Three days ’til the first real game of the 2019 NFL season …
1. Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys may not be close to a deal now, but I think they’ll get there soon. Elliott’s camp had asked for $17 million per, which is what I believe the Cowboys have been referencing when they’ve said they don’t want to reset the market. Given what happened to Todd Gurley at the end of last year, I think if Dallas can nudge Elliott past Gurley on the NFL’s fiscal charts, I think it’d be hard for him to say no.
So what’s a fair deal? One agent told me he thought a three-year, $45 million extension would hit the sweet spot, giving Elliott an outside shot at another big deal down the line. Another said he’d see a four-year, $58 million deal as fair (Gurley got $57.5 million over four new years), so long as the injury guarantee beats the $45 million that Gurley got, and the full guarantee is around $25 million. And an executive from a rival team told me he’d say $14 million per with a shot to pass Gurley on incentives, and a bigger guarantee than Gurley would be what he’d shoot for. No matter how you see this, there are solutions here. We’ll see how quickly the two sides can come to one.
The length of the deal is also worth your attention. In the past, Dallas has tried to do really long deals, and they’ve succeeded at times. The accord they just reached with Jaylon Smith ties the linebacker to the team for the next seven years. Along those lines, more than one person brought this (a five-year extension) up to me as a potential area of dispute between Elliott and the Cowboys.
2. Josh Doctson’s going to get a shot now in Minnesota, replacing another first-round bust in Laquon Treadwell. The Vikings like his length and ball skills (all the things that lured Washington to take him in 2015), and figure he could give the team another depth piece, with four guys locked in at receiver. The flip side is he’s long struggled to separate in transition or win against press coverage, and doesn’t seem to play with a lot of energy. As for Treadwell, it might be harder for him to find a home—his problems in Minnesota ranged from speed to hands to mental toughness, and word’s been out on that.
3. A couple of team people pointed out to me this morning that the Colts signing Brian Hoyer to a three-year deal gives the team a modicum of insurance, if Jacoby Brissett doesn’t play to expectations. Worse comes to worse, Hoyer can be the bridge to the next quarterback. Best case scenario, Brissett kills it, and Hoyer’s a quality backup and resource to him.
4. Teams tell us things through their waiver claims, so it’s worth bringing up that the Panthers were awarded two receivers and the Jaguars were awarded two running backs. Both teams are strong on the front end at those spots—Carolina is excited about D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, and Jacksonville’s expecting Leonard Fournette to rebound this fall. But clearly, there are concerns about the depth behind these players.
5. Twenty-five trades have happened since the start of August. Twelve of them have involved offensive linemen, and six have involved corners. I think you can take two things from that. First, there’s a league-wide need for guys at those spots—it’s hard to win with deficiencies there, and there aren’t enough to go around. Second, the teams at the top of the waiver wire (Cardinals, Niners) had needs at both positions, so there was risk associated with the idea that you could find someone on cutdown weekend. And that concern was validated, with the Cardinals claiming two tackles and two defensive backs over the weekend.
6. Seth DeValve going to Jacksonville got my attention. The Jaguars have a serious need at the position, and new OC John DeFilippo’s system is at its best when its featuring tight ends, something we saw vividly during the Eagles’ 2017 run to the Super Bowl.
7. The Patriots have routinely treated September as extended training camp, and it look like, accordingly, they’ll be taking some position battles to the regular season this year too. With Benjamin Watson suspended for the first four games, and first-round pick N’Keal Harry now on IR, but expected to return, New England can take two more skill players into the real games (promising slot Gunner Olszewski is one of those) and let the situation sort itself out. And if you’ve followed the Patriots the last 20 years or so, you know it’s a pretty good bet that the situation will sort itself out.
8. I’d guess the Laremy Tunsil deal cements the Redskins’ position on Trent Williams—that it will take a lot for them to think about moving him. Jay Gruden, for his part, said Monday that he has “no expectations anymore” and that he’s “numb to it.” The team is moving forward with 36-year-old Donald Penn, who was thinking about retiring when Washington called at the end of July.
9. Two teams have now given up on DeShone Kizer, but at the very least, it’s fair to say his third team has plenty of background on him. GM Mike Mayock worked for four years on the Notre Dame broadcast team, and while he never called Kizer’s games, he maintained close ties to Brian Kelly’s staff. And coach Jon Gruden worked with Kizer, like he did with most young quarterbacks from 2009-17, through his quarterback camp. So clearly, Mayock and Gruden liked what they saw. We’ll see if it amounts to much more than it did Kizer in Green Bay or Cleveland.
10. If you need your football fix, Notre Dame and Louisville are playing tonight. From a draft perspective, there’s one name you need to know: Edge rusher Julian Okwara. He’s probably the one guy in this matchup with a shot to go in the first round in April.
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