Each week, the Washington Post’s Mark Maske provides in-depth Monday morning NFL analysis with “First and 10,” a dissection of the league’s most important developments from a weekend of action.
First and 10: May 9
1. Some QB pictures still unsettled | 2. Sanchez’s reaction in Denver
3. Cowboys’ backup competition | 4. Replay tweaks coming?
5. The Las Vegas Raiders | 6. First-round signings
7. More than half of 5th-year options picked up | 8. Lynch’s retirement
9. Brady’s appeal | 10. Replacing onside kicks
The San Diego Chargers traded for Philip Rivers on draft day 2004 after he was selected fourth overall by the New York Giants. But Rivers sat for two seasons in San Diego behind Drew Brees, who then moved on to New Orleans and has had four of the eight 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history.
The Giants landed Eli Manning in that deal with the Chargers. But Manning, the top overall choice in that 2004 draft, sat for the first nine games of his rookie season behind Kurt Warner, who moved on to Arizona the following year and ended up finishing his career with three straight seasons with more than 3,400 passing yards for the Cardinals.
The point is: Carson Wentz’s arrival in Philadelphia does not necessarily mean terrible things for Sam Bradford’s career. There aren’t enough productive quarterbacks to go around in the NFL. Bradford will have a chance to play this coming season, at least at the outset. If he plays well enough, he will be a starting quarterback in the NFL in the future, whether it’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
It’s about time Bradford realized that.
Bradford arrived Monday for the Eagles’ voluntary offseason workouts, confirming earlier reports that suggested he was about to rejoin the team and take part in preparations for the 2016 season.
Bradford’s arrival Monday falls under the better-late-than-never category. It’s only a bit late, but it remains to be seen what damage has been done to his credibility inside and outside the team’s locker room.
Bradford has been given plenty while earning little since arriving in the NFL as the top overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Rams. He never has been selected to a Pro Bowl. He never has participated in a playoff game. He has played 16 games in a season only twice. He has been a decent quarterback along the way with 78 touchdown passes, 52 interceptions and a career passer rating 81.0. He has been rewarded handsomely for that, with career earnings to this point of more than $78 million plus a new two-year contract with the Eagles for another $35 million. His sense of entitlement here is misplaced.
He has been confusing income for stature. Bradford re-signed with the Eagles before free agency and apparently believes that means the team was not permitted to give itself another option at quarterback without consulting him. After the Eagles traded up for the No. 2 pick in the draft and used it on Wentz, the promising quarterback from tiny North Dakota State, Bradford performed a very public temper tantrum, demanding to be traded and refusing temporarily to participate in voluntary offseason workouts.
Bradford signed his contract. If he wanted veto power over the Eagles’ personnel moves, he should have had it written into the deal. The Eagles were not obligated to tell Bradford in advance about their plan to trade up for Wentz, as Bradford believes. Bradford’s powerful agent, Tom Condon, has said that Bradford wants to be with a team for which he can play for a long time if he plays well because he does not view himself as a temporary solution at quarterback. If that’s the case, Bradford shouldn’t have signed a two-year contract. Isn’t that the definition of being a temporary solution?
Wentz is the future at quarterback in Philadelphia. There is no disputing that. With the king’s ransom of draft choices the Eagles had to surrender to move into position to draft him, he will be given his chance at some point. That’s how the NFL works.
But few talent evaluators view Wentz as ready to be a starter from the outset of his rookie season, with the significant jump that he must make from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known at Division I-AA) to the NFL. There’s nothing saying Wentz must play at all as a rookie if Bradford gives the Eagles a reliable player at the position.
Bradford will have his chance. He must take advantage of it. Showing up Monday was a start.
… AND TEN
Free agency and the NFL draft have come and gone. It’s far enough into the offseason that most NFL teams have their starting quarterback for opening day of the 2016 season confidently in place.
But that’s not true everywhere around the league. The Eagles aren’t alone.
Here are the most unsettled quarterback situations league-wide at this relatively late point in the offseason, with a best guess given the current circumstances as to each team’s season-opening starter:
Eagles: The job is Bradford’s, for the time being, if only he’ll show up and claim it. Predicted starter: Bradford
49ers: Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been traded. Blaine Gabbert remains on hand as well. The best chance for Coach Chip Kelly to make his fast-break offense work right away is to keep Kaepernick and find a way for him to resemble the quarterback that he once was. Predicted starter: Kaepernick
Jets: Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t been re-signed but the alternatives are Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and the just-drafted Christian Hackenberg. That’s plenty of incentive to get a deal done with Fitzpatrick, who still does not appear to have a viable alternative in free agency. Predicted starter: Fitzpatrick
Patriots: Will Tom Brady actually serve his Deflategate suspension sometime before he retires? The appeals process has not been exhausted but, for now, the suspension is back in place. Predicted starter: Jimmy Garoppolo
Ravens: Joe Flacco and the Ravens would be unwise to push things too hard, too fast in his recovery from the knee injury that he suffered in November. Ryan Mallett likely will get plenty of work with the starting offense throughout the offseason. Even so, there has been talk about Flacco being on the field in training camp. Predicted starter: Flacco
Browns: The Browns insisted that drafting Cody Kessler has given them a young quarterback to vie with Robert Griffin III for the starting job. It hasn’t. Predicted starter: Griffin
Broncos: Mark Sanchez is on hand to be the temporary starter until rookie Paxton Lynch is ready to take over. The question is when Lynch will show he’s ready. The guess here is that it’s sometime during his rookie season but not right away. Predicted starter: Sanchez
Rams: Case Keenum is around but the Rams gave up plenty to move up and select Jared Goff first overall in the draft. There’s no reason to wait to play him. Predicted starter: Goff
It’s relatively easy to ridicule or dismiss Sanchez.
But after the Broncos traded up five spots in the opening round of the draft to select Lynch, he didn’t complain. He didn’t pout. He didn’t skip offseason workouts. He didn’t say he was misled or ask to be traded.
He said he took the move as a vote of confidence in him. He said he will do all he can to help Lynch and vowed to be ready to compete for the starting job in Denver, no matter what moves the Broncos make.
Say or think what you want about Sanchez, but that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Just call him the anti-Bradford.
Remember when the Dallas Cowboys were going to get a more reliable backup quarterback before next season?
Remember when they were going to consider having Tony Romo’s eventual successor in place sooner rather than later?
It doesn’t appear they’ve done either one.
Romo’s backup for the 2016 season, barring further moves, apparently will be Kellen Moore.
The Cowboys used a fourth-round pick in the draft on Dak Prescott. But it’s debatable whether either Moore or Prescott will develop into a capable backup to Romo in case Romo gets hurt this coming season, or prove worthy to take over for Romo as the starter down the line.
For the Cowboys, it is likely to be another season of crossing their fingers and hoping that Romo remains healthy and in the lineup.
The NFL’s competition committee continues to mull a potential proposal to the owners at their meeting later this month in Charlotte regarding the instant replay system.
The proposal would be modeled on one made by the Ravens earlier this offseason and tabled by the owners without a vote at the annual league meeting in March in Boca Raton, Fla.
The measure, if enacted, would expand the list of plays subject to potential replay reviews.
It is not certain that such a proposal will be made. Issues tabled by the owners at the March meeting, with a vow to take things up in May, sometimes have a way of being forgotten. But last year, the owners did as they’d promised and ratified the proposal for the longer extra point at their May meeting. So it does happen.
A person familiar with the league’s inner workings said recently it was not clear if the competition committee will make such a replay proposal in May.
The proposal, if made, would have to be ratified by at least 24 of the 32 owners to take effect in the upcoming season.
The Ravens’ proposal would have made all plays subject to potential replay reviews except: offensive or defensive holding, offensive or defensive pass interference, illegal contact, illegal use of hands, whether a quarterback or receiver or kicker has been forcibly hit (for an illegal hit) and unsportsmanlike conduct.
The owners are scheduled to meet May 24.
Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is sending signals that he is serious about relocating his franchise to Las Vegas.
But such a move, as was made so clear during the Los Angeles deliberations, ultimately is up to the owners as a group. It doesn’t necessarily matter what an individual franchise wants to do or what the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell want. It’s what the owners want.
The NFL has held sports gambling at arm’s length for so long. That perhaps has changed a bit with the debate over daily fantasy and whether that should be categorized as gambling. But are the owners really prepared to allow a franchise to move to the home of sports gambling in the U.S.? That remains to be seen. Some people familiar with the owners’ views say there would be some misgivings about that but it’s not clear at this point how the votes would stack up.
For now, a number of owners are saying they would like to see things work out so the Raiders can stay in Oakland. Barring that, the Raiders remain next in line to potentially join the Rams in Los Angeles if the Chargers pass on their L.A. option and stay in San Diego. So plenty of maneuvering is left to be done.
The rookie pay system created by the 2011 labor deal between the league and the players’ union was supposed to make contentious, protracted contract negotiations between just-drafted players and their teams a thing of the past.
It clearly has done that.
Teams now begin signing drafted players soon after choosing them, and it is not particularly rare for a team to have its entire draft class signed within weeks of the draft. As of the end of last week, a quarter of this year’s first-round picks already were under contract to their teams.
So the NFL and NFL Players Association actually can agree on something that works as planned, when they want to do so.
The flip side to how easily players now can be signed after the draft is that figuring out the right players to select during the draft remains as unpredictable as ever.
One measure of that is another aspect of the rookie compensation system: the fifth-year options written in the contracts of first-round picks.
Teams just had to make their decisions on whether to exercise their fifth-year options for those players drafted in 2013. According to figures compiled by Profootballtalk, 17 of the 32 first-rounders from the ’13 draft class had their fifth-year options exercised by their teams; another player from that class, the Eagles’ Lane Johnson, previously had agreed to a five-year contract extension.
Running back Marshawn Lynch’s retirement became official (or at least as official as it gets, given that he’s free to change his mind at any time) when the Seattle Seahawks placed him on their reserve-retired list last week.
Lynch is the 36th leading rusher in league history at the time of his retirement with 9,112 career rushing yards. That makes it highly questionable whether he ever will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But his career was memorable for many things, including his touchdown romp against the Saints during a January 2011 playoff game, his “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” media reticence and his not getting the football at the 1-yard line against the Patriots with a Super Bowl outcome at stake.
Yet no matter what anyone thought of Lynch as a player, one thing was clear: His teammates adored him. That was reinforced when Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin wrote recently on Twitter that the team should retire Lynch’s number at least unofficially.
Baldwin, addressing his message to Coach Pete Carroll, wrote: “We are thrilled with the new teammates. One condition. Nobody wears [No.] 24 for years to come. Sincerely, The Players[.]”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last week granted by the request by Brady’s legal team for a two-week extension of the deadline for him to appeal the recent decision by a three-judge panel of the appeals court that reinstated his four-game Deflategate extension.
Brady and his attorneys now have until May 23 to decide whether to request a re-hearing before the three-judge panel, appeal to the full appeals court or accept the latest ruling and move on without further legal challenges.
It appears virtually certain that Brady, his lawyers and the NFLPA will continue to fight in court. Why else would they have requested the extension? And why else would they have added prominent attorney Ted Olson to Brady’s team of legal representatives?
Deflategate can’t actually ever end, can it?
The NFL has moved in recent years to try to reduce the number of kickoff returns in a bid to make the game safer. The spot of the kickoff was moved closer to the opposite goal line to promote touchbacks. This offseason, the league decided to place the football at the 25-yard line on a touchback on a kickoff, hoping to encourage ball carriers to remain in the end zone rather than attempt a return from there.
It is not difficult to envision a day when the sport’s leaders might opt to eliminate the kickoff entirely, already having determined that it is an unusually hazardous play. One of the obstacles to that is how to duplicate an onside kick and give the trailing team an opportunity to attempt to regain possession of the football late in a game.
Perhaps it is time to re-examine the proposal, originally made by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, that was publicized late in 2012. Schiano’s suggestion was that, instead of having a kickoff, a team would be given the football at its 30-yard line with a fourth-and-15 situation. Given those circumstances, teams undoubtedly would choose to punt the ball away most of the time. But a team trailing late in game could opt to try for a first down and retain possession, with the chances of success perhaps being similar to those of recovering an onside kick.
It is different. It undoubtedly would offend the sensibilities of some football traditionalists who would not want to see the kickoff eliminated. But it would be another step toward addressing some of the issues that the league already has been trying to address with its modifications to a play deemed too dangerous to remain as it was.