Month: July 2021

Roger Goodell Eyeing Several More Years As Commissioner?

Roger Goodell is closing in on the 15th anniversary of his commissioner tenure. Come September, he will begin his 16th season. It does not look like Goodell plans to vacate that post in the near future.

Prior to the 2020 CBA’s passing, a sense around the league pointed to Goodell stepping down shortly after the CBA talks and the latest TV deals coming to pass. However, those checkpoints are now in the rear-view mirror. With a $113 billion media deal secured, Goodell may now stay on past the expiration date of his current contract.

The longtime commissioner’s deal expires in March 2024, and Peter King of NBC Sports notes that Goodell not only could stay on for multiple years beyond that contract’s expiration but that the bulk of NFL owners want him to do so. In 2017, conflicting reports emerged about Goodell’s retirement date. After a report indicated Goodell would indeed walk away at the conclusion of his current contract, he stopped short of announcing that.

Goodell, 62, is on track to pass predecessor Paul Tagliabue as the NFL’s second-longest-tenured commissioner. Tagliabue served in that role from 1989-2006. Pete Rozelle served as commissioner from 1960-89; that kind of longevity will be difficult for future commissioners to surpass. Tagliabue retired at age 66; Rozelle walked away when he was 63.

While a frequent punching bag, with his disciplinary powers in particular inviting scrutiny, Goodell has secured labor peace through 2030 and steered the NFL through a full season during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shepherding the league through the tumultuous 2020 stretch may well have provided more momentum for Goodell to extend his tenure, per King, who adds owners would want Goodell’s eventual successor to come from inside the NFL. It does not appear a successor will be needed for a bit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Door Open For K.J. Wright Seahawks Return?

K.J. Wright entered last season as the Seahawks’ longest-tenured player, but the team’s first-round Jordyn Brooks selection clouded Wright’s Seattle future. The 10-year veteran remains a free agent nearly three months since the 2021 league year began.

Probably the top off-ball linebacker still available, the veteran defender has seen some doors close in free agency. While it should be expected Wright will receive a chance before or during training camp, Pete Carroll indicated the accomplished outside linebacker could still be an option for the Seahawks, via John Boyle of Seahawks.com.

Although Carroll said the team is still finetuning its roster, the 12th-year Seahawks HC cautioned no signing should be expected to take place at least until the team goes through minicamp. Teams annually turn to the free agent market between minicamp and training camp, after viewing roster deficiencies during the offseason program. Wright would stand to help many teams, with Pro Football Focus slotting him as a top-10 off-ball ‘backer in 2020.

Wright, 32, said prior to free agency’s outset he would welcome the opportunity to finish his career in Seattle but added he was not prepared to take a hometown discount. At this point in the offseason, however, Wright will probably have to bring down his asking price. The news of the 2022 cap ceiling being $208MM should serve as a bonus for vets hoping to cash in, but teams have used most of their 2021 budgets by June. The Seahawks are also not expected to spend much between now and training camp. It may take a key injury for Wright to cash in on the level he did two years ago (two years, $14MM), and even that scenario likely will not produce a contract worth that much.

The sides have agreed to three contracts — Wright’s rookie deal, a four-year extension in 2014 and the most recent deal at the start of the 2019 free agency period — but the Brooks pick gave the team both the NFL’s highest-paid off-ball ‘backer (Bobby Wagner) and a first-round investment in the position. The Seahawks do not appear to be the most likely destination for Wright.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Nick Bosa, Dee Ford

Nick Bosa was not currently among the 80-plus 49ers working at the team’s facility for OTAs last week, but Kyle Shanahan is keeping in contract with the recovering defensive end. Bosa is training in Florida this offseason.

The 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year suffered an ACL tear in Week 2 of last season. His rehab effort continues to unfold according to plan. The 49ers expect Bosa to be ready for training camp.

I’ve been talking to Nick since February on this. He came out in February for a while to get checked up on his knee and stuff. With him coming off the ACL and everything, it’s going great,” Shanahan said, via ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner. “… He’s going to show up at some time during this (offseason), but he won’t be going out there doing anything coming off the ACL. But we fully expect him to be ready for training camp.”

One of numerous 49ers to go down with a significant injury last season, Bosa is the most important player on San Francisco’s defense. His arrival coincided with the 49ers going from 23rd to second in DVOA from 2018 to ’19, and the team will certainly count on him to spearhead a 2021 rebound effort.

While Dee Ford has not proven reliable since the 49ers traded for him two years ago, he remains with the team due to the guarantees on his contract. Ford has battled a litany of injuries since arriving in San Francisco; he missed five games in 2019 and 15 in 2020. A back malady sidelined Ford last year. Although Shanahan was not as emphatic about Ford being ready for camp, the fifth-year HC said (via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, subscription required) the veteran defensive end has made strides and is headed in the right direction. Ford will not take part in on-field work until training camp.

Ford’s reworked contract makes him an unrealistic trade or cut candidate, so the 49ers are prepared to move forward with the injury-prone situational rusher. He, Bosa and Arik Armstead remain from the Super Bowl LIV pass-rushing crew. The latter duo will be expected to spearhead this season’s rush, with 2021 Ford contributions likely viewed as a bonus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Packers, Aaron Rodgers

The June 1 date in which an Aaron Rodgers trade becomes a less costly transaction for the Packers looms, and shortly after a report indicated the team is not budging on its Green Bay-or-nothing Rodgers stance, the reigning MVP is not backing down, either.

Rodgers is very likely to push his Wisconsin exit strategy into the late summer, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports noting some close to the future Hall of Famer insist nothing has changed for him; Rodgers remains adamant he will not return to the Packers. This stalemate has shown no signs of ending, but the Packers may not believe Rodgers is 100% committed to his current quest.

While a Carson Palmer-style pseudo-retirement has entered the equation at points during this saga, the Packers may not be keen on letting this reach the stage the Bengals did 10 years ago. The Packers would trade Rodgers if they truly believed he was dead-set against playing for them again, Matt Schneidman of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Recouping the nearly $30MM from a Rodgers retirement would not satisfy the team compared to the draft/player haul a trade would net.

As of Memorial Day, GM Brian Gutekunst is not there. His no-trade stance remains, Schneidman adds. This certainly points to the Packers believing they can salvage this situation, but the team preferring a monster trade haul to forcing Rodgers into a retirement/hiatus is noteworthy.

With Rodgers having rebounded from multiple unremarkable seasons to win his third MVP, the 37-year-old passer has considerable trade value at this point. A realistic trade package is believed to require multiple first-round picks and one or multiple established starters. With or without a quarterback coming back in a trade, the Packers can be expected to land a haul for Rodgers — if they decide to entertain offers.

The team most closely connected to a Rodgers deal, the Broncos have yet to discuss the 16-year veteran with the Packers since a short conversation on the draft’s opening night. Like the 49ers, the Broncos reached out to the Packers the day this news broke, but Mike Klis of 9News notes no calls have transpired between teams ahead of the June 1 date. Denver’s current plan is a Drew LockTeddy Bridgewater competition, which easily makes for the AFC West’s least inspiring quarterback situation. That said, the Broncos have Rodgers on their radar. His following Peyton Manning‘s late-career path should continue to be a talking point as long as this impasse lasts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Davis, McCourty, Pats, Bills

Corey Davis will be expected to play a critical role for the Jets this season, but he will need some time off first. The fifth-year wide receiver suffered a shoulder injury during Jets OTAs, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Davis landed on his shoulder after attempting to make a leaping catch. This is believed to be a minor shoulder strain, though Garafolo adds that Dr. James Andrews examined the former top-five pick. Davis, who signed this year’s second-most lucrative wideout contract (three years, $37.5MM), is not expected to require surgery.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins added Jason McCourty early this month. The veteran cornerback is expected to play a key depth role in Miami, and Brian Flores said (via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald) some work at safety is possible for the three-year Patriots corner starter. McCourty saw most of his snaps at corner in 2020 but did work as a safety on 75 plays. The Dolphins let Bobby McCain go this offseason but have ex-Pats corner Eric Rowe and second-rounder Jevon Holland at safety. As for McCourty’s compensation, Jackson adds the 33-year-old defender signed for the veteran minimum. His base salary is nearly fully guaranteed, with OverTheCap noting McCourty is locked into $987K of that $1.1MM figure.
  • Joe Thuney‘s departure for Kansas City will create a vacancy at New England’s left guard spot for the first time in many years. The Patriots‘ first-string left guard since 2016, Thuney has yet to miss a game during his career. The Pats, however, may have located a gem in 2020 sixth-round pick Michael Onwenu. The Michigan product started 16 games and played more on the edge than at guard as a rookie. But it looks like the Pats will shift Onwenu to a full-time guard role, with ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss noting he lined up as their first-string left guard in OTAs. The Pats traded for Trent Brown and are expected to use him at right tackle, Onwenu’s primary 2020 position. Pro Football Focus graded Onwenu as a top-10 tackle last season.
  • Brown and Isaiah Wynn are set to be the Pats’ starting tackles, and Reiss adds Justin Herron looks like the top candidate to be their swing backup. Drafted 13 spots ahead of Onwenu in last year’s sixth round, Herron started six games and played 351 snaps as a rookie. PFF graded Herron 56th overall at tackle in 2020. Considering Wynn’s injury history, the Pats’ swing-tackle role is a pivotal gig.
  • Long snappers have a rigid salary structure. Entering last week, a seven-way tie existed for the league’s highest paid deep snapper. But the Bills appear to have broken said tie. Buffalo made Reid Ferguson the highest-paid snap specialist, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Though it is not known how much more than the previous snapper-high figure ($1.2MM) the Bills are giving Ferguson, Pelissero adds that the fifth-year snapper will receive a $675K signing bonus.

Vikings Wanted Justin Fields At No. 8

Recently, the Panthers shared a behind-the-scenes look at the 2021 NFL Draft, which showed the Vikings calling on their No. 8 overall pick. Ultimately, the offer wasn’t up to snuff. But, had the Panthers said yes, the Vikings would have selected Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (via PFT).

The Vikings were connected to Fields in the weeks leading up to the draft, hoping that he’d fall to No. 14 overall. Now, we know that they were proactive in trying to land him. It’s an interesting footnote, especially given the presence of Kirk Cousins. Cousins has two years and $56MM to go on his deal; Fields could have prompted them to trade the veteran sometime between now and the end of the pact.

The Vikings offered up their No. 14 pick, their third-round choice at No. 90, and a fourth-round pick to jump to No. 8. Panthers GM Scott Fitterer wanted a 2022 first-round pick in order to move down, so the talks didn’t progress from there. Instead, the Vikings moved down to No. 23, tapped Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw, and added to their third-round stockpile. That’s where they selected Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond, who could be groomed as an eventual successor to Cousins.

Kirk Cousins is our quarterback,” GM Rick Spielman said in March. “I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around out there, but Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. We felt that he played very well, probably the best that he’s ever played down that stretch last year. Kirk is our quarterback going forward, and I look forward to him (having) another year in this system.”

Cousins is indeed the Vikings quarterback, but it’s worth nothing that his contract no longer includes a no-trade clause. Meanwhile, the Vikings will see Fields twice per year when they face the Bears.

PFR Originals: Tebow, Chiefs, Snyder

In case you missed it, here’s a look back at some of our recent originals:

  • Tim Tebow hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2012, when he was with the Jets. Now, he’s vying for a spot on the Jaguars’ roster. Will he pull it off? Sam Robinson asked PFR readers to weigh in and, so far, ~46% of you say that the former University of Florida standout will make the cut. Meanwhile, about 25% say he’ll make the practice squad and ~30% think that he’ll be released outright.
  • Six years ago, the Chiefs promoted Chris Ballard and Brett Veach to larger roles in John Dorsey‘s front office. The move vaulted Ballard up the NFL ranks, leading him to the Colts’ GM job. Meanwhile, Veach stayed and wound up as Dorsey’s successor in Kansas City. As Sam notes, the Chiefs are happy with the way things turned out. Despite going 50 years between their second and third Super Bowl appearances, the Chiefs have become the AFC’s best team to start this decade.
  • Meanwhile, Ben Levine took us all the way back to 1999, when the NFL approved Dan Snyder as the new owner of the Washington football franchise. Snyder’s first season at the helm saw ten wins, but fans have been less-than-thrilled over the last 20+ years.
  • Victor Cruz will always be remembered for his standout Giants seasons and his iconic salsa dance. But, in 2017, Cruz tried to start a new chapter in Chicago. Here‘s a look back at his short-lived Bears tenure, his Giants contract, and an important reminder for NFL players — always insist on guaranteed cash.

Would Falcons Take Second-Round Pick For Julio Jones?

By all accounts, the Falcons are seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Julio Jones. But, in reality, they’d accept a second-round choice for the All-Pro wide receiver, a source tells Peter King of The MMQB

[RELATED: Jones May Want New Deal]

That would certainly help to facilitate a trade. Jones, 32, is scheduled to make $38MM over the next three years. Meanwhile, the Falcons star could demand a new deal (read: more guaranteed money). Between his age, injuries, and the possibility of having to dish out even more money, it’s hard to imagine anyone sacrificing a Round 1 choice.

Reportedly, one club did offer a first-round pick for Jones, but King is skeptical. Meanwhile, some of the teams tied to Jones do not own their 2022 first-round pick. Instead, as King’s source indicates, the Falcons could be okay with a 2022 second-rounder. In theory, the Falcons can drag things out over the summer, but it’s hard to imagine even a ’23 or ’24 first-round pick being offered.

Jones could be traded as soon as Wednesday, when the Falcons (and other clubs) can divide dead money between the 2021 and 2022 seasons. The Seahawks have recently entered the sweepstakes, but the Titans and 49ers appear to be his most likely destinations. The Niners, led by Jones’ former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, would make lots of sense. When they were together in 2015 and 2016, Jones went off for 3,280 yards from scrimmage with 14 touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Move Keanu Neal To LB

The Cowboys will play Keanu Neal at linebacker (via Jon Machota of TheAthletic.com). Neal spent his first five seasons at safety for the Falcons, but he says he’s ready to make the adjustment.

I feel I can play safety, linebacker,” Neal said. “Wherever they put me, I’m going to go out there and play at my best. Growing up, I played linebacker in middle school and high school. Then, we changed the defense, and I switched to safety. So I went to college as a safety, but in my heart, I have been a linebacker for a while. I still have an understanding of what everything entails with playing linebacker.”

The former first-round pick is listed at 6’1″ and 216 pounds. This year, he plans on bulking up a bit and playing around 222 lbs in the fall. It’ll be an adjustment, but old pal Dan Quinn is confident that he can make it work.

When Neal signed in March, most assumed that the Cowboys would keep him in the secondary, since they already had two three-down ‘backers and a need at safety. They’ve even bolstered the LB group since then by drafting Micah Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick, followed by LSU’s Jabril Cox in the fourth round.

Still, Sean Lee is out of the picture and the Cowboys may see Neal as a potential 2022 replacement for Leighton Vander Esch, who had his fifth-year option declined. For now, Neal’s only signed for 2021 on a one-year, $5MM deal.

Neal, 26 in July, recorded at least 100 tackles in each of his three healthy seasons. He posted 106 stops last year — including a career-high nine tackles for loss — and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 33 overall safety.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons’ Julio Jones Wants New Deal

Julio Jones wants out and the Falcons are willing to accommodate his request. However, if he’s traded, Jones may ask his new club for a fresh contract, according to a source who spoke with PFT.

[RELATED: Seahawks Interested In Julio Jones]

As it stands, Jones is set to earn a guaranteed $15.3MM in 2021. In 2022, he’s under contract for $15.5MM in 2022, which is only partially guaranteed for $2MM. Then, in 2023, he’s set to collect $11.5MM, though that sum is completely non-guaranteed.

In total, Jones’ three-year, $66MM deal gave him an average annual value of $22MM and $64MM guaranteed at signing. However, the Falcons have already paid out the bulk of those guarantees, so the 32-year-old may want his new team to have some skin in the game.

That would be yet another roadblock for interested teams, many of whom have already been scared off by the Falcons’ ask of a first-round pick. The Rams, for instance, have discussed Jones, but they’re already without their first-rounders in 2022 and 2023. The Seahawks have already surrendered their ’22 first-round pick, so they might not want to give up their next one and shell out a mega-deal for the aging star.

The Titans and the 49ers appear to be Jones’ most likely destinations right now, but it’s not clear if they’d be willing to give Jones a new contract. Either way, we should have more clarity on Jones’ situation this week when the Falcons are able to trade Jones as a post-June 1 transaction.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.