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If the Buccaneers don’t make Jameis Winston their latest potential franchise quarterback in four days, they’ve managed to concoct an impressive smoke screen.
The Tampa Tribune has published extensive details of the vetting of Winston by the Buccaneers, which could be viewed as a deliberate effort to address any lingering concerns about Winston’s character.
Via the Tribune, G.M. Jason Licht said the Buccaneers “spoke to upwards of 75 people” about Winston. The Tribune has determined that those “upwards of 75 people” include “family members, friends, teammates, former high school coaches, former college coaches and an assistant state attorney.”
“[W]e all couldn’t feel more confident about the process we have gone through,” Licht said.
The process, as PFT previously has reported, included contact with assistant Tallahassee district attorney Georgia Cappleman, who spoke to the Bucs not only about Erica Kinsman (who claims Winston sexually assaulted her) but also about a second victim to whom Kinsman’s lawsuit against Winston refers.
“I advised them that there was another woman who received some counseling services from Florida State University as a result of an encounter with Mr. Winston that was of a sexual nature,” Cappleman told the Tribune. While Cappleman hasn’t personally spoken to the second victim, Cappleman said the second victim “doesn’t even consider herself a victim.”
As to Kinsman, the Buccaneers haven’t spoken to her or to her lawyers.
“When vetting any potentially credible accusation of off-field misconduct, I’d expect NFL teams to learn both sides and not just listen to the player, agent, and coach,” Kinsman lawyer Baine Kerr told the Tribune. “Due diligence should include learning the facts from the accuser’s point of view.”
While it’s important to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, it’s a no-win proposition for the Buccaneers to communicate directly with persons having a clear bias and financial incentive against Winston. If the team gets too close to the controversy, the team becomes a pawn in the legal chess/checkers/chicken game between Winston and Kinsman.
We can’t believe that the Buccaneers still made Winston the first overall pick despite all the information we shared with them.
Some would say that the mere existence of so many questions about Winston, from the BB gun incident to the crab-leg caper to the sexual-assault allegation to the shouting of the vulgar Internet memo to the recent change in the crab-leg explanation is enough to justify passing on Winston and selecting someone else with potentially equivalent talent but zero off-field entanglements that require investigation and explanation. But franchise quarterbacks are hard to find in the draft, and the Buccaneers in nearly 40 years of existence never have. As Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune said on a recent edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, the Buccaneers have never given a second contract to any quarterback they drafted.
That list includes, working backward, Mike Glennon, Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Simms, Joe Hamilton, Shaun King, Trent Dilfer, Craig Erickson, Mike Pawlawski, Pat O’Hara, Vinny Testaverde, Mike Shula, Blair Kiel, Steve Young, Mike Ford, Chuck Fusina, Doug Williams, Randy Hedberg, and Parnell Dickinson.
That’s 20 quarterbacks in 39 drafts. Winston apparently will become No. 21, and the franchise seems to be ready to assume the risk that Winston could be yet another Buccaneer bust, whether due to on-field play or off-field problems.
If he is, maybe the 22nd quarterback drafted by the franchise will be the one to get a second contract.
When 2015 began, each of the trio of first-round quarterbacks from the 2004 draft who have become NFL superstars were entering the final year of their second contracts. One of them (Ben Roethlisberger) has gotten another big deal. Another one (Philip Rivers) claims he doesn’t want one until 2016, if then. The third says nothing is happening, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by that.
“Nothing has been brought up,” Manning said Sunday, via Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com. “I haven’t made a big deal about it.”
Eli also said he won’t be insulted if he doesn’t get a new contract before the current one ends, pointing out that his brother, Peyton, has done that before.
Peyton has, twice before in Indianapolis. But Eli got his current contract before his own rookie deal expired. This time around, the Giants may decide to wait and see what happens in 2015.
“[The contract] is not something I’m going to argue about or make a fuss about,” Eli said Sunday.
Eli is due to earn a base salary of $17 million in 2015, with a cap number of $19.75 million. That gives Eli plenty of leverage, since it would cost the Giants $23.7 million in 2016 under the non-exclusive franchise tag — and probably even more under the exclusive version of the tag. Which means that the Giants would be paying plenty if Eli opts for a year-to-year arrangement, which would increase the tender by 20 percent in 2017 and 44 percent in 2018.
Given Eli’s stated desire not to leave the Giants, it’ll be very interesting to see whether New York would roll the dice with the non-exclusive tag, since that would open the door for another team willing to give up two first-round picks to make a run at Eli.
In other words, the Browns would make a run at Eli.
The owner of the team that sparked the #DeflateGate investigation recently talked about the absence of closure in the case. And Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn’t seem to be concerned about the fact that more than three months have passed since G.M. Ryan Grigson complained to the league about the air pressure in the footballs used during the first half of the AFC title game against the Patriots.
“I know that they are still finishing up their investigation, and there’s really nothing new to report,” Irsay told reporters at the third annual Chuckstrong gala on Friday night. “It could be a few days, it could be a month or more. I really don’t know. They’re working to be, again, comprehensive and thorough, and when [Ted] Wells gets done with it, he’ll let us all know.”
Is Irsay surprised it has taken this long to wrap up the investigation?
“You know, probably not really,” Irsay said. “He’s a very thorough investigator, and he’s gonna do what he thinks, sort of in his vacuum, so to speak. He’s not concerned about when he gets the results, how long it takes. He wants to be thorough. So I know he operates that way. So it’s not a shock, but I think everyone has wondered exactly when he’ll come through and let us know what he’s learned.”
Some suspect that a truly thorough investigation might reveal that the Colts took additional air out of the ball that was intercepted by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson during the first half of the game. The NFL previously has declined to comment on whether Ted Wells is exploring that angle. Others currently believe that the NFL has turned the investigation back on itself, hoping to placate Patriots owner Robert Kraft by determining how so many leaks of information that would tend to incriminate his team made their way to the media.
Regardless, it’s been more than a month since Commissioner Roger Goodell said the investigation is “getting near the end.” With the draft less than a week away, it’s starting to feel like the end will arrive on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.
In January, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said that he was “very optimistic” about wide receiver Justin Blackmon returning to the field for the 2015 season and that he felt good about having Blackmon return to the team after missing more than a season on an indefinite suspension for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.
We’re closing in on the end of April and the Jags have started their offseason workouts, but there’s still no word on whether Blackmon will have that ban lifted by the league. While speaking to the media last week, Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell said that the team didn’t know whether Blackmon has applied for reinstatement or much else about the receiver’s status.
“Our process hasn’t changed,” Caldwell said, via the Florida Times-Union. “Plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges and he’s going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we’re able to get some news, but if not, we weren’t planning on it, we’re just going to go.”
The Jaguars have no reason to close the door on a Blackmon return until there’s actually a return to contemplate and the lack of movement on that front suggests Caldwell’s right to devote his attention to other matters.
After the Eagles surprisingly traded for quarterback Sam Bradford in March, coach Chip Kelly insisted that Bradford wasn’t a stepping stone toward getting up the board to reunite with Marcus Mariota. Since then, the Eagles have done nothing to take that possibility off the table.
As PFT reported on Wednesday, no meaningful contract talks have occurred between the Eagles and Bradford, who is due to make $12.985 million in 2015, the final year of his pre-wage-scale rookie deal. The Eagles would like to knock down the cap number, and Bradford would like a chance to re-establish himself. While money is a factor, security is, too; Bradford wants any new deal would to ensure that he won’t be shipped to the Browns or elsewhere, especially since a multi-year contract would make Bradford more valuable to a team that would acquire his rights for more than one season.
The absence of a true commitment to Bradford keeps the possibility of another trade in play. Recently, PFT laid out the pieces of a three-way deal that would put Bradford in Cleveland, Mariota (and possibly Johnny Manziel) in Philly, and multiple picks in the pocket of a team that trades out of the top five.
The Eagles possibly could get there by giving up Bradford, the 20th pick in 2015, a first-round pick in 2016, and maybe another pick or two. Whether that amounts to mortgaging the future isn’t known.
That said, why is a mortgage a bad thing? For most, it’s the only way to buy a house. For the Eagles, a mortgage for Mariota could not only buy a house but also eventually put a Lombardi Trophy in the case.
Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta was one of the players in attendance as the Ravens kicked off their conditioning program last week, which is an encouraging sign about his recovery from his second serious hip injury in as many years.
Pitta has fractured and dislocated his hip both times, which has cast doubt on his ability to continue his playing career. Pitta isn’t sure whether or not he’ll be able to play, but he said Saturday that he’s “feeling good in workouts” while waiting to find out if he gets the green light to make a full return to action.
“We still have some time to be able to assess where I’m at,” Pitta said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I sure hope that I’ll be on the field next year. That’s my hope; that’s my goal. We’ll just see if we can get there.”
The Ravens have played down their need for a receiver while being more open about their shortcomings at tight end with Pitta out of the picture. There’s not likely to be any change in his status between now and Thursday’s start to the draft, which means the Ravens have to continue to plan for life without Pitta in the passing game.
It’s hard to call tight end Colt Lyerla a former NFL player because he never really made it to the NFL. He nevertheless wants back in. Or simply in.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted on Sunday morning the link to a recent item from Tyson Alger of the Oregonian regarding Lyerla’s recent pitch to the NFL via videos posted on Twitter as part of a series he calls “The Resurrection.”
“To the NFL teams out there, obviously there’s been a lot of bad decisions made in the past,” Lyerla says in the video, which also includes clips from a recent workout in which he runs various pass routes. “But like I said the past is the past and it’s going to stay in the past.”
The Packers signed Lyerla as an undrafted free agent last year. He was waived-injured after suffering a knee injury and then reached an injury settlement, which paid him through Week Eight. Lyerla thereafter was arrested for DUI, which became his latest off-field incident in a string that included an arrest for cocaine possession, suggesting that the Sandy Hook shooting was a governmental conspiracy, assault charges that later were dropped, skipping classes and practices in high school, ultimately quitting the team at Oregon.
Lyerla explains in the video that the DUI charge from last September was “officially dismissed,” but he admits that he has been in the NFL’s substance-abuse program for a year and a half and hasn’t failed a drug test. (It’s not known precisely how long he has been in the NFL’s substance-abuse program; if he’s truly been in for 18 months, he would have entered the program in October 2013, seven months before he was undrafted.)
As to the injury that ended his time with the Packers — a torn PCL and MCL in his knee — Lyerla says he opted against surgery, allowing it to instead heal on it’s own. It apparently has; remember J.J. Watt’s recent 61-inch box jump? Lyerla did 62 inches.
One of several talented players who weren’t drafted last year due to off-field issues, it could be even harder for Lyerla this time around, given that the NFL has shifted its attitude toward players with problems away from the field (i.e., you’ve got to be extremely talented and not just really talented to qualify for an exception) and that he’s competing with a fresh crop of players emerging from the college ranks.
The absence of running back Matt Forte from Bears voluntary workouts when they started on April 13 drew some attention, but another offensive starter’s decision to be elsewhere the last two weeks has gone relatively unnoticed.
Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com reports that tight end Martellus Bennett has not taken part in workouts with his teammates yet this offseason. There’s no word on any specific reason why Bennett has opted out of the work and no sign that there’s any discontent as he was reportedly at Halas Hall one day last week even though he wasn’t taking part in conditioning work.
Bennett is due nearly $10 million over the 2015 and 2016 seasons as part of a contract he signed before the 2013 season. Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, Martellus’s brother, has also been absent from this phase of offseason work.
Because they changed coaches, the Bears have a three-day minicamp for veterans in Chicago this week. The work is also voluntary with the only mandatory work before training camp coming during the June minicamp.
At different points this offseason, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta have both downplayed the team’s need to draft a wide receiver after Torrey Smith signed with the 49ers as a free agent.
Quarterback Joe Flacco joined the chorus on Saturday. Flacco admitted that the team lost something when Smith departed as a free agent, but said it’s not something that needs to be addressed early in the draft, late in the draft or anywhere in between.
“Obviously, without Torrey now, the one thing we probably don’t have as much of is that speed, is that one guy who can stretch the field,” Flacco said, via ESPN.com. “But I’m not going to say we need it. I think we got really good guys and I think we’re good with who we have.”
The Ravens are pushing their happiness with their current receiving group hard, but it’s hard to believe they’ll avoid the position next week with 10 picks and four returning players from last year.
Former Dolphins DE Marco Coleman shares memories of his draft day.
The Patriots have shown a fondness for drafting players who were captains of their college teams.
Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan thinks 3-4 teams need to add edge rushing prospects every year.
A look back at the 2014 Ravens draft class.
Could the Browns take a running back in the first round?
Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson turns over every rock when looking for players.
The Jaguars offensive line needs to step up its performance in 2015.
A look at the Titans’ offensive needs in the draft.
An offensive lineman could be coming the Broncos way in the first round.
The Raiders website looks back at the day when the team drafted Eldridge Dickey in the first round.
A preview of wide receiver and tight end options for the Chargers in the draft.
Is there a problem associated with recent draft success for the Cowboys?
Will the Giants stick to their best player available strategy in the first round if a receiver is that player?
The Eagles don’t go to a lot of pro days as a smokescreen.
What’s a realistic win prediction for the Redskins in 2015?
A breakdown of the Bears’ cornerback needs and options in the draft.
Getting defensive in the draft could pay off for Packers.
Will the Vikings pick up a linebacker in the draft?
Said Falcons coach Dan Quinn of Georgia RB Todd Gurley, “The attitude and the style he plays with, there are certain guys that jump off to you on tape, and he has certainly been one for me over the last few years.”
What’s the toughest game on the Saints’ schedule?
Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim learned several lessons in his first two drafts.
Running through the Seahawks’ draft needs.
The Vikings changed the complexion of their receiving corps this offseason when they traded for Mike Wallace and released Greg Jennings and it would change even more if Cordarrelle Patterson made the switch from intriguing talent to consistent performer.
Patterson showed off that talent in the season opener last year when he ran for 102 yards and a touchdown, but he only scored once more all season and his production as both a receiver and kick returner dropped from his rookie year. Patterson said at the end of the year that he’d do anything he could to improve this offseason, a process General Manager Rick Spielman thinks begins with realizing that thriving as a pro is about “more than just relying on your athletic skill set.”
Spielman said he thought Patterson was progressing on that front this offseason.
“There’s no question about the physical ability there. I think Cordarrelle has really grown up a lot,” Spielman said, via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I know what he has done this offseason dedicating himself to being the best receiver he can be, and how serious he is taking that, we’re very excited about the future with Cordarrelle.”
There’s no question that the Vikings will be a more dangerous team with a more productive Patterson in the offense, but any talk of offseason growth has to be balanced by actual examples of it on the field. We’re a long way from seeing Patterson and the Vikings in action at this point in the offseason and he’ll remain a question mark until that changes.
In the 2013 NFL draft, the Dolphins loved Dion Jordan, and thought the Eagles loved him, too. Now the Dolphins would love to get rid of Jordan, and would love to have the Eagles be the ones to take him off their hands.
Jordan played for Eagles coach Chip Kelly at Oregon, so the Dolphins thought in 2013 that they’d have to move ahead of the Eagles in order to draft Jordan. And that’s what they did: The Eagles owned the fourth overall pick, so the Dolphins packaged their first-round pick (No. 12) and their-second round pick (No. 42) to move up and draft Jordan with the third overall pick.
Now that looks like a huge mistake. Jordan has been a major disappointment, and the Dolphins are sidestepping questions about whether they see any role for him on the team at all.
That has led to talk that the Dolphins could trade Jordan to the Eagles, but there’s just one problem: We really have no reason to believe that Kelly wants Jordan, other than the fact that Kelly seems to like his old Oregon players. Just because Kelly likes Oregon players who have been productive, like Kiko Alonso, that doesn’t mean he would like an Oregon player who has been a bust, like Jordan.
So if Kelly does like Jordan, the Dolphins would surely be happy to trade him to Philadelphia at a bargain price. But that’s a big “if.” All the talk about Kelly’s interest in Jordan seems to be based on assumptions, and we’ve learned this offseason that we should never assume we know what Chip Kelly will do.
In the six days since Tim Tebow’s 19-month NFL exile ended, a popular theory has emerged regarding Chip Kelly’s plan: Tebow will be the team’s two-point quarterback.
With NFL owners potentially moving the two-point conversion closer next month in order to entice more teams to eschew the near-automatic one-point try, the thinking is that Kelly would use Tebow as his quarterback in that situations.
But here’s where the logic falls apart. A two-point conversion from the one-yard line wouldn’t be a novel play for the NFL. It would simply be another situation in which teams face short yardage. So if Tebow is going to be the two-point quarterback, wouldn’t he also be the guy who takes the snaps on third-and-one or fourth-and-one or third- and fourth-and-goal from the one?
But Kelly may welcome the belief that he has signed Tebow as a two-point quarterback if that perception makes the league’s owners (who would benefit financially from Tebow having relevance to the NFL once again) more inclined to move the two-point conversion closer. It’s no secret that Kelly likes the two-point try; he presumably would go for it more often if it were closer. And if the owners think that would mean more Tebow, that could be the factor that pushes the change through.
Via Clinton Yates of the Washington Post, Jackson will appear on a new BET series dubbed Home Team, which will show that Jackson’s life is “run by a core group of women.”
Now in his second year with Washington, Jackson’s career is run by a core group of men who may not think it’s a good idea for the player to be distracted by being the star of a reality TV show. Which means their reaction could make for a good reality TV show.
One of the most intriguing prospects in the upcoming draft pool played multiple positions in college. He intends to focus on only one in the NFL.
Washington safety/linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson won the 2014 Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the most versatile player in college football. As he explained this week on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Thompson has made the “business decision” to play defense.
It couldn’t have been an easy decision; Thompson averaged 7.5 yards per carry in 2014, with 456 yards rushing on 61 carries. Against Colorado, he generated 174 yards rushing on only 15 carries, an 11.6-yard average.
Thompson has nevertheless gotten plenty of attention as a defender. But Thompson disclosed on PFT Live that only one team brought in him for a visit and also gave him an on-campus workout: the Panthers.
Thompson’s ability to play safety and linebacker makes Carolina an obvious potential fit, given that the Panthers drafted Thomas Davis as a safety 10 years ago and made him into a linebacker.
That doesn’t mean Thompson will refuse to make a cameo appearance at running back. He didn’t rule out the possibility when the topic came up on PFT Live. Still, he regards himself as a defensive player, because he knows that defensive players can play a lot longer than running backs.
For the full interview, click here, select PFT Live, and select Hour Three of the April 22 show.