Can the Ravens repeat? Yes. Will they? It doesn’t seem probable. The PFT guys also give a 2013 outlook of the 49ers, and it may not look as good as we once thought.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Ravens repeat in store?
With former NFL center Matt Birk take a spot in the league office, an important vacancy arose. It’ll be filled with a guy who’ll soon take a spot in the Hall of Fame.
The league has announced that Derrick Brooks will replace Birk as one of the two hearing officers for the appeal of on-field fines.
“Derrick views this game with a very unique understanding as both a player and a team president,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said, referring to Brooks’ tenure as president of the AFL’s Tampa Bay Storm. “His review of appeals will be informed by experience as a player and as an executive.”
“Derrick was jointly selected by the Players and the NFL and we expect he will bring expertise and professionalism to his role as an arbitration officer,” NFLPA Senior Director of Player Affairs and Development Jason Besler said. “We look forward to working with him.”
Brooks and Ted Cottrell will handle the appeals of fines and suspensions arising from illegal hits and other on-field misconduct. They will be jointly paid by the NFL and the NFLPA, making it much different than the usual judge-jury-executioner approach the NFL applies to discipline.
There were smatterings of discussion about an extension for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is signed through the 2015 season with cap hits of $18.895 million and $18.595 million, but nothing wound up happening on that front.
That’s not because the Steelers lack interest in keeping Roethlisberger around, however. Steelers president Art Rooney II said that he spoke with Roethlisberger before the team announced the extension for center Maurkice Pouncey to be sure that the quarterback knew where the team stood in regard to continuing a relationship that has netted the team a pair of Super Bowl victories.
“And so I talked to Ben, and then we talked with his agent Ryan Tollner about where we are and the fact we intend on addressing Ben’s contract situation after the season, so that we could address a number of players who were going into their last year in 2014,” Rooney said, via the team’s website. “I think Ben understands that’s our intention and the way we’d like to proceed. I think we had a good conversation.”
Rooney said that the fact that the cap is expected to go up again next season played a role in the team’s thinking as they’ll have more room to deal with Roethlisberger’s contract after being in a tough cap situation this offseason. It will be a while before there’s more discussion of Roethlisberger’s contract, but it should be one of the bigger stories of the next Pittsburgh offseason.
The Panthers clean slate at wide receiver has gotten more attention, but the bigger issue this year will be who ends up starting at tackle, and whether that person can keep Cam Newton upright.
But Panthers coach Ron Rivera is confident he’s going to find an answer among what is on hand.
“We think those three guys give us an opportunity to find a starter out of that group,” Rivera said. “But it most certainly is going to be a competitive position. It will be one we will watch for obvious reasons.”
Bell has started at right tackle the last three years, but wasn’t particularly good at it. Chandler is a converted defensive tackle, who they signed to a cheap contract extension betting on his upside. Williams keeps getting hurt every time they give him a chance to win the job.
In short, they’re going to miss the retired Jordan Gross, regardless who ends up starting there. The top tackles were gone long before they picked in the first round. They inquired about free agent Anthony Collins before he signed with the Buccaneers, but they were otherwise limited in what they could do to fix the line.
Now they’ll go to camp, and wait, and hope.
Texans receiver Andre Johnson showed up for training camp without anything more than (most likely) a waiver of the $70,000 in fines he racked up for missing a mandatory minicamp. So why did he do it?
For starters, he surely didn’t want to lose any more money, after squandering a $1 million roster bonus by staying away from the offseason program.
Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, “[Johnson] reported after getting some comfort on direction and comfort on his future security. He got a strong word from ownership that his future is strongly secure.”
That comfort came from communications with the team. Via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, those communications included a meeting last Friday with owner Bob McNair, coach Bill O’Brien, and G.M. Rick Smith.
While none of that is legally binding, it suggests that Johnson will get all or most of his $11.5 million in 2014, even though the salary carries with it a $16.1 million cap number, due in large part to past team-friendly restructurings. And even though the Texans could still renege on whatever “comfort” he was provided regarding his future security, it would send a horrible message to the rest of the locker room.
Johnson also feels confident that the team isn’t rebuilding. Whether he feels that way after the season depends largely on how the season goes.
As the Jaguars prepare to unveil gigantic new video boards, they’re renewing their vows with an existing sponsor.
Via the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars will announce on Friday a deal with EverBank that will keep the financial institution’s name on the stadium where the team plays through 2024.
Technically, it’s a 10-year extension to the five-year, $16.6 million contract signed in 2010. The average value of the new deal is expected to exceed the $3.32 million per year average of the current contract.
It’ll possibly need to go up a lot for the Jaguars to see a net gain. Jacksonville agreed to sacrifice its right to 25 percent of the money under the first contract. The Jaguars will have to negotiate that term all over again in the new deal.
The Jaguars quietly have surged in the local market since the sale of the team from Wayne Weaver to Shad Khan. Rumors of relocation have subsided if not disappeared, even though the team currently plays one game per year in London. Ticket sales are up, the team is improving, and a solid front office and coaching staff are in place, with Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley leading the way.
Throw in a weak AFC South, and the Jags could make a run at their first playoff berth since 2007.
For a guy who went 24-40 in his last job, including a 3-13 dumpster fire which included alienating the franchise quarterback, Mike Shanahan is kind of picky.
The former Redskins coach told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that he wanted to coach again, but only if things are just right.
“If I get back into coaching, it would have to be a situation where there was a realistic opportunity to win a Super Bowl,” Shanahan said.
Beyond that shot, Shanahan’s thoughts for future employment shines some light on how dysfunctional things might have been with the Redskins.
Asked about quarterback Robert Griffin III, he said: “I’m not going down that road. I’m going to let that play itself out. We’ll see as time goes on.”
He also said he’d like a team with salary cap room, which is something he didn’t enjoy in Washington thanks to their penalty for circumventing the salary cap in 2010.
“It would have to be with the right ownership,” Shanahan added, a not-at-all-veiled shot at his old boss Dan Snyder.
He also mentioned working for Pat Bowlen, who fired him from the Broncos in 2008, saying: “He let you do your job. Every resource that he had, he’d give it to you.”
When he puts it like that, it’s almost like things in Washington last year were exactly as bad as they looked from the outside.
The Rams hold their first practice of training camp on Friday and there won’t be any restrictions on quarterback Sam Bradford when they do.
Bradford is coming off a torn ACL, but coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday that there wouldn’t be any limits on the quarterback during practice.
“Sam is in great shape,” Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s ready to go. We don’t have [reservations] — right now as we speak, as camp starts — he’s full-go. If we need to back him down here and there, we’ll back him down.”
One place where the Rams might back Bradford down will be in the first preseason game, which Fisher suggested would go on without the starting quarterback while also saying that Bradford would see preseason action. Whatever action he does see, Bradford will need to use it to build a strong foundation for a season that will see him try once more to prove that he’s the franchise quarterback that the Rams wanted when they took him first overall in 2010.
If Bradford can’t do that, it will likely be time for the Rams to look in another direction under center after spending the last few years concentrating on overhauling the rest of the roster.
It’s fitting, we suppose, that as 34-year-old Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and his twice-cut-open back prepare to lift the team to unprecedented heights over the next four-to-five years, one of the team’s top executive says they won’t be relying on Romo as much as they used to.
“We will be running the ball more,” Cowboys V.P and COO Stephen Jones said Thursday, via Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I think our offensive line is better than it was last year and I think we ran the ball pretty well last year. I think we’ll run it better this year and I think there will be a bigger commitment to running it.”
If it’s true, why announce it to the world? While the million who play fantasy football will appreciate the head’s up, opposing defensive coordinators will appreciate it even more.
For that reason alone, it’s possible that Jones is trying to make opposing defensive coordinators think that the Cowboys will be running the ball more, if for no reason other than to take some of the heat off of Tony Romo and his twice-cut-open back.
So before burning a high pick on DeMarco Murray in that upcoming fantasy draft, keep in mind that Jones simply may be providing cover for the quarterback whose back may or may not allow him to perform at a high level, or at all, for a lot longer in the NFL.
Titans guard Andy Levitre has become quite familiar with the operating room over the last couple of years and he added another entry to his medical records on Thursday.
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that Levitre had his appendix removed this week and that he will miss a couple of weeks of camp while he recovers from the procedure. Per Wyatt, Levitre began having discomfort on Wednesday and doctors determined that he needed laparoscopic surgery to remove the offending appendix.
Levitre had knee surgery before camp last year and hip surgery after the year was out, although he didn’t wind up missing any games during the regular season. The hip surgery did limit Levitre during the offseason program, however, so he will be a bit behind in terms of preparation for the coming season once he is able to return to practice.
The Titans report to camp on Friday and have their first practice of the summer on Saturday.
Players come back from injuries all the time in the NFL.
But even though there’s a significant difference between his career-threatening neck injury and your basic torn ACL, Giants running back David Wilson is taking a low-key approach to his comeback.
“I always felt fine and capable of doing my job,” Wilson said, via Ralp Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. “You want to come out here and be safe as well. You have a long life after football, and football is something I love, so as long as I can play it, I want to play it.”
That kind of determination impressed the Giants, who often had to remind him to slow himself down after a potentially life-altering procedure.
“Hopefully — hopefully — it will go [well] as we bring him along. He wants to do everything now. He’s out there running back and forth like it’s nobody’s business.”
Maybe Andre Roberts would have signed with Washington again, after all.
Roberts, who recently said the arrival of DeSean Jackson would have been a factor in the former Cardinal’s free-agency decision-making progress, has been thrown a bone. Via Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com, Roberts has landed at the top of the depth chart for both kickoff and punt returns.
“Right now, I am,” Roberts said. “You never know during training camp what they’re going to do. [It could] depend on how much they use me on offense. . . . Right now, I’m on top. But we’ll see.”
We’ll definitely see, because DeSean Jackson has been a game-breaking return specialist in the past.
“I would like to be the kick returner and the punt returner but, you know, everybody doesn’t get what they want,” Roberts said last month. “Preferably, probably kick returner.”
Roberts signed a four-year, $16 million in March with $5.25 million guaranteed at signing. The real question is whether he does enough this year to prompt the team to keep him beyond the 15th day of the 2015 league year, at which point his $2.75 million base salary for 2015 becomes fully guaranteed.
All offseason, the concern for the Saints was whether they could make the numbers work with *tight end Jimmy Graham.
But when he showed up for work, he posted another number that reminded them of his value.
Saints coach Sean Payton said Graham had the “low time” in the team’s pre-camp conditioning test.
“That was significant. I told him to stay in Miami every offseason,” Payton said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “I mean, it was outstanding.”
Both Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis said the difficult negotiation (which led to discussions of how far he lined up from the tackle) was simply part of the process, and the $10 million a year deal now has everyone happy.
“Look, it was a tough negotiation, obviously, but it ended well,” Loomis said. “Obviously going to an appeal hearing over the position argument was unique. But otherwise it was a negotiation. You know, all of these negotiations are tough. Obviously when it’s a high-profile guy, there’s more written about it. And those are personal issues for the players, in particular, and we understand that. But that’s behind us. We’re glad to have it done. I’m sure Jimmy’s glad to have it done.
“It’s just a process that we had to go through. And, look, I think both sides are pretty pleased with the outcome.”
Given that both Payton and Loomis testified in an arbitration hearing against Graham’s assertion that he should be a wide receiver for franchise tag purposes, there was the potential for awkwardness.
But now that business has been taken care of, they can get back to the business of football, and Graham is apparently ready.
That’s how things have played out. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Johnson appeared at the team’s facility again on Friday and reported on time for the start of camp.
Johnson’s agent didn’t comment on his client’s plans earlier this week, but did say that he and the Texans were communicating. Part of those discussions likely center on whether Johnson can recoup a $1 million roster bonus he lost by not taking part in voluntary portions of the offseason program, although Johnson’s gripes with the direction of the Texans and what it means for his future in Houston may also be on the agenda.
Those talks can continue, but the important news for the Texans is that they won’t have to go into coach Bill O’Brien’s first season without their top wide receiver.
The Dolphins offensive line is about to get to work.
Which Bengals have the most to gain in training camp?
There are some concerns about the Browns linebackers.
Five questions for the Steelers to answer in training camp.
The Texans added DT David Hunter to the roster.
The Jaguars named Luke Butkus as their interim offensive line coach.
The Raiders suffered some injuries during their conditioning test.
The Cowboys think they can have good success in the running game.
The Redskins took things inside during part of Thursday’s workout.
The Packers are considering variable pricing for the 2015 season.
Golfer Bubba Watson helped welcome the Saints to West Virginia.
The Cardinals are excited to get training camp underway.
The Rams are involved in a fundraiser honoring the late Philip Lutzenkirchen, who spent time with the team last summer.
Projecting the Seahawks’ 53-man roster for the 2014 season.
When the Lions passed on Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the 10th overall pick in the draft for yet another offensive weapon, their intention to keep defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh became even more obvious — especially since they decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Nick Fairley in order to give him incentive to play harder this year (until he gets paid and can underachieve again). But with the season approaching, the Lions have yet to extend Suh’s rookie contract.
Per Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the Lions aren’t optimistic that they’ll get Suh re-signed. The problem ultimately flows from his $22.4 million cap number, which gives Suh the hammer of a 2015 franchise tag in the amount of $26.88 million. Which makes it hard to sign him to a long-term deal that pays out market value, especially with the market not exactly soaring at the defensive tackle position.
That cap number has been artificially increased by efforts to create cap space that included restructuring Suh’s contract and loading more dollars into 2014. Indeed, Suh will earn only (only?) $12 million in 2014. But good luck getting Suh, agent Jimmy Sexton, and/or marketing agent Jay-Z to negotiate the first year of a long-term extension based on the lower number.
It all points to Suh finishing his rookie contract, not being tagged, entering the mini-tampering period and finding out what other teams would pay, and either taking the Lions’ offer or signing elsewhere, for the same money or more (or possibly less, if other factors come into play).
Regardless, it quite possibly will be Suh’s last year in Detroit, thanks in part to the efforts of the team to do business while having three top-two picks from the last four years of the windfall system that existed before the rookie wage scale. They’ve extended two of them (Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford), and it looks like the third one will be walking away.