Month: November 2019

AFC East Rumors: Flowers, Jets, Pats, Bills

Big changes have occurred in Miami, and more are coming. The Dolphins are expected to shed the contracts of Ryan Tannehill, Robert Quinn, Andre Branch and Josh Sitton (and perhaps more notable names). But the rebuilding team may look to add an impact player familiar with Brian Flores‘ philosophies. The buzz in Indianapolis has led DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline to call the Dolphins the favorites for Trey Flowers, a prospective UFA who helped the Patriots reach the past three Super Bowls. New England’s top pass rusher may stand to benefit from the likely franchise tags the Cowboys, Texans, Seahawks and Chiefs apply to DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark and Dee Ford. This marketplace could place Flowers in position to push for a near-$20MM-AAV deal, despite sack numbers that don’t correspond with such a pact. However, the Patriots will make a strong attempt to retain their top edge defender. It may take an atypical Patriots contract to keep him, though.

Here is Thursday’s latest coming out of the AFC East (via Indianapolis):

  • Shifting to the Jets, they again need cornerback help. Buster Skrine, the lowest-profile name in Mike Maccagnan‘s 2015 spending spree that brought Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to New York, played out his four-year contract. Morris Claiborne‘s second one-year Jets deal is also expiring. (And Gang Green is having buyer’s remorse on Trumaine Johnson.) The Jets are looking at a slot corner to replace Skrine, and Pauline notes they are high on Bears UFA-to-be Bryce Callahan. Prior to going down with an injury, Callahan was operating as a top-tier slot corner and helping the NFL’s No. 1 DVOA defense.
  • Additionally, the Jets will examine the first- and second-tier edge rushers in free agency, per Pauline. If they are able to land one, that may intensify the team’s desire to trade down. The Jets do not own a second-round pick. However, they do now have more than $100MM in cap space. If the big four edge rushers are all tagged, Flowers, Brandon Graham, Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith and Ziggy Ansah profile as the next-best crew. The Jets will obviously be able to outmuscle other buyers for their preference, so the team — a strong Khalil Mack bidder last year — will be a key presence on this front come March.
  • Chris Hogan did not produce for the Patriots the way he did during the 2017 and ’18 seasons, but he is drawing interest as free agency nears, Doug Kyed of NESN.com notes. The 30-year-old wideout struggled in the playoffs, at least compared to his strong performances at key moments for the previous two Patriot teams he was on, but posted 532 regular-season receiving yards, despite Josh Gordon diminishing his role. And this is not a particularly loaded wideout free agent class. Teams might be eyeing Hogan as a second-tier option come March.
  • On the subject of receivers, the Bills may not feel the need to chase big-ticket wideout options. Brandon Beane has said their offense can survive without a surefire No. 1 wideout, but the third-year GM may be looking for a new slot receiver, per Joe Buscaglia of WKBW.com. Broncos castoff Isaiah McKenzie saw time there toward the end of last season. Buffalo has one of the least inspiring receiving corps at this point. It would be a surprise if the Bills did not make attempts to augment their receiver situation in free agency and the draft.
  • Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones hired a new agent, according to ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (Twitter link). He is a restricted free agent, one whom Kyed opines may need to be given a second-round tender.

Jets Discussing Antonio Brown Move

Set to be perhaps the key team in free agency, the Jets are also exploring what would be a massive trade.

The Jets have engaged in internal discussions about pursuing Antonio Brown, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reports. They have not yet reached out to the Steelers about this, but Mike Maccagnan on Wednesday indicated he will probably do so soon. The Jets may not be one of the three teams Kevin Colbert alluded to when discussing where the Brown market stands, but it would make sense for a team with skill-position needs and a war chest of cap space to join this pursuit.

While the Jets are interested in Brown on some level, they are not going to give up their No. 3 overall pick for him, per Vacchiano. With the team not holding a second-round selection this year, that may put the Jets at a major disadvantage in this derby. New York does hold a high third-round choice, but that would be a difficult move for the Steelers to make — eating $20MM-plus in dead money and not receiving at least a second-round pick. Colbert said he would only deal Brown, his escalating baggage and all, if the return was appropriate.

Gang Green remains set to be a big player in the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes, but it’s uncertain how far they will go to chase the All-Pro running back. Acquiring Bell’s teammate may be difficult, but the Jets — with their $100MM-plus in cap space — could obviously accommodate Brown’s interest in a new contract.

New York re-signed Quincy Enunwa to an upper-middle-class deal and plans to tender Robby Anderson at the second-round level. Brown, though, is certainly multiple tiers north of these receivers’ talents and would provide the Jets the kind of weapon they have not possessed in years — maybe ever.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Kyler Murray

After his Heisman Trophy season came with the disclaimer that football would be in his past once Oakland A’s spring training began, Kyler Murray has become this draft’s most interesting player. However, he will delay his next football acts until March.

The former Oklahoma quarterback was measured at 5-foot-10 and 207 pounds on Thursday morning. He will also participate in interviews and the medical portion of the Combine, but Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com report the passer will wait until his pro day to go through timed drills or throw in front of teams (Twitter links).

Quarterbacks are scheduled to do drills on Saturday, and that portion of the Combine will be broadcast on ABC. It will be an interesting new microscope for prospects, with wide receivers and tight ends also set to do their field drills Saturday. Murray will save his work for the Sooners’ pro day, which is scheduled for March 12.

This decision is not especially unusual for a player expected to be picked early. Murray also informed scouts and personnel executives he would wait until his pro day. That was already likely going to be the most anticipated event of this year’s pro day circuit. That will be a certainty now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: OBJ, Cowboys, Redskins

Dave Gettleman gave his Odell Beckham Jr. party line again this week, insisting the Giants were planning to keep him. However, trade gusts continue to swirl in Indianapolis. While the Giants won’t move Beckham for a below-market deal, Jay Glazer of The Athletic notes (subscription required) buzz around the Combine points to the team being ready to part ways with the superstar wideout if the offer is fair. Glazer predicted earlier this month Beckham would be traded. Teams are higher on Beckham than Antonio Brown, with the latter’s antics posing a significant problem for some, Glazer hears. This could inflate Beckham’s value, but Gettleman will surely need to be blown away to part ways with the recently extended wideout.

Here’s the latest from the NFC East quartet:

  • Jason Witten‘s exit from the Monday Night Football booth shocked many, and the Cowboys already appear to have a plan for the recently unretired tight end. They are planning to deploy Witten around 25 snaps per game, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. The future Hall of Fame tight end, who will turn 37 in May, does not want to impede incumbents Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz‘s progress, per Hill, and is fine with a 25-snaps-per-game workload.
  • Another way the 2019 Cowboys could be flashier than the ’18 version: if Earl Thomas joins the team. Long connected to the Cowboys, the Texas native looks to still view Dallas as his preferred destination. If the money is equal, Thomas will pick Dallas, former teammate Richard Sherman said (via Matt Barrows of The Athletic, subscription required). However, the 49ers cornerback added that another team outflanking the Cowboys would make it a fairer fight. Thomas’ camp met with the Cowboys’ Combine contingent on Thursday, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (Twitter link). It doesn’t sound like the Cowboys will go all-in for the three-time All-Pro, with JLC adding the team is casting a wide net (on a deep safety market) to help here. But the soon-to-be 30-year-old defender certainly appears to still be on Dallas’ radar.
  • Nick Foles has now been connected to the Jaguars and Giants, but the Redskins also need a starting quarterback. Or do they? Washington appears likely to avoid spending starter-level cash on a veteran, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). Colt McCoy has one season remaining on his contract, and a report earlier this month indicated the Redskins are high on their backup as a possible stopgap starter. McCoy, 32, has not been a full-time starter since working in that capacity for the 2011 Browns. He started 21 games for Cleveland from 2010-11 before becoming a well-regarded backup.
  • The Eagles are finally under the projected cap, but they are still floating Nelson Agholor‘s name as a trade option at the Combine, La Canfora writes. The 2015 first-round pick’s salary is set to spike to $9.4MM. Although Philadelphia is not going through with its Foles tag-and-trade plan, taking a $25MM cap hold off the books, Agholor’s salary will still affect a team with just $6MM in cap space. Only the Jaguars hold less.

Dolphins Want Ja’Wuan James Back

Set to become one of this year’s top free agents, Ja’Wuan James will have a familiar team pursuing him. The Dolphins are preparing a pitch to keep James, GM Chris Grier said (via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald).

However, Grier added that Miami’s new-look front office came to Indianapolis without having discussed terms with the right tackle. Grier plans to meet with James’ representation at the Combine.

James joins Donovan Smith and Daryl Williams as the top tackles on this year’s market, which is another thin contingent. With the Buccaneers ready to keep Smith via the franchise tag if they have to, the right tackles’ stock will rise. Williams is also coming off an injury-marred season, further elevating James’ earning potential. It would seemingly stand to take a lot for the Dolphins to keep their five-year right tackle off the market.

In advance of his age-27 season, James has also battled injuries — missing eight games in 2017 and nine in 2015 — but the former first-round pick suited up for 15 contests last season. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 34 overall tackle last season. Though James has not been a top-tier right tackle, he is a generally well-regarded option.

The Dolphins considered cutting James, prior to his fifth-year option vesting. They also discussed a deal to trade James to Denver for C.J. Anderson last year before nixing it. It appears Miami’s new regime will see what it will take to keep James in Miami.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AAF Extends Manziel Workout Opportunity

A day after Johnny Manziel‘s CFL exit, the Alliance of American Football is interested to see what the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback can contribute.

Since his dismissal from the Montreal Alouettes/ban from the Canadian league, Manziel has been in contact with the AAF, according to Kevin Allen and Tom Schaad of USA Today. The new league is offering the 26-year-old passer a chance to work out for its teams. The XFL has not been in contact with Manziel, a league spokesperson told USA Today.

However, at this point it remains unknown if the embattled quarterback will decide to take part in such an audition. Although, Manziel tweeted shortly after his release the CFL reinvigorated his passion for football and that he was looking forward to “exploring new options within the United States.”

While the San Antonio Commanders own Manziel’s rights, due to the territorial system the AAF is using in its first year, league chairman Tom Dundon said personnel from all eight of the league’s teams would be invited to Manziel’s workout.

Right now, it’s a decision of the GMs, and they can decide what they want to do,” Dundon said, via Allen and Schaad. “If talent-wise this is close, the negative of him is that there is drama with him and you are trying to win games and build a team. The positive is that he brings in fans and attention.”

The Commanders have not been in communication with Manziel, per a team spokesman, but they would have the first chance to sign him. The other seven teams could then enter the equation if San Antonio passes. Manziel would not receive a larger salary than other AAFers, according to Dundon. AAF players are each attached to non-guaranteed three-year deals worth $250K.

A 2014 Browns first-round pick, Manziel has not been a particularly good quarterback since his Texas A&M days. He washed out of Cleveland, amid persistent trouble, after the 2015 season and threw more interceptions than touchdown passes in his brief CFL run. But Manziel would be a big draw for the AAF, which has gotten off to a nice start (financial issues notwithstanding) without many big names.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets To Tender Robby Anderson

The Jets will use the second-round level restricted free agent tender to keep Robby Anderson for 2019, Manish Mehta of the Daily News (Twitter link) hears. The wide receiver did not want to be tendered this offseason, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter. 

This year’s second-round tender will be worth $3.1MM, a significant pay bump from his $633K paycheck in 2018. Still, Anderson has been pushing for a long-term extension with the Jets. A multi-year deal could still be ironed out this offseason, but for now, the Jets have him on a one-year prove-it deal that will keep him away from the open market.

I would hope not to be tendered,” said Anderson in November. “Because I don’t want to be here for possibly just one more year. I want to be here for the long term. I feel like I worked hard. [The RFA tender] is a step up from where I’m at now. But I want to be here for the long term.

Anderson, 26 in May, made some noise in 2017 with 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns. He had a quieter year in 2018, even as his off-the-field antics made noise in the New York tabloids. He finished out last season with a 50/752/6 stat line across 14 games.

With more than 20 free agents and upwards of $100MM in cap room, big changes are on the way for Gang Green this offseason. Amidst the overhaul, they’ll be keeping one of their most talented wide receivers in the mix.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots’ Robert Kraft Pleads Not Guilty

Patriots owner Robert Kraft pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor charges of soliciting prostitution, as John R. Ellement of The Boston Globe writes. Kraft, of course, was charged last week in a connection with a human trafficking sting in Florida

[RELATED: Kraft Court Date Set For April 24]

Authorities say they have captured Kraft on film inside of the “spa,” so it may be tricky for Kraft to mount a proper defense if things wind up in court. The non guilty plea may also prolong the legal process, but Kraft is apparently set on clearing his name.

Per NFL policy, Kraft may be subject to league discipline, depending on how things play out from here. For example, Colts owner Jim Irsay received a six-game suspension and a $500K fine in 2014 after he pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated.

Our personal conduct policy applies equally to everyone in the NFL,” said the league in a statement last week. “We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the policy. We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jason Witten Signs With Cowboys

Jason Witten has decided to end his retirement and return to the Cowboys, according to a team press release. Witten walked away from the game last year to join ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast, but he has decided to put his broadcasting career on hold in order to resume his playing career. 

The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” the 36-year-old (37 in May) said in a statement. “This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt.”

With this news, Witten is now set to return for a 16th pro season. From 2003-17, Witten was among the best tight ends in the league and earned eleven Pro Bowl nominations, a Cowboys record for any offensive player.

The veteran will earn a base salary of $3.5MM with a maximum earning potential of $5MM for the coming year, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Witten will make less than he has in previous seasons, but Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes that this could be a bridge to a head coaching role for him.

Witten’s “unretirement” may drastically alter the Cowboys’ offseason plans. Previously, tight end was among the team’s biggest needs, but the Cowboys should be set with Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and Rico Gathers under contract. Geoff Swaim, an impending free agent, could also be re-signed to compete for a backup role.

By returning to the field, Witten leaves a void to fill in ESPN’s booth. That could help to explain the network’s interest in Greg Olsen, and the Panthers tight end could theoretically end his own career if offered one of the most prestigious jobs in sports television.

Witten has 1,152 career receptions to his credit, which ranks fourth in NFL history behind Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez, and Larry Fitzgerald. Meanwhile, his 12,448 receiving yards are good for second among all tight ends behind only Gonzalez (15,127).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons May Tag Grady Jarrett

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is set for free agency, but the Falcons don’t intend on losing him. General manager Thomas Dimitroff feels “very confident” that Jarrett will be with the team next year and says the franchise tag is a possibility (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure). 

If tagged, Jarrett won’t necessarily be thrilled. The former fifth-round pick has tallied ten sacks over the last two seasons, including a career-high six sacks in 2018. He’s poised for a big payday and probably prefers a long-term deal to the one-year, $15.35MM tender for defensive tackles.

Jarrett’s six sacks were impressive for an interior lineman, but he’s shown that he has even more to offer. Last year, Jarrett tied with Michael Pierce for the No. 5 spot on Pro Football Focus’ rankings for defensive tackles. Over the course of 463 pass rush snaps and 245 run defense snaps, Jarrett proved that he is one of the best at his position.

If Jarrett were permitted to reach free agency, he’d easily profile as one of the ten best players available. But, unsurprisingly, the Falcons won’t let him get there.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.