NFC South Notes: Brees, McCaffrey, Winston

Let’s check out a few notes from the NFC South:

  • Drew Brees could be back from his thumb injury as soon as week 8 against the Cardinals, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Brees is in close contact with a hand specialist as he works to get back to full strength and has impressed the Saints with the strides he has made thus far. His initial timeframe from his surgery puts a return in two weeks not out of the question and there has been nothing in the process so far to have altered that schedule. If Brees can practice fully that week and show an ability to play fully and normally, then a return against the Cardinals is quite possible.
  • If the Panthers don’t extend Christian McCaffrey‘s contract during the offseason, a holdout wouldn’t be surprising, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports. McCaffrey, who has been an all around force for the Panthers this season, has the same representation as Khalil Mack and Chris Johnson. Johnson held out in 2011 with two years left on his rookie deal and eventually became one of the top paid running backs in the NFL.
  • If Jameis Winston re-signs with the Buccaneers after this season, it would not be for much more than his salary this season, the average of what an average, experienced quarterback makes, speculates Buccaneers insider Roy Cummings. Despite this, as of today’s writing, Winston has been off to an above average season thus far, throwing for 1,371 yards and 11 touchdowns through five games.

XFL Notes: Robinson, Cook, Aguayo, Cobb, Gray, Broyles, Boyer, Locke, Novak, Ollie

The relaunched XFL is gearing up for its first season, and they’re starting to announce more and more of their initial player pool. There are a lot of ex-NFL guys in the mix, and we’ll get to that in just a bit, but at least one notable college player is looking to jump right in. Former West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson is entering the XFL draft pool, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk. Robinson was dismissed from West Virginia for academic fraud earlier this year. Florio writes that he was “considered a likely draft choice,” but hadn’t been in school long enough to be eligible for the NFL, which requires you to be three years removed from high school graduation.

That left Robinson with the options of looking for a new school to play at, or entering an alternative pro league. “Now they can see how I hold up mentally and physically,” Robinson told Andy Staples of The Athletic. “They’ll see me playing against guys who have actually been in the NFL and done it.” Robinson will be an early test case for what the XFL is hoping more players opt to do. Ever since they announced they were coming back, the XFL has attempted to position itself as a league for talented high school and college players to consider as an alternative to the NCAA. As Florio notes, Robinson will be eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft. In 12 games for the Mountaineers last year he had 77 tackles and four interceptions, earning a first-team All-Big 12 nod.

And now, onto the NFL alums:

  • In the first group of players that the league announced on Twitter, a few names jumped out. Former Michigan State and Raiders quarterback Connor Cook is on the list. Cook was drafted by Oakland in the fourth-round back in 2016, and even ended up starting a playoff game for them that year after injuries to Derek Carr and Matt McGloin. He spent 2017 as a third-stringer and was released at final cuts the following year. He was briefly with the Lions earlier this offseason, but was waived back in June.
  • Everybody’s favorite kicker Roberto Aguayo was also on the list, as were running backs David Cobb and Jonas Gray. Aguayo, of course, was infamously drafted by the Buccaneers in the second-round back in 2016. He lasted only one year as the Bucs’ kicker despite his draft status, and has become a punchline ever since. Cobb had a brief run as the Titans’ lead back in 2015, but never did anything after that. He most recently played in the AAF with the San Antonio Commanders. Gray was with the Patriots in 2014, and won Super Bowl XLIX with the team. Gray randomly had an absurd week in November of that year, rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns. He quickly fell out of favor, and was released by New England the following year. He hasn’t even been in a training camp since 2016.
  • Earlier Tuesday, the XFL posted to Twitter their second batch of players. Among the notable names was receiver Ryan Broyles, a second-round pick of the Lions back in 2012. Broyles, a legendary Oklahoma player, showed some promise as a rookie, but injuries derailed his career after that. He last appeared in a regular season game in 2014. There were also a few interesting specialists on the list in longsnapper Nate Boyer, punter Jeff Locke, and kicker Nick Novak. Boyer spent six years in the military and served in Afghanistan and Iraq before becoming a walk-on at Texas. He spent the 2015 offseason with the Seahawks, but was ultimately released. Notably, he is the player who advised Colin Kaepernick to kneel rather than sit during the national anthem. Locke spent four seasons as the Vikings’ punter. Novak is a veteran NFL kicker who spent over a decade in the league from 2005-20017. Ronald Ollie, one of the stars of the popular Netflix show ‘Last Chance U’, is also on the list.


CBA Talks Quietly Resume

Roger Goodell, Giants President and CEO John Mara, and Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt all traveled to Jacksonville, Florida this week for the first formal bargaining session in more than a month with the players’ union, a meeting in which both sides modified their positions on the central economic issue, though there was still no major breakthrough amidst hopes of completing a new collective bargaining agreement during the league’s 100th season, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Joining Goodell, Mara, and Hunt was NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and union president Eric Winston.

While there had been multiple staff meetings in recent weeks, this was the first time the principals had been in a room together since late August, when the sides agreed to table bargaining as Smith began his annual tour of all 32 teams. 

Owners have remained committed throughout the process in adding regular season games, focused exclusively in recent weeks on a 17-game schedule, rather than 18, without making significant economic concessions. Conversely, the players want to grow their share of revenue without adding any regular-season games to the schedule. Currently, the players are guaranteed at least 47 percent of total revenue under the existing CBA, which is set to expire after the 2020 season.

Since bargaining began months ago, representatives on both sides have described the tone of talks as more positive than the rather contentious negotiations in 2011, which ultimately included a 132-day lockout. As a show of good faith, Smith’s tour was accelerated from past years and is scheduled to end this week.

Ideally, the league would approach the networks by December about extending the NFL’s TV deals. As a result, a new CBA would prove to be extremely valuable in these negotiations and creates an unofficial timeline for the proceedings.

Officially, Roger Goodell did not put any sort of deadline on the CBA discussions. “You don’t have timelines in CBA negotiations,” Goodell told NFL Network’s Stacey Dales on Sunday morning in London ahead of the matchup between the Bears and Raiders. “We’ve had a lot of discussions over several months. They continue. We’ll see, we’ll keep working on it.”

NFL Workout Updates: 9/17/19

Here are Tuesday’s updates from the workout circuit, all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter unless otherwise noted.

Atlanta Falcons

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

  • T Gerhard deBeer, Christian DiLauro, Brandon Hitner, C James Murray (link)

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Redskins

Latest On Negotiations Between Dak Prescott, Cowboys

Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are not expected to have a deal completed before the team plays its week 1 game against the Giants later today.

Prescott isn’t rushing to sign a new contract, as he’ll instead wait to receive what he deems as a fair one. The quarterback isn’t too worried about the potential risk for injury, as he has loss of value and disability insurance policies that are valued at over $50MM, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Prescott also has several multi-year endorsements.

“Obviously I want to see it done,” Prescott previously said. “To put a time frame on it, I think I’ve said this before, I’m not going to do that. At this point my focus is all on the Giants and the Giants defense and what this team needs to do to win the game. And next week it will roll to the next opponent. I don’t want to blur my mind or distract myself any with thinking about those talks or thinking about what’s going on when I’ve got enough on my plate to handle. So I’m just focused on the Giants and I’ve got people to take care of [the contract].”

The team would like to get a deal done before the game, though they’ll continue negotiations through the season if they can’t accomplish that goal. Should Prescott and the Cowboys not come to a deal before the offseason, the franchise tag would be a possibility for the quarterback. The two sides are undergoing negotiations this morning, as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

Latest On Antonio Brown

One of the weirdest opening weeks in recent memory is starting to wind down, and a full slate of regular season games is right around the corner. Before that though, we have one more batch of notes on Antonio Brown. The All-Pro receiver is a member of the Patriots now, and there will surely be more fallout to come as the dust settles. Brown was on the open market for just a few hours before inking a one-year deal with New England, and the defending champions now have one of the best group of skill position players in the league.

Here’s the latest on the star of the 2019 offseason:

  • First off we have more details on his new contract, courtesy of Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. It was initially reported that Brown’s deal would be worth “up to” $15MM, and include a $9MM signing bonus. Per Schefter, there’s only $1MM in guaranteed money besides the signing bonus. The other $5MM is incentives, he reports.
  • The Raiders ultimately didn’t suspend Brown over his confrontation with GM Mike Mayock, and the Patriots obviously won’t be suspending him. That doesn’t mean he is out of the woods entirely though, as Brown could apparently be suspended by the league office for a Personal Conduct Policy violation. A league spokesman declined to comment on the matter, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, who notes the policy specifically prohibits “[v]iolent or threatening behavior toward another employee or a third party in any workplace.” If the league finds that Brown threatened Mayock as some have reported, he could be slapped with a suspension.
  • The Patriots raised a lot of eyebrows by giving Brown a $9MM signing bonus given his recent erratic behavior. Teams can usually recoup 25 percent of a signing bonus if something goes wrong, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). La Canfora wonders whether the Patriots asked for different language in the contract to protect them further in the event that things go off the rails like they did in Oakland.
  • The Raiders voided Brown’s guarantees before releasing him, and there have been rumblings that Brown might pursue a grievance to try to recoup some of that money. Even if his agent Drew Rosenhaus does pursue the grievance and it is successful, he won’t be getting all that money back. Brown’s deal with Oakland contained offset language, so “the $9 million signing bonus he’ll get from the Patriots — and any other money he earns as a player in 2019 and 2020 — reduces the amount he could pursue in a potential grievance over his voided guarantees,” Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. As such, it doesn’t seem like the grievance will be very high-stakes, if it gets filed at all. 

Latest On Ezekiel Elliott

It was reported earlier today that Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys were nearing an agreement on a six-year, $90MM extension. While we are not quite across the goal line, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Elliott is flying back to Dallas to be ready in the event that he and the team come to terms on an agreement.

Owner Stephen Jones and Elliott’s agent, Rocky Arceneaux, are scheduled to meet this evening, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports (Twitter link). Moore cautions that a deal has not yet been agreed to, even in principle.

Elliott has a desire to surpass Todd Gurley‘s near $15MM AAV deal and become the highest-paid running back the league. The previously reported deal would do just enough to accomplish that goal and it would surpass Gurley’s deal in length by two seasons. The eight-year extension would keep Zeke under contract through the 2026 season, though as our own Zach Links previously noted, it may not be a true eight-year deal based on the guarantees, cash flow and overall structure of the arrangement.

The Cowboys are not seeking a front-loaded contract, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports relays on Twitter. The scribe notes that the 30 percent rule has been a barrier in striking a deal thus far.

Dallas agreed to a five-year extension with La’el Collins earlier today with sources telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link) that the deal created $5.7MM in cap space for the Cowboys this season. Such a move could be designed to facilitate a new Elliott contract.

Should Elliott sign today, the Cowboys expect him to play on Sunday against the Giants. Arceneux flew quarterback Tanner Lee, who is also his client, to Cabo to help the running back work on his passing game and two-minute offense, as ESPN’s Ed Werder relays (Twitter link). Hall-of-Fame running back Marshall Faulk has also been working out with Elliott in Mexico.

The Cowboys called up RB Jordan Chunn from the practice squad and they have rookie Tony Pollard and Alfred Morris in the fold, so Dallas has a full backfield ready in the event that Elliott doesn’t sign this week. Pollard is rumored to be the strongest candidate for a lead-back role if Elliott misses any games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles To Cut DE Eli Harold

Three weeks after acquiring Eli Harold from the Bills, the Eagles will not carry him through to their 53-man roster. The Eagles will release the veteran edge defender, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

The team will also place tight end Richard Rodgers on IR and waive quarterback Cody Kessler. The Eagles only gave up undrafted rookie offensive tackle Ryan Bates for Harold, so it’s not like they had a particularly big investment in him. Harold was originally drafted by San Francisco in the third-round back in 2015, and spent last year with the Lions. He had four sacks with Detroit last year and the Eagles were looking for pass-rushing depth, but they apparently didn’t like what they saw from the 25-year-old. For his career, he has nine career sacks in 61 games and 25 starts

Kessler was drafted by the Browns in 2016, then traded to Jacksonville last offseason. He surprisingly ended up starting four games for the Jaguars last year, but he averaged a pitiful 5.4 yards per attempt. He was trying to make the team in Philly, but the Eagles luring Josh McCown out of retirement all but sealed his fate. Rodgers has made some noise in the past with Green Bay, but he’ll now miss the entire 2019 campaign with a foot injury.

Ravens LB Paul Worrilow Retires

Linebacker Paul Worrilow‘s tenure with the Ravens last all of 24 hours. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the veteran has decided to retire. The 29-year-old signed a contract with Baltimore yesterday.

Worrilow’s pairing with Baltimore seemed to make sense; Jeff Zrebiec of the Athletic notes (on Twitter) that the team is currently rostering only seven healthy defensive linemen. The Ravens will likely keep Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce out of the lineup for the preseason finale, and potential starters Chris Wormley and Willie Henry were forced to play much of the second half during the Ravens win on Thursday. At the very least, they’ll need a healthy body to get them through the final preseason contest.

Worrilow, a 2013 undrafted free agent out of Delaware, quickly established himself as a dependable rotation piece for the Falcons. Worrilow started 43 games over his first three seasons in the NFL, including a 2014 campaign where he finished with a career-high 142 tackles. The inside linebacker played a backup role for the NFC-winning 2016 Falcons before moving on to the Lions, where he started eight games in 2017.

He signed with the Eagles in 2018 but tore his ACL on the first day of OTAs. He re-signed with the organization back in January, but he was released by the organization earlier this month.

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, 49ers, Fant

Cardinals executive vice president/COO Ron Minegar was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence Saturday night in Chandler, Ariz., according to Shane Dale of ABC15. The Cardinals released a statement, calling the act “inexcusable” and indicated it will bring “serious consequences” (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). This comes a year after Cardinals GM Steve Keim was arrested for DUI. Keim served a five-week suspension for that. Minegar has been with the Cards much longer than Keim, joining the franchise in 2000. He serves mostly in a business-side capacity.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • Jerick McKinnon‘s 49ers debut may be further delayed. The team “seems to be drifting toward” the notion that McKinnon might not be ready to play by Week 1, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required). McKinnon is out for the preseason’s remainder after receiving a PRP injection in his troublesome knee, which required surgery a year ago. The former Vikings back spent the offseason rehabbing but came off the 49ers’ active/PUP list to practice Tuesday. But after soreness, the sixth-year talent is again shut down. Barrows projects the 49ers will place McKinnon on short-term IR to start the season, with the reserve/PUP list no longer being an option.
  • Veterans Malcolm Smith and Jordan Matthews may not have a place with the 2019 49ers, with Barrows predicting both will fail to make the 53-man roster. Matthews signed a one-year, $2MM deal ($300K guaranteed) with San Francisco earlier this offseason. Smith has disappointed since coming over from the Raiders, missing all of 2017 due to injury and four games last season. The Super Bowl XLVIII MVP registered just 35 tackles in 2018. Although Barrows notes the 30-year-old linebacker was having a good camp prior to tweaking a hamstring, he has rookie UDFA Azeez Al-Shaair making the team over the veteran. Smith agreed to a restructured deal in March, one that shortened his five-year contract to three years. But cutting Smith would tag the 49ers with $4.2MM in dead money.
  • Would-be 49ers swing tackle Shon Coleman suffered a season-ending ankle injury Saturday night and underwent surgery Sunday. The 49ers are searching for a potential replacement for this role, Kyle Shanahan said (via Barrows, on Twitter), naming former 49er Garry Gilliam as a possible solution.
  • The Seahawks have used George Fant as a starter in 17 games over the past three seasons and are expected to keep him around in 2019 as a swing tackle. But a second-degree ankle sprain will shelve Fant for multiple weeks, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes.
  • Charles Clay and Brandon Williams are cleared to return to full Cardinals practices. The veteran tight end and cornerback came off the Cards’ active/PUP list Sunday.