Alfred Morris

West Notes: M. Gordon, Broncos, Noteboom

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon will not be eligible for unrestricted free agency until after the 2019 season, as the Bolts picked up his fifth-year option for 2019 back in May. He cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career last season, and he continues to be a force as a receiver out of the backfield. Nonetheless, as Jack Wang of the Orange County Register writes, Gordon still has a long way to go before he can command the type of contract that fellow 2015 first-rounder Todd Gurley recently pulled down (Gordon, after all, has yet to average four yards per carry in his three seasons in the league).

But while Gordon is not focused on his next contract at the moment, he fully expects to be in Gurley territory when that time comes. He said, “[Gurley] definitely changed the market for us…When that time comes for us backs to get paid, I’m sure it’ll be around the same number.” Gordon did play a full 16-game season for the first time in his career in 2017, and there are plenty of reasons to think his YPC average might look a little better in 2018, which could add up to a lucrative extension in another year or so.

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was noncommittal when asked after last night’s preseason loss to the Bears if the team would pursue a veteran to back up starting QB Case Keenum. Per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Joseph said, “Right now (Chad Kelly) is our guy. I can’t speak for two weeks down the road here. But right now he’s our backup quarterback.” Troy Renck of Denver 7 ABC says Kelly has been impressive in the preseason, but he would still be surprised if the Broncos do not add a veteran signal-caller (Twitter link).
  • In a separate tweet, Renck passes along Joseph’s statement that the Broncos‘ running back competition is still open. Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post, however, reports (unsurprisingly) that rookie Royce Freeman appears to be the winner of the competition, as Denver clearly wants him to be the team’s lead back. Kiszla also points out that UDFA Phillip Lindsay has been sensational in the Broncos’ first two preseason games, and given Lindsay’s abilities on special teams, both Kiszla and Legwold (Twitter link) believe he has a real chance of making the roster.
  • Alfred Morris‘ new contract with the 49ers is for the veteran minimum of $790K, per ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). As expected, Morris will need to play his way onto San Francisco’s Week 1 roster. He will count for $630K against the team’s cap.
  • Rams rookie Joseph Noteboom, a third-round choice in this year’s draft — and the Rams’ first draft pick in 2018 — has a chance to see immediate playing time along the team’s offensive line this season. And, given the age and contract situation of Los Angeles’ current starting O-linemen, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic writes that Noteboom — an ice hockey standout in high school — could become a fixture at guard or tackle in the very near future. The team has been very impressed with the TCU product thus far, and he acquitted himself nicely during last night’s preseason game, when he played both tackle positions and left guard.
  • The Chiefs signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick earlier today.

49ers To Sign Alfred Morris

The 49ers plan to sign running back Alfred Morris, coach Kyle Shanahan announced on Monday. Morris’ deal is pending a physical. 

Morris, at the very minimum, will provide the Niners an extra body in camp as Jerick McKinnon heals up from a calf strain and Matt Brieda deals with a shoulder injury. If Morris can show some of his old form, then he could have a new home for the 2018 season.

Alf did a great job for us for the two years I was with him,” Shanahan said of their time together in Washington, via 95.7 The Game (on Twitter). “It’s not flashy, but he runs extremely hard. He’s very reliable. You block him for zero, usually he can get at least one. He’s a hard-nosed runner you can keep handing the ball off to.

Morris led the Redskins in rushing for four straight seasons, including his rookie season in which he topped 1,600 yards on the ground. Last year, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry as the Cowboys’ primary starter during Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension.

The Niners are also rostering 2017 fourth-round pick Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert, and Jeremy McNichols at running back.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which UFA RB Should Redskins Target?

Washington’s backfield corps absorbed a major blow Friday when news of Derrius Guice‘s ACL tear surfaced. The second-round pick had impressed during camp and was set to be a key part of the Redskins’ 2018 backfield.

Now, the Redskins are vulnerable here. Chris Thompson admitted he’s not fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered last season, leaving Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine as the team’s top two healthy running backs. Under the circumstances, it would seemingly behoove the Redskins to examine free agent options. Should they?

Washington holds $13MM-plus in cap space, so funding won’t be an issue here given the timing of this injury and the host of proven backs on the market. Of the players available, Orleans Darkwa has generated the most interest this offseason. The Giants’ 2017 rushing leader met with the Patriots in April, before undergoing surgery, and since recovering has met with the Bills, Jets and Colts. Each team passed, but Darkwa has just 276 carries on his NFL odometer. And he averaged 4.4 yards per tote despite running behind an injury-ravaged Giants offensive front.

Alfred Morris led the Redskins in rushing for four straight seasons, and he averaged 4.8 yards per handoff last season as the Cowboys’ primary starter during Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension. The former sixth-round Washington find is 29 and hasn’t generated much interest since his Cowboys contract expired, although he did visit the Jets recently.

Eddie Lacy‘s also fairly young, at 28, but he’s coming off a brutal Seahawks season. After providing per-carry averages north of 4.0 in each of his four Packers seasons, Lacy averaged just 2.6 yards per run for the Seahawks. Branden Oliver has not been as successful on a per-rush basis, holding a career average of 3.4, but he totaled 853 yards from scrimmage as a seven-game starter as a rookie in 2014. Oliver also drew interest from the Bills this summer.

What about the market’s old guard? Adrian Peterson is obviously the first name that comes to mind, and the future Hall of Famer maintains he would like to play a 12th season. Peterson said he’s now healthy and has recovered from the neck injury that ended his 2017 season. While the three-time rushing champion’s best days are behind him, he amassed two 130-plus-yard games with the Cardinals, doing so despite being a midseason acquisition.

Jamaal Charles, 31, made it through last season healthy after extensive knee trouble plagued him in 2015 and 2016, but the Broncos took him out of their rotation. Nevertheless, the two-time All-Pro led Denver backs by averaging 4.3 yards per carry (albeit on just 69 handoffs). DeMarco Murray retired, but he made it clear shortly before that announcement he was interested in playing this season. Could this situation lure the 2014 offensive player of the year out of retirement?

However, the Redskins also have former Broncos backup Kapri Bibbs and third-year UDFA Byron Marshall. Should they bypass the market and go with a cast fronted by Kelley and Perine?

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Darnold, Breeland, OBJ, Apple

In the wake of Elijah McGuire‘s broken foot, the Jets signed RB George Atkinson III earlier today. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that the team’s first choice was Alfred Morris, who obviously comes with considerably more experience than Atkinson (Gang Green brought Morris in for a visit yesterday). Rapoport says the two sides could not come together on contract terms, so Morris remains a free agent and Atkinson is now a Jet.

Now for more notes from the two clubs who call the Meadowlands home:

  • The Jets still have interest in free agent CB Bashaud Breeland, per ESPN’s Josina Anderson (via Twitter). There’s still no word on whether Breeland will visit with Gang Green, but a number of clubs are interested in his services. Breeland remains undecided for the time being.
  • Just yesterday, we heard that offset language was no longer the issue holding up contract negotiations between the Jets and rookie QB Sam Darnold. Instead, the latest reports suggested that how and when the guarantees in Darnold’s contract could void is the real sticking point. But Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says offset language and the guaranteed money issue are still matters that need to be resolved. Cimini does not think that the holdout will get as bad as the infamous Joey Bosa/Chargers standoff several years ago, but Darnold is in a different situation because he is a quarterback, not a defensive lineman. Every practice he misses is critical, and while there are not enough details to know which party is in the “right” in this case — though Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News opines that Darnold’s agent’s stance with respect to the offset language is ridiculous and selfish — this is fast becoming a lose-lose situation for player and team.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. has excelled in Giants training camp thus far, and he looks committed and healthy, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Raanan ends his tweet with an emphatic, “pay the man.”
  • Though it’s obviously still early in training camp, the Giants‘ offensive line has left much to be desired in summer practices thus far, as Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com writes. Dunleavy lists a few OL free agents that Big Blue might consider bringing in, and he also names Denzelle Good, who is currently fighting for a starting job with the Colts, as an interesting trade candidate.
  • After two seasons as a backup cornerback with the Titans, Curtis Riley saw an opportunity to start at free safety with the Giants, which encouraged him to sign with Big Blue in March. Thus far, his conversion to safety is going swimmingly, and Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes that Riley has a legitimate chance to win the starting FS job.
  • Giants CB Eli Apple‘s maturity issues and lack of effort have gotten him into plenty of hot water with his teammates and coaches during his first two seasons in the pros, but new head coach Pat Shurmur is impressed with Apple’s attitude and his play thus far. Shurmur said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, “I’m seeing a guy that’s all about his business. He’s very businesslike. And he’s covering really well, a really good attribute for a corner. I like the way he’s working. He’s out there challenging, but he’s also being smart. And I like the way he’s functioning in the building. Very attentive in meetings. In my mind, and based on what I’ve seen, he’s acting like a pro.”

Jets To Host Alfred Morris On Visit

The Jets are taking a look at the running back market on Saturday, with Alfred Morris arriving for a visit, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

It’s been a quiet offseason for the former Redskins starter and Cowboys depth piece. This is Morris’ first known visit in 2018. While Morris is now 29, he should be relatively fresh after being Ezekiel Elliott‘s backup for most of the past two seasons.

The Jets let Matt Forte walk in the offseason but added Isaiah Crowell to their backfield mix. New York also has Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire and former Seahawks starter Thomas Rawls under contract. McGuire left Friday’s Jets practice with a foot injury, however. And Rapoport reports this is a serious malady.

McGuire fractured his foot and will undergo surgery, Rapoport tweets. The second-year back will miss an extended time period and looks set for IR. This may not be a season-ending setback, though, with Rapoport adding an IR-return slot may be possible in this case. But that will depend on the Jets’ injury situation this season, since teams are limited to two IR-return players per season.

Serving as a backup to Forte and Powell, McGuire rushed for 315 yards (3.6 per carry) as a rookie.

Morris, though, looked spry with the 2017 Cowboys, averaging a career-best 4.8 yards per carry. That came on 115 totes after Morris received just 69 in 2016. Elliott’s suspension increasing Morris’ workload, the veteran gained 547 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Best Free Agent RB Remaining?

Even as June winds down, there are a surprising number of quality running backs still available on the open market. The current free agent crop of backfield options includes some notable names, such as: 

Charles, Hightower, Vereen, and Murray were all on the Saints’ radar recently as they canvassed the free agent market for running back support. Ultimately, they signed Terrance West to help fill in during Mark Ingram‘s four-game suspension, leaving the other vets in limbo. While Charles, Hightower, and Vereen all showed their stuff for coach Sean Payton, Murray declined his invite, preferring not to participate in a giant cattle call.

When considering only past accomplishments, the names of Peterson, Charles, and Murray obviously stand out. But, unfortunately, father time is cruel to NFL running backs and these players are on the back nines of their careers, to put it mildly. Out of this trio, Murray has the best 2017 to show teams. Even though his job as the Titans’ top rusher was usurped by Derrick Henry, he had 39 catches for 266 yards and occasionally showed the powerful rushing that made him a force to be reckoned with in Dallas. Charles, he of several 1,000-yard seasons, had only 296 rushing yards in total and found himself at the bottom of Denver’s depth chart to close out the season. Peterson, meanwhile, forced his way out of New Orleans due to a lack of playing time and had only two performances of note in his run with the Cardinals.

Lacy signed with the Seahawks last year and hoped to put concerns about his health and conditioning to rest. Unfortunately, those questions persist after he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in nine games. Lacy was a bulldozer in his early days with the Packers, but his last season of note came in 2015 when he averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Even then, ball security was a problem as he fumbled the ball four times.

Darkwa is back on the NFL radar after doctors cleared him to workout. Darkwa won’t win this poll on name value, but unlike everyone else on this list, he’s coming off of the best season of his career.The 26-year-old (did we mention that he’s also the youngest running back here?) ran for 751 yards off of 171 carries, good for a strong 4.4 yards per carry average. It was an ugly year for the Giants on the whole, but Darkwa excelled on a personal level.

Vereen, another ex-Giant, can’t say the same for his 2017 season. However, his second act with the Giants has been respectable on the whole. Acting as a secondary ball carrier, he has averaged 4.2 yards per carry over the last three seasons. He also showed that he can still be a worthwhile pass catcher out of the backfield with 44 grabs for 253 yards last season, though he averaged a career-low 5.8 yards per catch.

Last but not least is Morris, though you can be forgiven for forgetting about this three-time 1,000-yard rusher. Morris was a force to be reckoned with from 2012-2014, but he has been riding the pine for the Cowboys over the last two years. What you might not realize is that Morris was tremendous in a small sample last year as Ezekiel Elliott‘s early-season backup and later-season fill-in. Morris averaged 4.76 yards per carry off of 115 attempts, which makes one wonder why we haven’t heard his name mentioned in recent months.

Out of the running backs listed here, which player do you feel can contribute the most in 2018? Click below to cast your vote and defend your choice in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

Read more

Extra Points: Pats, Cowboys, Panthers, Bills

Newly-acquired defensive end Kony Ealy is in a “legitimate fight” to earn a place on the Patriots roster, opines Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Thought to be a contender for a starting job (especially following Rob Ninkovich‘s retirement), Ealy has been practicing with New England’s reserves, per Reiss, who indicates Ealy simply “hasn’t clicked” since joining the defending Super Bowl champions. The Patriots essentially got Ealy for free from the Panthers, as they moved down only eight picks in the draft to pick up the 25-year-old. He’s signed through the 2017 season, but his $800K salary isn’t guaranteed.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Alfred Morris played ahead of Rod Smith during the Cowboys‘ Hall of Game exhibition last week despite having seen fewer carries than Smith during training camp, leading Todd Archer of ESPN.com to wonder if Dallas was showcasing Morris for a potential trade. Reports in March indicated the Cowboys were likely to shop Morris, who is behind Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, and Smith on the backfield depth chart, but his salary ($1.2MM) could prove a hindrance. Plus, with Elliott likely to serve a league-mandated suspension, Morris’ presence on the roster could become all the more important. In his first season in Dallas, Morris managed 69 carries for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Second-year defensive tackle Vernon Butler is believed to have escaped with only a knee sprain after leaving the Panthers‘ first preseason game on Wednesday, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Butler will undergo an MRI today, but even a sprain could lead to a multi-week absence, meaning Butler may not be ready for the regular season opener. The 30th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Butler is expected to serve as Carolina’s third interior defender behind Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. Butler played 21% of the Panthers’ defensive snaps a season ago.
  • Expected to battle for a starting role, Bills linebacker Reggie Ragland is now playing with the club’s third-team defense, and is now behind both Preston Brown and free agent addition Gerald Hodges on Buffalo’s depth chart, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. As such, it’s conceivable the 2016 second-round draft pick could become a trade candidate, Rodak opines. Ragland not only missed the entirety of his rookie campaign with a torn ACL, but was selected by the Bills’ prior regime. Neither general manager Brandon Beane nor head coach Sean McDermott has any link to Ragland, so the 23-year-old could be on the block.
  • The Cardinals worked out punter Brock Miller on Wednesday, reports Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Miller, a former undrafted free agent out of Southern Utah, has been on the NFL workout circuit for much of the past three years. He signed a reserve/futures contract with San Francisco earlier this year, but was waived in May. Arizona sifted through three punters in 2016, and while Matt Wile is currently the incumbent, Richie Leone is also on the roster.

NFC Notes: Morris, Packers, Lions, Bradberry

Alfred Morris only played 112 snaps during his first season with the Cowboys, and Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com writes that the veteran running back’s future with the organization “remains murky.”

According to the writer, the Cowboys believe Morris has more success when he has more carries, but that isn’t a possibility in Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott should see even more responsibility in his second NFL season, and the team also re-signed veteran Darren McFadden this offseason.

Despite the uncertainty, running backs coach Gary Brown said the 28-year-old continues to keep his head high.

“Straight pro,” he said. “Doesn’t talk about it. Doesn’t mention it. Comes out has fun with it. Enjoys being around his teammates. That’s the kind of guys you need.”

As Williams points out, Morris is set to make $1.2MM next season and count for $2.14MM against the cap. While that would seemingly make him expendable, Brown said he’d love to keep all of his players.

“You just don’t know from year to year what’s going to happen, so you try to keep as many great players around as you can and then the business takes over after that,” Brown said. “Obviously, we would like everybody to stay, but that’s not realistic. We’ve got to make sure we’re training everybody, and we’re covering all our bases, and let whatever happens happen.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFC…

  • Packers running back Jamaal Williams‘ four-year rookie contract includes a $565,992 signing bonus, and ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky notes that that’s the only guaranteed money in the deal. The fourth-rounder’s contract could be worth up to $2.96MM, and Williams is set to earn a base salary of $465K in 2017.
  • If he isn’t looking for a lucrative contract, then ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein believes free agent wideout Jeremy Maclin would be a logical fit for the Lions. The hypothetical acquisition would allow the team to roll a versatile three-wideout set that could include any combination of Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and/or tight end Eric Ebron. Rothstein also points to the relative experience among the team’s other wide receivers.
  • Panthers cornerback James Bradberry fractured his left wrist today and will be in a cast for the next six weeks, reports Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer (via Twitter). Head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion told Max Henson of Panthers.com that the defensive back could still participate in next week’s minicamp, and he’s expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp. The 2016 second-round pick started 13 games for the Panthers last season, compiling 59 tackles and two interceptions.
  • Former Minnesota Gophers linebacker Jack Lynn is “close” to signing with the Falcons, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter). The four-year player finished his collegiate career with 77 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 13 games.

NFC Notes: Redskins, Panthers, Cowboys

Although free agency opens in less than a week, the Redskins still haven’t attempted to negotiate a new deal with Pierre Garcon, the soon-to-be available wide receiver said Thursday (via Peter Halley of CSN Mid-Atlantic). “I haven’t heard anything from the Redskins,” Garcon said on former Colts punter Pat McAfee’s podcast“I have not heard anything at all. But everybody does strategic moves right before free agency, or right during free agency, so I couldn’t tell you what they’re up to.” As arguably a top 25 free agent in the 2017 class, the 30-year-old Garcon could garner $9MM-plus per annum on his next contract.

More from the NFC:

  • It’s “fair” to say the Panthers will draft a running back this year, general manager Dave Gettleman told David Newton of ESPN.com. That’s not surprising given that starting running back Jonathan Stewart will play his age-30 season and face a contract year in 2017. Gettleman is bullish on this year’s selection of backs, which LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey headline. “It’s a deep running back group, we know that,’’ he said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the whole process plays out because we’re really just halfway through it.’’
  • The Cowboys plan to shop running back Alfred Morris, but they’re going to have difficulty finding a taker because of his contract, opines Rich Tandler of CSN Mid-Atlantic. Although Morris is due an affordable base salary of $1.2MM in 2017, his deal also includes $500K in per-game roster bonuses.
  • On the heels of a season in which the Vikings’ offense placed 23rd in scoring, 26th in DVOA and 28th in yardage, defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer has taken a more hands-on approach with the unit, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com details. Zimmer has twice watched every offensive play the Vikings ran in 2016 and sat in on meetings with coordinator Pat Shurmur and his staff over the past couple months. Observed Zimmer: “I’m watching tape [of last season]. And we run a complementary play off another play, but we don’t run that other play. So [the defense] is saying, any time they do this, they’re going to run that. So this is about trying to get the players in the right position to do more.”
  • After playing through foot problems last season, all-world Falcons receiver Julio Jones will undergo surgery Monday, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Marc Sessler of NFL.com). Fortunately for Jones and the Falcons, the procedure will be minor and won’t affect his training camp availability.