Although the Lions are lacking a veteran backup quarterback, they’ve given no consideration to signing free agent Colin Kaepernick, head coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday (via Nate Atkins of MLive.com). Caldwell respects Kaepernick’s ability – “I don’t think that his skill level has diminished to the point where he would be completely ineffective in this league,” he said – but the Lions will go forward with Jake Rudock and Brad Kaaya behind Matthew Stafford.
“That’s my plan,” Bush said (via NFL.com). “Going into year 12, I still feel like I have a lot left to prove, a lot left to give this game before I’m done. I don’t want to put a number on how many years I have left. I think once you get past year 10, you just gotta take it one year at a time and go from there. I’m still excited, still looking forward to playing football again this season, still staying in shape, still working out. I plan to be somewhere in September.”
Bush, 32, appeared in 13 games for the Bills last year, but he didn’t do a whole lot. He finished out the season with seven catches for 90 yards plus 12 carries for negative three yards and one rushing touchdown. Bush doesn’t have anyone beating down his door after that performance, but he says that he has “spoken to a few teams.”
For what it’s worth, Bush understands that he won’t be receiving the kind of lucrative offers that he was getting as a free agent prior to the 2013 season.
“I think it depends. If you’re in it for the money, then it’s possible,” Bush said. “But I started playing football when I was eight years old, and it’s always been a strong passion, and it’s always been a passion that’s never gonna leave. For me at this point, I’ve made plenty of money and it’s not about the money for me. I want to get a chance to go out there on the football field and just continue to play the sport that I love to play. I’m so passionate about football and I love it, and I’m not ready to hang it up yet. I want to make sure I exhaust everything before I hang it up so I don’t have any regrets once I do hang it up.”
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- Calvin Johnson is annoyed at the Lions for having to repay the unearned portion of his signing bonus, but Mike Florio of PFT argues that he could have avoided this predicament. The wide receiver had a salary of $15.95MM and a cap number of $24MM hitting the books in March 2016, so he could have held the line before opting to retire.
Victor Cruz is starting to generate some interest months after the Giants ended his lengthy New York tenure in February. But the slot receiver is far removed from his best seasons, ones that occurred before multiple leg injuries sidetracked his career.
But there’s still a market for the 30-year-old wideout, probably on a short-term arrangement to see what the former Pro Bowler has left. Cruz met with the Panthers before the draft, but they went in another direction. The 2012 Pro Bowler also went on visits to discuss a potential role with the Jaguars and Bears last week, and the Ravens expressed interest as well.
Here are some of the fits for Cruz as he attempts to re-establish himself on another team following the down years that marred the second half of his Giants tenure:
- Ravens — Baltimore lost both Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken and has done little to help its receiving corps this offseason. The Ravens did not draft a wideout despite a depth chart that’s headlined by 2016 street free agent Mike Wallace and injury risk Breshad Perriman. Cruz would stand to be a far more proven inside complement for this team compared to what is currently on the roster. A rumored Cruz/Ravens summit hasn’t occurred yet, but the Ravens are believed to be targeting veteran UFAs that would likely serve niche roles this season.
- Raiders — Oakland made some flashy additions to an offense that was already among the league’s best. Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson will see plenty of time for the rejuvenated team, but the Raiders still don’t have a surefire No. 3 wide receiver. Former UDFA Seth Roberts did not build on his promising spurts in 2015, and Patterson has made his name as a kick returner. The former first-round pick hasn’t been a consistent receiving threat. The Raiders are targeting extensions for Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack, but a low-end Cruz pact — likely for one year — wouldn’t stand to impede those pursuits much.
- Browns — If Cruz visited the Bears, he’s not dead set on playing for a team in position to contend now. The Browns look to have made a mistake by cutting Taylor Gabriel last summer, and they don’t have much beyond Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman despite a sizable wideout corps acquired in last year’s draft. Cruz doesn’t fit a rebuilding team, but Cleveland has young quarterbacks Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer. A better target to help over the middle would stand to aid in these passers’ development. Cruz did haul in 39 passes for 586 yards last season; that’s over 300 more than any current Browns WR3 candidate did.
- Jaguars — The obvious connection to Tom Coughlin makes this avenue somewhat viable, and the parties getting together for a meeting makes Jacksonville a candidate. It’s just more difficult to see where Cruz would play than some of these other teams. The Jags already have starters Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee put together his best season in 2016. While Robinson and Lee are UFAs after the season, Cruz as of now does not profile as a player that would command a multiyear deal and factor into longer-term planning.
- Lions — Detroit has two locked-in starters in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, and the franchise selected 6-foot-4 wideout Kenny Golladay in Round 3. The Lions, though, could still use another veteran here, especially if Ameer Abdullah‘s injury history continues to force passing-down specialist Theo Riddick — himself a season-ending injury casualty last season — into the backfield. That said, the Lions are a candidate to re-sign Anquan Boldin, which would negate this path.
- Bears — Also an interesting match despite the visit, Chicago has lost some marquee receiving weapons in recent years. Brandon Marshall made another franchise regret a trade in 2015, and Alshon Jeffery‘s defection to the Eagles leaves the Bears in transition mode here. Kevin White‘s rampant injury struggles don’t make the former top-10 pick a safe bet either, leaving Cameron Meredith as their de facto WR1. But the Bears signed both Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton. While neither can match Cruz at his best, and both did not thrive in their contract years, but Chicago adding both may make the ex-Giant superfluous and create some interesting debates on which wideouts to shuttle to special teams.
Which of these teams do you think would be the best fit for the would-be eighth-year veteran? Who did we leave off that you think would make for a logical destination? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
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Calvin Johnson said again Saturday he is not coming back to football, and the potential Hall of Fame wide receiver didn’t like the way his relationship with the Lions concluded when he retired in March 2016.
Johnson declined to go into specifics regarding this. Birkett points out the Lions attempted to recoup some of Megatron’s signing bonus, reporting Johnson paid $320K — one-tenth of the $3.2MM the Lions could have collected under the CBA — when he retired. The parties agreed to a reduced payment last year, Birkett notes. This retirement unfolded smoother than Barry Sanders‘ did in 1999. The Lions filed a grievance against the Hall of Fame running back, and he paid the team back in installments.
Johnson also alluded to a conversation he had with the team regarding the reason he was retiring. Last year, the receiver did say it would have been harder to follow through with the early-retirement plan if the Lions were in a better position to compete. But he maintained this NFL exit centered around his health.
By the time Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s career ends, he could supplant Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time earnings king, observes Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Manning made nearly $250MM during his career, and, as Corry writes, Stafford has a few factors on his side that might help him eventually surpass the former Colt and Bronco. Stafford entered the league at a young age (21), for one, and as the No. 1 pick two years before the league introduced the rookie wage scale. That enabled him to land a mammoth deal (six years, $72MM) prior to ever playing a professional down. Further, Stafford has already signed a lucrative extension, having inked a three-year, $53MM pact in 2013. By agreeing to that short-term deal, Stafford is now in position to cash in once again by 2018. To this point, the 29-year-old has made more money through the age of 28 ($110.5MM) than anyone else in league history, per Corry, who adds that Stafford will have a chance to go past $200MM by 2021 and might even hit $300MM before his playing days are over.
Less than a month ago, the Lions were unsure if they were going to exercise tight end Eric Ebron‘s 2018 option. Detroit did indeed pick up the option, though, and now it apparently has interest in keeping Ebron in the fold beyond the next two seasons. General manager Bob Quinn has opened contract extension talks with Ebron, reports Kyle Meinke of MLive.com.
“Let’s just say Bob (Quinn) is my guy, and we talk often, and, you know, we have things in place,” Ebron said earlier this week. “We’ve had our own talks, and he’s looking for some things from me, and hopefully I can just give him what he’s looking for.”
Based on Ebron’s statement, it doesn’t seem as if an extension is imminent, and it doesn’t need to be considering his contract status. For now, Ebron is set to rake in $3.9MM in 2017 and could make $8.5MM in 2018 under the option, though it’s guaranteed for injury only (and the Lions could attempt to reduce that number with a new deal). As such, Detroit will have the ability to cut ties with Ebron after the season if he’s healthy. Notably, Ebron hasn’t posted a 16-game season since the Lions selected him 10th overall in the 2014 draft. And when on the field, the former North Carolina Tar Heel hasn’t necessarily produced commensurate to his draft slot, having hauled in 133 receptions and seven touchdowns in 40 games.
Most recently, Ebron set career highs in catches (61), yards (711) and starts (13) in 2016, but he also finished with the most drops among tight ends (seven) and only hauled in one score. From a statistical standpoint, it helped Ebron’s cause last year that he was the Lions’ only worthwhile pass-catching tight end. That could change going forward, however, with the addition of fourth-rounder Michael Roberts, who broke out at Toledo last season with 45 receptions and an eyebrow-raising 16 TDs.
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- The Lions‘ second-round Teez Tabor investment came after GM Bob Quinn watched more film on the Florida corner than he has on any prospect during his 15-year evaluation career, Nate Atkins of MLive.com notes. The second-year Detroit GM estimated he watched about 14 Gators games with the primary purpose to see if Tabor played faster than his 4.62-second 40-yard dash clocking.
Earlier today, we rounded up some minor moves out of the AFC. In the interest of equal time, we turn our attention to the NFC:
- The Rams signed two Northwestern State alums in wide receiver Shakeir Ryan and running back De’Mard Llorens, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com reports. In addition to the skill-position talents from the Natchitoches, Louisiana-based program, the Rams added another small-school product in Mary Hardin-Baylor linebacker Teidrick Smith. The two Division I-FCS talents and Division III defender will displace two Rams in defensive back Jared Collins and offensive lineman Shaq McMeans, per Gonzalez. Their roster currently houses 89 players.
- Former Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas signed with the Saints, who also added guard Josh LeRibeus and running back Trey Edmunds, Nick Underhill of The Advocate reports. The 5-foot-11 Thomas operated as a dual-threat quarterback with the Yellowjackets and probably would convert positions for an NFL opportunity. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore in the program’s run-centric offense and threw for 18 touchdown passes that season. In the two subsequent slates, Thomas combined to throw 21 TDs. The son of former Dolphins Pro Bowl tight end Ferrell Edmunds, Trey Edmunds served as a reserve at Virginia Tech and Maryland.
- On a busy Monday, the Saints signed Drew Iddings, a source tells Underhill (on Twitter). Iddings, a former defensive lineman, will be trying to stick as an offensive guard. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound athlete has no significant experience on offense, but New Orleans believes that the powerful lineman can make a smooth transition. In college at South Dakota, Iddings appeared in 46 games and totaled 149 tackles and eight sacks.
- The Seahawks cut quarterback Skyler Howard and fullback Brandon Cottom and signed fullback Kyle Coleman and wide receiver Speedy Noil, per a team announcement. Noil entered the draft early out of Texas A&M. He caught just 42 passes combined the past two seasons.
- Giants signed wide receiver Kevin Snead, a Carson-Newman product, after his tryout. Snead, a former track star, reportedly ran a sub-4.3-second 40-yard-dash. To make room, the team waived offensive lineman Martin Wallace.
- The Lions have signed free agent offensive tackle Arturo Uzdavinis and waived tackle Pierce Burton.
- The Vikings signed guard Freddie Tagaloa after a successful rookie minicamp tryout, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
- The Cardinals signed wide receiver Larry Clark.
Matt Asiata‘s visit with the Lions occurred this weekend, but the team is not ready to offer the former Vikings starter a contract yet, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Birkett adds that the workout went well for the first-time UFA running back, but the Lions are currently going with their holdovers. Detroit’s present backfield houses Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner. The Lions did not draft a running back. An Asiata pact would seemingly stand in the way of the Lions adding LeGarrette Blount. One of the suitors linked to the now-uniquely positioned free agent, the Lions have a need for a reliable runner after Abdullah has failed to stay healthy. The unavailability of he and Riddick, who is already a passing-down specialist, hurt the Lions last season. Asiata has not drawn any other known interest to this point.
Here’s more from Detroit and the latest from some of the Lions’ chief rivals.
- Jarrad Davis will play middle linebacker and relegate Tahir Whitehead to the competition for one of the outside spots, Birkett notes. Whitehead led the Lions with 132 tackles last season — 45 more than any other Lion recorded in 2016 — but drew scrutiny from Pro Football Focus, which graded the veteran as its second-worst full-time linebacker. Davis played middle linebacker in each of the past two seasons at Florida and appears set to open there for the Lions, who also added Paul Worrilow to the equation there this offseason. Whitehead looks to be the frontrunner for one of the outside jobs in Detroit’s 4-3.
- High-priced Lions guard T.J. Lang won’t join his teammates in workouts until training camp, Birkett reports. The former Packers Pro Bowler is recovering from a January hip surgery, which will shelve him for Detroit’s OTAs and minicamp.