Mike Florio recaps all the action from Sunday’s NFC and AFC Championship games. Florio discusses Ray Lewis‘ comments claiming the Ravens are Super Bowl-bound because it’s God’s will. Florio also talks about Brady losing his thunder and the all-Harbaugh Super Bowl that will dominate headlines for weeks.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Harbaugh brothers meet again
Technically, NFL teams aren’t allowed to reach an agreement on a contract with an unrestricted free agent until unrestricted free agency officially opens today at 4 p.m. Eastern. In reality, teams and agents have been negotiating for the last three days, and in some cases the agreements are already done.
In the case of the Buccaneers and free agent defensive end Michael Johnson, Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that they’ve already agreed to a five-year, $43.75 million deal, with $24 million guaranteed. The deal can’t be announced until free agency officially opens in five hours, but that doesn’t stop the two sides from having an understanding.
If the Bucs have already come to an agreement with a free agent, they’ve technically broken the rules. But the rules just aren’t realistic. The whole point of team executives and agents talking right now is to try to reach an agreement on a contract.
In this case, the Bucs and Johnson have apparently reached an agreement a little early. Johnson should be a good fit in Lovie Smith’s defense, even if Smith still has to wait five more hours before he can officially say so.
The Texans did a little housekeeping on Tuesday morning to open up more cap space for them to put to use on Tuesday afternoon and beyond.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that the team waived cornerback Brice McCain. McCain signed a three-year, $5.25 million deal withHouston before last season, but struggled badly last season in pass coverage.
McCain joined the Texans as a sixth-round pick in 2009 and played in 72 games for them over the last five seasons. Most of his work came in sub packages and McCain leaves the team with five interceptions over the course of his time in Houston.
The move saves the Texans $900,000, which they could use toward addressing the need for better cornerback depth that existed even before McCain was sent packing. According to McClain, however, the team is expected to do that in the draft more than free agency.
The Bengals biggest free agent name of the year probably won’t return, but at least their return man will.
Tate has yet to make much of a dent on offense, either with the Patriots or the Bengals, but was a solid return man, averaging 26.1 yards per kickoff and 9.3 yards per punt last year.
Reports on Monday had linebacker Perry Riley agreeing to a contract that would keep him in Washington.
The Redskins made it official on Tuesday, announcing that Riley has re-signed with the team. The team offered no details about the terms of the deal, but Dianna Russini of NBC News 4 in Washington, D.C., who reported Riley’s return, reports that it is a three-year deal worth $13 million.
Riley has started every game for the Redskins over the last two seasons and 40 straight overall, all of them alongside London Fletcher. With Fletcher almost certainly retired, the team will have to find the right partner for Riley going forward. Riley’s on the small side for an inside linebacker, so it wouldn’t hurt for the team to pair him with a bigger player who does strong work against the run.
The Redskins used their franchise tag on linebacker Brian Orakpo, so they’ve now assured the return of two defensive starters to a unit that has a lot of room for improvement over last season’s efforts.
A year ago, the last thing we’d expect to be writing on the first day of free agency is a story titled “McCown wants to get a deal done quickly.”
Even then, it would have more likely applied to Luke than Josh.
As it stands, the 34-year-old Josh McCown has become a hot name in a fairly cold quarterback market. Appearing Tuesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, McCown said that he hopes to get a new deal with a new team done quickly.
McCown also said his list of potential teams is down to one or two.
He scoffed at the idea that he’s too old to be a starter, calling himself a “young 34.” McCown pointed out that, because he hasn’t played as much as other 30-something starters, he has taken less hits.
Here’s another important point — plenty of quarterbacks are playing at a high level in their 30s. From Peyton Manning to Tom Brady to Drew Brees to Ben Roethlisberger to Philip Rivers to Tony Romo to Carson Palmer to Aaron Rodgers to Jay Cutler to Eli Manning, many high-end NFL quarterbacks have an age higher than 29.
For McCown, whose eight appearances and five starts in 2013 were his most since starting and playing in nine games for the Raiders in 2007, the question becomes whether he’ll be able to duplicate last year’s performance in a new system. From a 66.5-percent completion percentage to 8.2 yards per attempt to 13 touchdowns to only one interception, McCown hit a level with Bears coach Marc Trestman that McCown has never before seen.
Still, in a league with more teams than competent quarterbacks, someone will be taking a chance on McCown. And there’s a chance that a guy whose reward for winning the NFC offensive player of the week award was to be sent back to the bench could have three or four more years of quality play before calling it quits.
The Redskins are reportedly poised to sign a member of PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100.
Per NFL rules, no formal offers can be made or signed before 4 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday. Moreover, no other agreements can be struck. However, negotiations, including a discussion of potential contract parameters, can occur.
The 26-year-old Roberts (5-11, 195) has hauled in 182 passes for 2,123 yards and 11 TDs in four NFL seasons, all with Arizona. He recorded 43 receptions for 471 yards and two scores in 2013.
Roberts is No. 71 on PFT’s list of the top 100 free agents of 2014.
Offensive line is a major need for the Falcons this offseason and they’ve reportedly landed a player that they hope can provide better blocking at guard than they got last season.
Former NFL scout and current 95.7 The Game in San Francisco radio host John Middlekauff reports that the Falcons signing guard Jon Asamoah for $4.5 million a year is a “done deal.” There’s no word on how many years such a deal would run or how it would be structured in terms of guarantees.
Asamoah was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft by then-Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli. Pioli now works in the Atlanta front office, which probably didn’t hurt as they pursued Asamoah over the last few days.
Asamoah has started 41 games over the last four years in Kansas City, but fell out of the starting lineup over the second half of last season. There wouldn’t seem to be much risk of that in Atlanta given the current state of affairs on the Falcons offensive line and Asamoah’s arrival would be a good first step toward fixing last season’s disaster area.
His departure would also leave the Chiefs with some work to do as they are also expected to lose guard Geoff Schwartz to another team in free agency.
The oldest player in the NFL plans to stick around Indianapolis for at least two more years.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri and the Colts have agreed to a two-year contract, Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported and the Colts have announced.
The 41-year-old Vinatieri will play his 19th and 20th NFL seasons in Indianapolis if he sticks around for both years of his contract. At the end of his two-year deal he would have played 10 seasons with the Colts after playing the first 10 years of his career with the Patriots.
Vinatieri is coming off one of his best seasons. He made 35 of 40 field goal attempts last year and was a career-best 4-for-6 from 50 yards and beyond.
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is 34. His production is declining. He’s due to earn a base salary of $13.9 million in 2014. And the Bears suddenly are trying to trade him.
Good luck with all that.
Peppers is one of several big-name players who were expected to be on the outs and who suddenly are on the market. Whether it’s Peppers or Titans running back Chris Johnson or Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, the decision to suddenly thrust the player onto the trade block on the eve of the start of the new league year makes little sense.
Why not start the effort to trade the player earlier in the offseason? While a deal can’t be consummated until the moment the clock strikes 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, an agreement in principle can be reached well before the deal becomes official. That’s what happened last year with 49ers (now Chiefs) quarterback Alex Smith.
For Peppers, the only way he gets traded if is he agrees to a major cut in pay. No one will pay him $13.9 million. Unless he’s being sent to a place he specifically wants to play, there’s no reason for him to agree to take a dollar less than the amount to which he’s entitled.
And so he most likely won’t be traded, and he undoubtedly will be cut. And that six-year, $84 million contract will end up being a four-year, $53.5 million package.
So why do teams go through the charade of trying to engineer a trade in the hours before the league year starts? While it costs nothing to try, it’s highly unlikely that someone is going to give up a draft pick for a guy who soon will be available for no compensation to his current team.
Sometimes, a team will trade for a favorable contract. For most guys who become trade bait this week, the contract isn’t favorable. Which is one of the big reasons why the team wants to trade him in the first place.
With many of the top free agent pass-rushers taken off the markets by their own teams, the movement figures to be fast for the few remaining young options.
And one of them may be flying south.
New Bucs coach Lovie Smith needs pass-rushers to make his system work, and Johnson’s one of the few of substantial resume available.
Though he dipped to 3.5 sacks last year, the 11.5 he put on the board in 2012 (which earned him the Bengals franchise tag) will get him paid, quickly and well.
The Giants have reportedly retained some secondary and running back depth as the start of free agency nears.
The 28-year-old McBride played 15 games (10 starts) for the Giants in 2013, defending 15 passes and recording two interceptions.
Hillis, 28, rushed for 247 yards and a touchdown on 73 carries for the Giants, who signed him in October. He also caught 13 passes for 96 yards.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano may be reunited with one of his old players on the Ravens today.
Arthur Jones, a Baltimore defensive lineman who played in Pagano’s system when Pagano was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, could sign with the Colts today on a deal that will pay him $6 million to $7 million a year, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Jones is a good fit for what Pagano wants to do defensively and could end up on the same defensive line as Cory Redding, who also followed Pagano from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
Jones is the oldest of three brothers in the athletic Jones family. His youngest brother is Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, and their middle brother is UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Jones is the No. 30 player in our Free Agent Hot 100.
Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network reports that the two sides are “very close” to an agreement that would keep Monroe in Baltimore for the next few years. Kinkhabwala’s colleague Ian Rapoport adds that the deal “should” be done before players are free to join other teams at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon.
Nothing is official until it is official, of course, but the recent change in tone regarding talk of Monroe’s return to Baltimore certainly bodes well for the Ravens’ chances of keeping him. With other teams able to speak to Monroe’s representatives for the last three days, things would likely be trending in the other direction if Baltimore’s offers were not more appealing than what other teams have pushed in Monroe’s direction.
It also probably doesn’t hurt that the other top left tackles in free agency have all been strongly linked to new homes away from Baltimore already. That leaves fewer options for both Monroe and the Ravens and all the more reason for them to bridge their earlier gap.
The Jaguars are parting ways with an experienced backup tailback.
The 28-year-old Forsett played nine games for the Jaguars in 2014, rushing for 31 yards on six carries and catching 15 passes for 82 yards.
A seventh-year pro from California, Forsett has also played for Indianapolis, Seattle and Houston. He has rushed for 1,692 yards and eight TDs on 314 career carries and has hauled in 115 passes for 850 yards and one score.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, a Jacksonville stalwart, will be able to test the open market beginning Tuesday afternoon.
With the new league year less than seven hours away, the salary cap stands at exactly $133 million per team. So where did the $10 million-per-team increase over 2013 come from?
No one is identifying the precise source of $320 million in new spending ability, which translates to $640 million in new total revenues. The NFLPA has gone on the record to identify one place the money didn’t come from.
“There were absolutely no adjustments made to any benefits to inflate the cap,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah recently told Tom Pelissero of USA Today. An unnamed source from the NFL’s perspective told Pelissero essentially the same thing, pointing generally to “new and enhanced TV deals” as the explanation for the spike.
In past years, there has been some confusion regarding whether the cap comes from revenue earned in the prior year or revenue expected in the current year. Either way, the number isn’t spat out by a giant computer at 345 Park Avenue; it’s negotiated by the two sides each and every year.
While there’s no specific reason to dispute the claim that shell games weren’t played to push the cap up by $10 million per team, there’s no way to know without being privy to the negotiations. Based on past precedent, there’s reason to at least wonder. Two years ago, the league agreed to borrow against future cap dollars in order to avoid a drop in the cap. While that would have hurt many teams, it could have been disastrous to NFLPA leadership, especially with executive director DeMaurice Smith only weeks away from re-election. In return, the union agreed to the imposition of $46 million in cap penalties on the Cowboys and Redskins for treating the uncapped year of 2010 as, surprise, uncapped.
Regardless, the upward trend is likely here to stay. One management-side league source recently reminded PFT of a prediction made back in 2011, after the CBA was finalized: The first few years will be very good for the owners, the next few years will even out, and by the later part of the 10-year deal the cap could be “way up” and players could be making a lot more than they were in 2011 and 2012.
For that reason, agents representing players who’ll hit the market should consider negotiating short-term deals. Unless and until someone finds a way to ensure that future compensation will be increased to reflect the annual percentage increases in the cap, it could be better to get back to the market every year or two, if the cap will be climbing by $10 million or more per year.