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ProFootballTalk: Suggs: ‘If you can breathe, you can play’
As ownership families age, they naturally disperse the business to younger generations.
In Chicago, there appears to be some movement to consolidate some of the shares of ownership in the Bear to avoid potential future problems.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, owners are expected to vote this week on the potential sale of a small percentage of shares from one of George Halas’ grandchildren to the McCaskey family which controls the team, headed by chairman George McCaskey.
Issues of family succession and control might seem arcane, but the league has had numerous problems with the heirs of Bud Adams and how they’ve divided the team after his passing, since they want a clear managing partner.
While the report is short on specifics, it appears the Bears want to address them in advance.
The Cowboys weren’t what you’d call great on defense last year, but they were certainly good enough to not stop progress.
But losing so many starters on that side of the ball, including nearly the entire secondary, and five total players who started at least seven games for them last year could potentially be a big step back.
“There is a little bit of method to the madness here,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “Right now, going into the draft, we feel really good about our numbers. But at the same time we feel this is going to be a great opportunity for us to improve on the defensive side of the ball.
“It just so happens we feel the draft is inordinately strong on the defensive side of the ball.”
It better be. The Cowboys lost both starting cornerbacks in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, safety Barry Church and others in free agency. They did backfill a bit with signing cornerback Nolan Carroll, but their cap space has limited their ability to move. Jones said he’d have liked to kept some of the players they lost, up to a limit.
“Players we want to keep, we keep them,” Jones said. “Most of these players, I’m not going to single out guys, but most of them we were ready to let move on.
“Now, there were a few if they would have been for the right price, we would have done it. But we certainly didn’t want to get into overpaying for anybody.
“At the end of the day, we value our players. At certain numbers, it’s efficient for us to sign them. At other numbers, it’s not.”
The plan is that some existing young players will improve in larger roles, but the majority of the hope is staked to a draft that skews toward defensive talent, particularly a deep group of secondary and defensive line prospects.
The Browns traded for Brock Osweiler because they wanted a second-round draft pick and the Texans wanted to get out from under Osweiler’s contract. Osweiler’s potential contributions in Cleveland were an afterthought.
But as long as he’s on the team, Browns coach Hue Jackson says Osweiler will be given the same opportunities as other players, and Osweiler will be there when the offseason program starts.
“Obviously, he’s a player on our team and we’re going to treat him just like we do all of our other quarterbacks until he’s not,” Jackson told Steve Wyche of NFL Network. “He’s a guy that’s going to come in and compete. We haven’t had an opportunity to meet with him from a football standpoint because of the rules. But once we start our offseason program, Phase One, we’ll get a chance to know him and he’ll get to know us.”
The “until he’s not” part of the quote doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence that the Browns think Osweiler is their long-term answer, but for now anyway, the team is acting as if Osweiler has a chance to show he’s the best quarterback on the depth chart.
That depth chart currently consists of just Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan along with Osweiler, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Osweiler were to win a competition against those two. But the Browns can also acquire another quarterback before training camp starts. It seems like a long shot that the Browns will actually go into Week One with Osweiler under center.
The NFL has changed several rules in recent years designed to keep quarterbacks healthier. The league thinks it now has the evidence to show those rules are working.
According to Peter King of TheMMQB.com, starting quarterbacks missed a total of just 35 games in 2016, a significant reduction from the 59 games missed in 2015, 77 in 2014 and 76 in 2013. The league thinks that shows defensive players are learning not to hit quarterbacks illegally, and referees are focusing more on the safety of quarterbacks.
On the other hand, it could just be a statistical fluke. Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered a broken leg in Week 16 that caused him to miss one start, in Week 17. But if he had suffered that same injury in Week One, it could have ended his season and caused him to miss 15 starts. And Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr suffered a broken leg of his own in Week 16 that reportedly would have caused him to miss about eight games if it had come early in the season. Just change the timing of those two injuries, and the number of games missed by starting quarterbacks in 2016 could equal the number of games missed by starting quarterbacks in 2015.
So while it’s good news that fewer quarterbacks missed games, we’ll need a few more years of data before we can draw any real conclusions.
No one is taking seriously the retirement musings of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The team nevertheless realizes that he’s much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and they’re beginning to plan accordingly.
“I think we’ve been in that mindset for the last several years, that’s what this business tells us to be in,” coach Mike Tomlin told NFL Network in an interview that will be televised on Wednesday. “We better start sharpening our sword in terms of evaluation of quarterbacks and what’s available to us or potentially available to us, that’s just due diligence. So yes, we have.”
It makes plenty of sense for the Steelers to be looking for their next quarterback, even if Roethlisberger ultimately objects to the use of a high draft pick on a quarterback when it otherwise could be used on getting him help as he pursues a third Super Bowl win. Still, it doesn’t seem to be a major priority, at least not for now.
“I think because of [Roethlisberger’s] durability and how he plays, I don’t know that we have that level of urgency, but we are taking ourselves mentally through the process,” Tomlin said. “Not an easy one, obviously, but it is what it is. It’s an element of the business. Guys can’t play forever and he acknowledges that and we acknowledge that.”
In the two decades between the retirement of Terry Bradshaw and the drafting of Roethlisberger, the Steelers lacked a true franchise quarterback. Not coincidentally, they also didn’t win a Super Bowl during that same gap.
It will nevertheless make for an awkward year (or two, or three) if the Steelers draft Roethlisberger’s replacement before he needs to be replaced. That should be a very real factor for the team as it decides whether to roll the dice on the next franchise quarterback before the current one walks away.
Although the annual meetings technically began Sunday in Arizona, plenty of league personnel already have been here working on plenty of things via plenty of meetings discussing plenty of topics.
During the time that Broncos G.M. John Elway and Cowboys owner/G.M. Jerry Jones spent together, however, one specific subject has not been broached.
Many have assumed that Jones, who is believed to have told Romo on March 8 that he’d be released before changing his mind, wanted to delay the move until at least the league meetings, given the possibility of a trade offer. The Broncos seemed to be poised to make a run at Romo when it appeared he’d be released; they’ve sent strong and consistent signals that they won’t trade for him.
The Texans have done the same, but the current thinking is that, if any team blinks and makes an offer to the Cowboys, it will be the Texans.
Then there’s the possibility that Jones doesn’t want Romo to play for the Texans. At this point, Jones may prefer to see Romo retire to broadcasting. That way, Romo would never do what Peyton Manning did after the Colts moved on from him — thrive elsewhere and win a Super Bowl.
It took some researching, but one positive can be drawn now as it relates to the Jets and their meager quarterback situation.
They’ve been trying.
By one measure, like no team has.
Pro Football Talk collected data over the past decade to analyze how each NFL franchise has approached the quarterback position in the draft. The Jets selected an NFL-high seven over that span, including one in each of the past four drafts. Two of those four, Geno Smith a New York Giant and Tajh Boyd out of the league, are no longer with the club.
It is, of course, tongue-in-cheek to characterize this activity as “positive”; inserting rookies into a huddle and seeing who sticks isn’t an ideal spring rite of passage. Jets GM Mike Maccagnan recently allowed the team may take another dive into the 2017 quarterback class. Josh McCown currently sits atop his depth chart.
Mark Sanchez in 2009 is the Jets’ lone first-round quarterback in the past decade.
The Broncos drafted the second-most quarterbacks with six. Two were first-rounders: Paxton Lynch in 2016 and Tim Tebow in 2010.
The Browns are one of six teams to have selected five since 2007. No organization, however, has invested more in rookie quarterbacks during this period. Each of Cleveland’s five QBs was taken during the draft’s first three rounds. Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn were all first-round picks.
New England seems to have a preference for when it goes quarterback.
Of the five Bill Belichick drafted in this 10-year span, four were taken in the second or third round.
No team recently has invested less in a rookie quarterback than the Chargers. Despite scouting the position heavily, they are one of five teams to have selected an NFL-few two quarterbacks the past 10 years. Brad Sorensen in 2013 and Jonathan Crompton in 2010 were seventh- and fifth-round picks, respectively. Neither remains on the roster.
Like the Chargers, the Steelers and Giants acquired a franchise quarterback during the 2004 draft. And like the Chargers, they’ve yet to make a sizable draft investment in his successor. The Steelers’ only quarterbacks taken in a decade are 2013 fourth-rounder Landry Jones and 2008 fifth-rounder Dennis Dixon. All three of the Giants’ quarterback picks came between rounds four and six.
The Texans and Bears, despite a current need, have drafted just three quarterbacks in 10 years. Tom Savage in 2014 is Houston’s only such pick the past five drafts. All three of the Bears’ selections came in the fifth and sixth rounds. San Francisco hasn’t drafted a quarterback before the sixth round in five straight years.
A franchise that drafts several quarterbacks but hits on none is not rewarded for its effort.
The Jets can attest to this.
They’ve invested in a rookie quarterback year after year, hoping at some point someone will come along to fill their vacancy for good. But when that doesn’t transpire, a year passes, and the franchise finds itself in the same situation as it did a year before.
So here they are, beside other teams, sifting through a market for what can seem a mythical good.
The search continues.
For a team in a town known for politicians who speak in absolutes that are often absolutely untrue, take this for whatever you will: Washington president Bruce Allen insists that Kirk Cousins will be the team’s quarterback in 2017.
“That’s why we franchised him,” Allen told CSN Mid-Atlantic.
“I can’t keep up with the rumors,” Allen added. “Kirk and I have talked almost a dozen times this offseason, and we get to laugh when we hear these different rumors. We haven’t talked to anyone.”
The fact that they haven’t talked to anyone doesn’t mean they won’t, especially with the entire NFL gathered in Arizona for the annual league meetings.
“Our goal from the beginning has been long-term [contract],” Allen said. “I’m still hopeful and confident we’ll do it.”
Of course, that depends on what the definition of “the beginning” is. At the beginning of Cousins’ initial contract year, Washington didn’t want to talk. At the beginning of when they decided to engage Cousins, it was too little and too late to avoid the franchise tag launch sequence. At the beginning of the franchise tag period in 2016, Washington didn’t want to fully guarantee two years of the tag (i.e., $19.95 million plus $23.94 million) at signing. At the beginning of the dance this year, it likely will take the 2017 franchise tag ($23.94 million) and the 2018 transition tag (a 20-percent increase over this year’s pay, or $28.73 million), fully guaranteed at signing to get a long-term deal done.
Otherwise, Cousins can play out the season, pocketing two years of tag money and forcing Washington to decide whether to use the right-of-first-refusal-but-no-compensation transition tag in 2018 or the franchise tag for a third time, at a 44-percent increase (by rule) over this year’s amount. That approach would cost Washington $34.47 million next year, running Cousins’ three-year haul to $78.36 million.
Or they could entertain trading him now, getting 2017 draft-pick compensation and/or players in return and freeing up $23.94 million in cash and cap space and avoiding the likelihood that he walks away next year with only a 2019 compensatory draft pick in return.
But they insist they aren’t entertaining trading him now, which could be code for, “We don’t want to see desperate to trade him or we won’t get as much as we could.”
NFL owners just walked into their opening session of a meeting at which they’ll decide the destination of the Raiders.
And there’s not much suspense left as to how the vote is going to go.
The sense of optimism as the owners walked into the Arizona Biltmore Resort was real, and no one expects anything but affirmation for the Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas.
“We’ll find out tomorrow,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said as he walked into the meeting. “It’s gonna be an exciting day for Vegas.”
When Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked by moments earlier, he was asked if he thought the Raiders had the votes need (24) to approve the move.
“Hope so,” Kraft said as he passed.
That was the prevailing sentiment, as commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN earlier there wasn’t much reason to think another outcome was possible.
“I think we will have a vote, and I think we will have a positive vote,” Goodell said. “I think we are in pretty good shape.”
The actually balloting will happen tomorrow, but no one has voiced any opposition, with Chargers owner Dean Spanos among those saying he’d vote for the proposal as well.
Two former college teammates who play for rival NFL teams reportedly were arrested together early Sunday morning following an incident at a bar in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Bears cornerback Deiondre’ Hall was cited under suspicion of interference, disorderly conduct and public intoxication; Packers cornerback Makinton Dorleant was booked for alleged interference, according to KWWL, an NBC affiliate in Eastern Iowa.
Dorleant’s agent declined comment. Hall’s was unavailable to speak by phone, he said.
Both players entered the NFL in 2016 from Northern Iowa.
Hall, 22, was a fourth-round pick who finished with seven tackles, an interception and three passes defensed in eight games. Dorleant, 24, played four games for Green Bay as an undrafted rookie. He made one tackle while predominantly seeing time on special teams.
Hall was shocked with a Taser during the incident, which centered at Sharky’s Fun House, an 18-and-up establishment.
Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times cited a police report when detailing that Hall allegedly “refused to answer questions, yelled at officers, tried to escape and spat in their faces. … Hall resisted as he was being placed in handcuffs, according to the report, and refused to get in the backseat of the squad car.”
The NFL has hired a new top doctor to help with their concussion issue. And this time, he’s not a rheumatologist.
The league announced they had hired Dr. Allen Sills as their chief medical officer, a new full-time position they’ve created.
Sills was most recently a professor of neurological surgery, orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt, and was the founder and co-director of the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center.
“There is no higher priority for the NFL than player health and safety and we continually seek to raise our standards and then surpass them,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in their release. “We sought a highly-credentialed physician and leader with experience as a clinician and researcher, and Dr. Sills’ extensive experience caring for athletes makes him the right choice for this important position.”
Regardless Sills’ resume, which is extensive and impressive, that’s a long way from the league hiring Jets team doctor Elliott Pellman, the rheumatologist and Paul Tagliabue’s personal physician they put in charge of the league’s concussion committee. Pellman has since been nudged into retirement.
Theo Riddick, one of the NFL’s premier passing-game backs, is usually mindful of his hands.
This off-season, the attention is on his wrists.
The Lions veteran underwent surgery to both wrists following his December placement on injured reserve. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Riddick is expected to be ready for organized team activities, which begin in May.
Ability is less the issue in the Lions’ backfield.
Between ankle and wrist ailments, Riddick missed six games in 2016. He still finished with 53 receptions for 371 yards and five touchdowns while adding a career-high 357 rushing yards and a score. Ameer Abdullah suffered a Week 2 foot injury that ended his season. He also is expected to be ready for OTAs.
No Lions player gained more than 70 rushing yards in a single game last season.
Birkett postulated the team “could look to add a running back high in April’s draft or sign an aging veteran as insurance.” The April 27-29 draft is widely viewed to be well stocked at the position.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suffered a shoulder injury in Week 14, and last week decided to have surgery to repair the shoulder. Now the Panthers are facing questions about why Newton played the final weeks of the season after Carolina had been eliminated from playoff contention if his throwing shoulder was injured badly enough that he’d eventually need surgery.
But Carolina G.M. Dave Gettleman says the Panthers still try to win even when they’re out of playoff contention, Newton wanted to play and the medical staff thought he could.
“We are in the business of winning,” Gettleman said, via the Charlotte Observer. “That’s what we’re here for. I just know that’s my responsibility – put the best club on the field and to win games, that’s Ron [Rivera’s] job. That’s why we’re all here. You talk about our culture here and the No. 1 priority is winning football games. Those conversations happen. Cam’s a football player. He wanted to play and the medical people felt it was fine, so we did.”
As Newton was playing hurt, the Panthers were shutting down Luke Kuechly with a concussion, but Gettleman says it’s not fair to compare the two situations.
“It’s two different cases and I’m not going to go down there,” he said. “There’s always conversations with injuries. We have this crazy idea we should care about them as people. They’re going to have long lives beyond their NFL careers.”
Unlike a concussion, Newton’s shoulder injury isn’t the kind of ailment that raises concerns about his life after football. And so the Panthers said he could keep going at the end of 2016, even if it affects his readiness when training camp opens in 2017.
When it comes to the potential practical consequences of putting a professional football team in Las Vegas, the NFL isn’t completely ignoring the situation. It seems, however, that not nearly enough people are taking the situation as seriously as they should.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, some are indeed sounding alarms about moving a team to the nation’s gambling capital. Those alarms seem to be obscured by the sound of the league’s looming jackpot.
As noted on Saturday, the NFL can’t (and thus isn’t even trying to) reconcile its desire to put a team in Las Vegas with its supposed aversion to all things gambling. But if, after the owners get together this week with a chance for any opponents to chime in, the league gives the Raiders the green light to leave Oakland for Las Vegas, it will be important for both the team and the NFL to have clear plans in place for plopping players, coaches, executives, and other team employees into a place where gambling is more prevalent than good food quickly.
Put simply, players and their families will be moving into a place where gambling is everywhere. While some have argued that nearly any player on any team already is within driving distance of a casino, casinos in most places are destinations. In Las Vegas, where both casino games and sports betting are legal, a player can’t walk out of his apartment without being smacked in the face by the “here it is, why aren’t you here?” prevalance of it.
At some point, the lure of gambling will tempt everyone — even those who believe they are sufficiently self-disciplined to avoid it. At some point, someone connected to the team will develop a gambling problem. At some point, someone with a gambling problem will develop a significant gambling debt. At some point, someone with a significant gambling debt will be ripe to be compromised.
The league needs to be ready to prevent it (which may be impossible) and to spot it when it happens (which may be just as difficult). And even if the league manages to keep it from ever happen for the duration of the Raiders’ stay in Las Vegas, the league needs to be ready to hear more of the same-old conspiracies about corrupt officiating and points shaving, realizing that a layer of craps-table felt will make the tin-foil hats seem less nutty.
The Seattle Seahawks have used 2017 free agency to load up in one specific area of the roster. They’ve now added three veteran linebackers to the team.
Via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, the Seahawks have signed Terence Garvin. The former West Virginia defender (he played there with former Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin) spent 2016 with Washington. Before that, Garvin had three years with the Steelers.
He joins Arthur Brown and Michael Wilhoite as new Seattle linebackers. Beyond adding depth to the linebacking corps, Garvin will help on special teams. As Condotta notes, the departure of tight end Brandon Williams created a need on the third leg of the football stool.
Garvin, 26, has played in 59 career regular-season games with one start in four NFL seasons.