Pro Football RumorsPro Football Rumors NFL Rumors: Trades, Free Agency, Draft Tue, 18 Jun 2019 02:54:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 East Rumors: Witten, Mills, Patriots, Giants Tue, 18 Jun 2019 02:50:52 +0000 With minicamps having concluded, we are now in NFL’s true offseason. However, teams use this downtime to size up their rosters and determine which, if any, moves need to be made. Here is how some of the East franchises’ rosters look going into the break:

  • At first, Jason Witten‘s unretirement was believed to be centered around a part-time on-field role and for off-field leadership. But after the Cowboys‘ offseason program, Todd Archer of insists the 37-year-old tight end will play far more than the 25-snap role loosely pegged for the one-year ESPNer upon his return. Witten caught at least 60 passes from 2004-17, so it can be expected the Cowboys want to see him provide Dak Prescott with as much of a short- and mid-range option as he can handle in his comeback year. Backup Blake Jarwin (27 catches, 307 yards in 2018) did grade as Pro Football Focus’ No. 25 tight end last season, so it’s logical the team will use him plenty.
  • The Dolphins‘ initial hope was to slot former Bills starter Jordan Mills at the right tackle spot Ja’Wuan James‘ departure vacated, but that has not gone so well. Mills did not fare well during much of Miami’s minicamp, according to’s Cameron Wolfe, who writes Mills (48 starts as Buffalo’s right tackle since 2016) was “regularly exposed” during workouts. While it’s hard to tell how linemen are performing until the pads come on, and this Mills update runs counter to a report indicating right tackle was his job to lose. But Wolfe adds Jesse Davis replaced Mills during some practice sessions. The Dolphins would save $2MM by releasing Mills, who has started 82 games in six seasons.
  • Despite not his nomadic stretch since his Chargers days, Dontrelle Inman fared well as a Colts supporting-caster last season. He graded as one of the best part-time wideouts in the league, per Football Outsiders. But Jeff Howe and Nick Underhill of The Athletic leave the 30-year-old receiver off their Patriots‘ 53-man roster projection (subscription required), even in predicting Demaryius Thomas starts the season on the PUP list. The duo only have four true wideouts (Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, Phillip Dorsett) making the Pats’ roster, with Matthew Slater long used as a pure special-teamer. The Pats guaranteed Inman $300K.
  • The first post-Odell Beckham Jr. Giants receiving corps features clear-cut starters in Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, but a Day 3 rookie may have an outside shot at being New York’s WR3. While Corey Coleman stands as Big Blue’s current No. 3 wideout, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes fifth-round pick Darius Slayton (Auburn) has a decent chance to supplant him. Pat Shurmur called Slayton the team’s most improved player this offseason, and Jordan Raanan of added the team seeks a downfield threat to team with Tate and Shepard. Slayton averaged at least 19 yards per catch in each of his three Auburn seasons.
North Notes: Packers, Rudolph, Steelers Tue, 18 Jun 2019 01:32:17 +0000 The freedom Aaron Rodgers may or may not have to change plays at the line of scrimmage has become an issue in Green Bay, and first-year Packers HC Matt LaFleur explained the concern he has with enabling his decorated quarterback to have the kind of pre-snap autonomy he did under Mike McCarthy.

One thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said, via Michael Silver of, of his conversations with Rodgers. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?

LaFleur would prefer Rodgers only have one play he can check to, while the 15th-year passer would like more leeway. The former Rams and Titans OC cited the pre-snap movement he’s bringing to Green Bay as a reason for the potential constraints Rodgers will face.

We move a lot more. There’s a lot more motion. There are a lot more moving parts,” LaFleur said, via Silver. “And so if you just let the quarterback have that freedom to just get to whatever, I’m afraid it would slow our guys down. Now, he is a special talent and he’s got an incredible mind, so as we move forward throughout this process he’s getting more freedom. It’s just, where is that happy medium?

Let’s look at the latest news out of the North divisions:

  • Although Kyle Rudolph received the outcome he wanted — a four-year, $36MM Vikings extension — he acknowledged the prospect of a Patriots trade. But it’s still unclear if the teams engaged in discussions. “Obviously the speculation is going to be there because of their situation at my position and then our team’s cash/cap situation and my salary,” Rudolph said, via’s Albert Breer. “So there was kind of just a natural, like, ‘Hey, Kyle’s familiar with the offense, he played for a coach (Charlie Weis, at Notre Dame) that was a coordinator there.” After signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson, then cutting ASJ and nixing the Michael Roberts trade with the Lions, the Patriots still face the prospect of not having a proven tight end during Watson’s suspension.
  • The buzz about Donte Moncrief becoming Ben Roethlisberger‘s No. 2 target continues, with Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (subscription required) calling it a “slam dunk” the former Colts and Jaguars wideout will be the Steelers’ WR2. It still figures to be a collaborative effort replacing one of this generation’s best players, Antonio Brown, but it looks like Moncrief’s offseason has him in position to lead that charge.
  • Artie Burns‘ standing in Pittsburgh is certainly not on the same level, and the Steelers face a decision on the underwhelming first-round cornerback. The team has until the third day of training camp to waive Burns and save $800K, but Kaboly notes that if the fourth-year corner has not yet been cut, the Steelers are probably planning to give him another shot. Regardless, Kaboly expects this to be Burns’ final year in Pittsburgh.
Caserio Fallout: Pats, Texans, Kraft, Staff Tue, 18 Jun 2019 00:14:21 +0000 The complex process that has taken shape since the Texans fired Brian Gaine still leaves the franchise without a GM, and, as of now at least, it looks like the Patriots will need to prepare for a front office shakeup in 2020.

Although the Texans are no longer pursuing top GM target Nick Caserio, and the Patriots have since dropped the tampering charges, the longtime Pats player personnel director is reportedly prepared to leave New England after his contract expires in 2020. The Texans are considering going without a GM this year, likely in hopes of landing Caserio next year, but they obviously run the risk of another potentially GM-needy team swooping in for the long-coveted executive.

Caserio may not be the only Pats exec on the market. Patriots college scouting director Monti Ossenfort‘s contract is believed to be up after this year as well, Albert Breer of notes. The Patriots made the unusual move to block Ossenfort from what would have been a major promotion last year, when the Texans requested to meet with both he and Caserio for the GM job that went to Gaine. Ossenfort has been with the Patriots for 15 years, having served in his current position for five.

The report about Caserio’s Patriots contract containing language that forbids him from meeting with another team, due to a raise the team gave him at some point, appears to be accurate. Not only does Caserio’s contract have this clause, but the Patriots offered a similar deal to members of their scouting department to try to keep the group intact, Breer adds. The Texans opted not to challenge this clause and thus take on Robert Kraft.

Another possible reason for the Patriots blocking Caserio from becoming the Texans’ GM: executive VP Jack Easterby‘s situation. Easterby left the Patriots to take a job with the Texans earlier this year and did so in part because Kraft was charged in the Florida prostitution sting, Breer reports. The ex-pastor and former Patriots character coach has become a key organizational voice early in his Houston tenure. Both he and Bill O’Brien have extensive Caserio ties.

The Texans have not conducted any GM interviews since the Caserio mess began, and Breer expects O’Brien to spend a year essentially running the team. Player personnel director Matt Bazirgan and college scouting director James Liipfert join Easterby as key Texans executives whose roles would stand to grow in a GM-less year.

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Saints, Michael Thomas Talking Extension Mon, 17 Jun 2019 21:53:39 +0000 A major domino in the wide receiver market will be Michael Thomas‘ second NFL contract. The Saints are in the early stages of working on that.

Saints GM Mickey Loomis confirmed, during a radio interview with Adam Schein of Mad Dog Sports Radio (audio link), the team and Thomas have engaged in discussions on his next deal. Loomis declined to get into how substantive the talks have been or whether they are ongoing, but this is a positive step for the Saints and their top wideout.

We’ve had some conversations,” Loomis said. “We love what Mike’s done for us. He’s a fantastic player, one of the best in the league. Hopefully we can keep him a Saint for a long time.”

This is a pivotal stretch for the parties. Since Thomas was a second-round pick in 2016, he does not have the fifth-year option luxury most of his high-end receiver peers did. This represents the 26-year-old target’s contract year. Thomas is set to make just $1.15MM in base salary this season.

Considering his age and production history, Thomas can be expected to either become the NFL’s highest-paid receiver — perhaps after the Saints gain more information via their top rivals’ seemingly imminent Julio Jones deal — or close to it. Thomas has changed agents multiple times and hired his latest representation in February, so this likely represents the first of a few developments on this particular extension front.

Currently, Odell Beckham‘s $18MM-per-year agreement tops the league in terms of average annual value and fully guaranteed money ($40.9MM). Although Beckham came into the league two years before Thomas, he is only four months older. Thomas does, however, have one All-Pro showing to Beckham’s zero. Both are three years younger than Jones.

Thomas leads the league in receptions (321) over the past three seasons and ranks fifth in yards (3,787) since the start of the 2016 season. His 1,405 yards last season set a new Saints single-season record; he holds the only two 100-plus-reception seasons in the Saints’ 52-year history. The Saints hold just more than $8MM in cap space, which, per usual for this franchise, is near the bottom of the league.

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Packers Claim TE Michael Roberts Mon, 17 Jun 2019 21:18:31 +0000 Michael Roberts‘ complicated stretch continues. The tight end has now been traded, waived and claimed in a span of five days.

With the Lions waiving Roberts after their trade with the Patriots fell through, he may have an opportunity in Green Bay. The Packers claimed the third-year tight end off waivers Monday, Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk notes.

The Lions did not use an injury designation when waiving Roberts. He will join a more crowded tight end contingent with the Packers than he would have with the Patriots. Jimmy Graham, Lance Kendricks and third-round pick Jace Sternberger reside on Green Bay’s depth chart. The Packers also claimed tight end Pharoah McKever off waivers from the Jaguars recently.

Roberts, 25, has 13 career receptions for 146 yards. The Toledo alum, who caught three touchdown passes last season despite playing in just eight games, retains practice squad eligibility. Roberts suffered a shoulder injury that resulted in the former fourth-round pick finishing the 2018 season on IR.

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Extension Candidate: Julio Jones Mon, 17 Jun 2019 20:06:09 +0000 After skipping voluntary OTAs, Falcons star Julio Jones reported for the team’s mandatory minicamp earlier this month. There’s clear mutual interest in a new deal, but Jones’ situation is trickier than most. 

Jones is one of the league’s most accomplished wide receivers, but figuring out a multi-year extension for a 30-year-old skill player is never easy. He’s topped 1,400 receiving yards in each of the last five seasons, but it’s hard to bank on his speed holding up across multiple seasons.

Still, Jones led the league with 1,677 receiving yards in 2018 and continues to draw double coverage from overwhelmed defenses on a regular basis. And, while his contract has two more years to go, the Falcons cannot risk a rift – or a holdout – with their most potent offensive weapon.

A fresh deal for Jones would likely take him through the end of his career, but what would such an add-on look like? Currently, Jones’ salary has him ranked just 12th among wide receivers with an average annual value of $14.25MM. Making Jones No. 1 in AAV would mean vaulting him ahead of Antonio Brown‘s $19.8MM/year and Odell Beckham Jr.’s $18MM/year, which should be doable for the Falcons. However, Jones is unlikely to match the length of OBJ’s contract or, more importantly, the guarantees.

Beckham’s five-year, $90MM extension granted him $65MM in total guarantees and a whopping $41MM guaranteed at signing. Jones, who is already under contract through his age 32 season, is probably looking at no more than an additional three years. From there, you can expect a hefty signing bonus, and a decent sum scheduled for Year One of the new deal, but it’s unrealistic to expect the Falcons to ensure $41MM to the aging superstar.

So, how can the two sides reach an accord that is satisfactory for everyone? Recently, Joel Corry of suggested the following:

  • Length: Three years
  • New money total: $60MM (Bringing total remaining value to $81MM over five years)
  • Signing bonus: $25MM
  • Guaranteed money: $50.526MM
  • Fully guaranteed at signing: $37.526MM

Ultimately, that amounts to a $20MM average annual value, allowing Jones to edge Brown and OBJ in that category. Meanwhile, the Falcons preserve some flexibility, as Jones’ total guarantees would be $14.475MM shy of OBJ’s.

A new deal for Jones and the Falcons seems like an inevitability, but it will be interesting to see when they get it done, how they get it done, and what the cashflow of the extension looks like.

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Josh McCown Retires From NFL Mon, 17 Jun 2019 18:19:19 +0000 After 17 years in the NFL, Josh McCown is calling it a career. On Monday, the longtime QB bid farewell to the game in a post on The Player’s Tribune

At the end of the day, no matter what team I was on, I tried to serve it to the best of my ability, and I tried to influence my team in a positive manner. I hope I did that,” McCown wrote. “And I made sure that when my number was called, I was prepared, and I gave it everything I had, every time. I may not have turned out to be the franchise quarterback I set out to be back at Cardinals rookie camp, but I’m extremely proud of the career I had.”

McCown didn’t become the face of the Cardinals as he had hoped, but he did enjoy nearly two decades in the NFL while spending time with ten different teams. His journey also included a pit stop in the UFL in 2010, a deal that almost didn’t come to pass when the Bears offered him a contract. Remarkably, McCown declined the opportunity in Chicago and stuck it out with the Hartford Colonials. He later said that the notion of bailing on the commitment “didn’t sit well” with him and he didn’t want to set a bad example for his children in which he would give his “word to somebody until something better comes along and then break that.”

McCown had some memorable moments on the field throughout his career, but he will largely be remembered for his high-character, intense work ethic, and willingness to help groom younger quarterbacks. After starting 13 games for the Jets in 2017, McCown put his ego aside and agreed to return to New York as a mentor for rookie Sam Darnold. Now, McCown will continue to put his football wisdom and knowledge to good use, either as a broadcaster or coach.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Michael Oher Mon, 17 Jun 2019 17:41:43 +0000 On this date in 2016, the Panthers agreed to a brand new three-year deal with Michael Oher worth $21.6MM in new money. Unfortunately, Oher never played a down under the new contract. 

Oher, of “Blindside” fame, After an up-and-down career with the Ravens and Titans, Oher found his way to the Panthers with a two-year, $7MM deal in 2015. He quickly proved to be a bargain – Oher played in 98.4% of the team’s snaps in 2015 as the starting left tackle. With Oher as Cam Newton‘s protector, the Panthers went all the way to Super Bowl 50 before falling to the Broncos.

With one year remaining on his contract, the Panthers wanted to lock Oher up long before he could reach the open market. Thanks to Oher’s personal progression and the progression of the tackle market, he netted more than $7MM per annum on his new deal from Dave Gettleman & Co.

The new deal was set to start in 2017, but things did not go according to plan. After just three games in the 2016 season, a concussion shut Oher down for the season. Then, in the offseason, things took a strange turn. Oher was alleged to have fought an Uber driver in the spring and later  posted a picture to Instagram with what appeared to be bottles of prescription medication to deal with brain injuries. The now deleted photo was captioned, “All for the brain, [shaking my head].”

In July of that year, the Panthers released Oher with a failed physical designation. The move saved them just $1.69MM against the cap but allowed Oher to collect injury compensation. With that, Oher’s contract was over before it even began.

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Contract Guarantees Mon, 17 Jun 2019 15:50:18 +0000 Unlike in the NBA or MLB, players’ contracts in the NFL aren’t guaranteed by default. Typically, an NFL player will receive at least some guaranteed money when he signs a deal, but that money often comes in the form of contract bonuses, and in particular signing bonuses. While a player’s base salary, or P5 salary, will occasionally be guaranteed for a season or two, more often than not future seasons in that contract are fully non-guaranteed, allowing the team to escape the contract without much of a cap hit, particularly if the player’s bonus money was limited. 

Take Vontaze Burfict for example. The linebacker inked a three-year, $33MM extension with the Bengals in 2017 with just $3.3MM in total guarantees. Rather than carrying Burfict at a $7.3MM cap figure in 2018, the Bengals released him in March, leaving just $1.8MM in dead money against $5.5MM in savings. At the time of signing, Burfict was ticketed to be the highest-paid 4-3 outside linebacker in the game on a per-year basis, but the Bengals were able to pull the plug and pay out only a portion of that commitment.

Signing bonuses, which are generally paid in one or two lump sums, are fairly straightforward forms of guaranteed money, but not all guaranteed money is created equal. We saw a prime example of that when Colin Kaepernick inked a long-term extension with the 49ers in 2014. When word of the agreement first broke, Kaepernick’s guaranteed money was reported to exceed $60MM+. However, upon learning the full details of the contract, we found that only about $13MM of that total was fully guaranteed, whereas another $48MM+ was guaranteed for injury only.

An injury-only guarantee is one of three types of guarantees that a team can write into a player’s contract that apply to his base salary in a given season. These guarantees are as follows:

  • Guaranteed for injury: If a player suffers a football injury and cannot pass a physical administered by the team doctor, he would still be entitled to his full salary if the team were to release him. For a player like Kaepernick who has several future seasons guaranteed for injury only, it would take a career-ending injury for the Niners to be on the hook for all those future injury-only guaranteed salaries.
  • Guaranteed for skill: The most subjective of the three, a player whose talents have significantly declined and is released for skill-related reasons (ie. another player beats him out for a roster spot) would still be entitled to his full salary if that salary is guaranteed for skill.
  • Guaranteed for cap purposes: This form of guarantee ensures that a player who is released due to his team’s need to create cap room will still be entitled to his full salary.

A team can use a combination of these forms of guarantees, making a player’s salary guaranteed for injury and skill, for example. In the event that a player’s salary is guaranteed for injury, skill, and cap purposes, we’d refer to that salary as fully guaranteed, since the player would be eligible for his full salary regardless of the reason for his release.

As is the case with prorated bonuses, all future guaranteed salary owed to a player by a team is considered “dead money” and would accelerate onto the club’s current cap in the event of his release (over one or two years, depending on whether the cut happens after June 1). For the most part though, beyond the first year or two of a deal, that prorated signing bonus money is the only guaranteed figure remaining on the contract, which is why teams often don’t have qualms about releasing a player in the later years of his deal.

Note: This is a PFR Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to free agency, trades, or other aspects of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Information from Over the Cap was used in the creation of this post. This post was modified from an early entry by editor emeritus Luke Adams. 

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Poll: Which New Head Coach Will Experience Least 2019 Success? Mon, 17 Jun 2019 14:42:11 +0000 This year, eight NFL teams decided to make a head coaching change. The teams that hire a new head coach are rarely in a position to win – these are not gorgeous new condos, these are fixer-uppers with creaky floorboards and cobweb-filled basements. 

As a quick reminder, these are the NFL’s new head coaches for the 2019 season:

Recently, we asked PFR readers to choose which coach would have the most success in 2019, and Kitchens got the vote of confidence with LaFleur as the runner-up. Now, we want to know which coach you believe will have the least success in 2019.

Kingsbury finished at the bottom of the aforementioned poll, which is understandable given the Cardinals’ last-place finish in 2018 and Kingsbury’s lack of NFL experience. However, one has to think that Flores has his work cut out for him in Miami as well – the Dolphins are clearly rebuilding and are not in a position to win in 2019.

Which of these eight coaches do you think will have the toughest 2019? Click below to cast your vote (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.

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Extra Points: Haden, Giants, Bolts, Jaguars Mon, 17 Jun 2019 02:53:56 +0000 No extension discussions have commenced between Joe Haden and the Steelers, but that seems to be where this is headed. After a pre-draft report indicated a Haden re-up could be in the cards this year, the veteran cornerback said he wants to re-sign with the Steelers. Haden expects conversations to take place when or around the time the Steelers report for training camp July 25, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac also anticipating extension talks at that point. Haden struggled with injuries and inconsistency at the end of his Browns tenure but has done well to stabilize one of the Steelers’ cornerback spots. Signing for three years and $27MM in 2017, Haden is going into his age-30 season. The Steelers, though, do not appear to have reservations about paying him for his early-30s seasons, per Dulac. Due largely to being an old-CBA first-rounder, Haden has earned more than $100MM in his career.

Let’s look at where some other teams stand exiting minicamp week:

  • After two years either marred by injuries or featuring constraints by his role, Mike Williams expects his usage rate to spike in 2019. The Chargers are thinner at wide receiver but have their 2017 first-round pick set to pick up the slack after Tyrell Williams‘ departure. “My role is going to expand with Tyrell leaving. I’m looking forward to that,” Williams said, via “I feel I’m going to get a lot more opportunities than I did last year.” Williams saw the third-most snaps among Bolts wideouts last year (732, more than 100 fewer than Tyrell Williams) but still caught 10 touchdown passes (after not scoring as a rookie).
  • The Jaguars will not see their full receiving corps available for a while. Marqise Lee missed all of last season and is not expected to return until nearly the end of training camp, Michael DiRocco of notes. Lee led the 2016 Jaguars in receiving and posted 702 yards in 2017, but a severe knee injury wiped out his 2018 slate. He joins Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook and 2018 second-rounder D.J. Chark in a receiving corps that brings questions about the cogs’ roles.
  • An injury spoiled Jon Halapio‘s first season as the Giants‘ center starter, but it appears he stands to return to the role he held before going down last September. The former sixth-round pick started two games last season but saw the bulk of the first-team reps during Big Blue’s offseason work, with Pat Shurmur indicating (via the New York Post’s Jared Schwartz) the sixth-year blocker is back at 100%. Spencer Pulley graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 26 center last season; he mixed in with the Giants’ first-stringers this offseason.
Michael Pierce Addresses Conditioning Issue Mon, 17 Jun 2019 02:02:57 +0000 Having missed the voluntary portion of the Ravens’ offseason program, Michael Pierce was present for minicamp after signing his second-round RFA tender. But John Harbaugh sidelined him early on the first day of the mandatory workout due to the emerging defensive tackle being well over his listed 340-pound frame.

Harbaugh pulled Pierce off the field after the stretching portion of the Ravens’ workout, citing the lineman’s health as the reason. The fourth-year defender showed up “significantly” heavier than his listed weight, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Throughout the offseason, I tend to lift more than run,” Pierce told WNSP-FM radio in Alabama (via Jamison Hensley of “Being a nose guard, I want to be strong or whatnot. I, honestly, just mismanaged my running a little bit.

At the end of the day, you expect a team leader to come back in better shape than I did. That’s a mistake on my behalf I have to correct.”

This is a critical year for Pierce, who is attached to a $3.095MM salary because of the RFA tender. The former UDFA out of Samford is due for unrestricted free agency next year, and given the Ravens’ pattern of letting talent walk and recouping compensatory picks, Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 interior defender last season may well have a chance to hit the market. This is obviously not a good start to Pierce’s contract year.

You know, of course, you are disappointed with him,” Ravens DC Don Martindale said, via Zreibec. “He’s a dominant player, and he’s got a challenge from here until training camp to hit a certain stage, and that’s (up to) the trainers and (GM Eric DeCosta) and Harbs on where they want him to be at. I know he’ll be there. I know he will.”

Pierce will face a pivotal stretch over the next five-plus weeks, needing to reduce his weight to return to the kind of shape he was in last season. The 26-year-old defender, who started two games last year and 13 in 2017, will have to pass a conditioning test before taking the field for training camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Rumors: Rodgers, Steelers, Bears Mon, 17 Jun 2019 00:25:45 +0000 Tasked with adjusting to a new offense for the first time in his tenure as an NFL starter, Aaron Rodgers showed a bit of resistance to Matt LaFleur‘s new attack this week. At least, the Packers‘ future Hall of Fame quarterback does not want to be limited at the line of scrimmage. The first-year head coach’s system does not feature the same kind of pre-snap flexibility Rodgers previously enjoyed.

I don’t think you want me to turn off 11 years. There’s stuff that not many people in the league can do at the line,” Rodgers said during an interview with’s Michael Silver (Twitter link). “That’s not a humble brag. That’s just a fact.

LaFleur said earlier this offseason the plan will be for Rodgers to either run the called play or switch to one alternative, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel anticipates some pushback on this. A detailed story this offseason examined Rodgers’ checkered history with Mike McCarthy, so the Packers are facing a crucial season — one in which their two-time MVP turn 36 — so getting their passer and head coach on the same page figures to be essential. While LaFleur said this week he does not want to minimize Rodgers’ penchant for off-script brilliance, it does appear the Packers have some sorting out to accomplish.

Here is the latest news out of the North divisions:

  • Although Teryl Austin‘s title with the Steelers is senior defensive assistant/secondary, the former Lions and Bengals DC will have another key game-day responsibility. Austin will be Mike Tomlin‘s unofficial replay-review coach. Austin said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he will watch every play that generated a replay review from the 2018 season to prepare for his new role. Tomlin has won just two of his past 14 challenges, dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season, Dulac notes, adding the 13th-year coach is 0-for-12 on fourth-down challenges during his career.
  • As for Austin’s role instructing Pittsburgh’s secondary, the Steelers have deviated from a plan that meant for their new hire to coach one position and secondary coach Tom Bradley another. They are sharing responsibilities leading that unit, per Dulac.
  • Antonio Brown‘s exit leaves the Steelers perhaps the biggest void in the NFL, given his production as the team’s top wide receiver for most of this decade, and the Steelers may have to fill the JuJu Smith-Schuster sidekick role as a group. But among the James WashingtonDonte MoncriefDiontae Johnson contingent, Ben Roethlisberger (via Ray Fittipaldo of the Post-Gazette) singled out Moncrief as having the best offseason. Still just 25, Moncrief posted 668 yards for the Jaguars last season.
  • Another North-division surprise factor: large Bears tight end Bradley Sowell. The converted tackle’s switch to tight end appears legitimate, with Jeff Dickerson of called the 6-foot-7, 312-pound veteran a legitimate threat for regular playing time — rather than this being a gimmicky or in-case-of-emergency position change. Sowell played tight end on 30 snaps last season but may be working toward a usage bump.
This Date In Transactions History: Colts Extend Robert Mathis Sun, 16 Jun 2019 23:13:55 +0000 The Colts in the 2000s centered their team around their passing attack and pass defense. The least likely member of this cornerstone group became a long-term Colt on this day 13 years ago.

On June 16, 2006, the Colts ensured Robert Mathis, taken with a fifth-round pick out of Alabama A&M three years prior, would play in Indianapolis for many years. They signed the blossoming sack artist to a five-year, $30MM extension (with an $8.1MM signing bonus), which at the time made him one of the top-10 highest-paid defensive ends. That year changed the Colts’ trajectory, and Mathis played a key role in it.

From 2003-05, the Colts deployed Mathis as an off-the-bench defensive end. But he racked up 25.5 sacks (and 17 forced fumbles) in his first three seasons, doing so despite starting only one game. Raheem Brock started as Dwight Freeney‘s counterpart during each of Mathis’ first three seasons, but the Colts moved him to defensive tackle in 2006. Brock remained a Colts fixture up front until 2009, but Freeney and Mathis became the pass rush’s top bastions beginning with Mathis’ ’06 extension.

Interestingly, Mathis received his new deal before Freeney. But the latter’s rookie contract contained more years, and much more money, allowing the Colts to table that extension until 2007. (Freeney signed a six-year, $72MM contract in ’07.) Both players were full-timers for the Colts for the next seven seasons, the first of which doubling as the franchise’s second Super Bowl championship (and first in Indianapolis). In his age-25 season, Mathis led the Super Bowl champion Colts edition in sacks.

Mathis, Freeney, Peyton Manning, Marvin HarrisonReggie Wayne and Jeff Saturday became the linchpins of that Colts era, with the franchise allowing Edgerrin James (franchise-tagged for $8MM in 2005) to walk just prior to the Mathis extension. The Division I-FCS product outlasted all of his peers in Indianapolis.

Although Mathis did not make a Pro Bowl until 2008, the decision to extend him worked out marvelously for the Colts. Mathis went on to play 11 more seasons with the franchise, his 193 games sitting second only to cornerback Eugene Daniel in the Colts’ Indianapolis history. Mathis’ 123 sacks are a Colts record; his 54 forced fumbles are the most of any player in the past 25 years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, CBs, Bell, Patriots Sun, 16 Jun 2019 21:50:54 +0000 Despite their wealth of cap space this offseason, the Jets still have some apparent needs. One of those is cornerback. Trumaine Johnson leads the Jets’ corner group. Although the team appears to, at least to some extent, regret signing him to a five-year, $72.5MM contract, he is by far the surest thing Gang Green has here. After Johnson, the Jets have Darryl Roberts and slot signee Brian Poole. Both are former part-time starters, and Rich Cimini of notes the Jets are indeed gauging the trade market for possible solutions. The Jets have thus far tried to address this issue with minor signings (Mark Myers and Montreal Meander) but still have $28MM-plus in cap space, so they could take on a veteran contract if need be. This will be an interesting situation to monitor, but the team does have an outside option in Morris Claiborne. A Jets starter over the past two seasons, Claiborne was not in the team’s initial offseason plans but remains in free agency.

Here is the latest out of the AFC East:

  • Another Jets issue does not yet appear to have subsided. Some in the building were upset Le’Veon Bell did not show for OTAs, Cimini adds. While the two-time All-Pro running back reported for minicamp, there will surely be some learning to do when training camp commences. Bell has only played in one offensive system, Todd Haley‘s, in his career. This is the latest in what’s been another complicated Bell offseason, one that included previous reports of Jets dissatisfaction at his absences and Adam Gase not wanting him at the price Mike Maccagnan paid.
  • Gang Green has not decided on an Andre Roberts successor at kick returner yet, but Trenton Cannon looks to be in the early lead, Ethan Sears of the New York Post writes. Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer praised the running back’s work in this department this offseason, but he has one career kick return as an NFLer. That won’t make replacing an All-Pro easy.
  • The Patriots have not featured much in the way of consistency at wide receiver over the past two years, with numerous players — including Julian Edelman, who did not play in 2017 — shuttling in and out of the lineup and on and off the roster. One low-level signee who has a chance to stick as a role player is former Redskins cog Maurice Harris, per Mike Reiss of Given a one-year, $1MM deal, the 6-foot-3 Harris has been used at multiple positions thus far, Reiss adds, and profiles as a Tom Brady auxiliary target.
  • The pick the Pats were going to send to the Lions for Michael Roberts was the one they acquired from the Falcons in trading them safety Jordan Richards last year, Reiss notes. The Falcons gave the Patriots a 2020 seventh-round pick, so Roberts’ chances of making New England’s roster may have been slim.
  • Both the Bills and Dolphins now have all of their rookies under contract.