Release Candidate: Redskins RB Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson has big plans for 2020. The 35-year-old is 1,054 rushing yards away from passing Barry Sanders on the league’s all-time board and he believes that he might have enough gas in the tank to overtake Emmitt Smith’s No. 1 position. In February, the Redskins exercised his option for 2020, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the veteran will be in D.C. this year. 

[RELATED: Redskins’ Latimer Makes Court Appearance]

Peterson was already facing backfield competition from Derrius Guice and Bryce Love when the Redskins picked up his option, but the RB depth chart became even more crowded in the spring. First, the Redskins signed Peyton Barber to a two-year, $3MM free agent deal. Then, in April, they used a third-round pick to select Antonio Gibson out of Memphis. Gibson, a young and sure-handed playmaker, more or less has his roster spot cemented. That leaves no more than three – and, possibly, only two – running back spots up for grabs. Peterson, one of the most electrifying rushers the game has ever seen, could be the odd man out.

Peterson is set to earn $2.25MM in base pay this year, but the Redskins can drop him without much fiscal penalty. Cutting Peterson would leave the Redskins with just $750K in dead money, versus $2.48MM in savings. Would that be the smart move? There’s a case to be made in both directions. Peterson offers veteran leadership for the Redskins’ inexperienced backfield and could serve as a safety net for Guice if the former LSU star gets sidelined again. He’s also delivered for the last two years in D.C., despite the skeptics who said he was washed up. Between 2018 and 2019, Peterson has averaged a solid 4.2 yards per carry while suited up for 31 of a possible 32 games.

Ultimately, we expect the Redskins to do what’s best for business. Or, at least, what they think will be best for business. If the rest of the Redskins’ RB room stays healthy through training camp, Peterson could easily wind up on the curb this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Kittle, Seahawks

The 49ers already know that they want to keep George Kittle for the long haul, but they also know that it won’t come cheap. Kittle is on course to become the league’s highest-paid tight end of all-time. As Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com explains, Kittle’s value goes beyond the gaudy yardage and touchdown totals.

In Kittle’s 14 games last year, the Niners averaged 4.83 yards per carry and tallied 23 TDs on the ground. Without him? They averaged just 2.63 yards per carry with zero rushing scores.

What’s amazing about him is what he does in the running game,” former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum said. “He’s a dominant blocker and he’s been dynamic in the passing game. He’s a rare weapon that I think is more valuable than just a regular tight end because he can block so effectively.”

Then, of course, there are the obvious drivers behind Kittle’s value. Since 2017, Kittle has amassed 2,945 receiving yards, the most of any TE inside of their first three pro campaigns. in NFL history. And, in the past two seasons, he’s totaled 1,464 yards after the catch, good for No. 2 in the league.

It’s pretty much a given that Kittle will top Hunter Henry‘s $10.6MM average annual value, as well as Austin Hooper‘s four-year, $42MM watermark for the largest total contract among TEs. How much further will it go? Wagoner expects Kittle and the Niners to settle for a four-year deal in the range of $68MM-$72MM with roughly $40MM in guarantees.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

PFR Originals: 5/18/20 – 5/24/20

In case you missed it, here’s a look at some of our faves from the past week:

NFL Exec: We’re Planning For Full Stadiums

The NFL is “planning to have full stadiums” in the fall, league executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent says. Still, the league will yield to professionals and government restrictions before opening up the gates.

[RELATED: NY To Allow Training Camps]

We are planning to have full stadiums until the medical community tells us otherwise,” Vincent told The Team 980 (transcription via NBC Sports). “Now, remember when we’re talking — we’re talking about September, August, September. So there’s a lot that can happen here. So we’re planning for full stadiums.”

Vincent went on to explain that the league has contingencies in place for multiple scenarios. That could include “half stadiums,” and stadiums that are filled to just “three-quarters” capacity. Games could still be played without fans in attendance, of course, but it’s a major shift in tone from what we were hearing just a few short weeks ago.

The NFL could still rake in considerable revenue without fans, thanks to their TV contracts, but gate attendance still accounts for billions of dollars league-wife. If it’s feasible and safe for fans to fill the seats, Vincent says the league will find a way to make it happen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York To Allow Training Camp For Pro Sports Teams, Effective Today

Effective today, professional sports teams will be permitted to being training camps in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates). Naturally, teams will also have to follow appropriate health protocols, Cuomo says. 

[RELATED: Latest On College Football’s Plans]

Cuomo’s announcement gives the Bills the greenlight to hold training camp in Pittsford, NY on the campus of St. John Fisher College. This also opens up a potential avenue for the Jets and Giants, who ordinarily hold their camps in Florham Park and East Rutherford, New Jersey, respectively. For the last couple of months, teams in hotspot states like New York, New Jersey, and California have been weighing alternate sites in states that have lifted their restrictions. If New Jersey continues to stay on lockdown, the two Meadowlands teams may see a move to New York as an easier and more cost effective solution.

On the whole, it’s an encouraging sign for the NFL, professional sports, and the country as a whole. Soon, we could see restrictions eased in even more NFL-hosting states.

Starting June 1, the NCAA will allow voluntary activities for Division I football and basketball. The NFL is moving in a similar direction and plans to play things by ear, in accordance with their phase-by-phase program.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Stanford Head Coach David Shaw Won’t Pursue NFL Job

David Shaw has been connected to NFL head coaching vacancies for years. He’ll likely continue to draw interest from pro teams, but Shaw tells Mike Tirico of NBC Sports that he’s staying on campus. 

Stanford’s not a place you just go through, do a good job and jump out of here,” Shaw said (via PFT). “That’s not the way I see this job…I love being at Stanford because I get the brightest guys, I get the most competitive guys on and off the field. I still tell people I write more recommendations than any football coach in America for graduate school, for job opportunities. I’ve helped guys get to the point where they’re starting their own companies. That doesn’t happen on any other campus other than ours, so I love the energy. I love the passion. Not to mention we’re coming off a pretty darn good decade and ready to start the next decade on a high note also.”

Shaw, 48 in July, spent several years as an NFL assistant with the Eagles, Raiders, and Ravens before going back to school in 2006 with the University of San Diego. In 2007, he joined the Stanford staff and he was promoted to head coach in 2011. That’s where he’s been ever since, despite repeated head coaching inquiries from NFL clubs.

At Stanford, Shaw has enjoyed an 86-34 record, including a 58-22 mark in conference play. The National Championship has eluded him and his program is coming off of a 4-8 season – his worst showing ever – but Shaw says he’s staying put.

The Redskins were the most recent club to try and pull Shaw back to the NFL, expressing interest in him late last year before hiring Ron Rivera.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Not Interested In Trading For Jets’ Jamal Adams?

The Cowboys aren’t currently interested in trading for Jets star Jamal Adams, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com tweets. The Cowboys have long been connected to Adams, but it sounds like they’re skittish about coughing up significant draft capital and a market-resetting extension for the standout safety.

[RELATED: Jets, Joe Flacco Agree To Deal]

The Jets and Adams have had a drama-filled year, but things have mellowed between the two sides. They’ve been discussing an extension for the last few months and GM Joe Douglas has gone out of his way to publicly praixse the two-time Pro Bowler.

“[Adams] was a big reason I was excited about coming here,” Douglas said in April. “I feel this guy is a core player. The main goal that I’m trying to do right now is to surround him with like-minded players, because we know Jamal is a dog.”

There’s no “animosity” between Adams and Gang Green, but the 24-year-old (25 in October) remains “open” to a trade, Watkins hears. That’s not a huge surprise – Adams is currently set to earn $7.1MM in 2020 and $9.86MM in 2021, via the fifth-year option. After that, the Jets could cuff him via the franchise tag at least once, possibly twice, and, theoretically (but not realistically) three times. As one of the league’s premier safeties with youth on his side, Adams is understandably antsy to get his payday.

Adams’ camp is likely eyeing a contract that would push him ahead of Eddie Jackson‘s recent deal with the Bears, a four-year, $58.4MM pact to lead the league in average annual value at safety. Jackson also landed $33MM in guarantees, representing more than 50% of the deal’s total value.

From a football perspective, the Cowboys would obviously love to have Adams, but that would require a breakdown in talks and a serious slashing of the Jets’ asking price. At one point, Douglas was reportedly seeking a first round pick, plus two second-round picks in exchange.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets’ Joe Flacco Cleared To Start Throwing

New Jets quarterback Joe Flacco has been medically cleared to start throwing again, according to Manish Mehta of the Daily News (on Twitter).  The team also believes that the veteran will be on course for contact by early September. In the meantime, he’ll be able to toss the ball and prepare for the 2020 season.

[RELATED: Cowboys Not Interested In Jamal Adams?]

The Jets inked Flacco to a one-year deal on Friday, bringing him in as a veteran backstop to starter Sam Darnold. Flacco will be at the ready in case Darnold misses more time and he also figures to serve as a mentor to the soon-t0-be 23-year-old. Earlier in his career, Darnold had a similar dynamic with Josh McCown.

The Jets’ first choice for the QB2 role was Andy Dalton, but the Cowboys beat them to the punch. After that, Flacco stood as the most attractive option. Or, at least, the most attractive and realistic option. Cam Newton is still waiting for the right opportunity and he would have cost significantly more than Flacco. The ex-Broncos QB and former Ravens star signed on for just $1.5MM, though performance bonuses could take him up to $4.5MM. Outside of those notables, May’s free agent QB market included the likes of Blake Bortles, Drew Stanton, 2019 Jet Trevor Siemian, and Matt Moore, who was not high on their list despite his relationship with head coach Adam Gase.

With Flacco in the fold, the Jets will have some decisions to make in the QB room. Currently, they have David Fales, fourth-round pick James Morgan, and former Cowboys Day 3 pick Mike White on the roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Cowboys, Dak Prescott

The Cowboys and Dak Prescott might not be as far apart as previously believed. For months, we’ve been hearing that Prescott is aiming for a two or three-year deal while the Cowboys wanted something more traditional – likely five or six years. Instead, the quarterback is seeking a four-year deal while the Cowboys are pitching five years, according to one source who spoke with Calvin Watkins of The Dallas Morning News (on Twitter).

[RELATED: Latest On Cowboys’ Randy Gregory]

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the previous talk of Prescott wanting a two or three year deal was inaccurate. It’s possible that the current climate has changed Prescott’s views on potential open market upside versus long-term security. With a longer contract, Prescott can secure more in effective guarantees as well as guaranteed dollars at signing. Either way, it now seems like the Cowboys and their franchise QB are inching closer to a deal as the July 15th deadline approaches. They might not be on the same page, but they’re at least on the same chapter.

Prescott reportedly (and, naturally) wants to top Russell Wilson‘s league-leading $35MM average annual value. The Cowboys are hoping to hold the line and retain him at a lower rate, but any multi-year deal will have to wind up in that ballpark. If they can’t come to terms before the mid-June deadline, Prescott will earn $31.4MM in 2020 while remaining on course for free agency in ’21.

The Cowboys could franchise tag Prescott all over again next year, but that would leave them perilously thin everywhere else. Next year’s tag would call for a 20% raise over this year’s tag, which comes out to about $37.7MM. A third tag? That’d be a 44% jump – more than $54MM.

If the Cowboys want to stay in business with Prescott for the long haul, they’ll have to get something done sooner rather than later. And, if they can’t come to terms in the next few weeks, they’ll risk Prescott’s price jumping astronomically.

The latest news indicates that the Cowboys will hash things out by 6/15. History also suggests that a deal will get done. As Ed Werder of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter), seven of the league’s last ten franchise-tagged quarterbacks have agreed to multi-year deals before the deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

200+ NFL Draft Picks Remain Unsigned

We’re one month removed from the start of the 2020 NFL Draft and more than 200 of the league’s draft picks have yet to sign their contracts, as PFR’s NFL Draft tracker shows. To be exact, there are 207 stragglers and 48 signed, out of 255 picks. 

Thanks to the modern NFL’s draft slotting system, rookie deals are mostly a formality. Still, that’s an atypical amount of unsigned players for the ~30 day mark. In 2016, for example, there were only about 50 unsigned rookies by 5/24.

Obviously, the pandemic has complicated matters and changed the normal course of operation. As team facilities begin to open up and more states lift restrictions, we’ll see more draft picks sign their deals. It could be a while before we see some of this year’s top draft picks put pen to paper, however. No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow recently raised some eyebrows when he indicated that it could take months for his deal to be finalized.

The uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season has left teams concerned about their finances. In Burrow’s case, he’s set to collect a $24MM bonus from the Bengals. With cash flow concerns, teams are skittish about taking the plunge before necessary.

This year’s rookie class could drag longer than most, but, ultimately it should be business as usual – especially since first-round picks are not expected to put up a fight over offsets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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