The ProFootballTalk crew discusses Chris Johnson being released by the Tennessee Titans. What does the market look like now for the running back?
ProFootballTalk: CJ says goodbye
Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets are expected to agree eventually on a contract that will make Fitzpatrick the starting quarterback. But until that gets done, Geno Smith is running the first-string offense. And teammates think he’s showing the kind of leadership qualities they need to see.
“I definitely agree,” Pryor told NJ.com. “He’s always on time. He’s always doing the right things. At first [in previous years], I saw that Geno really didn’t talk to too many people. But now he speaks and he goes about things the right way. That’s what you have to do when you want guys to believe in you. You have to make sure you talk with everyone. You have to have everybody’s trust, everybody believing in you. Because we’re only going to go as far as you’re going to take us, along with this defense. Every great team, you have to see great quarterback play.”
That Smith is getting praise for being on time isn’t exactly a huge endorsement, but Smith seems to have more faith in the locker room than he did last year, when he lost the starting job when teammate IK Enemkpali punched him and broke his jaw. Pryor says the Jets now believe they can win with Smith.
“I do,” Pryor said. “He has to believe that as well. I think he’s very confident. Before the [Enemkpali] incident happened last year, I think he was having a great camp. I think he was buying guys in. In this locker room, guys were believing in him. I’m pretty sure everything happens for a reason. He learned from that moment. And I think he’s better. Guys are confident that he can get the job done. He just has to be confident in himself, and I think he is. So far, I’m happy with the results.”
As the Jets leak details of their contract order to Fitzpatrick in an attempt to gain leverage in the ongoing negotiations, these comments could also help the Jets on that front. Everyone wants Fitzpatrick to return as the Jets’ starter, but some are saying that if Fitzpatrick doesn’t return, Smith is up to the task.
When Haloti Ngata was traded from the Ravens to the Lions last offseason, he stayed in Baltimore for much of the summer, his family still lived there, and it took him a few months before he was really a fit in the Lions’ defense.
This year, however, Ngata signed a new contract, moved his family to Detroit, and he is a full participant in voluntary offseason work.
“This is totally different,” Ngata told the Detroit Free Press at Organized Team Activities. “I’m here, family’s here so I don’t really have to worry about trying to find a house or where we’re going to stay, traveling back and forth. I’ve been here all off-season and it’s just been great.”
The 32-year-old Ngata said he “definitely” views himself as a team leader, to a greater extent than he was last year.
“I’m really the oldest guy now,” Ngata said.
A five-time Pro Bowler with the Ravens, Ngata is out to show he still has something left — and to show the younger players in Detroit how its done.
Here’s a closer look at the Bills’ nepotism-free coaching staff.
Ryan Davis is now a “Lotto” in the Jaguars defense, which means parts Leo (weak-side DE), part Otto (strong-side LB). (He’d probably rather be a Liger, since they are bred for their skills and magic.)
Here’s a look at the sound from the first weeks of Raiders OTAs.
Giants RB Andre Williams, on the team’s plan to use a quartet of tailbacks in 2015: “I don’t think the four-headed monster was very scary.”
Washington TE Vernon Davis says that TE Jordan Reed “runs routes better than the best wide receiver in the league.”
Chip Kelly is gone from Eagles practices — and so is the non-stop music.
Bears WR Kieran Duncan hopes to show there’s more to him than 4.32 speed.
Get to know Packers third-round LB Kyle Fackrell.
Vikings Hall of Fame DE Carl Eller spoke to the team’s rookies this week.
Falcons special-team coordinator Keith Armstrong said the team’s unit was average last year.
Some aren’t surprised that Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan eventually sounded off about his time in New Orleans.
Here’s a recap of the first week of OTAs with the Buccaneers.
Here’s a list of five players to watch during Seahawks OTAs.
Here’s a look at some old Rams billboards. (Which confirms that today’s PFT billboard would declare, “Slow news day.”)
The Brandon Marshall who plays for the Jets is skipping Organized Team Activities even though he’s under contract, but the Brandon Marshall who plays for the Broncos is at OTAs even though he doesn’t have a contract.
Marshall, a starting inside linebacker in Denver, is a restricted free agent who has not signed his one-year, $2.533 million tender offer. But he says he’s comfortable enough in Denver that he feels OK about practicing now and worrying about his contract later.
“I love it here. I love it here, man,” Marshall told ESPN. “Ever since I got here, in 2013, they’ve treated me like family, even when I was on the practice squad. It just shows, I’m really all about ball, getting better and being with the team. . . . To stay away, that’s not me. I feel comfortable being here.”
Broncos G.M. John Elway has said he wants to get a long-term deal done with Marshall, and Marshall wants one as well. In the mean time, Marshall isn’t letting the lack of a contract hold him back.
On Friday, reports began to surface that the Jets offered weeks ago to free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a three-year contract that would pay out $12 million in the first year. Curiously omitted from those reports were the rest of the details regarding the offer — details that would say plenty about its overall quality.
Let’s set aside for now the question whether Fitzpatrick deserves more than $12 million per year in light of: (1) the market for starting quarterbacks; (2) recent increases in the salary cap that haven’t sparked a similar spike in the starting quarterback market; and (3) the franchise-record 31 touchdown passes from Fitzpatrick’s first and only season with the franchise. The far more intriguing aspect of the latest Fitz-related developments is that some in the media have flat-out whiffed in their assessment of the information leaked by the team. (And of course it was leaked by the team.)
The biggest offender, from the perspective of the size and reach of the organization, has been the Associated Press. Consider this key portion of the AP article: “A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press on Friday night that the Jets made a three-year offer to the quarterback in March that includes $12 million guaranteed in the first year. . . . The New York Post first reported the terms of the offer, which is higher than the previously reported amounts that were closer to $7 million per year. However, total guarantees and contract structure of the Jets’ standing offer are uncertain.”
That tail-on-the-donkey “however” doesn’t alter the characterization appearing immediately before it. Instead, it makes the overall message even more confounding.
Without knowing the structure of the full deal, it’s impossible to say that a $12 million payout in 2016 results in a three-year average that exceeds $7 million per year. If, for example, the offer pays out $9 million in 2017 and 2018, the three-year average is still $7 million.
For weeks, PFT has heard that the problem isn’t the Year One payout but the rest of the deal. Without specific information about the rest of the deal, it’s impossible to characterize it in comparison to prior reports that the deal is worth $7 million annually.
Whether inadvertent or deliberate (the fact that the article later claims that Fitzpatrick “apparently” wants $18 million per year suggests the latter), the AP has helped the Jets’ not-so-subtle effort to overstate the value of the offer that Fitzpatrick has yet to accept as part of a P.R. push aimed at persuading unsettled Jets fans that the team is being reasonable and/or that Fitzpatrick isn’t. The better approach continues to be trying to find a middle ground, but the Jets apparently aren’t willing to yield in their position.
The John Elway take-it-or-leave-it approach works best when there’s a freshly-minted Lombardi in the lobby. Four years ago, before the team went to a pair of Super Bowls, Elway didn’t lowball an aging and rickety Peyton Manning. With neither Peyton Manning in his prime nor any other franchise quarterbacks walking through the door for the Jets, the best play would be to find a fair middle ground between whatever the Jets want to pay and whatever Fitzpatrick wants.
The Washington Post poll that supporters of the local NFL team’s name believed would end the debate has potentially reinvigorated it — along with sparking a new debate over whether there should even be a debate about the propriety of the name.
On Friday, a group of Native American leaders and activists (i.e., not “white liberal journalists”) held a conference call aimed at further criticizing the poll.
Via the Associated Press, California State San Bernardino sociology professor James Fenelon called the poll “immoral.” He also echoed concerns that the poll was not representative of Native American communities. Likewise, Amanda Blackhorse, who serves as the lead plaintiff in the case attacking the team’s federal trademark protection, called the poll “misguided,” adding that it won’t diminish attacks against the name.
“This issue is not about polling,” National Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata added. “This issue is about human rights.”
Some would say that these voices carry much more weight that 450 unverified self-identifying Native American adults who said in response to a series of questions about the name that the name doesn’t bother them. Moving forward, those voices need to find ways to get their message across in an effective and meaningful way.
As worthy as the cause may be, the opposition to the name has been at times disorganized, ebbing and flowing and all too often operating on a reactive instead of proactive basis. The movement would benefit greatly from a skilled and experienced P.R. professional who would launch a sustained assault on the name featuring, for example, conference calls occurring at a time other than the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. No matter how compelling the quotes, the messages sent Friday will rarely register on the national radar screen.
To launch the kind of P.R. push needed to impose pressure not on the team or the league but their sponsors, the movement first needs money. Stockpile enough of it through donations from those who believe that the name should go, and the Native American groups opposed to the name will have the foundation for devising ways to persuade Native Americans who oppose the name and non-Natives who agree with them to take the case to those truly in a position to compel a change.
Friday’s appearance on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio from Saints coach Sean Payton focused initially on the then-fresh claims from former Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan that he wasn’t running the unit when he was, you know, running the unit. (Payton called that notion “silly.”)
It also would have been silly not to take advantage of the time with Payton to address other topics of interest. With the interview happening during Organized Teams Activities and on the heels of the Ravens losing a week of OTAs after putting rookies in pads earlier this month, I asked Payton to explain the impact of the forfeited practices.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Payton said. “The reason I say that is, look, it doesn’t keep the players from lifting and running and so a week of OTAs would be three on-the-field sessions. You don’t want to lose those opportunities and, shoot, one of those opportunities you might have some type of team building experience set up. I think each team does similar things during the OTAs. There’s a lot of offense versus defense. There’s some restrictions regarding one-on-ones but the players are out there in their element, and they’re going though a little bit of a practice format for two hours. So really that equates to about six hours on the field.”
He makes a good point about the team-building day. Plenty of teams cancel the final OTA session for some sort of excursion away from football. So instead of losing three practices, the Ravens as a practical matter could say they lost only two. Which would be only four hours of lost practice time.
While it may not be a huge deal to lose a few OTAs, there’s still plenty of value in having them.
“I think it’s an important part of the process from a mental standpoint,” Payton said. “When it gets to Phase 3, the focus is on some of the nuances of what you’re trying to do defensively, offensively, or the kicking game. To get out on the field and work at the installation. I think it’s important for the coaching staffs as well. Many times you had change and you are getting on the same page and getting out there and coaching and things come up that you want to discuss. The idea being that when training camp comes this installation we’ve had before, and we’re gonna repeat it. We know that obviously a big ally to learning is just being able to go back through it again.
“The most important part though is the early phases [of the offseason program],” Payton added. “These guys come in the complex lifting weights, getting in shape, and really not feeling like they’re coming to practice. I think that’s important, the players are able to come into the facility and feel like in those early first two phases that they’re coming to really work out, condition and build that camaraderie, build the things you look for in a good football team.”
Payton’s perspective could come as a surprise to many, since most would assume that football coaches regard football practice as being more important than working out and otherwise not engaging in football practice. For the Ravens, the reality is that, even without three (or two) days of football practice, the players will be able to continue working out, just like they were in the earlier phases of the offseason program.
To hear the full Payton interview, download the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom. Or, if you’re in one of the markets that carries weekly “best of” show (like D.C, Charlotte, Minneapolis, Seattle, New Orleans, and many more), check your local listings for the two-hour slice of what was the best stuff of the week that was.
When the Jets leaked word that they’re offering free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a contract that would pay him $12 million this year, the clear implication was that it’s a good offer. The reality is that, for a starting quarterback in today’s NFL, it’s not a good offer.
According to the salary database Spotrac, there are 16 quarterbacks in the NFL who currently have a contract that pays an average of $18 million a year or more. So half of the league’s starters are making at least 50 percent more than the Jets are offering Fitzpatrick.
Another six quarterbacks are making more than $12 million but less than $18 million. Which means Fitzpatrick, if he took a contract paying $12 million a year, would be paid less than 22 NFL quarterbacks. And among the starters making less than Fitzpatrick are several who are still on their rookie contracts but would surely make more on the open market, including Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Andrew Luck and Blake Bortles. This year’s first two picks, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, are also in the group of quarterbacks who will make less than $12 million a year only because of the rookie salary structure, not because the market has decided that they’re actually worth less than $12 million a year.
Also bear in mind that the Jets specifically leaked only what they were offering to pay Fitzpatrick this year, not what they’re offering to pay him in future years of a multi-year contract. That suggests that the deal the Jets are offering Fitzpatrick is actually worse than $12 million a year.
Bottom line, despite some reporters portraying the Jets’ offer as “more in line with the marketplace,” the reality is that the Jets are not offering Fitzpatrick the kind of money that you’d expect a quarterback who threw for 3,905 yards, 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while leading his team to a 10-6 record to make.
Unfortunately for Fitzpatrick, he doesn’t have a lot of leverage. The offseason game of quarterback musical chairs is over, and he’s the only one standing, while the Jets are the only team with a seat open. He’s probably going to end up taking less money than his 2015 performance says he’s worth. But no one should portray the Jets’ offer as a good deal. By NFL starting quarterback standards, it’s not.
After spending the fourth overall pick in the draft on running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys fielded calls about whether they wanted to trade one of their veteran backs. But they said no.
“We got calls during the draft asking to trade for a couple of our running backs, and we just don’t have that interest,” Jones said, via the Star-Telegram.
McFadden, who is coming off a 1,089-yard season, is heading into the final year of his contract and has a $2.15 million cap hit. The Cowboys just signed Morris to a two-year, $3.5 million contract in March. Both players are affordable and have been productive, which could make them worth something in a trade.
So it wouldn’t be surprising to hear McFadden and Morris mentioned in trade talks again. Even if, for now, the Cowboys aren’t interested.
That rollocking interview in which it became clear that Rex-Rob Ryan has taken charge in Buffalo included an effort by Rob Ryan to address the notion that he got a job with the Bills due to the fact that he’s the twin brother of the head coach.
“I heard this one the other day: Well, it’s nepotism. Nepotism?” Ryan told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com. “I’ve been in this league 20 years. I have coordinated the last 12 years in a row.”
Yes, and Ryan has been fired multiple times over the last 12 years, most recently after presiding over historically bad defenses in Dallas. So of course it’s nepotism; does anyone think Rex would have hired Rob for a position that didn’t previously exist in Buffalo (assistant head coach/defense) but for the fact that their once shared a womb?
It was Rob’s effort to dismiss the notion of nepotism that caused him to launch into the questionable rant that someone else was running the defense and that Rob Ryan went entirely against his nature and kept his mouth shut while it was happening. Why not just admit that the brotherly relationship helped create the level of trust that Rex craves as he goes “all in” to try to save his job with a playoff berth?
Even if Rob Ryan somehow would have been hired but for his relationship with Rex, the Ryan twin reunion already is showing signs of the kind of symbiosis that will accentuate already strong personalities. Putting them together will only make each of them more combustible, prompting both guys to take the kind of risks they wouldn’t take if they were operating on their own.
The mere fact that Rex-Rob opted to react to a bad month in Buffalo by granting a “press record and get out of the way” interview shows that their blended personalities will result in behavior that is more bombastic, more combative, more fraught with risk.
Which will make the 2016 season in Buffalo even more compelling — especially if the situation begins to fall apart and Rex-Rob opt to try to get things under control by being even more bombastic, even more combative, and taking even more risks.
In other words, get your popcorn ready. And keep it out of Rex-Rob’s reach.
With the lingering standoff involving the Jets and free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick now spreading to other key members of the offense currently under contract, the Jets have begun to take their case public.
Specifically, the Jets have made their standing offer to Fitzpatrick known to multiple media outlets: A three-year deal that would pay Fitzpatrick $12 million in 2016.
Curiously (or not), the Jets aren’t leaking the details as to the second and third seasons of the offer. A league source with knowledge of the talks told PFT weeks ago that the problem isn’t the compensation in the first year but the pay to Fitzpatrick in the next two.
Indeed, the fact that the Jets are leaking only the $12 million total compensation for 2016 (which presumably includes a signing bonus spread over all three years) suggests that the last two years of the package don’t mesh with the team’s agenda of coming off as reasonable in the stalled negotiations.
The compensation for the final two years directly impacts the quality of the proposals. If, for example, the Jets are offering three years and $36 million, that’s $12 million per year. But if the $12 million offer for the first year is part of, for example, a three-year, $24 million deal, the pending offer suddenly doesn’t look so good.
Instead of attempting to apply pressure to Fitzpatrick by leaking details that make the Jets seem reasonable, the Jets and Fitzpatrick should get together in a room, shut the door, lock it from the outside, and stay put until they find an acceptable middle ground. Both sides should be willing to yield as to their current positions, since each side needs the other. And both sides need to get this deal done, sooner than later.
The Bears signed their first-round pick, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, on Friday.
The Bears traded up two spots to No. 9 — specifically to get ahead of the Giants — to select Floyd last month.
An early entry to this year’s draft, Floyd had 17 sacks in three seasons at Georgia. He played both defensive end and outside linebacker in college. The Bears list Floyd at 6-foot-6, 244 pounds.
Lamarr Houston led the Bears with eight sacks last season, their first in a 3-4 base defense, and Floyd was drafted to immediately boost the pass rush.
Former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman has been transferred to an Atlanta hospital, where he’s continuing to recover from a stroke he suffered earlier this month.
Per a release from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Perriman, 50, was transferred there from a Miami-area hospital. He was admitted into the intensive care unit, but Perriman will soon transition into the hospital’s acquired brain injury unit for evaluation, care and observation.
Initial reports said he’d been hospitalized due to high blood pressure.
His son, Breshad Perriman, was drafted in the first round in 2015 by the Ravens. Breshad Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury but is progressing well, and he tweeted some encouraging words earlier Friday about his father.
Brett Perriman had a career-best 1,488 receiving yards in 1995 with the Lions. In that season, Perriman and Herman Moore became the first teammates in NFL history to each record more than 100 receptions and more than 1,400 receiving yards in the same season.
Perriman played 10 NFL seasons and played for the Saints, Lions, Chiefs and Dolphins. He was a second-round pick of the Saints in 1988.
When Packers coach Mike McCarthy fat-shamed running back Eddie Lacy after the 2015 season, the tailback with the bulging midsection eventually landed under the supervision of Tony Horton, the man behind the P90X series of workout videos. Horton has whipped Lacy into shape, and Horton hopes to continue his work with Lacy after the offseason program ends in Green Bay and before training camp commences.
“Ideally, what I’d like to do — he’d have to be in L.A. for it to work — but I’d like to see him play [basketball] one day, [go to] boxing class one day and I could work with him for three as opposed to six or seven like before,” Horton told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “It would give him more freedom, and the beautiful thing is he wouldn’t have to relearn everything again. I would really love the plyometric day and the cardio was essential for him.”
Anyone who has ever done P90X knows all about plyometrics and the advice to bring “your little bucket” and the annoyingly compelling “get ready, ’cause it’s coming” warning during the warmup phase. While its value to professional football players is still undetermined, P90X (and the 30-minute sibling P90X3) definitely helps get and keep middle-aged dudes who sit around and type and talk all day long in shape. Or at least in the shape of something other than a pear.
Horton preached more than exercise to Lacy. To get the most out of the program, nutrition is critical.
“We didn’t talk weight. We didn’t talk inches. We didn’t get on a scale,” Horton told Demovsky. “It was about lifestyle and performance and being healthy. He’s genetically gifted. He just had a misstep the last season and a half. So I just redirected him into a lifestyle that’s going to help him be productive and give him more energy and more stamina, and I know how to do those things. And I did them in a way he’s never done them before.”
For running backs who routinely take a pounding during games, it’s important to have some bulk. Lacy clearly had too much last year, and he should be better off for it when the season starts.
And if the changes stick, Lacy will be in position to avoid the thing that happens to plenty of football players when their careers end — the gradual growth of their bodies in the horizontal direction.
For the second straight season, the Jaguars made a splash in free agency by signing a player away from the Broncos.
They’ll be hoping for a smoother start from defensive tackle Malik Jackson than they got from tight end Julius Thomas. Thomas broke a bone in his hand in the preseason, missed the first four games of the regular season and went on to average under 10 yards a reception while catching five touchdown passes.
Thomas averaged 11.8 yards per catch and scored 24 touchdowns in his final two seasons with the Broncos and the Jags would like to see something more in that arena in Thomas’ second season in Jacksonville. Quarterback Blake Bortles said that he and Thomas have been working to develop the kind of chemistry that leads to a spike in production.
“We had a chance this offseason to sit down multiple times, watch film and talk about things,” Bortles said, via ESPN.com. “Talk about what he wanted from me and what I wanted from him and how we can quickly get on the same page to grow together. He’s been unbelievable. He’s obviously a freak athlete and he’s continued to prove that and make plays.”
A major statistical leap may not be in Thomas’ future. With Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns at receiver, the Jaguars don’t need to force the ball in anyone’s direction to move it in the air. There’s also a hope that the ground game and defense will improve enough to keep the team from throwing the ball quite as often as they did in 2015.
If he can be more productive around the end zone, though, that will likely be enough to make his second year with the team a more successful one.