NFL Scouting Combine

NFL Combine rumors: Olivier Vernon rumors, A.J. Brown dazzles and more

The NFL Combine was rife with trade speculation and sizzling free-agency rumors on Friday. At the heart of it all? The New York Giants.

Big Blue could be used to either describe the team or its fanbase.

On Thursday, rumors began swirling that the New York Giants were looking into trading defensive end Olivier Vernon. Vernon, 28, signed a blockbuster five-year, $85 million deal in 2016 but hasn’t lived up to expectations. In three years with New York, Vernon has 22 sacks.

With free agency approaching in 10 days, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is looking to create cap space. Vernon’s $19.5 million hit is more than 10 percent of the expected $188 million cap, making a savings of $8 million enticing.

Additionally, the thought around the league is that Gettleman isn’t going to place the franchise tag strong safety Landon Collins, allowing the 25-year-old star to instead hit the open market. If Collins indeed leaves, New York suddenly has $28.8 million available but more holes to plug. For those who still believe an Odell Beckham Jr. trade is possible, moving him would create $15 million in dead money and save $6 million.

All of this leads to a central question whether or not the Giants have any discernible direction.

The general consensus around the league is that New York wants to keep Eli Manning for one more year before letting him leave/retire. Why hold on to Manning if the team is letting its two best defensive players go in Vernon and Collins, all on the heels of trading Damon Harrison for a bag of chips at the trade deadline last season?

If New York is going to essentially rebuild on the fly, it makes sense to procure the next franchise quarterback. Everything being said in Indianapolis alludes to the Giants putting a youngster behind Manning for the 2019 season. If whoever that quarterback is needs that redshirt year, fine. If he doesn’t, the prudent move would be to let him play on a team with no expectations while learning the ropes.

Conversely, if New York is trying to put together a competitive team in the lukewarm NFC East, then allowing Vernon and Collins to walk is asinine. Yes, there have been loud overtures by the Collins camp that a tag would potentially be received by a protracted holdout. If you’re the Giants, so what? Eventually, Collins will show up and play well with free agency looming in the near future.

Ultimately, New York finds itself in football purgatory. Gettleman doesn’t appear willing to fully commit to a direction, and it’s leaving the Giants in limbo.

Murray gets on the podium

For the first and only time this week, Kyler Murray spoke to the media. It left a mixed impression.

Murray re-affirmed his love of football, stating that there’s no consideration about going back to baseball in the future. Furthermore, the Heisman Trophy winner talked about a meeting he has coming up with the Arizona Cardinals, which will only fuel speculation that Josh Rosen is on the block. In reality, the Cardinals would be negligent not to take the sit-down.

Yet there was an interesting moment when Murray was asked about the $330 million deal signed by Bryce Harper of MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies. The potential No. 1 overall pick replied that there are NFL quarterbacks making more money than Harper on an annual basis, who stands to clear $25 million on average over the course of his 13-year deal.

First, Murray is right. In fact, there are five quarterbacks currently eclipsing $25 million on average. With the salary cap continuing to rise, that number will continue to swell. However, making that kind of money for every year of your career beyond the rookie deal? Not happening in football.

The takeaway? Murray didn’t seem to understand the economics of the two sports when answering that question.

A.J. Brown has the total package

Nobody was more entertaining on Thursday than Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown. Brown took the podium in the early afternoon and regaled the media with how much he loves wings, how he doesn’t compare himself to other receivers, and how he and fellow Ole Miss receiver and potential first-round choice D.K. Metcalf would playfully scream at each other during workouts.

Does any of that make Brown a perfect prospect? No. However, the personality screams star, and when you match his production to his persona — 85 catches for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns last season — he’s one of the most intriguing guys out there.

In a year when neither the free-agent nor the rookie class are flush with high-end receivers, Brown could be a steal.

Elijah Holyfield runs a shocking time

Every year, there are some guys who either shoot up or plummet down boards across the league at the combine. Unfortunately, former Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield finds himself in the latter category.

The son of champion boxer Evander Holyfield, Elijah went through his positional drills on Friday and ran a brutal 4.78 40-yard dash, the worst of any running back. Checking in at 5-foot-10 and 217 pounds, Holyfield was always going to be a power runner, but that time is alarming. How alarming? Some context:

Suffice to say, it was a bad day for a kid with some real promise coming into the week.

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