Rob Gronkowski Announces Retirement

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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced his retirement via his Instagram page. Gronkowski released a lengthy statement in the caption to the post, saying in part:

It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine.”

Gronkowski has flirted with retirement in the past, but it felt especially sincere this time around, and the recent increased chatter about retirement turned out to be accurate. The surefire future Hall of Fame member was reportedly nearly traded to the Lions last offseason, but threatened to retire in order to block it. We heard earlier this morning that the Patriots “aggressively courted” Jared Cook before he decided to sign with the Saints, which in hindsight might’ve foreshadowed this move.

Gronk had some big moments this past season, but overall didn’t look like his old self. He appeared in 13 games, catching 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns. For his career, he’ll finish with 521 receptions, 7,861 yards, and 79 touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jeremy Maclin Announces Retirement

Former NFL wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has announced his retirement from the NFL, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Maclin, 30, was released by the Ravens last March but still expressed an interest in continuing his career in 2018. He didn’t garner any looks in free agency, however, although the Eagles were reportedly monitoring his status. Maclin’s health was an issue, as he suffered a hamstring/glute injury during a training session that required surgery in October. That ailment ruled him out for the 2018 campaign, and may have contributed to Maclin’s decision to hang up his cleats.

A first-round pick of the Eagles in 2009, Maclin averaged 64 receptions and 864 yards per season before breaking out in 2014, when he posted 85 catches for 1,318 yards and seven touchdowns. That performance landed him a five-year, $55MM contract with the Chiefs, and Maclin’s success continued in his first go-round in Kansas City, as he managed a 85/1,088/10 line.

In 2016, however, Maclin missed four games and failed to top 50 receptions or 600 yards receiving, and the Chiefs cut him after only two years. He landed with the Ravens on a two-year deal, but his results in Baltimore resembled his final year in Kansas City, leading to his release.

PFR extends its best wishes to Maclin and his family as he enters post-NFL life.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Hosted OL Tyler Shatley

The Vikings met with free agent interior offensive lineman Tyler Shatley on Friday, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Shatley’s visit didn’t end with a deal, but an accord between the two parties is still possible, tweets Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Minnesota has not yet offered Shatley a contract, although they have proposed a pact to fellow free agent Brett Jones, per Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link).

Minnesota is set to experience significant turnover along its offensive line. Mike Remmers and Tom Compton, each of whom played more than 75% of the Vikings’ snaps in 2018, are both gone, as is Nick Easton, who started 12 games in 2017 before missing all of last season with injury. Jones, too, is a free agent, and he’s drawn interest from the Seahawks, Eagles, Jets, and Chiefs in addition to the Vikings.

While they’ve lost several members of their front five, the Vikings have also made one addition, signing former Titans starter Josh Kline to a three-year deal worth $15.75MM. Minnesota is likely set at four of its five offensive line positions with Riley Reiff at left tackle, Pat Elflein at center, Kline at right guard, and Brian O’Neill at right tackle, but the club still needs help at left guard, where Danny Isidora is currently the projected starter.

Shatley, 27, has the ability to play both guard and center, and started 15 games for the Jaguars over the past three seasons. An undrafted free agent in 2014, Shatley played 543 snaps in Jacksonville last year, filling in at center while starter Brandon Linder was sidelined. Pro Football Focus graded Shatley as the NFL’s No. 26 center among 39 qualifiers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Trying To Trade S Morgan Burnett

The Steelers are going to have another high profile departure. Pittsburgh plans to release safety Morgan Burnett sometime before April 1st, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.

Pittsburgh is still attempting to trade Burnett, as general manager Kevin Colbert explained to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (Twitter link). But if the Steelers aren’t able to find a trade partner willing to take on Burnett, Colbert confirmed the club will release the veteran defensive back.

According to Burnett’s agent, the safety requested the move. A source told Fowler that “the team and player discussed trade possibilities before the release.” We heard a couple of months ago that Burnett was unhappy and wanted to be released, and now he’s getting his wish, although a bit later than he had hoped.

The safety market has been very active and was crowded to begin with, and there are still some big names available like Tre Boston and Eric Berry. As such, Burnett might have to wait a little while before finding a new home. Burnett apparently wanted to be released because he didn’t like that the Steelers were playing him at linebacker at times, and wanted to go to a team where he could be a full-time safety again.

When the move becomes official, Burnett will have made it just one year into the three-year, $14.5MM pact he signed last March. Burnett is 30 now, and not the player he once was with the Packers. He also missed five games with injury last year, and four games the year before that. Th 2010 third round pick had six passes defended and 30 tackles last year in his part-time role, although he did still receive slightly above average marks from Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Originals: 3/17/19 – 3/24/19

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

Eagles Pursued Tevin Coleman

Eagles top personnel executive Howie Roseman‘s track record with respect to expenditures for, and evaluation of, running backs is not a strong one, which we discussed a bit last week. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, in reviewing that track record again, said that the Eagles did go after a running back in the first wave of free agency this year, but for some reason they fell short in their pursuit.

McLane reports that Philadelphia had targeted former Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, whom running backs coach Duce Staley said was the best back on the market (even though the market also included Le’Veon Bell and Mark Ingram). Coleman, though, ultimately signed a modest two-year pact with the 49ers, and McLane is unsure as to why Roseman was unable to close the deal. Coleman may have preferred to reunite with Kyle Shanahan, the former Falcons OC who is now San Francisco’s head coach, but Roseman had the money and the playing time opportunity to entice Coleman.

Now, Philadelphia still needs to upgrade the position, which is probably the weakest on the roster. McLane suggests that the club could look to trade for the Bears’ Jordan Howard or the Browns’ Duke Johnson, though he questions how willing Roseman would be to give up even a late-round draft pick for backs that are available for a reason (plus, while the team does not necessarily need a lead runner in the traditional sense, Johnson is an imperfect fit given that he is better as a receiver than as a running back).

Similarly, McLane does not believe the remaining backs on the free agent market — currently headed by T.J. Yeldon and Isaiah Crowell — are legitimate targets for Roseman. He thinks the Eagles, who have two picks in the second round and two in the fourth, could use one of those selections on an RB, especially given that this year’s draft class of running backs offers plenty of talent in the middle rounds. But given Roseman’s past, even that is far from a sure thing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Lee, Allen, Fins

Rich Cimini of ESPN.com believes the Jets, who set a league spending record by doling out $137MM in total guarantees in free agency thus far, are very interested in trading down from their No. 3 overall pick to accumulate more draft capital. Despite its high-spending ways, New York still has a number of holes to fill, and with his QB of the future already in tow, GM Mike Maccagnan — who is under a ton of pressure this year — may look to add picks so that he can address those holes in the draft. After all, the Jets have only six picks in the draft at present, the third-fewest in the league.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • In the same piece linked above, Cimini writes that the Jets will look to shop linebacker Darron Lee during the draft. Lee is expendable now that C.J. Mosley is in the fold, and even if New York does not find any takers, Cimini does not think the club will cut Lee immediately. He suggests that the Jets could hold on to Lee in the hopes that another team suddenly finds itself in need of a young LB with a first-round pedigree, and he points out that New York was able to deal another disappointing first-round pick, Calvin Pyror, in a June trade several years ago.
  • The Patriots recently re-signed punter Ryan Allen to a one-year deal, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the club actually had a multiyear offer on the table. Allen, though, preferred the shorter option because he did not like the money he was being offered on the open market, and he wanted a chance to increase his worth on a prove-it deal. Reiss says, however, that New England could be more inclined to bring in competition for Allen, just as it did last season.
  • Reiss observes that cornerback Jason McCourty, who recently signed a two-year, $10MM pact to remain with the Patriots, did receive interest from several other clubs. McCourty had made it clear that he wanted to return to New England, so while he appreciated the opportunity to hit the open market at the start of free agency for the first time in his career, he is happy with how things turned out.
  • New Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has, predictably, refuted the talk that his team is tanking in 2019, and he would not concede that the club is embarking on a multiyear rebuild, either. As Grant Gordon of NFL.com writes, Flores told the NFL Network’s Judy Battista, “I think every team’s rebuilding. That’s this league. Every team rebuilds every year because no team is the same every year. I can tell you, we’re going to go try, gonna go out there and try to win every game. I think the foundation is there, and we’ll just, you know, like every other team we’re building.”

Cardinals’ HC On No. 1 Overall Pick: “Everything’s On The Table”

The Cardinals have been relatively busy since free agency opened, making a number of moves to bolster their offensive line, the front seven of their defense, and taking a flier on former first-round wideout Kevin White.

It does not appear that they will be contenders in 2019, however, and the moves they made were done with an eye on protecting a young quarterback and keeping the club competitive enough so that said young quarterback does not have to throw the ball 30+ times a game.

But who that quarterback will be remains an open question. There has been plenty of speculation that the club will use its No. 1 overall pick on Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray — just one year after trading up to the No. 10 pick to select Josh Rosen  and reports earlier this month indicated that Murray-to-Arizona was a done deal.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury is a major reason for the speculation, as Kingsbury has no personal connection to Rosen, and the prevailing belief is that Murray would thrive in Kingsbury’s system. And as Grant Gordon of NFL.com writes, Kingsbury has done nothing to quiet the rumor mill.

Kingsbury told the NFL Network’s Steve Wyche yesterday, in response to a question about whether he would consider a QB with the No. 1 pick, “everything’s on the table. When you have that first pick, you’ve gotta turn over every stone and look at every scenario that’s out there, and so we’re definitely doing that.”

Of course, Kingsbury is not going to tip his hand, and he has said all the right things about Rosen. But he also sounds like a man who is not truly committed to the second-year signal-caller, no matter what he says publicly. Kingsbury said, “Yeah, I do [think Rosen could remain with the team]. I do. I mean, when you have the first pick, anything can happen, as you know, but you know, he’s a talented player, and we’re very high on him and that hasn’t changed. I’ve talked to Josh and he understands it’s a business and what all goes with the first pick and what’s going on.”

The Cardinals have reportedly received trade inquiries on Rosen, though one potentially interested team, the Redskins, are likely out of the picture at this point after trading for Case Keenum. But after a difficult rookie campaign, Rosen probably would not fetch much of a return, with perhaps a third-round draft choice being the best-case scenario for Arizona.

The club does have plenty of needs beyond QB, though, and if Kingsbury is not ruling anything out, one of this year’s top pass rushing prospects, like Nick Bosa, could also be in play. The Cardinals could also trade the pick and try to land more draft capital to accelerate their rebuild, especially if Kingsbury believes he can mold Rosen into a quality signal-caller. But given the general dearth of top-end talent at the skill positions this year, and considering the depth of talent at pass rusher, such a trade may not yield as much in 2019 as it might in a different year.

That could change if another team falls in love with Murray, but one way or another, there figures to be plenty of intrigue over the course of the next month. Unless they trade their No. 1 pick, the Cardinals will be on the clock at 9pm EST on April 25.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extension Candidate: Melvin Gordon

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon said at the end of January that he would wait until Le’Veon Bell signed a new contract before engaging in extension talks with the Bolts. He later walked back those comments and said he would be open to negotiating an extension with the Chargers immediately, but regardless, Bell has finally landed his much-ballyhooed deal and Gordon and LA now have another benchmark to consider in their own negotiations.

GM Tom Telesco has said that he is open to considering an extension for Gordon — who is entering the final year of his rookie deal — this offseason, per Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times. However, Telesco indicated he didn’t have a timetable for a new deal, and given that there have not been any public reports concerning an extension, it may not happen until the summer at this point.

Gordon’s injury history is a complicating factor, but his talent is undeniable. The 2015 first-round pick does not have eye-popping YPC numbers in his career (he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry over his four professional seasons), but he did manage 5.1 yards per tote in 2018. He is also a major weapon as a receiver, compiling over 400 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons. He has 28 rushing touchdowns and 10 receiving scores in his career, and he was a key part of the Chargers’ return to the postseason last year.

But he did miss four games down the stretch in 2018, and he had December IR trips in 2015 and 2016. He did manage a full 16-game slate in 2017, and Telesco said he does not have “too many concerns” about Gordon’s durability, though that may not be entirely true.

In any event, Gordon stands to cash in and will surely be paid at the high end of the running back market. Todd Gurley is currently the pacesetter with an average annual value of $14.375MM and $45MM in guarantees, while Bell just landed a $13.125MM/year pact. The Cardinals’ David Johnson is now working under a $13MM/year deal and stands to earn $32MM in guarantees.

Gordon is due a modest $5.61MM this year under his fifth-year option, and if he does not get the long-term deal he’s looking for, he could force the issue by holding out. But it sounds as though both sides are willing to continue their relationship for the foreseeable future, and as Miller observes, Gordon is a popular figure in the Chargers’ locker room, so team brass will want to be careful about how it handles negotiations with him.

The guess here is that Gordon gets his extension sometime before the start of the regular season and lands a four-year deal worth about $14MM per year and with $35MM or so in guarantees.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Clay Harbor Attempting Comeback

Tight end Clay Harbor, who has seen regular season action for the Eagles, Jaguars, Lions, and Patriots in his career, is trying to make it back to the NFL, as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk (citing Mike Kaye of NJ.com) writes.

Harbor said, “I’m going to put everything into football for the next three months. If I don’t get signed by the time training camp is over or around that time, then I’m going to move on and figure out what the next step of my life is going to be.”

Harbor signed with the Saints in May 2017 but was placed on IR in August of that year. He has not played in a regular season game since 2016, which he began with the Patriots. New England cut him a few weeks into the 2016 campaign, and he caught on with the Lions immediately thereafter. He played very sparingly with both clubs, and though he appeared in 12 games with Detroit, he managed only three targets.

New Orleans acquired him with the thought that he could contribute on special teams and as a blocking tight end, but that did not really pan out. His best output as a receiver came over the 2012-14 seasons with the Jaguars, when he averaged 25 catches for 255 yards. He tallied five touchdowns during that time.

Given his modest offensive production over his career, and given that he has not seen regular action since 2015, it is hard to imagine that his comeback attempt will be successful.

Harbor was a contestant on the 14th season of The Bachelorette last year. He left the show after injuring his wrist while playing tackle football with the other contestants, an injury that required surgery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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