Browns No Longer Pursuing Jadeveon Clowney?

Now that the Browns have reworked the contract of defensive end Olivier Vernon, Cleveland is likely out of the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes, a source tells Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.

[RELATED: Browns Sign First-Round Pick Jedrick Wills]

The Browns are one of several teams known to have actually offered a contract to Clowney. Cleveland reportedly was willing to pay Clowney up to $15MM on a one-year deal, and also gave the veteran pass-rusher his best multi-year proposal.

Instead, the Browns will now retain Vernon and play him opposite Myles Garrett at defensive end. Cleveland isn’t interested in signing another veteran like Everson Griffen or Clay Matthews, so the club will likely roll with internal options such Adrian Clayborn and Chad Thomas in reserve.

With the Browns bowing out of a pursuit, Clowney’s market continues to dwindle. Once though to be assured of landing a hefty multi-year pact, Clowney will now almost assuredly have to accept a one-year offer.

The Raiders and Titans have both made offers to Clowney and could still sign the former No. 1 overall selection, and a return to the Seahawks isn’t out of the question, although Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reported the Seahawks won’t offer the $15-16MM they once were proposing.

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Lions Sign Fifth-Round WR Quintez Cephus

The Lions have agreed to terms with fifth-round wide receiver Quintez Cephus, according to his agents at SportsTrust Advisors (Twitter link).

Cephus, who caught 59 passes for 901 yards and seven touchdowns during his final year at Wisconsin, will likely need to contribute on special teams during his rookie campaign. Detroit boasts a wide receiver depth chart that’s already at least four-deep with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, and Geronimo Allison, while ace returner Jamal Agnew is making the change to full-time pass-catcher.

Cephus was expelled from Wisconsin during an ongoing investigation into assault charges filed by two women in the spring of 2018. He not only denied the accusations, but sued the university, arguing he was expelled with no due process. Cephus was ultimately acquitted and dropped the lawsuit against Wisconsin, and the school reinstated him as both a student and an athlete for 2019.

With Cephus under contract, the Lions now have six of their nine 2020 draft picks signed. Here’s the full list:

1-3: Jeffrey Okudah, CB (Ohio State)
2-35: D’Andre Swift, RB (Georgia): Signed
3-67: Julian Okwara, OLB (Notre Dame): Signed
3-75: Jonah Jackson, G (Ohio State): Signed
4-121: Logan Stenberg, OL (Kentucky): Signed
5-166: Quintez Cephus, WR (Wisconsin): Signed
5-172: Jason Huntley, RB (New Mexico State)
6-197: John Penisini, DT (Utah): Signed
7-235: Jason Cornell, DE (Ohio State)

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Latest On Patrick Mahomes’ Record Extension

The Chiefs have their quarterback signed to an unprecedented contract, with the 10-year, $450MM deal — which could be worth up to $503MM — tying him to the team through the 2031 season. Mahomes is the only current NFLer signed beyond 2026. Here is the latest on the deal:

  • Although Patrick Mahomes‘ contract contains just $63MM fully guaranteed — fifth among quarterbacks, and more than $30MM behind Matt Ryan‘s record number — that number will bump up to $106MM by March, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. By March 2022, that number spikes to $141MM. By March 2023, it rises to $180MM (Twitter links via ex-GM Mike Tannenbaum and veteran NFL reporter Jason Cole).
  • Beginning in 2022, Mahomes has incentives tied to MVPs and AFC titles. Although those are quite difficult to come by, the 24-year-old superstar already has two such accomplishments. Every Mahomes MVP or Super Bowl appearance will trigger a $1.25MM bonus, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. That totals $25MM and vaults the contract to the $503MM figure.
  • Mahomes’ camp gave in a bit on signing bonus money but secured massive roster bonus payouts, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The “guarantee mechanisms” will generate roster bonuses north of $30MM from 2023-28. This structure peaks with a monster $49MM bonus payout in 2027, according to OverTheCap. As for cap hits, Mahomes’ numbers do not become gigantic until 2022. This year, Mahomes will count barely $5MM toward the Chiefs’ cap; in 2021, that number jumps to $24.8MM. After a $31MM hit in 2022, the quarterback will count at least $39MM toward Kansas City’s cap in the deal’s final nine seasons. This peaks with two $50MM-plus cap years in 2030-31, though the sides could naturally be expected to have a new deal in place by then.
  • Citing the shocking number of years Mahomes gave up to get to a $45MM-AAV number, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes the quarterback would have done better by waiting and securing a shorter-term deal. “It’s like he had no leverage,” an NFL source indicated to Florio regarding Mahomes’ deal. Mahomes will have security amid an uncertain financial time for the NFL, which could see its projected growth fail to materialize for a while. But if Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson opt for extensions that allow them the chance to re-sign while still in their 20s, both can be expected to surpass Mahomes’ $45MM number midway through the Chief’s deal.
  • Watson and Jackson can be expected to top $40MM per year, Michael Lombardi of The Athletic writes (subscription required), adding that Dak Prescott‘s agent (Todd France) will argue his client should be paid $40MM annually. The Cowboys are not believed to have offered their franchise-tagged quarterback more than $33MM per year. The Texans, however, were linked to a $40MM-plus-AAV Watson deal before Mahomes signed.

Ivy League Postpones Football Season

The rumored scenario of the Ivy League moving its football season to the spring could be in the works. The academically renowned coalition announced Wednesday it is postponing its fall sports calendar.

With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall,” the league’s statement read.

Not too many Ivy Leaguers move on to NFL careers, but this decision could have ripple effects for Division I-FBS conferences. The Power 5 programs are not expected to make a final decision on the viability of fall football amid the COVID-19 pandemic for a few weeks, but the Pac-12 has already discussed the prospect of playing in the spring.

This would certainly be a seismic change for the sport, but upon facing massive revenue losses, schools will opt for spring football before cancelling seasons. Should Division I-FBS conferences postpone their seasons until the spring, in hopes the coronavirus will be under control in the country by then, it will affect the NFL. Top prospects will have little offseason time to recover in advance of the 2021 NFL season, and the NFL draft may commence before the college campaign ends. Currently, the NFL is against moving its draft to accommodate college teams playing football in the spring.

49ers’ Raheem Mostert Requests Trade

Raheem Mostert has requested a trade from the 49ers, with agent Brett Tessler indicating months of discussions about adjusting his contract from a special teams rate have not progressed (Twitter link).

The 49ers extended Mostert in March 2019; his three-year, $8.7MM deal runs through 2021. With Tevin Coleman going down with a sprained ankle in Week 1 last year, Mostert stepped into a key run-game role. And by season’s end, he was operating in tandem with Coleman as an essential part of San Francisco’s attack.

Mostert’s contract aspirations are based around bumping his pay to the level of Coleman, per Tessler (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, on Twitter). The 49ers signed Coleman to a two-year, $8.5MM deal in March 2019. Should the 49ers deny Mostert’s request, he and Coleman would be in line to share backfield work again. Only Jerick McKinnon, who remains with the team despite two missed seasons, and Jeff Wilson could make this a larger committee.

A report surfaced last week indicating the 49ers were mulling another Mostert deal. It does not appear those talks went too far. While Mostert seeking a raise adds up given the veteran’s ascent from special teams backup to productive running back, the two years remaining on the contract give the 49ers leverage. Mostert is due to make $2.6MM in 2020 base salary. His $2.9MM-AAV number ranks 25th among running backs.

Mostert, 28, bounced around the league for a while before landing with the 49ers in 2016. The ex-Purdue UDFA is the team’s longest-tenured running back, but up until 2018, he had logged just one NFL carry for six yards. Mostert averaged 7.7 yards per carry (on 34 totes) in 2018 and broke out in 2019, leading the 49ers with 772 rushing yards and pacing all running backs with 5.6 per carry. He then set a conference championship game record with four rushing touchdowns.

The 49ers traded Matt Breida to the Dolphins on Day 3 of the draft but still have Mostert, Coleman, Wilson and McKinnon under contract. The latter restructured his deal this March.

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Latest On Titans, Derrick Henry

The Titans and star running back Derrick Henry have been negotiating a long-term pact for at least the past six weeks or so, but as Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com writes, no extension is imminent. If the two sides cannot agree to terms by July 15, Henry will play out the 2020 season on his $10.278MM franchise tender.

[RELATED: Titans Monitoring Two Big-Name Vets]

Henry has already signed the tender, so there won’t be a holdout if nothing gets done by the deadline. But teams have been generally hesitant to authorize large extensions in the uncertain financial climate created by COVID-19, and running backs sometimes have difficulty securing big paydays even under normal circumstances.

On the other hand, Henry is not a normal running back. Thanks to relatively light usage over his first three years in the league, he should have plenty of tread left on his tires, and he is coming off a remarkable campaign in which he led the league in rushing and quite literally carried the Titans to a surprise appearance in the AFC Championship Game. He piled up 1,540 yards and 16 TDs on 303 carries, and he added another 206 yards and two TDs through the air. As such, he is surely shooting for a deal worth at least $15MM per year, with at least $30MM guaranteed at signing.

Given his importance to the team, that doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but it sounds as if there is still a large gap to bridge between player and team. Nonetheless, McCormick says both sides remain amenable to an extension and plan to continue talking right up to the deadline if necessary.

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Eagles Sign Quez Watkins

The Eagles have signed the second member of their 2020 draft class. Quez Watkins, the No. 200 overall selection, has put pen to paper, the team announced.

Philadelphia’s WR corps was in desperate need of a talent infusion this offseason, and while the club did not make any major moves to acquire a veteran — all due apologies to Marquise Goodwin — it did triple dip at receiver in the draft. Watkins joins first-rounder Jalen Reagor and fifth-rounder John Hightower as rookie wideouts looking to make an impact right away.

The three wide receiver draftees and Goodwin all have one thing in common: they can fly. Watkins posted the third-fastest time at the combine in Indianapolis, and some believed he could go as early as the fourth round. The Southern Miss product needs to expand his route tree and improve his physicality, but if head coach Doug Pederson can scheme some touches for him, his game-breaking athleticism will be tough to defend.

And though Watkins is a sixth-round pick, he may not be buried on the depth chart. Alshon Jeffery could start the season on the PUP list, DeSean Jackson‘s status with the team just became rather tenuous, and second-year pro JJ Arcega-Whiteside had a disappointing rookie campaign. So there is a scenario in which Watkins could be a big factor this year, especially if he gets a shot as a kick returner.

Here’s a rundown of the Eagles’ class, via PFR’s Tracker:

1-21: Jalen Reagor, WR (TCU)
2-53: Jalen Hurts, QB (Oklahoma)
3-103: Davion Taylor, LB (Colorado)
4-127: K’Von Wallace, S (Clemson)
4-145: Jack Driscoll, G (Auburn)
5-168: John Hightower, WR (Boise State)
6-196: Shaun Bradley, LB (Temple)
6-200: Quez Watkins, WR (Southern Miss): Signed
6-210: Prince Tega Wanogho, T (Auburn): Signed
7-233: Casey Toohill, DE (Stanford)

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Titans Monitoring Jadeveon Clowney, Stephen Gostkowski

The Browns may be out of the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes, leaving the Seahawks and Raiders as the the arguable frontrunners for his services. But don’t count the Titans out just yet. In a Periscope/Facebook Live conversation with PaulKuharsky.com, GM Jon Robinson talked about what a useful asset Clowney would be to Tennessee’s front seven and how he would complement the talent already on the roster.

But Robinson also reiterated that he wants to have team doctors examine Clowney before he moves forward in his attempts to sign him. While Robinson acknowledged that the former No. 1 overall pick looks good from what he has seen on social media, there is obviously no substitute for an in-person evaluation.

“Anytime you are dealing with whatever the contract is going to command, you want to make sure that the player is healthy, that you are able to allow your doctors to see him, to look at it, to make sure everything is going to be good,” Robinson said.

Those comments are noteworthy in light of the fact that the Titans were previously reported to have made multiple offers to Clowney earlier this offseason. Assuming those reports were accurate, it seems as if Robinson may have been willing to bring Clowney in on a fairly low-risk deal without a medical examination, but if he is going to make a sizable commitment, he needs to be assured that Clowney is in good health.

Robinson also said that the team would consider taking a look at veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The longtime Patriots stalwart was released by New England in March on the heels of a 2019 season that was largely wiped out by a left hip injury. The Titans are currently rostering Greg Joseph, whom they signed off the Panthers’ taxi squad in December, and UDFA Tucker McCann. Robinson conceded that the PK job is Joseph’s to lose, but he would be amenable to bringing in Gostkowski to provide some worthy competition.

Gostkowski, 36, said in April that he has no plans to retire, but this is the first time we’ve heard his name since then. His 87.4% field goal percentage is the fifth-best of all time.

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NFL, NFLPA At Odds Over Salary Escrow Proposal

In order to mitigate a potential $4B loss in revenue that could arise if the 2020 NFL season is played without fans, the league submitted a proposal to the union whereby 35% of player salaries would be held in escrow, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). The union’s response? “Kick rocks,” per NFLPA executive Don Davis (Twitter link via Pelissero).

The union believes that such an escrow agreement must be collectively bargained, and Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic believes the two sides will ultimately agree to a smaller percentage (Twitter link). Kaplan thinks the NFL’s proposal was simply an opening salvo, with the league estimating that the prospective lost revenue will equate to about 35% of the salary cap. Mark Maske of the Washington Post says the escrow proposal could help to avoid a major drop in the 2021 cap, but players are not reacting favorably to the idea thus far (Twitter link).

The union and the league have been arguing over certain safety protocols, the number of preseason games, etc. Now that economics have joined the fray, many have pointed to the protracted battle between Major League Baseball and its union as a harbinger of things to come for the NFL. But to be clear, as Maske tweets, NFL players ultimately would be paid any money that is put into escrow. The only issue — albeit a significant one — is when the money would be paid. Pelissero says the union wants to spread out the damage created by a lost season over the course of the 11-year CBA, and the league wants to do it more quickly (video link).

The league and union have come together on training camp facility protocols, but a lot of work still needs to be done in almost every other aspect of COVID-19 matters, and there is not much time to get these issues resolved.

Eagles Looking Into Cutting DeSean Jackson?

Yesterday, in response to DeSean Jackson‘s anti-Semitic social media post — for which Jackson subsequently apologized — the Eagles issued a statement that said the team “will take appropriate action.” It remains to be seen whether that action includes cutting ties with the veteran wideout, but that certainly seems to be in the cards.

The ESPN.com report we cited in yesterday’s story noted that Jackson had met with team owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman — both Jewish — and that while Lurie expressed deep disappointment in Jackson’s post, no suspension or termination had been discussed. Indeed, Jackson reportedly expressed to Lurie his desire to educate himself and work in the Jewish community.

However, NFL insider Adam Caplan says that team brass has met with Jackson and his agent several times, and that the situation is not going away (Twitter link). Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Philadelphia’s decision as to Jackson’s future with the team could hinge on whether his social media post constitutes a default of his contract. The Eagles have already paid a $2MM option bonus, and $4.8MM of Jackson’s 2020 salary is guaranteed. Schefter says the team could try to void that guarantee.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk obtained a copy of the contract, and he believes it would be difficult for the Eagles to get out of paying Jackson his guaranteed money. They could void the guarantee if Jackson were suspended by the league, but the league has made it clear that this matter will be handled by the team. And if Philadelphia tries to suspend him for conduct detrimental to the team, it would be facing an uphill battle since it did not suspend former receiver Riley Cooper when he was caught on camera using a racial slur in 2013. But Florio also believes a team source has told Schefter that, if the Eagles can release Jackson and absolve themselves of their $4.8MM obligation, they will.

As he awaits word of his fate and tries to repair his image, Jackson took to Twitter to post another apology.

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