Five takeaways from the past week of the NFL offseason
By Vincent Frank
Whoever said there was a slow time of the year around the NFL hasn’t been paying attention to this offseason. From holdouts and off-field issues to player trades and other contract stalemates, the past couple months have been pretty busy around the league.
Now entering what might be a slow time prior to the start of training camp, let’s check in on the week that was around the NFL.
1. Good or Bad, Chip Kelly is Doing his Own Thing in Philadelphia
After what was a not-so-private contract dispute over the past couple years, the Philadelphia Eagles released Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis this past week. He represents the fourth Pro Bowler to have departed the Eagles this offseason. It’s also a major blow to an offensive line that was graded out as the best in the NFL last year (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required).
This is further indication that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is going with a “my way or the highway” mentality. The larger question here is whether Kelly is setting himself up for failure.
Now flush with injury-prone veterans in the backfield and without a true No. 1 wide receiver in the passing game, Kelly made the decision to part with one of the top guards in the NFL. He did so with an underrated Todd Herremans having already been released earlier in the offseason. It’s one thing to put your blueprint on a team in your first season as its player personnel head. It’s a completely different thing to throw key contributors out the window like trash. If the Eagles fail miserably this upcoming season, at least the fans know that Kelly put all his cards into this one hand.
2. NFL Continues to Paint Itself in a Bad Light
Canceling a fan event a month before it was supposed to take place is a bad look. Doing so when some of the top players in the NFL were planning to attend the event is a really bad look. By virtue of the NFL’s strong-handed approach, organizers for the first fantasy football convention, which was supposed to take place in Las Vegas next month,cancelled the event. The problem here, at least from the league’s perspective, is players gambling while supposedly representing the league in Vegas.
“They talk about how no players or NFL personnel are to be associated (with casinos), well, I’m like, that doesn’t really make sense,” the veteran quarterback said. “There’s just far too many cases and it does make it sound sometimes that it’s an issue about money, which is disappointing because we were just trying to get the fans to hang out with players.”
It’s just the NFL’s newest way of playing the role of Grinch to a fan base that has helped the league become the most successful in the history of North American professional sports. At the very least, players are taking exception to it.
3. Russell Wilson’s Contract Situation Could Turn Ugly
When the negotiation window opened up for Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks following the 2014 season, many expected a deal to get done relatively soon. Reports came out that Seattle was willing to make him the highest-paid player in the NFL. He had just led the team to a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance and put up his best statistical season. Why wouldn’t Seattle reward the young quarterback?
In just a few short months, it appears that everything has changed.
Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, sent a 16-page position paper to the brass in Seattle last week detailing what his client is looking for in a new deal. That was followed by a report from FOX Sports NFL insider Mike Garafolo indicating that there is no chance the two sides come to terms on an extension any time soon.
Seattle seems to be willing to offer Cam Newton money, which would be in the neighborhood of $100 million over five seasons with $60 million guaranteed. Based on how the negotiations are going, Wilson’s camp wants a deal far north of what his counterpart on the Carolina Panthers received.
The biggest issue here for Seattle is that linebacker Bobby Wagner is also slated to become a free agent following the 2015 season. If the team isn’t able to come to a long-term deal with Wagner or Wilson prior to March, one will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
It’s almost like the Vikings and Peterson were playing a game of chicken with the media. Maybe they were just messing with us. In any event, what was an ugly situation between the two sides over the past several months seems to be good right now. Peterson reported to the team’s offseason activities, indicating that all he wants to do is focus on football. The Vikings, in turn, welcomed him back with open arms. Heck, the team’s owner even threw some pretty big praise Peterson’s way.
With Peterson back in the mix, Minnesota can now look forward to what might be a surprising 2015 campaign for the team. Young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who performed well without Peterson as a rookie, will now have one of the league’s best rushing attacks behind him in 2015. That could help the Vikings end their playoff drought.
5. Dez Bryant Could Potentially Holdout into the Season
Unhappy about a new deal, it appears that Bryant is willing to hold out into the season to force the Cowboys hand. When pressed on the topic,Bryant told NFL Media’s Mike Silver that it wasn’t a rumor, and that it was “legit.” The issue here for Bryant is that if he sits out the first game, he will be out about $1 million as a prorated part of the $12.8 million he’s set to receive under the franchise tag. Bryant also has a July 15 deadline to sign said tender.
As Silver noted, Bryant can choose to ignore all these deadlines and continue to play hardball. That would cost him millions, but he would still get credit for time served under the collective bargaining agreement. It appears at this point that major issue is language in the deal. Dallas wants protections due to Bryant’s checkered past off the field—protections the star receiver isn’t willing to give the team.
The expectation here has to be that one of the two sides will cave before the deadline a month from this week. For Bryant, it would be about receiving that lofty $12.8 million salary, which would make him thesecond highest-paid receiver in the NFL this upcoming season. For the Cowboys, caving would eliminate any unnecessary drama the team might have to handle if Bryant were to skip the season opener.
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