Safety David Bruton Retires

David Bruton is done with football. The former Broncos and Redskins safety confirmed that he is not seeking work for the 2017 season. David Bruton

I’m burnt-out, definitely worry about my health,” Bruton said (via ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold). “Another season was cut short by a concussion [in 2016] — that’s six. I’m a guy who likes to use his brain. Especially back in school, I need as many brain cells as possible with all these science classes. It came down to health, and I’ve definitely had my time in the league. I’m ready to move on.”

The longtime special-teams captain of the Broncos also acknowledged that he had less passion for the game than when he started out. After playing 108 career games – 104 with the Broncos, four with the Redskins – Bruton is appreciative of his time in the NFL, but he’s also had enough.

In 2015, Bruton set career highs in several categories, including tackles (43), interceptions (two), and passes defended (seven). He left Denver the next year, joining the Redskins on a three-year, $9MM deal prior to the 2016 season. Unfortunately, a concussion put him out of commission in October, leading the Redskins to release him in December. Bruton auditioned for the Ravens after getting cut, but he tells Legwold that the audition “did not go well at all, because I just didn’t have it in me anymore to do it.”

We here at PFR wish Bruton the best in retirement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Packers, Vikings, Falcons, Cards

After taking a swing around the AFC earlier today, let’s take a look at a few NFC notes:

  • Teddy Bridgewater is likely to begin camp on the Active/PUP list, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter) the rehabbing quarterback has enjoyed some productive training sessions in Florida recently. The 24-year-old passer has not been cleared to practice but did do some throwing while at Vikings OTAs in May. Apparently, Bridgewater’s progressed further in between minicamp and training camp. But he’s still less than a year removed from the gruesome knee injury that changed the course of his career.
  • The Packers added defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois earlier this year to bolster a defensive line that badly needed reinforcements, and as Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com writes, Green Bay has been interested in the LSU product for years. The club wanted to sign him after the 2012 season, but Jean-Francois joined the Colts instead before moving on to Washington. The Redskins released him in March, clearing the way for his one-year pact with the Packers.
  • Patrick Peterson‘s running mate at corner has served as one of the main discussion items of the Cardinals‘ offseason. Bruce Arians said Sunday (via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com) the position remains open and likely won’t be decided until the regular season begins. Arians, though, praised the work of Justin Bethel (Twitter link, via Urban) — less than a year after the coach labeled the corner a “failure in progress.” The Cardinals could still be in the market for a veteran corner, Urban writes, but as of now the battle is between Bethel and second-year man Brandon Williams.
  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and assistant head coach/offensive pass game coordinator Raheem Morris have been close for years, and Quinn believes Morris will get another head coaching job in the NFL, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. Morris, of course, coached the division-rival Buccaneers from 2009-11 and compiled a disappointing 17-31 record. Nonetheless, Quinn said Morris is more than equipped to handle a head coaching position and hopes he will get his next chance in the near future. Morris declined to talk about his head coaching ambitions out of respect for Quinn and the team.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report

Browns, Jabrill Peppers Agree To Terms

The Browns and safety Jabrill Peppers agreed to terms on a customary four-year rookie contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Cleveland now has its three first-rounders and entire draft class locked up.

It’s a $10.3MM deal with a signing bonus of approximately $5.6MM, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports, adding Peppers signed the contract.

There are now only three unsigned first round picks from this draft class — 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas, Titans wide receiver Corey Davis and Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley. Raiders second round pick Obi Melifonwu also remains unsigned.

Guaranteed money was an issue between the Browns and the No. 25 overall pick, and Cabot specifies the holdup came from the guarantees in Year 4 of the deal, but Peppers’ camp has since found the terms agreeable. The Michigan product is signed before the Browns broke for camp. Cleveland begins its camp practice sessions on Thursday.

Peppers is expected to compete immediately for a starting job. The Browns did not have much in the way of safety depth prior to the draft. Now, they have Peppers and former Jets first-rounder Calvin Pryor in the fold.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Larry Fitzgerald Talks Retirement Plans

Despite Larry Fitzgerald putting together a 107-reception season in 2016, he was not certain to return for what will be his 14th NFL campaign. But the perennial Pro Bowler decided to come back in February.

The Cardinals star wideout addressed his status on Sunday as he prepares for another training camp.

Fitzgerald, who is set for his age-34 season, said he does not want to see his production diminish to the point he has to retire. The former No. 3 overall pick in 2004 went three consecutive seasons without a 1,000-yard campaign before reigniting in 2015 (109 catches, 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns) and playing a key role in Arizona’s NFC championship game push.

The end is never really pretty for elite athletes,” Fitzgerald said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. “It never looks good for the most time. You watch Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform or see Tony Dorsett playing for the Denver Broncos or Shaquille O’Neal playing for the Boston Celtics. It’s weird because you’re used to seeing them play at their most dominant stage, or Willie Mays running around with bad knees 20 years in.

“It’s not pretty but for me, I really want to be able to play and do things at a high level and be able to walk away and still be someone who can play at a high level.”

Fitzgerald is the only wideout still playing from the ’04 class. At this point, he’s the most experienced receiver in football. (Former teammate Anquan Boldin, though, is still contemplating a return for a 15th season. He’s visiting the Bills Monday.)

Injuries have not been an issue for Fitz; he’s missed just two games across the past nine seasons. Health will play into Fitzgerald’s retirement decision, but he refused to say 2017 would be his last.

I feel good right now. When that changes, I’ll let you know. … “I don’t really make any decisions based on anybody else. I never really have. I don’t know what the future holds. That’s why this year is so much more important because we don’t have to think about what we’re doing after Feb. 4.”

The motivation of being part of a Super Bowl-winning team serves as the driving force behind Fitzgerald, a 10-time Pro Bowler, deciding to come back.

That’s huge. That’s the only reason I’m playing at this point. From a personal standpoint and the things I’ve accomplished, they’re fine. But the thing that you will say is out of you control because you’re in a team sport, is a championship.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Teddy Bridgewater Likely To Land On PUP List To Start Camp

Mike Zimmer expects Teddy Bridgewater to begin training camp on the PUP list, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

The Vikings quarterback returned to the practice field in May, nine months after his gruesome knee injury sidetracked his career. Tomasson notes this re-emergence included Bridgewater throwing to wide receivers, but the former first-round pick wasn’t cleared to practice. The team will begin practice Thursday from Mankato, Minn.

Minnesota placing Bridgewater on the Active/PUP list does not mean its former starter is shelved for the first six weeks of the season. Were Bridgewater to remain on the PUP once the regular season begins, though, it would. And then the situation would become complicated.

Bridgewater landing on the Reserve/PUP list come Week 1 could cause his contract to toll, meaning he’d still be attached to his 2017 Vikings salary ($2.18MM) in 2018 instead of hitting free agency. The Vikings did not pick up Bridgewater’s fifth-year option. A report surfaced in May Bridgewater’s camp would fight a PUP designation, if it’s believed the passer could pass a physical.

But that is several weeks away. Tomasson reports Bridgewater, who wore a knee brace when he took the field to throw passes earlier this offseason, threw without a brace in a subsequent session.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Isaiah Crowell Hires Drew Rosenhaus

Isaiah Crowell and the Browns have been in discussions about a new contract for months, but there will be a new face in the middle of these negotiations. The fourth-year running back joined Drew Rosenhaus’ company, Rosenhaus Sports, the powerful agent tweeted Sunday.

Crowell parted ways with Universal Sports Management agents Robert Brown and Kevin Conner. Rosenahus also represents Joe Haden, but his most recent dealings with the Browns involved an interesting negotiation with Terrelle Pryor  one that saw the quarterback-turned-wideout depart Cleveland via modest one-year Washington deal, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes.

The Browns devoted considerable resources to upgrading their interior offensive line this offseason, which should benefit Crowell. The former UDFA rushed for a career-high 952 yards (4.8 per carry) without the likes of Kevin Zeitler or J.C. Tretter blocking for him. The Browns having signed that pair and extended Joel Bitonio should help Crowell be in a great position to become the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010.

Crowell joined Browns OTAs after signing his second-round RFA tender (worth $2.746MM) in May. The 24-year-old runner said in late May the sides were working to get a deal done, but nothing has transpired since, perhaps explaining Crowell’s decision to change representation.

Should no extension come Crowell’s way, he stands to be a UFA in 2018. Running back free agency forays are not what they used to be, but the Browns’ current starter would be one of the more intriguing backs to reach the market. The Browns, though, have more than $53MM in cap space after authorizing the offensive line pacts and top-market deals for Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey.

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Eagles Cut Dwayne Gratz

As the Eagles convene for training camp, the team made a few moves on Sunday. One of them was jettisoning fifth-year cornerback Dwayne Gratz.

Philadelphia announced the release of Gratz, whom the team signed late last season to a two-year deal. No guaranteed money was attached to Gratz’s $775K contract. The Eagles also placed Sidney Jones and Beau Allen on the Active/NFI list. Philly will meet for camp on Monday and begin practice Thursday.

The Eagles are the third team since October 2016 to part ways with Gratz. The Jaguars cut him in October, but Gratz didn’t make it to free agency when the Rams claimed him. However, Los Angeles cut Gratz as well after deploying him in three games. The Eagles signed him in advance of Week 15 last season. The 27-year-old corner did not play any games for Philly. Gratz functioned as a primary starter for the 2014 Jags but has otherwise been a backup.

Philly does not have a particularly deep cornerback contingent, but Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes (on Twitter) 2016 UDFA C.J. Smith and CFL import Aaron Grymes performed better than Gratz during offseason workouts.

Jones could still miss the season due to his Achilles injury, and Allen suffered a chest injury while working out this offseason. The defensive tackle who has served as a rotational player is not expected to be ready by Week 1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Eagles RB Ryan Mathews

While the Eagles are still expected to release Ryan Mathews, the veteran running back will likely stay on the club’s roster until at least August as he continues to recover from a neck injury, according to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer.Ryan Mathews (Vertical)

As Bowen has previously reported, Philadelphia needs to wait to cut Mathews until he’s healthy in order to avoid paying $1.1MM in injury protection. Mathews will still count for $1MM in dead money once he can pass a physical and is released, but that money will only count for salary cap purposes. No further cash will head Mathews’ way if the Eagles hold off on cutting him until he is fully recovered.

Mathews, 30, has often been effective on a per-play basis during his seven-year career, but injuries have limited his overall contributions. He’s appeared in all 16 games just once during his NFL tenure, started 14 games just twice, and has managed only 510 carries over the past three seasons. On the bright side, Mathews did average 4.6 yards per carry during that three-year span.

The Eagles have prepared for the eventual loss of Mathews by signing free agent LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal and drafting Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Byron Marshall comprise the rest of Philadelphia’s current backfield options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Rumors: Cowboys, Giants, Redskins

The NFL is reportedly wrapping up its investigation into Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, but franchise owner Jerry Jones stood behind Elliott when addressing the media earlier today, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com“I have reviewed everything and there is absolutely nothing – not one thing – that had anything to do with domestic violence,” Jones said. Last week, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported a “growing sense” that Elliott will face a league-imposed suspension. Elliott was never arrested or charged in the incident, but his accuser addressed her allegations in a statement today.

Here’s more from Dallas and the rest of the NFC East:

  • Echoing statements he made earlier this year, Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones reiterated his club’s desire to reach an extension with right guard Zack Martin, tweets Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “We’d love to get Zack Martin‘s [deal] done,” said Jones. “He’s an important part of our future…confident we’ll get something worked out.” The Cowboys plan to meet with Martin’s agent during training camp, per Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Dallas, which has already hammered out deals with left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick, controls Martin through 2018 via the fifth-year option. Martin, a 2016 All Pro, ranked as the second-best guard in the league a season ago, per Pro Football Focus.
  • With B.J. Goodson entrenched as the club’s starting middle linebacker, the Giants are unlikely to re-sign Kelvin Sheppard, reports Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. Sheppard, 29, started 11 games for New York last season, but was essentially a two-down player, as he saw action on only 40% of the team’s defensive snaps. Goodson, Jonathan Casillas, and Devon Kennard figure to serve as Big Blue’s starting ‘backers, with Kenan Robinson and J.T. Thomas serving as relatively high-priced reserves.
  • The Giants aren’t expected to reach an extension with guard Justin Pugh, as the fifth-year pro seemingly wants to reach the free agent market in 2018, as James Kratch of NJ.com writes. The upper echelon of the guard market has now hit the $12MM mark, and it’s possible Pugh could hit that barrier with another solid season. Pugh, a 55-game starter during his career, will earn $8.821MM next year, and Kratch believes the franchise tag (with a cost near $15MM) could be in play for 2018.
  • Free agent addition Brian Quick isn’t likely to act as one of the Redskins‘ top four wideouts next season, meaning his roster spot could be in danger, details John Keim of ESPN.com. If Quick isn’t a contributor on offense, he’d need to be a factor on special teams, something he hasn’t been throughout his career. Washington inked Quick on a minimum salary benefit contract that contained just $80K in guarantees, so cutting him wouldn’t represent much of a fiscal loss.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

5 Key Stories: 7/16/17 – 7/23/17

Panthers make a front office change. Carolina shocked the NFL world last week by firing general manager Dave Gettleman and re-hiring former GM Marty Hurney in an interim capacity. Gettleman was known to be a “brusque” contract negotiator, and his personality often rubbed others the wrong way. Hurney has worked quickly, as he’s already finalized a contract extension for guard Trai Turner and released tackle Michael Oher. New deals for linebacker Thomas Davis and tight end Greg Olsen could also be on the table, as Gettleman wasn’t inclined to address either veteran’s pact before his ouster.

No deals for remaining franchise players. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson all failed to reach extensions with their respective clubs by last week’s deadline, meaning all three will play out 2017 under one-year tenders. Washington claimed it offered Cousins $53MM in guarantees, but Cousins wants more time to evaluate the organization following this year’s front office changes. Bell, meanwhile, reportedly rejected a five-year, $60MM proposal from Pittsburgh.Ezekiel Elliott (Vertical)

Ezekiel Elliot saga nears a resolution. The NFL is wrapping up its investigation into Elliott, and has already shared its findings with the NFLPA and the Cowboys running back. A suspension would not only cost Elliott games, but money, as Dallas would have the right to recoup a portion of his signing bonus. Earlier today, Elliot’s domestic violence accuser addressed her allegations against the second-year pro. Meanwhile, Elliott was reportedly involved in a recent bar fight, but Dallas police are dropping their investigation due to a lack of evidence.

RG3 drawing free agent interest. Robert Griffin III could soon be joining a new club, as teams have reportedly expressed “mild” interest in the veteran quarterback. The only team to express public intrigue in Griffin so far this season had been the Seahawks, but they went in another direction by signing journeyman Austin Davis. Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report indicated NFL clubs are curious to see what RG3 has left to offer after numerous injuries have limited him in recent seasons.

Anquan Boldin takes a visit. The Bills are planning to work out Boldin on Monday as they seek a another receiver to add to their uninspiring pass-catching unit, which is currently lead by Sammy Watkins and second-round rookie Zay Jones. Boldin, 36, reportedly may seek to sign with a club that plays closer to his Florida residence. Perhaps seeking to avoid the grind of training camp, Boldin is apparently willing to wait for a new deal, and could look to ink a contract later in the offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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