June is generally the time when LeBron James dominates sports headlines, but thanks to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, the Cavaliers superstar did so in an unusual way. One NFL GM told Freeman that had James opted for football over basketball when coming out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, he would have been one of the all-time gridiron greats.
“LeBron James would have been the best tight end of all time,” the GM told Freeman. “He would have been Rob Gronkowski before Rob Gronkowski. No one would be able to cover him. He would have set records every season.”
Playing in his sixth straight NBA Finals, the league’s premier matchup problem hovered on NFL scouts’ radar as far back as his sophomore football season in 2000. As a junior, James had 61 receptions for 1,245 yards and 16 touchdowns, and prior to leaving the game to focus on hoops before his senior season, he had narrowed his recruiting finalists for football down to Ohio State, Michigan, Miami and USC.
Now at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds — Gronkowski is 6-6, 265 — the 31-year-old James would have been a perennial Pro Bowl tight end and a likely Hall of Fame talent in the minds of the NFL personnel with whom Freeman spoke. Likely destined to finish his NBA career as at worst a top-5 all-time player, one scout told Freeman the four-time NBA MVP would have been one of the 10 greatest football players ever.
In non-alternate-reality news from the NFL …
- An SI.com list of eight GMs on the hot seat placed Jerry Reese at No. 1. Don Banks of Sports Illustrated writes that Reese, despite guiding the Giants to two Super Bowl titles, needs to assemble a contender — likely a playoff team for the first time since Big Blue’s 2011 championship — after the $200MM+ he spent on free agents in an uncharacteristic spending spree this spring to keep his job.
- The Broncos shifted Brandon Marshall to Danny Trevathan‘s previous position at weakside inside linebacker, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports. It’s a similar role to the 3-4 strongside spot he manned for the Super Bowl champions in 2015. Wade Phillips described the “Mo” position that Marshall’s relocating to as one with more freedom. Trevathan led the Broncos with 109 tackles last season despite playing in one fewer game than Marshall. The primary dime ‘backer for the Broncos last season, the 26-year-old Marshall will continue to function in that role. He plans to sign his RFA tender before the June 15 deadline, but John Elway said this week he wants to sign Marshall, Emmanuel Sanders and Von Miller to long-term deals this summer. Although Elway signed Derek Wolfe to an extension in January and Chris Harris to a longt-term deal in December of 2014, that’s lofty thinking considering the potential value Sanders and Marshall may have as UFAs in 2017. I took a look recently at what it might take to keep Marshall in Denver.
- Sanders has incentive to wait until the 2017 offseason before signing his third contract since he could potentially make No. 1 wideout money despite serving as a No. 2 in Denver the past two seasons, Mark Kizsla of the Denver Post writes. Allen Hurns‘ four-year, $40MM extension may be a reasonable target for Sanders since he’ll be entering his age-30 season in ’17, but Sanders has produced like a No. 1 target in accumulating more than 2,500 air yards since coming to Denver. He, Keenan Allen and Doug Baldwin look like the top 2017 UFA wideouts if none is signed to an extension in the meantime.
- Johnny Manziel‘s former agent, Erik Burkhardt, said the prospect of having to lie on behalf of the embattled quarterback led him to dissolve the relationship, the agent told Peter Schraeger of Fox Sports on a radio appearance (via Cameron DaSilva of FoxSports.com). The agent for Andy Dalton, Jordy Nelson, Danny Amendola and others, Burkhardt said he could damage relationships with GMs and front office executives if he continued to represent Manziel. “My relationships with these general managers, I’ve got to work with these guys for 20, 30 years,” Burkhardt said. “When they point-blank ask me if he’ll be X, Y and Z and do X, Y and Z, and if Johnny can’t give me his word that that’s what is going to take place, then I have to be honest with those guys. So, when I couldn’t do my job most effectively, that was a tough day for me, but that’s when I had to step away from our relationship on a professional level.” Both Burkhardt and Drew Rosenhaus jettisoned Manziel since his second and final season with the Browns concluded.