Month: May 2019

Extra Points: White, Jets, Broncos, Ravens

One of the top defenders available in a defense-heavy prospect pool, Devin White has begun to set up pre-draft visits. The Giants, Bengals and Buccaneers will host the LSU-developed linebacker, Amie Just of NOLA.com notes. All three teams pick in the top 11, and White has been often mocked to be off the board in between the Bucs’ No. 5 pick and the Bengals’ No. 11 choice. Although the Giants could use a young inside linebacker alongside Alec Ogletree, they have been linked to pass rushers at No. 6 — if they don’t, in fact, select their next quarterback then. The Bengals have a need on their defensive second level, which now lacks Vontaze Burfict. Tampa Bay lost Kwon Alexander but still has Lavonte David. Kendell Beckwith, White’s college teammate, missed all of last season.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Peyton Manning has advocated for Adam Gase on a few occasions, and he did so again to help steer Trevor Siemian to Gase’s current team. Siemian signed with the Jets this week. Siemian said (via Ethan Greenberg of NewYorkJets.com) his decision came down to, like Anthony Barr‘s, New York or Minnesota. After exchanging texts with Manning, the new Jets backup indicated his former teammate’s belief in Gase remains. This and other factors helped the fifth-year quarterback choose the Jets. Manning played three seasons under Gase, setting multiple high-profile records in 2013. Siemian did not arrive in Denver until the Gary Kubiak regime, however. The Vikings were interested in bringing back Siemian and have yet to sign a replacement QB2, though that is the goal.
  • The Broncos are not planning to bring back Domata Peko, their nose tackle of two seasons. Although Shelby Harris has not yet signed his second-round RFA tender, the Broncos plan to make the emerging interior lineman their starting nose, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post notes. Harris graded as, by far, Denver’s best defensive lineman last season, per Pro Football Focus, but played the fewest snaps (391) of anyone in the team’s five-man rotation. Four of those players (Harris, Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis and the recently re-signed Zach Kerr) remain, but it looks like Harris — PFF’s No. 9 overall inside defender — will see more time in 2019.
  • Viewed as a possible first-round pick, N.C. State alum Garrett Bradbury may be benefiting from what is a weak center class. The interior blocker might not be a lock for Round 1, with Matt Miller of Bleacher Report having spoken with just one scout that views him as a first-round talent. Bradbury, a three-year starter for the Wolfpack, grades as the NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s No. 22 overall prospect.
  • The Ravens do not have openings at kicker or punter, but the team has versatile specialist Kaare Vedvik on its roster for potential trade purposes. “I fully expect that he’ll kick well enough for us to trade him. That’s kind of, I would say, the goal,” John Harbaugh said this week (via Clifton Brown of BaltimoreRavens.com). Teams were interested in acquiring Vedvik during the 2018 preseason, when he made 8 of 9 field goal tries — including a 56-yarder — but the Norwegian kicker/punter who kicked at Marshall in college suffered injuries from an assault on Sept. 1 of last year. He spent the season on the Ravens’ NFI list.

5 Key Stories: 3/24/19 – 3/31/19

Gronk will retire (or maybe not?): This era’s tight end kingpin will leave the game shy of his 30s. Rob Gronkowski informed the Patriots he will retire at just 29. This would make him a candidate to join Jim Brown and Gale Sayers as Hall of Famers by their mid-30s, in the event Gronk stays retired. However, the Pats icon might not be 100 percent committed to this venture just yet. At least, his agent doesn’t think so. Drew Rosenhaus’ gut feeling is his client will come back at some point, though Gronkowski informed Rosenhaus he is “done, done, done.” The Patriots placed Gronk on their reserve/retired list, ensuring they would hold his rights if he reconsiders.

Patriots DC backs out: Greg Schiano reversed course on his commitment to become the Pats’ defensive coordinator. The former Buccaneers head coach decided this week to vacate his new role, barely a month after accepting it. Schiano spent the past three seasons as an Ohio State assistant head coach. His decision has Bill Belichick rumored to be taking on more responsibilities next season. The Pats lost longtime DC Matt Patricia during last year’s hiring period and de facto DC Brian Flores is now the Dolphins’ head coach, putting the defending Super Bowl champs in a bit of a bind.

Eagles, Cowboys add veterans via trade: In an offseason that seen the Eagles bring back DeSean Jackson and Vinny Curry and sign Malik Jackson, Philadelphia made another move to bolster its 2019 roster. Jordan Howard is now an Eagle, with the Bears set to receive merely a 2020 sixth-round pick for their three-year starting running back. This adds a big name to Philly’s backfield. The Cowboys, conversely, have been quiet. But they made a deal to acquire Robert Quinn late this week. The rebuilding Dolphins shed another veteran and will pay some of his salary. The Cowboys and Quinn also agreed to a pay reduction, with the eighth-year edge defender now set to make $8MM in 2019.

Nelson, Lechler, Lang say goodbye: More Pro bowlers are leaving the game. Jordy Nelson, Shane Lechler and T.J. Lang announced their respective retirements this week. All three players were free agents. Nelson will call it quits after 11 seasons — 10 of which in Green Bay. Although Nelson was only a one-time Pro Bowler, he was one of this era’s premier scorers at the receiver position. He finished as a top-five Packer in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown grabs. Lechler did not play last season but logged 18 years as a punter, one of the best the NFL has ever seen. The former Raiders and Texans specialist finished with six first-team All-Pro nods — the most ever for a punter. A two-time Pro Bowler, Lang spent two seasons with the Lions after an eight-year Packers run. The veteran guard ran into injury trouble in Detroit, most notably dealing with concussion issues in recent years.

Trouble on the DeMarcus Lawrence front? The franchise-tagged contingent had not produced much news this offseason … until this week. It no longer appears the Cowboys’ negotiations with Lawrence are going smoothly. While that is not uncommon for players attached to a tag, Lawrence’s asking price may be an issue. Once thought to not view Lawrence as a $20MM-AAV player, the Cowboys have now seen their standout defensive end ask for more than $22MM on average. Dallas had increased its offer to Lawrence and has addressed the fact that the gulf between Khalil Mack and Von Miller ($23.5MM per year to $19MM AAV) is an issue. Now, the sides are at an impasse, with Lawrence’s shoulder surgery (which calls for around a four-month recovery) still yet to be scheduled.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Tom Brady Expected To Skip OTAs

Last year, Tom Brady stayed away from the Patriots’ offseason program until minicamp. It looks like he will follow a similar schedule this offseason.

All indications are Brady will skip Patriots OTAs again, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. This process obviously did not impact the Patriots last year, though the 2019 New England edition has more work to do in the offseason compared to last season’s iteration.

Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement, leaving Brady with perhaps his worst weaponry corps since the 2006 season. Given their history with trades, the Patriots should certainly be a team to monitor on this front as the draft approaches. But they are limited at the pass-catching positions at the moment. The Pats also added three new cogs who stand to be working with Brady for the first time, in Bruce Ellington, Maurice Harris and Matt LaCosse.

Still, Josh McDaniels remains the Pats’ offensive coordinator. Brady has been in this system for many years. He is entering a contract year, with a $27MM cap number on the Pats’ books. Although, an extension is likely for the soon-to-be 42-year-old icon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brent Grimes Not Planning To Retire

A free agent more than three weeks into the new league year, Brent Grimes is not yet ready to wrap up his career.

The veteran cornerback wants to play in 2019, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Grimes has logged 12 NFL seasons, having been a full-time starter throughout this decade.

Grimes, though, will be entering what would be his age-36 season. This decade, only three cornerbacks — Al Harris, Ronde Barber and Terence Newman — have been regulars north of 36. Only four cornerbacks have started more than 10 games since 2000, with Eric Allen (15 starts for the 2001 Raiders) joining this exclusive list. Grimes made three Pro Bowls after his 30th birthday, each coming with the Dolphins, and started for the past three Buccaneers defenses.

In 791 snaps last season, Grimes graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 84 cornerback. The Bucs used second-round picks on M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis last year, though Stewart has moved to safety. The team did not add any corners this offseason. This, and other teams’ needs at this premium position, obviously leave the door open for Grimes to play a 13th season. The Bucs signed Grimes to a two-year deal in 2016 and kept him on a one-year, $7MM agreement last year.

The former Falcons, Dolphins and Bucs corner has not taken any known free agent visits or been linked to any teams thus far. Although he did not intercept a pass last season, he has 33 in his career. Among NFLers who suited up in 2018, only Reggie Nelson (38) and Aqib Talib (35) have more.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns May Have Interest In Morgan Burnett

The Browns are a team to watch for safety Morgan Burnett if/when he’s released by the Steelers, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Burnett asked for his release in January after playing on only 37% of the Steelers’ snaps during his first year in Pittsburgh, and it sounds like the club is willing to grant his request. However, general manager Kevin Colbert said last week that he’ll first attempt to trade Burnett before cutting him loose. So far, the Steelers haven’t had any luck moving Burnett, who has two years and $9MM in base salaries remaining on his contract.

As Fowler notes, Cleveland makes sense a potential landing spot for Burnett on multiple levels. First, many of the Browns’ decision-makers, including general manager John Dorsey, executives Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith, and defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt, were in Green Bay when Burnett was originally drafted. Second, Cleveland is in the market for a safety to pair with Damarious Randall after trading Jabrill Peppers to the Giants in order to land Odell Beckham Jr.

Burnett was a full-time starter from 2011-17, but he’s now entering his age-30 campaign and has missed a total of nine games ov over the past two seasons. Last year, Burnett appeared in 11 games but made only two starts, posting 30 tackles and six pass defensed while ranking as the NFL’s No. 53 safety among 93 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Will Try To Trade Reshad Jones?

The Dolphins have already parted ways with a number of veterans as they head into a rebuilding season in 2019, and Miami could next choose to move on from safety Reshad Jones. As Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes, the Dolphins are likely to place Jones on the trade block in advance of the regular season.

Thanks to the extension he signed in 2017, Jones isn’t a realistic candidate for release right now. He’s due more than $13MM in guaranteed base salary for the upcoming campaign, and given that three years of signing bonus proration would immediately accelerate onto the Dolphins’ salary cap if Jones is cut, he’s not going to be released. If Miami parts ways with Jones before June 1, it would take on $25.15MM in dead money, nearly $8MM more than it will cost to keep Jones on the club’s roster.

Trading Jones remains a possibility, however. In the event of a trade, guaranteed base salaries become the responsibility of the acquiring team. If the Dolphins are able to deal Jones before June 1, they’d incur $12.135MM in dead money but open up more than $5MM worth of new space. After June 1? Miami would see just $4.045MM in dead money and create ~$13MM in cap space (with roughly $8MM of dead money being moved into 2020).

Of course, it’s unclear whether any club would have interest in acquiring Jones, especially given his hefty 2019 salary. Pro Football Focus ranked Jones as the No. 33 safety among 93 qualifiers in 2019, but he’s also coming off surgery for a partially torn labrum. As such, Salguero speculates the Dolphins will likely be able to reap only a late-round pick in 2020 in exchange for Jones.

Trading Jones would not only clear cap space for the Dolphins, but allow the team to play 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety, which is where they reportedly prefer to position the versatile defensive back. If Jones is gone, Fitzpatrick would line up alongside T.J. McDonald in Miami’s secondary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Originals: 3/24/19 – 3/31/19

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

Draft Notes: Sternberger, Jets, Thorson

The Patriots are on the lookout for tight end help in the wake of Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement, and the club will have a top-30 visit with Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The Pats could use their No. 32 overall pick on a tight end, and while that may be a little high for Sternberger, top prospects Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson may be off the board by that point. Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. could be available, though, and there is no reason why New England, which has deployed two tight ends to great effect in the past, could not use several of its 12 picks in this year’s draft on the tight end position.

Now for more draft-related rumblings from around the league:

  • In addition to the Patriots, Wilson reports that Sternberger has visits lined up with the Chiefs, Packers, Lions, Cowboys, Vikings, and Seahawks.
  • Brian Costello of the New York Post does not believe that the Jets will invest high-end draft capital on the WR, RB, or TE positions this year in light of their free agent expenditures, but he still thinks the club could bolster those units with collegiate prospects. He suggests that Gang Green could use a middle- or late-round selection on a wideout, particularly if that player offers return ability, and he thinks a Day 3 blocking tight end and power back could also be in the cards. Of course, with only six draft picks at the moment, New York may need to focus on areas of greater need.
  • Penn State DE Shareef Miller will visit with the Ravens, Cardinals, and Jets, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Miller currently projects as a Day 3 pick, but all three clubs could use pass rushing help, and Miller has the raw ability to succeed as a 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB.
  • The Broncos may be hosting some of the top QBs in this year’s draft class, but they’re looking at more under-the-radar passers as well, as Mike Klis of 9News.com tweets that Denver will be working out Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson in early April. Thorson is expected to be a middle-round selection.
  • Valdosta State CB Stephen Denmark has top-30 visits lined up with the Browns and Saints, per Wilson (via Twitter).

Community Tailgate: How Will DeMarcus Lawrence Saga End?

We heard several days ago that negotiations between the Cowboys and franchise-tagged pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence are at an impasse, and the circumstances behind that impasse are the stuff that offseason drama is made of.

Lawrence, who willingly played out the 2018 season under the franchise tag, does not want to go year-to-year anymore, and he has made it abundantly clear that he wants a long-term deal. The Cowboys are happy to give it to him, but they do not value Lawrence’s skill-set quite as highly as Lawrence himself does. Dallas reportedly would give Lawrence a contract that would make him the highest-paid 4-3 defensive end in football, which would mean an AAV of over $18MM, but Lawrence is seeking a pact that would pay him at least $22.5MM per year (of course, if Lawrence were to sign his franchise tender, he would earn over $20.5MM this year and be eligible for free agency again in 2020).

In fairness to the Cowboys, Lawrence is simply not worth that kind of commitment. The market for premium players in the NFL is reset each time a new extension is signed, so if Player X signs a $100MM pact in August, Player Y, who is good but perhaps not as good as Player X, could very well land a $110MM deal in September. But sometimes, the gulf between Player X and Player Y does not justify that type of raise.

Aaron Donald‘s contract with the Rams, which he signed just last August, pays him $22.5MM per year. Lawrence is not the kind of game-changing talent that Donald is, nor is he as impactful as Khalil Mack, who signed a $23.5MM/year deal right after Donald got his payday. To be sure, Lawrence is an excellent player, but he is just not on the same level.

Further complicating the issue is that Lawrence is trying to leverage the shoulder surgery that he needs in order to continue playing into the type of contract that he wants. Lawrence wants to wait to have the surgery, which carries a four-month recovery period, until he gets his extension, and the Cowboys obviously don’t want to play along with that plan. If Lawrence wants to be ready for the start of the 2019 season, he would have to go under the knife by early May at the latest, and if he postpones the procedure, he may only be hurting himself in the long run.

We would like to know from our readers how you think this saga will play out. The safe money in these types of scenarios is always on the two sides reaching an accord, but that does not always happen. Theoretically, the Cowboys could give Lawrence permission to seek a contract with another club and then trade him to that club if he reaches an agreement, but it is difficult to imagine another team being willing to meet Lawrence’s contract demands and cough up draft compensation to acquire the soon-to-be 27-year-old.

If Lawrence refuses to come to the table, the Cowboys could rescind the franchise tag, which would make Lawrence an unrestricted free agent. But at that point, the market may not be as robust as he would like it to be, especially if he has not had the surgery yet. He could end up having to settle for a one-year pact for less than he would have earned under the franchise tag.

The guess here is that Lawrence and the Cowboys agree to terms on a multiyear pact that will pay Lawrence about $19MM per season, and that the agreement will come in the next few weeks so that Lawrence will be ready to go come September. It appears that Dallas has the leverage, but the club obviously does not want to risk losing a key player while also creating animosity in the locker room and alienating future free agents.

But what do you think the team should do, and what do you think will ultimately happen? Let us know in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.