ProFootballTalk: How long is Ponder’s leash?
It’s the season of smokescreens and horsesh-t, so why not throw some more of it onto the pile?
Browns executive V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown tells Mike Silver of NFL Network that the Browns know who they’ll be taking with the No. 1 overall pick, and that they’ve known it for two weeks.
This contradicts recent reports that the Browns were still debating whether to take defensive end Myles Garrett or quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the first pick, and it makes the effort by ESPN to trumpet Warren Sapp’s opinion that Garrett shouldn’t be the pick a waste of time, in hindsight.
This all assumes that Brown is telling the truth at a time when few do. The reason for something other than the truth is obvious; if the Browns keep the pick, they need to create the impression that everyone was and is on the same page, even if they recently weren’t.
Look for the Browns to conceal the identity of the pick for as long as possible, in the event that they trade the selection. If they do, and if no one knows who they wanted at No. 1, they can claim with a semi-straight face that they got at a lower spot the guy they would have taken at No. 1.
Former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, who faces a rape accusation only one day before the draft, has responded with a strongly-worded statement reiterating the denial previously articulated by his lawyer.
The six-paragraph statement comes under the headline “Statement of Gareon Conley Regarding Untrue, wrongful, and Malicious Allegations.” It reads as follows, in full:
“The allegations against me concerning the night of April 8/9 that have recently been reported in multiple media outlets are completely false. I did not commit a crime and have not been charged with a crime.
“I pride myself on doing things the right way on and off the field. The things being said about me and what happened that night are not true and don’t fit my character at all. I realize that I put himself in the situation and I could have used better judgment. However, I have worked tirelessly to put myself in position to have the honor of being an NFL draft pick and these untrue allegations are putting a huge cloud over my name and the NFL Draft.
“These allegations appear to be an attempt to ruin this once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and my family. There were several witnesses including another female, who were present the entire time and have given statements that give an accurate account of what took place. I am upset but realize that I am powerless when false accusations are made and people try to convict you in the court of public opinion. It’s sad that your neighbor can get dragged through the mud based upon untrue and malicious allegations alone.
“I am completely confident that as the facts actually come out my name will be cleared.
“I was excited about participating in Thursday’s draft but I have decided it would be selfish of me to stay and be a distraction to the NFL, the other players, and their families who have worked just as hard as me to enjoy the experience so I will not be in attendance.
“I hope and look forward to the honor of being an NFL player and working to be the best representative, player, person, and teammate I can be for the team and the community I will be in.
Skuta signed a five-year deal with the Jaguars as a free agent before the 2015 season, but was dropped after two years in a move that gave the Jaguars $4.1 million in cap space. He appeared in 26 games for the team over his two years in Jacksonville and recorded 58 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble over that span.
Skuta showed a bit more pass rushing punch while recording five sacks for the 49ers in 2014 and would give the Patriots an experienced depth option for the coming season if he does land a deal in New England.
Although plenty of teams react to a bad season by dumping front-office employees in January, the more sensible approach is to wait until after the draft. That’s when the bulk of the work has ended, and it also prevents the scout from taking to a new team the fruits of the labor performed on the prior employer’s nickel.
In Buffalo, there’s a belief that the Bills will be making extensive moves in the front office when the draft concludes. Per a league source, the team’s scouts are bracing for job changes after the draft. As one scout explained it, “We are all getting fired next week.”
In response to that claim, the Bills provided to PFT the following statement: “Right now, our focus is on the preparation for this week’s draft. Like every year, evaluations of our player personnel staff take place following the draft. And this year will be no different.”
The Bills fired coach Rex Ryan late in the regular season, replacing him with Sean McDermott. Various reports and rumors have indicated that G.M. Doug Whaley could be on the way out.
Washington wide receiver John Ross was projected to be a first-round pick throughout his final college season and his record-setting 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis didn’t do anything to lessen those expectations.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network suggested recently that concerns about Ross’ health could lead to a longer-than-expected wait to hear his name called in Philadelphia, however. Ross has dealt with several knee injuries over the course of his career and Mayock reported that teams have dropped Ross down or completely off their draft boards as a result.
During an appearance on PFT Live, Ross said that he believes such concerns are overblown.
“Well there was a lot of reports saying a lot about my knees where I had a sprained MCL, I had two torn ACLs,” Ross said. “Well all that’s kinda true. I just tore my ACL and tore my right meniscus and I played a whole season without it bothering me, without me having to sit out or come out of a game because of my knees or anything. I think the biggest thing was just my shoulder which I previously got fixed and that’s kinda what I was worried about. My knees fell great, they feel better than before I tore them so I’m not worried about that and I think with the world we live in today there’s a lot of great doctors, there’s a lot of great trainers and a lot of good technology you know. So I think it’s much different than before where I can’t get treated for something or if I’m feeling a certain way I can’t get treated for it so I’m really not worried too much about that. You know it’s football everybody is gonna get wear and tear no matter if you tore your knees before or not so I don’t think durability will be that much of an issue if I stay on top of it and take care of my body.”
Even if 31 teams have downgraded Ross, it just takes one for him to wind up as a first-round pick. We’ll know in a little more than 24 hours if that’s the case.
With the annual desperation for quarterbacks about to manifest itself again, it’s time for he annual surprise at a guy getting drafted higher than anyone anticipated.
This time, it might be Cal’s Davis Webb.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, there’s some thought that a team might trade back into the first round to take Webb.
He cites one national scout who said Webb has “Dak-like intangibles,” and there are only a few problems with comparing him to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
First, Prescott was a fourth-round pick who no one knew was anything other than an intriguing project before Tony Romo got hurt. Second, “intangibles” is a common misspelling of “Ezekiel Elliott and the best offensive line in football.”
Other than the inherent silliness of comparing players to guys they don’t share many traits with, there’s something to it. Webb has gained many fans throughout the process because of his work ethic and other coach-on-the-field qualities.
And with more teams looking for quarterbacks than quarterbacks available, he could stand to benefit.
As the bloodbath continues at ESPN, two former NFL quarterbacks have lost their jobs. Trent Dilfer and Danny Kanell both revealed that they were let go in today’s massive ESPN layoffs.
“Laid off by ESPN today. Although sad cause I loved my job, mostly filled with gratitude and appreciation for the nine years,” Dilfer wrote on Twitter.
Kanell also confirmed that he’s been let go.
“Poured my heart and soul into ESPN for last 8 years. Moved my wife and 3 kids to CT to go “all in” 5 years ago. Bummed it ended in 3 minutes,” Kanell wrote on Twitter. “But totally get it. All part of a business that is rapidly changing. Thankful for the opportunity I was given and people I got to work with!”
After spending 14 seasons as an NFL quarterback, Dilfer covered the NFL for ESPN for nine seasons. Kanell, who spent seven seasons in the NFL, has co-hosted a radio show with Ryen Russillo for the last two years. Russillo is reportedly not being laid off but is having his role at ESPN reduced.
The last time there were reports that Marshawn Lynch was on his way to officially joining the Raiders, Lynch threw cold water on them and said that he’d let us know when “s–t gets REAL.”
Wednesday morning brought more reports that the deal was done and this round included trade terms between the Seahawks and Raiders. Lynch, who was in Haiti this week, didn’t offer any immediate updates as to the veracity of those reports, but that ended with a tweet later in the day.
Lynch wrote “It’s time” on a tweet that also included a screenshot of a message that thanked Seahawks fans and confirmed that he was going to play in his hometown in his inimitable style.
“Yes Lawd 12th man I’m thankful but s—t just got REAL I had hella fun in Seattle … But I’m really from Oakland doe like really really really from Oakland doe … town bizzness breath on me.”
The Seahawks and Raiders will exchange third-day draft picks in 2018 and Lynch will reportedly have a base salary of $3 million with the Raiders with incentives that can push the deal as high as $8.5 million. Omar Ruiz of NFL Media reports that Lynch is at the team’s facility and took a physical earlier on Wednesday so a team announcement, which is unlikely to include the phrase “town bizzness breath on me,” may be coming soon.
Witten’s offseason has things moving in the other direction, however. Witten signed a four-year extension to his contract with the Cowboys that leaves him signed through the 2021 season and said Wednesday that he’s “confident that I can play and continue to play” when asked about Parcells’ comments.
Witten also said that he’ll reevaluate that feeling each year to make sure he continues to feel that way.
“I think you always take it a year at a time,” Witten said, via the Dallas Morning News. “You always take that approach. But certainly I feel like I’m a part of this group that’s continuing to build. I never looked at it from the standpoint that, ‘Hey, this is the end.’ I know my role within that and this group and I’m anxious to get started. I don’t know how many years that entails but I certainly feel a big part of it.”
The deal Witten signed added no new guaranteed money, so the Cowboys won’t be left on the hook salary cap-wise in the event Witten’s confidence about his ability to play should dissipate before his contract has run its course.
Since the Patriots don’t really have anything to do draft-wise until Friday, they’re working on some free agency today.
Fusco, who can play center or guard, was a salary cap cut in February. They signed him to a big extension in 2014, but he had a down year last season which made him expendable there.
The Patriots traded their first-round pick to the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and swapped out their second to the Panthers for defensive end Kony Ealy and a third, so they won’t be on the clock until the 72nd overall pick, which should be late Friday night.
Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon has been a starter in all three of his NFL seasons, so it’s no surprise that Arizona wants to keep him around.
The Cardinals officially picked up Bucannon’s fifth-year option today. That means Bucannon gets an $8.7 million salary for 2018, and that salary is guaranteed for injury, although the Cardinals could still choose to release him if he’s healthy.
Bucannon’s 2016 season was cut short by an ankle injury, but he started the first 13 games. He started all 16 games in 2015.
The cardinals took Bucannon with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
ESPN has launched it’s long-expected layoffs, with the biggest news so far being that long-time NFL reporter Ed Werder has been let go. While the moves will presumably affect all aspects of the network and the sports it covers, the timing is odd.
Roughly 100 employees are being laid off only one day before the draft, which is one of the biggest annual events for ESPN. The three-day affair will result in millions consuming ESPN television, radio, and online content. And it’s all happening one day after what will be the biggest one-day exodus of talent in the history of the network.
Regardless of the reasons for the departures (and in any business where revenue is dramatically shrinking, costs must be slashed), making the moves right now makes it a head-scratcher. Perhaps the thinking is that the moves will be noticed less than they would have been given the pendency of the draft, and that the intensity of the draft coverage will make the audience forget by Monday that the layoffs even happened.
The real question is whether the audience even cares. People in the media do because people in the media know many of the people who are being affected by these moves, and they can sympathize/empathize with the situation. At an operation like ESPN, however, people come and go all the time without the average consumer even noticing.
Despite the timing, it’s a sad day for many ESPN employees and their families. It’s also a reminder that every media entity is a for-profit operation. If not enough profit is being generated for those who hold the equity, reductions will have to be made.
Barring a clear and unequivocal public declaration in the next 24 hours or so from the alleged victim that she was not sexually assaulted on April 9 by Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Conley will enter the draft with a cloud hanging over his NFL future. But with plenty of evidence available and with teams having the resources to find out even more, it’s possible that someone will take a calculated risk on Conley, if the team develops a sense that he’s innocent, and/or that the alleged victim doesn’t intend to press the issue.
The police report indicates that the alleged victim declined to be interviewed by police at a local hospital, after previously telling them her version of the events. Whether and to what extent the authorities convince her to cooperate and, eventually, to testify in court will go a long way toward determining whether Conley will be prosecuted. If the allegation persists in her refusal to continue to assist the investigation, the criminal case will go nowhere.
If the case proceeds, Conley could have a serious problem. The police report cites a rape statute, which makes the alleged crime a first-degree felony. Under Ohio law, that would result in a sentence of three to 11 years.
Conley has witnesses who claim that he “never touched” the alleged victim, and that she became upset after she was kicked out of the room. The rape kit that was administered to the alleged victim will shed more light on whether contact occurred, but ultimately it will be impossible to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without cooperation and testimony from the alleged victim.
The victim’s name isn’t publicly known, but the teams either have or can get access to it. As a result, teams have been to do research regarding the alleged victim. It’s also possible that one or more teams will try to contact her directly in order to explain the importance of knowing by Thursday night what will happen with the situation before making a multi-million-dollar investment in Conley.
Regardless of what happens, the teams have every incentive to ensure that they aren’t squandering one of their most important assets. The stakes are high for everyone involved, and the sooner the truth emerges the better off everyone will be.
For Conley, the biggest problem is that, if he’s innocent, irreversible damage likely is going to be done to his NFL career. If he’s guilty, he rightfully should have far bigger problems than sliding in the draft.
Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams is among the players that will be watching the first round of the NFL Draft closely because he’s widely expected to find out where he’ll be starting his NFL career before Thursday night’s festivities in Philadelphia come to an end.
Williams made a late bid to sway minds with a couple of teams over the last week before the big night. Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL Media report that Williams had a pair of workouts with teams picking in the top 10.
Williams worked out for the Chargers last Thursday and then showed his stuff for the Titans on Saturday. He previously spent time with both teams during meetings at the combine in Indianapolis or at the team’s facilities.
The Chargers have the No. 7 pick on Thursday while the Titans are scheduled to pick fifth and 18th — which is where Mike Florio projected Williams to land — in the first round. They could be moving down, however, and there are sure to be some developments that could impact where Williams winds up coming off the board in a draft that is light on certainty with kickoff a little more than 24 hours away.
Because of the relationship between the General Managers involved in the soon-to-be-finished Marshawn Lynch deal and the urgencies each side felt, the compensation didn’t figure to be complicated or excessive.
And it’s not.
According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the Seahawks will get Oakland’s 2018 fifth-round pick and the Raiders will acquire Seattle’s 2018 sixth-rounder and Lynch, once he’s completed his physical and the trade becomes real.
Seahawks G.M. John Schneider and Raiders boss Reggie McKenzie used to work together in Green Bay, and the familiarity made the trade part of the transaction easy.
Plus, with Schneider getting Lynch off the books and McKenzie getting the kind of human shield in Oakland that may help fans forget for a moment the team’s leaving soon, everybody wins whether Lynch is a productive runner again or not.