Dolphins Targeting Todd Gurley In Draft

The Dolphins rushing attack was the most dynamic part of the club’s offense in 2014 — third-year pro Lamar Miller ran for more than 1,000 yards, scoring eight touchdowns, and Miami ranked second in rushing DVOA, per Football Outsiders. But the team reportedly wants to add another option to its backfield, as multiple sources tell Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald that the Dolphins “covet” Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

“He’s a talent,” Miami assistant general manager Eric Stokes said of Gurley. “He’s definitely a player that his ability stands out and shines. He’s an exciting guy to watch. We’ve enjoyed working through that process with him and seeing him. From there, we’ll see where things shake out.”

Let’s take a look at some more Dolphins notes, courtesy of Beasley’s Herald colleague Barry Jackson:

  • With Dion Jordan‘s future with Miami in doubt, the Dolphins could look to select a defensive end in this week’s draft, per Jackson. Fellow end Cameron Wake is 33 years old, while Olivier Vernon is a free agent after this season, so depth at the position could be an issue.
  • On the other hand, Jackson writes, the club is high on young defensive lineman Derrick Shelby (who saw more than 400 snaps last season) and LB/DE Chris McCain, so perhaps Miami feels comfortable with its option along the defensive line.
  • General manager Dennis Hickey has taken risks on players with character questions in the past, so Washington CB Marcus Peters and Oklahoma WR Dorial Green-Beckham probably aren’t off the Dolphins’ draft board. Peters, specifically, had a private workout with Miami, and PFR’s Rob DiRe has the club selecting Peters with its first-round pick.

PFR Originals: 4/19/15 – 4/26/15

The original content produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

Week In Review: 4/19/15 – 4/26/15

The headlines from the past week at PFR:

Key News:

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Other:

Sunday Roundup: Draft, Weddle, J. Houston

Let’s take a look at some notes from around the league on this Sunday afternoon, including one note on the first overall pick in Thursday’s first round:

  • Multiple teams have reached out to the Buccaneers recently to determine what it would take to move up to the No. 1 overall pick, according to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). However, Getlin adds in a second tweet that although the Bucs have listened, no offer has been strong enough for the team to seriously consider trading down just yet.
  • Similarly, Conor Orr of NFL.com writes that Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has fielded calls on Oakland’s No. 4 overall selection.
  • In a separate piece, Orr writes that the Chiefs are keeping the lines of communication open with star outside linebacker Justin Houston, who was slapped with the franchise tag in March. Kansas City has a little under three months to work out a long-term deal with Houston, and the fact that talks are still ongoing and are still progressing is a good sign that something will get done.
  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic believes Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon would be the perfect first-round choice for the Cardinals, who hold the No. 24 overall pick.
  • Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post feels the Broncos should take an offensive tackle in the first round, even if they have to trade up a couple of spots to do it. Renck goes on to examine some of the prospects that could be available when Denver is on the board.
  • Chargers safety Eric Weddle feels “highly disrespected” by the team’s refusal to engage in contract talks despite his desire to retire with the organization, but Matt Calkins of U-T San Diego believes the Chargers are taking the right approach.
  • Given that the Jaguars feel better about their roster than they have in the past two seasons, Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union would not be surprised if the team traded a couple of picks to move into the back of round 1 or up in rounds 2-3.
  • Continuing a theme among NFL beat writers, Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean looks at the offensive side of the Titans‘ roster heading into the draft and offers his predictions as to what the team will do to address its deficiencies on that side of the ball during draft weekend.
  • Washington GM Scot McCloughan‘s history suggests he will select an edge rusher with his top pick in this year’s draft, writes Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com. Although Tandler says Randy Gregory‘s red flags will probably keep him off McCloughan’s board, Vic Beasley and Dante Fowler, Jr. would both be good bets.

NFL Clears Ray McDonald

Former 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald, who signed a modest one-year deal with the Bears this offseason, has been cleared of any violation of the league’s personal conduct policy for the domestic violence incident that landed him in jail last year, according to Adam Jahns of The Chicago Sun Times. McDonald was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence on August 31, 2014, but due to insufficient evidence, no charges were filed. As Jahns writes, the league completed its investigation of the incident on Friday, and NFL general counsel Jeff Pash released the following statement:

“We have completed that [domestic-violence] investigation. [Special counsel for investigations] Lisa [Friel] and her team completed that investigation [and] did not establish a violation of the personal-conduct policy. We informed the player and the [NFL] Players Association.’’

However, the league continues to investigate an alleged sexual assault that involves McDonald. Again, no charges have been filed in that matter, but the incident did prompt the 49ers to release the 29-year-old in December despite his promising 2014 campaign. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), McDonald was the league’s 12th-best 3-4 defensive end in 2014, grading well both against the run and as a pass rusher.

It is unclear when the second investigation will conclude, though as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk wrote last month, McDonald has announced his intention to sue the woman who accused him of sexual assault.

 

Eagles Could Still Trade Bradford

After making one of the more surprising trades in recent memory when they dealt for Sam Bradford last month, the Eagles have insisted that they are not planning on using Bradford as a trade chip to move up in the draft to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. However, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Philadelphia has done nothing to dispel that rumor since the deal was completed.

Specifically, the team has engaged in no contract talks with Bradford, who is entering the final year of his current deal and is owed nearly $13MM in 2015. Of course, Bradford could have some say in that as well. One team that could deal for Bradford would be the Browns, who are in desperate need of a franchise signal-caller and who have already tried to acquire the Oklahoma product this offseason. Under the framework of a three-team deal that Florio has put together, Cleveland would receive Bradford, Philadelphia would move up high enough in this year’s draft to select Mariota, and a third team could receive multiple high-round draft picks from bot the Eagles and Browns.

But if Bradford had his druthers, he surely would not want to be shipped to Cleveland, and if he were to sign a new multi-year deal with the Eagles, he would only become more valuable to a team like the Browns, which could keep him under club control beyond 2015. And that’s not to mention the financial aspect of a new contract, which would certainly require extensive negotiation. Bradford, after all, is hoping to play his way into a big payout in 2016 and is not willing to accept a “substandard” contract.

So the saga continues, despite the Eagles’ insistence that Bradford is not a stepping stone to Mariota. However, if a trade were to happen, one would think that the parameters would already be in place, or at least preliminary discussions would have been held. But just as there has been no chatter surrounding a new deal between the Eagles and Bradford, there have similarly been no substantiated rumblings about Philadelphia trading him. In any event, it looks like all possibilities remain on the table, and only Thursday night will bring any real clarity.

In addition to the Bradford piece, there are a few more Eagles nuggets to pass on today:

  • The Eagles cannot hide their interest in UConn CB Byron Jones, and Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer examines the case for Philadelphia to grab the speedy, physical corner with the No. 20 overall pick.
  • In a separate piece, McLane examines the size, speed, and other physical measurables that head coach Chip Kelly–whose “big people beat up little people” mantra has become a catchphrase–and vice president of player personnel Ed Marynowitz use to weed out certain players from their draft board. Although scheme, position, fit, and intelligence of course remain important components of the team’s evaluation process, if a player does not have the right build, the odds are he will not wind up on the Eagles’ radar. McLane wonders if that process is unnecessarily restricting the crop of talent from which Philadelphia picks.
  • Speaking of Marynowitz, Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer examines the challenges that await the newly-promoted 31-year-old.
  • Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com writes that the Eagles will not be selecting Alabama safety Landon Collins with their first round selection. Collins is widely regarded as the best safety in an otherwise weak class.

 

East Notes: E. Manning, Cowboys, Dolphins

Eli Manning is entering the final year of his contract with the Giants, and there have been no discussions about an extension, writes Jordan Raanan of NJ.com. However, the lack of negotiations has not phased the two-time Super Bowl MVP.

“I haven’t made a big deal about it,” Manning said. “[It] is not something I’m going to argue about or make a fuss about.”

Of course, Manning did receive a six-year, $97.5MM deal from the Giants back in 2010, a contract he is going to play out, so he has reason to be patient as his next contract negotiations approach. One would think that he is in line for one more big payday, even though he will be 35 when he hits unrestricted free agency next winter. New York could put the franchise tag on him if it comes down to it, though it is difficult to imagine Manning finishing his career on anything other than a multi-year deal with Big Blue.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from the league’s east divisions:

  • Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News believes there is only one direction for the Giants to go with the No. 9 overall pick in the draft: offensive line. Even if an elite wide receiver prospect like Amari Cooper or Kevin White falls to New York, Vacchiano believes the team should resist temptation and grab one of the top offensive linemen like Brandon Scherff or Ereck Flowers.
  • Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News looks at the top priorities for the Cowboys heading into the draft. He lists cornerback and defensive line as the two positions the team absolutely must address.
  • For a number of reasons, the Cowboys have been pretty successful in the draft under head coach Jason Garrett. Garrett and assistant director of player personnel Will McClay have a good eye for talent, executive VP Stephen Jones has wielded a “firm and disciplined hand,” and owner Jerry Jones is meddling a little less. As David Moore of The Dallas Morning News writes, the one drawback to success in the draft is that other teams want to poach the successful team’s players, which has happened with the Cowboys this offseason. Running back DeMarco Murray, linebacker Bruce Carter, and special teams ace Dwayne Harris were all part of Garrett’s first draft class and all left in free agency, so the team must now deal with the unique challenge that drafting well presents: not only adding talent to the nucleus of the roster, but replacing lost talent in the most cost-effective manner possible, which includes mining hidden gems in the lower rounds. Dallas must show they are up to that task if they are to repeat as NFC East champions.
  • John Keim of ESPN.com takes a look at a number of Robert Griffin III-related questions in his latest mailbag, including the ramifications of Washington‘s decision to either exercise or not exercise RGIII’s fifth-year option.
  • In a couple of Dolphins-related items, James Walker of ESPN.com examines whether Miami would really be willing to roll the dice on Georgia RB Todd Gurley and what the holdup is in exercising Ryan Tannehill‘s fifth-year option.
  • In Bill Belichick‘s 15 drafts with the Patriots, the team has traded up 17 times and traded down 17 times. As Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald writes, New England is one of two teams holding five of the top 101 picks in this year’s draft, so you can expect more wheeling and dealing from the Pats this week.
  • Despite the buzz surrounding Marcus Mariota and the disappointment surrounding Geno Smith, Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News believes the Jets should go with the “strategically smart” decision and trade down from their No. 6 overall pick to select Stanford OT Andrus Peat.

North Notes: Browns, A. Brown, Vikings

The Browns have drafted a quarterback in the first round in two of the past three seasons, and by the time their first pick in this week’s draft rolls around–they hold the N0. 12 overall selection–the top two quarterbacks in the class, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, will be long gone. After those two signal-callers, the general consensus is that the drop-off to the next tier of QBs is pretty steep.

But Cleveland needs a quarterback. They’ve needed one since they rejoined the league in 1999. Which is why, despite their recent investments at the quarterback position, investments that can only be classified as abject failures at this point, they may consider moving up in the draft to nab Mariota. Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Browns’ interest in Mariota is “very real,” but whether they decide to pull the trigger and trade up would of course depend on the price. Trading up to the No. 2 overall pick–which they may have to do, since the Titans, who currently hold that selection, are reportedly more interested in Mariota than many originally believed–would probably be too cost-prohibitive.

But if Mariota slides past Tennessee, than the Browns may be tempted. In addition to the No. 12 overall pick, they also hold the No. 19 selection, so they have the ammunition to move up. Given the team’s series of missteps at quarterback, such a move would certainly make Browns fans nervous, but until Cleveland gets a franchise player under center, they will continue to stare up at the other three teams in their division. Despite his shortcomings, Mariota has the chance to be that player if the system, and the price, is right.

Now for some more notes from the league’s north divisions:

  • Antonio Brown, who is coming off a magnificent 2014 campaign, is reportedly trying to renegotiate his current contract with the Steelers. But as Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, Pittsburgh holds all the cards at the moment. Brown would suffer significant fines, signing bonus give-backs, and lost wages if he were to hold out beyond voluntary workouts and OTAs this spring, and the Steelers simply do not renegotiate this early in a player’s contract (Brown still has three years left on his current deal).
  • Matt Vensel of The Star Tribune looks at a few key positions the Vikings might target in the first round of the 2015 draft and makes an argument for each. Ultimately, he concludes that trading back might represent the team’s best option.
  • Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press says all signs point to the Vikings selecting Michigan State corner Trae Waynes in Thursday’s first round.
  • Although Matt Forte‘s decision to skip the opening phase of the Bears‘ offseason program was reported, Martellus Bennett‘s decision to do the same thing went unannounced. Bennett is coming off a career year, but the average annual salary of his current deal ($5.1MM) puts him fairly low on the list of the league’s highest-paid tight ends. As ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson writes, the team has a three-day voluntary minicamp scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday of the coming week, and the Bears will have a better idea of Forte’s and Bennett’s offseason intentions at that time.
  • Kyle Meinke of MLive.com ranks the Lions‘ pre-draft needs, with the guard position topping the list.

Five Teams Interested In Chris Polk

Five teams are in the running for free agent running back Chris Polk, Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com tweets. One of the teams with interest in Polk, he adds, is from the NFC East. The former Eagle is currently weighing his options.

The Eagles rescinded Polk‘s RFA contract tender on Friday, making him an unrestricted free agent. According to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com, Philadelphia was open to re-signing the running back at a lower salary, but the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement.

Polk, 25, took on a slightly larger role in Philadelphia’s offense last season behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, totaling 172 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries. After agreeing to a trade that sent McCoy to the Bills, the Eagles – presumably expecting Polk to play an even more significant part on the offense in 2015 – assigned him a $1.542MM RFA tender. Later in March, however, the Eagles landed DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews to go along with Sproles, creating a back log on the running back depth chart.

Now, Polk is on the open market and he just might land with a divisional rival of the Eagles.

Extra Points: Farmer, Pitta, Giants

Over the weekend, Chris Wesseling of NFL.com looked at five GMs in need of a strong draft, including Browns GM Ray Farmer. Thanks to the Sammy Watkins trade, Farmer has a pair of first-round picks for the second consecutive year and, as Wesseling notes, he can’t afford to blow them this time around. Here’s a look around the NFL..

  • Dennis Pitta said at an event for special Olympics tonight that his goal is to play this season, but it’s still too early for him to know, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets. The Ravens tight end has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons but is among the most productive offensively when healthy.
  • The Giants‘ problems are far from fixed, but they don’t have as many glaring holes to fill as they did when last year’s draft rolled around and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com thinks they should consider moving up. If a defensive difference-maker such as Leonard Williams or Dante Fowler Jr. slips past the top four or five, Graziano would support Big Blue moving up, so long as the cost was reasonable. Unfortunately, Williams looks like Oakland’s top choice at No. 4 and Fowler looks like Washington’s top choice at No. 5.
  • In today’s mailbag, a reader asks Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com if he thinks the Titans might cut or restructure running back Shonn Greene and guard Andy Levitre. Green is due $3.25MM in 2015 and would only leave $833K in dead money, so he could very well get cut if and when Antonio Andrews beats him out in camp. Cutting Levitre, meanwhile, wouldn’t save the Titans all that much money, so he’s not a likely cut for them.