February 16th, 2020 at 4:57pm CST by Marc Delucchi
The NFL and NFLPA continue working towards a new CBA, but a resolution still appears far beyond the horizon. There’s been an industry held belief for some time that these negotiations were likely to drag out to the buzzer and very well could lead to a work stoppage.
Reports from current negotiations do seem to suggest that the league and the players’ union are closer to expanding the season beyond a 16-game regular season than they ever have before. While it’s unclear how likely any expansion plan is to be implemented, the sides appear to be exchanging rollout terms per reports.
Obviously, ownership would be able to reap large increases in revenues from a lengthened regular season and players would receive a larger share of revenues to compensate them for the added work and injury risk.
But, do fans want a longer regular season? Let us know in the poll below.
As expected, Tom Brady‘s name has become a mainstay in NFL headlines as we creep closer to the opening of free agency in March. Even as the 2019 season was in progress, his future in the league was often discussed, and several teams were rumored as potential landing spots if he should continue his playing career and elect to leave the Patriots.
And while Brady put an end to any retirement drama immediately after New England’s ouster from the playoffs by saying he would return to the field in 2020, the question of where he will play is still very much unsettled.
The Chargers, long rumored as a possible fit, were definitively linked to Brady just last week, when Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirmed that the Bolts would make a push for the six-time Super Bowl champ. Given the talent that LA boasts at the skill positions and the fact that the club could incorporate Brady’s TB12 workout facility into its brand new stadium — not to mention Brady’s connections to SoCal — a Chargers-Brady partnership is a logical one.
But LA’s division rival, the Raiders, are also planning to pursue the future Hall of Famer. Adding Brady at this point in his career would not necessarily represent a slam-dunk upgrade over Derek Carr, but it would make a ton of sense from a marketing perspective for the Las Vegas-bound outfit and for Brady, and if the Raiders improve their receiving corps — which they are fully expected to do — they could compete for a wildcard berth in 2020.
The Colts and Titans have been more speculative fits than anything else, but the Colts hung around the playoff picture for much of the 2019 season, the AFC South looks like it will be up for grabs again in 2020, and Brady could be the boost that gets Indianapolis back to the postseason. The Colts are also flush with cap space, so they could afford to sign Brady while also providing him with a couple of additional weapons, though they already have a few talented pieces at the skill positions.
Of course, the Titans were the team that ended the Patriots’ 2019 playoff run, and they advanced to the AFC Championship game behind a dominant running game and good defense. Ryan Tannehill was more of a game manager in the playoffs than he was in his regular season renaissance, and recent reports have suggested that Tennessee may not be as committed to him as was once believed. If Brady is interested, the Titans may be, too.
And then there’s the Patriots, who became one of the all-time great dynasties in sports with Brady under center. Owner Robert Kraft has made it clear that he wants Brady back, but some around the league believe the 42-year-old will leave Foxborough, leaving the Pats without a definitive answer at QB for the first time in 20 years.
So what do you think? Will Brady remain with the only team he has ever known, or will he play out the remainder of his career trying to bring glory to another franchise? Vote in the poll below and show your work in the comments.
Last year, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan signed Le’Veon Bell to a four-year, $52.5MM deal. Weeks later, Maccagnan was fired in a long-expected, yet ill-timed, move. Apparently, new head coach Adam Gase and GM Joe Douglas were not wild about Maccagnan’s moves, including the major expenditure for Bell.
Unfortunately for Gase and Douglas, escaping Bell’s deal won’t be easy. The running back is slated to count for a $15.5MM cap figure in 2020 with similar numbers in 2021 and 2022. Shedding Bell this offseason would leave the Jets with $19MM in dead money and zero cap savings. The Jets’ best opportunity to dump Bell would come before the 2021 season, when they could save $9.5MM against $4MM in dead money.
Meanwhile, Bell underperformed in 2019 and reportedly clashed with team brass. He averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and his 66 catches for 461 yards out of the backfield weren’t nearly enough to offset that lack of efficiency.
Bell claimed multiple teams inquired about him before the October trade deadline. Douglas hinted that he would listen on calls after the season, though he later walked those comments back, saying that Bell is a valued member of the team.
Releasing Bell outright would result in $19MM in dead money. A trade would be less damaging – the Jets would absorb just $6MM in dead money while freeing up $9.5MM in cap room. Then again, the team taking on Bell would have to commit to his guaranteed $13MM for 2020, and that’s a tough sell. To offset that, the Jets would likely have to convert a portion of his 2020 pay into a signing bonus, which would add to the dead money total.
With all of that in mind, do you expect Bell to be in a Jets uniform in 2020? Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comments section.
Patrick Mahomes is Super Bowl bound. He’s also in line for a monumental payday.
Last year, at the age of 23-and-a-third, Mahomes became the league’s youngest MVP since Dan Marino won the award in 1984. He didn’t disappoint in his encore, either. The grizzled 24-year-old threw for for 4,031 yards with 26 touchdowns against just five interceptions in 2019. He also threw in some dazzling running plays, for good measure, resulting in two more scores and 15 first downs.
His incomparable skillset and early accomplishments point to a historic contract. The NFL’s all-time average annual value (AAV) record is made to be broken and routinely shattered each year, sometimes by quarterbacks who are not considered to be among the league’s very best. Mahomes’ case is decidedly different – he’s simply from another planet, and some execs think he’ll cross the $40MM/year threshold.
“I think he’s gonna get $40MM [per year], either over four or five years,” one NFC personnel evaluator told ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler.
Another NFC exec with negotiating experience mostly echoed that sentiment:”If Russell Wilson is at $35MM, then probably $37.5MM.”
Wilson’s deal with the Seahawks calls for $140MM across four years. Rams QB Jared Goff isn’t far behind with $134MM over the same stretch, with a whopping $110MM in guaranteed cash. Carson Wentz fell just shy with his four-year, $128MM Eagles extension. There will be new additions to this tier – including Cowboys QB Dak Prescott – but Mahomes is poised to top Prescott’s deal (whenever that happens) and set a watermark that won’t be approached for a while.
Mahomes’ rookie deal runs through 2020 and the Chiefs hold his fifth-year option to take him through 2021. Still, league officials say time is of the essence for KC.
“If I were [the Chiefs], I would be as proactive as humanly possible,” one exec told Fowler. “If Jared Goff can get no offset language in his entire contract after three years in the league, then this specific player has all the leverage. I think $40MM would be Mahomes selling himself short.”
Will Mahomes net $40MM per year, or more, on his next deal? Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.
This year’s head coaching cycle came and went in a flash. The Redskins, Cowboys, Panthers, and Giants moved quickly to find their new sideline leaders and the Browns weren’t far behind as they filled their vacancy on January 11th.
Now that the dust has settled, we want your take on the best hire of the bunch:
Ron Rivera, Redskins: The Panthers axed Rivera in early December, just before he could finish his ninth season at the helm. Quickly, the Redskins identified him as their top target to take over for interim head coach Bill Callahan, who had been holding down the fort since Jay Gruden‘s midseason dismissal. The Panthers struggled in 2019 without one-time MVP Cam Newton under center, but Rivera comes to D.C. with an impressive resume that includes four playoff appearances, three NFC South titles, and a Super Bowl appearance. The Redskins, meanwhile, haven’t been to the big game since their Super Bowl XXVI victory over the Bills following the 1991 season. Or, to put it another way – more than five years before quarterback Dwayne Haskins was born.
Mike McCarthy, Cowboys: During the season, many speculated that the Cowboys would make a splash by luring former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer out of retirement. Instead, once the Cowboys finally fired Jason Garrett, they restricted their search to experienced NFL head coaches. Only two candidates formally interviewed for the job and McCarthy got the nod over longtime Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. McCarthy clashed with Aaron Rodgers down the stretch in Green Bay, but he’s also credited with grooming him into one of the league’s top quarterbacks. The Cowboys are hopeful that McCarthy can have a similar impact on Dak Prescott’s development.
Matt Rhule, Panthers: The Panthers backed up a Brinks truck to hire former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule is credited with turning around the Baylor program and, before that, the Temple program. Despite his lack of pro experience, teams have been eyeing him for the last couple of years. He was also hot during the last cycle, but a would-be deal with the Jets was nixed when Gang Green insisted on picking his assistants for him. This time around, Rhule had all the leverage he needed to get full control over his staff, and a lucrative contract that could pay him anywhere between $60 and $70MM.
Joe Judge, Giants: The Giants were infatuated with Rhule, but they were only willing to go so far. They were also blown away by Judge, who previously served as the Patriots’ special teams coach. Judge didn’t have the household name value of other candidates, but the Giants see him as someone who can handle the New York press and get the most out of young QB Daniel Jones.
Kevin Stefanski, Browns: Stefanski joined the Vikings in 2006 and climbed the ladder to become the team’s offensive coordinator midway through the 2018 season. In 2019, Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points while the the trio of Dalvin Cook, AlexanderMattison, and Mike Boone cracked the top six in rushing yards and touchdowns. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins turned in one of his best seasons yet. The Browns have one of the game’s most promising young QBs in Baker Mayfield and a talented backfield group, so they saw Stefanski as a perfect fit, even though the Vikings came up short in the round.
Mike Florio of PFT touched on the possibility today, while noting the obvious barriers: Brown is still waiting to find out whether he’ll be hit with a suspension of his own and the PR backlash would be enormous.
The Seahawks did their “due diligence” on Brown before claiming Gordon this year, but it’s not clear what they uncovered in their own investigation. Meanwhile, teams interested in Brown have been in a holding pattern as they await word on the wide receiver’s status from the NFL.
The belief is that if Brown is signed, the league will instantly place him on paid leave. But, if the Seahawks were to sign Brown after Week 17, there would be no real financial risk, since his compensation would be limited to just his playoff share.
With all of that said, the potential upside is enormous. Brown has caught 841 passes for 11,253 yards over the course of his ten-year career, which includes seven Pro Bowl appearances. And, in his last playoff game (January 14, 2018), reeled in seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. That’s the kind of weapon Russell Wilson could use as the Seahawks gear up for their 2019/2020 push.
December 5th, 2019 at 7:04pm CST by Dallas Robinson
With only four weeks left in the 2019 regular season, a number of non-contending NFL teams have already started to look ahead to the impending offseason, and specifically, the 2020 draft. Four teams — the Bengals, Giants, Dolphins, and Redskins — still have a realistic chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft, according to Football Outsiders’ odds.
Let’s take a look at each of those teams and assess the likelihood that they’ll be picking first overall next April:
59.6% chance of securing No. 1 overall pick per FO
The Bengals didn’t exactly head into the 2019 campaign with the intention of tanking, but that’s what’s happened, as Cincinnati didn’t secure its first victory until last week. With Andy Dalton now back under center, the Bengals certainly stand a better chance of winning another game or two than they would have under rookie three-game starter Ryan Finley. But there’s still a very real — and perhaps even likely scenario — in which Cincinnati finished 1-15 en route to selecting LSU quarterback Joe Burrow first overall.
Like the Bengals, the Giants are also turning back to their old starter, albeit involuntarily. With Daniel Jones nursing an ankle sprain, Eli Manning could potentially start Big Blue’s four remaining games. They’ll get to face the reeling Eagles twice over the next four weeks, and will also go up against two other clubs — Miami and Washington — which are also vying for the No. 1 pick. With Jones already in tow, New York isn’t going to draft another quarterback, so it could either trade down (not a favorite tactic of general manager Dave Gettleman) or select a generational defender like Ohio State’s Chase Young with the first overall pick.
The Dolphins’ tanking efforts haven’t exactly gone according to plan, but that’s okay, as Miami’s players have continued to go hard for first-year head coach Brian Flores, with the club winning three of its last five games. While it doesn’t appear the Dolphins are going to secure the top pick in next year’s draft, they do still have an outside shot at doing so, especially given that they’ll play both the Giants and Bengals over the next month.
The only team on this list that will definitively have a new head coach in 2020, the Redskins probably lost any chance they had at the No. 1 pick by surprisingly defeating the Panthers in Week 13 (and may have gotten Carolina head coach Ron Rivera fired in the process). Of all the teams vying for the first overall pick, Washington faces arguably the most difficult schedule, as they’ll square off with three teams that are still contending for the postseason.
So what do you think? Which of these teams will be first at the podium when the 2020 draft rolls? Vote below (link for app users):
The NFC’s contender class (non-NFC East contingent) has separated from the pack, giving the conference a clear top five going into December. With the NFC-leading 49ers set for a historically brutal late-season stretch, cases can be made for each of the top five moving to the home-field advantage bracket position.
While the Cowboys and Eagles are almost certainly vying for the conference’s No. 4 seed, the 49ers, Saints, Seahawks, Packers and Vikings comprise one of the more interesting pursuits of a conference’s No. 1 slot in recent memory. Week 17 in the NFC may not feature many starters resting.
Armed with the ninth-best defensive DVOA figure through 11 games in the Football Outsiders-developed metric’s 34-season history, the 49ers carry a 10-1 record into the regular season’s final month. They made a statement in the first leg of their difficult three-game stretch, a defensive line-keyed rout of the Packers, but still have games in Baltimore and New Orleans (both oddly staying in the early-Sunday time slot) on tap. The 49ers also conclude their season with a Seattle trip. They have not won in Seattle since 2011, when Tarvaris Jackson was at the controls for the Seahawks, and have not earned a playoff bye in seven years.
While the 49ers have the NFL’s second-toughest schedule remaining, the Seahawks’ remaining SOS is not much easier. Their final five games double as the seventh-most difficult stretch run. Seattle (9-2, No. 8 in DVOA) is 9-2 but won in San Francisco during a 6-0 road start. Following their home tilt against the Vikings, who lost in Seattle on a Monday night in December 2018, the Seahawks have a road Rams game scheduled before meetings with the Panthers and Cardinals.
New Orleans does not have it any easier, with the league’s fifth-toughest slate remaining. After the 49ers, however, the Saints (10-2, No. 6 in DVOA) face the Colts at home before outdoor games in Nashville and Charlotte. Since 1994, only the Seahawks (2013-14) and Eagles (2002-04) have earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed in back-to-back years. Illustrating the stakes for the Saints: they are 6-1 at home in the playoffs under Sean Payton, with the loss obviously coming in controversial fashion last season, and 1-5 on the road during the Payton-Drew Brees era.
The Vikings (8-3, No. 7 DVOA) sit 11th in the December SOS rankings but do have each of their divisional home games remaining, with a “road” game against the Chargers mixed in. Were they to stick the landing and reach the playoffs, it would mark an extraordinarily rare run. With no Viking quarterback helping the team to two postseason berths since Daunte Culpepper, Kirk Cousins guiding Minnesota to January football would make six different starting quarterbacks since Culpepper’s 2004 season to lead the Vikings to the playoffs.
With two of their worst offensive games of the decade occurring in November trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Packers (8-3, No. 10 DVOA) have cooled off considerably. They do, however, have by far the easiest road to January among the NFC’s premier quintet. Only the Eagles and Browns face a worse run of opponents than the Packers, who draw the Giants, Redskins, Bears and Lions. The Packers have not earned a playoff bye in five years but appear a stealth threat to make such a push this season.
So which of the NFC’s powers will end up securing home-field advantage? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts on this race in the comments section.
Once again, the NFC has presented more depth this season. Two current non-division-leading teams have eight wins, raising the floor for what it will take to bring road whites to a postseason game in that conference. The AFC has a few obvious contenders, but several teams can be included on “In the hunt” graphics despite .500-or-worse records.
Prior to seeing the Colts start 1-5 and make the playoffs last season, the AFC saw the 1-5 2015 Chiefs go 11-5. This season may not feature a second-half surge on that level, but the conference has a few teams occupying its middle class that are not yet building for the future.
If the season ended today, two teams in the 6-4 Colts-Texans-Raiders contingent would make the playoffs. But the Titans (5-5), Steelers (5-5), Browns (4-6) and Jaguars (4-6) are still technically in the race. Of the 163 teams to start 4-6 in the six-team playoff era (1990-present), only 13 (8%) made the playoffs. That number jumps up to 29% (40-for-138) for 5-5 teams.
Tennessee, which benched Marcus Mariota during a 16-0 shutout loss in Denver, has rallied under Ryan Tannehill. The former Dolphins starter has completed 71% of his passes and has helped the Titans to wins in three of his four starts. The Titans rank fourth in run-defense DVOA but among these fringe contenders sport the lowest overall DVOA ranking (23rd), though some of that stems from Mariota’s starts. Tennessee is also this quartet’s only team with a positive point differential at plus-6. (The Raiders, for reference, have a minus-25 differential.) The Titans close their season with five winning teams on their schedule — by far the toughest among this group.
The Steelers and Browns each play two teams with winning records apiece down the stretch. Neither has presented a particularly formidable passing attack, the latter’s struggles representing one of this season’s biggest surprises given Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry being on Baker Mayfield‘s side. An offense-geared team for the past several years, Pittsburgh ranks third in defense DVOA and 28th offensively. But will the T.J. Watt– and Minkah Fitzpatrick-powered unit be enough to aid Mason Rudolph (31st in Total QBR) to any kind of relevant stretch run? The Browns have won two straight and have three games left against the Bengals and Dolphins, but Freddie Kitchens‘ team has proven to be unreliable and undisciplined. And that was with former defensive player of the year candidate Myles Garrett, who is likely out for the season’s remainder.
Although the Jaguars may look like the longest-odds team here, they outflank each of these mid-pack outfits with a No. 16 DVOA ranking. Most of that work came with Gardner Minshew at quarterback, but three of the Jags’ wins came against the Bengals, Jets and Broncos. Jacksonville also has yielded 200-plus rushing yards on three occasions, undercutting D.J. Chark‘s breakout season and Leonard Fournette‘s bounce-back effort somewhat. But Jacksonville also faces just two teams with winning records (Oakland, Indianapolis) down the stretch. Nick Foles also has a notable history of late-season rallies.
With the Bills already 7-3 and the Raiders playing just one team with a winning record the rest of the way, this year’s AFC might be feature a thinner playoff pursuit. But which of these aforementioned teams has the best chance of staying in the playoff race well into December? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts on this year’s playoff race in the comments section.
Jalen Ramsey wants out. The Jaguars, meanwhile, don’t necessarily want to let him go.
The Jags’ star cornerback has been frustrated for some time – he’s been openly campaigning for a top-of-the-market extension, but the Jaguars have been mostly unwilling to have serious talks with him. Then, this season, he had a major blowup with head coach Doug Marrone.
On the field, Ramsey is upset that he has been utilized in zone coverage, even though he ranks as one of the league’s best man-to-man defenders. Off the field, he wants to secure the bag, though he no longer wants that bag to come from the willing hands of owner Shad Khan.
Reportedly, it will take an “astronomical” offer for the Jags to part with him, but that could just be an attempt by the Jaguars to improve their leverage. Meanwhile, roughly every other team in the NFL has at least some interest, but they’re scared off by the draft capital required since acquiring Ramsey would also mean giving him a fat contract.
Of course, a first-round pick from, say, the Patriots, does not carry the same value as a first-round pick from, say, the Dolphins. But – we want to know: if you were an NFL GM, would you be willing to cough up two first-round picks for Ramsey, with the knowledge that you would also have to give him an extension north of $75MM?