- Plus, the Eagles’ defense takes another hit, Tyrann Mathieu finds a home, and DeAngelo Hall’s complicated legacy
Analysis of the NFL’s biggest on-field stories of the week…
Dez Bryant says he doesn’t regret passing on Ravens’ three-year, $21 million offer
He will—if he deep down doesn’t already. Bryant has said he wants a one-year prove-it deal. If he gets one, it will almost certainly be for less than $7 million in 2018, and he’ll almost certainly step into a situation that won’t give him a chance to post the numbers necessary for getting a bigger deal in 2019. Concern about Bryant’s willingness to tolerate such a situation is a small part of the reason he’s unsigned. But a big part of the reason is Bryant is simply no longer an intriguing starting wide receiver. He can only play outside. His route running has never been pristine. His speed takes too long to build up and underwhelms once it does. Also, he’s not twitchy.
Bryant can still win with his body and tenacity when the ball’s in the air. Earlier this week, former teammate Jason Witten said that he sees Bryant ultimately joining Green Bay; stylistically, that’d be the best fit. As Witten explained, Bryant can win on the back-shoulder throws that Aaron Rodgers has mastered. With Rodgers’ unique sandlot abilities, Green Bay’s offense is also built to survive when a play isn’t executed on schedule. That compensates for some of Bryant’s imprecision.
The question is whether the Packers want Bryant. As a purely outside receiver, he’d compete for Geronimo Allison’s role. But Allison, though not nearly as accomplished as Bryant, is a more explosive vertical weapon. Plus he comes with no baggage and already knows the program. So far, Green Bay has shown little to no interest in Bryant.
It’s possible Bryant will soon regret passing on the Ravens not because they offered the most, but because they turned out to be the only team that really offered anything.
DeAngelo Hall Retires
Here’s a great debate: Relative to the investments he drew, was Hall’s career (a) more successful, (b) as successful, or (c) less successful than hoped? He was an elite corner and upper-tier safety for different stretches, but there were also stretches where he was a liability (particularly at corner, which is how the switch to safety came to be). Three teams bet big on Hall: the Falcons, drafting him eighth overall in 2004; the Raiders, trading for him then signing him to a “seven-year, $70 million” deal in 2008 (in actuality it became $8 million for half a season); and Washington, signing him for $22.5 million guaranteed in 2009, which made him one of football’s highest-paid cornerbacks at the time.
Hall warranted such investments because he had talent and constantly showed potential. But he never quite put everything together for a multi-year stretch. Injuries were an issue, and his personality wasn’t for everyone. He deserves a tip of the cap for a fine 14-year career. It will be interesting to see how that career is remembered.
Eagles DE Brandon Graham to miss offseason with ankle injury
Philly’s defensive line led the team to Super Bowl LII and now it’s staring at a step back, or at least slow start, in 2018. Graham, the defense’s best all-around player other than Fletcher Cox, is out until September (or beyond). So is defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who has a back injury. Last year’s first-rounder Derek Barnett is dealing with a sports hernia. And Vinny Curry, the unit’s most underrated player who did a lot of dirty work in Jim Schwartz’s designer nickel pass rushes, is now a Buccaneer. Yes, veterans Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata have come aboard, and both can still play. It remains a great D-line. But it might not look like itself until Halloween.
Texans to have Tyrann Mathieu focus on playing safety
Head coach Bill O’Brien said this week they’ll take advantage of Mathieu’s versatility, but they want him to home in on one position. With the team’s tremendous talent and depth already at cornerback, Mathieu’s position will be safety. The 26-year-old has said this was one of the reasons he signed with Houston. “I had a lot on my plate [in Arizona], I couldn’t really focus on one position,” he told the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain. “I think a lot of times coaches may ask me to strictly rely on my instincts, but am I really getting better at football? I think those were questions I needed to answer and I think [coordinator] Romeo [Crennel] answered those questions for me.”
This won’t negate the versatility that makes Mathieu special. Houston’s scheme naturally asks a lot of its safeties. They’ll blitz at times, but more than that, they’ll disguise and rotate coverages, which often result in zone defenders becoming man-to-man defenders after the snap. That’s partly why the incumbent starting safety is Andre Hal—a former cornerback. Veteran corner Kareem Jackson has also gotten snaps at safety from time to time. Mathieu will have just as many, if not more, playmaking opportunities here as he had in Arizona.
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