Cowboys continue search for kicker

Dallas Cowboys Training Camp
Getty Images

The Cowboys front office believes that, with the additions of Mazi Smith, Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore and Luke Schoonmaker, they are better. They hope to be better at kicker, which is why they haven’t re-signed Brett Maher.

Tristan Vizcaino is the only kicker currently on the team’s roster, and it would be an upset if he were their kicker on opening day. He has kicked in only 10 games in three seasons.

“Kicker is certainly one we’ll continue to look at options there,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via Todd Archer of ESPN.

Maher made 90.6 percent of his field goal attempts and 94.3 percent of his extra points in the regular season in 2022, setting a team record for points in a season with 137. But after missing a PAT in Week 18 at Washington, Maher set an NFL record with four missed extra points in the wild card playoff win at Tampa. He had another PAT blocked in the divisional round loss to the 49ers on a low kick that was headed left.

Maher remains a free agent, and the Cowboys apparently remain uninterested in a reunion.

The Cowboys didn’t make a play for Brandon McManus, according to Archer, and after the Jaguars signed McManus, they called Dallas to shop Riley Patterson. The Jaguars traded Patterson to the Lions.

Head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned XFL and USFL kickers, and special teams coach John Fassel noted that veterans Robbie Gould, Ryan Succop and Mason Crosby remain free agents. Crosby kicked for McCarthy with the Packers.

“We’re looking at the other leagues. We’re looking at guys that are out on the streets, guys that potentially come in a trade,” Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay said, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “It’s a big mix of all that stuff, and when the time is right we will find the right kicker to add to the competition.”

The Cowboys didn’t sign Maher until Aug. 9 last year after their kicking competition never got off the ground. It is same time, this year, as they continue the search for a reliable option at the position.

Tyler Boyd: I loved the Bengals one-upping the Chiefs by signing Orlando Brown

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
Getty Images

Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd was thrilled to welcome left tackle Orlando Brown to Cincinnati, in part because of the team he was leaving behind.

Boyd said that the Bengals, who have faced the Chiefs in the last two AFC Championship Games, especially love taking a great player from a big rival.

I loved it,” Boyd said, via Joe Danneman of Fox 19. “You know, we have a nice little rivalry with the Chiefs and to see him come over, you know, it’s like, yeah, we one-upped y’all. But at the end of the day, he’s a great player. No matter where he’d have went, he’s probably one of the best at his position. To add him to what we had already, it’s going to allow Joe to more time and allow us to put up more points.”

The rivalry between the Bengals and Chiefs has quickly become one of the best in the NFL, and the Bengals hope the arrival of Brown tips the balance back in their favor. The teams will meet next in Week 17, on New Year’s Eve.

Mac Jones on Bill O’Brien as OC: It’s been really good, it’s been normal

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots
Getty Images

There were instances during the 2022 season where quarterback Mac Jones expressed outward frustration with the Patriots offense.

That should change in 2023 with Bill O’Brien back with New England as the club’s offensive coordinator.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, one word Jones used to describe how things have been with O’Brien so far was “normal.” He may not have meant that as a backhanded reference to last season, but New England’s offensive construction was anything but that in 2022.

“It’s been really good. It’s been normal,” Jones said in his press conference. “I think everything he’s done so far has been really good. I think the communication is the most important part, and trust. I think it starts with that when you’re with a new coach and he’s done a great job in controlling the room. I feel like everybody is on the same page.

“Just got to continue to do it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So, we know that and he’s obviously had great experience in the NFL and at Alabama where I was at, so there’s a lot of good stuff that we’ve talked about. Just looking forward to working with him.”

While Jones never played under O’Brien at Alabama, Jones noted are still terms the two can use that make sense given that both spent time with the Crimson Tide.

And though O’Brien is Jones’ third offensive play-caller in three NFL seasons, the young QB said that he’s used to having different coordinators from his experience in college.

“What I took from that is that you learn from each one of them,” Jones said. “You take the really good things and you kind of add that to your repertoire. And I think with ‘OB,’ obviously that needs to happen and we’re going to work toward that. There’s a lot of familiarity, but it’s a new relationship still and we’re just working on that trust. That’s what I care about. I’m very much so a trustworthy person and that’s what we’re trying to build.”

Jones added that O’Brien has been around different quarterbacks and taken something from each one, which should in turn help him.

“I feel like for me, it’s just being a sponge,” Jones said. “Whatever quarterback he’s coached, I can learn from — whether that’s Bryce [Young] or Deshaun [Watson], or at Penn State — he has such great experience in this league and in the football world. It’s like a walking dictionary, you just pick his brain and see the game how he sees it and how I see it. And then come together and mesh and create a really good offense.”

Jones finished 2022 with a 65.2 percent completion rate, 2,997 yards passing, 14 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 14 games. With O’Brien at the helm, Jones should be poised for a better third season — which will be critical for his career.

Matthew Slater: New kickoff fair catch rule doesn’t make it safer

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
Getty Images

Matthew Slater has built a long career as a special teams ace for the Patriots, so it’s no surprise to learn that he has strong feelings about the NFL’s new kickoff rule.

NFL owners voted to adopt a new rule for the 2023 season that calls for the ball to be placed at the 25-yard-line if a kickoff is fair caught anywhere inside the 25-yard-line. The stated rationale for the change from the league was to increase safety because of the number of concussions that take place on kickoffs, but Slater said on Wednesday that he does not believe that the change will have the desired effect on the game.

“I understand that we want to reduce head injuries and things of that nature. But we don’t always act as if player health and safety is paramount. . . . They say that they’re making the play safer. But the reality is, they haven’t done a single thing to make the play safer,” Slater said, via Jordan Mendoza of “They haven’t changed the rules, they haven’t changed the techniques. There’s still going to be collisions that occur if the ball is not fair caught.”

The rule change was disliked by special teams coaches when it was initially proposed and head coaches like Andy Reid, Dan Campbell, and John Harbaugh have come out in opposition to it over the last couple of weeks as well. Those feelings weren’t enough to stop the rule from passing, however, and everyone will have to adjust to the new reality this fall.

Dalvin Cook resolution could be coming by end of week

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings
Getty Images

The Vikings and running back Dalvin Cook have had an unsettled situation, to say the least, throughout the 2023 offseason. It has seemed at times inevitable that the Vikings will part ways with Cook. The only remaining questions have been when, and how.

A trade remains very possible, and it could happen by the end of the week, once June 1 comes and goes and the Vikings can split the $6.2 cap acceleration over two years, $3.1 million in 2023 and $3.1 million in 2024.

Cook has a base salary of $10.4 million in 2023. The question becomes whether someone else will take on the full salary — and if so whether the next team will want to restructure the deal, converting most of the salary into a signing bonus that would be spread over the remaining three years of the deal, and possibly beyond, through voidable years.

One team to watch continues to be the Dolphins. However, if another team is willing to take on the full salary and the Dolphins aren’t, another team could end up doing the deal.

John Lynch: We’re “incredibly encouraged” by Brock Purdy’s throwing session

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles
Getty Images

Since undergoing surgery to repair his injured right elbow, quarterback Brock Purdy has seemingly passed every checkpoint with flying colors as he looks to be ready to start the 2023 season.

General Manager John Lynch had some more encouraging feedback on the young QB after he started throwing again last week.

“He’s had one [throwing] session thus far and we’re incredibly encouraged by that,” Lynch said Wednesday morning on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “He’s hitting all his marks and that doesn’t surprise us, because he’s putting in all the work.

“As for best-case scenario, we’ll take it as it comes. The hope is he’s ready for training camp. The hope is he’s ready for the regular season.”

While Purdy continues his rehab process, the 49ers have Trey Lance, Sam Darnold, and Brandon Allen to take reps at quarterback during the offseason program.

“We feel good about that position holistically,” Lynch said. “We are not going to put Brock in a situation where he’s not fully healed. That means not just get back, but get back and get in reps under your belt.”

Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have made it clear that Purdy is likely the first quarterback up once he’s healthy. But Purdy will likely need at least a couple of weeks of practice to be the Week One starter. That means the sooner Purdy’s healthy the better. And if he’s available early on in training camp, it’s that much more likely he’ll line up behind center to start the season.

Mike McDaniel sees Tua Tagovailoa benefiting from camera on his helmet in practice

Miami Dolphins Offseason Workout
Getty Images

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been wearing a camera and microphone on the side of his helmet during Organized Team Activities, and Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel says it’s another tool that can help the team with film study.

“It’s not anything earth shattering, it’s a camera, but it does have audio, and I think some of the strong attributes of that technology are that you get to hear play calls, you can library those play calls for players to hear when they’re studying,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel likes being able to watch practice tape and see how a play unfolded from the same view that Tagovailoa saw it from.

“It’s a tool to help really drive home certain coaching points and just see what they’re seeing, to be on the same page as the player,” McDaniel said.

Camera technology has come a long way since the World League of American Football had its helmet cam, and it’s now an easy piece to add to a player’s camera that the player may benefit from having.

Broncos to sign Elliott Fry

NFL: AUG 21 Buccaneers Training Camp
Getty Images

The Broncos had a handful of kickers in for a workout after releasing Brandon McManus last week and they are set to sign one of them.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that the team will sign Elliott Fry to their 90-man roster. They also had former Cowboys kicker Brett Maher and Parker White in for tryouts.

Fry’s first professional work came in the Alliance of American Football in 2019 and he has since spent time with the Bears, Ravens, Panthers, Buccaneers, Falcons, Chiefs, Packers, Bengals, Jaguars, and Chargers. Fry appeared in one game each for the Falcons, Bengals, and Chiefs and made 5-of-6 field goals and 5-of-7 extra points in those appearances.

Fry will become the only kicker on the Broncos roster, but that could change if the team wants to stage a more extended competition this summer.

Titans QBs coach Charles London: Will Levis’ experience in pro-style offense has helped him

NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session
Getty Images

The Titans traded up to select quarterback Will Levis at No. 33 overall last month.

While there’s no guarantee Levis will even see the field in the regular season as a rookie, he’s at least made a solid early impression on his position coach.

Titans passing game coordinator and QBs coach said on Wednesday that Levis’ college experience has helped in the transition to the league.

“I think Will’s done a good job of just coming in, keeping his mouth shut, and going to work,” London said, via Turron Davenport of ESPN. “Obviously, he played in a pro-style offense at Kentucky, so he’s been in the huddle, he’s called plays, he’s been under center. And I think that kind of helped him with his transition so far. But we just ask him the same thing we ask the other quarterbacks — just come out every day and get better, try to improve on the mistakes from the day before.”

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is currently still set to be Tennessee’s starter entering the 2023 season. The club also has 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis at the position.

With Tim Kelly promoted from passing game coordinator to offensive coordinator earlier this offseason, Tennessee is running a new system. That means Levis isn’t the only one in the QBs room learning.

“I know they’re all at different stages of their career, but you teach them all the same way,” London said of implementing the offense. “You come out on the field and you coach them all the same way. You don’t coach Ryan any different than you coach Malik or you coach Will.

“You see what they can handle. You just keep trying to push the envelope with all three quarterbacks. The system’s new for Ryan as well and he’s done a great job of coming in and being demanding of the guys. So, they’re all at different points of their career. But they’re all learning a new offense.”

Sooner or later, Levis is slated to take over at quarterback for Tennessee. We’ll see if Tannehill — who turns 35 in July — can hold off the rookie during the 2023 season.

Mike McDaniel: We’ll make good use of cap space from cutting Byron Jones

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Three
Getty Images

The Dolphins parted ways with cornerback Byron Jones some time ago, but they haven’t realized the financial implications of that move yet.

That will change on Thursday. The Dolphins designated Jones as a post-June 1 cut in order to spread his remaining cap hit out over the 2023 and 2024 seasons, so they will be getting $13.6 million in cap space to work with when May comes to an end.

On Wednesday, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said the team didn’t have any moves in mind right now but that he believes the team will find ways to use the extra space to maximize their chances of success.

“We typically do everything we can to have the best team possible within the guidelines of the salary cap,” McDaniel said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “Not sure where, but I feel confident to say we will make good use of that salary cap room when it comes to the start of the regular season.”

The Dolphins haven’t been mentioned as a potential landing spot for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but having a big chunk of cap room available will make them possible bidders for any other veterans who might shake loose in the coming months.

Robert Saleh is “very optimistic” Breece Hall will be ready for Week One

New York Jets v Green Bay Packers
Getty Images

Earlier this month, Jets G.M. Joe Douglas didn’t rule out running back Breece Hall being ready to go as of Week One, following last year’s ACL tear. Today, coach Robert Saleh had an even stronger assessment.

“I’m very optimistic on that one,” Saleh told reporters, via “I don’t want to jinx it. I mean, the kid’s already hitting over 22 [mph] on the GPS, so he looks frickin’ good. . . .

“He looks good. Again, he’s one of those kids that we’ve had to kind of hold back from him because — it’s weird to say it, you don’t want to heal too fast on an ACL. You’ve got to be able to balance it out with strength. He looks strong. He looks powerful. He’s learning. I’m excited for him to get back on the field. I feel like he won’t need to be limited during training camp, even though we still will just to be conscientious and cautious with him, but he looks awesome.”

Hall was having a solid rookie season before suffering the knee injury in October. The rest of the depth chart includes Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight.

Week One will be a huge game for the Jets, a Monday night visit from the Bills. With every team in the conference playing eight games against the teams of the AFC West and NFC East, there’s a chance only the division champion goes to the postseason.

Losing to the Bills at home to start the season wouldn’t be the best way for the Jets to lay the foundation to topple Buffalo.

Bill Belichick: I wouldn’t say offense is starting from scratch under Bill O’Brien

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama
Getty Images

After last year’s failed offensive coaching experiment, the Patriots brought back Bill O’Brien to be the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

O’Brien last coached for the Patriots in 2011, when he held the same title. He’s back after stints with Penn State, the Texans, and Alabama to lead the club’s O.

In his Wednesday press conference, head coach Bill Belichick said the offense won’t be starting from scratch under O’Brien.

“Every year is different,” Belichick said. “So, you always make adaptations to your system — at least we always do, shouldn’t say everybody does, we do — make adaptations to our system on offense, defense, special teams based on either trends, things that we want to do, things we’ve seen other teams do that we want to incorporate, things like that. So, this year would fall into that category, all three phases as well. So a lot of things are the same, some things we’ve modified.

“We’ll see how it goes. I’m sure we’ll make other adjustments as we go through the spring and training camp.”

Belichick also said he loves working with O’Brien.

“Bill does a great job,” Belichick said. “Had a great relationship with Bill all the way back to before we hired him the first time. And it’s continued, so it’s been — getting up there — around 20 years, somewhere in there.

“Bill’s detailed, he’s smart, he’s got a lot of experience. He’s worked with a lot of different players, different situations.”

The Patriots finished last season 17th in points scored but just 26th in total yards. They’ll need those numbers to come up significantly if the club is to contend in what should be a competitive AFC East in 2023.

Are the Patriots interested in DeAndre Hopkins? Bill Belichick won’t say

Arizona Cardinals v New England Patriots
Getty Images

Receiver DeAndre Hopkins is a free agent, able to sign with any team at any time. Any coach is permitted to comment on Hopkins, at any time.

But they don’t have to.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked on Wednesday about whether his team is interested in Hopkins.

“Yeah, I’m not gonna on players that aren’t on this team,” Belichick told reporters.

And that was that.

There has been some speculation about whether the Patriots would want Hopkins. Former Texans coach Bill O’Brien runs the offense, which given the way things ended for Hopkins in Houston might not be a good thing. Also, Hopkins did not seem to be interested in the Patriots when asked about it earlier this year.

It seems unlikely that the Patriots will pursue Hopkins, or (more importantly) that Hopkins wants to be pursued by the Patriots.

Bill Belichick agrees with thoughts of John Harbaugh, Andy Reid on kickoff changes

Cincinnati Bengals (22) Vs. New England Patriots (18) At Gillette Stadium
Getty Images

The rarely chatty (except when asked about some obscure aspect of football history) Bill Belichick was not very chatty about the recent changes to the kickoff rule.

Still, in the limited words Belichick uttered, his point was clear.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday about the adoption of the college fair catch rule, which gives the receiving team possession at the 25 for any fair catch between the goal line and the field of play, Belichick said this: “We’ll see about all that. I know Coach [John] Harbaugh was pretty involved in that, Coach [Andy] Reid. I think they voiced some comments on it. I probably agree with the things they said.”

Last week, Harbaugh said this: “We thought there were better ideas. . . . The fair catch rule, we had a chance to weigh in on that with all the special teams coaches. We had a long talk and discussion about that. We weren’t for it. We voted against it. We think it’s going to create more high-speed head trauma than not having it in there. That’s our position on it. But we’ll see. They want to give it a shot and take a look at it.”

Said Reid: “I don’t know. We’ll have to go through all that. My thing is, ‘Where does it stop?’ Right? . . . So you start taking pieces [away] — and we’ll see how this goes — but you don’t want to take too many pieces away. You’ll be playing flag football.”

Belichick then was asked about his past comments about keeping the “foot” in “football.” And he gave a characteristic Belichickian response: “I can’t ever remember saying that. . . . I don’t even know what that means, but whatever.”

Given clarification and asked for his thoughts, Belichick said he was only concerned about having a good day at practice and “all the rest of it doesn’t really matter what I think.”

That’s Bill Belichick. He says what he wants, when he wants. And he doesn’t say what he doesn’t want to say.

But his point is clear. He agrees with experienced and influential voices who believe the NFL has made a mistake.

Robert Saleh on DeAndre Hopkins: We love our current receiver group

Los Angeles Chargers v Arizona Cardinals
Getty Images

The Jets showed interest in Odell Beckham Jr. before he signed with the Ravens as a free agent, but it doesn’t sound like they’re going to be in the mix for the latest veteran wideout to hit the open market.

DeAndre Hopkins became a free agent after being released by the Cardinals on Tuesday and Saleh was asked if the Jets will be pursuing him during a press conference on Wednesday.

Saleh acknowledged that there was some “stuff” with Beckham before suggesting the team plans to stand pat at receiver.

“We love our current group,” Saleh said.

The current group is led by Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Corey Davis, Randall Cobb, and Denzel Mims. That will make for a lot of competition for playing time without any new names being thrown into the mix.