’s still farther than Cutler would possibly take them. Given Cutler’s personal playoff drought and his own durability questions, Cutler wouldn’t be the potential upgrade that Romo could be.
Texans: It makes no sense to add Jay Cutler at his current salary or anything close to it, especially with Brock Osweiler getting $16 million fully guaranteed in 2017. It makes plenty of sense to consider Cutler as a backup, at backup-quarterback pay, if it gets to the point where no one wants Cutler as a starter and the Texans want a viable break-glass-in-emergency option if/when Osweiler fails during his second season with the team.
Broncos: I love good stories (because clickety-click-click), and a Cutler homecoming to Colorado would be a great story. It also is plausible, given that the football regime has completely changed since he was run out of town by Josh McDaniels and in light of the current in-house options. Last year, an effort to trade for Colin Kaepernick cratered because Denver didn’t want to pay $12 million for one year. How much would John Elway and company be willing to pay Cutler? Ultimately, that could be the key to a potential reunion.
Washington: The case against tagging Kirk Cousins is a simple one. At $23.94 million for 2017 under the franchise tag, Washington could get someone nearly as good as Cousins for a lot less money, with the rest going to other players at other positions. Cutler, at roughly half the amount Cousins would cost, therefore makes sense to consider, if Washington is seriously considering not keeping Cousins.
Dolphins: I’m throwing this one in here primarily to troll Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Cutler had a strong season in 2015, when Dolphins coach Adam Gase ran the offense in Chicago. But as became clear during the 2016 season and the trade deadline approached, the Dolphins are all in with Ryan Tannehill, and they won’t be adding Cutler.
Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said at the Davey O’Brien Award reception in Forth Worth, Texas, that he wants to be a Cowboy. Watson said that when he won the Davey O’Brien Award last year, he told Cowboys coach Jason Garrett that if he won the award again, the Cowboys would have to draft him. Watson did win the award again, so Watson wants the Cowboys to follow through.
“I like being in Fort Worth, Texas, and I promise you I’ll be back here,” Watson said. “And I told coach Garrett, ‘If I’m back here, you have to draft me.’ I know a lot of Cowboys fans, Tony Romo is healthy, Dak, I’m a huge fan, love that man, he’s been successful, but hey, I did my part, you have to do your part. I’ll see you at the Combine so we’ll talk more about that.”
There is, of course, exactly zero chance of the Cowboys trading Dak Prescott to draft Watson, and Watson surely knows that — he was laughing as he said it. But in Watson’s perfect world, the Cowboys would acquire the first overall pick from Cleveland, and Watson would go to Dallas.
“The Browns do need a quarterback. You can trade both of them. They need two.”
Watson was joking, as was Myles Garrett when he called for the Cowboys to draft him. But Browns fans may not find it so funny that top prospects keep talking about how they’d prefer to go elsewhere.
Wednesday’s PFT Live included a visit from Eli Gold, the long-time voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Gold addressed, among other things, the incoming NFL class of Alabama players and the hiring of former Alabama assistant Steve Sarkisian by the Falcons. Along the way, I asked Gold about the possibility that the man who once declared he won’t be the Alabama coach will be anything but the Alabama coach.
Eli Gold firmly believes that Saban is staying put — and specifically that he won’t return to the National Football League.
“He loves what he does and this is what he is,” Gold said. “He is a football coach. He is a teacher who is also a football coach. He teaches these young men how to be better players, how to be better people and that was the thing he didn’t like about the National Football League.
“Once he got the players in the NFL, they were who they were. You’re not gonna to be a coach and I just pick this name out of a hat so don’t take anything from it. But you’re not gonna be a coach in the NFL and change a Flozell Adams, he is who he is. Vince Wilfork, he is who he is. You’re not gonna come in and start changing guys, as wonderful a player as those two gentlemen are and were.
“But in college you can change people. You can make them into men. You can make them into better people and get them to the level of where a Flozell Adams was in his heyday and where Vince Wilfork is and that’s what Nick Saban missed in the pros. He didn’t have that molding-of-people element to the job, so he loves doing that.”
Gold added that Saban genuinely loves the recruiting element of the college coach’s job, and that he doesn’t view the travel demands and the uncertainty of landing the desire players as drudgery or a source of frustration.
“I don’t care who you are if you enjoy getting up in the morning and go to work you’re gonna do better than the guy who’s going because he has to and he’s just putting in his time,” Gold said. “Nick Saban loves recruiting, loves coaching, he thrives on this stuff he really does.”
For everything Gold had to say about Alabama players, Sarkisian, and one of the best football coaches college football ever has had, given the full video a listen.
After the Steelers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, running back Le’Veon Bell said he was consulting with doctors about whether he needed to have surgery to address the groin injury that knocked him out of that contest.
It looks like Bell is going to avoid an operation. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Bell has not scheduled any surgery at this time. Rapoport adds that Bell “would’ve had it by now if necessary.”
Bell’s contract expired at the end of the season, but the surgery question isn’t likely to impact how things play out for him in the next few weeks.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said last week that the team wants to have Bell “be a member of the Steelers for life.” March 1 is the deadline to use the franchise tag in the event they don’t reach agreement on a long-term deal before that point.
One of the leading figures of the National Football League Players Association in the 1970s has died.
Ed Garvey, who was the union’s first executive director, died on Wednesday morning in Verona, Wisconsin. His death was first reported by Dave Zweifel of the Capital Times.
Garvey was a labor lawyer for a Minneapolis firm representing the NFLPA in the late 1960s and was named the group’s first executive director in 1970 after working alongside union president John Mackey. Garvey remained in the role through 1982 when he was succeeded by Gene Upshaw.
There were a pair of strikes during Garvey’s tenure in 1974 and 1982, although only the latter strike cost the league any regular season games. His stint as executive director also saw the union win a lawsuit invalidating the Rozelle Rule, which limited players’ ability to move by giving then-commissioner Pete Rozelle the right to assign compensation to any team losing a free agent. The court ruling did not eliminate the compensatory element, but wrote the formula for determining it into the CBA rather than a ruling by the commissioner.
Garvey later worked in the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office and made a pair of unsuccessful runs for Senate twice.
Social media has played a role in the football world in a variety of ways in recent years with one of the most frequent being the posting of videos by players rehabbing from injuries.
Players who are headed toward free agency are often among those sharing such glimpses into what’s going on in their lives and Packers running back Eddie Lacy joined the fun this week. Lacy posted a video of himself working out in a pool as he continues his recovery from a season-ending ankle injury and surgery.
There’s not much to glean from the video about where Lacy stands in the rehab process nor is there much of a hint about what kind of shape he’s in outside of the ankle. Lacy’s weight has been an issue for the Packers over the last couple of years and will likely be one for any suitors in free agency next month as well.
Due to the injury and a lackluster 2015 campaign, Lacy may be looking at signing a one-year deal in hopes of proving he’s worthy of a bigger investment at this point in 2018. That opportunity could come with the Packers, who currently have only converted wideout Ty Montgomery under contract at running back for next season.
The team that drafts former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon will be getting a very talented player. That team will also be getting a public relations nightmare, as the local TV news in Mixon’s new NFL city will surely feature plenty of footage of Mixon punching a woman, breaking bones in her face.
There’s no doubt that NFL personnel people will like what they’ve seen of Mixon, but will an NFL owner sign off on the possibility that Mixon will tarnish the team’s reputation? That’s the question that will determine where Mixon is drafted — or if he’s drafted at all.
That’s the word from Mike Mayock, who said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he has talked to “a bunch” of NFL teams and they’ve all told him the same thing: Evaluating Mixon isn’t so much about the football people determining how good he is as about the owner deciding whether he wants to take a PR hit. Mayock said every team he’s talked to about Mixon has told him it will be an “ownership decision.”
The Mixon video is similar to that of Ray Rice, whose career was ended by the video of him punching his wife. So it’s conceivable that all 32 teams will take a pass on Mixon, just as all 32 teams have taken a pass on Rice.
However, Rice was already on the downside of his career when that video surfaced. Mixon is a very promising player who’s just 20 years old. It’s likely that some team will take a shot on Mixon. Just as long as the owner is OK with it.
It’s gradually becoming a foregone conclusion that Washington will apply the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins for a second time. Whether that means Cousins definitely will be with the team is a different issue.
Once it became obvious that the 49ers would hire coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers became an obvious potential destination for Cousins. So what would it take to make that happen? (Glad you asked, even if you didn’t.)
The first step will be setting trade compensation. The No. 2 overall pick in the draft arguably is too much; the teams could flip-flop the second and 17th picks for starters, with maybe something more (for example, the 49ers’ second-round pick) to get it done.
The harder part will be working out a contract with Cousins.
Since he’d have to be tagged before he’s traded, Cousins will be entitled to $23.94 million for 2017 prior to any contract being done with the 49ers. With the franchise tag and its 44-percent raise highly unlikely for 2018, Washington at most would apply the transition tag next year, which would increase the $23.05 million by another 20 percent — to $28.78 million. And so Cousins likely would want more than $52 million fully guaranteed over the first two years as part of a long-term deal to stay in Washington.
So here’s the real question: Would Cousins accept a deal that pays out less than $52 million over the first two years as part of a trade to San Francisco? He previously has made it clear he won’t take a hometown discount in Washington; would he extend a hometown discount to a new hometown that is ready and willing to give him the kind of long-term security that Washington has refused to provide?
If yes, then a tag-and-trade becomes more likely. If no, then he gets traded to the 49ers only if the 49ers will give Cousins the same deal he wants in Washington, if/when he’s tagged again.