ProFootballTalk: Keys in Packers-49ers matchup
Free agent wide receiver Jace Davis has been suspended for four games and free agent running back Bernard Pierce has been suspended for two games, a league source told PFT.
Davis signed a futures contract with the Broncos early in the offseason but was waived after he was charged with DUI. Pierce’s contract with the Jaguars expired at the end of the 2015 season.
Pierce resumed his career last season with the Jaguars but played sparingly. The Ravens released Pierce after he was arrested for DUI in March 2015; he cut a plea deal to avoid a DUI conviction.
Pierce has five career rushing touchdowns. He played in 45 games for the Ravens from 2012-14.
Davis has never played in an NFL game.
The fact that draft-pick deals are being done faster than ever suggests that there’s nothing to negotiate. In comparison to the system before the 2011 CBA and its far more precise rookie wage scale (especially at the top of the draft), that’s accurate.
However, there are still some grounds for haggling — and some of the contracts negotiated to date in 2016 have entailed fairly contentious discussions.
One area where agents still earn their money at the bargaining table relates to when the player will see money go into his account. It’s one thing to have a fully-guaranteed bonus payment; it’s another thing to actually have the payment.
Some agents try to get the money paid out as soon as possible. Some teams try to hold onto the money for as long as possible. While it’s not keeping these deals from getting done, it’s definitely something that some teams and agents are squabbling about before getting deals done.
The Titans and Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker have agreed to a two-year contract extension, per multiple reports.
Walker was previously signed through 2016. Both ESPN and NFL Network reported that the extension is worth $14.7 million, $8.2 million guaranteed.
A first-time Pro Bowler in 2015, Walker is coming off his best statistical season with 94 catches for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns. He’s scored 16 of his 24 career touchdowns since joining the Titans in 2013.
Walker will be 32 in August. He was drafted by the 49ers in the sixth round in 2006 and played seven seasons with the 49ers before signing a four-year deal with the Titans in 2013.
Count the Chiefs among the teams who are getting plenty of their rookie draft picks under contract.
The Chiefs have announced deals with second-round defensive lineman Chris Jones, fourth-round offensive lineman Parker Ehinger, fourth-round receiver Demarcus Robinson, fifth-round quarterback Kevin Hogan, sixth-round defensive back D.J. White, and sixth-round linebacker Dadi Nicholas.
The Chiefs also have added seven undrafted free agents: Vanderbilt guard Jake Bernstein, Hawaii center Ben Clarke, Dartmouth cornerback Vernon Harris, Mount Union cornerback Tre Jones, BYU receiver Mitch Mathews, SMU cornerback Shak Randolph, and Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith.
As rookie minicamps commence throughout most of the league, two teams in Florida specifically have dialed back on the amount of on-field work in which players who haven’t played football in several months will perform. And it’s clear that last year’s season-ending ACL tear suffered by Jaguars linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., the third overall pick in the draft, served as a catalyst for change.
“It was something we’ve been discussing since probably around the Combine,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase told reporters on Friday regarding his decision to have rookies do less at minicamp. “Between [G.M.] Chris [Grier], [executive V.P. of football operations] Mike [Tannenbaum] and myself, we’ve talked a lot [with] our coaching staff, especially some of the older guys. [We talked about] their thought process of kind of trying something a little different. I’d reached out to [Rams] coach Jeff Fisher at the owners meeting because I had heard that he had always done it a little different. I think he’s been doing it different than everybody else for a long time going back to Tennessee. So it was just kind of how we wanted to build it and see how we could kind of take that injury out of what goes on in this camp. A lot of our guys haven’t practiced [in] four to five months, so we just wanted to make sure that they learned our program. We got them ready to go so when we get to OTAs, those guys are in the right kind of shape. I think last year probably scared a few guys. When you lose a first round draft pick like Jacksonville did, it just kind of gets you thinking ‘What’s the right thing to do at this point?’”
Appearing earlier this week on PFT Live, Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell did one of the rare things that anyone in football ever does — he expressed regret for not changing Jacksonville’s approach to the rookie minicamp before Fowler was injured.
“[Players go] through workouts all the way up to the draft and these players go through 10 to 15 visits,” Caldwell said. “Then all of a sudden they’ve had the combine and all this traveling and then we’re going to bring them in and the first weekend that they’re NFL players we’re going to throw them on the field for three practices. We don’t do it with our veterans. Our veterans are here for four or five weeks and conditioning and training. We get fitness assessments of them before we put them on the field.
“So I think you know the Dante [Fowler] thing, it was always something in the back of my mind and usually it was hamstring pulls or groin strains or calf strains. Something that the rookies would have and instead of getting better they’d be rehabbing all summer. To be honest with you I’m still pissed at myself that I allowed it to happen. I think with talking with Coach Bradley and our coaching staff we just said, ‘Hey lets bring these rookies in, lets see where they are from a fitness standpoint and then lets decide who’s gonna engage in some football activity on Friday and Saturday.'”
Caldwell pointed out that the league looked into Fowler’s injury and determined that there was no violation of the offseason rules. But Caldwell acknowledged that putting first-round picks, undrafted free agents, and players participating on a tryout basis on the field at the same time creates “a lot of organized chaos.”
“I think we just peeled back a little bit and said, ‘Let’s focus on the things that can help these guys a couple years down the road.’ In terms of nutrition, stretching, how to prepare, how to hydrate especially here in Jacksonville and give them a little bit of time in the playbook and then bring them along smoothly.”
It’s surprising more teams haven’t followed suit. If the 2016 rookie class in Miami and Jacksonville end up doing well right out of the gates, maybe it will happen in the future.
The Patriots knocked out most of their draft pick contracts Friday, signing eight of their nine choices.
The team announced they had signed all but third-round quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has chosen to represent himself. The quarterback may be getting some degree of advice on his deal, if only an hourly rate lawyer to look over the deal, but the increasingly boilerplate nature of rookie deals makes it tempting to save the 3 percent commission.
The Patriots picks signed were second-round cornerback Cyrus Jones, third-round offensive lineman Joe Thuney and defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, fourth-round wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, sixth-round picks linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, linebacker Elandon Roberts and guard Ted Karras and seventh-round wide receiver Devin Lucien.
They also released running back Joey Iosefa (who spent time on their practice squad and active roster last year) and added eight undrafted free agents: Illinois cornerback V’Angelo Bentley, Arizona State running back D.J. Foster, Ole Miss nose tackle Woodrow Hamilton, Ole Miss linebacker C.J. Johnson, Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones, Florida Atlantic cornerback Cre’von LeBlanc, Vanderbilt tight end Steven Scheu and East Carolina tight end Bryce Williams.
Every player chosen in the top five picks of an NFL draft comes into the league with high expectations and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is no exception.
The Cowboys made Elliott the fourth overall pick of this year’s draft instead of addressing a defense that flopped last season in hopes of recapturing the offensive production they had while winning the NFC East in 2014. DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing that year with 1,845 yards and it’s probably safe to say that a lot of people expect the same from Elliott in order to live up to his draft position.
Elliott isn’t shying away from that. He said Friday that he understands “what’s expected of me” from the start of his career in Dallas.
“There’s pressure, but we’re athletes,” Elliott said, via the team’s website. “That’s what we play for. That’s why we play the game. Pressure is what we want and I feel like I thrive in those situations when there is a lot of pressure on me. Yeah, there’s pressure. Am I afraid of it? No. I’m just ready to prove myself.”
If Elliott is what the Cowboys hope he’ll be, Tony Romo is back to pre-injury form and the other key offensive players stay healthy, scoring points shouldn’t be a problem. That’s only half the game, of course, but owner Jerry Jones believes that would make it easier for the defense to be better as well. In other words, the expectations attached to Elliott won’t be stopping when he goes to the sideline.
As the NFL Draft wound down last Saturday, Bills coach Rex Ryan picked up the phone and made a call to undrafted Kansas State fullback/tight end Glenn Gronkowski.
Ryan wanted Gronkowski to know the Bills wanted him, and not just for his last name.
“I recruited him, there’s no question,” Ryan said at the Bills rookie minicamp Friday, per the team-released transcript. “At the end of the draft I called him up and recruited him myself because I really liked him when I saw him as a player. And then I guess the family was in the background, so, I had a couple of parting shots.”
Glenn becomes the fourth Gronkowski brother to play in the NFL. Rob Gronkowski — dominant during the season, generally shirtless otherwise — is the best-known of the bunch and the best player, and Ryan almost always uses two defenders on him when his teams play the Patriots.
“I think Rob was proud of his brother obviously and him getting the opportunity to play here,” Ryan said.
The Bills list Glenn Gronkowski at 6-foot-3, 234, meaning he’s about three inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than his big brother. Glenn Gronkowski is getting tight end reps this weekend because the Bills don’t have a true tight end in their rookie camp. He’ll likely play fullback and special teams in his bid to make the roster, and Ryan says he’ll be watching him closely.
“I love the way he played,” Ryan said. “They did a lot with him at Kansas State but obviously he’s got the bloodlines. But it’s more than that. It’s the style of play and I look at him as a guy that, you know, I’m expecting big things from.
“Can he contribute on special teams, can he be a backup fullback, use him at different things, backup tight end? We’ll see. He’s going to get the opportunity to prove it. But I would not be surprised if he does very well.”
We’ve heard about some of the draft picks the Seahawks have signed and some of the undrafted players they are taking a look at during this weekend’s rookie minicamp, but the team didn’t make any of them official until Friday.
When they did, they revealed that they have nine of their 10 draft picks under contract. The only holdout is seventh-round running back Zac Brooks.
First-round offensive lineman Germain Ifedi leads the group of signed draft picks. A tackle in college, Ifedi is ticketed for a guard spot during his rookie season as is third-rounder Rees Odhiambo. Second-round defensive tackle Jarran Reed, third-round tight end Nick Vannett, third-round running back C.J. Prosise, fifth-round defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, fifth-round running back Alex Collins, sixth-round center Joey Hunt and seventh-round wide receiver Kenny Lawler are the other picks to agree to deals.
The rest of the undrafted signees are Florida Atlantic fullback/defensive tackle Brandin Bryant, Colorado State cornerback DeAndre Elliott, Western Kentucky tight end (and former basketball player) George Fant, Oregon defensive end Christian French, Florida International defensive tackle Lars Koht, Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa, USC running back Tre Madden, Arizona tackle Lene Maiava, Wisconsin wide receiver Tanner McEvoy, East Carolina defensive end Montese Overton, Illinois State defensive end David Perkins and Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell
Maybe now we’re getting an idea why LaMarr Woodley has been on three teams the last three seasons, and remains a free agent.
Via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, the veteran outside linebacker made a point on his podcast to rip Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher and former Raiders coordinator Jason Tarver (who is now coaching linebackers for the 49ers.
He didn’t mention either guy by name, but he didn’t have to.
“In Oakland, we had a dumb defensive coordinator and in Arizona, we had a dumb defensive coordinator,” Woodley said. “It was just two dumb guys. They thought we were like Madden players. They’d draw something up and on paper it looked good, but the players still have to go out there and run it. Those guys didn’t really listen to their players. They wanted to do it their way and their way only.”
Woodley didn’t care for moving to defensive end in Oakland after spending his career as an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense. And even though he was in a familiar spot in Arizona, he didn’t like the way he was utilized, and placed the blame for a 49-15 loss in the NFC Championship Game on Bettcher.
“In Arizona, we had one of the best defenses,” he said. “You look at the results that happened in the Carolina game. It wasn’t because we had bad players. No, our defensive coordinator he didn’t have the common sense to talk to his players to make the adjustments. Because he just wanted to do things his way those are the results we got, bottom line.”
Of course, the Cardinals did rank fifth in the league in defense last year, and Woodley hasn’t exactly been an impact player in some time. His production has steadily decreased since 2009 when he had 13.5 sacks, and he has 10.0 sacks in the last four seasons, none for the Raiders and a single for the Cardinals.
So maybe it’s him.
Bond became the 183rd overall pick of the draft last Saturday after he took a winding path to a career in football. Bond didn’t play football until his senior year of high school and spent two years in junior college before finishing up his career at the University of Oklahoma.
Bond only made eight starts during his two years with the Sooners and missed four games with injury in 2015, but the Bucs saw enough to bring him to the team. His seven tackles for losses last season likely helped on that front, although his quickest route to playing time in Tampa is likely to come on special teams.
With Bond and first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves signed, the Bucs need to get deals done with second-round picks Noah Spence and Roberto Aguayo and sixth-rounder Dan Vitale to have the entire group under contract.
The Cardinals signed three draft picks Friday, including first-round defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.
Regarded as one of the draft’s most talented but puzzling prospects, Nkemdiche was busy on the pre-draft circuit meeting with teams and answering questions. The Cardinals were comfortable enough with what they heard to draft him with the No. 29 pick.
Nkemdiche, who’s just 21, figures as an immediate contributor on an already talented Cardinals defensive line.
The Giants are hoping for a return to form from wide receiver Victor Cruz after two seasons lost to injury and getting it would add to the improbable story that Cruz began writing as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
If he can’t, perhaps one of the wideouts that the Giants signed as an undrafted free agent this year will be able to bolster the Giants’ receiving corps. The team announced 14 signings on Friday afternoon and there were three receivers in the group.
At 6’3″, Darius Powe is the tallest wideout on the Giants’ 90-man roster outside of French import Anthony Dable and comes to the team after 47 catches for 560 yards and eight touchdowns while playing with Jared Goff at Cal last season. K.J. Maye comes in at the opposite end of the spectrum at 5’8″, but was productive at Minnesota while catching 73 passes for 1,190 yards and six touchdowns. The Giants also signed Roger Lewis from Bowling Green.
Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum, Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich, UTEP tight end Cedrick Lang, Virginia tight end Ryan Malleck, Notre Dame defensive end Romeo Okwara, North Carolina State defensive end Mike Rose, Kentucky defensive tackle Melvin Lewis, Campbell defensive tackle Greg Milhouse, UConn defensive back Andrew Adams, Boise State defensive back Donte Deayon and Oklahoma State defensive back Michael Hunter are the other new additions to the Giants roster.
Bills quarterback Cardale Jones never had a problem speaking his mind during his time at Ohio State with one of the more notable comments coming when he wondered on social media why football players had to go to class when they weren’t in college to “play school.”
A willingness to shoot from the hip verbally is something the fourth-round pick shares with his new coach Rex Ryan and Jones said Friday that he appreciates that Ryan is “not here to B.S. you.” He also joked that the similarity in their personalities has him thinking there may be a deeper connection.
“He might be my long-lost dad,” Jones, who has said in the past that he’s never met his father, said. “I’ve been looking for that guy for 23 years. I found him.”
Ryan pointed out the physical differences between the two men that make that unlikely while discussing his early impressions of Jones on the field.
“You guys have seen me throw,” Ryan said, via Syracuse.com. “I can’t even throw it 30 yards I don’t think. OK, maybe 40. You know what, I’m excited about him. He’s a big, raw talent. Does he have to come a long way? There’s no question about that. But he’s almost in the perfect situation and we’ll see how he develops.”
Jones won’t be seeing the field much if it all in the regular season if all goes according to plan for the Bills, leaving him time to polish that raw talent for a time when the team may need to look in his direction.
In addition to signing nine of 11 draft picks, the 49ers have persuaded a dozen undrafted free agents to join the team.
Signing three-year deals with the 49ers are Stanford linebacker Kevin Anderson, Oregon offensive lineman Alex Balducci, Colorado safety Jered Bell, Stanford receiver Devon Cajuste, Arizona State defensive lineman Demetrius Cherry, Utah linebacker Jason Fanaika, Nevada linebacker Lenny Jones, Alabama defensive lineman Darren Lake, Liberty kicker John Lunsford, Baylor offensive lineman Blake Muir, Southern Mississippi offensive lineman Norman Price, and California receiver Bryce Treggs.
All teams may have up to 90 players on the offseason roster.