East Notes: Norman, Jets, Dolphins

The addition of Josh Norman should pay big dividends on the field for Washington, at least for the next couple of seasons, but Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com is already looking ahead to the difficult choices that the team will have to make in 2017 as a result of the deal. For instance, Tandler suggests that Washington is gambling it will be able to sign Kirk Cousins to a long-term contract sometime before the start of the 2017 league year. If it has to put the franchise tag on Cousins again next season, at a projected value of $24MM, then Cousins and Norman, whose 2017 cap hit is $20MM, would be taking up more than a quarter of its overall cap space, a clearly untenable situation.

Further, regardless of what happens with Cousins, the Norman contract will also force some difficult decisions with regards to Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Junior Galette, and Chris Baker. Of course, Washington was probably not planning on retaining all of those players anyway, but it is now a near certainty that at least a couple of those players will be moving on after the 2016 season, particularly Garcon and Jackson. As such, Tandler further opines that the Norman contract increases the likelihood that Washington will take a wide receiver early in this week’s draft.

Now let’s take a look at some more notes from the league’s East divisions:

  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com weighs in on the Norman contract, and his examination of the overall contract, the cash flow, and the guarantee structure reveals that the deal is even more favorable to Norman than it appears on the surface, and is arguably the best contract for a cornerback in the entire NFL. The whole article is worth a read, but since the contract structure indicates that Washington wants to retain Norman for at least the first three years of the deal, Fitzgerald believes the key for Washington is to let this be the one risky contract the club signs in the next two years and not compound the risk by restructuring in 2017.
  • Jets head coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan have very different quarterback philosophies, as Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com points out. Bowles believes he can win with a competent game manager as long as he has a strong defense, whereas Maccagnan thinks teams should draft a quarterback every year and create something of a pipeline. Those differing viewpoints may well lead to a real conflict for New York on Thursday, when the team could have the opportunity to draft Paxton Lynch–the last time it could draft a first-round quarterback talent for the next couple of seasons, as the 2017 and 2018 classes of signal-callers are considered very lean–or it could fill a major defensive need by selecting a cornerback or an edge rusher. For what it’s worth, Cimini believes the Jets will pass on Lynch and will ultimately re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick while continuing to groom Bryce Petty.
  • Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald has grown weary of the newly-popular cliche that running backs in today’s NFL are a dime a dozen. As Beasley points out, 14 qualifying running backs averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry in 2015, and all but three went in the first two days of the draft. Plus, four of Pro Football Focus’ 10 highest-graded backs last season were first-round picks; second- and third-rounders made up most of the rest. As such, Beasley suggests that the Dolphins, who currently have only one running back guaranteed to be on the team in 2016 (Jay Ajayi), will take a running back in the early rounds of this week’s draft. Of course, we heard recently that Miami could trade up from their No. 13 overall selection in an effort to land Ohio State star Ezekiel Elliott, but even if the Dolphins don’t have the chance to take Elliott, there are a number of other talented collegiate backs that could be a fit in South Beach and that could be had on Day 2 of the draft. Devontae Booker and Kenyan Drake, both of whom visited the Dolphins in recent weeks, are two such players.
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