Tom Brady

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets

Having ended their veteran quarterback search with a Ryan Fitzpatrick agreement, after pursuing Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor, the Dolphins continue to embark on a rebuilding track. In fact, the word “tanking” came up during one of the team’s head coach interviews, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. Chris Grier, as could be expected, denied the team will use 2019 to tank.

Often one of the most active teams during free agency, the Dolphins this year have parted ways with starters Ryan Tannehill, Josh Sitton, Ted Larsen, Andre Branch and Danny Amendola. They let Ja’Wuan James and Cameron Wake walk. This leads Salguero to the notion the Dolphins are indeed tanking with the prospect of being in best position to land a high 2020 draft pick and have cap space when that league year begins. As of now, early projections have the Dolphins at $107MM in 2020 cap space — second in the league behind the Cowboys. And with Dallas set to extend several young talents, Miami looks poised to lead that pack. Fitzpatrick has made at least eight starts in a season nine times; his teams finished with a winning record in one of those seasons. Sunday’s move lends further credence the Dolphins are targeting the 2020 quarterback class.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Rob Gronkowski has not given the Patriots his decision on if he will continue his career in 2019, but if the future Hall of Famer wants an extension, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes this cannot happen until August 30 — a year after his previous contract adjustment, per an NFL rule. Long dissatisfied with a contract he agreed to in 2012, Gronkowski would be entering the final year of that deal if he returned for 2019. The Patriots could approach Gronk about a pay cut, however, at any point this offseason, per Volin. Gronkowski is due a $10MM salary and to count $11.86MM on the Patriots’ cap. The latest word on Gronk’s status is a return for a 10th season is more likely than a retirement.
  • Conversely, a Tom Brady extension can happen at any point this offseason. Since the Patriots did not adjust their quarterback’s cap number via the unmet incentives last year, Volin notes they can extend his contract before the 12-month mark from when the team included those incentives. Brady’s deal appears likely to be adjusted, with the 41-year-old passer’s contract-year cap figure sitting at $27MM.
  • Dialogue about the trade that moved the Jets up to last year’s No. 3 overall pick began at the 2018 Senior Bowl, with Jets VP of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger approaching Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds that January about a possible trade, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Christopher Johnson emphasized the Jets focus on quarterback scouting in 2017, primarily Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. The Jets targeted No. 3 overall because their sources indicated to them the Giants were zeroing in on Saquon Barkley, Cimini adds. Gang Green put its plan B into action a year ago today after Kirk Cousins spurned them.
  • The Dolphins are interested in acquiring a fullback, which marks a change from recent years. Specifically, they are exploring the addition of Michael Burton, per Salguero. Burton was Pro Football Focus’ No. 2-rated fullback last season but only played 49 snaps, not enough to qualify for full-time status. Only five fullbacks did meet those standards, illustrating this position’s scarcity on most teams. If not Burton, a four-year veteran who has played in Detroit and Chicago, Miami may target another UFA blocking back.
  • Prior to LaAdrian Waddle signing with the Bills, the Patriots conveyed interest in bringing him back, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. The Pats kept an open dialogue with their swing tackle but were not willing to match the Bills’ offer, Reiss adds.

AFC Notes: Brown, Brady, Bills, Jets

The Antonio Brown saga continued today with a new dose of drama. The All-Pro receiver liked several tweets referencing past accusations of sexual assault against Ben Roethlisberger, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. The team has attempted to calm tempers and dial things back the past couple of weeks, but Brown has only gotten more aggressive in his demands to leave the team.

It had looked for a while recently like a reunion between the two sides was a real possibility, but actions like this are making those chances seem slimmer by the second. Roethlisberger isn’t going anywhere, and an argument between Brown and his longtime quarterback is apparently what sparked all of this back in Week 17. Crazier things have happened, but even though Brown will reportedly meet with Steelers owner Art Rooney soon, it still seems like a trade is inevitable.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Tom Brady has famously taken somewhat of a discount on his contracts to help the Patriots build winning teams around him, and he’s in line for another new contract soon. The 41-year-old plans to keep playing until he’s 45, and is heading into the final year of his current deal in 2019. Former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry took a look at what an extension for Brady might look like, and what type of discount he might be willing to take this time around. Corry writes that it’s “extremely unlikely Brady will exploit his leverage” in negotiations, and that it’s only a “matter of how big of a discount he’ll give the Patriots.”
  • Speaking of the AFC East, two of the Patriots’ longtime rivals will be in position to make some major moves this offseason if they want to. The Bills “top the list of expected spenders with what should be close to $89 million to spend on free agents” this offseason, while the Jets are in second place “with about $88 million”, writes cap expert Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com. The Jets and general manager Mike Maccagnan haven’t been shy about their desire to make a splash in free agency, while Buffalo will likely be much more conservative. New York has been frequently mentioned as a potential landing spot for Le’Veon Bell, and it’ll be very interesting to see what they do with all that money.
  • In case you missed it, former Jets offensive coordinator John Morton resurfaced with the Raiders yesterday.

AFC East Notes: Brady, Dolphins, Jets

Following the Patriots‘ third Super Bowl title of the decade, they again have their legendary quarterback going into a contract year. Robert Kraft is on board with another Tom Brady extension, but no talks have commenced yet, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Brady has never played into a contract year. While some uncertainty existed around Brady’s place with the Patriots last offseason, Breer adds the key parties are on good terms this year. The 41-year-old quarterback said before Super Bowl LIII he was not going to retire, and an extension would bring down his $27MM cap number. Brady signed team-friendly deals in 2013 and ’16 around the Combine those years.

With the quarterback market finally making big strides over the past year and change, Brady’s demands could justifiably increase. Brady’s historic contributions to the franchise notwithstanding, Bill Belichick may not be wild about a possible $30MM-AAV contract for Brady that runs into future Hall of Famer’s mid-40s, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran offered during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show (video link). Of course, with the Patriots an annual title contender and no heir apparent in place, it would seem unthinkable a Brady pact does not get done this offseason.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Although Ryan Tannehill is not expected to return to the Dolphins, GM Chris Grier said no decision has been made on that front. The Dolphins are expected to trade or release Tannehill, and the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson tweets a photo of the seven-year Dolphin quarterback has been removed from their press room. Grier wants input from Brian Flores and his new staff on the 30-year-old quarterback, but the Dolphins are expected to move on from their six-season starter. With an eye on the 2020 quarterback class, they are not believed to be targeting a high-priced free agent to replace Tannehill, either.
  • Armed with nearly $100MM in cap space and a GM potentially on the hot seat, the Jets make sense as Le’Veon Bell‘s buyer. While one report indicated New York won’t use a bank-breaking approach to land the All-Pro running back, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes the Jets are still zeroed in on Bell. The soon-to-be 27-year-old back is still believed to prefer the Colts, per Vacchiano, but Indianapolis may not view him in the same light.
  • Some turmoil has already hit Gregg Williams‘ new team. Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase initially did not view Blake Williams as a hiring priority for the Jets’ defensive staff, and this irked Blake’s father, according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. Gregg Williams was frustrated with Maccagnan and Gase, but the new Gang Green DC won out, with Blake Williams signed on as linebackers coach. Blake upset some Rams staffers during his time as St. Louis assistant, before being fired after the 2013 season, Cimini notes, adding the young coach has developed somewhat of a polarizing reputation.
  • The Jets may have an issue trading Leonard Williams, with a $14.2MM salary due, but Vacchiano points out the general consensus around the NFL is the 2015 top-10 pick has been misused in New York. With the Jets moving to a 4-3 look under Gregg Williams, Leonard Williams is not a lock to be back. Of course, Gregg Williams may view the former 3-4 defensive end as a weapon in his scheme. The Jets are light on surefire front-seven talent, so their new DC might want some capable veterans to stay.

Robert Kraft Eyeing Tom Brady Extension

Tom Brady continues to insist he wants to play into his mid-40s, and the quarterback with the most Super Bowl starts is about to enter a contract year.

Robert Kraft sees the Patriots retaining the all-time great past 2019 and does not have an issue with extending the 41-year-old passer’s contract beyond next season, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

I would be quite surprised if he didn’t continue for quite awhile as our quarterback,” Kraft said.

Negotiations may begin soon. Brady has never played into a contract year and is set to carry a $27MM cap figure on the Patriots’ 2019 balance sheet. He said recently there is a “zero” percent chance he retires after Super Bowl LIII.

After staying away from the Patriots for most of the offseason, Brady returned for a 19th season and again is set for a Super Bowl start. With the Patriots no longer having an heir apparent on the roster, another Brady re-up makes sense. He and Bill Belichick are in their ninth Super Bowl together, and Kraft is certainly OK with this ultra-successful tandem continuing their voyage into uncharted waters.

Having two outstanding people like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for almost two decades, pretty proud of that,” Kraft said, via Volin. “I think we’re very lucky.”

The Patriots have managed to employ Brady on some below-market deals over the past several years. They did add some incentives to his 2018 deal. While he missed out on the statistical portion of this $5MM package due to a slight drop in his numbers from his 2017 MVP season, Brady can earn $2MM by leading the Pats to their sixth championship on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Tom Brady Rules Out Retirement

Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere. The longtime Patriots quarterback will be back in New England no matter what next season, he told Jeff Darlington of ESPN in a recent sit-down (Twitter link).

There had been some speculation, as there has been for a couple of years now, that Brady could choose to ride off into the sunset a la Peyton Manning, but that won’t be happening this year. Brady said there was “zero” chance that the upcoming game against the Rams would be his last game ever. Assuming he doesn’t change his mind, 2019 will be Brady’s 20th season in the league.

He’s 41 now, but the drop-off in play that many have been waiting for has never materialized. Brady had another great season this year, throwing for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns while completing 65.8 percent of his masses and making his tenth consecutive Pro Bowl. There were rumors last year about a thawing in the relationship between Brady and Bill Belichick but true or not, they’ve been able to make things work.

With only Brian Hoyer behind him on the roster, the Patriots have no clear successor in-house for Brady, and it’s possible they could look to draft one in the near future. On the other hand, Brady has said in the past that he wants to play until he’s 45, so they might not have to worry about a replacement any time soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Brady, Flores, Cowboys

The knee injury that Patriots QB Tom Brady has been battling this season is an MCL sprain, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who reports that Brady sustained the injury when going out for a pass against Tennessee on November 11. However, Brady has no structural damage, and Rapoport says the 41-year-old will head into today’s playoff game as healthy as he has been since the start of the season. He will likely not require any offseason procedures.

Let’s round up a few more east-related rumors:

  • The Dolphins are simply waiting for the Patriots‘ season to end so that they can finalize a deal with New England de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores to become their next head coach, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. No one anticipates this turning into another Josh McDaniels situation, and Flores is fully expected to join Miami. Schefter also says that Miami is already planning its rebuild and is looking to the 2020 crop of rookie QBs, which is expected to include Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
  • Albert Breer of SI.com names Patriots defensive line coach Brendan Daly as a potential replacement for Flores on New England’s staff, while Mike Reiss of ESPN.com sees former Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano — who was rumored to be a candidate for the Pats’ DC job last year following Matt Patricia‘s departure — as a logical choice. Rapoport (video link) agrees with Reiss.
  • Dolphins LB coach Frank Bush is expected to follow Adam Gase to the Jets, and while DL coach Kris Kocurek may do the same, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio says that four to five teams are interested in Kocurek’s services (all Twitter links).
  • Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, whom the Jets reportedly preferred to Gase, confirms that he did not join Gang Green because the team wanted to pick his staff for him. Per Jake Nisse of the New York Post, Rhule said, “[a]t the end of the day, I’m never going to be in an arranged marriage.” 
  • Longtime Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is technically under contract through 2019, but the club could save $7MM against the cap by cutting him, and given the emergence of quality younger options and Lee’s injury history, it is difficult to imagine that Dallas will bring him back under his current deal. Lee, of course, could retire, and Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News says that the 32-year-old will sit down with his family and make a decision on his football future, though Lee did not provide a timeline for that decision.
  • After the Cowboys‘ playoff loss to the Rams last night, which saw defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli‘s unit get thrashed, Marinelli was unwilling to address speculation that he could step into an advisory role while Kris Richard takes over as DC. Per Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News, Marinelli said, “[w]hy do people keep asking me the same question? I can’t figure it out? Can somebody tell me why everybody asks me that?”

Extra Points: Cardinals, Wilks, Keim, Patriots, Brady, Browns, Dorsey, Riley

It’s been a rough year for the Cardinals and first year head coach Steve Wilks. The Cardinals have won just two games this season, and both of those wins came against the 49ers. They’ve been blown out on several occasions, and already had to fire offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in the middle of the season. That wasn’t the only drama, as star cornerback Patrick Peterson was also briefly demanding a trade. All the chaos and dysfunction have led many to speculate that Wilks and GM Steve Keim could both be in danger of losing their jobs.

While Wilks is in very real danger of being a one-and-done as head coach, his “job status is more tenuous than Keim’s” is, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. While he acknowledges Keim could be in some trouble too if the Cardinals continue to rack up losses, Somers thinks Keim will have a longer leash than Wilks because he has a past history of winning. That being said, the Cardinals haven’t been good in a few years now and it’s possible team president Michael Bidwill decides to clean house. Either way, it’s looking unlikely that Wilks is back in the desert for a second season.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Tom Brady has been a bit banged up recently, causing an internet firestorm when he was absent from Patriots practice on Friday. Although Brady is dealing with an illness and a knee injury, he did officially travel with the team to New York and will suit up against the Jets tomorrow, a source told Jeff Howe of The Athletic (Twitter link). It doesn’t seem like Brady was ever in any real danger of missing the game, but it’ll be interesting to see if the knee injury or illness cause him to look less than 100 percent in a game New England needs to win.
  • As the college football season winds down, NFL Draft talk is starting to heat up, and many GM’s and front offices are making their final evaluations on players. Browns GM John Dorsey was at the West Virginia/Oklahoma game Friday night, as well as the Michigan/Ohio State game Saturday morning, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Interestingly, Kay Cabot says Dorsey wasn’t just scouting players at the game he was also scouting coaches, namely Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. Riley coached Baker Mayfield in college, and has been a popular name in discussions about head coaching vacancies. Kay Cabot also notes that Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s coach, could be another possibility for Dorsey.
  • In case you missed it, a top receiver prospect declared his intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

AFC East Notes: McCoy, Bills, Wake, Pats

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says the odds of the Bills trading any veterans — like RB LeSean McCoy, whose name has recently surfaced in trade rumors — are very slim. La Canfora writes that it would take a “bounty” to pry McCoy or Jerry Hughes away from Buffalo, as the team considers both players, who are both signed beyond this season to club-friendly deals, to be vital veteran components of its rebuild. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com agrees, saying it could take as much as a second-round draft pick to land McCoy.

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the AFC East, starting with more from Orchard Park:

  • This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but Rapoport tweets that the Bills have no intention of playing newly-acquired signal-caller Derek Anderson, barring injury. Anderson is with the club to tutor rookie QB Josh Allen, not to take any of his playing time.
  • From the “something to keep an eye on” department, Jenna Cottrell of 13 WHAM tweets that Allen asked wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin if he wanted to work on routes during pregame warm-ups today, and Benjamin told him no. The Bills acquired Benjamin at the trade deadline last year but have not gotten much production out of him, and he does not appear especially motivated to perform well in his platform year.
  • Dolphins DE Cameron Wake recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery but could be back as soon as next week, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Normally such a procedure would require a four-week recovery period, but Wake is such a quick healer that he may make it back in a fraction of that time.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes that Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty is on pace to recoup the money that he lost when he agreed to a pay cut before the regular season. New England gave him the opportunity to make up the difference via incentives, and McCourty is well on his way to hitting those incentives. The same cannot be said for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, however.
  • Reiss also notes that Kenjon Barner, who has been shuttled on and off of the Patriots‘ roster several times since September 12, may have a little more job security right now. Barner’s former club, the Eagles, are very much in need of RB help, and the Pats know that if they cut Barner again, they may not get him back.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com tweets that Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, who is dealing with a serious illness, is on the sidelines for the team’s game against the Colts today. It does not sound as if he has resumed his coordinator responsibilities yet, but it is a good sign nonetheless.

Patriots Notes: Kraft, McClellin, Rowe

Back in January, an explosive piece from ESPN.com detailed a major rift within the Patriots organization. Since that time, there have been continued whispers about the tension in Foxborough, particularly between head coach Bill Belichick and franchise quarterback Tom Brady. Owner Robert Kraft has continually denied those rumors, and he did that once again on Friday. Appearing on CNBC, Kraft attributed the reports to “envy and jealousy.”

“We’ve been together 19 years, which is unheard of for a head coach, a quarterback and an ownership group,” Kraft said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “Thankfully, we have had a lot of success and whenever that happens you become a target. We understand that and there is always tensions and issues and different things you’ve got to deal with. That is part of the privilege of owning a team and being successful. I have a little saying that envy and jealously are incurable diseases. You’d rather be a recipient than a donor. That is what is going on now.”

A new book by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor has renewed interest in the dynamic between Belichick and Brady. In “Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time,”O’Connor reports that Brady would “divorce” Belichick if he could, but feared alienating New England fans after the Patriots traded backup (and possible successor) Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of New England…

  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets that retired Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin filed for Injury Protection last night, which entitles him “to 50 percent of the base salary he was supposed to make this year.” Therefore, the team ended up losing another $1.075MM worth of cap space, dropping them down to $1.17MM of room. As Volin observes, it’s an interesting predicament for the Patriots, who haven’t been so close to the cap in at least a half decade. The team doesn’t have a whole lot of high-priced players, leading the reporter to wonder whether the issue is by design or due to “poor cap management.”
  • Eric Rowe returned to practice yesterday, but Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal points out that the cornerback was limited after having missed the past two sessions. It’s still no guarantee that the 25-year-old will end up playing this weekend, and he’s currently listed as questionable (along with 10 other teammates, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, and defensive end Trey Flowers).
  • Despite adding Josh Gordon to the mix, the Patriots are still eyeing some reinforcement as wide receiver. Over the past week, the team has auditioned three wideouts: Breshad Perriman, Jeremy Kerley, and Dontrelle Inman.

East Rumors: Patriots, Cowboys, Bills

Reports of discord within the Patriots‘ organization are nothing new, but a new book by ESPN’s Ian O’Connor has shed even more light on the dynamic between head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. In “Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time,” O’Connor reports that Brady would “divorce” Belichick if he could, but feared alienating New England fans after the Patriots traded backup (and possible successor) Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers last season. “If you’re married 18 years to a grouchy person who gets under your skin and never compliments you, after a while you want to divorce him,” a source told O’Connor. Brady will return for yet another season with the Belichick and the Patriots after agreeing to a revised contract that includes multiple performance-based incentives.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • The Cowboys, perhaps unsurprisingly, don’t have any interest in re-signing veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant, as executive Stephen Jones said on 105.3 The Fan (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). “Don’t necessarily see that at this moment, but we’re always looking for ways to improve,” Jones said. “Obviously we’re focused on the guys that are on our team at the moment.” Dallas is currently fielding arguably the league’s worst receiving corps, as complementary options such as Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, and Allen Hurns top the club’s depth chart. Bryant, though, wouldn’t be a clear improvement after a disappointing 2017 campaign. Now 29 years old, Bryant has been linked to multiple clubs this offseason, but only came close to a contact with the Browns, who could still opt to sign him.
  • Speaking of Bryant, the veteran receiver was a factor in Brice Butler re-signing with the Cowboys this week, per Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram, who notes Bryant told Butler to head back to Dallas if the opportunity presented itself. As Hill tweets, the Cowboys called Butler after a Week 1 loss to the Panthers, so his addition was in the works for awhile. Butler, who had spent his entire career in Dallas before signing with the Cardinals this spring, signed a two-year deal, per Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link). He’ll earn the veteran minimum of $790K in 2018.
  • Before signing with the Vikings earlier this week, defensive tackle Tom Johnson drew interest from the Bills and Browns, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. Johnson, whose release from the Seahawks precipitated his free agency, was in fact close to signing with Buffalo before Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson — who led Johnson in Minnesota from 2014-17 — reached out. Seattle also expressed interest in re-signing Johnson, but his number of suitors allowed to him to a land a one-year, $1MM deal from the Vikings, one that includes $500K in incentives.