Community Tailgate

Community Tailgate: Lamar Jackson

Ozzie Newsome’s final draft as Ravens general manager in 2018 saw the team secure a succession plan for Joe Flacco at the quarterback position. With the Super Bowl XLVII MVP aging and approaching an important financial point in his contract, Lamar Jackson was selected to one day take over the reins of a transitioning offense.

That time came midway through Jackson’s rookie season, when the Louisville product took over for an injured Flacco. He helped lead the Ravens to a 6-1 record and a playoff berth, cementing his status as the starter moving forward. The 2019 season saw Jackson deliver one of the most unique and historic performances in NFL history, which culminated in the league’s second ever unanimous MVP vote. Expectations have been through the roof ever since, but the situation between Jackson and the Ravens has soured recently with contract talks netting little progress over the past two years.

The 26-year-old was thought to be next in line for a mega-extension similar to the ones signed by Patrick Mahomes and 2018 classmate Josh Allen. The Ravens have been prepared to pay Jackson in a similar fashion to those two in terms of annual compensation in the neighborhood of $45MM per season. As time wore on without much traction being gained during negotiations, though, the events of last offseason marked an important turning point.

After being the subject of a bidding war, Deshaun Watson was ultimately traded to the Browns and signed to a five-year, $230MM deal. The surprise from Cleveland’s willingness to part with three first-round picks for him was surpassed only by the fully guaranteed nature of his pact. Many around the league – including Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti lamented the historic investment the Browns made in Watson, acutely aware of how it would likely affect Jackson’s leverage in extension talks.

The previous season had seen Baltimore find itself atop the AFC standings before a reaching a tipping point on the injury front. That included Jackson missing time due to injury for the first time in his career. He was sidelined for the final five games of the year, and the Ravens narrowly missed the playoffs while struggling mightily on offense. Reports then emerged during the summer of 2022 that the two-time Pro Bowler turned down an offer including $133MM in guaranteed money.

That figure would have ranked second in the league, but nowhere near the level of Watson’s deal. New contracts signed by Russell Wilson ($124MM fully guaranteed) and Kyler Murray ($103MM) suggested teams were willing to ignore the Watson accord in terms of precedent on the guarantee front, something GM Eric DeCosta and the Ravens’ front office is holding firm on. Jackson made it clear he would pause negotiations during the 2022 season, one which was expected to provide clarity on his financial future.

Playing on the fifth-year option, Jackson and the Ravens instead followed a similar script this year. The former Heisman winner suffered a knee injury in Week 13, something which was not initially expected to cost him the remainder of the season. That did end up being the case, however, and much was made about his absence extending into the team’s postseason loss. Jackson’s decision to take to social media to elaborate on the extent of his PCL sprain, and later to issue a thinly-veiled directive to the team regarding his impending free agency has likewise not sat well.

Having missed 10 of the past 22 games, injuries have become a talking point with so much at stake in contract talks. That figure could give the Ravens (or any other interested team) perceived leverage, but Jackson has plenty as well. The Ravens are 46-19 in his starts, and 4-9 without him since 2019. The team’s offense has averaged 10 fewer points per game without Jackson during that span compared to the games in which he does play.

A new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken is expected to produce schematic changes compared to Greg Roman, the OC during each of Jackson’s four full seasons as a starter. Regardless of what takes place on that front, the Ravens’ pass-catching corps (which lacks established playmakers outside of tight end Mark Andrews) will be a key area of focus. Additions – such as a long-term replacement for Marquise Brown, whose trade request was quietly granted last spring – will be hard to come by when Jackson takes up a substantially higher portion of the Ravens’ cap, either through a mega-deal or a one-year charge brought on by the franchise tag.

The difficulty in acquiring and retaining pass-catchers increasingly became a point of contention after Flacco turned his 2012 playoff success into a franchise-record extension. Trepidation on the team’s part in terms of looking to avoid a repeat of that scenario would be understandable up to a point, as the Ravens look to keep Jackson in the fold while not compromising an otherwise strong roster.

With the franchise tag being all-but certain in Jackson’s case, this saga could continue for months to come. An offer sheet or tag-and-trade could come into play, depending on which tag the Ravens use and Jackson’s perceived market around the league. Whether he signs his tag is another matter altogether, and sitting out the offseason could lead to a holdout situation similar to Le’Veon Bell in 2018. The then-Steeler skipped the entire campaign, forfeiting millions in compensation (albeit far less than what Jackson would be giving up if he followed suit). Bell still landed a big-ticket deal from the Jets in 2019, so the tactic could prove useful if a repeat were to be attempted.

In the summer, PFR’s readers were split on how they felt this situation would unfold. No option is off the table at this point, from a franchise-record deal to the league’s first ever trade involving an MVP under the age of 30. How do you see things playing out? Which side will concede during negotiations? Where will Jackson play in 2023 and beyond? Have your say in the comments section.

Community Tailgate: State Of The Broncos

Injuries are hitting the Broncos harder than most teams. Starters continue to be moved to IR, with Garett Bollesleg fracture the latest significant issue to emerge. But this is standard in-season fare. Ditto close losses. The Broncos’ bigger-picture problems are not.

The team’s hire of Nathaniel Hackett and trade for Russell Wilson have not produced offensive success; the Broncos’ defense has been largely responsible for their two wins and the team being in position for two more. Hackett and Wilson’s performances keyed both the upset losses to the Seahawks and Colts. Considering what these two figures mean for the franchise’s future, the early returns warrant scrutiny.

Denver cycled through 11 starting quarterbacks between Peyton Manning‘s retirement and the Wilson trade. First-round picks (Paxton Lynch), second-round picks (Drew Lock), free agent signings (Case Keenum) and trades (Joe Flacco, Teddy Bridgewater) did not produce worthwhile solutions, leading the franchise to pony up for Wilson. The Broncos’ eight-asset trade haul — headlined by 2022 and 2023 first-round picks — for Wilson doubled as one of the most expensive in NFL history, and the team committed to the perennial Pro Bowler via the five-year, $245MM ($124MM fully guaranteed) extension in August.

Through five games, the Broncos rank 31st in points per game and 28th in EPA per drive. While the team has mounted productive drives, it is consistently crashlanding in the red zone. This continued Thursday night, when the Broncos were 0-for-4 on touchdowns after reaching the red area. The only two instances of a team going 0-for-4 on TDs in the red zone this season, as’s Field Yates points out (on Twitter), came Thursday and in the Broncos’ bizarre Week 1 loss to the Seahawks. The Broncos have scored touchdowns at a ghastly 21.4% clip in the red zone. That is in last place by a wide margin; the 49ers rank 31st at 40%.

A star quarterback suddenly losing his form at 33 would be one of the more interesting on-field storylines to develop in recent memory, so it is worth speculating whether these rampant issues are Wilson-based or if they are more closely tied to the shift to a new offense. The nine-time Pro Bowler ranks 22nd in QBR, and the latter of Wilson’s two interceptions Thursday helped the Colts tie the game in the final minute. Wilson has rarely opted to use his legs this season; the likely Hall of Famer has 73 rushing yards through five games. That is in line with the new pace he set in 2021 (43 carries, 183 yards), when he missed three games. The Seahawks, who derived considerable value from Wilson’s rushing ability during his 10-year stay, believed Wilson’s run-game reluctancy would increase as he aged. Wilson sits fourth in QB history (behind Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Randall Cunningham) with 4,762 rushing yards.

Wilson’s accomplishments and success leading diminishing Seahawks rosters, at least compared to the franchise’s dominant mid-2010s squads, to the playoffs from 2018-20 point to Hackett being the bigger variable here. The 11th-year passer’s acclimation period to this offense — one that entered Thursday without starting running back Javonte Williams and has played without No. 3 wideout Tim Patrick all season — has been shaky at best. The Broncos’ final offensive play — a fourth-and-1 shotgun set in which Wilson missed an open K.J. Hamler, leading to extensive Hamler post-play frustration — effectively epitomizing the Hackett-Wilson partnership’s first month. Wilson is 2-for-18 on end zone passes this season, per ESPN Stats and Info.

This season has brought Hackett’s first play-calling role since he was fired from his Jaguars OC post during the 2018 season. The dual role of play-caller and game manager proved daunting for Hackett, whose 64-yard field goal attempt decision did well to foreshadow the Broncos’ eventful first month, and a game management assistant (the unretired Jerry Rosburg) is now in place. Situational struggles, as the brutal red zone numbers illustrate, have plagued Hackett since Rosburg’s arrival as well. The last of those produced a notable reaction from ex-Wilson teammate-turned-Amazon analyst Richard Sherman. Hackett rebuilt his career in Green Bay, having a hand in Aaron Rodgers‘ back-to-back MVP awards — and receiving steady endorsements from the future Hall of Famer — and interviewed for four HC jobs this offseason. But his Denver tenure is skidding off track early.

The Broncos rebounded from a 2-3 start in Manning’s first season, shifting quickly to some of Manning’s former Colts concepts to close out that 2012 campaign — a 13-3 season. But that team lost to three division champions, whereas none of this Broncos iteration’s blemishes have come against over-.500 competition. With the Broncos’ new ownership group not having signed off on Hackett, the prospect of a one-and-done HC tenure may be greater.

While these decisions are rare, five coaches (Urban Meyer, Freddie Kitchens, Steve Wilks, Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula) have been fired during or after their first season. Meyer, Wilks, Kelly and Tomsula all lost 11-plus games; Kitchens’ firing came more as a result of dysfunction. Following Thursday’s result, moved Hackett to the top of its first-coach-fired prop odds. With the Broncos tied to Wilson through at least 2025 (due to guarantees), Hackett’s job security will shift to the forefront if his offense continues to produce at this level.

Can the Broncos re-emerge as a more stable operation after their mini-bye? Or have Hackett’s early-season missteps become too big of a concern? How much of the Denver offense’s issues are Wilson-driven compared to the system in which he now finds himself? What does this all mean for the franchise’s long-term outlook? Weigh in on the Broncos’ strange start in PFR’s latest Community Tailgate installment.

Community Tailgate: Where Will Ndamukong Suh Sign?

We recently graded defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as the best free agent remaining on the market, but the only reports we have heard on him this year have concerned teams who are not interested in his services rather than teams who are.

For instance, despite a positive meeting with Suh last year, the Titans are not expected to consider signing the three-time First Team All-Pro this year. And although Suh enjoyed a strong season with the Rams in 2018, Los Angeles is not expected to renew the partnership.

Rumor has it that Suh’s asking price is the major deterrent for clubs who may otherwise be interested in his services. As the No. 2 overall pick of the 2010 draft, when the old CBA was in effect, Suh landed a massive rookie contract from the Lions that included $40MM in guaranteed money, and his six-year, $114MM free agent deal with the Dolphins ratcheted him further up the career earnings leaderboard.

Even Suh’s one-year contract with the Rams paid him $14MM, so he has never had to “settle” for less than an eight-figure annual income. The 32-year-old is surely content to wait out the market until a team becomes more willing to meet his asking price due to injury or poor performance, so it may be awhile before this situation resolves itself.

We tabbed the Seahawks, Cowboys, Broncos, and Vikings as potential fits, and Minnesota would perhaps be the most likely destination if the club had more cap space. But unless the Vikes make several significant moves to free up some room, they will not likely be able to give Suh anywhere close to the money he wants.

Whoever does get the Nebraska product will add a player who will instantly upgrade the D-line. Suh may not be the same player he once was, but he showed in 2018 that he still has plenty to offer, and the only two games he has missed in his nine-year career were due to suspension rather than injury.

So where do you think Suh will ply his trade in 2019? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to offer a guess as to the contract he might get.

Community Tailgate: How Will DeMarcus Lawrence Saga End?

We heard several days ago that negotiations between the Cowboys and franchise-tagged pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence are at an impasse, and the circumstances behind that impasse are the stuff that offseason drama is made of.

Lawrence, who willingly played out the 2018 season under the franchise tag, does not want to go year-to-year anymore, and he has made it abundantly clear that he wants a long-term deal. The Cowboys are happy to give it to him, but they do not value Lawrence’s skill-set quite as highly as Lawrence himself does. Dallas reportedly would give Lawrence a contract that would make him the highest-paid 4-3 defensive end in football, which would mean an AAV of over $18MM, but Lawrence is seeking a pact that would pay him at least $22.5MM per year (of course, if Lawrence were to sign his franchise tender, he would earn over $20.5MM this year and be eligible for free agency again in 2020).

In fairness to the Cowboys, Lawrence is simply not worth that kind of commitment. The market for premium players in the NFL is reset each time a new extension is signed, so if Player X signs a $100MM pact in August, Player Y, who is good but perhaps not as good as Player X, could very well land a $110MM deal in September. But sometimes, the gulf between Player X and Player Y does not justify that type of raise.

Aaron Donald‘s contract with the Rams, which he signed just last August, pays him $22.5MM per year. Lawrence is not the kind of game-changing talent that Donald is, nor is he as impactful as Khalil Mack, who signed a $23.5MM/year deal right after Donald got his payday. To be sure, Lawrence is an excellent player, but he is just not on the same level.

Further complicating the issue is that Lawrence is trying to leverage the shoulder surgery that he needs in order to continue playing into the type of contract that he wants. Lawrence wants to wait to have the surgery, which carries a four-month recovery period, until he gets his extension, and the Cowboys obviously don’t want to play along with that plan. If Lawrence wants to be ready for the start of the 2019 season, he would have to go under the knife by early May at the latest, and if he postpones the procedure, he may only be hurting himself in the long run.

We would like to know from our readers how you think this saga will play out. The safe money in these types of scenarios is always on the two sides reaching an accord, but that does not always happen. Theoretically, the Cowboys could give Lawrence permission to seek a contract with another club and then trade him to that club if he reaches an agreement, but it is difficult to imagine another team being willing to meet Lawrence’s contract demands and cough up draft compensation to acquire the soon-to-be 27-year-old.

If Lawrence refuses to come to the table, the Cowboys could rescind the franchise tag, which would make Lawrence an unrestricted free agent. But at that point, the market may not be as robust as he would like it to be, especially if he has not had the surgery yet. He could end up having to settle for a one-year pact for less than he would have earned under the franchise tag.

The guess here is that Lawrence and the Cowboys agree to terms on a multiyear pact that will pay Lawrence about $19MM per season, and that the agreement will come in the next few weeks so that Lawrence will be ready to go come September. It appears that Dallas has the leverage, but the club obviously does not want to risk losing a key player while also creating animosity in the locker room and alienating future free agents.

But what do you think the team should do, and what do you think will ultimately happen? Let us know in the comments section.

Community Tailgate: Le’Veon Bell

Nothing’s transpired on the Le’Veon Bell front going into the Steelers’ Week 3 game, continuing one of the most unique sagas in modern NFL history.

Steelers brass bracing for a lengthy Bell absence looks accurate at this point, with no near-future debut date in sight for the two-time All-Pro running back. Rather than angle for more money in his Steelers walk year, Bell is taking a self-preservation stance in avoiding as much punishment as possible in hopes of securing a landmark free agency accord as a result.

But is he making the right decision? Bell will have lost out on more than $2.5MM by the end of Week 3 and stands to lose out on millions more if he pushes the holdout to the Week 10 deadline.

The Steelers placed the ball in his court. They aren’t going to rescind his franchise tag. They don’t plan to trade him, which would essentially place another team in their predicament as the employer of a rental player, and will not set a precedent of enhancing his prorated franchise tag number (once set at $14.5MM).

For now, probably the second-best player on a team that entered the season with the second-best odds at an AFC title is out of the picture despite being presumably healthy. Meanwhile, the Steelers are struggling at 0-1-1. While they aren’t exactly in must-win territory just yet, that time may be fast approaching. But the traditional organization caving to Bell by authorizing any kind of raise seems highly unlikely. And James Conner fared well in Week 1, when Pittsburgh’s game script was not thrust into the pass-heavy mode Week 2 required.

Bell’s banking on recouping the funds he’s currently losing, and then some, with major guaranteed money (which didn’t appear to be on the table from the Steelers, though reports vary on what guarantees were offered in July) come March.

He will be a coveted commodity as a free agent, but at 27 (in February) and with high mileage on his odometer regardless of when he resumes his Steelers career, can Bell expect to land a Todd Gurley– or David Johnson-level contract? Gurley signed his near-$15MM-per-year/$45MM guaranteed megadeal when he had 786 career carries. Johnson inked his three-year, $39MM accord with 429 career totes. Bell will begin his 2018 season with 1,229. That’s a substantial difference from not only his high-dollar ball-carrying peers but from backs who comprised recent free agent contingents. Teams could be leery of Bell slowing down in his late 20s as a result.

Some execs are not viewing the sixth-year player’s holdout as a smart move for his future. But then again, he’s going to draw interest because of his past production. And he’s obviously less likely to suffer an injury while away from the Steelers than playing in games. Although, Bell already has a serious knee injury on his NFL medical sheet — an MCL tear in 2015. The old-school workloads the Steelers gave him during his years as their starter, in addition to his past with injuries (which also includes maladies in the 2014 and ’16 playoffs), will Bell get what he wants come March?

Can these circumstances reach one-year, prove-it deal proportions? Or will Bell cash in due to some teams — headlined by the Colts and Jets — holding cap space and a lack of backfield options on his level? And how will this holdout affect his stock when it does come time to hit the market? What effect does this have on the Steelers’ 2018 hopes? Weigh in on this issue in the comments section.

Community Tailgate: Safety Market

With every team slated to open training camp this month, the strange quagmire that is the safety market remains crowded with proven performers. Three of the top four players from PFR’s free agent safeties list in March are still available four months later.

While other positions feature some key players unsigned as well — like Dez Bryant, Johnathan Hankins, Bashaud Breeland and Colin Kaepernick — the glut of safeties resides as the most interesting because most of the original UFA market’s best players are unattached as camps near.

Eric Reid, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro appeared at Nos. 1, 3 and 4 on Dallas Robinson’s top UFA safeties list, and no member of this triumvirate is yet 28 years old. Both Reid and Vaccaro started for five seasons, with Boston being a full-time first-unit presence the past two years and intercepting five passes for the Chargers last season. Pro Football Focus placed both Boston and Reid in a tie for 30th among safeties last season. While Vaccaro struggled in 2017, he rated as one of the league’s better safeties in 2015 and ’16.

Due to Reid’s involvement in the protests during national anthems the past two seasons, his unattached status hovers over this contingent. The one-time Pro Bowler took one visit, meeting with the Bengals, only it did not go well when Mike Brown reportedly asked the 26-year-old defender if he would continue to kneel during the anthem (this was prior to the NFL’s new anthem policy forcing players to either stand or remain in the locker room during the song’s playing). Reid subsequently followed Kaepernick’s lead by filing a collusion grievance against the league and has not received any other known inquiry about his services since the Bengals summit.

Boston and Vaccaro have, each visiting the Colts. Boston also met with the Cardinals, while Vaccaro spoke with the Dolphins and was scheduled to visit the Jets earlier this offseason. Boston was not pleased with how his visits unfolded. At this point, it’s likely that both players — and some older UFAs like Tyvon Branch or T.J. Ward — will have to wait for preseason injuries or accept low-value, one-year pacts from teams if they are to play in 2018.

Of course, some safeties — like Tyrann Mathieu, Morgan Burnett, Bradley McDougald, Kurt Coleman and Ron Parker — did sign this offseason. But the money was not on the level of previous safety classes.

Excepting Mathieu’s one-year, $7MM deal, five 2017 UFA safeties’ contracts top anyone from this year’s market in terms of average annual value. Tony Jefferson, Barry Church, Micah Hyde, Johnathan Cyprien and T.J. McDonald all signed for at least $6MM per year in 2017, with most of those players not having the resumes of Reid or Vaccaro. Burnett signed for $4.7MM per year, and Coleman received $5.4MM AAV. With the cap having risen by $10MM, the deals completed this offseason were not in stride with the growth.

Theories have surfaced about why this gridlock’s occurred. Obviously, Reid has the most explosive belief about what’s transpiring. Michael Thomas, a special-teamer/safety who signed with the Giants for two years and $4MM, agrees collusion has affected the market. An anonymous agent concurred, saying the likes of Boston and Vaccaro are collateral damage from teams avoiding Reid. An ex-defensive coordinator said this position, despite this being a prime passing era, is not evaluated consistently by teams.

So, which theory is accurate? Is there another explanation for several prime-years safeties being overlooked? Will this be the new normal for this position, one that’s seen four players sign for at least $10MM AAV since Earl Thomas‘ then-record $10MM-per-year deal, or will 2018 be an outlier? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Community Tailgate: Rodgers’ Contract

With Kirk Cousins‘ and Matt Ryan‘s landmark deals completed, the market is seemingly set up for Aaron Rodgers to reset it. He seems to agree, if an airport encounter with Thomas Dimitroff is any indication.

But now that those dominoes have fallen, and the QB market’s per-year ceiling has been raised by $3MM as a result, what will Rodgers’ deal look like?

Cousins ushered the NFL into new territory with a fully guaranteed contract. The Packers’ starting quarterback’s accomplishments dwarfing the Vikings’ new one, he will certainly command more money. But the Packers may not be eager to structure Rodgers’ deal this way — a three-year, fully guaranteed agreement — since he’s under contract through 2019 on his current pact.

Green Bay has Rodgers signed to what became an incredibly team-friendly contract (five years, $110MM), and while it’s virtually impossible to imagine Rodgers getting to the 2019 season on his current deal and the leverage that would come with that position, his through-’19 accord wouldn’t seem to line up with a Cousins-type deal.

Ryan’s contract structure — five years, $150MM — would make more sense for the Packers, and that certainly would be the floor for the two-time MVP that’s probably the most valuable commodity in the NFL. Rodgers is only entering his age-34 season and recently said near-future retirement is not in the cards for him.

The 2005 first-round pick had to wait until his fourth season to start, and top-tier QB peers like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger are much closer to retirement than he is. The Packers’ long-term future can still include the two-time MVP, and thus a perpetual Super Bowl window. And with those future Hall of Famers out of the picture at some point, Rodgers could have an even bigger opportunity to burnish his legacy.

Assuming the Packers follow the Falcons’ blueprint here, how much can Rodgers justifiably earn? The quarterback market moved rather slowly after Rodgers signed his extension in spring 2013. Entering the summer of 2017, the NFL hadn’t yet seen a $25MM-per-year player. But now that the market’s rapidly escalated, it sets up well for Rodgers to transport salaries further north.

Ryan’s $30MM AAV comprises approximately 17 percent of the league’s $177MM salary cap. Rodgers’ $22MM-per-year deal actually represented a greater percentage of the $123MM cap (18 percent) in 2013. An 18 percent chunk of the current cap is nearly $32MM, which would be quite reasonable. But with the cap rising, and Rodgers’ value being displayed via his absence last season, he could obviously ask for more. Is any kind of Packers-friendly discount, for the purposes of the franchise optimally building around him, in the cards? The cap’s steady rise and Rodgers’ 2013 contract becoming outdated (currently 10th among QBs) may nix that logic quickly.

Is a contract that is tied to a percentage of the salary cap a viable scenario? If a player was going to pursue that, Cousins may have been the one — a free agent franchise-level passer in his prime. But Rodgers’ immense importance to his team may make him a logical candidate for such an attempt. It would prevent his deal from becoming a bargain as the cap climbs toward (and eventually exceeds) $200MM in the next few years, but the Packers would obviously be hesitant about this type of player-friendly structure.

So, what will Rodgers’ next contract look like? He seems likely to exceed Ryan’s $94.5MM fully guaranteed figure, but by how much? Is he going to push for a $35MM-per-year deal and take the quarterback market to another stratosphere, or is a pact somewhere in between that and Ryan’s AAV where this will end up? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Community Tailgate: Where Will Dez Bryant Play In 2018?

Dez Bryant sits atop PFR’s most recent ranking of the top 10 offensive players still available on the free agent market. Still just 29, he is a three-time Pro-Bowler with one first-team All-Pro nod to his credit, and he was targeted 132 times last season. Though he is clearly no longer the player he was earlier in his career, the fact that he has only piqued the interest of just one team — the Ravens — since he was released by the Cowboys is a surprise.

Of course, the timing of his release was a bit unfortunate. He was cut over a month after free agency opened, and at that point, most of the WR1/WR2 vacancies had been filled, and teams did not have as much money to spend. Plus, with the draft right around the corner, clubs were devoting more attention to collegiate prospects than anything else.

Baltimore did offer Bryant a three-year, $21MM pact, but he turned it down, as he prefers a one-year deal that would enable him to boost his value and give himself one more shot at a big-money contract (if he had his way, he would also sign on with an NFC East team). Outside of the Ravens’ offer, however, the only news on Bryant is that teams are not interested in him, even on a league minimum deal. There are a number of clubs that still make sense as a potential landing spot — like the Packers and Bills — but those teams have generally indicated that they do not plan to pursue the former first-round selection.

Bryant was never a gifted route runner, and his earlier success stemmed largely from his athleticism and his ability to make contested catches. As he has gotten older and dealt with injury problems, his physical advantages have evaporated to a large degree, and that reality, combined with his perceived attitude issues, is doubtlessly scaring teams away. But still….no interest at all?

As always, players will sustain injuries, players will underperform, and front office executives will reassess their roster on a daily basis. Bryant will find a job, even if he has to accept a contract not at all to his liking. But we would like to know your thoughts on the matter. Why is no one willing to entertain the notion of signing him right now, where will he ultimately end up, and what does the future hold for the Oklahoma State product who was one of the most exciting players in football not too long ago?

Community Tailgate: Giants’ Barkley Fit

With the draft four days away, the prospect of Saquon Barkley becoming the first running back to go off the board in the top two since Reggie Bush has steadily increased. The Giants/Barkley noise has intensified.

The Giants hold their highest pick since 1981, when they chose Lawrence Taylor at No. 2, and have a quarterback who is set to play his age-37 season in 2018. With all but one QB likely to be available to Big Blue at No. 2, it could be argued — as some in the organization appear to have done — the Giants should not forgo a chance to add a possible Eli Manning successor only to draft this year’s best running back prospect. They have not held a top-five selection since the Manning trade 14 years ago, so it can’t be considered a lock they’ll have this opportunity again soon.

New York also has needs on its offensive line, at cornerback and on its front seven, putting a trade-down decision in play. A Bradley Chubb pick would go about meeting need and value if he is the No. 2 choice, but Barkley may well be the No. 1 prospect on the Giants’ board. And Dave Gettleman, who held key decision-making positions when the Giants used a No. 7 pick on Ron Dayne (2000) and a No. 32 choice on David Wilson (2012), does not look to believe running backs aren’t the commodities they used to be. (At least, he’s not saying so publicly.)

The Giants also need a better answer in the backfield. Jonathan Stewart is nearing the end of his career, and Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman may be backup types. As a player who’s been rated by some high-profile draft experts as being a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley would surely take care of that and join an offense that would have Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram (and if Dez Bryant gets his way, Dez Bryant) at the skill spots. The Penn State superstar being in that mix could change the equation for the Giants, who ranked 26th in rushing offense and scored just 15.4 points per game (31st in the league) last season. Elliott sure made an impact for the Cowboys as a rookie, but he had a much better offensive line in front of him.

The Jaguars invested a No. 4 overall pick in Leonard Fournette a year ago. He’s Jacksonville’s unquestioned starter going forward, but the Jags saw third-rounders Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt have superior rookie seasons. Devonta Freeman was just a fourth-round pick, and Jordan Howard went in the 2016 fifth round. Le’Veon Bell, a second-rounder, is gunning for a No. 1 receiver-level contract And this running back class is viewed as another strong group, and intriguing ball-carriers will be available on Day 2.

ESPN’s Todd McShay was definitive in his stance that Barkley will be a Giant, and the franchise’s interest in him appears to be genuine. PFR readers overwhelmingly believe that’s what will happen. The Giants had one of the 2000s’ best backfield options in Tiki Barber, but they won a Super Bowl the year after he retired and won another four years later when they ranked last in rushing. This franchise has deployed successful backs since Barber, in Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, but Big Blue has shown it hasn’t necessarily needed a top-tier back to thrive in the recent past.

So, should the Giants use their top offseason resource to draft Barkley? Is he worth the team bypassing a possible long-term quarterback option when the running back position has seen its value take numerous hits this century? Or would the Giants be reaching if they took a quarterback who might not play until 2020 over a well-reviewed running back who could have an Elliott-esque effect on their offense this season? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Community Tailgate: Fifth-Year Options

A few of the NFL’s best players find themselves in contract predicaments due largely to the CBA, and their courses of action could become major issues for their respective teams.

Thanks to the fifth-year option, Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack — and many others from a talented 2014 first-round contingent — are tied to the franchises that drafted them for two more seasons as part of their rookie contracts. Despite several of these players having outperformed their deals, none more than the aforementioned trio, these performers are all attached to 2017 salaries far below their market values.

Beckham did not show for Giants OTAs before reporting in advance of minicamp, and although the superstar wideout has downplayed concerns about his contract going into his fourth season, John Mara categorized this extension as a lower-priority matter right now. That likely wouldn’t be the case if Beckham had been a second-round pick.

Donald gave a non-answer regarding a potential training camp holdout. Though he’s been in talks with the team on a new deal, that situation appears to be dragging. The two-time All-Pro has become the league’s top defensive tackle, but his situation doesn’t leave him the kind of leverage then-UFA Ndamukong Suh had when he set the bar at six years and $114MM.

Despite being the defensive player of the year, Mack looks like he will have to wait until 2018 to secure a long-term commitment from the Raiders. While Reggie McKenzie said Mack will be re-signed — likely for more money than any defender has made — the fact that the player who is probably the Raiders’ best has to wait behind other standouts from his draft class simply because Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson‘s deals didn’t include fifth-year options is a loophole. It affects top talents annually.

Other players like Mike Evans, Anthony Barr and Jadeveon Clowney are part of the above group. But in the case of Beckham, Mack and Donald, these are three elite NFL talents who are tied to modest amounts while lesser players from the ’14 draft are prioritized because they are entering their contract years. Von Miller and Muhammad Wilkerson had to wait five years for their extensions, with teams also having the more lucrative franchise tag to apply as a stall tactic. It worked out for those stalwart defenders, but this system creates drama consistently.

Teddy Bridgewater can be used as an example of it backfiring, although the timing was different. The Vikings declined Bridgewater’s fifth-year option months after his knee injury put his career in jeopardy. While Bridgewater was not eligible for an extension at the time he was hurt, the Vikings almost certainly would have picked up his option in March to keep him around on an $11MM-plus salary in 2018. Now, the quarterback’s camp could be preparing for a battle since a PUP list stay could cause the fourth-year passer’s contract to toll, thus tying him to his Year 4 salary ($2.18MM) for another season. That would be quite the fall after being in line for a possible extension down the road.

Attached to respective salaries of $3.23MM, $3.31MM and $5.94MM, Donald, Beckham and Mack don’t have many courses of action. They could hold out, however, to apply pressure to their teams.

The Giants and Raiders wouldn’t be the same without their superstar 2014 draftees, and while the Rams haven’t made the playoffs with Donald around and are in more of a rebuilding phase now, they would certainly be weakened without Donald’s services. But the players could incur $30K fines per day by doing this. That’s not exactly a harsh deterrent to someone who stands to sign for more than $100MM at some point, but given that such money isn’t assured yet, these penalties would be more severe.

These options have turned out to be quite team-friendly, despite the pay increases that come in Year 5. They also delay a first-rounders’ prospective free agencies as peers chosen in later rounds venture onto the open market, forcing teams to pay for another prime year of service. Robert Griffin III and D.J. Fluker found out how unfriendly the options can be to players after their teams rescinded them free of charge over the past two offseasons.

But this setup is the law until a new CBA emerges. For the time being, fourth- or fifth-year players who feel they’ve outperformed their deals will be thrust into uncertainty the way some of their peers drafted later aren’t.

So, should talents like Beckham and Donald follow through with holdouts to ratchet up the pressure? Or would showing goodwill toward their teams by working until an extension comes be a better course of action? Should teams display more expediency regarding these deals to avoid these situations, in an effort to show future players they are valued? Or are the pay bumps that come in Year 5 enough to justify the delays? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.