Rounding Up the Latest NFL Buzz, Rumors and Analysis Heading out of Draft Window
These figure to be a tenuous few weeks before June for some around the NFL.
Josh Gordon is facing a season-long suspension, while Robert Mathis is humiliated by his own four-game ban. Andre Johnson might want out of Houston, and Cincinnati wants out of BenJarvus Green-Ellis' contract.
This is some of the buzz we dive into in a quick roundup of the week that was after the NFL draft.
Latest on Josh Gordon's Suspension Post-Draft
Here's what we know about Josh Gordon's looming suspension for his latest violation of the league's substance-abuse policy, as first reported by ESPN.com's T.J. Quinn and Don Van Natta Jr.: He is going to miss at least some time next season, perhaps all of it.
Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King speculates it will be from eight to 16 games, which could mean a reduction is coming from what should be a full-season ban after he was suspended two games a year ago. There is a "glimmer of hope," ESPN.com's Pat McManamon writes, the league will reduce the penalty for positive tests for marijuana.
While some might have seen this week's signings of Miles Austin and Earl Bennett as signals the Browns are preparing for the worst, the curious cut of once-promising Greg Little suggests Cleveland might feel it will get something out of Gordon in 2014.
Owner Jimmy Haslam stuck by Gordon's maturation in a Pro Football Hall of Fame luncheon speech this week (h/t Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer), as I wrote Saturday in Bleacher Report's NFL burning questions story:
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.
Indianapolis Colts Defensive End Robert Mathis Suspended for Four Games
From the NFL's leading receiver (in terms of yardage) to the NFL's sack leader: Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis was handed a four-game suspension for testing positive for Clomid, as Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted Friday.
Schefter reminded us Clomid is a masking agent former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez was once was suspended for.
Mathis will miss the season opener at the Denver Broncos, Week 2 home against the Philadelphia Eagles, Week 3 at the Jacksonville Jaguars and Week 4 home against the Tennessee Titans.
If you're keeping score, those are two of the most dangerous offenses in football out of the gate, followed by two division games against two vastly improved teams—particularly offensively—this offseason.
Mathis responded to the suspension with this statement, via Schefter from his Facebook page:
It is difficult for me to address the circumstances surrounding this suspension because they involve very personal medical information, but it is very important to me that my fans, particularly young people, understand what did and did not occur.
Like many families, my wife and I faced fertility challenges, and I sought medical assistance. I specifically asked the doctor if the medication he prescribed for me would present a problem for NFL drug testing, and unfortunately, he incorrectly told me that it would not. I made the mistake of not calling the NFL or NFLPA to double check before I took the medication at the end of last season.
The union has worked very closely with me to present all of the facts and medical records for consideration of discipline that does not include a suspension because of the unique facts of my case, but the Commissioner refused the request. I am deeply saddened that this situation will prevent me from contributing to my team for four games, and I regret that I didn't cross check what my doctor told me before I took the medication.
I hope that my fans will understand the unique circumstances involved here and continue to know that I am a man of integrity who would never intentionally circumvent the performance enhancing substance policy agreed to by the NFL and my union. The incredible blessing of this very upsetting situation is that, after I took the medication very briefly at the end of last season, we learned that my wife is expecting a baby.
We are thrilled that we will be welcoming a new member in several months, but I apologize to my teammates, coaches and Colts fans that I will not be able to contribute to my team for the first four weeks of the 2014 season. I will work extremely hard during that time to stay in top football shape and will be prepared to contribute immediately upon my return.
The NFL responded to Mathis' statement with one of their own, as The Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder (subscription required) wrote:
As Mr. Mathis' agent acknowledged (Friday), his client failed to follow the protocols in the policy that the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon to address precisely these kinds of claims. That policy also prescribes the disciplinary consequences of a positive test. The policy does not provide—nor should it provide—for the commissioner to override the policy's procedures and assess discipline on an after-the-fact, ad hoc basis. Here Mr. Mathis actually withdrew his appeal and accepted discipline at the union's suggestion. His hearing took place only after the Players Association requested that the appeal be reinstated. ...
The drug for which Mr. Mathis tested positive is not approved by the FDA for fertility in males and is a performance-enhancing drug that has been prohibited for years. Importantly, Mr. Mathis did not consult with the policy's Independent Administrator, a physician jointly approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Nor did he consult with his team doctor, the team's training staff, the NFLPA, the league office or the hotline established under the policy to give confidential information to players. Each of these sources would have warned against using this substance.
A cornerstone of the program is that a player is responsible for what is in his body. Consistent application of the policy's procedures is critical to the integrity of the program.
Regardless of whether you believe Mathis, you will not be seeing the NFL's reigning sack leader rushing the quarterback for the first four games of 2014. It's a significant loss for the Colts, who did not draft an edge-rusher until Ball State outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome in Round 5 (166th overall).
Quarterback Johnny Manziel Lured the Cleveland Browns into Picking Him
Back to the Cleveland Browns, who might not impact the postseason like the Indianapolis Colts but definitely are atop the offseason headlines of late.
A mid-draft Johnny Manziel text to Browns quarterback coach Dowell Loggains prompted owner Jimmy Haslam's order to move up to select the Texas A&M signal-caller, as The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot wrote.
Cabot quoted a Loggains interview from an Arkansas radio station (Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly):
We're sitting there and they keep showing Johnny on T.V., and Johnny and I are texting and he shoots me a text and he says, 'I wish you guys would come get me. Hurry up and draft me, because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together.'
When I got that text, I forwarded it to the owner and to the head coach (Mike Pettine). I'm like: 'This guy wants to be here. He wants to be part of it.' As soon as that happened, Mr. Haslam said, 'Pull the trigger. We're trading up to go get this guy.'
That sounds like a story that will be repeated endless times throughout Manziel's Browns career, for better or worse.
Loggains continued painting the draft-day picture in the radio interview:
Mr. Haslam and coach Pettine had called me down to the draft room a couple of times throughout the night and we had almost made trades with Tennessee and Dallas and backed out. ... We were sitting there and coach Pettine keeps texting me, and we're going back and forth, and we're going: 'Hey does Dallas take him here, no they won't. Does St. Louis take him at 13?' We knew we had to get in front of the Chiefs (at No. 23) because we knew they would draft him.
Loggains will be the one with his hands full with the project that is Manziel, but you can certainly feel his excitement for how they got the playmaker in the fold.
Will Andre Johnson Officially Ask out of Houston?
From the drafting of one potential franchise quarterback to an organization that waited, painstakingly, until Round 4 to select Pitt project Tom Savage: Houston Texans veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson is not amused. In fact, he might want out of town now.
ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli quoted Johnson speaking at a charity event earlier this week:
I'm on my third head coach, that's something I give thought to. I just look over my career—is it a place (for me)? I've only been to the playoffs twice. I think we've only had three winning seasons, two 8-8 seasons. I don't think any player wants to experience that.
Say no more, Mr. Johnson. The face of the franchise is unhappy, and teams might be coming to talk to the Texans now.
It is widely viewed the Texans will not listen. Johnson will be 33 next season, and Houston did not draft a wide receiver.
Second-year man DeAndre Hopkins is the only other reliable target on the roster right now after the free-agent departure of tight end Owen Daniels.
Geno Smith Will Be 'Hard to Beat Out' as New York Jets Starting Quarterback
Rex Ryan never needs a reason to speak out, but he has gone on record this week saying second-year quarterback "Geno Smith is going to be hard to beat out... He knows the offense forward and backwards," as the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta tweeted Thursday afternoon.
That came two days after Jets Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath suggested offseason free-agent signee Michael Vick should start, according to the Daily News' Seth Walder. Walder quoted Namath from a charity event Tuesday:
If Mike's healthy I think he's the better player at this point. Geno's got some talent no doubt, but we've already seen Michael and what he can do. And having some knowledge of Marty (Mornhinweg's) offense, I think that's an advantage too for Michael to make the transition.
Of course, the coaches are going to decide who's out there. But boy, I don't know any football fan that's been around for the last nine or 10 years that doesn't think Michael could be outstanding and is probably the best player at this time.
Ah, the Jets are always good for offseason buzz and quotes, pitting the long-time face of the organization against its coach. Ryan is going to be a no-contest winner on making the final decision on the quarterback, but will the Jets win on the field?
If they don't, the fanbase surely will back Namath in a hurry.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the Chopping Block After Jeremy Hill Selection?
If BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn't see the writing on the wall after rushing for a mere 3.4 yards per carry last season, he has to now. LSU product Jeremy Hill is a big back who fits a power-running game the Cincinnati Bengals want to employ in the bruising AFC North.
Couple those facts with this zinger from ESPN.com's Coley Harvey:
If (BGE is) cut before June 1, the Bengals would have a cap savings of $2.5 million. If he's cut after, the Bengals could end up moving his remaining bonus money ($500,000) into their dead-money pool. In the short term, it's more advantageous for them financially to dump his contract sooner rather than later.
The Law Firm has to feel uneasy about his Bengals status and bank account right now.
Here is an interesting side note: The Bengals are one of just two teams that decided to not hold a rookie minicamp, according to NFL.com's Kevin Patra. So, Cincinnati won't get as thorough a look at its rookies as some other teams might.
Still, that shouldn't be enough for the Bengals, arguably the most frugal team in free agency this winter, to keep from saving money by cutting their veteran plodder Green-Ellis before June. The running game figures to be in far more capable hands with thunder (Hill) and lightning (Giovani Bernard).
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.