Rams coach Jeff Fisher joins Mike Florio to talk about the strength of the NFC West, how St. Louis will replace Steven Jackson’s production and leadership, and the one thing that needs to fall right for the Rams to overpower the 49ers and Seahawks.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: One-on-one with Jeff Fisher
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 $3.33 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.
Talks between the Rams and impending free agent tackle Rodger Saffold were expected to pick up this week and the two sides spoke, but it doesn’t sound like they laid the groundwork for an extension of Saffold’s stay in St. Louis.
Saffold’s agent Alan Herman told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his client “definitely will be out in the free-agent market” when it opens up on Tuesday. Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff agreed that Saffold was likely to “peek behind the curtain” now that free agency is right around the corner, but said he plans to keep trying to bring Saffold back.
“My hope is that’s not case. But Rodger has good representatives. They do a good job. We have a good relationship with them. If there’s a deal that comes together, I know we’ll figure it out,” Demoff said. “If there’s not, then he’ll go to free agency and by no means is that the end of this conversation. Hopefully, once it’s there we’ll have an opportunity to figure it out and keep him as a Ram.”
Thomas writes that “it’s clear” the Rams would like to re-sign Saffold and play him at guard, something that furthers the likelihood that he’ll hit the open market. Guards make less than tackles and Saffold has played both tackle spots during his career, which makes it easy to understand why he’d like to sell himself at that position before making any final decisions.
Michael Sam wants NFL teams to know he’s thinking only about football.
Sam, the former Missouri defensive end who is poised to become the first openly gay player in NFL history, has turned down a wide variety of off-field opportunities. For now, all of Sam’s focus is on working out and preparing to be a professional football player. Sam’s advisor Howard Bragman told USA Today that the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was among the invitations that Sam declined.
“We respectfully declined,” Bragman said. “As much fun as I would have had and he would have had going, it sends the wrong message. If he gets on a team and plays well, he’ll probably be invited next year. I don’t want people to think that he’s interested in anything other than getting ready for the draft.”
That’s a wise approach. Sam turned in a disappointing workout at the Scouting Combine, and he needs to look better at Missouri’s March 20 Pro Day. His focus is where it should be right now, on football.
PFT’s top-ranked restricted free agent has reportedly been given a second-round tender by his club.
Harris, 24, has started 27 games in the last two seasons for Denver. He suffered a torn ACL in the Broncos’ divisional playoff win vs. San Diego in January.
Were a team to sign Harris to an offer sheet that the Broncos declined to match, the signing team would surrender its 2014 second-round pick to Denver. Considering Harris’ injury and the relatively high cost to sign him away, it’s difficult to see a team making a run at the cornerback.
Nevertheless, the second-round tender for Harris makes sense on multiple levels. Harris played well last season, and a nice bump in compensation is deserved. Moreover, Harris is a former undrafted free agent, so the Broncos couldn’t go any lower on a contract offer, lest they just retained the right to match any offer sheet without receiving any compensation were Harris to depart.
The Jaguars now have their Plan B at quarterback, and only need to fill in Plan A.
Henne performed ably in relief of, and eventually instead of Blaine Gabbert last season. His solid play down the stretch coincided with the Jaguars looking like an actual NFL team rather than a punch line.
The Jags are still going to add a quarterback, and Henne knows that. So his willingness to accept the situation, and play well in spurts, will prove valuable to the team as they figure out which one they draft.
His addition could eventually end the Gabbert era as soon as they draft another one, though Gabbert’s contract mean’s there’s no hurry to make a move now.
The Patriots are re-signing their lone restricted free agent.
A Virginia product, the 25-year-old Aiken has been the Patriots’ long-snapper since 2011. He was credited with five special teams tackles in 2013.
Terms of Aiken’s deal are not known, but it’s probably reasonable to assume he will be re-signed to an amount lower than the lowest RFA tender.
The Seahawks parted ways with wide receiver Sidney Rice, clearing some needed cap room by saying goodbye to a player who had become a non-essential part of the offense last season.
Money wasn’t the only thing working against Rice however. Rice tore his ACL and played just eight games during the regular season for the Super Bowl champs, making it even easier to make the call to move on without him in 2014. That injury could also limit the amount of suitors for Rice this offseason, although there’s a positive report about his recovery.
Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that Rice is on track to get medical clearance before teams start their offseason workouts. That would allow him to participate in the entire offseason program, even if he’d be limited for portions of it because of his knee.
The knee is just the latest in a list of injury concerns for Rice, who has played all 16 games just twice in his seven-year NFL career.
The Colts aren’t afraid to move quickly, but things are moving more slowly with Vontae Davis.
According to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, there’s no deal imminent between the team and the veteran cornerback, and that “the sides are relatively far apart in negotiations.”
That’s the kind of thing that can be fixed in one phone call, but at this stage in the process, the timing works against the Colts.
With other teams able to talk to free agents tomorrow, today’s the last window for them to negotiate exclusively with their own.
While the Colts have been quick to bring in linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and re-sign punter Pat McAfee, letting Davis get to the market would be a blow, as his physical play and age (25) should make him one of the top available players at his position.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes ended last season on injured reserve because of a knee injury, although there were reports that missed meetings played a role in the Patriots’ decision to shut him down.
On NFL Network Friday, Spikes denied that anything other than the knee played a role in the decision and said that he was feeling totally healthy as he heads into free agency. Teams looking for linebacker help will note that Spikes should be available for the entire offseason program because it doesn’t sound like there’s much chance that he’ll be sticking in New England.
“I would never say never — everybody [says] you never want to burn a bridge,” Spikes said. “But I just feel like both sides would benefit from a fresh start.”
Spikes has been a strong run defender throughout his career, but said Friday that he feels he’s a three-down player despite struggles in pass coverage over the course of his career. Spikes’ contract will tell us if his next team agrees with him.
On Thursday, we told you Bills running back C.J. Spiller would be a guest on PFT Live but Spiller was unable to make it to the show.
So he’ll join us on Friday instead. Spiller and Mike Florio will talk about the back’s injury-filled 2013 season and what he’s planning to do this offseason to limit the chance of future injuries cutting into his time on the field. They’ll also talk about quarterback E.J. Manuel and the Bills’ needs for the offseason during his visit.
From there, it’s up to you. Whether your questions have to do with free agency, the draft or something else entirely, Florio will be answering them. You can send them our way on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show to share what’s on your mind.
It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.
The NFC West arms race could get very interesting this year.
Last month, it was reported that the Seahawks will re-sign defensive end Michael Bennett. They haven’t. As of tomorrow, he officially can negotiate with other teams.
The negotiations already are occurring, discreetly and hypothetically. Some believe that the 49ers will make a run at Bennett, which would in one fell swoop help the Niners and hurt their chief rivals for supremacy in the division, the conference, and the league.
It’s entirely possible that the 49ers are feigning interest in order to force the Seahawks to pay Bennett more than the Seahawks want to pay him. Ultimately, every extra dollar paid to Bennett is one less dollar that would be available for someone else.
Then again, Bennett had two sacks in three games last year against San Francisco. While not an ideal fit as an outside linebacker or a defensive end in San Fran’s 3-4 defense, he could play inside and outside and wherever they line him up. With the 6-4, 285-pound Justin Smith getting close to the end of the road, the 6-4, 274-pound Bennett could possibly become the eventual replacement — at least on passing downs.
The prevailing view is that the Bears will make a beeline for Bennett, the brother of Chicago tight end Martellus Bennett. Regardless of whether it’s the Bears or the 49ers or someone else, Bennett figures to get far more interest in 2014 that he got a year ago, when he signed a one-year, $5 million contract for Seattle.
Like Martellus in 2012, Michael bet on himself last year. Like Martellus, Michael won. Regardless of the logo appearing on the bonus check, it’s time for Michael Bennett to collect.