INDIANAPOLIS — A handful of coaches and general managers spoke at the NFL combine on Wednesday and Thursday as media availability for execs came to a close and the first group of players took their places at the podiums. The media scrums were equal parts funny (The Rams have apparently nicknamed Todd Gurley’s hurdles as “Gurdles.”) and informative (when asked if free-agent wide receiver Albert Wilson would return to the Chiefs, GM Brett Veach pointed to the team’s former coordinator and new Bears head coach Matt Nagy: “Well, Matt’s in Chicago.”) Some highlights from the appearances:
1. New Browns general manager John Dorsey indicated the team would be happy to deal the No. 1 pick for the right price: “My door is wide open for a trade at No. 1. Give me a call and see what’s up.” Given that the Browns own the No. 4 draft selection as well, they’ll be doing everything they can to represent interest in all four expected first-round quarterbacks, as well as the handful of other position players expected to be picked in the top five. Given their options, I would take any report the Browns are leaning towards a specific QB over the next two months with a grain of salt.
2. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera confirmed suspicions that the team is in the market for a veteran free agent receiver to supplant Devin Funchess. The coach and new GM Marty Hurney are currently evaluating whether Funchess is a No. 1 or 2 receiver before deciding who to target in free agency. Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins figure to be among the most sought-after options. Kansas City figures to be equally competitive in the market for wide receivers, both in the draft and in free agency. Said new GM Brett Veach: “Look, Pat’s got a cannon, without a limit to how hard he can throw. I’m sure we’ll be in the [outside receiver] market.”
3. As always, Mike Zimmer tells it like it is. The Minnesota Vikings head coach was candid on his decision to block interview requests for quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski: “Loyalty to me is a big thing. So I come in here four years ago and the offense is [ranked] 29th, 27th, 26th. But I kept them. So the first time our offense is pretty good, then I’m supposed to let all my coaches leave?”
Zimmer was equally as blunt in his assessment of former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, who has 21 catches in his two seasons: “Treadwell is a guy that needs to get out of his own way. He thinks he’s doing the right things, but sometimes he goes about it the wrong way.” Finally, Zimmer was realistic about the importance of the teams upcoming decision on a quarterback for 2018, with Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford in limbo: “If we don’t pick the right QB, I’ll probably get fired.”
4. Sure sounds like there’s no rush in signing two big-name free agents out west. Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead said there was no need in terms of cap space to sign Aaron Donald to a contract extension before free agency begins on March 14, adding that the franchise tag is in his back pocket (though he wasn’t specifically addressing Donald). San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch indicated there’s distance in contract negotiations between the organization and running back Carlos Hyde: “We’ve had discussions with Carlos all the way through the season. We haven’t been able to come to an agreement but those discussions are ongoing. I wouldn’t say anything is imminent there.”
5. Pete Carroll said this could be a “franchise-altering” year for Seattle; what that means, specifically, is anyone’s guess. They’ve already moved on from two coordinators, Kris Richard and Darrell Bevell, and have a handful of key personnel decisions to make. At the top of the list: Handling the expired contract of defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. Asked if franchise tagging the five-year pro and former Jet was an option, Carroll said, “All those choices are out there.”