After a long and arduous offseason, football is officially back in business, with training camps getting started across the league.
Fans have been starved for substantial news and rumors since May's NFL draft, and there is currently plenty worth talking about. From disgruntled players expressing displeasure regarding their contracts to high-profile positional battles, training camp has already created a myriad of intriguing storylines.
Here are the biggest rumors sweeping across the NFL and captivating football fans as the preseason slate quickly approaches.
Running backs have certainly dropped in value over the past few years in terms of how front offices view them, but there is no question that Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch is one of the best at his trade. The former Buffalo Bill was among the biggest driving forces behind the first championship in Seahawks history last season as they decimated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
With Lynch earning a fairly modest salary in relation to his overall impact, he has decided to hold out for more money, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, scheduled to make $5.5M this season, told former teammate @RealMikeRob he is holding out of training camp.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 24, 2014
Despite the fact that Lynch is coming off of a season in which he rushed for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, Seattle is unwilling to give him a raise, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
At last check, the #Seahawks were not inclined to give Marshawn Lynch a raise, even if he just wants to be a Top 3 paid back. Could be tough— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 24, 2014
Lynch is a four-time Pro Bowler, and he has been named to the team in three consecutive seasons. As evidenced by this stat courtesy of NFL on ESPN, he has consistently been among the league's elite backs over the past four campaigns:
Since joining the Seahawks in 2010, Marshawn Lynch is first in carries, 2nd in rushing yards, rushing TD, and yards after contact.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) July 25, 2014
The Seahawks are a defense-first team that thrives on ball control. Lynch is arguably the toughest runner in the NFL, and he excels in terms of grinding out extra yardage and moving the chains.
With that said, the shelf life of NFL running backs is short. Lynch is 28 years of age, and the Seahawks may be wary of giving him more money out of fear that he'll hit the wall eventually. Also, Seattle has money wrapped up in so many other players that a raise may not be wise fiscally.
One can only assume that Lynch will report eventually, but it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks' stubbornness will strain the relationship between the two sides moving forward.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is unquestionably one of the best pass-catchers in the league when he is on the field, but that may not happen at all in 2014. Gordon could be suspended for the entire 2014 season, but he plans to appeal Aug. 1, according to Schefter.
Gordon was suspended for the first two games of the 2013 campaign due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He then violated the policy once again earlier this offseason and was arrested for driving while intoxicated as well, per ESPN.com.
According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports 1, Gordon initially hoped to have his suspension cut down significantly, but that was prior to the arrest:
When I said length of Gordon's suspension was up for "debate," maybe "negotiation" is better word. Hoping to get it reduced to 4-6 games.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 9, 2014
The former Baylor star has shown flashes of brilliance during his two-year NFL career and developed into an elite receiver last season. He broke 1,600 yards in just 14 games and added nine touchdowns despite dealing with a quarterback carousel.
Based on how many issues Gordon has had in recent months, his odds of successfully appealing may not be great. Browns head coach Mike Pettine is likely cognizant of that, and he admitted that the uncertainty of the situation makes things difficult for the team, per ESPN.com.
It is concerning and you want to address it, but until we know where he stands with the league we don't know really where he stands with us. I've stated before that we've had the meetings, we've discussed all the options, from the best case to the worst case. And we're still in that mode of waiting.
Browns fans, players and coaches will hold their collective breath and hope that there is a favorable result, but Gordon undoubtedly faces an uphill climb.
Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel
The Browns are playing host to one of training camp's most talked-about positional battles, with incumbent Brian Hoyer and rookie first-round pick Johnny Manziel vying for the starting quarterback job. While there is a great deal of excitement surrounding the dynamic Johnny Football, it looks as though he is the definite underdog to start Week 1.
According to ESPN's Bob Holtzman, the belief within the Browns locker room is that Pettine will name Hoyer the starter and do so more quickly than expected:
Browns player: "we're all expecting Hoyer to start" week 1. Feeling in locker room is Pettine will announce WELL BEFORE 3rd preseason game— bob holtzman (@BobHoltzmanESPN) July 25, 2014
Which training camp storyline interests you most?
Hoyer has been viewed as a journeyman since entering the league in 2009, but he finally got a chance to show what he could do last season. With the Browns suffering through a number of quarterback injuries, they turned to Hoyer, who proceeded to go 3-0 before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season.
He has managed to recover, though, and he brings a veteran presence to the table. He is nowhere near as skilled as Manziel, but there is concern that Johnny Football isn't ready in terms of maturity and mastering the playbook.
Also, Hoyer has made it clear that he won't give up the inside track he has apparently gained without a fight, per NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano:
Hoyer: "If Johnny does beat me out...he will have totally earned it."— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) July 25, 2014
Based on everything that has been said thus far, it is difficult to imagine Hoyer not beginning the season as the starter, unless he implodes and Manziel shines in the preseason.
When push comes to shove, though, that probably isn't the Browns' best course of action. Hoyer isn't going to lead the Browns to the playoffs, and he isn't the type of player who will energize the fanbase.
Manziel will accomplish the latter goal at the very least, which is why he deserves a chance if he is anywhere near competent during the regular season. It is Pettine's prerogative to go with the veteran, but Browns fans aren't likely to respond well.
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