It's kind of ironic that this year's Super Bowl festivities took place in the City That Never Sleeps, mostly because the NFL is the league with a season that is likewise always awake.
From the moment the clock struck zero on Super Bowl XLVIII to the moment the 2014 season officially kicks off, you will be inundated with a never-ending supply of speculation. It starts with the draft process, during which young men barely old enough to buy alcohol will be poked and prodded from early February all the way to early May.
And, obviously, no job is ever safe in the NFL.
Every year, you can't blame the common fan for waiting until their newest copy of Madden arrives before catching up on all the player movement. Peyton Manning was jobless two years ago. Today he's coming off playing his third Super Bowl of his career.
You never know what's going to happen around these parts, which makes it both exhilarating and incredibly frustrating as a fan. You're better off buying a Bernie Kosar throwback and just calling it a day, Browns fans.
Because of that, almost all the fires being stoked on the rumor mill are worthy of being checked out. With that in mind, here's a look at all the latest rumblings from across the NFL.
Kirk Cousins Open to Trade?
Don't worry, you can say it. We're all thinking it. Oh, come on. Fine, I'll do it.
Well...duh. Of course Kirk Cousins wants to be traded. He's a member of perhaps the most dysfunctional franchise in professional sports, a member of a locker room whose composition became so obviously toxic by the end of the season that it made Cleveland's coaching search look competent by comparison.
And Cousins is the backup quarterback. Of course he'd love a change of scenery.
Nevertheless, ESPN's Adam Schefter spoke to someone close to the situation, who confirmed Cousins has informed the Redskins of his semi-obvious desire:
With WASH anointing RGIII as its starting QB, Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is open to being traded, per sources. Already has told team that, too— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 2, 2014
Now, where Cousins will potentially land is another question entirely.
The Cleveland Browns are likely an option, as Schefter notes, with Kyle Shanahan joining new head coach Mike Pettine's staff as the offensive coordinator. Shanahan was obviously part of the staff that drafted Cousins and has helped develop him. Don't be shocked if you hear Cleveland—quite obviously in need of a long-term solution at quarterback—linked as an option.
Likewise, don't be surprised if Shanahan tells the Browns to pass entirely. Coaches love players with whom they have a relationship, but the Shanahan-Cousins duo didn't exactly produce stellar results in 2013.
Is Kirk Cousins an NFL starting QB?
Cousins regressed mightily after promising appearances as a rookie, by some measures being the worst quarterback in the NFL. Football Outsiders' DVOA metric measured Cousins 45th out of the 45 signal-callers to attempt 100 or more passes—and it wasn't particularly close. Brandon Weeden, the loudly and oft-derided Cleveland Browns quarterback, was nearly eight percentage points worse than Cousins.
That's not exactly someone who engenders "must-start" status. Nor, at age 25 and as a former fourth-round pick, does he exactly have the pedigree to demand a chance to start.
The Redskins didn't invest much in him, relatively speaking, but Mike Shanahan's decision to start him for the last three games of the season may have torpedoed what was once a robust trade value.
"Several" Dolphins Players Want Change of Scenery
It's strange to think just how quickly the Jonathan Martin story got lost in the midseason NFL shuffle. Martin was interviewed by former Colts and Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy on NBC Sports Network's Pro Football Talk program last week, and it felt like forever since his bullying story broke. As if it happened in 2010 or something. That's how fast the news cycle moves these days (say that in your grandpa's voice for full effect).
That's not to make light of Martin's situation—not in the slightest. It's to note that, while the Dolphins took off and nearly made the playoffs in the aftermath of the controversy, they are still a highly dysfunctional organization.
The remnants of the 2013 season were likely even more stark than what we were made to believe, and the ugly culture fostered in Miami that Martin spoke of still exists (h/t ESPN's James Walker). Remember, Martin was clear that Richie Incognito wasn't some lone actor of hate; it was prevalent throughout the team.
So, that's not exactly the best work environment.
And the man under whose watch this happened—though it should be noted Martin said he never told the coaching staff—is still employed. And Joe Philbin will still be employed heading into the 2014 season.
Again, this isn't working at Disney. It's not exactly shocking, then, that Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reported last week that multiple Dolphins players would like a change of scenery:
I've been told that several Dolphins players have already privately expressed that they want out of this situation. Real consequences coming— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) January 26, 2014
It's impossible to speculate on a word as vague as "several," and Beasley did not indicate which players may want to continue their careers elsewhere. Veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace, who joined the Dolphins in 2013 after four years with the consistently well-regarded Steelers organization, has expressed his concern publicly.
Only Wallace's concern seems more about his own counting stats than any cultural mumbo-jumbo.
Wallace said, per Dan Hanzus of NFL.com:
We have to. Definitely have got to get the deep ball going. That's the difference between winning and losing a couple games. I should have had 15 or 20 more touchdowns. And that's being modest. If you press me, you have no shot to cover me. Once I get you to stop your feet, it's over.
While Wallace is venturing into hyperbole, Miami's offense often felt stagnant in 2013. It was neither great nor mind-numbingly terrible, finishing 18th in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. Philbin having a job also strikes me as curious, considering the level of media scrutiny that's going to come with every one of his struggles from here on out.
So, yes. The Dolphins sound super healthy right now, you guys.
CJ2K in Need of a New Job?
One of my five favorite personal memes the past couple seasons has been calling Chris Johnson CJ.2K. Not because it's particularly clever (it, quite clearly, is not) or out of any personal grudge to Chris Johnson, the running back or the person.
It was merely because the OG nickname was incredibly boring, and I wanted a way to not-so-subtly make fun of the Titans for paying franchise-player money to a running back.
NFL team-building tip No. 1: Do not pay quarterback money to a running back.
It (Adrian Peterson aside) almost never works out. Then you go compound the problem by paying Shonn Greene more than $3 million per season, because why the hell not?
Paying Chris Johnson is how you wind up with three full years of Akeem Ayers. Given the success teams like the Saints and others have had using relatively minimal funds on running backs, this seems like a trend that should proliferate around the league more than it actually has.
Still, I think it's time to retire the CJ.2K nickname permanently. For one, we learned last week that Johnson played through almost the entire 2013 season while dealing with a torn meniscus. Pretty hard to make fun of a guy for toughing out 13 games of football with a busted up knee when it would keep me hobbled for a month—and I write from a computer for a living.
So there's that. There is also the fact that Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports is reporting the Titans and Johnson are due for a divorce; the team is looking to get out of that aforementioned robust contract.
Johnson is due a $8 million base salary for 2014 and will have a cap charge of $10 million. Given his dead money only amounts to $4 million for next season, Tennessee will smartly either cut Johnson or ask him to take a pay cut.
Given the nature of NFL salaries, Johnson will decline.
At age 28, this is his last chance at anything resembling "big" money in guarantees. Going onto the open market coming off knee surgery is never ideal, but he's still a 1,000-yard rusher and his representation will almost certainly use the injury as an excuse for his down performance.
That beats the possible alternative of hitting the market a year later at age 29, having devalued himself by taking a pay cut and quite possibly coming off another down season.
As for a potential landing spot, the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Browns stand out as running back-needy teams. If Johnson finds the market bare, he and Le'Veon Bell could be an interesting thunder-lightning deal, though it remains to be seen whether the Pittsburgh Steelers have the funds or the interest.
Now, while we wait, I'll be sitting here mourning the only thing that's entertained me about the Titans during the Mike Munchak era.
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