PFR Originals

This Date In Transactions History: Jake Delhomme

Much like the way the Colts were able to land Andrew Luck thanks to one disastrous season without their previous franchise quarterback available, the Panthers used 2010 to bottom out and be in position to draft Cam Newton.

Like the 2011 Colts, the Panthers only endured one woeful season without a clear quarterback plan. However, the long-term signal-caller solution prior to Newton produced some memorable moments. And the years-long partnership came together on this date 14 years ago. The Panthers agreed to a five-year extension with Jake Delhomme on June 17, 2004, locking him in as their quarterback of the 2000s.

Illustrating where the quarterback market has gone in the past several years, Delhomme’s deal was worth only $38MM. But Carolina initially signed Delhomme, previously a Saints backup behind Aaron Brooks, for $4MM over two years in 2003. That fall signaled the beginning of a nice run for the Panthers. Delhomme started 15 games to help lift Carolina to its first Super Bowl, after the Panthers notched upset victories in St. Louis and Philadelphia. Delhomme’s explosive second half in Super Bowl XXXVIII (in a game where he threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns) had the Panthers poised for overtime, only an illegal procedure penalty gave the Patriots prime field position for a game-winning drive that ended Carolina’s championship bid.

Nevertheless, the Panthers saw enough from Delhomme to extend him the following summer, and he delivered the best statistical seasons of his career on this contract. Delhomme threw a career-high 29 touchdown passes in 2004 and followed that up with a 24-TD-pass 2005 — his only Pro Bowl campaign — for a Panthers team that stormed to the NFC title game.

Carolina’s return to the playoffs, in 2008, brought the beginning of the end for the Delhomme’s run with the franchise.

Delhomme was unable to shake the five-interception performance in a divisional-round loss to the Cardinals, but he nevertheless played out that extension — and signed another (for five years and $42.5MM) shortly after the seminal 2009 loss to the Cards — starting 11 games in the ’09 campaign. Carolina, though, cut Delhomme in March 2010 and pivoted to Matt Moore and second-round rookie Jimmy Clausen for that 2010 slate. The Panthers went 2-14 that season, securing the No. 1 pick and a path for a new regime to draft Newton.

Perhaps the Panthers retaining Delhomme for one more season would not have afforded them No. 1 overall real estate and thus shaken up a loaded 2011 draft, one that saw the Broncos, Bills, Bengals, Cardinals and Falcons select standout performers at the Nos. 2-6 spots. However, the QBs selected in the first round after Newton (Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder) did not prove to be remotely in Newton’s class, making that No. 1 slot extraordinarily valuable.

Newton eclipsed Delhomme’s franchise record for most quarterback starts (90) in 2016; he’s at 108 entering this season.

PFR Originals: 6/10/18 – 6/17/18

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

  • With this year’s holdout contingent featuring several big names, I rounded up the respective situations. The 2014 draft class’ top defenders are headlining this group, but David Johnson and Earl Thomas have unique cases as well.
  • Speaking of the ’14 draft class, it appears at least one of its top members will begin the 2018 season with a record-breaking defensive contract. While it’s uncertain if the Rams, Raiders (or Texans, in Jadeveon Clowney‘s case), will go first, Von Miller‘s six-year, $114.6MM contract probably won’t lead the pack any longer. I asked PFR readers which defender will enter the ’18 slate tethered to the most lucrative contract.
  • As teams continue to steadily sign draft picks, Zach Links determined 88 percent of players — including every fourth-, sixth- and seventh-round pick — have signed their rookie pacts. But several big names have yet to reach agreements.
  • We covered three notable moves in our This Date In Transactions History series:
    • Zach looked at the Dolphins’ ill-fated signing of Chad Johnson in 2012. The outspoken wideout arrived in Miami as Chad Ochocinco before reverting to his given name upon getting to work with the Dolphins. But the stay ended without Johnson suiting up for a Dolphins game. His last game ended up being the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLVI loss.
    • Zach then looked at the Falcons’ June 2009 decision to release Michael Vick shortly after he’d been released from prison. One of the best weapons in Falcons history, Vick did not fit with the franchise after Atlanta selected Matt Ryan in the previous year’s draft. This led Vick eventually to Philadelphia.
    • Andrew Ortenberg examined a lesser-known transaction, the Packers’ decision to bring in former No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch in 2004. The Kentucky star ended up being released by both the Browns and Packers that summer.

Poll: Who Will End Offseason As NFL’s Highest-Paid Defender?

The league’s seen a large number of standout players skip mandatory workouts this week, setting up an eventful stretch despite teams being on break between minicamps and training camps.

The star power from the 2014 draft is driving part of this spree of holdouts, and this summer figures to produce at least one mega-contract for a defender (and likely more). By the time this offseason concludes, the defensive contract landscape will look different. Who will be the league’s new standard-bearer here?

Von Miller‘s held that title for two years, since signing his six-year, $114.6MM extension at the 2016 franchise tag deadline. Multiple stars drafted in the 2014 first round are gunning for contracts that would surpass Miller’s.

Will it be Aaron Donald? Despite playing a position that has not been traditionally compensated as well as Miller’s, Ndamukong Suh‘s 2015 free agency windfall notwithstanding, Donald has been the league’s most dominant interior defender for a bit now. With quarterbacks’ release times steadily accelerating, defenders lined up closer to the ball have seen a change in compensation patterns. Defensive tackles like Fletcher Cox and Kawann Short are each paid more than $16MM annually, and Donald’s operated on a higher level than each during his four-year career.

Holding out for a second straight year, Donald is a key component to a Rams operation that’s taking a more aggressive approach to contention than it did last year. While no deal is imminent, talks will presumably heat up soon. Les Snead‘s already said a Donald resolution will need to involve an NFL-high defender contract, but will other defenders end up with a better deal?

Khalil Mack didn’t follow Donald’s lead and hold out last year, despite both being on the same timeline and the Raiders defensive end beating the Rams defensive tackle to the defensive player of the year throne. Now, Mack’s stayed away from the Raiders throughout the offseason. While the Raiders may be a tad behind the Rams on the preseason hype scale, Mack has been vital to their defense — a perennially shaky unit despite his dominance — and plays the game’s most valuable defensive role.

At 27, Mack is two years younger than Miller. And the cap is now $22MM higher than it was when the Broncos signed their edge-rushing phenom. It stands to reason Mack will sign a more lucrative deal. However, Derek Carr accepted less than market value at $25MM per year to help Oakland be in better position to keep its core together. With that contract on the books, and a situation the Rams do not have to navigate with Jared Goff just yet, will Mack end up just behind Donald in this pursuit? The Raiders also signed Carr in June of last year. Mack signing in June, to conclude a less contentious process than Donald’s, would open the door for Donald to come in and exceed whatever deal the Bay Area parties reach.

What about Jadeveon Clowney? Not as accomplished as the California-dwelling duo, the No. 1 pick in 2014 has become a star in his own right. And at 25, he’s two years younger than both. As injuries have sidetracked J.J. Watt‘s otherworldly career, Clowney’s become one of the league’s best players. The Texans have a history of authorizing this kind of contract — as they did with Watt’s six-year, $100MM pact in 2014 — and have a quarterback at least two years away from an extension.

While Watt’s maladies have clouded his future and made Clowney more indispensable in the process, might Houston be leery of paying league-record money to another injury-prone performer? Clowney is not holding out, but he did not participate in minicamp while recovering from another surgery.

So, which defender will assume Miller’s position? What will it take to finalize such a deal? Will this derby end with a $20MM- or $21MM-per-year contract? Is there a darkhorse player (perhaps the franchise-tagged Demarcus Lawrence?) that could swoop in here? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your view in the comments section!

Examining Key 2018 Holdouts

The 2014 first round produced some of the NFL’s best players, and they comprise part of an extensive group of that skipped minicamp and could well be training camp holdouts. But several other standout players didn’t show for their respective teams’ mandatory workouts either. Here’s a look on where things stand with this absent contingent.

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams: The reigning defensive player of the year is holding out for a second straight summer. He skipped the Rams’ minicamp, as expected, and remains focused on a landscape-changing deal. Both Donald and Khalil Mack are in line to eclipse Von Miller‘s $19MM annual salary, but the California-based franchises may be hesitant to be the first to authorize a $20MM-per-year pact for a defender. However, Les Snead‘s already conceded the Rams will have to finalize a Donald deal that makes him the league’s highest-paid defender. But with the Broncos superstar having signed his extension in a $155MM cap year, it’s likely Donald’s camp — particularly on the heels of a season where the all-world interior defender won DPOY honors after his holdout induced a two-game absence — is targeting a figure well north of Miller’s, with the cap now at $177.2MM.

The Rams see this process unfolding in a less contentious fashion this year, but a Donald deal — one that’s putting other priorities on hold — isn’t imminent.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Unlike Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers, this process features no immediate deadline. But Johnson’s contract expires after this season, with no fifth-year option available to the franchise. Johnson and the Cards are engaging in extension discussions, and Steve Keim said this week — as his All-Pro back skipped minicamp — the team looks forward to signing Johnson long-term.

This has not proven to be an acrimonious situation, but Johnson is on a slightly different timetable than Bell. Despite being a fourth-year player compared to Pittsburgh’s All-Pro entering his sixth season, Johnson is a few months older than Bell and will turn 27 in December. However, it may be in his best interests to wait and see what happens with Bell by the July 16 franchise tag extension deadline.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: The NFL’s seen its wide receiver salary landscape shift since Jones signed his extension in August 2015. That contract made Jones the NFL’s highest-paid wideout, but seven receivers have since surpassed him. This includes Sammy Watkins and slot target Jarvis Landry, who respectively signed 2018 deals for $16MM and $15.1MM annually. Atlanta’s top weapon wants a revised contract and skipped OTAs and minicamp, and the Falcons are discussing such an amendment.

Jones has three seasons and minimal guarantees remaining on his deal, which averages $14.25MM per year. The team’s response a Jones camp proposal did not meet with the group’s approval, but the sides continue to negotiate. The 29-year-old pass-catcher said recently he has no intentions of forcing his way out of Atlanta.

Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans: The left tackle is part of the 2014 first-round contingent entering fifth-year option seasons, and he joined some of the group’s higher-profile players in skipping mandatory June workouts. Jon Robinson said upon being informed of Lewan’s impending minicamp absence that the parties are participating in ongoing re-up dialogue, but as recently as late May, no reports indicated this was the case.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Lewan is entering his age-27 season and is now shooting for Nate Solder‘s $15.5MM-AAV standard. That’s $2MM-plus more than any other left tackle makes, and the Giants authorized that contract amid free agency circumstances. This will complicate matters for Lewan and other extension-seeking tackles. Lewan’s option season is set to be worth $9.341MM.

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders: After not joining Donald in a 2017 holdout, despite being in essentially the same situation, Mack is doing so this year. He has not reported to the Raiders this offseason. The 2016 defensive player of the year saw 2014 draftee teammates Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson sign lucrative extensions, only to see the Raiders put his on hold — mirroring other teams’ processes with ’14 first-rounders — because of the franchise-friendly fifth-year option. Reggie McKenzie‘s maintained the franchise intends to extend Mack in 2018 and said other players’ situations aren’t factoring into these discussions. Though, it’d be hard to believe Donald’s process isn’t impacting Mack’s at all.

The Raiders and Mack weren’t close on terms in April, but both Carr and Jackson signed their extensions in June of last year, perhaps pointing to a near-future resolution. Unlike the Rams, however, the Raiders have a top-tier quarterback salary on their books. That could cause issues elsewhere on the roster. Although, the cap’s perpetual rise negates some of those potential problems.

Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks: Perhaps the most interesting of these situations, the Seahawks have dangled Thomas in trades but expect him to report for training camp. Like Jones, Thomas saw several at his position usurp him in the salary hierarchy since signing an extension. Thomas signed a $10MM-AAV contract to make him the highest-paid safety in 2014. Again in a contract year, he’s threatened a holdout for months and is following through. The Cowboys and Seahawks discussed a draft-weekend deal for the three-time All-Pro. While Dallas balked about sending a second-round pick for the 29-year-old defender, the teams may well revisit these talks.

Either way, Thomas is going to want Eric Berry money ($13MM AAV) on his third contract. With Richard Sherman in San Francisco and Kam Chancellor‘s career in doubt, Thomas is the last remaining member of the Legion of Boom. It’s just uncertain if he’ll finish out his second contract in Seattle or be shipped elsewhere and end that dominant era.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

88% Of NFL Draft Picks Have Signed Their Rookie Contracts

The overwhelming majority of this year’s draft picks have signed their rookie deals, as shown in PFR’s tracker. Of this year’s 256 selections, 226 have inked their first NFL deal. As of Wednesday afternoon, that leaves 30 players – less than 12% of this year’s class – unsigned. Here’s the complete breakdown, round by round:

First Round (17)

Second Round (5)

Third Round (8)

Fourth Round (0)

Fifth Round (1)

Sixth Round (0)

Seventh Round (0)

The Rams signed their entire rookie class late last week, putting a serious dent in the unsigned total since our last check. Still, the first round (17) and third round (8) lead the way in rookie stragglers. That’s to be expected, as first round picks have the leverage needed to negotiate a better position on certain issues such as offset language. Third round negotiations also tend to drag since there is wiggle room when it comes to base salaries.

This Date In Transactions History: Michael Vick

On this date in 2009, the Falcons moved on from the biggest star in the history of their franchise. After unsuccessful attempts to trade Michael Vick, the Falcons cut finally ties with the quarterback. 

With the ability to run as well as he could throw, Vick was one of the brightest young stars in the NFL. In six seasons, he earned three Pro Bowl nominations and led the Falcons to the NFC championship game twice. The first go-round in 2002 snapped a four-year playoff drought in Atlanta.

The trajectory of Vick’s career and the entire Falcons franchise changed in 2007 when Vick was indicted for his role in the Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting ring. The Falcons pretty much made up their minds on Vick after the quarterback was sentenced to nearly two years in prison, but there were paperwork and cap issues to sort out. The Falcons successfully recovered ~$20MM of Vick’s $37MM signing bonus in ’07, but it wasn’t until the summer of ’09 that they formally terminated his nine-year deal which had the potential to be worth as much as $130MM.

The Falcons were able to move on from the Vick era after selecting Matt Ryan with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. Vick, meanwhile, managed a second act in the NFL after landing with the Eagles. He was signed to be Donovan McNabb‘s backup in 2009, but he wound up as the team’s starting QB in 2010 after McNabb was traded and Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion. Vick went on to take the Eagles to the playoffs and eventually sign a six-year, $100MM extension with Philly.

Vick’s subsequent stints with the Jets and Steelers were less remarkable and he was unable to find an NFL home in 2016. Last summer – on the eight-year anniversary of his release from Atlanta – Vick retired after signing a ceremonial contract with the Falcons.

With his playing days behind him, Vick has now set his sights on coaching. He’ll serve as the offensive coordinator of the Alliance of American Football’s Atlanta franchise when the league kicks off in February.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Dolphins Sign Chad Johnson

In the summer of 2012, the Dolphins found themselves less-than-enamored with their options at wide receiver. The Dolphins had just recently traded Brandon Marshall – fresh off of his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season – to the Bears for a pair of third-round picks. Then, in the draft, they did not select a wide receiver until the sixth round.

‘‘You would like to have some players make it easy and distinguish themselves, maybe make the picture a little bit clearer,’’ head coach Joe Philbin said (via The Boston Globe). ‘‘We have to catch the ball more consistently at every position on offense, because it is not quite where it needs to be.’’

After missing out on the first and second wave of free agent wide receivers, the Dolphins placed a call to Drew Rosenhaus to inquire on Chad Ochocinco (née Chad Johnson). On June 11, 2012, the Dolphins inked the eccentric veteran to a one-year deal.

Ochocinco’s career credentials were as impressive as his touchdown celebrations were inventive. To that point, he had 766 catches for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns, six Pro Bowl nods, and two First-Team All-Pro selections.

However, the receiver’s best days were spent with the Bengals and he looked like a shell of his former self with the Patriots in the 2011 season. In his lone campaign with New England, Johnson had just 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown and was targeted just 32 times in total. Johnson clearly didn’t mesh with the Patriots’ offense and he didn’t impress in his two intra-divisional games against the Dolphins either. Against Miami, he had just one catch in each of those two games.

Ochocinco – who changed his name back to Johnson shortly after signing with Miami – didn’t mesh with Philbin and the rest of the staff. The melding of personalities turned out to be the least of his issues. In August, Johnson was arrested on domestic battery charges. Johnson proclaimed his innocence, but the Dolphins released him the very next day. Thanks to “Hard Knocks,” we have video of Philbin’s final conversation with Johnson.

Johnson’s deal with the Dolphins up being his final NFL contract. Johnson went on to play for the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes in 2014 and was suspended for the 2015 season when he skipped mandatory practices. He re-emerged in 2017 to play in a single game for the Monterrey Fundidores of the Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional de México, where he scored on a 41-yard touchdown reception in the Fundidores’ winning effort.

PFR Originals: 6/3/18 – 6/10/18

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

This Date In Transactions History: Mark Sanchez

Nine years ago today, the Jets agreed to terms on the biggest rookie deal in the history of the franchise. They committed $50MM over five years with $28MM guaranteed to the quarterback they thought was going to be their signal caller for many years to come.

When the Jets traded up with the Browns to secure the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft and take Mark Sanchez, they thought they had found the franchise quarterback they had spent many years looking for. After just one season as the starter at USC, Sanchez declared early for the NFL draft. Sanchez’s deal with the Jets came during one of the last years where rookie contracts were still negotiable before everything switched to pre-arranged slot values. The contract was reportedly worth up to $60MM with incentives and was a bit unusual in that it was only for five years instead of six, which was the norm at the time for top picks.

The Sanchez era was a tumultuous one in New York, full of ups and downs. He started right away as a rookie and would go on to start all but two games for the Jets over the next four seasons. Despite mediocre to poor individual stats, the Jets made back-to-back AFC championship games in 2009 and 2010 with Sanchez under center. Sanchez enjoyed the best season of his career statistically in 2011, throwing for 3,474 yards and 26 touchdowns with 18 interceptions. Although the Jets missed the playoffs, the team rewarded Sanchez with a three year contract extension after the season.

After a down 2012 where Sanchez was at one point benched as he threw just 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, he would miss the entire 2013 season due to a shoulder injury. He wound up never playing another game for the Jets, as he was released after the 2013 season.

He did play out the entire five years of his rookie contract with the team, but Sanchez never played a year of the extension he signed after the 2011 season despite the Jets giving him an additional $20.5MM guaranteed. Sanchez has bounced around the league since his release, spending time with the Eagles, Broncos, and Bears. Although his tenure didn’t go as well as many hoped and expected, Sanchez was still the face of the franchise for almost five years, and June 10th will always be a significant date in Jets history.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which AFC East Team Had The Best Offseason?

Over the past week, we’ve asked you which team had the best offseason from the AFC North, NFC West, and AFC West. Today we’ll take a look at the offseasons of teams from another active division, the AFC East.

The Jets started things off by making a bold move to acquire their quarterback of the future when they traded up to get the third overall pick from the Colts. They ended up selecting Sam Darnold, and also signed Teddy Bridgewater to complete their quarterback room that will return only Josh McCown from last year. They released Bryce Petty and traded Christian Hackenberg, giving up on both of their former draft picks. They signed cornerback Trumaine Johnson to a huge contract in free agency, and also picked up kicker Cairo Santos and running back Isaiah Crowell. They cut longtime headache defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and signed Terrelle Pryor to bolster last year’s woeful receiving corp. They fired offensive coordinator John Morton and replaced him with Jeremy Bates. The Jets shocked everyone last year with how competitive they were able to be, and will look to build on that progress in 2018.

The Bills also had a bold draft strategy. They too traded up for their quarterback of the future, taking Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick. They took linebacker Tremaine Edmunds later in the first to be the quarterback of their defense. They lost guard Richie Incognito to retirement, and were mostly quiet in free agency aside from signing Star Lotulelei to a five-year deal. They did add A.J. McCarron to compete with Allen to be the starting quarterback, and fired offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, replacing him with Brian Daboll. The biggest move they made however, was trading their starting quarterback from the past three seasons, Tyrod Taylor, to the Browns. The Bills ended the longest active playoff drought in major professional sports this past season, and will look to build on that progress with a first-time starter under center in 2018.

The Patriots had a relatively quiet offseason in terms of transactions. They did trade wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams for a first round pick, but didn’t make many moves in free agency. The real story of the Patriots’ offseason was all the drama surrounding Tom BradyBill Belichick, Robert Kraft, and Rob Gronkowski. They took two players from Georgia with their two first round picks, offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel. The Patriots will return mostly the same roster from last year’s AFC-winning team, and will hope Brady can continue to play at an MVP level as he gets another year older.

The Dolphins mostly stayed pat like the Patriots, presumably due to their dire cap situation. After lots of speculation they would look to add a quarterback in the first round to replace Ryan Tannehill, they ultimately selected Minkah Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick. Their offseason was mostly defined by the players they got rid of, like Ndamukong Suh, Julius Thomas, Mike Pouncey, and Lawrence Timmons. They did sign receivers Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, and veteran running back Frank Gore. The Dolphins had a disappointing season last year after Tannehill re-tore his ACL, and the team’s success in 2018 will be nearly entirely dependent on his health.

Which team do you think had the best offseason in the AFC East? Vote in PFR’s poll below and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!