It was a busy first 24 hours in Indianapolis, where numerous scouts, agents and front office personnel spoke off the record on Wednesday night and numerous coaches and GMs addressed the media Thursday afternoon. Here are my 10 takeaways from Day 1.
1. Darrelle Revis is a Jet … unless Jim Brown’s on the trading block
Jets GM John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan were both steadfast in their belief that star cornerback Darrelle Revis is a member of the Jets and very much a part of the team’s future … for now. Peppered with questions on Revis, who’s been rumored to be on the trading block this offseason, Idzik said, “There’s been rumors or stories published and it’s really hard for me or anybody in our organization to speculate and answer to all the stories that we hear. In respect to Darrelle, we’ve always wanted him to be a part of the New York Jets.” Asked if Revis is an “untouchable player,” Idzik said, “Any player on our roster, we go forward with the assumption that they’re New York Jets until we’re given a situation we have to evaluate. Right now, Darrelle Revis is a New York Jet. We’re proud to have him and we’re happy to have him. He’s a tremendous asset.”
Rex Ryan, naturally, wasn’t as politically correct in addressing the rumor mill.
“Plain and simple, it’s not accurate. I told Darrelle that. If he was to be involved in a trade, I think he and his agents would know about it. As would the general manager and myself. I don’t know where things like that get drummed up from. Maybe someone was a big fan of fantasy football and would like to have him on his team.”
After a few laughs from reporters, Ryan was asked if there was any way Revis would be traded, “You want me to say ‘absolutely not, we’re not going to do it,’ and I’m not going to say this player or that player, but if you’ve got Jim Brown in that trade, then you’d probably look into it.”
Ryan, perhaps paying homage to the recently released linebacker Bart Scott, finished his presser by saying: “I’ll tell you one thing. I’m going to coach my ass off. I can’t wait.”
2. Eagles QB Nick Foles isn’t going anywhere … yet
Chip Kelly had quite the press conference at the Combine in Indianapolis. After saying any January rumors linking him to the Cleveland Browns were “erroneous,” then going the extra mile to note, “That’s from ‘Wedding Crashers,’” the gregarious first-year Eagles coach extolled the virtues of backup quarterback Nick Foles. “I wanna coach Nick (Foles). I wanna spend time with him and see him,” Kelly said when asked if Philadelphia’s second-year quarterback would be traded this offseason. Rumored to be on the trading block in the days after Michael Vick’s contract was restructured and Dennis Dixon was signed last week, Foles isn’t leaving the Eagles’ nest just yet.
When pressed about a USA Today report last week indicating that the Kansas City Chiefs had interest in Foles, new Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “He’s not available. You just had (Philadelphia GM) Howie (Roseman) up here (on the podium), so I think you know that.” Reid continued, “Listen, Nick is the property of the Philadelphia Eagles. I think they like him. … I drafted him along with Howie and Howie’s still there. I know Howie likes him.”
3. Peyton Manning: Healthier, stronger and better in 2013?
John Fox was effusive in his praise for Peyton Manning on Thursday, indicating that the best is yet to come for the 36-year-old Broncos quarterback.
“A lot was made of the neck and the surgeries. But in reality, it’s a nerve situation and it takes a while for nerves to grow,” Fox said from the podium. “He’s getting better every day. I think he’ll be, health-wise, he’ll be even better this year.”
Last year at this time, Manning was a free agent, still rehabbing from his September 2011 spinal fusion surgery. After an 11-game winning streak to end the 2012 regular season, Manning struggled in the Colorado cold during a five-quarter divisional round game with the Ravens. In the week after the loss, there were questions whether Manning was capable of playing in the elements.
“He’ll have a full offseason for his whole body to get ready, not just the arm, the neck and some of those rehab things,” Fox said. “He can actually work out now. I think he’ll just get stronger and better.”
4. Seattle GM John Schneider has no problems with Richard Sherman’s big mouth
Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman made news on Wednesday, jostling with Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis in a Twitter thumb war. On Thursday, Sherman told the NFL Network, “He came off disrespectful, so words need to be said. Apparently, he is going to disrespect my game. I don’t know what he has done stats-wise to earn the right to talk down to people. He has never had more than six [interceptions] in a season so let’s quiet down.” John Schneider, his general manager in Seattle, has no problem with Sherman’s bravado: “He feels he’s the best corner in the league. God bless him.”
5. Alex Smith’s last supper in San Francisco? Not necessarily
Shortly after Super Bowl XLVII, San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke took Alex Smith and his wife Liz out to dinner. After handling his midseason demotion with class and grace, it’s now time to look towards Smith’s NFL future.
“We’re going to look at all options available,” Baalke said Thursday. “Are you going to trade him for sure? No, that hasn’t been decided.”
Colin Kaepernick, the 36th overall pick in 2011, is set to make just north of $800,000 in 2012, but due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed two summers ago, he can not renegotiate his deal. The 49ers also have 14 draft picks this year.
It sounds crazy, but in a quarterback-starved league, the 49ers don’t have much incentive to get rid of Smith. As he heads into his ninth season, the 49ers backup is due $8.5 million in 2013, including $6.5 million guaranteed if he remains on San Francisco’s roster after April 1. It’s by no means a sure thing that they won’t pay him in 2013.
6. The latest in the Titus Young saga
Ten years from now, a promising young director is going to do a dazzling documentary on Titus Young’s tenure with the Detroit Lions. It’ll be incredibly intriguing. Drafted in the second round and blessed with all the physical tools in the world, Young sabotaged his own football career with immaturity, off-the-field mishaps and on-the-field disobedience.
Sources told me earlier this month that Young intentionally ran the wrong routes in an NFL game.
Another source indicated that Young believed he deserved as many targets as his teammate, Calvin Johnson. Enough was enough, and after countless chances, the Lions released Young two weeks ago.
When I initially asked Lions head coach Jim Schwartz if he could offer any insight on the waived wideout on Thursday, he said, “Not really.” He, then, took a moment and addressed Young’s time in Detroit, “It’s very disappointing,” Schwartz said. “He’s a guy we drafted in the second round. He’s a guy that physically was very productive for us and looked like he was going to be a very important part of our offense. But in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t all physically what you could do on the field. As a result, he’s no longer with us. We’ve moved on.”
Young was claimed by only one NFL team when put on waivers, the St. Louis Rams, and was released six days later. Less than two years after being drafted in the second round, Young is unemployed at 23. It doesn’t appear as though anyone’s knocking on his door anytime soon, either.
7. Greg Schiano has his quarterback
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano raised some eyebrows the day after the regular season, when he responded to a question on whether he was “all-in” on quarterback Josh Freeman by saying, “I’m not side-stepping you, but I need to evaluate.”
Schiano addressed those comments Thursday, saying, “At the end of the season, the day after the final game, I probably said something that got a lot more attention than I meant for it to do,” Schiano said. “Really, it was about, just what you said: Every year I’ve been a head coach, I step back and I evaluate every phase of our program. And it starts with me, so that takes a while. And I even said, ‘I don’t know if I’m the right guy. Let me figure this out.’ And then I went through every assistant coach, and then, as a staff, we went through every single player — and a series of evaluations — but the one thing I believe in, as coaches or players, our whole life, we went through competitive athletics and that competition is healthy.”
Asked to put his line in the sand on the Freeman issue, Schiano went even further, telling a group of reporters, “Josh Freeman is our quarterback. And I believe that Josh Freeman — with Josh Freeman, we’ll be able to accomplish our goals.”
So much for the Bucs trading Freeman this offseason.
8. Bruce Arians, despite the raspberry beret, is very much a traditionalist when it comes to running an NFL offense
In an era in which the read option and running quarterbacks seem to be all the rage, Bruce Arians — decked in an awesome piece of headgear — stood firm in his stance that he’s old school when it comes to offense.
“Defensive coordinators will have time to study this new trend in the NFL,” Arians said. “I’m not a believer in putting my quarterback in harm’s way. I’m a traditionalist.”
If there is a new trend in the NFL, Arians insisted, it involves pro coaches going to the college ranks to learn new ways to defend these offenses. Arians’ dismissal of the new wave of NFL offenses conflicts with comments made by many others around the league, insisting that the game is changing after the success of running quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in 2012.
He’ll face the last two twice next year.
9. The Dolphins will likely use the franchise tag … on someone … we think
Coming into the combine, the Dolphins were a team I wanted to keep an eye on. Miami sent 55 people from the organization (GM Jeff Ireland joked, “the whole building”) to Indianapolis this week. With several high-profile free agents on the roster, there’s been a lot of buzz about the team’s offseason moves. Defensive tackle Randy Starks, cornerback Sean Smith and offensive tackle Jake Long are all candidates to be given the franchise tag. “There’s certainly a likelihood we could use it,” Ireland said in talking about the issue. So there’s that.
10. The Colts have money to burn this offseason
Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson played host of sorts, holding court in the hallways of his team’s stadium. With Dwight Freeney off the books and a team loaded with young talent from last year’s draft, the Colts have one of the better cap situations in the NFL.
“It’s nice to be able to go shopping a little bit,” Grigson said of having about $44 million in cap space. “It’s nice to know that if there is somebody I’m really pining for, I can least have a crack at him. He added, “Last year, in a way, it was still fun for me, with my scout roots, to go out there and dig and find guys that maybe other people may have overlooked, or maybe they didn’t have to dig as hard because they had the money to go get the guys that were right there for the taking.”
A year ago, Grigson was a first-year GM taking over for a team that went 2-14 in 2011. This year, he’s King of the Combine.
What a difference 12 months — or Andrew Luck — can make.