At first glance, this AJ McCarron news might not strike you as much. A fifth-round pick who’s started four games in four NFL seasons can now be an unrestricted free agent. Big whoop, right? Are teams really going to line up to throw money at him just because they can?
Thing is, though, McCarron plays quarterback. And that position makes NFL teams do funny things. Just a year ago, Mike Glennon was a 27-year-old free agent with 18 career starts — none since 2014 — and the Bears signed him for $18.5 million guaranteed.
McCarron is 27. His four starts in Cincinnati were in 2015. One was a playoff game. He completed 62 percent of his passes in them, with five touchdowns and one interception. He played well enough to win the playoff game, but the Bengals lost to the Steelers in painful fashion because Jeremy Hill fumbled and the defense lost its mind.
Oh, and don’t forget that, just a little more than three months ago, a team tried to trade a second-round pick and a third-round pick for McCarron but couldn’t get it done because of a deadline paperwork snafu.
The point here is this: Don’t rule out McCarron as a factor in the increasingly interesting 2018 offseason quarterback market.
Start with the Browns, the team that tried to trade for McCarron at the deadline in October. That got all botched up, and the team has since changed general manager and overhauled its front office, but if the Browns still want McCarron, they can now get him for nothing but money. Coach Hue Jackson was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati for McCarron’s first two seasons and is known to be a fan. It’s not crazy to imagine the Browns signing McCarron as a guy they think can start in 2018 while whomever they draft — they have picks 1 and 4 in Round 1 — gets ready. And who knows? Maybe they like him enough that, if they sign him, they decide they don’t have to take a quarterback at the top of the draft. Unlikely, but you never know.
The top free-agent quarterback prize this year is Washington’s Kirk Cousins. But you can make a list of a half-dozen or so teams that will want Cousins, and only one can get him. If the Browns, Jets, Vikings, Cardinals, Broncos and Bills all try for Cousins, that means at least five teams will need a fallback option. Currently, those include the likes of Case Keenum, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater (who also hasn’t really played in two years). Josh McCown is out there as a one-year “bridge” option. Maybe a team can trade for Blake Bortles, but if so, that leaves Jacksonville as a team looking for a starting quarterback.
The question is not whether McCarron is a starting quarterback any more than that was the question about Glennon a year ago. The question is whether there is a team — or more than one team — out there that views McCarron as a 27-year-old with potential to be more than he’s been to this point in his NFL career. And if they’re willing to pay him a starter’s salary — even on a deal similar to the one-year commitment Chicago made last year to Glennon.
Quarterback is the NFL’s most stubborn and common problem, and it very rarely presents its teams with perfect solutions. If your team ends up signing McCarron and making him the starter in 2018, some of you will wonder if the decision-makers have lost their minds. Some will be cautiously optimistic. Very few will be satisfied, unless and until he performs at a level that justifies the decision. This is the nature of the quarterback market, and because of that, McCarron fits into it just fine. As of Thursday, we now know that he’s going to have a chance to maximize his value in a world where demand for what he does always outpaces supply. Which means he’s likely to end up coming out of this a very rich man.
Seattle Seahawks WR DK Metcalf runs 100 in 10.37 seconds, finishes 15th out of 17 in event
DK Metcalf did not run fast enough in the 100 meters Sunday to advance to the finals of the USA Track and Field Golden Games and Distance Open.
But the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver fared better than some expected for an NFL player competing against professional sprinters. Metcalf’s time of 10.37 seconds was last among the nine sprinters in his heat and 15th of 17 who competed in the first two heats. American Isiaah Young had the fastest time of the first two heats with a time of 10.09.
“These are world-class athletes,” Metcalf said afterward when asked whether he learned anything by competing in the event in Walnut, California. “They do this for a living. It’s very different from football speed, from what I just realized. So, like I said, just excited to be out here.”
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was among those in the NFL impressed with Metcalf’s performance, tweeting that his teammate did “amazing.”
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) May 9, 2021
Former Olympic sprinter Ato Boldon said on the broadcast beforehand that something in the range of 10.6-10.7 would be a good time for the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Metcalf.
“He did not embarrass himself,” Boldon said of Metcalf. “He hung with the pack. Yes, I think he’s eighth. But he ran well. I didn’t think he was going to run anywhere near that well.”
Before Sunday, Metcalf hadn’t competed in track since high school, when he was a standout hurdler and long-jumper and also competed on Oxford High School’s 4×100 meter relay team. He ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2019 scouting combine and reached a top speed of 22.64 mph when he chased down the Arizona Cardinals‘ Budda Baker to prevent him from scoring a defensive touchdown last October, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. At the time, that was the second-fastest speed any NFL player had reached in pursuit in 2020.
Metcalf made the Pro Bowl last season after catching 83 passes for a franchise-record 1,303 yards.
Patriots’ Cam Newton, Mac Jones have contrasting styles, so how does it all fit? – New England Patriots Blog
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. QB contrast: Sixteen years ago, coach Bill Belichick said something that highlights one of the more fascinating topics surrounding his current Patriots team. How can two quarterbacks with such contrasting styles of play — Cam Newton and Mac Jones — co-exist and thrive in the same offensive system?
Belichick’s 2005 Patriots team was preparing to face the Michael Vick-led Atlanta Falcons, and he was asked to revisit how much interest he had in the speedy Vick in the 2001 draft.
“He’s a very unique player, and if that’s the player you select, you have to make a commitment to that style of play,” he said at the time. “I don’t think he’s going to play the game like some other quarterbacks. I don’t think some other quarterback is going to play the game like him. If that’s what you have, then I think you, at least to a degree, accommodate your system to him and build with it.”
The Patriots had Drew Bledsoe as their top quarterback (he would sign a contract extension before the draft), with Damon Huard the No. 2 and Tom Brady behind him (few projected his emergence into stardom at the time).
All three fit more of the traditional pocket quarterback profile. That wasn’t necessarily Vick’s forte.
Now apply Belichick’s coaching philosophy to 2021.
He has declared Newton the team’s quarterback (for now), but the selection of Jones at No. 15 overall in the 2021 NFL draft represents a commitment to the type of system the Patriots want to run (e.g. traditional passing game, rhythm thrower, etc.) — and that isn’t necessarily Newton’s forte.
A case could be made that no team in the NFL has a greater contrast, in terms of how their top quarterbacks play, than New England.
How Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels strike a balance, and put both Newton and Jones in the best position to have the greatest success in the short- and long-term, will be compelling to watch.
Michael Lombardi, a former Patriots assistant to the coaching staff, shared insight on the potential approach in his “GM Shuffle” podcast when he said: “Mac Jones can’t run the power out of shotgun. Mac Jones isn’t going to run the quarterback sweep. So there are going to be two different offenses here, but there is going to be the same passing game. This is what I think people disconnect a little … The running game — the position of accounting for the quarterback in the running game — will be somewhat different.”
2. Ernie’s ‘famous’ pick: In a behind-the-scenes peek inside the Patriots’ draft room posted on the team’s official website, Belichick saluted football research director Ernie Adams as he concluded his final draft before retirement, while referencing his “famous David Givens selection” from 2002. That naturally sparked the question: What made the seventh-round selection so famous?
Part of the story is that the Patriots were scheduled to pick 244th, but passed on making the pick. A team passes when it doesn’t make a selection in the allotted time period, and the pick then defers to the next team in the order. The initial team may then at any point make a pick, regardless of whether the subsequent team has made a pick.
The Patriots let eight selections pass before selecting Givens 253rd overall.
“Ernie was given a stack of books, and he pulled David Givens out. That was a pretty good pick,” Belichick said in the video, a reference to Givens being a key contributor in the team’s 2003 and 2004 Super Bowl championships.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) May 3, 2021
As for why Adams landed on Givens, there might be even more to the story, and Adams has plenty of those tales from his decades with the franchise.
That was also the day the Patriots traded quarterback Drew Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills, so the passing of the pick from 244 to 253 — and the ultimate selection of Givens — was more of a “passing” note in media reports.
3. Offseason program: One member of the Patriots who has been at voluntary offseason workouts estimates that more than 50 players have been present. Since players arrive at different times over the course of the day, it’s a series of small groups, but one common thread that was relayed was that it has helped establish a competitive culture in the weight room. Longtime captain Matthew Slater, who in some ways is the heartbeat of the locker room, is the longest tenured player on the roster, and he’s been a regular. Slater is scheduled to answer questions from reporters on Tuesday.
4. Stevenson’s hands: Patriots national scout Matt Groh provided insight on the team’s draft picks in an exclusive event for season-ticket members last week, and one point he made about running back Rhamondre Stevenson — the fourth-round pick from Oklahoma — is that he has “soft hands.” Stevenson was one of the bigger running backs in the draft (5-foot-11 and 227 pounds) with a knack for finishing runs with authority, and since he wears No. 29, it was natural to make the connection to former Patriots bruiser LeGarrette Blount’s hard-charging running style. But Stevenson’s “soft hands” (18 receptions in 2020) also could make him a potential option in pass-catching situations.
Check out the best highlights from Oklahoma RB Rhamondre Stevenson’s college career.
5. Bledsoe’s evaluation: Groh highlighted tape of Missouri safety Joshuah Bledsoe, one of the team’s sixth-round picks, and noted how scouts’ evaluations were aided by seeing the former basketball point guard match up against top players regularly without a lot of help — from showing situational awareness on a fourth-down, game-winning play against LSU receiver Terrace Marshall, to defending Florida’s Kadarius Toney (receiver) and Kyle Pitts (tight end) and Alabama receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. “They asked this guy to cover everybody,” Groh said. “That’s great in us trying to make our evaluation on a player to see him against the guys that are going to be in the NFL.”
6. Rookie blackout: The Patriots are scheduled to hold their rookie minicamp May 14-16, but it won’t be open to non-team-employed reporters. Some teams open their camps to reporters, but Belichick — who isn’t one to promote the hype — is happy to keep it behind closed doors.
7. Dugger’s top test: With most of the media attention focused on the Patriots 2021 draft picks as the newest players to join the team, not to be overlooked are the strides the team is hoping to see from its 2020 class led by safety Kyle Dugger (51% playing time as a rookie). Dugger was interviewed last week as part of an exclusive event for season-ticket members and called fourth-year Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (58 catches, 701 yards, 7 TDs) his toughest matchup last year. “Really crafty and he knew how to take advantage if you were out of position or made a technical mistake with your hands,” he said.
8. Brady’s return: The NFL will release its full 2021 regular-season schedule on Wednesday, and two of the top questions TV executives figure to be asking are, “Who gets the Buccaneers at Patriots game?” and “When will it fall on the schedule?” There might be some similarities between the old Brady-Peyton Manning/Patriots-Indianapolis Colts duels which used to be locked in for November because executives strategized it would help produce the biggest ratings during a key TV sweeps time. From 2003-2011, there were nine Patriots-Colts regular-season games — seven were in November and one in the first weekend of December.
9. They said it: “I think you have to be excited looking at it. There are certain limitations of things we can do practice-wise right now, but we’re trying to do everything we can to make this football team better. Now it comes down to the stuff people don’t want to talk about — how much work we put in over the next three-four months. We made a lot of improvement on paper, that’s definitely a part of it, but now we have to become a football team.” — starting center David Andrews on the Patriots’ aggressive offseason.
10. Did You Know: With 10 players drafted in 2021 — which includes top Patriots selections Jones and defensive tackle Christian Barmore — Alabama has had 51 players selected over the past five drafts. That ties USC (1973-77) for the most NFL draft picks over any five-year span in the common draft era (since 1967). Per Elias Sports Bureau, Alabama is the third school in NFL draft history to have at least 50 players selected over a five-year span, joining USC and Notre Dame.
New York Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson doesn’t expect to be handed starting job — ‘Position has to be earned’
“In this position, the coaches want to play the best player. That position has to be earned,” the No. 2 pick said Saturday on the second day of rookie minicamp. “I have to do what I’m supposed to do. That’ll take care of itself.”
Wilson said starting is “important” to him but not the priority. He said his main focus is learning the offense and getting acclimated to his new teammates. At BYU, he was a backup for his first six games as a freshman before becoming the youngest starter in school history at 19 years, 2 months.
Right now, he has no competition. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are James Morgan, a 2020 fourth-round pick, and former practice squad player Mike White. Neither quarterback has played in a regular-season game.
The Jets are expected to add a veteran before training camp. They have already met with journeyman Brian Hoyer, while former San Francisco 49ers backup Nick Mullens is another free-agent option. Both Mullens and Hoyer have ties to the Jets’ new coaching staff, most of which came from the 49ers. Chicago Bears backup Nick Foles also has been mentioned in media speculation.
New coach Robert Saleh hasn’t revealed his plan for Wilson, but the organization’s hope is that he will be ready to start by Week 1. After years of inconsistency at the position, the Jets are confident that Wilson — the highest-drafted quarterback in franchise history — can be a long-term fix.
“He did a really nice job,” Saleh said of Wilson’s first day at rookie camp. “The ball was in and out of his hand very crisp. He was in rhythm and was on time; the players were running the right routes. The ball was barely on the ground.”
Wilson, 21, already is showing leadership traits, as he reached out to several fellow rookies after the draft. Wide receiver Elijah Moore, a second-round pick, said Wilson is “like a general. … His passion comes out through the phone.”
The former BYU star said he would like to organize informal offseason workouts with the veteran skill players, as previous quarterbacks did in the past. Former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold held workouts last offseason in South Florida. Wilson said it’s “definitely a priority” before training camp. “We’ll make it happen.”
One thing appears settled: Wilson is expected to wear No. 2. It’s not official, but he is leaning that way.
“Mixing it up, doing something new,” said Wilson, who wore No. 1 for most of his BYU career. “I like single-digit numbers. I think it’s kind of cool that I was the second pick. That’s kind of a cool reason to shake it up.”
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