As NFL fans, we continually try to make things interesting in the offseason. From the top 100 players to underrated players, we start to count the days till the season starts. This week, one of the slower news weeks of the season, is a tough week to find ideas for a 5 for 5. But, we did it. So let’s get into my NFL thoughts of the week.
Jeremy Maclin Sweepstakes
The Chiefs shocked the NFL world when they released wide receiver Jeremy Maclin last Friday. When more details came out, the decision was clear. The Chiefs didn’t have enough room for him on the roster due to cap space. With Kansas City needing to sign their rookies, someone had to go. Unfortunately for Maclin, he counted $10 million against the cap. Here are my thoughts on the ripple effect for Maclin and where he could end up.
1. The Chiefs lost something when they released Maclin. They lost the leadership that he brought, which is necessary when you have such a young group. However, the release doesn’t hurt them too much as an offense. Yes, Maclin was productive in 2015, but he was hurt much of last season. The Chiefs do have a young group, but Andy Reid’s offense isn’t build around a strong number one receiver. He wants effective running backs and an effective tight end to make his offense go. He has those in place.
2. The Maclin release also may hint at how the Chiefs are building as a unit. Notice how young a lot of their position groups are. This move proves that the Chiefs are rebuilding before they age and drop off. A Super Bowl doesn’t seem to be in reach in 2017, so they are preparing for 2018 and 2019 especially. They have the heir apparent in Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. The running back core is young. They have found playmakers on defense. This team will contend for a while, so there’s no need to rush with this group. Maclin was not going to be in future plans.
3. As for where Maclin signs, the Bills have been the rumored front runners. LeSean McCoy has recruited him heavily to Buffalo, and they met with Maclin for a couple days. Nothing is nailed down yet, but adding Maclin to the receiving core would be nice. Imagine having Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, and Jeremy Maclin. Not bad at all.
4. The Ravens are another team in the mix. They also have met with Maclin already, and he again left without a deal. It’s clear that he is taking his time here. Baltimore would be a good spot though. The Ravens invested heavily on defense in the draft, and their receiving core is very depleted (now with Pitta gone too). Adding Maclin would be good for Joe Flacco and the offense.
5. Here are two wild cards: Arizona and Cleveland. Arizona makes a lot of sense. They are in win now mode with Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald still in town. The defense is improving, and having another reliable receiver would suit them. Cleveland is extremely young on offense, so bringing in Maclin as a veteran presence could help them in the long run. Plus, they have the cap room. The only issue with Cleveland is knowing he’s not in their long term plans, and he won’t win a ring there.
The Kaepernick Saga Continues
Colin Kaepernick has been passed up again, this time by the Seahawks. They decided to go with Austin Davis to be a backup, leaving Kaepernick (most likely) without a job. This is a sensitive subject, but I will give some thoughts.
NOTE: If you are sensitive to this, don’t read it. Just read the other parts. No worries.
1. As far as being blackballed, it’s not completely that. It may be in part to it, but it’s not the whole story. Sure, fans and owners are not thrilled with him kneeling during the anthem. That happens, especially with people who know people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. However, it is free speech, and he is allowed to do it.
2. There is another part to this. Many people have used the words “bum” and “he sucks” to describe Kaepernick. Someone even went as far to say there are 15 better backups than him. While he isn’t a top tier player, some people ride the extremes because of his actions.
3. As far as the play of Kaepernick goes, there are some teams he could start on. He isn’t the 32nd best quarterback in football, but he certainly isn’t in the top half. The issue with Kaep comes down to one thing: scheme. Most teams run a scheme that revolves around a pocket passer in a west coast system. In reality, Kaepernick is not a strong player from the pocket. He is much more effective on the move. Plenty of quarterbacks thrive on the move, but many of them have top-level accuracy. Kaepernick throws one type of ball, a fastball. His touch on the run just doesn’t show up.
4. Another point with the scheme. Teams are not going to adjust their scheme to fit the backup quarterback. The Bucs signed Ryan Fitzpatrick because Jameis Winston is in a pro style offense. One thing you can’t do is change an offense for a backup. The only teams that would sign him would be Seattle and Carolina. But, even Seattle thought he was a starter and maybe would challenge Wilson, they still brought him in.
5. My suggestion at this point is to quit losing your minds. We have people like Mike Freeman going nuts on one extreme and Andy Benoit on another. Kaepernick would be a good running back, but he doesn’t work in a pro style system.
Taylor Decker (Torn Labrum) Out 4-6 Months
It was confirmed today by Ian Rapoport that Lions left tackle Taylor Decker has torn his labrum. This is a huge blow to the Lions, who reinforced their line with TJ Lang and Ricky Wagner in free agency. Here’s the impact.
1. Even if he returns, his best case scenario could be sometime in October. For reference, let’s bring him back in week five against Carolina. The Lions face Arizona, Atlanta, the Giants, and Minnesota in the first four weeks. There are elite pass rushers all over that schedule. It will be tough to contain Olivier Vernon and JPP. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden are underrated in Arizona. Vic Beasley could feast on that side (or maybe rookie Takk McKinley). The Vikings have Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. Translation? That isn’t good for this offense.
2. Let’s check the worst case. Let’s say he comes back in December. Detroit plays five division games before December comes around. Decker could be a major hole for them agains the NFC North, which also features premier rushers and front sevens. The offense was one dimensional last season, and things could be rough by then. Pass rushers can wreck games and game plans.
3. The issue goes deeper when you realize they didn’t add depth in the draft along the offensive line.
4. I know this is one player, but losing a left tackle is a big deal. Stafford is a good quarterback, but he (like most) struggles with the blitz. Knowing their weapons are few, teams with good secondaries could unleash the blitz with devastating effects.
5. The Lions are coming off of a playoff berth, but this could put a wrench in their 2017 playoff hopes, especially with margin in the NFC North getting smaller.
Players Wait For Extensions
1. Matt Stafford is one of the under-the-radar extensions to watch. He will be finishing up his 5 year, $76.5 million contract this season, and the Lions won’t let him go. His number could surpass $25 million per season.
2. Odell Beckham is not showing up for OTAs due to his current contract. The odds it gets done? Not high. The Giants, with the fifth year option, could take this all the way to 2019, which could cause some friction.
3. Derek Carr extension talks are underway, but there is no significant progress to report. Carr is rising as a franchise quarterback. His deal will most likely rival the top current deals in the NFL, so he is one to watch. Plus, he has no fifth year option.
4. Speaking of the Raiders, Khalil Mack is another extension to watch. He is already one of the best pass rushers in the game. I think this is a deal that should get done sooner than later, with the average salary number continually rising for elite pass rushers (imagine what Joey Bosa could get in a few years).
5. Aaron Rodgers was asked about his contract during interviews this week. He will be a free agent in 2020, but now may be too soon to talk about it. He will be 36 then, and who knows if he is still the best in the league by then. Yet, he is seeing what other quarterbacks are making, and he knows he is worth more. The Packers will make sure he stays.
The RB Battle For 2018
This is something I will be keeping an eye on. While the 2017 class looks good, 2018 could rival this class. There are many great runners who will show up in the fall in college, so here’s an early look at them.
1. Derrius Guice, LSU – Guice is my RB1 right now. Why? He does so much well. He finishes his runs, and always has a chance to break one loose. He has rare speed and power, and can shake off tackles. He is also a smart runner. When he needs the first down, he doesn’t get fancy. He finds it and gets it done.
2. Saquon Barkley, Penn State – He is tops for many analysts, and it’s for a good reason. He is extremely shifty, and consistently made guys miss in the backfield last season. Barkley also has great burst in the open field. Once he gets going, it is tough to catch him. He’s also very good in the passing game. I expect him to refine his game in 2017.
3. Kalen Ballage, ASU – The Arizona State runner wasn’t talked about as much, but he brings a ton to the table. Right away, you see the power and the ability to dominate between the tackles. He has the strong frame to absorb hits. But, he is quick in the open field. He seems ideal for a run first scheme, but there is more to see with Ballage.
4. Bo Scarbrough, Alabama – When you talk about running backs, there’s always one at Alabama. Scarbrough is a massive back who can take anyone on one-on-one. He ran well in the playoff last season for Alabama. At his size, you would thing game-breaker wouldn’t describe him. But, you’d be incorrect. He can run away from defenders and make them miss.
5. There are plenty of others to look at. Royce Freeman is special in the Oregon offense. Myles Gaskin thrives in Washington. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will share a backfield in Georgia. Ronald Jones is out there at USC. Kamryn Pettway (Auburn) and Justin Jackson (Northwestern) are others to watch.
Questions? Comments? Want to discuss? Go to @SportsGuysBlog or @JSchyvinck13 to discuss!
Jake Schyvinck is the lead NFL and NFL Draft writer for The Sports Guys. Follow him on Twitter @JSchyvinck13 for constant discussion. Also, check him out on cover32.com/chiefs.