With free agency’s biggest names signed, the NFL Draft is on everybody’s mind. Before then, here’s a look at players who could be traded in the next month.
The NFL is in somewhat of a predraft lull prior to April 25, but there’s an undertone of trade talk circulating the league with some huge names in play.
A trio of players under the franchise tag are being discussed: Houston Texans edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark and Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
While it would be inaccurate to say they are being actively shopped, one general manager believes all will be discussed prior to the draft, as players unsigned on the tag typically are.
In all three cases, the players have been given the franchise tag but are yet to sign the tenders. While each hopes to remain on their current team with a long-term deal, it’s uncertain if deals will get done prior to the July 15 deadline.
This year, in particular, is fascinating because of recent history.
Last spring, the Pittsburgh Steelers tagged Le’Veon Bell for a second straight year. Bell decided to hold out the entire season before hitting free agency in March, ultimately signing a deal worth up to $60 million with the New York Jets.
In Dallas, Lawrence is in the same situation with the Cowboys. Playing through a pair of back surgeries to become a two-time Pro Bowler, the time has come for Jerry Jones to pay up after Lawrence was tagged a year ago as well.
If Jones is unwilling to meet Lawrence’s price, rumored to be $22 million per year, it makes sense to move Lawrence for draft capital now. It also makes sense for Lawrence to sit well into the season considering his injury history, ensuring that he gets a massive payday in 2020.
Additionally, Lawrence could negotiate a new deal with the team that’s acquiring him before signing his tender. It’s insurance to make sure Lawrence and agent David Canter like the structure and numbers.
In Houston, Clowney is a 26-year-old star. However, a source indicated that the Texans and Clowney may see his value differently. While Houston values Clowney and is willing to sign him on a long-deal deal, Clowney has never notched double-digit sacks and has an injury history. If the gulf between the two sides is significant, Houston could trade him for draft picks in an edge-rich draft?
As for Clark, he’s also staying away from signing the tag. A year ago, the Seahawks went through a similar situation with safety Earl Thomas, who was dissatisfied with his current contract. Thomas held out through the summer, came back and broke his leg before Seattle could trade him for a nice return. The last image of him in Seattle? Giving the middle finger to the team bench as he was carted off the field.
Does Seattle General Manager John Schneider want to deal with another unhappy player, or move Clark and save the drama? Keep in mind that the Seahawks are without a second-round pick.
Lastly, Jets linebacker Darron Lee. He’s firmly on the block.
Lee, 24, was a first-round pick in 2016 but hasn’t played well, totaling only four sacks in three seasons. According to a source, the Jets are openly shopping the former Ohio State product, something also reported by the New York Daily News. New York General Manager Mike Maccagnan spoke about Lee in Arizona at the league’s Owner Meetings last week, but declined to state whether Lee was or wasn’t being offered. Hint, hint.
With three weeks until the Arizona Cardinals are on the clock, we’ll see if the NFL has a blockbuster or two in it.
Top 10 quarterbacks to never start in the Super Bowl
1. Warren Moon, Houston Oilers
2. Dan Fouts, San Diego Chargers
3. Sonny Jurgensen, Washington Redskins
4. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
5. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
6. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals/Arizona Cardinals
7. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
8. Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia Eagles
9. John Brodie, San Francisco 49ers
10. Archie Manning, New Orleans Saints
“I would hope so; you guys are paying him enough.”
– Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin when asked if Le’Veon Bell would make a difference for the New York Jets
Tomlin isn’t wrong, but the answer comes off in bad taste. The Steelers tried multiple times to pay Bell — actually offering more than what he signed for in New York — but couldn’t agree to terms. Now, Pittsburgh is left to regroup after seeing Bell leave and trading Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders.
When is the last time that the Steelers appeared to be an afterthought in the AFC? Strange.
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Only two running backs have ever led the NFL in rushing and won the Super Bowl in the same season. Emmitt Smith was the first to do it with league-leading campaigns in 1992 and ’93 with the Dallas Cowboys. Both years were capped with Super Bowl victories over the Buffalo Bills.
In 1998, Terrell Davis eclipsed 2,000 yards with the Denver Broncos and helped them to a second straight title, beating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.
Info learned this week
1. History says draft will be rife with first-round quarterbacks
If you see a mock draft that doesn’t have at least two quarterbacks in the first round, raise an eyebrow. Hell, this year, raise one if you don’t see four.
Since 2002, we’ve had 17 drafts. In that span, multiple quarterbacks have gone on the first night on 16 occasions. In this decade, the reliance on finding a signal caller early has only increased in importance, with the rookie wage scale in place and the rules tilting heavily towards offensive stars.
If you think it would be a reach to take Drew Lock or Daniel Jones (more on him below) in the first round, you aren’t wrong. But consider that Brandon Weeden, Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, E.J. Manuel, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and others were all seen as massive reaches in the first round.
Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins are surefire top-10 picks, but don’t be surprised when Lock and Jones join them on the first night. Teams want to get their guy in the first round because it provides a key fifth-year option. This is why it’s likely a team will trade back into the first instead of waiting a few more picks.
2. Giants rumored to be in on Daniel Jones
The New York Giants need a quarterback to replace Eli Manning. Turns out, it might be someone Manning knows well.
According to Dan Patrick, the Giants are smitten with the Duke product, who is currently projected by most to be an early second-round pick. In reality, quarterbacks typically go well before they are expected to, so pencil Jones in for the first night.
In my Friday mailbag, I wrote about Jones and the Giants being a possible pairing in the first round. Why? New York has a relationship with Jones, because Manning knows the incoming rookie through Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe has been close with the Manning’s for years, and if both he and Eli give the approval, it would go a long way with General Manager Dave Gettleman.
New York holds the No. 6 and 17 picks in the first round after acquiring the latter by trading Odell Beckham to the Browns. Jones could either be had at No. 17, or perhaps Gettleman trades back, acquires more ammunition and then selects him in the 20s. Fascinating stuff.
3. Eagles continue to find value this offseason
The Philadelphia Eagles are quietly having one hell of an offseason.
General Manager Howie Roseman has upgraded Philadelphia on both sides of the ball over the last month. On Thursday, he wisely made another acquisition, this time running back Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears. The price? A sixth-round pick in 2020. Howard will immediately help that room and, until further notice, should be seeing the bulk of the carries.
Roseman had already landed quality pieces in defensive linemen Malik Jackson and Vinny Curry, along with wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Philadelphia has done all this without giving out a cap-crippling contract or by trading away significant draft capital. The next result is closing the gap on the Cowboys in the NFC East if not surpassing them.
4. Ndamukong Suh continues to sit on the market
While most of the big-name free agents have long since signed, one remains the outlier. Ndamukong Suh is still on the market, and although his production has waned since his dominant days in Detroit, the 32-year-old defensive tackle remains a solid player.
There appear to be two issues in play. One NFL source said Suh still wants to be paid in the range of the one-year, $14 million deal he received last season from the Los Angeles Rams. Beyond that, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported last week Suh wants to stay on the West Coast (he’s from Portland). Even so, there should be ample suitors for him there.
Even if the Los Angeles Rams aren’t involved in his bidding, the Seahawks, Raiders and Chargers are all good fits. Seattle could use another piece alongside Frank Clark and Jarran Reed on the front line. The Raiders need any available defensive talent. As for the Chargers, the interior of their defensive line might be the weakest spot on the entire team.
As the calendar turns to April, Suh’s contract will only become cheaper, and ever-more likely a one-year pact.
5. Big Ben likely giving up radio show
FanSided has learned that Ben Roethlisberger is expected to give up his weekly radio show in Pittsburgh, per multiple sources. It’s the right decision.
Over the last couple of years, tensions in Pittsburgh — specifically in the Steelers locker room — have steadily risen. Much of the issue has been the notion that Roethlisberger is on one level, and the other 52 players are on another below him. By stepping away from his radio gig, where he’s had the ability to call players out unchecked, Roethlisberger quells some of the problems.
The only question here is whether it’s too little, too late. The Steelers have already lost Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, with both citing the team’s treatment of Roethlisberger and/or Roethlisberger’s relationship with teammates as an issue.
After years of having talent galore, Pittsburgh needs to become smarter and more focused. Roethlisberger axing his show is a good start.
Super Bowl IV remains one of the most important games in pro football history. Yes, the Jets grand upset of the Baltimore Colts a year prior is far more remembered. However, the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Minnesota Vikings as a two-touchdown underdog legitimized the American Football League as a power, and not a fluke.
Author Michael McCambridge once said that the AFL finally achieved respect the second it ceased to exist. He was right. Kansas City’s victory proved the upstart league could compete and win over the NFL, with the Chiefs hammering a 12-2 Vikings team.
It was the last game between the AFL and NFL before the leagues merged for the 1970 season.
The Miami Dolphins finally have a plan.
After years of treading water, the Dolphins have decided to sink. Since 2009, Miami has finished between six and eight wins each season but one. The result has been middling draft stock and subsequently middling teams.
General Manager Chris Grier is finally doing the wise thing. With the New England Patriots in clear control of the AFC East until further notice, the Dolphins are going in the tank. Miami is without any discernible star on offense, and the defense is a collection of misfits in the front seven. It’s going to be ugly, and it’s going according to plan.
Ultimately, this only works if the Dolphins hit on their picks. If they miss, they are the Browns of the last 20 years. In 2020, Miami will likely settle on a franchise quarterback, either in Justin Herbert of Oregon or Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. From there, the rebuild can begin. Until then, the Dolphins will happily crater knowing that the way up begins from the absolute bottom.
Football won’t be fun this year on South Beach. There will be scores of empty seats and the interest will be non-existent. That’s fine, provided it only lasts for a short while.
The Dolphins are finally committing to a plan. Not a pipe dream.