Mike Florio takes a look at some of the biggest stories around the NFL. He looks at the contract situation between Joe Flacco and the Ravens and breaks down some of the dangers of franchising the Super Bowl MVP. He also discusses the Hall of Fame and the possibility of some rule changes based on some controversial calls in the Super Bowl.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Will Ravens pay up to keep Flacco?
The four-year, $17 million contract was nice.
But Red Bryant’s background with coach Gus Bradley was one of the things that sold him on the Jaguars.
Back when he was still with the Seahawks, Bryant raved about his former defensive coordinator, which speaks to his quick signing after being cut last week.
“A lot of times, people look tough and they’re soft and a lot of times people look soft, but they’re tough,” Bryant said last fall, via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union. “Gus has a fire about him. I played for him for four years and I know what type of man he is. He’s committed to winning and you best believe he’s going to come up with the best game plan to beat us.”
Bradley’s Jaguars did not, in fact, win that game — it wasn’t close, a 45-17 beating.
But it’s clear that Bradley’s influence was a big factor in Bryant’s quick decision, which should help solidify a team that is moving in the right direction.
No trades have been made, but two of the three are no longer in New Orleans. Moore and Sproles were released last week, leaving Thomas as the last man standing in the trio. It seemed that changed on Saturday when safety Malcolm Jenkins tweeted about Thomas’ departure, but, according to Thomas’ agent Lamont Smith, nothing has changed regarding Thomas’ status with the team.
“Status quo on PT at the present time,” Smith wrote on Twitter.
Will that remain the case? Based on moves they’ve made on both sides of the ball, one of the Saints’ plans for the offseason was clearing the roster of aging players whose money could be reinvested elsewhere and Thomas, who is set to make $2.9 million this season, fits the bill on that front. The Saints have Khiry Robinson, Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet on the roster at running back in addition to Thomas, so the cupboard won’t be bare if they do say goodbye to a second veteran running back.
Talib, who hit the open market in 2013 after being traded from Tampa to New England during the 2012 season, signed a one-year, $5 million contract to stay with the Patriots last year. After a solid season and an extended stretch of staying out of trouble, Talib figures to cash in significantly.
And for good reason. The cornerback market has recovered significantly, thanks in large part to the spike in the salary cap and the return of a defense-wins-championships mentality to the NFL. With 30-something cornerback Brent Grimes getting $32 million over four years and Packers cornerback Sam Shields getting $39 million over four from the extremely-careful-with-money Ted Thompson, the top shelf could spring past $10 million per year, this year.
With Talib, the concern for some is whether a significant payday will provoke a return of the off-field concerns that helped run him out of Tampa. Thanks to the Aaron Hernandez debacle, the Patriots can’t make a huge investment of guaranteed money in Talib without risking an I-told-you-so moment if/when Talib finds trouble away from the field, again.
Washington, by multiple accounts, has emerged as a potential player for Talib’s services, given the connect-the-dots presence of former Bucs coach Raheem Morris as the defensive backs coach there. Morris, who once described Talib as a “wild child,” would have to believe Talib can be trusted to stay on the right path while millions are raining down. More importantly, G.M. Bruce Allen would have to be willing to make the investment of cash and cap dollars necessary to lure Talib.
Some think Allen intends to wait and shop for bargains, and to resist signing anyone to a big-money contract right out of the gates. If that’s the case, Talib becomes a player they won’t be pursuing — unless no one else signs him and he becomes a de facto bargain.
For now, it’s hard to know which teams are interested, because Talib’s camp isn’t leaking the phone logs to the media. Even without that info, it’s safe to say that plenty of interest exists. The question is whether a team will be willing to take the leap of faith that the Talib of recent months has trumped the “wild child” that wore out his welcome in Tampa.
Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh settled on a new agent last week, a decision that opens the door to negotiations with the team about a contract extension that would lower his $22.4 million cap number for the 2014 season.
Reaching agreement on such an extension is seen as essential to the Lions’ plans in free agency because of the need for cap space in Detroit to make significant additions to the roster. According to Lions president Tom Lewand, though, extending Suh is something the team wants to do because they like him as a player not because they think they need to do it in order to fulfill their other offseason desires.
“An opinion that any one deal can make or break a plan doesn’t fit. There is no one deal that makes or breaks a plan. The plan is a lot more dynamic and has a lot more pieces than that,” Lewand said, via the team’s website. “It’s not impacting anything that we’re doing in free agency. It doesn’t impact our plan at all. It doesn’t impact what we’re getting ready to do when the league year starts next week.”
Lewand pointed out that people said the same thing about the need to extend quarterback Matthew Stafford early last offseason, when the Lions were in worse cap shape, and that the Lions added Reggie Bush and Glover Quin before getting around to addressing Stafford’s contract. Creative contracts helped then and they will help again this offseason, but any moves the Lions can make to get their cap into better shape in the short and long term are still ones they should be pursuing this offseason.
On the first day of the legal tampering period, the agent representing Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner received plenty of phone calls from teams. At last count, there were six.
And unless those six teams independently leaked to the media that interest is being expressed, the Verner camp becomes the primary suspect for the source of the leaks.
Ditto for Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, who has seven teams calling his agents. As one league source remarked regarding Johnson: “I would have thought 20 teams would call. Maybe more. Anyone can place a call.”
That’s the reality of the legal tampering period. Teams can express interest and negotiate without making an offer. When a cap-strapped team like the Steelers is calling about Verner, it becomes impossible to know who’s simply kicking tires, who’s genuinely interested, and who’s trying to use the process to create smoke screens.
For those who are genuinely interested, it’s impossible to know the level of the interest unless someone starts leaking the terms that are being discussed via negotiations that aren’t allowed to inadvertently become agreements.
The sense is that, come Tuesday, a few big names will move quickly and for too much money and then others will jump in later in the week. Even now, some of the teams aren’t even making calls, because they have no intention to sign anyone out of the gates.
From a football standpoint, the smart play always is to be patient and shop for bargains. From a business standpoint, some owners will choose to make a big splash in order to sell tickets and generate buzz and erase (if only for a day) the stink of dysfunction hovering over the franchise.
For now, reports of interest in specific players will continue to emerge and we’ll continue to pay attention to those reports even as we continue to not know what it all really means.
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News both report that the Giants have expressed interest in defensive end Arthur Jones, who has spent the last four seasons with the Ravens. Jones joins cornerback Alterraun Verner as reported Giants targets in free agency.
Jones has started 19 games for Baltimore over the last two seasons, recording 8.5 sacks and forcing a fumble while picking up a Super Bowl ring after the 2012 season. He’s ranked 30th on PFT‘s Hot List of the top 100 players eligible for free agency this offseason.
Wilson adds that the Titans and Redskins also have interest in Jones, who has played in a 3-4 defense during his time with the Ravens. The Giants don’t run that type of scheme, but it seems they think Jones is versatile enough to handle a switch.
What can the Bills do on the offensive line in free agency?
The Ravens have money to spend and holes to fill in free agency.
Said Bengals OL Mike Pollak after re-signing with the team, “They said they were going to get me some reps at center, but they also might have a need at guard. I’m looking forward to a couple of more years of hanging out with these guys and getting back to the playoffs.”
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was at Arizona State’s pro day workout.
A look back at the Titans’ history in free agency.
Safety is an obvious spot where the Broncos can improve.
Running through a list of potential Chiefs free agent targets.
What’s the forecast for the Chargers in free agency?
DE Austen Lane’s experience with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker should help him with the Bears.
Will the Lions be drafting a wide receiver in the first round?
Making the case for an aggressive approach to free agency for the Packers.
Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes that the Saints are renovating rather than rebuilding.
The Rams are saying they’ll be less active in free agency than they were last year.
Count the Buccaneers among the teams that would love to add Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson in free agency.
Johnson has already drawn interest from about a quarter of the league with two days to go before free agency officially opens, and according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Buccaneers are pushing hard to sign Johnson. New Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith would love to add a pass-rushing defensive end to his defense, and Johnson may be the best fit of any free agent available.
If Johnson gets the big contract it appears he’s about to get, then he has played free agency perfectly. Last year, when the market was down, Johnson decided to sign the franchise tag and play for the Bengals on a one-year salary of $11.2 million. This year the salary cap is higher and the market is up, and Johnson gets to test the free market.
Johnson, the No. 5 player on our Free Agent Hot 100, is surely about to become one of the highest-paid defensive ends in the NFL.
Romo appears to be going that route on one front. Romo and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett were decked out in Duke gear and in the stands for Duke’s basketball game against North Carolina on Saturday and Jeff Gravley of WRAL reports that they have been working with Duke football coach David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe was Manning’s offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee and has remained a frequent collaborator with the Broncos quarterback.
One of the times Manning and Cutcliffe worked together was in the wake of Manning’s neck surgery and Romo is taking a page from that book as he makes his way back from back surgery. Romo told ESPN during the game that his recovery was going well and that he expects to be on the field for OTAs.
“We’re getting close now. Usually takes three months, it’s just normal kinda roundabout date that they give you and we’re right on schedule,” Romo said. “Really ahead in a lot of ways. Just going to be ready to go here in about a month and rehab is going good, no setbacks of any kind. Mine [surgery] was just a normal small version of it, so I should be good to go here shortly.”
Neither Cutcliffe nor anyone else is going to turn Romo into Manning, but focusing on mechanics in the wake of surgery the way Manning did can’t be a bad thing for the Cowboys quarterback.
There wasn’t a quick developing market for running backs as teams started talking to agents on Saturday and no market will develop at all for one free agent.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that teams are being told that Rashard Mendenhall will retire rather than continue his NFL career. That comes after Mendenhall wrote a piece for the Huffington Post last month that hinted at just such a decision while saying Mendenhall was “eagerly looking to a new way.”
Mendenhall is just 26, but is coming off a year where he scored eight touchdowns for the Cardinals but struggled to produce much when he wasn’t within spitting distance of the end zone. He tore his ACL in 2012 and battled a toe injury last year, which may have contributed to both his underwhelming production and the decision to call it a career at this point.
Given his age, it wouldn’t be shocking to hear Mendenhall linked to a comeback effort at some point in the future. Given Mendenhall’s injury history and overall profile, it also wouldn’t be shocking if it was greeted as indifferently as running backs were on Saturday.
When the Patriots stopped quarterback Ryan Mallett’s draft-day free fall in 2011, it was assumed that coach Bill Belichick eventually would flip the former Arkansas Razorback for something more than the third-round pick used to get him.
With Mallett entering the final year of his contract, Belichick is running out of chances to trade Mallett. And with former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien now the head coach of the Texans after a pair of years as head coach at Penn State, O’Brien could be the guy to make the deal.
Nick Underhill of MassLive.com reports that the Texans have expressed interest in acquiring Mallett. At this point, however, the level of interest hasn’t progressed beyond “talk.”
Mallett remains unproven, given that he has had limited regular-season reps. A fair package arguably would include a mid-round draft pick in 2014 and a conditional pick in 2015 that would hinge on the success of Mallett and/or the team this season.
During the first day of the second annual legal tampering period, plenty of teams reportedly have shown interest in plenty of players. Few if any are running backs.
As one source who has been actively working the phones throughout the day told PFT on Saturday night, there’s currently no market for running backs.
If it holds, it’s no surprise. In recent years, not many/any veteran tailbacks have broken the bank as free agents, with the best contracts coming in the range of $3 million to $4 million per year. Which also happens to be the top of the market for kickers.
Eight running backs appear on PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100: Ben Tate (No. 38); Donald Brown (No. 43); Darren McFadden (No. 67); Knowshon Moreno (No. 70); James Starks (No. 76); LeGarrette Blount (No. 83); Maurice Jones-Drew (No. 85); Toby Gerhart (No. 99).
Based on Saturday, there won’t be a land rush for tailbacks on Tuesday. The contracts likely will come late in the week, at the earliest.
Soon, it could be easier to list the teams that aren’t interested in Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, who previously pegged the Jets, Vikings, and Rams as having interest in the No. 10 player on PFT’s Free Agent Hot 100 list, now reports that the Lions, Steelers, and Giants also have interest in Verner.
A fourth-round pick in 2010 from UCLA, Verner has started every game the last two years, becoming one of the best young corners in the NFL in the process. The Titans opted not to apply the franchise tag to Verner, which would have paid him a lot of money on a one-year deal. It now appears that Verner will be getting a lot more money on a multi-year deal, from someone.
Of course, it’s one thing for teams to show interest and another for that interest to become a contract offer. Teams that plan to box out the other contenders for Verner will need to have the cap space to do it.
The Steelers don’t. But it costs no cash or cap space to show interest.
The Cardinals are planning to upgrade their offensive line by cutting a veteran starter and signing a better replacement.
Daryn Colledge, a guard who has started all 16 games in all three of his seasons in Arizona, is apparently about to be released. Colledge said goodbye to Arizona on Twitter on Saturday.
“Wanna thank you the fans and the Cardinals for an amazing opportunity. A great organization headed in the right direction. Wish ya the best,” Colledge wrote.
The 32-year-old Colledge would have been due a $4.8 million salary this season, so it’s no surprise that he was a cap casualty. The question now is where the Cardinals will look to improve on the offensive line.
According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, the Cardinals’ No. 1 target is free agent left tackle Branden Albert. If they’re not able to acquire the sought-after Albert, the Cardinals’ Plan B would be guard/tackle Rodger Saffold. Either Albert or Saffold would improve the Cardinals’ offensive line.
Colledge will become a free agent as soon as his release from the Cardinals is official, and one place where he could find a job is Miami, as he previously played for coach Joe Philbin in Green Bay. Saffold handled his departure from Arizona with class, and the Dolphins could use a classy veteran on their offensive line.
One of the top free agent cornerbacks is off the market.
The Packers and cornerback Sam Shields have reached a four-year, $39 million contract, a league source told PFT’s Mike Florio on Saturday.
Shields will receive a $12.5 million signing bonus, and his 2014 compensation is $15 million. By the second season, Shields is slated to have made $21 million, and the deal is worth $30 million through 2016.
The 26-year-old Shields recorded 61 tackles, defended 16 passes and intercepted four passes in 2013.
Shields was PFT’s No. 15-ranked free agent and the No. 5-ranked player at a strong group of prospective free agents at his position. His departure doesn’t hurt the leverage of New England’s Aqib Talib, Indianapolis’ Vontae Davis, Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner and Denver’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.