Colin Kaepernick

Extra Points: Contracts, Kaepernick, Manziel

The peak of the NBA’s free agent season and the eye-popping contracts it generated had more of an impact than usual on the NFL this year, thanks in large part to Richard Sherman‘s recent comments that, if NFL players are to begin receiving the same share of their league’s revenue as NBA players receive — and/or see more guaranteed money in their deals — they are going to need to be prepared to go on strike. The NFL Players Association has publicly sided with Sherman (via Twitter), but scribes like Ben Volin of the Boston Globe are not so sure.

Volin says the problem with NFL players going on strike is that their career span is much shorter than their NBA and MLB counterparts, and half of the players who are currently in the league will not be when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in the spring of 2021. That reality means that NFL players will justifiably want to maximize their earnings before their careers are over and do not really care what happens to their successors.

Likewise, Volin does not believe the focus should be on more guaranteed money, though other writers like Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believe teams should consider offering fully guaranteed contracts immediately. Volin believes that, if contracts become guaranteed, owners would simply adjust by giving players shorter deals and less money up front. Instead, Volin says the solution to NFL players’ “problem” is twofold. He says the union should 1) work to remove the franchise tag, which prevents players from realizing their true value and can keep them under their original club’s control through their prime seasons; and 2) fix the rookie contract system, which has eliminated the NFL’s “middle class” by allowing teams to replace serviceable veterans with much cheaper rookies. Indeed, the league has been trending younger and younger, and fewer players are getting a second contract.

This is a discussion that will only pick up steam the closer we get to 2021, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at a few more links from around the league:

  • It was not that long ago that running backs were viewed as dime-a-dozen assets in a pass-heavy league, but players like Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson have helped to change that perception. Johnson himself has noticed as much, and he believes Bell’s next contract — the Steelers star will likely play out 2017 on his franchise tender, but another strong season could make for an interesting free agency case in 2018 — will have a ripple effect on the league’s top rushers. Johnson said, “We’re making the running back position more relevant, much more important. I feel like you need a running back to have a successful team. Hopefully starting with [Bell] getting the contract he deserves, hopefully that can jump start the running backs being more important in this league” (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News).
  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes that two of the world’s most notable unemployed men, Johnny Manziel and Colin Kaepernick, are represented by the same firm, Select Sports Group (though they are represented by different agents within the firm). Florio says that fact could create a conflict of interest, as both players are vying for the same quarterback jobs. Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal disagrees, as she points out that it is common for NFL agents to specialize in representing players at a certain position (Twitter link). Florio also says that, if Manziel gets an NFL job before Kaepernick — we learned yesterday Manziel has had conversations with several clubs, though it is unclear if they were serious conversations — it will intensify the claims that Kaepernick is being blackballed by the league. That proposition, too, seems suspect, as Kaepernick has not displayed much interest in continuing his football career, his visit to the Seahawks notwithstanding.
  • Lance Zierlien of NFL.com takes a look at 10 collegiate offensive linemen who could make a splash in the NFL in 2018. His list includes Ohio State’s Billy Price, who, like Vikings rookie and Ohio State product Pat Elflein, will switch from guard to center this year.

Extra Points: Kaepernick, Patriots, Draft

There’s a belief that free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick‘s a behind-the-scenes distraction because of his political activism, but his previous head coach, Chip Kelly, said otherwise Wednesday. “Kap was awesome,” the former 49ers head coach told ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Jon Schlosser of All22). “You know, at the beginning of the year, he made a stance in terms of what he believed was right. We recognized and supported his ability to do that. But he never brought that into the locker room.” Kelly also denied that Kaepernick isn’t dedicated to football, saying, “He came to work every day, extremely diligent in terms of his preparation, in terms of his work ethic.”

More from around the game:

  • In a detailed piece focusing on the use of analytics in the NFL, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes that teams around the league are sure the Patriots are “knee-deep in the numbers.” The reigning Super Bowl champions are “completely consistent with what sophisticated analytics would tell you to do,” said one executive, with Breer noting that the Patriots’ “analytics guy” is former Wall Street trader Ernie Adams, who’s friends with head coach Bill Belichick. Added an AFC executive: “[Belichick] does it with intuition. You know because you’ve been coaching for so long, how you match these 11 guys against those 11 guys. It all makes sense to you. At some point, maybe we can all come to those conclusions without having Bill Belichick’s brain. We’re still a long way from that.”
  • While it’s unlikely to happen, the league should explore holding the draft prior to free agency, opines Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Both the NBA and NHL do it that way, notes Florio, though he concedes that the NFL wouldn’t be able to move the draft up by much because of the combine, pro days, team visits and private workouts. As such, free agency wouldn’t open until April or May.
  • As training camp approaches, the staff at ESPN.com lists one notable veteran per team who could end up off their clubs’ rosters by Week 1, whether by release or trade. Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, Bills center Eric Wood, Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny and 49ers tight end Vance McDonald are among the names.

NFC Rumors: Cousins, Kaepernick, Verner

There’s lots of talk about the Redskins and Kirk Cousins working out a deal in the mold of Derek Carr‘s record-breaking pact, but JP Finlay of CSNMidAtlantic.com wonders aloud if the two sides could instead do a shorter-term deal with full guarantees instead. The Redskins claim they are comfortable with going year-to-year with Cousins and controlling him for at least two more seasons via tags. However, that would mean paying out $24MM in 2017 and $34MM in 2018 with no certainty for 2019 and beyond. Instead, Finlay proposes a three-year deal worth $24MM per season with full guarantees. Given Cousins’ willingness to bet on himself, I have a hard time seeing the QB accepting such an offer, but it’s certainly a creative proposal.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • One 49ers employee tells Albert Breer of The MMQB that Colin Kaepernick wouldn’t stay late at the facility during the season like many quarterbacks routinely do, opting instead to take work home. That didn’t set well with coaches who felt that his mediocre prep work led to bad mistakes in games. When asked if he thinks Kaepernick wants to continue playing, another team employee said, “I do think he wants to play—to stay relevant.” It should be noted that Kaepernick tossed only four interceptions against 16 touchdowns last season, so his errors did not result in a ton of turnovers. However, a player’s TD/INT rate obviously does not take other play-reading errors into account, such as missing an open receiver.
  • Free agent Alterraun Verner is still without a team as July approaches, but the former Buccaneers cornerback remains hopeful that he’ll find an NFL home for 2017. “I’ve worked out for a few teams including the Jaguars. I feel very confident something will happen come late summer,” Verner told SiriusXM (on Twitter). Verner was supposedly out of shape when he auditioned for Jacksonville and, as far as we know, the rumored mulligan on the workout never came to fruition.
  • Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is not ruling out the possibility of a holdout.

Extra Points: Giants, Jackson, Kap, DHB

Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley has totaled just three starts in 39 games since going in the third round of the 2014 draft, but he’s pushing for a No. 1 role this year, writes Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. When asked who will start next to elite nose tackle Damon Harrison, Bromley told Schwartz: “If I’m being honest, man, I see me. I see me.’’ The position opened when the Giants lost Johnathan Hankins to the Colts in free agency, though Big Blue subsequently invested a second-round pick in ex-Alabama D-tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and signed former Bills lineman Corbin Bryant. The fact that those two are in the mix will make it difficult for Bromley to achieve his goal of starting, but as a contract-year player, a breakthrough season would be a boon to his bank account. Regarding his lack of long-term security, the 25-year-old offered: “It’s there and obviously something you have in the back of your mind. I have a family now, so I have to keep that in mind. I know I have the talent, I know I have what it takes, it’s about being consistent each and every day, proving to the coaches I’m their guy.’’

Here’s more from around the league:

  • In an effort to get back into the NFL, free agent running back Fred Jackson will participate in a Spring League showcase game next month. Unsurprisingly, then, the 36-year-old believes he’s still capable of contributing, telling SiriusXM NFL Radio: “All I need is an opportunity. I have no doubt if I got into a training camp I would prove I can still help a team win.” Jackson also acknowledged that general managers “get scared away” by his age, but he noted that he’s in “great shape” (Twitter links). A prominent part of Buffalo’s offense from 2007-14, Jackson played sparingly with Seattle in 2015 and was unable to find a job last season.
  • Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has hurt his cause by staying silent throughout the free agency process, opines Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The polarizing 29-year-old hasn’t publicly revealed his financial demands, whether he’d jump at any NFL offer or whether he’d continue his career in Canada if necessary, which Florio regards as a mistake. Florio also criticizes Kaepernick’s agent for not calling all 32 NFL teams earlier this offseason in an attempt to drum up interest in his client.
  • Although wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey hasn’t lived up to his draft stock since going seventh overall to the Raiders in 2009, he has emerged as a favorite of the Steelers’ coaches and players, according to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. Now in his fourth year in Pittsburgh, Heyward-Bey has barely been a factor in the club’s receiving corps (30 catches in 42 regular-season games), yet he has been valuable both on special teams and as a mentor to the Steelers’ younger players, as Adamski details. However, despite his under-the-radar contributions, Heyward-Bey’s roster spot isn’t exactly guaranteed this year, per Adamski. “I’m just trying to keep my seat,” said the 30-year-old. “It’s comfortable, too.”

Extra Points: Kap, Wilfork, Titans, CBA

Speaking Thursday, commissioner Roger Goodell rejected the notion that NFL owners are blackballing free agent quarterback and political activist Colin Kaepernick, noting (via ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez) that teams “all want to get better. And if they see an opportunity to get better as a football team, they’re going to do it. They’re going to do whatever it takes to make their football team better. So, those are football decisions. They’re made all the time. I believe that if a football team feels that Colin Kaepernick, or any other player, is going to improve that team, they’re going to do it.” While one wouldn’t expect Goodell to publicly throw owners under the bus, Kaepernick is likely, at minimum, an NFL-caliber backup. Yet, after throwing 16 touchdowns against four interceptions and finishing second among QBs in rushing yards in 2016 (468, with a 6.8 YPC), the longtime 49er hasn’t garnered much interest this offseason.

Elsewhere around the sport…

  • As was the case a month ago, free agent nose tackle Vince Wilfork is unsure whether he’ll attempt to continue his career in 2017 or retire. “Mentally, I’m where I’ve been all this while, I’m 50-50,” Wilfork told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Friday. Wilfork added that he’s not going to rush into a decision, and he shot down the idea that his retirement talk is a ploy to avoid training camp and the preseason. “Camp now is like ‘Camp Cupcake.’ You’re only in pads for 10 days,” he said. “I mean, it’s so different now, so anybody that thinks I’m missing because I want to miss training camp or preseason, man, that is baloney.” Wilfork, a 13-year veteran who spent his first 11 seasons in New England and the previous two in Houston, is coming off the 12th straight campaign in which he started in all of his appearances. The 35-year-old took part in 15 of the Texans’ regular-season games in 2016 and picked up 21 tackles.
  • Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright swiped at his previous employer, the Titans, earlier this week, implying to Kevin Fishbain of Pro Football Weekly that they’ll rue letting him go. On why Tennessee reduced his playing time last season, including making him a Week 17 healthy scratch, Wright said: “That’s a question I can’t [answer]. Ask them. They’’ll feel it after this year.” The onetime 94-catch man (2013) hauled in a career-worst 29 receptions in 2016, but Wright believes he “probably was the best receiver on the Titans roster last year.” After, in Wright’s words, only “playing like 10 plays a game” last season, the sixth-year man is now part of a Chicago receiving corps that includes two other notable veteran newcomers in Victor Cruz and Markus Wheaton, 2016 breakout Cameron Meredith and injury-challenged 2015 first-rounder Kevin White.
  • Talks on a new collective bargaining agreement haven’t begun because the players have yet to give NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith permission to negotiate with the league, reports Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). That’s not ideal for the league because it prevents it from hammering out new television and media deals, suggests Cole. The current CBA runs through 2020.

NFC Rumors: Kaepernick, RG3, Eagles

Three NFL executives tell Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that they see former 49ers signal caller Colin Kaepernick as the best backup quarterback option available. Of course, we have watched many other QBs come off of the board while Kaepernick remains unsigned.

Kaep, [Shaun] Hill, Dan Orlovsky, Robert Griffin III,” said one AFC exec when asked to rank the best remaining options.

A fourth exec surveyed by Fowler opined that Griffin is actually the best QB left on the market. Meanwhile, one official in the group said he wouldn’t sign Griffin “under any circumstances.” It seems like teams agree more with the latter opinion as Griffin has drawn very little interest this offseason.

Here’s a look at the NFC:

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

Extra Points: Jets, Kap, OBJ, Megatron

The Jets moved on from linebacker David Harris and wide receiver Eric Decker solely for financial reasons, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Jets owner Woody Johnson, realizing that the team wasn’t going to compete this year even with Harris and Decker, decided it would make more sense to save $13.75MM than spend it on the two veterans. Committing to a rebuild is a commendable approach, writes Mehta, though he questions the way the Jets handled the Harris situation. Jets bigwigs assured Harris back in March that he’d return to the team for an 11th year, but they then approached him about a pay cut 72 hours before releasing him, per Mehta. Johnson’s desire to save money drove that decision, and Harris is now looking for work at a time when free agency has died down. Harris’ agents complained Tuesday that the Jets didn’t just release the defender over the winter, as doing so probably would’ve led to a stronger market for his services.

As for two of Johnson’s highest-ranking employees, general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles, they should be in line to return in 2018 if the rebuilding club’s young players progress this year, writes Mehta. But Brian Costello of the New York Post passes along somewhat different information, relaying that Maccagnan will probably stay on but that “Bowles is viewed as a goner by nearly everyone.” Talent-wise, the deck is stacked against Bowles as he enters his third season with the Jets and the penultimate year of his contract. “They have the worst roster in the league and it’s not close,” one executive told Costello. Harris’ release added another hole to the roster, and his exit hit Bowles “hard,” according to Costello.

  • Colin Kaepernick‘s inability to find a job as a backup quarterback continues to be a popular topic, and one of his friends, Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, weighed in on the matter after Seattle signed Austin Davis instead of Kaepernick. “The organizations, they’re going to be giving the younger guys the first and second look. They know what Colin can do,” Baldwin told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “They know he’s a starter in this league. They’re going to give every opportunity for the young guys to compete, show their talents, and then whatever falls he’ll get his opportunities once all this dust settles.” While many believe Kaepernick is unemployed largely because the then-49er refused to stand for the national anthem last season, Baldwin doesn’t see that as a significant factor. “To some degree, but I think that’s really minor,” Baldwin said. “There are 32 teams out there. Not all of them really care about that. I have no doubt in my mind he’ll have a job here rather quickly.”
  • With one report suggesting that Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t attended OTAs because he wants a raise, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk contends that it would likely take a multiyear deal with at least $30MM guaranteed to lock him up. Meanwhile, Steve Serby of the New York Post proposes a six-year, $103.5MM contract – including $47.5MM guaranteed – that would make Beckham the game’s highest-paid wideout.
  • Contrary to a prior report, Calvin Johnson did not repay the Lions $320K of his $3.2MM signing bonus when he retired in March 2016. The former receiver actually forked over a much larger sum, at least $1MM, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.

Colin Kaepernick, Seahawks Didn’t Exchange Offers

Likely having closed the door on a Colin Kaepernick addition after signing journeyman Austin Davis, the Seahawks may not have been deep into financial discussions with the 29-year-old quarterback’s camp. Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweeted on Friday the Seahawks and Kaepernick were apart on money but took an opportunity Monday to clarify that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Garafolo reports Kaepernick and the Seahawks did not exchange formal offers. While the reporter notes (video link) the sides did discuss expectations of a contract before Kaepernick trekked to Seattle, but numbers-wise, the talks didn’t progress into detail beyond that.

ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler reported late last month the Seahawks were looking for quarterback help at closer to the veteran minimum, and Garafolo expects Davis’ deal to come in around that. Davis did not see any time last season as the Broncos’ third-string quarterback, and he eventually was waived in December. Garafolo and Steve Wyche note Davis isn’t a lock to wrest the backup job away from Trevone Boykin, either. Wyche also relays an NFL.com report that indicated more Seahawks fans called the team to voice negative opinions of a Kaepernick addition than vice versa.

A report emerged in March that Kaepernick was potentially seeking low-end starter/high-end backup money, but nothing substantial has come out on that front since. Kaepernick has seen several teams go elsewhere to fill their backup spots, with franchises like the Cowboys and now Seahawks bringing in less accomplished players, and the No. 2 signal-caller market for players like Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III continues to dry up.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Seahawks, Lynch, Browns, Rice

While it doesn’t sound like the Seahawks are going to add quarterback Colin Kaepernick, starter Russell Wilson indicated that he’d welcome the former division rival.

“I haven’t had the chance to be around Colin too much, but the times I have he’s been great,” Wilson said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “Obviously, I think first of all he’s a really, really good football player. He’s made a lot of good plays in a lot of big games and done a lot of good things. I have tons of respect for him in that way. And then in terms of everything else he stood for, I think he was trying to stand for the right things, he was trying to stand for equality. And so I respect that too, as well. . . . I wouldn’t have any issue at all. As many good players as we could have, the better.”

Reports indicated that the Seahawks weren’t going to sign Kaepernick because they believe he deserves a starting role, and there were whispers that the two sides also couldn’t agree on a monetary value for the quarterback. However, Florio wonders if Pete Carroll and the organization may be trying to avoid a controversy.

There have been murmurs that Wilson hasn’t received the full support of his teammates. If the Seahawks faced any adversity next year, Florio wonders if some members of the Seahawks would push for Kaepernick to take over the starting role.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • According to ESPN.com’s Sheil Kapadia, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has several performance-based incentives in his contract that could add $5.5MM to his salary in 2017 and $2MM in 2018. As the writer explains, the running back could earn this extra money via incentives for “rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, the Raiders making the playoffs, Lynch making the Pro Bowl, Lynch earning regular-season MVP honors and Lynch earning Super Bowl MVP honors.”
  • The Browns acquistion of Calvin Pryor does provide some much-needed depth at safety, but ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon notes that the team is still “one player short of a starting unit at linebacker.” There have been whispers that the Browns could utilize Pryor and rookie Jabrill Peppers in a 4-2-5 alignment, with Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey serving as the linebackers. However, before the team commits to this strategy, McManamon believes they have to determine whether Pryor is even capable of starting.
  • After having served as an unofficial coach for New Rochelle High School’s football team over the past three years, former Pro Bowler Ray Rice is now the squad’s official running backs coach, according to Josh Thomson of Lohud.com. The 30-year-old will also assist with the secondary, his defensive position during his time with the Huguenots. “Ray has been around so much that there’s more buzz when visiting teams see him and when visiting parents see him or when we’re out in public,” said coach Lou DiRienzo. “These kids are around him all the time. He’s Ray to them. A celebrity is not in their midst.”

Seahawks, Colin Kaepernick Were Apart On Money

While the Seahawks did have interest in free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the two parties’ inability to come to an agreement was based on money, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link).Colin Kaepernick

Reports earlier this offseason indicated Kaepernick might be searching for a salary “befitting a high-end backup quarterback or a low-end starter,” and that type of pay might not be palatable for the Seahawks, who are already paying Russell Wilson nearly $22MM per year. But Seattle clearly had sincere interest in Kaepernick, who remains the top quarterback available on the free agent market.

“Colin has been a fantastic football player and he’s going to continue to be,” said head coach Pete Carroll, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “At this time we didn’t do anything with it but we know where he is and who he is and we had a chance to understand him much moreso. He’s a starter in this league and I can’t imagine — we have a starter. But he’s a starter in this league and I can’t imagine somebody won’t give him a chance to play.’’

For now, the Seahawks will forge on with only Trevone Boykin and Jake Heaps behind Wilson. Of the pair, only Boykin boasts any NFL experience (18 passing attempts), but the second-year pro has already been in legal hot water this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.