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PFT’s Week Three Picks

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Last week, I had my chance to pull even with MDS.  Thanks to a Panthers defense that was playing not to lose and a blown coverage at the goal line that guaranteed it, I had prevailed in the only disagreement of the day.

But then came the night game.  And I was one of the “ignorant idiots” who thought the 49ers could beat the Seahawks in Seattle.

The result was a push for the week, with both of us getting 12 right and four wrong.  For the year, I’m 23-9, and MDS is 24-8.

This week, all hell will break loose, Breaking Bad style.  We disagree on SIX of the games.  For all the picks from Week Three, scroll baby, scroll.

Chiefs at Eagles

MDS’s take: Can Andy Reid return to Philadelphia and get his team to 3-0? It would be a great story, but I don’t see it happening: Chip Kelly’s offense will put too many points on the board for Reid’s more conservative offense to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Chiefs 27.

Florio’s take:  Week Two helped everyone make better sense of Week One.  And it appears through both games that the Chiefs doing what coach Andy Reid wants them to do, and that the Eagles are still a work in progress under Chip Kelly.  This may be Big Red’s only chance to win another game in Philly.  It’s unlikely he’ll squander it.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Eagles 20.

Texans at Ravens

MDS’s take: The defending Super Bowl champions just haven’t looked particularly good on either side of the ball this season, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. J.J. Watt is going to make life miserable for Joe Flacco as Houston wins a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Ravens 9.

Florio’s take:  Both teams are banged up a bit, and each has struggled.  Give the home team the edge — even though Ed Reed could end up making the difference for Houston.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Texans 21.

Packers at Bengals

MDS’s take: I like the way the Bengals’ defense is playing, but I like the way Aaron Rodgers is playing more. Expect Rodgers to have a big game as the Packers improve to 2-1.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take:  Green Bay’s defense is better, and its offense at times is unstoppable.  The Packers offensive line has been holding up well enough to let 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers play like a serious contender for 2013 NFL MVP.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Bengals 27.

Giants at Panthers

MDS’s take: I viewed both of these teams as playoff contenders heading into the season, but the loser will be 0-3, and it’s awfully tough for any team to dig itself out of a hole that deep. Both teams have offensive problems that need to be corrected, and I have more confidence in Tom Coughlin and his staff to figure out a way to cut down on the turnovers than I have in Ron Rivera and his staff to find a way to get Cam Newton making big plays again. So I’m leaning toward the Giants in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Giants 21, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year in Week Three, the Giants blew out the Panthers in their own building.  And the Giants still didn’t make the playoffs.  This year, it won’t be as ugly against a Panthers team that has been playing not to lose — and that has no one to cover Victor Cruz.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Panthers 17.

Rams at Cowboys

MDS’s take: I’m not really sold on either of these teams as NFC playoff contenders, although the NFC East looks so weak that the Cowboys just need to hang around .500 all season to stay in the race. I see the Cowboys getting above .500 with a close home win over the Rams.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 21, Rams 17.

Florio’s take:  The all-time series is tied at 11-11 in the regular season, and 4-4 in the postseason.  The easy pick is the Cowboys, who held serve (finally) against the Giants in Week One to start the season.  But the right pick could be the Rams, who held off a Cardinals team that beat the Lions — and who rebounded from a deep deficit against the Falcons to make a game of it on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 24, Cowboys 23.

Browns at Vikings

MDS’s take: I was tempted to pick the upset before the Browns traded Trent Richardson because I thought Richardson could move the ball effectively against the suspect Vikings run defense. But I just can’t pick a team to win on the road with Brian Hoyer as its starting quarterback and no running backs who have carried the ball a single time all season.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Bernie Kosar.  It doesn’t matter.  The Trent Richardson trade puts extra pressure on the passing game against a Vikings team playing the first game of its final season in the Metrodome.  Adrian Peterson will show the Browns what they hoped they were getting when they traded up with Minnesota to take Richardson.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 27, Browns 14.

Buccaneers at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Bucs have played better than their 0-2 record suggests. The Patriots have played worse than their 2-0 record suggests. This is a close game, but in the end the Patriots will pull it out at home.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Pats are 2-0 and could be 0-2.  The Bucs are 0-2 and could be 2-0.  But New England is the team with the franchise quarterback and the coach with enough pelts on the wall to justify antisocial behavior.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 20, Buccaneers 10.

Cardinals at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints have started 2-0 without their offense really breaking out yet. Week Three will be when we see Sean Payton’s offense shine.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Cardinals 10.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals are better than anyone thought they’d be.  And that will serve them very well.  But not in New Orleans against the Saints, who also are better than anyone thought they’d be.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Cardinals 24.

Chargers at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans’ defense is a lot better than it was last year, and I think Gregg Williams deserves a lot of the credit. Before he was known for Bountygate, Williams was known for devising aggressive schemes that gave opposing quarterbacks fits, and that’s what he’s doing in Tennessee this season. His defense will give Philip Rivers fits on Sunday as the Titans improve to 2-1.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Chargers 10.

Florio’s take:  The franchises that squared off in the first two AFL title games get together, with both so far looking like potential playoff teams.  Flip a coin, throw a dart, light a match.  What the Chargers did in Philly was more impressive than what the Titans did in Pittsburgh.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 28, Titans 25.

Lions at Redskins

MDS’s take: I’ve gone back and forth on this one: When Washington has the ball, I could see Robert Griffin III having his best game of the season against a suspect Lions secondary, but I could also see a talented Lions line making life miserable for Griffin. When Detroit has the ball, I could see Matthew Stafford putting up huge numbers against a defense that has looked terrible this year, but I could also see the Lions struggling if Reggie Bush is at less than 100 percent. Ultimately, I think the story of the game will be that Washington still doesn’t have its defensive problems fixed.

MDS’s pick: Lions 31, Redskins 30.

Florio’s take:  The Lions have never ever ever never ever never won in D.C.  The Redskins have never ever ever never ever never won in 2013, dating back to January.  Though we don’t know whether No. 21 will be available, it’s time for Detroit to end an 0-21 road streak that dates back well before the commencement of the Curse of Bobby Layne.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Redskins 20.

Falcons at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Dolphins’ defense is good against the pass and bad against the run. Unfortunately for the Falcons, with Steven Jackson out they can’t take advantage of Miami’s biggest weakness. The Dolphins will improve to 3-0 with a low-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Falcons 13.

Florio’s take:  Could the 13-3 Falcons plunge to 1-2?  Yes they could, thanks to an improving Dolphins team that has started the season with a pair of road wins.  Injuries aren’t helping matters for the defending NFC South champions, who’ll need to help their offensive lineman in order to ensure Matt Ryan doesn’t join the list of the limping.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Falcons 20.

Bills at Jets

MDS’s take: It’s billed as the battle of AFC East rookie quarterbacks, but neither Buffalo’s EJ Manuel nor New York’s Geno Smith will be able to do much in a game that will be dominated by defense. I’m picking the Jets to win by a field goal.

MDS’s pick: Jets 9, Bills 6.

Florio’s take:  This battle of rookie quarterbacks will overshadow a far more intriguing subtext relating to the return of former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to face his former boss, Rex Ryan.  The road team simply has the better overall talent.  Which means that, at least for now, the servant becomes the master — and the Bills become the third-best team in the division.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 20, Jets 17.

Colts at 49ers

MDS’s take: Last year the Colts got a lot of good breaks on the way to a surprising playoff run. This year the Colts are getting all kinds of bad breaks, and they’re crashing back to earth. The 49ers will rebound from Sunday’s loss in Seattle and beat the Colts easily.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Colts 10.

Florio’s take:  It’s a Stanford reunion, with Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh and Coby Fleener and Pep Hamiltion reminiscing about their mutual dislike of Pete Carroll and Cal.  After, of course, the 49ers take care of business against a team that saw five of its six total losses in 2012 come when playing away from home.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 35, Colts 20.

Jaguars at Seahawks

MDS’s take: In one of the most lopsided games in recent NFL history, the question isn’t so much who will win as by how much. I think it’s the Seahawks by a lot.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 38, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  The CBS affiliate in Orlando will be apologizing again.  If the Seahawks can beat one of the best teams in the league by 26 in Seattle, this one could be historic.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 45, Jaguars 6.

Bears at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers’ offense has been dismal this season, and the Bears’ defense isn’t going to make things any easier. The Bears improve to 3-0 and the Steelers drop to 0-3.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Steelers 10.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers rarely are on the mat.  When it happens, they find a way to get up.  Eight years ago, they were left for dead after a loss to the Bengals, and the Steelers sparked a run that resulted in a Super Bowl win by beating the Bears at Heinz Field.  Though it’s way too early to even think about playoffs in Pittsburgh (except for the baseball team), it’s not too early to envision a proud franchise mustering enough punch to bring the 2-0 Bears back down to earth a bit.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Bears  16.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: This is going to be a more competitive game than most people think. The Raiders aren’t quite the doormats that people were expecting them to be. Still, with Tyvon Branch injured, I don’t see any way the Raiders keep Peyton Manning in check, and it’s going to be tough for Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders’ offense to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Raiders 23.

Florio’s takeRyan Clady or not, the better-than-expected Raiders still aren’t good enough to hang with the Broncos in their own building.  Look for another big night from Peyton Manning, who knows his supply of prime-time opportunities is dwindling.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 45, Raiders 20.

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Report: Jets believed to “have an affinity for” Andrus Peat

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With a new head coach (Todd Bowles) and General Manager (Mike Maccagnan) in the fold, and with a host of roster needs, the Jets could go numerous ways with the No. 6 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.

However, a few other clubs reportedly think they have an inkling of a prospect New York especially likes.

According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, “several” NFL personnel directors suspect the Jets are fond of Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat.

Offensive line would be a logical area for the Jets to address early in the draft. Three of their starters are at least 31 years old, and right tackle Breno Giacomini turns 30 in November. Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who enters his 10th season as a starter, will turn 32 in December.

As the Daily News notes, Peat took a pre-draft visit to the Jets, who have six draft selections in 2015. Given their lack of picks, the Jets would seem a logical trade-down candidate.

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John Harbaugh provides passionate defense of football

John Harbaugh AP

As the game of football faces questions about its long-term viability given the fairly recent realization that the inherent risks of football include chronic brain issues that may develop into cognitive impairments, the battle lines have been drawn between those who attack the game and those who defend it.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh defends it zealously in an article recently posted at the team’s official website.

“The question is asked over and over:  Why would anyone want to play football?  And why would anyone let their kids play?” Harbaugh writes.  “Here’s my answer:  I believe there’s practically no other place where a young man is held to a higher standard.”

Harbaugh realizes that the concussion issue has brought football to a “turning point” like the one in the early 1900s that prompted significant changes in response to a rash of deaths and serious injuries.

“We have to continue to get players in better helmets,” Harbaugh writes.  “We have to teach tackling the right way, and that starts at the NFL level.  Change the rules.  Take certain things out of the game.  It’s all the right thing to do.”

Harbaugh focuses his views on high school football, the highest level of the sport in which 97 percent of all players participate.

“How many youth and high school coaches serve as a father figure to their players?” Harbaugh writes.  “How many mothers look to the coaches of their son’s football team as the last best hope to show their son what it means to become a man — a real man?  More than we’ll ever know.”

Some will say that Harbaugh’s decision to articulate his views confirms that those with a vested in football are worried about its future.  Maybe those with a vested interest in football should be worried about its future; of all the sports and other activities that entail risk of short-term or long-term injury, football is one of the few that now comes under regular scrutiny.

Is football dangerous?  Yes.  It always has been, and it always will be.

Obviously, plenty of things are dangerous.  It’s become popular in some circles to distinguish the risk of accidental injury from, for example, riding a bike to the reality that football necessarily entails head contact when it operates as intended.  But head contact doesn’t always lead to concussion and concussion doesn’t always lead to brain damage.  In football, brain damage isn’t inevitable.  In other activities, accidents likewise aren’t inevitable.

A wide range of activities have risks and rewards.  Everyone needs to decide whether the rewards justify the risks.  Regardless of what anyone chooses, it doesn’t mean the activity should be abandoned or outlawed, unless the risks become too great and/or the rewards become too small.

Many people, like John Harbaugh, believe the rewards outweigh the risks, and that the stewards of the game have an obligation to find ways to reduce the risks as much as possible.

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Kevin Johnson could be the first cornerback taken

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Our first (perhaps only) mock draft of the year had Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson going 18th overall to the Chiefs, two spots below cornerback Trae Waynes, to the Texans.  The order of their depature from the draft board ultimately could be flipped.

With the draft four days away, we’re told that multiple teams have Johnson ahead of Waynes.  If one of those teams ends up on the clock and decides to take a corner, Johnson will go before Waynes.

Johnson, who entered college at a mere 155 pounds, has steadily added weight.  Reaching 175 last year, Johnson currently spins the dial to 188.

That’s nearly twice what he weighed in adolescence.

“I had ability, I was just a late bloomer,” Johnson has said.  “My freshman year of high school, I was five feet tall and weighed 96 pounds.  So I’m just growing every day.  I’m still growing now.”

His confidence has grown, too.

“I’m the best cornerback in the draft,” Johnson said.  “I think I’m a lockdown cornerback.”

Regardless of whether he’s the best cornerback in the draft, he could be the first one taken on Thursday night.

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Unnamed personnel executive: Class of 2015 has “no draftable kickers”

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There have been multiple kickers selected in each of the last three drafts.

However, there’s some feeling that not a single kicker merits being selected in the upcoming draft, which starts Thursday in Chicago.

In a story published Sunday by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, an unnamed personnel executive panned the kickers in the Class of 2015.

“There’s no draftable kickers,” the executive said, according to the Journal Sentinel‘s Bob McGinn. “The combine was probably the worst display of kicking talent I’ve ever seen. It was, like, ‘Are you kidding me? You can’t develop a kicker?’ ”

In his 2015 NFL Draft Preview, personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki gave six kickers draftable grades, with Louisiana-Monroe’s Justin Manton getting the highest mark. However, only Manton received a grade equating to a “fair chance to earn a roster spot,” with the other five kickers graded as “capable of battling for a roster spot.”

It’s uncommon to have a draft without a kicker selected. The last was in 2010, which snapped an 11-year streak of at least one kicker drafted per spring.

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PFT Draft Prop No. 2: Amari Cooper’s draft position: 4.5

Amari Cooper AP

Leading up to Thursday’s NFL draft, we’ll put on our oddsmaking hats and Ace Rothstein glasses and set one proposition “bet” per day for PFT Planet to ponder. At the conclusion of the draft, we’ll see how PFT Planet did on the wagers, which are for entertainment purposes only.

Here’s the second in our series of five draft-related props:

PFT Draft Prop No. 2: Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper’s draft position in Round One: 4.5.

Cooper is certain to be one of the top receivers taken on Thursday. Though quite unlikely to be the No. 1 overall pick, Cooper could seemingly appeal to a variety of other clubs selecting early, including Tennessee at No. 2 or Oakland at No. 4. In fact, Rotoworld draft expert Josh Norris has the Raiders taking Cooper in his latest mock.

However, Cooper could also fit with teams after Oakland in the draft order, with Washington (No. 5), the Jets (No. 6) and Bears (No. 7) all logical landing spots.

So where does Amari Cooper land in Round One? The poll is open, as are the comments.

Previous draft props

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5

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Kluwe says Peterson hasn’t handled his situation well

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One of Adrian Peterson’s always-outspoken former teammates says that Peterson needs to do a better job of handling his personal issues and his pending return to the NFL.

Chris Kluwe, the former Vikings punter who played with Peterson for six seasons, believes that Peterson should show public remorse for abusing his son.

“Obviously, AP can still play, but I think he needs to show that he understands he did something wrong and that he wants to work to change that, which I don’t know that he’s really shown yet,” Kluwe told the Pioneer Press.

One thing that Kluwe and Peterson have in common is that they’ve both clashed with the Vikings’ front office. But Kluwe seems to think Peterson is the one who bears most of the blame for his ongoing dispute with the Vikings.

“[Peterson] also feels that he’s been treated kind of unfairly, which I can see from a player’s perspective,” Kluwe said. “You think that the organization has your back. You think that these people have your back and then you get hung out to dry. I think there’s blame to go around on both sides, but AP hasn’t handled it particularly well. He’s probably valid in thinking he didn’t get some of the support that he thought he was going to get, but he’s the one who made the mistakes and he’s the one who needs to own up to it.”

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Colts take pride in scouring globe for unconventional players

Ryan Grigson AP

Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson loves to find unconventional players , or at least players with unconventional backgrounds.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise last week when he worked out a 380-pound Australian shot-putter.

It’s kind of the norm for a G.M. who has signed four CFL players, two former college basketball players and a Kenyan rugby player as he looks to bolster a roster headed by the best young quarterback in the game.

If you have elite athletic traits, you can do this,” Grigson told Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. “This isn’t one of those specialized sports, like golf. If you have a level of toughness and you can move and you have instincts, if you have those at an elite level, you’re going to get a chance.”

Of course, the pursuit of bottom-of-the-roster talent is fine, as the presence of Andrew Luck gives them a little latitude. And there are other G.M.s who like to give chances to athletes who happen to not be football players, such as Trent Baalke’s attempted development of English discus thrower Lawrence Okoye.

But Grigson takes pride in searching the globe for talent, and they even have a scout dedicated to the strange and unusual (special projects scout Jon Shaw).

Finding a diamond in the rough is the ultimate prize — any scout can point to Luck and say “That guy is good at football.”

Then again, Grigson has turned his last two first-round picks into running back Trent Richardson and outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, neither of whom were active for the Colts’ latest playoff loss.

So as fun as finding unconventional players might be, a better effort toward the conventional ones might help the Colts more.

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Mike Tannenbaum: No decisions on Ryan Tannehill option for 2016

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We’re a week away from the deadline for teams to decide whether or not to exercise their options for the fifth year of their 2012 first-round pick’s contracts and several teams are still weighing their decisions.

The Dolphins say that they are one of them. The team has shown plenty of faith in quarterback Ryan Tannehill and has been engaged in conversations with him about a long-term agreement, which would seem to make the call to pick up his option an easy one. At a press conference on Friday, though, executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said that no call has been made about the $16 million option for 2016.

“Look, Ryan is here, we’re excited he is here, we haven’t made any decisions yet,” Tannenbaum said. “We know when the deadline is and we’ll make those decisions when we get there. Obviously one of the other axioms you’d like to use this time of year is the tape sets the floor and the character sets the ceiling, and for all of the resources Mr. Ross gives us to put into a player, you want to make sure that player is taking all of those resources and Ryan is just a great example of that.”

There’s not much downside to picking up the option on Tannehill’s contract. It’s guaranteed against injury only, so the Dolphins could change course if things go south on the field next season, and does nothing to limit their ability to reach a longer deal with the quarterback. Given those conditions (and barring an extension in the next few days), it would be a surprise if May 3 passes without the option being exercised.

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Chris Long could be heading into his last year in St. Louis

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No NFL team has invested more resources in its defensive line than the Rams. But the centerpiece of that defensive line may be heading into his last season in St. Louis.

Chris Long, the Rams’ 2008 first-round draft pick who has developed into a very good defensive end, could be looking at a make-or-break year in 2015. Nick Wagoner of ESPN writes that unless Long has a big year in 2015, the Rams may decide he’s not worth the money and release him in 2016.

The money the Rams have invested in Long is substantial: Last year he counted $12.9 million against their cap despite playing in just six games and finishing the season with a grand total of one sack. This year his cap hit is $12.5 million, and next year his cap hit is $14.25 million. If Long isn’t playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2016, that $14.25 million would be hard to justify in 2016.

The Rams have an expensive defensive end on the other side of the line in Robert Quinn, and they’ve spent first-round picks on defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. On top of that, last month they signed defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Add it all up, and the Rams have invested a lot in the defensive line.

Eventually, teams that invest that much in one position group find that they have to allocate some of their resources elsewhere. Next year may be the time that the Rams decide they need to spend on other positions, and move on from Long.

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NFL clears Ray McDonald in domestic violence case

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Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy were both accused of domestic violence last year. Both got the same results from the legal system, ultimately having their charges dropped. But the NFL’s brand of justice has been radically different.

Hardy was banished with pay by the Panthers for 15 games last season and has now been suspended an additional 10 games without pay this season. But McDonald was allowed to play for the 49ers amid the domestic violence accusation last year and will not be suspended at all this year.

The NFL has confirmed that it investigated McDonald, who is now with the Bears, and cleared him of any violation of the personal-conduct policy.

“We have completed that [domestic-violence] investigation,” NFL general counsel Jeff Pash told the Associated Press Sports Editors. ‘‘[Special counsel for investigations] Lisa [Friel] and her team completed that investigation [and] did not establish a violation of the personal-conduct policy. We informed the player and the [NFL] Players Association.’’

However, that doesn’t mean McDonald is totally out of the woods. He is also being investigated in connection with a sexual assault. McDonald has not been charged in that case and says he will sue the woman who accused him.

‘‘Just to be clear, Ray McDonald had two issues, as you may remember — one related to a domestic-
violence incident and one related to an alleged sexual assault,’’ Friel said. ‘‘It’s the domestic-violence incident that we have finished investigating and didn’t find sufficient evidence to say that he violated the personal-conduct policy. The sexual-assault incident, that investigation is ongoing. That has not been completed, nor has the district attorney’s office in Santa Clara County completed their investigation into that matter.’’

The second accusation against McDonald led the 49ers to cut him. But as far as the the NFL is concerned, he’s not in any trouble with the personal-conduct policy. At least not yet.

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Bucs did extensive vetting of Jameis Winston

Jameis AP

If the Buccaneers don’t make Jameis Winston their latest potential franchise quarterback in four days, they’ve managed to concoct an impressive smoke screen.

The Tampa Tribune has published extensive details of the vetting of Winston by the Buccaneers, which could be viewed as a deliberate effort to address any lingering concerns about Winston’s character.

Via the Tribune, G.M. Jason Licht said the Buccaneers “spoke to upwards of 75 people” about Winston.  The Tribune has determined that those “upwards of 75 people” include “family members, friends, teammates, former high school coaches, former college coaches and an assistant state attorney.”

“[W]e all couldn’t feel more confident about the process we have gone through,” Licht said.

The process, as PFT previously has reported, included contact with assistant Tallahassee district attorney Georgia Cappleman, who spoke to the Bucs not only about Erica Kinsman (who claims Winston sexually assaulted her) but also about a second victim to whom Kinsman’s lawsuit against Winston refers.

“I advised them that there was another woman who received some counseling services from Florida State University as a result of an encounter with Mr. Winston that was of a sexual nature,” Cappleman told the Tribune.  While Cappleman hasn’t personally spoken to the second victim, Cappleman said the second victim “doesn’t even consider herself a victim.”

As to Kinsman, the Buccaneers haven’t spoken to her or to her lawyers.

“When vetting any potentially credible accusation of off-field misconduct, I’d expect NFL teams to learn both sides and not just listen to the player, agent, and coach,” Kinsman lawyer Baine Kerr told the Tribune. “Due diligence should include learning the facts from the accuser’s point of view.”

While it’s important to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, it’s a no-win proposition for the Buccaneers to communicate directly with persons having a clear bias and financial incentive against Winston.  If the team gets too close to the controversy, the team becomes a pawn in the legal chess/checkers/chicken game between Winston and Kinsman.

We can’t believe that the Buccaneers still made Winston the first overall pick despite all the information we shared with them.

Some would say that the mere existence of so many questions about Winston, from the BB gun incident to the crab-leg caper to the sexual-assault allegation to the shouting of the vulgar Internet memo to the recent change in the crab-leg explanation is enough to justify passing on Winston and selecting someone else with potentially equivalent talent but zero off-field entanglements that require investigation and explanation.  But franchise quarterbacks are hard to find in the draft, and the Buccaneers in nearly 40 years of existence never have.  As Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune said on a recent edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, the Buccaneers have never given a second contract to any quarterback they drafted.

That list includes, working backward, Mike Glennon, Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Simms, Joe Hamilton, Shaun King, Trent Dilfer, Craig Erickson, Mike Pawlawski, Pat O’Hara, Vinny Testaverde, Mike Shula, Blair Kiel, Steve Young, Mike Ford, Chuck Fusina, Doug Williams, Randy Hedberg, and Parnell Dickinson.

That’s 20 quarterbacks in 39 drafts.  Winston apparently will become No. 21, and the franchise seems to be ready to assume the risk that Winston could be yet another Buccaneer bust, whether due to on-field play or off-field problems.

If he is, maybe the 22nd quarterback drafted by the franchise will be the one to get a second contract.

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No talks between Eli Manning, Giants

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When 2015 began, each of the trio of first-round quarterbacks from the 2004 draft who have become NFL superstars were entering the final year of their second contracts.  One of them (Ben Roethlisberger) has gotten another big deal.  Another one (Philip Rivers) claims he doesn’t want one until 2016, if then.  The third says nothing is happening, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by that.

Nothing has been brought up,” Manning said Sunday, via Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com.  “I haven’t made a big deal about it.”

Eli also said he won’t be insulted if he doesn’t get a new contract before the current one ends, pointing out that his brother, Peyton, has done that before.

Peyton has, twice before in Indianapolis.  But Eli got his current contract before his own rookie deal expired.  This time around, the Giants may decide to wait and see what happens in 2015.

“[The contract] is not something I’m going to argue about or make a fuss about,” Eli said Sunday.

Eli is due to earn a base salary of $17 million in 2015, with a cap number of $19.75 million.  That gives Eli plenty of leverage, since it would cost the Giants $23.7 million in 2016 under the non-exclusive franchise tag — and probably even more under the exclusive version of the tag.  Which means that the Giants would be paying plenty if Eli opts for a year-to-year arrangement, which would increase the tender by 20 percent in 2017 and 44 percent in 2018.

Given Eli’s stated desire not to leave the Giants, it’ll be very interesting to see whether New York would roll the dice with the non-exclusive tag, since that would open the door for another team willing to give up two first-round picks to make a run at Eli.

In other words, the Browns would make a run at Eli.

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Irsay “not really” surprised #DeflateGate investigation has taken so long

Irsay Getty Images

The owner of the team that sparked the #DeflateGate investigation recently talked about the absence of closure in the case.  And Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn’t seem to be concerned about the fact that more than three months have passed since G.M. Ryan Grigson complained to the league about the air pressure in the footballs used during the first half of the AFC title game against the Patriots.

“I know that they are still finishing up their investigation, and there’s really nothing new to report,” Irsay told reporters at the third annual Chuckstrong gala on Friday night.  “It could be a few days, it could be a month or more.  I really don’t know.  They’re working to be, again, comprehensive and thorough, and when [Ted] Wells gets done with it, he’ll let us all know.”

Is Irsay surprised it has taken this long to wrap up the investigation?

“You know, probably not really,” Irsay said.  “He’s a very thorough investigator, and he’s gonna do what he thinks, sort of in his vacuum, so to speak.  He’s not concerned about when he gets the results, how long it takes.  He wants to be thorough.  So I know he operates that way.  So it’s not a shock, but I think everyone has wondered exactly when he’ll come through and let us know what he’s learned.”

Some suspect that a truly thorough investigation might reveal that the Colts took additional air out of the ball that was intercepted by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson during the first half of the game.  The NFL previously has declined to comment on whether Ted Wells is exploring that angle.  Others currently believe that the NFL has turned the investigation back on itself, hoping to placate Patriots owner Robert Kraft by determining how so many leaks of information that would tend to incriminate his team made their way to the media.

Regardless, it’s been more than a month since Commissioner Roger Goodell said the investigation is “getting near the end.”  With the draft less than a week away, it’s starting to feel like the end will arrive on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

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Jags have no update on Justin Blackmon’s status

Jacksonville Jaguars Media Access Getty Images

In January, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said that he was “very optimistic” about wide receiver Justin Blackmon returning to the field for the 2015 season and that he felt good about having Blackmon return to the team after missing more than a season on an indefinite suspension for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

We’re closing in on the end of April and the Jags have started their offseason workouts, but there’s still no word on whether Blackmon will have that ban lifted by the league. While speaking to the media last week, Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell said that the team didn’t know whether Blackmon has applied for reinstatement or much else about the receiver’s status.

“Our process hasn’t changed,” Caldwell said, via the Florida Times-Union. “Plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges and he’s going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we’re able to get some news, but if not, we weren’t planning on it, we’re just going to go.”

The Jaguars have no reason to close the door on a Blackmon return until there’s actually a return to contemplate and the lack of movement on that front suggests Caldwell’s right to devote his attention to other matters.

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Eagles still not showing real commitment to Bradford

Bradford AP

After the Eagles surprisingly traded for quarterback Sam Bradford in March, coach Chip Kelly insisted that Bradford wasn’t a stepping stone toward getting up the board to reunite with Marcus Mariota.  Since then, the Eagles have done nothing to take that possibility off the table.

As PFT reported on Wednesday, no meaningful contract talks have occurred between the Eagles and Bradford, who is due to make $12.985 million in 2015, the final year of his pre-wage-scale rookie deal.  The Eagles would like to knock down the cap number, and Bradford would like a chance to re-establish himself.  While money is a factor, security is, too; Bradford wants any new deal would to ensure that he won’t be shipped to the Browns or elsewhere, especially since a multi-year contract would make Bradford more valuable to a team that would acquire his rights for more than one season.

The absence of a true commitment to Bradford keeps the possibility of another trade in play.  Recently, PFT laid out the pieces of a three-way deal that would put Bradford in Cleveland, Mariota (and possibly Johnny Manziel) in Philly, and multiple picks in the pocket of a team that trades out of the top five.

The Eagles possibly could get there by giving up Bradford, the 20th pick in 2015, a first-round pick in 2016, and maybe another pick or two.  Whether that amounts to mortgaging the future isn’t known.

That said, why is a mortgage a bad thing?  For most, it’s the only way to buy a house.  For the Eagles, a mortgage for Mariota could not only buy a house but also eventually put a Lombardi Trophy in the case.

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