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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 2: Denver Broncos

Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Let the games begin.

You couldn’t blame the Broncos for being eager to start the 2013 season. They are heavy division favorites, strong conference contenders and legitimate Super Bowl challengers, and they have one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

Hey, it’s good to be the Broncos, even with the news of a potential four-game suspension for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Von Miller surfacing earlier this week.

The Broncos would be weakened without Miller, but they would still be dangerous. After all, they have Manning, still sharp at 37 years old.

But it won’t always be like this for the Broncos and their quarterback.

So forgive the Broncos if they feel a little urgency as they try to better last season’s disappointing one-and-done postseason experience.

Strengths.

Manning added to his already vast legacy with his remarkable comeback season of 2012. In his first year in Denver – with mostly new skill-position players around him, no less – Manning threw for 4,659 yards with 37 TDs and just 11 picks. Moreover, he set a career-high in completion percentage (68.6).

Now, the focus to turns to what Manning and the offense are capable of in Year Two.

The addition of slot receiver Wes Welker further strengthens an already potent passing game. He caught more than two-thirds of the passes thrown his way in each of his six seasons in New England. Opposing secondaries also have the difficult task of matching up with wideout Demaryius Thomas, who hauled in 94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 scores in 2012. The Broncos’ other outside receiver, Eric Decker, is quite skilled, too. He comes off an 85-catch, 13-TD campaign.

Manning, a master at dealing with the pass rush and defensive-pressure looks over the years, operates behind a solid Denver line. Left tackle Ryan Clady is one of the game’s best at his position. New right guard Louis Vasquez (ex-San Diego) bolsters the interior.

Indeed, this is an outstanding offense.

And Denver’s defense pulls its weight, too.

Should the Broncos sputter in a key spot, their defense is capable of keeping them in the game.  Such flexibility can take a team a long way. The Broncos excelled vs. the run and the pass in 2012 and allowed fewer yards per play than any other team.

Miller, who recorded 18.5 sacks last year, is the standout of this stout defense – already one of the game’s top pass rushers. If Miller is suspended, the Broncos will likely turn to ex-Chargers outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, still a capable rusher in his own right (team-high 9.5 sacks for San Diego in 2012). The April signing of Phillips could prove a very valuable investment for Denver whether Miller misses any time or not; the more pass rushers a club has, the better.

The same can be said for cornerbacks, and the Broncos have four capable ones in Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Harris and Tony Carter.

To review, the Broncos have a Hall of Fame quarterback, a top-caliber passing game, a blue-chip pass rusher and deep, skilled cornerback corps.

There are worse ways to enter a season.

Weaknesses.

The Broncos’ tailback position could prove a strength if rookie Montee Ball or second-year pro Ronnie Hillman emerges as a dependable and playmaking featured runner. However, until that happens, this is an area of concern. Denver was just 25th in yards per rush last season.

Center, where Dan Koppen again gets the call with J.D. Walton out with a persistent ankle injury, is another position to monitor. So is linebacker, where the overall depth has been thinned after the release of veteran middle linebacker Joe Mays.

The Broncos’ defensive end play also needs to be watched. While left end Derek Wolfe showed promise as a rookie, notching a half-dozen sacks, new right end Robert Ayers has never had more than three sacks in an NFL season.

All things considered, though, the Broncos have considerably less to worry about than any other club in the AFC West.

Changes.

In 2012, the Broncos got 16 games apiece and 29.5 combined sacks from Miller and Dumervil. Now, Miller could miss a quarter of the Broncos’ regular-season games, and Dumervil is in Baltimore after “Faxgate.” Make no mistake: the Broncos’ pass rush is still to be respected, especially when Miller is in the lineup. But if Miller misses any games and the rush suffers, it could have a trickle-down effect on the defense, with the pass defense suffering most.

And if the Broncos don’t muster the pass rush they did in 2012, when Dumervil and Miller combined for more than half of the club’s sacks, the inability to keep Dumervil will look all the worse.

The Dumervil episode aside, however, the Broncos had a very good offseason from a roster-building standpoint. Adding Welker was a coup, and Rodgers-Cromartie has the ability to prove a home-run signing, too, especially on a one-year deal. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (ex-Jacksonville) was a nice under-the-radar pickup.

In addition to bringing in Phillips, Denver did well to bring in ex-Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer late in the offseason. Jammer will be tried at safety, a position where the Broncos perhaps needed another option.

Other than Dumervil and Mays, notable Denver departures included tailback Willis McGahee, linebacker D.J. Williams and cornerback Tracy Porter. McGahee’s release signaled the Broncos would be going young at running back.

Finally, the club begins training camp short-handed in the front office – not an ideal situation, given all the roster movement late in the summer — after the suspensions of director of player personnel Matt Russell and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert due to offseason DUI arrests. Heckert’s suspension is a month, while Russell’s suspension is indefinite.

Position battles.

Hillman and Ball would each figure to have roles in the Broncos’ backfield, with fifth-year pro Knowshon Moreno also in the mix. A second-round pick in April, Ball’s draft status would suggest the Broncos believe he can play right off the bat. That said, Hillman has a year in the offense to his credit, which cannot hurt his cause. No matter who wins the job, the Broncos need some stability to develop at this position for the stretch run, when passing can become trickier in the elements.

Other positions where there could be competition are defensive tackle, where Knighton, first-round pick Sylvester Williams and veteran Kevin Vickerson are the top options; and safety, where Mike Adams (strong) and Rahim Moore (free) are the incumbents.

Prospects.

The Broncos face five 2012 playoff teams (Baltimore, Indianapolis, Washington, New England, Houston) in a schedule not without its potential challenges. For instance, five of Denver’s final eight games are on the road. Moreover, any stretch without Miller would add to the degree of difficulty.

However, let’s be clear: This is one of the NFL’s most talented teams. They should win the West and host at least one playoff game.

The goals are bigger for Denver, of course, and they are within reach.  If it were Denver’s year to win a third Super Bowl title, it would hardly be a surprise.

It would also be the sort of thing celebrated by anyone who’s ever faced a tough deadline with a lot at stake and gotten the job done. That’s what the Broncos are staring at entering 2013. They have the pieces to win, but they aren’t all going to be assembled this way for all that long.

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Luck just the latest from QB class of 2012 to cash in

Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, AP

Andrew Luck became the NFL’s highest-paid player on Wednesday, but the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 wasn’t the first quarterback from his draft class to really cash in.

Luck’s mega-extension seemed a good occasion to revisit the 2012 draft’s quarterbacks, their contract situations and current places of employment. Though the on-field results have been mixed and at least a couple members of that class are basically starting over, many of them have done very well from a financial standpoint.

The full list…

Pick No. 2, Robert Griffin III: Griffin got off to a good start with the Redskins before he got hurt and things went south. Griffin is now on a short-term, prove-it deal with the Browns. He hasn’t played in a game since 2014.

Pick No. 8, Ryan Tannehill: The Dolphins gave Tannehill a big-money extension last year, but he’s yet to post a winning season. Tannehill got an $11.5 million signing bonus and his 2016 base salary is more than $9 million.

Pick No. 22, Brandon Weeden: Weeden started immediately for the Browns but was cut after two seasons. After a stint as a backup with the Cowboys, he’s now a backup with the Texans.

Pick No. 57, Brock Osweiler: Got his first real action subbing for Peyton Manning last year. Though Osweiler was eventually benched in the regular-season finale as the Broncos went on to win the Super Bowl, he cashed in with the Texans in March and has high expectations surrounding his first chance to be a true starter.

Pick No. 75, Russell Wilson: Immediately won the starting job in Seattle and hasn’t been bad for a third-round pick. He won a Super Bowl and got rewarded for it last year with a contract that’s in the neighborhood of Luck’s with a $31 million signing bonus. Wilson has thrown 106 career touchdown passes vs. 34 interceptions.

Pick No. 88, Nick Foles: Currently awaiting a trade or his release from the Rams, Foles went to the Pro Bowl with the Eagles in 2013 but got hurt the next year, then traded to the Rams. He struggled last season and will be a backup wherever he lands next.

Pick No. 102, Kirk Cousins: Started as Griffin’s backup and played in nine games over his first three seasons. Won the starting job last season and threw 29 touchdown passes, helping the Redskins to the playoffs. For now, he’s set to play 2016 under the franchise tag — and make almost $20 million doing it — and could play his way into a long-term deal from someone next March.

Pick No. 185, Ryan Lindley: After almost three seasons and some emergency duty with the Cardinals, Lindley was signed by the Colts late last season and played in one game. He’s made 10 career appearances and six starts with limited success.

Neither B.J. Coleman (pick No. 243) nor Chandler Harnish (pick No. 253) ever played in a game.

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Packers president: 17-game season could facilitate more international play

LKK AP

Although it was a much-discussed proposal a couple years ago, NFL executives have recently stayed relatively quiet about the possibility of lengthening the regular season. But Packers President Mark Murphy had something to say about the topic recently.

Asked about playing more games overseas, Murphy said one way to facilitate that could be expanding the regular season to 17 games, with each team playing eight games at home, eight on the road and one outside the United States.

“As you look ahead, if we’re going to have more and more international games, something’s got to give at some point,” Murphy said, via ESPN. “One thought that’s been discussed is to go to 17 [regular-season games] and three [preseason] and then everybody would have an international game. So nobody would have to give up a home game then.”

As we’ve noted when this proposal has come up before, NFL players have largely opposed the possibility of making the regular season longer, and the owners can’t expand the regular season without the approval of the NFL Players Association. With the NFL’s insistence that player safety is its top priority, it might be hard to justify exposing players to more hits and potentially more injuries.

However, if the NFL can convince the players that those international games are going to make a lot of money — an influx of money that will result in a higher salary cap and more money in the players’ pockets — it’s possible that the players could buy into Murphy’s proposal.

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Jim Irsay: No “out of whack” cap numbers in Luck deal

Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton AP

The Colts locked up their rights to quarterback Andrew Luck through the 2021 season on Wednesday, which means he’ll be 32 when he’s next scheduled to become a free agent.

Owner Jim Irsay said Wednesday that was something the team considered when putting together the six-year, $140 million pact. Irsay said, via Kevin Bowen of the team’s website, that the team factored in the rising salary cap and that they feel there are no “out of whack” cap numbers over the life of Luck’s deal.

That includes 2021, when Luck will be due an $11 million base salary and a $10 million roster bonus should the current deal remain in place. Irsay said that was designed to make using the franchise tag a possibility should the team need to go that route.

“It works with the cap,” Irsay said. “It works with tagging in the last year. I think both sides accomplished everything we wanted to do.”

The current CBA runs through 2020, so there may be changes to the franchise tag system by the time Luck’s status becomes an issue. Of more urgency will be the question of what the Colts do with the space provided by a deal they consider cap-friendly and whether it is enough to get Luck to the Super Bowl while he’s being paid at the top of the ladder for quarterbacks.

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Doug Baldwin gets $12 million fully guaranteed at signing

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Former Stanford players have been cashing in this week.

One day before former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck signed his six-year, $139.125 million contract, former Stanford receiver Doug Baldwin inked a five-year, $47.5 million deal in Seattle. PFT has obtained Baldwin’s contract, and the full details appear below.

He receives a signing bonus of $7 million, but the cash isn’t due until April 1, 2017.

Baldwin also earns a $4 million roster bonus on Monday, July 4, 2016, half of which will be paid by July 11, 2016 and the other half of which will be paid by August 15, 2016.

Baldwin has a fully-guaranteed $1 million salary for 2016, and a $7.75 million base salary in 2017. The 2017 salary is guaranteed for injury at signing, and it becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2017 waiver period.

Baldwin will earn a salary of $8.25 million for 2018, $4.5 million of which is guaranteed for injury at signing. The $4.5 million becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2018 waiver period.

Baldwin has a non-guaranteed base salary of $9.25 million in 2018, and a non-guaranteed base salary of $10.25 million in 2019.

He also can earn per-game roster bonuses totaling $500,000 in 2016, $500,000 in 2017, $750,000 in 2018, and $750,000 in 2019. In all, $2.5 million is tied to his ability to suit up and play.

It adds up to a base five-year value of $47.5 million ($9.5 million average). Up to $50 million is available when considering per-game roster bonuses. With Baldwin already due to make $4.8 million in 2016 under his prior deal, he has a new-money average of $10.675 million per year on the base amount.

Also, $12 million is fully guaranteed, as a practical matter, at signing. Another $12.25 million is guaranteed for injury only at signing.

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The full Andrew Luck contract

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 02:   Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts yells to his team during their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 2, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck would have made $16.155 million in 2016, the last year of his rookie deal. He traded it in for a six-year, $140 million contract.

But those broad numbers never tell the whole story, unless and until a contract like that is fully guaranteed.  PFT has obtained a copy of the Luck’s entire contract, and here’s the breakdown:

1. Signing bonus of $32 million, with $18 million paid in the next 10 days and the remaining $14 million paid on March 31, 2017;

2. Base salary of $12 million in 2016, fully guaranteed at signing;

3. $3 million roster bonus earned on the fifth day of the 2017 league year and paid on March 20, 2017, which is guaranteed for skill and injury, and conditionally guaranteed for salary cap;

4. $3 million roster bonus earned on the fifth day of the 2017 league year and paid on September 18, 2017, which is guaranteed for injury only at signing;

5. $7 million base salary for 2017, guaranteed for injury only at signing and fully guaranteed as of the fifth day of the 2017 league year;

6. $3 million roster bonus earned on the fifth day of the 2018 league year and paid on March 20, 2018, which is guaranteed for injury at signing and fully guaranteed as of the fifth day of the 2017 league year;

7. $3 million roster bonus earned on the fifth day of the 2018 league year and paid on September 18, 2018, which is guaranteed for injury only at signing;

8. $12 million base salary for 2018, which is guaranteed for injury only at signing but which becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2018 league year;

9. $6 million roster bonus earned on the fifth day of the 2019 league year and paid on March 18, 2019, which is guaranteed for injury at signing and fully guaranteed as of the fifth day of the 2018 league year;

10. $6 million roster bonus earned on the fifth day of the 2019 league year and paid on September 17, 2019, which is guaranteed for injury at signing;

11. $9.125 million base salary for 2019, non-guaranteed;

12. $11 million roster bonus due on the third day of the 2020 league year, with half paid on September 15, 2020 and the other half paid on December 15, 2020;

13. $11 million base salary for 2020, non-guaranteed;

14. $10 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2021 league year, with half paid on September 14, 2021 and the other half paid on December 14, 2020; and

15. $11 million base salary for 2021, non-guaranteed.

That’s a total of six years, $139.125 million, with $44 million fully guaranteed at signing. Another $16 million becomes fully guaranteed, as a practical matter, as of the fifth day of the 2017 league year.

At signing, $87 million is guaranteed for injury.

The cash flow breaks down like this: $44 million in 2017; $57 million through 2018; $75 million through 2018; $96.125 million through 2019; $118.125 million through 2020; $139.125 million through 2021.

It’s an average value of $23.1875 million per year, with $24.594 million per year in so-called “new money.”

The cap numbers are: (1) $18.4 million in 2016; (2) $19.4 million in 2017; (3) $24.4 million in 2018; (4) $27.525 million in 2019; (5) $28.4 million in 2020; and (6) $21 million in 2021.

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Luck gets $44 million fully guaranteed at signing

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 27:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on September 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

It was a matter of when, not if, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck would get a really big contract.

That day was Wednesday.

Per a source, Luck got a $32 million signing bonus on the extension that keeps him with the Colts through 2021. With his 2016 base salary set to be $12 million, Luck gets $44 million fully guaranteed at signing.

Colts Owner Jim Irsay announced the deal at $140 million over six years. That means Luck will be the league’s highest-paid player and will make an average of about $23.3 million per year over the duration of the contract.

Luck said in a team statement he was “thrilled and excited” to get the deal done.

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With Andrew Luck deal, Colts have their offensive core for long haul

Indianapolis Colts v New York Giants Getty Images

The Colts had already pledged their future to Andrew Luck, by virtue of moves they made well before today’s mega-deal for their quarterback.

But now that he’s taken care of, the bulk of their key offensive personnel is under contract for years to come.

As noted by Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, with Luck signed through 2021, the Colts have five key starters on offense locked up through at least the 2019 season.

With wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (five years, $65 million) and left tackle Antony Castonzo (four years, $42 million) taken care of last fall, tight end Dwayne Allen (four years, $29.4 million) getting his in March and drafting center Ryan Kelly in the first round this year (giving them the option for 2020 on his deal), the Colts have what could be the guts of a very good offense for years to come.

They also have the 2019 option for 2015 first-round wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in their pockets, though it’s unclear if they’ll want to use that, since Dorsett hasn’t proven himself quite yet. But he has time, because everything else is in place.

It’s not unlike the plan former Colts General Manager Bill Polian used with Peyton Manning there, going all-in on one side of the ball to protect the rare commodity at quarterback.

Of course, there are still plenty of issues for the Colts, specifically on defense, and finding three other offensive linemen to keep Luck upright and throwing.

But they now have a certainty on offense, and that should keep them competitive in what is becoming an improved division for the foreseeable future.

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Browns ink Nassib, finish draft class signings

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 31:  Carl Nassib #95 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with Garrett Sickels #90 after a sack in the second half during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 31, 2015 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns announced Wednesday that third-round defensive end Carl Nassib has signed his rookie contract.

The Browns have now signed all 14 of their 2016 draft picks.

Nassib started his Penn State career as a walk-on and was just a one-year starter, but he was good enough in that one season last fall to win the Lombardi Award, Hendricks Award, Lott IMPACT Trophy and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Nassib led the NCAA last season with 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles.

The Browns selected Nassib with pick No. 65 in April. His brother, Ryan, is a backup quarterback for the Giants.

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Irsay: Luck’s deal worth $140 million over six years

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwezztvkmtjjyzq0nja0zta2odvlmdljztuwnjlmzjji AP

The Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck managed to conceal from the media Luck’s new deal until it was announced by owner Jim Irsay. They won’t be able to conceal every dollar and cent paid to Luck.

Inevitably, the contract will be filed with the NFL and the NFL Players Association, and the details will be leaked not by the Colts or Luck’s camp but by someone with routine access to all player contract.

The key factors to assess will be the signing bonus, the full guarantee at signing, and the cash flow over the first three years.

For now, the total value has been announced, also by Irsay: Six years, $140 million. That’s an average in total value of $23.3 million and a “new money” average of $24.7 million.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that $87 million is guaranteed, but it’s highly, highly, highly (did I say highly?) unlikely that $87 million is fully guaranteed at signing. At best, Luck has $87 million guaranteed for injury.

The deal is solid, but hardly the “shocking” transaction Irsay once promised. The only real surprise is that Luck didn’t get to $25 million per year in total value, which given cap growth over the past few years is where the top value for quarterback deals should be.

Luck also wasn’t able to tie his salary in the out years to cap growth (it’s unclear if his agents even tried), meaning that at some point over the next six years, if the cap keeps spiking, the deal won’t look nearly as good as it does now.

Bottom line? Luck didn’t push for every penny he could have gotten, trading six years and $140 million for the $114 million or so he could have made by going year to year under the franchise tag through 2019.

For now, the biggest question is when, as a practical matter, he’ll be a year-to-year deal with the Colts — and how much he’ll pocket before he gets to that point.

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Andrew Luck “thankful” for trust Colts have shown him

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptzlowq1nwiynwi3ntezzgu0ztyxzmjiyjfmnmi1zdy1 AP

The full financial details of the extension that quarterback Andrew Luck signed with the Colts on Wednesday haven’t come to light yet, but it appears to be as big a deal as expected.

According to multiple reports, Luck is now the highest-paid player in the entire league with Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reporting that he stands to make $75 million over the first three years of a deal that will run through the 2021 season. That’s a pretty good payday and one that left Luck feeling grateful to owner Jim Irsay and the rest of the organization for the commitment they made to him.

“I am thrilled and excited to continue with this great organization,” Luck said, via the team. “I am thankful to the Irsay family and Mr. Irsay for providing me with this great opportunity and the trust that they’ve shown in me. I can’t wait for this season to start.”

Luck and the Colts hope that this season will play out in a better way than 2015, when Luck missed nine games because of injury and the Colts missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

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Colts get Luck signed through 2021

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 08:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws the ball during the game against the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The first news of an Andrew Luck contract extension comes from someone who would figure to know.

Colts Owner Jim Irsay tweeted Wednesday afternoon that “Andrew has signed through 2021.”

Irsay spoke earlier this year about ideally getting an extension for the team’s franchise quarterback finished before July 4, and both sides can now celebrate accordingly.

There are no numbers attached to early reports regarding the deal, but the deal was likely to make Luck the league’s highest-paid quarterback.

Luck was limited to seven games last season by injury but in each of his first three seasons led the Colts to records of and the playoffs.

The No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, Luck has thrown 101 career touchdown passes and has twice posted seasons of more than 4,300 passing yards.

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Buddy Ryan’s philosophy: Quarterbacks must be punished

25 AUG 1994:  ARIZONA CARDINALS HEAD COACH BUDDY RYAN GIVES ORDERS FROM THE SIDELINES DURING THE CARDINALS 30-21 LOSS TO THE DENVER BRONCOS AT MILE HIGH STADIUM IN DENVER, COLORADO. Mandatory Credit: Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT Getty Images

Buddy Ryan coached in the NFL at a different time, a time when coaches who put bounties on opposing players were labeled tough guys, not banished from the NFL. A quote from Ryan’s defensive playbook encapsulates that well.

Ryan, who died on Tuesday at the age of 85, wrote in his playbook that hitting the other team’s quarterback and hitting him hard was a fundamental part of playing defense.

“A quarterback has never completed a pass when he was flat on his back,” Ryan wrote, via Chris B. Brown. “We must hit the QB hard and often. QBs are overpaid, overrated, pompous bastards and must be punished. Great pass coverage is a direct result of a great pass rush, and a great pass rush is simply a relentless desire to get to the QB. Never miss an opportunity to punish the opponent. We must dominate and intimidate the enemy. If the opponent is worried about you, he is not thinking about carrying out his offensive assignment. If you play aggressive, physical, and smart–you cannot be beaten.”

That’s not the kind of football the NFL likes to promote in 2016. But it’s the kind of football that Buddy Ryan coached in the NFL for three decades.

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Cardell Hayes’ lawyer argues Will Smith’s killing shouldn’t be tried during NFL season

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 28:   Will Smith #91 of the New Orleans Saints dances after a big play against the New York Giants at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 28, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Giants 49 to 24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

A trial date of September 20 has been set in New Orleans to determine the fate of Cardell Hayes, who is charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing former Saints defensive end Will Smith earlier this year.

John Fuller, one of Hayes’ lawyers, would like to see the start date for that trial changed. Fuller argued in an Orleans Parish court on Wednesday that “it’s only fair” to avoid trying his client during football season because the timing could bias a jury against Hayes.

District Judge Camille Buras denied the request, although she said she would consider a continuance for other reasons.

“I do not mind continuances when it’s based on reasons, either for complexity reasons or forensic issues that are outstanding,” Buras said, via the New Orleans Advocate. “I cannot in good conscience say I’m going to continue the case because it’s football season.”

Hayes shot Smith and Smith’s wife — he faces an attempted murder charge as well — after an argument resulted from Hayes’ car bumping theirs from behind on April 9. Hayes has argued self-defense and his attorneys have tried unsuccessfully to get video footage from bars and restaurants the Smiths visited before the shooting after toxicology reports found Smith’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.

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Report: Johnny Manziel plans to go “completely sober” — Friday

johnny_manziel.vadapt.664.high.52 Getty Images

Maybe Johnny Manziel is taking seriously all the good advice people keep giving him to clean up his act.

At least he says he plans to, after this one sweet kegger he’s throwing in Mexico.

Manziel told TMZ that he’s “going completely sober starting July 1st.”

Of course, that gives him between now and Friday to get it all out of his system, and it seems like plenty of people with him aren’t taking the same pledge. TMZ has photos of a woman holding what appears to be an illicit substance, but Manziel said the drugs weren’t his and he didn’t know who the woman was.

That’s a perfect recipe for sobriety, of course. Just like giving yourself time for one last big blowout before becoming an adult.

And while he can promise to eat right, give up drinking and start “training like crazy,” Manziel’s actions have gotten us to the point where no one should put much stock in his words. The fact he was willing to taunt his father in one of his latest social media posts should tell us all we need to know.

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Jim Caldwell is skeptical of going for two more often

Jim Caldwell, Chip Kelly AP

As teams around the NFL discuss the possibility of going for two more often, Lions coach Jim Caldwell sounds unconvinced.

Caldwell said he’s aware that quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees have said they want to go for two as the default after every touchdown, but Caldwell said that’s more a matter of quarterbacks getting their competitive juices flowing than thinking about it rationally.

There’s not a quarterback in the league that doesn’t want to go for two,” Caldwell said.

Some of us think it makes sense to make going for two the default, while others think coaches should base it on the game situation. Caldwell leans closer to the latter option.

“It just depends on the situation, I think. We’re certainly prepared to go for [two points] every time. We’re certainly prepared to kick it as well,” Caldwell said. “Sometimes you’re going to have to adjust to teams that decide to go after it. I think we discussed that when the rule was first changed. You have to match [the strategy], just in terms of point differential.”

Caldwell’s skepticism may stem from his own team’s lack of success: The Lions are 1-for-6 on two-point conversions in Caldwell’s two seasons as head coach.

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