Monthly Archives: March 2017

Seahawks, Richard Sherman find themselves in a messy situation

PHOENIX — In September 2015, Pete Carroll stood at the podium next to Kam Chancellor at the Seattle Seahawks’ practice facility and made sure he was delivering a clear message.

Chancellor had held out into the first two games of the season, both Seahawks losses. But he was back now. Carroll knew he needed his Pro Bowl safety in the right frame of mind if Seattle was going to turn its season around.

“Kam’s going to be with us for a long time,” Carroll said that day. “We hope he will always be a Seahawk.”

It was a masterful performance by Carroll. He swatted away question after question about the holdout and focused solely on Chancellor’s value to the organization.

Carroll talks often about messaging. He is aware of his stage, his audience and how his words are going to be interpreted. That’s what made his comments Wednesday about Richard Sherman’s trade availability particularly noteworthy.

“You’re either competing, or you’re not. And so we’ve always had to be open for everything, every suggestion that comes along,” Carroll said. “There have been some teams that have called, and so we’ve talked about it. But he’s extremely important to our football team.

“I don’t see anything happening at all. And I don’t see anything happening with any other players, just the banter that’s out there right now. But it has been talked about. He’s a great player and can impact another team. I can see why people would be interested in him.”

Making sense of Carroll’s words requires some reading between the lines.

He could have showered Sherman with love, as he did with Chancellor back in 2015. He could have skillfully shot down all trade rumors and pointed out what an important player Sherman is to the future of the franchise. He could have noted how last season is behind him and how the Seahawks are counting on Sherman to help lead a team with Super Bowl aspirations in 2017.

Carroll did not go that route. He and general manager John Schneider delivered a different message. They announced to the 31 other teams that Sherman is available at the right price.

But why? The most obvious answer is that they’re guarding against a repeat performance of Sherman’s 2016 season.

“Richard went through a lot last year,” Carroll said. “Most of it self-inflicted.”

In Week 6 of last season, after the Seahawks’ defense busted a coverage that led to a long touchdown by the Atlanta Falcons, Sherman and defensive coordinator Kris Richard engaged in a shouting match on the sideline. Several defensive players had to surround Sherman and calm him down.

In Week 15, after the Seahawks’ offense attempted a pass from the 1-yard line against the Los Angeles Rams, Sherman went after Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on the sideline before teammates separated them.

Following the game, Sherman opened up old wounds from Super Bowl XLIX and referenced Russell Wilson’s interception against the New England Patriots.

“I was letting [Carroll] know. We’ve already seen how that goes,” Sherman said of the playcall.

Days later, Carroll indicated that Sherman was apologetic and realized that what he did was wrong. When Sherman spoke publicly, however, he said he had no regrets, doubling down and defending his actions.

Carroll admitted he “was a little surprised” at Sherman’s lack of remorse. The next week, Carroll said the Seahawks held a “special meeting,” in part to address Sherman’s outburst and make sure the team was ready to move forward.

Sherman downplayed the effectiveness of the meeting and said it was more valuable to the younger players than the veterans, who had heard the message before.

“We have a kumbayah meeting just about every year,” Sherman said at the time.

On many levels, trading Sherman would be a monumental gamble. This is a Seahawks team that is ready to compete for a Super Bowl right now. Sherman has never missed a game in his NFL career and played at a Pro Bowl level once again last season, despite a knee injury. The Seahawks are already thin at cornerback, and the 29-year-old is one of the best in the game.

More likely than not, Sherman stays put. Any team that wants to trade for him will have to be willing to take on his salary: $11.431 million in 2017 and $11 million in 2018. That team would also have to meet the Seahawks’ asking price.

Perhaps the Seahawks are expecting Sherman to return but don’t want him to feel untouchable, given how last season played out. Such a strategy could end up backfiring. Doug Baldwin, who has been Sherman’s teammate since Stanford, spoke recently about the cornerback sometimes letting his pride get in the way.

Will hearing his name in trade rumors lead Sherman to improved behavior in 2017 or more defiance?

It’s actually possible that Sherman would welcome a trade, and that could be part of the reason the Seahawks are making it known that they are willing to listen to offers.

“Sometimes people need to see you gone to realize what you had,” Sherman said last week on ESPN’s First Take. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But I don’t let things like that bother me. The chips will fall how they’re supposed to.”

One way or another, the situation got messier this week. If the Seahawks trade Sherman, it will create an enormous hole at cornerback.

And if he returns to Seattle, the two sides will have to make the best of a strained relationship as they try to compete for a Super Bowl in 2017.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft says Tom Brady willing to play 6-7 more years

PHOENIX — Could New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady really play until he’s 46 or 47 years old?

That’s the target range Brady highlighted in a recent conversation with owner Robert Kraft.

“As recently as 2-3 days ago, he assured me he’d be willing to play six to seven more years and at the level he performed,” Kraft said Monday at the NFL’s annual meeting. “There’s no one that would be happier than I, and our fan base.”

Brady turns 40 on Aug. 3, and the question of how much longer he’ll play has been widely discussed and analyzed, in part because it could affect the Patriots’ plans with backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who enters the final year of his contract.

Brady enters his 18th season with the Patriots in 2017, and if he were to reach his goal of six or seven more years with New England, he would smash former Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson’s NFL record of the most seasons with one team (21).

Only Hanson, Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green (20) and Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Jackie Slater (20) have spent at least 20 seasons with one team.

While Kraft said he would be thrilled if Brady could play into his mid-40s, he acknowledged that Brady would be beating long odds for starting quarterbacks if he did.

“I think there’s one player at the age of 40 who had one good year: [Brett] Favre, for the Vikings. He didn’t do so well before,” he said.

Steve DeBerg, Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde, all at age 44, are the oldest quarterbacks to have been on an NFL roster, according to data tracked by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. George Blanda played until he was 48, but was primarily a kicker late in his career.

Kraft said the way Brady lives his life could give him a chance to make history while reaching his goal.

“I think Tommy’s sustained excellence is just unbelievable. It’s a lifestyle. He’s in training now, it’s not like he’s stopped,” he relayed.

“I remember after our first Super Bowl in ’01, going down in the training room in the old Foxboro Stadium, three days after we won, he’s in there with the music blaring working out. He’s really dedicated. The thing that’s amazing about him, to this day he hasn’t changed as a human being in how he relates to people, but also how he works out. The only thing that’s probably changed is how he eats and his diet. I’m not sure avocado ice cream is right for me, but if I could look like him and perform half as well, I guess I’d do it.”

As for the 24-year-old Garoppolo, he could provide insurance behind Brady in 2017 before the club could potentially lose him as a free agent in 2018. Because of that, Kraft was asked if there was any scenario in which the Patriots might be inclined to trade Garoppolo this year.

“I don’t have the right demeanor of our coach; I charge him to handle all football matters,” he said. “We’re privileged to have the greatest quarterback in the history of the game, and it looks like he’s playing pretty solid. He’s off the charts, in my opinion, and we’re lucky to have him.

“That’s the most important position on the team, needless to say. I don’t think anyone could say you have too much depth at that position. I’ve charged him to make those decisions. I’ll leave that with him.”

Vikings knew Latavius Murray needed surgery before signing him

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings announced that running back Latavius Murray, who signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the team on Thursday, underwent ankle surgery Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Vikings said in a statement that they knew about Murray’s need for an operation before they signed him last week, and they added that they expect him to be ready for training camp. The surgery could mean, however, that Murray will miss most of the team’s offseason program, which begins next month.

The team signed Murray at the end of a two-day free-agent visit last week and told Adrian Peterson after the deal was done that they would be moving on from him. Murray figures to team with Jerick McKinnon in the Vikings’ backfield, but general manager Rick Spielman has called this year’s running back class the deepest he has ever seen, and the Vikings could look to add to their group in the draft next month.

Murray received a $1.8 million signing bonus from the Vikings and has a guaranteed $900,000 base salary and $700,000 roster bonus for 2017. Only $1.1 million of his 2018 base salary is currently guaranteed against injury, and the full $5.15 million would not become guaranteed until the third day of the 2018 league year, which means the Vikings could move on from the 27-year-old after this season with little financial risk.

Blake Bortles has worked on quicker release, other tweaks

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Blake Bortles has spent the past two months working on his mechanics with his throwing coaches at 3DQB in California, not worrying about whether the Jacksonville Jaguars want him around in 2018.

That doesn’t mean Bortles is ignoring the fact that the 2017 season is make-or-break for him in Jacksonville. He said he’s just not worrying about it.

“It’s huge,” Bortles said Sunday before his second annual Blake Bortles Foundation Celebrity Golf Tournament at The King & Bear at the World Golf Village. “It’s as big as however you want it to be, but regardless we’ve got to be here on April 10th [for offseason conditioning] and we’ve got to show up for camp in August and eventually they’re going to start playing football games, so I think all that’s stuff’s irrelevant.

“I’m confident with what I’ve done this offseason and that I’ll be able to come help this team be as good as we possibly can be. Everything involving the contract, that’s up to them. I look forward to playing football.”

The Jaguars have until May 3 to decide if they will pick up Bortles’ fifth-year option. If they do, his 2018 salary would be the average of the top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks: approximately $20.7 million. It is guaranteed for injury only until the first day of the 2018 league year, when it becomes fully guaranteed.

General manager Dave Caldwell said the team still has work to do in evaluating Bortles before making that kind of commitment.

“Well I think just like with everything we’ve done from the end of the season until now, we get a lot of input from our coaches, we’ve got OTAs, we’ve got minicamps, we’ve got a lot of things between now and then to see where he is at, but I don’t think any decision will be made until closer to May,” Caldwell said.

The problem for the Jaguars is that deadline hits before they can know if Bortles is any better than he was in 2016, when he completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. He threw 15 interceptions — including three returned for touchdowns to give him 11 pick-sixes in his career — in the first 12 games but threw only one in the last four. Bortles also suffered a Grade 1 sprained right AC joint, aggravated that five weeks later, and also dealt with painful tendinitis in his right wrist.

His mechanics were a mess, too. His footwork got sloppy and his delivery was out of whack. He brought the ball below his waist and way behind his body during his windup, which increased the amount of time between his decision to throw and his release. Bortles looked nothing like he did in 2015, when he set single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,428) and passing touchdowns (35).

That’s why he headed to California as soon as the 2016 season ended to work with Adam Dedeaux.

“The first thing we focused on was probably what everybody would guess, just trying to tighten up the release, make that as quick as possible,” Bortles said. “So never letting really the wrist get below the elbow, trying to keep that parallel and not dropping down. So that was probably the main focus and then just a couple tweaks here and there in different things.

“It didn’t take a long time to fix it, but the first week it wasn’t pretty. It didn’t look good and that’s a part of it. When you’re trying to change things it’s not going to be great but we were able to kind of hash that out and now it’s going well.”

3DQB tweeted out a quick video of Bortles throwing a pass, and his delivery looks significantly more compact. He’s holding the ball just below his chin during his dropback, and it doesn’t get any lower than his elbow on his windup.

Bortles said his delivery is “more efficient, quicker,” but will that stick during practices and especially games?

“That’s the true test of, ‘Did it stick?’” Bortles said. “There’s only one way to figure that out and that’s go and play.”

He’s taking a quick break to raise funds for the Arc Village of Jacksonville — an independent-living neighborhood for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities — and first responders of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department. According to Bonnie Upright, the foundation’s executive director, the golf tournament, charity auction, and concert have raised approximately $100,000 this year.

After that, though, he’s headed to Arizona next week to throw with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns (he’s been throwing with Marqise Lee in California). This is a different plan from last offseason, when he spent only six days in California and spent most of his time in Jacksonville throwing with Jaguars receivers.

“I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent out there [in California],” Bortles said. “I think it’s really been beneficial. I feel really good as far as where I’m at mechanically and how the ball’s coming out and how it’s spinning.”

Bills, WR Andre Holmes said that although the NFLPA record did not trade

A three-year, $4.5 million contract between wide receiver Andre Holmes and the Buffalo Bills was filed Wednesday with the NFL Players Association, documents obtained by ESPN showed.

Despite the deal appearing along with other completed contracts in NFLPA records, a Bills spokesperson said Wednesday there has been no deal signed between the two sides. Holmes also tweeted Wednesday afternoon that he had not signed with any team.

An NFLPA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ESPN.

If signed, Holmes would become the highest-profile free-agent addition to the Bills’ thin receiving corps. The Bills have lost receivers Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin as free agents this month.

Holmes’ deal would include $2.425 million in guaranteed money, documents showed. Holmes would be paid salaries of $925,000 in 2017, $950,000 in 2018 and $975,000 in 2019.

He will receive a $1.5 million signing bonus and workout bonuses of $50,000 each season. His 2017 salary is fully guaranteed. He can earn up to $750,000 in incentives each season and has base salary escalators based on playing time.

Holmes, 28, played the role of a third or fourth receiver, along with Seth Roberts, behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree last season for the Raiders. But he also is a big target in the red zone at 6 feet 4, 210 pounds, and he made a name for himself as a special teams ace alongside Taiwan Jones.

Holmes had nine special teams tackles, which ranked third on the team, and recovered a fumble on a muffed punt at Jacksonville in Week 7. He also led the Raiders with 50 receiving yards on four catches, including a touchdown, in Oakland’s playoff loss at Houston.

His production has faded as the Raiders have improved, going from 47 catches for 693 yards and four touchdowns for a 3-13 team in 2014 to 14 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns for a 7-9 team in 2015 to 14 catches for 126 yards and three touchdowns for a 12-4 playoff team last season.

Holmes, who had a base salary of $2 million in 2016, originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Hillsdale College with the Vikings in 2011.

T.J. Lang signs three-year deal with Lions

Offensive lineman T.J. Lang has agreed to a three-year contract with the Detroit Lions, the team announced Sunday.

He is the second offensive lineman to join the Lions in free agency, along with Rick Wagner, who signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal with $29.5 million guaranteed. Lang and Wagner will be counted on to replace Riley Reiff (Vikings) and Larry Warford (Saints), who left the Lions in free agency, and to help a Detroit offense that ranked 30th in rushing last season.

Lang, who has spent his eight-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, made his first Pro Bowl last season at age 29. Despite being hobbled by a nagging hip injury that required postseason surgery and a broken foot, Lang managed to play in all but three games.

He had surgery on his hip in January but said Sunday he will be ready for training camp.

“I’ll definitely be ready by training camp, no doubt about it. I know that was a big story the past couple weeks, but for me, it’s nothing but a positive,” he said.

“This is something that I’ve been dealing with for a number of years. Has always caused me a pretty good amount of pain at some point during the season, so it’s really been three or four seasons since I came into training camp just 100 percent healthy, and I really feel that’s where I’m going to be this year.”

The 2009 fourth-round selection, who was born in a suburb of Detroit and attended Eastern Michigan, has been a full-time starter since the 2011 season and just finished a four-year, $20.8 million contract extension.

After the Packers released guard Josh Sitton shortly before last season, Lang became the senior member of Green Bay’s starting offensive line. He has played in 119 of a possible 128 career games.

Lang is the second offensive lineman to leave the Packers in free agency, joining center JC Tretter, who signed a three-year contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Colts Dwayne Allen, picks to Pats fourth round pick

The Indianapolis Colts have agreed to trade tight end Dwayne Allen to the New England Patriots, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Colts agreed to send Allen and a sixth-round pick to New England for a Patriots fourth-round pick, per league sources.

The addition of Allen makes it likely that the Patriots will not re-sign tight end Martellus Bennett, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Allen tweeted thanks to the Colts and their fans and said he looked forward to playing for the Patriots.

Before a 2014 game between the Patriots and Colts, coach Bill Belichick had high praise for Allen, saying, “I’ve been really impressed with Allen’s blocking. I think he’s one of the best blocking tight ends we’ll see.”

Allen re-signed with the Colts last offseason with a four-year, $29 million contract. He finished with 35 receptions for 406 yards and six touchdowns while playing in 14 games in 2016.

Allen was part of the Colts’ 2012 draft class that also featured Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener. Former general manager Ryan Grigson chose to re-sign Allen over Fleener in 2016 because he felt Allen was the better all-around tight end. Allen, however, never reached his potential in Indianapolis because of consistent injury problems. He has missed 23 games over the past four seasons.

The Colts re-signed tight end Jack Doyle on Tuesday. A source told ESPN’s Adam Caplan that the deal is for three years and $19 million, with $9.5 million guaranteed. The deal can max out at $21 million with incentives.

Doyle, 26, made a smooth transition from being known as a blue-collar tight end and third on the Colts’ depth chart to an all-around player who was arguably their best tight end last season.

He had career highs in receptions (59), yards (584) and touchdowns (five) last season. His 584 receiving yards and 75 targets were second on the team behind Hilton’s 1,448 receiving yards and 156 targets.

Bennett was acquired by the Patriots in a trade from the Bears last March. The sides had discussed extending the contract through 2017 at the time of the trade but couldn’t come to an agreement.

That set Bennett up to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he is widely viewed as the top tight end available.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Bennett totaled 55 receptions for 701 yards and seven touchdowns in the 2016 regular season, playing in all 16 games. He earned the respect of many of his teammates by playing through an ankle injury initially suffered on Oct. 9.

A supersized personality, Bennett was acquired with the hope of forming the NFL’s most lethal 1-2 tight end combination alongside Rob Gronkowski. But that never truly materialized because Gronkowski was limited to just eight games because of hamstring and back injuries.

That thrust Bennett into a more consistent role as the team’s No. 1 option at the position.

Steve Kerr: Warriors will let Matt Barnes’s legal issues be played out

NEW YORK — Responding to the concerns of Golden State Warriors fans regarding Matt Barnes’ past and current issues, coach Steve Kerr told ESPN that he is comfortable with the veteran forward being on the team.

In his comments, Kerr referenced the third-degree misdemeanor assault charges Barnes is facing stemming from an alleged Dec. 5 altercation at a club in Manhattan. Kerr made those comments made shortly after announcing that Barnes would make his first start for the Warriors in Sunday’s game against the New York Knicks.

“We’re aware of Matt’s legal situation, and we’ll see how that plays out. We’re comfortable with the process, and I’m comfortable with Matt,” Kerr told ESPN. “I had him during my tenure in Phoenix, and he was a great teammate, and I enjoy being around him, so I’m more confident that everything will be fine. But the legal stuff has to handle itself.”

Barnes’ attorney, Alex Spiro, requested that his client’s trial date in the assault case be postponed until June 27.

“I have reason to believe my client will be playing in the NBA Finals,” Spiro said in court Friday in Manhattan, according to reports.

Judge Robert Herbert Moses responded: “Good luck.”

In addition, Barnes and former teammate DeMarcus Cousins face a civil suit related to the Dec. 5 incident. Filed by plaintiffs Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell in a U.S. District Court in New York, the lawsuit alleges that Barnes grabbed Besiso by her neck and began choking her at approximately 3 a.m. ET after a fight broke out in the VIP section of the club.

The Warriors moved to sign Barnes on the evening of Feb. 28, after star small forward Kevin Durant suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain and bone bruise in the first quarter of Golden State’s game that night against the Washington Wizards.

The Warriors initially signed Jose Calderon but elected to waive the Spanish guard to make room for Barnes.

Barnes, 36, recorded three points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 19 minutes Sunday in the Warriors’ 112-105 victory over the Knicks.

Matt Barnes signed the Warriors after Kevin Durant was injured

A firm injury diagnosis on Kevin Durant is not expected before Wednesday, but the Golden State Warriors have already lined up Matt Barnes as a potential Durant fill-in, the veteran swingman confirmed to ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that the Warriors, in the wake of the hyperextended left knee Durant suffered Tuesday night at Washington, quickly reached out to Barnes and made arrangements to sign him later this week.

Barnes told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that he will sign a rest-of-the-season deal with Golden State, as opposed to a 10-day contract.

“It’s a dream come true!” Barnes told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears. “I feel like I helped start something in ’07, and now I’m coming back to help finish it.”

In an Instagram post late Tuesday night, Barnes called this “the happiest day of my life” after the birth of his children.

Barnes spent two seasons in Golden State, from 2006 to 2008.

Sources said Golden State, to make roster room for Barnes, will be forced to abandon its plans to sign Jose Calderon on Thursday after Calderon clears waivers.

The Warriors were still evaluating MRI results on Durant after their Tuesday night road loss to the Wizards, sources said, and are expected to announce the severity of Durant’s injury Wednesday.

Regarding the looming addition of Barnes, Warriors officials could not be reached for comment.

Freshly waived by the Los Angeles Lakers, Calderon committed to sign with the Warriors early this week upon clearing waivers at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. But ESPN has learned that the Warriors will sign Calderon to a rest-of-the-season deal and then promptly waive him, ensuring Calderon earns the money he would have received in Golden State but also leaving a roster spot open to add Barnes.

On Feb. 20, the Kings waived Barnes — who grew up in Sacramento — despite the fact he is owed nearly $6.5 million next season.

The Kings needed a roster spot to accommodate the players they received in their DeMarcus Cousins trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. Because of what Kings general manager Vlade Divac termed “culture” reasons, they decided to waive the 36-year-old Barnes after a rocky stint with his hometown team that included a December arrest stemming from an incident in a Manhattan nightclub.