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Seeking Writers For Pro Hockey Rumors

As our sister site Pro Hockey Rumors celebrates its four-year anniversary, we’re looking to add to the writing staff! In particular, we’re seeking someone with strong daytime availability Monday through Friday. The position pays hourly. The criteria:

  • Exceptional knowledge of all 31 NHL teams, no discernible bias.
  • Knowledge of the salary cap, CBA and transaction-related concepts.
  • At least some college education.
  • Extensive writing experience, with professional experience and a background in journalism both strongly preferred.
  • Keen understanding of journalistic principles, ethics and procedures. Completion of basic college-level journalism classes is strongly preferred.
  • Attention to detail — absolutely no spelling errors, especially for player and journalist names.
  • Ability to follow the site’s style and tone.
  • Ability to analyze articles and craft intelligent, well-written posts summing up the news in a few paragraphs. We need someone who can balance creating quick copy with thoughtful analysis. You must be able to add value to breaking news with your own insight, numbers or links to other relevant articles.
  • Ability to use Twitter and Tweetdeck.
  • Multi-tasking is crucial.
  • If you’re interested, email prohockeyrumorshelp@gmail.com and explain how you stand out and qualify in a couple of short paragraphs. Please attach your resume to the email. Unfortunately we may not be able to reply to every applicant.

Bucs Notes: Brady, TEs, OL, Free Agency

Tom Brady‘s transition to a new team in advance of his 21st NFL season has obviously been less than ideal, with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the future Hall of Famer from working with teammates and coaches at the Buccaneers‘ facility. The first time the soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback is expected to be permitted to enter his new team’s facilities will be training camp. But the Bucs do not plan to compensate for this by giving Brady more preseason work. Bruce Arians said Thursday he doubts Brady will need more preseason time to make up for the virtual offseason, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Still, Brady’s preseason snaps figure to be more important than usual this year.

Here is the latest out of Tampa:

  • Arians has not gotten much out of the tight end position during his stay as head coach in Arizona and Tampa. That should soon change. The Bucs currently house an all-time tight end stable, with Rob Gronkowski joining the team’s O.J. HowardCameron Brate duo already regarded as one of the NFL’s best. Arians said the Bucs will use a two-tight end offense as their base this season (via Auman, on Twitter). Going with more “12 personnel” looks would give Howard and Brate more time on the field and potentially represent an effort to conserve Gronkowski, who retired partially because of injury issues last year. This also points to the Bucs giving stronger consideration to keeping all three tight ends rather than trading Howard or Brate. Arians even said he’s interested in three-tight end looks.
  • Tampa Bay is not expected to make a move to add interior offensive linemen to back up starters Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa and Ryan Jensen, Arians added (via Auman, on Twitter). The Bucs did not draft any guards or centers, but Arians likes what he has seen from backups Aaron Stinnie, Anthony Fabiano and Zack Bailey. A fifth-year blocker, Fabiano is now on his eighth team. Stinnie was a 2018 Titans UDFA; Bailey was a Bucs 2019 UDFA who spent much of last year on IR.
  • However, the Bucs are keeping multiple roster spots open for possible veteran additions. Arians said (via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, on Twitter) he and GM Jason Licht discussed saving room for veterans who would be more prepared to play than rookie UDFAs. With Brady on a two-year deal, Tampa Bay stockpiling vets would make sense.

Latest On NFL Rule Changes

The NFL discussed a set of rule changes on Thursday. Here is how the league opted to proceed:

  • A proposal to implement a fourth-and-15 play to replace the increasingly difficult onside kick was tabled, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This proposal would give teams the option of eschewing kickoffs for a 15-yard conversion — on an untimed down — twice per game. This marks the second straight year the league tabled such a proposal. But teams were split this time around. The unofficial straw poll had 16 teams for and 16 against, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (via Twitter). This rule, or something similar, will almost certainly be revisited again as some momentum now exists to adjust the onside kick.
  • The opposition to the fourth-and-15 proposal came largely from owners fearing it could be a bridge to eliminating the kickoff altogether, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. The NFL pushed back against that perception, viewing the potential rule change as merely a way to help teams’ comeback efforts — now that the no-running-start rule has worsened onside kick recovery odds.
  • Both sky judge proposals did not even make it to a vote, with each being withdrawn in advance of Thursday’s discussions, Pelissero notes. But the league did approve a preseason experiment that may lead to such a change. The approval will allow for increased communication between on-field officials and those in the booth during this preseason, and NFL executive VP for football operations Troy Vincent said (via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com) it could be a bridge to adding a full-time booth official to each crew.
  • This preseason experiment partially stems from the NFL being concerned about having to hire 17 booth officials to act as sky judges, the Washington Post’s Mark Maske tweets. Fear of potential unintended consequences — as was the case in the one-and-done pass interference review system — prompted the league to scrap the sky judge proposals, per Florio. But the cost of hiring qualified booth officials almost certainly played a role, Florio adds.
  • Teams will have an additional IR spot this coming season. Three players can now return from IR.

NFL To Vote On Changes To IR Rules

League owners will vote next week on two major proposed changes to injured reserve rules, per Albert Breer of SI.com (Twitter link). The first would allow up to three players who have been placed on IR to return later in the season (currently, only two IR’d players are permitted to return). The second would make players who are placed on IR prior to final roster cutdowns eligible to return.

The first of those proposed changes is fairly self-explanatory, though it wasn’t that long ago that a player who was put on injured reserve was automatically ruled out for the rest of the season. In 2012, clubs were permitted to return one player from IR during the season, but they had to designate a specific player as a return candidate. In 2016, the rules were modified so that teams did not have to slap a “DTR” label on a specific player and could instead return any IR’d player they wanted. And in 2017, the league began allowing teams to bring back two players from injured reserve.

Throughout those changes, however, one thing has remained constant: in order to be eligible to return from IR, a player had to make his team’s final 53-man preseason roster. So we frequently saw situations like that of Kurt Coleman last year, who was cut by the Bills prior to final cutdowns just so that Buffalo could carry tight end Jason Croom on the 53-man and then place him on IR (thereby making him eligible to return later in the season). Buffalo re-signed Coleman the next day.

That type of borderline senseless roster maneuvering may soon be a thing of the past. Still, a player on IR will not be permitted to practice until six weeks after landing on injured reserve and cannot return to game action until his team has played eight games after he was put on IR.

NFC South Notes: Saints, Bucs, Brady

Despite the three Pro Bowl selections on his resume, Larry Warford‘s standing with the Saints is in flux. The Saints have been pondering his status throughout the offseason, according to Larry Holder of The Athletic.

Warford has started in every game he’s played throughout his career, including these last three Pro Bowl seasons with the Saints. Still, Sean Payton followed through on his promise to prioritize the interior line by drafting center Cesar Ruiz in the first round. He’s also indicated that Ruiz could be a first-stringer and that Warford will have to compete for his starting gig.

Warford is still on the right side of 30 (he turns 29 in June), but the Saints aren’t sold on him. It’s a situation to monitor as he enters the final year of the four-year, $34MM deal he inked as a free agent in 2017. If released, Warford would count for $5.125MM in dead money versus $7.75MM in cap savings.

The Saints are giving real thought to shedding that deal, especially with a combined $28MM committed to Terron Armstead and Andrus Peat in 2020. They also have an extension on the horizon for standout tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who just recently had his 2021 option exercised.

More from the NFC South:

  • When Tom Brady visited Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, he accidentally walked into the wrong house. He also triggered some questions regarding league rules, since the visit occurred during the league’s “dark period” prior to virtual offseason activities. However, the league looked into it and determined that there were no rule violations, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • The NFL has also determined that the Saints‘ signing of Jameis Winston will not count against their compensatory formula (Twitter link via Nick Underhill of New Orleans Football). It’s not clear whether Winston’s signing was actually borderline in this regard – his deal was reportedly signed after the deadline for the compensatory pick formula, which should have made this an automatic. In any case, Winston is now set to watch and learn from Drew Brees on his one-year contract.
  • Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are hoping to finally figure out their kicking situation. They’re hopeful that Matt Gay will improve this year, GM Jason Licht says, but the Bucs are also “definitely planning on adding competition,” (via the Tampa Bay Times). Gay made only 27 of 35 field goals last year, but he did nail five of his tries from 50 yards out.

Chargers Hire Pep Hamilton As QBs Coach

The Chargers are hiring Pep Hamilton as their new quarterbacks coach, a source tells Daniel Popper of The Athletic.

Hamilton’s most recent gig came as the head coach and general manager of the XFL’s DC Defenders, but he also boasts ample NFL experience. He served in a variety of offensive roles for the Jets, 49ers, and Bears before joining the Colts as offensive coordinator in 2013. In Indianapolis, Hamilton coached quarterback Andrew Luck, who he’d also led as Stanford’s OC from 2011-12.

The 45-year-old Hamilton spent 2016 with the Browns before reuniting with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan for two seasons. He took over the Defenders earlier this year, but that role ended when the XFL ended its operations in early April. The Chargers actually tried to hire Hamilton a few months ago, but weren’t able to due to his XFL employment, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

In Los Angeles, Hamilton will team with holdover offensive coordinator Shane Steichen to develop No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert. While veteran Tyrod Taylor may begin the 2020 campaign as the Chargers’ starting quarterback, Herbert will surely be under center at some point.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Gronk, Vikes, Bears

The Vikings broke up their years-long receiver tandem of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, shipping the latter to Buffalo for a package of picks. While the Vikings did not collect quite the haul they did for Percy Harvin seven years ago, Rick Spielman called it a business opportunity that benefited both Diggs and the Vikings (Twitter link via the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling). Spielman said he did not intend to trade Diggs when he last spoke at the Combine, but the Bills’ offer of a first-round pick and three Day 3 choices — including a 2021 fourth-rounder — was too enticing to pass up. The Bills also upped their offer from their previous one, which occurred before the 2019 deadline. The Vikings now hold the Nos. 22 and 25 overall picks in a receiver-loaded draft, and they now have a massive need at the position.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Two years ago, the Lions nearly traded for Rob Gronkowski. Now that a team has actually swung a trade for the dominant tight end, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com provided the details (via Twitter) on the disparities between the Buccaneers and Lions’ offers. They are stark. The Lions offered the Pats their 2018 first-rounder (No. 20 overall) and were set to swap picks in the second round (dropping from No. 43 to 51) before the then-29-year-old tight end nixed the deal by threatening to retire. The Lions ended up picking Frank Ragnow in the first round; Gronkowski collected a third Super Bowl ring 10 months later and then retired. The Pats dealt the unretiring Gronk and a seventh-round pick to the Bucs for a fourth-rounder on Tuesday.
  • Everson Griffen remains unsigned and is “probably” gone from the Vikings, but the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson notes if Minnesota does not land a pass rusher in the draft it is not out of the question the 10-year veteran returns (Twitter link). Griffen issued a statement indicating an 11th Vikings season was not in the cards, but Tomasson indicates (via Twitter) he merely wanted to inform other teams he was available and not a lock to return to Minnesota. Griffen’s mental health episode in 2018 may well be impacting his free agency, with Tomasson tweeting teams would like to meet with him and discuss it. The 32-year-old edge defender will likely have to reassess his options after the draft.
  • Another year, another Bears kicking competition. After a very public kicker battle throughout the 2019 offseason, the Bears will hold another this year. Incumbent Eddy Pineiro will match up against lower-profile challenger Ramiz Ahmed, Ryan Pace confirmed (via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jason Lieser). The Bears signed Ahmed, who kicked at Nevada for one season and has yet to kick in an NFL game, last week but had their eye on him as a UDFA last year. A late addition last summer, Pineiro made 23 of 28 field goals with the Bears last season.

Cowboys Re-Sign Darian Thompson

The Cowboys have retained safety Darian Thompson, according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network. After losing safety Jeff Heath to the Raiders earlier today, the team has maintained some continuity at the position.

A third-round pick in the 2016 draft by the Giants, Thompson started all 16 games of his second professional season in New York, but mediocre play and an injury led to his release in just his third season. The Cowboys soon picked him up and he appeared in 10 games at the close of 2018, but failed to record any statistics.

In his first full season in Dallas, Thompson made 4 starts but appeared in the Cowboys defensive backfield in 15 games throughout the season. Thompson recorded 45 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1.5 sacks, and received the 61st highest grade for a safety of the 86 qualified players, per Pro Football Focus.

Vikings Extend FB C.J. Ham

The Vikings have signed their fullback C.J. Ham to a three-year extension, per his agent’s Twitter account. No details have emerged on the specific dollar value of the extension, although no deal would be expected to break the bank.

Ham has been one of the few fullbacks left in a league that has relied less and less on the blocking focused fullback. Of the 12 fullbacks who qualified for grading by Pro Football Focus last season, Ham solidly ranked in the middle of the pack at 7th.

Over his three years in Minnesota, Ham has appeared in 47 games (10 starts), caught 35 passes for 302 yards, received 20 carries for 38 yards, and recorded two touchdowns.