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The biggest headline from one of the last semi-slow weekends of the offseason came from a report regarding the extent to which the Jets tampered with cornerback Darelle Revis in 2015, while he was still under contract with the Patriots. The news from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, a far cry from the dismissive tone he initially struck on the matter, indicated that the Jets used “private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine” to negotiate with Revis at a time when Revis was still a Patriot.
On one hand, it’s an example of what constantly happens at the Scouting Combine. As one team president told PFT several years ago, his team had resisted doing it until realizing that his team was at a competitive disadvantage because every other team was doing it.
Rarely, however, does a team do it while currently under investigation for tampering with the player with whom the team is currently tampering. As to the Jets in 2015, the NFL already was poking around in the aftermath of owner Woody Johnson’s il-advised declaration that he would “love for Darrelle to come back.” Although the NFL typically enforces the tampering rules only when it happens to notice that a team has both hands and its whole mouth in the cookie jar, Johnson’s comments amounted to a declaration that his team is coming for the cookies.
So what did the NFL do to investigate whether the Jets used burner phones to talk to Revis’ agents or met with them at the Combine to negotiate the deal he quickly would sign after becoming a free agent? The league had no comment when asked that question by PFT earlier in the week.
Consider the broader context. At the same time, the NFL was chasing wisps of air pressure to eventually prove (even though it failed to do so) that the Patriots tampered with footballs during an AFC championship game played after Johnson announced that a cookie raid was coming. So what was done to grill Jets front-office employees, to demand the surrender of cell phones (sounds familiar for some reason), and to otherwise get to the bottom of a rabbit hole that, as expected, contained a big, nasty, stinky, smelly rat? From the league’s perspective, we’ll never know.
A couple of other circumstances make this one even more intriguing. First, in July of 2015, Rod Graves took a job at the league office after spending two years with the Jets. What kind of interrogation, if any, did he face regarding the Revis tampering case before or after getting a job at 345 Park Avenue? Second, if/when the Jets cut Revis, will Revis spill the beans on how his then-terminated contract came to be?
So while this one ended two years ago amid a $100,000 fine and a cartoonish tit-for-tat tampering allegation after Patriots owner Robert Kraft said “[w]e wanted to keep” Revis and “we’re sorry he didn’t stay with us,” there’s still plenty more there. If the Jets decide to cut Revis in lieu of paying him a $2 million roster bonus next month, maybe Revis will have something to say about it.
Emmanuel Sanders didn’t want to be written off as too small at the 2010 Scouting Combine, and so he got a bright idea: Add a lot of water weight.
Sanders said he was worried NFL teams wouldn’t think he was big enough to hold up to the grind at the professional level, so he drank a huge amount of water just before the weigh-in.
“I’m a small guy, so prior to weighing in I ended up drinking like two gallons of water so I was so bloated and full of water, I got up to like 185 pounds, just to show teams that I’m not a small guy,” Sanders said.
Two gallons of water is 17 pounds, meaning Sanders added about 10 percent to his bodyweight just by drinking water. The Steelers apparently thought he was big enough, as they drafted him in the third round.
If anyone else wants to follow in Sanders’ footsteps, they’d better be sure they do so only after submitting to their Combine drug test: A diluted urine sample is considered an attempt to cheat the drug test, which may hurt an NFL player’s draft stock more than an extra 17 pounds will help.
Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams made his fifth Pro Bowl this year, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be back in Buffalo for the season ahead.
Williams has an $8.3 million cap hit in 2017, and Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News describes Williams as very vulnerable to getting cut.
It’s also possible that the soon-to-be 34-year-old Williams will decide to walk away: He said after Week 17 that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to keep playing, especially if the Bills decide to blow up the roster and rebuild.
Last year Williams agreed to take a pay cut to stay in Buffalo. If he’d agree to do that again, the Bills would presumably like to keep him. But it might be time, after 11 seasons, for the two sides to part ways.
Decades before the NFL embraced African-American quarterbacks, Bernie Custis became the first in pro football in 1951 as the starter for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL. On Thursday, Custis died at the age of 88.
“Trailblazers are rightly remembered for being the first,” CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said, via the Associated Press. “Bernie Custis, the first black professional quarterback in the modern era starting with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1951, should be revered as well for being one of our best. A world-class athlete, he excelled both as a quarterback and a running back. A tremendous leader, he was a successful coach who had a positive impact on countless young lives. A true gentleman, he brought honor to our game and our league, and provided us with a role model to emulate.”
The Browns made Custis the sixth overall pick of the 1951 draft. But Cleveland wanted to make him a safety, and Custis wanted to play quarterback. So he went to Canada.
Custis, who played college football at Syracuse and roomed with Al Davis, became a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
After his playing career ended, Custis spent 31 years in coaching at various levels.
Per the report, Mitchell will sign a contract worth $16 million over the four years and will get $5.5 million in 2017.
Mitchell was released last week by the Dolphins, who cut him instead of paying him $4 million next season. He had taken visits with the Falcons, Broncos, Seahawks and 49ers before deciding to sign with the 49ers.
Mitchell, 29, spent the last three seasons with the Dolphins. He played in nine games and started five last season. Mitchell has 5.5 career sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Although the question of whether the Vikings cut running back Adrian Peterson won’t affect the amount of the franchise tag applicable to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, there’s another development that will: Not using the franchise tag at all.
The Steelers could opt to use the transition tag instead of the franchise tag on Bell. The transition tag would give the Steelers a right to match any offer sheet that Bell signs elsewhere; the franchise tag would provide a right to match and two first-round picks as compensation if he leaves (breaking: no one will be giving up two first-round picks for Bell).
If no one is willing to give Bell the kind of contract he wants even without losing draft picks, he’d be eligible to stay in Pittsburgh on a one-year deal that equates to, per a league source, 5.892 percent of the 2017 salary cap. That’s considerably less than the 7.257-percent rate that applies under the franchise tag for running backs.
Based on a $165 million salary cap, those percentages equate to a franchise tender of $11.97 million and a transition tender of $9.72 million. For the Steelers, the question becomes whether it’s worth the extra $2.25 million to prevent another team from trying to pilfer Bell.
If the Steelers believe that no other team would break the bank for a guy who a significant injury history, a groin injury that was bad enough to at least make surgery an option, and a pair of substance-abuse policy violations, it makes plenty of sense to save the money and retain the rights to a running back who has been great when healthy and available, but who isn’t healthy and available often enough (he has missed 20 total games in four seasons) to justify that kind of investment.
In an era when the transition tag isn’t used on a regular basis, the Steelers have applied it twice in the last decade. In 2014, linebacker Jason Worilds received the transition tag. Ditto for tackle Max Starks six years earlier.
For the most part, the Friday Tom Coughlin process was quintessential Tom Coughlin. Direct. Candid but guarded, and candid about being guarded. On one of the first questions, however, Coughlin was asked a direct question and evaded it.
Asked whether he is committed to Blake Bortles as the team’s starting quarterback, Coughlin opted not to say “yes” or “no.” The end result was a convoluted way of saying, “Maybe.”
“There’s plenty of work for everybody to do, Blake included,” Coughlin told reporters. “To raise the game to a higher level, it takes all components as well. That’s why I mentioned the protection first of all. Being at the right place at the right time, the timing, taking care of the football, which is paramount to that position. There can be no way the ball is turned over to that extent. I think he’d be the first one to say that he has a lot of work to do, but we all have a lot of work to do; I’m going to put it that way.”
That’s a way of saying that if Bortles doesn’t do the work, Coughlin and company will find someone who will. Long before the Jaguars know whether Bortles can do the work, they’ll have to decide whether to exercise the option for the fifth year of his rookie deal, which will equate to the transition tag for quarterbacks in 2017 (i.e., 11.409 percent of the 2017 salary cap).
At a 2017 cap of $165 million, that’s $18.82 million guaranteed for injury for a fifth season with Bortles. Based on Coughlin’s convoluted answer to a straightforward question, it’s hardly a slam dunk that they’ll pick up the option on or before May 3.
Friday’s official announcement of compensatory picks for the 2017 NFL Draft allowed the Browns and other teams around the league to close the books on some previous business, specifically in finalizing trades and in knowing the exact spot in the order of certain picks they hold in this year’s draft.
As previously outlined, the Browns had agreed to send a third-round compensatory pick to the Patriots, if they got one, before last year’s trade deadline to acquire linebacker Jamie Collins. They did receive a compensatory third-round pick, No. 103 overall, so that goes to the Patriots.
The Browns also got a pair of fourth-round picks and one fifth-round compensatory pick. One of those fourth-round picks, No. 139 overall, will go to the Eagles as part of last year’s pre-draft trade that allowed the Eagles to move up and select Carson Wentz.
So, the Browns currently hold 11 picks in this year’s draft, including Nos. 1 and 12 in the first round and five of the first 65 picks. They tied a record by drafting 14 players last season.
This is the third consecutive year and fourth time since 2012 that the Browns have held 10 or more picks, and it goes without saying that the franchise is a bit overdue in using those picks to spark a turnaround.
When the NFL implemented compensatory draft picks in 1994, the idea was that the extra picks would lend a hand to the teams that got out-spent in free agency, which was then new in the league: Compensatory picks go to teams that lose more in free agency than they gain, and so the picks were envisioned as a safeguard against the rich raiding the rosters of the poor.
It hasn’t worked out that way, however. In a league with revenue sharing and a salary cap, there’s not much of a distinction between the rich and the poor.
Instead, compensatory picks have turned out to reward smart teams. The teams that have been wise about not over-spending in free agency and keeping themselves in good salary cap shape are the ones that keep getting lots of compensatory picks, while the teams that overspend in free agency are the ones that don’t receive compensatory picks.
As a result, the consistently good teams tend to be the teams that consistently get a lot of compensatory picks. And the teams that consistently try to spend themselves out of last place are the ones that don’t get a lot of compensatory picks.
The list of teams that have received the most compensatory picks since 1994 is pretty similar to the list of the best teams in football since 1994: The Ravens have received the most compensatory picks, and they’ve won two Super Bowls. The Packers have received the second-most, and they’ve also won two Super Bowls. The Patriots are fourth, and they’ve won five Super Bowls. The 10 teams that have had the most compensatory picks have won most of the Super Bowls since 1994, with a total of 14 titles for those 10 teams.
At the other end of the spectrum, the teams that don’t receive a lot of compensatory picks tend to be bad teams: There are 14 teams that have received fewer than 20 compensatory picks since the system started in 1994, and those 14 teams have won a combined two Super Bowls.
Compensatory picks help teams stock their roster with low-cost depth, which is helpful, but the real reason teams with a lot of compensatory picks do well is that teams with a lot of compensatory picks are good at managing their salary caps. A system that was supposed to reward the poor at the expense of the rich has actually rewarded the smart at the expense of the dumb.
The 49ers have signed wide receiver DeAndre Carter to a two-year contract.
Carter broke into the league with the Ravens following the 2015 draft. He has bounced around since then, spending time on the practice squad with the Raiders and Patriots. He went to camp with the Patriots last year before being waived in September.
The 49ers are expected to remake their receiving corps under new head coach Kyle Shanahan, so Carter will go to camp with a chance to earn a roster spot.
As Mike Pereira explains it, putting a chip in the football won’t help with rulings that depend on determining when a player’s knee hits the ground. There’s another issue with embracing ball-chip technology.
A source with extensive knowledge of the efforts to develop improved football technologies tells PFT that the question of where to place the chip also has vexed those trying to come up with a way to determine digitally the question of whether the ball crosses a boundary or breaks a plane.
“If we are counting on the chip to provide exact ball placement at the time the runner is ruled down that placement will oftentimes be inaccurate depending on how the ball is being carried,” the source explained. “Assume the chip is in the left tip of the ball and the runner has that end tucked in his elbow. When he’s ruled down it’s the opposite end that accurately places the ball.”
It’s a great point, and it means that, as a practical matter, a football would need to have sufficient chips to create a digital map of its location in relation to yard markers, sidelines, goal lines, etc.
Which means that it would make a lot more sense to suspend efforts to digitize the football and instead put cameras in as many places as possible to give a full and complete universe of angles and looks to ensure that officials will be able to quickly and efficiently determine whether the ruling on the field was right or wrong.
The NFL’s announcement of compensatory picks on Friday included handing the Browns with the 139th overall pick and the Rams with the 141st overall pick, but No. 140 was not included in the additional picks distributed around the league.
That pick near the end of the fourth round belongs to the Giants, who wound up in that spot as a result of league discipline.
After the Giants were found to be using walkie-talkies on the sideline in violation of league rules during a game last December, the league ruled that the Giants would see their fourth-round pick drop down the draft order. The team will also pay a $150,000 fine while head coach Ben McAdoo, who used the device when his regular connection to quarterback Eli Manning went out, will pay a $50,000 fine.
The Giants did not receive any compensatory picks in this year’s draft after going on a defensive free agent buying spree last offseason that got them back to the postseason for the first time in five years.
When the Browns and Patriots agreed on a trade sending linebacker Jamie Collins from New England to Cleveland, the pick going back to the Patriots was unknown.
If the Browns got a third-round compensatory pick, they would convey it to the Patriots. The Browns found out that they did get a compensatory pick on Friday, so the 103rd overall pick will be in play for Bill Belichick to use in April. The Patriots now have two third-round picks and two fifth-round picks to go with selections in the first, second, fourth (they acquired one in a trade during last year’s draft to offset the one stripped by the NFL in Deflategate) and seventh rounds.
This is the first year that teams have been allowed to deal compensatory picks in trades and the Patriots weren’t the only ones adding a third-round selection to their collection. The Titans will pick at No. 100 with the Rams sending their compensatory pick to Nashville in last year’s trade for the first overall pick.
The Browns were rewarded with four compensatory picks, but they will only have two come the draft. They also agreed to send a fourth-round compensatory pick to the Eagles as part of Philly’s deal for the No. 2 overall pick last year. They received two of them and it is believed the higher of the picks — No. 139 overall — will go to the Eagles.
Cleveland also received a compensatory selection in the fifth round to go with the nine other picks under their control.
Half the teams in the league ended up with extra draft picks Friday, with 11 teams getting an extra third-rounder.
The league announced compensatory choices, which are awarded to teams for net free agent losses the year before.
The Panthers, who pulled the franchise tag from cornerback Josh Norman and watched him go to Washington, were given the 98th pick. The Ravens (annually among the league leaders in comp picks) were 99th, followed by the Rams. The Broncos, Seahawks, Browns, Chiefs, Steelers, Seahawks again and the Jets also added third-round comp picks.
The Bengals, Browns, Broncos, and Chiefs each got four extra picks.
A total of 32 choices were handed out, with 16 teams receiving at least one. Unlike previous years, comp picks can be traded this year, which should spice up the second and third days of the draft. Here’s a look at the picks awarded:
3-100, Los Angeles Rams
3-104, Kansas City
3-107, New York Jets
4-141, Los Angeles Rams
4-143, San Francisco
5-182, Kansas City
5-184, Green Bay
5-185, New England
6-218, Kansas City
6-220, Kansas City
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson knows a lot of people doubt he can ever return to his past greatness, but he doesn’t understand why.
Peterson told Josina Anderson of ESPN he’s perplexed by that talk. Peterson notes that he has previously recovered from a serious knee injury to have an MVP season, and he notes that in 2015 he led the league with 1,485 rushing yards. He sees no reason he can’t come back again and have another big year in 2017.
What Peterson may not want to admit, however, is what athletes often can’t admit to themselves: He’s getting old. Yes, he led the league in rushing in 2015, but even that year he was beginning to slow down toward the end of the season: Over the last eight games of 2015, counting the playoffs, Peterson averaged just 3.67 yards per carry. And at the start of 2016, before he suffered the torn meniscus that would allow him to play in just one more game all year, he was even worse: Peterson totaled 31 carries for 50 yards before suffering that meniscus tear in Week Two.
And the reality is, while Peterson still led the league in rushing at age 30 in 2015, for an NFL running back the difference between 30 and 32 is huge. There have been 25 running backs in NFL history who gained at least 1,000 yards at age 30. Only two of them, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith, also gained at least 1,000 yards at age 32. And neither Payton nor Smith suffered a serious knee injury at age 31, as Peterson did.
So while Peterson may have no doubt that he can return to form, it’s easy to understand why others doubt him. Every athlete gets old eventually, and for Peterson, that time has come.