Mitch Morse

AFC East Notes: Gronk, Alonso, Clowney

Ever since Rob Gronkowski announced his decision to retire, rumors have swirled of a potential comeback to the Patriots. Gronk himself hasn’t done much to tamp down the speculation, notably leaving the door open in a press conference a few days ago. The legendary tight end recently did an interview with Jeff Howe of The Athletic, and dropped even more hints that he’d be ready to play. “My body feels good. I can even take it further physically, and I could play right now,” Gronkowski said.

However, he also cautioned that his heart isn’t in it right now when asked what it would take to get him to come back. “Mentally, the desire to play just isn’t there. I would have to literally just feel that desire – just feel that mentally, that desire to play, to be back out there. Like someone is calling my name, I would have to feel that inside. I would have to feel that on a consistent basis. That’s the way I would entertain coming back to football.” The former Patriots star also revealed that he currently weighs about 20 pounds less than his usual playing weight, although he did say it would be “easy” to put it back on.

Here’s more from the AFC East on a busy day around the league:

  • We heard last weekend that the Dolphins were shopping linebacker Kiko Alonso, and now we have more details. It was apparently Alonso who requested a trade during training camp, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rival organizations reportedly expect Alonso to be cut, which is hurting his trade value. Miami is starting completely fresh with new coach Brian Flores, and many of the team’s veterans are getting purged. Both sides apparently want to move on, so it would be a shock at this point if Alonso is on the team in 2019. Originally drafted by the Bills in the second-round back in 2013, Alonso has started at least 15 games in all three of his years as a Dolphin. He has two more years left on his four-year, $28.9MM deal.
  • It looks like Jadeveon Clowney won’t be going to the Dolphins, but they aren’t the only AFC East team interested. The Jets are apparently in the mix too, although you shouldn’t count on them landing the former first overall pick. Although New York is interested, “there may be far too many obstacles on both sides” to complete a deal, writes Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. “I’m not sure how much the Jets really want him, or how much (Clowney) wants them,” one rival exec told Vacchiano. “It’s hard to see Joe (Douglas, the Jets GM) going crazy for a player like him, especially just for a year. It doesn’t look like there’s a match.” Clowney’s reported preferred destinations are Seattle or Philadelphia.
  • Good news for the Bills, as Mitch Morse has officially cleared the concussion protocol, according to Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic (Twitter link). The Bills made upgrading the offensive line a priority this offseason, and Morse was one of their biggest acquisitions. He’s been dealing with this concussion for most of the summer, so this is great news that he’s been cleared. Morse has a history of concussions, and other injuries have limited him to just 18 games over the past two years. When healthy, he’s one of the best centers in the league, and he should provide a big boost for Josh Allen.

AFC East Notes: Brady, Dolphins, Bills

A potentially important situation that has been flying a bit under the radar is Tom Brady‘s contract. The Patriots quarterback is quietly entering the final season of his deal, and there hasn’t been any word on if there’s even been any extension talks. Right now both sides appear set to let things play out, which is interesting to say the least. If they don’t get something done then, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out, New England “will have a big decision to make in early 2020.” Florio writes that the Pats will have four options, “to re-sign Brady before he becomes a free agent, whether to let him become a free agent and then try to re-sign him, whether to not even try to re-sign him at all, or whether to apply the franchise tag.”

Florio writes that in the franchise tag scenario, Brady would have “a ton of leverage,” since the tag would pay him $32.4MM, the most ever on a tag. Florio speculates that the Patriots could be hesitant to pay him that much, and he wonders whether Brady will be willing to again take a discount like he has in the past. He writes that “other teams may start poking around agent Don Yee to see if Brady wants to make a late-career change of venue, and they may start throwing around numbers that Brady would not be able to refuse.” It’s all speculative at this point, but it’s fascinating to think about. Bill Belichick can be stubborn, but the thought of him letting Brady walk is still pretty hard to believe.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Speaking of Belichick and Brady’s contract, signing Brady to a new deal “that will pay him upwards of $30M for his 43- and 44-year-old seasons gives Bill Belichick the vapors,” writes Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston. Curran writes that Brady wants an extension that ensures he retires with the Patriots but that “he’s been put off, mildly placated or — in the case of last year — downright disrespected with incentive-laden ‘sing for your supper’ incentive bonuses.” Curran seems to think that there’s real tension between the two sides, that Belichick isn’t too eager to commit anything major, and that Robert Kraft ultimately might end up intervening. Curran writes that his “feeling is that he’s going to let Kraft do this deal so that Belichick has plausible deniability in case Brady faceplants.” This will be an important situation to monitor moving forward.
  • The Dolphins fired offensive line coach Pat Flaherty earlier this week and replaced him with Dave DeGuglielmo, and DeGuglielmo has wasted no time retooling the unit. The “Dolphins made wholesale lineup changes in practice Tuesday,” to their offensive line, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. In DeGuglielmo’s first day as the offensive line coach, “rookie Michael Deiter and Will Holden took over the first team left and right guard spots, replacing Chris Reed and Jesse Davis,” Jackson writes. Davis kicked over to right tackle, sending Jordan Mills to the second team. DeGuglielmo received a lot of praise for his work as the Colts’ offensive line coach last year, and it was a surprise when he was ousted in January. He’s clearly taking charge in Miami, and it sounds like the only two locked in players on the Dolphins’ line are Laremy Tunsil at left tackle and Daniel Kilgore at center.
  • Potentially troubling news for the Bills, as center Mitch Morse is still in the concussion protocol, according to Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic (Twitter link). Morse is one of the league’s best centers when healthy, but he’s dealt with concussion issues and other injuries in his last two seasons with the Chiefs. In 2018 he played in only 11 games, and in 2017 only seven. Buscaglia notes that Bills coach Sean McDermott wouldn’t comment “about the amount of concern they might have with Morse suffering a fourth documented concussion,” since the protocol won’t allow him to. The Bills had one of the worst offensive lines in football last year, and signing Morse to his huge four-year deal was supposed to help revamp the unit. Normally a concussion this time of year wouldn’t be big news, but given Morse’s lengthy history of concussion issues this could be something that lingers. It’ll be important to monitor how he progresses.

Extra Points: Giants, Beckham, Redskins, Keenum, Broncos, Morse, CBA

Count Giants owner John Mara among those who never thought the team would trade Odell Beckham Jr. Speaking today from the owner’s meetings, Mara said “he never thought they’d trade Odell right up until the final day,” according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitter link). Mara also said he finally gave his “reluctant approval” for the deal, Vacchiano wrote in a separate tweet.

In additional comments made to reporters, Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch emphasized over and over how difficult of a decision it was to ship Beckham to the Browns. Mara also said whether or not the trade proves to be a success will be determined by the front office making “the right decisions” with the draft picks the Giants got from Cleveland.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Redskins traded for Case Keenum, but so far they’ve insisted that Keenum will have to compete for Washington’s quarterback job with Colt McCoy, and potentially with a rookie. Alex Smith is all but certain to miss the entire 2019 season. McCoy is, like Smith, recovering from a leg injury. McCoy recently underwent a second surgery on his leg, but is expected to be ready for the Redskins’ offseason program, according to Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic (Twitter link). It remains to be seen if McCoy will actually seriously push Keenum for the job, but he’ll at least be healthy enough to put up a fight.
  • The Broncos let center Matt Paradis walk in free agency, and they apparently attempted to make a big splash to replace him. Denver tried to sign center Mitch Morse before he signed with Buffalo, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9News. The Bills made Morse the highest-paid center in the league, which priced him out of the Broncos’ range, Klis writes. The Broncos now have major questions on the interior of their offensive line, and Klis expects them to make a move to address them soon.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about a potential work stoppage the next time the CBA expires, with players expected to make major demands that the owners might not be willing to meet. In the run up to those negotiations, there are apparently major tensions between the NFLPA and NFL agents, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. A group of players and agents had a meeting last week, and multiple sources told Florio “it did not go well.” In a separate post, Florio posted the full memo he obtained about what happened in the meeting. Florio writes that the discord between the two camps “will be music to the ears” of the owners, who would like to see their opponents as divided as possible.

East Notes: Cowboys, Crawford, Jets, Bills

The latest from the AFC and NFC East divisions:

  • Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford was caught on camera brawling inside of a Florida bar, as TMZ details. The 6’4″, 280-pound lineman is shown fighting off four bouncers at once and holding his own. Then, the fight spilled outside, where Crawford got tangled up with multiple cops. Interestingly, Crawford was not arrested and has not been charged with a crime. However, the NFL might have something to say about the incident. After losing Randy Gregory and David Irving to indefinite bans, the Cowboys can ill afford to lose anyone else on the D-Line for the start of the 2019 season.
  • Center was a major need for the Jets this offseason, but they did not make offers to Mitch Morse or Matt Paradis, the top two centers in this year’s free agent class (via Manish Mehta of the Daily News). Instead, they re-upped Jonotthan Harrison on a two-year deal with the hope that he can compete with other versatile interior line additions to come. Brett Jones, who has drawn interest from the Jets and a quintet of other clubs, could be added to the mix.
  • Seahawks free agent Maurice Alexander, a longtime starter for the Rams, will visit the Bills on Thursday and Friday, a source tells NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

Extra Points: Jets, Ravens, Draft

Some assorted notes from around the NFL…

  • The Jets were reportedly interested in free agent centers Mitch Morse and Matt Paradis, tweets Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. However, the team never made an offer to either player. Morse ultimately signed with the Bills, while Paradis ended up inking a deal with the Panthers. With the Jets unable to secure either of the top two free agent centers, the front office continues to reach out to other veterans to gauge the market. Mehta notes that the draft could be another way of acquiring a center.
  • Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg is retiring, the team announced. The 63-year-old had been with the organization since 2008, winning one Super Bowl championship along the way. Rosburg previously served in the same role with both the Falcons and Browns. Assistant Special Teams coach Chris Horton is expected to take over, with Rosburg briefly sticking around as a consultant. “I will stay on for a period of time to be a resource for Chris and anyone else during that transition,” said Rosburg. “I have a lot of plans. Me and my plans center around my family. I don’t want to miss as many hockey games and volleyball games as I have. Our days are limited on this earth, and there are some things that I’m missing I don’t want to miss anymore.”
  • Rashan Gary wasn’t active in Michigan’s pro day. According to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter), the potential top-five pick only weighed in and didn’t participate in any drills or testing. Instead, the running back stuck around to support his teammates. As Pelissero notes, the defensive tackle “crushed the combine,” and he didn’t want to risk his draft stock with a lackluster outing today.

Contract Details: Collins, Morse, Graham

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed contracts from around the NFL:

  • Landon Collins, S (Redskins): Six years, $84MM deal, $45MM guaranteed. $15MM signing bonus, $6MM option bonus for 2024 (exercised between first and fifth of 2020). Deal includes $32MM guaranteed over the first two seasons. $5MM of his 2021 salary is guaranteed at signing. Salaries: $1MM (2019), $10MM (2020), $12.5MM (2021), $11.5MM (2022), $12.5MM (2023), $13.5MM (2024). All Twitter links via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, and ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
  • Mitch Morse, C (Bills): Four years, $44.5MM, $26.5MM guaranteed (original story). Receives $19.5MM in 2019, $28.375MM in 2020. Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero.
  • Brandon Graham, DE (Eagles): Three years, $40MM. $23.5MM guaranteed. $12.5MM signing bonus. Salary: $1MM (2019), $10MM (2020). Team option for 2021: $13MM salary and $3.5MM option bonus. Twitter link via Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic.
  • Danny Amendola, WR (Lions): One year, $4.5MM. $4.25MM fully guaranteed. $250K in per-game roster bonuses, $1.25MM in incentives. Twitter link via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.
  • Tyler Kroft, TE (Bills): Three years, $18.75MM. $8.3MM guaranteed, $2.4MM signing bonus. Will earn $1.8MM salary in 2019, $4.45MM in 2020. Roster bonuses include $2.1MM (2019), $750K (2020), $750K (2021). Twitter links via Wilson and ESPN’s Mike Rodak.

Bills To Sign Mitch Morse

The Bills just keep on rolling. After landing Frank Gore, Kevin Johnson, and Tyler Kroft, Buffalo is making another big move. Center Mitch Morse has agreed to terms with the Bills, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

This will come with a major pay raise. Morse is expected to receive a contract that will pay him more than $11MM on average, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). It’s a four-year deal, per Yahoo.com’s Terez Paylor (on Twitter). This coming to fruition would make him the NFL’s highest-paid center.

Morse is coming to Buffalo from Kansas City, where he’s spent the past four seasons. The Chiefs took Morse in the second round of the 2015 draft, and he’s been a starter with them ever since. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy the past couple of seasons, which might’ve played into the Chiefs’ decision to let him walk.

Morse appeared in 11 games last year, and just seven the year before that. Morse has dealt with concussion and foot issues the past couple of seasons, but has been an effective player when on the field. In his 11 starts last season, he graded out as the 13th-best center in the league, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics.

No terms of the deal have been announced at the moment, and it’ll be very interesting to see what Morse gets. The Bills have been very generous with their spending so far, so it’s safe to assume Morse got a fairly big contract. The Chiefs signed Austin Reiter to an extension back in December, and he could become the team’s full-time starting center if they don’t sign or draft anyone else.

Before signing Morse, the Bills were in on Broncos center Matt Paradis, a source told Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitter link). Vacchiano thinks that could help the Jets’ chances of signing Paradis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Interested In Matt Paradis, Mitch Morse

Even after the Jets’ trade for Kelechi Osemele, they remain interested in improving their offensive line. Armed with the second-most cap space in the NFL, the Jets were expected to pursue multiple starters up front. Center appears to be a priority.

The Jets are interested in this year’s top center UFAs-to-be, with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reporting the team has Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse on its radar.

Spencer Long signed with the Jets last year, but he’s now with the Bills after underwhelming as a Jet. Paradis and Morse have longer track records of success, each being four-year starters. The Broncos appear set to let Paradis hit the market, despite their longtime starter profiling as their top free agent, and the Chiefs are likely to let Morse walk because of the major re-ups for other homegrown talents coming relatively soon.

Having started every game with the Broncos since the start of the 2015 season, Paradis broke his fibula to end his 2018 season. But he is still likely to command a top-market contract, having been one of the NFL’s top centers since the 2016 season.

The Eagles and Steelers recently raised the center ceiling, with extensions for Jason Kelce and Maurkice Pouncey moving the market to $11MM per year. Given how teams have spent on offensive linemen in recent years, it is not out of the question the 29-year-old Paradis could exceed that. Ryan Jensen became the highest-paid center via 2018 free agency accord, and Paradis has a longer track record of success.

Morse has battled injuries the past two years, missing 14 starts. But he has been a generally well-regarded center since arriving as a Chiefs second-round pick in 2015. Kansas City has extensions planned for Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones this offseason, having already begun talks with Hill, so players like Morse and Steven Nelson may be permitted to walk as free agents.

Additionally, the Jets are not planning to adjust Osemele’s contract, Mehta tweets. The eighth-year guard is scheduled to carry cap numbers of $10.2MM and $11.7MM in 2019 and ’20, respectively. The Jets will be able to afford these hits. No guaranteed money remains on Osemele’s deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs Rumors: Mahomes, Rogers, Ford, OL

Being a first-year starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes will bring some risk to the Chiefs‘ outlook Alex Smith did not. But the potential reward looks to be much greater. Andy Reid acknowledges the 2017 first-round pick will experience the usual issues adjusting to NFL starter life, but the sixth-year Chiefs coach made it clear he doesn’t want to deprive Mahomes of playmaking opportunities his skill set could create.

You surely don’t want to stifle that at all. One thing that he is blessed with is he has good vision, so you don’t ever want to stifle that and put him in a box with that. Allow him to see,” Reid said from Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph, Mo. “Is there going to be a hiccup here or there? Yeah there’s going to be a hiccup here or there, but you don’t want to stifle that at all.”

Reid added that Mahomes, viewed as a raw but potentially special arm talent out of Texas Tech as a prospect last year, is farther along this year compared to where Smith was in 2013. With the addition of Sammy Watkins, the Chiefs have also outfitted Mahomes with a better collection of skill-position talent than Smith (or possibly any previous Kansas City quarterback) received.

Here’s the latest out of western Missouri:

  • While the Chiefs’ offense looks capable of being one of the NFL’s best units, Kansas City’s defense has plenty of questions. A key one will be the status of their injury-prone edge rushers. Justin Houston enters camp healthy and is signed long-term, but Dee Ford may only be back because an injury left him unable to pass a March physical. His $8.718MM fifth-year option vested, but Ford realizes he’s under pressure to perform this season after a career that’s seen just one productive year (2016, when he had a Chiefs-most 10 sacks). The Chiefs also drafted edge defenders in each of the past two second rounds, in Tanoh Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks (the latter of whom K.C. traded up to acquire). “Everyone’s seen flashes of what I can do. This is the opportunity to really (show it) for 16 games,” Ford said, via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. “In order to be a great player you have to be consistent. You can’t just be good (like 2016 in) those first 10 games or so before I got hurt. Everybody was like, ‘That’s the guy we expected,’ and then I got hurt. … This is the time to put it all together.”
  • Eli Rogers left his Chiefs visit Monday without a deal, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Rogers will now meet with the Browns, who have his three-year OC on staff in Todd Haley. The Raiders have also scheduled a summit with the slot receiver. Behind Watkins and Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs employ Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, Jehu Chesson and the recently re-signed De’Anthony Thomas.
  • Despite a 2016 ACL tear hijacking both of Parker Ehinger‘s first two NFL seasons, he still might be the frontrunner to work as the Chiefs’ starting left guard, Nate Taylor of The Athletic writes (subscription required). A fourth-round pick out of Cincinnati two years ago, Ehinger opened his rookie year as a starter but missed all but one game last season. Bryan Witzmann and Jordan Devey represent his primary competitors, per Taylor, who adds that Cameron Erving could linger here as well if he cannot unseat fourth-year center Mitch Morse.
  • Like Ford, Spencer Ware‘s been cleared to begin training camp without a PUP list stay, but the 2016 starter won’t automatically be given the backup job, per Taylor. Charcandrick West remains a factor and scored four touchdowns as Kareem Hunt‘s backup last season. West and Ware will battle for the backup role, just as they did in 2015 when they vied for time behind a then-healthy Jamaal Charles.

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Mack, Chiefs

Tony Sparano changed the Raiders‘ culture during his time in Oakland, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes. Sparano, who died unexpectedly over the weekend, didn’t win when he was at the helm of the Raiders, but he earned the respect of his players through his hard work and love of the game.

He is up close and personal and blunt,” defensive end Justin Tuck once said. “He treats like you a man. I like his coaching style. … He is honest. There is no B.S. with Coach Sparano.”

Sparano worked for nine NFL teams in 19 seasons and he touched innumerable lives during his years on the sidelines. Success is largely measured by wins and losses in football, but Sparano achieved a great deal even when the record of his team did not show it.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • There’s reason to believe that Khalil Mack could take an aggressive approach towards his negotiations with the Raiders, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com tweets. Corry notes that Mack is represented by Joel Segal, who represented running back Chris Johnson‘s during his holdout with the Titans in 2011. If Mack has the same resolve as Johnson, the Raiders may not see him until he gets a new deal. For reference, Johnson’s holdout in 2011 was not resolved until early September.
  • Good news for the Chiefs. Center Mitch Morse, linebacker Dee Ford, and running back Spencer Ware are expected to practice with the team and will not go on the PUP list to start camp (via the Associated Press). “All those guys, everybody else is good,” head coach Andy Reid said. “Again I just want to see on the field and we’ll kind of monitor as it goes but, yeah, they all should be ready to go.”
  • Broncos linebacker Shane Ray received some unexpected good news this week. He won’t have to undergo another wrist surgery and the team believes that he is not in danger of missing games.
  • Earl Thomas to the Chargers? Don’t bet on it.