Extra Points: QB Deals, NFLPA, Jordan Cameron

In an excellent piece, Bill Barnwell of Grantland places each of the league’s 32 starting quarterbacks into six different buckets based on their contracts, separating, for example, the “prove-it” extensions signed by Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton, the large-bonus deals inked by the likes of Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers, and the marginal pacts that employ Brian Hoyer, Carson Palmer, and other mid-tier options. Perhaps most interestingly, Barnwell dives into the soon-to-be expiring rookie contracts of the quarterbacks from the 2011-12 drafts, and projects that Andrew Luck will eventually sign a mega-extension that surpasses the length and value of Calvin Johnson‘s eight-year, $160MM deal, which contained $60MM in guarantees. The entire piece is extremely thoughtful and well worth a full read.

  • In a memo to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, union special counsel Teri Patterson argued that the league’s domestic violence program is severely flawed, and complained that it views all players as “perpetrators.” Patterson also outlined ten more concerns with the program, which is set to be implemented on Monday, writes Tom Pelissero of USA Today. Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said Patterson’s views couldn’t “be further from the truth.”
  • Browns tight end Jordan Cameron will enter free agency in the offseason, and though he’s off to a subpar start, he isn’t worried about his statistics. “People put so much stock into numbers,” Cameron told Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “You can get caught up in that and really go, ‘Oh, this guy has this. He has that. Why am I not up there?’ We all run different systems. We’re asked to do different things. So that’s just the way it is.” The 26-year-old has just ten receptions, and has graded as a very poor blocker per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). In my estimation, Cameron could be the ideal candidate for a franchise tag in 2015. The TE franchise figure is typically lower than that of any position outside of kicker/punter, meaning Cleveland could retain Cameron relatively cheaply for the short-term and further evaluate the possibility of extending him.
  • A federal judge has put a hold on legalized betting in New Jersey after complaints from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA, writes David Porter of the Associated Press. Governor Chris Christie effectively allowed gambling at the state’s racetracks and casinos through a law signed last week, but the major sports leagues argue that they would be “irreparably harmed” by the law. The issue will be decided in a courtroom, rather than through a law, per Porter.

AFC Links: Sanders, Dolphins, Verrett, Harvin

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders posted career-high numbers while catching passes from Peyton Manning during last night’s game, racking up nine catches for 120 yards and three touchdowns. But if offseason negotiations had worked out differently, Sanders could’ve been working with a different future Hall of Famer — Tom Brady. As Chris Wesseling of NFL.com details, Sanders, who signed an offer sheet with the Patriots as a restricted free agent in 2013, was interested in signing with New England during the 2014 offseason, but only at the right price. “Emmanuel loved it there,” said Sanders’ agent, Steve Weinberg. “He said, ‘Give me Danny Amendola‘s deal and I’m there.'” The Pats gave Amendola a five-year, $28.5MM deal in 2013, while Sanders ultimately scored just $13MM over three years with Denver. “New England was competitive throughout the process,” continued Weinberg. “Had they been aggressive from the beginning it would have gotten done, but, in this market, nobody knew what to do with the wide receivers.” Here’s more from the AFC.

  • As Thursday’s trade deadline approaches, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald looks at several Dolphins who could shipped out for the right compensation. In Salguero’s estimation, offensive lineman Shelley Smith, receiver Brandon Gibson, and defensive end Dion Jordan could all be on the trade block.
  • Chargers rookie cornerback Jason Verrett will visit a shoulder specialist next week to determine the severity of his injury, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports suggested (on Twitter) earlier today that Verrett could miss “significant time.”
  • The Jets performed “extensive background checks” on Percy Harvin during the 2009 draft, according to head coach Rex Ryan, so the club feels as if it knows what it’s getting with the mercurial receiver, writes Anthony Rieber of Newsday.
  • In a series of tweets, Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle documents the frustration of Texans receiver DeVier Posey, a 2012 third-round pick who seemingly isn’t a fit for Bill O’Brien’s offense. The 24-year-old hasn’t been active for a single game this season after suiting up for 25 contests during his first two years in the league. “I want to be there but this is what I’m asked to do, so this is what I have to do,” said Posey. “You get (frustrated) but you understand.” When asked if he thought he would return to Houston in 2015, Posey was unsure. “I have no idea,” he said. “I have no idea. It’s out of my control.”

NFL Not Cooperating With NFLPA Investigation

Although we learned yesterday that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been told to testify in ex-Ravens running back Ray Rice‘s appeal hearing, league officials haven’t been forced to cooperate in the NFLPA’s separate investigation, and seemingly have no plans to do so. Richard Craig Smith, the former federal prosecutor leading the union’s inquiry, tells Rob Maiddi of the Associated Press that the league has not provided him with any documents or witnesses. The Ravens have also failed to assist the NFLPA probe, per Smith.

“I am interested in the facts, and if we get cooperation from all the parties that were involved, we will have an understanding of what happened,” said Smith. “We cannot accept public statements that call for transparency, candor and openness and then not allow the investigators to do their jobs. If the NFL is genuinely concerned about fixing the issues that led to an admitted mistake, then they should be honest and forthright about what they knew and when they knew it. We want both our team and [former FBI director Robert] Mueller’s team each to be able to conduct a thorough review of all the relevant facts.”

The union announced exactly one month ago that it would be undertaking an investigation that would “run parallel” to Rice’s appeal hearing, which is expected to take place in mid-November. The NFLPA probe was expected to delve into the specifics of the initial Rice incident, and examine the machinations of both the NFL and the Ravens that led to Rice’s release and indefinite suspension. The league itself has tasked Mueller with performing a third investigation into the matter.

Neither of the three inquiries are bound by law or carry legal penalties for uncooperative actions, so just as Goodell can disregard the “order” to testify in Rice’s appeal hearing, the NFL won’t be forced to provide any help to the union investigation. I’d ultimately Goodell to testify in the hearing; he’s under enough pressure already that he won’t want it to appear as though he’s hiding anything. But because the league won’t be compelled to share any information with the league, it’s hard to imagine them doing so at their own discretion.

NFC Notes: Cobb, Griffen, Orakpo, Coaches

Randall Cobb started the 2014 season a little slow, and he admits that his frame of mind may have played a role in his lackluster production during the first three games. “The mental side of things is very important,” Cobb told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “I think I was pressing a little bit too much early on this season, trying to do too much instead of just being myself and doing what I do. Just relaxing and playing ball.” Cobb, playing under the final year of his rookie deal with the Packers, also allowed that his contact situation played into his slow start. “I mean, it definitely had something to do with it,” Cobb said when asked about his contract status. “But I think I found peace mentally, and that’s the biggest thing, having that peace and being able to not worry about those things.” I profiled the 24-year-old Cobb as a extension candidate a few weeks ago, and projected that he could receive a contract in line with Golden Tate‘s, five-year, $31MM deal. Here’s more from the NFC.

  • Many NFL observers panned the Vikings’ decision to re-sign defensive end Everson Griffen to a five-year contract worth $42.5MM, but as Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes, the 2007 fourth-round pick has been worth the money so far. Griffen has already registered seven sacks, and Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required) say that he’s an excellent run defender.
  • In a piece for the Sporting News, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap writes that Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo is the latest victim of the evolution of franchise tag use. Per Fitzgerald, clubs simply use the tag as a way to keep players to whom they don’t want to commit. When a player gets injured during his franchise tag season, as Orakpo did, the player is forced to sign a bargain basement deal the next offseason, à la Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer.
  • Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell are among the top head coaching candidates in the league, according to Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post.

Tony Carter Drawing Trade Interest

As trade speculation heats up, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) has identified another name to watch in advance of Tuesday’s deadline. According to Rapoport, Broncos cornerback Tony Carter is “generating interest” on the trade market.

Carter, 28, has seen his role reduced in Denver this season following the arrivals of free agent signee Aqib Talib and first-round pick Bradley Roby. Those two cornerbacks, along with Chris Harris, have shouldered the majority of the defensive snaps at the position for the Broncos, with Kayvon Webster contributing in dime packages during the last few games. As a result, Harris, who played 35 snaps in Week 1, has been relegated to the bench, having been listed as inactive for several contests.

As Rapoport observes, while Carter may not be in the Broncos’ plans at the moment, he should appeal to teams who have suffered injuries at cornerback or who are eyeing potential nickel backs. As Harris showed in 2012, when he grabbed two interceptions, recovered two fumbles, defended 12 passes, and recorded a +5.3 PFF grade (subscription required), he’s capable of holding his own in the secondary.

Carter is on a minimum salary contract with no bonus money, and will be eligible for free agency at season’s end, so he makes for an ideal trade candidate — he’s a low-risk target for a potential suitor, and anything the Broncos get for him would be a bonus, assuming they don’t intend to play him or re-sign him.

Titans GM Downplays Trade Rumors

The Titans are off to a slow start this season, having fallen well back of the playoff teams at 2-5, and the team’s decision to start rookie Zach Mettenberger at quarterback this weekend indicates that the focus has shifted from contending to rebuilding. As such, several veterans have been cited as potential trade candidates, but general manager Ruston Webster isn’t anticipating a busy deadline for his team, as Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com details.

“We actively traded Akeem [Ayers]; that was something we were working on and trying to do and was good for both parties,” Webster said today on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville. “Outside of that, there’s really nothing imminent, nothing on the back burner. I’d be surprised if anything happened before the trade deadline.”

While Ayers had been a key contributor on defense in past seasons, the new coaching staff didn’t have a spot for him, and the return in this week’s trade was minimal — the Titans upgraded from a seventh-round pick to a sixth-rounder for the 2015 draft. There’s a chance the team could do a little better than that for some of its trade chips, but none of them are potential difference-makers that will move the needle significantly for a contender or net the Titans a high draft pick.

Wide receiver Nate Washington, linebacker Wesley Woodyard, and safety Michael Griffin have all been mentioned as players potentially on the block. A PFR poll this morning asked which of those players is most likely to be dealt, and Washington is currently the leader with nearly 50% of the vote. About 20% of you lean toward Webster’s apparent stance, voting that none of those three players will be moved.

The trade deadline is scheduled for Tuesday at 3:00pm central time, so Webster still has about 95 hours to change his mind and swing a deal. We’ll have to wait and see whether the rebuilding Titans indeed stand pat.

Practice Squad Updates: Friday

We’ll keep track of Friday’s practice squad signings and cuts right here, with the most recent moves added to the top. Here’s the latest:

  • The Patriots have filled the two openings on their practice squad, announcing today in a press release that they’ve signed linebacker Ja’Gared Davis and wide receiver Jonathan Krause.

Earlier updates:

  • The Cardinals have signed return specialist Solomon Patton, according to agent Hadley Engelhard (via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times on Twitter). The former Florida Gator signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent, but he was waived by the team earlier this week.

Raiders To Place Woodley, Young On IR

At least two Raiders players won’t be around to try to help lead the team to its first victory of the year, according to head coach Tony Sparano, who confirmed today that defensive end LaMarr Woodley and safety Usama Young have season-ending injuries (Twitter link via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle). According to Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter), practice squad players will likely be promoted to the 53-man roster when Woodley and Young are officially placed on injured reserve.

Woodley, who turns 30 next month, suffered a torn bicep on Sunday, prematurely ending his season and likely his stint with the Raiders as well. The veteran defender signed a two-year deal with the team in the offseason, but the contract didn’t include a signing bonus, which means it’ll be fairly easy for Oakland to get out of at season’s end. With Woodley recovering from this injury, it seems more likely that the Raiders would cut him than commit to a 2015 salary that includes a $3.85MM base and a $1MM bonus due on the fifth day of the ’15 league year.

As for Young, he also signed a two-year contract with the Raiders in the offseason. A frequent contributor on special teams, Young had also taken on a more significant role on defense this season, starting three of the club’s first six contests.

Assuming the Raiders add a pair of defenders to replace their injured players, candidates to be promoted from the practice squad include defensive ends Denico Autry and Shelby Harris, along with linebacker Spencer Hadley, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, and defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin.

Cap Notes: Rice, Kerley, Trades

With the trade deadline approaching, it’s worth keeping an eye on which teams have cap room to spare and which clubs don’t have much flexibility to make moves. Before we get into that though, we have a couple notes on how a pair of players will affect their respective teams’ (or former teams’) caps. Let’s dive in….

  • Because Ray Rice filed a grievance against the Ravens in an attempt to recoup his 2014 base salary, he’ll count against the cap for 40% of that disputed amount, tweets Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Because Rice had been in line for a $3,529,412 salary, the cap charge for Baltimore works out to $1,411,765.
  • Adam Caplan of ESPN.com adds another note on Jeremy Kerley‘s contract details, tweeting that the Jets wideout has $3.841MM in fully guaranteed money at the time of his signing, with an additional $2MM becoming guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2015 league year.
  • As Albert Breer of the NFL Network considers whether there will be any deals of note before Tuesday’s trade deadline, he points out that 15 teams have less than $5MM in cap space, which could make it tricky to complete any sort of significant move.
  • Breer goes on to add that there are six teams with more than $10MM in cap room: The Jaguars ($22.84MM), Browns ($19.06MM), Eagles ($16.31MM), Jets ($12.82MM), Titans ($11.86MM), and Patriots ($10.54MM).

Cowboys Links: Okoye, Sam, Murray

Amobi Okoye practiced for the first time yesterday, and the clock has officially begun ticking. The Cowboys have three weeks to decide whether they want to activate the former first-rounder or keep him on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Regardless, practicing was a big step in the right direction for the 27-year-old. Okoye is recovering from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain condition that causes memory loss and seizures. This resulted in Okoye spending three months in a coma last year. Following such a traumatic experience, the defensive tackle was thrilled to return to the field (via Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com)…

“It was good, it was worth it,” said Okoye. “It was mixed emotions. It felt like it naturally was coming back. I’ve played six years in the league [and], it doesn’t take too long for stuff to come back to you.”

Linebacker Bruce Carter was impressed by his teammate’s determination to return to the game…

“He’s been through a lot,” Carter said. “His story is amazing. A guy like that who works real hard, I see him all the time working [with strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Woicik] one-on-one. Just to see him actually working with [us] and see it pay off is a great thing. I think he’s going to do great things for us.”

Let’s see what else is happening in the Cowboys organization…

  • Owner Jerry Jones attributed the release of Michael Sam to “a numbers game,” tweets Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Jones clarified that Sam was great at practice and worked “very, very hard.”
  • Members of the Cowboys’ 2013 draft class are already contributing to the team, and Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com points to first-round pick Travis Frederick as the best of the bunch.
  • The Cowboys have enough money under the cap to fit a veteran, but Archer doesn’t believe the team is going to be active at the trade deadline.
  • Despite DeMarco Murray‘s hot start to the season, Bob Sturm of The Dallas Morning News would still move on from the veteran in free agency if the team could draft a stud running back like Georgia’s Todd Gurley. Since the team won’t have that foresight, Sturm believes the team should franchise the running back.