Extra Points: Luck, Vikings, Pro Bowl

Let’s take a look at some assorted notes from around the league as we wrap up this Saturday evening…

  • We heard earlier this week that the Colts were preparing a “blockbuster mega deal” for franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. That was apparently news to the former first-overall pick, as Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star tweets that Luck was surprised about the inquiries regarding an extension. As a result, Holder believes a new contract is not “imminent.”
  • Colts linebacker Andrew Jackson was arrested in Kentucky early Friday morning, reports Sabrina Adams of Fox 59 in Indy. The rookie was reportedly taken in for “careless driving and suspicion of DUI.”
  • The Vikings have struggled since their Super Bowl run in 2009, making the playoffs just once. However, general manager Rick Spielman is happy with the progress his players have made. “Our team got older when we went through our Super Bowl run when we had Brett Favre and I knew we had to get younger,” Spielman said told Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune. “That takes some time, and we’ve been able to accomplish that over the last couple of years and with the number of draft picks that we had. Now you’re hoping that those guys would develop and some of those guy are developing into pretty good football players for us. That cycle will be hopefully the guys that we extend and keep around for a while.”
  • The Pro Bowl is coming back to Hawaii. According to Gll Brandt of SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Dan Leberfeld JetsConfidential.com on Twitter), the league’s All-Star game will return to the Aloha State for the next three seasons. The 2014 Pro Bowl will take place at the same cite as the Super Bowl, the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Browns Interested In Re-Signing Brian Hoyer

Brian Hoyer‘s tenure in Cleveland may not be over. Joe Linta, the quarterback’s agent, told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal that the Browns recently expressed interest in bringing Hoyer back for 2015. However, the agent clarified that the two sides “never got to the numbers part” of the negotiations.

According to Linta, Hoyer would like to sign with a team where he has an actual shot of being the starting quarterback. Ulrich notes that Hoyer will likely sit down with Browns head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer. If the quarterback likes what he hears, he’ll let his agent start negotiating with the team.

“I think the only thing that would make him not [want to] come back is if they said [Johnny] Manziel or whoever we take in the draft or whoever we sign in free agency is going to be the starter and you will only be the backup,” Linta said. “I think that would probably drive him away a little bit.

“If Pettine said, ‘Hey, it’s going to be an open competition again between you and Johnny,’ great, let’s go. … [Hoyer] wants to play. The kid wants to have an opportunity to compete and play.”

Following an ACL tear that ended his 2013 season, the 29-year-old beat out Manziel for the team’s opening day nod in 2014. Hoyer got off to a great start, helping the Browns to a 6-3 record. However, the quarterback proceeded to thrown eight interceptions and only one touchdown over his next four games, and he was replaced in the lineup by the rookie.

Hoyer finished the season with 3,326 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions – all career highs. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required) did not rate the quarterback favorably, as Hoyer ranked as the fifth-worst at his position.

Poll: Best Post-Draft Trade Acquisition

There have been a number of NFL trades since the 2014 NFL Draft ended in May, with 13 players and 11 future draft picks switching teams. The Patriots were the most active on the trade market, participating in five deals, while the Buccaneers ultimately made three trades, including a pair with New England.

Let’s quickly remind ourselves of the trades made post-2014 NFL draft…

A couple of the players acquired in these trades had little impact on their new squads. Neither Justin Green or Ben Bass played a snap this season, while T.J. Yates only threw four attempts serving as Matt Ryan‘s backup. Ryan Mallett‘s opportunity as the Texans quarterback only lasted 158 snaps, while Mark Barron Jonathan Casillas, and Akeem Dent primarily served in backup/platoon roles with their new squads.

That leaves six players who played more than 300 snaps following their trade, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required): Mankins, McClain, Ayers, Harvin, Wright and Burley. So, which of those players ended up having the biggest impact on their new squad?

Mankins led that group with 937 snaps, and his 4.8 rating on PFF ranked him as the third-best offensive player on Tampa Bay (however, he only ranked as the 22nd-best guard in the league). The 32-year-old was still very reliable for the Bucs, starting all 16 games.

Meanwhile, the player he was traded for ended up being a red-zone force for the Patriots. Wright finished the season with 26 catches for 259 yards, a far cry from his 54 catch, 571-yard season in 2013. The 24-year-old did set a career-high in touchdowns, though, catching six. Across the division, the Jets were hoping Harvin could provide a spark to their struggling offense. The wideout compiled 29 catches for 350 yards and a touchdown in eight games for New York. The skill player also added 22 rushes for 110 yards.

McClain had a bounce back season in 2014 following his one-year retirement. The former first-round pick made 13 appearances for the Cowboys, finishing with 81 tackles, two interruptions, a forced fumble and a sack. He also ranked eighth in PFF’s list of the top inside linebackers. The other linebacker on that list, Ayers, filled in adequately for the injured Jerod Mayo. Ayers played in nine games for the Patriots, including four starts, compiling 20 tackles and four sacks.

Finally, Burley managed to carve out some playing time in a very deep Seattle secondary. In 13 games, the 24-year-old compiled 25 tackles and an interception, while also earning a positive rating from PFF. His 1.7 rating was actually higher than teammates Byron Maxwell, although he played about half the snaps.

So, focusing on the six players who had played more than 300 snaps, which player acquired via trade had the biggest impact on their new club? Should one of the omitted players have made the list? Let us know in the comments.

Coach/Front Office Notes: Texans, Broncos, Jets

It’s already been a busy day in the coaching rumor mill. The Jets hired Pepper Johnson as their defensive line coach, the Falcons were granted permission to interview Raheem Morris, and the Bears added former Broncos coach Bo Hardegree. Let’s check out a couple more coaching and front office notes, including more moves by the Jets:

  • The Texans have hired Paul Pasqualoni as their defensive line coach, tweets John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. The former Dolphins and Cowboys defensive coordinator spent 2014 as the Bears d-line coach.
  • The man that Pasqualoni will be replacing, Bill Kollar, was recently hired as the Broncos new defensive line coach. One of his former players, J.J. Watt, supports his former coach’s new gig. “He’s always going to shoot you straight,” Watt told Mike Klis of The Denver Post. “He’s going to coach you hard and tell you like it is. Kubiak, Kollar, everybody, yeah, you guys (in Denver) have got a great staff.”
  • The Raiders will interview Bills wide receivers coach Rob Moore on Sunday, tweets ESPN’s Adam Caplan. If everything goes well, the 46-year-old will get the job, sources tell Caplan.
  • The Jets will hire former Bears scout Rex Hogan as their college scouting director, tweets Albert Breer of the NFL Network. It was thought that recently hired Brian Heimerdinger would take over the role, but Breer notes that the former Rams executive will instead be taking over a “prominent front office role.”

Panthers GM On Veterans, Free Agency, Offseason Priorities

Dave Gettleman has already experienced plenty of success during his brief tenure as the Panthers general manager. Carolina has won consecutive division titles for the first time in team history, and their 12-4 mark in 2013 was the best finish by the organization since 2008. The Panthers finished an underwhelming 7-8-1 in 2014, but they still managed to get past the Wild Card round with a 27-16 victory over the Cardinals.

This offseason could be a big one for the organization as they look to take the next step. Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer sat down with Gettleman to discuss the team’s offseason plans, including the draft and free agency. The entire piece is worth a read, but we pulled out some of the more interesting highlights, which you can find below.

On whether it’s realistic for the team to bring back offensive lineman Byron Bell:

“Anything’s feasible. You’re talking hypothetical again. I’ve said this before, we look to upgrade everywhere. Because of my theory of taking the best player available, we’re going to take the best player available. And if it gives you a glut at that position, so be it. That position will be a hell of a strength. That’s the way we approach it.”

On how much cap room he’d like to have heading into free agency:

“Sitting pretty for anybody would be $20 million under. Here’s what people have to understand, you can’t spend all that money because you have to have your season reverse. And the season reverse has to be $5-6 million. You’ve got to have that. You always want to be in a position where if you get injuries and have to make an add, I don’t go to (director of pro scouting) Mark Koncz and say, ‘I need a receiver, and by the way we don’t have any money for anyone but a zero.’ And I’ve been in that situation when I was a pro (scouting) guy when no one was there.”

On when he’ll start discussing the future with some veteran players, including running back DeAngelo Williams:

“When it’s right. I’m not going to tell you a date. When it’s right. The biggest thing is, they’re men, they’re people, and I’m going to treat them with the utmost respect. The conversations will take place when it’s time.”

On the team’s biggest priority this offseason outside of the draft and free agency:
 
“The biggest priority is to continue to work the plan we’re working. To understand that it’s a process. It takes time, and we feel we’ve made strong strides with the plan. We’ve been patient and we haven’t pressed and haven’t tried to force square pegs into round holes. That’s the biggest priority is understanding that we’re getting there. You’ve got to keep working the plan. You can’t make emotional decisions or snap judgments.”

Bears Add Three To Coaching Staff

Saturday 5:58 pm: In addition to Loggains and Pires, the Bears have now hired Bo Hardegree to their coaching staff, reports Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter). Hardegree will join Gase and Loggains as an offensive assistant. He formerly coached with Fox on the Broncos staff in 2014 as a quality control coach.

Friday 9:09 pm: John Fox promised he was giving his full energy to filling out his staff, and he seems to be coming through on his word.

The Bears have hired Dowell Loggains as their new quarterbacks coach and Glenn Pires as their new linebackers coach, reports Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter).

Loggains was the quarterbacks coach with the Browns, and formerly served as the quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator for the Titans under Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator under Mike Munchak.

Pires was the linebackers coach with the Falcons for seven years before coming to the Bears.

Loggains and Pires join Adam Gase and Vic Fangio, who were hired as the offensive and defensive coordinators for the team earlier this week.

West Notes: Rams, Britt, Kiffin, Chargers

The Rams’ biggest needs are at quarterback and along the offensive line, but after that the team could look to add depth at linebacker and corner, writes Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. Especially at cornerback, he notes that the need does not seem pressing, but with both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson reaching free agency in 2015, the team could use some young corners behind them.

More about the AFC and NFC West:

  • The Rams are considering a contract extension for wide receiver Kenny Britt, and Wagoner surmises that the troubled playmaker will command somewhere in the $4-$5MM range.
  • The 49ers were reportedly interested in bringing Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin in to fill their offensive coordinator opening, but will have to look elsewhere as the University of Alabama have announced that Kiffin will be returning to Nick Saban’s staff in 2015, reports Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury New. Kiffin has former head coaching experience with the Raiders, as well as USC and the University of Tennessee.
  • The Chargers have refuted a report by Andy Strickland of CBS Sports radio 920 AM in St. Louis that the team has a deal in place for a new stadium in Los Angeles, writes Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com“Although we have worked for years with Goldman Sachs as our investment banker, the remainder of the story is untrue,” said special counsel with inside knowledge of the team’s stadium plans Mark Fabiani.

Saints Reach Agreement With Delvin Breaux

The Saints have reached an agreement with CFL star Delvin Breaux to help improve their secondary in 2015, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (via Twitter). Schefter writes that the star cornerback worked out for 13 NFL teams before agreeing with the Saints.

CFL players cannot sign with NFL teams until after February 10, according to Evan Woodbery of NOLA.com (via Twitter). However, Woodbery writes that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have agreed to release Breaux, which would allow him to sign with the team immediately (via Twitter).

He highlights one of his Twitter followers who notes that this is a similar situation to when the Steelers signed Shawn Lemon (via Twitter).

Breaux is a native of New Orleans, suffering a neck injury at Mcdonogh 35 High School that resulted in him not being medically cleared to play college football at LSU. He should challenge for a starting spot across from Keenan Lewis on Rob Ryan’s defense, writes Woodbery.

Jerome Felton Signs With Relativity Sports

Vikings fullback Jerome Felton has officially hired new representation, signing with Relativity Sports, reports Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal (via Twitter).

Felton’s new agents at the firm will be C.J. LaBoy, Doug Hendrickson, and Eugene Parker. They will negotiate the terms of his next contract, as Felton is expected to opt out of his deal with the Vikings.

Felton’s former agent Sean Howard released a statement on his time with the Pro Bowl player, through Mullen (via Twitter). “For 7 years I’ve successfully assisted Jerome off the field, as well as guided his NFL career to Pro Bowl status,” said Howard. “I wish him continued success.”

Felton saw his snaps reduced heavily with the team in 2014, although the reason is unclear. It could certainly be due to changes in the coaching staff, with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner preferring a one back system.

It may not have been Turner’s true intention, however, as the team could not commit as much energy to the running game after Adrian Peterson was suspended, which could have also effected his playing time. The team also has fullback Zach Line on the roster, and he could serve as a replacement should the team move on from Felton.

NFC Links: Cowboys, Britt, Maclin

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo would prefer his organization holds on to All-Pro teammates DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant. The 34-year-old told 103.3 [KESN-FM] that he’s been hounding owner Jerry Jones and members of the front office to bring the duo back. Via Jon Machota of the Dallas News:

“I’m pretty consistently [talking to Jones], and everyone around the building, about bringing them both back. I think everybody understands how great these guys are and how lucky we are to have them.

“Any time you get talented guys where you can put more than two on one side of the ball, you get three, four, if you’re lucky enough to ever get five, it’s one of those things where if you can put a group like that together you can make a run and be very difficult for teams to deal with for years.

“I think that’s what you’re trying to build ultimately is to have sustained success. We have an opportunity to have that.”

Let’s check out some more notes from the NFC…

  • Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas News writes that the Cowboys will be unable to pursue some of the top defensive free agents unless they clear cap room. As of right now, the writer believes Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul are out of the team’s price range.
  • After only one season with the club, upcoming free agent wideout Kenny Britt is looking to stay in St. Louis. Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that the 26-year-old’s agents have already started discussions with the Rams regarding a new contract.
  • ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan made an appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philly on Friday, and the writer discussed Jeremy Maclin‘s impending free agency. Caplan had previously sounded optimistic about the receiver’s return to the Eagles, but the writer clarified that a lot has changed since that time. “That was before Maclin changed his agent from Ben Dogra,” Caplan said (via Brandon Lee Gowton of BleedingGreenNation.com). “I mean he must have easily done two dozen contracts with the Eagles over the years. The Eagles have a great working relationship with him…Now, Dogra broke off from CAA, and his partner was Tom Condon. Ironically, Tom Condon now represents Maclin. And Condon… I just get the sense he doesn’t have the same relationship with that Dogra did. I’m not saying the deal won’t get done, I’m just not nearly as optimistic as I was before.”