The Philadelphia Eagles have promoted Andy Weidl to vice president of player personnel, succeeding Joe Douglas, who was hired as the general manager of the New York Jets, the team has now confirmed via its website.
Weidl has served as the Eagles director of player personnel under Douglas and Howie Roseman, the team’s executive vice president of football operations.
Douglas wanted Weidl to join him with the Jets but Roseman countered by signing Weidl to a new contract to step into Douglas’ role.
Douglas was aware hiring Weidl away from the Eagles was unlikely, sources said.
Roseman still has a deep personnel department, which includes senior adviser Tom Donahoe, as the Eagles adjust to the departure of Douglas.
Douglas still has several personnel options to navigate while assembling his own staff with the Jets. One of those options includes Phil Savage, former Browns GM who worked with Douglas as the Ravens’ lead personnel man under GM Ozzie Newsome.
Douglas, Savage and Weidl all served with the Ravens as scouts.
Daniel Jeremiah, another coveted former Ravens, Browns and Eagles scout, made a decision more than a week ago that he would remain with the NFL Network as its lead draft analyst.
Eagles’ Jenkins talks mental health at summit
The topic was mental health. Michelle Obama, addressing a crowd of more than 50 first-generation college-bound students at her annual Beating the Odds Summit at Howard University on Tuesday, looked over at Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins as she finished her point and signaled for him to take the floor.
“I know for me, mental health wasn’t anything we talked about when I was in school. But … I am in therapy once a week at this point in my life because I recognize that I’m somebody who’s responsible for a lot of things and I put a lot of pressure on myself, and so with that comes stress and a little anxiety,” he said.
“A lot of you, if you’re a first-generation college student, you’re the first one to do it, you feel like your family is counting on you, depending on you, you have these outside pressures that are on top of being a college student, you have to find ways to recognize that and deal with that in a healthy manner.”
This is how Jenkins spent his final day before the start of the Eagles’ training camp: A chair over from the former First Lady, speaking to a group that had overcome everything from homelessness to special needs to be in a position to receive a post-secondary education. Tuesday’s workshop was designed to equip the students with strategies to ensure they see things through, and Jenkins was called on to help in that messaging.
“For me, that was an easy yes,” Jenkins said.
The Players Coalition, co-founded by Jenkins, has supported Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative before. In May, coalition members including Anquan Boldin, Demario Davis and Josh Norman traveled to California for its college signing event.
A first-generation student herself, Obama started the Reach Higher Initiative during her time in the White House. According to stats provided by Obama’s camp, students from the bottom income quartile have a nine percent six-year college graduation rate, compared to a 73 percent graduation rate for students from the upper-income quartile. In some communities, as many as 40 percent of students who are accepted to college never make it there, for reasons that include financial burden and fear of leaving home.
“Every single one of you here had to get over some deep, dark obstacle, whether it was in your own mind or something that was real that was going on in your lives and that has given you the strength to do what you have to do next,” Obama said. “So I just want you to know: You can do this. You belong here. This was not a mistake.”
The Players Coalition has three main areas of focus: Criminal justice reform, community and police relations and education and economical advancement. Much of the effort since the coalition’s inception in 2017 has gone towards criminal justice reform. They are beginning to ramp up the other two pillars of the operation.
“We’ve already shifted some of that [focus] already. … We’ve started to roll out a little bit more in that area and will also be rolling out some campaigns around policing this fall,” Jenkins said. “We’re still growing in the development of all of these focus areas.”
The focus on the educational side was on display Tuesday, as Jenkins offered some advice to the students that Obama’s event had gathered.
“Allow yourself to grow. Allow yourself to grow into whoever it is you’re going to become. College is not the end goal, it is just a process,” he said. “So there is going to be plenty of times when you fail. You might meet some confusion. You may change majors. Whatever it is, you might take some time to figure out what you really want to do. Your beliefs may change as your experiences change. But treat college as just that: An opportunity to learn and grow as an individual and really find your own purpose.”
Christian McCaffrey does it all
Inside a Denver recording studio not far from his offseason home, Carolina Panthers All-Pro Christian McCaffrey, one of the most versatile gridders in a league full of elite hybrids, reveals the off-field obsession that could one day add a few new hyphenates to his job title: RB-pianist-songwriter-music producer.
As McCaffrey, 23, tickles the ivories, his pals Nick Shanholtz and Rob Abisi, better known as DJ duo Lost Kings, tackle the drums and bass guitar, respectively — while Levi Waddell, aka rapper Levi Todd, pens lyrics on the fly. What begins to emerge from this 90-minute recording session is a pop/hip-hop track that defies genre, much like the third-year pass-catching ball carrier who’s doing much of the quarterbacking here.
Eventually, the group gathers in the control room to assess the unfinished product. “I think it’s missing a layer,” McCaffrey says before sticking me on the cowbell because, as he says, he has “a fever, and the only prescription is … more cowbell!” When the laughter subsides, the versatile star adds a layer of his own via the harmonica, which he taught himself to play back at Stanford when he wasn’t busy trying to win the Heisman Trophy. I get the feeling we’ll be sitting here into the early morning hours laughing, fist-bumping and “adding layers” if I don’t play party pooper and pull McCaffrey aside for an interview.
ESPN: Why are we in a recording studio?
Christian McCaffrey: One of my big passions in the offseason, or just when I get time off in general, is playing music, and I’ve been fortunate to be around people who are a lot more talented than I am. I met Rob and Nick a long time ago, and every time I go to LA, I’ll hit them up and we’ll just jam in different genres. And Levi is one of my best buds from high school. First time we all jammed, it was a come-to-Jesus moment where we were like, “We should do something with this.”
What sparked your interest in performing?
My childhood neighbor played piano, and he told me we’d get all the girls if I learned how to play-and I was probably in eighth grade, going into high school, so I said, “Sign me up.” There was a talent show with a cash bonus, so we learned a little song together [Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”] and ended up winning it, took home one of those big checks, like in Happy Gilmore.
Who are your musical influences?
There’s a guy right now who’s probably my favorite: Tyler Childers, a country artist. I love his sound. I love Mac Miller. I’m a big Drake fan. I love Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley. I probably have the most versatile playlist in the world, from country to rap to classic rock to classical.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you listen to?
I’m proud of everything I have in my library.
I’ll give you one if you give me one: I like Taylor Swift.
I love Taylor Swift. I’m not ashamed of that. Why are you embarrassed by that?
You’re right: I love Taylor Swift.
There you go.
Could we hear an album one day?
[Laughs] That’d be really cool. We’ll see where it goes. I’m still learning. I’ve always played by watching somebody’s fingers and listening, but these last two weeks I told myself that I was gonna commit to learning how to read actual sheet music and trying to, like, classically train myself. It’s funny, I’m back at “Ants Go Marching.”
Can you write lyrics or sing?
I’ve written lyrics, but it’s not for me. And the downfall of my music career might be singing. [Laughs] I kind of have a vision of how somebody should perform a certain song.
You do seem to know exactly how it all fits together, like a producer.
That’s a fair description. Being able to produce music and grow a song from nothing is a lot of fun. With technology nowadays, I have a keyboard where I can play any instrument and do it all myself on the computer. And the beauty of it is, every once in a while you make something you like. Ed Sheeran said songs are weird — they come and go and you never know when they’ll show up.
Cam Newton has said you have “swagger through the roof.” What in the world could zap your swagger, besides a microphone?
[Laughs] That’s an honor coming from the Drip God, as he calls himself. But to answer your question: spiders. I’m not a fan of spiders. Not at all. I could do without insects.
So, if a spider dropped on your lap right now?
I’d freak out. Yeah, that’d be no good.
If you could do a collab with any teammate, who’d you have on your album?
I’d have Greg Olsen on the mic. He’s an electric singer. Anytime there’s a song on, he’s the first one belting it. Pregame, he’ll be belting out Adele, and it’s the best thing ever.
This offseason, we discovered another thing you’re good at: being ripped. What’s it like to go viral for a photo of your muscles?
[Laughs] The internet’s a crazy place. When I came into the league, I was 20, so naturally I’m getting bigger, faster, stronger. But I’m only about a pound or two heavier than last year. I like playing at around 207, and that’s what I’m at right now. But I’m definitely stronger. This is one of the first times that I’ve been able to train for a full offseason because I came out of the season healthy. That makes a huge difference.
Coming into the league, some doubted that you could be an every-down back — in part, let’s be real, because of the color of your skin. How did that make you feel at the time?
I just kinda let that pass, know what I mean? I get it, there’s not a whole lot of white running backs out there. [Laughs] It’s just the way it is. But every single NFL player has doubters. I’ve always fought the criticism that I can’t run between the tackles, but I feel like I’ve kind of put that to rest. [McCaffrey ranked first last year in yards per carry between the tackles among backs with 150-plus attempts.]
Because of your versatility and the versatility you afford an offense, The Ringer declared: “Christian McCaffrey is the future of football.” Do you think that’s true for you and guys like you?
Yeah, I do. The league is shifting. It’s becoming a smaller league, way more speed-dominant. So you’re seeing more backs like me who can run between the tackles, pass-protect, catch and become matchup nightmares. You also have more receivers who are getting jet sweeps, doing different things with the ball in their hands. A lot of it stems from college offenses. There’s very few pro-style college offenses nowadays, so you see NFL coaches adapting to the players that are coming in. That’s why [Panthers offensive coordinator] Norv Turner has been huge for me. He’s a guy who’s been in the league so long, but you constantly see him adapting.
He’s also a guy who’s coached some of the greats at your position.
Yeah, I’ve seen more LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles clips than anybody out there, and I hear stories all the time about those guys — Adrian Peterson, LT, all the guys I watched growing up. Knowing that their coach believes in me is something I really appreciate.
Last year you ran, caught or threw for 14 touchdowns. Where’s one place on the field that I can’t pay you to line up at?
[Laughs] You could pay me to line up anywhere if the money’s good.
Where would you like to line up and haven’t yet?
Oh man, I’d love to play safety. I played it when I was a kid, back when I was watching guys like Brian Dawkins and John Lynch come down full speed and hit someone. Or rush end! I always got a ball in my hand, so being able to let loose would be really fun. But Coach [Ron] Rivera would probably shut that down quick.
You’re a fantasy superstar. Have fantasy owners been showing their appreciation?
Every time I’m in public, somebody’s like, “Yo, thank you so much for my fantasy points last year.” I’ve had multiple waiters and waitresses give me free meals for helping them win their league. Hopefully I do it again this year, otherwise the tabs might go up.
Last season was a forgettable one for the Panthers. Give your fans reason for hope. Why will this year be different?
This is a team that’s a few years removed from the Super Bowl with a lot of the same guys from that team. We got great leaders with Luke Kuechly, Cam, Greg Olsen, and we just added Gerald McCoy, Chris Hogan, guys who’ve won in this league and know what it takes. We have the talent. It’s just a matter of staying healthy, executing on Sundays.
How would you assess your own leadership skills right now?
I’ve had more of a vocal presence this year. We’ve got a young running back room — so I’m able to verbalize things that I see for them. Other than that, I’m just working as hard as I can, showing guys what it takes. I’m lucky to have come into a team with guys like Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen, who set the standard.
Your dad, Ed, won three Super Bowls, two here in Denver when you were a child. Do you have any memories of those wins?
My only memory is a picture on our wall from SI where I’m running on the field with confetti and a big ol’ blond ‘fro. I was [not quite] 2 and 3 when he won those. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen his rings. He keeps them locked up.
He’s afraid you’re gonna steal them?
[Laughs] No, he’s just a humble man. I want my own rings. One for every year that I play. That’s the goal.
What other goals have you set for yourself?
I got a lot of goals that I keep to myself, but one goal is definitely the 1K/1K club [1,000 yards rushing and receiving]. I almost did it last year and it was a bummer not getting it. Two guys have done it — Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig — and there’s a race to be the third. There’s a lot of backs in the league who can get there.
Yeah, in a time when backs are being devalued, there are a heck of a lot of good ones out there.
Especially in the NFC. I think Saquon [Barkley] is a great back. Todd Gurley. Zeke [Ezekiel Elliott]. David Johnson. Melvin Gordon. Phillip Lindsay, a hometown guy in Colorado. Alvin Kamara is a guy I’m watching constantly.
If you had to pick, which one do you want more: Football Hall of Fame or the rock ‘n’ roll one?
[Laughs] Both would be great. That might be a first. I’d never considered that one. There ya go, that’s another goal. Perfect.
Falcons GM optimistic about Julio contract talks
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff continued to express optimism about the progress of contract talks with Julio Jones, without putting a timetable on reaching a new deal with the star wide receiver.
Jones reported to training camp Monday without a new contract. The six-time Pro Bowler said in the offseason he trusted team owner Arthur Blank’s word when Blank said a deal would be completed in a matter of time.
Jones spent the first two days of training camp primarily rehabbing on the side following a minor offseason foot procedure [bunion removal]. Coach Dan Quinn emphasized that Jones not being a full participant in practice has to do with rehabbing, not the contract talks.
“We have the utmost faith that Julio is coming here and he’s taking care of his business while he’s here, and we’ll keep plugging away with [Jones’ agent] Jimmy [Sexton],” Dimitroff told ESPN on Tuesday. “We have a very good working relationship and respect for Jimmy Sexton and CAA, and I’m confident [the deal] will get done.”
Jones has two years and $21 million left on his contract. The Falcons renegotiated his current deal last year, netting Jones an extra $2.9 million for 2018. He signed the renegotiated deal on July 27.
Dimitroff addressed the possibility of Jones’ camp waiting to see what happens with contracts for other top wide receivers, such as Michael Thomas from the New Orleans Saints. The market could soar up to $20 million per year, which would make it logical for Jones to want to wait and see. Cleveland’s Odell Beckham Jr. currently leads the way at $18 million per year, while Jones stands 12th at $14.25 million.
“I understand that, from a business standpoint,” Dimitroff said of waiting for the market to be set. “Do I agree with it necessarily? That’s not for me to argue about.”
Dimitroff also acknowledged language in the collective bargaining agreement which states how a player’s contract cannot be renegotiated to increase the salary from the original terms for a period of 12 months after the most recent renegotiation. A source explained to ESPN that such would apply in Jones’ case (from July 27) if his aggregate cap number over the next two years in a new deal exceeds the current aggregate cap number of $26,359,334 for 2019, 2020.
However, Dimitroff was cautious not to point to the CBA rule as the holdup in contract talks.
“It would make it more free-flowing to negotiate outside of the year with the guidelines,” Dimitroff said. “That’s not to say that’s why we’re not getting something done right at this moment. I’m saying logically stated that, of course, [the rule] can play into it. But I do not want to answer for Jimmy Sexton.”
Sexton could not be reached for comment regarding the status of negotiations.
Overall, Dimitroff feels confident about how talks have progressed and how Jones has handled the matter with professionalism.
“Julio’s been nothing but great with us over the years,” Dimitroff said. “Even last year, when it got a little bit dusty during that time, we were able to sit down and work through it. I thought we worked through it cleanly.
“We understand being the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. And the fact that Julio is approaching it the way he is is appreciated. That said, we expect nothing less from Julio Jones, one of our main leaders on this team.”
The Falcons reached pre-training camp deals with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and linebacker Deion Jones. Jarrett, who received the franchise tag, signed a four-year, $68 million deal with $42.5 million guaranteed. Deion Jones signed a four-year, $57 million deal with $34 million guaranteed.
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