Jimmy Garoppolo

AFC East Notes: Brissett, Ajayi, Bills

We heard last week that Jacoby Brissett‘s place on the Patriots‘ roster may not be safe, and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe doubled down on that report this week. Volin reiterated that Brissett’s performance in the spring and in training camp has left much to be desired, and he says it is fair to wonder whether the Patriots refused to deal Jimmy Garoppolo because they believe Garoppolo represents their future, or because they have no faith in Brissett should Tom Brady be forced to miss time (in truth, it is surely some combination of the two). In any event, Volin opines that New England may have to keep Garoppolo next year, even if that means putting the franchise tag on him (at an estimated $25-26MM cost). After all, the team will still be loaded with talent and should be a championship contender in 2018, but a Brady injury could waste all of that talent if the No. 2 QB cannot adequately replace him.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi is still in concussion protocol, but he did practice today and the team is excited about his progress, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. Ajayai left practice early with a trainer, but that was due to a hydration issue, Jackson notes.
  • Dolphins second-round draft choice Raekwon McMillan, who was expected to see significant time at middle linebacker this season, tore his ACL while playing on the punt coverage team in Miami’s first preseason tilt Thursday night. He will now miss his entire rookie season, and head coach Adam Gase has been predictably criticized for using a player of McMillan’s importance on special teams. Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders believes such criticism is unwarranted, writing that a head coach cannot field kickoff, kickoff return, punt coverage, and punt return teams without playing first- or second-year guys. Likewise, you cannot expect those players to perform well on special teams in the regular season if they do not see live action in the preseason.
  • Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News offers his take on which wide receivers will make the Bills‘ roster after the team dealt Sammy Watkins and acquired Jordan Matthews. Skurski says Matthews, Zay Jones, and Anquan Boldin will make the club, which is a given, and he adds that Rod Streater is likely to earn a spot due to his excellent camp. Skurski says he currently projects Andre Holmes and Brandon Tate to round out the WR corps, but the fact that cutting Holmes could help the team land a high compensatory draft choice next season certainly works against him. If Holmes should be cut, Walter Powell could find himself on the 53-man come Week 1.
  • Christian Hackenberg played fairly well in the Jets‘ first preseason game last night, thereby creating more fodder for Gang Green’s starting QB discussion. But as Laura Albanese of Newsday writes, there are other competitions worth watching. For instance, the battle for the team’s starting center position is tighter than originally anticipated, as Jonotthan Harrison is putting pressure on presumed starter Wesley Johnson. Likewise, Albanese writes that Brent Qvale and Brandon Shell appear to be neck-and-neck in their race for the Jets’ right tackle job.

Extra Points: Garoppolo, Bell, Romo

In an effort to find out what the Patriots have in much-ballyhooed No. 2 quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Mike Giardi of CSNNE.com spoke with three scouts (two AFC, one NFC), an ex-Pats player and an NFC front office executive. The former Patriot offered effusive praise of the 25-year-old Garoppolo, saying of Tom Brady‘s backup: “I played against him every day in practice. He’s all that. He can make all the throws. He can process all the information. He is a gamer. He can slow it down. He can spin it. I’m going tell you this, if he had gotten traded to Cleveland, they’re a borderline playoff team. I really believe that.”

One of the AFC scouts was similarly kind to Garoppolo in his assessment, noting: “I absolutely loved the kid coming out of college. When we interviewed him, [it was obvious] he’s got those qualities you want in a QB, as a leader. I begged our guys to take him at the end of the first round. That’s how good I thought he was then. He’s a hell of a lot better now.” Garoppolo ended up going in the second round of the 2014 draft, and though he hasn’t played much since, the scout believes he’s a franchise QB in waiting and contends that it’s “genius” that the Patriots have refused to trade him.

With Brady showing no signs of slowing down even as he enters his age-40 campaign, Garoppolo probably won’t see the much field this year. Garoppolo’s contract will expire thereafter, which will make his situation an extremely compelling one to watch when the Patriots’ season concludes in either January or February. The Pats probably aren’t going to let the impending free agent leave, as head coach Bill Belichick “thinks he’s got the next great one,” according to the other AFC scout.

More from around the NFL:

  • In addition to detailing Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell‘s long-term asking price Wednesday on NFL Network, former teammate Ike Taylor said there’s a “strong possibility” Bell will hold out of training camp, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Given that Bell hasn’t signed his $12.1MM tender as the Steelers’ franchise player, he’s under no obligation to report and wouldn’t face any punishment by staying away. Bell could therefore take a cue from Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who was unhappy with his franchise designation last year and didn’t show up until the end of August.
  • Taylor noted Wednesday that Bell wants money that reflects his production as both a superstar runner and a No. 2 receiver. Bell confirmed as much Thursday, telling Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that he’s seeking a contract well in excess of Bills RB LeSean McCoy‘s league-high amount. “I make plays in the passing game, blocking, doing everything,” said Bell. “I’m arguably the top running back in the NFL and the No. 2 receiver on the Steelers, even though I play running back. Their career receiving total vs. mine, they don’t have more yards than me.” Prior to this past Monday’s deadline to sign franchise players to long-term deals, the Steelers did attempt to ink Bell to a deal worth more than McCoy’s five-year, $40MM-plus pact. Their five-year, $60MM proposal didn’t get it done, though.
  • Cowboys third-round pick Jourdan Lewis career is off to an inauspicious start. Lewis, the 92nd overall selection, will go to trial in Michigan next week for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, reports Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today. That will keep Lewis out for the early portion of training camp, for which Cowboys rookies reported on Wednesday. Lewis’ charge stems from a March altercation with his live-in girlfriend, who told police that he put his “his hands around her neck.” The player pleaded not guilty, but he was unable to reach a settlement with prosecutors at a pre-trial hearing on Thursday, according to Jones.
  • Tony Romo continues to vacillate between “done” and “very likely done.” The retired quarterback and current CBS analyst declared last week that he’s through playing football, but now he seems to be leaving the door open ever so slightly for a return. As a guest Thursday on the Ben & Skin show on 105.3 The Fan, Romo said he’s “99.9 percent done” (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). The 37-year-old made a similar remark in April, after which a report surfaced stating that teams expect him to make a comeback. While Romo’s career probably is over, a significant preseason injury to a team’s starting QB could change the calculus. It did last summer for Romo, then with the Cowboys, as he broke a bone in his back in August and was unable to reclaim his starting job from super rookie Dak Prescott when he returned midway through the season.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Rumors: Garoppolo, Jets, Lynch, Ravens

Contract-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo indicated Tuesday that he would be open to discussing an extension with the Patriots, relays Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com. “I’d entertain any possibility,” said Garoppolo. “I’m really not thinking about too much right now. There’s just so much going on with OTAs and training camp is right around the corner. That’s where my focus is, and we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, I guess.” Unsurprisingly, Garoppolo added that he’s not satisfied holding a clipboard, saying: “Obviously I want to play. That’s the competitor in me. I think everyone out here wants to play. And we come out here and compete every day for that opportunity. If you go out there and earn it, it’s yours.”

With Tom Brady entrenched under center, there’s no path to immediate playing time in New England for Garoppolo, though the former is in a race against time as he goes into his age-40 season. While the Patriots would like to keep Garoppolo and have him eventually take over for Brady, preventing him from hitting free agency next offseason might not be realistic if Brady‘s excellence continues. There’s no indication an extension is coming, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com suggests the Patriots should take a proactive approach and offer the signal-caller a one-year, $24MM extension now. If Garoppolo were to accept it, the Pats would be able to spread the money over the next two seasons. Otherwise, should the team place the franchise tag on Garoppolo next year, it would potentially have a backup QB occupying $24MM in cap space.

More from the AFC:

  • The Jets are going to release linebacker David Harris, but they did try to get the 10-year veteran to take a pay cut before deciding to part with him, reports Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Harris’ camp is unhappy with the Jets, though, because there were no negotiations about a reduction in pay before the offseason began in earnest, tweets Garafolo. Agents Brian Mackler and Jim Ivler told Garafolo they’re “very disappointed in the timing of this event and the decision. The Jets could’ve done this prior to free agency instead of waiting three months, especially for a player who has exhibited nothing but loyalty and class for 10 years.” It doesn’t seem as if Harris will go without a job for long, as he is already drawing interest from other teams, Mackler informed SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link).
  • The Raiders’ forthcoming move to Las Vegas inspired Marshawn Lynch to come out of retirement and join the franchise as its time in Oakland nears an end, the running back told media on Tuesday (Twitter links via SiriusXM NFL Radio and Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal). Lynch, an Oakland native, expressed regret that “a lot of Oakland kids won’t have the opportunity to see their idols play football anymore.” The Raiders are down to their final two or three years in Oakland and will head to Vegas in 2020. Lynch won’t make that trek, it seems, as he’s already 31 and only under contract through next season.
  • The Ravens could be the next destination for soon-to-be former Jets wide receiver Eric Decker, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). For now, the receiver-needy Ravens are scheduled to meet with free agent wideout Jeremy Maclin on Wednesday, but he’s currently in Buffalo and won’t make it to Baltimore if the Bills are able to close the deal tonight.

Pats Didn’t Consider Trading Garoppolo

Although Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was popular in trade rumors earlier in the offseason, the reigning Super Bowl champions never considered dealing Tom Brady‘s backup, ESPN’s Adam Schefter told Bleacher Report’s “Stick to Football” Podcast (via Ryan Hannable of WEEI). The Browns were the most aggressive suitors for Garoppolo, even inquiring about him during the first round of the draft, but he’s primed to remain in New England for at least one more season.

Jimmy Garoppolo (Vertical)

As a contract-year player, the Patriots could risk losing Garoppolo to free agency next March and potentially receiving only a compensatory third-round pick in return – significantly less than they would have gotten had they traded him this offseason, perhaps. But Schefter expects the Patriots to find a way to keep Garoppolo past next season, noting that they’re “big believers” in the 25-year-old and consider him the heir to Brady, who’s entering his age-40 campaign. Brady remains the best quarterback in the NFL despite his age, and there’s no indication that he’s going away anytime soon, though Schefter cautions that “Father Time usually wins that battle.”

In the event Brady’s excellence continues in 2017, that should make it more difficult for the Pats to extend Garoppolo, who would likely land a massive contract and a guaranteed starting job if he were to reach free agency next March. As such, the Patriots might have to place the franchise tag on Garoppolo to retain him, which will cost in the neighborhood of $22MM in 2018. Otherwise, if keeping Garoppolo as a franchise player would be too pricey, New England could tag and trade him – as it did with former Brady backup Matt Cassel in 2009.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: Brady, Patriots, Bills, Taylor

Recently, Tom Brady was asked if he is annoyed that Bill Belichick hasn’t traded Jimmy Garoppolo and his non-answer might raise some eyebrows.

When you’re a member of a team sport, the best guy plays,” the Patriots quarterback told Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com. “So I always want to make sure I’m the best guy, and I give our team a great chance to win. But if you’re ever not [the best guy], part of being a great teammate is letting the other guy do that, as well. Competition is what has always driven me. I’ve never been one that was hand selected, to be this particular player. … In high school, college, professionally, I think the greater the competition, the more that it really allows me to dig deep and bring the best out of me.”

Of course, this is a far cry from Brady saying that he’s peeved at the team for not trading the backup QB, but he didn’t shoot the notion down when given the opportunity either. The Patriots were at least mulling a Garoppolo trade at some point this offseason, but it seems that they set an extremely high asking price because they ultimately did not want to part with him.

Here’s more from the AFC and NFC East:

  • In an interview on Monday, Bills GM Brandon Beane said Tyrod Taylor will probably be the team’s starting QB, but he cautioned that he’s “not in business of handing out jobs on May the 15th,” (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak).
  • Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas cleared a giant hurdle this weekend when the team declined to sign veteran Travis Coons after a weekend tryout. “I try not to focus on the competition,” Rosas told James Kratch of NJ.com. “I just try to focus on how I can improve myself and be the best specialist I can be.” For now, Rosas stands as the only kicker on the team’s roster.
  • The Jets auditioned running back Stevan Ridley last week.

Browns Inquired On Jimmy Garoppolo During Round 1

The Browns once again asked about the availability of Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during the draft on Thursday night, but New England rebuffed Cleveland’s advances, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Jimmy Garoppolo (Vertical)

Cleveland, of course, has been interested in acquiring Garoppolo for some time, but the Patriots aren’t inclined to give up the 25-year-old backup. Just last week, Schefter reiterated that a draft-day trade involving Garoppolo was “not happening”, indicating that New England fully intends to hang onto Garoppolo for the 2017 campaign.

At least one report last night also indicated the Browns were attempting to deal for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, and Cleveland is still in the market for a signal-caller after failing to land one last night. At present, Cody Kessler is the incumbent Browns’ starter, while the club also employs Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan.

If the Browns do want to make a trade at some point, they’ll certainly have the assets to do so. They own seven more picks in 2017, and picked up an extra 2018 first-rounder in a trade with the Texans on Thursday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jimmy Garoppolo Trade “Not Happening”

The trade speculation around Jimmy Garoppolo has cooled in the months leading up to the draft. After the Patriots’ backup quarterback was viewed as a high-end trade chip to start this offseason, it appears going into the draft the door has slammed shut.

A draft-weekend trade involving Garoppolo is “not happening,” according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Schefter maintains the franchise hasn’t changed its stance since February on unloading the fourth-year passer.

Garoppolo is entering his contract year and would stand to be one of the most interesting free agents of 2018 if he were to get there, but for 2017, Bill Belichick wants him to return as Tom Brady‘s backup, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. So, if the Patriots are going to pry a first-round pick from a team for a player next weekend, it would likely have to come from a Malcolm Butler deal.

Tom Curran of CSNNE.com said during an appearance on PFT Live it would take two first-round picks for the Patirots to consider parting with the 25-year-old passer. Florio points out that this doesn’t mean the Patriots were never going to trade Garoppolo, but they never received an offer they couldn’t refuse. The Browns were far and away the team that was most associated with Garoppolo interest, but they are not going to trade the No. 1 overall pick for him.

This stands to protect the Patriots against a Brady injury or decline during his age-40 season. The team made impact trades in March to fortify its 2017 roster, acquiring Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Kony Ealy, while sacrificing its first- and second-round draft picks. But New England looks set to keep Garoppolo as insurance rather than making a similar deal to add an impact player at another position.

The Browns were eyeing Garoppolo as recently as late March, with the organization believed to be gearing up for another run at the fourth-year player. But word came out of Cleveland earlier this week the team was unlikely to swing another deal for a veteran quarterback.

Retaining Garoppolo for 2017 would put the Patriots to a decision next year. The Patriots would, as of now, stand to have Brady set for his age-41 season — and virtually venturing into uncharted waters regarding top-caliber quarterback production at that age — and a 26-year-old backup whom they clearly believe can excel despite limited game work (94 pass attempts). Florio notes the franchise tag could be in order, or the tag-and-trade setup the team used to send Matt Cassel to the Chiefs in 2009. It cost nearly $22MM to use a tag on a quarterback this year, although the Redskins are paying more to Kirk Cousins after previously tagging him, and that number will go up in 2018.

A scenario could exist where both Garoppolo and Cousins are free agents next year, which would be a sharp deviation from the lower-level UFAs populating the quarterback market in recent years. But for now, it appears a fourth year of a Brady-Garoppolo depth chart will take shape in New England.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Unlikely To Trade For Veteran QB

The Browns don’t envision trading for a veteran quarterback, general manager Sashi Brown told reporters, including Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link), today. Depending on Brown’s definition of the word “veteran,” that could rule out pursuits of the Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo and the Bengals’ A.J. McCarron.Jimmy Garoppolo (Vertical)

[RELATED: Browns Likely To Keep No. 1 Overall Pick]

New England reportedly isn’t willing to deal Garoppolo, but that hasn’t stopped the Browns from inquiring. The Patriots’ price for Garoppolo has varied, but Cleveland’s No. 12 pick isn’t going to get a deal done. The Browns aren’t willing to trade the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for a quarterback, so they may simply not match up with the Patriots on a swap.

The Bengals, meanwhile, aren’t actively shopping McCarron, but are willing to trade him (and would even be comfortable shipping him within the AFC North). Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com recently hinted Cincinnati would be open to sending McCarron and the ninth overall pick to Cleveland for pick Nos. 12 and 33. Using Chase Stuart of Football Perspective‘s draft value chart, that deal would imply McCarron is worth the 44th overall selection on his own.

At present, the Browns’ depth chart at quarterback includes Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, and Brock Osweiler. Although Osweiler had been expected to be traded or released, Brown said today the ex-Texan will have a chance to compete for the starting QB role, tweets Marc Sessler of NFL.com. Of course, that sentiment could simply be lip service until Cleveland decides how to proceed with Osweiler.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Pats, Browns, Saints, Mixon

There have been conflicting reports over the past couple months on whether the Patriots will consider trading backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason. The latest update, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, indicates the Pats “do not want to deal” Garoppolo, even though he could hit free agency next year. No team has shown more interest in Garoppolo this offseason than the Browns, but they’ve seemingly given up hope on acquiring him, per Rapoport, who adds that the Pats regard the 25-year-old as a franchise-caliber passer. New England already has an all-world option under center in Tom Brady, of course, but the five-time Super Bowl champion is set to play his age-40 season in 2017.

One of Garoppolo’s New England teammates, cornerback Malcolm Butler, has also been a prominent part of trade rumors this offseason. While the Patriots’ intention is to keep Butler, according to owner Robert Kraft, Larry Holder of NOLA.com anticipates that they’ll ultimately deal him to the Saints (video via NFL.com). New Orleans has chased Butler, a restricted free agent, and has reportedly had productive long-term contract discussions with him. The Saints aren’t willing to give up the No. 11 overall pick for Butler, but they could dangle the 32nd selection, which they acquired from the Pats in the Brandin Cooks trade.

More from around the sport:

  • Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon will rack up 15 visits with teams prior to the beginning of the draft on April 27, his agent, Peter Schaffer, told Michael Gehlken of Pro Football Talk. “(This many visits) is clearly not efficient and (consumes) a lot of time,” said Schaffer. “But at the same time, it’s important to have it. It’s a blessing for any player to get considered for the draft. Along with that blessing comes hard work.” Many of the clubs Mixon has met with are willing to forgive him for his checkered past, which jibes with a report that he could go as high as the second round. “Everyone who has brought him in has remarked how remorseful he is about what he did when he was 18 … and that he’s deserving of a second chance,” Schaffer revealed.
  • Former NFLers Greg Hardy, Ahmad Bradshaw, Kellen Winslow, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Ben Tate and Ricky Stanzi have reported to West Virginia to partake in the Spring League, relays Mike Florio of PFT. The league, which isn’t affiliated with the NFL, will play a six-game season from April 15-26. Its participants won’t receive pay – only lodging and meals during the season – writes Florio. Some pro scouts will be on hand, though, giving the players an opportunity to stand out and earn either a first NFL shot or, in the cases of the aforementioned six, a repeat chance(s).
  • The expectation is that the Ravens will eventually release cornerback Kyle Arrington, reports Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. The Ravens would first like Arrington to pass a physical, notes Zrebiec. Arrington suffered a concussion during the preseason last summer and landed on injured reserve at the end of August. Cutting the 30-year-old would save Baltimore $2.1MM, against just under $667K in dead money.

AFC Notes: Texans, Browns, Jimmy G., Fins

The Texans plan to discuss a contract extension with head coach Bill O’Brien after next season, according to owner Bob McNair (via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle). The 2017 campaign will be the penultimate year of O’Brien’s contract, and he has thus far led the typically quarterback-weak Texans to three nine-win showings and two playoff berths.

Houston continues to be in dire need of help under center, of course, which McNair realizes. “It’s important that we upgrade the play at quarterback,” he told McClain. McNair did express confidence in incumbent starter Tom Savage, though he’s leery of the 26-year-old’s durability issues. “He’s played twice (in regular season) and gotten hurt twice,” McNair noted. “That’s our only concern with Tom. He’s smart enough. He knows the system. He’s got a good arm. I think he can get the job done, but if we depend on him, and he gets hurt in the first or second game . . .”

Savage is only atop the Texans’ depth chart now because of the horrid play of Brock Osweiler, whom they traded to the Browns earlier this month. The move was “a shocker” for McNair, who “couldn’t believe” general manager Rick Smith was able to dump Osweiler’s contract on the Browns (albeit at the cost of a second-round pick). Osweiler is just a year into the four-year pact the Texans handed him as a free agent last offseason. Featuring high cap hits and $37MM in guarantees, the deal quickly became an albatross, and McNair has a theory on why things went so poorly for Osweiler in Houston (via McClain). “(O’Brien) didn’t have a chance to get to know him. That’s one of the problems with free agency,” lamented McNair. “In the draft, we’re able to bring them to Houston, sit down with them, watch them interviewed by a bunch of coaches, and you have time to check them out. You can’t talk to them before they become a free agent. You can’t work them out. We didn’t know him that well.”

Texans brass, including McNair, all seemed to love Osweiler last March, but he then bombed on the field and didn’t mesh with O’Brien in his lone Houston season.

More from the AFC:

  • “An NFL source familiar with all the principals involved” speculates the Browns will “make another run” at Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the league meetings, ESPN.com’s Tony Grossi writes. Business tends to go down at the league meetings with everyone in the same place and we could see trade talks get a jumpstart this week in Phoenix. If a trade does happen, however, the same source says it might not occur until closer to the draft on April 27.
  • Free agent linebacker Zach Brown is reportedly choosing between the Dolphins and Raiders, but Miami’s Mike Tannenbaum-led front office doesn’t seem to be going all-out to sign him, observes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “The lion’s share of our focus right now is on the draft,” said Tannenbaum, the team’s executive vice president of football operations. “If an opportunity came along, we’d evaluate it appropriately. But our focus is really on the draft and something comes along, we’ll certainly look at it.”
  • Defensive tackle Mike Pennel‘s one-year contract with the Jets is worth $990K, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. There’s no guaranteed money in the deal, but it does come with up to $250K in roster bonuses and a $50K workout bonus.

Zach Links contributed to this post.