Cleaning up after a long day of coaches, GMs and quarterbacks talking on the record at the NFL combine…
• Cam Newton’s Instagram message—“All I want is a little commitment”—was interesting, given the timing and how it matches up with Matt Rhule speaking Tuesday on the Panthers’ quarterback situation. Rhule said he “absolutely” expects Newton to be on the team’s roster in 2020, and there’d be good sense in Carolina keeping him through this year. But it’s complicated by his history with the team, and long-held standing in the league as a franchise quarterback. Can you turn the face of your franchise into a bridge quarterback? The Giants did it last year, with Eli Manning and Daniel Jones on the roster together. And the Bengals did to a degree too, treading water with Andy Dalton for a year, which now has them in position to draft Joe Burrow. I’m just not sure that Newton would be comfortable with such an arrangement, under a new coaching staff. And that’s certainly one way you could read, “All I want is a little commitment.” Maybe it’s his way of telling the team, if he’s gonna be back, he wants to be regarded as he’s been over the last nine years. And the one way to show that would be extending him (he has one year and $19.1 million left on his second NFL deal), something I don’t think is happening anytime soon.
• Interesting to see Texans coach Bill O’Brien delegating play-calling responsibilities to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly. Houston owner Cal McNair appointed O’Brien as the team’s new general manager last month, and O’Brien handing the proverbial play-sheet over to Kelly wouldn’t line up with the narrative that O’Brien’s trying to run the entire organization from the coaches’ office. Kelly, the former tight ends coach who came from Penn State with O’Brien in 2014, is very well thought of internally.
• It’s also interesting to see the emerging trend of tight end coaches becoming offensive coordinators. Kelly follows Tennessee’s Arthur Smith, who was excellent in his first year running the Titans offense. Another one who followed this path? Rams coach Sean McVay, who was promoted from tight ends coach to OC in Washington when Jay Gruden got the job there in 2014. It makes sense that this kind of progression would happen—given that the tight ends coach has hands in both the pass game and the run game on a regular basis.
• I wouldn’t make much of Giants coach Joe Judge refusing to name Daniel Jones starting quarterback or Saquon Barkley starting tailback. It’s a pretty Patriots thing to do—just like how Bill Belichick makes his coaches work as coordinators for a year or two before giving them the title that goes along with it.
• For whatever it’s worth, both the Titans and the Bucs left their quarterback options wide open on Tuesday. Tampa coach Bruce Arians was asked which quarterbacks he’d call if he needed one in free agency and he answered, “Tom Brady. Philip [Rivers] is another guy. We’ll see.” Tennessee GM Jon Robinson was less revelatory, simply saying, “We’ll see how it goes. He’s under contract here for the next few weeks.” The window to franchise tag players opens Thursday and stays open for two weeks. The quarterback figure is expected to top $27 million.
• Raiders GM Mike Mayock really hasn’t changed his tune much on Derek Carr, and didn’t on Tuesday. He likes Carr, but he and the Raiders are open to upgrading all positions. So this is basically like being on a month-to-month lease. I was in that spot once, and it allowed pretty awesome flexibility when my wife and I went to buy our first house. Likewise, being past the guaranteed money in Carr’s contract, the Raiders can pick and choose their spot to find another quarterback, rather than being pigeonholed into a single year having to find one. Which is awesome for them.
• The Falcons’ 2016 draft class juiced the organization and immediately stirred a Super Bowl run. But three years later, things look much different than they did. Their first-rounder from that year, strong safety Keanu Neal, can’t stay healthy. And thanks to a shaky cap situation, GM Thomas Dimotroff said Tuesday they’ll let tight end Austin Hooper, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and guard Wes Schweitzer hit free agency. All of which means that Deion Jones may be the only guy in the group to make it to a second contract with the team, which is a fairly stunning result.
• Because uncertainty around Joe Burrow’s intentions have swirled for a month, it’s going to be hard for some to believe that he’s being truthful in saying he’ll play for whoever drafts him in April. And that’s fair. But given those circumstances, and some of this was self-inflicted, he handled Tuesday’s press availability well.
• Tua Tagovailoa’s Pro Day on April 9 is going to be just a little bit of a circus.
• Some teams absolutely aren’t happy with the new schedule to accommodate made-for-TV primetime workouts. Among the issues? Interviews, held in the suites at Lucas Oil Stadium, are spaced out, where they used to all happen consecutively. One example: On Tuesday night, one team had three 20-minute interviews spread out over a three-hour window, which that club’s officials saw as wasteful of their time. Which is pretty hard to argue with, when you consider it wasn’t like that before.
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