Sam Darnold

AFC Notes: Jets, Darnold, Bowles, Browns, Kendricks, Texans, Foreman

When the Jets selected Sam Darnold with the number three overall pick, many assumed they would take it slow with the young signal caller. At just 21 years old, he would be one of the youngest quarterbacks ever to start an NFL game. But there are apparently some executives in the team’s front office who think Darnold will be ready to start from the get go, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

“Team decision makers see stardom in the former USC quarterback” Mehta writes, and although the team won’t throw them out there if he’s not ready, “there are smart people in the building who believe that Darnold will prove he belongs under center when the regular season kicks off September 10 in Detroit under the Monday night lights.” Mehta adds that “the summer quarterback competition will be Darnold vs Darnold” and that “the starting gig is there for the taking.” Clearly Josh McCown might not have as big of a lead in the race to be the starter as was previously thought. If Darnold does run away with the job during camp, Teddy Bridgewater would likely be made available in a trade.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Mehta also notes that Jets GM Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles should be safe moving forward no matter what the team’s record is in 2018. Mehta writes that the duo were extended “without a 2018 playoff mandate” and to “expect organizational continuity moving forward.”
  • Mychal Kendricks signing with the Browns last month “raised eyebrows” because Cleveland was thought to already have a few linebackers “entrenched as starters” writes Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. Ulrich thinks Kendricks can play all three linebacker spots in Cleveland’s defense so he “should be deemed a threat to all of the returning starters.”
  • The Texans expect D’Onta Foreman to be ready for the start of the regular season, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The second-year player showed flashes as a rookie but his season was cut short by a torn achilles. The Texans seem high on him, and he should play a bigger role as a sophomore.

Offset Language Holding Up Top 10 Picks

There are 15 unsigned rookies left, and seven of them are in the top 10. The holdup for this year’s highest selections is offset language, a league source tells Mike Florio of PFT

Players with offset language who are cut before the end of their rookie contract have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever they earns elsewhere. Without offset language, players get to double dip. Top 10 picks expect to complete their rookie contracts, but it’s an important issue for agents nonetheless.

The following top 10 players are without deals and there’s a common thread in the representation for most of them:

As Florio notes, CAA also represents No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson. The new Colts guard agreed to terms back in May on a deal that contains offset language, but also includes large guaranteed training-camp roster bonuses in 2019 through 2021. The presence of those bonuses effectively offsets the presence of offsets and could be a good middle ground solution for the agency’s remaining unsigned top 10 picks.

There’s no sign of real acrimony between any of these players and the teams that drafted them, but Joey Bosa‘s situation in 2016 serves as a reminder that offset language can become a real issue that can lead to a training camp holdout.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Dez, Robinson, Darnold, Jets

Some assorted notes from around the NFL as we wrap up this Thursday evening…

  • A fan recently told free agent wideout Dez Bryant that he should be focused on finding a new team, prompting the veteran to respond. “The last problem I have is finding a team..I’m in a world you will never understand,” Bryant said on Instagram (via Joey Hayden of the Dallas News). The receiver has indicated that he’s received calls from teams but is waiting for the ideal fit, and his recent comments seemingly echo this sentiment. We heard earlier this month that Bryant likely wouldn’t join a new team until July.
  • The Browns signed offensive lineman Greg Robinson earlier this week, and ESPN’s Field Yates tweets some of the financial details of the deal. It will be a one-year, $790K contract for the former second-overall pick, and the deal contains no guaranteed money. Robinson started six games for the Lions last season, but he was ultimately released by the team in November. Robinson isn’t guaranteed to make Cleveland’s roster, and he’ll likely compete for a reserve role.
  • The Jets are predictably convinced that they have a “star in the making” in quarterback Sam Darnold, writes Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.TV. The coaching staff also believes that it’s only a matter of time before he replaces veteran Josh McCown, and he should supplant Teddy Bridgewater as the second-stringer sooner than later. Of course, a lot of Darnold’s 2017 stock will depend on his performance during training camp and the preseason.
  • We learned earlier today that Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson pled no contest to charges of reckless driving. As a result, he’ll get six months of “non-reporting” probation.

Poll: Which Team Best Addressed QB Spot This Offseason?

This turned out to be an important year for quarterback acquisitions. Many teams’ short- and long-term futures will depend heavily on the players they added over the past two months.

A fourth of the NFL made major investments in outside talent at the quarterback position this offseason. Which team did you think is in the best position after all the dominoes fell?

Three teams acquired their unquestioned starters via trade or free agency. The Redskins’ trade for Alex Smith ensured they were not going to pick a quarterback in the draft. As did the Vikings’ subsequent Kirk Cousins agreement. The Broncos entered the draft as a borderline QB destination, but John Elway valued Bradley Chubb more than Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, eschewing a Bills offer that would have given his team extra first- and second-round picks. So, Case Keenum is going to be Denver’s starter.

Four of the five teams that used first-round picks on quarterbacks made sure to add bridge-type solutions, with the Browns moving first to get Tyrod Taylor. The Jets and Cardinals then respectively proceeded to bring in Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. And the Bills made the final stopgap addition in A.J. McCarron. But these players, for the most part, are 2018 placeholders — at best.

Was Baker Mayfield worth the No. 1 overall pick? Or did the Browns make what could turn out to be the costliest of their spree of modern quarterback misjudgments last month? Several Cleveland executives independently rated Mayfield as the draft’s premier passer, going against the grain of the many teams that viewed Sam Darnold as this year’s top passing prospect. The Jets appear to have appreciated this bold move, and Darnold is almost certainly going to see extensive time in 2018. PFR readers believe he will.

The Bills worked the phones relentlessly in an effort to install Allen behind McCarron, and the Cardinals reportedly had the Wyoming prodigy rated as their top QB as well. But Allen could need extensive seasoning, and as of now, a returning playoff team has a fifth-year player with 133 career pass attempts set to open the season and possibly close it as the starter.

Conversely, the player the Cardinals invested in was tabbed by many draft experts as the readiest pro. And Bradford being in front of Rosen for 16 games may be asking a lot from the injury-prone veteran. The Ravens are already planning Jackson packages, and although the player whom some teams wanted to work out as a wide receiver may need a season to develop, this draft’s most dominant college QB resides in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco.

Armed with one of the league’s most talented rosters, Minnesota had the most obvious case to pursue a veteran. And the Vikings made history by authorizing a $28MM-AAV fully guaranteed deal for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Cousins, who may be the safest option among all of these players. But he’s now the league’s second-highest-paid passer and tethered to the Vikings through 2020. Smith is coming off his best NFL season, but his Chiefs teams disappointed in two home playoff opportunities. Washington could also be much further away from contention than Minnesota, and the Redskins have now brought in quarterback who for all the stability he offers is four years older.

It’s debatable the Broncos’ contention window could still be open, with many of their core Super Bowl 50 performers still on the team and having played the past two seasons without much help at quarterback. But a 5-11 team armed with only its second top-five pick since 1992 passing on two coveted QB prospects to pursue the 30-year-old Keenum, a late-blooming talent or a player who benefited from better circumstances, could also be classified as a bold choice as Rosen and Allen’s careers unfold. The Broncos only committed to Keenum for two years and are paying Football Outsiders’ No. 4 2017 DYAR passer $10MM less per year than Cousins commanded.

So, with all things considered, which of these franchises is best set up after this offseason? Did one of the teams that spent a first-round pick on a QB ensure a decade and then some of stability and promise? Or did the teams that went strictly for vets get this right? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Solder, Dolphins, Jets

Last month, the Patriots drafted Georgia tackle Isaiah Wynn in the first round to help replace Nate Solder. Former Patriots lineman Matt Light believes filling the void will be a tall task.

As far as fans, and how they view this season with respect to the loss to a guy like Nate, Nate’s not a guy you can just replace. No. 1, because he’s a ridiculously large mammal,” Light said of the 6’8″, 325-pound Solder, who is now with the Giants (via ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss). “From the first time I met him, I thought, ‘Man, this just shouldn’t be right that big guys like this are designed the way they are.’ No fat. Runs like a deer. Got the reach and wingspan of a vulture. The guy is just unbelievably talented in so many ways, and he’s smart, a cerebral player. You don’t replace a guy like that overnight.”

In addition to Wynn, the Patriots also have veteran Trent Brown after their trade with the Niners as well as veterans LaAdrian Waddle and Matt Tobin to try at left tackle. Marcus Cannon remains with the squad, but offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia says he’ll continue to man the right side. Those four players have their work cut out for them, but Light feels that they might be able to do an adequate job.

Its been done before. They survived me going through that first year of being lost in so many ways and trying to figure out things on the run,” said Light. “I would say this, for all the fans out there, it’s been documented but I’m not sure it’s been appreciated as it should be, but the work Dante does and the work he puts into the offseason — and the work he puts into the young guys that are coming into the organization and how he motivates those guys and pushes them to be in the best position possible to play the game — I’ve got a lot of confidence in his ability to prepare the guys he thinks are the best to take the field….Definitely something to watch, but I feel as those guys will be ready to roll and be prepared.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Next week marks a big milestone for Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. Dolphins doctors, coaches and the QB will meet soon to decide how much work the quarterback will do during OTA sessions that begin on Tuesday and run into mid-June. The expectation is Tannehill, who missed the last month of the 2016 season with a partially ACL tear and all of last season with a complete tear, will be able to participate with little or no limitations, sources tell Salguero. But, even if doctors give him the go-ahead, coaches could still opt to take it easy with Tannehill in an effort to keep him healthy and get extra reps for backups Brock Osweiler and David Fales.
  • After the draft, there was some speculation that the Jets were hoping to land Baker Mayfield at No. 3 overall rather than Sam Darnold. A detailed look at the Jets’ path to Darnold by Albert Breer of The MMQB paints a different picture. After watching Darnold throw in April, Jets VP of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger told boss Mike Maccagnan If he’s there [at 3], take him.” On draft night, Maccagnan was in disbelief when Mayfield went No. 1 to the Browns and the Giants selected running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2, allowing the Jets to select Darnold. Early on in the draft process, few would have guessed that Darnold would be available at No. 3, and the Jets feel lucky to have him. On draft night, Heimerdinger turned to Maccagnan and said, “You have a horseshoe up your ass.”

Poll: Which Rookie QB WIll Log The Most Playing Time In 2018?

Six quarterbacks were taken in the first three rounds of the 2018 draft, including the Browns taking Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick.

Though teams spent high-value picks on quarterbacks in 2018, not every quarterback will be in a position to take over a starting role in 2018, though each seemingly has a decent possibility at finding the field in their rookie year. Along with the Browns selecting Mayfield, the Jets selected Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick, the Bills took Josh Allen with the No. 7 overall pick, the Cardinals took Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall pick and the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson with the No. 32 overall pick. The Steelers also selected Mason Rudolph in the third round of the draft.

Each quarterback has a roadblock to finding playing time in 2018. The Browns acquired quarterback Tyrod Taylor via trade, the Jets re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford and the Bills traded for A.J. McCarron. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger entrenched in the starting role, though he’s missed eight games over the last three seasons.

So, which quarterback do you think will receive the most playing time in 2018? Will injuries to Ben Roethlisberger or Joe Flacco force Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph into action? Or can Mayfield, Darnold, Rosen or Allen win battles in crowded quarterback rooms?

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

East Notes: Cowboys, Smith, Collins, Patriots, Jets

After sitting out his rookie year with ACL and LCL injuries in his left knee and playing last season in an AFO brace for drop foot, Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith has confirmed that he is no longer wearing the brace, the Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill writes.

Smith said he has not worn the brace since he began working out in February. “Getting that flexion back is going to help tremendously … speed, quickness, explosiveness,” Smith said. “I have been feeling great. Everything is about getting back to 100 percent. Every day I am improving.”

A highly touted prospect coming out of Notre Dame, Smith fell to the second round in 2016 after suffering the serious knee injury in his final collegiate game. He returned to the field in 2017 and finished second on the team with 99 tackles despite inconsistent performances.

After a subpar showing in 2017, the Cowboys decided to address the linebacker group in the first round of the 2018 Draft by selecting Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch. The rookie is expected to slide right in at middle linebacker, while Smith and Sean Lee man the outside spots.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Sticking with the Cowboys, it was reported earlier in the week that third-year defensive tackle Maliek Collins broke his foot during the team’s offseason program. The Dallas Morning News’ David Moore now reports the run-clogging lineman is likely to undergo surgery early next week (Twitter link). The injury is expected to sideline him for around three months, and the hope is he will return around the middle of training camp.
  • The Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spurned a head-coaching gig with the Colts to return to New England in 2018. Though head coach Bill Belichick has said he would take his mentorship “to the next level,” McDaniels told the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels that his role remains the same in 2018. Though his role will stay the same, McDaniels is surely being groomed to take over once the future Hall of Fame coach decides to call it quits.
  • Jets CEO Christopher Johnson is convinced first-round pick Sam Darnold will be a turning point in the franchise’s history, the New York Post’s Brian Lewis writes. “I honestly think they’re going to look back 20 years from now and say this is the moment the Jets shifted into a new year, that they became a great team,” Johnson said. Darnold was heralded by many as the top quarterback in the draft but fell to New York when the Browns opted for Baker Mayfield at No. 1.
  • Also with the Jets, the teams lost its director of college scouting, Matt Bazirgan, who left to become the Texans’ director of player personnel, the New York Post’s Brian Costello writes. He had been with the Jets since 2004 as a college scout. This marks the second straight year the team has had to replace the position.

Brandon Beane On Bills’ First-Round Trades

Brandon Beane enjoyed a complicated night on his first draft as Bills GM. And he detailed the extensive process in an expansive piece by Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News.

The Bills were ready to give the Broncos an extra first- and second-round pick, Beane confirms of Mike Klis of 9News’ report that emerged on draft weekend. Denver and Buffalo’s GMs agreed to the swap at around 7pm CT on draft night — one that would have sent Buffalo’s Nos. 12 and 22 picks and one of its second-rounders to Denver in exchange for the No. 5 overall choice and a third-round pick — but John Elway told Beane the deal would be off if a certain player was still on the board.

Beane wondered if that player was Denzel Ward, but when a text message came alerting Beane that Bradley Chubb might fall past the Browns at No. 4, he began to worry about his plans to acquire Josh Allen.

I was really nervous when Cleveland got on the clock. You’ve got your channels where you’re getting information outside of the draft room. Somebody told me, it’s down to Ward or Chubb,” Beane said, via Skurski. “Earlier in the day, people felt like they were probably going to go Chubb. That was my first four. I did say it was going to be Chubb, and we’ll go to Denver. I was wrong. Not until (the Browns) were on the clock did I get the text from somebody that said, ‘Hey, Ward may go here.’ I said (expletive).”

I was a little bummed when Elway told me, ‘Hey, this is our guy.’ I felt like what I had to offer John was better than anybody else could offer. I felt like I was bidding against myself, basically.”

Beane became leery of the Dolphins and Cardinals moving up to No. 7 for Allen, whom Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported was their No. 1-rated quarterback, but he would no longer be willing to part with the No. 22 pick like he was in talks with the Broncos at No. 5. And he wasn’t willing to trade the Bills’ 2019 first-rounder.

(Assistant GM) Joe (Schoen) would say, ‘(the Buccaneers) want this and this,’ and it included 22, and I said no,” Beane said. “It was just too much. I would have done 22 at five. I wasn’t doing it there. Because I knew nobody could be offering that. … That was the biggest obstacle I faced during the whole thing. Everybody wanted next year’s one leading up to the draft, and I wasn’t doing it.”

Beane and Schoen then approached the 49ers at No. 9, but John Lynch was zeroed in on Mike McGlinchey. However, Jason Licht called Beane back and said he would accept the offer of both of Buffalo’s second-round picks. The Bills collected a seventh-rounder from the Bucs as well.

He said, ‘I’ll do it for the twos, but we’ve got to do it right now,’ ” Beane told Skurski. “I said alright, I need another pick, though. I need a player. I don’t care what it is, just give me your last pick, whatever it is. He said, ‘Alright, done.

(The Broncos taking Chubb) was a blessing in disguise. I was tight after Denver’s pick. I was trying not to show it to the room, but I was tight. Joe and I, we were very tight.”

In passing on the chance to acquire additional first- and second-round picks, the Broncos are betting big on Chubb. Beane said he also spoke with the Giants and Browns about the Nos. 2 and 4 picks, and Skurski reports the only trade Beane would have made pre-draft was with the Giants at No. 2.

Skurski adds the Bills finalized their quarterback hierarchy following their April 13 Sam Darnold workout. Miller reported this week Darnold was the Bills’ top-rated quarterback, so it would have made sense for a trade to the second slot. Although, Darnold was still connected to the Browns at No. 1 at that point. The Bills were rumored to be targeting a top-five pick for weeks prior to the draft, but the Giants and Browns wanted more than Beane was willing to offer, per Skurski.

As for the Bills’ second Round 1 trade, Beane contacted the Packers at No. 14 and Raiders at No. 15. Green Bay ended up accepting a New Orleans offer that did include a 2019 first, and Oakland did not want to trade down again, per Skurski. Edmunds was the target because of the Bills’ situation at linebacker, Beane said, and the Ravens quickly agreed to a deal at No. 16.

(Edmunds) was sticking out on our board, and it’s a need,” Beane said. “If a guy is sticking out on our board, and it’s really not a need, you might not do it. But with the hole we had there, and where he was on our board, it was a no-brainer. Even if we could have got to 14, we would have done it.”

Draft QB Fallout: Darnold, Allen, Mayfield

A draft that produced one of the longest rumor cycles surrounding quarterbacks in recent memory continues to generate fallout. And some of it centers on the quarterback that fell to No. 3.

Among the emotions expressed in the Jets’ war room after the Giants chose Saquon Barkley over Sam Darnold were disbelief and joy, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. But the Giants weren’t the only team many NFL executives and scouts believe helped out the Jets.

The Browns’ Baker Mayfield pick went against the grain, with Matt Miller of Bleacher Report writing that he only confirmed two teams — the Browns and Patriots — that rated the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner as the top quarterback in this draft. Conversely, 15 different teams rated Darnold as their top QB, Miller reports.

Mike Maccagnan decided to keep an airtight lid on his quarterback hierarchy, only informing Christopher Johnson and Todd Bowles of which signal-caller he had as his top-rated passer. The fourth-year Jets GM didn’t bother to assign final grades to the top five QBs in fear of that information seeping out, but grades were given to every other player on the Jets’ board, per Mehta. While the precise order here is not known, Mehta reports Darnold was the Jets’ top-rated passing prospect — one the team did not think would get past the Browns at No. 1 until very late in the process.

The Jets weren’t certain the Giants would pass on Darnold, either, but were aware of Dave Gettleman‘s interest in Barkley. One source informed Miller that Gettleman, indeed, did not pick up the phone regarding trade interest in the No. 2 overall pick. While Gettleman himself confirmed one team made a strong offer for No. 2, it’s unclear when on draft night that proposal emerged. Wowed by none of these QBs, the Giants did not have a consensus on which of these players was the best prospect.

While the Cardinals wound up with Josh Rosen, Miller reports Josh Allen was their top-rated quarterback. The team that actually drafted Allen, the Bills, had the Wyoming talent rated as this class’ No. 2 passer, Miller reports. Buffalo was one of the teams that viewed Darnold as this draft’s top QB.

No reports of Allen visiting the Cardinals emerged until he confirmed just before the draft he took a trip to Arizona. Miller notes the Cards may have tried to trade up for Allen prior to landing Rosen. Additionally, the Twitter controversy did not appear to affect Allen’s stock. Miller adds no sources indicated that played a role in their teams’ respective assessments of Allen.

Giants Did Not Have Consensus On Draft’s Top QB

The Giants were enamored with Saquon Barkley to the point they didn’t waste much time turning in their card. And the team is now prepared to enter the season without a surefire heir apparent behind Eli Manning.

It turns out, Big Blue’s brass didn’t appear to have a consensus among which of the quarterbacks they would take, with Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reporting different sects of the Giants’ decision-makers preferred three separate signal-callers. And they didn’t feel strongly enough about one of them to pull the trigger at No. 2.

Mostly, the Giants were down to Sam Darnold or Josh Allen, with some Josh Rosen support in the building as well. Schwartz reports there wasn’t much love for Baker Mayfield among the new-look Giants power structure.

If it were up to Pat Shurmur, Allen would have been the quarterback pick — had the franchise been leaning in that direction. Upside drew Shurmur to Allen. However, the Giants would have selected Bradley Chubb if Barkley wasn’t available, per Schwartz.

The Giants placed the same grade on Barkley and Chubb, but the Penn State running back was listed atop Chubb’s name on Big Blue’s board. They proceeded accordingly, and are “ecstatic,” Schwartz writes.

Additionally, Schwartz lists second-round pick Will Hernandez as a near-surefire starter at guard. Hernandez caught the Giants’ eye at the Senior Bowl, and one staffer told Schwartz the the team’s consensus was the UTEP lineman’s Combine performance would not have him available by the time New York’s second-round window opened. The Giants signed Patrick Omameh in free agency and still have returning starter John Jerry on the roster. And Schwartz adds that Lorenzo Carter could well get a strong push to start ahead of free agency addition Kareem Martin, the latter’s knowledge of James Bettcher’s system notwithstanding.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.