With all the money NFL teams spent in the first two weeks of free agency, you’d think the shelves would be bare by now.
Yet, there are plenty of big names still looking for work. There’s one of two running backs in NFL history to average 5.5 yards per carry over his career, two of seven running backs in the 2,000-yard club, the Chicago Bears’ all-time leader (by far) in passing yards and touchdowns, a 29-year-old quarterback who has started in a Super Bowl, a former NFL offensive rookie of the year at quarterback, a sure Hall-of-Fame cornerback and the 14th all-time leading receiver in NFL history.
And at some point, Tony Romo will probably join that group.
Even though the initial flurry of free agency has passed, there are still a lot of intriguing names on the market. Here are the 10 most interesting names – not necessarily the best players still available (you won’t find big defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, for example, though he’s one of the best players left), but the ones who we’ll all be watching:
RB Adrian Peterson: If free agency was based on past accomplishments, Peterson would have been signed in the first half-hour. He’s a former MVP, a 2,000-yard rusher (Chris Johnson is the other 2,000-yard back looking for a job) and one of the best running backs ever.
But he’s also 32 and coming off an injury-plagued season, and he doesn’t fit every offense because he’s much more effective in a scheme with the quarterback under center and not in the shotgun.
If Marshawn Lynch’s comeback for the Oakland Raiders doesn’t happen, maybe there’s a possibility there. Or some team that doesn’t land an immediate starter in a deep draft class will circle back with Peterson. It’s hard to believe he’s done based on his 2016: He didn’t look great last season, but he never starts fast and he had only 31 carries before he got hurt. Then he came back for one game after he rushed back from meniscus surgery. It seems unfair to discard him based on that small sample size. This was, after all, the NFL’s rushing champ in 2015 (though, he struggled late that season too).
There have been reports that Peterson’s salary demands are too high, but Peterson said that’s not the case, he wants to find the right fit with a chance to win a championship and he’s in no rush to find a new team.
QB Jay Cutler: Once the New York Jets decided on Josh McCown, the former Bears quarterback seemed to have lost the game of quarterback musical chairs.
Cutler will be 34 next season, has taken a ton of punishment through his career and has dealt with injuries the past few years. Cutler is more talented than just about every backup in the league (and some starters), so depending on what kind of role and salary he wants, he could still have a job. But his chances of starting look slim.
QB Tony Romo: Technically he’s not free, but let’s make an exception and put him on this list. The Dallas Cowboys are making a very curious decision to hang onto him, even though you’d think that if a trade was there to be made, it would be done by now. And the Cowboys have a lot of cap space tied up as they wait, with holes they need to fill on the roster.
Assuming Romo moves at some point (this is Jerry Jones we’re talking about, so it might be foolish to assume anything), everyone seems to believe that the Houston Texans are his landing spot. Or maybe the Denver Broncos will surprise everyone – although a report Friday said the Broncos aren’t pursuing him and Romo believes it’s “Texans or retirement” in 2017. But at some point the Texans, Broncos and whoever else need to get on with their offseason and quit playing this foolish waiting game the Cowboys are engaged in. The Cowboys were going to “do right” by Romo, but unless something happens reasonably soon, they might ruin his 2017 prospects. It doesn’t seem like the Cowboys would stall much longer but, but it’s strange he still hasn’t been cut loose so who knows?
If Romo doesn’t land with the Texans at the end of all this, it will be a major upset. Though, reports this week that CBS and Fox are after him as an analyst give him very good options. It’s a fascinating saga.
RB Jamaal Charles: Charles has had an unbelievable career. His 5.5-yard average is second all-time among running backs to only Marion Motley, who last played in 1955. Next on the list is Jim Brown at 5.2. There’s no denying Charles has been great.
But the end comes fast for running backs. Charles has had multiple knee surgeries and struggled to get healthy last season, playing just three games. At 30 years old, it’s hard to figure out what Charles has left to offer. That’s why he remains unsigned.
RB LeGarrette Blount: Blount rushed for 1,161 yards and led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns and is still unsigned. That sums up the running back position in 2017.
Blount fits best with the New England Patriots, because they’re fine with him being extremely one dimensional (Blount has 26 catches in his last five seasons combined), but the Patriots don’t seem very interested. He’ll find some work, one would imagine, but the running back market is cold this offseason.
WR Anquan Boldin: Boldin has had a great career, with 13,779 yards. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he ends up in the Hall of Fame someday. And he still had value last season, catching eight touchdowns for the Detroit Lions. He’s also universally respected in the locker room.
Boldin is 36 so nobody is expecting a 1,000-yard receiver anymore. But every team that still has a hole at receiver after the draft will at least have to ask themselves if Boldin has one more productive season left.
CB Darrelle Revis: You’re not getting Revis Island. That guy doesn’t work here anymore. But can Revis, arguably the best cornerback since Deion Sanders, still provide something heading into his age-32 season? He’d probably be an upgrade for plenty of teams.
WR Michael Floyd: Everyone knew Floyd’s free agency would be unusual. Floyd was arrested late last year on an extreme DUI charge. He was released from jail earlier this month, but TMZ said he will serve three months of house arrest.
Those are the logistical complications. The arrest has to be a red flag for any team interested in signing him, not to mention his on-the-field inconsistency with the Arizona Cardinals. Still, Floyd is a former first-round pick, just 27 years old and has 3,781 yards and 24 touchdowns in the NFL with some brief stretches of very high-level play.
QB Robert Griffin III: Is this it for Griffin? He’s just 27, which seems incredible. It seems like he’s lived through three NFL careers already.
We all know the story of how the NFL’s hottest star in 2012 got to this point, cut by the Cleveland Browns (yikes) and out of a job. It’s not like there’s so much quality quarterback play in the NFL that the door is shut for Griffin, but other quarterbacks are looking for a job too and spots are running out. Griffin has played five games the past two seasons and injuries are a constant concern. He was not impressive last season, though he was on a horrible team.
Griffin might resurface but consider this: By far the most buzzy news about him since he became a free agent is that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats acquired his Canadian Football League rights.
QB Colin Kaepernick: This case has more layers than the rest, of course, with the “it’s just for football reasons!” crowd at odds with those who have a hard time believing Kaepernick’s national-anthem protest has nothing to do with the absolute lack of interest in him to this point as a free agent.
There are clearly some football reasons in play, although it’s also obvious Kaepernick is better than many of the quarterbacks currently on NFL rosters. What makes Kaepernick’s free agency even murkier is that he doesn’t fit every offense; whichever team signs him will have to play to his strengths as a quarterback who does his best work on the move, not from the pocket.
While there are better players on this list, and maybe even more interesting names football-wise, nobody’s free agency will end up being more controversial.
Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon is just 25 years old. There’s more than enough time for him to turn his career around, and get back on the All-Pro path he was on before drug suspensions got him off track.
The problem is that the NFL has to let him back in. Gordon, the NFL’s leading receiver in 2013 who has played just five games since then due to suspensions, started the process of getting reinstated earlier this month and is awaiting word from the NFL, according to ESPN.com. Perhaps in an effort to fix his image a bit, sources told ESPN.com that Gordon has made some changes.
ESPN reported that Gordon is working out with trainer Tim Montgomery in Florida. Montgomery once held the world record in the 100-meter dash, but was stripped of that after being involved in the BALCO performance-enhancing drugs scandal. He was also convicted in a check fraud scheme and for dealing heroin and sentenced to five years in prison in 2008, but now works with athletes to “avoid social and professional pitfalls in the face of substance abuse and peer pressure,” according to the NUMA Speed website.
Gordon also has a new agent, Joby Branion. As ESPN.com points out, Branion also represents Denver Broncos outside linebacker outside linebacker Von Miller, who has bounced back from some off-field issues.
Gordon is a unique case. It seems odd, but he’s the youngest player in the NFL with a receiving yardage title. He’s two years younger than T.Y. Hilton, who led the NFL in receiving yards last season. But he has played just 35 career games, has had a drug suspension each of the last four seasons, and hasn’t played at all for two years. He also had drug violations in college.
The Browns don’t seem to be depending on Gordon in the slightest, nor should they be. But it would be an incredible boon if they suddenly had Gordon back, if his mind is right and his skills haven’t eroded. He did, after all, have a 1,646-yard season in 14 games with Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer as his quarterbacks. He can play.
There’s a long way to go before he can get his career back on track, if he’s allowed. Maybe some recent changes in his support group will help.
The FBI posted a picture of Brady’s jerseys from Super Bowls XLIX and LI back at Gillette Stadium, alongside the Patriots’ five Lombardi Trophies. Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey went missing from the Patriots locker room right after the game, and it became a big story. When authorities found Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey, they also recovered his jersey from the Super Bowl two years prior. Ortega has been accused of taking the Super Bowl LI jersey from Brady’s bag in his locker. The Lombardi Trophies were never missing, they just provided a cool element to the photo.
Part of the statement read: “This was truly a cooperative effort, and we want to thank our FBI field offices in Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston; the United States Attorney’s Offices in the District of Connecticut, the Southern District of Texas, and the District of Arizona; and our FBI Mexico City Legal Attaché. We would also like to thank our law enforcement partners in Mexico, in particular, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, for their invaluable assistance in resolving this matter. Assistance was also provided by the security teams from the NFL and the New England Patriots, the Massachusetts State Police, and Houston Police Department.”
While it’s great Brady got his jerseys back, and they are quite valuable, it’s also worth taking a step back and considering … how many man hours and how much money was actually spent recovering two shirts? Yowsa.
Anyway, they’re back now and the Patriots are happy.
“We want to thank the FBI, the Mexican authorities and the many different local agencies that were involved in the investigation and ultimate recovery of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “Working along with the Patriots and NFL security, those agencies collectively coordinated an investigation that also led to the recovery of Tom’s missing Super Bowl XLIX jersey. It was great to have both jerseys returned to Gillette Stadium today. I don’t know that any agency could have accomplished this independently, but collectively multiple agencies – both in the U.S. and in Mexico – worked together to achieve the goal of retrieving the stolen property. It is another example of the importance of teamwork and what can be accomplished when everyone works together. We appreciate the effort of everyone involved and look forward to returning these jerseys to Tom when he gets back to New England.”
Hopefully there will be no more Super Bowl jerseys stolen, because the FBI has to have more important things to worry about.
This is part of the NFL changing the replay review process. The review will be centralized, with NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino ultimately having the final say in the call. Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed the change Thursday on ESPN Radio. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert had a detailed explanation of the changes here.
As part of this, an official will no longer look under the hood at a monitor, but be given a tablet and a headset to discuss the call with the league office.
“We’re going to centralize the replay back here in New York,” Goodell told ESPN, according to CBS Boston. “We want the referee’s input. … He can look at the play, be in communication back in our office with Dean Blandino, and Dean Blandino will have the final decision. We think that will move it much quicker.”
The centralized replay review is similar to what Major League Baseball uses. There has to be some question about how the NFL office will handle it when there are multiple challenges from different stadiums at the same time – there are often eight or nine games going on at the same time on a normal early Sunday afternoon of NFL action – but they probably have thought that through.
There’s also the question of what happens if the tablets fail, and the officials at the stadium can’t be involved in the process. Famously, Belichick railed against the tablets not working last season, saying they’re “basically a problem every week.”
“I’m done with the tablets,” Belichick said as part of a long answer last season. “I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can’t take it anymore.”
Since Blandino has final say on the call it might not matter much anyway, but it’s still something worth monitoring. At very least using the tablets will mean more free air time for one of the NFL’s sponsors, which probably isn’t a coincidence.
We know which date the New England Patriots will be visiting the White House, though some players won’t need to set a reminder on their calendar.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced on Thursday that the Patriots will visit President Donald Trump in the White House on April 19. A White House trip is one of the perks that goes to teams who win sports championships, but this trip seems a little different.
At least six players publicly stated they’d be skipping the White House visit in the days after New England’s Super Bowl LI win: tight end Martellus Bennett, safety Devin McCourty, running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch. Some have explicitly stated it is for political reasons, while others like Hightower claimed other reasons. Hightower said he had experienced a White House trip when he won a college national championship with Alabama and didn’t need to go again. And those players were just the ones who publicly stated in the week or so after the game they wouldn’t go; there’s no official count on how many Patriots players will choose to skip the trip.
While a main story of the April 19 visit will be which players won’t attend, the Patriots are the NFL team most closely affiliated with Trump. Quarterback Tom Brady has said he’s a friend of Trump’s and Trump has mentioned him prominently before and after the election. Coach Bill Belichick sent a congratulatory letter to Trump in the final days of his campaign. Owner Robert Kraft attended a campaign donor dinner with Trump shortly after he was elected. Those are arguably the three most prominent members of the franchise, and each have publicly sided with Trump.
“I am very happy that the individual in the press corps who took Tom Brady’s jersey, that that has been returned properly,” Spicer said with a smile, according to the Boston Globe. “Another bad on the press, but we have righted that wrong.”
Most White House visits by championship teams are fairly forgettable. The players give the president a gift like a jersey with his name on it, the president tells a couple jokes and talks about the incredible spirit of the team being honored and everyone goes home happy. Next month’s Patriots visit might be a little more noteworthy than most.
When Jameis Winston was the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL draft, he made the unusual decision to not attend in person. He had a great reason for being the first No. 1 pick in 21 years to not be at the draft: He wanted to be with his grandmother, who had diabetes and couldn’t travel.
When Winston won his first NFL game later that year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his grandmother was there at the Superdome in New Orleans, with permission from her doctor.
Winston was close with his grandmother, by all accounts, and he said she inspired him in Week 2 of his rookie season, when he led the Buccaneers to a win over the New Orleans Saints. Myrtle Winston wasn’t able to attend Winston’s Florida State games because of her health, ESPN said.
“It’s definitely amazing to see her out there, to see her on the sidelines before the game. I was so pumped up,” Winston said then, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Both reports said that one of Winston’s first purchases after signing his first NFL contract was a $4,000 lift chair for his grandma.
The worst of the charges against Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones was dropped, according to a report.
Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com reported that Cincinnati prosecutor Joe Deters said a felony charge of harassment with a bodily substance was dropped. In January, Jones was arrested and accused of allegedly assaulting a man by pushing him and poking him in the eye, refusing to enter the police car and then he got the felony charge for allegedly spitting on a nurse at the jail, according to criminal complaints.
Jones still has pending misdemeanor charges for assault, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business, Terrell reported, and he will plead not guilty.
Even though, legally speaking, the worst is behind Jones, the NFL will presumably still look into the incident especially given Jones’ off-field issues in the past. Although Jones claimed his innocence immediately, saying “none of this makes sense” about the arrest, he also was shown on a police cruiser video telling an officer “I hope you die tomorrow.” Jones’ lawyers said he was embarrassed and remorseful and was committed to counseling and anger management.
But for now, the strongest allegation against Jones has been dropped.
There are a lot of factors that go into signing with a team in NFL free agency.
Money is first, and probably second, third and fourth. Location is key. The chance to win a Super Bowl is a possible factor, as is scheme fit. And, at least in safety Tony Jefferson’s case, he wanted to know how he’d look in his new team’s uniform.
Jefferson told NFL.com he checked out on the “Madden” video game how he’d look in the uniforms of his free-agent suitors. And he picked the Baltimore Ravens, who happen to have some great looking uniforms. The four-year, $36 million deal couldn’t have hurt either.
“I am a guy of swagger, so I gotta check the swag at all points before I make a decision,” Jefferson told NFL.com. “I put myself in different uniforms on Madden to see what will look better. Ravens did look good, though.”
In that interview Jefferson also singled out the black-on-black Ravens alternate uniforms as the best combination. He’s right, those do look sharp.
Now, Jefferson didn’t pick the Ravens because of their uniforms. He’s not an impulsive 17-year-old kid picking Maryland because they are outfitted in Under Armour gear. Read Andy Benoit’s excellent story on The MMQB to get an idea of why Jefferson ended up with the Ravens. He put a lot of thought into it, passing on the Cleveland Browns’ offer of about $1.5 million more per season to sign in Baltimore.
“I love the game way too much to let money be my leading factor in what I do,” Jefferson told The MMQB.
There are a lot of factors to consider. And Jefferson knew before signing on the dotted line that he would look pretty good in his new Ravens gear.
One day, the various adventures of Mauricio Ortega will become the greatest sports documentary ever.
We already knew, from video surveillance footage, that credentialed reporter Ortega walked into the New England Patriots locker room after Super Bowl LI like he belonged (he didn’t, the media wasn’t allowed in yet), allegedly took Tom Brady’s jersey despite the presence of Patriots players and team and league officials, then walked out. When Brady’s jersey was recovered, so too was a helmet that apparently was worn by Denver Von Miller in Super Bowl 50 and Brady’s Super Bowl XLIX jersey.
On Tuesday evening the Associated Press published a long story on Ortega, and unveiled perhaps the most jaw-dropping snippet of this insane ordeal: Ortega, at this year’s Super Bowl, asked a surprised Kurt Warner to sign his own game-worn Super Bowl jersey. And then – you didn’t believe it could get better than that last part, did you? – he planned to sell Warner’s autographed Super Bowl jersey back to him.
And you thought allegedly stealing Brady’s jersey out of the Patriots locker room took some chutzpah.
“He showed me Warner’s jersey with his signature and told me a story about how Warner was surprised that he was in possession of the item,” Arturo Palafox, sports editor for the newspaper 24 Horas, told the AP. “He said he planned to gather interest from Warner to sell him the jersey for $8,000.”
The detail that Ortega had Warner sign a jersey during Super Bowl week was reported before, but that didn’t include that it was one of Warner’s Super Bowl jerseys. Two reporters who Ortega spoke with both told the AP that Ortega had one of Warner’s Super Bowl jerseys in his bag. The AP story said Ortega has been credentialed for the Super Bowl going back to at least 2005. The AP didn’t say which of Warner’s Super Bowl jerseys Ortega had signed, or how Ortega obtained it. Warner played in three Super Bowls, at the end of the 1999 and 2001 seasons with the St. Louis Rams and at the end of the 2008 season with the Arizona Cardinals.
The AP story is rich on details, including that Ortega brought multiple NFL memorabilia items to get signed (a no-no for the media) and that he had no intention of actually working Super Bowl week from Houston (also frowned upon, generally). Ortega was the director of the Mexican newspaper La Prensa, which posted at least six bylines from Ortega during Super Bowl week. However, the AP story said he “ordered staffers back in Mexico City to write the articles and use his byline.”
So to recap: There was a credentialed person who went to Super Bowl for years, took selfies in the locker room with key players (including Brady in 2005), felt emboldened enough to stroll into the Patriots locker room when he wasn’t allowed, allegedly stole items from Brady and perhaps Miller and Brady a second time, and reportedly asked Warner to sign a Super Bowl jersey that Warner once wore in hopes of selling it later to the Hall-of-Fame quarterback for $8,000. And who knows what else might have gone on that we haven’t heard about yet.
Some wise director is going to have fun telling this story when it’s all done.
Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that Lynch comeback rumors are swirling after a year off. And the reason for a comeback seems pretty obvious.
“He does miss football, no question. He loves the game of football,” Lynch’s agent Doug Hendrickson told KNBR.
That makes sense. There was a report from The MMQB that Lynch wanted to come back to play for the Oakland Raiders to do good things for his foundation, which might be a nice byproduct of coming back, but it’s hard to believe that’s close to the main reason. If Lynch wants to play again because he misses the game, that’s entirely understandable.
There are a few issues with the rumored comeback. From all accounts, he wants to play for the Raiders and nobody else, and he’d need to be released or traded by the Seattle Seahawks before that could happen. Also, who knows what the unpredictable Lynch really wants to do? His agent said he doesn’t.
Hendrickson told KNBR that Lynch is in Canada, he hasn’t heard from him that he wants to play again, and has no idea what his answer will be when he sees him this week.
“He’s one of the most unique guys I’ve ever been with in my life,” Hendrickson told KNBR. “Marshawn, it wouldn’t shock me in three days if he says, ‘Hey, I want to play.’ It wouldn’t shock me if he says, ‘Nah, I don’t know where this came from. I don’t want to play.’”
If Lynch comes back, it would be a fantastic story. He’s a tremendous, fun player and it would be fascinating to see what he has left after a season off. Lynch will be 31 next season.
If Lynch is feeling the itch to play again, it’s something we can all relate to. While it would be fun for Lynch to play again, it would be just as fun for everyone else to watch his comeback.