Kyler Murray

NFC Notes: Clowney, Cards, Giants, Panthers

A notable development transpired in Jadeveon Clowney‘s near-fourth-month free agency odyssey Tuesday. The Browns’ Olivier Vernon restructure points to them giving the Vernon-Myles Garrett pairing another year and bowing out on Clowney. This would eliminate a high-paying suitor from the sweepstakes. The Seahawks remain in the running for Clowney, but Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes they are not going to offer a deal in the $15-$16MM-AAV ballpark like they did earlier this offseason. Seattle’s offer in this neighborhood occurred several weeks ago, but the team is still in need at edge rusher. Clowney now has an offer in hand from the Raiders, but they were viewed as a “distant third.” However, with the Browns perhaps out, the Raiders may have moved up to second. At just more than $13MM in cap space, the Seahawks hold more than the Raiders ($8MM).

Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins lined up as teammates for the first time, with the new Cardinals duo joining several teammates in Texas for a workout. Despite the NFLPA issuing directives for players not to gather for workouts, as the COVID-19 pandemic sets records (with Texas being a hot spot) in recent days. But other teams — most notably the Buccaneers — have seen select personnel conven for pre-training camp work. The Cards’ workout took place nearby where Murray went to high school, just north of Dallas.
  • Seahawks second-round pick Marquise Blair will compete with Bradley McDougald for the team’s starting strong safety job, opposite Quandre Diggs, but Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes the second-year player is also a candidate to be Seattle’s nickel back. Blair played just 219 snaps as a rookie, though Pete Carroll said he is “very interested” in getting him on the field this season. Ugo Amadi, a 2019 fourth-rounder, will serve as Blair’s primary competition for Seattle’s nickel role. Amadi played just 76 defensive snaps as a rookie.
  • The Giants hired their first female scout, naming Hannah Burnett as their Midlands scout. Burnett’s most notable NFL experience came with the Falcons, for whom she attended pro days and the Combine. In addition to Burnett, the Giants named Marquis Pendleton their northeast area scout and added Nick Williams as an offensive assistant. Pendleton has worked in a different scouting capacity with the team since 2016; Williams spent the past three seasons as Southern Illinois’ wide receivers coach.
  • The Panthers did not renew the contracts of scouts Don Warren and Clyde Powers, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Both staffers were Dave Gettleman hires. Warren was a three-time Super Bowl champion as a tight end with the Redskins, for whom he also worked as a scout prior to his Panthers stay.

Kyler Murray Contractually Can’t Play Baseball

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray caused a bit of a kerfuffle earlier this week when he indicated he still had interest in playing baseball at some point. “I think I could. … Athletically, I think yeah, I could do it. I’ve been playing both my whole life. I would love to add that to the resume,” he told Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

Fortunately for Cardinals fans, they don’t have to worry about that anytime soon. Murray’s NFL contract specifically bars him from pursuing his other sport in any form, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapoport reviewed the language of Murray’s deal, which rules out “any baseball related activity, tryout, workout, scrimmage, any exhibition, from any baseball team in any baseball league.”

Murray, of course, was previously a two-sport athlete. He was drafted early in the first round by the Oakland Athletics a few years ago, and until he took over for Baker Mayfield as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback, it was widely assumed he would pursue a MLB career. Then he ended up exceeding all expectations in his one season of college football, winning the Heisman Trophy. After leaving his future up in the air for a while, Murray eventually fully committed to football and announced he would withdraw from his deal with Oakland back in February of last year.

A couple months later, the Cardinals drafted him first overall. Murray had an up and down rookie season in his first year playing under Kliff Kingsbury, but he showed plenty of flashes. The potential Rookie of the Year, he finished with 24 total touchdowns and had some huge games. It isn’t totally unheard of for a player to compete in both sports, as Deion Sanders famously played in the NFL and MLB at the same time. That being said, it would be much tougher for a quarterback to attempt such a thing. Maybe one day Murray will find his way back to the diamond, but it doesn’t sound like it’ll be anytime soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Lions, Giants, Dolphins

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller:

  • Miller would be positively stunned if the Bengals don’t draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall and the Redskins don’t grab Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the No. 2 pick.
  • With that in mind, Miller feels the draft truly starts at No. 3 overall, where the Lions pick. Sources tell Miller that they’ll look heavily at Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah and Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown. Then again, it’s a prime trade-back spot – teams like the Dolphins, Chargers, and Panthers could move up to land a QB.
  • Unless new head coach Joe Judge sways him in a different direction, Giants GM Dave Gettleman is expected to look at edge-rushers, left tackles, and wide receivers with the No. 4 pick. “He can’t help himself with linemen, so slot your top-rated offensive tackle there,” one scout who previously worked with Gettleman said. Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr. and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas rank among the top tackles in this year’s crop.
  • No team has done more work on Oregon’s Justin Herbert than the Dolphins, who own the No. 5 pick and two more selections later on, Miller writes. The Dolphins will almost certainly go QB here, then shift their attention to offensive tackle, edge-rusher, and running back help.
  • The same source who tipped Miller off to the Cardinals‘ love of Kyler Murray last year says they’re wild about Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. But, internally, they also feel that the offensive line need is too big to overlook.
  • The Raiders, with two picks in the first round, are looking to go defense and wide receiver, Miller hears.
  • The Bills are already nervous about other teams leapfrogging them for wide receivers, Miller hears. The Bills own the No. 22 overall pick and nine total selections in the draft.
  • The Patriots are impossible to read, but none of Miller’s sources believe that they’ll draft a quarterback early on. Tom Brady has vowed to continue playing, but he’ll also explore his options in free agency.

Injury Updates: Ingram, Haskins, Murray

Here are the key injuries which we’ve seen some reporting on:

  • The Ravens officially clinched the top seed in the AFC with their win over the Browns on Sunday, but Baltimore fans were left holding their breath when running back Mark Ingram went down with a calf injury. Head coach John Harbaugh told reporters after the game there’s no structural damage, but a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com that Ingram suffered a calf strain (Twitter link). Ingram was wearing a walking boot after a game, via a tweet from Josina Anderson of ESPN. Harbaugh was trying to sound optimistic, but calf strains can linger. Fortunately for Baltimore, he’ll have Week 17 and a first-round bye to rest.
  • Dwayne Haskins has been getting a lot better recently, so it was unfortunate to see him go down with an ankle injury during the Redskins’ loss to the Giants. Interestingly, Haskins said after the game that he lobbied to return, but owner Dan Snyder personally told him not to go back in, per John Keim of ESPN.com. Normally it’d be unusual for an owner to be consulting directly with a player during a game, but this is the Redskins we’re talking about. Washington is in line for the second overall pick right now, and they could opt to be conservative and sit Haskins in Week 17.
  • Speaking of rookie quarterbacks, Kyler Murray was also knocked out on Sunday with a hamstring injury. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters after the game he wasn’t sure if Murray would be able to play in Week 17 against the Rams. Murray had a large wrap on his hamstring and if it was bad enough to knock him out immediately he could be up against it to play next week. Brett Hundley, who finished off Arizona’s upset win over the Seahawks, would start next week if he isn’t ready.
  • One last quarterback update, as Mason Rudolph was sidelined with a shoulder injury shortly after being reinserted for a benched Devlin Hodges. The Steelers’ quarterback situation is an absolute mess right now as they prepare for a must-win game against the Ravens. Hodges came back in for Rudolph, and resumed struggling. Rudolph provided an instant spark after relieving Hodges, so he’ll almost certainly start against Baltimore if he’s healthy. Rudolph was seen leaving the stadium with his arm in a sling, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link).
  • The Titans can clinch a playoff berth with a Week 17 win over the Texans, and fortunately they’ll be getting a boost to their offense. Running back Derrick Henry was inactive for their loss to the Saints on Sunday, but he is expected to play against Houston, a source told Schefter (Twitter link). Henry has been dealing with a hamstring issue.
  • The winner of the Week 17 game between the 49ers and Seahawks will determine who wins the NFC West and in turn hosts a playoff game, and both sides are banged up. San Francisco pass-rusher Dee Ford has missed most of the last month with a hamstring injury and he’s not expected to play against Seattle, a source told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports. They gave up a second-round pick to land Ford this offseason, then signed him to a massive extension, and he’s been a bit of a disappointment. Fortunately for the 49ers, the Seahawks are dealing with even more significant health issues.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim On Drake, Fitzgerald, Offseason

It was somewhat surprising when the Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake in advance of this year’s deadline, given that Arizona was clearly not going to make a postseason run and given that Drake is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March. But GM Steve Keim saw something he liked in the former Dolphins RB and wanted to secure exclusive negotiating rights with him.

Drake has not disappointed, averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry in his six games in Arizona to go along with five scores and 22 receptions for 130 yards. Keim touched on Drake’s future with the team and several other key issues facing the Cardinals this offseason, including Larry Fitzgerald‘s future, in an interview with Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

On the Drake trade:

“The mindset of going into the trade, it wasn’t done because we had two backs that were injured and was sort of a stop-gap situation. If that was a the case, my mindset was I would’ve signed a guy off the street. We truly thought this was the type of player Kenyan Drake was. That’s why we made trade and hope this was the kind of success he would have.”

On his hopes of re-signing Drake, and when he might try to do it:

“As far as waiting until after the season (to re-sign Drake), that’s not necessarily the thing either. I would certainly love to have Kenyan Drake back. I think he fits in this offense and he really has given us a spark in many ways.”

On Fitzgerald’s future (for Fitzgerald’s thoughts, see here):

“We would love to have him back. We all know what he brings to the organization. But the one thing you want to do with a player like him is give him the respect he deserves. Allow him to make that decision on his own. But I will say this. This is maybe the most fun I’ve seen him have in the last four years. He’s playing at a high level. I know he likes [head coach] Kliff [Kingsbury] and I know he likes this offense. Doesn’t hurt to have a guy (in quarterback Kyler Murray) who can spin it to him like this too.”

Keim said he will look to upgrade the Cardinals’ O-line this offseason, though he thinks the team’s high sack total is partly due to Murray’s style of play:

“I think Kyler would be the first to tell you there have been quite a few sacks given up that are on him. There has been times when I thought our offensive line has given him the type of protection he’s needed.”

On Murray himself:

“[T]here is no doubt in my mind we hit it through the roof. It’s one thing to be ultra-talented, but the guys who are the great ones, just when everybody thinks they have worked hard and done enough, those guys go above and beyond. There are up late night watching film, trying to find little tells that people don’t see. Just so the speed of the game slows down.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals’ Keim On Kyler Murray, Josh Rosen

The Cardinals completely revamped their quarterback room this offseason by drafting Kyler Murray No. 1 overall. Drafting Murray meant ditching another talented young quarterback in Josh Rosen, which raised some eyebrows around the NFL. 

Here’s a look at Keim’s thoughts on that situation, and more, via The Ringer’s Robert Mays:

On drafting Murray and dealing Rosen:

You have to make the tough decisions and avoid the outside noise— ‘Why’d you give up on this guy? Why would you trade this guy?‘…It’s unprecedented. I took [Rosen] in the top 10. I just felt that [Murray] was a generational talent that I just couldn’t pass up.”

On Murray’s game tape from Oklahoma:

Every game, it was the same thing. He did something multiple times that you either said, ‘Wow’ or [I] had seen very few times in my scouting career….“For a lot of reasons, I didn’t want to like [him, but I did].”

On new head coach Kliff Kingsbury:

They thought he was a guy that had enough of a swag to him that the players respected him. [The Texas Tech team] looked to him for advice. He didn’t just concentrate on the offensive side of the ball.”

On Murray’s progress, so far:

I guess time will tell. But I certainly like the early returns.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Cardinals, Panthers

After playing behind Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, Cardinals quarterback Brett Hundley is looking forward to providing teammate Kyler Murray with some essential wisdom. However, the 26-year-old made it clear that he’s not just going to hand the starting gig to the first-overall pick.

“The knowledge that I have, I’m able to pass it along to [Murray], especially through this journey of his because the NFL isn’t a sprint. It’s a long distance marathon,” Hundley said (via Jelani Scott of NFL.com). “For me, my goal has always been to start, no matter what position it’s in. I don’t play to be second. So I think that’s my number one goal, to get that starting job, and at the same time, it’s a competition for a reason.”

Hundley’s only extended stint as a starter came in 2017, when he started nine of his 11 appearances for the Packers. That season, Hundley completed 60.8-percent of his passes for 1,836 yards, nine touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also added another 270 rushing yards and two scores on 36 carries.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • With Aaron Rodgers apparently tuning out Mike McCarthy‘s play calls, many pundits wondered how the Packers quarterback would handle a brand-new head coach. Well, Albert Breer of SI.com says the franchise quarterback is working with Matt LaFleur on a compromise. LaFleur’s system is intended to take decision-making off the quarterback’s list of responsibilities, all while allowing the offense to run quickly and more efficiently. The team is planning on using the “double call” method that was made popular by Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, although they’ll also provide Rodgers with the freedom to adjust from there. As Breer writes, the ideal scenario is “giving Rodgers the option, but not the obligation, to make changes on the fly.”
  • Breer writes that the Panthers had an under-the-radar front office hiring this week when they added Taylor Rajack as their new director of analytics. The 27-year-old previously served on the Eagles’ analytics staff, and Philly has quickly established themselves as one of the NFL leaders in advanced stats. Breer notes that Panthers coach Ron Rivera has previously embraced the use of analytics, while new owner David Tepper made it a priority in his front office.
  • 49ers kicker Robbie Gould isn’t backing off his trade demand, and he provided some insight on the situation earlier today.

Poll: Which Top 10 Pick Has The Highest Bust Potential?

The NFL Draft is just barely in the rear view mirror, which means that teams are full of hope for their young rookies. But, of course, the NFL Draft is largely a crapshoot, and not every player will realize their full potential. 

This year’s draft had talent, but lacked a true consensus on the top player. Many evaluators pegged defensive end Nick Bosa as the player with the highest ceiling in the 2019 class, but other saw Alabama’s Quinnen Williams as the “safest bet.” The 49ers pounced on Bosa with the No. 2 pick while the Jets (and former GM Mike Maccagnan) were delighted to land Williams at No. 3 overall.

Leading up to the draft, much of the attention was on Oklahoma quarterback (and one-time MLB hopeful) Kyler Murray. When Murray announced that he would ditch the Oakland A’s, his stock exploded – Murray was considered a borderline first-round prospect in the winter, but wound up as the Cardinals’ choice at No. 1 overall. Murray has the speed that teams crave at the QB position, but questions persist about his size and overall lack of experience as a full-time starter.

The Cardinals’ long flirtation with Murray brought us the expected result, but the Raiders gave us the real first shock of the draft when they tapped Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 overall. Not to be outdone, the Giants snagged Duke’s Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall. Heading into the draft, neither player was thought to be anywhere near Top 10 consideration, but Mike Mayock and Dave Gettleman were unwilling to trade down and risk losing out on their guys.

The domino effect created by those picks allowed the Bucs to grab inside linebacker Devin White (No. 5 overall), the Jaguars to land outside linebacker Josh Allen (No. 6), the Lions to snag top tight end T.J. Hockenson, the Bills to draft defensive tackle Ed Oliver (No. 9 overall), and the Steelers to finish out the Top 10 with linebacker Devin Bush. Most of those picks were warmly received, but nothing is certain in the draft.

Which Top 10 pick do you think has the highest bust potential? Click below to cast your vote (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Team’s New QB Will Have Best Season?

While this offseason did not bring quite the same level of quarterback movement 2018’s did, a handful of teams will deploy new starters. Draft choices, trade acquisitions and free agent signings will be given the keys to offenses that struggled last season.

The Broncos, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jaguars and Redskins made moves to fortify their quarterback jobs. Which team’s investment will work out best?

Denver will use a different starting quarterback for the third straight year. Joe Flacco is set to be the Broncos’ fourth starter since Peyton Manning‘s retirement. While his QBR figure (58.7) was better than any the former Ravens starter had posted since a quality 2014 season, Flacco still ranked 20th in that metric last season. Having never made a Pro Bowl and fresh off back-to-back years featuring injury trouble, with a back problem limiting him during the 2017 offseason and a hip injury beginning the Lamar Jackson era, the 34-year-old starter will try to revive his career in Denver. Flacco, though, is the most accomplished quarterback the Broncos have employed since Manning.

The other surefire veteran starter acquired this year, Foles will have his first chance to be a team’s unquestioned first-stringer since 2015. The 30-year-old flourished in his second Philadelphia stint, submitting an all-time postseason run in 2017 and helping the Eagles back to the playoffs last season. A 2013 Pro Bowler, Foles will take over a Jaguars team that does not possess the kind of aerial weaponry recent Eagles rosters did. Jacksonville is in line to have Marqise Lee back from a torn ACL, but the team’s wideouts and tight ends will place additional emphasis on Foles living up to his contract. With the Rams in 2015, Foles threw seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions before being benched.

Kyler Murray represents the other locked-in starter added this offseason. The electric one-year Oklahoma starter accomplished about as much as a college passer can in a single season, turning in Division I-FBS’ second-ever 4,000-1,000 season en route to Heisman Trophy honors. Working with Kliff Kingsbury, Larry Fitzgerald and a host of young wide receivers, Murray is the centerpiece of one of the most daring experiments an NFL team has attempted.

The Cardinals turned the keys over to a sub-.500 college coach and a 5-foot-10 signal-caller — the first sub-6-foot passer to be chosen in Round 1. Arizona trotted out the league’s worst scoring and total offense last season, however, and sported a skeleton-crew offensive line by year’s end. The Cards added new starters Marcus Gilbert and J.R. Sweezy up front. Due to the lack of precedent behind this move, it is hard to tell how Murray will fare. But the unique talent has opened as Las Vegas’ offensive rookie of the year favorite.

Washington and Miami have not committed to a starting quarterback yet, but it is fairly safe to project Dwayne Haskins and Josh Rosen will see extensive time. While Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick could log starts, with the latter possibly even on track to do so, the Redskins have liked what their first-round pick has done so far and the Dolphins will need to see Rosen in games to help determine if they will consider a first-round QB in 2020. On the heels of a 50-touchdown pass season, the Ohio State product sits second in offensive rookie of the year odds. Although only eight passers have won this award since 1957, seven such instances have occurred since 2004.

Both Daniel Jones and Drew Lock could factor into their respective teams’ mixes later in the season. Of the 13 first-round QBs taken over the past four years, only Patrick Mahomes and Paxton Lynch were not promoted to the starting role as rookies. (Though, Eli Manning is not your typical stopgap.) Lock was projected by most as a first-rounder, and Flacco ceded his role to the No. 32 overall pick last year. So the 12th-year veteran’s grip on Denver’s job should be considered tenuous.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kyler Murray’s Deal Has Offset Language

Kyler Murray‘s deal with the Cardinals contains offset language, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter). Offset language is usually at the root of most prolonged rookie negotiations, but the two sides managed to sidestep the issue and come to an accord on Thursday

Offset language relates to what happens to a player’s salary if he’s cut during the first four years of his career, while he’s still playing on his rookie contract. For the top 15 to 20 picks in the draft, those four-year salaries are fully guaranteed, even if a player is waived at some point during those four seasons. For example, if a player has $4MM in guaranteed money remaining on his contract and is cut, he’ll still be owed that $4MM.

However, if a team has written offset language into the contract, that club can save some money if and when the player signs with a new team. For example, if that player who had $4MM in guaranteed money left on his contract signs with a new club on a $1MM deal, his old team would only be on the hook for $3MM, with the new team making up the difference. If there’s no offset language on that first deal, the old team would continue to be on the hook for the full $4MM, and the player would simply earn an additional $1MM from his new club.

So, Murray appears to have accepted the typical offset language in a rookie deal, though his contract is not without unusual wrinkles. The pact also contains language that will void the deal if he leaves the NFL to pursue his baseball career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.