This year the NFL team dominates

Holdouts are always a big story during training camp. Star players, dissatisfied with their contracts, will sit out to try to force their team’s hand, and fans are pretty split on the approach. Some people think it’s selfish for a player to hold out. But staying home is often the best way for a player to light a fire under a team to get a new deal done.

We watched this unfold last year with Eric Berry and Joey Bosa. Berry waited almost the entire preseason to sign his franchise tender and report to the Chiefs. Bosa and the Chargers couldn’t agree on two key issues — offset language and Bosa’s signing bonus — and the rookie held out for four weeks before the two sides compromised.

So far this year, Texans left tackle Duane Brown did not make the trip to training camp with his teammates. Le’Veon Bell is officially holding out, and Aaron Donald could be next.

Bell, Brown, and Donald all have two things in common this year: They’re fundamentally important to their teams and deserve to be paid for it, but those teams hold most of the leverage in this situation.

Le’Veon Bell can skip all of training camp and still make $12.1 million
The Steelers report to training camp on Thursday, and Le’Veon Bell isn’t there. He plans to stay away for several weeks, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The Steelers hit Bell with the franchise tag this offseason and were unable to come to a long-term agreement with the star running back. Bell stands to make over $12 million this year under the tag, but he has yet to sign his tender. So he’s currently not under contract and is under no obligation to attend training camp.

Bell wants to be paid as a No. 1 running back and a No. 2 receiver, which isn’t likely to happen. Last year, Bell had 1,268 yards on the ground, and he was still Pittsburgh’s second-leading receiver with 616 yards. But his production doesn’t matter. Teams don’t value feature backs at $15 million per year. Still, Bell deserved a long-term deal from Pittsburgh, and now there’s no chance of that until 2018.

Holding out won’t change the fact that Bell’s options are limited. He can either sign the tag and play this season, or he can sit out and lose a paycheck for every week of the regular season he misses. The time has passed for the Steelers to offer him a long-term deal, so that $12 million is the best Bell is going to do this year.

And right now, Bell can sit at home until the regular season is set to start and still make that full amount. He doesn’t have to show up to training camp — even if Antonio Brown wants him to.
But he may not get his wish.

Duane Brown wants a new deal, but the Texans don’t
Brown is under contract for two more seasons, and the team doesn’t have a sense of urgency about getting an extension done. General manager Rick Smith went so far as to say the team has no contract dispute with Brown. But considering that Brown skipped OTAs and mandatory minicamp and is now staying home from training camp, it’s pretty obvious this is a holdout.

Brown’s current deal averages $8.9 million per year, which ranks him just No. 17 in the league for left tackles. Brown is one of the most reliable players on the Texans’ offense. He’s by far the best player on the line that will have to protect either Tom Savage or rookie Deshaun Watson. But since he’s under contract, the Texans don’t have to back down. They probably won’t, either.

Last year, top receiver DeAndre Hopkins held out for one full day during training camp. He still doesn’t have an extension from the Texans and is set to hit free agency after the season.

So what if Brown’s holdout continues to the regular season? Let’s go to Matt Weston of Battle Red Blog for a breakdown of what it might look like for the Texans:

Without Duane Brown, the Texans’ options are either to move Chris Clark to left tackle and start Breno Giacomini or David Quessenberry at right tackle, or see if Julie’n Davenport can bound from the Patriot League to the National Football League in one summer. All of these options are horrifying.
Ouch. It’s more likely that Brown will make his way back to the team before the season begins. But if he doesn’t, that could be ugly for Houston.

Aaron Donald deserves an extension, but can the Rams afford it?
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald skipped voluntary OTAs, but did show up for minicamp. He’s also still on his rookie contract through 2018 after the team picked up his fifth-year option. That means the Rams’ best player is making just $1.8 million this season.

The Rams gave a hefty extension last year to the underperforming Tavon Austin. He ended up with just over 500 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season, yet he’ll make almost $15 million in 2017. Donald led the Rams in sacks last year with eight, and he added 47 tackles and five pass breakups.

The Rams used the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson and didn’t work out a long-term deal with the cornerback. Johnson’s $16.7 million price tag this season makes it about impossible for Los Angeles to work out an extension for Donald. The Rams are only working with just over $3 million in cap space this year.

Donald was noncommittal when he was pressed on Sirius XM Radio about whether he’ll show up for camp. We’ll find out when the Rams report on July 28.

Chiefs coach Andy Reed wants LB Tamba Hali to talk to him

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid usually doesn’t mind when his players let their personalities show, so he had no problem with veteran linebacker Tamba Hali saying that he should have played more than seven snaps in last season’s playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Reid wasn’t pleased, however, that Hali took to Twitter to communicate those thoughts publicly.

“We don’t want him doing it through the social media part of it,” Reid said from Missouri Western State University, where the Chiefs begin a three-day camp for rookies and quarterbacks on Tuesday. “If you have a problem, let’s talk about it.

“One thing you love about Tamba is he loves to play. I can’t tell you he’s getting any younger. I can’t tell you that. But I do love the fact he bugs on you that he wants to play. As coaches, we have to make the decision and so we make the decision whether he plays seven plays or 27 plays or 47 plays. That’s what we do.

“Is a player always going to be happy about that? No. That’s not how it works. But do I love the fact he loves to play? Yeah. He’s going to be 50 years old and probably still tweeting out those things that he wants to get in his plays.”

Hali, the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2006, has been one of their top defensive players ever since. But his role was reduced dramatically last season, when he started only two games. Hali still had 3.5 sacks, but that was his lowest total since 2008.
It seems unlikely Hali will return to a full-time role this season. He’ll turn 33 in November and has been limited in practice the past two seasons because of aching knees. He had arthroscopic surgery last year to help the problem.

Tamba Hali has been one of the Chiefs' top defensive players for years, but his role is being reduced.

Tamba Hali has been one of the Chiefs’ top defensive players for years, but his role is being reduced.

In the meantime, Justin Houston and Dee Ford have solidified themselves as the regular outside linebackers.

“We’ll see how his wheels hold up,” Reid said when asked how much Hali might play this season. “That’s been the issue.”

Chairman Clark Hunt didn’t seem amused by Hali’s tweets earlier Monday at a news conference to introduce Brett Veach as the Chiefs’ new general manager.

“I believe there are appropriate ways to express yourself,” Hunt said. “I really think that’s an issue that’s best addressed with Tamba directly with the head coach.”

Cowboys re-signed LB Justin Durant, release CB Jeremiah McKinnon

FRISCO, Texas — With the potential of seeing Damien Wilson disciplined for a July 4 arrest, Jaylon Smith working back from a serious knee injury and Mark Nzeocha rehabbing from knee surgery, the Dallas Cowboys have agreed to a deal with veteran linebacker Justin Durant.

Durant played in 13 games last season for the Cowboys after he was signed just before the start of training camp. The coaches credited him with 54 tackles to go along with 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 6 quarterback pressures and 4 pass deflections, playing mostly in the defense’s sub packages. He missed one game with a hamstring injury and the final two games of the regular season with an elbow strain.

Justin Durant, who had 54 tackles and a sack last season, has re-signed with the Dallas Cowboys.

Justin Durant, who had 54 tackles and a sack last season, has re-signed with the Dallas Cowboys.

To make room for Durant on the roster, cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon, who spent part of last year on the practice squad, was released.

Wilson, who played in every game last year, starting six, was arrested on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on July 4. The Cowboys have not commented on Wilson’s status because they are continuing their own look into the incident.

The Cowboys are optimistic about Smith’s recovery from a serious knee injury that included nerve damage and kept him out last season, but they will bring him along slowly in camp, considering he has not played in a game since January 2016.

The Cowboys are likely to bring Durant along slowly as well since he did not have the benefit of an offseason program. A year ago, they had him work on his conditioning to the side before he was allowed to fully practice.

Levi Bell failed Steelers to negotiate: “I want to pay attention to”

PITTSBURGH — Le’Veon Bell felt he would be settling if he took the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offer during franchise tag negotiations, the All-Pro running back told ESPN on Monday.

Bell was hopeful that a deal would be finalized by the 4 p.m. ET deadline but said the two sides weren’t particularly close. Bell confirmed that he will play on the $12.12 million franchise tag but isn’t sure when he’ll sign his tender or report to camp, which begins July 27.

Le'Veon Bell and the Steelers negotiated until the 4 p.m. ET deadline but were unable to agree on a long-term contract. He'll now play the 2017 season under his franchise tender, worth $12.1 million.

Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers negotiated until the 4 p.m. ET deadline but were unable to agree on a long-term contract. He’ll now play the 2017 season under his franchise tender, worth $12.1 million.

“It’s a little frustrating, but it’s a business,” said Bell, who declined to comment on the particulars of the Steelers’ offer or his own projection of his worth. “I’m not in a rush to sign for something I’m not valued at if I feel I’m worth more than what they are offering me.”
Bell said the negotiations with the Steelers weren’t personal and that the team didn’t try to knock him for his health history — including multiple knee injuries and groin and hamstring ailments — during the process. He remains optimistic that the sides can reach an extension after the season.

The way Bell sees it, he’s a standard-bearer for a stagnate running back market. The Buffalo Bills’ LeSean McCoy is currently the league’s highest-paid running back at about $8 million per season. That means Bell, like his running style, must be patient.

“The running back market definitely took a hit, and I can’t be the guy who continues to let it take a hit,” Bell said. “We do everything: We block, we run, we catch the ball. Our value isn’t where it needs to be. I’m taking it upon myself to open up some eyes and show the position is more valuable.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin will be the second-highest-paid running back by base salary, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System. But in terms of “cash value,” Bell’s total is second among running backs behind that of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Leonard Fournette, who will make $18.3 million in cash thanks to his $17.89 million signing bonus.
However, Bell also said his value shouldn’t be constrained by position. He points to his status as the Steelers’ second-most-productive receiver behind Antonio Brown after he caught a combined 158 passes in his past two seasons of 12 games or more.

Bell has amassed 4,791 total yards the past three seasons, second among running backs, despite his missing 13 games due to injury or suspension. He can line up in the slot, out wide or in the backfield. Steelers players voted Bell the team MVP last season. He has missed five games due to suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but Bell said he has moved past those issues.

“I definitely don’t want to play for anybody else,” Bell said of the Steelers. “You never know what will happen. Today was a big eye opener. I’m going to definitely enjoy my best year with the Steelers and be happy with it.”

That begs the question: When will that season officially start? Because he hasn’t yet signed the tag, Bell technically doesn’t have to join the team until Dec. 1, though he wouldn’t get paid the franchise amount. He could sit out part of training camp. Bell said he hasn’t thought that far ahead but added, “I don’t need much” in the way of practices to be in game shape.

“I guess when it comes to camp and doing extra things when I’m training, I can’t be as aggressive as I normally would be because there’s no longevity,” Bell said. “But I’m still going to be out there and be Le’Veon Bell. … The way I train, all it’s going to take for me is a few practices and some game action. I haven’t thought about it that far. I’m game planning today. I was thinking the deal would be done. I’m going to take it day to day and see what happens.”

Bell said he feels healthy coming off groin surgery in March and believes he can post “crazy numbers” with a full 16 games in 2017. Then the same core issue might arise in negotiations.

“I want to be valued,” Bell said.

Michael Orr plans to report to the leopard training camp

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Michael Oher plans to report to training camp on July 25, a league source told ESPN on Thursday.

Oher’s future with the team, however, remains uncertain.

Oher was placed in the concussion protocol in September and missed the final 13 games of last season. The subject of the 2009 Hollywood movie “The Blind Side” remained in the protocol when he reported for a mandatory June minicamp after missing the voluntary portion of offseason workouts.

He never took the field during the mandatory minicamp, but he was scheduled to meet with doctors. Panthers coach Ron Rivera was vague when asked whether Oher would be with the team in training camp.

“We’re going to go into training camp with the guys that we have,” Rivera said. “We’ll have 90 on our roster, and we’ll be ready to go with those guys.”

Oher was Carolina’s starting left tackle during the 2015 Super Bowl run and the first three games of the 2016 season before suffering the concussion. The Panthers signed free agent Matt Kalil to a five-year, $55.5 million deal during the offseason to play left tackle, with the plan to move Oher to the right side.

Third-year player Daryl Williams and rookie Taylor Moton competed at right tackle throughout offseason workouts.

Oher, 31, has spent most of the offseason in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was charged with assaulting an Uber driver in April. He is scheduled to appear in court for the misdemeanor charge on July 21.

Oher signed a three-year extension through the 2019 season in June 2016. He is set to count $5,093,750 against the 2017 salary cap. Releasing him would save only $1,693,760 in cap space this season.

The chiefs after a strange offseason, hired Brett Veach as their new general manager

The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t expect to have a new general manager in 2017, but they had to find one once they surprisingly parted ways with John Dorsey. On Monday, the Chiefs announced that co-director of player personnel Brett Veach will be their next general manager.

Veach got his start in the NFL a decade ago with Andy Reid and the Eagles. He’s been considered a top candidate to replace Dorsey for some time now. He started working for the Chiefs in 2013, coming over with Reid.

When the team announced it was parting ways with Dorsey, team owner Clark Hunt said, “I notified John that we would not be extending his contract beyond the 2017 season and, after some consideration, both John and I felt it was in his best interests and the best interests of the team to part ways now.”

A subsequent report from the Kansas City Star’s Terez Paylor revealed that Dorsey’s communication and management styles were reasons for the Chiefs’ decision. Paylor spoke with several sources inside the organization who said that Dorsey’s approach to leadership rubbed some people the wrong way.

“He’s not a big disciplinarian or big on chain of command,” a team source said, via Paylor, “so people did what they wanted.”

It was clear the Chiefs hadn’t planned to make a GM change, or they probably wouldn’t have let Chris Ballard leave in January. Ballard, who had been the Chiefs’ director of football operations, was hired as the Indianapolis Colts’ new general manager.

Dorsey’s firing looks even stranger when you look at the moves he made this offseason. In March, he made Eric Berry the highest-paid safety in the league. Dorsey followed that up in April by trading two first-round picks to move up in the draft to select Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ quarterback of the future.

Kansas City also unexpectedly released receiver Jeremy Maclin in June. The receiver, who has a good relationship with Reid, was angry that he found out about his release via a voicemail from Dorsey.

Right before the team announced that Dorsey was out, it gave Reid a new extension.

The Chiefs are the reigning AFC West champions and are expected to compete again in 2017. They just have to hope Veach signing puts an end to this rocky offseason.

NFL players need to stop complaining about NBA money

To NFL players complaining about how much more money NBA players are making: It’s time for a reality check.

It’s ridiculous for players to compare what they make to what athletes in other sports make. They might as well whine about movie stars’ pay, since both sports and movies are part of the entertainment industry.

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The truth is every professional sport is unique with its own economic factors that drive the salary train, and it’s all based on total revenue, salary caps and roster sizes. The salary discrepancy between the NBA and the NFL is basic, and it’s not changing anytime soon — if ever.

MORE: NFL’s highest-paid players

The tweets from NFL players came fast and furious last week when NBA free agency opened and about a billion dollars worth of new contracts were negotiated. Leading the way was Stephen Curry and his five-year, $201 million contract with the champion Warriors, fully guaranteed, as virtually all NBA deals are.

But it’s more than just the top salaries of the Currys and the LeBrons that bother NFL players. It’s the Gordon Hayward-type signings — four years, $128 million with the Celtics. Sure, Hayward just made his first All-Star appearance, but he’s not exactly a household name.

NFL players are annoyed when they hear the average salary for NBA players was $6.2 million last season compared to their average of $2.1 million. (That and Major League Baseball’s average salary, which was $4.34 million last year).

Bills receiver Sammy Watkins said, “We gotta get paid more. NFL is the most watched sport. NFL makes more than NBA and their players make way more…something not adding up lol.” Doesn’t sound much like a true lol, does it?

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders tweeted, “Looks like I chose the wrong sport.” His teammate, safety  T.J. Ward, said, “We getting peanuts compared to these NBA and MLB cats! Whoa.” And this from recently retired Colts punter Pat McAfee: “Hey NFLPA. Let’s chat with the folks from NBAPA ASAP.”

It’s interesting that we don’t hear NFL quarterbacks complaining. They know fans don’t want to hear it from players like Derek Carr, whose $25 million-per-year deal now tops the QB list (but will soon be surpassed). In fact, fans don’t want to hear any pro athlete talk about salary issues since players in the major sports are well paid compared to the vast majority of the general public.

Tannehill at 2017 Dolphin: This is the best attack I’ve ever played

In his first season as the Dolphins’ head coach, Adam Gase led Miami to a 10-6 finish in 2016 — a complete 180 from their previous season. After a prosperous free agency and offseason, quarterback Ryan Tannehill believes the Dolphins boast their most talented roster yet.
“Honestly, I can say it’s definitely the most talent we’ve had with the receiving corps, bringing everyone back, having a second year together in the same offense,” Tannehill told Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. “That’s going to be huge for us. Adding [tight ends] Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano, veterans who have played a lot of football, is [big]. Bringing back [running backs] Jay [Ajayi], Kenyan Drake.

0ap3000000818193_thumbnail_200_150“Keeping most of the offensive line together, adding a few pieces. Putting Laremy Tunsil back at his natural position. That’s going to be huge for us. You start to stack all those pieces together and we have a good unit. Now it’s a matter of being able to elevate our play throughout the season. Just because you have good pieces doesn’t mean you’re going to perform. That’s what the onus was on all spring. That’s what it’s on throughout the summer. As we hit training camp, it’s pushing each other each and every day to go out and be great. Not just be good, but really be great.”

Tannehill’s remarks about the offense and new additions does bode well for the team’s outlook this year. But, is this revamp enough for the Dolphins to claim the AFC East title? We’ll see come September.

Ezekiel Elliott led nine young people with the potential of the Hall of Fame

 

In Year 3, Jadeveon Clowney provided the kind of dynamic disruption that everyone expected when he went No. 1 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. And earlier this month, Texans defensive line coach Anthony Weaver told the Houston Chronicle about a comment he’d made to the immensely talented 24-year-old.

“I told him he can be a Hall of Famer,” Weaver revealed. “Now, there’s a number of things that have to happen. You’ve got to stay healthy, you have to be consistent and persistent. But he has all the qualities and athletic attributes in order to do that.”

Earlier this week, Clowney said these words “meant a lot” to him, before providing a juicy admission: “I’m not surprised. He sees my potential. He sees what I can do. I’ve been talking to him since he came in the building. He sees me working. He coached me. I would say hats off to my coach and I’m going to get ready to go for him.”
Hey — I guess — if you got, flaunt it!

But Weaver is spot on: Clowney is a freak with a Canton skill set. I’ve raved about Clowney and believed in him for years. The only thing that can hold him back is poor health.

So, sparked by Weaver’s remark and Clowney’s self-assured response, my incredible editors at NFL.com asked me to get wild and go deeeeeep into the crystal ball …

Who are the other youngsters — 24 or younger, to be exact — who have this kind of potential? I’m not fitting them for a gold jacket; I’m just recognizing rare talent, like Clowney’s.

Like George Costanza said before driving Susan’s parents to his fake house in the Hamptons, “You wanna get nuts?? Let’s get nuts!”
Here are the current NFL youngins with Hall of Fame potential, Schein Nine style:

1) Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Zeke got my AP vote for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and I had him in the top four for league MVP. I’m not even going to give you his numbers — just remember that he led the NFL in rushing by more than 300 yards. In Year 1. And don’t forget: It took him a few games to get going.

Elliott did it all for Dallas: running the ball, catching it out of the backfield, taking heat off of Dak Prescott and preserving the defense. Zeke was the biggest reason for Dallas’ nine-win improvement from 2015.

Yes, he only has one NFL season under his belt, so — in theory — you want to take it slow and avoid hyperbole. But I know what I saw. And you know what you saw. This cat has what it takes to be a generational player.

2) Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
Well, with this guy, I am going to give you the numbers — cause they’re absolutely mindboggling. In his first three NFL seasons, Beckham has racked up 288 catches for 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns. That’s an average seasonal line of 96/1,374/12. Good grief.

Odell is such a gifted, rare receiver with speed, athleticism and hands that are all extraordinary. This is a guy who cannot be stopped.

3) Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Overshadowed by his draft classmate listed just above, Evans is someone who demands more attention. The beastly wideout has gone over 1,000 yards in each of his first three pro seasons and just authored his second 12-touchdown campaign.

Now, with Jameis Winston coming into his own — as well as Tampa’s offseason additions of O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson — Evans’ domination and numbers will be off the charts.

4) Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
After holding out during training camp and missing the first four games of last season due to a hamstring injury, the Chargers’ sack artist stunned me with his sheer ability to wreck games. He notched a pair of sacks in his first NFL contest and finished the year with 10.5 (in just 12 games).

His Defensive Rookie of the Year season was just the beginning. The Bolts have a true gem on their hands.

5) Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots
Still just 23, Cooks already has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons to his name. And he logged 17 touchdowns over the past two years. So, the numbers — and the ability to stretch the field — are there.

And now I’m projecting what his numbers will be in New England, where he’ll be catching passes from the greatest quarterback of all time.

6) Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis was drafted No. 1 overall for a reason. He has Hall of Fame ability — and leadership skills that remind you of some of the most notable names enshrined in Canton.

The time is now for the Bucs quarterback. The weapons are there. Winston takes that step forward in 2017 and turns into a bona fide superstar.

7) Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz over Dak Prescott? You betcha. This isn’t about 2016 or Rookie of the Year results. And I love Dak. But I think Wentz is going to be a better quarterback in the years to come — especially now that he has legit receivers around him, highlighted by Alshon Jeffery.

Remember, 2016 wasn’t even supposed to happen. The kid from North Dakota State was supposed to be groomed behind Sam Bradford. But a lucrative trade opportunity presented itself, and Wentz was thrust into the lineup. And I believe it turned into an excellent building block in Wentz’s road to stardom.

8) Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Cooper’s numbers are excellent: two years, two 1,000-yard campaigns. And being teamed up with Derek Carr certainly doesn’t hurt. I think Carr and Cooper are going to be a special and winning combination for a prolonged period of time. And that sort of thing definitely helps build a legacy.

9) Landon Collins, S, New York Giants

The Giants safety has a knack for making plays (SEE: five interceptions and four sacks last season). And he’s a major part of a great defense — Big Blue just yielded the second-fewest points in the NFL.

Having established himself as a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2016 — his second NFL season — Collins has the ability to be entrenched as a first-team All-Pro for a long time.

TOUGHEST OMISSIONS: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys; Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams; Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans; Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars; Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears; Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs.