Extra Points: Michael Sam, Saints, Dolphins

Let’s look at some assorted notes from around the league…

  • Michael Sam‘s deal with the Montreal Alouettes is for one year, but it does contain an option year for 2016, clarifies Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier that Sam will earn $100K for 2015, and $150K for 16, well above the usual rate for CFL players.
  • We heard earlier today that the Saints would be making some changes to their personnel department, and Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (Twitter link) confirms the firings have begun, as two area scouts have been let go.
  • The Dolphins have locked up Ryan Tannehill, Mike Pouncey, and Ndamukong Suh in recent months, but the club’s attitude toward roster-building was forged in 2014, as GM Dennis Hickey explains to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.

Extension Candidate: Andrew Whitworth

With four straight postseason appearances under their belt, the Bengals didn’t have many pressing needs heading into draft season. The club’s pass rush was a concern, but many mock drafters projected that Cincinnati would select an offensive tackle in an attempt to shore up their front five for years to come. Prior to the draft, Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, a free agent after the 2015 season, didn’t seem concerned that a rookie could eventually take his spot:

I’ve always had the opposite mentality,” Whitworth said. “Mess up and draft somebody at my position because you are going to sit around and watch him sit the bench. That’s always been my mentality. I see it as a challenge.”

That was April 28. Fast forward six days to May 4, after Cincinnati had drafted not only Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round, but Oregon tackle Jake Fisher in the second, and the 33-year-old Whitworth had changed his tune. “It’s hard to [Nov 30, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) blocks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sportsbe a team leader] when that feeling is not reciprocated and is just a one way street,” said Whitworth. “‘We’d like you to prepare two guys to be really good football players, we’d like you to be the leader of football team, but we’d also like to have the best situation possible for us. We’ll talk to you when we want to.’

Later that week, Whitworth was involved in a bizarre social media snafu, as a message sent out from his Twitter account seemed to express even more frustration about his future with the Bengals. “[Bengals owner] Mike Brown told me I’m done here,” the tweet read. “Said I can play this year and go home. So I told him I want a raise or I’ll sit my a– at home this …” Whitworth later downplayed the situation, blaming the incident on his wife’s unfamiliarity with technology, but it’s easy to connect the dots between his earlier vexation with management and this tweet, whether or not it was intended to be released.

Despite his age, the fact that Whitworth hasn’t yet been offered an extension is a bit strange, simply because Cincinnati is wi

lling (much more so than other NFL clubs) to hang onto its veteran players. Nearly every other team in the league would have released defensive tackle Domata Peko — among the NFL’s worst at his position — and saved more than $3MM in cap space, but as of now, he remains on the roster. 30-year-old corner Leon Hall has the second-highest cap figure on the Bengals’ roster, and has lost a step after rupturing each Achilles in the past four seasons — but he hasn’t been cut or even asked to restructure.

However, Whitworth, who along with Peko is the longest-tenured Bengal, will head into his contract year without a new deal on the horizon. The former second-round pick will earn a $5MM base salary in 2015, and account for $6.2MM on Cincinnati’s cap. While that may seem modest given Whitworth’s production, his current contract terms are part of a two-year extension tacked onto the back end of an old contract, so his ~$9.76MM AAV is actually good for the sixth-highest left tackle contract in the league.

Obviously, dollar figures will be the driving force in any sort of negotiations between Whitworth and the Bengals. But Whitworth’s fit along the offensive line could be a secondary topic of discussion, as his role come 2016 could be unclear. As noted, Cincinnati selected two players in Ogbuehi and Fisher who played primarily left tackle in college. Their addition only further clouds a Bengals front five that could look very different next season.

Like Whitworth, right tackle Andre Smith is a free agent at season’s end. The former first-round pick’s play has stagnated in recent years, and at this point it’s highly unlikely he’ll return to southern Ohio when his contract expires. Left guard Clint Boling was recently locked up via a long-term deal, but right guard Kevin Zeitler‘s future with the club is less certain — his 2016 option was exercised, and though the Bengals have indicated they’d like to reach agreement on an extension with the Georgia product, Zeitler is currently unsigned after next season. The final member of Cincy’s line, center Russell Bodine, struggled during his rookie season, and remains something of an unknown.

So where does this leave Whitworth (were he to be extended)? One possible scenario (which I first heard floated by Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com) could see a complete shuffle of the Bengals’ front five. Left-to-right, Cincinnati’s possible 2016 offensive line could read Ogbuehi-Whitworth-Boling-Zeitler-Fisher. The concerns here are obvious: Boling has no pro experience at center, and trusting two young players with no NFL experience whatsoever on the outside could be troubling for a contending team. But if Ogbuehi and Fisher develop, this setup could mean an improvement at every position along the line. For his part, Whitworth was dominant while moonlighting as a guard during the 2013 season (check out these three GIFs as evidence).

It’s conceivable, however, that Whitworth doesn’t want to move off the blindside at this point in his career, and even if he is amenable to transitioning inside, I’d wager that he’d still want to be compensated as a left tackle. The years tacked on to the end of Whitworth’s deal in 2011 amounted to a two-year, $20MM extension. He’d probably want something similar to that to stay in Cincinnati, and given his track record, that’d be a fair deal for both sides. At 33, Whitworth shouldn’t expect a long-term deal, especially with two youngsters fighting to take his job, but a short-term pact at a respectable salary would work.

So if the Bengals do express interest in re-signing Whitworth, the only hurdle would be the level of intrigue the former LSU Tiger could attract from around the league. There isn’t a ton of precedent for age-30+ offensive lineman generating free agent bidding wars, but it’s conceivable that a club with a dire need at left tackle — Panthers? Vikings? Jaguars if Luke Joeckel continues to disappoint? — could present a large offer to Whitworth that Cincinnati would have no interest in matching.

Cincinnati has more pressing issues on its plate than the contract status of Whitworth. A.J. Green, George Iloka, Dre Kirkpatrick, Zeitler, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Reggie Nelson are just some of the Bengals whose contracts expire in the next two seasons. Green, in particular, figures to take up much of Cincinnati’s negotiating time and cap space during the next ten months, so Whitworth could be on the back burner. But a short-term deal to keep the team leader in the Queen City almost makes too much sense not to happen.

West Notes: Raiders, Chargers, Cardinals

Though Raiders owner Mark Davis said on Tuesday that he wants to keep his club in Oakland, a different scenario involving the team’s location has been floated in league circles, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). Per Rapoport, it’s possible that the Raiders could sign a one-year lease to remain in Oakland for the 2016 season, allow the Chargers and Rams situations time to play themselves out, and then be the only team left standing for a possible move to a different city the following year.

Such a delay tactic would allow the Raiders to discuss transitioning to a city like San Antonio or even St. Louis (in the event the Rams relocate), says Rapoport. Davis did indicate that there was no chance he’d move his team to Missouri, but the NFL.com scribe cautions (via Twitter) to not rule out such a move.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions…

  • The Raiders aren’t the only AFC West club in a state of flux, as the Chargers have also been heavily linked to the Los Angeles area. But the team hasn’t been straight about its plans with the city of San Diego or Chargers fans, argues Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
  • Suspended Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington still isn’t sure of his status with the NFL, reports Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910. Washington, who hasn’t seen the field since 2013, still hasn’t been disciplined for a domestic violence incident, and all told, is expected to be handed a two- to six-game ban, per Jurecki.
  • More from Oakland, as Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap analyzes the Raiders in his latest piece for Sporting News, writing that the club is set up to spend heavily in free agency next offseason. Of course, cap space hasn’t been a problem for Oakland during the past few offseasons, but they’ve still had difficulty landing marquee free agents.

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Extra Points: Yanda, McGlynn, Peterson, Jets

With the week winding down and Memorial Day weekend fast approaching, let’s round up a few odds and ends from around the NFL….

  • With Marshal Yanda heading into the final year of his five-year contract with the Ravens, the team is exploring what a contract extension for the veteran guard would look like, writes Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. As Zrebiec points out, it may not be feasible for Baltimore to keep both Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, who are both eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2016.
  • Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune has the details on Mike McGlynn‘s contract with the Saints, tweeting that the offensive lineman will get a one-year, minimum salary benefit contract with a $30K signing bonus.
  • It’s not clear when Adrian Peterson will report to the Vikings, but head coach Mike Zimmer told 1500 ESPN Twin Cities this week that he thinks he has “an indication” of when his running back will show up, as Andrew Krammer details.
  • Former Rams scout Brian Shields has accepted a scouting job with the Jets under GM Mike Maccagnan, reports Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Maccagnan has made several changes to his club’s scouting department since this year’s draft.
  • The Saints are retooling their own scouting department under the influence of Jeff Ireland, and will likely part ways with some employees soon, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports.

Goodell Won’t Recuse Himself From Brady Appeal

4:01pm: Despite several other writers confirming La Canfora’s report, NFLPA spokesman Greg Aiello says no final decision has been made on the union’s request for Goodell to recuse himself, tweets Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports. La Canfora tweets that while technically Goodell himself didn’t reject the NFLPA’s request, NFL lawyers filed papers saying their position is that the commissioner will hear Brady’s appeal.

3:15pm: The NFL has denied the NFL Players Association’s request for commissioner Roger Goodell to recuse himself from the union’s appeal of Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).

Following the NFLPA’s announcements that it had officially filed an appeal on behalf of Brady, Goodell appointed himself as the arbitrator in the case. The union felt this was a conflict of interest, particularly since the NFLPA’s counsel intended to call the commissioner as a witness during the appeal process. However, it never appeared likely that Goodell would assent to the union’s request to remove himself from the process, since the league’s CBA allows him to serve as the arbitrator.

As La Canfora observes (via Twitter), Goodell staying on as arbitrator in Brady’s appeal makes it more likely that the case will eventually go to court, unless of course the commissioner overturns the suspension. Goodell strongly hinted at the conclusion of this week’s owner’s meetings in San Francisco that the only thing that would make him reconsider the four-game ban handed down by Troy Vincent would be if Brady brings forth new information on the case — in other words, if he surrenders his emails and text messages.

No date has been set yet for Brady’s appeal hearing.

Corry’s Latest: Wilson, AP, Houston, Weddle

After taking a closer look at the wide receiver market earlier this week, former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com focuses today on seven key contract situations involving players eligible for extensions. Corry’s piece includes several items of interest, so let’s dive right in and round up the highlights….

  • Corry hears from league sources that the Seahawks have offered Russell Wilson a deal worth approximately $80MM over four years, which aligns with other recent reports. As Corry writes, Wilson could make a case that he should be the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback, though contract structure could be a bigger issue on his next deal than total compensation.
  • Although he has relented on his demand for the Vikings to trade Adrian Peterson, agent Ben Dogra is now attempting to get the team to rework his client’s contract. Corry suggests that Dogra is probably looking for Minnesota to guarantee Peterson’s 2015 and 2016 base salaries, but the team doesn’t appear to be interested in adjusting the running back’s deal.
  • The Chiefs will likely be “adamant” about keeping Justin Houston‘s per-year salary under the $17MM that Alex Smith is getting from the team, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if agent Joel Segal raises his demands for the linebacker’s next contract after Ndamukong Suh signed for $19MM+ annually, writes Corry.
  • There has been “sporadic dialogue” between the Jets and Muhammad Wilkerson‘s camp on a contract extension. Corry observes that the Jets would probably be fine with something in the range of Calais Campbell‘s five-year, $55MM pact, while Wilkerson probably has his sights set on contracts like J.J. Watt‘s, Robert Quinn‘s, and Gerald McCoy‘s — all those deals are worth at least $13.6MM per year. If the Jets opt to explore the trade market for Wilkerson, the Browns are a potential suitor.
  • Eric Weddle has been absent from the Chargers‘ voluntary workouts because he feels “highly disrespected” by the lack of contract discussions with the team, says Corry. While former GM A.J. Smith would’ve played hardball with the safety, it’s not clear yet which path Tom Telesco will take, writes Corry.
  • Contract disputes with restricted free agents are rare, but Tashaun Gipson and the Browns could be headed toward one. Corry suggests keeping an eye on June 15, the day on which Cleveland could lower its restricted tender offer for Gipson from $2.356MM to $660K. If the Browns take a hard-line approach with the safety, he could decide to sit out training camp and even the regular season, says Corry.

East Notes: Richardson, Dareus, Cowboys

When PFR’s Zach Links passed along word earlier this week that Sheldon Richardson was absent from the Jets‘ practices, he noted that the defensive lineman probably wasn’t seeking a new contract, since he’s not even eligible to negotiate a new deal until after the season. That still appears to the case, and Richardson took to Twitter today to respond to critics, writing that he has “a life outside of football” and simply wanted to spend a little more time with his family.

Here’s more from across the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • While Richardson isn’t eligible for a new contract with the Jets, his fellow defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is, and the addition of Leonard Williams in the draft has made that situation murky. Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap takes a closer look at Wilkerson’s contract, concluding that the standout defender would probably be able to earn a bigger contract outside of New York, and may end up being the odd man out with the Jets.
  • Marcell Dareus of the Bills is another AFC East defensive lineman seeking a contract extension, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Buffalo still wants to lock up Dareus to a long-term deal, preferably before training camp gets underway. Rapoport echoes something I wrote yesterday, suggesting that Dareus’ one-game suspension won’t have an adverse effect on extension talks.
  • We heard yesterday that the Cowboys worked out a number of free agent running backs, including Ben Tate, Felix Jones, and Daniel Thomas. According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the club also auditioned wide receivers B.J. Cunningham, Kris Durham, and Tommy Streeter.

Poll: Most Improved Revamped Contender?

Every team in the NFL has undergone changes to some extent this offseason, but some clubs have managed to maintain more continuity than others. Among the teams that have overhauled their rosters most significantly are three teams that just missed out on playoff spots by a game or two in 2014. The Eagles, Saints, and Dolphins have all seen major turnover at key spots on their rosters over the past few months.

In Philadelphia, Chip Kelly continues to allow standout offensive players to leave town, trading LeSean McCoy to the Bills and allowing Jeremy Maclin to walk in free agency. The Eagles also have a new starting quarterback (Sam Bradford) and landed the top running back (DeMarco Murray) and cornerback (Byron Maxwell) available in free agency.

While the Eagles’ biggest changes came in free agency, the Saints went the trade route, shipping out Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, and Ben Grubbs in separate deals. The team did add a few free agents, including running back C.J. Spiller and cornerback Brandon Browner, but New Orleans will be relying heavily on its rookie class, after having added extra picks in the first and third rounds.

As for the Dolphins, it’s no secret what their biggest offseason move was: Ndamukong Suh was the most noteworthy free agent to change teams in years, and he’s headed to Miami for the 2015 season. However, that was far from the only splash made by the Dolphins. The club also overhauled its wide receiving corps, acquiring Kenny Stills, signing Greg Jennings, and jettisoning veterans Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, and Brian Hartline. Ryan Tannehill will also have a new weapon at tight end, in former Brown Jordan Cameron.

As noted above, there are plenty of other teams – both playoff clubs and non-contenders – who underwent major roster changes in the offseason, but few overhauled their rosters as significantly as the Eagles, Saints, and Dolphins. Will that pay off for those teams in 2015? Which of these three teams do you think improved the most this offseason?

Michael Sam Signs With Montreal Alouettes

10:12am: Sam will earn $100K in 2015 and $150K in 2016, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link), who notes that this is above the usual rate for CFL rookies ($51K).

9:45am: After failing to catch on with any NFL teams, Michael Sam will head north to the Canadian Football League, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, who reports (via Twitter) that the edge defender is signing with the Montreal Alouettes. The club has since confirmed the move.

“With the signing of Michael Sam, we have become a better organization today,” said Alouettes general manager Jim Popp. “Not only have we added an outstanding football player, we have added even a better person that brings dignity, character, and heart to our team.”

The first openly gay player to be selected in the NFL draft (in 2014), Sam spent time with the Rams but didn’t make the team’s regular season roster, despite recording three sacks during the preseason. While he later joined the Cowboys’ practice squad, Sam didn’t earn a call-up to Dallas’ 53-man roster either, and had been on the free agent market for several months.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter links), the Alouettes – who held the CFL rights to Sam – have had an offer on the table to the Missouri product for a few months. With training camp around the corner, Sam has opted to sign the deal, which is a one-year pact with a team option for 2016.

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