Adam Vinatieri, Colts reach agreement on one-year deal

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Wednesday brought word that the Colts were on the verge of an agreement with kicker Adam Vinatieri on a one-year deal that would keep the veteran in Indianapolis.

Thursday brings word that the deal is done. Adam Schefter of ESPN was the first to report Vinatieri has agreed to a contract for a 13th season in Indianapolis and a 23rd season in the NFL.

Vinatieri’s return puts him in position to become the NFL’s all-time leader in points scored and field goals. He trails Morten Andersen in both categories and another healthy year will add further polish to his case to join Andersen in the Pro Football Hall of Fame once he finally calls it a career.

The return also puts Vinatieri in position to share the locker room with rookies who weren’t born when he began his playing career with the Patriots in 1996, which is something few players have been able to do during the course of their careers.

Vance Joseph thinks Broncos are “really close”

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We’ve heard several Broncos players share their thoughts about why quarterback Kirk Cousins should sign with their team as a free agent, but tampering rules don’t permit coach Vance Joseph to make the same kind of pitch.

Joseph can talk about what he thinks makes Denver an appealing place to play, however. He did exactly that during an interview with Mike Klis of KUSA this week.

“I won’t talk to Kirk because he is under contract,” Joseph said. “We can’t talk to those guys. But speaking to any free agent that can help our football team, this is a good place to play football. We have a great fan base. I think our football team is really close. Like most football teams after you don’t have a year that you want to have, you have to go back and you have to do a self-evaluation. Every team has issues, every team has holes. Our goal this offseason is to fix our holes. Because, I think we’re really close as a football team.”

Whatever holes the Broncos have identified, they haven’t done much to hide their opinion that the one at quarterback is the one they want to fill the most. Cousins may be their top choice to fill that hole, but they’ll have company in that pursuit and one of Joseph’s first jobs this offseason will likely be convincing him that the Broncos are the right choice to satisfy his needs.

NFL sweetens the pot for draft invitees, a little

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As the Ultimate Reality Show’s ultimate offseason reality show prepares to have the largest in-person and television audiences ever, the NFL is sweetening the pot for the players who are invited to attend. Sort of.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com announces that the player’s high school coach will be part of the entourage who attends the draft, with all expenses paid.

It’s a shrewd move by the league, a low-cost strategy for tapping deeper into feelings like loyalty and guilt in an effort to get the player who may be inclined to pass on the invitation to attend. Now, it’s not just family members who get to experience the draft, it’s the person who helped craft the young version of the soon-to-be NFL player. How can the player deny his high-school coach that opportunity?

The added benefit for the league is the expansion of the cast of characters for the reality show with unpaid actors; someone to mention during the broadcast — and someone who’s reaction can be captured by the cameras.

Over the years, the NFL has done an amazing job of convincing incoming players that everything about the draft is a privilege and an honor and a blessing, even if (here comes the crusade) the draft remains at its core the antithesis of the American way. New employees once again don’t get to pick their employer, their employer picks them. And those new employees, the real stars of the Ultimate Reality Show’s ultimate offseason reality show, continue to be (as they were in college) the only people attached to the process who don’t get paid to be there.

The fact that so many who would otherwise favor a free-market approach to American business react so strongly and negatively to the mere suggestion of ending the draft or paying players an appearance fee to attend it remains a testament to the very best efforts of the NFL’s P.R. function, baked deep into the psyche of players, coaches, fans, and media during over the last four decades. The latest perk is just another way to get everyone involved to not realize how fundamentally unfair it is to keep players who were able to choose the college they’ll attend from choosing the place where they’ll work.

ESPN adds Kirk Herbstreit to NFL draft coverage

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As the NFL draft continues to grow into an even bigger television property, ESPN is adding its top college football analyst to the mix.

Kirk Herbstreit will join host Trey Wingo and analysts Mel Kiper and Louis Riddick as ESPN’s primary broadcast team for the draft. Herbstreit is filling the spot previously held by Jon Gruden when he was the Monday Night Football announcer, before he became head coach of the Raiders. ESPN has also confirmed that Todd McShay, Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen and Suzy Kolber will be part of the team on-site in Dallas. McShay will join the main set for the second and third days of the draft.

ESPN has been losing ground on the draft for years, as NFL Network has consistently eaten into ESPN’s share of the draft’s viewership. This year, with FOX and NFL Network teaming up for a draft broadcast that will air on both networks, ESPN is likely to fall to second place on a broadcast that ESPN did more than anyone to build up into the NFL’s signature offseason event.

Perhaps ESPN believes that Herbstreit, coming from college football, will have more compelling observations about the players and can add valuable insight that NFL Network has traditionally lacked. The flip side is, Herbstreit won’t be as knowledgeable about NFL teams and their needs as Gruden was.

“I’m gonna stay in my lane, just talk about these guys as college football players,” Herbstreit said in a video posted by ESPN.

Last year, NFL Network’s main draft team was Rich Eisen, Mike Mayock, Daniel Jeremiah and Stanford head coach David Shaw. NFL Network and FOX have not announced who their on-air talent will be this year.

Eagles’ quarterback situation can quickly get messy in 2018

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When Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he believes the team would have won the Super Bowl with Carson Wentz at quarterback, some viewed it as a slap at Nick Foles. It’s not; it’s a fairly obvious opinion based on how well the Eagles were playing with Wentz under center.

But the reality for the Eagles has become that Wentz wasn’t able to stay healthy enough to see the season through, opening the door for Foles to unlock the team’s first Super Bowl championship.

As the Eagles make decisions about the quarterback depth chart for 2018, it would be foolish to not ensure the existence of protections against Wentz not being ready for Week One. The easy answer is Foles. But if it’s Foles — if he’s the one who starts the Week One, season-opening, Super Bowl celebration, plays well, and wins — who will start Week Two? If Foles plays well and wins in Week Two, who will start Week Three?

As long as Foles plays well, it’s a dynamic that will continue, and strengthen, with each passing week. As long as the Eagles are winning and Foles is playing well, Foles becomes Case Keenum and Wentz becomes Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater.

While the same thing could happen even if Nate Sudfeld or a veteran quarterback currently with another team (Josh McCown would be a great choice) serve as the placeholder until Wentz is ready to go, Foles brings a tangible quality the others don’t: He actually, not hypothetically, delivered the first Lombardi Trophy onto which the Eagles ever applied their fingerprints.

Wentz is smart enough to realize how this could play out. He’s also apparently smart enough to not hitch his name to a goofy catch phrase like “All In For Week One” as part of an effort to process fear of being supplanted by his understudy. Still, is it good for the Eagles if Wentz tries so hard to get ready for Week One that he sets back his rehab and recovery?

Wentz clearly is the Eagles’ long-term quarterback. But if Wentz isn’t ready for Week One, the backup will play. At some point, the switch will flip back to Wentz. If the backup is also the guy who delivered the Super Bowl win, the switch may be a lot harder to flip.

Thus, in assessing their options for dealing with Foles, who is under contract through 2018, the Eagles need to consider the wisdom of getting maximum value for him now (in the name of rewarding him for what he brought to the city and the team) and having another No. 2 quarterback who will be easier to remove from the lineup if/when the season arrives, Wentz isn’t 100 percent, and the backup plays well.

Davis Webb hoping to convince new Giants bosses they don’t need a QB

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If the Giants want to find the heir to quarterback Eli Manning, they have a perfect opportunity with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

But the new administration also inherited a project, and Davis Webb is doing everything he can to sell himself to General Manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur, neither of whom were around when he was drafted in the third round last year.

“I had a conversation with Mr. Gettleman and kind of told him how I felt and my abilities as a quarterback,” Webb said, via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. “I think there are enough people around the facility that believe in me and believe in my work ethic and believe in my ability to play quarterback one day for this franchise.

“I want them to know that I’m here to be the best teammate possible and work very hard. I know we have a high pick in the draft. But nobody really knows but two people — that is coach Shurmur and Mr. Gettleman. So there can be a lot of guessing and stuff like that.”

There’s no way of knowing what kind of grade Gettleman had on Webb during last year’s draft preparations (he wasn’t really in the market for a quarterback while running the Panthers), and Gettleman admitted when he got the job he didn’t know much about the 87th overall pick from Cal.

So Webb has been around introducing himself (and ingratiating himself as much as you can without practicing or playing) in hopes of making an impression.

“Just continue to work. Nobody knows what is going to happen,” Webb said. “It’s still a long ways away. It doesn’t really bother me either way. I’m going to compete. I’m looking forward to this season. I’m working really hard. I’m staying in shape, and this is the most driven and excited I’ve been in any offseason, I think, in my career of football.”

If the Giants don’t take a quarterback second overall, they could add a rare playmaker like Saquon Barkley or a pass-rusher like Bradley Chubb. And that would likely be a good thing for Webb, giving him more time to prove himself to guys with no vested interest in him. More likely, it would suggest they think Manning has enough good years left in him and that the Giants are close enough to being a good team that an immediate contributor helps more.

Who else will discuss contract parameters with Brees at Scouting Combine?

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It’s not really news that the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees (more accurately, his agent) will discuss the parameters of a new contract at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. With all teams and all agents in town for multiple days, it’s a given that discussions will be had, especially when one franchise is facing the theoretical loss of one of the true, short-list franchise quarterbacks.

The real question is whether and to what extent parameters of a contract for Brees will be discussed by agent Tom Condon and other teams. Yes, Brees has said on multiple occasions that he plans to stay with the Saints. Even if he’s not testing the Saints in order to see whether they use his words as a way to lowball him (personally, I think he is), it’s impossible to properly evaluate the quality of the offer made by Drew’s current team without knowing how he is valued by other teams.

There’s a dollar threshold below which an offer from the Saints to Brees will be regarded by the player as an insult. That threshold can’t properly be determined without knowing the ceiling that other teams would offer.

What if, for example, the Vikings decide to reprise the Brett Favre experiment, breaking open the vault (and sending Brad Childress to the airport) in an effort to go all in for the pursuit of a Super Bowl with Brees on board? If they’d offer, say, $30 million per year on a two-year deal, a Saints offer of, say, $23 million per year on a two-year deal would look much different than $23 million per year would seem to be in isolation.

Whether it’s the Vikings, the Broncos, the Cardinals, the Jets, the Browns, or anyone else, what’s lurking behind Door No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, No. 6, or beyond will go a long way toward assessing what the Saints place behind Door No. 1. Before Condon gives Brees a recommendation on what to do about the offer from the Saints, Condon will need to be able to put New Orleans’ offer in context.

Of course, teams making their actual or hypothetical offers known to Condon constitute tampering. But that’s how the game works, and every team plays the game. Especially at the Scouting Combine.

Alex Van Pelt on Andy Dalton: He can be elite

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Aaron Rodgers wasn’t happy to see quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt leave the Packers this offseason and Van Pelt said it was “nice of him to acknowledge that” during an interview with the Bengals website this week.

Van Pelt was being interviewed because he is now the quarterbacks coach for the Bengals, where he’ll be working with Andy Dalton rather than Rodgers. It’s a significant change for Van Pelt after a long run in Green Bay as he moves to coaching a quarterback that doesn’t have the same skill set that Rodgers brings to the table.

Van Pelt said “you play to the player’s strengths” when asked how his coaching style will change in his new home and he made it clear that he sees plenty of them to work with in his review of Dalton’s recent work.

“I got a chance to come in and watch all the tape from the last two years,” Van Pelt said. “I wasn’t quite as in tune with Andy as I was when he came out in the draft. Obviously I evaluated him then and had a high opinion of him then. See the same exact things on tape. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback and a playoff caliber quarterback. He does a lot of really, really good things. The more tape I watched, the more excited I got. I think this guy has potential to be an elite player in the league. It’s our job to challenge him to get to that next level.”

Dalton is entering his eighth season and that makes it fair to wonder if a leap to another level is a likely outcome from any amount of coaching. Playing cleaner than Dalton did while turning the ball over 16 times last season seems reasonable, however, and getting that done should help push the Bengals back in the direction of the playoff berth they’ve missed out on the last two years.

Vontae Davis “heading home to reflect” after free agent tour

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Cornerback Vontae Davis went from one end of the country to the other over the last week in a search for a new team, but it sounds like he’s done with his visits for the time being.

Davis visited with the Bills, Browns, 49ers and Raiders in rather quick succession and wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night that his “amazing tour” had come to an end. He is now “heading home to reflect” with his family before taking any other steps in finding a home after being released by the Colts last November.

It’s not clear which of the teams may have offered Davis a contract. Interest from multiple suitors would give Davis a chance to land a better deal than he’d likely land if just one team was in pursuit.

Assuming Davis lands a job before the March 14 start of free agency, Malcolm Butler, E.J. Gaines, Trumaine Johnson and Kyle Fuller as some of the top names set to hit the open market for teams still in the market for help at cornerback.

Thursday morning one-liners

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The Bills will be hanging onto assistant college scouting director Lake Dawson.

The Dolphins could have a QB fall into their lap at 11.

Patriots WR Julian Edelman posted a workout video.

The Jets could be leaning toward keeping WR Jermaine Kearse.

Some potential free agent fits for the Ravens.

The Bengals will be in the market for a QB this year, perhaps one for the future.

The Browns are entering perhaps the most important Scouting Combine for any team.

The Steelers-sponsored Chuck Noll Foundation has made a donation for concussion research.

The Texans worked out a punter.

It’s worth wondering how much better Colts K Adam Vinatieri‘s numbers would look without that Buffalo blizzard.

The Jaguars have options if they want to take a QB early.

A look at the Titans free agents.

The Broncos need to address their depth and talent at LB.

The Chiefs could use a veteran at WR.

Have the Chargers augmented their numbers by racking up fake Twitter followers since moving to L.A.?

The Raiders paid a $5 million bond in case their stadium project falls through.

The Cowboys have to figure out how to make the offense more conducive to QB Dak Prescott.

Looking at whether Sam Bradford could be a backup option for the Giants.

The health of Eagles LT Jason Peters is the key to what they do up front this offseason.

Washington has to address the offensive line, either in the draft or free agency.

Bears LB Sam Acho is getting more comfortable with his own voice.

Is there a rookie QB in this draft class like Lions QB Matt Stafford?

The Packers have to weigh WR Jeff Janisspecial teams value.

Comparing the Vikings playoff miracle with an Olympic triumph.

A look at which free agents the Falcons can least afford to lose.

The Panthers have a decision to make on RB Jonathan Stewart.

The Saints weren’t as good on third downs as you might think.

Buccaneers line coach Brentson Buckner knows they have a challenge with the QBs in the NFC South.

David Merritt has now played and coached for the Cardinals.

Ranking the many hurdles of Rams RB Todd Gurley.

The 49ers are still waiting for word on whether LB Reuben Foster will be charged.

The Seahawks may struggle to keep WR Paul Richardson.

John DeFilippo: Vikings in middle of QB process right now

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The Vikings have a new offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo and the chances are good that he’ll be working with a new quarterback after spending last season on the Eagles coaching staff.

The big question is whether that quarterback will also be new to the Vikings. Case Keenum and Sam Bradford are definitely free agents and Teddy Bridgewater is set to join them unless there’s an announcement that his contract tolled in 2017, which leaves a lot of possible routes for the team to take heading into the 2018 season.

When DeFilippo was hired, he said he’d have as much say in the decision as the Vikings wanted him to have. He’s voicing those opinions now that the Vikings have started to figure out which way they want to go.

“Right now we’re going to get it fixed, I know that,” DeFilippo said, via Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It’s just a matter of choosing the right person to fit our culture and what we’re trying to do offensively. There’s no doubt that [General Manager] Rick Spielman, coach [MikeZimmer and myself will put our heads together and make the best decision that we think is the best for the Minnesota Vikings. That is the approach we’re going to take, and we’re in the middle of that process right now.”

DeFilippo didn’t hint at where things stand in that process as he talked about “being flexible” to whoever the Vikings wind up putting under center. He said Keenum “brings a lot to the table” and called Bradford, who he worked with in Philly, “the purest passer I have ever coached” while noting the long injury history that makes it tough for a team to put too many eggs in that basket.

Buckner wants to recreate Buccaneers line legacy

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New Buccaneers defensive line coach Brentson Buckner saw firsthand what the Buccaneers could do with a good offensive line.

When the NFC South was formed in 2002, the Panthers line he played with alongside Julius Peppers, Kris Jenkins and Mike Rucker formed an immediate rivalry with the Bucs, which featured Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice.

And while the Bucs bullied their way to the division title in 2002, Bucker was so impressed he flew to Tampa to see their playoff game in person.

“I came down right here for the first playoff game and watched,” Buckner said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “Me, Kris Jenkins, Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers, as much as we disliked Warren Sapp, we admired what they did. And I wanted to see what kind of atmosphere they would create when they came out, the energy with which they played with. And to see those guys run out of the tunnel on Sunday, you thought it was an earthquake.

“And I remember calling Mike Rucker from the stands and was like, ‘This is what we’ve got to create in Carolina. They’re doing this with their front four. It’s not the quarterback running out. It’s not the star running back. This is the defensive line that’s being introduced.’ We wanted what those guys created here, and we tried our best to get it.”

The Panthers did it the following year, winning the division (including an epic 12-9 win over the Bucs which included two blocked kicks by the Panthers linemen to force overtime and win).

The difference between what those two lines had and what Buckner has to work with now is simply talent. Other than Gerald McCoy and project Noah Spence, the Bucs don’t have much to work with, which is much of the reason they were last in the league with 22 sacks. Getting them back to anything resembling the glory days will be a big job.

 

Shoulder injury gives Alshon Jeffery’s contract new perspective

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With a month left in the regular season, Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery swapped another shot at free agency for a four-year extension. The news that he’ll miss up to six months with a previously-undisclosed shoulder injury suffered at training camp in July provides a fresh perspective for Jeffery’s new deal.

If Jeffery had, as many have argued he should, pushed his way to free agency, he would have had a hard time getting $26 million fully guaranteed in a deal signed in March. Under the terms of the contract he signed in December, that’s precisely what he’ll have — $26 million, fully guaranteed, as of March 17.

From the injury to a season that consisted of 57 catches for 789 yards (he added 219 yards in the postseason), who would have given Jeffery $26 million fully-guaranteed in a deal that averages $13 million per year?

It’s entirely possible the Eagles wouldn’t have given Jeffery that same deal in December, if they’d known about the injury. And apparently they didn’t; otherwise, Jeffery would have (and should have) appeared on each and every injury report issued by the team in 2017.

That’s another angle that should be considered: How are the Eagles feeling about the news that Jeffery could miss the preseason due to an injury he apparently concealed from the team all year long? Although the rules prevent the team from cutting him before the balance of his $26 million guarantee vests (due to the injury), the Eagles could choose to play hardball based on what could be characterized as an effort by Jeffery to deceive them by hiding the injury from the team when signing the deal.

And that would be a compelling turn of events, if the Eagles were to choose to go that route. For now, there’s no indication that they will.

Doug Pederson: If Carson Wentz were healthy, he would’ve been Super Bowl MVP

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Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles played so well in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl that some have suggested the Eagles actually caught a break when Carson Wentz got hurt. Eagles coach Doug Pederson doesn’t buy it.

Pederson told Rich Eisen that if Wentz had stayed healthy, the Eagles would have won the Super Bowl with Wentz, and Wentz would have been the Super Bowl MVP.

“Carson Wentz was the MVP talk of the league last year,” Pederson said. “I truly believe if he’s healthy, and I still feel strongly that we’re in the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl with Carson. And he’s the MVP. I just think that’s the way he played last year. He’s a big reason. He’s not the only reason, but he’s a big reason why we were, I believe, 11-2 at the time, playing the Rams, and won the NFC East. For me, being a former quarterback, to have two guys, and really three guys, you throw [Nate Sudfeld] in there, but you’re talking about Nick and Carson who you just don’t bat an eye with either one of these guys. The way they prepare, the way they study, their demeanor on the field, their leadership styles. It’s a blessing to have two veteran guys like that and have a Super Bowl MVP as your backup.”

The Eagles love having a starter and a backup they think they can win the Super Bowl with. The question heading into the offseason is whether they’re going to retain two quarterbacks they can win the Super Bowl with, or trade Foles to try to build an even better team around Wentz.

Buccaneers cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah cleared to return from fractured patella

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After fracturing his patella twice in the last 18 months, Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah has been cleared to return to football, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com.

Adjei-Barimah has appeared in 23 games with eight starts for Tampa Bay after signing out of Bowling Green as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He was suspended for four games for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy late in 2016 and sustained the initial fracture in his right knee. After spending the offseason resting and rehabilitating the injury, Adjei-Barimah was injured again during a practice last August.

Adjei-Barimah is expected to be ready to participate in OTAs in May after being medically cleared to play.