NFL

Melvin Gordon’s contract, NFL power rankings and more

Melvin Gordon will hold out for a new deal, but both the Los Angeles Chargers’ other priorities and Todd Gurley’s knee are huge obstacles to his hopes.

How could the Los Angeles Chargers handle Melvin Gordon’s ultimatum? Look at the other team in their city.

In 2017, Los Angeles Rams superstar running back Todd Gurley became eligible for an extension. Gurley was coming off a phenomenal year, racking up more than 2,000 scrimmage yards and 19 touchdowns. Instead of playing out the final two seasons of the rookie deal, general manager Les Snead signed Gurley to a four-year, $57.5 million extension that kicks in come 2020.

The result? A contract looking ominous as Gurley enters camp with an arthritic knee.

While Gurley’s talent is considerable, the Rams would certainly love to travel back in time and be more patient. They didn’t need to extend Gurley but decided to be aggressive in hopes of locking up a star. The logic is understandable, but the result may prove crippling to building a contender around Jared Goff in the coming years.

Back to Gordon. The 26-year-old is entering the final year of his rookie contract, scheduled to make $5.6 million this season. Gordon says he won’t show without a new deal or a trade which would facilitate a new pact.

The Chargers have no reason to acquiesce to the demand.

Los Angeles is in win-now mode. Philip Rivers turns 38 years old in December. The list of free agents over the next two years includes Rivers, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry, Joey Bosa, Demond King, Denzel Perryman, Melvin Ingram and all five offensive line starters among others. Trading Gordon would make little sense considering the situation. Why move him for a second-day pick when his presence, even if he sits out into the season?

Once the year ends, Gordon can walk into free agency and Los Angeles can recoup a third-round compensation selection. Meanwhile, general manager Tom Telesco can use the money to sign some of the aforementioned players.

Gordon is a quality back, but he’s not of paramount importance. Ekeler is a proven contributor, and Justin Jackson is a promising youngster. The drop-off from Gordon to that duo isn’t steep. Losing Allen, Bosa, Ingram, King or Rivers would be a much more devastating situation.

Paying running backs huge money in 2019 is questionable, especially on a team with a star quarterback. In an age were most franchises are splitting the workload and finding quality backs throughout the draft, investments in backs have become increasingly rare. Le’Veon Bell and Gurley stand as the exceptions, with Ezekiel Elliott potentially joining them in the coming few years. Gordon is a nice player, but he’s not in that class by any metric.

As the Chargers approach camp, Gordon waits for a resolution. He’ll likely wait awhile.

Power rankings

10 non-QBs to consider MVP favorites in 2019

1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
2. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
3. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
5. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
6. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
7. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
8. Khalil Mack, EDGE, Chicago Bears
9. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
10. Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets

Quotable

“Unless Dwayne Haskins just blows everybody away through training camp, and think ‘oh my gosh he’s all over the offense. He knows everything, every check, every audible.’ If that’s the case, hey, maybe you do start in Week 1,” Simms said. “If there’s any doubt, you go with some of the more proven commodities.”

– NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms on whether Dwayne Haskins should start Week 1

Barring a major surprise, the Washington Redskins aren’t reaching the playoffs in 2019. This year is about figuring out the future. Obviously, Dwayne Haskins is an enormous part of the equation.

The Redskins are gaining nothing with Case Keenum under center. He’s a stopgap. A body. Haskins has a good offensive line in front of him and a smart head coach (who was a quarterbacks coach for years) on the sideline. If Haskins shows well in the summer, start him Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Podcast

Join Matt Verderame and Josh Hill every week as they break down the latest news and rumors from around the NFL. Make sure to download the Stacking The Box podcast on iTunes and leave a rating! Also, want some swag? Go to the FanSided store and load up!

Mailbag

Verderame is on vacation, and while the column never stops, the mailbag does. While there won’t be a mailbag this week, there will be one every week the rest of the calendar year and beyond, so don’t forget to submit those questions!

Random stat

The Cardinals played in St. Louis from 1960-87. Despite winning a pair of division titles, they never hosted a playoff game. Big Red reached the postseason three times, losing to the Vikings, Rams and Packers between 1975-82.

Info learned this week

1. Chiefs set to welcome Hill back; remain at impasse with Jones

Veterans for the Kansas City Chiefs report to training camp on July 26. Tyreek Hill will be present.

According to a source, the Chiefs are waiting on the NFL to announce its punishment (or lack thereof) before welcoming Hill back into the fold. Regardless of any ban, though, Hill will be a full go for training camp.

On another note in Kansas City, the team and defensive tackle Chris Jones haven’t made any progress towards a new deal. Per sources with knowledge of the situation, the main hangup is guaranteed money. The Chiefs value Jones, but know they can hold his rights for three years at $42 million with this season and two franchise tags. Jones and his representation believe his work deserves a new deal with guarantees in line with what Frank Clark was given ($65 million) back in April, despite Clark not playing a single down in Kansas City. In short, the stalemate continues.

2. Tag deadline expected to be quiet

The deadline to sign players on the franchise tag is July 15 at 4 p.m. Don’t expect much news.

Only San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould and Houston Texans edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney have unsigned tags. In both cases, it appears unlikely deals will be struck. Gould openly talked about his desire to be traded, while Clowney is expected to hold out into August. As has been reported repeatedly in this space, sources say Clowney wants a deal in line with DeMarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark. Houston, while it values him, doesn’t see his worth in that realm.

Should Gould and Clowney fail to agree to new deals by the deadline, neither can negotiate a new pact until after the upcoming season. At that point, it’s almost certain both will hit unrestricted free agency, considering a lucrative open market and the inability to incur injury.

3. Caldwell absence another tough blow for Rosen

Jim Caldwell was going to be Josh Rosen’s shadow this season. Now, life intervenes.

The Miami Dolphins announced on Saturday that their assistant head coach and quarterback coach will be stepping away from coaching this season to deal with medical issue. Of course, Caldwell’s health is of the utmost importance. From a football standpoint, though, this is another hit for Rosen’s young career.

As a rookie, Rosen played for a first-time head coach with a defensive background. He had the league’s worst offensive line blocking for him, and a pair of offensive coordinators. Now, after being dealt to Miami, Rosen loses his quarterbacks coach weeks before training camp.

For those who don’t believe it’s impactful, consider this: Minnesota tragically lost offensive line coach Tony Sparano during camp last summer. Privately, many within the Vikings organization believe his death was the catalyst for a lost season. Often, the veteran assistants are the heartbeat of a team in meeting rooms, quiet moments on a practice field, etc.

Caldwell’s absence will most-certainly be felt in Miami.

4. Ramsey make waves on Instagram, but remains a pillar for Jags

Russell Westbrook and James Harden. DeAndre Hopkins and … Jalen Ramsey?

After an NBA blockbuster which sent Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, Hopkins commented on Instagram about the deal. Ramsey then commented below, asking if superstars link up now in Houston. Hopkins replied with a handshake emoji.

Of course, this column doesn’t use emojis to pass for journalism. Let’s dig beyond the surface.

With the Jaguars publicly stating they won’t extend Ramsey this offseason, the former All-Pro corner is a bit tense. Ultimately, though, the franchise believes Ramsey is a cornerstone moving forward. While negotiations aren’t happening now, they will happen next offseason when he only has a fifth-year option remaining on his rookie deal. I wrote about Ramsey at length a few weeks back, explaining all the rationale at play.

5. Bills’ crowded backfield worth watching through summer

At some point, the Buffalo Bills need to make a decision. Which running back goes?

Most teams carry four backs, with the backups needing to contribute on special teams. Third-round pick Devin Singletary is a virtual lock to make the roster, but who else? LeSean McCoy is 31 years old and on the last year of his deal. Buffalo would save $6.425 by moving him. Frank Gore is on a one-year, $2 million deal with only $500,000 guaranteed. At 36, he’s a possible cut as well. T.j. Yeldon is also in the mix, coming over from the Jaguars.

Throughout preseason and camp, Buffalo will likely move on from one of its veteran backs. McCoy could be especially enticing via trade, with the building Bills acquiring a draft pick or two.

History lesson

In 1976, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium. In the immediate aftermath, Donald Kroner accidentally crashed his airplane into the building’s upper deck. Incredibly, nobody was injured. Here’s what the New York Times wrote about this forgotten moment:

The pilot of a light plane who crashed in the top deck of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium after Sunday’s playoff football game had been free on $2,100 bond on a previous charge of reckless flying, the authorities said yesterday. For four years before last October, the pilot had been grounded for psychiatric reasons, the authorities said.

The 33-year-old pilot, Donald Kroner, was to be arrested today after his expected release from Union Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for cuts, abrasions and chest bruises suffered in the crash of his plane.

The Baltimore County police said that Mr. Kroner had been arrested on Dec. 14. He was accused then of reckless flying, littering, and making a bomb threat against a former Baltimore Colt linebacker, Bill Pellington.

Insane.

Parting shot

Quarterbacks are always under intense scrutiny. This season, five will face make-or-break campaigns.

Of all the starters, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will be focused on more than any. Both are entering the fifth-year options on their rookie deals with no future assurances.

In Tennessee, Mariota is yet to play a full 16-game season. He’s won a single playoff game, never thrown for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns, and never been the focal point of the offense. If not now, then when?

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers have been waiting for Winston to finally cut down on the turnovers. It hasn’t happened. Last year, Winston was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick before eventually regaining his job. With noted quarterback guru Bruce Arians taking over in Tampa Bay, Winston must make progress.

Then there are the potential cap casualties. Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco are essentially playing on year-to-year deals without any guaranteed money remaining. If the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos struggle, each team has reason to move on. Both franchises have new head coaches and may decide to jumpstart a new program. Dalton and Flacco are both on the wrong side of 30 with a combined one postseason victory since 2012.

Finally, keep an eye on the Bay Area. The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas after this season. Should Oakland struggle as expected, ownership could be looking to make a splash the sport’s most important and visible position to energize the fanbase.

In Santa Clara, the 49ers believe in Jimmy Garoppolo and will likely go down the foreseeable road with him. Still, the Eastern Illinois product could be released for a whopping $22.4 million in 2020 should things get really ugly. Also, should the 49ers falter and see a regime change, would a new front office and coaching staff want to reboot? Something to consider.

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