Bruce Arians said it would never happen. Tom Brady never stopped pushing. Ultimately, the future Hall of Famer got his way — the Buccaneers inked Antonio Brown to a one-year deal this week, equipping Brady with the most talented group of targets he’s ever had.
“He looks fantastic,” Arians said of Brown, following his first practice in Tampa (via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine). “I think we had really good conversations today, he and I. He was in the meetings and everything. And he’s working with…the strength staff. He looks in great shape. Yeah, [he’ll be] ready to go next week.”
The Bucs are hoping that Brown can quickly shed the rust as Chris Godwin recovers from finger surgery. Godwin might not be available for their Week 9 contest against the Saints, setting the stage for Brown to make an impact in his return game.
At the same time, many feel that Brown’s volatility will ultimately backfire on the Buccaneers, who currently lead the NFC South with a 5-2 record.
“Mark my words, it’s going to be a problem,”said one anonymous executive who has worked with Brown. “You have no idea the stories we could tell you about this guy. Everything is a struggle. … There were plenty of valid reasons why [Arians] didn’t want anything to do with him a year ago. Unless this guy has completely reinvented himself, and done a complete turnaround, this is going to get ugly.”
Will Brown’s baggage ultimately outweigh his upside? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
After Sunday’s 24-0 loss to the Dolphins, the Jets have dropped to 0-6. There’s no denying that the hot seat is getting rather warm for head coach Adam Gase. At this point, his firing seems inevitable, even though he’s only in Year Two of his Gang Green tenure.
For a while, we’ve heard that the Jets plan to keep Gase through the end of the year. But, after their dreadful offensive performance on Sunday, keeping Gase might be hard to justify. Things aren’t going to get much easier from here, either. The Bills, Chiefs, and Patriots are coming up, a stretch that could easily put them at 0-9 before their bye week.
Ownership planned to stick things out with Gase, largely out of concern for Sam Darnold, who is still only 23 and in his third pro season. The Jets may also be concerned about how they’re perceived by coaching candidates early next year – a quick hook for a second-year head coach isn’t necessarily a good look, especially given their track record for turmoil.
Gase has hardly had a competitive roster to work with since he was hired in January of 2019 and injuries have also taken their toll on the team. Still, it doesn’t seem like Gase has command over the locker room. His feud with Le’Veon Bell didn’t do the Jets any favors, either. Last week, the Jets released Bell outright, less than two years after signing him to a whopping four-year, $52.5MM deal. Granted, Gase didn’t want him, and current GM Joe Douglas probably wasn’t a big fan, either. But, Sunday’s game showed that Bell’s attitude was not the Jets’ only limiting factor this year.
Will Gase make it to January? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
September 25th, 2020 at 6:39pm CST by Sam Robinson
Eleven teams entered Week 3 at 0-2. While the Dolphins reduced the NFL’s winless contingent to 10 last night, the 11 0-2 squads were still the most since the 2008 season. This creates a pivotal third regular-season week for many franchises.
The Bengals, Broncos, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jets, Lions, Panthers, Texans and Vikings will go into Sunday at 0-2. A couple of these teams were fringe Super Bowl contenders — or at least strong candidates to win their respective divisions — while others’ 0-2 starts are not as surprising.
The typical talking point about how 0-2 records correlate with playoff absences is less relevant this season, with seven teams now invited to each conference’s bracket. But 0-3 cannot be easily dismissed. Since the playoff field expanded to 10 total teams in 1978, only five teams (excluding the 1982 strike-shortened season, which featured a 16-team field) have made the postseason after starting 0-3. Just one — the 2018 Texans — has done so this century.
Philadelphia and Minnesota’s starts probably qualify as the most surprising, given their recent histories and current rosters. But the Eagles are down three starting offensive linemen and multiple wideouts, helping lead to Carson Wentz‘s struggles out of the blocks. They rank last in DVOA, despite two dreadful Vikings performances. Wentz and Kirk Cousins boast the Nos. 32- and 31-ranked Total QBR figures, respectively. The Vikings, a top-11 scoring defense in each of Mike Zimmer‘s six seasons, have regressed on that front after several starters’ offseason exits. Seventh-year starter Anthony Barr is now out for the season.
The Giants and Jets have seen injuries deplete their rosters, but neither New York team was expected to contend in 2020. Carolina, which is down Christian McCaffrey, is in that boat as well. The Bengals poured more resources into their roster than they have in many years — signing D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes, Vonn Bell and Mackensie Alexander to help a porous defense (though, Waynes is set to miss much of the season) — and drafted Joe Burrow. But Cincinnati also entered the season as a non-contender playing in a tough division.
Two HCs from this contingent’s middle-class sect — Dan Quinn and Matt Patricia — reside only behind Adam Gase in first-coach-fired odds. With the Falcons starting 1-7 last year and becoming the first team in NFL history to lose a game after scoring 39 points and committing no turnovers on Sunday, Quinn is in a desperate situation. The Lions have lost 11 straight games under Patricia, who entered the season on the hot seat.
Denver can blame injuries for its situation, to some degree, with four of its six previous Pro Bowlers either out for the season (Von Miller, Courtland Sutton) or presently injured (Phillip Lindsay, A.J. Bouye). Drew Lock may also be out well until November. Houston has almost certainly played the NFL’s toughest schedule to start out — against Kansas City and Baltimore — and faces Pittsburgh on Sunday. Bill O’Brien‘s 2018 team rebounded, and the Texans’ schedule stands to soften after Week 3. But it is safe to say the absence of DeAndre Hopkins has shown up thus far.
So which of these teams has the best chance of rebounding and qualifying for the 14-team playoffs? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
A day away from the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions, the NFL finally saw a player from this year’s group do so. The Chiefs’ Chris Jonesextension represents the outlier move thus far. Discounting Jones’ deal, how many more tagged players will sign by the 3pm CT deadline Wednesday?
The 14 remaining tagged players reside in limbo for various reasons — from uncertainties about their career trajectories to the pandemic clouding the NFL’s financial future. There could be plenty of players going through the 2020 season on guaranteed one-year deals, which would both table key negotiations for several months and add to the 2021 free agent market.
Here is how everything looks with the tagged group as of Tuesday afternoon:
More players were tagged this year than in 2018 and ’19 combined. This represents the largest contingent of tagged performers since 2012, when 19 were tagged. That also came in an era when of salary cap stagnancy. After steady cap growth since 2014, the league’s best hope may be for the 2021 cap to plateau. The coronavirus has threatened to keep fans out of stadiums, with limited capacity being the likely best-case scenario. That will cost the league upwards of $3 billion, and the NFL-NFLPA talks about how to manage this have transpired for several weeks without a resolution.
But deadlines, per the cliche, incite action. Will this year be the exception? Are teams willing to carry big tag salaries on their books? Or will they prefer that to signing off on long-term extensions before the cap reality clears up? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
Jamal Adams wants out. Last week, after taking a couple of shots at the Jets via social media, the star safety formally requested a trade. For now, the Jets are holding the line, but Adams feels that he can force their hand.
Contractually speaking, the Jets hold all the cards. Adams is under contract through 2021 thanks to his fifth-year option and the Jets aren’t exactly rushing to give him an early extension. Then, after 2021, the Jets could theoretically use the franchise tag to keep him away from the open market, perhaps even twice to delay his free agency for several more years.
Interestingly, Adams is reportedly willing to table his extension demand for certain teams. The 24-year-old (25 in October) says he’d be willing to play for the Chiefs, 49ers, Cowboys, Ravens, Eagles, Texans, Seahawks, or Buccaneers. At least a few of those eight teams could trade for Adams and wait until next year before getting into talks.
“[Adams] was a big reason I was excited about coming here,” Jets GM Joe Douglas said earlier this year. “I feel this guy is a core player. The main goal that I’m trying to do right now is to surround him with like-minded players, because we know Jamal is a dog.”
The Jets clearly want to smooth things out, but it’s fair to wonder whether this situation is beyond repair. In the past, the Jets have rebutted trade offers from the Ravens and Cowboys by setting a sky-high asking price, but they’re working with significantly less leverage now that Adams has gone public with his complaints.
Will the Jets trade Adams? Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.
This year’s wide receiver draft class was widely regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory. It was so deep, in fact, that teams felt they could secure immediate-impact players on Day 2 and even Day 3 of the draft. Still, a few players separated themselves from their peers and became first-round selections, the cream of a bountiful crop.
The consensus top three talents were Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama standouts Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. It would not have been surprising to see any of those three players taken in the top-10, and ultimately Ruggs came off the board first, going to the Raiders with the No. 12 overall selection.
The Broncos were quite content with that, as they snagged Jeudy – whom they considered trading up for – with the No. 15 pick. Then, although the Cowboys perhaps had more pressing needs, they could not turn down Lamb when he surprisingly fell into their laps at No. 17.
TCU’s Jalen Reagor was the next domino to fall, heading to the Eagles with the No. 21 selection. Reagor was something of a late riser in the process, as he had been mocked as a second- to third-round choice but began garnering attention as a potential first-rounder as we got closer to draft day. Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman obviously saw something he liked, and he pounced.
But LSU’s Justin Jefferson, generally considered the fourth-best wideout in the class, didn’t have to wait too much longer to hear his name called. The Vikings took him one pick after Reagor.
All five of those players stand a good chance of becoming difference-makers for their respective clubs, as is the case with any first-round pick. But we would like to know from you which of them you think will have the biggest impact as a rookie.
With Ruggs, the Raiders added a speed merchant whose college production did not match that of Jeudy — his teammate of three years with the Crimson Tide — but who fits the Las Vegas offense nicely. The Raiders added another collegiate wideout, Bryan Edwards, in the third round, and they also took a flier on veteran Nelson Agholor. Still, it appears as if Ruggs has a good chance to start opposite Tyrell Williams, with Hunter Renfrow working the slot. Ruggs is electric with the ball in his hands, and he is not a one-dimensional deep threat; he is a solid route-runner who should only get better with coaching. His recent off-field injury seems to be a non-issue, and he will be a boost to a passing offense that performed better than one might think in 2019.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are building a strong young nucleus of skill position talent, and Jeudy will team with Courtland Sutton to form one of the most promising 1-2 punches in the game. He is a gifted route-runner whose excellent production against SEC defenses jumps off the page — he averaged 72 catches for 1,239 yards and 12 TDs over his final two years in school – and he has the versatility to line up outside or in the slot. Fellow rookie KJ Hamler, whom Denver nabbed in the second round, may get most of the slot reps, but Jeudy will be a threat no matter where he plays.
Though Lamb will have to compete with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for targets, the Cowboys are perfectly capable of moving the ball through the air and will have plenty of opportunities to go around. Lamb should work primarily in the slot, which will mask some of the deficiencies he has as a route-runner and against press coverage. He has terrific hands and tracking ability, and though he may lack top-line speed, he is plenty quick enough to make things happen, and his overall athleticism is off the charts. He is also a strong and willing blocker, which Ezekiel Elliott will surely appreciate.
Due to injuries and under-performance, the Eagles’ WR group provided very little production last year. Veteran DeSean Jackson played just three games in 2019, Alshon Jeffery may start the season on the PUP list, and 2019 second-rounder JJ Arcega-Whiteside failed to live up to expectations. Philadelphia tried to trade up for Lamb but was happy to pick up Reagor, whose blazing speed could pair well with Jackson. Though it took a while for his stock to rise, that may have been because the TCU offense didn’t give him the chance to show off his route-running skills, so the more scouts were able to evaluate his tape, the more impressed they became. He struggled with drops from time to time, but with his abilities as a deep target and a YAC monster, he has the potential to be a dynamic pro. On the other hand, there are rumblings that Reagor will be asked to focus on just one position in 2020 and will be the understudy to D-Jax, so he may not get as much immediate PT as we might have expected.
Like the Eagles, the Vikings sorely needed to upgrade their WR corps, and Jefferson steps into a great situation, as Minnesota traded Stefon Diggs earlier in the offseason and did little to replace him. So Jefferson should start opposite Adam Thielen, whose mounting injury history could open up even more opportunities. Like most of the LSU offense, Jefferson was tremendous in 2019, securing 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. He offers an intriguing blend of size and speed, and though he may struggle to create separation in the pros, he has good hands and runs good routes. The Vikings like to run the ball, but Kirk Cousins is a capable QB and Jefferson should see plenty of passes coming his way.
So let’s hear your thoughts. Tell us which of these five players will have the most impact on his team in 2020, and explain your reasoning in the comments.
A number of teams have been burned by giving lucrative contracts to running backs. The Cardinals (David Johnson), Rams (Todd Gurley), and Falcons (Devonta Freeman) are among the clubs that have absorbed significant cap charges for players who did not live up to their big payday. None of those players made it to the end of their second contract before being traded or cut.
In addition, as important as some RBs can be to their team’s offense (see: Christian McCaffrey), the position has generally been devalued in recent years. The prevailing thought is that most running backs are more replaceable than players at other key positions, and that RBs have a shorter shelf-life due to their number of touches and the beatings they take whenever they have the ball in their hands.
The Vikings, therefore, have a major decision to make when it comes to their own RB1, 2017 second-rounder Dalvin Cook. Cook burst onto the scene in his rookie campaign, gaining 122 yards in his regular season debut and averaging nearly five yards per carry in his first four games in the league. Unfortunately, his season was ended by an ACL injury in the fourth game, and in 2018, he was bothered by nagging hamstring issues and played in just 11 games, recording 133 carries.
Despite the hamstring problems and the limited workload in 2018, Cook did manage 4.6 yards per carry that season and also recorded 40 receptions for 305 yards. And though he was limited down the stretch of the 2019 season due to a chest injury, he piled up 250 carries for 1,135 yards (4.5 YPC) and 13 TDs to go along with 53 catches for 519 yards. He ranked as the eighth-best back in the league in terms of defense-adjusted yards above replacement.
So when he’s healthy, he’s pretty darn good, especially for an offense that wants to run the ball a lot. And the silver lining to his injury history is that he should still have a fair amount of tread on his tires, having recorded just 457 carries in his pro career thus far.
On the other hand, the fact that he has missed time with various ailments over his first three seasons in the league is troubling, and for a team that does not have a lot of cap room — particularly if the 2021 cap is reduced due to COVID-19 — ponying up a big-money extension for an injury-risk RB could be problematic. Though Cook will likely not get McCaffrey money, he could easily command $15MM or so on an annual basis, with $30-$40MM in full guarantees.
The Vikings did not select an RB with any of their 15 (!) picks in this year’s draft, but they do return 2019 third-rounder Alexander Mattison, who performed well as Cook’s backup last season. One wonders if Mattison’s presence makes Minnesota less keen to break the bank for Cook.
That said, discussions between Cook and the Vikings have taken place. The soon-to-be 25-year-old said he wants to stay in Minnesota, and he has been participating in the club’s virtual offseason program. We haven’t gotten a status update on the contract talks for a bit — they may be stalled due to COVID-related uncertainty — and it remains to be seen whether a re-up will be hashed out this summer, or if Cook will play out the final year of his rookie deal with an eye towards unrestricted free agency in 2021.
So what do you think? Should Minnesota give Cook top-of-the-market money (or close to it), or should the club pass the torch to Mattison in 2021? Vote in the poll below, and show your work in the comment section.
More support for a rule change that would significantly diminish the onside kick’s impact on the game emerged this week. The NFL discussed a proposal that would give teams the opportunity to attempt 15-yard conversions to keep the ball, rather than try onside kicks. Although the league tabled the proposal, ownership was nearly dead-even on it.
This year’s fourth-and-15 proposal — which would have given teams the option of trying two 15-yard conversions (on untimed downs) per game — is believed to have received support from 16 teams, whereas the other half of the league was against. Steelers owner Art Rooney II represented one of those against, calling it “gimmicky,” but expressed support for finding a way to change the onside kick.
Since the NFL prevented kicking-team players from receiving running starts before onside kicks take place, the play has become a less relevant part of the game. Non-surprise onside kicks have been recovered at around a 9% rate since 2018, per NFL data and analytics head Michael Lopez.
From 2010-17, non-surprise onside kicks were recovered by kicking teams 13.2% of the time. Teams have converted third- or fourth-and-15 plays 16.5% of the time over the past 15 years, according to Warren Sharp of SharpFootballStats.com. While 2020 will increase the sample size for the current form of onside kick, the alternative scenario would seemingly provide teams better chances at making comebacks.
The sect of NFL owners who came out against the fourth-and-15 proposal did so because of concerns it would threaten the kickoff’s place in the game. Both of the past two spring-league efforts — 2019’s Alliance of American Football and 2020’s XFL reboot — did not use the NFL’s kickoff setup, with the AAF removing the play altogether and the XFL using a creative format that placed everyone but the kicker and return man five yards apart to reduce the chances of high-speed collisions. The NFL made an effort to do the same nine years ago by moving the kickoff back to the 35-yard line — after it stood at the 30 from 1994-2010. This increased the touchback rate. The onside kick, however, will remain in place for another season. Is it on borrowed time?
Should the NFL move toward introducing a fourth-and-15 sequence (or a similar play involving the offense) to replace the onside kick? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
April 24th, 2020 at 11:51am CST by Dallas Robinson
Heading into Round 1 of the 2020 draft, three quarterbacks — Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert — seemed like near locks to be selected within the first 10 picks, while a fourth (Utah State’s Jordan Love) was viewed as a candidate to be drafted near the end of Round 1.
Well, that’s exactly what happened! Burrow went to the Bengals with the first overall pick, Tagovailoa and Herbert went off the board at back-to-back selections to the Dolphins and Chargers, respectively, and the Packers made a shocking trade up to No. 26 to nab Love.
But with Day 2 of the draft set to get under way tonight, there are still quarterback options available. Lets’s take a quick look at the top signal-callers that remain on the board (in no particular order):
Hurts, famously, took Alabama to the National Championship Game in each of his first two seasons as a starter before getting benched for Tagovailoa at halftime of the 2018 title game. An excellent locker room presence, Hurts handled that demotion in stride before transferring to Oklahoma for the 2019 campaign. He posted more than 3,800 yards passing and nearly 1,300 yards on the ground en route to finishing second to Burrow in the Heisman race.
Like Hurts, Eason was a transfer, spending parts of two seasons at Georgia before wrapping up his collegiate career at Washington in 2019. Eason, a physical specimen at 6’6″, 230 pounds, tossed 23 touchdowns against eight interceptions a season ago, but offered nothing on the ground (19 attempts for three yards). As draft analyst Ian Wharton has noted, Eason has the arm to be a deep passer but has typically stuck with underneath throws.
A three-year starter with nearly 1,000 career passing attempts, Fromm is viewed as a quarterback with great makeup and mental processing, but he may not have the physical tools to succeed in the NFL. Seth Galina of Pro Football Focus recently posted an excellent breakdown of Fromm, noting that he simply stopped being able to hit open receivers at some point during the 2019 campaign. Fromm can see the field as good as anyone, but whether he can get the ball to where it needs to go is an open question.
After starting his career at Bowling Green, Morgan transferred to FIU in 2018 and won Conference USA Newcomer of the Year honors in his first season. 2019 wasn’t quite as successful a year, but Morgan is still attracting NFL attention thanks in part to his performance at the combine and the East-West Shrine Game. So far, 11 clubs — including potentially QB-needy teams like the Patriots, Bears, Colts, and Raiders — have been connected to Morgan.
Could fellow Washington State alum Gardner Minshew‘s surprising 2019 rookie campaign help push Gordon up boards? It remains to be seen, but Gordon does have age working against him, as he’ll be 24 years when the 2020 season gets underway. Last year, Gordon completed 71.6% of his passes for more than 5,500 yards and 48 touchdowns in the Cougars’ high-flying offense.
So what do you think? Which of these quarterbacks is the best available on Day 2? Vote below (link for app users):
While the variance in this draft’s top three picks may be low, the Giants could go in a number of directions at No. 4 overall. They have been connected to several different strategies.
Picking in the top six for the third straight year (after never landing there from 2005-17), Big Blue has needs at a few places. The Giants could use help on the offensive line and at outside linebacker and safety. Based on the organization’s history and Dave Gettleman‘s impossible-sounding track record featuring zero trade-down maneuvers in seven drafts as either the Panthers or Giants GM, the Giants would be expected to hold their pick at No. 4. But noise about the team moving down has emerged.
With Chase Young a lock to be off the board by No. 4 and the Giants not expected to take a cornerback that high, they may be down to tackle or Clemson do-everything defender Isaiah Simmons. The Giants have not gotten what they paid for in Nate Solder and signed stopgap right tackle Cameron Fleming. The latter, however, could be used as a swing man — as he was in New England and Dallas — to open the door for a rookie to start at right tackle.
The Giants are evaluating Simmons’ fit. He played everywhere from off-ball linebacker to safety to edge rusher to slot cornerback at Clemson. That kind of rare versatility prompted ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold to label him the draft’s top prospect.
While Simmons could help the Giants in multiple areas, Gettleman has preached offensive line development since arriving in December 2017. They also would be in a better position to address their edge rusher need with more picks, hence the greater interest in trading down.
So where what will the Giants end up doing at No. 4 overall? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.