Giants Notes: Beckham, Apple, D-Line

Now that Odell Beckham Jr. has reported to the team, it’s time for the Giants to pay the star wide receiver, Steve Serby of the New York Post opines. Ultimately, he thinks that they’ll get a deal done, even though they do not want to give the impression that they are fearful of a potential Beckham holdout.

For now, Beckham is under contract for one more season at a rate of $8.5MM. A new deal would cost the Giants significantly more and could eclipse Antonio Brown‘s position-leading $17MM/year average. If Beckham shows that he’s on the same page with the Giants’ new regime, it’s hard to see a scenario where they do not get a deal done, even if it costs nearly $100MM in total.

Here’s more on the G-Men:

  • The Giants upgraded several position groups this offseason, including quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and offensive line. However, they have yet to improve at tight end, defensive line, cornerback, and safety, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes. The absence of Jason Pierre-Paul on the defensive line is particularly glaring after the Giants shipped him to the Bucs without an obvious replacement, though Damon Harrison will return to anchor the three-man front.
  • Last year was rocky, to say the least, for former first-round pick Eli Apple. However, the cornerback says that he has been assured by GM Dave Gettleman & Co. that he has a “clean slate” with the team (via John Healy of the New York Daily News). Apple has two years to go on his rookie contract with cap numbers of $4.132MM and $4.821MM. If Apple plays up to par in 2018, the Giants may consider exercising his fifth-year option, which would keep him under team control through the 2020 season.

NFL Approves David Tepper’s Panthers Purchase

No surprise here. On Tuesday, NFL owners voted to approve hedge fund manager David Tepper as the new owner of the Panthers.

Tepper is no stranger to the NFL community thanks to his time as a minority owner of the Steelers, so his approval at the Atlanta meetings was viewed as a mere formality. Between now and the finalization of his purchase – which is expected to take place in July – he’ll sell his 5% stake in the Steelers.

Tepper is paying $2.2 billion in cash for the club, plus another $75MM in deferred payment, bringing the total purchase price to a league record $2.275 billion. Tepper’s bid may not have been the highest of the bunch as there have been rumblings of bids in the $2.5 billion range.

The transaction sets a new watermark for the league and bodes well for future club values as television rights are expected to increase. The country’s relaxation of sports gambling laws should also aid the league’s growth and the next owner to sell his franchise could conceivably receive $2.5 billion.

The sale to Tepper also allows the league to quickly move on from the Jerry Richardson scandal of 2017. On Tuesday, Richardson will give a farewell address to his colleagues.

Johnny Manziel: I Was “Close” To NFL Deal

Johnny Manziel is heading north of the border to suit up with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Before agreeing to play in Canada, Manziel believes that he was on the cusp of landing an NFL contract.

I think it was close,” Manziel said (via PFT). “I did reach out and talk to multiple teams and coaches I had met in my first couple years in the league.

Ultimately, Manziel says he did not want to squander his opportunity to get things going in the CFL given the time that has passed since his last professional snap. In theory, Manziel could have waited for something to materialize in the NFL, or for a non-binding short-term deal in the Alliance of American Football in 2019, but he did not want to sit on the sidelines any longer.

It was really the wait,” he said. “I didn’t want to get into something down the road where I’m waiting until August, waiting until training camps open, and then if something doesn’t transpire I’m getting here late.”

Manziel agreed to sign a two-year deal with the Ti-Cats – the minimum length of a deal in the CFL – and it contains no possible outs for the NFL, as stipulated by league rules. In theory, the Ti-Cats could grant a request for release between now and 2020, but they are under no obligation to do so.

For now, it looks like Manziel will not resurface in the NFL before the end of this decade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jets’ Teddy Bridgewater

For the first time in two years, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is participating fully in OTAs (Twitter link via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com). Bridgewater took the field on Tuesday morning as the No. 2 QB behind last year’s starter Josh McCown. The early word is encouraging as he ran a few bootleg passes and showed no signs of favoring his surgically-repaired knee. 

[RELATED: Jets’ Terrelle Pryor Dealing With Injury]

The Jets signed Bridgewater to a one-year, $6MM in March with the potential to make significantly more based on playtime and performance. However, the $500K signing bonus in the deal represents the only guaranteed portion of the deal. Considering the presence of McCown and No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold, it seems like Bridgewater will have to show that he is no less than 100% healthy in order to keep his place on the roster.

During his two years as the Vikings’ starting quarterback, Bridgewater was competent, but not a world-beater. In 28 starts, Bridgewater completed 65% of his passes and averaged 3,075 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Since 2015, he has attempted just two passes in live action.

While Bridgewater was able to take the field on Tuesday morning, fellow newcomer Terrelle Pryor was not a participant thanks to an ankle injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets’ Terrelle Pryor Dealing With Injury

Jets wide receiver Terrelle Pryor suffered another ankle injury this offseason and was unable to join his team for OTAs on Tuesday morning, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets. The severity of the injury is not yet known, but it’s not a great sign for the Jets newcomer after he underwent ankle surgery in November. 

Pryor joined the Jets on a one-year, $4.5MM deal this offseason after a disappointing year with the Redskins. Pryor had just 20 catches, 240 yards, and one touchdown in nine games for Washington last year, but the Jets took a small gamble on him with the hope that he could reprise his 2016 showing with Cleveland when he posted more than 1,000 yards receiving.

On paper, the Jets have a solid group of receivers headlined by Pryor, Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, and a healthy Quincy Enunwa. However, Pryor’s health and Anderson’s ongoing legal issues could put the Jets behind the 8 ball as the season starts.

If Pryor or Anderson miss time, that could open up opportunities for veteran Andre Roberts as well as 2017 picks ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen. For a complete look at the Jets’ depth chart, you can check out their page on Roster Resource.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill Healthy For OTAs

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be a full participant in OTAs on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). It’s an encouraging sign for Tannehill, who has recovered well from a torn ACL. 

Of course, it has been a bumpy road for Tannehill over the last couple of years. Towards the end of 2016, a partially torn ACL took the QB out of action. Then, Tannehill suffered a complete ACL tear, which ended his 2017 season before it even began. The Dolphins were not quite sure about what Tannehill would be able to do heading into Tuesday, but doctors have given him the green light to do it all in this phase of OTAs.

It’s no exaggeration to say the Dolphins’ season hinges on Tannehill’s health. Last year, the Dolphins scrambled to replace the QB and wound up luring Jay Cutler out of retirement on an expensive one-year deal. The results were underwhelming as the Dolphins went 6-10, including a 6-8 record in Cutler’s 14 starts. The Dolphins have backstopped Cutler with Brock Osweiler for this year, but it’s hard to imagine Osweiler performing much better than Cutler.

Tannehill played 13 games during the 2016 season, completing 67.1-percent of his passes for 2,995 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The advanced numbers at Pro Football Focus ranked him as just the 16th best quarterback in the league that season, but that’s a step up from Cutler’s No. 35 ranking from last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Julio, Panthers, Bucs, Rams

As expected, Julio Jones reportedly did not attend the opening day of Falcons organized team activities, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

He adds head coach Dan Quinn will address the situation on Tuesday and did not respond to questions about the reports that Jones wants an update to his contract. Though he is absent, the two sides appear amenable and are likely to work things out in due time.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio speculates Jones, who has three years left on his current deal, could be trying to get the team’s attention after Matt Ryan‘s new contract is set to pay the quarterback ($30MM) twice the amount that Jones is to receive ($14.25MM). His current deal slots him in as the No. 8 receiver on the pay scale, behind players like Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins and Davante Adams.

Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap says that the word “update” could mean the Falcons moving money forward in Jones’ contract to make the team’s key player happy. On a team in win-now mode, the move could be seen as avoiding potential chemistry issues in the locker room. A recent example of this, according to Fitzgerald, is a similar situation with Antonio Brown and the Steelers.

“The Steelers twice moved money forward in Brown’s contract to prevent a player from being unhappy. In 2015 the Steelers moved $2 million from 2016 up to 2015 and in 2016 they moved $4 million from 2017 into 2016. Overall the team fronted him $4 million and then extended him in 2017.”

Regardless of what the course of action Atlanta chooses to pursue, it is unlikely to hinder it from fielding one of the top three receivers in the league in 2018.  

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Panthers sale to David Tepper is expected to go through without “any surprises,” Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told ESPN’s David Newton. Tepper needs 24 votes — 23 with the absence of former Panthers GM Jerry Richardson — on Tuesday when the 31 NFL owners convene. Richardson is unlikely to attend, but nothing has been set in stone.
  • Florida Football Insiders posted a list of potential free agent targets for the Buccaneers, and named DeMarco Murray and Kenny Vaccaro as possibilities. Murray would make for a solid one-two punch with rookie running back Ronald Jones, while Vaccaro would bring a veteran presence to a shaky pass defense.
  • Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, the Rams‘ fifth-round pick, underwent surgery on his foot and is expected to return sometime during training camp, head coach Sean McVay told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry (Twitter link). Okoronkwo starred at Oklahoma in 2017, earning Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big 12 after logging 17.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

Russell Shepard To Sign With Giants

After being released by the Panthers early last week, Russell Shepard didn’t need long to find a new home. The wide receiver took to Instagram on Monday and announced he is signing with the Giants. It’s a one-year deal worth $1.3M that can be worth up to $2M with incentives, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Shepard joins a loaded offense that includes Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Ingram and first-round pick Saquon Barkley. The fourth-year pass catcher likely slots in as the team’s No. 3 or 4 receiver with the newly signed Cody Latimer.

Shepard signed a three-year deal with the Panthers last year, but his time in Carolina came to an end after just one season. The Panthers approached him about a pay cut, but he refused, leading to his release. Shepard never found a groove with the team in 2017, logging just 17 receptions for 202 yards and one touchdown.

He now catches on in New York, whose new general manager Dave Gettleman was the one who inked the receiver to the deal in Carolina. The Giants will need to make a corresponding move once they make the move official. No financial terms have been made available.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Sign Chris Herndon

The Jets announced they have agreed to terms with fourth-round tight end out of Miami Chris Herndon on Monday. That leaves just first-round quarterback Sam Darnold as the lone player from the team’s draft class to be signed. 

Herndon starred out of the slot in 2017 as a junior, catching 35-of-43 targets to lead all college tight ends with an 81.4% catch rate from the slot. He tallied 40 total receptions in his final season and found the end zone four times.

He suffered a knee injury in his final collegiate game and has been limited throughout the offseason. Jets head coach Todd Bowles said the team expects to take it slow with the athletic pass catcher, who did take part in some drills during the team’s rookie minicamp.

The Jets don’t have much at the tight end position, with Eric Tomlinson and Clive Walford as the only players projected above Herndon at the position, according to roster resource.

 

Le’Veon Bell To Skip OTAs

In a long-expected move, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will reportedly not attend organized team activities which begin on Tuesday, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes

Again, this is not a shocker. Once Pittsburgh franchised the star running back for a second straight season it was anticipated that he would not be showing up as he seeks a new deal. The two sides have until July to reach a long-term contract.

As of late March, contract talks were on hold, and it’s unclear if the two sides have resumed negotiations since. Bell has already said he has no plans to sit out the 2018 season, but he will likely stay away until the preseason is concluded. In 2017, Bell reportedly turned down a contract offer that included $42MM in the first three years of the deal. If he remains on the franchise tag, Bell could earn $14.5MM in 2018.

In an interview with Fowler in March, Bell said: “We’re not coming to a number we both agree on — they are too low, or I guess they feel I’m too high. I’m playing for strictly my value to the team. That’s what I’m asking. I don’t think I should settle for anything less than what I’m valued at.”

Bell has been among the league’s best backs since entering the NFL in 2013. He has three 1,000-yard rushing campaigns to his name and has also added 312 receptions. The three-time Pro Bowl back and two-time First Team All-Pro will undoubtedly be looking for a top-of-the-line contract that exceeds the $41.25MM over five seasons that Devonta Freeman is currently earning.

 

NFL News & NFL Rumors