Month: October 2020

Latest On Texans, Deshaun Watson

The Texans are still in the “extremely preliminary” stage of talks with Deshaun Watson, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Things are still on track and positive, sources say, but there’s no rush on either side. 

For a while, we’ve heard that Watson could land a deal worth roughly $40MM per year. Not long ago, that was the jaw-dropping projection for Patrick Mahomes. If Watson signs his deal before Mahomes, buckle up – the KC star could command something closer to the $50MM/year mark, plus potential clauses that would change the business, such as salary cap escalators.

For now, Watson is set to make just $1.177MM in base salary for 2020. After watching Laremy Tunsil land a three-year, $66MM extension, he feels confident that his big payday is just around the corner.

It’s definitely good,” Watson said of the Texans’ willingness to take care fo their own. “It’s exciting for all of us. Only time will tell, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s on the right track. We’re going to win a lot of games and championships while we continue to figure out that side of the business, too.”

If/when Watson inks his deal, it would be a surprise if he didn’t top Russell Wilson‘s league-leading $35MM AAV. If Watson, Mahomes, and Dak Prescott all sign new contracts in the next few months, Wilson could be No. 4 on the list by the time the season starts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Explored Cam Newton Deal?

Weeks after Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton agreed to deals, Cam Newton remains unattached. Not much known interest has come Newton’s way since the Panthers released him, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler indicated the former MVP’s market has even cooled over the past month.

But the team with the most noticeable quarterback need may well have spoken with Newton at some point this offseason. The Patriots are believed to have talked with Newton early in free agency, Fowler notes, but nothing came out of those discussions. Newton has been a free agent since Carolina released him a week into free agency.

After losing one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, the Patriots did not make an impact move to replace him. Their Tom Brady succession plan exiting May: a competition featuring 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham and the recently re-signed Brian Hoyer. New England added two UDFA quarterbacks but passed on several free agent arms since Brady’s Buccaneers defection.

Patriots OC Josh McDaniels interviewed for the Panthers job that ended up going to Matt Rhule, and the veteran play-caller was not believed to be high on Newton during his pitch for the Carolina role. Newton is obviously a more proven passer than Stidham or Hoyer and has achieved far more than many teams’ starting quarterbacks. But the 31-year-old QB’s wait continues. And the former No. 1 overall pick is willing to continue waiting, Fowler adds. At this point, Newton may be waiting to see if a training camp injury or before opens a starting job somewhere.

Reports have created an inconclusive picture of Newton’s desire to accept a backup role, and Fowler notes some around the league are not sure if the nine-year Panthers starter would be willing to do so. Newton has not been a backup since his short stay at Florida in the late 2000s.

The Chargers considered Newton, and ex-Panthers HC Ron Rivera discussed his former charge as well. The injuries Newton suffered in recent years — from his 2018 shoulder relapse to last year’s Lisfranc setback, which required surgery — have worked against Newton in this COVID-19-marred offseason. Although coronavirus restrictions are slowly loosening, free agents remain unable to visit teams’ facilities. Before a franchise goes forward with a Newton offer, it would almost certainly want its medical staff to examine him. This has kept Newton in limbo as he rehabs from the December foot surgery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Won’t Pursue Jadeveon Clowney

The Giants could use an edge rusher and Jadeveon Clowney remains available, but they’re not interested in the former No. 1 overall pick, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes. This jibes with recent comments from GM Dave Gettleman who indicated that he’ll focus on lower-priced options.

[RELATED: Jadeveon Clowney Turns Down Browns]

In March, Clowney said that he’d be open to joining the Giants, but that interest hasn’t been reciprocated. Instead, the Giants seem more focused on a reunion with Markus Golden, a cheaper edge rusher who led the team with ten sacks last year. The Giants tethered Golden with the rarely used unrestricted free agent tender, which will bring him back to the club if no one else signs him by July 22. Golden doesn’t have Clowney’s name value, and the advanced metrics aren’t keen on his lack of quarterback pressures last year, but he’d be a better budgetary fit. If no one bites on Golden in the next seven weeks, the Giants would have him back on a one-year, $4.12MM deal.

Last week, we learned that Clowney rejected an offer from the Browns. The Browns are still interested in signing him, just not at his current asking price. That’s more or less the case for every team connected to Clowney, though the Eagles believe that the gap is too large to even consider a pursuit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Wayne, Lions, Fewell, Staff

Reggie Wayne retired after 14 seasons four years ago, and while he only played regular-season games with the Colts, the decorated wideout was a Patriot briefly. However, the Lions showed interest in adding him in that 2015 offseason as well. Wayne was not interested, citing the Lions’ insistence he work out for them as a reason he sidestepped them en route to New England.

I said, ‘Work out? You the Detroit Lions. Wait. Work out? I’m good,'” Wayne said during an appearance on NFL Network anchor Dan Hellie’s Helliepod podcast (via the Detroit Free Press). “Like, I can give you — I got 14 years of working out that you can see,” Wayne said. “So I was like, ‘Nah, I’m cool.’”

Then coached by former Colts HC Jim Caldwell, the Lions employed Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate as their starters at that point. Wayne did end up working out for the Patriots but cited Bill Belichick‘s success as a reason he agreed to audition for the Pats. Wayne’s Patriots tenure ended up lasting barely 10 days, with the then-36-year-old wideout asking to be released before the start of the 2015 season. Wayne added during the interview the Pats let him keep a $450K signing bonus he received.

Shifting to current matters, is the latest from around the league:

  • Veteran NFL assistant and two-time interim HC Perry Fewell accepted a job with the NFL this week. The league named Fewell its senior vice president of officiating administration. The former Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator will oversee the officiating department, which will include working with outreach to GMs and head coaches. This will be the 57-year-old Fewell’s first year away from coaching since he began in the profession in the mid-1980s. Fewell has been an NFL assistant since 1998.
  • When the NFL revamped its Rooney Rule, it also added a provision that will feature all 32 teams housing a coaching fellowship program for minority candidates. These will be full-time positions that will last from one to two years.
  • The NFL made another new hire recently, tapping Jeff Miller as its new executive VP of communications, public affairs and policy, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter).
  • NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith is somewhat less bullish on the 2020 season unfolding than the NFL currently is.

Carlos Hyde Rejected Multiyear Texans Offer?

Carlos Hyde appears to have been involved in multiple running back domino sequences this offseason. The new Seahawks running back turned down an offer from the Texans, and more clarity emerged on Houston’s effort to keep the 1,000-yard rusher in town.

The Texans offered Hyde a two-year, $10MM deal, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via ESPN 710 Seattle’s John Clayton). This offer emerged before the Texans’ blockbuster trade that involved DeAndre Hopkins going to Arizona and David Johnson taking Hyde’s place as Houston’s starting running back.

After Hyde spent nearly 2 1/2 months in free agency, he landed a one-year, $2.75MM Seahawks deal that can max out at $4MM. That agreement came together quickly, transpiring shortly after the Seahawks offering Devonta Freeman a similar contract. Freeman turned down the proposal and remains a free agent. Hyde turning down the Texans may have cost him a bit of dough. And it created quite the ripple effect.

Hyde passing on the Texans’ offer prompted them to take on one of the league’s most onerous contracts. Houston will pay Johnson $10.2MM this year. The former All-Pro back’s $13MM-per-year pact has two seasons remaining. With the Texans’ payroll also including Duke Johnson‘s $5.2MM-AAV deal, they have more than $17MM committed to the running back position this season — third-most in the league. The Seahawks’ backfield of Hyde, Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny ranks 16th in terms of 2020 cap commitment.

The Browns gave Hyde a similar deal to this Texans offer, adding him on a three-year, $15MM accord in 2018. After trades from Cleveland and Kansas City — sandwiching a stop in Jacksonville — Hyde rushed for a career-high 1,070 yards last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Considering Moving Training Camp

Although the Raiders are set to debut in Las Vegas this season, they were scheduled to hold a final training camp at their Napa, Calif., camp home of the past 24 years. The COVID-19 pandemic may change those plans.

The team is seriously considering holding camp at its new Henderson, Nev., headquarters, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Both the 49ers and Cowboys have discussed relocating their training camps out of California. The Chargers and Rams are set to hold camps in their home state, but uncertainty remains on this front.

While New Jersey and New York have given the go-ahead for training camps to occur, California has yet to do so. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has given the Raiders the green light to hold camp in the state.

Despite several workers having tested positive for COVID-19, the Raiders’ stadium remains on track for completion by late July. A training camp in Nevada would simplify the franchise’s process of having its entire player roster, coaching staff and other essential personnel travel back to northern California at a time when travel presents near-unprecedented uncertainty. Raiders officials, per Bonsignore, have discussed the benefits of now staying in Nevada for camp. This may well be the direction the team is leaning.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Bell, Patriots, Dolphins

The Jets missed on many of their top targets this year, but they did manage some upgrades to the offensive line. Coming off of his worst season ever, Le’Veon Bell is excited about having improved protection up front. “Can’t wait,” Bell told ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler with Bart Scott-esque enthusiasm.

The Jets’ new-look offensive line will feature first-round pick Mekhi Becton and newcomers Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant. Between the three free agent deals and the re-signing of Alex Lewis, the Jets dropped $80MM to fortify their O-Line. They also bypassed this year’s top wide receivers to select Becton, a nightmare for defenders and pickup trucks alike. The Jets hope this will all result in a more reliable pocket for Sam Darnold and larger holes for Bell to run through. In 2019, Bell averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and didn’t get much yardage off of his 66 catches.

Here’s more out of the AFC East:

  • Joe Flacco‘s one-year, $1.5MM Jets deal includes $550K guaranteed, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The full breakdown gives the quarterback $1.05MM in base pay, a total of $450K in per-game active roster bonuses, and the opportunity to earn another $3MM through incentives. The Jets have been encouraged by Flacco’s progress as he works his way back from neck surgery, though the QB admits that he won’t be ready for the season opener. If Flacco’s recovery stalls, they’ll be able to escape the deal fairly easily.
  • The Dolphins are nowhere near ready to give up on quarterback Josh Rosen, according to a source who spoke with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Rosen was a disappointment in his six appearances (three starts) last year, but the ‘Fins source says he showed some promise in practice towards the end of the year. Another factor: The Dolphins probably don’t want to trade Rosen for pennies on the dollar one year after coughing up a second-round pick for him.
  • Will Hastings‘ relationship with quarterback Jarrett Stidham could help his chances of making the Patriots‘ roster as their slot receiver. Still, the Pats have other options to consider alongside the UDFA out of Auburn, as Doug Kyed of NESN writes. They could change their slot philosophy entirely, utilizing a bigger WR like Jakobi Meyers or Mohamed Sanu on the inside. They could also lean more on two-tight end sets with rookies Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi in the fold, sacrificing speed for better blocking.

49ers, George Kittle Far Apart In Talks

The 49ers and George Kittle have begun extension talks, but they’ve got a ways to go. Kittle’s agent Jack Bechta says there’s a major gap to bridge and, perhaps, some fundamental disagreement over how Kittle should be viewed.

[RELATED: Dee Ford Underwent Knee Surgery]

I don’t care about the tight end market, I’m being paid to do a George Kittle deal,” Bechta said.

Since 2017, Kittle has amassed 2,945 receiving yards, the most of any tight end in their first three seasons – and that’s not counting the playoffs. And, since 2018, Kittle’s had 1,464 yards after the catch, more than any other player in the league not named Christian McCaffrey.

Meanwhile, Kittle’s blocking has been a game-changer for the 49ers’ run game. In Kittle’s 14 games last year, SF averaged 4.83 yards per carry and tallied 23 rushing touchdowns. In the two games he missed, 49ers running backs averaged just 2.63 yards per try with no TDs.

With that in mind, Bechta is aiming higher than Austin Hooper‘s four-year, $42MM deal with the Browns. Instead, Kittle’s agent is using the wide receiver and left tackle markets as comps to reflect his client’s value. Kittle, 27 in October, doesn’t have to settle for “tight end money” in exchange for his prime seasons. Instead, he could land something in the neighborhood of $18MM per year with a larger guaranteed portion than Hooper, who has just over 50% of his deal truly locked in.

The 49ers appreciate Kittle’s value and they’ve made his extension a priority, so we still expect a deal to come together. However, it may take a bit longer than expected for them to meet in the middle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers’ Lane Taylor Agrees To Pay Cut

The Packers and Lane Taylor have agreed to revise his contract, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Taylor was originally set to earn a non-guaranteed base salary of $3.8MM for 2020, but it was completely non-guaranteed. Now, the veteran guard will make less than half of that – $1.5MM, with a $100K signing bonus. 

[RELATED: Aaron Jones “Would Love To Be A Lifelong Packer”]

Taylor was a likely release candidate for the Packers, who could have cut him without much in the way of cap consequences. Taylor, a former undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, started 45 games for the Packers between 2016 and 2018. He started the first two games of 2019 at left guard, but a biceps injury suffered in a September win over the Vikings wiped out his year.

With the reworked deal, Taylor will have a chance to stick on the roster and compete with Elgton Jenkins for the starting left guard spot, opposite of Billy Turner.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.