Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta joins PFT to discuss his relationship with GM Ozzie Newsome and the city of Baltimore, his thoughts on the Joe Flacco extension talks, and more.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: DeCosta optimistic about Flacco extension
Seahawks fans can stop worrying. And executives with other teams can stop coveting the G.M. job in Seattle.
John Clayton of ESPN.com reports that the Seahawks have reached an agreement on a new contract with G.M. John Schneider. The deal will make him one of the highest-paid General Managers in football.
Per the report, the contract is “expected to approach” the $3.75 million earned by Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome, which is believed to be the maximum salary for any NFL General Manager. (This overlooks the coaches with de facto personnel power, like Bill Belichick of the Patriots, whose salary is a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a series of non-responsive grunts.)
Schneider previously was believed to be targeting $4 million per year as he entered the final year of his contract. The compromise gives him security for some period of time beyond 2016. Clayton’s report, however, doesn’t mention the length of the extension.
The next step, per Clayton, is expected to be an extension for coach Pete Carroll, who also is under contract through 2016.
With plenty of conflicting reports (some from the same media company) regarding whether Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will miss six weeks or eight weeks or 10 weeks or more after undergoing back surgery, Watt himself has chimed in, albeit with a vague assessment of his expected return date.
Watt, in a handwritten note to fans photographed and posted on Twitter, concludes with this message: “See you on the field very soon.”
It’s a nice gesture from Watt, who seems to be applying his own unique spin to Peyton Manning’s habit of writing handwritten notes. And at a time when it’s become popular to give Watt grief (I’ve done my share of it), I need to repeat something I said Friday on the radio in Houston: We get numb to the fact that football players have surgery, because so many of them have it. But any surgery — even “minor” surgery — is a big deal. The human body is being opened up, with delicate, precise repairs made to key components of it.
Surgery entails a risk of infection or other complications. It entails a risk the surgery simply won’t fix the problem. It often entails a recovery process featuring pain, discomfort, and the inability to do things that the player would like to do, including practicing and playing football.
We want these guys to entertain us. We often don’t think of them as real people who go through the same real crap the rest of us do. When it comes to invasive medical procedures, they’re far different from the rest of us; surgery happens to them a lot more often than it happens to most of us.
The multi-million-dollar bus belonging to the Dallas Cowboys has been involved in an accident in Arizona. While no one on the bus was seriously injured, law enforcement officials along with multiple reports indicate that more than one fatality occurred in another vehicle.
The van and the bus apparently were the only vehicles involved in the accident.
Via LasVegasNow.com, the bus was traveling from Texas to Las Vegas for a fan event. The bus then was due to go to Oxnard, California for training camp.
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reports that four people in the van died.
It’s too early to know whether the driver of the bus or the driver of the van, or both, caused the accident. Given that the bus is owned by an organization estimated to be worth $4 billion, a complete reconstruction of the accident most likely will be performed, in order to determine whether the Cowboys owe, through their insurance policies, compensation to the families of those killed in the crash, and to anyone else who was injured.
On one hand, automobile fatalities — while tragic for those involved and their families and friends — happen all the time. On the other hand, they rarely occur in connection with automobiles owned and operated by an NFL franchise. Expect the authorities and the media to explore is thorough detail exactly what happened and whether the Cowboys bear any responsibility for the situation.
[Photo credit: Arizona State Police.]
The New England Patriots announced the signings of safety Vinnie Sunseri and offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson on Sunday.
Sunseri was a fifth-round selection by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. He appeared in nine games for New Orleans before being released by the Saints in April. He recorded five tackles – four on special teams, one on defense – before an arm injury landed him on injured reserve.
A knee injury last year led the Saints to waive Sunseri and he spent all of last season on injured reserve after clearing waivers.
Kerbyson went undrafted after starting two seasons at the University of Tennessee. He’s played both tackle positions and left guard during his tenure with Tennessee.
After the signings, the Patriots still have one open spot on their 90-man roster.
With Smith possibly slated to start for the Jets, who stubbornly refuse to sweeten the pot for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Enemkpali eventually could become a regular — if not a starter — for the Buffalo defense.
As explained by Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, the departure of Mario Williams coupled with the shoulder injury to first-round rookie Shaq Lawson has created an opening for Enemkpali, who needs only to outshine Manny Lawson to earn a starting role.
“IK’s done really well,” coach Rex Ryan said during the offseason program. “We’re bumping guys around and stuff but, yeah, he’ll have a chance. IK is a physical player. He’s doing a much better job in his pass-coverage responsibility. So I could definitely see him pushing for playing time, without question.”
Enemkpali may not even need to beat out Manny Lawson, if Ryan decides Manny Lawson is needed elsewhere. Wherever and how much they play, guys like Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes and other pre-2015 defenders have learned Ryan’s defense far better than they knew it a year ago.
“Last year, there’d be silence and a lot of questions asked in the locker room,” Manny Lawson said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. “This year, there’s not silence in the meeting room and no questions being asked in the locker room.”
But that doesn’t mean questions are discouraged.
“If you don’t know something, ask,” Lawson said. “Because it’s only going to help us to know. If one person is out there clueless and doesn’t know what to do, that can be a touchdown for us on the defensive side and that can cost us the game.”
A game blown here or there could be the difference between a postseason berth and yet another failure to make the playoffs. With a failure to make the playoffs this year quite possibly the catalyst for a house cleaning, the players have every reason to do everything they can to know the defense and to execute it as it’s designed.
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett has not played in a regular season game since the 2013 season and the longtime Cardinal is reportedly set to draw a permanent end to his playing career.
Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com reports that Dockett is expected to announce his retirement on Monday. Dockett tore his ACL before the 2014 season and was released by the 49ers after signing with Arizona’s NFC West as a free agent last offseason.
If Dockett is indeed done, he’ll end his career having played only for the Cardinals in the regular season. The 2004 third-round pick played 158 games and made 156 starts over the course of his 10-year career in Arizona and ranks seventh in franchise history with 40.5 sacks. He added three more sacks during the team’s loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, tying a record set by Reggie White that was equaled this February by Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy.
Dockett was selected to three Pro Bowls and was named to the Associated Press‘ All-Pro second-team after the 2009 season.
With training camp about to start, the Lions are taking stock of which players on their roster aren’t quite ready to start practicing.
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is on that list and the Lions announced Sunday that he has been placed on the physically unable to perform list. Pettigrew tore his ACL in December and General Manager Bob Quinn said last month that the veteran wouldn’t be ready for the start of camp.
Pettigrew won’t be able to practice with the team until he’s activated from the list. Given the timing of the injury, he could be a candidate for the regular season version of the PUP list and would miss at least six weeks of the year if that’s the case.
The Lions also placed wide receiver Corey Fuller, who had foot surgery, and tackle Corey Robinson on the PUP list as well. Running back Ameer Abdullah is not on the list after having shoulder surgery early in the offseason.
Friday’s PFT Live from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis included a visit from the guy who built not the team’s new house but the team that will play there. And G.M. Rick Spielman talked at some length about the first-round quarterback who enters his third NFL season.
At a time when teammates rave about Teddy Bridgewater (“growth” was the most common word used by players we interviewed), some believe Bridgewater won’t become a franchise quarterback, pointing to the fact that he threw only 14 touchdowns passes in 2014 and only 14 again in 2015.
Spielman called criticism of Bridgewater “unfair,” explaining that “he is doing what our coaches are asking him to do.”
“One thing Coach Zimmer does preach to all our players is team first and however we’re going to have to win this game this week,” Spielman said. “If we’re going to have to run the ball 30 times, that’s what we’re going to do. If we have to throw the ball, that’s what we’re going to do. If we’re going to have to play good defense and ball control, whatever we have to do to win this week, that’s the most important thing. Teddy going into his second year last year, to go 11-5 and win the division, to go up there and beat Green Bay in Green Bay [for the NFC North title] and then play well in that playoff game against Seattle. I think people undervalue what Teddy brings to this football team, and the most important thing is when you look at the end of the day is wins and losses and Teddy is definitely a winner.”
When called upon to move the offense late in games, Bridgewater has done that on several occasions. And if Blair Walsh hadn’t missed a chip-shot field goal at the end of the wild-card game against the Seahawks, Bridgewater would have been heralded for setting up the victory by slicing through one of the best defenses in the league.
“There are games if you go through his first two years that he has shown he does have the ability in pressure situations to come through when we need him to make some plays,” Spielman said. “I think he had the least amount of pass attempts last year in the NFL as well, so a lot of that has to do with the game planning and how we’re going to win football games. But I don’t think anyone in our building has any doubt that if we have Teddy throw the ball 40 or 50 times, if that’s the way we have to win or if he has to go out there and throw the ball at the end of the game for us to win that he has that ability to do that.”
He may end up with plenty of chances to do that in 2016, on a national stage. With four prime-time games, a Thanksgiving game, and several other high-profile Sunday afternoon matchups (Panthers, Texans, Cardinals, Packers), whatever Bridgewater does this year will be noticed a lot more than it was in past years.
Fitzpatrick hasn’t said much about his situation, and the Jets basically issued a gag order six weeks ago. So, we’ll see what happens with camp starting and teams across the league getting back to work.
PFT has put together a list of other players who are still unsigned as camps open. Most of them are older players who might wait until the regular season begins or end up atop the emergency call list various player personnel departments keep as they shuffle their 90-man camp rosters and deal with various injuries and situations. Past Fitzpatrick, who’s clearly the most intriguing unsigned player, the players are listed in no particular order…
Fitzpatrick – His staredown with the Jets continues. It could get really interesting if Geno Smith has a great start to camp or if some other team that believes it’s a contender loses its quarterback to injury in August.
Dwight Freeney – He’s made a few visits and figures to eventually have some real suitors given how well (eight sacks in 11 games) he played last season for the Cardinals. Waiting last year seemed to work, so Freeney, 36, probably will have no problem being patient as he awaits a call and a chance to play a 15th season.
Greg Hardy – Hardy brings baggage, but lots of teams are looking for pass rushers. He recently visited the Jaguars, but reports say no signing is imminent. A team would have to be convinced that Hardy can still be an impact player before taking him on.
Anquan Boldin – Boldin is 35, but it’s not like he was ever a speed burner. He knows how to get open and how to catch passes in traffic, and he’ll eventually land with a team that wants him to play in the slot and help keep the chains moving.
Omar Bolden – While most players on this list are on the wrong side of 30, Bolden is 27. He signed with the Bears in March but was cut last week. Bolden can help in the return game as well as playing as a backup defensive back, and he probably won’t be unemployed for long.
Brian Hartline – Released by the Browns in the spring, Hartline had a productive 2015 before an injury ended his season. He’s not going to be a starter, but like Boldin he’s probably near the top of the call list for teams who either lose a receiver in camp or are looking to upgrade the slot position.
Antonio Cromartie – He’s 32, but he’s missed very few starts over his 10-year career and has generally been around the ball. He went without an interception in 15 starts last season, so teams might be wondering if he can still keep up.
Michael Vick – After subbing with the Steelers last season, Vick recently has been campaigning for a job and saying he’d like to play one more season. He signed during camp last summer, and it would likely be a similar scenario this time around if he’s going to land with a team.
Mike Neal – It’s surprising that Neal, who just turned 29, remains unemployed given that he had four sacks for the Packers last year, has starting experience and can play both defensive end and outside linebacker.
Leon Hall – The former first-rounder and longtime Bengals cornerback has taken some visits but has not yet found a home. If Hall, 31, doesn’t return to the Bengals, look for him to sign with another contender and play as a third or fourth cornerback.
Percy Harvin – Harvin reportedly has chosen retirement and doesn’t plan to play in 2016, but there’s never been much predictable about Harvin.
Joique Bell – If Bell is healthy, he can contribute in some team’s running back rotation. Given his injury history, it might be a while before a team gives him a call.
Donte Whitner – The Browns released Whitner after the start of free agency. He’s 31 and didn’t have a strong 2015 season, but he was good in 2014 for the Browns. He’s likely atop the emergency call list of many teams if a need at strong safety arises.
Randy Starks – Like Whitner, Starks was released by the Browns in the offseason. Starks, 32, had a quiet season on a bad team last year, but his ability to rush the passer and play multiple positions across the defensive line make him an attractive target for a team that decides it wants to boost its depth.
Roddy White – His breakup with the Falcons came as no surprise. White will turn 35 in November, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team give him a look in late August or early September.
James Jones – Jones ended up playing a pretty important role for the Packers last season. It’s no surprise that the team is going young at wide receiver, but Jones, 32, will eventually get a call from some team.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees apparently needs an explanation regarding why he hasn’t heard from the team in the last three months regarding a new contract. In the event he really doesn’t know (and chances are he does), the reason is simple: It’s a deadline-driven business, and Brees made it clear several months ago that the deadline is the start of the regular season.
With the Saints carrying the quarterback’s $30 million cap number deep into the offseason, through all acquisitions and draft picks and other moves that would have been made easier with the extra cap space that a new Brees deal would have created, there’s currently no urgency from the team’s perspective to do a new contract now. As Week One approaches, there will be.
The urgency will be there because Brees has said he won’t be talking once the season starts. It’s the same approach he applied four years ago, as Brees entered the final season of his initial six-year, $60 million deal.
But now that his five-year, $100 million deal is concluding, Brees has plenty of leverage. With a cap number of $30 million this year and in light of the grievance filed by Brees in 2012 regarding the stacking of franchise tags used by multiple teams, a tag of Brees in 2017 would be the third of his career — and it would entitle him to a 44-percent raise over his 2016 cap number.
That’s $43.2 million. For one year. For a quarterback who turns 38 in January.
If the Saints opt not to devote what would be, if the cap grows to $165 million in 2017, more than 26 percent of the total available space to one player, then the market will determine Brees’ value. The question then becomes whether another team that has all the pieces except a quarterback (e.g., the Broncos or maybe the Jets or perhaps the Cardinals, depending on how Carson Palmer performs this year) would put together an offer that the Saints can’t or won’t match.
Even if the Saints could or would match, there’s nothing that would keep Brees from taking the same or less elsewhere, if that’s what he chooses to do.
Brees and the Saints understand these issues, and both sides know when the clock strikes 12. If nothing happens by then, nothing likely will happen until after the season. At that point, plenty of things could happen.
There wasn’t much that went right for the Colts last season, but that didn’t lead to the sweeping changes that some expected during the offseason.
Coach Chuck Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson remain in their jobs and have contracts running for several seasons after a year that saw internal sniping while the Colts slipped down the standings. It was a decision that came as a surprise to quarterback Andrew Luck and his agreement on a big extension of his own shows that it was a pleasant one.
“I think [owner Jim] Irsay showed a lot of guts keeping coach Pagano and Ryan,” Luck said, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “I think the easy thing is to start all over, I really do. I think that was an awesome, gutsy move. I think it surprised me, but then again, I think any decision would’ve surprised me.”
While the Colts opted for the status quo with Pagano and Grigson, they did hire a new defensive coordinator and acquire a handful of new offensive linemen in hopes of strengthening two of the weakest parts of the team. If those moves don’t have the desired effect, awesome and gutsy may not be the most frequent adjectives used to describe Irsay’s call to stick with what’s on hand.
After devastating flooding struck last month in West Virginia, forcing the cancellation of a PGA tour event held annually at The Greenbrier, questions emerged regarding whether the Saints would still be able to hold training camp there. One report indicated that the Saints would stay in Louisiana. That report ended up being inaccurate.
The Saints are coming back this week, and that’s a good thing for those who need the financial and emotional lift that will come from the team not turning its back on an area that is still slowly recovering from a disaster that claimed more than 20 lives and displaced hundreds from their homes.
Much still needs to be done to get things back to normal. PFT readers can still drop a few bucks into the kettle via a Go Fund Me page established by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Commission. The proceeds will replace football gear and other sports equipment lost by various high schools and middle schools due to the water and the mud and the overall nasty crap that makes make the five-letter “F” word far worse than the four-letter one.
PFT has contributed $7,500 directly to the WVSSAC, which we mention not as a way to pat ourselves on the back but as the catalyst for jostling as many of you as possible into coughing up $5 here or $10 there or, for the one-percenters in the crowd maybe even a little, or a lot, more than that.
Apart from a spare-change-style donation, you soon will have a chance to bid on an NBC Sports Radio helmet signed by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (a very nice gesture by him) and others at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe. Here’s Aaron sinking a long putt from the rough and sharing a chest bump with Brian Baumgartner, better known by many as Kevin Malone from The Office.
Fortunately, Kevin Malone won’t be involved in counting the money that eventually is generated by the efforts to replenish the sports gear for kids in the areas affected by the flooding.
Meet the new Eagles camp arm. Same as the old Eagles camp arm.
Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who was cut by the Eagles in May, is expected to re-sign with the team, Adam Caplan of ESPN reports.
Bethel-Thompson is used to coming and going in his football career. He started college at UCLA and finished it at Sacramento State, and has had three different stints with the 49ers, two with the Dolphins, two with the Vikings, one with the Patriots, one with the San Jose SaberCats of Arena Football and one with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League. Overall, he’s been cut nine times. Now he’ll begin his second stint with the Eagles.
As the 2016 regular season approaches, a move that would have seemed highly irregular a year ago now seems inevitable. When the 49ers open things up in Week One against the Rams, the quarterback will be Blaine Gabbert not Colin Kaepernick.
A guy who spent six seasons with the 49ers, including a 2015 campaign that resulted in Kaepernick being benched for Gabbert, believes Gabbert will win the job in the first year with Chip Kelly as the head coach.
“To be honest I think that Blaine did a great job last year,” new Vikings guard Alex Boone told me from the field at U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday, “and from what I know of Blaine, I think he’s probably gonna take the reins. I mean I think he’s a good guy, he knows what he’s doing out there, and he just has the support of the group so I think that’s one of the things to look forward to.”
If/when (when) Gabbert starts against the Rams, he won’t have Boone around to protect the quarterback against a chippy L.A. Rams defense that last year infuriated Vikings coach Mike Zimmer with lows hits on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Although Boone declined to call the Rams defense dirty, he vowed to ensure that neither the Rams nor anyone else will be taking cheap shots at his quarterback.
That’s part of the mindset Zimmer wants in his offensive linemen, and the hope is that Boone’s attitude will spread to the rest of the offensive linemen. If it works, the Vikings’ biggest weakness in 2015 will become a strength with Boone, a giant of a guard at 6-8, imposing his will on opponents and his colorful personality on teammates.
Raw and honest but with a positive attitude and a genuine love of the game and an excited anticipation for training camp, Boone could be the difference maker the Vikings need on the field and in the locker room. The new stadium could be a difference maker, too.
“Levi’s [Stadium] was great but I think this place blows it away,” Boone said, who played for the 49ers when their new venue opened two years ago. “I just think the structure alone and the atmosphere it’s gonna bring, it’s gonna be outrageous.”
Outrageous is likely a good word to describe Boone. And if he makes his position group more outrageous and less cerebral, he’ll be worth every penny the Vikings are paying him and a lot more.
The Jets closed one of their long-running offseason subplots when they signed defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to a five-year contract on July 15, which left only the Ryan Fitzpatrick saga unresolved heading into training camp.
The impasse between the team and last year’s starting quarterback has been well documented to this point and coach Todd Bowles didn’t offer any updates during an interview with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. He did say that he’s willing to move on with Geno Smith should things play out that way and offered a reminder that other positions will play a role in determining the Jets’ fate this season.
“I think Geno can be a good starter, but he’s got to prove it in training camp like everybody else,” Bowles said. “It’s not just about the quarterback position. You got to have a team around that position to play ball, but he’s been in the system a year. He has a better grasp of it going into training camp and we’ll see what he does.”
The rest of the Jets team and Fitzpatrick were able to navigate their way to 10 wins under Bowles last season, although that wasn’t enough for the team to make it to the playoffs. With players like Wilkerson, Darrelle Revis, Sheldon Richardson, Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall on hand, the cast around the quarterback has star power again this season and Bowles knows that it is “win-now every year” for the team. Re-signing Fitzpatrick doesn’t assure the Jets will improve on last year’s finish, but it isn’t hard to see fingers pointing in that direction should the Jets stumble without him running the offense.