Texans GM On Jadeveon Clowney Negotiations: “It’s A Process”

Recent reports indicated that the Texans and Jadeveon Clowney haven’t made any progress on a long-term deal. However, general manager Brian Gaine said the two sides are still working on completing negotiations before the July 15th deadline.

“That’s the spirit of the franchise tag,” Gaine told Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com. “You know, there’s a reason why we did that with every hope and intention to continuing to work on that. That’s a negotiation, it’s a process. It has to be a deal that makes sense for both sides, for the player, for the organization as it relates to short term and long term. That’s still the plan.”

The Texans franchised Clowney last month, and the pass-rusher subsequently decided to skip out on the team’s offseason program. When those reports surfaced, we also heard that “no deal is in sight or expected anytime soon.” Clowney is set to make $15.44MM on the franchise tag in 2019. The two sides have until July 15th to negotiate an extension, per league rules. If the two sides don’t agree on a new deal, Clowney would have to play next season under the tag (or he could follow the Le’Veon Bell route and sit out the entire campaign).

Considering Clowney’s recent production, the 26-year-old should expect a lucrative contract. The former first-overall pick compiled nine sacks in 15 games last season, and he ultimately graded out as Pro Football Focus’ tenth-best edge defender. Some pundits believe that the deal Demarcus Lawrence just got from the Cowboys is a good sign for Clowney, and others believe that Frank Clark‘s standoff with the Seahawks could also provide some clarity.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On 49ers’ Draft Plans

Assuming the Cardinals select quarterback Kyler Murray with the first-overall pick, it’s expected that the 49ers would subsequently take Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa with the second-overall pick. However, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com writes that this perception could be the 49ers’ way of throwing rival teams off their trail.

Florio says that “some in league circles believe that the extent to which the 49ers are allowing that perception to exist unchallenged could mean, in reality, that the 49ers are planning to do something else.” If this is truly the case, and the 49ers aren’t 100-percent focused on selecting Bosa with the second pick, then this could vicariously lead to a pair of draft scenarios.

For starters, the 49ers could simply be eying Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. If the organization is looking for an Aaron Donald-type player who they could easily throw in to the interior of their defensive line, then Williams would seemingly be the perfect choice. Of course, this wouldn’t necessarily explain why the 49ers aren’t doing anything to decrease the Bosa-to-San Francisco talk. If the team intends to take Williams with the second pick, they could just publicly refute the Bosa rumors. On the flip side, perhaps they’re keeping their mouths shut until they get clarity on Arizona’s pick.

The other scenario revolves around a trade. As Florio points out, it was only two years ago that the 49ers acquired an extra pair of third-rounders and an extra fourth-rounder for simply moving down one spot in the draft. If, say, the Jets are particularly enamored with Bosa, the 49ers could use their own “interest” in the Ohio State standout to get more out of a trade. Either way, if the 49ers are hoping to make a trade and draft Williams, they probably won’t be able to drop much further than fourth-overall; the majority of mock drafts have some combination of Murray, Bosa, Williams, and Kentucky edge defense Josh Allen in their top-four.

This Date In Transactions History: Tim Tebow Joins The Eagles

Four years ago today, quarterback Tim Tebow signed his last NFL contract. On April 20th, 2015, the two-time BCS national champion inked a one-year deal with the Eagles.

With Tebow seemingly settling for a backup gig in Philly, it emphasized how far the former first-rounder had fallen in only a few years’ time. In 2011, Tebow appeared in 14 games (11 starts) for the Broncos, completing 126 of his 271 pass attempts (46.5% completion percentage) for 1,729 yards, 12 touchdowns, and six picks. He also added 660 rushing yards and six scores on 122 carries. The Florida product also appeared in two playoff games that season, including a dramatic overtime win over the Steelers.

However, after Denver inked Peyton Manning to a contract prior to the 2012 season, Tebow was traded to the Jets. The quarterback ended up making 12 appearances (two starts) for New York that year. While he only attempted eight pass attempts, he did compile 102 rushing yards on 32 carries. His season ended prematurely after he suffered two broken ribs.

Tebow was released by the Jets following that season, and he caught on with the Patriots during the 2013 preseason. Ultimately, New England let him go prior to the regular season, and Tebow transitioned to a broadcasting gig. However, on this date four years ago, he still managed to receive his final NFL opportunity.

When the Eagles signed Tebow, they were hoping he’d compete with Matt Barkley to be the team’s third-string signal-caller behind Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez. Tebow ended up getting action in all four of Philly’s preseason games, completing 21 of his 36 attempts for 286 yards, two scores, and one pick. He also added another 82 rushing yards. However, after nearly two years away from football, Tebow was clearly a step behind the other signal-callers on the Eagles’ depth chart, and the team released him prior to the regular season.

Since that time, Tebow has taken his athletic prowess to baseball, where he’s been playing in the New York Mets’ farm system. Had the quarterback been able to establish a role on that Eagles team, perhaps the 31-year-old would still be pursuing his NFL dreams instead of lingering in the minor leagues.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Wilson, Vikings, McLeod, AAF

More details of Russell Wilson‘s landmark extension are emerging. Wilson’s 2020 and ’21 base salaries — $19MM apiece — will become fully guaranteed if he is on the Seahawks roster five days after Super Bowls LIV and LV, respectively. With that a near-certainty, Wilson’s $107MM in total guarantees are practically full guarantees. Wilson will earn a $19MM base salary in 2022 and ’23, according to OverTheCap. This deal leaves Wilson with cap numbers of $26.29MM (2019), $31MM (2020), $32MM (’21), $37MM (’22) and $39MM (’23). The eighth-year quarterback’s base salary was slated to be $17MM this year; the new deal converted much of that money into a signing bonus, with Wilson now attached to a $5MM base in 2019. The new contract raised Wilson’s 2019 cap number by just $1MM. Additionally, the contract includes a $6MM escalator clause — which would bring the total dollar figure up to $146MM — for Wilson’s 2023 salary, per CBS Sports’ Joel Corry (on Twitter). Unspecified performance-based incentives from 2020-22 can bump the Pro Bowler’s $21MM salary in 2023 to $27MM.

Here is the latest from around the American football landscape:

  • The Vikings are considering moving left tackle Riley Reiff to left guard, but it appears that is contingent on how the draft goes. Reiff will likely only move inside if Minnesota selects a first-round tackle, per Dave Campbell of the Associated Press. Reiff has only played tackle in the NFL. The Vikings “wouldn’t hesitate” to move center Pat Elflein to guard, Campbell adds, but that will also be contingent on the draft. Minnesota failing to add a center worth relocating Elflein would presumably nix that move. Either way, the Vikings’ embattled line will likely look a bit different post-draft.
  • Rodney McLeod will not participate in the Eagles‘ offseason program. The veteran safety, who tore his ACL in Week 3 of last season, is aiming for a training camp return, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Les Bowen notes. McLeod took a major pay cut this offseason, slashing his 2019 salary from $7.5MM to $1.5MM. That can become $4MM, should McLeod play in all 16 Eagles games, Bowen adds. He played in 16 games in each season from 2012-16 and had missed just two in his career prior to the 2018 injury. McLeod signed a five-year deal in 2016, but the contract is now a four-year pact. The restructure voided the 2020 season.
  • No last-ditch effort will save the Alliance of American Football. The league filed for bankruptcy this week. “Pursuant to the bankruptcy laws, a trustee will be empowered to resolve all matters related to the AAF’s remaining assets and liabilities, including ongoing matters related to player contracts,” the league said in a statement. The AAF abruptly halted operations earlier this month, leaving a messy trail of financial turmoil after an eight-game season.

Antonio Brown’s Contract Demands Nixed Offer Of First-Round Pick?

Antonio Brown‘s offseason has produced numerous headlines, that spree continuing after his arrival in Oakland. But not a ton of clarity emerged on what other offers the Steelers received for their perennial All-Pro wide receiver.

The Raiders swooped in after the Bills’ brief talks regarding Brown ended without a deal, landing a player on course for the Hall of Fame for third- and fifth-round picks. Interested teams had issues with Brown’s demand for a new contract, one of which apparently was ready to submit a much better proposal to the Steelers.

Brown’s financial demands stopped at least one team from offering a first-round pick, Jeremy Fowler and Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com report. Had the 30-year-old wideout been available without seeking another new contract, the ESPN duo notes Pittsburgh may well have acquired an extra first-round pick — presumably in 2019. However, teams knew a month prior to the trade that acquiring the mercurial wideout meant negotiating a new contract.

A slew of suitors emerged for Brown, in addition to the Bills, the Eagles, Saints, Titans and Redskins among them. The Bills were believed to be ready to swap first-rounders with the Steelers and part with two mid-round picks. That is the best known offer for Brown, and Fowler reports the Steelers felt strongly about the Bills’ proposal. The Patriots were indeed interested as well but the Steelers held firm on their stance not to do a deal with them.

After some convincing, the Raiders agreed to amend Brown’s contract. The Steelers dropped their asking price to those third- and fifth-rounders, with Kevin Colbert optimistic about the teams trying again — after some failed early talks on March 8 — to get a deal done. Brown ended up with $30MM in additional guarantees. The Steelers hold the Raiders’ No. 66 and No. 141 overall picks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Jones, Brown, Bills, Raiders

Beyond Kyler Murray‘s long-rumored Cardinals fit, landing spots for this draft’s other top quarterbacks are difficult to determine. But Daniel Jones, despite not exactly having impressive college statistics, has gained more steam as a first-round pick. One team has the Duke prospect as the top quarterback on its board, according to Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter). The Giants are believed to be high on him. So are the Patriots. While one scout wondered (via Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com) if the former Blue Devils signal-caller would slip to the third round had he not played under David Cutcliffe, who coached both Manning brothers when they were college passers, another scout and a former GM said (via NBC Sports Washington’s Ben Standig) they each would take Jones over Drew Lock. It certainly looks Jones will land in the first round next week.

Here is the latest from the 2019 draft talent pool:

  • Another first-round hopeful, Marquise Brown, also looks like a lock to hear his name called Thursday. The Oklahoma-honed speedster may be the only guaranteed wideout to go off the board in Round 1, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report notes, after speaking with NFL staffers. Said execs then place Ole Miss alums D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown as possible first-rounders, per Miller. That would stand to make the second round potentially filled with receiver investments. The 49ers have some names in mind.
  • On the subject of the 49ers, they visited with tight end Noah Fant recently, per Sirius XM Radio’s Alex Marvez (on Twitter). This profiles as an interesting use of a visit, with the 49ers closely connected to Nick Bosa at No. 2 and not needing a tight end. But San Francisco did do well with its past Iowa investment at this position, with George Kittle breaking out in a major way in 2018.
  • Despite Rashan Gary‘s past as a top-10 national recruit and his Combine performance, another report has indicated his stock has dipped a bit. After a Thursday report pointed to the Michigan defensive lineman dropping, Miller adds teams are concerned about how little his athleticism translated to production (9.5 sacks in three seasons). Additionally, Miller doubles down on the medical concerns surrounding Gary. Some scouts believe there will be issues on that front, potentially with Gary’s shoulder, which was a trouble spot during his Wolverines run.
  • Ed Oliver‘s stock has risen a bit in the days leading up to the draft, and the Bills are in play for the interior defender at No. 9, Miller writes, adding Buffalo wants to add a bona fide interior pass-rushing presence to complement the space-eating defensive tackles it currently employs.
  • The Raiders ditched their scouting staff going into the draft and are expected to overhaul the department under new GM Mike Mayock. On draft weekend, Oakland’s non-Mayock/Jon Gruden staffers involved in the three-day event will be assistant director of player personnel Trey Scott and director of football administration Tom Delaney, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Delaney has been with the Raiders dating back to the first Gruden era; Scott rose to his current position under Reggie McKenzie‘s watch two years ago.

Several Teams Interested In Frank Clark

While it would appear Frank Clark would be a critical part of the Seahawks’ core going forward, being by far the franchise’s top edge rusher, he continues to be mentioned as a trade candidate.

Several teams are interested in Clark, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). This will-they/won’t-they saga will “definitely” be settled by draft time, Rapoport adds.

Pete Carroll said the standout defensive end will be part of the 2019 Seahawks, and the team used its franchise tag for the first time in nine years in order to retain Clark. Negotiations began on a new deal earlier this offseason, and the sides made progress in early March. But it’s not certain if they’ve closed the gap since. It’s possible the Cowboys’ subsequent $21MM-AAV deal for DeMarcus Lawrence has complicated the Clark talks. Like Lawrence did before his extension, Clark has said he will not report to training camp without a new deal.

Clark may be able to fetch a first-round pick. At 25, he is two years younger than Dee Ford — who netted the Chiefs a 2020 second-rounder in a tag-and-trade swap with the 49ers — and has been more consistent. Although Clark became a Week 1 starter for the first time last season, he registered 19 sacks between the 2016-17 slates prior to his 13-sack 2018. But his departure would obviously leave a major hole on Seattle’s depth chart, especially considering the team does not have a surefire starter opposite Clark.

Teams were interested in a Clark tag-and-trade transaction at free agency’s outset, but the Seahawks are believed to only be motivated to move the fifth-year player if they are blown away by an offer. The Seahawks just authorized a record-breaking Russell Wilson contract, but John Schneider said the quarterback’s deal will not impact Clark’s situation. Following the Wilson re-up, the Seahawks hold just more than $9MM in cap space.

Schneider said recently he would like to acquire additional draft capital this year. No team holds fewer than the Seahawks’ six picks. Although Seattle often gains draft picks by trading back in the first round, trading Clark would obviously be a way to procure at least one high-value choice.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Zeroing In On Dwayne Haskins?

Plenty has come out of the Giants’ building about their No. 6 overall pick. For the most part, recent weeks have placed them in a defense-first camp at that spot. It is possible the team had smokescreen intentions.

Dwayne Haskins‘ stock may or may not have dropped, with reports he now may be the fourth quarterback selected. But the Giants may remain high on him. Sources in other teams’ front offices are convinced the Giants have “always” wanted Haskins at No. 6, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report notes, adding Big Blue has researched the Ohio State product more than any other team.

Haskins visited the Giants this month, joining Kyler Murray and the other top passer prospects in this year’s draft in doing so. A report surfaced about the Giants cooling a bit on Haskins, but this is not exactly a point on the NFL calendar where teams are forthright about their intentions.

The Giants obviously need a long-term option at quarterback, with this possibly being Eli Manning‘s last season, and Dave Gettleman has said the Chiefs’ model — which featured Patrick Mahomes sitting behind Alex Smith as a rookie — is a setup he would be interested in using. But New York also has major needs on defense, which could be addressed at No. 6 in a defense-heavy first round.

Gettleman said this week the Giants would not force a quarterback pick. They have obviously proven this to be the case, having made the scrutinized Saquon Barkley-over-Sam Darnold selection last year. Haskins did not receive the steady buzz Darnold did, instead breaking out as a sophomore and entering the draft.

I’m just telling you, we’re not going to force a pick,” Gettleman said, via the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz. “You can’t draft for need, you’ll get screwed every time. You’ll make a mistake.”

While passing on one of the defenders will leave the Giants possibly without a blue-chip Week 1 starter in this draft, they also have possessed top-six picks in each of the past two years. Not addressing their biggest big-picture need with either of those choices would look a bit strange. But they remain open to extending Manning into 2020, pointing to a possible scenario where the team again passes on a quarterback and attempts to have Manning tutor one next year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Montez Sweat Off Some Teams’ Draft Boards

The heart issue that surfaced for Montez Sweat at the Combine did not impede the Mississippi State product from participating in drills in Indianapolis. Nor did it keep him off the field during his time with the Bulldogs, with the defensive end playing in 26 games the past two seasons.

But it may have major ramifications on his draft stock. Some teams have taken Sweat off their draft boards, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (video link).

Sweat has an enlarged heart, Pelissero reports, adding some teams’ doctors have told their scouts no example of a player dealing with this issue exists in the current NFL. However, athletes in other sports have been able to participate despite this condition.

A sense exists that more progressive teams are willing to take the risk of adding the dynamic pass rusher. Some have spoken to cardiologists who have indicated Sweat would be able to have an NFL career, per Pelissero. Other teams, however, are not comfortable taking him and have taken him off their boards.

The 22-year-old prospect registered 22.5 sacks the past two seasons. He blazed to a 4.41-second 40-yard dash time. His known visits were with the Texans, Bengals, 49ers, Bills, Raiders, Packers and Buccaneers.

Were his heart not a concern, it would appear Sweat would be a lock to go early in the first round. He still may. But it should be noted Maurice Hurst, viewed by some as a first-round prospect last year, fell to the fifth round last year because of a different heart condition. It would not be surprising to see Sweat drop next week as a result of his enlarged heart diagnosis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Jets, Draft

Another day, more drama with the Raiders. With only six days to go until the draft, a major stir was caused when Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted that Raiders coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock “sent their scouts home for the weekend and they are not expected to return by draft time. The belief is they don’t know who to trust and wanted to clear the room.” The tweet, of course, sparked a lot of panic among Raider fans and allegations of dysfunction within the organization. While Rapoport’s initial tweet was a little vague, it appears not to be as bad as it first seemed.

Albert Breer of SI.com tweeted in response that the “expectation has been that much of the scouting department would be turned over post-draft,” so this apparently wasn’t anything too sudden. Mayock was brought on to replace old GM Reggie McKenzie, and it’s not surprising that he would want to bring in his own guys. Teams usually wait until after the draft though, and the fact the Raiders are making this sudden move suggests there’s a level of paranoia in the building.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • We’ve heard murmurs for a while now that the Jets could consider trading down from the third overall pick, and we now have more confirmation of that. Multiple sources told Ralph Vacchiano of SNY that the Jets are “determined” to trade down from their top pick. One source told Vacchiano that Jets GM Mike Maccagnan is looking to “recoup the second-round pick he gave up last year when the Jets moved up in the draft to get quarterback Sam Darnold.” The Jets already have their franchise quarterback in Darnold, so it makes sense why they’d be looking to move down and stockpile extra picks. Maccagnan had indicated he was open to the idea of moving down in the past, but this is the most concrete confirmation we’ve gotten of that.
  • Speaking of the Jets, don’t expect them to be in on Seahawks pass-rusher Frank Clark if he really is being shopped, according to Richi Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Cimini writes that the Jets did have interest in Clark at the start of free agency, but that a trade “seems unlikely under the current circumstances.” The Jets are desperate for pass-rush help, as Cimini points out they haven’t had a player with double-digit sacks since 2015, but it sounds like they won’t be getting it through a trade. If the Jets don’t trade down from the third spot, they’re very likely to draft an edge rusher, like Josh Allen from Kentucky or Nick Bosa from Ohio State if he fell to them.
  • In case you missed it, Browns general manager John Dorsey dished on his team’s offseason.

NFL News & NFL Rumors