New York Notes: Beckham, Collins, Maccagnan

Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. is once again being mentioned in trade rumors, with one prominent national writer expressing his belief that OBJ will be dealt this offseason. Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv, though, believes the Giants would be foolish to pull the trigger. For all of his perceived character issues, Beckham is well-liked in the locker room, displays a strong work ethic, and generally holds himself accountable when things go badly. He has done and said things that the team would obviously prefer he didn’t, but on the balance, he is an irreplaceable talent, and Vacchiano believes the Giants would be well-served to simply deal with whatever distractions Beckham creates, as they have not been damaging to this point (at least not when compared to his on-field production).

Now for more from the Big Blue and Gang Green:

  • Ryan Dunleavy and Matt Lombardo of NJ.com debated a few of the most pressing issues facing the Giants this offseason. Dunleavy believes that somehow taking care of Landon Collins should be the club’s top priority, and it still seems likely that the team will put the franchise tag on him. After Collins, Dunleavy believes the next unrestricted free agent that the Giants should prioritize is cornerback B.W. Webb, while Lombardo believes the club should focus on Russell Shepard, who should not be overly expensive to retain.
  • While Dunleavy and Lombardo agree that trading Beckham will hurt the Giants in the short-term, they both appear convinced that he will not see the end of his five-year contract with the team, and that trading him will be in the team’s best interest at some point in the near future.
  • The Jets hold the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019, and since they already have (they think) their franchise signal-caller, they could trade that pick to a QB-needy team for a bounty of draft capital. As Vacchiano suggests, the Giants are one team that could be giving the Jets a call.
  • The Jets have 23 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, and Brian Costello of the New York Post offers his thoughts on some of the biggest names on that list and whether they will return next season. Costello believes 2018 revelation Henry Anderson will be retained, while the futures of Morris Claiborne and Jason Myers are a little more uncertain.
  • Costello believes the Jets will tender RFA Robby Anderson at the second-round level, which is in keeping with what we have heard before.
  • Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has a spotty free agent record, a poor draft record (outside of the first round), and has put together a potentially volatile coaching staff in 2019. With a ton of cap space and a young talent under center, the potential is there for Maccagnan to engineer a quick turnaround, but as Vacchiano writes, if the team does not show good progress in 2019, the blame will fall squarely on Maccagnan, and not new head coach Adam Gase.

Redskins Were Interested In Joe Flacco

The Redskins may have a chance to contend for a playoff spot in 2019, but they will need a legitimate QB to get them there. Alex Smith is expected to miss the entire season (and may never play again), and while the club could re-sign Colt McCoy, it seems unlikely that McCoy can lead a playoff push.

To that end, Washington did speak with the Ravens about a potential trade for Joe Flacco before Baltimore agreed to trade Flacco to the Broncos, per Troy Renck of Denver 7 (via Twitter). Renck says that the trade with the Broncos came together quickly because of Washington’s involvement.

John Keim of ESPN.com, though, is skeptical. He concedes that the Redskins did their due diligence on Flacco, and will continue to do their due diligence on QBs on the free agent and trade markets, but the team simply could not afford to absorb Flacco’s contract since they already have so much money committed to Smith. And it’s not at though other clubs aren’t aware of Washington’s difficult cap situation, so Keim thinks it unlikely that the Broncos were worried about the Redskins’ involvement in the Flacco sweepstakes (Twitter link).

Indeed, Keim tweets that he would be surprised if the Redskins could swing a deal for any high-priced QB like Flacco or Nick Foles. Speculatively, the team could make a play for Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor, or try to pry away restricted free agent Nate Sudfeld from the rival Eagles, but those moves would not engender a ton of excitement. Depending on how they feel about the 2019 crop of college passers, the Redskins could draft a rookie signal-caller, though they may have to trade up in the first round to get one of the top prospects.

Potential cap casualties like Case Keenum and A.J. McCarron may also be in play for Washington.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Notes: Gordon, Gronk, Slater, Jones

The Patriots will end up getting a 2019 seventh-round pick out of the Josh Gordon trade, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. It was initially reported that New England sent a fifth-round pick to Cleveland in exchange for Gordon, and that a seventh-rounder would be coming back to the Pats if Gordon was unable to play 10 games with the club in 2018. Although Gordon ended up playing 11 games for New England before being suspended again, Reiss says the 10-game condition was lifted and that the Patriots will get the 29th pick in the seventh round.

Now for more news and notes from the Super Bowl champs:

  • Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been at Gillette Stadium multiple times over the last couple of weeks, and while he may only be there to continue treatment on his thigh, Reiss believes Gronk’s presence is reflective of the good relationship between him and the team at the moment and of Gronkowski’s overall positive feelings towards the Patriots. Although he may still retire, his current state of mind is good news for Pats fans who would like to see him back in 2019.
  • Matthew Slater is due a $400K roster bonus on March 13, and assuming he is still on the roster at that point, the team’s 2019 option — which calls for a $1.6MM base salary — will be automatically exercised. Reiss believes that is a reasonable price for a special teams ace like Slater, and that the 33-year-old will be back in Foxborough next season.
  • Reiss also believes tight end Dwayne Allen could be back, as the team admires his professionalism and work ethic, but he will obviously need to accept a pay cut; he is due a $6.4MM base salary in 2019.
  • Cornerback Jonathan Jones proved his value to the Patriots in this year’s playoffs, and he is eligible for restricted free agency in March. As Reiss observes, the Patriots could tender him at the second-round level, which would entitle him to a salary of $3.1MM, or at the low level, which calls for a $2MM salary. But if they go with the latter option, they risk losing Jones without getting any draft compensation in return, so Reiss suggests that the two sides could explore a long-term deal before free agency opens.
  • Zack Cox of NESN.com believes LT Trent Brown will get a contract on the free agent market that the Patriots cannot compete with, and that the team will need to turn to 2018 first-rounder Isaiah Wynn to replace him. Wynn, of course, missed his entire rookie campaign due to a torn Achilles he suffered last preseason.
  • Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels received only tepid interest on the head coaching market this year, but Ben Volin of the Boston Globe says McDaniels’ excellent work in engineering the Patriots’ Super Bowl run will put him firmly back on the HC radar in 2020.
  • The Patriots have once again surfaced as a potential home for Colin Kaepernick.

Examining The Steelers’ Options With Le’Veon Bell

Beginning Tuesday, February 19, the Steelers will be able to place either the franchise tag or the transition tag on disgruntled running back Le’Veon Bell. They have until 4pm ET on March 5 to do so, which means that we may have to wait another couple of weeks for the next chapter of this story to be written.

But now seems as good a time as any to explore Pittsburgh’s options with respect to Bell. Although those options have been discussed at various points throughout the last year, our readers may find it useful to have them all consolidated in one place. Let’s begin with the least likely option, the franchise tag.

Franchise Tag

The fact that Bell sat out the entirety of the 2018 season does complicate things, because it makes it unclear as to what the value of either the franchise tender or the transition tender will be. The Steelers will argue that Bell is not eligible for the increase in salary that a third tag would ordinarily include because of his season-long absence, and Bell, of course, will fight that. We have long heard that any tag would result in a hotly-contested battle between Pittsburgh and the NFLPA.

Depending on who wins that as-yet hypothetical dispute, Bell’s franchise tender would be valued at either over $20MM or $14.5MM. Either way, that is too much money for the Steelers to pay for a player that most believe will sit out the 2019 campaign if he is franchised. Pittsburgh could put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Bell in the hopes that another club would submit an offer sheet, but any offering club would need to part with two first-round draft choices if the Steelers don’t match the offer — and they wouldn’t — so that is not a realistic option either.

The only way the franchise tag makes sense is if the Steelers are confident that they would be successful in convincing an arbitrator that Bell’s 2019 tag value should be $14.5MM instead of the $20MM+ figure, and if they are confident that Bell would not want to sit out a second consecutive year, thereby missing out on another lofty salary and perhaps limiting his free agent market in 2020. As of right now, those sound like very risky propositions from the Steelers’ point of view.

Transition Tag

This remains the most likely scenario. We have been hearing for months that the Steelers are planning on using the transition tag, and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette confirms that is still the case. Again, there will be a salary dispute — Pittsburgh plans to argue that the tag value should be $9.5MM under the theory that Bell’s decision to sit out 2018 resets his transition tag formula, and Bell will submit that the value should be $14.5MM — but the transition tag in theory allows the Steelers to trade Bell in exchange for draft picks.

But as Dulac points out, that is not as easy as it might seem. Even if the Steelers agree to a trade with another team, Bell would still need to sign the transition tender before the trade can be consummated, and that would require a high level of cooperation from a player who has been anything but cooperative. Bell has previously said that he would be receptive to the transition tag because it allows him to negotiate in earnest with other clubs and land a fair deal, but he would certainly not like the fact that Pittsburgh would be largely controlling the process in this scenario.

The Steelers could match an offer sheet from another team and then try to trade him, but it is unlikely that the Steelers would be able to afford to match the offer sheet, and teams with more cap space can easily structure a deal that is impossible for Pittsburgh to match. And, even if the Steelers are able to match, they cannot trade Bell to the offering team without Bell’s approval, which again calls for cooperation that Bell is not expected to give.

Of course, it could be that other teams will be scared off by Bell’s holdout and his heavy workload and will extend him offers that the Steelers could match. As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com pointed out earlier this month, there is still a faction of the organization that has a soft spot for Bell, and if his market does not develop as he expects, perhaps the Steelers could get him back on a club-friendly deal.

Let Him Walk

By allowing Bell to simply hit free agency without a tag, the Steelers can avoid a lot of headache and can assure themselves of getting a third-round compensatory pick in the 2020 draft. If they put the transition tag on Bell, and if Bell ends up signing an offer sheet with another club that the Steelers do not match, Pittsburgh would not be entitled to any draft compensation. The Steelers could transition Bell — they are likely to wait until closer to the March 5 deadline to do so in order to control his rights for as long as possible — and then rescind the tag if they start to feel like a trade is not possible. As long as they rescind before Bell signs an offer sheet elsewhere, they would be eligible for the compensatory pick.

Keep Him Without A Tag

It would be borderline miraculous if the Steelers and Bell simply agree to a multi-year deal to the liking of both sides without a tag having been imposed, but crazier things have happened. Not much crazier, though.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Where Will Kyler Murray Be Drafted?

The long-awaited speculation surrounding Kyler Murray‘s future was answered on Monday when the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Oklahoma announced his plans to commit to football and enter the NFL Draft. 

This is big news, of course, because Murray was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the first round of the 2018 MLB amateur draft. The team agreed to let Murray play quarterback at Oklahoma with the expectation he would join the club for spring training in February. That plan backfired, as Murray took home college football’s top honor after throwing for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns, and adding 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in his first season as a starter in Norman.

The success propelled the dual-threat passer into a potential first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and led to his decision to forego his deal with the A’s to pursue the NFL.

The upside is obvious with Murray, who possess Michael Vick-like quickness with a much more honed passing arm. Unlike Vick, Murray has been in pass-happy offense all the way back to his days with Texas high school powerhouse Allen, where he never lost a game in the highest classification in the Lone Star State. His ability as a passer and a runner makes him much more like Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson. Any team looking for a quarterback in the NFL Draft would be foolish not to give the Sooners star a look.

The drawback is also obvious. At an estimated 5-foot-9, Murray would easily be the shortest quarterback in the league. It’s not just the height that gives team pause, however, as he also possesses a slight build that is unlikely to add more bulk. While the height issue might be a little overblown following the success of Wilson, Drew Brees and Baker Mayfield, the slight profile is much more concerning and could make him much more susceptible to injury.

Those factors make trying to pick a landing spot for Murray a difficult task. Early in the process, many mock drafts had the Oklahoma quarterback as a late-first-round pick or a Day Two selection. Now, many of those same prognostications have him going in the top 10 or 15 picks. New Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury also drew headlines when a video surfaced of him saying he would take Murray No. 1 overall when he was coach at Texas Tech. He has since committed to Josh Rosen as his quarterback.

So, where in the 2019 NFL Draft does Murray go. Is he the top quarterback taken? Does he slip to the teens or the end of the first round? Or does the size question push him all the way to a Day Two or Three selection? Let us know your pick in the poll and give us your thoughts in the comments.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kaepernick Lawyer Predicts A Team Will Sign QB Soon

After reaching a settlement with the NFL on his collusion case earlier this week, Colin Kaepernick could be nearing a return to the league, his lawyer Mark Geragos said in an interview on CNN, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Reports tweets

“I think you’re going to see within the next two weeks someone is going to step up.”

In addition to making that statement, he mentioned that three teams could have interest, namely the Panthers. Whether he is speaking from knowledge of the situation, which he obviously has, or just making the claim, is unknown at this moment.

The Panthers are a natural landing spot for the former 49ers quarterback, who possesses a similar skill set to Cam Newton and would be playing for a team that just gave Eric Reid a three-year contract. Reid, of course, was a part of the same collusion case against the NFL.

In the past, Geragos has also mentioned the Patriots as a potential landing spot. Of course, any team that does sign the polarizing figure could withstand a backlash from a section of fans who do not agree with Kaepernick’s protest. If any team could do it, it would be the Patriots.

Again, as far as fits go, the Panthers would make the most sense. The offense wouldn’t have to change if Newton, who has been dealing with nagging injuries over the last year, has to leave the game. The mobile Kaepernick obviously boasts a different skill set than the statuesque Tom Brady. Also, in recent years New England has opted for a traditional pocket passer as its backup like Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer rather than a dual-threat.

Recently, it was reported the quarterback was contacted by the upstart AAF about a potential gig but he decided not to sign with the league.

We will see in the coming days if there is anything to Geragos’ comments or if it is just conjecture.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Demaryius Thomas Involved In Car Crash

Free agent veteran receiver Demaryius Thomas was involved in a rollover crash in Denver early Saturday morning, ABC 7’s Oscar Contreras writes. He reportedly suffered minor injuries. 

Police responded to the single-vehicle accident shortly after midnight. Thomas and another man suffered minor injuries, but a woman inside the car sustained potentially serious injuries though they were not thought to be life threatening.

Police are investigating the crash, but investigators have said neither drugs nor alcohol appear to be involved in the accident.

That is a scary situation for the former Broncos wideout, but it’s great news he escaped the incident without any major injuries.

In his ninth season in the league, Thomas started the first eight games of the season for the Broncos, making 36 grabs for 402 yards and three touchdowns. He was acquired by the Texans at midseason and finished the campaign in Houston, logging 23 receptions for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Earlier this week, the four-time Pro Bowl selection was released from the team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Antonio Brown, Steelers

We learned yesterday that Steelers owner Art Rooney II and All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown will sit down to clear the air in Florida. We now know that meeting is expected to happen next week, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes

Brown hasn’t been shy about his desire to be traded this offseason, and just recently the star wideout took to Twitter to answer questions about his relationship with the team, coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It marks the latest in a long line of headline-grabbing actions from the receiver in 2019, who in addition to requesting a trade, was also involved in a domestic dispute in January.

Should the Steelers emerge from the meeting with Brown determined to trade him, they will unsurprisingly look to move him to an NFC team first, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. It has been reported that Brown desires to play in San Francisco, while teams like the Cardinals, Jets and Raiders have emerged as teams expected to be in the running for his services. It is unlikely that a team would trade a first-round pick for the veteran receiver, who is owed $36.5MM over the next three season, but a team could be willing to part with a second- or third-round selection. Bouchette notes that trade talks are expected to commence at the NFL Combine, which begins in less than two weeks.

Despite the tumultuous end to the season and beginning of the offseason, Brown is undoubtedly still at the top of his game. The 30-year-old widoeut earned his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl selection in 2018, finishing with 104 catches, 1,297 yards and a league-leading and career-high 15 touchdown receptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Leaning Toward Keeping Eli Manning As Starter?

In the six weeks since Dave Gettleman‘s “no holds barred” conversation with Eli Manning, not much has transpired on this front.

With one fewer starting quarterback available, after the Broncos’ Joe Flacco trade agreement, the Giants represent one of the few teams with an uncertain situation atop its signal-caller depth chart. However, signs appear to be pointing toward Manning returning for at least one more season as the Giants’ starter.

All indications lead to this process ending with that conclusion, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com notes, adding that the belief around the league is the Giants saw enough from their longtime quarterback in the second half of last season to run their 15-season situation back one more time. Several close to Manning have seen no sign the Giants are planning on parting ways with the longest-tenured starting quarterback in team history.

The Giants are doing extensive research on this year’s top quarterback prospects, per Raanan, and are more likely than not to select a passer with their first- or second-round pick.

Manning raised his completion rate (a career-high 66 percent) and yards-per-attempt figures (7.5) considerably from the past two seasons and dropped his interceptions (11) to the lowest total during his 14 seasons a full-time starter. The Giants won four of five during a midseason stretch but dropped their final three games — three of which without Odell Beckham Jr.

If Manning is on the Giants’ roster on March 15, he will receive a $5MM roster bonus. His 2019 cap figure is $23.2MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins To Hire Reggie McKenzie

Former Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie will resurface as a member of the Dolphins’ front office. The Dolphins plan to hire McKenzie as a senior personnel executive, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports (on Twitter).

McKenzie has not been connected with any teams since being fired from his Raiders post. He served as Oakland’s GM for seven years, though the final season saw the Raiders strip him of much of his powers and give personnel control to Jon Gruden.

McKenzie will join a revamped Dolphins front office. GM Chris Grier now has more decision-making authority than he did under the previous arrangement, with the franchise elevating him and demoting Mike Tannenbaum. The former vice president of football operations is not expected to be with the Dolphins after the draft. Former Bills scout Marvin Allen is now serving as Grier’s right-hand man. McKenzie will join that mix in advance of an interesting season.

Notorious for big spending in free agency, the Dolphins are expected to tamp down their March investments this year. The team is plotting a rebuild that may or may not be based on landing in the best position to secure a top 2020 quarterback prospect.

Inheriting a Raiders team with significant issues in 2012, McKenzie participated in a similar teardown in his last role. Gruden gutted much of McKenzie’s roster last year, but the Raiders — significantly aided by McKenzie’s impact 2014 draft and some big free agency deals — did go 12-4 in 2016 to snap their playoff drought. McKenzie earned executive of the year acclaim for overseeing that 2016 turnaround. The Dolphins have made the playoffs just once in the past 10 seasons and have not won a postseason game since 2000.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL News & NFL Rumors