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Josh McCown’s Farewell (for Now), Todd Gurley’s Knee, Michael Thomas’s Looming Payday and More NFL Notes

The journeyman QB retires—but there’s always hope (and his own precedent) for a return. Plus the latest on Todd Gurley’s condition, Michael Thomas’s looming payday, Dee Ford in S.F., the continuing Texans-Patriots saga and all the latest NFL buzz.

The NFL is officially on vacation …

Josh McCown’s next step after announcing his retirement: We know he’s going to do some work at ESPN, and my bet is that he’ll pair that with some high school coaching. He’s already coached spring ball at Myers Park High in suburban Charlotte—he has a sophomore son and a freshman son in the program—and I’d bet he carries that into the fall, especially considering who he’ll be coaching. Last year, Myers Park had the sons of seven former/current NFL players on its roster, and that includes a top-100 national recruit at quarterback (Drake Maye), and the children of Muhsin Muhammad and Dre Bly. And if someone comes calling when the high school season ends (and there was interest in the fall), it wouldn’t shock me to see McCown back on a roster in November or December. Remember, that’s what he did in 2011 and ’12, coaching at Marvin Ridge (N.C.) High, then finishing the season out with the Bears.

Todd Gurley’s trainer, Travelle Gaines, filled in the gaps on the condition of the tailback’s knee to Dave Richard of CBS over the weekend. But this isn’t news to NFL teams, and least of all the Rams. Gurley tore his ACL going into his draft year of 2015, so clubs had to sort through that then, and a bit of a degenerative condition in the knee (which is code for an arthritic condition). Now, it sounds bad. But lots of players come into the league with these kinds of conditions. Some are seen as major—Myles Jack and Jay Ajayi were in that category coming out. Gurley’s was seen as less than that. And the question in most of these cases is one of longevity. That said, the Rams have done a pretty good job managing it through four years.

• I’d tell you that the comments from Melvin Gordon and Melvin Ingram on the Chargers’ aspirations—Gordon called the Bolts “the team to beat,” and Ingram said that they’re “definitely going to win the Super Bowl”—didn’t go over well within the building in Orange County. It was pointed out to me that those two guys were the most notable absences from the team’s offseason program.

• So far, so good for San Francisco with big-ticket acquisition Dee Ford. You can’t see much in the spring with linemen, because they’re not in pads, but his speed and explosion were apparent—at a level that the offensive linemen in front of him weren’t used to. Get Nick Bosa healthy, and the Niners’ front could be a you-know-what to deal with.

• With Michael Thomas up next for a big extension in New Orleans, this fact seems relevant—the Saints have only once had a skill player making eight figures per year on their roster. That was tight end Jimmy Graham, he was making exactly $10 million, and he lasted eight months making that much before the team traded him away. New Orleans has always invested in its quarterback and line, and gotten away with less elsewhere on offense, which is actually exactly how New England has done it too. The Patriots have never paid a skill player at an APY in eight figures, with Randy Moss (on a deal signed in 2008) and Rob Gronkowski coming closest.

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• We mentioned earlier Monday in the MMQB that the likelihood now would be the Texans sticking with the status quo, and having director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan running the pro scouting side and college scouting director James Liipfert continue to run the college side, with both reporting to coach Bill O’Brien. In the here and now, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with a handful of players going into contract years. I’d expect Jadeveon Clowney to play on the franchise tag. But the team was planning to explore deals with DT D.J. Reader, OLB Whitney Mercilus, CB Johnathan Joseph and C Nick Martin, with OLB Brennan Scarlett, WR Will Fuller and RB Lamar Miller also going into contract years. (Fuller has an option for 2020.) How will the team proceed? Does negotiator Chris Olsen, the temporary replacement for Brian Gaine, continue on the same path? The Texans have $40.3 million in cap space, and this is what they were saving for.

• Lost in the Texans/Patriots fight last week was how New England has kept the upper reaches of its scouting department intact the last two years with Houston, and O’Brien, sniffing around. That won’t likely last long. Word in scouting circles is that both VP of player personnel Nick Caserio and director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort are up after the 2020 draft. Those two were requested for interviews as GM candidates by the Texans in January 2018, when Gaine was hired. The Patriots were able to block both because their season was still going on—which is a little crazy when you consider coaches like Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, who have a direct impact on the field, were allowed to interview for jobs at the same time. You can imagine why Caserio wouldn’t be pleased, and, even more so, the well-regarded Ossenfort (seen by some as a future GM), who had a chance to climb two rungs on the ladder at once. I can’t think of many, if any, examples of a college director being blocked from interviewing from a GM job. So it wouldn’t be a shocker if both wound up leaving in 2020, which could mirror the exodus on the coaching staff this year.

• One thing that was raised to me on Monday—there may not be anyone better qualified to hire an offensive coordinator than Vic Fangio. It makes sense, too. He’s been an NFL defensive coordinator in 19 of the last 24 seasons, and for five different teams, with a ton of success. So he has as good an idea as anyone (outside of maybe a Bill Belichick or Wade Phillips) of what systems and coaches are tough to go against. And to me, that makes his plucking of Rich Scangarello from the Shanahan tree all the more interesting. Fangio coached against Scangarello, formerly of the Niners, the last two years in Chicago.

• Since this has come up, I’ll give you what Packers coach Matt LaFleur told me about Aaron Rodgers’ freedom to change plays at the line (which obviously was a hot-button topic with Mike McCarthy): “It totally comes with time. You got a guy with that much experience that can see things—if he can get us into the perfect play, why wouldn’t you give him that freedom? The biggest thing, I’m hoping that we do a good enough job as a staff that he doesn’t have to do that, in terms of the play calls and setting us up and being in the right looks. That’s the goal, to take that off him, because I just want him to go play. But certainly, if there’s a play that’s not gonna be good, yeah, please, save us. That’d be great.” That, to me, doesn’t sound like lines are being drawn in the sand by the coaching staff.

• Just because I thought it was interesting, we’ll wrap up here with Kyle Rudolph on his relationship with Charlie Weis, his coach at Notre Dame. Rudolph talked in the Monday Morning column about how cool it was to go on Weis’s show right after getting his extension. Here’s a little more on that from Rudolph: “He’s a guy I’ve talked to multiple times a week since I left school. He’s someone who’s always been there for me, not just in football. I’ll never forget being an 18-year-old kid and sitting in his office, getting ready for our opener against San Diego State, and him telling me that I was going to be the starting tight end. That was the first time in Notre Dame history that a true freshman ever started the opening game. Just the different experiences that we’ve had through life, it goes far beyond football. I mean, the incredible work that he and his wife Maura do off the field, they've truly been a huge influence. And I know my wife, Jordan, and I we really try to be more like them.”

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