NFL

NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for July 30

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystJuly 30, 2014

NFL Training Camps 2014: Updates, Rumors and Analysis for July 30

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    Gus Ruelas/Associated Press

    It's payday!

    Actually, NFL players only get paid (other than a small per diem) during the regular season, but that didn't stop a couple of NFL stars from laughing all the way to the bank this week.

    Tuesday night, it was Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. As Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic reported, Paterson inked a five-year, $70 million contract—with $48 million gauranteed—that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

    That contract got one-upped on Wednesday, in the first story from our look at camps across the NFL on July 30.

Huge Payday for Dallas Cowboys OT Tyron Smith

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    Gus Ruelas/Associated Press

    Apparently a wave of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys decided the team could use some good news.

    They opened the checkbook in a big way to get it.

    According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Cowboys have agreed to terms with left tackle Tyron Smith on a staggering eight-year extension worth nearly $100 million:

    The #Cowboys and LT Tyron Smith have reached an agreement in principle on an 8-year, $98M deal, source says. Wow.

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 30, 2014

    Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News reports that all told (counting the two years left on Smith's current deal), the contract adds up to an eye-popping 10 years and $109 million, making the 23-year-old Smith the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL.

    Head coach Jason Garrett talked Smith up late last year, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas. “He’s done a really good job for us. He’s a heck of a run blocker. He’s a heck of a pass protector, and he plays a really important position. We are really fortunate to have him.”

    Smith's agent is fortunate to have him, too.

Johnny Manziel Working Just as Hard as He Parties?

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Over the past couple of months, much has been made of the way rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns has been spending his weekends.

    However, after spending some time at Browns camp, former Washington general manager and current NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly told colleague Marc Sessler that Manziel has also made time to hit the books:

    Despite all the off-field white noise, Manziel was described to Casserly by multiple team sources as bringing a "first-in, last-out mentality" and showing up to camp with a better knowledge of the offense. Verbiage is the biggest challenge for Manziel, but Casserly was told the rookie is "doing fine" with that aspect of the playbook.

    With that said, though, Casserly thinks the Browns should "start (Brian) Hoyer in Week 1 and ride him until it doesn't work," even while he quantified that Hoyer has "no outstanding physical traits."

    In fact, Casserly went so far as to say that Cleveland's "quarterback of the future is tied to its two No. 1 draft choices for next year," writing: "I don't think Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel will be the answer."

Detroit Lions TE Eric Ebron Dropping the Ball?

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Heading into the 2014 NFL draft, if there was a prevailing knock against North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, it's that the youngster was prone to occasional bouts of the dropsies in Chapel Hill.

    It appears the malady followed Ebron to the Motor City.

    However, while the Lions' first-round pick's struggles with drops have persisted from OTAs and into training camp, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell insisted that he isn't concerned, via Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press:

    It’s tough for any young guy that’s coming in to a system, particularly at the position he plays. One thing I think people don’t quite understand about playing a tight end position, you can probably notice that he lines up in a number of different places. He lines up at a true tight end position, so he’s got to know all the blocking schemes, routes from there. He lines up at an auxiliary (position), what we call an F, so he’s got to know all the protections at that particular location as well as the routes. And then we also put him in the backfield.

    This guy literally has to know the slot receiver, the regular tight end and also a position out of the backfield as if he’s a fullback. So it’s not easy for him.

    It's hardly earth-shaking news for a young tight end to struggle acclimating to the NFL, and as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk recently reported, the Lions' plans to move Ebron around the formation aren't making things any easier.

    Still, the longer that Ebron keeps putting the ball on the turf, the harder it's going to be for quarterback Matthew Stafford to have confidence targeting him when the games begin to count.

New York Giants RB David Wilson out Indefinitely

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    As we mentioned yesterday, New York Giants running back David Wilson gave the team a scare Wednesday when he was forced from the practice field with a neck stinger.

    Given that, and the neck injury that ended Wilson's season early in 2013, the Giants are taking no chances with the third-year pro.

    Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger tweeted Wednesday that Wilson will not suit up for this weekend's Hall of Fame Game, and that Wilson will be re-evaluated on Monday.

    As Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News reports, Wilson spent much of Tuesday evening in a Manhattan hospital undergoing a battery of tests, and there's no real timetable for his return to action.

Cincinnati Bengals DT Geno Atkins Activated from PUP

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Outside of a few vague assurances that things were "OK," including a tweet last week from Paul Dehner of Cincinnati.com,  there hasn't been much offseason news regarding Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins and his rehab from a torn ACL.

    So, a few eyebrows went up when the Pro Bowler was placed on the physically unable to perform list to start camp.

    Well, those brows can now relax.

    As Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports reports, Atkins has been removed from the PUP list and is now cleared to practice.

    There was no reason for the Bengals to make this move until the 26-year-old was truly ready to go, so this should be viewed as an excellent sign where Atkins' Week 1 availability is concerned.

    And Atkins being available Week 1, in turn, is an excellent sign for the Bengals.

Darren McFadden Has Edge in Oakland Raiders' RB Battle

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Now, for Wednesday's fix of news that's likely more of interest to those NFL fans who also enjoy playing fantasy football.

    Of the many position battles going on across the NFL, few have the star power of the fight between Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew to start at running back for the Oakland Raiders, even if those stars have dimmed a bit in recent years.

    As things stand right now, Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated gives a narrow edge to McFadden after spending some time at Raiders camp:

    At this stage Darren McFadden has the starting edge over Jones-Drew but this should be a committee backfield considering McFadden’s injury history—he’s yet to play a full season in six. Should McFadden miss a start, Jones-Drew could be a great matchup play in light of his receiving ability.

    Of course, waiting for a McFadden injury is like waiting for a politician to lie. You know it's coming. Just a matter of when.

No Progress in Alex Boone Holdout

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The 49ers dodged one potential holdout when tight end Vernon Davis reported for training camp, but the team wasn't as lucky with guard Alex Boone.

    In fact, according to Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, both sides remain very much at an impasse:

    General manager Trent Baalke and other members of the 49ers have reached out recently to holdout Alex Boone, according to multiple sources, but the team's starting right guard remains resolute in his stance.

    As it stands now Boone ranks 43rd in the NFL in average salary for guards. He signed his current deal in 2011 when he was a backup at tackle. He's seeking a new deal that will pay him commensurate with a starting guard, his role since the beginning of the 2012 season.

    49ers general manager Trent Baalke also didn't have much to say when asked about Boone last week:

    Once again, nothing positive is going to come from discussing any of this, our strategy, how we deal with players, how we deal with this situation or others. I've never seen anything positive come from that.

    With both sides dug in and reserve Joe Looney filling in well (in camp, at least) in Boone's stead, this situation doesn't appear headed for a resolution any time soon.

Bills OLB Nigel Bradham Suspended One Game

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    As if the Buffalo Bills didn't have enough problems at linebacker after Kiko Alonso went down with a season-ending ACL injury, now the Bills will be one more man short when they open the season against the Chicago Bears.

    According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, outside linebacker Nigel Bradham, who is penciled in as Alonso's replacement on the weak side, has been suspended one game for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

    The suspension is believed to be the result of Bradham's arrest last August for marijuana possession, and it adds a bit more drama to Bradham's battle with rookie Preston Brown in training camp.

    It's also a blast of cold water over what had otherwise been a very strong offseason for Bradham, according to what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz told Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com:

    It hasn't just been his camp, he's been outstanding since we came back in the off season program even before we got to work on OTAs and things like that. He's shown a very serious, professional attitude, he’s been into it. Even before a guy like Kiko Alonso get's hurt, now there's even more of an opportunity for a guy like Bradham. He's been very, very good mentally as far as picking the scheme up, he's good in coverage, and he's improving as a run defender also.

    If you want something to watch in Sunday's Hall of Fame Game, check out the battle between Brown and Bradham in a revamped Bills defense making the switch to the 4-3 in 2014.

Fred Jackson Re-Ups with Bills Through 2015

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    We'll close things up on Wednesday by staying in Western New York, where another minor surprise took place.

    Mind you, it isn't that running back Fred Jackson hasn't been productive when healthy for the Bills. Just last year Jackson led the Bills in rushing and tallied over 1,200 total yards.

    However, Jackson has battled injuries in recent years, and at 33 years young, Jackson is the elder statesman of NFL running backs.

    Still, that didn't stop the Bills from inking him to a contract extension that will keep him in the fold through 2015, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk.

    Mike Garafaolo of Fox Sports passed along financial details:

    Bills RB Fred Jackson, skedded to make $2.7m this year, adds one more year at $2.6m. Another $1m in incentives is available.

    — Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 30, 2014

    It's a nice gesture, and money Jackson has earned, but it does little to clear up a muddied Bills backfield that also contains C.J. Spiller and Bryce Brown.

    Unless, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports recently opined, the Bills really are kicking the tires on the idea of trading Spiller.

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