Matthew Stafford working out with Lions while wife recovers from brain surgery

Getty Images

Although he took a little time off to be with his wife, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is back with the team this week.

Stafford has returned to voluntary offseason workouts in Detroit, according to multiple reports.

Kelly Stafford revealed on Sunday that she needed 12 hours of brain surgery and is now at home recovering.

The Lions have said little about Stafford’s family situation, other than to say they want to support both Matt and Kelly during this time. The Staffords have three daughters, 2-year-old twins and a baby born in August.

What will Ben Roethlisberger’s new deal look like?

Getty Images

As the 15th anniversary of his Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s selection as the 11th overall pick in the draft approaches, Roethlisberger has signed a contract that will dwarf the base six-year, $22.26 million deal he received in 2004. So how much will Roethlisberger make?

Although the Steelers haven’t been shy about paying Roethlisberger close to market value, Roethlisberger was careful about not letting out details of his last deal. That contract, signed in March 2015, put him at $21.85 million per year in new money, not far behind Aaron Rodgers‘ former rate of $22 million per year, the top of the market at the time.

Rodgers is now at $33.5 million per year in new money, and Russell Wilson recently jumped to $35 million. Our guess is that Roethlisberger’s new contract falls somewhere between Matt Ryan‘s $30 million per year new-money average and Rodgers’ current rate.

The new contract will be a two-year extension. If the Steelers remain true to their past business practices, they will pay guaranteed money only in the form of a signing bonus and first-year salary.

With $5 million already earned in March and $12 million more due this season, Roethlisberger could get a signing bonus in the range of $45 million, since that’s the only guaranteed money he’ll receive on what will be a three-year commitment. The two-year extension possibly will fall between $60 million and $64 million, putting the new-money average between $30 million and $32 million and the total value from signing of the new three-year deal at $77 million to $81 million, with an average worth at signing of anywhere from $25.67 million to $27 million.

For now, this is just as semi-educated guess. The real numbers eventually will be disclosed, even if Roethlisberger and his agent refrain (as they did in 2015) from trumpeting the numbers right out of the gates.

Ravens extend kicker Justin Tucker

Getty Images

The Ravens turned over most of their defense this offseason, but they made sure to keep some continuity on special teams.

According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, the Ravens are about to announce a contract extension for Justin Tucker, keeping the best kicker in the league in place.

Tucker was entering the final year of the four-year, $16.8 million deal he signed in 2016, right up against the deadline to extend tagged players in July.

The team has announced a 2:30 p.m. press conference.

Tucker has a career 90.1 field goal percentage, which tops the league’s all-time accuracy list. He missed his first career extra point attempt last season (making him 241-of-242, or 99.6 percent).

Mean Joe Greene to announce Steelers’ first pick

Getty Images

Half a century after he was the first overall pick in the 1969 NFL draft, Mean Joe Greene will get some recognition on draft night.

The Steelers have announced that Greene will be in Nashville on Thursday night and will go to the podium to call the team’s first pick.

It is special,” Greene told the team’s website. “Since my draft day, more than 50 years ago, to be here and to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers No. 1 draft choice is very humbling, very humbling.”

Players didn’t attend the draft in Greene’s day, and he admits now that he was disappointed to be going to the Steelers, who had only won two games the year before and had never won a championship.

“I got a phone call,” Greene said. “I was at my dining room table. Me and [late wife] Agnes. I said ‘Agnes that was someone from the Pittsburgh Steelers. They drafted me number one.’ And I didn’t want to go to that team. I didn’t know any better. All I was dealing with was what I had seen on television. The record. It wasn’t one of my favorite teams. I liked the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and Dallas Cowboys. They were winning then.”

Now Greene is a Hall of Fame Steelers player who went on to have a long post-playing career working for the Steelers, and he says he’s looking forward to meeting their first-round pick.

“I will be sure to let him know that this is the best organization in the National Football League,” Greene said.

That will be a special moment for some young player on Thursday night.

Ryan Pace open to drafting a kicker

Getty Images

The Bears have signed three kickers since releasing Cody Parkey, but they may not be done making additions at the position.

The Bears have five picks — one each in the third, fourth and fifth rounds and a pair of seventh-rounders — in this week’s draft and General Manager Ryan Pace said on Tuesday that he’s open to using a pick on another kicker if they have one at the top of their board at some point in the next few days.

“It just depends on where you have the kicker graded,” Pace said, via TheAthletic.com. “If he’s graded at that value and we get to that place in the draft and that [name] is sticking up there that high, I think you have to explore it.”

The seventh-round picks would be likeliest spot for the team to take a kicker, but one imagines the Bears were paying attention on Tuesday when word of Robbie Gould‘s trade demand broke. Gould mused about a return to the Bears before the 49ers franchise-tagged him and his family is there, which may make it a place the Bears look as they try to solidify the position.

Jaylon Smith is an investor in the therapy that helped his knee heal

Getty Images

A bit like Sy Sperling with Hair Club, Jaylon Smith is not only a cryotherapy client, but he’s also an investor.

Smith, the Cowboys linebacker who suffered a horrible knee injury in his last college football game but eventually recovered well enough that he started all 16 games last year, is now investing in iCRYO, a cryotherapy business, which he says helped him to get better.

“It’s something that’s been around, but not everyone has experienced it. I can be a voice, a face, for cryo and iCRYO. I just love what it does from a healing standpoint relieving muscle pain, sprains, swelling,” Smith said. “Cold therapy is wonderful, and I believe everyone should be doing it, not just athletes. It’s an energizer in overall life.”

Cryotherapy patients stand in very cold chambers, and its adherents say it can ease inflammation and help to repair damaged tissue. Although its effectiveness is unproven, it is growing in popularity among athletes who think it aids in recovery.

Chris Johnson signing one-day deal to retire with Titans

Getty Images

Chris Johnson insists he can still run with any back in the NFL.

He’s not going to try to be one anymore, however.

According to Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website, Johnson is signing a one-day deal to retire as a member of the Titans today.

“I feel like if I trained the right way, I’d still be in the 4.2s,” Johnson said. “I know for sure I’d get 1,000 yards if I laced them up.

“Shoot, that’s not even a question. You put me in an offense where I’m the starting back, there’s no way I wouldn’t get 1,000 yards. I could still do it, but it’s time to move onto the next situation.”

If he could, it’s reasonable to wonder why he isn’t. But Johnson hasn’t played in a year, after a four-game stint with the Cardinals in 2017 that saw him average 2.5 yards per carry.

Nevertheless, he had a remarkable career, which he signaled with the 4.24-second 40-yard dash he ran at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine.

After rushing for 1,228 yards as a rookie, he exploded for 2,006 yards in 2009, earning the CJ2K nickname.

Johnson finished his career with 9,651 rushing yards. He spent a year with the Jets and three seasons with the Cardinals.

Saints pick up fifth-year option on Sheldon Rankins

Getty Images

Sheldon Rankins left last season on a cart, after tearing his Achilles in the playoffs.

The Saints are apparently confident in his return, and in his future.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Saints are picking up the fifth-year option on the former first-round defensive tackle.

Rankins could still begin this season on the physically unable to perform list because of the timing of his injury (in the divisional round against the Eagles).

But he’s been enough of an impact player in the middle of an improved Saints defense that securing him for 2020 was the reasonable thing to do.

Cowboys exercise Ezekiel Elliott’s fifth-year option

Getty Images

Whether the Cowboys sign running back Ezekiel Elliott to a long-term deal or not is going to be an open question for at least a little while, but there wasn’t any doubt about their desire to have him on hand in 2020.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said recently that the team will “obviously” exercise their fifth-year option on Elliott’s contract. Field Yates of ESPN reports that they officially did so on Wednesday.

The deal is guaranteed for injury only, so the Cowboys could back out of it next year but it would likely take some negative off-field developments for the team to make that call.

Elliott led the league in rushing as a rookie and again last year with the Cowboys winning the NFC East in each of those seasons. He’s racked up a lot of mileage over his first three seasons, which has led some to believe the Cowboys could choose to move on rather than make a long-term commitment but picking up the option means a definitive call on that front isn’t likely to come in the immediate future.

Giants restructure Kevin Zeitler’s contract

Getty Images

The Giants acquired guard Kevin Zeitler from the Browns earlier this offseason and they’ve tweaked his contract ahead of his first season with the team.

Field Yates of ESPN reports that the team has converted $7.5 million of Zeitler’s $10 million salary for this season into a signing bonus. That clears $5 million in cap room for the team this year.

Zeitler is signed through the 2021 season with non-guaranteed salaries of $10 million and $12 million. Those were also the cap hits, but both will rise by $2.5 million as a result of the conversion.

The NFLPA’s daily cap report has the Giants with just over $14 million in space that they can use toward signing their draft class and making other tweaks to the roster as they head into the 2019 season.

Aaron Rodgers appreciates Matt LaFleur’s “very clear messaging”

AP

The Packers have gotten some time to get used to head coach Matt LaFleur since the offseason program started earlier this month and one of the things that has come through for the players is the sense of a new beginning.

LaFleur said on Tuesday that he will “always pay credit and respect” to the past successes of the Packers organization, but said that he’s focused on “making history” rather than living in it. LaFleur’s focus on now has found support from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“I think the great thing about Matt is it’s been very clear messaging,” Rodgers said, via PackersNews.com. “He’s been great in front of the room. It’s a forward focus. It’s about building today for a better tomorrow. He’s done a great job of talking about how the most important thing is us moving forward together and having a deference and appreciation for the past.”

The overall history of the Packers is a rich one, but missing the playoffs the last two years means the recent past hasn’t been quite as fruitful. Moving past all of it will be necessary for LaFleur to truly make a fresh start in Green Bay.

Report: Broncos won’t go to $15 million a year for Chris Harris

Getty Images

The Broncos only received Chris Harris‘ “pay me or trade me” ultimatum yesterday, and they may already be at an impasse.

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, the star cornerback’s agent told the team he was looking for a new deal that exceeds $15 million per year Citing a source, Klis also reports the Broncos aren’t prepared to go to that level for Harris, so things could turn ugly in a hurry.

Harris just received a $1 million option bonus in March, and is due to make $7.9 million this year on the final year of the deal he signed in 2014. He hasn’t shown up for the offseason program yet. The Broncos gave cornerback Kareem Jackson a three-year deal worth $11 million a year this offseason, which can’t help Harris’ mood when he’s looking for a raise.

Elway has said he would talk to Harris’ agent after the draft.

“I don’t have time right now,” Elway said Tuesday. “I’m busy with the draft. We’ll talk about Chris. He’s under contract, so we’ll talk about that when the draft is over.

“When I say this, I said we’re going to talk about it. It doesn’t mean we’re going to do it.”

If they were going to move Harris, this would be the time, so the draft pick compensation they get could go toward filling a rather sizable hole on their depth chart.

Bruce Arians: Bucs would need “hellacious” offer to trade down

Getty Images

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians inherits a team that was bad enough last year to earn the fifth overall pick in the draft. On Thursday night, they’ll use it. Unless they trade it.

“There would have to be some hellacious picks [offered],” Arians said Tuesday, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “There’s five guys on the board I love. You’d have to throw the bank and open the vault for [G.M.] Jason [Licht] to move down. I’m not saying that we wouldn’t. Just looking at the guys that are there. There’s really six guys that are once-in-a-generation-type players. I feel great about this draft.”

If that’s the case, there’s no reason to trade down. But this is also a very deep draft, and Arians knows that in the crapshoot lottery that the draft will always be, it’s always better to have more scratch-off tickets. The question is how many more tickets would it take to get them to give up Ticket No. 5.

The Bucs are actually in a good spot to do a deal, given that the Giants pick at No. 6. If a player like quarterback Dwayne Haskins is still on the board and if other teams sense that this eleventh-hour push for quarterback Daniel Jones is nothing more than an effort to get people off the potential Giants-want-Haskins scent, a team that really wants Haskins could decide to leapfrog Dave Gettleman and company.

Of course, the Giants would never admit that they wanted Haskins if someone trades up to get him before they can. Such a thing would not look good on Dave Gettleman’s resume.

Sam Darnold: Will be fun to just attack this year

Getty Images

The Jets kept things very conservative on offense for most of quarterback Sam Darnold‘s rookie season, but a coaching change appears to be pushing things in a different direction.

Darnold and new head coach Adam Gase are still getting to know one another, but Darnold said that one thing has already become clear to him about how the offense will evolve in his second season.

“It’s going to be fun to just attack this year,” Darnold said, via Newsday. “It’s going to be our thing to attack defenses. With Coach Gase and all the coaches on that side of the ball, it’s been awesome. Good things to come. We can all tell.”

Darnold said that Gase has spoken to him about how the Dolphins approached playing him last year and he said he hopes to get the same information from defensive coordinator Gregg Williams about what the Browns saw while preparing for their game against the Jets. The Jets were 0-3 in those games and will be hoping the offense they’re putting in place will lead to better results.

Saints grateful for back-to-back West Coast games

Getty Images

Complaining about schedules is as much a rite of spring as the draft.

But Saints coach Sean Payton said he was actually relieved when he said that he had back-to-back road games against the Rams and Seahawks in September.

Via Luke Johnson of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Payton said the plan was to stay out there between the Week Two and Week Three Games.

“The ability to go out, play in L.A. and stay on that time zone rather than create two road trips back and forth, it basically creates one trip West and back home as opposed to two,” Payton said.

While details are still to be ironed out, Payton joked that players would prefer it to be in Washington rather than California for tax purposes. Regardless, those trips can often become positives for team, a bonding experience after the roster is settled following training camp.