July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.
With less than nine days remaining until the deadline, let’s take a look at where each of the 15 tagged players stand.
Broncos safety Justin Simmonshas still not signed his franchise tender, and like most players seeking new contracts, Simmons’ negotiations have been impacted in a big way by the pandemic. As a result, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post believes Simmons is more likely to play out the 2020 campaign on his $12.7MM tender than land a multi-year pact. The one caveat to that would be if Simmons is willing to give Denver a hometown discount, but there have been no real indications that he is willing to do so.
However, O’Halloran does not expect the process to be an ugly one, and he fully believes Simmons will sign his tender and report to camp if there is no new deal in place by the July 15 deadline.
Let’s take a quick trip around the AFC:
Much has been made of the minimal guarantee and base salary that 2015 MVP Cam Newtonstands to earn under his new one-year pact with the Patriots. 49ers CB Richard Shermantook to Twitter to express his outrage over the deal, calling it “disgusting” that a player like Newton would have to settle for such chump change (and ignoring the myriad injury concerns that led to the contract). But Newton himself, in his first public comments about the financial details (via Instagram), said simply “[t]his is not about money for me. It’s about respect.” A productive season in Foxborough would lead to Newton’s market rebounding in a big way in 2021, though the Pats may be inclined to use the franchise tag on him if that happens.
The Ravens lost future Hall-of-Fame RG Marshal Yanda to retirement this offseason, and though the club has a number of young players who could replace him, the pandemic will likely give veterans a leg up over less experienced talents. As such, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic expects D.J. Fluker to win the starting right guard gig, while 2019 left guard Bradley Bozeman is the clear favorite to reprise his role in 2020.
In the same piece linked above, Zrebiec notes that the Ravens, who recently cut veteran LB Jake Ryan, did so because both sides realized that Ryan — who has only played in two games since 2017 — still wasn’t healthy and wouldn’t have enough time to get healthy and learn the team’s defense.
Bryce Callahan‘s injury altered the Broncos‘ cornerback plans last season, forcing slot dynamo Chris Harris to play almost exclusively on the outside. Callahan has recovered from his latest bout of foot trouble, and the Broncos are hoping to play him in the slot, per The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala. Denver still appears thin at corner, but Jhabvala adds the team hopes third-round rookie Michael Ojemudia can seize the outside corner job opposite A.J. Bouye. That may be difficult, however, with Vic Fangio using a complex scheme and the Broncos having seen multiple third-round corners (Brendan Langley and Isaac Yiadom) struggle in recent years.
Peyton Manning has said years ago he was close to signing with the Titans, but the Broncos won out for the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Discussing the fallout from Manning’s 2012 free agency, ex-Titans exec Mike Reinfeldt said the acclaimed passer’s timetable affected the Titans’ plans. “The only thing I wished had happened was that Peyton could have made the decision earlier,” Reinfeldt said, via The Athletic’s Mike Sando. “But I don’t know that he was in position to do so because of his health. … There is no magic way to build a team, but what you can’t do is get caught in between one plan and the other plan. That is what happened to us.” The Titans earmarking Manning money during the first week of free agency, and then waiting on the ex-Colt’s decision, caused them to miss out on pursuits of Mario Williams and Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs, with Sando adding each was a target of then-GM Ruston Webster. Tennessee finished 6-10 in 2012 and would not post a winning season again until 2016.
Teams have until July 15th to hammer out long-term deals with franchise tagged players. As of this writing, there are five players who have not signed their one-year tenders: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, Broncos safety Justin Simmons, Buccaneers edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, and Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
The franchise tag is a sore spot for players, because it prohibits them from realizing their true value on the open market. Sometimes, players begrudgingly sign on the dotted line after skipping out on a portion of offseason activities. There have also been some notable holdouts to extend into the regular season – Le’Veon Bell, for example.
In the past, Simmons has indicated that he won’t skip Broncos activities, but Mike Klis of 9News speculates that agent Todd France could talk him into playing some hardball. Offers have been exchanged between the two sides, but, for now, the safety is looking at a one-year, $12.7MM proposition.
It’s been a busy offseason for DerekCarr. The Raiders quarterback moved his family to Las Vegas, and the 29-year-old recently announced that his wife is pregnant. Despite those major life changes and the limitations of a virtual offseason, Carr believes that he and his teammate are entirely focused on football.
“I feel like we’re really working hard, I feel like we’re getting a lot done,” Carr said during an appearance on NFL Network (via Kyle Martin of the team’s website). “We’ve got some young guys, some new guys that are going to play big roles for us. So, I feel like this has been really good for us, this is the best we can do right now.”
Carr also reacted to the news that Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will host the 2021 Pro Bowl.
“I’ve been to three Pro Bowls, it’s blessing, it’s cool, but I’m trying to do some other things,” Carr said. “I’m trying to play in the Super Bowl, I’m trying to win the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl is fun and all that stuff, it’s exciting and I think it’s great for the community, I think it’s a great thing for fans to see some of their favorite players up close and personal, and not just on Twitter or Instagram. You know me, I’ve got different plans this year.”
Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC West…
While LamarcusJoyner is currently slotted in as the Raiders‘ starting slot cornerback, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes that the coaching staff intends to give the 29-year-old some reps at safety. After inking a four-year, $42MM deal last offseason, Joyner was inconsistent during his first season with the Raiders, finishing with 49 tackles and three passes defended in 14 games (1o starts).
Following news that Broncos safety KareemJacksonhad tested positive for COVID-19, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that none of his teammates have recently tested positive. 40 Broncos players recently participated in the Denver protests, including Jackson, so there was some concern that the safety may have passed the coronavirus to other members of the organization. Broncos star VonMiller revealed back in April that he had tested positive.
It’s been less than a year since BradleyChubb tore his ACL, but Troy Renck of 7News in Denver writes that the Broncos linebacker has started running. According to the reporter, there’s optimism that the former fifth-overall pick will be ready to go come the start of the regular season.
Two days after Ezekiel Elliott and at least three other members of the Cowboys and Texans tested positive for COVID-19, a second Broncos player has done so. Safety Kareem Jackson tested positive for the coronavirus, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
Jackson’s diagnosis follows Von Miller‘s. The latter tested positive in April. Jackson, 32, was tested Wednesday morning, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.
The 10-year NFL veteran began experiencing chills this week, Klis adds. Jackson is not in serious condition and is expected to make a full recovery, Schefter notes. But as the NFL and NFLPA continue to formulate a plan for how the league’s first COVID-19-era training camps will look, players continue to test positive.
Jackson was part of a Denver protest against systemic racism two weeks ago — one featuring several of his Broncos teammates — but the second-year Broncos defender told Klis his doctor informed him that based on the timing of his symptoms he likely contracted the virus this past weekend (Twitter link). Jackson traveled from Denver in recent days, Klis adds.
Miller, Elliott, Jackson and Sean Payton are thus far the most notable NFL figures to test positive for the virus that has infected more than two million Americans and killed more than 119,000. A three-tests-per-week policy has surfaced as a potential course of action this season, but how the league will navigate this virus as its 32 teams — rostering nearly 3,000 players — report to camp has become the obvious central storyline this year.
The Broncos signed Jackson to a three-year, $33MM deal last March and moved the longtime Texans cornerback to safety. He and Justin Simmons emerged as one of the NFL’s best safety tandems last season.
This year’s wide receiver draft class was widely regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory. It was so deep, in fact, that teams felt they could secure immediate-impact players on Day 2 and even Day 3 of the draft. Still, a few players separated themselves from their peers and became first-round selections, the cream of a bountiful crop.
The consensus top three talents were Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama standouts Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. It would not have been surprising to see any of those three players taken in the top-10, and ultimately Ruggs came off the board first, going to the Raiders with the No. 12 overall selection.
The Broncos were quite content with that, as they snagged Jeudy – whom they considered trading up for – with the No. 15 pick. Then, although the Cowboys perhaps had more pressing needs, they could not turn down Lamb when he surprisingly fell into their laps at No. 17.
TCU’s Jalen Reagor was the next domino to fall, heading to the Eagles with the No. 21 selection. Reagor was something of a late riser in the process, as he had been mocked as a second- to third-round choice but began garnering attention as a potential first-rounder as we got closer to draft day. Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman obviously saw something he liked, and he pounced.
But LSU’s Justin Jefferson, generally considered the fourth-best wideout in the class, didn’t have to wait too much longer to hear his name called. The Vikings took him one pick after Reagor.
All five of those players stand a good chance of becoming difference-makers for their respective clubs, as is the case with any first-round pick. But we would like to know from you which of them you think will have the biggest impact as a rookie.
With Ruggs, the Raiders added a speed merchant whose college production did not match that of Jeudy — his teammate of three years with the Crimson Tide — but who fits the Las Vegas offense nicely. The Raiders added another collegiate wideout, Bryan Edwards, in the third round, and they also took a flier on veteran Nelson Agholor. Still, it appears as if Ruggs has a good chance to start opposite Tyrell Williams, with Hunter Renfrow working the slot. Ruggs is electric with the ball in his hands, and he is not a one-dimensional deep threat; he is a solid route-runner who should only get better with coaching. His recent off-field injury seems to be a non-issue, and he will be a boost to a passing offense that performed better than one might think in 2019.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are building a strong young nucleus of skill position talent, and Jeudy will team with Courtland Sutton to form one of the most promising 1-2 punches in the game. He is a gifted route-runner whose excellent production against SEC defenses jumps off the page — he averaged 72 catches for 1,239 yards and 12 TDs over his final two years in school – and he has the versatility to line up outside or in the slot. Fellow rookie KJ Hamler, whom Denver nabbed in the second round, may get most of the slot reps, but Jeudy will be a threat no matter where he plays.
Though Lamb will have to compete with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for targets, the Cowboys are perfectly capable of moving the ball through the air and will have plenty of opportunities to go around. Lamb should work primarily in the slot, which will mask some of the deficiencies he has as a route-runner and against press coverage. He has terrific hands and tracking ability, and though he may lack top-line speed, he is plenty quick enough to make things happen, and his overall athleticism is off the charts. He is also a strong and willing blocker, which Ezekiel Elliott will surely appreciate.
Due to injuries and under-performance, the Eagles’ WR group provided very little production last year. Veteran DeSean Jackson played just three games in 2019, Alshon Jeffery may start the season on the PUP list, and 2019 second-rounder JJ Arcega-Whiteside failed to live up to expectations. Philadelphia tried to trade up for Lamb but was happy to pick up Reagor, whose blazing speed could pair well with Jackson. Though it took a while for his stock to rise, that may have been because the TCU offense didn’t give him the chance to show off his route-running skills, so the more scouts were able to evaluate his tape, the more impressed they became. He struggled with drops from time to time, but with his abilities as a deep target and a YAC monster, he has the potential to be a dynamic pro. On the other hand, there are rumblings that Reagor will be asked to focus on just one position in 2020 and will be the understudy to D-Jax, so he may not get as much immediate PT as we might have expected.
Like the Eagles, the Vikings sorely needed to upgrade their WR corps, and Jefferson steps into a great situation, as Minnesota traded Stefon Diggs earlier in the offseason and did little to replace him. So Jefferson should start opposite Adam Thielen, whose mounting injury history could open up even more opportunities. Like most of the LSU offense, Jefferson was tremendous in 2019, securing 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. He offers an intriguing blend of size and speed, and though he may struggle to create separation in the pros, he has good hands and runs good routes. The Vikings like to run the ball, but Kirk Cousins is a capable QB and Jefferson should see plenty of passes coming his way.
So let’s hear your thoughts. Tell us which of these five players will have the most impact on his team in 2020, and explain your reasoning in the comments.
Former Broncos defensive end Adam Gotsis is still looking for work, but he’s hopeful that a deal isn’t too far off. The free agent says he’s able to run after undergoing ACL surgery.
“I was hoping to get cleared to return to football, hopefully, at the start of August,” Gotsis said (via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic). “That’s kind of a rough date I put in my head.”
Teams haven’t gotten a close look at Gotsis because of the ongoing pandemic, but that may change in the coming weeks. Early on, doctors believed that Gotsis could miss the first quarter of the 2020 season as he healed up, but the latest news is good news. Gotsis seems to think that he’ll be ready to go in time for Week 1 and, possibly, the tail-end of offseason practices.
“I’m thinking in a hopeful way that come July, August some teams are like, ‘Well shoot, we need to bring in a D-lineman that can pick up a playbook and has played a lot of snaps and is a smart guy that can just pick up the system in a week,’” he said. “Whereas some of these rookies, in OTAs and stuff is where they really get the chance to get their feet wet with a lot of the NFL vets and then all of a sudden it’s training camp, and they really haven’t had any time working against pro guys. In a way, I think it might be an advantage to me as well in that I can come back healthy and rehabbed.”
After compiling three sacks and 38 total tackles in 16 games (12 starts) in 2018, Gotsis registered zero in nine games (three starts) last year with 16 total tackles. Gotsis also didn’t seem get the hang of Vic Fangio‘s defense. With 28 starts under his belt – and more good than bad overall on his game tape – the 27-year-old should be able to find work this summer. But, in all likelihood, it’ll come on a one-year, prove-it deal.
The Broncos‘ backfield has two primary options, but it’s perhaps just as muddled. Given a two-year, $16MM contract, Melvin Gordon is in line to take Phillip Lindsay‘s starting job despite the latter’s back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. New Denver OC Pat Shurmur was said to have pushed for a “bellcow” back like Gordon, but Denver’s new OC denied he did so on Thursday. “I think that (rumor) is a false narrative. I’m all for adding good players at every position. I feel like Phillip Lindsay is an outstanding player who we can hand the ball to, or throw the ball to. The fact that we have two running backs now who can be very explosive with the ball in their hands, whether they throw it or run it, is a good thing,” Shurmur said, via Denver7’s Troy Renck. “You need more than one running back. … The whole ‘pounding the table’ narrative — listen, I’m the new guy here.”
Bryce Callahan has not played in a game since early December 2018. The Broncos cornerback is tentatively on track to finally return to action, however.
Second-year Denver defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said Callahan is working at full speed after missing his first Broncos season with more foot trouble, per Denver7’s Troy Renck (on Twitter). Callahan endured multiple setbacks last year, dealing with the foot problem that ended his Bears run late in the 2018 season.
This would be big news for a Broncos team that has fully moved on from its accomplished No Fly Zone secondaries. Denver allowed All-Decade corner Chris Harris to walk in free agency and will count on Callahan and trade acquisition A.J. Bouye to lead their new-look group at the position.
The Broncos signed Callahan to a three-year, $21MM deal in March 2019. He aggravated the foot he broke in his final days with the Bears at multiple junctures last year, however, going down in training camp and then experiencing more pain after practicing on it last November. The Broncos placed him on IR shortly after the latter aggravation, and he underwent a second foot surgery. Callahan’s absence limited the team in coverage last season.
Prior to his foot trouble, the former UDFA became one of the league’s better slot corners while working under Donnatel and Vic Fangio in Chicago. Although the Broncos traded for Bouye, the rest of their corner group remains uncertain. They used a third-round pick on Iowa corner Michael Ojemudia, but the team has seen multiple third-round corners — Brendan Langley (2017) and Isaac Yiadom (’18) — fail to impress as pros. Callahan, now 28, enduring another setback would likely force the team to survey the cornerback market.