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The spring NFL owners meetings are taking place in Phoenix, and a number of topics are up for discussion.
According to Demetrius Harvey of the Florida Times-Union, 17 rules changes will be proposed during the three-day event. Team owners are also discussing the possibility of flexing Thursday night games late in the regular season.
While fans might not be interested in rule tweaks or minor scheduling changes, it’s worth noting that a lot more goes on during owners meetings. Representatives from all 32 teams—including head coaches and general managers—are in attendance.
Agreements can be struck, and there’s generally no shortage of buzz and buzz-worthy comments. It’s no different this year. The challenge is determining what’s true and what is merely offseason and predraft smoke.
Here, we’ll dive into the latest rumors and comments coming from the owners meetings and determine which bits we’re buying and which we’re not.
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Predraft smoke exists for a reason. Secrecy can, in theory, give a team an advantage when it comes to trades or draft positioning.
When teams talk negatively about a prospect, they could be hoping that he falls to them in the draft. A squad that talks highly about a prospect could be trying to raise the trade value of a specific draft slot.
Teams appear to be high on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who is vying with Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Florida’s Anthony Richardson to be the first signal-caller off the board. According to Pro Football Talk’s Peter King, teams don’t believe that Young’s 5’10” height is a major detriment:
“A rep of a team that will likely draft a quarterback this year told me Sunday: ‘If you watch Bryce Young, and you didn’t know he was 5’10”, you wouldn’t think about his height.’ … I’d been told previously that Young, in not getting many passes batted down at the line, has a sense of playing bigger than he is.”
This one is believable. Young flashed a high release point during his pro-day workout, and he was a very effective quarterback at Alabama, which hasn’t featured a short offensive line.
Young passed for more than 8,000 yards with 80 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions in his two-plus seasons with the Crimson Tide. If he was too short for the position, he wouldn’t have produced such prolific and efficient numbers.
Now, Young’s slight frame—he weighed 204 pounds at the combine but didn’t weigh in at his pro day—could raise questions for some franchises. We don’t believe that Young’s height is a concern for most, though, and that Young is at or near the top of many quarterback boards.
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There has been some buzz about the Arizona Cardinals trading wideout DeAndre Hopkins for much of the offseason. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported March 12 that Arizona wants a “premium Day 2 pick and more.”
On Sunday, though, new Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon insisted that he’s going into the offseason program believing that Hopkins will be on the roster.
“I’m operating that he’s a Cardinal right now,” Gannon told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche. “So, I’m looking forward to getting in the meeting room and on the field with him and seeing where it can go.”
We’re not buying it. On Monday, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported that Arizona is taking a more proactive approach to moving the 30-year-old.
“The Cardinals’ initial ask, to get a second-rounder and another asset for Hopkins, seems to have fallen flat,” Breer wrote. “… To try to facilitate something, I’m told Arizona has granted teams permission to talk to Hopkins and his agents.”
It sounds as if the Cardinals are motivated to move Hopkins, likely before the draft begins April 27, when receiver-needy teams will start plugging holes.
Gannon may want to have Hopkins on the roster. However, his comments seem like an attempt to paint the receiver as a valued member of the organization when, in reality, Gannon knows that if general manager Monti Ossenfort can get a fair return for Hopkins, he’ll move him.
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Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a breakthrough season under rookie head coach Mike McDaniel in 2022. The Alabama product completed 64.8 percent of his passes, posted a 105.5 passer rating and went 8-5 as the starter.
However, Tagovailoa was also sidelined twice by concussions and missed the end of the regular season and Miami’s AFC Wild Card loss to the Buffalo Bills.
While his health should be the primary consideration, it was fair to wonder if Miami was concerned about the potential football implications enough to make a change at quarterback, as another concussion could lead to an extended absence.
ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported in early March that “the team will explore all options at quarterback, per league source.”
However, Miami did pick up the fifth-year option on Tagovailoa’s contract, and McDaniel recently doubled down on the team’s belief in its quarterback.
“He’s had a really good offseason with his family and training and positioning himself to feel good moving forward,” McDaniel said, per NFL.com’s Brenna White. “He’s very healthy, vibrant, and I can see a hunger in him that I’m excited to watch play out.”
This doesn’t feel like smoke. If Miami wasn’t all-in on Tagovailoa, it would have no reason to pick up his fifth-year option. The team could have allowed the 2023 season to play out and let Tagovailoa prove that he can remain healthy and that 2022 wasn’t a fluke, as the New York Giants did with Daniel Jones a year ago.
The Dolphins recently signed quarterback Mike White, and they may add another insurance policy before the season. However, McDaniel isn’t suggesting that Miami is thinking about a surprise trade or hoping to move up for a quarterback prospect in the draft.
Tagovailoa is his guy.
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The Baltimore Ravens didn’t get a contract extension done with quarterback Lamar Jackson before the offseason and chose to give him the non-exclusive franchise tag. This means that other teams can sign Jackson to an offer sheet, and if Baltimore doesn’t match it, the quarterback could sign elsewhere for the price of two first-round draft picks.
However, head coach John Harbaugh insisted during the owners meetings that the Ravens and Jackson are committed to one another and that he’s planning to build around the 26-year-old.
“You’ve got two sides that appreciate each other here. Lamar believes in us, and we believe in Lamar, and we know where we want to go forward,” Harbaugh said, per Ryan Mink of the team’s official website. “… I’m excited, thinking about Lamar all the time. Thinking about him as our quarterback. We’re building our offense around that idea.”
Here’s the problem. On Monday, Jackson tweeted that he requested a trade from Baltimore back on March 2. That was before the Ravens gave him the franchise tag (March 7).
Jackson also said that Baltimore “has not been interested” in meeting his value.
Harbaugh, meanwhile, said that “it’s a monetary thing. That can be figured out. That can be worked out.”
According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Jackson was still negotiating with the Ravens “as recently as last week.”
That doesn’t mean that an agreement is close to being struck. The relationship between the Ravens and Jackson appears to be fractured.
This feels like Harbaugh is simply trying to keep Jackson’s trade value as high as possible. If Baltimore believed in Jackson, it never would have let the situation get to this point. And Jackson certainly doesn’t seem to believe in the Ravens.
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The San Francisco 49ers have their own quarterback situation to sort through.
2021 third overall pick Trey Lance suffered a season-ending ankle injury two games into the 2022 campaign. 2022 seventh-round pick Brock Purdy took over after Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending foot injury and went 7-1 (including playoffs) as the starter but suffered an elbow injury in the postseason that required surgery.
In free agency, the 49ers added 2018 third overall pick Sam Darnold as insurance.
According to general manager John Lynch, Purdy has the edge when it comes to starting in 2023.
“Brock has probably earned that right to be the guy. If we were to line up, he’d probably take that first snap,” Lynch said, per ESPN’s Nick Wagoner.
There are no lies detected here. Purdy was undefeated in the regular season, completed 67.1 percent of his passes and posted a 107.3 quarterback rating. He has now performed better than Lance (84.5 rating) and provided a bigger sample size (four starts for Lance).
However, this doesn’t mean that San Francisco is simply willing to hand the reins to Purdy and move on from Lance.
“[Coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and I always joke we’d trade each other if someone would give us a good enough deal. So we listen to anything, but we like Trey on our team,” Lynch said. “We’re very excited about the way he’s progressing, about his opportunity.”
This feels a little more disingenuous. The 49ers may be happy to have Lance on their team for now, but if they were sold on him, they wouldn’t have brought back Garoppolo last year and drafted Purdy. They wouldn’t have added an experienced starter in Darnold this offseason either.
We can buy the idea that San Francisco wants to give Lance another opportunity, but Lynch seems to be implying that he also wouldn’t be happy trading Lance for anything less than a massive return. And that’s an idea we’re selling.
Verdict: Buy that Purdy is in line to start; sell that San Francisco wouldn’t trade Lance.
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The Denver Broncos are short on draft capital after last year’s Russell Wilson trade and February’s move to snag head coach Sean Payton. Denver will be without a first- or second-round pick this year and without a second-rounder in 2024.
Naturally, one might assume that the Broncos would be willing to recoup some draft capital in a trade, as it did when dealing pass-rusher Bradley Chubb at the 2022 deadline in November.
According to Payton, however, wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are off the table.
“We’re not trading those two players,” Payton told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. “… Why do people call? Because they know we’re void of draft picks and that we might, because there was some discussions a year ago, I think, regarding Courtland. But we like the current group that we’re working with.”
At first blush, this seems like a logical stance. Payton has been tasked with helping Wilson to return to Pro Bowl form. Sutton and Jeudy are two of Denver’s top receivers, and fellow wideout K.J. Hamler recently underwent surgery for a partially torn pectoral.
However, it’s unlikely that Sutton or Jeudy couldn’t be had for the right price, given the Broncos’ dearth of high draft selections.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, Denver has already put a price on Jeudy: “League sources, including some with teams that have been in contact with the Broncos, have said so far the Broncos have been resolute about getting a first- or second-round pick in any deal that involved Jeudy.”
Denver has until May 1 to exercise the fifth-year option on Jeudy’s rookie contract, and teams may not view the Alabama product, who has yet to log a 1,000-yard campaign, as worth a first-rounder.
Of course, if the Broncos are trying to get a high trade value, it does them little good to admit that their top receivers are available. If the right offer comes along, however, they will likely sell.
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