Month: March 2020

AFC Notes: Brady, Browns, Chargers

There’s been a lot of Tom Brady talk over the past week, and it’s hard to determine what’s real. While there was one report that Brady was planning on moving on, it appears to still very much be up in the air whether he returns to the Patriots next season. One thing is for certain though, and that’s that there are a number of potential suitors who are interested should he not go back to New England. One interesting factor is that Brady will apparently have to take less money if he wants to stay with the Pats, as Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports that New England will “almost certainly not be the highest bidder” when free agency opens.

The Patriots are apparently waiting for the new CBA situation to play out, as that would impact how they would structure any potential Brady extension. But as Howe points out, that “doesn’t explain why the Patriots haven’t at least initiated significant discussions” with Brady’s reps. Howe also writes that the two sides “haven’t had any talks of substance” about a new deal. Buzz started to heat up at the combine this past week, and we should know a lot more about Brady’s future soon.

Here’s more from around the:

  • Andrew Berry is running the Browns’ front office now, and he’s getting paid handsomely. Cleveland gave the 32-year-old around $3.3MM a year to be their new GM, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. La Canfora writes that figure has a “lot of his peers around the league excited,” since it’s a big number for a first-time GM. Executive salaries across the league are increasing, and it sounds like they could take off even more in the coming years. As La Canfora points out, the Browns are still paying Berry’s predecessor John Dorsey, who they fired earlier this offseason.
  • The Eagles have had a mountain of injuries the past few years, and they parted ways with director of high performance Shaun Huls at least partially as a result. Huls is now landing on his feet, as the Browns are hiring him to the same role, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). Huls had spent the past seven seasons in Philadelphia.
  • The Chargers are becoming the latest team to emphasize the importance of analytics in their front office. Los Angeles hired Aditya Krishnan away from Cleveland to become their director of analytics, according to Seth Walder of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Walder notes that the Chargers didn’t have any analytics employees prior to hiring Krishnan, and it’ll be interesting to see if this is the start of a new department to report to GM Tom Telesco. Krishnan had previously served as an analyst with the Browns.

Cameron Jordan Underwent Surgery

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan had another very successful season, finishing with a career-high 15.5 sacks. He managed to do it despite dealing with a significant injury, as he played the last five games of the year with an adductor muscle torn off the bone, the pass-rusher told Mike Silver of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Silver added that he had core muscle surgery shortly after the Super Bowl. Fortunately for Saints fans, he’s expected to be fully recovered by training camp, although he’ll likely miss most of the offseason program. Jordan has been a warrior during his time in the league, never missing a game in his nine seasons with the Saints. New Orleans drafted Jordan 24th overall back in 2011, and he became an immediate starter.

The Saints have one of the league’s most talented defensive fronts on paper, and they’ll be hoping that Jordan and Marcus Davenport can form an elite pass-rushing duo. Jordan has notched at least 12 sacks in each of the past three seasons, earning an All-Pro nod in each of those campaigns. Jordan inked a three-year, $52.5MM extension in June of last year, keeping him under team control through the 2023 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Shenault, Wills, Moss, Niang

One of the many high-end wide receiver prospects in this draft, Colorado product Laviska Shenault will need surgery. Shenault will undergo a procedure that will sideline him for more than a month, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The surgery is scheduled for next week, per Troy Renck of Denver7 (on Twitter). Shenault did not run well in this week’s 40-yard dash, clocking 4.58 seconds, and this injury helps explain that. The early-entry wideout is dealing with a core muscle injury and pubic bone inflammation, per Schefter. Shenault did not run a second 40. This could impact Shenault’s draft stock, but even given his injury history and the abundance of wide receivers in this class, it is unlikely he will fall out of the second round. The 6-foot-1, 227-pound wideout has been on the draft radar for a while, beginning with a 1,011-yard, nine-touchdown 2018 sophomore season.

Here is the latest from the draft world:

  • One prospect who might’ve seen his draft stock dip this week was Alabama offensive lineman Jedrick Wills. Wills seemed to be a lock to be a first-round pick as an offensive tackle, but it looks like a position change could be in his future. Some teams have taken him off their tackle boards all together and are projecting him as a guard at the next level, per Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com, who writes that this is causing his stock to slip and that teams are “concerned about his ability to mentally process a complex blocking scheme.”
  • LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss, the son of the legendary Randy Moss, got some tough injury news at the combine. His physical revealed a Jones fracture in his foot and he will undergo surgery, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). While Pelissero notes that he’ll be ready well in advance of the regular season, this will unfortunately cause him to miss a good chunk of his first offseason program. Moss bursted onto the scene out of nowhere this past season, and had been regarded as a late riser and potential Day 2 pick. It’s unclear but this could hurt his stock a bit.
  • There was also some good medical news, as TCU offensive tackle Lucas Niang got a positive report following his November hip surgery, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Rapoport writes that Niang is now considered one of the top offensive tackles in the draft. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had him going 77th overall in a recent mock draft, although he could go higher with this fresh clean bill of health.

 

Joe Schobert Won’t Return To Browns

The back and forth Joe Schobert saga has reached an endpoint. The Browns will indeed let the linebacker walk in free agency, a source told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

Back in November we heard that the two sides had discussed an extension, but not long after that we got word that things had cooled and the Browns were in no hurry to re-sign him. They appeared to be headed toward a split when John Dorsey was still in charge, but then Dorsey’s firing seemed to open things up again and new GM Andrew Berry resumed talks. Kay Cabot reports that Berry met with Schobert’s agent at the combine this week, and that the meeting didn’t go too well.

The Browns let Schobert’s agent know that they wouldn’t be giving him the “double-digit millions” he’s looking to get annually on the open market, Kay Cabot writes. Sources told Kay Cabot that the Browns are “planning to make a big investment” in their offensive line, and that they’re saving their cap space for that push.

Cleveland drafted Schobert out of Wisconsin in the fourth-round back in 2016, and he developed into a solid starter. He made the Pro Bowl in 2017, and has generally been very productive. He started all 16 games this past year, racking up 133 tackles, four interceptions, two sacks, and nine passes defended. As for where he’ll go next there are many teams that will be interested in Schobert’s services, and the Packers are exploring making a bid for the inside linebacker, according to Tom Silverstein and Jim Owczarski of Packersnews.com.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, OL, Patriots, Kilgore

Add the Jets to the teams in the James Bradberry market. Cornerback resides among the many needs in New York, and the Jets are “very interested” in the Panthers starter, Connor Hughes of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Twenty-two teams have expressed some degree of interest on Bradberry, per Hughes. This includes the Redskins, now run by longtime Panthers coach Ron Rivera. The Giants are interested, but Hughes notes the No. 1 cornerback price tag will likely push them out of the running.

Here is the latest from the AFC East, first moving to other Jets rumors from Indianapolis:

  • A high probability exists the Jets will be the rare team to replace its entire starting offensive line. Week 1’s front five — Kelvin Beachum, Kelechi Osemele, Ryan Kalil, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell — are either unlikely to be back or certainties (in Osemele’s case) not to return, and Hughes notes that the Jets are eyeing four new O-line starters. Alex Lewis, a 2019 trade get who took over after Osemele’s injury, is a free agent but could be the player from last year’s front retained. The Jets are eyeing guards Joe Thuney and Graham Glasgow, per Hughes. While the Jets want to come away with a high-end free agent — they are also in on Jack Conklin — GM Joe Douglas will look to the draft to fill much of the O-line needs, Hughes adds. This points to Gang Green being in the market for this atypically stacked tackle class at No. 11.
  • Thuney is expected to cost at least $14MM, with Jeff Howe of The Athletic adding his bidding could push a guard-high $15MM. The Patriots have seen Nate Solder and Trent Brown sign O-line-record money the past two offseasons; they are not expected to try to keep Thuney. Even Thuney’s backup could have a big market. Ted Karras, a full-time starter only in 2019, may be set to earn command a near-$10MM-AAV deal, per Howe. That would be a good indication of the recently seller-happy O-line market hitting another level.
  • The Jets have also been in the market for edge rushers for years, finishing second in 2018’s Khalil Mack sweepstakes and seeing a player they wanted to turn into an edge defender — Anthony Barr — renege on a deal at the 11th hour. League sources expect Gang Green to target Dante Fowler, Hughes notes. The Rams’ bevy of big contracts will likely limit them from franchise-tagging Fowler. The Jets are also interested in Matt Judon, though the Ravens are likely to tag him. He could be a tag-and-trade option, however.
  • Despite their desperation for edge help, the Jets are not expected to be in the Jadeveon Clowney market. An issue with what some Texans sources described as a “cavalier attitude” made Douglas leery of pursuing a Clowney trade last year and has him looking elsewhere for outside linebacker aid, per Hughes. Clowney’s price tag figures to be immense. The Jets hold $49MM-plus in cap space but have many needs.
  • Optimism exists Devin McCourty will be back in New England on a third contract, Howe adds. McCourty and the Patriots are expected to meet before week’s end. The standout safety has spent all 10 seasons of his career in New England. With Jason McCourty still under contract, Devin returning to the Pats should not exactly surprise.
  • Like the Jets, the Dolphins could have a retooled offensive front. They are looking around for centers to replace Daniel Kilgore, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Kilgore has started 17 games since signing with the Dolphins in 2018. Releasing him in the final year of his contract would save the Dolphins $4MM.

Latest On 49ers, George Kittle

The tight end market has not moved much over the past half-decade. The Patriots refused to give Rob Gronkowski a new deal, and other teams did not move their lower-profile tight ends too far past the future Hall of Famer on the position’s salary spectrum.

Jimmy Graham‘s $10MM-per-year pact, which the Packers seem likely to move on from, currently tops the tight end market. But the 49ers will be tasked with modernizing this. They are set to meet with George Kittle‘s representation at the Combine and have already begun preliminary extension discussions, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Kittle’s agent, Jack Bechta, said (via Barrows) he will proceed with considerable patience in negotiating this deal with the 49ers. The uncertain CBA status supports that strategy, but Kittle should be expected to enter the 2020 season with a contract far more lucrative than any tight end’s current deal.

Coming off two dominant seasons, the two-time Pro Bowler is primed to raise the bar for tight ends considerably. The 49ers are prepared for this. Buzz about near-future cap spikes being greater than they were under the 2011 CBA could well affect this situation. The prospect of free agent tight ends Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper and Eric Ebron seeing big deals figure to help Kittle take the market to a new level as well.

Extensions for Kittle and DeForest Buckner will be priorities this offseason in San Francisco. The 49ers also have Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Sanders on track for free agency. The team currently holds just $13MM in cap space — far less than it did in recent offseasons. But some big money will need to be earmarked for Kittle, a 26-year-old star who graded as Pro Football Focus’ top 2019 player.

Bears, Bengals Discuss Andy Dalton Trade

Teams cannot technically contact free agent quarterbacks at the Combine, but discussions regarding passers on the trade market are fair game. The Bears appear to have begun investigating one of them.

The Bengals and Bears have been in contact about Andy Dalton, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Chicago is set to pursue a veteran passer to compete with Mitchell Trubisky; Dalton would certainly qualify as competition.

A nine-year Bengal, Dalton was demoted last season and is likely set to see his job go to Joe Burrow come April. The Bengals are willing to work with the contract-year quarterback on a trade. With the Bears having a quality defense that led their 2018 team to the playoffs, they may well qualify as a destination for a passer looking for a second chance.

Dalton is due a $17.5MM base salary in the final year of what has become a bargain-basement franchise-quarterback contract. The Bengals signed Dalton to a six-year, $96MM extension back in August 2014 and never extended it. One GM said the Bengals could fetch a second- or third-round pick for the 32-year-old quarterback, per The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones. The Bears hold two second-round picks but no first- or third-round selections, with 2018’s Khalil Mack trade reshaping Chicago’s 2020 draft.

The Patriots have also come up as a potential Dalton suitor, with some around the league envisioning that fit as a chess move for the Pats if Tom Brady departs. With that prospect looking likelier, the Dalton trade price could rise. The Bengals want to resolve this situation soon, but Dehner notes Brady’s decision will halt matters on the quarterback market.

Although Dalton struggled without A.J. Green and behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines last season, the three-time Pro Bowl alternate finished as QBR’s No. 17 passer in 2018. Dalton’s best years came in the mid-2010s, amid a five-season Bengals playoff streak. He threw 33 touchdown passes in 2014 and had a 25-7 TD-INT ratio in 2015 (fifth in QBR) before a season-ending injury. The Bengals, whose offensive line and pass-catcher situations worsened in the years that followed, have not produced a winning record since and seem set to move on from their nine-year starter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys, Amari Cooper To Ramp Up Talks

Facing the prospect of only one tag being available, the Cowboys are running out of time with a player who could well hit free agency. They are moving toward using the exclusive franchise tag on Dak Prescott, which would push Amari Cooper toward the market.

But the Cowboys and their top wide receiver are set to ramp up their extension talks “very soon,” according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson (on Twitter). Teams can use franchise or transition tags between now and March 12, but the prospect of a new CBA being ratified in that time frame would limit the Cowboys to using just one tag — as opposed to the two-tag setup if the 2011 CBA were to remain in place for the 2020 season.

Like Prescott, the Cowboys and Cooper have been at this a while. Dallas began planning a long-term future with Cooper shortly after trading a first-round pick for him in 2018. Yet, 16 months later, Cooper played out his rookie contract and is on the precipice of free agency. The former top-five pick has said on multiple occasions, however, he wants to stay in Dallas. New Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy wants him back as well.

The Cowboys met with Cooper’s representation this week, and with Prescott likely set for the exclusive franchise tag and Byron Jones on track to leave in free agency, that moves the standout wide receiver to the top of the organization’s pecking order. Cooper is now a four-time Pro Bowler, but after an inconsistent stretch in his final 1 1/2 Raiders seasons, he has largely delivered for the Cowboys. The 25-year-old wideout notched career-high yardage (1,189) and touchdown (eight) numbers last season.

News of the potential CBA ratification set to put the league in strong position to secure windfall TV deals this offseason may well impact these talks. The salary cap has spiked by approximately $10MM annually for years now, and it is set to come in around $200MM this year. But by 2023, the cap could be in the ballpark of $300MM. Anywhere in that vicinity would stand to impact 2020 contract talks, and with Julio Jones‘ $22MM-per-year deal raising the bar for receivers last year, Cooper may be aiming to become the NFL’s second-highest-paid wideout. Michael Thomas‘ $19.25MM-AAV deal currently holds that distinction.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Interested In CB Byron Jones

Tom Brady isn’t the only big name on the Raiders’ list of targets. Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the team is expected to show “legitimate interest” in cornerback Byron Jones.

[RELATED: James Bradberry Seeking $15MM/Season]

The Raiders are sitting on more than $50MM in cap space, and they could naturally use some reinforcement on defense. While 2019 second-rounder Trayvon Mullen showed that he can be a dependable starter, pairing him with someone of Jones’ caliber could create one of the top tandems in the league.

Jones has spent his entire career with the Cowboys, and he earned a Pro Bowl nod and second-team All-Pro recognition during the 2018 season. This past year, he finished with 46 tackles, six passes defended, and one forced fumble. Bonsignore notes that he only allowed 106 yards after the catch last season.

With the Cowboys focused on retaining Dak Prescott and wideout Amari Cooper, it’s been expected that Jones will end up switching squads this offseason (although Dallas “will at least do their due diligence” on the defensive back). Jones will be joined at the top of the cornerback market by James Bradberry and Chris Harris.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs To Decline Cameron Erving’s Option

Cameron Erving is set to hit free agency. Yahoo’s Terez A. Paylor reports (via Twitter) that the Chiefs won’t be exercising their 2020 option on the offensive lineman. The move will create $3.2MM in space for Kansas City.

The Chiefs traded a fifth-rounder to the Browns for Erving back in 2017, and the lineman proceeded to appear in 13 games (four starts) for his new squad. After starting 13 of his 14 appearances in 2018, Erving inked a two-year deal with the Chiefs.

The 27-year-old saw a reduced role towards the end of the 2019 season, but he still managed to make an appearance in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory.

Erving’s versatility proved to be useful during his tenure with the Chiefs, but the front office clearly valued the extra wiggle room over the rotational lineman. With less than $20MM in cap room, the team will use some of their newfound space to accommodate defensive tackle Chris Jonesfranchise tag.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.