Buying Or Selling NFL's Latest Rumors, Buzz Entering Training Camps

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksFeatured Columnist IVJuly 19, 2022

Buying Or Selling NFL's Latest Rumors, Buzz Entering Training Camps

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    It's about to get real across the NFL.

    Already, the rookies on a couple of NFL teams have reported for training camp. Beginning on July 20 with the Las Vegas Raiders, veterans will follow suit. The days of voluntary workouts and shorts and shells are over.

    It's time to strap on the pads, go 11-on-11 and start hitting people.

    As training camps truly get underway, the news stories, speculation and rumors across the league will turn from a trickle to a flood. There are position battles to settle, young players looking to establish themselves and veterans searching for one more big season.

    There will be no shortage of things to discuss.

    However, even now there are already rumors floating about that could shake up the season to come. If they're true, that is.

    Below, we'll sort through the juiciest buzz and try to separate fact from fiction.

Jackpot Time for Kyler Murray in Arizona?

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    Set Number: X163910 TK1

    It has been quite the eventful offseason for the Arizona Cardinals and Kyler Murray.

    Back in February, Murray scrubbed his social-media accounts of all references to the team, and the team responded in kind. Murray's agent pulled the former No. 1 pick's original proposal for a contract extension off the table. Some speculated a holdout could be in the offing.

    However, any ruffled feathers appear to have been smoothed over, and it now appears Murray will get that megadeal he seeks. Per ESPN's Jeff Darlington, the Cardinals and Murray are nearing an agreement on a long-term extension.

    "I wouldn't sweat the Kyler Murray contract negotiations," Darlington tweeted. "Based on my conversations, talks are going smooth and getting a deal before camp remains a very reasonable likelihood. The drama of February feels long in the rear view."

    BUY

    The argument can be made that the Cardinals are jumping the gun here. After all, Murray's rookie deal keeps him under contract through the 2023 season, and that's without taking the franchise tag into consideration. Murray may have groused a bit about not already getting extended, but he showed up for OTAs.

    And while Murray has made the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons and led the Cardinals to the playoffs in 2021, he was absolutely atrocious in the playoff loss to the Rams and has faded badly over the second half in each of the past two seasons.

    But while one can debate whether the Cardinals should extend Murray, there's no longer any question that they will. If this was a staring contest, then Arizona general manager Steve Keim blinked. The only things left to debate now are the terms of the deal, although you can rest assured it will feature an average annual salary well north of $40 million.

    Even if an agreement isn't reached before the Cardinals report for training camp on July 26, you can bet the rent it will be coming soon after.

Rashaad Penny Set for Featured Role in Seattle?

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    There's no shortage of uncertainty regarding the Seattle Seahawks offense in 2022, particularly the burgeoning camp battle at quarterback between Geno Smith and Drew Lock. But there are also questions at running back as well, where rookie second-rounder Kenneth Walker III joined a backfield that includes Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas.

    With Carson still working his way back from a serious knee injury, he appears to be a non-factor at present. If Carson remains on the shelf into the regular season, then Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times expects Penny to be the clear leader of the Seattle rushing attack.

    "If Carson can't play," he said, "I think a realistic projection is Penny gets 20 carries or so a game—he averaged 20.25 in the four 100-yard games he had at the end of last season, games that are definitely the template for how Seattle wants to play this year—and Walker gets most of the rest (with Travis Homer and/or DeeJay Dallas getting a few in the third-down/two-minute back role, which seems most likely to go to one of them at the moment)."

    SELL

    It's certainly understandable that Penny would be viewed as the front-runner now. Walker has yet to log his first NFL carry, and Penny was electric down the stretch last season, topping 100 yards in four of Seattle's last five games and averaging well north of six yards a carry.

    However, expecting Penny to handle 20 carries a game over a 17-game season is begging for trouble. The 26-year-old has missed time in all four of his pro seasons and has sat out at least six games in each of the past three years. His career-high for carries was 119 a year ago, and Penny has just 280 totes over his entire career.

    The Seahawks invested a second-round pick in Walker, who piled up over 1,600 rushing yards as a punishing downhill runner at Michigan State. At the very least, it makes sense to give Walker a bigger carry-share to help keep Penny on the field.

The Latest on Jimmy Garoppolo

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    After an offseason of movement at the quarterback position that saw a number of big names land on new teams, Jimmy Garoppolo is the last domino left to fall. And there's speculation he could wind up on a team that has already made a major acquisition at the position.

    Per Matt Barrows of the Athletic, Garoppolo's rehab from offseason shoulder surgery has progressed to the point he has been throwing for a few weeks. That has ramped up the possibility the San Francisco 49ers will trade the 30-year-old.

    Barrows calls the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans "longshots" to deal for Garoppolo, as both are rebuilding teams and Garoppolo will be a free agent in 2023. However, he believes that if Deshaun Watson's disciplinary hearing—which came after 24 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and assault—results in a season-long suspension, the Cleveland Browns could bring in Garoppolo as a stopgap starter.

    "Unlike the Seahawks and Texans," he said, "the Browns are in win-now mode, which might spur them to make a move and should make them an attractive destination for a quarterback auditioning for 2023 free agency. Garoppolo would join a team with two Pro Bowl guards, a Pro Bowl running back and a head coach who calls the offensive plays."

    BUY

    This all hinges on the length of Watson's suspension. If it's eight games or less, the Browns will likely just roll out Jacoby Brissett in the hopes he can keep the team around .500 until Watson's return. But if Watson draws a lengthier suspension, then Cleveland either needs to explore an upgrade or essentially punt on 2022.

    Garoppolo may not be an elite quarterback, but he's a proven winner who is 33-14 as the starter in San Francisco. Garoppolo also played in an offense with the 49ers that is similar to the one Kevin Stefanski runs in Cleveland.

    Add in that Cleveland has more cap space than any team in the NFL, and this scenario may well represent San Francisco's best chance of actually getting something in return for unloading Garoppolo.

Jessie Bates Holdout Watch

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    Sometimes in the NFL, staying on top can be even harder than getting there.

    The Cincinnati Bengals may be about to find that out firsthand.

    For a good portion of the offseason, players in Cincinnati have made it clear they wanted the team to extend safety Jessie Bates, who was slapped with the franchise tag. Per Chris Roling of Bengals Wire, back in June quarterback Joe Burrow offered a vote of confidence in Bates and his availability for 2022.

    “We’re hoping that everything works out in his favor,” Burrow said. “I know that he’s working really hard right now in the weight room. He’s looking great. He’s going to be ready to go for whenever he gets here. Business is business. He’s gotta take care of what he’s gotta take care of. But I know when it’s time to show up, he’s going to be ready to go.”

    As it turns out, Burrow may have been a bit off. Friday's deadline for player and team to reach agreement on a long-term deal came and went without success, and per Josina Anderson of CBS Sports, Bates, "has no intentions of reporting to training camp, nor playing on the franchise tag."

    SELL

    Given the impasse, there have been trade rumors floated about concerning the 25-year-old Bates, who rebounded from a rocky regular season to emerge as a key part of Cincinnati's Super Bowl run.

    Those rumors can't be completely dismissed, especially after the Bengals spent their first pick in the 2022 draft on Daxton Hill, who could replace Bates. The Bengals also don't appear especially interested in re-upping Bates, either—per Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals' final offer to Bates didn't contain much more guaranteed money than he would receive on the franchise tag.

    But the harsh reality for Bates is that he has no leverage here. Unless the Bengals find a trade partner willing to give them what they want, there's no impetus to unload him. Without a trade, Bates has two choices—play under the tag or sit out the season and forfeit almost $13 million.

    Bates may skip part of training camp, and his days as a Bengal are numbered. But the most likely outcome remains him opening the regular season as the Bengals' starting deep safety.

Twin Cities Bounce-Back Coming?

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    There has been plenty written and said about the downfall of Mike Zimmer as head coach in Minnesota—and most of it hasn't been kind. But former linebacker and current radio broadcast sideline reporter Ben Leber recently took the criticism next-level while speaking to Zach Gelb of CBS Sports Radio.

    First, Leber said he expects Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins to thrive in 2022—for a startling reason.

    "I think he's gonna finally thrive, really thrive, in a system and a coach that actually respects him," Leber said. "I mean, it's not like I’m not breaking news here that Mike Zimmer did not like Kirk Cousins. And I think that showed in the way that Kirk behaved and the way that he carried himself. The team was never given to him, or he was never allowed to earn the trust of the team, because the head coach, I think, just didn't like him."

    Yikes.

    Then, Leber predicted success for the team this season while throwing Zimmer's acumen as a defensive coach under the bus.

    "That was a top-10 offense last year, with a very green, first-time offensive coordinator [Klint Kubiak]," Leber said. "Where was their defense ranked last year? Thirty-first. The year before that, I think they were ranked 27th. So people can rail on Kirk and rail on this offense and say we can't win with him or we can’t win with this offense. I say that's total BS. We couldn't win with the crap defense that we've had the last two years. We couldn't stop the run, at all. Ever. And then in key moments of the games ... we couldn't stop any two-minute offense.

    "So, to me, the biggest liability of this team has been defense. All this team has to do is play good team defense, finish in the mid-teens at the end of the season, and they're playoff-bound and they can make some noise."

    BUY

    Kirk Cousins may not be a great quarterback. But he threw 33 touchdown passes last year against just seven interceptions and ranked fourth in the league in passer rating. With a capable line in front of him, ample skill-position talent around him and an offensive-minded head coach in Kevin O'Connell, big numbers from Cousins in 2022 aren't out of the question.

    Add in a defense that added pieces like Jordan Hicks and Za'Darius Smith in the offseason and should get back a healthy Danielle Hunter, and you have the makings of a team that could give the Green Bay Packers a run for their money in the NFC North.

Sean Payton to Coach Again in 2023?

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    After 16 years as the head coach in New Orleans, Sean Payton stepped away from coaching earlier this year. But at the time, he made it clear that this siesta from the sideline isn't necessarily permanent.

    "I still have a vision for doing things in football," Payton said. "And I'll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point. I don't think it's this year, but I think maybe in the future."

    According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, that break from coaching may not be a long one at all—if the right job becomes available. Payton has reportedly expressed to associates that he has a measure of interest in coaching the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins should one of those jobs open up in 2023.

    "The associate said warm weather, a roster good enough to compete and most importantly, control over personnel decisions," Jackson said. "Having a good quarterback would be helpful but that isn't the No. 1 or No. 2 factor, the associate insisted. On a much lower scale, the close associate said he also would prefer to work in a market where he could golf some, though his work ethic and long hours largely limit those opportunities to the offseason."

    BUY (Sort of)

    This one is equal parts buy and sell.

    For starters, it's not at all hard to imagine Payton expressing some level of interest in all three of these jobs. All are in warm-weather cities. All three teams have no shortage of offensive talent. Two of the three have established, high-end quarterbacks, and the third quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) has quite a bit of potential.

    However, things get a little trickier from there.

    It's highly unlikely that the Miami job will be open next year—the team just hired Mike McDaniel, and there's no reason to think the Dolphins would faceplant so badly in 2022 that he would be one-and-done.

    It's a similar situation in Los Angeles. The Chargers came up short of the postseason in 2021, but it's a promising team stockpiled with talent that was the consensus pick of the NFL writers here at Bleacher Report to win the AFC West.

    However, many of those same writers picked the Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC East, and no one picked the Cowboys to repeat. After last year's postseason disappointment, if Dallas misses the playoffs altogether in 2022, that could well be the end of the line for Mike McCarthy.

Saints Defense the NFL's Best?

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    For many years, the New Orleans Saints were a team carried by Drew Brees and the offense. But last year, the Saints were 28th in the league in total offense and dead last in passing. The Saints won nine games because of a defense that ranked seventh in the NFL in yards allowed and fourth in points allowed.

    Per Kevin Patra of NFL.com, while appearing on Good Morning Football, Saints safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson doesn't just think the Saints will field one of the best defenses in the league in 2022.

    He expects New Orleans to be the gold (and black) standard.

    "Of course, I mean from first level, second level, third level," Gardner-Johnson said. "I mean, you got Cam and the front to pop it off, Shy (Tuttle), Marcus Davenport. Then you got Demario in the middle calling all the shots. ... You saw what they were doing last year with ... Pete [Werner], [Kaden] Elliss, all those guys in the middle. Then the back end, bringing in the Honey Badger (Mathieu). We just had a Super Bowl safety, two-time Super Bowl safety (Malcolm Jenkins), now we are bringing in another hometown hero, won a Super Bowl, Pro Bowler. So he knows and we know what to expect. We're just going to go out there and dominate and take advantage of the opportunity. Cause all this talent, why not? Can't waste it."

    SELL

    To be fair, Gardner-Johnson makes some good points. Jordan is one of the best veteran ends in the NFL. Davenport is coming off a career year. Davis is a rock-solid veteran linebacker and defensive leader. Marshon Lattimore is one of the league's better cornerbacks. Gardner-Johnson is an excellent slot defender. In Mathieu and Marcus Maye, the Saints added a pair of quality safeties in free agency.

    But the Saints don't sport the league's best defense—for a couple of reasons.

    The first is that there are other teams that have just as formidable a collection of talent, whether it's a Bills defense that paced the league in both yards and points allowed in 2021, the Aaron Donald-led Rams or a Tampa defense that doesn't receive the credit it deserves.

    The other problem is that all three of those other teams possess offenses that are every bit as loaded on offense as on defense. That is a quality New Orleans cannot match—the Saints have work to do just to be an average offense in 2022.

    Those offensive liabilities are going to sometimes put the defense in an untenable position. That alone is enough to keep the Saints out of the top spot.

Here Come the Detroit Lions?

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    The Detroit Lions have long been among the NFL's most downtrodden teams. Detroit went 3-13-1 last year in Dan Campbell's first season as head coach. The team hasn't won more than five games since 2018, hasn't had a winning season since 2017 and hasn't won a playoff game since 1991.

    That Divisional Round win over the Dallas Cowboys is Detroit's only postseason win of the Super Bowl era.

    However, despite all those decades of futility, Campbell insisted to Peter King of NBC Sports that he believes Detroit is finally on the path to consistent success.

    "I know that people are probably tired of hearing foundation and the culture, but I do feel like we set that in year one. I do feel like that for us was the primary goal. We have to create our own style, our own identity, our own culture of who we are, what we accept, what we don’t accept, and now let's build from there. Now, in year two, we feel like we have that foundation built now. Let's start stacking on top of it."

    SELL

    In fairness, it isn't all doom and gloom in the Motor City. Seven of Detroit's 13 losses were by fewer than 10 points. Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive line in Detroit as the third-best in the league. Once rookie Jameson Williams is healthy, he and second-year pro Amon-Ra St. Brown should form a potent one-two punch at wide receiver.

    But for every problem that has been solved (or appears on the path to a solution) another remains.

    The addition of No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson should help the Lions defense. But Detroit allowed the fourth-most yards per game last season and the most points per game in the NFC.

    Then there's Lions quarterback Jared Goff. His first season in Detroit wasn't awful, but it wasn't great, either—3,245 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. That's not much of a return on investment for a player with a cap hit north of $31 million in 2022.

    The Lions can extricate themselves from Goff's contract with a reasonable dead cap hit of $10 million. But changing quarterbacks would mean hitting the reset button for the offense again, which would stymie any momentum the Lions might build this year.

Leonard Fournette out of Shape?

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    Every year in the NFL as training camp opens, there are stories about players showing up in fantastic shape. There are also a few stories about players who are not in the best shape.

    That latter category leads us to Tampa Bay and potential problems for the Buccaneers.

    While appearing on his podcast, longtime Buccaneers beat writer Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported that after signing a multiyear extension in the offseason, running back Leonard Fournette showed up to mandatory minicamp looking more like an offensive tackle.

    "The last time we saw Leonard Fournette, he was about a donut shy of 260," Stroud said. "He certainly didn't look like a guy who could play every down. Coaches were not happy, and that's an understatement, when he didn't participate in the OTAs, but then he shows up at the mandatory minicamp weighing damn near 260. And that's not a good sign for a guy that you just spent a three-year contract on."

    The report sent the fantasy football community into a tizzy and boosted the average draft position of rookie running back Rachaad White.

    SELL

    To be clear, I don't doubt Stroud's reporting here. In a follow-up article at the Tampa Bay Times, Fournette himself admitted that he's about 10 pounds overweight.

    But assuming Fournette is down to about 240 pounds (given his listed playing weight of 228 pounds) that's a long way from 260 pounds, and he's trending in the right direction.

    Is it ideal that Fournette sat out OTAs and then showed up to mandatory workouts overweight? No. But it's hardly unheard of for players to show up this time of year in less-than-perfect physical condition. It will happen all across the league this season.

    But assuming Fournette's status as the team's lead back is in jeopardy because of this is the sort of logical leap that causes hyperextensions. Fournette is coming off a season in which he topped 1,200 total yards and averaged a career-high 4.5 yards per carry. White is a talented youngster, but his next NFL carry will be his first.

    Fournette also has the most important thing for any player on the Buccaneers offense—Tom Brady's trust.

    Provided he doesn't lose that, Fournette should be fine.

JK Dobbins to be Ready for Week 1?

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    Leonard Fournette wasn't the only running back who has been in the news. While appearing on NFL Now, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Baltimore Ravens running back JK Dobbins may not be ready for the season opener on September 11 against the New York Jets.

    "Dobbins is no sure thing for Week 1," he said. "He hasn’t had any setbacks. But his knee injury was a serious one, and Baltimore has no incentive to rush him back. They protected themselves with veteran Mike Davis, regardless."

    It didn't take long for the report to reach Dobbins. It took even less time for third-year running back to push back.

    "Okay I’m tired of being quiet," Dobbins tweeted. "Come to me for your source (Rapoport) because I might not even go on PUP because that’s how good my rehab is going and I’m damn sure going to be ready for week 1."

    After rushing for 805 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging six yards a carry as a rookie, Dobbins was a trendy breakout pick in 2022. But the former Ohio State star tore his ACL in the preseason, and just like that his second season was over.

    BUY

    There hasn't been a lot of news out of Baltimore regarding Dobbins, who sat out OTAs while rehabbing the knee. Back in June, head coach John Harbaugh expressed cautious optimism, while allowing that there was no definitive timetable for Dobbins' return.

    “The knee injuries are a little tougher to say what the schedule really is, Harbaugh said, via Jeff Zriebiec of the Athletic. So, you talk to J.K., he’s the starting running back today, (and) he should have been practicing today, but he’s got work to do still.”

    Zrebiec went on to write that Dobbins will likely open training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List, and that he probably won't see any preseason action. And players aren't necessarily the most accurate sources on injuries—they understandably tend to be optimistic.

    But it has been almost a full calendar year since Dobbins got hurt, so while his status for Week 1 will be a hot topic of conversation through camp and into the preseason, I'll take Dobbins at his word that he'll be a go at Met Life Stadium in Week 1.

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