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ProFootballTalk: Grading Super Bowl officiating
The Jaguars re-signed quarterback Chad Henne on Friday, something they’ve said they wanted to do since the start of the offseason even though Henne himself knows that the team is looking for a young quarterback who can be a long-term answer to the position.
That young quarterback isn’t guaranteed to be the short-term answer, though. Coach Gus Bradley said Friday, via the Florida Times Union, that Henne will be first on the depth chart heading into OTAs and would likely be the starter come Week One even if the team uses the third pick in the draft on a quarterback.
This is not the time of year to take anything coaches or general managers say about free agency and the draft at face value and Jaguars fans who remember Byron Leftwich and David Garrard know that being called the starting quarterback doesn’t mean a thing until you actually start a game at quarterback.
That said, bringing Henne back gives the Jaguars flexibility not to reach for a quarterback if they don’t feel he’s worth taking with the third pick. Blaine Gabbert is still on the roster as an example of how wishing doesn’t make it so with highly drafted quarterbacks. The Jaguars may decide that the quarterback they want will come later in the draft and need some time before he’s ready to take over, which would make giving Henne the reins of an offense he already knows an easy decision.
In an annual rite that is as discussed and as worried-about and as inevitable as potty training infants, the Cowboys are under the salary cap before the start of the league year.
Amazingly, it happened again.
Of course, every team in the league has to be under the cap for the start of the league year, so it’s not as if the Cowboys have actually achieved anything. But it’s the Cowboys, so their ability to do it earns them notice beyond the normal participation certificate.
The Cowboys created most of the cap room over the course of the week, by re-doing the deals of linebacker Sean Lee, cornerback Orlando Scandrick and quarterback Tony Romo, whose contract has undergone more restructures than Joan Rivers’ face.
Of course, all those moves also make it more difficult for them to get under the cap again next year, since all the restructures just add to future liabilities.
But we’ll talk about that next year. We always do.
When we last heard from former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, he was saying he had been told by NFL scouts that he could be a pro quarterback. But at his Pro Day workout today, NFL scouts wanted to see how he looked doing drills as a running back or defensive back.
Lynch hadn’t prepared to do any position drills on defense, but when some coaches who attended the Pro Day asked him to, Lynch obliged.
“A few teams really like me at running back and I did some safety footwork drills today out of the blue and got some positive feedback there. They said I have nice feet, quick feet,” Lynch told 670 The Score in Chicago.
There’s no doubt that Lynch has quick feet: His time of 6.55 seconds in the three-cone drill wasn’t just the fastest of any quarterback at this year’s Combine, but was faster than any running back as well. Lynch has the athletic talent to play some position at the next level.
But for all his success as a Heisman Trophy finalist in college, he’s probably not a good enough passer to play quarterback in the NFL, even if he’s still holding out hope that he can.
“I helped myself today,” Lynch said. “I threw every NFL route today. Threw on time, threw on target, threw everything. Maybe a few incomplete passes here and there.”
If Lynch helped himself today, it was most likely because of his willingness to work out at a position other than quarterback.
Free agents will have to wait until Tuesday to actually put their names on contracts with new teams, but they can start getting a sense of their value on the market on Tuesday.
A 72-hour negotiating window for agents and teams opens on Saturday, allowing for discussions that will be the first step in the slew of signings we expect to see once the gun goes off on Tuesday afternoon.
On Friday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, we’ll discuss the logistics about how things will work over the weekend as part of our continuing preview of free agency. We’ll run down all the news from Friday to see how it impacts the landscape for Tuesday and beyond.
It all gets underway at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
The Giants visited with free agent linebacker Jameel McClain this week, signaling the need for some new blood at the position for the 2014 season.
It won’t be out with all of the old, however. The team announced Friday that they have re-signed linebacker Mark Herzlich, who was set to become a restricted free agent on Tuesday.
Herzlich beat cancer after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma while at Boston College and signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He’s played 43 games since joining the team, but his six starts have shown that he’s best suited for a backup role on defense while being a core member of the team’s special teams units.
The Giants have shown interest in re-signing linebacker Jon Beason, who was acquired in part because of Herzlich’s struggles at middle linebacker early last season, but Beason appears to be headed to the open market. Whether it is McClain or someone else, the Giants would be well served to replace Beason with a better option than Herzlich should the veteran depart for another team.
Terms were not disclosed. Johnson and Jeanpierre were slated to be restricted free agents.
Jeanpierre, 26, started three regular season games at center for the Seahawks in 2013. He’s played in 47 regular season games for Seattle, starting eight.
The 25-year-old Johnson has appeared in 31 regular season games for Seattle in three seasons. He notched four special teams tackles and two defensive tackles in 2013, according to club statistics.
Both Johnson and Jeanpierre entered the NFL as undrafted free agents. By re-signing them to one-year deals, the Seahawks don’t have to apply a first- or second-round tender to either player. Nor do the Seahawks have to tender them at the right-of-first-refusal level, which would allow teams to construct an offer sheet for either player.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said at the Scouting Combine that he wanted a tight end who can block.
He got one Friday, as the Cardinals agreed to a two-year deal with John Carlson, the team announced.
Carlson was cut by the Vikings this week, going down as one of the early busts of free agency in recent years. For the five-year, $25 million contract they Vikings gave him two years ago, he caught just 40 passes.
Carlson also had at least three concussions during that span, which makes his role throwing his body into people a risky one.
But the Cardinals are intent on adding to their protection in free agency (they’re a natural fit for several offensive linemen), and bringing Carlson in now is part of that.
Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant saw his 2013 season come to an end after 12 games because of a persistent irregular heartbeat.
The condition required him to undergo a cardiac ablation in December to correct the issue and the team said he was expected back at 100 percent for the 2014 season. Nothing happened since then to change that outlook and Bryant announced on Twitter Friday that he’s received full medical clearance to return to the field.
Bryant, who signed a five-year, $34 million deal last offseason, got off to a strong start in his first year in Cleveland, recording 3.5 sacks in the first three games while playing well against the run as well. Bryant’s play tailed off as the season progressed, which may have been related to an October flareup of the heart condition.
Now that he’s healthy, new Browns coach Mike Pettine should find plenty to like about Bryant’s ability to impact games up front for the Browns.
Add the Vikings to the list of clubs getting a prospective restricted free agent under contract ahead of the start of the new league year.
The 26-year-old Sherels recorded 46 tackles in 16 games (three starts) for Minnesota in 2013. He also returned 22 punts for 335 yards, including a touchdown against the Giants.
A fourth-year pro, Sherels (5-10, 175) played high school football in Rochester, Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota.
Texans tackle Duane Brown wound up in the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement last season, but his own analysis of his play in 2013 didn’t mesh with his place in the league’s all-star game.
Brown said he thought he was just “OK” during the season and that he failed to play up to his potential. It was a common complaint in Houston last season as the Texans finished the year with 14 straight losses and changed coaches when the year came to a close. They’ll spend the offseason trying to correct the issues that contributed to that record, an effort that includes Brown gaining back weight after he played last season at 12-15 pounds less than he usually carried on his frame.
“I lost a lot of weight last year and I’m off that. I’m staying pretty big these days,” Brown said, via the Houston Chronicle.
Brown’s run blocking took a step backward last season, which may have been a result of playing with less bulk. Even with that step back, Brown was one of the top performers in Houston last season and, at any weight, figures to remain one in 2014 as well.
Suh has made his choice and he decided to go with an agent. Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal reports that Suh has hired Jimmy Sexton of CAA to represent him. CAA and RocNation Sports, the agency founded by Jay Z that represents Suh for marketing deals, have a working relationship involving other clients, including Victor Cruz, so it’s no surprise to see Suh go that route.
It’s also no surprise to see him opt to work with an agent rather than try to tackle what could be a tricky negotiation without experienced help at the table with him. The Lions were among those who thought it would be a mistake for Suh to go it alone and the advice seems to have reached its target.
With Sexton in as Suh’s agent, the Lions can now get to work on an extension for the defensive tackle that would allow them to bring down his mammoth cap number of $22.4 million for the 2014 season. Suh’s in an advantageous position when it comes to making demands for that deal because of his value to the defense and the value of the cap space he can provide and the sooner it can done the better for the Lions with free agency about to get underway.
Over the weekend, a report emerged that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wants $18 million per year. Some have thereafter suggested that he wants $20 million per year.
If that’s true, our advice (money-back guarantee) for the 49ers is simple: Wait a year. For several reasons.
First, Kaepernick currently has no leverage. (He’d have even less if the 49ers had moved up not to the top of round two but to the bottom of round one in 2011, since the 49ers would then hold an option for 2015.) Unless he plans to hold out of training camp, which would squander plenty of goodwill with the fan base, Kaepernick has to play out the 2014 season before the 49ers face the sign-him-or-tag-him dilemma.
Second, Kaepernick has started only 23 regular season games. That’s not nearly enough to come to the conclusion that he should be paid at the top of the market.
Third, Kaepernick has struggled at times in the regular season. He had a few ugly stretches in 2013, and his numbers when under pressure aren’t stellar.
Fourth, Kaepernick’s success may have more to do with coach Jim Harbaugh than with Kaepernick’s abilities. If, as it appears, Harbaugh knows how to get the most out of any given quarterback, Harbaugh would still be successful if given another quarterback with NFL-caliber skills.
Fifth, by not paying Kaepernick a contract worth $20 million per year as of 2014, the 49ers automatically bank $19 million for future use, since Kaepernick’s 2014 salary is below $1 million. That works out to $3.16 million extra per year on a six-year deal.
Sixth, the salary cap suddenly is expected to grow at a rate higher than the top of the quarterback market. That will make it easier in future years to fit a $20 million quarterback contract under the cap. It also will make it easier to apply the exclusive franchise tag to Kaepernick in 2015, in order to eliminate the risk of someone signing him to an offer sheet and giving up a pair of first-round picks.
Seventh, Kaepernick’s mobility translates to a higher injury risk. The longer the team can avoid assuming that risk via a huge signing bonus, the better.
Eighth, there’s presently no guarantee that Harbaugh will be the coach next year. (Sorry, 49ers fans, but that’s true.) A new coach may want a new quarterback. Likewise, if Harbaugh ends up coaching another NFL team, maybe he’ll offer more than a pair of first-round picks in order to get Kaepernick away from the 49ers.
Ninth, all stats aside (and there are plenty of stats to support any given media agenda or bias), Kaepernick is zero-for-two when it comes to delivering in the ultimate clutch. Two seasons ago, he failed to get the ball to Michael Crabtree from the doorstep of the goal line with the Super Bowl in the balance. In January, Kaepernick underthrew slightly a pass to Crabtree when Crabtree was covered in the end zone by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, in a situation where the ball should have been placed in a spot where Crabtree or no one should have been able to touch it.
Tenth, it’s unclear whether Kaepernick will be a true leader. In San Francisco, Harbaugh seems to be the off-and-sometimes-on-field field general. If Harbaugh weren’t such a fiery and animated presence, would Kaepernick fill that void? Would he know what to say and when to say it, when the team needs to have the right thing said at the right time?
For all those reasons (and possibly more — I always lose interest after the list hits 10), the 49ers should wait. And if Kaepernick pulls a Flacco and wins a Super Bowl, they should be happy to pay Kaepernick at the very top of the market in 2015.
The legal tampering period of free agency starts tomorrow, but Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett decided to get a head start.
Of course, Dockett also uses Twitter to invite women to eat chicken wings at strip clubs and post pictures of alligators, so it’s probably not the kind of thing to warrant a league investigation.
The Cardinals need some help at left tackle, and the Chiefs free agent needs someone to pay him to play left tackle, so maybe there’s something to it.
Or maybe Dockett just succeeded in drawing attention to himself.
The Ravens passed on the chance to use their franchise tag on left tackle Eugene Monroe on Monday although they were reportedly far apart in negotiations on a long-term deal.
Several days have passed, but things don’t appear to have changed much at all. Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times reports that Monroe is looking for a deal that pays him $10 million in average salary with the Ravens seeking a deal that would pay him $8 or 9 million a year. As a result, Monroe’s expected to be on the market when free agency opens on Tuesday.
That doesn’t rule out a return to Baltimore, although Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun doesn’t think Monroe will be back because of the divide in desired contracts and the amount of teams looking for a left tackle in free agency.
The Dolphins are believed to have Monroe high on their list of free agent targets, although there should be no shortage of choices at the position with Branden Albert and Jared Veldheer also on track for the open market. That would work well for the Ravens too as they’ll need a new left tackle should Monroe move on.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Falcons routinely engage in an annual assessment of the roster, in light of player salaries and cap numbers. If/when that process flags a player who possibly is making too much money, the team inquires into the possibility of the player accepting a pay cut.
If the player isn’t inclined to take less, then the Falcons will decide whether to keep the player or cut him; they won’t squeeze the player to take less with an ultimatum.
It’s a subtle but important distinction. The Falcons want players who buy in completely. They don’t want players who will be disgruntled all season long after being backed into a corner.
Signed last season after spending nine with the Giants, Umenyiora is due to earn a base salary of $2.5 million and a roster bonus of $1 million in 2014. There’s definitely a possibility that Umenyiora will reduce his pay, but only if he’s fully on board with it.
As a practical matter, he won’t be on board with it unless and until he knows whether another team would pay more than the reduced salary offered by the Falcons. While it’s tampering for other teams to let it be known what Osi would be paid if Osi were cut, it happens all the time.
For the Falcons, if that’s what it takes to get Umenyiora to buy in to a reduced contract, they should welcome it.