Mike Florio breaks down the best news in the NFL including the questions surrounding who will take home each postseason award, how the Texans will fare when their games have much more meaning, and the fate of Josh Brent in a Cowboys’ uniform.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Who will take home the trophy?
As the Lions try to prepare for life after Calvin Johnson, they’ve added another receiver to the depth chart.
Per a league source, Detroit has signed former Broncos receiver Andre Caldwell to a one-year deal.
Caldwell, who actually is older than Calvin Johnson, arrives after four seasons in Denver and four before that in Cincinnati.
His best season came in 2009, when Caldwell caught 51 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, Caldwell caught only 10 passes for 72 yards and a pair of scores in the regular season. He also added three catches for 36 yards in the postseason, including a 22-yard reception in Super Bowl 50.
The catch and run came on a third down during the opening drive of the game, which resulted in a field goal.
Now he’s lost his spot on the roster altogether. The Seahawks made Nowak one of five cuts from the roster on Wednesday as they made changes to accommodate their incoming group of rookies.
Nowak made seven starts in the first eight weeks of the 2015 season, but was benched as the Seahawks tried to find a more productive offensive line group after a rocky start to the season. The offensive line remained a concern and continues to be a weak spot for the team, but the offense and quarterback Russell Wilson in particular took off over the final eight games.
Nowak ended the year on the practice squad after being waived from the active roster in December and signed a futures deal with the Seahawks early in the offseason. Running back Cameron Marshall, tight end Ronnie Shields, defensive end Josh Shirley and wide receiver Tyler Slavin were also let go.
The NFL wants its new players to be as healthy as possible. Before the NFL pounds them to smithereens.
One of this year’s most debated cases of damaged goods was former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. Appearing on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, G.M. Dave Caldwell discussed the thought process that resulted in a trade up in round two to get Jack — and the prognosis for his knee.
“As we started to get to the late 20s [in round one] I was relatively surprised because we still had [Jack] in our top five players,” Caldwell said. “So we were looking at him as a possible trade back in to the first round. I didn’t really want to give up the fourth-round pick [to trade into round one] because I knew there would still be good defensive players on the board.
“After we slept on it, I reached out to a few teams picking in front of us and I just said, ‘Hey, if our guy’s there, it’ll be a fifth-round pick if guys are willing to do it,’ and Baltimore graciously was willing to do it. They did a nice job, too, because they then parlayed it into another trade-back scenario.”
So what about the concern that Jack may need microfracture surgery at some point?
“I think there’s a lot of information out there, and all the information out there is not accurate,” Caldwell said. “We feel really good about the research that our doctors have done, our medical staff, our trainers. We’ve consulted some of the best cartilage specialists in the country, and we have a plan for him.”
The plan for now is to let Jack, who tore a meniscus last season, get ready for his rookie season.
“Right now, he’s full go,” Caldwell said. “If he was in spring ball, he’d be able to participating at UCLA’s practice, according to his operating surgeon. We look forward to getting him out here and practicing and if something does arise we do have a good plan for it. I don’t think the plan involves microfracture [surgery]. I feel confident with the kind of people we’ve consulted and our medical staff. I don’t think he’s a candidate for that from what I’ve been told, but there may be need to be a procedure somewhere down the line. As of right now he looks good, he feels good, and he’s ready to go.”
“We would like [Jack] too but if something were to arise it’s not like our cupboard’s bare there,” Caldwell said. “So we look forward to having him come in and compete, and we think that with his skill set . . . he’ll come in and help us.”
So the Jaguars were willing to roll the dice on Myles Jack. If it works out, Jack could end up making a huge difference for the Jaguars as the team tries to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2007.
The Cowboys took a big chance when they took linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round of the NFL draft, as Smith is recovering from a very serious knee injury.
Except that the surgeon who performed Smith’s surgery also happens to be the Cowboys’ head team physician, and he’s very confident that Smith will heal completely.
The Cowboys’ website reported that Cooper was a major part of the decision to draft Smith, and Cowboys Executive V.P. Stephen Jones said today on Mike & Mike that Cooper gave Smith a positive prognosis, leading the football people to get on board with the idea that he’s worth a second-round pick — even if he won’t play until 2017.
“Dr. Cooper sat us down and walked us through other injuries where the nerve didn’t fire right away and then ultimately it did and ultimately they made a full recovery to be the player they had been before the injury,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News.
Cooper is staking his reputation on his belief that Smith will return to full speed and get on the field in a year. And the Cowboys believe in their team doctor.
The Cardinals drafted six players last week and they agreed to terms with 16 undrafted free agents, leaving them with more players than they had room for on their 90-man roster.
They began remedying that problem on Wednesday by parting ways with four players. They’ll need to make one more move in order to have room for all the rookies as the undrafted signings don’t count against the roster until they officially sign their contracts with the team at the start of rookie minicamp on Thursday.
Three of the players the Cardinals dispatched are listed as cornerbacks, including Joel Wilkinson. Wilkinson is an Australian Rules Football player who was trying to make the same jump that running back Jarryd Hayne made with the 49ers. Kevin White and Tyrequek Zimmerman were also cut after their chances of making the team took a hit when the Cardinals drafted a pair of corners.
Arizona also drafted center Evan Boehm in the fourth round, which likely helped them decide to waive center Valeran Ume-Ezeoke.
The Broncos didn’t draft any tight ends last weekend, but they deemed one expendable Wednesday anyway.
The team announced they had waived tight end Richard Gordon, who made a cameo appearance for them last season when they were short at the position.
Gordon’s a blocker by trade, who will turn 29. He’s spent time with six different organizations, with stints with the Raiders, Steelers, Chiefs, Titans, Chiefs again, Broncos, Ravens and Broncos again. He has four career receptions, none since 2013.
He played five snaps in the one game he appeared in last year, before being cut when they needed safety help. He was re-signed this offseason, but they parted ways today.
The man who has been charge of NFL Security for nearly a decade is moving on.
Per multiple sources, NFL V.P. of security Jeffrey Miller has resigned. The NFL has confirmed that Miller is leaving.
“He informed the league last month that he was going to take a job on the West Coast with a private security firm,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “He worked the draft, will work at the league meeting and subsequent training session. He will leave the NFL next month.”
As one source put it, the move has nothing to do with performance, and it wasn’t initiated by the league. “This guy is awesome, really competent,” the source said.
Miller has taken a position that will allow him to move to the West Coast. He joined the league in 2008, after serving as Pennsylvania’s state police commissioner.
Plenty of scrutiny came Miller’s way in 2014, after the Ray Rice elevator video surfaced the day after the regular-season opener. The Associated Press reported in September 2014 that the video had been sent to Miller before it surfaced at TMZ.com. An independent investigation found no evidence that Miller or anyone else had received the video.
The NFL has not decided on a replacement, according to one source with knowledge of the situation.
For clarity, the Jeffrey Miller who is leaving the NFL runs security. The Jeff Miller who serves as executive V.P. of player health and safety remains on the job.
Four 2016 draft picks are now under contract. Only one was a first-round pick.
Falcons safety Keanu Neal, the 17th overall selection in the draft, has agreed to terms on the standard four-year deal, with a fifth year option to be exercised by May 3, 2019. The contract will be signed Thursday.
Per a league source, Neal told the Falcons he wanted to focus on getting ready to play football and not on negotiating a contract. So the two sides got the deal done quickly, and Neal is now under contract for all offseason activities.
The move proves that all draft picks can — and should — be signed before they report for offseason workouts. Otherwise, they’re working out for free.
Neal played college football at Florida, entered the draft after three seasons of college football. At age 20, he’s one of the youngest players in the entire draft class.
The Vikings were the first team to sign its entire draft class in 2015 and they are pushing to finish first in 2016 as well.
The latest pick to agree to terms is cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who, per multiple reports, will formally sign his contract with the Vikings on Thursday. Seventh-round defensive end Stephen Weatherly is also expected to sign Thursday and the team has already agreed to deals with their other seventh-rounder and both of their sixth-round picks.
With those five players done, the Vikings only have to wrap up deals with first-round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, fourth-round offensive lineman Willie Beavers and fifth-round linebacker Kentrell Brothers to have the entire class under contract.
Alexander got some buzz as a potential first-round pick after wrapping up his career at Clemson, where he played with Vikings seventh-round pick Jayron Kearse. He lasted until the 54th overall pick, however, and the Vikings are expected to start him out as a backup to slot corner Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn can be a free agent after the season, which should leave Alexander wit the job if he earns the staff’s trust as a rookie.
Instead, it’s Blaine Gabbert, who usurped Kaepernick as the 49ers’ starting quarterback last season, who has taken charge.
“He’s definitely taking control,” tight end Garrett Celek said of Gabbert, via CSNBayArea.com. “Whoever’s at quarterback needs to take control and be our leader out there. And he’s definitely doing that. He’s making good decisions on the field. I think he’s definitely developing more and more as the days go on. But, right now, we’re all in the same boat learning this offense.”
Despite widespread talk of a Kaepernick trade, from all appearances he will remain in San Francisco and compete with Gabbert for the starting job. Last year Gabbert finished the season ahead of Kaepernick on the depth chart, and while Kaepernick eases back into work following multiple offseason surgeries, he may have a hard time moving back ahead of Gabbert and into the starting job.
Some have suggested that quarterback Johnny Manziel’s best chance of getting back into the NFL would happen only if his former coach at Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin, were to jump to the next level. But Manziel could be burning that bridge, too.
Sumlin recently told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM in Phoenix that he has been unable to contact Manziel.
“I had texted him a couple of times and given him a call but haven’t got a return back,” Sumlin said. “So from that standpoint it’s a little unnerving. But there’s gonna come a time where he’s ready to communicate. . . . Our concern is for his well-being, and has nothing to do with football and has everything to do with life. It’s important that he knows that.”
Sumlin said he last saw Manziel at former Aggies teammate Mike Evans‘ wedding, in February.
Manziel has, by all appearances, changed nothing since being cut by the Browns and then fired by agent Drew Rosenhaus. Last Friday night, Manziel fired off a defiant rant on Twitter, making it clear that he has no intent to make the changes that many close to him believe are necessary.
The Rams will open their rookie minicamp on Friday, but one of their draft picks has a little business to conduct in a Kentucky courtroom on Thursday before getting on the field with his new team.
Tight end Tyler Higbee had his name called in the fourth round last Saturday despite an arrest earlier in April on second-degree assault, second-degree evading police and public intoxication charges. Higbee is set to be arraigned on those charges Thursday and his lawyer Brian Lowder told USA Today that his client will be pleading not guilty.
“He’s in good spirits and is excited about the opportunity to play with the Rams,” Lowder said.
Higbee, who went to Western Kentucky, struck Nawaf Alsaleh outside a Bowling Green club on April 10 and knocked him unconscious. Higbee admitted hitting the man, but, per the police report, said “the victim had been getting close to his girlfriend and getting close to him and stuck his head in Higbee’s face.”
Higbee’s lawyer has said they plan to argue self-defense and also denied that his client used racial taunts before striking the other man, although he told police he said “watch out, Haji” after hitting Alsaleh.
After the team picked Higbee, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, via ESPN.com, that the team researched the incident and wouldn’t have picked Higbee if “we had some concerns that it was going to be a problem down the line.”
The 49ers might have plenty of uncertainty at quarterback, but they’ve quietly put together a very solid defensive front seven, and they got part of that group under contract.
The team announced that restricted free agent linebacker Michael Wilhoite had signed his one-year contract.
The 49ers found him playing for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL in 2011, and he’s gradually worked his way up from the practice squad to have become a regular part of the rotation, breaking into the lineup because of injuries but performing well once he got the chance.
Of course, now that they’re playing for Chip Kelly, they’re going to have to be deep, as they’re going to play a lot more snaps than they have in the past.
One of the more overlooked moves of free agency came when one of the more overlooked veteran players reunited with the guy who was involved in drafting him a decade ago.
Former 49ers (and Broncos) tight end Vernon Davis signed with Washington, where former 49ers V.P. of player personnel Scot McCloughan now serves as General Manager. Appearing earlier this week on PFT Live, McCloughan explained the thought process behind adding Davis to the team’s offense.
“I brought him in to sit down and just talk with him,” McCloughan said. “Make sure he still had the passion and the energy to play. I wish you could see him on the practice field because Phase Two [of the offseason program] started [Monday]. He’s the same guy, he’s explosive as all get out, he’s smiling, he’s gonna be all right and he’s back home. He’s from here he’s very excited. He’s a genetic freak. He’s one of those guys that’s never been hurt, he’s 32 and he looks like when I drafted him, the same guy. I mean, he’s ripped. It’s amazing. He’s got his speed and quickness still. People downplay it, but he’s a good blocker, too.”
With ascending young tight end Jordan Reed on the roster (who seems to be open on almost every play) Davis will give the Washington offense a powerful extra piece if he plays like he did during his best days with the 49ers.
Still, McCloughan’s assessment of Davis makes his disappearing act in Denver even more confusing. He had one catch on December 20 against the Steelers and, thereafter, not a single reception through the final gun of Super Bowl 50.
Part of the reason Bruce Arians seems to be enjoying himself so much is that he’s been liberated from worrying about the future.
Having been through so many moves and coaching changes in his career, the 63-year-old Arians has a rare sense of self-awareness about his current situation, which allows him to appreciate the moment he’s in.
“You never know how long this will last,” Arians told Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “There’s the old saying, there’s two kinds of coaches, ones that are fired and others who are going to get fired. You just enjoy every day. Right now, it’s the highlight of it.
“There will be lowlights, we know that. But I’m enjoying every single day. This will be my last job.”
Arians could probably retire to Vegas and do two shows a night whenever he feels the urge, but for now, he’s enjoying the work that got him to this point, which cranks back up with a rookie minicamp this weekend.
“I love this weekend because there’s going to be two or three surprises of undrafted rookies or guys we invited for a tryout,” Arians said. “Last year, we signed three guys who were tryout guys. [Quarterback] Phillip Sims made it all the way to almost our football team. That part’s really fun. Then slide them in with the vets next week.
“It seems like we just stepped off the practice field. But, man, there is a different sense of purpose in watching our players come to work every day. We’ve always had great participation. We’ve always had fun doing it, but there’s a sense of purpose, in the weight room, the meeting room. Even Buddy Morris, our strength coach, said, “something’s different.” You can feel it.”
Arians’ own “cool uncle” style is doubtless part of the reason they’ve been able to create that feeling, but the wins on the field have helped turn around a franchise that’s now among the most stable in the league.