Matt Rourke/AP; Christian Petersen/Getty Images; Rich Schultz/Getty Images
By Gary Gramling
March 12, 2016

1a. There’s a cottage industry built around jokes made at Mark Sanchez’s expense, but (1) He cost the Broncos next to nothing, and (2) He’s “won” four postseason road games (including one in New England), much in the same way Peyton Manning “won” three postseason games last year.

Actually, that’s not quite fair. Sanchez’s playoff performance over his two postseasons with the Jets (9 TD, 3 INT, 94.3 rating over six games) was better than Peyton’s postseason performance this year (2 TD, 1 INT, 75.4 rating over three games). And Manning had a better collection of weapons, and a better defense helping him out. In fact, let’s just lay out Manning’s statistical performance in the postseason after joining the Broncos, versus Sanchez’s two playoff runs:

Quarterback Playoff W-L Comp. Pct. Yds/Gm TD INT Rating
Manning 5-3 63.4 243.8 11 6 85.0
Sanchez 4-2 60.5 192.5 9 3 94.3

It’s not an ideal situation; Sanchez was indisputably awful in limited action for the Eagles last year. And I don’t think headbands are going to become the new fad among kids in the Mile High City. So if you want to laugh it up, go ahead, life is short.

But with the defense Denver has in place (even without Malik Jackson, they’re still well-stocked with pass rushers), there’s no reason to think Sanchez can’t Dilfer the Broncos to a title defense, just like Manning did a year ago.

1b. It’s been thrown out there by a few people, but if I’m John Elway (to be clear, I’m not John Elway) I would’ve been calling Jason Licht every hour on the hour until I had Mike Glennon on my roster. I’d call Glennon a poor man’s Brock Osweiler, but I’m not even sure the “poor man’s” is necessary. I think Osweiler is a better all-around athlete and better on the move, but Glennon is not a statue, and he checks the same boxes as Osweiler in terms of size and arm strength. Glennon also led a truly bad team to wins in Pittsburgh and New Orleans (and went to overtime in Seattle as a rookie).

1c. The Broncos are going to draft their quarterback of the future now, correct? I would think that the smoke around a Broncos/Dak Prescott marriage makes a bit of sense with that last pick of the second round.

• OSWEILER SET THE MARKET: Andrew Brandt on how the quarterback’s $18 million-per-year deal with the Texans will play into where Ryan Fitzpatrick ends up, plus more takeaways from free agency.

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2. There was really no such thing as “overpaying” for the Giants; if you have the cap room, go ahead and spend it. And the Giants couldn’t go wrong spending on defense, where they were woefully undermanned last year. A Steve Spagnuolo defense needs pass rushers, and they needed more than just Jason Pierre-Paul. So I don’t see any problem with spending big for ex-Dolphin (and my MMQB colleague) Olivier Vernon.

It gets interesting with the Janoris Jenkins signing though. Jenkins has all the tools to be a No. 1 corner, but his aggressiveness often gets the best of him. That’s a good thing when your pass rush can force the ball out quickly (like the Rams often did), giving the ball-hawking Jenkins a chance for an interception. But if you leave him out there for too long, you’re playing with fire.

So, in a sense, the Giants’ two big free-agent additions are connected at the hip. If Vernon is the pass-rushing monster he was in the second half of last year, Jenkins is a great fit in the secondary. If Vernon isn’t, Jenkins becomes a potential liability.

• HOW OLIVIER VERNON’S DEAL WENT DOWN: The newest New York Giant and his agent David Canter share all the details.

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3. I’d like to preface this next item with a long, meandering story that doesn’t really go anywhere.

As a journalist, I take pride in being objective. But I’m also a human being, rife with all the emotional frailties that we humans have. And when you deal with people, you like some of them and you don’t like others based on brief, relatively meaningless interactions. And you can’t really help it.

In my life, I have had one conversation with Sam Bradford, the summer before his rookie year. It did not go well. Now, mind you, I am not a scintillating conversationalist (I’m not sure if babies can do this, but I’m fairly certain my 10-month-old audibly sighs every time I enter a room. I imagine his first words will be something along the lines of “this frickin’ guy again?”), but this one time I conversed with Sam Bradford was “sponsored.” In other words, part of Bradford’s marketing deal with this company was to do a series of interviews with various outlets, speak enthusiastically about their product, and generally be a nice fella so that we would run a Q&A in which Sam Bradford, in part, speaks enthusiastically about their product. (I don’t want to mention the specific product because I imagine this is a bit unflattering for them, so for the sake of anonymity let’s just say it was Dr. Thunder brand soda, my personal favorite off-brand soft drink.)

So anyway, Bradford and I were supposed to talk for 15 minutes. I lobbed out a couple questions about Dr. Thunder brand soda, to which he told me about how, during every timeout he downs a two-liter bottle of Dr. Thunder because it combines the delicious taste of Dr. Pepper at a fraction of the price (or whatever). After that we started to talk some football. He gave a couple of terse answers and then gave me a “last question.” My recorder showed we had been talking for not quite four minutes. I told him we were supposed to talk for 15. He repeated, “last question.” And so I asked him one last question (probably along the lines of So, like, what’s the deal with that arch in St. Louis? Y’know, the big one? ). He gave one more short answer and handed the phone back to the Dr. Thunder rep. I explained that the Q&A was completely unusable; I had less than five minutes, three of which were Bradford proclaiming his near-chemical dependency on Dr. Thunder brand soda. I was unhappy. The rep was unhappy that we wouldn’t be running the Q&A. Bradford was unmoved, I imagine, possibly because the unpleasantness was offset by the fact that his compensation for doing a series of phone interviews that afternoon was greater than my annual salary.

So the point of this harrowing tale of soft journalism? I have no particular affinity for Sam Bradford. But if you’ve read my columns over the past year (hi mom!) you might have noticed that I’ve written some nice things about Sam Bradford. That’s because I think he’s a good quarterback. I was talking to a former teammate of his during the lead up to the 2012 draft, and suggested the Rams just use the second pick on Robert Griffin III (remember, everyone wanted RG3 then) and trade Bradford. I was told I was clinically insane, that Bradford was a stud who would be a superstar if they ever got the right pieces around him.

I watched a lot of Eagles games last year. In my unprofessional opinion, they seemed to be running an outdated, rudimentary passing game disguised by their pace. They ran a lot of deep crossers that required Bradford to stand in and get blasted. He did, again and again, often while getting the ball out with velocity and accuracy. And keep in mind, the Eagles’ receiving corps was doubling as a beach volleyball team the way they repeatedly hammered the ball into the ground.

The “quarterback competition” buzz around the Chase Daniel signing seems a bit off. You have to get a quality backup behind Bradford due to his injury history (and you have to pay to get a quality backup). But working under Doug Pederson for the next two years, Bradford absolutely has a chance to be one of the best dozen or so quarterbacks in the NFL.

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4. At least from afar, the Ryan Fitzpatrick-Jets talks are the least interesting negotiation of the offseason. It seems the Jets don’t have any other alternatives at quarterback with their win-now roster. It seems Fitzpatrick has no other legitimate suitors.

So just get it over already. It’s like watching Sam and Diane, but without Norm and Cliff and Carla and the rest of the gang cracking wise. (You kids remember The Cheers, right?)

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5a. The only move of the week that really had me scratching my head was Mohamed Sanu getting big bucks in Atlanta. I would’ve much preferred to see Atlanta go all-in on a pass rusher (a little more could’ve reunited Dan Quinn and Bruce Irvin) and find a No. 2 receiver in the draft. Sanu is fine as your No. 3 or 4 guy, but if I’m an opposing defensive coordinator I’m sleeping well at night knowing I’m going to put my second-best corner in single coverage on Sanu and send all my other resources at Julio Jones.

5b. But then, what do I know.

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Chris Harris was among the underwhelming left tackle talent that played deep into the playoffs.
Greg Trott/AP

6. Think the blindside market has cooled off? We’re through the first week of free agency, and the top left tackles (Donald Penn, Russell Okung and Kelvin Beachum) are all still sitting on the open market.

You have quarterbacks getting the ball out quicker than ever, and paranoia over the interior pass rush. But more than anything, just look at the lack of world-beaters among last year’s final eight teams:

Denver: Ryan Harris
Carolina: Michael Oher
Arizona: Jared Veldheer
New England: Sebastian Vollmer
Kansas City: Eric Fisher
Green Bay: David Bakhtiari
Seattle: Russell Okung
Pittsburgh: Alejandro Villanueva

​Veldheer and Okung are quality players, Bakhtiari and Vollmer are good when healthy (neither was in the playoffs) and Eric Fisher has his moments. But that collection overall?

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7a. It’s enjoyable seeing… what’s going on in Oakland. As I wrote earlier this year, Reggie McKenzie just needed a couple years to restock the cupboard. Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Kelechi Osemele are all quality additions. The Raiders will be a popular sleeper pick to make the playoffs, and with good reason.

7b. ​It’s enjoyable seeing… C.J. Anderson get paid. Not many running backs do, and Anderson was working for relative peanuts the past three seasons (a little more than $1.6 million combined, according to Spotrac). And his destination is win-win. He’ll be reunited with Adam Gase in Miami, or he returns to the defending Super Bowl champs.

7c. ​It’s not enjoyable seeing… news of a potential year-long suspension for Martavis Bryant. In terms of pure talent, I’m not sure there’s a better young receiver in football. The fact that he seems to be on the verge of throwing it all away...

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8. There’s been a little bit of “Derrick Henry is a first rounder” buzz going around ever since he melted down the combine by running… like a 4.2 at 476 pounds (or whatever).

Of course, that seems highly unlikely. DeMarco Murray won the rushing title in 2014, and everyone not named Chip Kelly shied away last winter because of his workload. This week, Doug Martin’s market was lukewarm at best despite a 1,400-yard season because of his 321 touches. Henry had 406 touches at Alabama last year.

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9. This day in free agency: March 12, 2015…

a. The headlines:

Eagles make headlines by adding DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, who go on to combine for 1,241 rushing yards and five lost fumbles.

Dolphins steal Jordan Cameron from Cleveland, who goes on to catch 35 passes (27th among tight ends) for 386 yards (30th among tight ends).

Saints shore up secondary by adding Brandon Browner. Browner... well…

b. Agate page only:

Bills sign QB Tyrod Taylor.

Patriots sign DE Jabaal Sheard.

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10. Just one last thought on the whole Peyton Manning/Jamie Naughright ordeal. (Well, one last though from me, that is, at this rate I’m sure we’ll all be discussing this story for two or three more generations.)

As you probably already saw, our Robert Klemko spent a couple weeks digging around the story (with a follow-up in Monday's MMQB). If you’re looking for a 100% ironclad answer to what happened in the training room that day back in 1996, you’re not going to find it. If you read all the coverage out there and still think “Manning did it,” well, there’s nothing out there that’s going to change your mind.

But here’s the thing: Campus rape is a real problem across the country, especially in instances where there is a connection to athletics, and especially at the University of Tennessee, which in the midst of a Title IX investigation. For instance, this summer two former members of the Tennessee football team, A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, will stand trial separately on charges of aggravated rape. On the night it allegedly happened, a teammate, Drae Bowles, drove the woman to the hospital. Bowles said that, in retaliation for that basic act of human decency, he was branded a traitor by his head coach, shunned by teammates and punched by one.

The Title IX suit accuses university administrators of intentionally acting “an official policy of deliberate indifference to known sexual assaults so as to create a hostile sexual environment. UT had actual notice (and itself created) a long-standing, severely hostile sexual environment of rape by male athletes (particularly football players) that was condoned and completely unaddressed by UT officials.”

It’s more than a little frustrating that the Manning/Naughright case is the world’s most highly publicized accusation of campus sexual assault. It shouldn’t be, and it distracts from a larger, more important issue. It’s a 20-year-old case with evidence that is… unclear at best. The allegations at Tennessee alone (to say nothing of other schools) are awful, and backed by clearer evidence. If you genuinely care about the problem of sexual assaults on campus and how they’re handled by law enforcement, universities and athletic departments (and if you’re a living, breathing member of the human race, you should care), then understand this: The search for solutions that respect the rights of victims and the accused is too difficult, too important and, frankly, too nuanced to be overshadowed by a single, potentially dubious case just because of the sensationalism of a famous and polarizing football player being attached to it. It’s time to obsess about something else.

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