2018 NFL Draft

Eagles Opinions: Jenkins, Backup QB, Ertz, Goedert

The Eagles will pay for deciding to wait on signing defensive back Malcolm Jenkins to an extension last season, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP. Philadelphia declined to restructure Jenkins’ very team-friendly deal last offseason, but now the team faces a cap crunch on the rest of the roster as well. At 32 years old, there is reason to be concerned about giving Jenkins a large contract, but his production over the past few seasons has been on par with some of the best in the league.

Here’s some more commentary on the Eagles offseason:

  • Few teams require a better backup quarterback than the Eagles and Shorr-Parks identifies six plausible targets for Philly. Obviously, starter Carson Wentz has shown he has the potential to be an elite quarterback, but an extensive injury history will always make fans and team officials nervous about the team’s prospects if there is not a strong backup behind him. The Eagles, of course, were eliminated from the playoffs when Josh McCown had to play under center after a series of injuries at quarterback.
  • Zach Ertz expressed some apprehension about his future with the Eagles organization at the end of the season. With two years left on his contract, many were caught off guard by his cautious comments. However, Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer discusses the impact tight end Dallas Goedert could have on the Eagles (and Ertz’s) future. Goedert was selected in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has been an effective contributor for the Eagles. McLane points out that 49ers tight end George Kittle is set to reset the tight end market as well. The team’s confidence in Goedert combined with the increasing cost of tight ends could soon lead to Ertz’s departure.

Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch Out

Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will not play this week against the Patriots and could miss substantially more time with a neck injury, according to Clarence Hill of the For Worth Star-Telegram. Vander Esch has faced medical questions surrounding his neck since his days in college. Losing Vander Esch would be a big hit to the Dallas defense.

While the injury is listed in a week to week manner, Hill notes in his story that Vander Esch is not scheduled for an MRI for another three weeks. Given the particular dangers with severe neck injuries and Vander Esch’s well-documented history of injury woes, Dallas should be especially cautious with the linebacker.

In his second NFL season, Vander Esch has lived up to his billing when healthy. After being selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Vander Esch earned a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie and has already accrued 72 tackles in just 9 games this season.

Without the Boise State alum, Dallas will likely turn to veteran linebacker Sean Lee to take over the team’s weak-side (WILL) linebacker position. Lee is far removed from his days as one of the best linebackers in football, but may be the most qualified backup in the NFL to help fill the gap.

Draft Rumors: Raiders, Texans, Broncos, Falcons

The Raiders were busy in the 2018 NFL Draft and it looks like that could be the case again in 2019, the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken writes.

Holding three first-round picks and four in the first 35 selections, the Raiders have more than enough ammo needed to move up for a player they like or trade down to stockpile picks. Both scenarios seem like possibilities according to general manager Mike Mayock.

“Regardless of the scenario, we have to be ready to pick at four and be excited about a player,” Mayock said Thursday in a predraft news conference. “Right now, we might move up, and we might move back. Who knows? We won’t know until draft night. But if we’re ‘stuck’ at four, we have to be ready to go, and that’s a hell of a lot easier than worrying about all the permutations (of which players might be available) at 24, 27 and 35.”

In that same news conference, the first-year general manager noted that his preference would be to trade down and gather more picks to address the team’s deficiencies, NBC Sports’ Scott Bair writes.

Whether they move up or down, the Raiders will undoubtedly be one of the team’s to watch when the NFL Draft kicks off on April 25.

Here’s more draft news from around the league:

  • Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown had a private workout with the Texans, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets. The Texans is just one of the handful of teams the slot receiver plans to visit, with the Packers, Colts, Patriots, Eagles, Giants, Redskins and Bills also on the list, according to NFL Network’s James Palmer (Twitter link). Houston already has a deep receiver corps with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee, but the latter two have been repeatedly hampered with injuries.
  • The Broncos do not appear interested in Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen if he’s made available, Palmer tweets. He notes that things like asking price can change, but Denver appears more set with going with the newly acquired Joe Flacco or taking a quarterback in the upcoming draft.
  • The Falcons will be focusing on the line in the upcoming draft, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure writes. Owner Arthur Blank said as much, commenting they need to get younger on the offensive line and that defensive line is an area of need. Atlanta owns the 14th pick and have shown heavy interest in Oklahoma lineman Cody Ford. –

Extra Points: Patriots, Jaguars, Packers, Browns

In 2017, Browns defensive coordinator and now interim head coach Gregg Williams made a strong push for the team to take Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick rather than take a quarterback.

On Friday, he reiterated that stance, saying he would still take the standout defensive end over quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes.

“Yes, I would,’’ said Williams. “I really like (Garrett). They had me evaluate the quarterbacks, too, and they had me evaluate a lot of the top players on the other side of the ball. You do good things like that in successful organizations. Get the opinion of a defensive guy on an offensive guy. Get the opinion of an offensive guy on a defensive guy. You are trying to find all of the little itty bitty things before you make the final decision, I think those are important.”

Regardless of what he would or wouldn’t do, it looks like the situation is going to work out well for the Browns. Instead of taking a quarterback a year ago, the team tabbed Baker Mayfield with the top spot and have recorded the same amount of wins this season as the previous three combined (four).

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Though the Packers need to win out and get plenty of help to get to the playoffs, team CEO Mark Murphy wrote in a week Q&A on Packers.com that he is not ready to give up on the season. “Now, I realize that we are 4-6-1 (and as Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are”) and that we haven’t played well. However, we still have almost a third of the season left to play. I know that the odds of making the playoffs are slim (I’ve seen odds range from 3 to 15 percent), but we still have a lot to play for.” Like the odds say, there isn’t much left on the line unless the team can get hot and get some help.
  • Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone‘s firing of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett at this point of the season seems like a diversionary tactic to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. “It feels like an effort by Marrone to alter the conversation that inevitably will happen when owner Shad Khan, who had a taste of life in the NFL’s penthouse in 2017 and has taken the Super Fun Happy Slide straight back to the outhouse, starts asking tough questions after Week 17.” 
  • The Patriots need to re-sign defensive end Trey Flowers, NESN’s Doug Kyed writes in a mailbag. “They either need to bring back Flowers, take a player high in the 2018 NFL Draft, sign a free agent (pass rushers are not cheap) or trade for a veteran edge defender. Isn’t the simplest option just to bring back Flowers?” 

Only 14 NFL Draft Picks Remain Unsigned

As training camp draws near, the overwhelming majority of this year’s NFL Draft picks have inked their rookie contracts. As shown on PFR’s tracker, 242 rookies have put pen to paper, leaving only the following 14 players in limbo:

All but three of the unsigned players are in the first round, but the circumstances surrounding each negotiation are not the same. For those in the top 10, the holdup appears to be over offset language. When it comes to the players in the backend of the first round, agents are haggling over guarantees in the fourth year of the rookie contracts.

Before fans panic about potential holdouts, it’s important to remember that elongated negotiations are not uncommon, even under the simplified parameters set forth by the current CBA. Late last June, we had a dozen stragglers still waiting to sign their first NFL deals. The time to worry, if there ever is one, will come when training camp opens later this month.

Broncos Sign Rookie RB Royce Freeman

That’s a wrap. The Broncos have now signed every member of their 2018 draft class after inking Royce Freeman to his four-year rookie deal (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News). 

In accordance with his slot, the third-round pick will receive a signing bonus of $997K on his contract. As the No. 71 overall pick, he’s set to earn $3.46MM over the course of the deal.

Heading into the draft, Freeman felt that he deserved to be one of the top running backs selected. As it turns out, there were seven running backs drafted before him. Some evaluators believe that his 947 carries at Oregon worked against him, but Freeman doesn’t think his odometer should be viewed as a negative.

“I feel like all of that durability and all of those carries just reflected my productivity throughout my four years at Oregon,Freeman said in May. “It is not often you get backs playing as many games or taking as many carries. I feel like the fact that I was able to do so proves I am a durable running back.”

The Broncos released C.J. Anderson earlier this offseason, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the leading candidates to become the team’s next top running back. However, Freeman’s durability and history of production suggests that he could see a big role right off of the bat. Recently, Broncos coach Vance Joseph said that Freeman “absolutely” has a chance to wind up on top if he has a strong training camp.

Here’s the complete rundown of the Broncos’ 2018 draft class:

Offset Language Holding Up Top 10 Picks

There are 15 unsigned rookies left, and seven of them are in the top 10. The holdup for this year’s highest selections is offset language, a league source tells Mike Florio of PFT

Players with offset language who are cut before the end of their rookie contract have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever they earns elsewhere. Without offset language, players get to double dip. Top 10 picks expect to complete their rookie contracts, but it’s an important issue for agents nonetheless.

The following top 10 players are without deals and there’s a common thread in the representation for most of them:

As Florio notes, CAA also represents No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson. The new Colts guard agreed to terms back in May on a deal that contains offset language, but also includes large guaranteed training-camp roster bonuses in 2019 through 2021. The presence of those bonuses effectively offsets the presence of offsets and could be a good middle ground solution for the agency’s remaining unsigned top 10 picks.

There’s no sign of real acrimony between any of these players and the teams that drafted them, but Joey Bosa‘s situation in 2016 serves as a reminder that offset language can become a real issue that can lead to a training camp holdout.

Poll: Which NFL Team Won The Draft?

Can you fairly evaluate a team’s draft haul before the rookies have even played their first NFL game? Well, no, not really. But we’re going to do it anyway because it’s a fun exercise.

Below, you’ll have the opportunity to select the team that you feel had the best overall draft. First, here are a handful of clubs you may want to consider:

Bears – The Bears addressed three serious needs with their top three picks. They began their draft by selecting inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who was viewed as one of the safest top talents in the draft despite his lack of ideal size for the position. They followed that up by taking Iowa’s James Daniels in the second round, a player with the ability to play all three spots on the interior offensive line. In the third round, they gave Mitchell Trubisky another weapon to work with in Memphis receiver Anthony Miller.

Broncos – Few could find fault with the Broncos’ first pick, defensive end Bradley Chubb. The hits kept on coming for GM John Elway & Co. as they added quality wide receivers Courtland Sutton (second round) and DaeSean Hamilton (fourth round) as well as bruising running back Royce Freeman (third round). The Broncos didn’t draft their quarterback of the future, but they picked up pieces that can contribute right away on both sides of the ball.

Bucs – With a draft class headlined by defensive tackle Vita Vea and running back Ronald Jones, Bucs fans have a lot to be excited about. It’s fair to question the wisdom of taking Vea after signing Beau Allen to a three-year, $15MM deal, but it’s hard to knock what they did here in total. The Bucs acquired two second round picks to move down from No. 7 to No. 12, where they selected the Polynesian phenom. The No. 53 pick from Buffalo became defensive back M.J. Stewart and they turned the No. 56 overall choice into a pair of worthwhile secondary players.

Giants – Your take on the Giants’ draft class may be swayed by your thoughts on taking a running back with the No. 2 overall pick. Still, it’s hard to find fault with Saquon Barkley‘s talent and none of this year’s top quarterbacks profile as slam dunks. At No. 34 overall, they selected guard Will Hernandez, who should help to open up running lanes for Barkley. With the next two picks, Dave Gettleman provided new defensive coordinator James Bettcher with front seven support by grabbing Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill. Not bad for Gettleman’s first draft as the Giants’ football czar.

Packers – The Packers also have a new GM at the helm who did a solid job in the draft. The Packers were in desperate need of help at cornerback and they landed two – Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Iowa’s Josh Jackson – with their first two selections. There were other intriguing picks in the Packers’ 11-man draft class, including linebacker Oren Burks (third round) and a group of wide receivers (J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown) that could help fill the void left by Jordy Nelson‘s departure.

Patriots – This year, the Patriots made eight draft day trades, the most in franchise history. That’s not including all of their pre-draft maneuvering, either. Ultimately, they fortified next year’s crop of picks while also fortifying their roster for this year’s championship run. Instead of reaching for Tom Brady‘s heir, they used their late-first round draft picks on tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel. With those selections, the Pats eased the hurt of losing Nate Solder and Dion Lewis in free agency. There’s also a lot to like about slot corner Duke Dawson and sixth-round wide receiver Braxton Berrios has the potential to become an effective slot weapon for the Pats on offense.

If you need a refresher on this year’s draft, check out PFR’s complete list of picks by team. After that, you can cast your vote below and back up your choice in the comment section.

Latest On Unsigned First-Round Picks

Only six percent of 2018 NFL draft picks remain unsigned, and 71% (12-of-17) of those contract-less selections are first-rounders. For a certain slice of those unsigned first-round picks, especially those selected near the back end of Day 1, Seahawks rookie running back Rashaad Penny‘s contract is playing a role in negotiations, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains.

While the three players selected at pick Nos. 23-25 (Patriots offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore, and Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst) each garnered significant fourth season base salary guarantees, Penny — who was chosen with the 27th overall pick — actually saw his fourth season salary guarantee percentage decrease when compared to 2017’s No. 27 selection, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, per Florio.

The NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement implemented slotted rookie contracts which make negotiations a breeze, but there’s a still a bit of wiggle room. First-rounders selected near the end of the first round won’t often get the entirety of their fourth season base salary guaranteed, but that’s an area where agents can press for a bit extra in talks. Penny’s representatives, clearly, didn’t do so, which could now lead other teams with unsigned first-round picks to withhold guarantees.

Here are the unsigned first-round picks chosen after No. 20 overall:

Overall, the amount of fourth season guarantees shouldn’t stand in the way of getting deals for the above players done, as the dollar amounts in question are in the thousands, not millions. But the lack of signed contracts does speak to the small area of available negotiation still left in rookie pacts, and is something to watch as the offseason progresses.

Poll: Which Top 10 NFL Draft Pick Will Make Biggest Impact In 2018?

This year’s NFL Draft was one of the most entertaining in recent memory and chock full of polarizing prospects. With no true consensus on this year’s top talent, we want to know which top ten pick you expect to make the biggest impact right out of the gate. 

Early on in the draft process, few expected Baker Mayfield to be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. As it turns out, the Browns were laser-focused on the Oklahoma quarterback and took him first overall. We’ve heard nothing but praise for Mayfield’s competitive nature, but questions persist about his size. And, while many like Mayfield’s potential in the long run, he’s positioned behind Tyrod Taylor on the Browns’ depth chart.

Many football evaluators feel that Saquon Barkley is not only the best talent in this year’s crop, but also the safest. The Giants’ decision to use the No. 2 overall pick on a running back was not well received by everyone, but he profiles as a star at the next level with a prime opportunity to excel immediately. Barkley will anchor the Giants’ running game and should have room to run as opposing defenses account for an aerial attack led by Odell Beckham Jr.

The other tenants of MetLife Stadium also feel good about their top overall pick. Sam Darnold was the darling of the scouting world for years and few expected him to fall to No. 3 back in January. Darnold continues to draw rave reviews from camp, but he is still stationed behind Josh McCown – and maybe Teddy Bridgewater – on the depth chart. It’s possible that Darnold will wind up as the Jets’ starter at some point this year, but it’s also possible that he will not see the field in his rookie season.

Beyond the much ballyhooed top three, there are plenty of other quality bets in the top ten. New Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb has the size and athleticism to excel right away, guard Quenton Nelson could help to fix the Colts’ porous offensive line, and Roquan Smith‘s top-end speed could make him a terror right off of the bat for the Bears. Alternatively, you may feel bullish about Denzel Ward‘s coverage ability, Josh Allen‘s cannon of an arm, Mike McGlinchey‘s pro-ready blocking technique, or Josh Rosen‘s potential to overtake a pair of veterans to become the Cardinals’ top QB.

Click here to cast your vote and defend your choice in the comments section below: