Burning Questions That Must Still Be Answered This Offseason
As much as the NFL draft helped teams fill holes and answer questions, there remain a number of significant developments on the board.
- How much will the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon be permitted to play this season, if at all?
- What is Rob Gronkowski's health status?
- Is Jimmy Graham headed for a holdout amid a franchise-tag contract dispute?
- Who the heck are the Houston Texans planning to start at quarterback?
- And, what does that mean for veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson?
- Is tight end Jermichael Finley going to play football again?
- And where will unrestricted free agent Santonio Holmes be signing?
- Finally, how are the Carolina Panthers going to solve their wide receiver issues, particularly with Cam Newton coming off offseason ankle surgery?
We address each of these unanswered burning questions thoroughly in this slideshow.
How Many Games Will Wide Receiver Josh Gordon Be Suspended For?
The potential Josh Gordon season-long suspension was a bombshell dropped by ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Don Van Natta Jr. before the second day of the NFL draft. The questions for whether he still will be suspended and for how long remain out there.
When the Browns didn't draft a receiver, there was hope they were confident Gordon would skirt the allegations or at least have the suspension reduced. Also, there were reports the NFL will re-examine the penalty for testing positive for marijuana use, which might be a "glimmer of hope" for Gordon, as ESPN.com's Pat McManamon writes.
The Browns did address their wide receiver position finally, signing Dallas Cowboys castoff Miles Austin on Thursday. Also, former Chicago Bear Earl Bennett is reportedly going to be brought in, as Jake Jones of KFBB-TV in Montana tweeted.
So, it is likely where there is smoke—pun intended—there is fire on Gordon. I recently drafted Gordon in the sixth round of a fantasy football magazine analysts draft, so there is some expectation here the suspension won't be for a full season. Sports Illustrated's Peter King expects the ban to be somewhere between eight and 16 games.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is sticking by Gordon, saying during a Pro Football Hall of Fame luncheon speech, per Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Josh is learning and growing and improving as a person. He's learning how to work hard. He's learning how to be a professional. Josh is a smart young man. All of us have made mistakes when we were that age. We're counting on Josh being a good football player for the Browns for a long time to come.
We spend a lot of time with all of our core players and Josh is obviously one of those. We have all spent a lot of time talking to Josh, and I'm not going to comment on the situation, but I'll say this, but I've been very pleased with his professional growth over the last year and the way he handles himself.
So, Haslam will see how all this unfolds in the coming weeks just like the rest of us.
What Is Rob Gronkowski's Health Status for Next Season?
Another year, another series of months waiting on a return to health by tight end Rob Gronkowski. The New England Patriots might not be so worried about Gronk's recovery from an ACL knee reconstruction, because they did not draft a tight end last weekend.
The good news is there are no setbacks with the knee surgery like there were with the arm surgeries the year prior.
Gronk said on WAAF-FM radio in Boston, per ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, he is coming along:
I'm just improving every day right now. I'm working hard every day to put myself in the best situation so that I'm ready. ...
When it's the same thing 15 weeks straight, it starts to get tough, but you just have to stay mentally tough and stay physically strong and keep going in and keep grinding.
It's been a while now, and I'm just super excited to get this season rolling and get back out there on the field. I know it's another few more months away, so I have more time to keep on recovering and keep on getting in shape.
And a few more months of us left wondering.
Will Jimmy Graham Be Paid Like a Wide Receiver or a Tight End?
Jimmy Graham was slapped with the franchise tag by the New Orleans Saints, but he is the last of the players tagged this offseason to sign at least a one-year tender with his current team. The delay is related to whether he belongs assigned to the tight end position in terms of the NFL's contract value for franchise players.
The NFLPA has filed the expected grievance, per USA Today's Tom Pelissero, to argue he lines up at wide receiver more than tight end and therefore should be eligible to earn at least $12.3 million for a one-year tender. That is the number for a wide receiver as opposed to just $7.05 million for a tight end, according to ESPN's Mike Triplett.
Triplett tweets the grievance hearing will be June 17-18. The decision will help reclassify the "move" tight end as a position separate from the traditional in-line-tight end spot.
Who Is the Houston Texans' Starting Quarterback?
The Houston Texans got a lot better with their 2014 draft, but most of it was on the defense side of the ball with No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and third-rounder run-stuffer Louis Nix III. They didn't address the quarterback until selecting Pitt's Tom Savage in Round 4.
So, Ryan Fitzpatrick fans—do those even exist?—get amped up!
It is hard to believe the Texans would spoil the excitement of their draft haul with the disappointment of relying on Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback.
Fitzpatrick will compete with Savage and incumbents Case Keenum and T.J. Yates at this point. Of course, new head coach Bill O'Brien could revisit a Ryan Mallett trade after OTAs if he doesn't like what he sees.
Bleacher Report's Sean ODonnell chronicles the Mallett trade chatter here.
Andre Johnson on Houston: 'Is This Still the Place for Me?'
The previous slide's burning question led to this one: Wide receiver Andre Johnson wants out...or he at least wants a quarterback who can get him the ball. Who would blame him? Johnson will be 33 this season and won't be around long enough to help raise a young quarterback.
Johnson spoke out about his future at a media event this week, according to the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith.
Nobody's been here as long as I have. You just kind of look at things; I've been thinking about things this offseason, and I just kind of wonder sometimes, "Is this still the place for me?" ...
When you bring a new coach in, you go through a rebuilding process. Some people say it's not. Some people say it's a quick fix. Everybody has their own opinion. But I've been through the situation more than once. ...
I just look at my career...I've only been to the playoffs twice. I think we've only had three winning seasons. I don't think any player wants to experience that. I think over time it can become very frustrating. And this offseason has been very frustrating for me; beginning of the offseason, I should say. That's just kind of where I'm at right now.
Read between the lines here: Johnson is not excited about the Texans' unaddressed quarterback situation.
Where Is Tight End Jermichael Finley Headed If Not Back to Green Bay?
If you asked the question about Jermichael Finley's future before the calendar turned to 2014, you might have gotten "retirement" as the most appropriate and common answer. Now, it seems the question is not if Finley will try to play in 2014, but where?
The third-round selection of California tight end Richard Rodgers, no relation to Aaron Rodgers, has no bearing on Finley's status with the Packers, general manager Ted Thompson told Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Per NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is hoping to have Finley back in the fold, as he said on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday:
In my mind, he's a Green Bay Packer, hopefully. He's going through a tough medical situation that we all recognize is a serious injury. My understanding is he's doing everything and beyond to get himself ready, and we'll continue to watch that.
Finley will still have to be cleared after his career-threatening neck injury, but that just might be a mere matter of time.
Who Will Take a Chance on Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes?
Santonio Holmes is not necessarily old. Heck, he isn't even old by NFL standards or even wide receiver standards. At 30, he has a couple more decent seasons of production left in him...if his body is up for it.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported the unrestricted free agent Holmes was going to pick a team to sign with after the draft. That time is now.
The Browns chose Miles Austin for the time being. If Josh Gordon's suspension is more like 16 games as opposed to eight, Holmes might become an option there.
What Is the Health Status of the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton?
The Carolina Panthers clearly are expecting Cam Newton to be ready for the start of the season, but considering their entirely overhauled wide receiver corps, the question is how much time will Newton get to work with them?
The Associated Press' Steve Reed tweeted earlier this week Newton is out of his walking boot after ankle surgery. That is the good news. The bad news is it still might be the likes of Derek Anderson and Joe Webb working with new wideouts Kelvin Benjamin (drafted in Round 1), Jerricho Cotchery (free agency), Jason Avant (free agency) and Tiquan Underwood (free agency).
That is a motley crew right there. Getting them up to speed for Newton will be paramount to the Panthers' success next season; it will also be a job left to Newton's backups in minicamp, OTAs and at least part of training camp.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.
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