And now, with most of free agency in the rearview, we move forward into what should be a relatively quiet few weeks in the NFL world…
• I’m not in the least bit surprised that, per the New York Post, Peyton Manning turned down a hyper-lucrative shot to be the color guy in the Monday Night Football booth. And the reason why is pretty simple: I’ve always thought his next NFL step will be into a front office. Those who know him have forever believed that a career in TV wouldn’t do enough to satisfy his competitive fire, and he’s left a trail of breadcrumbs to his plans over the last decade. Part of the appeal to him in joining Denver in 2012 was having a kinship with John Elway, and getting to see up close how the Broncos legend went from star player to football executive. After he got there, he was diligent in observing how the team was run. And he forever has kept up with NFL gossip—he knows who the rising young coaches and scouts are, and has always devoured the fun draft and free agency information that floats around. When will the day come for Manning to do it? I don’t know. I’ve heard he’s loved his retirement and has a great setup in Colorado with his family. So maybe Manning won’t do it tomorrow. But eventually, I think he will—and he has a lot of the tools needed to be really good at it.
• That the news of Cowboys center Travis Frederick retiring at 29 isn’t shocking tells you how much things have changed in pro football. Decisions like this from guys like Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis, Rob Gronkowski and Luke Kuechly have opened the door for players to consider walking away earlier. Those guys have made it easier on others, in how calls like this are digested by the public, and within their own workplaces by coaches and teammates. And really, I think there are three reasons for this trend, all of them good for players in the long-term. One, guys have more information on what football is doing to their bodies. Two, guys are more financially secure than they used to be. And three, guys are planning early for what they’ll do post-football, making the idea of retirement less daunting. So good for Frederick, who just got past a scary battle with Guillain-Barré syndrome in 2018. I’m happy he’s able to make this call for himself, and he walks away having accomplished a lot in the NFL.
• I think the Patriots, after signing Brian Hoyer, may well be all done with quarterbacks on the veteran market, and there are two reasons why. First, I don’t think they’re of a mind to pay market price for an Andy Dalton or Cam Newton. Second, even if they were, they’d have to do some cap gymnastics to make it happen—they had less than $3 million in space on Monday morning (before letting Stephen Gostkowski go). And that’s not part of the plan. Rather than mortgaging more money into the future, this looks like it’ll be the year they carry all the dead cap dollars through, in order to go forward with a clean slate. And so we’ll likely see Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, Cody Kessler and maybe a rookie battle it out for the job this year. Ideally, then, either Stidham or a draft pick over the next two years emerges, and the Patriots come out of it with the same sort of QB-on-a-rookie-deal edge that the Rams, Chiefs and Eagles have ridden to Super Bowls the last three years.
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• While we’re there, the Gostkowski release deserves some mention. Other than quarterback, there isn’t a position on New England’s roster that’s been more stable over Bill Belichick’s two decades in charge. And that’s largely because Gostkowski handled an immense amount of pressure amazingly well 14 years ago—ably replacing an icon in New England in Adam Vinatieri, and winning three rings of his own over a run that lasted, amazingly, four years longer than his predecessor’s in Foxboro. As a result, Belichick’s only had two full-time kickers in 20 years. Which, again, is only bested by what he’s had at quarterback.
• I do not expect Washington to pursue Cam Newton, and the team’s trade for Kyle Allen is a pretty good indicator on that, independent of what I’m saying here. Both head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner have a strong relationship with, and belief in, Allen. And stacking him with Dwayne Haskins and maybe Alex Smith on the roster means Washington really doesn’t have to make another move at the position. That doesn’t mean they won’t (as I’ve mentioned a few times, they’ll do all the work on the top quarterbacks in the draft, even with the likelihood they take Chase Young with the second pick). But it does mean they’d be fine with what they have now.
• The Allen trade is another example of how coaches treasure background with players, particularly at that position. The Allen trade, of course, was put into motion with the Panthers’ signing of XFL standout P.J. Walker. That’s the same P.J. Walker who, you should know, was Panthers coach Matt Rhule’s starting quarterback for all four of Rhule’s years at Temple. Walker, right now, is set to back up Teddy Bridgewater, who, of course, was with Panthers OC Joe Brady in New Orleans.
• Some of the Raiders’ contracts are interesting, in that they more or less assure roster spots for certain players. Significant 2020 base salaries for QB Marcus Mariota ($7.5 million), CB Eli Apple ($6 million), and TE Jason Witten ($3.5 million) are fully guaranteed. In each case, that money is in lieu of a signing bonus, and maybe there are cashflow concerns that play into it. But any of those three guys would be difficult to cut now, given the financial commitment.
• We hit on the money train of ex-Patriots going to Miami (Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Ted Karras) and Detroit (Duron Harmon, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton) in this week’s MMQB. And now, the Giants, under ex-New England special teams coach Joe Judge, are playing catch-up. Days after signing special teams ace Nate Ebner away from the Patriots, the Giants added ex-Patriot and Titan Dion Lewis, who Judge knows well.
• I saw one of our editors (my man Mitch Goldich) brought this up, and I agree with him: We should be keenly paying attention to how Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara handle the coming months. Each is eligible for a second contract for the first time, and each has gotten to see what happened with 2015 draftees Todd Gurley (got paid after three years, fell off a cliff late in his fourth season) and Melvin Gordon (waited too long to press the issue). If I’m McCaffrey or Cook or Kamara? I’m pushing to get paid now. And this is where Cook and Kamara have an edge over McCaffrey—because they weren’t first-rounders, their teams don’t have contract options on them for 2021.
• And finally…my thoughts on the Rams new marks: I like the move back to the royal blue and yellow, but I do not like the “LA” logo. That said, the Rams head logo they rolled out Monday is pretty sweet, and they should make that their primary logo. And I’m looking forward to seeing their new uniforms and those of the Falcons, Browns and Bucs over the next few weeks. So if you wanted my fashion take for the day, there you have it.
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