ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Turns out, Mike Shanahan was right.
The former Denver Broncos coach once stood on a patio behind the team’s suburban practice complex and grumpily lamented another question about another player the Broncos were said to have been interested in and whom Shanahan actually had no interest in.
“Everybody says we’re in on everybody,” Shanahan said almost two decades ago. “Same thing every year. Sometimes we are, but most of the time we aren’t, but if you’re an agent and your guy is in the market … or you want to be on the market, just say the Broncos are interested.”
Tomorrow is June 1, Rodgers is still unhappy — see his interview with Kenny Mayne on SportsCenter last Monday — and the Packers soon get significant salary-cap relief if they trade (or release) Rodgers. If the Packers were to trade Rodgers after June 1, they would save $16.050 million in salary-cap space in 2021, but would have a lot of explaining to do about trading a future Hall of Famer.
That doesn’t mean it all comes crashing down on June 1, it just means the immediate financial pain is greatly reduced and the rumor carousel spins faster.
But who’s kidding whom? The Broncos faithful have filled their days with virtually every possible scenario for how Rodgers could be the team’s quarterback since Adam Schefter’s report last month, just before the first round of the NFL draft.
There’s precedent to back up those dreams. Two Hall of Fame quarterbacks have worn Broncos uniforms and both were acquired, not drafted: First is the greatest trade in franchise history (John Elway) and second is the greatest free-agent signing in franchise history (Peyton Manning).
The Broncos have two quarterbacks — Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater — who are on-site competing for the job on the field and in the building. They each gave their thoughts on the possibility of Rodgers joining the team last week and both were rather pragmatic about the whole thing — even using the phrase “whatever happens, happens.”
Bridgewater added: “Honestly, man, I just keep my head down, and control what I can control. I tell everyone that in this business that you have to have your big-boy drawers on. I’ve learned a lot can happen in this business.”
How real is this?
Dan Orlovsky examines Aaron Rodgers’ options as the QB continues his stance of not wanting to return to Green Bay.
It’s worth noting that Packers coach Matt LaFleur, general manager Brian Gutekunst and team president Mark Murphy have all publicly professed to have no intention of trading Rodgers.
But June marks the first time the Packers could formally respond to Rodgers’ unhappiness. If they wish, they can fine Rodgers for missing mandatory practices — their three-day minicamp. Those fines, according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, could total $93,085 if Rodgers missed all three days. If the Packers chose to fine Rodgers it would undoubtedly irk the quarterback even more.
Rodgers also could be fined $50,000 a day for time missed during training camp, and if Rodgers were to retire, the Packers could attempt to recoup just under $30 million from him.
As for the Broncos, general manager George Paton didn’t even utter Rodgers’ name shortly after the draft’s first round was completed. When asked about the Rodgers’ frenzy earlier that evening, Paton deflected to the team’s selection of cornerback Pat Surtain II at No. 9.
Why? Tampering, since Rodgers is under contract with the Packers, teams cannot openly pursue or comment on him without the threat of fines or lost draft picks.
But the Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers (Niners general manager John Lynch acknowledged it after the draft) are known to have inquired — briefly — about Rodgers’ availability after Schefter’s report on draft weekend. Both were rebuffed quickly and the 49ers selected quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick shortly after they had made the call.
The Broncos selected Surtain, instead of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields or Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. So even though Surtain was the top defensive player on the Broncos’ draft board and someone Paton said was “close” to a top-five player overall, it could be a sign that the Broncos left the quarterback door ajar.
Nuts and bolts of a trade
Louis Riddick argues that Aaron Rodgers eventually will take his talents elsewhere and finish his career away from Green Bay.
Beyond whether the Packers would even entertain a trade this year is the issue of cap room and draft capital needed to make a trade.
Many in the league, when quizzed in recent weeks, said it would take two first-round picks, a second-round pick and either additional players or additional picks, to acquire Rodgers.
The issue for Green Bay is that if Rodgers plays as expected, those are lower-value first-round picks. Most teams enter the draft each year with between 20 and 24 actual first-round grades on players. Any pick after 25 — or so — in the first round often is not actually a prospect graded in the first round.
Paton, in the first year of a six-year deal, has consistently professed a desire to acquire more picks each year — not give them away. He wants “more darts,” as he put it. Surrendering so many top picks is a reason for pause for a team that has missed the playoffs in five consecutive seasons.
Having a team talented enough to make a Rodgers’ acquisition worth it is at the root of everything. It is what Elway was able to do as general manager after he signed Manning in 2012. Linebacker Von Miller had arrived the year before as a first-round pick and the Broncos opened the checkbook exceedingly wide in 2014 during a free-agent spree that included cornerback Aqib Talib, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety T.J. Ward.
Rodgers has cap charges of $37.202 million this season, $39.852 million in 2022 and $28.352 million in 2023. The Broncos don’t have the salary-cap room to add Rodgers’ total this year — they’d be about $13 million or so short without taking into account money spent to replace injured players.
There also is the matter of timing. Manning signed in March 2012 and essentially lived in the Broncos’ facility for weeks to help shape a playbook. Even then, the Broncos started 1-2 and were a rather clunky-looking 2-3 with questions about whether it was all going to work before an 11-game win streak.
A quarterback who arrives in June or July would have a tougher challenge. Even a player of Rodgers’ caliber would likely have a rough transition in 2021.
Ryan Clark makes the case that adding Aaron Rodgers would make the Broncos the biggest threat to the Chiefs in the AFC.
Is a Broncos trade for Aaron Rodgers possible? Sure. Have the Packers given any indication it will happen? No. Have the Broncos done something like this before? Yes, and there are two gold jackets to prove it. And are the Broncos truly, actually, deep-down interested? Enough to have called in April to see, so logic says if the Packers actually take calls, they would make one.
In the end, if the Packers really aren’t going to trade Rodgers this year, then it doesn’t matter how many scenarios to acquire him are created for the Broncos or anyone else.
But yes, Shanahan had it right all along. Welcome to June.
For Broncos’ Jerry Jeudy, neighborhood runs about more than social media – Denver Broncos Blog
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Jerry Jeudy of the Denver Broncos is just your friendly neighborhood wide receiver trying to go about the business of turning his flash-of-brilliance, flash-of-struggles rookie season into much, much more.
Jeudy is often economical with his words, but his actions — in the form of training videos — say plenty. Last offseason it was his feet. This offseason, on social media, Jeudy can be seen sprinting down the middle of his neighborhood with a Broncos helmet on.
“What happened was … I was training and I felt like, ‘Man, I need some conditioning’ [and] I was already home when I thought about it,” Jeudy said. “I was like, ‘I need some more conditioning.’ I just threw my helmet on, went out there and ran. That was basically it. I hadn’t planned to go outside and run. It just happened like that. … The neighbors came [out] as you can see on the video.”
The video provides a glimpse into Jeudy’s offseason as he tries to turn a mostly productive rookie season into something that is far more to his liking in 2021. Jeudy finished with 52 catches for 856 yards and three touchdowns last season. His yardage total was fourth among a historical rookie class of receivers, behind Justin Jefferson (1,400 yards), Tee Higgins (908) and Chase Claypool (873). And his yards per catch average — 16.5 — was second among rookies, behind only Gabriel Davis (17.1).
He also had more than a few drops, including a cringe-worthy five during a Week 16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
“I think a big thing that happened with Jerry — like I told you guys back when it happened — in the 15th game last year when he had some drops in that game, I thought it was going to be a defining moment in his career,” said Broncos coach Vic Fangio in recent days. “… Then in our last game, he had a very good game and caught a bunch of balls for a bunch of yards. I think that was a very defining moment in his career. I see a more focused and more diligent receiver on the details. He knows he can’t slack. I see a much more mature guy right now.”
Part of the optimism is Jeudy, drops or not, seemed to have handled the most difficult part of being a rookie receiver in the league — running routes with enough precision to create space against more physical NFL cornerbacks. He repeatedly got open against front-line cornerbacks, even after Courtland Sutton was no longer in the lineup due to a Week 2 knee injury. With Sutton out, Jeudy often found himself tracked by the No. 1 cornerback.
“I think he handled it well,” said Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick. “Obviously, he could have handled it better at some points, but he was a rookie. He puts a lot on his shoulders, and he wants to be great really bad. Stuff happens. Going into Year 2 — I’ve said it already, Jerry Jeudy is really good, like really, really good. For him, it’s all mental at this point. He knows he can get open against anybody in this league.”
“[It’s] mostly concentration and focusing on the ball,” Jeudy said. “I’m so quick to catch and run to hurry up and make a play instead of catching first, then run. That’s mostly what is, just trying to make a play too fast.”
Ultimately, that was the big picture takeaway across the board. Nobody, with Jeudy leading the way, was happy with the drops, especially the that-was-right-in-his-hands variety. Not from a guy taken with the 15th pick of the draft.
But Jeudy’s five-catch, 140-yard performance in the season finale against the Las Vegas Raiders, seven days after what we had called the worst day of his football life, included a 92-yard catch-and-run touchdown. It was the longest pass play in the league last season.
Jeudy said he took that close-out game of his rookie season into his offseason work. He said he believes he has a better feel for the nuances of each pass play and how he fits with Sutton expected to return to a prominent role in the passing game as well.
“I feel like I’ve matured,” Jeudy said. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into [during] your first year of doing something. This is my second year and I feel like I have learned a lot from my first year. I know how to overcome whatever I had in past years to make this year better.”
Seattle Seahawks WR DK Metcalf ‘focused on football,’ lauds track and field stars after running debut
RENTON, Wash. — Most of the Seattle Seahawks‘ veteran players are back at team headquarters this week after staying away for much of the voluntary offseason program.
For DK Metcalf, that means being back at his day job after his head-turning foray into track and field. The Pro Bowl wide receiver ran a 10.37 in the 100 meters at a USA Track and Field event last month, a better performance than some expected but not good enough to meet his goal of qualifying for Olympic trials.
In his first comments to reporters since his post-race interview, Metcalf hinted that he may give it another shot down the road.
“My goal was to try to qualify for the Olympic Trials but who knows what my future holds,” he said Tuesday. “I’m living everything day by day, taking it day by day and right now I’m just focused on football and OTAs.”
Metcalf said he follows USA Track and Field on Twitter and will be keeping up with the upcoming trials. His interest in the event was sparked when USATF’s account tweeted a light-hearted invitation for NFL players to test their speed “against real speed” at the Olympic trials. That tweet was a day after Metcalf’s instantly-famous chase-down of the Arizona Cardinals‘ Budda Baker last October.
“Once they sent the tweet out, I thought it was an open invitation for me to take it and I went with it,” he said.
Metcalf said he spoke with coach Pete Carroll and new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron at least once a week leading up to his participation in the USATF Golden Games and Distance Open, adding that the Seahawks were behind him “100 percent.” Linebacker Bobby Wagner, vice president of player engagement Mo Kelly and equipment director Erik Kennedy attended the event in Walnut, California.
“I thought it was a marvelous challenge that DK took on,” Carroll said last month. “DK’s a very special individual and it would take a special person to even think about doing that.”
The commonly cited time that Metcalf would have likely needed to run in order to qualify for Olympic trials was 10.2 or better. But Metcalf’s time of 10.37 was generally considered impressive given that he’s much bigger (6-4, 235 pounds) and much less experienced that the professional sprinters he was competing against.
The most surprising thing Metcalf learned in his sprinting endeavor?
“That those are some fast human beings,” he said. “They are very fast and very good at what they do, and I’m going to stick to football for right now.”
Metcalf, Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson were among several Seahawks who reported Monday for the team’s seventh of 10 OTAs. Seahawks players released a statement in April saying they would not take part in voluntary in-person work this offseason. But with mandatory minicamp scheduled for next week, the team’s leaders recently decided to show up for the final week of OTAs..
A handful of veteran players — including safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, left tackle Duane Brown, running back Chris Carson, receiver Tyler Lockett and defensive end Carlos Dunlap — were not seen at Tuesday’s OTA. Metcalf said more players will arrive this week.
Saints’ Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill supporting each other but focused on winning job as QB competition looms
METAIRIE, La. — Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill both spoke highly of one another Tuesday, insisting that they are supporting each other as they battle to become Drew Brees’ successor with the New Orleans Saints.
But both quarterbacks are fully intent on making the most of this opportunity.
“One year not playing has just made me even hungrier to get back at the (helm) and lead a team,” said the 27-year-old Winston, who backed up both Brees and Hill last year after spending his first five years as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “My about-to-be seven years in this league has been a blessing, because I worked my whole life to have the opportunity to be a starting quarterback in this league.”
Hill, meanwhile, said he has focused fully this offseason on playing quarterback after the 30-year-old played multiple roles on both offense and special teams over the past four years.
“I’ve really been able to tailor all my workouts and everything to just being a quarterback … just knowing and feeling like I won’t have to take on as much as I did last year. So that’s been the emphasis. But the mindset of getting better every day and improving on what you’ve done in the past, that hasn’t changed,” said Hill, who said he has focused heavily on his footwork and decision-making process after the experience he gained from his four starts while Brees was injured in 2020.
Hill said Winston was “super supportive” during that time when he filled in for Brees, and said the two of them “had a lot of conversations through that process.”
“I think there’s obviously a lot of conversation here about this competition and everything else — but I’m super supportive of him, and I’ve felt nothing but support from him as well,” Hill said.
Winston, for his part, said he and Hill “have the same mentality” — that being to win and “be our best selves.”
“That is what I respect about Taysom, because he’s a man who can do so many great things for this team, and he has done so many great things for this organization since he’s been here,” Winston continued. “So just trying to find ways to serve him and work with him is going to make both of us better in terms of leading our teammates and working with them as well.”
The QB competition is not yet fully underway in New Orleans, since the Saints haven’t been conducting traditional practice sessions during OTAs or minicamp this spring.
But coach Sean Payton said he is prepared to adapt his offense around either quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We’ll build it a little bit around that player accordingly. That’s something that we did when Drew first arrived here and that we would do with either of these two players,” Payton said Tuesday after the first day of the Saints’ mandatory minicamp, which he said included 100% attendance from players.
Obviously an offense centered around Hill would feature his rushing ability, since he ran for 457 yards last year while starting four games at QB and appearing in most others in read-option packages. An offense centered around Winston would certainly feature his downfield arm strength. And a big priority for both would include cutting down on turnovers.
When asked how their unique styles will affect their competition in training camp — whether each QB will run different plays during their reps, etc. — Payton suggested that the differences won’t be substantial.
“There’s certain things that you might do just specific to one or the other. And yet there’s still an overall philosophical approach that these guys will have learned to play offense,” Payton said. “It’s not a whole different game plan for each one of them.”
Both Winston and Hill are scheduled to be free agents after this season, which further raises the stakes in their competition.
Winston is trying to revive his reputation as a former No. 1 overall draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner. The Buccaneers let him go in 2020 and moved on to Tom Brady after Winston infamously became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season, while also leading the league with 5,109 passing yards.
Winston signed a one-year deal with the Saints in 2020 worth $1.1 million plus incentives to learn under Payton and Brees. He then re-upped with the Saints as a free agent this offseason, signing another one-year deal worth between $5.5 million and $12.5 million, based on incentives.
Hill began his career as an undrafted free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 2017 before being claimed by the Saints off waivers that year and ultimately developed into a versatile QB/TE/WR/RB/special teams ace. He signed a two-year, $21 million contract as a restricted free agent in 2020.
Also Tuesday, the Saints announced the signing of their entire 2021 rookie class after they created some much-needed salary-cap space by restructuring the contract of cornerback Marshon Lattimore, as first reported by NFL Network.
Lattimore is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and declined to comment Tuesday on the state of any possible long-term extension talks. But a source confirmed that Lattimore agreed to convert most of his scheduled $10.2 million salary into a bonus this year and add automatically-voiding years to the end of his deal — which should give the Saints a few million dollars’ worth of breathing room.
The Saints began the week with less than $1 million in cap space. But now they can afford to add a possible veteran free agent or two, in addition to the rookie class.
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