Peter King, Erik Kuselias and Mike Florio say that Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman is not considered a team leader as a starting quarterback should be and that if Freeman doesn’t step it up, his career in Tampa Bay may soon be coming to an end.
ProFootballTalk: Bucs doubt Josh Freeman’s leadership
When the franchise-tag window opened nine days ago, I pointed out that no one would be using the franchise tag any time soon. And, of course, I assumed that three or four tags would end up being applied that same day.
It hasn’t happened. And for good reason. The NFL is, and always will be, a deadline-driven business. It’s not about procrastination; it’s about not doing anything until the time comes for doing it.
That said, there’s a chance that the time will be coming as soon as today for a tag or two to be applied. With teams switching into Scouting Combine-mode next week, they may want to make a final decision and act on it before they begin to focus on taking a very close look at the next wave of incoming draft picks.
Even if no tags happen today, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see tags be applied on Monday or Tuesday, if for no reason other than to avoid an unfortunate snafu that would result in the tag not officially attaching before the window closes at 4:00 p.m. ET.
The players most likely to be tagged this year include Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, and Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short. Time permitting (and if I don’t forget), I may cobble together over the weekend a team-by-team look at who could get tagged.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has some advice for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: Don’t come to New England.
Gronkowski told ESPN that Patriots fans are so angry about Goodell suspending Tom Brady that he believes it would be physically impossible for Goodell to get inside Gillette Stadium. Gronkowski was asked directly if Goodell can go to Foxboro, and Gronkowski said no.
“To tell you the truth, I really don’t think so,” Gronkowski said. “The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what. They have Tom’s back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston.”
Goodell has avoided New England since Deflategate broke two years ago. Although he has said he would return to New England if invited, the reality is the commissioner doesn’t need an invitation to attend an NFL game. The reason Goodell hasn’t attended a Patriots game is that he knows what kind of reception he’d receive.
Except Gronkowski thinks the reception would be even worse than Goodell realizes.
Fans who get frustrated by bad spots from the officials, bad spots that can cost a team a first down or a touchdown, sometimes argue that the NFL should put a chip in every football that can show the precise spot where the ball is at all times. But former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira says that wouldn’t work.
Pereira said on Peter King’s podcast that when officials miss a spot, it’s less about not seeing the ball than about not seeing where the ball carrier’s knee hit the ground.
“You can put a chip in the ball, but then you better put a chip in the guy’s knee, too,” Pereira said. “The ball is one thing, but it’s not over until the knee hits the ball or the shoulder hits the ground. So how accurate is that going to be?”
NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said last year on PFT Live: The NFL experimented with putting chips in footballs to measure how close field goals and extra points were to the uprights, to determine how big a difference narrower goal posts would make. But Blandino said that spotting the ball is far more complex than that, and the NFL is a long way from being able to use that kind of technology in that way.
Some in the NFL may have another objection: They’re old-fashioned traditionalists. Pereira acknowledged that’s part of his objection to using chips to spot the ball as well.
“You could set up lasers to replace the chain crews, but I love the tradition of some old guys running out there with a chain,” Pereira said.
That’s not a good reason not to use technology: If the technology can improve spotting the ball, the technology should be used. Tradition be damned.
But Blandino and Pereira are right that for now, anyway, a chip in the football simply wouldn’t solve the problem of missed spots.
There are no shortage of questions swirling around the league with free agency looming on the horizon and Jay Cutler’s place in the NFL for the 2017 season is among them.
No one thinks Cutler will be back with the Bears as they are reportedly trying to trade him and are expected to cut him when and if that effort fails. The possibility of retirement has also been floated recently, but one of Cutler’s former backups hopes that won’t be the case.
Josh McCown has remained friends with Cutler since they played together with the Bears and shared that hope during an interview with Ross Tucker and Greg McElroy of SiriusXM NFL Radio. He also shared an opinion that runs counter to most when he said he believes Cutler can “play at a very high level.”
“I know he’ll make the best decision he can for him and his family,” McCown said. “I root for him either way it goes. As a friend, and a football fan, and as a guy who appreciates quarterbacks, I hope he continues to play and finds a good spot where he can play good football because I believe that is still in his future.”
McCown thinks a team in a “quarterback-driven” NFL will give Cutler the opportunity to play that kind of football and it shouldn’t be too long before we have a clearer picture of where that opportunity is going to come.
The Vikings have skill position problems, sure. But last year was also enough of a mess that General Manager Rick Spielman is thinking about changing the way he evaluates other positions.
According to Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Vikings G.M. acknowledged their offensive line issues last season, and studied other rosters to see if they were drafting them incorrectly.
Spielman looked at the correlation between draft placement and NFL success — and surprisingly found that guys drafted higher were usually better. He admitted that a “much lower percentage” of linemen taken after the third round were productive blockers. In the last 10 drafts, he’s only taken two linemen before the fourth round.
“There’s different ways that I had to look back and see, ‘What are we doing right or wrong with this offensive line and how do we get it addressed?'” Spielman said. “That was a whole focal point on a lot of the studies and a lot of the analytics that I have been doing since the end of the season.”
Of course, one of those high picks he’s used on a lineman may be about to walk out the door. Left tackle Matt Kalil will be an unrestricted free agent. Last year, both he and right tackle Andre Smith (also a free agent) ended up on injured reserve (along with some of their replacements), creating a revolving door that prevented anything resembling stability on offense.
But if they can’t create time and space for them, it might not matter who is occupying the skill positions.
A look at how the Bengals evaluate prospects during the Scouting Combine.
The Browns expect to add secondary help in free agency.
Former Steelers S Carnell Lake recounted watching Deion Sanders run the 40 when both players were at the Scouting Combine.
Tight end options for the Titans to consider in the draft.
The top special teams plays of the Chiefs season.
Five questions the Cowboys will try to answer in Indianapolis.
A look at some wide receivers that could interest the Eagles in the draft.
George Halas, Red Grange and Dick Butkus will represent the Bears in the Illinois Sports Hall of Fame.
Will the Lions bring in a free agent wide receiver?
The neck injury that ended S Nick Collins’ career with the Packers didn’t take away his love for football.
Said Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman of WR Laquon Treadwell, “He is so determined to be a good player, and he has the skill set to do it. But we were never able to get him on track. He is going to be a good player with us. I do believe that in my heart.”
The Falcons name five breakout candidates for 2017.
A trade is among the mock draft predictions for the Panthers.
The Cardinals have a couple of safeties headed for free agency.
Rams defensive line coach Bill Johnson is excited about the players making up his unit.
Could the 49ers take another defensive lineman in the first round?
The NFL invited Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly to the Scouting Combine. Then, the NFL uninvited him. Kelly may go anyway.
Agent Duray Oubre told PFT via email that, while Kelly is focused on preparing for his April 2 Pro Day workout, “we are still considering the possibility of traveling to the Combine along with Chad.”
It could set the stage for an awkward — but useful — confrontation. With all coaches, General Managers, and scouts in town for the purposes of obtaining comprehensive information about all of the top recruits in one place, Kelly and other players should be there, regardless of whatever off-field conduct resulted in the NFL banning them. Top prospects will still be evaluated and possibly drafted even if they aren’t at the Combine; keeping them away makes it harder (and more expensive) for all teams to get the information they need.
Given that Kelly was on the list of invited players as of February 1, there’s a chance that the NFL will relent. The more likely result is that the league will double down and resist allowing Kelly to participate with even more zeal.
But while that would keep Kelly away from the official activities in and around Lucas Oil Stadium, the teams should be allowed to invite anyone they choose to the rooms where the interviews happen. Hopefully they will, if Kelly decides to stand up to the powers-that-be and prove the folly of a rule driven not by helping teams make the right draft picks but P.R.
Former Chiefs safety Sanders Commings is attempting to join the exclusive club of players who have played in both the National Football League and Major League Baseball.
Commings, a 2013 fifth-round pick who was limited by injuries to just two games with the Chiefs, has signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves organization.
At 26 years old and having not played baseball since high school, Commings is a long shot to ever make it to the majors. But he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of high school and has reportedly impressed during recent baseball workouts. His odds of making it are probably better than those of Tim Tebow, whose appearance in the Mets organization is viewed by most baseball people as a publicity stunt.
If Commings can make it to the majors, he would be doing something significant in American sports history. Although playing in both the NFL and MLB was fairly common in the early days of the sports leagues (George Halas and Jim Thorpe were among dozens of players to do it), in the last half century it’s been rare. Since 1970, only seven players have done it: Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson are legends who played both sports at the same time. Brian Jordan left a good NFL career to have an even better MLB career. D.J. Dozier had short careers in both sports. Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson had even shorter careers in both sports. And Matt Kinzer was briefly a bad pitcher who also played one game as a replacement punter during the 1987 NFL players’ strike.
That’s an eclectic group, and if Commings joins the list at all he’s going to be closer to the novelty acts at the bottom of the list than the legends at the top of it. But it’s a list Commings would like to join, and getting on that list at all is a huge accomplishment.
The Detroit Lions signed former Indianapolis Colts tackle Pierce Burton on Thursday.
Burton finished last season on the Colts’ practice squad after signing in mid-December.
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Mississippi, Burton signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. He was released late that August and remained unsigned until joining the Atlanta Falcons during training camp in 2015. After a brief stint on the Falcons’ practice squad, Burton spend time on the Carolina Panthers practice squad as well in 2015.
The San Francisco 49ers crashed and burned to a 2-14 record last season that led to the firings of Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke as part of a complete shakeup of the team’s front office.
However, new general manager John Lynch doesn’t believe the 49ers are nearly as bad as that record suggests. In an interview with Bob Fitzgerald and Rob Brooks on 49ers flagship station 1080 KNBR, Lynch said there are certainly areas of the team to improve but he doesn’t see a 2-14 roster either.
“We’ve got some strides to make on this roster, but I can also tell you (that) I don’t look up at the film we’ve been watching and see a 2-14 team,” Lynch said, via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “I see some pieces that are hard to build, you know? A great example of that, I think, you look at our offensive line and our defensive line. I’m actually excited about those groups. And those groups are where, I believe, football games are won and lost. It starts there.”
Offensively, the 49ers were 27th in points scored and 31st in total yards. The Los Angeles Rams were the only team less capable of moving the football. They were even worse defensively, ranking dead last in yards, rushing yards and points per game allowed. Of course that team will not be the same team taking the field for the 49ers in September. The roster could look significantly different between now and then.
As Bill Parcells said once upon a time “you are what your record says you are.” Lynch inherited a mess even if he isn’t saying so publicly.
“Do we have some places — probably the ultimate position, quarterback — where we need to improve? Absolutely,” Lynch said. “And we’re committed to doing that. But there’s some pieces there that have me excited, have Kyle (Shanahan) excited. So there’s a long list of things, but we’re working hard at all of them.”
Scott Mersereau, a former Jets defensive lineman, faces charges of punching a 15-year-old boy. Mersereau reportedly believed the boy had egged Mersereau’s home.
Via the Palm Beach Post, Mersereau walked to the boy’s home to accuse him of throwing eggs. The boy denied doing it, the argument escalated, and the boy allegedly cursed at Mersereau, who pushed the boy in the chest. When the boy told Mersereau to leave, Mersereau allegedly punched the boy in the back of the head with a closed fist.
Several people reportedly witnessed the attack, including the boy’s mother.
A police officer claimed that Mersereau was both belligerent and intoxicated. He faces a charge of child cruelty.
Mersereau, 51, was released on $3,000 bond over the weekend. He spent seven seasons with the Jets, 1987 through 1993. Mersereau was the teammate with whom Dennis Byrd collided in 1992 in an incident that left Byrd paralyzed.
Former University of Pittsburgh running back James Conner got “a clean scan” Thursday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 but returned to play last season. The news of his clean medical report comes a week before he heads to Indianapolis to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine with a talented class of running back prospects.
Conner scored 56 touchdowns in his time at Pitt, an ACC record, and ranks second in school history in total rushing yards behind only Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett.
He was the ACC Player of the Year in 2014 when he ran for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns. He had a knee injury in 2015 that led to his Hodgkin’s diagnosis, but he was cleared last year.
The guy who applied the term “Dream Team” to the Eagles six years ago has a new catch phrase.
Via NFL.com, quarterback Vince Young has applied for the federal trademark rights to “Make Vince Great Again.”
On the other side of the coin from the point in the political sphere that the thing that hopefully will be made great again never stopped being great, Young arguably never really was a great pro quarterback.
He recently launched a comeback, hiring agent Leigh Steinberg and talking to CFL teams. The CFL is, frankly, the place Young should have gone when the quarterback-needy NFL decided it didn’t want him five years ago. Now, at age 33, Young will have a hard time engineering a second act.
So unless there’s some other Vince out there who was once great and who has a chance to return to glory (McMahon, Vaughn, Neil, van Gogh), Vince Young may have a hard time making money from his new side business.
The Buccaneers released cornerback Alterraun Verner on Thursday afternoon, creating $6.5 million in cap space for themselves and giving Verner a head start on free agency to find a new team.
During an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio with Jim Miller and Pat Kerwin shortly after his departure from Tampa became official, Verner said he was disappointed that things didn’t work out with the Bucs but thanked them for the “professionalism” they showed by releasing him at this point in the calendar.
Verner also said he’s already hearing interest from clubs that could provide the next stop in his career.
“My agent’s been getting calls from multiple teams already,” Verner said. “It’s exciting to see what’s going to be happening next. It’s going to be exciting to see where I can go and hopefully contribute and put forth an effort to try to get to a Super Bowl.”
Verner’s play didn’t match the contract the Bucs signed him to in 2014, but there will likely be enough memories of his better days with the Titans to get him another shot heading into next season.
ESPN has announced the seven quarterbacks from this year’s draft class who will participate in the annual Jon Gruden QB Camp series that will begin airing two weeks before the draft.
DeShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Nathan Peterman, Joshua Dobbs and Brad Kaaya will be this year’s participants. All seven will spend time in the film room and on the field with Gruden, a former NFL head coach turned television analyst, and he will address their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies in segments that will ultimately air across various platfotms.
This is the eighth year for the QB Camp series, and in the past it has produced some pretty interesting and revealing moments.
As he does, Gruden praised the entire class in the press release for the show, but had especially high praise for Watson.
“There are some unknowns this year, but this class starts with Deshaun Watson,” Gruden said. “His body of work is as impressive as any quarterback we’ve had come through QB Camp. I got the chance to see him live and I think he has a ton of ability. There are some underclassmen coming out who have questions that need to be answered. That’s why this process is exciting. But three or four years from now, I expect people will be saying this is a pretty good quarterback class.”