James Franklin

Extra Points: Coaches, GMs, Schedule, OTAs

After the NFL expanded the Rooney Rule this offseason, it has a “ready list” of minority candidates for head coaching jobs, offensive and defensive coordinator positions and GM candidates, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Beyond some of the big names — Eric Bieniemy, Marvin Lewis, Todd Bowles, Leslie Frazier among them — coaches like Clemson OC Tony Elliott, Penn State HC James Franklin and Michigan State HC Mel Tucker appear on the HC portion of the list. On the GM side, some first-time candidates include Bills pro scouting director Malik Boyd, Raiders pro scouting director Dwayne Joseph, Ravens exec Vincent Newsome and Chargers player personnel director JoJo Wooden. Former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson — now the franchise’s pro scouting director — also appears on the GM portion of the list. The Rooney Rule now mandates teams interview two minority HC candidates and expanded the rule to include coordinator positions. Franchises must also open their senior-level executive jobs to minority and female candidates.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Normal NFL offseasons feature several weeks’ worth of OTAs preceding a June minicamp, but the NFLPA would like a schedule that looks closer to this year’s virtual offseason. Union executive director DeMaurice Smith said “there is absolutely no reason” for the NFL to return to full-scale OTAs, per Sports Business Daily’s Ben Fischer (subscription required). Having seen no decline in performance after this atypical offseason, union president J.C. Tretter agrees with Smith. This would be a stretch for coaching staffs, which have steadily seen their time with players cut back. The past two CBA agreements have significantly limited offseason and padded training camp workouts, and 2020’s COVID-19-altered offseason created steeper acclimation challenges for young players.
  • The NFL has agreed to a formula for its 17th regular-season game, making it increasingly likely this season will be the last one of the 16-game era. In what will be the first shift to the league’s scheduling setup since 2002, the 17-game schedule will feature a fifth interconference game. The schedule will pit an AFC division winner against an NFC division winner, and on down the line within each division, but the extra interconference game will not feature two teams who played the previous year, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. In the event the NFL moves to the 17-game season in 2021, the Chiefs and Buccaneers could not play again next season; the earliest such a regular-season rematch would occur would be 2022.
  • Roger Goodell may well be on board with shortening the preseason slate from four games to two. The commissioner “seemed in favor” of halving the preseason schedule at last week’s owners meetings, according to ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham, but some high-profile owners are not. Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, John Mara and Art Rooney II dismissed the idea of going from three preseason games — the new number as of the 2020 CBA — to two, according to ESPN. No vote occurred on the matter, though Goodell discussing the idea publicly points to it remaining an issue going forward.

NFL Draft Rumors: Lynch, Hackenberg, Elliott

During interviews on official visits with teams, Paxton Lynch seemed to deflect blame to many of the critical questions thrown his way, Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net writes (via WalterFootball.com). The Memphis product “did not throw anyone under the bus,” but he seemed to make ‘a number of excuses,” Pauline hears. Overall, teams left with the concern that Lynch is not yet ready to be the guy to lead a franchise. Many now believe that Lynch may be able to eventually blossom into a franchise guy, that time is not today and he may be better off with a situation where he can take his time. Lynch’s poor interviews may help to explain his apparent stock drop in recent days.

  • Conversely, Pauline is hearing good things about quarterback Christian Hackenberg‘s interviews. The Penn State signal caller apparently took responsibility when asked uncomfortable questions and admitted that certain things were his fault. There have been reports of Hackenberg throwing Penn State coach James Franklin under the bus, but Pauline doesn’t buy it based on conversations that he has had.
  • If Laremy Tunsil does not fall into their laps, the Ravens will consider Ezekiel Elliott with their No. 6 choice unless they are able to trade down, Pauline hears.
  • In the last week, there have been conflicting reports on how much the Jets like Lynch. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (via Twitter) doesn’t believe that the Jets like him very much at all. He also doesn’t believe that he’ll last until pick No. 20.
  • If the Cowboys take Elliott, Miller (on Twitter) expects the 49ers to try very hard to move up for FSU defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
  • The Texans have displayed late-round draft interest in Valdosta State running back Cedric O’Neal, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. O’Neal, an All-Gulf South Conference running back who led the conference with 17 touchdowns last season, has also drawn interest from the Chiefs and Eagles.
  • Cincinnati defensive back Leviticus Payne is drawing late interest from the Colts, Vikings, Jets, 49ers, and Texans, Wilson tweets.

Lions Cut Six Players

The Lions are the latest team announce their roster machinations in advance of tomorrow’s cutdown deadline. The following players have been released, per Tim Twentyman of Lions.com (via Twitter):

Twentyman also tweets that S DeJon Gomes has been placed on injured reserve. With Tavecchio’s release, Nate Freese has won Detriot’s kicking competition.

NFC Links: Giants, Lions, Packers

Eli Manning was the most overpaid NFL player during the 2013 season, at least according to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus (ESPN Insider subscription required). The Giants’ 57.5 accuracy percentage was the second-worst in the league (behind the RaidersMatt McGloin), and his 27 interceptions were the most by a quarterback in nearly ten years. The writer utilized the “Jahnke Valuation Model” – a formula that measures a player’s potential salary based on production – and came to the conclusion that Manning deserved about $5.4MM. That’s a far cry from his 2013 cap hit of $20.8MM.

Second on the list also came from the NFC, albeit on the defensive side of the ball. Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis earned this honor, even though he compiled 116 tackles last season. Jahnke points to the player’s 13 missed tackles and estimates he should have earned about $1.3MM – a more than $11MM difference from his $12.4MM cap hit.

Three other NFC players – Falcons wideout Roddy White, Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson – made this list. For the AFC, Jets linebacker David Harris led the way, followed by Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub, Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and Bills defensive end Mario Williams.

Let’s see what else is going on around the NFC…

  • Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson were previously represented by the Morgan Advisory Group’s Ryan Morgan & Zeke Sandhu. However, as Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen points out (via Twitter), the two players are now unaffiliated with MAG and are only represented by Sandhu.
  • History suggests that Lions head coach Jim Caldwell will only carry two quarterbacks, writes Justin Rogers of MLive.com. In his ten seasons with the Colts, Caldwell carried a trio of quarterbacks four times, including the 2011 season when he held on to an injured Peyton Manning. The competition is likely between veterans Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore, as well as rookie James Franklin. As Rogers notes, Franklin could stick around on the practice squad.
  • 12 linebackers were taken ahead of Packers rookie Carl Bradford, and Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel writes that the player won’t forget about those taken in front of him. I keep track of it, man,” Bradford said. “And I use that as motivation…We’ll see where I land at the end of all this.”

Lions Sign 12 UDFAs, Cut Eight Players

FRIDAY, 10:09am: The Lions have officially signed one more undrafted free agent, inking Robert Morris offensive lineman A.J. Dalton to a contract, tweets Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Dalton received a $2.5K signing bonus, per Birkett (via Twitter).

MONDAY, 3:45pm: The Lions have signed 11 undrafted free agents to contracts, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com. In order to make room for the new additions, the team also cut eight players: Cornerback Nate Ness, safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, tight end Matt Veldman, kicker John Potter, wide receiver Carlin Isles, linebacker Jon Morgan, center Sherman Carter and wide receiver Cody Wilson.

While none of those players was expected to be a real contributor in Detroit this season, there are a couple notable names in the group. Isles is a rugby speedster who was considering coming to camp with the Lions, while Potter had been expected to compete for the kicking job vacated by David Akers.

Here’s the full list of the club’s UDFA signings:

  • Chad Abram, FB, Florida State ($7.5K bonus, per Dave Birkett)
  • Alex Bullard, G, Tennessee ($500 bonus)
  • Jerome Couplin, S, William and Mary ($6K bonus)
  • James Franklin, QB, Missouri ($2K bonus)
  • Justin Jackson, LB, Wake Forest ($2.5K bonus)
  • Cornelius Lucas, OT, Kansas State ($20K bonus)
  • Gabe Lynn, S, Oklahoma ($2.5K bonus)
  • Jacob Maxwell, TE, Louisiana Lafayette ($3K bonus)
  • D.J. Morrell, G, Old Dominion ($2.5K bonus)
  • Andrew Peacock, WR, Appalachian State ($2.5K bonus)
  • Mohammed Seisay, CB, Nebraska ($5K bonus)

East Rumors: Eagles, Barr, Johnson, Cowboys

Chad Ochocinco Johnson, who last lined up in the NFL for the Patriots, is headed north of the border to join up with the Montreal Alouettes. Johnson, who totaled 766 receptions for more than 11,000 yards and 67 touchdowns in 11 NFL seasons, was signed by the Dolphins in 2012, but was released that summer following his arrest due to a domestic incident. The 36-year-old recently worked out for the Alouettes and GM Jim Popp indicated over the weekend that talks between the two sides had “escalated.” Here’s the latest out of the AFC and NFC East..

  • The Eagles‘ biggest need at this stage of the offseason is finding a pass-rusher and the best case scenario would be UCLA’s Anthony Barr falling to No. 22, writes Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Barr was considered a likely top-10 pick earlier in the draft process, but Berman hears that it’s conceivable that the former Bruin could slip into the 20s. Meanwhile, the depth of the wide receiver position in this year’s class has been well documented and it’s not a stretch to say the Eagles will potentially come out of the draft with two wideouts.
  • With Chris Johnson‘s speed, the Jets offense can be a whole different animal, writes Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Johnson isn’t a panacea for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s offense, Mehta writes, but he still possesses the ability to turn garbage into gold in open spaces.
  • The Cowboys hosted about 50 prospects at Dallas Day, including four quarterbacks: North Texas’ Derek Thompson, SMU’s Garrett Gilbert, Missouri’s James Franklin, and TCU’s Casey Pachall, tweets Gil Brandt of NFL.com. Missouri’s Donovan Bonner and Matt White were also in attendance, tweets Clarence Hill Jr. of the Star-Telegram.