Fact or Fiction on Latest NFL Offseason Rumors, Speculation and Opinions

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IJuly 4, 2014

Fact or Fiction on Latest NFL Offseason Rumors, Speculation and Opinions

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    Will we be seeing quarterback Blake Bortles in a Jacksonville Jaguars uniform during the regular season?
    Will we be seeing quarterback Blake Bortles in a Jacksonville Jaguars uniform during the regular season?USA TODAY Sports

    Have you heard?

    Of course you have. But what does it mean?

    Rumors of any kind are part of everyday life. Who doesn’t like a little gossip?

    The offseason of any NFL campaign can be somewhat of a game when it comes to figuring out what is real and what’s not.

    So here is a mere smattering of rumors of sorts in terms of what’s been in the news as of late. In some instances, we have taken a little liberty when it comes to actual "rumors." In those cases, we have taken the words of some players or organizations and will speculate if they will indeed ring true either now or by the end of the season.

    Here is what we do know. Training camps open later this month and by all accounts, everyone is ready to get back to work in preparation for NFL 2014. So let's get started.

Fact: TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

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    Associated Press

    Rumor has it: Gronkowski will be ready Week 1

    It has been a rough two-year stretch for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

    Since 2012, the two-time Pro Bowler has missed nearly as many games (14) as he has played (18). This past season, he was limited to seven games and suffered a severe knee injury in early December (Week 14) versus the Cleveland Browns.

    In 50 career regular-season contests, Gronkowski has caught 42 touchdown passes. In his seven outings in 2013, he still managed to grab four scores, all coming in consecutive games.

    So how soon will we see a performer who, as his brief career has shown, has an amazing nose for the end zone?

    "Just doing what I got to do, improving every week, and that’s all I can ask for," said Gronkowski to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe last month. "I just worry about what I’ve got to do, and what I’ve got to do right now is rehab and get better. Just take it week by week and day by day from here on out. We’ll see what happens and we’ll see where I’m at when it all starts."

    For the Patriots, it starts for real on Sept. 7 at Miami against the Dolphins. Expect to see Gronk on the field one way or another...and more than likely in the end zone.

Fiction: QB Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Rumor has it: Hoyer will sign a contract extension with Browns

    This past week, there was speculation that the Cleveland Browns were trying to re-up with Brian Hoyer, currently the team’s No. 1 quarterback atop their depth chart.

    It was news that was somewhat surprising in numerous circles, especially since the team selected a high-profile quarterback with the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 draft.

    So why extend Hoyer, a five-year veteran who has made just four starts in his entire career? Is it concern regarding rookie Johnny Manziel, who has made a lot of noise this offseason already and we haven’t even gotten to training camp?

    More importantly, why would Hoyer re-sign with the Browns? His future as the team’s starter isn’t in the cards, and if he performs well in 2014 it could mean bigger and better things for the former undrafted free agent. Bleacher Report's Dan Hope agrees that there is no upside in Hoyer signing an extension with the Browns. 

    In any case, Hoyer’s agent, Joe Linta, seems to feel, per The Associated Press via the Boston Herald, that something will get done soon.

    Frankly, we are not so sure. In fact, we feel any talk of a new contract for Hoyer (3-0 as the Browns’ starter in 2013) should be toned down a bit.

Fact: RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    The opinion: LeSean McCoy thinks he will rush for at least 2,000 yards in 2014

    We have seen it happen just seven times in the 94-year history of the National Football League, most recently by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

    Back in 2012, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, the second-highest single-season total in NFL annals. Now there is another player who is thinking out loud when it comes to having a big season.

    "I’m wondering if I get 2,000 yards," said Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy earlier this week, via Philly.com.

    Can the five-year pro, who led the NFL with 1,607 yards rushing this past season, pull it off? It doesn’t figure to be a problem for the best running back in the league (at least in one man’s opinion). McCoy said:

    I don’t want to keep saying it over and over. Now it’s time to prove it. I’ve said how I felt. I’ve said what my numbers show. Now it’s time to prove it. It’s time for camp and train until camp time and put the pads on. At the end of the year, we’ll be at the same point again, and I’ll be saying the same thing. I’m tired of really talking about it. Ali said it a lot, but he didn’t say it all the time.

    Let’s see what McCoy has to say by season’s end, after he becomes the eighth player to run for at least 2,000 yards.

Fiction: CB Brandon Flowers, San Diego Chargers

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    The opinion: Flowers is the best cornerback in the NFL

    The Kansas City Chiefs made a statement of sorts back in June when the team released talented cornerback Brandon Flowers, a Pro Bowler in 2013.

    Recently, Flowers made a statement of his own after latching on with the San Diego Chargers. Flowers said recently on NFL Network (h/t The Kansas City Star): 

    First off, let me must say, I am the best corner in football. Don’t let my injuries last year fool you and take my name from that top list.

    One guy whose game I definitely respect throughout the years was (Darrelle) Revis. Coming from a system that he played in, it’s a lot of man-to-man being played, him shadowing receivers, and he definitely put in that work. Not to say anything else bad about the other corners, but Revis is definitely a corner I respect in this league.

    We certainly respect Flowers, who totaled 17 interceptions in his six-year stay with the Chiefs. However, rumor has it that there’s at least one pretty good cornerback who lines up for the Seattle Seahawks. And for those who like numbers, it’s worth noting that Richard Sherman has picked off 20 passes in three years with the now-defending Super Bowl champions.

    However, we do appreciate the fact that when it comes to confidence, Flowers can bring it.

Fact: TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Rumor has it: Graham will agree to a long-term contract with Saints

    Perhaps we are being a little optimistic here, especially when you consider where the New Orleans Saints and tight end (yes, tight end) Jimmy Graham stand right now when it comes to a new contract.

    This week, an arbitrator ruled that Graham, designated the team’s franchise player this offseason, is not a wide receiver but indeed a tight end. There is a difference of about $5 million when it comes to Graham and his one-year tender.

    So where do the two parties stand when it comes to getting the two-time Pro Bowler back on the field? NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport said on Wednesday (via NFL Total Access) that negotiations will start at "ground zero."

    Will the Saints and Graham wind up agreeing to a long-term deal anytime soon? Don’t bet against it. While the price tag may be high, look for the parties to come to a happy medium. It’s safe to say that the NFL leader in touchdown receptions and quarterback Drew Brees’ favorite target in 2013 has earned his keep, and more, in four seasons in the Crescent City.

Fiction: QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Rumor has it: Bortles will sit out his rookie season

    The picture says it all.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars plan to keep rookie quarterback Blake Bortles under wraps in 2014, but how many people are a big fan of that decision?

    The third overall selection in the 2014 draft could be on the same path as the first overall pick in 2003, when the Cincinnati Bengals made quarterback Carson Palmer their choice and let him spend his rookie season on the sidelines.

    But that doesn’t mean Bortles, who played his college football at the University of Central Florida, won’t be ready if indeed he is called upon this season. According to Jim Corbett of USA Today, the talented youngster could be getting some reps with the first-team offense when training camp opens later in July.

    Veteran quarterback Chad Henne will be the starter when the season opens in September. But what happens if the six-year signal-caller goes down? What happens if the Jaguars are in the midst of another hopeless season? Will head coach Gus Bradley turn to the rookie Bortles if needed?

    That would be a Y-E-S.

Fact: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Rumor has it: Bridgewater will be the Week 1 starter

    Back in May on night one of the NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings capped the evening's first round by grabbing Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd overall selection.

    He is in the mix to be the team’s starting signal-caller when the club opens the season at St. Louis on Sept. 7. How much in the mix is anyone’s guess right now. But according to Bridgewater, there’s no real rush to be anointed the team’s No. 1 quarterback.

    "It’s not tough at all because I have nothing but my best interest for the team," said Bridgewater last month to Master Tesfatsion of the Star Tribune. "And I’m very excited about this team that we have here...If I’m not the guy then I know the coaches have the best interest for the team also.

    "My teammates also have the best interest for the team," added Bridgewater. "So in order for me to be a better player, I have to have the best interest for the team and want nothing but the best interest for the team."

    The best interest of the team may be Bridgewater sooner rather than later. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner has liked what he has seen so far from the rookie signal-caller.

    While the Vikings were a playoff team in 2012, they have also finished last in the NFC North three of the last four seasons. New head coach Mike Zimmer will focus on the defense and a team that gave up the most points in the league in 2013.

    Back to the quarterback job, veteran Matt Cassel is the front-runner and former first-round pick Christian Ponder is somewhat of an afterthought.

    But this is a Minnesota team that may be ready to look at their future sooner rather than later. Look for Bridgewater to be the Week 1 starter in the Gateway City against the Rams in two months.

Fiction: RB Chris Johnson, New York Jets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Rumor has it: Backfield by committee by the Jets in 2014

    Only five teams in the league this past season ran for more yards than the New York Jets.

    This offseason, head coach Rex Ryan, as well as general manager John Idzik, planned on changing that in 2014.

    When the Tennessee Titans parted ways with running back Chris Johnson this offseason, the Jets signed the six-year veteran and his six seasons of 1,000-plus yards rushing.

    There have been whispers of the Jets and that good old "backfield by committee" approach this upcoming season. In 2013, the team’s top two rushers were Bilal Powell (833 yards) and Chris Ivory (697 yards).

    However, you get the feeling that the committee has a self-elected chairman. "Once the season starts and once we’re playing and I’m doing my thing, I’m pretty sure if I’m making plays they’re going to want to keep handing the ball off to me," said Johnson earlier this week to Around the League (and recapped by Dan Hanzus of NFL.com). "If they want me to continue making plays, I’m pretty sure I can’t do that if I’m on the sideline."

    We agree. This past season, Powell and Ivory’s yards came in 182 and 176 carries, respectively. That big-play ability that Johnson still possesses figures to be too hard for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Ryan to ignore.

    Some statistical support for this piece was provided by Pro-Football-Reference, NFL.com and ESPN.com.