Extra Points: Packers, UDFAs, Panthers, T.O.

After having been fired as the Browns head coach back in 2016, Mike Pettine is back in the NFL as the Packers defensive coordinator. While the 51-year-old acknowledged that he’ll appreciate the brief break prior to training camp, he also admitted that he’ll soon be itching to return to the field.

“That will last about a week, and then I’ll start thinking about football,” Pettine told Jason Wilde of SouthernMinn.com. “I have my own list of things to do, but I’ll be smart with it. I’ll do a little bit at a time. But it’s hard to completely detach from it. [But] that’s what’s great about that time — you can get around friends and families and take you away from it. But it’s always there, and by 10-12 days into July, I’ll be ready to start camp.”

Pettine’s defenses have generally been productive, as the coach has had previous success with the Ravens, Jets, and Bills. The Packers are hoping he can turn around a defense that finished 26th in points allowed last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • NFL.com’s Gil Brandt observes (on Twitter) that there were 32 undrafted rookies to make bonuses of $15K or more. The top earners were Eagles running back Josh Adams, Giants cornerback Grant Haley, and Raiders kicker Eddy Pineiro, with the trio each making $25K. Generally, it’s assumed that the highest-paid undrafted free agents have the best shot of making the regular season roster.
  • The Panthers will not renew the contract of senior executive scout Don Gregory, reports Joe Person (via Twitter). Gregory had previously served as the organization’s college scouting director for more than a decade, but he served in more of a consulting role between Marty Hurney‘s two stints with the team.
  • Terrell Owens, who is set to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, believes he can still play football. Well, the 44-year-old could have his chance…in the Canadian Football League. David William Naylor of TSN tweets that the Edmonton Eskimos have added the receiver to their negotiation list. Teams are allowed to claim exclusive rights on players by placing them on the list, but players can easily be removed at anytime. It’s unlikely that Owens will stay on the list for very long, as the wideout hasn’t played professionally since 2012 (and he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2010).
  • Speaking of the CFL, former NFL Ricky Stanzi has been released by the Calgary Stampeders (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). The 30-year-old had a standout performance during the 2017 Spring League, and he ended up earning a contract with the Canadian team. The 2011 fifth-round pick had stints with the Chiefs, Jaguars, Texans, Giants, and Lions during his NFL career, although he never managed to take the field for a regular season game.

Falcons OC Steve Sarkisian On The Hot Seat?

Steve Sarkisian is entering his second season as Falcons offensive coordinator, but the coach’s job could already be in jeopardy. Appearing on “The Wake Up Call” on ESPN Charlotte, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Sarkisian is on the hot seat (via Matthew Chambers of SBNation’s The Falconholic).

Specifically, Ledbetter noted that the offensive coordinator disappointed during his first year on the job, and a “change will be in order” if the offense struggles again. Furthermore, the team brought in new quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp in an attempt to help with the offensive game plan, with Ledbetter referring to the coach as Sarkisian’s “sounding board.”

Following a 2016 conference-winning season where the Falcons led the NFL in points and finished second in yards, the team took a step back in 2017. Atlanta ultimately ranked 15th in points and eighth in yards, with quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Devonta Freeman putting up some of their worst numbers in several seasons. The team is hoping that some of their offseason additions will help improve the offense, including first-round wideout Calvin Ridley. The Falcons also added free agent tight end Logan Paulsen and offensive guard Brandon Fusco.

Sarkisian was hired by the Falcons last offseason after Kyle Shanahan took the 49ers head coaching gig. The 44-year-old had recently served as the offensive coordinator at Alabama and the head coach at Washington and USC. His only other NFL stint came in 2004, when he served as the Raiders quarterbacks coach.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Notes: Rookies, Pettis, Tight End, Garnett

49ers second-round wideout Dante Pettis has an opportunity to contribute right away. Thanks to injuries to Trent Taylor and Marquise Goodwin, the Washington product received plenty of practice reps during OTAs, spending time in the slot and on the outside. While the rookie probably won’t be starting by the time the regular season comes around, the coaching staff is still confident he’ll play a role next season.

“It’s just nice when you have guys who can do different things that you aren’t handcuffed in a game,” head coach Kyle Shanahan told Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee. “Similar to how Aldrick Robinson has been for us. He’s fast enough to do some of that stuff, but he also can do the things that other guys do, which just allows you to overcome. If we could dress 15 receivers every game, none of that stuff would matter. But it’s what you get up on game day and how to get through a game.”

As of right now, Pettis is competing with Robinson, Victor Bolden, and Kendrick Bourne to be the team’s fourth wideout.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of San Francisco…

  • Moore has notes about some of the team’s other draft picks and their progress during OTAs. The writer observed that third-rounder Fred Warner was starting at one of the team’s two inside linebacker spots, while fifth-round defensive back D.J. Reed should be the team’s backup safety. Moore was predictably impressed by first-round offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, noting that he was a seamless fit on the offensive line and in the locker room.
  • In his 49ers mailbag, Barrows lists quarterback, offensive tackle, and cornerback as the “most vulnerable” positions. The writer also notes that a Goodwin injury would leave the team with a big hole, as his speed his valuable on offense and (potentially) in the return game.
  • While George Kittle and Garrett Celek will likely see the bulk of the 49ers snaps at tight end, Barrows believes the team will still end up keeping three players at the position. Tight ends coach Jon Embree previously implied that Cole Hikutini was the team’s definitive third tight end, but the 49ers are also rostering Cole Wick and Malcolm Johnson.
  • When asked who his pick would be for a “surprise cut,” Barrows points to offensive guard Joshua Garnett. The 2016 first-round pick started 11 of his 15 games as a rookie, but he missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery. While the 24-year-old will have to come back from his injury, he’ll also have to hold off a pair of offseason acquisitions in Michael Person and Jonathan Cooper.

This Date In Transactions History: T.J. Yates, Akeem Dent

Four years ago today, we had a rare June NFL trade. In a relatively interesting move (at the time), the Texans sent quarterback T.J. Yates to the Falcons for linebacker Akeem Dent.

Houston had actually planned on releasing Yates, their 2011 fifth-round pick. The North Carolina product had failed to show much during his first three years in the NFL, throwing three touchdowns and six interceptions in 13 games. With coach Bill O’Brien deciding to roll with the trio of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and Tom Savage, Yates was set to be released and hit free agency. However, once word of Yates’ impending release got around the NFL, teams started calling in on the young signal-caller.

Houston ended up landing on a deal with the Falcons, receiving the intriguing Dent in return. The 2011 third-round pick had looked solid during his stint in Atlanta, starting 10 games and compiling 136 tackles in three years. While the Georgia product failed to progress during his time in Houston, the trade still appears to be a win for the Texans. Dent collected 38 tackles and one sacks in 15 games (seven starts) during his first season in Houston, earning himself a two-year extension. However, over the next two seasons, Dent only managed to compile a combined 29 tackles and zero sacks. The 30-year-old hasn’t appeared in the NFL since 2016.

Yates’ tenure with the Falcons was short-lived. The quarterback appeared in only a single game for the franchise, completing three of four passes for 64 yards and one interception. He was released by Atlanta prior to the 2015 season, and he ended up catching on again with… the Texans. Yates looked a bit better during his second (and third) stint in Houston, and he earned a chance to play this past season due to injuries. He finished the 2017 campaign having completed 48.5-percent of his passes for 523 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Adam Vinatieri Not Looking To Retire “Anytime Soon”

Despite being the oldest active NFL player, kicker Adam Vinatieri isn’t planning on hanging up his cleats. The 45-year-old told Andrew Walker of Colts.com that while breaking the league’s all-time points record would be the perfect exclamation to a Hall of Fame career, he can’t envision himself retiring anytime soon.

“I love it as much today as I had when I started 23 years ago,” Vinatieri said. “I’m not looking to hang them up anytime soon, unless something happens that needs to be that way.

“I guess I’ll take these one year at a time and see where it ends up. I would anticipate if I can stay healthy and be productive, I can anticipate catching up to Morten midseason or thereabout, and I guess at the end of the year I’d be 46. I’m not putting anything out of reach. I’m not looking and saying, ‘No way,’ or ‘For sure.’ But again, like I said, I just want to help our team be as productive as possible this year, and if everything works out well, hopefully we’ll be having this conversation again next year.”

The 22-year veteran is within 57 points of Morten Andersen‘s all-time points record, and he needs only seven more field goals to break Anderson’s mark (he still needs 135 extra points to reach George Blanda‘s record). A 1996 undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State, Vinatieri has split his career between the Patriots and Colts. Along the way, he’s earned three Pro Bowl nods, three first-team All-Pro honors, and four Super Bowl Championships.

Of course, that elusive fifth championship is another reason why the kicker is sticking around, as another ring would tie him with Tom Brady and Charles Haley for the most all time. Vinatieri mentioned that the opportunity to win another Super Bowl has played a role in him sticking around for so long, and he believes the Colts have a chance to win another title with him on the squad.

“We have a lot of things that can make this team successful and I look at this as a team that can make the playoffs moving forward,” Vinatieri said. “And that was a big decision for me. I clearly wanted to stay in Indy. My family lives here. Everybody, we love the state of Indiana. We are all Hoosiers now. But I also felt like I wanted to play for a team that can win and I feel like Chris Ballard and hiring Frank [Reich], I talked to Frank a little bit as well, I think these two gentlemen can definitely turn this organization around so I’m happy and excited to sign with this team and to see where we can go with it.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Veteran NT B.J. Raji Unlikely To Attempt Comeback

When nose tackle B.J. Raji walked away from football in 2016, he declared it a “hiatus” instead of a retirement. Well, the 31-year-old probably won’t be returning to the NFL anytime soon. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweets that he’s asked several agents about Raji’s status over the past few years, and it “doesn’t sound like” the longtime Packers standout will ever be coming back.

The veteran has sat out the past two seasons, and he reportedly turned down a lucrative contract to stick around with Green Bay in 2016. Last year, we heard that members of the Packers organization had been keeping in touch with Raji, and head coach Mike McCarthy even said the organization would “like to have him back.”

The 2009 first-round pick out of Boston College had spent his entire seven-year career with Green Bay, earning a Pro Bowl birth and a Super Bowl championship along the way. Raji missed the entire 2014 campaign due to a torn bicep, but he otherwise missed only five regular season games during his time with the Packers. In that span, he compiled 151 total tackles, 11 sacks, and 10 passes defended.

Presumably, if Raji were to attempt a comeback, it’d be with the Packers. However, it’s unlikely the veteran would play much more than a reserve role. After all, the organization used a first-round pick on nose tackle Kenny Clark back in 2016, and the 22-year-old has proceeded to compile 76 tackles and 4.5 sacks during his two years with Green Bay.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign First-Round TE Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have agreed to sign rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). With that signing, the Ravens now have both of their entire draft class wrapped up. 

Hurst, a 6’5″, 250-pound prospect out of South Carolina, initially planned for a career in baseball after the Pirates drafted him in 2012 as a pitcher. After two years in the Gulf Coast League, he walked on with the Gamecocks in 2015. In 2016, he broke out with school records at the position in receptions and tight ends. He followed that up with a similarly strong campaign in 2017, positioning himself as one of the top tight ends in the 2018 class.

Hurst’s detour into baseball made him one of the oldest rookie’s in this year’s class and he’ll celebrate his 25th birthday before the start of the season. However, the Ravens believe the potential is still there. This year, he’ll serve as the Ravens’ top tight end, ahead of Nick Boyle and former second-round selection Maxx Williams.

Here’s the complete rundown of the Ravens’ draft class, via PFR’s tracker:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Virginia Tech’s Adonis Alexander

Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander is a popular man these days. In advance of July’s supplemental draft, at least 26 NFL teams will attend his pro day on Wednesday, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Meanwhile, he’ll sit down with seven clubs and will even visit a team on Wednesday. 

With more than 80% of the league watching him work out, it seems likely that Alexander will be drafted next month if he performs well. It’s never a given that players in the supplemental draft will actually come off of the board as teams are required to sacrifice the equivalent pick for the following year’s rookie draft.

In the past six years, only two players have been selected in the supplemental draft – Josh Gordon (Browns, 2012) and Isaiah Battle (Rams, 2015). Since 1977, only 43 players have been selected in total.

Alexander was the first notable entrant into this year’s supplemental draft, but he has been overshadowed to some extent by former Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal. Beal was projected to be taken high in the 2019 NFL draft and NFL personnel people reportedly believe he’s likely to go somewhere in the first three rounds in July.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Glossary: Contract Incentives

This year’s biggest free agents have already come off of the board, but there are still plenty of notable veterans available, including Antonio GatesDeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Tre Boston, and Johnathan Hankins. When these players eventually sign, they’re likely to have contract incentives built into their deals. With that in mind, we wanted to give a refresher on contract incentives and their various forms.

Signing bonuses can sweeten the pot for free agents and are largely self-explanatory, but incentives are a bit trickier. At the most basic level, contract incentives are designed to reward a player for his performance — in some cases, these financial rewards are linked to individual or team production, while other incentives can be earned simply by the player earning a spot on his team’s active roster from week to week. These incentives are divided into two categories: Likely to be earned (LTBE) and not likely to be earned (NLTBE).

Under the NFL’s definition, a likely to be earned incentive is generally one that was achieved the year before. So if a running back racked up 1,300 yards on the ground in 2017 and has an incentive in his contract that would reward him for surpassing 1,200 yards in 2018, that incentive is viewed as likely to be earned and counts against his cap hit from the start of the year. On the other hand, a back who has never surpassed 700 rushing yards in a season could have an incentive on his deal for 2014 that would reward him for rushing for 800 yards — such a bonus would be considered not likely to be earned, and wouldn’t count against the player’s cap number.

Because the player’s or team’s performance in a given season dictates whether or not the incentive is actually earned, the player’s cap number is sometimes altered after the fact. For instance, there’d be no change if a player met the criteria for a $50K LTBE incentive, but if he failed to earn that incentive, his team would be credited with $50K in cap room for the following season. Similarly, if a $50K NLTBE incentive isn’t reached, nothing changes, but if a player does earn that incentive, his club’s cap space for the following season is reduced by $50K.

A simple incentive linked to yardage or touchdown totals in a season isn’t too hard to track, but there are more convoluted forms of bonuses. Let’s say a player coming off an injury that limited him to six games played signs a contract that would pay him $500K in per-game roster bonuses. That player would be considered likely to appear in six games, but unlikely to appear in more beyond that. So, of his $500K in roster bonuses, $187,500 would initially count against the cap, as the LTBE portion.

Here are a few more notes on contract incentives and how they work:

  • Any incentive that is considered to be in the player’s sole control, such as weight bonuses, or his presence at workouts, is considered likely to be earned.
  • Any incentive in the first year of a rookie contract is considered likely to be earned.
  • Individual performance incentives can be linked to most basic statistical categories, such as yardage, yards per attempt, and touchdowns. However, more obscure stat categories typically aren’t allowed for individual incentives. For instance, a receiver couldn’t have an incentive tied to receptions of 20+ yards. Meanwhile, a defender could have an incentive linked to sacks or interceptions, but not to tackles for a loss.
  • In some cases, individual performances can also dictate the value of traded draft picks. For example, the Jaguars making the playoffs in 2017 altered their trade for Marcell Dareus. The Bills received a conditional 2018 sixth-round pick for Dareus in the parties’ October trade, but that pick became a fifth-rounder when the Jags reached the postseason.

Note: This is a PFR Glossary entry, modified from an earlier entry by editor emeritus Luke Adams. Our glossary posts explain specific rules relating to free agency, trades, or other aspects of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Information from Russell Street ReportOver The Cap, and Salary Cap 101 was used in the creation of this post.

Patriots Shopped Gronk To Four Teams

The Patriots deny having shopped Rob Gronkowski this offseason, but evidence to the contrary is mounting. The Pats engaged in trade talks with the Lions, Titans, Texans, and 49ers, Albert Breer of The MMQB told FS1 (transcription via NESN). 

[RELATED: Will 2018 Be Shaq Mason’s Last Year With Pats?]

Recently, we learned the Patriots were discussing deals involving Gronk as recently as three days before the draft. Meanwhile, Mike Florio of PFT hears from a league source that the Patriots had conversations with more clubs than the four listed by Breer. However, a deal was never close enough for the Pats to talk to the tight end about the possibility. When Gronk put the retirement rumors to rest in April, it seems that the trade discussions were also 86’d.

Breer hears that the Patriots only discussed a potential Gronkowski trade with teams they “trust.” The tentacles of the Patriots extend to all four teams: Lions GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia used to work for the Pats, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien previously served as the Pats’ offensive coordinator, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel played for the Pats and GM Jon Robinson spent more than ten years in New England, and Bill Belichick has a solid relationship with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

For now, it seems like Gronk is staying put, but the Patriots weren’t entirely truthful when they threw water on the latest round of trade rumors. The two sides will likely hammer out a revised contract between now and the start of the season, but it’s still a situation worth monitoring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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