NFL

Jaguars waiting with Jalen Ramsey, NFL power rankings and more

Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue both want contract extensions. The team is taking the cautious approach, forcing a high-stakes game of chicken.

Want to predict the future? Revisit the past.

Last week, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey told reporters the team would not negotiate an extension this offseason. This surprised some, considering Ramsey has been a phenomenal player through his first three campaigns. The 24-year-old is a two-time Pro Bowler and made First-Team All-Pro in 2017. Many believe he’s the top player at a premium position, one that would reset the market if hitting it.

But therein lies the rub. Ramsey isn’t hitting the market. He’s three years away from it. Jacksonville has Ramsey on a team-friendly rookie deal through 2020, and then can utilize the franchise tag the year after. In short, General Manager Dave Caldwell holds all the leverage.

Since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified in 2011, players entering the league as first-round picks became controlled for four years with a team option on the fifth. Excluding quarterbacks, very few men have received contract extensions after only three seasons.

While some will point to Ramsey’s outward attitude as being part of the issue, that’s misguided. Talking to those around the league, Ramsey is seen as a positive personality. The bigger issue is both the years of relative cheap value ahead, combined with Ramsey being good and not great in 2018. For reference, Ramsey’s Pro Football Focus grade dropped 19 points from year-to-year.

GOING DEEP: Chargers unlikely to extend Joey Bosa until 2020 at earliest 

Another factor is the corner market. Xavien Howard received a five-year, $75.25 million extension from the Miami Dolphins this offseason. A year ago, the New York Jets paid Trumaine Johnson $72.5 million over five seasons. Howard did sign with a year left on his current pact while Johnson agreed to terms as an unrestricted free agent. Still, the market has remained somewhat flat compared to other positions where the AAV has soared.

Speaking of positions of escalating value, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is also looking for Jacksonville to pay up.

How much has the market for pass-rusher skyrocketed? Los Angeles Chargers star Melvin Ingram signed a four-year, $64 million deal with $34 million guaranteed only two years ago. Now? Ingram would command a contract similar to what DeMarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark received this year, both netting $105 million over five years.

Ngakoue, 24, is entering the final year of a rookie deal that pays him $2.239 million. This spring, the former third-round selection held out of OTAs and mandatory minicamp in hopes of a new contract. Heading towards July, it remains a distinct possibility Ngakoue doesn’t show up for the start of training camp as negotiations drag on.

Through three seasons, the University of Maryland product has totaled 29.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl berth in 2017. He’s wildly outplayed his rookie deal, but what’s his worth being at least one year away from free agency?

It seems Dee Ford would be a good comparison. Ford was on the franchise tag when the Kansas City Chiefs dealt him to the San Francisco 49ers this winter. Once traded, San Francisco rewarded Ford with a five-year, $87.5 million pact.

While Ford is four years older and has only one more sack across five seasons, he had played out his rookie deal. Ford was also coming off his best year, notching 13 sacks and a Pro Bowl nod. Like Ford, Ngakoue is without character concerns, but is also a liability against the run. If Ngakoue wants an extension prior to hitting free agency, he’ll have to take slightly less in exchange for the certainty of generational wealth.

Jacksonville has two defensive stars to pay in two different situations. The Jaguars certainly value both talents, but the question remains if there’s a financial fit for all parties.

Power rankings

Top 10 head coaches of all time

1. Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers (5 NFL titles in 10 seasons)
2. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (6 titles as HC, two as DC)
3. Paul Brown, Cleveland Browns (3 titles, creator of playbook, film study)
4. Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49ers (3 titles, invented West Coast offense)
5. Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys (3 titles, 20 straight winning seasons)
6. George Halas, Chicago Bears (8 titles, father of NFL)
7. Don Shula, Miami Dolphins (2 titles, all-time winningest coach)
8. Joe Gibbs, Washington Redskins (3 titles, all with different, non-HOF QBs)
9. Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh Steelers (4 titles)
10. Bill Parcells, New York Giants (2 titles, turned around four franchises)

Quotable

“He had a great day today. In fact, he threw a little bit more than we anticipated. He was feeling really good. Threw to the wide receivers, threw some deeper balls. Again, he’s gone through every step that we’ve asked, so I’m just excited.”

– Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera on Cam Newton’s progress from shoulder surgery

Newton underwent a serious right shoulder surgery in January, but it appears he’ll be healthy to fully participate in training camp. The 30-year-old is obviously the linchpin for Carolina’s hopes of making the playoffs in the stacked NFC. With Newton, the Panthers could realistically fight for a spot. Without him, Carolina is headed for a top-five pick in the 2020 draft.

Podcast

Mailbag

Each Friday, Verderame puts out a new mailbag covering all things NFL and then a little more. Make sure to submit your questions to him via Twitter or email!

Random stat

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only team to not have a player lead the league in passing, rushing or receiving yardage for a single season.

Info learned this week

1. Chiefs, Jones at odds over contract figures

The Kansas City Chiefs want to pay Chris Jones. They just don’t want to pay him right now.

My understanding is while Kansas City greatly values Jones, it isn’t willing to rip up the final year of his rookie contract. Jones is slated to make $1.2 million in 2019 before potentially hitting unrestricted free agency. Of course, the Chiefs could tag Jones in ’20 and ’21, essentially making his current deal three years at $42 million, fully guaranteed.

It’s believed the Chiefs are willing to pay slightly more on a new contract over that span. However, they won’t duplicate the $65 million guaranteed over three seasons that Frank Clark received in April. The difference? Clark was on the franchise tag, while Jones still has one year to play before he reaches the same scenario.

Additionally, the belief is his agents, Jason and Michael Katz, want a new deal to kick in immediately. While neither agent will comment on the negotiations, common sense says this would start the clock toward his next deal a season earlier. Another chance to cash in.

Here’s another angle to consider: Clark, 26, amassed 32 sacks over the past three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. He’s never played a down for the Chiefs. Jones, 24, has played three seasons in Kansas City and totaled 15.5 sacks in his breakout 2018 campaign (24 sacks for his career). What is the value of Jones’ performance being in red and gold, while Clark is yet to contribute for his new team?

For now, the sides remain in a stalemate. If nothing changes, look for Jones to play this season on his rookie deal before being given the franchise tag in February.

2. Chargers in tough spot with Gordon’s contract hopes

Melvin Gordon wants a new contract. He’s worthy of it, but should the Chargers pay?

Gordon, 26, was enjoying a breakout year in 2018 before injuring his knee, causing him to miss the final four games of the regular season. The former first-round selection averaged 5.1 yards per carry and notched 1,375 yards from scrimmage with 14 touchdowns.

Now, Gordon enters the final year of his rookie deal. The two-time Pro Bowler wants an extension, but the Chargers have reasons to balk. For starters, Gordon has played a full season once. He’s also averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry once, and has a very capable depth chart behind him in Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson.

Furthermore, Los Angeles has other contracts of note coming within the next two offseasons, including Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Hunter Henry, Trevor Williams, Desmond King and all five starting offensive linemen. There’s only so much money to go around.

Gordon is a terrific talent, but he plays a position that typically chews players up by their late 20s. It might be a poor investment for the Chargers.

3. Browns need strong leader to navigate pressures of expectation

Cleveland is favored to win the AFC North by Vegas this season. It’ll need a leader or two to cash those tickets.

Baker Mayfield sounded off on running back Duke Johnson during OTAs, when the veteran reiterated his trade demand. Mayfield was then reportedly talked to by other veterans in the aftermath, telling the second-year quarterback to stay out of another man’s business.

This is the biggest issue facing the Browns. Cleveland is talented on both sides of the ball, but who is the leader? Who is going to stem the tide when the Browns lose two straight? Freddie Kitchens is a first-time head coach, and every star across the roster is without a single playoff victory. In short, there’s a complete lack of experience not only at quarterback and head coach, but everywhere you look.

Cleveland has a chance to be very successful this season. It also has the chance to be rudderless.

4. Texans looking at serious embarrassment after Casario mess

The Houston Texans are still wiping the egg off their collective face.

After firing General Manager Brian Gaine, the team engaged Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Nick Caserio as a frontrunner to fill the vacancy. Instead of a quick hire, Houston was held up when New England filed a tampering charge to league headquarters. The result? Casario is staying with the Patriots, while the Texans are likely going with a GM-by-committee approach.

In May, the New York Jets gave us a front office mess for the ages. The Texans have somehow managed to top that, allowing a head coach who has never won anything significant to help run the personnel side. For a team with lofty aspirations, it’s poor form.

5. NFL loses a great man, owner in Bowlen

Pat Bowlen died from Alzheimer’s disease on Thursday night. He was 75 years old.

Bowlen, who owned the Denver Broncos from 1984 until his death, was one of the NFL’s pillars. He took over a franchise that had reached one Super Bowl and never won a title, and turned it into one of the league’s best. All told, Denver saw three championships and seven Super Bowl appearances under Bowlen’s watch.

Previous owner Edgar Kaiser had engineered a trade with the Baltimore Colts to land John Elway in ’83, setting the team up for 15 years. The opportunity wasn’t wasted. When free agency arrived in 1993, Bowlen was among the most aggressive, willing to spend money for wins. Among the acquisitions were defensive linemen Neil Smith and Alfred Williams, guards Gary Zimmerman and Mark Schlerth and receiver Ed McCaffrey. He also got a new stadium built in 2001, ensuring the team’s viability in the Mile High City.

Bowlen unfortunately joins Art Modell (Baltimore Ravens), Ralph Wilson (Buffalo Bills) and Bud Adams (Tennessee Titans) as historic owners who passed away this decade.

History lesson

The New Orleans Saints are a Super Bowl favorite. It wasn’t always that way.

An expansion team in 1966, the Saints failed to notch a single winning season over their first 20 years of existence. Amazingly, it took until 2000 for New Orleans to finally win a playoff game, beating the St. Louis Rams in a crazy NFC Wild Card affair.

The only team to play more seasons before winning its first postseason contest? The Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh came into the NFL in 1933 but didn’t win in the playoffs until 1972 with Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception.

Parting shot

The NFL is gathering feedback on the amendments to its new pass interference rule this week. It’s going to be a circus.

Under the latest set of guidelines, coaches can’t challenge any play in the final two minutes of a half or in overtime. However, officials can look at whether or not pass interference occurred and make a subsequent ruling. This includes the Hail Mary play, which has pass interference in almost every instance.

This all stems from the egregious non-call in the NFC Championship Game that cost the Saints a Super Bowl trip. Yes, it was a hideous error. Yes, referee Bill Vinovich should probably be kept from playoff games for the foreseeable future. No, the league shouldn’t be altering rules and bending itself into a proverbial pretzel over it. This is the classic case of an overcorrection, and one that has spiraled out of control.

The NFL took one mistake and gave it the potential to become a gigantic problem.

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