- Seahawks quarterback Trevone Boykin still has to appear in front of a judge in August for his March arrest, but he has some good news on another front. Boykin has skirted jail time for a separate potential parole violation, as Gregg Bell of The News Tribune writes. Boykin was facing up to a year in jail for that charge, but he’ll pay a small fine instead. The Seahawks reportedly are not expecting Boykin to be disciplined by the league for his actions, so his off-the-field missteps shouldn’t impact his job security as Russell Wilson‘s backup.
- Seahawks backup quarterback Trevone Boykin‘s court date has been rescheduled, meaning he now won’t appear until August 22, as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times writes. That date will come amid Seattle’s preseason schedule, but it shouldn’t affect Boykin as he is required to attend the hearing. This court date is related to Boykin’s March arrest, while the fallout from his April arrest is still up in the air. As Condotta noted in May, the Seahawks aren’t expecting Boykin to be disciplined by the league.
To the surprise of many, the Panthers are in search of a new general manager. It’s too early to know who will be in the mix for the job, but speculation is already rampant among those in the know. Here are the early potential candidates for Carolina:
Seahawks executive Trent Kirchner spent eight years in Carolina as a scout and could be among those considered, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets. Kirchner interviewed for the Colts and 49ers GM positions earlier this offseason before they went to Chris Ballard and John Lynch, respectively.
- Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden and Panthers director of player personnel Don Gregory are two names to watch, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Cowden was among those to interview for the Chiefs vacancy this summer and spent 16 years working for the Panthers before joining Tennessee.
- The Panthers’ highest ranking personnel executive left in the building Mark Koncz, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes. He was promoted to personnel director in May from pro director.
- It’s “just a hunch,” but Alex Marvez of The Sporting News (on Twitter) wouldn’t be surprised if former Chiefs GM John Dorsey ultimately becomes the Panthers’ next GM.
- The Panthers likely going to go with an interim GM rather than rush to a decision one month before the season starts, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer tweets. With that in mind, former GM Marty Hurney makes some sense. Hurney, who was relieved of his post as GM during the 2012 season, currently works for ESPN Radio in Charlotte. Under his watch, the Panthers drafted some of the team’s biggest stars, including Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, and Thomas Davis.
Contracts are guaranteed in the NBA, where even mediocre players are capable of landing mega-deals, leading some NFLers to publicly express displeasure with the fact that their league’s deals are non-guaranteed. While discussing that issue Wednesday, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman offered a possible solution, albeit a controversial one.
Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead is likely to begin the 2017 campaign on the physically unable to perform list as he continues to recover from a torn ACL, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.
A 15-game starter a season ago, Shead played more than 1,000 defensive snaps and graded as the league’s No. 37 corner, per Pro Football Focus. Originally non-tendered as a restricted free agent, Shead re-signed with Seattle on a one-year, $1.5MM deal that includes $1MM guaranteed. If he does hit the PUP list, the 28-year-old Shead will be forced to miss the first six games of the year.
Although John Boyle of Seahawks.com suggests the club’s second cornerback job is “up for grabs,” Condotta indicates the most likely scenario involves Jeremy Lane taking over opposite Richard Sherman. In sub packages, Lane would probably slide into the slot, allowing veteran Neiko Thorpe or rookie Shaquill Griffin to play outside.
The news that Shead may not be ready for the season opener doesn’t come as a shock to the Seahawks, as head coach Pete Carroll said in March he’d be “really surprised” if Shead was able to suit up for Week 1.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Back in May, there were whispers of tension between the Seahawks offense and defense, but coach Pete Carroll, quarterback Russell Wilson, and cornerback Richard Sherman quickly dismissed the rumors. Earlier this week, defensive end Cliff Avril was a bit more adamant that the story was “fake.”
A year ago at this time, the Broncos, Panthers and Cardinals were popular picks to rank among the NFL’s elite teams in 2016. Denver was the reigning Super Bowl champion, after all, while Carolina was coming off a 15-1, conference-winning campaign and Arizona was second to the Panthers in the NFC. Each of those teams won their divisions two years ago, and not only were they unable to repeat that feat in 2016, but all three watched the playoffs from home last winter. They were among a whopping six division-winning clubs from 2015 that failed to qualify for the playoffs last season, joining the Bengals, Redskins and Vikings.
If the volatility from 2015 to ’16 is any indication, some of the league’s eight division champions from last year are in trouble as the upcoming season approaches. Once again, both Super Bowl representatives won their divisions in 2016, with the Patriots coasting in the AFC East and the Falcons knocking the Panthers from the NFC South throne. Like the Pats and the Falcons, the Chiefs, Steelers, Texans, Cowboys, Seahawks and Packers are aiming to repeat atop their divisions this season.
Of those teams, the Patriots look as though they’re in the best position to secure their division again. The Bill Belichick– and Tom Brady-led outfit has ruled the AFC East eight consecutive times, and during New England’s latest Lombardi Trophy-winning season, the club was a 14-2 juggernaut that easily led the league in point differential. While Brady’s a year older, set to enter his age-40 season, he hasn’t shown any signs of mortality, and even if he suffers an injury or falls off dramatically in 2017, the Patriots may have a starting-caliber quarterback behind him in Jimmy Garoppolo. Of course, there’s also plenty of talent on hand elsewhere on the Pats’ roster, including new additions in wide receiver Brandin Cooks, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive lineman Kony Ealy, linebacker David Harris, tight end Dwayne Allen and running back Mike Gillislee.
There might not be any shoo-ins to repeat among the league’s seven other returning division winners, but it’s hard to bet against clubs with franchise quarterbacks. In the cases of the Falcons (Matt Ryan), Packers (Aaron Rodgers), Seahawks (Russell Wilson) and Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger), there’s little reason to expect anything other than excellence from under center, which makes potential playoff berths more realistic for each. The Cowboys also seem to have an outstanding signal-caller in sophomore Dak Prescott, who was so stunningly great as a fourth-round rookie that he took Tony Romo‘s job and essentially forced the four-time Pro Bowler into retirement.
Kansas City (Alex Smith) and Houston (Tom Savage) aren’t as well off under center, though the Chiefs have done plenty of winning in the regular season since turning to Smith in 2013. But if he and the untested Savage disappoint this year, they have first-rounders behind them in Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, respectively. Poor performances or injuries could force either Mahomes or Watson into action, perhaps paving the way for the emergence of a Prescott-like rookie this year in KC or Houston and making another postseason appearance more likely.
While some of these teams look to be in enviable shape at QB, the game’s most important position, things could still go awry. The Panthers had the reigning MVP 12 months ago in Cam Newton, but his play took massive steps backward, as did the team’s, en route to a 6-10 season and a last-place NFC South finish. The likelihood is that some of last year’s division winners will end up in similar situations in 2017, going from playoff teams to bitter disappointments overnight.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois signed with the Packers in March, and he spoke about that decision Thursday, telling Stu Courney of PackersNews.com: “To get that phone call that the Green Bay Packers want you is rare. It’s rare that you see them go outside and pick guys up and if they do, it’s for a reason.” Jean-Francois is right that the Packers typically aren’t the most aggressive team in free agency. They aren’t averse to signing released players, however, because adding them doesn’t cost compensatory draft picks. That was the case with the 30-year-old Jean-Francois, whom the Redskins cut loose a week before he caught on with Green Bay for $3MM. His decision came down to the Packers and Seahawks, and it seems Aaron Rodgers‘ presence tipped the scales in the former’s favor. “Just seeing a quarterback like him year in and year out be so successful … he’s been so consistent getting to the playoffs,” commented Jean-Francois.
More from Green Bay and two other NFL cities:
- After Branden Albert ended his holdout and reported to Jaguars minicamp earlier this month, vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin told the left tackle that he looked heavier than before, according to Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders. Moreover, the out-of-shape Albert failed to impress the team’s coaches on the field, per Cummings, who notes that he’s far from a lock to start. Albert, whom the Jaguars acquired via trade from the Dolphins over the winter, will have to beat out second-rounder Cam Robinson. For now, Robinson is the front-runner for the job, suggests Cummings. At right tackle, Jacksonville has Jermey Parnell – a 16-game starter last year who ranked 31st among Pro Football Focus’ 78 qualified tackles (Albert was 65th).
- We may not have seen the last of Brett Favre in a notable NFL role. The Hall of Fame quarterback told ESPN Wisconsin’s Wilde & Tausch on Thursday that he’s interested in working as a coach or a general manager down the line (via Richard Ryman of PackersNews.com). “I would say I’d never say never,” Favre said. “I believe that would be a dream job, working as a coach there or in some form of administration.” Favre would prefer to serve in some capacity with the Packers, with whom he starred from 1992-2007.
- One of Arthur Moats or Anthony Chickillo could be in jeopardy of losing his roster spot with the Steelers, writes Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. With those two, T.J. Watt, James Harrison, Bud Dupree and seventh-rounder Keion Adams, the Steelers will enter training camp with six outside linebackers and only four or five spots. Watt, Harrison and Dupree are shoo-ins to make the roster, and whether both Moats and Chickillo will join them will come down to if the Steelers decide to deploy a five-OLB rotation. Meanwhile, Adams will likely head to the practice squad. Moats and Chickillo were both somewhat prominent members of Pittsburgh’s defense last year. Moats played 396 snaps, started in five of 16 appearances and picked up 3.5 sacks, while Chickillo amassed 316 snaps and 2.5 sacks in 15 games (seven starts).
Here’s a look at the NFC West:
- Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer won’t put a timetable on his retirement. “I love every facet of it,” Palmer told the team’s website. “I don’t want to stop. But I’ll have to wait and make that decision after the season. … There’s always urgency, especially as you get to the second half of your career. You just never know when your last year is going to be.” For now, all Palmer knows is that he is returning in 2017 to serve as Arizona’s starting QB. Last year, the veteran threw for 4,233 yards with 26 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. Pro Football Focus had Palmer rated as the No. 17 QB in the NFL – not his best showing, bu tit still put him ahead of guys like Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, and Carson Wentz.
- This is a make-or-break year for Trumaine Johnson, Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News writes. The Rams cornerback is betting on himself, it seems, since he and the Rams are far apart in contract negotiations. If Johnson can turn in a monster year, he’ll get a monster contract to match next spring, whether it comes from L.A. or somewhere else. If not, Johnson may regret turning down whatever multi-year deal is being offered to him at this time. Bonsignore seems to think that Johnson will respond well to the pressure since he’ll be motivated to maximize his value.
- Dan Graziano of ESPN.com ran down the next quarterbacks to get big money deals following Derek Carr‘s brand new pact. Seahawks signal caller Russell Wilson is among those listed, even though his deal runs through 2019. In two summers, however, Wilson could find himself in talks on a deal that could give him an even longer extension than Aaron Rodgers. Wilson will turn 31 in ’19.
The Chiefs have requested permission to speak with Titans Director of Player Personnel Ryan Cowden and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer for their GM job, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). If permission is granted, then the executives will become the first outside candidates to interview for the vacancy.
On Monday morning, we learned that Vikings executive George Paton declined the opportunity to be considered for the Chiefs job. In theory, that means that Cowden and Fitterer will have a little less competition for the position, provided that they are actually looking to take the job.
Fitterer has been in the mix for multiple GM jobs, including the Colts and 49ers earlier this year. He was also being considered for a top job with the Eagles before removing himself from consideration. The Seahawks have enjoyed great success in recent years, particularly when it comes to building through the draft and discovering talented undrafted free agents. While John Schneider oversees the operation, Fitterer and Trent Kirchner have been instrumental in building the roster.
After 16 years with the Panthers, Cowden was hired by the Titans in 2016 to oversee all areas of the scouting department, including collegiate scouting, NFL scouting, advance scouting, and international scouting for the draft, free agency, and upcoming opponents. Titans GM Jon Robinson offered glowing praise of Cowden at the time of the hire.
“When I was first hired by the Patriots, Ryan was promoted by Carolina to handle the Southeast and we cut our teeth together in that region scouting,” Robinson said. “We were both learning the ropes, going to many of the same places and had a lot of interaction through the years on the road. He has a strong eye for talent, he has developed good managerial skills over the years and in the team-building process it will be nice to get his take, as they have put together very good teams there in Carolina over the years.”