Julio Jones and Malcolm Jenkins Show Value of Short Contracts, More NFL Notes

As anothers week of minicamps begins...

• Both Falcons WR Julio Jones and Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins are reporting to minicamp this week, after fairly amicable contract holdouts through the spring. Both players’ beefs have to do with a changing market at their positions. Jones and Jenkins were paid like the elite of the elite when they did their last deals (Jones in ’15, Jenkins in ’16). And both have been passed by. Jenkins’ APY of $8.75 million is now just 62.5 percent of what the top safeties (Tyrann Mathieu, Landon Collins) are making; Jones’s APY is 12th among receivers—the Vikings have two (!) wideouts making more than Jones. The lesson? Players should sign shorter deals, because this is always bound to happen. Take Sammy Watkins’ contract (and yes, he made it to free agency, which the truly elite don’t)—he signed for three years, virtually guaranteeing that he’ll remain in the top 10 throughout the length of his deal, and affording him the chance to hit the market again at 27. Remember, almost none of these contracts guarantee anything past three years anyway, making the years beyond that de facto team options.

• I don’t blame Yannick Ngakoue in the least for holding out—not with the edge market firmly set at more than $20 million per (Khalil Mack, DeMarcus Lawrence, Frank Clark). Can Jacksonville do it? Sure. But with just over $9 million in cap space, and Ngakoue’s 2019 cap number low ($2.234 million), they’ll need to get creative and may need to restructure other players (and they’ve already fired some of those bullets this offseason) to make it work. And then there’s the fact that whatever you give Ngakoue would probably set the floor for whatever Jalen Ramsey is going to ask for.

• While we’re there, players missing minicamp this weekend are subject to fines of up to with $14,775 for the first day missed, $29,550 for the second day missed, and $44,325 for the third day missed. So as much as $88,650 (although those fines are sometimes waived when contract disputes are resolved).

• Because it has come up after my column posted this morning, here’s how the NFL’s personnel handbook defines a high-level club employee (e.g. GM) on the football side: An individual who is the primary football executive for the club and who has: (i) the primary authority over all personnel decisions related to the signing of free agents, the selection of players in the college draft, trades and related decisions; and (ii) the primary responsibility for coordinating other football activities with the head coach. Final authority regarding the composition of the 53-player roster is not a requirement. If someone lacks that responsibility in one place, and would interview for a job that entails it in another, his team can not preventing him from going. So if the Texans job fits that description, the Patriots cannot stop Nick Caserio from going for it.

• The Texans do, however, have to ask for permission—which they already have. What the Patriots can do is waffle on granting that permission over what the job really is in Houston (since the language is a little vague) to buy time to try to convince Caserio to stay. It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s happening now.

• We told you a few weeks back that Colts GM Chris Ballard may have found another Day 2 gem of a linebacker, as he did last year with Darius Leonard. And while Bobby Okereke, the 89th pick in April, may not be Leonard, he’s ready in the mix to start. My understanding is that when the Colts hit the field at minicamp tomorrow, and going into the summer, Okereke will be competing with incumbent Anthony Walker for the middle linebacker spot. And he’s not the only rookie in that kind of spot with Indy—second-round corner Rock Ya-Sin is also now vying to be a Day One starter.

• Keep an eye on the two Utah rookies in Seattle—second-round safety Marquise Blair and third-round linebacker Cody Barton. Both have stood out early. Both play positions where the Seahawks are already solid. Each could wind up playing anyway. And that’s indicative of the team trying to get its depth back to where it was in the early Legion of Boom days.

• So much this year in Buffalo is going to ride on the development of Josh Allen, with the team’s cap cleaned up and good young players coming into Sean McDermott’s program. And Allen’s improved mechanics and overall work in the spring has the team hopeful that he’s going to make a leap in Year 2. One potential factor? Rookie tight end Dawson Knox, one of the few true two-way tight ends in this year’s draft class, could make an impact right away, based on what the Bills have seen thus far.

• PFT’s report (which is accurate) that coaches pushed back on being responsible for pass-interference challenges inside two minutes and overtime is interesting, because it’s one reason why (in addition to the Hail Mary problem), back in March, the competition committee initially made these part of the normal review process (which goes to the booth in those situations). Of course, that we’re here was a result of the coaches being worried that making the booth responsible would create a free-throws-at-the-end-of-a-basketball game type situation with delays in the action. And so everyone has officially tied themselves in a knot. I personally think the league should just give the coaches what they (mostly) want—a full-time sky judge. Since it’s too late for that … I don’t know. And they haven’t defined a Hail Mary yet, for that matter.

• To wrap up, I did ask Norv Turner when we talked yesterday about preserving Cam Newton’s health. Here’s what he said: “I think Cam’s competitiveness is always going to be an issue. He’s been able to physically do whatever he wants to do his whole life. And anytime you have something taken away, and for hopefully just a short time, not playing the last two weeks [of 2018], going through that process, I think deep down you evaluate things. I know Cam’s not going to change the way he plays. He’s going to go at it the way he has. So the question is how we can protect him from himself with what we do and when we do it. And we’ve got a lot of playmakers, guys that are going to grow this year and step up and help him. So the biggest thing for us is having him understand that he doesn’t have to do it all, that he has guys all around him that are capable of doing a lot.” And Norv’s right. The Panthers may have as good a skill group around Newton as he’s ever had. So I’d translate this as to say they’d love to get him to play a little more point guard in the fall, and a little less power forward.

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