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ProFootballTalk: PFT’s divisional picks
Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith isn’t quite ready to return to a full workload after suffering a torn ACL in the first game of the 2016 season.
The Buccaneers placed Smith on the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday. He’s eligible to be activated at any point during training camp, but won’t be participating in practices until he does.
Smith was a restricted free agent this offseason and took a visit with the 49ers before signing his tender with Tampa. He had 13.5 sacks during the 2014 and 2015 seasons and would be a useful addition to their pass rush mix if he’s able to get back to full health this season.
Third-round linebacker Kendall Beckwith, who tore his ACL at LSU last year, and fifth-round running back Jeremy McNichols, who had offseason shoulder surgery, have avoided the list ahead of their first pro camp.
After hearing Tuesday’s comments from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett about the decision to cut receiver Lucky Whitehead, I was ready to take the position that the Cowboys were, despite the criticism, doing Whitehead a favor by not sharing chapter-and-verse details about other problems and concerns that the team had about Whitehead.
It’s entirely possible, for example, that Whitehead is one of those guys who’s always in the middle of drama, and who always has an excuse. While each and every excuse may eventually pan out, for some people there’s always something.
By not explaining it that way, the Cowboys arguably did Whitehead a favor, since other teams currently are considering claiming him on waivers. If the Cowboys had shared all of the other things that gave them concern about Whitehead, maybe other teams would pass.
But here’s the thing. The Cowboys apparently didn’t view Whitehead as having poor judgment, because the Cowboys previously had entrusted Whitehead with a function that could have created major embarrassment for the team. As agent Dave Rich explained on Wednesday’s PFT Live, the Cowboys previously had given Whitehead total control of their Snapchat and Instagram accounts — on multiple weekends.
Think about that one. If Whitehead was a guy who consistently made stupid decisions, would he have been given the keys to two of the primary social media accounts owned and operated by America’s Team?
So here’s the apparent truth. Pushed against the ropes by criticism of their failure to hold players (hard gulp) accountable, the Cowboys decided to make an example of a guy who already was in danger of being cut between now and Labor Day Weekend. If it had been Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, or Ryan Switzer, the Cowboys would have circled the wagons even if it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity.
At a minimum, the Cowboys would have waited for word on whether it actually was a case of mistaken identity before dumping the player.
Thus, the message is the same in Dallas as it is anywhere else. Don’t get in trouble and expect to still be employed, unless you’re good enough to get in trouble and still be employed. For those players, the team still will find a way to not hold them (hard gulp) accountable.
The Patriots obviously see value in practicing against another team during training camp — since they just scheduled their third one.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters they’ve added a joint practice with the Lions in Detroit.
They were already holding joint workouts with the Jaguars (at home) and the Texans (on the road), coinciding with their first two preseason games.
Belichick has long felt getting work against another team is a good thing, and keeps them sharper than working against themselves.
Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews is heading into the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, and he’s due to make $1.1 million this season. The team and the player don’t appear to be close to an agreement on a new deal, and that may be an issue in Philadelphia.
Matthews has been limited this offseason with a knee injury, but the Philadelphia Daily News reports that there is talk in the building that Matthews could have practiced more in the spring and the real issue is his contract, not his knee.
Matthews was the Eagles’ No. 1 wide receiver last year, catching 73 passes for 804 yards and three touchdowns, but he was drafted to play in Chip Kelly’s offense, not Doug Pederson’s offense, and Pederson and Howie Roseman have largely moved on from players who were acquired during Kelly’s tenure. The Eagles have added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith this offseason, as well as fourth-round rookie Mack Hollins, and they may be ready to move on from Matthews after the season.
So whether Matthews is unhappy with his contract or not, his best bet to get a better one will be to have a good year this year, and hit free agency healthy in 2018.
David Rich, the agent for former Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead, says Whitehead is so upset that he was cut after being wrongfully accused of shoplifting that he now wouldn’t return to the Cowboys even if they wanted him back.
Asked this morning on PFT Live whether Whitehead would come back if the Cowboys asked him to, Rich answered, “No.” Rich explained that while Whitehead loved his experience in Dallas, he’s hurt that the Cowboys didn’t believe him when he explained that the report of his arrest was false. Even when the police confirmed that they arrested another man who had given them Whitehead’s name, the Cowboys wouldn’t backtrack on their decision to let him go.
“I can’t speak for Lucky, we’d have to have a conversation about it because he loved being a Cowboy so much. I can’t put into words — this dude loved it, loved it as much as I’ve ever had a player love an organization. Loved it,” Rich said. “This guy was arguably the most popular player on the team, which is interesting to have this happen to him, but I don’t think so. . . . They basically sat across the table, eye to eye, man to man, and he said, ‘I need you to believe me, coach.’ And they said, ‘We think you’re a liar.'”
Rich said he can understand why the Cowboys felt that they had to take a stand when the report came out that Whitehead was arrested, but once they were able to document through travel records that Whitehead was more than 1,000 miles away at the time of his alleged shoplifting arrest, the Cowboys should have reconsidered. But Rich also said he thinks the decision to cut Whitehead was at least as much about on-field issues as off-field issues.
“I think they’d already moved on from Lucky. I think they had already decided it was too much of a distraction, I think they drafted Ryan Switzer . . . who does a lot of the things Lucky does, so they just decided he was unnecessary,” Rich said.
As for whether Whitehead will get claimed on waivers today, Rich said, “I can’t see why any team with a 90-man roster right now that needs return help wouldn’t pick him up.”
The Saints are churning the last few spots on the roster leading into training camp, with more moves to come.
According to Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints have signed veteran offensive lineman Martin Wallace and defensive back Dejaun Butler, in addition to the previously reported offensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli.
Their camp starts Thursday, and they’ll need to make some corresponding transactions by then, or once these become official.
Wallace has been with seven teams since entering the league as an undrafted rookie, playing in a grand total of one game — for the Browns in 2013. He’s versatile, which should help considering the injuries they’ve already stacked up on their line (Terron Armstead, Max Unger, and Senio Kelemete are headed for the PUP list).
Butler, an undrafted rookie corner from Hawaii, worked out for them during rookie minicamp.
It’s over. It’s done. The full 32-team PFT preseason power rankings are posted, with all teams ranked from top to bottom.
We’re not saying you should click every single link and then come back here, but you should click every single link and then come back here.
And then you should insert comments about how accurate and fair the various assessments are.
2. Atlanta Falcons.
5. Dallas Cowboys.
6. Oakland Raiders.
7. Seattle Seahawks.
9. New York Giants.
10. Tennessee Titans.
11. Miami Dolphins.
12. Denver Broncos.
13. Houston Texans.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
15. Detroit Lions.
16. Baltimore Ravens.
17. Carolina Panthers.
18. Philadelphia Eagles.
19. New Orleans Saints.
20. Minnesota Vikings.
21. Cincinnati Bengals.
22. Arizona Cardinals.
23. Buffalo Bills.
24. Los Angeles Chargers.
26. Indianapolis Colts.
27. Los Angeles Rams.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars.
29. San Francisco 49ers.
30. Chicago Bears.
31. Cleveland Browns.
32. New York Jets.
The Vikings were without the services of quarterback Taylor Heinicke for a good chunk of last season while he recovered from a foot injury he suffered while trying to kick in a locked door before training camp.
That means Heinicke can empathize with rookie defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo even if Odenigbo’s own off-field foot injury wasn’t quite as serious. Odenigbo, a seventh-round pick, suffered a deep cut to his foot when he caught it on a loose piece of metal on the gate of the swimming pool at the Eden Prairie hotel that housed players during Vikings OTAs.
“The gate closed on me, and it had some chipped metal and it went right into my heel, so that was my Achilles’ heel,’’ Odenigbo said, via the Pioneer Press. “It was a freak accident. When I was going (through the gate), it just nicked my heel and blood was gushing everywhere. It was a big, deep cut. There was too much skin ripped off for me to have stitches. It was pretty gross. … It was like a fishing rod went into my skin and you yanked the skin out.”
Odenigbo was able to participate in the final practices of the spring, although he said he wasn’t able to wear cleats as a result of the injury and that it “still hurts to put pressure” on the injured foot. That could set him back as he tries to make the team and the back-to-back foot injuries may have other Vikings players watching where they step a little more closely in the future.
The Chiefs shook up their front office in late June when they fired John Dorsey as their General Manager and promoted Brett Veach to fill the position.
On Tuesday, the team announced some other changes to the personnel department. At the top of the list was naming Mike Borgonzi as the director of player personnel.
The Chiefs described the move as a promotion, although it appears to be a modification as much as anything. Borgonzi and Veach were co-directors of player personnel before Veach was promoted to G.M., so he should be up to speed on things related to his new title.
The team also hired Michael Davis as a personnel executive and David Hinson as an area scout. Davis previously worked for the Eagles and Jets while Hinson worked for both those teams as well as the Browns, Saints and Bills.
The Jaguars signed center Brandon Linder to a lucrative, five-year extension on Monday and they may be moving on to another member of their starting offense with that deal out of the way.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson said in April that he felt he earned a contract extension based on his play over his first three years with the team and said that his agent has had conversations with the Jaguars about getting one done.
“They have [talked], but at the end of the day, that’s my agent’s job and I’ll let him do his thing and I’ll do my thing on the field,” Robinson said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.
Robinson might be in line for a bigger payday if he were to wait on an extension until he does his thing on the field during the 2017 season. The wideout’s numbers dropped from his breakout 2015 campaign and putting up something close to that season would likely leave Robinson in better negotiating position, although the flip side of that would be that getting something done now eliminates the risk of further disappointment leading the Jaguars to look somewhere else entirely.
When Dolphins coach Adam Gase met with the media on Tuesday, he said that the team was waiting to hear the results of center Mike Pouncey’s visit with doctors about his hip later in the day before making plans for Pouncey’s practice schedule during training camp.
It appears the results of that visit were what Pouncey and the team were hoping to hear. In a post to Instagram after Gase’s press conference, Pouncey put up a picture of himself running on the field for a game with a caption that reads “when you get the news you’ve been waiting for!!!!”
It’s not clear what that means for Pouncey’s activity level, but it would seem to make him a good bet to avoid the PUP list. Gase said that he doesn’t need to see Pouncey in the preseason in order to feel comfortable putting him on the field, but added that Pouncey wants to “go through his routine for training camp.”
Pouncey also included the hashtag “16+,” which presumably references the number of games he wants to play this season. That’s a number that Pouncey has not reached since his second NFL season, something the Dolphins will likely keep in mind when they come up with a practice schedule even if Pouncey’s been given full clearance.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had to give up play-calling duties involuntarily last year, when he had to miss a game because of eye surgery.
This year, he’s choosing to do so during the preseason, to find out if it helps him see the game better.
According to Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Zimmer said he’ll probably let defensive coordinator George Edwards call a preseason game next month to determine if it helps him manage the overall flow of the game.
Whether as a coordinator or a head coach, Zimmer has always called defensive plays in games for the last 17 years.
“I’ll probably have [Edwards] call one in a preseason game and see how it goes,” Zimmer said. “I have not decided yet, no, totally for the season, but I think it’d be good practice in the preseason to see how it goes. See if it helps me help other areas of the game, so I’m kind of thinking that way.”
The Vikings have always had good defenses under Zimmer (ranking in the top third of the league in scoring defense each of his three seasons), but they have more global issues.
They were 3-8 down the stretch last year with a number of close losses, and Zimmer’s looking for ways to help avoid that in the future, even if it means giving away some of the authority he’s always had.
With whatever it is that’s going on between Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, we have yet another source of NBA inspiration for the PFT Live question of the day.
What were the messiest, ugliest divorces in the NFL? (Of course, with the Lucky Whitehead situation in Dallas, we really didn’t need to swipe ideas from basketball. But what the hell.)
We’ll skip the poll question and leave it open-ended today. Put some ideas in the comments, and the best ones will be borrowed on Wednesday’s show.
Joining the broadcast will be former NFL coach Kevin Gilbride and Lucky Whitehead’s lawyer, Dave Rich. Hopefully, you’ll join us, too — at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio and then at 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN, or still on NBC Sports Radio. Or both.
It was almost easy to miss, with the recent upheavals in Panthers camp.
But oh by the way, their former MVP quarterback who’s coming off surgery on his throwing shoulder who has missed the entire offseason appears to be OK.
Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he was pleased with where his quarterback was, from both a shoulder rehab and physical conditioning standpoint. Rivera said Newton weighed in at 246 pounds (he was closer to 260 last year), which should help with his mobility after a rough 2016 season.
“Pretty excited about where he is right now,” Rivera said. “Again, he’s been like this all offseason. He’s had a very good offseason, considering the fact he couldn’t throw. But he worked very hard, very diligently. I’m excited to see him on the field [Wednesday].”
Newton has thrown with his receivers in recent weeks, but will be limited at the start of camp after having surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff suffered in December. He began light throwing in June, and the hope is that he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season.
That would be nice, since the Panthers are fiddling with their offense this offseason, looking for ways for Newton to get the ball out of his hands quicker. Having him well enough to attempt some of those new plays should only help.
Veteran players on the Jets insist there will be no tanking.
The Dolphins are beefing up security at training camp.
The Ravens are a team under construction heading into camp.
And as an ex-Brown, Hawkins wrote to Cleveland as well.
Here’s what to do if you’re heading to Steelers camp.
NFL Network will have a setup at Texans camp.
The Broncos have announced that former head coach Gary Kubiak is returning to the team in a front office role.
Here’s a look at the Bears’ training camp schedule.
The Packers’ Family Night usually fills Lambeau Field for a practice.
Said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer after watching the first couple practices of training camp, “They are working hard and we have got a lot of stuff in. I think practice was pretty good yesterday.”
Here’s a look at the Saints’ likely roster.
Here’s what the Rams hope to accomplish in training camp.
Seahawks DE Michael Bennett’s forthcoming book is titled, “How to Make White People Uncomfortable.”