The NFL combine is a week away, so let’s jump in on this snowy (in the Boston area, at least) Monday afternoon …
1. We wrote about the franchise tag candidates in Monday Morning Quarterback, and I bet four edge rushers will be tagged: Kansas City’s Dee Ford, Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence, Seattle’s Frank Clark and Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney. So let’s go to the next-level here. I’d bet that Lawrence (who’s more expensive to tag, since it’s his second time) and Ford wind up getting long-term deals before July 15. I think Clark is 50-50, and Clowney (who’s had some pretty serious injury issues for a young guy) is more likely to play on his one-year tender.
2. I’d be surprised if the Cowboys paid top dollar for Earl Thomas, who’s played footsy with Dallas for some time. Xavier Woods, at a cost of $685,000, showed promise last year; he’s not Thomas, but he’s a lot less expensive for a team that has Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones to take care over the next year or so. Maybe Thomas takes a discount to come home. If not, I don’t get the sense the brass is going to bend over backwards to make it happen.
3. The Jaguars picking up the 2019 option on Calais Campbell means the team will be looking elsewhere on the defensive line for cap relief. Marcel Dareus and Malik Jackson would appear to be in peril (cutting those two would shave more than $20 million off the team’s 2019 cap), particularly with 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan around to pick up the slack.
4. Patriots LT Trent Brown told Adam Schefter that he’d “love” to stay in New England, but he’s set himself up to cash in next month. Plenty of NFL teams are still desperate for offensive line help, and ex-Patriot Nate Solder showed last year what happens when a left tackle makes it to the market—so the chances of it happening are pretty iffy. If Brown doesn’t come back at a discount, it’s more likely that the team would rely on Dante Scarnecchia to figure it out, like it did last year with Brown.
5. Credit to Sean McVay for taking care of the coaches on the offensive side of his staff after the Rams’ Super Bowl run and second straight year ranked in the top two in the NFL in scoring. Passing game coordinator Shane Waldron’s move from tight ends to quarterbacks (he retains his coordinating duties) qualifies as career advancement, and senior offensive assistant Jedd Fisch will become an assistant coordinator, which means his responsibilities will expand—his focus was on the Rams’ red-zone work last year. It’s natural that after a year like the Rams had, everyone might want a little more, so it’s good that those coaches will feel appreciated.
6. As I hear it, the Bengals feel good about where their defensive coordinator search is right now. After the ship sailed on the idea of hiring an older coordinator (Jack Del Rio, et al), the two top guys on Taylor’s list were, in order, Saints DC Dennis Allen and Florida DC Todd Grantham—Allen, whose contract was up, got a three-year deal in New Orleans, and Grantham got a raise at Florida. I’m guessing they’ll take another swing soon, and connect this time.
7. Good note from Mike Florio on the Bills’ turnover since Sean McDermott arrived in January 2017. Only five players on the roster predate McDermott, and that helps explain why it was borderline miraculous that the team won even six games last year. Believe it or not, a third of the Bills’ salary cap in 2018 was taken up in dead money, with five of the eight biggest cap numbers on the ledger attached to players no longer on the team. A year later, there’s just one pre-McDermott Bills draft pick left (Shaq Lawson), which means money was spent poorly. There wasn’t much in the way of the cheap labor, which usually comes via the draft, to make up for it. Now having taken the hit, McDermott and GM Brandon Beane can move forward. They’ll get their second draft class as a tandem (McDermott’s third), and expect to be about $75-$80 million under the cap, following last year’s cleansing.
8. Late Sunday night, with NBA All-Star weekend drawing to a close, Jaguars star Jalen Ramsey tweeted:
It’s pretty clear that a lot of NFL players follow what’s happening with their basketball peers. And sure makes you wonder if Antonio Brown’s wildcat strike of the last two months might be the tip of the iceberg in star players trying mimic what’s happening in the NBA and take greater control of their careers. Not many NFL guys have the leverage to do it. What happens with those that do could be interesting.
9. One thing from the AAF that has jumped out to me is how important the production value of a broadcast is to how we perceive a league in any sport. The AAF’s broadcasts are clean and professional, and close to what we get with the NFL—and that goes really far.
10. We’ll wrap with a leftover from my talk with new Dolphins coach Brian Flores. I asked him if he wants his program to look like New England, where he’s spent all 15 of his seasons working in the NFL. Here’s his answer:
“They have a great program up there. So yeah, there are definitely some things that I’d like to look that way, like New England. But I think with myself, this coaching staff, we’re going to have our own style, our own way of doing things that fits the Miami Dolphins. We can’t try to mimic or mirror what anybody else does, we have to be ourselves. That’s no different than what we talked about with me personally being a leader—I have to be myself, and this team, this organization, we have to be ourselves as a group. I really believe that. If we try to be anybody else, then it won’t be real, it won’t be authentic. And it won’t work.” Good answer, I thought.
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Original Article: https://www.si.com/nfl/2019/02/18/nfl-franchise-tag-free-agency-demarcus-lawrence-dee-ford-earl-thomas-sean-mcvay-rams-coaching-staff