1. Dwight Freeney: 'I'm the anomaly. I can still play.'
Dwight Freeney exceeded expectations for the Cardinals last season—the same thing he's done basically his entire career (and why he'll enter the Hall of Fame). He played in 11 games and had eight sacks and three forced fumbles. In Week 16, he had three sacks alone.
But he knows that might not have been enough to earn him another year in Arizona.
Freeney said the "writing was on the wall" when the Cardinals traded for defensive end Chandler Jones in March. "It was a good move for Arizona, but not so much for me," said Freeney, laughing. "I can read between the lines."
Freeney can still play at the age of 36. He's had multiple visits with teams and describes them as positive ones. His first choice remains re-signing with the Cardinals.
"I'm going to play again next year," he said. "It's 95 percent. But I can't see that 5 percent happening."
Then, Freeney stated perfectly what teams that didn't sign him last year—and aren't signing him now—are missing.
"Teams are in love with young guys," Freeney said. "I get it, but teams overlook that young guys don't always live up to that promise. How many times have you heard, 'This guy is the next Lawrence Taylor' or something like that?
"Teams also are in love with numbers and data when sometimes numbers can't take into account the heart of a player. Teams back their draft picks because they don't want their drafts to be wrong.
"Teams miss that I'm not the average guy. There are the anomalies, and I'm the anomaly. I can still play."
2. Where could Freeney end up?
I still think somehow Freeney and the Cardinals work things out. But if not, my three guesses (and they are just guesses...mostly):
- The Saints: They need help all around. He'd be perfect there. The only issue in New Orleans is that Freeney sees himself playing for a Super Bowl contender.
- The Patriots: Bill Belichick seems to constantly sign veterans like Freeney. It's a long shot but possible.
- The Texans: Pairing Freeney with J.J. Watt would create a formidable defensive line.
3. The lessons from Mike Carey
Three of the easiest fan and media targets in the recent history of the NFL are Roger Goodell, anything Roger Goodell does and former referee Mike Carey.
We don't need to go down the list of calls Carey got wrong in his former role as a CBS officiating analyst. This column isn't about bashing Carey. It's the opposite.
His departure was actually, to me, the biggest story of the NFL week, because it highlights a fact that few television executives, media members or fans want to acknowledge: analyzing game officials and predicting calls is virtually impossible.
It can be a brutal job being a rules analyst on television. Half the people will agree with your call, and the other half will say you're an idiot.
In fact, doing that job might actually be harder than doing the real job on the field. On the field, Carey had help from other officials on his crew. He could take his time (relatively). As an official, he got most of the tough calls right. Then, as an analyst, he got a lot of them wrong. Think about that for a second.
Carey got things wrong, yes. Sometimes, such as during the Super Bowl between the Broncos and Panthers, he was really wrong. But seriously think on this: If a talented former official like Carey can't get calls right as an analyst, then what hope is there for almost anyone?
The only person who seems to navigate these waters competently is former NFL officiating head Mike Pereira, who works for Fox. He's almost alone in being considered good at that job—in any sport.
Carey was an easy target, but it shouldn't be forgotten just how excellent of a game official he was. I've covered many of his games, including one Super Bowl, and they were always impressively officiated. He wasn't perfect—no ref is—but he was one of the best I ever saw. He spent 24 years as an official and worked 17 postseason games.
The core problem with analyzing officiating is that no one gets the rules. Many times, even officials get the rules wrong.
Then add the layer of replay, where there can be a great deal of interpretation.
Game officials, and the people who analyze them, face the same problem coaches do. Replays and technology give viewers a better understanding of officiating. That also means everyone thinks they can do it. They think it's easy when it's the hardest job in all of sports.
There may be just one or two people, tops, who can smoothly and efficiently do the job of analyzing refs on television. That's the Carey lesson. That will always be the Carey lesson.
4. Broncos defensive player: 'Von is licking his chops'
I texted a Broncos defensive player I know well who said he believes Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller, who is looking for a new contract, wants more money than the newly extended Fletcher Cox of Philadelphia. Cox signed an extension, as ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported, worth $103 million over six years with $63 million guaranteed.
The Broncos player had something interesting to say.
"Von is licking his chops," he said, "because he knows he's worth more than Fletcher. He's better than Fletcher."
5. Assistant coach: Kirk Cousins could be best of young QBs
I've heard other assistant coaches mention this, and now another has. I'm just passing it along. This is an assistant coach speaking of Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins:
"It's possible we will look back maybe 10 years from now and say Kirk Cousins was better than Andrew Luck or almost any other young quarterback today. Maybe better than Russell Wilson, as well. I would have never thought that a year ago—mainly because I feel like a good quarterback there didn't have the organizational support. That owner [is not good], but now he seems to be staying out of the way. His coach believes in him, and that offense is perfect for him. He's got weapons and an improving defense. He may shock a lot of people in the end."
6. How'd you like to play pickup ball against J.J. Watt?
The thing is, we ask our athletes to be accessible all the time, and Watt is. Is there a self-promotional value to what he does? Of course. But go down the list of superstars in the NFL, and how many do what Watt does? How many spend time around average fans? I can tell you: not many.
One of the dirty little secrets of the NFL is that many players—not all, but a lot—don't like being around fans. Many I've talked to believe some fans are obnoxious and even dangerous. They keep fans at arm's length.
Watt fully embraces his stardom and everything that accompanies it. I love that. We all should.
7. What was the name on Wade Phillips' ring?
Wade Phillips had, as he often does, a funny tweet following the Broncos' ring ceremony. Phillips tweeted:
First, Phillips is a vastly underrated tweeter. I'm going to say he might be the GOAT of NFL tweeters. I think it's between him and Aaron Rodgers. It's close. I might lean Phillips.
Second, what was the name on the ring?
Tweeter Jon Gold had one of my favorite suggestions:
I think it was Bum Diggity.
Waiting for Phillips to tweet more information.
8. More athletes need to be like Seattle's Jon Ryan
Seahawks punter Jon Ryan Instagrammed this (Warning: there's profanity), then deleted it. I wish he hadn't deleted it.
There need to be more responses like that one from athletes, profanity and all. There is a significant strain of homophobia in sports and, yes, despite what NFL players and the league say publicly, it is still prominent throughout NFL locker rooms.
But one of the most persistent places you see it is on social media from fans. Homophobia is all over NFL Twitter.
This is why Ryan's response was so needed. More players need to follow.
9. Dion Lewis jump-cutting
There was a time—maybe just 10 years ago, maybe even less—when if an NFL player tore his ACL, he was gone at least a year, if not longer.
Patriots running back Dion Lewis tore his seven months ago, and here's video from the Boston Globe's Ben Volin of Lewis at minicamp practice, jump-cutting:
We've gotten so used to seeing things like this, we take it for granted. The speed at which players now recover from these injuries, though, remains one of the miracles of sports science. And the recoveries just keep getting faster.
10. Scout believes Tom Brady, Belichick will retire together
From an AFC East scout: "I think [Tom] Brady will retire in two or three years and then Bill will follow. He won't leave football. He'll go to a front office-only role."
Dream on. Will never happen, but I found this (which basically amounts to extreme wishful thinking) amusing—in a sort of science fiction way. Like imagining Kirk as a Klingon.
It will happen right after I become an Avenger.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.