Month: November 2016

Josh McCown will likely battle Johnny Manziel for a starting job in Cleveland

The Cleveland Browns have signed free agent quarterback Josh McCown, the team announced Friday evening. McCown was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Feb. 11 and promptly embarked on visits with the Browns, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Chicago Bears. The Bills were considered a favorite to land the veteran.

This year’s free agent quarterback class isn’t strong, with guys like Mark Sanchez and Brian Hoyer headlining the group. In the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are both considered potential starters and are the clear top two, but beyond them it’s not a deep class. The Browns spent a first-round pick on QB Johnny Manziel in 2014.

McCown played well for the Bears in 2013, completing 66.5 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and one interception in relief of Jay Cutler. That caught the Buccaneers’ interest, but he struggled with them in 2014. The 12-year veteran was just 1-10 as the starter in Tampa and connected on just 56.3 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Dockett has been with the Cardinals since 2004, when he was drafted the same year as Fitzgerald. He’s been a leader and a force on that defense for a long time, and will certainly be able to find a new team for 2015. That said, the Cardinals team website says that “the veteran defensive lineman could still come back, however.” In other words, the Cardinals want Dockett back — and have been adamant that they want him to retire in Arizona — but only after he finds the market isn’t as strong for him as he might think.

Peterson was not immediately reinstated after his plea, and was instead told to attend a Nov. 15 disciplinary hearing. Rather than face the possibility of punishment, Peterson skipped the meeting, and released a statement calling it “unfair.”

“I will not allow the NFL to impose a new process of discipline on me, ignore the CBA, ignore the deal they agreed to with me, and behave without fairness or accountability,” Peterson said in a statement that can be read in full on the NFL Players Association website. “The process they are pushing is arbitrary, inconsistent, and contrary to what they agreed to do, and for those reasons, I never agreed to the hearing.

Rookie Sterling Shepard has a touchdown catch in three straight games

Eifert, by the way, should become Cincinnati’s top target — for better and for worse. Green teased him about being the one seeing the double-teams now.

And in deeper fantasy leagues, running back Rex Burkhead becomes an option worth considering. He should replace Bernard as the No. 2 running back behind Jeremy Hill and has experience catching passes — which was Bernard’s specialty.

‘Legacy’ finish for Steve Smith Sr.? Among the most notable replacement options for Green outside of his own locker room is veteran Steve Smith Sr. from the rival Baltimore Ravens — who will be facing the Bengals on Sunday.

His average pass traveled just 3.4 yards in the air on Thursday, which is the second-lowest average distance for a starting quarterback in a single game all season. Coincidentally, the guy in first was Bradford’s opposite number on Thanksgiving, Matthew Stafford, who averaged a scarcely believable 2.8 air yards per pass in Week 5 against the Eagles. There’s a difference between the two: Stafford was being pressured on nearly 40 percent of his dropbacks in that game and posted a 65.7 QBR. Bradford was pressured on only 5.4 percent of his dropbacks Thursday, the second-lowest pressure rate for any passer in a single game all season. He managed only a 30.7 QBR.

But it’s more complicated than that.

Bradford gets a ton of help from his defense and precious little assistance from certain parts of his offense. He was missing Stefon Diggs, and the Vikings just changed offensive coordinators a few weeks ago, but that also was in part because Bradford had more of a rapport with his former Eagles offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, than departed OC Norv Turner. There is, well, there’s a lot to unpack.

Let’s try to get to the bottom of one fundamental question, though: Should the Vikings look back and regret their move to trade first- and fourth-round picks to the Eagles for Bradford just before the season? The best way to answer that question is to break it down into a few smaller questions, starting with the most obvious one.

The Jets haven’t been tested by an elite quarterback; that changes Sunday. At the same time, their run defense has developed leaks — two straight games with at least 100 yards. They haven’t allowed 100 in three straight since 2013.

Sean Weatherspoon agrees to 1-year deal with Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals have agreed to terms with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the team announced on Wednesday. Weatherspoon will reportedly play on a one-year contract worth close to $4 million, per Mike Garfolo of Fox Sports.

It was something of a surprise to even see Weatherspoon hit the open market, as he was considered one of the top priorities for the Atlanta Falcons at the beginning of the offseason. Weatherspoon has had an up and down career to this point, but when he’s healthy, he’s played at a high level.

Weatherspoon was a first-round pick by the Falcons in 2010, but has only played a full 16 games once in his five-year career. You could accurately refer to it as a four-year career at this point, as Weatherspoon didn’t see the field in the regular season in 2014. He only played in 11 games in 2010 and 13 games in 2012.

There’s a lot going on here. Rumors about flipping Sam Bradford for a trade up are fun to talk about, more fun than imagining Bradford and his 6.7 yards per attempt in Chip Kelly’s offense at least. The Eagles at least can take a one-year flier on him, hope that he can get a little closer to his ceiling than he did with the chronically mismanaged Rams. If not, there’s one year left on his contract.

Regardless, he was a reliable rock on San Francisco’s offensive line. The 49ers are known for being a power running team, and Frank Gore liked nothing better than to run behind Iupati, who developed a reputation for being a mauler. Iupati has been consistently great at run blocking for much of his career, though there have been struggles in pass blocking.

2014 was a particularly rough season for Iupati. Not only did he regress somewhat in run blocking, he also regressed big-time in protecting Colin Kaepernick. He was routinely beaten en route to the passer and seemed to miss some assignments. But Iupati has put together four good-to-great seasons and was always destined for a big payday this offseason. He can play either guard spot, but fits best on the left side. It’s worth noting he’s played his entire career next to Joe Staley, one of the league’s best left tackles.

His best year was, predictably, when he played all 16 games in 2011. He had 115 combined tackles with 4.0 sacks and a fumble recovery. He has 290 tackles, 8.0 sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions in 47 career games played. Weatherspoon is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon sustained in June 2014. He should be ready for all offseason activities.

Jerrell Freeman receives 4-game PED suspension in latest bad news for Bears

Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman was suspended for four games due to violating the NFL’s policy of performance-enhancing drugs. He will not get paid during the suspension.

Freeman is tied for fifth in the NFL in tackles with 91. The Bears have not had too much luck this year. Just last week, Alshon Jeffery, the Bears’ star receiver, received a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Chicago, which is 2-8 right now, just lost its best playmaker on offense in Jeffery. Now, the Bears just lost arguably their best defender in Freeman. Chicago offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. said Freeman’s suspension is a “tough one to have.” He also called the veteran linebacker a great team leader.

“Both bodies will review so we know if we can move forward,” the mayor’s office said.

The Raiders have not yet commented on the framework agreement or the future of the franchise in Oakland.

He’ll have plenty to prove if he returns to the field in 2016. Peterson didn’t look like his old self in the first two games of the season. He ran for just 50 yards on 31 carries before tearing his meniscus — a paltry 1.6 yards per carry rate more than three yards fewer than his career average.

The Vikings were able to shoot out to a 5-0 start without much semblance of a running game. That flaw has come back to haunt them in the 1-4 stretch since. In Minnesota’s four losses, the team has rushed for just 275 total yards on 91 carries.

A healthy Peterson can fix Minnesota’s most glaring problem, but not if he’s stuck in neutral like he was to start 2016. If the Vikings want to make a deep run through the postseason, they’ll need their superstar running back to look like the player who ran for nearly 1,500 yards last fall.

Dodgers swinging big in hopes of ending lousiness against lefties

Historic issues necessitate impactful maneuvers, which would explain the aggressive actions the Los Angeles Dodgers seem to be exploring early this offseason.

Multiple reports have the Dodgers linked to a pair of impact second basemen in the Detroit Tigers’ Ian Kinsler and the Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier. Neither would come cheap via trade, and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports Kinsler might require a contract extension beyond his option year in 2018 to come to the Dodgers.

The Dodgers reportedly have an interest in trading for Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, whose .309 average against lefties this past season was 10th best in the American League.

After pitching a depressing shutout in 2013, the writers have eased up over the past three elections, voting in nine members — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza — in an unprecedented run, helping to clear some of the backlog of strong candidates from recent ballots. This year’s ballot doesn’t include any slam dunk choices but does offer many intriguing possibilities.

Ivan Rodriguez: One of the greatest catchers of all time — Pudge trails only Johnny Bench and Gary Carter in career WAR — Rodriguez normally would be viewed as an easy first-ballot selection with his 13 Gold Gloves, over 2,800 career hits, MVP Award in 1999 and World Series title with the Marlins in 2003. But he’ll face some of the same PED rumors and allegations that Piazza did. It took Piazza four times on the ballot to get elected, and I suspect Rodriguez will have to wait at least a year.

Vladimir Guerrero: One of my favorite players of all time, Guerrero smells like a Hall of Famer, with his 12 consecutive .300 seasons (and 13 altogether), MVP Award and exciting style of play. But he didn’t reach any of the automatic milestones that voters love, as he finished with 449 home runs instead of 500, and 2,590 hits instead of 3,000. Also, his career WAR of 59.3 is borderline for a Hall of Fame outfielder. For those who consider such things, Guerrero also was a poor postseason performer, hitting .263/.324/.339 with just two home runs in 44 games, and never won a World Series. That said, he was a unique and wonderful player, and I think he has a better chance of getting in than Rodriguez.

Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent): Bagwell fell 15 votes short in 2016; he should get in this year. He’s overwhelmingly qualified as an amazing all-around player with a high peak value. Among post-World War II first basemen, only Albert Pujols has a higher career WAR. Once a player gets to this vote percentage, he almost always gets in the next year.